The Grim and the Grit: An Interview with Genre Veteran Chad Ferrin, Part II

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Read Part I here.

A figure in a giant bunny mask murders the wicked with whatever implement is at hand, sending them to the Lord at the wrong end of a broomstick or the working end of a power drill. When the masked avenger’s not slaughtering the damned, it’s defending a damaged young man with a learning disability who still believes in the Easter bunny.

A cadre of cagey med students are introduced to a potent synthetic drug that leads them from the heights of sexual ecstasy straight into the arms of an unfathomable death.

A group of friends find themselves lost in LA’s notorious Skid Row district and must grapple with a vengeful gaggle of territorial homeless people hellbent on isolationism.

These are the unique and brazen horrorscapes that filmmaker Chad Ferrin gives us. They are picture books of a crappy world, restless meditations on the ethnocentricity, excess, insanity and addiction that blight our own society. This is fitting since Ferrin’s production company is called Crappy World Films.

 

But there is nothing crappy about the craftsmanship that this low-budget auteur brings to bear on his signature works. As you will see in the following bit of our conversation, Chad has come close to losing everything to bring his vision to the screen and, in some cases, he has been scammed for his efforts.

Like all or, at least, most artists toiling in the film industry, Mr. Ferrin has had projects fall apart before they could even begin. But it’s interesting to note that the projects in question were largely those written by other scribes. This seems like a certain strange but deliberate machination of destiny as it is all too obvious to someone who knows Chad that he’d be better off directing his own original material.

Whenever Ferrin puts poison pen to paper, the results are positively bugfuck. From his early shoestring gross-out pic Unspeakable to his reworking of Roham Ghodsi’s script for the contemporary cult classic Someone’s Knocking at the Door, Ferrin always leaves his grimy fingerprints on the words, resulting in image after image that cannot be shaken from one’s consciousness.

If you don’t know the kind of images I’m talking about then we have nothing to talk about. The films of Chad Ferrin hit you in much the same way a Saigon Kick song hits you the first time you hear it. Eventually they come to an end, but the the vestiges they leave linger behind your eyes forever.

One such flick is Ferrin’s 2016 picture Parasites which found its inspiration in an unlikely place. See, Ferrin isn’t a filmmaker like Tarantino who splashes common genre homages all over every frame of his canon. Instead, he is a meticulous artist who calls back unlikely or even forgotten films of old.

“It’s my take on one of my favorite films, The Naked Prey,” he tells me, referring to the 1965 Cornell Wilde picture that was shot in Rhodesia and was based on “the amazing true story of John Colter’s Run.”

As Chad puts it, “I just replaced the Blackfoot Indian pursuers with homeless bums.”

“I know you had a really rough time shooting this one all guerilla-style on Skid Row,” I say. “You wanna rap about that a little?”

Chad doesn’t pull any punches in his response. “We saw the homeless fucking in the middle of the street, pissing and shitting on the sidewalk, junkies shooting up, close to a 100 illegal street racers doing doughnuts in the parking lot of our base camp, gang members tagging buildings and, finally, a mob of bums chased after us for filming their tent homes. Every night was was an episode of Cops but without the cops.”

“What compelled you to risk life and limb to shoot in the wilds of Los Angeles like that?”

“It’s my love letter to Downtown LA,” Chad as he stares off somewhat wistfully. “With gentrification quickly changing the landscape down there, I had to catch the grit and grim before it was gone.”

It’s this grim and grit that will one day draw devoted crowds to revivals of Ferrin’s movies. But for now, fans will have to wait for such screenings to take place. In the meantime, they can look forward to the 10th anniversary edition of Someone’s Knocking at the Door which Chad says he is working on with Breaking Glass Pictures.

When Chad breaks this news to me it’s music to my ears because that’s exactly how we first met and I first discovered his catalog of films. “Back in the day, you said that you had a fairly positive experience working with Breaking Glass compared to other distributors. Is there any reason you haven’t worked with them again?”

“I can’t say enough nice things about BGP and Rich Wolff,” Chad says. “They’re top notch! We have been trying to get a film off the ground for years now, one a these days something will come together.”

I float the idea of Chad revisiting his body of work. “I still see Someone’s Knocking at the Door as your masterwork and the creative team behind it as the perfect marriage. Have you thought at all about doing some sort of follow-up with those people, whether it’s working on another movie with the screenwriter or getting the proverbial band back together for a pseudo-sequel?”

Chad is quick to respond, his eyes lighting up like a dumpster fire in an alleyway. “I have a prequel bouncing around in my head that would be about John and Wilma Hopper as they rape/murder in the 1970’s.”

“I know we could probably trade war stories all day,” I tell him. “For me, I’d probably cite the time some chick with Munchhausen Syndrome impersonated a producer so that I’d get on a train and meet her in midtown Manhattan and talk with her over coffee for four hours. Or there’s the former made-for-TV movie producer who verbally agreed to finance a web series I’d written only to pull a 180 and reveal that he didn’t actually have any money to contribute (“I’ll take your cast out for bagels, get you some wardrobe if you need it”). That sort of thing. I imagine it’s less absurd and a bit bleaker for you. What would you say is your most ridiculous industry experience?”

“Ugh! A while back I was in talks to direct an action film shooting in Mexico. The script sucked but I was assured it could be tweaked, so I met with the writer/investor/producer, lets call him Tito. After a three hour meeting, he agreed to my terms and went fourth to come up with the 200k budget.

“Next day I saw that he added my name as director to the IMDB page for the project. A month later, he says come meet me and my team, sign the contract and lets move forward. So, on the hottest day of the summer, I arrive at the restaurant fifteen minutes late and sweating like a pig. I find the group in the back sitting in a booth. Tito shakes my hand as he introduces me to his wife and 100 year old grandmother.

“I sit down and order a Margarita, I whisper to the waiter, ‘Why is it so hot in here?’ He responds, ‘No A/C today. Brown out. Conserve energy.’ I roll my eyes and think to myself, boy, I hate this town sometimes.

“Tito then grabs my arm, pulls me close. ‘Chad, here’s your contract and the new script.’ I take hold of the two-page contract and the slimmed down script that he’s shoving in my face. He then starts rambling in my ear as I scan the contract. I quickly notice that he has changed my pay from 20k to 10k with 5 points on the back end.

“I drop the contract into a bowl of salsa, look him in the eye and ask, ‘What happened to the deal we agreed on?’ He smiles, ‘That’s too much money, Chad.’ I lean back, ‘You think 20k is too much to direct and edit a $200k budget film in Mexico?’

“With a shit eating grin, he mumbles, ‘How about 11k?’ My eyes bulge out as I hiss through grit teeth, ‘NO!’ He looks over to his wife and mother. They begin to speak in Spanish. Smiling, he touches my arm. ‘How about 15k?’ I stand up to leave. He grabs me, ‘Okay, I’ll give you the 20k to direct and edit. You drive a hard bargain, my friend.’

“Sitting back down, I smile, look over to the wife and grandmother. They’re both staring at me like I had just raped their son with a Coke bottle. The waiter arrives with my drink, I gulp it down. I ask Tito about other investors and when he expects to have the budget in place. ‘I don’t want other investors’, he exclaims. ‘I want to own the whole film myself because it’s going to make millions and win an Oscar for best picture.’

“Taken aback, I nod my head in disbelief, ‘Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom.’ I walk into the bathroom, wash the sweat off my face, take a deep breath of the humid air and scream to myself, ‘Jesus H. Christ, he doesn’t even have the FUCKING MONEY!!!’

“Delirious from the heat, I stumble back to the table just as a gaggle of waiters arrive with a small cake, singing happy birthday in Spanish to the grandmother. Holy shit, I can take this, I grab the script, say my farewells and exclaim, ‘Happy Birthday, grandma!’ Tito shakes my hand, says, ‘I’ll email you the new contract tonight.’ I nod, wave goodbye to all.

“That night, I flip open the new script. Lo and behold, it’s 80 pages of unpuncuated nonsense. Alas, I never got a chance to discuss improving his opus because little Tito never sent the new contract or called me again. I checked IMDB only to find my name removed from the project. First time I have ever been fired via IMDB. Probably not the last.”

This story is a severe skullfuck, but it’s one that all too many of us have had to suffer at the hands of cheapskates, con artists or wingnuts.

“Why as artists do we do this to ourselves,” I ask him. “Must we suffer fools and

scumbags in order to make cinema? Is it a necessary evil or are we all a bunch of masochists?”

“Masochists!” Chad bellows.

The subject smarts too fucking much, so I decide to change the subject. On a more positive tip, I them him that I’ve always known him to have a feew irons in the fire at any given time. “Is it safe to say that you’re developing a film right now? What have you got cooking?”

“I have two revenge scripts, El Camino and God’s Lonely Woman that are getting a little traction,” he says. “Don’t want to jinx it by saying too much. Fingers crossed they get made this year.”

As I’ll learn in a few minutes, this is Chad’s way of being modest. The truth is that he’s just completed a project that’s gonna leave a lot of horror fans shopping for fresh underwear.

“Gimme three words that describe the fundamentals of indie filmmaking,” I tell him.

“Passion. Crazy. Driven.”

One could easily see these three words appearing in blurb form on the front of a DVD jacket for one of Chad’s movies. It encapsulates everything that’s vital and noteworthy about the man and his creations.

“Feel free to plug anything you’ve got going on, brother.”

Chad’s furrowed brow relaxes for the first time all day and he smiles. “We just finished post-production on a really fun feature called Exorcism at 60,000 Feet with a great cast including Robert Miano, Bai Ling, Lance Henriksen, Bill Mosely, Matthew Moy, Kevin J. O’Connor and Adrienne Barbeau. And to top it off, we had the master himself, Richard Band, doing the score. And man, he really knocked it out of the park.”

I am pleasantly surprised by this development as our conversation was supposed to revolve around development Hell. At the end of it all, we actually got a happy ending from the last guy one would associate with such. “The whole experience was a wonderful creative collaboration between everyone,” Chad added. “Especially writer/producer Robert Rhine and myself, probably the best of my career so far. It should find distribution shortly, so keep an eye out for it!”

You heard the man, make like Un Chien Andalou and keep them peepers peeled! If you want to live in the Crappy World, click here.

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