Filmmaker Adam Green’s newest project, Digging Up The Marrow, is currently touring select cities and will be released digitally on February 20 and on DVD on March 23. Green recently sat down with Dread Central to talk about the film, and per usual he had a lot to say!
In part one of this two-part interview, Green gave us all the dirt on Digging Up The Marrow (review here). It’s a project that he and ArieScope Pictures did their best to keep under wraps during its incredibly long production. “We tried to have no expectations by not putting anything out, and it’s been amazing what the reaction has been,” Green said.
Green opened by giving some advice for those planning on seeing Digging Up The Marrow in the near future. “It’s a unique kind of movie that’s a rare blend of reality with fantasy,” Green said. “If you already know you’re planning on seeing this because you’re a fan of mine or a fan of Alex Pardee, maybe even skip the trailer and don’t look at anything and just go into it cold. It’s a lot of fun. We didn’t realize how scary it was going to be for some people, but it’s been a joy sitting through screenings and watching people lose their minds and freak out.”
“The general concept for this spun out of when Frozen was shown at Sundance,” Green said. “We were so excited, so over the moon over the reviews and the reactions and people were fainting and throwing up… now that happens every year at Sundance, but at the time that was really special. So we were kind of disenchanted when the producers of that movie were very much counting on Overture putting that movie out and it was going to finally be a movie of ours that was promoted correctly and had commercials and billboards and all those things we’ve never had. Thankfully, because of the fans, we’ve always succeeded, regardless. As much as all of our films have been released theatrically, we’ve never had that big Hollywood release, and Frozen felt like the one that was going to be it.”
“Unfortunately,” that was not meant to be, Green continued, as “Overture went out of business right when Frozen was finished. So when we went to Sundance and were getting those reactions from people like Rex Reed who said, ‘I predict instant box office gold,’ we already knew that Anchor Bay was putting it out and we appreciated those hundred screens, for sure, and I think they did the best anyone their size could do. We knew that it was headed the same way as anything else.”
Green continued on the genesis of Digging Up The Marrow. “So we were sitting around the office kind of disenchanted and I was pointing at the Coffee and Donuts poster which was the first thing that Will (Barratt) and I ever made and we made that just using any assets we had available to us,” Green said. “And I wrote a story that was my real life story and I was in it and we shot it and it became “Holliston” eventually. So I said, ‘Why don’t we go back to that again? I know we have the next Hatchet movie we’re already filming and we have all this other stuff, but why don’t we do this thing that only we could do and we don’t need to answer to any outside people. We’re going to need money to do this, but let’s not give it away to some distributor before we even get started. Let’s not pre-sell foreign. Let’s not let anybody know what we’re even doing.'”
“And that’s part of the reason the movie took so long to make, but that was part of the joy of it, the concept of having this monster movie told in such a realistic way. If we had made up a fake cult filmmaker who makes fake movies, who works in a fake studio who wears fake crew shirts and has fake fans, that wouldn’t be the same movie. You’ve got to remember there is a whole world of people who are going to see this movie, a lot of them are going to see it on cable or Netflix, and they’re going to have no idea who I am and they’re going to think I am a fake filmmaker when they watch this. For a lot of people, though, it just grounds the movie and makes it very real.”
Then things started to come together for the team as pieces were falling in place. “The whole concept came together when, after we came back from Sundance and we were looking to come up with something we could do on our own,” Green said, “and the one thing I pointed to just as an example of an idea that we could use was a piece of fan mail from someone claiming that Victor Crowley was real and that I fucked up the whole mythology in Hatchet and I didn’t get anything right. It had images of swamps with areas circled and it was like, ‘In the movie you say they’re in Honey Island Swamp, and the real Victor Crowley didn’t die anywhere near there.’ It was very, very creative fan fiction and it was very well done and we were all laughing at it and I said, ‘What if we grab a camera and we went and asked this guy to prove it? Maybe it could just be the Halloween short. Maybe we could edit five or ten usable minutes out of that; that would really be funny.’ Ultimately, we didn’t want to do anything with Hatchet or Victor Crowley because the sequel was already coming out in a few months. And it was definitely Will (Barratt) who said, ‘And what happens when this guy Deliverances you out in the swamp?’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re right.’ So we threw that idea out.
“A week or two later I was at a Fangoria convention here in LA signing and this guy walks through the line and he hands me this pamphlet called Digging Up The Marrow,” Green said. “He didn’t want anything from me. He just said, ‘Thanks for all the inspiration,’ and walked away. That night, when I started reading it in bed, I saw the artwork and I was like, ‘Holy shit, that was Alex Pardee!’ I knew his artwork, but I didn’t know what he looked like. I had never met him before. The whole concept of Marrow was that a former Boston Police Detective named William Dekker had contacted Alex because he had found The Marrow and this whole crazy story and he had commissioned Alex to paint these creatures and that kind of put everything together. It wasn’t just Alex’s artwork and the monsters. His concept was exactly along the lines of what we were already trying to do. It was just perfect how it all clicked. It was kind of something that was this cool mixture between art and film and reality and fantasy, and we could do this and keep it secret. If you recall, we just kept saying it was an art documentary and that way nobody was interested. Nobody asked me any questions about it. Nobody wanted set visits. Everyone was like, ‘Oh yeah. Whatever.’ And that’s how we stayed under the radar through the whole thing.”
The question of belief in the unknown was a major part of Digging Up The Marrow. Green discussed what that belief means to him. “I do believe,” Green said. “It’s hard to explain. It’s like trying to explain why you’re religious. Nine out of ten times you can’t prove anything. You can’t show any physical proof of something. People will say every time a child is born it’s a miracle of god… or two people had sex, however you want to look at it. But I do believe; I always have since I was a little kid. And I think my childish and innocent outlook on monsters is that they would be my friend. And if there was one in my closet when I was a kid or under my bed, he’s there because he’s protecting me or he likes me or wants to be around me or he likes my toys, whatever it might be.”
And that idea on monsters spawned from a legendary film. “I think a lot of it was realized at age eight when I saw E.T.,” Green said. “A lot of my friends were scared of E.T., at least at first. They thought the movie was scary. To me, I would have been Elliott and it helps I was a boy just like Elliott. I was Elliott’s age when I saw that movie and I had all the same toys. If I met an alien or a monster, I wouldn’t even think that it’s going to hurt me. I would want to show him my toys and I would want to tell him all the important things, like who Greedo is and who Hammerhead is. There’s an innocence to that which thankfully I’ve been able to keep by doing this for a career. It’s been wonderful doing these press days so far and hearing from so many people that the movie was done so realistically that it reinvigorated their belief and their love and affection for all this type of stuff.”
However, two specific events occurred which made viewing of Digging Up The Marrow a bit difficult on Green. “Once it was done, right at the beginning of 2014, it went out for all the big expenses: score, coloring, and visual F/X, etc. Once all those things start happening, there’s no turning back,” Green said. “Then Dave Brockie died and I wanted to take out the little piece with him at the beginning because that was shot in 2012 backstage before we went onstage for Comic-Con and he said, ‘After I’m dead, I’ll be a dead monster.’ I have a hard time watching that… at screenings it gets a huge laugh or applause so loud you don’t even hear the next two people. But I have a problem watching that so I wanted to take it out. The team around me had to say, ‘You’re too close to this. Why would you want to rob GWAR fans and “Holliston” fans and fans of Dave of seeing his last recorded bit as Oderus? Why would you take that away just because it makes you feel uncomfortable?’ I was like, ‘You’re right, you’re right.'”
Green continued, “Then, I wind up getting divorced. In a million years I never saw that coming and I went through this whole year of just being absolutely floored and devastated and now I have to start going to screenings that show me and my now ex-wife at home together and me talking all about my wife and I’m like, ‘Fuck!’ I was like, ‘Guys, we need to cut all that stuff out.’ We would have had to re-shoot all those scenes because of the information; it’s not about showing my home life. Again, if it was a fake filmmaker, we’d have to show how this is affecting their real life and what their real life is. So everyone was like, ‘If you take that out, now we have to re-shoot that again in a really, really contrived way of getting that information across just because you’re uncomfortable.’ So I was like, ‘You’re right. You’re right.”
“So the hardest aspect of this movie was all the second guessing because it’s a way personal movie. You make a decision that this is what we’re gonna do and I know it’s bold and I know what we’re in for…’Fuck it, we’re going to do it.’ And then, of course, like anything, we’re all human. You start to get a little nervous. Did I put myself too out there? For me, those two things specifically made it hard. But for me, there are only a few more screenings I’ll ever sit through of this movie. The movie will live forever. It’s not about my comfort level. I can do my best to crack jokes about it, but it’s certainly odd when you can feel so many people in the audience, when Dave says that, or when they see Rileah and I at home all happy, you can feel the energy in the room get all sad and awkward because they know I’m in there. It’s tough.”
However, the extremely loyal fans of Adam Green and ArieScope did their best to help Green through troubling times. “The fact that we had to go do promotion for Season Two of “Holliston” like eight days after Dave died and we had to do an in-store signing because we’d already committed, as a cast that was extremely hard,” Green said. “But everybody carried us through it. The fans helped us through it. I say this all the time and it sounds ridiculous, but nobody else has the fan base like I do, the fan base like ArieScope does. Most people write because they want you to sign something or they want a letter back or they’re after an autographed head shot. We get letters, me specifically, where they’re just saying, ‘I hope you’re okay. I’m thinking about you.’ Or they send candy or gifts, and it’s not one or two things; it’s like an overwhelming amount. There was one morning when I came into the office right after Dave had died, and the whole gate was loaded with candles and teddy bears and flowers. It reminds you how worth it this is.”