Having been bent over the proverbial barrel by Platinum Dunes’ groan-inducing desecration of the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, we can at least turn our attention to tomorrow’s release of Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy to wash the foul taste of failure from our mouths.
I recently had the pleasure of talking to some of the folks involved with this documentary – directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch, and writer Thommy Hutson – and while we all wait patiently for the epic documentary’s release on May 4th, this little conversation should help tide you over while subsequently whetting your Freddy infused palate.
Dread Central: Never Sleep Again was a big labor of love for everyone involved. Where did your love of A Nightmare on Elm Street begin?
Thommy: I loved NOES from the first time I saw it. It was a movie I couldn’t go to, but I begged my father to take me. When he finally did take me, I was so terrified that I wanted to leave but he forced me to stay because I was making him watch it. From then on, it was the first movie that had such an impact on me in terms of going to a movie and feeling such fear. I fell in love with the idea that a movie could do that to me and it stayed with me from then on. It was also during the dawn of the video age and it became a right of passage to get together with your friends and rent these films.
Dan: For me, it was just part of that generation of films from Halloween to Friday the 13th to A Nightmare on Elm Street. And Nightmare was the smartest of the three series both in terms of having a franchise killer with this personality and an unforgettable feel to it. My friends ran to me saying, “there’s a movie you have to go see…” and I became a big fan. I love these films. 1, 3 and 7 are particular favorites, but I think each one of them has their own charm.
Andrew: When I saw the first Nightmare, what stuck out to me was that there was no downtime for the characters. Everything was intense all the time. Even when Freddy isn’t running around on the screen, you have these characters stuck in this uncomfortable predicament and everyone around them is trying to get them to go to sleep. It gives you no time to rest, and that’s what sticks with me about that film.
DC: What makes Never Sleep Again different from the other franchise documentaries that are out there?
Dan: The scope of it is unlike anything that’s ever been done before. Four hours, well over one hundred interviewees and filmed over three or four counties at least. We follow the evolution of the series from the humble beginnings of New Line, to Wes Craven being an out of work college professor, all the way to the premier of Freddy vs. Jason, which was a huge, star-studded premiere. To go in depth with each one of these films, I think we really gave the series its due.
Andrew: We make it personal with a lot of these stories. Everybody talks about how these films impacted their lives and you get to see how each one of these films changed people’s lives. And also how the character of Freddy evolved from movie to movie. When you see it all laid out for you like that, it’s really amazing, immersive stuff.
Thommy: A Nightmare on Elm Street is a franchise, but the series tells one story. Each sequel leads into the next to tell one story and our documentary follows that same progression from Nancy and Freddy, all the way to when Wes turned it on its head with New Nightmare, and then to when the fans finally got what they wanted by pitting him against Jason. There’s an overarching story to the series and the documentary tells that story well.
DC: How do you write a documentary of this scope before filming interviews? Was there a clear approach to how it should be done?
Thommy: There was a vision that Dan and Andrew wanted and I kept that in mind when writing out the questions that I thought would help them tell the story that they wanted to tell. We pulled it all together to get as close to a story as possible. And a lot of it did come together in the editing, too. I give credit to Dan and Andrew for talking the clay we got, in terms of the interviews, and shaping them into something that was cohesive and could go from point A to B to C in a highly entertaining way.
Dan: It was Tommy’s structure that helped bring life to that. He spent hours creating outlines and structural pieces for us to follow. Tommy wrote the narration and tens of thousands of questions for the interviewees. Also, finding and locating over one hundred interviewees was quite a challenge. This certainly wasn’t done for money; rather we all wanted to tell the story.
Andrew: Our crew worked tirelessly at all hours of the night just to help this thing be the best it could be.
DC: What is the process like when you’re trying to put together a hundred hours of footage into a documentary.
Dan: It’s like taking an unformed lump of clay and just taking away everything that’s not your show. Eventually you have something that looks like what you want and you keep chiseling and refining from there until you get those little exacting details. I have to turn to Andrew, who edited the show brilliantly, along with Michael Benni Pierce whose an absolutely amazing right-hand guy. He was there morning, noon and night. Between the two of them, it was a great partnership.
Andrew: Most of us had all worked together on other documentary projects. Dan and I did the special features for the Friday the 13th Deluxe Editions, as well as the bonus material on the Haunting in Connecticut DVD, so, for about a year, we were working together pretty steadily and it prepared us for this.
Dan: It’s like going from grammar school to grad school. We knew that fans were disappointed with His Name Was Jason – as was I, being the director. It just didn’t play. We didn’t want to shortchange the running time. We really put everything into this one to make it as complete and fulfilling to fans. There wasn’t a stone we left unturned.
DC: Is there anyone in particular who was difficult to track down?
Dan: We were bound and determine to find Mark Patton – star of A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2 – who literally had seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. I think we could’ve made a film about our attempts to find Mark. Fortunately, we found him living a humble existence in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He couldn’t have been happier and friendlier to get on board and to talk to us. He was so excited about it and continues to be. That was an achievement and it was really great to meet him and to talk about some of the interesting layers of Nightmare 2 that have often been hinted at but never fully discussed and, boy, do we discuss them.
Thommy: Obviously, the elephant in the room is that we don’t have Johnny Depp or Patricia Arquette. However, it wasn’t due to either of them saying no. We were extremely close to going to the set of Medium to talk to Patricia, but it ultimately didn’t work out. Same thing with Johnny Depp. His people were extremely gracious and they listened to us, but it didn’t work out.
DC: Was there anybody apprehensive to revisit their Elm Street roots?
Dan: Fran Bennett.
Thommy: Dan and I were adamant that Fran Bennett – Dr. Heffner from New Nightmare – had to be in the doc. I found her and she was really difficult to get that yes out of because she just didn’t think she had anything to say. She ended up being a joy and brought a ton of life to her interview.
DC: With NSA behind you, what was the biggest highlight?
Andrew: Getting the chance to meet each and every person involved and getting the chance to ask any question that you ever wanted to ask about this franchise.
Thommy: We all had worked together and I think that level of comfort really helped make our interviews comfortable as well. It enabled us to bring out the stories that we brought out … to make everyone go back in time and relive what they did when they made the movies.
Dan: For me, it was getting to work with this team – not to sound too sappy or sentimental. This worked out so well for us, we had our highs and lows but all had a drive to tell this story. And also, getting to meet and interview Wes Craven, and him turning to me in a very personal way and asking me, “how are you doing this?” And I said were doing it on our own, there’s was no studio behind us. He seemed genuinely touched and impressed by that. And that made it all worthwhile. In the end there were some people that were great, some were more difficult to work with but we got what we wanted: the most complete set of interviews ever done on A Nightmare on Elm Street. I hope this lives as a time capsule of the original Elm Street franchise. That was the aim and I think we got it.
For more on this project check out the official Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy website, the official Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy Facebook page and the official Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy MySpace page. To join in on the live fun as it happens, simply follow @ElmStreetLegacy on Twitter!
If you haven’t already done so, pre-order Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (available May 4th) to get a FREE poster signed by actress Heather Langenkamp with your purchase. Or for you Amazon shoppers — just click the artwork below!
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