It was at a screening of John Carpenter’s 70’s masterpiece “Halloween” that movie-maker Brandon Slagle decided he wanted to make films for a living. Although he briefly diverted his attention to music and acting, the Austin-born filmmaker has been making Movies for over twenty years – ultimately cementing his career with the successful ‘’The Black Dahlia Haunting” in 2012 followed by a chilling Charles Mansion biopic called ‘’House of Manson” in 2014.

Brandon’s most recent film is titled “Crossbreed”, and it is a science-fiction thriller starring famed actress Vivica A. Fox. The film will arrive on VOD in February of 2019.

Brandon discussed his experiences working in film and making “Crossbreed” via an exclusive interview on January 10, 2019.

Films, producing and directing

Meagan Meehan (MM): So, Brandon, how did you get your start?

Brandon Slagle (BS): My Mom took me to see the original “Halloween” in theaters when I was but a wee lad, at the insistence of my Uncle.

But seriously, I started making my own movies with a VHS camcorder as early as Junior High in the late ’80s, and it sort of went from there.

I took detours into Nu Metal/Industrial metal about 20 years ago, then became an actor in mostly B-movies and Syfy channel movies, then naturally moved into behind the camera, which I’m exclusive to now (my last acting role was in my friend William Kaufman’s “Daylight’s End”).

After a few VERY microbudget productions, we made “The Black Dahlia Haunting” in 2012, which got a split response from general audiences, but really hit with paranormal fans. The film did incredibly well, despite us never receiving a cent from the distributor, and helped us build a business from there on.

MM: And how do those early films compare to “Crossbreed”?

BS: I mean, if you don’t do better in some way each time out, you should not be doing this.

You also have to see what worked and what didn’t in each film and learn from it. The one we did after Dahlia, “Dead Sea” was sort of a Frankenstein movie mix of an 80’s creature feature and a war movie, and while there’s a lot about it I like, it’s more in individual scenes and not my favorite. But you learn and grow. Ours after that, “House of Manson” was pretty ambitious, and looking back on it now, I’m in awe we pulled off a biopic that has more in common structurally with “The Doors” than a typical Charles Manson crime drama on the budget we had.

After Manson, I worked uncredited “fixing” a few films – family films – in post and with ADR, then we did the action quickie “Escape From Ensenada” which is a callback to Andy Sidaris and Cannon Films, which got us the funding for “Crossbreed.” But to circle back around, I’d like to think that “Crossbreed” is the result of trial and error and what we’ve learned both from a storytelling standpoint and business standpoint with each production, and I hope that we will continue to apply what we’ve learned what we do from here on out.

MM: What is “Crossbreed” about and what is the tone of the film?

BS: On its surface, it’s a callback to “Predator” and, yes, all the references to that film, “Robocop,” “Aliens,” “Split Second” and others are totally intentional. The look of it, with all the haze and framing, is a callback to Tony Scott’s films in the ’80s. In short, it’s about muscular wisecracking mercenaries being paid to kidnap an alien, simple and sweet. Tonally it definitely dips into Shane Black-derived fare such as “The Last Boy Scout” and “Lethal Weapon.” My co-writer, Robert Thompson does that style incredibly well and the cast really “got it”.

MM: What sort of films did you watch before shooting began?

BS: I wish I could remember! Though I know most of the inspiration was pulled from many of the 80’s scifi/action films I grew up on.

MM: How difficult was it to get Vivica A. Fox onboard--how exactly did that happen?

BS: Vivica and actress/producer Devanny Pinn shared the same agency, so she was accessible to us, I also wrote maybe the best “please do my movie” letter possible, and it worked! She got incredibly invested in the role and was a joy to work with. I’d recommend her to anyone with something interesting to offer her.

MM: I have to ask, wearing so many hats in the movie (producer, writer, director), are you able to have more control over how the movie turns out in the end?

BS: I am, but I don’t like to become distracted by that. I want to do whatever is going to be the most marketable final cut both in the sense that it sells well and also finds and audience. It’s the only way to build a career.

MM: So, would you prefer to always work independently – playing the captain of your own ship?

BS: The next film I’m shooting, currently titled “Attack of the Unknown”, is a director-for-hire job. I was also hired to do a film called “Agent of Chaos” with Michael Jai White a couple of years ago that ended up falling through for whatever reason with the hiring company. There are a few others I was in talks for at one point or another that eventually got made by other directors that I don’t want to mention because I don’t want it to seem that I’m envious of their work when really I’m not, and sometimes the director who ended up doing these may have been a better choice at that time. One of them, in particular, was based on an independent comic book, and it’s my favorite film of the team who did it. I’d like to do both – develop our own, as well as do gun-for-hire work for other companies that appeal to me.

Hollywood, horror and advice

MM: Have you ever come close to directing a big Hollywood studio horror movie and does that interest you?

BS: I was hit up to do what would have been a rough spin-off of “Hostel“ once, that didn’t work out. There are others too, numerous ones, but I can’t remember them – or am I sworn to secrecy by NDA’s? One of them was the next installment in a big action franchise. This is pretty typical though. Everyone’s name gets tossed around until something bites.

MM: What kind of gore and scares can horror fans expect from the film?

BS: Mostly that of the sticky alien variety. I’m really happy with what we pulled off with less money than anyone will ever guess.

MM: Where do you hope to be in ten years or even five and what advice have you got to share?

BS: Ten Years…I want to do films in the vein of “Training Day” and more biopics – hopefully, they still exist and everything isn’t a Marvel or DC property! If that’s it…DC. Yes, I said DC!

Five Years…I want to be in the trajectory for the above, maybe even have gotten to the “Training Day” goal.

My advice is that it’s going to be more difficult and grueling than you ever realize. Dreaming big is one thing, but the work is something entirely different. You’re going to be beaten down more than you care for, criticized and put in your place more than you should be, and you’re going to be more physically beaten-up from the work than I can prepare you for, but if you’re cut out for it, it’s worth it.

Go to business school – learn that side of it, and make a film on your own instead of film school. Learn as much as you possibly can about the business side of it and be careful who you trust. Go to film markets, talk to the distribution companies and salespeople – learn everything you possibly can and then you’ll be better prepared but, even then, you’re going to be hit with curve-balls. In closing, learn by doing.

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