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September 24, 2010

Interview: Film Ranch

by Heather Henshaw

Heather: When did you decide to form Film Ranch?

Andy Lalino: Andrew Allan and I met while employed at the Home Shopping Network in St. Petersburg, Florida. We quickly realized we had much in common in terms of taste in movies and books. Additionally, we both went to film school and had directed short films. In the early 2000's, Andrew had written several screenplays and I was working on an ambitious horror short entitled Filthy, so we would often review each others' work. We had gotten along well together and after years of doing things individually, we thought it would be a good idea to form a creative business partnership, which became Film Ranch, formed in 2007.

Out of the gate, Film Ranch was primarily focused on creating genre pictures. Andrew and I are huge fans of horror, science-fiction, fantasy, teenage sex comedies, art house and cult movies, so it made sense to parlay our interests toward those genres, however we are open to producing any type of movie, be it a drama, film noir, etc.

We were actually very efficient in getting our first major project into production, that being Brainjacked directed by Andrew Allan, which has garnered many rave reviews and won "Best Horror Feature Film" at the Melbourne International Filmmakers Festival. Our experience shooting and releasing Brainjacked positioned us for consideration as producers of Herschell Gordon Lewis's new horror film, The Uh-Oh! Show.

HH: Will your focus be mainly on horror, sci-fi, and cult?

Andrew Allan: Yes. Those are the types of movies we really enjoy. Not to say we wouldn't consider making other types of movies. But, horror, sci-fi, and cult movies are the meat, potatoes, vegetable, dessert and after-dinner mint of our cinematic diet.

Personally, I find horror and exploitation to be the most creative genre. You can do anything in it. That's very liberating. Anything goes. As it should.

Andy Lalino: In the near future, that's what I foresee. They're likely to be more profitable than other genres and visually translate well to foreign audiences. But as I responded previously, we're open to material from any genre. Plus, Andrew Allan and I are lifelong devotees of the fantastic genres as well as filmmakers and are well-versed in their history and aesthetics, so it's the old adage of "doing what you love".

HH: How long did it take for you to put together "Brainjacked"?

Andy Lalino: The shoot was spaced out over weekends and occasional weekdays over five (5) months. That seems long, but when one compresses the time, it was actually an efficient shoot. A particular challenge was the fact that Brainjacked was shot primarily at night. For many a night, cast and crew call started at about 5pm, and the shoot would often last to 5am, with little rest for the following day, which was just as long. We did some pre-production, but no storyboards. Andrew Allan had all the shots in his head, however, and was well-organized. He had a production notebook, which became our "bible" - colored tabs and everything. We were in post-production for almost a year, which is typical for an independent film. Andrew and I come from post-production backgrounds, so we're very particular about editing, graphics/animation, music and sound effects, which I'm sure most Brainjacked watchers will agree are all phenomenal elements of the movie.

Andrew Allan: We produced The Uh-Oh! Show during the time we were finishing BRAINJACKED, so that lengthened the post time a bit. We don't like to rush things. We tend to be very deliberate.

HH: Bravo on casting Rod Grant as "Dr.Karas". What was the casting process like?

Andrew Allan: Not enough can be said about Rod Grant. He is fantastically talented and one of the best people you will ever meet. In our eyes, he is already a great cult movie star who simply hasn't been seen enough outside the Tampa Bay Are to be fully appreciated. We hope BRAINJACKED changes that.

I first saw Rod in Marcus Koch's fine film, 100 TEARS. He was very captivating in what was essentially a non-descript role. But, for whatever reason he stood out amongst the wall-to-wall gore. When he walked in to audition, I was like "That's the guy from 100 Tears!!!" I was very excited. Even more excited when he gave a great audition…for the part of Norm Simpkins, the newscaster which ended up being played by another genuine cult movie star, Joel Wynkoop.

We wrote Dr. Karas as an older character, probably in his sixties. Refined, polished, worldly, and dignified. So we auditioned based on that. But, we just didn't see anyone who embodied what we were looking for. Because Rod was so compelling, we toyed with the idea of making Dr. Karas younger. We suspected Rod had the chops the pull it off, so we brought him in to re-audition, this time for Dr. Karas. And he nailed it. The room where we were casting just went cold when he hit some of the more chilling lines. I mean, no one does dark and creepy like Rod Grant. The gamble paid off very well. In our opinion, and based on Rod's performance, Dr. Karas is now an iconic character in horror.

One other thing…I don't want to imply that Joel Wynkoop was second banana in the Norm Simpkins role. We knew going into the movie that we wanted to cast Joel for something. How do you not cast Joel Wynkoop in your movie? As his world-famous shirts say, "He can play anything!" He was a very good fit for the Norm Simpkins character. Creepy and entertaining.

Andy Lalino: Casting is always fun, and is one of our strong points. I personally really get a kick out of hearing that mental "click" inside my head when you know an actor is right for the role.

We held two major casting sessions, both in Clearwater, Florida. In our state, it's common for actors to come from different towns, even as far as Miami, to attend a casting session. We cast most of our actors the first session, including Rod Grant, Chris Jackson - who was phenomenal as the lead Tristan Davis - and Christopher Sarlls, who is equally tremendous as the snarling "Zane" - a misshapen mutant.

The female lead character "Laney" was played by Somali Rose, who auditioned for us much later in the casting process - a last-minute lucky discovery. I think fans will agree she's perfect as "Laney". We always had in mind casting three actors from our area who have solid followings in the cult movie universe: Joel D. Wynkoop as newscaster "Norm Simpkins", Krista Grotte as the sexy siren "Heaven", and Jillian Kinsman as "Evelyn Graham". Joel is featured as "Fred Finagler", the lead baddie in the aforementioned H.G. Lewis's The Uh-Oh! Show and has a long history of acting in cult movies. Krista also appears in The Uh-Oh! Show as "Champagne", a beautiful, heroic game show model and also played "Pussey" in our award-winning horror featurette Filthy. Jillian Kinsman is a good friend of ours who recently had a juicy role in Drop Dead Diva. She's excellent; we would have cast her in two roles, but we decided to drop a character from the script, that being "Cookie Teedler", a co-anchor for Wynkoop's "Norm Simpkins".

HH: What we're some of the main creative influences on the production of Brainjacked? It's really, a very pretty film, even with all the head-drilling.

Andy Lalino: The goal was to give Brainjacked an otherworldly ambiance via the lighting design, much to the credit of director Andrew Allan, director of photography Wes Pratt and gaffer Andrew Hawthorne. Allan had a definite vision and was influenced by the horror films of Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Plus, Allan's a huge fan of pre-Star Wars sci-fi, such as Soylent Green and The Omega Man, which manifests itself more in the story than the visuals. Andrew and I were fed on '70s and early '80s exploitation and grindhouse films, which influenced us immensely.

Andrew Allan: The main influences were horror and exploitation films from the 70s and 80s, dark synth and dark wave music, and print advertising.

The movies with the most influence were Bill Lustig's MANIAC, Mario Bava pictures like BLACK SABBATH, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, and as Andy mentioned, OMEGA MAN, and SOYLENT GREEN. I love the urban, sleazy vibe of MANIAC. The trick was trying to create a similar vibe in St. Petersburg, as opposed to shooting in New York City. I think we pulled it off. THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, despite not being a cult/exploitation movie, is one of my all-time favorites. It has that lonely 70s paranoia magic. I wanted to wrap BRAINJACKED's main character Tristan in a similarly haunting atmosphere.

In my humble opinion, science fiction filmmaking has never been better than it was in the early 70s. OMEGA MAN and SOYLENT GREEN epitomize this dystopian era. So, right off the top I started to refer to BRAINJACKED as a pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movie. Forget the special effects. Forget the CGI. Forget everything being metallic and silver. We took a stylistic cue from those earlier movies and leaned more towards color and Plexiglas. My wife, Vanessa, and our Art Director Mary Dietz nailed it with set design and styling.

Then our terrific DP Wes Pratt and Gaffer Andrew Hawthorne and their team used very creative lighting to solidify BRAINJACKED's other-worldliness. If that's a word. They were great. Wes, Andrew, and I have worked together on hundreds of commercials. So that's where the film's slick production value and "prettiness" come from. They're pros and can pull off pretty much any look. I also pay close attention to print advertising, especially fashion ads. They create a different world with every photo shoot. As a horror filmmaker I probably shouldn't admit this, but I read Vogue, Bazaar, V, and Elle monthly. I don't miss an issue. So, I pulled a bunch of magazine swipe to give Wes and Andrew a better idea of where I saw the film going visually. This was in lieu of storyboards. I didn't use any storyboards.

I will also say this…I fully expect people to compare the BRAINJACKED visuals to SUSPIRIA. That's fine. I love SUSPIRIA. But, I didn't attempt to emulate it with BRAINJACKED. Rather, the heavy colors in BRAINJACKED were chosen to really make it feel like another world. I also wanted lots of color because it makes the film look different from so many other movies out now. Many strive for the de-saturated SAW look. I think it's overdone. Frankly, I don't know why the heavy use of color fell out of practice. I guess it did get a bit cliché in the 80s. But, I don't believe in limiting a filmmaker's storytelling tools. The same with camera zooms. They work as well today as they did in the 70s.

HH: There is also another film you all have recently done that has won Best film chosen by audience at TFW the name of this film is The Uh-Oh Show. Can you tell us a little about this film?

Andrew Allan: The Uh-Oh! Show is the triumphant return of "Godfather of Gore" Herschell Gordon Lewis! It's the first film he has written and directed in nearly 40 years. And it is one hell of a good time.

Andy Lalino: The Uh-Oh! Show is a horror parody mash-up of game shows and reality TV shows. In the world of Herschell Gordon Lewis, it's a showcase showdown of game show gore! It's about a crazy-violent game show called The Uh-Oh! Show, where the contestants lose body parts in various ultra-gory ways if they give the wrong answer! It's so popular that a "spin-off" show is created to capitalize on more gore - called "Grim Fairy Tales", which depicts contestants getting torn to pieces by favorite fairy tale characters, like the "Big Bad Wolf", "Papa Bear" and "Old Lady Blume". It's up to intrepid TV reporter Jill Burton to find out what's happening behind-the-scenes of the world's most grisly TV show, and try to stop the slaughter.

There are dump trucks full of bloody, oozing gore, courtesy of popular make-up effect maestro Marcus Koch. It stars Brooke McCarter (The Lost Boys) and has cameo appearances by Lloyd Kaufman and Mike Christopher, who played the "Hare Krishna Zombie" in the original Dawn of the Dead. No horror fan should miss seeing this one.

HH: This is a H.G. Lewis film, and he is known for his classic cult films; such as the original 2000 Maniacs, Wizard of Gore, and many more great films. How did Film Ranch get on board for this gore filled ride?

Andy Lalino: I had met Herschell Gordon Lewis years ago at the Screamfest horror convention in Ft. Lauderdale (now known as Spooky Empire and held in Orlando, Florida). We had chatted a bit, and I had mentioned that I made a successful horror featurette, Filthy, which he seemed mildly impressed by. It's funny to note that Herschell - though he liked Filthy - hates the title! It's hard to imagine the title "Filthy" distasteful to the Godfather of Gore! Anyway he saw the movie, and had given me his personal contact info, and to my shock, he actually responded! This initial meeting led to a friendship which turned into a creative partnership, resulting in The Uh-Oh! Show.

Andrew Allan and I had traveled to south Florida to pitch an idea to Herschell for a movie, but in turn he pitched us a project - The Uh-Oh! Show, which then was titled Grim Fairy Tales. It's easily Herschell's best film and is an absolute horror roller coaster and laugh riot at the same time - it is THE perfect midnight movie! Judging from the response we received at Spooky Empire 2009 and Florida Supercon 2010, we have a big crowd pleaser on our hands. The Uh-Oh! Show won "Audience Choice" award for Best Horror Film at the Texas Frightmare convention in Dallas in 2010.

Andrew Allan: And yes…we are the luckiest horror movie fans in the world because we did get to work with one of our idols. It was amazing. And everything you've heard about how Herschell makes a movie is absolutely true!

HH: The cast has such a nice mix; you have Joel Wynkoop, Brooke McCarter, Jack Amos and others. How did you cast for this film? It seemed that everyone in this movie had a unique chemistry.

Andrew Allan: We cast using the traditional method. Fortunately, we already knew most of the fantastic actors you've listed. So, they were right at the top of our list when it came time to filling the roles.

The great chemistry is due in large part to Herschell's directing. He insisted that, despite a very aggressive 12-day shooting schedule, everyone needs to have fun. What's the point of making a movie if you're not having fun making it? So every day was a pleasure. And Herschell knows exactly what he's doing. So he was able to guide their performances towards the perfect pitch.

Andy Lalino: Like Brainjacked, we held a few casting calls in Clearwater, however we had Joel in mind for "Fred Finagler" and Jack Amos as "Dean" - another ominous villain. Brooke McCarter was a complete surprise!! We held a casting session, and a handsome actor came in to try out for the lead role of "Jackie" - The Uh-Oh! Show's host. When he introduced himself, he mentioned he was in the 1987 horror hit The Lost Boys - and we couldn't believe our luck. The Uh-Oh! Show worked well for all concerned, in that Brooke was looking for a starring vehicle here in Florida, and found it in our film! In turn, we had the benefit of casting a truly talented, charismatic actor in the role who the fans really dig. Krista Grotte, mentioned above, was our first choice for "Champagne" and Herschell had wanted to cast popular Florida-based actress Trish Dempsey as "Old Lady Blume" (who's akin to the witch in "Hansel and Gretel").

We were lucky to get a very talented actress to play Jill Burton: Nevada Caldwell. She really understood the character and played it like a cartoon, which was the objective. She's really great; I hope Uh-Oh! gets her a well-deserved "scream queen" fan base. Other great finds were: Broward "Eclipse" Holsey as Radial Saw Rex - who we hope will become horror's newest slasher icon - and Kenny Rogers (not the singer!) who plays "Oscar" - Jill Burton's cameraman and loyal friend. Another popular character has proven to be "Coco Marie-Smith", played by stunning newcomer Lauren Schmier - who excelled in her first feature film role!

Of course there are many other colorfully creepy characters in The Uh-Oh! Show too numerous to mention - but envision a Big Bad Wolf who wields razor-sharp slicing knives; a sexy, sadistic Goldilocks, and a maniac "Old Lady Blume"!

HH: I had the privilege to see this film at TFW (Texas Frightmare Weekend) and I must say I know why it won best film. I stayed just to see this film. The FX in "Uh Oh Show" are top-notch. From decapitated heads to rotting arms, how did you get Marcus Koch involved? If I am not mistaken, he also did the FX for Brainjacked.

Andrew Allan: Once again, we have the good fortune of living in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida, which is rife with genuine filmmaking talent. We've known Marcus for years and first worked with him on a trailer for a movie we were developing at the time. He's the best. So, it was a no-brainer to use him and then-partner Shelby McIntyre for The Uh-Oh! Show. We also brought in Mark Angenola who is a really talented fx artist we met during BRAINJACKED. Mark did great work on both films along with Marcus and Shelby.

Andy Lalino: Yes, Marcus worked his effects magic in both films. Marcus has a reputation for being one of the best special make-up effects artists in the Tampa Bay area, and because we all lived here and knew each other, it actually was easy to secure him. Marcus, along with Mark Angenola, did great work on Brainjacked, and we had a great time working together. Then, about a year later, we called up Marcus and told him he's doing a film for Herschell Gordon Lewis, and he loved us forever.

We're proud that most all the effects in The Uh-Oh! Show are practical and not CGI. The best effect Marcus concocted for Uh-Oh! involves a giant buzzsaw blade who an unlucky contestant falls prey to. You won't believe what happens!!!

HH: When can we all expect to see The Uh-Oh Show up for sale? Is there a set date yet?

Andy Lalino: It's currently being shopped around - we're hoping for a 2011 release. It's a great, gory, fun, crowd-pleasing film that not only delivers, but gives the viewer their money's worth. And, it's pure Herschell Gordon Lewis.

Andrew Allan: Ultimately, whoever distributes the film will determine when it will be available in theaters and on DVD. In the meantime, the movie will continue to play festivals around the world. There are dates coming up in DC, Indiana, Chile, and at Sitges in Spain.

HH: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Is there any last thing you would like to add?

Andrew Allan: Thank you for the fine interview. To the readers…you'll find the very best DVD offer on the planet at You get the BRAINJACKED DVD, plus, the entire movie soundtrack, PLUS the Make-Your-Own-BRAINJACKED clips disc which features digital clips of scenes from the film. With it, you can edit your own version of BRAINJACKED. It's really cool. Not only that…at you will see the world's bloodiest infomercial. It must be seen to be believed!

All hail Cinema Head Cheese!!

Andy Lalino: We'd like to thank all the fans who have supported all Film Ranch movies - Brainjacked, The Uh-Oh! Show, and Filthy. We're proud of our quality line-up of cult movies, and always aim to produce motion pictures that horror fans and the general public really enjoy and will be entertained by a thousand years from now. In the next few years, expect new, original Film Ranch features and collaborations with cult movie all-stars.

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