Written, directed and produced by Martin Owen, “L.A. Slasher” brings death to reality TV in his directorial debut. This director on the rise initially joined the industry as a performer but decided to make the jump to a position behind the camera. His short film success paved the way for the next step in his career working in music videos, idents and commercials. Logging years behind the camera allowed him to establish a clear identity as a director, creating work with an edgy shot choice and vivid color palette but at no point jeopardizing the narrative; all of which are showcased in in his full-length feature film debut — ‘L.A. Slasher.’
Incensed by the tabloid culture which celebrates it, the L.A. Slasher publicly abducts a series of reality TV stars, while the media and general public in turn begin to question if society is better off without them. A biting, social satire about reality TV and the glorification of people who are famous for simply being famous, “L.A. Slasher” explores why it has become acceptable, even admirable, for people to become influential and wealthy based on no merit or talent – purely through notoriety achieved through shameful behavior. The film boasts an ensemble cast featuring Dave Bautista (of the blockbuster hit “Guardians of the Galaxy”), Danny Trejo (“Machete”), Mischa Barton (“The O.C.”), Eric Roberts (“The Dark Knight”), Drake Bell (“Drake & Josh”), Brooke Hogan (“Hogan Knows Best”), Tori Black (“Not Another Celebrity Movie”) and Marisa Lauren (“Superhero Movie”), with the voice of Andy Dick (“News Radio”) as the L.A. Slasher.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with director Martin Owen to discuss the making of “L.A. Slasher,” the challenges involved in bringing it to life and what he has in store for us in the near future!
Lets go back to the your beginnings for a moment. How did you get your start in the film industry?
I actually started on the other side of the camera. When I was younger, I wanted to be an actor and I did that but, at a very early stage in my career, I became aware that I was more suited for the other side. I think I came to that realization because I am a bit of a control freak and I prefer telling people what to do rather than being told what to do. [laughs] That is how I cut my teeth in the industry. I was fortunate enough to make a lot of contacts and friends. I found my way into making short films, commercials and those sort of things. Ultimately, that was the start of my journey toward making my first feature film, which was “L.A. Slasher.” That is my career very succinctly, in a nutshell! [laughs]
When it comes to other filmmakers, who had a big impact on you early on?
Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorite directors but the most influential director for me, when it comes to decision making as a director, is John Carpenter. His commitment to making the type of films he wanted to make was a big inspiration to me as a director.
How did the idea for “L.A. Slasher” come about?
The movie came about from the idea of exploring the idea of modern celebrity culture in terms of people wanting to be famous for being famous. I find that to be pretty fascinating. I don’t personally have any deep-seeded hatred for reality TV stars and the concept isn’t coming from a secret place of anger. [laughs] I am just fascinated with this whole reality/celebrity machine. That is at the core of the movie in terms of what it is about. The movie is very much a nod to the slasher movies of the ‘80s.
Did you have any particular goals or aspirations you wanted to achieve with your feature film debut?
I really wanted to, and probably always will, make movies that I would like watch. I think it would be difficult for me to make a movie to appease all audiences and keep everyone happy. I have no real interest in making movies that people see and say, “Oh, that was OK.” For every one person that loves the movie, there will be a person that hates the movie. That is sort of the movie I wanted to create. A great example of this is a product we have here in the UK called Marmite. Marmite is a spread on toast. You literally love it or you hate it. It has a weird and unique taste, so that is probably the best way to describe my filmmaking! [laughs]
You landed a wonderfully talented cast for this film. Was it difficult to find the right mix of people to embody these roles? What other challenges did you face on your first feature?
Getting the cast was a big challenge for us. It was a mix of casting people who gave a slight nod to characters in the way of art imitating life, should we stay. Then I also wanted to cast some people who were great for the roles, talented people who people didn’t know. In the end, I think we got a good blend of new talent and existing talent who are well suited to the roles.
As you mentioned, “L.A. Slasher” borrows a bit from some great slasher films of the ‘80s. When you are creating a new horror icon, is it difficult to get the right look for the character?
Absolutely! We tried all sorts of things. Sometimes, I feel the best way to find the right answer is to find the wrong answer first. We definitely found a whole bunch of things we didn’t like. Everything we tried early on felt quite cliche, which was incredibly frustrating. Finally, we came up with an idea and Brittany, who was our costume designer, said, “What about putting him in a white suit?” We had a conversation early on about putting him in a suit because it borrows from the ‘80s, we were thinking “Miami Vice.” It quickly became, “Why not put him in a white suit!” I could tell you we had all of these cool, deep and meaningful reasons for why white looked best and it could be a metaphorical anti-hero angel who descends upon Los Angeles to wipe out all of these terrible people. However, it came down to a white suit splattered in blood! I thought that would look great! [laughs] I would love to give you a deep and meaningful reason but I would be a liar! I just thought it would look fantastic!
Andy did plays an interesting part in the film as the voice of the killer. How did his involvement come about?
It was strange. We had always planned to cast The Slasher’s voice at the very end. We wanted to get everything else down and right to make sure we knew the identity of The Slasher to help us find the right person. I can’t remember who mentioned it but his name did come up early on. At the time, I dismissed it because it didn’t make sense to me. As the character formed and we nailed down his identity, it became more clear. The Slasher had this slightly odd and comedic element to him, so when Andy Dick’s name came back up, it made total sense to me! Having him play this part is another case of art imitating life.
Looking back on the project, what were the biggest challenges you faced with your first feature? Did you learn any lessons that will carry forward to future projects?
Getting the cast was a big challenge for us. It was a mix of casting people who gave a slight nod to characters in the way of art imitating life, should we say. Then I also wanted to cast some people who were great for the roles, talented people who people didn’t know. In the end, I think we got a good blend of new talent existing talent who are well suited to the roles. For an indie movie, the rules are don’t have a lot of locations and don’t have a big cast. For “L.A. Slasher,” we had a huge cast and a whole bunch of locations! [laughs] Being overly ambitious and constantly pushing ourselves to get every cent out of the budget was a challenge. You want to get the best out of yourself, so you push yourself. Looking back on the project, there were so many things that had me pulling my hair out but I would absolutely do it all over again. Long haul, everything I took from the experience were things I can build on for future projects. On a more practical note, I am always looking to improve what I am doing from a workflow perspective. I just shot my second feature film. I feel you are always growing as a director. You have to be!
What can you tell us about your second feature film?
The second film is a science fiction thriller called “Let’s Be Evil.” It is about of group of children who the U.S. government workflowing augmented reality glasses from a group of kids. They are trying to improve the U.S. education system with these glasses. It flows these adult chaperones who are there at the facility to observe and things do not go as planned. The movie is very much a concept movie. Once the characters put the glasses on, the movie is entirely shot in point of view style. It has definitely been a challenge! The whole movie was lit practically with LED lighting on all of the sets.
Wow! Sounds ambitious to say the least! You certainly like to dive in head first! [laughs]
Oh yeah! Exactly! To answer your earlier question, I did not learn any lessons! [laughs] I just do it again and again! It has been a lot of fun filming that picture and I am really excited for people to see it when it is finished.
It is definitely inspiring to see what you are doing with your career. What is the best advice you can pass on to aspiring filmmakers?
Just keep going! Try not to look at the tenth rung on the ladder and concentrate on the first one. If you get to the first rung, the tenth one will come very quickly. I think I spent a lot of time in my 20s always trying to get to the tenth rung on the ladder. Had I tried to get to the first one by doing it right and focusing on one thing, it would have ultimately moved things along much quicker.
Thanks so much for your time today, Martin. I really enjoyed the film and thought it was definitely a fun ride. I can’t wait to see what you bring our way in the years to come!
Thank you, Jason! I really appreciate your time and kind words.
The L.A. Slasher is bringing DEATH TO REALITY TV. The film hits select AMC theaters June 26th. Check out the official website of the film at www.laslashermovie.com. Connect with the film via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.