DireChat – Michael Hoffman of Girls Gone Dead

So here is the Third post in the DireChat series and this time, I’m pleased to have Michael Hoffman of Girls Gone Dead.

MG: What inspired you to become an Director?
MH: I have no idea. According to my parents; when I was growing up; I used to “direct” my mom and grandparents – starting when I was three years old. I used to have my mother play a cop who pulled me over on my tricycle. As I grew older; I received a Fischer Price black and white camcorder that recorded video on audio cassette tapes. I ended up shooting movies with friends starting when I was about 7. Throughout elementary and middle school this continued – and I probably chased every friend away. LOL. Everyone was like “Don’t go to Mike’s house – he’ll make you star in “Friday the 13th part 15”. Most of these movies ended up featuring my grandparents – hence my dedication to my grandfather in “Girls Gone Dead”. He passed away of cancer during post-production – and I was in California when he was diagnosed. By the time I traveled back to Florida to see him – he had very little time left – and I visited every day I could until he passed (for about 4 weeks). It’s a shame he never got to see the completed film – as I grew up watching the flicks that inspired this with him (like USA “Up All Night” fare and cheesy slasher films).

Director-wise; growing up I was heavily influenced by John Carpenter. Having classical piano training; I even scored my first micro-budget films (the “Scary Tales” series). As I got older; I realized I had more of a love of “cheesy” cinema; and as opposed to being inspired by masters of any genre. I started really appreciating the Roger Corman school of filmmaking – and directors like Jim Wynorski and Fred Olen Ray – who just got their stuff completed – regardless of the project – ensuring the film could be as fun as possible for what it was

MG: Can you tell us about some of the other projects that you’ve worked on?
MH: I started out working as PA for cult legend Tim Ritter (“Truth or Dare? A Critical Madness”; “Killing Spree”) on micro budgeters like “Dirty Cop No Donut” and “Truth or Dare 3”. I learned a lot watching Tim (I was in high school at the time)  and when I turned 20 – I decided to spend a whopping $1400 and made a micro budget anthology called “Scary Tales” (this was at the beginning of the digital video revolutiion). This was around the year 2000. While that movie probably blows nuts (LOL) – It was important because when I was going to school – we were still using beta and Super VHS to edit – and I was able to learn digital filmmaking (a whole other beast) on the side. I produced a sequel to “Scary Tales” which had Robert Z’Dar (the Maniac Cop); Felissa Rose (“Sleepaway Camp”) and Joe Estevez – in 2002 (and still have a soft-spot for that film as it showcases my sense of humor). Afterward; I ended up writing and worked for actor Corbin Bernsen (“Major League”; “L.A. Law”) on a still un-produced script titled “The Clown”. This was when I met-up with my wife (and writing partner) Meghan Jones Hoffman. She would help me write a slew of B movies that were all shot back-to-back-to-back throughout Illinois and California from 2005-2006 (“ROT: Reunion of Terror”; “Spring Break Massacre” and “Sigma Die”). The problem with those films wasn’t only the tiny budgets (“ROT” was shot in Los Angeles for about $20,000 INCLUDING post and pick-ups) – but the shooting schedule. “Spring Break Massacre” was shot in about 8 days with no money or equipment (things like a lighting package; dolly; on-set monitors; or even a computer for playback were NOT available to us!). “Sigma Die” was never completed (to me) – as the producer decided to re-cut the footage to make it a teen comedy – and I still can’t tell what’s going on in the final edit (the movie was also mastered in the wrong aspect ratio!).

After making micro-budget films around the country; I moved back to Florida and started working as an in-house videographer and editor for Bongiovi Entertainment (who have produced music for such classics as “Gung Ho” and “Pet Semetery” – plus recent titles like “Step Up”). After getting serious about editing; I ended up scoring a job on as assistant editor and RED DIT on a great horror flick called “Forget Me Not” (it’s a really well-directed film) – and then helped out my friend Jay with a cool slasher throwback entitled “Beware” (he was my co-director of “Scary Tales 2”). I performed jobs on that one that included RED DIT and 2nd Unit DP. It’s currently playing the Showtime Networks in the U.S. All the while; I’ve been local coordinator/DIT on the last 5 years’ St. Louis Cardinals commercials – and just did a VERY cool shoot for Ballantine’s and the PGA (I think it’s amazing).

Now that we’ve got a background about Michael in the directing background, lets now talk about Girls Gone Dead.

MG: Where did the Idea come for Girls Gone Dead?
MH: I’d had the idea for a spoofy horror flick about a “Girls Gone Wild” type crew for about a decade. However – only elements of my original “Girls Gone Dead” concept made it into this film. This is more of a homage to the cheesy T+A sex comedies of the 80’s like “Hot Moves” and “Hardbodies” – with the sexes reversed (the guys are underdeveloped and supporting and the girls the leads). The horror elements were heavily influenced by the Corman “Massacre” type films – with a narrative that pays homage to “Carrie” in many respects. As opposed to making a scary horror film; we ended up wanting to do a cheesy comedy throwback with a lot of gore – and the practical effects were heavily influenced by filmmakers like H.G. Lewis (if you notice in this film – no matter where a character is axed or bludgeoned – blood almost always comes out of their mouths – LOL).

MG: What is the plot of Girls Gone Dead in your own words?
MH: It’s essentially about a girl named Rebecca who’s lead a sheltered life due to her overbearingly religious mother. During her first spring break home from college – she ends up meeting up with a group of old high school friends (yes – all cheerleaders) – and they decide to vacation in the Florida town of Manatee Creek. The girls soon meet up with a group of guys at a bizarre local bar – and find that Crazy Girls Unlimited – a company famous for DVD releases of drunk, topless girls – are filming nearby in Daytona. The girls decide to throw their own party with the guys – unaware that a killer had shut down the festivities in Daytona – and that killer now has their sites set on axing the former cheerleaders.

MG: Can you tell us the Crew who were on the movie and what where they like to work with?
MH: Well – we had a HUGE crew that came and went – as the movie was shot in waves (a lot of which was due to weather) and their availablilty was an issue.  There were a few consistent faces – such as our gaffer Jay Shropshire (who ended up DP’ing the inserts). Our SFX make-up team was great – headed by Marcus Koch (“100 Tears”; “The Uh-Oh Show”) and by Cat Bernier (“Sinners and Saints”). Shelby McIntyre (“Bloody Bloody Bible Camp”) and Newcomer Sarah Okun also supported the team and did some very gross work for the insert shots! I had the pleasure of working with multiple DP’s – including David Kimelman who is one of the beast Steadicam operators in the US (“Burn Notice”); Richard Dine (who shot the majority of the film) and Shaw Burrows (who began the project). Lance Piper, our sound mixer, is a great guy who was there for almost all of the production (we go into why he missed a few days on the DVD commentary) and, of course – the Above The Line was consistent (my partner – Producer Ryan Dee; co-director Aaron T. Wells, writer Meghan Jones – who was always making adjustments; etc.). Our post production team mainly consisted of co-workers and friends at Bongiovi Entertainment; all of who’m I’d worked with before on various projects.

MG :How did the main cast come about and can you tell us about them?
MH: Our casting agent was the legendary Brad Davis – who had done SO MANY of the 80’s T+A movies in which we were paying homage (especially the “Porky’s” films). We did castings in Miami and Orlando – and it was hard to find the right girls for this project. We wanted to make it a fun movie – that was spoofy and self-referential (knowing what it is) – so we needed fun guys and gals. Caley Hayes from “Sex Drive”; Katie Peterson (the lead); Shea Stewart (who is great as Missy); Krysytna Ahlers and Brandy Whitford (who was also in “Beware”) all came from him. Penthouse Pet Ryan Keely came from my co-director, Aaron. The guys where a combination of Brad’s finds and actors that were friends of Aaron and Ryan Dee. As for telling you about our cast – all I can say is – this was a long, tough shoot – with brutally cold conditions and a schedule that was spread across almost a full year. They all hung in their and got it done – which is about the highest compliment I can give.

MG:   You’ve got a wide range of famous cameos in the Film, Could you tell us how did such actors like Jerry “The King” Lawler, Ron Jeremy, Bettlejuice and Sal the Stockbroker and one of my idols for movies, Shawn C Phillips come to be in the movie and what was it like to work with them?
MH: Let’s see…hmmm…Shelby McIntyre had just worked with Ron on “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp” – and he helped us lock him in. Jerry Lawler, Sal and Beetlejuice came from our executive producer, Paul Tarnopol. Linnea Quigley, Shawn C. Phillips and Iron Maiden’s Nick McBrain all came from myself or my studio (Rob Roy at Bongiovi has worked with Nicko frequently in the past). There are a LOT of other cameos; like Asbestos Felt of “Killing Spree”; cult legend Joel D. Wynkoop (“Truth or Dare? A Critical Madness;” “The Uh-Oh Show”); Penthosue model Janessa Brazil, Al Sapienza (Mikey from “The Sopranos”); Jennifer Worthington (the most photographed model in the history of Hustler magazine) and more. So many friends, colleagues and crew members helped out with creating this really eclectic ensamble. All the celebrities were a pleasure. Jerry had great Andy Kaufman stories; Al was a true pro; Linnea is always a sweetheart (I’ve known her for years); Nicko couldn’t be more awesome; and CoolDuder – well – its just like his name implies 🙂 It truly was an honor. I will say – that Sal and Beetlejuice were by far the funniest – they had me cracking up during every down-time.

MG: Can you tell us a little about the production of the film and if there was one moment that made it that more special?
MH: The production was rough. We were making a VERY BIG small movie which included process trailer shots; large stunts and pyrotechnics; crane utilization; dozens and dozens of extras on specific set-ups and steadicam work. What made it special was – our team was able to get together – and get it done – on very short time frames. While the film had a LONG shooting schedule for an indie (due mainly to weather and the loss of certain locations) – About 80% of the completed film was shot in 20 days (which is very fast considering the large cast). Being able to work together and create some of the stunts; camera coverage and larger scenes is what makes it the most special to me.

MG: One thing that I love about films is the Soundtrack, and you’ve got a great one. Can you tell us how it came to be and how you got some of the amazing bands on there?
MH : Well, our animator (the awesome Benjamin Budzak) does still photography for a lot of bands – and introduced us to the guys at Victory Records. We were able to license stuff like Hawthorne Heights; A Day to Remember; Amber Pacific and Victorian Halls (awesome!). Stomp Records was also very supportive; and we were able to get some of my fave musicians – including The Creepshow; Planet Smashers and The Brains. Paul Tarnopol, the executive producer, has mainly a music background – so he was able to work on getting us some classic artists like Splack Pack and Hepcat (another favorite band of mine). A majority of the incidental pieces came from local musicians my studio or I know; or were created by the Bongiovi Team (like the kick-ass opening titles song; dub-step fight scene score; and even “Jesus Loves to Rock” – sung by yours truly). The score was done entirely in-house by the multi-talented Ryan Copt.

MG: The Final Question is, Can we expect any more great movies from you?
MH: At the moment, no. I’m currently working on other projects in the post-production phase, and am a little worn out from the last two years. Not to say there won’t be something down the road – but I want to see how this film is digested. We all put a LOT of work into creating a film that we hope fans of 80’s and 90’s horror flicks will enjoy – and it took a lot out of us. That being said – if I come back to do something again – it will either be a straight comedy. Not to say it won’t have horror elements (it very well may) – but it won’t be a hybrid picture (as this is very much a self-referential riff on the genre) and will be more in one direction or the other.  Thank you so much for the interview and it’s been fun!!!!

Thanks to Michael for being part of another DireChat, Join us again soon for another great interview!.

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