Happy New Year to you and yours! It has only been 2010 for a few hours at the time that I am writing this, yet I have already hit the ground running in typical “Adam Green fashion”. In only the first two months of this year I’ll be shooting HATCHET 2, hitting a full week of Sundance for the world premiere of FROZEN, touring to support FROZEN’s release in theaters on February 5th, heading down to Louisiana to finish shooting HATCHET 2, and then hitting Scotland for the UK premiere of FROZEN. And that’s all just in the first 8 weeks of the year. After that it’s actually going to get crazier as I will be taking on a full world tour of convention and personal appearances (hopefully coming to a city near you), doing post-production on HATCHET 2 in-between flights, and then… I think I’m getting married at some point in the middle of all of that? I’ll have to check in with the boss for the details…
I actually wrote this blog a few weeks ago. Spent two full hours on it only to have MySpace eat it and keep it for itself (it was seriously THAT good) so now that I’ve calmed down and stopped throwing action figures and E.T. dolls around my office… here I am at it again. This time in a trusty “Word file” that I can save after every other word that I type.
Just saved again. Boo-ya.
2009 started in Park City so it only seems right that 2010 will kick off with my triumphant return to Park City and the insanely amazing Sundance film festival. Last year we were there for the World Premiere of GRACE, which became the talk of the festival after our crazy opening night screening where two men fainted in the audience. The screenings were packed, the buzz was strong, and the reviews were stronger. It was so rewarding to be at Sundance as a Producer and not as the Director for I was able to largely stay anonymous and just watch it all un-fold without the spotlight or pressure directed at me. 2009 was a tremendous year for baby GRACE and I want to thank every single one of you again for supporting the movie and director Paul Solet in theaters and on DVD. If you only knew how hard it is to get an original genre film made in Hollywood’s current climate you would without a doubt agree with me that GRACE was a miracle. In an industry where anything that isn’t a remake instantly has the suits apprehensive about supporting it and most financiers have stopped spending money on indie films, try walking in a first-time director who wants to make a disturbing and terrifying love story about the bond between a mother and her undead child. GRACE was a victory for the genre, a victory for independent cinema, and a huge victory for my company ArieScope Pictures who seems to be one of very few left in the mainstream industry that is continually adding original genre fare to the horror culture.
Even though Sundance was over, my time in Utah was actually just beginning. It would be three more months before I would see home again. From Park City we moved to Salt Lake City and began prep on FROZEN, which began shooting just a few weeks later. By now you’ve probably all heard that FROZEN was shot entirely practical- meaning that we didn’t shoot it on a soundstage or hide behind the comfort of a greenscreen. The cast and crew were really out there shooting overnights, in the dead of winter, suspended 50 feet in the air, dealing with hail storms, sleet, blizzards, and worse. Crewing up was not an easy task. We literally had meetings where a potential candidate for a position would come in all smiles and guns blazing trying to get the job… and then leaving in tears after hearing what we were doing and having to opt out. Yes, they needed the work and the money… but unfortunately what we were doing was sounding like a suicide mission to some people and they just weren’t cut out for it. Thankfully, after a few weeks, we wound up with a crew that was tough as rocks and ready for anything.
Now, I’m just getting started in my whole FROZEN PR blitz as in just 22 days the movie will world premiere at Sundance, play about 7 times that week, and then open in theaters nationwide on Friday February 5th. So I don’t want to spoil the stories or comment too much on the shoot just yet, but as a special treat to my blog-reading fans, try this story on for size…
We scouted many, many mountains in and around Salt Lake and Park City, Utah as I tried to find the perfect chair lift. It had to be old and rickety like the chairlifts I was used to riding at the East Coast dives that I grew up skiing on. It had to be in an area that had the same type of greens and trees found in New England. It had to be on a trail that we would be able to negotiate shutting down to shoot on during the height of ski season. And most of all… it had to be a chairlift that reached a point where it was so high off of the ground that there was simply no safe way down.
One day I found myself on a particular chairlift that really seemed to be fitting all of the requirements. I was riding with one of the film’s Producers (Cory Neal) and a representative from the mountain. Sure enough, at one point we cleared a group of trees and found ourselves dangling high above a huge divot in the mountain that had to be well over FIFTY FEET below us. Now for some strange reason I blurted out “This is where they die!”
And the fucking chair stopped.
Now, before I get into how weird it is that the chair just so happened to stop right there, what’s really disturbing is that (without spoiling the movie for everyone) what I SHOULD have said and what I MEANT to say is “This is where they stop!” But some awful feeling came over me and I used the word “die”. The mountain representative called down to the base of the lift using her walkie-talkie (haters take note: real mountain, real ski lift, no fucking cell phone reception.) and they assured us that the lift would start up again momentarily. “Just some high winds up at the peak. Nothing to worry about.” It felt like twenty minutes but in reality we were probably only stuck for about five. Those five minutes were enough to prove to me just what an awfully terrifying situation this would be to get trapped in. Obviously when I wrote it I was dwelling on my own (and most every skier and snowboarder’s) ultimate fear when riding a chairlift, but sitting up there, that high up, waiting for these supposed “winds” to stop… was just plain creepy.
Eventually we made it back down to the bottom and got back into the safety of our car. We turned on the radio- and there on the local FM station… was Twisted Sister. Now if you don’t yet know why that is at all relevant or important, watch the special features for HATCHET UNRATED sometime. Point is, I had every sign I needed to know that I had found my mountain.
So cut ahead about two months later. We’re in the last night or two of shooting, happily in the home stretch of what has NOT been an easy production when Kane Hodder (FROZEN’s stunt coordinator and the man also known as “Victor Crowley”) taps me on the shoulder and says: “You’re even sicker than I thought.”
“What?” I replied.
“Oh, come on. You didn’t know?” Kane said.
Before I could say anything, the crew was taking a break and I was on my way with Kane to speak to the mountain maintenance guys.
“OK, tell Adam what you just told me.” Kane said.
The technician looked at me and said, “Well, we just thought it was kind of eerie that you’re shooting this movie in that spot.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
Now I don’t remember the exact words he used, so I won’t put it in quotes, but essentially what the man told me is that just a year before… a guy who either worked for the mountain (or whom was somehow involved with someone who worked for the mountain) had climbed up lift pole ladder # 5, worked his way out to chair #42, and shot himself dead. The next morning when the mountain crew came in, they noticed someone sitting out on one of the lifts. When they brought the chair around to the bottom, they found a dead body frozen to the seat. The bullet hole is still in the back of chair #42. They showed me. And so, um, yeah- you see where I’m going with this… the guy killed himself in the spot where I decided to shoot FROZEN.
The spot where I strangely blurted out “this is where they die.”
The spot where the chair came to an abrupt stop all on it’s own.
Creepy, right? Needless to say as soon as we got into editing I let my editor know what was up and told him to keep an eye out for any strange aberrations on the film or voices on the audio, but alas… nothing. All I can say is it’s a good thing that my cast didn’t find out about this until they were done shooting up there. They had enough things to freak them out and lose sleep over already.
While in post-production on FROZEN, I managed to put out not one but seven new short films. First up was “SABER”. What started out as my fiancé Rileah asking me to just “come up with a way to shoot her and her friend having a lightsaber fight” wound up not only becoming an internet sensation with about one million Youtube hits and winning two Golden Droids in the Lucasfilm Star Wars Fan Film Challenge (“Audience Choice” and “Best Picture”) but “SABER” also found it’s way onto television a few weeks ago when it played during Spike TV’s STAR WARS MARATHON on Christmas Eve. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here:
After that, my friend Joe Lynch and I made another round of short vignettes for our favorite genre film festival in the world, FRIGHTFEST. As you may recall, in 2008 we made five different shorts that parodied John Landis’ opening to TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE. This time around we got real ambitious and parodied AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, using a combination of our own footage and footage from the original film. The shorts played nightly during the festival in London and made for some huge and appreciative laughs, so the work was worth it. (What other directors take the time to make nightly short films for a specific group of fans- I don’t know, but fuck do we have fun doing it and then watching them with the UK crowd.) Will we be able to pull off a third round this coming summer? Who knows. But in the meantime, you can find all TEN episodes of THE ROAD TO FRIGHTFEST on my official website www.ariescope.com.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been Halloween without my annual Halloween Short Film which I’ve been doing on-line for eleven years now. With absolutely no time to make one this year, we almost had to skip a year from this awesome tradition, but at the last second I came up with something that I knew we could pull off entirely in one weekend- from script to final edit. The rule has always been to SHOOT them in one night, but the time spent working on the short around the shoot can equal several weeks in some cases. We wound up with JACK CHOP, which you can see here…
But JACK CHOP didn’t become our biggest Halloween Short Film and one of 2009’s biggest internet hits without it’s own bit of controversy. Just when the short was rounding about 250,000 Youtube hits and 100,000 ArieScope.com hits… we got slapped with a cease and desist. Apparently, the majority of morons on-line don’t only spend their time on IMDB message boards and AICN talkbacks- they also happen to love my short Halloween films enough to watch them over and over again and then actually try and call the number to buy the fucking JACK CHOP. Now the number had too many digits in it to be a real number and clearly the item for sale was a joke… but that didn’t stop the internet’s finest from trying to actually buy it. In dialing the first few digits they found themselves connected to a small business in Middle America somewhere that had NO CLUE what these douchebags were calling about. So many people called their number that this poor business literally got shut down and couldn’t use their own phone line any more. They were PISSED at me let me tell you! We had to pull JACK CHOP down all over the internet and re-post it with the “555” number you see on there now. And quite honestly, we’re lucky that predicament ended there.
But the JACK CHOP controversy didn’t stop with just that. The spoof commercial became so popular that a few amateur filmmakers started feeling like they should copy it, re-post it as their own work, and try and take credit for it on their own web channels. Thus began the process of going after each one and taking it down. At one point I wound up fighting with a 14 year-old jack-ass who was trying to claim he was ME. Yes, I had a week long spat with “myself”. Ah, the price of fame. At the end of the day, fighting back became useless. You can only reason with the mentally disabled for so long before you have to move on and do more important things like clean the litterbox. JACK CHOP wound up flagged by the very same asshole who claimed he was me and now you can only watch it if you have a verified Youtube account or by watching it on ArieScope.com. We’ve since given up on trying to keep track of the video, but I can tell you that Paul Solet just may be the most famous person in Boston now. He texted me over Christmas to say he couldn’t go anywhere in New England without being recognized as “Nicolo the Jack Chop guy.”
Which brings us to the end of 2009 and what should have been a chance to relax, reflect on an amazing year, and celebrate FROZEN’s upcoming Sundance debut and theatrical release. But instead I decided that it was time to finally give the fans what they want and go back to the swamp for another go around with Victor Crowley.
HATCHET 2 starts shooting in just 96 hours from the time that I am writing this blog. Here, on the eve of production, I must say that the feeling is overwhelmingly surreal for a number of reasons. On one hand it feels like it’s happening lightning fast and like my crew and I are caught up in the undertow of something beyond our control- like a train that’s got it’s own schedule and mind. On the other hand, shooting this picture is a very emotional and endearing moment for those of us who are returning from the first film, five years later. We made HATCHET on a wing and a prayer. As you can tell simply by looking at it and from watching the special features that accompanied the film on DVD, HATCHET was held together with scotch tape, blood, sweat, and tears. For quite a few of us behind the camera, it was our first “real” movie. But despite our excitement and our enthusiasm for what we were doing, at many times in the process it seemed as though the world was against us. From the day I wrote it and my agents told me they didn’t believe in it, from the now infamous rejection letter I received from a major studio that said “though the writing is brilliant, unfortunately this film will never get made because it’s not a remake, it’s not a sequel, and its not based on a Japanese one”, to the ridiculously short amount of time we were given to shoot in, to our post-production process being fumbled and destroyed by crooks, to our triumphant moment of getting a coveted U.S. theatrical release… only to be met at the finish line with a crucifixion that saw me forced to stand trial and defend my film and my character before the MPAA… it’s no wonder that by the night HATCHET opened in theaters on Friday September 7, 2007, I hated the movie about as much as any anonymous troll on a message board. I felt like I had literally gone to war and all I wanted to do was be done with it.
Though a sequel was always in the cards (the first one was shot and especially “ended” in a way that was conducive to making a sequel) I needed to go do other things before I would be able to go back that way and let Victor Crowley loose again. As cliché as it may sound, the first HATCHET was a selfish film. I thought of it and invented Victor Crowley when I was only eight years old, so twenty or so years later when I got the chance to shoot it, I merely made the type of movie I wanted to see on the big screen again. But after all of the battles I fought along the way (some were won, many were lost) it was the community of horror fans that carried HATCHET over the finished line. A literal “army” of friends, brothers, and sisters that I never knew I had that rallied behind it and (even without the proper financial support in marketing from it’s distributor) turned HATCHET into one of the biggest successes worldwide of the last decade. I’ve done conventions and film festivals everywhere and seen firsthand the love that the fans have for what we did. I’ve sat through theatrical screenings of HATCHET with sold out auditoriums of kids and adults that can say every line along with the cast. And while creatively I am chomping at the bit to get back to Honey Island Swamp and finish what we started, this time around it’s not just about me anymore, it’s about YOU. It gives me great joy to say that HATCHET 2 is for fans of HATCHET 1 and those fans only. It’s going to be everything you want the sequel to be. Didn’t like the first film? Excellent. Skip this one then, you’re not invited to our party. Liked the first one? You’ll love this. Surprises, plot twists, and swamp boat loads full of gore await you next Fall!
From how emotional it’s been in the internal phone calls “getting the band back together” it’s obvious how huge of a moment it’s going to be next Thursday morning when we’re all together again on set and Craig Borden (my 1st AD) yells out “Pictures up on HATCHET 2!” and we get that first shot off. What a ride it’s been. And to every naysayer, to everyone who said “no” in my life, and to everyone that tried to cut us down… we’re not only making the sequel to our successful movie, but we’re the happiest bunch of motherfuckers you’ve ever seen on a film set. “You rise, you fall, you’re down then you rise again. What don’t kill ya make ya more strong.” You haven’t seen anything yet.
As I stated at the beginning of this now epically long piece, the Los Angeles portion of the shoot will take me right up to the morning that I leave for Sundance and the world premiere of FROZEN. Given how exhausted I already am and the sheer amount of press and effort that I’ll have to be putting into FROZEN while shooting HATCHET 2, I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to survive what’s about to happen to me in 2010. But fuck if I’m not ready for all of it. Keep in mind that I invented this whole HATCHET-universe when I was merely a child at summer camp, so every minute of this is a much more heightened and cherished moment than directing any other film. I LOVE IT. And to walk onto set and see not only the front of Victor Crowley’s house standing tall once again… but this time… to be able to walk inside, breathe in the air, touch the walls, sit on the furniture, explore the dark corners, and live out my childhood nightmare…? All I can say is bring this the fuck on!
Happy new year one and all. Get ready to scream bloody gore in 2010, it’s gonna be a wild one.