Interview: Trent Haaga (2/22/06)

[Ryan] Was there a particular film that made you think “I want to make movies”?

[Trent Haaga] I’d have to say that John Carpenter’s Escape From New York came on HBO when I was a kid and it worked some kind of magic on me. I was always a movie fan even as a young one, but this film in particular “warped” me.

[Ryan] Who would you say is your favorite director working today? (and why)

[TH] John Carpenter is my man. He works almost exclusively in the genre but takes it seriously and knows how to use the genre to make bigger thematic statements while still entertaining the hell out of you. I know that people like to slam on him for his recent output, but look at the classics he’s made: Escape (From New York), Big Trouble (in Little China), The Thing, Halloween, Assault
(on Precinct 13), They Live, etc. He’s the man. I also enjoy everything by Alex de la Iglesia. He’s truly unique.

[Ryan] And a favorite director of all time?

[TH] Shit, man, John Carpenter.

[Ryan] What is your favorite part of the filmmaking process?

[TH] It depends on where I’m at on a project, but I’d have to say that pre-production’s the worst aspect. Production – while you’re right there birthing the image – is probably the most exciting. It’s also the most tiring, but with every shot you’re closer to having a finished film, so it’s exhilarating. Post fits somewhere in between pre-production and production in terms of excitement.


[Ryan] What advice would you give to people trying to get their foot in the door?

[TH] Don’t do what I did! You’ll never get rich or famous! Seriously, though, you might be better off going to the right parties and meeting the right people and schmoozing than my plan, which was to take every single job you can and work for free a hell of a lot. It’s relatively easy to get your foot in the door if you work hard and work cheap. But you might not reach what any normal person would call “success.” I don’t feel that I have. Sure, I’ve got a lot of product out there, but you should see my bank account!

[Ryan] What was your most recent project?

[TH] I acted in a film in Texas in October called Living & Dying. I’m in pre-production on a film called Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! right now and go to New Mexico in May for another and then Dead Girl, which I wrote, shoots in June.

[Ryan] What was the first film you worked on, and what was it that you did on that film?

[TH] Aside from student productions (all short films), my first feature was Terror Firmer. I played the role of “Jerry” in it.

[Ryan] What’s the earliest Trent Haaga film the public can get a hold of?

[TH] Once again, Terror Firmer.

[Ryan] What filmmaking “jobs” do you do?

[TH] I’ve done everything from Production Assistant to Assistant Director to Screenwriter to Actor to Producer and pretty much all the places in between. While I have boomed pictures, the one thing I’ve never done is record the sound for a film . . . well, that and directed.

[Ryan] Out of the jobs you do, which do you enjoy the most?

[TH] Acting is the absolute easiest and most fun gig on a set. Don’t let actors tell you otherwise. Writing can be a pain in the ass because you’ve got to be self-motivated and everybody in the world’s a writer already, but when it works, it’s great. In an ideal world I could make a living simply acting and writing.

[Ryan] Out of the films you’ve made over the years, is there any one that stands out as your
favorite?

[TH] I’d have to say that, like your first love, your first film will always be special to you. Terror Firmer was the movie that made me quit my day job and decide that I wanted to do this for a living. It was a heady, inspiring thing to make TF and I’ll always think back fondly on the experience. And the movie’s fun, too.

[Ryan] What would you say are the pros and cons of working in the low-budget world?

[TH] I’m beginning to wonder if there are any pros to low-budget as I try to gather a cast and crew and locations for this film without the benefit of any money. It’s always difficult to make a no-budget picture, but it flexes your creative muscles and there’s more freedom story-wise. On the other hand, you can’t really do anything very big in concept or even have a ton of locations if you have no money. Depends also on what you define as “low budget.” Trying to make a feature-length film for less than $10,000 is kind of painful, to be honest.


[Ryan] What was your part in Raving Maniacs?

[TH] Richard (Griffin) came to me with a 60 page script. I had to fatten it up without really creating too many new locations or characters because he was shooting in only a week. So I added about 30 pages of material to the script. Mostly character stuff – beefing up some characters, adding some back story, adding more dialogue. I think that it turned out okay.

[Ryan] Do you have anything else to add?

[TH] I would, but I’ve got to go back to finding some actors that are willing to work for free on this film! Thanks for the interview!

Trent Haaga’s Website: http://www.trenthaaga.com

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