Father & Daughter Film Report
What stage of your life did you become interested in working with films?
I started acting in high school, and the journey to Hollywood began there. I gained more experience during my four years at Bryan College in the early 90’s, where I performed in both college productions as well as community theater.
The move to Los Angeles was in 1998, and from there I continued to train. I auditioned for and was accepted into the competitive Acting Shakespeare Course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in 2001. I spent that summer in London, and just a couple of years later, began working on a script called Gunfight at La Mesa; I would go on to produce & star in that film, which was directed by my good friend, Chris Fickley. Lionsgate picked up the title for domestic distribution in 2010, and that launched my filmmaking career.
What gave you the idea / What event led you to making Hamlet’s Ghost?
I was toying with an idea about a time-travel story for about a year, and had access to some locations that would work for a film set in a couple of different time periods. I also love Shakespeare, and wanted to center a story around one of his plays. Hamlet, arguably his most popular, has been performed for over 400 years, and the language has not changed. Two other big influencers were the feature film, Somewhere In Time, and the 1980s TV series Voyagers. The original Hamlet’s Ghost script was more of a paranormal story; my friend and talented writer, Cleve Nettles, re-wrote the script into a time-travel movie.
What was the most difficult thing you had to deal with in producing this film? (Either filming-wise, organizational-wise, business-wise, editing, etc....?)
EVERY stage of the process was challenging. I think the biggest hurdle was dealing with schedules. My main Los Angeles DP, Tom McCarty, had to take a better-paying gig for part of the shoot, and so Colton Davie, who operated for most of the film, both in Georgia and California, stepped up to DP for that time. Additionally, Stephanie Zimbalist signed on at the last minute, when Hélène Cardona had to back out because of another job opportunity. Also, Creagen Dow, one of the leads, got cast in another film shooting during the same time, and I had to schedule his dates around the other production. You just have to find solutions to conflicts like this because they come up on every production. There were huge delays in post-production too, but there was no alternative to finishing, so doing what had to be done, was the only choice to get the film completed.
What did you learn about yourself personally by being in the film industry?
I have learned that I really enjoy every stage of the filmmaking process. I began my first film, Gunfight at La Mesa, with the intention of gaining knowledge of every aspect of filmmaking, from development to distribution. I lost my gallbladder in the process of getting the film ready for distribution, and in spite of that, once I delivered the film to Lionsgate, I wanted to do it all over again. Hamlet’s Ghost was the next endeavor, and I have been through the whole process again now; just like before, I am ready to do it all again. My next project will be the family-adventure film, The Curse of Pirate’s Cove, which is already doing well in festival script competitions (3rd place at the 2016 International Christian Film Festival and nominated at the 2016 Cayman Islands Film Festival).
What advice can you give others who wish to make a film?
I have found that people respect someone who shows up and works hard. If you earn the respect of people in the industry, then their help is a natural consequence. You cannot make a film without help. Don’t be afraid to ask. Understand that making a film is a long and arduous journey, with many pitfalls along the way, so remove yourself from negativity. I was surprised at how often I had to block out the comments and energy of people who seemed compelled to be critical of the work I was doing. Many people talk about making a movie, but few actually do it.... ......so do it!
What have you done to get your film ‘out there’?
How do you feel distribution is changing?
Hamlet’s Ghost premiered at Festival de Cannes, Marché du Film, in 2014. It has played at many festivals around the world, and has won several awards. In December 2015, the film opened at the Laemmle Theater in Los Angeles, and played for a week, which qualified it for the 88th Academy Awards. It was one of 305 features eligible for Best Picture.
The film will be released in early 2017, so please connect with the Hamlet's Ghost Facebook page to find out how to get a copy of the film when it is available We started working with a sales agent after Cannes, and even with the Academy qualification, it has been difficult to find a distributor, either foreign or domestic.
Distribution is shifting to streaming platforms, which are harder to monetize, so in order for a larger distributor to be interested in a title, it needs to be a specific genre piece, of a larger budget, and usually with a couple of stars to lead the film.
These seem to be the minimum qualifications to get a distributor onboard. The alternative is self-distribution, but this doesn’t pay too much, so filmmakers have to bear this reality in mind when shopping a film.
Where do you see the future of films heading? As an industry? As content?
Film is at a crossroad between quantity and quality. Studios are gambling on big-budget sequels and, with exceptions, poorly scripted blockbusters; box office numbers reflect this reality. There will always be a place for these films, but the pendulum may be shifting from “franchise-based content” as an article in the Hollywood Reporter calls it (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/hollywoods-new-problem-sequels-moviegoers-899765). Additionally, studios are gambling with casting social media celebrities who lack professional training or experience, but bring millions of followers as a built-in audience. (http://www.thewrap.com/emma-thompson-michael-caine-social-media-actors/).
Any examples of "deals" that were made which seemed involve unexplainable forces?
(being that there apparently there are a lot of unexplainable forces going on in the FILM!)
Getting Stephanie Zimbalist to be a part of Hamlet’s Ghost was a Providential moment. The actress who had agreed to the role was suddenly unavailable for the shoot date, and I only had the weekend to recast. I should have been stressed, but I was not; my phone rang on Sunday afternoon, and it was Stephanie on the other end. She had somehow gotten the script (I don’t know how), and had the day available. Also, the Springer Opera House, where we shot in Columbus, GA, was reportedly haunted by the ghost of Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, who played Hamlet there in the 1800s. Supposedly, he had liked the theatre so much, that he came back to stay there. Some of the Springer staff had reported seeing the ghost at various times backstage. When I approached the Springer staff, and asked if I could shoot some of Hamlet’s Ghost there, they agreed. It was not until after I talked to them, that I learned of the coincidence.
In your own words, what makes Hamlet’s Ghost unique?
Hamlet’s Ghost is a family-friendly film that explores the possibility of parallel existence; it is a dramatic story that is part time-travel, part Shakespeare, part Sci-Fi, with some history and some humor sprinkled in. My goal as a filmmaker is to make creative and compelling films that are enjoyable by the whole family, and that also ask questions about the meaning of life.
Whatever you can think of you wish to be known that I'm not asking that you would like expressed.
Please feel free to engage me in social media: Walker Haynes on FB, and @walkerhaynes on Twitter, and stay up to date on the latest with Hamlet’s Ghost on FB and @HamletsGhostmov on Twitter.