IT CAME FROM DETROIT: Talking with Mike Hartman, the Man Behind Silver Bullet Pictures by Owen Keehnen

Dedication and determination are a couple keywords to describe indie horror writer / producer / director Mike Hartman. They don't call it the Motor City for nothing. While still in his teens this fuelled and driven Detroit based filmmaker founded Silver Bullet Pictures -- . In the 13 years since its inception his studio has produced a number of bloody and memorable horror delights of increasingly accomplished quality -- 'Beaver Lake Zombies', 'The Creep', and 'Detroit Blood City'. They have funded films from bar screenings and are even hosting an upcoming horror convention. This resourceful filmmaker is what the indie business is all about and we were able to lasso a bit of his spirit and enthusiasm in this exclusive interview.

  Hey Mike, you started Silver Bullet Pictures in 1993 at the age of 18. What was it that caused you to make that entrepeneural decision?

Like most Filmakers I started shooting backyard epics and showing them to friends at home. In 93 I wanted to start making better and longer films so I saved every penny I could, and bought my first hi-8 video camera and some analog editing equipment and started producing movies movies under the name Silver Bullet Pictures. I was still using friends as actors and crew that had worked on the short films I had made back in grade school. We would finish a movie and charge $5 a ticket to watch the movie on a large tv that we would set up anyplace that would rent us a room and then use the profits to shoot another no budget movie.

So did the company have a mission statement right off the bat -- like to make the most twisted and goreiffic Great Lakes features or to be a cinematic celebration of blood or something?

I guess at first, all I wanted to do was make a better movie each time. Back then and today, each production is a learning experience. I would read every book on filmmaking that I could get my hands on and I would would rent every horror video that came out and study them, we would try to recreate everything we saw from Savini , KNB and others to make the most gory and shocking fx possible as well as tell an interesting story . It took a while to get everything right and to produce a professional looking film that people would want to see.

You started doing all this so young...who were your big influences as a filmmaker?

Coming from Michigan and always being a horror fan my biggest influence was Sam Raimi. The Evil Dead was made a huge impact on me.

Do you recall the first movie you saw that scared the shit out of you?

I can remember being 7 or 8 years old and spending the night at my cozen's house and we were up late watching TV, The Shining was on and we saw the shower scene! Now this was probably the first time I had ever seen a naked woman and the first time I had ever seen a scene in a movie as frightening as this, now the funny part is, as we were watching this my aunt walked in the room, she made us turn it off and told us that if we told anyone that we had seen the movie that the old rotting woman in that scene would get us! What kind if thing is that to say to an 8 year old! No wonder I'm so demented!

That is pretty twisted! Tell me about your two biggest pictures 'Beaver Lake Zombies' and the gorelicious sequel 'Detroit Blood City'. How did the original concept come about and why was the sequel something you wanted to do?

Beaver Lake Zombies was shot in 2003 on a very low budget. I had been dieing to make a zombie movie since I was 12 years old and first saw the George Romero classic DAWN OF THE DEAD. Romero's Trilogy along with Return of the Living Dead were big influences. my thought process in making BLZ was to write and produce a film that I felt was good enough to screen in a theatre and at that time the old Roseville theatre was reopening and this would be the next step in getting one of my movies out to a larger audience. We premiered Beaver Lake Zombies at the Roseville on Aug. 17th 2006 and had 3 sold out shows! we sold a total of 450 tickets in one day and every video that we had made of the movie! Part of the success of Blz was due to the fact that I got my first lesson in advertising from the theatre owner John Kurczak. I had never sent out a press release before and he guided me through the process. We had stories in all the papers, we put up posters and flyers in all the business and bars in the area and had a great turn out! We made the sequel "Detroit Blood City" because people liked Beaver Lake Zombies so much and because I wanted to emulate one of my Idols George A. Romero. we were able to raise a considerable amount of money to do DBC and this was my first movie to use an all professional cast and crew. we held auditions at the Roseville Theatre for both actors and crew and were able to get large crew, all with commercial experience and, most importantly with there own equipment! This helped make the production 100 times more professional than other movies that I have made. We had a cast and crew of over 100 people and were able to shoot the movie over 12 consecutive saturdays in the summer of 2005 with a few extra days for some of the fx shots. The movie was very successful and continues to sell very well on our website and I just signed a distribution deal with Eyeless Entertainment in Germany where they will be dubbing into German.

Tell me about your newest writing/directing/producing horror feature 'The Creep'.

'The Creep' is a collection of short films produced by myself , Frank Levanduski (motor d films) and Dave Watson (Heavy Creatures FX) I will host each segment as "the creep" a character based on the many late night TV horror movie hosts of the past) its a very fun project.

I also want to hear about the next feature you're planning 'Zombie Cop'. What can moviegoers expect from that?

"Zombie Cop" will no longer be the title for our next feature. I thought I had a great title for a movie, but then I realized it was not my idea! J.R. Bookwalter ('The Dead Next Door') released a movie with that title about 15 years ago! so for now we are just calling it "sequel to 'Detroit Blood City'" until we come up with a new title. I don't want to give anything away but I can tell you that we are in the process of signing some big names on to the project and it will be even more disgusting than Detroit Blood City!

Something I really admire about your company too is the way you have developed a marketing niche for getting your pictures seen and appreciated by showing them in bars. Tell me about how you came to be known as the king of the 'Brew and View'?

'Brew and View' came out of necessity, by the time we had finished 'Detroit Blood City', the Roseville Theatre had gone out of business so we were kind of stuck with no place to screen our movie. so we decided to start asking bars with projection screens if we could take over the bar for a night and show our movies, we started doing this and filled the bars on nights where they would have been dead. The bar owners and waitress made a fortune and we were able to show our films to an audience. this has helped us raise money for our new projects.

Do you have a dream or goal as an independent filmmaker -- like something that would make you feel that Silver Bullet had lived up to its ultimate potential?

My goal is to be able to make films that people will recognize as being Silver Bullet Pictures movies. I have no big ideas of going to Hollywood and making crap for big money. Do I want big money? Hell Yes! But I would be happy to make indie films as a full time job.

So typically how crazy do things get with you guys when you are filming?

Things do get pretty crazy on the set, but I try to keep everything as proffesionall as I can, this reassures the actors and crew that the long hard hours of work that they are putting in for free are worth it.

What is the best way to get ahold of Silver Bullet Films?


Any other Silver Bullet news you would like to let the Racks and Razors readers know about?

We will be Hosting a one Day Indie Horror film-Fest and convention here in Detroit on Oct. 28th (GORE-FEST 06!) we have compiled a bunch of the best indie horror films sent into us from Filmmakers around the world and will be screening them at Gore-Fest we also have Toby Radloff (Killer Nerd) and Monique Dupree (Spider Man 3) as our celebrity guests this will be a great event and we hope to expand it next year into a 3 day event. we will also be appearing as guests at DARK X-MAS in Ohio Nov. 3, 4 and 5th ("")

Okay, we're pulling the car into the Mike Hartman Drive-In. What are the three movies that are on the triple bill and what munchies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

Here's the 3 films sitting on my desk in front of me right now. (1) Dawn Of The Dead(78) (2) The Toxic Avenger (3) Snapshot (Motor D Films)

Concession stand is loaded with Hooters chicken wings, Doritos, peanut butter cups and Mountain Dew. (sounds like a stoners banquet!)

What scares you in real life?

Carneys..........small hands, smell like cabbage.

What makes you go psycho in real life?

That cotton they put in pill bottles. when you pull it out and it squeaks in your hands its like nails on a chalk board to me.

Thanks for your time Mike and all the best to you and all the great folks at Silver Bullet.