Exclusive Josh Becker Interview
KAIN: Hi Mr. Becker, how’s life at the moment?
JOSH: OK. I’ve been worse.
KAIN: Currently you are doing post production for your film “If I Had a Hammer”. How is the progress of the film coming along?
JOSH: I am within two weeks of having If I Had a Hammer complete. I just saw an early attempt at my one digital effect and it is coming along fine. I don’t have the money to get it to a film print right now, so I’ll just go to video tape for the time being.
KAIN: When will us fans get to see it?
JOSH: Who knows? If and when I ever get a distribution deal.
KAIN: Do you have any films lined up to do after you finish “If I had a Hammer”?
JOSH: No, I have nothing lined up. I have scripts I’d like to shoot, but no pending financing for any of them. I am starting to mentally plan my next indie feature, though. If all goes well it will be a comedy with Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi.
KAIN: When can we expect Lunatics: A Love Story to arrive on DVD?
JOSH: Beats the hell out of me. Maybe never. Sony owns the film and doesn’t seem to care if it is in distribution or not.
KAIN: Running Time was an ambitious film, obvious an homage to Hitchcock’s film Rope. Was it truly one continuous shot?
JOSH: No, it couldn’t be, a roll of film is only ten minutes long. Unlike Hitchcock, though, I didnÃt run my shots right out to the end of the film rolls, I found a good spot to hide a cut about every five minutes. This way I got two takes on a roll. If the shot is over five minutes then you can only get one take per roll and you waste a lot of film.
KAIN: Film directors usually have influences for their films. Who were your influences?
JOSH: Well, William Wyler is my biggest overall influence. On Running Time clearly Hitchcock was a big influence. Probably the biggest influences on TSNKE were Taxi Driver and Rolling Thunder.Ã® The biggest influence on If I Had a Hammer is Orson Welles and The Magnificent Ambersons, as well as Bob Fosse and Cabaret.
KAIN: What is your favorite filming techniques to use? Have you invented any of your own?
JOSH: One thing I do regularly that is not very common anymore is I write long scenes. WeÃre in a time when most scenes are now about a minute long and an hour TV show (that really runs 44 minutes without commercials) has about 40 scenes. In both Lunatics and Act Two is one single scene that runs about 20 minutes. In Hammer act two is (mostly) one scene that runs an hour. Regarding film technique, I don’t think I’ve invented anything. I’m a reasonably simpler shooter, really.
The Evil Dead Companion book by Bill Warren was recently released last month in the UK. How much input did you have in the book? Have you had the chance to read it?
JOSH: He sent it to me and I’ve looked it over, but I haven’t sat down and read it. Bill interviewed me at length, but didnÃt use very much of it. He also got my credit wrong. It is 2nd Unit Lighting & Sound. And, by the way, Evil Dead had no 2nd unit.
KAIN: One of our staff members recently stumbled upon a bootleg tape with some old shorts on it. Included on this tape is the pilot for Waders of the lost Park”Cleveland Smith Bounty Hunter”, the Blind Waiter, and Torro, Torro, Torro!, and Stryker’s War. What did you think of these films you were involved in?
JOSH: They’re my early films, I like them a lot. I think The Blind Waiter and Cleveland Smith are both pretty funny little films, and there are things I like about Stryker’s War much better than TSNKE, like the fact that Bruce campbell stars in it.
KAIN: In Torro, Torro, Torro!, how did you guys pull off the scene where the gardener (who looks like you) is being pulled on top of the fence?
JOSH: That is Scott Spiegel, co-writer/co-producer/co-director of Torro, Torro, Torro!! and co-writer of Evil Dead 2. I simply set up the shot and Bart Pierce, who did the animation effects, moved Scott down the fence, point by point, each time saying when he had Scott in position, hold your breath, grit your teeth and shoot it and I fire off a frame.
KAIN: During the filming of Evil Dead, did you do anything else besides 2nd unit lighting and sound?
JOSH: Well, as I said earlier, there was not a 2nd unit, so the credit is misleading. I started off as a production assistant, basically helping to rebuild the cabin. While we were shooting I was assisting with the special effects (I was the number one blood-blower, which meant that I filled my mouth with fake blood and spit it through a tube at the appropriate moments. Then, six weeks into the shoot the sound man quit and I took over both the recording and the booming. Soon thereafter the cameraman left and I took over the lighting. I continued to do the lighting throughout most of the many pick-up shoots. I guess I lit about half of the film. I did all of the stuff with Bruce going nuts by himself, most of the stuff in the workshed, a lot of the stuff in the graveyard, most of the vine rape scene, a bunch of the stuff in the cellar. I conceived and built the last shot, meaning I hinged the middle door on the floor and I personally kicked it open from above, as well as sawing the last door in two pieces and putting back together again and rigging it on ropes so it would fly apart.
KAIN: What prompted you to keep a journal during the filming of the Evil Dead?
JOSH: I always keep a journal, and I have since I was fifteen years old.
KAIN: Do you have any interesting stories that didn’t make it into the journal?
JOSH: Yes, a lot of shit didn’t make it into the journal. About a week before the end of shooting I stepped on a nail that went right through my sneaker deep into my foot. During the final week, when there was a ton to do, my foot hurt so bad that I was hobbling and my body began to curl up into fetal position. At one point during the last couple of weeks of shooting, we returned to the house where we were staying in the middle of the night for our lunch break. We each ate a big bowl of chili, then we all collapsed under the table, unable to move. We were convinced that David Goodman, the cook, had poisoned us and was now going to sodomize us as we lay helpless under the table. Thank God, he didn’t.
KAIN: The film industry has been going downhill lately with the films they put out. What is your opinion the state of film is currently?
JOSH: I think the film industry is artistically at the lowest state it is ever been in. Hollywood can not even make straight entertainment pictures anymore, let alone anything brighter than that. If a decent film should get made, then it will not get released. When I was a kid all I wanted in life was to make Hollywood films. Now I don’t care at all about making Hollywood films; the entire process is a demeaning bore. I’ll just make my indie films and I’ll be fine.
For more Josh Becker check out his official site at Becker Films.