Rob Zombie
How Filmmaking is Like Songwriting

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RZ, Humphrey and the band
photo: kristin burns

Inspirations for His Films
For the last two movies Zombie’s made, the ideas came to him while he was on tour and traveling through the Midwest. “We’d be driving through these really desolate-looking areas, with like old farm houses crumbling on the edges of rivers and, my god, those settings were so... inspiring... so wild... like they’re badlands or something,” he says. “But it’s such a long journey from the start to the ending of a film that, by the time you finish, sometimes you can’t even remember what inspired it.”

Inspiration is one thing. Making a fucking amazing film is another. And for Zombie it’s no easy task — nor is it one unbeaten by the fiercely and ever-vying currents of confusion and obsession. “Creatively in general, you sort of just have these ideas and they’re not fully realized,” he says. “And you’re not sure where they’re going, and you’re always thinking about it constantly.

That process doesn’t end quickly and quite often it’s entwined with moments of elation, tempered by the ever-present fear that all that mental obsession, sweat and toil will end up being... for nothing. “But little by little, it comes together and you’ll be like, ‘Oh! I just thought of maybe the ending... I just thought of this scene... I just thought of this other scene...’ And you’re always making notes and writing things down,” says Zombie. “But there’s always a point you get to on any project where you feel like you’re not going to figure it out.”

But he usually does.

Making Films is Like Making Records
“Making a film is kind of like starting a record,” he says. “You need a full, finished album, but you’ve got one idea for one song — maybe. And you’re like, ‘How are we going to get from here to there?’ It’s the same process with film. It’s a long slow process and little by little you build upon things. And at the end of the day, somehow you get a finished script and a movie, or a record.”

And with his new record just finished, Zombie acknowledges how important the producer-artist relationship is to him. “Finding somebody that you can write with and work with is virtually impossible,” says Zombie. “Scott and I are similar in a lot of ways, but we’re completely different people in a lot of ways. Somehow it just comes together and it works well.”

What Really Matters for Filmmaking
Although he’s charged fearlessly forward with every entrepreneurial entertainment enterprise he’s conceptualized, built and deployed, Zombie attests that the key to success is more about business sense than his affiliated creative experience. “The jobs of director, songwriter, performer, etc. are all so different that one doesn’t really help you with the other,” he says. “I directed a lot of music videos and that was very helpful. But the most helpful thing for me at all times has been knowing how to deliver a product on budget and on time — because that always remains the same.”

And Zombie bestows no pity upon slacker artiste fools. “That’s a fear that a lot of people may have,” he admits. “But if you take on the project, no excuse in the world matters. If someone’s going to give you 10 million dollars, they want a fucking movie at the end of the day — and they want it on time. Not roughly on time — exactly on time and exactly on budget and they want it to be fucking good.”

Directing music videos sort of prepared him for that. “I think that’s the best thing I took away from making music videos,” says Zombie. “You’ve got this much money and this much time and it must be done. It’s not like a student film where you’re going to obsess over it for three years if you want to, or forever. It must be done.”

Where many people aspire to make records, many of them just sit around in their basements writing great songs, but never actually get around to making and releasing a record. And that’s what Zombie feels is the difference. “I think some people have a fear of that,” he says. “But there is that moment where, once you decide to throw your hat in the ring, you go, ‘Okay, I’m doing this for real.’ It’s that bizarre side of it that people don’t like. But unfortunately it’s just the reality and that becomes the business of making it happen. And it has become like this psychotic pressure for me.”

Previous page: How “The Devil’s Rejects” Made the Record

Rob Zombie

1. On Making Films and Records
2. Zombie’s World Takeover
3. The Making of “Educated Horses”
4. How “The Devil’s Rejects” Made the Record
5. How Filmmaking is Like Songwriting

On Music In Film
When it comes to the music for his films, Zombie is an absolute control freak. “I can’t speak for everybody, but with my films, I’m all over everything constantly,” he says.

“The music plays 100% in a film,” says Zombie. “It is so important in a film. It can’t make a bad film great, but it can make a bad film work. It can make a great film terrible.

“Music is everything and I think it’s getting lost a little bit,” he says. “But great music can make films so much larger than life and bad music can just make you go, ‘Ugh... I don’t want to keep watching.’”

Useful Links

Rob Zombie Music and Films
The Chop Shop

Power Mac

Digidesign Pro Tools
GRM Tools
Izotope Trash
Waves DeEsser and L1

Audio Interfaces
Pro Tools HD 192

Aguilar Bass Amp
Vox AC30

Moog Voyager


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