INT: Robert Hall

The Arrow interviews Robert Hall

Special makeup effects artist Robert Hall (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Dead Birds etc.) has recently hopped on the directorial wagon via his very personal film Lightning Bug. This baby tells the tale of a genre loving young man fighting the severe odds lined up against him in the name of becoming a makeup effects artist for horror movies. I got the chance to trade blows with writer/director Robert and here's what he launched my way about the picture. 

Arrow: What’s your favorite horror movie?

Robert: Halloween. Hands down. I saw that movie at the theatre when I was six years old. I was terrified of Michael Myers and would look out the window of my bedroom expecting that blank emotionless face to be coming at me! It’s an odd choice for some people because it’s not an fx movie. But it’s the film that made me want to scare people first with creature fx and now with filmmaking. John Carpenter is a genius. I still watch it on DVD every year in October!

Arrow: What was the initial spark that ignited your love for the genre?

Robert: Well first Halloween and The Fog in theatres. Then I saw the making of Thriller with Rick Baker and I knew I wanted to do prosthetics and creatures for a living.

Arrow: Of all the special effects you’ve created, which one is dearest to your heart?

Robert: That question is so hard. It’s like picking your favorite children! I’d have to say a few that I am proud of is “Skip” on Angel, “Gnarl” from Buffy, and the “Dead Birds” creature. Dead Birds was a great challenge and Alex Turner is an amazing director with a vision. I also loved ripping off Dennis Hopper’s face in “Unspeakable”.

Arrow: You’ve recently graduated from Special Effects wizardry to writer/director with the feature Lightning Bug. It says that it is based on true accounts. How close to your real life is the film?

Robert: Too close for comfort. I am the character of Green and those (kinds) of people DO EXIST, even still today. I know what it’s like to live in a religious, uptight, small minded community like Fairfield. I also know what it is to want something bigger and strive for that no matter what the obstacles are. One of the only criticisms that people ever have about the film is that they think I am stereo-typing.

They think that a super religious mother and a drunk red neck step dad are a bit far fetched! This infuriates me because I LIVED IT! I know it’s still prevalent and if someone wants to challenge me on it I will drive them to a town in North Alabama, Kick them out at a rest stop and be back the next day. We’ll see if I am making this stuff up! As my Producer put it when location scouting “I met Earl nine times when looking for locations” one time she was chased off with a shotgun!

Furthermore we almost had a church come to the set and protest! Talk about life imitating art. When we were holding auditions in Birmingham almost half of the actors left when they read the sides because they said “this movie’s got Language in it”.

Arrow: Did you find it hard to re-visit the hard times you went through while writing the screenplay or shooting the picture?

Robert: I actually found the process cathartic. We filmed in my old high school and the same video store I frequented when I was Green’s age. It was wild but a nice feeling overall, especially being able to re-write history.

Arrow: Great choices casting wise by the way! Ashley Lawrence hasn’t gotten a meaty part like this in a while! Thank you! How arduous was the casting process for the movie?

Robert: The casting process took 4 months. The hardest parts to fill were the two leads. Almost everyone else I am friends with and wrote the parts for. Ashley Laurence is my best friend and an amazing actress. I knew she was more talented than the type of roles she usually gets so she was a shu in. Hal Sparks is also my best bud and we play in a band together so he was easy. Kevin Gage I met on Firefly and I said to myself while he was doing a scene “Oh my God! I found earl.” Til that moment I had not seen an actor in 4 years (sine I wrote the script) who I thought was scary enough for Earl until I had met Kevin.

I did not know who Laura Prepon was. I hate sitcoms, so when she came in to the audition all gothed out and read I was like, Who is that? Bret was the last to be cast from LA and he was a dream. Super talented actor and the right vulnerability for the role. Shannon Eubanks, Jonathan Spencer, George Faughnan, and Lucas til all came from Atlanta and kicked ass. Shannon is kind of a legend down there. I was so fortunate to have this caliber of cast for such a small movie. 

Arrow: Where is the film now in terms of distribution?

Robert: LIMBO! Ha, Ha. No seriously we are getting some great feedback and some interest. We are just looking at the best options right now for distribution. I hope to have it run theatrically by January and on DVD by summer of 2005. It’s all about finding a like minded distributor who wants a well made passion project and not just product.

Arrow: Is Kevin Gage as much of a badass in real life as he is onscreen? How was he to work with?

Robert: Kevin is the nicest guy I have ever met-completely unlike the guys he play! Unfortunately LB was the last film he did before serving a 41 month prison sentence for medicinal marijuana! WHAT BS!

Arrow: What’s next on your plate directing wise?

Robert: I am finishing the script for a Psychological horror film called “9 Records” at the moment, and we should be in production on it next year. It’s another “Dirty South Epic” but scary and dark. I will direct and my “LB” DP Brandon Trost will be on board. The guy was 21 when he shot my film and I think he’s going to be the next big thing.

Arrow: What was the first beverage you consumed at the cast party for Lightning bug?

Robert: Since I am a low carb freak I had about 17 Michelob Ultras! Hey if anyone from Michelob is reading this we are looking for product placement on our next flick!

I'd like to thank Robert for the bitter pill that was Lightning Bug and wish him all the best in terms of finding a distributor for his  fine film. Knock them dead kid!




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