LA Film Festival Mon 6.8.2015

A Melting Pot Of Dark Humor—The Story Behind Dude Bro Party Massacre III

Behind every (fill in the blank) great/glorious/funny/scary/sad story told on film is an equally great/glorious/funny/scary (yes, probably sometimes) sad story: the one about how the whole thing went from being an idea in a brain (probably many years ago) to a big screen premiere at a big-time Festival. In this Film/Maker Q/A blog series, our LA Film Fest programmers interview our LA Film Fest filmmakers to discover the stories behind the story.

Programmer Ray Price chatted with directing trio: Michael Rousselet, Tomm Jacobsen, Jon Salmon about their highly anticipated and notorious slasher flick, Dude Bro Party Massacre III. The film follows dorky loner Brent Chirino who must infiltrate the hard-partying Delta Bi Theta fraternity to solve the brutal murder of his identical twin brother. In an abandoned sorority house beside a secluded lake (where else?) an unseen killer strikes with increasingly gruesome methods. Has the insanely sadistic “Motherface” returned from beyond the grave? This pitch-perfect recreation of the “boobs and blood” teen movie subgenre is a gift to those of us who fondly remember nights huddled in front of the tube watching the films our parents warned us about.

During the last five months we have looked at literally thousands of films. None of them has had as much gore or as many jokes as Dude Bro.  It’s as if the Zucker brothers had directed their first film at Troma. Do you see yourselves as primarily horror mavens with a relentless sense of humor or humorists who are lampooning a specific genre?
Tomm: Wow! That’s an amazing compliment. I think the best thing about 5-Second Films is that we have both in our mix. Myself I’m a horror nut with a twisted sense of humor.

Michael: Wow, thank you, indeed! 5-Second Films is a melting pot of dark humor. The whole group finds humor in the macabre but you’d be surprise to know that the majority of 5SF are not huge horror fans like myself, Tomm and Joey Scoma who directed the kill montage and commercials. We grew up with a deep love for 80’s slasher that ranged from the truly horrifying to the ridiculous campy. DBPM3 is a love letter to the genre from a psychotic ex.

Jon: Thanks so much! I always saw the film as a comedy channeling low budget ’80s slashers, kind of the way Wet Hot American Summer is a comedy channeling ’80s teen summer camp movies.

Did any other films like Evil Dead or Dead Alive influence you? 
Tomm: Yeah, those are very deep seeded influences for myself, especially Evil Dead. But we watched all kinds of movies to get into the mood. A LOT were ’80s slashers. But we watched everything from Slumber Party Massacre 3 to Clue to Wet Hot American Summer.

Michael: We love Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson! Their approach to the genre with over the top gore, slap stick and playful tone was a huge inspiration. Other ’80’s films that we drew inspiration from were: Friday the 13th IV, Sleep Away Camp 2, Nightmare on Elm Street 2, and Slumber Party Massacre. Mainly sequels because that’s when things get ridiculous. Our opening kill montage was hugely influenced by Friday the 13th IV because it explained the whole story up to that point with a montage of kills. It was a very clever device.

Jon: We talked about Evil Dead a ton, especially during shotlisting. We even built some very similar low budget rigs to the ones Raimi used in the ’80s!

The body count in Dude Bro is quite impressive.  How many people did you ultimately kill off?
Tomm: On screen? I would say 44.5 some others might say 45. But thousands implied.
Michael: What Tomm says, although there’s an argument about whether the “0.5” should be a whole number, but you’ll be the judge when you see the film.

Jon: I tend to round up on such things.

How hard was it to keep coming up with new ways to mutilate the characters?  The orange juicer stands out as a favorite.
Jon: Yeah, it was intensely easy to come up with the deaths. If writing was like cooking, coming up with kills would be hot pockets and breaking story would be eggs benedict.

Tomm: THAT’S ME DYING! Those were some of my favorite writing meetings. Everyone would come to the table with ideas, crack a few dozen beers and start riffing. Some ideas survived from the very first meeting. Some where a combination of two or three different ideas. It really was whatever made us laugh at the table made it in the script.

Michael: That was the best part, coming up with all the kills! That’s what started the whole brainstorming of the movie. We wanted to have bros get killed by their worst fears so sometimes we would work backwards, find out what would be the most ridiculous way to kill someone and have that incorporate into their fears and their character. Being a huge horror fan it was a ball. We wanted to do a lot of kills that haven’t been done before. Some are pretty offensive but they are blanketed by humor and practical cheesy ’80’s gore so it makes them all more digestible.

I think I remember that in Dead Alive they stuffed a skull with spaghetti and then blew it up.  What were the special effects challenges in your film?
Jon: There’s a twist that happens on a dock about two thirds of the way through the film that is…otherworldly. You’ll know when you see it.

Tomm: Well we wrote such a crazy script we knew we were going to have to do some of the effects ourselves, especially in the opening montage. One notably would be my death, the juicer. We were trying to figure out how to make the blood spray in a circle. After raking our brains, all it took was a trip to Home Depot’s sprinkler selection. I held the sprinkler in my mouth and hooked it up to our fire extinguisher that was filled with blood. The shot looks so brutal! I love it!

Michael: We have one kill where their head explodes and we didn’t want to do it with CGI. We had to figure out a cheap way to do it without raising the budget. Let’s just say the reason why explosions are so expensive to do on film is because you feel safe. It was worth it!

The end has almost a mystical quality that reminded me in some ways of Shaolin Soccer.
Jon: 5SFs as a format have always been about the hard left turn in the last second. We knew the movie had to have one of the hardest left turn we’ve ever pulled.

Tomm: Thanks! Stephen Chow is a master of genre blending.

Michael: Wow, you really did watch the whole movie! Thank you. That ending is the most over the top thing we could ever think of. We at 5SF kept upping the stakes and adding more and more ridiculous climaxes to the script, it was so unconventional, I was worried the ending wouldn’t hold together. But when Brian Firenzi delivered the first cut and we watched the ending I stood up and cheered in the theater, “It works! Holy shit! It all works!”

Your company, 5 Second Films, has been producing short comic films for the internet since 2008 and have been seen on youtube more than 115 million times.  How did your experience with 5 Second Films influence you approach to making a feature?
Jon: Our secret weapon has always been our well of funny people. Any time you need a good riff you can dip the bucket into the funny well and expect something unexpected to come out. That influenced the writing. For the shooting, we had to assess where each of us was strongest and delegate appropriately, but the team spirit throughout was enormous.

Tomm: Well most of us (cast and crew) have worked together for five or more years. We are best friends and family. And we have been living with this movie for years now. Everyone knew it backwards and forwards. So when it came time to start rolling the machine just clicked. Our AD was one of the few new comers to the family and he really let us handle the film like we would have on a typical 5SF shoot. We kept the cameras rolling in between takes and would throw out alt lines and ways of playing it. We moved quick and sometimes had an A unit and B unit operating at the same time.

Michael [*We have over 220 Million views.] We’ve been making 5-Second Films for the past seven years. Six years of that was delivering a new film every weekday so by the end of 2013 we had 1,500 films! Something like four hours worth of 5-Second Films. Like Tomm was saying, we are a well-oiled machine and all close friends. On the production side, we are all basically writers, editors, and directors so we know what we need to shoot to make a scene work if our backs are against the wall. We work very very quickly. I don’t think we would have been able to film this ambitious script with such a tiny budget if we all weren’t so production-savvy and fast! It’s like we’ve been training the past seven years for this moment!

How did you convince Patton Oswalt to be in the film?
Tomm: Blackmail, of course!

Michael: Patton Oswalt is a saint, he donated the exact amount to our kickstarter that guaranteed a cameo. So legally we had to put him in the film haha. He’s been a huge supporter of us at 5-Second Films. Years ago he saw a bunch of our films thanks to and tweeted them out, we were ecstatic that a comedy icon we all love and respect was validating our hard work. We tweeted back asking if he wanted to be in some films and he said absolutely. That was it! No agents, no managers, no assistants just a direct connection through social media. God bless the internet.

Jon: Rouss tells the truth. Tomm, we discussed this, we need to get a lawyer first.

Almost 5,000 people contributed on Kickstarter.  What was the secret of your crowdfunding success?
Tomm: Fans trusted that we could do this based on our relentless tenacity of putting a film up every Monday through Friday for five+ years. That and I’m pretty sure I threatened to kill Michael Rousselet several times if we didn’t make our goal.

Michael: We spent six years building a fanbase and a trust that we are a reliable group of comedians and filmmakers who can deliver what we promise. The key to a successful kickstarter, especially if you already have a fanbase, is that you are selling yourself. Your fans don’t really care about the product they care about you. They want to see YOU get excited about something YOU want to make. The attitude has to be “we are going to do this with our without your help, you should come join us on this adventure and be a part of it.” It has to be confident. Don’t beg, desperation isn’t sexy. Even in our darkest hours when we thought were weren’t going to make it, we had to act confidently that we were going to make it. The “5SF Stream-A-Thon” really helped push us over the mid-point of our goal. We did a LIVE four hour stream-a-thon at the Youtube Studios with live music, stand up, sketches, audience interactions. We raised $20,000! It was a nightmare to do but it was worth it. Oh, and Tomm threatened to kill me a lot.

Jon: It took the fans. It took all these kids commenting, saying they were giving their allowance for the month, that they were donating although they were broke, that they trusted us and would watch anything we made. And we can’t wait for them to see it.

Dude Bro Party Massacre III is playing in the Nightfall section at the LA Film Fest on Saturday June 13 at 10:20 pm.

Ray Price Los Angeles Film Festival Associate Programmer Ray has over 30 years of experience in all areas of film; including senior positions in exhibition, distribution, marketing and production. “I look at filmmakers as storytellers so what is most important to me is a distinct voice of authorship in the film. Secondly I look for a story or perspective that I haven’t heard or seen before. That sense of discovery and the feeling of being in a real conversation is what moves me the most.”