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Exclusive: Director Adam Green talks ‘Digging Up the Marrow’

Adam Green

Interviewed by Michael Juvinall – Horror Society

Read our review of Digging Up the Marrow here!

Adam Green is a actor/writer/producer/director of the highly successful Hatchet film franchise along with other films such as Spiral (2007), Frozen (2010), Chillerama (segment “The Diary Of Anne Frankenstein” 2011) and more recently he premiered the first two seasons of his successful horror TV sitcom, Holliston. Green recently did something that very few filmmakers of his status are able to pull off – He made a film under the radar and snuck it up on almost everyone in the industry.

Digging Up the Marrow is his latest project that debuted in select theaters and VOD this past February 20th. It also heads to DVD on March 24th. It was a long process for Green to make this film; it took him roughly four years to complete it because in the interim, he filmed Hatchet II and III, and two seasons of Holliston while he was working on DUTM. Green even pulled the wool over this journalist’s eyes because I interviewed him three years ago and at that time he told me about DUTM, but said it was an “art film”, which is the same line he gave to everyone. He said that so that nobody would question him about what he was working on and that gave him the freedom to get the film made the way he wanted without outside interference.

DUTM is basically a faux documentary exploring genre based monster art and it takes an odd turn when the filmmakers are contacted by a man who claims he can prove that monsters are indeed real. I had the incredible opportunity to speak with Adam Green for the third time in my career as we spoke about DUTM, why he had to film under the radar, Alex Pardee’s artwork that inspired the film, and whether or not we’ll see a third season of Holliston after the death of Dave Brockie.

Horror Society: Were talking about your latest film, Digging Up the Marrow which hadDigging Up The Marrow been in the production process for the last few years. I spoke with you three years ago when I interviewed you and you deceived me. At the time you told me that Digging Up the Marrow was an art project, so what was the reason behind telling everyone that?

Adam Green: (Laughing) It’s not really a lie, it is an art project but we wanted it to come out and have nobody know what to expect or what it was. I think it was the smartest way to do it because it’s been so well received. I think it’s now our best reviewed film out of nine films and the response has been amazing. It’s such a weird concept, the fact that it blends reality with fantasy and if we had said four years ago when we started what we were doing, that it was a scripted movie then all the various media outlets and genre websites would want set visits, stills, casting news, and updates and that would’ve ruined the film. If we said no, then you start making enemies with everybody because they want information. So saying that we were making an art project, nobody cared and nobody wanted to know anything else about it. It’s true, the whole thing is based on an art exhibit and it’s completely inspired by art. We just wanted to fly under the radar and keep it to ourselves. It’s good advice for other filmmakers, if you want to keep anonymity then just say you’re making a documentary about art and nobody will want to know anything about what you’re working on.

We didn’t know what was going to happen, it’s such a weird concept, there were many points while making this that we kept second guessing ourselves every step of the way and challenging ourselves and rethinking it. I can’t even tell you how many times I almost ruined my own movie because I would start getting cold feet about something. Once we committed to the idea of setting this in as real a world as possible and playing ourselves and all that, it sounds great and it reads great, we knew before we ever started that people were going to say it’s a vanity project, they’re going to say it’s indulgent, it’s the whole reason the movie works the way it does. It is real people, if we had made up a fake filmmaker who made fake horror movies who worked at a fake studio with fake actor friends who had fake fans, it wouldn’t be the same thing, there would be no reality blending with that fantasy. There’s plenty of people who are going to see this movie on Netflix, cable or worldwide that will think it’s a fake filmmaker who makes fake movies but I think there’s authenticity to it that help you suspend your disbelief just that much more. It’s obviously a movie, that’s why we cast Ray Wise so that nobody would think we’re trying to hoax them. It’s a weird concept and it was easier to do it especially since it took so long. In the time that we made this film we made 2 Hatchet sequels, 2 seasons of Holliston and Chillerama, just to give people an idea of how long it took. You don’t want to announce a movie and tell everybody what it is and then have it take four years before they can see it.

Horror Society: Right, I understand what you’re saying. I’ve seen the film and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was one of your best films to date so I congratulate you on that.

Adam Green: Thank you.

Horror Society: The monsters in the film are based on the artwork of Alex Pardee. What was it about his work in particular that inspired you to make the film over any of the other incredible artists out there?

DUTM image 8Adam Green: Alex is way more than just the monsters. To backup, when we got back from when Frozen premiered at Sundance, it was like five years ago, we were so proud of that film and the reaction at Sundance was so amazing, the reviews were so good. Because of unfortunate luck, the company that was supposed to put out Frozen was Overture. They were expecting we were finally going to have it marketed and released on 1500 screens potentially. We’ve never had that, all of our films have been theatrically released but you never know they’re there because there’s no marketing behind them. Look at this one right now. We were really excited and then Overture went out of business right when we finished the film. They kicked it down to Anchor Bay. I don’t want to sound like I’m down on Anchor Bay because I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for Anchor Bay, they put out my first four films and I love them but we were disappointed. We started thinking about how we could do something where we just use primarily our own assets. We’ll need to get money from somewhere but let’s not presell the movie to anybody and let’s not have outside producers making business decisions and let’s do something that’s just for the love of doing it and that nobody else could do. Everyone said that it sounded great but what is it?

There was a piece of fan mail on my desk from a guy who had written claiming that Victor Crowley from the Hatchet movies was real. People send me crazy stuff all the time and I love it. My fans are so creative and they send me drawings and fan fiction and it all blows me away. This one was basically the same that Victor Crowley was real and I had messed it up and I didn’t get any of it right. There were pictures of real swamps with areas circled saying that this is where he really lives, this is where the murders happened and I looked at the guys and said what about this? Let’s go interview this guy and have him prove that Victor Crowley is real, how funny would that be. Even if it’s just one of our Halloween short films, it could be really cool. Ultimately, nobody wanted to do anything involving the Crowley character or that universe. Will Barratt said, what happens when this guy deliverances you out in the swamp? I threw it out. Two weeks later I was at a convention here in L.A. doing a signing and this guy comes to my line and hands me this pamphlet called Digging Up the Marrow. He didn’t want an autograph or a picture or anything, he just said he wanted to thank me for the inspiration and he walked away. I read everything that people give me as long as it’s not a screenplay or something. I was reading it and not only did I know Alex’s artwork, I just didn’t know what he looked like. I didn’t know that he was the guy who handed it to me. His exhibit for Digging up the Marrow that he did in 2009 had a storyline for whatever he came up with. The story for DUTM was that he had found the journal of a former Boston police detective named William Dekker who claimed that monsters were real and they live in this world called the Marrow. Alex had taken it upon himself to paint the creatures that this guy described. I’m reading it and looking at the artwork and I was thinking what if William Dekker contacted a cult filmmaker because he’s just trying to find anybody who is willing to listen to him and tell his story to the world. There is this level of reality to it even though clearly going to be a fantasy and I’ve never seen that before. That’s what excited us to even do it. I think if we had made up a fake filmmaker, there would have been no point in making the movie. The whole thing would’ve been fantasy. It was having that way into the world that was very real that made it worth making and that made it unique.

Horror Society: Right. That’s one of the things I liked best about the story was the premise of it all. I thought it worked out so well for you.

Adam Green: With that comes the fact that we knew before we even started there was going to be people that thought the whole move is these guys jerking off to themselves and why do they think they’re so cool. We went out of our way to make things self-deprecating. We tried to show our office as kind of this dirty, grungy kind of place. When we fly places going to conventions we were flying in first class but I would go sit in the back of the plane. We did what we could to just be as real and blue collar as possible because that is the way we are. The more imaginative people have been super responsive to it and we have been surprised the reviews have been so positive. You get a few of those ones that are like “Fuck you guys!” but they’re going to say that anyway, there’s nothing I can do to win those people over.

Horror Society: For the past month or so, you and Alex have been going around the country exhibiting Digging Up the Marrow to select theaters. I was wondering how the fan response has been to all of that?

Adam Green: I don’t even know how to describe it. We leave the theaters late at night because we’ll stay and stand outside and sign for everybody. I’m glad that I don’t underestimate horror fans. A lot of people think that all we like is blood and guts and we like to see killing and depravity and jump scares or whatever but it’s not true. I think horror fans are some of the most imaginative people in the world and they like thinking and they like something different or something that might challenge them a little bit. Whether it’s because of the way we set this up, rooting it reality or whatever it is about it, people are super into it and they’re riveted by it and they keep talking about it for days and days afterwards. That’s really cool and it’s been great to not only bring the movie but an art exhibit and one of the monsters from the movie to show everybody the genesis of it and see the artwork. I can’t even think of another genre movie that’s ever done that before so people are really excited to get that chance. I wish we could’ve gone to every city, it just wasn’t feasible and there wasn’t enough time to do it especially with how fast the film is coming out. Now that we’ve seen what a huge reaction it’s getting, there’s definitely the chance that we would do it again, maybe in the spring or summer.

Horror Society: That would be really cool. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you this – now that Fearnet is no longer around and the untimely passing of Dave Brockie, what is the status of Season 3 of Holliston?

Adam Green: We are in very, very serious talks with a way to keep the show going. The beauty of that Holliston season 2 postershow is that it was never really a Fearnet show, they never owned it, and they just licensed it from Ariescope just like they do the films they show. That was the beauty of that whole thing, we had creative freedom, we made the show, we delivered it and they were just amazing partners for us in that regard. A show like Holliston never would’ve made it through development at another network. We tried, several times over thirteen years and then right towards the finish line of writing the script, it would be “Could you take out all the horror references?  Do they have to want to be horror directors?” I wanted Dee Snider and I wanted Dave Brockie and they would say no, so it all worked out really well.

We were already talking about changing it up when we made season two because the hard thing with Fearnet was that they were not getting the support from their parent company they deserved or needed. It was too hard for people to find the show. Some people got Fearnet but most people didn’t so the show would air and people would wonder how they would see it. We wanted to start doing it differently with kind of a new way of doing television where just like with movies, you make it but you put it on regular VOD and put where everyone can see it. We were already talking to other places when we made season two and Fearnet knew that and they were supportive in all of that.

Then Dave died and we had two offers on the table at that point to make season three but I would’ve had to do it right away. They couldn’t wait because of budgets and other reasons, it had to happen immediately and I couldn’t do it. I needed to take the time to heal. I’m very fortunate that I haven’t had to deal with death before this. I had grandfathers that passed away but I was a little child and I didn’t understand it but this was one of my best friends. The fans have been incredibly supportive, nobody has ever said to hurry up and do it or we’re tired of waiting. Everybody understands. It’s not just me, it’s Joe, it’s Corri, its Laura, and everybody was devastated by it. For me especially as the heart of that show and the writer and the one who had all the scenes with Dave, the thought of standing on that set in that bedroom with that closet door closed…it’s really hard. I’m getting there; I’m not fully there yet. We have an option on the table right now that’s exciting and I know more than anything that if I don’t go on with the show that nobody would be more let down than Dave. We want to do it, I’ve been writing, the cast has even gotten together for a couple of rehearsals. We did a reunion special on my podcast where we surprised everybody by turning into a radio play of the new episode of Holliston in the last 20 minutes of it. That went over really well and got people really excited again. We’ll see I hope I have news soon. Unless we can do the show and still have complete creative control, unless we can do the show and have everybody has a legitimate way to see it at the same time then I don’t want to do it but it looks like we have that option on the table in front of us now. I really needed to finish Digging Up the Marrow; I needed to do the tour. A lot of times what happens is by the time the movie comes out, you’re already onto the next thing but to me the tour, the art exhibit that was all part of it, so I needed to be around for that. Who knows, in the next month or two, there could be an announcement about Holliston.

Horror Society: That’s good news. Adam, I wanted to offer my condolences to you on the passing of Dave. I’m truly sorry about that.

Adam Green: Thank you.

Horror Society: We’re out of time but I wanted to say thank you so much for speaking with me. Digging Up the Marrow is one of your best projects so far and I wish you the best of luck in the future.

Adam Green: Thank you so much and thank you for taking the time to tell people about the movie. All of us, we really appreciate it.

Horror Society: Thank you and take care.

Adam Green: You too.

Watch the trailer for Digging Up the Marrow here,

Written by Michael Juvinall

I am a Horror journalist, producer, ravenous Horror fiend, aficionado of the classic Universal Monsters, Hammer Horror, Werewolves, and all things Horror.