BJ McDonnell made his directorial debut on the kick-ass horror film “Hatchet III”. He is no stranger to films though having worked as camera operator on over 100 films including “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, “Battle Los Angeles” and Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with BJ about stepping into the director’s chair and taking over this fun horror franchise.
Mike Gencarelli: Tell us what made you make the switch from working as stedicam/camera operator to directing?
BJ McDonnell: Adam (Green) knew that I wanted to start directing movies. When I got to CA, I went to film school and started working as a camera operator. I love working as a camera operator but my goal was get start directing. When the chance came up for “Hatchet III” and Adam wasn’t going to do it, he was quick to ask me since I worked on the first two as camera operator. I thought it would be a perfect stepping stone.
MG: What was your biggest challenge stepping into this role?
BJ: Being on the set is very comfortable for me now. I am used to working with actors and the crew since I am in that environment all the time. My issue was separating myself to focus on setting up the shots and making sure that I was getting the right performance from the actors. The post-production stuff was very tough. Our editor, Ed Marx, was awesome though. He is great. But the whole thing was a long process.
MG: What do you think makes the “Hatchet” franchise so unique?
BJ: These films are made just to be fun. These are meant to scary people or make them feel queasy with the gore and violence or just have fun. It is a real testament to the horror films of the 80’s. It is a fun sit back and watch a monster tear people up into shreds. They are also just fun movies to make. It is like a rollercoaster ride…
MG: I agree! From the moment that shotgun goes off…BANG!
BJ: That is one of the things I wanted to do. I wanted to make sure that this film flowed fast and that no one got bored throughout certain parts. I wanted to make it a good fast paced ride that would keep your interest that whole time. I think we accomplished that.
MG: Do you feel you had a grip of the franchise having worked on “Hatchet I & II”?
BJ: You look and see what happened with the other ones. There is advantages and disadvantages. You get to see what people’s comments are from the first two films and improve on that. A lot of the comments, I actually agree with. One was that “Hatchet II” didn’t get going till about 45 minutes in and I agree. So I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen with this one. There is the disadvantage with people that don’t like the “Hatchet” films to begin with. You got to take the good with the bad and say “Hey I made a fun movie, I hope you enjoy it”.
MG: The gore is super graphic and even goes beyond the second film; tell us about amping that up this time?
BJ: We all came up with the kills together – myself, Adam and Robert Pendergraft. We each had our own ideas what we wanted to do and we collaborated the whole time while the script was being done. I wanted to make it as gory as I could, which is tough to do when you do not have that big of a budget. That is also why some of the kills are so fast since they didn’t work as well as they should have and there are quick cuts. All in all it works out in the end and I think it still came out cool.
MG: What was it like working with all the great genre talent?
BJ: We had Kane and Danielle already on board. I worked with Kane going back to “The Devil Rejects” years ago. He is a great bud of mine. I worked with Danielle going back to Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”, so I knew her from that. It is good because everyone was family like. Derek Mears, I knew him “MacGruber”. He is just a great guy and true friend. Never worked with Zach Galligan before but he was a choice of mine to cast because I love “Gremlins”. He brought a lot to the table and had tons of great ideas. I hope to work with him again. I can go on and on, I just love this cast! It was like working with friends.
MG: I loved the Mears/Hodder face off.
BJ: That was planned on purpose, obviously. I think it was actually supposed to happen in the second film but Mears was working on “Predators”, I believe. We always wanted to do it and put Jason vs. Jason up against each other since it has never been done. Those guys are friends and they loved doing it, so it was just the right time.
MG: What do you love most about the horror films?
BJ: The thing about horror that I like is that you don’t have to play by all the rules. In horror you can do whatever you want. Like with Victor Crowley, he is a ghost so you can do whatever you want. So since he is a repeater, he will come back again and again. Plus with horror you have a fan base that is like no other. You do not find that with other genres. There isn’t a romantic comedy fan base. Horror fans are really great.
MG: Now that you got your feet wet directing, what is next?
BJ: There are two scripts being written right now that I will be working on. One is a 90’s action film, written by Jason Trost, who is a good buddy of mine and also in “Hatchet III”. The other is spy movie with a psychological twist. I am trying to go with something that is more action based for a second film and then probably going back to horror.