HERMAN’S MONSTERS Talking With Director/Writer Phil Herman by Owen Keehnen

Outspoken filmmaker Phil Herman has been making movies since he received a video camera for his 14th birthday. Currently he is the head honcho at Falcon video (not that Falcon video, the horror studio!) and has directed, written, and appeared in a number of films often featuring his signature actors Joel D. Wynkoop, Debbie D, and Nancy Feliciano. He wrote the script and directed himself as the bloodthirsty murdering motorist Mike Rivers in ‘Jacker’ and wrote and starred in the sequel ‘Jacker 2’. Some of his other writing/directing credits include ‘The Burglar From Hell’, ‘Before I Die…’, ‘Around Midnight’, ‘After Midnight’, ‘Tales Till The End’, ‘Hell on Earth: Arena of Death’, ‘Horrortales 666’, etc. Mr. Herman has also made cameo appearances in a slew of other films such as ‘Day of the Ax 3: Bloodletting’ with Tina Krause and Lilith Stabs. His latest project (and certainly an important one) was to sit down and answer a few questions for racksandrazors.

  Owen: Herman I heard your first movie, 'Hell on Earth: Arena of Death', took 6 years to complete.  What were the main lessons you learned from that marathon filming experience?

Phil: Get permits and avoid filming in public places. We filmed at an abandoned bathhouse on an army base and they did not like us destroying their property with mutants. But as always finish what you start no matter what. We had injuries, arrests, fights you name it but we finished it and showed everyone what you can do on such a little budget if you put your mind to it. It was my Waterworld but anyone that knows of us always asks about the Arena!

Owen: Several of your films are also in anthology format such as 'Horrortales 666', 'Tales Till the End', and 'Before I Die...' as a filmmaker as well as film fan what about that sort of segmented horror appeals to you?

Phil: I have found out anthologies take only a few months to do while a feature takes a year or more. I like anthologies because if a story sucks you as the viewer only have to sit there and watch for 10-15 minutes and say I hope to God that the next segment is better. Plus the attention span of your average American is about 10 minutes before they start hitting that fast forward button! So this way when they are about to reach the button it is over and another segment comes on.
Your films also have a tendency to use and reuse the same stable of actors (Debbie D. Nancy Feliciano, Joel D. Wynkoop) and technicians.  Does that help make for a more relaxed environment on the set?

Phil: It is like a family reunion. I have found that people write me and ask where is so and so how is he doing? Why is he not in your movie? Our hard core fans turned there noses down to Around Midnight because it was the first movie to not include anyone from our previous movies, it was all new cast and stood on its own. While sales were good and reviews were also good the fan base stayed away cause no familiar names were attached. Go figure!

Owen: Are the roles written specifically for those actors?

Phil: A lot of times yes. All the roles in Jacker were written specifically for the parts they played. It is more realistic like that and easier for the actors to deal with the roles. The vamp scripts for the Midnight series was not like that but I have been involved with such great talent they were able to handle it.
Owen: You've also appeared in many films as well, most notably as your own leading man the murderous motorist Mike Rivers in 'Jacker' and 'Jacker 2'.  Tell me a little bit about your take on the role?

Phil: At the time we filmed that there was a big problem about car jacking. It was in the news all the time. I turned it into a take on a lunatic that takes advantage of it because of his bitterness towards society. I got a ton of female fans and notice because of the male nudity in it -- something that people shy away from in these movies but wanted girl to watch our films also...it worked we have very large girl fan base and that is why we have no problem getting actresses, they feel like it is equal exposure
Owen: Where did that idea come from?

Phil: Like I said it was in the news everyday and I did not want to do a basic guy car jacking people but I used the Car jacking as a backdrop and developed around it to create a cruel story of revenge on people that were happy and really disturbed the Jacker!
Owen: Do you think the reality-based violence in those 2 films is more disturbing than fantasy?

Phil: Yes, people always say that these movies were the most disturbing because they were filmed in like a nightmarish fashion and had nothing good or bright in it. We tried to film on dreary days and at night. And in the sequel created a true hell that haunts everyone that has seen it. The first was such a basic idea but really blossomed with the sequel into a real psychological thriller. My good friend Barry Gaines directed the sequel in order for me to focus on the script and the character 100%. We were mentally drained with the completion and people still are begging for one more!
Owen: Any chance for a 'Jacker 3'?

Phil: As of now there are two different sequels written. This is a question I have to answer every day. But we are having problems getting the main characters involved. I had one script that had my involvement to the minimum -- but everyone shot it down, then I have my other script that has the remaining characters and a mysterious survivor who survived his fury looking for revenge. It is just too hard to make these movies and unless I get everyone it won’t be made!
Owen: As the head honcho at Falcon Video do you have any sort of mission statement about the type of films you want to make and distribute?

Phil: I want to make entertaining movies that people talk about after and say, “Hey that was fun I really want to see their next movie.”
Owen: Do you often get confused with Falcon, the gay XXX studio?

Phil: Oh yeah, we always thought of changing the name but we have had the Falcon name for over 2 decades and hate to lose it. Especially when Jacker came out...the title was confusing...I still don't see it! WINK! It really upsets me sometimes but we have enough people and fans to notice the difference. Our movies overflow with beautiful girls and in no way do people think we’re the same as what they’re putting out!
Owen: Tell me about your cameo appearance in 'Day of the Ax 3: Bloodletting'.

Phil: I was asked to play a mental patient and jumped at the chance to be in a 4th floor production. Ryan is one of my good friends and I have worked with him a few times. I have done numerous cameos and unlike some Indies never say no to a cameo if asked!
Owen: The delicious Julie Strain also makes a cameo appearance in 'Horrortales 666'.  What was working with her like?

Phil: She taped her stuff and pretty much told us to make sure that we put "Cameo ". She did not want to mislead her fans.

Owen: Did you make a sales pitch to have her join Debbie D and Nancy Feliciano as a Falcon scream queen?

Phil: I sent her a copy of one of our movies and she dug Nancy and said she would love to be in the movie. She is not a person for many words but it was a dream come true to have her involved. She was very professional and would love to get in another movie hopefully soon!
Owen: Speaking of which, Nancy Feliciano has recently announced her retirement.  She has said before that you can sweet-talk her into anything.  Do you think you can lure her out of retirement to make a few more films?

Phil: I am trying I have been begging for the last two weeks to get her in the final Midnight movie. Everyone that bought After Midnight said they want to see more of her and look forward to have her in the final installment. I have to start turning on the charm more because as of now I can’t get her to change her mind! But I will not quit. I think I will get her in there in some form or another!

Owen: You have been quoted as saying "I always say the worst movie a B maker can make is better than any Hollywood A list production".  Could you please clarify that comment?

Phil: B movie makers are real filmmakers that make what they want to make. They don't follow the guidelines of a studio and go under a rating system. So many A movies are bombing and the studios are suffering while little arty movies are bringing in the money. Look at Lion’s Gate they are rolling in the dough putting out B-movies such as Saw, Devils Rejects and their whole video line. Now if they would just open their doors to the little guys will be talking to me quality entertainment for their lacking video line! I was almost going to stop making movies and I hooked up with a guy named Chris Kahler. He turned out to be a wiz at editing and a fantastic musician. We have made two movies so far and working on our third. Between him and my other buddy, cult icon Joel D. Wynkoop we’re going strong and popping them out.

Owen: What scares you in real life?

Phil: Not being able to make movies anymore!

Owen: Well I hope that fear never becomes a reality. Thanks Phil.