Recently I had the very fortunate privilege to speak with actor Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects, A Few Good Men, The Whole Nine Yards) regarding his new project Vamped Out. Vamped Out is a web series chronicling the trials and tribulations of an actor trying to make it in LA. But Alowisus is no ordinary actor, he's an honest-to-goodness vampire struggling to get cast...as a vampire. The series is filmed documentary style with Kevin Pollak (who also wrote and directed the series) playing the intrepid filmmaker who cataloged the actor/vampires exploits and then, during post-production, went missing. The show is an irreverent commentary on the state of vampire entertainment as it exists today and delivers some well-deserved pot shots. To hear what writer/director/star Kevin Pollak had to say about the project, jump past the bump. The first episode is available on Babelgum and you can also view it post-bump.
The first question I posed Kevin was the most obvious: the genesis of the series. He regaled me with a story of a lunch he had had with future Vamped Out stars Jason Antoon and Seana Kofoed. Apparently, on their way to the restaurant they saw an enormous billboard for the WB television series The Vampire Diaries replete with skinny, brooding 20-somethings and the horrendous tagline, "love sucks." This party had the same reaction to seeing this ad as we would as horrorphiles in that they could not stomach it. Apparently Antoon then proposed the hypothetical of the difficulty a real vampire would have finding acting gigs in vampire roles and how that may make a great bit for Kevin's stand-up routine. Kevin, on the other hand, thought the idea was perfect for a series. When I asked what attracted him to doing a web series specifically, Kevin candidly admitted it was due to his laziness; the entire shooting schedule could be completed in mere days.
So obviously the current climate of vampire films/television shows irked Kevin as much as it does the rest of us. I therefore asked the question as to whether he had always counted himself a horror fan. His emphatic assertion to just that fact was not at all surprising. He told about how in love he was as a kid with the Universal monsters; something I'm sure the majority of us share. But he also talked about how, even as a child, he found it ridiculous how slowly the monsters moved and how inevitable it was that the pursued female would trip and fall during her attempt to escape. In other words, even at a young age Kevin had a passion for horror but also saw a great deal of humor inherent. But what was really fascinating about his deep-seeded horror knowledge was his take on the vampire mythology.
As a follow up to his confession of being a Universal monster junkie, I asked him what he thought the biggest problem was with the portrayl of vampires in films today versus in the classics. Kevin talked about how all vampire films customize the mythology here and there as a self-serving device to add more and more layers of horseshit. He talked about how not even Bram Stoker's Dracula was 100% in-line with ancient legends; an argument echoed by the opening monologue of Vamped Out's first episode. The idea behind Vamped Out was to take the inevitable creative license a step further by establishing that all the mythology (apart from the blood drinking) was utter nonsense. It makes for a great gag with a giant mouthful of garlic that begs to be seen. Check it out below.
The other major pillar of comedy in Vamped Out, aside from the vampire elements, comes from the Alowisus character struggling to find a foothold as an actor in an entertainment industry obsessed with a certain vampire archetype. I asked Kevin if this approach came from any of his own experiences as a actor. He affirmed that it was of course based in his own experiences but the inevitable quicksand he felt he faced making a show about showbiz was making the humor too specific to actors. He said he didn't want there to be too many in-jokes that only people in the business would get because that is not the appropriate approach to comedy. I know I found it funny that Alowisus' agent, played by Inglourious Basterds' Samm Levine, constantly fed him lies and interviews beautiful girls as "potential clients'' without them so much as presenting a resume. Kevin actually mentioned that they had a great deal of trouble with that scene and reworked it several times.
Vamped Out marks Pollak's directorial debut so I was curious as to his experiences behind the camera. I asked the obligatory question about which hat he preferred to wear, and his answer was truly sincere. He talked about how an actor only has to ever know one day's worth of script, one day's worth of lines, and doesn't really have to know the overlying direction of the film while a director does. He talked about his having been offered the opportunity to direct in the past, but because the offers were to direct other peoples' scripts, he didn't feel comfortable with the prospect. But with Vamped Out being a web series with a brisk production schedule, it gave him the push he needed to step into that awkward captain-of-the-ship role. He did say however that Vamped Out got him hooked on directing so we may very well see more from Pollak the director in the future.
Kevin brought up something I am sorry to say I missed the first time I watched the premiere episode of Vamped Out: his cinematographer/editor was none other than Robert Legato. Legato is the Academy Award winning visual effects wizard behind Titanic, Shutter Island, and the first Harry Potter film. Kevin admitted it felt like cheating to be a first time director but to have such an accomplished veteran shooting and cutting the film. The two were friends and when Kevin found out he was available, he didn't hesitate to ask him to come on board. Initially Legato had offered to help by lending equipment to this low-budget project, but Kevin was able to coax him into doing a whole lot more. Kevin attributes this collaboration as one of the main reasons the series turned out to be far more than anything he had expected.
We finished up by talking horror, which should surprise no one. I asked him about the central conceit of the filmmaker's disapperance and whether that was yet another slam on current horror films. He admitted that it was totally a rip on The Blair Witch Project which I found very amusing. I was very pleased to hear how much Kevin prefers practical effects in horror to those that are computer-generated. We talked a bit about Tom Savini and how CG will never match the beauty of practical gore; Kevin asserting that a stripped-down horror model is always best. I want to thank Kevin for taking the time to talk with Horror Squad and I would highly recommend Vamped Out. Watch the first episode below and we will post new episodes as they air. Take 'er easy.