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Interview by Nic Brown


Filmmaker Jon Keeyes

I was fortunate enough to catch up with filmmaker Jon Keeyes shortly after he was part of the Texas Filmmaker's Panel at the Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas. Jon is an accomplished writer and director with a number of films to his credit including: American Nightmare, Suburban Nightmare, Hallows End, Mad Bad, Living & Dying starring Michael Madsen and Edward Furlong, and Fall Down Dead starring Udo Kier, Dominique Swain and David Carradine


Jon, you’re a writer, producer, director; in fact you seem to have done just about everything in filmmaking. What is some of your most recent work?

Well we’ve actually just gotten done with two projects most recently. We’ve done “Living and Dying”…, kind of my step away from horror films. It’s a crime thriller with Michael Madsen and Arnold Vosloo, and that one we actually wrapped up just about two years ago and HBO films is releasing it this December. So that’s got us kind of excited.

Then I was able to step back into horror with “Fall Down Dead” which we shot in North Carolina with Udo Kier, David Carradine, and Dominique Swain and that’s going to be coming out around December or maybe January.

Jon, are both of those going to be theatrical releases or direct to DVD?

We’re still trying to get the theatrical release set up. We’ve actually got contracts with the company and we’re just waiting to see if the signatures happen, but both of them are supposed to have limited theatrical release. HBO Films will actually be releasing it (“Living and Dying”) on DVD and “Fall Down Dead” as long as we get the limited theatrical release, that will decide when the DVD comes out, but we have the DVD for that pretty much set up also.

Well that’s great! So let me ask you a bit about “Fall Down Dead”. It sounds like you worked with a lot of famous people from the horror business on that including Udo Kier, David Carradine as well as Dominique Swain. How was it to work with them?

It was awesome; it was a whole lot of fun. Udo, funny enough, is mentioned in my very first film “American

Jon Keeyes and Udo Kier on the set of "Fall Down Dead"

Nightmare.” There’s a group of friends playing a movie game and there’s a line in it where one of the kids say “To know life you must first fuck death in the gall bladder” which is of course the Udo Kier line from “Andy Warhol's Frankenstein”. I’ve always been a huge fan of Udo. As Vincent Price was to Tim Burton, Udo was a bit to me. So years later when we were setting up “Fall Down Dead” and I had the opportunity to cast it, I brought up Udo and the producers went with it!

[The cast] were just so much fun to work with and Udo has become one of my best friends, he’s just amazing and we talk on the phone all the time. Udo was actually shooting the trailer for “Grind House” because Rob Zombie did one of the trailers and I get this phone call one day. I’m sitting there working and I get this phone call and it’s Udo and he goes (in a very good impersonation of Udo Kier’s voice) “Hello Jon, this is Udo and I’m here with Rob Zombie, here say hello!” and he passes over the phone and Rob Zombie is just kind of like “um…Hi…”. (laughs). “um… who is this?” (everyone laughs).

But seriously they’re (Udo Kier & David Carradine) great to work with because these people who’ve been around a long time bring an entirely different level of talent and even more so, professional experience to the table and you know they make the director’s life so much easier because they really know what they are doing and it takes very few words to let them know what you want. They are also very innovative and they can very quickly get to the places you need them to as actors. Getting to work with them as well challenges me as a filmmaker to continue to grow and evolve because they are bringing so much to the table.

So I guess the next question is what is “Fall Down Dead”? Can you tell us a little about the film?

“Fall Down Dead” actually started off three or four years ago as a movie we were going to do in Canada with a writer up there. Then that sort of fell apart, but we were able to keep the rights to it and found a producer to set it up.

Basically the idea is that a metropolitan city is having rolling black-outs continuously happening…. [A] new type of serial killer comes out and the press has dubbed him the Picasso killer and that is Udo Kier. The idea is that the Picasso killer is obsessed with Picasso and cubist art. He’s a narcissist and he sees himself as being greater than Picasso and so he’s trying to evolve cubist art even beyond what Picasso did. To do this he begins using humans as his canvas. He begins cutting them up and creating artwork out of them. There’s this one specific woman that in his mind becomes his obsession, because she would be his masterpiece.

So the movie is about this woman, played by Dominique Swain, who stumbles upon the Picasso killer as he’s killing a woman in an alley. Picasso sees her and he realizes that this is the woman that he keeps seeing in his mind. So he chases her through the city and they end up inside this office building as another black-out hits. So 90% of this movie takes place in this empty office building during the black-out. It becomes a real cat-and-mouse game and there are two cops who come on the scene and there’s David Carradine and a few other people trapped in the building. It is sort of a suspense-thriller-slasher film, all at the same time as he (Udo Kier) hunts his way through the building trying to get to Christy (Dominique Swain).

Wow, that sounds like quite a film! You said that will be out this December?

It’s December or January; they don’t have an exact date set up for it yet.

Ok, well can you tell us a little about “Living and Dying”?

“Living and Dying” was actually the second script I ever wrote and I’ve continued to develop it over the years. Just a quick bit about it; four bank robbers go in to rob a payroll office; they get outside and are surrounded by the police. There’s a big shoot out and they end up across the street inside a café where they take everybody hostage and they are surrounded by the police. Before they realize it, there are two psychos inside the café and the psychos turn the tables on the bank robbers taking them hostage. The psychos force the bank robbers to continue dealing with the police so what you end up with is three different games of cat and mouse. The cops are trying to figure out how to deal with the bank robbers. The bank robbers are trying to figure out how to deal with the real bad guys inside (the psychos), and then you find out there’s a whole other layer of deception within it so the movie starts out and you think you know who everybody is but by the time the movie ends everybody is completely different. Everybody’s got a lie and everybody’s got a false face in this and it’s filled with deception. It all takes place within 12 hours.

Well, that sounds like a whole lot of movie going on there as well! I saw the preview for that on your website and it looks like there is non-stop action in this film.

Yeah, we shot the movie in 18 days and there is a ton of action. I mean there is a huge shoot out at the very beginning of the movie between the robbers and the police and we ended up having something like 17 or 18 different guns all firing at the same time. In fact we went through over 1000 rounds blanks on that day. Yeah there’s a lot of action and gunfire.

That was my first time really kind of getting to move into that sort of realm with the action and the guns. We had a lot of fun, we did a screening of it at the AFI Dallas International Film Festival. In fact we did two sold out screenings and we got great reactions from the audiences and of course HBO films picked it up and that’s always a good little pat on the back.

Now I know those are your two current projects. What is something that is coming soon?

(Laughs) There are two movies that we’re actually working on now. We don’t have anything solidly lined up yet but Debbie Rochon and I are actually working on “American Nightmare 2”. We’ve been trying to get that off the ground for a while and some producers have approached us about doing “American Nightmare 2”. So Debbie and I actually just finished the outline for the treatment for the script and sent it off to the producers on Friday so we’re waiting to hear back from them. They say that they’re committed to putting up the money. At the same time, Debbie and I have done a completely separate “American Nightmare” script that is not a sequel, it just brings the characters of Jane Topin and Calligari back for another movie and we’ve been asked to sharpen that and had a little bit of interest there too. “American Nightmare 2” seems the most prominent.

Also on the board is “Blood Walkers” which is sort of my ode to the outlaw vampire movies like “From Dusk Till Dawn”, “The Lost Boys” and all those. It’s about a group of outlaw vampires that overrun a hotel out in the middle of Texas. It becomes a fight for survival throughout the night. We have got a lot of movement on that. Some studios are taking a look at that so those are the two projects that I’m most focused on right now.

Those both sound like great projects! On another note, Jon, I know you’ve worked with Debbie Rochon a lot in the past and you just mentioned that you are working with her on a couple of more projects, so what’s it like to work with Debbie?

Oh Debbie is great! Debbie is one of those rare people who not only have a great talent for acting but also for making films…. She understands the genre and brings a lot of experience and talent to it.

I actually met Debbie when I was an entertainment journalist. She was the second interview I ever did and

Debbie Rochon as Jane in

"American Nightmare"

we kind of became friends as a result of that and when I was making “American Nightmare” I took the project to Debbie and I asked her if she would be Jane (the killer). One of the great things about Debbie is that she has incredible instincts; she really understands the genre and what the genre fans want and where the genre is at so she’s always looking at ways to push the boundaries. That is one of the best things about working with Debbie, that you can take something like “American Nightmare 2” as we’ve been working on that and I can put an outline together and then Debbie understands where the genre is at and what it needs so she can insert completely fresh and original ideas into that. Also, she will bend over backwards to help anybody out. That’s one of the beautiful things about working with her, she doesn’t have the ego and the number one thing for her is supporting the horror genre or movies just in general. She helps out in every way possible to create the best quality product.

Talking about actors and actresses that you’ve worked with a lot, I know that you’ve worked with Brandy Little in a lot of your films including “American Nightmare”, “Hallow’s End” & “Suburban Nightmare”, is she involved in anymore of your projects?

(Laughs) Yeah, she’s actually in “Living and Dying” also. It was funny how that actually worked out because we were doing casting for “Living and Dying” and Brandy came out and was auditioning. Of course “Living and Dying” was a whole new realm for me, I was dealing with a new budget level and with that a new set of producers and the way that that all kind of works out. So Brandy was out auditioning for the part of the role of the lead female detective but the producers decided they wanted to bring in somebody from, well actually from France to play that role, but they saw the audition tapes and loved her so much that they actually scooted her over to play a mother in the café. Which, coincidentally enough became even funnier because there is Brandy Little, but there is also Hayden Tweedie. In “American Nightmare” Hayden was the little girl that Brandy was babysitting. Well, Hayden shows back up again in “Suburban Nightmare” in which Brandy plays Hayden’s mother. Well, Hayden was the very first person cast in “Living and Dying” and she was cast to play the girl inside the café, so when they moved Brandy over to her new role she became Hayden’s mother again! (Laughs).

So you aren’t running some kind of movie adoption agency are you? (everyone laughs)

No, but well if I had my choice we’d adopt Hayden! (Laughs again) I’ve known her since she was seven and she’s fourteen now and is one of the most superb, instinctual actresses I’ve ever come across and I look for ways of writing roles into my movies now for Hayden just because I love working with her so much!

Well Jon, I want to thank you and your wife Sarah for your time today it is really appreciated and I wish you the best of luck with all your projects!

I appreciate it Nic, thanks a bunch!
To learn more about some of the projects Jon Keeyes is working on visit



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