Stay away from that cabin or hatchet face will get you. Those were the words that a young Adam Green heard during his stay at Camp Avoda in Middleboro, Massachusetts. While Green’s stay at “Camp Work” wasn’t the experience he was hoping for, a seed had been planted in his mind that would push him toward his destiny of becoming a creative force in the entertainment industry. It is hard to believe that Green’s 2006 film ‘Hatchet’, a bloody ode to old school American horror, had such innocent beginnings.Building off the success of the critically acclaimed ‘Hatchet’, Green quickly transformed himself from a relatively unknown horror director to an award winning filmmaker and producer at his company ArieScope Pictures. His upcoming films ‘Frozen’ and the recently announced ‘Hatchet 2’ are highly anticipated and will be a breath of fresh air in a genre that is bloated with big budget remakes and unoriginal ideas. It is clear to see that Adam Green shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon and trust us, that is a good thing. The horror genre is a better place with Green’s uncanny ability to tell a story and expertise behind the camera. Steve Johnson of Icon vs. Icon sat down with Adam to discuss his past, his experiences while on the set of ‘Hatchet’, what it was like to produce Paul Solet’s critically acclaimed ‘Grace’, the state of modern horror, the fact that he really is a softy and not some raging psychopath, and his upcoming films ‘Frozen’ and ‘Hatchet 2’.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a town called Holliston, Massachusetts. It’s a little town about forty five minutes outside of Boston. We had farms there and cows and chickens. Not my family, but it was a very small town.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
It all sort of happened when I was eight years old. Every event that made me want to do this happened sort of that summer. A big thing was seeing ‘E.T.’ for the first time and realizing that a movie was controlling my emotions and I couldn’t. And somehow understanding that somebody wrote this and that alien isn’t real, it’s a rubber doll, yet I’m crying like an infant right now. That was the movie that really made me want to pursue film making and understand it more. It was also the same summer that my parents sent me to this terrible summer camp called Camp Avoda. I found out years later that Avoda means work. So technically my parents sent me to fucking Camp Work. [laughs] Other kids, they go to camps and they make out with girls and they play sports. I was cleaning toilets and scrubbing floors. [laughs] While I was there the counselors had told me to stay away from this one cabin or else ‘hatchet face’ would get me. That was where ‘Hatchet’ all came from. So I think when I was eight it all just sort of clicked.
Did you have any influences, be it other directors or otherwise?
Well growing up I think Steven Spielberg was a huge influence. Chris Columbus, as a writer at the time. I think ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Gremlins’ were probably two of my favorite movies ever when I was growing up. John Landis has always been an inspiration, just in the fact that if you look at his career in the eighties when I was growing up he had the top grossing comedy, one of the top grossing horrors. He was just doing everything. Ultimately that’s what I would like to do. A lot of my inspiration has also come from music. Bands like Twisted Sister and Metallica and the messages that they had and the things that those guys stood for. Especially Twisted Sister above all else because their whole message was to sort of fight authority. So for every teacher and every person in my life who was telling me, “No, it’s probably not going to happen. Your dad’s a gym teacher, you don’t have connections in Hollywood.” I’d look at those guys and see that anything is actually possible.
You are a director, writer, editor, and producer. Is there one aspect of film making that you prefer over the others?
It’s really hard. I think writing is probably the aspect that you have the most control over. It’s the most personal, but it’s also one of the hardest. Directing is where I’m usually happiest. I like being on set, I like the crews that I work with. I usually work with the same people on everything. That’s probably the one that I like the most, but it’s a lot of pressure. Especially the budgets that I’ve had for most of my films. It’s an uphill battle all the way. I can’t even imagine being handed one hundred million dollars to make a movie with. What’s your excuse then for why your movie isn’t good? [laughs] For myself, you go to the table with all of this vision and all of these things you want to do, then unfortunately the budget dictates that you can’t really do that.
What is your typical screenwriting process like?
My screenwriting process is really a bad one. I’ve been asked to speak at screenwriting panels and stuff. I’m probably one of the worse people for aspiring screenwriters to listen to. Let’s see… if I am going to write something that’s an original thing that I came up with, I don’t know when it’s going to hit, it just does. Sometimes I’ll pound out an entire script in three days, I just won’t sleep and I’ll do nothing except drink Snapple and eat bags and bags of Skittles. It’s not really the healthy and the right way to do it. If I’m doing a studio project and I have a deadline, it’s a little more structured. You have to go through the steps for them. You have to outline it, you have to do a treatment, you have to do a first draft. I hate that process. I feel like the writer should just write the thing and then if there are producers and other people involved and they want to give you input and suggestions, that’s great. When you have that happening all through the process, that’s how you end up with these bad studio movies. You have thirty people who have to say something because they have to justify their paycheck and show why they are an executive there. So everyone of them will say something. You’ll see in the meetings, sometimes they’ll fight to go first because they want to get their note out first in case somebody else has it. Some of the notes that I have gotten over the years, they’re just great stories. For instance, I wrote the animated ‘Aquaman’ movie for Warner Brothers. One of the notes that I got from Warner Premiere was that water is very expensive to animate and they would appreciate it if I would take the scenes with water out of ‘Aquaman’. You think it’s a joke, but it’s not. In the meetings I would just laugh. The executives laughed too because they understood how ridiculous it is. For the public who sees these movies and stuff, you can’t even imagine the absurdity that goes on, which is why I really like independent cinema. I do have producers and stuff, but they’re producers that I pick and they’re producers who are trying to make the same movie I’m making. I just think it works out better that way.
Remaking classic movies is the current rage in Hollywood. As a writer and director what are your feelings on this latest trend?
I blame the fans one hundred percent. I know they always get bitchy when they hear me say that, but Hollywood makes movies that people will pay to see. The fans have put us in a position where the only movies that they support are remakes. As much as they like to get on message boards online and go on their tirades and say, “This one is raping a franchise, and this one is destroying my childhood and blah…blah…blah…” They’re the first ones in line to see it. If you look at the box office numbers for the remake of ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘Halloween’ and all of those remakes, they’re huge. Then you look at movies like ‘Behind the Mask’, where was everybody? ‘Drag Me To Hell’, which was Sam Raimi, our savior came back to us and made us a horror movie. Where the fuck were the fans? They were nowhere. That’s the problem. Hollywood would make Holocaust comedies if people would pay to see them. They don’t care what the product is, they just need to defend their jobs. The remake thing is like the perfect storm. To their bosses they can say, “It’s a pre-existing title that everybody already recognizes. This is how much money the first one made. We’re going to get this director who made this music video, or this thing, or that. We’re going to put this WB TV star in it. He we go, now we have our package.” The movie sucks and they know it, but the fans are the first ones in line and they’ll go see it twice and then they’ll buy the DVD. That’s why we are in this position. So for everybody who is sick of it, just stop going and it will stop! They don’t listen! They keep complaining about the lack of original horror, yet they don’t support original horror when it’s right in front of them.
Have you always been a fan of horror films and do you have a favorite?
Yeah. Again, since I was eight. I had an older brother who had shown me ‘Friday the 13th Part 2’. I think that was the very first horror film I ever saw. I love all of them. There are so many. ‘The Exorcist’ is probably one of the only ones that still really scares me. ‘American Werewolf in London’ was probably always my favorite because it was just massively entertaining. That’s the type of horror I like. I’m not really into the stuff that punishes the audience, the stuff that the only thing it has going for it is how disturbing it is. I have enough problems in my own life, I don’t need to sit through that. I like to be entertained. Stuff like ‘American Werewolf’, ‘Evil Dead’, ‘Slither’, that stuff I just think is great.
You had a six year downtime between ‘Coffee & Donuts’ and ‘Hatchet’. Why such a long hiatus and because of that hiatus, did you face any challenges while writing the script for ‘Hatchet’?
Well ‘Coffee and Donuts’ is not even a real movie. When I got out of college I had a job directing cable commercials at Time Warner Cable in Boston. Another guy up there, Will Barratt, who’s been my D.P. for twelve years now, he and I started stealing the equipment. We made ‘Coffee and Donuts’ for four hundred dollars. Because it’s listed on IMDB, everybody always takes that seriously as my first film. It was a four hundred dollar video. It did wind up getting picked up by Disney. It won a film festival. It was developed as a TV show for UPN, but unfortunately it was the same year that UPN merged with the WB, so all of the development went away. In the time from graduating college I had done a couple years directing commercials, which is where I made ‘Coffee and Donuts’. Then I moved out to LA. I was an assistant, I was a DJ, I was an extra in a J. Lo video at one point. I just did everything I could to meet people. While I was doing that, I was writing sitcoms the whole time. I sold a couple of pilots. I think it was 2004 when I sold ‘Coffee and Donuts’ as the TV show. I was waiting to get notes back from UPN, which were like, “Take the water out of ‘Aquaman’.” [laughs] That was when I wrote ‘Hatchet’. I wrote ‘Hatchet’ in three days. It’s funny because a lot of people say, “Oh! There’s a six year hiatus between movies. Did it take you that long to write ‘Hatchet’?” I wrote ‘Hatchet’ in a weekend, which I hate admitting because it cheapens the movie a bit. [laughs] I mean you can kind of look at it and tell in a lot of different ways. [laughs] Yeah…that’s, that.
I was just watching the behind the scenes stuff and it seemed like you had it planned out to a tee.
Yeah, I wrote ‘Hatchet’ in 2004. When I showed it to my agents they liked it and they said, “You sort of either have to take the gore out of this or you have to take the jokes out of it, but you can’t do both.” I said, “Why? This is the type of stuff I grew up on. This was like the old way of doing it when horror was still fun.” They sent it out and the first rejection letter we got from a major studio said, “The writing is brilliant, however this movie will not get made because it’s not a remake, it’s not a sequel, and it’s not based on a Japanese one.” You might remember when we did festivals, that was the slogan on the poster, the rejection letter. I had it for like two years, sitting there and wondering, “What I am going to do with this thing.” Then Sarah Elbert, one of the producers, had just done the ‘Friday the 13th’ box set. She was like, “Let me show this to John Buechler and he might be able to help you.” With John’s help we made a mock trailer for ‘Hatchet’ that made it seem like the movie had already been made. There was a lot of time to really prepare to make that movie. We had no money to make it with and really even less time than we had money. We just did everything wrong. We shot it at the wrong time of year. It was all night for night outdoors. Because we shot in the summer, the sun would go down at nine and then it would come up at quarter of five. We were shooting so far away from where catering was that it would take an hour and a half to get the whole crew through lunch. So we were shooting like six hour nights. So on a twenty two day shoot, that’s like a twelve or fourteen day shoot when you have fire, make up effects, under water shots, alligators, and kids. It was ridiculous. Hopefully this time out, with ‘Hatchet 2’, we do better with the timing of things. [laughs]
You worked with several genre vets on the film. (Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, and Tony Todd) What was it like working with those guys?
It was just amazing. As a fan it was obviously cool. By the time you get to the set you are already friends with them and a little bit of the fanboyism goes away. I remember the first night that Robert Englund was on set and Kane came out of his trailer in the Victor Crowley makeup. I’m watching the two of them sit there and talk about the Victor Crowley character. Robert’s telling Kane, “This could be the next big thing. Look at this. The makeup is so great.” I’m standing in between Freddy and Jason with the biggest erection I think I’ve ever had, just thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening right now!” Tony Todd, if you look at his resume, the guy never stops working. It’s because he’s such a pleasure to work with and he’s just so damn good at everything he does. He was on set for a few hours for his little cameo in the first one. He walked onto that set and he introduced himself to everybody who was there. Every P.A., every grip, whoever was nearby, he introduced himself. He did his stuff and if I recall, he actually bowed when he was done. He said, “Thank you. Good Evening.” and he left. Everybody was just like, “Oh my God! This guy’s amazing!” So in the sequel for Hatchet, he’s the main character. That’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to, what I’m going to learn from him as an actor. He’s a very smart and very talented man.
Did you ever expect ‘Hatchet’ to have the success that it did?
Nobody did. You know… I shouldn’t say that. We obviously believed in it and we certainly fought for it. Every sale that we made was like a word of mouth, begging somebody to give the movie a chance. Nobody believed in us. When the movie was finished I showed my agents. I was reped at a place called United Talent Agency at the time, which is one of the top five and they passed on repping the film. Technically you can’t pass on repping the film if you rep the filmmaker. How do you do that? I was like, “Are you kidding?” They just said, ‘This is a straight to video Syfy Channel movie. It’s not going to go anywhere. We rep film festival movies, so we don’t want to be part of this.” Then three weeks later The New York Times, L.A. Times, and Variety are all reporting that one of the biggest hits of the Tribeca Film Festival is ‘Hatchet.’ Then of course U.T.A. is like, “OK! We’ve got a franchise here. There’s going to be a sequel.” So I promptly fired them and went with somebody else. Nobody gave us any credit the whole way. Once we finally got people to realize that the movie deserved a theatrical chance, we ended up going with a place that had never done a theatrical movie before, which was Anchor Bay. At the time they were basically a DVD catalog company of old titles. This was going to be their first thing. They didn’t really know how to release a movie theatrically then. If you look at where they’ve come since ‘Hatchet’, now they have major players in that organization from New Line and Fox Atomic. It’s like a big studio now. ‘Hatchet’ sort of paved the way. I would rather be with the underdog who has something to prove, then with a place that wouldn’t care. Then of course right when we finally got our theatrical, The M.P.A.A. came down on the movie like it was the fucking Antichrist. They butchered it. When it came out into theaters it almost hurt us. People had been hearing about the movie from the festival circuit for two years and reading these reviews and the hype was just so big. We were terrified on opening weekend. We were like, “There’s no way we’re going to live up to this. People are expecting the second coming of Christ and it’s just ‘Hatchet’.” Then of course with all of the gore cut out of the movie people were like, “What was so great about that?” That was rough.
You recently went into pre-production for ‘Hatchet 2’. What can fans of the original film expect from the sequel and will it be as bloody as the first film?
It’s going to be twice as bloody as the first one. All us sort of feel like we have a chip on our shoulder about what happened with the M.P.A.A. the first time. So I don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of the theatrical release for it. We might have to alter the movie again. What I am asking Anchor Bay to do is to not do a full theatrical release for the film and instead do midnight screenings in cities that have theaters that are willing to play the unrated version of it. Remember, it’s not overtly sexual. There’s nothing offensive in the movie, but because it’s an independent the M.P.A.A. has such a huge problem with it. Going back to what I was saying before, why is it ok to have torture films and movies with all kinds of sex and drug use? The day that I lost my trial with the M.P.A.A. was the day that ‘Hostel 2’ opened. I went to see ‘Hostel 2’. There’s that whole thing with Heather being hung upside down and ritualistically bled while there’s a naked woman masturbating in her blood. The dude’s dick gets cut off and fed to a dog, but my swamp monster with a gas powered belt sander was too offensive for theaters? Are you serious? It was a joke. So fans can expect double to body count, double the amount of gore, a much better looking Victor Crowley, and a big surprise that we’re going to be announcing hopefully the end of this week, if not the beginning of next week for who is going to be replacing Tamara Feldman in the role of Marybeth.
How far along are you on the film right now?
We are about thirty three days away from shooting. The sets are going to start being built next week. The movie is fully cast and we’re just waiting for some paperwork to close so we can start telling everybody who’s in it.
When can we expect to see it released?
It’s going to move really fast. I think in our contract we’re required to deliver it in like June or something. I know the plan is to have it out for Halloween season. If I could have my way, the world premiere would be at Fright Fest in London. That’s my favorite of the horror genre film festivals. That would be at the end of August. If they do what I’m ask them to of the midnight screenings, theatrical would be September or October, with the DVD just a couple weeks behind it.
You produced the controversial, but critically acclaimed ‘Grace’. What attracted you to the film?
Essentially the fact that it was the type of script that you read and you say this is controversial and it’s going to be critically acclaimed. [laughs]What really attracted me to ‘Grace’ was actually the director. When I was promoting ‘Hatchet’ I was at the horror conventions and I’m doing my thing and signing autographs at a booth, and some of my friends walked by and they said, “There’s this movie playing called ‘Grace’. This short film. We’re going to go in and watch it. Do you want to go see it?” I was like, “No!,” because the whole time everybody is handing me their short films and I’m like, “There’s nothing I can do for you.” Then another friend walked by and he said, “Are you going to come in and watch ‘Grace’?” I said, “No. I can’t do it right now. I’m busy.” Then I saw this kid with a dead baby in a Baby Bjorn with blood all over it walking around with a dude from ‘90210’. I’m like, “Who the hell is that?” They’re like, “That’s the ‘Grace’ guy!” I’m like, “Alright! I’m going to go see that!” I loved it. I just thought it was really smart, it was definitely scary. The short film for ‘Grace’ was four minutes, it was essentially the first act of the movie condensed into four minutes. It was just upsetting to watch a woman holding a dead baby and begging it to stay and then it comes back to life. That was the end. A few months later at another convention on the east coast, there’s the kid with the dead baby and the Baby Bjorn again. I told my D.P., “Go watch this short.” He’s like, “I don’t want to see it.” I’m like, “Dude, trust me! You’re going to like it.” He loved it. Then again in I think Chicago or something, he was out there and he was doing it. He was whoring out his short film. He was passing out these little cards to everybody. He put it in festivals and it was winning awards. So when I was finally asked to read his script, I took it much more seriously than the normal scripts that I get sent. Everybody is always trying to send me their horror script hoping that my company will make their movie because I think we’re one of the only ones who are still making original fucking horror movies right now. We just don’t really have time and we don’t really do that for the most part, but ‘Grace’ was so special and Paul Solet was so special that we took the gamble on it. It really worked because ‘Hatchet’ had just become the all-time biggest success for Anchor Bay, so they were very anxious to do another project with us. I said, “How about this one? This kid is going to direct, but you need to trust me on this. I will stand over his shoulder every day on set and I will make sure this movie is great.” We all made it together. Obviously it’s Paul’s film, he wrote and directed it, but on set we had seventeen days to shoot the movie, so he had me there to hand me a camera and say, “I need these forty two shots today. Can you get them?” I’d say, “Yep!” and I’d go get them. Everybody pitched in. When the movie got into Sundance, that was amazing. To get to sit there in the theater as the producer and not have to get up and speak and not be the center of attention, but to get to sort of be anonymous was such a great and unique feeling. You could sit back and be like, “I did this, but I don’t have to do anything for it. I can just stay back here and watch this guy have his moment.” It was amazing.
What was it like for you watching Paul Solet work behind the lens?
It was a lot easier than I thought. I really thought it was going to be hard in that I was going to sit there wanting to grab the camera all of the time from him and make suggestions. He had that movie so planned out. When we first sat down he already had the entire movie storyboarded. We re-wrote the script a bunch of times with all of us giving input. There were no surprises when we shot it, I knew everything he was already going to do and I agreed with it. If anything, I was just impressed watching him as a first time director not making the mistakes of a first time director. Most people their first time out have a hard time communicating with everybody else and getting everyone on the same page for what they want to do. There’s usually a problem where the crew has a little bit of a learning curve sort of, like a lack of respect for the first week. Whenever you’re on a film set and you’re the director, everybody else on that crew can do your job better than you and doesn’t understand why you’re the guy in charge. Especially when you’re young. You have fifty year old men on your crew looking at you like, “Who are you?” Paul handled just himself perfectly, even when things would go wrong. He never lost his temper. He never lost his cool. It was like he had been in training for years waiting for that moment and he delivered. He had to deal with a lot of political bullshit behind the scenes. There were people involved financially who just did not like that movie and didn’t believe in it, they were financing it for all of the wrong reasons. In a lot of ways it could have bit him in the ass and he maneuvered it well.
Are you happy with it’s success in the festival circuit and now on DVD/Blu-Ray?
Yeah! It’s selling great, which is wonderful. On the festival circuit, the fact that we had a combined total of four faintings was awesome. That was almost like a comeuppance for me. Whenever I’ve heard that from other films…When they’re like, “There was a screening and somebody fainted!” I always call bullshit on that. I’m like, “Who the fuck faints at a movie?” At Sundance two dudes dropped! We didn’t see it happen. We saw them walk out. One guy got up and left early on. We were already really frazzled at Sundance because we were like, “This is a really sick, disturbing movie and everyone’s laughing!” I’m in a fetal position. I’m like, “Why are they laughing?” I didn’t realize until the movie was over that they were laughing because they were so uncomfortable and they needed to laugh. Then when the movie was over and we were doing to Q&A, the guy from the Egyptian Theater, whoever owns it, comes running in and he’s like, “I just want you to know that two different men fainted and the ambulance came twice.” We didn’t even know what to say. It was amazing. In L.A. at USC we did a screening and a guy passed out in a bathroom and broke his finger. In Spain a woman passed out. I think it’s just the baby thing. It just does that to people. For myself as a producer and for myself as the guy who started ArieScope Pictures, that’s the type of thing that we want to do. I’m just damn proud of it. I hope other people are seeing that there is an audience for this type of stuff and that they’ll take chances on original movies too. I think ‘Grace’ is one of the most original scripts that I’ve read in my time out here. I’m happy that my company was the place to make it.
You just finished work on ‘Frozen’. What can you tell us about that film?
It was just announced two hours ago that ‘Frozen’ is an official selection for Sundance. This will be two years in a row at Sundance, which is huge. It will be in theaters February 5th all across America. I don’t know exactly how many screens yet. I don’t know what their plan is yet, if they’re going to start huge right away or if they’re going to work their way up. ‘Frozen’ is definitely by far and away the best movie that I have done yet. t’s a suspense-thriller and probably leans towards more of a drama at times. In fact, I would almost dare say it’s probably one of the best acted genre movies that people will see. The whole movie is about the acting. It’s basically three people in a chair. We’ve done a lot of screenings of it now. People are just white knuckling their arm rests in the theater. People are crying. People are holding their breath and panicking. It’s great. It’s a different type of horror. ‘Hatchet’ was splatter-comedy-horror. ‘Grace’ was disturbing. ‘Sprial’ was psychological. This could really happen. It preys on all kinds of real fears: the fear of heights, the fear of isolation, the fear of the cold. There’s nobody that this movie will miss. There’s nobody that will be like, “I don’t get that.” It works sort of on a very primal level, which I think is great. It ended up being the most personal movie that I’ve written yet. Even more so than things like ‘Coffee and Donuts’, which were based on my life. ‘Frozen’ was much more personal. The first draft wasn’t like that, but the producers encouraged me to keep injecting myself into it. So all three of the characters are different aspects of myself, which is kind of weird I guess. The main interesting point of the movie that I know they are going to use to sell it is that everything you see in the movie is real. There’s no soundstage, there’s no green screen, there’s no Hollywood movie magic. The actors really went through everything you see. It’s terrifying and I don’t know if I would ever have the courage to do it again. I’m not a very tough guy, I would much rather stay at home in front of my X-Box than go outside. I don’t even go for walks, [laughs] I just like to stay home. To be on the side of a mountain at ten thousand feet, dangling fifty feet in the air trying to get these shots, I don’t even know who I was last winter. I would never do it again. [laughs]
You were doing a lot more than I would!
Were the temperatures and the conditions the biggest challenges on the film?
The temperature was what it was. We had the right clothing, we were very well prepared for that. The biggest challenge was just the actual logistics of shooting it. I don’t know if you ski at all? We basically were trying to create a mountain that felt like this place called Wachusett in Massachusetts, which is kind of a shittier mountain. It’s just small and the lifts are a little old, at least when I used to ski there years ago. These lifts don’t move backward, they only move forward. We had to pick the spot where the cast gets stuck and we had to drag cranes for our lights and condors and all that stuff up the side of a mountain where there’s no road. It’s just snow and straight up a mountain. So my production team was for weeks battling, trying to get these things up there through blizzards so that we could light it. The chair had to be in a very specific spot for the cast to be in in the correct light. The chairs don’t stop on a dime, so we’d have to inch them there. It would take an hour to get them into position. If we overshot it, then they’d have to go all of the way up to the top of the mountain and around again and we’d have to wait forty five minutes to try again. It was really hard. Then the fact that the camera was seeing three hundred and sixty degrees. It was swiveling all around them. There was nowhere to have video village or anything for producers to be in. There was no tent for people to get warm in. Everybody had to be right below the chair out of the shot. Some of the hardest things were when the chair was moving and the cast was having conversations. At the time when I wrote it I was like, “Ok put a hostess tray off to the side and we’ll shoot our three shot and we’ll shoot from the chair in front of them.” Well you can’t hang a hundred pound camera on that chair with three people in it because it will fall. You can’t shoot the whole movie from one focal length in the chair in front of them. The only solution was to hang myself and my D.P. hung himself from the cable and we basically dangled with cameras in our hands. I did the close up shots and he shot the wider shots because the camera department refused to do it. They just looked at the rig that we built and they just said, “Nope! Sorry!” [laughs] I’m afraid of heights, which is why I wrote the movie. So I’m literally dangling in front of the cast in a harness in this little metal work bucket thing. As long as I was looking through the lens it was like I was watching a movie and I could handle it, but when I’d have to slate the camera or change my lens I thought I was going to piss myself. I was so scared. Once you get up to the top of the mountain there are sixty mile per hour winds, it’s like minus thirty, and we’re being blown sideways. It shows in the movie. I don’t think anybody is going to walk out of it not feeling what we went through, which I am happy about. I was so scared when we started editing. I’m like, if I get one comment where somebody says, “How hard could this have been? It’s three people on a stage!” I was going to hurt myself. There’s no denying it. Even the weather in the movie, it’s all real.
The film has an excellent cast. What was the vibe like on the set?
They were great. That was my biggest thing in casting. There’s a lot of good actors who can deliver dramatic material. It was more…, which is sort of the way I always cast everything, feeling out who the people are. Kevin Zegers was already sort of a friend. He had been dating somebody years ago who was a friend of mine. We had gone out a few times, so I knew him. He was actually the first one to suggest Shawn Ashmore, who I had never actually read for anything before. The two of them had been best friends since they were little kids. So right there their comradery was just evident, and perfect, and pure, and real. So that worked. Emma Bell was the very first person to audition for the film. She was the very first person to walk through the door. She sat down, she read, and I looked at the producers and I said, “I’m good!” They were laughing. They said, “You can cast the first girl who walks in.” After four weeks of casting that’s who we went with, which is a great story. That never happens, ever! You never cast the first person because it can’t be the first person to walk in the door, but it was. They were troopers and they hung in there. I think the thing that helped them was that they understood that as bad as they had it, the crew had it a lot worse. The crew was out there twice as long as they were out there. When all is said and done the crew gets two seconds with their name in little fine white print in a scroll that nobody looks at, where as they get all the glory for it. I think as professionals they really appreciated what the crew went through and they never complained, not once. They couldn’t go to the bathroom. They couldn’t eat. They couldn’t drink. hey couldn’t do anything when they were shooting up in that chair. My deal with them was that if they couldn’t eat or drink or go to the bathroom, I wouldn’t. I would always stand where they could see me. When catering would come around with hot soup for everybody, and coffee, and things, I wouldn’t take it. I would stand there and suffer with them. I think that they respected that as well.
Do you have any other film projects that we should be on the look out for?
Jesus. I don’t know if it would be possible to have anymore! [laughs] No, I think that’s it for right now. I’ve got ‘Frozen’ coming out and ‘Hatchet 2’ starts shooting in a couple of weeks. I don’t know what I’m doing yet after that. I’m circling a couple of things that are like studio sized movies that I am considering. I’ve got a couple of things in the pipeline, but nothing worth really mentioning yet. Anything can still happen. I would assume by the time ‘Hatchet 2’ is out I’ll definitely know for sure what my next thing is going to be.
What do you consider the defining moment of your career so far?
That’s a really good question. The answer is so stupid. I went to see ’28 Weeks Later’ at Mann’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, which is the huge theater with the hand prints of the celebrities in front of it. It’s the coolest place to go see a movie. I had no idea that they were going to show the trailer for ‘Hatchet’ before it. I’m sitting there with my friends watching the trailers and all of a sudden the Anchor Bay logo comes up and you hear the little girl’s voice. I literally had a seizure in my seat. I’m grabbing my friends and I’m like, “Oh my God!” For the first time it was a real movie. It was in the biggest theater in the United States, packed on opening night for a movie. When the trailer finished and all of the laurels of the film festivals came up and the little girl whispered, “Stay out of the swamp,” the whole theater just went nuts cheering. I was shaking. I had to leave. I had to call my mom, I had to call my girlfriend. There’s a million people I had to call to tell them this minute long trailer just played. The average person doesn’t even watch the trailers, they talk through them. Out here it’s a little bit different. People pay very close attention to them. I think that was the first time I realized I made a real movie. I dunno… I wish I could explain it further. That feeling was the most exciting part. More so than the film festivals, than the awards, than in terms of being recognized in random places. You go out and random people come up to you and they know who you are. That’s all fine and dandy, but seeing that trailer in a real theater was life changing.
I definitely would have crapped my pants too! I can tell you that!
Yeah! It was crazy! [laughs]
What is the biggest misconception about yourself?
You look at the movies, you look at ‘Hatchet’ and it’s violence. You look at ‘Grace’ and how fucked up it is. I’m just not that guy in real life. I love the stuff. I collect the toys and the whole thing. I live and breathe horror, but I’m a huge softy. I cry at ‘My Dog Skip’, I love ‘E.T.’ I first started my career writing romantic comedy type stuff. I do have something in the pipeline that Chris Columbus is producing. It’s called ‘God Only Knows’. God only knows when it’s going to actually fucking shoot. It’s been in development for years at this point. I think that’s really going to surprise people because nobody thinks of me as that guy. I’m really more of a goofball and a comedian, which I’ve kind of shown in the short films that I’m always doing just for fun. That’s another thing that I think is very important as a filmmaker. You can’t just worry about the big features because if you do that you can become jaded fast. Its so hard to do those and it’s such a different thing. When you get to just go do a short film in one day with your friends and it doesn’t matter really if it’s any good, you just want to do it, it’s a great feeling. The following that the shorts have online is just ridiculous. I think that’s also kept me in touch with the fans. They don’t have to wait so long to hear from me. There’s always something new out there.
What is the best piece of advice that someone has given you along the way in your career?
Let’s see…there’s probably three things. The first one was from my Steadicam operator whose name is BJ McDonnell. On the set of ‘Hatchet’ I wasn’t feeling well and he said, “Once it’s past 2:00 am and craft service comes around, never drink the coffee, always drink the tea.” I never forgot that and I always pass it on to other people, it really does make a difference. It’s weird. Another one is from my friend Dee Snider from Twisted Sister whose big motto was always, “Never let the bastards wear you down.” As much as that might sound like a cliche thing, in this industry even if you’re someone who’s having success and you’re getting movies made, that’s one time that you’re hearing good news the whole year. The rest of the time everyone’s telling you no, they’re saying it’s not going to happen, or they’re lying to you and you think it’s going to happen and then it falls apart. You have critics. You get stalkers online that stalk message boards to say awful things about you and your family. Some guy was wishing I would get cancer or something. I was like, “Jesus Christ! Did I fuck your sister or something?!” It’s a very good motto. Never let the bastards wear you down. The other good advice is…I’m not sure…I think John Landis might have said it to me. He said, “Just keep shooting.” That’s what I do with the short films and stuff, I don’t just wait for the next feature. A lot of my associates in the genre who are directors who make very good movies. Right now it’s the worse time to try to make an original movie because the fans only like remakes and the economy is in the shitter. Nobody has money to spend. Everybody’s assets are frozen, it’s really hard to get a movie going. Some of these guys are looking at half a decade now without shooting anything. Nothing can stop you from remembering what it’s like when you were growing up and grabbing a DV camera and going and making something. Even though ‘Hatchet 2’ is my fifth feature film in four years, I’ve also made thirty-something short films in that time as well. It’s helped keep me relevant, it’s helped keep my name out there. It’s been fun. I think that was really good advice.
That being said, do you have an advice for anyone who would like to get involved in the entertainment industry?
My best advice would be that you need to make your own way. You can’t look at what anybody else did and then just try to emulate that. I started making shitty cable commercials. The only reason I took that job was because I realized after hours I could steal their equipment and make my own stuff. If you want to be a director, my advice, and people can take it or leave it, is that you need to be a writer first. You need material to direct. Nobody can just direct nothing, you need the material. Most writers want to direct their own stuff. First and foremost, write something that you own and that’s really good. Because then if somebody actually does want to make it, now you have a leg to stand on for why you should direct it. Just keep making short films no matter what the budget is. You’re always going to learn something and they’re always going to keep getting better. Now with things like YouTube and Funny or Die, there is a way to reach an audience. Of course it’s hit or miss. You look at stuff like ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’. It has eight million hits. Then there’s like brilliant short films on YouTube with like ten hits. You don’t know what’s going to hit and what’s not, but there is an audience. There’s no excuse not to be creating stuff.
Do you have any last words for fans or critics?
Just thank you, I guess. I feel like I’ve had a pretty charmed couple of years so far. People have been very supportive and rallied behind me and supported the work. Even critics, so far I love them. They’ve been nothing but fair, the good and the bad. I’m a pretty happy person. [laughs]
Thanks for your time, Adam!
I really appreciate you covering my stuff. It’s people like you that are getting the word out, so thank you.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.