Weekend Weirdness: We Catch Up with Best Worst Movie Director Michael Stephenson. New Trailer, New Showings, New Snacks
Posted on Sunday, March 28th, 2010 by Hunter Stephenson
It’s a crazy, mixed up world and we are thankful for movies that offer proof. Slashfilm’s Weekend Weirdness examines such flicks, whether in the form of a premiere for a provocative indie, a mini review, or an interview straight outta Nilbog.
Since I last spoke with director Michael Stephenson for Slash, his documentary Best Worst Movie has continued to slime the world and gently ooze into the mainstream. Witnessing the steady expansion of buzz for the film—which sees Stephenson embrace his childhood role and cult status in the nonpareil B-movie of our generation, Troll 2, while seeking out his former cast mates—has been a lesson in DIY spirit and Drafthouse-lead modern geek networking.
The hard work of Stephenson, his wife Lindsay, and the doc’s main subject and muse, Troll 2 co-star George Hardy, paid off this month with a promising distribution deal. A new summer theatrical tour schedule has been announced, and a brand new Best Worst Movie trailer has been unveiled. Both are posted below. Weekend Weirdness decided it was a perfect, albeit busy, time to check in with Stephenson for an update. He was in the middle of pulling an all-night editing session on numerous, secret special features. Put on a goblin mask and a burlap sack. Stay away from the green icing. And read on.
Hunter Stephenson: Hey Michael. Since our last chat, Best Worst Movie picked up distribution with Area23a. Tell us about the company and what makes it a good fit for the film. What’s the release and event strategy from here on?
Michael Stephenson: I had followed the successful release strategy for Anvil! The Story of Anvil which was theatrically distributed by Richard Abramowitz and knew that I wanted to work with him. Then, last January, Richard and Kirt Eftekhar, who founded Ocule Films, announced a new specialized film distribution company called Area23a. They became my partners of choice for the theatrical release of Best Worst Movie. Area23a has an “event-style” release strategy that’s smart and fun—it fell right in line with what I had always imagined for the film. Movies are best experienced within a communal environment and I had always imagined the release of Best Worst Movie being centered both on community and celebration.
We chose to open in Austin first because there’s no better city or theater that celebrates movies like Austin and The Alamo Drafthouse. We’re releasing the film slowly while concentrating specifically on creating a celebratory, memorable experience at each theater. Beginning in May, the film will screen in a respective theater for at least a week (Ed. note: See summer dates listed below) and in every city we’re planning something special. This includes cast-member appearances and Q&As, Troll 2 themed parties, and…plenty of green food. And we’ve also created the Nilbog Brigade, which is an extensive network of friends and fans dedicated to helping us promote the movie—and the power of bologna—in each city. If any /Film readers are interested, please contact us! The only prerequisite is heart and…hospitality.
After spending so many months converting filmgoers to the greenside, is there one Troll 2 fan who stands out? And please enlighten us on the green treats you and your wife have sampled on the road…
Michael Stephenson: One fan?!? Sheesh that’s tough! How about two fans? Or, one fan and one couple?
Michael Stephenson: The first fan would be Katie Durant. She’s the cute, Canadian girl in the latest trailer that gets the green slime poured over her face. Katie was one of the first fans to contact me almost four years ago. Through MySpace, she invited me to fly to Canada to attend a private Troll 2 party and share a bunk-bed with her. One year, she even organized a competitive Troll 2 event called The Trollympic Games—a series of physical, athletic challenges that pitted one Troll 2 fan against another. Sort of goblin mano y goblin mano.
And then the fan couple that comes to mind is Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews. In September of 2006, just weeks before I filmed the first Troll 2 screening in NYC, Katie and Andrew sent me this endearing mash-up trailer they created for Troll 2. I’ll never forget the first day I watched it. I loved it so much, I insisted the Upright Citizens Brigade show it at their screening. Everybody loved it. (Ed. note: Watch it here.)
But that’s only part of Katie and Andrew’s story. It just so happened that Katie worked as a freelance director of photography, had the same type of camera as me, and lived in L.A. We are practically neighbors! It was a sign. So, Katie later joined our gang and became the principal cinematographer for the doc. I dragged her halfway across the world; we’ve slept on concrete floors and worked insanely hard together. And Andrew had a background in editing but had never edited a movie before. I didn’t care. After seeing their quick wit, I wanted them both to edit the film. We set up a little post-production office in Hollywood and practically locked ourselves in for six months. It was the best decision I made for the film.
As for green treats? That’s easy. In Seattle, at the Grand Illusion Cinema, they BBQ’d “Troll Fingers,” which were these special homemade sausages.
What do you make of the phrase “best worst movie” becoming part of the movie culture lexicon? Have there been any worthy challengers recently to the O.G. throne of Troll 2?
Michael Stephenson: We’ve already discussed The Room previously. And Birdemic?! Bah! Troll 2 is the original gangsta of the “best worst movie” gang. I can only imagine the older, wiser Claudio Fragasso—the director of Troll 2—lurking in the shadows in a well-worn wifebeater, calmly drinking a 40, as all of these young “best worst gangsters” step to the scene. Troll 2 has been jumped on, has taken its beatings and battle wounds and after 20 years still has the will to live. Claudio Fragasso is a genuine “auteur,” best or worst…there’s no denying that Troll 2‘s the real deal. Naysayers better respect! Did I mention that Claudio is from Italy and linked to the Mafia?
With so much exposure and continued word of mouth, have there been any developments on the sequel, Troll 2: Part 2? And is there any word on the rumored Troll 2 figures from Mondo Tees in Austin?
Michael Stephenson: Claudio and [producer] Rossella have now confirmed that they have finished the script for Troll 2: Part 2. Oh boyeeee. And no news on the Troll 2 toys just yet, but Mondo is always full of fun surprises. Ideally, I’d like to see Troll 2 toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals as anti-vegetarian propaganda used to persuade young meat eaters.
Would you consider having a rap group create a tribute or tie-in song for the film? If so, who?
Michael Stephenson: Word! Actually a rap song for Troll 2 was created a few years ago by Ecomog. [Ed. note: Watch it here.] And word on the street is that although Lil’ Wayne cannot sign autographs from behind bars, the rap star’s working on some new rhymes. Anybody have a contact to Lil’ Wayne? We love you Weezy. Only 198 days and counting. By the way, if any of your readers haven’t seen the Lil’ Wayne doc, The Carter, I highly recommend that.
Yeah, I’m a supporter of that film, as you know. Have you yet witnessed a burlap goblin on a skateboard?
Michael Stephenson: Never. But, you know, never say never.
For previous installments of Weekend Weirdness, here.
Summer Theatrical Opening Dates for Best Worst Movie: New York City on May 14th, Los Angeles on May 21st, Salt Lake City on May 28th, San Francisco on June 4th, Berkley on June 4th, Seattle on June 18th, Washington D.C. on July 2nd, St. Louis on July 2nd, Atlanta on July 23rd, and Minneapolis on July 23rd