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An Interview with Kris Hulbert, Director of The Perfect House

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2014

Films directed by Kris Hulbert on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your movie The Perfect House - in a few words, what is it about?

 

The Perfect House is about the dark side of suburban anonymity, while being loosely inspired by the fact it seems like everywhere you look someone is getting caught with a sex dungeon or torture chamber in their basement these days. It's about that house in every neighborhood that just not quite right. Even on a beautiful sunny day the horrors going on within it's walls are completely unknown to the people living nearby. There is no specific town or character names for the very reason that this could be anywhere, anytime, anyone. Even the house right next door. We set out to make a real horror film, and for some it's definitely hit a little to close to home.

 

Why did you choose the anthology format for The Perfect House?

 

We settled on the anthology format, because going in we knew we wanted to make the best use of our limited time and resources as possible. This meant a single, easy to obtain location (my grandfather's house in Buffalo). But with a single location, we didn't want the visuals and the setting to get stale over 90 minutes, so we evolved the story to be told over an extended time period so we could change the environment inside the house. Once we started down that road everything clicked into place. We decided that if we told stories about 3 different generations of homeowners we could set each of our stories in not just its own time period, but its own style and sub genre of horror. The result is each story, right down to the color temperatures, camera angles, practical effects and score were all done as an homage to the black and white Hitchcock era of horror, the 80's slashers, and the modern brutal psychological horror of today.

 

What were your inspirations when writing The Perfect House?

 

Honestly, there were very few conscious inspirations with this script. For me, looking back on it as a film is when I realized it could be a case study for the subconscious levels of anger inside of me. The third story in the anthology was written first on a whim, it was just a scribbled story about a horrible family that I wanted to see culminate in a weedwacker attack.

Ultimately, the final result taught me more about my inner demons than anything else. In a way The Perfect House was cathartic for me and forced the start of an awakening. It wasn't written by conscious skill or intent, it was written with raw talent and instinct. Only after I watched the film a 1000 times did I realize what I am truly capable of, and that is what inspired me to start consciously seeking out inspirations and mentors.

 

Do talk about your movie's look and feel for a bit?

 

As I mentioned earlier, because of the limited location, it was very important for us to keep the look and feel of the film as fresh as possible, so we experimented whenever we could. The first story is a cold, dark tale about family secrets set in the Hitchcock era. To achieve that look and feel we washed out the color tones to just a hint of color, it suspense driven so all the violence was off camera and the score was primary done with basic wood instruments.

 

The second story was a tribute to the 80's slashers I grew up on. It has plenty of dark comedy, some over the top practical effects, orangish warm color tones, a score done with a metal industrial feel and the main character is a ruthless, seemingly unstoppable, killer that has been at it for a very long time.

 

The third and final story was the modern day story. It's about a morally corrupt family with little to no integrity who live next door to a cranky, old timer who is driven by principle above all else and has nothing left to lose. This story was the more in your face, brutal and violent of the three. It was done with icy color tones and an elaborate auto-tuned score.

 

What can you tell us about your co-director Randy Kent, what was your collaboration like, and how did the two of you first meet, actually?

 

My relationship with Mr. Kent was a Jekyll and Hyde type of collaboration. On set it was great, off set it was completely one-sided. We went into the project as equals in every single way. We first met when I responded with my short story to a Craigslist ad he had posted. We both loved the brutality of the short story, but we each wanted to shoot a feature. Every effort we made to lengthen the script just watered down the charm of it. Eventually we settled on the anthology format.

For me, the partnership seemed ideal, because my primary goal for this project was to make friends, have fun and gain experience and knowledge. Randy had made a bit of a name for himself as a co-director for first time writer/directors so it was the perfect match. I could maintain my creative vision while leaning on him as I learned the technical side of the process.

During production we were very much in sync, but outside of production where it was less fun and more business and responsibilities our relationship was completely one-sided. All the "not fun" stuff that comes with actually making a project come to life, the sacrifices and responsibilities.

That kind of stuff was left to the members of Gratwick Films whether we wanted it or not. While we lapsed on rent and went days with out eating just to find a few more dollars to bring to the project, Randy maintained a nice cushy full time job, all the while using what free time he did have to develop other projects. I saw this as the man in our third story would have, as a breach of integrity and trust toward the people putting their money and trust into all of us.

 

My mistake was that I went into this whole experience with a bit of a naive blue-collar all for one, one for all mindset. My goal was to collect a group of like-minded novices and together create the opportunity we were all looking for. I was willing to do and sacrifice anything (and I did) for the best interests of our team. Unfortunately, I discovered after the fact that I was aligned with business partners who took advantage of that loyalty and work ethic.

As soon as the film was finished, and everyone had something pretty amazing to put on their resumes, our "business partners" were nowhere to be found. Andrea Vahl and I were the only ones left standing. We were the only ones concerned about finding a way to repay all the friends and family who had sacrificed their savings to help us create this film and opportunity.

Randy, even as a producer and head of the second production company credited on the film, had little to no interest in the business and legal responsibilities of his position. He abandon the project as soon as he could, while using it to further his personal career and find another naive first time writer/director that would tap all his family and friends to finance the next project Randy chose.

 

The Perfect House does get quite violent at times - so do talk about that aspect of your movie for a bit, and was there ever a line you refused to cross?

 

When we set out to make the film, we really gave little consideration to traditional distribution, to be honest we heard so many horror stories we thought it was a pipe dream. We thought we were going to be making a small little $5,000 fun film in a basement, the next step on our learning curve. So we developed the script with the intention of pushing the envelope as far as we could thinking that it would be an online self-distributed film. We were planning for it to have as much chance to go viral as possible.

 

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

 

Felissa Rose

The cast, like our crew, was piecemealed together through a myriad of unusual ways. Our intention to just make a little fun $5,000 film snowballed when we were connected to horror legend Felissa Rose. She graciously agreed to be in our film, and that immediately raised expectations. Now we had a real actress, so we needed to step our game up.

We did a spec trailer 6 months before production to try and use for raising funding. We found a couple actors on Craiglist for the trailer and we used a few people who had been in acting classes with Andrea Vahl. The spec trailer came out great, so we wanted to be as loyal as possible to the people who donated their time to our spec trailer, so those that were the right fit were carried over to the feature.

From there Andrea and I arrived in Buffalo several months before production to get the ball rolling. We held open auditions for the remaining roles at a local BBQ joint that was very supportive and encouraging to our efforts. We found most of the remaining cast that way.

I wrote the role of the father in the first story specifically for Tim Dugan, a good man in Buffalo who had been my collections manager for 10 years. He always had the look of the perfect 60's sitcom dad, but it wasn't until I moved to Los Angeles that I learned he was an actor doing a lot of work in the indie film arena.

The final role we filled was the now iconic role of John Doesy, the killer in the second story. Someone loosely connected to the project had said they had a direct connection to Jason Mewes. Being a huge Kevin Smith fan at the time, I loved the idea of working with Jason and figured if anyone could handle my verbose Kevin Smith inspired dialogue it was him. He agreed to the role, but weeks before production he changed managers and they decided this small little project was a no go for him. We were a bit screwed. So screwed in fact, that our fall-back plan was for me to take on the role.

Luckily, Felissa mentioned that she had a friend named Jonathan Tiersten that we should talk to, she believed he was perfect for the role. She couldn't have been more right. It was an instant connection with Jonathan Tiersten. Finding him became the first of many great examples of how special things were happening for a reason. He did such an amazing job with the role, and has been so supportive and passionate about the film, that I couldn't imagine how it would have ever happened with out him. He literally became the heart and soul of The Perfect House.

 

For a film like yours, location is the key - so what can you tell us about yours, and what was it like filming there?

 

The biggest production hurdle we had was finding our location, a simple average basement. However, in Los Angeles, basements are not exactly common place. Especially ones with a storm door, which was an essential part of the location. We ultimately found a historical building out here, but they wanted $20k for two weeks of shooting.

At that point, I realized for a fraction of the cost we could fly our team back to Buffalo and shoot the film in my Grandfather's basement. There we would have the support of friends, family and the community. But the most appealing part of it was that when I wrote the script, I wrote it with my Grandfather's house in mind. That was the house I saw when I wrote every single scene. As a writer, being able to shoot in the exact location you wrote the story for is a dream come true.

While shooting we basically had our own private compound. We had no restrictions, permits or time deadlines to worry about, we just had to make sure we had a relay to my Grandfather so he could watch Jerry Springer in between takes. Shooting there gave our production a much more personal and intimate experience. It was an even more personal experience for the 10 or so of us that came from Los Angeles and stayed together at my Mother's house during production. It was a lot like summer camp and turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Again thanks to the intimacy of the location and the small size of the cast and crew the atmosphere was very relaxed and personal. I saw us all as equals working toward a common goal of creating an opportunity for each one of us to have our dream career. Ideas and suggestions during production were welcomed and encouraged. Even though there were a lot of dark days before and after, along with losing quite a few people who I thought would be around forever it was an experience I will never forget and will cherish forever. I truly believed every member of this team was a part of my family and would be for a very long time.

 

What can you tell us about critical and audience reception of your movie so far?

 

The critical reaction has been really great for the most part. I am fascinated by reviews (good or bad) because it always amazes me, first and foremost that someone took the time to write about something I had a part in making. Secondly, some of the things people see or pick up on are fascinating things that would have never occurred to me. A lot of them have really opened my eyes to the level of effect you can have on people through storytelling.

 

I personally enjoy reading the ones with a bit more constructive criticism in them, because I feel they are more sincere and honest. Anyone can pat you on the back and not really mean it, but when someone offers some critical comments, yet still likes the film for what it is, that means something to me. I am by no means disillusioned by the ego of completing a film, I see all its flaws, and they burn at me every single day. I hate it when a review is critical on certain aspects of the acting, because I know it was the writer that hung them out to dry with some novice dialogue that looks great on paper, but is impractical in execution. Or when they had a co-director that wasn't as hands on with the actors as he wanted to be due to sheer inexperience and concern for the balance of egos in the co-director relationship. They were let down and take heat for it in reviews, things like that wear on me. Those flaws or mistakes are what drive the need to make another film, to show how I've grown and what I learned from the entire process.

 

There was one particular review that completely missed the boat. Sadly it came from the most notable of all the reviewers so far. There were things in his review that never happened, for example he accused me of depicting rape worse than any filmmaker before me. First of all the sheer audacity of that comment alone is enough to destroy a man's credibility, but when you consider there is NO rape in the film, a clear agenda starts to emerge.

Overall it was just a ridiculous review written from his own personal issues with the horror genre he's deemed himself guardian of. He had no clue about the background of us the filmmakers, but because of the above average production quality he made absurd assumptions about our financial motives and then condemned us for them. He assumed we were some well established producers with financial backing and our agenda was simply to rape his precious horror genre for every Dollar we could, so he took it upon himself to personally punish us for being "greedy genre raping producers". Ironically, we were homeless when that review came out, not that he would bother to know anything about the filmmakers he was covering.

 

As for the audience reaction, we took the film on a grass roots tour around the country in a 1972 RV painted up like the movie poster. We borrowed a projector from one of our fans and we did free pop-up screenings in backyards, fields, hilltops, bars, strip clubs, theaters and anywhere else that would have us. We made it 12,000 miles around the country on nothing but gas money donations given after each show.

We documented the entire trip along with video confessions of fans following each screening, we turned the whole thing into an interactive documentary on YouTube. Needless to say, the audience reactions have been overwhelming and beyond my wildest expectations. The passionate and inspiring reactions have helped me to stay strong and stand up to quite a few dark forces that have come calling since all this began. I can't wait to share what I ever learned from all of this with them in my future projects.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2et3SvqdRY

 

I've read somewhere that The Perfect House 2 is in its planning stages - is that at all true, and any other future projects you'd like to share?

 

Yes the rest of the trilogy and a spin-off script for the Doesy character are all written and ready to go. The Doesy story is an origin story about how he came to be and why he picked that specific house, it also ties in and serves as a pseudo prequel that ultimately answers The Perfect House's biggest question - why is this house innately evil.

 

The two trilogy scripts were written in very unique ways. With the sequel script, I didn't want to disassociate fans of the anthology format, but I also wanted to work toward a singular story line for the 3rd script. So what I did is I used the Godfather 2 story structure as a guideline. The result is two intertwined stories that serve as both prequels and sequels to not just the three stories, but the bookend and epilogue stories as well.

Beyond that, both sequels were written from the mindset that I knew most people would discover The Perfect House through its sequels, so the overall trilogy was specifically designed to be watched in any given order without undermining the linear story of the life and death of this single house. Regardless of the order you watch the films you still have a linear story, just from different perspectives. As far as I know, I do not think something like that has ever been accomplished before in a franchise.

But, there is one caveat to the rest of the franchise. I will not do another The Perfect Housefilm unless Chris Raab is on board. I had no idea where I wanted to go with the sequels until we were on set and I saw Raab flash this evil smile for the first time. His smile was so perfect that his characters entire story snapped into my head in an instant. Without him, there is no more The Perfect House.

 

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

 

The honest answer is fate, and the only training I've had is hands on. I've intentionally done things and written my scripts in an order that allows me to groom myself. I had always considered myself a natural born storyteller, but in Buffalo that really doesn't mean a thing other than the fact you suck at your 9-5 job. I had been a zombie through 10 years in the collections industry going through life with zero purpose.

Then one day I snapped and just couldn't make another call. I couldn't pick up the phone and call one more person who was just as miserable as I, just to fight and argue with them. It had rotted my entire perspective of society.

So I took my tax return and ran away. I ran away from the snow and the mindless cycle and came to Los Angeles where my long time friend had moved two years earlier. I spent the first three years on the ratty couch in his tiny 1 bedroom apartment. I survived as a professional poker player. From there I just started writing scripts, starting with the story of how I ended up in LA (a script I've never shown anyone).

Something clicked and I finally found my passion, my purpose. I spent every moment since then inhaling any piece of knowledge I could to be a better writer and storyteller.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Perfect House?

 

After writing a couple scripts, I did what most new writers do, I thought a rough draft was a polished finished draft. I burned a few opportunities by passing along garbage that wasn't ready. Then I got jaded and thought that it didn't matter how great my stories were if no one was willing to read them. That is when I decided to try making one myself, I figured if I started small and just made each thing a little bigger than the one before it, I would eventually get where I wanted to go.

So I wrote a script about the thing that was closest to me. What would happen if me an my friend were suddenly evicted and had to either learn how to survive as homeless guys or go crawling back to Buffalo as failures. It was a weekend warrior, guerilla shot comedy in the streets of LA. We bought a $300 camcorder and we were the main characters. To make it happen I had to make the worst deal with an "actor" that I will ever have to make in this business.

The characters were based on me and my friend, because I didn't want to waste any real actors' time when we had no clue what we were doing. So the deal was, I had to supply all the alcohol and there would be no multiple camera angles and no retakes. I basically had to set up a tripod, hit record and then manipulate and goad my drunk best friend into saying the lines and giving the reactions I needed.

The final result was a crude 73 minute homage to Kevin Smith that wasn't going to turn any heads, but it lit the fire inside of me. It proved to me that I could not just do this, but that I was meant to do this. The "film" is called First Timers and it's currently free on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LQhNNfNWbY 

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

I would describe myself as a talented, but very raw aspiring director. Until my rent and bills are paid from being a director/creator I am nothing more than aspiring. Too many people in this town want to carry the title without the resume, the work ethic, the talent or the reputation and because of that it devalues what it means to be a "director" when people can't recognize your work right off hand. Until I have proven myself on the biggest stage, I consider it a slight to those who came before me to call myself a writer or director. But I have no problems calling myself a producer, because I've produced the hell out of the last 6 years.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

In the early stages it was Kevin Smith, because he did it his way on his own terms. But to me he's lost his edge and rebellious nature the last few years, he's lost his connection to the filmmakers he inspired and gave proof that we can do it. Beyond that, I find more inspiration in entrepreneurs and music than I do in a particular filmmaker. I've always had a knack for collecting subconscious inspirations, I take bits and pieces of meaning out of everything and more often than not, I don't even realize the effect it has had on me till after the fact when I am looking back on something.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

I love so many movies it would be impossible to list a few without leaving out others that are just as loved. Movies have been such a part of my life, that for the longest time it never even occurred to me that real people made them or that it was possible. I naturally looked for the nuances, the hidden meanings and the emotions in everything. Then one day it hit me, Hollywood raised me to see life in scenes.

But specifically any movie with great, memorable dialogue would make my list. I'm obsessed with creative, unique dialogue and because of that, my entire vocabulary and manner of speaking is inspired by lines from movies.

If there is one movie that has had a larger effect on my life than any other it would probably be Snatch. For an entire, very dark, summer I spent every night falling asleep to Snatch, so it is now just in my blood.

 

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

 

Paranormal Activity. Everything about that film and the carbon copy sequels disgusts me at the deepest levels. It's an absolute parasite on the masses. It only became successful because of a brilliant marketing campaign that was pure manipulation on the most basic levels. Hell the first 1 minute trailer was 45 seconds of audience reactions. The studio system took a hack project and made 100 million off it by selling the audience back to themselves. PA is the pinnacle example of what cronyism can do. They convinced everyone that everyone else saw the movie so you were the oddball if you didn't. Then as if to prove their power over our collective consciousness they remade the same garbage year in and year out and groomed people to show up. They basically shouted from the roof tops that we can take any two bit film we want and if we spend enough money on P&A you will watch it. So fitting that films initials are P&A cause that's all it is.

Look at some of the viral comments leading up to the latest edition. Everyone knows it sucks, everyone knows it's the same thing repackaged over and over again, but they don't care they still go, because they've been groomed to do it out of habit. It depresses me because I want to believe we as a society are better and smarter than this, that we cannot be herded into movie theaters.

To me, everything about that franchise shows the dark side of the entertainment and marketing industry. It's also a prime example of why there are so many established professionals who just go through the motions, counting on a huge P&A budgets to make their nut, opposed to focusing on telling a great story.

 

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

 

The Perfect House is on Facebook as is our next film we are currently in pre-production for, a contained thriller titled Just Drive.

 

https://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectHouseMovie

https://www.facebook.com/JustDriveTheMovie

 

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

 

To anyone reading this, I know some of my answers may be a bit more 'real' than you are accustomed to reading, but that is done intentionally. Gratwick Films was founded on one core belief, total transparency. We believe that people are tired of the manufactured images and absurdly positive cardboard responses designed solely to mislead you. It's just not real.

We believe that if we share the whole story, good or bad, in it's truest form, that you will not just be a fan of our work, but be personally invested in our journey. Gratwick Films is committed to being real, honest and sincere above all else. We believe enough people are sick and tired of the false perfect image, that they would gladly support passionate creators who are not afraid to share their true story with you. If we do not become famous or successful because we did not 'play the game' by lying or misleading you, I can live with that far more easily than I could with any other alternative. We believe the journey is the greatest story we can tell and that's what we are committed to sharing, warts and all.

 

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As for our next project, we are preparing to hopefully shoot our next film this fall or early winter. The film will be a contained thriller about the dark side of human ambition. The film is titled Just Drive. It will be set entirely inside a limo.We are taking advantage of all the lessons learned from our first film to provide you with some unique entertainment experiences from the beginning of production through release.

We will be documenting and sharing the entire experience of making the film with real time, reality style content. We want to build and maintain a direct, interactive relationship with you. We are also committed to supporting charity organizations with every project we make.

It's a model we call 'Social Filmmaking' and we encourage other filmmakers to take our ideas and build upon them. We hope to usher in a new era of entertainment where audiences can join in the journey and be an active part of the experience.

http://gratwickproductions.com/blog/2014/02/04/business-plan-social-filmmaking/ 

Thank you so much for sharing our little film.

 

Thanks for the interview!

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

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

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

Bauliche Angelegenheiten
ein Roman von
Michael Haberfelner

 

Jetzt kaufen bei
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