James Bickert is set to blow modern exploitation to an all new level! Armed with a film
love and knowledge that rivals anyone in Hollywood, his love of films and film making comes
through on screen minute by minute. if you haven’t seen “Dear God No!”, you haven’t seen one of
BEST films of 2012 and an experience guaranteed to blow your mind! it’s the interview you’ve
been waiting for. James Bickert chats up Sinful Celluloid
and the 13 Question Marks of Horror!
1. You started off as a photographer. Did you always want to become a film maker or was that just a natural progression?
Well, I always dreamed of making films. As a teenager, I had a very busy schedule of getting into trouble and chasing women so I didn’t have it quite figured out. I couldn’t afford any of the top film schools. Hell, I could barely afford Georgia Southern and it was the cheapest in the state. The opportunities didn‘t really exist in my region. If I had known where to go and who to talk with about joining a grip union, I would have done it. I would of moved just about anywhere on the East Coast to be involved in film. When I moved to Atlanta, I was able to volunteer on shoots during the early stages of Georgia State’s film program and got mixed up in the silly S&M video racket.
2. When you started dabbling in film, did you always lean toward the 1970’s esthetic?
It’s always been my favorite but no not at all. In the beginning it was more Avant-garde with a heavy emphasis on the art direction. The subject matter was more industrial and urban so my visual style leaned towards modern photography.
Extreme asymmetry seemed important at one point. Why? I can’t even remember. (laughs) Some projects required a certain aesthetic for their specific market. It’s not always complete freedom.
I always wanted to be cutting edge until I got older and cared less about technology and flashy
style. Hell, who can afford the latest toys anyway. Now I just want what is best for the project and to play around with hidden themes, double meanings and other classical film elements.
Nostalgia does creep
in there also.
3. My first biker flick in the theater was Born Losers. What film planted the seed that gave birth to Dear God No!?
Born Losers is a great one. Jimbo’s big white
sun glasses in DEAR GOD NO! are a homage to Jeremy Slate’s character from that film. The actual seed for the script wasn’t a biker film but a Canadian film called Death Weekend starring Don Stroud. I just loved how all the characters are reprehensible and the female lead conveniently comes down with quickest case of Stockholm syndrome ever put to film. It’s a very hair brained and entertaining film to guzzle beer with. The other influences would be Northville Cemetery Massacre, I Drink Your Blood and Werewolves on Wheels. Just to name a few. Some shots like the Lounge singer driving the obviously stationary car is a homage to the first appearance of Tura Satana in Faster Pussy Cat Kill Kill! It’s peppered with tiny elements from about 30 exploitation films. There’s some Joe Sarno, Mondo Topless, Orgy of the Dead and Mantis in Lace. Hell, not to mention the unintentional tributes that I constantly see or someone points out. The editing and timing is all influenced by my love of 70s trailer compilations like Something Weird Video’s Dusk til Dawn series. I often sit in my backyard drive-in and project trailers
4. Was the film storyboarded or did you just use intense notes?
I storyboarded the entire film. We were shooting on such a tight schedule with a small amount of film so it was necessary to have well planned shots on a checklist. If I got all those shots, then I knew we had a complete film. Not the ideal way to work but it was effective. I would love to one day shoot for 15-20 days so I can experiment with more shots on set.
5. Was your D.P. a fan of the era or did he have to be schooled?
I showed Jonathan Hilton Death Weekend. He’s pretty well versed in the genre and had previously worked on The Wire for a few seasons so he was a big fan of film over digital. Grain and stops is mostly what we talked about. He really wanted to shoot negative. That would have been nice but Fuji had reversal on sale so he was shit out of luck. (laughing) Shooting on film is much more expensive and time consuming but it’s very rewarding. It feels more authentic to the era and it’s much more creatively rewarding. Not just visually but the process itself. It requires more light and has less freedom of movement. It requires an A.C. to rack focus the lens and then there is development, syncing and telecine transfer. It’s a wonderful artistic process.
6. One thing I love besides the film look, is the Poster. Was that designed to your specifications or did The Dude have free reign?
I pretty much gave him free reign. I’m a graphic designer and had made quite a few posters and other promotional material, but I needed a fresh take on it from someone not directly involved with the project. I believe my only words were to puts some naked tits on it. He did the rest. including the logo. His art really propelled the film and helped sell the UK and Australian rights. Tom is a fantastic guy with a real passion for the era. I could talk film with him for days.
7. What has been people’s reaction that have seen the film and had no idea what they were in for?
The first festivals were full of walk outs and critics sitting in utter silence. I even had a crying woman slap me for killing Madeline Brumby’s character! People didn’t get it until festivals like the South Alabama Film Festival programmed it at midnight. Then it became a sold out party. With enough booze, people started to come around and embrace DEAR GOD NO!’s passion for smut. By Pollygrind it was finding it’s audience. The horror convention circuit dug it right away. It was no surprise they got it. Each of the six Con screenings were legendary throw downs with the Impalers interacting with the audience. We did different ballyhoo gags at those. At Cinema Wasteland we pulled out a tampon from a girl in the audience and dropped it into a gigantic kamikaze that we passed around. We simulated raping Rachelle Lynn in Indianapolis. We gave away free Pabst Blue Ribbon in Texas. The Atlanta week long theatrical run was insane also. Nick Morgan who plays Spyder would introduce the film in a raincoat, insult people and encourage them to masturbate. We’ve even disguised ourselves and protested the film as people entered. The whole fire and brimstone bit. That was fun. The UK critics are taking it really serious and hate it. (laughs) I think they’re disturbed by the Manson Family inspired scene (which was heavily cut by the BBFC in their version) but to me it’s the element none of the retro remakes and faux grindhouse films contain. You need a moment when the gun turns on the audience. It’s part of the experience and the ride. Chas. Balun called it “Films that Bite Back” and I think it’s an essential element. It’s the fetus from the first Cry for Dawn, the eyeball story Douglas tells in The Walking Dead comic, the iron lung from In A Glass Cage, 120 Days of Sodom dance, Ricky Giovinazzo baking the baby, the blood ejaculate at the end of Nekromantik, Divine eating shit, and Kennedy’s head exploding. It’s the shocking jaw dropper that makes you cheer for your sanity still being intact. (laughing) I hope we came even the slightest bit close to those examples. It has loyal fans now and that makes me really happy. It’s not meant to be taken seriously, it’s entertainment for degenerates and alcoholics. More Roadhouse than Grindhouse.
8. You were doing an insane amount of set ups. What was the hardest day of filming like?
Some days we shot in four different locations but there was really only one rough day. We had rented an old country store that had been closed since the 70s. It was in the middle of nowhere. Cave Springs, Georgia. I’m talking nowhere! The day started out really well until the logging trucks started showing up at 10 minute intervals ruining our sound. It was hot, there was a SPFX screw up and then the locals started showing up and driving circles around our set like Indians circling a wagon train. Families in lawn chairs sitting in the back of pick-ups, rednecks driving onto the set, country bumpkins wanting to show off their bikes. An old guy drove into our shot and cussed us for defiling the store with our presence. Actor Jim Sligh was dressed as the Sheriff so he would occasionally impersonate a real officer and run people off. Good thing, I was starting to worry Jett might put some real loads into our shotgun. When we moved to the interiors the actor originally set to play Kooky Carl had eaten a handful of Xanex and couldn’t remember a single line. We even let him hold the script and he couldn’t do it. Luckily Tim McGahren had it memorized and stepped in to fill the role on the spot. Then the owners who we paid more money for extra time tried to kick us out because it was late. I had the A.D. Michelle McCall and my costume designer / wife run interference while we got the last shots. No way was I driving back out to that hellhole. We shot about 15 pages that day. It was brutal.
9. Now let’s flip it. With a crazy cast of guys like that, any wild stories you can share?
Oh man, dealing with that pack of animals I’m surprised the movie got finished. I had a rule that there was no fucking actors until the wrap party. Two of those knuckle heads broke the rule on day one. It was a total distraction . To their credit they are all still in serious relationship with the actresses! I showed up one morning and two actors had spent the night on set and drank all the prop wine! I think the funniest thing was John Collins kept taking pictures of his shit and sending them to the cast and crew’s cell phones. What kind of maniac does that? For the most part we tried to keep it as professional as possible. There were probably shenanigans but I was moving so fast I didn’t really notice. The wrap party and premiere was a different story. That was 100% debauchery. I don’t even remember who was the first person crying and the last man standing.
10. You’ve stated that Dear God No is the middle part of a trilogy. Will the prequel also star Jett Bryant?
Yes, my goal is to have Jett in every film I make. He’s my Marcello Mastroianni, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Howard Vernon. I’m currently waiting for the DEAR GOD NO! streaming numbers so I can raise the money for a prequel and sequel to be shot back to back. That would be much easier because post production is less collaborative and very time consuming. I would like to have a whole film waiting to be cut as I finish and promote the first.
11. I love the seventies Frankenstein films. Was there a particular one that was an inspiration for Frankenstein Created Bikers?
The Hammer Frankenstein films. I like Peter Cushing’s arch as it’s stretched out through the series. He’s reasonably sane and likeable with decent respectable motivation until Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. I love that performance. He knows he has gone to far and it’s for selfish reasons. He just doesn’t care anymore.
12. What can you tell me about the film?
I want to incorporate some of the elements from mid to late 70s European horror films that found their way to the American drive-in screens so you can expect tracking shots, primary colors and soft focus. DEAR GOD NO! had underlying themes of parental fears and selfishness. Here I’m going to explore stagnation and incarceration…. And blow a bunch of shit up! (laughs) It will remain true to my late-night beer and BBQ tastes.
13. Very excited about it. If someone wanted to prepare themselves for a Bickert double feature, what films would you recommend they watch?
Screw the double feature. Here’s what you do. I invented a game called Gong the Movie. You get a white sheet and make an outdoor screen. Find a projector. They are cheap and everywhere these days. Get an egg timer and a canned air horn to piss off the neighbors. Have your friends bring over 5-10 of the most obscure films they can find. Crap they downloaded from Cinemageddon, VHS, Bargain Bin DVDs, porn, etc. The worse the better. Here’s how it works. Put on something and set the egg timer for 15 minutes. At any point someone can gong it (blow the air horn, bang a pot, bang a gong, whatever) but they have to do a shot of liquor (blended will make the game last longer) or chug a beer. They can now pick something out and you reset the timer for 15 minutes. Here’s the catch. After a gonging, if someone still wants to watch the film that was gonged they can declare “bullshit” by doing a shot or chugging a beer and resetting the timer to 15 minutes.
If nobody gongs a movie and everyone wants to keep watching it or change it after 15 minutes, everyone does a shot or chugs a beer.
When you run out of movies, put on some trailers
and talk about making a movie.
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