The Horror Honeys: 6/6/6 with Tim Ritter

6/6/6 with Tim Ritter

An #IndieManCrushMarch 6/6/6 from Guest Honey Tonjia Atomic

Tim Ritter is a pioneer of direct-to-video genre fare. He's been making films since the mid 1980s and is the true embodiment of an indie filmmaker. Check out Tim's answers to my 6/6/6 questions.

1. You're probably best known for your long running Truth or Dare series. Tell us a little about that.

“Truth Or Dare” evolved from a short we made as part of a 1985 video anthology called TWISTED ILLUSIONS. Joel Wynkoop and I collaborated on that, and the short was expanded into a feature-length script that we shopped around and got financed through a Chicago video distributor. The movie was released in 1986, one of the first direct-to-video, made specifically for video horror films, and did really well in the marketplace. TRUTH OR DARE was inspired by Stephen King’s writing, TWILIGHT ZONE, the rubber reality [hallucinations] of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, the bumbling cops in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and of course, a love for HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13th films. It was like my spin on all the stuff I loved as a fan. PSYCHO II and III were heavy influences, especially as we continued the series with new cast members and “killers behind the mask” in WICKED GAMES [1993], SCREAMING FOR SANITY [1996], and DEADLY DARES [2012]. The series has continued mainly because diehard fans and filmmakers keep pushing and inspiring me to make more, hence, Scott Tepperman from Ghost Hunters International, Joel Wynkoop, and myself are working on a new chapter now. The little franchise has been pretty successful in the underground, with the latest entries kind of dividing fans as they get further away from the original movie. DEADLY DARES was more me thinking in terms of “if I was making the Truth or Dare concept in the 21st Century with today’s technologies, what would I do?” So it was kind of like a remake with new technology, but still shot old school style, and with the impact of the original killer from the first film still being prominent in things. It still kind of divided viewers! But I’m happy there’s been enough interest in the franchise to have it last over three decades now! 


2. You've been making films since the early 80s. In your opinion what are some of the biggest changes in filmmaking and film viewing since you started? 

The process is still the same- you have to have a great story to tell, and one that can be told on a minuscule budget in most cases. So script and story are the primary things for me, then you need locations, cast, special effects, and all the elements to fall in place. Then you need funds to realize your vision, take it to fests, and get it out there into distribution, or have it picked up. So all that’s the same. The only thing different is the affordable cameras and editing systems that can be utilized on home computers, it’s enabled a lot more people to join the party now that the tools are so accessible. It used to be very difficult working with super-8 film, 16mm, and even early video formats- not everyone had the knowledge or access to the equipment, so it was a bigger deal to say you were a “moviemaker.” There was mystique and the sense that you were doing something special that not everyone could do. Nowadays, everyone is a moviemaker with their HD video phones! So there’s pros and cons, it’s great that everyone that has the desire to do something creative can, but on the other hand, it’s really cluttered the marketplace, there’s so much stuff out there, and it’s hard to get attention when your movie is done, whether through a traditional distributor or on your own. Slapping something on Vimeo or Youtube doesn’t usually get you too far. So…with so much product out there, it’s tough! But the process of making something watchable is the same, and it’s actually more difficult than ever to make something with little money that people will actually want to see or sit through. There’s so much competition, so many viewer distractions, things vying for viewer attention…


3. You're an author as well. Tell us about your writing

I’ve written numerous articles on making movies and stuff about my movies for all the big magazines, like Fangoria and Gorezone. So that is always an honor! Have also contributed to several books about filmmaking used in colleges and film schools, so that’s pretty cool---Kevin Lindenmuth is the main author on those, but he always has me contribute. And of course I’ve written dozens of spec scripts over the years, some that I’d love to make or see made somehow! I have done a couple of novels- inspired by Stephen King and Jack Ketchum- including THE HAMMER WILL FALL [adapted from a screenplay I wrote and could never get funding for] and UNREEL- a “fictional autobiography” about my moviemaking adventures over the first few decades…I’d love to do another novel or two eventually, but they are very time consuming and again…it’s hard to find an audience these days with time to read with so many people self-publishing and such. SRS Cinema published the original TRUTH OR DARE screenplay in book form, and it’s done pretty well selling on Amazon, so that was kind of neat!

4. How do you feel about the changes in format from film to video, to digital video?

I’ve always said,” if you have a vision, go for it, shoot it with whatever you have access to!” I’ve never been a stickler for any kind of format, like super-8, 16mm, or video. I’ve shot on about every format there is, except for 35mm film. I love them all, just realizing the words you write and making them a new reality that’s “real” with actors, sets, special effects, and editing is always a thrill for me. Digital video is great, and it’s so clear compared to the analog days, using Hi-8 and Super VHS where the picture would degrade with each sub-master you made for distribution. These days, the quality stays pristine and you can just send a file over to the distributor and it maintains integrity. So I view the current HD days as a good thing- and the affordable, high quality cameras are just getting better and better. 4k enables you to make something that could conceivably look great on a giant theatrical screen if you shoot it right, so despite the over-saturation of product, you can still get stuff out there and make a mark! But I still use my old Hi-8 equipment when it fits for a project. Format is irrelevant, the story and vision is what’s important, in my opinion, of course.

5. You're a frequent collaborator with indie great Joel D. Wynkoop. Tell us a bit about that.

I’ve known Joel since the ‘70’s, we’re best friends and he was my babysitter when he was a teenager and I was a little kid. I used to buy his hand drawn comic books when he’d draw ‘em up and release them! He made super-8 movies growing up as well, and I was in a few of his, including THE BIONIC BOY. I think I was a bad guy in a van or something. But seeing him do that inspired me to grab our family’s super-8 camera and make my own movies, which I did, emulating James Bond, Conan, The Pink Panther, and Superman. When I saw HALLOWEEN, though, that started my obsession with slasher movies and emulating what I enjoyed so much---trying to scare and gross people out. Joel moved away and we re-connected in 1984, when I had just finished DAY OF THE REAPER, so he helped me distribute and sell that movie to local video stores, and then collaborated on the anthology TWISTED ILLUSIONS. Joel was the first to play the character Mike Strauber in the Truth Or Dare short, way back in ’85! 30 years ago! Since then, he’s appeared in every TRUTH OR DARE movie, including WICKED GAMES and SCREAMING FOR SANITY as Detective Dan Hess. Joel is great to work with, he’s always enthusiastic, knows his lines, and has lots of great ideas.

6. You've been writing/producing/directing your own films for quite a while. What has been the most challenging aspect of doing it all yourself?

It’s ALL a challenge anymore, especially the older you get! Finding the initiative, the inspiration, the passion to keep going with very little financial rewards. Even the time it takes to come up with a cool script you want to make, it takes a lot longer these days with family obligations and the cost of living- you have to figure out a way to earn a living and balance everything. It’s no picnic; you end up losing a lot of sleep. Editing- it’s so time consuming to get right, and such a slow process still…codecs and rendering drive me crazy…no skimping there. It took me 7 months to edit DEADLY DARES [ Underground Cut] around my regular 50 hour a week job and then two years to finally get the HD cut finished, which Dann Thombs did in his spare time over the course of a year. So despite editing being right at your fingertips, it’s still a very TIME CONSUMING process. Lining up shooting schedules with everyone is also difficult, trying to coordinate all that on a dimestore budget, so….really, every part of making small movies can be a challenge and it’s always a miracle when you actually wrap things up and finish!

List 6 of your favorite bands to rock out to:
U.D.O., JUDAS PRIEST, ACCEPT, NINE INCH NAILS, SISTER SIN, THE DREAMING…

List 6 things about an upcoming project:
1.) I DARED YOU! is the 5th entry in the TRUTH OR DARE franchise.

2.) We’ll be shooting it in summer 2015.

3.) Scott Tepperman [THE HOSPITAL 1 & 2] is starring and co-directing, he’s a huge fan of the TRUTH OR DARE franchise [which is an honor!] and completely initiated this one, he FORCED me at gunpoint to write the script! See, it’s today's filmmakers and fans that continue to keep the franchise alive!

4.) I DARED YOU!, like SCREAMING FOR SANITY, ties more directly into TRUTH OR DARE – A CRITICAL MADNESS with characters from that film making an appearance in this one in various forms. So it’s more a direct sequel to the original than DEADLY DARES was…DD was actually a rethinking of the Truth Or Dare concept, taking it to the Internet, which has been copied many times now by other moviemakers.

5.) This was the first project we’ve used crowd funding for, and it’s been interesting.

6.) Joel D. Wynkoop returns as Detective/Doctor Dan Hess in this entry, which should please fans who missed him in that role in DEADLY DARES.


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