Emily Hagins Interview
Ryan Revolver


How to begin? Guessing you start with a certain up-and-coming Austin filmmaker, her movie, and a certain film festival that takes place every March. This isn’t her first rodeo. In fact she has worn the director’s hat going on 8 years. Then you drop the bomb that she is 20. At the age where some are in their second year in film school, Emily is anticipating her second time attending SXSW as a filmmaker. Her latest film, Grow Up, Tony Phillips, is a coming of age story revolving around Halloween.


There are three screenings during SXSW to chose from. If you're going to be in the madness that is downtown Tuesday, March 12th @ Vimeo Theater, or Thursday, March 14th @ Rollins Theatre at The Long Center need to be on your radar. 


Want to catch the film (but don't have a badge or film wristband thingy) and are an Austin resident? Then mosey on over to the Alamo Village on Wednesday, March 13th. Grow Up, Tony Phillips starts at 11:30am (show up early to guarantee entry).


KLBJ: Did you watch the Oscars?


Emily Hagins: I did yeah


KLBJ: What did you think of Seth MacFarlane?


EH: Yeah, I don’t know. He was okay. He didn’t particularly rub me the wrong way or anything like that. I was like, uh Family Guy…


KLBJ: Was there a certain category that you were honing in on? A certain film winning?


EH: I was really into the animated category, cause I really loved The Pirates and Frankenweenie. I knew neither one of them were gonna win [laughs] over the Disney option. I guess Frankenweenie is Disney. Pixar I guess always has to win. I liked Brave though! I guess my least favorite was Wreck-It Ralph. I still liked it. So I guess that category I was really happy with all the nominees. And then live action shorts. But everything else I could really care less about. I liked Argo, I guess [laughs]...


KLBJ: [laugh] You guess?


EH: It wasn't a bad movie at all, it was just kind of exists. I guess [laugh]. What about you?


KLBJ: I'm a dork for documentaries, so I was wanting The Invisible War to win for best documentary. And then I love Alan Arkin and John Malkovich. they’re the kind of go to crazy older guys you know? So, I was wanting Alan Arkin for...


EH: Argo?


KLBJ: Yeah Argo-for best supporting actor.


EH: He's so great.


KLBJ: He was! When he goes in there, and he just delivers his lines. He's so angry. Yet he's not like yelling. He's just like telling it how it is. I loved Little Miss Sunshine.


EH: Yeah.


KLBJ: F****** fried chicken again!


EH: [laughs]


KLBJ: That was a great line.


EH: I wish he was my grandpa.


KLBJ: What was one of the first lessons you learned in the director’s chair?


EH: I guess...man I was just winging it the whole time. I think I really learned a lot about pre-production and value of planning things before. Assembling a team, I just didn't have anybody to go to, so I was just doing it all myself. But then you're spreading yourself to thin, and you can't really focus on directing. So as I got older I could really hone in on the skill set I wanted to...I guess really learn more about...I guess work with a team that could do other things like sound, and producing, and camerawork and stuff like that so I didn't have to be doing you know wearing all these hats. I'm really glad I did because I got to learn what to ask for from the people doing this job. Lots of lessons, for sure.


KLBJ: What’s the worst aspect of your job?


EH: The worst aspect? Actors! [laughs] No, I'm just kidding. I don't know. All the things that kind of seem negative like problem solving, when things go wrong I really enjoy because it's kind of like solving a puzzle you know? And figuring out the way you’re supposed to make the movie after all. Because of course things don’t go exactly the way you planned months ago. I really love directing, I guess I don’t love when it seems like a problem is unsolvable [laughs]. Can the whole idea and start from scratch. I really enjoy the times that are most challenging. I think it’s easy to love a job if it’s easy to do. No matter what it is. You could love stocking groceries if it didn't involve heavy lifting.


KLBJ: If you weren't directing what do you honestly think you would be doing?


EH: Stocking groceries [laughs]. I don't know. I...probably something film related. I love editing. I love...I don't know. I watch a lot of movies. That’s kind of what I do in my free time [laughs]. I wish I had a better answer.


KLBJ: It works. You've kind of mastered doing more with less in regards to budget. Do you even need a large budget? Is there anything, like a future project, where you would need seven figures?


EH: I think it’s important recognize whatever project you're passionate about making what level it’s on. A movie like Grow Up, Tony Phillips is not a movie that we need twenty million dollars for because it’s such a simple idea that we could film in Austin with our team and everything. I definitely have ideas that are bigger scale, I think it’s important not to make those ideas now when I don’t have that money, you know? So to really focus on what you can do with what you have because then you can really perfect the process. Actually I thought of the worst thing! Making compromises! Which is what I was trying to say, I guess. But feeling like you’re not doing the best you can do because you just can’t. You don’t have the money to pay somebody to do this, or you don’t have the money to something artistically. Or have enough time. I think it just depends on the project. I think it shouldn’t...one of our producers on Tony Phillips said this in our Kickstarter: it shouldn’t be a luxury to pay people to do a job. Cause even with something like film, everyone's working so hard for long hours. Manual labor. Like you’re moving lights and holding boom poles, and it’s a lot more exhausting than it may seem. I'm just a really big supporter of the team, and everyone's hard work.


KLBJ: Have you had any problems getting permits from the City of Austin?


EH: Austin, unlike L.A., you can film out on the street as long as you’re not blocking public right-of-way. We could be filming out there on the sidewalk as long as if somebody walks by we just let them walk by whenever they wanted to. They can interrupt a take. We just can’t stop them. That's the only requirement in Austin. I had to get a permit to shoot in a park once, and that was no problem. I went and asked them, and they were like sure! [laughs]


KLBJ: Is there an actor/actress, or anyone else: a key grip, best boy maybe even a catering company [laughs] that you would want to work with in the future that might be in your head unfeasible?


EH: Hmmm. I don't know. There are a lot of effects companies that I would think would be really fun to work with, with a higher budget. It would require a project that needed those kind of effects. I really like a lot of our team a lot. I think when people are willing to do things on a small scale for the love of making movies it really shows a lot about them when it’s not about the budget. It makes me want to have the budget to pay them all the more. Cause they just have so much passion.


KLBJ: You've always written your own screenplays. Have you ever thought about picking up someone else's screenplay, or co-writing with someone?


EH: Yeah. I'm definitely open to it. No one's handing me scripts, so I just have to keep writing myself. I'm actually working on a book adaptation right now-which I don't know how that’s going to work out. I can’t talk much about it, yet. That’s been an interesting process, to kind of break down a book and see what works from a cinematic standpoint.


KLBJ: What is something we can learn from the future upcoming Grow Up, Tony Phillips directors commentary?


EH: Directors commentary. Oh know. I guess the movie takes place in the fall at Halloween...and in Texas we don't have much of a fall here. The leaves are kind of green all year round, or they just all fall out in the winter. We shot right after Halloween. I would have nightmares before and during production where we would finally find trees that the leaves had changed colors. But then it turns out there just all on fire, and our set would burn down. So pretty much anytime I'll talk about production design and how I'll have nightmares about it. We had a great production design team, and they really pulled it off in the color scheme of the outfits and the...we horded all these pumpkins for months. There still on set. People are afraid to touch, because they've been there for six months. Probably lots of things about recreating a fall that we do not have in Texas.


KLBJ: When you were writing the character Tony, did you imagine that he would be able to connect with audiences much older than him?


EH: That was the goal. I guess to me I went to a high school that was kind of nerdy and really academically focused. I didn’t really have this key experienced that is portrayed in a lot of movies of lots of sex and drugs and alcohol.


KLBJ: Perks of Being a Wallflower?


EH: Yeah. Which, I think that’s a good movie. I think it’s a very good movie. I actually think it connects really well to older audiences from a nostalgic standpoint. But this movie, what I wanted to do was make a movie about the transition of kind of realizing where you are. Almost becoming an adult, without anything crazy happening to you. Like, I think it’s a very normal process. For Tony Phillips its Halloween. For me it was making movies. I think there’s all this pressure to go to college, to kind of follow this very specific path into adulthood when I think a lot of kids aren't sure of themselves. So it’s very much like a natural transition kind of movie. It’s not like his best friend dies and he’s hoping and coming of age. Nothing like that. Which sounds boring saying it! But there’s lot of fun Halloween stuff and comedic things. I just wanted to make something very true and genuine while I was so close to the high school experience in my own age.


KLBJ: Where did the idea of Grow Up, Tony Phillips come from?


EH: I know this guy Tony [Vespe] for like ten years, and he's a good friend of mine. He's in all of my movies. He's a little crazy. He's like the comedic element in all my movies. I really wanted to make a movie about Halloween, and it all just came together. I wanted to make a movie about Tony, and I wanted to make a movie about Halloween! I told Tony what the idea was and he said: "Oh yeah that happened to me. I trick-or-treated when I was 18 and it was really awkward." And I was all like ok cool...well there will be a movie about it now [laughs].


KLBJ: The industry is in a funny place right now. You can stream movies on Amazon while they're still in theaters, 48 frames per second. I know you're a big Peter Jackson fan. Where do you kind of see the future of the industry going? Both in filming, and also distribution.


EH: That’s really interesting. I think right now, because technology is constantly changing, that people have to be pushing the limit. Like 48 frames. Like, I think that's kind of the limit. Cause people aren't happy with it. Audiences are like "it’s distracting. Oh it looks like a soap opera." They just have to try those things to see what happens because they just don’t know yet. I think it’s the best way to do it, is trial and error. I think it’s the same way with distribution. I don’t think online distribution is gonna take over for movie theaters. I think people have to be testing the waters to see what the happy balance or happy medium or whatever is for incorporating technology, but also keeping the spirit of making movies alive. Every filmmaker wants to see there movie in a theater [laughs]. I think people will always have that option, but use technology and new innovations to pad the spirit of movies.  I don't think anything new will completely take over what is traditional for filmmaking.


KLBJ: Is there a question that you've always wanted someone to ask you during an interview, but some jerk has never asked?


EH: I don't know! I wish I had a great question off the top of my head. I don't know. I don't. My least favorite question...


KLBJ: [laughs] your age?


EH: Yeah! Whats it like to be a women? Uh what? [laughs]


KLBJ: When I was doing initial research “Google search Emily Hagins interview” and the only time I’ve been on Seventeen.com was for that.


EH: [laughs]


KLBJ: I'm not going to ask any questions about age, or gender, or how do you more females in the industry.


EH: [laughs] Thank you!


KLBJ: Maybe if Kathryn Bigelow would have gotten best director instead of Ang Lee that would have helped.


EH: Oh yeah.


KLBJ: But she's already won...so.


EH: She has won. I think she's an interesting case cause her movies are so testosterone filled. You know? There not like chick flicks. And she's the women who won the Oscar. You know?


KLBJ: She beat out Avatar. Take that James Cameron!


EH: And technology. I can't believe they stopped making films with film cameras. It doesn't seem like a new thing should have to replace an old thing. You know? It's like when you start making movies that’s what you aspire to be. Take a step up and stop shooting on little hand held home video cameras and you start shooting on pro-consumer cameras, which they don’t really make those anymore. Then you start shooting on DSLR's and then the Red, and the Alexa. Then you kind of always want to shoot on film! Cause film is film!


KLBJ: Was Grow Up, Tony Phillips shot on film?


EH: No. It was shot on the Red. It was such a cost efficient thing. It was a great camera. We had a great cinematographer. He owned the camera, so he knew it very well. Whenever there was an issue or we needed camera support...it just worked out very well. I shot a TV movie in October, and we shot it on the Alexa, which is also very nice. But still when you make movies, it still is movies [laughs]. You always want to do that. Even though it's not as efficient I guess as shooting digital these days. I don't think [film] it should have to go away.


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