Post-apocalyptic Horror-Thriller Drifter hit select theaters this past Friday and will be available on VOD and iTunes on February 28th. Recently iHorror was granted the opportunity to speak with co-writer and director Chris Von Hoffman about Drifter, and the different processes that occurred while creating such a crazy film!
SYNOPSIS: A pair of outlaw brothers are held captive in a desolate town run by a small family of psychotic cannibalistic lunatics and their sadistic Mayor.
IN THEATERS: February 24, 2017
AVAILABLE ON VOD AND iTUNES: February 28, 2017
Interview With Writer, Director, Producer – Chris Von Hoffmann – Drifter
Ryan T. Cusick: Chris, you have had your hands in everything, directing, writing, producing, cinematography, the list goes on. Is there any particular job you prefer over the other.
Chris Von Hoffman: Oddly enough on top of all those jobs, I was also an actor for six years in New York. However directing is definitely it for me.
There was a point a few years ago when I first started independently writing, producing and directing my own short films that I thought perhaps producing was my thing but the more short films I made, the more of a reality check I received that though I love the controlling, micromanaging aspects of producing, directing is certainly where I feel most secure.
Cinematography I admire but would never want to pursue it. I have no problem breaking down compositions, but it is the lighting I struggle with.
RTC: Where did the idea/inspiration come from when you wrote Drifter with Aria Emory?
CVH: I had the initial title and concept when I was 16. It was just one of many unfinished script ideas I was writing out back then. The original concept still dealt with two brothers who enter a strange town, but instead of cannibal savages, the town was possessed by a supernatural force. A literal ghost town basically. It wasn’t until a decade later that I decided to pull this idea out from the archives and seriously approach it to be my first feature film. I changed the villains to cannibals because I felt that gave the film a more ferocious edge plus it was a budget issue.
Aria and I started developing the script in fall 2014. He had written his draft then I rewrote all of it to cater more to my aesthetic. I knew I wanted it to be more than just a character driven atmospheric desert thriller. I wanted to have way more fun with it. I wanted to crank everything up and create this hybrid genre mash-up surreal exploitation comic book that would on the surface serve as hopefully an exciting new take on the cannibal sub-genre but also if you pay closer attention, it works as an ultimate love letter and deconstruction of genre movies.
RTC: This film was very dark, and your actors and actresses went places I am sure they had never gone before. What did the casting process consist of?
CVH: The casting process was very unconventional. Every actor except for one were all people I had either worked with in the past or were very familiar with their work through plays I had seen them in or some raw short films they’d done. Most of them all came from this acting school in North Hollywood called Playhouse West. Not a single audition took place. It was pure instinct on the casting.
I knew based off their previous performances, that they would be willing to go all the way because the only way this film would work is if everyone went all the way with their emotions and physicality. Which they all thankfully did.
RTC: In my opinion, the film had a satisfying conclusion; it did not follow the typical formula. Had this always been your original ending?
CVH: Not quite. The original climax was a lot bigger in scope and actually ended with a showdown back outside in the town, but after reading it over and over, I found myself more confused by how it played out more than anything. It was just too much going that was completely unnecessary. The budget wasn’t able to support all that was going on either. I just felt instead of making this really convoluted climax, why not just end it where it organically makes sense? At the dinner table.
I also wanted this film to be as nihilistic and mean-spirited as I possibly could make it so by doing the things I did in the climax I felt it was all completely appropriate and justified.
RTC: Drifter is a calling card to many films that fans have adored over the years! I was just in awe, to say the least. Was this something that had always been intentional during the writing process?
CVH: Absolutely. I felt my first feature film had to be extremely personal with the way I told the story, so I thought let me just unleash the ultimate nostalgia film out of my system completely. Let me just assemble a large chunk of all the films I’ve loved since birth, mash them all up in a blender and machine gun everything onto the screen. I intentionally wanted this film to be a love letter to genre and a celebration of movies in general.
RTC: The location, the budget, and the planning for getting an independent film of this caliber created I am sure is an overall great challenge, more than some will ever know. What particular challenges on this shoot did you face? And were you able to overcome them?
CVH: The most frustrating, complicated and migraine inducing part of making this film was without a doubt pre-production, especially considering the lack of manpower.
The filming and post-production went quite smoothly and were more or less straightforward only because all the nightmares took place during the planning of the logistics. I certainly at times had bit off more than I could chew but I just didn’t want to settle for anything less. It was my mission to make my first film as epic as I possibly could make it despite the micro-funds, so I just had to keep pushing all the way. You simply JUST DO IT.
Perhaps the more specific challenge was finding all the locations. I was my own location manager because I simply couldn’t afford one so I burned a lot of gas money and got old before my time trying to find these obscure locations deep in the desert. If the locations looked cheap, this film would get laughed off the screen, so I knew I needed to find not only unique locations deep in the desert that took the production value to the next level but ALSO not break the bank. That combination made this an extremely frustrating task considering this particular film is driven by the set pieces.
RTC: This film’s theme, setting, and character arches are unique and very dark, did this leave room for any joking or clowning around on set? Or on the other hand, was everyone in character most of the time?
CVH: Most of the actors usually kept to themselves which I preferred. I wanted them all to stay in character as much as they were willing to while on set.
To say there was no joking on set would be a complete lie because there was, however, I myself don’t really like to joke around. My movie means more to me than anything on the planet, so I don’t want to waste a single second clowning around. Laugh when the work is done.
RTC: Are you currently working on any projects that you can speak about?
CVH: I’m in pre- production on my second feature film right now that we’re shooting later in the spring. The script is locked, and we’re deep into casting at the moment.
Thank you so much for speaking with me. Hopefully, we can do it again real soon!