Texas Frightmare Weekend 2011: Roger Corman & Jason Eisener Q&A’s
Now that I’m actually sitting down and writing all the various events from 2011’s Texas Frightmare Weekend, I realize just how insanely crazy I was last weekend. The convention’s organizers really packed a lot of events into Saturday (the third day of the event). Two of those people represent the extremes of the business: Roger Corman, a legend in both the horror genre and the film industry in general, and Jason Eisener, who’s just beginning his career and is the writer-director of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. We all know Roger Corman: Director of 56 films (mainly genre films) that spans 5 decades, and the producer of (mainly) genre films that spans 70 years … SEVENTY YEARS!! Corman is a friggin’ legend and has recently given us SHARKTOPUS and is finishing the post-production on PIRANHACONDA (expected to be released in 2011).
Roger Corman entered the Q&A session to a standing ovation. There were budding amateur filmmakers and fans alike that were eager to bask in the over 70 years of his experience and wisdom. One of the first questions that came up was indeed SHARKTOPUS. Corman kind of laughs and said even he thought they were “going too far with that one. We were going as far as absurdity goes.” But due to the success of the film Corman now believes they need to go “wilder” in their concepts … hence PIRANHACONDA!!
There were a ton of questions asking Corman about his early career, especially all the Poe films he made. Interestingly enough, the Poe films were Corman’s attempt to “raise the level” of his films. He usually shot his films on a tight, 10-day schedule. But when he made HOUSE OF USHER (1960) he had a three week shooting schedule. “I thought I hit the big time,” Corman says winking to the crowd. Asked if he will ever direct again he gives a weak ‘maybe.’ “Producing is easier. I get to sleep in a little more. Instead of being on the set at 6am I get to roll in around 9am and look over the already tired director’s shoulder asking him ‘Why’d you shoot that?’” And then someone asked Corman the big question: What exactly do you do in you new “producer” gig? Corman laughs as he explains that he works primarily in the pre-production phase of the film writing scripts, doing script re-writes, and scouting out locations. As Corman tells us, “As I always say, once the film starts shooting it’s already half way done.” He also says that he stays away from the set once filming begins because he finds that people always come to him asking him questions that should be pointed at the director. Corman wants the director to be “the guy” the cast and crew go to. He also stays away from the film until after it’s gone through two rounds of editing. He wants the director to do the first two edits and then he’ll come in on the third round. That’s pretty cool in my opinion; he doesn’t wanna overshadow and take anything away from the director.
Then the question I was waiting for was finally asked: “Do you have any advice for young filmmakers looking to break into the business?” He offered some solid advice: Either make your own film with a digital camera or go the more traditional route and go to film school and learn everything you can. If school isn’t an option due to money, then get a job on an indie film project and learn that way. Corman points out that making your own film is so much easier nowadays. You can buy a good digital camera for a modest price and all the latest technology makes editing and putting in some f/x much easier. This is a point Nick Principe (ChromeSkull) also stressed during the LAID TO REST 2 Q&A. Principe said that “most people think ya have to move out to Los Angeles and live on the streets in order to make a film. But nowadays you can make a solid film wherever you live. Just get out there and do it!!” Solid advice Principe and Corman!! On the down side, though, Corman does point out that it might be easier to make an indie film but the marketing and distribution of your film is more difficult. There’s always another side to the coin!!
Unfortunately Roger Corman’s time was greatly restricted and he only had about 30-45mins for the Q&A. But hell, even if he answered questions for three hours that still wouldn’t have been enough time. The man has enough great stories that he could fill five conventions!! But Corman was extremely sincere and looked as though he would’ve answered everyone’s questions if time allowed. His Q&A was a thrill for me; Corman’s a legend and ya just don’t meet someone like him everyday!!
Then later on Saturday there was a Q&A with writer-director JASON EISENER, who made the much-buzzed HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. Eisener is so opposite from Roger Corman. Eisener grew up in a small Canadian town where he was working in a comic book store when he heard about a trailer contest. That’s right, the origins of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN came about from a trailer contest that was held when Rodriquez and Tarantino’s GRINDHOUSE came out. Eisener stepped up to the plate and made a faux-trailer about a hobo who has a shotgun and he won. The trailer was such a success that people were demanding to see the full length feature. So Eisener made a treatment of what the feature would be based on the trailer and BAM … HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN was born.
Eisener is a very humble guy who you can tell is just absolutely thrilled to be where he currently is. He told us that he’s a long time genre fan and always gravitated towards the exploitation film. One of his huge influences is Italian maestro Dario Argento, and after we saw a few clips of the film it’s quite obvious that Argento’s color palate definitely influenced the look of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN.
Eisener then tells us that he got Karim Hussain, an experimental genre Canadian filmmaker, to shoot HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. This is a pretty big deal. Besides his writing and directing, Hussain is a top-notch cinematographer who really brought a lot of experience and wisdom to the HOBO shoot. Hussain, Eisener tells us, really helped develop a unique feel for the film and brought Eisener’s vision to reality. Eisener also talks about how difficult it was getting this film made in Canada. I, myself, lived in Ottawa, Canada for six years and can attest to the odd environment there. Canadians don’t have a problem with nudity or even occasional bad language, but they are pretty uptight about violence. There’s a show that would come on called BLEU NUIT which was essentially a program showcasing a new softcore porn film every Saturday night. But when it came to violence it felt like Canadians were still living in the Victorian period. Thank god the border guards never check my bags … if they knew the kind of “degenerate” films I was bringing into their country they would’ve lock my ass up!!
But Eisener never backed down to the censors and stayed focused and ended up making the film he wanted. He did say that getting the “flamethrower on a school bus packed with kids” scene OK’d was challenging!! When HOBO premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Eisener said he was pretty stoked over the way it was received. Sundance isn’t known for screening exploitation/genre films, so when some people walked out (after seeing the above-mentioned flamethrower scene) Eisener took it all in stride. But one of the best stories Eisener had was a true story of what happened on the set. There was apparently a blind man who would hang around the set each day. Two weeks before HOBO started shooting this guy had some kind of surgery to restore his vision. So one day Eisener was filming a particularly fun scene where a man gets decapitated and as blood is shooting out of his neck a blond chick starts dancing around in his blood as it rains down. At the particular moment the guy who had the eye surgery was suddenly able to see and the first thing this man saw was a hot blonde dancing around a decapitated man who’s blood is raining down on them all. The man stared wide-eyed and said, “I never knew the color red was so beautiful.” What an awesome story!! And to hell with putting reviewer’s comments on the poster … Eisener needs to put “I never knew the color red was so beautiful” on the poster!!
When asked if we’ll see HOBO 2 Eisener of course said he’s “up for it” and sees the character of the hobo (played by Rutger Hauer) as an old-school Western kind of character. He can see “the hobo” going from town to town cleaning up corrupt cities and taking out the bad guys. That sounds pretty sweet. But he also said he’s currently working on a martial arts film and a movie based on the “Plague Characters” who are in HOBO. He also throws in that there’s going to be a comic book adaptation of HOBO that is almost completed (which is apropos; Eisener used to work in a comic book shop). He also said he can see the world he created in HOBO as the setting for future movies he makes. I immediately thought of Lloyd Kaufman’s Tromaville and apparently that’s a fair comparison. Kaufman’s Troma Films has played a huge influence on him.
Jason Eisener spoke with such passion for HOBO that you just couldn’t help get excited about seeing it. Lucky for me that HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN just opened in Austin, TX today (May 6th). Check your local listings as well because it is having a limited theatrical run. But if it’s not coming to your town don’t worry; the DVD is being released on July 5th. [I just saw HOBO last night ... see my review here].
Leave it to the coordinators of the Texas Frightmare Weekend to include both Roger Corman and Jason Eisener on the schedule. Both are fascinating people who have very different levels of experience, but who are also both very sincere individuals who were very happy and excited to be at this year’s convention. I can’t wait to see how the Texas Frightmare Weekend is gonna top itself next year … and I know it will.