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Robert McGinley On Shredder Orpheus’ New Blu-Ray Release, Making The Film, More

December 27, 2023 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Shredder Orpheus Image Credit: Robert McGinley/Boom Cult!

The 411 Interview: Robert McGinley

Image Credit: Robert McGinley

Robert McGinley is a writer and director who, according to his imdb page, has been making movies since at least 1990, directing such movies as Danger Diva and Jimmy Zip: Reloaded. McGinley’s first feature film as a director, the sci-fi/fantasy/post-apocalyptic skateboarding rock and roll classic 1990 B-movie Shredder Orpheus is getting a new Blu-ray release from the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA), set to hit the world on December 26th, 2023 (you can order the Blu-ray here or here). In this interview, McGinley talks with this writer about making Shredder Orpheus, why he starred in the movie while also writing the screenplay and directing, and more.


Image Credit: Robert McGinley/Boom Cult!

Bryan Kristopowitz: How did Shredder Orpheus become your first movie as a director?

Robert McGinley: Originally, Shredder was a short film focusing on the “horror” section of the EBN Game Show where Orpheus loses his head. Before that there was a simple Steadicam 13 minute MOS short of Orpheus and Eurydice shot in Seattle’s Underground City. Essentially, Shredder Orpheus was developed in 3 phases over a 7-8 year period.

BK: How did you cast Shredder Orpheus? Did you always intend to star in the movie or was that just something that sort of happened?

RM: No, I desperately wanted a seasoned actor to do the role but after 7 years of development it was internalized in my DNA. Our producer, Lisa Dutton, after looking around for Seattle based actors finally said something like, “You gotta do it, no one else can pull this off.” Thinking back maybe she was also thinking I would not be very expensive and could spend money on other things in the budget!

BK: How difficult was it to star in/act in as well as direct Shredder Orpheus?

RM: I learned a lot from doing the short about switching from “left brain director” to “right brain actor.” The mistakes I made in the short were helpful. When we shot the feature my assistant producer, Josh Conescu, helped coach me through my scenes and saved my butt.

BK: Where was Shredder Orpheus filmed? How did you get access to so many shipping containers?

RM: We mostly shot in South Seattle near port on Eliot Bay. For most of the interiors we got a one month deal on a warehouse. Exterior locations were mostly stolen including parking garages and an abandoned train station. As for the containers It was luck, frankly. For the daytime shoot (one day) we did some fast talking with the longshoreman on duty and they let us shoot in a corner of the yard that was not being used. I got friendly with one of the fork lift guys. With a little grease in his palm he designed the container village for us and joined us in the dead of night to operate the fork lift for the “Tarot Oracle” scene.

BK: How did the skateboarding aspect of the story develop? Was it always there from the beginning?

RM: This question gets asked a lot so this a mini history of the origin:

“The Birth of Shredder Orpheus:

On late summer nights in 1987 in downtown parking garages of Seattle office buildings the film concept for Shredder Orpheus was born when a pack of skaters would infiltrate the garages, jump into elevators traveling 8-12 stories high and fly down garage ramps in high speed adrenalized death-defying ecstasy until the security guards or police would kick them out.

Among the pack was skater Robert McGinley, a filmmaker, mythology student and Stacy Peralta/Bones Brigade Video fan. The experience was a life changer for McGinley when it occurred to him that skating into the bowels of a parking garage was like Orpheus going to hell into the underworld of Hades. Combining the myth of Orpheus, the virtuosic musical icon, with skateboarding culture and the soul sucking medium of network television seemed like a great way to recreate the oldest love story in Western Civilization.”

BK: How did you come up with the look of Shredder Orpheus, both in terms of the art design and the costume design?

RM: Production designer Randy Eriksen and costume designer Marienne O’Brien had a good feel for a dystopian skate punk aesthetic as well a sick florescent light Euthanasia Broadcast Network. The art department did a great job in general but the container village set and Orpheus’ bedroom are among my favorites. Randy’s ingenuity for creating props, especially fantasy guitars, was superb including the lyre axe guitar “designed by Jimi Hendrix.” Marienne’s costumes for Hades and Persephone are tour de force!

BK: How long did it take to make Shredder Orpheus, from writing the script to completing post-production?

RM: From inception to completion, with the short versions, close to ten years. However, the final shooting script and principal photography for the feature took around 3 years.

BK: What sort of release did Shredder Orpheus have back in 1990?

RM: If I recall correctly, Action International Pictures (AIP) released it on VHS selling over 20,000 units but only reported sales of around 12,000 (yes, I got into a fight with AIP). It ran as a Friday night midnight show in the Landmark Theater in Seattle’s University district for close to 9 months.

Image Credit: Robert McGinley/Boom Cult!

BK: How would you describe Shredder Orpheus as a movie? Is it science fiction? Is it fantasy? Is it some other sort of genre?

RM: I answer this question depending my mood. Today I would say it’s a skate rock-sci-fi-hero’s journey- love story. Joe Ziemba from AGFA describes it as “Independent as fuck: What if Jean Cocteau could grind a half pipe?”

BK: How did you develop the soundtrack for Shredder Orpheus?

RM: Producer Lisa Dutton was able to enroll Roland Barker (key boards-sax, Black Outs, Ministry). He agreed to compose the soundtrack and brought in Bill Rieflin (drums), Amy Denio (bass) and Dennis Rea (guitar) to create an all-star group for the film and the soundtrack.

BK: How did the Blu-ray release from the American Genre Film Archive come about?

RM: Joe Ziemba from AGFA tracked me down and called me. I couldn’t say no.

BK: What sort of differences, if any, are there between the original VHS release of Shredder Orpheus and the AFGA Blu-ray release?

RM: The Blu-ray picture quality is slightly improved thanks to remastering and a great transfer. The Blu-ray has the VHS copy for those who wish to compare. In addition, the Blu-ray has all kinds of extra features including a photo gallery and a booklet.

BK: What do you hope audiences get out of the Blu-ray release of Shredder Orpheus?

RM: At the end of the day I hope for audiences to have a contemporary, immersive experience into the one of the greatest and oldest love stories in Western Civilization.

BK: Was there ever any interest in a Shredder Orpheus sequel?

RM: I have some ideas inspired by Shredder Orpheus integrated into a new screenplay, but in my mind the Orpheus story doesn’t lend itself to a sequel. A remake, maybe, with an updated feel or an off-Broadway theater version maybe?! The axiom “Don’t look back” seems to be wise advice.

BK: Does the experimental Jimi Hendrix guitar prop still exist?

RM: Yes. It’s in the garage. You want a photo?

BK: Where the heck did you get all of that shredder paper for the EBN studio hallway sequences? Did you have to make all of that shredded paper yourself or were you able to buy it from someone?

RM: Production designer/art director Randy Eriksen and the whole art department shredded for days! I think we fried a few shredding machines.

BK: When is the last time you got on a skateboard?

RM: I like to use the skateboard occasionally to go pick up the dry cleaning.

Image Credit: Robert McGinley/Boom Cult!


A very special thanks to Robert McGinley for agreeing to participate in this interview and to david j. moore for setting it up.

The Shredder Orpheus Blu-ray from the American Genre Film Archive will be available starting December 26th, 2023. You can order the Blu-ray here or here.

Check out my review of Shredder Orpheus here!

Check out the Boom! Cult website here and Twitter page here!

Robert McGinley image courtesy of Robert McGinley. All other images courtesy of Robert McGinley/Boom! Cult.