May sees the release of Murderdrome – an original genre picture (on skates non less). I had the chance to ask Daniel Armstrong, director of MurderDrome a few questions about his films release.
The film has a really different plot than a lot of horror films out there, how did you come up with the idea?
Like the premise of the film itself it’s really a mash up of horror tropes and some supernatural jazz hands. The idea of a supernatural killer seeking a way back from Hell is pretty common in many genre films, especially in 80s slashers such as Elm Street and the like. I’d say that was a heavy influence. It’s also quite deliberately an underdeveloped literal plot. When we began shooting MURDERDROME was intended to be a web series, and be presented as 5 short episodes. In that context the focus was not on developing the back story but on pulling out the big cartoony characters we had, and giving them a fun context to do their thing. It’s short bursts of action and fun with brief supernatural segues to link it up and propel the characters along. We really didn’t want people to think too hard about it. So from the script up plot took a back seat to what you could call the fun and games. We peppered in supernatural causality without making any real effort to justify or explain it – which was a trend for 80s slashers. We didn’t want to spoof that trend, rather we embraced it. I don’t like to explain it too much, as far as I’m concerned now that it’s out there the story means whatever it means to the audience!
What was your budget like for the film – was it hard to raise the money?
We spent $6,000 on the shoot and around another $2,500 in post production but the truth is we had no actual budget. This was a true DIY effort, entirely cast and crewed by volunteers. Essentially we raised the money by maxing out our credit cards, then going around to beg, borrow or steal everything else we needed. The fact we all worked as volunteers is in essence how we financed the production, but that’s not something I can be proud of. It’s a shame for people to work without being paid but the film was a real labour of love for everyone involved (well so they all tell me at least). The truth is a roller derby horror film isn’t an idea that naturally attracts investment (at least from people with lots of disposable income). Although, on the flip-side, the interest in the final product has been overwhelming, so perhaps we’ll be able to get some people to back our next effort and can pay our cast and crew?
From idea to DVD, how long did it take to get the idea off the ground and out there?
I started writing sometime in 2011, and we started shooting in August that year. The film premiered in Melbourne on November 21st 2013, then came out on DVD here in Oz in March 2014. The UK release happens on May 12, and then the USA and Canada are in August this year. So it’s been a very long journey. However, to put that in context, there were only 29 days of shooting involved, around 2 weeks of editing, but a lot of time went into the visual FX and sound. As I mentioned above with a crew of volunteers we worked around everyone’s real job, meaning that there could be weeks and even months in between periods of work on the film. There’s a trade off between time and money, if you don’t have much of the money you end up taking a lot more time.
How much input did the derby girls have in the film? Did they correct you at all with derby ideas?
They had a lot of input. In fact they more or less took over. Louise Monnington (who plays Psych in the film) essentially took over all derby related matters. We did our best to represent the bout scenes according to the rules of modern derby (although the rules have changed twice since we shot those scenes, making us derby retro). In the end the girls also took over their own wardrobe and make up. There’s nothing we could contribute that would look more authentic than the girls choosing what to wear anyway so I really gave them all free reign. A lot of the dialogue was modified by the girls as well as we went. It was a very collaborative effort. Lots of fun. If the girls didn’t think it worked we changed it – no arguments.
Have you been surprised by the reaction to the film? Did you expect it to take off as much has it has in the derby community? Whats been the most surprising/biggest reaction so far?
Hell yes we’ve been surprised. We originally planned to release online as I said – a modest goal. Then at some point we realised it was going to be a feature and thought about that. My thoughts were we’d screen it in Melbourne and probably get a good crowd of derbys in (given so many of Melbourne’s derby community were involved, or know people involved) and that would be it. To see it release across Australia on DVD (and people buying it) is quite amazing. To see it screen in the UK and the USA blows my tiny little mind. The biggest reaction we’ve had is still probably our World Premiere. We sold out the cinema so quickly they opened a second screen (which also sold out) so we had a simultaneous dual screening of the film for the premiere. That was a big one.
How has the release of the DVD been – how many counties will you be releasing it in and when will it be out?
The release seems to have gone well so far. People buying the DVD were taking selfies and posting them to our Facebook page – so many we made an album. It sort of became a thing. It’s been a really supportive reaction from the derby community so far. We released on DVD in Australia on March 19th. The UK and Ireland are the next territories we’ll launch in on May 12th, then New Zealand May 24th and the USA and Canada late August this year.
What will your next project be?
Oddly enough its the film we shot BEFORE we made MURDERDROME. called From Parts Unknown : Fight Like A Girl and features wrestlers vs zombies. If you’re keen check out the Facebook page www.facebook.com/FPUFightLikeAGirl
Photo Credit: Amanda Stockley Photography