John Gulager hit the movie-making map when Bravo's Project Greenlight 3 captured the creation of Feast, a horror-comedy homage to '80s B-movies that favors makeup and inventive editing (not to mention buckets of maggots) over CGI. The film's ensemble cast includes Jason Mewes (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), Judah Friedlander (Wet Hot American Summer, American Splendor) and Henry Rollins, who find themselves attacked by creatures of unknown origin in a remote bar. Although the 2005 shakeup at Miramax delayed Feast's completion and release, Gulager who previously worked on Night of the Living Dead's special effects never doubted its fate. "It was nine weeks of all build-up and no punch line," the first-time director says of PG3. "If I had watched it and I wasn't involved with it, I'd feel compelled to go see the movie, just to know if it was good or if it blows!"
Julie Seabaugh: Did you watch Project Greenlight 3? Did the show accurately portray life on the Feast set?
John Gulager: I got TiVo so I could record it. It got shut off at the very last episode, though [laughs]. I'm not so good with the finances, but I got it turned back on eventually.
Maybe I wasn't really that big of a jerk at the beginning or that great at the end, but I wouldn't say anything was false. With the whole reality thing, there's always some paraphrasing that goes along with it, but I think as a subject, you kind of have to give yourself over to it. You go over it with a fine-tooth comb and you'll go crazy.
Anything that didn't make it onto PG3 that should have?
One of the main things was that the process stopped before we were finished with the film. It would have been fun if there was a Project Greenlight 3.1 or 3.5 episode that showed how everything ended up.
We showed the film at some festivals but we couldn't use our temp score. Dimension and Miramax were going through a crazy period of separation, and they said, "You have to get the score off these discs we own," and then they said, "Oh, wait, no we don't...." We ended up getting seven composers who were interested in scoring the film, and they each did about ten minutes over the weekend, got it in that Monday morning, and it took off for film festivals the next day. Something like that would have just been great fodder for the Greenlight show, the struggling and seeing it actually come together.
How challenging was it to create an effective horror-comedy that also paid tribute to the classic monster movies you grew up on?
Mostly it took a lot of blood. A lot of bits played for fun, but a lot of it is also intense, then there are the moments that are a little racy, and then like with Judah it's actually pretty gruesome. He was pretty brave. Maggots were coming out of his nose and his mouth, between his fingers, in his hair. He was a real trooper.
What are your goals as a director, both creatively and career-wise?
The people I admire make films that I watched years after they were made, and they still are films that I use to gauge where I would like to go with filmmaking. Whether they're horror films are not, you sort of bring your sensibility to them and hopefully, at some point in time, people would be able to tell that I had worked on a film just by watching it.
One of the things about professional filmmaking, it's very fast. Hectic schedule, limited amount of days to shoot, limited funding. The adrenaline rush is exciting, but it would be nice to take a little more time and maybe approach things a little differently. I would like to figure out how to slow things down a bit and make it more personal.