Web Series Creator Ricky Hess chats about ‘Horror Hotel’

For many years Hotels have been a location of much interests for dramatic film and horror. Norman Bates ran the ‘Bates Motel,’ which was a location for several vicious...

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For many years Hotels have been a location of much interests for dramatic film and horror. Norman Bates ran the ‘Bates Motel,’ which was a location for several vicious murders and writer Arthur Hailey wrote an interesting novel called ‘Hotel,’ which centred on the lives of the staff and management of an independent New Orleans hotel, the St. Gregory, which was later turned into a movie and spun off into a television series in the early 80s.

But we haven’t as yet seen a web series or anthology show set in a hotel until now.

‘Horror Hotel,’ which was created by Ricky Hess is the latest web series to catch the attention of the world at large. The anthology series has already won 4 web series awards in LA including Outstanding Series and Directing. In fact the series has proved so successful that it has been picked up by Hulu as well as AT&T U-Verse.

The series has much in common with ‘The Twilight Zone,’ but unlike that showthe stories that take place at a Hotel and are all set in that one location.

Recently I was lucky enough to catch up with series creator Ricky Hess who was kind enough to answer some of our questions about this fantastic new Web Series, which will be premiering its second season very soon.

SFP: How did you get into the world of producing web series?

Ricky Hess: I was working with some other independent filmmakers specializing in the Horror genre. They suggested it might be a good idea to make a horror web series but they wanted to focus on making a feature film so I took the idea and developed it.

SFP: Your new web series Horror Hotel has done very well for you by getting inclusion on Hulu. What was the appeal about doing an anthology show set entirely in a hotel?

Ricky Hess: The name was catchy, Horror Hotel, and a hotel lends itself to anthology stories because it is a temporary layover for random people to come and go quickly. Plus hotels are good environments for criminal, unsavory activities to occur which are a good backdrop for our stories. There have been a number of successful movies that have taken place entirely in one setting such as Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Rope”. It was filmed entirely in an apartment setting. It really forces the creative juices to create an intriguing story line that can hold the interest of the audience without a lot of environment changes.

 

SFP: In the notes you sent me you said that your show was inspired in part by The Twilight Zone. That being the case is there a particular type of Twilight Zone episode that really spurred your creative juices on for this show or were you inspired by pretty much most of what the original show had to offer?

Ricky Hess: It was the series in general with their mix of genre’s including sci-fi/horror/mystery. The wide variety of stories possible with an anthology like that. Plus Rod Serling used the political environment of the day and current fears to drive some of the story plots. We took one such approach with the episode “Tesla’s Tooth” which was inspired by the attempted ban on sugared drinks and certain food items in New York. Like Alfred Hitchcock, a lot of the stories were driven by the shortcomings of human nature like greed, lust, vanity and pride. These are underlying themes in a lot of our stories.

SFP: In recent years we have seen a few anthology series tried on network television, but not quite work. Why do you think that Anthology series as a genre have not been doing so well on mainstream television, but seem to be making a come back in web series??

Ricky Hess: Anthology series have the advantage of a variety of stories to watch without having to invest in the entire story arc to understand what is going on. You can get in and out with a completed story and maybe or maybe not watch anymore. This plays well on web viewing where people come across content to watch by accident or random searching. It doesn’t work quite as well for regular TV where the producers want the audience to get invested in the ongoing story plot and personal on screen lives of the characters. The downside to this format is the show has to have wide range appeal and be consistent to maintain their audience.

SFP: For Horror Hotel you guys built your own sets and such. How did you manage to do that and how did you acquire the necessary funding to do so?

Ricky Hess: Our custom set was constructed by our family who had extensive experience in carpentry and such. We were able to build it for cost. It seems to be a focal point of conversation about the series as to whether or not it is a real hotel. We redecorate each room for the different episodes and it has become a character of it’s own and certainly creates the creepy atmosphere for the show.

SFP: You have an episode coming up in the second season titled ‘Aliens Stole My Boyfriend’ other than the telling title what can you reveal about this episode?

Ricky Hess: It is a sci-fi story of two cute alien chicks played by Stephanie Stevens and Anastasia Pekhtereva, who crash land their space buggy (custom built for Horror Hotel) in the parking lot of the motel. They are looking for Earth boyfriends as all the boys on their home planet, Moe, have been wiped out by testosterone fever. They encounter Cindy, played by Kalyn Wood, and her boyfriend Roger, played by Austin Freeman. They immediately hit on Roger as he has just been thrown out by Cindy. She becomes jealous of their affection and makes plans to pay them back. We used our motel miniature model again for this episode and some nice special effects.

SFP: In regards to casting for the show. Have you approached any well known actors from television. If not can you see there ever being an opportunity to do so?

Ricky Hess: We have not approached any well known actors thus far. We have had great success casting from the local Atlanta pool of extremely talented actors. We are trying to support the people locally who have contributed so generously to the show. There might come a time in the future where we would consider well known actors as a guest appearance perhaps. We’ll see!

SFP: What advice would you give to anyone considering getting into the creative field of web television and what pitfalls would you warn them about?

Ricky Hess: You need to consider web television no differently from other platforms as far as production quality is concerned. Make as good a product as you can. The world of web tv is crowded and you need a really good production to stand out. Concentrate on good story telling and let the visuals enhance that. It basically is a labor of love, so don’t expect to make a living from it. Do it for artistic expression and fun and to showcase your creative expertise. If you approach it that way, you will have fun and so will everyone who works with you.

 

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