He is the man behind Survivor Type Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Billy Hanson: Originally I’m from Maine, so I’ve been a Stephen King fan since I was very young. After high school I moved to Tallahassee, Florida and went to Florida State University’s film school, which was great because it’s a very exclusive program and they taught film production. After graduating, I felt confident as a filmmaker and as a writer, so I moved out to LA and started working in post production on Nickelodeon shows. From there I moved over to a company called Levity Entertainment Group, working as a post supervisor on a couple of reality shows. I’m always writing and trying to get my own projects off the ground, but post production is a great place to have a day job and keep myself involved in the entertainment business.
SKSM: When did you make Survivor type? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Billy Hanson: We shot Survivor Type early this summer, but we’ve been putting it together for almost 18 months. It started with just my wife, Erin Cancino and I, but as our team grew, the movie became more and more of a possibility. We intentionally kept the crew to the smallest possible size, because we didn’t have any lighting equipment, or big camera equipment and with a small number of people, we could move very quickly. I also took the role of Director of Photography, which really streamlined the decision-making on set. Working this way also cut down on the budget, which had already gotten higher than we’d anticipated. We’re still putting together the final numbers, but the production was classified as SAG ultra-low budget, which we were happy with, considering it’s a 30 minute film shot in full HD with an amazing actor and some really great sound work. We shot the whole thing in 4 days at Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu, California.
SKSM: How come you picked Survivor type to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Billy Hanson: Survivor Type is one of those stories that people really react to, often physically. Even describing the story to people is fun, because you can see how uncomfortable they get even thinking about it. That’s exactly the kind of reaction that filmmakers want out of their films, especially in horror. You want people shifting in their seats and covering their eyes and their ears. When I started imagining how the film would look and feel, I was really excited to put the audience through that. At our first screening in Bangor, Maine, we had two people walk out and one person fainted in the lobby. I’d say it was a success.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wild guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Billy Hanson: I had heard of the Dollar Baby deal before, but I hadn’t really been inspired to make one yet. I have a lot of original writing, which is what I was mainly looking to produce, but once I read Survivor Type, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I checked the Dollar Baby list and thankfully, there it was, so I started working on the script, even before I sent out the $1 check.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Billy Hanson: Yes, one of my favorite things that happened on set involved the meat that we used. We got meat that our actor could actually eat. I believe they were half chicken and half pig parts, but they were pretty disgusting. After we shot a couple of scenes with them, there was a huge group of seagulls that had ripped apart our containers and taken all of the meat out. We saw them flying around with it and dropping it on the rocks right next to us for the next couple of hours. Thankfully, we were already finished shooting with it.
SKSM: How does it feel that all the King fans out there can’t see your movie? Do you think that will change in the future? Maybe a internet/dvd release would be possible?
Billy Hanson: At first, I was a bit disappointed at not being allowed to post the film online, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s a good thing. Films like this have a tendency to be put up online and just left there. The deal forces the filmmakers to get their film out there in different ways, find festivals, hold free screenings, things like that. It’s just another test of producing, being given new limitations and finding a way to still get the film out there. If the fans aren’t able to see it, then we haven’t done our jobs as producers. We have to get it out to as many places as we can, then get the word out to the fans to let them know where to go and how to see it. If they really want to, they’ll be able to find it and enjoy it.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reference have you received on your film?
Billy Hanson: We’re just starting to get the film out there, so we haven’t heard many reviews, except to say that the people who have seen it have all enjoyed it. We’ve gotten a lot of support based on the quality of the film alone, so it’s very encouraging to have people behind it this early in the game. Thankfully, we haven’t received any bad reviews, although we were not accepted to a few festivals recently.
SKSM: Did you have any personal contact with King during the making of the movie? Has he seen it (and if so, what did he think about it)?
Billy Hanson: I haven’t had any personal contact with him, but I have been speaking with people in his office. In order to screen the film in Bangor, we had to get Stephen King’s permission directly, so he has seen the film. He gave us his blessing to have the screening, told us we did a great job with the material and said that our project was “next to brilliant”. Needless to say, that comment made us all very happy.
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick – at least – one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?
Billy Hanson: No plans as of yet, but if I ever had the opportunity to make one, I’d love to make Blaze, the last Richard Bachman novel. Something about that story spoke to me, the bleakness, the scenario, the locations, and the character of Blaze. It’s suspenseful and gripping, which I really respond to. Of course, given the opportunity, I’d love to make a feature version of Survivor type, too.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Billy Hanson: I just want to thank everybody who’s come out to support the film. I’ve never gotten this much support for a film before, so it’s rewarding to see that people are interested in it and genuinely want to see it. We also had great support in the fundraising and had a lot of people who gave us a few dollars here and there and really helped us get to the finish line.
SKSM: Do you have anything you’d like to add?
Billy Hanson: I’ve had so much fun already, so thank you for helping us get the word out there.