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An Interview with JimmyO Burril Print E-mail
Written by Elaine Lamkin   
Friday, 19 August 2005

Director JimmyO (Burril) is truly a Renaissance Man.  Born into a military family in Gulfport, Mississippi, he once played drums in the rock band, “Next Window”.  He got involved in musical theater when he moved to Baltimore, Maryland where his sister was in local theater there.  He has studied dance where he met his wife-to-be, April.  He has co-written and composed various musicals, he is a gifted cartoonist and he is currently a medical illustrator at Johns Hopkins University.  And all of that experience has led him to go that one step further and direct movies.  But not just any movies – horror movies.  After all, he IS a medical illustrator, with lots of knowledge of the insides of a human and what they REALLY look like.

Severed Cinema recently had the privilege to speak with JimmyO by phone while he was at home in Maryland.  It was an interesting call at first as JimmyO had stepped outside of his home to have a smoke and before I knew it, it sounded like a 747 was landing on his house, then a train went by, probably at the end of his front yard.  And then I heard what I could only describe as a chainsaw revving up.  Made me a little nervous and I was on the other end of the phone.  But I WAS talking to the director of the wonderfully horrific and funny, “Chainsaw Sally”.

How did “Chainsaw Sally” come into being?

When I got into writing and composing musicals, I had a wonderful partner named Jimmy Taylor and the two of us composed about 4 musicals.  One of those musicals was an homage to all of our favorite horror movies called “Silver Scream”.  We produced it and opened it in Baltimore and it played over several years to great popularity.  We then thought about making it into a film, which we did, and many of the great folks in “Chainsaw Sally” are in the film version of “Silver Scream” – Kristin “Cynthia Prescott” Hudson, Alec “Ruby” Joseph, April “Sally” Burril, David R. “Harvey Benton” Calhoun – and we started shopping the film around at horror conventions.  By then, April and I were married and we decided to create a sort of “Elvira”-like character to help market the film and April came up with “Chainsaw Sally”.  She did the costumes, everything.  And before we quite knew what was going on, people were asking us about “Chainsaw Sally” and what was her story?  At one convention, producer Mark Redfield approached us about making a movie about “Sally” and the rest is history.  And Mark even got to act in the film, besides producing it!

How did you and April meet each other?

Back when I was taking dance lessons, April was in the same dance company as I was and my sister, Katie choreographed this dance called “Family Portrait” to three Led Zeppelin songs.  April and I were the “parents” in the dance and as the songs played, we painted our “children”, thus the title of the dance.  And during the last song, “All of My Love”, April and I danced together.  But we were each seeing other people, then I got married and eventually divorced and she broke up with her boyfriend and we finally got married on Halloween 1998.  It was a great ceremony as I was dressed as The Wolfman and April was a Pooka, a kind of fairy.  And now we are the proud parents of Willow whom April was pregnant with while we filmed “Chainsaw Sally”!  Lilli Burril, who played “Sally” as a young girl, is my daughter by my first wife, just so there's no confusion.

What was the budget and shooting schedule for “Chainsaw Sally”?

The budget was $100,000 and we shot on and off for about 24 days in Baltimore and Perryville, Maryland back in October of 2003.  We had to do some additional photography in early 2004 which was tricky, considering how far along April was in her pregnancy, but, as she did her own costumes, it’s pretty hard to tell.

What about a lot of the physical stuff Sally does in the film?  Did you have a double or did April go for it herself?

We had a double for the scenes where Sally is doing her “Leatherface Dance” – April was SO disappointed she couldn’t do that but perhaps next time – and the scene where Sally and Ruby are running around playing “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.  The only running April actually did was when she was chasing the girl who didn’t return a library book through the woods.

How about the old farmhouse where Sally and Ruby grew up – where did that come from?

That’s one of the great things about working with people who are both local and that you know.  That old house belonged to the uncle or great-uncle of April Rouse who plays the bitchy “Ice Cream Girl”.  And it was right there, where you see it in the film, in the middle of a field.  The interiors, however, were shot on a set, which apparently fooled you (laughs).

And Sally and Ruby’s home?

April and I live in an old, historic duplex and the unit next door was being renovated so, while that was going on, April and Alec went in there and decorated the place with the Halloween stuff and the lights and that became their “home”.  Very convenient.  And the scene with “Miss Busybee” (Suzy Lorraine) was filmed in our own bedroom – we just gathered up as many of the kids’ toys as we could and covered her with them.  More ease.

How did you manage to cast horror icons Gunnar Hansen and Herschell Gordon Lewis in your film?  And I’ve heard that you are the first person to ever direct Mr. Lewis in a film.

Gunnar ran across the “Chainsaw Sally” website and wrote her. We kinda went from there. When we started to shoot “Sally”, I just e-mailed him and asked.  He said he'd like to see the script, I sent it to him and he said SURE!  So, there you are.

With Herschell, I just asked him.  We had been talking on the net, then had dinner with him one night.  When the movie came up, we just asked.  And that was that. I don’t know if I'm the ONLY one at this point who has ever directed Herschell but I know I was the first, besides least that is recorded somewhere.  According to everything we've read.

What are some other interesting little bits of trivia you can tell us about “Sally” that viewers can look for?

Well, the two cops in the movie – Zeke and Earl (Aaron Martinek and Brad Smoley) are actually co-workers of mine at Johns Hopkins.  Not professional actors but they were SO good and worked so hard – they will definitely be back again.

And the death of The Ice Cream Girl, which IS pretty gruesome, is medically accurate as I checked with some of the doctors at Johns Hopkins and asked what would the physical effect of pouring acid down someone’s throat be.  And that “cone” we use is the actual kind morticians and coroners use to “clean out” a body although the one we used was brand new.

And one of the bands on the soundtrack, The Dead Elvi, their guitarist is the guy who runs “Chiller Theater”.  And speaking of conventions, most of the cast of “Chainsaw Sally”, including Gunnar and Herschell, will be at the Genghis Con convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on November 18.  Check out the official site at  Sally would love to see everyone!

You mention Zeke and Earl will be back – there have been rumors of a sequel with some pretty exciting horror icons in it.  What can you tell us?

There is a sequel, “Chainsaw Sally – Blood Kin” and we hope to start filming next April.  The new faces in the cast will include “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” stars Marilyn “Sally Hardesty” Burns as The Lark Lady – this ancient-looking old woman who chain smokes and wears an oxygen tank and goes around making predictions.  That should be hilarious – poor Marilyn.  Ed “The Hitchhiker” Neal will be the new mayor of the town and John “Grandpa” Dugan will be the Chief of Police, running Zeke and Earl around.  Also, Gunnar WILL be back but as Uncle Ed, Sally and Ruby’s father’s brother, his twin brother.  And I have this great band, Uncle Fucker, on the soundtrack and they play this blend of Bluegrass, country and punk, if you can imagine that.  So everyone is really excited about the sequel.  Plus, I actually have a total of 4 movies planned in the franchise, if all goes well.

Any final thoughts or words on “Sally” or anything not already covered?

Just that we love doing this and love the fan reaction – Sally’s website gets SO many hits and April gets so much fan mail.  If you haven’t checked out Sally’s site, do what Leatherface himself did and go to

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