EXCLUSIVE: Candid Interview with HATCHET and HOLLISTON Creator Adam Green
CBM's own Brent Sprecher sits down with filmmaker Adam Green to discuss his horror sitcom's in-jokes and laugh tracks, and how Holliston is helping to humanize horror fans.
After gifting movie fans with the ”friggin fantastic horror icon” Victor Crowley in his debut feature, Hatchet, filmmaker Adam Green looked to his past for the inspiration for his next project, Holliston. The horror sitcom, which centers around the lives of two aspiring horror filmmakers, was an instant hit on FEARnet, earning a second season after only two episodes had aired. Fans initially tuned in for all of the sight gags, cameo appearances and horror movie in-jokes, but the show has developed a loyal following because of the strong character relationships.
With Season 2 now in the rearview mirror, Green is feeling more confident and looking down the road, far down the road, to Holliston's tenth season and beyond. In this exclusive interview, Green discusses the confidence that comes with success, the pain of re-opening old wounds and the importance of doing a simple thing like responding to a fan's letter.
BRENT SPRECHER: You’ve always made it known that you’re a fan-first guy. Where does that come from, that urge to stay connected to your fans?
ADAM GREEN: It comes from a few things. When I was a kid, I remember writing to KISS in their fan mail, expecting a letter back, and I got a t-shirt order form. I was so disappointed. I was like, “If I’m ever famous, and I get a fan letter, I’m going to write back to them.” Anyone who writes a letter, an actual printed letter, to my fan mail, they get a response back. I think it’s because I’m so focused on the independent side, I think I have to be so tight with my fan base – and I love that – and doing conventions, which is something you really only see with certain genres – you don’t see romantic comedy conventions. When you get 30 seconds or ten minutes with somebody and really get to talk to them about why they appreciate what you do, that fuels you until the next convention. Because the industry can really beat you down and make you be like, “Is it worth all of this?” And then you have five minutes with somebody who it means the world to and you’re just like, “That’s who I’m making it for.” And you make a better product when you know your audience on a personal level. So, I love doing it! It doesn’t feel like work.
BRENT SPRECHER: You’re also known for not charging for autographs when you appear at conventions like this one. Has that ever caused you any problems?
ADAM GREEN: At some horror conventions because the other celebrities don’t like that.
BRENT SPRECHER: Are you ever confronted by parents or just people who don’t like horror because of the stories you tell? Do you ever get any backlash?
ADAM GREEN: Only from the MPAA, who has had a problem with the Hatchet series, in particular. But, no, it’s never been a problem. In fact, I get so many parents who come with their kids and thank me for writing back to their kids or sharing your story.
Today, I had a really moving experience. When I went to the signing at 11:00, there was a girl who security had said had already been there for two hours waiting, pacing. When I went over to say hello to her, she was so excited she couldn’t even breathe, which was a little weird, but once she could speak she told me that there was a guy at school – I think she was, like, 14 – that had been picking on her and harassing her for being a nerd, for what she’s into, and she punched him in the balls and got suspended from school. She wrote me a letter and told me that story and I wrote back, like, “Obviously, violence isn’t the answer, but good for you for sticking up for yourself and don’t let anyone judge you.” Her father had written back to me saying how much that meant to me, but she told me that, between that and Holliston, it made her feel like she’s the cool one and that if other people don’t get it, it’s their loss. I think that’s awesome. Just over the past ten years, you’ve seen it go from us being nerds to – I feel like, almost, if you’re not in on this you’re jealous because you can’t just jump in on this.
BRENT SPRECHER: Do you ever get any pressure to make some of your numerous in-jokes more accessible to non-hardcore fans?
ADAM GREEN: What I try to do is to make it so that, if you get it, it’s funny to you, but it’s not distracting. For instance, in Season 1 of Holliston, my hamster’s name is Horace Baker. Now, if you know Shocker, that’s funny. But, we did a screening in the town of Holliston, Massachusetts, that was. Like. 40% elderly people and they laughed because Horace Baker is a funny name for a hamster. I don’t want to do a joke where if you’re not geeky enough to get it you don’t understand what’s going on. I think that’s what my fan base appreciates.
BRENT SPRECHER: You said in a previous interview, that you would want the show to last ten seasons. Do you already know in your mind where the show would go that far down the road?
ADAM GREEN: I have this so, so, plotted out and there’s so far you can go with it. Right now, it’s about the struggle and aspiring and trying to make it, but once they start to, you’ve got five more years of storylines right there. What the fans respond to is not just the references, or the gore moments, or the jokes, it’s the characters and the relationship stuff. There’s a huge difference between Season 1 and Season 2 in our confidence level. It’s not that it got better, but you can tell what’s working. With Season 1, we were nervous, I was nervous, because I knew the front line was going to be horror fans because we’re on FEARnet, that’s who we’re appealing to, and I didn’t know if they were going to stick with the emotional stuff or the relationship things, but that’s what they responded to the most. The fan mail for the show is so unique because it’s not just, “I love this show,” it’s thank you letters. “Thank you for humanizing horror fans and putting us front-and-center as real people, not a sight gag or a joke or a supporting character.” (Holliston) is just very, very honestly written. It’s not condescending to (horror fans). …It would be so sad if the show ended because we so far we want to go.
BRENT SPRECHER: You’re obviously drawing on so much of your own experiences as a filmmaker in writing the show…is it hard to write about yourself? Do you ever think, “I don’t want to reveal that part about myself?”
ADAM GREEN: That hasn’t happened…yet. It’s not even just the work experiences, but it’s the emotional stuff – the Adam and Corey character stuff – that’s all based on a true story. So, when I write it, I’m coming from a place of sitcom comedy and then we rehearse it and it’s funny, but when you actually perform, and you have to really go there and feel like that again, I had a hard time during Season 1. I would go home and I was so upset and depressed for, like, weeks. My family was concerned about it. I actually started seeing a therapist so I could learn how to turn it on and shut it off. So, I can turn it on when the cameras are rolling, but internally know that that was then and it’s over and it doesn’t hurt anymore. But, I think it always is going to hurt. It callouses over and you move on, but (this show) has really peeled it back. When I see how other people are responding to that, it’s worth feeling like shit for a little while. But my family was very concerned when they saw the pilot. They were like, “Do you really want to do this?” You know, everything you do, you’re going to have critics and people who want to tear you down, and they were like, “This is a show to some people, but this is your real life. Everything they say is going to be a personal attack.” At this point, I’ve dealt with it enough that that part doesn’t faze me, but we didn’t get any backlash like we thought we would. We thought, no matter what – because no one’s done this before – we figured there would be people, like, “A sitcom!” There worst we ever got was, “Why is there a laugh track?” from (horror fans) who’ve never seen a sitcom before.
BRENT SPRECHER: The show is often compared to The Big Bang Theory. Does that bother you at all?
ADAM GREEN: No, because every time someone bring it up they say, “It’s better (than The Big Bang Theory).” If they said, “It’s not as good (as The Big Bang Theory),” then it would bother me.
BRENT SPRECHER: I love all of the cameos on the show. Which horror actor icon would you most like to have do a cameo on Holliston Or, just dream cameo?
ADAM GREEN: Oh, man, that’s so hard. I don’t know. Unfortunately, the answer wasn’t a horror person; it was Jean Stapleton from All in the Family, but she passed away last month.
BRENT SPRECHER: Ah, yes, I read somewhere that you often watch that show to learn about how to shoot an ensemble –
ADAM GREEN: There are full acts that are one shot! But, the chemistry and the timing and the way they listen to each another, that’s what I had the cast watching. The first episode they were watching, they were like, “How does this relate?” I’m like, “It doesn’t matter about subject matter, just look at character,” and then everyone really gelled with that.
BRENT SPRECHER: Anyone else? Someone horror fans would dig?
ADAM GREEN: I guess my dream one… I think (Italian movie director, producer and screenwriter) Dario Argento would be really fun because of how we could play around with the language and him not understanding us. We had done a short film called The Road to FrightFest and we took a clip of him from an interview – so he’s just speaking Italian – and then we put in subtitles of what we wanted him to say, just saying that we’re douchebags and he doesn’t know who we are, and it would be so fun to play with that. And he’s such a nice, nice, guy. But, I just don’t know. It would have to time out. But, I think that would be really fun. In your life, did you ever think you would see Dario Argento on a sitcom, or Tony Todd (Candyman).
BRENT SPRECHER: Are celebrities coming to you now that the show is more established?
ADAM GREEN: Now, we’re turning people away, which is great. In Season 1, everyone just said, “Yes,” because they trusted me – it was all people I had worked with before. Once people saw it, they were like, “How do I get in on this?” Because, you gotta remember, if you’re Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), you get the acting bug. You’re not like, “You know what I want to do is play a killer in a movie that becomes so famous that I become forever tied to that and I’m always doing one thing.” So, the fact that they get to do, not just a comedy, but a sitcom, and perform in front of an audience – they never thought that was going to happen, so they love it. It’s great!
BRENT SPRECHER: Thank you so much for your time.
ADAM GREEN: You bet. Thank you for watching the show.
WARNING: The following trailer contains blood, gore and comedy.
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