There is no magic, supernatural, or occult in Tom Savini. He is a mere mortal. There is, however, hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm. To know of Mr. Savini’s work is to have an understanding of what “legendary status” truly entails. At multiple events in the past three years Tom was rarely spotted without Jason Baker by his side. “Thick as thieves” is an overused expression but in the case of these two it is absolutely accurate. I have always been a fan of documentaries and two things separate the wheat from the chaff, an unwavering dedication to your subject, and being able to present your research in an entertaining way. These two requirements are essential in delivering a quality non-fiction film . It has to be said, Jason Baker put in the hours. The product, Smoke and Mirrors: the Story of Tom Savini, would be fascinating to even the most casual of film enthusiasts. From family history, to stage production, to celebrity status Baker has carved out a continuity in the life of Tom Savini, and he’s done it in a manner that is not merely entertaining but compelling.
CCH: Are you native to Pittsburgh PA?
Jason Baker: I was born and raised north of Seattle in a farming community called the Skagit Valley. I met Tom when I moved to Pittsburgh to attend his school.
CCH: How did you get involved with Mr.Savini on such a personal level?
Jason Baker: I was hired to do SFX for a short film that Tom directed called The Wrong House. We chatted a bunch on set and I saw how wonderful he was to the crew and his family. That was sort of the catalyst for the doc. So when I pitched the idea to Tom, i told him that i didn’t want to make a film about the guy who threw fake blood all over the Monroeville Mall, i wanted to tell the story about the guy who threw fake blood all over the Monroeville Mall and then raced home to make sure his daughter was ready for school.
CCH: How did you get him to open up?
Jason Baker: If you notice in the film, Tom’s appearance changes because every time we’d film him, it was almost like a therapy session. He’d open more and more each time about personal things.
It is noteworthy that Shudder ultimately picked up Smoke and Mirrors. I hounded Mr. Baker multiple times for a screener, always receiving word that it was currently being shopped around and therefore pre-release copies were out of the question. Amazingly, even after the sting of being denied, I almost immediately subscribed to the horror streaming service once this doc became available. An act that usually requires the promise of Joe Bob Briggs to stir one’s foot. Or to stir one's debit card numbers, as it were.
CCH: Do you remember when you first learned who Tom Savini was?
Jason Baker: Growing up, three of my favorite horror movies were NOLD ‘90(Night of the Living Dead 1990), Creepshow, and From Dusk till Dawn. I had no clue that Tom was involved in all three in different roles. So i was a fan of Tom’s but didn’t know it.
CCH: Do you think you need to become close with your subject to get a quality interview?
Jason Baker: I never planned on becoming friends with Tom when I started this film. But he’s just so fuckin’ cool that you want to hang out with him. He’s an honest person with a great heart, a hilarious sense of humor, and is grounded in reality. People like that are unicorns. Plus he’s inspiring. He’s over 70 and more athletic than most people half his age and he’s always up for an adventure. He truly gets the most out of life.
CCH: Were most of the interviewees forthcoming with their praise for Mr. Savini.
Jason Baker: Everyone we interviewed for the film is someone who has been a part of Tom’s life in one way shape or form. Example: Tom and Sid Haig never worked together but i can’t think of a time when Tom and Sid were at the same convention together and they didn’t sit together for at least two meals during the weekend.
Baker, against all odds, was able to humanize the mythical standing of a man that many consider a god. A monumental task. In the end it took a truly humble individual to break down the mythos. A documentary is only as good as it’s creator’s intentions. Jason Baker did not pull any punches. The “downs” and the “ups” are highlighted almost equally. There is straight reportage, and for that we should all run over and kiss Jason’s dick. He didn’t feed us what we wanted to hear, he gave us “the story.”