its 10:02 pm
Welcome to “8 Questions with….”
Before the cheetah and I teamed up to become the best film reviewers ever,I used to just use films as white noise (I have shared this story in a past blog). Around 2015ish I started to actually WATCH what was on my screen and one of the early films I did take a interest in was a movie called “The Hit List”. I bought it because it had former teen star Joey Lawrence on the cover looking very dapper and with a very cute blonde. Now I’ll be perfectly honest here,I wasn’t expecting much because I had never seen anyone cast Lawrence in a serious way.
But to my pleasant surprise,”The Hit List” was really good and Joey Lawrence was easily the best thing about the film,up to that point,I can say its the best thing he has done and I was really impressed with him. I looked at who the director was to have that much faith in Joey and had gotten such a good performance from him. I saw the name Minh Collins and then promptly forgot it.
Now its 2020 and a young PR guy named Phil Herman pings and wants to know if I am interested in talking to a director of a new horror film called “Clown Fear”. I type up Clown Fear up in IMDb and see Minh Collins name,when I looked him up and saw his credits and “The Hit List”,I was pretty pumped. Hell YES,I would love to talk with Minh.
I knOw that this man has skills and more importantly,he was into taking chances with his casting choices. To be able to get the best out of a cast is never a easy job for a director and I’ve seen that enough while reviewing movies. Minh Collins is such a director and I really enjoyed putting his 8 Questions together and even more happier that you get to read them……so let’s get going,shall we?
Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your latest project ,”Clown Fear”?
Hi, my name is Minh Collins. I’m the writer/director of the new horror film “Clown Fear”. This movie was inspired out of frustration while casting another action film called Asphalt Jungle. I had funding in place for that movie but needed to cast a name actor. My team spent about a year in preproduction and were on the verge of signing a big star, but it wasn’t meant to be, because at the last minute we had scheduling conflicts. I was then informed at that time of Lionsgate opening slots for their horror films in the coming year. I immediately switched gears and started writing the script. I knew casting for a horror film would be much easier because I didn’t need to rely on a name actor to greenlight my project. By the way, here’s a great story of how I cast all the female leads in my horror film. I was at a bar in North Hollywood while having drinks at a friend’s birthday party. I was talking to a group of ladies and one thing led to another when someone suggested we all do a film together. It was all talk at the time while under the influence of several cocktails, flash forward a year later we started principle photography on Clown Fear. I kept my word and hired all the girls for the movie. I truly love the casting process on this project because it was so much easier to not rely on one actor to greenlight my project. My producer Asif Akbar and I made all the decisions and as you can see, most of the cast are friends that we have worked with on past projects. There are so many amazing talents in LA.
What was growing up in the Collins home like? Did you always love films even as a young child? Were you parents very artistic and did they encourage you to express yourself?
Growing up in the Collins home was pretty normal. My family loved sports and my brother and I were athletes. We lived in Ventura near the beach so I participated in Jr. lifeguard every summer, played youth football during the fall and little league baseball in the summer. My dad was very involved with us kids and coached our team until we went on to play in high school. Pretty much year round sports for us, so I had aspirations of playing professional sports but an injury while playing on the varsity football team at Buena High School was a setback. My parents wanted us kids to be doctors or a lawyers so being artistic was not encouraged in our household. Growing up, my hobbies were photography and painting.
When did you know you wanted to get into the film industry and and how did you end up behind the scenes when so many want to be in front of the camera?
While working at U.C.L.A. medical center, I learned about the film industry. My first job was doing background on a T.V. commercial. The first time I stepped on the set, I knew I wanted to direct. I quit my job and started working as a P.A. on the U.S.A. network show called Pacific Blue. Even back then, I never had any aspirations of being in front of the camera. I did appeared in a small role in Star Trek Voyager years ago where I played an alien.
What was directing your first project like? What were three things that prepared you the most for directing? Should new directors do short films as a rule?
I directed my first short film back in 2004. It was a twisted comedy call “Gratuity”. It’s available on Youtube if anyone would like to visit my very first film. I had such a fond memory of that project and also learned so much. This was back when digital was just emerging as the new media and everyone shot in 35mm. I remembered the Canon XL1 was the rage but I didn’t like the looks of it at the time. So I decided to go with the Panasonic HVx 100 that gave the movie a closer to film look. We shot the short in 2 days at the old Holiday Inn on the beach in Ventura. That film led to acquiring funding for my first feature film “Hit List”. So, yes I truly believe directors should do short films. It’s the best way to show investors a sample of their work. I don’t know if I have three things that prepares me to direct a film. It’s more like 100 things but here are three very important things to me. 1. I believe a director needs to have a vision. Without a vision then it’s very hard to convey what is needed from the cast and crew. 2. A director needs to know his/her shots. Either a storyboard or a shot list. 3. This is the one that I believe should be the most important, a director needs to know how to work with all type of different personalities on a set.
What is the biggest difference between being a film director and a producer? Which hat do you prefer to wear and why?
This is a great question! I prefer to being a director than a producer. The director has all the creative control of the film. Of course things can change in post but I like to also work with my editor to finalize the final product. On this project, we had an extremely short shooting schedule and it was up to me as the director to capture all the shots. I needed to be 110% prepared with my shot list because there’s not enough time to try and figure things it out during the shoot. I like to describe the role of the producer as someone that creates the atmosphere for the director to paint his art.
What was the genesis of “Clown Fear” and why do you feel people are so scared of clowns? How did you draw Grindstone and Lionsgate into the project?
I’ve touched on how the concept of “Clown Fear” was inspired earlier but as why people are afraid of clowns. Hmm? It’s an enigma to me. Everyone has phobias and coulrophobia is definitely a very interesting phenomenon. I’m not afraid of clowns, but I have a theory why. I believe it stems from childhood when parents have a clown at their children’s birthday party. A kid’s first association at the age of five of some weird clown makeup person could be extremely scary on a child’s impression.
Going into this project, I knew we had a good chance of getting Grindstone/Lionsgate to look at the script. Of course there were no guarantees of them picking up the distribution. I’m glad we were able to finish the deal once we were done with the film.
How hard is it to co-write a script with another person? Walk us through a typical writing day and tell about your process.
The writing process was very tough because I knew we had a short window to turn it in for approval. I was finishing my documentary at the same time with my producer on a documentary film “Rocking The Couch”. We spent about twelve hours each day for two weeks straight editing and at the same time I would be writing.
What is the line between “horror” and “torture porn” and how does a director decide when enough is enough in terms of violence?
There are many horror films that I considered torture porn. For me, it’s when the nudity and sexual content stops being a part of the story. I try to stay within a certain criteria for “Clown Fear”. We were able to get the “R” rating through the MPAA board. If it doesn’t pass with the “R” rating then we would have to re-edit the movie to meet the criterias. Fortunately, we passed with the “R” rating the first time through but I knew we were well within the criteria. Each pass can be extremely expensive due to re-edits and re-submissions. Grindstone/Lionsgate would not accept our film if it got an “X”.
What is the health of the indie horror industry in your opinion?
I believe indie horror industry is doing well in today’s changing market. There was a recent article in Forbes about the horror genre still being the most lucrative for investors. The reason is due to a horror films can be produced at a low cost and there’s a constant demand for new contents from horror fans.
What three actors have you enjoyed working with the most and what makes them so great to work with?
You guys really ask tough questions. I really enjoyed working with so many actors over the years. I had such a great time working with Joey Lawrence on “Hit List”. Joey and I had the same understanding of the script and we saw his character in the same light. When the lead actor is easy to work with then it makes my job a lot easier and we can focus on being creative. I love working with Darcy Demoss on Clown Fear. Darcy was such a great person to collaborate with on this film. It’s nice when someone is a pro at what they do, then it’s easy to mesh the role into one vision. The other actor that I enjoyed working with is Marv Blauvelt aka Tiny Clown. In life, sometimes being in the right place at the right time is what it takes to get that break. This was the case with Marv, I had problems with the lead actor on the first day of filming and decided that it Iwasn’t going to work out. I had kept Marv on standby and decided that day to do a last minute replacement. Marv gladly dove into the lead role of Tiny Clown and never looked back. He had a lot of energy and passion for the part but just needed some direction to create the persona that made the character come to life. I loved what he brought to the table and there were times I knew it was too over the top and curved him back. I prefer to work with someone that is enthusiastic with a role than someone thinking they are above it and will just go through the motion.
What scares you?
Well, for one I was never afraid of clowns until we filmed this movie. LoL! I don’t have coulrophobia if that’s what you’re thinking but I have respect for them now. There were so many “fires” during the filming of this movie. We had so many things that went wrong that it became a standing joke with my producer and I. We blamed it on the “Clowns” as if they were playing jokes on us. So after all the craziness that happened, I now believe there was a real clown entity that was there playing a role with the entire production. It’s like the clown spirits watching us, so now I understand why people have a fear of clowns.
The cheetah and I are flying over to watch your latest film but we are a day early and now you are playing tour guide,what are we doing?
I’m going to run you both by my town of Hollywood Florida. It’s the best hidden gem of the east coast. Most tourists will visit Miami or Fort Lauderdale but nestle between these two cities is my little town of Hollywood Florida. It’s a quaint beaches community with great restaurants and bars on the ocean front. Beautiful sunsets on the intercoastal waters and the best film festival in the state (Hollywood Florida Film Festival). https://www.floridahollywoodfilmfestival.com/
I like to thank Minh for taking the time to talk with us about his craft. “Clown Fear” is out now and can be found at Wal-Mart,Best Buy and other large retailers. While you’re at it,snag a copy of “The Hit List” off Amazon or EBay,you’ll be glad you did!!
Thanks to Phil Herman as well…..this was a lot of fun!
As how you can follow Minh’s next move…….
You can follow him on his IMDb page.
You can follow him on Twitter.
You can also follow Minh on his InstaGram page.
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