WILLY’S WONDERLAND Director, Kevin Lewis [Episode 72]


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Kevin Lewis is an American director of multiple features, including The Method, Downward Angel, The Drop, and The Third Nail. Most recently, Kevin has wowed the horror crowd with Willy's Wonderland, a wonderfully bonkers 'survive the night horror thriller' that pits a group of demonic animatronic animals against an understatedly badass Nicolas Cage.

This movie was one of the most culty, return to the midnight movie traditions I've seen this year, and a whole bunch of fun. It delivered the laughs, the blood, and the Cage. I really enjoyed speaking to Kevin about his career history, the long road of getting Willy's Wonderland off of the ground, and stories about working with Nicolas Cage. Without further ado, here is Kevin Lewis.

Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with Kevin Lewis.

  • Drive on. Kevin's dad was in the military and a big motto during his time in Vietnam was 'Drive On' - no matter how many bullets were flying at your head, it's imperative to push forward and accomplish the mission. This is an equally important motto for today's filmmakers. One of the big recurring themes of Kevin's career history is that he pushed all of his movies forward himself without waiting for people to give him the green light. He made his movies happen. Regardless of how many features he got under his belt, Kevin would beg, borrow, steal and hustle his ass off every step of the way for each of his subsequent movies. This is a huge concept, and yet another outcrop of Mark Duplass's speech, 'The Cavalry is Not Coming,' which you should all see (just Google Mark Duplass, The Cavalry is Not Coming and watch the entire thing). It basically amounts to this: nobody is going to push your movie forward other than you. Regardless of how many movies you make, you're always going to have to sing for your supper and push your films forward by the skin of your teeth. Kevin realized this early and, as a result, was always working on something instead of waiting around for someone to hand him a script.

  • Work with people with the same agenda. Kevin has worked on many sides of Hollywood and experienced firsthand just how insane this industry can be. He also illuminated the fact that there are a lot of sharks in the business, but not only sharks, who are greedy and will chew you up and spit you out, but even worse, there are saboteurs out there who want to see you fail. This is a very unfortunate personality type, but they are rampant in Hollywood - people who want to sabotage you and your movie either out of spite, or jealousy, or whatever toxic bullshit is inside their heads; the point is, they exist, and you have to steer clear of them by keeping them out of your circles and off of your sets. Kevin went on to say that everyone in Hollywood has an agenda, and regardless of how good someone's intentions seem to be, they might not have your best interest at heart, so be cautious about who you work with. More specifically, it's important to find people who have the same agenda that you have, and as Kevin stated, your agenda should always be to make a great movie.

  • Work with Nicolas Cage! In addition to his cult status, dynamic acting ability, and downright iconicism, Nicolas Cage is a mensch. When he was given the script for something as off the wall as Willy's Wonderland, he not only jumped on board, but he fought for the movie to get funded and for Kevin to remain on board as a director. Nic Cage is a big star, and he didn't have to do any of that, but he used his star power to empower Kevin as the director and to help the movie get the funding it deserved, which is really extraordinary. So, if you have the opportunity, work with Nic Cage or someone like him whose heart is in the right place, seek them out! Actors like these will not only make your production process an outright pleasure but also support you and your movie, which can really move things forward.

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