Two years ago we covered a fantastic short horror film titled Hush which was racking up awards at film festivals at the time. I sat down with it’s director Michael Kehoe and he told us how the short film came to be and more.
Some may not know it but the Hush and Kehoe’s upcoming feature film The Hatred are connected. Hush is actually a single scene taken from the original script of The Hatred.
Kehoe and I recently caught up and he was willing to talk to us about The Hatred which centers on four young women who travel to their college professor’s country home for a weekend getaway, only to discover that the house has a malevolent past.
Horror Fuel: “The last time we talked, your short film ‘Hush’ was still making its festival rounds and racking up awards. Do you remember off of the top of your head how many awards it won in all?”
Kehoe: “We won a total of thirty-four awards. The short film has literally traveled all over the world. It has been to Korea, Japan, it has been to Romania, Spain, France and Italy. It has had a following.”
Horror Fuel: “Wow, congratulations! That’s fantastic news.”
Kehoe: “Do you want to know the journey how things revved up from there?”
Horror Fuel: “I do. Please, tell us.”
Kehoe: I originally wrote the feature script which is called ‘The Hatred’. I wrote that a few years before we did the short film. In the script, I took out one scene and titled it ‘Hush’. We put that out and the success from that came about. What I wanted to do, I wanted to continue pushing the script out and seeing if there was any interest. I didn’t know that there would be interest right away.
What ended up happening is, I had a friend who works at Blumhouse, so we sent it over there, but there was no response. Then I took it over to another friend who owns the franchise Halloween, Malek Akkad. So Malek and I , we met when I worked on the ‘Halloween’ movie with Rob Zombie. But Malek and I didn’t know each other on the level of producing and directing. I worked in production. Some times when you are working with producers, depending on who they are, they really don’t have time to sit down and say, ‘Hey, what have you got going in your life?’ As time went on I sent the short film to Malek he was extremely impressed and said, ‘Let’s get together and talk about it.’
The short film, which I think you know, was also produced by myself and Tommy Harper. Tommy and I have been friends for well over 20 years. Tommy started out as a production assistant and grew to an assistant director, to a line producer, production manager, all the way to producer and now he has produced films like ‘Mission Impossible’, the ‘Star Treks’ with J.J. Abrams, and he went on to produce ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’. Tommy is extremely strong on both the creative side and the physical side and we developed the screenplay at that point.
We went in and met with Malek and right away Malek wanted to sign a deal. We started developing the screenplay with Malek. Malek and I sat down and went over it scene by scene and all of the elements of bringing it to the screen. Once we were set and had a production date set up, we were ready to start casting.
I wanted to call some friends of mine that I have known over the years, people I know as actors. I called Amanda Wyss, I said ‘Look, I have this movie, it’s not a big role,” she said to me, ‘I don’t care how big the role is, I’ll be there. She came in one day. I had talked about getting David Naughton. I ended up talking to David and he came in for a day. They were both extremely supportive. I wanted to find some unkowns to play the four girls. Malek and I went through hundreds and hundreds of young women that were in the TV world and the independent world and started going from there. We were lucky enough to find four young women, around the age of 24. I’ve got to tell you, I was so impressed with their auditions. Then we had to find a little girl. We were after one particular girl, but this other girl, her name is Shae Smolik, she came in and just knocked me out with her audition. Malek had known Andrew Divoff and we cast him in the role of the father. Nina Siemazko, I had worked with her on a movie called ‘Airheads’, she was in that. I always see her around town and she has always impressed me. I sent her an email and said, ‘I hope you remember me, but I’m doing this movie,” and she was so impressed and said that she had been teaching Yoga and got out of the business, but she said, ‘I’m going to come back and do this.’ And she nailed it. The other big surprise was a friend of mine who’s a producer, he called me up and said, ‘I have this client. She wants to record a song. I know you play the guitar.’ He told me that she is a great actress. Every time I hear someone say, ‘I’ve got an actress, a cousin that’s an actress who wants to meet you.’ I roll my eyes because everyone is doing that to me. I reluctantly agreed and I took my guitar and went in and we played this song. She sent me all these songs and said, ‘What about this, what about that?’ I said no, and asked if she had ever heard of “That Boy” by the Beatles?’ She said no. I played the cords on the guitar and she downloaded the lyrics. We recorded it and it’s on YouTube now. Her name is Darby Walker. I hired he after that because there was something quirky about her. She came in a read and it turns out Darby was on ‘The Voice’ and was Miley Cyrus’ first choice. She was the one always wearing the hats. We ended up casting her, but at that time I knew nothing about ‘The Voice’. This is her first big role and her first film.
As time went on, we started shooting. I think we shot for 15 days. It was a little rough because our schedule was tight, but we pulled it off. The crew was incredible. I brought on John Conner who was the D.P. on the original and he and I are like twins with the way we work.
Malek and I were side by side everyday on the film. We completed principle photography, never thinking that it was going to do what it did as we finish up. We started putting the trailer out, the first trailer that Lionsgate put out, was nominated for the Golden Trailer Awards. Our trailer was up against ‘Get Out’, ‘The Conjuring’, and Stephen King’s ‘IT’. It played in Beverly Hills at the Golden Trailer Awards which is kind of like the Academy Awards of trailers. Wayne Brady, he hosted this event, and I couldn’t make it, but our little actress Shaye made it. They told me that that night, after they showed the horror trailers, Brady didn’t mention any other films, but he did mention ours and said, ‘Oh my god. I will never look under the bed ever again.’ We didn’t win, Stephen King’s ‘IT’ won that award, but we were up there with those films, film that we had a 1/10th of the budget of. It was something that really opened the door for the studio to see. Then we created a second trailer and it’s only been 2 days and we are closing in on 50,000 hits. I am blown away by that. It’s the little film that could.”
Horror Fuel: “I hear that The Hatred is now making its festival rounds. Is that true?”
Kehow: “We are in the Madrid Film Festival and we are nominated for 5 awards. We are also in 5 other film festivals. Hush was played at the Popcorn Frights Film Festival in Miami. Igor and Mark, the two guys who run that festival, are remarkable people who really support the horror genre. I was totally blown away. At first when they contacted me about putting the short film in that festival I was reluctant because it was their first year. Normally, when you go to a film festival and it’s their first year they are still getting the bugs out. These guys went above and beyond and we won an award there. They kept in contact with me. This year they asked if they could bring The Hatred. They pursued and pursued it and finally we were able to talk Lionsgate into it. Malek was responsible for finally getting it approved. On the 17th of August, they are flying me out. They are going to show Hush and then show The Hatred and I’m going to be speaking at a Q&A. I’ll be there to talk about how filmmakers can take their short films and make it into a feature film.
My goal is to support young and old filmmakers who are just starting out and want to try to get their films on another level. ”
Horror Fuel: “Congratulations. That’s sounds great. We will be keeping up with the film festivals that will be showing ‘The Hatred’.”
Horror Fuel: “Is there a release date yet?”
We are set to release in September through Lionsgate on Blu-ray and DVD. I’m not sure if Lionsgate and Anchor Bay will give us a theatrical release. Things can change at any given moment.”
Horror Fuel: “When you originally wrote ‘The Hatred’, it had another name, is that correct?”
Kehoe: “I had several different titles, ‘Among the Damned’, ‘Alice’. The way I right, I come up with this idea and start from there. I try to figure out during the course of writing to see if there is a title inside the script. I want to try to be somewhat vague about the title. You don’t want to name it something like ‘Under the Bed’. You don’t want to hit the nail on the head. I pulled the name Hush out because she says, ‘Hush’ in the original script. When it came to the feature I didn’t want to copy it exactly. It’s funny. People online now who have seen the trailer, some of their responses are: ‘This is a direct rip off of a great short film we saw a few years ago called ‘Hush’.’ [laughter] So people are blaming me for ripping off myself, which is actually a compliment.”
But I had a number of titles for it. I had ‘Alice’, and ‘Among the Damned’ which I put that on two other screenplays. Now I’ve I landed it on one that it’s locked into. Over the course of time, I’ve written around thirty screenplays and I just put them on the shelf. I go back to them and continue to work on them.
I liked ‘Alice’. Once we got into pushing that, we had to get a rating for it. The MPA checked to see if there were any discrepancies, there was a film, I think from Orion, a Woody Allen movie, and they had a problem with us naming our film ‘Alice’. We wanted to be original. We didn’t want people to say we were copying anyone. When we set a bunch of names to Anchor Bay and Lionsgate, Lionsgate loved ‘The Hatred’. So it stayed.”
Horror Fuel: “Did the young actress have any nightmares or anything after the film was made?”
Kehoe: “No, actually she told me that she did not want to see Alice. What I did with the cast members, I wanted them to keep away from the makeup area of where we were doing it because the makeup took some time, I wanted them to be in full shock when they saw it. In fact, when we brought her in we covered the actress up, whose name is Jenna Carpenter. We put a little cover over her head and led her in to the area. When we were all set to go we revealed her and everybody was, ‘Oh, crap.’ We did do a little touch up on her but sometimes that’s what you have to do.
When we did the short film, we didn’t have the funds to do anything crazy in post-production so we had to do everything that we could on camera. We had a little more leeway on the feature, but not much. Our budget on this film was not that great. A lot of people who watch films and critique films end up talking about Hollywood and, ‘Why is Hollywood doing this and why is Hollywood doing that?’
I don’t consider myself Hollywood, even though I live 15 minutes from there. Hollywood would be the studios. I always say there are 3 levels of Hollywood. There’s Hollywood which is the Stephen Spielbergs and J.J. Abrams. Then there is independent Hollywood and that would be where I hope we fall into. Then there is desperate Hollywood, those are the people who would make or do anything for any price, screw people over. On the independent side we struggle to try to get the most creative people to be part of the film. What I try to do is to surround myself with people who are much smarter than me in those departments. They always bring something to the table.
I was so fortunate to have Malek and Tom by my side, and my DP John Connor. We have an incredible lighting guy named Matt “Mad Dog” Coleman who did a great job. My editor Michael Trent, who actually cut the short film, did an amazing job on this. We also had a great composer, Alfred Montejano. He was amazing for what he brought to the table for the film. Our post-production guy who is this little workaholic named Thomas Fleming who wanted to get involved and pushed it to the edge, he really helped us. Our line producer’s name is Sean Gowrie, he stuffed a 10 pound movie into a 3 pound bag because of him keeping things together. We really made it. You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Malek and I driving that train kept it going, but everyone else that was involved really brought it to where it’s at now.
Horror Fuel: “It sounds like you had a wonderful team. I can’t wait to see it. You know that I loved the short film.”
Horror Fuel: “Are you working on any other projects right now?”
Kehoe: “I don’t want to call it horror, it’s more of a horror thriller, Tommy Harper is responsible for he and I having a deal with a company called Truenorth. They are in Iceland. I have a screenplay called ‘Keflavik’, and it’s a sci-fi movie. It’s kind of in the same vein as ‘The Thing’. It takes place at an abandoned Air Force base in Iceland. We are set to do that next year with a much bigger budget. It is going to have an international cast and it’s pretty spooky. It will be right up your alley [laughter].”
Horror Fuel: “Spooky is kind of my thing [laughter].”
Kehoe: “With ‘Keflavik’ we brought in Kristinn Thordarson. We’ve been talking the past couple of years. We created the poster and he brought it to Con and the response for the story was incredible over there. It’s becoming a dream come true. The way that came about was Tommy and I had a meeting with Kristinn, Tommy had already worked with him when he went up there for ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Star Trek’. Truenorth started out as a physical production company for support for different films. Now, they are into making their own pictures. Iceland had been making films in their native language but now they are expanding into English language films.”
Horror Fuel: “I look forward to seeing both films and to sharing them with our readers.”
The truth is, not only does Michael Kehoe have a long history in film and TV, he is also a great guy and fantastic director. Not only is he on a mission to make great films, he wants to help upcoming filmmakers and the film community to do the same.
Hush is an impressive short film. I have no doubts that The Hatred is going to be a great film that will leave you wanting to sleep with the lights on. Luckily, you will not have to wait very long to see it. It is set for release this September and as soon as the exact day is announced we will let you know. You can find out more about the feature here. Be sure to visit The Hatred’s official Facebook page for updates and more.