Filmmaker P.J. Starks works primarily in the horror genre. A dedicated film lover, he created an event called “Unscripted” which enables aspiring movie-makers to have their short films shown publicly in a library setting. In 2014, he took the project a step further and co-created the now-beloved “Unscripted Film School” that enables people to work as production assistants on two short films that were filmed in a library.

A writer, director, and producer, P.J. was an instrumental contributor to the multi-award-winning “Volumes of Blood” horror anthology which garnered acclaim from fans and critics alike.

Inspired by his successes, P.J. and a fellow filmmaker named Eric Huskisson formed their own company titled “Blood Moon Pictures, LLC.” The company recently released “Volumes of Blood” which features seven stories by six writers.

P.J. Starks recently discussed his career, the “Volumes of Blood” series, and his aspirations for the future via an exclusive Interview.

Horror movies and library programs

Meagan Meehan (MM): What originally inspired you to become a professional producer?

P.J. Starks (PJS): I actually started with writing and directing. The more I worked on projects and discovered my true passion was working and collaborating with others, the more I began to take on a producing role. It was more of a natural transition over time.

MM: How did “Volumes of Horror” come about?

PJS: Back in 2013 I created a venue at the local library called “Unscripted” as an opportunity for local and regional filmmakers to showcase their short films. What made the series unique was the live interactive commentary experience the audience participated in.

I’m a huge fan of DVD commentaries, so I thought, “how cool would it be to sit there while a commentary was happening and be able to participate?” This gave the audience a level of control where they can steer the commentary by asking questions in real time as the filmmaker discussed the making of their film.

The series became a big hit and has become an annual event that the library still holds to this day.

After the success of “Unscripted,” we co-collaborated on another program called the “Unscripted Film School.” This gave the community an opportunity to register to become production assistants and see what it took the first hand to make an independent film. We shot two short films in the library simultaneously on a Saturday night. The first iteration of the Film School went over great, and the library was immediately asking for a follow-up program. I was asked to come up with something bigger and better”. I had been wanting to do an anthology project for years, but was never successful in getting anything coalesce.

This opened the door I’d been waiting for and “Volumes of Blood” was born. The next Film School would be a series of interconnected short films produced over a period of four months at the library, all coming together to create a feature anthology. We don’t base the success of these films off a dollar amount; as long as the popularity continues to grow we’ll keep making them!

MM: Are you a fan of gory horror more than psychological thrillers?

PJS: I have eclectic taste, but I am very much a gore hound. Ironically the second film I ever directed was a psychological drama called “A Mind Beside Itself.” It went on to screen in Times Square, won awards and things, but my true passion was with horror.

I really prefer a good mix. If you can combine smarts with strong practical splatter effects then you’ve got a winner.

MM: Who inspires you – particularly from the horror arena?

PJS: Kevin Smith has always been a big influence on my writing style and, luckily, I can count him now that he’s transitioned into making horror as of late. The most clichéd answer I can give is being inspired by the films of John Carpenter, but it’s very true. The man is an authentic master of horror in every sense of the phrase. If it weren’t for filmmakers like Carpenter, Wes Craven, Herschell Gordon Lewis, George Romero, Tobe Hooper, even going all the way back to filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and William Castle.

These are the auteurs I admire and in some ways emulate or try to anyway. It’s because of the foundation they created that I was able to create "Volumes of Blood" and want it to be a love letter to their legacies.

MM: How does the second horror anthology differ from the first?

PJS: Being as the franchise is ultra-low budget I knew that if we did a sequel it needed to give some fan service, while also being an entirely new experience for anyone watching it. We didn’t want anyone going into the film being confused. It was decided early on that it wouldn’t be a direct sequel and because of this, it allowed me to expand the universe that was created by the first film.

The films are loosely tied together, but “Horror Stories” has its own narrative and its own characters.

The first movie takes place entirely in a library setting, while its counterpart takes place almost entirely in an old Victorian home. It made in such a way that fan of the first film will catch the references, but if you’ve never seen part one you can still enjoy it without having to watch the other.

Strangely, there are plans for a third. I say “strangely” because we never intended “Volumes of Blood” to become a trilogy, so the whole experience has been a surreal roller coaster ride. Right now, we’re in early development on part three. This time around the film takes place almost entirely in a police station where some people have been arrested due to their involvement in a series of random atrocities across Owensboro.

As they’re interrogated their stories unfold, and the carnage is displayed for audiences. I’m currently writing the script with Jason Turner who wrote “The Dooms Chapel Horror” and Virginia Campbell who co-wrote “Butcher the Bakers.” It’s being done in the same fashion where it will tie all three films together, but also be an entirely original viewing experience.

Producing, directing, and upcoming projects

MM: How has your company found screenwriters?

PJ: I’ve conceived the overall story for the franchise and a majority of the concepts for the individual sequences and serve as one of the head writers. The first VOB was written by myself, Todd Martin and Nathan Thomas Milliner, who received a credit due to an overhaul he did on the script he directed.

For “Horror Stories” Nathan returned as a writer, and we ultimately brought on two others Sean Blevins and Jason Turner. Jason had written the film “The Dooms Chapel Horror, ” and Sean did a tremendous overhaul on my script “Trick or Treat” to strengthen it up. Virginia Campbell has come onto the project; she co-wrote the film “Butcher the Bakers” which is a hilarious horror comedy, and we recently brought on Jerrod Brito who won our screen-writing contest we held and he wrote a concept called “A Perfect Six.” His concept was smart and relevant horror, which fit perfectly into what we’re trying to achieve.

MM: What's it like to run your own company and what kinds of projects are you planning to work on?

PJ: It’s different and it can be confusing and stressful at time, but it was the right move to make. Eric and I knew that if we were to keep making and/or directing films we needed to do things in a more professional manner. One that legitimized what we were doing as well as protecting our personal interests. Right now, we have a few VOB universe spin-off’s planned. One is called “Flesh for the Harvest” which I’ve already written and sees The Harvester as the main antagonist. Another is a feature length slasher called “Post Traumatic” and pits VOB’s main killer “The Face” against an unlikely group of survivors. We also have plans to eventually do a feature adaptation of “Murder Death Killer” based on the sequences from both “Volumes of Blood” films.

MM: What are your ultimate goals for your company and are you going to stick to horror or might you branch out to other genres too?

PJ: The goal is to keep creating bigger and better projects that support and showcase Kentucky talent. We plan to stick mainly in the horror genre, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see us step outside that. I’ve done comedy and a psychological drama in the past. As it stands right now though we’re going to keep the blood flowing.

MM: Where do you hope your career will be in a decade from now?

PJS: I honestly have no idea. At one time, I had aspirations of running off to LA and being the next Spielberg, but now I’m a little older and hopefully a little more mature.

I kind of lost that drive to be Hollywood over time and now I just want to make the movies I want to make with people who are passionate and like-minded. I’m very fortunate to be doing what I am with a super supportive wife.

Katrina has become my production manager for our projects and that’s been an incredible thing. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ve ever had like my producing partner Eric Huskisson. Last December we combined forces to start up Blood Moon Pictures and we never looked back.

MM: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter the industry, especially as a producer?

PJS: Everyone builds their own style over time, but I believe to be an effective producer you need to realize that you’re not the only creative entity on the team. Others have opinions and you need to be open to hearing them. At the same time, you need to have firm control and make sure that the integrity of the production is kept intact and the vision isn’t tampered with. It’s a balancing act. Nevertheless, if you have an idea for a film do it. Don’t sit around thinking about it. Reach out to others that have the time, the equipment, the talent and just make your film. Stop talking about it and make it.

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