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Interview With Chillerama and 2001 Maniacs Director Tim Sullivan
By James Whittington, Sunday 14th August 2011

Tim SullivanFrightFest 2011 is just over a week away and this site will once again be blogging live from the event giving you the very latest news and gossip from the world's most distinguished celebration of horror cinema. To get you in the mood here's an interview with a favourite of the Horror Channel, writer/director Tim Sullivan, whose cracking shocker 2001 Maniacs has been showing on the channel. Tim is part of the directing team of Chillerama, an anticipated anthology movie that is getting its UK Premiere at FrightFest so we decided to have a chat with this talented chap.

HC: So are you a fan of the old anthology movies of the 50s and 60s?

TS: I am a HUGE fan of the anthologies of the 70s which were quite in vogue when I was a wee lad just first discovering horror movies. I'll never forget the posters from the original Tales From The Crypt, Vault Of Horror, House That Dripped Blood, Asylum... Amicus Films was churning these out in the early 70s, and Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine was putting them on the cover, but I was too young to see them. But I did stay up late and sneak in viewings of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, and I read the reprints of the EC comics, and I became hooked on anthologies. Just loved the idea of a variety of stories all in one package. Then once I saw Creepshow and Twilight Zone in the 80s, I knew the day would come when I would make one.

HC: Did you know the other director's before the project came together?

TS: Chillerama was actually conceived by me and Adam Rifkin in 1998 when we were working on Detroit Rock City which he directed and I co-produced. We bonded at the time over our mutual love for Drive-In Movies, KISS, Mad Magazine and so on. At the time, we approached the then editors of Famous Monsters magazine about doing an anthology film called Famous Monsters that would take place at a Drive-In and feature four segments that would be mini-movies- almost like condensed or edited versions of full length films like the Super 8 digest versions we used to collect as kids. When using Famous Monsters didn’t work out, we felt the idea was too good not to waste, and so we came up with the name Chillerama. But like a lot of things, life gets in the way, and so we sat on the idea for years going off to do other projects. Along the way, we became friends with Adam Green and Joe Lynch, our paths always crossing at various genre events. One day we were telling Green and Lynch about Chillerama, and a giant light bulb just went on and me and Rif knew we finally found the perfect partners for the ‘band’, so to speak.

HC: What did the other directors think of your idea? Can you recall their initial reactions?

TS: The beauty about Chillerama was that it gave each one of us to do something that Hollywood would never let us do. What Indie filmmaking denies you in financial resources, it gives you in creative freedom. So from the start, it was agreed that all four of us would be allowed to make whatever was closest to our hearts. For those who have followed my career, it’s no surprise that I prefer the boy next door to the girl, and so I decided that with my segment, I would embrace the “Queer Fear” elements that I touched upon in my previous films, and this time put them front and center. All those teen angst movies from Rebel Without A Cause to High School Musical all have a subtext that when you grow up knowing you are gay, can be easily read as angst over one’s sexual identity. When you are different, when you move against the accepted norm, it’s easy to feel like an outsider, which makes it very easy to relate to classic celluloid monsters such as Frankenstein, the Hunchback or the Phantom - initially well meaning souls who become ‘monsters’ because they are ostracized, mocked or denied love simply. And so, between being a monster kid and preferring guys to girls, it felt right to me to tackle ‘teen angst monster movies’ for my segment. Originally, it was going to be I Was A Teenage Werebear, but then it was actually Joe Lynch who came up with the idea of a werebear - the idea of a clean cut, teen idol type dude transforming into a hairy leather Daddy (think Zac Efron becoming Ron Jeremy and you get the picture) And so with this concept in mind, I just ran with it, adding rock and roll along the way.

HC: Will the soundtrack be released as you composed original songs for it?

TS: Yes, Image will be releasing them on iTunes and I am very thrilled about that. I am not a musician by any means. Cannot write or read a single note. But next to film, music is my great love. I grew up watching Happy Days, American Graffitti and Grease, so I really loved the music of the 50s and 60s. And so in writing the songs for Werebears, I would write the lyrics out as poems, then start humming melodies which I came up with in the shower! As soon as I got it, I sang them into a tape recorder, then gave the tape to my amazing composer, Patrick Copeland, who produced the backing tracks. Of everything, I am most proud of the songs in this film.

HC: Was it a hard piece to cast?

TS: The success of the film rests on the performance of the two leads, Ricky, the closeted new kid, and Talon, the bad boy who initiates him in the ways of the werebear. These were great, career breaking roles, but unfortunately, a lot of managers and agents had a lot of problems with the 'gay content' as they would say, and we had a lot of trouble getting quality actors to even audition. During this process, I met with Sean Paul Lockhart on the recommendation of a friend who had directed him in a comedy called Another Gay Sequel in which Sean played a merman. He was terrific in it, and he kicked ass in the audition. 100% perfect for the part. Only problem? He is also known as Brent Corrigan, who is to the gay adult movie industry what Justin Bieber is to teeny bopper pop. Already knowing I was pushing the envelope thematically with my piece, I was hesitant about casting Sean, but the more I thought about it, and the more I discovered what a talented, hard working guy Sean is, and how unfairly he has been misjudged by Hollywood and how tough it has been for him to break into the mainstream, I decided I would choose the best actor and go with Sean. To my eternal gratitude, Joe, Adam and Rifkin felt the same as I did, and backed me and Sean all the way. Once Sean was locked, however, the actor we had previously cast to play Talon quit, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as that lead us to Anton Troy, who came on board at the last minute and just owned the part. Sean and Anton kick ass in this film. I can’t wait for people to see them.

HC: Do you have a favourite from the other 3 stories?

TS: Sure do, but if I tell ya, I’ll hurt somebody’s feelings, so I will politely plead the Fifth!

HC: Would you like to be involved if Chillerama 2 came about?

TS: Our goal for Chillerama has always been to create a brand like Tales From The Crypt where we can nurture new talent as producers as well as show up every now and then and dip our toes into the pool as writers and directors. Whether it be a series of films or a show for TV or cable, who knows. All I do know is that there will be many more incarnations of Chillerama in the future, and I will be involved with all of them.

HC: So what other projects are you working on?

TS: I just formed a production company called The ClubHouse in my attempt to become the next Roger Corman (lol)! The goal is to produce the works of others, as well as continue to write and direct works of my own. The ClubHouse just produced a short film directed by Paul Ward based on Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot sequel, One For The Road starring Reggie Bannister and Adam Robitel. Next up is Hellions, which my Werebears editor Gavin Heffernan will direct, and Klowntown, which I wrote based on a story by Tobe Hooper and which my ClubHouse partner Brian McCulley will helm. And then, coming out very soon is Cut/Print, an incredibly frightening thriller directed by Nathanial Nose which I also produced, and which is as polar opposite of Chillerama as you can get. Definitely the darkest thing I have ever done.

HC: Tim Sullivan, thank you very much.

TS: Thank you, James Whittington!

You can keep up with Tim Sullivan at www.facebook.com/NewRebellion and with Chillerama at www.chillerama.com


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