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Splat Chat: Exclusive One-on-One with 'Dance of the Dead's' Gregg Bishop!

You’ve received an Instant Message from FEARnet!  Dare to accept?  Our resident horror geek Scott Weinberg chatted over IM with Dance of the Dead director Gregg Bishop about everything from their favorite horror posters, soundtracks to Gregg’s upcoming projects and the perils of IMDB reviews!  For all that and much more (including EXCLUSIVE Dance of the Dead posters) read on!  We call it Splat Chat! It’s a 21st century interview for a 21st century world! And don’t forget to pick up Dance of the Dead on DVD available now!

Scott -- What horror flicks have you seen recently that you liked?

Gregg --  I loved Trick 'r' Treat.  I saw that in Sitges and LOVED it.  Total classic.  I recently saw Splinter and dug that one as well.  Really well made.

Scott -- Agreed on Splinter. I haven't seen TrT yet, darnit. OK, since we're partially here to talk about posters and soundtracks, let's start off with those.

Gregg -- Cool.

Scott -- Which horror posters hung on your wall as a kid?

Gregg -- Jaws. Nightmare on Elm Street. The others were big adventure films.

Scott -- I had obscure ones that nobody else at Video Village wanted. I was the kid, so I had like Gates of Hell and Alligator! Which was fine by me.

Gregg -- Love it!

Scott -- So you have these as-yet UNSEEN retro-style posters for Dance of the Dead that we're going to share (exclusively!) with FEARnet ...When were these posters made up, by whom, and for what specific purpose?

Gregg -- They were made up by Nick Donnermeyer at Bleiberg Entertainment.

Scott -- Before the flick was sold?

Gregg -- After.  I think he was just entertaining himself.  He showed them to me and I thought they were bad ass, so I felt it would be cool to share them with the fans of the movie.

Scott -- Can you think of any classic horror posters? Ones you really love? For me it's all about Texas Chainsaw and A L I E N, which I guess tells us that you also need a good tag-line in addition to a memorable poster.

Gregg -- True. The poster for Carpenter's The Thing was pretty wicked.  I dig the House poster, if you remember that one, Ah, and how cool was that Fright Night poster? I love the old posters because a lot of them were painted and were works of art on their own.

Scott -- Absolutely. Today it's all about a slick DVD cover. Back then it was the alluring one-sheet. So do you like these Dance of the Dead retro posters just cuz they're cool, or also because they sorta fit the old-school vibe of the film?

Gregg -- Both.  From the beginning, I was always pushing for a poster that was like the old school ones.  Something that captured the horror and the adventure elements of the film.  Everyone always just looked at me like I was crazy.  Ahhh, maybe on the next one.

Scott -- So Dance was in danger of getting lost amidst seven other titles when it was released last month. Can you comment on the sales or the fan reactions to the movie since the DVD hit?

Gregg -- I don't know exact numbers, but the powers that be have told me that Dance is performing very well.  The reaction the film has gotten thus far has blown away all my expectations.

Scott -- Yeah? Even on the IMDb message boards?

Gregg -- You know, I don't visit those anymore.  You want to know why? When my first film (The Other Side, which i made for like $15k), came out, it was generally getting great reviews and most people were digging it, but there was some kid on the IMDb boards just trashing it. He was raging "WORSE MOVIE EVER MADE", ETC...

Scott -- Ha!

Gregg -- So I was curious.  I looked up his profile, just to see what his taste were. He had that same post "WORSE MOVIE EVER MADE" for several other movies, including THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION!!!!!  So now I don't go there anymore. Haha!

Scott -- Yeah, one thing about the IMDb that kinda sucks. Some troublemaker can just go in and trash whatever they want, and if 20% of the readers believe it, that hurts a movie. An honest criticism is one thing, but those boards get really stupid sometimes. But on the other side of the equation ... you recently got a review from a 12-year-old?

Gregg: YES!  This cool kid on youtube posted this great review. 

Scott -- Thats really cool, like he's you, 20 years ago

Gregg -- Exactly.  He reminded me of myself.  He has his own YouTube channel and reviews and makes movies.  You've got some competition now, Weinberg!

Scott -- Always room for more horror-lovers.

Gregg -- Watching that I was reminded of why I make movies....

Scott -- Awww. (dramatic pause) Hey did you see these new F13 DVDs ?

Gregg -- Pretty cool. Part 3 in 3-D? Interesting...

Scott -- Yep! OK, so ... best horror scores. My #1 is too obvious: Carpenter's Halloween theme.

Gregg -- Good one.  The Exorcist, Jaws, Nightmare on Elm St...

Scott  -- Morricone on The Thing. The Omen. And the score is the best thing about Amityville Horror.

Gregg -- Psycho!

Scott -- How about more recently? Scores are often something we usually admire well after the fact, so this is a toughie. Kinda.

Gregg -- I liked The Orphanage a lot.

Scott -- Damn good. Joe Lynch sent me a copy of Bear McCreary's Wrong Turn 2 score, and that's quite good. Energetic and stuff.

Gregg -- Yeah, had a cool "western showdown" type feel to it, didn't it?

Scott -- Oh, and it had no real score, but that final theme in Cloverfield is just great.

Gregg -- Yes.  The score for Signs is great. I remember The Ring also had a good one.

Scott -- And, um, I hear the Dance of the Dead score was rather well-received. I, in fact, called it a mixture of great '80s themes. An homage, even.

Gregg -- Man, every festival we screened at, someone always had a question about the score.

Scott -- How key is a great score for a flick like this?

Gregg -- I think music is one of the most important ingredients in any film. When I made The Other Side, I went on a huge composer hunt.  I didn't want the movie to sound like most indies do... with that awful synth sound.  I met with a lot of talented composers, but Kris Carter really stood out to me. He was doing Warner Bros animation at the time. He actually won an Emmy for Batman Beyond.

Scott -- Impressive.

Gregg -- Totally. I was noticing his music wasn't "cartoon music," it sounded like a big movie score. So I had him score one scene as a test.  He said he usually didn't do that sort of thing, but he really responded to the movie so he said he would. When he brought me in to listen to it, we were only a few seconds in, and I just turned to him and said "YOU'RE HIRED."  That's the only person I've ever hired on the spot.  He knew it needed to sound like a huge blockbuster movie.  And he delivers. I just think he is super talented. He's scoring my next movie too.

Scott -- OK, so when did you learn that a soundtrack was in the works? Nowadays we dont often get soundtrack CDs for indie horror flicks.

Gregg -- I always wanted to do one. Peymon Maskan, our music supervisor came to me with the idea of releasing it through his new label SUMMER ADVENTURE CLUB. Plus, fans of the movie have been contacting us and begging us for "Shadows of the Night" by Paul Layton...

Scott -- Woohoo, Layton!

Gregg -- Layton performed the slow and fast versions of "Shadows," the old Pat Benatar song.  He is basically the singing voice of Nash Rambler.  Whenever you see the quaterpunks play (except for "Head Kicked In," which is also on the soundtrack), it is Layton.

Scott -- OK, so we covered posters, DVD, soundtrack, so heres what I wanna know: Action figures!

Gregg -- Yes, please!

Scott -- I want Justin Welborn and Grayson Chadwick dolls. Grave-vault zombie figure!

Gregg -- How cool would that be? I know you'd have a Greyson Chadwick doll!!!  With accessories ... an axe and a corsage!

Scott -- Sign-in book sold separately. So what's up with Joe Ballarini these days?

Gregg -- He just directed his first movie, Father vs. Son!

Scott -- See, kids? Write something like Dance of the Dead and you can get a director's job too!

Gregg -- It's an indie.  They'll sell it for sure. He's also ramping up to direct a vampire movie after that.

Scott -- Nice! And I know he's developing a cool animated film at Dreamworks

Gregg -- That kid has some serious talent.

Scott -- I hate him so much. Curse you Ballariniiiiiiiiiiiiii!

Gregg -- He also wrote the movie I'm directing next.

Scott -- Which iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis.....

Gregg -- It's a huge action/comedy called Neighborhood Watch.  (Official site here!)

Scott -- Look at you with the website, and in pre-pre-production yet.

Gregg -- Boom.  We don't waste no time, Weinberg.

Scott -- Nice. When do you shoot?

Gregg -- We shoot in May. Casting now.

Scott -- I recommend hiring a sexy woman. At least one. They're big in movies these days.

Gregg -- I'll keep that in mind!

Scott -- Do I get a casting associate credit for that?

Gregg -- Sure.  Come down to Atlanta and make me some coffee.

Scott -- Deal. So back to the DVD for a second: Lionsgate is well-known for including lots of goodies on their DVDs, but you shot most of the supplemental stuff before you sold the flick...

Gregg -- Yep!

Scott -- Are extra features a big deal to you?

Gregg -- Yes, they are!  My favorite DVDs are the ones that are loaded, you know?

Scott -- Like Seven!

Gregg -- Yeah!  Most of Rodriguez's films too.

Scott - So what if you'd gone with a distributor who couldn't have used the extras?

Gregg -- That would have been a bummer.  Lionsgate and Ghost House welcomed the special features for sure!

Scott -- A distributor would be nutty to turn away extra goodies. What's your favorite bit on the DVD?

Gregg -- Exactly.  It gives the disc added value and gives the audience more. Well, the 23-minute MAKING OF documentary (that was directed and cut by Brian James Crewe) was really cool.  It's not your typical "he's great/she's great" stuff that you find on studio movies.  He gets into the real stuff of how we got the film off the ground... preproduction... production... and he journals the entire making of the film all the way to our SXSW premiere.

Scott -- You and Joey B. on the commentary track...

Gregg -- Yes, Joe Ballarini (the writer) and I are the commentators, and I hope the track is a good mix of laid-back banter and practical information.  Also, for up and coming filmmakers, I included the BLOOD GUTS AND ROCK N ROLL featurette, which is a look at how we pulled off the stunts and mechanical and digital effects for the film.  Including how we made zombies launch out of their graves. ALSO! A short I made (Voodoo) when I was a film student at USC and wanted to include it on the DVD. It's a short dark comedy about a little girl trying to get rid of her mother's date with a voodoo doll.  It was shot on black and white 16mm.  They now screen it at USC film school orientation along with some short films from some of my heroes: George Lucas (ELECTRONIC LABYRITH THX 1138 4EB) and Robert Zemeckis (THE LIFT).

Scott -- Very nice! Oh, I recently saw a fantastic British mini-series called Dead Set, which also makes good use of FAST zombies. Speak on THAT.

Gregg -- I've heard of Dead Set, but I haven't seen it yet.  I hear great things!  Yeah, Joe and I love the old Romero slow guys, but our zombies are a little different.  The speed of a zombie in this movie is determined by the amount of time he or she has been deceased. The zombies that were buried recently can launch out of graves and run like cheetahs. The ones that were buried long ago define your stereotypical zombie that drags his heels as the heroes get away. Plus, I'm sure the local Power Plant next to the graveyard has something to do with the zombies' speed and strength. Haha.

Scott -- I just don't get horror geeks sometimes. We can accept alternate versions of Dracula, Jason, and The Blob, but different zombies are a strict no-no?

Gregg -- Yeah.  Why would you want to see the same thing over and over again?  Ours are the zombies we all know and love... just with a few alterations. You still gotta shoot them in the brain.

Scott -- So The Other Side DVD is still in print, right? I need to know when I should list my copy on eBay...

Gregg -- Ha! Yep.  You can find it right here! It did a limited release in theaters for a week and then went to DVD.  Not bad for a movie that cost $15k.  Also, Fox Studios picked up the television rights and we're now developing the movie into a TV series.

Scott -- No way! THAT piece of ... THAT movie?

Gregg -- Yes! There's a little scoop for you!

Scott -- Oh yeah, the FEARnet standing question Sincerely, what are you actually afraaaaid of?

Gregg -- The unknown.  That's the biggest fear, right?  Fear of the unknown. I grew up in a secluded area, and my house was surrounded by woods.  One thing that always scared the crap outta me is being stuck in the woods at night.  Yikes!

Scott -- ...and perhaps a message directly to the horror fans who went out and bought Dance (or Side) after hearing about it on all the horror sites

Gregg -- I'd like to directly thank them for doing so!  I make movies for them.

Scott -- Let's sign off with a little message of congratulations for our mutual pal Jon Spencer. This amazing nerd somehow landed himself a very sweet fiancee.

Gregg -- I'm so happy for him. And I keep seeing him pop up in new shows and movies!

Scott -- Yeah, I hope he lands a biggie soon. Funny guy. Anything else we should say?

Gregg -- Thanks, FEARnet!

Scott -- Ah, good. My boss will like that.