One thing I enjoy about film festivals and conventions is not only meeting film fans but other filmmakers. One such production company was LegacyVerse Productions at Horror Hotel Film Festival and Convention this passed May. The company’s owner, Keith Munden, proudly wears the ‘Ten Years of No Budget Filmmaking’ proudly and has recently seen some reward for his efforts (like winning in a short film category at Horror Hotel). So read on for more on Keith and LegacyVerse! And check out my review on their film, Reaper Saga, here.
MU: It was lovely to make your acquaintance at the Horror Hotel Film Festival this year. But tell us a little of how LegacyVerse came into existence.
KM: Well, to tell the WHOLE story, LegacyVerse started when I was a kid, watching things like the making of RETURN OF THE JEDI and Michael Jackson’s THRILLER (which I realized recently was also the thing that got me into horror), and realizing that movies weren’t things that just magically happened. They were created, and once I understood that, I knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” The second major moment happened in the early 90’s, when I discovered that there was a low budget moviemaking group in my hometown, the late BLADE INDEPENDENT STUDIOS, and I would go on to make my acting debut as an extra in 1994’s THE EVIL EYE (and get an actual speaking role in 1995’s WIMP 2). What I learned from being in these movies was what went into making low/no budget movies from a nuts and bolts perspective. BLADE died in the late 90’s, and I realized that if I wanted to continue being involved in the making of low budget movies, then I would have to just make my own…..enter LegacyVerse. LegacyVerse, which started out as just Legacy Productions (but was changed when I realized that there were other low budget groups with the same name) started, after a few years of false starts, in 2002 with ZERO ISSUE, which laid the groundwork for a lot of stories that I would follow up on in later movies (The Summoning,, Welcome to Luna Pier, and the Reaper Saga). The LegacyVerse was what I called that section of movies (the movies set in the fictional town of Luna Pier, OH) anyways, so, that’s where I came up with the new name. Of course, not all of the movies are Luna Pier related: DEAD EVOLUTION, HARVEST OF BLOOD/BEER RUN, THE BLACK BOX, and THE LEGEND OF JOE PIMPIN’ have nothing to do whatsoever with the LP characters, but carry the LegacyVerse Productions banner anyways.
MU: As a filmmaker, who would you say have been your influences?
KM: My main one is George Romero, as I’ve always been a HUGE fan of the director, and his movies. The original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was a massive influence on me, as I read a great deal about the struggles the Image 10 group (the main investors for NOTLD) went through to get that movie made, and they became kind of a beacon of hope for all low budget movie directors, showing that with hard work and dedication, that one could make not only a good low budget movie, but a GREAT one. Other film/TV influences are: Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Joss Whedon, and John Carpenter…amongst others. However, just as much as the film/television industry have played in my/ LegacyVerse’s development, reading comic books as a child/teenager played just as much of a role. I’ve often called the Luna Pier stuff (Including the Reaper movies) as being more “Comic Bookish Horror” than straight up horror, and I usually get strange looks when I say this, but if you look at the movies (particularly WTLP, REAPER REBORN, MIDSUMMER NIGHTMARE, and the Upcoming REAPER’S REVENGE) it’s very much the truth. One can definitely see the influences of Chris Claremont’s 16 year run on the X-Men (1975-1991) in there, along with other things I enjoy. I’ve often said the Luna Pier stories are everything I love about movies and comics thrown into a blender on high speed, and being that audiences have grown more accepting of comic book movies since I started, it looks like I picked the right time to start making these little “Comic Bookish Horror Movies.” I hope to make more, as I have an endgame story set down for the LP characters (Faruza Maclay, Amy Savant, the Reaper, Davlin McCaine, amongst others) that would be my “Days of Future Past,” but without the time travel element. I will say that a major step in that direction happens near the end of REAPER’S REVENGE, so, we’ll have to see how many pick up on it.
MU: Now judging from your website, you seem to really pride yourselves on the ’10 years of no budget’ which I will say is quite impressive given the amount of films you’ve created and even won a couple awards in doing so. Is this a mantra you plan to stick with or would you eventually like to acquire budgets for future films?
KM: As much as I love the freedom of being a no budget moviemaker, I would love to see some of my concepts (the Luna Pier stuff, particularly) done on at least an Asylum movie’s budget. I don’t see my chilling poolside with Brad and Angelina happening any time in my lifetime, but being able to be a known name on the Low Budget movie scene, getting to make my movies and spend the rest of my time doing horror conventions and the like…..that, to me, at least, would be a pretty darn good life to live…..and that’s the long term goal, to at least make it there. Plus, I owe that to the rest of my core crew (Richard Buathier/Rico, Wendy Davis Boyer, Rick Davis), who have stuck by me through some pretty dark times, both with the movie thing and with Life……I owe it to them to go as far as I can with this whole thing. Heck, Rico especially, as he’s been doing the low budget movie thing even longer than I have (he started in 1990).
MU: In the ten years you’ve been making films as a production company, what would you say has been the most valuable lesson learned that you would share with first time filmmakers?
KM: The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is This: If you want to make movies, if a director is what you aspire to be….then go out and DO IT. A lot of aspiring moviemakers think they have to instantly go out a make a feature length movie, or that it automatically has to be Hollywood quality. Of course, a great many of those people don’t last, as they end up spending themselves into a hole trying to make a 90 minute movie, because that’s what they see on TV or at the theaters. Or they instantly give up, after making their movie, and seeing that it doesn’t turn out like the Hollywood product, quality-wise. Well, it’s not…..I hate to tell you, but unless you’re sitting on the new BLAIR WITCH PROJECT or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, all you’re going to have is a low/no budget, which, yes, is going to be flawed. I would say if you want to make a movie…..get a decent camera, a computer to edit your footage, and a bunch of friends and family who are willing to roll around with fake blood on them for a few hours…..then you just need a script, and honestly, I would shoot for making a few shorts before you try to make an hour plus movie. If you can make a good 10/15 minute movie, then that will build both the knowhow and confidence to make a longer movie. Heck, being a no budget moviemaker often means wearing multiple hats, but wearing those hats will show you how to make a better movie, in the writing, directing, shooting, and editing.
MU: I asked this question in a few interviews as I’m interested in getting different viewpoints on it The mainstream media tends to saturate us with the stories of “overnight successes” with all the reality TV ‘stars,’ American Idols, andthe ‘Cinderella stories’ of how “so and so became an overnight sensation in a matter of five minutes.” Would you say that such articles and stories tend to give (especially) young people trying to break into the industry a sort of false hope and distorted view as to how the industry really works?
KM: Yeah, it does, as it gives aspiring moviemakers the idea that they can make the next CITIZEN KANE or EVIL DEAD, but what these people don’t realize was that both Orson Wells and Sam Rami had some experience before they went out and made those classic films (Wells with his radio experience/Rami with making backyard movies). Very rarely do people’s first few movies/films make that immediate impact. A great many of us have to grind it out, and try to somewhat duplicate what we see in the higher budgeted movies, but do it for next to no money. However, that is a good way to learn technique, even in a crude form, and it’s a good idea to do that before you try asking for money. Heck, I’m finding that just making a bunch of smaller, low budgeted movies is making just as much noise as putting together one somewhat budgeted one. People that are into the low budget stuff are IN to it, and those that aren’t are not really going to care whether the budget is $10, 000 or $10……if it’s not Hollywood, they don’t care. So, you have to know who your audience is, and go for them as well as you can with what money/cast/crew you have to work with.
MU: Any hilarious or horrifying (yes, pun was intended) onset stories?
KM: Well, as far as horror stories go, that mostly has come from people that have gotten involved, who have tried to take over the production, and that has happened quite a bit. I find that EVERYONE wants, deep down, to make a movie, and everyone has a specific idea or way they would go about making one. Of course, this is all well good and fine until they start trying to throw their weight around on YOUR movie/production company. I’m sure at least a few other low budget moviemakers can feel what I’m saying here; as I’m sure they have their own horror stories about this happening. Lloyd Kaufman called people like this “movie cancers,” and I’m going to repeat the advice he gave in his book, “Make Your Own Damn Movie,” which I would say is essential reading to the no budget moviemaker (along with John Russo’s “How to Make a Movie for $10,000 or less”), and that is to get rid of movie cancers as fast as possible, or else risk them causing unrest amongst your crew, even going as far as causing the making of your movie to come to a screeching halt….which has also happened. Heck, FEAR THE REAPER 2 was supposed to come out in 2005/6, but it was dealing with the fallout of trouble caused by a certain person that caused me to switch gears and make WELCOME TO LUNA PIER instead, which was essentially a bunch of shorts tied together by an overlapping main story, rather than one long continuous one, which would have been the deal with the original FTR2.
As for humorous stories, I’d have to go with the cops showing up while we were shooting DEAD EVOLUTION in late 2004. We were on the side of the road leading to our mall, shooting the scene where zombified Rico and Rob Stanley attack Rick in his van. I guess while we were shooting Rico and Rob stumbling down the side of the road, covered with fake blood and liquid latex, someone drove by and thought someone had been attacked, so, they called the police, who showed up just as we were finishing the scene. Luckily, the cop had acted with Rico in WIMP 2, so, he just laughed and drove off. Of course, I wound up getting footage of the cop car driving away, and used it in the preview for DE.
Another fun cop story happened more recently, while we were shooting REAPER’S REVENGE, where we had the Reaper cult surrounding a van in a mostly deserted parking lot. A person tried to pull into the parking lot while we were filming, took one look at what appeared to be going on, and GUNNED it out of the parking lot. Needless to say, we finished up quickly and got out of there just in time. Heck, I was the last one out, and passed the cops on my way out; who were coming to investigate what they must have thought was some crazy cult ceremony or something. They were HALF right….lol.
MU: What’s next for LegacyVerse. Plug away here!
KM: Well, we’ve essentially got three movies in the can at this point: REAPER’S REVENGE, a goofy comedy called UNKNOWN JOURNEYS, and a short Thriller, TICK TOCK. Those will be released as I get them edited. We’re also starting HARVEST OF BLOOD 2 and an AVENGERS fan film in the fall, which should be interesting, as I’ve never tried to do two major projects at once before. In addition, AVENGERS is the first movie I’ve done which is dealing pretty majorly with green screen (there is one GS effect in REAPER 3, but that takes up all of about 5-10 seconds of the movie), which should also be interesting.
Next year, we’re planning THE BLACK BOX 2, which is a comedy; PURE OF HEART, which is a horror movie for anyone who’s ever been unfaithful to a significant other, and a horror anthology, which has yet to get a name.
As for where you can find us on the web, my friend Matt Drake is running one of LV’s sites, http://www.legacyverseproductions.com. I’m still running the original site, http://www.freewebs.com/legacyproductions/ , and we’re on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/pages/LegacyVerse-Productions/200229353360485.
Also, Lou Carpenbarker has been posting quite a bit of our stuff on his MOVIE MADHOUSE horror host show….his addy is https://www.facebook.com/lou.carpenbarker?fref=ts. One way or another, you’ll get exposed to as much LegacyVerse as you can handle. I really do want to thank you, Tiffany, for doing this interview, and giving us a VERY kind review on “The Reaper Saga.” There aren’t a lot of people who truly support No/Low Budget Moviemakers, and I’m glad you’re someone who can look past the flaws to see what the people who make these little opuses are trying to get across, rather than just ripping them apart. You’re doing us all a great service.