PopHorror Talks ‘Tone-Deaf’ (2019) With Director Richard Bates, Jr.!

The year was 2012. I was just casually browsing the new release section at my local video store when, all of a sudden, some cover art caught my eye. It was the DVD for a little film called Excision. The artwork was so geared towards horror fans! Without knowing anything about it, I had to rent it. Little did I know that it would quickly become one of my top films and that Richard Bates Jr. would become one of my favorite directors.

I love his films, Suburban Gothic (2014), Excision (2012), and Trash Fire (2016), and now he’s releasing Tone-Deaf (read our review – here)! I was beyond stoked to get the chance to interview him! He is one of a kind. Check out the interview here! Tone-Deaf is currently in Theaters and On-Demand, so check it out now!

PopHorror: What inspired you to get into filmmaking?

Richard Bates, Jr.: Well, I grew up in Virginia, and I guess I was always sort of an oddball. I always had these dreams of meeting these crazy, interesting people, traveling… that sort of thing. Making movies was the way to do that. I fell in love with it and what it did for me, and that started my dream of leaving, going to college in NY and then LA, and just trying to see as much as the country as possible.

PopHorror: The characters in your films have that sarcastic humor that a lot of people can relate to. How do you come up with the characters that you write?

Richard Bates, Jr.: It’s a tough thing to write and intellectualize… because the truth is, I think about what I’m trying to say, and I inevitably just sort of write my perspective with my voice, which is something that is very important to me right now, having a catalog of films that actually feel like they are coming from the same filmmaker. The idea was to treat [Tone-Deaf] as a dance track or a hip hop album, and then create a movie from a somewhat familiar structure by sampling. What we are doing is sampling from coming of age, horror slasher, and comedy. The most exciting thing is to take a guy like Harvey, who’s at a point in his life where he is absolutely done growing. He’s not open to anything anymore. Then take a character like Olive, who’s in the process of figuring out who she is and is just open to everything. So the movie ends with her finally becoming an active participant in her life and taking that first step into knowing who she is. Olive doesn’t even know she’s in a horror movie until the third act.

PopHorror: As I was watching Tone-Deaf, I was thinking this is definitely multi-generational. You captured the heart of a millennial and the heart of a baby boomer perfectly. Was that hard to tap into?

Richard Bates, Jr.: It wasn’t once I started. I have relatives and friends on both sides. I’m the crazy liberal, and where I grew up, there are certainly a lot of conservatives. Even the casting of Robert Patrick… he’s certainly more conservative than me, and I wanted someone who wasn’t going to mock that character. I was talking to John Waters, and he always said, “If you want someone to think about something or change their mind you got to make them laugh.”

I tried equally as hard on a character like Olive, who’s more a representative of myself than Harvey because I don’t want something that will lead [people] to walk out the theater because I’m just going after one side. I want them to sit through the whole thing and maybe talk about how they were represented. The funny thing is, when you are talking about stereotypes, everyone’s only mad about the stereotypical stuff that represents them, and then they think that the other side is an accurate representation. So, it started a lot of really fun debates just about that! I compiled tons of things from Facebook posts to Tweets and conversations, and it became apparent to me that social media and the way people speak now may be a lot different in the future… I wanted to make a movie that would be interesting to watch 10 years from now.

PopHorror: I believe it will be! What do you want the viewers to take away after watching Tone-Deaf?

Richard Bates, Jr.: The idea, right, is that everyone is full of shit! Everyone’s a hypocrite. It’s about stepping outside yourself and seeing things from a different perspective.

PopHorror: What is your favorite horror movie?

Richard Bates, Jr.: Freaks (1932), definitely. But I don’t think of it as a horror movie. I think of it as a nice little drama.

PopHorror: I’ve never seen it!

Richard Bates, Jr.: OH. MY. GOOD. LORD. LACY! You are going to love it!

PopHorror: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! I wish we could talk for hours (Laughs)

Richard Bates, Jr.: Oh, I would end up boring you, but thank you for the interview! I hope people love Tone-Deaf as much you did!

Watch Tone-Deaf Right Here!

Stay tuned to PopHorror for all of Richard Bates Jr. upcoming films and projects!

About Lacylou1122

Lacy Lou has had a love for horror movies pretty much since birth! If you ever need a horror trivia question answered she's your girl!!! She is obsessed with the movie Scream and even has a Ghostface tattoo to prove it! She loves to write and make new friends that share the same interest.

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