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By James Whittington, Sunday 25th August 2013
Stoner comedy movies are usually designed for a specific audience but Hansel And Gretel And The 420 Witch takes the genre to the horror audience thanks to an inventive script from David Tillman. Here he chats about this movie, which is showing this week at FrightFest and what else he is working on at the moment.
HC: Are you a big horror movie fan?
DT: Yes and No. I love horror movies that deal with supernatural elements like Mama and traditional horror movies like Halloween. Those movies scare the shit out of me. I’m the perfect audience for them because I’ll jump and scream with the best of them! But I’m not a fan of torture porn. When it’s too real – something that could actually happen, then I can’t watch it.
HC: What made you want to be a writer?
DT: Control issues. LOL! No really. I love telling stories and the idea of writing them began to fascinate me when I moved to LA to pursue acting. It’s such a creative place but as an actor you have to be cast in something to get a chance to be creative. As a writer, all I need is my computer and an ice coffee from Starbucks and I’m creating. The more I write, the more involved I get in the characters’ lives and situations, the happier I am.
HC: Hansel And Gretel And The 420 Witch is quite a story, where did the idea come from?
DT: I was sitting around drinking beers (yes, contrary to popular belief, I was not stoned) with James Cotton, the producer and Duane Journey, the director when they challenged me to come up with a film idea for Duane to direct. It had to be something high concept but could be done low budget - and if it could piggyback on the marketing of a big Hollywood film, even better. The idea just popped into my head so l blurted it out: Hansel and Gretel And The 420 Witch. The witch uses pot to lure in teenagers so she can steal their youth and eat their bodies. Duane and James were stunned. We all knew in that moment, we had something.
HC: Were you involved at all in any of the casting as it is quite impressive?
DT: A little bit. I had written the role of Bianca for my friend, Bianca Saad. At first it was just a small role but as I was writing the role it got bigger and funnier. Even though I had written the role with her in mind, she still had to audition so I coached her on her first audition. I knew she could do it and went out on a limb for her and in the end, she was terrific in the movie.
HC: You play Norm, do you like being in front of the camera?
DT: I do. Acting was my first love for many years and though I still enjoy it, I have to say writing has taken precedence now. But had I not come here to act, I don’t think I would have ended up writing. So for that, I am very grateful. On a side note, if we were every lucky enough to get the sequel made, you’ll be seeing Norm’s identical twin brother showing up in a subplot!
HC: A lot of the effects are practical rather than CGI, do you prefer effects this way?
DT: Yes, I guess I’m old school that way. And fortunately the director agreed. He had spent many years working on low budget horror in the 80’s and 90’s and wanted to recreate that. We both feel practical effects have a more visceral effect on the audience.
HC: Can you explain what the 420 reference is?
DT: In America it refers to the Police call numbers for a marijuana related crime.
HC: Are you nervous that the film is showing at FrightFest?
DT: I wouldn’t say nervous. I think it plays better with an audience than it does but itself – especially with its target audience. The film had a limited theatrical release and I had the opportunity to see it with the perfect target audience – young college age – and they were cracking up and really enjoying the film. The next night I saw it with an older crowd – it wasn’t exactly crickets chirping - but it certainly wasn’t as lively.
HC: Do you think British audiences will get the humour?
DT: I hope so. I get a lot of comments from studio readers that my humour and style is very British. They kind of mean it like it’s a bad thing but I’m very proud of the comparison. I wrote this to be something like the great Sean Of The Dead but the producers felt it was too funny and were afraid it wouldn’t sell internationally and no matter how hard I tried to use the Sean Of The Dead defence, they are the producers and they have final cut.
HC: What do you think of the title change from Hansel And Gretel Get Baked?
DT: I love my original title because it says it all. I tried to come up with another title but couldn’t so I have to give kudos to the marketing team at Tribeca for coming up with a clever double-entendre title.
HC: Do you think the horror industry is in good shape at the moment?
DT: Sure. Horror continues to sell well. I recently saw The Conjuring on a Monday night and the cinema was packed! Congrats to the filmmakers for making an entertaining film and to the marketing team for getting it out there in the way that they did.
HC: What do you think will be the next big thing in horror?
DT: Gosh, I wish I knew. I’d be writing it!
HC: So what projects are you working on at the moment?
DT: I have a couple TV series in development with Joel Silver’s company, Silver Pictures Television. One is a historical drama with a sci-fi twist and the other is a paranormal procedural show. I’m in negotiations now to write the movie adaptation to a horror novel entitled Slaughter House High. We are also shopping a comedy script that is very British in its humour. It’s called Rainbow Harbor and it’s about a conservative seaside village that pretends to be gay so they can become the next big gay tourist destination and save their local economy.
HC: David Tillman, thank you very much.
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