Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Adam Green
May 28, 2013 10:13 AM
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First Person: 'Frozen' Director Adam Green Explains How He Made a Sitcom for Horror Fans With 'Holliston'

Adam Green and Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) in 'Holliston' FEARnet

Filmmaker and actor Adam Green is best known for his work in the horror realm. He wrote and directed 2006's "Hatchet," which won both the audience and jury awards at Fantastic Fest and went on to spawn two sequels, the second of which opens in theaters on June 14th. His 2010 "Frozen," which stranded a trio of unlucky friends on a ski lift after the resort closed, premiered at Sundance and received a theatrical release from Anchor Bay shortly after, while his upcoming documentary "Digging Up the Marrow" will explore genre-based monster art. But his television show "Holliston," set to start its second season on FEARnet on Tuesday, June 4, is something different -- it's a sitcom (laugh track and all), albeit a highly personal one about and for horror film fans. Green explains how he ended up reimagining the traditional sitcom for an unexpected audience -- lovers of genre fare.

Adam Green and Anne Allaire in 'Coffee & Donuts'
When I first graduated college with my degree in TV and film production from Hofstra University, I was ready to storm Hollywood, take a meeting with my directing idol Steven Spielberg and throw my hat into the ring as a candidate for helming either the next "Jurassic Park" or "Harry Potter" installment. Instead, I found myself back in my hometown of Boston making extremely low budget cable commercials for such prestigious clientele as Castle Creek Miniature Golf in Salem, MA and Mike's Gym 3 in Medford, MA (not to be confused with Mike's Gym or Mike's Gym 2).

Not exactly my dream job or what I envisioned I'd be doing upon graduating college, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere, right? One of the perks was that I was able to "borrow" the company's equipment and make my own projects, one of which included a feature-length comedy called "Coffee & Donuts" that I somehow managed to pull off for a meager $400 total budget.

They say "write what you know," and that's what I did. "Coffee & Donuts" was an autobiographical story about "Adam," his pursuit of a career in entertainment against all odds and his struggle to get over his high school girlfriend, the odds of which were even worse. Having no access to a professional crew, I enlisted friends and co-workers to help me make the movie, which I not only wrote and directed but also produced, shot (a lot of), edited, scored and starred in.

The only other actual filmmaker I had with me was my fellow cable commercial producer (and now my business partner in ArieScope Pictures and cinematographer of 15 years) Will Barratt. Back then (in 1998), there was no easy access to an AVID or other consumer quality computer editing system, so the movie was cut tape-to-tape (it was shot on BetaSP -- remember that format?) and was made as "old school" as it gets. Low and behold, the movie turned out to be something special -- the genuine heart and comedy of it were enough to win "Best Picture" at the Smoky Mountain Film Festival, which is kind of like Sundance, only no one has ever heard of it and I don't think it exists anymore. I headed to Hollywood in 2000 armed with a feature film that I just knew the studio executives would be fist fighting in the streets over.

The Rainbow Bar and Grill era
Over the next three very painful years, the only fist fighting I saw were the bar fights at the Rainbow Bar and Grill on the Sunset Strip, where I worked as a DJ trying to make ends meet. The Rainbow is a legendary heavy metal hangout where the patrons still party like it's 1989 and come out to play every weekend in the same spandex, glitter, and offensively hairspray molested hair that they wore 30 years ago.

You haven't truly seen a bar fight until you've seen two 50-year-old men in women's clothing throw down over which Dangerous Toys album was the best. (And I know what you're thinking... "Dangerous Toys had more than one album?" Yes. They had four studio albums and a live record, to be exact. File that under "Smoky Mountain Film Festival" in your cabinet of useless knowledge.) Point is, nothing was happening with "Coffee & Donuts," and the closest I came to working in the industry was dancing in a JLo video. (Before you ask -- no, I am not a dancer. Dangerous Toys was my first concert -- see above.) The music video production offered free pizza, and back then, that was like striking gold, so in many regards, I had "made it." I didn't have to eat leftover food out of the trash at the Rainbow... at least not that night.

With perseverance and a little luck, I was eventually able to get "Coffee & Donuts" in front of the right people, and together we re-developed the project to be a multi-camera sitcom. Something I could never admit up until now is that having my own sitcom to write, direct, show-run, produce and star in was actually my secret fantasy. How do you admit that to another sane human being, though? You don't.

Once it was made clear to me that I'd only be serving as the writer on the pilot (I wouldn't even be considered to direct or star in the project), I had made my first sale and I had finally "arrived" in the Hollywood machine. Touchstone was the studio, Tom Shadyac's Shady Acres were the producers, and UPN was the network -- after all, what says "suburban New England white boy chasing his dreams and living through situational romantic follies" like UPN? I got paid a whopping $50,000 to write the pilot, with which (after taking out commissions for my agent, my manager, my lawyer and taxes for my country) I bought myself my very own pizza. No dumpster diving for me that night!

"As a lifelong horror fan, it was essentially my answer to the current state of a genre that had lost its sense of fun."
But "Coffee & Donuts" was not meant to be. After telling me that the show was not really "urban" enough (no joke, I was the only one who didn't see that coming), UPN merged with the WB to form the CW and all development was lost. It would be five long years before my life's story rights would revert back to me. But every cloud has a silver lining...

During the development period for "Coffee & Donuts" I'd find myself unable to sleep as I anxiously awaited notes on each draft of the pilot script. It was during this time that I wrote "Hatchet," a slasher movie that I'd been conjuring up in my young brain since first attending summer camp at the tender age of eight. "Hatchet" (which told the tale of deformed swamp monster maniac "Victor Crowley") was very reminiscent of the '80s slasher films on which I grew up.

As a lifelong horror fan, it was essentially my answer to the current state of a genre that had lost its sense of fun and had become all about remakes and torture porn. I proudly showed the script to my agents, who were confused by the fact that "Hatchet" was both a comedy and one of the most violent and gruesome things they had ever read. They didn't get it.

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