Craig Hamann [Interview]

 

Hot damn do we have a good interview for you all today, Folks! We are kicking February off right with some words from an absolute legend in the world of film. It’s Craig Hamann, Everyone! Craig has been involved in filmmaking for almost 40 years, and is actually one of the reasons you may know the likes of one Quentin Tarantino. That’s right, Craig worked alongside QT on his very first film, My Best Friend’s Birthday, which has a making of story like no other, that you simply must learn about. In the interview Craig will talk about a great book by Andrew J. Rausch regarding the making of this film. And while I have not read it myself, I plan to. And if Craig is willing to co-sign on this venture, then I am totally down to do so as well.

Beyond the one memorable venture, Hamann has worked on many other awe-inspiring projects, including working with some of our old friends at Full Moon Entertainment, which he will tell us about in his answers below. He has an exciting new series in the works that we hope gets to see the proverbial light of day soon. And overall, he’s just a genuinely kind man and we are so grateful that he could take some time out of his busy schedule to share a few answers with us here today.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the great Craig Hamann!

 

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What initially inspired you to get into the world of filmmaking? Was it something you had dreamt of doing since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

Two things inspired me. The first happened when I was maybe five or six years old. I always liked seeing movies, even when I was that young. As a result, my parents would take me to matinees on weekends. One day they took me to a double feature with Bela Lugosi in Dracula and Boris Karloff in Frankenstein. I was immediately hooked on horror and genre films, and the possibility of one day writing for film.

The second inspiration came while I was attending Eastern Michigan University, which is a good writing school. I just happened to notice screenwriting was being taught and so I took the class. I loved it. It completely erased any doubts I had about getting into the film business.

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

The first paid jobs were uncredited rewrites for a few low budget indie films. A couple didn’t even get produced. I also did some martial arts fighting stunts in a couple films best left forgotten. But my first paid gig where my name was seen was acting in The Tomb, directed by Fred Olen Ray. The experience itself was dope. Another big plus was I met Sybil Danning during the filming. She was drop dead sexy and such a nice person. During the shoot, I spent as much time as possible talking with Sybil about the independent film industry as I could.

If there is one thing working on The Tomb  taught me, it’s filmmaking is a job. A fun job. But still a job. Everyone is working hard to complete the shots on schedule. 

 

 

A number of years ago, you created a film with Quentin Tarantino entitled My Best Friend’s Birthday in the early days of both of your careers. I am curious as to how this relationship came about? I believe I’ve heard that you originally began the project? How did this all play out?

A great book by Andrew J. Rausch recently came out titled My Best Friend’s Birthday: The Making Of A Quentin Tarantino Film. It really goes into depth about the film. Quentin, Roger Avary and myself all participated in interviews for it. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the film. 

Quentin and I had become close friends at the James Best Acting School. We decided one day to basically hold our noses and take a plunge into making a film. It was a trying but rewarding time in our lives. Of course, the best part is I got to work with Quentin. That’s an experience I will always cherish. As for me originally beginning the project, make no mistake, despite what some people have said, Quentin and I originated and made the film together. We worked hard at it. As Quentin likes to say, it was his film school. I agree with that sentiment. It was the only sort of filmmaking school I ever attended.

I also like the idea of simply saying, “We’re gonna make a movie.” We didn’t know at all what we were in for and we didn’t really know what we were doing while we were filming. It was trial by fire. But what a learning experience! 

By the way, the camera we used to shoot the movie was a 16mm Bolex that Fred Olen Ray lent to us. He did us a real solid. I’ll never forget it.

I came across something pretty interesting whilst scanning the internet that I was wondering you could give some detail about. I understand that you reunited with Quentin a few years later as a consultant on Pulp Ficiton. I am curious to know what kind of consulting work you provided to the film? And how was your experience working on this project?

I am a former substance abuser. That’s a fancy way of saying I was a drug addict many years ago while living in Detroit. I talked in depth with John Travolta about the heroin use in the film and I met with Quentin and Uma Thurmond to talk about her overdose scene. I also talked with Quentin about what the overdose would look like. He did a superb job with it.

I would come to the set and always end up in John Travolta’s trailer talking about film, life, whatever. He’d make us iced tea and we would just sit and shoot the breeze. A couple times Quentin joined us for lunch. Quentin also had me present while he shot Christopher Walken’s incredible “watch” scene. It was amazing. Walken is blow away amazing as an actor. And Quentin wrote a brilliant scene.

My apologies for all the Quentin praise here, but I find the guy’s talent to be astonishing. He has to be looked at as one of the greatest signature writer/directors to ever grace the big screen. Of course, yeah, I’m a bit biased.

We’ve spoken with quite a few folks who have worked in the Full Moon Entertainment world, especially writers, which you did yourself in 1993 with Dollman vs. Demonic Toys. We love horror films around here at TWS, so I am curious to know about your experience working on this very specific type of horror camp-like genre?

My buddy Courtney Joyner introduced me to Charlie Band. We hit it off well. I ended up writing Dollman vs. Demonic Toys. It was great writing for Full Moon because of their colorful approach to films, but equally fun was having two friends on  board with Courtney as an associate producer and Tim Thomerson in the lead. 

One project I really was hoping to do with Full Moon was going to be their version of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth. It didn’t happen. I believe they had difficulty securing the rights to that one at the time.

 

 

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

Right now I’m excited about a project called Smokers, which I’m doing with my good friend Sam Dobbins. Sam is a smart and experienced actor/producer. We’ve put a lot of time and hard work into this one. To be honest the project is fairly fresh off the presses, but it’s ready to start being shopped. One of the reasons I’m so crazy about this action/horror/revenge story is because of the streaming TV shows on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Shudder (among others). We have 10 episodes already written and a complete story/character bible for Smokers. Admittedly, it’s gritty stuff, very violent, but it’s an intriguing plot with wonderfully offbeat characters. I firmly believe the cross pollination of genres in the story would be fascinating to viewers.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Here, right now answering the interview questions. It brought back a lot of cool memories. Thank you for doing that for me.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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