ANDERSONVISION: Let me start by saying Lake Michigan Monster is one of my favorite films of 2020. What inspired you?
Thank you, Troy! You are indeed a first rate first mate! The inspiration for the picture came one rainy afternoon whilst sitting on Wine Rock along the shores of Lake Michigan listening to pirate metal with Erick West (Sean Shaughnessy). We were smoking Djarum Black Clove Cigarettes and drinking $3 sweet red wine when I turned to my companion and said, “What if a mermaid washed up on shore and we were the only ones around to see it?”Ryland Tews (Lake Michigan Monster)
ANDERSONVISION: Some might mention the Raimi influence in the movie, but I detected a huge Maddin influence. Are you a fan of Guy Maddin?
Both were influences, but yes it was Guy Maddin’s film Brand Upon the Brain! that told me it was possible to make a feature film in a grainy, black and white, 16mm style, chock-full of high contrast, blown out images and bizarre editing choices. Guy saw the movie not too long ago, actually. Wrote me a very flattering review. So naturally I thought he had watched the wrong movie.Ryland Tews (Lake Michigan Monster)
ANDERSONVISION: How much fun was it to keep yelling Sean Shaughnessy? I love a great character name and it’s become a thing around AV Central.
The only thing better was having passionfruit La Croix sparkling water on set. Those days on the beach were either hot and muggy or cold and rainy. So the most rewarding part of any shoot was nailing a scene, knowing full well there would be a passionfruit La Croix waiting for me in the sand.Ryland Tews (Lake Michigan Monster)
ANDERSONVISION: I appreciate the effort to keep the film short. Do you feel that brevity is important to creature features?
Yes, that was always my intention. Because we had virtually no money, I knew we had to keep this thing short. Hit the audience with a ton of bricks and leave. Like a punk rock song. So we tried to cram as much energy, comedy, spookiness, and imagery into 78 minutes. Did we sort of succeed? Well, we didn’t not sort of succeed.Ryland Tews (Lake Michigan Monster)
ANDERSONVISION: The VFX were second-to-none. What drove the idea to have these super detailed backgrounds against materials echoing the best of Ed Wood and early American International productions?
Producer and editor Magic Mike Cheslik, known for his visual effects wizardy and pole dancing prowess, was amazing at creating comp shots and bringing scenes to life through the use of After Effects. The film’s “grain train” style allowed Mike to do over 300 effects shots in a timely manner that would have been impossible if this thing was shot with a nice camera. But because the movie looks like it was dug up out of the Earth, Mike was able to get away with using simpler, stronger effects and imagery. Look out, James Cameron!Ryland Tews (Lake Michigan Monster)
ANDERSONVISION: The sign of a great indie movie is the one that makes you want to pick up a camera after watching it. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention how much Lake Michigan Monster inspired me. What film inspired you to make Lake Michigan Monster?
Brand Upon the Brain! put my ass in gear. It was the catalyst that told me that even I, a swarthy young dockhand, could slay the Moby Dick that is the feature film. For men are remembered by the features they make! I said, there’s no reason I can’t blow all my pizza delivery tip money on props and costumes. There’s no reason I can’t barge into places uninvited dressed up like a drunken sea captain. There’s no reason I can’t take my family and friends hostage at gunpoint and stick them in front of a camera.Ryland Tews (Lake Michigan Monster)
ANDERSONVISION: Given that the film had such a small crew, who pinned down the look of the Monster? It’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen the movie, but that visual is still sticking in my brain.
Joe Castro, Erick West, and Mike Cheslik had a threeway with that monster. Joe provided the suit/makeup, Erick provided its limbic system, and Mike was in charge of visual effects. It was a look that came to Mike and I in a dream whilst sailing a schooner of spices around the horn of Mexico.Ryland Tews (Lake Michigan Monster)
ANDERSONVISION: Did you have any fears of the movie playing outside of a regional setting? Regional horror used to be bigger in the 70s with films like The Milpitas Monster and Legend of Boggy Creek. I’m just wondering if they had any influence over Lake Michigan Monster.
To be honest with you, I was fearful the movie wouldn’t play anywhere at all. I thought I was going to have to make VHS transfers and pawn them to the seamen of Barbados. They quite like their Milpitas and Boggy Creek monsters. I haven’t seen either. Nor have I seen many creature features. The reason for making a creature feature at all was merely because it seemed like the only attainable thing to do that wasn’t yet another sappy indie relationship drama. If you ask me, those are the real horror movies.Ryland Tews (Lake Michigan Monster)
ANDERSONVISION: What are you working on next?
The new picture is a supernatural, no dialogue, physical comedy set during the height of America’s fur trade. The name of the movie is HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS.Ryland Tews (Lake Michigan Monster)