Interview with John Campopiano
I had the complete honor of picking my good friend John's brain today. John not only is an avid movie fan, collector, yeti, and buddy, he's also one hell of a filmmaker. This year, Justin White and himself will be releasing the epic documentary Unearthed And Untold, the making of Stephen King's Pet Sematary. I am thankful for the afternoon while guarding the door to the room which held several cast members from The Walking Dead in 2011 at HorrorHound where John and Justin noticed my Fright Rag's Pet Sematary T-shirt and struck up a conversation. I have been lucky enough to watch the final product of this documentary and all I gotta say is...by far best documentary since Camp Crystal Lake Memories! Order it today with this killer box set and see it before it's officially released this October!
1) What were your favorite films growing up and left a lasting impression with you?
I can think of a few films that had a significant impact on me growing up, from the horror genre: JAWS (& the sequels!), The Witches, F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, Stephen King's IT, Ed Hunt's The Brain, Pumpkinhead, The Fly (1986), and Pet Sematary. I also distinctly remember seeking out the oddball titles from the video stores - titles that I felt didn't get much attention or ones you didn't hear much about, such as Leprechaun, Ghoulies, and the Ice Cream Man with Clint Howard. I have a vivid memory of coming home from Suncoast Video with a VHS copy of Leprechaun and my parents sitting me down at the kitchen table to talk about the amount of horror films I was exposing myself to. They were cool about it, though genuinely concerned
that the number of films I was buying for the collection. My guess is that they feared I was going to grow up and be damaged in some way. Haha.
As far as lasting impressions from other genres, I actually remember the ending of My Girl having a significant impact on me when I was very young. It sounds really funny saying that now, but I recall the scene when Macaulay Culkin dies from bee stings as being particularly traumatic for me at a young age. Speaking of Culkin, his role in The Good Son was particularly haunting for me -- even today when I see it.
Growing up I was also really into Richard Greenberg's Little Monsters (we must have rented it a hundred times from our local Seekonk, MA, video rental store Maximum Video), Tremors, and most of the trashy action movies Hulk Hogan was responsible for in the 1980s and 90s, like No Holds Barred, Suburban Commando, and Mr. Nanny). As I got a little older I would binge on thth movies with neighborhood kids. I was addicted to professional wrestling as a kid, so oftentimes the horror movies and pay-per-view wrestling events competed for my time.
2) Top 5 favorite VHS tapes you own?
Hmm... this is tough. Let me see...I would have to say:
1. Ganjasaurus Rex
2. To Catch a Yeti
3. German clamshell release of Ed Hunt's The Brain
4. Green PM Entertainment release of Dark Breed starring Jonathan Banks
5. Greek clamshell release of Island Claws
3) How did Unearthed and Untold come to be? What made you want to make a documentary about that particular production?
When we first set out for Maine nearly six years ago we thought, at most, we would take some photographs of the filming locations from Stephen King's Pet Sematary and post them to social media. But upon that very first visit we knew that we had stumbled upon something special -- stories, people, and places that had been barely documented for the extensive, global horror fan community. We knew within that first year that we needed to go back to Maine and continue to dig not just to satisfy our own curiosities but to try and bring an in-depth making of story about Pet Sematary to others who also share a deep appreciation for the film. Since that first trip to Maine we as an independent, two-man filmmaker team have traveled from Ohio to the mountains of Upstate New York to Acadia National Park in northern Maine. Thousands of emails and letters have been sent trying to track down everyone from lead actors to local Maine extras, crew, and even the most diehard fans from around the world. (Fan testimonials in the documentary span from Cape Cod to Scandinavia).
4) Oddest thing you collect?
Oddesst? Maybe fast food toys from the 1980s and 1990s.
5) Favorite poster/print you own and why?
That's an easy one: my original poster for the 1975 Brazilian JAWS knock-off, Bacalhau. It's a super rare poster that I've only ever seen come up on eBay one other time. The movie itself is rare so I would guess that makes the poster even more so. The reason it's a favorite is because it was given to me by a close friend and because it embodies the trend that would follow the release of JAWS in what I like to refer to as the JAWS rip-off. For at least a decade I've been fascinated by the movies that JAWS has inspired. From a cultural standpoint I'm fascinated by them because they represent just how huge of a command JAWS has had on filmmaking and even the marketing of films. JAWS was responsible, after all, for the coining of the term "summer blockbuster."
Of course other than the Bacalhau poster I'd have to say that my Pet Sematary 1-sheet with all the cast and crew signatures on it is my favorite. It's also the only poster I've had professionally matted and framed, so it looks super sexy hanging on the wall. Someday I'd like to give the same treatment to some of my other posters.
6) Top five films you would highly recommend to anyone?
1. The Bicycle Thief
3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
4. Alfred Hitchcock's The Rope
5. Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary ;)
7) When did you know you were destined to work in media? What sparked that certain interest?
I think the spark first came in the spring of 2009 when I realized that I was destined to work with materials of historical and cultural value. It wasn't so much that I wanted to work in media as much as it was I knew I wanted to be surrounded by objects and materials that held stories, stories that I felt were worthy of telling and preserving. So, that spark took the form of me going back to school to get a degree in Library Science with a focus on digital archives management. I've also loved films, but I also love music (I received my bachelors degree in Ethnomusicology) and other forms of expressive art, so working in an area that offered an opportunity to work with any sort of art was my goal.
Before landing at WGBH Educational Foundation / FRONTLINE where I am now, I spent time at the New England Conservatory of Music, the Jewish Women's Archive, and the Harvard Film Archive. All of those opportunities gave me the chance to work with legacy media (obsolete media) from music to film to paper manuscripts.
In retrospect, ending up at FRONTLINE seems like the perfect fit. I get to be surrounded by some of the world's greatest storytellers as well as a supportive community who shares an interest in media, production, and the challenges we face in preserving it all. I still have so much to learn but feel as though I'm currently in the right place to learn it!
8) You can visit any filming location or any movie? What would it be?
If I had to pick a movie location to visit that I haven't already been to I would have to say the locations from Stephen King's IT which are mostly scattered in and around British Columbia. That movie made such an impression on me growing up - I still love it today - and so to walk around those streets and tunnels where they filmed would be an absolute joy for me. Someday!
9) Favorite guest you ever met at a convention?
I think meeting Denise Crosby for the first time was the best. She is such a warm person and takes the time to talk with her fans. I remember being so incredibly nervous to meet her in New Jersey for Monster Mania (back in 2010) but the moment we began talking I loosened up and was totally comforted by her approachability and warm personality.
Other than that I would have to say meeting Max Grodenchik in Boston several years ago was a huge treat for me. Since middle school I've adored the little shit-box of a film he made with Mark Jones, Rumpelstiltskin, and so meeting him and having him sign my Rumpy 1-sheet poster was so rad for me.
10) What's up next for you project wise?
I've got some ideas cooking but my first real challenge is to convince Justin White (my film partner on Unearthed & Untold) that they're worth pursuing! Not surprisingly he and I are both pretty wiped after this 5-year long project, so it may take some time for us to re-charge our batteries before tackling another project.