Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Harrison Smith. Smith is a talented screen writer, director, producer and the head of Independent Genre Development at Carolco Production.
KM “How did you get started in the film industry?”
HS “I was ten when my uncle gave me a Super 8 camera, I made silent movies, I made a comedy series with my brother. Then I had a comedy cable show. ‘The Fields’ was my first real movie.”
KM “How did ‘The Fields’ come to be?”
HS “‘The Fields’ is based on what happened to me as a boy. My parents had a tumultuous relationship, so I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s farm as a kid. The farmhouse was surrounded by corn fields that went on for miles. The events depicted in the film all started with a stick. I would play Godzilla with sticks and one day I heard something in the edge of the corn field. I thought it was a dog so I threw a stick and within thirty seconds, someone threw it back at me. Things got worse from there. Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni, who directed ‘The Fields’ stayed true to the script. The only thing different was in the final scene, when pumpkins were thrown through the windows. In real life, huge clumps of dirt from the fields were thrown through the windows. During filming the clumps of dirt kept falling apart, so they used pumpkins. Tara Reid, who played my mother in the film and Cloris Leachman, who played my grandmother, did an amazing job.”
KM “What inspired you to write ‘6 Degrees of Hell’, ‘Camp Dread’ and ‘Zombie Killers: Elephants Grave Yard’?”
HS “With ‘6 Degrees of Hell’ I really wanted to write a ghost story. One thing that inspired it was my wife at the time and I were in a haunted house called The Hotel of Horror in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. We came into a room with an actor strapped down to a table. He sat up and cried out “Help! They’re really trying to kill me.” and I couldn’t stop thinking, “What if they were really going to kill him?”. With ‘Camp Dread’ an investor came to me and said that he wanted to make a camp movie with blood and T&A. I was influenced by the screen play for ‘Psycho 2’, which is brilliant. With ‘Zombie Killers’ I was sitting with a bunch of friends and Charlie Anderson, the Director of Photography for several of my films, said that he really wanted to make a zombie movie, I gave him a long list of reasons why he shouldn’t make one. So I wrote a treatment titled ‘Elephant’s Graveyard’ and mailed it to him with “Here’s your fucking zombie movie” and he said that if an investor ever wanted to make a zombie movie, we had to make it. A couple of months later an investor came to me and wanted a zombie movie. I spent an hour telling why he shouldn’t, but he insisted, so we made ‘Zombie Killers’.”
KM “Can you tell us about the two new horror movies you’re working on?”
HS “‘Love Bites’ is a vampire/werewolf movie. It’s an adaption of the book by Adreinne Barbeau. The other is ‘Death House’. It’s been described as ‘The Expendables’ of horror, but it is NOT a cameo movie. Gunner Hansen wrote the original script and I rewrote it. It’s going to be a great movie, really intense. Rick Finkelstein has signed on as one of the producers. With ‘Death House’, I wanted to make something smart.”
KM “Not only are you a writer, producer and director, you are now the head of Independent Genre Development for Carolco Pictures. You are a busy man. Tell us about what your position at Carolco?”
HS “I bring good genre projects to the table and connect people looking for new projects.”
KM “What is the first horror movie you remember seeing?”
HS “I guess it would be the ‘Mad Monster Party’. It’s Dracula and Frankenstein, but with puppets. The first real horror movie I remember seeing was ‘Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein’. My grandmother and I would sit up late and watch horror movies. Christopher Lee’s ‘Dracula’ scared the hell out of me. I saw ‘Jaws’ when I was 8, I begged my mom to take me to the theater. I remember looking around at the people and thinking “Wow, this is what I want to do.” Making movies is as close to making magic as you can get. ”
KM “Harrison, what is your favorite horror movie and why?”
HS “I would have to say ‘Jaws’, it made me want to make movies. After 40 years it’s still such a great film. It changed the way movies were made and distributed and started the trend of the franchise. It’s a masterpiece and as close to perfect as a screenplay can get.”
KM “What’s your opinion on the trend of reboots and remakes that have been made recently ?”
HS “There are several different things that are going on, remakes and repackaging. People are making reboots that are technically sequels. There are a lot of cynical filmmakers who are money grabbers. They’re taking the best parts of a movie and calling it a remake. They should be focusing on remaking or rebooting shitty movies, not good ones. Did we really need a ‘Poltergeist’ remake? Did we really need ‘Jurassic World’ ? It’s the same movie as ‘Jurassic Park’ with a bigger dinosaur and more CGI. I was watching it in the theater and I wanted to stand up and yell “How are you falling for this?”. But how do fans get them to stop? We have to stop watching this shit and demand better. Harrison’s article on ‘Terminator: Genisys’ is a must read.
Movies should be re-released in theaters that belong on the big screen, like ‘Jaws’. Watching it at home is like putting a shark in a fish tank.”
I originally connected with Harrison on Twitter . Over the past few months something has become clear, Harrison is not only smart, well spoken and talented, he is truly passionate about movies. His focus is on delivering us movies with not only great casts, and effects but most importantly, great stories. I am very excited about his upcoming movie ‘Death House’ , the cast alone is enough to leave your head spinning. All of Harrison’s previous films are available in stores. ‘Zombie Killers: Elephants Grave Yard is available on Netflix DVD and you can find ‘The Fields’ on Hulu. I strongly recommend that you see them, if you haven’t already.
Follow Harrison on Twitter and visit his website and for information check out his IMDb page.