I recently had the pleasure of speaking with “The Godfather of Gore” himself, Tom Savini – the makeup artist that inspired many of my generation to make a horror film. He was in Columbus, Ohio, filming the digital
feature “Death4Told” by Fearmakers Studios.
Tom took a few minutes to espouse on the joys and challenges of independent film, how he thinks he will be remembered (and it’s not what you think) and his thoughts on Kevin Costner’s appearance on “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”
Let’s start with “Death4Told” Since that’s where we are.
I don’t know anything about it, but go ahead.
What about your character?
What about him? He kills Margo Kidder. Where’s Superman when you need him? She said, “Yeah, these days.” Apparently she saw him recently because she was talking about him being able to move his arms. She walks up behind him, stabs him in the shoulder and says, “Can you feel that?” and he says, “Yeah.” “Well great.”
Obviously with this face I’m the bad guy, the serial killer. I don’t think it’s much of a surprise. As soon as the camera’s on me. I think that’s what their intention was. There’s talk about the serial killer on the radio and then I show up and, “He’s got to be the killer.”
Let’s talk about doing the indie films. Do you enjoy them?
Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of them lately. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a hell of a lot more fun (than special effects). As a special effects guy you have to have a team of people and a bunch of equipment. As an actor you just show up naked. They feed you, they clothe you, you make more money. But acting is the hardest thing to do. A special effects guy just does his bit and goes away. A director is there, of course 24 hours a day.
But as an actor you go in and what if you’re not in the mood to pretend that your daughter was kidnapped by a bike gang and raped? You go in and have breakfast and read your paper. What if you don’t feel like you have to cry in five minutes? What does it take? What would it take, for you emotionally to gear up to cry? That’s the hard part. It involves the emotions. But a professional does his job whether he feels like it or not. To me, acting is the hardest thing there is to do even though it seems like the easiest.
Do you enjoy acting?
Yeah, yeah. That’s all I do. I have my special effects school. Independent films are usually small budget. And if it’s effects work, I just turn that over to my lead instructor. He lets the students bid on it. The students have to get together teams, put a budget together, see how long it would take and put the materials together, which trains them for the way they’re going to have to think when they leave. So I turn over all the special effects stuff to my school, which is one of the things that makes my school different from any other school.
The students really get involved in commercials and movies. Six guys just left to do a film in New York. They’ll be gone for 21 days. They’ll have homework assignments and things due. It would really get the school in trouble if they’re gone and the school’s getting financial aid when they’re not there. So that’s how they cover that. They may ask me to consult and that keeps my name on the film. Not necessarily this one. They use me as a consultant. That’s my forte. To see what someone’s doing and make suggestions to make it better or quicker or safe. That’s the way we teach at the school – the elaborate way to do it and the budget way to do it.
So do you have any advice for the lower independent budget filmmaker? Do it cheap?
Exactly, right. It’s fun to see the up and coming guys and see what they’re doing. Sometimes you learn from those guys. “Oh s**t, why didn’t I think to do it like that?” That’s the fun. The fun is always inventing how to do what the script says. And there’s always precedents. Think of someone else’s work you’ve read about in some magazine. The fun is always inventing it. You’re like a magician. That’s why my books are called “Grand Illusions.” Because a magician is making you look here, while you’re pulling flowers out of your a*s back here. He’s misdirected you. And there’s also all these mechanical devices you aren’t aware of and that’s what we do, same exact thing in the movies. And the special effects guys are actually the movie, make-up magicians.
The interview continues in part two of TOM SAVINI: A REAL SEX MACHINE>>>