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An Interview with Steve Balderson, Director of Hell Town

by Mike Haberfelner

January 2014

Films directed by Steve Balderson on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your upcoming movie Hell Town - in a few words, what's it going to be about?

 

Hell Town is a soap-opera slasher film set in a small American town. Two families clash over love, fortune, and betrayal; all the while a serial killer offs the football team one-by-one in gruesome and horrifying scenes. Imagine the love child of Heathers and Nightmare on Elm Street.

 

How did the project come together in the first place - and perhaps connected to that, what can you tell us about your co-director Elizabeth Spear, and how did you first hook up?

 

Elizabeth and I first met at a very surreal lunch with Rutger Hauer at a film festival in Texas. We instantly bonded over our shared love of melodrama and murder, backstabbing and betrayal, over-the-top storylines and horrifying death scenes.

 

Hell Town is described as "part soap opera, part slasher film" - quite obviously, you have to elaborate on that!

 

In this era of Netflix TV-series binge watching, we thought it would be a fun concept to treat the film as if it were three episodes in the middle of an already established TV show. Weíre billing the film as episodes 7, 8 and 9 from Season Two of Hell Town. Complete with cliffhangers at the end of each episode.

 

How would you describe your film's approach to horror (as in atmospheric vs all-out gore, suspense vs sudden shocks, dead serious vs tongue-in-cheek and the like)?

 

Pleasant Gehman

Iíd say weíre doing a mix of all of the above. There are moments of totally disgusting images, while other times itís more suggestive and atmospheric. Likewise, there are sequences that will build some great tension and suspense, and then some awesome surprise/shock moments.

 

What can you tell us about your film's intended look and feel as such?

 

Although the overall tone is slightly tongue-in-cheek, it isnít parody at all. Weíre treating Hell Town very seriously. The blacks will be inky black, with vivid colors, and top-notch cinematography by Daniel Stephens.

 

Do talk about your tentative cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?

 

Iíve worked with Oscar winners and Golden Globe winners like Karen Black, music icons like Mike Patton (Faith No More), Kevin Richardson (Backstreet Boys) and Jane Wiedlin (The Go-Goís), cult icons like Mink Stole, and paired them against total unknowns discovered in small-town USA. For Hell Town, Elizabeth and I wanted to form a group of fresh faces for the primary cast and then add cult performers like Pleasant Gehman or Betti O. in the special guest parts.I'm thrilled to be working with relative unknowns fresh on the scene. These performers are incredible.  You'll see.

 

As far as I know, Hell Town is currently in its fundraising stages - so what can you tell us about your fundraising efforts?

 

Itís going great so far! In addition to Indiegogo weíre also gathering a nice group of outside sponsors who will help make Hell Town a community event. So that everyone involved is part of the team and will really feel included in the project.

http://igg.me/at/helltown

 

Once your funds are raised, how do you plan to proceed, and any idea (however tentative) yet when and where the film might be released onto the general public?

 

Filming takes place end of May and beginning of June 2014. In my experience releasing previous movies, it usually takes about a year from the time of the shoot before someone can hold a DVD or stream VOD. But, sometimes it happens sooner.

 

Any future projects beyond Hell Town you'd like to share?

 

Iím working on a top-secret project with Susan Traylor, so I canít really talk about that. But, I can tell you Iíve recently made my first mainstream film Firecracker (starring Karen Black) available on Vimeo On Demand. Even though it was released globally in 2005 and the late Roger Ebert named it on his list of that yearís best films, itís impossible to find. And the Vimeo platform is really brilliant.

 

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

 

Since a kid, Iíve always been doing it. But it wasnít until after I went to CalArts film school that I started to take it seriously.  I'm not a huge fan of film school.  I think I learned more by actually making films than I did studying them.

 




What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Hell Town?

 

Pep Squad was my first film, which was a satire about American school violence. We were in talks with a major studio to release the film when the Columbine high school massacre happened, and then it got shelved and no one would touch it. It ended up coming out two years later in 2001. In the years since, Iíve made 11 movies. Firecracker , which I mentioned before, Watch Out was a festival favorite; Casserole Club was invited by the US Library of Congress for its permanent collection; and Culture Shock and Far Flung Star were filmed in London and Paris, and Hong Kong, illegally without permits!

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

Hard working, easy going, driven, organized, focused; yet fun? I hope Iím fun. (laughs)

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Hitchcock is my favorite. I also love all of Kubrickís movies. So inspirational.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Itís a toss up between Vertigo (Hitchcock) and Night of the Iguana (John Huston).

 

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

 

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I donít like movies that are treated like music videos. You know, the ones that have hardly any storyline and are just made up of montage scenes set to various songs that seem to start as soon as the previous song ends.

 

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

 

Hell Town: http://igg.me/at/helltown

My site: www.DIKENGA.com

My blog: www.SteveBalderson.com has articles on filmmaking posted every Wednesday.

Twitter: @sbalderson

Firecracker on www.Vimeo.com/ondemand/firecracker

Culture Shock on www.Vimeo.com/ondemand/cultureshock

Far Flung Star on www.Vimeo.com/ondemand/farflungstar

 

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

 

Nope. I guess Iíll close by saying, ďBe a #hellion for #helltown!Ē

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

My pleasure! Thank you!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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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