A chat with Herschell Gordon Lewis

Before he became known as the king of copywriting, longtime Multichannel Merchant columnist Herschell Gordon Lewis had a thriving career as a director of gore movies β€” which have since become cult classics. Senior writer Tim Parry gets the scoop from Lewis on marketing, MySpace and, of course, his movies.

You lead a double life as a Marketing Hall of Famer and as β€œThe Godfather of Gore.” How often do your two worlds collide?

Marketing is marketing. Let’s suppose I go in to a direct marketing campaign and I’m underfinanced. I have to use my brains to substitute for financing.

It’s the same thing with the movie market: You have to use your brains and get your ego out of the way. I see a lot of independent films where the director and producer try to make a statement instead of profit.

But just like direct selling, you have to give the audience something they don’t get anywhere else. When we went out and made [1963 gore classic] Blood Feast, no one had ever made a movie like it. If you live long enough, you become legit, and what I started back then has become mainstream.

Once the Internet caught on, I would give a direct marketing speech, and someone afterwards would tell me that someone with same name as mine was producing horror films. A lot of people were surprised to hear that I was the same person. But most surprising is that after all these years, making venerable movies with no effects, the movies still live on.

Your have more than 8,500 friends on your MySpace page. How were you able to build such a cult following?

I don’t run that β€” A [film] fan by the name of Noel Gross put that together. I have nothing to do with it, but I’m very pleased the visitors are there.

Your name and film titles were dropped in the recent hit film Juno. How has this changed your life?

I got a call early last year from someone saying he wanted to use a clip from Wizard of Gore in a movie. [Producer] Jimmy Maslon has made a career of buying the rights to my old movies, so I passed the call along. Next thing I know, I get a check from Jimmy. He thanked me for the referral and wanted to give me a share. And I remembered that call about Wizard of Gore.

I thought the use of Wizard of Gore was totally out of context in Juno, but any time someone mentions my name without using a curse word in front of it, I’m happy. I must have got calls from every out of work actor from here to New Zealand asking me when I was going to produce my next movie.

Did you ever think your movie The Wizard of Gore would someday become a product placement sensation?

Maybe for stage blood. Who knew? I knew I was doing something different at the time, but I didn’t know I was starting a movement.