Borchardt (Lead Actor) on the experience of working on “The Hagstone Demon.”
an apartment caretaker battling odd-doings and horrific entities in the confines
of the haunted complex...Jon is a very balanced, serious
filmmaker. He has an appreciation of humor that comes out in subtle moments.
There’s no laugh track going on at the surface of his life, but every once in
a while he appreciates a funny circumstance. It was an evenly balanced shoot.
There was no tumultuous situations or deserts of laxity either. But this type of
even filmmaking, man…it’s a good thing for the soul to ingest.
the aesthetic benefits of low-budget filmmaking using the example of George
A. Romero’s “Dawn
of the Dead.”
“The unique thing about Romero’s
films is that you could see in his compositions and his editing that there was
just this huge allegiance to craftsmanship. They were in a low-budget
circumstance using what they had, and that added a sense of reality, essentially
dictated a sense of reality, because that’s what they had to deal with. With a
bigger budget suddenly you have to light it differently, you have actors that
look like actors, you have clothing that looks like costuming and so forth, just
because it goes with the territory of that particular evolution.
At the beginning of “Dawn of the
Dead” if there would have been a huge amount of money they would have said
“listen man, let’s start with these car crashes and this army of zombies and
let’s just HIT the audience,” But instead, in “Dawn of the Dead” it’s
the most beautiful thing man, the credits appear over something; you don’t
know what the hell it is…the red organic thing, or whatever…and the all of a
sudden it zooms out and it’s a carpeted wall and it’s like mind
blowing! The world needs more red carpeted walls, man.”
the low-budget philosophy in “The Hagstone Demon”
The philosophy behind this project
was that the budget limitations would be used as an advantage instead of a
compromise. There are a lot of horror films in the pipeline right now, and most
of them have much larger budgets. Instead of letting a low-budget reality force
some kind of compromise in terms of the effects or the storytelling, we instead
channeled those limitations toward greater innovation and ingenuity. And I was
lucky enough to find very talented effects people who were willing to put
themselves out there in this regard. Obviously you can’t take such an approach
with just anyone. You need talented people who can deliver a functioning
solution under pressure with little or no resources to do so.
It was a small crew, and everyone had to be willing to come up with solutions beyond the usual application of money and personnel. And it’s not like I imposed this method as some kind of experiment, it was just the simple and stark reality of lack of funds, as well as a common interest everyone had. The locations were key. Much of what we were filming was already art directed because the locations were so good. So what we ended up with in terms of production design was this sort of hyper-gothic cocoon with a bunch of creepy characters, hairless cats, 70’s style nudity and these great low-budget Hammer Studio type effects. You put Mark Borchardt at the center of all this and it’s bound to be good, or at least unusual enough to be interesting.
My production designer Mike Etoll is a perfect example of someone who thrives under these kinds of limitations. For example, we were shooting a scene in the alley were Nadine hands off this plastic baggy to Jay Smiley and suddenly I had this idea that there should be something alive in that plastic baggy, you know as if there was an organism or animal squirming around in there. I asked Mike if he could create such an effect in the next ten minutes. He started digging through a dumpster there in the alley. Within ten minutes he had constructed an armature with a bubble wrap protrusion and a working tendon that allowed him to manipulate the protrusion in jerky, life-like movements. We slipped the armature into the baggy and Mike operated the armature manually from behind Nadine – through her coat - and I was able to frame him out of the shot. The effect is convincing, but beyond that it creates a certain “feel” that would have been different had it been done another way.
Mike Etoll, (Production Designer/Special Effects Supervisor) talks about his approach to the effects in "The Hagstone Demon":
effects are the most effective when they are inspired and when they are created
under some kind of limitation. For example, compare the make-up effects from the
average big-budget feature of today to something like The Night
Gallery, or the original Twilight
Zone. The effects in these old T.V. shows have an unusual and unique
quality due in part to the crude methods used create them. The over-done and
highly polished effects seen in most movies and Television shows today lack real
When artists are forced to improvise with the work, and don’t have a huge budget at their disposal, it forces them to inject more artistry and innovation into the process. The best effects I’ve seen in films have an “undefined” or “unwholesome” quality to them.
Roy Ashton (one of my favorite effect artists) was one of the main special effect guys at Hammer Studios. A lot of Ashton's make-ups were made of pressed paper. When you see his work it is extremely off-putting, and inspires a certain strange, eerie frame of mind in the viewer. It's not my intention to imitate such a style, but I prefer a situation where I am limited in some way, and this forces me to improvise with materials, etc. The result of all this may or may not have anything to do with nostalgia toward a past style of creating effects, but the whole purpose behind it is to deliver effects that create a unique impression on the viewer.
Hanson (Creature Design/Sculpture)
on the effects he did for
the Hagstone Demon:
"At the time production started for the Hagstone Demon, I had been developing a new do-it-yourself method for making a corpse prop using cheap, easy to find materials. As this was a low budget film, this was the perfect opportunity to employ my new corpsing tricks. So I hit the hardware stores in town and gathered up a few bucks worth of materials (pvc pipe, hot glue, various adhesives, wood stain) and got to work. A few days later, I had a full body corpse ready for the set. (Though the paint was still wet when I got it to the shot.) And I think my scratch built "Julie" corpse holds up to the expensive props you see in other films. Amazingly, it worked!"