Indie Filmmaker Nick Mendoza Talks About His Analog Inspired Anthology VIDEO TAPE TERROR, the Limited Edition VHS and the Advantage of Embracing More Than Just Our Favorite Format!
Nick revs up behind the camera to capture some of VIDEO TAPE TERROR. Look at the FIRE IN THE EYES.LM: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your filmmaking? Did you make any flicks before VIDEO TAPE TERROR? NM: I grew up all over the Los Angeles area, and I got my biggest taste for filmmaking after my Father opened up a pizza place on Route 66 in the late 80s. Across the street was the Azusa Foothill Drive-In and right next door to his business was Felix Video. My brothers and I made friends with the owner (Felix) and he would let us rent video games and movies without having to put down a deposit or get a membership card. Being exposed to so much right next door to me really got me interested in movies. Then, after he got off work, sometimes I'd bug my Dad and he'd take us all to the drive-in across the street. I have great memories from all of that. My friends and I made short films throughout our early school years, but that was mostly for school projects on my Mom's VHS-C camcorder. Pretty much any reason to make a movie and knock out some homework at the same time seemed like a good idea to me. In high school, I did some public access work as a cameraman for a couple of local shows. It was always my goal to make a feature film, but film and processing fees were just so expensive. I really didn't like the look of video for serious projects at the time (late 90s). Jump ahead to around 2010 and DSLR video is starting to become popular. Now I can get a tolerable film-look without all the cost! By this time I've built up a career as a software developer, but decided that I wanted to see if I had what it takes to start and finish a feature film.
Nick slaps his John Hancock on stacks of VIDEO TAPE TERROR, still available RIGHT HURR, mang!Tell us about VIDEO TAPE TERROR. What’s it all about? What can Tapeheads expect when watching it? It's an anthology film about a VHS collector who comes across this VCR and tape set in front of a foreclosed home in a seedy area. He comes home, sees what's on the tapes, and things happen in-between. It's got some plot twists and kind of keeps you guessing until each segment ends. I really put a lot of love into this movie. Why do a flick based on VHS? What is it about the VHS format that inspires you so much? The main character of the movie is literally and figuratively me, which made acting like a VHS collector so natural. I get annoyed by a couple of modern film practices. The first one is all of these cartoon-looking CGI effects that are used way too much. Nothing looks real anymore. The second is the shaking of the camera during a fight scene. The whole point is to disorient you, but I feel like it looks amateurish. Neither of these practices were popular during most of the VHS days. I at least wanted to create a character who could complain about that and use a reference point as to when things were better.
A full look at the VIDEO TAPE TERROR release. Dig the Bee Kind Rewind sticker with the bumble bees on it, mang. Too dope.You also released VIDEO TAPE TERROR on DVD / Blu-ray and digital download. A bold move! How was the reception on those formats compared to the VHS version? You still have some of the VHS version left, right? The Blu-ray / DVD versions sold out the quickest. I made them as BD-R / DVD-R combo packs and signed them as limited editions. Digital download has done pretty well, as it's the most convenient and has the lowest risk. Only $1.99 to rent! The VHS limited edition signed copies started selling quickly, but it tapered off and I've still got a handful of them left.
That's a helluva ulcer, man! Get this man some Pepto! Just a taste of some low-budget antics in VTT!What do you think about the resurgence in VHS appreciation and celebration, and how collecting has changed over the past few years? Pros? Cons? I really had no idea that there was a VHS resurgence until I started working on VIDEO TAPE TERROR. Up until then, I picked up everything for dirt cheap at flea markets and thrift stores. Occasionally I'd come across a video store that was going out of business, but I didn't really travel very far to find them. When I began writing the script for VIDEO TAPE TERROR, I naively had these big plans to release a big box DVD version to remind people of the VHS days, while still releasing the movie in a format that most could play. It turned out that there were tons of people who didn't need reminding and had never forgotten to begin with! The resurgence is good and only somewhat bad. I really only try to buy stuff on VHS that hasn't been released on DVD / Blu-ray yet, or if it was released, was not the original version. Even then, I seek out a laserdisc alternative first. The resurgence is good because many of these tapes are not ending up in landfills. Somebody comes across them and throws them up for sale online since they're popular. The resurgence is somewhat bad, more in an annoying way. It's the same thing that happens when anything grows popular and is exploited by businesses. Think of the word “epic” and how that has changed in usage since 2008. Now, you hear it all over advertising. Same thing.
Now THIS is what I'm talkin' about, dude. All that fanny pack needs is a VHS is Happiness pin! Dig the red tape in the rewinder, too. Now I want popcorn.What are three VHS tapes you think should be on every collector’s shelf? You need one of each of the major types of packaging:
- The big box that epitomizes everything that I remember about the video store days is GORE-MET ZOMBIE CHEF FROM HELL. Big box, great cover, but a horrible movie. I fell for movies like that so many times that my Mom would tell me to “stop bringing home crap”. My Mom and brothers eventually agreed to never let me pick out movies alone anymore. This movie sums up that experience.
- Any type of non-embedded clam. I like SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING. Clamshells like that really made the most sense, and it's too bad that they never took off in the USA. I mean, they were easy to replace if they got damaged. I'm glad that the clamshell style has at least taken off for DVDs and Blu-rays.
- Slipcase version of GORE-MET ZOMBIE CHEF FROM HELL. Yes, you need to compare the big box to the slipcase side by side and see how much worse slipcases look!
A look at the small and therefore inferior (yet still amazing) slipcase version of Nick's must-own. Good luck, though. This one just might cost you an arm and a leg. And, seriously, who WOULDN'T want to rent this!?Okay, you have an unlimited budget. What kind of movie do you want to make? I'd make a Werewolf movie with non-CGI transformations. I don't care if it takes 8 hours to film a couple shots; it has to look good. I'm tired of seeing what looks like cartoons for effects now. Werewolf movies have always been a favorite of mine and I would love to make one my way. Anything else you’d like to shout out to all the Videovores out there? While I'm a huge VHS fan and have wonderful memories of the video store days, it's important to make time to enjoy whatever you have right now because it won't last forever. If the guys that were around during the grind-house and drive-in theater heydays had held back on embracing the video store days, they would have missed out on something great. We live in a time where all types of media are right at our fingertips like never before. Make it work for you in a way that you find enjoyable. But most importantly, watch my movie.
Hey, man, I see what you’re saying! But, that said, Blu-Ray just ain’t really my dig, ya dig? But to each his own, and mad analog ups to Nick for remembering the glory daze of analog excellence, paying homage to the fun and old-school aspects with VIDEO TAPE TERROR, and for championing the notion that expanding outside your VCR ain’t necessarily a bad thing! But don’t forget to rewind on back when you’re done dancin’ in the digital downpour, mang. And, hey, speaking of rewindin’ on back, Nick’s still got some radical limited edition magnetic magic featuring his film VIDEO TAPE TERROR available in his store, so groove on over and grab a copy while you still can! Your VCR needs fresh VHS flesh to sustain a healthy luster!