Alan Rowe Kelly
Alan Rowe Kelly is a multi-talented writer \ producer \ director \ actor \ make-up artist, who has been in the filmmaking business since 1999. In 2002 his first film 'I'll Bury You Tomorrow
' was released to widespread critical acclaim.
Since then, he has been involved with a number of projects in the indie horror scene including directing 'The Blood Shed', a deliriously demented and campy take on the inbred cannibal clan theme. In 2009 his collaborative anthology project 'Gallery of Fear' will be released with it's final segment 'A Far Cry From Home' about a homosexual couple savaged by a trio of redneck extremists after the couple's stop at the wrong curiosity shop.
Dark and brutal, with none of the camp found in Blood Shed
, 'A Far Cry From Home
' makes a hell of a statement about the intolerance and ignorance found in the heart of America.
- This latest effort was much darker and closer to home (no pun intended) than your previous films and seems to reflect you more so than your other roles. How close to you or your personality was the character of 'Lane'?
My first two films I'll Bury You Tomorrow and The Blood Shed were horror films with heavy doses of black comedy. I'm usually referred to as a funny, dry, wiseacre - being raised on the likes of Lucille Ball, Bob Hope movies and Bugs Bunny - so I couldn't help but go for the comic element in those films and let them happen 'naturally' - they were never intended. But I feared not being taken seriously as a writer and director and labeled a 'one-trick pony'. So I made a big effort to do some serious horror. A lot of my past reviews frequently commented on wanting to see what I would do with more serious material. That baited me to go in the direction of A Far Cry From Home and I'm very happy that I did. And how close was Lane to me? Well, I'm MUCH thinner than he is!
- Was this character harder for you to portray? If so, what made it more difficult or easier, and why?
Lane actually was hard for me to portray. It wasn't a character role, which I've been used to doing for almost 20 films now. What Lane did have in common with many of my roles is that I play the 'victim'. People just LOVE to see me die!
There were a lot of things about Lane that are me, I had to act like myself in many of the straight dialogue scenes and be relaxed. I was uncomfortable with it because I didn't have anyone else's skin to disappear into. Playing 'normal' leaves you no protective wall to hide behind. I think a lot of actors feel that way. But once the first half of the film was shot, the rest was all action, raw emotion and very, very physical. My hysterics on camera were very easy to come by playing opposite the amazing talents of Jerry Murdock, Benzy, Terry M. West and Katherine O'Sullivan scaring and beating the daylights out of me!
- Do you feel limited or restricted being a gay filmmaker?
I do not call myself a 'Gay' filmmaker. I never will. I think that's a big limitation. Any moniker you put on yourself is limiting.
I make horror movies and I'm a horror director. I write for all types of characters and all types of horror sub-genres. It's not important what my sexuality is off camera, and I'm not trying to break any new grounds in 'queer' cinema either. I just happen to be a horror filmmaker/actor who is gay, which is the same today as saying 'I'm blonde', because that too can change for the camera.
I only want to make good movies. As I've grown in the business and picked up a little notoriety, most people are first alerted to my appearance and then my person. But after folks meet me they all come to the same conclusion... 'that's just Alan! ' (Sounds like a bad sitcom!). Sure, I always include diversified characters in all of my films. That's what I know. But that certainly doesn't make it a 'gay' film.
And who's to say I won't make a completely gay-themed horror film in the future? I have some cool ideas up my sleeve and may just go for it. But I sincerely feel generalizations belong to the past century - along with our past presidents - and have no place in the 21st century. We're just plain horror folk! LOL! [Standing ovation from the KillingBoxx crew, Alan! Well put.]
- You act in all of your productions. Do you feel this makes it harder to do your job behind the camera or does it give you an edge by getting you more involved with the story?
Not at all. The only way I know how to make a movie is to produce, direct and act in it as well - I just HAVE to do all my pre-production work way ahead of time to make sure everything is secured on MY end and not interrupt anyone else's duties during production. I surely do my homework when it comes to scripts, shot sheets, scene scheduling, budget, wardrobe, locations, insurance, travel, food, lodgings - the works!
And when I'm acting on camera, I always listen to the AD and cinematographer to make sure I'm on my marks as well. As a matter of fact- I just finished producing and directing Down the Drain , one of three stories in the Gallery of Fear anthology - and I am NOT in it at all! I have to admit it threw me off a bit - I was involved in the film, but NOT as involved as when I'm also in the film too. That's the ham in me. I'm always envious of actors!
- Which aspect of the filmmaking process is your favorite or do you approach each project as a whole, without distinguishing the difference in duties?
Wow! Well it starts with the writing a script and that can lock me a way for three weeks to 4 months at a time. It's torturous, exciting, fulfilling and flattening all at the same time, But once it's finished and you know it's good- there's no better feeling!
But then comes Step 2 - financing! Uggh! Ask any indie filmmaker, it is truly the very worst and most grueling of all aspects of filmmaking. It's like being a used car salesman! The financing let's you know what you can and CAN'T do in your film and then you have to get EXTREMELY creative to work around the budget and make it appear as if you spent double. A very talented filmmaker friend of mine, Jeremiah Kipp, who was my AD and Associate Producer on The Blood Shed put it best,
Was the low budget a hindrance? No! Because the low budget set us free! Set us free to be as inventive and creative as all our collective talents could combine. And he's right! We moved in daring directions we didn't think possible and came up with beautiful, atmospheric visuals. Which is the next step- the actual 'filming'.
I don't think any actor, artist or director feels more alive then when actually being on set first thing in the morning, drinking coffee, watching cast and crew arrive and getting down to some good old moviemaking! And of course once the final scene is wrapped, you're off to post-production to design and build your film.
Editing is wonderful when you find a great editor who knows you and also adds his/her ideas. I've been lucky with great editing. Music and sound design is another favorite step of mine - it's the final character in your film. (And not enough filmmakers pay attention to this process - if you're low budget, PLEASE make sure your sound design is flawless - it covers a multitude of sins and guides the viewer through hard cuts, jumps and transitions without hurting their ears! Too many indie films suffer from this.)
And final, marketing and PR of the film - this is where I'm at now with A Far Cry From Home - trying to get it out there to the indie community and shout it from the rooftop! You have to become your own publicist because no one will blow your horn louder than you. If you don't LOVE your film - neither will the audience and you cannot fool them.
- Will you always concentrate on genre productions or would you like to move away from horror to try your hand with a drama or any other type of film?
I'll stick with horror, sci-fi, thrillers and the genre, always. It's what I know and understand. I certainly can't see myself doing romantic comedies or straight drama - I don't think I have it in me unless I do it for high camp. Though a physical screwball comedy in the vein of a Rosalind Russell/Cary Grant/Howard Hawks styled vehicle would be so much fun.
- Where did your affinity for horror begin?
My love of horror started when I was about 4 years old, watching The Outer Limits
, Creature Features
, and Million Dollar Movie
on my parent's old B&W television set ( Yeah, yeah! You do the math! ). I can recall my first horror movies being Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein
, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
, and The Wizard of Oz
. I was hooked after that. I remember being on vacation in Long Beach Island, NJ and my dad took my older brother and I to the Colony Theatre to see Dinosaurus!
I became so excited when I saw the scene of the tyrannosaurus attacking a bus full of people - quite graphic for 1964! But my brother got upset and we had to leave! Uggh! I was extremely miffed by that!
In retrospect, what I loved about Dinosaurus! is it was made in 1960, yet still playing in theaters 4 years later. A film is lucky to get 2 full weeks in the cinemas nowadays! My other BIG influences were Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Uninvited and The Monster of Piedras Blancas - very old school... but then, that's me!
I practically lived in the refinished basement of my parent's house growing up - it was like a separate apartment from the rest of the house and I could hole up there to escape life and the outside world to be as creative as I wanted with my art, my writing (I wrote scripts even when I was in grade school!) and watching hours of horror movies!
- In addition to filmmaking, you are also a published author of a non-fiction book about your home town, which you co-authored with your mother. Will there be more books to come and what might they be about?
Writing historical books is a hobby I share with my mom Charlotte - a local historian of Wharton, New Jersey, a small industrial mining town my family hails from and still reside in today - including my fabulous 94-year old grandmother who still climbs a ladder to clean out the roof gutters of her wonderful white manse on the hill!
We were originally of the Lenape Indian tribes that settled northwest New Jersey as far back as the 1590s - that's as far back as we've been able to trace. By the turn of the 19th Century we mixed with Irish and Hungarian immigrants who settled in town to work the iron ore mines and railways.
Since our little 'Mayberry' had such a varied past and culture, and Charlotte is president of the local 'hysterical' society, she enlisted my writing talents to put together a book through Arcadia Publishing. We still actually receive residual checks on it every 6 months, which is a riot because we did it just as a project for us to do together and for the posterity of our hometown's legacy. We had no idea that it would sell so well and continue to sell throughout the state. We still do occasional book signings and attend historic meets to speak and greet with more local enthusiasts.
We're planning on another book, possibly focusing on the individual mines themselves (about 22), and the Native American contribution to the ironworks and railways during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. It's a heritage I'm very proud of and we're hardy stock indeed! Quite a departure from the horror biz.
- Your next project is a remake of the S.F. Brownrigg film 'Don't Look in the Basement'. What is your opinion of the remake trend, how will you improve on it (the film or the trend) and what made you choose this as your next film?
A few years back I was a bit sour on the remake trend until I saw some wonderful remakes in Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead. And I must admit that the remake to My Blood Valentine and Friday the 13th both look like an awful lot of fun! I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
As far as our remake of S.F. Brownrigg's Don't Look in the Basement, I personally don't feel that the original film needs improving at all. It's the epitome of drive-in, grindhouse, splatter theater. To have the opportunity to retell its story, show new audiences our version and at the same time re-direct folks back to the original film, is what a remake should be all about.
Surprisingly, my partner on this project, director Anthony Sumner (W.O.R.M.) and actor Jerry Murdock both brought the idea to my attention at the same time! They thought it would be the perfect vehicle to match my filmmaking aesthetic and being that it IS a remake, get some publicity as well as potential good backing for it and future projects. Plus, we LOVE the film. So I wrote a very tight script using a lot of the original story's elements and also added some new characters and plotlines. I had to update a lot of the basics because the film is now 35-years old and time and technology have changed a lot. Plus I also didn't want the film to take place in the early 1970's. You have to take these changes into consideration when re-adapting a drive-in classic.
We're now set to shoot in southern Indiana in late summer 2009 - we were originally slated for shooting this February, but like all producers, we're seeking even more production funding. We can't wait to shoot it, have the great cast in ZoÃ« Daelman Chlanda, Raine Brown, Jeff Dylan Graham, Terry M. West, Debbie Rochon, Deneen Melody, Jerry Murdock, Andrew Roth, myself, Marv Blauvelt and Debbie Deverde. The locations are fantastic, we have Jeremy Selenfriend on SFX, and the always brilliant Tom Burns to score and do sound design.
- If you became wildly successful and were given carte blanche to make any picture your heart desired, what might be your choice(s)?
Well, I have 4 finished scripts that I would definitely make!
- Unhallowed Ground is my baby and has been for 5 years; Demonic toys and puppets, haunted hotel and fairy tale amusement park, witches covens, small town curses, redemption - the works! But I won't make it until the right budget arrives. The locations in Northwest New Jersey still exist and are screaming for a horror movie to be shot there.
- I also have a sci-fi Eco-Horror script called Spore!, which follows in the in the vein of The Blob, 28 Days Later, I Drink Your Blood - that will be great gooey fun (of course now the name will probably have to change because of that stupid game! ).
- A Murder of Crows is my 'gothic, greedy family trapped in booby-trapped mansion on deserted island ' film.
- And a remake of Sudden Fear - a film noir thriller based on the 1948 Edna Sherry novel that became a Joan Crawford classic in 1952. I have most of the script finished and have changed a lot of the lead character's genders to give it more of an updated twist for today. I would play the Crawford role, a playwright marked for murder in gorgeous San Francisco.
And as a guilty pleasure (remember, we're all dreaming of tons of money here!) I would love to make the ultimate disaster movie! But do it old school like the greats of the 70's such as The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake! and The Towering Inferno. Too much fun there.
- Have you ever passed on any projects that, in retrospect, you wished you had taken?
There were 2 projects that I passed on - one only because I signed on and was never contacted again, and the other was simply the most dreadful script and story I ever read! But at this early point in my career I don't feel I can really afford to turn anything down as far as acting.
I need to get myself out there as much as possible and most of the great filmmakers I have worked with so far have used me very well. I do get brought in for a lot of 'cameos' to spark up a scene. But not given much more. That's why I place myself in all of my films playing different characters. I've got to show that I'm versatile and carry a film as a lead. And of course, there have been many roles in horror movies that I think I would have been dynamite in, but that's just my actor's vanity.
I recently have been in touch with the charming and infamous Hart D. Fisher from AmericanHorrors.com and I may become one of his 'horror hosts' on a new show about all things American Horror that will air in Europe and Asia. This is another great venue to get independents out to a worldwide audience too! Wish me luck on this one- sounds like a ton of fun and I get to do what I do best... TALK!
- Do you feel the state of independent filmmaking is in good hands and where do you see it going in the next ten years?
I think independent 'horror' filmmaking today is in VERY good hands as far as the vast talent of directors, writers, producers and actors out there. I've been fortunate to know and meet so many and I respect them all.
So ten years from now? I can't wait to see where we'll all be. The only major problem and setback today in indie horror filmmaking is the wretched state of crooked distributors and the disgusting way they treat, steal and take advantage of amazing, talented filmmakers - that's an entire article all on its own! It's always been, and probably always will be an uphill battle.
But we independents are a strong stock and we will prevail even past these temporary roadblocks. I think a big and more profitable change in distributing independent films is just around the corner with VOD, digital downloads and the growing opportunities for more self-distribution.
- Thirteen is our wild card question: the World economy has collapsed and anarchy reigns, you and a small band of friends have survived so far and want to find a place to try and start over. Where do you think this safe zone might be and once there what would you do to try and prevent society's ills from recurring again and spoiling your peace?
Wow! Apocalypse questions! I love it! Well, since I have lived in overpopulated urban cities my entire adult life, my priority would be to initially GET OUT! (With all my films preserved on small hard drives of course!)
I would return to my ancestral roots of the mountains of Northwest New Jersey, New York state and Pennsylvania. There are plenty of caves, rivers, lakes, fresh water and land to grow food. You're going to need basic tools and some muscle to chop and build shelter, have access to building fires for cooking, warmth and protection and, of course, a keen eye for keeping guard at all times as well as plenty of ammunition for hunting and protection. (Remember we're talking survival here and I was raised by NJ State Police!)
Also, being an anal retentive producer, I would have lists of supplies that would be a must. And stealing the proper 4-wheel drive vehicle to get us past many driving obstacles, roadblocks and anyone who steps in our way is a necessity. Survival in the wilderness is not for sissies, so a lot of luxuries would have to be left behind. Radio and communications of any sort to hear what is happening throughout the world would be extremely important along with batteries, gas and generators.
Once you find the place that will be your 'new' home to settle, then the fight for democracy begins all over. So be sure your traveling partners can take it too - everyone has to contribute something or else they are just dead weight! LOL! Hmmm... glad this is all a hypothetical question! I'm beginning to sound quite bossy and creeping myself out!
KillingBoxx Note: Alan's sense of humor, intellect and passion for independent film as an art comes through in everything he does. We're going to watch out for him, he's going some where! And thanks for the laughs Alan, pompous and self-important you are not!!