Anthony Masi Talks "His Name Was Jason"
Producer Anthony Masi seems to be the go-to-guy when it comes to honoring 80's horror classics in Documentary form, and he's done it again with the newly released "His Name Was Jason". Read on to find out his motivation for the project, trying to get Kevin Bacon to agree to an interview, and getting the rights to the footage from Paramount.
I guarantee you people would know who Jason was more than the President.
So I see you've done a lot of work on DVD special features. Was that something you set out to do?
Well actually my first project was a feature documentary for the "Halloween" films, called "Halloween: 25 Years of Terror". The way I got into it was different than most people. I had put a horror convention together for the "Halloween" series in 2003 and we had 3,000 fans flying in from around the world. I wouldn't say it was a first, but it was definitely something fairly new, a themed convention. So I had all these actors, crew, filmmakers, anyone associated with the Halloween films in one location on one weekend. And we videotaped it, and when the event was over, since we had all this footage, we realized that we could cut a documentary together that would tell the story of "Halloween." So we had all of this rare footage that we pieced together to tell a story on the history and the impact of the "Halloween" films, and Anchor Bay picked it up and put it out in 2006. So that was my first introduction (laughs), it was a big one.
So you didn't really set out to make these documentaries, it was all kind of an accident?
Yes. I grew up in Connecticut and New Jersey, and I wanted to come out to Los Angeles as a writer, and I just found that the better hat for me was a producing one. I see the vision and love putting things together, and that's where my strength lies. So I came out here with one idea of what I wanted to do, and then ended up in this producing role, and it's been great. I co-produced a movie called "Bread Crumbs" that was shot last year in South Hampton. I'm producing a project called "Prank" right now, which is an anthology horror film directed by Scream Queens, like Danielle Harris, Heather Lankenkamp and Ellie Cornell. So that's kind of what I'm doing now.
I see that Daniel Farrands is directing. Most fans would recognize his name from "Halloween 6", did you meet him through the 25 Years of Terror convention?
Ya. I met Dan at my Halloween convention because he was a guest. That's when we officially met. When the event was over, a few months afterward he had emailed me to thank me, and to tell me that he and his business partner were writing "Crystal Lake Memories". They asked me if I would do a "Friday the 13th" convention, much like my Halloween one, where they could sell their book. So the first thought I had was "no way in hell am I doing another convention." As much as I loved it, it's just something I didn't want to do again. It literally sucked a year of my life away. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that if we videotaped it, we could do a Jason retrospective. So I agreed to do it. That was 2004 he asked me about it. So Dan's been involved since then. He's a really nice guy and he has a huge love for the "Halloween" and "Friday" films. We're a lot like each other on that regard.
Did your approach on the two docs differ at all?
With the Jason one I didn't want to go sequentially like we did with "Halloween." With "Halloween" we went movie by movie by movie. And truth be told, with the "Halloween" movies the "making of" was sometimes more interesting than what was going on in the movies. For the "Friday the 13th" films they were very cookie cutter. The first 7 were made in the first 8 years, so going movie by movie was kind of pointless. So we go by topics instead. We summarize all the stories in the first 10 minutes, then we talk about Jason and his psyche, and then we talk about all the guys that played Jason. Then we talk to all the final girls, and then his impact on pop culture.
Did this doc come at all from a frustration with Paramount's treatment of the series and the lackluster bonus material that's out there?
Actually it's an interesting story. Anchor Bay was our distributor. I wanted to go to them because they had the "Halloween" documentary and they want big names like that. But I couldn't go to Anchor Bay without going to Paramount and Warner Bro's and New Line first, because they all own stake in the series. So we went to Paramount, and they passed on the project, but they gave me a licensing quote. That's kind of golden because once you get their quote, provided you can pay it, you can pretty much go to any distributor you want. So then we went to Warner Bro's and they passed, but gave me an outrageous licensing quote. So once I had those, I was free and clear to go to Anchor Bay and they immediately bought it. They literally wired money, that's how fast they agreed to do it.
Do you have any thoughts as to why Paramount has always mistreated the series?
I do. I think Paramount, and this was clear from our interviewees and not something I knew before making the doc... Paramount was never proud of the series. It was kind of like a huge breadwinner for them, but they were never quite proud of the films, so they were always the black sheep of the studio. Now that the interest in the series is so high because of the remake, you're seeing them perk up a little and pay more attention. If the release of "His Name Was Jason" was any closer to the remake, Paramount probably would have wanted something to do with it. But it's nice the way it worked out, because Anchor Bay really caters to the genre community.
I think I'd be remiss in not doing one more (laughs).
Kevin Bacon is notorious for not wanting to talk about "Friday the 13th" in interviews. Did you guys even consider approaching him for an interview? Or did you just figure he wouldn't do it?
Of course (laughs). We approached hundreds of people. We approached everybody we could possibly get a contact for. Kevin's people were responsive, but we never got a "yes". Kevin is very busy so who knows the reason. We reached out to him and a couple of other people we really wanted, and they were just not available. Plus, our production schedule was very very tight. We had 13 weeks to put it together and we had over 90 interviewees (laughs). And so it was a hellish schedule. I got very little sleep, everyone was sleep deprived. Anchor Bay wanted to release it around the time of the remake, and so they needed a 4 month lead time for marketing, and pressing the DVD's and all that stuff. So we had to get it done very fast, so some of the people we didn't get to interview were because they just were not available as quickly as we needed them. Case in point, we wanted Corey Feldman to host the documentary. He said absolutely, but he wasn't available on the two days we needed him. But Tom Savini was available, and I'm actually really happy that we ended up with Tom Savini because he was the perfect host.
Did all 90 people end up on the disc?
Everybody. We have 4 hours of bonus features. If you have 90 people everyone can only say two words because it's a 90 minute documentary. So we have 4 hours of bonus features so we were able to take a lot of these interviews and put a lot of the stuff you don't see in the documentary elsewhere on the disc so all that interview footage isn't wasted.
So you're also working on "Psycho Legacy". It seems like you're kind of the go to guy for this kind of thing, huh?
I guess, ya. The director Rob Galuzzo is a friend of mine. I've known him for many years, and a couple of years ago he just started interviewing "Psycho" people. He's ammassed this collection of video footage of all these interviews. He's a huge "Psycho" fan. And so it's kind of hands off for me. He's the director, he's shaping it creatively. I'm stepping in more or less for business reasons and overseeing the budget and all the producing stuff that nobody likes to do.
I'm very excited about it because next year is the 50th anniversary of the original "Psycho". Somebody else had asked me why I did a documentary on "Friday the 13th", and the one simple answer to me is that everybody knows who Jason is... everybody. You could walk up and down the street and show a picture of Jason in one hand, and a picture of President Obama in the other, and I gurauntee you people would know who Jason was more than the President. It's the same thing witht he Psycho films. That's why you should do a retrospective, and the 50 year landmark is the perfect time to take a look back. So I'm optimistic about it.
So do you think you'll do even more of these in the future? Or do you think it's time to move on?
I want to do one more, I want to do "A Nightmare on Elm St." We're already talking with Warner Bro's about it. We're looking at the remake, coming out in 2010, it's that kind of thing where you want to look back. It's kind of a passing of the torch. That's how I looked at "His Name Was Jason", it's right on the cusp of the rebirth of the series and it's pretty much starting it over. It's a really nice time to look back at everything that came before. And with "Nightmare" it's the same thing. You can take a look at all those movies and see why they lasted. Critics have said that the "Nightmare" films have been the most artful horror films, and I agree. So there's a lot to talk about. So I think I'd be remiss in not doing just one more (laughs).