Indie Horror Month Interview: Co-Writer/Director/Star Aramis Sartorio Discusses The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol
In The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol, we follow the disappointing life of struggling actor Tommy P (Aramis Sartorio), who turns his back on family and friends to pursue his dream of stardom in Hollywood.
But when he finally hits rock bottom, Tommy seeks solace in a penis pump and discovers that even in his dreams, he still fails miserably at everything, and what he doesn't realize is that his whole life has been leading up to the moment when he awakes to find that he's run out of second chances. And despite all of Tommy's regrets, he won't ever get the chance to go back and fix it all.
This Tuesday, March 27th, Sartorio's nearly four-year journey of making and releasing his feature film debut Tommy Pistol will be drawing to a close with independent distributor Breaking Glass Pictures set to release the bizarrely fun and hilariously demented story onto DVD everywhere.
Recently Dread Central caught up with Sartorio to hear more about his experiences while making The Gruesome Death of Tommy Pistol as well as the challenges of indie filmmaking and just how personal Tommy's story was for Sartorio to tell even though the horror comedy often takes many absurd and gruesome turns from beginning to end.
Check out the highlights of our interview with Sartorio below, and make sure to check back here the rest of the week for more coverage in honor of Dread Central's Indie Horror Month.
Dread Central: Let's start off talking about the tone of Tommy Pistol because I honestly wasn't expecting a full-on comedy vibe, but I think you definitely nailed though.
Aramis Sartorio: Thanks! We made Tommy Pistol with sort of a sketch-comedy vibe because that's kind of how I saw the story in my brain when I was creating it. Tommy's just a guy going from weird situation to weird situation so I thought it made sense to play it that way. Plus, that's kind of my brand of humor too- sketch comedy- so everything about that approach felt natural to me.
DC: Now I know this was a movie a long time in the making for you guys- did you feel like that extra time was a burden or a gift for Tommy Pistol?
Aramis Sartorio: It was definitely a long time in the making! We worked on this movie for over three years which was definitely hard because there is part of you that wants that immediate gratification. But having that kind of time gave me the benefit of being able to go back and if something wasn't working, we had time to either try it again or do something completely different and that was nice.
Having that kind of time really changed the story of Tommy Pistol too; what you see now is definitely different than the first draft I did. But again, it was all because we had the leisure of time so we could go back and rework stuff if we didn't think it fit into the story anymore. I don't think I'll ever have this kind of gift (time) again.
DC: Even though the movie is a horror comedy and kind of 'out there' at times but I really felt (especially at the end) that Tommy's story isn't all that different than yours, just not nearly as gory.
Aramis Sartorio: Oh yeah, I've never used a cheese grater on anyone…yet. (laughs) But yeah, even though Tommy Pistol is weird and absurd, it is a very personal movie and story for me but I actually never realized just how personal it was until I sat down and watched it recently.
At the time I started writing it, I wasn't really thinking of making a movie like that but that's just how it sort of turned out. I definitely started making this movie at the most stressful time of my life- I was in a bad spot both mentally and financially and a lot of that stress came out in the story. I was struggling myself as an actor and a new dad so I guess I wanted my own alternate reality to escape to like Tommy has in the movie; so it was definitely good to exorcise a lot of that stress and doubt I was having at the time creatively.
But what's great about Tommy Pistol being so personal is that it's this kind of time capsule of that point of my life; my wife and son are in it too so it's amazing to have that time of our lives recorded and I really have no regret about putting so much of my own life into this movie; I think that's why people respond a bit to it too.
DC: Let's talk a bit about the gross-out factor on Tommy Pistol because I will admit, a few times my own endurance for goo was tested, especially in the porno scene (laughs).
Aramis Sartorio: That actually all started with a short film I did a few years back called Attack of the Staph Spider. It won the "Most Disgusting Movie" award at the 2009 Backseat Film Festival. That short was sort of the blueprint for the porno sequence in the movie, and I guess I kind of built the rest of Tommy's dream scenes around that story really.
But I knew I had to really up the gross-out factor too because this was a feature; what's the point in doing it if I can't take it to the next level? So that is definitely the segment I get the most comments over because of how gross it is. It does take some endurance (laughs) but I just thought it was insanely fun to make.
However, I must bow down to Tom (Devlin) for his special effects work on this movie; he blew me away with what he was able to accomplish without a huge budget to work with. And there were a lot of effects in this- probably way too many for a movie with this kind of budget- but Tom just went for it and really did an amazing job creating some of the most insane and gross gags I've seen in any movie recently. It's pretty awesome.
DC: How good does it feel to have gotten such great attention since the PollyGrind Fest and now that Breaking Glass is putting the movie out now?
Aramis Sartorio: What's interesting about all of this is that we actually had an offer while we were making Tommy Pistol for distribution- they wanted us to finish it up quicker that we had planned to and offered us finishing funds and everything, but it didn't feel right. The timing was off and I knew I didn't want to rush making the movie so I passed on the offer. It would have been great to have the money but I didn't want to make a movie I wasn't 100 percent happy with either. Things do happen for a reason and now we're getting a DVD release from Breaking Glass and that's fantastic so ultimately I'm happy. And thankfully, my cast and crew stuck by me the entire time too.
I definitely also do need to tip my hat to both the PollyGrind Film Festival and Chad Clinton Freeman who totally pushed the hell out of this movie and a lot of other great movies as well. The responses we've been getting since PollyGrind have been amazing and it was such an amazing fest to be a part of. It's been a tough four years now making Tommy Pistol but everything about the experience- whether easy or hard- has been great to be a part of.
But overall it's been a pretty great ride so far; a lot of critics have been saying that we definitely made something original and that you really can't predict the story so I'm grateful for that because that's the approach I was going for.
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