Sequels are a funny sort of genre. The whole idea of re-vamping a bastion of characters, plot lines, and known-villians for a new round about the theaters almost always falls in line with a studio dead set on sucking every last penny out of a franchise film. While some have risen far beyond expectations (Batman Returns, Back to the Future Pt. II and, um, Major League: Back to the Minors), rarely are they coveted, with audiences clamoring to get a peak at the action. But, sometimes, every once in a blue moon, a sequel comes along that solely exists because audiences can't get enough of a good thing.
ThanksKilling, a campy romp that follows a killer turkey on a mission to, um, kill college students going home for Thanksgiving break, is one such film. I first came across this movie last year bored at home around Thanksgiving clicking around Netflix.
They had me at first gobble.
A few months ago, Jordan Downey and Kevin Stewarts, who produced ThanksKilling on their summer break from college with $3,500 they saved up, decided to do something drastic — produce a sequel to ThanksKilling. But…why? Why would they make a sequel to an insatiably campy romp that, for better or worse, is "good" because it's so "bad"? Well, for starters, Jordan & Kevin knew they could make a "good" film with Turkie, if only they had the budget. They had fans who adored the killer Turkie, and they wanted to make a go of it.
How did the "success" of the first film influence the second?
First of all, had the original ThanksKilling not caught a cult following, we wouldn't be making a sequel to begin with. So absolutely the success is the initial reason and influence for moving forward with another. At the same time, we were 100% against making a sequel for the longest period. That changed when we had an idea that, to be honest, we were selfish with and couldn't stand the thought of someone else doing down the line! Without giving anything away, there's a lot to Turkie that we'll be showing here that wasn't exposed in the first. But rest assured, he's still gonna spit one-liners and crack puns as he decimates white and dark meat!
The first film was a surprise "success"....what was your initial reaction?
There was never really a WHAM - HOLY SHIT! moment for us because to get ThanksKilling to where it's at today took four years! Keep in mind, ThanksKilling was shot in the summer of 2007... We were still in college and filmed it over our summer break, then returned to school for our senior years. We slowly edited it while trying to finish school and graduate, as well as make our thesis films. Even after school when we finally landed VOD distribution with Gravitas Ventures (after nearly handing the movie away to one of the two distributors interested), we still didn't have the time or knowledge required to push it full force. Over the past year and a half we've seen the word-of-mouth spread like a wild fire online and ratings skyrocket on Netflix. Everyday we're still reacting to the success because it continues to grow and surprise us. We never thought ThanksKilling would be something we would necessarily "want" to promote, but we now fully embrace it.
How did you end up deciding to use Kickstarter to help get the sequel rolling?
Once we decided to go forward with a sequel in theory, we considered all our options. We understood that ultimately one of the main factors in ThanksKilling continuing to grow is that it's such a tight-nit movie. Kevin and I do most everything. We designed the posters, website graphics, maintain the Facebook, etc. So while neither of us wants to sit on a computer all day inserting a barcode into a DVD packaging template, we knew that we had to maintain control of the project to not sacrifice an aspect that's worked, and we knew there's a hell of a lot for us to still learn from doing it ourselves once again. That ruled out production companies, and at the same time, a couple friends of ours had successful Kickstarter campaigns. We started researching Kickstarter and loved the overall clean, user-friendly look of it, and felt we had a project that would be completely unique to the site! We spent a good week or two watching every Kickstarter video and reading every page, then set out to try and offer something fresh and different than every other campaign to date.
You made the first one delightfully bad on purpose...it's my understanding the sequel will not be the same...how will it retain the spirit of the first?
This is tough because no matter how many times we say the first one was done that way on purpose, there will always be those who refuse to believe it. Personally, I think it's painfully obvious that the whole thing is a joke (a turkey wearing disguises, come on!) but that's just me. The humor will be the same in the sequel - it's the same voice bringing this next movie - it's just going to look much, much better. And instead of relying on the humor of out of synch sound or a ridiculous plot hole that we simply write ourselves out of, we're focusing all effort on an ensemble cast of characters that you're going to love. While making a cult film from the get-go is extremely hard to pull off, we're not too worried about keeping that "spirit" everyone loved from the first film... We tend to believe the "spirit" stems from the comedy, the pacing, the characters, the dialogue, and of course: Turkie. All of which we're doing our damnedest to stay true to!
The main thing we're trying to get across is that we want people to see the hilarious creative team we've put together and for everyone to understand this isn't just a couple of kids with a camera anymore. This is a real movie, and one that we're taking very seriously... in a non serious way!
Lastly, what was the original impetus for the character of the killer turkey and what was the first one liner you wrote for him?
A wise cracking, "fowl" mouthed turkey was the first thing conceived when we jokingly pitched each other a horror film based around Thanksgiving. He later became known simply as "Turkie", but his goal was always the same from the start: kill college kids. We wrote a bunch of other scripty back-story for why he's so angry, but honestly none of it matters! People love Turkie more than anything about the movie, so we learned to embrace his angry demeanor and kept it at that. The first one-liner we wrote, minutes into our initial conversation in December 2006 at our college apartment, was the line that became most famous and our now-acronymed tagline: Gobble, Gobble, Motherfucker! (GGMF)