Cleavers

Monster Interviews: MJ Dixon – Mycho Entertainment

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 in EXCLUSIVE, FRIENDS OF THE HOUSE, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, INTERVIEWS, Monster Interviews, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, 0 comments
Monster Interviews: Georgie Smibert – CleaverS (WIHM)

Monster Interviews: Georgie Smibert – CleaverS (WIHM)

I recently had the privilege of chating with the up and coming actress Georgie Smibert. We talked Women In Horror Month and her breakout role in the 2019 film CleaverS, which just screened at the Horror-On-Sea Film Festival in January, in the UK. Georgie’s award worthy performance as Sheriff Jody-Ann Howells definitely has people taking and taking the independent horror community by storm. 
Originally from Melbourne, Georgie started her film career as an assistant director and production manager. After a few years behind the camera she switched sides, and although she still enjoys her roles behind the camera, acting is now her main priority. Since turning her focus to acting, she’s had lead roles in many short films and feature films and enjoys playing strong but conflicted characters. 
Georgie moved to live in London in 2015 and knew that if she wanted to act in the UK she would have to be confident with various accents. To date she has played characters with various British and American  accents and has even played a guest role as a French character who only spoke French! 
At the beginning of her career she had a knack for being cast as characters who were killed – so far she has been stabbed multiple times, strangled, beheaded and even played a robot who had their battery removed. Last year, after completing her training in London, she gained her advanced qualification from the British Academy of Dramatic Combat. Though careful not to be misinterpreted as a stunt performer, she now looks for characters who aren’t only strong and conflicted, but whose story-line has an element of action in them. 

 

  • DS: How did you get your start in film and what originally attracted you to it? What aspect about it drew you in the most and made you decide to pursuit it?

 

  • GS: I entered the film industry as a 1st AD and Production Manager(PM). I was an event manager at the time and thought that a film was a bit like an event,  so if I could organize one,  I could probably organize the other. I saw an indie feature film looking for a PM – I applied and was successful.  Working on that film also introduced me to a wonderful acting school, The Melbourne Actor’s Lab, and after a couple of years as an AD and PM I switched to acting.

 

  • DS: How did you end up working with the amazing MJ and Anna Dixon over at Mycho Entertainment, and do you have any fond memories working with them that you’d like to share?

 

  • GS: It was a simple case of applying to the right casting call. Most of Cleaver was filmed in late 2014, but luckily for me that didn’t include Jody-Ann’s scenes – her role was cast in early 2015, just after I’d moved to live in London.

 

 

  • • I have so many fond memories of working with Anna & Mike,most of which are from the middle of the night when we’re all freezing cold, over tired and can’t stop laughing at pointless things

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  • DS: In what way has your character changed and progressed from the first film Cleaver in 2015, to the second film CleaverS in 2018? And how have you progressed as an actress during that time?

 

  • GS: Jody-Ann has matured a lot between the films. When she is introduced in Cleaver she is a new graduate and expects she will be looking after petty crime a serial killer like Cleaver is not on her radar at all! Over the years as her determination to bring Cleaver to justice has developed, she has become increasingly withdrawn and isolated.
  • • Personally, over the years I’ve had more opportunity to experiment with different approaches to roles and spend more time in front of a camera. I’ve also got more comfortable with the idea that I will always get to the first day of shooting and feel under prepared  – no matter how much time or preparation I’ve done.
  • DS: What’s it like for you, going from a sort of sidekick character in Cleaver, to the lead role in CleaverS? How did you tackle the task and did you prepare any differently from one film to the next?
  • GS: The size of the role is mostly irrelevant when it comes to developing a character. I make sure I know my character’s history, relationships and motivations and I learn my lines. If there is an accent involved like for Jody-Ann, then I spend a lot of time with my dialect coach to make sure my pronunciation is correct.
  •  
  • • I had a lot less pre-production time for the first Cleaver, and I really had to focus on learning the accent for the first time.  For CleaverS it was nice to already have a good base for my accent and focus on developing more of her history.
  • DS: Your monologues in CleaverS were phenomenal. You really pulled the audience in and made it easy to relate with the character of Sheriff Jody-Ann Howells. How difficult was it and did you find it emotionally draining to deliver such a high powered performance?
  • GS: Firstly, thank you. I never know how my portrayal of a character is going to be received so it’s really great to get that sort of feedback.
  •  
  • • Acting is an activity that seems to give me endless energy – I lose all track of time and can happily film for hours without stopping for food or drink.  I’ll always sleep well after a shoot, but I think it’s incredibly important to leave a character and their emotions on set at the end of the day and allow yourself the opportunity to relax as yourself
  • DS: What preparation did you do in order to produce such an award worthy performance in CleaverS? Did you do anything special to submerse yourself into the role, or was it just business as usual?
  • GS: I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary for me. Part of what I love in acting is inventing back stories and filling in what is happening between scenes and between lines.  For CleaverS, I filled in the years between the two films – where Jody-Ann had been,  which friends she had lost and which personal demons she had been fighting.  Answering those unknowns and developing that history is always a part of my preparation that I really enjoy.
  •  
  • DS: What are your thoughts on Women In Horror Month, and how relevant and important do you think it is for the genre today?
  • GS: I think Women in Horror Month does a wonderful job at highlighting and celebrating all the amazing things women are doing in the industry today. At a time when the call for diversity is so strong, this sort of publicity plays an incredibly important role in inspiring female filmmakers of tomorrow to follow that dream and get involved too.
  • DS: Being a woman in horror, as an actress, Assistant Director and Producer, what is your favorite role when it comes to film? Which do you prefer more, being in front of the camera, or being behind it?
  • GS: Acting is my main priority and definitely my preferred role, but if I like the script and the crew and there isn’t a role for me then I will happily support the film’s production as crew. As an AD and PM I really enjoy helping the director achieve their vision and tell their story.
  •  
  • DS: Who are some of the Women In Horror who inspire you? Is there anyone you really admire or try to emulate when it comes to what you do?
  • GSI grew up watching Buffy on TV and I was inspired by the kick ass characters played by both Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alyson Hannigan. I also recently watched ‘A quiet place‘ with Emily Blunt – I admire her as an actress anyway and really enjoyed watching her on screen in this role.  If I could emulate the honesty of her performance and make the audience feel for my character even a fraction of the way she made me feel for hers,  I would be very happy.
  •  
  • DS: Having acted now yourself as nearly a dozen different characters, which of those said characters have you enjoyed playing the most? Are there any that stick out or maybe still stick with you?
  • GSJody-Ann definitely sticks out because she is the only character I have played in two films  and playing her introduced my to the whole Mycho family. Another role that sticks out was for a short film called ESC. where I play the sole survivor of a space ship disaster.  I filmed that whole film on a full sized green screen set which was amazing.
  •  
  • DS: Do you have any future films or projects you would to let your fans know about? Where can they follow you and stay up to date with your work?
  • GSI have another feature film due for release later this year – it’s a post apocalyptic survival story called ‘The Brink’. There are also some other projects in the early stages of development, including a short film I wrote, which I plan to make this year.

    The Brink

  •  
  • • The best place to stay up to date with my work is to follow me on Instagram georgiesmibert. I enjoy taking photos so I always share BTS photos and I’m much more active on that than Twitter.
  •  
  • DS: To conclude the interview, we like to ask one final question. If you could name only one, what would you say is your favorite all time horror film?
  • GS: Psycho. It’s the first horror film I saw, and I still think it’s a great film.
Posted by Donovan Smith in CAST AND CREW NEWS, Categories, FEATURED ARTISTS, FEATURED CONTENT, FRIENDS OF THE HOUSE, HALLOWEEN, HORROR COMEDIES, HORROR HEROES, HORROR HISTORY, HORROR NEWS, HOSTED HORROR, INTERVIEWS, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SATANIC/DEMONIC, SCI-FI HORROR, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, STAFF PICKS, THRILLER, WOMEN IN HORROR, 0 comments