Problem: You take a production-assistant job on a local film project to study with director Joe Carnahan and find yourself stationed miles from the set. Solution: You turn off your walkie-talkie, sneak onto the set and ask how you can help. By week’s end, you’re standing in for actors and learning grip work.
Problem: You want to push the gore envelope with your new horror film but don’t have money for prosthetic effects. Solution: You order sheep eyes off the Science Stuff Web site and dissect them on camera. Problem: You’re a 21-year-old filmmaker determined to create a cinematic empire in Sacramento, even though the industry is based in Hollywood. Solution: There’s no doubt Jonathan Morken, founder of Apprehensive Films, will find one.
Why “Apprehensive” Films?
I was watching The Bat, this old Vincent Price movie. I’d done my first short, and I needed a company name. Vincent says something about feeling “apprehensive.” I thought that was a cool word you don’t hear much. You know, “Scary Films” would be kinda stupid. The name has given me problems, though. I bought apprehensivefilms.com, and no one could spell “apprehensive.” So I had to buy afcinema.net.
So horror is your focus?
My focus is horror and exploitation, although our next project, NWAR, is a crime drama. I’m a real fan of ‘70s and ‘80s horror films—Texas Chainsaw Massacre, all [Lucio] Fulci movies.
Are you pro- or anti-Texas Chainsaw remake?
Anti-Texas Chainsaw remake! They’re trying to get that same gritty look as the first one, and they can’t do it. It’s got the cast from 7th Heaven in it. They’ve ruined a classic.
Horror and exploitation films are well-covered territory. Is there any new ground there?
In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, boundaries were pushed with violence, gore and sex. Nothing’s really compared since then. We’re trying to push much further. We want to make not only exploitation films, but smart films. You don’t see social commentary in very many exploitation films.
With our next film after the crime drama, Super Stars, we’re definitely breaking new ground. It’s about baby killers. I wanted to make a movie that no one could get out of their head, whether they love it or hate it. I thought, “What will people not do?” They won’t torture pregnant women and kill infants.
Do you think violent art creates violence in real life?
I think that’s so much bullshit. We’re not supposed to glorify violence, but that’s exactly what we intend to do with Super Stars. The main characters in the film are baby killers, but the American public loves them. The social commentary is there, on how America has become obsessed with violence and it’s in the media all the time. But that doesn’t necessarily cause
I’m a prime example. I’ve seen probably more violent cinema than anyone, and I haven’t gone out and killed anybody and I’m not planning on it. I believe if you’re inclined to violence or suicide, you’ll find influence somewhere—whether it’s my film, Eminem, Metallica, Wu-Tang, wherever. If you’re looking for violent inspiration, you only have to read the paper. There are more horrors in the newspaper than in my films.
You had a film accepted into both the Sacramento Festival of Cinema and the Sacramento Film and Music Festival this year.
It was the same film for both, the claymation Cessation Resolution Nouvelle. We made two films last year, that one and a short horror film called Sublime Depravity. None of the festivals would pick up Sublime Depravity. I was disappointed because that’s my favorite of the two. It was put together better, but the clay animation was a lot of fun. We went for a Spike and Mike kind of thing, and used music by the Secretions.
You work only on film, as opposed to video.
We edit on digital video, but we shoot on film. It’s really an aesthetic choice. Film has a depth to it. Video looks very flat. With video, the color’s off. Blood looks wrong, too bright red. If you want to compete with the majors, you’ve got to do the same thing. The fact that we’re using 8 mm puts us apart from the crowd. It’s more expensive, but it’s not out of reach. You can do fund-raising or get some investors. If you’re going to put all that effort into something, make it look slick.
Do you still need actors for NWAR?
The casting call’s on October 25 at the Crest Theatre. We have about seven slots open. It’s by appointment only [through www.afcinema.net].
Can you be a successful filmmaker in Sacramento?
Joe Carnahan did it. He goes to L.A. a lot, but his residence is here. I want to start my own studio here. That’s the ultimate plan. Apprehensive Studios in Sacramento will be a fully functioning production house, not just for my projects. We want to do stuff outside the Hollywood box, stuff that can’t get made. We’ll get a fan base and pull enough money that people will say, "We’ll put your films—as they are—into cineplexes across the United States," which would be amazing.