Cut from a different cloth: an interview with the invincible Jason Trost
If you watch enough films you get yourself, and your expectations, into a rut. You lock yourself into certain conventions. You develop ideas about what a film can and can’t do; what it should and shouldn’t be. For example: In a slasher movie the villain always needs to wear a mask. In a monster movie we shouldn’t see the creature too much. If it’s a buddy cop movie, by jingo they need to be an odd couple who learn to love each other.
Then, once every few years, a film comes along and turns ‘conventional logic’ on its head and proves that the cinema has no real rules or conventions and it’s in fact a magical place where anything can happen.
Superheroes Must Die is one of those films. It’s a low budget superhero film that doesn’t play by the rules of its big budget counterparts. Monster Pictures own resident beardmeister, Ben Hellwig talks to Jason Trost, star and director of Superheroes Must Die, about the making of his film.
Were you a big comic book fan as a kid? Who were your favourite superheroes?
I was a huge fan of comics and cartoons when I was a kid. Batman and X-men were definitely my favourite growing up. The cartoons they had in the early 90s are what got me into superheroes for sure.
What was the inspiration behind All Superheroes Must Die? How did the project come about?
I always loved “day in the life” movies where you’re just launched into someone’s world for a day like Die Hard and The Warriors. There’s not a lot of set up or a boring hour long origin story we’ve seen a million times. I remembered thinking, “Why isn’t there a superhero movie like that?” That and my general complaint about most superhero movies, “Why are they rarely in their superhero costumes when it’s a superhero movie?” So when Lucas came to me and said we had twenty grand to make a movie and three months to make it we just tossed those ideas in the blender and elaborated.
In the opening minutes of the film we discover that Charge, Cutthroat, Shadow and The Wall have lost their powers due to Rickshaw’s machinations; Can you describe the main characters in the film and tell us a bit more about their special abilities?
Charge is the Batman of the group. He’s your basic well-rounded super detective. His drive and determination plagues his entire life, which makes it hard for him to maintain social relationships. Cutthroat is Charge’s ex-sidekick. He’s hot headed but effective. His power was superhuman speed. Shadow was a confused girl that still wasn’t quite an adult yet when she got powers and is still struggling to grow up an except adult reality. Her super power was invisibility. The Wall is from Eastern Europe and was a foreign exchange student when he got his powers, superhuman strength and invulnerability He already felt like a stranger in a strange land so the powers just made him even more of an introvert.
There’s a lot of tension between the heroes when we first meet them but only a bit of backstory told through flashbacks. Was there a plan to delve into their past more?
I never really planned to delve into their back stories much. I made them simple stereotypes so everyone could understand them basically from the get go. We’ve seen hundreds of superhero movies now. You know the deal already. Let’s just get into the story and figure out who everyone is through their actions. That’s always more interesting to me. I didn’t want flashbacks originally, but we had to have them because of runtime issues.
What was it like working James Remar. What qualities did he bring the role of Rickshaw that impressed you?
It was awesome working with James. I’ve known him since I was ten playing Tetris with him on the set of Mortal Kombat Annihilation, so it was just another day where I got to hang with my good friend. James brings everything to set, so much excitement and energy at all times, he’s more experienced than everyone on set and generally has the best ideas. I find sometimes with people like that you just shut up and listen and take the credit later. And contrary to popular belief, he was not where our budget went. He came up as a favour for an afternoon and we all had a blast.
One of the most entertaining characters in the film is Manpower, portrayed by Sean Whalen. Was there ever any iteration of the script in which he had a bigger part?
He was always a small part in the script although originally he lit shopping carts on fire and threw them at the heroes. There was also a pretty elaborate fight scene that had to be cut due to budget constraints with him, Cutthroat and I. I was sad it had to be cut, but we didn’t have the time. But Manpower just may be making an appearance in the All Superheroes Must Die comic series I’m writing right now.
You’ve come up with some ingenious ways of making a superhero movie on a tight budget; can you talk us through some of the challenges you had to overcome to make such a big film with limited resources?
Every day was a challenge. The movie was a challenge before we even shot it. We had a month of pre-production and that included writing the script. If we didn’t make the movie when we did we’d have to wait a year which none of us wanted to do.
We had a month of pre-production and that included writing the script. Lucas had a hard out and if we didn’t make the movie when we did we’d have to wait a year which none of us wanted to do. We had to rip pages of the script out every day because of our lack of time and money. We also shot in the summer, which means we could only shoot about 9-10 hours a day due to the short nights, which turned our 15 day shoot into a 10 day shoot if you do the math. It was rough but we always just had to make sure we could shoot something that would cut. That was always the rule; condense the scene down as much as possible so it would make sense.
We filmed all over my parent’s ranch, building different sets out of garbage. We had a couple locations but those were hard because we’d only have a couple hours to shoot multiple page scenes before we were kicked out. Our costumes were modified wet suits, so wearing those in the summer led to losing a lot of water weight and consciousness. My sister, who did the costumes, basically got a bag put on her head and thrown in a van to be a contestant on Project Runway right before the shoot. So when the costumes broke on set, Lucas and I would have to sew them with my step mom.
I mean, I could go on forever. Nothing in this movie was easy but I’m very proud that it’s at least watchable in the end. If we do another one, we’re definitely getting more time and money. There’s a reason no one makes superhero movies for 20 grand.
What difficulties did you face by directing and starring in the film?
Honestly, I think it’s what made the movie doable. If I had to deal with directing a lead actor as well as being the production designer, costumer, prop master, craft service guy, editor, assistant camera, grip etc… I probably would have lost it. Ha. It made everything easy because being the writer and director; I always knew what I had to do and where my character had to be. Basically it was just one less person to worry about dressing.
Are there any plans for an All Superheroes Must Die sequel? Or prequel?
There are definitely plans for a sequel and perhaps even a trilogy if part 2 does well enough. I have the script for 2 ready to go and the first act of 3 written. I’m writing a comic for Action Lab Comics that will basically set up part 2 and 3 as well as give the origin story of the heroes. I doubt I’d ever make a prequel. They never really work for me because you always know how they’re going to end, thus killing any tension. But I think people will be “super” happy with part 2. In a weird way, it is kind of an origin story, but takes place after 1. Or maybe they’ll hate it. You never know with all the keyboard cowboys out there on the Internet. You just got to make something you like and see what happens.