Horror Interview: III Slices of Life Writer-Director Anthony G. Sumner
I’m excited people!! In 2010 my theory that the future of the horror genre lies with indie horror filmmakers was proven. I saw some truly amazing GENRE films like DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, SHELLTER, and SELLA TURCICA. But as you know by now my two favorite genre films of 2010 were VINDICATION and III SLICES OF LIFE. I already have my interview posted with VINDICATION director Bart Mastronardi (see here & here), and now I have my interview with III SLICES OF LIFE writer-director Anthony G. Sumner.
III SLICES OF LIFE is Sumner’s first feature length film and this was truly an indie project. Besides being the writer and director, Sumner also served as the executive producer, editor, special makeup effects artist, did the sound recording, and built the props. Hell, he probably even did the friggin’ catering himself!! But all his blood. sweat, and tears paid off. III SLICES OF LIFE is a fantastic anthology film with great stories, great acting, and it’s gory as hell. I encourage you all to take advantage and catch it ON DEMAND (it’s being offered in about 14 million homes, including AT&T’s U-Verse) and pre-order it on Amazon (click here). Trust me on this one … you’ll thank me later!!
So let me shut up and proceed to the interview with Anthony G. Sumner.
Anything Horror Scott: Tell us a little about yourself Anthony. How did you get into filmmaking and what brought you to making horror films?
Anthony G. Sumner: I grew up on horror movies and started watching them religiously at the tender age of 5 years old. I had such a passion for the genre that I started making my own movies in 6th grade with a super 8 film camera. This ultimately lead to film school and then a career in advertising and new media — but I never lost my desire to revisit making low-budget feature horror films. By 2004 technology had reached a point of affordability and higher image quality that it seemed insane not to do a feature. I was already working in media and owned the necessary equipment — So producing partner Eric Richter and myself decided to maintain our regular commercial clients, but reinvest the profits back into a feature. From that III SLICES OF LIFE came to fruition.
Tell us about III SLICES OF LIFE. How long has this been in the works? Where did the story come from?
When we decided to produce a feature film on a super micro-budget, it seemed only logical to work with stories that we had already developed, many of which were short form, so we decided to do an anthology. This worked to our advantage in many ways. First; I LOVE horror anthologies and shooting it as an anthology would allow us certain freedoms that wouldn’t exist with a single story narrative. Second; we could shoot as we made money from other projects and spread it out as long as necessary without putting ANYTHING on a credit card- the movie would be completely paid for when it was done. Three; we could use a large diverse pool of actors and not worry about character continuity since the separate stories would be tied together by the framing device. And four; this would allow us to switch up our styles and really try something a little different with each segment, as a way to sharpen our skills with different sub-genres of horror. Each segment was developed with this intent, to create three disparate stories in three varied styles, all inspired by classic low-budget horror sub-genres.
We had been lucky enough to meet and become friends with the incredible ALAN ROWE KELLY while we screened JITTERS in New York. From day one he has been an inspiration and support system for us in moving forward on the project. He lent both his great acting skills and screenwriter talents to the project (he scripted the Amber Alert segment). We had released the W.O.R.M. segment as a short to festivals, just to get some feedback. The response was incredible, we won about 6 awards, including the STEPHEN KING AWARD from Silver Screams and that really motivated us to move forward.
We spent four years total completing the entire project, one segment at a time as we had the money to pay for it. This allowed for many talented people to be involved, our composer Gene Hodsdon, literally created a different musical theme for each of the four stories and really helped to define each story. Jeremy Selenfriend from MONSTER IN MY CLOSET did the creature effects for the “Pink Snapper” segment. Chad Norris and Paul Mackey pulled off some incredible VFX, many that you would never even notice (unless you watch the extras on the DVD) and of course the awesome cast that has continued to have such success following III SLICES OF LIFE; Deneen Melody [a favorite here at AnythingHorror.com], Toya Turner, Helene Alter-Dyche, Marv Blauvelt, Kaylee Williams, Judith Lesser, Galen Schloming and Jack Guasta are all incredible.
III SLICES OF LIFE is pretty gory with the kind of plot that likes to screw around with your head. Are you a big fan of gore flicks? What are some of your favorites and which ones have influenced you the most?
I have never seen a movie where I thought it had too much blood shed and III SLICES OF LIFE does have some gruesome moments. We would have had more if the budget allowed. The last segment in particular was a dream come true for me, as far as having a location in which I could completely go ballistic with the blood. I have always been a splatter and special effects fan and the gore films of the late 70’s and 80’s are really what lead me to film making in the first place. As for influences, I enjoy almost all horror films from big budget to low budget. The ones that inspire me the most are the ones that really have a rogue “anything could happen” feel to them. I love BASKET CASE, THE BEYOND, RABID, RE-ANIMATOR, BRAIN DAMAGE, DEAD ALIVE, INSIDE, AUDITION, THEY CAME FROM WITHIN, DEMONS, SUSPIRIA, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, DON’T LOOK NOW, POSSESSION (Zulawski), SANTA SANGRE … many new and old horror classics. I’m also a big fan of alternative cinema like early Todd Haynes, early films of John Waters, Kenneth Anger, Maya Deren, David Lynch, Warhol/ Morrissey and many more.
III SLICES OF LIFE has some great awards already under its belt form various festivals. It has a “Best Film”, “Best Special Effects”, and an “Audience Choice Award”. Has this helped you with finding distributors for your film?
You know, Distribution is a mysterious and changing aspect of this business; and to be honest, with this film we were completely charting new territory for ourselves on how to make sure we handled the distribution in the smartest way to get market penetration AND possibly make our money back. For me, it was THE most stressful and worrisome part of the process. I do think the awards helped, but honestly we had offers prior to most of the feature awards. The incredible poster art by Mike DiGrazia brought us a lot of attention and I also think having some really positive early reviews from places like ANYTHING HORROR helped the most of all. We had already spent an enormous amount of time researching markets, companies and the distribution methods of comparably low budget films, from this we drew up a list of about 20 companies that we thought would best serve our project. Then we sent each of Distribution Company a screener packet with photos, press, bios and awards. And waited….
Who’s distributing the film? When can we expect to see it? Where can my readers buy a copy?
Eric and I made the decision very early on that we really wanted to enter the VOD market as soon as possible. I personally watch a lot of movies through ON DEMAND and I felt that this was the best market for low budget rentals. So I looked into who was the most common aggregate of indie VOD films and one name is the leader: GRAVITAS VENTURES and The BOSKO GROUP. They are the ubiquitous source of VOD content and they loved III SLICES OF LIFE, by signing with them directly we were able to retain an additional 40% on the return that was not being offered through other distributors who were going to act as middlemen. It was at this point that we decided to add a “3” to the beginning of the title, just to make sure we would receive top placement on the screen menus (since numbered titles are always first). 3 SLICES OF LIFE is currently available ON DEMAND in 14 million homes across the US and Canada. A short list of the cable providers can be found here http://www.gravitasventures.com/3-slices-of-life/ .
The DVD will be available on June 7. Midnight Releasing and Acort International are handling the North American and International DVD distribution. We had 4 offers on the table and two we looked at seriously, ultimately it really just came down to personality. Dustin Lowry, the VP of acquisitions is such a cool guy and an independent film producer himself (THE FRANKENSTEIN SYNDROME [see my review coming soon] and DEATH FACTORY BLOODLETTING); so he really understands the indie filmmaker and has kept us involved in the process every step of the way- it has been awesome. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better fit for our first feature. Check out all there great product here: http://www.midnightreleasing.com/slicesoflife.php
Indie horror films are my crack Anthony. I love to watch and support them. How would you describe the indie horror scene today? Is it thriving? Are the pressures greater than bigger budget movies?
I think Indie horror is absolutely thriving and better than ever– technology has opened up the process to so many talented people. You need look no further than Alan Rowe Kelly, Bart Mastronardi, Greg Lamberson, Sean Tretta, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Brandon Slagle, Andrew van den Houten, Eric Stanze, Paul Solet, Ti West and so many others. All of whom who are just making it happen on their own terms, at different budget levels and through vastly different channels- but they have all started with work in low budget independent horror.
I think the pressure for Low Budget films is different than the pressures of Big Budget films, a big budget film is a corporate enterprise whose sole purpose is to appeal to the broadest audience and make money back for the shareholders. That is a pretty big pressure that leads to some pretty awesome theatrical releases, full of spectacle!
With Low /micro budget filmmaking the pressure is always time and resources, but past that you have more creative control from beginning to end. The limitations often bring happy accidents that turn the project into its own living breathing entity. I really love the controlled chaos of an independent production set. Split moment decisions are always being made and each one has a real impact on the final product. You want to have as many resources as possible, but you have to keep the budget at a level where there’s not so much pressure to appeal to every demographic. I really want to make films that I love to sit and watch. Then you just cross your fingers and hope that people are a bit like you and will like it also.
Tell us what’s next for Anthony G. Sumner. What new projects are you working on?
As I mentioned before I co-produced with Alan Rowe Kelly and directed the short BY HER HAND, SHE DRAWS YOU DOWN (By Her Hand Movie website) which is based on the short story of the same title by award winning genre author Douglas Smith. I am so proud of this project and it has done incredibly well at the festivals this season, bringing home Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Cinematography and best original score awards. If you would like to get the Official Movie Companion eBook which contains the story, storyboards, interviews with the producer, director, lead actor & actress, photos from the shoot, and more. It can be ordered at Amazon for only $2.99 (click here).
BY HER HAND is a part of Alan Rowe Kelly’s awesome anthology GALLERY OF FEAR, which will be coming out this summer and features an all-star cast of indie horror favorites: Jerry Murdock, Zoë Daelman Chlanda, Debbie Rochon, Raine Brown, Terry West, Susan Williams-Adriensen, Terry Shane, Joshua Nelson, and many more. Be sure to follow the progress of film on its Facebook page (click here). So that will be the second film we’ve been with coming out in 2011 and we just started shooting another feature which we are keeping on the down low until we are headed into post production.
Once again, thanks so much for inviting me to this interview and for supporting independent horror, your site is awesome!!
Thanks so much to Anthony G. Sumner for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions for me at http://www.anythinghorror.com!! Anthony also included a few video links for us all to enjoy. The first one is the official III SLICES OF LIFE Redband Trailer:
And as a bonus, Anthony included a 45 second “gore teaser” trailer:
Oh yeah … that’s the stuff!! So get out there everyonbe and support III SLICES OF LIFE and all the indie horror films Anthony talked about in the interview!!
Thanks again Anthony and …