An Exclusive Interview with Randall Kaplan - by T.C. McKeever
What is 'Boxhead'?
At last year’s Days of the Dead, Los Angles, I was taking my final stroll through the dealer’s hall when an incredible print caught my eye. The black and white picture was gorgeous and featured a menacing figure looming over a dour looking man. Under it was printed “Boxhead.” I ended up approaching the both where I was able to view the short animation reel and meet Boxhead’s writer and creator, Randall Kaplan. We chatted for a few minutes about his project; I ended up purchasing a print and promising him I would support his project.
I did, I will continue to do so, and frankly, I hope you all will do the same. Boxhead is an animated horror film that looks to be as scary as it is innovative. After all, animation and the horror genre tend to be polar opposites in America. Animation, until recently, was reserved for children. I believe that’s what piqued my interested in the project; the proposed marriage of my two favorite genres. There is no doubt that genres are converging; barriers are beginning to break down— merging, blending, and having tawdry romances on our high-definition televisions. We have soap-opera zombie dramas, science fiction romances, space westerns, but what we are lacking is a good animated horror film.
And then there was Boxhead.
So here it is, my interview with Randall. I hope you guys enjoy it, and if are so inclined, decide to support his Kickstarter. I know this all sound very much like an advertisement, but I think horror, more than any other genre, needs a touch of innovation. The writers from our site will always support horror and any artist who is seeking to rejuvenate a genre that—let’s face it—has been known to rely on archetypes, stereotypes, and tropes. But just as there’s the “meh” horror project, there’s some incredibly original and awesome works that exemplify the creativity and hard work that makes us as viewers beg for more.
I’d like to see Boxhead make it there.
You can visit the BOXHEAD KICKSTARTER PAGE HERE!!!
T.C. McKeever: For those readers unfamiliar with Boxhead, can you give them a run down of the basic premise of your film?
Randall Kaplan: Boxhead is about an aging recluse named Al, whose dreams of being a successful writer have long passed him by. Now, he lives alone, hiding away from the world…and drinking himself into oblivion. As time slips away, something otherworldly watches, waiting in the dark.
One night Al discovers something horrifying that may actually be the key to his salvation.
He is led down a rabbit hole of nightmares and dreams, to find the truth about himself.
T.C: There are many animated films, but not so many animated horror films. Why did you choose this medium to tell your story?
RK: I’ve been drawing my entire life, and drew detailed storyboards and concept art for my live action films before. But one day, after years of drawing these characters, it became apparent to me that I wanted to see them come alive, not as actors playing them, but as the drawings themselves, moving along with sound and music.
The story itself grew from there. Animation allows for things that would be impossible in live action. It’s a medium of limitless possibilities and potential. Once you start to see each drawing lead into the next, and the characters come alive, there’s nothing like it.
T.C: Tell us about the titular "Boxhead." Tell us what this character or term means to you. Please elaborate as much you wish.
RK: Well, that’s a tough one. There’s so much about the character and that title that I don’t want to give away…
I will say that I created the character when I was about 11 years old, and he’s been haunting me ever since. Somehow, I knew he was called ‘Boxhead’ back then, but only in more recent years did the name start to consciously have real meaning for me.
After years of drawing him, a story began to develop that eventually evolved into this film.
You really hit on something when you referred to it as term in addition to the name of the character. It has several meanings at once. It’s the title of the film for more reasons than being the creature’s name.
T.C: What are some of the struggles you've encountered while working on your film? Is animation a forgiving medium, or do you think it requires more finesse than traditional film making?
RK: No, animation can be brutal, and is rarely forgiving. The thing is you can control every bit of it, so that can be a Pandora’s box in many ways. There have been many scenes that I’ve struggled over, and I know there will be many, many more. But at a certain point you have to just let go and give birth. I love it. It’s unlike anything else…there’s a certain tactile and very personal nature to it that’s addictive. I think that comes across in the work.
T.C: Many readers are working on their own projects and are using sites like Kickstarter to fund creative endeavors. What are some of the things you've learned about crowd funding and can you offer them any tips on starting their own campaigns?
RK: I would say to wait until the campaign is launched to start promoting it. You don’t want to oversell it before it arrives. Put a lot of time into the video presentation. The more it reflects you and what you’re trying to achieve, the better. I think it’s important to have fun with it, and treat it like a part of your main project, or it’s little brother. Give it as much love and passion and attention to detail as you would your film, album, play, art, or whatever.
T.C: Where would you like to see Boxhead end up? Are you planning on entering your project into any festivals? Would you like to see a mainstream release?
RK: I definitely plan on sending it out to as many festivals as I can. And the bigger the release, the better. So yes, a mainstream release would be very welcome.
T.C: We want to know about you as an artist, animator, and writer! Did you attend college? Where? And can you describe how you developed the "feel" of your artistic style?
RK: Going back to my childhood, whenever I’d draw, I’d hear music in my head. I used to be afraid and think the way I thought was stupid or wrong. Now I realize it’s crucial to what I do, and fully embrace it. I did attend college, at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, across the East river from where I grew up in Brooklyn. It was a great experience for me and helped me develop my own style. But I attended school for live action filmmaking, and didn’t intend on doing animation. It was only later that I began to experiment with animation, and fell in love with it. But the style and ‘feel’ of the films I made in college paved the way for what I’m doing now.
Growing up, I was always very sensitive to my surroundings, and was deeply affected by the homeless, the mentally ill, and the sick and deformed. New York in the early nineties was a scary and strange place. What scared me back then became my inspiration later on, and fuels my work today.
And the style just evolved from there.
T.C: How can we help make Boxhead happen?
RK: Go to the Kickstarter page and watch the video, watch the opening sequence, read about it and pledge whatever you can. Every bit makes a difference and pushes me closer to completing this film. After that, if you could leave a comment and share it online with your friends that would be fantastic. But it all starts with your pledge of any amount. It will make this film a reality.
T.C: What are some of your favorite animated films and horror films? What movies would you recommend to horror enthusiasts?
RK: Well, there are many, many films I love. In horror, the original Hellraiser is one of my all time favorites. I love German expressionism from the 1920s. Nosferatu, Faust and M are all films I love and big influences on me. I also love the classic horror films of the 1930s- the original Frankenstein in particular deeply moves and inspires me. In animation, I love everything from early Disney- Snow White, Pinnochio, Fantasia, and Dumbo- to Miyazaki- Nausicaa, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke. On the darker side in animation, I love Grave of the Fireflies, Akira, Allegro Non Troppo, Heavy Traffic, and the Devilman OVAs. Also, pretty much anything made by Kubrick or Lynch.
T.C: Thank you for your time, I have one last question and it's a silly one: what was your favorite Saturday Morning Cartoon?
RK: Without a doubt, Garfield and Friends.
- T.C. McKeever