Celluloid Screams - Don Thacker Gives Us a Talk on Motivational Growth
DC: It felt very fitting to screen Motivational Growth alongside Basket Case 1 and 2 at Celluloid Screams this year. Is there any Henenlotter inspiration behind the film?
DT: I actually had a meeting with Frank yesterday. I sat down and I'm like 'Frank, we need to talk. It's nice meeting you for the first time in my entire life... everyone is saying that I am the new you! This is uncomfortable and weird!' Frank Henenlotter is awesome. His movies are awesome. I grew up with those movies, man! I was pointing it out to Frank yesterday, and he gave some amazing sage advice. I spent about forty five minutes with him, and I learned more in those forty five minutes than I have in five years of working on stuff. I pointed out [that] the reason my movie opened the festival is because Frank Henenlotter is here – that they were gonna show my movie, then Frank Henenlotter's movies and it was all one big theme. That was never a plan! I never particularly focused on [his] films. They were seminal, they were part of my life, you know. They were important to me as a kid, but I never thought oh, this is going to be like a Henenlotter picture. Ever.
In fact, and I was embarrassed to admit this in February this year, when I was first told 'oh my God, you're the next Frank Henenlotter', I didn't know who Frank Henenlotter was. I'd seen 'Basket Case' and 'Basket Case 2' so many times that my VHS was destroyed. I'd seen 'Brain Damage' a bunch – of course, 'Frankenhooker'... when you're thirteen 'Frankenhooker' is a good movie to go to (laughs). So I liked the guy's movies, but I just didn't link those movies together – so I didn't have the shrine to Henenlotter growing up. I did have the shrine to other people whose movies [mine are] nothing like, like Beat Takeshi – I mean that guy is amazing, but my movies are nothing like his movies! Henenlotter said to me yesterday, and this has really stuck with me... it's okay to be inspired by stuff that you were born into, that is just a part of you now, as long as when you wrote it you wrote it from a place of honesty. Which 'Motivational Growth', I did. What you're seeing is honesty on that screen, and when you relate it to Henenlotter it's because I grew up with that stuff. So even though I didn't intentionally do it, that honesty is on screen. The Henenlotter stuff was me. I was born into it, and it was a weird situation sitting across from a guy who you know subconsciously has driven your artistic hand and he's like 'oh man, I'm sorry' (laughs). He apologised to me and I'm like don't apologise, you're amazing! So I was proud to meet him yesterday and have a nice conversation, and he pointed out some stuff in 'Basket Case' and some other films that his friends have said are very much like stuff that he grew up watching, but he'd never put it together.
So now the cycle has completed. I have inadvertently done something that people relate to somebody who I watched a bunch of but never really thought about. There are some easy links to make, like I have an Admiral television so [people are like] 'oh, it's obviously Videodrome', but really that's just because we used an Admiral television. You can't... I mean that's just a prop! (laughs) I'm sure Cronenberg had some very important reasons to have that TV... I just thought it would be awkward in 1991 to still be using a console television. It just gives you some context.
DC: Who came up with the design of The Mold itself?
DT: It was collaborative. It was always going to be just a mouth. I had drawn pictures and I actually made my own three cable animatronic puppet with some help from a guy that I hired to help me with the mechanics. So I kind of had a shape and an idea but I really needed a great creature creator to help me bring it to life, so I hired Steve Tolin of TolinFX out of Pittsburgh. Great dude! I sent him my ideas and pictures and everything, and he sent me a bunch of drafts back. Back and forth, we were just sending sheets and sheets of images [by email] and I wanted some of this and some of that. We settled on the triangular idea... the original idea I had was just flat – either on the wall or on the floor – but we loved the idea that you could be face to face with an actual creature, and give it the ability to move in and out and that kind of thing and the corner was just a perfect way to do that.
I had already written the cupboard bit, so having him actually be attached to the cupboard as well as the wall and the floor [gives the impression] that he's part of the wall, he's part of the floor, part of the cupboard – he's everywhere! I actually have in my condo in Seattle, a Mold that is fuzzy but we never used it. The original Mold was destroyed – not on purpose, we didn't set it on fire or anything – but from so much use. We just patched it up as it went, but by the end that thing was ragged. The silicone that it's made out of, unless it's protected by paint or otherwise, degrades. It yellows and just disintegrates. I do have one that, because of the coating, [was protected]. It doesn't look like the thing in the movie – it's the same shape and everything but it has a thin layer of fuzz like it hasn't shaved or something, whereas the one in the movie is a little slimier... dryish but slimy but it doesn't have any kind of fuzz on it.