Exclusive: Simon Rumley and Marc Senter Talk Red, White & Blue; The ABCs of Death; and More

With the last three films I’ve made, those being The Living and the Dead, 'Bitch' (of the anthology Little Deaths) and Red, White & Blue, I’ve done what I wanted to do,” continued Rumley of his uniquely personal approach to filmmaking, “and I’ve actually been quite fortunate in many respects to have made them because they are antithetical to (a) what is considered to be ‘horror’ and (b) to what is considered to be possible ‘film material.’ One of the things people question me is, ‘Do you consider Red, White & Blue a horror film?’ I would say that it’s horrific, but it’s not necessarily a horror film. We have played a lot of genre fests, but we’ve also played a lot of non-genre festivals. At SXSW we were in the ‘Emerging Visions’ section rather than the ‘Midnight’ slot. So it’s interesting to see how people perceive it. We are playing festivals, and the audiences that we are playing to want to be challenged, and they want their films to not be The Green Lantern. Where it becomes problematic is when it comes to sales agents and distributors, who are scared that they won’t know how to market it, that it doesn’t fit into a niche, and that they don’t know what to do with it. When I started off doing The Living and the Dead, I had meetings and they’d ask, ‘Who is this film for?’ And I’d say, ‘Well, it’s for anyone who likes Tale of Two Sisters or Audition or Park Chan-Wook films,’ which to me seems, if you like those films, you’ll probably like my films, and there’s a massive audience for those Asian films, but distributors and sales agents still seem to not really get it. We’ve made these films and sold them, but it hasn’t been easy, to be honest.

On being classified as a ‘horror director,’ a tag which filmmakers often wear uncomfortably (particularly in a town where the genre for the most part is still considered ‘lowbrow’), Rumley offered, “I’ve grown up watching horror films. My first experience was when I was twelve and my math teacher couldn’t be bothered to offer up exams or bother to teach us. He’d just say, ‘Here, watch these horror films,’ and I think the first one [he screened for us] was Zombie Flesh Eaters, and looking back on that, if he’d done that now, he’d probably get sent to prison for corrupting minors or something. I’ve always watched horror films, but I’ve also watched a lot of other genres as well. I think the films I really like, though, and would be proud to be associated with are the more extreme, left-wing films like Ichi the Killer and Requiem for a Dream and Freaks: films that are very much set in reality but are subversive and raw. I think when most people think about horror films, they think about spurting blood and severed heads and pretty poor production values, but I think it’s about the horror inherent. And it’s really about the horror fests and fans that have been supportive, and I think a lot of people forget that most horror fans are incredibly literate and are very smart people.

The Living and the Dead

As for Rumley’s next project, he’ll be directing a segment of The ABCs of Death, the 26-chapter horror anthology currently being produced by Drafthouse Films, Timpson Films and Magnet Releasing; and the director stated of his inclusion, “It’s really exciting. I’ve known [Alamo Drafthouse Founder/CEO] Tim League, who runs Fantastic Fest in Austin, for some time, and The Living and the Dead won a bunch of awards there. I stayed at his house when I went there [for that screening], and we became friends, and I said, ‘Hey, would you be up for executive producing Red, White & Blue, and he said, ‘Yeah!’ So I spent about twelve weeks at his house during that production, and he’s very generous and a ‘no shit’ kind of guy. Tim asked me if I’d be up to be involved in The ABCs of Death. I believe at the time when we were initially speaking about it, directors Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun), Ti West (The Innkeepers) and Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace) were on board.

So once it was announced and they got the last five directors onto the project,” expounded Rumley of The ABCs of Death, which has since gone on to attract the cinematic talents of Banjong Pisanthanakun, Angela Bettis, Gadi Harel, Thomas Malling, Yoshihiro Nishimura and Srdjan Spasojevic, among others, “the next step was to give every director a letter. In the end I got ‘P’. So basically we are going to go to Suriname, South America, which is where my Red, White & Blue cinematographer Milton Kam’s parents live - they have a house on stilts - and we are going to stay there for three or four weeks while I shoot it. The budget is pretty low, but his parents are living in New York at present so we’ll live in his parent’s house, and they have a car and he knows people, so yeah that’s going to be cool.

Set to shoot his segment on the Canon D5, we queried Rumley on the subject matter of the short, and while he remained tight-lipped, what he did reveal seemed to be in line with his burgeoning cinematic oeuvre.

It has to do with a Brazilian prostitute, but that’s about as much as I can say about it,” Rumley revealed. “At the moment I’m planning on going out in August [to shoot]. It’s a five-minute film, and while I don’t know yet what the ending is and what the beginning is, I do know what I want to achieve with it. I’m kind of thinking about doing it with no dialogue whatsoever, but we’ll see about that. I think it’s going to be a fairly static slice-of-lie portrayal of this girl as she struggles.

The ABCs of Death

For more info on Simon and his various projects, visit the official The ABCs of Death website and "like" Red, White & Blue on Facebook.

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