Interview with Ben Demaree, director of Apocalypse Pompeii

TarsTarkas.NET has an interview with Ben Demaree, director of the upcoming Apocalypse Pompeii and crew member on dozens of cult films such as Bigfoot, Jersey Shore Shark Attack, Sharktopus, Dire Wolf, Camel Spiders, Wolf Man vs Piranha Man: Howl of the Piranha, and The People I’ve Slept With.

The plot of Apocalypse Pompeii:

When a former Special Ops commando visits Pompeii on a family vacation, Mt. Vesuvius erupts with massive force, trapping his wife and daughter. While his family fights to survive the deadly onslaught of heat and lava, he enlists his former teammates in a daring operation beneath the ruins of Pompeii.

The DVD includes a gag reel, behind the scenes ‘making of’ featurette, 3 deleted scenes and an audio commentary track recorded with Ben Demaree, Jhey Castles, and Editor Ana Florit.

And now the interview with Ben Demaree:

Q: You’ve had an amazing career working on a lot of output from Asylum, Fred Olen Ray, Jim Wynorski, and other classic sources of B movie entertainment. What tricks have you learned to up the game for the next generation of genre movies?
Ben: I don’t know about ‘tricks’ per se, but I’ve certainly learned a lot about all aspects of movie making from working with everyone you’ve mentioned above, things that apply to all levels of the business.

I’d say that just because a film is low budget doesn’t mean it has to look low budget. The technology that’s available today makes it easier than ever to create dynamic camera moves with complicated actor blocking. And the low light capabilities of today’s cameras have really improved to the point where you can shoot in places and conditions that you couldn’t in the past. So it opens up new opportunities with regards to locations and style. That’s the technical side.

On the artistic side of the craft, I personally also continue to study new and classic movies, as well as classical art, in an effort to expand and enrich my knowledgebase.

The ‘trick’, if you will, is staying open to change, and investing in continued learning.

Q: Landmarks in Pompeii aren’t exactly well known in the US, what challenges were there destroying massive amounts of property while still making it look like important historic buildings are being wiped out?

Ben: It’s a little tricky as people generally seem to think of Pompeii as being just a bunch of stone walls next to a volcano, but it’s much, much more than that. It has buildings, cobblestone roads with pillars everywhere, beautiful (and a bit naughty) fresco’s on the walls, dark places, like the “Garden of the Fugitives”, which has plaster casts of victims as they perished during the pyroclastic flow, and so much more. During filming I had a great production designer, Kess Bonnet, and she would include these details as much as possible. The pillars, the plaster casts of victims, everything she could, to make it more real and identifiable.

Q: Why do you think so many disasters in movies are solved by throwing a nuke
into the middle of the event?

Ben: I’m going to be bold here and say ‘lack of creativity in the writing’. It’s easier to just put in the script “They use a nuke” rather than do the research and come up with some real science alternatives.

Q: Judging from the trailer to Paul W.S. Anderson’s Pompeii, yours should easily be the better film. Do you or Asylum consider the original films the mockbusters are named after, or do you try to be as separate as possible?

Ben: Thank you for the compliment! I think there’s room for both of us in the current market and I truly wish them the best of luck with audiences.

With Apocalypse Pompeii I was hired, and was working for quite some time on it, before I even heard there was another Pompeii film coming out. Being curious I did read the plot description to the other Pompeii movie, but when I saw that their film is set in 79AD when Pompeii was originally destroyed, I knew that our films had nothing to do with one other. The catalyst that is the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius which causes chaos and destruction is really all they have in common, our films are worlds apart. Apocalypse Pompeii is set in modern day and has Adrian Paul playing ex-military man Jeff Pierce, trying to get into Pompeii to rescue his family who is trapped there, played by Jhey Castles and Georgina Beedle. John Rhys-Davies is an old war buddy and does what he can to help Adrian save his family. It really is its own film, and I think it turned out to be quite entertaining.

Q: One of the criticisms of the original Sharknado was that it took too long for the Sharknado to actually show up. For the sequel, will it be nonstop Sharknado action or more buildup to the event?

Ben: This sequel is 10 times crazier than the original and has a ton of ‘Sharknado destroying New York’ type action. It’s basically 90 minutes of run for your life as they battle shark insanity.

Q: Sharknado scored big on internet chatter, but the initial ratings weren’t spectacular (though it did much better on reairings.) SyFy has since reduced the amount of original films it airs (2014 won’t see a new SyFy film until at least April, forcing recent Asylum films like Apocalypse Pompeii to just release through DVD and VOD), do you think the market may be saturated for event films?

Ben: The industry is going through an overall adjustment right now with vod and online viewing, with people’s habits for watching television and movies changing. I’ve seen the difference in my own habits as I will binge watch tv shows online on websites like Hulu, and many of my friends do the same thing. So I think the desire to watch event films is there, I just feel that how and where people watch those films is changing.

Q: What are your five essential films (of any type)?

Ben: Seven Samurai, The Birds, Brazil, Some Like It Hot, and Murder by Death.

Q: If you had unlimited funds and unlimited access to resources, what would be your dream project?
Ben: Hhmmm, tough choice. There are a number of book adaptations I’m iterested in, but a ‘dream project’ – it’d either be filming one of the scripts I’ve written or, now that Disney owns Star Wars, making one of their sure to be upcoming expanded universe films.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?
Ben: Just that I feel very lucky and thankful right now with the opportunity that Apocalypse Pompeii has presented me. It’s allowed me to travel to several countries, direct a fun and dynamic action film, and connect with fans of the genre in new ways. I’m glad to be able to share the film with people and hope they enjoy it. It comes out Feb 18th on DVD, Blu-Ray, iTunes (just announced), and OnDemand. Give it a look. 🙂

We want to thank Ben Demaree for taking the time to respond to our questions. When he’s not shooting films, Ben Demareee can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Apocalyse Pompeii

Ben Demaree on Location in Pompeii with cast: Jhey Castles, Dylan Vox, and Crew: Luke Rocheleau, Alex Hutchinson

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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!