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J. D. Hawkins
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

Q: What is your background as a filmmaker? What got you interested in horror movies?

My background has primarily been as an actor. I've done some roles in some films like HELL SWARM,FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, and OFF THE MAP and wanted to create work for myself. That's pretty funny because I've only been in one film that my partners and I have produced. I joined SAG and can't really afford myself. Anyway, I took the knowledge I collected on other sets and a long time love of films and made my own. The film we made was a small personal film called WOUNDED HEARTS. I took portions of my life and my business partner's life and created a drama about a widower trying to start another relationship against his daughter's wishes. I was okay(I always honestly assess myself). We had very little money and had the usual no budget film problems-sound issues, location problems, time constraints. But for all the problems, I learned a lot and for a first time filmmaker with no real background behind the camera- I'm proud of the film. The main problem I faced in trying to recoup the investment was trying to sell a no budget drama with no stars and technical issues. We tried several distributors with no success until Maverick Entertainment. They thought the film had problems but was a good story. So they sent it to Blockbuster and the buyer enjoyed the film's positive message and made the buy. So we eventually got a distribution deal. Only problem was it took three years from the end of re-shoots to actually hitting the street. My one saving grace (if you can call it that) was it was my partner's and my money-no investors to deal with concerning the length of time it took to sell the film. So when it came time to try again I wanted to get investors and not have to come out of pocket(I couldn't anyway). I looked at the market and decided that a horror film would be the best way to recoup any potential investor's money. I am a huge horror fan and always wanted to be in one. I figured the best way to cut cost would be to shoot shorts and the connect them. That way if anything went wrong at least the short would be complete and I could still have something to showcase. Thus STREET TALES OF TERROR was born.

Q: What are some of the films which have influenced you the most?

I am a fan of John Carpenter. He has some of the coolest concepts ever. HALLOWEEN was the first film I went to on a date. I am a big fan of Brian DePalma with CARRIE and THE FURY. His usage of silence is nothing short of brilliant. I am a big fan on the moving camera- not necessarily as much as a Ridley or Tony Scott. But I will run to see anything the Tak Fujimoto is DP. I have been watching a lot of Asian horror recently. I loved JU ON(What happened with THE GRUDGE?), THE EYE, and JU REI. I pay homage (haha) to everything I've ever seen though. I love movies! Both good and bad!

Q: Why was the decision made to share the directing on STREET TALES OF TERROR?

I've always tried to follow a motto I heard in BACKDRAFT. That motto was "I GO, WE GO". So when it came time to make STREET TALES. I thought about getting three local filmmakers and myself and that way we can all have the chance to do what we love. I would direct one, one of my partner's would direct one and two directors I had worked with as an actor. Well, as it would turn out, one of the directors was unable to do. So my second partner wanted a chance to direct but only if I would aid him in the process. No problem. So we started shooting but because it was too confusing and time was of the essence it was easier just to just take over the reigns. The next problem came when we had completed all principal photography and assemble the film. We submitted a rough cut to Maverick. They made an offer based on the rough cut. However, the middle section had problems and needed to be replaced. So in order to get the film done quickly I directed a brand new section to replace the middle section. So after all was said and done, I directed three of the segments and my business partner Corey Shields directed the first segment. He even pulled double duty by starring in the film.

Q: All the tales revolve around an African-American woman in some kind of trouble, from being raped to being pregnant? Was this a coincidence of the three stories or was it clearly intended as a theme of the movie?

That really was a coincidence. Corey had written a story with a female for his wife. The other two writer just happened to have female driven stories as well. So my segment was male dominated to try to balance as much as possible. Maybe subconsciously the thinking is that females are more vulnerable and you care about them more. With the sequel we are developing, the stories are more balanced. They are more diverse in tone and structure.

Q: How did you go about casting the movie?

I have always(on WOUNDED HEARTS) hand picked people that I knew or have worked with. I usually don't have time to waste trusting that someone I don't know will do what is needed to get the job done. There is a trust factor. For STREET TALES it was a little different. We held a general call in Houston and called several agencies and got a good turn out. I have to admit I was a little surprised at the talent I wasn't aware of. There were still people I knew that I used for most of the film but for the college segment, it was comprised of talent that I had auditioned. Some of the young talent in the college segment were really incredible under some HOT conditions and long hours.

Q: What was your favorite part in making the movie?

I have different favorites at different times when putting a project together. I usually go kicking and screaming into the writing process but once I'm there I love sitting in front of a computer working a scene. The thrill of typing THE END is a powerful stimulant. After that I have my least favorite phase which is finding the funding. I don't get excited about the money until it's in the bank and THE CHECK HAS CLEARED. So often, everyone is gung ho about making a movie until it comes time to get the money. STREET TALES eventually found some people that were trusting of us and came through when we needed them. I am truly appreciated and indebted to them for taking a chance on us. They put their money where their mouth is! GOD BLESS THEM! I love being on a set. No matter how crazy it gets- I am all right. I am a laid back person by nature and it helps when all hell is breaking loose. My only concession is I must be wearing a hat. It's like a lid that keeps everything inside. The only day I erupted was when I didn't have a hat (eventually someone gave me the hat off their head-IT WORKED). However, my favorite time of all is the first complete draft of the film. Usually I wait until my children have gone to bed and I am completely alone and turn off the lights. I sit there in the dark and have my what I call my true moment. There is no pressure and only about seeing the work. After that viewing I relinquish all emotions to it. After that, it's belong to the outside world.

Q: Are you working on any new movies?

Now we are in the pre-production for a sequel to STREET TALES OF TERROR. The new script is much better than the first. It's much tighter and we had more time to rewrite it. We also changed the format a little and made it more continuous. We are adding some name talent to the mix. We are trying to bring down some LA &NY talent to sell the film. We are shooting on HD this time. So the film should look better. We are trying to get in a position to have more toys to play with and get bigger budgets. I have a vampire script I'd like to do that's pretty good and coming with a somewhat fresh approach. So now, I am starting the investor phase to try to raise the capital to do it right. So if there are any investors out there, give me a call.

Q: What is your website info...

Our website is being built as we speak. We have sold every film we've ever made but poured everything back into making more films. We've never had the opportunity to actually create one. Hopefully, it should be up in about a month or so. I will definitely keep you posted.

find information about J. D. Hawkins at imdb.com find horror stuff by J. D. Hawkins

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