his laid-back demeanor and easy smile,
Zachary Hansen 94C doesnt seem like the
kind of guy who would make a movie about a serial killer.
dinner in a Cuban restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, Hansen
leans back in his chair and admits as much. A lot of my
friends say theyre glad they met me before they saw the
film, he says. I was a bit angrier when I was younger.
moody psychothriller Killer Mewhich the thirty-two-year-old
Hansen wrote, directed, scored, and editedcaptures the
inner turmoil of a troubled criminology student who carries
a straight razor, lives in a small apartment with his goldfish,
and experiences frequent blackouts and violent visions. Shot
in eighteen days for $12,000, the film started out as Hansens
thesis project at the California Institute of the Arts in 1998.
wanted to tell a first-person story about what was going on
in someones mind, he says. Not much of the
story is from my own life, except the goldfish. I have incredible
luck with goldfish. They always live for two or three years.
Me, which recently has been released on DVD through Vanguard
Cinema, received rave reviews from criticsthe Los Angeles
Times called the film unsettling and beautifully
realized, Entertainment Today said it was a moody,
engrossing character study,CineFiles called it a rare
find, and Fangoria likened it to a slow, compelling
dance into dementia. The Hamptons International Film Festival
review compared Hansens style to the early work of Roman
Polanski. Killer Me also was selected to be shown at
Methodfest in Los Angeles and the 2001 Telluride Film Festival
Telluride, it was playing against Peter Bogdanovichs The
Cats Meow and a documentary about Jerry Garcia called
Grateful Dawg, but I ended up with a full house, including
Roger Ebert, says Hansen, who waited in the lobby during
the screening. I watched [Gene] Siskel and Eberts
Sneak Previews all the time on PBS when I was a kid,
so it was very exciting but also a little nerve-racking.
first started making films with a Super 8 camera when he was
in grade school in Tucson, using claymation to stage animated
space wars, and went on to crew feature films in Arizona and
got his bachelors degree in art history and film studies
from Emory. All the professors in the film studies program
were exceptional. [Associate] Professor Matthew Bernstein probably
had the most significant impact, he says. He had
a very straightforward way of teaching and was very idealistic
about the potential of cinema. Emory is more known for its professional
degrees, but the liberal studies programs there are top notch.
pursuing his MFA at CalArts, Hansen reached a personal
dead end with the experimental film format and began to
take out my frustrations by working on a small slasher film
in which a film student snuffs out his professors one by one
using various pieces of production equipment.
film evolved into Killer Me. Hansen enlisted cinematographer
Neal Fredericks, fresh from shooting The Blair Witch Project,
as his director of photography. Then he posted a brief casting
notice in L.A.s Back Stage West. Even though Hansen could
offer no pay, just meals and credit, he was inundated with close
to five thousand head shots and auditioned more than three hundred
before selecting his actors. Its L.A., he
says matter-of-factly. The talent pool here is incredible.
Foster, who had a bit part as a guitarist in Waynes World,
plays the male lead, Joseph Sturgeon, with a sublimated intensity,
and female lead Christina Kew almost disappears into her debut
role as Josephs timid yet persistent love interest, Anna.
film was shot at sixteen locationsincluding CalArts restrooms
and movie theater, the inside of a friends apartment,
and the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angelesin a little
more than three weeks. We had to work fast, Hansen
says. I was constantly cutting scenes and simplifying
then there was the challenge of making realistic-looking blood.
We used a lot of corn syrup and food coloring, with Oreo
cookies crumbled up in it to give it consistency, he says.
You can buy fake blood, but its cheaper to make
the blood, which appears on hands, clothing, and in an especially
creepy bathtub cleaning scene, the film isnt as gory as
one might expect. In fact, Sturgeon is never seen committing
a murder and may not even be a killer. Hansen wont say
either way. I want to leave that open-ended, he
films eerie soundtrack, which has garnered a lot of attention
among sound designers, was created when Hansen experimented
with a FisherPrice PXL2000 toy camcorder than belonged to his
younger sister. The sound comes out completely distorted,
slowed, with a low, repetitious hum, he says. I
was curious if it could be used to create an entire music score.
I recorded everything in my apartmentpots, pans, toy motors,
rubber ducks, a water faucet, then played them back.
dark films about would-be murderers are tough sells to mainstream
distributors, Hansens movie is moving well through on-line
orders (www.killerme.com) and he hopes it will eventually gain
a wider audience.
for Hansen, he refuses to be typecasthes already
written his next script, a martial arts comedy he describes
as The Karate Kid meets Rushmore. If you think hes
gone soft, though, think again. It will have what I hope
will be the greatest arm-breaking sequence ever seen on film.