Interview: Robert Huttinger on the film, “Vampire Wedding,” and the Movie Industry’s Future

Robert Huttinger is the current writer for the comic book and movie Vampire Wedding. Born in Vienna, Austria, Huttinger has worked on the TV series Cobra 11, and Cops...

Robert Huttinger is the current writer for the comic book and movie Vampire Wedding. Born in Vienna, Austria, Huttinger has worked on the TV series Cobra 11, and Cops 2000, and he is working on a film titled Kiss The Frog. The premise of Vampire Wedding focuses on a wedding planner who finds herself surrounded by Vampires wanting to take of over the world. Huttinger currently lives in London and may be the midnight vigilante known as the Royal Revenger.

You can learn about the Vampire Wedding movie, comic book, or online casting competition at its homepage here.

Nicholas Yanes: Before we get into Vampire Wedding, could share your thoughts on how you entered the film industry?

Robert Huttinger: Comics and film were a part of my life for as long as I can think back. As a kid I’ve spent most of my time drawing, and writing stories. After school, I studied journalism and ethnology at the Vienna University and I signed up for literature and theatre classes. I remember signing up for a class on film analysis one day. It was an eye-opener in terms of finding out what was said “between the frames,” the thought process and work involved in bringing a story to the screen, visually. This lecturer also owned a private film school in Vienna, so I signed up and got my degree in screenwriting and directing for film and TV two years later.

After finishing my degree I called an agency which just happened to have openings for staff writers for a new TV series on RTL in Cologne. I submitted a treatment and a spec script, which I have written during film school, and a day later they rang back and invited me to a writer’s audition. Out of hundreds they chose eight writers to work in a team to create a new action TV series. It was an interesting social experiment. We got the series down on paper in time and it was picked up and put in production by RTL but survived only two seasons. After a couple of years I got fed up with the repetitive business of writing for TV and I moved to Los Angeles, where I spent the next four years networking, working on film sets, going to UCLA film production classes and of course writing. In LA I also met film director Kevin Dole who I started working with on Kiss the Frog, a romantic comedy that after eight years of development hell and currently in its 15th draft, is produced by Michael London’s Groundswell Films and Bonnie Bruckheimer, with principal photography to start in Spring 2012 in the south of France.

Yanes: Are there any lessons you learned you feel everyone getting into the industry should know?

Huttinger: It’s a tough business to break into. Places like Cannes show you the reality of things in the film industry – it’s mostly a playground for the rich, especially if you happen to look to get your film either financed or into theatres. There is a lot of flakery in the business. If you want to go into film, into the arts, don’t go there if you hope it will give you status and make you lots of friends and a happier person, because it won’t, if you’re not already really okay with who you are.

Pursuing ones dreams to succeed in the creative industry ultimately causes major headaches, but if you are like me, and you wake up with brand new plot ideas and you ponder on character arcs in the tube and you break down and budget your film while brushing your teeth at night and you end up dreaming of rolling cameras and wrap parties and still love it all, well, then you might be doing something right by going down the film route. As this is one of the most difficult businesses to break into, my only hands on advice in order to succeed would be – never take no for an answer and never let other people tell you what your business is about.

Yanes: What was the initial inspiration(s) for Vampire Wedding? Are there any specific stories that you feel have influenced you on this project?

Huttinger: The idea of Vampire Wedding started by chatting to a couple of friends while in Vienna in late 2007. I remember we went to an ice cream place and talked about films. I like to bounce ideas with my trusted friends so I can see right away if they could work or not. I was telling them about an unpublished story called the “Killer Bride” which I wrote back in 2002, in which a bride goes on a killing spree and then another unpublished story of mine came up, on a wedding photographer who ends up in a crime setting. I quickly wove the two stories together in my head and thought that this could make a great comedy.

Then that friend of mine mentioned, “why don’t you add vampires, vampires are going to be the next big thing soon”. She is an avid reader and keeps track with upcoming trends all the time. Two weeks later the script was in its first draft and the following Spring I went to the Cannes film festival to shop it around. It was around that time that the first Twilight film was in pre-production, and it helped pointing out how vampires are soon going to take over film and TV once again to sales agents and distributors.

Yanes: There have always been vampires on television and in films, but the two current juggernauts are True Blood and Twilight. How do you think Vampire Wedding differs from those two franchises?

Huttinger: Both True Blood and Twilight are mostly dead serious shows and films. Vampire Wedding is very different. It is actually entertaining and making fun of vampires as well as of modern day egomania. We have a silent movie star turned vampire queen, who plans to take over the world to reinstate her stardom and enforce a cult following with her vampire underlings. Vampire Wedding is a comedy, in the tradition of films like Ghostbusters or Shaun of the Dead. There is real romance, but this romance is between actual human beings, with normal lives and normal problems, like you and me. They don’t need fangs in order to proclaim their love. The vampires are just a vehicle to project irrational desires and behaviors of a psychopathic nature as seen for instance in the world of banking and politics.

Yanes: Vampire Wedding is being produced almost simultaneously as a comic book and a movie. What’s the benefit of producing a movie concept as a comic book? On this topic, how do you think this type of multimedia development affect the entertainment industry in general?

Huttinger: Most studio films nowadays put about one third to half of their initial budget into marketing the film internationally and bringing it to an audience when it’s already too late. The fact that we release and market the comic book in the first place, let’s us test the market as well as prepare it and grow an audience long before the film comes out without having to look into spending tens of millions to actually get it into theatres worldwide.

A film has perhaps a week or two to succeed at the box office, it’s a very narrow time window that opens to draw it’s audience. I am convinced that in the future every film will have a pre-marketing campaign going, the change this will bring to the industry is inevitable. Eleven years into the new millennia the distributors still don’t get the concept. To them everything that comes from or goes to the internet is evil to them. Because of all the online pirating, they say they’d lose hundreds of millions. You know how when you’re scared, you don’t see the big picture instead focus on the initial danger. They don’t see what a great tool the internet is, anyone can reach the audience they intend to reach with very little effort. Spot on. And these audiences love to be reached because they can start a direct communication channel with the creators, and become part of the production process. They know that they are finally being listened to and are hugely appreciative of that. Soon filmmakers, distributors, marketers, actually all businesses, will have to adapt to this two-way communication production process, where the audience is filled in from the very beginning, or they’ll simply drown in the overexposure the internet gives to everything.

I remember going to test screenings in LA a lot and talking to the marketers after a film, telling them what was wrong with it from my point of view. A lot of what the audiences at the test screenings said made sense, but by then the film was near final and it was too late to retake scenes, so most of these marketers work was just about finding out how to make it better the next time. With Vampire Wedding where the comic is released parallel to the pre-production of the film, we can make decisions based on audiences feedback on the fly and communicate those decisions to them in return in just a few minutes.

Yanes: Vampire Wedding is currently holding casting competition. Fans are encouraged to submit pictures of themselves dressed as Vampires and the winners get a chance to win a role in the movie. What do you think will be looked for in people who submit photos? Also, if a studio wanted an actor or actress, the studio could get them. What do you feel is the value of having these types of contests?

Huttinger: Again, the internet is too powerful a tool to leave casting in the hands of a single agency. We noticed that we receive a lot of headshots from people who must have felt they visually resemble a specific character in Vampire Wedding, all just based on the sample artwork and character samples we’ve released so far. It is amazing when you set out to hunt for cast and instead of you running after them, the right types knock on your door. It almost feels like magic.

Over the next month, we will start a global video casting competition, for the speaking roles. Aspiring actors will get the chance to download a screen-test script for the part they want to audition for, tape the audition on their mobile phone or web cam and upload the video to our casting web site, where visitors can comment on and vote. Ultimately, the producers will pick the talent from the online casting site and obviously, the participants with the most likes will receive special attention. I believe that a collective audience has a right to decide on what and who they want to see, definitely more than any casting agent or studio executive. Remember when Selznick began a nationwide casting call that interviewed 1,400 unknowns for the role of Scarlett in Gone with the Wind? The process is the same, but much simpler and more powerful than ever with nowadays technology.

Yanes: Currently, at what stage of production is the Vampire Wedding movie and when do you think it will be released?

Huttinger: We are in packaging stage, meaning we are putting cast, talent and key crew together as well as financing for the film. We are looking for a release between Autumn 2012/Spring 2013.

Yanes: Overall, what are you hoping people who read or watch Vampire Wedding will get out of it?

Huttinger: Billy Wilder once said – “The Wilder message is don’t bore – don’t bore people.” Life is too short and too valuable to waste time with repetitive and boring things. So I’d say, it’s really the last thing on my mind to bore anyone with what I do, least myself.

Again, you can learn about the Vampire Wedding movie, comic book, or online casting competition at its homepage here.

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