He is the filmmaker behind Gray Matter Dollar Baby film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Red Clark: Thanks for interviewing me, it’s great to be included with such a great group of people. My name is Red Clark, I’m a writer/director/editor, and I live and work out in Michigan and Chicago.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Red Clark: I started making movies when I was a little kid. When I was in High School in the 90s, I was one of the only kids at our school who had a camera, so I would put everyone in my films. It was a lot bigger of a deal at the time. This was before all the school violence that would follow at the close of the Millenium, so I was actually able to film projects at school and get away with a lot of goofy stuff. I put teachers in films, and they would hang out with me outside of class. There was a bully who didn’t like me, so I asked him to come and get eaten by monsters in a movie I was making. Jocks acted with nerds and goth kids. I got my first real date with a projectionist at my first film festival and won a 100 movie prize the same night (I took everyone out for milk-shakes). So movies were a way for me to tell stories and break down walls that most had a hard time facing during High School. I remember playing my movie trailer in the school lunchroom. Stop motion monsters run around, and the school explodes Rock and Roll High School style at the end. Everyone went nuts. I decided to skip class for the rest of the day (which I never did before) and play the trailer for every lunch period. So I’d say at a very early age I fell in love with film and storytelling and knew I’d do it for the rest of my life.
SKSM: When did you make Gray matter? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Red Clark: The idea for Gray Matter was to do a straight forward monster movie with all practical effects. I did a Kickstarter, and I raised about 8k after fees, one of the pledgers had to back out, so that dented the total amount. It probably all cost around 9500 to make, which all went into gear rental and practical effects budget. I started the film back in 2013. Even though I can actually work extremely fast, we allowed the shoots to spread out quite a bit due to actor availability and fabrication of the makeup effects. In the beginning, it was just myself and my good friend Ross, along with Mike Bove on camera, just filming when people whenever they were free. I had someone come in toward the end of production to assist me and organizing people for the shoots named Katherin Mraz. Like anyone helping, she ended up doing lots of random stuff like being a stand-in or throwing slime. Waiting for snow was also a big obstacle. For some reason, the timeframe I chose was the winter with the least amount of snow. I ended up faking most of it with white foam, baby powder and lots of soft focus. After Gray Matter, I vowed to never spread out a shoot like that again and compress things down shooting wise. Much better.
SKSM: How come you picked Gray matter to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Red Clark: It was always a favorite short story of mine. The part with the spider particularly creeped me out as a kid. I also just thought it was a weird, very straightforward monster story.
SKSM: I’ve seen how the spider was built. It’s really awesome. Could you tell me about it?
Red Clark: The spider was animatronic. All the effects for the movie are practical, down to the tiniest details that no one but myself would care about, haha. I contacted someone in Colorado, Kevon Ward to help build the mechanics of the spider. He eventually flew out to assist during the scenes. He is a massive talent. Kevon and Dina Cimarusti were vital to getting all the practical effects done, and Rebekah Lieto came in to help finish things during the home stretch. All the makeup people that helped on the project went on to win effects reality TV shows or work on television productions. We had a small but really talented bunch all across the board. Thomas Hodge, who did the poster, has done many of the John Carpenter Blu Ray releases. He recently did The Colour Out of Space poster for the H.P. Lovecraft film by Richard Stanley. His work continues to be insane.
SKSM: The film has references to Stephen King work. Fans we love those things.
Red Clark: I tried to put as many little references as I could. I did so for myself just as much as anyone watching. There’s an adaptation of the cookie commercial mentioned in Cujo and a Pennywise appearance (this was before the It remake was in motion). Stephen King stories all cross over like crazy, which everyone adapting his recent work has figured out and is now incorporating. King was and continues to be ahead of his time. He’d already created a marvel universe of horror before it was “cool.” See if you can spot books by the various talented King family in the movie.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wild guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Red Clark: I’d been aware for a long time as I picked up The Woman in the Room on VHS as a kid, I still have my old copy. I also did a book trailer for King’s publisher for Just After Sunset. It was a contest King was judging that I won and I was in touch with his secretary around that time, Marsha, who was an amazing and generous person. So I asked about doing Gray Matter.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Red Clark: At a certain point, it was just about getting the movie done, so I just started filming myself as stand-ins for different characters. I think me and my friend Ross played every role at some point. One night, I was stuck alone puppeteering a decayed kitten hand puppet. I threw together the cocoon last minute with coffee grounds, cotton swabs, and Elmer’s glue. So I was puppeteering with one hand covered in glop, and waving a flashlight in the other hand for lighting. I had to use my foot to run the fog machine and press record on the camera with my tooth. Another time I just hit record sat down, dumped slime and fake blood on myself, and writhed around thinking, “I deserve this.” There was another semi-creepy moment when I was editing and composing scary music in an empty studio where I pulled multiple one-nighters to finish. I had to use a body cast of myself as a dead body in the movie, and it was sitting in a body bag in a room in the dimly lit studio. Whenever I went to use the bathroom or get a snack at 3am, I would have to sneak past this body bag, which I know had my “corpse” in it, and that dead-looking version of my face. It started to really creep me out, and I was getting those “Shining” woman in the bathtub vibes… I’d be counting down to when I’d have to walk past my body. Also, it was cold out, so when the heat would pump back on, the bag would breathe a little like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Gave me the willies.
SKSM: How does it feel that all the King fans out there can’t see your movie? Do you think that will change in the future? Maybe a internet/dvd release would be possible?
Red Clark: Anybody that contacted me, I would probably send a copy free of charge. I don’t think a DVD release would ever be possible, and I wouldn’t want it. This was purely a passion project. King letting filmmakers do this sort of thing is already extraordinarily generous and awesome.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Red Clark: I’m probably the movie’s harshest critic, haha. A lot of people have told me they liked it. I haven’t had a ton of reviews, but the response was very positive at film festivals. It won some awards. To me, it’s a straight forward old fashioned monster movie. I think it turned out alright.
SKSM: Grey matter had the festival circuit in the past around the world but… where was the premiere?
Red Clark: The technical premiere was in Chicago. It also played in at a Dollar Baby festival in Argentina, in Ireland, and one of my favorite places of all…at a Drive-In. The final showing was at The Catlow Theater, a historic single-screen movie theater next to my childhood High School. I filmed a werewolf attack in the attached alleyway as a kid. I always wanted one of my movies played there, so it was a fantastic finish.
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
Red Clark: I’m a lifelong King reader. Though I read a ton of film-making books at a young age, Stephen King and Ray Bradbury were the people that got me into reading short stories and novels. I enjoy reading everything King writes because the journey and characters are always well worth the time. If I had to pick a favorite, I would have to say these had the most significant impact on me: The Long Walk, Pet Semetary, and 11/22/63. As far as movies go, I’m a big fan of Mick Garris because of what he’s accomplished King wise and what he has done for the horror community in general. Not sure I can pick a favorite King adaptation, there are just too many fun ones. A guilty pleasure of mine is Maximum Overdrive. There’s just something hilarious about seeing Stephen King get called an asshole by an ATM, and that steamroller scene with the ACDC music cue gets me every time.
SKSM: Did you have any personal contact with King during the making of the movie? Has he seen it (and if so, what did he think about it)?
Red Clark: No personal contact, and none expected, of course! I did receive a signed and dedicated book from him for the Just After Sunset book trailer, but that’s about all directly from Stephen King. I’m not sure if he’s seen my Gray Matter, but I assume not since he has a very busy life, and there are so many Dollar Babies. Already grateful he saw my book trailer and I was told got a kick out of that at least.
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick -at least- one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?
Red Clark: I’m not sure I would ever do another King story, but I can dream, right? So much of the ones I like are already adapted or are currently being made. If I could pick one thing to shoot, I would say something like The Long Walk would be a dream. Maybe a proper adaptation of The Running Man. I would love to make an episode of the Creepshow series because I think I’d kill it, but that’s a “Reach” (pun intended).
SKSM: Have you seen the episode of Creepshow TV series? if so, what do you think about it?
Red Clark: One of the artists featured in my Gray Matter did much of the wraparound comic art for the Gray Matter Creepshow TV episode. That was kind of surreal to see. I think the episode did many things better character-wise than my adaptation. I really wish they wouldn’t have used any CGI since I personally don’t believe Greg Nicoteri needs it at all (his work is so good and stands on its own), but I’m picky that way. I love practical effects so much that I even put some stop motion in mine even though I know it looks hokey…I just wanted to do some. They also made their version super fast as I understand it. I definitely got a kick out of it. Adrienne Barbeau is so cool, and I’m a huge fan so what can I even say, that alone is worth the price of admission. Ironically, I had someone impersonating her radio voice for the WZON radio announcement in my adaptation. She is an icon.
SKSM: What are you working nowadays?
Red Clark: I recently wrote and co-directed some interactive shows that aired on the front page of Twitch. I have some other feature horror projects and series I am pulling together. My dream is to do a film or series for Shudder, home of the new Creepshow series. I absolutely love what they are doing for the horror community and want to be part of it.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Red Clark: I got locked in a cave in the middle of the night with a crazy forest Ranger, it’s a long story. I swam with alligators once. My life cast used for Gray Matter (the one that was creeping me out at night) appeared as an autopsied corpse on NBC’s Chicago Med. Fun facts!
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Red Clark: Stay weird, everybody.
SKSM: Would you like to add something?
Red Clark: I would like to pull focus and thank Stephen King for being so generous to artists and complete strangers he’s helped over the years. In these dark days, it is incredible to have people in the world who stand out like a lighthouse in the storm. I would argue that even though King has entertained and scared the shit out of generations of constant-readers, he’s mainly brought more hope and love into this world. So I’d like to say thanks “Uncle Steve” from myself and all the Dollar Baby kids.