Monster Interviews: MJ Dixon – Mycho Entertainment

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MJ: I think it was when I was quite young. I always wanted to be involved in Filmmaking and Writing since I could remember and by the time I was 15 I had kind of come to terms with the fact that I wanted to be a Writer, a Horror Writer more specifically. It wasn’t until I left school and started helping out on a local short film that I realized that being a screenwriter was the quickest way to get what I actually wanted and that was seeing my own work on film.

I started off just trying to make stuff, which was difficult in the mid to late 90’s, as video equipment wasn’t widely available to working class families like it is now and any practice I could get was borrowing the Colleges old tv camera for an hour every Wednesday morning. I didn’t really get to start making my own stuff until 1999 when I was given the go ahead to book the camera over night. 

Instead I would borrow my friends old 8mm Camcorder and just practice with that. Filmmaking really didn’t come naturally to me and so it was an uphill struggle to figure out things like composition, lighting and narrative intent. My first films were garbage, but I just refused to quit. 

I saved my lunch money for 3 months and bought the cheapest DV Camcorder I could afford in 2002 and that led to several years of me just making as many films as I could, back then no-one cared about anything shot on Digital so if you were making shorts films, for the most part they were just for you. So I just kept making stuff and every so often would pull everything I had learned for one of University pieces. Two dozen terrible movies later I sat down and said “Right, why do these films suck?” 

It was in 2008 at that moment that I felt ready and I really knew “this is what I need to do with my life”.

Monster: Why do you make horror films? And more specifically, why slasher films? How do you continue to create such original and unique killers? 

MJ: I always loved horror films the most when I was younger. The thing with horror was that, even if it was bad, it was still good (mostly), but the horror section of the video store was the most magical and intriguing thing in world. I always gravitated toward the covers and the ideas hinted at by them and would sit and imagine just how scary these films could be. Of course, eventually I would be disappointed by some of them, but the fun was in the anticipation.

With that said, I always loved all kind of movies and I decided early on that I wanted to tackle every genre as a filmmaker at some point. I just realized that horror was the best genre to do that in, it’s a genre that you can marry with almost any other type of film. 

Slasher films, to me, are the perfection of the horror formula. The distillation of why we enjoy them and I noticed quickly that there were a great many interesting things you could do and stories you could tell by using Slasher movies as a short hand. Everyone knows them, they are the horror equivalent of a Romantic Comedy, you know the story already, so you can understand when we start fucking with the idea of that. 

Coming up with our own Slashers I always found quite easy. As I said the Horror genre, and the Slasher sub genre especially, has a wonderful short hand and so creating characters to fill that world really leans into that. Because there are so many Slasher movies, that means so many slasher villains and that leaves so many archetypes to draw from. 

Thorn is based on Hulking monsters like Jason and Myers, whilst Cleaver and Prankster are treated more like Freddy Krueger, but there are other nuances to the genre to take inspiration from like Nathan (Hollower), the reluctant psychopath or Corben (Slasher House 1 & 2) the intellectual killer and many MANY others. Strangely we also draw on other genres for our monsters and Jacob from PandaMonium takes a lot cues from James Bond, he’s smart, cool, collected and great at his job and I really liked making a slick, ‘professional’ slasher like that, that’s closer to a hitman than a disturbed individual with mummy issues or whatever.

Monster: Who are some of the filmmakers that inspire you to do what you do? Do you have any favorite indie horror directors or non-genre directors? 

MJ: In my early years I was really inspired by maverick Directors like Sam Raimi, Lloyd Kaufman, James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez and basically any filmmaker who just went out and did it. I took a lot of inspiration from Kevin Smith and the way his films interconnected, I loved comic books (as he obviously does) and it didn’t take long for me to conceive that Slasher movies being interconnected would be a great idea and it had worked before with the Classic Monsters, to me it felt like a no brainer.

These days I find myself inspired by almost every filmmaker that I encounter, at any level. I think you can learn a lot from bad films, good films and even mediocre films. One of my favorite things is working on other sets, and you get to watch people make mistakes that you definitely would have made yourself and you get to learn from that mistake before you even make it. More importantly though. You get to see what people are doing RIGHT and if you can recognize that and take it home with you, then that’s a very useful thing to realize. 

It’s hard to say who my favorites are. I love anything John Carpenter (Obviously) and I’m a big fan of Kevin Smith (as I said), but I’m inspired by so many filmmakers that I find it very hard to chose even a couple. 

I hugely admire so many indie filmmakers though and learn so much from them, I really enjoy working with people like Maria Lee Metheringham, Jason Impey, Eilleen Daly, Keiran Johnson to name a few and I love what filmmakers like Andrew Jones, Dominic Brunt and Ben Manning/Pablo Raybould are doing, really adding cool new stuff to the genre here in the UK.

Monster: You currently own and operate the company, Mycho Entertainment. Where did the name Mycho originate from, and what’s its significance to you? What does the company represent and where do you see it headed in the future? 

MJ: Haha people often ask me this and mispronounce it, but its pronounced “My” “Co”. I spent the summer of 2004 coming up with a name for a new production label that would give me a clear cut off from what I’d be doing before. I liked that ‘Troma’ was a word that they just made up and so I decided that I’d try and do the same kind of thing.

My first name is Mike and one of my all time favorite films is Psycho and so ‘Mycho’ was born and people really seemed to dig it, so it stuck. 

Also, The whole point of the new name and branding was that it was to represent a fresh start for me as a filmmaker. I had spent years trying to get projects of the ground and being told “it just won’t work” or “its just can’t happen” or “its just too stupid” and I wanted to just make stuff MY way and learn for myself. So the MY in that suddenly felt like it took on a new meaning for me, it was like saying these films are My Choices and it felt like a powerful name to carry that and it has. Mycho represents just getting up, going out and doing YOUR shit. YOUR way. It’s also somewhat satisfying to see that at the front of every movie we make, knowing that it was born from people telling me “I couldn’t do it”. 

I think into the future, it’s simply a case of making sure that we carry that ethos. Life throws all sorts of things at us and the first thing to die, usually, are our dreams and we aim to make sure that the people who want to keep their dreams alive, can. We have loads of stories left to tell and we equally want to be able to help others tell their stories whenever possible.

Monster: You’re recently coming off your most successful film campaign to date. After nearly doubling the funding, what can we expect from Slasher House 3; a movie boasting 25 Slashers – something that’s never been done before in the genre. 

MJ: Slasher House 3 is our tenth Mycho feature and so we really wanted to do something BIG and special for it, out of that Slasher House 3 was born. The idea to do 25 Slashers was newer than the concept itself. Early on I knew Slasher House (2012) would be a trilogy (because I’m a big Star Wars geek so everything is always trilogies with me) and that we’d start in the middle, but the details of part 3 really came together in 2010 on set when we joked about various ‘comedy’ endings for the film.

One of them, That is unfortunately now a spoiler so I can’t say what it was, was so daft that I really start to think “What if that was the actual ending” and whilst on set I started to figure out the logistics of how that could work as a serious story and I started designing a whole host of Slashers from there, some of which ended up in Slasher House 2 (2016) and some ended up in this, but for the most part, with one change the main Slashers have been prepped and ready to go for almost 10 years. 

Ultimately that led to needing 25 Slashers for the story to work and it kind of just went from there. There was a point when it almost become 30 and I realized that perhaps that was too many. 

The things about the film is that its so full of twists that its hard to say what its about with out spoiling a lot of the surprise and as well as balancing 30+ characters, your also trying to finish a story that you’ve been telling over 3 films in a way that answers questions and keeps people surprised, I think it does that in a unique way, but I’m sure ultimately the audience will let me know if it does or not.

Monster: You’ve invented your own movie universe, aka the Mychoverse, similar to what Stephen King and Kevin Smith have done. How did the idea of your own horror universe come to fruition and do you have any special plans for the Mychoverse down the road? 

MJ: Yeah, Smith especially was a HUGE inspiration to how all this started, I always like how comic books crossed over. Guest starring IronMan or Hulk vs The X-Men, stuff like that was a big draw for me as a kid, But I felt like movies just weren’t doing that and my adolescent brain just couldn’t understand why. The thing that really cemented it for me was “What If Michael Myers visited the Amityville house?” Like would they exist in the same world? Could Jason just wander into Haddonfield? It was just pure fanboy fantasy, but Obviously I didn’t have the rights to make those movies and Fan films always seemed like A LOT of work for something that you couldn’t do much with.

I liked the idea of building a world where all those Slasher movies that you watched in the 80’s all happened and what would our modern world look like now? It was fun and suddenly I found myself charged with making up a dozen or so serial killers and monsters of my own and it was just great fun. 

From the early 2000’s I started working on a plan what I called at the time the ‘Bottom Shelf Universe” the idea was to make low budget horror stuff that would be found on the bottom shelf of Blockbuster stores, the kind of stuff that you’d pick up with your big budget rentals because they had a cool cover, and quietly we’d be building it to a crossover movie that was eventually called The Slasher House, where they’d all meet and fight it out. Hollower, Thorn and even Corben all had their own movies planned with the ending being Slasher House

I wrote treatments for all of them out and Slasher House become the idea I was most excited about. I remember sitting one night in 2005 and just plowing through the first draft of it with a bottle of vodka next to me. I spent the next 4 years refining it with the plan to start with other movies first and adjusting it every time those ideas developed more. 

In 2009 I heard that two similar sounding projects were planned to go into production, they weren’t the same thing, but they featured upfront the element that was my twist ending. I panicked and said “Ok nows the time, if we’re quick we can get this done before those other guys”. Of course, being the first proper feature film I ever made, it took almost 2 and a half years, But, luckily. those other guys never even made it to production so we made it first and then those films never followed. 

Whilst writing Slasher House I started to plot out the larger world and suddenly it became part of a bigger idea, I connected the dots to a HUGE project I’d been working on since I was a teenager and before I knew it I had a whole world of movies planned. I think it was initially 12 films but as it developed and we added Cleavers story and a couple of others its now a 16 film storyline that ends everything we’ve worked on so far. I really can’t wait for people to see how it all pans out.

Monster: Out of all the characters you’ve ever created, do you have any personal favorites and why? And who is your favorite slasher or horror villain, outside of the Mychoverse?

MJ: Thorn has always been my favorite. I created him long before the Mychoverse even had a name. I have, hands down, spent the most time developing him out any of our characters and I just love everything about him and the world that he lives in and comes from. The movies have literally only scratched the very surface of whats going on there and If I ONLY got to make Thorn movies for the rest of my life I’d be a happy man.

Outside of our stuff, it’s gotta be Michael Myers. He was the first Horror villain that I really remember watching and he scared the crap out of me as a kid. I love the Halloween movies and Myers is the reason. I try and pour my love for those movies into everything I do. 

Monster: Do you have any upcoming releases fans should be on the lookout for, and where can they follow you and stay up to date with all that Mycho has going on at the moment? 

MJ: Our previous films CleaverS and Mask of Thorn just landed on wide DVD, which has been exciting, because it means so many more people can get hold of them. Our latest two PandaMonium and Bannister Dollhouse land in 2020 and I’m really excited to see how they are received, I think they represent our best work so far.

Pandamonium has its World Premiere at Horror-On-Sea Film Festival in January and we’re really excited for that and I can’t wait to see the cast and crew again. 

From there we have so much stuff planned. SH3 is just one of the movies we plan to make in 2020 and we really like to surprise our friends, fans and followers with what we’re gonna do next, but it’s a different direction for us again. 

Plus we’ll continue to make Patreon EXCLUSIVE shorts from http://patreon.com/mycho and course a few other surprises up our sleeves.

Posted by Donovan Smith

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