Kerswell talks with Ferd Sebastian]
Sebastian - with his wife Beverly - made some of the best grindhouse
flicks of the 1970s. Their film GATOR BAIT (1974) is possibly the
signature appearance by B-movie legend Claudia Jennings. The tragic
starlet (she died in a car crash in 1979 aged just 29) also appeared in
the couple's proto-slasher THE SINGLE GIRLS (also 1974). With a canny
eye always on a trend, The Sebastians also rode the success of the
early 80s slasher with the rock-themed ROCKTOBER BLOOD (1984). I'm
delighted that Ferd took some time to chat with me about these two
films, his career and what he and Beverly are up to now ...
Q: THE SINGLE GIRLS was released in 1974, but
appears to pre-empt many of the slasher movie themes that John
Carpenter's HALLOWEEN is widely believed to have invented in 1978. What
was your inspiration to enter the thriller genre?
The film was produced and directed by yourself and Beverly – and you
handled the film's cinematography. In practice, how did this work?
It works great. It is how we have made all of
our films. Beverly and I have written all of our scripts, jointly
directed and produced. I have always run the camera. So how do I do
that and direct. Easy I have always done it. Here is how. I go through
the whole script with the actors and direct them in their part. I see
in the camera their actions and Beverly watches the sceens to get a
good feel as to how it is working. I never look at dalies, I have
already seen them as they were shot. Also directing before you shoot
saves a lot of time on the set. No actor is asking questions or trying
to change lines, we did that before we were shooting.
Q: Ann Cawthorne is listed as
the writer of the story and screenplay of THE SINGLE GIRLS (and worked
with you on a number of earlier projects). Is that a pseudonym? Can you
tell me anything about her?
Yes, Beverly Ann Cawthorne is my wife's maiden name. Our
first few films she used that as she was not too sure of her
writting. Later we just used her real name. Beverly and I do so
many of the jobs together we now just put Produced, written and
Directed by Ferd and Beverly Sebastian. The first 3 films we made. We
wrote together and then when we were shooting Beverly did script,
makeup and sound. I directed, ran the camera and set all the lights. We
edited together and that was it. There was no crew on the first three
films except us. The Single Girls was the first film we had a
crew on. We added a sound man, boom man and a gaffer.
Q: The late Claudia Jennings appeared in both THE SINGLE GIRLS and
GATOR BAIT the same year. What are some of your memories of working
We could write a book on Claudia, but
Eric already has.:-) Claudia, Beverly and I all loved each other. It is
as simple as that. Claudia became our best friend. Gator Bait was
written for Claudia, she wanted to do a film with not a lot of dialog,
so Gator Bait was it. As I really like to work with the Cajun people.
We all piled into our motorhome and left LA to go to La. We were headed
for the swamps, Myself, Bev, Claudia, our two boys a dog and a pregnamt
cat. It was by far the most fun shoot I have ever been on. Back to
acting, Claudia is a dream to work with. Eager to do 110% of anything I
asked of her. She also did all of her own stunt work. If she had lived
she would have been in every film that we have made.
Q: What are your memories of working with Cheri Howell (who appears to
have left the business shortly after making THE SINGLE GIRLS) and Joan
All of the cast on Single Girls were very good to work
with and I think they did a good job. Except for seeing some like
Poppi, in the Clint Eastwood features I have not kept up with them. Not
because there was any trouble with any of them, they were all great to
work with. We just seemed to never cross paths again, but I likes them
Q: THE SINGLE GIRLS is set on a Caribbean island. Was it actually shot
The whole show was shot on two locations. The interiors
were shot at the Westlake Inn, Westlake Village, CA. All other
locations were at Paradice Cove, in Malibu. Just over the hill from
Westlake Village. At that time I lived on the Island at Westlake. I do
not like to waste a lot of time driving to work.:-) The seaplane that
we used was one of the Catalina shuffle planes. I just got them to dead
head one to Paradice Cove. He came in landed, picked up my actors, took
off and then landed again and let the actors off. Everything took about
Q: Do you have any other
memories of making the film you'd like to share? And what do you think
of the film today?
I had not looked at the film for 45 years
until last week I found a 1" tape, that I had in a warehouse of mine,
so I took a look. It was like seeing it for the first time. It was fun
and it was like a lot of the people were in the 70s. Searching for love
in all the wrong places. It was ment to be a light sexy show with a
muderer on the loose. Beverly could tell you exactly how much it cost
but as I remember it was about $45,000. So for $45 thou. not bad
Q: Jump forward ten years – and
towards the end of the Golden Age of the 80s slasher movie boom – you
and Beverly made ROCKTOBER BLOOD. Beverly is listed as the lone
director on that one. Is that right?
Beverly was the lead director and I was second, as Beverly
really understood Rock and Roll better that I did. I'm a country
boy.:-) My youngest son played the led in that film. He was a Rock and
Roll fanatic! He had found a film in Paris and asked us to get it. Two
Frenchmen did it and they did a good job except on the sound, it was
recorded alright but the recording did not come out well on the film.
We made a distribution deal with them and told them we would take it
back to the US and get the tracks working properly. We did and we
released it. It was AC/DC Let there be Rock. We 4 walled the theaters
and took the money home every night. Lots of it! Warner Bros, saw what
we were doing and had to have it. We settled on a price and they got
it. Good deal for all. Which brings us to RocktoberBlood. We
thought that we would make the ultimate Rock concert. It would be the
ultimate because all the cast would be slashed up at the end. We made a
good deal with Vestron and it had a fair release and then they went
bankrupt. Again all the units are locked up in some legal warehouse.
but there are some bootlegs out there.
Q: There were quite a number of
'hard rock' horror film released in the 1980s. What was your motivation
for tackling one?
To make money and my son wanted to do it.
Q: Did shooting a rock band
present any special challenges?
Not really, we just went in the recording studio and cut
tha album. Then on film we did everything to playback.
Q: Do you remember how well
ROCKTOBER BLOOD did when it was released?
We sold the Distribution right to Vestron. So we got our
money out but that was it. Vestron went bankrupt and film was tied up
Q: What are your thoughts about
the film today and do you have any behind-the-scenes stories you'd like
I can tell you about the audience. The ones who like it
are fanatical. I mean they LIKE IT! and I guess that is what making
films are all about.
Q: What are you and Beverly doing now. What are you working on?
Well I will tell you about our lives after we left the movie business.
We retired 26 years ago. We have never worked harder in our lives. We
were not ment for retirement. We had the right idea, we moved to
Florida, live on a beautiful river with manatees and dolphins playing
in our back yard and we both still work together but have different
goals. Beverly, rescues retired racing greyhounds. To date she
has saved over 8,000 greys. She started a prison progam where the
Inmates are taught how to train the greyhounds. Then the greys go to
happy homes. They go to work as companion dogs and are also trained for
Servive Dogs for Veterans. You can see this work at
Now I took a different path. At 55, in Los Angeles I had major heart
problems. I had open heart surgery and that lasted 9 months.. Then my
heart all but stopped. The Doctors said that I was down for the count.
They would try another operation but I would probably die on the table.
But that was my only hope as I was sure to die within the next ten
days. They wanted to take me directly to the Hospital. I told them I
was going to see Beverly first. We were making the last theatrical film
that I made at Paramount. Beverly was working on casting and locations
at our office. So I got in my car to go over. As I was driving a voice
spoke to me, it sounded like it came from the passenger seat, however
no one was there. The voice said four words. "Jesus is the answer!"
That was it. I went on back to the studio and asked Beverly is she
would go out on a vacant sound stage with me and pray. She went and
held my hand. I did not know how to pray or what to ask for. So I said
the world's simplest prayer, Jesus please heal me. There was a snap in
my chest and I was healed. The Doctors checked me over, they did not
believe that Jesus healed me, but they did tell me one thing, I was
healed. That was 26 years ago and the movie that I made at Paramount
was my last film. I started working for Jesus! I ask Jesus how He
healed me? Then I wrote a book on Divine Healing and I started an
Internet site, www.2Jesus.org
100's of people have been healed over the last 26 years.
Now Beverly and I are putting out a game app, it is on iTunes www.godbibleadventure.com we want
to give famlies all over the world a game that they can have fun
with as they travel the Holy Lands and meet the Heros of the Bible. It
is totaly free. You can buy power boosters, but you do not have too. I
play it everyday and have never had to buy a booster, it just takes
more thinking. So download it, have fun and spread the word.
Beverly is now 79, I am 81 and have never felt better in my life.
Visit Paul Kelman's IMDB page.
Read the Hysteria Lives! review of THE
Read the Hysteria Lives! review of ROCKTOBER