We love indie directors here at PopHorror and Nick Hunt is no exception! Although he’s just starting out in the film industry, he’s already kicking ass with awesome upcoming films, perfect casting, and phenomenal story ideas. PopHorror sat down with Nick to talk about his love for horror, how he came up with the idea for his first full feature Safe Place, his short The Presence, what inspires him, and more!
PopHorror – Thanks for talking with us, Nick! How long have you loved horror and everything about it?
Nick Hunt – I have been into horror ever since I first could remember seeing something horrendous on my TV screen. I was maybe 3 years old and in Atlanta, GA at a hotel with chicken pox, my grandfather passed out drunk, the rest of my family at a wedding. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers was playing in the background and I was just enamored. My parents walked in as someone was being murdered with a pitchfork and it was all over.
I always wanted to create art. I wanted to create something that affects people in a profound way. Horror seemed like a no-brainer all around when it came to creation. You can bring into inception some of the wildest, most elaborate, scariest, most nightmarish people, places, and things into fruition. There are no limits and no boundaries with horror. I love exploring nightmares, I love exploring people’s wildest fears and the psychology behind them. People are all afraid of something, even if they don’t admit it. Horror for me is a way to express everyone’s boogeyman standing in the closet.
PopHorror – I love that there are no limits in horror. When did you know you wanted to work in the horror industry and how did you come up with the idea for your upcoming horror film, Safe Place?
Nick Hunt – Safe Place really came into creation after reflecting on the state of the world. I originally wrote Safe Place many years ago, about 11 years to be exact, and the world was very different then. We had just gone through with events like September 11th and we were a cautious but optimistic country. Then over the past 5 years or so, the sudden influxes of terrible mass tragedies have been happening. The mentally ill aren’t getting the treatment they deserve, our low-income citizens are forgotten, people are dying, and people are resorting to absurd and last ditch efforts in order to make lives for themselves and their families.
I always drove around and saw the “Safe Place” signs at certain local places and that sign meant that site is a sanctuary, a safe haven, in the midst of harm and turmoil. So naturally, I got to thinking some of the best horror locations or horror films involve places, people, and things you’d least suspect. Then I got to thinking, “What if somewhere you thought was your safe place wasn’t safe at all? Or was equally or even more dangerous then situation you were already facing?”
So I hired Rue Morgue writers Preston Fassel and Penny Sublime to do a modernization of the original screenplay. We created a backstory for my central family, the Cravens, the normal, picturesque North American family: The daughter, Sam; the mother, Sarah; and the father, Chris. I wanted to take a normal American family that we see tragedy happen to every day and bring that tragedy to the Craven family. So this terrible tragedy occurs in the Craven’s lives and it destroys them, implodes them even and the parts start to scatter. Chris cannot deal with normal life anymore so trades his life for that of a life of seclusion and hatred for the world.
Then fate intervenes. Five long years pass and Chris Craven is no closer to getting justice than the night of his whole world being turned upside down. He crosses paths with six college kids who are all on their way to an art gallery opening. He meets Lori, the artist; her boyfriend, Tommy, and their friends Nina, Teddy, Lizzie, and Jack. They are invited back to his home where they start to realize that things are not entirely what they seem and Mr. Craven has some seriously paranoid ulterior motives. The core message behind the entire movie is that you must fight in order to survive, you can’t simply give up. It’s a very tried and true message.
PopHorror – Wow that’s crazy, I’m even more intrigued to watch it now! You have a great cast. How did the casting process come about?
Nick Hunt – The casting process I personally used with Safe Place was very unconventional. I didn’t use any audition process, any casting calls, or anything of the sort. I let the wonderful independent film communities tell me who they wanted to see! My casting process was primarily based on word of mouth.
But you are right; we do have an amazing cast! Our cast features Nathaniel Matos as Tommy, Yvelisse Cedrez as Nina, Timothy Noble as Jack, Kat Kemmet as Lizzie, Nick Graffeo as Teddy, the queen of cult horror and one of the stars of the upcoming expendables of horror Death House, Genoveva Rossi as Sarah Craven, and young up-and-comer and hard worker Kinsey Krutzler as Samantha Craven. The cast is finished off by the amazing James Robert Taylor portraying my multi-dimensional antagonist Chris Craven (an homage to the late Christopher Lee & Wes Craven) and All Through The House and Death Ward 13 star Ashley Mary Nunes headlines the cast as our main protagonist, Lori. Lloyd Kaufman was an absolute gift and an unexpected one. He was the nicest and most humble and interesting guy. After working with him, most of my cast and crew wanted to adopt him as their grandfather!
He makes a small appearance in the film, as well as a couple of others like David McMahon as Sherriff Bracket (yes, a Halloween reference), John Gettier (24 Legacy TV series, MacGyver TV series) plays Deputy Hunt and we also soon will have a special announcement concerning the final member of our cast, and it will be a doozy! I wanted to pick a cast that I could imagine having a report with each other in real life. One of the tactics I am using is there is a scene where you are introduced to the friends for the first time and I want to actually shoot that last (taking a play from James Cameron’s playbook for Aliens) so it appears as though the actors have known each other for an extended period of time.
PopHorror – So many wonderful people! When do you think you’ll start filming?
Nick Hunt – A very interesting question. Well…originally we were targeting this month for shooting here in Central Florida. I had picked this time because of the weather outside and for a couple other aesthetic factors. Unfortunately, things don’t work out the way you always want and we have had some setbacks, a couple casting changes and some creative changes but I am happy to announce that Safe Place will live on and continue on as strong as ever. It may just be a bit farther out than expected.
We are targeting this summer to begin filming. Once the financing concerns, all the ducks are in a row and all of us here in the creative team are satisfied and ready to make something truly scary and original for the people, then you will all know! We want more than enough time to assure that you guys – the fans and the horror community – have the best absolute product and best possible film that we can put out there! We wouldn’t have it any other way. We have all seen what can happen when you rush out a horror film. We don’t intend on doing that to the horror community. Although I will say that you can hopefully expect a brand new and official teaser trailer on the way very soon and maybe some other cool surprises!
PopHorror – I’m excited either way and can’t wait to watch it. Beyond Safe Place, you also have a horror short coming out called The Presence. What’s that about and where did you get the idea for it? Also, when do you plan to begin filming that?
Nick Hunt – The Presence is currently in post-production and we are targeting release online around this May. I am excited to announce the screenwriter for the film, and the man behind the artwork for Safe Place, Arturo Portillo, will also be editing The Presence. The story is extremely simple; I wanted to create a minimalist horror experience with a single location, two actors, and big horror.
The Presence follows Maxine and Brent as they are relentlessly tormented by someone disturbing their lovely quiet night at home. We never know what it is, or who it is, or why… I quickly realized after being on set and reading through the screenplay in hand that The Presence is very similar in a lot of ways to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. I love the psychological reasoning behind forcing the mind to focus and refocus the eyes, to adjust to different images, the repetitiveness of certain images being shown and so on and so forth. The film will play tricks with your head, but in a good way. It stars Safe Place & Susie’s Beast star James Robert Taylor and his Safe Place co-star Kat Kemmett who have amazing chemistry and the reason why I chose them for this project.
PopHorror – Eek! Sounds like my time of film and I love that Arturo Portillo is involved with it. Do you have any other projects in the works?
Nick Hunt – I have ideas to last me a lifetime. Before we shoot Safe Place, I am going to be sitting in the director’s chair for a newly announced horror feature tentatively titled 99 Red Balloons (based on the song). It will include some of my Safe Place cast and feature some new up-and-comers. The plot details are being kept super-duper airtight and are being hidden away for the time being. I think 99RB is going to be a very mysterious and intense project. Even some of the potential cast has no idea what is going on. All I can say is I am collaborating on the project with Dustin Hubbard out of Florida and its creator, Jack Saint aka Jack Hunter (The Paranoia Tapes).
Besides 99RB, I am also in the development stages for an anthology horror film called Wander Tales. The film will feature several segments (more than VHS, less than ABC’s of Death) and several filmmakers all with their own perspective and original style that have all made a huge impact in the world of horror within the past 5 years or so. The filmmakers will all be given free reign and free artistic vision to create their own segments; each segment will be based on a notorious urban legend, cryptozoology case, or fairy tale from each prospective filmmaker’s passionate knowledge or discovery or from their childhood. I think we can get some really cool and really original stuff here. Making it multi-cultural and letting each filmmaker do their own thing is important to me. I have reached out to and confirmed involvement with several filmmakers but I love mystery so I will keep them under wraps for now, but some of them are going to make this an immensely beneficial horror anthology for all the industry!
Besides that, I’m writing a couple things and conceptualizing a couple things, including the second and third Safe Place, and a practical effects monster movie that is currently untitled but I am pitching as Tremors on a beach. Plus there are dozens of other ideas I am plotting out. Never know what surprises lie in store!
PopHorror – All of that sounds amazing, especially the anthology… I love horror anthologies! If you could choose to work with anyone in the industry who would it be?
Nick Hunt – If I could choose anyone in the industry to collaborate with, it would be James Wan currently. I took a lot of inspiration from his underrated film Death Sentence when conceiving Safe Place. Plus, I mean, the list goes on of the projects that he has touched, Saw and The Conjuring just to name a few. He has a style very similar to all the things I love in horror. He also started out as a novice and is still quite young. Gives me hope.
PopHorror – He’s a pretty talented dude with such different type of horror movies under his belt. He’s definitely someone that a lot of people in the horror community look up to. Speaking of which, what or who inspires you the most?
Nick Hunt – Hunger. Hunger inspires me the most to strive to be better than I am. To have a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. I love seeing hungry people in this industry. I appreciate people who are just trying to make it out here despite people telling them they can’t do it. It is a hard industry to be in and a hard industry to stay sane in. Every single person doing it inspires me. It is very unusual for things to be handed out on a silver platter for people. I don’t like it that way and neither should anyone else. I try to tell people every single day on social media how my success is hell bent on their success and their continued support. All of this for all of us is because of all of them.