ARROW IN THE HEAD INTERVIEWS
Director Jeremy Haft tackles horror for the first time with TAMARA (Read my review here), an undead sexy chick out for revenge opus that hits the big screen (limited release) on February 3rd 2006. I got the opportunity to ping-pong with the man behind the demon babe and here's what he smacked back my way when it comes to everything Tamara!
What’s your favorite horror movie?
I’d have to say both the Exorcist and the Shining.
What was it about the Tamara screenplay that made you want to helm it as your first horror feature?
I’m a big horror fan, but the movies that really stand out for me in the genre are those with a thriller or super-natural thriller edge to them. As I mentioned before, I love the SHINING and THE EXORCIST, as well as The SIXTH SENSE, all movies I consider as broadly in the horror genre, but with super-natural elements to them. I felt that TAMARA had both the horror and super-natural elements as well. I also liked that Tamara wasn’t a slasher movie, but required some thinking. Finally, I was attracted to the idea of setting a horror movie in a high-school, as high-schools are truly places of horror for some kids.
Having recently read the original draft, I know a lot was snipped out from it when compared to what you shot. What lost script element were you the most sorry to have to let go?
The all-girls’ shower scene. Okay, that was a joke, sort of. But we had to lose some scenes due to budget and time, and the one that stands out in my head is a scene we did shoot, but not the way I wanted to shoot it. The scene currently has Chloe and Jesse stepping into an elevator where they are immediately attacked by Kisha. I had story-boarded the scene so that Chloe and Jesse would get into the elevator and feel safe. Then the audience (not the characters) would see a drop of blood dripping between the elevator buttons, and the blood would eventually drip onto Jesse just as Kisha exploded out of the elevator shaft to attack them. That scene would have kicked ass, but we simply did not have the time or money to do it.
How would you describe the casting process to find your “Tamara”? Smooth sailing or arduous?
Arduous until we met Jenna. I met hundreds of girls for the role of Tamara, and not one could successfully play both sides of Tamara – the mousey scared girl and the tough seductress. Many actresses could play one of her sides, but no one played both realistically. Ironically, the hardest thing was finding someone who could pull off the sexy seductress without being over the top. So after meeting tons of young women, we were definitely exasperated. Then, in walked Jenna, and it was over. She blew us away. She was perfect.
What would you say were the heftiest obstacles you encountered while shooting the picture?
The heftiest obstacles were easily the budget and the shooting time. Frankly we needed more time and money. That said, because of these constraints there were complex things we had to swap out for simpler ideas, and they ended up looking really cool. Sometimes simpler is better.
Another issue was that we were always shooting nights, so it took time for our bodies to adjust. We’d usually start shooting around 5 or 6 pm and we’d wrap at 6 or 7 am, as the sun was coming up. We were trying to wind down as the normal day was dawning. And if you wanted to relax with a beer at the end of the work day, you couldn’t get it as the bars were closed at 7 am.
Any funny on set occurrences that happened you’d like to share with us?
Two very funny stories come to mind. One crazy event was when Kisha was literally puking her guts out. Our prop guys developed an awesome puke device that was a vacuum. When activated, it propelled the puke out. Now mind you, the vomit was made of dog food, gizzards, chicken livers, and other disgusting refuse from the butcher shop. The stench was unbearable! Well, we’re shooting the scene and Kisha was about to puke when the machine malfunctions and shoots this disgusting stuff all over her. And this poor actress is drenched in the raunchiest stuff you’ve ever seen or smelled.
Another funny incident occurred when we were shooting the scene where Tamara makes Roger relive her own horror of being buried underground. So as the scene progresses, worms and bugs break out of Roger’s skin. Well of course we had real bugs … and one bug, a giant millipede was lost. The bug wranglers couldn’t track him down, and we assumed he went off to spawn somewhere. So if there’s ever an attack of millipedes in Winnipeg, Canada, you’ll know why!
If Tamara 2 was to happen, would you be interested in directing it?
I had a great time working on the first one, so, of course, I’d be open to it. However, we’d have to find an original story, and not merely a re-tread of the first one.
What’s next on your plate projects wise? Anything up in the air?
A slew of things are going on. My writing partner, Ed Gonzalez and I, recently wrote a thriller for the director William Friedkin, and we also sold a comedy script with Vince Vaughn attached to New Line Cinema. Both of those projects are exciting. I also direct a lot of commercials, including spots for the Harlem Globetrotters, the Ashes and Snow Museum and the opening titles for a new TLC show, all in the last few months. And of course, I’m reading scripts and taking meetings in order to find a new feature to direct.
Do you have any idea as to when the “once planned, now postponed” Lions Gate Tamara Home Release date will be?
Sorry, I don’t know.
What was the first drink you consumed at the Tamara Wrap Party?
A cup of coffee to stay awake as we’d been shooting nights, and then a shot of tequila to start the party!
I'd like to thank Jeremy for the interview and for putting yummy actress Jenna Dewan in skimpy outfits throughout Tamara! Break a neck with the film dude!