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  An Interview with Alan Rowe Kelly

 

 Interviewed by: Elaine Lamkin [Friday, August 19th, 2005]

Alan Rowe Kelly is an artist/writer/filmmaker/actor and all-around fascinating person to interview. Born into a showbiz family – his great-grandfather, William Clarence Rowe, worked in several silent movies – Alan and his mother Charlotte co-authored a book entitled “Wharton” about the small New Jersey mining town where both were born and raised. After a career in fashion styling, Alan decided to go with his true love of movie-making and particularly horror movies and wrote the wonderfully morbid “I’ll Bury You Tomorrow”. I’ll let Alan do the talking now because he’s far more interesting than me…

From the brief bio on the IMdb, it sounds like you have led a fascinating life. Would you care to share The Alan Rowe Kelly Story to date?

As far as a filmmaker and an actor, all I can say is that my story is JUST beginning!

How did you find yourself involved in horror movies? Were you a fan as a child? If so, any specific movies that had an impact on you?

I have been a fan of horror movies ever since I saw "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" when I was 4 years old. I have been an ardent follower of the genre ever since! I remember watching "The Outer Limits", "Chiller Theater" and "Creature Features" on my parents’ old black and white television set. I loved movies like "Beast From 20,000 Fathoms", "The Monster of Piedras Blancas" and "Kill, Baby Kill". The films that had the most impression on me were "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "The Wizard of Oz", "Attack of the Crab Monsters", "Not of This Earth" and "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman". But the biggest and most important impact was when "The Poseidon Adventure" hit the screen in 1972. I was in the 8th grade. It convinced me to make my first film on an 8mm camera where my friends and I re-enacted the scene of the boat tipping over!

Where did the idea of “I’ll Bury You Tomorrow” come from?

A friend suggested the theme of a female psychopath working in a funeral home - and this predated "Six-Feet Under" (TV Series) by a good year or so! So I simply took the idea and expanded the story line from there. The script fell into place in about 2-3 months. It was great fun creating those characters and seeing how far I could take certain subject matters. Many of the 'scare' ideas were totally lifted from scenes from my favorite old horror flicks from the 70s - but you must remember, we embarked on this film just for the sheer joy and fun of making one. Everything that followed was simply a lark! I had no idea what lay ahead at the time - nobody does.

Where did you shoot the film, what was your shooting schedule and what kind of budget did you have to work with?

The film was shot in New Jersey in Montclair, Boonton, Lincoln Park, Paterson, East Hanover and parts of Staten Island. We began shooting in 1999 and wrapped two and a half years later. We could only shoot on weekends to coincide with the actors work schedules. I believe we shot a total of 85 days. About 20 days were scrapped because we originally had an actor in a lead role that took a powder on the film 4 months into filming. What a nightmare! It took months to replace him with the right actor – hence, a very prolonged shooting schedule.

 

Where did you find your amazing cast, particularly Zoe Daelman Chlanda and Jerry Murdock?

I met my leading lady, Zoë Daelman Chlanda (Dolores Finley), on a photo shoot while I was still writing the script. Following the first 30 minutes of our conversation while I was making her up, I knew I had found my 'Dolores'! Zoe is truly a consummate actress and needs to be in many, many more films. I would recommend her to every director reading this article. As for the rest of the cast, I had known Renee' West (Tina) since she first started modeling as a teenager. Great girl and a real trouper - Boy, can she turn on the panic button in a second's notice! Kristen Overdurf (Ellen) has been my pal for years and works as an actress and model in NYC. P.J. Mehaffey (Eddie) was modeling on a photo shoot that both Kristen and I were working on. Some of the smaller bit roles we're friends I coerced in, but all the main leads and secondary roles I found through Backstage - a popular east/west coast industry paper. Jerry Murdock (Mitch/Jake), Katherine O'Sullivan (Nettie), Bill Corry (Percival), Austin Sears (Dr. Gross), Tina Kay (Mrs. Clark) and Linda Leven (the morgue nurse!) all answered the search ads I put out. I love actors - and especially these guys for hanging in there as long as they did. I hope they feel it was worth it!

How did the actual shoot go? Any interesting stories to relate – funny things ALWAYS seem to happen on film sets.

At times it was more than overwhelming. So much to think about when you're doing production, set design, make up, wardrobe, food, car travel for cast, prop rentals, keep the books, and then taking the time to sit down to give actors their motivation!

We originally had another actor cast as 'Jake'. We shot with him for four months and one day he suddenly disappeared, never to be heard from again! We later discovered that he wound up in a county jail up in northwest NJ as a 'deadbeat dad'! Almost every scene I had with him was already shot. So with this actor no longer available, we now had only two minutes of footage that was salvageable following four full months of shooting! Talk about depressing! Thirty thousand dollars down the drain! So we moved on and shot everything we could around Jake until we found the right actor to replace the original - not realizing that he was standing right next to me every day! Jerry Murdock went through the most amazing transformation to become Jake and I'm convinced that "I'll Bury You Tomorrow" would never be the film it is today, without that cast change. So there's a lesson; horrible things that happen during shooting can have a silver lining after all! I got to reshoot all my footage ‘again’ with a real actor and bring great chemistry between Corey and Jake - as well as give the film the much-needed edge it was begging for by casting Jerry in a dual role! Isn’t he just fantastic in this movie? Jerry rules!

Was it your decision or a collaborative decision to have Jerry play both Mitch and Jake?

Many viewers, including myself, were TOTALLY fooled and my jaw dropped during the closing credits – brilliant! Wish I could take all the credit for that one, but I can’t! It was really Kristen Overdurf (Ellen) who originally thought of Jerry and making both the characters brothers. But it really took me only 3 minutes to think about it and say ‘why not?’ After a week of make up tests and photos, I would ask the cast what they thought of ‘this guy’. They all thought he was great – they also didn’t know it was Jerry!

Where is the wonderfully creepy “Beech Funeral Home” located?

That wonderful house is called ‘The Bond House’ at Montclair State University – right on Valley Road as you go into Montclair, NJ I had 3 other houses scoped out as well, but this one, along with a generously low rental fee from the university, fit the bill perfectly! I recently heard that the estate is up for possible demolition so they can expand the damn parking lot!

Did you have to do much research into mortuary science to write “IBYT”? What was THAT like?

Complete study – even down to sitting through a real embalming – Bluck!! They tell you to stand 3 feet away from the table for a reason! But I had to be sure procedures, terminology and the entire workings of a funeral home were correct. So I worked with 3 funeral homes and was grateful for the education. Many involved in mortuary sciences that have seen the film commented that we did an excellent job with the film and how it the subject was represented. That’s research for you!

Who did your set design – Sharon Beech’s bedroom is pretty weird, all the religious images and that “beheaded” doll!

I did the set design – but fortunately, most of our sets (except two locations) were actual locations and not studio sets. I added finishing touches to locales that were pretty much ready to go! Sharon’s bedroom did have to be designed from top to bottom because it was an old bedroom used as a storage room. Set design is crucial. You need to fill a frame with props and items that will subliminally feed the story and let you into the character’s world. The headless doll is part of a sick toy collection from my dear friend Robert Norman – the burn scarred priest!

Were you ever concerned that viewers might be put off by the necrophilia/body-snatching plot of the film?

I’ll be honest, I was so outright bored with all the candy-coating most horror films had received in the previous decade that I simply wanted to return to some gruesome story telling and shake people up a bit. I never really expected "IBYT" to go this far in the first place. You hope it does, but it’s such a tough industry to break into and find acceptance. "I’ll Bury You Tomorrow" isn’t a film for everybody, and we knew this from the beginning. But it does have it’s own niche of followers who thoroughly enjoy it. If you start making a horror movie with only a ‘demographic viewer’ in mind, you just compromised your original vision and the entire project. Why sell out? There is always the ‘director’s cut’ – so no matter where your film goes with distribution, ratings boards, pre-sale editing, etc. – you know your ‘original’ movie can still be enjoyed by those who want to view it uncut. I purposely awaited Rob Zombie’s director’s cut of "House of a 1000 Corpses" because I knew from his interviews that he had to chop, chop, chop to please the ratings and the SUITS (which are now in baseball caps and sweats!).

What was up with the scarred priest, Mrs. Beech and some of the other weirder resident of Port Oram?

The scarred priest is my great friend Robert Norman. He’s an accomplished photographer I coerced into playing the priest. After discussing the part he suggested some sick make up effect and we decided to cover half his face in burn scars- just for kicks! Katherine O’Sullivan (Nettie Beech) is one of the most talented actresses I know. She so embodied the role of Nettie that I actually came to believe that she was actually like her! Of course in real life she is 20 years younger than her character and has been dating the talented Tom Burns, (IBYT’s composer and lead singer for the indie rock duo The Kimballs) for over two years now! The rest of the residents of Port Oram are loosely based on some of the nuts I grew up with in my hometown of Wharton, NJ – formerly named ‘Port Oram’ until 1906.

Do you plan to appear in your future films? Corey was a wonderfully bitchy character and worked so well with Jake. How did you go about creating her?

Corey is simply ‘me’ in a pissy rotten mood and a bad Betty Page bob! LOL! (And that IS all my own hair, thank you very much!). I wanted Corey’s character to be sexually ambiguous – which I am in real life anyway. Many see Corey as a diabolical femme fatale, where others see the role as a shrewish transvestite. Even the character's name is bisexual. Either way, I felt the sexual confusion would add intrigue for the audience and allow them make their own personal decision to Corey's identity by purposely NOT bringing attention to it. And YES - I’ll always be in my films! That’s really the main reason I made I’ll Bury You Tomorrow in the first place – it was the opportunity to act and see if I was any good at it. The only acting training I ever received was in high school from my drama teacher, Flo Stephens – the same drama teacher my parents had in high school thirty years earlier! I certainly wasn’t going to put myself in a starring role, or any part for that matter, that would have to carry the majority of the film’s story line. That would have been just dumb and way too egocentric – even for me! I know my strengths and weaknesses. And working with such a talented ensemble’ cast certainly makes you step up to the plate and do your best – especially when they are pouring everything they got into their roles! Hopefully, with more acting opportunities, I’ll grow and improve, and one day be ‘good’.

What kind of fan reaction have you had since the DVD has come out?

Very, very positive, which is quite encouraging for a first time filmmaker. The indie horror community and it’s writers, actors and reviewers have been so supportive, generous and gracious – and I’ve been very humbled by that. But, there are always those you can’t please – and they’ll certainly let you know it. And that makes me have to work all the harder the next time. And my distributors, Ian Reinhard and Alex Afterman over at HERETIC FILMS have been absolutely amazing with getting this little indie out to all retail stores like Hollywood Video, Borders and Tower Video. If you’re a new genre filmmaker with edgy material, these are the guys to see!

I saw that you’ve acted in two more films since “IBYT”- ”Opening the Mind” and “Dead Serious”. What can you tell us about those roles?

Yes, lucky me! And juicy roles they are! Moodude Films cast me in Joe Sullivan’s "Dead Serious", a gay vampire thriller with Felissa Rose, Tom Cahill and Kane Manera. I play Eden, a patron at a gay bar abducted by religious zealots and transformed into a vicious vampire – nice and bloody!
And Pittsburgh horror maestro Michael Todd Schneider dropped the actress he originally had slated to play a used up whore in his serial killer opus "Opening the Mind" and cast me in her place after a viewing of "IBYT" at a New York film festival! And boy what he did to me! My character was beaten, drugged, nailed to a torture chair device, sliced with rusty razors, knocked out with a sock full of marbles and shoved in a car trunk (again!). Whew! Exhausting shoot. The film is still in post, but the 10-minute promo DVD he sent me was very disturbing! I can’t wait till its finished! The guy is a genius!

What can you tell us about your next film “Unhallowed Ground”?

"Unhallowed Ground" tells the tale of a young man who inherits an abandoned hotel attached to a deserted and cursed Fairy Tale Land attraction. Once he arrives in the small rural town of High Point Junction to claim his legacy, the property takes on a life of it's own. It’s haunted – and very hungry! If you have a fear of fairy tales, demonic clowns, wicked witches, killer mannequins and talking dolls with very sharp teeth – then this film is for you! It will be a completely different type of storyline than "IBYT", but I promise to still maintain the same dysfunctional characters and their weird storylines. So far I have casted Zoe Daelman Chlanda, Jerry Murdock, Katherine O’Sullivan and myself (all returning form "IBYT"), Jeff Dylan Graham ("Home Sick"), Joshua Nelson ("No One Gets Out" a.k.a. "Aunt Rose"), Michael Todd Schneider ("Mordum", "The Wickeds"), Paul Coughlan ("Dead Serious"), handsome newcomer Kane Manera ("Dead Serious", "Sludge") and the very lovely Sandra Schaller (The horrified blonde on the movie poster). I also have some keen interest from horror legends Debbie Rochon ("American Nightmare", "Terror Firmer"), Amy Lynn Best ("The Resurrection Game"), Felissa Rose ("Sleepaway Camp", "Satan’s Playground"), and Brandon Johnson ("Malevolence"). Keep your fingers crossed for me on this one, Elaine! I’m going for a bigger budget this time and by hook or crook I’ll get it!

What are some of your favorite horror movies?

That changes with every week! But my all time favs are "The Uninvited", "The Funhouse", "The Baby", "House on Haunted Hill" (original!), "The Haunting" (original!), "Horror Hotel", "Alice Sweet Alice", "Voodoo Island", "Dementia 13" and "Night of the Living Dead".  I guess I‘m an old time purist!

Do you have any favorite horror authors or horror novels?

Stephen King always. But most recently I’ve been reading Vince Churchill ("The Dead Shall Inherit the Earth / The Blackest Heart") and Christopher Alan Broadstone ("The Puzzleman"). Wonderful new writers who can scare, torment, repulse and titillate at the same time! Christopher is also a great filmmaker ("Human No More/ My Skin/ Scream For Me"). And some day I feel Vince’s work will translate beautifully to the screen as well. They both are great visionaries.

When you were still working as a fashion/makeup stylist, were there any ads or commercials we might remember that you worked on? Any famous models you worked with?

Wow! I’ve gone through a lot of lipstick, powder, and temperamental young things! I had done many editorial spreads for Vogue, Bazaar, L’Oreal, American & Modern Salon, Saks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdales as well as work for MTV, Court TV, Comedy Central and Fox Television (where I just recently worked on NFL star Troy Aitken). I wasn’t Kevin Aucoin by any stretch, but I was a full time working artist and that alone in this crazy industry was very satisfying. My brushes glided along the cheeks of Rebecca Gayheart, Michael Michelle, Callie Thorne, Paul Newman, Howard Stern, Dixie Carter, Julie Brown and a host of top models from many numerous fashion shows in NYC and Italy. Since I’ve done it for over 20 years and still work as a make up artist – most people in that industry have no idea I’m in the horror biz. It is a very fun life and you always need something to fall back on in the film industry cause we’re far from rich!

Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you would like our readers to know?

I’m much taller than people think!

Any final thoughts on “IBYT” and that whole experience?

I just want horror audiences to enjoy it and ‘get it’ simply for what it is – a simple, low-budget indie feature that was made to reflect what was so great and fun about the good old gory days of ‘Horrorwood’.
 

Click Here For Jerry Murdock Interview

Click Here For an Interview with Zoe Daelman Chlanda

 

I'll Bury You Tomorrow

Click Here For I'll Bury You Tomorrow DVD Review

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