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Daniel Ross Interview

Actor/Producer - Ninjas vs. Vampires
Interview by: 

Welcome all you Horrorviewers out there!  This is Catwalk back in the interview chair.  I’m joined by Daniel Ross, aka Kyle the gun-wielding, pizza-delivering hero from Ninjas vs. Zombies and the newly released Ninjas vs. Vampires. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for our readers, Daniel!

DR: Thanks very much for having me!  *AHEM* Your fly’s open…

Cat:  First up, let’s talk about the new film. Give our readers a quick n’ dirty on NVV.

DR:  NVV, as we fondly call it, is an indirect sequel to NVZ.  It’s a badder, more awesome-er flick centering around a guy named Aaron who inadvertently stumbles in to the world of these Ninjas and the war against their Vampire foes.  The story picks up almost immediately following the events of NVZ, but clearly some time has passed and some mystery surrounds the current state of our heroes… we had to leave SOME story for the comic books to tell ;)

Cat: I was fortunate enough to catch the premiere of NVZ a few years ago. I’m glad you guys were able to keep the franchise going.  How different was the filmmaking process in the sequel?

DR:  I can tell you it was night and day…  Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE stepped up their game for this production and we ran under almost impossible conditions.  First of all, we set a deadline of October 31st to have everything completed, so when you start filming in August of the same year, it doesn’t leave a lot of luxury time to perfect each frame.  With that said, we were all astounded with the results and audiences have really been loving it!  We set out to do more on an even more meagre budget than NVZ, and we did.  I think overall though, we used the inherent talent from within our cast and crew much more efficiently.  We learned from our experiences on NVZ and had it in mind on how we would approach a sequel… which mind you, was NOT originally going to be Vampires.  The sequel which had an entire script ready to go was called, “Ninjas vs Zombies 2: Zombies vs Ninjas”.  While a fun premise, we needed to keep the sequel as a standalone film and I think that was a wise choice. 

Cat: You and Cory Okouchi (Cole) film a lot of fight scenes in both movies. What martial arts disciplines do you study and what type of prep work did you go through for the film?

DR:  Personally I study the art of Fook-a-yu.  It takes many years of training and discipline and when you’ve mastered it… watch out!  But seriously, I think I finished the extent of my martial arts training when I was 12 as a yellow belt?  No current formal training… although I was fortunate to work with Daniel Mascarello and PJ Megaw who both have extensive training in martial arts to choreograph and perfect many of the fight scenes in both films.  I kid you not, these guys could literally kill you with their pinky finger, but rather choose to tickle you with it!  My fight with Manson in NVV, also played by Mascarello, was one of the most gruelling.  We practiced for months and when everything was perfected, we then had to perform in a dark warehouse with both of us in respectively heavy costumes… mine including goggles that constantly fogged up hindering my sight.  In fact, there’s one moment in the film where Kyle lands an uppercut on Manson and it’s a completely legit hit because I just couldn’t see what was in front of me.  Mascot’s ok though… like I said… pinky finger.

Cat: Jay Saunders (Aaron) is a newcomer in NVV, and he’s no slouch either. His style is different from yours. What was it like working with him?

DR:  Believe it or not, this was Jay’s first movie!  So we were honoured to pop his film-cherry.  When he came and auditioned for us, we were really impressed by his acting chops and his interesting look.  He really downplayed the amount of martial arts he knew which later dazzled us.  He was an absolute pleasure to work with and I believe we’re going to see great things from him in the future.

Cat: Your character, Kyle, is pretty much the comic relief guy in the film, but you’re forced to show a serious side as well.  Did you have trouble transitioning from joker to heartbroken?

DR:  Justin Timpane really wrote a character that’s an extreme of myself as I usually am.  Granted, I had input as a Story Supervisor into some of the character’s depth and journey, but I tend to normally be a very lighthearted guy, and I enjoy making other people laugh, so much of it came naturally.  The transition between the two sides of the character were not overly difficult, but finding the right balance to keep some consistency in tone was tough at times.  What I felt great about with Kyle was that he wasn’t a one-note character just spouting off one-liners, he has a journey to go through, and just like a real person he reacts accordingly sometimes to the surprise of the audience and even himself!  I’ll tell you though, what helps tremendously is when you have great actors to work with.  My scenes with Jay and Cory stand out, as well as my interactions with Melissa McConnell who plays Ann.  If these guys hadn’t of brought their A-Game, my performance may have suffered and I’m truly grateful that we all captured such chemistry on screen.

Cat: A few actors transition from heroes in NVZ to bad guys in the sequel. What was it like fighting against the guys who were your teammates?

DR:  In all honesty, everyone on these productions have been teammates.  We consider our NVZ crew family, and as such we wanted to bring the family back for the sequel.  Our family has since grown even more with NVV and we hope to have the gang all back for any future instalments.

Cat: How did the franchise come about initially? Who had the idea and who finally set the ball in motion into making it a reality?

DR:  The idea was spawned during insomniatic and beer-induced movie fests in my friend Justin Timpane’s basement.  He and I had met and worked previously on a film by Baltimore Sci-Fi film legend Don Dohler and Joe Ripple, and we had it in our heads that we wanted to work together more.  So between that and input from friend and actor Arthur Rowan, the idea to find something that wasn’t currently on Blockbuster shelves ensued.  Justin did the writing and I and his wife Kelly would offer creative input.  After Kelly approved, we tapped our greatest investor- Mastercard to make the movie happen, and the rest has been history!  Bringing in producers like Cory Okouchi, Brian Anderson, and Daniel Mascarello elevated the productions even further.

Cat: I first caught the buzz about NVZ at the Baltimore Comic Con. You guys were in character walking around to generate some interest (which worked, obviously). What kind of promo appearances do you have for NVV?

DR:  We’re working on several things at once and at this moment, it’s rather “fly by night”, but we have this awesome comic-book series that was just released called “Ninjas vs Zombies” through Azure Press which focuses for the first 4 issues on the events of the first film.  It’s been well received and has garnered a LOT of attention on its own with sites like AintItCool giving it glowing reviews.  Reciprocally, that helps to sell the movie and vice-a-versa, so with that in our arsenal, we’re hitting a lot of comic shows and trying to swell the fanbase.  Issue 5 picks up with “Ninjas vs Werewolves” and will continue through “Ninjas vs Vampires”.  There’s even a videogame and other possible goodies on the way including an entire Podcast network called EPN (Endlight Podcast Network)… So we’re keeping busy.

Cat: I always like to ask for one good story from the set. Is there one experience that stands out during filmmaking that you can share with our readers?

DR:  Other than hearing PJ Megaw as “The Bishop” on set trying to deliver his lines seriously through his mask?  Hmmm…  I’d have to say the woods fight sequences.  Not only did Jay end up with the worst bout of poison ivy I’ve ever seen on a human being, but most of the cast, including myself were eaten alive by ticks.  Mascot had over 20 on him if I’m not mistaken, and even had a bout of shingles!  So other than that, and a suspicious helicopter flying overhead that we later found out was piloted by another cast member… NOPE, no stories to tell!  You might just have to watch the special features on the DVD which has over 5 HOURS of bonus content!  I kid you not… Fangoria loved all the extras!

Cat: I think I can share this without any spoilers. The film has an open ending that sets up a 3rd movie. Are there plans for the ninjas to take on other bad guys? Can you share any of those with us?

DR:  Your favorite ninjas will definitely return, and themes are developing that will later turn into a script for a *possible* shoot in the Summer of 2012.  I think without being too spoilery, we’re looking for a way to close the story we began in the first film while leaving some elements open for whatever else may come.  Meanwhile, we want this to be the biggest adventure yet and close our story with as many bells and whistles as independent filmmakers can muster.  After that, well… we’ll just have to see what happens :)

Cat: The ninjas franchise isn’t the only stuff you’re actively working on.  You stay pretty darn busy as an actor. What’s the best way for our readers to find out more about Ninjas, Vampires, Zombies and you?

DR:  Well, what I didn’t realize when I signed on as a Producer for these films was that it would be SO MUCH WORK!  Ok, no, I knew… but I don’t think the scope of having years of my life devoted to these films ever really crossed my mind when we developed these ideas around 2007.  I had just finished my work on “Transformers” with Activision, and I was looking for the next big thing to do.  Riding that wave, I had a big opportunity to go to LA and work on some other projects, but I’ve always had my heart in independent film and knew that there was no greater bet than to work with my best friend, so I made my choice and my life was changed forever… “Ninja-fied” if I may.  If anyone’s interested, they can drop by my fan page on Facebook and of course I have my own website for more information.  I would love to take a moment to thank HorrorView, its readers, and all of our fans (yes we’re still shocked and delighted that we have you), and I hope you all will stop by , buy a copy of the flick and support independent film.  Thank you so much!!!

That’s a wrap, kids.  Special thanks to Daniel and the whole Ninjas crew.