Dark Universe are very excited to bring to you our very first guest editor, none other than Volumes of Blood Creator and producer P.J. Starks. Beginning right now, you will see a number of interviews appearing on our website conducted by Starks, which will include a number of upcoming talents in the horror genre.
This is something new for us and our readers, and it would mean so much to everyone involved in these interviews if you would show your support. If this is successful, we will no doubt be considering more guest editors in the future.
Here’s a very special video introduction message from Volumes of Blood creator P.J. Starks.
Writer/director Tyler Amm has spent the last three years building a team and creating films in his home town of Ottawa, IL. His low-budget yet stylistic filming mixed with irreverent humor and colorful characters makes him a bit of a modern day Kevin Smith. He got his feet wet with River City Panic, a comedy about the affects of social media, and followed it up with a satire on teen culture and cult dealings with Grace’s Room.
His recent horror comedy Butcher the Bakers has gotten quite a bit of attention and I’m excited to say I serve as Executive Producer on the film. Tyler and I have become pretty good friends over a short period of time and I was able to get some info out of him about his films and where he’s headed in his career.
PJ Starks: How did you conceive the idea for BTB?
Tyler Amm: Butcher the Bakers is based on a slasher script I wrote that featured a rogue grim reaper. There were some similar ideas and characters in that script that were transferred to Butcher, but tonally it was completely different. I shared the script with our production team, and while they liked it, everyone preferred the idea of it fitting more into our goofy comedy world we had been building as opposed to a darker/slasher oriented one. At that point, my co-writer Virginia Campbell and I rewrote the entire script with the core idea of the rogue grim reaper staying, and based it around the two idiot bakers you see in the final film.
PJ Starks: Mixing horror and comedy can be a tricky game, how did you find such an equal balance between the two?
Tyler Amm: I don’t think there is any specific process to our tonal balance of the two genres. What I do know is that we prefer not to censor our creative thought process and often lean towards the absurd to blend the two. I was genuinely surprised and happy to hear that some people were frightened or grossed out by elements of the film when I always viewed Butcher as “horror light.” I enjoy layering comedy over moments where it normally wouldn’t be, and essentially we tried to make low budget horror movie that was stuffed with awkward, absurd, and funny situations.
PJ Starks: The film has been getting a lot of praise from your hometown, however, lot of horror fans are on the fence when it comes to putting laughs together with screams. Are you at all nervous about what the response might be now that the film is reaching a large audience?
Tyler Amm: As a film-maker, I learned early on to not create any expectations. More often than not, you just let yourself down by your own expectations for your project or film. I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of exposure we’ve seen so early out the gate, but I know at some point it won’t all be positive. Whenever I introduce screenings of my films I always say, “Whether you laugh with or at my film doesn’t matter to me, so long as you have a good time.” That’s really important to me because I grew up laughing with and at “bad” horror movies with my friends. I have such a respect for this genre of film and the process one must go through to make a film, regardless of budget, that I think the audience will pick up on that while watching Butcher. I am certainly nervous as to how Butcher the Bakers will be received, but there is a lot of heart and charm in the film and I think the audience will have a hard time ignoring the fact that we loved what we did.
PJ Starks: Your previous efforts have also been comedies mixed with horror or horror elements. Do you plan to continue making films within the same sub-genre or do you have other concepts outside of horror that you’d like to touch on?
Tyler Amm: I don’t think I can ever fully move away from some form of that blend. I like grounded characters that are pulled into strange and bizarre situations. The Cornetto Trilogy by Edgar Wright had a huge impact on my sensibilities and proved that you can transcend genre and tone so long as you build a strong world with strong characters. I’m definitely still working on that, but films like that give me the courage to throw convention out the window and do what I like. I’m sitting on scripts, or have ideas for future ones that are more of straight path as far as genre, but they all have touch of comedy and awkwardness that is inherently a part of my writing. I do think my next film will shy away from the horror elements, but it will only be for a short period of time as I was always gravitate back.
PJ Starks: The production process for BTB was over a year. What was the most challenging aspect of making the film?
Tyler Amm: For myself and all of my films, the most challenging part has always been post production. Living in north central Illinois, completely removed from the creative hub of Chicago, it’s hard to find the talent or resources you never know you’ll need until a problem arises. Over time this problem has alleviated itself as we’ve grown a strong team capable of most tasks required of making a feature film, but that still doesn’t make it any easier to finally abandon your film when it’s time to call it a day. I edit my films and creatively direct almost all aspects of post, so to get so deep into a world you helped create, you tend to get attached and have to cut the cord eventually.
PJ Starks: You’re stuck on a desert island with only 5 films to watch the rest of your life. What are they?
Tyler Amm: American Movie, The Evil Dead, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, House of the Devil, and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.
PJ Starks: What’s next for yourself and the Hometown Hero crew?
Tyler Amm: We’re going to spend the summer getting Butcher in front of as many eyes as we can. We need to take a short break after completing 3 films in 3 years, but we’re already discussing the prospect of filming in early 2018. I look forward to writing again and seeing where the next story takes us.