With Tribeca Film giving Hansel & Gretel Get Baked a nationwide VOD and digital release on February 19th and screenings in select cities on February 22nd, we thought it time to bring you our interview with the flick’s director, Duane Journey. Look for our review tomorrow!
Produced by James Cotton (Madison County), Brett Hudson and Mark Morgan with executive producers William S. Beasley and Michael Pollack, Hansel & Gretel Get Baked was penned by first-time feature screenwriter David Tillman. The film stars Twilight actor Michael Welch as “Hansel,” Molly C. Quinn as “Gretel” and Lara Flynn Boyle (“Twin Peaks”) as “Agnes” the witch and revolves around an old crone (Boyle) who lives in Pasadena, California, and lures teens into her house with a special blend of marijuana in order to eat the adolescents in an effort to maintain her own youth and beauty.
Shooting day nineteen of twenty-one, we sat down with director Journey just outside Stage #3 at Gower Studios in Hollywood, CA, on January 30th of 2012 to chat with him about his approach to the material, and he proved not only enthusiastic and affable, but also a horror fan through and through.
“It’s been going great,” Journey told us, who previous to Hansel & Gretel Get Baked worked as a key grip on countless genre films and television series, as well as in the capacity of assistant director, line producer and more.
“It has been a tight shooting schedule, but when we put together the script, it was kind of done in a way that it could be done. A lot of the story takes place in the witch’s house and in this kind of underground cavern, where all of her magical marijuana grows, so it was actually written to work on a tight schedule with minimal locations. I have shot on tight [schedules] in the past.”
“It’s been challenging,” Journey continued. “It’s a horror film with a lot of action and adventure elements. I mean, I don’t get to blow up buses or anything like that on this kind of show, but there is a lot of action to it, and on a tight schedule that’s always tricky. This cast has been great, though, and they’ve really helped me through the process, and they are having a really good time with it. It’s a very fun script, and I think that keeps everyone laughing and light.”
Given the limitation of rationed time, “We are shooting in 4K HD on the RED,” Journey told us when we asked of the project’s camera package. “I haven’t shot a lot on the RED camera. I’ve shot mostly film, so it has been different for me, but I really enjoy that I can see it. The system they have for me here allows me to see dailies within hours of shooting, and that’s what we all wanted ten years ago! Literally twenty-five minutes after I shoot a scene, I can see it with full color correction, and I can actually look at it and manipulate it, and I’ll know if I need to get another shot. On a schedule like this, it’s incredible, and I have a lot of heavy makeup and a lot of creature effects and a good amount of gore, so to be able to go in and see it the night I shoot it, that really helps. I don’t know if I want to shoot again without that ability.”
We asked him if he felt he’d become a digital convert.
“I grew up for a lot of years shooting on film, and not necessarily always directing, but in other areas of film, too, and I must say shooting on digital is very liberating because you can print everything,” Journey offered. “I still treat it like film, though. I still want to keep my shooting ratio down to 3:1 or 4:1, but I just don’t let it roll for an hour. But it does free you up for more takes and to be able to review them all. You never had that in film. You either circled a print, or it was gone.”
As for what attracted Journey, whose past credits include work on the horror features Waxwork (1988), I, Madman (1989), Class of 1999 II: The Substitute (1994) and 1995’s Leprechaun 3, as well as over a hundred combined episodes of the television series “Felicity” and “Alias,” to the project, “Horror is hot, and horror will always be hot,” he replied. “I’m a horror fan. But also the whole thing with going back to the Brothers Grimm fairy tales; I kind of feel like people are into fairy tale stories right now, because maybe the economy is a little bad, and because Hollywood has already made a movie of every video game you can think of practically. With this, the Brothers Grimm fairy tales are very basic stories, so the idea of going back to a basic story that everyone knows, and modernizing it with a weird marijuana twist, just really appealed to me. I thought, ‘That’s cool!’”
On working with actress Boyle, “She’s brought a different character than what was on the page, and she brought a really fun character,” stated the director. “I think the character that was written was really good,” he added, “but Lara’s really brought it to life, in kind of a really ‘off the wall’ kind of fun way, and I think people will really like it. It’s not what people would expect of a Grimm witch. It’s very different. It’s not your ‘fairy tale’ witch. It’s a little strange, a little more emotional, and very quirky.”
“There’s a lot of contrast in this film,” Journey communicated regarding his visual approach to Hansel & Gretel Get Baked. “In the beginning of the film, the director of photography [John Smith] and I decided, since it’s almost very ‘fairy tale’ and Spielberg-esque but progressively gets darker, that we wanted the colors to become more saturated as it goes on. So we go from in the beginning with very clean, crisp colors to very dark and heavy greens and blues, and then into the pot forest, where it has that very fluorescent, ‘grow light’ green-blue. So we are actually filming it one way and then in color correction taking it somewhere else. So for me it was taking it from the beginning of the film, where it’s just birds and kids playing in the neighborhood, and then, ‘bam!’ It’s kind of saying, ‘In any neighborhood in America, something really screwed up could happen.’ I’m a big David Lynch fan so I like that whole attitude. I certainly wouldn’t compare myself with Lynch, but I would like to think that it has the same feeling. So that’s kind of the whole tone.”
“The other thing I wanted to do was to keep the feel of a Grimm [tale] but in a modern story, and I know that there’s a television series and other current films that are based on them, and some of them are taking them and making them very modern, and I think that’s great and that they are doing a very good job,” he continued, “but for me the trick again was to keep it in the Grimm world. Even with the clothes, like Molly’s, I wanted them to be modern, but with a Bohemian style. I wanted to see a German influence. Even in the houses I’m picking that they live in, especially the great house we found for the witch. It’s this great three-story house, built in 1890, with stone and dark wood, and it actually has a basement that has nine rooms in it, and that’s hard to find in California. Initially we were going to build those sets on a sound stage, but when I saw the house, I thought, ‘Okay, this is scaring the shit out of me, so let’s shoot here.’ So I am trying to keep the original German influence, just for fun, to see if people catch the references. Costume designer Elizabeth Jett did a great job helping with this, and so did production designer Billy Jett.”
Journey concluded of Hansel & Gretel Get Baked, “I’m not going for campy with this film. There is some comedy, and a ‘wink and a nod’ approach like a lot of 80’s and early 90’s horror. The horror fan base is very smart and literate, and they know their stuff, so you hope that they like what you are doing. We are having fun with it.”
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