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An Interview with Jerry Murdock Print E-mail
Written by Elaine Lamkin   
Thursday, 25 August 2005

Jerry Murdock, who has the enviable task of portraying two entirely different characters in Alan Rowe Kelly’s twisted funeral home-set horror film, “I’ll Bury You Tomorrow”, didn’t think he could pull the double whammy off.  He was originally cast as the upstanding, square-jawed sheriff of bizarro Port Orem, New Jersey, but due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control (the child support police), the actor portraying another major character disappeared with a LOT of footage already shot.  But due to the inventiveness of Alan Rowe Kelly and the imagination of another actor on the film, Murdock was tapped to step into the empty shoes of the MIA actor.  And I, for one, was completely fooled when I watched the movie.  I still can’t get over how he pulled it off after repeated viewings of “Ill Bury You Tomorrow”.  THIS is an actor to pay attention to, casting directors!

Other than your birth date and place of birth, there is nothing about you on the IMdb. How about a brief synopsis of The Jerry Murdock Story, your background, education, how you got into acting, the usual fun stuff?

I'm from a small town in upstate New York outside Cooperstown (the home of Baseball). I went to college to be a history teacher, and bounced around until I fell into acting one summer when I was recruited to do a dinner theater production. I did a lot of theater, then decided to move to the city to try my hand at film or TV, with mixed results. I love to act, but I really didn't buy into the whole "self-promotion" and marketing aspects required to be successful.

How did you come to be involved in “I’ll Bury You Tomorrow”?

I was doing the whole auditioning routine, sending out dozens of headshots and resumes, auditioning quite a bit with little success. I was about ready to throw in the towel when I got a call from Alan Rowe Kelly to audition for his horror film. I'm a big horror fan, so it intrigued me. Besides, just by talking with Alan for 5 minutes on the phone, I felt at ease with him. I was to originally audition for "Jake Harmon", who would be Alan's partner in crime. When I walked in, one of the first things Alan said to me was, "Oh no, no, no. Why not try reading for the police officer, Mitch?" I was bummed a bit, because I had read the whole script and liked the character of Jake, but once I met Alan and the other guys, Gary and Jack Malick, and Tom Cadawas, it didn't matter. I would have played a rock. I had a great time at the audition, and a few days later, he offered me the part.

What did you think of the script the first time you read it?

I liked it quite a bit. First off, Alan had never written a script before, so the script was more of a descriptive novel rather than a traditional script, which is not as vivid. It was much easier to visualize, and was completely unpredictable. It was a real page-turner. I thought it was wonderfully creepy, campy, sick, and demented. It wasn't a "cookie-cutter" horror story, and I really wanted to be part of it.

Were Mitch and Jake Geraldi always going to be played just by you or was that something decided at the last minute?

No. Jake and Mitch were not related in the original script. It was Jake "Harmon". Another guy landed that part, and Alan shot quite a bit of the scenes with him until he literally disappeared. Vanished one Saturday when we had a full slate of scenes to shoot. No one knew what happened to him. Alan and the guys were in a jam because they were a few months into shooting and this central character was now MIA. Secretly, I was plotting a way to somehow switch roles. I hadn't shot that much stuff as Mitch, and I thought maybe I could ask Alan to scrap the minimal Mitch stuff and switch me to the part of Jake. He began to audition a few actors to take over, but I don't think he or the other guys were too thrilled by some of the fellas they tested.  One day on location Kristen Overdurf, who played Ellen Gallagher, jokingly suggested to Alan that I play both parts. The lightbulb went off over my head and I took this idea and ran with it, concocting the story of brothers and approached Alan with it. He thought it over briefly, and decided that perhaps it wasn't such a bad idea. By this time, Alan and I had gotten to know each other, and I think he was more comfortable with someone he knew as opposed to someone who could be as unpredictable as the last guy. The production shut down for several weeks while Alan fleshed out the story to include this new storyline.  However, I must stress that this wasn't easy for Alan. He really couldn't afford to scrap all his footage he had in the can up to that point. He had to take into account the footage he had, and had to make it work with this new storyline. He had to manipulate this new story to fit the existing piece. Watching it now, knowing how the pieces fit, I think he did an outstanding job of making it work. Not only that, but his expertise in make up made the two different characters plausible.

How on earth did both you AND the makeup/hair department manage to make the “two” of you SO different that so many viewers have been surprised when they see the final credits role?

Once again, much of the credit goes to Alan. He and I talked it over quite a bit. What he didn't want was excessive make up to make the two characters extremely different. We felt that it would draw too much attention to making them different, and make it obvious. We did a few make up tests on the look, and came up with the whole wig, contacts, goatee, paper shoved up my nose to make it thicker, and the lazy eye. I think it worked well.  The mannerisms, and the speech patterns, they came slowly. Alan guided me what worked and what didn't, and the end result was fun to play. Equally gross, menacing, and moronic. He's funny at times, and vicious the next. I like that balance.  I must say that I take great pleasure in the fact that this double role surprises people. Throughout shooting, I was pessimistic, I thought no one would buy it. Alan and the guys insisted we would fool people. I guess they were right.

You mentioned the story behind “IBYT” is an “interesting one”. We’re ready to hear it now.

OK. I think the time has come to reveal the "deep dark secret" of “I'll Bury You Tomorrow”. Alan didn't want this to get out, and I understand his reasons why. It may comprise the legitimacy of “IBYT” being considered a "real film". I disagree. I feel that the circumstances in which this film was made make it unique. When I read critical reviews of the film that cite the cheap production values, amateurish acting, or other technical shortcomings, it bothers me because hardly anyone knows how this film was made.  First off, the budget was literally non-existent. The catering bill for a single day of a big Hollywood production probably cost more than the entire film. What these guys had to work with to make this movie was bare, bare bones. Ingenuity and creativity was employed as much as possible to overcome this shortfall. This was textbook guerrilla filmmaking. To make it work, they literally had to beg, borrow and steal. (Locations that is)  This film, perhaps 90-95%, was made by three people: Alan, Gary Malick and Tom Cadawas. Three guys doing the work of a whole crew. Rarely did they have any help. They may have had an extra lighting or camera guy, audio assistant or make up person to help once and a while, but the vast majority was shot by those three. To understand what it takes to make a film, I think this alone is an impressive feat.  The dedication by all involved was admirable, considering we were all working for deferred money. Nobody was getting paid. Nobody complained, because we became a family, and we all believed in this production. I would do it all again in a heartbeat, and I bet the others would too.  Originally, this was supposed to be shot over a three-month period. It ended up taking considerably longer. Contractually, anyone could have left the production, but they didn't. I think that says a lot about those involved to see this through.  Alan? This film was simply a testament of his talent. Alan wrote the story, secured many of the locations, recruited actors, storyboarded the film, was essential in the production and costume design, and coordinated every facet of the production.  Each night he had to prepare the schedule to shoot, coordinate the shooting schedules of all the actors.  He picked up the performers and drove them to the set.  He was responsible for the food on the set, he did the actor's makeup and wardrobe, he also had to prepare himself on the days he was acting in scenes and many times, at the end of the day, he drove the actors home. The gory special effects? All done by Alan. He is one talented guy.  Remember, he also had to worry about this little thing called "directing" when he wasn't doing all these other chores. Mind you, there were days when he had someone to help, and the contributions of Gary and Tom are not to be dismissed. Their work was essential. But Alan, he truly did it all and did it as best as he could despite these limitations. Being an independent production, this type of multi-tasking is common, but I truly believe Alan went above and beyond, and did a remarkable job considering these factors.  The input of Jack Malick and Harry Douglas in the editing was crucial, but once again, with Alan's help. And the great score by Tom Burns was guided with input by Alan.  So, to the detractors that look at this so-called "amateurness" and find fault with it, understand that this was a totally bare bones production. If anyone thinks they could tackle such an ambitious production with the limitations these guys had to deal with, good luck. I can only wait until the day Alan gets to do a "real" production where he can hone his focus on directing alone, and not be distracted with dozens of things that assistants normally do.

What was it like both being directed by and co-starring with director Alan Rowe Kelly?

As you see, throughout this interview I mention Alan quite a bit. That kind of sums up what I think of him. Great guy, and also a great friend.  He's really an actor's director because he accepts input. He may not agree with it, but he'll try it out. He definitely gives the actors quite a bit of latitude to develop their character. In co-starring with him, I can only say that I think there are more takes of us cracking each other up and laughing hysterically than legitimate takes. Lots of fun to work with, he made it really easy.

How about Zoe Daelman Chlanda - she seems like such an interesting actress?

I also loved working with Zoe. Very, very talented. I used to like to watch her act. She's truly a professional in how she prepares and how she would vary her performance take to take. Her range is incredible. Shy and meek one minute, a raging lunatic the next. She could turn on a dime. On top of this, she really wasn't afraid to get into "the maniac" mode. Playing against that as Jake helped me, especially when the blood started to fly. I hope she gets a chance to work more because of this role. She really holds the whole film together, and it’s a showpiece of her tremendous range.

Who did you enjoy playing more - Jake or Mitch?

Hands down, Jake. I think Mitch was the only "normal" one in the film that had no real baggage. Straight-laced, a bastion of sanity in a sea of freaks. I was so envious when I showed up on set and watched all the other actors get to play these twisted characters. They were having a blast. When I got the opportunity to play Jake well into the production, I enjoyed it immensely.

Did you have to research anything on the mortuary business prior to the movie? Learn anything interesting or disgusting you care to share?

The only things I learned are the disgusting stories Alan used to tell me about the whole mortuary business. The most memorable thing about this was the day we were shooting in a funeral home or a hospital, and we had to stop as they rolled a corpse into the cooler. Once the body was placed inside, the door closed and Alan was like..."OK, where were we?"…as if nothing happened. I guess the scenes took on a more somber tone after that!

How long was the shooting schedule of the film? What kind of experience was shooting the film for you?

Two years! Shooting primarily on weekends. We only shot a handful of weeknights. It really seemed like it would never end. Plus, we were shooting out of sequence, so it was difficult to orient your character. You may shoot a scene on Saturday, with the second half of the scene being completed weeks, or even months later.  For me, it was difficult because I was bartending Friday and Saturday nights in Manhattan, getting home around 6 or 7 am. I would sleep an hour or so, and go out to the location to shoot all day with little sleep. I'd doze off during the scenes I wasn't in, to be woken up before I was to shoot my scenes. I'd go back Saturday night, work again, and be back Sunday morning to do it all again. I was averaging six hours of sleep per weekend. I watch the movie now and remember the scenes when I was barely awake. There's even one scene when I pulled an all-nighter and shot the bit where Cory and Jake discover Eddie was missing from his casket. Looking back at it, I'm surprised I was able to pull it off.

What sort of fan reaction have you had since the DVD was released?

People love it or hate it. Those that like it really like it. I still get a kick out of people when they are surprised that I played those two parts. I've even had people talk to me after a screening or from viewing the DVD and ask me what it was like working with that scumbag who played Jake. They don't believe it when I tell them it's me. Other people think it’s a perverted, disgusting film. My Mom still can't watch it. I don't think she made it past the first half of the film.

Do you have any new acting projects lined up and can you tell us anything about them?

The only thing I'm doing now is teaching. I'm looking to start a family soon, so getting back into acting regularly may be a while. I'm waiting for Alan's next project, "Unhallowed Ground". I've read the script and think it's even better than "IBYT". He's also writing two other screenplays. Hopefully, I'll get a crack at a part in one of those.

What are some of your favorite horror movies?

I'll skip the obvious ones like "Night of the Living Dead", "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre", "Evil Dead" and "Halloween".  I'm a big lover of all horror films, so I love all the classics. However, the film that truly is one of my favorites and is one of the only movies that really gave me the creeps was "The Woman in Black". Not a horror movie, but a creepy ghost story. I guess ghosts give me the willies more than horror. So "The Innocents", "The Haunting" (original), "The Shining", "The Changeling", "The Others", "The Devil's Backbone", as well as the original versions of "The Ring", "The Grudge", and "The Eye".

Any favorite horror authors or horror books?

Once again, the favorites, King, Barker, Laymon. However, I really enjoy Bentley Little. His books are very twisted and interesting. I especially like his earlier stuff. He's in a rut, as of late.

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage - does your fiancée support your acting and has she seen “IBYT”? What does she think of the film? And have you ever pulled a Jake/Mitch practical joke on her?

Thank you. The acting is definitely taking a back seat for the time being. We would like to start a family soon. One of the first things we did when we started dating was go to the cast screening of the film. She's a horror nut herself, so it was smooth sailing after that. She's seen "IBYT" more times than is humane, with all the screenings and viewings for friends, God bless her. In fact, I think she's hidden my copy! Sometimes I'll act like Jake in public to embarrass her. I guess it would have been funny to act like that when I met her parents for the first time, come to think of it.

Is there anything you would like to add that I haven’t asked you?

Filmmaking is a hard, hard business. Getting the funding, the crew and the actors is admirable, and even completing one and getting it on the shelf is tough. For all the critics that find fault with these productions, perhaps they should try it themselves. Even if the film is lousy, I still appreciate effort and obvious appreciation for filmmaking.

Is there anything you would like our readers to know about Jerry Murdock or “I’ll Bury You Tomorrow”?

Well, I've got a really good idea for “I'll Bury You Tomorrow 2”. Now, if Alan "Mr. Big Shot" Kelly will just return my calls.......;-).

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