HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


(NOTE: This interview was originally posted at in 2006.  References to that site--which is still up as of 1-30-14 but not posting new content--and Mr. Wilbanks' upcoming film projects are, of course, out of date.)

What--filmmakers are real people?  That's what I was reminded of when I got an email from Allen
Wilbanks, the writer-director of MOTOR HOME MASSACRE, a new release that I pretty much panned recently.  Allen didn't want to argue, trade insults, or otherwise engage in anything other than a friendly conversation about his movie and what I found wrong with it.  He even asked me for my thoughts on how he could have made it better!  (What the heck do I know about making movies?  I just watch 'em!)

Anyway, he seemed like a really nice guy, and I gotta respect anyone who can put a low-budget movie together and get it released by Lion's Gate Films in the first place, even if it doesn't set off my own personal joy buzzer.  So I asked him if he'd like to be interviewed here at Bum's Corner, and give us his inside (and very informative) perspective on the world of independent filmmaking, and he said "Okay!", and I said "Cool!"

porfle:  First of all, I gave MOTOR HOME MASSACRE one can out of five--although I did confess to enjoying it to a certain degree.  Where would you say I missed the boat on MHM in my review?

ALLEN:  Ah ha! You enjoyed it! I knew it! I'm putting that on the website ;)

Seriously, we've gotten very positive reviews. In your defense you did not have the benefit of seeing it with a live audience, which I think makes a big difference especially for a film like MOTOR HOME MASSACRE. It was designed to be a much campier film than a spine tingling fright fest.  It's a film that you pop in the DVD player and watch with a bunch of friends. Can you imagine if everyone saw SHAUN OF THE DEAD for the first time on DVD without an audience? I love that film but I've got to wonder if it would have had the same impact as a DVD-only release?

porfle:  Part of the reason for my low rating was that I felt MHM to be a standard variation on the old slasher film template.  But you clearly feel there is still a substantial audience for this type of horror film?

ALLEN:  That's a very good point. In a way I think movies are kind of like the fashion industry; styles go in and out of cycles. The first time I realized this was when I was a kid and STAR WARS came out. Before that film I don't think I'd ever seen a space movie but after it came out there was a new one every month. Funny thing is that some 30 years earlier WAR OF THE WORLDS was a huge blockbuster hit with a completely different generation. So I guess it depends on how you look at it. Either MHM is way behind the curve or maybe a little ahead of it. Either way you don't have to be doing the same movies that everyone else is doing just because it's "hot".

porfle:  The movie had its premiere at the LaFont theater in Atlanta.  How did that go?  Did you get the audience response you'd hoped for?

ALLEN:  The premiere went way beyond my wildest expectations. The Lefont Plaza Theater in Atlanta is a 400-seat old style theater and I have to admit I was more than a little nervous.

Unbelievably, we sold out the first show in less than a week selling tickets on the Internet. When the second show was added it sold out too and we barely had enough places for the cast and crew to sit! The Atlanta fans have really stepped up and made this film the success it is, without them it would not have been possible. 

As far as the movie goes the crowd picked up on the humor very quickly. We put a couple of continuity errors in there to see if the crowd would pick up on them, and boy did they. A few people busted out laughing then it spread like wildfire in the theater, by the time another one of the planted errors came up everybody roared.

To top it off the weather was absolutely insane, the power actually went off in the building several times during the second show but nobody left and most of them stuck around for the after party. People came up to me and told me they were genuinely scared during several parts but were very entertained throughout.

porfle:  Of all the independent filmmakers trying to get their work sold and distributed, you managed to land a deal with a major outfit like Lion's Gate Films.  That couldn't have been easy, right?

ALLEN:  My main goal from the very beginning was getting distribution. Just about everyone that worked on this film either worked for free or very, very little pay. My promise to them was to try my best and get their names on a movie that would be on the shelves at Blockbuster. Being on the Lion's Gate label has surpassed all expectations. While I wish I could take all the credit I really can't, Stan Wertlieb in conjunction with Barry Brooker of Silver Nitrate Entertainment really pushed the film to get to the level it is today. Without Stan and Barry, MOTOR HOME MASSACRE would not have been released with Lion's Gate.

I would like to add that if anyone is attempting to do something like this they should definitely do their homework. One thing I did was talk to all the filmmakers I could find who have been through the process. The list is very long but I would like to mention Bill Burton (BEYOND THE WALL OF SLEEP), Michael Valverde (NO WITNESS), Marc Fratto (STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN), Patrick Jones and Eric Saperston (THE JOURNEY) for all their advice and guidance.

They gave me a lot of things to think about as well as encouragement along the way. Also, I talked to several distributors before I ever wrote the screenplay. Darrin Ramage of Brain Damage Films took a lot of time and explained to me what he looks for in a good horror film. His advice helped me out tremendously in the script writing, casting and well just about everything else. That's the main reason we are going to the Cannes Film Market in France next month with Brain Damage Films as our foreign distributor.

porfle:  Are you happy with the way MHM is being promoted?

ALLEN:  Well, I really don't know how the underpinnings of Hollywood works nor do I know exactly how Lion's Gate does their marketing. If you were to ask if Oprah's calling then I would have to say no, but the movie is picking up steam. A few months ago before the announcement of the May 23rd release I did a search for "Motor Home Massacre" and it turned up 20 hits. I just did another search and got a return of 120,000 references. In my little world that's a big improvement.

porfle:  How did you hit upon the idea for it?  What was the scriptwriting process like?

ALLEN:  The idea was pretty easy. I already had this beat up old motor home (more about that later) and I had just been dumped by a live-in girlfriend, so I had a lot of time to write. Pathetically, I started writing a horror film, which would include these two basic elements, the motor home and an Evil Shedevil. People say to write about things you know so that's what I did.

The scriptwriting process itself is probably one of the hardest yet most rewarding experiences of my life. The main idea came pretty quick and I wrote the synopsis down first. Then I built that into the feature-length script (about 90 or so pages). Then I re-wrote it 11 more times. That whole process took about 9 months.

porfle:  Did your actors have much film experience?  How did you go about casting them?

ALLEN:  Many of the actors had a lot of experience. Shan Holleman (Sabrina), Nelson Bonilla (Roger), Tanya Fraser (Nicole), West Cummings (Jake) and Greg Corbett (Nick) all have several films under their belts and Justin Geer (Benji) actually has a degree in theater from UNC-Wilimington. We did have a few newcomers like the very beautiful FHM models Breanne Ashley (Brooke) and Diana Picallo (Melanie) as well as several more top-notch actors. I wish I could mention everybody but if you really want to see them pop over to the website where we've got everyone's picture and description at the MOTOR HOME MASSACRE official website.

We cast several of the girls and guys in a unique way. We held a scream queen casting call at a local brewery. We had over 80 girls show up and we ended up having to have another casting call because of the overwhelming response. There were over 300 girls who tried out for various roles and I think we got the best talent to be in MHM. I wish I could mention all the girls who tried out but if you want to see them you can see all their pictures and video of them screaming at
MOTOR HOME MASSACRE official Scream Queens.

porfle:  Can you tell us what kind of budget you had to work with, how you managed to get it together, and how you went about using it to the fullest extent?

ALLEN:  Well, I can't tell you the budget. From early on we made the decision not to tell anyone how much we spent to make the film. We did this for a couple of reason.  One--Hollywood has tried its best to convince people that the bigger the budget, the better the movie. Even though we all know this is not true they continue to tell people that "such and such" movie cost $200+ million to make because they know people will go and see it. They do this for a reason, to keep indie films (with much more modest budgets) out of the mainstream. If they spend enough money they are hoping that the average moviegoer will think that anything under $50 million is automatically a crappy film.

What they don't tell you is that 1/2 of their "budgets" go to advertising. So that $200 million film is only $100 million on screen. And that doesn't take into account the salaries of the stars, producers, directors and so on. So MHM can't compete with this so we simply don't tell people what we made it for. My thought is, what does it matter how much we spent to entertain you? Two--we are still in negotiations with foreign distributors. Selling a film is not unlike selling anything else. If someone knows how much you spent on it (and believe me the distributors ask) then they are in a very nice negotiating position. So I show people the film and let them figure it out for themselves.

porfle:  Was it shot strictly on real locations?

ALLEN:  Yes and no. Many of the interior scenes of the motor home were shot in a warehouse. It's too dangerous to drive down the road and shoot this type of thing so we improvised quite a bit with that. The rest of the film was shot on location.

porfle:  Were there any mishaps or unforeseen difficulties during shooting?

ALLEN:  Safety was our number one concern. Knock on wood, nobody was seriously injured in the filming. However, Breanne Ashley (Brooke) took a very nasty fall during a running scene down a gravel road. Her knee was bashed up which is not ideal for a bikini model.

porfle:  There are a couple of nice makeup effects that I neglected to mention in my review--the splayed-open back of Greg Corbett, and Breanne Ashley's advanced case of "road rash."  What can you tell us about these?

ALLEN:  Roy Wooly did a great job with the special effects. The "splayed-open" scene that you mentioned was all Roy. We were on set and he came over and said, "What do you want me to do for this back cutting scene?" I said "I don't know, what do you think it would look like if you cut someone's back open?"  I'm sure he was frustrated with me (as usual) but he went off and did that very cool effect. He's a genius in my book.

porfle:  Where did you do the post-production work on the film?  And how long did it take to edit it and put the soundtrack together?

ALLEN:  We did the post on Final Cut 5.0. My friends at Right Mind Media helped out quite a bit with this. We used all sound from location so you can imagine we had a lot of extra stuff in there like cars, planes and generators. Final Cut has this new way to export audio over to Soundtrack to clean it up. It was a very tedious process but it came out really nice. No one has said anything negative about the audio, which is a huge part in any film.

We used all local bands for the soundtrack. Subject2Change, Brass Knuckle Surfers, Don Aaron, The Truckadelics, Scott Roberts, The Acres, Buttonhook, Rae Ven Rae, and Tapestry all donated their music to the film. I think that is one reason why so many people love it; they really get into the music.

porfle:  This was your first feature-length film.  What's it like to take on the responsibility of directing such a project?

ALLEN:  It's a huge responsibility that doesn't seem to end. I know that sounds negative but just because the shooting is over doesn't mean the picture is finished. As a director your job is just beginning. I actually miss those 17-degree nights when I'm filling out all the paperwork that comes with doing something on this scale.

porfle:  What did you learn while making it that will come in handy on later films?

ALLEN:  Probably the biggest hurdle is the paperwork. That may not sound very artistic but I'm sure that's probably why much more talented directors than myself never get a film through the distribution process. It's absolutely brutal dealing with it. At times I just wanted to say forget I can't do this anymore. But that's all part of the game I guess. Now that I've done this once, I know much more about how to get the legal stuff together before we get anything on film. So that's the biggest thing that I've learned.

porfle:  What's the story behind the main star of MHM--that big, beautiful "woody"?

ALLEN:  My friend Mark Boomershine talked me into buying the same model and year motor home that he had. We thought it would be fun to take it on trips with him and his wife Cinda and my ex-girlfriend--let's call her the Evil Shedevil for this article. Well, not long after I bought this 26-foot monstrosity  (about a month actually) the Evil Shedevil decided to break up with me and move out. Well, that was great, here I was a young single dude with a 1975 motor home (that pulls in the babes let me tell ya).

Strangely enough a few months later the producers of TBS' "Movie and a Makeover" heard about my movie and my really ugly RV and offered to do a complete makeover on the thing. They did an amazing job fixing it up, plus I was featured on national television talking about the upcoming movie. Again check out the website if you want to see the pics of the motor home.

porfle:  What kind of movies did you like growing up?  And which ones were the most influential to you later on?

ALLEN:  Me and a million other kids loved STAR WARS. I had the action figures, Millenium Falcon, X-Wing Fighters, Darth Vader's space ship and tons of baseball style cards with Princess Leia and the rest of the cast. I didn't know why I liked it then but now that I'm older I can appreciate the timeless storyline that George Lucas put together. It's all Greek Mythology in space. That goes to show you how important the story is. Now that I've done my own movie I can appreciate far better how incredibly hard it is to put together a movie that makes sense much less tells a great story. My hat is off to you, Obi-Wan George Lucas.

My influence in my later years has been Robert Rodriguez. He's inspired a whole legion of do-it-yourself filmmakers, for better or worse.

porfle:  How did you get into the movie business?

ALLEN:  Not sure if I'm in the movie business yet. When I get there I'll send you my card with "filmmaker" on it.

porfle:  Can you tell us about your next project?

ALLEN:  My next project is called EVIL KEG. Not sure if your readers need much more than that as a description but if they do have them email me at and I'll put them on our email list for the scream queen casting calls and all the other nonsense we've been known to do to promote a movie.

porfle:  What sort of ideas do you have in mind for future films?

ALLEN:  I have ideas all the time about films, unfortunately I'm just too lazy to pursue them. I have a little ritual where I go to the movies every Sunday and see a new film at the theater. This will often inspire me to write some stuff down. I wish I had the discipline to write all of these ideas into script format.

porfle:  It's one thing to watch and review a movie, but another thing entirely to actually write and direct one and get it released.  I know this is a dumb question, but how frustrating is it to read a bad review of your work?

ALLEN:  You've probably heard this a million times but you have to be somewhat thick-skinned to do this type of thing. You and several other people have taken the time to actually watch my movie and for that I'm grateful. You didn't really like it and you were honest, although I think an audience would have influenced you a little. Everyone's first reaction to a bad review is a somewhat stinging sensation but after you calm down and re-read it you can pick out things that are very valid. I then realize that hey, this guy is doing me a huge favor--he's trying to help me make a better film.

How many people get that honest feedback at their job? Not many. If you can use the negative things that happen in your life for the positive then you are guaranteed to survive in not only this business but any other thing you decide to do.

porfle:  Thanks very much for stopping by the Corner to share your thoughts and experiences about independent filmmaking with us.  But most of all, thanks for not throwing a brick at me!

ALLEN:  You're very welcome. Thank you so much for allowing me to share my thoughts with you and your readers. I don't know if you have any acting experience but I would love it if you could come to Atlanta to be in my next film. I have this entire scene dedicated to blowing off the heads of film critics ;)

porfle:  D'OH!

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