Interview with Writer / Director Aaron Downing,
and Producers Scott Downing, Lane Soelberg

(L-R) Producer Scott Downing, Screenwriter and Director Aaron Downing, and Producer Lane Soelberg.

PURE KILLJOY will be featured at The Chicago ALT Film Festival, June 9th-13th, 1999. The Movie Premiered at the South Beach Film Festival in Miami and then went onto Dances with Films Festival of the Unknowns in Santa Monica, California where they won an award presented to them by the legendary Hollywood actor MARTIN LANDAU.

THYDE: Tell us about your film, PURE KILLJOY
AARON: I was working on a novel, and about 40 pages into it decided to write a screenplay. Because these guys are so supportive, they said, “Make the movie that nobody would ever give you money to make.” So that’s why we made this one because the movie plays on the extremes of human nature. We took this character and what’s in his mind and we put it onto the screen. We put it in such a way that there is a narrative, so you can watch it and understand what’s going on. But if you look at it again, there is a subtext to it that shows you what’s going on inside his brain. I don’t wanna give any more away, you gotta see it. I gotta get you in the theater. You get to watch nudity. (laughs)

LANE: Yeah (laughs), but we only exploit men in this movie. White males. No women, no dogs.

THYDE: How did the movie come about?
AARON: I’ve known Lane since I was in 4th grade and I’ve known Scott my whole life, he’s my older brother. I wanted to make movies, so I went to Film School at Columbia College in Chicago and then I drove out west and got a job in Hollywood on the Beverly Hillbillies, the movie as a runner. The movie, not the series, ‘cause that would make me 85 (laughs). I stayed and just kept working in production for 3 years and wrote a script. Lane and Scott went out and raised some money and we had like, $40,000 to start with.

THYDE: Do you guys have money in it?
LANE: We all have money in it.
AARON: Believe me, I had at one point, 11 Credit Cards and I’m a master of moving the money around. But Lane and Scott went out and raised a lot of dough. And Lane’s the sweet talker of us all. He put together a really cool package that was basically to entice people to believe in us.

LANE: Well here, it’s kinda like this, we don’t know if you’ll ever get it back,
AARON: And don’t plan on it.
SCOTT: I’m an attorney by trade, so I had to put the legal stuff in to say - You’ll never get your money back and you’ll never see a dime of this……

AARON: We got Lane on the left side goin’……We gotta sell ‘em!
LANE: And if you’re sayin’ like……It’s gonna be great!! Look at all these other movies…….
AARON: And then I’m in the middle, and then Scott’s goin’ “We gotta tell ‘em they may never see their money back again.”
THYDE: (laughing hysterically)

LANE: What kind of marketing campaign is that?
AARON: Go see the movie.
LANE: It’s like investing in Art. You might not be able to see it, but you know what? You might get it back. You can go to a party and say, “I’ve got some money into this movie….”. And that’s like, that’s the easiest way.
SCOTT: You could say, you knew someone when…….

THYDE: But it’s tough…….
AARON: Oh yeah, I’ve been out to Hollywood for 3 years, I had met friends….
THYDE: How is it over there?
AARON: The weather’s nice, and if you’re from Illinois, you appreciate that. But since I knew people, I was able to get a lot of favors, you know. We were fortunate. We got a lot of good production value out of the movie. These guys all came out for the shoot from Illinois. My mom, my dad did, my grandma and grandpa.
LANE: In fact one of my friends came out and never went back.

THYDE: So the movie was shot in California?
LANE: In the Los Angeles area, where the weather’s predictable.
AARON: That was the sole reason, basically. The weather and the resources were there. So it was easier.

THYDE: Is this your directorial debut?
AARON: Yeah, everything. For all of us.
SCOTT: It’s our first movie.
LANE: We didn’t do a Short.
SCOTT: (laughs) We just went right into……
LANE: Aaron’s like, “If you give me some money, I can make a full-length feature.” And I said, “Ok, let’s do it.”

AARON: Yeah, I figured if I was gonna cash in on my favors and spend 3 years of my life, I might as well try to do it on a long movie.
LANE: Go long. And we also didn’t know what we couldn’t do. So we just did it.

AARON: Yeah, that was the cool part. You don’t know that they were just gonna bring in all this stuff like…..Yeah, can we borrow a techno-crane for like a day? And they’re gonna say, “Really?”
SCOTT: The key thing, by the way, to all this, is Insurance. Paying the money for the insurance. The $2,000-$3000 you pay for insurance gets you the leverage to go to Panavision and get a camera. You still need insurance. Even if you paid full price, you still need insurance. So it is key.

LANE: But we didn’t know.
AARON: So that’s why we took a script that I had written. There’s a format, a format that’s standard to the industry. And I wrote outside of that, which was a big problem. So we ended up shooting up a 140-page script. Generally, you don’t wanna…..for what we were doing should have been 90 pages.

THYDE: Somebody told me you shoot 13 hours of raw film and you cut it down to 2 hours? Is that how it is?
AARON: Yeah, definitely. That’s like a low-budget…….
THYDE: And you just use one camera?
AARON: Yeah, you use one camera. Sometimes if you can get 2 cameras, that’s nice. Some people do.
LANE: Did we ever have 2 cameras? I don’t think so.
AARON: No. If you’re doing an action sequence, or something, or you’re blowing up something or somebody or doing……

THYDE: You don’t blow anything up in this movie?
AARON: No. But we do have lots of amazing effects. We have a knife gag in it.
LANE: That’s right, man.
AARON: It cost me big bucks that day.
LANE: (laughs). That’s right.
AARON: And I had to pay that guy cash ‘cause he wanted it totally under the table.
LANE: Exactly.
AARON: Because of the lighting in movies, once you go from the small screen to the big screen, all the imperfections are huge. ‘Cause it’s 50-60 times as big so, it takes longer to light it, longer to deal with the costumes, I think in a lot of ways, the production design. But we were lucky just to get one camera.

SCOTT: The only other thing is, when we’re talking about investors. In some ways, it’s gonna pay off well for a lot of them now, because they’re all gonna get to see it all on film in Chicago.

AARON: The Chicago ALT Film Festival, June 9th-13th. We also won a Film Festival. We premiered our movie at the South Beach Film Festival in Miami and then we went onto Dances with Films Festival of the Unknowns in Santa Monica, California. And we actually won that Film Festival, I got to meet Martin Landau, the actor. He’s hilarious and nice, he gave me a little award.

I didn’t think we were gonna win anything. So I was a little drunk at the time, and I was sittin’ there talking to other people. They were announcing things, and they said our movie and I went up there. Martin Landau says it out loud and I went up there to shake his hand, and I said, “You scared me in North by Northwest and you’re still scaring me now.”

THYDE: (laughs)
AARON: He’s hilarious, but I asked him…..You know he was offered the role of Spock, originally. And he turned it down. He said it was typecasting. He told me that personally. And I’m like, why couldn’t you do Spock? You’d be perfect.

THYDE: Why did you choose to do this movie?
LANE: My background is in advertising and I was working on the Pillsbury Dough Boy at the time that this whole thing came about. Aaron’s a deep man. It’s a wild thing. Every time we show the film, we get different interpretations from the audience.

AARON: And that was the idea, we knew we were making a niche movie. And it was much more of a sensibility issue than a demographic. Usually, in films they wanna know the demographics, who you’re going for, but we didn’t worry about that. But Lane, all through the while developing the script, since I was working on a novel originally, I would just call him up the whole time about little ideas and the movie was so abstract and different, he’d get all excited and say, “yeah that’s great!” And that’s all I’d need and I’d go on.

LANE: The phone will ring like at 2:00 in the morning in Chicago and Aaron says, “Oh, all the scenes in the movie are cut out, by the way.” (laughs)

THYDE: Are you in the movie?
LANE: Yeah, I have a cameo.
SCOTT: I didn’t want to be in it.
AARON: The costumes were set up so that it’s not at any time frame, it’s not a specific era. So, it’s a little bit more timeless. But he had to wear shorts the whole time. And I said, “I can’t put you in that…..”
SCOTT: My only thing in the movie is footprints, some bloody footprints.
AARON: Michael Matzdorff is the editor, he also did the score. Did a great job.
LANE: You can sample his score on the website.


(L-R) Producer Scott Downing, Screenwriter and Director Aaron Downing, and Producer Lane Soelberg.