After being raised in Colorado, Pacey Hansen decided to pursue film production at Florida State University. In addition to having recently graduated with a BFA and now living in California, Hansen recently released a short horror film called Fun Station. Wanting to learn more about this project, I was able to interview him for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: What were some movies you loved growing up? Are there any you still enjoy?
Pacey Hansen: I am a 2000s baby, so in terms of horror, I grew up watching James Wan and every attempt to replicate his slick horror style. Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring are movies that highly influenced my identity as a filmmaker. However, one of my favorite movies was 2009’s “Adventureland” by Greg Mottola, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. I just loved how accurately they could portray misfit teenage characters and the life of an amusement park worker. That film was certainly unconsciously influential when writing and directing Fun Station. I recently watched it back, and if you have not seen it, I implore you to give it a watch: it’s genuinely one of the best coming-of-age movies with a star-studded cast.
Yanes: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in entertainment? Was there a moment this goal crystalized for you?
Hansen: I feel like I get asked this a lot, and I wish I had a profound moment, but it wasn’t until my senior year that talks of college admissions spread through the studentry of my graduating class that I thought about what I wanted to do with my life. I was always naturally into entertaining people when I was a kid. I started filming things and creating random content when I was in middle school and continued throughout high school, so it wasn’t surprising that my brain told me to pursue a career in entertainment. To me, it was the obvious next step to go to film school.
My parents were surprised when I told them I had decided I wanted to go to school for “art,” but they were thankfully supportive of me, knowing I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to. I’m a very determined and persistent person. It wasn’t until I arrived at college that I embraced the abnormalities of my creative mind and dove into the deep end of the world of horror.
Yanes: You are from Colorado but you got your B.F.A. from The Florida State University. (Editor’s note: Yanes got his M.A. from FSU as well.) What was it about FSU that appealed to you?
Hansen: I got my BFA in Film and Television Production at the College of Motion Picture Arts. I attended FSU because I wanted to move somewhere new and ruled out California and New York. I knew I would eventually have to move to either of these two cities post-graduation. Florida State was relatively cheap, and I read online they had a great film school, so I decided to take the leap and move across the country to Florida. Also, the idea of the “traditional college experience” that FSU offered was alluring to me. However, I’m a little eccentric and dislike sports, so I only went to two football games in my four years at the university.
Yanes: You have only recently graduated from FSU, but what are some aspects of your education that you feel have already set you up for success?
Hansen: The biggest thing I got from school was the relationships with my peers and the materials necessary to make my vision and projects a reality. All the people I worked with were fantastic and enabled me to realize my dreams. I liked that everyone’s films got greenlit, and the school could not limit the stories we wrote and told. I also got to work in a myriad of roles with industry-standard equipment.
Regardless of what film school you go to, you have to have the motivation to develop ideas, write scripts, and ultimately go into production, getting the footage “into the can” per se. No amount of school can give you the motivation or drive to do that; you simply must want it for yourself. I think the film school at FSU’s lack of concern for the quality of the finished products they produced also pushed me to be the greatest filmmaker I could be. For them, it was about “the experience,” and for me, it was about outputting a great finished product that people would watch; that is the purpose of filmmaking.
Yanes: Your latest project is a short horror film named Fun Station. What was the inspiration behind this story?
Hansen: When I was 16, I worked at an amusement park called “Elitch Gardens” in Denver, Colorado. Formerly a six-flags operated park that was eventually dropped for being too rundown and not up to par with the six-flags brand is where I spent the majority of my sophomore year summer as a lifeguard. Growing up, I loved amusement parks and arcades, so it was my dream job (when I got hired). I had so many funny experiences with park guests and was put in countless weird situations that I wanted to channel into a film and use my experience. I worked many odd jobs in my teens, so I often draw from those experiences in my writing.
Additionally, I drew inspiration from the massive college admissions scandal that occurred amid my film school application process. It pissed me off that so many students had been getting into MY dream schools that I was currently in the process waiting to hear back from. I knew one day I’d get to make a commentary, and the day arrived when I came up with the Fun Station idea four years later.
Yanes: While watching Fun Station it was clear you got a lot of great material from your actors. How did you approach getting the most out of them?
Hansen: We rehearsed a lot! And not the typical rehearsals you’d imagine where we run through the script and call it a day. I spent hours with the cast, specifically the teenage characters, getting them acquainted and comfortable with each other. I think the most important job for an actor when playing a role is understanding what their personality is like off-screen and in unwritten parts of the script. The cast spent significant time improvising to understand the interpersonal relationships Savannah, Connor, Ashley, and Arnold shared.
I wanted to make sure they understood the ins and outs of their character to gain an understanding of how they would interact in a typical workday when they weren’t being murdered or fighting for their lives.
I also encouraged the cast to go entirely over the top with certain aspects of their performance regarding the cliches we satirized. It was important that through their performance, the audience could understand the comedy and be allowed to laugh at each character’s misery, fear, or pain.
Yanes: Reflecting on Fun Station, is there a specific shot that you are most proud of?
Hansen: There weren’t any shots that were too difficult in this film, and I was well acquainted with my wonderful Director of Photography Gabby Carbone because it was the 4th short she had shot for me. I love the push-in we have on Ashley when she screams, “SAVANNAH!” (If you’ve seen the film, you know the part). We had to do seven takes overall to get that shot just right with focus, blocking, and special effects.
Other shots I’m proud of that we got were the two drone shots in the film. The first is when all the lights in the arcade shut down, which took several people on breakers around the building, shutting off the lights at the perfect time all together. We thankfully got it on the first take. The second is when the Savannah enters the laser tag room, and the camera jibs up toward the ceiling. We crashed and destroyed the drone we were using shortly after getting the laser tag shot. Thankfully, the poor smashed drone was still under warranty!
Yanes: On this note, how do you think you’ve grown from making Fun Station?
Hansen: I’ve done two more shorts since Fun Station, but it helped teach me how to direct a longer form short and ensure I get the proper performances I need for each scene. I think people often forget we film things entirely out of order, so it was good practice for me to ensure I was getting proper continuity and ensuring it would all make sense when I went to edit it since most of the horror sequences were continuous.
Yanes: When people finish watching Fun Station, what do you hope they take away from it?
Hansen: I really want people to take away the idea that it’s never okay to be a narcissistic or discriminate against people based on their background; this is relevant in all parts of our life from race, class, sexual-orientation, gender, and beyond. We are all human and everyone is equal and if you believe the sentiment that another human is “lesser” than yourself you quite simply look like an idiot.
Additionally, I wanted to demonstrate the ideocracy behind the college admissions scandals and the importance put on family legacy when it comes to students attending college.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
Hansen: I’m currently in post-production on a film I wrote and directed that we shot on 16mm film in July called “Stupid F**king Cow.” We filmed on a farm in Havana, Florida, just outside of Tallahassee, and I had a great time directing it and working with the cast (which included a fluffy highland cow). I typically tend to hop back and forth between serious horror drama work and satirical horror, and with this one, I tried to blend the two into one script in a subversive way.
Hopefully, the movie will have the audience laughing and then quickly wipe the smile off their faces! That’s the goal, at least. If you talked to most people in my life, they could tell you I take deep satisfaction in disturbing people, which I will continue to do!