Hello Jason, glad you could take the time and chat with us! Why don't we start with some background. Tell us about yourself and how you've come to work as a filmmaker; your inspirations.
Hi guys. Thrilled to chat. Thanks for talking with me!
I’m a lifelong writer. My career has been in campaigns and communications for big businesses, so I write all day. Then, at home, I write for fun.
My introduction to filmmaking was later in life than most of my peers. I didn’t have the Camcorder movies with plastic army men. Instead, about 10 years ago I saw an ad for the 48 Hour Film Project. I was bored with my writing group and decided impetuously to put a team together. By the end of that weekend, I had one of those genuine “this is what I should be doing” moments. And I’ve been pursuing projects in film ever since.
The films that form the core of my influences are mid-80s horror, horror comedy and action. I grew up on Canon and Orion, and I think that made me a revenge thriller guy even more than a horror guy.
As director, you have quite a few short films under your belt; any plans to leverage that experience and create a full length feature?
I always joke that all our shorts are “full length.” Seven minutes was Born Again’s full length!
But, yes, absolutely I plan to make a feature, or more than one. I’m excited to tell a story over a longer runtime under the constraints I’ve put on myself as a short film writer and director. I’m just working, along with my creative partner Randall Greenland, on finding the one that just has to be told. Starting up and running that engine over the production time of a feature film just isn’t worth it unless we’re absolutely driven to tell that story.
What was the genesis for Hellarious? Why do an anthology?
There are kind of two parts: the overall background, and the specific moment.
The overall background is, I’m constantly looking for new ways to connect audiences and films. It’s a big part of the reason I started Nightmares Film Festival with my partner Chris Hamel. And it’s been the force behind many of my projects.
Specifically, I was talking with another Chris, Chris Ethridge of HorrorPack, who’s one of the most beautiful people in indie, and he was asking about a previous feature collection I’d put together. I got thinking about it, and about all of us who love horror comedies but have no way to see these top-notch shorts anywhere but on the circuit. Our films had played with some astonishingly well made and truly hilarious shorts, and they were just destined to die on YouTube. So I called him back and said, “How about I put together a horror-comedy collection?” And we were off and running.
Were there plans to do original content exclusive to this Anthology, or was it always meant to be a compilation of the genre's best short films?
Hellarious was always going to be a collection of shorts that had already been produced, because I wanted to be able to offer fans a set of films they’d heard about, or maybe already seen once and fallen in love with at a festival, but were since resigned to the fact that they might never be able to see them again.
All these shorts have won and been celebrated on the circuit, including several playing Nightmares, and are kind of coming to the audience with a big, fat seal of approval from fans and critics that says, “You are going to love this!”
What was the curation process like? Any short films you wanted to have on that couldn't make it?
In a way it was simple. I set out to put together some of the best horror comedies of the last few years with the biggest reputations, and that’s a narrow list. I also wanted to be sure we had women filmmakers represented, like Clarissa Jacobson and Sarah Reimers, which narrowed it further.
In the end, we had a golden lineup, and the only film we wanted but couldn’t fit into the runtime was Nick Spooner’s The Call of Charlie, which is fucking hysterical and extraordinarily well made. Nick already knows that, if enough people support Hellarious and we get to create another collection, I’ll be in his DMs.
You yourself make two contributions to Hellarious — ‘Til Death, and Born Again. Tell us a little about how you came up with both stories.
I wrote both of those with Randall, who is one of the funniest people and writers I’ve ever met. ‘Til Death came from a conversation about how people partner up without really understanding each other, then blame their partners for all their own shortcomings, and we just beat it out from there.
Born Again I wrote originally for a sixty-second horror contest. I think it was in partnership with Carpenter, maybe. Randall fleshed out that one-page script into the short we eventually made, including changing my ending to something way funnier.
A common thread with all the included shorts is comedy. Dark comedy mainly, but comedy nonetheless. However we notice that a couple of them (Born Again, Death Metal) were more on-the-nose thematically, playing closest to the spirit of the film's title. Was Hellarious at any point meant to tie shorts that were—not only funny—but steeped in spirituality as well?
Very astute! We definitely toyed with building out the entire collection with shorts that had a more direct tie to Satan worship and deals with the devil, which can be super funny. But we thought that was a little too limiting, and decided instead to use the idea of people’s personal world going to hell as the broader concept, which I think is more interesting and plays better as a mix.
Obviously we have to ask. What's your favorite anthology film? Also, what's the single strongest segment in any of the ones you've seen?
Creepshow, hands down! As to strongest segments, I’ll offer you three of my favorites: The Raft from Creepshow 2, Amelia from Trilogy of Terror – that’s the one with the Zulu doll – and any Jason Eisener segment. He’s the best. When are we getting his follow-up to Hobo with a Shotgun?
Any parting words?
Hellarious is a moonshot at bringing shorts to the audiences that will love them. If enough people support it, we may get to do it again for other short-film makers, which would be a dream for them and a boon for horror fans who are missing out on some of the best work in the world because no one’s figured out shorts distribution. It’s really dumb, and we could be part of fixing it. They just need to order here: https://horrorpack.com/store/hellarious/, or on VOD when it’s released this month.
Thanks Jason, keep scaring and tickling.
Be sure to check out our short-by-short breakdown of Hellarious right here. And also take a.peak at the upcoming NIGHTMARES FILM FESTIVAL Jason is involved with.