Chip Gubera is an award-winning Director and producer who has seven feature films and more than forty short films to his name. Chip is also a Professor of Media Technology at the University of Missouri.

Chip’s first taste of international success was due to a short film he made titled “Song of the Dead” which debuted in 2004 on "Fangoria Magazine's Blood Drive" which was hosted by horror-genre legend and musician Rob Zombie. Chips’ film so impressed Rob that he created a zombie musical also called “Song of the Dead.”

Chip went on to release two full-length features that were lauded all over the world and won numerous awards and accolades.

“Academy of Doom” and “Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy” were both in the horror genre but, in 2012, Chip switched gears and created a documentary titled “Joplin, Missouri - A Tornado Story” which was nominated for an American Emmy Award.

Chip’s most recent project is a film titled “Slasher. com” which has won many awards on the festival circuit. He recently spoke about his job and his creative hopes for the future in an exclusive Interview.

Films

Blasting News (BN): What inspired you become a director and how did you get involved with “Slasher. Com”?

Chip Gubera (CG): I have always loved movies. I love the stories they tell through moving images and audio. Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a part of that storytelling. I finally got into filmmaking in high school in the early 90’s. My father had a VHS video camera on which I used to make short movies with my friends.

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I would cut the movies using two VCRs with a mixing board in between for audio. It was a strange way to work, but it laid the tracks for the formal training that I received in college.

The main movie that inspired me was Sam Raimi’s film “Evil Dead.” My friends and I loved this film as kids. The film had a unique way to tell a story visually and aurally. It was amazing. The story behind the making was amazing too. He was 18; I think when he and his friends made it. They made their film rigs to shoot with. They made their own special effects. They did it with no money. It was inspiring. It made me think that I could do it.

I was involved with “Slasher. com” from the start. Ben Kaplan, the lead actor, and producer of the film and I were working on a sci-fi movie that we couldn’t get funding for. We had a lot of pre-production already done so we moved that work over to something we could shoot with a smaller budget. We brainstormed some ideas, and I came up with an outline. The rest is history.

BN: What kinds of movies do you most enjoy making, genre-wise?

CG: I enjoy making all kinds of movies. Feature wise I made a zombie musical called “Song of the Dead” starring Reggie Bannister. I then directed two Mexican masked wrestling films starring legendary luchador Mil Mascaras. They are “Academy of Doom” which is a brain sucking werewolf film and “Mil Mascaras Vs the Aztec Mummy” which is a mummy film.

I then followed that up with a documentary on my hometown that got destroyed by a tornado. That film was called “Joplin, Missouri: A Tornado Story.” That movie was nominated for a Mid-American Emmy. I have now made a fear-the-redneck slasher movie. I don’t think that I enjoy one over the other. I just feel honored every time I get to make one.

BN: Can you tell us a bit about your experiences on “Slasher. Com”?

CG: Making a film like it is a challenge. The budget is very small. You are working with professional actors and crew and actors and crew who do not have much experience. However, for this film, we had a really good group of people to work with.

Everyone brought a passion to the set every day and I think it shows in the final product. The crew was simply amazing. Every day was a twelve-plus hour day for the crew. No one complained. Everyone was happy to be there making the movie.

BN: What was it like to have your film "Song of the Dead" premiere on Rob Zombie's show? What was your reaction when he decided to run with your idea and make a full film out of it?

CG: Fangoria Magazine released the short of “Song of the Dead” on DVD under the name “Fangoria Blood Drive.” It was a collection of short horror films from then unknown directors. Rob Zombie was the host of the collection. This release helped us to raise money for the feature version.

The people at Fangoria, particularly Tony Timpone and Michael Gingold, were very supportive of the idea of making a feature out of “Song of the Dead.” They helped us get Reggie Bannister to sign on to the film. They also helped us with the final edits of the film and helped to promote the release of the film. Besides being on the same DVD and saying a few nice things Rob Zombie had little to do with the project.

Experiences

BN: You are a professor so do you find this work rewarding and do you think your interactions with students impact you as a filmmaker?

CG: I am an Assistant Professional Practice Professor for the IT Program at the University of Missouri. I am on my 12th year teaching there. I teach media technology. This includes audio and video design, graphic design, 2D and 3D animation, motion graphic design, and visual effects design. I’m teaching two online courses this summer.

These are open to everyone if anyone is interested. I love teaching. I feel very lucky that I got this opportunity. I get to stay up with the latest technology. I get to interact with a lot of very smart students who have passion. They challenge me to be the best teacher that I can. It is rewarding to watch the students succeed on things as little as a project to as big as landing their first professional job in the industry. My program is very open to and supportive of me making films.

I have more or less a potential three months in the summer and a month in the winter where I don’t teach unless I choose to. This opens up time to make a film without taking time off of teaching. When I make a film, I often have students work on it in all kinds of ways.

This helps them professionally, and it helps the production to make a film promptly. Fun fact, the star of Slasher. com, Ben Kaplan, was a student of mine many years ago!

BN: What was it like to work on the documentary about the Joplin tornado and which stories are most memorable?

CG: Joplin is my hometown. My whole family still lives there. My family was okay after the 2011 tornado destroyed a third of the town. I wanted to help the town in some way, so my sister suggested that I come down and start documenting what was going on and collecting stories.

My father, Conrad Gubera who plays Jimmy, the store clerk in Slasher. com wanted to help me do this. So, we shot the film together. He was with me every step of the way.

It was emotional, and we had each other to lean on while making the film as well as trying to wrap our heads around the tragedy of the destruction of our hometown. He’s a professor of sociology at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. He brought sociological ideas into the interviews that shaped the story of the film. After the film had been finished, we ended up presenting the film at a few different academic conferences. Working with my father in this way was an amazingly rewarding experience.

There were so many stories of losing, sorrow, horror, and hope. It was intense collecting these. The most memorable story that I heard, it is not part of the film, was told to me by an elderly couple that came to the Joplin premiere of the film. They pulled me aside and said they wanted to talk to me.

Both had physical issues where they had walkers and wheelchairs or something. They showed me a picture that looked like a pile of debris. They told me that when the sirens when off, they went to the basement. Their neighbors came over to be in their basement as well because the neighbors didn’t have a basement.

As the tornado passed over it took the house away exposing the opened basement. They then pointed at the photo and started to explain what I was looking at. It was a picture of the basement they were in after the tornado passed. They pointed out a car that was in the cellar. I didn’t see it at first. They said that their neighbors were under that car and that they didn’t make it. They then showed me where they were pinned in the corner of the basement. It is a haunting story. They were in the right place doing the right thing, yet they were still not safe.

Projects

BN: Career wise, where do you hope to be in ten years and what is next for you?

CG: I hope to continue to direct films. I hope the budgets gets bigger. I hope that the distribution gets wider. I hope they entertain and challenge the audience. Currently, I am working with Ben on a dark, semi-romantic comedy that we hope to shoot this winter. It deals with ideas of loneliness and what people do not to feel it. There are themes of life, love, death, and career within the story. It should be fun and terrible and real. I am looking forward to making it.

Ben and I also have a few horror ideas floating around. Producer Adam Boster has a few projects that I will probably work on coming up as well. One is a family film called "The Lost Treasure of Jesse James" and a post-apocalyptic television series called "I-70 Knights." It should be a busy next few years for me…hopefully.

BN: What advice could you give to a person who is aspiring to become a director?

CG: Go make films. It doesn’t matter how small the film is. Use your phone as your camera. Learn how to manage people and how to be a good leader. Learn the craft. Watch movies with a critical eye. Understand the difference between a good performance and a not so good performance. Recognize character. Look for creative solutions to problems. Learn the technology. Enter into film festivals. Listen to advice. But most of all make entertaining films.