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.)

7 Days in Strangeville Day 5: Stiff Jobs


After we took COLONEL KILL MOTHERFUCKERS on the road for a year, I was experiencing some serious burnout. While we’d gotten reviews in Fangoria and Rue Morgue Magazines, countless horror websites, had been interviewed dozens of times and sold our movies to fans all over the country, we were still missing the one vital ingredient I knew we needed to make Hack Movies a true success. We needed a distribution contract.

I felt like I had a solid story that was crazy enough to sell to a distributor, but I just wasn’t ready to make it yet. So instead, I fell back on what I knew I could do. Market the fuck out of Hack Movies. I decided to make a series of interconnected short films starring the two hit men from my new movie idea to put on youtube for free to promote the big feature film I was currently writing. Wolfram and Windgate were born. I wrote the short films and we got to work.

This time period was a super low point for me. I’d gotten out of a messy long term relationship that had lasted 3 and a half years (still the longest for me!) and was transitioning into a new, even messier one. My head space was dark. I felt like I was getting zero industry respect even though I’d been cranking on these movies for years now. I wrote in that headspace and created what I think is a mean, nasty film. But it’s one of the fan favorites of the Hack Minions.

Thaddeus Starbuckle was back in a featured spot for the first time since Dream Reaper and I have to say, his inspired performance as Wolfram really brought me out of my funk during filming. I also rewarded David Wayne Black who had previously done a couple of cameos for me in DEAD SHIT and COLONEL KILL MOTHERFUCKERS with the Windgate role to play the calm and collected foil opposite Wolfram’s hot headed psycho.

A lot of people gave David shit for the performance being too stiff. But I wanted him to play the character exactly like that. We were absolutely on the same page when it came to his acting. I felt so bad about the criticism he received for that role, I made sure to work even closer with him the next time to ensure the same critical fate didn’t await him.

Meanwhile Thaddeus was killing it. I barely had to give him any direction. He was a director’s dream. He’d read the page a couple of times and know exactly what inflections to hit and how to stay on accent, how to quickly recover from a botched take without causing us to have to reset the scene every time. Just an all around pleasure to work with who always caused me to up my acting game when I played opposite him. Kevin Strange can’t let some young buck upstage him in his own movie, right? haha

As filming wrapped on the shorts, I began to edit them together. I was torn. On one hand, I was thrilled with the performances and felt like we had some really genuine Hack Movies material on our hands, but I also felt like it was missing something. The final short didn’t have any more UMPH to it than the first. They all told a story together, but that story wasn’t as interesting as it should have been. I sat on it for a while, then decided fuck it, I’ll write some more stuff to connect all of the shorts together into scenes, give it a much stronger middle and climax (I always thought the beginning segment with TimO as the Dusty Rhodes impersonating old lady dress wearing rapist was one of our stronger openings) and make it its own damn feature film called STIFF JOBS!

So that’s what we did. Which is hilarious because we filmed the bulk of the material in the dead of summer so everyone is wearing these sleeveless vests and shorts and shit, but we regrouped to film the new scenes in the dead of winter. That’s why you see everyone in the bum rape scene wearing winter coats and hats. We filmed that in December. What we also filmed in December was the Cockhammer goon resurrection scene. Which means Thaddeus and all the rest of the crew had to wear their little skimpy outfits out in a field for hours in below freezing temperatures. That’s why when you see Windgate get his shirt ripped off his scream sounds so authentic. It was. He was laying shirtless on frozen ground.

As the road dogs we are, we took that son of a bitch on tour immediately. I remember distinctly one show in particular. Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors in Chicago Illinois 2008 or early 2009. A couple of fans came running up to the table with one of those industrial rolls of toilet paper with a bunch of Hack Movies quotes written on it. For those who don’t know, drinking toilet paper as though it was a glass of water is a running gag in all the Hack Movies. Every single one. All the way back to Dream Reaper. Go look, you’ll find it in every movie.

So these fans had flown from New York to give us this gift, which I believe TImO still has in his house. They bought everything we had at the table. All the flicks, all the T shirts. They were so fucking happy to meet us that they came back around and unloaded the rest of their cash on us and just said, “here, make another movie with that.” I hate myself for not remembering their names, but that moment with them is still one of the highlights of my career.

At the end of the show, as we were packing up, the head of the Fangoria web team came up and told me that they’d gotten more Emails asking if Hack Movies was going to have a table than some of the featured celebrity guests. This was it. I KNEW we were about to finally make it. All our hard work. All the dedication and loyalty from the crew. All of Nick’s technical work. All of Jonny’s editing skills. All of TimO’s music. We were about to make it. Only we weren’t. Join us tomorrow for the story of COCKHAMMER and how you were THISCLOSE to being able to watch it on Netflix.

7 Days in Strangeville Day 2: Dream Reaper


In early 2005 I started gathering my troops. Friends, acquaintances, even complete strangers jumped on board for what would become my very first feature length film, DREAM REAPER. One of the worst cinematic disasters in the history of film.

But before I shot the film, I made sure my two co-stars could remember their lines and act worth a damn. They couldn’t, and they couldn’t, but we plodded forward anyway. We were kids, what the fuck did we know! As I wrote the script for DREAM REAPER, I stalled for a bit and shot this ridiculous commercial for our website. Mind you, we had absolutely nothing to sell yet. But that didn’t stop us from shilling the fuck out of ourselves anyway!

HackMovies.com Shill

After that it was on to filming. Since I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, I had no idea how fucking hard making movies was. I went into making my first feature film as casually as one might decide to join an after school softball team. Believe it or not, after just a few short months, we’d done it! We’d made the whole stupid movie. My own feature length film to put on DVD and sell to the world! By this time I’d met Mike Lombardo of ReelSplatter.com. He clued me in on which software to use to get myself away from Windows Moviemaker, but that didn’t stop me from shooting the whole movie on that damn 250 dollar Walmart camcorder!

Lloyd Kaufman DVD Intro

Once the movie was shot, edited, and mass produced on DVD, we took it all the way to Twisted Nightmare Weekend in Ohio where we managed to land the one and only Lloyd Kaufman, president of Troma Studios and creator of the Toxic Avenger to do our DVD intro! I’d made it! My cinema hero shilling for MY movie! We brought 80 copies of that bad boy to the con and sold 7! 7 people wanted OUR movie! I couldn’t believe it! I went home so stoked, so ready to make another flick. But that story is for tomorrow. For now, feast your eyes on the VERY FIRST Hack Movies FEATURE film!

Dream Reaper 

Come back tomorrow to learn how we hooked up with long time Hack Movies cinematographer Nick Head and created the two most popular characters in Strangeville, Nixon and Hogan!