Society & Culture
Trials & Tribulations of a Low-Budget Horror Filmmaker w/ Todd Sheets
On this edition of Parallax Views, it's Halloween season and that means horror movies are all the rage. Although until recently dismissed as "low-brow" entertainment by some segments of society, horror movies have proven time and time again to be huge profit-makers that can reliably make financial returns. In fact, Hollywood titans like Oliver Stone, Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi, and James Cameron first cut their teeth in filmmaking through the world of horror. And it shouldn't be any wonder why since audiences can't seem to get enough of a good ol' fashioned scare coupled with the fact that such films can be produced on tight budgets and even tighter production schedules.
Although low-budget horror has, due to it's financial viability, proven popular since the early days of cinema, an even lower-than-low-budget emerged in the 1980s thanks to the VHS boom. SOV (Shot-on-Video) horror are the fright flicks made on a micro-budget, sometimes for as little as a couple thousand dollars, that represent the underground of the horror genre.
SOV horror has developed a cult fandom since its heyday in the 1980s with VHS
What are the trials and tribulations that go into making movies on such a shoestring budget? And who are the people who make such movies? Joining us on this edition of Parallax Views to answer those questions is Todd Sheets, who has been making SOV horrors and micro-budget terrors for over 30 years. The conversation begins with Todd and I hashing out what constitutes a micro-budget movie and how Todd was mentored in the art of shoestring movie-making by the American-Canadian filmmaker David Decoteau. From there we discuss the difficulties Todd making what he considers his first "real" movie, 1993's Zombie Bloodbath. Specifically, he relates how he and his crew had to make the movie during the Great Flood of 1993 that devastated the Midwestern United States!
Todd Sheets' VHS-era terrors
From there, Todd and I discuss armchair movie critics. Specifically, Todd talks about some of the harshest, nastiest experiences he's had with critics and trolls over the years. On the other hand, Todd also notes that he has disowned many of his earlier efforts due to his belief that those movies don't meet quality standards. That being said, Todd argues that some critics go over the line into the realm of personal mean-spiritedness that lack basic human decency. In this regard, Todd relates a particularly callous trolling incident that targeted an actress, namely 80s scream queen Linnea Quigley, in one of his movies.
Todd Sheet & Scream Queen Linnea Quigley
From there we discuss the trials and tribulations of his two latest labors of love. We start by talking about last year's Bonehill Road, a throwback werewolf creature feature with practical effects and an inventive plot twist. Todd says that he'd always wanted to make a werewolf movie and how Bonehill Road marked his first foray into crowd-sourced funding through Indiegogo. Additionally, he tells us about some of the difficulties of making the film, how he achieved special effects, and how a company that thought the movie was Satanic almost kept Bonehill Road from seeing the light of day.
Bonehill Road Los Angeles Premiere Poster
Todd and I begin to conclude the conversation by discussing his latest wild feature, Clownado, which mixes the killer clown genre repopularized by the IT remake with elements from SyFy's so-bad-it's-good hit franchise Sharknado. Todd notes, however, that the origins of Clownado's script predate both by over a decade. And finally Todd illustrates the just how hard low-budget movie-making can be with the story of a exceptionally grueling night of shooting for the movie where everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
Killer clowns + a killer tornado may prove more deadly than Killer Klowns from Outer Space in Clownado!
We wrap up with the now almost mandatory "Parallax Views positive note" where Todd talks a little about why he keeps making micro-budget movies. During this final portion of the conversation Todd mentions some of his other features like Violent New Breed, House of Forbidden Secrets, and Dreaming Neon Purple. Despite all the trials and tribulations Todd has had both in life and in filmmaking, he says that the positive experiences he's had through filmmaking, the friends he's made along the way (including the legendary comedian Rudy Ray Moore aka "Dolemite"!), and the fans who've enjoyed his work have been a blessing.
Even if you're not a fan of the horror genre this is an episode of Parallax Views you won't want to miss as Todd discusses the highs and lows of micro-budget filmmaking!
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