Filmmaker Interview: Your Mommy Kills Animals

By at July 24, 2007 | 8:05 am | Print

Your Mommy Kills Animals Movie PosterCurt Johnson knows what he’s doing. If you’re gonna direct a controversial documentary, you may as well shock ‘em right from the title. Michael Moore would probably agree.

Your Mommy Kills Animals (my review on filmcritic.com) tells the story of the current animal rights movement in America, and it’s not an easy story to tell. The movie is sad, infuriating, complex… and thorough.

It’s reminiscent of films like Who Killed The Electric Car?, which shines a light on a complex issue that may otherwise go unseen by the average American.

We talked with Curt about the film (see our documentary preview) and a few bizarre ways to promote an indie documentary film.

THE LOBBY: How did you decide to cover a topic this broad and complicated?
Curt: I had no idea how complex it was when I started. I had seen a 2005 Drudge Report article about the FBI declaring animal rights activists the top domestic terrorist threat to the U.S. I had heard various things about animal rights activists and when I saw that report, it really got my attention. I couldn’t figure out how they could be at the top of the list.

Protestor from Your Mommy Kills AnimalsTHE LOBBY: The film’s title is one of the most interesting–and aggressive–to hit a marquee. Were you just looking to grab people immediately? The film’s intro is kind of shocking, so I’m guessing “yes.”
Curt: If I had called it “Everyone Loves Animals,” I don’t think it would catch very much attention. The intro was my ode to horror films since I’ve always been a big fan of that genre. People don’t realize you barely see anything in the first minute of the film–it’s the audio over the black background that really freaks people out.

THE LOBBY: The film has a tricky, subtle way of not stating a point of view. Do you care to share your personal outlook?
Curt: I do the best I can to keep my opinions out of my films. They should be as objective as humanly possible. My cameraman was asked his opinion right before that guy on the subway tried to hit him. I was surprised at how big the animal rights/welfare movement is. Many people said they weren’t sure they’d be able to watch the film if it included too much animal cruelty. It’s easier for them to watch a human being get killed than an animal be hurt.

THE LOBBY: You relied a great deal on interviews. While you were editing, did you feel you had enough interview subjects? Anyone you wish you had talked to?
Curt: We actually wound up having too many great interviews. If we had done a miniseries, we had more than enough good footage to fill it and keep it interesting. We had some great celeb interviews that just didn’t fit into the film–Tippi Hedren, Kate Walsh, Linda Blair–so there will be plenty of DVD extras.

Drew Carey in Your Mommy Kills AnimalsTHE LOBBY: Drew Carey spits out the line “PETA can blow me.” You had to know that was golden the moment he said it.
Curt: He was doing his own show for the camera that day and really got us laughing since he is pretty outspoken. He said plenty of other funny stuff that will also wind up in the DVD extras. When he started off with the “PETA can blow me” comment, yeah, I knew that would have to wind up in the film somehow.

THE LOBBY: Did you ever think the Barbi Twins would appear as the voices of reason?
Curt: Well, one of the nicest surprises was Richard Pryor’s widow, Jenny. I never knew Richard Pryor was big on animal rights and she’s also very passionate; she created Pryor’s Planet to raise money for various organizations supporting animal issues. Ben Stein was another big surprise when I spoke with him–he’s very much a big animal rights supporter.

THE LOBBY: You’ve promoted the film in pretty interesting ways.
Curt: I knew this would be a tougher sell in a crowded summer market–Transformers, Harry Potter, SiCKO–and the film would have to be promoted in a grassroots guerilla style. Everything from the music video by “Saturday Night Live”‘s Greg Scarnici to ringtones which have had over 225,000 downloads to having a 6-foot bunny handing out buttons at film festivals. MySpace was also a very big help in getting the attention of distributors and theaters. People make fun of it, but I credit it highly for getting my film out there to a very wide audience that wouldn’t normally check out a film like this.

QUESTION: Anything you’d like to ask Curt? (C’mon guys, he won an Oscar in 2003.) Let us know and we’ll pass your queries along. TELL US

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4 Comments


  1. Bloggrrl, 10 years ago Reply

    This is fascinating. I’m very interested in extremist movements–what makes them appealing, and how they are similar to other, seemingly opposing movements. I’ll have to see this.


  2. Norm S., 10 years ago Reply

    Hey Bloggrrl-

    Yeah, what’s cool is the movie highlights what amounts to competing extremist movements — although one tends to be more extreme than others.

    If you’re in SF, it’s playing there now.

    Talk to you again.

    -Norm


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