Features | Written by Martin Unsworth 20/12/2012
Interview: Matt Farnsworth, Director of THE ORPHAN KILLER
The Orphan Killer is an independent film taking the horror scene by storm. With the eponymous character’s distinctive look gracing many a magazine and website. The film is unlikely to be released commercially in the UK and has been banned in Germany, but is available to buy from the film’s website or from iTunes. We caught up with the film’s director, Matt Farnsworth to find out more…
Starburst: First off, how did you get into filmmaking? Was it always an interest?
Matt Farnsworth: It started a long, long time ago in a land far, far away… We moved a lot when I was a kid. When the first VHS recording devices were released we had one. It was my job to document all the shit we had in the house on video each time we moved. I think my parents were probably just giving me something to do to get me out of their hair. I was young and had a video camera. Needless to say… I documented everything in meticulous detail. Later in my first years of college, I found acting. It became a passion. So much so, that I moved to Hollywood and ended up screen testing for major roles in Star Wars, Terminator, and other big films. I was always writing so the progression to directing and making films came naturally. I am also a film fanatic. I used to watch every movie I could get my hands on. I still watch a lot of films.
What were your influences coming in to make the film?
I’ve always been a blood and guts slasher fan. When I was a kid we spent some time living in Kansas and there was nothing bigger than Metallica and Freddy Krueger. They were big all over the U.S. but the slasher boom was happening during my awkward years and during that time period it really gave me an outlet. My main influence in making The Orphan Killer was myself. I have to keep my creativity going or I get edgy. Kubrick was probably the most influential director to me. In the horror genre, the list of my favorite killers goes like this: TOK, Freddy, Hannibal Lector, Michael, Jack Torrance, Jason, Pinhead, Jaws, That little Fuck (Chucky), and Leatherface.
I enjoy the classic Monster movies too. A TV movie that really gave me a major fright as a kid was Salem’s Lot. That had me looking over my shoulder all the time and staring at the window all night. Every little noise was a vampire scratching at the window… sleeping with a blanket wrapped around my head sweating.
In my career, I have worked personally with the editor of the original Amityville Horror, Lost Boys, Flatliners, Police Academy and other big ones. He taught me the editing craft. I am sure that had some influence on me and my choice to make a horror film. I was taught the editing craft by a master of horror.
The film has been around for a while now, and you have been doing the US convention circuit, how has that been?
TOK hasn’t really been around long at all. The original Texas Chain Saw has been around a while. What has happened with TOK in this short time is astonishing. It’s become a horror icon. Fans love it, it’s banned in Germany, has over 2.5 million illegal downloads verified and that number is still growing. Studios films don’t get that kind of attention and they have huge marketing budgets. If you take that into consideration you see how powerful TOK is. Fans drive The Orphan Killer. The Orphan Killer has become the new horror icon by social media election. It’s a hit. If the right studio came along and didn’t want to fuck me over completely, I would consider putting it out with one of them. They seem very daft though. Kind of like dinosaurs. Not that I have met an actual dinosaur. That would be a trick. This film is so popular Facebook called me to ask how our click-through rates are higher than celebrity-driven films. That means we are a bigger deal than Brad Pitt movies in advertising to our market. I love social media and all it has done for indie filmmaking. The U.S. Convention circuit has been very beneficial in creating awareness about the movie. Fans are always shocked to pick this film up at a Con. They just don’t get that caliber of movie usually at conventions, so it’s a nice surprise. They always take off and watch it immediately. Then they come back speechless. They always say “I love this movie. It is my new favorite slasher”, or “The Orphan Killer is an instant classic”, or “This should be in every theatre”, and “Marcus Miller is the New Horror Icon”. We hear this on Facebook as well. It never gets old. It’s refreshing each time and I appreciate hearing it. There will be many Orphan brothers and sisters reading this. I owe this film’s icon status to all of them. TOK will not be, being discovered. It’s viral and as other TOK projects are made, it will expand farther and continue to be watched by new generations of horror fans worldwide.
How did you get John Savage on board?
John was in my movie, “IOWA“. John and I go way back. He’s a good friend and has enjoyed being in my films. He’s an incredible actor and I love getting him into different kinds of roles.
One of the strongest points of the film is the gore and all the practical effects, was there ever a temptation to go down the CGI route?
No. I wanted grit and grime on the lenses. I could not get that type of feeling with CGI. CGI is not visceral. Horrorhound magazine in the U.S. said, “The acting is so good and the effects so well executed that you cannot look away”.
The whole point of a slasher is that the violent elements make the show exciting. The acting and production value, however, are the strongest points of the film.
The film has been banned in Germany, what was your reaction to that? Other than how great it is for marketing!
At first, I thought it was odd. The film has not even been officially released and I am getting letters from the German government. It’s a badge of honor in the horror market. There is no denying it. The film is an instant classic now. Thanks, Germany.
One of the items you sell on your website is a replica of Marcus’ mask, which has a very iconic look to it. Was merchandising important from the beginning or is it just a case of supply and demand?
The evolution of The Orphan Killer as a character has created a large demand for Orphan Killer products. I always felt it could take off from the very beginning. I thought in the beginning about it and that became a reality through demand.
What was your reasoning behind distributing the film yourself? Was it a conscious decision to avoid “selling out”? It’s great that it’s a region free release so us Brits can buy it. Has this way of distribution caused any problems?
It was a very conscious decision not to give it to a studio straight away. If you give your film to them it is a huge gamble and the odds are not in your favor unless there are performance guarantees, which there never are. The studios in Hollywood have become abusive to independent filmmakers. I believe the karmic reaction to the abuse suffered by truly creative people is the pirate world that now exists. Pirates are taking billions from the studios and the studios do not like it. I cannot say that piracy has helped me make a bunch of money on The Orphan Killer. In fact, there is none. There are over 2.5 million illegal downloads of The Orphan Killer movie worldwide and counting. It is subtitled and dubbed in 70 languages. People all over the world have proliferated my film. It is sold on discs all over the world. I have never signed one single deal on the film. There has never been an agreement between me and anyone else to distribute my film. There were negotiations with two major studios in Hollywood, but nothing I found agreeable. I believe the power of the film has taken it to the masses and the easiest way for people to get it so far has been through piracy. People do not pirate your film and ban it if it is not a hit. Indie filmmakers all over the world would be lucky if people even cared to download their films. The fact that there is so much available for free makes millions of downloads (illegal or not) that much more of an accomplishment. We have been on the cover of numerous magazines, selling them out in pre-sell. Even Rob Zombie played The Orphan Killer at his concert in New Jersey. None of this could have been accomplished if people didn’t know TOK existed. Now, fans worldwide hail TOK as the new horror icon. The character continues to be discovered every day.
The region-free idea was a purposeful choice. I wanted to start a TOK fire worldwide and now 70 countries are blazing in TOK murder. I have not even had a chance to mention in the interview all of the awards and festivals the film has been to worldwide. It’s a great place I am in.
So, what have you planned for the future?
Big plans. I have a major TOK web series slated for 2013. It is going to be bloody brutal. I am not allowed to talk too much about it yet but fans will be so bloody happy with it. I have also written the sequel to TOK and the third installment. Just last week, I cut a deal with Trick or Treat Studios to distribute the official cinema replica mask into stores worldwide. Oh yeah, go buy the movie on DVD from our website; comes with a free soundtrack. You will bloody love it and can add it to your cruel collection. Brutal thanks.