Speaking with the Godfather of Sleepaway Camp: Robert Hiltzik by Greg Tiderington

Anyone who is a fan of the cheesy but cult classic slasher flick 'Sleepaway Camp' would know who Robert Hiltzik is as he was a student graduate when he went right into shooting the film in the fall of 1982. Over the years the film grew on old and young fans especially with that twisted ending that even non-fans remembered. He knew how to make the film mysterious. Afterwards, Hiltzik started a family of his own and even became a self-employed lawyer. He met up with Jeff Hayes from www.sleepawaycampmovies.com as they put together a reunion convention along with Felissa Rose. Due to the popularity of the film over the years Hiltzik made a sequel that should be out this year titled 'Return to Sleepaway Camp'. I had the pleasure to talk to Robert by phone at his office as he found some time to answer my questions and had a very nice sense of humor. Plus, he wrote a thrid installment of the 'Sleepaway' series titled 'Sleepaway Camp: The Reunion' as he will more than likely plan to shoot after the release of 'Return to Sleepaway Camp'


At what age did you see yourself as a filmmaker?

I always enjoyed movies and never considered going into filmmaking but always wanted to take acting lessons and never did. I never got into filmmaking until I graduated from college. My friends were going to film school at NYU and I got in.

Did you see yourself making horror films?

That was not the objective. I haven't thought of the genre. I always liked action films.

Have you seen the films 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre', 'Halloween', 'Prom Night' and 'Friday the 13 th' and were influenced by them?

No I was not influenced by them. I saw first Friday the 13th. Prom Night I didn't see. I saw the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre but I was not influenced by neither.

When you went to filmschool have you ever discussed to anyone about your idea of 'Sleepaway Camp'?


What brought up the idea to make the film?

I did not want to start out in the industry fetching coffee. I was trained as a filmmaker and wanted to start out right away.

How did you find the late Mike Kellin?

(Laughs) 'Midnight Express'. Actually my producer called him at home as his agent didn't want him to do it.

Was the producer who called him Jerry Silva?

No Michelle Tatosian.

Were there any actors or actresses that tried out for the parts like Ricky, Angela or Judy that weren't cast but made it big in the business that you know of?

Yeah, Jane Krakowski she was gonna be Judy. It's between her and Karen Fields and for whatever reason. She was very good good though then and I could tell she did a great audtion and had a lot of talent.

How old was Karen?

I didn't know but older than Jane.

Were there other locations that you had in mind to shoot Camp Arawak that were also locations for other films that you remember?


What month was your first shooting for it?

Oh probably September. Whatever year it was. I usually get it wrong.

Were there any interesting experiences you'd like to share with us on set of shooting?

Uhh.... I don't know off hand.

What effects were used when the boat ran over Peter's father? Was a dummy used for Tursi when the boat ran him over?

I never give away my film secret takes away the magic.

Was the inside of Aunt Martha's house a different house than what it was shown when it showed her house?

I don't believe so. I believe it was the same house. Not a studio.

Lots of people find Desiree Gould a lot like Aunt Martha. What was she like to work with?

Terrific. Acceptionally nice, professional and enthusiastic.

Now did Ricky know Angela was really Peter or did Aunt Martha tell him that Peter died?

Ricky did not know Angela was Peter and he Didn't know that Angela was a killer.

How old were the characters Angela and Ricky when they went to camp?

I believe they were about 12 or 13.

What did Angela/Peter do most of the time before going to camp? Did he go to school or anything?

Yes he was in school. Camp is a different environment with very little authority. School teachers are adults. Camp's have kids in charge of kids. Most counselors are 18, 19 and 20 years old. Teachers have masters degrees and families of their own. Camp is a different dynamic.

Felissa Rose brought the character Angela to life. When she auditioned did you think instantly that she was a natural and said to yourself I want her!!!!

I believe I did.

Did you have a good feeling that she would still carry on with her acting career afterwards?


Jonathan Tiersten also was a natural as Ricky. He didn't stick with acting for very long as he was burned by the business and only did a handful of daytime TV shows afterwards and some commercials since he wanted to be a musician, but if he stuck to the business like Christopher Collet did, could you have seen him go far as an actor like Chris did?

Yes, definetely.

Has he ever discussed to you during breaks from shooting the film about his ambition as a rock singer and guitarist?

I don't believe so.

During the scene when Artie had boiling water dumped on him was dry ice used for smoke?

It was boiling water. He was scolded.(Laughs)

It had to be the most gruesome scene ever. Ed French was great with the make up. Was Owen Hughes who played Artie disturbed when he read his scene when the water was going to be dumped on him?

No. Owen Hughes was terrific. I loved working with him. I loved the way he played the character.

Many fans have asked this. Did Artie die in the ambulance or do you think he may return someday in a sequel?

Did you see him die?


Then I don't know.

Do you know if Robert Earl Jones who played the assistant cook Ben is still alive or not? I sometimes mistaken him for his son James.

I believe he passed away. He was a wonderful man and fun to work with.

During the softball scene was there a lot of bloopers as softball can be a tough game?

Um... Not as many as I thought there'd be. We didn't have time for too many bloopers and had a lot of work . Fortuantely all of it worked out.

Were many of the actors involved well experienced in sports?

I think so. The kids were.

John Dunn who played the troublemaking Kenny represented himself well. Apparently his role as Tad in the daytime soap 'All My Children' his character was similar in some ways as he smoked pot apparently in the soap as well. Did you create his character off of that series since he won a youth award in the series?

I never saw him on the soap. People auditioned and were working cold. Whatever they have done in the way weren't necessarily irrevellant. Most part of the casting a lot of the pooling experience kids there isn't a lot of vast experience cause it was NY and there was not a lot of TV or film compared to Los Angeles.

There were many retakes of John's character and Tom Van Dell's character Mike mocking Angela which was played by Felissa. They couldn't stop laughing and I heard that it took all night. Was there any frusterations because of this and were many getting extremely tired?

I don't think that's true that it was shot all night. There was alot of work that night. Laughing was not a problem. A little giggly maybe but we got through it. Just a rumor.

John apparently broke his hand when he flipped over the canoe. Was it weeks till he had to do the other scenes? What did you shoot in between?

We kept shooting.

Was he commenting ever about how freezing cold the water was since it was fall?

No. It was cold shooting outside. We were out in the mountains and it was cold. Fall during the day the temperature was 70 to 80 degress and in the night it can be 40.

I understand that when he did 'Sleepaway Camp' that he said it would be his last acting gig as he was tired of doing it since he has been acting since he was 5 and also was concentrating on his grad year at school. Did you think that he could've had a promising career acting in other films even if it was low budget?

Oh sure.

Was he ever discussing going to college to to get a degree as an executive for TV stations?

He never discussed that with me.

Did you give Felissa a technique so she wouldn't get hurt when Loris Sallahian's character Billy threw a water balloon at her?

Yes. Get hit with the water balloon and fall down.

When Billy got stung by bees were there really bees flying around and was that a real bee's nest?


How did you get a bunch of bees to go on the dummy's face of Billy? Did you use honey or anything?

They were on his face he was a sweet guy.

Did any crew members accidentally get stung?

No. The Bees only wanted Billy.

What confused me was when Katherine Kamhi's character Meg threw Angela into the lake how come Angela wasn't powerful enough to defend himself like he was powerful enough to drown Kenny?

Well that would give away the masquerade. Why didn't Angela not dress up as a girl anymore. Why was everything so secretive. She was on a different mental plane. Understand the mind of a serial killer.

Were you ever worried about Felissa getting hurt when Kathy was to throw her into the lake off the pier?

Yes. Safety precautions are high around children.