From theatre, came film, at least for Redfield’s father. “Dad is an artist who works in ceramics, but early in his art and teaching career he made short 16mm and 8mm films. The first film I was ever in was a kind of anti-war thing he made, with me throwing a fit having my first hair cut, inter-cut with shots of pigs being slaughtered and ordnance fired off in a field—and he made this while still in the service! It all hit hard sometime in elementary school, in the third grade. I took my first acting classes in a kids workshop in Wisconsin; was already making Super 8mm animation, both cell and claymation, and somehow knew I wanted to be an actor and director in movies. My grandfather took me to see everything Disney put out, and “Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang”, my father took me to movies like “2001”, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes”, “Papillon”, and foreign films by Fellini. I got an eye-full, for sure. A little later, and a little older, I’d get out on my own or with some friends and catch the latest Harryhausen re-release, or a Hammer or Amicus horror picture that for some reason, Warner Bros. decided to release after holding it for a couple of years. Naturally I knew all of this because I was an avid reader of ‘Castle of Frankenstein’ and ‘Famous Monsters’ magazines…It’s fascinating and wonderful that so many filmmakers of a generation were influenced by these mags and that’s a common denominator among us. I’m just getting started in this business, but feel pretty proud to be at the tail end of a generation that grew up with these wonderful things (including Aurora monster models!).”
And for Redfield the younger, film begat theater. “I fell into the theater because it was accessible and affordable (and a great way to meet girls); I mean, you could just do it with little money or resources (not the girls, the plays…). Went to Towson State University and did about fifty college and community theatre plays, then started working professionally in regional and dinner theater. But movies were always the driving force. The carrot to chase. I had two moderately successful theater companies in Baltimore, one in the mid-80’s and the other in the early 90’s, but always had my heart set to make pictures. Through-out this period I did work in my teenage years with Don Dohler on some of his early films, namely “Nightbeast” and “Fiend”, as make-up and special FX (nobody had a role for a fourteen year old with braces), and worked in television and radio as I got out of college and into my twenties.”
But the arts, regardless of live or Memorex, were a part of Redfield’s drive. With “Jekyll and Hyde” beneath his belt, and quickly embroiled in a battle with the distributor, Redfield didn’t have to go looking for projects, they quickly found him. One was the CGI-heavy sf movie Despiser, another called Chainsaw Sally, which came about due to another movie altogether, namely JimmyO Burril’s musical horror-movie love letter, SilverScream.
“I met JimmyO Burril after a screening of ‘SilverScream’ and I wanted to talk to him. I thought, ‘Here’s someone who really loves all horror films, not just junk or slashers’. So we got to talking and traded numbers. He came to visit the studio one day, and was interested in doing another film like ‘SilverScream’, another genre musical. A kind of ‘Ed Wood’ universe thing. But I was leery of doing a musical on the kind of budget we could get, and besides, Voytilla and I had other things we were trying to raise money for, especially after the debacle of tying ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ up with a lousy distributor who did nothing but sit on it for over a year. And we were still pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps after 9/11, because a lot of our ‘bread and butter’ work at the studio, things that help pay the bills like designing and building props and sets and commercials for others, had dried up in Baltimore.
“Then one day JimmyO mentions that he’d been thinking about doing something. He and his wife, April, had invented the character of ‘Chainsaw Sally’ to promote ‘SilverScream’. Sally had taken off on the internet and had been developing a large fan-base. That’s all it took. I said, ‘come on over and let’s talk about this’. So we hashed out a storyline, and JimmyO came up with a wonderful script. I set a budget and we started to raise the money, when the Burril’s dropped a (happy) bomb on me: April was pregnant! So the big question became, should we move the shooting schedule up a couple of months and get the film in the can before Sally started to show, or delay a year or so? We plunged ahead…”
“Chainsaw Sally” tells the story of a happy, young psychotic horror fan who “protects her family” from evil folks like land developers and mean ice cream girls by killing them as painfully as possible. It’s a delightfully gory movie with a sick sense of humor, and it’s easy to see what attracted Redfield to the project. He took the supporting role of developer “Steve Kellerman” in the movie, alongside April and such luminaries as Gunnar Hansen and H. G. Lewis! Of course, “Chainsaw Sally” posed its own set of problems for the new team. “The problem with “Sally” was the money (isn’t that always the way…?) Our first investor was interested in financing the picture, but then backed off from biting the whole bullet, and only put in a fraction of what we needed. That’s like deciding to build a 2000-foot bridge and twenty feet in, ‘seeing how it goes’! That meant two things: 1.) In order to keep the production going, I was spending my money and the company’s money as we continued to raise the finances! (It took us eight months to raise the budget, and by that time, the film was shot and in editing!) And 2.) I had to hustle more outside paying work for the studio in order to keep all the bills paid. A grueling time. There were some stumbles along the way, but in the end everything worked out okay. Not the way to do any picture—but we’ve all been there.”
As for playing Steve, in Burril’s original draft, Kellerman was an FBI agent investigating the bizarre murders in Sally’s home of Porterville. “As we punched around the storyline, and realized that the underlying key was that Sally wanted to protect her home and her family, the Steve character had to dovetail somehow into that. We toyed with the idea of Steve also being a serial killer, but that idea went out the window real fast, as it started to muddy things up. Once it was clear that he had to be a kind of normal ‘straight man’ in this crazy world of over-the-top characters, to be able to balance everyone else and be a character that could interact realistically with the ‘normal Sally’, we had him. From that point, the only thing I tried to do with him was make him a bit ‘mysterious’ in his reaction and delivery to the villains around him, so that maybe the audience wouldn’t know where this character is going—and give him a place to go as he befriends Sally. If I was a little younger I’d have loved to have played (Sally’s transvestite brother) Ruby—a great character. Alec Joseph has done such a wonderful and funny job with it, and he owns the role. I’ll have to settle for a Sally and Ruby action figure and be Ruby late at night when all are asleep…”
With that disturbing thought, we move onto Redfield’s thoughts about the final cut of the film—which has played to rave reviews and readily-receptive audiences around the country. “I love the final film,” he says. “JimmyO Burril’s humor really cuts through sharply. It’s never really one thing, like just a parody of famous horror movies of the ‘70s or that kind of thing. And I really like the fact that JimmyO cared about character in this. Sally and Ruby have some meat on them and can grow and develop. One day there will be a six volume DVD set, because I think these characters can adapt so much. It won’t just be a series of inventive and grisly deaths—although that’ll still be a part of the films charms.”
With “Jekyll” continuing to receive critical acclaim and audiences dying for their own “Sally” DVD, the question arises as to what’s next from Redfield Arts.
“2005 promises to be exciting—on a creative level at least…some of our budgets are still less than the price of a nationally produced commercial…’Chainsaw Sally’ and the drama ‘Cold Harbor’, written and directed by Tom Brandau, will continue to play at film fests as we find distributor homes for them. In post-production is an adventure-fantasy, “The Sorcerer of Stonehenge School”. We’re finishing the special effects and (“Sally” co-star) Jennifer Rouse is working on the score. Also in post is a comedy called “Conjuring Aurora”, needing some pick-up shots in the spring.”
Redfield continues, “As for new productions for ’05, the ones that get me really excited – ‘The Death of Poe’, detailing the mysterious events of Poe’s last week on earth, ‘Harker and the Shadow of Dracula’, a sequel to the novel ‘Dracula’, and ‘The Madness of Frankenstein’, are all coming along nicely. I love ‘period horror’, and each of these has a different tone, story thrust and color. ‘Harker’ is something of a swashbuckler, kind of a cross between ‘The Avengers’ and Hammer Horror, for instance. My partner, Stuart Voytilla, and I have a half dozen other projects that we’re tending in the garden, but the ones I’ve mentioned are funded and are in the design stages now, and will be produced in the order I’ve mentioned, if luck holds—you know how this business is when it comes to money and the stability of private investors. “JimmyO Burril is busy with the script for ‘Chainsaw Sally 2’, and has come up with some great wild and interesting ideas with his characters, so I will produce the sequel at some point when things are ready. Finally, we’ll debut our first graphic novel, ‘Houdini of the Secret Service’. We’re hoping to launch its publication at ComicCon in San Diego this summer. A big, rousing action-adventure, with art by Sarah How. Voytilla and I wrote it a couple of years ago, and when we started working with Sarah, she contributed concept sketches for some of the film projects that are coming up, we knew her work was perfect for the style of comic book that we wanted Houdini to be.”
At the end of the day, Redfield the writer, actor, producer and director still has to come home to spend time with himself. With such a full plate becoming fuller by the day, relaxation isn’t always easy. But that’s what happens when you make the artistic end of Russian Roulette the game you play. “I’m not getting much sleep these days, but life is too short, and I want to make some movies that I want to see, that nobody else seems to want to make anymore. Beyond the horror and fantasy genre (that I’ll never leave as long as it and an audience will have me), Voytilla and I are developing future film projects for the family audience (the ‘Houdini’ book is a step in that direction). We grew up with Disney films, and one of my favorite films is “Mary Poppins” (the secret is out!—I’ve owned a 16mm print for years before video and DVD, and watch the picture a couple of times a year…) I mean, “The Iron Giant” made me cry like a baby when I saw it—I suppose I’m trying to say that I’m one of those filmmakers that is driven and inspired by the films that got to us as kids—or gets to the kid in us. So before I cash in, I’d like the chance to do some pictures that really have some heart and magic in them. Like I said earlier, a boy can dream…”
Visit the Redfield Arts website.