On Saturday, July 6th, 1963, a new type of horror film was shown to the unsuspecting customers of the Bel Air Drive-In in Peoria, Ilinois. Blood Feast made it's world debut in a town famous for having America's oldest Santa Claus parade.
Hanging out anonymously among the kids at the drive-in were the two men responsible for making that movie. As they observed the reaction of the teens and young adults watching the movie that summer night, they knew they had a hit. Producer David F. Friedman, who had experience in the carnival industry, turned to director Herschell Gordon Lewis, and said, "School's out for the summer," which is a carny phrase that basically means, "Here comes the money."
Blood Feast had very humble beginnings, indeed. It's a cheap, sensationalized horror movie that exploits violence instead of nudity. You can read more about the actual movie over here. This article shows how Blood Feast is a great example of how to become successful a gore filmmaker in America.
1. Find A New Idea
Director Herschell Gordon Lewis and producer David F. Friedman were making "nudie cutie" exploitation movies, but were getting tired of them. They wanted a new way to make money. They put their heads together to come up with ideas of films that could be cheaply made, would turn a profit, and that no Hollywood studio would touch. They considered and discarded ideas such as "con man evangelist" and "Nazi torture."
2. Exploit Human Nature
Eventually, they decided on "gore." They were going to make a movie specifically designed to attract audiences by using excessive blood and guts and body parts. Lewis believed that bloodlust is naturally ingrained in the human psyche, and he wanted to capitalize on that (this is a theme that comes up more explicitly in Lewis's later film, The Wizard of Gore).
3. Don't Worry About The Details
The script was a 14-page outline. The dialogue was mostly improvised. It was made on a budget of $24,500. It was filmed in six days in Miami Beach, near the Suez Motel.
Lewis and Friedman were not looking to pay professional actors for this movie. The leading female character, Suzette, was played by Connie Mason, the Playboy Centerfold of June 1963. She was discovered and hired to be in the movie while working for tips as a "camera bunny" at the Playboy Club in Miami. This is also an example of Lesson 2, above.
4. Remember, It's All About Profit
Whenever they had to make a choice, Lewis and Friedman always picked the cheaper option. As Lewis recalls, a common phrase they used when trying to get something done was "We don't need it good, we need it Thursday!" They spent as little money as possible in order to maximize any possible profit.
In a 2001 interview, Lewis stuck to that idea:
Blood Feast influenced many other horror filmmakers of the 1970's and 1980's. It was a groundbreaking piece of cinema, no matter how quaint or trashy it seems today. And as such, it perfectly exemplifies how to achieve the American Dream.