When John Gulager won season three of “Project Greenlight,” the hit reality TV series about making movies, he probably had little idea how much mileage he would get from his debut feature film, Feast. The wild horror-comedy whose tumultuous making was featured on “Project Greenlight” has now spawned two sequels. The third entry, Feast III: The Happy Finish, re-teams Gulager with writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (Saw IV-V) I for more frightening fun, as the terrorized survivors from the previous movie must yet again ward off bloodthirsty beasts. Among those returning for battle are Jenny Wade (No Reservations, Feast) and Martin Klebba (Feast II, Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy).
Just before the movie’s DVD release on February 17th, MM spoke with Gulager. Topics under discussion included the impact “Project Greenlight” has had on his career and what we can look forward to feasting on in the latest serving from the Feast franchise.
Kyle Rupprecht (MM): Is Feast III: The Happy Finish the final installment in the series? How does it fit in with the previous Feast films?
John Gulager (JG): SEVERE SPOILERS AHEAD!
Well, everybody dies in this one. Like Hamlet. There I did it… I compared Feast III: The Happy Finish to Shakespeare. If there was another one it could start from scratch. Some people think the Bartender is the lone survivor but he’s actually dead in the Super 8 opening footage at the same spot that Feast III ends. I guess he was killed after the film ends.
Feast III is basically a continuation of Feast II. There is a little recap of the previous installment and then we get to heart of the Feast films by dispatching the star of the film in the most heinous, filthy and stupid way possible. And this is after spending the previous film trying to make the audience go from being pissed at this character to wanting her to triumph. Originally I wanted the two films to be completely separate but we could not muster the resources to actually make two separate films so we jettisoned the second script and added to Feast II. The giant robot foot was always in the script. I think when executive types read the end they assumed it would be changed. Oops.
Instead of The Happy Finish it could have been called All of Your Questions are Answered because, of course, we make fun of the expectation that all questions will be answered and wrapped up in a bow. It does make some folks pretty angry when we sort of punk the audience. It’s been pointed out to me on more than one occasion that what I think is funny or cool, “…is NOT, man!” Oh. Even when we were making the first Feast I’d go, “Some people are going to love this but some are REALLY going to hate it.” When those people really do hate it… it bums you out. On the other hand, you wear it like a badge cuz I’m no corporate stooge. No offense to company stooges.
Feast II and Feast III were made for Dimension Extreme. They were always meant for DVD. Our mandate was extreme, not generic or run of the mill. I think we were successful in that respect. These movies were meant to be offensive and goofy but I find them kind of poetic and tender. Go figure.
MM: The Feast trilogy features performances from your father (Clu), brother (Tom) and wife (Diane). What are the benefits of working with family? The pitfalls?
JG: First let me say I was really lucky to have all the cool, wild, wacky, eclectic and talented performers in Feast II and III. That includes my family. As far as working with family goes, I found it a little tricky, especially between Diane and myself. The crew thought we were always fighting but we were just more casual with each other. The problem I had was not the one you’d think. In fact, you’d think it would be the opposite but sometimes you take your family for granted and get too wrapped up in getting the coverage of the other actors and not get all the coverage you want or need of your Dad, brother or wife. The good part (and I counted on this from the beginning) is that they’ll be there until the end. You can use a certain amount of emotional blackmail. Need a little pickup shot or a day trip to the desert, no problem. No agents, no contracts. You can really take advantage of them because they know how high the stakes are.
MM: Even though it’s been several years since the first film, people always want to talk about your “Project Greenlight” experience. What sort of impact did it have on your career? If you had to do it all over again, would you?
JG: Words can hardly describe the impact. I had no career. Now I am interviewed by MovieMaker. I mean, really. There were times in my life that something spectacular would almost happen. I was always making some sort of film or part of a film but I had no career. I was really off the radar. It allows me a different sensibility than some of my colleagues, though.
I’m often asked if I’d do it again. “Project Greenlight” instantly changed my life. It not only gave me a place to put my energy after my Mom died, it let me do what I’ve wanted to do since I was a child: Make movies. I was a bit of a basket case coming into the contest and felt I was thrust into Corporate Backstabbing Bizarro World. But in the end it was probably one of the best things to happen in my whole life. I don’t know where it will take me, but I can make movies, now. I can be a dancing monkey for that.
MM: What projects do you have coming up next?
JG: Everybody, including my dad, says to get your next job before your current film ends but I guess I don’t work like that. I just don’t want to work on anything else until I’m done with the film I’m working on.
There are a few projects in the future. My dad wrote me a western called Mister. It’s pretty vile. I don’t even know how to shoot some of it. It’s not a comedy. My brother is writing a script from an idea by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton called The Good Doctor. Marcus and Patrick also wrote a script called The Neighbor that we tried to make but it got put on hold.
MM: Any words of advice for aspiring moviemakers in this tough economic environment?
JG: Look, if you’re an artist, the economic environment doesn’t matter, you’re fucked anyways. If you’re a hack, I don’t know. My advice is don’t take the easy way out. Get more shots (or get just one long shot). Move the camera more (or don’t move it at all). Make something extreme. Don’t be generic. Kill the audience with love. Kill them with hate. Kill them with stupidity. Kill them with technique. Kill them with crudeness. Kill them with truth. Kill them with lies. Don’t let anyone out alive.