James Interviews Van Gore Co-Director Keith Hodder

When picking up the new Hobo With a Shotgun Blu-ray release, I had heard that a faux trailer was included, one that had won a contest much like Jason Eisner’s very own trailer did. And when sitting down to watch the special features, I decided to check out this trailer and dug it a lot. I liked the trailer for Van Gore so much that the small world of Twitter made it possible to give all of you a nice interview with one of the directors of that trailer, Keith Hodder. He took time out of his busy schedule to give all of our readers a little peek behind the method to their madness and various other tidbits. And of course I threw in a smidgeon of Criterion flavor to the mix as well.

What is your background when it comes to film making? How did you start? Any other films you’d like to point our readers to?  

I started as an actor at the age of 5 or 6, did a lot of school plays, had a few extra roles, but realized that I wasn’t a good actor and I got far too nervous during auditions. I never flopped and audition, I just couldn’t eat a day or two before one. One thing I did love though when I went on sets was seeing what the shot looked like on the monitor and seeing how the actual film was set-up and shot. In a weird and rapid transition and translated my love for writing short stories into writing my first screenplay Village of the Dead. It was a total homage to and ripoff of George A. Romero’s stuff, but I never shot it. Come my second year in high school I took a class that allowed me to make films and I shot my very first film Death Leaves an Echo. It was really cheesy stuff. I had to be the actor, writer, director, and editor, so I learned a lot about the process just by making that film.  You might have trouble finding that film – and I hope you do! If anything, I’d love for people to check out  Interception  a film that I shot in my second year of university. It won Best Student Film at the Canada International Film Festival.  And you’ll find a lot of my older films on that channel too, so it’s a nice progression to where I am now.

What films would you say are the most influential to you?  

I love highly stylized films with snappy dialogue. Gritty stuff. I loved  Collateral  and the really natural look that was used for the camera work. It’s one of my favourite films. I also love films that integrate music nicely into the film like  Layer Cake. It isn’t in your face, but there’s something about that scene where the guy is getting the shit beaten out of him at the coffee shop while Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World” plays. I really tend to lean towards crime films, thrillers and spy films. I grew up with the Bond films and have been madly in love with the franchise since I saw my first which was  GoldenEye. Honestly if a franchise and a character can still be kicking around after 50 years and continue to be successful, that says something.  As of recent I’ve really been digging a lot of Asian films like  Vengeance, Ichi the Killer, and  Kill Zone.

What filmmakers would you say right now are favorites for you? It could be past or present. Your go to film makers that you think are beyond anybody else.  

Quentin Tarantino is amazing. He’s the king of dialogue and he continues to have a fantastic track record in my mind. I love his films, I love his scripts and despite that fact that his films are a pastiche of dozens of other films, they are somehow his own. Christopher Nolan is also a big influence just for his intricate storytelling. He’s a genius. I love Michael Mann just for the fact that he tries to do something different with each of his films. You have an overt use of natural light in  Heat  and his experimentation with digital camcorders and even a higher dose of natural light in  Collateral  and  Miami Vice. It’s nice to see that his filmmaking technique haven’t been stagnant and he’s one of the filmmakers that inspired me to create my own personal filmmaking philosophy that, which each film, I should push my boundaries and try something different.  Van Gore  is a great example for the fact that I’ve never really worked with humour or blood and gore and now I understand the process. Each film has to teach you something. You should take something away from each film that you’ve done.

Do you believe a trailer has to sell a movie in its 2 minutes of running time? Also, any favorite trailers growing up that when you saw it you needed to see that film as soon as possible? Any of them disappoint you? Or did some exceed your expectations?  

Yes – 100%. A trailer does have to do this. This is one of it’s only purposes. It answers the question as to why the audience has to take the time out of their day, hop in their car, and drive 20 minutes to the theatre to spend $15 to see it. I don’t remember a lot of trailers from when I was a child, but in my teens I really dug the trailer for  Cloverfield. No one understood what was going on and that’s why everyone went out to see the film. It was the perfect trailer that kept people excited, didn’t give them all the answers, and left the surprise up to the feature film.  That’s what every great trailer should be. Almost every trailer now leads to a disappointing movie experience for me as of recently. Christ, trailers have practically destroyed comedies.  But, every now and again a trailer will come along and an amazing film will follow it. Nolan kept us mostly in the dark for  The Dark Knight  and it led to one of the best theatre experiences I have ever had. And yes, I loved  Cloverfield.  

How did you come up with the idea for Van Gore? I connected with it because I wrote a script many years ago about a killer artist, but completely different.  

Well a few hours after the contest it just came to me. The name came first and then I just built the character from there. A lot more dimension got added to both the character and the trailer when I called my partners in crime Peter Strauss (co-director/writer) and Jerrad Pulham (DOP/writer) and we wrote the trailer script over the course of a night. When we wrote the script we also kept a feature idea in mind which helped us understand the character more and to create a more coherent trailer.

Did you come up with this before the contest for the Hobo With a Shotgun release or was it something that had been milling in your mind before and this was the perfect time?

Yes, this idea was 100% for the contest. I wish I was super clever and said that it was something that was brewing since I was a young infant and I knew it was me destiny to do that, but alas, I am not.

I’m gathering you’ve seen Hobo With a Shotgun. What did you think of it?

I love the film. I love it. The script is hilarious and perfectly self-aware, the acting from everyone involved is incredibly entertaining and I am madly in love with the lighting – which inspired a lot of the lighting that you see in  Van Gore. I know a lot of heart went into  Hobo with a Shotgun  and it’s not hard to tell. Everything in the film is so creative and over-the-top and you really have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into until you’ve finished it. I love showing the film to friends who haven’t seen it just to see their reactions during. Eisener has created a new genre – the graffiti western.

Will we get to see a feature length film of Van Gore like Hobo With a Shotgun and Machete before it?

I really, really hope so. No matter what path the film needs to take, I am going to work hard to get it on the big screen. I’ve been planning the feature script for a while now. If a producer wants to pick up this title then great, my dream would come true, if not, we will fund it ourselves and work that much harder on it. No matter what, we will make this happen. It’s a long road ahead and I’ve already started running.

When your film does come out, would you hold a contest for another hopeful filmmaker to showcase their faux trailer on your release?

I’ve thought about that and I really don’t know. I hate to assume that it will become a feature and that I’ll be in the same position as Eisener and the Hobo team. I dream of it, but I don’t like to instantly assume it because I fear it will jinx me. I would love to, but I also want to do it in a way that wouldn’t dilute the grindhouse or exploitation genre because I fear that audiences are already growing tired of it. But, if anyone can give an original idea, it would be the filmmakers out there that have yet to be recognized…

Are there any other fellow filmmakers you would like to tell our readers about that are lesser known, working on short films or making their own features their own way?

Absolutely! Check out Nick Laurant and Brett Driver on YouTube. I’ve worked with these guys on a film in Georgia that has yet to be released and they are fantastic guys with amazing ideas and a lot of talent.

Nick’s channel is here

Brett’s channel

If you’re a Criterion fan, what are your top 5 Criterion movies you think are essential to someone who might not know what Criterion represents?

In no particular order I love: Night of the Hunter, Paths of Glory, Traffic, Chunking Express and  Robocop (This should still be in print!)

Check out the Facebook page

Van Gore’s website

The YouTube channel

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