Interview With Garth Franklin
July 4th, 2001
On this evening, as the drugs begin to take hold, I notice that I'm covered my sweat appears to be rising off my forehead and evaporating into the vast atmospheric ozone that has resulted from chain smoking. Suddenly, a small weather front appears, and I urinate into it, fearing the worst: Thor, the god of thunder, has betrayed me. The fact that my MP3 player now chants 'Thunder,' rendered courtesy of AC/DC, only confirms this. I freak out and quickly switch the track to Mozart's Requiem in the hopes that evil opera-loving demons will rape me viciously with a fly swatter.
Anyway, folks, meet Garth, the head cheese of Dark Horizons. He's got some shit to say, and you're gonna listen.
DS: Welcome to the freak show, Garth. I say freak show because I live in Los Angeles, best described to non-Angelinos as a metaphysical portal of hell.
GF: I know, I've been there.
DS: You, however, reside in beautiful Australia... which seems to be the hot spot for film productions these days. As the ringleader of one of the Net's most popular movie sites, do you feel you have any significant advantages or disadvantages being so removed from the U.S. studios' clutches?
GF: There's several on both counts. While in LA I always found it amazing how immersive the film industry is, everything and everyone centers their lives, conversations, etc. around it. Being in Australia really helps one keep a healthy "outsiders" perspective on the industry and never get to engulfed by the falseness and niceness which half the time is genuine, the rest done more out of fear or for purely sucking up. There's other advantages such as dealing with both local and US distributors, thus if one can't deliver something then chances are its sister office in the other country can. Biggest though is geographical, I get 2/3 of my e-mails per day in one big batch in the morning so I can get right to work on my headlines straight away. Downsides are numerous though. Time zone differences are also a curse as your business hours are our sleep time so I don't get the chance to ring US offices for article confirmation/checking as much as I want to. There's also delayed film release schedules, next to zero opportunities for interviews (there's maybe 4 junkets a year here, everything else is just screenings), and not anywhere near as much chance to mingle with other online writers as I'd hope for.
DS: Seeing as how you're a young dude with a known website at your fingertips and the world at your back, I gotta ask you: has the site made you rich?
GF: Nope, probably never will either as I've no interest in venture capital and would only sell it off with conditions which most would never stand for. I never got into this for the money, I'm made a good living out of it last year and hope to continue to do so, but I'm not in this to get rich - more for the job satisfaction than anything else.
DS: Do you have flocks of bitches and movie-suits following you everywhere?
GF: (laughs) I can only dream. Seriously there's some "booty" offered, sadly its all from overseas thus I probably won't get the chance to have some fun. Movie suits wise aside from standard publicists, you get filmmakers contacting you but never done anything major with any other than occasional e-mail chats.
DS: [Then] how has Dark Horizons changed your existence?
GF: Its opened a lot of doors in many ways, its kind of creepy to have a reputation but I'm trying to get use to it. Still, its scary on occasion when I'm at a screening or something and suddenly someone knows me through the site and calls out my name. Its also given me lots of restless nights and stress from the sheer amount of work involved, but I'm a workaholic and thus enjoy it.
(DS' NOTE: At this point, we take a Foster's break, and Garth, in his stupor, calls me 'Doug' as in the actor Doug Savant. This offends me greatly and I threaten to crack his skull open. Garth apologizes and buys me a bunny to sacrifice. I am made happy again, and we continue.)
DS: Forgive me for being so unworldly, but having lived in the US all my life, I'm too close to things to see them with a so-called objective eye. I have this personal theory that American film (and society) is far, far too sexually repressed and religiously influenced, at least compared to some other countries. Would you agree with that statement? Are Americans basically morons who freak when they see a breast or get completely offended at a dick shot?
GF: (laughs) Hardly. Certainly not 'far, far', but a little - well, its a bit generalizing but sure. When it comes to films in particular the general thought is American films are way too strict when it comes too sex & nudity, and not strict enough on violence. Films aren't so bad as television though, that's where it really stands out. The strongest word Letterman seems to be able to use is 'ass' and that's at 11:30 at night. Here you can get away with pretty much every word on network television at most times - the 'f' word pops up frequently, whilst the 'c' word is making its way in there too. Breasts and asses are regular shown during 'midday movies' and most films premiering on networks are all the original film and not the famous 'edited for US TV versions' one hears about. The most revolutionary show we had was back in the 60's called "Number 96". Huge network prime time hit, regularly featured full frontal nudity from both genders and broke a lot of boundaries with various things such as confronting issues of abortion and rape to characters such as a very normal non-camp gay tenant with a fully active sex life - nothing like the [neutered] characters on "Dawson's Creek" or "Melrose Place". Society wise its seen, stereotypically as cities on the coast are pretty normal, open-minded and modern but the entire centre of the country is pure bible belt country - very backwards areas. Of course that's not the case at all, much like the way Aussies are all seen as croc hunters living in desert towns with technology out of the 19th century. It makes for a good joke amongst friends, but that's about it. Still, when I was in LA I was regularly amazed by how shocked people over there are when sex talk comes up in discussion. There's just a more relaxed and prevalent talk about it here, thus when it came up over there some were shocked or put off by my frankness about it. Still, I'm sure reactions differ from person to person.
DS: Let's talk about filmmakers. Arguably, the 70's was the time of Francis Coppola. The 80's belong to Senor Spielberg, whereas the 90's seem to be a deadlock between Spielberg and Cameron. Who do you think the great directors will be in this coming decade, in terms of critical and box-office success? Have we discovered them yet?
GF: The big single director of the next decade has yet to emerge I'd say, its still too early to tell. Still there's some emerging candidates right now - Soderbergh is the big guy of the moment with films both critically appraised and audience liked. If Peter Jackson is able to pull off a non-Rings hit after the trilogy comes out then you could probably include him up there too. Shyamalan will soon probably be seen as the Kubrick of the decade with deep rich films that aren't necessarily box-office hits, but he needs to expand his palette beyond Bruce Willis mysteries with slow pacing and twist endings.
DS: What are some things that you like prostitutes to do to you?
GF: (laughs yet again) Never touch 'em. I prefer sex at no expense other than the standard movie/meal dating costs.
DS: Uh huh. In my interview with Moriarty, he talked about screenwriting and pimping... which leads me to believe that no one involved with movie websites is really doing what they want. Do you have any kind of future plans beyond Dark Horizons?
GF: Everyone does have some ulterior motive it seems. My plans for the site were never financial but I do want to write fiction stories - scripts or novels, I'm undecided but prefer scripts a like my writing on the site it cuts to a point right off the bat. I also visualize scenes and characters in my head, thus it's easier writing something for the screen. Had one script sent in to one of the big agencies, rejected naturally as it was my first - "too overwritten" so as a result I'm stripping it down and cutting it back and already have another interested in it.
DS: With all of the new CG films that are coming out, do you feel that the time is drawing nearer when we will no longer need flesh-and-blood actors, except maybe for voiceover work? Or do you think we'll never tire of Pauly Shore?
GF: (giggling in a sick way) I doubt CG actors will replace real humans in future films - after all theatre is still just as popular despite cinema, cinema is still popular despite video, etc. When they finally perfect CG actors, probably about 5-10 years down the track - then it may be a different question.
DS: One of the things I like about Dark Horizons is how... seemingly... earnest the site is. You're always kind, always quick to correct mistaken credits off scoops -- hell, some sites won't even use others' articles, and if they do, they just steal 'em for themselves.
GF: Awww, that's so sweet. I hope my reputation is like that, I just try my best and hope its good enough.
DS: Sweet? Fuck you! With that said, what do you think about the tactics of some other sites? Can you name some examples of repeated offenders?
GF: Actually there was all sorts of debate over this 'ethics' issues about this time last year, leading to a huge debate at last year's San Diego Comic-Con. I stayed out of it and only dipped in with one comment on my site when I was forced to. I drew up a code of ethics about three years ago using the basic principles the print media has and have used them ever since. I'm usually way too busy with my own stuff to worry about 'policing' other people's policies unless its something clearly unfair that happens over a period (I truly believe what goes around comes around - those who are being dicks will likely get it back at them ? worse several times over). Thankfully the issue has sorted itself out with most sites that were lagging behind now really fixing problems up whilst sites like Coming Attractions, Film Threat, CHUD, etc. have always been earnest and reputable ? and continue to do so.
DS: Boxers or briefs? Any disturbing images on them, whether printed or? otherwise?
GF: Boxers only. No disturbing images but I do only wear one kind ? dark coloured satin. I mean if you can't splurge on your underwear, what can you splurge on?
DS: Why do you think people really... I mean really... read movie rumor sites? Do you think they actually give a shit about hearing some crazy casting addition, or are they more interested in a horrid review, i.e., the train wreck syndrome?
GF: A good portion read it to keep up to date on actual goings on, some read it merely for fun, and others simply to feel they're "in the know". Everyone has different reason for reading it. I write it because I love hearing about this [gossip] and sharing it with others.
DS: Based on your experience, how important is a film's marketing in relation to its grosses? Do you find that festivals, expos, sneak previews, (and yeah, movie sites!) et al, really contribute to a film's hype? What would be your advice to any indie filmmaker who is considering launching a campaign?
GF: Marketing is essential to get the big opening weekend. Its word of mouth and reviews which help sustain a film in following weeks at the box-office. Those elements can contribute slightly to a film's hype but it depends on the film. With major studio releases I doubt it has any effect, with indie films though they can help manipulate the word of mouth.
DS: There are a lot of people who argue that films should be for pure entertainment, and say they don't like to be preached to, educated, or made to think in any way while viewing a movie. By the same token, one could also argue that audiences have levels of tolerance (like a roller coaster), and that there's only so much sex or violence they can take. Do you think it's possible for a film to really push those tolerances and still make money? For example, a horror movie that actually, honestly, managed to scare the living shit of filmgoers.
GF: Sure. At its time Halloween scared the hell out of a lot of audiences and became the most financially successful independent film in history - at least for a while anyway. These days its content seems rather tame though. Still horror movies, like most studio produced films in general, are now sadly moving away from including much sex and violence as they strive for that magic PG-13 to try and pull in more cash. As a result even an R rating is becoming almost a stigma these days sadly. Films that do push the tolerance levels could make money, but sadly they're being stopped from competing by the studios who are altering films to appeal to the widest audience possible - and as a result each film loses the original edge it may have had. The first part of the question though I agree with. People go into films expecting different things, some want entertainment whilst others want films that make them think. Personally I prefer films that do both, but first and foremost they should be entertaining. A badly made fun movie is a much more enjoyable to watch than a superbly crafted yet utterly dull film.
DS: Can you tell us some of your favorite movies, and why they are special to you?
GF: "Aliens" will always be my favourite film of all time hands down - it's the perfect blockbuster for me. Every scene is excellent, every character memorable, great action, great 'slow moments', superb on a technical level. "The Silence of the Lambs" - a truly great thriller. Whereas most thrillers you want to see the action (ie. the hunt for the killer) and skip through the 'character conversational' scenes, 'Silence' proved that the conversational scenes can be far better. Goldfinger - Always love all the Bond film, but this is the best one of all. Love that Pussy Galore. "A Fish Called Wanda" - My favourite comedy with brilliant writing, characters, directing, and a darker edge lacking from most US productions. "The Hunt for Red October" - best political thriller out there with some excellent action and characters, again each scene is just perfect. On the more quirky side I love "Serial Mom" and "Clue," both very quirky dark comedies which totally appeal to my warped sense of humour.
DS: Which one of the following hypothetical situations would you prefer, and why: You go down to the Great Barrier Reef and break off a piece for yourself. You can either (A) spank Survivor 2's Jerri Matheny's bare ass with it, (B) use it as a giant organic butt-plug, or (C) leave the piece at home and have smoldering sex with Pauline Kael.
GF: Is there a fourth option? I would probably choose (A) though I had to look up Matheny on the Net to find out who you were referring to (both "Survivor" shows were complete ratings disasters here, and that last one... THAT was not the Australian Outback.) Why? Well, I must say butt-plugs have never been my thing (esp. sharp and painful coral), and one quickly learns two critics should never sleep together, bad for business and egos all round (no matter how good at reviewing they are).
DS: What do you think about the recent wave of reality TV? Would you prefer to watch capital punishment/executions, or sick bloodsports as depicted in The Running Man?
GF: I'm glad its on the way out. I never got into reality TV because quite simply it never was reality TV. A show like "Cops" is most definitely reality TV as those are real events that are taped. "Survivor" sounded like a great concept and had they done an actual reality-based show I would've watched it but it felt so staged and contrived I gave up right away - nothing screams unreality more than a crane show on a deserted island. Reality in general doesn't make for good television, it's long, more often than not boring and sometimes very dangerous. "Survivor" always felt like a pack of dogs moving around on leashes. If one or two got into trouble or injured, they'd be pulled into line. Let the dogs off the leash to fend for themselves and turn on each other. THAT is reality TV. In any case, I never get into bloodspotrs like boxing, most are pure macho bullshit to me (though two women boxing is strangely compelling as they're way more vicious than the guys). Executions are just that, no-one gets thrills out of seeing death - it ain't like the movies either. As much as I support capital punishment in severe cases, we don't have to see the executions.
DS: Down here in the ass-backwards US, MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America, aka the Ratings Guys) prexy Jack Valenti actually claims that the great majority of complaints come from our deep south, the Bible belt, where religious hicks and shitheads claim that language... not sex, not violence, not queers, not "unwhite" folk, and not Satanist Pig Rapists, but filthy fucking LANGUAGE... represents the most offensive and greatest threat to our great globe of Christian 'ethics'. Artists' rights notwithstanding, what aspects of film do you feel should be the most regulated?
GF: Offensive language itself depends more on the context in which a word is said (i.e.. a derogatory one) rather than the word itself that makes all the difference. Those same people who complain about stuff like use of the F word are those who aren't afraid to use terms like 'nigger' or 'faggot' in a derogatory context which is like a hundred times more offensive. I find that an expression like "Oh that's so gay" to describe something silly or stupid as being far worse than if someone had said "that's really fucked". In any case with film I think sex and nudity is WAY too regulated, whereas violence and drug use arguably should come under stricter rules. You guys aren't "ass backwards", remember all of us out here are still trying to catch up to you guys.
DS: And finally, do you love me?
GF: Why shucks babe, I thought everyone knew we got married in Paraguay last year. Ladies & Gentleman, I can confirm that Dark Savant goes off like a rocket in bed - in other words, mind the backwash.
DS: 'Like a rocket'? That's it? Is that all you think of me? This interview is fucking over!
Bitches, go check out Garth's site, Dark Horizons, it's a blast. In the meantime, have a great summer, because I'm gonna go get a crotch tan for the next couple of weeks. Peace.