Interview: Adam Green on the Horrors of the Online World

By  · Published on February 11th, 2011

Hatchet II is probably going to end up like the first film: not exactly a success in theaters, but destined for cult status instead. So far, that’s basically all of director Adam Green’s films. From Hatchet to Frozen to Spiral, they’ve all found life and a fan base on home video. If you were a fan of the first Hatchet, it’s difficult to imagine you wont enjoy the second film. It’s the same setting and routine, except with bigger and better and, of course, bloodier kills.

Hopefully Green’s Killer Pizza, which Chris Columbus is producing, will be able to tap into a mainstream audience. As of right now, most of his fan base is present in the online film world. And, from the sound of it, that’s a double-edged sword. Green deals with some odd folks on the web. Fans can be great, but they can be total crazies as well. There’s the regular old lunatics on the IMDB boards and, of course, the pirates that are obviously hurting both Green and his films. Once this topic came up, Hatchet II basically went out of the conversation.

Here’s what director Adam Green had to say on getting original horror made and the downside of the internet for filmmakers:

For someone like yourself making original horror, how difficult is it getting financing nowadays for original horror films?

The idea of the two or three million-dollar movie is so foreign right now. You either do these bigger movies or movies for nothing, like 500,000 or 600,000 dollar budgets. The problem is that downloading is a huge, huge part of it. The industry, as a whole, is taking such a massive hit, like the music industry did seven-years ago. They’re not really getting their return back because everybody is fucking stealing the movie, so then you don’t get to make another one. That’s been really hard, but some independent movies are doing well. It depends on whether or not you’re smart about how you do them. For something like Hatchet II, it was made for a very modest budget, but it was all calculated beforehand that we knew how much we’d be getting from Canada or Japan.

We already knew before we started we’d be getting our money back. If you do it in smart way like that, by the time the film hits DVD, you’re getting into profits pretty quick. That’s what really worked for Hatchet I. They put it in theaters, but they didn’t spend anything on it in theaters. It was just sort of there. If you knew about it, great; if you didn’t know about it, then you gotta wait for the DVD. It was important to get it the critical acclaim needed and to get it reviewed by these mainstream places, so that people were aware of it. On DVD, it was a monster. It all just depends, really. If you’re going to make a five-million dollar movie, and you don’t have marketability for foreign markets, then it’s going to be hard to ever actually recoup your investment.

Does being a horror film, basically a universal genre, make it easier to get financing?

With horror, you stand a much better chance. These movies aren’t exactly American oriented. It’s basically like, what’s the concept? You can, sort of, go from there. At the same time, it’s the most saturated genre. If you go to the American film market, every other movie there is a genre movie that looks just like everything else that just came out. It’s like, how do you standout? That’s why festivals are helpful. If you’re lucky enough to have your movie selected for Toronto or Sundance, then you’re getting a spring from mainstream audiences and critics there that can dictate your fate, if they really like it.

How important do you think online publicity and support is for a film like Hatchet II?

To me, especially, the online thing has been a very big way of reaching an audience and letting people know this stuff exists. None of my films, even though they’ve gone to theaters, have ever really had a real marketing campaign. There are never a lot of commercials to let people know that it’s there. The online stuff has definitely been helpful. However, it definitely doesn’t translate to box-office. One of the major agencies just did a study on if there’s a twitter effect and if that really works. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. A good example of this is that film Spread, which had Ashton Kutcher. I think he had the most twitter followers at that time, and they were banking on the fact he can instantly reach 10-million people, and for free. He told them to all go out there and go [see it], but they didn’t go.

It’s hard. You can’t really bank on it, but I do like the concept. I’ve been debating it for years because some of these distributors will never be honest with you about how much a movie really made and how much they spent on it. The numbers are just so off all the time. With this new Internet thing, there could be a way of going from just you to the buyer, and that would be great. The catch of it is downloaders. No matter what you do for precautions, there’s always gonna be someone out there who’s dedicated their life to figuring out how to steal that from you and give it out to the masses for free. This is killing us. Frozen just got fucking raped before the DVD got out. I tried to passionately speak out about saying, “This isn’t Warner Brothers. Every time you steal from us, I might not work again.”

I don’t get that money for a DVD being bought, necessarily. After a certain amount, you get a tiny little percent, but it doesn’t add up to all that much. When they steal movies like that, it’s so hard to get another movie made. After all this, then people complain about why we’re getting remakes [Laughs]. It’s just hard. The only way to stay sane as a director is to just not look. I read the stuff that people put in front of me directly, like the fan mail through my management or comments from people that follow me on twitter. I’ve gotten rid of most of the other stuff, because there’s no way to keep up with it. There are also a few dangers, like stalker-like people who ruin it for everybody.

But, yeah, that’s what the Internet has become. Maybe it’ll get through this and evolve into something a little more positive, but a lot of it is used just because there’s no accountability. People use that to just say the meanest shit about anything [Laughs]. They bicker calling each other gay, and I just cant believe this is what they use the Internet for [Laughs]. I understand porn more than that. A long time ago, they were just porn machines. I understand using it for that more than I do for this people who dedicate their lives to a movie or an actor they don’t like. Everyday for years they’ll argue with someone who likes a movie, and you just gotta say, “Really? You must like this movie deep down, because you spend more time on it than I did.”

I’m guessing you see a lot of IMDB boards?

Yeah. As soon as you make your first movie, there’s always a successful director who tells you, “Here’s what you must do: look up your favorite movie and your favorite director,” so I looked up Raiders of the Lost Ark and Steven Spielberg. Right when I get there it’s, “What a fucking hack! This movie sucks!” [Laughs] I mean, 22,000 people gave The Dark Knight a one [star rating]. A one? That’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen? You learn very quickly after that to never look at that site or any of that stuff. You just can’t win.

You can read 800 positive things, but the one that sticks with you is the one that just makes up shit like, “I met this guy, and he punched me in the face!” After that, you just want to prove them wrong. But if you do, they got you and they win. It’s funnier than anything, though. You just can’t worry about it. I know so many people that have actually gotten bent out of shape about it and actually care. It’s like, that’s what it’s for. People ask why do they allow that stuff, but they’re getting hits and more money from it, so they’ll let them argue and call each other “fags” all day [Laughs]. Everything is the “worst movie ever!” there.

Did you mention ‘stalkers’ earlier, or am I mistaken?

Yeah. It’s not even a horror thing; it’s for all genres, actors and directors. It’s a weird world out there. The Internet has made it so easy to find information about someone to try to communicate. Sometimes someone will write you a very nice and innocent letter about loving your movie, then you write back saying thanks and support independent horror, and then immediately they respond saying, “Oh my God, you responded! I love you! I knew we were going to be together!” That’s when it started to get weird. I can’t even really get in to the worst stuff, because I can’t really talk about it. Someone will ask something like, “Would you ever date a fan?” and I say, “Well, I’m married,” and then they’ll respond, “Well, if something ever happened to your wife, then would you date fan?” It’s like, don’t even fucking say that. You just try to delete things as fast as you can and to write back to the people you want to.

The other problem I’ve found is that, a lot of people really don’t use it for what it’s for, which is being able to communicate with someone whose work you like. Instead, they actually think they’re networking, getting their movie made, or that they’re friends with you. It’s just so hard, though [Laughs]. There are so many nice, normal people out there that these people who are so bad they ruin it for everybody. I closed my Formspring. I closed my Myspace. There’s no way of emailing me directly now. A big problem with that were legal issues of someone sending me a script. After that, they can come back years later and say I stole their idea. They’re never going to win, but they can try to get an out of court settlement. You see it daily out here. People are being sued for nothing. There are cases, which a lot of directors wont talk about, but it just makes you want to throw-up. You just can’t believe some people are doing this. Every time I hear about them, I’m scared to even have a computer or talk to anybody [Laughs].

So when you made Hatchet, you never thought, “This one is gonna get me stalkers for sure!”

No, I didn’t even think it was going to get me fans. I had no idea. You always hope that people like it and see it. For the first time you go buy a ticket to see your own movie, you think it’s amazing. When you got to Best Buy and see a DVD of your movie, you think it’s amazing. But then there’s a whole other world that comes with it. It’s a very small percent that’s difficult, stalker-like, or annoying. Most people are just so gracious and so nice. As cheesy as it sounds, that’s the thing that really keeps you going.

Hatchet II is now on DVD and Blu-ray.

Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.