Robbie Smith // Interview # 233

When I found out that the film "Grieve" was coming to VHS via Already Dead Tapes & Records I got excited.  I also saw that the soundtrack was going to be released on cassette and that made me even more happy.   Saying "Raised by Cassettes" includes both the audio and video cassette side of things, the video being VHS tapes.    This couldn't have been a better way to start the year for me.  I reached out to Robbie Smith to talk about the film before its release and with one week until it is officially released on VHS this is what's up.  


1) "Grieve" is currently on Tubi to stream for free.  Do you feel that it is important to have that option, such as how you can stream music on Bandcamp for free but then buy the physical (or digital) to support the art that you like/can afford?

For a no-budget indie film, I believe it’s very important to have the film available for free. It’s hard to get people to spend their hard earned money on a film they’ve never seen and in this age of instant gratification, I think it’s essential. I bucked against the idea at first, based on the sheer amount of content available there, but ad based video on demand is where a lot of independent filmmakers and distributors make their money back.

There is no consequence for pushing play on a free movie.. You’ve got no skin in the game! And in a way that’s a double edged sword, right? When you’ve got no skin in the game you’re twice as liable to discount the work that’s gone into whatever you’re watching. When I pay $7 to rent a film on VOD, I’m not going to turn it off and to an extent I’m going to look for validation in the fact that I spent $7. When I push play on something free I’m going to be a bit more cautious with my time. There’s no fee of entry keeping me there. 

I love Tubi. I've found a ton of deep cut foreign and horror films on there that aren't available anywhere else.


2) How did it come about that the film would be released on VHS, as opposed to Blu-Ray or DVD?

I’ve actually contacted several blu-ray and dvd labels in an attempt to find someone to release the film on disc and have not been able to gain any traction there. I’ll more than likely start a small blu label with a friend and self release Grieve and a couple indie gems that haven’t made it to disc.

I had previously worked with Already Dead putting out a VHS of my short films, so it felt natural to follow that up with a VHS of my feature-length directorial debut. Even with the recent boom in retro media, there aren't many labels doing what AD are doing with this amount of care and passion.

I love VHS. I mean, of course I prefer a pristine picture and I’d rather watch a blu of say, Tree of Life, but when it comes horror or anything bizarre, I prefer VHS. There’s something about putting this brick format into a big VCR and it all working together with gears and wheels as it stretches the tape from its casing, whirring along not-so-quietly.

3) What was it like working with Already Dead Tapes and Records for the VHS release?

Already Dead rules. Josh is one of the most open-minded label owners I’ve ever met. Nothing is off the table, ya know? A lot of labels have these very set boundaries or genres they work within. AD does everything. So, yeah, always a joy and I hope I get the chance to work with the label again. 

4) What was it like putting together the soundtrack for the film?

Michael Armendariz (Duck Duck Goose) was on score duties and he knocked it out of the park. We've also got contributions from Nick Reinhart (Disheveled Cuss) and Jay Gambit (Crowhurst). In the film we have Foie Gras, Field Medic, and Blemish. I’d always wanted to use their tracks in a project. Took some work with publishers, managers, etc.. but it worked out! Elated on how well it all came together. I'm excited to do it again now that I know what I'm doing.

5) The soundtrack is also on cassette.  Do you feel there is a need for physical media?

Big time. I’m a huge collector of physical media. Nothing is forever when it comes to digital. Nothing is sacred when it comes to digital. It’s all numbers and chance. And not everything is available online, ya know? Try finding the original Cocoon on any streaming service. You can’t. I mean, I don't love Cocoon, but hey. I also just love being able to hold something physical and going through the small ritual of taking the media source from its packaging and placing it in its respective player. There's something about that.

6) With a lot of mainstream movies being remakes / reboots / et al, do you feel like there will be an uprising at some point in filmmakers creating their own films because the bigger studios only want to do rehash the Smurfs again?

I think there already has been. Superhero movies are currently floundering at the box office while (mostly) original IP claims the numbers. Despite how big Barbie and Oppenheimer are, they’re auteur films from directors who created a name in the indie space. And I mean, horror in general, large and small budget, is absolutely dominating the box office in a way that never seemed possible. Niche horror films like TERRIFIER 2 and SKINAMARINK did huge numbers at the box office and no one could have guessed that. I think big studios see that and they’re going to either attempt to replicate it to a certain extent like they did in response to EASY RIDER back in the 70s. And sometimes that results in brilliant minds being given large amounts of money to make something that'll last the test of time instead of seeking numbers and awards.

And then there were the SAG and WGA strikes that took place in the latter half of 2023. That will definitely slow down the bigger studio’s outputs and I think it’s a huge opportunity for indie filmmakers and smaller production studios to make quality art and show the moviegoing public that it isn’t all superheroes and fast cars. Not that there’s anything wrong with superhero or car movies! They have their place, too.

7) Do you feel, as a society, we don't talk enough about how when someone dies we never really get over it but just learn to live without that person a little bit more each day?

Western society sees death as a bother; another way to make money off of you or your loved ones. Death is as special as the life we’re living now. Once we’re gone, we continue to live through the thoughts and actions of the people who once knew us. I think it’s important not to ‘get over it’ and instead embrace the energy that person left behind. Keep it like a locket. Keep them around. That’s the healthy version.. The dangerous version is portrayed in GRIEVE hah.. 

8) Final thoughts, shout outs, etc ??

Watch Grieve! On VHS through Already Dead or on Amazon Prime, Vudu, or Tubi! So proud of what our small crew did with so little!

I’ll be putting together funding for my second feature, Void Walker, this year. It is a lot different than Grieve and I'm excited to share it.


Find more info about "Grieve" and Robbie Smith here :::

Order the official "Grieve" VHS from Already Dead Tapes & Records here :::


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