For Canadian filmmakers Nathan Hynes and Chris Power, the journey to make their full-length feature debut, Long Pigs, was anything but typical.
“I had moved from Newfoundland to Toronto after I finished school,” explained Hynes. “I worked in a restaurant, and the hostess told me that she was talking to this film guy that had come into the restaurant. So I got all excited because I thought I was going to meet some big-time movie guy. I so badly wanted to get into the industry but had no idea how to get my foot in the door. So when I walked over to this big shot filmmaker, it turned out to be Chris, who was just another guy like me starting off in the industry. We hit it off immediately, though, and started working together right after that,” Hynes added.
Power and Hynes came up with the idea for their film, Long Pigs, by mixing their own insecurities as brand new filmmakers and a story that Hynes heard about a local killer. The title of Long Pigs comes from the culinary term that is used in reference to eating a human corpse.
Hynes said, “I had heard this story of a guy from a small town near me who was a cannibal that murdered a bunch of people. The murders were almost satanic in nature, and there were some pretty gruesome stories. Then there was a story about the guy and what he’s been doing in jail since he was convicted.”
“So for Long Pigs, we took this idea of two bumbling filmmakers, much like Chris and I felt like we were at that time, trying to make a documentary about a real-life cannibalistic murderer in the midst of his killing spree. We thought putting that twist on the story was much more interesting than the usual idea of meeting this guy some ten years later after the madness,” Hynes added.
Bumbling filmmakers and a maniac are only part of the equation that makes up Long Pigs. The film is also centered around the discovery of lost documentary footage of a cannibalistic serial killer who may have been more than the filmmakers bargained for as the killer’s lifestyle becomes too much for the pair to handle.
While Hynes and Power honed the script in 2003, the pair credited their lead actor Anthony Alviano as the inspiration behind their killer, who is also named Anthony in the film.
“We pretty much wrote Long Pigs for Anthony so we knew he was going to be a fantastic killer from the start,” explained Power. “For the rest of our cast we spent three to four months in a casting basement seeing all the local non-union actors in the area.”
“We were also really lucky to get such a great and supportive cast who were always willing to come back for reshoots and to help out the production overall. Our philosophy was to just let our cast be creative. Almost all the stuff we ended up using in the final cut was their improv work so that philosophy paid off,” Power added.
However, not everything came as easily as casting did for Long Pigs. Both Hynes and Power spoke about the difficulties new directors face when getting an independent project financially secured.
“As soon as we were finished with the script for Long Pigs, we knew we had something great,” explained Hynes. “We started working on securing the quarter million budget we imagined for the project. But we soon found out that once you get to a certain budget level, filmmaking becomes an entirely different process.”
“In the end we ended up with a lower budget than we would have thought we could make Long Pigs with, but that didn’t change our approach at all. It just meant we had to be extra frugal and watch our money very closely. But it all paid off. As a fan, I think the movie really delivers,” Power added.
Part of the reason the production value of Long Pigs looks far superior to the actual budget of the project was due to the work of Chris Bridges, special makeup effects artist whose credits include the Dawn of the Dead remake, Saw III, and 300.
Power said, “We owe so much of what makes Long Pigs so great to the work of Chris Bridges. The stuff he did looked like something you’d see in a movie with a 20 million dollar budget. He’s such an amazing guy. We were very lucky to have him on the film.”
Once the money was in place to start production on Long Pigs, both Hynes and Powers invested some of that budget to getting what they needed to just get started as filmmakers since this was their first official adventure in the world of feature filmmaking.
“The budget for Long Pigs included buying an editing suite, buying the camera, paying the actors, and we relied on guerrilla-style filmmaking for the rest,” explained Hynes. “We were lucky that all of our locations were free, and we didn’t need any real permits either. We edited as we shot so we could easily do the reshoots that we needed to make the movie work. It was definitely a learning process from beginning to end.”
Power said, “You always have to make sure you’re properly organized no matter the size of the production. We shot 80 percent of Long Pigs’ big stuff in December, 2003; however, since we did the editing as we shot, we realized once we finished with the first cut that we had a movie without a satisfying ending. So we decided to make the radio host more of a character, made other changes, and did a bunch of reshoots over the next few years to make Long Pigs just right.”
One of the luxuries both Power and Hynes enjoyed during this seven-year-long process that most other independent filmmakers generally don’t is having very accommodating and encouraging investors.
“We were fortunate because our investors just wanted whatever was best for the project,” explained Power. “They’ve never pressured us along the way and have been incredibly patient. We never thought in 2003 that it would take this long for us to get Long Pigs into theaters so we were lucky they stuck along for the entire ride.”
Hynes said, “I truly believe being independent and having less money involved with the production meant less pressure and so much more freedom. I think Long Pigs and both of us benefited from staying independent. Would we have liked more money? Sure. But I don’t know that we could have made a better movie if we had more money.”
Power summed up the entire Long Pigs journey by saying, “Making Long Pigs wasn’t a perfect process. There were nights where I wondered how we screwed everything up so badly, but now it feels great to finally be getting some positive attention and getting the movie out there. It feels like maybe we did something right.”
Attention indeed. Long Pigs has been garnering a lot of buzz as it has been making its way through the festival circuit. The film enjoyed its US premiere in Milwaukee on April 22nd, played during Detroit’s Motor City Nightmares on April 23rd, and is slated to play during the opening night of Texas Frightmare Weekend on April 28th.
According to Hynes fans can also expect to see Long Pigs enjoy its DVD debut on June 8th, and the flick will also be available to US audiences via VOD and PPV starting sometime in May or June.
“We’ve had some mixed reactions from those who have seen Long Pigs so far. Some people really love it, and some people really hate it. We don’t mind the audiences being so decisive either. Now that Long Pigs is starting to gain momentum on the festival circuit, it’s pretty cool to hear some of the buzz on both sides,” Hynes said.
Now that their debut film is finally reaching genre fans, I asked both Hynes and Power to talk about what’s in their filmmaking futures.
Power said, “We are working on some writing projects, but we are just keeping focused on the push for Long Pigs right now. That’s the main focus for us both.”
“For our next projects we will most likely direct separately, but we’ll always be around to support each other no matter what we’re working on,” Hynes added.
With Long Pigs being such an involved process for the up-and-coming writer/directors, I asked the pair to share with Dread Central some of what they learned along the way.
Hynes said, “The biggest thing I learned is that you are who you treat yourself as. If you present yourself with confidence, people will jump at the opportunity to work with you. They’ll only believe in you if you believe in what you’re doing.”
“What I learned from making Long Pigs is that if you don’t have money, you better have the time to do it right. Besides, we’ll never have this kind of freedom again to really take our time with a film so we should enjoy it and get the job done right. The result is a pretty cool horror film I think,” Power added.
For more visit the official Long Pigs website here.
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