Double Interview with Sean Fernald & Joe Moe - August 2009
Interview by: Preston

Watch the "Red Velvet" trailer

It’s no secret that we at Film Bizarro are fans of the much anticipated independent feature, “Red Velvet”. A movie that will take the horror community by storm from its combined styles of a deconstructed horror-comedy with the visuals of an art-house film. So we decided it was time to go beyond the movie and interview producer Sean Fernald, and co-writer/co-producer Joe Moe, to see what causes these two long-time horror fans and incredibly nice guys, to come up with a movie like “Red Velvet”.

Without further ado, here's our first double interview!
(All credit goes to Sean Fernald, it was his idea to bring Joe Moe into this thing)

Why don't you give a small introduction to yourself, and tell us in your words what "Red Velvet" is?
SEAN: I'm a lifelong horror fan and one of the producers of "Red Velvet". We set out to make a smart, stylish horror film that would ultimately be an entertaining antidote to the glut of "torture-porn" that's been offered of late. Our intention with the movie is to challenge, amuse, frighten, and ultimately... to entertain!

JOE: Aside from being an artist, I had the honor of being Forrest J Ackerman's best friend and caretaker for the last 15 years of his life. Being that close to the hub of the genre we all love was a blessing I can't even describe. I met many of my heroes. Was transported in Forry's incredible time machine (his brain) back to the beginnings of classic horror. Made amazing life-long friendships. Forry knew my passion for movies was a large as his own. The one big wish Forry always held for me was that I would get to make movies. He was so proud to do his cameo appearance in "Red Velvet". It was highly emotional for me to have him on set. By then he was growing frail. I knew the ol' guy couldn't last forever. For him to be a part of this movie was profound for me. I miss him every day.

"Red Velvet" was an opportunity to exploit the moviemaking dreams my friends and I had accumulated over a quarter century of pounding the pavement and learning our craft - the hard way. I wasn't afforded the privilege of film school or the connections needed to enter the industry easily. My education came from doing lots of work for free and uncredited. But I'm not complaining. The film-school-of-hard-knocks teaches you so many facets of moviemaking. We tried to make "Red Velvet" innovative while remaining responsible to our producers and respecting our audience. We knew we weren't making an art film but insisted it be artfully executed. We tried to replicate some of the sensibilities of classic horror movies we loved from our childhood. Stuff like languid scenes rather than frenetic action. Dialog to set up characters as opposed to "hack and react." And a visually glamorized treatment of our actors. For all of our planning, what we ended up with is part design and part happy accidents. When I watch "Red Velvet" today, I no longer see any of the work. I just enjoy the ride as I hope the audience will. It's so important to me that my genre brothers and sisters enjoy this movie. After all is said and done, it's meant as a Valentine to them.

How did you become involved in the project?

SEAN: After watching films like "Hostel" and "Saw," I had decided that I wanted to make a horror film that would offer all of the gore and scares (and sex) that horror fans enjoy without resorting to uncomfortable scenes primarily designed to make the audience "squirm." I personally enjoy horror that makes you scream AND laugh... leaving you with the feeling that you've just been on a ghoulish roller-coaster. I LOVED the recent Sam Raimi movie "Drag Me To Hell."

About how long did it take to complete "Red Velvet", and did you guys hit any snags while making it?
SEAN: We shot "Red Velvet"in just under a month, and took a "work-in-progress" rough-cut on the road playing it for horror-fans to fine-tune it. We hit about a dozen conventions last year and collected valuable feedback that really helped us fashion the movie into the crowd-pleaser it's become.

What do you feel was the hardest part about making the movie?

SEAN: Each step along the way has presented its own set of challenges. It started with getting the script in shape (a collaborative effort between the two writers Anthony Burns (who came up with the initial story idea) and Joe Moe (who fashioned Red Velvet into the art-horror-freakfest it is today). We then developed the production design and visual style (under the guidance of Joe Moe and John Goss), leading up to the final editing and post work that got the film to where it is now.

JOE: For me, the most difficult part of making a movie like "Red Velvet" was coordinating the creative components. This movie was always intended to be a visually striking one. Once the style for the film was established, to articulate it to so many artists with so many disparate tastes, opinions and perceptions was a challenge. But at some point you must relinquish control to the different departments. That's why it's important to hire people who are stronger at their specialties than you are. Once you've surrendered the reigns, it's great to watch artists not only add to your vision but enhance it or even exceed your expectations. As for any other difficulties in making "Red Velvet"? In the end, chalk em' up to adventure!

"Red Velvet" is obviously a labor of love for you both and others that have been involved with it since the beginning. Did the remaining cast and crew feel the same way when they became involved?
JOE: In Hollywood, it seems you run the gamut. You work with people who are strictly in it for the paycheck. Others are trying to advance themselves by generating tape for their reel. Then there are the special ones who actually become partners in the nurturing of a particular project. Regardless of an individuals agenda, if they're talented pros, you get more than you'd expect. And there are always the special ones who give their whole heart to your show. We had more than our fair share of those angels. I collected a family of people who believe in this movie and want to mark out a future together.

How was it decided to take the movie in the artistic direction that it was?
SEAN: It started with the script. We started with a Slasher Movie with a great premise wrapped inside a warped Romantic Thriller. The artistic elements were always there, the challenge was faithfully translating them to the screen. If you look at the "concept-design" section at the website, you'll see how it moved from the page to the screen. We've always been fans of stylish horror in the vein of Italian masters Mario Bava and Dario Argento, so the color palate and scope were of particular importance.

JOE: The creative team really understood that this was a "moving picture." I've always been a renaissance kinda guy. A graphic artist as well as a writer and even a studio vocalist for the past 25 years (you can find my new solo CD, "Mainland" here: I can't imagine any job I'd approach that I wouldn't try to impose a value for craft and artistry. Add to that, my dear friend and design partner John Goss, who is an incredible fine artist, and we had a natural formula for making a visually ambitious film. When director Bruce Dickson, an established cinematographer and his dad Jim Dickson (our director of photography) - an absolutely iconic cinematographer were brought aboard, I knew we had a good shot at making something special.

You mention Bava and Argento as being some of the movie's inspirations, any other directors or films in general that inspired you or just ones you're a big fan of?
JOE: As a designer, I am interested in all visually impactful movies. When doing my writing pass on the script for "Red Velvet"I made sure to add as many visual markers as possible for my design team to latch onto. A few films that influenced my personal design sensibilities are "Bride of Frankenstein", "Hideous Kinky", the color palliate of Hammer horror films in general and the artists Pierre et Gille who were the inspiration for our fantasy lake scenes where all the kids appear hyper-glamorous, post-coital and honey dipped. Sexy!

This was Bruce Dickson's first movie. How was it decided to go with him as the director for the project?
SEAN: In addition to Bruce Dickson's shared appreciation for the work of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, he is a gifted Cinematographer and Still Photographer. We knew with him at the helm, the film would have the look we were going for.

The movie was shot on 35mm, why did you guys decide to go the film route instead of one of the growing popular formats such as HD or DV?
SEAN: The Director of Photography was Jim Dickson (Bruce's father) who among other accomplishments shot the stargate sequence for Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey". He and Bruce used 35 MM film (Kodak, Vision 2) to capture the maximum color saturation from the scenes. I think the finished product bears out their assertion that for "Red Velvet", film was definitely the way to go!

Were you guys met with any friction about the movie, or has there always been a lot of support going into it?
SEAN: The most "friction" came from the studio distributors that we showed the film to once it was done. We were met time and again with the same answer... "love the movie, but we'd have no idea how to market it." It's odd for an industry that on the surface paints itself as innovative and cutting edge, most of the movies out these days are remakes or sequels. We share a release date with "Halloween 2," "Final Destination 4" and within a few weeks, "Saw - - Part 6"(!)

One of the things that I didn't touch on in the review was the fantastic music and score. Sean, with your experience and background in music, did you have anything to do with the movie's soundtrack?
SEAN: The score was handled by Marc Doten. He's been a mainstay on the local L.A. music scene for years and can handle changes from Rock to Synch to Orchestral seamlessly. He really GOT the movie, and his musical palate really helps underscore the emotional fabric of the scenes. I can't recommend him highly enough. Any filmmaker looking for a versatile composer should do themselves a favor and seek him out!

In the movie there are some different concepts for the killer's look, as well as some early sketches on the "Red Velvet" website. Were there any other concepts that were thought of but didn't make it?
SEAN: One of the ideas that I liked was the concept of a constantly changing face. Joe Moe initially designed flaps on the face that would raise, lower, and flip side to side that would would change the eyes and mouth of the maniac as he came toward you. If you look on the site under "killer design," (can be seen at the top of the interview) you'll see some of these sketches. We had also discussed using a face "mirror" so that as the killer approached, you would see your own terrified face reflected back at you. This proved problematic to shoot, and was ultimately replaced with the "Polaroid Camera."

As horror fans, we all love the gore and death scenes. What was it like, or rather, how fun was it creating these scenes?
JOE: Y'know, sometimes it's as much fun to ruminate on what you never want to see in a horror film again as well as what you've always dreamt of seeing. The creative team on this film was allowed to brainstorm and bounce every idea off very receptive partners. Even when we weren't inventing the wheel, we tried our best to innovate. Our limited resources forced us to be inventive. For example, Ken being sawed in half. We couldn't afford a body cast of the actor (Ryan Doom) so we rooted around the FX shop, found a full-sized Jay Hernandez figure from "World Trade Center" and cannibalized that. You'll notice our shot is all in silhouette. When we were finished with that gag, we yanked the arms and used them on Kile's door hanging scene. I guess we're like creepy sausage makers. Every scrap gets used!

I've got to ask, where did that crocodile bit come from?
SEAN: We had the characters Roy and Jenny in the pit, and knew we wanted something surprising to be pulled down into the pit when the "rescue rope" was lowered into the hole. Joe's first thought was a wheel-barrow full of chainsaws... but during a brainstorming session our Co-Production Designer John Goss flippantly threw out the idea of pulling down an alligator... which ultimately won out. It's ironic that this scene was almost cut from the film (for budgetary and time constraints) but at the last moment, our Cinematographer Jim Dickson and Production Designer John Goss jumped into the pit and shot the scene. It's turned out to consistently be a favorite with fans of the film!

Also, where did that subliminal laundry skull come from?
SEAN: The "laundry skull" was also an invention of John Goss'. We wanted to fill the film with subtle surprise elements in the backgrounds. The sculpture of the skull (comprised of towels and wash cloths) sits on the character Linda's washer. Though it is clearly visible for most of the laundry scene, it's amazing how many people miss it the first time they see the film. As you watch the movie, always look on the walls and in the background for little "easter eggs." Did you see the alligator in the fish-tank during the Thai Restaurant scene? Or the cabin on the lampshade in the "mother - kill scene?" Or Aaron's "coded writing" on the outside of the laundromat, or in Frank's tattoos?

Have you been to any live screenings of the movie, if so, how were the responses?
SEAN: The gator scene is a real crowd-pleaser. It's great to hear people laughing AND screaming at the same time! That's one of the greatest rewards for us as a filmmakers. We all set out to make a film that would ultimately challenge and entertain viewers!

I've noticed you guys are doing a lot of convention tours as well and not just film festivals. How have the conventions been?
SEAN: The conventions were fantastic! It's great meeting the fans face to face. We're horror fans as well, and made this for ourselves, as well as the horror community. The conventions gave us a great opportunity to screen the film, then get instant feedback afterwards at our booth. We also brought along various

actors and actresses from the movie, giving fans the opportunity to comment on their characters face to face.

Since the DVD is due out shortly, care to talk about some of the special features we can expect?
SEAN: We have a filmmaker's commentary track, featuring myself, Joe Moe (co-writer, co-producer, co-production designer) and our 20 year-old Executive Producer, Justin McConville. We also have a 12 minute photo "Slide Show" over highlights from the film's score, a music video for the song "Maniac" by Johnny Mac and the Cadillacs and two behind the scenes featurettes, one focusing on the actors and the other on the special make-up and FX!

The movie is labeled as an Amazon Exclusive. Tell us about your arrangement with Amazon.
SEAN: We've partnered with to release "Red Velvet" as an Amazon Exclusive. For a period of three months, Amazon will feature the movie prominently in some of their various horror communities on the website, along with assisting us in our marketing efforts. To paraphrase the old saying, "if you film screens in the forest and there's no one there to see it, does it make any sound?" With Amazon working with us, we'll do our best to at least make sure that people are aware the film is available! After the DVD exclusive runs its course, we plan on taking the film on a city-by-city theatrical "midnight-movie" tour.

Do you have future projects in the pipeline?
SEAN: We're developing a dark urban sci-fi "black comedy" by Joe Moe that he will also direct. It's going to be a very different take on the "alien visitor" sub-genre. I can't wait to make the formal announcement!

Do you see yourself ever being involved in other aspects of making movies, like directing?

JOE: I have prepared my entire life to make movies. Next to my friends and family, it is my true love. I am really eager to share some of the stories I've picked up along the way. "Red Velvet" prepared me to do the job of director with confidence and glee. I know I'm preaching to choir. I have never met so many talented, creative, skilled people than I have in our genre. We're all on the same path either loving the making of movies or the watching of them. So, I'll show you mine if you show me yours...

Well that's it for questions. Any final thoughts you would like to add or share with the readers?
JOE: We're all participants in the culture of movie making. The genre is a major influence over what gets made. In a way, we're all magically empowered to decide what gets made and what gets seen by the general public. I have always supported independent horror and even flukes and experiments. I hope our community will embrace "Red Velvet". We made it for YOU! well, for all of us.

Also, regarding our mentor and dearly departed friend..."FORREST J ACKERMAN SHALL NOT DIE!"

You can read our fantastic review of "Red Velvet" here!
Aside from that, check the official website for lots of cool shit.
Purchase this bad boy here.


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