Director Andrew Thomas Hunt talks chainsaws, fight scenes, & his new film SPARE PARTS
Andrew Thomas Hunt has played a large part in the growing number of interesting, strange, macabre, or just plain fun genre films that have been hitting the international film scene from Canada for the better part of the past decade. He is one of the founding members of “Raven Banner”, a Canadian film group that produces and releases genre films of all types, both theatrically and to home mediums. Some of the films they have sent out into the world include TURBO KID, WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS, DEATHGASM, and (most recently) PG: PYSCHO GOREMAN.
So clearly, Andrew has a love of genre and he’s brought that affection with him to the director’s chair of the latest film release from Raven Banner, the splatter-punk fight fest, SPARE PARTS.
SPARE PARTS tells the wild story of an all-girl punk band, cheekily named “Ms. 45”, who are kidnapped by a blood-worshipping death cult and then forced to battle in a “post-apocalyptic”-style gladiatorial arena as part of a strange ritual. That’s not all though, each member of the band has had one of their hands forcibly removed and replaced with a vicious piece of weaponry to aid them in the conflict. Now the only instruments they’ll be wielding are ones of death and destruction!
SPARE PARTS is a chaotic, mean-spirited romp that lovingly wears its genre influences on its sleeve. Besides the aforementioned reference to Abel Ferrara’s 1981 trash classic, there are subtle (and not so subtle) nods to beloved cult films like ARMY OF DARKNESS, MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME, THE EXTERMINATOR series, and many more. It’s something any genre or cult film enthusiast will want to check out as soon as they can.
Read Film Combat Syndicate’s full review of the film HERE.
I recently had the chance to get on the phone with Andrew Thomas Hunt and ask him all about SPARE PARTS and his involvement with it. We discussed what led to him directing the film, his continuing work with Raven Banner, and the joys of chainsawing fake heads!
Raven Banner has been at the forefront of the distribution of genre films in North America for years now. It’s a Canadian company and many of its films originate from that region. There has been a real increase, in general, of genre output from Canada. What do you think the link between genre film and Canada is?
I think a couple of things, obviously Canada’s outside of the Hollywood system, right? Genre films have always kind of been the domain of indie filmmakers. When you look back at many even great filmmakers, Francis Ford Coppola, Cronenberg, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, all these guys got their start in what you would think of as “genre” films. Genre films’ create a level playing field when you can’t get major stars to be in your film and the monster, or the gore, or the scares become the star.
On top of that, you have a system in Canada where you have government financing of films through Telefilm. They’re only financing art house stuff and dramas films like THE ROOM. Very rarely do genre films get financed through that system. I know it creates a very different two-tiered system. You have the “artist drama” people, and then you have indie filmmakers who are cutting their teeth on genre and they’re doing it independently because no one is going to be supporting them. I’m kind of thankful that we at Raven Banner have, in a way become a support system to a lot of these indie filmmakers, both here in Canada and abroad.
How did you become involved with directing SPARE PARTS? It’s only your second directorial project in over ten years despite you being extremely active in the film industry with Raven Banner.
Well, that’s exactly it. I directed, a film called, SWEET KARMA twelve years ago, and then out of that was formed Raven Banner. We spent the better part of the last decade releasing genre films, selling them, distributing them, working with other filmmakers to get their films made. I got in this business to be a director though, not necessarily to run a company. I was eager to get behind the camera again. I was pitched this concept during TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival), about six years ago. I just loved the idea. So, I attached myself as director and I worked with the writers on bringing my sensibilities to the script and adapting it for a lower budget because it was a very ambitious film, but we did it for essentially a million dollars, with an eighteen-day production schedule. So, you have to kind of cut some corners and make some concessions as it were but, filmmaking is always a challenge and you’re up against time and money.
It’s funny. I bumped into one of the producers of the film IT because they shot that here in Toronto. I think the budget for that one was something like eighty million dollars? She was saying that all the different departments were complaining that they didn’t have enough money to do the job that they needed to do. And here I am making a million-dollar film and so it doesn’t really matter at what level of filmmaking you’re doing it, it’s never enough money and it’s never enough time.
With such a tight schedule and budget, was returning to the director’s chair an enjoyable experience for you?
Being that was my first film in over 10 years and filmmaking is a very stressful pressure cooker- because you have everyone coming at you asking you questions, it’s not a lot of money in some ways, but a million dollars is still a lot of money in the everyday world. Just having to rise to that challenge every day, it’s actually something that I thrive on and I really do enjoy it. I enjoy being on set, I enjoy the creative problem solving. I enjoy collaborating with actors and my crew.
Really for me, the whole process is a lot of fun. Hopefully while you’re creating, while you’re doing all that, you’re creating something that’s going to resonate with an audience. It’s so hard when you’re deep in the minutia of it to be able to see the bigger picture. You can’t really see it until it’s done. And sadly with this film, it came out when COVID hit. This was my first film in so long and it played film festivals in Korea, Taiwan, France, Italy, UK, Spain, United States, Canada. It played all these festivals all around the world and I didn’t get to go to a single one and I didn’t get to see audience react and respond to the film, that was one of the most disheartening things about it.
SPARE PARTS feels like such a “crowd” picture- something you would want to see with a full, rowdy audience at a midnight screening. There are a lot of moments in it that seem like a primed film festival audience would just go nuts over. So, I understand the frustration there. On a lighter note, tell me about crafting those moments with such a limited schedule and budget. For example, there is a lot of fight work on display.
Credit goes to obviously, my stunt choreographer and the stunt team, James Mark and his brother, Chris Mark. They had worked on a film called KILL ORDER, which Raven Banner was involved with and we saw what they could do on a low budget. So, I knew that they were the right guys for the role. We worked together on breaking down the fight scenes in the film and working out all of the beats and the camera angles. We previsualized all the fights in advance. James and his team shot them and edited them together. We finessed them. Then it was really a matter of teaching our actresses fight choreography much like you would a dance. That way, when we got on set, we just shot what we needed to shoot very quickly and efficiently. We would get the angles that we needed and then we would move on. In our eighteen-day production schedule, we shot all the fight scenes in six days.
The fight scenes have an energetic, chaotic quality to them that I think would have been lost if you had simply shot them as long sequences, with multiple cameras, and then pieced it together in editing. A lot of productions handle it that way and it leaves everything feeling disjointed and flat. I think the way you approached it was an excellent choice.
Thanks. The only scene that we shot that had any kind of energy that we shot with master coverage was the band performance at the beginning of the film. Then once the band performance devolved into the fight scene portion of it, then that again was just the coverage we specifically needed.
There are a lot of fun, outrageous practical effects during the fight scenes in SPARE PARTS. Do you have a particular one that you love or was the most memorable to shoot?
I don’t really have a favorite, but I will say that we ended up doing one additional day of filing, almost a year later where we did all of the gore closeups. I was the one who got to wield the chainsaw and it was a real chainsaw. That was me operating the saw that was cutting through the face in that closeup. So, itt was like a catharsis for me, you know what I mean? Here I am, I’m ending my film, and I’m the one who gets to kill this guy. I literally left to shoot that day looking normal and when I came home- I was splattered with blood. My face, my clothes. I looked like one of those girls at the end of their fights by the end of that day. That was a lot of fun!
SPARE PARTS is currently available on VOD, Digital, DVD, and Blu-ray from RLJE Films.
Currently residing in Nashville, TN, he also co-hosts the film podcast "Video Culture" (available on all podcast platforms). He can be reached at "WheelsCritic@gmail.com" and on Twitter: @WheelsCritic
Trailer: Bareknuckle Action Drama THE FIGHT MACHINE Punches Down On DVD In February! | Film Combat Syndicate
January 3, 2023 @ 3:19 pm
[…] Spare Parts director Andrew T. Hunt is well on the way with his most recent bareknuckle action drama, The Fight Machine, scoring a U.S. release last November from RLJE Films. The festival favorite which stars Greg Hovanessian, Dempsey Bryk, Greg Bryk, Natasha Henstridge, Noah Danby, and Michael Ironside, now has an official trailer ahead of the film’s rollout onto DVD, slated for February 21. […]