[JA Kerswell talks with Ferd Sebastian]

Ferd 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?

THE SINGLE GIRLSIt 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 with her?

THE SINGLE GIRLSWe 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 Prather?

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 all.

Q: THE SINGLE GIRLS is set on a Caribbean island. Was it actually shot there?

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 15 min.

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?

THE SINGLE GIRLSI 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 intertainment. :-)

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?

ROCKTOBER BLOODTo 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 in legal.

Q: What are your thoughts about the film today and do you have any behind-the-scenes stories you'd like to share?

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 www.giveasecondchance.com

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.

Relevant Links

Visit Paul Kelman's IMDB page.

Read the Hysteria Lives! review of THE SINGLE GIRLS.

Read the Hysteria Lives! review of ROCKTOBER BLOOD.