Dan Farrands and Andrew Kasch are quickly becoming the new best friends of horror film fans nationwide. Last year the pair brought us His Name was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th (with Farrands producing and directing and Kasch editing the bonus material), as well as tons of long-unseen footage and deleted scenes that adorned the latest Friday the 13th saga DVD releases. Now the two are in the midst of co-directing Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, which promises to be the definitive documentary on modern-day horror icon Freddy Krueger. We caught up with them last week in Burbank for an exclusive interview on the set of their new film, where they whet our appetite for what’s sure to be the most welcome horror documentary of next year.
Can you talk a little bit about how this came to be?
Farrands: Andrew and I met on a project that we did last year called His Name is Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th, which was a retrospective on the Friday franchise, which is a series I grew up loving. I am a huge, huge fan. My first introduction to Hollywood was when I was fourteen years old, when I received a letter from Frank Mancuso Jr, who produced the Friday the 13th movies. And that really kind of gave me this little boost of confidence, with Frank saying, "Hey kid, you’ve really got something." So it was a really fun sort of coming home project for me to be able to do that.
Andrew and I met on that show and he edited all of the bonus features for that. The bonus features were the best part of that show, hands down. And we just developed a relationship from there. So we worked on several other projects in the interim. We did the Paramount Deluxe Edition DVDs of Friday the 13th, Parts IV through VIII. I also produced the movie The Haunting in Connecticut. And when it came time to do the DVD, Lionsgate asked me to put together the bonus content so Andrew and I again teamed up there, with Buz Wallick, who is our DP, doing all of the shooting for us.
So we’ve kind of formed this little family of horror love-fest guys who just love these movies. We grew up on these movies, and this is just the next natural step, to do something on Elm Street, which had such an impact on both of our lives and our love for the genre.
Kasch: Yeah, it has been a good solid year of us working together digging through the Paramount vaults uncovering all of this footage for Friday the 13th, doing documentary supplements. It’s just been so much fun. At this point we’ve pretty much tackled every horror franchise there is. So getting to do Freddy Krueger, which to me was always the coolest of the franchises, is awesome. Nightmare dives a lot more into the surrealism and the psychology. Just in general there is much more meat on that franchise’s bones than the rest of the big mega Hollywood franchises out there. From a documentary standpoint, it is the coolest subject to explore.
How has this doc differed from the Friday doc so far?
Farrands: This show has been an absolute pleasure from pre-production through the days of production. And there are long days, no doubt about it. I think on this show, as opposed to His Name Was Jason where we had all of these people running around set, we have a much smaller core group of people who are artists and editors and everybody that is involved in this show just wants to make it the best we can. None of us will go out with this show until it’s right. We’re not going to put out something that feels half-baked.
Kasch: Yeah, it’s a real family affair here. We’ve all worked together for a really long time. I mean we practically finish each other’s sentences now. And everybody from top to bottom, as small as this crew is, everybody from the writers, the producers. everyone even down to the make-up girl are fans of the Nightmare films and know their shit. It has allowed us to finally make something that is uncompromised. It is really going to be a product that I think most reflects what we set out to make.
Farrands: It is going to be one that the fans will appreciate more because we won’t cut away in the middle of someone’s sentence. We won’t do VH1-style editing to try and compress this into a timeframe that just doesn’t make any sense. We’re telling a narrative story, and I think the making of the Nightmare films is almost as interesting as the films themselves. There are so many amazing people that went on to huge careers in Hollywood, some of whom are coming through our door. It’s a huge blessing and honor for us to be able to do this.
Who are some of those people you’re referring to?
Farrands: Right now we’re starting off with a lot of the supporting people. So we’ve talked to a lot of the people from the sequels, the Dream Warriors. Most of the victims from parts 4 and 5. We're even bringing in some of the screenwriters that had written drafts that were never produced. One of the most interesting things that these documentaries never explore is the films that could have been. A lot of the writers that have been coming in have told us what they would have done with Freddy vs. Jason and what their draft was like. We’re talking about a movie that had probably the longest pre-production period in the history of Hollywood. There were dozens of scripts written and ideas thrown around. I mean you can almost make a documentary just based on the ideas that never came to fruition. The amazing thing is that some of these ideas are really good. We want fans to come away with, "Wow, that was even cooler! Why didn’t they use that?"
Kasch: It’s great to give that overall perspective. That’s what’s cool about this show is that we’re going movie to movie to movie, we’re not shortchanging anyone. We know there are fans our there who love Nightmare 5, even though many people hate it. There are core groups of fans who love that movie. So we’re not shortchanging Nightmare 5 or 6 or any of the sequels. We’re not playing favorites to any specific movie.
Certainly you have to start with the original, with Wes Craven’s vision and where that came from and how that idea was born and why that movie had such an impact. Undeniably you’ve got to pay some serious focus to that part of the story. But even as we go on through the show, you’re going to see we’re paying homage to each one of the movies and giving it its own props, and each one deserves it.
Will any little surprises be included?
Farrands: Oh yes. Graciously we ask our talent to come in if they have any rare footage or behind the scenes photos, anything we can get that fans haven’t seen before. The scavenger hunt is always the most fun part of the process because you never know what’s out there. For example, David Schow brought in a tape from Freddy’s Nightmares. He had ten minutes cut out of his episode and you will find out why when you see this footage! There is stuff that Robert Englund is doing in this episode that makes—
Kasch: Nightmare on Elm Street 2 look like a straight horror movie. [Laughs.]
Farrands: Exactly, it really does. It makes Nightmare 2 look heterosexual in nature. Just getting all these rare unseen gems and putting it all out there is the most fun part.
Kasch: And the cast members are being great, because so many of them had their cameras on set. They were taking pictures or their family members would come and take photos. So they have been bringing that stuff in and we have been scanning them. So for the very first time, photos from people’s private collections are going to be a part of this. Which is more interesting for me than seeing a lot of photos published in Fangoria for years over and over. We've seen all of the same studio photos. What is unique about this show is we are really going to focus on the visuals that came from people’s private collections that have been in boxes and scrapbooks for years.
You did a great job with the Friday films on DVD. Is there any possibility that we could see you tackle Nightmare when it’s due on Blu-ray?
Farrands: Well it’s weird because I think that’s how we were discovered by the Paramount group that was resurrecting the Friday films for DVD. We had just done His Name Was Jason. They were like, "Well clearly you understand this franchise better than we do, so would you consider coming back and doing these for us?" And I jumped at it because I finally got to do the version of the Friday the 13th's I wanted to do because I was not able to do that for a lot of reasons on His Name Was Jason.
But I would absolutely jump at the chance if Warner or New Line wanted us to do bonus features for a new box set of Nightmare on Elm Street, I think we’ve got the team to do it. As well as the resources with the talent and the inside scoop with the talent and the fans would love it. Especially having access to not only the things we’re bringing to this show but the things that Warner has made or the things that New Line might have in their vaults that haven’t been uncovered yet.
Kasch: That would be an absolute dream to get into the New Line vaults the way that Paramount opened up their doors for us. From an editorial standpoint, getting to go through these boxes of old film for Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and discover this material that was debated for decades as to whether or not it even existed. Then to bring the directors in and work with them to reassemble all of this lost footage, to do that on Elm Street would be the ultimate dream project. But jumping from His Name is Jason to all of the Deluxe Editions proved there is no shortage of material out there.
We didn’t have an overlap with the stories and the things that we showed between the feature length documentary and the DVD supplements. If we used every great story that we’ve heard so far, we would have a forty hour documentary! A lot of that will eventually go over to the bonus features as well because we like to give as much info as we can. Without writing an actual book, there is so much material out there that we could easily discover. So doing bonus features for Blu-ray or DVD would be like a whole new experience for us.
Farrands: And also, speaking of a book, there has been some talk about doing one. I edited the book Crystal Lake Memories, that Peter Bracke wrote. We published that ourselves initially. No one was interested in that book at all. Every publisher around the world turned that book down. So we put our own money into it, literally published it ourselves and sent it out to bookstores across America and it flew off the shelves and we’re into our fourth printing now. So I think there may be a book for the Nightmare series as well. With the interviews we’re getting and the volume of people we’re talking to, we could easily fill a book like Crystal Lake Memories. That would be fun.
With Nightmare, there was so much merchandise. Have you been able to delve into that?
Kasch: Yeah, we will be. That’s not the part of the thing where we're focusing on right now. We’re trying to get most of the talent from the films and such. But the merchandising of Freddy and the irony of this character that was brought into the world as a child killer who has now become a Halloween costume for kids and a bathtub toy. It is so bizarre. How do you not touch on that phenomenon? He even has an album, Freddy’s Greatest Hits, where he is, like, rapping. Especially after Nightmare 3 & 4, it got to this point of over-saturation and crazed commercialism. I think David J. Schow put it best when he said, "It’s so bizarre to see a character who is basically a child molester on children’s PJs as they go to bed at night."
Farrands: You have to talk about the commercialization of Freddy. We would be doing a disservice and wouldn't be telling the full and complete story by not tapping into some of those areas. I can’t say that we'll have time in the documentary to explore every Freddy action figure and bubble bath that's ever been created, but a nice chunk of it will be devoted to the merchandising and the phenomenon that Freddy became. And also the TV series which I think so many fans have asked about over the years -- it’s got its own cult following, so of course we’re going to address that. And we're talking to a lot of the directors and writers and people who participated in the TV show.
The reruns are still on the air.
Farrands: Yeah, it’s still being rerun.
Kasch: Yeah, it’s got a cult audience and is definitely part of the franchise. So that’s why you don’t want to short-change any aspect of it. While you do want to delve into the bigger films like Nightmare and 3 and New Nightmare, there’s so much great, unheard-of material out there, and like Dan was saying, there’s a guy out there who loves Freddy’s Dead more than any other movie made and that’s our camera man, Buz Wallick. [Laughs.]
Farrands: But we have a love of the series. I’ve been blessed in that I’ve been able to be involved with all of the major horror franchises in one way or another. Halloween – I got to write one of the films, Friday the 13th – I had the luxury of doing three projects on that series and now I’m exploring the Elm Street series. It’s just really fun because I grew up on these films, it’s what made me want to have this career. Frank Mancuso is the guy who really touched me with his magic wand and said, “Hey kid, don’t give up on this because you’ve got something.” So this is in a weird way, all of this work we're doing now is payback for that acknowledgment, and I love it. It’s just one of the most fun things you can do – to go back and meet the people who created the movies that inspired you the most.
Your enthusiasm was evident in the Jason doc.
Farrands: Ah, thank you so much. I feel like we sort of missed the mark with His Name Was Jason, for a lot of reasons. There was a lot of good things about that show, especially the bonus features which were so much fun. But the main doc just lost focus and clarity and tone. With this one, we’re going for all of those things on every level. We’re going to let people tell their stories and it’s going to be about as far from the Best Week Ever on VH1. Whatever that show was called, where they cut to like a thousand people at once. I mean I know that show has its fans and how fun was it to see Tom Savini walking through the Universal maze with all the Friday the 13th sets? That part was fun.
But with this show, having Heather Langenkamp involved, not only as one of our main participants but as well as our executive producer and as our narrator, it really elevates this project, gives it a touch of class.
It’s great too because most of the people involved with the Nightmare movies are still around, whereas a lot of the Friday films were negative pick-ups and were being shot independently largely across the east coast; a lot of people just sort of came and went from that franchise. Stepping in not knowing anything about it, they did their job on set and then walked away. So when you’d bring up things 20 years later, and they’re like, “Really, I don’t remember any of that, I didn’t even know there was a fan base.”
Kasch: This is very different because the Nightmare movies were very much a Hollywood affair, they were all shot locally except the last couple of installments when they moved to Canada. But most of the people involved with that franchise have gone on to have careers and are still working to this day in the film industry. It’s amazing hearing how everyone got their start and what they learned from that experience. A lot of aspiring filmmakers will be able to take a lot away from this too. So it’s like giving a little bit back for me. I’ve been really blessed, I produce films and I write films but I love being able to look back on these franchises that meant so much to me growing up and I hope having this kind of retrospective will hopefully give another kid that inspiration like, “I can make movies, this is how it’s done.” We’re in a different time now where so much information can be shared and passed on.
How far into shooting are you now?
Kasch: It’s our fifth day of interviews but there’s been B-Roll, some on-location things, we shot a trailer, so I don’t know how many days but overall when it is all said and done it’ll be about a 20 to 25 day shoot. So we’re early on, but what’s great is so many awesome people are walking through here and we’ve got the word out to some bigger people. And yes, Johnny Depp’s people have been contacted, so we’re gunning for Johnny, but we’ll see. So if we get him, and it’s very possible we might, but this would be the first time he’s ever discussed his work on Elm Street in a documentary about the series, which would be huge. So no promises but that would be great -- there’s no stone that we’re leaving unturned.
Farrands: If anybody out there was involved with the Nightmare series at all it’s like “Get ‘em out here!” I have to sort of touch on the fact that they are remaking the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and kind of hitting the reset button on the franchise. But for us since we grew up in the times when the original franchise was open, this is really paying respect to those films and that film making era. From what Wes did all the way through what Ronny Yu did with Freddy vs. Jason. That’s the period of time that we’re focusing on. It’s the genesis of what has been. And a lot will come forward. I have no disservice to any of them, I am looking forward to Jackie Early Haley and Kyle Gallner I am very proud of. We gave him his start in Haunting in Connecticut and now he’s gone on to this role in Nightmare and we’re really excited for him and we’re really excited to see him in the movie. But for this particular project we’re focusing on the history of the original series.
Kasch: It makes the most narrative sense from when you approach a documentary; you’ve almost got the beginning and end of an era. You’ve got the rebirth of something new and it’s going to continue to go on and on and on, but it’s like we have the perfect starting point and the perfect end point. So to dive in and explore it as a whole is just amazing.
Farrands: Hopefully this documentary will become its own little time capsule of the original Nightmare on Elm Street. That’s what we’re trying for.
It will be out in the spring, correct?
Kasch: Yup, hopefully right around March or April, right before the new movie comes out. Just because we want to tap into the market before that gets all of the attention. We want to sort of put the cap on the original franchise and then they can take it from there.
It sounds like the optimum time to release it.
Kasch: Yeah, and of course there will be a lot of publicity around Nightmare on Elm Street at that point, and it’s a great time for us to jump in and promote our show. I’m sure in thirty years when they have made ten or twelve more sequels from the remake, we'll see some new guys.
Farrands: Yeah I was going to say, I’d be happy to pass that baton to your son or my nephews, who are already living this stuff. Or we can direct from our wheelchairs with IVs sticking out of our arms, saying, “Ay! That’s not the way Freddy was back in the day. Kids these days. Whippersnappers!"
Guys, thank you so much.
Farrands: Our pleasure. Thank you!