As Schlockmania’s review of Some Guy Who Kills People should reveal, this site is a big back­er of Jack Perez.  If you’re not famil­iar with the name, check out the first part of this inter­view for the setup — then dig into part two because it’s a doozy.  Good stuff in this half of Schlockmania’s epic Q&A with Perez include the chal­lenges of doing a direct to video sequel to Wild Things, what it’s like to work with Adam West, how one goes about direct­ing a real­i­ty t.v. show, the sto­ry behind the inter­net-infa­mous Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus and, best of all, the sto­ry of how Perez end­ed up mak­ing the excel­lent Some Guy Who Kills People.  Strap your­selves in because this is one juicy read…

You ven­tured into direct-to-video sequel ter­ri­to­ry with Wild Things 2.  What are the chal­lenges of direct­ing a sequel at this bud­getary lev­el?  Did the stu­dio man­date speci­fic ele­ments of con­tent?

They want­ed the movie to look as big as the orig­i­nal with a ten­th of the bud­get.  And they want­ed the three-way to be “hot­ter”.  Tall order.  But again, I was psy­ched at the oppor­tu­ni­ty to direct anoth­er movie, in yet anoth­er gen­re (erotic swamp thriller real­ly) and impart as much atmos­phere and mood as pos­si­ble.  My one cast­ing coup was sug­gest­ing Isaiah Washington as the insur­ance inves­ti­ga­tor who gets sucked into the girls’ con.  I had always admired his per­for­mances, par­tic­u­lar­ly in Spike Lee’s CLOCKERS and saw this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to work with anoth­er great actor.  I’d nev­er seen an actor approach his work so thought­ful­ly — his script was lit­er­al­ly filled with pre­cise nota­tions for every line and moment, detail­ing moti­va­tions and emo­tion­al beats.  He was a real pro and gave the movie a weight it would not have had oth­er­wise.  We shot most of it LA, then went down to Florida to shoot gators and air boats, film­ing in the actu­al glades, which was pret­ty intense.  Some of the peo­ple in those swamps would just as soon kill you as look at you.  But for the key swamp sce­nes where a lot of the action goes down we used a pri­vate estate in Fort Lauderdale with a big lake, then art direct­ed it to appear wilder than it was.  I even had KNB FX send down ani­ma­tron­ic gators to cruise the sur­face of the water to tie-in with the actu­al gator footage.

The same year (2004), you also direct­ed Monster Island, a fun trib­ute to old-school mon­ster movies.  You also wrote the script.  How did you sell MTV on the con­cept and what was your favorite part about mak­ing the film.

I loved stop-motion ani­ma­tion,  Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen were my gods grow­ing up — so I set out to make a valen­tine, ulti­mate­ly con­vinc­ing MTV that doing a mon­ster show using this basi­cal­ly anachro­nis­tic FX method would be so vin­tage-look­ing that it would actu­al­ly come across cool to younger audi­ences.  I don’t know if I actu­al­ly believed that, but I want­ed to get the movie made.  In ret­ro­spect, it was the wrong audi­ence (hard core mon­ster movie geeks don’t watch MTV, so many kids with no frame of ref­er­ence saw it and didn’t get it). Still, it got made.  And I wound with a whole stu­dio in Vancouver filled with minia­ture jun­gles, moun­tains, gorges and mon­sters, includ­ing stop-motion mutant Praying Mantises and Giant ants. Even a stop-motion Carmen Electra who gets car­ried off by a fly­ing queen ant ala Rachel Welch in ONE MILLION YEARS BC, replete with cave-girl bikini!

Word has it you got on famous­ly with Monster Island cast mem­ber Adam West.  What was it like work­ing with this t.v. leg­end?

He was amaz­ing.  I walked around with a grin on my face when­ev­er he was on set.  And it was one of the few instances where I actu­al­ly got the actor I had envi­sioned for the part.  Dream cast­ing, real­ly.  I just saw child­hood hero Adam West as the whacked-out atom­ic sci­en­tist who comes in to help the kids save Carmen.  Fortunately, he liked the script and was avail­able.  I had writ­ten him reams of nut­ty dia­logue and he just attacked it and nailed it.  He also had a pen­chant for call­ing me “J.P.” on set, which is total old-school Hollywood lin­go.  I was flat­tered beyond all mea­sure.  One time my father vis­it­ed the set and I heard him ask Adam, “How’s my boy doing?” Adam pat­ted his on the back and said, “The kid’s gonna make it.” Too cool.

Shows and movies aren’t the only things you’ve direct­ed for tele­vi­sion: you also direct­ed a sea­son of the real­i­ty show, Temptation Island.  What kind of work does direct­ing a real­i­ty show entail and what are your thoughts on real­i­ty t.v. in gen­er­al?

I actu­al­ly direct­ed the first 2 sea­sons, though you wouldn’t know it cause I used my cats’ names in the cred­its.  At the time, ear­ly in my career, I was afraid I wouldn’t be tak­en seri­ous­ly as a film direc­tor if it was wide­ly known that I had direct­ed real­i­ty.  Now I don’t think it real­ly mat­ters.  Everyone does everything/anything to get by.  Temptation Island was a great exer­cise in learn­ing how to set and direct mul­ti-cam.  There were times when I was guid­ing up to sev­en cam­eras and a crane, giv­ing direc­tion over head­phones, chang­ing com­po­si­tions, cue­ing cam­era move­ments.  It was like direct­ing foot­ball or a live con­cert.  It real­ly taught me how to use a jib cre­ative­ly, and have employed those tech­niques ever since on all my sub­se­quent fea­tures.  Recently I was asked by a friend to direct a live event given by the Dalai Lama, and I was able to crack open that box of tools again.  It’s a pret­ty cool thing to know, like a sec­ond lan­guage.  In gen­er­al,  I don’t watch much real­i­ty TV any­more.  Except for WHALE WARS, which is real­ly the only sub­stan­tive show out there, and one that gen­uine­ly mat­ters —  the pos­si­bil­i­ties have been wast­ed, like with much of reg­u­lar tele­vi­sion.

Another occa­sion­al sidegig for you is 2nd unit direct­ing, a role you’ve filled on films such as Like Mike and Bottoms Up.  What are the ben­e­fits and chal­lenges of direct­ing 2nd unit as opposed to direct­ing 1st unit?

My first pro gig was direct­ing sec­ond unit on the HERCULES mows.  I learned how pro­fes­sion­al crews oper­at­ed, set pol­i­tics and how to deal with dept heads.  The main ben­e­fit is that it’s gen­er­al­ly all cool action stuff.  Sam Raimi used to say that once he moved onto big­ger shows, where sec­ond unit is always del­e­gat­ed to some­one else — he didn’t have as much fun. “You guys get to do all the cool shit, and I’m stuck here with actors talk­ing on a bench!”  I did my first big car chase in LIKE MIKE, which my friend John Schultz direct­ed, and anoth­er chase in BOTTOMS UP, as a favor to my friend Erik McArthur, who direct­ed.  I also did the lat­ter so I could direct Paris Hilton, the star of the movie.  Not because I was a fan, but because of the absur­di­ty.  She real­ly is who she appears to be!  The chal­lenges are that the sequences are usu­al­ly big action set pieces with stunts and a lot of mov­ing parts.  But that’s also the fun, and the fact that you’re com­ing in to exe­cute speci­fic sce­nes, and not respon­si­ble for the suc­cess of the entire pic­ture, which is always the main unit director’s bur­den.

You’re also in the unique com­pa­ny of direc­tors who have worked for The Asylum, the infa­mous block­buster cash-in (mock­buster?) com­pa­ny on the films 666: The Child and the cult favorite, Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus.  Beyond work­ing on super-low bud­gets, what kind of chal­lenges did you face work­ing for the Asylum?

The chal­lenges work­ing with the Asylum were main­ly that they were pure busi­ness­men who rarely demon­strat­ed any love for the medi­um or the gen­res in which they worked. Roger Corman loved movies, appre­ci­at­ed good work even if we was not able to gen­er­ate it all of the time.  These guys were just try­ing to get some­thing into a box and sell it as cheap­ly as pos­si­ble.  And it shows.  Also when you pay actors and crew squat, you should at least try to be nice to them, treat them like human beings.  On the two movies I made for them, they didn’t.  And when MEGA SHARK became a huge finan­cial suc­cess, they nev­er acknowl­edged my con­tri­bu­tion. I nev­er got offered any of the sequels, any kind of bonus, noth­ing. Not cool.

It’s worth men­tion­ing that you used pseu­do­nyms on both of your Asylum gigs — “Jake Johnson” on 666 and “Ace Hannah” on Mega Shark.  How did you choose the pseu­do­nyms and why did you use them?

I knew going in that my cuts would nev­er be hon­ored.  That they’d re-edit them into God knows what.  Which they did spec­tac­u­lar­ly on MEGA SHARK, adding ten min­utes of ran­dom paus­es to pad time, ridicu­lous inserts, re-using FX shots ad infini­tum — that thing plays like a porno now!  I can’t say a movie is “mine” if my cut is dis­man­tled.  That’s the whole point of direct­ing in the first place — try­ing to get what’s in your head on screen.  That makes con­trol of the edit essen­tial.  So I used fake names.  For 666, I wasn’t very imag­i­na­tive with my pseu­do­nym, but for MEGA SHARK I used a char­ac­ter name Burt Lancaster refers to in VERA CRUZ, Robert Aldrich’s great “super-west­ern” of the 50s.  It’s my favorite movie, and the name “Ace Hannah” sounds so broad and ridicu­lous, I guess it fit my sit­u­a­tion at the time.

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus became unusu­al­ly pop­u­lar, break­ing out of the b-movie ranks into main­stream noto­ri­ety.  How do you feel about this phe­nom­e­non and what has it done for your career?

At first it drove me crazy that the one film I had the least con­trol of, the piece that was most rushed, least finessed and most fucked with was the film that EVERYONE knew about it.  It was like a bad joke.  But the fact was it was pop­u­lar.  And being asso­ci­at­ed with any­thing pop­u­lar in this busi­ness is good, some­thing to trade on.  When I was being con­sid­ered for SOME GUY, the co-pro­duc­ers look­ing for a replace­ment for Landis saw that pop­u­lar­i­ty as a pos­i­tive for them.  Just the asso­ci­a­tion.  They hadn’t even seen the movie,  but I mat­tered a lit­tle more because of it. Thankfully writer Ryan Levin watched my oth­er work first.  Strangely, MEGA SHARK helped get me teach­ing jobs!  I had always want­ed to teach film, and when I began solic­it­ing uni­ver­si­ties the movie was all over the web — tons of stu­dents knew about it; so that made me very “cur­rent”.  Thankfully I made SOME GUY soon there­after, and I was able to prove that  I wasn’t the 21st Century’s answer to Ed Wood.

Most recent­ly, you direct­ed the excel­lent fes­ti­val favorite Some Guy Who Kills People.  How did you get involved with this unusu­al gen­re-bend­ing pro­duc­tion?

SOME GUY was a beau­ti­ful script that came along at exact­ly the right time.  I felt I hadn’t made any­thing per­son­al or sub­stan­tive in a long time and I was severe­ly depressed.  Perhaps if I had got­ten rich off MEGA SHARK I would have been less bummed; but I was up to neck in debt, could bare­ly make the rent and was now known for a dopey mon­ster movie that played like a porno — not at all what I had set out to be. But then I got lucky.  My man­ager just hap­pened to know one of the co-pro­duc­ers  social­ly, heard they were look­ing for a direc­tor to replace Landis and sug­gest­ed me.  When I read it my heart leapt.  It was not only exact­ly the kind I movie I had longed to make, but it felt imme­di­ate and per­son­al. I drew up a bunch of sto­ry­boards, came up with an over­all direc­to­ri­al approach, then basi­cal­ly begged Ryan and his team to let me do it.  I pitched them HARD.  In the end,  it became a path to redemp­tion.  It didn’t get me out of debt, but it saved my soul.

(note: the next ques­tions and their answers are bunched togeth­er because Mr. Perez answered them in one love­ly, flow­ing piece of text)

The script for Some Guy Who Kills People incor­po­rates a num­ber of styles — dra­ma, com­e­dy, social com­men­tary, even a dash of slash­er movie — yet man­ages to keep a tonal con­sis­ten­cy.  How did you pull that off and which of the­se ele­ments was your favorite?

You also put togeth­er a very impres­sive cast for Some Guy, includ­ing Kevin Corrigan, Lucy Davis, Barry Bostwick and Karen Black — and they offer up a vari­ety of styles to fit dif­fer­ent needs of the sto­ry.  How did you assem­ble such a ros­ter of tal­ent and what did you have to do as a direc­tor to prop­er­ly cal­i­brate this range of act­ing styles?

The mix of tones was one of the great things about Ryan’s script.  It was alter­nate­ly fun­ny, scary and true to life.  It nev­er com­ment­ed on what it was doing, it just was.  That felt authen­tic to me.  Not some con­coct­ed gim­mick, but a gen­uine view of the world, which I share.  So it wasn’t that big a deal man­ag­ing a tonal con­sis­ten­cy, so much as it was being truth­ful about each moment, what­ev­er it was, as it occurred.  I basi­cal­ly saw the whole world as a real one, with real char­ac­ters I believed in.  Some eccen­tric, some fright­en­ing, some bit­ter, some depressed.  That’s the actu­al world to me — a crazy mess.

The cast we secured was def­i­nite­ly a dream cast.  Kevin I had known for years, and had always want­ed to do a movie togeth­er.  He was the first actor I approached and he was as psy­ched about the script as I was.  So were the oth­er actors, as Barry, Karen and Lucy all came in to audi­tion!  Ryan and I were fans and couldn’t believe our luck.

If any­thing, I just made sure I didn’t hit any note too hard.  I didn’t want to push moments.  The dia­logue was already fun­ny. There was no rea­son to “play” it fun­ny, or add goofy music or light it “like a com­e­dy”.  I shot it like a dra­ma, because again, the­se were real peo­ple to me.  The only area I went more “the­atri­cal” with was the mur­der sequences.  I felt if the kills were too real­is­tic, that vibe would res­onate through­out the film and hurt the lighter moments.  So I played the kills more broad­ly — still gory, but a lit­tle over the top.  I final­ly got to do a full-on decap­i­ta­tion by machete — in a dri­ve-in  no less!

As is the cus­tom at Schlockmania, the final word is left to you.  What would you like to say to the schlock-lov­ing pop­u­lace?

One of us, one of us…