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Interview : Sweet Karma director Andrew Thomas Hunt talks Spare Parts

The splatter-ific new feature from director Andrew Thomas Hunt releases June 1.

As co-founder of Raven Banner Entertainment – the Canadian film company involved in the production and release of several titles we’ve previously covered at Moviehole, including Clapboard Jungle, Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro and Psycho Goreman – and now two-time feature film director, Andrew Thomas Hunt is a stalwart supporter and creator of out-there genre filmmaking.

His latest directorial effort, Spare Parts, is a kickass blend of grindhouse gore, punk-rock and body horror. From a script by David Murdoch and Svet Rouskov, Spare Parts stars Michelle Argyris (General Hospital), Emily Alatalo (Mother!), Kiriana Stanton (The Expanse) and Chelsea Muirhead (Slo Pitch) as an all-girl band who find themselves kidnapped by a deranged fan and forced to fight in a scrapyard arena for the satisfaction of The Emperor, played by Julian Richings (Anything for Jackson).

SPARE PARTS is set in a godforsaken bar in the middle of nowhere where an all-girl band – Ms. 45 – rips the stage apart with their punk spirit. But their performance impresses an enthusiastic fan who lures the girls into a trap, sedates them, and starts…customizing them. Slowly they begin to gain consciousness and, in total shock, realize their arms have all been replaced with axes and chainsaws to fight gladiator-style in a junkyard arena owned by a sadistic “emperor,” forcing them into the battle of their lives with one prize in mind – their freedom.

We spoke to Andrew about his work as a producer, the journey from Sweet Karma to Spare Parts, and the endearing cast at the forefront of this wild ride.

You’ve been rather busy as a producer in the last couple of years, but this is your first feature film as a director in quite a long time. What came first – Spare Parts, or the decision to return to the director’s chair?

Andrew: Yeah, as you pointed out, I directed Sweet Karma twelve years ago, and out of that Raven Banner was born. I’ve spent the last decade essentially helping other filmmakers get their films out to the world, distributed, produced and so on. 

I got into this business to be a director, and so I was eager to get behind the camera again. This idea was pitched to me about six years ago, during the Toronto International Film Festival. We loved the idea, and loved that it was a genre mashup – it wasn’t horror, it wasn’t quite action, it wasn’t quite a revenge film; but it has elements of all those films and all the films that I love, and all the films that Raven Banner has released. So it just seemed like a perfect fit for me.

When you work as a partner at Raven Banner, it’s still difficult to get a film made, to get it financed. But we managed to put together a million dollars and then boom, we’re off to the races.

Emily Alatalo as Emma – RLJE Films

You guys put a lot of films out, and I’ve really enjoyed much of your output in the last couple of years – for example, the documentary about Vampiro, which I did an interview for, in fact. You guys are out there putting all sorts of different things out, and it’s great to see such an interesting mix of movies.

Andrew: Yeah, thanks. I appreciate you saying that. Vampiro was a passion project of my business partner, Michael Paszt, who grew up as a lifelong wrestling fan and had a chance to bump into Vampiro, who he kind of knew. And out of this, that documentary was born.

We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve released some very cool films, and we’ve been involved with films like Psycho Goreman, Turbo Kid, Baskin, The Autopsy of Jane Doe and Deathgasm here in Canada. We’ve gone kind of full circle from Sweet Karma, getting back into production.

We partnered with a good friend of ours, Pasha Patriki, who’s a great producer. He’s also a director of photography, and he directed the film himself. So we’ve now done Vampiro, Spare Parts, The Fight Machine, and we’ve done The Breach, which was written by Nick Cutter, the author of The Troop and directed by Rodrigo Gudiño of Rue Morgue Magazine.

And then we’ve done two other films for Shudder that we literally just wrapped production on for both of those. One of them just wrapped yesterday, so we’ll have another one coming up later this year. So yeah, we’ve been busy.

Amy (Michelle Argyris) and Emma (Emily Alatalo) – RLJE Films

You have the superb Julian Richings in Spare Parts as The Emperor. He’s also a lot of fun, and he seems to have become a bit of a favourite for genre film fans, like in Anything for Jackson. What is it about Julian that you think makes him so fun as an antagonist? 

Andrew: Julian is, in many ways, a true actor. He’s known as a character actor, but he’s able to inhabit these characters so authentically. No matter what role he plays, you believe him. On top of that, he’s very giving of himself as an actor. He will work in anything from a big Hollywood production to a low-budget indie film, and is a true gentleman.

I met with him over lunch and we talked about the role, and I was just so thrilled when he accepted the offer to come on board the film. It certainly wasn’t a lot of money; he didn’t get rich off this film. But he’s just a wonderful human being, and a wonderful actor, and I hope I get the chance to work with him again, that’s for certain.

The Emperor (Julian Richings) – RLJE Films

That would be great to see. It’s nice to have actors who bring it all to the role no matter how big or small the production.

Andrew: Absolutely.

You also have four fantastic leading ladies, who make it so much fun and bring such physicality to the roles. Did you have each of the characters distinctly in mind when they were approached for the roles, or did the characters develop from your choice of actors?

Andrew: The characters were very much developed and existed on paper. But a film like this doesn’t get done a lot here in Toronto. Certainly, these strong female characters don’t get done a lot in genre films, sadly, and certainly not here. So we really had hundreds of actresses sending audition tapes and headshots for these characters. 

And these four actresses really rose to the top very quickly, not only because they can act but they could do their own stunts and fight choreography. And oddly enough, both of our actresses who played the lesbian couple in the film – Kiriana and Chelsea – identify as queer. So they brought an authenticity to that, and there was a genuine chemistry between them as they were acting.

Emily and Michelle playing sisters, they were two very different actresses in how they approach the scenes and how they approach characters. So even there, there was a little bit of a friendly competition in a way, a rivalry that lent itself to the sibling rivalry that they had on-screen.

Despite Spare Parts being a splatter-fest, grindhouse kind of film at its heart, there is actually a lot of character development in there; all the dynamics between each other as a band, as a couple as siblings. They all have their time to shine.

Andrew: Yeah, thanks. That was important to me. We’re creating a very fantastical world, and it’s really a fun, grindhouse, over-the-top Midnight Madness film in many respects, but I wanted to make sure that it still had some heart to it. I needed to have characters that you believed in, that you could maybe identify with, and that you were rooting for, you know?

RLJE FILMS will release SPARE PARTS on VOD, Digital, DVD and Blu-ray June 1.

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