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An Interview with Jett Westmoreland, Director of Haddie

by Mike Haberfelner

June 2013

Films directed by Jett Westmoreland on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your upcoming movie Haddie - in a few words, what is it going to be about?

 

Haddie is a character-driven horror story about a couple who has to doubt what they knew to be real. It's also about lies and deceit at the hands of a loved one.

 

According to my information, Haddie is based on a novella of yours, Aunt Haddie. So what prompted you to bring exactly this story to the screen?

 

The chance to do a good, old-fashioned horror story was just too cool to pass up.

 

What were your inspirations when writing Aunt Haddie to begin with, and how faithfully will the film follow the book?

 

I started writing Aunt Haddie with the thought of "What happens when a couple, arguing as couples sometimes do, travel to the deep woods?" Then, "What happens when things get scary?" The basic story of the movie is from the book. You always have to add or take away when adapting from one to the other. Adding characters to fill out what, in the book, might have just been in a character's head, etc. It's a fun process.

 

What can you tell us about the intended look and feel of your movie?

 

Most of the story takes place at night, so it will have a cold, blue, "steel" look. The intent is to not do a slasher movie, but to concentrate on the nightmare that the characters are going through. I particularly liked the movies The Strangers and Rob Zombie's Halloween II, so the feel of some of the shots in those movies I plan to ste... borrow.

 

You of course have to talk about Haddie's monsters for a bit!

 

The creatures will be amazing! Facade FX, an award-winning SFX company, is part of our team and I've already seen some of Phil's designs. He read the script, took information on what we were looking for and went from there. They blew us away! In addition, we're currently talking to a couple of different VFX artists to add to the team.

 

I think one of the key aspects of Haddie is its location - anything you can tell us on that front yet?

 

Location is very important. My partner in all things Haddie, Wain Bradley (www.BradleyMediaLLC.com), has worked really hard to find the perfect locations. We will be taking advantage of the beauty (and creepiness) of the Ozark Mountains. He's located some very cool "cabin-in-the-woods" type houses, and the owners are very obliging and interested in what we're doing.

 

What can you tell us about your intended key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

This time around, we held our casting call online, asking those interested to send a demo. We chose several, then sent them sides to perform an audition. We selected the strongest and sent them the script, letting them know which roles we wanted them for. Each of our cast members have worked, and are working, on several projects (one in the upcoming Transformers movie) and it floored us when we saw them in character. It was really hard narrowing down the actors we wanted because there are so many great ones out there! If you want to check out the cast of Haddie, visit our Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/HaddieMovie).

 

As we speak, Haddie's still in pre-production, right? So what can you tell us about your schedule, and any idea when and where the film might be released (and I know it's waaay too early to ask)?

 

Development/pre-production. Donovan Rodriques (www.RodriquesLaw.com) is working hard for us so we can keep our fall 2013 schedule to begin production. Release date, I'm not sure yet. That will depend on who picks Haddie up for distribution and what they're schedule is. I can tell you this: Expect to see Haddie on the big screen next year.

 

As far as I know, you're toying with the thought of extending Haddie into a franchise - so what can you tell us about these plans?

 

From the beginning, Wain has wanted to create a sequel, so the scripting for that is already underway. We've received some interest on a possible Haddie franchise, so now we're coming up with ideas for a third installment and will soon start looking for an additional writer to help with the task. When we first started talking to people in the industry about Haddie, it became very clear that there was interest in the possibility of sequels, so we went with it.

 

Any (other) future projects you'd like to talk about?

 

I am in option negotiations now for a 1970's comedy/horror that I want to remake. I can't mention it by name, since negotiations are still going on, but I can say that my version will focus a little less on the comedy, a little more on the horror. And there's t&a.

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

No formal scriptwriting training. I've written short stories most of my life, and earned a degree for creative writing, but I picked up basic formatting, etc for screenplays from books and online.

 

You of course have to talk about your first movie, The Devil Lives in Hot Springs, for a bit, and lessons learned from it?

 

The Devil Lives in Hot Springs, the story of three sets of (disturbed) neighbors who meet over the course of one night, was a work of passion. It started when a friend of mine, Tony Gschwend, suggested we make a movie from one of my stories, Oct. 21. Having never made a movie, it was intended to be a YouTube video, and one thing led to another until we had a feature. Almost. We learned then that for film festivals, your film better either be a "full length" feature, or it better be really short. And also, for festivals, it probably shouldn't be too controversial.

The Devil Lives in Hot Springs was shot on a borrowed SD camera, on the weekends, with (mostly) our friends for actors. Colleen, who plays Laura, the only true "victim" in that movie, was a friend of a friend who happened to be in town for a summer. I could give details about what we should have done and should NOT have done, but it would take up a whole page... Two interesting things about that movie:

1) One of the kidnappers is Tony's cousin who got so tired of hearing us complain about not being able to locate our final actor that he agreed to do it - and was awesome.

2) Colleen took a trip during that summer and came back with a substantial haircut. The problem was, we weren't finished shooting and the story takes place over the course of one night. We had to quickly write it into the script, but, it turned out to be one of the funnier scenes in the movie.

Also, the title was originally Oct. 21. It was changed to it's current title after over-hearing a young woman at a bar state that she "didn't go to Hot Springs because she heard that the Devil lived in Hot Springs."

The one big thing learned from this project: Do a shot list next time!

 

A few words about Tuckerman?

 

Tuckerman, about a man who learns of his first love's alleged suicide and returns to his hometown to investigate, was made by some great people. We had no budget but a lot of desire and took about a year, shooting and editing when we could. Everyone had full-time jobs and there were a number of cast and crew involved, so that's a lot of jobs to work around. Once complete, we probably got in too much of a hurry to sign with a distributor with no real track record. They did take it to a couple of the film markets, but couldn't find interest in it since we didn't have "name" actors, and pretty much set it on the shelf. We're now waiting on our agreement to end and the rights to revert back to us. We'll decide then what we want to do with it. A "behind-the-scenes" note on Tuckerman: It's a thriller, yet we ended up with three comedians in our cast: Angry Patrick Beam, Michael "Doc" Davis, and Chucky D. Not one joke cracked on-camera, but plenty off!

The one big thing learned from this project: Do a storyboard next time!

 

You are also a writer, and as I understand it, not only Haddie but all of your films are based on novellas of yours - so do talk about Jett West the writer for a bit?

 


I love to write. The great thing about making movies is the collaboration with everyone involved, but the great thing about writing stories (when you self-publish anyway) is that there is no collaboration except between writer and reader. I love the act of sitting down and creating a story from a blank piece of paper (or blank computer screen). My favorite way to write is to start with an idea, or a character, and start writing and see where it takes me. Then, I re-write a couple of times from the first draft. Jett was a nickname and, several years ago, I started writing what I call Streaming Fiction because I wrote in a forum with no actual storyline - I just started writing, and readers would offer suggestions, so the story would continue with their input - "Jett" was my screen name in that forum. Once I decided to self-publish, I felt I needed a "catchy" name for the book jacket, so I took my nickname, shortened my last name, and stuck them together. And, as anyone who writes under a pen name can tell you, there is a bit of a split-personality that goes with that too. The book writing has slowed due to the amount of time required to produce/direct films, but there is a novel in the works titled The Gathering about the local band scene, cannibals... and Lynyrd Synyrd, as well as another collection of novellas.

 

Your films and stories all seem to be of the horror variety in one way or another - a genre especially dear to you, and why (not)?

 

I dig horror. As a child, I loved the Universal Monster films, the Hammer films, the horror B-movies at the drive-in, everything. I'm a fan of detective novels, but my real love in books, too, is horror. I enjoyed Poe from a young age, then early Stephen King, then Dean R. Koontz (back when he used the "R."). I write drama and sci-fi on occasion as well, but mostly it's thriller/horror.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

Learning. I've only got the two projects in the can, but I've learned a lot from both of them. I'm not a stickler for getting the dialog exactly as I've written it, as long as the important points are hit, the emotions are there to carry the scene through and everything looks and sounds believable. I like to work with the actors to make sure they understand what's going on, the frame of mind of the characters, etc. I'm also spur-of-the-moment on certain things. An example: If we're shooting a night scene where the script calls for it to be a warm summer's night with a slight breeze, but as soon as we get all the cast, crew and equipment there, it starts raining - the script will then be re-written for a stormy summer's night. Whatever you have to do to make it work is what you do.

 

Filmmakers, writers, whatever else who inspire you?

 

Besides the authors mentioned earlier, I love reading David Morrell and Mario Puzo. Someone else who shares my love of the genre and is a great writer, is Kat Yares. S.E. Hinton is also another favorite. Film makers, I'd have to say Robert Rodriguez, Craig Brewer, Charles B. Pierce, Roger Corman [Roger Corman bio - click here], Rob Zombie, and every person who, independently, takes on the task of making a movie with no budget and a lot of heart.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

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I'll give a short list: The Crow (the first one), Jeepers Creepers (the first one), Grease, The Outsiders, The Godfather, Eddie & The Cruisers, Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan, 8 Mile.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

The Crow (any after the first one), Glitter.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

www.HaddieMovie.com 

www.Facebook.com/HaddieMovie 

www.BradleyMediaLLC.com 

www.JettWest.com 

 

Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

I'm hoping to convince Kelly Griffin to join our team as a writer for the upcoming Haddie sequels, and Wain and I are already discussing creating the movie version of Sage, the fourth and final story in QUAD. It's a drama about a stripper and her brother with Sudden On-Set Rage Syndrome (SORS).

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

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