I’ve actually only seen one of Christian Viel’s films – “Evil Breed.” Needless to say, I was not impressed with what I saw and wasn’t too excited to meet him when I attended the Vegas IndieMeet late in May. All that changed when I had the chance to hear him talk, saw a few previews of upcoming projects and then briefly chatted with him there. This guy has his crap together and is definitely a filmmaker to take notice of. I’m pumped to see more of his work. I decided to do a Q&A with him and the following is the long results. From boobs to his production company Movie Seals, his buddy over at Arrow in the Head, their project “Pain Killer,” revenge films, a future super hero film “Northguard,” the disaster of “Evil Breed,” his award winning film “Recon 2020” and it’s sequels to making women eat glass. It’s all in here, so read to the very bitter end.
Christain Viel at Vegas IndieMeet 2006.
CCF: First why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself, especially for those that may not be real familiar with your name?
CV: I am a French Canadian filmmaker who started making films at the age of twelve, mostly parodies of existing films like “Friday the 13th,” “Slap Shot” and “Rambo 2.” I became a professional, i.e. got paid to do it, at the age of 21. I used most of the money I made to shoot my first feature film, a police action drama called “Lignes de Vie” (“Lines of Life”). Sadly, I shot it in French. There was no market at the time for French action flicks, there’s still isn’t one in fact. But it made me realize that I had a knack for shooting action scenes. I then proceeded to shoot action film shorts. Over fifty of them were shot over a period of fifteen years. They were mostly excuses to try stuff I didn’t get the chance to try before, like car stunts or shoot-outs and so on.
John Fallon and Deke Richards bring the noise in “Pain Killer.”
CCF: Do you still have copies of any of your early work- the parodies? That be a cool as special feature on one of your DVDs like M. Night Shyamalan does.
CV: I indeed do, at least for most of them. I did lose a couple over the years. But the quality is pretty bad. And it was shot by twelve-year-olds... Not sure it would be that entertaining. (LOL)
CCF: Might make for an interesting bonus on a DVD. I’d like to see them. There’s plenty of geeks like me out there. Did you ever try subtitling and releasing “Lines of Life” over here? Put a hot chick on the box and we’ll buy it.
CV: Actually, I thought about it. Not sure we had really hot chicks in it. We had good looking girls, but not really hot.
CCF: How did you get into filmmaking exactly?
CV: I have always loved film and always wanted to shoot one as far as I can remember, so it all came pretty naturally...
CCF: Movie Seals, that is your own production company, right?
CV: Movie Seals is my own production company. I am 100% owner of it.
CCF: I know you are probably sick of discussing “Evil Breed,” but why don’t you take us through the process that led you to going on your own to make the movies you actually wanted to make.
CV: I decided to start Movie Seals after numerous cases of “Development Hell” with local producers and after the absolutely horrendous debacle that was “Samhain” aka ‘Evil Breed.” That film made me understand that if I wanted to do something, I had better do it on my own because otherwise, it would either be impossible or end up mutilated like “Samhain” was.
CCF: Just how mutilated was the final product from the actual vision you had?
CV: Quite a bit. They tried to MTVize it. Cut most of the gore, removed all the humor, a lot of the nudity. I think the version you got in the States is 78 minutes. The original was 95... Should tell you enough. Actually, online, there are people who got one of the five different rough cuts of the film and so far, everybody loves the rough cut with no sound other than production sound, no ending and no music than the version that was released. That alone should tell people something... But what can you do? The film was compromised from the inception anyways with the distributor and producer wanting those “Scream” references and all those lengthy dialogues about myths and legends. There was tons of problems with the film from its inception all the way to the bitter end and it still isn’t over...
CCF: So now you write, direct, produce and edit most of your projects?
CV: Yes, I do. I produce, direct and edit all of my projects. But I am not the best writer, English not being my first language so I have now taken to co-write or contribute heavily story wise with writers that are far better than me. I’m good at finding one-liners though. (LOL)
CCF: Got a good one from any of your films you could give me real quick?
CV: To be honest, they are more contextual things... You’ll get a good example of those in “Pain Killer” ... The forensic guys are the main culprits in the bad puns department. (LOL)
CCF: So let’s
see. You’ve got “Recon 2020,” “Recon 2022,”
“Pain Killer” a third “Recon” on the way and plans
for a super hero movie. When the hell will we Americans get to see any
CV: We recently signed a distribution deal for the U.S. on “Recon 2020” so within six months to a year, it should be on video shelves everywhere. “Pain Killer” is almost finished but it is quite unapologetic in its violence and virulently un-PC, so I seriously doubt that a distributor with any clout will pick it up. We will most likely end up distributing it ourselves. “Recon 2022” should be finished by year end but it is too early to tell if we will get distribution on it. But I think it is far superior to “Recon 2020” so it should not be a problem this time around. Although it is always hard with indie films with no stars. “Recon 3” and “Northguard” will most likely shoot in 2007 if all goes well. Again, it is way too early to talk distribution at this point.
CCF: That’s great news on “Recon 2020”! As far as self distributing future projects is that something you are still in the early stages of thinking about or have you started to really check into it? From what I understand, J.R. Bookwalter does pretty damn well basically self distributing his films through his company Tempe Entertainment.
CV: I have been looking into it for the last three years as I think it is the only viable way of staying alive within this business within the current financial context. We are starting officially this year with our own booth at the American Film Market in November, in collaboration with our “Recon” Canadian distributor, Critical Mass Releasing.
CCF: Now “Pain Killer” is one I know a lot of people are excited about. People that don’t even now the name Christian Viel, all you have to say is he directed “Pain Killer” with horror film critic John “Arrow in the Head” Fallon and they take notice. How did that all come about?
CV: Funnily enough, John and I went to see the Johnathan Hensleigh’s “The Punisher” and hated it with a passion. I am a huge Punisher fan and I thought that this movie was a travesty... Fire Hydrants? Flaming skull logo? Actors that don’t look the part? I mean, come on! So we joked about making our own version of the Punisher. That lead to “Pain Killer” as it is useless to make a movie about a character you do not own the rights to. Hence “Pain Killer” was born. It is our homage to vigilante flicks, a genre we love.
CCF: Didn’t see “The Punisher,” but I heard it was extremely laughable. I wasn’t quite sure why they made that movie. They had already made a bad Punisher film with Dolph Lundgren which I saw priced for $5.99 on DVD just the other day.
CV: The new version was indeed extremely laughable... The Dolph Lundgren version had problems but it is still miles better than the new one. The only thing they got right is the shirt on the new one... Seems to me Jonhathan would have never got the gig if he wasn’t hitched with Gale Ann Hurd at the time. He’s a good writer and I am sure he could be a good director but he was totally off for this project. “The Punisher” is definitely not his sensibility...
CCF: So the “Pain Killer” script was basically written by you and John Fallon?
CV: John wrote most of the screenplay and I wrote a few pages, mostly for the beginning and the forensic technicians’ jokes but we worked very closely together on the story. I only take story credit on it because John did most of the grunt work screenplay wise.
CCF: How violent is this film exactly?
CV: Quite a bit. From a baby being ripped out of a pregnant woman’s womb to getting an arrow through the head, burning a man alive progressively, forcing a girl to swallow glass... It has some pretty nifty dirty fights as well.
CCF: The arrow through John’s head is a nice touch. That was all you right?
CV: Yeah, it was. To John’s dismay... I wanted to do a short with him and use the Arrow through the head idea as part of the comedy. We never did the short but I thought it would be a nice touch in PK. John was worried it was going to be too self indulgent and reference his site too much. I love references and in this case, I think it’s totally appropriate and we were able to work it in the story fairly seamlessly. The most fascinating thing about it which I found doing research on that type of wounds, is that a surprising amount of people survive it. They call it the William Tell injury and there quite a bit of medical papers about it, some of it on the net. There’s even a video of a dog walking around with an arrow through its head... But I do take the blame for it in case the idea becomes an abject failure. (LOL)
CCF: And the baby?
CV: The baby came after I read an article about the crazy amount of baby abduction in Columbia. In one particular case, they mentioned this woman who got kidnapped coming out of the hospital and gutted to get the baby out. She was eighth months pregnant. The poor thing managed to survive the assault, crawled outside to get cops and managed to get her baby back. I thought it was the most revolting “real” event I have ever heard of at the time and wanted to throw it in the film. Both John and I happen to think vigilantes need to be insane to do it. We needed something that would push the guy over the edge for good. That would do it for me and John felt the same way so we went for it.
Claudia Jurt deals with a road rager in “Pain Killer.”
CCF: Good stuff... I like your thinking in taking weird tidbits from reality and twisting them to fit in the world of your film... I myself love revenge stories from Bruce Lee in “Chinese Connection” to Brandon Lee in “The Crow,” Sylvester Stallion in “Get Carter,” Antonio Banderas in “Desperado” and Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill”. That’s the type of movie that can be done over and over again. I always have been big on them and I think they appeal to most people. What is it about them?
CV: I think it appeals to an inner fantasy in all of us. We all have been wronged at some point and wished we could make everybody pay. The vigilante flicks give us the opportunity to live this fantasy vicariously without fear of the consequences, which would normally happen in society.
CCF: What are some of your favorite revenge movies?
CV: I have a weak spot for “Death Wish,” even though it hasn’t aged well. “Desperado” is another really good one. So is “Kill Bill” at least Volume 1. Volume 2 was way too talky. And I know John is a huge fan of “The Crow.”
CCF: I agree one hundred percent about the “Kill Bills.” Loved the first one. The second one has it’s moments like the Uma Thurman vs. Daryl Hannah scene and the buried alive scene. But it has way too much talking and is too much like a joke you should have seen coming, but didn’t. We get the set up early in the movie and then the punch line comes at the end. Are you a pretty big Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez fan? I love just about everything they touch, except “Sin City.”
CV: I like the work of both guys. I did enjoy “Sin City” tremendously however. But I did not like “The Faculty” and the “Spy Kids” stuff. Tarantino seems more consistent. But both guys are on my list of favorite directors.
CCF: I didn’t like “The Faculty” either, but the “Spy Kids Trilogy” was pretty awesome my book... Who are some other directors and movies you are big on?
CV: I absolutely love Paul Veroheven’s work. All of it, even “Showgirls.” The man is a genius to me. I like Michael Bay’s visual style a lot. “The Rock” is one of my all time favorites. “Pearl Harbor,” “Bad Boys 2” however do not make that list. “Armageddon” is a guilty pleasure, but a bad movie. Incredibly well shot though. Early John Carpenter stuff too. Especially “Escape from New York” and “Big Trouble in Little China.” “Vampires” wasn’t too bad either. Vintage Sam Raimi is also there up to “A Simple Plan.” I think after that, he has “hollywoodified” and lost his edge.
CCF: Yeah, I don’t watch any of Raimi’s new stuff either, but I like some of what is coming out of his horror production company “Ghost House Pictures”... Also, I loved “Showgirls.” I don’t know why people rag on that movie like they do.... and Carpenter has done a lot of good stuff through the years… Anyway, I’m a big fan of John Fallon’s. He actually partly inspired me to start my website. How long have you two been friends and how did you meet?
CV: I think we have been friends for four or five years now. We met officially on the set of “Samhain” when he came to do a set visit. But we knew each other from before as I had auditioned him for some of those projects than never went anywhere...
CCF: Ah, see. In actuality you have “Evil Breed” to thank for a lot of things. Your friendship with John, which led to “Pain Killer” and you deciding to start Movie Seals. The only downfall is you got jackasses like me that have no clue about actual movie making, writing mean things about you.
CV: “Evil Breed” was such a miserable experience that it pushed me to do something I should have done a while ago. I don’t regret doing what I did, starting my own company and so on. It’s tough but so much more rewarding. And the current advances in technology allows us to compete on levels unthinkable even five years ago. As far as reviews and reviewers go, it’s par for the course. You put something out there publicly, everybody will have an opinion. You need to deal with this as a director. I actually do not mind bad reviews as long as they are justified. Saying it sucks and explaining why is as much valid and useful, if not more, than saying it’s good and not explaining why. Of course, everybody likes good reviews. But you can learn a lot from the bad ones, especially if they are done well. I even post the “good” bad reviews on my website. I actually read your review. It wasn’t that bad. I have seen worse, especially on the “Evil Breed” front. Some reviewers did their research on “Evil Breed” though, some didn’t. I think you fall in the second camp, but your instincts where right for the most part. I didn’t mind it. Anyways, so far, I find that reviews fall into two very distinctive camps as far as my films are concerned: people either love them with a passion or hate them with equal passion. At least they leave nobody indifferent, which I think would be the worst. In the end, it is only a person’s opinion. Same as the films are only a person expression or perception of a reality or lack thereof.