I always say, if you want to know what filmmaking is like, ask an actual fucking filmmaker. Any filmmaker will do. But probably the best tool is a filmmaker recounting what their experience has been like. Whether through the hilarious “Dirty Condoms, Anxiety Attacks, Road Trips, and Reality Shows: Filmmaking 101.” or basically stalking a random filmmaker, you can learn a lot from the indie filmmakers. Larry Longstreth is one in a group of sheer madmen that lurk over at Bullcrank.com. Bullcrank is the comedy group that creates critically acclaimed and rather popular short comedies that range from animated homages to the video game age, to a musical about zombies.
Longstreth and co. have been featured on many websites including Ifilm, their films have ranked high in popularity in both sites, and currently Longstreth recently entered in “The Lot” contest. We here at Cinema Crazed, love the group at Bullcrank after watching “Zombies in my Neighborhood” over a year ago, but we’re only one of many folks that follow the exploits of the Bullcrank crew and their productions. Their website has something for every comedy lover, and you’ll find at least one thing that you’ll be laughing about for days.
Longstreth along with his equally talented brother Aaron, both pop culture and comic book junkies, have managed to build much clout in the independent circuit, and so far they’re making immense progress building a cult following. We decided after a few years of jabbering with the hilarious, odd, and frank head Bullcranker Larry Longstreth, that we’d sit down and get him to spill his beans about his productions, and life. We know that after sampling a few of the short films, and reading this interview, a few new Bullcrankers will be born.
So, what’s up, Larry?
Lots… but from the outside it looks like we’re doing nothing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It always feels like a long, dead, quiet period to the people who are waiting for the next flick. I travel doing construction all over the U.S. and it sucks but that’s how I make the money I need to make movies. Even though I’m away, I’m still working and writing, planning and brainstorming.
So, judging by the site, and the news from there, you seem to be coming along in your career nicely, are you satisfied with the progression of your career so far?
I definitely am. I remember maybe two or three years ago things were really tough. You have to realize that at one point, nobody’s seen your work so nobody’s told you how good it is. You start to wonder yourself whether or not you have any talent. Thank God we finally proved to ourselves and other people that we do. Now, I couldn’t be more content. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in order to make movies and people my age take a lot of things for granted that I just don’t have but the good definitely outweighs the bad and things are going amazingly well.
The one thing that eats me up every day, without being emotional, is the whole dad thing. He passed away a few years ago. He sort of birthed our style and sense of humor, and I know he’d be thrilled to see what we’ve done. We’re working with a WWE wrestler and our father would have been ecstatic. He’d watch pro wrestling but he’d always tell people that his sons watched it so he’d check it out from time to time. I’m happy with where we’re at but the one thing I’d change is I’d like to have him along for the ride. Bam Margera’s dad is funny, but ours would be absolutely hysterical and I wish I could do an improv scene with him and Aaron both.
You and the Bullcrank crew got to hang around Lloyd Kaufman quite a bit on locations, how was that experience for you?
I know that Lloyd sees something in Aaron and I. We’ve traveled to New York to work as chicken zombies, run into him at conventions in the Carolinas, and of course, worked with him here in Ohio on our film. He sees us around. He reads our reviews. He even told me that people at conventions kept asking him about us and our film “The Losers Have a Junkyard”. He knows we’re more than crazy movie fans with cameras and some friends who will do whatever we want. We’re here to stay. I remember when I first picked him up at the airport and we showed up on location, he took one look at our huge cast and crew and said “Wow, it looks like a real movie”. He knows we’re driven. We have loads of respect for a guy who’s made a living doing what he’s doing. Troma movies might not be my personal flavor, but they’ve made him a living legend, and he never had to kiss Blockbuster or the Weinstein’s asses.
Where does your love for comedy come from?
Without a doubt, our late father’s side. The only man who would have an entire conversation with a stranger while he pretended not to know he had a huge gob of ice cream on his nose. His humor was so weird sometimes but you just had to laugh. It was super loud and direct but the actual joke was pretty subtle. He’d do something so not funny and cheesy that THAT itself was the joke. It was just bizarre but as we grew older it started to crack us up. Not many men would say to a mother “If you don’t shut that baby up I’ll smack it myself” when talking about a newborn. Of course, he’d be completely joking but he wouldn’t laugh or giggle at all. Everybody knew he was kidding and loved him for it.
When did you form Bullcrank, and what does the name Bullcrank derive from?
I guess the gang sort of formed over time. Definitely we’ve had about 30 people come and go but the core group has sort of cemented itself. I can’t believe you would ask me a question as silly as what “Bullcrank” means. Everybody knows the answer to that.
I think so far my favorite film from Bullcrank is “Batman’s Gonna Get Shot…,” how about you?
It’s a tie between “Harvey Daggit and the Devil’s Olives” and “Batman’s Gonna Get Shot in the Face”. “Batman” is where the laughs are, definitely. It was obviously the one Film Threat placed as #4 on it’s list of best short films of 2006, but “Harvey” proved something to us Bullcrankers. We always knew we had talent but now we knew that we were starting to develop a technical skill to go along with it. The key is to have both, and while “Harvey” wasn’t technically amazing, it was a huge leap from our previous live action flicks as far as the directing, editing, and cinematography went. During Harvey, Aaron and I talked to the gang about the need to do things in a more professional way. What separates us from all the other Ohio filmmakers is that we know when an aspect of our movies sucks. We don’t need a critic to tell us.
We have the eye to see it ourselves… and then we improve on it. So often we see local (or Cleveland) filmmakers boasting about their films. You watch it and think “My God, is he serious?” because something like the action scenes, dialogue, camera angles, lighting, acting, or even worse… all of those things, is just plain terrible. It’s very sad in a way because some of these people just don’t “get it” but if you say something you’re automatically the bad guy. We get called “cocky” or “arrogant” a lot by the local filmmakers we looked up to when we first broke in but it’s only because we’ve proven to ourselves what we can do.
Nobody can deny that our work is going far beyond that of showing at local film meetings. It angers some people who have been doing this for years and years and haven’t gone very far but it’s just us doing what we do. I wish everybody who wants to do this the best of luck, but you have got to have the eye for it or you’re doomed. All the hype in the world doesn’t mean anything if the product just isn’t there. “Harvey” was us proving to ourselves that there was still a lot we had to work on, but that we definitely have the ability to get it done.
Which of your films would you really consider a personal success for Bullcrank?
“Harvey Daggit and the Devil’s Olives”, “Batman’s Gonna Get Shot in the Face”, “Nintendo: Oldschool Revolution”, and “Zombies in My Neighborhood”. All for different reasons, but all were vital to what we are now and brought something different to the table.
Have you and your brother Aaron always been into creating your own films, or did he get wrangled along with the group?
I started it alone pretty much. I had a cousin, Adam Fritz, and another close friend, Mike Lucarell, who started with me when we were about 19. They didn’t have the fire or love for it like I did I think. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. Adam didn’t like the idea of “filming every single day” and I can’t blame him. It was my passion, not his, and I might have pushed too hard to get things done. Mike stuck around and still pops up from time to time but he’s too in and out to be considered a regular. So, in the beginning it was pretty much me trying to get all the help I could.
My girlfriend at the time, my co-workers, old high school friends, relatives, and anybody else I could get would help for a day or two and I’d get somebody else. It was very hard and it was at a time where everybody else was going to college so it took a lot of faith to get through these years. Aaron actually did help me on my first project but it wasn’t until near the end. Vince and Derby both came in about half way through but they hadn’t declared a love of filmmaking or anything. It would be about a year after that when they all really showing interest once they realized how much we could do with our creativity.
So, what’s the secret to your comedic niche? And, where do you get all of your ideas from?
We don’t try to make anything funny. We’re just naturally that way so if an idea pops into our heads, we do it. It’s complete artistic expression I guess. I dread the day I’m given a deadline to “do something funny.” It has to come naturally to me. Our ideas come from everywhere. Watching a lot of Justice League cartoons and being fans as kids led to the idea for “Batman’s Gonna Get Shot in the Face.” We would just groan over and over as Batman somehow managed to keep up with or outdo characters who could run around the world in a minute or bench press a mountain.
I love Batman and everything but he was just so overdone and exaggerated, while other characters were powered down so he’d fit in better. It’s things like that that we feel a need to sort of expose or knock off their pedestals. In a way, “Harvey Daggit” was pointing out how damn silly the show “24” can be. “Zombies in My Neighborhood” was a knock on the pretentious film snobs we’ve encountered. “Real Men” was blasting the morons who think wrestling is life. Each film has a sort of message, save for “Blow Pop.” That’s just us goofing around.
You guys make comedy look so goddamn easy. In “Dirty Condoms, Anxiety Attacks…” your improv of using hand signals accompanied by spastic hisses during “The Devil’s Olives” seemed so spontaneous.
As much as we pride ourselves on being subtle, which we probably did best in “Zombies in My Neighborhood”, there’s still a time for the over-the-top ridiculous stuff. If it makes me laugh, I keep it. If we’re shooting something and it’s so hard not to laugh, it absolutely must stay in because it’s obviously gold.
How has the reaction been for “Dirty Condoms, Anxiety Attacks, Road Trips, and Reality Shows…,” so far?
You know, that was made mostly for myself because the memories of making all these films are what keep me going. When you see a montage or behind the scenes, you’re really watching my life, or even the lives of the other Bullcrankers. I’m able to sit back sometimes and watch myself grow up. The other reason I made this was for all the young filmmakers who email me nonstop or call me asking for advice or help doing what we do. That showed them how we make something good with no money or fancy know-how. It was intended for that particular audience, and the people I made it for love it.
Do you and your brother Aaron have an easy partnership directing together? Are there ever fights or creative conflicts?
Aaron and I battle it out pretty good sometimes. I know it seems or feels like everybody sides with me, and they probably do most of the time, but it’s understood between the two of us that there is no anger or resentment. We went at it pretty good on “Losers”, and again on the second day of “Harvey Daggit”. It’s always for the good of the short and we’re very mature about it. I think he feels that sometimes we’re straying or not being as productive as we can be. It’s funny because that’s exactly how I was when I first started with my cousin and old friend. It’s a healthy drive we both have to get things done but we’re always struggling to find a balance between doing what we love while having fun with friends and getting something done in order to better ourselves professionally.
I’d rather fight with my brother than have him be a mindless follower. I always think that if I were to disappear, he’d pick up the slack. It’s good to have strong people around you like that. I was just telling one of our guys, Allan, that I loved the fact that even though there are about twenty people who ask “what next, Larry?”, “where are we doing now, Larry?”, “can I please use the restroom, Larry?”, the core group of friends is nothing like that. I can yell at Vince. Vince can yell at Clint. Clint can yell at Derby or Aaron. We’re so close and there are no followers. I think it’s a huge part of what makes things work. We’re very honest with each other about what we think when it comes to the films and in the end, that just makes things better because again, after all the fighting and bickering, we’re still going to be friends.
You stated that “The Greatest Fan Film of all Time” will be BullCrank’s last fan film; why the progression from fan films to only original material?
It’s time to move on. First, we’re too creative to limit ourselves to using characters we didn’t make. Second, there’s only so much you can do with a “fan film.”
Are you planning any original animated films?
You bet your ass we are. Jacob’s working on his own original work “The Ghost and the Girl,” which is more a child oriented film than a Bullcrank smart ass-fest. Of course we have “Fan Film” in the works. We were going to make a longer short film in a fantasy type setting but since Mark Ordesky (New Line VP) told me to “keep the scripts coming”, I’m changing that into a feature script and sending it to him. We’ll never stop making films, animated or live action, so the answer to your question will always be “yes.”
How long has Jacob Drake been with “BullCrank”?
Almost two years now. His first project was “Nintendo: Oldschool Revolution” and he and I just clicked. We’re very similar and have tons of the same interests (Superman). He’s the only guy who has more Superman “S’s” in his house than I do. Hell, even the sidewalk in front of his house has the big “S” carved into it, no joke. I knew the first time I showed up that this was our kind of guy.
Is “Bullcrank” looking to break out into feature films like Monty Python, or Broken Lizard, or do you guys have other plans in mind?
Definitely. The only thing I’d do different is I’d add a touch of heart, like Edgar Wright, Wes Anderson, and Christopher Guest tend to do. I’m not a huge fan of movies that are all comedy and no heart.
Would you ever consider going outside the comedy genre and make a melodrama or gory horror film?
Our next project will do just that. We’ve got Lloyd Kaufman and some other big names involved, as well as a Pittsburgh makeup/fx graduate. You can expect a very wild, slightly gory, a little scary, and very entertaining short film. The title is “An American Werewolf in America”. As for melodramas, I think the best ones are the ones with a lot of comedy sprinkled throughout so if you’re asking whether or not we’ll ever make a Meryl Streep type movie, probably not. It’s just not my thing.
How is the sequel to “Zombies in My Neighborhood” going?
The script is finished and in the hands of New Line’s VP. He’s busy promoting “The Golden Compass” so there’s no telling when he’ll read it. We keep in touch pretty good so I’ll know what he thinks when he does. Either way, I have to assume he doesn’t want it. I can’t just sit still doing nothing, so we’re making “werewolf” as a sort of prototype for “ZOMA”. We’ll use the wolf short to raise a budget for it.
I’ve seen Bullcrank receiving a lot of worthy publicity, what’s been the best experience so far promoting Bullcrank?
I don’t know what the best plug is we’ve gotten… but I know that a lot of famous peeps in our industry have checked it out or contacted me. I know the best experience as far as how it’s going was when two college girls recognized me on an airplane on the other side of the country. I played it cool before turning my head and staring out the window thinking “holy shit.”
Have you been running any of your films in festivals?
I know that the Kevin Smith festival took “Nintendo” and “Batman” and said that “Batman” got by far the best reaction of the night. I submitted “Losers” to Sundance but didn’t get in. I don’t really like the festival route anymore to be honest. I don’t like paying $30 and not knowing for a fact my movie will show. The festival route will be more up my alley when I’m trying to shop around a feature film. Our stuff has been shown in various festivals, conventions, and even TV stations in Texas, Canada, and Arizona… but it’s more by request and not so much by me sending things around.
So, what’s on the pipeline for the Bullcrank crew?
What can fans look forward to in the next year or so? Well, the plan is as follows: “The Girl and the Ghost,” “The Greatest Fan Film of All Time,” “An American Werewolf in America,” “Zombies on My Airplane,” taking over the world.
Describe Bullcrank in one word.
Talent + Passion + Confidence… “Talssionidence”
So, where can readers, who are just discovering this team find Bullcrank and their films?
Bullcrank.com you dumb ass. I’m going to revamp it and get it looking fancy soon. For now, it’s just meat and potatoes.
Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Larry.
Fuck off, Felix
Cinema Crazed loves you too, Larry. For more information on Bull Crank, and watch the group in their madness, visit Bull Crank to view all the films both fan and original that you’ve read about here, or add them at MySpace, where you can keep up with news involving the group’s new films. Also be sure to read our reviews for films like “Batman’s Gonna Get Shot in the Face,” and “Harvey Daggit and the Devil’s Olives,” here at Cinema Crazed.