The film BLACK DEVIL DOLL has generated a lot of interest at the various horror conventions or film festivals I’ve attended in the past year and most of the talk surrounding the movie has been based almost entirely on the trailer alone. The story of a ventriloquist doll that’s possessed by the spirit of a black militant inmate who’s recently been executed, BLACK DEVIL DOLL is a filmmaking collaboration from two creative underground forces: Shawn and Jonathan Lewis of Rotten Cotton Graphics and the guys behind the cult favorite DVD BRAWLIN’ BROADS, John Osteen and The Boone Brothers—Mitchell (Mayes) and Martin.
In the middle of October, I spoke with The Boone Brothers and got some answers about filming and releasing BLACK DEVIL DOLL and the future of their hit DVD BRAWLIN’ BROADS.
Bryan Layne: How did you guys hook up with The Lewis Brothers for this film?
Mitchell Boone: I had known Shawn for around three years before we ever thought up BRAWLIN’ BROADS. Jonathan, I knew—but keep in mind, at this point—Jonathan was like a fuckin’ kid. Literally, I think he was ten years old at that time. As he got older, Jonathan and I became good friends. We wound up doing a lot of conventions together.
BL: What films influenced the tone for BLACK DEVIL DOLL?
Martin Boone: I know I’ve always had an interest in the B-movie type of stuff. There were titles like HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, THE TOXIC AVENGER and STREET TRASH. So, I know we were definitely going for that kind of tone—that super-over-the-top, gnarly kind of splatter film that was all over the place in the eighties; the real low budget kind of stuff. I know Shawn is a huge fan of all the doll horror films. Its like: You name it. He’s seen it. I’d say that’s what he brought into BLACK DEVIL DOLL.
Mitchell: I think if I brought anything into this it would be more of a Russ Meyer influence. I’m big, big into Russ Meyer films. It was really just a huge hodgepodge of all this different stuff people were into.
BL: How long was the shoot for BLACK DEVIL DOLL?
Mitchell: I think the final count ended up being thirty-three days. We did it in chunks. We would shoot three days in a row, here and there. I think the longest stretch was eight days straight. It was broken up between everybody having to work and everything like that. Basically, it was around thirty days, spread out over three months.
BL: Did you film it on digital?
Martin: Yes, we did. It was shot on HD Digital. So, it will be available on Blue-Ray at some point in time (laughing).
Mitchell: Which I think is just so fuckin’ funny. That will be cool to see.
BL: Did filming on digital turn out as well as you hoped?
Mitchell: John Osteen, who was our director of photography and the jack-of-all-trades, is running it through a 24p conversion process. When all is said and done, it should look like film. I’ve seen some footage that has already been transferred with the 24p and it looks very close to film. I mean, it probably won’t fool an expert, but it looks very close.
BL: How about writing the film? How long did it take for Shawn Lewis and yourself to write BLACK DEVIL DOLL?
Mitchell: You know that was quick. I would say the bulk of the story was done over five days. We would tinker with it for weeks, fine tuning it and adding this or that, but the heart of it was done over five days. It was just like a crash session where Shawn would come down to my place and we would just hammer through it. It was one of those things where we just came to it with so many ideas and had it so clear in our heads for what we wanted it to be. It just flowed once we started typing it out. It was page, after page, after page. Plus, the fact that it’s kind of simple made it a lot easier (laughing). It was definitely a good experience because Shawn and I had talked for years about writing something together. He actually has a writing background with Blackest Heart Magazine and he has a knack for writing comedic stuff. The only thing I have under my belt is BRAWLIN’ BROADS. When we sat down with BLACK DEVIL DOLL, it really did click and it felt like a good teaming-up. We have a lot of the same sensibilities, as far as what we both think is funny or offensive. I hope the finished film comes across that way.
BL: How has the response to BLACK DEVIL DOLL been?
Martin: It’s been really, really positive and a lot of that credit goes right to Shawn because he’s been promoting the shit out of the thing. He’s been getting it into all of the film festivals and making sure all of the magazines know about the film. You can really see the impact at all of the conventions, not just from experiencing the trailer in front of an audience, but also from people coming up to our table and talking to us. I recently went to the Fango Convention back in April and we screened the trailer and a special scene that was made to set up a three-minute clip from the actual film. The audience loved what they were seeing. You really get a sense of the whole thing and it felt, to me, that we were onto something. I have to say, thank god for the Internet because a movie like this would be very hard to promote any other way.
BL: Tell me about the gore effects for BLACK DEVIL DOLL.
Mitchell: I guess the big—what you would call money shot gore effect was where one of the girls gets her throat slashed by the doll. The actress was Natasha Talonz and we brought in a professional to conduct that one. A lot of the stuff we were able to do ourselves and I actually did most of the other gore effects. You know, the simple stuff and things I felt I could pull off that would look good on film. The throat thing was just way too advanced for myself, so we brought in Ed Martinez, who’s a local guy out here that we’ve known for years. He’s one of those guys you always see at conventions and he becomes kind of an acquaintance, but Shawn has known him for years. We brought him in, we told him what we needed and he came right in and delivered the goods. It looks so fuckin’ sick. There are a lot of other gore effects in the movie, but none quite as advanced as what he contributed.
BL: Was it a complicated shot that required several takes?
Martin: We filmed it a couple of times and it went by very smoothly. I think that was all because of Ed. He came in and we had a pre-production meeting specifically for that scene. We discussed it in detail with everything we wanted to accomplish for that particular scene. When he came to the set it was like a fuckin’ military operation. We got it all set up and everything just lined up perfectly. In fact, I think the only reason we shot a second take was because we could do it— for safety reasons, also.
BL: How about the look for the doll? How did that all come about?
Mitchell: That whole thing was Shawn and I. We started out with a different idea entirely. Originally, we wanted him to be more of a pimp character. Then Shawn came up with the idea to go with the angry, black militant personality. Once we decided that—not only would that give the doll a cool look, but it truly did open up all kinds of possibilities for writing the script with the doll’s background and his character in general. The concept was one that this doll is really fuckin’ hostile and just absolutely hates whitey (laughing). So, once we decided on that, I set to designing the doll’s look. We had a guy in Los Angeles who sculpted the head based on the traditional ventriloquist doll. He sent that up to me and I just ran with it from there. I painted it, put the wig on him, dressed him and did the whole deal.
BL: Martin, how about the character you portray in the film, White-T? Was that character written with you in mind?
Martin: Well, they wanted me to do something in it and John Osteen, who is editing BLACK DEVIL DOLL at this very moment, came up with the idea of the stalker boyfriend. Mitch and I were throwing ideas around and we kept coming back to this white guy who seems to think he’s black. After that, we just ran with it. White-T is the ex-boyfriend of the character that Heather Murphy portrays, the star of BLACK DEVIL DOLL. So, I’d say that character was written with me in mind from the very beginning. The costume was funny to come up with and Marshall’s and Ross provided it… as long as I gave them some money. The grill I used on my teeth was made out of aluminum foil.
BL: Your involvement with the film wasn’t limited to acting, was it?
Martin: Well, my scenes only took three days to shoot, initially; not including any re-shoots we felt needed to be done. So, I would help out with anything, if I were able. If they needed help with lighting, or a dolly grip… I mean, I was happy to do that. I was always available to a certain extent, to provide my assistance whenever anybody would ask. That seemed to be true with many people working on this movie.
BL: How about negative feedback? You know if BLACK DEVIL DOLL or BRAWLIN’ BROADS has gotten any?
Mitchell: Well, with BRAWLIN’ BROADS– not as much as we figured, and to be perfectly honest, not as much as we hoped. It was one of those things where a lot of people just really embraced it. We didn’t think that most people would get the kind of wink at them that was going on, but I guess a ton of people did. So, other than e-mails we got from a few people, that was about the extent of it all—as far as BRAWLIN’ BROADS is concerned. BLACK DEVIL DOLL is kind of the same, although there seems to be this whole hypocrisy going on with the content. What seems to be going on with BLACK DEVIL DOLL is because of the obvious racial humor that’s in it, some people give the impression of saying, “Oh my God, this is so wrong.” Then as soon as they find out that the director is African-American, it’s suddenly like everything is all right. Which is just so stupid to me. I mean, who cares what color a filmmaker’s skin is? You can only be black to make a racial stereotype joke? It’s absurd. Dave Chappelle can do all that shit, but you throw a white guy into the mix and it’s like, “Oh no, you can’t joke about that.” I just don’t feel that way and I’ll make a joke about whatever the hell I want. There was a magazine that’s the equivalent to the urban version of Maxim called King and they really, really attacked BLACK DEVIL DOLL. There was an article written by a guy named Timmhotep Aku and he stated that BLACK DEVIL DOLL “looked like something you’d expect to find on a Klansman’s Netflix queue.” I love that (laughing)! He based his opinion solely on the MySpace page. He didn’t even look at the trailer or anything else, for that matter. He just said we were a bunch of racists making a racist movie and we were furthering the stereotype of the black male being a rapist. It was like, “Give me a break, dude. It’s a fuckin’ movie about a puppet.” To be honest, I invite that kind of shit. I hope there will be more of that when the movie comes out because I will debate that shit with anyone. At some point, I don’t know when exactly it happened, but people in America started thinking that they have a right not to be offended.
BL: Let’s go back to BRAWLIN’ BROADS. Would that have been the first time we ever saw The Boone Brothers?
Martin: Yeah, that was where it was all put together and it was one of those things where we almost did it completely backwards. We got our hands on the fight footage first and the two of us would have a big group of friends over that would love watching these chicks fight. We started thinking of a way to put this footage together. We came to the conclusion that it would be cool if we had something we could wrap around the fighting footage. You know, set the fights up, have background information on why the girls are fighting and just have something more than one fight after the next. We had the idea that there should be a couple of hosts between these fights. We ended up saying, “Why couldn’t we do it?” So, we came up with the whole Boone Brothers thing and we started writing it out with John Osteen— who directed BRAWLIN’ BROADS. Mitch and I always saw it as portraying The Blues Brothers on crystal meth and the whole thing just kind of clicked for us. It was right around the time that GIRLS GONE WILD was coming out and when we saw one of those we thought the content was shitty. So, we basically set out to make a party tape that people could get ripped to and just have a fuckin’ blast fest. I think we accomplished that.
BL: From there The Boone Brothers really took off, right? I remember you had a radio show for a while.
Mitchell: Yeah, at the time, BRAWLIN’ BROADS was only available on VHS and we released it independently. We went to a duplication house in San Francisco and just ran off a shitload of copies. We did the usual, like put up the website and then we just started sending screener copies to magazines. The idea was that we were hoping they would write about it, and if they write about it—they’re going to plug the website. We figured it would generate a bunch of orders for the video. We also decided to show up at some of the film conventions and the response, right out of the gate, was really, really positive.
Martin: We got a lot of good reviews and a ton of great feedback from people who bought the video. It just started to take off on its own. We had done several radio shows as guests and we did one that MTV’s Kennedy and Ahmet Zappa, Frank’s son, hosted. The producers of that show and the radio network in general must have liked what they were hearing from the two of us. I imagine they were big fans of the BRAWLIN’ BROADS video, as well. Next thing we knew, they called us up and asked if we wanted to test for a show. We were like, “Shit, we don’t have ANY background for doing radio.” It really was kind of ridiculous, but what are you going to do when somebody hands you that opportunity? You have to at least try.
Mitchell: They flew us down to there and put us up in a real nice hotel…the whole deal, you know? We did a couple of test shows and they liked them. They offered us a weekend radio show and moved us down to Los Angeles. We did that for several months and then a weeknight spot became available. I think it was Bobby Slayton’s show that moved on to some other place. We went from doing a weekend radio show to performing six nights a week and it was really taking off there for a while. I think, in the end, we picked up ten different syndication markets. They weren’t big ones— like Los Angeles and New York— but they were smaller, mid-western markets. We really felt like we were gaining some momentum and people were responding to the show. Then the fuckin’ network, due to some financial problems behind the scenes, literally went out of business overnight. They marched in the whole place, which was a shitload of people that were employed there. I mean, they were doing 24-7 live radio programming and they were just like, “Well, financing got pulled and we’re done (laughing).” We were like, “Holy Shit! We moved down to Los Angeles and we lost the show.”
Martin: We had an agent and he tried to shop us around to some different places. Everyone was like, “Oh yeah, we really like your show, but…” I guess it was kind of a hard sell because at the time Howard Stern had just paid over a million dollars in fines. This was also right around 9-11 and, at the same time, the FCC was just hammering people for the content on radio shows.
Mitchell: With our show, we always tried to push it as far as we could with the humor and it was like nobody wanted to touch us. They were like; “You guys aren’t well-known enough to make it worth the risk.” So, that was pretty much the end of the Boone Brothers radio career (laughing). It was a ride though, I’ll tell you that much.
BL: Can we expect another BRAWLIN’ BROADS somewhere down the road?
Martin: Well, BLACK DEVIL DOLL is goal number one with everybody involved at the moment because we’re all trying to get that sucker out by the beginning of 2009. Hopefully, sometime after that we will be releasing BRAWLIN’ BROADS: THE BOOTLEG EDITION. It will probably be the final thing for that title and it’s the way we wanted to put it out in the first place. When we signed the deal with our distributor XEG, they came in and added this hillbilly music. They also felt we crossed the line with a lot of the racial humor we wrote. It kind of pissed us off because they were telling us to be extreme, then they turned around and censored a bunch of the content we had in there. They were all about getting BRAWLIN’ BROADS into Best Buy and putting it on Pay-Per View, which we were all for and they did do that. Ultimately, we just weren’t happy with the way they clipped some of the stuff we did. So, that’s the reason for releasing BRAWLIN’ BROADS: THE BOOTLEG EDITION. It should be available right around the time when BRAWLIN’ BROADS 2 hits the streets, which will be shortly after the release of BLACK DEVIL DOLL early in 2009.
BL: Okay. I think I have enough to work with here. Thanks for talking with me.
Mitchell: It’s always good to hear from you, Bryan. Thanks for showing an interest.
Keep posted with everything you need to know about the horror/comedy BLACK DEVIL DOLL by visiting the website at www.blackdevildoll.com and visit them on MySpace at www.myspace.com/blackdevildolldvd.
Get a dose of The Boone Brothers’ humor and find out about the cult hit DVD BRAWLIN’ BROADS, as well as future releases, at www.brawlinbroads.com
Check out the best horror and exploitation t-shirts on the market at www.rottencotton.com, featuring graphic designs by Deep Red Magazine’s Chas. Balun and The Lewis Brothers.