Another Dead Harvey Exclusive... this time, Brad speaks with up and coming writer/director Paul Campion about his two award winning short films, "Night of the Hell Hamsters" and "Eel Girl".
Brad Paulson - I received two awesome movies from New Zealand director, Paul Campion: "Night of the Hell Hamsters" and "Eel Girl". Since I've received these films I've shown them to numerous friends over beers. I don't want to give any spoilers away, I'll just say that when I see a movie where a hamster gets possessed, talks like a psychotic member of Alvin and the chipmunks and attacks crotches with bloody veracity, I just get all warm and fuzzy and want to share it with the world. And then there's, "Eel Girl". Now that's a movie that stays in your mind after you watch. So, do yourselves a favor and check out Campion's films. Dead Harvey guarantees you will not be disappointed. Enjoy the interview.
DH: "Night of the Hell Hampsters" was awesome. gory and funny. It had the feel of Peter Jackson's older, more ballsy work: aka "Bad Taste" and "Meet The Feebles". What was the inspiration for this film as well as, "Eel Girl"?
PC: Hell Hamsters started out as an idea for the 48hour Film festival in New Zealand. We were brainstorming ideas for different genres, and I came up with the idea of the babysitter and her boyfriend fooling around with the occult and summoning up a demon which possesses the family hamsters, which we were going to do with just socks and red beads for eyes. We didn't get to make the film in the festival so I just developed the idea afterwards. The rest of the story really revolved around that scene where the boyfriend is being viciously attacked by the hamster in his pants. I thought it would be hilarious if the only way to save him was to kick him in the nuts. Those two ideas were the basis of the whole plot, and myself and Mike Roseingrave and Hadyn Green, the other two writers just built the story around that, with the intention of making it as entertaining, gory and fun as possible.
The inspiration for Eel Girl came entirely from the music. Friends of mine own a small record label called Superglider and that was one of the songs on an album of theirs. I was listening to it one day and thought it was quite an interesting track, and just started getting ideas for the eel girl in that weird room from the music. The entire film was always meant to be about those visuals combined with the music.
DH: Who are the filmmakers that have inspired you the most and why?
PC: Well, there are so many, but Ridley Scott first and foremost. His visual style for me is second to none; Sam Raimi and Guillermo Del Toro - I love their comic book style - Hell Hamsters was very much meant to be similar in style to Evil Dead 2 and Blade 2 and I'm particularly a fan of Guillermo Del Toro's use of makeup effects; Peter Jackson of course, particularly for Brain Dead and obviously Lord of the Rings, which I worked on; Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese- possibly the two greatest filmakers of all time - the way they tell the story with the camera is incredible, and Stanley Kubrick, everything about his films is so incredibly meticulous.
DH: How would you describe your individual style?
PC: I've only made two short films so I'm not sure I've found it yet, but for now I'd like to think of it as good visuals, use of practical effects and makeup combined with a bit of CGI here and there, and overall just entertaining storytelling.
DH: What is your particular method of directing? Any tips?
PC: Yes, lots of preparation, and surround yourself with the most experienced cast and crew you can find and just give them the freedom to do what they do best - it makes the directors job so much easier!
DH: When you wrote, "Eel Girl" and "Hell Hampsters" were you always intending to direct them?
PC: Yes, absolutely, they were always ideas that I wanted to put on film, there was never any intention for someone else to direct them.
DH: How different were the two shorts you made from their scripts? Did everything that you intended to get on the screen end up on the screen? If there's anything different, why?
PC: I think they're pretty much exactly what was written and planned. The difference is that before you start making the film you have a perfect vision of what you want the film to be, but because of the limits of budget and time you never really get exactly what you've got in your head, you have a limited budget and you can only make what you can afford. But the thing I find really interesting is through the collaborative process of making a film you end up with something different and better at the end. It's still the directors vision, but it's the directors vision made with the input of a lot of other very talented people
DH: What was the budget for both movies and how did you secure financing?
PC: (I'd prefer not to talk about exact figures if that's ok?) A friendly bank manager and an even friendlier visa card! The only way both films were made was with a lot of support from the cast and crew who all gave up their time for free. Eel Girl probably wouldn't have happened without the incredible support from Richard Taylor and Weta Workshop.
DH: What did you shoot on and how long of a shoot was it for each movie?
PC: Hell Hamsters was shot on Digibeta and the shoot took 3 days, which I now know is a ridiculously short time to shoot a 15 minute film. Ideally you want to be shooting 2-3 pages of script per day, and we were shooting 5 pages plus makeup effects, puppets and visual effects, but in the end I think the energy that went into that insane shooting schedule ended up with what you see in the finished film.
Eel Girl was a slightly easier affair in that we were only shooting 5 pages of script in 3 days and there was only a tiny bit of dialogue. We were also shooting on a set, so we had much more space and control of the whole environment, plus a larger crew. However Eel Girl was shot on 35mm so that generally takes more time than shooting on tape. A huge amount of time was spent prepping the Eel Girl shoot, so on the day although it was still hard work and stressful, but generally the whole thing went very smoothly, and we even finished a few hours early on the last day.
DH: After it's all said and done, what would you have done differently on one or both movies?
PC: On Hell Hamsters perhaps a longer shoot time might have been less exhausting, but I'm not sure it would have made the film any better, as all the energy of the crazy shoot ended up in the film. On Eel Girl, I'd have liked to have added a bit more detail into the sets, and shot more coverage so we had more to play with in the edit, but that was just a time and money issue like any film.
DH: How's the distribution going? Any lessons learned there? Anything you can pass on to other indie filmmakers who've just finished a film?
PC: Hell Hamsters has just been picked up for distribution by Canadian company Ouat! Media, and Eel Girl is just starting to hit the festival circuit and has already picked up one award. As far as advice goes, if you want people to see your film, you have promote it and get it into film festivals. It's a huge amount of work but it's just all part of the job of filmmaking. We have websites and myspace pages for both films and we keep them regularly updated.
DH: What's next? Do you have any more projects in the works?
PC: Yes, definitely! Myself and Producer Elisabeth Pinto are currently developing two feature films. The first is called Lore of the Jungle written by UK script writer Paul Finch. I can't reveal much about the story yet but it's set in London and involves black magic and re-animated corpses and it's designed to be a very fun entertaining Evil Dead 2/Dusk Till Dawn style film.
The other project is Terminal, which is a supernatural bank heist thriller, based on the novel by US horror author Brian Keene. We've been writing the script for that ourselves.
We took both projects to the Cannes film festival this year and got a lot of interest so we're currently trying to trying to raise financing for both.
For more information on Night of the Hell Hamsters, you can go to the site here or its Myspace page here. For more information on Eel Girl, you can go to the site here or its Myspace page here.