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Robert McGinley On Why He Re-Released Jimmy Zip: Reloaded, Adding New Ending & More

May 13, 2023 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Jimmy Zip: Reloaded Image Credit: Boom Cult

The 411 Interview: Robert McGinley

Image Credit: Boom Cult

Robert McGinley is a writer and director who, according to his imdb page, has been making movies since at least 1990. McGinley has directed the feature films Shredder Orpheus and Danger Diva. McGinley’s latest effort is Jimmy Zip: Reloaded, a re-cut and remastered version of his second movie Jimmy Zip, which was originally released in 1999 (you can pre-order the Jimmy Zip: Reloaded DVD and soundtrack CD by going here). In this interview, McGinley talks with this writer about how Jimmy Zip: Reloaded was conceived, how the movie was made, what it was like working with the cast, and more.


Image Credit: Robert McGinley

Bryan Kristopowitz: Why did you want to re-release Jimmy Zip as Jimmy Zip: Reloaded?

Robert McGinley: Several reasons: I thought Jimmy Zip deserved a second chance to find a new audience because the story, set in a world of teen homelessness and gutter punk culture, is still relevant today. In addition, Jimmy’s search for a father/mentor is a compelling theme that is timeless. Finally, the concept that you refer to in your review, “When Art Becomes a Weapon”, is something that I wanted re-energize and share with an audience. To realize these goals we needed to do a 35 MM transfer to a 4K HDR streaming file.

BK: What sort of release did Jimmy Zip get the first time?

RM: The film played close to ten festivals and had a 18 month run on Showtime. The release on Showtime was followed by two different video releases.

BK: What is different between Jimmy Zip and Jimmy Zip: Reloaded?

RM: Jimmy Zip: Reloaded features a new ending and the restoration includes an upgrade from a stereo sound track to 5.1 surround.

BK: How did Jimmy Zip become your second feature film as a director?

RM: I was struggling to get Danger Diva off the ground and getting nowhere so I decided to keep my head down and write a screenplay about a pyromaniac and a welding sculptor. Actors seemed to really respond to the material and suddenly the project had traction.

BK: According to imdb Jimmy Zip was originally a short film. How did that short film inform/inspire the eventual feature length version?

RM: The plan was to make a short version of Jimmy Zip starring Just Whalen and Robert Gossett to market the feature length film. It turned out to be a great test of the material and uncovered some weaknesses in the script. However, the short was strong enough to help attract a full cast for the feature.

BK: How did you cast Jimmy Zip?

RM: It started with Robert Gossett who auditioned for “Horace Metcalf” in the short and I wanted to keep him. Then I went after Chris Mulkey who lived across the street from me. I knocked on his door, handed him the script and begged him to read for the “Rick Conesco” character. Luckily he said yes a few days later and a directing teacher put me in touch with casting director, Rosemary Weldon, and she put out casting calls for “Jimmy,” “Sheila,” “Otis” and the rest of the minor characters. I saw 30 Sheilas and 20 or so Jimmys. We discovered Adrienne Frantz and Brendan Fletcher out of the process who absolutely crushed their auditions. James Russo was more difficult to catch but I met with him three or four times and he finally agreed to give me 3-4 days.

BK: What was it like working with Chris Mulkey, who plays the movie’s villain Rick Conesco? His performance is so amazing. Rick is just so damn sleazy.

RM: Chris Mulkey’s “Rick” sleaze bag character personifies the notion that evil greets you with a smile. His cheerful “just say no” to drugs speech to Jimmy, his playful/sinister intimidation of Otis or straight up physical abuse of Sheila are natural manifestations of the Rick personae that Chris played with precision. He could also energize the rest of the cast and crew in his scenes and his suggestions and creativity were immensely helpful to me.

BK: Where was Jimmy Zip filmed?

RM: On the streets around Hollywood Blvd., Sunland Auto Junk Yards North of L.A. and the waterfront of San Pedro Bay. We rented a studio for interiors along with a gallery in Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. Most of the exterior locations were shot without permits. We got kicked out of a lot of places including the pier in San Pedro Bay where Horace grabs Jimmy and (illegally) jumps forty feet into the water and the Sunland Junk Yard where we were asked to leave after blowing up Rick’s car. When we shot a night exterior near Hollywood Blvd. our hired security police abandoned us (because they said the location was too dangerous for just two cops) and we were left to fend for ourselves when gang bangers attacked a member of our street audience near the set. Chris Mulkey, staying in his gangster character, waded into the crowd and using his forefinger in his suit jacket threatened the attackers and cleared them out. It may have been his most important performance of the production (not captured on film) for the safety of cast, crew and bystanders.

BK: What was the hardest part of making Jimmy Zip: Reloaded for you as a director?

RM: By far the hardest part was shooting 26 locations in 20 days and keeping the energy and morale up for cast and crew for 14-15 hour days.

The “T-Bone” car crash scene was the biggest single nightmare. Every time I yelled “action” the late model car would start up and die. We started with a battery, then an alternator, spark plugs, ignition switch, etc. Each new part seemed to trigger failures in other parts (like auto whack – a – mole) so we would have to go back to the 24 hour auto parts store and replace the defective part which was burning up precious time. When the new part was installed the first AD would go “quiet on set, start the car, roll sound, roll camera” and I’d go, “ACTION!” and the car would go a few feet and die! After rebuilding a large portion of the car we finally had to have the crew push it to get the final crash done. Once it was rolling the crew would jump out of the way of the shot and Chris Tufty, our Director of Photography, would under-crank the camera to keep the action speed up. It took us two nights to finish this scene, put enormous pressure on our schedule and I was on the verge of losing my shit. For stress management purposes I wandered to the far end of the junkyard (away from the crew) several times to indulge in my own version of a Jimmy Zip temper tantrum. Welcome to low budget filmmaking!

BK: What was the easiest?

RM: Brendan Fletcher’s and Adrienne Frantz’s performances were easy to direct because they both were so well prepared and not only knew their lines but also every actor’s lines in scenes they were in. I just tried to stay out of their way because their performances were so fully realized.

Image Credit: Boom Cult

BK: How long did it take to make Jimmy Zip: Reloaded, from finishing the script to completing post-production?

RM: In 1998 Jimmy Zip took 50-60 days to prep, 20 days to shoot and the original post production took 10 or so weeks as we were rushing to meet festival deadlines. Howard Flaer, our editor, and I started work on Jimmy Zip: Reloaded in the fall of 2021 with the transfer from 35MM Kodak Vision Stock to 4K HDR and re-cutting the new ending. We finished Reloaded this past March.

BK: How did you assemble the movie’s fantastic soundtrack?

RM: Our composer Geoff Levin was next door to the sound design post house, Juniper Post, so I decided to check him out. I knew I wanted a guitar driven rock score and Geoff was a perfect fit for me because of his collaborative abilities and his willingness to write songs with me. I would feed him lyrics and he would ask me what sort of style do you want? For example, for the lyrics for the opening credit song, Fuse In My Pocket, he asked “what sort of feel do you want?” I said, “The dirtiest, scratchiest Keith Richards chords possible. Think Jumping Jack Flash, etc.” We wanted a reggae style tune for the Sheila seduces Jimmy scene in the mold of I Shot the Sheriff which turned into (I could never be) Enough. For the welding/anvil/hammer scene we needed to come up with a new genre so I wrote some lyrics and said to Geoff this needs to be an African Industrial Gospel work song. Step into The Fire was the result using steel on steel percussion, clanging guitars and vocals by Chris Mulkey.

BK: Why did you have a two decade gap between making Jimmy Zip and your third feature film as a director, Danger Diva?

RM: After Jimmy Zip was released my father passed away and the family needed help with our farm in Illinois. At the time of the release I was getting calls from agents, managers and production companies who wanted to know what my next project was but I hesitated because the folks needed me. By this time Chris Mulkey had become a close friend and I asked him what I should do. Without hesitation he said, “Save the farm!” Saving the farm took 10-12 years but I managed to carve out enough time to do a great deal of landscape photography and play around with a few screenplays. So, I took a fifteen year hiatus.

BK: What is Boom! Cult?

RM: Boom! Cult is a coven for artistic pyromaniacs devoted to the incendiary arts.

BK: Any moviemaking heroes?

RM: Luc Besson, George Miller, Jean Cocteau .

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

RM: Cataclysmic: In a world where humanity has been overwhelmed by AI corporate marketing, a young virtuosic guitar player seeks to uplift the world through his music only to be dragged into the employ of his deceased father’s corporation. He is charged with creating AI products that can save the business and the world, however his brilliant altruism clashes with the CEO’s suppressive corporate greed generating seismic consequences.

BK: What do you hope audiences get out of Jimmy Zip: Reloaded?

RM: The goal of stories that I like to tell is to create a cathartic experience that inspires, entertains, and offers up a perspective that’s maybe new to the viewer.

BK: What would it take to make a Jimmy Zip sequel?

RM: Three things: A compelling story/screenplay that tracks the collaboration and artistic careers of Jimmy and Sheila and their altercation with a new set of criminal elements. After that a healthy budget and a window in time.

BK: What happened to all of the metal art pieces that we see throughout the movie? Did you get to keep any?

RM: They are in my backyard! We need to restore them as well! The Jimmy Zip sculptor, Pete Requam, is interested.

Image Credit: 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.

You can pre-order the Jimmy Zip: Reloaded DVD and CD soundtrack here!

Check out my review of Jimmy Zip: Reloaded here!

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

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