LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Exclusive Interview With Smash Cut Director Lee Demarbre
By James Whittington, Saturday 24th October 2009
Lee Demarbre has been producing unique movies for a few years now and last August he brought his latest piece, Smash Cut to FrightFest 2009. Lee's warm and friendly personality won him many fans so we decided to have a chat with this respected director about how he got started in the movie business and what the future holds for him and what its like to work alongside David Hess (pictured).
Horror Channel: How did you get started in the movie business?
LD: I worked at a Chinese Restaurant run by the Italian mob here in Ottawa for about two years. I saved enough to buy a video camera and quit, quick. I started fouling around in high school, graduated Carleton University with a degree in film and joined a film co-operative; where I fell in love with making movies on 16 mm. Shot my film feature film (entirely on a 16 mm Bolex) in 1999 entitled Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Since then I’ve completed seven feature films; Smash Cut being my fifth.
Horror Channel: You a life long horror movie fan?
LD: Yes and no. Jaws was the first film I saw in the theatre; I was five. I was terrified for years; I hated it. I started enjoying the experience of being scared watching movies the first time when I saw George A. Romero’s Creepshow. It freaked me out; but I realized for the first time I enjoyed the sensation of being scared. I love good horror, but I find there isn’t a lot of good horror films made. Most I see I don’t enjoy. As much as I love it I have to say there is a small list of horror films I actually enjoy. I love a lot of European horror films, i.e. Bava, Argento, etc. I also love the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, and many of his contemporaries in Florida at the time.
Horror Channel: How did Smash Cut all come together?
LD: I realized early on that the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis was effecting everything I was making, from my horror/comedies to even my documentaries. It was crazy. My writer and I discussed making a tribute film to Herschell for many years. Luckily, after many years we finally got to make it. It came together because Robert Menzies (the films producer) got behind this crazy idea, raised a bunch of money and aloud me to cast a dream cast of many of my heroes; young and old.
Horror Channel: Once more Ian Driscoll was involved as writer for your feature, you’ve worked with him on many occasions, how did you two first meet?
LD: I met Ian believe it or not at a party watching a bunch of Herschell Gordon Lewis movies. We bonded because of our love for Lewis’ films. We met a bunch of times to watch all of Herschell’s movies. He was finishing his degree in writing here in Ottawa and I askd him to write the narration for my first short film shot on 16mm entitled Harry Knuckles. After that he quickly wrote the screenplay for the sequel entitled Harry Knuckles and the Treasure of the Aztec Mummy. That film won big at the Slamdance Film Festival; and quickly after that he wrote his film feature length script entitled Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.
Horror Channel: The casting is quite something, how did you go about gathering this unique collection of actors and of curse not forgetting Herschel Gordon Lewis?
LD: Sasha Grey was the first person I had on board. I approached her almost two years before we began shooting; she just turned 19 at the time. I contacted her through myspace of all places. She was always supportive of the film; even when it was a no-budget shoe-string budgeted type of movie. David Hess was the first name that came to mind once I was able to afford a budget big enough to attract talent. David brought on Michael Berryman, and Ray Sager (the star of many of Herschell’s films throughout the 60’s and 70’s) became attached just weeks before production began. As for Herschell; I was lucky enough to meet Herschell shortly after I was married way back in 2002. Herschell invited my wife and I over to his house on a few occasions to discuss his work, his influence on me, and Smash Cut. At the time Herschell was only going to play the voice on the radio (ala Blood Feast), but as the budget grew, so did Herschell’s involvement. I was lucky enough to have him fly to Ottawa to play two parts in the film. In fact the title “Smash Cut” came from Herschell. He’s everywhere in this movie.
Horror Channel: Sasha Gray is best known for her more adult themed movies, what was the reason behind her casting?
LD: I first noticed Sasha in the Belladonna movie Fetish Fanatics 4. Her scene with Belladonna is so intense, so real, so amazing, I just had to see more of her. I was amazed to see the amount of intensity in all of Sasha’s films. I’ve never seen anything like it. I thought if she could bring that to a horror film it would be amazing. However Smash Cut isn’t only horror, it’s also comedy. What I wasn’t sure of was could Sasha play funny. Then again, this girl and do anything; so I wasn’t to surprised when she did funny well too. Sasha is going to take over – you’ll see.
Horror Channel: The film is satirical in tone, are any of the events inspired by situations you’ve experienced?
LD: Yes … many are. Ian Driscoll, Robert Menzies and I tried for years tried to make an action film in Jamaica. It never happened – it killed us. Many of the frustrations trying to make that film went into Smash Cut. Trying to make films in Canada with Arts councils, trying to make an action film in Mexico, trying to make a documentary around the world, trying to make feature films with no money, all the mistakes and all of our successes went into the making of Smash Cut. Someday I can reveal all the ugly truths about what went into the making of Smash Cut. Ask me again when I’m 80.
Horror Channel: What was the hardest movie shoot you’ve endured?
LD: The Dead Sleep Easy in Mexico. 30 days of making a movie with real gangsters, real drug dealers, real guns, real killers … it was the real deal and it was scary. Again, when I’m 80.
Horror Channel: There are some nice details such as the posters for movies that are placed around the movie. Is it true these were real titles for unmade HGL movies?
LD: Yes. I asked Herschell to come up with the title of our film. What he gave me was 12 titles of movies he never got to make. So we picked our favourite title, and designed posters for the rest of the titles to hang as set dressing in our film. It’s some of my favourite btis of the movie. “Lover, Take My Liver” – come on!
Horror Channel: You brought the movie to FrightFest 2009, what did you think of the event?
LD: Amazing. The cinema has 1500 seats. We don’t have cinemas like that in Ottawa. I was honoured; it sort of made everything (even the film we never made in Jamaica) all worth while.
Horror Channel: The people I saw it with really did “get” the movie, were you worried that the British audience wouldn’t?
LD: Kind of. But I thought … Spielberg’s turkey 1941 worked in the UK … perhaps Smash Cut will too. It was our first English language crowd who watched the film; I was really nervous. I’m glad they got it … what a relief.
Horror Channel: David Hess is a pretty unique character; would you like to do more work with him?
LD: Oh ya. I’m developing at least two films with Mr. Hess right now. He’s my brother now.
Horror Channel: Can you foresee a Smash Cut 2?
LD: YES! There’s two ideas. One where Sasha Grey is the filmmaker in the next film. And another where in Smash Cut 2 sort of plays out like A Christmas Carol; David Hess plays the ghost of Christmas pass, present and future – at Farmsworth Studios. There’s also of an alternate universe Smash Cut idea, where David Hess plays a Theatre owner; he kills distributors and rival theatre owners to get audiences in his cinema. These are all just pipe dreams right now.
Horror Channel: So what projects are you working on at the moment?
LD: I’ve got two movies I recently completed about to be released. One entitled Summer’s Moon starring Ashley Green from Twilight, and another entitled Stripped Naked about strippers and gangsters. In development I’ve got two David Hess films in the works (one western and the other is a road movie), and two films for Sasha Grey (one about a stripper, and the other is a women-in-prison movie). Stay tuned!
Horror Channel: Lee Demarbre, thank you very much.
LD: Thank you!
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