ByJessica Harmon, writer at Creators.co
The ultimate fangirl - spends most nights watching back-to-back old Buffy episosdes and complaining about being tired for work the next day.
Jessica Harmon

A backwoods family of hillbillies, plagued with a mysterious zombie curse, are about to become stars thanks to Barnaby Hunt, the host of Horror Hunts in this November's Hans Crippleton : Talk to the Hans.

A disturbing mystery lurks on an old backwoods farm brought to new light when a traveling camera team arrives... seeking the one and only Hans Crippleton.

Scripted by Kevon Ward. Starring Andy Hankins, Lyle DeRose (the upcoming The Magnificent Seven) and Emma Moody.

We spoke to scripter Kevon Ward and director Jimmy Lee Combs ahead of the film's November 17 release.

Where does the story come from?

Kevon Ward: Hans is a character I created as a haunted house icon in my early days of working at haunted houses. Over the years, I have traveled to many states and many haunted houses. I always took Hans with me to work the crowds. He became an immediate fan favorite. This lead me to consider the idea of creating a show about his life in stardom.

How did you find your cast? Your lead is wonderful!

KW: Lead is moi. . . so thank you. Cousin Bumpkin and the Doctor were characters I personally picked out based upon previous working experience together. Heath Heine and Ryan Manley-Rohrer respectively were actors very familiar to me who I knew would nail the parts. For the remaining cast, I opened an audition where I met Andy Hankins, Irene Leonard, Katie Bevard, and Brad Wagner. Couldn't have done better.

Jimmy Lee: Kevon did a fantastic job casting the film. He wrote these characters and nurtured them over the years so nobody knows them better than him. The actors lost themselves in the characters and it really shows in their performances. It was a joy to direct a cast so dedicated.

Where did you find those astonishing locations?

KW: Fortunately, working at a haunted house and various FX companies, I had access to some killer set work. The Crippleton homestead was provided by one of my friends and makeup artists Elizabeth Fitter. The farm was offered by Mike Nelson and Krista Psykome who are volunteers of the property. I thought securing sets would be my greatest hurdle, but it came together painlessly.

How important were festivals to the movie? Do you think they’re a must for any indie film?

KW: Truthfully, I'm new at this. I think festivals are important for awareness, but not an absolute must.

JL: It’s hard to say with a zany film like Hans Crippleton. We entered about 15 festivals and got into one. The problem is and you find this out as you get emails back from the festival organizers that they get hundreds, some of them even thousands of film entries that they have to narrow down to a handful of feature films and shorts. It doesn’t mean that Hans isn’t a good film but rather several other factors whether it’s the length of the film, the genre, content or lack of name actors. I think many filmmakers can relate to this that have entered the festival circuit.

I personally don’t think they’re a must for any indie film but it really depends on what the filmmaker’s goal is with their film. I think festivals are wonderful opportunities to get your film in front of audiences, networking with those in the industry and building up awards for your film should it win any. Any bit of publicity can really help a film and its credibility. But don’t spend thousands on festivals; you can make another film with that amount. Rather be selective and be strategic on which festivals are the right fit for your film.

How did you pick up distribution?

KW: Jimmy Lee Combs pitched this to different distributors and Uncork'd bit back. I was out of town while the whole thing transpired.

JL: When we had a presentable version of the film ready for screening, we had begun entering some festivals. Of course with the hopes of landing a distribution deal but after reading books and hearing stories from fellow filmmakers, we found that a lot of films often don’t land distribution deals during the festival circuit. For the past few years I’ve gone into Wal-Mart and retailers every week checking out the new movie releases and making note of distributors in the same genres of films we make.

So I reached out to a filmmaker friend of mine Glenn Berggoetz for advice on whether I should contact distributors in advance or after the festival circuit and he recommended to contact them in advance. So I gathered my list of distributors that I collected over the years, signed up for IMDB Pro and found acquisitions contacts for each of the companies. I sent them an email telling them a little about the film, selling points and offering a screener for them to watch. One distributor didn’t feel the film was a right fit for them, another passed because it didn’t have a name actor in it and most of the others we didn’t hear back from. But when it came to Uncork’d Entertainment, they loved it and totally got the humour of the film! The founder Keith Leopard and I hit it off and we entered into a distribution deal. We’re very excited to be with Uncork’d Entertainment and have had a great experience.

Can you tell me about some of the responses you’ve had?

KW: Very positive. Reviews have been good and general feedback has been favorable. Better than I had thought. I wanted to make a silly movie to prove that I could. Didn't ever expect it to go this far.

JL: The responses have been amazing to the film. I’ve reached out to some of the press over the months offering review copies of the film and overall they have loved the Hans. One reviewer said “The film is like Mel Brooks made a zombie movie” which is a huge compliment since we’re big Mel Brooks fans. We even have a fan base in the UK! Of course on the negative side they’re those who are easily offended so of course we got flack for that while others were more constructive with their feedback which we took to heart and has made the film stronger. We’ve had people come up to us and give us their best Hans Crippleton impression, others wanting an actual Cripple Pickle and we’ve had demand to make a full fledged Hans Crippleton calendar inspired by the infamous scene in the film!

Do you google the film? How important are good reviews?

KW: Yes I do. That's my primary source for audience response and commentary; therefore that is how everyone else will derive the same information. Reviews found on Google are highly important since Google is such commonplace for information.

JL: I do. In fact I just goggled it a moment ago lol. Good reviews are huge because the vast majority of people want to go to their favourite website for a trusted review before dropping money on a film. From a marketing stand point you want to hook your audience so for example if you can have a review from a reliable website featured on the cover of the DVD and more on the back sleeve, fans are more likely to make an impulse buy. Reputation is huge for a filmmaker so I think if you can keep making films that receive good reviews, audiences will want to come back for more.

One can only imagine you’ve a bunch of sequel ideas - - have you?

KW: I want Hans to move on in some capacity. I have a vague sequel idea of the gang embarking on some sort of Odyssey after teaming up with Horror Hunts, as a travelling army against evil. I want to continue Hans as a cameo character in an upcoming web series TBA.

JL: Hans Crippleton: Talk to the Hans has been the best filming experience of my career. It was so much fun and we built a solid film family on set. I’d be back in a heartbeat to direct a sequel. So we’ve definitely kicked around some ideas. One of which would involve the Crippleton’s encountering a gang of circus freaks while another involves Hans on the search for his Father and as Kevon stated above he has an idea to follow the Crippleton’s on their Horror Hunt battles against evil. So many different directions we could go with those crazy Crippletons and our fans are definitely craving more of those Cripple Pickles! Be sure to check us out at www.hanscrippletonmovie.com and www.facebook.com/hanscrippletonmovie where we post exclusive content and short films expanding the Hans Crippleton universe.

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