In the vein of Idiocracy (2006), Atomic Zombies (2016) and The Poor Guy series weaves Horror through creative zest, humor, and passion. In these little to no budget pieces, the talent in irony deliverance is evident and calls for our attention. Follow along to learn more about this valuable Horror creator.
With all the creative outlets available to you, why movies?
Lots of reasons… I love seeing a creation start out as words or pictures on paper become a full video with music, dialogue, props, location, actors, etcetera.
When I was younger, I’d write down all these stories, then read them to the tape recorder (like, cassette) I had. The process usually involved doing voices and sound effects for a bunch of random characters, including re-occurring characters, like Dr. Gizmo. I’d also create voices for two toy dinosaurs I got from the dentist. They’d constantly break buildings made from Jenga blocks, and go to jail in Jenga blocks rearranged.
Later, someone in my neighborhood got a VHS camera that had to be connected to the wall for power, and we made a bunch of videos about skateboarding. We also recorded nonsensical “army” skits; we had a bunch of toy guns, used ketchup as blood, and moved slowly for dramatic slow-motion parts.
Eventually, I got a Hi8 camera, and made a bunch of videos with my action figures and LEGO‘s, part stop motion and part video. Finally, I got into asking friends and family to be in the videos (which worked out better than I was expecting) and then just used whatever resources we had to make whatever dumb ideas we had into short movies.
After I got a digital camera and some editing software, we made even more dumb ideas come to life with slightly more production value. At this point, I like that we can put a little more time into something and make it look better or we can do a stream-of-consciousness video for fun and have it finished in one day (like the Pizza, Pasta and Fried Zucchini Competition videos I did on YouTube).
I was pretty sheltered when I was younger, but I would always fixate on any violence I could get a hold of. Some specific movie examples would be the VHS fast-forward version of the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) face-melt scene, the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) aging-to-death scene, and The Matrix (1999) Morpheus-getting-punched-whilst-tied-to-a-chair scene… You get the picture.
When I finally got into actual horror movies, I loved them. The jokes, the characters, the creators behind everything, and, of course, the gore. There is also a camaraderie amongst horror movie enthusiasts which doesn’t exist among any other genre of movie. Our scope of movie entertainment often extends to lower budgets and stranger storylines than the casual movie goer may enjoy. We are often rooting for the villain, and we are all aware that every one of us is a little sick in the head.
Tell me about your creative process. How does a video start? An idea, thought, message, scenario, etc.?
I always have a bunch of random sketches or notes that I’d like to incorporate into a video. With my webseries, Poor Guy, I often just voiced random conversations between the characters while I was working; by myself and outside all day. Once in a while I’d stumble into some kind of bit that I’d want to use in an episode. Thinking back, I probably looked like a crazy person talking to himself.
I’d make a storyboard and comics of jokes or interactions, and when I had enough to use together, I’d turn them into a skit. We always have a fun time filming, which can add more jokes along the way. Sometimes they’re for the audience, sometimes they’re just for ourselves to laugh at later. Many on-the-spot jokes in Poor Guy ended up becoming recurring jokes throughout the series. Although Poor Guy isn’t suspenseful or a gore-fest, I tend to think of it in the horror genre. Maybe more Psychological Horror or a Dark Comedy. Either way, it draws a lot of inspiration from the Horror.
One of the nice things, which can also be one of the worst things, about YouTube is the ‘Comments’ section. It provides instant feedback, and a couple times I’ve used suggestions from them in videos. I even ended up getting some voice-over lines from a commenter, which turned out great (Hi AJ).
Also, I try to only write stories that involve locations, props, and people I have access to. For Atomic Zombies, I designed and drew up a few pictures of a Mad Scientist, Dr. Gizmo, an evil Nazi version of the character I mentioned before. There’s also a friend I have who’s awesome at building props and costumes who was able to make a mask based off those few drawings.
I also have a friend who has an amazing studio, basically catered toward an old sci-fi lab, which was perfect for Atomic Zombies. It can be hard to film an apocalyptic wasteland near one of the biggest cities in the country, but as long as the camera is pointed away from traffic, we make it work. I have little to no musical talent, but luckily I know a couple people who are the opposite, and have put together some really awesome music for the weird videos I make.
Which piece are you most proud of, and why?
Atomic Zombies 2 is in production and looking pretty good, but I think my favorite finished video so far is the Poor Guy Christmas Special. I put it out after almost a full year of regular Poor Guy episodes, and it was about four times longer than most of them. It is based off a parody of A Christmas Carol that I had written years earlier. No Spoilers, but it was fun to bring back some characters we killed off earlier. I love stop motion, and since lots of Christmas specials are Rudolph-esque animations, I put some stop motion in my version.
The special also developed a character who turned into one of my favorites, named Balaam. A floating, talking deer head, who tries to help out Guy, played by ShadowBeatz (music sensation, who also created a Christmas rendition of the theme song), but rarely succeeds. Poor Guy Christmas Special introduces another one of my favorite characters, Tasha. She’s a ghost who calls herself a superhero, but seems to act more like an evil villain.
List any favorite movie creators or specific pieces, tell me how your work has been influenced by them.
Where can I find your work and the work of your helpers?
- Twitter @Johnmckech
- Atomic Zombies News on Facebook @atomiczombies
- YouTube Poor Guy
- ShadowBeatz Twitter @ShadowBeatz
- Monster Masks Facebook @mymonsterfx
- Chapman Productions Facebook @ChapmanProductions
- Eric Britton Instagram @scratch_build
I’m very interested on your thoughts on this interview! Take a look at my previous interview with comic author, Jesse James Baer. Who should we interview next? Let me know in the comments below!