Going off that same token, what had you learned from previous projects that helped you on this? What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced with Josh And Todd as an independent production, and how did you overcome them?
Josh and Todd went pretty smooth once filming started. It wasn’t a very puppet-heavy production. The hardest part was the puppet shots, though. Any puppet filmmaker will tell you that hiding grown adults under a puppet isn’t always easy when sharing a screen with a human actor. Most of our products are all puppets now.
Josh and Todd and our series Steve the Vampire helped me decide to stick to all puppets. It really creates a world for the characters and stories. I played Todd, so I was willing to lay in the dirt, hide in dumpsters, be jammed into a couch, and so on. Not sure if another puppeteer would have been as eager, hahaha.
Head, which just celebrated its fifth anniversary, is a slasher comedy wherein the humor stems from how the characters interact with each other, as the horror elements are treated respectfully. Was there ever any fear of either the jokes or the scares being overshadowed by the other?
Not really. I wrote it originally to sell the script and use the money for a project. But then we decided to do it, without puppets, on our own. Then we realized we’re always better with puppets. We just really wanted to make people forget they were puppets while watching. And I’ve heard from a few people we pulled it off. If it was live actors, I think the humor would have come off too much like melodrama. The puppets enhanced it, and I feel the horror happening to them felt scarier because we aren’t used to seeing puppets in this type of situation.
“…we realized we’re always better with puppets.”
Slashers and comedies have been combined for decades, so how did you balance the expectations of the target demographic while still figuring out how to deliver a unique experience?
We really made Head for us. It’s a movie we wanted to see. We weren’t even thinking of demographics or any audience other than ourselves. It wasn’t until it was done we realized this might be something special. Then the horror film community really got behind us. Horror fans are super smart and open to new directions. So while the story was clearly a throwback/tribute to the films of the late 1970s and early 80s, we still made it new, using puppets and some tweaks to the traditional storytelling tropes of the genre.
I know there’s an amusing anecdote about the disembodied head tree and property lines. Mind going into some detail about that?
Haha, yeah! We were shooting on private property. Russ Werlebird’s (one of the producers/puppeteers) father had a good piece of land we could use. So Russ and I scouted for a cool tree. Saw the one we used in the flick and just started adding the heads, blood, debris, etc., then left. We came back to shoot later in the day. After wrapping for the day, we left all the heads there till next week to let nature get to them a bit. It turns out we were just off the property. The owner of the property came across it and had a little shock! Luckily he knew we were out there filming, and left it all in place, and was cool with us filming there. Just found out that earlier this year, the tree was hit by lightning and is now gone!
Aside from that story, which thankfully had a happy ending (at the time of filming), what were some of the other challenges faced while making the cult favorite?
Locations were the hardest, but it’s amazing how many people will say yes if you ask. Josh and Todd has a scene in a real jail and bar. All we did was ask if we could film at those places.
For Head, outside of locations, was the weather. We were usually shooting one day a week for six weeks. It turned into eight or ten, I can’t remember. We got hit with rain a ton. Our last day in the woods was the week of Halloween, and I remember telling the team we had to finish all the campsite/ woods stuff that day. After Halloween in Connecticut, the weather could go from 90 degrees one day to snow the next. The very next day, it was the first snow of the year.