Interview: The Violent Kind’s Don Lewis

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Producer of the ’70s-style biker/horror film

A lot of buzz is building around The Violent Kind as its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival fast approaches. Co-producer Don Lewis was kind enough to answer some questions about the film’s influences, making a horror flick, the challenges of the distribution game and more.

ShockTillYouDrop: How did you initially get involved with the film? Was it a desire to work in horror or just chance that you worked in the genre?

Don Lewis: I hang out at a bunch of bars here in Petaluma (near San Francisco) as a way to drown my sorrows for washing out so quickly in L.A. About five or six years ago I ran into Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores (aka The Butcher Brothers) out drinking one night. Long story short, Mitch, Phil and I became buddies and after making two short docs that did some film festivals, I told them I was really interested in being on set for their next film as features were something I wanted to do but was fairly clueless on how they all came together. I also knew some people that had some money and I offered to get them some and in lieu of a finder’s fee for the money, I wanted a producer credit. This was about eight or nine months ago and the scripts they wanted to shoot were going to be around $1 million-$2 million. By then the financial crisis sank in and no one wanted to part with cash from their hedge funds and whatnot, so those projects were relegated to the backburner. But they also had this quick and filthy dirty little film called The Violent Kind that could be made for less money. Away we went.

Shock: What was the production process like? What was it like to make a horror movie?

Lewis: It was a blast! I mean, it’s really kind of the ultimate creative make-believe movie kind of atmosphere because you read a script and are like “wow, that’s awesome and messed up and gross!” Then you cast it and these people come to life and it’s like dress-up. Then there’s makeup and special effects and blood! It was just so fun! I mean, aside from maybe making a costume-heavy period piece or some billion dollar film, I can’t imagine a better time on set where you’re just transporting everyone to a different, creative world.

Without sounding cheesy, the shoot was really like summer camp. We shot the whole feature in 21 days, which is insane. We shot all night – usually 5pm until 5am – so there was a real bond and camaraderie on the set. We were all excited and having fun and it really was just such a great experience. Obviously it was incredibly exhausting and we all got pretty punchy towards the midway point, but it was really fun and exciting. Now, to be rewarded with an opportunity to play Sundance is damn near overwhelming to me.

Shock: What are the film’s influences? What kind of look/feel is it going for?

Lewis: It’s really unlike any other movie I’ve ever seen, horror or otherwise. Tone-wise, there’s a real ’70s vibe going on…grindhouse style but also just gritty ’70s stuff like Vanishing Point, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia or even something like Five Easy Pieces, but not the storyline of those obviously. Just a dirty feel with a very humanistic side to it. But then there’s this real tight family conflict story in there and, of course, some seriously insane horror as well. I also felt a real David Lynch quality when I saw the final cut of the film. It’s stylized, but also has realistic people in a fucked up situation, much like Blue Velvet. It’s just an odd, weird, scary, sexy and gross film. Plus what I also think is great about the film is it doesn’t feel like we just threw in everything but the kitchen sink to make people feel overwhelmed and freaked out. It all feels really organic and somehow natural to the story. I think a lot of that has to do with the Butcher Brothers vision coupled with James Laxton’s amazing cinematography, as well as the truly awesome acting by everyone involved.

Shock: What are the challenges in the distribution game these days?

Lewis: As for distribution, yeah…there are huge challenges. But I just can’t really speak to it because it’s confusing to me and seems really out of whack with what audiences want. I will say, we want theatrical distribution and really don’t see how we won’t end up with a better than decent DVD release. I guess I just don’t understand what studios are thinking these days in terms of small films and genre films. I’m certainly not “calling anyone out” but it seems to me the current model of distribution isn’t really working for them or anyone. One big issue I see is a disconnect with the audience.

How can a film like Grace, Trick ‘r Treat or The House of the Devil get critical raves and mass audience love and then land almost directly on DVD and VOD? Why aren’t these films in theaters? People freaked out over Paranormal Activity and that sat on a shelf for how long? Two years? When people originally saw that, they loved it. Then it got bought and the studio sat on it and tested it and tried to change it around. Why? The audience needs to be listened to and instead it’s up to people in suits who need to run tests and screw with stuff in order to keep their job and seem like they’re important. If audiences and critics really dig The Violent Kind, why wouldn’t a studio give it a theatrical run before putting it on DVD? That’s my hope at least.

Click here for more on the film, including a look at the Sundance poster and photos!


Source: Paul Doro

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Weekend: Nov. 15, 2018, Nov. 18, 2018

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