Sunday, 5 February 2012

15 - An Exploration of Human Violence: Exclusive Cast and Crew interviews

If you read my review of Jason Hawkins 15,  you will know that this little indie horror really got under my skin. Its a dark, disturbing exploration of human violence that truly stays with you after the credits roll.
Telling the story of a camera crew who travel to the remote home of self proclaimed serial killer Edwads 'Ed' Payne to capture his final moments before he gives himself up, 15 tries and succeeds in fraying the nerves.
Hacked in the Head was lucky enough to interview several members of the cast and crew of the movie and it was an absolute pleasure to find out more about the people involved.

Thank you to you all for taking the time to talk with Hacked in the Head Reviews! It’s a pleasure to discuss the movie 15 with you and any other stuff you want to talk about!

Jason Hawkins (‘Edward Payne’) and Director/Writer 

Hacked in the Head: My first question is to Jason – how did the idea for 15 come about? Did you have a clear idea from the outset on how you wanted the film to turn out? ‘A study of human violence’ is a very apt subtitle for the movie.

Jason Hawkins:
Well, we had shot a short film, called “Girl 15” with Dara Davey, Bob Olin, and myself. I really wanted to take a non-glamorous look at sociopathic behavior, and explore that aspect of human nature. Abnormal Psych was always one of my favorite studies, and I felt like Hollywood tended to glamorize the behavior of serial killers –I didn’t want to do that. They’re frightening, and I wanted to scare people. So we shot the short film, and it’s pretty good (I’ll probably put it on the DVD bonus features), and while watching the final product I thought: “There’s more… we didn't get all of it… there’s… something else here we need to explore.” So, we re-visited it, and went to work. The cast only got the first 60 pages of the script. They had NO IDEA what was going to happen in the final 30 minutes of the film. I wouldn’t give them the pages. The day we got ready to shoot, they still didn't know, the crew didn’t know, nobody knew but ME… they showed up on set, nervous, a little afraid of me, and ready to work. I told them: “Trust me.” And of course, foolishly, they did. (Lesson there kids, never trust a sociopath.)

That final scene is 27 minutes, one camera, no cuts. People have gotten up in the middle of it and walked out of the theater in tears. But most of them stay to watch it, and that’s my point. How numb are we to enjoy…. That.

HitH: Secondly Jason – How did you find the experience of writing/directing as well as playing such a central role? It must have had its challenges?

JH: Actually, it wasn’t too bad. I slip in and out of character pretty quickly, and really… to be honest, I don’t remember most of the film. I remember the direction, setting up shots, etc., but once I became Ed, Mr. Director Jason was loonnnnnnng gone. When the scene was over I sometimes couldn't remember what Ed had said or done, or why people were really crying and giving me funny looks….

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you guys that in public….

Next question! Haha.

HitH: Your role in the movie is a pretty terrifying one. I know in correspondence you mentioned how hard it was to shake such a character off which I can completely understand. Tell me a bit about the creation of Edward ‘Ed’ Payne and the difficulties faced with portraying such a detestable ‘human’ being.

JH: Damn, next question was about Ed! I should have read ahead…

Ok. Yeah, Ed isn't a nice guy. But the worst part is that you get the sense that Ed isn’t quite right, that there is something lurking just inside of his skin, and if that something gets out, or gets too close, you’re in danger. Going there as an actor wasn’t easy at all. I had to live in Ed’s mind almost 24/7 to really get the feel of it. To get ready for scenes, I had to just forget that I was a human being, because while Ed is wearing a human suit, he’s far from a normal human. It caused a lot of problems. I lost friends I had known for a few years.

One of them came to me after the film and said we couldn’t stay friends. I thought he was joking. He told me, he thought Ed was the real ‘me’, that I wasn’t acting when I was Ed; and that the ‘ me’ that was standing there talking to him like a normal person, was actually the act.

I thought that was a compliment. As an actor, I scared the shit out of people. They didn’t see me, they didn’t think it was ‘acting’, they 100% believed what they were seeing on the screen, that it was all real, and that’s a pretty big compliment.

HitH:. Is there any news you can share regarding the film’s release? I did read something about a possible upcoming DVD release.

Circus Road is our sales agent for the film. We’ve received a few offers, with smaller distributors, but are working on a larger, mass market DVD release. I hope to have the deals worked out sometime over the next couple of months so we can get the film out there.

HitH: Lastly is there anything else you would like to say about the movie or tell horror fans out there? Are there any new, exciting projects in the pipeline?

JH: Sure. We set out to make a scary movie, something that wouldn’t jump out at you, or shower you with gore, but something that would fucking terrify you, because it felt real. I’ve always felt that the most successful horror was horror that was personal to the person watching it. I felt with ‘15’ we hit that right on the head. It’s personal. I hope you enjoy it, though enjoy may not be the right word.

We are busy beyond words. In addition to working out the distribution deals for our two features ‘15’ and ‘The Innocent’, we are getting ready to shoot a horror film called ‘The Suffering’ which stars some pretty big genre names, like Eileen Dietz, Shannon Lark, and Denton Blane Everett. It’s a powerful film, and in test readings there have been lots of real tears, and real screams… In addition, my long-time friend ‘Big Adam’ has been after me to shoot the horror film ‘Keeper’, which now looks like a summer shoot.

After that, we get to tackle a massively huge project. A sci-fi/horror trilogy called ‘Shatterpoint’, a terrific project starring Dara Davey. This has been our dream project for the last year, and it looks like we’ll finally get to start working on it in the fall/winter of this year.

In case you can’t tell, I don’t sleep much. Not with Ed rattling around in my brain anyways…

Natasha Timpani  (‘Brenda Hill’)

Hacked in the Head: My next question has to go to Natasha Timpani who plays lead gal ‘Brenda Hill’. Now ‘Brenda’ is quite the character isn’t she? What were your thoughts when you first read the script? Were you surprised at how gritty and dark the film was going to be and how complex your character?

Natasha Timpani: Isn't she quite the character? I had a discussion with Jason Hawkins where he told me about the plot, the character Brenda and his idea for how she would be involved in the film. With "15" we had different versions of the script where scenes or dialogue was omitted or not shared until right before we filmed, so it was my conversation with Jason that really captured my interest. Brenda is exactly the type of role I have been dying to play and I was surprised that Jason believed in my ability to play such a dynamic role.

HitH: How tough did you find the role? Or did you relish playing such a meaty character?

NT: Playing Brenda was exciting! It pushed me as an actor to really become someone I don't relate to at all. It was challenging because I joined on four days before we began filming and I had to immerse myself in a very dark world, and do a lot of disturbing research in a short time. The message we wanted to deliver was important to me, and the role was on my wish list of roles, so I really did love playing Brenda.

HitH: How were your experiences working with Jason Hawkins? It must have been strange being directed by someone who you are also acting with, in a central capacity. Especially with Jason’s role being so evil and menacing!

Jason is incredible to work with and "15" was my first opportunity to work with him. I was able to see Jason work as a director, a co-star, and a co-producer and really learn so much from him in each area; he is an incredibly talented, intelligent, hard-working, professional who is always on the move. He’s fun to be around, and supports and stands behind his cast and crew every step of the way. His character was a drastically different from who he really is, but filming scenes with him as Ed was easy, because when we film, I’m not me, I’m Brenda.

HitH: Have you seen the finished movie and what are your thoughts on the final product? Are you a fan of horror movies in general?

NT: I have seen the film at the Crypticon Seattle horror convention, and at a screening in Portland, and I also have a few copies at home. We all co-produced the film together and had a message we wanted to deliver, and wanted to leave the audience with something that impacted them. I couldn't be happier with the final product and it turned out to be than I could have imagined. The performances from my co-stars are incredible and it really blows me away to see them bring such intense, deep characters to life. Plus it scared me, and very few things truly frighten me. I have always liked watching horror films and seeing if it will be scary or not. The genre in general I love, except when there is overt gore in horror films, then, I can't watch.

HitH: Do you have any new projects coming up? Or is there anything else you would like to share with fans?

NT: I am excited to come back and play a role in the feature film "The Suffering", which Jason and Dara are producing in a few weeks. I also have a huge role in Jason’s "Shatterpoint" trilogy, which is to start by early fall, and, I am also in discussions for two other features to be filmed this summer, but can't give any details. I do want to say how truly thankful I am for the wonderfully supportive fans, and for all the interest in the film. I couldn't be happier than to do what I love and to have it enjoyed by others. Thank you guys for your time it was fun to chat about the movie.

Bob Olin: (‘Jack Hamil’)

Hacked in the Head: Next I want to go to Bob who plays struggling camera man ‘Jack Hamill’. Hi Bob – your character goes on quite the journey in 15. Tell me a bit about your experiences playing him.

Bob Olin: I guess I’d have to say that playing Jack was a bit like a roller coaster; there were some ups, some downs … and lots of screaming. Jack was a very interesting character to play and one that I’m glad I got the chance to bring to life, if only for a few days. We filmed this movie in almost real time, over 4 days, and it really called for me to focus at all times, and to be immersed into the emotions that he went through in a very short time frame. It also was an odd thing to not only act as the character, but to be the camera operator for 95% of the film as well. I had to be thinking about the shots, and catching what we needed while at the same time, in a lot of cases, improvising a lot of the dialogue with my fellow actors: Jason, Natasha, and Dara. We had a script, (which we only got part of, and just one day before filming so we couldn’t become overly familiar with it) but we decided to use it as more of a loose basis to work from rather than stay word for word. We felt that it would bring a more realistic feel. This is true from the beginning, when I really did have a flat tire, so Jason told me to take the camera with me and we incorporated it into the film. The “man on the street” interviews were also all real people and real interviews. They weren’t told about the movie until after the interviews were over. Those were so much fun to film, and meet all the folks and get so many interesting opinions. The scenes just kind of flowed like a river no matter who was in them. We all relished the chance to just play around and see what we got, including the final scene.

HitH: How did you cope filming your final scenes? Personally I found these to be more than a little harrowing – did these stay with you afterwards or were you able to go home after and think ‘that was work’ ?

BO: I'm really glad to hear that the scene stuck with you. It means that my pain and suffering worked –and that’s good to know. That final scene was by far the most difficult one I’ve ever done in 12 years of film work. The whole thing was improvised. It was cold and dark, and I was truly frightened. I had no clue what Jason was going to do or say. Trust me when I say that Ed Payne is not a guy you wanna get upset, or be in the same room with in such a vulnerable state. It was one of the last scenes we filmed so I had 4 days to get myself there, and the tension increased as we went along for me just like it does for Jack and the audience. It was intense, to say the least. You asked if the scene stayed with me afterwards. In 2 words, fuck yes. To do a scene like that you have to totally immerse yourself into the moment and I was all over the map with emotion and fear. I had to try block most of it out and believe it or not I don’t remember a great deal of it. As much as I’d like to say it was “just work” it sure didn’t feel like it. I actually got a call from Jason about 2 weeks later, and he said that he thought we might need to film the scene again (which we did, but didn’t use) to try to get more emotion out of it. I agreed to it if it would make the film work better. That very night I woke up 3 times from nightmares fighting in my sleep. I find it difficult to watch still, so I’d say yes that it stayed with me. But, I’m glad I did it.

HitH: Are you satisfied with the films outcome in respects to your character? Or would you have liked a potential for Jack to come back from his experiences? (Non spoiler as per the opening of the film)

As a performer, sure I’d love to see more of Jack in order not only to play him some more but also to have the fun on set with our cast and crew. But, I also know too that the story just doesn’t allow for it. His story has an Act 1, 2 and 3, and I think it’s a nice and well told peek into one down on his luck, slightly awkward, loving husband, who’s having a difficult time of life. I personally don’t wanna go and tell backstories, or a story of what happened to Jack after the camera shuts off. I think leaving it to the audience to imagine is much more interesting in this case. To have a sequel for sequels sake is something I personally don’t like… however, if there were more stories to tell, then we’d have discussed it and left it open to do so. There are a few characters that I’ve played where there is that option, but unfortunately, this isn’t one of them, and I’m ok with that.

HitH: You had some rather sexy scenes with Natasha at one point in the film! I thought you had great chemistry together, particularly when ‘Brenda’ warmed to your character but did you find filming Natasha’s seduction scene uncomfortable in anyway?

Uncomfortable?? Have you seen this wonderful young lady? She’s an incredible person and an amazingly talented woman. Thank you for the compliment and I totally agree that we had a crazy chemistry that just came out. It’s funny because the chemistry was almost instantaneous, and that’s not always the case on a film set, but it was easy with her. We met literally the first morning of filming and almost immediately became very good friends. We spent some time together traveling to set and back into town to film the interviews and had some deep discussions about the film and our views on the story and what we wanted our onscreen relationship to be. A bit of behind the scenes trivia: We didn’t know our whole relationship storyline until the final day of filming. You asked about the seduction. When it came to that scene, at first yes, I was a little uncomfortable but again we talked about it a bit one on one and just decided to go with it and we got what we got, which I’m very happy with. Her opinion is the same as mine, do what we need to do to make the film work. She does that and I can’t wait to work with her again and again.

HitH: Same question as to Natasha. What are your thoughts of the final product of 15 and do you enjoy horror movies in general?

BO: I'm very happy with the final product. I’m not sure if Jason has mentioned it, but this is only the theatrical / DVD version that was cut down from I believe a 2:45 original run time. There are some cool scenes that had to be cut, but not everything’s always gonna make it into the final cut. All in all I think though, that the story flows nice, and it builds and builds until the very brutal ending, which was the idea. Can you stick around and watch it all the way through? We wanted the film to feel raw and unblinking and that’s what we give you. When you think the intensity should be over, think again.

You asked also if I’m a fan of horror movies. Hell yeah I am, in fact most of my early work, and of course, some of my latest work is in the horror genre. The first horror film I remember was “Curse of Frankenstein” with Christopher Lee and a scene where an arm is amputated really stuck with me. I loved it and knew that I’d always be a fan of the horror genre. It was such an honor and a great experience to get to work with Adrienne King from the original “Friday the 13th” when I co-starred in “The Innocent” (another Gravestone film) and also “Gabby’s Wish”. There’s nothing like a good scare, and I’m always looking for a film to scare me. So come on filmmakers….get to it.

HitH: As I asked Jason and Natasha – what would you like to say about any upcoming projects and is there anything further you would like to add about 15?

Anything further on “15”, huh? 

I guess I’d have to say, it was tough, it was intense, it was horrifying, and it was one of the most fun times I had on a set. 4 days of go go go go, and on the fly filmmaking. I’m really hoping that you all enjoy it and that each time you watch it you’ll find something new, and I have to say I hope it bothers you. Some upcoming projects for me are actually mainly horror related. I have 5 feature length films in post-production: “Lake Noir” (possibly the 1st in a trilogy) “Blood Creek Woodsman”, “Evil Rising” “Twisted Fates” (which I directed a segment for) and “Downcast” all Oregon based films. I’m also playing a supporting role in Gravestone Entertainments “Shatterpoint” trilogy and I’ve also been cast in a few short films with titles like “The Circle” (with Dara Davey) and “Overqualified”. Busy you say, well never busy enough in my book. Of course, I have to say that if anyone likes what they see in my performances, I’m always looking to work on more. Feel free to get in touch with me and let’s talk about making a movie. Thanks for watching “15” and stay scared.

Dara Davey: (‘Maggie’) and Co-Producer

Hacked in the Head:  Finally I would like to talk to Dara Davey who plays Jacks wife ‘Maggie’ and also co-produced 15. Hi Dara – I wondered how you found both acting in the movie as well as being co-producer. Were there any challenges you would like to share?

Dara Davey: First off, thank you for taking the time to interview me. It means a lot to get the opportunity to talk about my experience with this film. To answer your question, I found myself acting in this film because I had landed a co-starring role in Jason Hawkins film The Innocent. He had told me after seeing my acting in The Innocent that he wanted to see me play the lead in one of his films. He called me up one day and described the concept of 15 and asked me if I wanted to play the lead. We actually shot this film originally as a short which is a whole other story of its own (and hopefully we will be releasing footage of it soon, as there are some equally terrifying moments in that one). He loved the short film so much he asked me if I wanted to make it a feature. In order to make it a feature Jason had to create more plot line and Natasha’s character was born and my character completely switched from a college girl to Maggie. I was no longer the lead but was just as happy it turned out the way it did and am so proud of Natasha in this film and the character of Maggie is a critical role in this film. 

As far as co-producing goes, we all actually are co-producers on this film. Jason wanted to try something new, and ultimately we all helped in any and every capacity we could. There really weren’t any challenges insofar as acting and co-producing. I was still able to drop the role of producer and become Maggie. The challenge in this film lied more in taking me to that dark place rather than producing.

HitH: Your role as ‘Maggie’ required acting out some truly horrific scenes. How did you find this? There were a few moments in the film where it looked as though something absolutely appalling was about to happen to you (I won’t go into spoiler territory!). This must have been uncomfortable to a degree?

DD: It was uncomfortable all right. Everything about this film was uncomfortable. One of the biggest challenges was that I had to drop knowing Jason as a writer/director and see him as Edward. Somehow I found that place inside me to imagine the reality of this happening to me. Jason’s performance as Edward was so strong that he really felt like a he had split personalities. There were some scenes I just couldn’t bear to watch because if I didn’t have to make my mind make that switch, I didn't want to because of the amount of terror and stress it put me through.

Yes there were moment where it did look like something appalling was going to happen to me, and really it’s true. I mean, I didn't know what was coming and it was scary because it required me to surrender to the fact that anything could have happened down there. I had to make myself believe that I really could be hurt and killed and that I had no control. Whoever wants to imagine this? But I knew what I was doing was for a good cause, which is to bring awareness to people that we need to question how comfortable we as a nation have become with violence. This wasn’t your typical horror movie where we WANTED to show violence to scare people; we wanted to show violence to make people uncomfortable with it and get to thinking.

HitH: Could you tell me any on set experiences that spring to mind? What was the atmosphere like filming 15 – it’s such a dark dark movie that it would be nice to hear that you were all able to have a laugh while making it!

DD: You know the best part about filming with Gravestone Entertainment is that we have become somewhat of a family. We take care of each other on set. We check in with each other, feed each other, laugh together, bounce ideas off each other, but ultimately we all share the same love for film and when it comes time to shoot, we hustled together and create magic…even if it’s dark. We shot this film in 4 days. When we set our minds on something, we just make it happen, and we let our guards down so we can give the best performance possible. There was definitely laughter on set but honestly most of the time, we were so focused that we didn’t have a lot of time to relax and let loose. We saved that till the film wrapped. However, none of us will forget Jason being deep in a serious scene with Bob and he whips out a banana and started seductively peeling away the peel while talking to Bob. Bob’s being super serious, really in the moment. Then Jason looks at Bob while uh… entertaining the banana orally, and ask: “So tell me something, big boy… Do you like gladiator movies?” Bob about choked to death on the laughter when he realized it was all a setup. All of this in the dead middle of a 10 minute serious scene… We shoot fast, but there’s always time for a banana.

HitH: Were there any moments where you stopped and thought ‘some of this material is a bit too graphic’? I guess it would have been hard to convey the intentions of the film without getting quite hardcore.

DD: Actually I had times where I thought the very concept was too scary and too graphic. But you know what is so great about you asking me this? This film really wasn’t that graphic. It just makes you feel it was terribly graphic. There is very little blood, no severed body parts, very little nudity but somehow you walk away feeling horrified with what you saw and feel you witnessed terrible things. That was our point; to trick the mind. We wanted the acting to carry you through this horror, not the blood. You don’t need blood and guts to know something is terrible and wrong. There were so many people uncomfortable with the content of this film and to us, we know we did it right. I don’t think people are used to getting uncomfortable with violence anymore. We are so accustomed to it, look forward to it in movies, and expect it. We wanted to make it raw and repulsive. It almost seems the more blood and guts in film these days, the less we are afraid, the less we care.

HitH: What’s next for Dara Davey and anything else you would like to add?

DD: Actually I am working on a wonderful new SAG Indie Feature Film called The Suffering. I will be producing in conjunction with Jason Hawkins. Once you make one film with him, you just can’t wait to make more. This time I wanted to step away from the front of the camera and learn the craft of movie making. I believe this knowledge will make me stronger as an actress.

After that, we will get to dive into a feature film trilogy project called ‘Shatterpoint.’ This is a film I’ve really been looking forward to, as the role really speaks to me and will offer new challenges for me as an actress.

I think the last thing I would like that add, is that 15 is not for everyone and that people should be warned before they see it. Some people aren’t ready for it, or don’t want to take themselves to this place and that’s ok. We don’t want them to be subject to seeing it without being warned. It will shake you up. And rightly, it should.

Thank you again for taking the time to talk to me, I am sure readers would agree that you all gave some great answers and insight into the movie. I am still stunned that Jason lost a friend over the film!! Sincerely -the very best of luck with the release of 15!

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