Hobo with a Shotgun is directed by Jason Eisener and we were recently given the opportunity to speak to him. Below is a transcription of our discussion.
There are films like Dead End Drive-in that seem to be big influences on you and their influence is clearly evident in Hobo. What were your key influences and how did you decide to incorporate them?
Me and John, the writer of the film, are best friends and grew up together. I’ve known him since we were five. So we grew up loving the same things and discovering films together. A lot of it comes from growing up in the eighties. Firstly it comes from watching eighties cartoons, which were very high concept. Things like Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bravestar, Thundercats or Transformers. These crazy high concept ideas. It’s something we’ve always loved. Even video games too. Basically our baby sitter when we were kids was a Nintendo. So I think our love of high concept comes from growing up watching cartoons and then as we got older we started falling in love with exploitation films because it was the next step I feel for someone who grew up watching eighties cartons. Where do you go for more crazy high concept ideas, you go to exploitation films.
Exploitation filmmakers couldn’t get afford to get a large great cast for their movies so what they would do is come up with a crazy idea to get people in the seats. One film that definitely inspired Hobo, one we really love, is The Warriors. That’s my favourite movie of all time and I remember me and John seeing that coming out of high school and it completely inspired us to make movies.
If I hadn’t seen The Warriors I probably wouldn’t be here now. When I saw that it was possible to see a movie that was as cool as The Warriors, I wanted to be able to make movies like that. And Brian Trenchard-Smith is a huge influence for me, he’s one of my favourite directors. Dead End Drive-In is one of my favourite movies and Turkey Shoot… I wore the VHS out of that. Also Death Wish 3 was a huge inspiration and… Have you seen a film called Rolling Thunder?
I love Rolling Thunder. Better than Taxi Driver in my opinion.
Yeah, I think so too. And Hobo was nowhere near on the level of Rolling Thunder but there was definitely a spirit there that we were inspired by. William Devane’s performance in that is so smooth and cool.
It’s committed too, especially in the torture scenes. Did you find that sort of commitment to the role with Rutger Hauer too?
Yeah, absolutely. He was completely in it. When we were making the movie he definitely got in the spirit of how crazy the world of the movie was and he was like a little kid. He told me that it was an opportunity to act like a naughty kid again and you can see it because the movie is so crazy, he was like that on the set. He was in that zone, which was so great. His earlier films like The Blood of Heroes or The Hitcher, when me and John saw them he just blew us away. I knew that if we could get someone like him, all we had to do was point the camera at him, he doesn’t even have to say anything. It’s like William Devane, he doesn’t even have to say anything, you just look into his eyes and you know that he’s a man who’s going to go on the war path. And it’s the same with Rutger. There’s so much mystery behind his eyes, he has so much on screen presence, it’s amazing.
And you hold the shots longer on Rutger…
Oh yeah, of course.
Was it daunting working with Rutger, or indeed making the film in general?
It was in pre-production. That was definitely the toughest time for me. There was all this build up to me shooting my first feature film and I wanted to be really confident about what I was doing. I was going to working with one of my favourite actors from my childhood and he’s worked with some of my favourite directors so I didn’t want to be some kind of chump or amateur. So I was really nervous about that. And I didn’t know him. I didn’t know if he’d try and take over the shoot. I wanted to be in control of what we were doing and I didn’t want to be run over by a big star.
But when he came he jumped into our tight team. And he was totally on board with what we were doing and totally believed in our vision. He just helped us reach all of our goals and he would help bring amazing ideas to the table too. It was awesome to work with him, not only as an actor but he’s a filmmaker, helping us to make a film. He wasn’t the kind of actor who’d come on to set, do his piece and then go back to his trailer and wait to be called. He would hang out and help us make the movie. That was an amazing experience to work with him on that kind of level.
I heard that one of the extras had a pretty crazy experience on set too. They got their sight back?
You know that scene where they get that character Logan and they put him in the manhole cover and they cut his head off, well there’s a background performer that day… His name was Noah and he’d never had vision his whole life. He’d never seen anything his whole life and he’s 23 years old, I think. And he wanted to come to the shoot and we thought that was great, so he came out. And he’d had corrective surgery done to his eyes two weeks before we were shooting and during the moment where we cut off Logan’s head, the blood starts coming out and this girl starts dancing in the blood, he’s standing there and his vision comes back. So the very first thing he sees of the world is this hot chick dancing in blood. And my AD overheard him say “Wow, red is so beautiful”. I couldn’t believe it, it was so amazing. If you see the movie again, he’s in the audience and he has crutches and this kind of blank stare. He was kind blown away, just imagine that being your first vision of the world.
You shot Hobo on digital, right? But I saw it projected on film. Is that something you want?
Yeah, I love film but there’s no way we could have shot that movie on film. It would have just cost a fortune. We shot with the RED and what was great was that we got the newer version of the camera and it had a chip in it called the Mysterium X Chip which allows you to shoot in really low light conditions. So we were able to save money on our lighting package as we didn’t need as large a lighting package because we shot in low light conditions. But yeah, I love how it looks on 35mm. If it’s properly done, it looks really good.
Back home I do a screenings of 35mm prints of cult films but going through the process of making a movie and see it played on film, I do love film but I also love a good digital projection. Like… with a proper HD projection it can look pretty awesome.
The colours are obviously really highly saturated in Hobo. Was that a result of decisions made on set or was some of it reliant on post-production?
It was all on set. The DOP, Karim Hussain, on the movie came to live with us three months prior to production so him, me and our producer found all the locations before we went into pre-production and we would go to all the locations every day and figure out where we wanted the lights to go and what gels we wanted to put on. So when we went into pre-production I took the script and cut out little pieces of the gels and attached them to each scene. So it showed my costume department and my production design team what colours I was going to use for every scene and I asked them to compliment those with costumes and spray paint. Then when we went into post I just got them to crank up the saturation so it would pop all those colours and make them more vibrant.
I understand you’re working on the ABCs of Death next. Have you already shot it? Is there anything you can share about it yet?
We haven’t shot it yet. I got the letter N.
Were you hoping for N, did you get a choice?
They asked us what letters we’d like to have. We had a couple of ideas for N and so we requested that. There are like seven ideas on the table and I’m not sure which one we’re going with.
And you’re doing a martial arts film too?
That’s our plan for our next feature. I guess a martial arts exploitation style movie. All I can say about it is, when all the worst students are kicked out of their schools they’re all brought to this one school that has the worst students in the world. And some pretty crazy shit goes down. It’s kind of like the world of Hobo with a Shotgun but in a high school.
So set in the Hobo with a Shotgun world?
Yeah, this next film will definitely be in that same sort of world and if the opportunity ever came up we’d love to make another Hobo with a Shotgun.
There’s a Plague treatment too right? [The Plague are a pair of bounty hunters in Hobo With a Shotgun]
Yeah and I’d love to make that film too. That would be amazing. We wrote a treatment for one I’m pretty excited about. It’s about two ambulance drivers that show up to this crazy event that takes place and there’s an unconscious woman. So they end up taking this woman and what they don’t don’t know is that this woman is a bounty for the Plague. It’s like, have you ever seen Race with the Devil?
Yeah, for sure.
Well it’s like The Plague chasing after these two ambulance drivers and they’re using everything that they can find in the ambulance, like defibrillators, to fight off The Plague.
So it’s not about how they kill the Easter bunny then?
You saw that then? [laughs]… There is a piece where we show the history of some of the bounties they’ve had in the past.
Hobo with a Shotgun is released theatrically on the 15th of July and on DVD and Blu-ray on the 1st of August.