Originally Posted on: October 23rd, 2013
Charlie JJ Kruger sits down with Gary Michael Schultz, director/writer/producer of the horror-comedy film, 'Devil In My Ride'.
H-P: First off, thanks for having this little chat with us. I loved 'Devil In My Ride' and I am excited to hear a bit more about it from you. Where did you get the idea for Travis' van? The name, the look, the great importance, so on and so forth.
GARY: That’s great! Glad you dug the film! There are a lot of stories behind the making of Devil in My Ride that is for sure. This was true independent film! To answer your first question, "Black Mama" is my homage to my favorite actress Pam Grier; it’s named after her. Travis even refers to Black Mama as “Pam” once in the film. Pam Grier was in a film called Black Mama/White Mama, what an amazing title I always thought. It was originally written as a red van, but when we were looking for our hero van the best deal on an actual running vehicle just happened to be black, so I named it that and changed it in the script. Mike Dozier my co-writer hooked it up with the boys at Cisa Studio and they painted in lightning bolts across the back of Black Mama and put flames on the sides and hood. I knew we would spend a lot of time in the van, so she needed to be a symbol of Travis’ character. I always looked at it as Travis and Hank are taking Doreen the devil bride from Chicago to Las Vegas, kind of like Dante going through the inferno. I wanted it to feel like that. Black Mama is our Millennium Falcon.
H-P: While exorcism and possession are large parts of the film, the movie really feels more like a coming of age movie. Were there any movies (either horror or not) that served as an inspiration for this unique blending?
GARY: My goal as a filmmaker and specifically as a genre filmmaker has always been to make character based genre films. I love characters and I love to care about characters. The more emotionally invested the audience is in the characters, the more they relate, the more powerful the connection is between them and the film, even if it is a ridiculous horror-comedy-road trip film. If you want them to be along for the ride, give them a reason to give a shit, to be invested. So what inspired myself, and Mike Dozier, my co-writer, was writing a script we would care about. I’ve always been inspired by stories of artists or filmmakers that try to make something from nothing. Robert Rodriguez doing El Mariachi or Sam Raimi doing Evil Dead or Kevin Smith doing Clerks, those guys put a film on their back and took a chance and made some pretty badass art. That’s inspiring to me.
H-P: I love the humor in 'Devil In My Ride'. How important was it to you to keep the movie funny as well as poignant?
GARY: The joke we had on set was to take your comedy seriously and we really did. We had a funny script and did a decent job of writing outlandish characters that would seem real but it’s up to your cast to execute and we really lucked out with our lead cast big time. We wrote the roles for Frank Zieger to play Travis and Joey Bicicchi to play Hank. Frank is an amazing comedic actor and the only person on the planet that could play Travis. Joey Bicicchi is an incredibly talented dramatic actor.
We wanted to have a true odd couple film, a wild man and straight man that wouldn’t like each other but would have to overcome their differences to save Doreen’s soul. Frank and Joey have great chemistry and became great friends as well. We looked at about 100 actresses to play Doreen the devil bride and Erin Breen was it. She destroyed in the audition and has an amazing range. I saw some of Big Llou Johnson’s work and asked him to come in to read for Johnny Priest and he was perfect. The final step was getting Sid Haig to play Iggy our spirit guide of the story. I was a huge fan of Sid Haig’s and wanted to see if he would be interested in doing a comedic role, so we approached him and he was down for it. Our rule on set was to never try to be funny, just be true to the characters. Travis is really funny but he’s nuts, he’s a wild card and that’s his character. It’s important for character’s to go on a journey and to change, to have an arc, to make this ridiculous world seem real.
H-P: How did working on this film differ from work you have been a part of in the past? Or did it differ at all?
GARY: Every film is a different experience. At the core filmmaking is all the same, you have a script, you have actors and your tools for filmmaking; block it, light it, rehearse it and shoot it. But the material, the restraints and/or freedoms, those always change. This was a lower budget independent film, so I wore as many hats as possible. We had a very real approach to making this film, shooting mostly on location with a few green screen days as well. We filmed the whole movie in 15 days in Chicago; then took to the road, filming from Chicago to Las Vegas and back on DSLR’s. We literally got in Black Mama, drove her there and made a film. After filming was completed, we went into post-production and cut the film with one editor, just my editor Mike Heffler and myself cutting away. Then I went to Los Angeles and hooked up with my good friend Producer Keith Kjarval, who is producing my next film, a violent drama called Vincent -N- Roxxy.
Keith’s company Unified Pictures has a subsidiary genre label called Red Band Films. They came on as my producer’s rep, helped me finish the color and VFX and helped me to position the film for festivals and distributors. We kicked off our festival run at Shriekfest 2013 and received a lot of love from the crowd, which was very kind because we made this film for fans of horror-comedies, for the Horror Punk crowd.
H-P: Is Travis based on anyone in real life? Are any of the characters supposed to represent you?
GARY: LOL! When you write something personal every character has a little bit of yourself in it but no, Travis is not based on me. Travis couldn’t keep up with my wild streak. Just kidding. I’m inspired by people in my life so is Mike my co-writer but the actors bring their experiences and inspiration to the characters as well. It has to be collaboration, something you build together. We love flawed characters and loved creating characters we can relate too. I do relate to Travis.
H-P: The natural flow of conversation in 'Devil In My Ride' is really well done. Was there a lot of improv on the set, or did the actors just get very comfortable with each other and with the dialogue.
GARY: Thank you, that’s very kind. All of the above is the answer. Writing is rewriting. I think it’s important for the leads to get very comfortable with each other and as a director I like to allow my actors to breathe and play with each scene a little, contribute as much as possible but also ensure that what they are improving is important to the particular scene we are filming. You have to make sure whatever you’re doing propels the story forward.
H-P: Throughout the movie, the soundtrack fits in perfectly. What was it like getting the soundtrack all together for this film?
GARY: That’s rocking, thanks! The soundtrack was one of my favorite parts. I love music. I love to write music and play it, although I’m not a good as my musical partners on this journey. I got together with Johnny Meyer, a very talented rock musician, and told him I was looking for very simple songs.
I wanted songs that sounded like late 70’s early 80’s punk or rock. That 4-chord sound like Ramones, The Clash, AC/DC, MC5, stuff like that. So Johnny started writing and we went in and recorded all 9 tracks in one day. Johnny played guitar, drummer Danny Garcia came in on percussion and believe it or not I played on all the bass tracks. The score of the film was written and composed by Tim Montijo who also supervised all the Visual FX and colored the film.
H-P: What are some of your other favorite horror-comedies out there? It is so hard to find a movie that balances both so well, and yours was VERY successful with that, so I would trust your recommendations.
GARY: Thank you again for that. It is hard to balance a cross genre film and be successful. Our film is more comedy, then horror with the road trip element. We made a choice that comedy would be the strength of our film. My favorite horror-comedies or films of that nature are Young Frankenstein, Shaun of the Dead, Evil Dead 2, Return of the Living Dead, Bubba Ho-Tep, Gremlins, The Monster Squad, Drag Me to Hell and of course the greatest of all, Ghostbusters.
H-P: So... is there a sequel coming our way? Or is that something you are even interested in?
GARY: We actually have a sequel idea. If DIMR becomes a cult hit, a sequel would be a cool thing to do. It would have to be different from the original but we have some ideas about what we could do, all I’ll say is Black Mama might fly.
H-P: I have to ask, Freddy Vs Jason, who should win?
GARY: Jason is more sympatehic but I’ve always been a Freddy guy. Gotta go Freddy, controlling dreams, burnt face, cool razor glove, Freddy all day.
Get 'Devil In My Ride' on Amazon: amazon.com/gp/product/B00KATVN2U