Interview by Dan Kinem
When I first watched Venus Flytrap and heard about this obscure company, Campfire Video, I knew I needed to know more. There’s no way I could let this movie fall further into obscurity without at least documenting it. There were a few reviews of the film online, but no actual information on the movie or the cast and crew. I attempted to track down someone involved, but had no luck. I searched everywhere for someone, specifically Kevin M. Glover, who’s name is all over this movie. He somehow eluded me for weeks, until one day, after searching high and low, I finally found him. I could finally find out all about this movie and it’s history. I am very proud to present a fantastic interview with the producer and actor of Venus Flytrap, Kevin M. Glover!
Kevin M. Glover as Rod in Venus Flytrap.
Dan Kinem: How did Venus Flytrap come about and had you worked in film before it?
Kevin Glover: Venus Flytrap was largely the brain child of Marvin Jones, the writer [and] co-producer. I’d casually been introduced to Marvin when I was an aspiring Hollywood wannabe hyphenate dabbling in acting-screenwriting-producing — anything and everything to make my mark in the “industry.” I was, and always will be, a wide-eyed horror geek.
I’m not sure of the exact chronology of our meeting, (and I’ll caution you upfront my memory on a few particulars might be a bit hazy), but I’d joined and become very active in the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films shortly before I met Marvin. I was always a real outgoing sort, very industrious and always looking to make connections that would get my foot in the door to Hollywood. I think I first met Marvin at an Academy screening. Or it might have been at a party of our mutual friend Don Glut (who I ended up producing my other “cult favorite,” Dinosaur Valley Girls with).
Besides being a frustrated writer himself, Marvin was also a bit of an amateur photographer. He offered to do some new head shots for me, something every budding actor was always in need of. He found out I was a writer and that I’d produced a couple of ultra-low budget TV pilots for a sort of sci-fi/comic book focused Entertainment Tonight I was trying to launch, many years before there was a Syfy channel or comic books had gone mainstream. After unsuccessful efforts to sell the series, I started thinking my hard earned money would be better spent in trying to create something with more shelf-life than an unsuccessful TV pilot.
Having written a number of scripts I could never get anyone but my friends to read, I decided to write something I could self-produce, and then have Hollywood knock on my door. I had some crazy idea for a low budget sci-fi/horror movie about a mutating astronaut who comes back to Earth and starts falling apart. Marvin offered to help me type it as this was in the days when only a handful of RadioShack nerds had home computers. I’m sure Marvin Jones was involved in computers long before they added “World” to the World Wide Web. Anyway, I didn’t get too far into my script when both Marvin and I realized I was writing a pretty derivative story and that there was no way I’d ever be able to produce it on my limited income/resources. I think that’s about the time he told about his idea for a movie called Venus Flytrap.
DK: Who’s idea was Venus Flytrap and what were all your various roles on the movie?
KG: Marvin introduced me to another aspiring actor named Steve Malis. His acting career was not going anywhere as quick as he wanted either and so Marvin thought he could write a script we both could star in and keep it more down to Earth then the stuff I was writing. We’d use only a few locations, a small cast, minimal FX; basically create something we could convincingly try to do ourselves.
I liked the idea of having someone else share some of the financial burden (in fact, Steve was going to shoulder most of it). I’d bring in my production experience and Marvin would write the script and we’d jointly produce — forming a three-man partnership. I’d only had very small acting parts at the time and was doing mostly background work and community theater. I’d always held a full-time job in an unrelated industry to pay my bills, fortunate to have a very gracious boss who let me have many days off to pursue my passion.
DK: How did you go about raising the money for the movie?
KG: As I mentioned, Steve offered to bring in what, to me, was quite a lot of money at the time. Maybe $8 or $10K, I don’t really remember the exact number, but it was dirt cheap even back then. When we ran into some overages during filming, I ended up having to put in some money to finish it off, mostly on my credit cards and eating up my savings. If memory serves, the whole thing ended up costing around $20K. Everyone worked for free or on deferral. Money went for equipment, insurance, food, props, and locations, things we couldn’t beg or borrow. We joked that our whole movie was being made for about the same amount of money most low budget films spent on catering.
DK: Did you shoot the movie on video? Why was that decided on and what were your opinions on the other films being shot on video around that time?
KG: We really wanted to shoot on film, but for budget reasons, we could only afford video. There had been a few successful shot-on-video features so we thought we could capitalize on the verging video market. We shot on Betacam (not Betamax), which was the format many news crews were using at the time. Since most movies were only released on video anyway, the rough edges were not as evident as they are in today’s era of HiDef.
DK: Venus Flytrap is very unique for the period in that it isn’t really a horror movie. Why did you decide to go a different route at that time, especially since the norm was to do horror?
KG: I’d say I’m primarily responsible for the move away from gore/horror and into a more twisted approach. When I read Marvin’s first draft, I thought the action was too tame or too familiar. We realized we couldn’t afford expensive make-up FX to make a good gore fest, so I suggested we go in another direction. Make the yuppie kids more sick, twisted and perverse. Push the buttons of sexuality and nudity in the ways other movies would avoid and capture an audience hungry for a different kind of suspense or horror.
You know, after you contacted me and mentioned the film had a following, I was very surprised. Other than a great write up I accidentally stumbled upon while leafing through the book Splatter Film Digest, Vol 2, I never thought anyone had even watched the movie. Distributor sales reports, the few times we got them, were abysmal. We never made a dime.
Anyway, thanks to your prompting, I went online and found several sites that had reviews of the film and both mention similarities to some Italian horror film called The House on the Edge of the Park. I’d never heard of the film, but now I’ve got to try and hunt it down. Maybe Marvin had seen it and patterned his first version of the script on it. But it was something I certainly wasn’t aware of.
DK: Tell me all about Campfire Video! What films were done by them?
KG: Campfire Video was a very small time distribution company Marvin operated out of his living room. I seem to recall he distributed several public domain titles he had access to and a small collection of male beefcake videos.
DK: How did you go about getting the movie released? Were you familiar with Legacy Home Video before the release?
KG: We had a very hard time finding a buyer for Venus Flytrap. We couldn’t even get anyone to watch it. As we were finishing post, the window of opportunity for shot-on-video features was nearly closed. Plus, our movie came in short because we ran out of money and time and ended up throwing script pages out just to get the movie done. And we had no recognizable names. And we had lousy stills. And no decent artwork to promote it with.
I thought it was a complete bust and I had licked my wounds and moved on to another project of blatant self-promotion I thought would be an easy sale to a specialized market. I wrote a script called Love Bites about a gay vampire that I asked Marvin to direct for me. We’d both learned a lot from making Venus Flytrap and Love Bites was a much more complete film that came in much closer to budget.
After we finished our second film, Marvin and I had a bit of a falling out, he really hated my performance and thought I ruined my movie. I did have a lot of trouble remembering my lines for some reason, and I wrote them! He said he’d have to create my performance in post. I got quite a bit of praise for that movie, so I guess he did a pretty good job stitching me back together.
Anyway, back to Venus Flytrap. I finally got a nibble of interest in the film. I heard back from a marketing rep I’d contacted through an ad in one of the trades. She’d watched our movie and thought she could sell it. She showed it to a few companies and finally got an offer from Legacy Video, who I’d never heard of before. They sent me a tape of one of their films, a very early found footage movie called the UFO Experience, I think. I thought the movie was pretty bad, but I knew ours was kind of a clinker, too, so who was I to judge? I was grateful someone finally wanted to buy it and maybe I’d get a bit of my investment back.
Anyway, Legacy made this ridiculously low offer with a tiny advance the marketing rep would keep as her fee. We’d make our money off the subsequent sales. Marvin thought the deal was lousy and we should wait and distribute it ourselves if we had to. He thought he could sell more tapes from his living room. I made a big hissy fit and said we needed to take this offer. It had been several years already, nobody else was even taking our calls. A big operation could do more with our film than Marvin could do from his living room. Marvin reluctantly said yes and we didn’t talk for years.
In retrospect, Legacy did get the movie out there even if we didn’t make anything from it. We maybe would have made some money back had Marvin marketed it himself, but nobody would have heard of it today. Who’s to say except I deeply regret I hadn’t ever properly mended the fence with Marvin. I’d recently heard Marvin had passed away last year and I never made the effort to apologize to him for being such a self-righteous jerk. Marvin, if you’re reading this in the great World Wide Web in the sky, I’m sorry buddy. I learned a lot from our production experience.
When Legacy went bankrupt and we got the rights back, we attempted to make another sale. At one point we had a potential buyer, but he wanted it longer and wanted a name actor. We wrote this wraparound about a detective who has been on the trail of the yuppies for years and were going to sandwich or bookend it in the movie sort of like they’d done with Boris Karloff in a couple of his later films. We were even going to change the name to Easy Prey because the distributor thought Venus Flytrap sounded like a Little Shop of Horrors wannabe. He probably also wanted to make sure it was perceived as a newer movie, too, so he could maximize the market penetration and we could re-copyright it with a newer date. I had someone write a new theme song, (though the song for Venus Flytrap is catchier – a real throwback to those 60’s sci-fi classics like Green Slime). Oh, and artwork, I had an artist do up some concept art so we’d have a better box than that Green Hornet rip-off artwork Legacy made for us.
I ate a little crow and called Marvin after several years of not speaking to each other. I don’t think he took my calls at first and had to negotiate with Steve Malis at first. It was pretty silly really, but it happens like that sometimes. Anyway, the new distributor wanted a chain of title document that I’d needed Marvin to sign, and I’m always about the project. We eventually worked the details out and were trying to come up with a name actor someone might know who had gone financial core at SAG, (which gave them the right to do a non-union picture—like how I said picture?). But the new deal fell through and I pretty much gave up on Venus Flytrap after that. Too many bad memories. Too many unfulfilled projects that never quite went anywhere.
DK: Do you remember any on set stories or struggles while making the movie?
KG: The whole adventure was a comedy of errors. First mistake was hiring a director who’d only done stage before. Contrary to some reviews I’ve read, he wasn’t a porn director. T. Michael was directing local theater. As I recall, it might have been T no period Michael, but I could be wrong because everyone always added the period anyway. He was great with the talent but had no sense of composition or the urgency it takes to try to make a movie in six days. We had like an 80 page script we needed to shoot in six days, so that was like doing 13 pages a day.
Second mistake was a hiring a great DP who was used to shooting TV commercials where every shot needed to be perfect. You don’t get perfection on a six-day shoot. We needed speed and a “good enough” is good enough, just get it in the can attitude. But since everyone was working for free, they were looking for bits for their reels. Maybe if we’d hired a good AD he would have whipped the team into a faster shooting frenzy, but I’m sure any self-respecting AD would have told us we were crazy to shoot what we were attempting in the amount of days we had to get it done. We all drank our Kool-Aid and blindly plowed forward.
We shot with no permits to save money. I was a nervous wreck when we shot the record store in Pasadena where I’d heard the cops were notorious for shutting down pirate film crews and confiscating their gear. I was sure our gear would be locked up the first day and we’d have nothing. We got through it okay but ended up throwing pages of script out when the owner of the shop needed his place back. Several years later though, I was back in Pasadena shooting another scene for another movie still not using permits and we nearly got arrested. I now get permits, no matter what the budget.
Most of the movie is set in a house and I tried to find someone who’d let us shoot in their home for a week. Not getting any takers on furnished places, we ended up renting this empty house to shoot in that we had for the week. It was primarily being used for offices for a local theater in North Hollywood. I chuckled when I read one reviewer who’d thought we shot on a porn set. We probably would have had more production value if we had. I decorated most of the rooms with wicker furniture I’d bought from Pier One or Cost Plus. We tried to rationalize it by saying it was some sort of safari look for yuppies on the prowl but in reality it was the only furniture I could afford and we couldn’t rent from prop houses because I didn’t get the right insurance.
We added my friend’s portable bar to the living room so at least something didn’t look too chintzy. I ended up taking back most of what we didn’t break. I think I might have broken my friend’s bar a little cuzz he didn’t talk to me much afterwards, either. A good lesson: if you want to clean house of old friends, shoot a movie at their place or borrow something to use as a prop. I guess prop houses were designed to keep friendships intact. Oh, and I had one silly wobbly wicker chair in my apartment for years. It showed up in Love Bites and two or three other projects of mine before it finally disintegrated.
The first day of shoot at the house, there was the big earthquake of ‘87. No one had cell phones back then and the house had no phone so people drifted in late the first day thinking we’d maybe delay the shoot because of the quake. But the meter was running and we had no contingency plans except rip out more pages if we didn’t get something done. I recall I’d actually spent the night at location because I was still helping dress the sets to make it ready for the shoot.
I do recall a great deal of camaraderie on the set with the cast and crew. Even though we seldom made our daily quota of script pages, there was a definite team spirit. Everyone wanted a big break. I remember it was awkward finding someone to create the pickled penis in the jar. I think he used some kind of sausage and had one of our PA’s carve it. We wanted the audience to squirm. I think that worked.
I learned about the martini and the abbey singer. No, not the drinks, but the terms the pro crew used to describe the last and 2nd to last shot of the night. I remember too, there was a problem with the hot tub scene, my scene. We shot the pool sequence at a friend of mine’s house. He didn’t have a spa though, so to save travel time and avoid an additional location, we’d arranged to rent a portable spa and have it delivered. It arrived late and the heater didn’t work. Plus it was the last bit we shot that night. [We] had to make it look like the water was steaming so we used some fog juice and me and the actress I was with had to pretend the water was warm and not chatter our teeth when we delivered our lines. I think she did a better job than me. I was more worried that my manhood would be shriveling when I got out of the spa with all those people standing around pretending not to look.
DK: How do you feel that Venus Flytrap has gone on to become a collector’s item on VHS? Do you still own a copy or any promotional items from the movie?
KG: I had absolutely no idea the film was a collector’s item. The distributor went bankrupt and we never made a dime, never saw but one or two abysmal royalty statements. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a book called Splatter Film Digest and saw a great write-up about the film that I knew anyone even watched the movie.
In fact, once you contacted me and mentioned the film was sort of a cult classic, I did a Google search to see what kind of hits I got. There were some pretty bad, but mostly accurate, reviews. I never would have thought that 25 years after I made the movie anyone would ever ask me about it.
DK: Do you own the rights to the movie? Are there any plans for a DVD release?
KG: I have a joint copyright of the movie. I have one of the masters for the film in my house, but no plans to do anything with it. In my mind the rights are too murky at this point. Marvin kept all the releases, etc., and now that he’s gone, I’m not sure what the legalities are.
DK: What did you go on to do after Venus Flytrap?
KG: Like I may have mentioned, I went on to produce Love Bites and my first shot-on-film 35mm feature, Sandcastle. This led to Dinosaur Valley Girls, which I shot on 16mm. I’ve made a number of erotic thrillers on video, Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula, Mummy’s Kiss, Sisterhood of the Shewolf, and a number of instructional and children’s videos that I either wrote, produced and/or directed. I still longed to be back in film, though.
I got multiple opportunities when I co-produced a number of FX heavy 35mm car commercials that really helped hone my producing skills. It’s funny though, through out my career, I really wanted to work in film, and nowadays, film is virtually dead. HD is king. We’re in an age when I can make a video feature with no stigma attached and I’m no longer making movies. Though I might try to pull off a found footage movie I’ve recently written, just to keep my hands in things.
After Venus Flytrap I got a few decent acting gigs but realized I didn’t have the chops for it and except for an occasional foray, have pretty much abandoned my acting pursuits.
DK: What are you currently up to? Anything you’d like to promote?
KG: After taking a few years off from producing when my post house folded (a story for another time), I’ve returned to my first great love: writing. My western horror script, Outlaw Blood has won or placed in a number of script contests, and I’ve co-written a Piranha 3D-type T&A horror script called Survivor Island; a found-footage horror film called Road Kill, and I’m just finishing a polish of a Frankenstein/Mummy hybrid script with the working title Lady Frankenstein and the Mummy’s Brain.
DK: I also must ask since I’ve heard rumors before, but did you or Campfire Video have anything to do with the video company Donna Michelle? If you did or know anything about them please share.
KG: Never head of Donna Michelle. Campfire mostly focused on beefcake movies. Marvin and Steve Malis worked together on several low budget movies on their own they released through Campfire.
A recent picture of Kevin in Hawaii.
Read Dan’s review of Venus Flytrap