As soon as I had finished
watching 'The Stink of Flesh', I had to speak to the Director. In a time
of remakes and unoriginality, here was I watching a little film made for
$3,000 that was the most original thing I had seen in ages. Despite
finding success early on in his screenwriting career, Scott Phillips got
burned out on all that Hollywood bullshit you hear so much about, and
turned his back on it to reassess his career plans. Scott has since
bounced back and is definitely one to watch. With his great new movie 'The
Stink of Flesh' out today in the UK and next week in the US, I caught up
with Scott to chat about his distatste for Hollywood, and his various
projects which include writing a recent Friday the 13th novel.
When did you first become
interested in film?
It first started when I was a little kid, about 7 or so, but seeing NIGHT
OF THE LIVING DEAD on Creepy Creature Feature when I was 10 really sealed
the deal. My brothers used to take me to the drive-in a lot, as did my
parents, but I saw more R-rated stuff when I was with my brothers. I think
I had actually made a couple short films before I saw NIGHT, but my memory
is very foggy about the actual timeline there. I was already reading
FAMOUS MONSTERS for sure, and then I just grabbed whatever reading
material related to filmmaking I could get my hands on. Later on, I was
even skipping school and going to the library to read filmmaking books --
the few you could find back then. I was the best-behaved juvenile
delinquent ever. I worked on my first "real" movie when I was 19, and that
was John Milius' RED DAWN, with William Smith, Ron O'Neal, Ben Johnson,
Harry Dean Stanton... all these cool actors I knew from my youth at the
drive-in. I was a nervous wreck.
Would you say that the Romero
genre is your preferred sub-genre? I noticed you don't call it the zombie
That's something my friend Don Adams mentioned one day - "There's no
Zombie genre, there's a George Romero genre" - and I realized he was
absolutely right. If you make a zombie movie (or at least one that isn't
something like SERPENT & THE RAINBOW) you're playing in Romero's sandbox
in some way. That said, however, I don't know that the genre is
particularly my preferred one... I do love zombie movies a lot, but I'm
just a huge horror fan - and even more, a huge MOVIE fan - in general.
My DVD collection includes everything from Chris Seaver's insane ultra
low-budget comedies (like HEATHER & PUGGLY DROP a DEUCE) to John Wayne to
STAR TREK to Sam Peckinpah to Francois Truffaut.
How did you go about getting
into the industry and did it involve any formal training? Go on; give me
another reason to quit my redundant course!!
Well, lemme tall ya, pal - go ahead and quit that course. Not that I'm
the biggest success story out there, so you probably shouldn't listen to
me (hell, I'm eyeing the phone number on the back of that cart that prowls
the Wal-Mart parking lot right now), but in this day and age I'm not sure
what it's gonna get you outside of some technical knowledge. You can't get
a better film school than a DVD collection, a digital video camera and
some free editing software. And don't let anyone tell you you can't make a
good movie with a one-chip DV cam and iMovie! Is PEARL HARBOR a better
movie than, say, EVIL DEAD just because they spent more money and had
better equipment? Okay, with that rant out of my system, I'll get to the
first part of your question, although I suspect you already know the
answer: I had no formal training; I watched lots and lots of movies -- all
genres, not just horror, which is important. EVERYTHING is grist for the
mill. I'm not just being a pretentious ass when I say that the work of
Tennessee Williams had an influence on THE STINK OF FLESH, even though I'm
far too untalented a writer for it to really come across in the movie.
Which brings me to another important thing: read a LOT. Not just
filmmaking books, and again I don't mean to be a pompous ween - read
whatever you like, but read. It all starts your brain to percolating. That
said, my approach was just to do as much as I could - make my own little
movies, write scripts, etc. I was trying to "make it" from my home in
Albuquerque, New Mexico - sending scripts out to whoever I could get an
address for - but that wasn't working, so I finally decided to take the
plunge and move to Los Angeles. I wrote the script that became DRIVE,
packed up my car, and took off. After that I just got lucky - managed to
be in the right place at the right time.
You have stated that a bad
girlfriend put you off movie making. I had the same problem man, care to
share your thoughts on why women are so evil and ripe for exploitation in
the horror genre?
No way, man - I love women! Don't be trying to get me in dutch with the
ladies, now. While a bad girlfriend was partly responsible for putting me
off filmmaking at one point, a GOOD girlfriend - hell, the best
girlfriend ever - helped get me back on the right path: Shannon Hale, who
produced THE STINK OF FLESH and before that, got me off my ass and out of
the funk I was in as a result of my miserable Hollywood experiences. She
knew that I had a life-long love of movies and that Hollywood had beat
that out of me, so she coaxed me back into making my own stuff and having
fun with it again. That said, female nudity is always a massive plus in
horror movies, and I wholeheartedly believe in getting some bare boobs in
your flick. As does Shannon, which is one of the things that makes her
such a great girlfriend.
One woman who was very kind to
you was Linnea Quigley. How did you enjoy living with her and did you
have lots of laughs?
Linnea was freaking awesome. That whole thing was arranged by a mutual
friend who knew I was gonna need a place to live in LA, and knew that
Linnea was looking for someone to rent a room in her house, so there ya
go. That was all part of the luck that I mentioned earlier: Linnea
introduced me to her friend Craig Hamann, who read DRIVE and liked it
enough to pass it to his manager, Cathryn Jaymes. She liked it and signed
me, and everything fell into place after that and the deal was made for
the movie. Linnea was a great roommate; she's funny as hell and incredibly
sweet. Not to mention easy on the eyes.
You had success early in your
career but got burned out on all the Hollywood bullshit. What was the
deciding factor on you turning your back on Hollywood in favour of the low
The final straw was the deal with Kelsey Grammer's company, I guess. See,
although DRIVE has a big cult following and had been -- and still is --
influencing other movies, it had meant absolutely nothing in terms of my
career, I guess because it went straight to video here and therefore
didn't make a ripple in the waters of Hollywood. I had gotten a meeting at
Grammer's company off a script I wrote called KITTYSITTER, a goofy
romantic comedy. In standard Hollywood fashion, they didn't want to buy
the script, but they DID have a project they wanted my take on (this
happened at almost every meeting I had -- I think it works like this:
everybody might love your script, but they don't want to take a chance on
a "new" writer, so they get you on the hook with some in-house project and
wait to see if someone ELSE buys your script, then they've got your next
project and they're not taking any risk). I wound up writing something
like nine drafts of a treatment for it over the next year -- for no pay,
of course -- and then they finally decided to hire me to write the script.
I wrote the first draft (which to this day is one of the best scripts I've
ever written), turned it in, and they decided I cheated on it by including
a running voiceover by the main character (much like GOODFELLAS "cheated,"
I guess). It was really irritating, because I found it much harder to
write that script with the voiceover than it would've been to do without,
so there was certainly no cheating. At any rate, they wanted me to
completely re-write the script for no pay, although my contract clearly
stated something different. I held my ground (which was probably stupid,
admittedly) and got fired. That whole thing took a lot of the wind out of
my sails. I tell you, screenwriters tend to get treated like dogshit out
there -- and the worst part is, they really are expected to do lots and
lots of work with no pay and no guarantee of ever being paid. If you want
to be a screenwriter in Hollywood, you have to be prepared to honk a lot
of knob. Mind you, I doubt Kelsey Grammer was aware of any of this, so
it's no reflection on him, and I think he'll make a great Beast in X-MEN
"Linnea was freaking awesome".
Where did you get your initial
idea for The Stink of Flesh?
Well, when Shannon convinced me to tackle a low-budget feature, I realized
that I had never made a zombie movie, and it seemed like the thing to do.
Initially, I thought about going with an idea for a zombie movie that's
been swirling around my head for over ten years, but it's kind of a road
movie and I knew it would be too tough to do. There was one scene where
the main characters run into a swinger couple, though, and I decided to
expand on that.
How long did it take you to
write the script and get everything in place to shoot?
I wrote the script in, I think, March of 2003 and we shot in August of
2003, so it came together pretty quickly. It was post-production that
seemed to take forever!
At what point during the shoot
did you realise that Kurly was born to play Matool?
Probably the first day he had dialogue. We shot that opening fight scene
on our first day, then went off for two days and did the flashback with
the soldiers being attacked, so it wasn't until day four that I actually
heard Kurly speak as Matool (we didn't have time for rehearsals or table
reads or anything). As soon as he opened his mouth, I knew he was the man.
Later on, I realized he was just playing Han Solo.
Who surprised you the
I'd have to say Diva -- not that I had low expectations for her, just that
she delivered so much with the character. She really brought this maternal
quality to Dexy that I hadn't thought about when I wrote the script, so
that coupled with Dexy's predatory nature makes the movie even creepier, I
Can you elaborate any on the
day when the make-up guy walked off set and disappeared?
Just that I was about ready to blow my brains out. We had something like
18-20 extras standing around, plus cast and crew, in the heat of the
desert and I thought we were dead. I don't know that I ever truly felt
like the day was gonna be a loss, but I sure didn't expect everybody to
pull together like they did and pick up the pieces. It was pretty amazing
and really proved to me just how dedicated to the project my cast and crew
really were. I might even have gotten a little misty-eyed...
Did you want Kristin to act
like Leatherface and are you aware of the similarities between her and
That must run in the family or something, or maybe Kristin just did it
herself, because I never asked her to! The only direction I had to give
her was to tell her that when Sassy says she lived in an apartment, she
means a "special" apartment, and she nailed the role. To be honest, I
never really noticed the similarities until you mentioned it.
Can you please clarify once
and for all that she is Gunnar's niece and not his
Kristin is indeed Gunnar's niece, unless there's something she hasn't told
What tips can you give any
aspiring low budget filmmakers?
Make movies. Don't talk about it, don't dream about it, don't bitch about
other peoples' low-budget efforts not being as good as what YOU could do,
just make movies. Talk isn't worth a goddamn thing. DO it. And for God's
sake, don't wait to shoot on film; film is dead and Hollywood is too
freaked out by that knowledge to bury the corpse yet.
What makes the best zombie
make-up and blood?
Zombies are probably the easiest creature makeup’s to do because you can
get away with simply using greasepaint. Beyond that, toilet paper, spirit
gum and liquid latex make nice rotting flesh. I like the old standard Karo
syrup and food coloring blood, although I don't have the mad skills to get
it to flow like real blood.
Have you been surprised with
the reaction to the film?
Yeah, I really have. I get all giddy whenever we screen the movie for an
audience, because it's just so super cool to hear people laughing and
howling with disgust at all the right places. My biggest concern has been
that people wouldn't give it a chance because of the almost non-existent
budget, but when we've got fans like Scott Spiegel, Eli Roth, Boaz Yakin
and Jay Slater; I guess the low budget isn't such a big deal after all.
Now I sound like a name-dropping jackass, but hey. I just hope the
reaction continues to be positive now that the movie is being released on
Did you ever worry that it
would be too much for some people and that the humour would go over their
Naw, that never even crossed my mind, to be honest. See, I'm a big dork,
and I always assume my stuff sucks (and there are many who would say that
it does), so when we premiered STINK to a packed theater, I was just
hoping I could outrun everybody. Obviously, there are some people who
don't get it, but ain't that always the way?
There is an underlying sense
of vulnerability present throughout the film. Did you intend for this to
happen or was it purely a product of the shooting process that saw the
team naturally bond and come to love one another, resulting in jealousy
and lust? I'm so sorry if that comes across as artistically pretentious
as it sounds.
I think that's all a result of having a cast that really understood their
characters. Fortunately, there wasn't a lot of jealousy and lust present
on the set or we never would've made our 12-day shooting schedule.
Although I think everybody wanted a piece of Ross Kelly.
"I never should've done my solo
commentary track, though, because I sound
like a complete moron".
The ending was quite downbeat
but provided a perfect release after all the crazy goings on, was this
always the way the film was supposed to end?
Yeah, that was always the way the movie was gonna end.
The ending also leaves a
couple of survivors. Any chance of a sequel?
If we sell some DVDS! Actually, lots of people have asked us to make a
sequel and I've got some cool ideas for it, so we'll see.
The DVD has a huge number of
extras, was it important for you to show the crazy process of filmmaking
to audiences? We never get special features for low budget movies over
here, so you signed with the right distributor.
I'm glad you liked the extras on the disc. I guess more than anything I
felt like it was important to drive home the point that you can go out and
make your own movie; you don't need Hollywood or lots of money or a
Steadicam operator. Even more than that, though, I'm always disappointed
when I buy a DVD that doesn't have much in the way of extras, so I wanted
to throw what I hoped would be some cool stuff on there. I never should've
done my solo commentary track, though, because I sound like a complete
What are your feelings towards
the fast pace of zombies in recent movies such as Dawn of the
Umberto Lenzi had fast zombies in NIGHTMARE CITY and they ran like hell in
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, too, so 28 DAYS LATER and the DAWN remake
certainly didn't invent the fast-moving zombie. I've got a few fast ones
in STINK, because I wanted to mix Romero/Fulci shamblers with Lenzi's
hyped-up undead. Myself, I think any zombie is scary, whether it's
shuffling along or running.
Do you have high hopes for
'Land of the Dead'?
Oh hell yeah! I can't wait to see it!
You have written one of the
Friday the 13th Spin off novels for New Line Cinema. Can you tell us a
little about Church of the Divine Psychopath?
I tried to do something different with the whole thing while still
(hopefully) delivering some solid Jason groceries. It's about a Jim
Jones/David Koresh-type religious fanatic who believes Jason Voorhees is
an avenging angel sent by the Lord to rid the earth of sinners. He sets up
a Jonestown-like cult at Camp Crystal Lake, but his plans are screwed up
by a commando team that's sent in to eliminate Jason once and for all. So
it's cultists versus commandos with Jason slicing his way through the
What will you be working on
I just finished doing the makeup effects on a low-budget feature called
NECROVILLE, co-written and directed by Billy Garberina (who played
"Mandel" in STINK). I wasn't supposed to, but the makeup guy I recommended
flaked (what is it with makeup guys?) and I had to fill in, dredging up my
ancient skills (I last did makeup work on BEASTMASTER 3, and that was ten
years ago). I think the movie is gonna rock -- it's kind of like CLERKS
meets GHOSTBUSTERS in a town full of zombies, vampires, werewolves and
whatnot. It's incredibly ambitious given the tiny budget.
Currently, I'm writing the script for the next movie
I'm gonna direct - it's called GIMME SKELTER and is kind of like I DRINK
YOUR BLOOD meets MAGNOLIA. It's not a Manson Family movie, despite the
title, although - well, I'm not gonna say anything else about it. If all
goes according to plan, we'll be shooting in November. There may or may
not be some really cool stuff brewing with this one, but I can't really
talk about it just yet. Keep an eye on my website
(www.exhilarateddespair.com) for updates, though.
I'm also doing a rewrite on a horror movie called
SEEPAGE, to be directed by Richard Griffin (director of FEEDING THE MASSES
and the director of photography on THE STINK OF FLESH). That shoots in
"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."