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An Interview with Peter Litvin, Star, and Greg DeLiso, Director of Hectic Knife

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2016

Films starring Peter Litvin on (re)Search my Trash

Films directed by Greg DeLiso on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Hectic Knife - in a few  words, what is it about?


Greg DeLiso: For me it's about the jokes.


Peter Litvin: It's about this dumbass, lazy, crazy vigilante who hates his life. He's sick of killing bad guys. He does a bunch of stupid stuff, fights bad guys, gets a girlfriend - and so on.


How did the project fall together in the first place?


Greg DeLiso: Pete and I have known each other since high school back in Shelby Township Michigan about 15 years ago. But, we didn't really start collaborating until about 2009. That's when I moved onto Pete's couch in Brooklyn and we started making short films for nobody. Or, you know, shorts that were made just to make each other laugh, put on YouTube and get 50 views from confused family members over the next year.

We had a few little successes with The Room Rap, sadly, taken down by Tommy Wiseau. But for the most part he was a struggling musician and I was a struggling filmmaker.

Hectic Knife was just one of the shorts, not meant to be anything. But there was something magical in the raw footage of Pete flailing around with steak knives on our roof. As soon as I made it that high contrast, black and white (à la Pi) in Final Cut Pro it was a line we had to start following. We started casting people off of Craigslist and friends and developing characters and by about a month in we started to understand that we were making a feature length movie. We hadn't figured it all out yet, but we were on the right track. Then 6 years later it was done, haha!


Peter Litvin: Yeah, it was originally a short film (10 mins) that we wanted to develop into a web series because it was so stupid and funny. The first day of shooting the 2nd "episode", we realized we should just make a movie.


In my review of Hectic Knife I wrote it's "the perfect middle finger in the face of superhero cinema of today" - was this at all intentional, and your thoughts about superheroes in movies and comics as such?


Greg DeLiso: YES! For me, at times that's all it was but mostly we were just having fun. It's not just superhero movies though but all movies. The India flash backs have Indiana Jones style montages that take you to the training flashbacks in Kill Bill 1 or 2, whichever one those were in. Don't get me wrong, I grew up on Tarantino and I think Inglourious Basterds is one of the best movies in the last 15 years. But, i couldn't tell you the difference between Kill Bill and all the boring movies it's "borrowing from."

The superhero movies of today all glom together to me as one big trailer that's like 6 days long, or if it's the directors cut it's 8 days long, plus commentaries! So, making fun of those is like fish in a barrel and the broad strokes of Hectic Knife cover that. The hero who can't die for no reason, the belittled and mistreated female characters, the villain with vaguely menacing intentions. It's all that stuff.


Peter Litvin: I really enjoy comics, and some of my favorite stories have to do with superheroes. Specifically the bad-good guys like The Boys by Garth Ennis. As for movies, I've never seen a single Iron Man or X-Men movie, but I love Batman. Punisher is great too - although the movies suck.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Hectic Knife?


Greg DeLiso: The biggest influence on the comedy was David Wain. Wet Hot American Summer was a HUGE influence and I genuinely think he's the best filmmaker working today, and one of the best of all time. They Came Together was brilliant and he beat us to the punch in some ways, if it hasn't taken us 6 years to make!

Other comedies for me that informed the dialog and style are Airplane, Spaceballs, Freddy Got Fingered and Seinfeld. I grew up on Seinfeld and I'm probably his number one fan. When I go back and watch Seinfeld now I can see where certain line readings seeped in.


Peter Litvin: Stupidity and NYC native culture were also substantial influences. A lot of jokes in the movies are just personal jokes that Greg and I say to each other.


Hectic Knife features some absolutely weird fight scenes and techniques - so you just have to talk about those for a bit, and how were they conceived even?


Greg DeLiso: These are all owed to Pete's physicality. I really had nothing to do with the actual fighting itself. there's a shot in the movie, somewhere near the beginning, where I, behind the camera, experienced the Hectic Knife knife moves for the first time myself. Once I saw what Pete was doing I left him alone and he came up with it on his own. I just had fun shooting it!


Peter Litvin: Again, it's all back to my absolute adoration for all things absurd. A guy who's supposed to be a super hero dancing around like an asshole with a bunch of knives, making weird faces, crazy noises - completely disregarding the danger. Can it get any more absurd than that? Few things are as fun to me as absurdity in life. And life itself can be an absurd thing. The Comedian from Watchmen was aware of this!  As far as the actual moves go, I just like to go all out and be as intense as I can be on camera. Anything less seems like a mistake.


Do talk about Hectic Knife's rather unique brand of comedy for a bit, and how much of this was improvised on the spot, how much was in the script?


Greg DeLiso: In the very beginning we experimented with improvising and it left us with a lot of deleted scenes (coming soon on DVD from Troma, hehe!) and scenes that were difficult to edit because they had no hilt in pace. So early on we started writing and we tried to stay as close to our scripts as possible.

We never sat down and wrote a script from page 1 to 90 though. We wrote a script each week and then gave them to the actors the day of shooting.


Peter Litvin: Totally true, and yet - much of the stuff (perhaps most) that you see on screen was not scripted. We just fed lines to the actors. And the more stupid, the more nonsensical - the better. Hectic Knife's dinner with his dad was one of the few things that really stuck to the script... I think.


Peter, what were the main challenges producing Hectic Knife? And how hands-on or hands-off a producer are you actually, especially with you being on set all the time pretty much by design?


Peter Litvin: I'm as hands on as you can get. I'm one of those assholes who shows up early, makes sure everybody is happy, and kills himself to ensure that the whole thing runs smoothly. As a control freak, I generally want to handle as much of every production/preparation related work as I can. As for challenges, Hectic Knife was the first feature length film I ever worked on, so I didn't know shit. Luckily, if you're a nice guy, can think outside the box, and are willing to work your ass off - you can get a pretty decent result that way. Specifically, making any fight scene look and feel convincing was hard, and in retrospect, making sure that the story worked and made sense was really hard. We actually didn't even do a good job of that, and anybody who's seen the movie is probably aware of this to some degree. But the magic is in the editing and the voice overs, so we have Greg to thank for anything that actually appears to make 'sense'. I also didn't know anything about cameras, editing, and so on.


Greg, what can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?


Greg DeLiso: My job is to entertain the audience so in the case of Hectic Knife the focus was all about how to pace something with no real plot. When should things move faster, when should they slow down, how can we prepare the audience to go down the rabbit hole of the bagel scene with us.

I like being aware of the camera and moving it and blending handheld with other very specific camera moves or static compositions. So for me it was important that the bagel scene sort of regress into a handheld mess and then go into a very static, invisible push in when the camera comes out of the scene and switches to color.

The hope was that the more inventive all of that stuff was the more we could get away with the lack of story. And then the lack of story itself just becomes another joke and another way to make fun of Hollywood assembly line cinema AND vapid, boring indie cinema all at once! 

Visually, for me I looked to Pi for the look. The high contrast and natural grain of 16mm Tri X reversal stock, or whatever, translated perfectly to the DVX.

I kept it 4:3, the natural ratio of the DVX because I thought the boxiness of it contained the universe better. But also, if it was good enough for Kubrick it's good enough for me.


Peter, since you play the lead in Hectic Knife, did you write the role with yourself in mind, and how much Peter Litvin can we actually find in Hectic Knife (the character)?


Peter Litvin: I basically am Hectic Knife - except for his bad attitude. I like to make faces and do insane acts of physical comedy. I've been accused of speaking in monotone. I have great difficulty dealing with emotion. And though you'd have to be very close to me to know it, I certainly do have some meanness inside of me. I can be a very intolerant person, although it's voice is usually a silent one. The only things that Hectic Knife the character does not share with me are my musical abilities (although, that will change in Hectic Knife 2!), my struggles with drugs and alcohol (Hectic would never use drugs), and the extent of my ambitions.


What can you tell us about the rest of your key cast, and why exactly these people?


Greg DeLiso: It's a mixture of experienced pros and first time actors and Craigslist people. Link and Piggly Doctor were both musical clients of Pete's while Harry we found on Craigslist and Porch I had known and worked with before. And I think Georgia was a singer that Pete worked with.

Each person definitely brought a lot to their role. We sort of used each person as our muse while writing. I hope that doesn't offend anyone, haha! I just mean, we tried to give everyone good stuff to do that we knew they could do, and they all exceeded our expectations!


Peter: The joke at the end of the movie "We cast anyone who has a headshot" comes to mind... All jokes aside, some of the people in Hectic Knife are amazing actors. Others are funny characters. Others aren't even actors, and thus their performances were some of the funniest. My sister plays the waitress.


What was the collaboration between the two of you actually like, both during writing and shooting?


Greg DeLiso: Classic Coen Brothers style two headed monster thing. Pete and I are like a Venn diagram with Hectic Knife in the middle.


Peter Litvin: Fun, hectic, stressful, and generally one of the greatest things I've ever known in this life. We fight each other hard for an idea that we think is right, and thus drive one another absolutely batshit crazy at times.


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


Greg DeLiso: 95% of the time it was really really fun! The other 5% is just like regular movie making difficulties and stuff. We really tried to have fun on set, get the work done and let the fun of shooting translate to what's on screen. We had such a small crew, or no crew, that it was all about the energy between me behind the camera and the actors without any other distractions.


Peter Litvin: It was fun, and funny - and whatever else you can say about the actors, they were all really, really cool nice people. I've worked with more actors since then, and I now realize how great the Hectic Knife crew really was. Thank you for that.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie?


Greg DeLiso: So far so good, fingers crossed! So far I've been really happy that a few of my friends and even some people I didn't know from before are not only liking it and laughing but get it too!


Peter Litvin: We've gotten two 5 star reviews, a bunch of random write ups, vlogger reviews, etc - and there's a lot more stuff coming down the pipeline. So far, nobody has said "this movie sucks, it's a piece of shit." I'm sure it's only a mater of time though. Obviously Hectic Knife is not for everybody, and it certainly is not for most people. I will say, I am surprised when I learn that artsy intellectual types like the movie. I think that the fact that the movie doesn't pretend to be something it's not, and does a good job of making fun of itself helps that. The final line in the movie is "This film sucks". That said, I am absolutely thrilled and enamored with the fact that people seem to be responding so well to the film. I maintain that I never actually "saw" Hectic Knife until I watched it with a room full of other people.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Greg DeLiso: Hectic Knife 2!!


Peter Litvin; I have a new album coming out in october called Dreamland Magic Spells, and a music video for my single Zombie Movie. And yes, of course - the next 2 years of my life are going to be devoted to Hectic Knife 2, which will be so much crazier and bigger than Hectic Knife 1... in fact... I'm a bit scared... no I'm just excited. The world will be hearing a lot more about Hectic Knife 2 very soon.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


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Instagram: #hecticknife


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


Peter: We're looking for people to help us with Hectic Knife screenings. Anywhere in the world - if you think that you can get together a group of people to watch Hectic Knife, please email me at, and we'll set something up. We're looking to help other filmmakers out as well. Greg and I will gladly visit your town or country and be there to do a meet and greet, Q & A, or just hang with you.


Thanks for the interview!


Peter & Greg: thank you!!!!!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


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