Born and raised in Owensboro, Kentucky PJ Starks became interested in film at an early age. With the success of Volumes of Blood and the constant buzz of the film’s sequel, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories it should come to no surprise that Starks has his plate full nowadays, and it is stacked pretty damn high! We had the chance to check in with Starks and speak with him about his upcoming film projects and pick his brain a bit to find out what led him on this path to filmmaking. Be sure to also check out our review of Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories.
Interview With Horror Film Producer & Director: P.J. Starks
Ryan T. Cusick: I have always been intrigued with a person’s story, the story of how their love for the horror genre began. Tell us your story P.J. how did your love for the genre begin?
RTC: How did you become involved in film production?
P.J. Starks: My first real effort was a horror comedy supernatural/slasher hybrid that I wrote/directed back in ’08 called Hallows Eve: Slaughter on Second Street. It was also an adult version of Scooby Doo. It’s one of those films where you can tell I was just starting to get serious but compared to my stuff now is nowhere near as polished. After that, I kept persevering and networking and now here I am with the Volumes of Blood franchise and producing multiple projects.
RTC: P.J. you are super busy right now, actually a more suited term would be, “You are on fire right now!” You have several projects in various stages of development. What can you tell us about –
PJS: First off, thank you so much for the kind words. My adult ADHD won’t allow me to be live a stagnant lifestyle for too long.
Butcher The Bakers?
PJS: It’s a hysterical horror comedy directed by Tyler Amm, about two losers who are chosen to fight a rogue Grim Reaper hell bent on stealing souls for his own sinister purposes. The film recently premiered in its hometown of Ottawa, IL. Now it’ll be hitting the festival circuit, so keep your eyes open for a screening near you.
PJS: A suspense, thriller full of twists and weird characters. The film is a throwback and I think genre fans will definitely sink their teeth into this one.
PJS: Rocky Gray’s creation of a Halloween gone straight to hell. I’m a fan of anthologies, so producing this was an easy choice. It’s still in production, but their aiming for an October ’17 release and I couldn’t be more stoked about it. Tons of talented directors on this one from Justin M. Seaman who made The Barn and Brett DeJager who directed Bonjangles.
PJS: Created by Justin M. Seaman and Zane Hershberger, it’s creature feature anthology that I’m definitely giddy to be working on. It’s multiple twisted tales involving more obscure beasts of legend. That alone offers something completely different that genre fans haven’t seen. It too has a lot of talented people involved.
PJS: This project recently hit a major snag and had to reshoot, but it’s back on track and for fans of psychedelic demonic drug trips I think they’ll be down for this. The practical effects are fantastic. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product.
PJS: Right now we’re in early development on the film, but I have the concept and story arch completely fleshed out. We’re still accepting pitches from horror fans for anyone who has a story that might make a potential sequence. They can email us at [email protected] for guidelines and rules for submission. We’ve partnered with Petri Entertainment who will help us produce the third and final outing. It’s going to be a lot of bloodshed and hopefully, fans of the previous two efforts will be excited to see where we go with this one.
RTC: I am a sucker for anthologies, so personally I am stoked that you are creating another Volumes Of Blood film! I heard that you are also exploring the idea of a role-playing card game based on the Volumes of Blood universe, can you tell us about that?
PJS: Absolutely. We’ve partnered with Mythmaker Games to create a unique gaming experience where you utilize characters, killers, locations, weapons, deaths and so on from the VOB films to create original scenes of carnage. Players are more like Directors and you’re trying to produce and wrap a scene, before your opponent does, in order to rack up the most kills. It’s called VOB: Body Count and the Kickstarter for the project will go live in June. It’s tested well so far and we’re excited to get it out there into people hands.
RTC: Do you see an even wider expansion of this VOB “Universe,” such as comic books? Graphic Novelizations?
PJS: Actually yes. I can’t say too much just yet, however, we are in talks with some artists now about the potential of this kind of venture.
How do you find the time to balance everything between your personal life and these wonderful projects that you are giving life to?
PJS: It can be a struggle for sure. Just when you think you might have a grasp you find out you don’t. The key is having people who support you. My wife Katrina, we actually just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary together, is very supportive. She’s what I call a “normal” because she’s not an artistic individual and sometimes it’s hard for her understand why I think the way I do. Nevertheless, she’s stuck with me through all the failures and successes and I love her very much for that. As a matter of fact, she’s taken on a larger role with the VOB films as production manager. She’s also become great friends with our wardrobe designer Barbie Clark and special effects guru Cassandra Baker, which always makes things easier.
RTC: I gotta ask, what is your favorite scary movie?
PJS: That’s a loaded question. I own nearly 4,000 movies, the bulk of which are horror. I’m a slasher nut so a log of my repeat views are Hell Night, The Prowler, The Burning, Madman, My Bloody Valentine and Stage Fright. Some others I love are The Return of the Living Dead, 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, Murder Party, Phantasm; the list goes on and on. Pretty much anything John Carpenter and Wes Craven are consumed regularly. I’ve just always been a big fan of horror. I can remember sitting in front of the television when I was around six years old watching the original Dawn and trying to eat spaghetti. The genre is just in my blood.
RTC: Have you ever come across a film and absolutely did not care for it, and then returned and felt the opposite?
PJS: I get a lot of flak for this from friends, but Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever is probably THAT movie for me. I like Roth’s other films and respect him a lot as a filmmaker, but I had such high hopes for CF. My grandmother is my scary movie buddy, so we went and saw it in theater together. She really got into it, but the over campy nature kept taking me out. I would have walked out if it weren’t for her. I recently saw the remake and I enjoyed it a lot. It was the version I wanted back in 2002. Mean spirited. That’s what I wanted and instead, I got, “squirrels are gay!” Anyway, because I enjoyed the remake so much I’ve decided to give the first one a second try since it’s been fifteen years since I saw it. I’ll let you know what I think when I finally devote the time.
RTC: What element is your absolute favorite in the creation of film? (Writing, Directing, Producing, Casting Process, etc).
PJS: I’ve had my hand in many areas since my first film, but producing has been my favorite. I absolutely love collaborating with other artists and bringing something to life. There’s a real rush when you get to watch a final cut and know that you helped birth this into existence. Right now I dabble in various capacities of producing from advising and marketing, but being a part of something from script to screen like I have been with Volumes of Blood is where it’s at. You get to experience all aspects of filmmaking and help keep things on track or make sure that a film gets wider exposure. VOB opened a lot of doors for me to network. I’ve been given the opportunity to work on some awesome projects with some of the most creative people I’ve ever met. I’m always keeping an eye out for other talent and other solid projects. Plus, with Volumes of Blood 3 coming up around the corner we’ll get to work with more talented and passionate artists. I can’t wait.
RTC: Thank you so much for speaking with us, hopefully, we can do it again real soon! Keep kickin ass!
-About The Author-
Ryan T. Cusick is a writer for ihorror.com and very much enjoys conversation and writing about anything within the horror genre. Horror first sparked his interest after watching the original, The Amityville Horror when he was the tender age of three. Ryan lives in California with his wife and Eleven-year-old daughter, who is also expressing interest in the horror genre. Ryan recently received his Master’s Degree in Psychology and has aspirations to write a novel. Ryan can be followed on Twitter @Nytmare112