By Shawn Rutledge for www.skullring.org (February 1, 2007)
Cameron Cloutier is the filmmaker responsible for the new horror/ musical/ dramedy “Its My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To.” I’ll let the man speak for himself though, since he can do it better than I can.
Q: Thanks for your time, Cameron. Would you start us off by telling the people who you are and what you do?
A: Sure thing. Before I begin, Shawn, I want to thank you for the invite to chat. There are not many websites out there that want to chat it up with an up and coming filmmaker, unless someone cool like Bruce Campbell makes a cameo or they want to make the fan base go absolutely bonkers with something controversial. I appreciate the ability to sit down and have a real down to earth, heartfelt conversation about the horror genre, my films and where both are going and merging.
My name is Cameron Cloutier and I have been making films for the past 17 years. Many have not heard of me yet because I am based out of the Monterey Peninsula in California, as opposed to the insanity of L.A. and N.Y. and my films have tended to be more local and traded/bought at festivals or conventions, etc. as opposed to the multiplexes.
But the appeal of my work seems to be growing and growing as the years go by so it’s only a matter of time. Although I will say, after talking with several directors in the genre, one thing they always say is “cherish these moments when you have final cut and have zero interference with the studios.” LOL.
Q: By all blurbs I’ve read you have a horror film here, but aside from a few instances in the trailer it seems to be an independent love story. Was it your intention to make the trailer this way? If so why?
A: The film is actually a little bit of everything. I have written and made several genre films, both straight forward and surreal, or both but this film was meant as a calling card more or less.
I was trying to cast two entirely different projects and I just could not find the cast for either. I spent months holding auditions and I figured whichever project I could cast first, that would be the direction I would go in. But none of them were working out so I went back home and started going through my closet of stories that I have been saving and adding to since I was 10 years old and I remembered coming up with this idea in 1996 for a film to be called, “IT’S MY PARTY AND I’LL DIE IF I WANT TO,” and I thought that sounds like a lot of fun now.
So I went through my casting tapes and found about 20 people that I really liked and then wrote the script and offered it to them. The film when I first thought it up was meant to be an out and out comedy, like an “Airplane” version of “Friday the 13th,” and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do such a thing at that time so I put it aside. I was so happy when the first “Scary Movie,” came out because it meant that I couldn’t make the film that way and that was a relief since I seemed to be having “tone” wars in my head about it. You know, how much should be funny, how much should be horror? And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted the project to be more organic than that, if I ever got around to doing it.
Flash forward almost 10 years and two of my projects aren’t coming together, and a relationship I was in for 2 years had ended and so when I came across this story again, I knew exactly how it should be done.
The film should be approached as a sincere horror film, and in order for any of the horror to work, one needs to understand the characters more than “jock,” or “slut.” How does one get to know the characters then? By implanting comedy, drama, music into their lives and making them into human beings. And if a human being in front of us is getting killed on the screen, it will leave more of a lasting impression on the viewer than the run of the mill slasher film, I feel.
So by having a film that has comedy, drama, musical scenes, horror scenes all in one film, not only will that make the film fun and unpredictable, but it shows people in one film that I can do more than one genre and am able to combine them into something new and fresh.
Q: Some say the slasher/serial killer genre is dead. What new spin or take do you bring to it with your film?
A: One of the main problems with the typical slasher film is that the filmmakers treat it like a formula, as opposed to finding or creating stories that can fit around that mold. When you see a bad romantic comedy, it’s because the filmmakers have this contempt for the audience which makes them think that as long as two cute people are in the film, and they have lovable friends, bad sitcom jokes and a happy ending that it will be a big hit. Sometimes it is, but when it’s not, it’s because the audience saw right through it. It’s not because the romantic comedy is dead, it’s just not being done well. The same thing goes for the slasher or horror genre in general.
Filmmakers, writers need to come up with fun, fresh ways to tell stories, to engage an audience.
Q: Why did you decide to shoot your film in black and white?
A: I haven’t seen a black and white film in a while and when I have, it’s just a regular movie that couldn’t afford color stock. I wanted my film to look classical, where the beauty of a woman’s face comes out much more beautiful, dark and tragic. It adds a touch of elegance and with the music makes one take more notice than if I merely showered the film red.
Q: What films did you enjoy growing up, and how have they affected you as a film maker?
A: The first film that I can recall making a real impression was when I was five and I saw “Time Bandits.” I can not tell you how many nights I pushed on my wall trying to get that corridor to appear. To this day, I remember the sense of awe and the thought that anything could happen in this film. The imagination was truly limitless.
“Nightmare on Elm St.” It was smart, had great characters, a wonderful story and that small town atmosphere which is missing from most of the new films. “Halloween” had it and so did “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”
When David Lynch was working on “Twin Peaks” and “Wild At Heart,” huge influence. Lynch taught me that if you feel like trying something, go for it. You can always cut it out. Years later, Robert Rodriquez would throw out the same info. You know, don’t limit yourself. You don’t want to be watching your film years later thinking, “Oh, man. I should have listened to my gut then.” It’s better to try all angles then wish you had later.
Q: Was it difficult to get your project off the ground? (Funding, Locations, FX, etc)
A: Not really. It came together quickly. It had to because I was growing impatient because my two projects were stalled and I wanted to just do something at that moment. The funding was small, but that was because I didn’t need that much. I paid the actors (found out what they would be making at their jobs and paid them for their two weeks off), but all the locations were ones I didn’t have to pay for. I just wanted to do something small, personal and something that I could get off the ground asap and it was amazing how everything just clicked.
I got lucky with a lot of the actors because just after they completed the film, most went SAG and started working with James Woods, or on the show “Veronica Mars.”
Q: If you could film any sort of movie, what would you make (budget constrictions not withstanding)?
A: I have several actually. One is a true crime story, where I interviewed the killers over a period of a few years and the film is based on their memories and experiences.
That script won at a film festival in L.A. but it came in second place because the first place winner was going to have their project partially funded, and the people who were running the festival made sure that it came in second so that the financiers wouldn’t bolt and never fund anything of theirs again. That was a bummer because I feel that would be an incredible, powerful film in every way.
One is an epic about marriages and it truly is a huge, gothic horror story. I want to make this film more than anything at the moment.
Then I have a surreal piece about isolationism, also a horrific coming of age story in the vein of Ingmar Bergman, and a multi story horror film that revolves around 5 characters and veers into every genre possible.
Crazy enough, I am currently in talks with Mark Frost about licensing some of the characters of Twin Peaks so I can explore the territory a bit more in-depth. He and David Lynch are off doing other projects and I feel that I could do the story justice, without interfering with the mythology but adding a new dimension to aspects that have not been fully explored.
And of course, if a time comes and I am really bored, Lloyd Kaufman over at Troma said that anytime I want to make my “Mall Queen Hookers From Hell” trash epic, count him in. LOL.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers out there?
A: Learn as many jobs as you can on the film set, you know. Write, edit,
photograph, act. Everything you do will help you grow into the filmmaker you want to be. And when you do it, take it seriously. I’m not saying you can’t have fun, just don’t be lazy. Remember when you wanted to make films more than anything, so when you actually start, never stop being humble. Also remember, if you make a 10 second short for no money that only you and your friends see, or a 100 million dollar film that the entire world sees, you are a filmmaker. There is no difference creatively.
Also, choose to be in a relationship with someone who is supportive of you and your dreams. You won’t get anything done otherwise.
Q: Where can we find a copy of/ see your movie?
A: Go to my website: www.bodianstfilms.com or ask about me at conventions/festivals, write Fangoria and Creation Entertainment http://www.creationent.com and request me for their conventions. I would love to give out posters and copies of my film. Drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org and say, hi.
Q: We’ve all heard horror stories about the problems encountered shooting an independent feature. Do you have any of those you’d like to share with our readers?
A: Actually the only real horror that occurred was a few days before shooting began, the lead actress pulled out because I would not pay for her boyfriend to travel with her and be there during her filming. I had only hours before shooting began so I called everyone I knew and finally got ahold of a girl who would do it, or I faced the possibility of having to do something entirely new at short notice or cancel the film.
Oh, yeah, there was one more horrible thing that happened. One of the actors who were hired showed the first day completely plastered and second day even more drugged out, so I had a meeting with some of the other cast members and ultimately made the decision to fire him and rewrite his portion of the script, giving his lines to others in the cast. Luckily it was a part that could be dealt with in that manner.
Q: Where did the idea behind “Its My Party” come from?
A: I came up with this idea of telling a terrible, sick joke with a punch line that would leave one speechless. Then in the telling of the joke in cinematic terms, I fleshed out the drama, the tension, the humor and the emotions and built the whole film bit by bit by revealing the sick joke that lied beneath it all.
Q: What made you decide to put musical numbers in the film?
A: I thought that the film needed them to comment on a few parts that words by themselves could not do. Also I thought it would be a lot of fun since I love musicals and thought by including them, it could add to the overall film. I thought I could cut them out if they did not work, but they worked ten times more than I even expected, which is always a wonderful thing.
Q: It seems as of late that all the really innovative stuff in horror is coming out of the indie arena. Did you attempt to go through a studio initially or did you just troop on in the great American (Romero, Raimi, Kaufman) tradition and start on your own?
A: Let the studios come to you and not vice versa, unless of course you want to do something so huge that regular independent financing can not really do. Keep making your films and sooner or later if you are being true to yourself and your vision, then others will take notice of you and see how they can sell that even more.
Q: What is it exactly that initially drew you to the horror genre? And what is it that keeps you here?
A: I started writing short horror fiction when I was in the 5th grade because films like, “A Nightmare on Elm St. 3 Dream Warriors” had come out and it was such an exciting movie for a 10 year old to see. The jumping pig on the table scared me like no other, but the idea of having all these characters all have their own powers and Freddy using their fears literally against them, I just found that clever, fun, scary and entertaining.
One of the reasons why I have stayed is because I do not feel the horror genre has explored all avenues of its possibilities yet and I hope we can always keep finding new ones. There is so much more to horror than finding one area and then milking it to the death, whether it be in countless remakes, Asian horror, torture films, etc. So many things can be horror which is why I am somewhat bothered whenever people get down on a horror film that is PG-13. I mean, sure, if the film should have been R or was cut down for a lower rating, that’s horrible, but suspense, without blood, isn’t that what the original Halloween is? Or the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre? I mean, the original Halloween today would get a PG-13 and are we saying that it wouldn’t be good anymore if was?
I also hate when horror filmmakers are trying to branch out to do something new and yet pander to the audience by declaring there will be tons of blood in it, as if that is all we care about too.
Blood and gruesome death may be fun in some films, and suspense without blood is great in others, but what I feel we all really want is quality films with great stories. Suspense, something that can scare us besides the loudness of surround sound speakers and boo scares, using blood in a way that makes us feel the pain or to see the consequences, or just being used in a glorious, blood spattery way–but using it well to surprise us, shock us, make us laugh and not just because you think we’ll all turn out more if you throw a few buckets our way.
We can all do so much better than what we have been given throughout these last thirty years. There are not many great horror films out there, and I have always thought that if done right, filmmakers can begin to add to that list once again. Just keep making films, writing stories, painting, composing, anything that you can do to push the boundaries of what has been done before and build off it in a way that does not negate the past but moves its best foot forward and shows the true possibilities of what the horror genre can do.
In my humble estimation, we have not seen anything yet.
Q: Anything you would like to add?
A: Thank you, Shawn for taking the time to talk. It truly is a pleasure. Keep in touch and let me know if you get any response from this interview. I hope there are more people, fans like us in the world that truly appreciate the horror genre for what it is, what it was and what it can be.