Tonight is the Season 2 finale of FEARnet’s horror comedy series HOLLISTON.
HOLLISTON’s primary set is the interior of an apartment set at the Red Studios in Hollywood. The walls are covered in horror movie posters, including one for series creator/executive producer/star Adam Green’s original HATCHET (which he wrote, produced and directed). The refrigerator is covered in horror-type magnets, there’s a creepy painting in the bathroom and there’s a bedroom closet that’s the dwelling of a heavy metal monster called Oderus Urungus (played by Dave Brockie). Right now, there’s a scene going on in the bedroom involving Green’s character Adam, plus guest stars Danielle Harris and Kane Hodder gamely playing crazy versions of themselves.
Green and fellow HOLLISTON executive producer/star Joe Lynch first met at a horror film screening at a friend’s home in L.A. They subsequently bonded at London’s Fright Fest and began making short films to accompany the features at the film festival.
As he’s not required on set for this sequence, Lynch, who has directed WRONG TURN 2 and the famous but so-far-unreleased KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM, has time to sit and talk about all things HOLLISTON.
JOE LYNCH: COFFEE AND DONUTS is Adam’s first film that he and [director of photography] Will Barratt shot for I think five hundred bucks, way back in ’97, ’98. That feature got him a writing deal out here. Tom Shadyak was going to make it into a sitcom. So that’s where the whole idea of it being a TV show kind of came to fruition.
ASSIGNMENT X: What was COFFEE AND DONUTS?
LYNCH: It is a romantic comedy, but the characters are always referring to horror movies and stuff like that. It’s not horror at all. With [FEARnet president] Peter Block, he was like, “How can we make this work for FEARnet?” Peter had seen WRONG TURN 2 and he loved [Green’s] HATCHET movies and he really liked us, so that’s where he felt comfortable going, “Okay, you know what? These guys have somewhat of a fan base, they’re easy on camera, they’re not too difficult, let’s see what happens.” So Adam and I went off and started off the first season, [which] was six episodes. And the next thing you know, we’re on the Red Studios soundstage last year and we’re making the show. What was great about that too was Peter and FEARnet were so receptive to the fact that we wanted it to be Adam and myself, but also Corri [English playing Green’s girlfriend] and Laura [Ortiz playing Lynch’s girlfriend] – Adam had always wanted those girls to be on the show, and even Dee Snyder and Oderus Urungus being involved in the way that they are. Peter completely embraced that. “This is so irreverent and so out there that when you can say, ‘BIG BANG THEORY meets EVIL DEAD 2,’ that’s what we’re delivering.”
AX: Is HOLLISTON the first scripted series FEARnet has done for its television incarnation?
LYNCH: Yeah. They have another show called TODD AND THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL that they were running, but that was an import from Canada.
AX: What are your and Adam Green’s characters doing in HOLLISTON?
LYNCH: Our day jobs are that we work at Mass Cable Network, which is as local a network as it gets. Our boss Lance Rockett, played by Dee Snyder [of Twisted Sister], is the one who’s always telling us, “Okay, you have to make commercials for Crazy Max’s Discount Mart in Framingham.” We also, because we work there and we have the equipment, host a Svenghouli or a Captain USA’s Groovy Movies-type show called THE MOVIE CRYPT, where we introduce SLITHER or we introduce TROLL 2 or the remake of THE BLOB. We did a lot of that last season – we do a lot of it this season, but not quite as much, just because there’s so much plot this season, but it’s always there. So we’re doing crappy cable commercials and we’re also doing THE MOVIE CRYPT, but at night, we steal the equipment so that we can make our own film, which last season was a trailer and this season, it’s a short film. We’re making SHINPADS – “When they score, you die.” It’s about a Mexican soccer team that gets killed and comes back as zombies and eats everybody. So by day, we’re just lackeys at a cable station; by night, we’re independent filmmakers.
I think we’re always making fun of ourselves. This is the lesser version of ourselves, or this is us six or seven years ago, before Adam made HATCHET and before I had made WRONG TURN 2 and both of us had gone on to illustrious careers [laughs] of making more independent low-budget films. This was at the time when everyone was telling us, “You can’t do it” and we were always constantly getting beat down. It’s more of a commentary on just how hard it is to break into the business and to deal with that sort of thing. But by having some heart in there, too, if we constantly beat ourselves down and keep showing how difficult it is to do anything, whether it’s getting a severed head to work right or an actor that we flew [who onscreen is] a total diva or drug addict or whatever, it’s a commentary on the industry without it being too salacious, but because we have heart to it, too, at the end of each episode, without it being too SOUTH PARK-y, where someone goes, “You know, I’ve learned something today,” there’s always that, “There’s still hope.” So we try to leave each episode or each season on a positive note.
AX: Holliston is the name of the town where the series is set?
LYNCH: Holliston is the name of the town. It’s [in]Massachusetts.
AX: What is the division of labor between you and Adam Green?
LYNCH: The way that we’ve done it the last two years is, Adam and I would get together at least once a week if not more, and we’ll just sit down in the office and hash out ideas. Adam’s got it all in his head for five seasons. He’s got five seasons’ worth of dramatic arcs going back and forth. We break down each episode, we come up with jokes and we just kind of place, here’s the A story, here’s the B story, here’s a joke, there’s a visual gag. Then Adam just goes away and next thing you know, four hundred and fifty pages show up.
That’s where the executive producer side of it comes in. Adam and I sit down for weeks, months on end, break down every single episode, break down every beat, and then, just because this is Adam’s baby and he feels very close to all of this stuff, he goes away and just writes. The guy doesn’t sleep. I don’t know what happens, but he’s kind of like that vampire that can actually just gear to daylight as well. He’ll be in the office from ten o’clock at night to six in the morning, just writing, writing, writing, and the next thing you know, I walk in and there’s four hundred and fifty pages of content there. For this season, it’s ten episodes. What’s great is that, because the four of us [Lynch, Green, Ortiz and English] are such good friends, that’s actually half if not two-thirds of the writing process. Then we bring the girls in. Then we start rehearsing. Then the scripts really come to life, because we’re constantly writing down new lines, we’re coming up with pitches, the girls are coming in pitching.
Last year, Sean Becker [who also directed multiple seasons of THE GUILD] was our supervising producer. This year, he’s our director. Adam and Sean share the duties. I’m not allowed to because of DGA, which is fine – I just want to worry about knowing my lines. I’m DGA, the show isn’t. Adam and Sean direct the episodes, they split it up, but Sean is such a huge part of the show now. For example, this season, we always get together in the summer and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. That’s the reason why we can do twenty-five to thirty pages a day, because we know our s***. That’s because of two to three months of rehearsal. Not only that, we start working out, we start running, we start dieting, it becomes one big happy family. Sean is in there and the girls are in there and all of us are literally shaping and molding the scripts, and then by the time we get to shooting, we’re ready to rock and then it’s just a matter of bringing in the guest stars and bringing in the bit players and working around them. It’s a very organic process, but it starts with Adam and I and then Adam takes it from there and then Adam just runs with it, and the next thing you know, we’ve got a whole season.
AX: And to ask the question no one ever answers, what’s the budget?
LYNCH: Here’s my answer – you would be shocked. We’re very economical.
AX: Who does your makeup effects?
LYNCH: Robert Pendergraft does all the gore effects and all the makeup. His company’s name is Aunt Dolly’s Garage. Pendergraft’s been kind of the all-encompassing ArieScope [Green’s company] effects artist. He does all the shorts and everything we’ve done each year. He’s huge. He looks like a shaved version of Harry from HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS. When you see him walk on set, the whole crew just goes, “Oh, boy. Pull out the plastic tarp, because it’s gonna get wet.” One of the jokes from last season is that Adam and I, any time we get into a fight, we start trying to scan [as in the head explosion from SCANNERS] ourselves or each other. This season, at one point, Adam screws up and I go, “Ooh” [does SCANNERS rage] and his head explodes off-screen, but it hits me. It felt like I got punched in the face by Kane Hodder. Now, yesterday, I [actually] got punched in the face twice by Kane Hodder, but that was for play. I had to get blasted with this blood, then Laura [who plays] my girlfriend had to deliver a line, and I had to just stand there.
It was one of the scariest moments of my life, because here’s Rob Pendergraft with this thing called the Guac Gun, which I designed for CHILLERAMA. Now things have come karmically full circle and I’m getting shot in the face with this thing. Here’s this guy with a huge Guac gun – “I’m aiming for your chest.” “Yeah, I’ve heard that one before, buddy.” “You’ll be fine. Three, two, one …” And it was like that moment in THE BLOB where Donovan Leitch looks up and the Blob just kind of like envelops him – I just closed my eyes and I’ve never felt anything so painful in my life, right in the socket, and I thought my eyeball was out. But I held my moment, because I was like, “If I f*** up this take, we’re not going back to [do the take again]. If my eyeball’s out, that’s it. I want to at least go, ‘Are we good? All right, take me to the hospital.’” Thankfully, once they pulled all the goop away, the socket was fine, but oh, God, it hurt so bad. But pain is temporary, film is forever. TV with digital is about fifteen years.
AX: Was there any point in this where you and Adam Green looked at each other and said, “Why did we cast ourselves?”
LYNCH: Every single day. And I don’t mean that in a bad way – we just go, “How did this happen?” Adam and I have always acted before, either in other people’s things, or even our own stuff, but when you say to yourself, “I’m going to be a sitcom actor” – it’s a very particular rhythm. It’s not like it’s a single-camera show or even a movie. We’re dealing with having to have the reactions off a laugh track. It’s basically putting on a theatrical show. The way that they normally do it on sitcoms is they’ll have four days of rehearsal and then on Friday they’ll tape. We’re shooting it like a feature, where we’re breaking it up into little pieces, which helps on the expediency side, but it’s also something where we have to train ourselves to go, “Okay, here are the beats, here’s where the laughs go.” What helps is that we are directors, so we know, “Are we going to get all the coverage?” Last year, Adam [directed] every episode. For his own edification, he felt he had to go behind the camera and see if it looked right. This year, we have Sean Becker. We just loved his attitude and he has such great ideas, so this has given us the freedom, so in many cases, once we step on that set, we’re just actors and we’re just there to make sure we’re servicing the script and we’re trying to mine laughs. Do we sit there and say, “How the hell did this happen?” I said that every day, but it’s more a pinch myself sort of thing. You can’t say that stranger things have happened in Hollywood, because they do every day on the set of HOLLISTON.
AX: What are you doing next as a director?
LYNCH: My next film EVERLY is very, very different from what I’ve ever done before. It’s a hardcore action film, all set in one room. That’s the next one. That is my homage to Takashi Miike.
AX: Anything else you’d like to say about HOLLISTON or your career overall?
LYNCH: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
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Article: Exclusive Interview with HOLLISTON co-creator and actor Joe Lynch