Gavin Schmitt Interviews Director Steve Wolsh
Steve Wolsh is from Cape Cod, and someone who is willing to sacrifice everything to be the best filmmaker he can be. He has sold his property and invested it in his first feature, “Muck”. (affiliate link) This endeavor can only be called a success — the movie looks great, sounds great, and he was able to land some decent names: horror veteran Kane Hodder and Playboy Playmate Jaclyn Swedberg.
Steve was kind enough to share some stories on March 19, 2015, a few days after his film hit shelves on Blu-ray from Image Entertainment.
GS: I hear that a few days ago Dread Central and Fangoria joined you at the Playboy Mansion.
SW: That’s true, that did happen. We were working with the tagline “Indie Horror Never Looked So Good”. It was a big thrill and an honor to have my movie premiere at the Playboy Mansion.
GS: Why is St. Patrick’s Day such a key part of the film?
SW: The movie takes place on St. Patrick’s Day. The idea is that these students and ex-students are doing a “campground crawl” for Spring Break. That’s sort of an east coast thing, and it takes place around St. Patrick’s Day. So the movie takes place over six hours, and all three films in the trilogy will finish this out — the day before and the day after.
GS: Was there a reason you specifically went with St. Patrick’s Day?
SW: The timing just made sense. The way I wanted the marsh to look and feel, and to incorporate more of an east thing, it just made sense. But also, there’s no other horror movies that have really laid claim to it. You have “Leprechaun”, but that doesn’t have to happen on St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe people could watch the “Muck” movies and play a drinking game.
GS: In the credits, you single out Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino as inspirations. What is it about their work that strikes you?
SW: I really like the idea that Robert just went out there and did it. And that’s very much what I did. I had a real job and I quit it. I sold everything to make this movie, and I did it without anyone’s help or permission. That’s how Robert started. With Quentin, he’s just a very bold storyteller. He doesn’t follow the norms of how a story should be told. But, in fact, with Robert, his Troublemaker Studios bailed me out. I needed more shovels and chains, more props, and they said whatever I wanted they would send. At no cost, they just sent a bunch of real props. We kept going through shovels. So that’s why Robert and Troublemaker is thanked in the credits, because they actually helped with the film.
GS: How did you get Ben Bornstein, who is a very experienced makeup artist?
SW: I did a lot of research, and I was looking for someone who was local. He’s kind of based out of New York now, but at the time he was just outside of Boston. So I sent him the script, and I talked to him, and he loved the idea of the bad guys and the violent script. So he was into it. Which was good, because it would take six hours to do makeup and we used something like 7000 pieces of scars and tribal tattoos he had to make. He made the ax that goes through Kane Hodder. So he did the props and the makeup.
GS: “Muck” was mixed at Universal Studios Sound Facilities. How does someone not affiliated with Universal get access to that?
SW: Well, we had Owen Granich-Young, who did touch up work on “You’re Next” and many other things. Owen is a big horror guy and he was in charge of doing sound design for “Muck”. He knew another guy, Eddie Bydalek, who runs Universal Studios. Eddie liked the film and he decided he was going to do it himself on the weekends. We kept getting bumped because “Fast and the Furious 6” was running behind. The room looks like a theater with a 45-foot mixing board in the middle of it. So you can edit in real time and move sounds to different parts of the theater. It was cool and definitely adds to the film.
GS: Along with the sound, your score is made from a wide variety of instruments, no synthesizers. Outside of hiring Hans Zimmer, how does someone accomplish that?
SW: We had three guys. Dan and Josh Marschak, and Miles Senzaki. Those kids are only in their 20s or early 30s. They’re going to win an Oscar someday. I approached them, I knew them, and they put their heart and soul into that score for the better part of six months. Miles has a studio he built in his grandmother’s house after she died. They have everything you can think of for instruments, and even a 120-year old grand piano. They played everything and worked on it. It’s a great score, a very diverse score, with everything from banjos to oboes to guitar. It’s a huge undertaking.
GS: Not everyone knows, but Kane Hodder is a highly intelligent guy. He’s also obviously very experienced with stunts. Did he lend a hand beyond his acting?
SW: He’s definitely a stunt guy at heart. A lot of people say he was only in the movie a little bit and they wish he was in more. I do, too, but logistically his time is valuable and we only had him for one day. He had to do six hours of makeup, two stunts, a fight scene, a death scene. He was great, though, because he knew the best way to smash a guy’s head into the wall. The death scene he’s a part of is pretty elaborate. There’s a girl getting dragged up the stairs — she has nothing on but a towel and is being dragged by an ax. And there’s no CGI. So there’s this board, shaved to the shape of her body, and a real ax that has been chopped off and welded. And then this is all rigged to a pulley system between the ax and the stairs, which took four guys pulling with Kane to get her up the stairs. Her tears were real. If we didn’t have someone like Kane to really get it down, and know the timing in such a short period of time, there’s no way it would have played as well.
GS: You’ve said this is the first time Kane has been shirtless in a film. It’s interesting how you were the first to take what could be seen as a handicap (his scarring) and make it a positive.
SW: Yeah. Kane was involved in a car accident during a stunt and got pretty badly burned. That was maybe around 1978. Well, I talked it over with him, and I showed him I had scars on my chest and knew he had scars on his chest. We talked about it even before we met. He liked the idea that we would be incorporating his real scars with the fake scars and prosthetics. We made this really cool look, with some being real and some added. Usually he wears a body suit. In “Hatchet” (affiliate link) he wears a body suit and even as Jason he has a mask on. So it’s different to see his face with just makeup. I think he enjoyed it. I don’t know if he loved the six hours of makeup, but he liked the end product.
GS: Obviously, the next project is the prequel. But IMDb has something called “Tommy’s Fault” — is that firm and what can you hint at?
SW: That might be pushed back a bit since we’re now looking at a “Muck” trilogy and will do that first. That will be my first non-horror movie. We’re developing it, just waiting for space in the production schedule. I’d like to do more horror movies, but that one won’t be. Right now it’s all “Muck” (affiliate link) all the time. We got two more in the trilogy.
GS: So, do you see yourself as a “horror guy”, or is that just one genre of many for you?
SW: Yes. And yes. I love horror movies, and the idea of making horror movies, and I’ll probably make a lot more horror movies. But at the same time, I’d like to explore other stories and other things. But those other things will still be very violent. A lot of death. I’m not making any romantic comedies any time soon. I’d like to make an action movie without CGI. Pushing those boundaries of what I can do and still keep the film real, that’s what I’m looking to do through my career.