Renegade Interview: Justin Timpane, Ninjas vs. Monsters

Ninjas vs. Monsters
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Indie filmmaker Justin Timpane concludes his popular ‘Ninjas vs’ trilogy with the fun fight-flick Ninjas vs. Monsters, out in the UK at the end of January and the US in February.

Who was your favorite movie monster growing up?

Oh without a doubt Freddy Kreugar. I loves the supernatural element to those films, and that the victims were often smart, nerdy kids like me, who could use their smarts to outwit Freddy. I try to bring some of that to NINJAS. That being said, Freddy was as much a super-villain as a Monster and there was something about that that I really connected with. Of course in my later life, Buffy had a huge influence on me personally and creatively, so I see horror through those lenses.

Do you have a fave in the film? Who are you especially happy with?

Now you know I can’t answer that!! Could you imagine my inbox the next day?? Truly, it’s hard to compare, because so many people had diverse roles, be it choreography, effects, acting, what have you. What makes me happy is the team. People really came together to make something we could all be proud of. (I know it sounds like a BS pat answer, but it’s really true!)

How did the idea to include ‘monsters’ in this installment come to be?

We had a bunch of ideas, but I really liked the idea that behind the scenes were the monsters our parents and grandparents grew up fearing were the ones responsible for Zombies and Vampires, and that they would be hacked off at how their legacy of fear was being treated. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Frankenstein pop out huge blades and shoot lightning against a Ninja. (Spoiler alert: If you’re like me and want to say “Frankenstein was the doctor”, we deal very explicitly with that in the flick).

Has the film screened publicly yet? How was the reaction?

We had a premiere at the AFI theatre just outside Washington DC and sold out their biggest screen. Standing ovation, cheering, it was awesome. We have had a couple of smaller convention screenings (we had a huge turnout at AWESOME-CON in DC) and its always partly fans and partly newcomers. I love hearing new reactions which are usually “I wasn’t expecting that much, but I really kind of dug it!”, which sometimes means re-watchings, and I think that is where the film really shines.

How many Ninjas were harmed during the making of the movie?

All of them. We had a terrible smack in the head, turned ankles, falls, exhaustion, you name it. Our folks and the stunt teams (under the leadership of Daniel Mascarello and PJ Megaw) took quite a few for the team… and I like to think it shows.

Has the independent filmmaking world changed much in the past few years?

Well I think that there was this crop of visionaries in the 90s. One of the folks I kind of looked up to from afar back then is now a friend and partner on this film. Eduardo Sanchez (“The Blair Witch Project”) knows these waters well, and he, along with the Frederick Film Office in MD, have been really friendly to local indies, which is why we have such a boom of quality flicks out here. I think that “indie cinema” in the mainstream has really just become artsy “Hollywood” cinema, in that there are stars, budgets, and names behind the scenes. Sundance and Slamdance are now often populated with familiar faces, so it’s harder to get recognized. I don’t fault them for that, but it seems to be the reality. And, with that changing trend, an indie film has more of a chance of getting lost than it did a few years back. That being said, the tools for making your film have never been better, cheaper, or more user friendly. So if what is important to you is making a movie, and if you have a good team, you can do it. It can be a double edged sword, but I appreciate how lucky I am to be working in a time when you can make a film on a low budget and have it turn out a lot like what you pictured in your head.

Has having these new streaming sites and VOD services been a blessing for indie filmmakers?

I think so. I still love DVD. Our DVD has like 6 hours of extras if you count the commentaries, and I still love getting into the world of a movie for a day. But I consume a lot of VOD, and I think that services like iTunes and Amazon and even cable providers have become more friendly to micro-budget cinema in recent years. PLUS, I know some folks who have made a splash on YouTube and Vimeo with films that didn’t get distribution, and then parlayed that into huge later DVD releases. The barrier to entry for making a video available to the world is zero. Its now just about bringing the world to your video.

How important is the Internet as a marketing tool for indie films?

Crucial. We have a Facebook and a twitter feed and a YouTube channel and a website, and we interface with podcasts and indie e-magazines and blogs, because we can speak directly to folks who are most likely to like this flick (if you’re reading this, you’re one of them.. pop over to ninjasvs.com and give it a try! *grin*) . We have a podcast network of our own, and now, in a true case of the snake eating its tail, our foulmouthed Star Trek podcast TREKOFF is the basis for our next film (check out trekoffmovie.com). We  now can interface directly with fans and make them part of the family.

As indie filmmakers, we count on folks like your readers to say “Ninjas fighting Classic Monsters? I’d give that a shot…” We have done our very best to give a lot of bang for your couple bucks, its as much a superhero movie as it is a horror or martial arts flick, we’ve always wanted to be Clerks meets Evil Dead, and if that is appealing to you as much as it is to me, I think you’ll really dig the flick. You can check us out on iTunes, XBOX, Playstation, Comcast and a ton of VOD outlets, as well as on DVD from Ninjasvs.com on Feb 3. (In the UK, find us on Jan 26 on Amazon or VOD). Thanks so so much for reading this! Now go get the flick! :)

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About the Author

Shawn S. Lealos
Shawn is a film critic with over 25 years of experience in print and online media. He is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and loves everything from critically acclaimed movies to B-level action flicks.
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