Interview – Thommy Hutson, Daniel Farrands, & Andrew Kasch of the ‘Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy’ documentary

During the 1980’s the horror genre was rich in originality, imagination, and sequels. To many fans it was considered to be the golden age of horror cinema, producing films like Wes Craven’s 1984 classic A Nightmare on Elm Street.  With the film a razor claw monster named  Freddy Krueger was born, haunting the box office as well as viewers nightmares. Initially frightening and unlike anything anyone had seen prior, A Nightmare on Elm Street became a dynasty producing a total of 8 sequels over more than a decade.

Being a cornerstone in horror history, three talented film makers named Thommy Hutson, Daniel Farrands, and Andrew Kasch came together in 2010 to make the ultimate A Nightmare on Elm Street documentary entitled Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. With horror engraved in their DNA, this team put together what many are calling one of the best horror film series retrospectives ever. Recently we sat down with writer Thommy Hutson and directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch for a look into the world of documentary film making, their love for horror, and much more.

(L to R): Producers Andrew Kasch, Dan Farrands and Thommy Hutson win Best of Show award for their film Never Sleep Again at the 2010 Reaper Awards on Tuesday night at The Roosevelt Hotel presented by Home Media Magazine and Photo Credit: Adam Carrillo
(L to R): Producers Andrew Kasch, Dan Farrands and Thommy Hutson win Best of Show award for their film Never Sleep Again at the 2010 Reaper Awards. Photo Credit: Adam Carrillo – All three of you have been involved in horror documentaries over the years. Thommy you worked on The Return Of The Living Dead documentaries, Andrew you worked on projects such as the Stepfather film chronicles and Haunting In Connecticut documentary, and Daniel you’ve written such films as 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and 2007’s The Girl Next Door as well as produced Haunting In Connecticut. First and foremost, what intrigued you to dive into the horror genre and most particularly the world of documentary horror?

Daniel Farrands – We grew up with the A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday The 13th, and Halloween films. They were a staple of our cinematic diets growing up. Each of us have our own favorite series and characters. When we met each other the love for these films inspired us so much and what we do for our careers. It was just kind of a contagious thing. I also edited the Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th book back in 2005.

That book was a labor of love to say the least. After that, for some reason, it has just been a calling to myself and my partners to really want to share that love for these movies. They meant so much to us and we felt like there is another story to be told above and beyond the usual kind of things you hear on bonus features. That was the beginning of it.

New Line Cinema – All three of you also worked together on the His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th in 2009. Tell me how the Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy documentary differed?

Thommy Hutson – I think one of the big things was His Name Was Jason was kind of made specifically for Anchor Bay stars so they certainly had a hand in crafting what kind of show they wanted; somewhat in hands of content, definitely in terms of running time. I think the biggest difference for us on Never Sleep Again was to craft a show that we as fans are putting out there for the fans. We didn’t have any handcuffs in terms of time which is clearly shown in the 4 hour running time. I think we were able to tell the kind of stories that fans wanted to hear because we didn’t have people looking down saying you may not want to say that. We were able to really let all the cast and crew shine and tell the stories they wanted to tell; which were often times good, sometimes bad, and for a few people ugly, but it was the true story of the making of those movies with nothing encumbering us. I think that was the big difference that made that show so special. Now Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy was released in 2010 and is now available for the first time in a 2 Blu-ray set. This is an amazing 4 hours of exclusive interviews with a massive list of individuals involved in everything from acting, to production, to distribution of the A Nightmare On Elm Street series. Was it difficult to comprise all this material, film, organize, and edit it in such a short time?

Andrew Kasch – It was beyond insane. Just to give you a kind of comparison here, on a normal documentary people spend years in the ending room doing it because you don’t have a script and a traditional narrative. You are sort of at the mercy of interview bits, you cut the crap in there out of that. It’s a really long time-consuming process. Our schedule, because we had the remake on the horizon, was absolutely none; from my recollection it was about 7 months from making to release. We had about 3 months to do post-production on it.

We had about 110 interviews. I honestly can’t even recall what it was like because we weren’t sleeping, we were working around the clock cutting in my little apartment. I think by the last month I was averaging about 5-6 hours of sleep a week. At that point it was counting coffee and sugar or whatever we could to stay away. Hallucinations were starting to kick in, it was really crazy. At the time we didn’t know it was going to be 4 hours either. We initially announced it was going to be a 90 minute documentary, but it kept growing in production. By the time we were done we were all exhausted. It was 4 hours, we were terrified, we didn’t know how people were going to react to a 4 hour documentary. Luckily I think we did ok.

Daniel Farrands – Somehow we survived it. We often joke in our circle that we are the ultimate horror movie survivors. We have lived through these ordeals and franchise horror characters more than anyone else, even more than the film makers themselves. They kind of chuckle when they see how much effort and time we put into the making of these films. Sometimes they turn to us and ask questions about their own film.

Image Entertainment
Image Entertainment – You guys really did put a lot of hard work into it. It is great that you did 4 hours because it would be a shame to see your hard work cut down into 90 minutes when it deserved a longer running time. Of the impressive long list of interviewees included in this film, many fans may be curious as to why Johnny Depp, Patricia Arquette, and Breckin Meyer were not included. Were they reached out to and asked to be a part of the film and declined due to other obligations?

Thommy Hutson – I don’t think there was anyone who was affiliated with A Nightmare on Elm Street who wasn’t contacted. We had such a great team of people. Annette Kasch was our line producer, she and I sat at a little table while they were filming and we were on the phone and computer asking and getting in touch with everyone. We really did track down so many people. The bottom line was some people were just not available.

With Johnny Depp it was just a matter of timing and location, I don’t even think he was in the country at the time. There was never really any push back or we absolutely don’t want to be a part of it. The bottom line was some people were working or they just weren’t available. Johnny Depp, Patricia Arquette, and Breckin Meyer were all contacted. The experience of not having them be able to take part wasn’t pleasant, it was just unfortunate. We asked everyone we could and we were lucky enough to get over 100 people. – Yes you did an excellent job getting as many people as you did. It would be impossible to get everyone because everyone has a different schedule. There is a lot of interesting material in the documentary that really take you deep into the world of the beginning of the series, the formation of New Line Cinema, the music of the films, and the heart of each time period of all the sequels. Judging by all the hard work put into the film would you have liked to see the film get a theatrical release?

Thommy Hutson – A 4 hour documentary, I think it was kind of out of the question (laughs). It has played at a couple of festivals. I was shocked that people would sit through a 4 hour documentary in one swoop (laughs). It’s all based on very specific economics and business practice. I don’t know if that was ever in the cards.

Daniel Farrands – We did sell the show to a television show, the Bio channel. It aired as an episode in their inside story documentary series. Those who didn’t catch it the first time around on DVD got a trunked form of it that the Bio Channel put together. It was seen by a wider audience, but now with Image taking on this title and putting it on Blu-ray it may have a whole new life. It’s a whole new chance for those people who are Freddy fans who may not known about this documentary the first time it was released. All things considered we are really pleased with the way it has been handled and distributed. We financed it independently, we made it independently, we made it with a lot of heart and love for the series and fellow fans. We have so much gratitude for the fact that people are embracing this. – It did come out really great and I agree now that it is on Blu-ray because it will bring new life to it. All three of you have a long resume of horror film credits over the past decade as duly noted. Since you have produced and written screenplays of original horror films as well as documentaries, how does a documentary production differ from a feature film production?

Daniel Farrands – From my own experience, I have to say making these shows is in many ways more challenging and more difficult that making a feature film. We are a really small and very dedicated team. Often the work of 50 people is being done by 5. It is a really difficult process. The amount of footage and way into the story, as Andrew said, there is never really a script going in. You have an outline, Thommy did a good job about really siphoning out stories that people want to tell and wrote all these questions that were able to get from our interviewees. It is still trying to find that road map and a logic in storytelling. You don’t want to over emphasize something, but you don’t want to skip over it. You are really going in and creating elements to cover or cut, to get photos here, to get all the elements that go into a documentary. It seems to me each time we do a documentary the expectation level is higher. Instead of a 4 hour one, the most recent one we did is 7 hours. It seems to take on a life of its own, it is challenging, but ultimately rewarding. We are really happy people like the style were are presenting these stories in.

Andrew Kasch – I forget who said the quote but it is said on a narrative feature film, “The director is god and on a documentary god is the director”. Basically you are left up to fate in a lot of ways based on content you are able to get. It is your job to pull content out of people, you don’t have that level of control that you do on a narrative film. You don’t have a script to follow and you don’t have pre-set lines that people have to say. It is really just going in whatever direction fate stirs you in and crafting something from that.

Daniel Farrands – Also having a road map, like I said, we had really good outlines and great questions. Like Thommy said, what we were really fortunate to have was a whole lot of people who participated in these movies. They came in and laid everything on the line, people didn’t really hold back a lot. What you said in the show was never before told stories of the making of these low budget movies. We thought it was really fascinating from that point as well, these were the uncensored versions of what went on during the making of these movies. I think enough years have passed and people came in with a prospective on them that they may have not had 10 years ago. It was enough time that they were able to look back on it and look at the good, bad, and ugly of it. It’s not always pleasant by education.

Starz Home – What are some of your favorite horror films?

Thommy Hutson – For me, it is A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), hands down. I love it (laughs). I think it is scary, groundbreaking, fascinating, and interesting.

Daniel Farrands – My favorite horror film of all time, which is near and dear to me, is the original Halloween (1978).

Andrew Kasch – For me it was Alien (1979). Everyone has that film that jumped their love for horror and scared the hell out of you as a kid, and Alien (1979) did that for me.

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