7 Days in Strangeville Day 6: Cockhammer


We’ve reached the precipice, gang. The top of the mountain. I consider COCKHAMMER to be my magnum opus. Still all these years later, I think COCKHAMMER is the best piece of art I’ve unleashed into the universe. I still carry copies around with me to hand out as calling cards. You want inside my head? Watch COCKHAMMER. That’s Kevin Strange. After all the years, all the conventions, all the screenings, all the blood, sweat and tears by people I now considered closer than my own family, it was time to make a big fucking movie.

We never stopped. We never even slowed down. As soon as one movie finished, I wrote the next one while we spread the last one to the four corners of the planet. So by the time we got to work on our FIFTH FILM we were a machine. A single unit. While Nick Head hadn’t worked on the cinematography since DEAD SHIT, he’d still been a VITAL and I cannot stress this enough a VITAL part of what made Hack Movies work. I spent more time at his house ranting rambling and working my ass off to create promotional material than I did with my girlfriends, which is why I went through them so fast in those days.

I bought a new camera for COCKHAMMER. 1200 bucks. It was the most money I’d ever spent on anything in my life. Since I wrote it while I was making STIFF JOBS, I was able to take my time and really WRITE the script. It was the most complex thing I’d written with more characters, locations, and FX than anything I’d done previously.

There are so many people to talk about. So many great performances. I have to give a HUGE shout out to FX Master PJ, this weird metal head I’d met on Myspace who would come down from the stix and fabricate everything my insane scripts asked for. He sculpted more penises in more shapes and sizes and colors than anything else he ever did for us. I bet he doesn’t realize that. He was the penis sculpting king. haha

I brought back Katie Deerest, a fan favorite actress, from COLONEL KILL MOTHERFUCKERS and once again beefed up a role for Erik A. Williams after his inspired performance in COLONEL KILL. I brought on board his cinematic partner in crime Joe Hammerstone. Together they were like the Kevin Bacon of the St. Louis film scene. If there was a movie shot in the STL area around that time, they were in it. But I was the only one making them play sex addicted pill fiends with homosexual tendencies…

I was finally able to work it out logistically to fly in one of my favorite indie actors, Babette Bombshell, who designed her own costume to play the Cockhammer demon at the end of the film. Babette was one of the most kind, respectful, and courteous actors I’ve ever worked with. She had her lines down perfectly and never complained about having to hang out on set while we filmed other scenes. I encourage any filmmakers reading this to contact Babette and cast her in your next movie ASAP. She can play men, women, monsters, you name it. She’s as versatile as they come and will do nothing but enhance your project. That I PROMISE.

Thaddeus and David were back as Wolfram and Windgate, and as I mentioned in my previous post, I worked closely with David to make sure Windgate came off as more alive this time around. I think he nailed it perfectly and while I was never able to work with him again as a featured actor before cancer tragically took him from us, I had many plans for not only Windgate as a character, but for David as an actor in a starring role. He was that good in COCKHAMMER and that good of a human being in general. I miss the fuck out of him. But I’ll talk more about that in tomorrow’s post.

So we shot the fucker. We shot it faster and more accurately than any movie we’d made up to that point. We could not be defeated. Every possible scenario occurred to throw us off mark, but we were so fucking good at making movies by this point that we did not miss a beat. Our crew had contingency plans for anything that could go wrong. Our biggest, most complex feature yet was filmed and edited faster than STIFF JOBS or COLONEL KILL. We were getting good at this. Maybe even professional?

Believe me, writing, directing, and starring in not one but TWO roles in your own film is hard, exhausting work. But I believed in us so much, I just knew we were going to get distribution and be able to make even more, even bigger movies that even more people would see. People fucking loved Hack Movies all over the world. We had reviews from China, we had zines in Australia writing about us. Fangoria.com officially premiered the COCKHAMMER trailer, This was it. We were about to be on the map. But I digress.

I locked myself in a room with Jonny and told him that this was the best I could do. This was the best movie I could write. The best movie I’d ever shot and we had to make it the best movie we’d ever edited. So he told me point blank that my sound design fucking sucked and that I needed to relax and let him work on it no matter how long it took. I agreed and we went to work. We edited for so long and had so many audio layers, we’d only be able to save our work once before the program would crash and we’d have to wait like ten minutes for it re-open. You want to be a filmmaker? You don’t let anything stop you. NOTHING.

COCKHAMMER was finally finished. We even had mainstream support from Fangoria magazine.TimO and his friend Rob, who had created most of the awesome Carpenter-esque soundtrack for the flick, organized a Hack Movies Cinema Showgasm in downtown St. Louis where we had a double feature screening of STIFF JOBS and the world premiere of COCKHAMMER along with three bands. How could anyone stop us now? We were firing on all cylinders. This was it. We were a fucking filmmaking team FOR REAL.

So I aggressively contacted distributors saying in essence, “Look. I can do this all day for like no budget. Give me a tiny budget, a small payday and I’ll quit my job and do this full time for you. Sign me to a 5 picture deal. Let me work for you. Let me make you easy money.” I was resoundingly ignored. COCKHAMMER? That’s too offensive. Nobody’s going to watch that. It sounds like a porno. I got one guy. ONE guy to answer my emails. He told me he didn’t pay anything. OK. He didn’t put up budgets. OK. He didn’t even pay for the product. That would be on me. I press up the DVDs, I print the sleeves. I send it all to him, and he’ll sell the flicks for me at a 50/50 split. …..Ok?

I agreed to the deal because he said he could get us on Netflix and Amazon VOD. He said that those avenues alone would pay for the production costs. But, to his credit, he told me that COCKHAMMER would probably be rejected as offensive. What was I going to do at this point? This was my baby. The best thing I’d ever made in my life. Of course I put up the cash and pressed up the movies. And then Amazon VOD rejected us for “content reasons”. No problem. We’ve still got Netflix. Netflix pays out on all the disks they buy and never do returns.

Then Netflix rejected us. Not JUST us. Suddenly Netflix decided it was changing the way it did business and it wasn’t going to buy a lot of indie DVD product anymore. They were switching focus to their VOD streaming system. And indies weren’t invited. That was it. I lost my ass on COCKHAMMER. Sure it sold to my fans. It sold out at conventions all over the country. Online the trailers and supplemental videos were getting thousands of views. But that wasn’t enough to cover my investment. What are you gonna do? I make movies that sound like pornos. What I did was go back on the road and sell the fuck out of it anyway while I wrote the next feature. The time on the road would surely cure the knot in my stomach that was starting to tell me there was no place in mainstream media for Hack Movies. Right?

Join me tomorrow for the swan song. Day 7. The last Hack Movie. NIXON AND HOGAN SMOKE CHRISTMAS (and then meet Satan.)