After a long night out on the town, Graham Skipper is still able to meet with 366 in the Fantasia Film Festival media lounge for a chat about his directorial debut.
366: It is the 20th of the July, Thursday and I’m here with Graham Skipper, director of Sequence Break [reviewed here] for an interview about the motion picture and whatever else comes up. Hello, Graham!
Graham Skipper: Hello!
366: This is your directorial debut?
GS: Yes it is.
366: So you’ve disowned Space Clown?
GS: [Laughs] No, I wouldn’t use that term… Space Clown was a good experiment that definitely helped me to learn more about film-making. But Sequence Break is definitely my first real directorial effort that’s indicative of what I’m trying to do.
366: I noticed you had a bunch of acting credits to your name, short films, TV shows, and things, and then on your website—congratulations on getting “GrahamSkipper.com” before the other guy, by the way…
GS: [Smiles] Thanks, thank you.
366 : …you’re listed as an “Actor/Writer/Director”; are you interested in shuffling those words around at any point?
GS: I love all three of those things. I love acting very much, I really loved being able to direct, and along with that, writing—the seed that grows in that sandbox. But they’re different skills and different adventures, so I want to continue doing all three.
366: You mentioned before the screening your role as Herbert West [in “Re-Animator, the Musical”]—you’re the first person in the role of Herbert West on stage. I take it you must be a fan of the original Re-Animator movies?
366: And, who obviously doesn’t show up on screen nearly often enough.
GS: Oh yeah. I wish that — I could watch Jeffrey Combs read the phone book. He’s amazing.
366: Have you read the originalstory? What did you think of it [compared to the movie]?
GS: I have. It’s very different. I like it, it’s very pulpy. I like that it leans so heavily to the Frankenstein archetypes. I like the war time elements, the Zombie war during [World War I].
366 : I recently finished reading all the Lovecraft works…
GS: Oh cool.
366: …and there’s a rich vein there that has barely been tapped, cinema-wise.
GS: I think Lovecraft is really hard to adapt, so much of Lovecraft is, “Oh, there’s this terrible thing that I can’t even describe! And its horrible!,” and I think that’s hard to put in cinema because you obviously have to show what it is. I think that Stuart [Gordon] is really amazing in his adaptation because he’s able to take the root of what Lovecraft wrote and then make it his own. At least with Re-Animator, that’s part of what makes Stuart’s film so perfect. And with From Beyond you have this weird sort-of S&M element that was really different and exciting.
366: You’re in “the biz”, do you have any inside word onand his hopes to adapt “Mountains of Madness”?
GS: Oh gosh, yeah, I know I would love to see it. I can imagine the difficulty he’s had getting it made. Talk about a movie that—it’s about a whole bunch of men, trudging through Antarctica, it’s gotta have a gigantic budget and there’s no way you can have a happy ending in that. No way. But, I would love to see it; it would be amazing.
366: Before the screening, you mentioned. Have you ever had the chance of meeting him?
GS: Never, but I would be honored to.
366: What do you think about the direction he’s taken from his early gore/horror focus?
GS: With him, I think he’s just evolved creatively, just interested in making different types of stories. But I’d certainly love to see another horror film by him, but I think an artist should make whatever inspires him at the time.
366: The actorcontinues to impress me, in his compellingly low-key kind of way. You mentioned he was a pleasure to work with. How did you start working with him?
GS: I ended up working with him on a couple of projects. On a short [film] I worked with him as an actor, then I worked with him as an actor in Beyond the Gates—we played brothers in that, and that’s where I think we became close friends. I got to see him work a lot on that project, and he’s just fantastic. Of course I loved his work on John Dies [at the End]. But just that fact that he’s really good, and we’re really good friends, and that we communicate on a pretty easy level, and all that stuff combined makes him a perfect choice.
366: Could you elaborate more on “Tempest,” the game that inspired the in-movie game? I’ve played it myself and can see what you’re saying—you’re cycling around this black hole, and things are coming out, and a lot of the older games obviously have their strange beeps and whatever, but there’s this more sinister tone in [Tempest’s] sound effects somehow…
GS: Yeah! I don’t know what it is about “Tempest” that always scared me. There’s something inherently frightening I guess, in that there are monsters coming out at you, or something. But it’s so stark: it’s black, and it has these primary colors, and geometric shapes, and you’re in this spider-like ship that’s moving around the edge. And like you said, there’s this “black hole”, “stuff’s coming out at you”, and for whatever reason, all those things combined—as a kid playing that game—it was really unsettling to me. So yeah, I’m not sure—I love that game, it’s a great game, and I think part of it is that it’s sort of inherently dangerous.
366: The game that shows up in your movie, does that have a name?
GS: No, there’s no name to it. We worked to create it based on a lot of different inspirations.
366: Is there a playable copy of it?
GS: I will say, “we’re working on that.”
366: Speaking of movies and video-games, are you looking forward to Ready Player One?
GS: I’m so excited about that.
366: I’m not sure how I feel about Spielberg directing it; he’s obviously a very skilled director…
GS: I love Spielberg’s stuff. What I love about Spielberg is, he certainly makes “family friendly” things, but then you look at movies like Duel, Jaws, Poltergeist—which he had a big hand in making—he’s got a real dark side to him. So I’m excited, I think it’s going to be great.
366: Any projects lined up? Acting, directing, writing?
GS: Nothing right now that I can really talk about, but I am trying to get some stuff going and keep moving forward from here.
366: I like the twist at the end of Sequence Break, do you think there’s room for further exploration of that story that you made there?
GS: Interesting question. Well, I think all things are possible—as we learn in the film—but I don’t have any specific ideas right now of something that I would want to do with it. But I certainly think that the mechanics of the film, these characters, are interesting, and that there’s a lot of possibility about what they could be doing next.
366: Speaking of possibility and ambiguity, that “zealot” character that shows up, there’s very little said about him in the movie. Is there a back story to that character you’d care to elaborate?
GS: Well, I’ll say there’s a lot about the back story that’s in the film that I want to encourage people to try to mine for themselves. What I like about his character, and Johnny Dynan’s performance, is he’s sort of a force of nature, you know, sort of an embodiment of chaos, and I love what Johnny did with it and I love that he is as mysterious as he is.
366: We’ve reviewed John Dies at the End on our site. Do you know Don Coscarelli?
GS: I’ve met him before and he’s an amazing guy and I’m a huge fan of his movies.
366: I had the luxury recently of reviewing the Phantasm box set, so I watched all the Phantasm movies with the dozens of hours of extras…
GS: Oh my God, yeah, that’s a lot.
366: …I take it that he’s as friendly in person as he shows up in the documentaries.
GS: Absolutely he is, yeah.
366: And winding up here, do you have any further remarks you’d like to add?
GS: No, I’m all good. But thank you, that was great!
366: Then thank you very much for your time.
GS: Sure, thank you so much!