Movies & TV / Columns

Gregory Lamberson On His New Action Film Guns of Eden, Dealing With Gun Safety On Set, More

January 7, 2022 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Guns of Eden

The 411 Interview: Gregory Lamberson

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Gregory Lamberson is a director, writer, and producer who has been making movies since the late 1980’s, starting with the classic horror flick Slime City. Since then, Lamberson has directed such movies as Naked Fear, Slime City Massacre, Dry Bones (he co-directed this with Michael O’Hear), the absolutely fantastic horror comedy Killer Rack, Johnny Gruesome (the best movie of 2018), and the unsettling horror flick Widow’s Point starring modern horror icon Craig Sheffer. Lamberson is also an author, responsible for the books Black Creek, Carnage Road, Johnny Gruesome, The Frenzy Wolves, and The Jake Helman Files series (Lamberson also co-directs, with Chris Scioli, the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival). Lamberson’s next movie, the non-stop action flick Guns of Eden, has recently launched an Indiegogo campaign for finishing funds, a campaign that started on January 4th and is set to go for 18 days (check out the campaign here). In this interview, Lamberson talks with this writer about completing filming on Guns of Eden, the Indiegogo finishing funds campaign, and more.

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Bryan Kristopowitz: How long did it take to complete filming on Guns of Eden?

Gregory Lamberson: Sixteen days of principal photography, and then two or three “pickup” days, which usually only lasted a few hours. Pickup days are fun because everything is very relaxed, no pressure, and only a few people were involved, usually myself, Chris Cosgrave (the cinematographer and visual effects artist), Keith Lukowski (production manager), and Dominic Luongo, who was not only a principal actor but my 1st AD. Chris and Keith were co-producers with my wife Tamar and I. The regular days were nothing like that! I try to shoot 12 hour days, which amounts to 11 and one hour to wrap, but this one was so big that we kept shooting for 12 and then wrapping, and on one day I think we shot 13 and then wrapped. I don’t like it when that happens, because I told the crew otherwise before we started, but everyone was supportive and into it, maybe because we were catching a break from Covid, and because it was a fun project.

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BK: How was making an action movie different from making your previous movies which were mostly in the horror genre? How was it the same?

GL: This one had an enormous cast and a small crew, which would have been challenging regardless of genre. Everything took so long to prep: costumes, with all that gear, weapons safety checks, working with moving vehicles. I felt good about everything, but it was a lot to manage, a lot of balls to juggle. Tamar was a big help behind the scenes, and Keith a big help on set. Really, we had great support through and through. Like every filmmaker, I wish I’d had more time. Shooting something like this in 16 days was tough, but it’s all we could do with the money we had. I wish I’d had 18 full days, but I can’t complain. I feel lucky that I got to make a movie in this crazy world situation, and that I’m so happy with how it turned out. One easier thing about an action film like this than most horror films is that it was all outdoors in daylight, so we didn’t need to wait on lighting.

BK: What was the most challenging aspect of making Guns of Eden for you as a director? What was it like making a movie in the midst of Covid-19?

GL: Just the enormity of it. I had a great crew, but many of them were inexperienced working on a feature, so there was a learning curve for them and a teaching curve for me, which actually added to the fun. After one week they were as good as any crew I’ve had. Just like on Johnny Gruesome or Widow’s Point, by the last three hours of every day I was combining shots I’d planned and figuring out shortcuts so we could make our day. Chris and I figured things out together, and sometimes we really had to improvise some of the action scenes. We knew what the script wanted, and what the film needed, and tried to arrive in the middle. The last film I worked on was Chris Ray’s Assault on VA-33, so I knew what it was like to make an action film on a too-short schedule (with many of the prop guns we used in our film).

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BK: You are in the middle of a second Indiegogo campaign, this time for “finishing funds,” that runs for 18 days. How much money do you hope to raise and what will these potential finishing funds allow you to do for the movie?

GL: It would be nice to raise 10K, but I set the goat at $7800, and it will be a challenge to make that. One of the luxuries I’m allowing myself this time is hiring a professional colorist. Usually, my DP or editor does the color grade, but because of the outdoors setting on this one I really want the images to pop. So I hired Ryan Moser, who directed a film called Farm Days that we showed at Buffalo Dreams. And, you know, you can “finish” a film, but then you sign with a distributor or a sales agent and they require a long list of items called “deliverables,” and you find yourself looking for more money in a hurry. I’m covering my bases now.

BK: In general, how has the Indiegogo/crowdfunding experience been making Guns of Eden?

GL: The first campaign was great! I put together a really top notch team of 10 -12 people, including some indie filmmakers I respect, and everyone worked hard and got the word out, and made contributions themselves. It was gratifying seeing that much money come in, enough to make the movie and bring in some out-of-town talent like Alexandra Faye Sadeghian as my lead and Lynn Lowry in a key role. Make no mistake, we made the movie for pennies – I think we had 75K after Indiegogo took its cut, and a chunk of that paid for perks. Tamar and I must have mailed 200 packages, which meant getting padded envelopes, boxes, poster cases, and hauling everything to the post office. This is why so many filmmakers only offer perks that don’t need to be mailed, but I knew what we were getting into and we managed to have some fun doing it. It’s a different story with this second campaign: I can’t volunteer all those folks to bust their butts for me again, they did their duty. So Chris did design work and he and Shane Cole edited the videos I’m showing, but I’m working solo getting the word out on Facebook, all day long, day after day, and Tamar and our daughter Kaelin re-post stuff on Instagram in the evening.

BK: Gun safety on movie sets has become a major topic of discussion in the last few months. How did you and your moviemaking team handle gun safety on the set of Guns of Eden?

GL: Having worked on several Chris Ray films in addition to VA-33, I knew how important gun safety is. And Brian Varney, my production designer on this, had worked on that too, and we made a pretty good team and knew as soon as we landed on location what needed to be done (and he didn’t have an assistant). I won’t have blanks firing guns on my set, it just isn’t necessary. Airsofts, plastic replicas, even squirt guns will do as long as they’re painted correctly. We had the VA 33 props, and Chris, Keith and Brian had props, and Chris bought some cheap semi-automatic rifle toys from Walmart and painted them so they looked convincing. That’s all you need, and someone like Chris to add convincing muzzle flashes in post. But we still took our safety routines very seriously, with Brian showing and demonstrating every piece of plastic and passing it around. Safety meeting after safety meeting, several times a day, to the point that everyone could mimic Brian and Dominic after a week. But everyone knew it was important, everyone appreciated that we took it seriously, and everyone was glad we had Brian there. And then the Rust tragedy happened, and many people thanked us privately and publicly. We’re making a good movie, but it’s just a movie. I also had the PAs wear orange safety vests, and we needed to interact with different agencies so they knew what we were doing. One day at the farm a sheriff’s helicopter kept circling us, so I told everyone to lay down their props and walk away from them while I called our film commissioner.

BK: After making Guns of Eden, outside of a potential sequel, are there any other action movie ideas you have that you, maybe, one day, want to make?

GL: I have two horror films that I’m beyond ready to make, and people have advanced seed money for those, so they’re what I need to make next, and what I’m dying to make. But if the market is such that money becomes available for me to do another action movie I would in a heartbeat. And I hope Guns of Eden does well enough to warrant a sequel – I’d like to do two more – because I’d like a bigger canvas to work on, and I believe Alexandra has real breakout potential. I’d love to go the Desperado/Evil Dead 2 route and make a sequel similar to the first film, only with a bigger budget.

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BK: When do you expect Guns of Eden to be unleashed upon the world?

GL: If this campaign is successful, we’ll be finished in two months. We have distribution interest, so it’s a matter of getting the deliverables to the people who need them. I’ll be surprised if it isn’t available by September.

BK: In our last interview you said that there were probably going to be 70 guns total in Guns of Eden. Now that you’ve finished the movie, how close were you to the 70 guns number? And what was the coolest gun to film?

GL: I was counting dwindling dollars, not firepower! But I’m sure we had at least 70 on set, plus knives, a bow, and an ax. We had the Mini-gun that they used in Predator, and Chris extended the barrels one foot each, so I’m sure that’s the craziest weapon, and it gets its share of screen time. It’s introduced like a character, and changes hands a few times.

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A very special thanks to Gregory Lamberson for agreeing to participate in this interview.

Check out the Guns of Eden Indiegogo finishing funds campaign here.

Check out the official Guns of Eden Facebook page here!

Check out Gregory Lamberson’s Facebook page here!

All images courtesy of Gregory Lamberson.