Filmmaker Adam Green is pioneering a new hybrid of television sitcom with the creation of his new original series Holliston which has been described as Wayne’s World meets Saw. Holliston is set in the town in Massachusetts of the same name where Green and Joe Lynch play two friends who desire to be successful horror movie filmmakers post college as they work at a local cable access station. Green’s offbeat twisted horror-comedy (a.k.a. ‘horror-com’) is his attempt to turn the traditional TV sitcom into something differ. Holliston debuted on the horror-themed cable channel FEARnet as part of its Tuesday night Twisted Comedy block and was so successful that it was commissioned for a second season set to premiere tomorrow night, June 4th.
We caught up with Green to talk about his love for comedy in horror TV shows and films including his work on films like Coffee and Donuts, and the Hatchet series which has a 3rd installment opening in theaters on Jun 14th.
What’s it like working with FEARnet? It seems like they’re pretty laid back and let you do what you want.
Yeah, they’re still a new network and Holliston is their flagship production, so it’s been special in a number of ways. I mean, A, I think it was a really cool and smart decision on their path to have their first original show to be a sitcom. I mean, nobody expected that. When you hear “Fearnet”, you expect that it’s going to be like some sort of Tales From the Crypt type of thing, or X-Files, or something like that, but they really thought outside the box. What we learned from Season 1 that was really encouraging was that we can make a show like this and the horror fans will now only watch it but really really respond to it passionately. People forget that horror fans are not just about blood and guts and jump scares and depravity. We’re people to, and the show portrays two horror fans as main characters front and enter and we have the horror references and the cartoonish violence, but at the heart of the show, there is a love story and there’s a story about struggle and friendship, and that’s what the horror fans and fans of the show in general have really gravitated to. When we started getting fan mail from Season 1 it was so unique from any other fan mail I’ve ever gotten for any of the films that I’ve done. Normally it’s just like “I loved this movie” or “this was my favorite scene”, but with Holliston, we’d get four to ten page handwritten letters from people that not only would sort of tell their story about whatever it is that they’re struggling to try to accomplish, or whatever their dream is, or how the show game them some sort of encouragement to keep going and the ability to laugh at the downfalls and the trials and tribulations, but also the letters were basically like thank you letters for making something like this because now horror fans are being portrayed as real people and not the supporting character or the gag.
That kind of touches on the question I had for later, but I’ll bring it up now: When I was doing research on you, it seems like you’re a really nice guy. I’ve met and interviewed a couple other directors in the same vein, like you, James Gunn, Guillermo del Toro – are really nice guys. Is that a coincidence that you’re all in the same kind of thing, or does horror kind of bring nice people together?
Well for those guys in particular I can say they are friends of mine, so we have that in common, but when I first got out to Hollywood, it was with the intention of getting this TV show made. At the time, I had made an independent movie called Coffee & Donuts, and there was interest in turning that into a sitcom. This was the version of that I’d always wanted to make, but every time it went through the development process, whether it was the network or the producers, they would start sucking the originality out of it right away to try to make it like everything else. Just the fact that it was two guys who wanted to be horror filmmakers, they would be like “No, no, no, no, you can’t do that. You are alienating the rest of the world, and if you’re not a horror fan you will not be able to like it”. Well, look at Big Bang Theory. You don’t need to love comics and all the things that they talk about to enjoy the characters and the story. I think when I was doing that, I was doing stand-up, and everyone that I was hanging around with were comedians. Comedians are some of the most miserable people that you will ever meet. My first few years out here, I really didn’t like it. Still to this day, my closest friends that I grew up with back in grade school are the people I usually opt to hang out with. I’m not in the Hollywood scene. I don’t go out. I don’t like to go to stuff usually. It’s nothing against the people who do, it’s just not my scene. When I finally started falling in with the horror crowd, you just meet the nicest people. I think the difference is that most people, especially independent level, is that if you’re going to get into the horror genre or you want to break into it or are a fan of it, you have to really love it. They’re not doing it for a means to an end necessarily. It’s a special thing. The other people that you meet who are into it, you instantly have a lot of stuff in common. Some of that could be that a lot of us in some small way grew up feeling like outcasts. If you go to a horror convention, you can instantly make fifteen new friends if you just put yourself out there. They don’t have romantic comedy conventions, or even action movie conventions. But they do have horror conventions, and I think that is what makes us a culture. And specifically for Holliston, I think that’s why the show started working and finding such a passionate audience so quickly.
I’ve heard that at conventions, you don’t charge fans for your autograph.
No, I never have. I just don’t believe in it. It’s a sticky subject, because I’m really the only one who does that, so for all the ones who do, they really hate the fact that I don’t charge. There have been certain conventions where celebrities will ask that I not be seated anywhere near them, to put me somewhere else, that its making them feel awkward that they are charging. Look, I get it. If you are an older actor who has been in a ton of stuff, it’s how they make their living now. Also, it’s not like it’s free to go to conventions. You have to travel, you have to miss work, you have to commit a month in advance, you are not with your family, and you can’t work on other things. So I get why people need to or why they have the right to. But I don’t do conventions unless it’s tied into promoting what I have coming out next. The way I look at it is that I’m there to promote my upcoming project. It’s frustrating to some people, because they want me to come to conventions, but fortunately I’m always in production. I haven’t stopped since doing Hatchet in 2005. Everything has overlapped and kept going, or I have three things going at once, so I can’t really go to all these conventions that ask me to go, so when I am there, I go specifically just to meet the fans, and all I care about is really just meeting the fans. It sounds so cliché, but especially as an independent filmmaker, without the amazing and huge and loyal fan base that I have, I’d be nothing. The least I can do is sign the DVD’s that they bought, or a give them a free picture. Being a fan myself, the whole things is sort of just this [unclear]. They charge you so much money to get in, and then if you want to be first in line, you have to get the fucking gold pass. We make fun of that in the season finale of the last season of Holliston, that whole situation with horror conventions. And then to wait in lines – We just did one in Cincinnati where people waited upwards of four, five hours to meet us, and then to say “Oh, its $20”? Another popular TV show, their cast was there and they were charging $45 for a signature and $45 for a photo, and that was for each cast member, so you’re talking about over $1000 if you wanted to actually meet everybody. How can you expect people to afford that? And you’re on the biggest show on TV! Do you really need that?
It’s funny, because I heard a rumor. A friend of mine runs a convention, and he said Christopher Lloyd doesn’t want to charge for his autograph, but he does just so he won’t have hundreds of people asking for his autograph because he’s Christopher Lloyd.
Yeah, that’s part of it. When I was out filming Hatchet and Spiral because those came out at around the same time, no one knew who I was really. If I had sat there and been charging, I’m sure I would not have had as big of a line, but if it’s free, they’re going to come check it out. That’s one reason for it. And something else that I’d like to see conventions start doing to avoid all that is if they just paid the talent an appearance fee of some sort. Now, it depends on the celebrity I guess, because if it’s somebody like Bruce Campbell or Robert England, you can walk away from a convention with like forty grand. Obviously, no convention can pay for that. There have been times that I have been asked, and conventions are begging me “Please come, everyone is asking for you to come”. I’m like, alright, if you want me to take off work, miss my wife’s birthday, all this other stuff you want me to come and do…I don’t charge for my autograph, so at least give me some sort of appearance fee or something so I’m not LOSING money by coming to this. Their response is always “But you should just charge! You can make a good fifteen, twenty thousand dollars if you would just charge!” But it’s like…it’s just not me. I can’t do it. So I end up not doing a lot of it.
That’s really admirable. That’s awesome. You mentioned earlier that you used to do stand-up. What was that experience like? You obviously still do comedy on the show, but what was it like back then?
It was really challenging. I basically started doing stand-up because I was afraid of it. It’s one of the hardest things to do – to get up in front of people with nothing but a microphone. It’s different when you’re an established comic and they are specifically coming to see you, because then you sort of already have them and they are almost going to laugh at anything. But it’s really hard. One of the things that I did differently was that I always challenged myself to always do new material. Now if you’re going to be a professional stand- up, that’s not the best thing to do, because you need to hone it, and you need to try it different ways. Sometimes your switching a word around makes the difference between getting a laugh or not. I never wanted to be a professional stand-up. I was doing it really to learn good dialogue, delivery, pacing – it just helped me with my writing. I did have this little stand-up group, and we did a show the first Thursday of every month at the Rainbow Bar and Grill down in Hollywood for like two years. It was me, Andy Samberg, Chris Romano, Eric Falconer, and the people you’d know from Blue Mountain State – they created that show. There was this other guy named Will Franklin who was the best out of all of us, and the only guy who hasn’t hit yet, which is so unfair. It was great. Every week we’d get together and put on this show, and we’d always be able to sell it out. It was a lot of fun, but very, very hard. The best thing I learned from it is the difference a word can make in terms of the delivery of a joke. Another thing you learn very quickly and you see this with the new comic that are coming up, is sometimes they’ll walk off the stage, and they didn’t get the reaction they wanted, so they say the audience sucked. They didn’t pay to come in and NOT laugh. The audience didn’t suck. You suck. Get over it. Figure out where it went wrong. Fix it. Learn from it. I recommend it to any writer – even if you are not going to be a comic writer like what I’m doing, it’s still a great experience. If you want to produce, you have to understand performing and know all sides of it. I say that to aspiring directors all the time. Act in something. VP something. Edit something. Do all of it. Even though you might not pursue that particular thing professionally, just understand how it’s done, and you’ll be able to direct it a lot better.
Do you have any specific comedy heroes from back in the day?
For me, I’d say Sam Kinison was HUGE. Still to this day, his album Louder Than Hell, which I still have on vinyl, the whole bit on world hunger was the fucking funniest thing ever. I also loved Bill Cosby because he was able to be just as funny as everybody else without swearing or ever being dirty, and that is not easy to do. He was a master at that. George Carlin easily was one of the most brilliant minds ever. That’s really what comedy is. It’s stating the things that everybody is thinking but maybe doesn’t realize they are thinking or say out loud, and he was so good at taking everyday life and then putting it back in your face just to see the absurdity of it. That was really big. In recent years, I’d say people like Mitch Hedberg or Louis C.K. I just think is amazing with what he’s done. Aside from him, I’m the only person that I know of that’s doing a TV show where we do everything, because I write every episode, I’m the director on – this season I actually stepped down on directing all of them. I only directed some of the episodes, but on the first season I directed all of them. I’m the show runner and the star and the producer. It’s so hard to do all of that. You look at his (Louis C.K.’s) show on FX and that’s what he does. I also say that’s why the show is so good. It’s completely 100% him. That’s why it works so great. I love what he is doing. And how long it’s taken him to get to this point – I mean, talk about paying your dues. That guy has just been beat to shit by the system. And Dave Chappelle too. By the time the Chappelle Show hit, and it’s unfortunate that he stopped, but I think he developed nine different TV shows or something, and every one of them didn’t get picked up. I mean geez…to do that to somebody? I mean, probably a lot of comics are miserable too. It’s a hard life.