The Liquori Is Talking: A Few Minutes With Director/Writer/Producer Jason Liquori by Owen Keehnen

Jason Liquori loves making movies. He’s completely dedicated to it. He’s written, edited, shot, produced, and directed his own projects and is the force behind Hocus Focus Productions – an independent film production company out of Central Florida. He’s the kind of guy we need in the horror flick trenches. Recently he finished the chaptered movie gore fest ‘Death Plots’ (2005) with Debbie Rochon, Hollie Wynnard, and the incomparable Joel D. Wynkoop. A couple of Liquori’s previous titles include: ‘The Lunar Pack’ (2004), and ‘The Dark Rose: Feedin’ and Breedin’ (1998). Currently he is co-producing ‘Hoodoo for Voodoo’ (2006) with director Steven Shea which definitely boasts an enticing cast that includes Debbie Rochon, Tiffany Shepis, Lloyd Kaufman, and Linnea Quigley. Jason’s newest chapter horror opus in the works is ‘All Wrapped Up’ (2006) which is slated to star hostess Rochon as well.

Just after the holidays Jason was kind enough to kick off his shoes, put his feet up on the desk, and ask a few questions for from his home office.



Owen: Hey Jason, why not start off with a visual for all the readers and describe the room where you're doing this interview?

Jason: Oh, this will be fun.  I'm in my home office and editing suite, which is in full Christmas recovery mode.  Since my wife pretty much takes over the house for the Holidays (except Halloween, that one is mine) I have retreated to my office.  There are werewolf costumes hanging in the closet, which I cannot close because it is overstuffed with prop guns.  My desk has the computer and is covered in DVD's, CD-R's and 3.5' floppy disks.  There is a homemade mirror on what should be my second chair.  It is waiting to be cut into a shield for ALL WRAPPED UP and there is a 14 inch tall model robot that is going to be stop motion animated for that movie on a dresser in the corner.  Three equipment shelves have my cameras and lights on them and scattered boxes and bags contain the props I've been collecting for the past two months.  Oh, and the body of a blue furry puppet is sitting by the door.  He's not quite finished.

Owen: I want to hear about your newest project 'Death Plots'.  What's the premise, who's in it, how are you involved, etc?----

Jason: DEATH PLOTS takes four different looks at The Grim Reaper.  I wanted to do another set of shorts and zombies and vampires seem to be pretty well covered.  I figured Death, as a character, still had a lot of open angles and it would be fun to look at some of them.  Most of the stories deal with Death as a guy with a job.  After all Reapers don't kill people, they just sort of collect them. Debbie Rochon, Kevin White, Hollie Winnard, and Joel Wynkoop head up a great ensemble cast for me.  Kevin has been in most of my projects since he first acted for me in "Hit and Miss".  Debbie and Joel add that veteran element to the movie.  Hollie Winnard is a model who wanted to do some acting.  I threw her in feet first with a role that required drama and comedy and I think she did an excellent job.  Lloyd Kaufman was also kind enough to make a cameo appearance. As for my involvement, well, I did everything.  That's not true, I had lots of help, but anything that had not been done, I did.  I was the writer and director for all four shorts.  My wife and I funded the movies with the whopping $3K budget (there's one vacation we didn't take). She did a lot of my camera work and still photography when I couldn't.  I also did the producing, casting, and acted in two of the shorts.  Make-up F/X were handled by Tabatha Gipe, but the other "special" F/X were done by me and Babette II (my computer system).

Owen: 'Death Plots' is a chapter movie hosted by Debbie Rochon.  What do you think is the appeal of the segmented horror flick from a viewer as well as a production perspective?

Jason: I, like many people nowadays, have a short attention span.  I think having segmented pieces makes it easier to watch a story, get involved and be satisfied in a short period of time.  Before you get bored with the story you're moving onto the next one.  With that said, we are taking a new approach with ALL WRAPPED UP and the stories will be a little more intertwined than in the first two movie sets. From a production standpoint the advantages are huge, but there are some drawbacks too.  When you have people working for food and a credit it's easier to ask them for two days than fourteen.  I can shoot with 4 separate groups of people and only need a small commitment from each of them.  Debbie Rochon shot her segments for last year when she visited Florida for Megacon to help promote THE LUNAR PACK.  It saved us travel expenses.  It also helps to spread production out and keep continuity easier.  If you can shoot one entire story in three days you worry less about actors changing their looks, losing a location or having someone sell the car their character drives in the movie.  You can spread out costs across a few months without interrupting the production of a specific story. On the negative side, just when your cast is getting into the groove of it all you wrap up and move onto the next short.

Owen: I am also anxious to hear all about 'Hoodoo for Voodoo' with Linnea Quigley which you are co-producing with director Steven Shea for Abyssmal Productions.-----

Jason: Hoodoo for Voodoo is a HUGE undertaking. Steven has brought a whole new level to super low budget movie making and that's what I'm trying to help him with.  He's assembled an excellent crew and the cast is astounding.  Linnea Quigley, Debbie Rochon and Tiffany Shepis have already shot scenes for the movie and Lloyd Kaufman has agreed to make an appearance in this one as well. We started shooting in Louisiana back before the hurricanes hit and everyone involved with Hoodoo was shocked and saddened by what happened in that part of the country.  The people there were very kind to us and we made a lot of friends in the New Orleans area.   An email circulated while we checked on everyone and thankfully the Hoodoo cast and crew got through it all okay. All I can say about this movie is it will be funny, scary and gory on levels that only a true fan of the genre like Steven Shea can bring to the screen.

Owen: Tell me about your production company Hocus Focus Productions.  How did it come about and what do you have as a statement of intent?

Jason: Hocus Focus Productions started out as an event video company.  We did weddings, parties and junk like that.  (A guy's gotta pay the bills).  Years ago I was writing an online story about a vampire hunter to keep the creative juices flowing and one of the readers decided he'd like to see it as a movie.  He funded the production of DARK ROSE: FEEDIN' & BREEDIN.  I stopped doing movies for awhile, but couldn't keep away for long, so I pulled out some old stories and shot some shorts.  In a year we had three shorts.  With the advanced in digital shooting and editing gear I realized I could come much closer to my vision with the budgets I had to work with and decided that it was time to get back to making some movies that had the unusual elements I enjoy so much. I guess Hocus Focus Productions intent is to make independent movies right here in Central Florida, whether they be horror, sci-fi or any other genre.  We produce our own and also strive to help other indies bring their ideas to the screen.

Owen: Now you were the director, producer, cinematographer, editor, and writer (in varying capacities) on 'Death Plots' (2005), 'The Lunar Pack' (2004), and 'Dark Rose: Feedin' and Breedin' (1998).  Which of those jobs gives you the greatest pleasure and which is the toughest for you to perform? ----

Jason: Undoubtedly I enjoy writing and editing the most.  The writing gives you the most freedom, especially when you are writing something for someone else to shoot.  You don't worry as much about budget at this stage.  Of course, later things will probably be scaled down to match up with the realities of shooting.  Editing is just magic.  You get to see all those little elements come together and work (you hope).  An effect sells, an actor or actress gave you a great take, the paper mache boulder looks real.  All of these things just come with such a feeling of accomplishment. As for the toughest tasks, it's balancing producing with director.  Imagine being a kid and parent at the same time.  You really want that toy, but you also have to tell yourself it's too expensive.  As the director, you know what you want the scene to look like, but as a producer you have to decide if it is worth the time, money, and effort to get a specific location, prop or actress, etc.  My Dad was the first to point out that in most cases these two personalities are at odds and should balance each other out, but when they're the same person it causes an internal conflict.  I've solved it with the "three things" philosophy.  On any project a director gets three things that he cannot bend on.  Those elements must be there at the cost of all others.  For Death Plots I had even given one of those up and two of my actors saved me.  I wanted matching American sedans for the Federal Agents and couldn't afford to rent them (sad, huh?), but two of my actors showed up in dark Chevy's and I was in heaven.

Owen: So is there anyone within this industry (or outside of it I guess) who you use as an inspirational guide for how you want to run your career?

Jason: I remember something Debbie Rochon said in an interview and it really stuck with me.  She stated that she takes a "blue collar" approach to acting.  I do the same with movie making.  I work when I can on what I can and ask a fair wage in return.  I do my best to make movies I enjoy and eek out a living while I do it.  I'd rather have a long career that pays the bills than make one movie that is a blockbuster and never have my work put on a screen (however small) again.

Owen: Do you have any other projects you would like to plug, promote, or want all the readers at to know about?

Jason: ALL WRAPPED UP is the project we are shooting this year.  It is four mummy shorts this time connected by overlapping characters, but don't worry, Misty (Debbie Rochon) will be doing an introduction and making an appearance that reveals more about her character.  This will hopefully be the set up for a feature to be shot in 2007.

Owen: Okay now it's time for some pure fantasy Jason.  Tell me all about the cast and plot synopsis of your dream project.  Remember there are no limits.

Jason: As for cast, I have always wanted to work with Malcolm McDowell.  I would also love to put Julie Strain in a project and then actually give high paying roles to the actors who have stuck with me all this time.  I'd like to a mad doctor with a creature that goes awry type of story. Malcolm McDowell creates a genetically perfect soldier who then leaves him and falls in love with the daughter of a crime boss.  The super-soldier becomes the scourge of the underworld as he works as the woman's enforcer, but our evil Doctor won't stand for his creation being disobedient, so he sends out the prototypes, which are far less attractive and even more savage, to bring his renegade project down. Something like that.  What can I say?  I dream small.

Owen: Jason what cinematic sub-theme does it for you & why - vampires, werewolves, creatures, ghosts, aliens, witches, zombies, psychos, etc?

Jason: Creatures in general, but werewolves especially.  I actually do a wildlife show online and have always been fascinated with animals.  I love movies that exploit a specific animal's special abilities and then multiply it to a ridiculous level.  I usually find myself siding with the creature though.

Owen: We're pulling the car into the Jason Liquori Drive In.  What three horror flicks are on the triple bill and what goodies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

Jason: Evil Dead, Tromeo and Juliet, The Wolfman, Popcorn, Cherry Licorice whips, and pizza.  Always pizza.

Owen: Other than my own work, the last really awesome horror movie I saw was _________.

Jason: Vampire Resurrection, but it did have the advantage of Denice Duff doing a live commentary.

Owen: What scares you in real life?

Jason: People. Really, if I had the choice of running into a bear of strange people in the woods, I'd choose the bear.