Brad Jones is a man of many talents. The Illinois native can count filmmaker, comedian and movie critic amongst the many creative hats he wears, although much of his fanbase can be found glued to his internet review show The Cinema Snob, where Jones roasts and lambasts the horror and exploitation fare he loves to an ever-growing audience on YouTube and the websites That Guy With the Glasses and The Cinema Snob.
Jones’ sense of humor, sarcasm and comic timing is tempered by his in depth knowledge of the source material, and he brings to the table a level of film commentary which manages to expertly balance the oft-challenging line of information and entertainment. The Cinema Snob, simply put, is a great show and sits among the other addicting Channel Awesome online programming, such as The Nostalgia Critic, Todd in the Shadows and Atop the Fourth Wall.
Yet Jones isn’t content to rest upon any laurels of internet fame, preferring to remain creative via a number of off-shoot internet shows, such as Midnight Screenings, The Bruno Mattei Show and DVDr Hell. The Cinema Snob sure is a busy fellow, but thankfully Brad Jones was able to take some time away from his triple X spoofs, slasher obscurities and Caligula knock offs to talk to Examiner about his exploitation life.
When did you feel your videos started earning an audience?
(laughs) I hate to use this term, but oh, probably when I started to see “haters!” The wider and audience you get, the more negative comments you tend to see. That’ll be a sign that you have a decent sized audience. I started doing it in the beginning sort of as a lark, and there wasn’t a giant fanbase. It was pretty minor at first, but I started because I just liked doing it; I liked learning how to do comedy. Then, a couple of years went by, and it started building more of a fanbase, depending on the video. Some videos get more hits than others, but then other ones-for example, one of my early videos for [Jess Franco’s] Sadomania-get a hundred thousand hits! I have no idea why; I guess lots of people were searching for Sadomania on YouTube!
Then when Spoony [of The Spoony Experiment] promoted me, a lot more people started watching, with the fanbase that I do have arriving primarily as a result of him. Of course, when I joined That Guy with The Glasses, it gave me a bigger fanbase, as well, so it really happened gradually over time.
Did you do any movie review videos prior to creating the “Cinema Snob” character?
Well, I started making movies. In 2003 I made a film called Freak Out-I made a few exploitation films, because that’s what I wanted to do-one called Cheap and one called Midnight Heat, all of which were pretty dark and violent. I had some free time after that, so I started The Cinema Snob after that, because I thought it would be cool to try out an internet series. This was in 2007, and at the time there weren’t a lot of internet shows on that specific topic, and I’ve always been a horror and exploitation guy, so I wanted to do something with that. The Cinema Snob was the first internet show I created, and it was the only one for a while, so there were a lot of people who thought that “The Cinema Snob” was just ME, that I was playing myself, which is definitely not the case!
So I started my own website in 2009, and I wanted to do more shows. I had always wanted to do more shows, but I was working a full time job at the time, as well as working on another film called Game Boys, so I really didn’t have time to do any other shows. It wasn’t until I started my own site and started to transition to that being a full time job that I started more shows like Kung Tai Ted, The Big Box, The Bruno Mattei Show and start V-Logging about movies which were out in theaters. So I built up a back log, so there would be a lot of content, to where I could apply to That Guy With the Glasses when my site had been up for a few months.
Where did the idea for this “Snob” character come from, and did you run into a lot of roadblocks at first, with people thinking you and “The Snob” were the same person?
It wasn’t really a roadblock. More so than not, people realized that it was a character, and they picked up on what I was doing fairly early on. Every now and then you would have someone who thought it was me V-Logging as “The Snob,” and it wasn’t until I started my own site and appeared in videos as myself that they were like, “oh, The Cinema Snob is a character!” but that was the minority. Plus, I think Midnight Heat was on YouTube at one point, briefly.
The origins of the character were fairly simple. I wanted to do something about exploitation films. I wanted it to be comedic, so growing up watching Siskel and Ebert, growing up in that era of critics,
I always did kind of laugh or found it somewhat humorous when an exploitation movie would be reviewed in much the same way as someone would review The Godfather.
They would pick it apart or see things which just weren’t there, such as the Roger Ebert review of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. It’s very soapbox-y, saying that a movie teaches you nothing, that you’re just gonna grow up and get killed; all this stuff which really isn’t there: it’s just a slasher movie. But they were picking it apart as if it were a Terrence Malick film, and it’s funny! It’s humorous, and that’s kind of what I wanted to do with The Cinema Snob character. That’s very much how the character started in the early days, especially in the early days of YouTube, where your videos had to be under ten minutes long. The style of the early Snob videos were very different to what they are now; they were non-linear, very condensed and under ten minutes. Now, you can afford to be linear, put in more jokes and do a lot of different stuff with the character, depending on what movie I’m talking about.
One of the aspects I enjoy the most is that you have these jokes about how critics review exploitation films, yet-as a critic and exploitation film fan myself-I love that you make sure to include all of this information, and that you have so much knowledge about this subject matter. You really manage to be informative and entertaining. Do you find that your audience is split between those who watch it for the comedic elements, and those who might get into films they hadn’t heard of prior to watching your show?
Yeah, I think there are certainly people who watch it strictly for riff purposes, and I totally get that, because I grew up watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax. Then, there’s a big section of the fanbase who grew up with the same kind of movies as me, and that certainly helps when you watch my show, because there’s a lot of really obscure references in my show! (laughs) Not all the references are obscure, but a lot of them are, but even if a reference goes by you, there are still jokes anyone can get, and that’s what I like to do; I like catering to the fans who grew up with this stuff, as well as those who are curious, who maybe will watch my video, and then seek out the movie. There are people all the time who tell me The Cinema Snob has gotten them into horror or exploitation films, and that’s really cool: that’s kind of what I wanted to do with the show.
An episode such as The Sinful Dwarf, for example, is a riff/joke heavy episode, whereas one like Mommie Dearest very much is satirizing the critical response to that movie, where people have said that they heard that movie wasn’t very good, but the episode made them want to check it out…and they do, and they like it! It’s the same with the episode I just did, for a film called At Long Last Love. Likewise, there are some of the bad films I watch like To Catch a Yeti where people might want to seek it out for curiosity value…although I don’t really recommend anyone do that with To Catch a Yeti! (laughs)
Do you remember a point as a kid where watching movies-whether it was monster movies, sci-fi or horror-really struck you, and you realized you wanted to be a filmmaker?
I grew up watching movies. I was never really a “sports guy,” even though I played hockey for a season and did some track. I was always a “movie guy,” as far back as I can remember. My parents got me heavily into it, and getting into horror films, I grew up when slasher movies became a big thing. So my grade school friends and I had similar tastes, and both had parents who were lenient on that type of thing, so we grew up watching slasher movies! We’d rent them by the buttload, and when I really wanted to become a filmmaker in the 90s, there was that resurgence of the “indie movie boom,” or the “New, New Hollywood,” if you will.
You had people like Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez coming out with next to nothing, who got together to make these movies. That inspired a lot of people my age to pool their funds and maybe make something a little cool.
I also grew up when Shot-On-Video movies were popping up in the rental stores, as well so my friends and I would watch something like Woodchipper Massacre and say, “we can do this! We have that camera in the closet!” So we’d ad-lib a lot of short films, and think they were the best thing ever! Guys like Roger Watkins were also a big influence, who made Last House on Dead End Street for next to nothing, and created one of the most disturbing movies ever made. We saw a movie like that which is dark as hell, terrifying and disturbing…maybe we can do something similar? Let’s write what we have the means to write, make what we have the means to make and hopefully it comes across as really dark and creepy. So I made, Freak Out, Cheap and Midnight Heat and they received some pretty good reviews, so I owe a lot of my influence to guys like that. It was convenient for me to grow up around that time!
Are the online shows means to make films, or do they co-exist, in order to be as creative as possible?
No, I actively enjoy doing it, although there are some shows I don’t do anymore, like The Big Box and Kung Tai Ted. The site evolved, but I’ve done new shows as I’ve been along, such as The Reviewers which I’m working on now. I still love doing The Cinema Snob, because if you look at it throughout the years, it’s definitely evolved and changed. You gotta do things to keep it fresh for both the audience, and so you don’t get burnt out from doing it. I do a Snob episode every week-barring the occasional week off-and it helps in my case that I like watching these kind of movies. It would be very different if I wasn’t into these kinds of movies, but in my case I love watching them, good or bad!
It does help making movies in a way, though, because they have more of an audience now. We can promote them to a bigger fanbase, we can put them on DVD and get them to people who missed them the first time. No one saw Cheap, Freak Out or Midnight Heat when they came out; it wasn’t until the site became popular that people started to pay attention. Suddenly, these movies were being seen and people seem to enjoy them, so it definitely gives them an audience. I don’t have as much time to make movies as I did before, but I’m ok with that, because now I know that when I do have time to make a movie, I know that it will have more of an audience now. I do wish I had more time to make movies, but I love doing the website and The Cinema Snob. It’s great being creative with something I enjoy.
What lessons mechanically did you learn from doing the Snob videos over time?
The videos have become a little better now, although I’m still very much a shot-on-video director. I’m very much a guerilla director. We have better equipment now, but I still like having my stuff have this grainy, 80s and 90s VHS quality, because that’s the style I’m into. I’ve gotten way better at editing, piecing a video together and shooting simply because I have better lighting, editing software and a better camera now. The hardest part wasn’t so much the technical side of it, but more so getting used to comedy, because I’d done so much horror. There were a number of years where I was doing a lot of acting, but it was all very dark, and comedy is a lot harder! I was so used to playing a villain, so doing comedy I had to find my voice, get timing down and get used to a lot of different stuff. Over time, I got better at it, to the point where I could now do a Snob episode in my sleep! It definitely wasn’t that way in the beginning!
When you’re writing a script, where do you draw the line between where Brad Jones can came out and The Snob has to remain?
It all depends on the kind of movie. If you look at a review like Salo, it’s the sort of movie The Cinema Snob would like, so it’s written to where he likes it, but he still makes him sick. Honestly, there isn’t a lot of rhyme or a reason, and a lot of it goes by feel. I was watching Goldengirl, for example-a movie which I hadn’t seen before-and I really liked it, to the point where it was like, even though it’s satire, I would feel guilty satirizing this film that I was really loving! So I wrote it to the point where it was ok that The Cinema Snob liked it. That’s what I try doing, but that’s an episode where myself was really coming through, but it’s still delivered with a lot of sarcasm. Then, you have a film like Maniac-which is a film I obviously enjoy-and you have a video where the Snob is definitely hating on it, but he’s hating on it for reasons other critics trashed it for back when Maniac was released, so it’s HEAVILY satirical of that film’s critical response, similar to something you might see from Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report.
There are also episodes which are impossible to do without inserting my own opinion.
The key is to deliver it as truly as possible, and one episode I can point to that is the film Wired, the movie about John Belushi. That episode, you can certainly tell that’s my personal opinion of the movie, but it’s delivered through me playing The Snob. A movie like that works, because it doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you come from: Wired is a BAD, pretty offensive movie, so it’s easier to bring more of myself out. I still have to remember I’m playing a character, though, keeping the same beats and inflections.
What have been your experiences like at conventions, meeting the fans in person?
Those have been great, they’re like vacation for me! We have one coming up in November: Days of the Dead in Chicago. It’s just great to get away for a couple days, you know? It’s nice to mingle with fans, talk to people who haven’t heard of us and have a lot of small talk with horror fans and people who are into the same stuff. A lot of them have questions about episodes of the show, we take a lot of pictures and sign DVD we have for sale. It’s just cool as fans ourselves to browsing, buying and meeting celebrities; it makes for a really fun weekend!
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