DireChat – Hank Braxtan of Chemical Peel

Welcome to another DireChat on The Movie Guide Blog, This week we are joined by Hank Braxtan, director of Chemical Peel 

MG: Thanks for taking the time to do this Hank, I Really Appreciate it  
HB: Always happy to help!

MG: What inspired you to become an Director? 
HB: Hmmm….can’t say it was inspiration, per se.  More like something I just gravitated to.  I’ve always been creative (well, at least in my opinion).  I ruined my school career drawing comics and eventually making movies (who needs real schoolwork?), and I’ve always been good at organization (telling people what to do), it really just became a natural love of mine.  I think every kid directs movies—maybe they’re just with their toys, maybe they don’t have a camera, but we all start as directors in our own mind. Some of us just never grow out of it, I guess.

I guess if I had to give one straight answer, it’s this:  I like directing films, because I like guiding the ship—I like making things happen, and taking care of everyone in the crew.  The happiness and success of those around me is the true measuring stick of my worth.

MG: Can you tell us about some of the other projects that you’ve worked on? 
HB: Professionally, I’ve mostly been involved in television.  I started out low, doing assistant stuff, moved into post production where I have a strong background, and eventually started producing and directing tv.  But my true love, my one desire in this industry, has always been making movies.  Not necessarily studio films (although the money is nice, I’m sure), but real movies.  Movies that I want to make, not the ones where I have bosses or investors making creative decisions and handicapping me.  I’ve made a few films over the years, but as I said, I had bosses.  I had people that really had no business making movies, telling me how it should be done.  I had to break free—and to do that; I had to make a movie my way. In a nutshell, I just want to make movies that I like.  If that means we have a fanbase of people that like the same type of movies, then great!  I can’t pretend to be the greatest filmmaker of all time, or that everyone will like my work, all I can do is what I know how to do…for better or worse!

Now that we’ve got a bit of a background on Hank, we can now chat about you’re upcoming picture chemical peel.

MG: Where did the Idea come for Chemical Peel? 
HB: The idea of Chemical Peel came in as more of a declaration of independence.  We literally got together and decided to make a movie—you can blame Arielle and Natalie for that (the stars of the film).  They wanted to make a movie they could star in together, and so we brainstormed for a while along with our writer Dan Sinclair and came up with something very scary.  The idea itself was pretty cool, but it was the screenplay and the characters that really make it stand out.

MG: What is the plot of the Chemical Peel in your own words?
HB: Chemical Peel is the story of six women celebrating the upcoming marriage of one of their own–all of them are from the same small town, and have returned for this event.  With their grandpa’s isolated country home in the wilderness, the stage is set for a weekend of fun with not a care in the world.  That is, until something strange happens.  Overnight, they are enveloped; there’s something in the air, and we don’t know what it is or where it came from.  Is it a disease?  Poison?  As the women attempt to seal themselves in the house and put the pieces together as to what this threat is, the real fight begins.  When your security is taken away, your animal instincts come out.  This is truly a grueling and terrifying film that will leave people scrambling to block their senses in order to endure.

MG: Can you tell us the Crew who were on the movie and what where they like to work with? 
HB: Almost every filmmaker ever will tell you they have the best crew in the world.  And it’s always true—because every crew is the best.  Every decent filmmaker values their crew more than just about anything, because the crew is what makes it all happen.   Our crew was tiny.  Our entire camera department was Turner Jumonville and Drew Adams.  We had a great sound recorder in Michael Crosby, and outstanding make up from Erica Medina and Julia Hapney.  That was the bulk of the crew during filming.

In post production, I turned once again to Jon Vandergriff to score the film, and my friends from Authority FX to handle our visual effects and CGI.  Both Vandergriff and Authority FX have worked with me on every meaningful project I’ve done since 2005.  We brought in some new blood, including Adam Varney and Colin Cooper doing some editing and Alex Odesmith doing our sound design.

MG: How did the main cast come about and can you tell us about them?
HB: Most of them I knew.  Of course you have my wife Arielle Brachfeld (although we weren’t married at the time), and my friend and great actor (actress if you’re media) Natalie Victoria.  We brought in some acquaintances we thought would be good for stuff, but held auditions for weeks to get the parts right.  It’s not necessarily the best actor you need, but the right actor.  In a movie like this with no stars, it’s hard to make the audience care about your characters right away.  It was important for us to have a good mix of different talent in there.  We got fantastic performances from up-and-comers Stephanie Greco, Lacy Fisher, Lony’e Perrine, and Leigh Davis rounding out our main cast.  We dashed in some depth and support with veteran Ruben Pla, the very talented Eric Hailey and Kevin Brooks, and old friend and terrifically quirky Ron Vischer. There are some other great performances, but I can’t give everything away.

The interesting thing about Chemical Peel is, particularly in the cases of Arielle and Stephanie, is that they play characters in the movie that are almost the exact opposite of who they are in real life.  I was very happy with the way Dan had written the characters—it really made all of our actors leave their comfort zone and work!   I was so happy with the cast, that as the movie went on, I got a little sad every time a character died and that person wasn’t going to be on set anymore (we shot the film almost entirely in order).  I felt the same emotion during editing—another one bites the dust!  Not to give too much away, but…this is a horror film after all; and as a horror director, I always guarantee a high body count!

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?  
HB: There are really too many to say.  I think what was so special to me, was that we were just a bunch of artists with day jobs—doing things we don’t necessarily want to do for a living, coming together to make something we believed in.  You really depend on each other, it’s such a collaboration.  Anything can go wrong, and in this case, nothing did.  Nobody was ever late—which, I know sounds like “big deal”, right?  Well considering pretty much everyone was working for no pay or for back end only, the only real drive was the project itself—and it’s damn impressive that day after day, weekend after weekend, everyone kept showing up.  I think we all felt we were a part of something special here.

MG: Can you tell us when we can see Chemical Peel? 
HB:  I don’t have a crystal ball, unfortunately.  I’d like to tell you that it will open worldwide on 5,000 screens this winter.  But that’s not how it works, unfortunately.  We’re a low budget indie horror film—so without stars or a gimmick, it’s very tough.  We are working on some avenues that might see our film get some theatrical love, but it’s hard to say.  I can say that I think it’s a good film, particularly for a horror film, and that it’s going to be ripe for someone’s plucking.  Just depends on how much the distributor wants to invest in this film.  I can say that I’m fairly confident that you’ll at the very least see it on home video sometime in 2013.

MG: The Final Question is, Can we expect any more great movies from you?
HB: Ha! Well I would start out by saying, I hope you think our first film is great!  If you do, then yes, I think you can expect more of the same.  We’ve got scripts for a couple films next year, and we will always try to deliver the goods.  We strive to make movies we think are awesome, so if you have a similar taste, you will too!  Enjoy!

Thanks to Hank for joining us on DireChat, Join us again soon!

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