Laurence R. Harvey as ‘Klaus.’ Photo by Richard Doucette.
“Frankenstein Created Bikers” is the irreverent, high octane and blood soaked sequel to the award winning “Dear God No!,” written and directed by James Bickert. Shot on glorious 35mm and featuring several terrific performances from some of independent horror’s hottest stars, “Frankenstein Created Bikers” is one grind house horror film you don’t want to miss!
“Frankenstein Created Bikers” had its world premiere on April 2nd at the Atlanta Film Festival and I was one of the lucky ones who was able to make the sold out screening. After seeing the film and meeting most of the cast and crew I was able to interview the director, James Bickert. Below is a transcript of our conversation.
EW: What got you started in the film business?
JB: Just picking up a camera and doing it. I was motivated by a need to create. You’ll meet all types in the industry, from those that just want power, sex or attention. I’m motivated by a desire to better the genre every time out and discover something about myself and those around me. If you’re in it for the money, then you’re an idiot.
EW: What are some of your favorite films? Why?
JB: You know, there are so many. Some are pretty obvious. Instead of just rattling off some Bava, Shunya Ito and John Carpenter titles, let me give you a decent answer. I really enjoy gritty character driven films like “Pay Day”, “Cisco Pike”, “Prime Cut”, “Last Night at the Alamo”, “Joe”, “The Candy Snatchers”, “Welcome to Arrow Beach” and “The Outfit”. I also have a passion for early Asian and Filipino cinema. Spaghetti Westerns, Giallo, Women in Prison, Film Noir and Luis Bunuel. Hell, I love it all. When it comes to sheer exploitation, “The Cheerleaders”, “Mondo Topless”, “Orgy of the Dead” and “Honkey Tonk Nights” are usually what is on my backyard drive-in screen. All these films feel fearless to me. They embody a rebellious spirit that I feel a kindship with. Like their themes, I’ve always given the middle finger to authority so I find them sexy.
EW:What contemporary horror films do you admire?
JB: Anything different where they occasionally lock the camera down. “Harvest Lake” is one of my favorite films that I’ve seen recently. I’m probably biased since two of my actresses from “Frankenstein Created Bikers” are in it. Izzy Lee’s “Innsmouth” is a very beautiful film, so is Jill Gevargizian’s “The Stylist”. You know, I don’t really have the cynical view toward film that seems to be prevalent these days. Having gone into the film trenches so many times, I see every film as an accomplishment for all those involved. It’s very difficult to not bring something away from a viewing experience. I admire them all.
EW: What is your favorite part of filmmaking? Writing the script, casting, directing….? Would you be interested in just writing scripts for other directors?
JB: They each have their positives and I would write for other directors, sure. I like it all except the selling and begging for money. That’s really what filmmaking is these days. 95% begging and 5% making films. If someone came to me and said, “You make two films a year and they can be about whatever you want but one needs a werewolf and the other needs a sorority, and we’ll pay you the same amount as this guy managing the Burger King down the street” I would say, “Where the fuck do I sign!”
EW: I heard that Ingmar Bergman is one of your favorite directors and that you are a huge fan of French New Wave, do you think those influences comes across in your films and how so?
JB: You know Bergman made over 68 films without a goddamned car explosion. What a pussy! I’ve seen the majority of Bergman, Truffaut and Goddard’s work but they don’t tend to influence much outside of the writing phase. I may have some bits of inspiration from them in my directing arsenal like I do from Frank Capra, Jean Cocteau, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Jean-Pierre Melville, Monte Hellman or hell even Gerard Damiano. I’m just not fully aware of it. Film has always manipulated who I am. I’m consumed by it so there is probably the influence of a hundred auteurs and a thousand smut peddlers guiding me from some deep tumor.
EW: What are the challenges you faced with directing actors from all walks of life, experience levels and how did you overcome them?
JB: I only find it difficult when someone is in an emotional relationship with another person on set. That can be overcome to some degree but it does create a challenge. I’m getting better with actors with each film and that is one of the areas where I would most like to grow, becoming less technical and more connected with the performance. Low budgets and the amount of hats I wear can put a strain on this situation and make it difficult at times to communicate ideas, but I always treat actors and crew with respect. Nobody wants to be around a bully or anyone who is not doing this out of love.
EW: What is your day job and how does it affect your filmmaking?
JB: My wife has a decent job and she sees something in me. (laughs) I also do freelance graphic design.
EW: Tell us a little bit about “Frankenstein Created Bikers” journey from idea to the big screen.
JB: Well, I really wanted to explore some emotions I was struggling with but potential investors wanted to change everything so I went the crowd funding route and was able to keep the vision and self-discovery intact. It would be nice to make a big budget film, but in the end I really wanted to get something out of this experience while at the same time making a film that could pry guffaws out of inebriated perverts.
EW: How was working with Ellie Church, Tristan Risk, Laurence R. Harvey and Jett Bryant? How did you convince them to come onboard?
JB: I like to think the script convinced them. All four are not only wonderfully talented actors but beautiful people. I had a very large cast of beautiful people who gave me their very best. You can’t ask for anything more. I would take a bullet for them.
Tristan Risk as ‘Val.’ Photo by Richard Doucette.
EW: Obviously, Frankenstein Created Bikers is an homage to exploitation and grindhouse pictures but what other films have influenced this picture? I seem to notice some nods to the Universal Horror Classics like, “Bride of Frankenstein,” and also the Hammer films of the 1960’s and 1970’s, especially “Frankenstein Created Woman.”
JB: On the surface it is my love of growing up at Southern Drive-ins and digesting the films distributed by Dimension, New World Pictures, Crown International, Film Ventures International, etc. With the writing, tone, theme and structure, I was trying to do something completely unique. I associate the modern Grindhouse aesthetic as having faux scratches, post sync dubbing and bad jump cuts which I don’t have. I shoot on film so there is no need to break the 4th wall in post. There are actually nods to Fellini and Goddard in Frankenstein Created Bikers. But yeah, you do get a fair amount of Russ Meyer, Joe Sarno, Jack Hill, Carlos Aured, Jess Franco and John Waters. None of it is openly intentional. These are just some of the many people that have influenced me. The only Universal and Hammer connotations are in some of the sets and wardrobe. What situates this film from other period pieces of this ilk is how much of myself is buried in the subtext. These characters are all part of my subconscious battling to see whose philosophy will triumph and what I may become. They’re all really rotten. (laughs) For me personally, it’s a very important film. If the non-stop rowdy cheering at the premiere is any indication, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun for the viewer.
EW: The movie is a combination of practical and digital special effects, tell me a little about how that came about and how you decided which approach to take with your scenes.
JB: We’re pretty light on the digital effects unless electricity is involved. I don’t like getting shocked and you have to have electricity to effectively re-animate a bride. It’s like the James Whale law of the genre. Cory Poucher put together a really good SPFX team of professionals that knew all the safety measures involved in blowing up cars so that was a fantastic experience. He also created one of the most memorable special make-up effects. Yeah, we had an enormous make-up effects team from Shane Morton’s Silver Scream FX Lab, Marcus Koch, Blake Myers and many more. It was a sticky set for sure.
EW: You’ve shot on Super 16, digital and now 35 mm, why did you decide to go with 35 mm for Frankenstein Created Bikers? Also what are the pros and cons of each format and which you do prefer and why?
JB: My goal has always been to shoot Super 35mm so I had to do it. It wasn’t right for the budget but damn does it looks good! Nothing looks as good as film to my eyes. I’m not a snob about it. I’ll shoot on a damn iphone if that is all I have. I prefer the look of Super 35mm but the mobility of Super 16mm is so much faster and easier to deal with. We had an Arri LT on “Frankenstein Created Bikers” and once you add a Angenieux zoom, monitor, battery cables and a 1,000 foot mag, you’re talking 70lbs. You have to have track and cranes to get decent camera movement. Film is getting very specialized so the cost has risen considerably but I’m not ready to give it up just yet.
EW: There is a lot of sex and nudity dealing with woman in your films but also a lot of strong female characters, how do you think women are portrayed in your films?
JB: It varies quite a bit. I’ve made films where women were searching for an identity and films where their only means of empowerment was to take their own life. I’ve also made films where they were victims to really terrible acts just to extract an emotional response in the audience. Cheap. Yep, I’m guilty. In “Frankenstein Created Bikers” they are in control. They definitely control every sexual situation. The character of Candy played by Ellie Church really intrigued me because she is set up early on as the archetypal promiscuous stock victim but she’s intelligent and the person we can identify with. She has to endure and overcome some sadistic misogyny only to run into some stronger female characters. I wanted the audience to appreciate that she has value as a human being. The men, they’re kind of clueless. Tristan Risk has several lines of dialog in the film that pretty much sums it up but I won’t spoil that for people who haven’t seen the film yet.
EW: There are some really cool locations in “Frankenstein Created Bikers,”how did you find them and afford them?
JB: Word of mouth and going out scouting with my director of photography Jonathan Hilton. Since Hollywood has moved into Atlanta, rental prices have shot up for locations so we just had to head to other Georgia cities. We found an old mill in Griffin, Georgia people might recognize from “The Walking Dead”. That was our most expensive location.
EW: What are the challenges of using crowdfunding sources like Kickstarter and IndieGogo to produce your films?
JB: Trying to communicate with that many people and finish a film can be a challenge but our backers have been really patient and supportive. I think they realize they’re going to get a lot more bang for their buck than they initially anticipated. You can see it on the screen. We couldn’t have made this film without them and I’m forever grateful. The obligation to them also made me strive to do my very best so I think it has all been very positive. I’m sending out their posters this week and look forward to seeing some social media posts as well.
EW: I know you chose to premiere “Frankenstein Created Bikers” at the Atlanta Film Festival where it played for two sold out screenings and an encore screening. Why do you think Atlanta is such a hotbed for film?
JB: You have the tax incentives which is really just geared to the big studios because nobody wants to take a risk on buying those tax credits through brokers from Indie productions. The state might find an error and the smaller production company will just have their LLC file for bankruptcy. The Studios have entire divisions dedicated to that and buyers know Warner Brothers isn’t going to fold. What has happened is there is a lot of work and with it talented people. I shoot on film so people liked slumming with me for a couple of days to experience the medium again.
EW: What advice can you give filmmakers who have completed their films and are looking for distribution?
JB: Unless you just want people to see your film out there, stop looking. You won’t be marketed and you will never see a penny. As soon as the ink dries, they won’t return your call. Bottom line. Manufacturer your own discs, rent tables at horror conventions, contact a wholesaler like MVD or get an Amazon Advantage account and sell your discs there. You’re going to have to work your ass off and be creative but that’s what it takes to make your money back.
Erick Wofford is a writer/director and independent filmmaker known for his award winning short film, “The Music of Erich Zann.” He is currently in production on his first feature horror film entitled, “Splatterpunk!”
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