Interview: Writer-Director Tommy Faircloth
by Dustin Putman, themovieboy.com
Columbia, South Carolina native Tommy Faircloth just turned 29, and he already has two feature films under his belt that he has not only written, but also produced, directed and, in his debut picture's case, starred in. I chatted with Tommy for 90 minutes on May 29, 2001, as he discussed his film inspirations, background, two films ("Crinoline Head" and "Generation Ax"), and look towards the future.
Dustin Putman: Hey Tommy! It's great to finally get to talk to you!
Tommy Faircloth: Thanks, you too!
Let's start at the beginning. Growing up, were there any particular
movies that inspired you to want to become a filmmaker?
Oh, sure. The first horror movie I can remember is [1979's] "When
a Stranger Calls," and how everyone was just screaming in the theater.
[1975's] "Jaws" was another film that had an impact on me.
And I've always loved the 80's slasher movies, like "Friday the
13th" series, and Freddy, etc. I probably rented practically every
slasher movie that was made growing up.
I've always loved those movies too..."Friday the 13th," "Nightmare
on Elm Street," "Halloween." It's fun to just sit back
and be scared, even when they're so cheesy.
It is. [1980's] "Mommie Dearest" is another movie. I remember
when I was little, before we had video cameras, my friend and I would
beat each other with wire hangers, and record our screams on the audio.
lol. How cute....twisted, but cute. So, did you have any particular
training in the profession?
Well, after graduating from high school in 1990, I went to USC Film
School. But I firmly believe that school cannot teach you how to be
a filmmaker, only experience can. After doing a bit of acting in local
commercials and a guest-spot on [the television series] "In the
Heat of the Night," I was only too eager to make my own movies,
and being a production assistant on big-budget movie sets, such as [1994's]
"The Renaissance Man" and [1995's] "Die Hard With a Vengeance,"
helped me to understand what goes on on movie sets and how things are
I must tell you that I love your first feature, "Crinoline Head."
I honestly could watch it every day and never tire of it. How did this
project come about?
Thanks a lot! I began writing the screenplay for "Crinoline Head"
while I was a PA on the "Die Hard 3" set. I wanted to make
an '80s-style slasher film because I've always loved them, crossed with
a John Waters movie.
That's just about the perfect way to describe "Crinoline Head"...a
slasher movie with the twisted sensibilities of John Waters.
That's what I was going for. Really, I was just proud to complete my
first film, and overall, the critics who reviewed it were nice to me,
which was really just a bonus. There were some critics who hated it,
but for the most part it was positive. CH seems to be the type of movie
you really love, or you really just don't get and hate.
Tell me about the actual CH shoot.
As I said before, I began writing it while on the "Die Hard With
a Vengeance" set, and a lot of my friends from film school were
really excited about it. And the summer was coming up, so....it all
just came together. It was crazy though...very fast (we shot it in only
12 days) and I had a lot of jobs to do that I kind of learned as I went
Wow...that must have been an experience.
It was a lot of fun. When I was asked to write about my experience in
Fangoria Magazine, that was, like, the greatest reward for me.
I love Fangoria too! I've been reading it for 10 years. Now...moving
onto the actors in "Crinoline Head." They were perfect for
their roles. How did you go about casting the film?
Cathy Slaminko [Delta bitch Trish] is a very good friend of mine. She
also was in a short I did called "The Hoochies." I wanted
her for "Generation Ax," but she was out of the country at
the time. I did manage to get her for a cameo as a news reporter on
television. Steven Lee [movie nut Mark] was with me in film school at
USC. The rest of the actors auditioned. Richard Abbott [nice-guy Derrick]
and Liz Taheri [good-girl Robyn] were both theater majors at USC, and
Brian Kelly [quiet, mysterious Paul] was like our star. He has been
in hundreds of movies, including "Freakshow," and local television
programs, and was sort of our pin-up boy on the movie. Brian is a great
friend--he also was in "Generation Ax"--and I would work with
him any time.
And what about Tracey Powlas?
Now, Tracey Powlas [as ditzy sorority bitch Jenny] is a different story
altogether. She WAS Jenny, and really kind of scared me while we were
shooting. I was always afraid that she was going to have a mental breakdown
or something! And although I hate to say it, when I finished with her
on the movie, I was like, "THANK YOU, GOD!" But I really shouldn't
say that...Tracey got some of our best reviews.
I can imagine how frightening Tracey must have been, though.
Yeah, and can you believe that when we shot the film, she was in her
mid-30s and had 3 kids?
No way! The thought of her having kids is just...
At least she looks much younger than she is.
Yeah, and at the time that she auditioned, she was acting as Tori Spelling's
stunt double on a made-for-tv movie, so she already looked the part
as it was!
That's too funny.
Originally, I wanted to cast Colleen Fitzpatrick, who was in John Waters'
"Hairspray," in the role of Jenny. She loved the script, but
she couldn't work out her schedule to do it. Now that she's known as
Vitamin C, she is WAY busy.
And, finally, what's the story with Billie Fontanez, who I think is
a wonderful, very natural actor?
Billie, who plays Uber-Dyke Cathy, auditioned. She was actually friends
with Tracey, and was basically the part she played.
Watching "Crinoline Head," the actors are so believable at
playing their characters that it's hard to believe they're any different
in real life. How did they differ from their on-screen personas?
Aside from Billie and Tracey, they were all the total opposites of their
characters. Steven Lee is pretty similar, I must say.
And what about Cathy Slaminko, who was so good it was scary as stuck-up,
Cathy is NOTHING like Trish! She's definitely not the delta bitch she
plays. She is the nicest person you'd ever want to meet, and she gets
along with everybody. She has also acted in a lot of videos of mine.
We even did this thing called "Cool Kids High," which was
filmed with nothing but Barbie dolls! And we also used to go to every
rock-punk concert that came to the area. We went to see Green Day one
time and got to hang out with the band after the show. We all even went
to a go-cart race track!
Oooh, way cool, jr!
You starred in CH as Bodhi. And similarities between you both?
I just tried to say "like" as much as humanly possible. Another
person was originally going to play Bodhi, but after he dropped out,
I took over. I will say that that was my very own Tiffany shirt that
I wear in the movie. I love Tiffany to this day!
And was that your New Kids on the Block sleeping bag? The idea of the
butch, tomboy-ish Cathy (Billie Fontanez) having a NKOTB sleeping bag
is simply so crazy, it's hilarious!
I got the NKOTB sleeping bag at a flea market. Thanks for noticing!
Actually, my friend Patrick, noticed when I showed him the movie last
Oh, I have a funny story to tell. After completing CH, I was making
sure I had all my releases, etc, and forgot to get a release for the
lake house we shot at. I rented it for the shoot. I really did not need
the release now because shooting was over. You only need it while you
are there to give you permission to film on the site...anyway, dumb
me thought I needed a release, like a talent release. I called the people
I rented the house from and told them I shot a film there and wanted
them to sign a release for the house. They were all, "well, we
need to see the finished product first and then we will decide if we
will sign it or not." To make a long story short, I found out that
I no longer needed it and told them to fuck themselves, and thanks anyway.
They thought they would hold up production and I had already shot the
whole damn movie. They were all, "our son is a lawyer and he will
sue if you try to release it without our permission...blah blah we are
Christians..." I was like, please, sue me, give me some great publicity...it
LOL! That's one way to handle the situation!
And if you read the Fango article on CH, I'm sure you read about the
newspeople who came down to the house we shot at one day.
Yeah, I do remember that. You staged a completely bogus scene in which
someone was being killed with an axe, just to make the story more exciting.
You must have had some time on your hands!
And they cut it off right before the person fell into the lake, because
the whole Susan Smith, drowning-her-kids thing had happened around that
One thing I have wondered about since the first time I saw CH is the
original, exaggerated way in which the characters speak, adding entire
extra syllables and letters to words in their pronunciation. Is this
way of talking something you created yourself?
LOL! Some critics mistook the vocabulary as being a southern accent,
which it isn't at all. The language came from Cathy Slaminko and I.
We could carry on full conversations, saying things like "suga-mayan,"
and no one else would understand a thing we had said. It was just a
weird way of talking that I wanted to incorporated into these characters'
I love in the movie when the character of Trish says, "My ass is
too good to be walwakin'!"
Haha! When Colleen Fitzpatrick read the script, that was her favorite
line! She thought it was hysterical.
Oh...and special kudos to having Trish go to "take a dump"
in the early evening, only to have it change to nighttime and she is
STILL on the toilet! I know people like this!
An hours-long dump! The movie was meant to be very [outlandish], in
a "Scary Movie" sort of way, such as having Robyn run out
to the end of the bay dock to get away from Crinoline Head, or the character
of Cathy going to sleep in her sleeping bag in the middle of the driveway!
Watching the movie again for the 50th time last week, I was actually
thinking how [1996's] "Scream" and [2000's] "Scary Movie"
could have gotten their ideas from watching this movie!
And CH was made way before "Scream" was! I don't know if you
know this or not, but we even made the movie before [1995's] "Clueless,"
even though it wasn't released until 1997. WE CREATED "WHATEVER!"
Switching over to your second film, "Generation Ax," I have
heard it described as "Heathers" meets "Jawbreaker,"
or "Scream" meets "Serial Mom." Do you think this
Oh, definitely. Joe Bob Briggs basically made these comparisons after
watching the film, and it's true. He couldn't believe so much stuff
was coming from the SC area, like my movies, and "Hellblock 13."
Could you give a basic summary of the "Generation Ax" premise?
A German distributor that released Ax quoted it as "They're young,
they're in love, they're completely insane!" I thought that was
a good sum-up. Or "Heathers" and "Natural Born Killers"
meets "Sixteen Candles" and "Baby-sitters Club,"
a' la John Waters. I wanted a teen thriller with a little gore, a little
comedy, a little 80's teen film influence and a lot of bitchy girls.
The title came to me while I was writing the script and I just laughed,
I thought it was funny. I added the ax as a weapon for all the retards
that did not know what Generation X was so that they could get the title.
It's actually pretty ingenious.
I'm not sure about that, but thanks :-)
And how did the shoot for "Generation Ax" compare to that
of "Crinoline Head?"
"Generation Ax" had a 3 times as long shooting schedule and
a much larger budget. We had a bigger cast, and a lot more shooting
locations. I also went into the filming with more experience, but I
still found myself with plenty of extra jobs to do. But it was a blast.
I also try to make my sets fun, even when we've all been working for
16 hours. I like my cast and crew to feel like they're at summer camp,
which probably comes from the oversized egos I witnessed on the big-budget
movie sets I've been on.
Well, that's what filmmaking should be---FUN---because when it stops
being enjoyable, you gotta start asking yourself what exactly the point
is, right? And I bet with making a movie, you've got to be prepared
for just about anything.
Exactly! We were shooting at a bar, and the sprinkler system went off
because of all the lights. Four hours later, shooting resumed...with
Ewww...that's not good. As a DVD enthusiast, I have to ask: are you
planning to release "Crinoline Head" and "Generation
Ax" on DVD?
I would really like to, although it would cost a lot of money. But I
would also like to know that there is an audience out there who would
pick it up.
Oh, there definitely is, if my friends and acquaintances whom I've shown
your work to is any detector.
I would love to add behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes and stuff
that I have from the shoots. Marina Morgan, the star of "Generation
Ax," is from New Jersey, and she had never been "down south".
I basically got her addicted to Waffle House, so all through out the
shoot, we created hand symbols, much like gangs do to represent their
posse, that was a W and an H (Waffle House) and in every photo and all
in the behind the scenes footage, everyone is always "throwing
up the W and the H".
Do you have any projects that you are currently working on?
Right now I'm throwing around a few different things. One's a horror
script, another is a drama that has no horror in it at all...and I've
also been thinking about a "Crinoline Head" prequel. What
will probably be my next film is "Family Possessions," a possession
movie, with of course, a slasher feel. The story revolves around a girl
and her family moving into her now dead, great grandmothers house, which
they inherited. The girl slowly learns that in this town, it was thought
that her GGM was a witch, and she slowly begins to possess her....hence
the title, "Family Possessions." Mix this story with a new
girl in school plot as well, and you have got some great opportunities
for my fav......bitches in schools, etc.
Sounds fun! Well, thank you, Tommy, for taking the time to talk to me.
I genuinely enjoyed myself, and as a fellow movie lover, I must say
that you have really inspired me with the talent and energy you have
brought to your movies.
Thank you. It was fun!
To purchase "Crinoline Head" and "Generation Ax," which I urge everyone to do, you can check your local video stores, or visit Tommy Faircloth's production company website at: