Adam Green Talks Holliston, Hatchet III, Killer Pizza and more!
It seems like just yesterday that Adam Green's artful use of Internet marketing heralded the arrival of Hatchet, its mock trailer offering the promise of a back-to-basics slasher trumpeted as the return of 'old school American horror' with some of the genre's most respected icons.
Jump forward six years to present day, and a hungry Hatchet fan base are looking forward to the imminent release of the third chapter, testament to the widespread appeal of Victor Crowley, Green's gloriously old school, axe-wielding creation. Foregoing some much needed sleep to speak with us, the filmmaker gracefully sat down to talk of the second season of his and fellow genre director Joe Lynch’s horror comedy sitcom "Holliston" (Blu-ray / DVD review here), his producing gig on Hatchet III, and his scribe duties on the upcoming Chris Columbus-produced kids’ monster-fantasy Killer Pizza. Last but not least, he even dropped us a few pointers on getting your own independent horror opus out there and seen by the right people…
Dread Central: For those not in the know, tell us about "Holliston"…
Adam Green: "Holliston" is a traditional multi-camera sitcom just like "Friends" or "Seinfeld", only it's about two guys that are trying to be horror movie filmmakers, and so with that comes all kinds of weird things that you wouldn’t normally see in a traditional sitcom, like an imaginary alien that lives in a closet, lots of gore and blood and guts… things that a regular network show would never do; and I think that's why it resonated with horror fans so much. Normally I wouldn’t watch shows like that… they're just not really for me. I can’t relate to it. This is one that feels as broad and normal as one of those shows, but then it’s got that something else for us.
Dread Central: How did the idea come to be?
Adam Green: The show was actually in development for thirteen years and there were several times over those years where it was at different networks, and then they would always neuter it to make it like everything else on TV and it would get away from me. For some reason or another the show wouldn’t end up actually getting shot. Usually based on a merger between two networks, the development would end up getting lost. When we knew that the show was actually gonna happen with FEARnet, the very first person I went to was Dave Brockie, who plays Oderus in GWAR. I've been a GWAR fan my whole life; and I was like, if we could actually have him, that would be hilarious! What’s been interesting is that there’s so many mainstream fans of "Holliston" now that have no idea he's in a band and have no idea what GWAR is and now they’re finding that. They look him up and are like, “Wait a minute; this guy's actually a character in a band!?!” I don’t know that GWAR is necessarily for those people, like my mom for instance. She’s like, “That guy’s hilarious,” and I'm like, that’s a real thing that he does, and she looks him up and she's horrified! He's just the nicest guy in the world. I've been very, very lucky that in this career path all the people that I was a fan of growing up have surpassed every expectation that I could have forced upon them as a fan. People say how shady this business is and how many assholes there are, which is true to some extent, but I sort of found the opposite. Ninety-nine percent of the people I've met have been the nicest, greatest people and were so excited to work on this stuff. It's just awesome.
It funnels down from me and my producing partners and the fact that I’ve used the same crew for about thirteen years now. There's a lot of movies where there's a director that took the job because it was gonna pay them and it's like, fine I'll do this one, and I think in the case with me because I've been able to navigate outside the studio system... [But] to be clear, I still do plenty of studio writing assignments for money. I don’t want people to think I'm this renegade that refuses to do this stuff. That's the stuff where you really get paid a lot of money so I still do it, I just don’t really talk about it. My own projects, which are the ones that everyone sees that come out, I'm so happy to be there and I'm so excited about it that it sort of becomes contagious for the whole crew. We've rarely had a set that wasn’t extremely fun.
It actually started back in high school. I had a high school that was very fortunate because we had a morning radio show. It was an after school radio programme. It was just this 10-watt station that really only reached the town. I did the morning show with my friend Steve; it was called "Coffee and Donuts". Every morning we would go to school at four in the morning, which right there sort of shows my psychotic motivation for this stuff because I don’t know many high school kids that would do that (laughs). It was good because we had a captive audience. The kids who had shows in the evening, you’re competing with TV shows and life and other things people do, but at six o’ clock in the morning when your alarm clock goes off, you have no other choice! I also had my first girlfriend, who I met when I was fourteen years old, and we dated forever. In college we broke up and it was the worst thing I ever went through… I think anybody can relate to that because your first love, that heartbreak, sometimes it sticks with you forever… so when I first actually attempted to make a movie, the movie was called Coffee and Donuts. I made it for four hundred dollars… I wrote it, directed it, shot it, edited it, scored it, started it. I didn’t know what was gonna happen with it but it wound up winning a film festival and then being sold as a TV series that never happened. "Holliston" is really Coffee and Donuts only now it’s not about two guys on the radio, it’s really close to my life because it’s about the struggles at the time when I was still trying to become a horror filmmaker. The most rewarding thing about this aside from the success of it blowing up so fast and the fact that we're in production on a second season is mind-blowing, but the fact that the fan mail is very different from any other fan mail I get. With Frozen or Hatchet it's always just like, oh I love the movie or the movie kicks ass; but this, it’s heartfelt letters from people who are like, I've finally seen myself portrayed up on the screen or I'm going through that now and it’s giving me hope and it’s inspiring me, telling me I should keep going… that’s really what the show's about.
The message really is if you really don’t let the negativity of everybody stop you or even worse than that, disenchant you and turn you into a bitter sour person -- which is a lot of the people in this industry. You go to a Friday morning matinee in LA and all it is, is out of work writers and they sit there and they watch the trailers and go, “Are you serious?! Are you serious?!” What do you think is gonna happen for you if you do that? You can’t do that. You just gotta worry about you and if something happened for somebody else, then good for them! That's really what this show is about, not giving up. Awful things happen to the characters on the show. They all have big dreams and they never really seem to pan out, but that’s really life, and we keep fighting. Hopefully the audience keeps fighting, too.
On Spiral and Frozen…
Adam Green: Spiral was really the movie that helped make Frozen happen. When I made the first Hatchet I actually made Spiral before I was done with post-production on Hatchet. If you make something and it does well, you get pigeon-holed in that. Everybody assumes that’s all you can do. I didn’t take a paycheck on Spiral because we wanted to keep all the money on-screen, but it was a great opportunity to do something that was more in the vein of Hitchcock, who is one of my biggest heroes. I know people don’t wanna hear this – I don’t wanna make slasher films! (laughs)
I wanted to make Hatchet because that was close to my heart. I came up with it when I was eight years old. The reason I made Hatchet II was that it was planned before the first one, so I had to see it come full circle, and the second reason was that the only reason I have the career I have, that I can make movies like Frozen and Spiral and have my own production company, was because of how successful Hatchet was. I felt like I had an obligation to the fans to give them the sequel and not just hand it over to other people. I needed to oversee it myself and do it. Even with Hatchet III, I'm not taking the directing credit, but I still wrote it, produced it. I’m the one who cast it. I was there every day making sure things were right. It's more of an action movie than the other two.
BJ McDonnell, who had been my camera operator on Hatchet and Spiral and so many other things that I had done… he was the right choice because he is very visual. The first Hatchet had seven on-screen kills, part two had seventeen and this one is upwards of thirty! (laughs)
Dread Central: Can you tell us a little about Killer Pizza?
Adam Green: It’s called Killer Pizza and it's based on a children’s book by Greg Taylor. The script is actually nothing like the book, besides the title and maybe some of the character names. It was written for eight-year-olds. In the book it’s about a kid who gets a summer job at a pizza place and then finds out it’s a monster hunting organization, and they’re after this one monster. In my version it’s a whole world of monsters that they’re after and it’s all monsters that you’ve never seen before. It’s not zombies and werewolves, typical stuff, it’s all completely new things that I've made up. The beauty of that project is that the reason why I became a screenwriter was because of Chris Columbus, who wrote Gremlins and Goonies. When I was a kid I was so impressed with the Goonies because these kids actually spoke how I spoke. Normally when you’re a kid and you go to see a kids’ movie, it feels like an adult wrote their version of how they think kids speak. Chris was so influential on me and I’ve loved every single movie he's ever made. I mean Home Alone, Harry Potter – the guy can do no wrong. When they called and said, “Chris would like to meet you, and we want you to read this book and see what you think”, I was overjoyed! It really feels like an Amblin movie. It feels like one of those summer kids’ movies like Gremlins or Goonies or even Back to the Future in some ways. Ghostbusters actually most of all, in terms of tone because it's a very fun movie. This is a little bit more violent and scary, but we'll see how it actually turns out. MGM is making the movie now. The reason I didn’t sleep before this interview is because I just turned in the latest draft about two and a half hours ago. It’s crazy, man, doing this studio writing thing. You spend like a month, two months, doing your first draft and you turn it in… There's seventeen people telling you what to do. You have to sort of take all of that and make something of it, try to please everybody… that's where movies end up going wrong. It’s when people who are not writers or filmmakers are trying to tell you how to make a movie. In this case the guy in charge of all of it is actually one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and he's got my back. Every note that I get on this, even from the studio, from everybody, it’s been very smart. It’s made the script better. It’s really evolved into something a little bit more adult, a little bit more edgy. They really pushed me to make it a little more violent and scary... this latest draft I'm turning in is such a hard R.
Dread Central: How did production go on Hatchet III compared to the other chapters?
Adam Green: This time we shot in the New Orleans swamp for the whole thing... so for this one we're in a real swamp. If I could show you the bug bites all over my body… just the mud and the heat and how awful it was! The shoot was really, really hard. This was supposed to be my victory lap. I was down to oversee it, make sure things kept on track and help BJ when he needed it. There were seven movies shooting in New Orleans when we were there, some of them had huge budgets, and then there was us. Some of the crew we got, we couldn’t use my usual crew who were the greatest people in the world, so we had people who were used to doing things their way, which was a little bit slower with a little bit of attitude... That was very, very hard. Some of the personalities we were up against…
The movie is so ambitious. I can't really talk about what exactly happens; but it's very big, its obviously very violent, there’s a lot of action and the ending is really gonna be something for the fans. I didn’t wanna direct another Hatchet movie, I did two of them and I couldn’t do it again. With Killer Pizza and "Holliston" and five other projects that I can't even talk about yet, to just stop everything to go direct another Hatchet movie… I would have only been doing it to do it. That’s not the right reason to do it. It almost felt like I got to direct from another step up. Like I was pulling the strings. I'm like, you’ll use this actor, you'll do it this way and the fact that I still got to write it and dictate everything that was gonna happen, every kill… I think it will still feel like one of my movies, but it really is in BJ's visual style, which is incredible. It just looks so much bigger than the other two. I think people are really gonna be happy with it.
On production of the first Hatchet…
Adam Green: I tell these stories about how I did it on the commentaries, on the special features. We're very honest with all of it and we explain how we did it, how we put these movies together. Don’t try to be me – you’ve got to try to be you! Hatchet 1, the way we were able to attract private equity financing was by making a mock trailer. We weren’t the first people to ever do that, but we were one of the first who really did it right and made it work. That mock trailer went everywhere and had all the Internet buzzing, and that made it a little bit easier for us when we found a private equity investor who liked the script, who was looking to do a genre movie. We could say go home and Google Hatchet tonight and see what comes up, and they see all these websites talking about it and how excited they are… now I have all these aspiring filmmakers who write to me who say, “I did the same thing; I made a mock trailer and put it on YouTube, and nothing happened…” Everyone does that every day now! Think of something else, think of your thing, how you’re gonna draw attention to it!
Dread Central: Any advice for those attempting to follow in your footsteps?
Adam Green: You have to shoot all the time. There's no excuse anymore! When I was starting, I had to get a job at a cable company and steal their equipment at night to make short films because I couldn’t afford a camera. Now, your iPhone can shoot HD! You can find a way to do this stuff! Don’t just think the first thing you're gonna shoot is gonna be it. It won’t. My first short film is terrible but I learned from it. I got better and even now to this day I have a lot to learn. Short films really are the way. Challenge yourself and keep writing, especially if you wanna be a director. Most importantly, be a good person. If you're James Cameron, fine -- you can afford to walk around the set and yell at people and do whatever you gotta do, but nobody else can. If want good people to work with you and work on your low budget things and throw down and give you favours, let you use their steadi-cam for free, they’ve got to like you… and my one piece of advice for what not to do – don’t just blindly try and solicit filmmakers you like on Twitter or Facebook and ask will you watch my short or will you read my script. We get it all day long. It’s never gonna work, you're never gonna get someone to go “OK, I'm gonna watch it and write to you and say you're a genius, how can I help make your movie?” Sending your stuff to another writer and another director is not the way to go. You need to try to get yourself in front of people who finance things, people with money and producers who find money. That’s who you’re after. So, festivals, getting festival awards, going to them and networking. Networking isn’t showing your business card and talking for five minutes and now there's a relationship there. That’s not networking. Networking is making short films with the same people, meeting them. Get a job as an assistant at a talent agency or a management company. You will learn so much and meet every single person out there and make real friends that two years later will be studio executives and they know you, who will read your script and take it seriously. I'm so offended when I'm on Facebook and someone is like, “I wrote a script, will you read it?” I'm like, “That’s not how I did it!” I get it -- you're trying everything you can, but not that! Do something, make everybody notice you. I remember some of the people at autograph signings tried to shove their scripts in my face and I've gotten angry. Don’t let everyone get you down. Everybody’s gonna tell you the odds. Everyone's gonna tell you no. Everyone's gonna tell you it’s probably not gonna happen.
If you think that’s bad, wait till you actually make the thing, and then there’s all these websites run by jackasses in their Mom's basement who have never even kissed a girl and they can't spell anything right and get all the facts wrong about the movie… you can’t argue with these people, everyone's got a voice online. The more negative you are, the more of a reaction you get. If you’re positive, nobody really cares. If you’re negative and a dick, especially if you make it personal... like when I read a review that says, “I hated the movie so much that I hate Adam Green so much that I hope he gets cancer and his children die”. Has it really come to this? It's a fucking movie!
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