An Interview with Lou Simon – By Kirsten Walsh

Women in horror filmmaking have been truly taking the scene by storm in the past two years, and Lou Simon is making sure that doesn’t change anytime soon! Her smash slasher film, “HazMat” has been receiving accolades and attention left and right (check out our own review here). Already in pre-production for her next film, “Agoraphobia”, Simon has been super busy, but took a moment to fill us in on some burning questions about “HazMat” and about “Agoraphobia”!

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KW: Where did you come up with the unique idea for "HazMat"? There is a lot within the script that showcases the personal nature of the situation for the various characters. Was it hard to write such well rounded characters, or was some of it the development once you had your cast? 

LS: The idea of the film came about when I watched a marathon of the show “Scare Tactics” on the SyFy Channel. It occurred to me that something could go terribly wrong if one of the people being pranked would think that the prank is real. In the first draft, I mostly concentrated on the action and what happens in the film. By the second draft, I added a little bit of a back story to each of them so you would tell them apart as they get hacked up. I think it’s important to know who’s body parts you’re looking at.

KW: The use of "reality tv" has become a staple in modern horror: “Wrong Turn 2”, “Grave Encounters”, etc. Why choose that as a main aspect of the film? 

LS: It’s the premise that intrigued me from the beginning. Unlike those awesome where the show just takes the characters to one particular location, HazMat is a little bit different because it’s the show’s fault that everything happens. In other words, without the shows, there are still cannibals in the mountains (according to Wrong Turn movies, not me) and the asylum is still haunted in Grave Encounters. The show in HazMat, Scary Antics, is actually the cause of what happens in the film. So in that respect, I thought the premise was unique.

KW: How long did the entire production take, from inception through to the release? What was the biggest hurdle you had to cross as a Director? 

LS: I wrote the script in October, 2012, we began principal photography on March 19, 2013, and we got released on March 11, 2014. That was incredibly quick. My biggest hurdle was finding the right cast and crew, who were passionate about the project, with such a limited budget.

KW: The cast does an excellent job, particularly Norbert Velez as Jacob. How did you find them?

LS: Some came from a casting that we announced on Facebook, but I think that two-thirds of them were recommended by someone else. The film community in Miami, Florida is not very big, so word of mouth was key. I think we’re all being “discovered” together, and our futures are intertwined from here on out. If anyone “makes” it, it will elevate the value of the project for everyone else involved.

KW: I completely agree. The community aspect is so important in independent film! Now that the film is out, and I understand you are planning for a DVD release, what is next for "HazMat"? What steps did you take with the film to achieve DVD distribution?

LS: The film comes out on Red Box on April 29th. The DVD has been delayed to August, because of a pending retail sale. We’ve also been picked up for distribution in the UK and Australia. So we’re just continuing to sell to other international markets. We were very lucky. We got contacted by various sales agents before the film was even finished. We decided on Jeff Cooper of Cut Entertainment Group, and he was the one who got us the deal with Uncork’d Entertainment.

KW: How difficult was the film festival circuit? Did you have any issues with the gore in the film or the subject matter with audiences? How was the audience response? 

LS: Since we had distribution before our second festival, I actually got to really enjoy the film festival circuit this time. The pressure was off. So I got to go to Boston, L.A., the UK and Berlin, Germany. Audiences were very cool everywhere we went. The only interesting experience was in Whitby, England at the Bram Stoker International Film Festival. The festival director warned me that British audiences don’t really laugh out loud or applaud after the film. When no one laughed at my favorite funny lines, it killed me even though I know it’s a cultural thing and nothing that is wrong with the film itself.

KW: Wow, yeah that would be a bit rough! As a director, what was the hardest thing for you to accomplish onset? As the writer as well, did you have any issues with directing your initial vision?

LS: Staying on schedule. We had construction going on outside the abandoned building where we were shooting the film. It caused countless delays. We didn’t “cut out” anything, but there were scenes that were not as detailed as I had planned them to be because of the delays.

KW: What was your favorite moment onset of "HazMat"? 

LS: There’s a scene where the show’s make-up artist, Brenda, is hiding from the killer, Hazmat. Aniela McGuinness who played Brenda started crying during the scene and it really moved all of us. There was a different take where the lighting was better, but the crying didn’t come naturally. We kept the first take, where she cried on her own.

KW: Yes, that was a powerful moment, and she did a great job throughout the film! What is next for you as a Director? Can you talk a little about "Agoraphobia"? 

LS: “Agoraphobia” is a story that I’m so in love with, but then again, I tend to fall in love with all my stories. It’s about a young woman who suffers from agoraphobia and can’t leave her house. She inherits a new house, but when she moves there, it turns out that it’s haunted. Because she already has all these mental issues, everybody thinks that she’s imagining things.

Cassandra Scerbo from “Sharknado” plays the main character, and Tony Todd plays her psychiatrist. I’m very excited to get to work with them both.

KW: What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers? 

LS: You can’t wait for someone to come find you. You have to go do it yourself and make the best film you can make for the budget you raise.

Thank you so much Lou!! We look forward to “Agoraphobia”!

You can find out more about “HazMat” here: https://www.facebook.com/hazmatmovie and here: http://www.hazmatmovie.com

You can keep up with Lou and here current film “Agoraphobia” here: https://www.facebook.com/WhiteLotusMovies