Friday, October 07, 2016

Barry J. Gillis Talks About THINGS and Other Things



The following is an interview I conducted via email with Barry J. Gillis, who was generous enough to answer some of my questions about THINGS and other things. If you're unaware, Barry was the co-writer - along with director Andrew Jordan - and star of the 1989 Canadian horror movie THINGS. It was a low budget, independent, horror exploitation film that was transferred and released straight-to-video. Despite having a reputation as a very bad movie, it has gained a cult following among the horrorphiles and B-movie fanatics.
 

The interview focuses heavily on THINGS but Barry does talk a bit about some movies he himself has directed.
 

Here then is that interview. I hope you find it interesting.

THINGS poster.jpgBy Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23128341

In a nutshell, what is THINGS about?
 

Barry J Gillis: THINGS at its heart is about a man and woman who cannot have children, and the man has his wife undergo an experiment by Dr. Lucas... Lucas artificially impregnates his wife... We don't actually see this taking place, however, we do see other sick experiments that Dr. Lucas conducts in his dungeon...
 

What do you attribute to the cult popularity of THINGS and are you surprised by its notoriety?
 

BJG: I attribute a tonne of factors to THINGS having a cult following... The number one thing that I attribute is a universal energy of the universe... I believe that anybody can set out to make a movie that they hope will be a cult film, however, for it to actual happen is a million to one... The stars in the sky have to be aligned a certain way, and everything has to somehow fall in place by some crazy, and/or lucky spin of the wheel... We always hoped that THINGS would become a cult movie, but we were surprised... When the internet first came out, people started e-mailing and asking about the movie, and some people were requesting interviews... We also heard that it was on the Internet Movie Database. Whatever that was, lol... Over time we started to realize that THINGS had some real stamina. Mel Lieberman was the first person to release THINGS, and we are forever grateful that his company, Lettuce Entertain You Inc. under the Triworld/Interamerican label released the movie... I will tell you this... making THINGS was not an easy task... We were learning as we went, and shooting on film is not as easy as shooting digitally these days... Anyway, to answer your question, for whatever reason, THINGS has stamina, and we are still surprised by all of the acclaim good, and bad that the movie gets... It will be released in Japan soon on DVD...

 
I noticed in some outtakes, the loud whirring of the camera while filming. Was this the reason that you ended up dubbing all the dialogue?

BJG: The sound was horrible.

Some of the footage, (from what I remember) was silent Super 8 footage. We had some of that, for when there would be nobody talking...when people were talking, we used Super 8 film that recorded sound.

However, the sound was horrible. The camera sound was so bad, that we could not live with it.

When we shot Amber Lynn's scenes on 16mm, we made sure to record the sound better...

Anyway, it was bad, so we decided to dub everyone's part in, and that is what we did.

It was tough to get the sound synced to what was happening on the screen. What people see is something after 20, 30, and sometimes more takes.

The 3/4 Inch machines that we were using to edit the movie were garbage.

Edits would keep slipping, or you would edit a bunch of stuff, and then realize later that one of the edits was off... But, if you were too far ahead in the editing when you noticed, you could not go back, unless you edited all of the footage again... All of the footage that came after a bad edit...

If not, you would have to transfer the 3/4 tape to another 3/4 tape, thereby losing a generation.

The main goal was to make a movie and get it distributed... We overlooked flaws that we thought were minor... As years went by, people would point out all kinds of flaws that we never even realized were flaws at the time...

What is the significance of your character putting his jacket in the freezer?

BJG: I honestly cannot remember 100% why I put my jacket in the freezer, but I think that I wanted to get rid of the jacket so that I would not have to wear it the entire movie, and we needed a place to discover the tape recorder... So, I believe that is why the scene took place the way that it did... We
killed two birds with one stone...

I was able to catch references to several other movies in your film such as Last House On The Left and Evil Dead among others. I might have missed some, so what other movies were you paying homage to in THINGS?

BJG: We paid homage to George A. Romero, and even used footage from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in the movie. We were paying homage to David Cronenberg... In general, we were paying homage to horror movies, because we were big fans of horror movies...

Newscaster in THINGS
Amber Lynn as newscaster
Speaking of Amber Lynn, I noticed in her scenes that she is looking way off to the side when speaking her lines. Was she reading off of cue cards and if so, were they not placed near the camera?

BJG: She was reading off cue cards because I changed a lot of the lines that she was supposed to originally say...

The cue cards were held in the wrong spot, so that is why she is getting caught looking at the cue cards. The cue cards were held off to the left of the camera, and too far below the camera, from what I remember...

 
You also showed some clips of Groundhog's Day Massacre, another movie of yours. What was the plot of that and was it ever completed?

BJG: Groundhogs Day Massacre was actually clips from the failed BRUTAL VIOLENCE, our first attempt at making a feature film... I don't believe that there was much of a plot. It was just a serial killer going around killing... We soon realized that we needed money to make a movie and people who were dedicated to helping get the movie done... I felt that we shouldn't let our first attempt go to total waste, and so a couple of clips play on the TV... a tradition that I have been doing with every movie that I have made since. I have a clip playing in the movie of the last movie... With WICKED WORLD, THINGS plays on the TV... With THE KILLING GAMES, WICKED WORLD plays on the T.V. with HOUSE OF MANY SORROWS, a clip of THE KILLING GAMES plays on the T.V... It is a tradition that I will continue to do with every feature film that I make... Having a clip of the movie before playing on the TV...



Considering that there was nudity in THINGS, was Amber Lynn surprised that you wanted her for a non-nude role?

BJG: She never said anything, and part of selling the idea to her and her agent (who was her boyfriend at the time) was just to have her in the movie. We just wanted her for her name, we were not concerned about having her go nude. Andy (Andrew Jordan) always reminds me that I had originally wrote a scene where Amber and I would be kissing, but the agent/boyfriend was not interested in Amber doing any of that in a movie... hahhahhaha...

To me, THINGS is quintessentially Canadian, being Canadian myself. There are hockey-hair mullets, lots of beer guzzling and references to maple syrup and yet it's set somewhere in California. Why did you choose to set it there?

BJG: It was supposed to take place in a place that was remote as hell, and we wanted to pretend that the movie took place in the United States.

From what I remember, I checked a map of the U.S.A. out, (this is before the internet) and I looked specifically in California, and I found Grizzly Flats... I thought that sounded very remote, and it was... At least it looked remote on the map... I believe the closest big city that I remember seeing next was Sacramento... I brought all of these locations to Andy, and he agreed... So, that's how it all went down from what I remember...

In general, everything was made up as we went along, with the exception of the basic skeleton story.

Andy had the main story outlined, by the time I had come up to Toronto... which was a man and woman who could not have kids, and so they went to the Doctor and she was impregnated. He had certain scenes figured out...He also had what the creatures would look like figured out...

In all honesty, directing and running the camera are not easy tasks, especially when you have other pressures happening... For instance asking his mother and father for more and more money... money which after awhile, they were getting more and more reluctant to give... Anyway, this I believe wore Andy down, and to fill in the basic outline of the story, I would add scenes, and write all kinds of crazy dialogue at night...

We shot THINGS for one month straight, I went down to Cape Breton for one week, and came back for another month... It was a grueling experience, that seemed to be taking forever, but I believe that I must have enjoyed the torture of moviemaking, because I am still making movies...

So we shot for a month, a week off, then another month, and Amber's scenes came later...

Is it true that Andrew Jordan told you to say that THINGS cost $350,000 to make because it would attract more publicity for the movie? If so, do you think that strategy worked?

BJG: Andrew Jordan said that we should say the budget is higher, because he figured that we would be taken more serious, by any potential stories in the media, etc... I agreed with him, but as time went on, I told him that we should let people know the real budget for the movie...



Who designed and fabricated the creatures in THINGS and were they somewhat inspired by the creatures in the movie Alien?

Andy drew the original THINGS. The drawings and concept for the creatures were Andy's. I never heard him ever say that he was inspired by ALIENS, although I believe that ALIENS was a movie that he really liked. I still have never seen ALIEN, or ALIENS myself, although I have seen some clips here and there... 

THINGS
creature in THINGS
Glenn Orr was paid to bring the creatures to life. There was one creature that actually moved, and it moved really well until it got covered with fake blood and slime... There were another number of creatures that were built to look as good as the first one, and to be used for cutting up, etc, and there were a tonne more made to just be replicas in the background... Those were like cement... I don't know what the hell those were made out of, but they were heavy as hell, and were like concrete...





Watching the outtakes with the original audio, I think you guys gave better acting performances compared to the dubbed performances. The dubbed acting seems a little more goofy than the original recording. Was this a deliberate shift in tone or was beer to blame?

BJG: There was no deliberate shift in tone. We were actually trying.

Everything we did was to try and make the best movie possible. It may sound difficult to believe, but our biggest goal was to a) make a movie and get it released, and b) try to make the best movie that we possibly could.

The drinking of beer, and partying on the movie set is actually exaggerated... you heard that here first from me... I mean, how would we ever get a movie completed if we were drunk or high on the movie set the entire time???

Out of all the actors, who had the hardest time keeping a straight face?

BJG: Jan (Jan W. Pachul), who starred as Dr. Lucas had trouble keeping a straight face...



Are you aware that someone has uploaded a ten hour loop of the THINGS intro music by STRYK-9? Is that awesome or strange?

BJG: Yes, I know about the ten hour music, lol... I have known about this for a long time, lol... I will get some of the stuff that I find taken down, as THINGS is under copyright, but I let the odd thing exist on Youtube...

I am fine with the upload, It's awesome... I have known about that upload for awhile... But, you never know when we will put a copyright notice in with Youtube. Sometimes we allow things to stay up, other times, we take them down due to copyright infringement. Most likely I/we will leave this one up on Youtube...

Who was or were STRYK-9 and what became of them?

BJG: Doug Bunston... He was a good friend at the time, but he failed to show up to the release at the Horror Convention in Toronto, when we released the Anniversary Edition... And he did a few backstabbing actions that Andy and I did not like around that time as well, so ADIOS. We have not talked to him in many years...

 
Can you tell us how Bruce Roach became involved with THINGS not only as the character of Fred but also with his band Familiar Strangers?

Bruce owned the Video Gore Store in Toronto. Andy, (Andrew Jordan) had met him because he was a customer of the store. Andy introduced me to Bruce, and I said, we have to have this total maniac for THINGS... I'm just kidding. Andy had already said that he wanted this guy named Bruce in the movie before I had even met him.

Bruce's Video Gore Store was busted by the police in Ontario a couple of times for stocking movies that were banned in Canada as the time, lol... In more recent times, Bruce came out to the movie set of my upcoming feature length film release starring Kim Sonderholm, HOUSE OF MANY SORROWS. He met Ginger Lynn Allen who is in the movie, as well as her boyfriend, and Tom Malloy, and everybody else that was involved in the production that was there that day... He lives in Toronto, but happened to be in Edmonton visiting... He took the 2 1/2 hour trip south to the movie location, and it was good to see him again, and catch up on old times... He stayed around the movie set for a few hour, and ate with the cast and crew, etc. He brought his son along that I never met before as well.



Generally I don't like people visiting my movie sets, but if it's someone involved in the industry, media, or especially someone that I have worked with before, (that I am on good terms with) there's a good chance if you contact me, and ask me, that I will let you visit the movie set. I just e-mailed Bruce recently about the Japanese release of THINGS coming out in Japan in August, and also I told him about the screening of THINGS in Toronto at Dundas Video Bar & Lounge. So we have been in touch as recently as last week...

Would you let MST3K riff your movie, THINGS?

BJG: Of course we would consider it, they would have to contact us, because Intervision/Severn does not have those kinds of licensing rights... And just in general anybody who is interested in broadcasting THINGS, should contact us, and that means contacting me, as I take care of all of the dealings with the movie. Andy stays in the background, but he is informed of all of the dealings, and we decide on all of the major action concerning THINGS together. For instance, when we sold the Japanese rights to the movie, (which is being released in Japan in August 2016) Andy and I discussed the entire deal in full together, etc, etc...

There were other people who asked us if we would do Rifftrax, and we said yes, but we never heard from them, so I don't know if Rifftrax was even contacted by the people that were asking us...

We don't go around pushing THINGS to be reviewed or, appear to be on any shows, etc, because THINGS has a life of it's own...

But in general, anybody, or any company who is interested in buying the rights to a remake of THINGS (1989) or PART 2, or wants to invest, or is interested in anything to do with making money off of THINGS (1989) they must contact us directly, as Andy and I are the copyright owners, and the movie is under copyright. Which means... All Rights Are Reserved with us, Ahahahhaha... Yea, Yeah...

We are always interested in just about any, and every offer, and or deal coming down the pike...

And I will remind anybody out there with any cash who is interested in taking THINGS (1989) to the next level, THINGS just continues to get bigger and bigger, and scoop up more die hard fans with each and every brand new day that passes.

In all honesty, Andy and I should have a website up selling t-shirts, posters, signed photos, etc, etc, because the demand is extremely high based on the amount of requests that we get everyday. We know that it would bring in a lot of cash, but we just have not had the time to put all of this together... So, if there is someone out there who wants to cash in on THINGS (1989), we are ready to make licensing deals for t-shirts, etc, etc...

Have you seen the Japanese artwork??? Un-Fucking Believable... This is the best artwork that I have seen yet for THINGS, and the fans just love it.

Ryohei Miyaji did the artwork, he owns HIGH BURN VIDEO, the company that is releasing the movie in Japan. It will also be available from the HIGH BURN VIDEO website as an import... Ryohei has made some great extras available as well ... Do I hear German release? France? Russia? We are game for everything concerning THINGS... Just show us the money... Lol... "


You have just experienced an interview about THINGS.
 
DVD cover art for Japanese release of THINGS

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