On a hot Sunday afternoon in June several thousand horror fans, filmmakers and genre celebrities have gathered in the Dallas Omni Park West hotel for the second annual Texas Frightmare Weekend. Aside from the usual autograph lines and costumed fans, the TFW also offers Texas horror filmmakers a chance to show off some of their work with a Texas Filmmakers Forum and a number of independent film screenings.
One of the films being screened is the premiere of “Texas Road Kill”, the first film from Texas based PRP Motion Pictures. The “PR” in behind PRP is Parrish Randall, a Texas native who’s spent a number of years working as an actor in Texas. He got his big break with the DVD success of the film “The Quick and the Undead” which premiered at the previous year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend. This was one of Parrish’s first lead rolls and it helped him get the momentum going to start PRP.
Now it’s just a short time until the start of the “Texas Road Kill” premiere and Parrish Randall and one of the other stars of the film, the lovely Shannon Roberts, have taken time out to talk with me about the new film and independent filmmaking in Texas.
Nic- Today I’m speaking with the some of the people behind the new independent film “Texas Road Kill” from PRP Motion Pictures.
Parrish—I’m Parrish Randall, owner and founder of PRP, that is Parrish Randall Productions. Also with me today is... (motioning for Shannon to step in)
Shannon--- Shannon Roberts and I play Detective Lynn Sayers in “Texas Road Kill”.
Parrish— “Texas Road Kill” is my production company’s first full length feature film, post appearances in the “Quick and the Undead” and “Flesh Keeper”. After many years doing bit parts from 2000 until about 2005 in things like “Walker Texas Ranger”, “LAX”, Kato Kalin’s “Eye for an Eye” produced by National Lampoon, you name it. I’ve done many small parts and I was fortunate enough to land the lead villain roll in “The Quick and the Undead” which premiered here at the Texas Frightmare Weekend in 2006. In fact it was the fan response and buzz the premiere generated at last year’s festival that helped “The Quick and the Undead” to be as successful as it has been.
Ultimately that film (“The Quick and the Undead”) provided me with the credibility to form my own production company, PRP Motion Pictures. As an actor, a writer and a producer I want to start a company that I could call my own! This has given me the freedom to create my own work. Also, Texas provides us with a wonderful location in which to do that. It’s great here because the people are so supportive, they are willing to assist you on every level in any way they can. We’ve been allowed to film on people’s land. People have even opened up their homes for us to use and when you open up your house to a film crew you have to be awfully damned hospitable… (Laughs) or crazy, I don’t know, but they enjoy us being there. So we are able to have this myriad of backdrops for our films; from woods to deserts to metropolitan areas, you name it Texas is just a great state and all of our feature films will be shot here.
Nic---Parrish, that sounds great! Can you tell us a little bit about the film and your character?
Parrish--- Well my character in “Texas Road Kill” is a departure from the villainous rolls I’ve had in the past in films like “The Quick and the Undead” and “The Flesh Keeper”. I play Scott, a man who is trying to, well if you will, re-assemble his shattered family. His wife has passed away two years before and he has a teenage daughter. He has finally moved on and re-married, the only problem is that he married a young lady who’s 25. When the film opens up you learn that the daughter had tried to commit suicide and is having all kinds of problems and some of them are the result of her father marrying this girl who’s almost her age, just a few years older.
So Scott assembles his family to go on a weekend retreat to what he thinks is going to be a Nice cabin in the woods. However the brochure he’s seen misled him and so after he and his entire family drive 300 miles into the middle of backwoods nowhere they find that instead of the wonderful new plush resort cabin they were promised, they are stuck in an old trailer. They decide to stay and the unfortunate aspect of this entire scenario for this character and his entire family, is that they are caught in the middle of Hillbilly Hell. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but there is a psychopath on the loose and the killer proceeds to hack and slash him way through the better part of Scott’s family. At the beginning of the film Scott’s character is a very selfish kind of guy. He’s moved on after the death of his wife and he just wants his family to move on. By the end of the film he’s lost a number of people he loved and cared for and is just stripped to the very core. The shock and horror of what’s happened to him and his family has left him torn down to just that primal beast that comes out when survival is on the line for all of us. It’s kind of like the Mom who lifts the automobile when her baby is trapped underneath. Scott was a very civilized, if self-centered, accountant type throughout the story. However, but the end of the film he has a chainsaw in his hands and he is a butcher. So while he’s not a bad guy or a psychopath, by the end of the film he’s driven to that murderous point.
Nic--- So Scott really undergoes a lot of changes by the end in this film. How was it to play a character who goes through such dramatic ranges?
Parrish--- Oh it was great! Frankly, you get to see the evolution of this character. He goes from the kind of guy who’s thinking almost exclusively about himself. He wants to have a good time with his new young bride and he doesn’t the patience to deal with his daughter who won’t accept her (the bride) and move on with him in his life. He goes from that guy to a man who is caught in a battle for survival and having lost so much of what he cares for that he’s over the edge. He is willing to stop at nothing to seek and see vengeance done.
I wanted to do this film as homage to the early to mid-seventies drive-in type classics. Up North they called them grind house films. Here in the south we called those same features drive-in classics. So we shot it very much in that style. In fact I went back and looked at a number of prints from the old drive-in films. I really wanted to match the look and feel of those old films. The color process for most of those old films was Movie Lab, unlike Technicolor and such used by the bigger studios, so I tried to match that color and the grainy look of the films. I mean the prints we used to see down here were scratchy and washed out where they’d been run through thousands of projectors up North before finding there way here, so that was kind of the look I was going for.
Ultimately, we are really proud of our production and we are ready to unveil it and screen it here for the folks at the Texas Frightmare Weekend.
Nic--- Parrish, that is just fantastic! I know the crowd here at the Frightmare is excited about the premiere (the premiere, is due to start in twenty minutes and we can see there are easily over a hundred people lined up waiting to enter the screening theater across the hall).
Now I have a couple of questions for Shannon, is “Texas Road Kill” your first film?
Shannon--- Well actually I met Parrish about seven years ago and I got into the movies with him, he was doing “Down in the Basement” and “Snuffed”….
Parrish--- They were very low budget films.
Shannon--- …and I was in those with him first. I’ve also done extra work in a lot of the same shows as Parrish; “Walker”, “LAX”, “An Eye for an Eye” of course my rolls weren’t as big as his. (Laughs) So this isn’t the first film I’ve been involved with, but it is my first time as a lead character.
Nic---Can you tell us about your character in “Texas Road Kill”?
Shannon---My character is a police detective and she knows who the killer is and I’m tracking him. During the course of the pursuit I meet Scott and his family and run into some problems. They don’t take me seriously and so I guess I’m tough but not tough enough! (Parrish and Shannon laugh)
Parrish---You know how it is in a lot of films like this, no one takes the cops seriously and they pay for it in the end. I mean we run into her and just think that she is hassling us, we learn that we should have listened to her.
Shannon--- I did get to carry a gun and I enjoyed that! (Parrish and Shannon laugh again)
Parrish--- Yeah, I think she’d be dangerous with a weapon! I mean she enjoyed it just a little too much I think. (Everyone laughs)
Nic---Well from the production stills you have with you she does look deadly with a gun! In fact you look pretty menacing with that chainsaw yourself Parrish!
We spoke earlier about making films here in Texas and now I’d like to ask you to share your thoughts about the film industry and acting here in Texas.
Parrish---I’m a big advocate of the film industry here in Texas. I mean I’ve built a career acting here in Texas before ever working in California. To be quite honest, as a new aspiring actor just starting out, paying your dues, you see the differences in how it is here and in places like California. I mean you have Texas actors here working on productions for little or no pay… $58-$72 a day and then you have players come in from California and they get a set day rate.
This has always been an issue for me. If I have any influence in the business then I want to change this. I’ve made a vow to myself that if and when I’m able I’m going to do what I can to improve the situation for my fellow Texas actors. There are a tremendous number of talented actors in Texas who never really get a chance to act. These folks are always relegated to non-speaking rolls or bit parts with no dialogue. Then they bring in actors from LA and give them a couple of lines so they get paid $600 for the same day’s work the Texas actor is getting $72 a day for.
So on my films, my pledge is that I’m going to employ Texas actors, Texas crew and I’m going to pay them! I did it on this film “Texas Road Kill” and I’ll do it again on my next film. I’m going to give a lot of good actors a chance to act. I know them, I’ve worked with them, I’ve grown close to many of them and they deserve their chance to show the world what they can do. That is my way of taking that first step towards changing an industry that has been pretty much pre-designed to keep other actors [outside of the West Coast] out. We facilitate the making of their films, we help the people from the West and even the East Coast out and yet we [Texas based actors] have never been given that chance. So let me reiterate that one of my goals with PRP Motion Pictures is to change all that and I’m glad to be able to do what I can.
I’ve had a huge swell of Texas based talent contacting me. I have gotten funding to do four more films, back-to-back, and I plan to tap into that Texas talent. Let’s as a state say “Hey we’ve helped all the other states and all the other guys make films and now let’s benefit ourselves.” Now when I say “benefit” what I mean is the actors, actresses, and crew. They want the chance to show the world that they are professionals. They want to show that they too can create characters. That’s what we’re here to do.
Nic---Parrish, I have to say that you are passionate about your work and about filmmaking in Texas. That comes through talking to you and think it will come though in your films as well. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today about your film and the industry.