Saturday, January 21, 2017

Brian Harrison talks about HELL FOLLOWS Slamdance 2017

Earlier today I published a review for HELL FOLLOWS a killer short that will undoubtedly act as a take no prisoners calling card for its writer director Brian Harrison. Harrison’s film is the work of a filmmaker who seems to have a better handle on filmmaking than most long term directors. His film is the sort of thing that once you see it you’ll want to see again and again- and you’ll want to see lengthened into a feature because based on what is in the short a feature should be earth shaking.

In the course of emailing back and forth between Harrison and his team I realized that I should get down some of what we were discussing formally- to that end I sent off a few quick questions. What follows is the brief interview that resulted.

I want to thank Brian Harrison for agreeing to answer my questions.

STEVE: Watching the film there is a sense that your love of Asian cinema is more genetic as opposed learned. When did you get hooked on Asian cinema?

BRIAN: Nature or Nurture. The true question of many personality traits, benevolent and malevolent. As in most answers, mine is a little bit of both. Nurture in that I was raised, from the somewhat inappropriate age of 6, on a myriad of provocative and rebellious Japanese cinema. It began with my father introducing me and guiding me into the world, then, nature took over. As was the case with my training in the martial arts, there has always been something inside me that has been drawn to the sensibility. To the honor. To the custom. To the history. To the feeling. To the look. To the philosophy. Something I cannot explain. But something that exists deep in my being. A previous life? Maybe. A specific neurotransmitter? Possibly. All better left unexplained… just embraced with vigor and heart.

STEVE: How did the film come about?

BRIAN: The film started with a novella I wrote about 2 years ago, entitled BLACK AS HELL DARK AS NIGHT. The book contains parts of this story and 2 other stories, all of them related/intertwined through familial relationships. Some of it takes place in Japan, some in the US. All of it, hyper-violent and hyper-real. After writing the novella, I started in on the feature screenplay (also entitled BLACK AS HELL DARK AS NIGHT). When the first draft was completed, I took a step back and realized what I had possibly created here… a manga comic, sans the actual comic books. The world, the feeling, the characters… all seemed to have that flavor to them, although the feature film is set in a vastly non-manga city – a hyper-realistic ghetto in Osaka called Airin-chiku. Once I realized that, I immediately started in with my concept artist, Jack Gregory, and we began the process of creating the manga. So that’s where we are now.

STEVE:The film starts in the middle of the story - are you hoping to expand the film into something longer?

BRIAN: We have the short film – which is kind of nightmare sequence from the feature – the feature screenplay, the novella, and now the manga in production. The intention is release these in a sort of Suicide Club (Sono - 2001) manner. The feature, the novella and then the manga. With room for additional stories within these stories – all in the same manner. A huge lofty goal for sure, but a plan nonetheless. All of which is high gear, moving forward at ludicrous speed.

STEVE: Why is it in Japanese?

BRIAN: The answer is simple. The story is a Japanese one. it takes place in Japan and all the characters are Japanese… so… they speak Japanese. Can’t be any other way nor would I ever do it any other way. One note though, the feature is partially in English as well, but that is being done for a very specific purpose.

STEVE: What are your influences- cinematic and elsewise?

BRIAN: To answer this, I could write pages upon pages upon pages… each set dedicated to who influences me and why. Obviously, we do not have the time or space to do that here, so, I think what I want people to know is that my main influence is LIFE. Everything I encounter. A sound. A person. A thought. A feeling. A color. A film. A book. A language. A philosophy. A taste. A smell. A hallucination. Everything. As a filmmaker and really as a sentient being, I truly believe that the most important influence should be the taking in of all experience and filtering it through your synapses. Once you do this, those experiences become unique to each being’s brain and consciousness… and then, you can deliver that unique “take” to others.

STEVE: What are you favorite films?

BRIAN: There are truly hundreds of films that I consider my “favorites.” It is almost impossible to make a short list of them, as I would undoubtedly be leaving hundreds off the list. Pictures are like food or clothes or music. Your favorites come and go, change with mood, with age, with life. Into something one day, something else the next. One day, a film is the most important thing in your life, the next year, you can’t believe you liked it at all. Films are meant to come into your life in precise moments, leave their mark on you and move on to the next soul. There are some that you, of course, watch over and over and over again. But, to be completely honest, I rather not make a list. Instead, I challenge everyone reading this to watch Hell Follows, and come back to me with an extensive list of films you think are my favorites/influences (at least for this picture). That I can confirm or deny.

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