AndersonVision. The recent history of American horror has seen the rise of torture porn style films. Do you feel that Groupers plays with this subgenre for good?
Anderson Cowan: I get torture porn, I mean I don’t seek it out, but I get people who almost dare themselves and their friends to watch something unbelievably grizzly and how that envelope keeps getting pushed. I play with that idea a bit in Groupers and there was plenty of room to go that route, but I ended up liking most of my characters too much to do that to. Sure, there’s a lot of humiliation and deserved payback in the movie, but I allowed the characters to hold onto their appendages.
AV. Could Groupers have been made in another era? Sans the technology?
COWAN: Do you mean the technology we used to make the film or the technology that is woven into the actual story? There’s no way we could have made Groupers look half as good as it does without the advent of filmmaking technology in recent years. My DP Milan Janicin did a phenomenal job at making it look great, had we been shooting on film with 16mm short ends like indie filmmakers of the past had to do I don’t think it would be nearly as accessible as it is on an aesthetic level.
As for the technology within the story, no, it would be a very definitely be a different movie. Some of the main commentary is about group mentality, group thinking and how everybody seems to be more confident in their own ideologies than I’ve ever seen and I think this is due in large part to social-media. So many of us are entrenched in these pockets of “we’re all right and they’re all wrong.” That math doesn’t add up which means a lot of people are very wrong in what they believe is right. Before there was social-media people were less assured of their extreme beliefs, but now they can all congregate online and feel false strength in numbers. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I can tell you that I don’t think I’m right because of some circle of “friends” telling me so on social-media.
AV. How did you find Nicole Dambro? Her work as Meg sold me on the movie.
COWAN: My Producer Max Landwirth worked with her on the feature he produced before Groupers called The Axiom. I had looked at thousands of submissions for her part, literally thousands, and Max just brought her to me. Got really lucky with that one. Without Nicole’s performance I wouldn’t have a movie to talk about.
AV. I found out after watching Groupers that you helmed quite a number of short films. Is there anywhere on-line where people can view them?
COWAN: Ah yes, the shorts. I made a number of those and put them to work for the fundraising of Groupers. Getting access to those required a $100 contribution to the project and they helped raise a good portion of the budget. Now I’ve painted myself into a bit of a corner. I’d love to make them available to anyone who would be interested in seeing them, and getting anyone to watch your shorts is always a challenge, but I don’t want the people who paid for them to feel slighted or alienated. I should check in with the people who bought them to see if they’d be cool with me making them available. I’ll give you a link to the most popular and lauded one called Rules of Reduction if you check back in with me once Groupers is available for rent on the platforms. It’s about a guy who “invents” a disguise to make anyone look like a pedophile in a flash to use as a repellent if their personal space is invaded. He calls it the Pedo-Instant. It doesn’t work out well for him.
AV. We have quite a few podcast fans at the site. One of our dedicated readers informed me that Groupers was created on your podcast. How did that come to pass?
COWAN: It wasn’t created on The After Disaster, but that’s where the germ of the idea was born. I do that show weekly with a couple of dear friends and it’s become somewhat of a writers room. We’re always throwing around crazy stories and ideas on that show. One night I simply asked what had happened to Chinese Finger Traps. I used to see them all the time when I was a child, but hadn’t seen them in years. My co-host Mike Carano immediately made the leap to putting male genitalia into either end as a torture device and I loved that idea if both corresponding members were also homophobic and their only way out was to become aroused for each other. That was the birth of what has become Groupers.
AV. Without spoiling anything, I have to say that I love the ending. Not the stuff playing during the credits, but that last stinger. Was that always how you wanted to end the film?
COWAN: No, that came from many, many rewrites. I had so many versions of this script before I landed on that. Many of the early drafts involved physical violence and suffering, but I really didn’t want to go down that torture porn route, so I kept pushing and reworking it until I came up with the humiliating conclusion you saw. Really pleased to hear that it worked for you. I love a proper comeuppance ending and I think we’ve got that here.
AV. What are you working on next?
COWAN: I’ve been writing for many years now and Groupers is my smallest, most affordable screenplay to date. It is the first in a “Comeuppance Trilogy” that I hope to complete. Groupers targets homophobes. The next one is titled Battle at Skunk Skull and it targets pedophiles with a summer camp backdrop. The final film targets big game hunters, the guys who pay top dollar to go to Africa and shoot majestic and endangered animals in the face. Those bastards make me very upset and I really hope I get the opportunity to make that one.