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The Independent Critic

 Justin Timpane Interview 
I'm not really calling Justin Timpane, writer and director of cult fave Ninjas vs. Zombies and the even more popular Ninjas vs. Vampires, a geek. Okay, actually I am calling Timpane, who recently sat down for a conversation with The Independent Critic, a geek...or a nerd...or maybe just an incredibly talented, imaginative and slightly off-kilter filmmaker. Actually, Timpane referred to himself as "a giant Star Trek nerd. I mean I have a Star Trek Podcast (EndlightPodcast.com)."

The Independent Critic

How does a seemingly normal guy end up tackling films about ninjas and zombies and vampires (oh my!)?

Justin Timpane

When I made my college movie, this 40 minute film that I edited together on one of those old Commodore 128's, it was so earnest and so deadly serious. It wasn't so bad. The script was philosophical. It looked at what happened if someone a little bit disturbed got institutionalized and then came out even more disturbed. It was so serious. So, with Zombies, I thought "I need to do something deliberately different." I was striving to make my Evil Dead 2.

The Independent Critic

Did you study film?

Justin Timpane

Theater and music, actually. I used all of it really, especially with Vampires because I'd decided to build more of the sets rather than just using whatever I could find. We constructed a lot more with Vampires. There was writing, directing, costuming, lighting, design, music...I used all of it.

The Independent Critic

You've obviously got a lot of influences and not just horror...

Justin Timpane

Oh yeah. I'm a giant Star Trek nerd. I mean, I have a Star Trek podcast (Endlightpodcast.com...Check it out!). Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon are huge influences. The Elm Street series is a huge influence. I even liked the new one...

The Independent Critic

Even the new one?

Justin Timpane

Oh yeah, c'mon. It was Freddy Krueger on the screen. I was smiling from ear to ear. It made me all giddy. I love Van Helsing... Okay, it wasn't a perfect film but a Shakespeare quoting Frankenstein? I loved it. We deliberately wanted to make something as big as we could...some critics called it "epic and amazing." Nobody is doing micro-budget films with 14 minute zombie scenes, dozens of zombies in the shots. We wanted to make something with a touch of Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Kevin Smith...zombies with slackers/clerks type attitudes. Some got it, some didn't. The reviews for the first film were about 50/50. We took both seriously...at least after we got past the "You hurt my feelings." What really hurt was that some of their points were right, so we learned from it. One of the big things that got pointed out with the first film was that I would sort of stop the scene to make the slacker references or the pop cinema references. I learned not to do that with Vampires. Vampires is better paced, more briskly paced. You still get the familiar lines every couple of minutes, but it flows better (Interviewer's Note: I challenge you to sit down and watch this film...see how many of the lines you can identify. It's awesome).
The Independent Critic

So then, your family didn't think you were nuts for going into filmmaking?

Justin Timpane

That would be false. (Laughs). It was one thing when I just wanted to be an actor or maybe a musician. At least then, I was only risking my own future. But, when I announced that I was going to spend thousands of dollars to make a movie. That was a bit harder for them. It didn't help that my wife was eight months pregnant at the time. But, the arts have always been in my family. My mother was an actress at Disneyland when she was younger. I have an uncle who's a poet and writer. There are artists and musicians in my family. My sister is studying theater at the University of Evansville.

The Independent Critic

Wow. What about your wife?

Justin Timpane

She really was amazing. She got it. She's not just the Executive Producer because she's my wife, but she's an outstanding businesswoman. She's the Executive Producer, HR, Story Supervisor and Script Supervisor. There's nothing that happens on the set that she doesn't know about. If there's an extra on teh set, they've signed their waive and talent release. She makes sure that everything is taken care of and is just outstanding.

The Independent Critic

Tell me more about this process of going from theater major to filmmaker, from making super serious stuff to making a demented and dark and funny horror film? First off, who or what inspired you?

Justin Timpane

My two biggest filmmaker influences are Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith. Clerks II really made me stop and think about my own career. Daniel (Ross) and I were doing projects that weren't going anywhere and were never going to get released. We finally just decided that we were going to make our own films now. We self-produced Ninjas vs. Zombies, maxed out some credit cards. When we were first getting started Dan happened to know how to get ahold of Ed Sanchez from Blair Witch Project, of course one of the most successful indie projects ever. He called him up and asked if we could do lunch. Daniel just has balls the size of an apartment building.

A conversation with Justin Timpane is marked by a couple of dominant characteristics - First, Justin comes off as, dare I say it, surprisingly normal for a guy who's carved himself quite the niche' within the indie horror community, and secondly, Justin is remarkably clear that even though he's got the "writer/director" titles by his name that he's also been pretty darn lucky to surround himself with talented people who care about each other and their work. In fact, the word that kept coming to mind throughout our over 60 minute conversation was "gratitude." In addition to his obvious and profuse gratitude for the support of his wife, Dan Ross and a host of others that he mentions throughout the interview.

Justin Timpane

George Stover, a well known indie actor who's in the film during the dream sequence, reminded me how rare it is for a filmmaker's first film to get distribution. Arthur Rowan was great to work with - very talented actor. He just landed the role of King Arthur in the touring company for Camelot, so you'll probably get to see him in your city. One of the things I heard after the first film was that I was a bit too much of a taskmaster. I'm a good writer, I'm a good editor. I'm not very good at PR, but Daniel's a genius. I'm not a good effects guy. Kevin Smith shared that he'd always kind of been that way before his latest film, Red State. It was amazing to see what happened when I took my hand out of Daniel's ass. I guess if I'm good at anything, I'm good at finding talented people and putting them together.

The Independent Critic

So, was building all these great working relationships the result of having a good film? Networking? Just plain lucky?

Justin Timpane

Probably a little bit of all of that. With Vampires, we certainly made a more marketable film. Ninjas vs. Zombies was a good amateur film. Ninjas vs. Vampires is a good low-budget/micro-budget professional film. A lot of the credit goes to Circus Road (Richard's Note: Circus Road Films offers strategic advisory services to indie filmmakers, with a strong focus on the sale of completed films). Circus Road has been great to work with - These are the guys you want working together with you. Tara (Reynolds, Circus Road's Director of Sales/Business Affairs) has been patient, answered questions at all hours. One day, I called her at 7am and was going to leave her a message. She answered and was like "Do you Skype? Let's just get on Skype." She's just been fantastic to work with all along. Circus Road has really championed the film all along. They hooked us up with Breaking Glass, who've just been amazing to work with, too. Richard Ross and Rich Wolf are just great to work with, never making us feel like we were too small. I mean we're not going to make them a million bucks, but they've never made us feel like we were just a small filmmaker. Justin Cook (Breaking Glass's Social Media/Press guy) has been great to work with, too.

The Independent Critic

So, what's the future hold for Justin Timpane?

Justin Timpane

Well, we've intentionally been patient with Vampires. We learned that too many filmmakers rush on to their next project and never really give their film a chance to grow. So, we're going to see where this goes before deciding what's next. We didn't quite make our money back with Zombies, but we made enough to be able to put together Vampires. Zombies sold about 4,000 copies...Jay Saunders and Daniel Ross have gotten lots of attention. There are other possibilities - there are three other projects in mind. There's a geek friendly doc, something like "Repo" - Maybe a horror musical. We've got four trained composers who worked on this film. I've thought it might be nice to do something that my kid could see...something that I could say "This is for you" that would explain why I'm sometimes off working 70 hours a week.

The Independent Critic

After all this horror, how do you relax? What do you do for fun?

Justin Timpane

I hang out with my kid. I pour myself a glass of wine that's slightly better than box wine. I love podcasts. I'm always e-mailing, working on a movie. I'm occasionally a little envious of some of the folks I work with who work on these really big projects like Daniel doing voice work for the Transformers videogame or going on tours. I'm just not that interesting. I'm a husband and a father who works a little too much...just like Peter Parker...NOT the Tobey Maguire Peter Parker.

The Independent Critic

So, what would you say to someone out there right now reading this interview and thinking "Should I rent or buy this film?"

Justin Timpane

I just hope you give it a chance. We're normal guys trying to do something that's maybe a little extraordinary. A lot of people have liked us, and I really hope you'll give it a try.


© Interview by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic


Visit the Breaking Glass Pictures website to order "Ninjas vs. Vampires." You can also visit the "Ninjas vs. Vampires" website. Of course, make sure you check out my review of the film!


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