As film fans, we are constantly in search for new, exciting and fresh material. This fact extends to franchises and films we know and love, and it is here that the world of fan films has found its home. With the popularization and advent of such platforms as YouTube, fan films have become a growing and popular sub-genre of film. Created by fans, for fans, filmmakers are able to explore unique and original story lines within pre-existing realms. Much like the rest of the film world, fan films can range from DIY operations with minimal budgets all the way up to full-scale professional productions. However, no matter where a film falls on that scale, one thing is never in question; the passion. All fan films are made by people who love the original source material.
One of the more popular fan films to hit the cyber waves recently is The Spirit of Haddonfield. This short film takes place in an alternate Halloween universe 20 years post Halloween H20. The project was spawned out of love by filmmaker Rene Rivas who wrote, directed, produced and edited the film. Also, in an interesting meeting of the slashers,Vincente DiSanti of Womp Stomp Films and Never Hike Alone fame is also involved in the project. He not only plays Michael Myers, but is a co-producer on the short. The film is a true testament to the powerful love that fans have for films such as Halloween, and it embodies the essence of collaboration, love and support that together we as fans strive for. Recently I had the privilege of speaking with Rivas and co-producer Bryan Goff and we discussed their film, fan films and of course, the new Halloween. Check out our conversation below:
Rachel Prin for Nightmare on Film Street: Tell me a little bit about how and why you got into filmmaking.
Rene Rivas: I’ve always had a camera glued to my hand. Ever since I was about 14, 15 years old. I think the seed of filmmaking started for me with videography and taking a lot of shots as a kid, acting out stories when I was a teenager. Then it translated over into being an editor in my early 20’s and putting the editing and videography side together. I was building the technical skills needed to tell a story, but I wasn’t very versed in storytelling and that’s where I kind of decided in my early 20’s that that was something i wanted to pursue at some point. It wasn’t solidified yet, I was in a band and kind of distracted with other life stuff going on, but it all kind of stemmed from A) being a huge movie aficionado my whole life B) having a video camera since I was 14 years old C) being an editor for quite some time. I was about 25 when I realized that I wanted to BE a filmmaker.
Bryan Goff: I’ve got a couple different milestones I hit in my life, but the funniest one I think is that I was mostly inspired by my grandmother, who was a huge, fun, weird, wacky influence in my life and she was awesome. I grew up in Orlando, Florida from a Christian, conservative background, and it provided a lot of conflict for art. The way I would think wasn’t always supported by the way my values were supposed to be taught to me. But my grandma was hip and cool man. She would videotape television and HBO, all these horror movies and all this stuff that you weren’t really supposed to be watching between the years of 8 and 12. My mom would find these tapes, she’d throw em’ away and yell at my grandmother for sending to me and it was this cool little secret thing that we had together. She’d put them in my bag when I went to go stay with her. It would range, anywhere from, stuff like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, to really weird stuff like Lifetime, made-for-tv movies. She always inspired me and where my background comes from and what I really love is the writing side. She’d always be like ‘Write your ideas down. Grab a pencil and a yellow notepad and just get your ideas down together and then you can go forward.’ So, in my entire life she always promoted me to be a writer which stemmed into high school which stemmed into college. To this day, if I did nothing else, I would just jot down little stories that come to my head. I used to hang out with a friend of mine whose mom was from France, and she had all these really great ideas, and she would rent these terrible wonderful horror movies, like Basketcase and It’s Alive and all these b-movie Rroma-style horror movies and we’d watch them in their attic. One time we were watching Return of the Living Dead, and were at the part where Mud Man is ready to bite off Suicide’s head when my parent’s called and were like ‘You have to get home right now!’ It was dark and there were no lights and I had to run through the streets to get home, and it was at that point that it was like jumping into the ocean right after watching ‘Jaws.’ As a kid, that was the scariest thing I had ever done. And it was at that point that I not only really embraced horror, but realized that I wanted to write scary stories.
NOFS: Let’s talk about the title of your short film, The Spirit of Haddonfield. How did you guys arrive at that title and what does it mean to you?
R: Sean Richards who was an associate producer on the project actually lived in South Pasadena, pretty close to the neighborhood where they shot John Carpenter’s Halloween. So, before Sean came out to the production I called him up and basically said, ‘This is going to be kind of geeky and nerdy, but it would pepper in a level of authenticity to the short film, can you go out to the Haddonfield neighborhood in South Pasadena and get a tupperware and basically get some shrubbery from the bush that Michael stands behind and some rocks?’ And basically what I said to him was ‘Can you bring the spirit of Haddonfield with you?’ And that’s where we kind of coined the name of the short film. He brought a rock from the Myers house, where it sits today and he brought a bunch of foliage from a bunch of the original filming locations of Halloween. We had that tupperware on set with us at all times. When we were filming the scene with the closet, the tupperware full of foliage, was sitting behind me the whole time.The initial title for the film was simply ‘Haddonfield’ up until principal photography when we were on set. After doing some research I kind of figured out there was a handful of projects already existing with the same title, and that’s when I brought up to everyone, ‘Hey guys, I found out there’s a bunch of other short films titled Haddonfield, and it may have been Vincente DiSanti who first suggested, ‘Why don’t you call it The Spirit of Haddonfield?’
NOFS: The world of fan films is one based off of original source material that people know, love and are passionate about. What is it about that world that appealed to you and did you find it intimidating at all to take on a subject with such a dedicated fan base?
B: This is Rene’s passion project. At no time did I ever get the sense that Rene was intimidated or scared to make this project. It was more something along the lines of him always wanting to make it.
R: I remember the very beginning of the project when I was I was pitching it to another associate producer, Nathan Barker. When I pitched him The Spirit of Haddonfield idea, he was on board, but he definitely throughout there, made it clear that the Haddonfield fandom, prepare yourself, because you are jumping into the lion’s den. It’s safe to say that the Halloween fans are the most critical, and they will not be shy to tear you to shreds if they don’t like what they see, and that’s something I knew from the very beginning. It didn’t necessarily intimidate me or stop me. I had a vision about where I wanted the short film to go, as an homage piece. I wasn’t trying to paint an original offshoot picture, I wanted to pay homage to John Carpenter’s Halloween and the story line took place in a Halloween H20 universe, but it’s very safe to say that 75% of it is tipping it’s hat to Halloween and 25% is to H20. Halloween has been a part of my life for almost 30 years now, I remember accidentally stumbling upon it at 4 or 5 years old on Telemundo and remember it really scaring me. And I think one of the reasons Halloween sticks with me, is I’d never had a visceral reaction to film like that up until that point. Nothing had ever scared me like that. Halloween has always resonated with me and going into The Spirit of Haddonfield, all the years of being inspired by this film and being inspired by the Dean Cundey DP style and the John Carpenter theme and the simplicity of the film seemed like it wasn’t out of reach to recreate. That’s one of the reasons I went with a novice actress, it kind of reflects Jamie Lee Curtis having her first role. Alongside the kind of non-existent resource budget that we had, I thought that it really reflected the original movie too. This was my vision in paying homage to my favorite horror movie of all time, Halloween. It’s an homage piece with flairs of originality. We used the resources that we had, and we had fun. This project was never intimidating, it was exciting, and exhilarating the whole way through.
B: One of the cool parallels between Rene making this film and John Carpenter making the original Halloween is that it was a passion project for him. Carpenter didn’t take a directing fee, he did almost everything himself, so the spirit of Haddonfield is present in both Rene’s film and John Carpenter’s Halloween.
NOFS: Well, of course I have to ask, what did you both think of the new Halloween?
B: I really enjoyed the thrill ride, the high body count and the peppered humor.
R: I really really enjoyed the new Halloween movie. It was a hell of a lot of fun, anticipating it, watching the marketing for it leading up to the release. We’ve been following this film since 2015 when Marcus Dunstan was supposed to be the director. Fast forward to late 2017 to where Jason Blum claimed he was going to cut off his left hand if the new Halloween wasn’t going to be released by October 2018. It’s been fun anticipating it and following the journey of it, and upon seeing it, I left really really enjoying it, but left a little bit inquisitive. I did have some reservations about some of the directions that they took. You know, the first time I watched it I was watching it in kind of an analytical stance, and some of my criticisms seem to be along the same lines as the general public. I’d give it a solid 7.5/10. John Carpenter’s score was immaculate. James Jude Courtney was menacing as all hell.
NOFS: As a filmmaker and a fan, I’m sure one of the most important parts of your film was the casting of Michael Myers. Vincente DiSanti from Never Hike Alone plays Myers in your film. Talk to me a little about how that came about.
R: I was on the Never Hike Alone production as an associate producer and on the grip team. I jumped into production about half way through. Vince and I hung out a handful of times afterwards and became buddies. So, there was a level of trust and being comfortable around each other sharing ideas, and when I pitched him the idea and threw it out there, he was very receptive. Never Hike Alone had been released for 4 months at that point, so he still had a bit of that weight on his shoulders, but he was excited about it. I think I originally pitched the idea of him directing and me playing Michael Myers, but I did some test shots with me as the shape and it took me out of it because I was like, ‘That’s me. That’s my slouch.’ So I switched it around and asked him to be Michael Myers and he said ‘Hell yeah.’ I’m also going to address the obvious and say that Vincente has a lot of notoriety attached to his name and as a filmmaker I wanted to collaborate with him on a project. After Never Hike Alone wrapped he told me many times ‘I’d like to work with you on another project’ and I found that this would be the perfect opportunity to approach him. At first he was going to just be a player in the project, but as things progressed he slowly became a higher level crew member. He had a lot of extra resources and ideas to contribute to the project so we then bumped him up to a co-producer because he was putting in some serious leg work on the project.
NOFS: What do you think about the future potential of fan films? Where do you see them heading?
R: I like to see Never Hike Alone and The Spirit Of Haddonfield as juxtapositions of each other. One on each end of the spectrum. On one end you have a high caliber project like Never Hike Alone. They crowd funded $40K+ so they didn’t necessarily have many of the constraints we had. It was very much a polished production. It was definitely an undertaking to take on and I tip my hat to Vince. On the other end, we have The Spirit Of Haddonfield where the approach I wanted to take is I wanted to do this on my own. A) because I don’t own any of the intellectual property and B) Halloween fan films that have used crowd funding have a reputation of getting shut down. So I wanted to take the approach of grass roots style, I wanna pay for this myself, internally finance it, I want to use all the resources of my own production company and get it done with what I have available. Take what you have, and put your best foot forward. It just goes to show, whether you want to take on a project to the caliber of Never Hike Alone or one like The Spirit Of Haddonfield, anyone can be a filmmaker. There’s room for both.
B: I definitely had a different feel on this than Rene did. When we work on creative projects, we’re a team. But Rene happens to be just a little bit further on the crest of the wave than I am. I’m a little bit more archaic in my thought process. Man, I was against doing a fan film. 100%. I was just like, ‘I don’t understand this. This doesn’t make sense to me. We should be focusing on our own stuff and going forward with it.’ But then I got out a plate and some knives and forks and ate the shit out of those words. Rene was kind of on the forefront, and this was a passion project that he wanted to do and I wanted to support that. I think there’s a huge future for fan films. Especially if the industry chooses to support independent art. Because, it’s not our intellectual property. And that’s really what I had to get my mind around. There’s a lot of people that want to expand a story and we have things like Flash and Supernatural where there are multiverses. That’s kind of where I see fan films; being an offshoot of an individual universe.
NOFS: So, what’s next for you guys? What are you working on?
B: We have a project that we’re actively working on, every day. Just trimmed some script down and we’re in a weird situation where we have an abundance of content on this new project. That’s rarely the case. We have our first drafts down, structure down, we’re getting a cabin next month and going to fine tune and polish what we have. It’s something that Rene and I have agreed to co-write and direct, mix our ideas together, and we’re both really excited.
R: This is an original horror feature piece. It’s a unique approach to the content that we’re taking on, and the way we’re approaching it feels really fresh. We’re really excited about it. It’s going to be a lot of fun!
You can find The Spirit of Haddonfield for free on YouTube (and the bottom of this article). What do you think about fan films? What are some of your favorites? Let us know over on our Facebook Group or Twitter!