KEVIN KANGAS INTEVIEW
Interview conducted by Steve Pattee
Fear of Clowns writer/director Kevin Kangas has worked as a script reader at a prominent Los Angeles agency and has written over twenty feature screenplays. He went to film school at the University of Maryland and has directed many shorts, as well as an award-winning training video for the national department store Hecht’s.
His first feature film, Hunting Humans, won numerous awards and was distributed by MTI Home Video across the country. It was also picked up for foreign sales by IFM World Releasing, Inc.
Fear of Clowns, his second feature film, will be distributed by Lionsgate Films on February 28, 2006.
HorrorTalk: Your first movie, Hunting Humans, received quite a few awards, including Festival Prize for best screenplay at the Los Angeles DIY Film Festival. It also had a half-page article in Fangoria. Did this surprise you at all, considering it was your first film?
Kevin Kangas: Yes, the award surprised me because it was the first festival I submitted the film to, and I didn't even know we'd been accepted. I happened to stumble on the press release about the award-winners and I see my name there for "Best Screenplay" — that was pretty exciting.
The Fango article was great too — to see your name in print in a magazine you've been reading since you were a kid is very cool in a weird way. Or very weird in a cool way. One or the other.
The new article [Fangoria #251 – ed.] is even better, because it's four pages. Bigger IS better!
HT: Now that the digital cameras have become so (relatively) reasonable to own, there seems to have been an influx of independent horror movies over the past couple of years. Do you think it is helping or hurting the genre?
KK: Hurting. Just because you have access to the equipment doesn't mean you can make something interesting. You need to take the time to learn the craft.
Imagine any other talent/occupation — Hey, I wanna be an airline pilot. I have access to a plane, but no training—is that a good idea? I wanna be a surgeon. I have the scalpels, but no training — is that a good idea?
The biggest problem is that a lot of these people want to make a movie but don't realize that they CANNOT write. If you want to make a movie and you have the equipment, but you haven't spent 10 years learning how to write well, find someone who HAS spent 10 years learning. Get a script from them.
The script is THE most important thing — period. A bad director won't ruin a good script. A bad editor won't ruin a good script. A great director can't make a good movie from a bad script. (See: Hook, A.I., Showgirls, etc. for example.)
HT: Both Hunting Humans and Fear of Clowns had terrific scores for low-budget movies. Was this something you intentionally set out to accomplish, or did it just happen?
KK: I'm a fan of the classical orchestra-type scores, so that's what I sought out. The first time around, I got a demo from Evan Evans and it was phenomenal. Everything I wanted, but I didn't think I could afford the guy. He liked the movie, so he cut me a break.
On FOC, his schedule conflicted with when I needed the score, so I got lucky with Chad Seiter — another young guy who's extremely talented. He's doing orchestrations for the television shows “Lost” and “Alias,” but he came through on a tight schedule. He'll be scoring the sequel also, which will help the continuity from the first film.
HT: Your credits for both of your movies are must reads, considering some of the names you have used as crew members, such as Richard Speck, Henry Bowers and Richard Tingler, Jr. Why did you use so many famous killers?
KK: For Hunting Humans, it was a matter of necessity — if a distributor sees only five names in the credits, then they know you had no crew; they'll lowball you when they try to buy the movie. So I needed a bunch of names. And what better names than serial killers for a movie about serial killers, whose names I borrowed from an encyclopedic book listing serial killers?
So I just started filling in serial killer names under crew positions; I used real and fictional serial killers. For instance, I use the pseudonym Harvey Glatman as editor — he actually won an editing award, but that was the real name of the Lonely Hearts killer.
But Jim Profit (our special effects coordinator) was the sociopath from the Fox television show. I think I also have some Stephen King killers in there, too. I threw in everyone I could think of.
HT: And, speaking of the credits, in the Hunting Humans credits, you specifically didn't thank someone. Who was it, and why didn't you thank them?
KK: I'll only comment on the "Annapolis Mall Security" — they kicked us out of the PARKING LOT at like midnight — wouldn't let us shoot even though we were simply shooting inside one of our own vehicles. The guard could have simply sat in his truck and watched us — we would only have taken about 15 minutes.
Nope, he made us leave. Dick.
HT: In the March 2006 issue of Fangoria, you write: "For all the trials and tribulations of low-budget filmmaking, in the end it's all worth it." You go on to mention the long workdays and the lack of sleep. You also mention the many things that will go wrong. What are some of those things that future low-budget filmmakers can expect?
KK: That's the rub. You can't predict what will go wrong, but you need to be prepared anyway. Luckily for me, I'm incredibly insane in my preparation. In my mind, I go to great lengths to imagine EVERY scenario that can go wrong and try to have a backup plan. And even I'm surprised sometimes.
You need to be very quick-thinking, which is made twice as hard because you're sleep-deprived during the shoot.
A few of the regular things that go wrong are: Actors don't show on time/at all, special effects don't work according to plan, harassment from law enforcement when shooting in public, unexpected and unavoidable noises during shoots (lawn mowers, planes) and the actress who's supposed to get naked is on her period (no, it didn't happen to me, but you see how prepared I am?).
HT: You are now in pre-production of Fear of Clowns 2, but it almost didn't happen. Why?
KK: It was nothing momentous or anything. I just had other plans. I didn't want to make my third movie a sequel, but you can't really turn your back on Lionsgate, now can you? I am extremely fortunate that my second film was picked up by a studio of their stature, so to not do the sequel would have been stupid at this point.
But still ... if I hadn't come up with an idea I could solidly get behind on the sequel, then I wouldn't have done it. As it is, I think the sequel is actually going to be better than the first.
HT: What can we expect to see in the sequel? Is everyone from the first movie returning?
KK: Jacky Reres (Lynn), Frank Lama (Detective Peters), and Mark Lassise (Shivers) are all definitely in. Rick Ganz's character (Tuck) is back, but we're still not sure if we can get Rick back. We're working on it.
HT: Is there a working title or tag line for Fear of Clowns 2?
KK: It will simply be Fear of Clowns 2 — I've never been a fan of the subtitle. The tag line on the promo poster was "...this time he's brought friends..." but I'm not sure what the final poster will look like.
I kind of like Lionsgate's new tag line for Fear of Clowns, which has been “Face the Fear” — they only used it in a couple of ads, so I might cop that one for the sequel.
HT: Lionsgate is releasing the Fear of Clowns DVD on February 28. Did you contact Lionsgate, or did they contact you?
KK: They contacted me. I got a voicemail call on my cell phone from an acquisition guy there—lemme tell ya, that's a great message to get. They had heard about the film on the Internet and wanted to see a screener.
I sent it, and it steamrolled from there.
HT: Do you have any plans for what's after Fear of Clowns 2?
KK: Yes, I do. I'm not talking about it yet, though. When word leaks, it will either show up at www.kangaskahnfilms.com under NEWS or FORUM, so go sign up on the forum. We just published some new clown sketches up there in the last day or so.
HT: Do you have any advice for upcoming filmmakers?
KK: Learn how to write. Don't call yourself a writer until you've EARNED it. Because you're not one until you've spent lonely years at your computer/laptop/typewriter putting in the work to turn blank pages into interesting story populated by interesting characters.
If you don't want to learn to write, option the screenplay from someone who DOES know how to write.
And then do the best job you can. Don't ever settle. Don't say, “Good enough.” Prepare for the job. If you don't know how to do something, figure it out. Ask on the message boards, search around. The Internet is an invaluable resource. 80 percent of the nuts and bolts of what I needed to know regarding equipment for Hunting Humans I learned on the Internet.
To this day, I still use the same mic that was referred to me by the guys on the filmmaking newsgroup.
HT: Who would win in a fight: Aric Blue, the serial killer from Hunting Humans, or Shivers, the clown from Fear of Clowns?
KK: Aric Blue, easy. He's always well-armed, and bullets beat axe any day. If it were a hand-to-hand fight, well, Shivers would pulverize him, but Aric would never let it come to that. (And yes, people have suggested I do a Hunting Clowns film. When I do that movie, that's the day you can call me “sell-out” and I will gladly agree with you.)
You can keep up with Kevin at Kangas Kahn Films.
Want to comment on this interview? Head over to the Horrortalk Review Forum.