Graham Skipper is no stranger to the realm of midnight movies: zany, creative and frequently gross genre films that are best enjoyed with a rowdy crowd. Having starred in several such flicks in recent years like 2013’s Almost Human, 2016’s Beyond the Gates as well as Sequence Break – a 2017 sci-fi horror film written and directed by Skipper himself – it’s no surprise that directors Matt Mercer and Mike Testin wrangled him for a role in Dementia: Part II.
Conceived, financed, shot and finished in the space of five weeks as a challenge by Chicago film festival Cinepocalypse, Dementia: Part II is a madcap story of a man released from prison on parole, who must find paid work in order to maintain his freedom. What begins as a seemingly ordinary handy-man visit to an elderly widow’s home becomes a hilariously strange and disgusting ride that fits the festival’s bill perfectly.
Skipper stars as Reggie, a foul-mouthed and sleazy parole officer in charge of Wendell’s (Matt Mercer) parole conditions. We spoke to him about the frantic-yet-fun production of Dementia: Part II ahead of its theatrical release on May 21, with an On Demand, Digital and DVD release to follow on June 1.
How much of a challenge was putting the film together in such a short space of time?
Graham: It’s totally insane. The idea of putting a movie together from script to screen in thirty days is unheard of. It’s hard to fathom, even having been part of one.
People that don’t make movies tend not to realise how much time has to go into making a film, and that’s why they take years to get made. So the idea that these guys were able to do it, from starting to write the script to completing the filming and screening it at a film festival, all in one month, is total insanity to me. But no guys could do it better than Matt Mercer and Mike Testin.
Those guys are two of not only the best filmmakers that I know, but really the best guys that I know. They’re good friends of mine. When Matt called me and said, “hey, I’m shooting a movie. We have to shoot it in like, four days, and I need you to come and be a real sleaze bag and get a lot of blood on you. Will you do it?”. I said “well sure, of course, sounds like fun!”.
I’m just amazed that they were able to get the whole thing put together. It’s really a testament to their filmmaking ability, and to the wild nature of the process, and how they just sort of dove headfirst into it.
It’s the kind of movie that lends itself well to being made by the seat of your pants. It’s got that Midnight Madness vibe, look and feel. Like you said, your character is a total dirtbag – he seems like he was fun to be in the shoes of.
Graham: Oh, it was great. Matt basically said “look, I want you to be the sweatiest, greasiest, sleaziest dude that you can, and you get to come and berate me for a day”. I thought that sounded fantastic. It’s not the kind of role I get to play very often.
It was so fun, the vibe on set. Everybody was kind of developing things as we were going, just because of the speed of the process. There was a lot of discussion of, “what if we did this?”. Matt and Mike were just so on board with anything.
Shooting something this quickly, you don’t get time to get multiple takes. Generally, when that’s the case, you just have to make the boldest choices you possibly can, and then you live with it. I think that’s what we did, and I think that’s why the movie is so zany, so bonkers and so fun.
We weren’t really inhibited by us being self-regulating, we were just kind of doing it. So it was so much fun, and everybody on set was a pro and just a good person and fun to be around. I think that went to us really feeling like we were a group of people putting together this wild movie as quickly as we could.
That energy definitely shines through in the final product. It’s been a couple of years since you guys actually shot it, and it’s to my understanding that it’s been given a little extra time in the oven to make some tweaks since it first premiered at the Cinepocalypse Festival. Do you know to what degree the film has changed since then?
Graham: I’m not entirely sure. My understanding of that is there were maybe a few things like licensing songs or doing a little bit more sound mixing or fine-tuning a few things, but certainly nothing major. There were no reshoots. I think anything that’s different, tweaked or tinkered with was largely for legal reasons, like the songs just to make sure that everything was tight and clean and looks the best that it can.
Having seen the very first version that came out and this version, they’re not very different. You’re basically seeing the film that Matt and Mike put together in thirty days, which is just astonishing.
As stressful as the idea might have been, it seems like it ended up being a very fun experience. I take it that’s the kind of project you wouldn’t say no to trying again in the future?
Graham: Oh, I love it. When I got into wanting to be an actor, what I really wanted to do was make movies with my friends. Part of that was to get messy and covered in blood and do all this fun stuff, and that’s what this felt like. It’s so run-and-gun, and was really about getting together with people and just being as creative as possible, committing and making big choices.
There’s no time to be stressed out. You just kind of show up and do the work as best as you possibly can. Fortunately, Matt and Mike put together a team of people where everybody is super talented. Everybody is a total pro and came prepared, and everybody was also game to play. I think that play really comes through in the final product, which I think is what makes this movie so special.