Interview with Kenneth J. Hall

Kenneth J. Hall was inspired the likes of Roger Corman, Ed Wood, Herschell Gordon Lewis. He has worked with Charles Band over various companies, His breakthrough film was
“Puppet Master”. His best known creatures are the title character of Roger Corman’s “Carnosaur” and the famous octopus prop used in “Ed Wood”. Movie Mikes has the opportunity to ask Kenneth a few questions about his career and the future of movies.

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Mike Gencarelli: Tell me about your involvement with Charles Band and Full Moon Pictures?
Kenneth J. Hall: I had been working on Charlie’s movies long before Full Moon. The first one was “Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn in 3D”. I built the energy monster for that over at Makeup & Effects Labs. In the mid-80s, he started Empire Pictures.  I began as a PA, then got hired to play a werewolf in”Dungeonmaster”. From there, I did effects for him at John Buechler’s shop on “Ghoulies I & II”, “Spellcaster”, “Arena”, etc.  It was through my friend, Dave DeCoteau, that I finally got hired at Empire to write “I Was a Teenage Sex Mutant”, which was released as “Dr. Alien”. My script was so well-liked there that I was slated to write and direct a number of their upcoming projects. Alas, the company went under before any of them happened.  About a year later, I got a call that they wanted me to write “Puppet Master”. Despite the huge success of that film, the only other thing I did for them was the script for “Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000” and a rewrite on something called “Morgana”. I did go back and do some effects work at Mike Deak’s shop for some of their films in the 90s .

Mike Gencarelli: Did you enjoy playing the villain in “Gingerdead Man 2”?
Kenneth J. Hall: That role was a lot of fun. The writer/director is really Billy Butler, an old friend of mine from the Empire days. The whole thing was a send-up of what it was like working on those low-budget movies. It was great that he got Buechler, Deak, DeCoteau, and even Michelle Bauer to do appearances in it. I was allowed to do pretty much what I wanted with the wardrobe, makeup, and even the character’s voice. The only hitch was the huge amount of mumbo-jumbo dialogue I had to do. In the end, I had to use cue cards to get through the long speeches.

Mike Gencarelli: How does it feel to have created such known creatures like the title character from “Carnosaur” and the octopus from “Ed Wood”?
Kenneth J. Hall: After the decline of home video market in the early 90s, I found myself back as a freelance artist in the effects industry. John Buechler called me in to create a full-sized T-Rex for “Carnosaur”. I had never fabricated anything that large before but I managed to pull it off. That creature became the centerpiece of my portfolio, getting me hired to do more large beasties, including the octopus for “Ed Wood”. I used the reputation I had built from those to start my own company, Total Fabrication, which has been in business now for 15 years!

MG: Tell me about your work on my favorite movie: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”?
KH: That was an unusual situation. Rob Bottin and I had a mutual friend who introduced us on that project. Rob had gotten on board for the opportunity to work with Terry Gilliam, even though the film’s budget was much lower than he was used to. He had to come up with a fast and economical way to make the bodies of the “lounge lizards” he had created. That’s where we came in. In barely over a week, we fabricated something like a dozen suits. Here we were working with all these big-name talents but the money and schedule made it feel like a Power Rangers episode, which we were also working on at that time.

MG: What was the hardest production that you have ever worked on?
KH: That’s a tough one to answer. Lately, every show we do at Total Fabrication seems hard. That’s because every aspect of the industry has been affected by the terrible economy so we are forced to do what we do in less time for lower pay.

MG: What is your favorite job while making a movie if you had to choose one? Special Effects, Directing?
KH: When I made “The Halfway House”, it was the first and only time I ever felt like a total filmmaker. I was the writer, director, executive producer, and even the creature designer, so I had full control over the final result. Love it or hate it, that’s my movie. I have written and directed other films, but they weren’t quite as satisfying. Still, I would definitely rather be directing than doing effects.

MG: If you were able to make your dream project what would it be?
KH: I don’t have any real pet projects though there are many subjects I would like to tackle. My favorite genre is still creature features. I hope people will still want to see practical monsters employed as opposed to it all being done with CGI.

MG: Do you think the film “Preggers” will ever see the light of day?
KH: I would love for that to get made someday. I came up with the title and poster art first. It got such a positive reaction that I was never able to come up with a script that did it justice. The difficulty lately is audiences seem to want their horror movies deadly serious. “Preggers”, by its very nature, cries out for a more humorous tone like many 80’s films had. I hope we’ll see a return to that eventually.

MG: What else do you have planned for the future?
KH: I have many projects I’ve been developing since my last feature. Some are finished scripts; others are one-line ideas. Right now, independent features are in limbo because of the decline of DVD sales and the uncertain future of ancillary distribution. Eventually, everything will be streaming or downloaded from the internet to our home entertainment systems. The majors will have no trouble adapting to this. But who will all the little films go to who can make sure they reach an audience… and make money? No one has an answer to this right now. So, I’m currently out here keeping Total Fabrication going until the independent market improves, along with the economy. Let’s all hope both happen soon.

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