Your new movie Hectic
Knife - in a few words, what is it about?
Greg DeLiso: For me it's about the jokes.
Peter Litvin: It's about this dumbass, lazy, crazy vigilante who hates
his life. He's sick of killing bad guys. He does a bunch of stupid
stuff, fights bad guys, gets a girlfriend - and so on.
How did the project fall together in the first place?
Greg DeLiso: Pete and I have known each other since high school back in
Shelby Township Michigan about 15 years ago. But, we didn't really start
collaborating until about 2009. That's when I moved onto Pete's couch in
Brooklyn and we started making short films for nobody. Or, you know,
shorts that were made just to make each other laugh, put on YouTube and
get 50 views from confused family members over the next year.
We had a few little successes with The Room Rap, sadly, taken down by
Tommy Wiseau. But for the most part he was a struggling musician and I
was a struggling filmmaker.
was just one of the shorts, not meant to be anything. But
there was something magical in the raw footage of Pete flailing around
with steak knives on our roof. As soon as I made it that high contrast,
black and white (à la Pi) in Final Cut Pro it was a line
we had to start following. We started casting people off of Craigslist
and friends and developing characters and by about a month in we started
to understand that we were making a feature length movie. We hadn't
figured it all out yet, but we were on the right track. Then 6
years later it was done, haha!
Peter Litvin: Yeah, it was originally a short film (10 mins) that we
wanted to develop into a web series because it was so stupid and funny.
The first day of shooting the 2nd "episode", we realized we
should just make a movie.
review of Hectic Knife
I wrote it's "the perfect middle finger in the face of superhero
cinema of today" - was this at all intentional, and your thoughts
about superheroes in movies and comics as such?
Greg DeLiso: YES! For me, at times that's all it was but mostly we were
just having fun. It's not just superhero movies though but all movies.
The India flash backs have Indiana Jones style montages that take you to
the training flashbacks in Kill Bill 1 or
2, whichever one those were in.
Don't get me wrong, I grew up on Tarantino and I think Inglourious Basterds
is one of the best movies in the last 15 years. But, i couldn't tell you
the difference between Kill Bill and all the boring movies it's
The superhero movies of today all glom together to me as one big
trailer that's like 6 days long, or if it's the directors cut it's 8 days
long, plus commentaries! So, making fun of those is like fish in a
barrel and the broad strokes of Hectic Knife cover that. The hero who can't die
for no reason, the belittled and mistreated female characters, the
villain with vaguely menacing intentions. It's all that stuff.
Peter Litvin: I really enjoy comics, and some
of my favorite stories have to do with superheroes. Specifically the
bad-good guys like The Boys by Garth Ennis. As for movies,
I've never seen a single Iron Man or
X-Men movie, but I love
Punisher is great too - although the movies suck.
sources of inspiration when writing Hectic
Greg DeLiso: The biggest influence on the comedy was David Wain. Wet Hot
American Summer was a HUGE influence and I genuinely think he's the best
filmmaker working today, and one of the best of all time. They Came
Together was brilliant and he beat us to the punch in some ways, if it
hasn't taken us 6 years to make!
Other comedies for me that informed the dialog and style are Airplane,
Spaceballs, Freddy Got Fingered and Seinfeld. I grew up on
I'm probably his number one fan. When I go back and watch Seinfeld now I
can see where certain line readings seeped in.
Peter Litvin: Stupidity and NYC native culture
were also substantial influences. A lot of jokes in the movies are just
personal jokes that Greg and I say to each other.
Knife features some absolutely weird fight scenes and techniques -
so you just have to talk about those for a bit, and how were they
Greg DeLiso: These are all owed to Pete's physicality. I really had
nothing to do with the actual fighting itself. there's a shot in the
movie, somewhere near the beginning, where I, behind the camera,
experienced the Hectic Knife knife moves for the first time myself. Once
I saw what Pete was doing I left him alone and he came up with it on his
own. I just had fun shooting it!
Peter Litvin: Again, it's all back to my absolute adoration for all
things absurd. A guy who's supposed to be a super hero dancing around
like an asshole with a bunch of knives, making weird faces, crazy noises
- completely disregarding the danger. Can it get any more absurd
than that? Few things are as fun to me as absurdity in life. And life
itself can be an absurd thing. The Comedian from Watchmen was aware of
this! As far as the actual moves go, I just like to go all out and
be as intense as I can be on camera. Anything less seems like a mistake.
Do talk about Hectic
Knife's rather unique brand of comedy for a bit, and how much of
this was improvised on the spot, how much was in the script?
Greg DeLiso: In the very beginning we experimented with improvising and
it left us with a lot of deleted scenes (coming soon on DVD from Troma,
hehe!) and scenes that were difficult to edit because they had no hilt
in pace. So early on we started writing and we tried to stay as close to
our scripts as possible.
We never sat down and wrote a script from page 1 to 90 though. We wrote
a script each week and then gave them to the actors the day of shooting.
Peter Litvin: Totally true, and yet - much of the stuff (perhaps most)
that you see on screen was not scripted. We just fed lines to the
actors. And the more stupid, the more nonsensical - the better. Hectic
Knife's dinner with his dad was one of the few things that really stuck
to the script... I think.
what were the main challenges producing Hectic
Knife? And how hands-on or hands-off a producer are you actually,
especially with you being on set all the time pretty much by design?
Litvin: I'm as hands on as you can get. I'm one of those assholes who
shows up early, makes sure everybody is happy, and kills himself to ensure
that the whole thing runs smoothly. As a control freak, I generally want
to handle as much of every production/preparation related work as I can.
As for challenges, Hectic Knife was the first feature length film I ever worked on,
so I didn't know shit. Luckily, if you're a nice guy, can think outside
the box, and are willing to work your ass off - you can get a pretty decent
result that way. Specifically, making any fight scene look and feel
convincing was hard, and in retrospect, making sure that the story worked
and made sense was really hard. We actually didn't even do a good job of
that, and anybody who's seen the movie is probably aware of this to some
degree. But the magic is in the editing and the voice overs, so we
have Greg to thank for anything that actually appears to make 'sense'. I
also didn't know anything about cameras, editing, and so on.
what can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story
Greg DeLiso: My job is to entertain the audience so in the case of Hectic Knife
the focus was all about how to pace something with no real plot. When
should things move faster, when should they slow down, how can we
prepare the audience to go down the rabbit hole of the bagel scene with
I like being aware of the camera and moving it and blending handheld
with other very specific camera moves or static compositions. So for me
it was important that the bagel scene sort of regress into a handheld
mess and then go into a very static, invisible push in when the camera
comes out of the scene and switches to color.
The hope was that the more inventive all of that stuff was the more we
could get away with the lack of story. And then the lack of story itself
just becomes another joke and another way to make fun of Hollywood
assembly line cinema AND vapid, boring indie cinema all at once!
Visually, for me I looked to Pi for the look. The high contrast
and natural grain of 16mm Tri X reversal stock, or whatever, translated
perfectly to the DVX.
I kept it 4:3, the natural ratio of the DVX because I thought the
boxiness of it contained the universe better. But also, if it was good
enough for Kubrick it's good enough for me.
Peter, since you play the lead in
did you write the role with yourself in mind, and how much
Peter Litvin can we actually find in Hectic Knife (the character)?
Litvin: I basically am Hectic Knife - except for his bad attitude. I like
to make faces and do insane acts of physical comedy. I've
been accused of speaking in monotone. I have great difficulty
dealing with emotion. And though you'd have to be very close to me
to know it, I certainly do have some meanness inside of me. I can be a
very intolerant person, although it's voice is usually a silent one.
The only things that Hectic Knife the character does not share with me are
my musical abilities (although, that will change in Hectic Knife 2!), my struggles
with drugs and alcohol (Hectic would never use drugs), and the extent of
can you tell us about the rest of your key cast, and why exactly these
Greg DeLiso: It's a mixture of experienced pros and first time actors
and Craigslist people. Link and Piggly Doctor were both musical clients
of Pete's while Harry we found on Craigslist and Porch I had known and
worked with before. And I think Georgia was a singer that Pete worked
Each person definitely brought a lot to their role. We sort of used each
person as our muse while writing. I hope that doesn't offend anyone,
haha! I just mean, we tried to give everyone good stuff to do that we
knew they could do, and they all exceeded our expectations!
Peter: The joke at the end of the movie
"We cast anyone who has a headshot" comes to mind... All jokes
aside, some of the people in Hectic Knife are amazing actors. Others are funny
characters. Others aren't even actors, and thus their performances were
some of the funniest. My sister plays the waitress.
What was the collaboration between the two of
you actually like, both during writing and shooting?
Greg DeLiso: Classic Coen Brothers style two headed monster thing. Pete
and I are like a Venn diagram with Hectic Knife in the middle.
Peter Litvin: Fun, hectic, stressful, and generally one of the greatest
things I've ever known in this life. We fight each other hard for an
idea that we think is right, and thus drive one another absolutely
batshit crazy at times.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
Greg DeLiso: 95% of the time it was really really fun! The other 5% is
just like regular movie making difficulties and stuff. We really tried
to have fun on set, get the work done and let the fun of shooting
translate to what's on screen. We had such a small crew, or no crew,
that it was all about the energy between me behind the camera and the
actors without any other distractions.
Peter Litvin: It was fun, and funny - and whatever else you can say
about the actors, they were all really, really cool nice people. I've
worked with more actors since then, and I now realize how great the
crew really was. Thank you for that.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie?
Greg DeLiso: So far so good, fingers crossed! So far I've been really
happy that a few of my friends and even some people I didn't know from
before are not only liking it and laughing but get it too!
Peter Litvin: We've gotten two 5 star reviews, a bunch of random write
ups, vlogger reviews, etc - and there's a lot more stuff coming down the
pipeline. So far, nobody has said "this movie sucks, it's a piece
of shit." I'm sure it's only a mater of time though. Obviously
is not for everybody, and it certainly is not for most people. I will
say, I am surprised when I learn that artsy intellectual types like the
movie. I think that the fact that the movie doesn't pretend to be
something it's not, and does a good job of making fun of itself helps
that. The final line in the movie is "This film sucks". That
said, I am absolutely thrilled and enamored with the fact that people
seem to be responding so well to the film. I maintain that I never
until I watched it with a room
full of other people.
future projects you'd like to share?
Greg DeLiso: Hectic Knife 2!!
Peter Litvin; I have a new album coming out in
october called Dreamland Magic Spells, and a music video for my single
Zombie Movie. And yes, of course - the next 2 years of my life are going
to be devoted to Hectic Knife 2, which will be so much crazier and bigger than
Hectic Knife 1... in
fact... I'm a bit scared... no I'm just excited. The world
will be hearing a lot more about Hectic Knife 2 very soon.
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Anything else you're
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
We're looking for people to help us with Hectic
Knife screenings. Anywhere in the world - if you think that you
can get together a group of people to watch Hectic
Knife, please email me
and we'll set something up. We're looking to help other filmmakers out as
well. Greg and I will gladly visit your town or country and be there to do
a meet and greet, Q & A, or just hang with you.
for the interview!
Peter & Greg: thank you!!!!!