Quantcast Jake Hamilton interview - MEANS TO AN END, GRACE

Jake Hamilton!!!
Jake Hamilton was one of the sick bastards behind the short film 'MEANS TO AN END' (the other being Paul Solet) - The hilarious black comedy/horror short which won Fangoria's Blood Drive Volume 2 contest. Now, with a 'MEANS TO AN END' full length in the works and a slew of composing gigs, including Paul Solet's upcoming 'GRACE', we caught up with Jake for the full scoop. Read on! - by Robg. 3/06

What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? What were the first films you remember really having an impact on you?

Exorcist (sleepless nights and respect for sound design), Alien & Aliens (sci-fimagination and my two fav genres combined), Texas Chainsaw (acidic nausea, did we see that or just hear it?), Nightmare the first (just concept alone, attack at our most vulnerable moment), Halloween 1 & 2 (stressful suspense and hey, he did the score too!), Dawn and Day of the Dead (zombies make FX gruesomely cool and Romero has the most fun), Evil Dead 1 & 2 (this shits gettin' funnier, Bruce, what more can I say), Poltergeist (chicken maggot surprise), Body Snatchers 78 (great double feature with the THING), Faces of Death (well, it had it's impact!), Gourmet Zombie Chef From Hell (okay, i guess anyone can get a film made)... and so I did.

At what point did you first start seriously considering becoming a filmmaker or involved in filmmaking?

When I was a kid still drawing notebook comics, my dad showed me his 8mm camera and some films he shot. I was making little stop-motion ditties that night, and taking an 8mm film class shortly thereafter.

Can you give us a brief synopsis of some of the short films you had started making with your friends as guinea pigs?

Curse of the Dead: When a teenage kid is killed in a car accident and his best friend commits suicide from grief, they both rise from the dead and unleash flesh eating death upon all who knew them... for some reason. When Father Comes Home: He'll join you in wedlock, then decapitate you at the reception... god bless him. Insane: You picked on the freak at school, and now you're gonna pay.

Did you go to school or take classes in any areas of filmmaking? And if so, what did you take away from those experiences?

Well there's the 8mm class I mentioned. I also took a stop-motion animation course, and a film analysis class in school. I'm currently attending a undergrad screenwriting course at Emerson. Honestly nothing has been as powerful a learning experience as stealing the family camcorder and running around the neighborhood shooting. From attempting in-camera editing, to learning Final Cut, playing in a garage rock band to scoring, buying how-to: make-up and effects books to actually attempting the illusions on camera, from home video to working with the wicked team on a 35mm shoot, learning from experience has been the most educational and long lasting learning I have done.

How the hell'd you hook up with sicko Paul Solet?

My mind is a blank. I think it had something to do with an Ichi tee shirt. He's a bastard anyway.

Which brings us to Means To An End. Where'd the initial idea for the project come about? It seems like there may be slight autobiographical frustrations in the flick in regards to getting your horror movies made. Any truth to that?

Apart from our mutual likes and dislikes in the genre, we found ourselves complaining about a lot of the recent (at that time) horror that had been released. Well we had do something ourselves to keep our bitching rights, so the challenge came from one another to come up with something original, compelling and within our means... yuk yuk. We started with a snuff film scenario, then used that basic idea, but turned it around on the main characters so they were now mutilating each other. Basically it's us, ramped up on the insanity meter a notch or two. How far would YOU be willing to go for your supposed love of horror?

The budget was roughly $3500 from what I read in a previous interview. Can you break down for aspiring filmmakers how you guys spent your budget? Did you shoot on film or digital, etc?

Yeah, shot on DV Cam format with a Sony PD-150. We spent about half on cam equip, lighting gear rental and tape. The rest on all the production stuff; props, effects materials, gas and food for the crew. Not much was spent on post since I was taking care of most all post-production work myself. However there was a lot of stuff we had donated to us all around by countless friends and supporters; locations, actors, assistants, vehicles, elevators, weapons, audio mixing and mastering... ya know, the little extras that make all the difference. Working with good people who love film and want to be a part of your project has EVERYTHING to do with how well it comes out.

There's a lot of kick ass posters & horror memorabilia all thru-out the Means To An End short, obviously belonging to you & Paul. What do you consider some of the prizes in your collection?

Actually the things I prize the most are currently things we found or created for MTAE. The bobble head Alien for one, the Fangoria cover prop, and I don't think I can ever use my cheese grater in good conscience again. Hidden in the opening montage are some of the first issues of Fango I ever bought, along with the first How-To film-book my family ever gave me. My personal love though is Savini's Grande Illusions special effects book, which is in there somewhere, though I'll be dammed if I can remember where it is.

You also composed the score music for Means To An End. Don't you have a history of scoring independent short films?

I don't know if I'd call it a history of scoring really. I mean I've spent most of the last decade writing and producing music, hard rock mostly (www.thererock.com). In the last four years or so I started experimenting with score and sound design on a super hero project titled SMOKE. Then when MTAE came along it was really the first time I had composed, performed and produced the entire sound element for a film. I fell in love with it, as well as editing. It was powerful to experience how much can change in effect and even story at that point in the process. Since MTAE I have contributed score for a couple other horror projects and there's more still on the way.

From a musicians point of view, how pivotal is music when it comes to a horror feature? And what are some examples of your favorite score/horror flicks?

Once it has been edited, the score makes up the other half of what the experience of the film is. It can make or break movies for me. Perhaps because I am paying alot of attention to this element. Score often times tells the audience, more than anything else, what the story feels like. I observed total reverses of experience with scoring in MTAE. Scenes took on new meaning and purpose when the music was changed. We have all noticed when filmmakers have resorted to trying to fix a film by overusing or over stating score to imply or tell the audience stuff that just isn't there on the screen, with not so good results. Carpenters scoring is near and dear to my heart cause he did so much with so little. It really showed me what the possibilities were without needing alot of money. There are so many great examples of beautiful score out there, I don't know where to start.

What was the most difficult aspect of shooting Means To An End and in turn, what was the funnest part? (My bet is shaving Paul's ass, you bastard!)

The most fun for me was the room we had left for improvisation. In particular with all the visual effects. Participating with three other wonderfully sick minds (Paul, Adam and Matt), was truly something I will never want to forget. Everyone was willing to try anything, and we did. Also, Paul and I trying to bring the "Pain is temporary..." philosophy into our jobs as actors was intense as well, and I have the scars to prove it. When we got the last shot and said "that's a wrap", it kinda felt like last day of high school, relieving but sad. Overall it was an experience I would live again if I could.

Now, you were one of the winners of the Fangoria Blood Drive and your flick ended up on Fangos 2nd DVD compilation. Did you guys intend the film for Fango's contest, or was the timing just right for when you guys were working on MTAE?

Everything about the timing around MTAE involved strange coincidence... or not. It was shot in four days and edited, for the most part, in a week or two. We were caught up in so many things at that point that when the opportunity to enter Fangos dealie came up, we just added it to the list of entries Paul was assembling. I don't think either of us had any idea that we might actually win. The coincidence being that Fango's first blood drive had a lot to do with our initial decision to write a new film in the first place. Though that was almost a year before, and well outside our intentions in the beginning.

MTAE has screened at numerous festivals, and played at a few conventions, always with a strong audience response. How does that feel from your perspective?

It's like sex... without the mess.

Speaking of, we partied with you boys a bit at the Fango Weekend Of Horrors in Jersey last year. What were some of the highlights of that weekend?

Meeting the wicked effects team and your boys from icons, Tony Timpone, Eli and Gabe Roth, and all the other folks we ran into was totally inspiring and a good time was had by all... s'far as I know anyway. The blood gag on stage during the filmmaker panel though was totally exhilarating. We knew what we were doing, and keeping it a secret from everyone made it that much more fun to pull off.

I like that on the separate promotional DVD of MTAE, you include a number of special features, including two of your score tracks. Any plan to release more of your score work on CD?

No plans per-say, but anyone whose interested need only email me and ask and I'd be happy to spread the music around. Maybe after Grace I will put out a best of Hamilton Horror soundtrack CD. HA!

Speaking of score, arent you working on music for Paul's next project Grace?

That is correct sir. However I am not at liberty to divulge the specifics as they might spoil the big surprise for everyone. Plus he's a bastard.

Music in general is a completely different element when it comes to filmmaking. How do you approach scoring a project. Do you have ideas in advance or score to the finished film?

Thus far, I like to get as much as I can from the film script, footage and speaking with the writer and/or director as I can. I like to kinda absorb as much feeling from everything involved and see where that brings me emotionally and idea-wise. Then I will discuss this with director and see how close we are to being on the same page. I also like to make experimental, unstructured test pieces that explore the basic terrain that I feel is appropriate and go over it with them as well. Looking for what strikes us and what falls short.

What can you tell us on the status of the full length Means To An End?

Currently I am writing a new version of the story that begins with the same characters and same basic premise, but goes into a much darker and even more horrific place than the previous version. Less comedy and more suspense. There's still plenty of humor, but the stakes are higher and the real vs. fake theme is explored in a more realistic and gritty way. I am loving it so far.

Horror has been in flux now the past few years, but there seems to be a strong circle of independent filmmakers ready to take this thing back. How do you feel both about the local independent film scene now, and have you seen anything impressive lately? (either independent or otherwise?)

As I have visited numerous festivals and conventions and met countless filmmakers and supporters I can safely say that there is a shit load of great stuff being made out there, and a ton of people ready and willing to come and get it. It really is up to us each as individuals to not be swayed by only supporting the films that can afford massive promotion. Don't get me wrong, there's alot of amateur blah out there as well, but thats the price for discovering those gems that make there way to the surface when you're looking for em. That being said, I recently saw Eli Roth's Hostel and... yeah. It's films like that that will help us all keep working in the future and keep the genre alive and well.

Besides Grace & the full length Means To An End, what else can we look forward to from your camp?

At the moment all sights are focused on the feature of MTAE. Once I have the first draft completed, more will be revealed.

Visit: www.MeansToAnEndTheMovie.com.

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