In our ongoing column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.
This time out we’re chatting with Brian Skiba, writer, director and producer of the new comedy/horror mashup “Rottentail,” based on the graphic novel by David C. Hayes and released by Source Point Press.
(Be sure to check out our chat with “Rottentail” star Corin Nemec here!)
TrunkSpace: “Rottentail” is based on a graphic novel. Did adapting a concept from a comic change up the creative process for you at all?
Skiba: Yeah, it definitely does. Typically you only have a script to go off of or it’s an idea and we develop the script. It was really nice to actually have something that was tangible and that we know already has a little bit of a fan base behind it. I enjoyed the process. I thought it was great. It allowed for us to take an existing source and expand upon it, which was a lot of fun.
TrunkSpace: Did having that tangible item make it easier in terms of securing the financing to physically make the movie?
Skiba: I don’t know. Source Point did the financing. I would think so but I think a lot of the financing came a little bit late in the game. We had some guys up front that got us going and then as we got into it, budgets tend to swell. I think he used the graphic novel mixed with what we had shot to finish off the budget, which was, obviously, very low to begin with.
TrunkSpace: Was there anything in that process, by way of budget or time constraints, that put writer Brian and director Brian at odds with each other?
Skiba: Yeah. Budget always dictates the war between writer and director Brian, for sure. Writer Brian is a 100 million dollar Marvel movie. Director Brian is like, “Oh shit, I only have 50 bucks.” (Laughter) There’s always that constant battle. On this one, going into it, I knew what I had when we started. The initial script was written by David Hayes and then I came in and did a rewrite on it. I already kind of knew where we were going to be at. For me, I went into it with the idea of, “Okay, this is obviously going to be a B movie.” It suits that genre because it is about a bunny man. If I went out and I tried to make “Logan” or I went out and tried to tell a super serious story about a guy in a bunny suit, to me it wouldn’t have worked. It wouldn’t do the book justice because the book is also very funny and tongue in cheek. So for me, I went into it thinking, “Okay, this film is going to be that VHS tape that you tucked away in the ‘80s or ‘90s and you haven’t seen in 20 years. All of a sudden you’re going through your stuff and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember this film. Let me pop it in.’”
TrunkSpace: And that played with us. It was like the movie we wanted to rent from Blockbuster back in the day, but our dad wouldn’t let us, so we went to our friend’s house and their dad let us.
Skiba: Yeah, that’s exactly what we were going for artistically, and as far as looks go, I think it’s been a success in that because it definitely screams that that’s what it is. At the same point, mainstream critics just don’t get it. They just want to harp on, “It’s low budget!” It’s like, “No, dude, it’s a genre piece. It’s an art piece.” Yeah, we didn’t have millions upon millions of dollars but this is a VHS tape exactly like you said… the kind you couldn’t rent but your friend’s dad rented. That’s what we went into the film wanting to create.
TrunkSpace: Is there something to be said too with a micro budget where, as a filmmaker, it forces you to think outside the box and maybe land some gems that you wouldn’t have if you went into a production with a limitless budget?
Skiba: Yes and no. I’ve done multi-million dollar pictures and had all the toys. When it gets that big it becomes a lot of chefs in the kitchen, whereas something like this it was kind of liberating to not have six executive producers behind me from a network constantly poking the bear, so to say. It was liberating to be able to go and say, “Hey, Corin, let’s just try something crazy right here and see if it works.” Corin would come to me and say the same thing. “Hey, man, you mind if I riff a little bit here?” “Nah, go for it.” It was liberating and we found lots of gems, so yeah, I think there’s something to be said about that. Granted, the filmmaker in me would love to have all of the toys on the planet, but I feel like for what we were given and the time we had, we put out something that was entertaining and that’s ultimately the goal.
TrunkSpace: With that in mind, what are you most proud of with the film?
Skiba: I’m most proud that we can make people laugh. We can make people smile. We’ll take them out of their everyday lives for 90 minutes and entertain them and let them reminisce. I think the greatest thing about this film – and what I’m seeing from everybody that’s starting to see it and what they come back with – is the same thing that you felt. It’s reminiscent of when we were kids… when we were kids in the ‘80s and ‘90s and this Grindhouse VHS kind of genre that’s been lost. Everybody these days is trying to be 8K and super clean. I personally kind of like the 16mm look. I like my film a little bit dirty and not seeing everybody’s individual pores like crazy. There’s definitely a nostalgia kind of feeling that goes with that. I think that’s something that we all accomplished.
TrunkSpace: One of the things we noticed in looking over your career as a whole is just how many holiday movies you have had a hand in, and considering this one is coming out at Easter, we can’t help but wonder if this was a purposeful career path you set yourself on or if it has been by chance?
Skiba: Yeah, the Christmas movies kind of just happened. It (“Rottentail”) is kind of my revenge on having to do so many of these Christmas movies I guess. I fell into Christmas. I did a couple thrillers, a couple horror films, and then a guy came to me and said, “Hey, look, if you write a Christmas movie I could sell it.” So I wrote “Defending Santa” and sure enough, the guy sold it. Then I met the network execs and the producers and I just kind of got into TV as far doing the TV movies. Since then I’ve done 17 TV movies. It’s been a great education and a the same time, it’s been a great career. I enjoy doing them. I have one coming out in October, but this time it’s a little step up. It’s for Universal Studios. I’ve got an actual studio release in October with Denise Richards, Patrick Muldoon and Barbara Eden called “My Adventures with Santa.” That one is a lot of fun too. If you enjoy “Rottentail” you’ll enjoy “My Adventures with Santa” as well just because it’s a fun kind of throwback feel Christmas movie.
“Rottentail” is available in select theaters now.