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An Inteview with E.B. Hughes, Director of Exit 0

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2020

Films directed by E.B. Hughes on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Exit 0 - in a few words, what is it about?


A psychological journey seen through the eyes of the lead character Billy Curtis (played by Gabe Fazio).


What were your sources of inspiration when writing Exit 0?


I literally had no films I used as inspiration. Certainly subconsciously, I viewed the films like The Changeling with George C. Scott, or Burnt Offerings, or The Tenant by Polanski come to mind, but only because they took place in large haunted homes. What I set out to do is tell a story that takes place mainly in one location, and has a feeling of claustrophobia, so strong that the audience can feel it, almost like they (the audience) are the main character.


You wrote the story for Exit 0 together with Gregory Voigt, who also produced - so what can you tell us about him, and what was your collaboration like?


Greg and I met through social media. Greg had produced and directed several short films. He and his family saw my last film Turnabout, and we struck up a conversation about collaborating. Greg wanted to move on to do a feature film. I had sent him roughly 50 pages of a script I was working on called "Exit 0", and Greg and I would bounce around ideas, especially when it came to the ending, his input was much needed.


Exit 0 is pretty much told from the movie's protagonist Billy's point of view, frequently favours his perception of what might really be going on - so how hard is it to not just lose the plot telling a story that way?


It is extremely difficult. This is why it's important to keep the story moving along with several subplots and clues, including perhaps the house being haunted, and also the writer character (played by Peter Greene), which has a lot to do with Billy's past. There's a mystery in there as well regarding the ending, so trying to tie all that together was vitally important. This is why the character of the detective comes in handy, because he is the outsider who kind of wraps up all the loose ends, through solving an age-old crime.


What can you tell us about Exit 0's approach to horror?


Well, I wanted to stray from the whole gore factor. So it was important to show some things, then pull away just a bit at the last minute. This goes back to seeing the story through the POV of Billy's character. I wanted to keep it as real as possible, and also have it be more of a psychological trip. I think a lot of times, the usage of blood and guts in films is too played out, and it is basically lazy storytelling. I really wanted to tell a story, to have the audience feel like they were a fly on the wall, and like they were in on it with Billy & Lisa.


I think location plays a big role in Exit 0 - so where was it actually filmed, why there, and what was it like shooting there?


It was shot on location at a very old Victorian inn/bed and breakfast, not far from Cape May, New Jersey. The name is the Dr's Inn. The home was built in the 1850's. I was searching for a location for the inn, and literally stumbled across it one day when I was driving, and stopped at a traffic light. The beautiful Victorian home is owned by Lorraine Nicholas. She was incredibly kind in not only allowing us to shoot there, but most of the cast and crew stayed there as well. Beside that, it was almost like another character in the movie. I love that place, I have very fond memories of shooting there. We did very little in terms of decorating it, or using props. What you see and how the place really is.


A few words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?


I guess the term that comes to mind is "an actor's director", and that may be partly true. I try and stay out of the way of what the actors are doing. I like them to figure it out, and obviously if they are going off course, I come in with suggestions, or tweaks here and there. I was quite lucky on this film. I felt like everybody came with their A-game.


Do talk about Exit 0's cast, and why exactly these people?


Well, I had never worked with Gabe Fazio or Augie Duke before. I believe myself and Mary (executive producer) and Greg Voigt were considering many people, and literally going through lists of people. We had approached some, and a few really good actors considered the part of Billy. But I had remembered the name of Gabe Fazio through several contacts in New York, and he is part of the Actors Studio. So I basically contacted him, sent him the script, next thing I know he calls up and tells me "I'm in." When considering the role of Lisa, it too was going through several names, then at the suggestion of Gabe we contacted Augie, who had worked with Gabe on another film. She loved the script as well, they have great chemistry, and I think it shows. I had known Federico Castelluccio, who is probably best know from The Sopranos, and we are friends and have worked together in the past, so I just approached him for Detective Mueller, and I just think he is wonderful, as is Kenneth McGregor as Frederick, the innkeeper. I've known Ken for years, a very well-polished actor, and casting him was another move that paid off. Peter Greene is a dear friend, he was in my last film Turnabout, so I asked him to come in for a day to play this eccentric writer character. He played it very creepy, and I think again another good choice. I really lucked out, all the smaller roles, they are also important roles. Danny O'Shea as Charles, the guide at the lighthouse is fantastic, and I had known about his work for years. Mostly New York-based actors, except for Augie Duke who lives in Los Angeles. The bottom line is, if we didn't buy into Augie & Gabe as Billy and Lisa, this film would fail. So their incredible performances is why the film works so well.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


The film was shot in 12 days, and like I said, most of us stayed in the Dr's Inn. The shoot was relaxed, like a big family. Everybody worked extremely hard. The cinematographer William Murray is a close friend, we have shot several projects together, so I knew I could rely on him and his eye for detail. The crew was small, maybe 10-12 people total - which really for a film like this is plenty. But it was literally like a big family, and all working together for one common goal, to accomplish shooting a film in 12 days. Some of the days were very long, but no-one ever complained. 


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Exit 0?


The reception has been very positive. It has won over twenty awards at film festivals. It has screened at over thirty film festivals, and really everything has been positive. I do enjoy the Q&A sessions, because everyone seems to have a different take on what the film was about, or their experience when watching it, so I just like to sit back and listen to what others have to say about it. 


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I have several. I'm working on a project called Blood Draw written by Garry Michael White, who wrote the incredible film Scarecrow from 1973 starring Al Pacino and Gene Hackman. So we are in the midst of trying to get investors on board for that. I also have a pet project of mine called The Art of Dying; the Act of Living, which would reunite me with Peter Greene again. Peter is most known for Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Mask. He literally told me it's the best script he has read since Clean, Shaven (1993). Aiming to shoot that later this year in Atlantic City, NJ.


What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I'm what you would call a film school dropout. I started out as a professional sports photographer working for Ring Magazine when I was 17 years old. I covered boxing matches in New York, Atlantic City, Las Vegas. I did this for ten years. But when I was 20 years old, I wrote my first screenplay. So, I tried the film school route, but it just wasn't for me. I ended up dropping out, and I wrote, produced and directed my first short film A Distant Chord in 1993. I shot it on 16mm, black and white. I then followed that up with a short film called Harsh Light (1997) starring New York actors, and my mentor, the late great Nathan George (One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Klute, Serpico). It was his last performance in a film. I learned more about filmmaking doing those two short films, than I would've learned in four years of film school.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Exit 0?


I have written about 35 screenplays. I was a finalist in the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting when I was 23. I sold my first screenplay to director Joe Brewster (The Keeper, The Killing Zone, Slaying Goliath) in 2003. I sold my second screenplay The Messenger (which they changed to The Fallen Faithful) in 2008, and they shot that in 2010. I won Best Screenplay at the Beverly Hills Film Festival in 2011 for that film. After that experience, I self-financed my first feature film called Pacing the Cage, which I have done extensive edits on, and am re-releasing it under a different title this year. In 2016 my second feature film Turnabout, which I wrote, produced and directed, received a lot of acclaim at various film festivals, and is being re-released this year by a company called BayView Entertainment, so keep your eye out for that as well.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Detail-oriented, vision-oriented. I let actors do their thing - within reason. As long as they tell the story, that's all that counts. I also despise when films are very poorly acted, or seem like people are reciting the script. You won't see that in my movies. I try and make it as real as possible.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


John Cassavetes, Hal Ashby, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Bob Rafelson, Jerry Schatzberg, Arthur Penn.


Your favourite movies?


Five Easy Pieces, The King of Marvin Gardens, Scarecrow, Cinderella Liberty, Midnight Cowboy, Fat City, Fingers, The Last Detail, Day of the Locust, Night Moves.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


Anything big and usually mainstream. I don't like blockbuster films. I usually avoid anything that is really popular at the moment. So my list could be endless. I'm not a film snob, I'm just set in my ways.


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Nope, you pretty much covered it. Thank you for your time.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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On the same day
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and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD