The Boston Underground Film Festival kicks off its 10th anniversary showing tonight at 7:30 with the premiere screening of Wizard of Gore, local boy Jeremy Kasten’s remake of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1970 blood-spattered tale of a magician whose dirty tricks have a life beyond the stage. Since everybody likes horror, and everybody likes magic, what could be better than combining them? Kasten and company reinvented the classic for the new millennium, casting George Mc–‘scuse us, Crispin Glover–as the main character, and adding insane elements ranging from codpieces to neck tattoos.
Bostonist had the pleasure of attending a talk with Mr. Kasten at Emerson College earlier today. Choice excerpts from his Hollywood tales and a full Boston Underground Film Festival after the jump! (We know it’s sorta short notice for tonight’s showing, but Wizard of Gore screens at 2:30 PM at the Brattle tomorrow as well.)
Jeremy Kasten, an Emerson College alum and director of the Wizard of Gore remake, talked to students at the school about his filmmaking education and experiences. He related several scintillating anecdotes about the film industry, in which he’s interacted with everyone and everything from Crispin Glover to Spider-Man 3. After a year of film school at Emerson, Kasten headed out to Los Angeles to live the dream of the aspiring filmmaker, only to find a bit of a nightmare. When he went to interview for a production assistant gig with a studio, Kasten was informed that all the production assistant positions were filled. He was allowed to interview for a camera assistant position, and had to pretend that he knew a thing or two about cameras to get the job. Though his ignorance became evident after just a few days on set (“Kasten! Get the spectra-force A73 lens!” “Uhh… okay?”), his enthusiasm was so strong that they hired him on as an office assistant.
Kasten repeatedly referred to a PT Barnum-like ability to sell oneself–and one’s enthusiasm–as crucial to success in film (or in any field, really). Early experiences in Hollywood strengthened his determination to work in independent film. When he saw people in their 50s working as assistant editors, Kasten recognized that the big studios made it take “a long time until you got to be creative.” As an Emersonian, he naturally wanted to race off in a creative direction as soon as possible, so he chose an independent (if poorly financed) path.
To support his filmmaking, Kasten worked as a freelance film editor. He got gigs by offering to do jobs in half the time and for half the money other editors were charging–a legit, if financially difficult, way to get your foot in the door in any industry. Kasten noted that filmmakers have to be “a little bit fearless” to jump into such an expensive and difficult industry, and repeatedly stressed the notion that a filmmakers must feel burning obsessions in their souls in order to get the stamina to see projects through. He advised aspiring filmmakers to “bite off more than you can chew, then chew like hell.”
Kasten himself has certainly spent a lot of time chewing–it takes some work to convince legends like Crispin Glover and horror star Jeffrey Combs (not to mention then-rising star Seth Green) to appear in your films. Kasten made it clear that commitment is crucial to success in the film industry–believing in your project is a necessity. And Kasten clearly believed in his postpunk modernization of Lewis’ project–enough to allow Crispin Glover’s apparent codpiece obsession to take over. How did his convictions translate to screen? Run over to the Brattle right now to find out!