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Voci dal profondo: A Severed Cinema Interview with Filmmaker Chris Milewski Print E-mail
Written by Jay Creepy   
Monday, 24 July 2017
Voci dal profondo: A Severed Cinema Interview with Filmmaker Chris Milewski

 Voci dal profondo: A Severed Cinema Interview with Filmmaker Chris Milewski

Itís fair to say that when I heard of Chris Milewski, I hadnít a clue what to expect of his style visually. Whilst piecing together the interview for old school Italian actor, Franco Garofalo, I browsed his IMDb and noticed he had recently performed voice over duties for a handful of short Italian inspired films. This instantly grabbed my interest because I am a huge fan of the '70s and '80s cinema via that part of the world. Hell, I grew up with many films considered classics now, and some, which are considered trash now. I love Ďem all!

Having watched all of his works available on YouTube I was enthralled. This bloke has done something that others try so hard to do -- make an undiscovered Italian movie from that era, which was not even conceived back then. Heavy in dream like visuals and a moody doom laden atmosphere, his films are waiting to be discovered by more and more lovers of the land of spaghetti and gore.

Now then, Chris, how's your day been so far? What's happening in a typical day of Chris Milewski?

 My day isnít too bad, thanks for asking, but as far as whatís happening in a typical day? Sorry to bore your readers, but I work in the bowels of IT (I am a network administrator). My typical day consists of stress, stress, and more stress. Making films for me is just a hobby, which I suppose is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because I can do what I want, when I want, and answer to no one, but bad, because it would be nice to make money doing something I actually enjoy.

It's fair to say that your films are aimed at a certain client -- someone who gets the atmosphere of old school Italian horrors. Why choose this road?

Quite honestly, I didnít consciously choose to go down this road! When I was younger, I was never really a fan of movies, but thatís because I was only familiar with the American scene. Granted I can tolerate some American films from the '60s Ė '70s, like some of the drive-in exploitation type flicks, movies from America do nothing for me. At some point, I discovered the world of European cinema, in particular the wonderful films that came out of Italy during the '60s Ė '80s. What the Italians produced were far superior to anything coming out of America, at any time, in my opinion (which is interesting, considering itís generally considered the Italians tried to emulate the Americans.) The Italians had great atmosphere, cinematography, music, stories, etcetera. Everything about the films is better. Not just horror, even their westerns -- another guilty pleasure of mine is Spaghetti Westerns -- but of course, the low budget, bottom of the barrel variety. And so being that I had no formal film schooling, no attraction to American films, and I found myself immersed in the Italian scene, I guess thatís just where I get my style. But I really canít toot my own horn as I can honestly say that anything Iíve done still doesnít even come close to what the Italians (or some Spaniards, etcetera) were doing. 

I assume you have to plot every moment of a scene and capture the emotions and feelings of the Italians which is wonderful for the die-hard fans of the lost genre. It's almost as if the Italian movie machine never crumbled. How much thought goes into the making of a short film for you?

Like I mentioned previously, the style just comes naturally for me because itís the only thing I know. I am more about atmosphere, supernatural tales, and so on as opposed to blood or more down and dirty psycho type stories. Luckily, and unluckily, for me, Iím always thinking! At work, in the car, etcetera. Always! So, if I come up with something Iíll jot down some notes or make a rough outline, then I put together a detailed shot list which is what I shoot from. Rarely do I even write a script for anything Iím shooting myself. Of course, when it comes down to actually shooting, things always change on location sometimes for the better, mainly for the worse! For instance, I shoot with a DSLR, itís very difficult to have all of the zooms that I want (oh, zooms, donít use themÖ they are unprofessionalÖ use multiple framed shotsÖ nope!) so often times, I regretfully have to cut them out. Itís not easy shooting with a little DSLR if you want to do this style if you donít have many many many thousand dollar lenses, a focus puller, etcetera. So, no matter how much thought you put into it, itís always changing.

It's a silly question for anyone who's reading this that has at least seen a handful of your short creations, but who has inspired you the most?

Itís actually not a silly question, because youíre probably thinking Fulci, but itís for sure Aristide Massaccesi, a.k.a. Joe DíAmato! He is my biggest influence and inspiration. DíAmato is my favorite director but most of all my favorite director of photography. He truly had an amazing eye when it came to great shots, camera movement, framing, and the like. I feel he could just see something on location and immediately know how to shoot it in an amazing way, if even just some random b-roll stuff. It goes without saying, that Iím inspired by the big name Italian staples like Fulci, Mattei, Lenzi, Martino, etc. too but I do pull inspiration from some of the lesser known directors like Mario Imperoli and Angelo Pannaccio. Even Jess Franco, a non-Italian favorite of mine, creeps in at times.

Ah, of course, Joe DíAmato. Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, Absurd, the Black EmanuellesÖ I remember as a youngster my Dad loaning a VHS of The Burning off a pal. Anthropophagus was on after it. We liked that more! DíAmato is very misunderstood and underappreciated, I think. Aside from Italy, I get a feel of Jean Rollin, and even Paul Naschy from your movies. Are you a fan of those two?

Iím actually not too familiar with the works of Jean Rollin. The closest to Jean Rollin Iíve seen is Zombie Lake (which I actually do like.) Rollin has always been on my list of directors to check out, but for whatever reason, I just never get around to it. As for Paul Naschy, yes, I enjoy his films as well. Human Beasts is my favorite of his, though just about everything he directed, wrote, or starred in has its charm! Daniela Giordano who had a part in Inquisition did some voiceover on my short Help Me Have No Human Ways.

Iíd highly recommend Living Dead Girl, Requiem for a Vampire and definitely The Iron Rose for true Rollin. Zombie Lake? My guilty pleasure, always makes me chuckle. So, which five films would you package up to watch after a Nuclear Holocaust, providing you find a generator and working technology enough to watch them? And why those films? What do they mean to you, buddy?

Tough question! There are way too many great films out there and it pains me to leave something out! I think my favorite film of all time is Romolo Guerrieriís The Double, so that would have to be in there -- great atmosphere, actors/actresses, locations, etcetera. I really have a thing for those sea/beach/giallo type Italian flicks of the '60s and '70s. My favorite Fulci film, Voices From beyond, because yes, that is my favorite of his. Great story, atmosphere (of a different kind) and music -- Stelvio Cipriani is one of my favorite Italian composers. Jess Francoís A Virgin Among the Living Dead because the atmosphere is amazing. Joe DíAmatoís Top Model, because it canít all be horror and I do enjoy those DíAmato-produced flicks shot down in New Orleans. Well, Iíve spent about a day thinking about this and Iím still torn, so whateverÖ last but not least, I will have to say Sergio Martinoís All the Colours of the Dark because I love that just about everything about that film.

How do you rate the modern era of horror movies? Positives and negatives from the mainstream to the underground.

Time for me to sound terrible and awful. I hate to say it, but I canít say Iím exactly thrilled with the current state of horror movies, mainstream or underground. Now, I can certainly appreciate an independent filmmaker, who is interested in making a horror film (or even any film) out of love for a particular genre or appreciation for the art of filmmaking, but I just do not like the look of new movies -- the crisp quality, the atmosphere, the music, the filming/editing techniques -- and not even from the Italians! Everything is too new for my tastes. I certainly understand that technologies and style change over time and, well, itís not the 1960s, '70s, or '80s anymore. Iíll admit, digital video is amazing. Itís cheap and easy. But I definitely donít like CGI. Sure, the things you can do with CGI are amazing and it does actually take skill to do, but I just donít like it. I do all practical effects. Iíve even used models. Itís more work, but it has much more charm when done the old-school way. Another thing that I find a bit annoying is that so many people ďFulciĒ or ďItalian horrorĒ around when describing something when itís just not true. It seems to be a marketing term nowadays without any meaning as to what the actual product represents. A heavily color-graded scene depicting someone getting splattered with a bucket of fake blood under a blue light shot with a shaky camera set to techno music with some old film grain texture layered on top isnít really like any classic Italian horror I know. Is it? Alright, with all that negativity out, I do once again want to say I appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to make even a short film, but I think classic horror really is a lost art due to the changing times.

CGIÖ (laughs) they never quite get the eyes right on creatures, and landscapes look tooÖ animated. Like myself, it seems you are a man born in the wrong era. Let's place you for a moment back in the late '70s at the age you are now. Who would you see yourself working with? I mean actors, effects, cinematography, who would you choose for your next film?

Yes, I always say I was born in the wrong era for all sorts of reasons, and not just film! But if it was the late '70s and there was someone I could work with, itíd be Joe DíAmato, of course. Iím not sure how he was on a personal level, but if weíre talking strictly film. At that time, he was all over the world doing all sorts of stuff -- horror, action, exploitation, etcetera. The films were all different, but they all had one thing in common -- amazing cinematography! I donít know, I canít say Joe DíAmato was the cleanest at times and that he would be appreciated by American film critics, but I love those shaky handheld shots and everything. Iím telling you, he was the best! Itís tough to say what actors or actresses I would work with that time because I pay more attention to the production than the acting. I guess Iím a little weird. Anyway, I think I kind of enjoy the late '60s - early '70s better! People like Luigi Pistilli, Jean Sorel, Gordon Mitchell, Ewa Aulin, Edwige Fenech, Ornella Muti, etcetera.

Cast your mind back to the genesis of Chris Milewski and the moment he decided to make a film....

I decided to start making films because just like now, I was generally disgusted by the state of movies at the time and I knew decent stuff existed decades ago -- this was just a few years ago, 2013 or so. Very few to no one at all was able to reproduce the atmosphere of the films of yesteryear. In fact, it didnít even look like anyone was genuinely trying, just claiming to tryÖ so I figured Iíd give it a try. I used other peopleís equipment at first but then ended up getting my own camera and went from there. Like I mentioned, Iíve had no formal training, schooling, or anything, so what I do is simply what I do -- though I admittedly am personally not too happy with it! I feel my stuff is lacking, but Iím always learning and getting better, so maybe in the future Iíll be able to achieve, in its totality, the look and atmosphere that I strive for!

Please tell me about Fabio Frizzi and how he came to compose for you.

Well, what fan of Italian cinema does not know the name of Maestro Fabio Frizzi? True, Fulci was a master of movie making, but those of his films that we know would not the be same without Frizziís scores. He set the tone for Zombie, City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, etcetera. So, I approached him as a fan of his works when I was working on The Cold Eyes of Death. I believe he appreciated the fact that I was trying to make something inspired by the Italians and so he agreed. His score is great, but to me, the actual short is pretty bad. It was my first effort and there were many problems. I didnít know what I was doing -- maybe I still donít! It just came out as a mess in my opinion. With that one finished, I moved on to the next one and Frizzi composed the score for Violets Blood At An Empty Grave. His score for that one is at times a departure from his usual style I think, but works just as equally well. I feel Violets, as a whole film is much more successful than The Cold Eyes, but itís still a little rough around the edges. In the end, itís a great honor to have had participation from such a legend, and who knows, maybe weíll work together again in the future!

Speaking of legends, Franco Garofalo. What a cool bloke he is. I interviewed him for Severed Cinema not long ago. He's so warm and open to chat about anything.

Franco Garofalo is best known for his role in Bruno Matteiís Virus (Zombie Creeping Flesh), a good film, but I most appreciate Franco as part of Pannaccioís Sex of the Witch and Matteiís The True Story of the Nun of Monza -- two films that I love due to their amazing atmosphere. I happened to see a video of Franco reciting some quotations from Henry IV of all things and I thought he had a great expressive voice. Being that I needed a maleís voice for a simple voiceover part (for Violets) I figured why not ask if he would be interested. Luckily for me, he was, did the part, and his voice was great. He also participated with great effect on Help Me Have No Human Ways and World of Shadows. Like Frizzi, itís an honor to have Franco be a part of these films. Heís truly one of a kind!

It was nice to have Silvia Collatina on board for your short, Violets Bloom At An Empty Grave. She's one name people tend to overlook in the annals of Italian films. Why Silvia? And again, how did it all happen?

Silvia Collatina had a very minor role -- literally just a few dubbed words -- but still really nice to have her involved! I try to get those Italians involved no matter how big or small the part, not only to add a bit of authenticity to my films, but it adds a special little element to them. While Silvia wasnít in a whole lot of films, sheís quite an Italian horror legend in her own right for her well-known role in House by the Cemetery. So being that Franco Garofalo was doing the voiceover already in Violets, I needed an Italian womanís voice so I asked her and she said yes. I actually had some other projects planned with her involvement at various times, but they all fell through due to me changing or scrapping them. Who knows, maybe in the future.

Of course, then there's Karen Widdoss. She brings an outer world intensity to your films.

Karen is a staple in my productions, being a part of every one except World of Shadow and Ghosts of Eden Hall. Thatís because she is reliable, easy to work with, and always available -- sheís also my fiancťe. Besides helping me out, she has also done some English dubbing for a number of Italian productions. Karen has always been a fan of horror films, including Italian horror -- much longer than me. In fact, she is probably the reason I got into it!

Yeah, my fiancťe and I also connect well on the Italian films front. She simply adores anything Italian. She thought your shorts were absolutely incredible, from a fan-girl point of view. Your movies really threw us into a time-warp. I'll be honest, when I sat down to review some shorts of yours I was slightly disbelieving of what I had heard because you hear of so many people saying, ďOh yes, he/she is the new Fulci, new Mattei...Ē etcetera. Chris, you have captured a certain element of that era in a bubble. It's like a decade of Italian horror is living on in your works and they floored me. However, Help Me Have No Human Ways, closed me up. Experimental as hell, but it alienated (ho ho) me totally. How was that oddity birthed?

(Laughs), thatís pretty funny, because Help me Have No Human Ways is my favorite piece to date. With that said, I can understand that if youíre looking for Italian horror there, you might be disappointed because you wonít find it! While not really at all similar, itís more inspired by some of those weird Italian films from the '60s - '70s like Versuschka, Morel's Invention, La Stagione Dei Sensi, and the likes with that bit of sci-fi thrown in. So how did it come about? Iíve always been fascinated by cults for various reasons -- some cults more than others -- Peopleís Temple, Branch Davidians, etcetera, but I always found Heavenís Gate to be the most interesting and felt that it would make for a strange film.

Yeah, Heavenís Gate, to me, they were the more genuine cult amongst many cults because it didnít all seem to collapse into sexual power and abuse like, say, David Koresh. Their belief system was fascinating.

In my research, I contacted Sawyer, a still-vocal but ex-member who left the group not long before their departure. He contributed to the script as well as the odd-ball musical score. Ok, the film is a bit sloppy in some places (seems to be a theme of mine,) but itís still my favorite because I enjoy the subject matter, the locations, and just the overall look of it. Thereís actually a lot more going on than the average person might notice. Many little things in that film were done intentionally and for those ďin the know,Ē theyíll pick up on them. Sorry to disappoint you, but Iím actually working on another similar project that is entitled Destination Alcor, that should be available this year or next.

As an average person (laughs) I think watching the two I reviewed, the Ghosts of Eden Hall and then plunging straight into that one didnít help me digest it totally. Overall, I'm glad you focus more away from the Dario Argento school of movie making. I like his films, and respect his aura in the world, but I don't feel them like I would say, a Lucio Fulci or even an Andrea Bianchi flick. Those two, like Bruno Mattei, are just so gleefully entertaining. Has Dario infiltrated you at any point?

I agree with you. I canít say Dario Argento has rubbed off on me too much. Probably because I donít have the money! Granted Dario Argento is a master is in his own right and I do enjoy his films, I prefer something more realistic or down and dirty like Fulci, Bianchi, Mattei, and of course DíAmato. To me, Argentoís films are much more sophisticated and artsy. His Bava lighting is phenomenal and creates a weird dreamlike atmosphere, but for me Iíd rather see more natural lighting, grime, an uneasy atmosphere due to realism (even if in a supernatural context,) etcetera. With that said, Argento truly is a master at what he does!

Your films have so many pseudonyms in the credits. All boiled away, they're all yourself. Where do you find these names?

I use pseudonyms as a nod to some of my inspirations. After all, the Italians used Americanized names, so it would only make sense for me to use Italianized names! I donít think itís critical for people know my real name anyway. I am not looking for recognition, I just want people to enjoy the films. The actual pseudonyms are combinations of some of my influences, or even combinations of some of their pseudonyms! Ok, if youíre wondering, hereís the official breakdown of a few: Luciano Imperoli (Luciano Ercoli & Mario Imperoli), Franco Massaccesi (Franco Villa & Aristide Massacessi), Gianni Batzella (Gianni Crea & Luigi Batzella), Paul Clever (Paul Naschy & Al Cli(e)ver), Piero Giombini (Piero Umiliani & Marcello Giombini), Agostina Scola (Agostina Belli & Gioia Scola), Eugenio Landi (Eugenio Alabiso & Rossana Landi), Sidd Web (Sid Davis & Jack Webb), Giancarlo Wortuba (Giancarlo Ferrando & Michael Wortuba), Daniela Morelli (Daniela Giordano & Steve Morelli) and Demofilo Deem (Demofilo Fidani & Miles Deem). There may be some more. I think one of my subconscious goals is to have hundreds of names, (laughs).

You know that moment when you wish you hadnít asked? (laughs) Cheers, Chris. Aside from the direction, writing and the rest, I particularly like your special effects and gore. Simple and cheeky.

(Laughs) well thanks. In my opinion, the special effects are probably my most lacking area in my films because I do everything myself. Itís hard doing everything yourself. Generally preferring atmosphere over gore, I really donít get much practice. Makeup or simple appliances on an actor is one thing, but to have actual motion with your blood/gore effect is another. I think maybe next time Iíll have to recruit some help from someone who knows what theyíre doing!

Why are all your shorts available on YouTube for free? I think it's awesome and commendable that you gift these to the fans.

I make these films because I enjoy making them and I know some others like yourself enjoy seeing them. For people to see them, they need to be available!  YouTube is a great medium for that. Youíll find no ads on the videos and you can find them for free download in various places on the internet. I do not do this to make money -- in reality, it only costs me money! I have no problem making them available for everyone to see.

What's the future for your company, Filmiracle Productions? Growth and profit finally?

Well, Filmiracle Productions is just more of a name than a company. The name may be sort of familiar as it is a play on one of my favorite production companies, of course Joe DíAmatoís Filmirage Productions. Really, I only produce my own stuff, so Iíd hardly call it a company. Iíd love to produce other things by other people or even expand into a legitimate force, but I donít have the means at this time.

There's a lot of buzz regarding Phobia at the moment. What's the story behind that and your involvement in the project?

Phobia is a feature length anthology film consisting of five minute phobia-inspired short films from a slew of international directors. Domiziano Cristopharo, one of the producers, contacted me in regards to contributing a short since I was already working on Poe 4: The Black Cat for him, so I did. My segment is about pharmacophobia (the fear of taking medicine.) It features some of my regulars, Terry Reilly from Welcome to the World, Dear Child and Karen Widdoss, but also Giorgio Bertuccelli who has worked on a number of Joe DíAmato and Fulci films shot down in New Orleans like Door to Silence, Killing Birds, Top Model, as well as some others. The short is admittedly a bit of a departure from my usual style, I would say, being more reminiscent of something like Tales from the Darkside or Tales from the Crypt. I feel it might still be recognizable as something I put together at times. I did want to note that my Poe IV: The Black Cat segment, also produced by Cristopharo, is the closest representation to Fulci from me (I think.) So that, along with Phobia, will be the next available films.

Any chance of a DVD release compiling each one of your mini gems?

I probably wouldnít do it myself, but if someone else wants to, of course Iíd be interested! Itís just another medium to share my work. Now, with that said, and Iím sure you picked up on it, Iím my own worst critic. Once my shorts are finished, I really donít watch them and I donít want to be around when theyíre being watched! Iím usually not totally thrilled with them, so I wonít watch the DVD. I guess one drawback of making films is that I canít watch them as an outsider! What I experience are the flaws or the memories from the production.

Chris, youíre a true artist. Mind you, if you or anyone else ever do release a DVD, any chance of a Jay Creepy Severed Cinema quote on the sleeve? I can see it now, ďHow can a bloke from the USA make a handful of short films 'Italian Style' and almost out Italian the Italians?Ē Or something like that.

Funny that you mentioned that quote, because when I read the Severed Cinema review, that line really stuck a chord and I even had to laugh about it. I think itís great! Of course it could be used, but with that said, I hope some day it can be used to accurately describe some new filmmakers out there as well. Can you imagine if horror movies today could genuinely revert back and capture the atmosphere of yesteryear? If even just a few, the genre would be a whole lot more interesting!

My friend, this has been a great chat. I feel I need to show everybody your works -- well, to the people who will understand why they exist, of course. One last thing, who are you away from the camera?

Thank you for the interview. I appreciate your support and Iím happy that there is someone out there that enjoys the films I make! SoÖ who am I away from the camera? Quite honestly, I live a boring life and donít do much. Iím a bit of a recluse and would much rather be out in the woods than at a crowded bar. Itís true, Iím a nerd, interested in things few are interested in: nuclear power, nuclear weapons, cults, local history, old maps and other old stuff, hunting for Indian artifacts, the Vietnam War, '50s Ė '70s aircraft, and all sorts of other things. I also enjoy making music (I used to play in a number of Death Metal bands, but these days, I make soundtrack music to be used or modified for future use) and of course, watching Italian cinema from the '60s Ė '80s!

Interview with Chris Milewski was conducted by Severed Cinema writer Jay Creepy. You can find him on Facebook and on YouTube.

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