Kevin O’Neill interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

Kevin O’Neill
(Sharktopus vs Whalewolf, Sharktopus vs Pteracuda, Dinocroc, Dinoshark & Dracano)

ONEILL_01Over the years, I have profiled writers, directors, actors, producers and composers but today, I’m adding a new profession to that list.

I spoke with Kevin O’Neill, one of the best VFX Supervisor in the industry, about his career and the big transition that he went through in becoming a top tier creature feature director for Roger Corman. With directing credits include Dinocroc and the two Sharktopus sequels and VFX credits include Piranha 3D and Crocodile, Kevin has amassed a wealth of experience which he generously took time from his busy schedule to talk to me about.

Read on to discover the day-to-day business of a VFX Supervisor, what it’s really like to work for Roger Corman, what really happened to Sharktopus vs Mermantula and an exclusive scoop on his next project, Intergalactic Shark Attack…

[JS] How did you get started in Visual Effects/ the film industry?

[KO] Well, I grew up on the East End of Long Island during the 60’s/70’s, when the local TV stations and Cinema would run everything from King Kong (1933) to Godzilla to of course, Ray Harryhausen films. I developed and early fascination with Ray H. and Willis O’Brien’s work, and soon found myself immersed in all things related to the process and equipment necessary to produce short experimental films. I was lucky to have taken up this interest at the same time a small but very informative collection of books and magazines dedicated to the technical and art of visual effects films, both professional and amateur were starting to publish on a regular basis.

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Jon & Al Kaplan interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

Jon & Al Kaplan (Zombeavers, Dinocroc vs Supergator, Piranhaconda, Gila)

Zombeavers-posterThe horror comedy sub-genre is one of the most difficult balances to achieve on film. Too funny and there is zero tension in the scarier scenes. Too scary and the tonal shifts into comedy ruin the suspension of disbelief.

One of the best example of a great horror comedy is last year’s Zombeavers (review here). One thing that caught my eye in particular was that the film’s screenwriters were also the composers.

Music and screenplays were two fields that I was certain had little to no crossover and I was fascinated about how these guys could be so skilled in two completely different crafts.

So the best way to find out was to chat with the immensely talented Jon and Al Kaplan who, as well as writing and scoring Zombeavers, also served musical duties on Dinocroc vs Supergator, Gila and Piranhaconda.

Read on for our conversation where we discuss how to score a movie, musical influences, Zombeavers 2, other creature feature ideas and the fantastically titled The Hills Have Thighs…

[JS] Let’s start from the beginning; how and why did you get into composing / screenwriting?

[J+AK] Our dad was a concert composer (at least while he was at Manhattan School of Music), and he introduced us to film music right from when we were born. We’ve been composing since we were kids, and while we never thought of it as a career path to start, we ended up doing the USC film scoring program. That still didn’t lead to a career in composing, so we tried screenwriting as a different creative avenue. Then we were looking for ways to combine music and writing, so we did Silence! The Musical. Eventually, we ended up writing Zombeavers because we wanted something new to score.

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Annabel Wright interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

Annabel Wright (Lake Placid vs Anaconda, Blood in the Water)

Annabel Wright by Roger EatonWhen film franchises make the transition from the cinematic gloss of big budget theatrical releases to the discounted but arguably more creative free world of the direct-to-TV release, it’s often seen as the final nail in the franchise coffin. However there are two series that have defied the odds and not only survived the transition but have thrived.

The Anaconda and Lake Placid franchises both transitioned to the Syfy Channel and now, 16 years after their first installments they have both reached the fifth film in their respective franchises with a crossover dual that pitches the Crocodiles of Black Lake against the Blood Orchid enthused Anacondas from the Amazon.

When Murdoch’s daughter and Jim Bickerman unwittingly unleash Blood Orchid enhanced Anacondas and the Crocodiles of Black Lake on the neighboring Clear Lake, it’s up to Sheriff Reba and Fish & Game warden Tully to save a group of vacationing Sorority Girls and put an end to this madness once and for all. But how many human lives will be lost in the climatic battle of the Crocodiles of Lake Placid vs Anaconda!

I had a chance to ask the wonderful actress Annabel Wright a few questions about her role as the lead villainess Sarah Murdoch in Lake Placid vs Anaconda. Read on for a fun little interview in which we discuss working with Robert Englund, conquering her fear of snakes, boat building and her in-development cookery show….

[JS] How did you get into acting? And why?

[AW] I had my first experience of being on stage aged 3. My parents had taken me to a variety entertainment show, I was pretty small and had to sit on a load of folded coats to see the stage, but I was utterly engrossed in the performances. At one point a man with a variety of musical instruments asked if there were any children who would like to come up on stage and help him with his act, before my parents had blinked I had jumped up and was standing on the seat, arms waving. I was invited up on stage and I got to play the trombone in front of a large audience and curtsy, I received a big round of applause, I couldn’t stop smiling – I’m sure in part because I managed to get a sound out of the trombone and it was nearly as big as I was! Continue reading

Michael Anderson interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

Michael Anderson (The Hatching)

hatchingBritain is never the first country that springs to mind when thinking of the Creature Feature market but there is one man who is looking to change that.

Film-maker Michael Anderson has had a long and varied career spanning multiple decades and now, he has turned his hard-earned skills to his feature-length directorial debut, The Hatching.

Co-written by Anderson and his writing partner, Nick Squire, The Hatching was produced entirely in the UK and has already wowed distributors from the US.

In the UK, The Hatching has made plenty of waves on the festival circuit and I managed to catch up with Mr Anderson to discuss everything from the movie to the British sense of humour, shooting a film in the UK, the use of real crocodiles vs CGI and the Winter Floods of 2013.

And if that wasn’t enough, we got some exclusive scoops on some future Creature Feature projects that Mr Anderson has in the works…

[JS] How does it feel to be the creator of Britain’s first killer crocodile movie?

[MA] I think that I will be able to go and lay my head to rest feeling very pleased that that is an accolade that I can have maybe written on my gravestone.

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Mike MacLean interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

Mike MacLean (Dinocroc vs Supergator, Sharktopus, Piranhaconda)

Sharktopus 3Screenwriting is a very difficult field to get into and a common statistic thrown around is that 95% of writers never get to see their work on the big screen. But what are the chances of having 5 of your screenplays produced by the Syfy Channel and be the go-to guy for the legendary producer Roger Corman?

The odds of that happening are minuscule yet there is a man who can flaunt these credentials and his name is Mike MacLean. Over the past 5 years, Mr MacLean has had a tremendous impact on the Creature Feature world after writing such Syfy hits as Dinocroc vs Supergator, Sharktopus & Piranhaconda.

The remarkably down-to-Earth and hilarious Mr MacLean was even kind enough to answer a few questions for me about his movies, his writing habits and what he has coming up in the future. Anyone planning on penning the next Creature Feature goldmine will definitely want to read below:

How did you get into screenwriting? And why?

I could blather on about my love of movies and how I dabbled in screenwriting during college, but ultimately I fell ass backwards into the film industry. I wrote a story called “McHenry’s Gift” which ended up being published in The Best American Mystery Stories (alongside Elmore Leonard, James Lee Burke, and Walter Mosley). Someone at Roger Corman’s office read it and shot me an email asking if I’d like to try screenwriting.
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Mary Alexandra Stiefvater interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

Mary Alexandra Stiefvater (Supergator, Bear)

Theo_And_Juliet_17Many actors and actresses get their first big feature film roles in Creature Features and today’s interviewee is no exception. Also a writer, producer, model and poet, Mary Alexandra Stiefvater got her first important feature role in Syfy’s 2007 killer crocodile movie Supergator as Dr Alexandra Stevens.

“When the clone of a man-eating crocodilian dinosaur escapes from its research facility, the local town’s only hope rests in a team of scientists, tourists and a Texan alligator hunter. Will this band of unlikely heroes be able to stop the sinister Supergator?!”

Stiefvater later returned to the sub-genre starring as the leading female role Liz in the 2010 killer bear movie Bear, produced by internet sensation Freddie Wong.

“When their van breaks down in the forest, two couples finds themselves mercilessly hunted by a grizzly bear after they shoot its mate in self-defence. But when the pressure is on, secrets are revealed that could tear their relationships apart. Will they be able to put aside their differences and work together or will they all fall victim to the vengeful and bloodthirsty Bear?!”

Ms Stiefvater was kind enough to answer a few questions about her experiences on the two different productions and about what she has got lined up in the future… Continue reading

David Sheldon interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

David Sheldon (Grizzly, Predator: The Concert, Frogs, Squirm)

grizzlyThere are many creature features with strange and/or questionable origins but none are more elusive than the unfinished and unreleased killer bear movie, Predator: The Concert, or as it is known informally, Grizzly 2.

The plot of the film is nice and simple: A park ranger rushes to stop the rampage of a giant grizzly bear before a big rock concert is scheduled to take place at the park. Forced into an uneasy alliance with a bear activist and an intrepid hunter, the ranger must stop the Grizzly’s reign of terror before it ruins the big event.

The film started shooting in Hungary in 1985 but, after shooting 75% of the material, the production was shut down for mysterious reasons. Despite being over 30 years old, the online leak of a 2007 workprint of Predator sparked a lot of interest from the online community mostly due to the film’s fantastic cast including Academy Award winner Louise Fletcher and Lord of the Rings star John Rhys Davies along with future stars Laura Dern, Charlie Sheen and George Clooney in supporting roles.

There are a lot of conflicting stories, reports and theories available online so in order to get to the bottom of things once and for all, I spoke with the writer and producer of both Grizzly and Predator, David Sheldon to talk about the film, the cast and the remake… Continue reading