When I first heard about “Holliston” I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I didn’t know if it was going to be an ongoing meta commentary about the careers of Joe Lynch (director of Wrong Turn 2 and Knights Of Badassdom) and Adam Green (Hatchet, Frozen) or if it was going to be some weird “Family Guy”-esque string of horror non-sequiturs. Turns out it’s neither. As you may know by now, it’s 100% a sitcom. Not a documentary style half-hour comedy like “Parks And Rec” or a single-cam show like “Community”, but an old-school three-camera proscenium sitcom taped in front of an audience.
While it’s a show made by, and in part for, horror fans – it’s worth noting that “Holliston” is concerned with more than just in-jokes and gory references (although there are plenty). The characters of Laura (Laura Ortiz) and Corri (Corri English) are featured almost as prominently as Lynch and Green, and the show has a lot on its mind in regard to relationships, disappointment, and the pursuit of “the dream”.
In advance of tonight’s premiere of the show, I visited the duo at Green’s Ariescope offices this past Friday. We chatted about a wide-ranging swath of topics – the show, Hatchet 3, Digging Up The Marrow and Lynch’s upcoming Everly – for about an hour and a half before Green and I sat down to watch some additional “Holliston” footage (and definitively conclude that “Mechanical Animals” is the best Manson record).
”Holliston” premieres tonight at 1030PM ET on FEARnet. If you don’t have cable, the show is available for purchase on iTunes 24 hours after the initial airing.
Hit the jump for some excerpts from our chat!
I was glad I got to see four episodes, because I feel like I have a better sense of what the show is than if I had just seen the pilot or even the first two episodes.
Adam Green: If you watch the first two episodes after having seen the second two, they play very differently. It’s hard with a sitcom [to really present something quickly that gives you an indication of what it really is]. ”Seinfeld” was one of my favorite sitcoms and the first time I saw it I didn’t like it at all. But after I’d seen like four or five of them, now I think they’re all funny. So it’s hard when someone asks which clips we’d like to play from Episode 2 on websites, and we’re like “nothing.” Which is why we made our own promos that set up the sense of humor and the tone and the characters. Now that they have a sizzle reel and a gag reel that aspect of it seems to be working, but I don’t know how you’re supposed to watch a clip [out of context] and get a sense of what the show actually is.”
For me, as a viewer, I know who you guys are. I’ve seen your movies, I know all your work and I’ve met you. So it takes me a little bit of time to get over seeing you in this show.
Adam Green: Eight to ten minutes is what we’ve found. The first eight to ten minutes of the pilot, people are just like, “what?” But then after that they slowly start to warm up to it. But the good thing FEARnet did in the testing process was to show it to people who weren’t necessarily horror fans. Half the group had no idea who we were, and those people instantly accepted us as actors. But the people who did know us, it took a little bit of time. I actually have the same problem when I’m casting people I know. I can never believe what they’re doing because I really know them. On Spiral, for instance the character that Joel [David Moore] was playing was so vastly different that I had a hard time buying it for a couple of days even.
Some people will be able to get over it in a few minutes if they watch it objectively. But we’re well aware of the fact that there’s a lot of people who are just going to see us no matter what. But we’re basically playing ourselves so there’s not a huge stretch for us.
Being on cable, it has the potential to take a marginalized community to the masses. People who may not understand horror fans may hold a grudge against them or think they’re mean spirited. Your show could provide kind of an antidote to that.
AG: I could talk about this for hours. This is the most important thing about the show to me, this topic. Horror fans are always depicted a certain way. They’re always the supporting character or a sight gag or whatever. People forget that they’re normal people. Look at our conversation before this interview started, we were just talking about weddings. But people who don’t understand the fans don’t know that that regular component exists. They think it’s all macabre and disturbing and blood and guts and they forget that horror fans are people too. But if anybody understands what it feels like to be heartbroken, to be rejected, or told “no” – it’s horror fans.
Horror fans have a lot of f*cking heart. When I first showed the pilot script to FEARnet they were worried about the Corri relationship. But every single fan has been on at least one side of that break-up. And that sets up the foundation for the whole series. We’ve been doing this press tour for three weeks now and the most rewarding thing is when the mainstream fans say, “I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate to it, but I did”. We tried to make it so it wasn’t too self referential.
Joe Lynch: Or too much in a bubble.
AG: I’m less worried about mainstream fans than I am the horror crowd. You can’t tell sometimes [how they will react].
JL: Sometimes with genre fans it’s either “it’s awesome” or “it sucks and I hope everybody on there f*cking dies, they all blow”. Sometimes there’s no in-between.
Adam, you directed the episodes I saw. Joe, did you direct any of the season?
JL: No, because of DGA restrictions I couldn’t. But being the executive producer I was cognizant of what was happening. And thankfully we had Cory Neal and Sarah Elbert from Ariescope helping out. We knew that things were going to get handled. And, really, this was Adam’s baby. Thankfully we also had Sean Becker, our supervising producer, to help handle things when we were in front of the camera. We had a very strict schedule, so anytime we were on camera Adam couldn’t keep going back and forth.
AG: Which I knew early on. So we had five months of rehearsals, much like you’d rehearse theater or a play. It was here in this office all summer long, just running and blocking it. So by the time we shot we were well prepared. Sean Becker would stand in for me during rehearsal so I could make sure everything was set up the way I wanted. And when I was acting he was my eyes behind the monitor. I think next season [knocks on wood] Sean’s really going to step up and be the director. He directs The Guild which is an insanely popular online thing and he’s directed a lot of stuff for Team Unicorn, which is my wife’s production company. If there are more seasons I have no fear in letting him direct it.
And there’s a collaborative nature to the show.
AG: The four main characters are based on the people playing them, who are all my friends. And they got a lot of input. I would write a draft, we would sit and discuss it and act it out. Then I would end up going back to the drawing board and doing it again and again. For instance, one of my favorite jokes is “Market Basket” from Episode 3. Laura [Ortiz] is Columbian, English is not her first language so there’s certain words that she mispronounces like “almonds”. And when we were doing a read through her inflection on “market basket” was off. And we went through this whole thing of “that’s not how you pronounce it.” And I knew we had to add it. And when FEARnet got the script they were like, “why are there pages of ‘market basket’?” And I told them they’d just have to trust me on it. And on the tour, some people laugh at certain things. But whenever we get to that part, everybody laughs. That one usually kills.
And this is a real sitcom, despite what I thought it might have been when you guys were developing it.
AG: It is a real sitcom. We’re not spoofing it.
JL: It’s not like “Lucky Louie” where clearly from the beginning Louis C.K. was taking all of the tropes of the sitcom and making fun of it. Which we were very aware of from the beginning. I remember when Adam called me a few years ago and was like, “We should really embrace the idea of making a sitcom.” And it’s a whole new discipline. Not just on the technical side but on the performance side as well. We’re not really sitcom actors.
AG: (laughs) We are now!
JL: But we’re mostly trained in a different realm.
With film, performances have to be nuanced and small. In a sitcom, it’s the opposite.
AG: Yeah a sitcom is like doing a play. It’s a little bit bigger.
JL: It’s playing to the audience too.
AG: We worked really, really hard on that. On the days we had an actual audience there were the best days because you could feed off of what they were laughing at and anticipate what they would laugh at.
The girls are the secret weapon of the show. They’re phenomenal.
Yeah, there are four main characters. It’s not just you two.
JL: This is an ensemble.
AG: I keep likening it to Seinfeld. There isn’t one lead character. A lot of it is seen from the point of view of my character, but it’s an ensemble. The girls are just as important. In the script writing process sometimes we would get notes back like “aren’t we with the girls for too long?” And I’m like, “No, stay with them.” Laura’s probably the favorite character I’ve ever written and I was so hard on her during rehearsals because I was so specific with how I wanted everything to be. She’s very fun to watch when she doesn’t have lines, watch what she’s doing when she’s just thinking. Because, especially if you look at her artwork she obviously sees the world in a very different way from everybody else.
And then Corri has been a very close friend of mine for many years which has made the whole process much easier. Because having to relive a real moment of my life that was a terrible, awful time to go through –
So there was this relationship?
AG: Yeah. That’s completely based in truth. It took me well over a decade to get over, it was awful. It’s weird because you do the scripts and it’s funny. You do the table read and it’s funny. You do the rehearsal and it’s funny. But when you roll and you have to put yourself back in that place as an actor, it’s not f*cking funny. It hurts really, really bad. I wasn’t expecting that. So the scene in the pilot when we go see her in the bar and she introduces me to her boyfriend who is better looking than me and more successful than me, if you look closely I’m crying through the whole thing.
JL: I was standing there and I didn’t want to go “dude, are you okay?” Because the last thing you want to do is break Adam out of the moment. But we were all like “holy f*ck, this is some deep, recessed shit that’s coming out.” He’s definitely working through some stuff. I just wanted to give him a hug. But because it’s coming from a real place, it’s the relatable sort of funny. Yeah there’s a lot of crazy stuff, but Adam was able to interject all of these other moments too.
AG: It’s self deprecating, but not in the usual way. I take some really f*cking harsh hits at myself.
JL: It’s never about “how many in-jokes can we get?” It was about making a real sitcom that both horror fans and non-horror fans can both get together and enjoy. When the show was originally conceived it was originally called “Blood And Guts”. And Adam was never really sure about that. Even though it was meant to be [somewhat] metaphorical. Literally at the last second we were like, “what about Holliston?” Because when you’re on your cable going through your guide, we would much rather have a show that someone could go, “hmm, what is that?” Whereas if it were “Blood And Guts” [they would just skip it over].
Yeah that would defeat the purpose of drawing in non-horror fans.
AG: To step back a bit and talk about the in-jokes, one of the things I actually don’t like about this new season is because of the fact that we’re a new show with no track record on a new network, it wasn’t really easy to get product placement. Towards the end it got easier, but at the beginning if I wanted a Pumpkinhead poster or something, they were like, “no that’s $20,000.” So I had to use posters from my own movies because we had no other choice. So you see a ton of Hatchet and Frozen stuff and I wish it could have been anything else. Because it’s like, “oh he’s using his own stuff.”
JL: The show really has a through line. It has a beginning, middle and end.
I noticed that it seemed to be headed there. It’s structured like a BBC show.
JL: Like “Spaced” where you can go through the season, here you have the trailer that Adam and Joe are trying to make to finance their dream. The Shinpads trailer.
AG: When they score, you die.
JL: To see that whole storyline progress is so gratifying. I love it when shows have a through-line. Whether or not it’s will Ross and Rachel get together or will Paul Reiser needs to do what he needs to do in “Mad About You.” But you rarely get that these days.
Adam, you’re producing Hatchet 3 and writing Killer Pizza.
AG: Yeah. Writing Killer Pizza for Chris Columbus and writing and producing Hatchet 3 and then working on this art project called Digging Up The Marrow with Alex Pardee. A super experimental thing that just started as a documentary but now I don’t know where it’s going. Which is fun, to have a project where when people ask what it is I can say “I don’t know.” When you start with a documentary angle and it becomes more narrative, we’ll see where it goes. But it’s about the existence of monsters and where we get the idea of monsters from. it can’t all be made up.
And Joe, you’re prepping Everly, right?
JL: Yes, we’re prepping now. I never believe that we’re a go until I’m on set with a cup of coffee in my hand and we’re starting takes. But everything’s been great. We really started actively getting into it late last fall and then Kate [Hudson] coming on has been great. It’s such a great departure for her. What’s great is that she, Crime Scene Pictures and Anonymous Content are so supportive. I knew from the get go when we first wrote the script [that it would be tough]. I came up with the story and did the whole treatment and everything and then, because I had commitments on Knights I had to go away. But Luke, my producer, was like “you can’t stop the ball rolling now. You have to bring someone in to help us out.” And that’s when I got a good college friend of mine Yale Hannon to put it all into script form.
It’s a crazy f*cking script. It’s like if Takashi Miike did a studio film. It’s no holds barred.
And it takes place in one apartment?
It takes place in one apartment over the course of one night. And there’s a slight Dogme 95 style to the whole thing where we’ve kind of set rules where we’re not allowed to have the camera leave her presence. And it’s like, “wow, can we do this? What angles can we use? What editing tricks can we use to bring the audience into this space?” And Kate really got that. You can see the rules, but they fit the story. They’re character based rules that I hope create a really engaging atmosphere. It’s like Die Hard in a room. And it’s been great to go back and watch old Kurosawa films, Miike films, Luc Besson films and Blood Simple and see how they manipulate the audience in really unique ways that work as part of the storytelling process. And it’s like, how can I use some of these ideas but apply this to my story? It’s been my greatest challenge. If done well, I think it could be really special.
And when does Knights Of Badassdom come out?
We’ll see. I’m ready to go. But the business side of things is not really my department. It’s up to them.