Attempting to create a new horror icon from scratch is a daunting task, but that’s exactly what the filmmakers behind the new independent slasher pic Billy Club are trying to do. Written and directed by Drew Rosas and Nick Sommer, who also made the Troma release Blood Junkie, their latest breaks down like this:
“Fifteen years after a gruesome triple homicide devastated their Little League baseball team, four friends reunite to commemorate their dead coach and fallen teammates. A mystery unfolds as the secrets from their past return to haunt them and a vengeful killer, hidden by an antique umpire’s mask, returns to even the score.”
Shock Till You Drop spoke with Rosas about the balance between paying homage and crafting something new, developing their killer’s look, the challenges of making an indie film far from Hollywood, and more.
Shock Till You Drop: Was Little League a traumatic experience for you? What’s the origin of the story here?
Drew Rosas: We wanted to make a slasher movie in the vein of the classic boogie men movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Baseball seemed like a really cool theme because it lends itself to the horror genre really well. You get a cool weapon, a great killer mask, little league bullies, beer, nostalgia and tons of baseball references.
Shock: When making a modern slasher, how do you balance paying homage and trying to make your own mark?
Rosas: It is a balancing act to work in throwback genre that is both a nod to the classic horror films that inspired me as a teenager while trying to do something new with the genre. I think we have some really unique scenes in here that break traditional horror character molds and take the audience by surprise. That was the goal. Give the viewer something they expect and love then add a twist or unfold it in a way they have not seen before.
Shock: The modified bat looks like a pretty creative and gruesome weapon. What went into developing the killer’s appearance and instrument of death?
Rosas: The killer’s weapon was entirely made by Nick Sommer (Billy Club Co-Creator). He designed and fabricated the weapon and the killer’s mask and outfit. Everyone has seen the baseball bat with nails in it, classic street fighter weapon. But I don’t think anyone has ever modified one with a bolt-action retractable bayonet blade that comes out the end for an extra-lethal swing.
Shock: What are the challenges of making an independent feature far away from Hollywood? What about any benefits?
Rosas: I think the benefits of shooting in Milwaukee outweigh Hollywood, at least at the ultra-low budget filmmaking level. In LA, everyone is very aware of the film industry and the money behind it. If you walk into a location and ask to shoot there, they have probably already had 10 TV shows rent that space for thousands of dollars so there is an automatic expectation of making some cash. In Wisconsin, people will jump at the chance to get a closer look at the filmmaking process. They’ll shut down their bar for a day and even let you dig a six foot grave in their backyard without hesitation. We got most of our locations for close to free. We also have a very strong connection with the Milwaukee film community and everyone comes out to support the production and help on each other out. The largest benefit of shooting in California is the talent pool. LA is flooded with actors that are pretty great and starving for roles so you can get exceptional talent for almost nothing. We ended up flying out 3 of our main actors from LA to work on Billy Club.
Shock: At this point are there any distribution plans? Theatrical? VOD? DVD?
Rosas: We just finished color correcting the film and are trying to raise money for a surround sound mix by selling T-shirts at the (Milwaukee Film) festival. That said, we have really just started the hunt for distribution. I have contact with a few acquisitions companies in LA that are very interested in the film and have made some decent offers but we are holding out until we finished everything up and screen in a few festival before we sign any deals. We will definitely aim for theatrical distribution but that is getting pretty rare for indie films now days. Seems like VOD release is the way to do it now. We’ve looked into self-distribution but most likely we would like to sign with a sales rep that sells the international rights region by region and get us some of those Billy-bucks back.
Billy Club has its world premiere on Tuesday, October 1st at the Milwaukee Film Fest. For additional information, including a teaser trailer, check out the official site.
For any horror fans in the area, the fest has a great lineup of midnight fare including We Are What We Are, 100 Bloody Acres, Sightseers, and Here Comes the Devil. More info here.