Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Dave Watkins: The Man Behind HERMAN JONES!

HERMAN JONES is the latest production from Georgia film-maker Dave R. Watkins and the feature length version will be making its way to film festivals across the country!  If you haven’t already heard about this maverick film-maker then you just haven’t seen the various short films and features he’s produced, written, directed, or starred in for almost twenty years. Watkins got his start as an actor in suck low budget films as The Middle of Nowhere (2002) and Jack O’Lantern (2004) before writing and producing his first web series Witch Hunters Extraordinaire, a quirky comedy and fantasy series.  Following this, Watkins worked in front and behind the scenes on several short films before directing his first feature Stragglers (2004), which he also starred and provided the screenplay for.  This led to his participation in the feature Return of the Jackalope (2006).  Return of the Jackalope was slow to film an audience so Watkins continued to hone his craft as an actor, writer, producer, or director in a string of short films from the zombie films Dead Vengeance (2009) and Zombieween (2009) but also in other genres such as Garbage Day (2008), Have Me For Dinner (2008), and Second Chances (2009).  In this time, he also managed to be a part of a few notable films (but varying degrees of importance) such as Dance of the De  It was with this experience on these bigger productions that Watkins would use his talents to create his most popular and enduring characters The Lumber Baron in the web series The Lumber Baron of Jasper County (2011-Present).
ad (2008), Bad Land (2007), The Other Side (2006) and Hell’s End (2005).

The Lumber Baron web series and spin-off short films was created by Watkins and frequent collaborator Michael D. Friedman and tells the misadventures of a cast of colorful characters in a lumber yard.  The series is funny, and you never know what’s going to happen next.  The series stars Watkins and Friedman but also a “who’s who” of Georgia talent such as Candace Mabry, Grant Garlinghouse, J.R. Francis, Brandy Goins, Ashlee Heath, Chris Burns, Jacki Flynn, and many, many more.  Even though the initial web series has run its course, this long running series continues to keep on going through various holiday themed specials and other shorts.

It was with the success of this web series that Herman Jones was born.  A horror-thriller completely removed from the world of the Lumber Baron (although it stars many of the actors from that series), Herman Jones started off as a nine-episode web series before being fine tuned into the feature film it currently is.  I don’t want to give away too much or spoil anything, but Joshua Haire stars a Herman Jones, a recluse who lives in his sister Jennifer’s (Amber Erwin) basement and suffers from delusions of a Mr. Murk (Watkins) and others that talk to him with only some pills to keep them at bay.  As his relationship with his girlfriend Christy (Krissy Notes) depends his world starts to unravel allowing Mr. Murk to have an influence which leads to some harrowing revelations that Herman may not be ready to handle yet.

I was able to sit down and talk with Watkins about his new film right after it’s World Festival Premiere at Something Wicked Film Festival (www.somethingwickedfilmfestival.com).

SOMETHING WICKED: What was the inspiration for HERMAN JONES?
DAVE WATKINS: Several years back, co-writer Nate Hill sent me an outline for a story called “Herman Jones Cannibal Slayer” and the name "Herman Jones" called to me.  We ended up not using much of the original outline except for the Herman character and the idea of a Cannibal Cult.

SW: How was the writing process for this production as opposed to any of your previous ones?
DW: It was similar in that after thinking about it for some time I sat down and started typing out the episodes, and as I did the story and the characters started coming together and after a few weeks I had rough drafts for the episodes.   Most of the structure stayed the same after that but I would go back and forth with Nate on the drafts and we would continue to tweak the dialogue and flesh out some of the ideas and the characters.  Eventually Nate brought in Michael Van Cleve to look over the episode scripts and he had some terrific and honest notes that helped fix a few plot holes and character beats.

SW: What was one of the most difficult aspects of this production?
DW: Scheduling the shoots and finding the time to do them.  It ended up taking a lot longer to shoot than I had anticipated, I was used to shooting fast with the comedy web series "Lumber Baron of Jasper County", but this was a different animal.

SW: Why did you originally choose to make it a web series?
DW: I like the format from a writing standpoint.  There’s something about the structure of the episodes that makes sense to me, it lends a little creative freedom that a rigid structured movie script doesn't.  I used to watch a lot of movies but now I mostly watch television and writing a web series is like writing a TV show.

SW: Will there be a Season 2?
DW: I would love to do more, but I’m not sure at this point.  I have some ideas about where the story and characters would go next, but don’t have a strong grasp on it yet.  Season One was a huge time commitment and I hesitate to jump back into it, but on the other hand I am invested in these characters.

SW: Tell me a little about the casting for HERMAN JONES.
DW: After we had all the scripts in a good place, I reached out to Joshua Haire to play Herman.  After he took the role, with Josh's help we built the rest of the cast from people we've worked with before and/or wanted to work with.  We didn’t audition anyone and I took a few leaps of faith on casting some actors I'd never worked with before, luckily it all worked out well.  

SW: Do you prefer to use actors that you’ve worked with before?  Why?
DW: I do often cast people I've worked with before, but I also enjoy pulling new people into the mix.  It depends on the character, it's nice to have the peace of mind knowing that the actor is going to pull it off and be reliable.   Also, I must say, this cast was terrific.  Everyone clicked together, and they were invested in their characters and they were all right for the parts that they played, and they were also understanding of the conditions we had to shoot in.  It makes a directors' job a lot easier when you have that.  There's a lot of chemistry between the cast members and some of that has come from the ease of working with the same people before.

SW: Why did you decide to also star in the show? 
DW: I don't play Herman Jones so I'm not the star, but the character I play, Mr. Murk, is in it a significant amount.  Sometimes it helps me connect better with the story and the other actors, but in this case it was also about not having to schedule another actor for almost every shoot for a character who often only looms in the background.

SW: Tell me a little about the character you play in HERMON JONES.
DW: There's eventually more to it than this, but it's a shadowy figure that follows Herman around and only Herman can see and hear it.  Like an imaginary friend that has manifested itself into reality.

SW:  One final question, what’s next for you?
DW: I’m working on producing some more “Lumber Baron” comedy content and considering doing some horror shorts.

You can look for HERMAN JONES to come to film festivals everywhere and to learn more about this and other productions from Dave Watkins go to IMDB - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1482625/ or http://lumberbarontheseries.com/

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