Updated 6/1/07

Colonel Scott W. Perry has recently interviewed Brian Jude for his web site, Colonel's Crypt. Read the interview here, or read it below!


Brian Jude defines the word "independent."

If you are an independent filmmaker in the tri-state area, chances are you have heard of Brian Jude, one of the busiest and most productive producers around under his label Dragon Rider Productions. Brian began his foray producing many musical documentaries but was introduced into the realm of horror by producing Alan Rowe Kelly's THE BLOOD SHED. He has not looked back, producing Jeremiah Kipp's short film THE POD and Susie Adriensen's upcoming UNDER THE RAVEN'S WING.

The New Jersey native and new proud father took time out of his schedule to talk to the Crypt to discuss his role in these projects, what to expect from the soon to be released RAVEN'S WING, and a detailed insight on the struggles and tribulations of low budget filmmaking.


COLONEL'S CRYPT: Who are your biggest influences in filmmaking?


BRIAN JUDE: Wow, tough question, because there are so many, and for many different reasons! Obviously many of "the greats" have had influences on how I view the craft, from story to feel to look - filmmakers like Hitchcock, Scorsese, Coppola, etc. Then there's filmmakers who I admire for the sheer fun that they bring to their work -  Rob Reiner, Ron Howard, Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, John Waters. It's a bit more of their attitude than craft. I'm always impressed by the fact that Woody Allen has made a film a year for almost 40 years. And like many of my generation, I'm a Star Wars fan, so I have to count Lucas as an influence.

All in all, though, I think life has been my greatest influence. As a child, I always saw my life as a movie, wondering how someone else might react to what I see through my eyes, and I think that had a lot to do with why I chose to become a filmmaker.

Although I've produced several genre films, they've never been my main love. I liked some of the better NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movies and other mainstream horror classics, but it was never really my cup of tea. I fell into doing a handful of genre films because of the friends who've brought me on board, and while I'm still not a horror fan per se, the experience has given me a great respect for the genre, and I certainly take great pride in the films I've produced.

CC: How was Dragon Rider Productions formed?

BJ: Ten years ago I started writing a script based on some experiences from my teen years, many of which had to do with my step-brother Allan, who was three days younger than me, and our mutual friends. We were all "metalheads." Allan was unfortunately killed in a car accident ten days after his best friend committed suicide. For his friend's funeral, he drew a sketch of a knight riding on top of a dragon, flying over a castle, with the inscription, "Ride with the dragons, my friend. One day we shall meet again." I named the script after that quote.

A few years later, my friend Richard Legon decided he wanted to help me get the film made, so we started a production company for the sole purpose of making this one film, hence the name. After a while we realized that to make this particular film the way I wanted to do it, it would take more money that we could raise at the time, so we decided to put it on the back burner, and we used the company for other kinds of production work, like shorts, commercials, music videos, industrials, etc.

CC: In 2002, you became involved with Exit 131 Productions, part of the association of Independent Filmmakers in New Jersey. How did this come about and what is your role with this organization?

BJ: The script of "Ride with The Dragons" was selected for the 2002 IFP Market, and so I looked through the materials they sent for industry folks who were attending, and I came across the name of Allen Chou, who was a film producer out of Edison. Since he was a Jersey-based producer, and my film was based in Jersey, I figured I should give him a call. I realized soon that my project wasn't a match for him, but he told me that he was the head of the New Jersey Salon of AIVF (the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, which as recently disbanded, unfortunately) and that he wanted to start a "no-budget" production arm of the salon, as this was the time that people really started to take to the idea of making shorts on DV as opposed to film.

I attended the first meeting, and we decided on the name Exit 131 Productions, as the cafe where we met was in Metuchen, off of Exit 131 on the Garden State Parkway. Our agenda was to plan a film that could be shot in a single day and edited quickly, with only minor out-of-pocket expenses shared by the group to fund our budget. We selected a story by a filmmaker named Chung C. Tsang about an arrogant yuppie who becomes pathetic and homeless and steals a piece of cake on his birthday. I was chosen to direct the film, which was called A TASTE OF BETTER DAYS. I cast the film with actor friends of mine, including my wife Melanie Canter. As a way of  keeping contact with the crew, I created a Yahoo! Group, which proved to be an invaluable tool, and which I've used for many other films since.

We went on to produce two more shorts in less than a year, and I added more and more people to the Yahoo! Group. I also created a group for the actors we were using. Eventually the Yahoo! Groups took on a life of their own, with me simply moderating the admission of new members, making sure there were no spammers getting through or potential threats to identity theft, etc. The Groups, and Exit 131 itself, evolved simply into an on-line networking tool for Jersey filmmakers and actors, though we have a few members from out of state as well. In the past year I created a MySpace page as well, which has garnered interest from all over the world.

CC: You just produced UNDER THE RAVEN'S WING by Susie Adriensen. What sparked your interest in this film?

BJ: Susie and I met on the set of THE BLOOD SHED though we should have met sooner. We soon found out that we were both Broadcasting majors at Montclair State University, though she graduated right before I started the program, and we had many mutual friends from college. Toward the end of the shoot, Susie asked if I'd be interested in helping her produce the film, which she pitched to me as an improvised pseudo-documentary about three girls who had committed a murder and start a cult. She originally planned on giving the actors an outline and letting them live out the story in front of the camera.  The notes were so wild that I knew I had to get involved!

Then she told me that she was thinking of writing a script instead - I told her it probably wasn't a good idea, but at least it would be a good exercise. Turned out the script blew me away even more than the notes! Her characters were all very three-dimensional, very defined. They might not all have had an arc per se, but that's reality! Not everyone's life experiences makes them change who they are, and people have a tendency of making the same mistakes over again even though they should know better. That kind of reality was an underlying theme - though the filmmaker character certainly points out how the events of the girls' childhood shaped who they turned out to be. But it's that kind of vérité that breathed life into a script that was full of intrigue, suspense, and general WTF?-ness that made it a great story and, as you will soon see, a great film. Well, that, and Susie's spunky directorial style, our talented cast of Kimberly Amato, Coy DeLuca, Kamilla Sofe Sadekova and Jessica Pallate, and the assistance of our hard working crew - including Meric Adriensen, Sophia Eptamenitis, Chiara Fattorusso, Dave Groman, Felipe Silvestre, John Dunphy, Rachel Gordon and many others who offered so much along the way.

CC: What was the experience working on Alan Rowe Kelly's THE BLOOD SHED?

BJ: Ah, THE BLOOD SHED! One of my fondest filmmaking memories of all time! It was everything I expected and everything I hoped it would be - a low-budget horror/comedy flick about a bunch of backwood Jersey inbreds, focusing around a 40-something-year-old beast of a woman named Beeftina Bullion who thinks she's 12, and who was played by actor/director Alan Rowe Kelly in a pink dress that no designer in his or her right mind would make for a man of his size! What more do I need to say?

Actually, I need to say a bit. Alan Rowe's wonderfully demented humor was so engrossing in his script that, much like RAVEN, everyone involved totally understood it and was inspired to bring it to life. Much like a theater cast, the cast and crew of this film became a little family for a while. There was this great, loving atmosphere on set that you'd think we were shooting a BENJI movie or something, and then you'd go to set and see a cop's testicles getting crushed or squirrels being used for skeet or a child getting ripped in half. It was a little surreal, but it felt very much at home.

And like RAVEN, the cast and crew were equally talented and hard working.  The rest of the Bullion Family was rounded out by the legendary Terry M. West and Joshua Nelson - two great actor/directors in their own right - Mike Lane, Susan Adriensen of course, and Robert Norman as "Grandma." The rest of the cast included Jerry Murdock, Brian Juergens, Sandra Schaller, who wore several hats as a crew member as well, Zoe Daelman Chlanda, Kane Manera, Katherine O'Sullivan, a guest appearance by Fangoria's Michael Gingold, and three outstanding youths, Victoria Bensen, Stephanie Marracho and wickedly wonderful Sasha Friedenberg.

On the other side of the camera, Bart Mastronardi is one of the most innovative D.P.'s I've ever met - creating lighting designs that both cover all angles to maximize the dramatic effect as well as to save time - a producer's dream! Bart is a high school teacher who brought along several of his students to the team - Stolis Hadjicharalambous, who masterfully edited the film, and Billy Archiello, Dominick Sivilli, Henry Borriello and Nick Bohme, who all juggled several duties on set. Then there was Ken Shupe and his fantastic make-up effects team of Ingrid Okola, Yianna Klentzeris and Rob Donadio, George Schaller, Adam Barnick, and a few others as well. Tom Burns wrote a perfectly eerie score to accentuate the on-screen mayhem. And joining me on the producer side was Rachel Gordon and associate producer/1st. A.D. Jeremiah Kipp, who dragged us into this twisted terrain in the first place and ran the set with an iron, but gentle, fist.


CC: I heard that the shooting was a lot of fun. Any fond memories from the set?

BJ: Every day was chock full of them! Seeing "Beeftina" for the first time was quite a site! Brian Juergens' talent for ad-libbing made for many an off-camera chuckle from the crew. Then there was the 30-degree day where Susie was in her little shirt & shorts, snuggling under a gigundo kerosene heater with a sound blanket, meanwhile the script calls for a hot day in which a character wipes the sweat off his brow. Rachel Gordon and I got to stand in for cast members for some effects shots - she had her legs sawed off and I had my ear was pulled off with a pair of pliers - that was 30 minutes of make-up time, 15 minutes on set, 20 minutes in the shower and at least two cycles for my clothes in the washing machine for less than 30 frames of screen time, and I loved every part of it! I also drove my red minivan in one of the opening shots, which we also used as a dolly in the opening scene.

CC: The DVD for THE BLOOD SHED is due out in September. What role do you have in the extra features on the disc?

BJ: Before we began shooting, my friend and occasional collaborator Craig Schiavone offered his services as a still photographer for any films I might do. I invited him to come to set, but I knew we already had a handful of other photographers already coming regularly - something most filmmakers routinely overlook, and we had an abundance, and I cannot stress the value of that! So I told Craig to bring along a video camera as well, thinking some behind-the-scene shots would be useful as well. Eventually we ended up with nearly 30 hours of behind-the-scenes and in-studio interview footage, which I directed and Craig, Alan Rowe and I produced into a featurette for the DVD.

CC: You also produced Jeremiah Kipp's THE POD. Are there any differences working on a feature like THE BLOOD SHED and a short film like THE POD?

BJ: Oddly enough, for these two particular films, not so much! THE BLOOD SHED was originally intended to be a short, part of a three-film anthology, so it was scheduled like a short. We had 12 scheduled shooting days, which I think we ended up paring down to ten days, but ended up with enough footage for a feature. THE POD had six shooting days, with a few extra re-shoot days, so the schedule was smaller, the cast was smaller, but the crew was about the same size. Other than almost everything being a little smaller, production of THE POD was very similar to that of THE BLOOD SHED.

THE POD was also a cast and crew of friends old and new. Between Jeremiah and writer Carl Kelsh, the two of them together or collectively had known D.P. Jonathan Jacobson, associate producers Marie Anne Cote and Scott Miller, co-producer James Felix McKenney, production designer/costume designer Kimberly Matela, make-up artist Anthony Pepe, sound mixer Carlos Pulido, editor José Peláez, composer Rob Reddy and assistant sound designer Adam Barnick. Kim brought on Art Director Julie Langer and a handful of assistants. I'm not totally sure how many of the other crew members had come on board, such as special effects artist Daniel Mazikowski prop maker David Bell. I brought on my wife's cousin, Julian Altbuch, as a P.A., whom I had cast in my short "The Last Days of Frank Whyte," which I produced and wrote along with Franklin Correa, who also stared in the film and helped out on one of the re-shoots of THE POD.  

In the cast, we had the pleasure of working with another legendary actor/filmmaker Larry Fessenden, whom Jeremiah had met through James Felix McKenney. I want to say that Jeremiah had met actor Emanuele Ancorini before, but I think it was actually Emanuele who had met co-star Mary Remington, and I remember hearing a story about how their knowing each other helped the chemistry in their audition. Jeremiah had worked with Stephanie Foster before in his previous short, "The Christmas Party." Several other cast members were friends of Jeremiah's or mine. Alan Rowe Kelly and Kane Manera have a cameo in the film as well.

CC: How did you become involved with THE POD?

BJ: I had known Jeremiah and Carl for many years through a mutual friend, but we never really worked together. Jeremiah called me one day out of the blue, told me he was doing this film that Carl had written, and asked if I'd help produce it. I said, "With my schedule, I should say no, but knowing me, I'm going to say yes." And that's what I did!

CC: What would you say are the biggest challenges of being an independent producer?

BJ: What else? Money! There's never enough of it, but that's also where the challenges can inspire the art of creative solutions! For example, on "The Blood Shed," we shot in a photo studio in Paterson, New Jersey, and in the constant battle to find a good and cost-effective place to get lunch for the cast and crew, we found a great little Spanish restaurant that was able to sell us an abundance of great food, with a good variety, for about $5-$6 a head. The same food in New York would have cost much more. The first few jobs I had in film were doing craft service, and I learned early on the value of taking care of your crew. You want to give them every comfort you can without blowing your budget.

There's also the issue of time, especially when there's little money. If you're not paying your cast and crew very much, you'll probably have to work around their schedules, which means they'll probably have other, better-paying gigs on weekdays, and you have to shoot on weekends. That can end up making some costs higher than shooting day-to-day, but you have to weigh the overall costs with working with the people you want to have on your set and determine what's going to serve the film best.

CC: In addition to horror films, you have produced and directed several live concert films. What is it about concert films that make you draw certain attention to them?

BJ: I've always been a fan of music. When I was four years old, I'd have my mom's headphones on, listening to The White Album, or Tommy by The Who or the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. I was a choir and band geek all throughout school, and actually started college as a music major, and I belong to a national music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. In my college Broadcasting classes, I tended to gravitate toward entertainment-based projects, including one multi-camera live studio performance of an acoustic band.

In my last year of college, I interned at Batfilm Productions with the executive producers of the Batman films, Michael Uslan and Benjamin Melniker. On my first day there, the only one in the office was their office manager, Tom Walker. Within minutes we became immediate friends, and that friendship never ended. Tom is an amazing singer/songwriter/guitarist, and I quickly became a fan of his music, independent of our friendship. A few years later, he put
a band together called Friday's Child. As soon as Friday's Child started to grow a following, I longed to do a live concert video for them. I had worked on a PBS concert for Steely Dan, and that was a big inspiration for me as well.

Finally, in 2005, the band had reformed and was planning a CD release show. Tom said he might do an audio recording of it - his bassist Rich Haddad is an incredible live mixer - and I told him "Why don't we shoot it?" He said, "I don't have the money for that." I said, "Dragon Rider does!" So we put together a five-camera shoot, and cut a few early clips that we posted on the internet. The response from the web alone inspired Tom to move forward with an idea we had discussed a few years before that - live music performances for the web. Digital Cafe Tour was born!

In 2006, DCT had a strong summer season with nine shows, and a few other shows in the fall and winter, spanning musical genres from rock to jazz to blues to country to classical. We approach both our video and audio quality with the utmost professionalism, which is rare to find on the web these days. DCT is now my full-time day job. This year we're planning full summer & fall seasons, plus we have three podcasts in the works. "The Official Digital Cafe Tour Podcast" will feature DCT news & updates, Clips of the Week, and behind-the-scenes interivews & documentary clips for a segment we call Broaden Your Band. Then there's a podcast called Broaden Your Band:Room 2, with Friday's Child enigmatic guitarist "The Professor" Don Regan giving beginner, intermediate and advanced guitar lessons. Finally, there's Broaden Your Band: Music Law with DCT partner/law professor Rob McNeely.

CC: What are the key aspects you look for in a script to draw interest in producing them?

BJ: First of all, I look for feasibility. If a writer has written something outlandish and has no idea how to shoot it or pay for it, like if Scene 1 is "EXT. ALIEN PLANET BATTLEFIELD - NIGHT," I'll probably turn it down. Then I'll look to see if it's well-written, if the story grabs me, or if I can see the film in my head and I say, "Yes, that's a movie I want to see!" The script doesn't have to be perfect for me to get on board, but if it isn't, I'll work with the writer and/or director (if they are not one in the same) to get them to make the script the best it can be. Usually the collaboration is very helpful and results in great projects, but there have been some projects that couldn't get off the ground because of some artistic differences between me and other people involved.

CC: Anything you can say about THE LAST DAYS OF FRANK WHYTE, which is in post production?

BJ: Yes! My running joke is that this film was originally made as part of the 48-Month Film Festival, but we were disqualified because we couldn't meet the deadline. In all seriousness, though, this is one of the films where collaboration paid off big time. Franklin Correa approached me with several projects, and they were all pretty good, but one short about a drug dealer trying to avenge his partner's death really intrigued me. Frank sent me a first rough draft, and he and I worked together to flesh out the story, give it an arc, etc. We were both happy with the result.

Frank wrote the main character with him in mind, so he played the lead. His friend Chiko Mendez was cast to play the friend, Boogie. As I mentioned earlier, my wife's cousin Julian Altbuch was cast as the villain, and we auditioned a child actor named Aron Briskin, on recommendation from my friend Jodi Etra, who was Aron's teacher at the time. I brought on a D.P. named Evan Langston, with whom I'd worked on another film I produced called "Cruel to be Kind," plus I recruited several crew members from Exit 131, such as Bill Clemis, JD Hartman, Tom Wieschenberg, Craig Clark, Lynda Lane and my long-time editor and friend Steve Maio. (Steve edited "A Taste of Better Days," the Friday's Child concert video, and is the Senior Video Editor for Digital Cafe Tour.) Filmmaker Jason Allentoff was on board as A.D. for the first day of the shoot, and my Dragon Rider partner Richard Legon stepped in on Day 2. JD brought his nephew Eric Simnor on as a best boy, and Lynda brought on Erik Labrador, whose make-up effects were so great, someone called the cops on us because they thought Chiko Mendez had actually been shot! Martin Cole was our sound mixer, and my friends Laura Leuter and Belinda Connolly were P.A.'s.

We shot it in two days, the first day all exteriors, the second day all interiors, this way in case it rained the first day we could switch days. Fortunately it didn't! As I mentioned before, someone called the cops on us on the first day, and they ended up shutting us down, even though we were on private property and did not need a permit, according to the City of Elizabeth, New Jersey. This was one of those "happy accident" moments, as we rescheduled our next scene, which was supposed to be in an abandoned parking lot, to the next day and we shot it in the basement. It was a much more appropriate location for the scene.

Part of the reason why the film has taken so long to complete goes back to my challenge about money. When you can't pay someone, you're at the mercy of their schedule, and if they have a lot of paying gigs, your project has to wait. A rough cut was made a few months after we wrapped, and we screened it at a wrap party. It still needed music, and I've gone through several composers who couldn't quite commit to the project for various reasons. There's also a tremendous amount of tedious image correction that has already been done by Craig Schiavone which has given the film an amazing look, and there's just a little more to do, but again, there's schedule factors, as we've both had a hard time putting our paying projects aside and try to get together. There's a little bit of sound effects work that needs to be done as well, and then we can release it.

Interesting bit of trivia - I named Aron Briskin's character Donald Jacobs, which we only see in a newspaper article, because my wife and I always planned on naming our first son Jacob. Little did we know that by the time we were shooting, our son Jacob had already been conceived. (I think that if this film isn't done by the time he starts driving, I'm going to have to force him to finish it!)

CC: Where do you see the horror genre in five years?

BJ: I really can't say. The genre has had its own life, it's own culture, actually, for so long. I don't ever see that going away, but I can't say how much it will grow either. Then again, these days there are more filmmakers, as the technology is always getting cheaper and the internet is becoming a better vehicle of distribution every day. These days, a filmmaker can make a film into an electornic file, distribute it on the net for downloading to a mobile player that can be hooked up to a large-screen TV, and there's no longer a need for DVD's! So that fact alone could be a major boost to the genre, but I'm just making an educated guess here.

I leave the last word for you. Thanks for your time Brian.

BJ: Well, Scott, I appreciate the opportunity to share! Many of the things I'm doing involve the internet, so I think the best thing for me to do is to leave you with some great links to check out. Enjoy!

Dragon Rider Productions -
Dragon Rider Productions' MySpace Page -

Digital Cafe Tour -
DCT's MySpace Page:

Under The Raven's Wing -
Under The Raven's Wing's MySpace Page -

The Blood Shed -
The Blood Shed's MySpace Page -

The Pod teaser trailer -
The Pod's MySpace Page -

Exit 131 Yahoo! Group -
Exit 131 Actors' Yahoo! Group -
Exit 131 Filmmakers & Actors' MySpace Page -