Co-founder/producer Zach Green of Fatal Pictures talks on their most recent short film release Heir, written and directed by Richard Powell. The two previous award-winning films Familiar and Worm are also addressed by Zach Green with reflections on how things were then versus now. Familiar is available on iTunes and Heir should be making its way to digital distribution by next year. Heir is currently in its festival circuit with many more exciting festivals in store.
Splats of Blood: Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Fatal Pictures
Zach Green: My producing partner Richard Powell who is the writer/director for the films that you’ve seen, he’s the main creative right now. He is the writer/director I’m the producer so I handle putting the shows together, the finance, legalities, logistics, and the paperwork.
I went to school for post-production roughly ten years ago for editing, post-production and everything after the film is shot or the TV show or whatever it is. So that’s initially what caught my interest in the industry. So editors usually make the directors look good, that’s what an editor does.
Richard Powell, my producing partner, he was attending school for production, film and TV production, and I actually didn’t meet with him until our final year of film school. I didn’t even know the guy. I applied to be an editor on one of his projects that the staff green-lit and they made, the school shot one of his films. I applied to be the editor not knowing who he was at the time and I was hired to cut this short film that Richard pitched in school. And that that’s how we really established the rapport — in the editing room, cutting a student film.
We graduated in 2003 and we would work together on many films outside of film school which was basically like extended film school for us. And then late 2006 came around and I said to Richard ‘I think maybe our next film we should properly market’ and properly release our next film under a production company we started together in 2007 which is titled Fatal Pictures.
I met Richard at film school in about 2002, 2003. For many, many years we would go on to produce movies together. I would edit them, naturally, I went to school for post-production editing and I would also go on to produce these films because I would obviously want the best quality, the best performances, and all that for our films. I naturally started producing our movies. When Richard and I started our production company, Richard would go to write and direct and I would go on to produce and put together the best shows and projects, and get the best crew and cast and everything else lined up so he could just focus on the creative aspects.
Our first film was titled Consumption in 2008. We released [Consumption] which was actually a true story about a cannibal who lived in Germany. And our second picture under Fatal Pictures was [Worm]. We shot it on 16mm film. These films went on to have great success on the festival circuit. They’re all award winning films, they’re critically acclaimed, and then came Familiar in 2012 and our latest picture Heir which is still on the festival circuit now.
Splats of Blood: How would you say your films have changed with Richard since you’ve first started producing? Have you seen a difference?
Zach Green: Absolutely. Well, I could ask you the same question from Worm to Familiar to Heir. Did you see a difference?
Splats of Blood: Yes! Definitely in quality and budget for sure.
Zach Green: When you make movies, you’re always learning. It’s always a learning experience, you never stop learning. The success we had from Worm in 2010 really caught the interest of my cinematographer who actually shot Familiar and Heir. Michael Jari Davidson, he caught wind of Worm and how well that was doing on the circuit and what people were saying so he reached out to me and Richard. I believe this would have been in 2010. About 2010, 2011 we sat down with Michael at a coffee shop, we just introduced ourselves and we had actually sent him the Familiar script and we sat down to discuss it and he really wanted to be a part of the film since he saw a little bit of what we were capable of doing with Worm and really wanted to a part of our next project, Familiar, so he threw his hat in to be the cinematographer. We couldn’t have been happier with the way that turned out visually and he actually ended up coming back to shoot Heir with us as well.
Splats of Blood: So you don’t have any hand in writing, you’re just strictly producing?
Zach Green: Yeah, right now in time Richard, of course, bounces ideas off of me when the script is in all stages. He pitches ideas and revisions for all the drafts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally out of that loop. I do go back and forth and pitch ideas and kind of play devil’s advocate so he can justify what he’s writing to me if I don’t understand something. But for the most part, Richard is the head writer right now and is also the director. I will definitely direct down the road, I will have a directorial debut eventually. Right now I’m not too interested in directing a film but I really, really like producing and putting a show together. I have a really great passion for doing that and I’m good with people, I’m good with just researching, just everything I need to do when it comes to producing these movies from pre-production to post-production, marketing and trying to sell the films and get them out there. So that’s really what I love and enjoy doing right now.
Splats of Blood: Out of all of the films you produced, specifically the most recent ones, which one is your favorite, your personal favorite? The most fun to produce and also the one you enjoy the most.
Zach Green: That’s funny, I’m for sure going to say Heir and not only because that one was our latest but Heir really was. We were going through a lot of new doors and going down a lot of paths that were new to us so that was working. I flew in an Emmy winner from Los Angeles Bill Oberst Jr. who is an amazing actor. They’ve deemed him the hardest working man in horror today and it was just an absolute pleasure to work with that man and for him to respond to the script. I sent him the script way back in 2013, 14 when Richard and I were just getting ready to finance and launch our Kickstarter campaign which was another new thing. We’ve never done a Kickstarter and we were successful in our first crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter which was definitely a grueling experience, I’m not going to lie. That’s a huge full-time job in itself. I think only a few percent of people actually succeed in their campaigns, most people fail. So it’s a very hard job.
So that was new to us, working with Bill Oberst Jr., I’m putting him up, you know flying him in, working with an established, well-known actor like him. We also worked with a co-production company, Red Sneakers Media, who are filmmakers, peers of ours who we met on the festival circuit years ago when we were both touring films. We met these two filmmakers Mark Roussel and Ron Basch. They’re directors, writer/directors and they were co-producers on Heir so between that, the Kickstarter campaign, and working with Bill Oberst Jr, all these were new experiences for us and thank god everything was successful.
So yeah, I’d have to say Heir was probably my most favorite one shooting. It was just like watching fireworks between Robert and Bill play off one another in Heir it was just phenomenal. Honestly, it was just next level watching these guys act, it was just phenomenal. Just crazy, mind blowing stuff. Like you call cut, you’re laughing with Bill this and that and then like the second Richard calls action, you’re blocking the scene, you’re getting into the scene, it’s like a snap of a finger, this guy is just like a light switch, it’s just like they turn on and off their acting. It’s just, it’s crazy! You really believe what you’re seeing. You get lost, I got lost many times on set in Video Village just watching them from the monitor. You really get lost in the show they created. It’s phenomenal, it really is, there’s nothing like it.
Of course being our latest film, everyone is that much better than the previous film at doing their job and that much more knowledgeable in certain areas and maybe our troubleshooting skills have gotten that much better. So if something arises on set you might know how to solve it quicker. Again, like I said, it’s always a learning experience from every movie. You’re never not learning. Problems are going to arise on every set.
Splats of Blood: Do you guys have any plans to play Heir at any festivals in New York?
Zach Green: Yes, Heir actually played New York Horror film festival. It played that festival, I believe it was last October or November I’m not sure which month that’s in. I’ll definitely keep you updated if there are any festivals out there. There could be a festival coming up in Jersey as well, but I’m not a hundred percent sure. I’ll let you know if any festivals come out there.
Splats of Blood: What would you say you would take away from being a producer of these films that you brought back to your personal life?
Zach Green: I would definitely say relationships and rapports with people go a very long way. Always make sure to have great food for lunches and dinners and breakfasts and for your craft tables because good food and good craft keep your crew and talent very happy and wanting to come back. And just how important money really is to making good quality films. I mean if your cast and crew are willing to donate work pro bono for you that’s amazing but again, good quality film, regardless if you have people working for free there’s always going to be fees that arise whether it’s the actual film stock in your camera, if you’re actually shooting film post-production fees, there’s always going to be post-production fees. A big mistake people make is in your budget of the film, you don’t allot enough money to your post-production budget after the film’s in the can. And a lot of people run into many, many post-production fees that they weren’t expecting to run into. So definitely budget a nice chunk of money for your post production. And just scheduling, honestly, having a great assistant director scheduling your days. Having a good assistant director is very, very key to making good films.
Splats of Blood: Have you guys used the same assistant director?
Zach Green: That’s a great question. I found that finding a good assistant director was a nightmare. It was an absolute nightmare. I found a great assistant director named Jeremy Thornhill who was our AD on Heir. [He] will definitely be our assistant director on our next project. He was incredible and just a great guy all around. It’s very important to find an assistant director that people like.
It’s like camp, filmmaking is like camp. You’re going to set every morning, let’s say call time is at 6 in the morning, you see the same people for a month and it’s sad when it’s over. You might not see these people for, who knows, a year or two months, four years, down the road when you’re working on another show together. And again, that’s why you never burn bridges, because on this set, this guy might be a grip and you’re his boss but three years from now you’re on a show and you might be under him. So never burn your bridges because you never know who you’re working for and vice versa.
Splats of Blood: So what’s your future project?
Zach Green: So the future plan is to right now market our first feature film. So we actually have feature scripts based off the character in Worm and the character in Familiar. So we have the features of both of those scripts and they both really delve way more into the life of. Worm is 15 minutes of the day in the mind of this character, Geoffrey Dodd, who’s a failed writer and he’s a high school teacher. So the feature film really, there’s a lot more, there’s a lot more background story and we go into a lot more characters are introduced. I don’t really want to ruin or give away too much of what happens in that story. Someone said the other day that they watched Worm and they were disappointed by it because a lot people watch Worm and they’re like “OK, when’s he going to flip out, when’s he going to shoot everyone up,” you know, you’re waiting for that to happen and a lot of people don’t understand that films don’t always necessarily give you what you want to see and you also have to draw your own conclusions sometimes.
In the short film Worm that’s fifteen minutes in the day in the mind of this character so you can imagine he basically goes through the same stuff day in and day out and what day is he actually going to blow and lose his mind? So we don’t actually show you that in the fifteen-minute short film, we just showed you fifteen minutes in the day of this character. So it’s a small little introduction into the mind of this character. So in the feature, there’s a lot more back story, we really go more into his mind and there are a lot more characters and a lot more things going on. It’s really interesting, the feature.
Splats of Blood: I believe it; I think it’s going to be super awesome.
Zach Green: Thank you very much, I really hope we get to make that shortly and also as well as Familiar. I actually just finished reading the latest draft of that and it’s pretty crazy.
Splats of Blood: So those are both going to be two separate features?
Zach Green: Yeah, they’re both going to be. Originally they were both actually feature film ideas and Richard just essentially broke them down into much smaller scales. See, a lot of times people will have short films that do well and they’ll just force a feature film out of it. I really don’t want people to think that’s what we’re doing but when I say there’s a Worm feature and a Familiar feature because naturally, that’s what I think. When someone’s like “yeah I have a short film of this and the feature film version of it”, I’m like “OK, that’s cool, well you probably really tried to make it interesting and a feature”. But I really want to stress that Worm and Familiar were originally feature film ideas and stories that we literally broke down into fifteen, twenty-minute stories that we felt we could wrap up into fifteen, twenty-minute durations. But again, the features really, really delve into much more backstory maybe why he is like this, you see maybe why he is a failed writer, you see why that happened in Worm and Familiar.
Richard is a really, smart, talented writer. Of course, it’s going to sound biased coming from me but you can read the hundreds of reviews from each of these movies from Worm to Familiar to Heir, there are just incredible reviews. You can definitely go read those, they say it all. I’m just basically reiterating what those reviews say. And again, Heir is a really, really powerful, thought provoking film. It’s a metaphor about child abusers. It’s like, these people are monsters, clearly, they are monsters. What if they really were monsters? And Heir really shows you the different levels of where these child abusers are in their paths of becoming these people that Bill Oberst is in the movie, the character Dennis.
Splats of Blood: I’m really excited for Worm and Familiar that you said are going to be features.
Zach Green: Yeah we’re definitely trying our hardest to make those. A lot of people, a lot of reviews for Worm were like “damn, it’s over” the most negative feedback I could say was just “I wish it was longer” and I think that’s a really amazing thing, I think that’s a compliment, I’m happy leaving people wanting more. Again, these are short films, if they were feature films, maybe leaving you so unsatisfied, there might be something wrong there. But again, Worm is fifteen minutes and I want you wanting more, that is essentially one of the main reasons of that film. I’m really happy when I hear people say “I was watching the movie and all of a sudden it ended, I wanted to see so much more”. So that’s one of my favorite things to hear. Same with Familiar and it does end on a natural note but again that could have for sure kept going.
Splats of Blood: Maybe this isn’t a question for you directly, maybe it’s more for Richard. Who came up with this dark character of Geoffrey Dodd?
Zach Green: Wonderful, wonderful question. That’s a Richard question because he creates all these crazy characters and worlds but essentially I could answer that to a degree. So I know Richard definitely likes writing damaged characters. There’s more to play with and a lot more…I probably can’t answer that as well as Richard could but I know he likes writing about damaged characters and just stories that actually take place like yes, they are fiction, but there are people in this world like Jeffrey Dodd, like John Dodd, living amongst us and you don’t know until you open a newspaper and see the massacre that just happened. So they really are horror characters in place of more dramatic settings and just what pushes people do these things, like, we both are really fascinated with true crime and true stories. But what’s fascinating is the Wayne Gacy’s, the Jeffery Dahmers, these crazy serial killers. It’s just insane and I don’t condone it obviously, it’s absolutely evil but it’s fascinating. It’s so fascinating to see what makes these people do this. I don’t know, I just find it insane, it’s very fascinating. And Richard, in our first film, Consumption is actually based off a true story about a cannibal who lives in Germany and he placed an ad in the paper saying “I want to castrate somebody and eat them” and this actually happened. This actually took place so our story Consumption was loosely based on that story. Our story was about a professor who placed an ad in a paper and this young woman answers the ad, and our film essentially starts off with a young woman coming to this gentleman’s door and the audience essentially will think it’s a blind date.
Splats of Blood: What is your favorite horror movie if you have one?
Zach Green: It’s really funny, people ask me that all the time. My favorite movies are actually comedies and dramas, I absolutely do love thrillers, I’m not a horror fan guy. I greatly appreciate the genre of horror, I don’t necessarily enjoy watching horror movies, I don’t like the feelings it gives you. I like scaring people, I personally don’t like getting scared. I like being in control of that. I like slasher movies for example, like those to me are just randomly silly, like Freddy, Jason or Michael Myers, like those, are just like nonsense movies to me. I think they’re entertaining, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not like watching those movies and enjoying them. I really like to laugh first so I love comedies.
Thank you so much for having the time to chat.