DEVIANT INTERVIEW: Jerry Pyle and the Horrors of SERVICE

If I had to be completely honest, Service  was my personal favorite film of all the films that screened at HorrorHound Weekend last month. It's a little 8 minute film that literally has it all. Just when you think you have it figured out, it takes a sharp left and takes you down a different path. It is such a great short horror film and I had the pleasure of speaking to the creator of Service, Mr. Jerry Pyle.

DEVIANT: Talk about the process of finally getting Service  here at HorrorHound Weekend in Cincinnati.

JERRY PYLE: Well, the process of making Service  took me about a year. The hardest part was post but, that's probably how it is for everybody. And then, the festival thing just started for, this is the first one. I showed my previous short, Burn, at HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis in 2012, which was another festival that Jason Hignite put together. So, when I finished this one I contacted Jason to see if I could get Service  to screen here in Cincinnati. It was so great that everything worked out perfectly. I finished it in time, brought it here and we screened it this morning. It was all such a whirlwind that culminated this, I'm super happy! 

DEVIANT: Such great performances in Service, all around. What was it like working with all these great talents?

JERRY PYLE: I feel so lucky that I was able to round up the amazing people that worked both in front and behind the camera. James Babson, the guy who played Steven, is a good friend of mine. I used to live in Prague, Czech Republic and James is an actor that I met there. He was in a bunch of movies made Hellboy and The Illusionist. He's one of these English-speaking actors that hang out in some of these places abroad and get a lot of work because he speaks English out there. Then, we both kind of moved back to LA around the same time. He works at this bar near me and I kept running into him and finally just told him how much I'd love to work with him. I just knew that he was a great talent from seeing his work in Prague so, I pretty much had to think of a way to work with him here...and that was basically the impetus for Service.

And then, Denna Thomsen, who plays Lucy, we sort of found from an open casting call. She's a dancer and she's been in some music videos in LA. She was in this Sigur Ros video with Shia Labouf. And so, when we saw her, we knew that we found our girl...she just stood out. I'm not sure how many films like this she had done before, but it was such a good surprise to see how talented she is, especially because I didn't really have to work with her much to get her ready for the character in the film, which makes it so much easier.

Rylie Martinez, who plays the little girl Annie, was living at the house that we shot at. So, it was this happy confluence of circumstances where she was this lovely, charismatic actress who happened to live in this fantastic house. So, we pretty much got the best of both worlds there. Everything worked out perfectly. And, actually, I feel like the house is one of the characters in the film...which I really dig. 

DEVIANT: How was it like working with Rylie, being that she is so young especially for the subject matter that the film presents?

JERRY PYLE: I've never worked with kids before. And going into it I was super over-confident because I love kids and being around them, and whatnot. But, it ended up being really challenging for me and I learned a lot in the process. It was interesting because she was already familiar with that particular environment because that is her house and she lives there every day. In some ways, that was really good because she was always around and she was comfortable. It was nice having her bright, energetic presence around on the set. But, because of the subject matter in the film I was constantly concerned that this was going to be awkward or weird for her. I'm not sure how they do it in Hollywood whenever they work with kids in these crazy gory movies...but, I sort of learned the ropes as we went. It was a real challenge to get her to convey the emotions that I wanted and have her do it on command. I just never thought that it was going to be that difficult, for some reason. For me, it was difficult to get her to emote what it was like to be really scared, even though she wasn't scared. Rylie's been in a few things before...but, I think she's going to be in a lot more stuff. She's just super, super talented and cute and charismatic. Her face, alone, just tells so much of the story. Again, I just feel really lucky. I was pretty much just looking for the house first and then she just sort of came along...and it all fell into place perfectly.

DEVIANT: Burn  is different in that it was this intense revenge flick, whereas Service  has elements of a psychotic slasher. Talk about the influence for the film, and how you arrived at such a complex premise.

JERRY PYLE: Burn  was actually a difficult film to follow up because I really wanted to do something that was just as powerful and shocking as that was. I found it really hard to try to come up with an idea that was on the same level. So, I went for something totally different and my goal was to try to take a step up and be more ambitious with the look of the film and with the scope of the film. So, with Burn, we had two characters in one space and the make-up FX was challenging in it, as well as the tension. So, I wanted to take those elements and see what more I could do. With Service, it looks much more different and I feel that it's much more dynamic. For starters, I had a different producer than Burn. Tim Hyten, who runs Fat Monster Films. He's such a great filmmaker in his own right and brought along some people from his own crew. Matt Gerrett is such a talented cinematographer and he's the main reason that the film looks the way it does. It was just really interesting to work with those guys. 

And as far as scope goes, I just tried to involve more characters than Burn  and just branch off the first two characters and then see who else we could involve to make it that much more of a complicated story. And bringing in that mental illness aspect, I knew that I had certain images that I wanted to play with and sort of figure out. Early on, I knew that I had all these specific characters that I wanted to use, like Lucy and the guy that she's cleaning the house for...and just expand from there. And when I thought of all the other stuff, all the horror elements just became the heart of the film. I think it's really exciting when that stuff happens.

DEVIANT: Any cool stories from the production of the film?

JERRY PYLE: Thank God, no! *laughter* It was relatively smooth, for the most part. I guess the one big make-up gag that we had towards the end, with the blood spurting out and stuff. Well, I'm a total rookie when it comes to the FX stuff, I really haven't had that much experience with it so, when I met with our make-up girl, Prell Charusanti, early on, I told her what I wanted and that I didn't necessarily want to see the weapon penetrate the skin. I really just wanted to see it come out and I wanted to make that happen as big and realistic that we could. Because with Burn, that was the one thing that we kept how realistic everything looked. I guess that's my thing...I don't wanna make things too gory or over-the-top, I just wanna make things look real. So, when people watch it they feel like stuff is really happening. So, the FX girl, Prell, just tells me to relax and she really pulled everything off amazingly. At one point, she was hiding behind the bed with this huge syringe just jacking a ton of blood through that tiny spout and I think it looks really good.

DEVIANT: Dude, it looked pretty fucking awesome!

JERRY PYLE: Right on, man! That's the goal. That's why we're all here. *laughter* I love it!

DEVIANT: Who inspires you?

JERRY PYLE: Well...I met Jill (Sixx) and John Pata at HorrorHound Indianapolis last year when he screened Dead Weight, as well as the guys from Slasher Studios from Wisconsin, who made this movie called Don't Go to the Reunion. I also met Lucas Masson, who did this great film called Baby-Sitting. And Scott Schirmer, who made the film Found, I met there as well. These are the guys that inspire me. These are the guys who are young and independent and funding these things and distributing them...all themselves, with their friends and supporters. These guys are out of places like up in Wisconsin and they make these great feature-length films with all of their friends and whatever funds that they manage to raise and end up screening them here and selling them. That's it, man. That's the dream. I live in Hollywood...out in Santa Monica and work in that industry day-to-day and see that this is the spirit that's missing in everything that we do out there. So, that's the part that I want to get. I'm trying to become more like these guys who make it all happen themselves.

And as far as mainstream stuff that inspires me, I love You're Next  and the guys that made that film. I like what they're doing and how they're incorporating all these different ideas from all these sources and using all of their other filmmaking cohorts in their own films. I love all of that kind of attitude. If I was going to make movies on that kind of scale, that's how I would try to do it. I love Ty West. And my earliest influence is Lars Von Trier. I think he's a great horror filmmaker that no one really thinks about when they think of horror. But, he's made some really amazing films that are definitely horror-related.

DEVIANT: What is your favorite horror film?

JERRY PYLE: Whenever anyone asks me that I always say The Shining...because I love that film. And I think everyone does. I hate to be all obvious...but, that is such a phenomenal film from a phenomenal filmmaker about a phenomenal story. Everything about it is perfect.

DEVIANT: I feel like whenever I see that film, I always find something brand new...with each viewing.

JERRY PYLE: Absolutely! I just love how you can continue to find new approaches to watching it and brand new ways of looking at it. That's awesome! The guy that did the steadicam shot in the maze is this guy named Garrett Brown, who essentially invented the steadicam. It's such an iconic-looking scene and it literally changed the game for the rest of us. Everything from then on is pointing back to that moment. I just love that kind of stuff. That's an important film for me.

DEVIANT: Any plans for distribution?

JERRY PYLE: No plans. We're just starting this process and just trying to get as many people to watch these films as possible.

DEVIANT: People really need to see's such a great film, man.

JERRY PYLE: I appreciate that...right on, man!

DEVIANT: Jerry...thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.

JERRY PYLE: Thank you, man! This was awesome....great meeting you guys this weekend!

Here at Film Deviant, we love talking about great original films that really push this genre that we love into bold new places. I sincerely believe that Jerry will be one of those filmmakers doing so in the future. I've been writing about Jerry, John and Jill all week long because I truly believe in their talents. If you can, find and see Service  for yourself and experience something great. Oh...and here's Jerry Pyle's Burn, just in case you need further evidence of his talent...

Thanks for reading,