Josh Bear and Bill Muehl are friends and business partners who are in no way plotting against one another. In addition to making video games at their studio, Twisted Pixel Games, Bill and Josh have created the horror film Lumberjack Man. As one of 2015’s 8 Films To Die For, Lumberjack Man is a horror movie that horror fans need to look out for. Wanting to learn more about their backgrounds and Lumberjack Man, Josh and Bill allowed me to interview them for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: At what moment did you two realize that you both wanted to make entertainment for a living?
Josh Bear: I remember going over to a neighbor’s house when he invited me to play Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo. He asked me if I was any good at it, and I told him I was awesome. I actually had no idea what a Mario or a Nintendo was. As soon as he put the controller in my hand, I freaked out and didn’t know what to do, and proceeded to die several times. I was completely hooked though. I remember going home that night thinking that I wanted to make videogames or something that people could see that I created and have fun with.
Bill Muehl: When I was about 14 I read my first comic book, a “THOR” issue. I wasn’t a big fan of comics but was immediately immersed in the world of Thor, and thought it was a great character. I wrote some fan fiction for Thor, but just for myself and a few friends. After I did that for a bit, I just realized I would enjoy trying to create things that people would have fun with. I got into games shortly after that.
Yanes: You both have experience in the videogame industry. Why did you both decide to transition from gaming to movie making? Have there been any unique challenges that you two have encountered?
Bill: We are both still in the videogame industry, and co-own a company called Twisted Pixel Games. It is actually our priority and day job. Making Lumberjack Man was something we did completely on the side in our spare time. Creating a film is something I have wanted to do since I was young, so when I met Josh and realized he had the same goal, we decided to just go for it.
Josh: The unique challenge in making a film, besides all the things that come with actually trying to make a movie (which are numerous) is the fact that it wasn’t our full time job, and making sure that we didn’t screw over our game projects, or make the movie not as awesome as we were capable of doing. It was just a lot of work, but we are happy we did it.
Yanes: You two have worked with each other on a lot of projects. What is the secret to having a good professional partnership in such high stress industries? In other words, how have you two worked with each other for years and not want to kill one another?
Josh: No real secret, just have a lot of blackmail on each other. That is the best way to keep a good partnership; be ready to fuck each other over. Luckily, we both respect that and have decided to play nice. Plus, I’m bigger than Bill.
Bill: I would say making sure that your partner thinks you are equals, but actually realizing that partner is too dumb to know that I have the upper hand on him. So, if that partner were to ever get out of line, let’s just call him “Josh” for now, he wouldn’t even know what hit him.
Yanes: On this note, while you both created the story for Lumberjack Man, Josh directed it and Bill produced this film. How did you two divide the labor and handle disagreements?
Josh: Upfront Bill and I knew what our strengths and weaknesses were as a team, so it made it pretty easy. Bill knew that I really wanted to direct this, but ultimately everything we do is pretty equal. He may do more of one type of thing than I do and vice versa, but we help each other out on everything and try not to separate it out too much.
Bill: Josh should never handle money, or try to make deals. Ever. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been a “Lumberjack Man” at all. So I was basically forced to be a producer.
Yanes: Lumberjack Man is part of 2015’s 8 Films to Die For. Could you both take a moment to discuss why After Dark Horrorfest’s 8 Films to Die For is so important for indie film makers?
Bill: After Dark has been a great partner, and very supportive of the film. Their strategy is important because it gives hard working filmmakers who have made a fun film a chance to get it out into the world. When you are a first time filmmaker it can be very hard to get people to see the movie. After Dark has gone above and beyond to finally make it a reality.
Josh: Yeah, After Dark has been fantastic. Nothing is worse than putting a lot of time and effort into a film you are proud of and then nobody gets to see it. After Dark and the Horrorfest makes sure that it gets out there to fans of the genre.
Yanes: What was the inspiration for Lumberjack Man?
Josh: We just really wanted to make a film that paid homage to the 80’s slashers. We both grew up enjoying that genre, and as hard as it is to make a Jason or a Michael Myers, we really wanted to bring back the masked psycho killer that has been missing from cinema for awhile.
Bill: “Friday the 13th” was a big inspiration to the camp angle that the movie has, but we also wanted to change it up a bit and add comedy into the mix. Everyone in the film takes themselves and the situation very seriously, but in reality it is a pretty funny movie.
Yanes: In addition to paying homage to Friday the 13th, what are some other stories the film makes nods towards?
Bill: If you pay attention to some of Michael Madsen’s lines (as well as the homage to his character) you can definitely tell that we are big “Halloween” fans.
Josh: There are little nods and beats in the film the reference a ton of classic horror films. I hope people catch all of them.
Josh: Sean S. Cunningham and his writer on the original “Friday the 13th” made the best call for their film: you need a spot where teens can have fun, but there isn’t really adult supervision. This works at a camp, but we didn’t just want to make it a normal summer camp. So making it a church camp seemed to change it up a bit.
Bill: We also have two male characters in the film pretending to be all about church camp, just because they think it will be easy to score with some of the girls there. So having the camp be religious helped us to get that plot point across easier.
Yanes: When people finish watching Lumberjack Man, what feeling do you two hope they have at the end of this movie?
Bill: We hope they had a good time watching it, and would like to see a sequel.
Josh: And that they want to tell all their friends to go buy it, so I can finally have some money to pay off Bill for the huge blackmail he has hanging over my head right now.
Yanes: Finally, what are some other projects you both are working on that people should keep an eye out for?
Bill: We have an unannounced videogame project that we will be talking more about early next year, so be on the lookout for that.
Josh: Lumberjack Man is out on VOD everywhere right now, so go check it out!