THE HUMAN RACE
THE HUMAN RACE
Director Paul Hough talks about his new film and its one-legged ass-kicker Eddie McGee
Paul Hough and his crew had a race of their own in getting their action-packed survival film The Human Race to Fantasia this year; after submitting a very rough cut they were gleefully sent an acceptance letter, only to realize they lacked the funds to finish post on the film. So they launched a kickstarter campaign to help them lock up the movie and get to Fantasia, and here they are – director Paul Hough, stars Eddie McGee and Paul McCarthy-Boyington and producer Trip Hope (a motley crew if ever there was one) – in person for the World Premiere of The Human Race, tonight.
Without giving too much away, it’s safe to say that The Human Race works equally well as a violently shocking genre picture and as a metaphorical treatise on the paradox of our destructive survival instincts. That Hough went out of his way to tell this tale using actors with physical disabilities is something that will hopefully spark a trend of re-evaluating the traditional casting process. Hough spoke to Spectacular Optical about the charms and challenges of self-financing and Hollywood’s resistance to physically unconventional leads.
Was The Human Race the film you were pitching to the studio that rejected Eddie McGee as a lead, or was that a different film, and The Human Race was something that developed once you decided to make something independently?
After the success of my short The Angel (also starring Eddie which played at Fantasia and got the short audience award), I got a lot of meetings. There were several Hollywood movies I came close to getting made, but after two years of getting close but ultimately nowhere – I realized I had to go it on my own. I wanted to make another movie with Eddie (McGee) and I was told directly by several people that it would never happen, that people wouldn’t accept an actor that looked like Eddie as a lead. But he was a real inspiration to me – and I wrote and wrote – ending up with several scripts – all starring a man with one leg. As a result my management team dropped me, people wouldn’t return my emails, and I essentially found myself abandoned. There was only one thing to do – and that was no longer deal with people who talked about making movies…and actually make a movie. So Eddie and I scraped together everything we had – got some friends together – and started shooting.
After deciding to place Eddie in the lead did you specifically write more characters with disabilities? Are your deaf characters deaf in real life? If so, what was the casting process? And if not – did they have to learn sign language for the part? Their performances are great, the only thing that made me think they might not actually be deaf is that I notice T. Arthur Cottam has directed several films, and I just can’t think of another deaf director.
The key – since this was going to be a low budget shoot – was to cast and write for people I knew. The constraints of the shoot meant that all the actors involved in the movie would have to pitch in, in every way possible. It wasn’t uncommon to see Eddie and the other leads lugging lights and helping out in every way they could. The cast proved to be fantastic, both on screen and off. My original idea for the deaf characters came about because I didn’t think I’d have the ability to hire a sound guy for a lot of the shoot. I thought (obviously wrongly) that having deaf characters would save some money since everything would be visual. But once I started writing them they really came to life. Originally I’d conceived the deaf characters as very small roles but then they were so unique, they developed into the leads they are now.
T. Arthur Cottam is a director friend of mine who I’d seen act in his own film. He learned sign language from scratch for the film and got so good because of his dedication that he ended up being able to sign improvise. I think Trista Robinson who plays the Deaf Female is going to be a huge star.
You seemed to enjoy setting up possible theories in the characters’ minds for what was going on and then pulling the rug out. What kinds of rules did you set up for yourself in terms of what would or wouldn’t be possible in this universe, and how much you were going to let the audience in on?
Pretty much the entire movie is from individual characters points of views. So we’re focusing on individual stories within the bigger picture. That means – like them… we may be somewhat disoriented when we’re in the race. Since from their perspectives everything is not laid out in a straight a-b-c linear fashion. The rules don’t make sense until the end but ultimately should – once the bigger picture emerges. I’ve tried a lot of things I hope the audience won’t expect or see coming.
I’m a huge fan of non-boring cinema. What that means to me – is I enjoy films that aren’t predictable or straight forward. I can’t watch a lot of movies because I fall asleep – or can predict the end.
When it comes down to it – in this film I consider myself an equal opportunity killer. No one, in any way, is safe. I kill people you like. I kill people that you don’t expect or don’t want to die. The thing is – and this is from knowing Eddie – that being disabled he would prefer to be treated equally as to everyone else in the world. While he is in fact the most enabled person I’ve ever, ever met – the roles he is usually offered are pretty much identical and cliche. I think that’s because people are scared to deal with disabilities. Having many disabled friends I know they all don’t want to be characterized in sappy movies of the week. Which is a major part of why I made Human Race. To change perceptions and actually show the world what actors like Eddie can do.
How big was the space they were actually running around in and where was it?
We filmed part of the film in an abandoned prison, half of the film at my house, and half at parks and random locations.
I noticed Richard Gale in the cast – who Fantasia fans know from his films Criticized and The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon. What’s your relationship with him?
I met Richard Gale on the festival circuit a few years back with my short The Angel when he was playing Criticized. He is a brilliant filmmaker and came down to the first day of shooting to help me out – and be an extra. He was so amazing that I developed a very particular role for him. It is safe to say he plays a character with no redeeming values (the complete opposite of him in real life) and in Human Race he actually kills off the stars (Brian Rohan and Paul Clemens) of the Horribly Slow Mudererer!
Going from a documentary like The Backyard about the extreme sport of backyard wrestling, to a survivalist fictional narrative, what is it that draws you again to this subject of the Bloodsport?
I’m actually extremely squeamish of blood – which people may find surprising since there is certainly some blood spilled in the movie and my previous work. So I’m not drawn to blood. I’m drawn to what I consider exciting and unique – something that really opens up my eyes to the world. When it comes down to it – I just want to make films that people will remember – for a long time after they see them.
Your father is John Hough, who directed a slew of classic horror films like Twins of Evil, The Legend of Hell House, and what I consider to be Disney’s best films, The Watcher in the Woods and the Witch Mountain films. Did he introduce you to dark subject matter as a youth, or did you come to the genre on your own?
He is an extremely versatile filmmaker who can’t be pigeonholed. He taught me so much about cinema I wouldn’t even know where to start. And has always been my greatest inspiration and supporter. My dad is one of the smartest and fun people I’ve ever known. As a kid, one of my favorite childhood memories is when he took me and my cousins to a cemetery (multiple times) at Midnight. He would drop us off – and we would dare each other to see who could walk the furthest in. And the cemeteries in England are beyond creepy. It was brilliant!
I find dark subject matter exciting as a filmmaker. In real life – not so much. Unfortunately our world is a real fucked up place. I’m lucky that I live in a pocket of good people. But outside of the pockets a minority of people are really shit. In every way. What goes on in the real world often disgusts me to the core – and that certainly is reflected in The Human Race…
THE HUMAN RACE has its World Premiere on Sunday July 29th at 9:50pm in the Hall Theatre, with director Paul Hough, stars Eddie McGee and Paul McCarthy-Boyington and producer Trip Hope in person. More info on the film description page HERE.