Originally Posted on: July 3rd, 2013
Charlie JJ Kruger sits down with Academy Award Winner, Tom Woodruff Jr., who is the director for the demon-noir film 'Fire City'.
H-P: First off, let me say that I am a lifelong fan of your work, you were a part of my childhood in movies like The Monster Squad and Jumanji, and you have continued to be involved in and even PLAY monsters that I have a real connection with, like the Alien, and the one and only Pumpkinhead. So with that said, I am honored to interview you.
TOM: Thanks for that. It’s nice to know that the work you’ve put down behind you still resonates with people who saw it. I’m still a fan of the work that inspired me throughout my life by many people who are no longer with us.
H-P: Are you re-visting any visual themes you have used before and if so, what films do the effects in this film mimic/touch on?
TOM: I want to be consistent with the character we created for the promotional footage. We covered a little bit of ground in developing a style of demon for that one character, which definitely left us hungry for more. Michael and Brian are great producers (see the H-P Interview with Michael & Brian here) in that they help shape the context of the world and let us bring our design voice to it organically – not forced or micro-managed.
H-P: I have seen your work tattooed on so many people, you have a frighteningly skilled eye and mind for this kind of work. Where do your visions for creature effects come from?
TOM: My design approach is to look back into something that was effective to me as a child – something that really had some emotional content – and then backwards-engineer what made it work, but in a new way. I have such great passion for classic and old-school creatures and creature effects, and as much as I would enjoy duplicating my childhood monster heroes, there has to be a fresh interpretation.
H-P: Will you be assisting in the art work for the planned comic book and tarot cards?
TOM: In as much as the comic book imagery was developed from the work done for the short, The King of Miseries, yes. But the comic book is the work of a really good graphic artist, Kurt Komoda. He also worked with Michael and Brian to develop the look of the tarots.
H-P: How much of a role did you have in the story-building for the film?
TOM: As director, my involvement in story-building was to get performances out of the actors and camera that created a believable world and believable drama, all in service of the story that the guys created. Everything starts with the script and trying to bring it to life, sometimes with a different point of view here and there, is the work.
H-P: What was it like to step into the role of director? When Stan Winston did that, we ended up with Pumpkinhead (a brilliant work), do you feel like comparisons to that film will be made?
TOM: Filmmaking today, particularly low-budget genre material, is a tougher world than it was in the days of Pumpkinhead, so that comparison will be tough to balance. We’re leaner filmmakers today than they were in the ‘80s. But most of my monster-making career has been about getting the monsters on-screen, not just getting them made, so directing is not new to my process. Having people listen; that’s the treat.
H-P: What directors did you look at for reference while working on this film?
TOM: I like the product of directors and genres rather than referencing a particular director himself. My favorites are not horror genre directors, but they are great at creating a believable world in the context of their films through the physicality of environment and settings and action and the emotions of acting and camera and cutting.
H-P: Will the work you have done on this film carry over? Do you see yourself directing the next pieces of this franchise, or stepping aside and letting other hands into the cookie jar?
TOM: Best to see how The King of Miseries works with an audience first and bring out their excitement for more. Once we get a chance to read the reactions to this introduction into Michael and Brian’s Fire City world, we’ll all get a better idea of how deep the cookie jar may be and how to fill it.
H-P: Thank you so much for this interview, I am excited to sink my teeth into this entire franchise!
TOM: It’s more than one meal, that’s for sure.
Get Fire City on Amazon: amazon.com/gp/product/B0157757NK