Jason Eisener's trailer for Hobo With A Shotgun was a hit with audiences back when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino were about to release Grindhouse, their love letter to seventies exploitation movies. Such a hit, in fact, that it's been turned into a full feature starring Rutger Hauer as a homeless man out to clean up a crime-ridden city.
The double-barrelled buzz has been building for years, and now the film, Eisener's feature directorial debut, will finally be released in Canada. Eisener, who hails from Halifax, where Hobo was, er, shot, walked us through how it went from contest entry to a theatre near you. He's a director with a timeline. Pay attention, punk.
The South by Southwest Film Festival puts out a call to filmmakers asking them to submit their best trailer for a feature grindhouse film, a genre known for low budgets and plenty of sex or gobs of violence (if not both), in honour of the release of Grindhouse.
"The day we heard about that contest ... I was like, 'We have to do something for that.' About a year before me and John [Davies] the writer of the film, came up with an original idea for a hobo with a shotgun and we thought that would be just perfect for this. We went out that night and started shooting," Eisener says. "We went out on the streets of Dartmouth [N.S.] with a real shotgun and just terrorized the city for a little bit."
The trailer beats out 175 other entries to win the SXSW contest.
The day after the L.A. premiere of Grindhouse, Eisener gets a call from Alliance Films. They want to release his trailer with the Canadian release of Grindhouse. They also want to bring him to Toronto to meet with producer Niv Fichman and discuss turning the trailer into a feature film.
"I looked him up and see his IMDB.com page and he's produced The Red Violin and all these movies that are totally not genre at all. I was thinking, this is going to be a tough sell. But we hit it off with him."
Alliance asks Eisener to write down a list of the top five actors he'd like to play the main character in his feature film. He puts Rutger Hauer's name on the top of the list.
"The next thing I knew I was on a Skype call with him. It was like a week before preproduction, so if he said no to the movie the whole thing would have fell apart. That day, there was so much pressure I couldn't even eat my lunch."
Principal photography begins in Halifax.
"It was very nerve-racking for me. I grew up just making films with a couple of friends. I was going to be doing my first feature film and I want it to be great and I want to be a good leader," Eisener says. "There was some push to shoot the movie in Toronto, but I knew we had to bring the movie back to Dartmouth because we have such a strong base of friends and crew that we work with there."
Magnet Releasing, the genre arm of Magnolia Pictures, picks up the U.S. distribution rights to the film at the American Film Market, an annual motion-picture trade show held in Santa Monica, Calif.
"I had cut a trailer to the movie and put it online and that just blew up, so we knew people were excited about the movie. But we didn't think we were going to get this much attention," Eisener says.
Hobo With A Shotgun premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.
"I was really nervous going into it because there was so much buzz about the film and I was worried that we wouldn't be able to live up to people's expectations," Eisener says. "Once the film played and we started reading reviews and hearing people's reactions and realizing that we were able to surpass their expectations, that was the greatest feeling in the world."
The film is being released in Canada on Friday.
"I'm pretty nervous for the screening back home," Eisener says. "No one back home has really seen the film, and there are so many people who worked so hard on it, so I'm hoping they'll really dig it."