We interviewed P.J Starks, writer and director of Volumes of Blood. Here is what P.J Starks told us:
So, P.J, tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Owensboro, KY. I’ve been seriously working on film over the past seven years after deciding that I didn’t want to run off to LA or NY. I’ve written and directed several short films including the award winning A Mind Beside Itself, Project Deathpack and The Preylude. I’ve also written and directed a couple features including my freshman effort Hallows Eve: Slaughter on Second Street and most recently I was one of five directors including a writer and producer on the horror anthology Volumes of Blood. I’ve created several events in my area such as the hugely popular Unscripted indie film program that is going into series five and The River City Festival of Films that last played host to RoboCop’s Peter Weller. Right now I’m mainly doing producing which includes Lattie from Blackstrap Pictures, The Confession of Fred Krueger which recently wrapped and will premiere at HorrorHound Weekend in September and the super hero web-series River City Heroes: Ascendance which is in production now.
Can you tell us about how you got started in entertainment industry?
I’ve always been a story teller. I loved to writer when I was growing up and eventually that turned into creating visuals with a VHS camcorder that my grandfather bought me. Eventually I started to harness my love and passion for storytelling. I had done several features before Hallows Eve, but none of them were really worth a damn. Once I decided to start making films about my love for all things horror that is when it all started coming together. I’ve done other genres and worked on different types of projects, but I always come back to horror.
What was your inspiration for ‘Volumes of Blood’?
I’m not the only creative force on the project so I won’t take all the credit. But when it came to writing the script and scenarios Todd Martin, Nathan Thomas Milliner and I used what we loved most about the horror genre to create the basis for VOB. We took everything that gave us goose bumps and excited us about the various sub-genres and tied them into the plot. That’s why there’s so many homages and throwbacks to the films that we grew up on whether it be in the dialogue or visuals. We even took some of the tired or hated tropes and turned them on their heads to try and do something a little different. Thankfully it all worked out.
Tell us a bit more about ‘Volumes of Blood’.
It’s just a fun ride and that’s exactly what we wanted. We aren’t trying to shove a message down your throat or go any deeper than creating a roller coaster ride of horror subgenres. The basic premise is a sociology student get some if his college friends together on Halloween night to create a new urban legend for his thesis and that’s when horrible, gory, funny and insane things start taking place. If you’re a fan of horror I think you’ll walk away satisfied. This movie has a lot going on such as masker killers, monsters, ghosts, a killer energy drink, the demonic undead and a shit ton of blood. Volumes of it… no pun intended.
Does character come from plot, or plot from character?
I think it depends on the story or what type of writer you are. Typically I flesh out my stories from A to B as well as the characters. When I start writing I know the types of characters and their personalities; ironically though sometimes their dialogue will surprise you and it creates a new piece of the puzzle. Something that might throw a wrench into my plan and at that point it’s my job to let the new story arch play itself out while finding a way to get back into the grove of the current story line to finish out how I intend it to. That sounds kinda stupid when I say it out loud (laughs), but it’s the truth.
Which is your favourite horror movie?
Holy crap you asked a tough one there. I have so many that I could sit here all day and list them out, what I’m going to do though is list all the movies I can think of that helped inspire certain segments and parts of Volumes of Blood. That way when you see the film you can try to point them out. Friday the 13th, Halloween, He Knows You’re Alone, Hell Night, House, The Grudge, After Midnight, Scream, Urban Legend, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deep Rising, The Prowler, Nail Gun Massacre, Pieces, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead, Night of the Living Dead and there’s more but I don’t want to give them all away.
What defines a good movie plot?
In some ways I think that is subjective depending on what type of film you’re trying to make. If you’re writing a dramatic piece then obviously the post important aspects are the characters themselves because they are the ones who create the drama through their words and actions. If you’re trying to make a fun film like Dude Where’s My Car? then obviously certain things fall to the wayside like characterization and such. That’s not to say that stupid comedies or slasher films can’t have strong characters or dialogue, but ultimately it depends on the strength of the writer. If you have a solid story structure to work from and you use real life as inspiration for how your characters interact with one another then there’s a good chance that you’ll have a strong plot that plays itself out for your audience.
Which writers and producers do you admire most and why?
I’m a huge fan of Kevin Smith, I think he writes funny and clever dialogue. I know that it’s extremely vulgar, but is characters are fun and hilarious. He just has a way of creating memorable personalities and movies with tons of rewatch value. Another is Paul Haggis who wrote and directed Crash as well as Third Person, he’s a fantastic writer and his characters are so rich. His ability to tell a story is just fantastic. His films are really awesome. He knows how to bring out true human emotion onscreen and I would love to do something like that.
When a writer has an idea for a movie, what questions should they be asking themselves before writing?
How does my story start? How does my story end? Are there any important situations that need to happen in between? Who are my characters? What is their motivation? Why are they there? How will the react to said premise and why? It seems like a lot, but your reasoning behind the characters reacting to the scenario is most important because they and their decisions are the driving force that gets your audience to the climax.
Anything else you would like to say?
The past seven years have truly been an interesting and sometimes incredible ride. I’ve met some of the most incredibly talented people and in some cases have the chance to call some of them friends. I know a ton of other artists chasing the dream who have amazing stories and paths of their own. I can’t complain about my own, a lot has fallen into place and a lot of that is because I have so much help and support from some awesome people including my family. My wife Katrina, while not an artists nor understanding some of eccentricities, ultimately supports my undying drive to just do something cool and outside the box. Times haven’t always been easy, but I love her very much. Honestly, if it all went away tomorrow I’d still be able to say that impacted some lives, had my own impacted and would be satisfied… well, I probably would get depressed because my ADHD doesn’t let my brain stop creating, but I’d try to be satisfied (laughs).
This post was written by Nadia Vella