The Hobo Story
It all began in 2007 with an announcement on Ain’t It Cool News, of a Grindhouse Trailer Contest. Co-sponsored by the SXSW Film Festival and Robert Rodriguez, the contest gave a three-week deadline to come up with a “Grindhouse” style trailer for a fake movie. On the day of the announcement Jason Eisener called friend and collaborator Rob Cotterill and they agreed to begin shooting that evening.
Reflecting on his original inspiration, Eisener recalls “The idea for HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN stemmed from growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. I was raised in a Catholic home and as a result, never had the chance to experience genre films at the cinema. A small shed in our backyard served as a gateway to these films. Our “backyard cinema” was setup with a small television and a VHS player, which was perfect for us.” Eisener and his best friend John Davies, the eventual writer of the feature, would scour pawnshops and corner stores looking for any 70s or 80’s genre movie that they could get their hands on. “These movies fueled our imagination and drove us to make films”, Eisener recalls. “HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN is not exactly a tribute to these films, but instead embodies everything that we love about the genre; and continues to build on it”.
For the next six days they wrote and shot the now famous trailer in the true nature of the films they love – with no permits, running around the streets with a blood soaked hobo carrying a real shotgun. The budget for the short was $150, and was mostly spent on pizza and cigarettes for David Brunt, the actor who played the Hobo in the trailer. The limited budget meant pulling in a lot of favours. After a week of post-production work, the trailer was finished and shipped off to Austin Texas. The Hobo creative team, comprised of Eisener, Davies and producer Rob Cotterill, anxiously awaited the news from down South. For almost a month, the team waited and watched as the Hobo With A Shotgun trailer gained a phenomenal amount of praise and support on the Internet. As the online community argued over the merits of all the entrants to the competition, HOBO quickly became a fan favorite. The incredible online support that Hobo received was astonishing. It was included as one of the trailer favorites by Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles on the hugely popular film news website, won G4 Tech TV’s star of the month and garnered a massive fan base through YouTube.
This exciting month culminated with the news that Hobo With A Shotgun was a finalist (one of three) in the trailer competition. Eisener, Cotterill and Davies bought their tickets to Austin. With a lot of buzz around the contest, and fierce competition, the creative team anxiously awaited the verdict, which was being announced at a seminar put on by Robert Rodriguez at the SXSW festival. With nothing but supreme bragging rights on the line, Rodriguez announced the winner – Hobo With A Shotgun. Since then, HOBO has received massive industry support. Jim Sherry (then with Alliance Films) heard about this upstart Canadian short winning the contest and decided to strike 186, 35mm film prints of the trailer to be theatrically released with the Canadian run of GRINDHOUSE. The Internet support also blew up and Hobo made the YouTube weekly top ten. The trailer has since become a YouTube sensation, having received over one million hits to date. The trailer drew in fans from around the world, many of whom commented on the trailer, expressing their love for Hobo and demanding a feature film.
It was on the heels of this success that the trio began work on the full-length feature version with acclaimed feature film producer Niv Fichman of Rhombus Media, the company behind award-winning films such as The Red Violin – not exactly the most natural match. Fichman first heard of the trailer through Sherry. He was immediately struck by the sheer outrageousness of the trailer but also recognized a real talent in Eisener’s directing. “It was very clear, very quickly that Jason had a vision. All his life since he was a kid, he was wrapped up in this – he knows more about this genre then anyone else”, Fichman recalls. “Jason’s vision is not only original but it comes from a very studied and learned place.” He arranged to bring the three guys to Toronto where they discussed their vision for a feature length version of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN.