The Horror Honeys: 6/6/6 with Ron Ford

6/6/6 with Ron Ford


An Indie Interview by Tonjia Atomic

Ron Ford has worn many hats when it comes to filmmaking. He is best known penning the script for The Fear. He's directed such films as Witchcraft XI: Sisters in Blood, The Crawling Brain, and the forthcoming Game Camera

1. Directing, acting, writing, producing, editing, etc.- you've done it all. What is your main passion in filmmaking?

Writing has always been my passion and my main love. However, once a screenplay is written, I ache to direct it myself to keep the vision as close to mine as possible. However, as I get older, acting is become a greater and greater passion. I am an avid stage actor, there is nothing I love more. But until recently I was never very pleased with my screen acting. It is such a different process, I had trouble getting to the emotional place needed for a given scene without having the rehearsal process and the continuity of the play like you do on stage. I was always over the top in my film acting, and knew I was not doing the best work. In recent years, though, I have come to grasp the film technique more and more, and it has become more challenging, fun and real for me. That's a complex, convoluted answer, but film acting is now at least as compelling to me as directing. Really, though, I consider myself a film maker rather than a practicer of any one discipline-- it is all inextricably bound together for me.





2. You have a background in theatre. Tell us a little about that.

As Alphonse Soady in "Escabana in Love"
Spokane Civic Theatre
Even as a child I remember being fascinated by the world of theater, even though my family were not theater-goers and I never really saw a professional production until I was in high school. That was a fantastic production of Cyrano de Bergerac at the Seattle Rep. It show set me on fire with the possibilities. Still, horror movies were my thing as a kid, and they still float my boat to a great degree. I originally went out for plays as a substitute for making movies, which I could not afford to do in the 60s and 70s when I grew up. Everything was film, there was no commercially-available video equipment, so making movies was a rich man's avocation. In the intervening years, I leaned to love the theater as much as film. I still would rather act in a play than in a film, although the two are converging for me, as mentioned in my answer to question 1 above. I am very busy in the rather robust theater scene we have here in Spokane. It is rare when I am not involved in one production or another. Recently I have been directing more theater, as well, which is still very new and challenging for me. This summer I will direct the farce Murder at the Howard Johnson's. Goofy shit if there ever was goofy shit. Should be fun.

3. In my opinion The Fear had a great script and a lot of potential. What setbacks did this film have?

Squire Trelawney in "Treasure Island"
Spokane Civic Theatre
The Fear is still the largest-budgeted, most-seen movie with my name on it. I'm pretty proud that Morty became something of an iconic character and spawned a sequel (albeit a dreadful one!). Thanks for the compliments on the script, but it changed a lot after Vincent Robert was hired to direct. He was prone to tinkering, and we worked many hours on rewrites. He had a tendency toward writing long-winded, self-conscious speeches, which went against my sensibilities. I felt the original script was a tad leaner and more focused. 

Vincent is a good man, and he has a good eye as a director, but he also was fresh out of film school and thought he was making a great art film. He took way too long shooting and covering scenes, and we were almost immediately behind schedule. He told me in private not to fret, that once the producers saw the rushes they would see that they had something so special on their hands that they would be willing to throw more money at it and extend the schedule. But of course this was low-budget B movie making. Vincent didn't consider another possibility -- that they would simply pull the financial plug and piece a movie together from what they had. That's what happened, so a good 20 pages of the screenplay were never shot. One of those un-shot scenes -- in which the main character talks to a Native American merchant about the origin of the mannequin "Morty" -- found its way into the horrible sequel, with considerably little rewriting. I was not involved in the sequel, and I felt pretty ripped-off by that. 

I felt even more ripped off that I was only paid about 20 percent of what I was contracted for to write the picture. I did sue the company, and won a judgement, but was unable to collect, due to the fact that the company, an LLC, had long dissolved and no single person had any legal responsibility to pay up. Live and learn.

Other problems came in casting. Gerald, the character Tony Todd played, was written as a nerd, with no race specified. Greg Sims, the main producer, wanted a (cliched) wise-cracking African American guy in the cast, so that's what the character of Gerald became, and the computer nerd was out. Tony gave me a lot of shit because "the brother dies first," as he put it. I told him to blame the producer! He could have made any other character African-American. That is one offensive stereotype I would certainly have avoided had I been more in control.

With Wil Gilman in "The Lying Kind" - Ignite! Theatre

4. What's your favorite project that you've worked on so far?

There are several. Hard to choose. My first baby is Hollywood Mortuary, it was the first one I made from the heart, without worrying about commercial considerations. It was also self-financed, so I had no producers to answer to. I loved the two films I made for William Combs, who was a huge fan of Hollywood Mortuary. He pretty much gave me money and cart-blanch to make the movies I wanted. You can't argue with that. Dead Season and The Crawling Brain were very satisfying shoots and satisfying films. Both came out pretty much as I had envisioned them, and the scritps were pretty swell, if I say so myself. However, Combs was also in the middle of a domestic situation and as a result much of his personal stuff was destroyed or stolen. Among that missing stuff was the master tapes for these two movies. I can't really blame William, he was always good to me, and God knows he didn't want that to happen. But as a result, there are no existing copies of the movies of a sufficient quality to master copies from, so neither has had an official release. 

Recently, I am pretty proud of Game Camera, which we made as a short film for the Demon Chaser film challenge in 2012. It won acting kudos and we loved the story so much that my friends and I pooled resources and made a feature film out of it the following summer. It's crude around the edges, but most of that works okay, since it was conceived as a found-footage film. It's got some pretty gripping performances. 

Another is a western short I made a few years back called Man Without a Saddle. It was based on a Kipling story, Mark of the Beast, originally set in India. It is the best thing I have ever written. It was completed some time ago, but now a technician I know has taken it on himself to remaster and clean it up, which is taking a long time between his other projects. But the difference between the two version visually is night and day, so I am being patient. Soon it should be ready to unviel to the public. 

I am also very fond of Tiki, which I made for Fred Olen Ray after moving to Spokane. It is a really fun little movie, and we had a total ball making it.

As Grandpa Art in the short film "Christmas with Art"
dir. Rebecca Cook
5. How did you get involved with the Witchcraft series?

 I was hired to make some stuff for Gerry Pfeifer of Vista Street Entertainment. One of those was a rip-off of Terminator for Korean investors. They wanted us it shoot the dramatic scenes to cut into actual effects and action shots stolen from James Cameron's movie. It was a soft-core version called Turborator. The script was dreadful and offensive. One scene had a woman retuning to her rapist for more because it was so good. I still feel dirty for shooting that scene, and it prompted me to use my pseudonym, Mac Cobb, in the credits. Anyway, it was a thankless project, with very little money, that none of Gerry's usual directors wanted to handle. I didn't either, but I said I would if he let me make the next "Witchcraft" movie, and if he let me do it on film. I really wanted to direct a movie shot on film for once. Anyway, I got the job done, and that earned me the job making Witchcraft XI -- on 16mm film!

6. What is it about cats that makes them so awesome?

They are cuddly, fun and fun to watch. They are affectionate on their own terms, which I respect so much more than a dog's "beat me and I will still love you" blind loyalty (although I have to admit a great fondness for the canines, too). They give delightful head-boops, and they let you scratch their fluffy tummies if you pass THEIR loyalty test. 

Name the 6 films you've been involved with that have had the most problems during production:

As Caderousse in "The Count of Monte Cristo"
Spokane Civic Theatre.
Pictured with Steven Anderson
The Fear (problems laid out in interview questions)
TurboratorThis is the Termiantor ripoff done for Korean investors. I had to get young actresses on set every day willing to get topless for almost no money, and I constantly had angry Korean investors breathing down my neck. They wanted Hollywood production values without paying for it. In the end, they got what they paid for. I have never seen the results, but Gerry did use much of my footage in two U.S. projects, Red Light Stalker and A Passion to Kill.
The Crawling Brain (the loss of master tape)
Dead Season (the loss of master tape)
Ward and Claudethis is a comedy movie my friend Wes Deitrick was making, in the Dumb and Dumber mold. I played Claude, the dumber one. We were shooting in Lake Arrowhead where he lived, and we didn't finish before getting slammed with snow. So we had to postpone the shoot. Then life happened and before the next spring we had both moved to Washington state, and the project died on the vine.
The Snake-Man: This was the first movie I was hired to make right after moving to Spokane. I was quite happy with the script, and it was my first time working with effects guy Mitch Tiner, who has become a mainstay in all my films here, and one of my best friend. He created awesome full-body monster suits for next to nothing. The producers wanted us to shoot in 24P, which was new then, and sent us a nice camera to do that with. Unfortunately, the Mac they sent us to edit with was a very old model and could not handle the demands of 24P editing. Most of the files were corrupted and the final product was patched together and un-releasable. Of course the producers blamed me, but it was really all on them.




Tell us 6 things about an upcoming project:

1 - My next project is a puppet animated film based my parody poem, "The Ravin'." It is a sequel to Poe's poem, played for laughs. 
2 - I wrote this poem in the mid-eighties and have always loved it and wanted to do something with it. A "Halloween special" short animation seemed the perfect medium for it. 
3 - Mitch Tiner recently made some puppets for an award-winning film, so I approached him with htis project and he was all for it. 
4 - I added a verse to the poem for this version, in which the Poe character fails at attempts to resurect his lost Lenore with alchemy.
5 - Mitch and I have been working on designs, and we are about ready to start work on the table-top set and the puppets.
6 - I always heard the poem read by Vincent Price in my head. Local actor Patrick Treadway does a mean Price, and he will read the poem for the film's sound track.




Guest Honey, Tonjia Atomic is a filmmaker, musician, and freelance writer. You can find out more about her at www.tonjiaatomic.com or connect on Twitter!