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Monday, October 19, 2020

‘Never Hike in the Snow’: Vincente DiSanti Explores His Plans for ‘Friday the 13th’ Fan Films and Beyond [Interview]

Vincente DiSanti and his crew at Womp Stomp Films have done it again. With their first film, Never Hike Alone, DiSanti promised to give fans a high-quality Friday the 13th film with a Jason we could be both terrified and proud of once again. Never Hike in the Snow was released to YouTube on October 13th and it delivered on that promise.

Womp Stomp gave us the caliber of film that we have come to expect from them but turned everything up a few clicks. The kills were bloodier, the action was heavier, and we finally got to see Jason in the snow!

I had the privilege to sit down with Vincente DiSanti to discuss the future of his series and his dreams of a franchise reboot that is for the fans, by the fans. We also discuss the challenges the team faces and the limitations of working with small budgets. Because, as with any crowdfunded project, it is all at the will of the backers.

“We’re at kind of the same detriment that real films are at. It became a real challenge to meet studio quality standards at 1/20th of the cost. A lot of those productions you see on [TV] are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, for a half hour. We did it for 50k,” DiSanti explains.

Crowdfunding is a great tool for independent filmmakers, but it doesn’t come without its own challenges. Between the platform’s fees and the fulfillment process, there is never as much for the budget as it seems.

“We raised 100 thousand, and this is where a lot of people get confused. They see a 100 thousand and they think 100 thousand. Well, 100 thousand on Indiegogo is not 100 thousand dollars. At the end of the day, we make 100 thousand, Indiegogo takes 10 thousand, and then we have about 40 thousand to do our production fulfillment. So, at the end of the day, with crowdfunding you make it out about 55/45. We have been slowly adjusting our strategy, so we get more like 60/40 or 65/35; that way we’re getting more for the movie and less for the fulfillment. But I kind of have this moral obligation where I feel bad charging more than 20 dollars for a Blu-ray. In other independent Indiegogo campaigns, you’ll see people charging 40 dollars for a Blu-ray which gives them so much production value out of that purchase, but I feel like the average fan, especially now—you know, twenty bucks they can spare, but forty? That’s asking a lot, especially for a fan film. So, we deal with that. We try to make it as affordable as possible and make it as good for us, but at the end of the day, it leaves us with about half the budget we raised on crowdfunding and we have to turn that into a movie. So, it’s a challenge, and it’s a perception challenge, and we do our best to explain that.” 

Each new episode from Womp Stomp is going to be crowdfunded. The goal is to increase backers with each one, building to a big series finale.

“I’d like to double our backers. We had 2,500 backers on this one. If we had 5,000 backers that makes it a lot easier on everybody. It means everyone has to give less, and we [the fans] get more. It’s about rallying the community. Really, what I want to do as we go forward is rally the Friday the 13th community and get people to stop thinking that fan films can’t deliver what they want, and show them that this one can.”

Never Hike in the Snow was a six-day shoot. It would have most likely been longer, giving us a longer film, but that was all they had money for. Imagine what it could be with even more funding.

“Now, with the fan support being there and growing every single day, it’s my feeling that we can do the things that we wanted to do in that first movie, and tell a bigger story and put Tommy Jarvis at the center of it and really give it the love and care it needs, and not have to skimp out on the things that we want to do. The only thing we’ve had to skimp out so far on is running time. You know, that money runs out really fast when you’re burning it that hot. But the quality is there. This time we raised 100 thousand and got a 50 thousand budget out of it. If we raise 200-250 in the next campaign, maybe that leaves us between 120-140 and that might allow us to shoot the next two episodes back to back. So, you’re not getting twenty-five minutes and having to wait another six months for another twenty-five minutes. But we’re ready to do anything. We’ll make this one year at a time, six months at a time, whatever it takes, but ultimately, it comes down to the fans.”

DiSanti believes—and I am inclined to agree—that Womp Stomp is beginning to elevate the fan film above and beyond. He believes that if his team were studio funded, they could deliver on story and content that Friday the 13th fans would rally around. He’s looking for his shot at a Friday the 13th studio feature but understands—aside from the current legal dispute—the hesitation executives might have with hiring him.

“I look at myself realistically through the eyes of an exec. They see I don’t have a feature film under my belt, as far as studio level, so I’m a risk and I get that. But I think any studio exec that would sit down and meet me would understand that I’m fully capable of doing it. I’m ready for either a feature film or [something] for streaming, wherever they want to go; however they want to make this story happen, I’m ready to do that. I think that if the fans push it enough, we could get it to that level. If not, we’re going to have to be patient. Everyone’s really going to have to be patient with us because this is a fan film, and this is crowdfunded. It doesn’t move at a studio pace.”

But DiSanti is confident that, with a proper budget, Womp Stomp could deliver where the studios have failed.

“Despite its best efforts to destroy this franchise over the past 35 years, with some of the movies that they’ve made, the fans keep coming back. It’s only a matter of time until somebody makes something as good as part six or part four again that gets the fans rallied up.” 

For now, the story DiSanti has outlined is a human and visceral one. The plan is to continue building upon the foundation they laid with Never Hike Alone with familiar but subversive pieces.

“Jason realizes what his impact on the world is and what his curse is. His curse is to live forever and continue killing people and at one point he was just a twelve-year-old boy who wanted to go for a swim. So, there is something to look at in that story element of who this character of Jason is and not looking at him like a mindless killer which may have worked in the 1980s. And not going so deep within his psyche that we’re doing a Rob Zombie Halloween where we’re trying to explain what he is. But I think it’s worthwhile to show a little bit of conflict in this character because he ultimately was a victim. This is a much different Jason. This is an evolved Jason.” 

Following the events of Never Hike Alone, Jason knows what is at stake and will transition from defense of his territory to an attack on those intruders.

“Jason knows that his world is about to blow up.”

The biggest difference going forward is that, for the first time, we will see a team of capable protagonists working together to stop Jason in what DiSanti calls “The Star Wars equation.”

“Tommy is the Obi Wan, Kyle is the Luke Skywalker, and Diana Hill is the princess Leia.”

Things build toward all-out bloodbath as Jason Takes Crystal Lake. DiSanti describes how Jason leaves the solitude of the camp and tracks down those people who have disturbed his peace.

“Jason is coming into town. It’s like Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and Halloween 2 all in one movie. My goal in this situation would be Gareth Edwards from The Raid. My idea is to kind of get a Raid style kill sequence into a Friday the 13th film at the end of the third episode that would do Gareth Edwards and The Raid fans proud.” 

The story will expand and resolve in some very satisfying ways. We will meet new characters and lose even more. Any loose ends will be tied up by the series’ completion. After all is said and done, fans will be able to get physical copies of the saga to add to their collections.

“All of those questions that are left from the first episode get answered in the next episode, and just like any good series, we just keep creating questions until we answer everything in the final episode. We’re trying to build a really good short season of TV rather than trying to come out and raise a million bucks for a movie to be done all at once. That’s been the challenge, so we went with the mini-series/episode idea. But if we can raise it all at once, then we’ll shoot it all at once. At the end of this we’re gonna make a box set and you’re gonna get five movies on that, which will be really cool. If we get any more funding, say in the later years, there’s still two – three other short films that are prequels that I’d like to do. One about Pamela, one about a young Jason, and then one about Jason after he’s come back from Manhattan, what he looked like and how he became Ghost Jason.” 

DiSanti guarantees that the conclusion to the Never Hike series will be thematic and appropriate for fans of his series and the original franchise alike.

“When Jason finally goes down in this story, when he’s finally defeated in this chapter, it feels like we get some closure. We don’t want to see our old friend go, but if he’s gonna go, we understand why now. You’re gonna feel like this is the story you’ve been waiting to hear for 30 years.” 

Until then we can expect a whole lot of carnage.

“Nothing is going to stop Jason from coming. He’s a freight train and the more you put in front of him, the faster he’s going to chug and the harder he’s going to hit. Jason is coming to town and he’s not stopping, and it’s about to get really, really, really bloody.” 

DiSanti has enough material to bring future seasons in the Never Hike Alone series to life, as well as outlines for a trilogy of Friday the 13th feature films.

“I’ve at least got two-three seasons worth of ideas for this series. And I got a feature film—not just a feature film but a trilogy—that would be what I think we all wanted the remake to be, which was: if you’re gonna go back and retell the story of Friday the 13th, don’t go back and try to match the facts of the original films, because they weren’t built for a franchise. Go back and look at the franchise and try to figure out how it should have been built in order to follow that story line, and then implement those story changes so it won’t feel like it’s a completely new movie.” 

Ideally, Vincente DiSianti would be allowed to present his vision of a proper, studio funded reboot of the franchise on the big screen.

“I really want to reboot the Friday the 13th franchise in the theater. It wouldn’t be Never Hike Alone; it would be a completely brand-new idea. It would start from the first moments. It would restart the entire franchise. You would see some of the old characters again. I would bring back Pamela Voorhees, Steve Christy, the concept of young Jason Voorhees and what happened to him, exploring that. And then, the story of kind of how it all unfolded, from the events of 1957 to what happened in 1980 when they tried to reopen that camp. And we change just a few details, but it makes everything make so much more sense and it becomes a very emotionally invested story. We dive deeper into Pamela’s reason for why she did what she did, and who was responsible for it, and how everyone is still paying for it 20 years later, and then, obviously, the impending doom that Jason is still out there. Ours will focus on the terror and suspense of what a Friday the 13th film can be. I really think we can elevate this to a series that gets as well-regarded as something like The Conjuring.” 

Streaming is also a platform Womp Stomp would be interested in exploring. DiSanti outlines an entirely different series that would give fans a unique take on the franchise.

“I also think that future series could be done like American Horror Story where each season where it’s not one continuous story, and each season we could change up the script completely. We could go to the Jason X [Earth] 2 world and be in the future for an entire season, and just say ‘Jason X is our only cannon film we’re paying attention to’ or say ‘hey, you know what, this season we’re following the Jason Goes to Hell story line, so we’re gonna go to Jason in hell,’ and do things that allow fans not to be like ‘okay, I’m getting one movie for the next five years. It all has to be banked on one movie.’ It’s: ‘I know I’m getting three movies that are in a trilogy and I’m also getting a TV series that’s gonna explore all these different things so I’m not stuck with just this one movie for now.”

The future of the Womp Stomp Universe is exciting but uncertain as it is entirely in the hands of the fans. DiSanti explains, “We’re only doing this because fans keep asking for it and we love Friday the 13th, and if fans are going to fund it, we’ll do it. It comes down to the fans and if they want it. Because without them we can’t do this.”


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