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Written by Written by Mike Watt   
Jan 25, 2005 at 02:00 AM
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Talking with Tim
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Indie horror producers owe a lot to Tim Ritter. His movie, Truth or Dare, was among the first low-budget independent films to be widely distributed in stores during the early '80s video boom. He proved that entertaining movies could be shot on videotape, using prosumer equipment, and receive a fair amount of distribution (as evidenced with Killing Spree, Wicked Games and Creep).

Ironically, while it is easier and cheaper than ever to produce independent movies with the rise of digital video, the days of indie success may be over, with major studios controlling the bigger chains, forcing the smaller "mom and pop" stores out of business. But that hasn't stopped Mr. Ritter, who continues to work on his own projects and has even branched out into the even more disturbing world of publishing with his novels "The Hammer Will Fall" and his latest, "Unreel". He also heads up the Sub Rosa Midwest arm and has overseen a fair amount of Sub Rosa product. Tim's most controversial title, Creep, has just been released to DVD for the first time.

DARK GALLERY:. Many of your older films, Creep, Killing Spree, etc., have recently been remastered and re-released on DVD. What's your response to revisiting these movies?

TR: Kind of a love-hate relationship, really! I've changed so much since making these old "splatter movies" that it's incredible. Some of the sequences I'm very proud  of, and other things in them I'm not so proud of. But they are where I was 'in the day', so to speak. It was fun to look back at them all in the remastering stages---and see what was accomplished and how. I also tend to look at them more from a third person point-of-view, especially after writing the book "Unreel", which covered making all these movies. The commentaries were fun to do, although I often wonder if anyone cares how these little flicks were put together! It's certainly not like hearing a master like James Cameron speak! I may be a bit too critical of the old movies, who knows. They've definitely had good runs over the years.

DG: You paved the way for indie filmmakers to see their films on shelves, but it was never an easy road, how has the industry changed since you began?

TR: Actually, not much at all. It's the same 'cycle of insanity', really. It's the same system where b-movies are in vogue then out, the Hollywood Studios are constantly on our heels, trying to push our product out of stores and hog the entire market for themselves. I started selling tapes store-to-store, and that's basically what small distributors have to do now---though you have to connect with small wholesaler to small wholesaler, who can get stuff into stores. But it's the same as it's always been, full of payoffs, ripoffs, ups, downs, and a whole host of rollercoaster activities. In a way I miss going into stores and saying, "Hey, I'm an independent moviemaker, here's my tape, would you like to buy one?" (heh, heh) Those were some wild days! Again, I covered all that in "Unreel", it was such an awesome (yet frustrating) time, just like now!    

DG. What feeds your passion for filmmaking with all the problems you've encountered?

TR: The desire to tell stories I've had since I was a kid, I suppose. And being inspired by filmmakers growing up---from Jaws to The Incredible Melting Man, it was always the trailers on TV and the movie posters in the paper that caught my fancy! King Kong, Dracula, Frankenstein, damsels-in-distress were my bag! I remember even in Elementary School, I'd check out books on Monster Movies from the library and just obsess over them---and these are books that would probably never be allowed in schools in our PC world now! So all the problems I've encountered were always secondary to the obsession I've had to make movies and tell stories. So getting the movies out there---and being featured in many of today's horror movie books----has fueled my passion to not stop. It's never been about money, it's just been about getting out there and 'doing the deal', so to speak!

DG. What was the story behind Creep? How did the final project compare with your original vision?

TR: The original Creep script was written when I was in a very dark place. It was so brutal and sick that I recently destroyed it when I found it again! I was like, "I couldn't have written that!" When Kathy Willets called me and asked to come on board, I took elements from that original script, mixed them with inspiration from Natural Born Killers and Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, and tailored a screenplay directly for Kathy and everything I had access to at that time. I wrote the lead role for my friend Joel Wynkoop, I wrote the female part for actress Patricia Paul, who had just done Wicked Games for us, and I wrote around locations I knew we had access to and props that were laying around from other movies! We still ended up spending a small fortune on the movie, it was over $20 K when all was said and done, I believe. That is extremely HIGH for a movie of this sort! I think the finished product came out pretty close in most of the major scenes to what I had written, because it was all designed to do as simply as possible. And it's a good thing, because there were so many problems that came up as we shot---from actors not showing, to bad weather, to locations falling through that we thought were sure-fire---but it all ended up working out in the end! Producer Michale Ornelas was great to work with---he was always there helping to get things through to the end.

Visit Tim at www.timritter.com


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