After my dinner with WWE Studios head Michael Luisi at Sundance, WWE invited me to attend Summer Slam in Los Angeles, in their executive box with a host of WWE Studios filmmaker talent. I watched the Twisted Twins cheer on Kane, and caught up with Ashley Bell of The Last Exorcism, The Day and The Marine 3: Homefront. I met Zach Lipovsky for the first time. He was a contestant on the Fox reality show “On the Lot” in which aspiring filmmakers competed “American Idol” style. Lipovsky is directing Leprechaun: Origins, the reboot starring Hornswoggle (Dylan Postl) as the title creature. Lipovsky wouldn’t tell me whether he included a cameo by the original leprechaun, Warwick Davis. That will remain a surprise, but he gave me a phone interview after he returned from a screening of his rough cut. WWE will have a presence at the Toronto International Film Festival as they did at Sundance so we’re happy to present their filmmakers now with some early buzz on their upcoming films.
Zach Lipovsky: I was just at the screening, so it’s perfect timing.
CraveOnline: Oh, did you screen Leprechaun already?
I did, first cut today.
What does it clock in at?
Just where we need to be, how about that? It’s still early. We’re still just seeing the movie for the very first time.
So first, did anything come out of “On the Lot?”
For all of us it was really tough timing whether we won or we didn’t. We had the world’s greatest spotlight, everyone was really impressed with what we did and then it went right into the writing strike where basically Hollywood shut down. And then right out of that, it went into the recession where basically everyone stopped spending money. It took years and years for all of that to settle itself out. By the time it did, we were all kind of back to square one again. Kind of the world’s best soapbox at the worst time.
How did you start over then?
Basically starting back and really working on my own stuff and getting people excited about things that I had done. I did a lot of commercials as well just to keep working. Just knocking on doors and trying to get people to let me make movies. I had to start small again. Everyone felt, after such a thing with Spielberg and “On the Lot,” it makes you feel like, “Oh, we’re going to be directing massive, huge movies and we’re going to have the world as our oyster.” Just the way that the world worked, that didn’t happen so I’ve kind of had to begin like anyone else, working my way up with the small horror movies and working my way up.
Was Syfy one of the doors you knocked on?
Yeah, Syfy for the monster movie I did, Tasmanian Devils, was a great opportunity because it was a small movie but they’re really willing to go a new way. A lot of the time when you hire directors that have been doing it for a long time, they just want to get their check and move on. They were like, “Hey, why don’t we try someone who’s more making movies for the love of it and have some fun with it?” I was pretty proud of what we were able to pull off there, and it kind of showed them a new way of doing it.
When you see the success of Sharknado, are people starting to get what they can do with a Syfy movie?
The problem with a lot of those movies is they end up being very similar and there’s a lot that they could be doing. I hope with that success, they can definitely start finding new ways of making new movies.
What would be another way to distinguish that kind of movie?
Good question. What I learned making those movies is it’s pretty difficult because of the commercial breaks. You’re kind of stuck in this eight act structure, and because you don’t necessarily know if the audience has been paying attention the whole time or have they just tuned in or what had happened between the last commercial break, it really changes the structure of your film’s horror. You can’t really do the slow burn like you could in Jaws or something like that because they might have just tuned in or they might tune out so you basically have to have a kill every 10 minutes between every commercial and you have to show the monster, because people might be like, “Oh, this isn’t a monster movie.” It’s interesting because the formula is kind of defined by the form of being a TV movie. I would at least try looking for ways to play within that. It makes sense but it’s very limiting in the same way.
How did you hook up with WWE?
WWE contacted me. They shot the film in Canada which is where I’m from, so they needed a Canadian. They actually had seen Tasmanian Devils and were really excited by what it was. It was a similar budget, similar schedule, similar genre so they thought that it would be a good fit.
Since it’s Leprechaun: Origins is it a complete new beginning, or does it have any connections to the previous ones?
It’s basically a complete refresh, reboot. We’re not trying to copy or really do at all what the last one did. It kind of did what it was doing so well, that’s why they made so many of them, but we’re going a completely new direction and completely new world and everything which is why they were excited by what I brought to the table because I was pretty new to the whole Leprechaun thing myself. It was kind of what can we do to make something that’s a legitimate horror movie rather than something a bit more campy?
Did you go back and watch the six original ones?
[Laughs] I didn’t make it through all of them but I definitely went back to figure out where I could pull some homages from and stuff like that. To a certain degree, as they get more and more outlandish, I was like I think I get it.
Did you make it to space or the hood?
I didn’t make it to those ones, no. I mostly focused on the first one and then I started watching pieces of the second one and then from then on, I just went online and just looked at highlight reels of all the kills and what goes down just so I can know in general what’s there. Mostly we wanted to do our own thing so I just wanted to be familiar enough with the world. It didn’t really have a lot in reference to what we were doing because we’re going such a different direction. It was more just to familiarize myself with the franchise more than to change our film.