If you’re a regular reader of Cheese Magnet, there’s a pretty fair chance you’ve seen Eric Spudic’s work, whether you know it or not (unless you’re Scott Phillips, as you’ll see). A jack-of-all-trades in the B-Movie biz, Eric was kind enough to take the time to do the following interview. His lifelong enthusiasm for B-Movies is infectious.
SCOTT PHILLIPS: I’ll make the shameful admission up front that I’ve never seen any of your movies. I’m fascinated by the idea of Eric Spudic, though, and that’s why I wanted to interview you for Cheese Magnet. What movies on your resume would you recommend to our readers so they can climb aboard the Spudic train?
ERIC SPUDIC: All y’all gotta see AQUANOIDS and CREEPIES. Those are probably the two best ones that I wrote. As a director, KILLERS BY NATURE. It’s a parody of slasher films. Shot for a thousand bucks! As an actor, DEAD CLOWNS, DINO WOLF, BIKINI CHAIN GANG, SAVAGE HARVEST 2, and SUPERCROC are all fun.
I was also in “Terror Toons 1.5”, which is included on the TERROR TOONS 2 dvd. One of the wildest things I’ve ever done. PSYCHO SANTA is great to watch during the Xmas season.
SP: Were you a typical movie nerd, making movies in your backyard and staying up late to watch all kinds of flicks when you should’ve been getting some sleep so you’d be able in concentrate in school the next day?
ES: I was indeed. I used to grab the HBO/Cinemax guide and TV Guide and circle everything I wanted to record. I must have taped 1,000+ movies off TV, especially USA Up All Night. The best times were going to Family Video and the garage sales to load up on tapes. It was nothing to spend $100 or $200/month on movies.
Also had a Full Moon fan club card. I grew up on Troma, PM Entertainment, AIP Home Video, Cannon, just everything I could get my hands on. I shot my first short on a Super 8 camera. My mom bought me my first camcorder for $600 and I made 10 monthly installments of $60 to pay her back. I worked as a crossing guard and mowed lawns.
Even worked at the local video store for 2 years! Wrote letters to all my favorite directors, including Kevin Tenney and Wes Craven, who both responded. I pounded out zombie short stories in high school. I didn’t make as many films as I wanted to, ’cause it was tough to get people to help out. They just didn’t “get” it.
The obsession exploded in 1999 when I bought out my first video store. 1,200 movies for $300. I made a $5,000 profit! Around this same time, I started writing screenplays.
SP: I don’t know if you remember it or not, but I met you in 1999 when I was working as a cheeseburger-fetcher for J.R. Bookwalter in the Full Moon Entertainment post-production department. I think you had won a contest or something and Dave DeCoteau was giving you a tour of Full Moon. You looked to be about 13, but I guess you were what, 19? What was the story behind that?
ES: I do remember! It was in May of ’99. I even offered J.R. $2,000 for an associate producer credit if THE DEAD NEXT DOOR 2 ever got made! Sad to think that half the people I met have already died. Robert MacDonald, Matthew McGrory, David Allen, Kirk Edward Hansen, Bennah Burton-Burtt, Albert Band. Then, Dwight Krizman went to prison for murder a few years later. Bizarre!
I had made a feature in high school called ATTACK OF THE BATHROOM CREATURE. I sent copies to a few people and one of them was David DeCoteau. We used to chat every Saturday morning and he was impressed with my knowledge of cinema. He even offered me a role in MICRO MINI KIDS. I had no desire to be an actor, but figured it’d be great set experience. So my mom and I flew out, did the 3 lines, made $750!
I was shaking with nervousness when I finally met Charles Band. Just a month shy of my 20th birthday. It was heaven. Saw a screening of BLOOD DOLLS. Watched the sound mix on WITCHOUSE. Got to meet Fred Olen Ray, who was newly-wedded to Kim Ray at the time. My Full Moon fan club card said that I was entitled to “a tour of the Full Moon Studios”. Everybody joked that nobody had ever taken them up on the offer and so I did!
SP: When did you make the move to Los Angeles?
ES: Finally made the move in May of 2004. Sold one of my vehicles and had a huge yard sale to finance the excursion. It was a different world to move from a $250/month house to a $750/month apartment. That same apartment now is $950/month. GREEDY people! Lived there for 7 years.
Worked at Retromedia for a few years. Ran a porn company for a year. Probably worked on 30 features and a few shorts. I had some great times out there, but got burned by too many con artists. I was also disappointed that my scripts weren’t selling and I wasn’t getting hired for directing/2nd unit directing gigs. I only sold one screenplay my entire time there!
SP: I’ve gotta ask – what did running the porn company involve?
ES: I started out as the shipper. The general manager stole a bunch of money and fled to Seattle. So I became the top dog of the company. I literally did everything for a year – shipping, sales, accounting, etc.. I made the biggest money of my life, had no debt. We were the American distribution arm of a British porn company.
It was a black bag operation. They didn’t have photocopies of the actors/actresses drivers licenses! They didn’t file taxes either! I eventually had to bail because they owed me thousands. In the end, I got most of the money, but it was nerve wracking.
SP: You’ve worked as an actor, screenwriter, producer, and all kinds of things. Which hat is your favorite to wear?
ES: I like acting the best! There’s something unique about dressing up, spitting out some lines, and getting paid for it. Screenwriting is my 2nd favorite. I have about 85 ideas for feature films that I still want to make.
SP: You mentioned you had no desire to be an actor before your 1999 trip to Hollywood and Full Moon – was there anything in particular that led you from “no desire” to enjoying acting more than anything else?
ES: I originally wanted to be an effects artist, but really had no talent for it. I ended up playing the lead in ATTACK OF THE BATHROOM CREATURE only because the other person bailed. It came relatively easy to me, learning the lines, getting into character. The toughest part of the job is waking up that early. Ha!
I don’t mind the long hours and the sometimes grueling conditions. Acting is a great way to get rid of stress and have fun. Plus, I’ve made more money as an actor than I have as a writer and filmmaker COMBINED.
SP: Do you have any good horror stories of your time in the b-movie trenches? You don’t have to name names…
ES: I did get blood in my eyes on SAVAGE HARVEST 2. It turned my contacts pink and eventually the contact lenses dried up. I had to take them out. Ended up driving 80 miles home, squinting the entire time. On KILLERS BY NATURE, we had to replace three different actors. A bit of a scheduling nightmare, but it all worked out. On “Terror Toons 1.5”, a splash of blood hit the camera and did over a thousand dollars in damage.
SP: One of the things I like about you is that you seem to fully embrace the whole b-movie world. You love the flicks, you love the people who make them, and I get the impression you love working on them. Are you a guy who wants to kick the dust of the b-movie industry off your heels and write something like TRANSFORMERS 9, or you would you be perfectly happy to make a life out of b-movies?
ES: I do truly enjoy b-movies. There’s different levels of b-movies. My career can be broken up into three brackets up until now. 2000-2005, I mostly worked on SOV(shot-on-video) movies with budgets of $5,000 each on average. These are referred to as, sometimes not politely, “camcorder movies”.
2006-2011, I mostly worked on movies with budgets ranging from $100,000 – $500,000 on average. A lot of stuff for Fred Olen Ray, Jim Wynorski, and the Asylum. The past year, I’ve mostly worked on movies with budgets in the $1 million – $30 million range. My philosophy is to “always move UP the ladder and rarely go back down.”
I do enjoy the occasional indie movie and there are only a handful of directors I’ll do them for. Rent ALWAYS comes first. Right now, my goal is to write or act in a theatrical film. Something made for $5-$10 million. I love watching b-movies, but would rather be making a bigger product. I will always have a respect for the lower-end movies and would never trash them.
SP: You owned a video store in L.A. for a while, right? What was the store like? You had a lot of b-movie stalwarts doing store appearances and signings, didn’t you?
ES: We ran from 2008-2010. I only opened the store because my mail order company had kind of exploded with inventory. I bought out two video stores back-to-back and didn’t have the room for it all nor the time to sell them individually. Spudic’s Movie Empire generally stocked an inventory of 6,000 movies at any given time. Plus, we had posters, video games, comics, magazines, records, figures, t-shirts, and more.
We did signings every other Saturday. Everybody from Clint Howard, Ami Dolenz, and Michael Pare to Meg Foster, Joe Dante, and Uwe Boll. We did triple-features every Friday night. I worked 80 hours per week, so it was very exhausting.
SP: You still operate a mail-order business, right? Tell me about that.
ES: Yes, indeed. I started it around ’96, advertising in Fangoria magazine. The original name was Blood and Guts Collectibles. We did yard sales, flea markets, and then Ebay in ’99. I’ve bought out maybe 10 video stores over the years.
The VHS format has made a huge comeback, so that’s keeping me in business. The Pirate Bay and Youtube uploaders have hurt the business tremendously, so we’re lucky to be around. I quit Ebay last year and now am solely on Amazon. My dad sells stuff for me up in Illinois that doesn’t move like the other product does. It’s a fun hobby as I get to watch 2-3 films every day and then sell them as soon as I finish ’em. We’re at www.spudicsmovieempire.com
SP: The resurgence of interest in VHS is bizarre to me – I can understand the argument that there’s a certain difference in sound between vinyl and CD, but DVD is so obviously a vast improvement in quality over VHS that I’m puzzled by people’s excitement for the format. Is it just nostalgia, or is there something else there that I’m missing?
ES: Many reasons! For example, everybody seems to hate the NIGHT OF THE CREEPS dvd artwork. So they always hunt down the vhs just for that art. Some vhs tapes have things on them that are NOT on dvd release. For instance, if you get KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE on vhs, the music video for it plays after the feature. You won’t find that on the dvd.
On top of that, there’s something unique about being able to watch a film that’s never been released on dvd. There are over 20,000 movies that are not on dvd. A lot of people also complain about dvds freezing up because of a scratch. It’ll totally ruin your viewing experience. With a tape, it just keeps playing right through any kinks!
It’s also a cost factor. The economy is so bad right now that everybody wants cheap, cheap, cheap! At my store, you could get 4 dvds for $20 or 10 vhs tapes. Most people went for quantity over quality. I hope the vhs comeback stays alive for quite some time!
SP: You’re currently based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. What prompted you to move there, and do you plan to move back to L.A. anytime soon?
ES: My last roommate in Los Angeles screwed me out of my security deposit. So I had to bail and decided to move to a tax incentive-friendly state. A few friends had filmed in Louisiana, so I chose here. Thankfully, the housing authorities did recover my money five months later.
We have a 30% tax credit here and there’s plenty of film work. There aren’t too many indies here; it’s mostly A-list stuff. I do hope to move back to Hollywood someday. Our tax break is good until 2015, so I’m here until then for sure.
SP: What projects do you have cooking currently?
ES: I’m acting in a TV pilot next month that is supposedly gonna make me SAG eligible at last(after 13 years!). Then, hoping to get back into the director’s chair. I have a zombie/killer doll/warlock script ready to go.
I also banged out two spec scripts recently, ALIEN RAT (a SyFy-type thing) and THE GOOFBALL SQUAD. The latter was written for myself and two buddies, as we love 80’s screwball comedies. I’ve also been shopping around TURDS, which is a big-budget remake of my first film.
The next film to be released is THE CONQUERED: CURSE OF THE SHAMAN. It was shot in 2009, so it’s time to get that out on dvd. I also have a kids project called LITTLE TREASURE SEEKERS that I want to direct. Totally family-friendly. A change of pace!
Connect with Eric Spudic on Facebook or at his website.
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