Interview with the brains of Horror >
Interview with the writer of Bad Reputation
Interview with the writer of Bad Reputation
Feb 20, 2008 --
TBHM: Jim Hemphill, you are the writer and director of your very first
independent film. what inspired you to get started?
JH: Well, I always wanted to make films, but I started to realize that no
one was going to dump fifty million dollars in my lap to make some big
studio movie. So I figured I would take advantage of the fact that the
technology has now gotten cheap enough that nearly anybody who wants to
make a movie can do so, and I shot on digital video.
TBHM: How long was the production for the film? Did you encounter any
problems in the making of the film?
JH: We shot over the course of a summer, there were probably only about
twenty-two shooting days, but they were spread out because we had to work
around everyone's day jobs, even mine. As far as problems, there
were plenty, certainly getting locations was tough, and one of the
locations we did have (the high school) was near an airport, which gave us
major sound headaches. Plus I think I wrote the script a little beyond
my resources, in other words, we never had quite enough money or time
to do some of the elaborate effects or set pieces I would have liked to
do, which was a pain at times.
TBHM: How difficult was it to find the right actors (cast) to play the
characters in the film?
JH: Surprisingly, it wasn't that hard. In L.A. you can throw a stick out
your window and you'll probably hit a talented actor. There are so
many gifted, enthusiastic performers out here, and they all want a
chance to show what they can do. For our film we just put an ad in
Backstage West and auditioned a bunch of people until we found what we needed.
Both the easiest AND the hardest roles to cast were the two leads:
Jerad Anderson, the male lead, was the first guy who read and I knew he
was perfect, but Angelique Hennessy, our female star, was the last actor
cast in the film. It took me a long time to find somebody who could
really pull off everything that that role required.
TBHM: Looking back from when you were growing up in the twin cities. Did
you ever see yourself as an aspiring writer/director of your very own
JH: Well, although I was born in the twin cities I grew up mostly in the
suburbs of Chicago. But yes, I always wanted to make horror movies. The
first movie I ever directed was a slasher film shot on a bulky old
home video system. It was called THE FRIDAY NIGHT KILLER, and I was eight
years old when I made it. I cast myself as an alcoholic midget, my
father as the killer, and my mother as my maid. Make what you will of
all that. But yeah, the whole time I was growing up I wanted to be
another John Carpenter or Wes Craven.
TBHM: What was your favorite horror movie growing up? Did it inspire you
in any shape or form to get into horror?
JH: My favorite horror movie as a kid was HALLOWEEN, and I still think
it's a perfect film. It absolutely inspired me to get into horror, as
did THE SHINING, DAWN OF THE DEAD, TERROR TRAIN, and about fifty other
movies from that era.
TBHM: I know that you did not just one day decide to get into the horror
genre just like that...so what motivated you to get into the horror
JH: There are a number of things. First of all, all the things that you
can't do in other movies if you want them to be popular like have an
unhappy ending, be dark or disturbing, etc. are actually assets in a
horror film. Also, in general I think repression is extremely
destructive for individuals, for societies, etc. and horror movies allow
both the maker and the viewer to get a lot of dark shit out of their
system. I always feel energized and excited after I see a great horror
movie, not scared or depressed, because I've been allowed to face my
fears and my own dark side in a safe environment.
TBHM: I brag about it all the time, I love Stephen King, he is my
favorite horror author because he knows how to deliver a deep scare. I got
to ask...who is your favorite horror author?
JH: I'm with you on Stephen King, he's the best, and as big an
influence on me as any filmmaker. I'm a pretty big Peter Straub fan too.
TBHM: "Bad Reputation" is an award winning independent horror movie
but was critiqued to be a copycat of "Carrie". Were you inspired by
"Carrie" written by Stephen King to write such a provocative and
JH: CARRIE was certainly on my mind, not just the book but also Brian De
Palma's 1976 film. I would say that CARRIE and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE
were the two key influences, though I basically just used them as
starting points and then tried to impose my own weird sensibility onto the
TBHM: "Bad Reputation" was a very empowering horror movie for me as a
woman. Where did you get the inspiration to write such a dark and
believable story? If you were to change anything about the film. What would it
JH: The inspiration really came from some true-life cases, like one out
here in Orange County where a group of teenage boys gang-raped a girl,
videotaped it, and still managed to turn the courts against the girl by
trotting out this bullshit about her having been sexually active, the
old "she was asking for it" defense. News stories like that and
others made me furious when I read them, and I decided to exorcise some of
that fury by making a movie where the same thing happened, only the
girl got the chance to use her "bad reputation" to her advantage and
turn the tables.
If I could change anything about the film, I would reshoot the scenes
with the mom. They were the first things we shot, and I didn't know
what I was doing or how to work with the actors yet. I hate the way
those scenes look, sound, and feel, and it especially bugs me because one
of them comes ten minutes into the movie. Other than that, I wish the
murder scenes had a little more gore, but we just didn't have the
TBHM: You have been a great contributor to reel.com, American
Cinematographer Magazine, Film Quarterly among others. Do you consider these
contributions as stepping stones for better and bigger things?
JH: I certainly learned a lot from my critical writing about what I think
works and what doesn't in movies, but the irony is that none of that
helps you when you actually make a film. You can recognize all the
things that go into CITIZEN KANE or GONE WITH THE WIND that make them
great, but that doesn't mean you'll ever be able to make CITIZEN KANE or
GONE WITH THE WIND, which is kind of frustrating.
TBHM: Angelique Hennessy is praised among all the fabulous cast of "Bad
Reputation" to be the best performer. How was it to work with her?
JH: It was awesome. Seriously, she's that rare combination of being
incredibly talented and incredibly nice. This was a grueling part to play,
and she never complained or acted like a diva. She worked as hard as
I've ever seen an actor work to nail that part, and I think that
it's why people like the movie. If audiences didn't get emotionally
invested in Michelle, there would be no movie, period, so Angelique
really deserves most of the credit for the success the movie has had at
festivals and on DVD.
TBHM: Which actors would you love to work with in future film projects?
JH: There are so many actors I love who I dream of making movies with. I
suppose Kurt Russell and Jeff Bridges would be at the top of my fantasy
wish list, along with Julianne Moore, Aaron Eckhart, and Jodie Foster,
although that's really kind of an arbitrary list. I could name a
couple dozen other people I like just as much. Among younger actresses I
really love Rachel McAdams and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. For now
though, I'm just excited to try to make some more movies with the folks
from BAD REPUTATION and hopefully discover some other new talented actors
TBHM: What's next for Jim Hemphill? I hope that you will continue to
bring us more of these female-based horror movies. We crave them, there
is not enough of them out there.
JH: Oh yeah, I want to make many, many more of them. When I was a kid
there was a period for a few years when Jamie Lee Curtis was cranking out a
horror film every year, and I couldn't WAIT to see those movies. I
loved seeing her as a strong woman on screen, and they gave me a real
taste for female-driven horror films that I have to this day. I've
got two scripts right now that I want to make, one is another horror film
and the other is a straight drama, hopefully I'll be shooting one
of them by summer.
Feel free to check writer/director Jim Hemphil out on myspace:
I watched "Bad Reputation" with my friends, it was a very unique experience as a woman. I felt enraged, empowered, relieved, satisfied and content at the end. The movie kept me interested and alive. I recommend this movie to everybody not just women. We all have one of the following: sisters, mothers, nieces, wives, girlfriends, etc... how would you feel to have one of them get mistreated, belittled, bullied, and raped? This movie has something for everyone not just women. You should buy a copy today and see for yourself.
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