During the 2015 SXSW Film Festival, Daily Dead had the opportunity to catch up with several members of the cast and crew for Deathgasm, the wildly raucous tribute by Jason Lei Howden to all things horror and metal. We heard from Howden, producers Ant Timpson, Andrew Beattie as well as co-stars Milo Cawthorne and Kimberley Crossman about their involvement in the project and much more.
I have to congratulate you all on a great film- it was insanely fun to watch with a crowd like this and you certainly found some really unusual ways of killing people with sex toys which was beyond crazy.
Jason Lei Howden: Funny story about that; Andrew popped over with the “Church Stuff” box that was filled with dildos and said it was my gift from production. And they ended up accidentally in our garage sale; I had forgotten about them and some guy was going through all my stuff at the sale and I saw him pick up the box at first. Then, he just sort of made this face, put the box down and just walked away. Didn’t see that guy again (laughs). Hopefully the film does well so I can use them as screen-used props.
So how did the project come together?
Ant Timpson: There’s this horror competition that we run which is sponsored by the New Zealand Film Commission and a US partner as well. We all bring together the budget and what we’re looking for during the competition is a synopsis, a logline and a poster that could encapsulate the mood and the vision of the filmmaker. We had like 450 entries and Deathgasm was one of those entries, along with four other pitches these guys made as well.
It went through a roundtable process where we brought in experts and then the public weighed in via social media and so we recognized that Deathgasm was getting a lot of love all over the place. And so we met with them after the contest and started putting everything together. But really, as soon as this pitch came through, it was easy to see that it was head and shoulders above everyone else and we knew we really liked this idea.
Andrew Beattie: Yeah, we didn’t really know Jason or Sarah so we had to make sure that they could deliver on this premise. So a big part of it was talking to these guys first and seeing how they were planning to execute on their premise. The script was super ambitious and they did this mood video that was absolutely perfect. And it’s been about a year now since that first logline was created so it’s been a quick process and everyone pretty much killed themselves to get this film made.
What I think is really cool about Deathgasm is that I don’t feel like it’s a movie that could have been made here in the States. It seems like films here have just sort of lost their sense of humor these days and all we really get are films that take very little risks. Deathgasm is just one crazy risk after another and it totally works.
Andrew Beattie: So many people asked us why we were making a film like this- like, you seem rational so what the hell is the problem? And why Kiwis- we’re not mental people, right (laughs)?
Jason Lei Howden: Yeah, maybe it’s something about seeing Kiwi kids in their native bush forest environment, painted up as the band and playing these awesome instruments totally rocking out without abandon. It’s a little bit endearing.
But one thing I’ve got to say is that the freedom we were given on Deathgasm- and of course there are always some kind of restrictions when it comes to filmmaking- but the freedom and support we had was phenomenal. It gave us the perfect chance to get every little detail of this story right.
For the cast members, what were your first impressions of the script when you were considering coming on board for your roles?
Milo Cawthorne: I had a play, and this is going to sound really bad but, it was scheduled to go at the same time as this but I never thought I had a chance at the role so I didn’t really think anything of it. Then, they called me and told me I got it and then I was like, “Oh, fuck” because it forced me to choose between the two and unfortunately, the play was this World War I commemorative performance so I feel bad that I had to say no to that.
But the script for Deathgasm was so much fun and so lighthearted and that is what drew me to the script.
Kimberley Crossman: I think for me, I have a television background so I had always wanted to do a feature and I hadn’t had too many opportunities come to me so that was really cool. And just from reading it, I thought it was really cool and I loved that Medina was such a cool chick. I grew up a huge fan of Buffy and how Sarah Michelle Gellar was this badass chick was what I craved. There are two things I have always wanted to be was the Pink Power Ranger and Buffy, so now I’m the Red Female Power Ranger and I’m Medina, who is a total badass too.
And everything about this project- from the script to the crew to everyone attached to star in it was awesome. I remember calling my agent a bunch because I had taped my audition and then hadn’t heard anything for a really long time so I wasn’t sure what was going on. I thought the role had gone to someone else actually and then I got a call that Jason wanted to meet with me and I thought that was cool, like maybe he just wanted some input or something. So I thought I’d go and put in some time and when I got there, he started talking about Medina which I saw as a bit of salt in the wounds, but okay (laughs). We finally had this awkward moment and only then did I realize I had actually gotten the part.
How did production go on Deathgasm then?
Andrew Beattie: Well, there was a lot of writing around locations and props that we had and things we knew we could accomplish. There was also the time factor because we only had 20 days to shoot this so I remember when we were trying to shoot the scene where he’s trying over and over and over again to start the chainsaw and our AD kept telling us we didn’t have time to shoot it out but we just pushed through because we knew that was going to be a great gag.
And there was a lot of that- seat-of-your-pants filmmaking- but I think for the type of film that it is, it almost needed to be that way.
Ant Timpson: And Andrew organized a really great team of people who were hard task masters who kept things driving forward. He even ended up picking up a chainsaw at one point and inserting it into someone’s ass in a scene too so we all chipped in (laughs). But everyone had a great sense of humor to them and I think you almost have to on a film like this.