This is an edited transcript of a telephone interview conducted with Bill Ward on May 2, 2015. Bill was childhood friends with Scott Spiegel and they worked together on a number of the earliest Super-8 Shorts between 1969 to 1974.
The Shorts are as follows; Inspector Klutz Saves the Day (1969), Pies and Guys (1971), Corny Casanovas (1971), For Crimin Out Loud (1973), A Night in a Sanitarium (1973), Three Smart Saps (1973), Loose Loot (1973), Piece of Mind (1973), Booby Bartenders (1974), & Three Pests in a Mess (1974), with a number of the latter including Bruce Campbell, before drifting away from the group to pursue musical interests.
Bill Ward in the lead role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, with Scott Spegiel as a Russian (1972)
How did you and Scott first meet?
Well, he lived just a five-minute walk away from my house, but we probably met in Elementary school
How did you get involved with filmmaking with each other, who's camera was it, who's sound recorder was it, and how did you come together as a filmmaking group?
At the very beginning, I think the date is 1969, a lot of kids were making Super-8 movies back then. We actually used my parents Super-8 camera, which amazingly they let us borrow. So, we just made this silly movie called Inspector Klutz Saves the Day. I had a camera, Scott had a couple of masks, it was just neighbourhood kids having fun.
How did the process of shooting the short films work, and who decided who got what roles in each production?
This is something that, progressed over time. When we started we were 11 years old, and at the beginning there was just myself, Scott, and another kid; Matt DeWan, who moved away. As we progressed they mostly became Three Stooges comedies, where we would just film their routines, setting up the cameras and lights and learning as we went. We didn't do any editing, if we had three minutes of film, we would just try to film consecutively straight through. We even used titles of Three Stooges shorts, but I snuck in one because I was a Marx Brothers fan, and is why one is called Night In The Sanatorium. The Marx brothers had A Night At The Opera, A Day At The Races, and we would fight a little bit once in a while about what would be in the movies, but we were going strictly for slapstick and laughs. Then we got a junior high, and Scott met Bruce. I'm older than Scott and Bruce, in fact, I'm a friend of Don Campbell. Anyway Bruce came over one time and saw our movies, and he showed us his movies, so we started collaborating. Bruce was in a couple of our movies, before I dropped out of the group.
Why were the Three Stooges such a big influence?
They were on TV a lot, and Scott and I used to watch them. Scott was an amazing kid because he had them memorised, he had every shot that they did, every word that they said, everything. I would just kind of go along with the Three Stooges stuff, like I say, I was a Marx Brothers fan, so that was mostly his deal. The Three Stooges routines are easy to film, there were a lot of pie fights so we would go and buy a bunch of pies. In one of the movies, Bruce hits me in the face with a pie, but it's was all just slapstick fun, and that is easier to make a film out of when you're just starting out.
Larry Fine, Moe Howard and Curly Howard of The Three Stooges.
The Marx Brothers; Zeppo, Groucho, Chico & Harpo
In Bruce's autobiography he mentions the screening setup that Matt Taylor had in his basement, that would have just been after Night In The Sanatorium, so by then you had got things to a fairly professional level?
Yes, that was the progression I mentioned earlier, although I haven't seen the films myself in a long time. For a Night In The Sanatorium, I remember doing a lot of makeup, we have a werewolf in there, we have Dracula, there is stock footage, we were building sets. We were taking it seriously. I would say that was our first attempt to make a proper movie.
Where you trying to do anything with the films, or was it just for the love of filmmaking?
It was just for the love of filmmaking. Me and Scott both grew up in Walnut Lake, and I know that Scott would show our movies around. I remember that there was a showing down at the beach house, and a bunch of people then chipped in and bought us a film editor.
So after that you were actually able to edit your short films?
Yes, Scott really took over on that. He would put stock movie footage in the films, and would also do up a soundtrack on a reel to reel tape recorder. Eventually neighbourhood kids formed various groups, but I was firmly in Scott Speigel camp.
Bill as 'Corporal Winston' in See How They Run (1975)
Bruce as 'Intruder' in play; See How They Run (1975)
The first one we did; Inspector Klutz Saves The Day is just kind of silly. I saw it listed on IMDb, and I just couldn't believe it, that's why I contacted you. Some of these movies quite honestly are embarrassing. We were 11 or 12 years old, just starting out. Back then there were no extra takes, I mean you had one shot and that was it. We tried to shoot the whole film within the camera.
Yes, the common reason sited that Within The Woods hasn't been released is that Sam is a bit embarrassed over his earlier work.
Yeah, well I don't blame him, it's not an easy thing to make a film. But they, it's a credit to them that besides the embarrassment they kept ploughing on, they never gave up, despite the embarrassment they just kept going forward.
Did you ever meet Sam?
Oh yeah, I knew Sam. He was two years younger than I was so I never really worked on films with him, but I know I'm listed in a credit or two with him. I had the lead role in a play with Bruce, and Sam would come up to me every time I saw him, and would say "Bill, I really liked you in that play", it's kind of a running joke. I went to Michigan State, and he ended up coming a couple of years after I started there. I ran into him a few times there, it was a running gag. Sam was just a really nice guy, Bruce was fantastic to be in that play with, he was just so much fun in rehearsals, he's a born actor.
The last short in which you're listed is Three Pests In A Mess, and you drifted away from the Super-8 movies after that?
Yeah, I was really a singer & guitar player. After 1974 I started bands, like in college at Michigan State Sam had The Happy Valley Kid, and I had my own rock 'n' roll band. We actually opened for Santana, playing popular bars around town. Now I have a son who is an opera singer, so it's kind of in my make up to be a singer, but I always loved movies too. I kept in touch with Scott so I always knew what was going on.
So did you continue watching the shorts after you'd left?
Oh yeah, I was always aware of what they were doing. Besides being busy doing other things, they had really no use for me. I mean I was just another kid that could have been anybody really. At the very beginning I was simply involved because I had the camera and Scott lived nearby, and he said "hey, let's make a movie". They took it really seriously and I had my other interests. Once in awhile I would get a call to see if I could help out with something, I think I was called by Scott for Stryker's War and I couldn't make it. I remember I would go to their offices in Ferndale to visit with Scott. He and I were playing around with a script for a while, but nothing ever came of it.
Obviously you weren't part of the group, but how did things change when the group switched from filmmaking for the love of filmmaking, to possibly making a living out of it?
I never got involved in that. When they started doing that I was already out of the group. I know they started showing movies at the high school, and I remember seeing Within The Woods there, but they were really serious about moviemaking, and I was serious about my music.
Rob Tapert, Scott Spiegel, Bruce Campbell, Unknown & Sam Raimi, during production on Within The Woods (1978)
You were an extra in Crimewave, what do you remember about that?
I don't remember the scene too well, it was an outside shot and I was just an extra walking in the background with Bruce was jumping out of his car. I maybe saw the movie once whenever it came out. I remember being so glad that I don't ever have to be on a movie set again! I mean there was a lot of pressure on them at that time, I thought "boy, this is just gruelling". I was just glad I was playing guitar somewhere that evening. When you're a singer, you get an instant reaction from what you're doing right then and there, as opposed to a movie set where it's just work and drudgery. I admire the hard work that these guys really put into it, they lived and breathed movies. That's what I remember about Crimewave; "boy I'm glad I'm not in the movie business". Back then, the really the big thing for me was when Scott had his movie The Rookie directed by Clint Eastwood, I mean to me that was a huge deal.
Also, you have memories of when Scott and Sam were writing Evil Dead II?
Yes, I have some really vague memories of what was going on at that time, but again, this is not something that I ever thought that I would be talking about 30 years later, it's really an amazing thing that people are still interested in their films. I was just kind of a lucky guy back then to know these guys, it was a lot of fun.