We sit down for an exclusive interview with the multi-talented and prolific indie horror filmmaker, Director / Producer / Editor Dustin Ferguson.
Dustin Ferguson is a prolific independent film maker who has managed to make an impact on the horror genre thanks to his unique style and quick turn around with the production of projects. I got chance to catch up with Dustin to ask him a few questions about working on additional scenes for the Sleepaway Camp series, the upcoming Sci-Fi Horror RoboWoman and his musical side project under the name Dirty D.
14 QUESTIONS FOR FILMMAKER DUSTIN FERGUSON
1. How did you get started in filmmaking originally?
I grew up a big fan of horror films. As I grew older the style of films as a whole started to change. With technology evolving faster and faster, Hollywood was making movies less and less like they used to. I felt it was important to try and preserve that era with new films for people who long for and are nostalgic for the classic approach. What I mean is longer takes, less frenzied editing and more suspense and atmosphere rather than modern special f/x. In 2007 I picked up my first camera and went out with some co-workers and shot a 20-minute “fan film” in my Dad’s backyard. The rest is history.
2. What are your biggest influences when it comes to filmmaking?
Low budget films from the 1970s-80s. When I watch an older low budget film that is done well, it gives me excitement and inspiration to go out and try doing the same thing. People like Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven (R.I.P.) were the pioneers of that approach. I just want to now keep that legacy alive.
3. Despite branching out into other genre such as Sci-Fi with Nemesis 5: The New Model (2017) and Comedy with Horndogs Beach Party (2018), you are best known for your work in the horror genre. Was horror something you always wanted to do?
Yes. When I first started making films I wasn’t even releasing them. I made them to keep all to myself. I was fed up with the way Horror was morphing as a genre, so I started making movies the way “I liked them”, so I could keep having new “old” horror films to watch. Eventually enough people convinced me to show them to an audience. To this day, I say I only make movies to make horror movies, even if I occasionally branch out for a breath of fresh air into other genres.
4. Talking of changing genres one of your new projects which has been getting some attention is RoboWoman, which with Dawna Lee Heising on the poster looks like a cross over between The Terminator (1984) and Robocop (1987). Can you tell us a bit about the film?
You pretty much nailed it. There is an 80s Indonesian film called “Lady Terminator” that played a big role in inspiring me to do this. It basically took the best elements of those big budget action films and fused them with camp and a female lead, creating a cult classic in its own right. Dawna Lee Heising has worked very hard in her career over the years and I really felt it was time someone gave her the lead role she really deserves. I was fresh off Nemesis 5 and transitioning to California when I got the idea to do it. I wanted something that would really team up Heising and I and (hopefully) get our careers a little mutual love and attention…while still making something really “fun” and totally in my style.
5. It also brings together an amazing cast, a lot of whom you have worked with previously. Do you like to you use the same cast and crew for your films?
Yes. I take the more classic approach of an “ensemble” cast. I think people working together can achieve great things and when you get a strong bond going with your film family, I think it’s important to keep it together as long as you can. Eventually my fans become fans of my actors as well after spotting them several times in my different projects, and so it really helps them to build that recognition within a fanbase like that.
6. Remakes are something which divide opinion with horror fans, but they are something which you have continued to produce, write and direct. Why have you decided to do so many remakes and what attracts you to the projects you have chosen?
My focus isn’t so much “remakes” (as I’ve done a lot of “sequels” as well as at least two dozen original films), it’s really just about attaching myself to the franchises I grew up loving when possible. My love for the genre plays a big part in why I keep doing it and as a fan if I’m offered a gig to remake or to sequelize a film I personally enjoy, why would I say no? I’ve sort of developed a niche for revamping a lot of these old franchises on a budget, which in turn can lead to more/bigger films…giving the filmmakers more work, and fans more product to gush over.
7. One series which you have been involved in is Sleepaway Camp. Having edited Sleepaway Camp IV: The Survivor (1992), you also directed two new scenes for Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988). Can you tell us a bit about these additional scenes?
That was an interesting project. It was for the 30th Anniversary release of the film in Australia. A special “limited edition” VHS was created, and I was asked by producer/distributor John Klyza if I would like to film a new scene for it that would essentially show the audience the story that T.C. tells the Campers during the opening of the film. He figured, and I agree, that it would be a nice little bonus to add to the film that fans might appreciate without really altering the film itself in anyway. Julie Anne Philputt and Peter Stickles play “Michelle” and “Steve” in the new scene and the F/X was handled by Joe Castro (Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled (2002), Night of The Demons 3 (1997)). We also shot it at the same mausoleum used in Phantasm 3: Lord of the Dead (1994), Phantasm 4: Oblivion (1998) and Phantasm 5: Ravager (2016)!
A “new” deleted scene I filmed in 2015 called ‘Whatever Happened To Molly?’ from the Scream Factory Blu-Ray was also included in this special release. In that clip we see what was intended to happen to poor Molly after the credits rolled. What I liked about making these is that they were “period pieces”, meaning they had to match the footage from 1988. We even managed to get a Camp Rolling Hills shirt to use for filming. It was a lot of fun!
8. There are constant rumors of a possible Sleepaway Camp remake, is this a project which you would consider taking on?
Let me just squash that right now. BEFORE the Sleepaway Camp 2 anniversary release, John Klyza had planned a new blu-ray edition of Sleepaway Camp IV that was going to be very similar. I was to go out and film some additional scenes to sort of “complete” the film, covering what wasn’t shot in 1992 but intended for the film. I made a cast announcement and that stirred up a bit of drama in the online horror scene.
The project actually fell through for various reasons, so I had removed my cast announcement. But that didn’t stop a few Internet trolls (who shall remain nameless) from starting up a rumor that I was “remaking” Sleepaway Camp. That of course led to more lame drama, and even though I denied ever saying I was doing that, I still get the occasional message from fans asking what’s up with that.
As far as I know, the creators of the original film have sort of ALWAYS been planning a “big budget” remake, but they have also been saying that for about 10 years now, so we will see. If I was asked to direct it, I’d actually turn it down. I had my fun within this series, but I don’t want it to define my career. There’s so many other franchises out there still waiting for the “Dustin Ferguson” touch! Now the “Haters” can relax, I’m NOT REMAKING SLEEPAWAY CAMP, lol.
9. Getting publicity for a low budget film is always difficult, but you created a lot of interest with your horror film Doll Killer (2013) which was marketed as a lost film from 1987. Where did the idea for the marketing come from?
At the time I really needed something that could get a little viral attention. I was doing really small films still without much publicity. I really liked seeking out and collecting rare/impossible-to-find horror films growing up, so that was really the inspiration. I came up with this whole backstory about how I discovered this lost Slasher movie from 1987 that had never been seen. The Director (“Jesus Satan”) passed away and his late Wife was left the only surviving print of the movie on a badly damaged VHS tape. I traveled to Mexico to obtain the copy to make a transfer for release. Obviously, that was all made up.
After we launched those stories onto various horror sites, I actually began production on the film. And much like the Sleepaway Camp projects, this was a fun period piece because it all had to match circa 1987, since this was to in fact be that “lost” film. It’s still one I hold good memories of and people still seem to be constantly discovering. The movie itself sort of fell into obscurity after it quickly went out of print, sort of contributing to the legacy of it. I see copies on Ebay from time to time, with prices in the $100-200 range.
10. You also have a musical side project which you do under the name Dirty D. How did this start?
I’m glad you asked! I’ve done over 80 music videos to date. Often, I do them as a sort of “trade” for use of that particular artist’s music in one of my films. German Electro Artist E-Rocker was one of them. I had done several videos for him before getting the guts to ask him if he would make a song with me, if I got my vocals to him. We talked it out and soon had the 5-track EP “Welcome to My Bass” released on Spotify and I-Tunes. I also directed videos for all of the songs on it then sort of moved on back into my film career.
Then, after I moved to California late last year, I developed a bigger interest in rap and hip-hop music, so I discussed doing a follow-up with him and he was game. We did 3 more songs together for the EP Hollywood Rock. I’ve done two videos for it so far. Those songs with Stefan (E-Rocker) are more Electro in style, heavy on the old skool. It’s much bassier and rhymey than the first EP, but not full-blown rap.
So, I also recently started doing more “solo” work that is heavier on the hip-hop side of things, without totally losing that Electro touch. Really, it’s because he (or anyone really) just can’t keep up with how fast I want to do things and turn product out. So, I will always do my collaborations with him when he’s able and willing, but I will also be releasing songs and mixtapes on my own as I find the inspiration to do so.
11. You have a nickname of ‘Jesus Satan.’ Where did this nickname come from?
LOL! I’m asked that SO often, it’s actually NOT a “nickname”, someone put that on my IMDb and it won’t go away ha ha! I used that name when making Doll Killer (2013) to hide my identity and help play up the “lost film” aspect we were going with. It was inspired by the name Marilyn Manson (i.e. something “good” and something “evil” together).
12. If someone wanted to get an idea of what a Dustin Ferguson film is like, what five films would you suggest they watch?
That’s really difficult because there seems to be a style I have (as many people now tell me), yet I jump all over in different genres and have varying budgets. For that reason, it’s hard for me to name films that would “define” the type of films I make. I’d probably have to suggest films from several genres/budgets to really give the most honest look at what I do. So here goes: Nemesis 5: The New Model (2017), Penny Pinchers: The Kings of No Budget Horror (2017), Tales For The Campfire 2 (2016), Meathook Massacre (2016) and Wrong Side of The Tracks (2017). But if you asked me the same question in one hour, I might give you totally different answers!
13. Do you have any new projects which you are working on at the moment?
We are about to begin production on the follow-up to Wrong Side of The Tracks, called Runaway Nightmare. Then in November I resume filming RoboWoman. I have a pick-up shoot day for The Party’s Just Begun: The Legacy of Night of The Demons still left, and of course I’m currently releasing the new episodes of Tales From The Grave all throughout this and next month. Also, I am wrapping Aliens Exposed now, a documentary about aliens and UFOs in the SoCal area for Sector 5. There’re rumors about an upcoming Killer Tomatoes, film, so for now, we will just keep those as “rumors” 😉
14. If someone is looking to direct their first film, what advice would you give them?
Stop talking about it and just go DO it! You don’t need to have a million production meetings or waste time drawing out storyboards or even an expensive camera. If you want to go do it, stop making excuses and just do it. Use your cell phone if you have to. And don’t be afraid to fail, because you will, probably more than once. It’s those who keep getting back up again who succeed.
You can keep up to date with future projects from Dustin Ferguson by following him on following social media:
Facebook Personal Page: https://www.facebook.com/dustin.ferguson.18
Facebook Director Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheOnlyDustinFerguson/
SoCal Cinema Studios Page: https://www.facebook.com/SoCalCinemaStudios/
Dirty D Page: https://www.facebook.com/Dirty-D-458547444321273/