When we last spoke, Adam Green (the writer/director of the Hatchet series and Frozen, co-director of Spiral, and producer of Grace) talked a little bit about his past, his love of films, and some of the challenges he faced as an indie filmmaker.
In this entry Dread Central gets Green’s thoughts on casting his new film, Hatchet II (now available on DVD & Blu Ray from Dark Sky Films), upcoming projects, and his opinion on the current and future state of our beloved horror genre. As always, Green proves himself to be a knowledgeable and erudite spokesman!
DC: So, we left off talking about Hatchet II’s release, and you mentioned writing the initial script with cast members in mind. Can you talk about why you chose the people you did?
AG: With the first one, we actually did casting, but the second one we obviously knew that Tony already had that part and Kane had his and Parry Shen was going to be playing his own brother, but the rest of the cast were all people I’d either worked with before in some capacity or they were friends I wanted to work with or had done something else that I’d really admired. When we started to make the sequel, FROZEN hadn’t even premiered at Sundance yet and nobody was really going to be expecting that I was making something else. The idea was to keep it totally under the radar and do it without any outside opinions or expectations and all of a sudden one day say, “Here’s the trailer” and people would be like, “Oh, my god! When did this happen?” That quickly got foiled because when we were recasting a main actress, we put something – for one day only – in Breakdown Services (which is the industry thing that casting agents use) just saying that we were possibly going to be replacing the actress who played the role in the first movie.
One of the websites had someone who had login info for that so they could try to get scoops off of it, and as a result people found out we were doing it and there was no hiding it. It’s not that I’m against that business or any of that stuff, but we just didn’t really have time for anybody to come and visit the set. There was some very complicated stuff going on. I mean, there are seventeen deaths which means that, basically every single day, there was some sort of stunt or gore gag going off which is usually a closed set for safety. So, we were trying to keep it under the radar, but it got out much faster than we thought it was going to.
DC: You pulled a couple of “wild cards” in your choice of actors such as Tom Holland, and John Buechler had a bigger part in this one.
AG: Bringing John back was cool. With Tom Holland… FRIGHT NIGHT was one of my biggest inspirations behind writing the first HATCHET and he’s always been somebody I admired. He’s become a good friend through the whole Masters of Horror circle that I was invited into years ago. I knew he had acted like twenty-seven years ago in an episode of THE INCREDIBLE HULK. I asked if he ever thought about acting anymore. He has such a great look. I liked the idea that everybody was expecting to see some horror cameos, but to take somebody that nobody would have expected… So, he said yes and I was really excited, but it was also a little nerve-wracking on set for the first couple of days because every time I had to give one my favorite directors direction, I would always be wondering, ‘Does he think that was a good idea? Does he agree with me?’ [laughs] But he was very happy to just be an actor and was very, very nervous his first few days because it had been so long. Quickly enough, he picked it up.
DC: When you were shooting, did you film stuff that you knew wasn’t going to make it into the release but might make additional footage for the DVD release?
AG: No, when you’re on such a tight schedule and budget, you can only shoot what you’re going to use. There’s really no room to experiment or take any more time. If you want to shoot these ten things to complete the scene, chances are good you’re really only going to get to shoot six of them anyway. So, there’s really never anything you get to do at this budget level where you can just try something and see what happens with it later. It’s all pretty straightforward. All of the gore stuff that we wanted to use is in the actual unrated disc. There’s nothing cut out.
DC: Are there plans to ever make a Hatchet III?
AG: There’s always a way to keep going and there’s already a pretty solid storyline that we know we would use if we were going to go with HATCHET III. We kind of wanted to know that before we shot HATCHET II. With all of these things, it really depends on the fans. I mean, if there’s a big desire for a third one, if this one sells like the first one did, then I’m sure the distributor, Dark Sky, is going to want another one. I’m definitely all for that. Right now I don’t see myself directing another one, but I said that after the first one, so… It all really depends. If I can go do other things for a while and then be really, genuinely excited to be coming back and doing it out of passion, then that’s one thing, but if they decided in a few months to do a third one… I just wouldn’t really be the right guy. I also think that I’ve done what I set out to do and I would love to see a new person take the torch and go with it. I would still definitely be involved. I would produce it. I would be there every day. I would be helping them do it because I don’t want to see it stumble and fall that quickly. If they’re going to make many off these, I’d like for them to keep raising the bar instead of going the other way. So we’ll see. But I am genuinely excited about somebody new taking over my chair and me getting to sit there and sip coffee like the other producers. [laughs]
DC: Since you brought up new things, I’m interested in Chillerama.
AG: CHILLERAMA is an anthology movie based around a drive-in. It’s basically the last drive-in in America and it’s about to close its doors. So, for their last night, the owner is going to show these four extremely rare movies that nobody’s ever seen before. There’s a main storyline at the drive-in, and then there are these four short movies that intertwine with everything. Adam Rifkin and Tim Sullivan had brought the idea to Joe Lynch and me about two years ago and it was just one of those things where you never thought it was really going to happen. It was like, “Yeah, man, that sounds like fun. We should do that!” and you kind of leave it. A few months later we talk about it again and again and then next thing you know, people are joking around and writing their scripts. My company, ArieScope, was like, “I think we can put this together” and the next thing you know… we’re shooting. So, I shot HATCHET II, went to Sundance with FROZEN, did the press tour for FROZEN, came back and finished HATCHET II, and then was shooting “Diary of Anne Frankenstein” five weeks later.
DC: What a great title!
AG: Thank you. That was the title that Rifkin and Sullivan came up with when they had the project. They were like, “There’s going to be one called ‘The Diary of Anne Frankenstein’ and Green, you should do that one!” I asked what the story was and they said, “We don’t know, but it’s a cool title, so you figure it out.” What sucks though is if you do a search for things that have that title on them now (nothing that anybody has ever seen or heard anything of, they’re not even movies), there’s a play and a few other things. Thankfully, my storyline is nothing like theirs, so I’m clear.
DC: Shades of Samuel Z. Arkoff.
DC: You were talking about being a producer. You produced Grace and now you’re doing Chillerama. Is that something you want to do more of?
AG: In some regard, I’ve been a producer on all of my stuff whether I take the screen credit for it or not. Like with HATCHET, I was a producer, but it was my first movie and I wanted people to be focused on me as a writer and as a director and not really as a producer. So I produced all of my own stuff, but then in terms of producing outside stuff… GRACE was sort of an anomaly. It’s not like me or even my company is actively trying to look for other things because we have our own stuff that we’re trying to do, but GRACE just happened at the right time where Paul Solet had made this short film that was doing festivals and conventions when I was promoting HATCHET. I kept running into him and got to know him a little bit. Then HATCHET became a big success and Anchor Bay said, “What other movies do you guys have?” We had just finished SPIRAL, but we were like, “There’s this kid who’s really great and he has this short film that has won all these awards and he’s ready to go. He has a storyboard done and show lists.” He’d done all of the expensive work and the timing just worked out. If it had happened two weeks earlier or two weeks later, it might have never happened. It’s a great story and it was really fun to be able to pay it forward and give somebody else their start. I’m really excited, at some point in his career, to see Paul Solet return the favor and do the same thing for somebody else.
DC: According to your IMDB page, they list something that you’re writing called Killer Pizza. What is that?
AG: Yeah, that’s my next big thing that’s really taking up all of my focus this year. KILLER PIZZA is a really big GHOSTBUSTERS-style movie and I’m working with Chris Columbus (HARRY POTTER 1 & 2, PERCY JACKSON) on it. I’m very glad that I held out and waited for the right thing because a lot of studio assignments and studio level jobs that I’ve been approached for were never anything I ever wanted to see, let alone spend years of my life working on. Older agents that I’ve had would be like, “You’re screwing up. Don’t you want to get out of this indie world?” And I said, “Not really…” I just want to tell the stories that I want to tell. So, when 1492 Pictures sent me the book for KILLER PIZZA, I instantly like it, but the book is very, very thin. There’s not all that much to it because it’s really written for eight-year-olds, but I came up with this bigger idea that they really responded to and they hired me to write it. It remains to be seen whether or not I’ll be directing it. It’s definitely been talked about, but this is like a $70 million movie, so I’ll wait until I’m on-set before I believe it. Regardless, to be working with Chris, who is one of my idols, and working on something that’s so fun, it’s kind of surreal.
DC: On that you’re solely the screenwriter; is there anything you’re looking at directing?
AG: CHILLERAMA. I directed a segment which will be out in the fall, but KILLER PIZZA is the big focus right now. I mean, there are three other things I could do, but I’m really trying to make KILLER PIZZA my focus and not be spread too thin. There’s nothing I can really announce yet, but there is a TV thing in the works and then there’s a new web series we made at the end of last year that nobody knows about that’s going to be launching through Comedy Central’s Atom.com in a matter of weeks.
Hatchet II – Blu-ray and DVD Trailer
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DC: Are you still doing standup?
AG: No, I haven’t done standup in a long time, probably not since the year that HATCHET went into production. I’d gone back a couple of times randomly, but I’ve really sort of fallen out of it. My little group that I had – there was like five of us – for about two years, we did standup together and shows and everybody has really blown up since then which has been great to see: Chris Romano and Eric Falconer created that show BLUE MOUNTAIN STATE on Spike, Andy Samberg, of course, with SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. So, it’s been great to see that little group of people who could barely scrape money together and eat years ago have now gone off and done stuff. I might try and do the standup thing again sometime, but it’s terrifying. If you fall out of practice, it’s not like a bike where you can just get back on it. It takes a lot of work. Andy, I think, was always the best out of our whole group of people. You can just see it in everything he does. He’s just fuckin’ hilarious. One of my issues with it was to be a good standup, you have to do the same material over and over and over again and really hone it and work it. I could never do that. I’d always get bored with it and tried to do new stuff every single time. So, some nights were great, other nights not so great, but I was proud that I was always doing something different.
DC: Since you’re so involved in the horror genre and I know you’re a huge fan, what is your impression of where the genre is now as far as film goes? I mean, there’s such a huge difference between what American film is doing and what the Koreans and Europeans are doing. I’m wondering what your take is on the genre itself. Is it healthy? Is it dying? And where do you see it going?
AG: It’s never dying and it will never actually be dead. This is one of the only genres that people are currently trying to assess. “Where’s it at? Where’s it going?” You never really know until ten years later and you look back at that decade and you sort of figure out what the overall theme was and what was going on. I mean, for me, the 2000s have been the worst decade overall. There’s been so many great movies, but overall, it’s really going to be remembered as Generation Zero. It’s all remakes of things done before. I just think that was a trend for the business model. Maybe we’re going to see more original movies start getting through with mainstream releases and not always being condemned to these limited theatrical engagements, but… I don’t know. While I personally wouldn’t make a movie like HUMAN CENTIPEDE necessarily, to see something like that not only get made, but become a part of pop culture where everybody knows about it just because it’s so disgusting [laughs] … that’s pretty cool to see something like that happen, but do I really want to see more movies of people eating each other’s shit? Not me personally necessarily, but I really love what they did with that. I don’t know if you’ve ever interviewed Tom Six, but that guy is awesome! He is so funny. And then, there are things like A SERBIAN FILM. It’s cool to see that they’re still pushing people’s buttons and they’re still pioneering forward, but for me personally, I wouldn’t necessarily gravitate toward something like that. I mean, who knows, but… I’m more about entertaining and having fun. I’m very lucky I get to actually do that.
DC: You mentioned Human Centipede and A Serbian Film. These are films that are not necessarily American much less mainstream. I watch a ton of films and most of the stuff I get excited about isn’t American. I wonder about where we’re heading. Are we going to be more and more safe in our art and will we continue to pull back as opposed to the films coming out of places like Thailand and Korea that really got for it, really try to be scary.
AG: It depends on how you look at it because they’re definitely doing some crazy stuff and even if you look at – and this is not really a horror film – RARE EXPORTS. That movie would not get made here just because the financing entities here would not make that movie. They wouldn’t understand it and they wouldn’t do it. So, it’s a great movie and there’s great stuff coming out of those places, but it’s the American horror movies that are still dominating the world in terms of actual success. Especially a guy like me, I’m not always impressed with box office. “It made this much money!” That doesn’t mean it’s good. Look at something like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. I fucking love that movie and I totally get how it works here with those movies, if you don’t see it before everything blows up with it, it’s a different movie. Getting handed that DVD and not having any idea what it was, after a few minutes, I thought, “Ok, it’s a little like BLAIR WITCH, whatever.” But I totally went for it and I loved it. Once it came out and became a phenomenon, everybody tried to hate on it, but that was a great thing for American cinema, I think, in terms of “here’s somebody with a great idea, it was well executed with no money and no connections, and look what they did.” It’s inspiring and more people should look to that, people who want to do this for instance, and think about, “What can I do with what I have and how do I make the most of that?” instead of waiting for somebody else to make it happen for them.
DC: Especially now when the RED camera is pretty much affordable and there are feature quality cameras that you can pick up at Best Buy. More and more, I think the technology is falling into the average Joe’s hands who don’t know anything about the studio system and are financing like back in the old days with their personal credit cards.
AG: The only thing is… With those toys like the RED camera, if you don’t have somebody who really knows how to use that thing and a colorist who knows how to do it, you’re still looking at videotape, as far as I’m concerned. We shot HATCHET II on the RED and it’s the first movie I’ve done that wasn’t on the 35mm. I was terrified about it, because… in some regard, it’s amazing. The workflow is so great. The fact that you can be looking at an image that is damn close to what the image is going to be rather than a flickery little video feed of what you might be getting is great. Between Will, my Director of Photography, and my colorist, Howard, I think they did very good job with it and the movie does not look glaringly like video. The movie wouldn’t be the movie it was if we’d shot it on film because it’s so expensive. With the RED, we had three cameras going on some of those action scenes like the big fight scene between R.A. Mihailoff and Kane Hodder which is one of my favorite parts of the movie. The first HATCHET never had action in it like that, but being able to have three cameras going and putting people through walls and breaking things, two huge Goliaths fighting like that… We couldn’t have done that and covered it the same way with film based on our budget. I’m definitely glad we shot with the RED, but I still don’t know that it’s necessarily really there unless you’ve got more toys than what we had. BOOK OF ELI was done with the RED and it looks phenomenal.
DC: Look at Skyline, it looks like it cost three, four, five times what it cost. I talked to the Strauses a couple of months ago and they went into this rant that was like a commercial for the RED. It doesn’t hurt that they have a visual FX company and a lot of experience making movies, but… Damn, the film looked good even if it didn’t really come together at the end.
AG: The camera is what it is, but if you’ve got the talent behind it and people who really, really know how to push it and manipulate it, it can work. I feel like I’m a couple of years too old to be really captivated with it as much as I should be. There’s just something about film that’s like… “That’s a movie!” I would shoot on the RED again. I can tell you that. It was good and I’m happy with how HATCHET II looks, especially looking at the Blu-ray. It really, really looks good and the prints in theaters looked really good, but… it’s still not film. [laughs]
DC: I hear a similar argument with books versus eBooks like the Kindle and the Nook. People who grew up looking at films on film now look at films shot on digital video, and think, “But it’s not film.” But people who are growing up watching films on digital think nothing of the difference. So, I guess what I’m asking is… is it more about preconceived notions and… I’ll use the word prejudices, but…
AG: I think it is. Normally, when I watch a movie, I’m not concerned with what film stock it was or whatever, I’m just watching the story. In that regard, it’s fine, but when you really start to pick things apart and think about the cinematography aspect and the coloring and all the other stuff, there’s a very small percentage of people who even care about that. I think most people are more interesting in, “Was it entertaining? Did I like it? Did I laugh? Was I scared? Was I moved?” Whatever they were looking for in it, they’re not looking at the film stock or the lighting. That’s not really why they’re there. But subconsciously, that does have an effect on you, so it’s hard. I might not ever get to shoot another movie on 35mm the way things are going. The RED definitely did a good job for us with HATCHET II, but… Whenever we’re coming up with other budgets and plans for these other things that we have coming up, I always start with 35mm. Then, if there’s a great way to talk me out of it, what I’m going to gain versus what I’m going to lose, I’ll definitely consider it. With HATCHET II, we definitely gained a lot by shooting on the RED.
DC: My final question is about something I alluded to earlier. Being someone involved in the indie film world, what is your opinion on the Kevin Smith Red State “four-walling” model? Is that something you embrace?
AG: I fully support it and I think that, if there is anybody out there that can do it, it’s him because this guy’s got a massive legion of fans and followers that feel like if it’s a Kevin Smith movie, they’re there. In that regard, I really hope that it works. I hope it does really well for him. It’s so difficult when you work so hard on something and then you hand it over to somebody else and it’s gone. Whatever they’re going to do with it, is what they’re going to do with it. You don’t know how much they’re going to spend on it or what they’re really doing or how much is it actually making because everybody from the box office down it lying to each other about the actual numbers. I hope it works, but I don’t know if that means some first time filmmaker can make a movie and, even if it’s a good movie, go out and have a success with it. With him, it’s different especially with him touring with it. So, when it comes to your city, Kevin Smith is going to be there to show the movie and talk, every show is going to sell out. I hope. I’m a fan of his and… It’s one of those things you see in this industry all the time, even with directors, it’s like you make a movie that people like, you have some success, and then they just want to fucking tear you down. I don’t understand all the sarcasm and back-handed comments about him deciding to put the movie out by himself. Good for him!
DC: He was on Twitter today saying that he plans on having his accounting books be completely open and he’ll be talking about how much money they’re making at venues and when they go into the black. I think that kind of stuff is so brave. I’m all for anything that shakes up the mold. The same thing is happening in the publishing world with the advent of eReaders and electronic publishing. So, anyone who shakes the ant farm is gold in my book.
AG: We’ve done it for years. You look at how many millions HATCHET generated worldwide… Who got that? Where did that money go? It didn’t go to all of us. You’ve got your little percentage which is a little percentage of a little percentage that they’re lying about. It’s hard. With every movie, we always get to that point where we ask, “Do we need a distributor? Do we really need to do this?” I hope it really works for Kevin. I’m a big supporter of him because… there have just been a lot of parallels between he and I. So many interviews I’ve done where people know both of us. I don’t know him. I met him like once. When the whole HATCHET II coming out unrated and all of the controversy that started with it, so many people would call me at home or emailed me to say, “I really support you on this, but I can’t say anything because I have a movie coming out soon. I don’t want to get involved, but you’re right.” There was one interview in The Huffington Post, I think, where he was one of the only other directors who actually went on the record and made a comment about it. I thought that was fuckin’ cool. He’s had his own problems with them just over language. It’s just weird, especially when you start out in your career and you’re making a movie like HATCHET, you’re not really planning on shaking things up. Even last year at this time when shooting the movie, I never would have thought that everything that was going to happen was going to happen with fighting back against the ratings board and going out unrated and all the things that happened. I never would have wanted it or thought about it. Years from now, I think I’ll look back at it and think, “Wow, that was pretty amazing,” but when you’re going through it, it sucks. It’s like getting a root canal. You feel better afterwards, but at the time, it sucks! [laughs]
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