Jack Sholder [Interview]

Welcome to grand finale of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 6 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

Well here we are, Folks! We done did it! Welcome to Day 31, our final day of our Month of Horror for 2019. And we have an absolutely incredible interview to share with you all today. It’s Jack Sholder, Everyone! Jack has been working for quite a long time in the world of horror, writing and directing projects you know and love. In fact, this is personally a pretty huge moment for me, as Jack is actually the man who brought to the world what I consider to be my personal favorite horror film of all time. And that would be the brilliant second installment of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Freddy’s Revenge. As he will even say in the words below, I found this to be one of those rare occurrences (although less rare in the world of horror) that the sequel was actually better than the original. It’s a real Godfather (or Critters?) moment in this respect. I fucking love this film, and always have. I’ve even had a burning desire to ask one very specific question, which I do below, that has been burning at my soul for damn near a lifetime. And I finally got to ask it!

Yes, I am so happy that Jack was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to headline our 2019 Month of Horror series. He is a damn fine person, and this absolutely marks a highlight here at Trainwreck’d Society. We love all of our guests equally, of course, but of the 500+ we have had, Jack ranks up there as a true inspiration and the person behind a project that I have been in awe of for as long as I can remember.

So Folks, please join me in welcoming the absolutely legendary Jack Sholder to the TWS family. Enjoy!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment and filmmaking? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

I always loved art. In the beginning it was classical music. I studied to be a trumpet player, and if I’d been just a little bit better that’s what I would have done. Then it was literature, mostly poetry. I dropped acid while a student at the University of Edinburgh and decided that words were meaningless, so that was the end of writing. My girlfriend loved movies and we saw a lot. The good ones really affected me, and I thought it would be great to be able to make them. It never occurred to me that this was a nearly impossible dream. It still surprises me that I actually succeeded through some talent and an equal measure of luck.

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

I think it was playing trumpet in the Philadelphia Accordion Orchestra, an organization run by an accordion school where every instrumental part was play on an accordion except, for some reason, for trumpets and timpani. I was around 14 and got fired because someone heard me say I thought the accordion was the worst instrument ever invented. I guess you could say I learned not to bite the hand that feeds you, though I’ve bitten a few since. I did a lot of performing when I was young and into my 30’s, and I loved the fact that the trumpets sit in the back of the orchestra, or sometimes we’d play in a pit if it was a show, so everybody could hear me but almost nobody could see me. That’s a lot like what it’s like being a director. Unlike an actor, I can go to the supermarket or the mall and nobody knows who I am.

In 1985, you directed the second installment, and hands down my favorite one, of the legendary Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. I am curious to know what intrigued you about this franchise, and what it is you believe that you did differently in your installments?

Many may disagree, but I was never that impressed by the original and I felt I could make a better film, so I wasn’t intimidated in that respect. The main thing that scared me was how the hell to make it. It had a great many special effects, none of which I had the slightest idea how to do, and I only had 6 weeks to prep the movie since Wes Craven had just quit and I had to take it over. Fortunately, I had an experienced special effects guy, an old timer, and a terrific director of photography, Jacques Haitkin, who had shot the original Elm Street and knew how to do everything.  The only rules I was given by New Line were to keep Freddy dark and to make it scary. Also, keep in mind there was no franchise at the time. Elm St 2 was an attempt by New Line to wring a little more money out of the original and, if all went really well, to do an Elm St 3. Fortunately for both New Line and me, it went well.

 

 

One specific, and not entirely scary even, moment always stands out to me in Elm Street 2, and I am dying to ask you this question: There is a moment when the teacher drops a human heart onto a table, and some kid yells “YEAH!”. It makes me laugh so hard EVERY time I watch it. Was this scripted? Was this a bit of the Jack Sholder touch?

It was in the script. With so little time to prep the film, and with a script New Line was happy with, I pretty much shot what was on the page. What I will take credit for is my point of view, namely, what is the real story the motivates the plot and all the characters? For me the movie was about teen sexual anxiety which Jesse is in the throes of and which Freddy represents. I know the film has developed a reputation as an icon of gay cinema, and that interpretation is certainly valid and interesting. But that is not what I was going for even though that’s certainly one aspect of male teen sexual anxiety. I will take credit for the casting, performances, the way it was shot and edited. I feel the most important part of a successful horror film is to create characters the audience care about, otherwise it’s just an exercise in empty scares and special effects. Hopefully I did that.

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

I’m not an expert on watching horror films, only in making them. But I think the good ones deal with people’s deep-seated fears and insecurities. And it presents those things in a way that is essentially safe. You’re sharing it with others, whereas you face your own fears alone. There’s almost always some laughter, at least in my films. And it’s only a movie. It’s over when the lights come up. Kind of like a rollercoaster: one moment you’re plunging to your death, then you’re not. It also is a genre that really makes use of the language and tools of cinema in a way that, say, a rom com does not, so it’s fun to watch on that level.

What is your favorite scary movie?

The one that scared me the most was Wizard of Oz when I was about 5 years old. I was terrified when the witch melted. Horror films in general don’t scare me since I know they’re not real, and there are things in life that truly do scare me.  But I did find The Exorcist pretty scary. And also the Spanish film Rec, not the mediocre American remake.

Do you have any plans for this coming Halloween? And fun traditions that you try to stick to every year?

It was fun to take my kids trick or treating. But they’re grown now, and I live on a somewhat remote road, so no kids ever show up. I certainly don’t dress up. I leave that to the actors and the fans.

 

 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’ve got a vampire movie very loosely based on Carmilla, a novel written ten years before Dracula, that I’m hoping we can put the financing together for. Like any good vampire movie, it’s about a lot more than vampires, and the script is terrific. I’m also involved in a bio pic about a woman, child of British parents, who grew up in Calcutta in the worst kind of poverty and deprivation, lost five of her sibling in childhood to malnutrition and disease, who worked her way out of poverty, moved to the UK, became wealthy, and went back to Calcutta to set up charities to help people who are in circumstances like those she grew up with. She won the Mother Teresa Award a few years ago. It would seem like quite a change for me, but it’s actually the sort of film I thought I’d be making when I first dreamed of being a filmmaker.

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

My Great Pyrenees, Beau, almost dying of accidental poisoning.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Beau coming home, healthy again.  And a few episodes of Seinfeld I’ve been catching up on. Particularly the one where George and Jerry take someone else’s airport limo and end up in a Nazi rally and the Yada Yada episode.

 

 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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