Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Interview: James Balsamo of Acid Bath Productions

In my mind, it almost feels like James Balsamo's Acid Bath Productions and Son of Celluloid have grown up together.  His filmmaking career started around the same time the blog did, and he was one of the first filmmakers to contact me about reviewing his flicks.  He's a good friend of the blog, and I look forward to meeting him in person at Days of the Dead Atlanta, where he's gonna be a guest.  See, there's yet another reason to go HERE and enter the contest for passes to the convention.  He's gonna be a guest at Texas Frightmare Weekend in May (details HERE) too.  I got in on James's work at the ground floor with Hack Job, then watched his progression in I Spill Your Guts, and now, as the release of his third feature Cool As Hell approaches, I invited James to talk to the Cellmates about nudity, old school movie novelizations, filmmaking, Troma, and Oderus Urungus's Ed Wood moment.  Check it out...

SOC:  When was the first time you remember watching a horror movie and thinking “THAT’S what I wanna do with my life!”
 JB: I was eight years old and watching Friday the 13th Part III with my father – I was loving every minute of it (until they showed Jason's mother's severed rotting head...that scared the crap out of me). Soon after, my own mother (with a head on her shoulders) asked me if I wanted to join an acting school. That's when it hit me! I could be that guy behind the mask. I'm not a sports fan or a horticulture enthusiast; I eat sleep and breathe horror films, so it was clear from a young age I wanted to live and work among the monsters and madmen of cinema universe.

SOC:  You were an intern at Troma for a while. What did you learn about filmmaking and the film business during your time there?
JB: Troma was a great learning experience. I missed working on set for Poultrygeist. I started working there after they had wrapped Night of the Chicken Dead, and left Troma way before they started their new venture, Return to Nuke ‘Em High. So, I ended up learning the ropes of the business side of film making, and it is a business. Becoming CEO of my own company was no easy task. Troma helped me lay the ground work by teaching me the ropes and making me take out the trash and sweep. I recently returned to Troma to tell Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz that my films were sold all over the world. Lloyd and Michael shook my hand and said that I went from errand boy to respected film maker. I couldn't have done it without the help of Troma, but now Acid Bath Productions is making a name for itself.

SOC:  Your movies are always packed with cameos (Dave Brockie, Lynn Lowry, Tim Ritter, Joel Reed, Andrew W.K., Debbie Rochon, Carmine Capobianco). How do you go about getting all of these great people involved?
 JB: Acid Bath Productions is a growing company. Now that we have worked with so many major artists, people contact us left and right to work together. It's really an amazing thing - while making "Hack Job,” we reached out to so many people in the horror community that we really made some strong roots that have helped us branch out to so many new notables.

SOC:  If you could pick anyone you haven’t worked with yet to be in one of your flicks, who would it be?
 JB: Dick Miller. I'm a big fan of his work. One of my favorite Miller films is "Demon Knight". I was honored to recently be asked to be a guest with Dick Miller at Days of the Dead convention in Atlanta. So, I’m looking forward to meeting him in person.

SOC:  Considering some of the real life characters you’ve worked with, I bet you have some pretty funny on-set stories. Care to share one with us?
JB: Filming is always an adventure. Working with some of the industry's top notables is really the icing on the cake. There are really some great stories on set, like when filming "Hack Job," Dave Brockie dressed as Oderus kept screaming that this was his Bela Lugosi moment, as if I was Ed Wood making "Plan 9". We filmed with Lynn Lowry at her house and she has cats...I'm allergic to cats. She starts rubbing my face out of nowhere in the scene, so I had to take a break to have an allergic reaction coughing fit on her front lawn. There are so many stories on set I think one day I'll write a book about my adventures so I don't want to give too much away.

SOC:  Your films also feature lots of gratuitous nudity, which is becoming a rarity. Why do you think horror movies these days generally shy away from nudity?
 JB: I really don't know why horror movies shy away from gratuitous nudity now, but Acid Bath Productions is picking up the slack. We are jam packing our films with all the bare skin you can shake a fist up and down to. Nudity is a primal desire, and we’ve picked up a motto that anyone that tells you they don't enjoy nudity is too afraid to admit it. We don't make porn; we just know how to make our audience happy. Filming it isn't a bad perk either, but it is always a professional atmosphere for the cast and crew on set when we have nude shoots.

SOC:  There seems to have been a big resurgence in anthologies on the indie horror scene lately, with Hack Job being near the beginning of the wave. What made you decide on an anthology for your first flick as opposed to a regular feature?
JB: "Hack Job" really spear headed the comeback of anthologies. In fact I had self-distributed "Hack Job" months before "Chillerama" hit stores. I had always wanted my first film to be an anthology. I started out making short films, and an anthology is essentially short films sewn together with one overlying story. Needless to say, this is a great format for starting film makers. I grew up on films like "CreepShow", and "Tales From The Darkside.” It was a great starting point to pay homage to those films.

SOC:  The Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space, who did the theme song from Hack Job, are one of my favorite bands of all time. How did that collaboration come about?
JB: I was a big fan of BZFOS myself, before we worked together. I told them about "Hack Job" and they loved the concept of collaboration. I sent them the lyrics I had in my mind and they wrote an amazing song around it. We have become such good friends since "Hack Job," we decided to work together again and they did the theme song for my new film "Cool As Hell".

SOC:  With the war veteran motif of I Spill Your Guts, were you going for social commentary or was it just a good backdrop for the blood and tits?
JB: The military was a great backdrop for revenge and mutilation. I'm not a preachy filmmaker and I don't use my films as a soap box to stand on. I have my own views on the world and I just try to play devil's advocate and show both sides of the bayonet, so to speak.

SOC:  A novelization of I Spill Your Guts is a cool idea. Very old school. Did you always envision ISYG as a book and movie, or did the book idea come later?
JB: The novel idea was not something originally planned from the start, but now that the film has been adapted I couldn't be happier with it. Nick Kisella did an amazing job and he really makes the blood run right off the pages. You should go get a copy!  

SOC:  A lot of the time, the book and movie will have plot differences. How closely does the book follow the flick?
 JB: More or less, the plot is the same, but some of the kills have been modified. There is also a ton of character development. The novel really portrays Dennis (the killer) as the victim and you take his side of the story. As most horror movie fans know the killer is star of the show, and the novel really keeps The American Executioner burning bright as he hacks and slashes his way into our hearts.

SOC: Speaking of Old School ideas, I Spill Your Guts just got a limited edition VHS release. What are your thoughts on the whole collector’s VHS market that has sprung up all of a sudden?
JB: Let’s just say there is a VCR in my soul and when Matt from Horror Boobs Video contacted me about doing a release on VHS, I had to "tape" him up on his offer. Is that enough with the VHS puns or do I have to be kind and rewind?  Zinger!

SOC: What has it been like working with Wild Eye Releasing? They seem to have been on a roll lately, putting out some great indie horror flicks, including Hack Job and I Spill Your Guts.
 JB: Working with Wild Eye has been great. "Hack Job" really sparked the wave of awesome titles they released. Wild Eye and Acid Bath Productions will be working together again to release "Cool As Hell".

SOC:  Your next flick, Cool as Hell, is coming out in February. Tell us about it.
 JB: Rich wasn't always a samurai sword wielding zombie slayer! He was your average comic book store employee, until he met a demon named Az. When Az came from Hell, he left the portal open and a soul hungry beast escaped. Rich and his roommate Benny used to have girl troubles, but that's the least of their worries now. They have to stop the creature and the living dead that have crawled out of Hell. Who would have thought Rich would have to save the world just to get laid?

SOC:  After Cool as Hell, what’s next from you and Acid Bath?
 JB: Acid Bath Productions has yet to officially announce its next project, but I can tell you that you will see the American Executioner kill again.

SOC:  What quality is more important for an indie horror filmmaker to possess, technical skill or passion for the genre?
JB: As an indie filmmaker I believe it's important to have both. Technical skill is essential because as an indie filmmaker, you are competing with the best and you have to hold some ground in the industry. Horror fans have something most other genre viewers don’t - suspension of disbelief - they accept the fact that a monster could roam the streets or that a hockey masked zombie could come back again and again after "dying" at the end of sequel after sequel. That takes passion and I think that is what really makes a great indie filmmaker.

SOC:  Any last words for the Cellmates (readers)?
 JB: Be sure to follow us on Twitter @acidbathproduct and don't forget to pick up your copy of "Hack Job" at and "I Spill Your Guts" at Don’t forget that "Cool As Hell" hits stores worldwide February 19, 2013. Also be sure to check out the "I Spill Your Guts" the novel HERE

Cool As Hell Trailer:

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