Dan Riesser is hitting the festival circuit with his new short film, NIGHT OF THE PUNKS, a gritty, tongue-in-cheek battle between Punk Rockers and Satan’s Minions. Seasoned with plenty of horror, laughs, and solid special effects, this short will soon be a finger lickin’ festival favorite for those that taste its awesome sauce.
How did NIGHT OF THE PUNKS come about? What can you share about production?
I really wanted to do another horror short film, hopefully something a lot bigger and crazier, that would showcase what I could someday do with a real budget. My last short (Downsized) had a very “film school” feel to it that I was hoping to improve on. I’d tossed around a bunch of ideas but none of them ever clicked, and I realized I really wanted to make a fun 80’s style punk rock horror flick. A punk band I sang in had played a show at this venue The Blue Star in downtown LA, and the look and vibe of the place helped inspire the idea. My friends in the band Murderland (http://www.myspace.com/murderland) wanted to help out with the production. I started working with Mike Kinshella (Murderland’s singer) on the script. He’s a horror movie encyclopedia, so he brought a lot of great stuff to the script. With Murderland’s help we got the venue on board to let us shoot there, and it went on from there.
NIGHT OF THE PUNKS was almost an homage to 80s horror and the trailer is done in Grindhouse flare. What other influences do you bring to your projects?
Besides all the obvious influences (Return of the Living Dead, Dead Alive, Night of the Demons) I’m really into comedy. I work as a comedy television producer and have lots of friends who are stand ups, sketch comedians, etc. On this film, we’ve got a lot of comedians in the cast. Dominic Deleo (Raymond) is a comedy writer & performer, and Nick Mundy (Hooch) is part of the successful sketch troupe Team Tiger Awesome. I like my horror with a dose of comedy, personally. I like to be laughing and having a blast when watching a horror movie. For the trailer, I just really wanted to experiment with grindhouse trailer effects, editing, and voice overs. I suppose the trailer might be a bit misleading, because in the end the film isn’t presented in a real grindhouse fashion.
Only a fraction of the budget came from Kickstarter. I didn’t want to go on Kickstarter and ask people to “pay for my movie.” What I did was ask for help to pay my craft services budget, so that all my cast & crew got fed well. When people are working for little or no money on small projects, they often get fed PB&J, bad pizza, etc… I tried to give people better stuff. We had catered meals, lots of options. I think the crew was happy and I think Kickstarter backers appreciated that I wasn’t just fishing solely for personal gains. The rest of the budget came entirely from my savings account.
In a perfect world, both. Realistically, I think Downsized has much stronger marketing potential as a feature. I’ve gone several different ways with drafts of the feature, but they all tap into the current recession happening here in the US. It’s about corporations, job losses, economic downturn, etc. I think Downsized is a really topical idea. A studio could market it really well, get some good stars in it, and make it a theatrical release. Unfortunately, there’s been lots of very similar projects so I don’t know if some of the wind has been knocked out of it. The feature length version of NOTP that Mike Kinshella and I are writing is really insane. It’s got loads more gore, funny gags, new characters, tentacle demon-monsters, ritual sacrifice, everything. It would be an awesome ride for 80’s horror fans. However, it might not be as marketable to the masses. It’d be more of a niche film for genre fans. Hell, at the end of the day though, if any studios/investors wanted either of them to be made into a feature, I’d be on board 100%.
You utilized both practical special effects and CGI. What do you enjoy working with more and why?
I like practical a lot more. Big budget CGI action movies actually cause me to lose interest. My eyes sort of glaze over during big CGI sequences. For horror filmmakers, practical is where its at. It’s way more fun experimenting with buckets of fake blood and prosthetics than sitting in front of a computer. But the credit for both the makeup and the CGI can’t come from me, it’s gotta go to my makeup designer Dan Russo and my visual effects artist Tony Treul. They both did amazing jobs and brought the short to a level I would never have been able to accomplish on my own.
Irrational Films is just my “production company.” When I started taking filmmaking more seriously in college, that name came about and it stuck. I’ve had filmmaking buddies come and go, but essentially its just a banner heading for my work. I haven’t made it into an LLC or an official business yet, but I probably should.
You blend Comedy with Horror. Do you have designs for a straight Horror project?
I do. I’ve written probably 7 feature length screenplays. Most are horror, and most have some comedy in them, but there’s one or two that are straight horror films. I’ve got a stack of half written treatments/ideas for horror flicks, some of which wouldn’t have any comedy in them. I also have a bunch of ideas for movies I’d like to make that aren’t horror at all.
What projects do you have lined up next? Will pursue a feature or more short films?
I’m itching to make my first feature film. I’m 28 and I want to get one shooting before I turn 30. Shorts are a great way to practice, make your mistakes, and learn… but features is the goal. I’m working on another script idea (outside of writing Night of the Punks with Mike Kinshella) designed as an ultra low budget relationship movie that’s also a haunted house movie. Something really small and able to be made on the cheap (under 20k). I am ready and confident in making the jump into features, I just need to get my foot in the right door.