I was given the opportunity to speak with a very brilliant filmmaker known as Ron Carlson. We got a chance to talk about his new film Dead Ant. You can read our conversation below.
Dead Ant is an awesome new creature feature that stars Tom Arnold, Sean Astin, Jake Busey, Rhys Coiro, Leisha Hailey and Michael Horse. It’s a definite nod to some of the films of it’s like from the 80’s.
Ron Carlson has also written, directed and acted in many other projects like his All American Christmas Carol and Unnatural. I cannot wait to see what he does next.
RONN!E: Thank you for speaking with me, I appreciate it. So Dead Ant. Let’s talk about that. My first question is: You wrote the movie with Dan Sinclair and Hank Braxtan, right? So where did the idea for this movie come from?
Ron Carlson: Well. So the movie that is there, Dan and Hank and I kind of came up with the idea that we’re gonna do a movie about a band, and we wanted to do a movie about… I wanted to shoot a movie in the desert. That’s where it really started. And then we were like, well, what could happen in the desert? And we started talking about creatures and about may doing a creature feature, and then I was like, it feels kind of Syfy Channel to me, and then we went kind of further and then thought, you know, no one’s done a giant ant movie in a long time, and… You know what I mean? Like Empire of the Ants? So there Empire of the Ants was and then all of the sudden their sort of like a big dry period of no ant movies. So then I thought, okay, let’s do this. Hank and I worked together on the movie Unnatural, and we used an animatronic bear for that. You know, at the end of the day, I don’t know if we were happy with it. We kind of came up with a little treatment and then I went off and wrote the script. It was okay, I think, and then what was missing was like the heart of the movie. You know, there wasn’t–the music wasn’t defined. It was just “a band”. And then I have this love–secret love. I’m a closet rocker and I like hair metal. I’ll listen to Hair Nation and I was like that music is really out and that’s the type of band that wouldn’t be let into Coachella. So then I did another pass on the script with hair metal, and it’s also music that I know and I think if you’re going to do something you really need to understand it and know it. That way it can help you tell the story and you’re the more capable storyteller of it. So since I was directing, I was like this is the move I want to do, and I really blasted that out with the hair metal piece, and then the movie became what it is. It’s ultimately a movie about a band and it happens to have giant ants in it. And it does have all these elements of–something that I love is I love all the artwork from all the “B” movies. All of them, and I could just sit there through catalogs and just look at the posters and it really excites me. So I was like, I want to make this movie and I want to use all these elements but it’s still about a band. And I don’t think the movie ever loses sight of the fact that it’s about a band. And they never lose sight of their goal throughout the whole film. And I think–hopefully–that’s what makes the movie successful. You’re rooting for them, like an underdog, like Revenge of the Nerds and Napolean Dynamite. They’re underdogs and if you can get on board with them, then you root for them.
RONN!E: Right? And speaking of the band in this movie, Sonic Grave, which you have between the members of the band and the rest of the cast–and you have an amazing cast in this film–Tom Arnold, Leisha Hailey, and one of my favorite actors of all time, Michael Horse, Jake Busey and Sean Astin.
Ron Carlson: Yeah, Michael’s the best.
RONN!E: I’m a huge fan of Michael Horse. Did you have these people in mind or how did casting come about?
Ron Carlson: So not one person was in mind. I had zero–you know, I’d finished the script and I’m ready to give it to the casting director to send it to her and get her thoughts and I told her, “This isn’t a Syfy Channel creature feature, this is different. You’ve gotta sell this, that it’s different. Ultimately I want you to say this movie has giant ants, but it’s a comedy. It’s really hard to get people to laugh, however you formulate your script or whatever, and I feel like this movie successfully does that, really by the truthfulness of this great cast. I couldn’t be happier with my casting choices because they killed it. This is probably the best-acted creature feature that exists, to be honest. And I really mean that. These guys, the band manager was tailor-made for a guy like Tom. The script went out to his agency and that role became instantly the role that people really responded to, and it was written really funny. When you read the script you were like that’s the role! And Tom read it and he was “I loved it, I wanna meet with this guy”. So we met and he convinced me that he was awesome, and he was awesome, and it ended up being–I feel like this is the best thing he’s done since True Lies. He’s great in this and I’m thrilled to have him. So Tom came on and then selectively, and I kinda said this, although every one of these actors is great, they all come from such different choices in their careers, to see them all on a poster together, you’re like, how the fuck did these guys come together? It’s kind of like these misfits–they’re all Goonies! They’re all on one poster! And ultimately it came together, piece by piece, and each guy was right. I think Sean in 50 First Dates, he had that side role in that Adam Sandler movie, and I loved him in that, and I thought, you know, Sean can play this kind of, the goofball, stoner, the delinquent of this band. And Rhys, from Entourage, it was so great, he really stands out in this film, he and Tom and the connection they have, it was great. And what’s really important to me, in comedy, is truth. And all these guys really brought that. Ultimately, you get that. These characters are very easy to make a caricature of, like a cartoon, especially with the costumes and everything. But the integrity on the casts’ part, from their background, is to not do that and to play it truthful. I met with each one of them and finally looked at my board and was like, oooh, these are my misfits. This was ultimately the band! If you’ve seen the movie, they come together, and they do, they come together. And they’re great! I seriously wouldn’t trade any of them for anybody else. They made this movie. They are Sonic Grave.
RONN!E: Do you have a favorite scene in this movie?
Ron Carlson: I have some favorite moments. When they take the peyote and they are in kind of that drug montage, before it gets to that, Rhys sings the song Side Boob and Jake Busey is almost in tears watching him sing Side Boob and he’s like, yes, this is the greatest song ever! I loved that. And ultimately, I loved that so much that–I don’t know if you watched the end credits–but there’s a fully mixed version of Side Boob that I wrote for the movie and it’s awesome. It’s a hair metal song. And so when you hear it you’re like, oh my god there’s the hair metal version of Side Boob. It’s so great and I’m really proud of that, and I’m really proud of Jake. The music, the score, of this film I really do like levery song and how it all comes in. I just really love the music in this; it feels like a music lovers. And you asked me my favorite scene, so I’ll go back to that. The peyote scene is one of my favorites and there’s a moment–and this is a moment of directing that–they’re watching the girl and she’s stuck in the car and you’ve got Pager going, “Aw, man, we’ve gotta get out there. We’ve gotta save her” and he’s starting to grind on the young groupie, and you see Tom Arnold watching him do this, and it’s like oh my god. It’s funny and it’s uncomfortable and it’s weird, and I wasn’t sitting–that was all shot inside a real Airstream and had I been sitting at a monitor that wouldn’t be in the movie because I wouldn’t have seen that. I wouldn’t have seen it had I not been sitting right there. I’m (normally) watching the onboard monitor, but because we’re in such a tight area I could see him doing this and I kinda gave my DP a little nudge and I’m like, hey man, you gotta pan down for a second, and there’s a slow pan down to see it and then it comes back up. So for me that’s a real funny moment in the movie and funny because I was in there, and that’s a moment that, as I’ve seen people watch the movie, they laugh at and it wouldn’t be there if, you know, you’re not right there to be able to catch that little moment.
RONN!E: Right on, well, I definitely want to thank you for speaking with me and I know that you have it coming, it’s premiering on October 10th through the 19th at Screamfest Horror Film Fest, right? Is it screening anywhere else?
Ron Carlson: Yeah, it screens at the Telluride Horror Show. It’s the opening night film on the 10th at 7:30 at the Chinese Theater. That’s the open, and then that weekend it goes to Telluride Horror Show, and it plays Saturday night for that weekend festival, and then it has a couple more, there’s like another Hole in the Head in San Francisco and then a couple more in December.
RONN!E: Well, again, I appreciate you speaking with me and I wish you tremendous success with this movie because it looks phenomenal. Thank you.
Ron Carlson: All right, Ronnie, thanks, and thanks for being a supporter of it. Get the word out there because I’m really a big fan of this one. I really like this movie.
RONN!E: Definitely, we will.
Special thanks again to Ron Carlson for talking to me. Besides the interview, Ron and I also had a pretty good private conversation that I have to say I truly appreciate. The cast and everyone had to go through a lot while making this film and thanks to them also.
Dead Ant will have its world premiere at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival which happens October 10th – 19th, 2017 at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Click here to get tickets. Make sure to keep an eye out for it at a festival near you. Make sure to follow the film on Twitter to stay up to date.