Interview: Matt Farnsworth – Director (The Orphan Killer)
Back in April, I attended the Motor City Nightmares Convention in Novi, Mi. While browsing the various booths I came across one dedicated solely to one film. That film was “The Orphan Killer”. After having a short conversation with the films’ creator Matt Farnsworth, I decided to give it a shot. “TOK” pulls no punches and delivers on all levels.
I needed to find out more about the film and its creator, so I reached out to Mr. Farnsworth to ask him a few questions about “TOK” and here is what he had to say.
Matt Farnsworth: It originated from me inside of me. A very dark part of my psyche. I was on the East Coast when the idea struck me. I wanted to make a slasher film. I have always enjoyed this genre and I felt there had been a lack of good current slasher films. Real blood-flowing films. Old school style.
ZM: The film was recently BANNED IN GERMANY. Was there ever a reason given or a particular act of violence cited? Has the ban helped or hindered the film in any way?
MF: Yes. It has been called youth endangering. I received a letter from the German government informing me it was banned. No particular act was cited. Maybe it was the burning of the Pope or the nun that blows the janitor on the altar. Considering the realistic violence in the film, it could be anything. The religious aspect is nothing more than a backdrop but we all know how sensitive those types can be. The original Texas Chainsaw was banned in Germany.
Did not seem to hurt that franchise. I take it as a compliment. When we were in Italy (Tohorror) we found they love The Orphan Killer. In Barcelona, at Sitges and San Sebastian Spain, the film was a hit. All over Europe it is widely accepted and regarded as “THE SERIAL KILLER OF THE 21st CENTURY”. TOK was on the cover of all the major newspapers in Spain. It has soared to tremendous heights in Europe and continues to do so. In America, slasher fans have embraced TOK which is impressive do to the fact that many fans of slasher in America are very picky about their horror. You can see from this review how most feel about it. We are very pleased and get a lot of wonderful quotes like this…..”Matt Farnsworth’s brutal opus–you hear that? That’s the slasher genre choking on its own blood because ‘The Orphan Killer’ just f*cked it up” WATCH VIDEO REVIEW.
ZM: How did the soundtrack with BULLET TOOTH artists come about?
MF: One of the guys in the film who plays the janitor that gets the machete through the face is a partner at a music company that owned Bulletooth and Trustkill Records. After seeing a rough cut of the film, he turned me onto them. I instantly became a fan of First Blood, Deception of a Ghost, Born of Osiris, Walls of Jericho, Asking Alexandria, Ventana, and the other great bands. The music works well with the film. Josh Grabelle, owner of the Bulletooth Label helped to put it all together and had the bands interested in doing the Soundtrack.
ZM: I loved how Audrey goes through such a transformation through the course of the film. How much of the character did Diane bring to the role and how much was written?
ZM: You’re self-distributing the film yourself. Was this a pre-planned decision or something you had to do? Have you been in talks with any distributors?
MF: It was never a plan to just give it away and it was never a premeditated decision to put it out through my own company. The killing, however, was pre-meditated. I’ve met some of the big studio guys. Anchor Bay wanted to put it out. I said NO. Lionsgate sees the value in it…yeah only for them. Many filmmakers think once they get a deal with a studio they’ve made it. The truth is, they most likely just got f*cked. Just about anyone can make a movie nowadays and many of them are at the studio’s door ready to give their film away to the first distributor that offers. If you didn’t see any upfront money you won’t see any backend money. Ask George Romero. I can tell you that on my first film “Iowa”, the studio that put that out in the US still claims to be in the red 5 years after the release through creative accounting. It’s what they do. Luckily, “The Orphan Killer” became famous and I own it.
I decided to handle the marketing personally. It took off. I have a lot of passion for it. TOK has been on the cover of Shock Horror Magazine, Scream Magazine, Girls and Corpses, Gore Noir, and others. I am grateful to the horror genre and its fans. If it were not for social media and the internet the message about this film would have never gotten out and TOK would not have been called the new legendary slasher of this century by so many. Fans who bought TOK love it. It’s a classic for them. I like that there is a sense of astonishment when it arrives and I truly appreciate the trust those fans had to buy it. I could have easily sold out on this one. I am open to deals down the line but it has to be the right deal. The truth is that studios make movies everyday with celebrities in them. They don’t know if anybody is going to give a sh*t about them. The Orphan Killer has already proven people care. We are in a new world distribution and it’s the fans that make a movie something everyone must see.
ZM: There are so many indie horror films that are sold and self-distributed at horror conventions that I am used to people trying to sell me their films. Some are good, some are bad but your enthusiasm for TOK is pretty infectious. What other avenues are you pursuing to get TOK out there and to be seen?
MF: The conventions are not really a way for me to sell the film. I enjoy meeting the fans. The Orphan Killer has been honored in so many major festivals throughout the world it’s tough to really compare it to any other films at conventions. Films like TOK are distributed through studios most times. TOK has a very healthy look and budget for an indie. I am totally unconventional in my approach to putting this film out. I don’t follow any rules and I never intend to. My enthusiasm is driven by waking up everyday and having 5 messages before 10am from fans saying TOK is the best slasher they have seen in years. I want to reach out and meet all of them! There are even action figures being made of the character.
ZM: There’s much more to Marcus Miller than the average horror icon and David Backhaus does a terrific job bringing him to life. What were you trying to accomplish with him?
I never had a specific accomplishment in mind with the character. It grew with me. It was not even named “The Orphan Killer” until after I cut a ton of it. I intended to make it interesting and to make sure he was revolting and terrifying to most human beings. David fit the slot just right. He eats raw meat when he prepares and sleeps in the mask. He is one of a kind. He is not a stunt guy like a bunch of the other masked icons. David is an actor. He is very athletic and could probably be a stunt man but, he is in fact an actor first. Another aspect to TOK that puts him on another level, like Robert Englund or Doug Bradley is that he speaks. David is made to be The Orphan Killer. As a performer, David found his creative calling with the character. He has given a voice to masked slasher icons.
ZM: I loved seeing that the special FX work was practical. Was there ever any consideration given to using CGI or was everything planned from the start to be practical?
MF: I actually never considered CGI. I am a painter. I do large abstract pieces Jackson Pollack style. I actually have many fans from my paintings. I do not even think they know I am a director. The point I am making is that I like seeing the actual splatter effect. It’s an art form. I was lucky enough to work with David Presto and Josh Turi on TOK. Both are excellent old-school special effects artists. Presto created all of the amazing work in the boiler room and for that, I am forever grateful. He’s the kind of guy that reads a scene and sees that brains pop out the back of ahead. The next day he arrives with a bucket of real cow brains. It’s not just about a paycheck for him. It’s about getting it right. Josh is the same way. They want it to be good and real.
ZM: The mask is amazing, was that your design or did you just work closely with an artist?
MF: Yeah. It’s a fan favorite. Such a cool piece and comfortable. Major collectors now reach out to me after buying the mask and to say it is their favorite in a vast collection they own. I designed most of it. I wanted it to have the Skeletor element as well as something badass that Slipknot would want to wear. It really is it’s own murderous piece of art. The mask is cut from the mold The Orphan Killer actually wore in the movie. People get to wear the exact thing TOK did. They are all hand-painted and each is unique. Very high quality for the price. It’s one of those masks that breathes well and just feels good. Scares the sh*t out of people too. You can only get the mask here. TOK MASKhttps://6713fe888a0bbde5e6e02f70be7c3b1a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
ZM: Financially speaking, how well is TOK doing? Is it meeting your expectations?
MF: The Orphan Killer is a brand I own. I am very happy with it’s overall value and it has exceeded my expectations at this point given the limited market saturation. The fan base grows daily as do the orders. The awareness is now beginning to branch out into the masses. I have been approached by the top mask distribution companies in the world to do a deal. There are MANY pirates of the film but the quality is just not there on the torrents. When people support the film by buying it or streaming it on the official store it gets us closer to being able to make more TOK films. It’s way more awesome than stealing it. That’s just f*cked up. The film looks like bloody butter when you get it on DVD and Bluray from the OFFICIAL STORE. Here is a direct link to stream the Orphan Killer
ZM: Where can we expect to see TOK in the coming months? Any conventions or screenings?
Tons of madness in the works actually. We will be at Flashback Weekend, Horrorfind Weekend, and we have just been invited as guests to Montreal Comicon in September for their first Horror Fest. We are in the early stages of production on a TOK documentary titled “TOK: Behind the Murder”. We shot over 100 hours of behind-the-scenes footage while making the original film. This footage will be combined with interviews from people all over the world who have been a part of The Orphan Killer’s rise to success. TOK, myself, and Diane Foster will appear in the documentary. We are also in the works on a new TOK comic book. It is titled “TOK Bound by Blood”. The comic book is basically the next installment of the franchise. Amazing artists Troy Zurel and Shelby Robertson are doing the artwork.
ZM: You’ve done it all, what is your favorite part of the process and which is the most rewarding to you?
MF: The most rewarding part of the process has been seeing the fan’s reaction to it. It’s not every day you make a horror icon. Without the fans, none of this is possible. The most amazing part of the process has been this intense emersion into horror consciousness. People who work in horror and fans of horror are really the greatest people possible. I also feel they scrutinize in a much more harsh manner and are much more selective than mainstream. The fact that The Orphan Killer has become such a hit in the community is extraordinarily rewarding.
ZM: Do you or Diane have anything new in the pipeline that isn’t TOK related or are you focusing on building TOK into a franchise?
MF: There is just too much heat on The bloody Orphan Killer to slow down on it. It is like a freight train to hell and I don’t think either of us is ready to jump off right now. We are ready to burn in the flames, so to speak.
ZM: The film looks amazing as far as cinematography and production value go, did you find yourself stretched too thin or did your past experiences have you prepared to achieve exactly what you wanted?
MF: We always learn from prior mistakes. No doubt. Nothing could have prepared me for the pieces all falling into place on TOK. I had drive going into it. Still do. I believed it was possible to make something great. I believed in the actors and the crew I was working with. Most importantly, I believed in what we were making and that I was capable of performing the multiple jobs on the film to make it successful. From Pre-Production all the way through marketing and sales. Since I started in the business I have always been closely attached to the horror industry. I was taught the editing craft by Robert Brown. He cut the original Amityville Horror, The Lost Boys, and all the Lethal Weapon movies. We worked together closely on my film IOWA. As an actor, I have had been all over Hollywood. Met with everyone from George Lucas to Christopher Nolan. I really enjoy the process of making movies. It is not nearly as glamourous as most would imagine. It’s hard work. The main lesson I have learned over the years is to believe in what you are making and yourself. Without that, you are spinning your wheels yet not moving at all.
ZM: Is there anything else at all that you would like to add that I missed?
MF: Come like the TOK FACEBOOK FAN PAGE. Thanks for taking the time to ask such great questions and HAVE A BLOODY DAY!
ZM: And thank you Matt for taking the time to give such an insightful and honest interview.