WEIRDNJ Presents – D.I.Y. N.J. (DO IT YOURSELF NEW JERSEY)
By Matt Chrystal (WNJ correspondent)
Throughout the summer of 2016, I will be spotlighting a DIY brand that is raising hell, going wild or otherwise “Breaking Bad” in the good ole’ Garden State.
This weekly series will explore the who’s, how’s, why’s and what’s happenin’ behind several of New Jersey’s most unique and interesting DIY brands.
Armed with a set of ten questions, I’ll check in on tattoo artists, pomade purveyors, hot sauce hawkers, craft beer brewers, emerging bands, classic barbers, b-movie makers, burlesque dancers, beard growers, music bloggers and record company reps as they as strive to find a release from the typical constraints of normal society and follow their transformation from hopeful upstarts into badass entrepreneurs.
Part III BREAKING B-MOVIES
10 Questions for Bill Zebub, King of the B-Movies and owner of Bill Zebub Productions from Clifton, NJ.
Ok, let’s pause here… this is your WARNING (or if you are fancy then this is your CAVEAT EMPTOR): If you are easily offended by ludicrous, suggestive and explicit movie titles and/or discussions about films in the realm of religious satire and “erotic horror” then please stop reading now and please join us again next week. Bill Zebub Productions may not be “politically correct” and may not be for everyone but one thing is for sure, it IS D.I.Y.N.J. and it IS New Jersey at its weirdest!
I am flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi with America’s hottest band… and we are all about to die! No, no I’m not… I just made accidental eye contact with Bill Zebub, the King of the B-Movies and now find myself gravitating toward his merch booth as if pulled by a tractor beam. As I get closer, I see the array of DVDs that he is selling and there’s no turning back… or is there? There isn’t.
At first glance, I notice the scantily clad actresses on the covers. Actresses with fun names like Scarlett Storm, Dangrr Doll and Taylor Trash who look… well who look like they are pretty fun indeed.
I feel the urge to ask a million questions and buy them all… then I read the titles. Titles ranging from the silly (Nightmare on Elmo’s Street) to the mildly cringeworthy (Holocaust Cannibal) to the absurd (Dick Shark) to the ummm whaaat (look up the alternate title for Human Antfarm) and I feel compelled to ask a million more questions and then run away quickly before anyone sees me looking at them. But I don’t run, I stay, I purchase two movies, and I ask Bill Zebub the ten questions…
Oh, and I learn that Bill does not own a smart phone or engage in much social media so he may never even read this interview… but hey, that’s Bill Zebub for ya… he puts it out there and lets you form your own opinions.
WNJ: Let’s launch our interview with your launching point…everyone loves an origin story… soooo…
1. How did you decide on the name “Bill Zebub”?
Bill: When I started my fanzine “The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds,” I wanted each writer’s name to be a play on a demon’s name. I was Bill Zebub. There was also a Lee Viathan and a Muffy Stopholes.
It was purely for fun and I had no idea that the name would stick.
2. Why did you decide to get started and how did you go about it?
I had videotaped skits and Jackass-type public stunts before there was a Jackass show. Well, mine didn’t involve masochism or male-nudity like Jackass, but it was masochistic in the humiliation sense. The target of embarrassment was ourselves, not the unsuspecting people. I was at Chiller Theatre horror convention in Secaucus and a friend introduced me to a scream queen named Darian Caine. She told me that she would sell my VHS anthologies of skits, which were just dubbed VCR-to-VCR. She also acted in one of my skits and then told me that I should make a feature-length movie. I bought a book by Syd Field about screenwriting, and I wrote “Metalheads” as a practice script. I also videotaped the movie as a practice. I handed out VHS tapes to get my name out, and one landed in the hands of a distributor who offered me a contract even though the movie was shot with a camcorder.
3. What does your process look like (creating, selecting actors, locations, themes, etc)?
I don’t have a set process, other than indulging my odd humor. But let me give you a specific movie. I made a joke title “Santa Claus: Serial Rapist” but I had no intention to make that movie. Earlier this year, I wondered whether holiday-themed movies were cash-grabs or written for the sake of good stories. I thought about the serial rapist idea and did a bit of research on the myth. AS I learned more, the data tied in with what I had studied about other things. But nobody else would make such associations. That’s my specialty. I have the ability to bind things that seem unrelated. Thus, I create stories that have interpretations that no one else would make. Santa Claus: Serial Rapist is low-brow and high-brow at the same time, which means that it has the green light. If it were just a one-trick pony then it would not get made.
As for casting, I usually post notices on sites like nycastings.com for trained actresses. I also post on modeling sites. When I make experimental comedies, like Human Antfarm, I like to hire fans of my movies. Part of my experiment is to direct non-actors. Newcomers to my movies who watch the experimental comedies often complain about the acting, but I don’t think that they have the indie spirit. People who are fans of the independent world see the creativity, not the shortcomings.
4. How big a role does the area/community of New Jersey that you operate out of play into your brand ?
Most of my movies are filmed 100% in N.J. Sometimes I shoot out of state if that is the only way to hire a particular cast member, but those movies are still 90% or more New Jerseyan movies. The trained actresses from New York sometimes express some concern over entering New Jersey, but usually there is no problem for them to take a train in. Bear in mind that my scripts are bizarre, so the type of actress who participates is adventurous. New Jersey has a different climate every ten miles. You can find forests, suburban cities, urban cities, lakes, wastelands, farms, and any other location that would be required for a movie.
5. In marketing and networking these days, online communities usually have a big role in the success and expansion of DIY businesses. And as with any relationship, there seems to be periods of love and hate as opinions and reviews flow freely on open forums and message boards….
Does being part of an online community make it difficult to “please the people” and still “stay true” to your vision?
I built my success on being hated and mocked. In the early days, my press sheets had the most scathing reviews that i could find. Times have changed just a little bit. These days, good reviews can actually be bad. It was this morning that I saw a review for one of my movies that gave it the maximum ranking, but the reviewer was absolutely clueless about the movie. I wish he had just given me the worst ranking and wrote that the movie sucked. This is actually a broad topic, so Ill just stick to what specifically applies to me. Like I said, I used bad reviews for my marketing.
The other thing that applies to me is that I am not ashamed of being an indie director. If i were in a mall, I would be shunned by most people there. But perhaps a few would resonate with my personality. I am happy about that. My tiny piece of the pie is all that I need. I feel a bit sorry for people who want it all. My shocking movies aren’t meant to anger people who would never be my friends. Rather, I make movies to delight people who would be my friends. No matter how the Internet treats me, the people who would like my wares see the beacons that lead them to me, and the call might reside within a bad review.
6. What phase of the love/hate relationship would describe your current state of mind when dealing with the online community? Don’t worry, your secrets are safe with me!
I was furious when I read a review that gave me 5-out-of-5 stars but the write-up was clueless. The writer described a movie that I never did. But it was on a mainstream merchant site, so I would expect most people who buy the movie to hate it. There was nothing lost. The only time that I get angry over something on the Internet is when the writer acts tough. It’s the tough-on-the-phone behavior that rankles me. But that’s how some people are. A more common trait is for people to come up with an explanation for why I did this or that, using no actual evidence. It’s biology. There is a narrator in our brains who requires a cause-and-effect and will invent one if the story does not present itself. So people will write things like, “He only makes movies like that for revenge against nuns who punished him too badly.” or something like that. Some people also assume that I have sex with my actresses. It never occurs to them that they are in my movies because they get paid very well, and that they liked the script. But this is just the brain at work. Some people can fight their instincts, and some people have no introspection. I forgive them for they know not what they do.
7a. Your brand has taking you to many places, not only in the Garden State but also around the United States? What is one of your favorite adventures or experiences?
When I heard about the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, I sent them one of my movies as a “hello”. I wrote a brief letter introducing myself and that I hoped to one day improve enough to be considered for their event. The head of the festival called me to compliment the movie. I didn’t understand that he was asking me to screen it. Not only did they show it, but they paid for my hotel, food, and most importantly, beer! When I was there, surrounded by people who had an intense love for movies, it was rejuvenating. Some of the staff took me on private escapades with REAL directors, enjoying the many splendors of Montreal. It was indeed strange that I was in the company of distinguished movie-makers as if I were one of them.
7.b Any least favorite experiences?
My least favorite was an experience with a horror convention in North Carolina. When I was first there, they asked me if I would prefer to be in a room that had other pornography. I refused, saying that I don’t make porn. I interpreted that question as them just making sure that I was happy. They were going to play my movie “Human Antfarm” that night, so I assumed that they knew what I did and did not do. I must say that the crowd treated me like a king. One guy actually cried when he met me. My movie played, and the crowd reaction was so strong that I was told that next year I could show any movie that I wanted to. I should have known better, but I sent a blasphemous comedy. The fundamentalist guy who ran film festival wrote me a long letter in which every paragraph began with “And it’s not because I’m offended.”
In some places I am welcome, and in other places I am banned.
So for the people that welcome you, let’s talk about where you are headed to in the future…
8. What should we know about what you have got going on?
Currently I am finalizing my version of Frankenstein. Peter Steele from Type O Negative was to play the monster, but I am glad that I hadn’t started filming back then. I made some video tests after he died, and I came to the conclusion that this can’t be a horror, thriller, or any kind of narrative. It has to be art-house, at least for me. The book is the most sorrowful literature i have ever read. The monster was not the retarded zombie that Hollywood depicted. He read Goethe, Plutarch, and Milton. The movie with Deniro in it should have been called “Mary Shelley did NOT write this,” I flirted with surreal imagery in my erotic horror, and even in Dickshark. Now I am undertaking a full-blown art-house movie and it is the hardest thing that I have ever done.
9. What can we look forward to in the future from Bill Zebub Productions?
I might make my sperm available for inception. But the child must not know the parentage until my death.
10. Ok, then! And where can folks find you to keep up with you?
I would start at billzebub.com. There is a good chance that I will be in Toronto for Horrorrama in October. If you are inclined to buy my movies, I would like for you to purchase from an indie-store rather than a mainstream outlet. These stores actually hand-pick my movies whereas the larger ones tend to just get my wares by accident.
Thanks for the info and the time, Mr. Zebub! I can’t wait to sit back with some popcorn and watch the inevitable unraveling of the peaceful coexistence between humans and puppets. Annnnd to our faithful readers, Stay Up, Stay Tuned and Tune In Next Time as WEIRD NJ “Breaks Skin ” with Jersey Jay Wymbs of Pogue Mahone Tattoo Company in Red Bank, NJ.