Your film Hell Fire
- in a few words, what is it about?
It's about four prostitutes who kidnap an associate of their pimps, and
he turns out to be the Anti Christ. They take him to secluded
locations and all hell breaks loose.
Why make a film
about the Antichrist, and what were your inspirations when writing Hell
I had been trying to write a script about
kidnapping the Anti Christ for years. I got the idea years ago, when
I was watching the Mel Gibson movie Ransom in the theaters. This
had to be around 2000, I guess, a few years before I was making films.
I was in the theater, thinking to myself, "Wouldn't it be great if
the kid they kidnap turns out to be the Anti Christ?". Of
course, that's not what happens in the movie so I shuffled that idea off
in my head for a while. I even tried a few times to write a script
based around it but couldn't quite find the inspiration. After I
finished my second film, I was looking for an idea for the
next movie, something we could shoot in one or two locations. For
some reason while brainstorming, the words "Evil Dead with
Hookers" popped into my head. I began envisioning drug addicted
prostitutes literally fighting their own demons. It seemed like a
good place to start, so I decided to merge the Evil Dead with Hookers
idea, with the old idea of kidnapping the Anti Christ. And that's
how Hell Fire
came to be.
At times, Hell
Fire goes pretty wild when it comes to action and violence - so
how were these scenes achieved, and was there ever any line you refused to
We had a really great make up effects artists for
those scenes, Melissa Roth, who also works really fast. I love
stylized violence and action, and I wanted this movie to have some really
insane and complex action scenes, so we took a lot of time shooting
them. There isn't an action scene in the film that didn't take less
than two days to shoot. There's an effects-heavy action scene in a
basement where the heroine fights her own demon. Both roles are played by
the same actress, Katelyn Marshall. It took five days just to shoot
this one scene.
You also have to talk about Hell
Fire's very own brand of humour for a bit!
the mix of humor and horror. When I write, it's where my sensibilities
gravitate to. I definitely have a taste for dark humor. I also love
showing the monsters from their more human side. A lot of the humor
in my films comes from that. I remember one of my favorite scenes in Zombies Anonymous is when two zombies were sitting around discussing why
they wont eat the part of the intestines with the crap in it. And I like
conversational humor, not jokes, or setups and punchlines. Movies that are
funny because the characters are funny, not because everyone is telling
jokes. In Hell Fire, there's a scene I really like where one of the
characters is trying to explain the situation involving the Anti Christ to
a 911 operator and it's just going really badly.
can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at
A lot of planning. I like to storyboard. Hell Fire
was completely storyboarded, every shot in the movie, over 2000
shots, before we started pre production. I did them myself, but they
were the most ragged looking things. I had to put big numbers on the
characters chests just to tell them apart. I thought the actors would be
impressed with a giant binder of storyboards provided they didn't see any
of the actual drawings. But they did the trick. Visualizing
the movie completely before I shoot a single shot, that's important to me.
I like to keep the tone and acting styles as natural as possible. That's
something we would spend a lot of time on, on set. When it
comes to the action stuff, content is king. I like a
strong visual style in movies, but visual style shouldn't be used to mask
a lack of content. I hate movies where an action scene is just two
guys punching the shit out of each other, so to make it seem like
something more than it is, they shake the camera around a whole lot.
Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these
Scott Green, who plays the Anti Christ, has been
acting in my films for years. That role was actually written for him
around his strengths as an actor. The rest of the cast we auditioned over
400 people and went with the best. Most of the leads, this was our
first time working with them. They're all powerhouse actors with
real acting chops. Selene Beretta, I remember in particular, made an
incredible impression at her audition, when she tried out for the films
She was vicious! Sometimes with auditions, there were just
little things that put some people over the top. Kasey Williams had
auditioned for several parts but got the role of Cinnamon because she was
so good at playing demonic possession, something she had to do in her
callback. For the part of the unborn Messiah's pregnant mother, I had
actors running around with the pregnant belly in the callbacks for the
part. I remember Shashone Lambert doing this whole bit where she was
trying to get off the floor with the belly on and it was hysterical. It's
definitely what put her over the top over the other women that auditioned
for that part. There's a little of that bit in the movie. I
think the whole cast is great. Katelyn Marie Marshall, who plays the
film's spunky heroine has this great on-screen charisma. Jennice
Carter has amazing comic timing, as do Jodi Mara and Ray Chao, who come
into the film halfway through. Chris Davis, who plays the pimp, he's
also amazing. He's an actor that can reach some serious levels of
intensity. Chris had such a great audition, I didn't even bother calling
anyone but him in for a callback for that role. And of course,
Joshua Nelson, playing a character named Babydaddy. He's been in all
of my films. He's reliably amazing.
For the most part,
Fire takes place at one single location - so what can you tell us
about your location, and what were the advantages and challenges of
It was a house in the Poconos, in
Pennsylvania. I wrote the script specifically to shoot in, mostly, a
single location, to keep costs down and to make the shoot schedule easier.
We shot there over the course of about three weeks. The advantages
to filming there was the isolation. It was just a house in the
woods, and the nearest neighbors were hundreds of feet away. It was
great. The biggest challenge was dealing with the weather. We shot
in October, and at one point, had to deal with snow and cold temperatures.
But then, the last day few days we were there, when we had to shoot our
last fight scenes outdoors, it was 80 degrees.
What can you tell us about the shoot as
such, and the on-set atmosphere?
We had a very small crew.
Besides directing, I was handling camerawork, and lighting. Frank Garfi,
my producer, business partner, and close friend, he was doing sound, as
well as cooking food for the cast. Melissa Roth, the makeup artist,
was there most of the days as well. A few actors came up to help, like
John Martineau and Chris Davis, who plays the pimp. Since we were 2
hours away from New York City, everyone slept up at the house.
It was great. We would shoot from about 2pm to 10 at night and then
wrap. afterwards, we'd break out the beer and junk food, the cast
and crew would be playing drinking games in the living room, and I'd be
sitting in the corner, editing the days scenes together. It was so
much fun. I remember effects heavy days were exciting to a lot of the
actors. Selene Beretta told me she couldn't wait to do the scene
were she gets the demon vomit in her face. It was great.
A few words about
critical and audience reception of your film so far?
so good. We won the audience choice award at the New York/Los Angeles
International Independent Film & Video Festival.
Horrorfind Film Festival awarded us best special effects and best
cinematography. And Fangoria just called the movie,
"outrageously entertaining," which, as someone who used to read
Fangoria as a kid, was freaking awesome. I think the coolest thing
so far, though, is that Film Threat writer Mike Watt included a chapter
on the film in his book, Movie Outlaw. We even made the back cover.
got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
I wanted to make movies since I
was a kid, specifically when I saw the movie Superman, the Christopher
Reeve one, back when I was ten years old. I took some film classes
in college and made a few super 8 shorts, but most of my education in film
really came partly from watching a lot of movies, and mostly, making my
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to Hell
I made two movies prior to this, Strange
Things Happen at Sundown and Zombies Anonymous. Strange
Things Happen at Sundown was
kind of like a comic Pulp Fiction with vampires and a super, super low
budget. It followed around a few groups of interconnected vampires,
including mobster vampires, a born again Christian vampire, and a few
other wacky characters. It's kind of part comedy, part exploitation
movie, part drama. It's a bit of a mess but has some great stuff in
there. My second movie, Zombies Anonymous is about a zombie plague
where people live on after death, but don't lose their ability to think or
speak. So zombies become America's new underclass and are essentially the
heroes of the movie. There's a lot of big ambitious stuff in Zombies
Anonymous, and I really like the way the movie came out but it was such an
exhausting movie to make. The experience of making this huge movie
is actually what got me to make a mostly single location film like Hell
How would you describe yourself as a
I think my mantra as a director is that a movie
should, at the very least, be jam packed with as much cool shit as you can
possibly put in there and nothing less.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Kubrick, Coppola, Danny Boyle, the Coen Brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson,
David Cronenberg, Charlie Kaufman's writing. Martin McDonagh, too. Seven
Psychopaths may have been my favorite movie of the last 5 or 6
years. Edgar Wright and Guy Ritchie, especially when it comes
to their editing and pacing. Scorcese, Spike Lee, John Landis, it's
all over the map with me. George Romero was a really big influence, early
on, particularly Dawn of the
Dead. That movie I saw when I was 14 and that
mix of humor, action and horror just had me. John
Carpenter, especially his use of music, too - another big influence on me.
I remember watching Escape from New York when I was a kid and becoming
acutely aware of how his music was elevating my heart rate. Frank and I
compose the music to our films and Carpenter is an enormous influence.
Sometimes we'll be writing a piece of music and I say, "This
might be sounding a little too Carpenter-esque."
Too many to list. I'll tell you the
posters I have in my apartment and that should give you an idea.
Apocalypse Now, Reservoir
Dogs, The Blues Brothers, The
Shining, Raging Bull, The Big
Driver, Psycho, Creepshow and
Clockwork Orange. Most of those are those artsy Polish posters they make over
there, which are far more awesome than the crappy American posters.
But it gives you an idea of where my taste in movies is. My favorite
movies change, like every year. I think right now Fargo is my
favorite movie ever but a few years ago it was Apocalypse Now, and before
that it was GoodFellas.
... and of course, films you really
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hate movies that don't try. They just connect the dots and slap it
out there. I hate predictability, like those movies where I am sitting in
a theater and by the end of the first act, I know exactly how a movie is
going to end. There are definitely certain conventions that turn me
off. I'm never a fan of movies with a lot of melodrama. Best
way for a movie to lose me is to have too many dramatic pauses or heart
wrenching monologues. Overly
pretty looking casts piss me off, too. I like people in movies to
look and feel like real people, not like they were chiseled at the actor
factory. The excessive use of CGI has been really turning me off to
a lot of films, lately. So many movies are using CGI for stuff
they could easily do practically, and you can always tell it looks fake.
Especially the explosions, the CG water, and my least favorite? CGI blood.
Man, that CGI blood NEVER looks real.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Thanks for the interview!