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An Interview with Paul A. Brooks, Director of Hunting for the Hag

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2024

Films directed by Paul A. Brooks on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Hunting for the Hag - in a few words, what's it about?

 

Hunting for the Hag is about three young women who venture out to the woods to make a documentary about this mythical creature called the Hawthorne Hag. They start poking around in the middle of nowhere, looking for this strange old woman - and things don't go exactly as planned, of course.

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing Hunting for the Hag?

 

I was watching The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs one night and they were showing Mother's Day, which I'd never seen before. But it sparked this idea and I started writing stuff down that became the basis of Hunting for the Hag. There's plenty of other inspirations - from the entire Blair Witch franchise to The Descent, Butterfly Kisses, The Tall Man... all sorts of stuff.

 

What can you tell us about your co-writer (and one of the leads) Sierra Renfro, and what was your collaboration like when writing the movie?

 

Sierra and I have known each other for quite a long time - close to 10 years now. So I knew she would be easy to work with and we could knock out the script pretty quickly. It was great collaborating with her because she brought a female perspective that is very important when your movie features three leading women. Sierra wrote a lot of the more difficult, uncomfortable scenes in the movie and I think her voice really comes through in those parts.

 

Do talk about Hunting for the Hag's approach to horror!

 

This is definitely a horror movie but there's a good amount of comedy as well, which sometimes surprises people. It's a thriller, it's a mystery, it's kind of a bunch of different stuff. There's something in there for everyone. Okay well... maybe not everyone! But hopefully horror and found footage fans enjoy it. We had a great practical FX and make-up person on set - Aleah Kraft. She created some awesome wounds and gashes and had our fake blood pumping.

 

Hunting for the Hag was in parts shot found footage style - so what are the challenges and the advantages shooting that way?

 

We thought it would be easier and faster to film. Wrong! We were wrong. In a lot of ways, found footage ends up being more complicated because you have to plan your shots more to make sure they feel natural and make sense within the context of the story. I will say that found footage allows for more mistakes, so that's an advantage. If something is shaky or slightly out of focus, it's not the end of the world.

 

What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

I'm big on collaboration and I'm big on giving everyone a free hand to do their job and offer up a lot of suggestions on how to make the film better. I don't like doing this stuff by myself, so I'll take all the help I can get. With Hunting for the Hag, I encouraged our actors to play around with some of their dialogue, because that usually makes it feel more realistic. Dan Roebuck re-crafted a lot of the lines for his scenes and made it a lot better. I love stuff like that.

 

You also appear in front of the camera in Hunting for the Hag - so what can you tell us about your character, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and have you written him with yourself in mind from the get-go?

 

Hopefully I'm nothing like my character in the film, because he's a real piece of work. I slicked back my hair, shaved part of my beard off and put on some serial killer glasses. Sierra wouldn't come near me when she first saw my new look, so I guess I was doing something right. We had asked a few other people if they'd like to play the part but it just ended up being me. I'm not much of an actor but I had fun playing a dumb sleazeball.

 

Do talk about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Our pre-production window was pretty small - about two and a half months. So I hand-picked everyone because I knew them all personally and knew I could rely on them to show up and deliver. Jasmine, Alexa and Sierra are all based in LA, and I had a pretty good sense that they would have really good chemistry together. Tommy and Steve are old buddies of mine whom I had worked with on other projects. Nora and Nathan were the only two actors I didn't know previously - but it was all a pretty organic casting process.

 

You of course also have to talk about your wonderful outdoors locations, and what was it like shooting there?

 

Rough! It was August in central Illinois and there were a ton of thunderstorms rolling through. You can see some lightning in the movie, constantly threatening to shut down production. There were also a lot of spiders and other bugs constantly crawling on us. The California girls were not prepared. They really got attacked by some bugs and were screaming their heads off. So we left all of that in the movie, of course.

 

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

 

It was pretty good most of the time. Kind of like a fun summer camp vibe. The days were long and it was a tough shoot, but everyone brought their A-game. The one thing I would do differently is schedule another day or two because we shot the whole thing in seven days and it just wasn't enough time. I had to go back out there and get some pick-up shots. But that's movie making... you learn from your mistakes and try to do better next time.

 

The $64-question of course, where can Hunting for the Hag be seen?

 

Anyone interested can stream it on Amazon Prime Video, Fandango at Home (which used to be Vudu), and on various cable platforms on demand. You got some options.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Hunting for the Hag?

 

It's interesting because the reaction has kind of been all over the place so far. Thankfully, a lot of fans seem to really enjoy it and we have some nice reviews as well. There's a lot of twists and turns in this movie, and I think that throws some people for a loop because it's not what they were expecting. At the end of the day though, if that gets people talking, I'm happy. There's a little nugget of social commentary in the movie, so I do hope it generates a little conversation.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Yeah, we have a ghost-hunting show called Ghost Girls and we just shot new episodes. It should be out on Tubi around Halloween 2024. Sierra is part of that show as well. Beyond that, my producer Seth Chromick and I definitely want to get another movie going. It's just a matter of figuring out which one we want to do next. Fun stuff is on the horizon.

 

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

 

I don't have any formal training beyond a handful of video editing classes at my community college. I used to play in rock bands, and whenever we filmed a music video it was a lot of fun. So I sort of drifted gradually from music to movies. We made a zombie movie in 2007 called Late Afternoon of the Living Dead, and that solidified everything for me. That one is free to watch on YouTube if anyone wants to check it out.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Hunting for the Hag?

 

This is my first feature film as a director, but I made several shorts prior to that and I've worked on a lot of other projects over the years in different capacities. I made a short horror film on a sailboat called Below Decks that won some awards. That one was fun, although I got seasick out on the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes you gotta suffer for your art, right?

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

I do the best I can to be kind and easy-going on the set and throughout the entire process. I want to have a good time and I want the people I'm working with to have a positive experience. That's always my top priority. I'm certainly not perfect but that's my mindset. If the movie ends up being good, that's a nice bonus.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

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George A. Romero will always be my number one guy, and obviously there's a lot of other filmmakers who would say the same thing. He's the gold standard for me. I have to mention Ronald D. Moore, who was the showrunner on Battlestar Galactica. Even though it's a TV show, it's one of my biggest inspirations just in terms of crafting a compelling story with lots of twists and turns. And Kansas Bowling [Kansas Bowling interview - click here], who is a friend of mine and made this incredible movie that I just saw a few days ago called Cuddly Toys. I was getting a little emotional watching it because I just couldn't believe how good it was. Kansas shoots her stuff on 16mm, and she's an amazing writer and director.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead - pretty much any Romero film! Return of the Living Dead, Bubba Ho-Tep, Wet Hot American Summer, The Big Lebowski, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, This is Spinal Tap... I'm gonna stop or I'll rant forever.

 

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

 

I mean, there's not many because I'll watch damn near anything. But in general, anything mean-spirited or made with bad intentions. Or gross torture porn, that's just not really my thing.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

Just search for Into the Night Motion Pictures on Facebook and/or Instagram. We should pop up.

 

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

 

We're hoping to do a Hunting for the Hag Blu-ray because we have a lot of special features and fun little BTS stuff that we'd love for people to see. So if there's any physical media nuts out there who would be interested in that, stay tuned.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thanks so much, Michael. Hopefully we can do this again for the next movie!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

There's No Such Thing as Zombies
starring
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry

 

directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

Amazon

Amazon UK

Vimeo

 

 

 

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
Amazon!!!