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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman


Interview: Writer-Director Tommy Faircloth
by Dustin Putman,

Writer-Director Tommy FairclothColumbia, South Carolina native Tommy Faircloth just turned 29, and he already has two feature films under his belt that he has not only written, but also produced, directed and, in his debut picture's case, starred in. I chatted with Tommy for 90 minutes on May 29, 2001, as he discussed his film inspirations, background, two films ("Crinoline Head" and "Generation Ax"), and look towards the future.

Dustin Putman: Hey Tommy! It's great to finally get to talk to you!

Tommy Faircloth: Thanks, you too!

DP: Let's start at the beginning. Growing up, were there any particular movies that inspired you to want to become a filmmaker?

TF: Oh, sure. The first horror movie I can remember is [1979's] "When a Stranger Calls," and how everyone was just screaming in the theater. [1975's] "Jaws" was another film that had an impact on me. And I've always loved the 80's slasher movies, like "Friday the 13th" series, and Freddy, etc. I probably rented practically every slasher movie that was made growing up.

DP: I've always loved those movies too..."Friday the 13th," "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Halloween." It's fun to just sit back and be scared, even when they're so cheesy.

TF: It is. [1980's] "Mommie Dearest" is another movie. I remember when I was little, before we had video cameras, my friend and I would beat each other with wire hangers, and record our screams on the audio.

DP: lol. How cute....twisted, but cute. So, did you have any particular training in the profession?

TF: Well, after graduating from high school in 1990, I went to USC Film School. But I firmly believe that school cannot teach you how to be a filmmaker, only experience can. After doing a bit of acting in local commercials and a guest-spot on [the television series] "In the Heat of the Night," I was only too eager to make my own movies, and being a production assistant on big-budget movie sets, such as [1994's] "The Renaissance Man" and [1995's] "Die Hard With a Vengeance," helped me to understand what goes on on movie sets and how things are done.

DP: I must tell you that I love your first feature, "Crinoline Head." I honestly could watch it every day and never tire of it. How did this project come about?

TF: Thanks a lot! I began writing the screenplay for "Crinoline Head" while I was a PA on the "Die Hard 3" set. I wanted to make an '80s-style slasher film because I've always loved them, crossed with a John Waters movie.

DP: That's just about the perfect way to describe "Crinoline Head"...a slasher movie with the twisted sensibilities of John Waters.

TF: That's what I was going for. Really, I was just proud to complete my first film, and overall, the critics who reviewed it were nice to me, which was really just a bonus. There were some critics who hated it, but for the most part it was positive. CH seems to be the type of movie you really love, or you really just don't get and hate.

DP: Tell me about the actual CH shoot.

TF: As I said before, I began writing it while on the "Die Hard With a Vengeance" set, and a lot of my friends from film school were really excited about it. And the summer was coming up, all just came together. It was crazy though...very fast (we shot it in only 12 days) and I had a lot of jobs to do that I kind of learned as I went along.

DP: Wow...that must have been an experience.

TF: It was a lot of fun. When I was asked to write about my experience in Fangoria Magazine, that was, like, the greatest reward for me.

DP: I love Fangoria too! I've been reading it for 10 years. Now...moving onto the actors in "Crinoline Head." They were perfect for their roles. How did you go about casting the film?

TF: Cathy Slaminko [Delta bitch Trish] is a very good friend of mine. She also was in a short I did called "The Hoochies." I wanted her for "Generation Ax," but she was out of the country at the time. I did manage to get her for a cameo as a news reporter on television. Steven Lee [movie nut Mark] was with me in film school at USC. The rest of the actors auditioned. Richard Abbott [nice-guy Derrick] and Liz Taheri [good-girl Robyn] were both theater majors at USC, and Brian Kelly [quiet, mysterious Paul] was like our star. He has been in hundreds of movies, including "Freakshow," and local television programs, and was sort of our pin-up boy on the movie. Brian is a great friend--he also was in "Generation Ax"--and I would work with him any time.

DP: And what about Tracey Powlas?

TF: Now, Tracey Powlas [as ditzy sorority bitch Jenny] is a different story altogether. She WAS Jenny, and really kind of scared me while we were shooting. I was always afraid that she was going to have a mental breakdown or something! And although I hate to say it, when I finished with her on the movie, I was like, "THANK YOU, GOD!" But I really shouldn't say that...Tracey got some of our best reviews.

DP: I can imagine how frightening Tracey must have been, though.

TF: Yeah, and can you believe that when we shot the film, she was in her mid-30s and had 3 kids?

DP: No way! The thought of her having kids is just...

TF: Hehe...

DP: At least she looks much younger than she is.

TF: Yeah, and at the time that she auditioned, she was acting as Tori Spelling's stunt double on a made-for-tv movie, so she already looked the part as it was!

DP: That's too funny.

TF: Originally, I wanted to cast Colleen Fitzpatrick, who was in John Waters' "Hairspray," in the role of Jenny. She loved the script, but she couldn't work out her schedule to do it. Now that she's known as Vitamin C, she is WAY busy.

DP: And, finally, what's the story with Billie Fontanez, who I think is a wonderful, very natural actor?

TF: Billie, who plays Uber-Dyke Cathy, auditioned. She was actually friends with Tracey, and was basically the part she played.

DP: Watching "Crinoline Head," the actors are so believable at playing their characters that it's hard to believe they're any different in real life. How did they differ from their on-screen personas?

TF: Aside from Billie and Tracey, they were all the total opposites of their characters. Steven Lee is pretty similar, I must say.

DP: And what about Cathy Slaminko, who was so good it was scary as stuck-up, megabitch Trish?

TF: Cathy is NOTHING like Trish! She's definitely not the delta bitch she plays. She is the nicest person you'd ever want to meet, and she gets along with everybody. She has also acted in a lot of videos of mine. We even did this thing called "Cool Kids High," which was filmed with nothing but Barbie dolls! And we also used to go to every rock-punk concert that came to the area. We went to see Green Day one time and got to hang out with the band after the show. We all even went to a go-cart race track!

DP: Oooh, way cool, jr!

TF: Fer sure.

DP: You starred in CH as Bodhi. And similarities between you both?

TF: I just tried to say "like" as much as humanly possible. Another person was originally going to play Bodhi, but after he dropped out, I took over. I will say that that was my very own Tiffany shirt that I wear in the movie. I love Tiffany to this day!

DP: And was that your New Kids on the Block sleeping bag? The idea of the butch, tomboy-ish Cathy (Billie Fontanez) having a NKOTB sleeping bag is simply so crazy, it's hilarious!

TF: I got the NKOTB sleeping bag at a flea market. Thanks for noticing!

DP: Actually, my friend Patrick, noticed when I showed him the movie last weekend.

TF: Oh, I have a funny story to tell. After completing CH, I was making sure I had all my releases, etc, and forgot to get a release for the lake house we shot at. I rented it for the shoot. I really did not need the release now because shooting was over. You only need it while you are there to give you permission to film on the site...anyway, dumb me thought I needed a release, like a talent release. I called the people I rented the house from and told them I shot a film there and wanted them to sign a release for the house. They were all, "well, we need to see the finished product first and then we will decide if we will sign it or not." To make a long story short, I found out that I no longer needed it and told them to fuck themselves, and thanks anyway. They thought they would hold up production and I had already shot the whole damn movie. They were all, "our son is a lawyer and he will sue if you try to release it without our permission...blah blah we are Christians..." I was like, please, sue me, give me some great never happened.

DP: LOL! That's one way to handle the situation!

TF: And if you read the Fango article on CH, I'm sure you read about the newspeople who came down to the house we shot at one day.

DP: Yeah, I do remember that. You staged a completely bogus scene in which someone was being killed with an axe, just to make the story more exciting. You must have had some time on your hands!

TF: And they cut it off right before the person fell into the lake, because the whole Susan Smith, drowning-her-kids thing had happened around that time.

DP: One thing I have wondered about since the first time I saw CH is the original, exaggerated way in which the characters speak, adding entire extra syllables and letters to words in their pronunciation. Is this way of talking something you created yourself?

TF: LOL! Some critics mistook the vocabulary as being a southern accent, which it isn't at all. The language came from Cathy Slaminko and I. We could carry on full conversations, saying things like "suga-mayan," and no one else would understand a thing we had said. It was just a weird way of talking that I wanted to incorporated into these characters' speech.

DP: I love in the movie when the character of Trish says, "My ass is too good to be walwakin'!"

TF: Haha! When Colleen Fitzpatrick read the script, that was her favorite line! She thought it was hysterical.

DP: Oh...and special kudos to having Trish go to "take a dump" in the early evening, only to have it change to nighttime and she is STILL on the toilet! I know people like this!

TF: An hours-long dump! The movie was meant to be very [outlandish], in a "Scary Movie" sort of way, such as having Robyn run out to the end of the bay dock to get away from Crinoline Head, or the character of Cathy going to sleep in her sleeping bag in the middle of the driveway!

DP: Watching the movie again for the 50th time last week, I was actually thinking how [1996's] "Scream" and [2000's] "Scary Movie" could have gotten their ideas from watching this movie!

TF: And CH was made way before "Scream" was! I don't know if you know this or not, but we even made the movie before [1995's] "Clueless," even though it wasn't released until 1997. WE CREATED "WHATEVER!" before "Clueless!"

DP: Switching over to your second film, "Generation Ax," I have heard it described as "Heathers" meets "Jawbreaker," or "Scream" meets "Serial Mom." Do you think this is accurate?

TF: Oh, definitely. Joe Bob Briggs basically made these comparisons after watching the film, and it's true. He couldn't believe so much stuff was coming from the SC area, like my movies, and "Hellblock 13."

DP: Could you give a basic summary of the "Generation Ax" premise?

TF: A German distributor that released Ax quoted it as "They're young, they're in love, they're completely insane!" I thought that was a good sum-up. Or "Heathers" and "Natural Born Killers" meets "Sixteen Candles" and "Baby-sitters Club," a' la John Waters. I wanted a teen thriller with a little gore, a little comedy, a little 80's teen film influence and a lot of bitchy girls. The title came to me while I was writing the script and I just laughed, I thought it was funny. I added the ax as a weapon for all the retards that did not know what Generation X was so that they could get the title.

DP: It's actually pretty ingenious.

TF: I'm not sure about that, but thanks :-)

DP: And how did the shoot for "Generation Ax" compare to that of "Crinoline Head?"

TF: "Generation Ax" had a 3 times as long shooting schedule and a much larger budget. We had a bigger cast, and a lot more shooting locations. I also went into the filming with more experience, but I still found myself with plenty of extra jobs to do. But it was a blast. I also try to make my sets fun, even when we've all been working for 16 hours. I like my cast and crew to feel like they're at summer camp, which probably comes from the oversized egos I witnessed on the big-budget movie sets I've been on.

DP: Well, that's what filmmaking should be---FUN---because when it stops being enjoyable, you gotta start asking yourself what exactly the point is, right? And I bet with making a movie, you've got to be prepared for just about anything.

TF: Exactly! We were shooting at a bar, and the sprinkler system went off because of all the lights. Four hours later, shooting resumed...with 50 extras.

DP: Ewww...that's not good. As a DVD enthusiast, I have to ask: are you planning to release "Crinoline Head" and "Generation Ax" on DVD?

TF: I would really like to, although it would cost a lot of money. But I would also like to know that there is an audience out there who would pick it up.

DP: Oh, there definitely is, if my friends and acquaintances whom I've shown your work to is any detector.

TF: I would love to add behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes and stuff that I have from the shoots. Marina Morgan, the star of "Generation Ax," is from New Jersey, and she had never been "down south". I basically got her addicted to Waffle House, so all through out the shoot, we created hand symbols, much like gangs do to represent their posse, that was a W and an H (Waffle House) and in every photo and all in the behind the scenes footage, everyone is always "throwing up the W and the H".

DP: Do you have any projects that you are currently working on?

TF: Right now I'm throwing around a few different things. One's a horror script, another is a drama that has no horror in it at all...and I've also been thinking about a "Crinoline Head" prequel. What will probably be my next film is "Family Possessions," a possession movie, with of course, a slasher feel. The story revolves around a girl and her family moving into her now dead, great grandmothers house, which they inherited. The girl slowly learns that in this town, it was thought that her GGM was a witch, and she slowly begins to possess her....hence the title, "Family Possessions." Mix this story with a new girl in school plot as well, and you have got some great opportunities for my fav......bitches in schools, etc.

DP: Sounds fun! Well, thank you, Tommy, for taking the time to talk to me. I genuinely enjoyed myself, and as a fellow movie lover, I must say that you have really inspired me with the talent and energy you have brought to your movies.

TF: Thank you. It was fun!

To purchase "Crinoline Head" and "Generation Ax," which I urge everyone to do, you can check your local video stores, or visit Tommy Faircloth's production company website at:
Horse Creek Productions
333 Pine Cliff Court
Columbia, SC 29209
Fax: 803-783-6312

©2001 by Dustin Putman