After writing about So Mort It Be a few days back, I contacted the director Fabian Rush to ask him some questions about his influences, his background and what he’s currently up to. Nothing gives me more pleasure than exploring the creative process with a talented young director, and this will be the first in a series of articles where I talk to some of the cast and crew who’ve worked on our featured films.
I’d like to give a big thanks to Fabian for his time. If anyone out there is interested in having their low-budget film featured here at Daily
Grindhouse, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sweetback interviews director Fabian Rush
Sweetback: First of all, I’m really curious – What are some of the films and filmmakers that most inspired your personal filmmaking style? So Mort it Be has a real mix of tones, so it’s a bit hard to pinpoint the influences.
Fabian Rush: Haha, the mix of tones in the film is my own attention deficit. I love movies that are nuts and all over the place because they never seem to slow down. I’d definitely have to say that Sam Raimi & Bruce Campbell were my primary inspirations going into this production. Watching the Evil Dead Trilogy really gave me a sense of “I could do that.” Growing up, I was a huge fan of sci-fi pictures like Aliens, Predator, etc. but never felt that I could compete with those. Somehow, B-Horror flicks take the fear out of the filmmaking process because the audience knows to expect something cheesy… and they like cheese.
SB: The biographical info on your webpage mentions a childhood love of greek mythology. How did this early love of monsters and legends inform your own passion for darker material?
FR: That’s a great question that I could go on about for several days. And I guess I can answer it in three parts.
1 – There’s just something sexy about monsters that drew me in early but it’s disheartening to grow up hearing parents tell their kids that monsters don’t exist. I practically prayed for something horrible to be under my bed, and God friggin’ ignored me… that might be a good thing. Anyway, what drew me into mythology (Greek, Egyptian, Celtic, etc) was the mass assumption that monsters (term used loosely) did exist. Truth is, there’s another movie that deeply inspired So Mort It Be, and that’s Clive Barker’s Night Breed which I could write a dissertation on. A man rejected by human society and taken in by a clan of monsters was something I could totally relate to.
2 – The character of Dr. Oblivion in David Cronenberg’s film Videodrome uttered something that I latched onto philosophically. This isn’t the direct quote word for word, just what I remember. “The images on the screen emerge as raw experience for the audience therefore making the film more real than reality itself.” I took that to mean that when a person goes to see a movie, they put all their beliefs aside and allow an artist to fill their heads with something completely alien. For the hour & half that a person watches the film, they give up their own identity and become a character in the film, relating to everything if the movie is good enough. And for that time, anything can be real; monsters included. There’s a great power in being a filmmaker or a writer. You get to play god for a captive audience.
SB: You’re the singer in an Industrial Metal Band (Synthetic Nightmare) which – from the clips on your website – obviously requires a lot of physicality and showmanship. How is your acting/directing informed by your music, or vice versa?
FR: Most of the time film and music are so intertwined that you can’t always tell where one ends and the other begins. But in the case of my band it’s a little different. My films are expressions or snapshots of my mind at various points in my life. And when I write them, I see them as uncorrupt images or reflections of myself. For example, when I wrote So Mort It Be I had woman issues and my relationships seemed to eat me alive. The movie was a light hearted response to what I felt could actually happen to me. “Synthetic Nightmare” is much more distant emotionally. It’s not always an expression of who I am, but more over an expression of who I am within the group. The band is a marriage, and that often means compromising core ideas to continue as a happy unit. So to answer your question, I guess I purposely keep a bit of distance between my music and my films so they can both remain pure. Heh, I’m drinking right now so I can only hope that response made sense.
SB: The acting in So Mort It Be is really several steps above other similarly budgeted productions – particularly yourself and Nathan Hall (Jack). How did you go about casting your film, or were you mostly reliant on friends and/or people who were available?
FR: First, thank you for the compliment. I always wanted to be an actor but got into directing because I sucked at auditioning but figured that if I was in control I could always give myself a part. And yes, since SMIB was my first feature, I wanted to go with a cast of my friends. Without a lot of money or experience, I figured they would be much better to work with than professionals. I learned, we had fun, and that’s all that mattered.
SB: Most of the film takes place in a mansion, which makes for a great location since at its peak action is taking place all over the place. How did you get access to the location, and how did you avoid trashing the place?
FR: Haha, ohhh wow. HELL! I’m glad that it did come across as one mansion; that was a fear of mine for a while. It was actually 7 different locations (2 Bed & Breakfasts, my parents house, my cousins house, and a few more). The exterior was a historical landmark (Dooley Mansion) in a local park that we were not allowed to shoot on the inside. And with a lot of careful planning we didn’t destroy any of the locations; however, during the fight scene between Dante & Adam, I did accidentally kick a hole in the wall.
SB: The most memorable part of So Mort It Be *has* to be the giant mutant rats. The puppeteering on these creatures is actually really wonderful. Can you talk a bit about the design and creation of these creatures?
FR: AH yes, my beloved sock puppets. Without money, I knew I needed to keep everything simple, and I had two friends Jeremy Renfro (worked with Latex) & Corrinn Mullins (seamstress). Jeremy created these beautiful foam sculls for them & Corrinn created the furry bodies to fit perfectly on the puppeteer’s arm. They were so simple, we had considered releasing them as toys if the film was popular enough.
SB: Who ended up with the “Christ Sucks Cock” shirt?
FR: I still have that today, though the writing is fading away. Every now and then I wear it on stage with Synthetic Nightmare. Originally I was going to wear the “Cradle of Filth” T-Shirt that said “Jesus is a Cunt” then I thought “I can be more original and avoid getting sued if I come up with my own phrase.”
SB: I was really impressed by the amount and quality of the humor in the movie. On many low-budget films, comedy often ends up being difficult to pull off because of bad writing, or bad acting. Was the final mix of comedy and horror what you were hoping for when originally conceiving the film?
FR: Definitely, I knew that with no budget and lack of experience I would not be able to scare people. Knowing that you’re about to make something cheesy really helps. So I wanted to focus on comedy over horror. And with a background in stand-up during college I felt confident that I could make people laugh.
SB: How long did So Mort It Be take to complete?
FR: About four years. Two years writing it in college (2001 – 2002) and two years after graduating to shoot and edit (2002 – 2004).
SB: After the film was completed, what was the next step? How did you market it, and what steps did you take to find distribution?
FR: Ahhh the good ol’ days. When the movie was done, I just mailed DVD screeners to distributors and waited to hear back from them with a yay or neh. It was an easy time before social networking where distributors realized they could make tons of money off indie-filmmakers due to the success of Blair Witch Project. I didn’t market much at all because at the time the distributors wanted control over all that stuff. Things have changed A LOT since then. Filmmakers have more power now than ever before, but it’s not easy. You have to be extremely driven to get your work out there.
SB: With the benefit of a few years of hindsight, what are your final thoughts on the film?
FR: I’m really proud of it! Sure it’s in no way perfect, but looking back, it is exactly what I set out to make. It was the first thing that I completed on my own without someone else forcing / expecting me, so I learned that I had the dedication to follow through with the goals that I set for myself. Also, pertaining more to the film, it really is fun to watch. Whether I’m alone or with a group of friends, it’s a stupid good time, and in my opinion that is the whole point of grindhouse filmmaking.
SB: What projects have kept you busy since So Mort It Be’s completion?
FR: Pantheon Black – my second feature that kept me busy for 5 long years. Oh the stories I could tell you about that one. I shot the whole thing against a greenscreen and 97% of the shots are CG. I lost the little bit of sanity I had left working on it, but I’ll always regard it as one of my children.
Alien Face Bashers is my current project – a web series that will premier on:
This is one that I’m really excited about! We’ll have trailers up soon. And the episodes will begin to air this September 2011.
SB: If anyone reading would like to purchase So Mort It Be, or any of your other projects, what would be the best way? And what are you working on now, or what will you be working on in the future?
FR: Both So Mort It Be and Pantheon Black can be purchased on Amazon.com. Just search for the titles and you shall find. They can be purchased, downloaded, or streamed.
As for my new love, Alien Face Bashers, interested fans can watch it for free on
& keep up with it on
Alien Face Bashers is such an ideal project for me right now because it’s just me and my friends getting together and creating something we love purely for the fun of it. None of us are making money off of it and yet it’s turning out to be my best work because I don’t have the goal of making money. No money no pressure is a hippy way of looking at things but it’s the direction that the entertainment industry is headed.
SB: And one last thing:
On your website you describe making movies as “absolute hell”. Are there any particularly hellish experiences you can recall from the making of So Mort It Be or Pantheon Black?
FR: I’ll keep this one short, though there are countless stories I could tell. To make it website friendly, I’ll direct this answer toward young or new filmmakers (working with low / no budget).
One – Do not wear all the hats when making your film. For both SMIB and PB I was writer, director, producer, DP, Gaffer, and actor. While this gave me an appreciation for each of these key roles it also made me feel like a homicidal maniac and put the weight of the world on my shoulders. If you have friends that have the same passion you do, put them to work, and focus on doing a few things well rather than a bunch of things poorly.
Two – Work with dedicated people you can trust.
Three – Make sure you’re having fun and learning so that in the highly likely event you do not get a distributor you can still recall great memories with close friends and not consider suicide due to the amount of time and money you lost… teehee, I’m emotionally stable.
Finally, expect that your production will cost more and go longer than you initially expect. Better to be on the safe side when you’re estimating these things. Oh yeah, most importantly, make the film for you, not the audience. That’s different from what most people in the industry will say. But I say it because at the end of the day, your audience will devote at most 2 hours to your film while you will agonize over it for years… Make it worth it!
SB: Some great advice there. Thanks for talking to us, Fabian!
Learn more about Fabian Rush and his future projects at http://fabianrushfilms.com