I recently got the opportunity to talk to Rene Perez about his new film ‘The Dead And The Damned’. Here, Rene talks about how the idea came about in the first place, and what made him want to become a director….
Picture: Rene Perez (M) with Rick Mora (L) and David A. Lockhart (R)
Hey Rene. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. Of course we‘re here to talk to you about your new film ‘Cowboys & Zombies’ – also known as ‘The Dead And The Damned’.
You wrote, produced and directed the feature – how did the idea come about in the first place? How easy was it to put into production?
I wrote, directed, edited and did the music score but I didn’t produce the movie. That was my friend Mattia Borrani. I stay away from producing like the plague. Luckily Mattia was a great producer. That freed me up to do my many duties. To answer your question, it was kind of easy to get into the making of the movie and getting it funded. Probably because it was such an incredibly low-budget. Also, this was my third ‘direct to DVD’ movie so I already had a track record of being able to make these movies for even smaller budgets.
How would you say the film is different from other horror thrillers released this year? What tricks as a director did you try to throw in?
I think the biggest difference is the amount of action. It could be said that this movie is just as much an action movie as it is a horror movie. A lot of horror movies have little action bits in the way of a chase or something like that but we have big action movie moments. We have gun battles and hand to hand combat and I approached those scenes as if I were making a purely action based movie. Then when I was doing the horror scenes, I totally forgot about the action and went into pure horror mode.
How has the reception been to the film so far?
It’s been better than expected. I didn’t think people would give a small movie a chance. The public usually only wants to see big budget movies so I’m shocked. I guess viewers are opening their frontiers to indie movies. We’ve had good reviews and we’ve had bad reviews. That comes with the territory. This movie was made specifically for the fans of these genres and they are the ones who have given us our best responses.
The film stars David A. Lockhart, Camille Montgomery, Rick Mora and Robert Amstler – what was it like working with the cast and crew?
They were all great. Although this was a super small budget they all took their work seriously. That’s why the movie works. Because of them. If there’s any justice out there, they will all go on to have great careers because they’ve got the skills. As for what it was like, it was mainly fun. We focused on making the tone of the movie serious but it was all jokes and fun on the set.
Let’s talk a bit about you Rene. What made you want to get into the directing chair in the first place?
I had no choice. I wish I did. I hate to get so serious but the truth is that my,… being won’t allow me to do anything else. I know it sounds corny but I really have no choice. If I’m not making music or movies I can’t be satisfied. Or happy. And it’s always been this way. Ever since I was a kid, I knew my life must be in the arts. I’ve always been able to draw and play musical instruments. The only things I’m good at are artistic things. I’m horrible at everything else. It’s kind of limiting because there are so many interesting things in the world that would be nice to try – but if it isn’t in the arts, my heart and brain won’t allow it. Luckily I enjoy doing what I do. Because I’m a prisoner to it.
What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in writing, producing and directing?
This is a tough one. I would make sure that they ask themselves if they are honestly suited for this type of work. A lot of people confuse fandom for a desire to be in the arts. A lot of people in this business would be better suited as anything other than an artist or film maker. But they get so caught up in their enthusiasm as fans of entertainment that it leads them on the wrong career path. People who make this mistake have bigger chances of ending up heart-broken. And there’s lot’s of heart-break for even the artistically talented people. I know this sounds harsh but it’s the truth. Now if you are an extremely artistic or talented person then you have a good start. I would suggest you go out and try to make something with your friends. If you can make something with your friends that is worth looking at, then you should move on to the next step of trying to enlist other upstart actors and crew to see if you can once again make something worth looking at. And you keep going. Through this you will learn what you can do, what you like doing and where you can go with your abilities. Then you can find a commercial use for what you do. Again, I would only suggest this route if you already show visible signs of being artistically talented. And if you have a good day job as a back up plan.
What films have inspired you as an artist? Do you have any favourites?
I don’t really get inspired by movies. Not at all actually. I get inspired by ideas, people, and even the weather. But I do love watching movies just as a way to turn my brain off and go for the ride. My favorite movies haven’t changed since I was a kid. On the top of my list is ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, then ‘Wrath of Kahn’, then ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’. I’ve seen those movies even in recent years and I’m still blown away by them each time I see them. They are all masterpieces in my eyes.
What does a Rene Perez day usually consist of?
It’ll seem boring to you. So far I only film one movie a year and this is my only job so I’m off like eight months out of each year. I get up late, play with my kids. I water my lawn a lot because I like the grass and sunshine. If we don’t have any plans, I bounce around the property with my wife and kids. Later in the day I practice Muay Thai. It’s a type of martial arts that I’ve been practicing for about 15 years now. I love it. Then at night I spend more time with my family until they go to bed. Then when I’m by myself I practice music, or record music in my home studio. I also work on scripts or editing or what ever artistic project I’m involved in at the time. That’s it. I practice a lot and spend time with my wife and kids.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
Probably the natural disasters. There have been so many. And they’ve all been so huge. They interested me because of the innocence factor. The people were all just living their lives and then boom. A tsunami or an earth quake or a tornado or what ever it was. It could happen to anyone no matter how much you prepare to keep yourself safe. Crazy.
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
I just finished filming a horror/action movie called ‘Obsidian Hearts’. I’m composing and recording the last few pieces of music for that one right now. I’m also recording new songs for my band (iDiC). The new album will be called ‘Rocktronic’. And I’m about to start yet another new movie. It’s a sci-fi version of ‘Sleeping Beauty’.
Thanks for the interview!