Fright EXCLUSIVE Interview with APPLECART/INVALID Director Dustin Wayde Mills!!

millsDustin Wayde Mills simply will not stop. The filmmaker/puppet maker/etc continuously works with such fervor, that it’s hard NOT to be inspired by such a strong work ethic. This year alone, Mills has made and released multiple films, from the experimental (and brilliantly courageous) APPLECART (review) to the in your face giallo-like tone of INVALID (which is also great), Dustin does what many cannot: he gets things done.

As not only a horror journalist, but a genuine fan of the films that Mills makes, I thought I’d give him a call and touch base with him. Read on!

I thought it would cool to, other than a regular review, ask you questions about some of your films because I think they’re unique and a lot different from what genre fans are getting today. I’m a really big fan of the stuff you do, so I thought a good conversation would be a better way to go.

Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate that.

I love how you’re continually working. A lot of filmmakers will make a movie and then a couple years later or a few years later…you know, Tarantino makes a movie and then you wait, I don’t know, half a decade for another one…but it seems like you’re always working on film after film. What sparked that non-stop work ethic in you?

Part of it is that I’m sort of like that with everything. I’m sort of obsessive that way. The practical answer is that this is my job. I don’t have a day job; all I do is make and self-distribute these movies. So if I don’t work, I can’t pay the rent. It makes sense for me to have something in the works all the time and be planning how I’m going to release it and all that stuff, because if I don’t I kind of get myself in trouble.

That’s another thing that’s very unique about your work. In the landscape of the last few years, a lot of the different ways that films are applecartmarketed and sold have all changed. With VOD and even self-distributing like you said, it’s kind of cool to have the artist and the person watching their film to have no barrier. They’re buying it straight from you. What are your thoughts on how that’s a possibility these days?

I think it’s ultimately a good thing but it’s also kind of a double-edged sword. I do have a few movies out through distributors and what not. Those tend to be seen a little more and they make it on to bigger VOD platforms. The trade off is, if I’m being honest, I see virtually no money from movies that I distribute through a third party. So it’s cool to me that I produce the DVDs and Blu-rays in-house — you know, I literally print the labels, print the logos on the disc, everything in-house — and then sell through my site and sell through VOD. So it’s cool to have the satisfaction of, you know, I release the movie, I send an email out to my mailing list, I promote it on Facebook, I get a trailer up and then I watch the orders roll in in real time. I’m getting the money so I can pay bills and make the next movie, you know, literally in real time, which is cool.

And being that connected to the fans is neat most of the time. You know, depending on who it is…I’ve learned to be a little more discerning on who I engage with socially, because not everyone is, you know…sane, I guess? So I’ve been a little more discerning about who I keep in contact with and who can get a hold of me directly and stuff like that. That’s just something I’ve learned over the past five years is a smart move to do.

I love how a lot of your work is very divisive, but in a good way. It’s not for everybody, but it’s definitely for people who are into, not transgressive cinema, per se, but more of the in your face stuff. Is that inspired by the films you grew up loving? I’m curious why you make the films you make. There’s no barrier or set of rules, in my opinion, and I think that’s the greatest kind of movie, when an artist is able to do whatever the hell they want with a movie.

Honestly…and it’s weird, I just had this conversation with somebody, because I think I aggravated someone. They were trying to get me to watch this really, really extreme film and I was honest with them. I was like, “I don’t watch that kind of stuff  often,” because I don’t. There are very, very few what would consider “extreme” films that I have seen and appreciated. With my stuff, I’m not really trying to mimic anything, though I am inspired by a couple of guys like Eric Stanze, who you’re probably familiar with. He’s a big inspiration to me. He’s one of the O.G. micro budget, shot on video guys from that era in the late ‘90s/early 2000s. He never had any boundaries. With his stuff, it never felt like he was trying to be shocking. It just felt like he was being honest. So I guess with my stuff I’m just trying to be honest about the story I’m telling. And as someone who doesn’t have a “tastemaker” between me and my audience — there’s no studio, there’s no censor — it feels like I should be exercising my right to do whatever the hell I want, you know, for better or worse. It doesn’t always work, but I like having the freedom to go where I want to go and show what I want to show.

I’m really curious about the inspiration or the idea behind making Apple Cart. That was a film that I really genuinely loved. It felt so unique and different, the kind of silent film approach to it, a lot of it had to do with the actors’ performances and the music. What inspired you to do that film?

I have to try and remember. A couple years ago I did a short for an anthology film that Troma actually put out called Theater of the Deranged II. On that collection is sort of the first-ever Apple Cart short. And I don’t remember where it came from. I think I just wanted to capture  a sort of a weird vibe and talk about topics that I think are kind of real and uncomfortable through a lens that wasn’t entirely realistic, you know? Make it a little more dreamlike. It’s hard to describe. Ultimately that’s what it is. I personally have a deep fear of people who appear normal. People who don’t seem to have family problems or seem happy all the time make me feel really uncomfortable because I have a hard time believing that anyone really has that life. It instantly makes me think they’re hiding something. Apple Cart was born from that. I guess the face masks was create kind of a blank slate, you know, it-could-be-anyone kind of thing, if I want to get real pretentious about it. The audience is kind of its own character in Apple Cart because it has the laugh track and the applause and everything, and the audience is sort of my personal dig at people who have no appreciation for how terrible that stuff actually is — people who make light of tragedy, I guess, is who that audience is. People who, because of that separation between the screen and them or the newspaper and them, feel safe to make those comments or to laugh at something horrible. So it was born from that: my fear of normal people and my hatred for people who laugh at tragedy — or who have no appreciation for tragedy, I guess is maybe a better way of saying it.

I can understand that. It weirds me out, too. I have three kids and it can definitely be hell sometimes, so when I see people who look like invalidHomer Simpson’s neighbor, it kind of spooks me out. Life can’t be THAT great. So, now to your most recent film, INVALID. What can you tell people who maybe haven’t seen it yet about the inspiration behind that film?

It’s actually a similar thing to Apple Cart because another theme in Apple Cart is how if you bury something, if you’re not honest to yourself about something I think that it can fester and turn into something really bad. If you don’t seek help for something like that it can turn into something horrible, and that’s what Invalid is sort of about. It’s sort of viewed through the lens of old Italian movies, but like the ‘60s era Italian movies and the ‘70s and even some Hitchcock and De Palma thrown in there. A lot of those Italian movies were aping De Palma and Hitchcock, so it’s sort of a weird incestuous mirror kind of thing. So that was my inspiration. It’s really a simple story, but I think it’s told through an interesting lens. What I set out to make when I made it was a slasher movie. And because I don’t particularly like slashers all that much, I thought it’d be interesting to try to make a straight slasher. Of course I didn’t. It ended up being Invalid. That was me attempting to make a slasher movie and getting caught up in my story and my visuals and totally losing sight of it being a slasher movie. But I think what it turned into is kind of cool and unique and I’m really proud of it. I’m really, really proud of my actors. The performances they turned in are pretty astounding. I don’t know that you see performances that deep in movies with budgets as low as ours, so I’m really proud and thankful to them. I personally think it’s my best movie. It’s the one I’ve probably watched the most of anything I’ve made. Every once in a  while I put it in and watch it, which is a weird occurrence for me, because usually when I’m done with something I don’t really watch it again. But that one I enjoy sitting down and watching.

Yeah, the performances are great. That kind of leads to my next question: In your films, you tend to work with actors more than once. Is it because they’re very reliable or have you just found a group of people that you trust so much to help put your vision on the screen?

It’s a couple of things. For one, when you’re making movies at this level, but probably at any level, it’s really, really difficult to find people who are reliable and who will do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it. So if I find this people, I tend to latch on them. I want to keep working with them. The other thing too is pretty much everyone who’s in my movies are my friends. We have backyard barbecues together and talk about other stuff than movies. We chat and make stupid jokes with each other and stuff like that. So a lot of times making a movie is just an excuse to get all my friends in my house so that we can hang out, and then hopefully a movie happens while that’s going on. I think there’s a level of trust there, and I work so quickly that it helps to have people who know how to work with me. We’ve developed a shorthand and can move really, really quick. I know how to ask them for what I need and they know how to ask me for what they need and that’s really helpful. Once I’ve worked with someone two or three times, they basically speak “Dustin,” at least close to fluently, and we can kind of zip around and get things done.

It’s always weird to ask filmmakers what they’re working on next because most of the time, they don’t want to talk about it, or CAN’T talk about it. BUT…Are you working pretty consistently on your next couple projects right now?

Her Name Was Torment II took longer than we thought it was going to take, but it’s really, really close to completion. We’ll be getting out to the Indiegogo supporters really, really soon and, following that, the preorders from the site will go out and then it’ll be up on Vimeo and Amazon and TLA and all those places. So we’ve got Her Name Was Torment II coming and we’ve shot probably fifty percent of Her Name Was Torment III. We’re on hiatus right now and we’ll be picking that up really soon. Neon Doom, which is a really, really big project that’s kind of a family-friendly sci-fi horror adventure type thing that’s very influence by video games and straight to video movies from the early ‘90s. Remind me and I’ll send you a clip from it. There’s a fight scene I have that’s basically completed that tells you the entire identity of the movie. So we got Neon Doom…I’m making an anthology movie with Brandon Salkil and Dave Parker (not the HILLS RUN RED director) to be released next Halloween that’s a family friendly Halloween anthology movie. And then I have a really, really big project coming up soon that I can’t talk about, but I think anyone who’s been following my career is going to be really, really excited because it’s something that they’ve wanted for a long time and they’re finally going to get it. I expect some of my super fans will lose their minds, so I’m excited to get to a point where I can tell people about it.

Awesome, dude. Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. As far as the actual sites where people can get your stuff, what are some of those?

No, thank you for interviewing me. It makes me feel like I’m important. I appreciate it. If you search my name on Amazon you’ll find tons of stuff. Same thing on Vimeo. I don’t know the address off the top of my head through Vimeo, but you can get all my self-distributed titles available on VOD. And then is where they can get physical copies of all the stuff and Blu-rays and stuff like that.

One Response to “Fright EXCLUSIVE Interview with APPLECART/INVALID Director Dustin Wayde Mills!!”
  1. Nahuel Benvenuto says:

    do you have a link to download/watch Applecart please?

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