Thursday, February 4, 2010

Interview With The Filmmaker: Damien Sage

by JM and Billy

Some time back, JM reviewed the film  Psychotropica , written, produced, starring, and whatever else Damien Sage.  Recently, the filmmaker took a little time to talk to the Tower Farm boys about this movie and his plans for the present and future.  We've got to tell you, it is hard not to like a guy that names Once Upon A Time In The West and A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors among his favorites.

Tower Farm (TF)- First of all...let's talk about you.  What kind of twisted experiences lead a person to make a movie like "Psychotropica"?

Damien Sage (DS)- Haha. Well.... I have had a bunch of odd experiences in my life certainly. Nothing nearly as bat shit crazy as what goes on in Psychotropica. The incestuous love triangle of the film is the only thing that has any sort of semi basis in reality. And really it is just based on the cracked friendship I have with my step brother (who plays The Patient's step brother in the film) and my best friend "Tiffany Titmouse" (who plays The Patient's sister in the film.) Of course we all didn't have sex with one another or go around killing people, but we are dirty birds who liked to make dark jokes, act crazy and what not. The movie is as grim, weird, nasty and out there as it is because I just wanted to make a memorable film. You might hate it, you might love it, but you would CERTAINLY not forget it.

TF- Is there a single movie from your childhood that led you to want to make a movie of your own?

DS- The first movie I EVER saw was A Nightmare on Elm Street. I saw it when I was a baby, too young to remember it vividly of course. But THAT movie changed me as a person. I hold it as one of the single greatest cinematic achievements in history. Just the sheer artistry and beauty of it, considering the budget and constraints. It's also the only movie to ever truly scare me. Elm Street really is the catalyst for my cinematic desires. I got a camera when I was 13, from my father, who also exposed me to Elm Street (and many other films a normal child wouldn't get to see, haha) and, I have been doing what I do since.

TF- We loved your film...and like most movies we love, we have no clue what was going on!  Can you give our readers a brief description and talk about where the inspiration for the script/story came from?

DS- Psychotropica came about out of desperation. In 2008 we did a short suspense film called "D.O.D. (Dead on Delivery)" it got a smidge of critical acclaim, some good praise from Sean S. Cunningham and Mike Hodges and was in a foreign film festival. Flushed with our tiny bit of success I wrote a feature length version of D.O.D. called Monochrome. We got a backer who was going to put up $300,000, Faye Dunaway, David Carradine, Nancy Allen, Barry Bostwick, Dee Wallace, Gary Busey and Erin Grey were going to have parts in it. (And they were going to be working for next to nothing obviously, just because they liked the script.) Then at the last moment we were getting down to shooting and the backer pulled out due to a "loss at Cannes." Naturally myself and my crew were crushed... So, I said fuck it, let's just do something totally crazy ourselves, for nothing and never deal with all that BS again. I took a script I had already written called "The Eclipse," which featured the incestuous, assassin siblings and the murder of my character's son via car crash and improvised a new movie around the basic premise. I wanted it to be like a nightmare or dream captured on film, both in plot and look. So there is no real script for Psychotropica, I literally made it up along the way, grounding it with a basic outline and themes that inter connect. When you have a dream, one moment you can be running through the woods getting chased by a dinosaur, you turn a corner and end up pushing a donut on the wing of a plane. Psychotropica is definitely more cohesive than that, but that was the basic idea. To create pure audio/visual overload, like a dream that has some deeper meaning you cant quite piece together until you've finished dreaming it. In the end also the point is always just to make a bad ass movie, that has at least a tiny bit of depth to it.

TF- Clearly you were focused on the visual look of the movie -- there are some stunning effects, especially given the budget you had to work with.  What other movies/filmmakers inspired the look?

DS- The look of the film started as a joke. When I first started my endeavors as a filmmaker it all was VERY experimental, weird and daft. I started off in a heavy Dario Argento, Ken Russell, 80's Michael Mann, etc phase, so all of the stuff I did early on was just... plain weird. Eventually I moved away from it for a while, to ground myself a bit more (dont get me wrong I'll never TOTALLY move away from oddness.) After a while though I got a few emails from fans from my early days asking me to do more of the trippy stuff because.... well.... a lot of my (very limited) fan base apparently likes to get high and watch my works. Despite how it may seem, I myself have never done drugs BUT if that's what my few fans want to see, then why not give it to them? So that is why Psychotropica has the warped acid-trip like visual style to it. (Plus it does fit the dream logic of the story.) As far as direct filmmaker influences go I like to tell people that, if early John Waters got together with Suspiria era Dario Argento and Ken Russell to make a psychological melodrama about incestuous, murderous siblings.... Psychotropica would be the result. (Really though the movie has little nods to just about every filmmaker I love, in some way. There is a list of regards at the end of the movie.)

TF- Are you a complete control freak...or do you just genuinely enjoy doing EVERY single job on-set?

DS- If I was a complete control freak my name would appear in the credits WAY more than it does, haha. I'm just VERY, psychotically dedicated... Really though, starting off making films as a boy I never wanted to do "home movies." I always wanted to do more and more ambitious things, I was however the only one I knew who wanted to do these things, so I sort of had to teach myself how to do everything. If I had more people around me who shared my passion and could shoot and do practical effects, stunt choreography, etc. Right now I have my partner who does CGI/Graphic Design work, a friend who also does various types of CGI, RIP/TORN for music/songs and a handful of people who are willing to let me shove them in front of the camera, haha. My wearing so many hats is really just out of necessity, I do enjoy doing all that I do though. I just want to make the best films I can possibly make and I would bend over backwards to make them. I've been electrocuted, moved a kitchen into a basement for better lighting, jumped off of numerous buildings, scaled trees, burnt my eyebrows off, destroyed bathtubs, made a complete ass out of myself MANY times AND more, for the films I do. So, I'm just a lot dedicated and a little crazy.

TF- How long -- start to finish -- did it take to finish "Psychotropica"?

DS- This is hard to say. We shot a few scenes for The Eclipse (the movie that was the basis for Psychotropica) in 2004 and 2005, I hazard to guess somewhere around 40% of the movie was done back then. Maybe about... 2 weeks TOTAL was shot at that time. Then, as often happens in the no budget world, I lost actors, people got jobs, commitments, school, etc and we had to stop. Then after the D.O.D./Monochrome affair back in early 08, we began on Psychotropica proper in July of 08 and we finished shooting, editing and producing the remaining 60% of the film by July of 09. In that time really about 2 months total time was spent actually shooting (we did a lot of weekend and half day shooting.) Another good portion of that year was eaten up by the CGI effects, which take forever to create, render and perfect. For example, it took nearly 2 months of constant work to complete the Anime-like "Demon Fight" in the film. Otherwise, I did all editing and post production work as we shot, score and songs were completed as each scene were completed. All in all, if it was added up we spent about 3 months total making the film, stretched out over 4 or 5 years, haha.

TF- We love "deserted island" questions at TF.'re on a deserted island...what 5 movies do you need with you?

DS- Oooh, major tough one for me.... Hrm... I'd say Once Upon a Time in the West (my favorite film), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (despite my love of the first, 3 is my favorite), Crimes of Passion (Kathleen Turner as a hooker with a heart of gold named China Blue and Anthony Perkins as a crazed preacher who wants to kill her with a razor dildo, hello?), The Naked Gun (cause everyone needs a good dead pan laugh now and then) and my favorite porno (no explanation needed.) I could (and have) watch all those a million times. I spose also I would have to have one of those Videodrome chest vagina, VCR's to play them all with or something too.

TF- Where did you find Tiffany Titmouse?  I mean, come on!

DS- Tiffany is my bestest friend. We've known each other for many many moons. And I know it will cause a lot of grief to the men who watch the film but Tiffany is now Kaleb. She had the tits chopped off a bit more than a year ago, still has the... erm.. downstairs lady parts though, but is a man now. Also... just because we all find it funny, the guy in the sex scene, my step brother is gay. AND the scene was shot in a smelly dog hair covered garage, in February! So despite how hot the scene turned out, there was no real naughtiness going on. (We've all been really wanting to do a commentary track for the movie, it'd be a gas.)

TF- Wow.  The news about Tiffany/Kaleb certainly opens up possibilities when in comes to a new project with him....

TF- What's next -- any films coming down the pipeline?

DS- We have two projects in very loose pre-production at the moment (Storyboarding, effects, props and supplies are being worked on and gathered as best we can. Some casting is done.) Naturally our old "No money is harmed during the making of these films." motto is still in play as, right now at least, we are still doing everything out of our meager pockets. We've sold a whopping 5 copies of Psychotropica on DVD and have had no luck getting wider distribution so far. We'd like to get at least 5 or so grand together all at once to really start, but... you never know in the no budget world. But in any case the two next projects planned are:
1. A pitch black comedy/slasher parody/meta-film called "Extremely Violent." It's about a world famous Michael Crichton-like author who has some severe writers block (and a stalker, a mound of debt and a horrendous deadline.) In a fit of desperation the author decides to become a serial killer and write about his experiences, hilarity and the most over the top kill scenes in the history of film will ensue.
2. A paranoid thriller called "Shadow of the Assassin." I don't want to divulge to much about the plot, so I'll just leave you with the tag-line; "This morning he killed the President... This afternoon he survived a plane crash... Tonight, the world's greatest assassin is going to fight his way through HELL."

Billy and JM are both thrilled to have had the time to interview Mr. Sage.  Now, farmhands, PLEASE check out the review of Psychotropica  and purchase this movie!!!!

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