Neil Johnson, director of Doomsday (out this month), says CGI blood is ineffective in today’s movies and that there’s nothing like real buckets of blood. Carrie might disagree.
Neil, you’ve a big slate ahead of you. How do you wind down?
I make movies. Hard work for me is doing music videos. I used to surf, but lately, because I am having so much fun making films, I can’t think of anything else I would rather do. The past few evenings I have been building robots. Dark Sci-Fi is the only thing that keeps me off the streets.
Already in 2015, you’ve completed a couple of movies – is that correct?
Let me see. I finished off Doomsday (which was shot in 2012), then I shot Time War: At The Edge of Time, one of my bigger films, then wrote Rogue Warrior, then finished off Starship: Apocalypse (comes out December 2015), then I shot Rogue Warrior, and am now in post for that film. A nice way to finish off the year. If I have my way, I will write a Dragon film before the year ends. I work 7 days a week, 15 hours a day. It is WAY better than hanging on a street corner
Could you have worked so efficiently in the non-digital age, you think?
Hell no. I know that I dreamed of this time in my life. I have more power than most BIG directors. If I dream it, I can find a way to do it. I don’t have to wait for someone to green light me. I do have to listen to my sales agent, who is an awesome guy and tells me what I should be doing. We usually agree. Then he leaves me alone until I deliver something worthwhile. That being said, a person has to be EXTREMELY organized. Handling this much data in multiple films needs a VERY efficient system. I learned to be organized from working with Joey DeMaio in Manowar. He is one of the most organized people I meet.
With a film like Doomsday how much of the effects and action is CGI and how much is practical?
I am going through a big transition right now. Apparently I did the world’s first digital feature film. Recently I did Starship: Rising and Starship: Apocalypse with copious amounts of green screen and CGI. I feel like throwing up green at the moment. I have done a lot of visual effects films, even recently won a few awards at Action On Film Festival for visual effects, but now I am trying to be 100% practical. Doomsday was a bit more practical. We had helicopters and other cool things. But I tried to make the locations be the feature of the film. The UK is amazing visually and the actors I had were truly incredible. I was more blessed by this than I ever expected to be. These guys made the film what it is. I think that is what is part of the magic of the film. Yes there is a good amount of CGI, yes we blow up London, but what is happening on screen with the characters is way more charming.
And what about gore and blood? Is that all done on a computer?
I experimented with CG blood on a music video for Manowar with Vikings a few years back. I really don’t like CG blood. Nothing more exciting than buckets of blood for real… the way it reacts on the skin is wonderful. That being said, I have seen real dead bodies. It is always shocking when seen in the flesh. Human life is so precious. I am horrified when I see a real human bleeding on camera for real. However, everytime we used movie blood in a film like Starship: Apocalypse, it was very exciting. Emii (the famous singer) and myself were always the first to be photographed whenever someone was covered in blood.
What’s the best color for blood, in your opinion?
Dark, almost black. This is VERY hard to achieve on camera. I cut myself the other day and looked at the blood. There is something almost glowing about real blood. Movie blood never looks the same up close.
Most big studios are always aiming for the lowest rating possible. Are you conscious of the film’s inevitable rating or classification when you’re making something? Or do you just go for broke?
A lot of people say there is too much swearing in my Starship films. I really don’t think about ratings. It is a BIG concern when there are hundreds of millions at stake, but on my level, the more blood, the more cuss-words, makes little difference. That being said, maybe I should aim for a wider audience. Maybe I would sell more. I know that when I do a Dragon film, it is going to be dark, spooky and VERY brutal. I cannot ethically water down anything artistic.
Most of your films go out through Phase4, when did that relationship begin?
It was with Alien Armageddon around 2010. They did a great job getting the film into places like Walmart. I know we sold a boat-load of copies. Now that was a sick and gory film (at the end) Plus there is a scene with Marilyn Ghigliotti from Clerks that people keep harassing me about. I was proud of the film. Physical media is dying a horrible death. I am thankful for every Blu-Ray/DVD that sells. I have no complaints for Phase 4.
When a distributor takes your picture, how much do you stay involved – do you get a say in the trailer, poster, marketing, platforms and so on?
Sadly no. We do supply poster art and trailers, but from there, they do their own experience. Japan often does AMAZING art. The best at the moment is in the UK DVD art.
Who decides what extras will be on the DVD?
I ALWAYS supply extras but they are not always included. On my YouTube channel I put the extras there as well. I am very proud of the mini-documentary on Doomsday. It tells a serious and deep story. I will be happy if anyone watches this.
Which brings us to, what extras can we find on the Doomsday DVD?
To be honest I don’t know. It takes a while for Phase 4 to send me my copies. Many times in my life I have had to buy copies of my films. Strange really.
Interview With DOOMSDAY’s Neil Johnson
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