Thommy is the producer and writer of the new documentary retrospective “More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead”. Thommy has also worked on such documentaries as the recent “Scream: The Inside Story” and “His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Thommy about his new film and also what we can expect next.
Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your involvement with “More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead” as producer and writer?
Thommy Hutson: I was approached by Michael Perez and Beverly Randolph, both of who had seen some of the previous docs I had worked on, to see if I would have any interest in putting together the definitive documentary on “Return of the Living Dead.” A bunch of different thoughts flew through my mind: in addition to producing, would I direct? And write? In the end, I decided the best thing for me to do was guide the project as a producer only, but I’ll say that I pressed to make this one really creative and really fun, very much like the movie itself. The original film is scary, funny, sexy and gory, so I wanted to make sure there was a way to tie all of those elements together. In terms of writing, it made a lot of sense to go to the authors of the definitive chronicle of the movie, Gary Smart and Christian Sellers. I am a huge fan of the film, but they invariably had the most insight into the making of the film having written the book on the subject. But, I loved overseeing everything, offering my advice, notes, suggestions and a few creative touches that, hopefully, make the show an engaging, fun and informative look. It was a blast to pull the team together, all of whom did a great job under tight deadlines — and more than one or two days of high-level stress (just ask our incredible editor, Michael Benni Pierce!). One of my main goals was to make sure Michael Perez and Beverly Randolph were happy because I knew if they were, fans would be, too. They have their finger on the pulse of why fans love this movie and what fans want to see. I feel good that we’ve achieved something they’ll enjoy and appreciate. As a fan myself, even I had fun learning a bunch of new things!
MG: What do you feel that “Return to the Living Dead” series compares to other zombie films?
TH: It’s one of the first zombie movies to be a bunch of different things, and combine them so well. As I’ve mentioned, it’s scary, funny, sexy, gory. The music is great, the characters are cool and distinct. It’s just a wild ride. I think many other zombie films before it were out for the gore of someone undead tearing apart and eating someone living. “Return” was different from the get go and it was refreshing. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a huge fan of the Romero films and love them for everything that they are: smart, scary, gory, interesting, satirical and a real chronicle of what’s going on in society – or where we’re headed if we’re not more careful. They are also thought-provoking (I’ll go a step further and reveal that I think “Day of the dead” is my favorite of those films. Those characters were such archetypes of people in our world). Starting with “Night of the Living Dead,” I think George Romero, John Russo and the group did something with zombies that was fresh and scary. They set out to be different back then, and it worked. I think the same can be said of “Return.” It set out to be different, too, not because it needed to prove something, but because it could be different so long as it worked, and Dan O’Bannon pulled it off. All of the elements that maybe at first glance shouldn’t gel for a zombie film totally did. He pulled it off brilliantly.
MG: What can we expect as per extras on the DVD release?
TH: More “Return of the Living Dead” than you could hope for (at least I hope)! The main feature is two hours long as we really tried to leave no stone unturned and get to hear the tales from the beginning idea to the legacy of the film, as told by the incredible people who made the movie a reality. As for extras, we have: A Conversation with Dan O’Bannon: The Final Interview, They Won’t Stay Dead: A Look at Return of the Living Dead Part II, Love Beyond the Grave: A Look at Return of the Living Dead 3, Stacey Q Live! Exclusive “Tonight” Music Video, Even More Brains: Deleted Documentary Interviews, Return of the Living Dead in 3 Minutes and Resurrected Settings: The Filming Locations Today. We wanted to give as complete a look at the film and how it was made, what it means and why it lives on. The main feature is a blast, especially since we have the entire main cast together for the first time talking about the film. The bonus features just augment everything and emphasize why the movie lives on.
MG: How long did the project take to complete from conception to release?
TH: Things started to get rolling in January of this year, so the whole process was about 10 months. I like to think of the documentary as my overdue baby!
MG: What was one of the biggest challenges with this project compared to your other documentaries? like “Scream: The Inside Story” and “His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th”?
TH: Oh, challenges and how I love them. On every project the challenges are the same and different. I will say, and the team will back me up, that I was a broken record when it came to saying, “we have to keep getting materials!” (again, ask our wonderful production supervisor, Lito Velasco, who was on the receiving end of my pleas). Materials like pics and footage and the like are so important to projects like this. Not just from a production standpoint in terms of making sure you can cover things, but you want to keep things engaging and visually interesting. It’s also keeping in mind that we want to showcase relevant, interesting and, as much as possible, never before seen things. And, of course, the biggest enemy is always time (a post-production thanks to our awesome post sound guru, Justin Cruse; he worked wonders on our tight schedule and the show shines because of it). No matter how much prep you have, there are times when you feel you are staring down a deadline with guns loaded at high noon in the old west! Somehow, you get through it and it is all worth it. It comes down to planning, a great team, loving the subject and what you do. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with all of that!
MG: Where can people get more information and purchase the dvd?
TH: We have a great website with excusive content and all the information on the project: www.getmorebrains.com. You can also purchase the dvd through the site right now. And, if you do order directly from us, you get the exclusive 12″x18″ folded commemorative poster by original “Return of the Living Dead” poster artist, Carl Ramsey. And, as an added, awesome incentive, the poster will be signed by Beverly Randolph, Brian Peck and James Karen! I’m super excited about that. You only get that if you buy directly from us.
MG: You’ve covered “Scream”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th”, what’s next?
TH: I don’t kiss and tell, but keep a watchful eye. I have a few rabbits in my hat itching to come out. 🙂