Thursday, 25 October 2012

Scream If You Wanna Go Faster - An Interview with Cary Hill

I was very excited to get the chance to do a Q&A with indie film maker Cary Hill. I have been looking forward to his upcoming indie slasher, Scream Park, for some time now, and it looks set to go hell for leather with the frights and laughs. I thik fans will love this one!

Check out the films official website for more information on the film and how you can get to see it, and read on for Carys great answers!

Hacked in the Head: Hi Cary ! Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Now your upcoming slasher flick, Scream Park, looks set to take audiences back to the gory, fun 80s horror films that we all love.Could you tell us a bit more about the movie and its conception?

Cary Hill: When I decided to do a feature, I had to chose something that could be feasible on a small budget. I decided, in a very cliche way, to go with a horror film; audiences are very accepting for low budget production quality and, well, a lot of other things when watching a low-budget horror film. But it worked out for me because of my love of the genre as well. I've always been a horror fan nd grew up on a diet of 80s horror and science fiction. It felt like a good fit to do something in that vein.

I chose the sub-genre of slasher film because horror has become glutted with either haunted house ghost stories or 'torture-porn' stuff like Saw or Hostel. I missed the old style set up of teens doing things they shouldn't be and a man in a mask 'correcting' the situation. I hit upon the root of Scream Park at a Great America Amusement Park in October, while it was done up for Halloween. A friend of mine who was with me remarked that a real killer could totally slip in with a mask and be running around with these actors. And it stuck! I realized I couldn't think of a movie like that from everything I had every seen -- and it sounded like an 80s premise! A little more research yielded that there had never been a slasher film in an amusement park and I knew I had to do it.

HitH: I have to comment on the killers mask from the official Scream Park trailer. Its really creepy and reminds me, if you don't mind me saying, of the expression pulled by Alec Baldwin when he morphs his
face in attempt to scare his unwanted 'house guests' Beetle Juice. I love it. How did the idea for the mask come about?

CH: Ha! It does! It's actually a medieval plague doctor mask. From the script, I knew both killers would be (initially) masked. The tricky part was what kind of mask. Some types of masks have become iconic and I wanted to stay away from them. There was a long process with Liz Rishel, our wardrobe person to find something. I hit upon the idea for the cloth mask for one killer after looking through Ossian Brown's "Haunted Air." It's a book that collects photos from the 1920s and 30s of people's home-made Halloween
costumes. And there is one photo of a man with a simple cloth mask with two eye holes and crooked mouth cut out of it. It was so simple but terrifying!

We were two weeks from filming and I still hadn't decided on a mask for the other killer. I was in the work shop of Spectre Studios, a Pittsburgh-based prop and mask company that does their own custom designs. I was picking up a pile of prop axes they had made for the film and mentioned I was still looking for a mask. As we walked through their workshop I found a yellowed plague mask in their refuse bin. They were tossing it out. It was one of their own models, but it had yellowed from sunlight and turned this eerie bone color. I quickly made an offer for it and that was that!

HitH: Excellent, it looks so very creepy, I totally agree! What are the release plans for the film and are there any upcoming screenings you would like to make readers aware of? Any chance of say a UK screening in the future? We LOVE horror over here :)

CH: We've got our world premiere in a small theater in Meadville, PA on Halloween night. The theater is right down the road from Conneaut Lake Park, where we filmed the movie. I promised the park the premiere and we decided Halloween was the perfect night for it. The home-town Pittsburgh premiere will be in November.

I would love to bring it to the UK. We've had a pretty strong following from across the pond since the project began. And you're right, you guys certainly do! I think at least half of our Twitter (@screamparkmovie) following is from the UK. In the least, we'll get some Region 2 disks available on our web store.

HitH: Sounds good, I know a lot of UK readers will flock to grab their own copy! I understand that you have Doug Bradley in the film - that's great. How did that all work out? Are there any other notable performances you would like to mention? I recently reviewed Steve Rudzinski's movie 'Everyone Must Die' and I found him to be a fantastic comedic actor in his role!

CH: Having Doug was huge for us. It gave us clout and everyone's ears sort of perked up when they found out Pinhead had joined up with a band of filmmakers out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I met Doug at the Texas Frightmare convention in Dallas, Texas in 2011. I shook his hand, got his autograph, and offered him a paid role on a quick shoot for the film. We exchanged info, I sent him the script, and he said 'yes.'He was so great to work with. There was an initial moment of anxiety about having Doug Bradley on set and directing him. He quickly smashed that all down and shooting with him was probably the most relaxed atmosphere we had the whole production.

Steve has a very special set of skills, mostly around nuances. In putting the film together, I continue to find tiny things in his performance that make me laugh or yell at the editor "that's perfect!" He ended up being the perfect choice for the part, even if we had to age him slightly. I think a lot of that had to do with letting him live in the role of Marty, the park's manager, and free his performance up. Once we found his stride in the role and the level we wanted to play it, I pretty much let him be with it. I'm curious to see what you think after seeing the film!

HitH: I cant wait to see it either and feedback to you! I am also so glad Doug was great to work with but I can understand the slight anxiety beforehand!

How lengthy was the filming process for the film? The location also looks fantastic, could you tell us a bit more about that?

CH: This month marks my 18th month with the project. The very first day of filming was last November with Doug at the University of Pittsburgh. I had looked up an old professor of mine at the university and got clearance to film there for one night. I used to have class in that room we used, so I feel like I've got full circle.We then had a block of three weeks at Conneaut Lake Park where we filmed dusk to dawn every single night to get the bulk of the footage. We've followed that up with about a week and half worth of pickups and additional scenes. Plus one day in a green screen studio for some compositing work. The original schedule was 22 days, and I think we've extended that to near 30 at this point. I've discovered the bane of directing in that you continually find ways to improve or re-do things and there's an urge to go grab the camera and 'fix' it. 

Without Conneaut Lake Park, I don't think this film would be where it currently is. I'd probably still be driving around New England looking for small amusement parks. They very graciously allowed us to use their property, pretty much without limit, to shoot the project. The park has had its share of rough times -- they recently had a large fire that burned a gorgeous ballroom from the early 20th century down. The park has changed hands and eventually ended up in the hands of a board of trustees who are doing everything they can to keep it open for the people in northeast Pennsylvania. Over the past couple of years it's fallen into disrepair and weather-worn. We were able to slip in just before renovations in spring 2012 and utilize that worn look. On top of all that, the maintenance crews in the park were always happy or willing to lend a hand or run a ride or help rig up power so we could film. The situation couldn't have been better.

HitH: Did you encounter any particular challenges whilst filming Scream Park that you are able to share?

CH: The biggest challenge that we've eventually come to joke about (months later) was shooting on location. We'd be deep in a scene, focused, and suddenly the sound man would call out "Birds!" because their chirping was coming in over the microphones. Every time the sun started coming up there would be a scramble to shoot a few last frames of footage before the light changed. There was some discussion among the crew and I to get T-shirts made that just said "Fuck Nature" on them. 

HitH: kind of like Hitchcock but less terrifying and more out and out annoying! 

I also wondered if you are a fan of the horror genre Cary? What are some of your favourites and why? Anything you really love or likewise, dislike within the genre?

CH: Definitely. I take in all movies, any genre but I always seem to gravitate back to horror and science fiction. I think it really hits upon my desire to think in terms of "what if." As in, what if this happened, or
what if someone really did this. Horror is built upon that foundation, while tapping in to primal emotions like fear. I think everyone loves going on roller coasters because deep down there's a realization that
it could fly off the tracks or something bad happen and that by safely pulling back into the station, you've beat death. I think that's why I love Carpenter's Halloween. It just feels believable and real. I know these girls. I go to this school. This street looks just like my neighborhood. But I also love the schlock factor of going really far out there -- and by the late 1980s, I feel like horror movies were being made with such ridiculous premises that it seemed like they just wanted to see what they could get away with. Movies like Night of the Creeps or Chopping Mall where the plot is so far stretched, but it's great! At least they're taking chances. 

I feel like the genre has become diluted or less fearsome with remakes and rehashes. There's no chance-taking anymore. Horror still remains the bastard child of cinema and the industry kind of looks down on it and exploits it. Films like Paranormal Activity work as a great gimmick that's profitable but you don't see much in the way of studios taking chances in the genre. It's up to grassroots filmmakers to really drive the genre in a new direction or continue to bring something to the table. Doug Bradley sells a great T-shirt on his table at conventions that has a picture of Pinhead and says "No Remakes Please, It's A Waste of Good Celluloid."

HitH: What's next for Cary Hill...a Scream Park sequel? A brand new horror flick? A romantic comedy??
CH: I've been asked to take part in a film anthology shooting next year. It's a compilation of short stories built around cryptids -- like Bigfoot, Lockness Monster, etc. We're in the very early stages and I've got a rough online for my bit. I've always liked the idea of doing a creature feature, and it should be really fun.

HitH: Will look forward to hearing more about that when the time is right! Finally Cary is there anything else you wish to tell readers about yourself or your work? Thank you SO much for your time and best of luck with the films release.

CH: Keep checking the film's website for updates and new merchandise coming out. We've got some signed stuff coming up as well as other things.I've talked with a few distributors about theatrical and DVD releases, so once we're all done with the film it's time to get it out there. I'd be more than happy to bring it overseas or play any venue that will have us!

Thanks so much for having me! Always a pleasure.

HitH: No thank you Cary!!


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  2. What a great interview with Cary! I'm sharing it everywhere. And thanks for featuring our artwork for Scream Park, you can see more here at the Scream Park Pinterest board!

    1. No problem! :) thanks so much for sharing thats great and thanks a lot for the link! :)