Halloween is the perfect time of year to binge on the terrifying movies. What can end up happening though, is that there isn’t always something that you're interested in on Netflix or in that Redbox down the street. That’s when you start looking for the independent stories. The stories with girls, guts and gore are the ones that end up being great. Next year when that need to consume spooky video rises like the undead from the grave, I hope to see a local horror film that’s currently in production called Hellskate.
Sahna Foley is the writer/producer/actress and she has been pounding the pavement very hard to get the word out about her film. You may have heard from her on local radio and podcasts like The Fringe Radio Show or the Hello Sweetie podcast. Another place you may have heard of the Hellskate movie is from the first annual Salt Lake City Comic Con last month.
Sahna and the rest of the the Hellskate crew were out in force at the con. Dressed in full roller derby cosplay of their characters from the film, they were signing pictures and copies of a prequel comic book for their film. It was the prequel comic book that intrigued me. I knew the artist from the local Layton art gallery, The Hive, and I struck up a conversation with Sahna about the book. We decided that it would be best to continue that conversation later, outside of the hectic exhibition hall.
“We should write a comic book prequel to the flick!”
The traffic she and her compatriots were receiving was phenomenal. It was much bigger than she had ever expected but her first shot across the bow of local pop culture was perfectly targeted. That target was the convention attendee and the shot was a short comic book for a film due next year. It didn’t hurt that a pair of pretty faces in roller derby grrl (yes, it is grrl and not girl) costumes were signing each copy of the comic they handed out. It was clear to me that their idea for a prequel comic book was bottled lightning. I asked her about that and much more during a quick coffee break from another one of her Roller Derby promotions at the Derby depot.
Mark Avo: Why a prequel comic to promote the movie?
Sahna Foley: To go back to the beginning, the story is something I had come up with about five years ago. I was just coming out of roller derby and being a roller derby grrl. I was retiring and I had just started acting in film. So, the story and the script had been tumbling around in my head for about 5 years. Back in April of this year I felt that the time was right to start producing this film. It was about 2 days after I’d started production that I found out about the Salt Lake Comiccon. I knew this was my opportunity and if I missed it I’d be an idiot.
We had about two months to figure out how to promote the film and Carl Joglar, the writer, was having beers with me one night. He’s a huge comic book fan and he said, “We should write a comic book prequel to the flick!” I told Carl that sounded really cool and that I was onboard. I also told him that I knew just the guy to do the art.
I had worked with Chris Bodily a few months prior on a commission for an animal rights poster. So, it was Carl’s brain child – he came up with it. And, so far, it’s been really good for us. The only downside has been that I now have to explain to people that Hellskate isn’t going to be an animated feature. But, yeah, that’s how the prequel comic came about.
MA: What experiences from your past helped you as editor and producer on the prequel comic? Would you ever do another prequel comic as a promotion method for a film?
SF: Because this is my passion project and is my baby, I’m pretty critical of any ideas and what’s going on with it creatively. But, because this was Carl’s idea and he knows comics, I gave him free range to write it however he wanted.
He sent me the script and I’d say, “Hmm, no.” I did that very sparingly. I’m not a book editor and I’m not a writer. I’m not qualified, necessarily, but I know what my opinion is and we all love our own opinion right? I did what was more or less what I felt was right for the project.
I mean, you know what you want and, you can see it in your head. The process is collaborative so it’s nice to see everyone come in and through their own flavor into it but it’s my job to make sure everyone doesn’t’ branch out too far from the original vision.
I have discovered that horror films are the best ones to work on. They’re absolutely batshit crazy and ridiculous.
MA: Is Hellskate going to be a short or a feature film?
SF: It’s a feature, yeah. Short films are a great learning tool and are a process for new filmmakers to go through – and should go through. But, ultimately they’re a waste of money. That being said, I’m done with short films for me. I’ll act in one if the right people or project came along. But, as far as producing films, I’m done with short film.
MA: The movie’s derby connection is close to your heart, is that how you came up with the project? Did the story come out of your Derby Grrl days?
SF: Yes. I had gotten into acting about six months before retiring from roller derby. So, a couple of months before my final game I had actually worked on my first film ever. It was a local short film and it was a horror movie. I think it was the combination of it being my first rodeo, and everything being exciting and new and fun with the fact that it was a horror film. Also though, I have discovered that horror films are the best ones to work on. They’re absolutely batshit crazy and ridiculous. They’re so much fun.
I met so many wonderful people on that set and you find in the industry that once a project is done, you go into this depression about not being able to work with those same people again. You want something to work on and you end up sitting around in a dark place thinking, “It’s never going to be that great again, I can’t wait for my next project.”
So I was sitting in my house, thinking I really want to do another horror film. I was on my couch for a week with ideas tumbling around and it suddenly came to me. It was sitting right there in front of me the whole time. Roller Derby and horror were a perfect mash up of genres and it makes sense to throw them together.
Photos courtesy of Hellskate The Movie
MA: Besides being an actress in the film, what are your other roles in the production of Hellskate? I mean, it seems like you’re wearing a lot of hats.
SF: That’s the gross part of the film. I’m going to be directing, acting, producing - all of it. I may pull in a co-director. At a minimum I’m going to want a mentor director. It’s good to have a good team around you to help you maintain yourself and lookout for the things you don’t see. It is going to be overwhelming at time and very challenging but it is actually something I’m really looking forward to. I know I’m going to be pushing myself but I’ve done all of these jobs in some capacity on my past films so I’m confident in my abilities so why not do it?
MA: Where are you thinking of doing the filming? You’re going to have a built in community showing interest in Hellskate, are you going to film here?
SF: Yeah, we’ll obviously be shooting in the Salt Lake area but the film takes place in Southern Utah. So, there are some exteriors we have to shoot down there. But, I don’t know, we might throw a bone to Ogden too and film something up there if we can. I mean, if it makes sense. Logistically you have to do the affordable thing and the smart thing for the project.
MA: Ogden does have some history.
SF: Ogden does have some dirty naughty history (laughs).
MA: Where can new eyes go to learn more about Hellskate?
SF: Hellskatemove.com and they can go to our Facebook page, Facebook/Hellskatemovie. We’re on Twitter and Instragram @HellskateMovie. Our website right now is pretty basic so we’re still changing it up and we’re adding things to it as we grow and expand. We’ll be adding a lot more to it as we get further into the project.
MA: Can people still get a hold of the prequel comic?
SF: Yes they can! We’re hoping to have it available in some of the local comic book shops soon. For now, if people can get out to one of our events that we’re hosting or participating in we’ll have books with us there. Also, they can email us or message us on Facebook. We’re taking a donation on Paypal for it donor@hellskatemovie dot com. So, send us an email and we’ll send you some stuff.