Jason Eisener’s Hobo With a Shotgun is a fun, blood-spattered homage to vintage exploitation films. It screened at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, and Eisener took time to sit down with me to discuss his film, which will get a theatrical release this May.
Hobo with a Shotgun started as a fake trailer on the film Grindhouse. Most of you will recognize the film that brought Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez together in an over-the-top nod to those horrible 70s exploitation films. Eisener’s trailer won the grind house trailer competition put on by Ain’t It Cool News and Robert Rodriguez, and before long he was given the opportunity to turn it into a feature-length film. Writer John Davies helped realize the film based on the teaser of a story about a hobo who rode into the wrong town. Fed up with the corruption, the hobo buys a shotgun and cleans up the streets his own way.
Eisener said taking the concept for the trailer and turning into a feature length film wasn‘t difficult. “Basically when we made that original trailer, we created a little quick treatment about what the whole feature film idea would be about…so basically when it came time and we met our distributors in Toronto and met our producer…he sent us home basically to write up the treatment and within a couple days we banged up a treatment and got it sent off. And he was like alright, write up the script. So we banged out a script, it’s definitely become a whole other beast than that original treatment, but the start of it wasn’t difficult at all.”
He added, “what happened was that when we won the contest, we were invited to go to the Grindhouse premiere in L.A., and after that premiere we were going to Universal Studios and I get this call at the front gate from Toronto and it’s Alliance, the distributor in Canada, and also the distributor of Grindhouse, and they said they loved the trailer and they wanted to take our mini dv shot two-minute thing made for like 120 bucks and blow it up…and attach it to the Canadian release of Grindhouse. And they also wanted to send us to Toronto to talk about developing it into a feature film.”
When the Grindhouse fake trailer contest was announced, Eisener and co. know it was a perfect fit because of their love for those kinds of movies, and the genre. “Yeah definitely, like growing up we were always working in the genre so it’s just our love…our first love is genre movies, so it just felt right.”
He added, “at the time Spielberg was having a contest for a TV show, asking filmmakers to make a short film so I was thinking that would be a lot of fun, and then they came up with this Grindhouse contest and we were like ‘fuck that shit, we gotta submit something to this contest!’ it’s right up our alley.”
About the humor of the film, Eisener said “we were playing them straight. We play the characters straight but we give them situations and dialogue that’s so over the top that I think that’s where the comedy comes from. If the characters are saying some of those crazy lines and doing some of those crazy things in a straight way, it’s just hilarious. It’s just hilarious to see someone saying something so ridiculous and they really mean it.”
Eisener didn‘t want to make a spoof of exploitation films, but a movie that could be taken as one. “I’m a big fan of…there’s been a slew of movies that are paying tribute to exploitation movies…but I find they dip too much into being so self aware and spoofing the genre, with things like have boom poles purposely popping into your frame or missing reels or adding film scratches. We wanted to stay away from that stuff, we just wanted to play this like we were just making one of those movies, and we’re not going to have any of those gimmicks.”
On how he got Rutger Hauer to star in Hobo with a Shotgun, Eisener said, “basically our distributor Alliance asked us to write our list of the top five actor who we would love to play the hobo. And just naturally growing up loving genre movies Rutger Hauer, for me, was the first actor as a kid that really caught my attention…I thought wow this guy on the screen who has so much mystique and class and style, and Rutger has this amazing ability to just give a look with his eyes and there’s so much mystery behind it. And that was a lot of who I thought the hobo was.
The hobo very much comes out of Westerns in a way, he’s a very Western character and I wanted to give that character a lot of class and style and Rutger Hauer is all that. So it just felt natural to put him on the top of the list, thinking there’s no way this will ever happen, but at least it will give people an idea of who I’m going for. And they got the script to his agent, and within a couple day they’re like ‘Rutger wants to get on Skype with you’ and I couldn’t believe it. I was so nervous that day, I couldn’t even eat my lunch. It was so scared, he was one of my idols growing up and then to think there was the potential for me getting to direct one of my favorite actors.”
He added, “Rutger came to Halifax…and the first day he just stepped on as part of the team. He was more than just an actor on the film, he was one of the filmmakers as well too. He was constantly giving us inspiration and guidance, he just has so much experience. Getting to collaborate with one of your favorite artists, in that way is just the coolest thing.”
Eisener said that he‘s working on a Canadian martial arts movie next. “Right now we’re working on a martial arts high school movie. It’s the kind of world that this high school is kind of the place that you would see Slick and Ivan pulling up in their car to this high school…it’s like basically all the worst students in the world stuck into this high school. It’s very influenced by like Class of 1984 and Ricky-Oh…so yeah we’re going to try to make a kick-ass Canadian martial arts movie.”
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Jason very much for talking to us. Be sure to check out Hobo With A Shotgun this spring. And, make sure you give our Hobo With A Shotgun review a read.