AUTHOR, JOURNALIST, TV PERSONALITY
How did Never Hike Alone come about?
The idea came to me while my wife and I were on a hiking trip in Big Bear, CA in 2012. We happened upon a set of rather unique looking cabins and started looking around. I made an off-handed comment about Jason being in one of them and the thought kind of stuck with me.
Three years later, after writing a few original projects, I started writing Never Hike Alone on the side for fun. Working some live action indie projects, I met various crew members who became interested in the premise. There were only about five of us at first and we started putting a plan together for a 10-15 minute short.
We shot the first teaser trailer by the same cabins in Big Bear in April of 2016. As we were wrapping up, a local couple that took interest in project casually tipped us off to an abandoned camp that was down the road. They even showed us an old map with the location still marked. I took a photo of the map and we made our two-hour trip back to LA wondering if it was actually true.
A few weeks later we were able to locate the camp and scout it out for ourselves. It had been abandoned for over thirty years and the moment we pulled in we knew it could be the perfect backdrop for the film. We worked on the camp all summer, thinking of ways to expand the plot.
We started shooting in mid-October using privately raised money after our first Kickstarter campaign fell through. A majority of the crew worked full time jobs so all of our filming dates were scheduled on weekends. We shot almost every weekend that fall but had to put production on hold when snow covered the set in early December.
After running a successful Kickstarter campaign over the winter break, I also decided to take the entire year off to focus on Never Hike Alone. Production picked back up in May 2017 and wrapped in early August. Post production started around the same time and wrapped just a few days before we premiered on Friday the 13th October, 2017 on YouTube and live at the Telluride Horror Show in Colorado.
When filming commenced, did your complete vision make it to screen in terms of tone and visual flair? Or did limitations force you to abandon anything?
Oddly enough, because Never Hike Alone started off as just a simple idea, adding the abandoned camp allowed us to expand our limitations way beyond our original expectations. We tailored the film to fit whatever opportunities the camp and surrounding wilderness presented and found ourselves adding a lot of new content along the way.
Our biggest limitation was not being able to film the entire project in one consecutive shoot. This made the process more difficult for continuity reasons as well as the logistics of coordinating the crew’s schedules over long periods of time.
The only thing really cut from the original script was that we had Kyle using the knife a little more in the fights against Jason. However, it presented challenges for wardrobe, stunt, and fx that we didn’t have time or budget for. If the budget were there, rain and lightning would have been a nice touch as well.
Drew Leighty is certainly easy on the eye. Was this a conscious decision based on what the official franchise casting memo demanded?
Drew and I met on a film called Rock Dog back in 2012. He is the first person I ever pitched the Never Hike Alone idea to. We remained friends over the years and I always had him in mind for the Kyle character. When it came time to make it happen, Andrew didn’t hesitate and brought a lot of dedication to the role.
As much as we all love Jason, Friday films hinge on the likeability of their cast. Without that, there is no tension and the audience loses interest. Andrew’s performance does a great job of winning fans over and giving them someone to root for. The film certainly owes a lot to his performance.
Never Hike Alone’s Jason Voorhees harks back to Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’s incarnation. However, you include a nod to Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Which Jason player inspired your Voorhees, and why?
The Ted White and CJ Graham portrayals both played a big role in the performance. There are so many great moments in both Final Chapter and Jason Lives that scared me as a kid and I think the Jason in my childhood nightmares always became an incarnation of the two. The undead look was always my favorite, but always felt that style could benefit from swifter movement. Our Jason doesn’t run, but he has a long stride and knows how to move with his size.
Without giving any spoilers away to the folks that are yet to watch Never Hike Alone, what was it like to work with the horror legend Thom Mathews? Which Thom Mathews film is your favourite, and why?
Working with Thom is something I will never forget. He became involved after our EP introduced us about halfway through production. After that he became a champion of the project. On set, we found ourselves in sync fairly quickly and he couldn’t have been easier to work with. Everyone on set had a blast with him.
YouTube is a huge platform for artists trying to break into mainstream media. What are the pros and cons of making a YouTube movie, and is it a lucrative industry? Do you have any tips for wannabe YouTubers that read this interview?
Don’t rush. There is no shortcut to success. It can often feel like an endless road of failure,
but the only way to truly fail is to give up.
The trick is to remember that no matter what level you are at in your career; each project is its own learning process. Things can always be better and we all have to start somewhere. The more you shoot the more you learn. The more you learn the better you get. No matter how good you get, you must never stop learning.
If you want to make money, don’t make a movie. Make a movie because you have an idea that motivates you and then go for it expecting nothing in return. Never Hike Alone was a non-profit venture and we will never make a dime off of it. We did it because we believed in the project and the fans of that community. The reward has been their positive reception and new set of skills we can’t wait to try out on future projects.
Paramount Pictures, New Line Cinema and Platinum Dunes all have stakes in the official franchise. Have you heard from the studios regarding Never Hike Alone? Has Victor Miller or Sean S. Cunningham been in touch? If so, what were their thoughts on your film?
I have not heard directly from any of the production companies or rights holders of Friday the 13th regarding Never Hike Alone. However, a ton of Friday alumni and even the creators of the Friday the 13th video game have reached out with kind words about the film. It’s been very humbling to hear from so many people I look up to and who have carried the torch for the series for so long.
New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. have officially begun work on the reboot of Friday the 13th, set for release in 2020. Will you be getting in contact with the studio about taking on directorial duties? After all, Never Hike Alone nailed the tone and feel of earlier Friday the 13th movies but brought it up to speed.
Last I heard the ongoing legal debate has just about everything on hold. Once the legal case is settled, there is no question I would jump at an opportunity to pitch what could be next for the Friday Franchise. I truly feel the franchise has a lot left to offer the fans both old school and new.
Are there any other franchises monsters you would like to tackle and revamp and bring to YouTube?
With the proper funding, YouTube Red would be a great avenue to do a series for Marvel’s Agent Venom storyline. I know Sony is doing a feature film with Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, but the Agent Venom storyline with Flash Thompson, to me, is perfect for a series format. Venom as a character offers a lot of great on screen action and horror, while Flash’s backstory brings a strong element of human drama that grounds the storytelling.
I’d also love to do a version of First Blood that is more faithful to the 1972 David Morrell novel. I grew up a big fan of the Rambo series, but after reading the book I think today’s audiences would really be blown away by that version of the story.
Never Hike Alone is available on YouTube now.
Images / Ashly Covington & Paramount Pictures
Features / Published 14 November 2017 @ 13:30 PM
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