Horror-on-Sea interview with Buzzard Hollow Beef with director Joshua Johnson and co-writer Tara C. Hall
Buzzard Hollow Beef (2018)
Director: Joshua Johnson
Writer: Joshua Johnson, Tara C. Hall
Stars: Scott C. Brown, Gabriel Caste, Janet Chiarabaglio, Jay Wesley Cochran, Will Frazier
A psychedelic horror that follows a family, who after experiencing vivid hallucinations, believe that they have been poisoned by cannibalistic hillbillies.
Date & Venue: 13 January 2019 at 17:30pm
Park Inn by Radisson Palace Southend-on-, Church Rd, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2AL, UK
Buzzard Hollow Beef is a new horror-comedy film from director Joshua Johnson and co-writer Tara C. Hall, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival. I got a chance to ask Joshua Johnson and co-writer Tara C. Hall a few questions about what we can expect from the film.
Q. Buzzard Hollow Beef has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival, what can people expect from the film
Joshua Johnson: From the idea behind this film to the making this film and now screening it, it has always been my intention to play with people’s expectations. So I hope that people walk away scratching their heads about what they saw. My intention is that I want people to think about the intention. Surely, I didn’t set out to make the typical cannibalistic, home invasion, psychedelic horror film.
Tara C. Hall: I think people can expect to feel weird and suspicious about what they eat. They can also expect to see some twisted and fun depictions of Thanksgiving (an American holiday centred around overeating in an attempt to avoid uncomfortable conversations with family you’ve avoided all year) and a subversion of the killer hillbilly sub-genre.
Q. How did you come up with the original concept for the film
Joshua Johnson: On a trip to Brasstown, North Carolina just before Thanksgiving, my wife and I met with locals who told us the strangest thing about our one-year-old daughter. Things like, “Don’t let anyone touch her.” And “It’s okay to give a baby coca cola. She won’t get the diabetes.” There was also a very clear distinction that we were outsiders, so I thought about the food we were eating and the culture in which we were divided and how this all plays on our fears. The fear of who is on the outside versus the safety of who’s on the inside. That’s how we started with the whole set up. The rest came in the writing and developing of the script.
Tara C. Hall: It was 100 percent Josh’s idea to make a psychedelic cannibal horror, but it was definitely spawned by that moment of that stranger saying “don’t let anyone touch your baby”. She meant well, but it sounded so ominous. We were also new parents, our daughter was only 6 months old, so we were much more fearful about this tiny, vulnerable creature in our midst.
Q. This is the first script which you wrote together and a feature directorial debut for Joshua. What made you decide this was the project which you wanted to work on together from start to finish.
Joshua Johnson: Yes, this is my debut feature! Tara and I have written a few scripts together and I want to shoot them all, but they’re a bit bigger and required more money, bigger cast and more everything. This one was ready and cheap, so we ran with this one.
Tara C. Hall: I’m still not sure why I agreed to this, but here we are. In all seriousness, we collaborated on quite a few screenplays over the years. We wrote a werewolf love story in our first year of marriage. I think we were working through the transition of our new life together. Buzzard Hollow Beef was the first feature we could afford to self produce, but because of the subject matter, the SFX and the tongue-in-cheek humour, it was also a super fun project to make.
Q. What were your inspirations for the look and style of the film?
Joshua Johnson: I wanted a cold Pacific Northwest feel that morphed into an over saturated wide angle trip out. I grew up in the PNW, so if there were any films that I was drawing from it might be Twin Peaks (1992), but that’s just part and parcel to the backdrop. You can’t help but make stuff like that up there. I do remember, talking to my cinematographer, Ryan Wilmott, about Gaspar Noe’ but the VFX budget wasn’t there, so we shot it with wide lenses and colourful lights. I wanted it to be much trippier, honestly. I really like the new film Mandy (2018) and if I knew animators and had more time maybe we could’ve done something like, but I think we have something trippy enough to tell our little story. I mean we weren’t working with Cenabites or anything, so it’s alright.
Tara C. Hall: The conversations we had over and over in the development of the script, were how to create the hallucinations. We wanted to not only create hallucinations specific to each character, but also allow the audience to experience them as well.
Q. What makes Buzzard Hollow Beef stand out in the horror genre
Joshua Johnson: Every gag and every typical horror film troupe we used was either subverted with a wink or it has some strong meaning behind it. I’d say that I probably can’t make a horror film without making propaganda. I try to have fun, but I’m always going to have a message too. I was taught that everything you see in any art is accountable, even if it’s not intended, so I make all my decision with intention. It doesn’t seem like much, but that’s one thing I can say we have going for us –strong intentions.
Tara C. Hall: Does it stand out in the horror genre? I don’t know. I do know our film has an anvil. It makes me smile every time I think about it.
Q. Where there any elements of the original script which you had to cut during filming?
Joshua Johnson: YES! Joel’s death scene was cut. We shot it twice and it didn’t work either time, so there is a gaping hole where Joel’s death should be. If there is any question of what happened to poor Joel, the answer is, he crawled away and died.
Tara C. Hall: We really didn’t change much of the script at all, but we did have to cut scenes because of our anemic shooting schedule. As well as Joel’s death scene, there was a scene at the police station that would have shed a little more light on why they can’t get a hold of the deputy.
Q. What was one of your favourite moments during filming?
Joshua Johnson: I loved shooting the fight scene in the workshop. Our SFX guy was about 4 hours late that night so we just kept running the fight. It was eventually cut down a lot but we had Doug Perkins, who is probably about 6,2 and 190lbs. fighting Sam Miller who is 6’8” and 300lbs-ish. Neither of them had done any fight-acting before and they’re both comedians, actual professional stand-up comedians and not actors, so it was hilarious and fun. FYI Sam does his own punching sound effects which is something you always want in an action star.
Tara C. Hall: It’s so hard to pick. We had such a fun, talented cast and crew that even though the days were incredibly hard, it felt like the end of summer camp when we wrapped. A very twisted, trippy, gory summer camp. Seeing Emily Letts play with the SFX belly and Will Frazier say things like “why y’all inquiring about the beef” were memorable moments.
Q. Do you have any other projects which you are currently working on?
Joshua Johnson: I am busy writing a script about a guy who meets up with Sasquatch, which is my passion project. I spent years looking for bigfoots all over the world (including in the UK!) for the TV show Finding Bigfoot and now that the show is over I miss it, so I’m writing about it. Tara has something much bigger in the works, that hopefully I’ll get to help out on, but for now she’s in charge.
Tara C. Hall: I’m working on a psychological thriller called Single Family Home, which will be filming in early 2019. I also wrote a female serial killer thriller called God’s Work Is Never Done, which Josh is directing. We’re always working on a few things.
Q. If someone was looking direct their own horror film, what advice would you give them?
Joshua Johnson: Directing advice? Slow down, look and listen and then decide and then act. Independent DIY advice? The cavalry is not coming, so you do everything yourself, including distro. Practice. Learn everything there is to learn and then re-learn it, read and re-read and then do it and then do it again. Being an amateur means you do it for love. Love is why you do anything, so never forget to be an amateur.
Tara C. Hall: Check back with me in a year. I’m sure I will have loads of advice.
You can find out more about the feature films playing at Horror-on-Sea Film Festival and details of tickets on the website.