Steve Rudzinski is an independent filmmaker out of Pennsylvania who is a very passionate fanboy intent on telling his own stories and making his own kind of movies. Though making movies is easier than ever before, the glut of films have made it tougher to find an audience, but Rudzinski has pressed on with very original and entertaining indies that tap in to his favorite corners of pop culture, and inject his own twisted sense of humor. I first learned about him after he released his ode to “Power Rangers” entitled “Super Task Force One.”
Ever since, Steve has unleashed a steady stream of horror comedies and fantasy, the most memorable is the recent “CarousHELL.” It’s a slasher film, sure, but it’s a guarantee you’ve never seen this type of slasher film before. Steve fills us in on the upcoming “CarousHELL” and his past with filmmaking.
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I have always been a bit of a story teller, but where I wanted to tell stories changed as I aged. Comic book writer, video game writer. But when I saw “Army of Darkness” on the Sci-Fi channel at the age at 12 that’s when I knew my fate was sealed. My stories would be in movies.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Honestly I couldn’t even tell you. They’re such an amalgamation of stuff that pops into my brain that I somehow work out into stories. Like “Everyone Must Die” was a combination of me thinking “I want a horror movie where they’re chased by a Killer the whole film and then after they kill him they realize there is more than one dressed exactly the same” and “I wonder what “Friday the 13th” part 4 would have been like if that revenge dude was the main character?” That just became EMD. That’s similar to how my other features have come to be, random ideas mashing into each other to make something new.
What directors have influenced you and your films over the years?
I’d say my two biggest are probably Robert Rodriguez and Sam Raimi. Both have an over the top style that doesn’t take itself too seriously while keeping entertainment high.
What are the challenges posed with making movies today?
These days the biggest challenge is getting people to care and getting folks to buy copies of the movie. I love Netflix, but it seems to have created an atmosphere of folks expecting to get all of their entertainment for $10 a month. The number of movie fans (that buy what they love) seems to have dwindled compared to even just when I started making films which is making it harder to be successful. While Amazon Prime treats us the best in VOD via paying filmmakers per click that is still nothing compared to actual physical sales. And that’s not even including the pirating.
What other Carousel Unicorn slasher movies inspired “CarousHELL”?
None, Baby, because “CarousHELL” is the First Ever! But we (co-writer Aleen Isley and myself) are fans of object killer movies that are goofy but bloody, like “Jack Frost,” “Gingerdead Man,” and “Puppet Master” (less goofy but still), among a few others. Of course “CarousHELL” was also still a combination of many ideas (What if our movie had a Dr. Loomis character except he was a park mascot?).
Where did the idea for “CarousHELL” come from?
(Co-writer) Aleen Isley was the first to come up with the initial concept, which at the time was simply it being a killer carousel unicorn and the title. Then we hashed out the plot and realized Duke (the unicorn) would absolutely be the lead of the film and it would be his revenge story to destroy one especially bratty kid. This was helped by Aleen’s experience with working in theme parks and seeing children abuse beautiful carousel horses.
How long did “CarousHELL” take to film?
The actual shoot schedule for “CarousHELL” was only 12 days of shooting. Week one was all of our travel stuff (the park, the picnic field, driving shots, etc.) and week two was entirely inside the house. Every day had a schedule set of 6pm-3am and we actually ended up finishing almost every night at 1 am. We finished on schedule (early even!) and it was such a smooth shoot. Scott Lewis (the cinematographer) and I constantly were worried that something terrible was about to happen because it was consistently so great and easy. We don’t know what happened.
Is there a certain genre or sub-genre you want to tackle in the future?
I do say that I’d love to return to Tokusatsu with another “Super Task Force,” but that’s a no-go unless someone randomly wants to finance it. I’d also really enjoy making a family friendly PG-style horror movie, I have a huge soft spot for them.
But really, I’ll make whatever pays!
Is there a current trend in modern film you hate? If so, why?
There’s three things, two in films and one in actually the reaction to them.
Firstly I see a lot of indie horror that feels the need to make every single character a total asshole that you hate. Now that’s not to say I have an issue with asshole characters, everyone knows I excel at writing them. But when you’re rooting for NOBODY in a horror film then what is the point? A film should not just be ninety minutes of you hating everyone on screen and then they die. What’s the enjoyment? What’s the ride? You need characters that people actually like. Even asshole characters can be likable! But if everyone lacks charisma the story will be a bore.
Secondly is a lot of films seem to kick up the run time out of some sort of perceived expectation that movies need to be at least 90 minutes. I can’t tell you how many movies I’ve seen that I easily can say could have been trimmed twenty minutes shorter. “Everyone Must Die!” and “CarousHELL” clock in around 70 minutes, “Captain Z” is my longest at 84 minutes. I would much rather someone say: “I wish that was longer” than “JEEZ, IS THIS STILL GOING?” That’s not to say a film can’t be longer, most folks know I love the “Batman v. Superman: Ultimate Cut” and that’s almost three hours long. But I wish more filmmakers just understood the length only has to be what the story requires, we don’t need filler.
Finally I’m really bothered by the tidal wave of reactions on the internet to films, both indie and major. I don’t think there’s any sort of conspiracy with anything, but I do feel it’s easy for everyone to get caught up in a tidal wave of opinions and emotions in either direction. And with that there is just too much polar opposite opinions with stuff. It feels like you have to LOVE or HATE a movie, it’s not good enough to just think stuff is okay. Everything needs a side and you have to stand on a mountain for everything, it’s a bit tiring if you ask me!
What kind of films would you like to see more of in the market today?
Overall I’m pretty pleased with the wide array of genre options out there. But if I had to pick a horse it would be more goofy horror. It’s absolutely my favorite sub-genre of my favorite genre (I’d probably say as a horror fan I mostly JUST like the goofy horror stuff). I like to laugh and cheer at my horror films. I like to see ridiculous silly ideas in the forefront. It definitely feels like we’re a bit light in that aspect in the past few years.
What advice would you have for aspiring filmmakers out there?
The phrase you should learn to use is “Good enough.” I know too many indie filmmakers that get too caught up in “their vision” and making things “perfect” that they go over budget, over schedule, and make their cast and crew exhausted. This one tiny scene does not matter compared to the overall BIG picture and nobody will know it’s not perfect except for you. I’m certainly not saying to deliver a poor product or rush things, but if you have five solid takes that aren’t just right sometimes you have to just say “good enough” and move on.
What’s next on your film slate?
That really comes down to how well “CarousHELL” does. Depending on how much this movie sells, on what kind of distribution deal we get, we have four possible next films planned. If Zoltan can get the budget together “Captain Z 2” is one. If “CarousHELL” makes cash for Rob Steinbock and he’s happy with it we could convince him to helm a “CarousHELL 2” and another cheaper original horror film. “Super Task Force 2” is always hanging out, too.
But again, that all comes down to “CarousHELL” actually making our producer a profit. If this one doesn’t do well? It may be the last one I do. I’ll switch over to super hero fan films; those take less work but get more attention!