It’s not often that a director gets the opportunity to work with a genre icon in their feature debut, but that’s exactly how it’s playing out for Haynze Whitmore.
An idea that developed over coffee and sleepless nights evolved into horror legend Bill Moseley starring in Ginger Knight Entertainment’s Crepitus, a story that involves a drunken mother, terrified children and a cannibalistic clown.
And if that has your attention, trust us when we tell you, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This is one clown we all may be seeing in our nightmares for a long time.
HGL had the chance to chat over the phone with Whitmore on Monday evening to discuss whether Moseley’s presence eased or enhanced the pressure of directing his first feature, and what sets Crepitus apart from the likes of Pennywise and Captain Spaulding.
Whitmore was a bundle of energy as he laughed and shared incredible stories about his baby, (not to mention his spot-on Moseley impersonation), and anyone with that amount of passion about a project is one we can all get behind. Rest assured, after reading this interview, you will want to see Crepitus.
HAYNZE WHITMORE: It’s about a clown that traps his own children in his own house and treats them as his victims. As time passes, so long as he’s eaten a kid, he’ll remain immortal. So that’s a bit of the backstory, and then it’s just the survival in this house. It’s almost seeing who’s in on it and who’s not in on it. We learn that a couple of the characters are kind of playing along. It’s a feel-good movie that Disney would probably never put out (laughs).
HGL: How did you come up with the idea for this story?
HW: Me and Eddie Renner were working on this very ambitious film entirely shot on green screen. The rooms were all going to be in CG and it was going to be very stylized, and I had a falling out with one of the actors (laughs). And it was one of those ones where it’s free so it’s just trying to get people to be in your movie, like “Hey, you wanna come over and be in my movie, again?” You can’t just switch actors in the middle of it, so we decided that it was just a bit ambitious. It was called Asylum of Secrets, and I do have the footage and it doesn’t mean one day we won’t do it, we may just redo the movie, but it was like, you know what, I’m really sick of doing these really ambitious movies (laughs). This kind of turned ambitious, anyway, but we just wanted to work within our means I guess it kind of was. Eddie actually did a rewrite on Asylum of Secrets and I said that’s awesome that we’ll be able to do that someday, but let’s focus on something that we can do for a very low budget, for under $100,000. That’s unheard of a lot of times, like a low-budget movie is like $500,000 or $1 million, so we kind of were up to the challenge that we could make this cool movie and come up with a concept so we could make this a doable movie.
This was before everyone started going clown-crazy. I knew that was a genre that people didn’t really touch up on. Every time they thought of the clown genre they thought of IT, so we wrote this in maybe the end of 2014 and then we did some finishing touches in 2015, and we’ve constantly just been working with it to make it better. We were just literally sitting in a diner drinking coffee and said “Eddie, we need to make a feature-length script. I would like a clown and an ice cream truck (laughs).” Those are the things I wanted. I want a damn ice cream truck, I want a clown and I want the damn clown to not be like the regular clown that you see with primary color-looking clowns, but more of the vintage, old circus days of the 1920s clown. So Eddie and Sarah put their little demented heads together and came up with a script (laughs). I think that same night he wrote, like, 20 pages of it and was going “What do you think of this?” And I’m like “Holy shit! This is getting crazy. Already. And we just talked about this over coffee earlier.”
Eddie stays up to the wee hours of the night with ideas, I don’t think he can sleep when he’s onto something like that, it curses him almost. It’s a good thing, it’s a great thing but at the same time, when you haven’t had sleep like in a week and you start going loony (laughs), I almost have to wonder if some of the parts in the script if it was when he was starting to go loony (laughs). Hey, whatever, it works (laughs). So that’s how it all started. It was a fun time. The early days.
HGL: You talked about coming up with the ideas and script for a feature length picture with a very limited budget, but what goes through your mind when you look up and Bill Moseley’s attached to it?
HW: What happened with the whole Bill Moseley thing was very interesting. Eddie’s never done anything with film, aside from Asylum of Secrets it’s been re-writing a script. What happened with Bill Moseley, I said “We’ve got to have someone that plays this clown, we’ve got to get someone with a little name,” but we didn’t think it was going to go this big. Are you familiar with Mike Hard from the God Bullies? It’s a band in Detroit the area. He’s got kind of an underground following and we were going to originally have him as the clown because he would have done a good job, too. You know how it is when you start talking about projects, you start dreaming, “Oh man, can you imagine Bill Moseley playing the clown in this?” I think I’d just watched the The Devil’s Rejects where’s he’s freaking out on the guy, “I am the devil and I am here to do the devil’s work.” That guy would just be the most demented clown I can ever imagine. I have experience and worked with some other people in the past, especially in the horror genre and our producer Lance Paul had just worked with Bill on Dark Roads 79 that he was co-producing, and they had him on set for a day.
We probably can’t afford Bill Moseley for the three days that we had him for, so I was thinking, “Oh God we’ll have to get all his stuff in in a day,” with our budget we’re thinking, “Oh God we can’t afford that stuff.” What’s funny is that I went to Motor City Nightmares down in Novi, Michigan and Bill was there. We’d been in contact with his agent a little bit and I just happened to run it by him that “We sent your agent a script to see what you’d like to do,” I think it was in 2015 that we did that. We just said “Hey, maybe you could play the clown or something in it,” and of course he’s sitting right next to Sid Haig and was like, “Well, I can take some pointers from Sid Haig, who’s right next to me here.” Just funny stuff, joking around. There’s this other character Jed in the script of Crepitus and we kind of wrote that, maybe for Bill, not as a clown but something we can afford. Maybe he cameos in it as this cop or whatever else, and we’re thinking just having Bill Moseley in the movie would be just amazing. His agent comes back (chuckles) and says, “Actually, Bill wants to play Crepitus. (laughs). He read the script and loved it and he wants to play Crepitus,” and I’m thinking, “Can you imagine?” This is my first feature, I’ve done shorts, but having your main character Bill Moseley is a nice little kick in the butt (laughs). That doesn’t happen to everybody.
So I’m thinking, “Holy shit, he wants to play this,” but how are we going to afford him? (laughs.) We negotiated some stuff and we got it in our budget to get him and we had him here for three days and got all our stuff in there and worked and worked on it. That’s how it went with Bill Moseley. It started out almost dreaming of having him in it in general, and then it just grew, started snowballing into something bigger. Then we ended up getting Eve Mauro, she plays the crazy mother, and that’s the great thing about the movie is you don’t know who’s crazier, the mother or the clown. It’s just a madhouse, and Eve Mauro, she’s been in Dexter and I’m like, “Holy shit.” Working with this girl and Bill, it just snowballed into something better in that realm, so it worked out nice and I was pretty pumped about that (laughs). So you can imagine, the first day on set with Eve and Bill there, I’m like “Oh, man,” you want to talk about butterflies in my stomach. I never thought I’d be directing Choptop (laughs).
HGL: When you got word that Moseley wanted to play Crepitus, was that a phone call and you had to maintain professionalism or was it an email and you had that “Holy shit” moment?
HW: It was a CC’d email and it said “We’re all set, Bill’s going to be in it,” and we’re like “Holy shit.” Then I, of course, call Eddie and I’m like, “Dude, Bill fuckin’ Moseley. Come on! We got him in this movie! (laughs) Now we can make the movie really crazy (laughs). People will take us seriously! (laughs).”
HGL: Crepitus is your first feature, so with Moseley, the man who played Choptop and Otis Driftwood on board, did you feel more pressure or less pressure at the knowledge that a horror icon would fulfill the lead role?
HW: I think it would go either way. It’s pretty funny, when I dropped Bill off at the airport (laughs), and it’s Eve, too, so here I am driving them to the airport in Traverse City and I was like “Alright, it’s gonna be sweet. Blah, blah, blah,” talking about the film a little bit. Bill’s kind of an historian so he likes landmarks and it’s kind of cool, but it’s funny, he goes “Well, make us proud (laughs).” Pressure’s on. Don’t make a pile of shit (laughs). Because I’m editing the film, too so I’m going through the footage and I’m looking at this one angle and it’s just the perfectionist in me is tearing it apart, but it’s fine, I looked at the footage again after a month and it’s fine. Yeah, it’s pressure, especially being my company’s first feature, personally my first feature and the pressure’s on. That’s kind of the first impression, and then when you have Bill in it, it’s even that much more because you almost think that Bill will just save the movie no matter what, but people are going to say “I watched it because of Bill Moseley but the movie was complete shit.” I don’t want that (laughs). I would say that the pressure is probably more that he is on it.
HGL: We know the names, Pennywise and Captain Spaulding, but you no doubt want to take Crepitus in an entirely different direction and make it a unique character. How makes Crepitus different from those other infamous clowns?
HW: What sets him apart the most is the fact that he pretty much talks in riddles, and a big one is that the kind of clown he is. For example, have you seen any of the Halloween costumes from back in the 1930s?
HGL: Oh yeah, they’re creepy.
HW: They’re creepy as all hell. The thing about it is, when you talk about Crepitus, he has more of a mystery like the Jaws affect. It’s not knowing, it’s toying with people’s minds. He’s more of a mystery in how he is portrayed and how he moves. He snaps, crackles and pops when he moves, so if you’re talking about physical attributes, when he moves his crepitus, his bones are popping and brittle and snapping every time he moves. So you can almost hear him coming with his little jingle bell and kind of creeping up on you, so that’s more of the creep factor in that sense. But people will send me pictures of these clowns going “Oh, hey Whitmore. Check it out, here’s a clown. Does that scare you?” I’m like “Shit (laughs), you’ve got to be kidding me!” It’s one of those like clowns from outer space things, and that’s not scary. No, I’m talking creepy, I’m talking like an old mime from 1924. Something that’s vintage, ancient, like The Strangers, that’s kind of creepy because of what they’re wearing. That’s how I see something that has been a curse for years and has developed into this complete nightmare that’s been happening for years, but Crepitus doesn’t turn into a spider at the end (laughs).
HGL: Something that, on sight, is unsettling.
HW: It’s unsettling. Crepitus is a character that makes you want to feel uncomfortable. When you’re watching it, what makes him stick out of everything is his presence, the way he is as a clown. He’s got, basically, a disease; he’s not human, he wishes he could be at some point, but it took a turn for the worse and now he’s been cursed even just to continue to exist. He has to keep eating his offspring every 10 years (laughs), so in the preview (Crepitus) goes “One that I’ll eat and the other I’ll fuck,” so that’s incest, as well. There’ll be two children and it’s this constant generational, incest cannibalism going on (laughs). There’s nothing that’s very nice about Crepitus. He doesn’t even pretend to be a good clown, if you get him, you get him. There’s no trickery with Crepitus (laughs). Now Jed, on the other hand, does trickery, he’s the one who lures in children into the ice cream truck for some meals (laughs). I mean, an immortal beast has to eat, and his delicacy is little children’s fingers (laughs).
HGL: Speaking of Captain Spaulding, did Moseley joke at all about competing with Sid Haig for clown supremacy?
HW: Oh yeah, we talked about it. We talked about it a little bit, I mean I would have liked to have had more time with Bill but in the future I’ll definitely get Bill in more stuff. I really liked working with Bill, he’s very creative. We talked about Sid a little bit, I’d joke around with him like “You did your homework, right? You talked to Sid?” He’d go “Oh yeah. Oh yeah.” It was kind of funny and interesting, before Bill came here from L.A., he was having lunch with Rob Zombie, and I had told Bill I wanted him to shave for the role because I didn’t want a scruffy clown, that would have been a little too much like Captain Spaulding and just wanted to keep it unique in that sense. So he goes to one of those barber shops or those grooming shops that I guess you don’t see too much of anymore to get one of those single-razor shaves, and I guess Rob Zombie’s like “Can I just hang out with you? (laughs)” He goes to the damn shop and Rob’s just sitting there and they’re bullshitting about whatever and I just thought that was kind of funny (laughs). I have no idea what Bill even said to him on Crepitus, but I know Rob knows about it. That’s another thing, too, I’ve got to bring out the scare factor and we will, I’m not worried.
HGL: When a project has a genre star attached to it, particularly one with the experience and resume of Moseley, that can tend to overshadow the rest of the cast. Tell us a bit about the other players – Lance Paul, Caitlin Williams, Eve Mauro and Chalet Lizette Brannan – some of whom are also making their feature debut.
HW: There’s a lovely girl, right from my hometown of Cheboygan, Michigan named Caitlin Williams and she plays Eli in the film. She’s done a lot of stage stuff but she hasn’t done anything in the movies. Well, I was pleasantly surprised when we started working with her. Can you imagine coming from a small town and always dreamed about becoming an actor and then all of a sudden you get stuck in this scene with Bill Moseley? (laughs.) And she wasn’t really into the horror genre so much, but now that we’re friends I got her into Twin Peaks and all that shit (laughs). She’s obsessed with that show.
HGL: Everyone’s obsessed with that show.
HW: Yeah, a lot of times I’ll end up having my actors look at some really bizarre and inventive acting, I’ll say check out some stuff from Twin Peaks. Some of it seems overacting but not really, it’s just the style of it. Caitlin Williams, for sure, I’ll think she’ll go pretty far, just a young 18-year old being on this film and I think that’s just going to open up other doors for her because she’s pretty prominent in the role.
Then we have Chalet Brannan, and she plays the character Sam in it, and she was in Cyborg X, quite a few films, some stuff on Lifetime I believe.
The thing about Bill, I don’t think Bill’s really going to be taking that much thunder from people just the way the story’s set up. I wanted to have it to where you see Bill, but I don’t want it to where you see him so much that the gag is, I’m thinking the Jaws affect (laughs). He’ll be pretty prominent in there, but we also have Lance Paul, my producer who’s been in a few films, he’s an actor as well, and he plays Jed. And, of course, Eve Mauro and she’s fantastic. Loved to work with her and can’t wait to work with her again once we finish up filming this and it should be out in October, Crepitus. You can never tell nowadays (laughs).
HGL: What’s it like filming a feature in Cheboygan, a town with less than 5,000 people? It’s more or less your backyard, but what were the benefits and challenges filming in such a small community?
HW: There are challenges. We chose Cheboygan just for the fact that it’s a community that’s very supportive in what we’re doing. Michigan hasn’t been, with the economy, the greatest around these parts, but that was another thing, you have all these other towns around like Traverse City that are actually blooming as a town. So one of the decisions that kind of made it was the fact that Eddie’s from here, I’m from here and my producer was like “Hey, why don’t we just shoot in your hometown? You know enough people to where we can find some locations and get what we need.” Granted, there’s not a lot of rental houses around here so we had to go viral lenses, so it’s not that bad and we make due with what we have. We still bring in some ProGear and stuff like that, we’re shooting at nearly 5K so it’s looking good. And we are shooting some of it in Super 8 film, as well.
HGL: You had to split shoots for this picture, so when will you wrap filming on Crepitus?
HW: About spring. We plan on wrapping up May 2 and we’re going to start shooting again April 18 because of everyone’s schedule. We were going to try to shoot it maybe later to allow us a little more time, but with scheduling conflicts we had to bring it in sooner, which I’m okay with because I really am excited to wrap this up and get some good content for people.
HW: It may be something to where it might be more the beginning of October that we’re going to release it as opposed to, do you know when the new IT is supposed to come out?
HGL: September 8.
HW: That would be great (laughs). September (laughs). The thing about it is, when we release it we’re going to be having premieres of it, and we do have options for distribution, we’ve had some distributors actually come up to us and wanted to get some of the rights to put it wherever. But we look at it this way, we’re not even finished with the movie yet, so we’re probably going to shop it, we’re going to have it at film festivals for a bit and if people want to see it we’ll let people know what film festivals we’re at and all that jazz and everyone can go see it and who knows? I’m not really too worried about it. It would be great if it did even a limited theatrical release, that’d be sweet. But I tell you, ya know, I’m excited that it’d just be on video (laughs). “You can rent it at the video store?! Yeah!” Do they even have video stores anymore? I think they do somewhere. “Can you get it at Blockbuster? Yeah! (laughs)”
HGL: We know about Bill Moseley and we’ve seen the teaser trailer, so seal the deal, give us that one tantalizing nugget that will leave readers itching to see Crepitus.
HW: There’s a scene that’s improv, which makes it even cooler yet, and I’m going to fit it in, because it has to be in there (laughs). (Moseley) had this little, old clown doll that I think one of my friends had brought that used to be his grandma’s or something back in the day. So it’s this little clown doll and I didn’t really know how we were going to shoot the scene, but my cinematographer had some pretty good ideas, so we had Bill literally creep up at the edge of this girl’s bed. Crepitus just creeps up and all you can see is the clown and he’s like “Ohhh, my name is Clowny,” and stuff like that, but he’ll creep up and I think one of the lines that he says was like (doing a Moseley impression) “His name is Clowny and he’d like a brownie but he’ll settle for one of your knees (laughs).” And I’m just like, “Oh, man. That’s just brilliant. That wasn’t even written in the script. (laughs) So I have to give that to Bill, actually.” But he keeps on going and it’s pretty fucking creepy, so that’s definitely a nugget that may or may not be in the new preview, I don’t know yet, but it could be. But the big nugget would be what he says during that part because we were all pissing our pants when he did it (laughs). I literally yelled at one of the PAs, “I need a new, fresh pair of pants! (laughs)”