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Fango continues its chat (begun here) with
screenwriter-turned-anthology-editor Eric Miller, whose HELL COMES TO HOLLYWOOD
(out now from Big Time Books) is an omnibus collecting
tales of terror from Tinseltown veterans.
FANGORIA: How was it working with such a large array of
ERIC MILLER: It was tough sometimes because I was also
working in production while editing the book, so it was a juggling act to be
sure. Making a book is a ton of work, just like making a movie. But thankfully,
I am used to handling multiple units and managing large crews on sets, so my
moviemaking experience helped make the movie book happen. And in the end, I got
lots of help from the writers themselves, my cover designer, interior
formatter, and my wife Wendy, the “typo queen.” I couldn’t have asked for a
more accommodating bunch of professionals to help me bring the book home. I’m
very happy with how it turned out.
FANG: Surpassing the disenchantment for the film industry
prevails a love of horror, which is inspiring. Can you tell us a bit about the
authors and their own involvement in the horror industry?
MILLER: There’s a wide array of talents and every one of
them is enthusiastically into horror. C. Courtney Joyner, who wrote “One Night
in the Valley” for the book, has over 25 produced films as a screenwriter,
starting with THE OFFSPRING with Vincent Price, the PUPPET MASTER movies and so
on; he also directed LURKING FEAR. “Trash Day” writer William Paquet is a
sculptor who makes amazing limited edition statues at Quarantine Studio. Travis
Baker and Richard Tanne started out working for me as interns at Raw Nerve and
went on to write scripts for Eli Roth and Wes Craven, and Rich also stars in
“Swamp Shark” and gets eaten alive on screen by a mutant fish. Travis just
wrote and directed a very cool new slasher film called MISCHIEF NIGHT. Brian
Muir created and wrote one of my favorite films of all time, CRITTERS, and
though he passed away before the book was published, I’m sure he would have
been as proud to be included in the book as I was honored to have him in it. So
it’s a wide variety of horror experience represented.
FANG: Disdain for LA/Hollywood is one theme in particular
that recurs throughout many of the stories. Was this intentional?
MILLER: Not intentional at all. Well, maybe subconsciously….
We’re all lucky to be working in showbiz, and busted our collective asses to
get where we are, but it is a love/hate relationship with a very tough
industry. And while the bulk of the people in Hollywood are nice, creative,
professional people, we have all worked with asshole agents, self-serving
directors, screeching diva actors and arrogant producers (and yes, whiny
writers). But those types of people make for the best stories, which is why
they made it into the book. A good example from HELL is Jeffrey Seeman’s “The
Cutting Room”; it takes gleeful, homicidal aim at mindless executives and
annoying screenwriters. I’ve read the story more than a dozen times and still
laugh out loud amidst the gore. I think anyone who has been on either side of
the development desk, as executive or writer, will relate to it, and readers
from outside the biz will see just how ridiculous some pitch meetings are - in
ways it’s not that far from some real meetings.
FANG: Was it planned for some of the stories to reflect
similar themes or were the authors given complete freedom over their works and
then all the stories assembled together later?
MILLER: I gave the writers total freedom other than the
“this has to take place in Hollywood” theme. I let their imaginations run.
Honestly, I expected to get 10 to 15 zombie stories and a like number of
vampire stories, and that didn’t happen. I love them zombies and bloodsuckers
as much as the next geek, but I am happy to say the stories in the book went
places I never could have imagined.
FANG: The style of a number of these stories is very visual;
they almost read like screenplays. Do you foresee any of these being made into
films at some point?
MILLER: The visual style comes from the writers’ backgrounds
as filmmakers. We work in a visual medium where our scripts are blueprints to
be transformed into another form so we are trained to think in pictures (which
is what all good writing should do anyway). A couple of these stories started
out as short film screenplays, and one was a stage play, but most were created
from whole cloth specifically for the book. And at the core, they are all good
stories with a beginning, middle and end, which is important whether it is a
script, novel, short story, film or TV show. As for making the book into a
movie or series, of course the thought has crossed my mind, but I really wanted
to celebrate the written word with this. But obviously it is a natural
collection of stories that would make a great anthology horror film, or TV
series, and given my movie production background, it could very well happen.
Stay tuned, as they say…
FANG: Can we expect more genre books from you in the future?
MILLER: Absolutely. That was the plan all along for Big Time
Books. And since Hollywood loves nothing more than a sequel, HELL 2 is looking
more and more like it’s going to happen, and I have many other ideas for books
too. I am a big horror fan and love sci-fi and crime fiction as well. Just like
B-movies, genre fiction is something I love. I like gritty, dark, hard stories,
blood and guts and sweat and tears and no apologies for big characters living
bigger lives in books and films. And I want to take advantage of the incredible
talent roaming the streets of Los Angeles; the nature of Hollywood is that for
every script sold, each writer probably has 10 completed scripts on the shelf
and 20 story treatments. I want to mine that load of unproduced stories and
find some bloody gems for readers. And I want to stretch outside of Hollywood
writers eventually as well, but for now I am staying close to my literary home.
FANG: Would you collaborate with the same writers again?
MILLER: In a heartbeat. I am working on some side projects
with some already, and would love to have stories or scripts or anything else
from them in the future. I am trying hard to promote each one, because being a
writer is a hard, lonely life, especially in Hollywood where the directors and
actors get the glory most of the time. But in Hellywood, writers are king.
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