HACKING AND SLASHING WITH MARK TUIT RE: “BLOOD: A BUTCHER’S TALE”
Canadian writer/director/producer/animator/visual savant Mark Tuit is one of those refreshing talents you stumble upon and, when you look at his resume, you think: 1) “Damn, he’s done a lot of cool stuff” and 2) “he’s gonna break out REAL soon.”
Don’t take my word for it. Check out his website at www.marktuit.com and before you know it a good half hour will have disappeared as you click through the links for his trailers, special effects, animation, music videos, graphic novels, and demo reel. The man has more creative visions swirling inside his head than a hybrid Tim Burton/Walt Disney in an alternate universe. His projects are ambitious, they take a while to get done, but man … he does get them done and has one helluva busy pipeline. But why listen to me when you could be hearing from him? Without further ado, let me introduce you to Mark Tuit …
1. Looking at your website, you appear to be more of a “new millennium” director who can write, direct, animate and even edit your film and do post effects. Where did you learn to do all this? And is there a director − or directors − that you model yourself after?
(MT:) Hi Robert, thanks for letting me chat a little about the film and projects I have in the works. Also thanks for the tag as a “new millennium” director. I think in this day and age it pays to be a hybrid filmmaker. I like to write, produce and direct because they are all incredibly creative positions. As far as the animation and VFX aspects of the projects, I usually ship out the bulk of the work to various studios. I’m involved in the creative designs, and the thematic and aesthetic aspects. Then I let the various artists create from the concept designs.
Usually up to 150 artists are working on the films at one time. BUNNY TALES took 3 years to complete, and BLOOD : A BUTCHER’S TALE is still in post with a good 4 years under its belt. My projects are ambitious and I learn as I go. However, I still have the basic foundations of film-making under my hat. The basics will save your ass every time. Some filmmakers I admire and attempt to mirror my style towards are Akira Kurosawa, James Cameron, Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers. SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) and MILLER’S CROSSING (1990) are my two favorite films.
2. Fresh out of film school in 1995, you created a comedy called BARNONE about bartenders trying to survive one crazy night. The film went on to get North American distribution and achieve somewhat of a cult status. What was the incentive for BARNONE and have you ever thought about revisiting the concept now that you’re wiser and more sober?
(MT:) Yes, I have a special place in my heart for BARNONE. It was actually my second feature. I did a Hitchcockian thriller named CURIOUSLY DEAD first. Boy, did I make a lot of mistakes on that film. Then as I was raising completion funds for CURIOUSLY DEAD, I decided to make BARNONE. It was shot in 26 nights and turned out to be a little cult film. At its time, I think it was the only film out there about the gritty underbelly of the service industry.
I did two follow up films to complete the trilogy − WAITING FOR LOVE and LUNCH. Incidentally, LUNCH was the second “one-take” film to ever be made. It was one continuous shot over 84 minutes, but we unfortunately lost the sound for it, and it shall remain an unfinished experiment. To this day I have fans asking me where they can obtain a DVD of the film BARNONE. So to keep the flow of interest in it, a talented artist named Ramie Balbuena and I have created a 120-page graphic novel of the film and we are going to include a DVD of all 3 films in the book. So this should satisfy all of the fans. BARNONE is a combination of about 10 stories I have either heard or experienced throughout my 12 years of bartending.
3. You’ve done music videos, animation and have written 25 screenplays (8 of which have been optioned or produced). Which do you prefer − being an artist, writer or director?
(MT:) They all have varying levels of satisfaction. I love writing because it costs me nothing to create. I can just write without any pressure and I also find it to be great therapy. I love directing mainly because I love working with actors. They are a different breed of artists, and I learn so much about storytelling from their process. They think deeply about their characters and intentions. I also like producing because I am a bit of a control freak. In the end, the director is usually on the hook critically and financially for a film’s success. As a producer I build a comfort zone for myself, so when I step into directing I can be as creative as I can without the worries of production.
4. What is your favorite script that is yet to be made or is in consideration with a studio?
(MT:) At the moment I am raising $8 million for a 3-D animated feature called THE DOWN DWELLERS. I love to work in animation from time to time because you have at least 3 kicks at the can to get the film right. However it is a long process (averaging 3 to 5 years). But I have a son and I want to make films for his generation. Plus 3-D animated films sell on the market forever and they span through generations of viewers. The film is set in the future where the world is evolved into a garbage planet and a young brother and sister recycle surrounding trash into beautiful works of art. It has a great message socially and ecologically.
5. Tell us about some of your 3-D animation projects, and where can we check them out?
(MT:) BUNNY TALES is the first 3-D animated feature. It’s a child empowering series of fairy tales as told by a mother bunny to her bunnies. My wife, who has a background in child psychology, wrote the script. Then one of our producing partners opened an animation studio in India, where we worked on the film for three years. It’s been on the market and selling well for a few years now. I think you can order it online from Amazon. THE DOWN DWELLERS is the next project in line to be produced.
6. You are in post-production on BLOOD: A BUTCHER’S TALE. Give us the premise, please … and don’t spare the gore!
(MT:) Well BLOOD : A BUTCHER’S TALE is about a lonely butcher, Sam, who finds out his wife has been seduced and bitten by a vampire. She begins to find ways to leech his blood until he clues in. Then all hell breaks loose. He slaughters her, then begins tracking down what appears to be the last living vampires in existence. As he butchers his way through the remaining 3, he finds himself falling in love with the last remaining vampire. As their relationship blossoms, Sam realizes that he is the key to repopulating the vampire race. He then takes drastic measures to prevent it.
To watch the gory trailer go here. Or watch a sexy 2nd trailer version here:
7. The film was shot totally in front of a green screen (i.e., the same technology many TV weather reporters use). You basically put your actors onto a set with a green sheet behind it and later superimposed whatever backdrops and visuals your wanted. Were you inspired by films such as SIN CITY?
(MT:) We really wanted to create a new Gothic universe, one that had never been seen before. We couldn’t afford the budget to physically build the immense sets, so we figured we would leave all the design until post production. Some of our biggest influences were Zack Snider’s 300 and CASSHERN, a 2004 film based on a 1973 Japanese manga. Their environments were hyper stylized, yet simple. SIN CITY was a little too noir, but brilliant nonetheless.
8. Did using a green screen require working with a certain type of actor who could work in largely “make believe” setting?
(MT:) This film was an incredible challenge for the actors. Luckily we had concept art of most of the locations so they could imagine being within the environments. It’s psychologically demanding for both the cast and crew to be shooting on a bright green sound stage for weeks on end. We all went a little crazy, and I have great respect for our lead (Aaron Douglas). He was in every frame of the film, and he kept it together with an incredibly consistent and strong performance.
9. What was the budget for the film, and how long did it take to shoot.
(MT:) BLOOD : A BUTCHER’S TALE’S budget is just over $4 million. We shot on the sound stage for three weeks and then shot miniature work for another week.
10. I imagine post-production was tricky. What were your biggest challenges … and what worked even better than you envisioned?
(MT:) I think BLOOD : A BUTCHER’S TALE has been in post for over 3 years now. We produced over 4,000 plates, and every shot has some VFX element within it. The thing with VFX is that you come to a point where 80% of the work is complete and you finally see what the shot looks like. The killer is that last 20% where you have to make it look amazing, or believable. By the time a production gets there, we either burn out or run out of money. We ran out, but little by little we have been polishing this little gem, and I think the public will be impressed by what we have accomplished.
11. You assembled a pretty impressive cast − the afore-mentioned Aaron Douglas from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, Emily Perkins from GINGER SNAPS and GINGER SNAPS BACK, Kim Coats (TV’s SONS OF ANARCHY) and the ultra-hot actress Christa Campbell (DRIVE ANGRY 3-D). Were they all your first picks and how did you get them on board?
(MT:) We were looking for cast with large fan bases. Most of our actors attend conventions and tour world wide, so they help build the buzz as the film creeps closer to completion. There were many producers involved, so when we were casting we were exploring our options as far as cast is concerned. We were talking with actors like Peter Green (MASK and USUAL SUSPECTS), Michael Rooker (THE WALKING DEAD, CLIFFHANGER). We are lucky and have a solid cast. Fan clubs have been going nuts to see something, but we feel it has to be great before anyone sees it.
12. You co-founded Pacific Gold Entertainment in 2005, a production company dedicated to film, graphic novels, games and music. A film called SUBHUMAN which has distribution in 29 countries and has sold 30,000 copies on DVD in the US was your first project. Tell us about it.
(MT:) SUBHUMAN (originally titled “Shelf-life”) is a cool little horror I made in 2005. It’s about a seemingly psychotic man who claims that there is another species of humanoids that harvest people for their blood. He takes a naive couple under his wing and reveals the bloody truth. We got lucky with our distributor and managed to get a lot of traction out of our micro- budgeted feature. At the moment we are working a 3-D stereoscopic version of the film and the full graphic novel is complete. We want to sell it online as a package next year. I also have 2 sequels written (SUBHUMAN: THE CRIMSON PALACE and SUBHUMAN: BLOOD WARS). I think I would love to remake the series in 3-D and shoot them back to back with a fresh new cast.
13. Any plans to do a graphic novel and/or game of BLOOD: A BUTCHER’S TALE or do you not own the rights?
(MT:) We have a graphic novel for BLOOD : A BUTCHER’S TALE as well as a video game called BLOOD: BUTCHERS BLOCK, which acts as a sequel to the film. Where the film ends, the video game begins and you get to shoot your way out of a gated community full of ghouls. I am no longer a rights holder, so the whole BLOOD concept is owned by Pacific Gold Entertainment.
(MT:) I originally wanted to do BLOOD as a 3-D animated film. It would have been the first, but my fellow producers were against it. They said it wouldn’t sell. It would have been great to try it. I have another horror script that I would like to make as an animated feature … maybe rotoscope (i.e., an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame, for use in animated films). All animation sells.
As for 3-D, we are exploring the possibility of a post stereoscopic conversion. We have the working files, so the conversion should be a breeze.
15. The bio on your website says one of your early features − LUNCH − was the 2nd feature film shot on one take. What was the incentive to do this? One fly buzzing into a scene or an innocent sneeze could make you start at square one. How many takes did it take to do the one take (say that 3 times fast!)?
(MT:) LUNCH was an interesting experiment. I had shot a 10-minute short film (WAITING FOR LOVE) in a single take and I wondered if it were possible to do a feature. So I raised $8,000. and we rehearsed for 3 weeks, then shot it in 2 days (two takes a day until we got it). We blocked it like a play, with actors hitting their marks on cue and when the camera was on them. I think the most stressful thing was as we neared the end of the film/take, no actor wanted to be the one to flub their line or miss a mark, so it became incredibly stressful as we kept shooting. We had a scene where several cooks trash a customer’s car, smash in the windshield and side windows. We had enough glass for 4 re-sets, so if anyone was going to make a mistake, I prayed it was before the destruction of the car. Two of the takes were usable but in the end, we lost the sound so the film remains unfinished.
16. For trivia’s sake, what was the 1st feature film shot on one take?
(MT:) It was a film shot in New York and I thinks it’s called A BIG DAY and is about a guy who makes his way to a job interview. I never saw it but Peter Broadrick (Indie Guru), told me about it. He said I missed being the first by 3 months. I did see the RUSSIAN ARK which was made 3 years after LUNCH. The one-shot feature is a gimmick. Tough to tell an intriguing story for that long.
17. When will BLOOD: A BUTCHER’S TALE be available. What are you working on now?
(MT:) I hope BLOOD will be available next year, and if they decide to do a 3-D conversion, that will add another year. But it’s close and there are a lot of people that believe in the film.
I’ve just recently completed a little comedy feature called THE STICK UP and I’m gearing up for a brilliant film we are shooting next spring called KARL. As well as finishing the graphic novel for BARNONE and the 3-D conversion and graphic novel for SUBHUMAN. So I’m keeping busy and when the dust settles I plan to open a film school in my new home town of Nanaimo BC.
Thanks for the interview, Mark. We can’t wait to see your final director’s “cut” of BLOOD: A BUTCHER’S TALE. It should be bloody good fun!
An award-winning indie comic creator and screenwriter, Bob Heske is currently writing/producing a micro-budget horror film called UNREST (http://www.indiegogo.com/unrest). Bob wrote THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST, a vampire horror series to be published by Studio 407 (http://www.studio-407.com) with film rights optioned by Myriad Pictures. Through his Heske Horror shingle, Bob self-published his critically acclaimed horror series COLD BLOODED CHILLERS. Bob’s trade paperback BONE CHILLER (a “best of” CBC anthology) won a Bronze medal in the horror category at the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards. His “end times” anthology 2012: FINAL PRAYER was also released in late 2009. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.