Kickin’ It Old School with Richard W. Haines

Kickin’ It Old School with Richard W. Haines

Richard W. Haines is a man who has done it all when it comes to filmmaking. He has accomplished being a director, writer, producer, actor, and editor for many low budget films for the past thirty years. Fans mostly remember him for directing the blood spewing and eye popping favorites such as Splatter University, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, and Alien Space Avenger. His other work includes: Soft Money, Run for Cover, Head Games, Unsavory Characters, and his latest feature, What Really Frightens You?. Working on many films for film distribution companies like Troma Entertainment, Haines started his own company soon after with New Wave Distribution Inc., that create and market 35mm films on a worldwide basis. He has also written two books: Technicolor Movies: the History of Dye Transfer Printing and The Moviegoing Experience, 1968-2001 and even illustrated the children’s book, Animal Kingdumb, which was written by his father, Richard D. Haines.

Richard W. Haines is an inspiration to the world of horror and low budget filmmaking and a special thank you goes out to him for taking the time to talk with me about his career that has lasted nearly thirty years. If you have not seen any of Haines’ films I highly recommend that you do so now.

You’re latest film is titled “What Really Frightens You?”, which is about a writer who asks a few people on the street about what really scares them for his next article. Then after the article is published, those who were interviewed soon learn that their fears are coming true. How long did the process of making this film take?

Movies take about three years to complete.  That includes writing the script, pre-production, production and post-production.  We shot the film in 2008 and then it took a couple of years before it was ready for release.
Just out of curiosity, what really frightens Richard W. Haines?

I guess what really frightens me is losing 35mm as a medium.  I’m one of the few indies to shoot on actual film stock.  The advantage is that modern T-grain stock has a 200 speed latitude for exposure which enabled our cinematographer to create unique lighting designs.In addition, 35mm is a more reliable ‘hard copy’ of the movie for archival storage.  Digital videotape or computer hard drives are subject to long term data loss.  I wouldn’t want to shoot a feature in a format that will eventually become obsolete.  35mm negative can be transferred to any new system they develop in the future.  Even if a filmmaker shoots digitally they should output to 35mm for the long run.

Is there a possibility that there will be a “What Really Frightens You 2”?

We have a sequel in the works.

“Class of Nuke ‘Em High” is probably your most well known film, which was distributed by Troma Entertainment. You’ve also worked on several other Troma films like the Toxic Avenger and Mother’s Day. What was it like working with Troma co-founders Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz?

I will never do a ‘work for hire’ again.  I prefer to write, produce, direct and distribute my own features.

You are the President of New Wave Film Distribution, Inc., a company that specializes in low budget mainstream genre films? Could you tell us more about how and why you started this company?

Since I was a ‘work for hire’ on “The Class of Nuke Em High” I lost creative control over it.  I was determined to retain complete autonomy and ownership over my subsequent productions.  I formed New Wave Film Distribution, Inc.  for this purpose and my first release was “Space Avenger” in 1989.  I was able to improve the quality of my product after retaining creative control.  For example, I had “Space Avenger” printed in real 3 Strip Technicolor in China.
“Splatter University” is one of my favorite slasher films of all-time. How did you feel about the film being mentioned during Randy’s phone conversation in “Scream 2”?

I screamed for joy.

Even though you are best known for your work in the horror genre, you have also directed many crime thrillers as well with films such as “Soft Money” and “Run for Cover”. Which genre do you prefer more, horror or crime thrillers?

I like to diversify my output and not get pigeonholed into one genre.   However, I must also keep up with market trends.  Since horror is popular again I returned to that venue.
With films such as “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloweenbeing remade/reimagined these days, what would be your thoughts on seeing one of your films being remade?

The only one I would consider re-making would be “Splatter University”.  It was my first movie and we shot it in 16mm then made a 35mm blow up.  I might consider re-making it in 35mm with better technical specs some day.  Or selling the rights to someone who wanted to update it.

Other than your work as filmmaker you are also an author of two books, “Technicolor Movies: the History of Dye Transfer Printing” and “The Moviegoing Experience, 1968-2001”. How did you get into the Technicolor process?

“Space Avenger” was about a comic book artist whose fictional alien terrorists turn out to be real and target him.  He uses his real life experiences to illustrate his story.  Since comic books use bold primary colors I thought printing it in 3 Strip Technicolor would enhance the imagery.  The problem was, the Technicolor lab had shut down their patented dye transfer process in 1975 and switched to Easmancolor like the competing facilities. The British Technicolor plant shut down their line in 1978 and sold it to the Beijing Film Lab which was the only place that still offered the ‘Glorious Technicolor’ process.  So I contacted them and struck a deal to have 10 dye transfer prints made of my movie.  The color was very rich and vivid like a comic book and it helped generate sales throughout the world.  I also accumulated so much technical data during my research of the process that I wrote an article about it for “The Perfect Vision” magazine as well as a follow up article about restorations.   I sent a copy of the articles to McFarland Publishers which suggested I expand them into a book.  They released “Technicolor Movies” in 1993 and it became one of their best sellers.  It’s currently on it’s second printing.  The remaining data was developed in my history of exhibition titled, “The Moviegoing Experience 1968-2001″ released in 2003.  I also did the illustrations for a humorous picture book entitled, “Animal Kingdumb”.  All three are available on Amazon and other sites if the subject matter interests readers.

What can we expect to see from Richard W. Haines in 2011?

“What Really Frightens You” is available on DVD and will continue to make the rounds through 2011.  The transfer was made directly from the 35mm camera negative so it looks very sharp and vibrant.  We also did an extensive commentary track where I discuss film vs. digital and chronicle the history of stereo sound.  Tom Agnello, our DP, describes how he created the visual design too. I’m currently re-packaging my previous movies for re-issue on DVD, Blu-Ray and cable.  They include “Space Avenger”, “Head Games”, “Run for Cover in 3-D”, “Unsavory Characters” and “Soft Money”. I wrote a novel entitled, “Production Value”, a crime thriller with a movie theme, which I’m pitching to publishers for release and I plan on making a film version too.  We’re  in pre-production on “What Really Frightens You II” as previously mentioned.

Is there anything you would like to say to the fans, and where can they visit to stay up to date with what’s going on with your latest projects?

They can log onto facebook and twitter where I make announcements what’s being released.  And I thank them for their continued support of all indie filmmakers who offer unique entertainment as an alternative to studio releases.

Thanks again, Richard!

You’re quite welcome. See you at the movies…


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Morgan is an aspiring screenwriter, who loves everything '80s and horror. She also writes for the blog, The Kid in the Hall, where she rambles on about B-movies, groovy music, and the totally random.

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