An Interview with Jason Eisner – By Nic Brown

The way things usually work with movies is that you make a movie, and then cut a trailer to try and sell that movie to audiences. However, when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino teamed up to do a retro exploitation cinema double feature called GRINDHOUSE, they thought it would be fun to add some trailers for films that had never been made. Some were made by famous filmmakers, but others were chosen by a fake trailer competition. Entries of all types poured in, including one from a young Canadian filmmaker named Jason Eisener. Eisener’s entry was a blend of vigilante justice, social commentary, and over the top violence…HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. The trailer won and was featured during the theatrical run and on the special features for the DVD release. But that wasn’t enough for fans. The trailer became a hit online and soon Eisener found himself behind the camera again. This time though he was taking the trailer and making it into a feature film, starring action/fantasy movie legend Rutger Hauer (BLADE RUNNER, LADYHAWK, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER).

With the film complete and preparing for a theatrical run of its own, Eisener has been pounding the pavement promoting the film at festivals and online. That is how this unassuming young man in a black t-shirt and toque ended up sitting behind a guest table at the 2011 Texas Frightmare Weekend. A line of horror fans waits for the chance to meet Eisener and he doesn’t disappoint. Taking the time to talk to each fan, Eisener’s genuine love of the genre and its fans is clear, making him one of the most approachable of the event’s guests. B Movie Man Nic Brown found Eisener up early on the convention’s last day, and despite a late night, the filmmaker was still happily greeting fans and signing HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN posters. During one of the rare lulls in the crowd, Eisener gave his signing hand a rest and talked with me about his film, the challenges he faced making a “Grindhouse” film in Canada, how Rutger Hauer became involved in the project, and the role HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN played in a blind man’s first sight!

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Nic – Jason, you’re here at the Texas Frightmare Weekend promoting your new film HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN and I have to ask, where the hell did you come up with this crazy, fun movie?

Jason – It all started back home in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. There’s this pizza joint called Barney’s Pizza where me and my best friend John Davies, who’s also the writer of the movie, go to get inspired and pitch ideas around. Well one day we’re there, throwing ideas back and forth when one of my other buddies, Mojo, is hanging out with us. Mojo – he’s got really long hair and he was wearing this shaggy shirt on and he had just bought this Airsoft shotgun that shoots plastic pellets, and as me and John are talking about movie ideas, Mojo just pipes up and says, “Hey why don’t you guys make a movie about me?” So John looks him up and down for a minute and then says. “What – a movie about a hobo with a shotgun?” and it just clicked and we were all blown away by this, thinking that it would be a really cool title. So then we started envisioning ideas for the story and coming up with little scenes and stuff right there, but we didn’t do anything with it. A little while later, Robert Rodriguez came out with a ‘best fake movie trailer’ contest for the film GRINDHOUSE and we brought HOBO out of the closet, dusted the idea off and brought it to life.

Nic – So the film actually started as just a trailer?

Jason – Yeah it did. It won and was included in the trailers shown during the GRINDHOUSE double feature. Then after that, we put the trailer up online and it just kind of took off on its own and went viral. All of a sudden we had close to a million hits on the trailer and all these people were leaving comments asking us to make this movie and saying that they really wanted to see it. So we were able to take those numbers and the comments to our producers and showed them that there was a product here that people really wanted to see. The producers really responded to that and next thing you know we’re making a movie.

I have to say though that we wouldn’t have gotten to make HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN and I wouldn’t be here in Texas talking about it if it wasn’t for all the support we got from people online. All those comments, all the hits on the video, that’s what got the film made.

Nic – HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN stars Rutger Hauer. How did he become involved in the project?

Jason – Alliance, our Canadian distributor, asked me to write out a list of my top five favorite actors who I would love to play the role. Growing up, Rutger Hauer was one of my favorite actors and I ended up chasing down every one of his films. He just has this amazing class and smoothness and he has so much presence behind his performances that he’s like no one else I’ve ever seen. I wanted to bring that sort of classic vibe that he carries to the character, so I made him number one on my list thinking the whole time that there was no way in hell that this was ever going to happen. I figured I’d make him number one though because it would give everyone an idea of the kind of actor I was looking for to play this character.

Well, Alliance got the script to his agent, but his agent didn’t think it was the kind of film that Rutger would do. But one thing about Rutger Hauer is that if you tell him that there is something he won’t want to do, that makes him more interested in it. So he looked at it and within a couple of days I had to get on Skype with him to talk about the film! It was funny because I’d never used Skype before and I was so nervous about talking to him that I couldn’t even stomach my lunch. But then we got on the call together and we hit it off. We talked for about an hour and we really connected. After that, he told the production that he was totally down with us on the project and that he was going to come to Dartmouth to get crazy with us and make a movie!

Nic – That’s great the way he came on board with you! I also understand you had some fun at the premiere of the film.

Jason – Oh man, I was so nervous. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and Rutger and I were sitting right behind my mom during the movie. I was so worried about what she would think of it. When the film was over, she turned around and gave me that same look that she used to give me when I was a kid and she’d bust open the door to my bedroom because she heard screaming coming from the television and she’d catch me and my brother watching RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. It [HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN] was a lot for her to take in and it is definitely not her type of movie. But she was so happy and proud of us, it was great!

Nic – You shot the film in Nova Scotia. How difficult was it for you to make a movie with the kind of violent content that HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN has in Canada?

Jason – Films like this usually aren’t made in Canada anymore. The way a lot of movies get financed is through government funding from Canadian taxpayers, and the idea of using taxpayers’ money to make a violent movie can be a little daunting to some. But we were able to show that there was a large audience in Canada who pay their taxes and would love to see a movie like HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. Still, it took a lot of hard work and a lot of convincing to get the government behind it. Honestly, I’m still sort of shocked that we were able to do it. Now I hope that because we were able to do this that the trend will continue and more genre films like this will get made in Canada.

Nic – I’m glad you were able to get the film made, but wasn’t there one important scene in the film that almost didn’t make it because of the censors?

Jason – Oh yeah! (Laughs) It was a scene that was in the film from the very first draft of the script, and it was always the scene that would come up during conversations with the financers. It’s the scene on the school bus and I don’t want to give anymore away, but we really had to fight to keep this scene in the movie. But we were able to show that it was important to the story and we were eventually able to win out so it stayed in the finished film.

Nic – During the production of the film, I heard there was a bit of a miraculous moment on the set.

Jason – You might say that. What happened was we were shooting one of the opening scenes where this character named Logan gets a manhole cover put around his neck and he’s dropped into a sewer drain. Then they put a barbed wire noose around his neck and tie it to the back of a truck. The truck drives away and it pulls this guys head off. When that happens, we really went over the top and have blood shooting out like a sprinkler, and a beautiful girl in a white bikini comes out and starts dancing in it and almost getting off on being in the arterial spray.

Well there was this background performer by the name of Jonas that we had and he’d been blind his whole life. Two weeks before the shoot he had corrective surgery done and his vision started coming back to him right in the middle of that scene. So the first thing he sees when he gets his sight back is this girl dancing in the blood! One of the crew overheard him say, “Wow! Red is so beautiful!” and I just can’t imagining anything ever living up to that moment. What a first sight! It’s amazing.

Nic – Jason, it seems like everything about this movie has a great story behind it. What about the film’s poster?

Jason – (Laughs) Yes, there’s a story there too. What happened was that we have the film’s website set up like a blog on the main page so you can leave comments. I was reading through them one day and saw this one from a guy who said he’d love to make a poster for the movie. Well I thought that was pretty cool that a fan wanted to make some art and I told him that it was awesome that he was interested and that I’d love to see it. A couple of days later I get this email and it says, “Hey I got bored the other day so I made that poster for HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN that I was talking about…well here it is.” He sent me this (Jason holds up the one sheet for the film) and I couldn’t believe how good it was. I sent it to everyone involved in the film and the distributors loved it. They bought the poster off of him and now his poster is the face of the movie. It was great because I love the poster and it kind of helped get his career going too. He’s been getting a lot of work now doing posters. In fact, he just did the poster for Ti West’s film INNKEEPERS. His name is Thomas Hodge and he works under the name The Dude Designs and that’s also his website.

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Related Links:

http://www.magnetreleasing.com/hobowithashotgun

http://www.facebook.com/hobowithashotgun

http://ca.hobowithashotgun.com/category/the-blog

http://www.facebook.com/hobowithashotgun#!/jason.eisener

http://jasoneisener.tumblr.com

http://twitter.com/#!/jasoneisener