Interview: Richard Griffin

Richard Griffin has directed 24 feature films in the last 14 years through Rhode Island-based Scorpio Film Releasing, which he runs with his husband and producer, Ted Marr.

This article combines excerpts from a single interview.

Current projects

On November 5 we’re premiering a film called Strapped for Danger, which is a comedy, kind of an erotic comedy, at the Route One Cinema Pub in North Attleboro (see facebook.com/events/1442626099124506). And the other thing is a revival of Lenny Schwartz’s play Accidental Incest, which was first done off-Broadway in 2012. I did a film version of it in 2014, and now we’re back with a revised version of the play that’s going up the second and third weekends of November… at the RISE Playhouse in Woonsocket (see facebook.com/events/1911613405831445).

Accidental Incest

The play is about two people who are real outcasts in society. They fall in love and find out they’re brother and sister, and it’s the first relationship they’ve ever had that made them happy… It uses something as shocking as incest as a metaphor for a lot of obstacles, whether an inter-racial relationship or a same-sex relationship, the most extreme example of how society could frown on any relationship.

RICHARD MARR GRIFFINStrapped for Danger

Strapped for Danger is the most immoral film I’ve ever made. It is absolutely without any socially redeeming value.

It’s violent, it’s very much like a gay Russ Meyer film… Female characters in sexploitation films were always the prey of the male sexual predator, but Russ Meyer made them the predator and the men were weak. I feel like it does that with gay characters.

Censorship

To me, art is all about giving an expression of something without limitations. Society gives us limitations in terms of laws and rules and regulations; art is supposed to be about not having any of that. If we didn’t have art, we’d all be in a state of psychosis: We have to live by the rules of society or there’ll be chaos, and art is supposed to show you the chaos without any censorship or restrictions… Luckily we live in a country where the only real censorship is monetary. People forget how lucky we are.

Democratizing filmmaking

When the whole digital revolution happened… I thought what we were going to see was this incredible outpouring of very personal, provocative movies, like what happened in the ‘60s with lightweight 16mm film cameras… The saddest thing about the whole scene to me right now is that we have this technology to make movies look as good as a pretty big budget film with not anywhere near that kind of money, but everyone is taking the play-it-safe option, so what they make is a $5 version of a $50 million Hollywood film.

Life experience for filmmakers

The early filmmakers, going up basically ‘til the ‘50s, early ‘60s… these people had lives: screenwriters had lives, directors had lives… Then you start getting into the movie brats of the ‘70s… they start taking stuff from movies and putting it in their movies, but they’re still putting some real life experience into when they’re telling personal stories… Now, unfortunately, I think we’re in that stage where we’re making copies of copies of copies. Kids by the time they’re 10 years old start making movies, and so all they know is the movies. Everything seems derivative because they have no real life experience, they’re just taking from films, and they create basically a pastiche of other movies.

Politics in film

How could you not be making political movies now? It’s the perfect time to be doing it. Where are All the President’s Men and Network, and things like that? Everyone wants to tell comic book stories.

Morality in film

Films can be the thing they are or about the thing they are. Movies can be violent or they can be about violence. A prime example of this is a film like Reservoir Dogs. To me it’s a violent picture. When I saw the movie and saw the scene of the cop being tortured with a straight razor… we’re no longer watching a scene about a guy getting tortured, we’re watching the director torturing someone… I’ve never had a scene in my movies where a woman was raped: I find it appalling, it goes beyond my capacity to show that so it will never be in a film I direct… I never showed a child in danger because that just goes beyond what I feel I should be showing in a movie…

Pushing the envelope in film

Comedy is inherently about anarchy. Every great Marx Brothers bit is about them going into some social situation where the upper class are made to look like buffoons.

Think about the ending of Some Like it Hot: At the end of the movie Jack Lemmon reveals to the guy that he’s a man, the guy is madly in love with him thinking he’s a woman, he says, “You know, I’m a man,” and [the response is] “Well, no one’s perfect.” What year was that, 1955 maybe? [1959 – ed.] This admission of homosexual love in a light Hollywood movie is pretty political, pretty daring and shocking for the time. It’s all how it was approached. It wasn’t heavy-handed.

Horror as a genre

The problem is that once you direct one horror film, that’s what you’re known for the rest of your life. That’s the bane of my existence. I’ve directed more non-horror films than I’ve directed horror films, but all I’m known for is being a horror film director… It frustrated me because you think you’re going to get typecast by the business, but you’re actually typecast by your fanbase, and if you want to do anything that’s not in the genre, they have no interest.

What is horror?

You can’t think about what scares other people. You can only think about what scares you. My scariest movie, I think, is Exhumed, and it worked so well because [screenwriter] Guy Benoit and I have this one shared fear, which is we’re legitimately terrified of the idea of communal living… I’m not an anti-social person, I like being around people, but the idea of having to live with other people I find terrifying. I’m cool with my husband, but once it goes beyond that it scares the hell out of me.

 

Scorpio Film Releasing web site: scorpiofilmreleasing.squarespace.com

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