Posted by: Matthew | July 18, 2007

My Interview With Jeremy Hunt of Screaming Death Monkey

Sorry this is late. We were in Arizona! This is my interview with Jeremy Hunt. He does cool special effects and made the awesome 405 movie. Thanks for letting me interview you Jeremy!

You have to go to his site and click on the visual effect reel to see some of the cool effects he has done. See if you recognize any. I bet you do.

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Where do you live?
I live in a city called Cypress in Orange County California but I work in Venice California and I probably spend more time there than at my house…so it’s a little hard to say where exactly I “live.”

What is it like where you live?
It’s great where I live. I’m close enough to the beach to where it doesn’t get super hot or super cold. And Southern California is a great place because there is so much to do here. I’d like to live other places someday but I’m a born and bred California boy so I’m sure I’ll be here pretty much forever.

I know that you do special effects. Can you tell me about some of the work you have done?
I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve been able to work on a ton of really cool projects. When I was starting out in the late 90’s I worked mostly on the various Star Trek shows, Voyager and Deep Space 9. In 2000 I started my own company and there I’ve been able to work on a ton of big music videos for Moby, U2, the Spiderman movie soundtracks, and Aerosmith to name a few. Recently I did a bunch of shots for “300” and we just wrapped a big Ask.com television commercial. It’s the really creepy one with a bunch of dancing Kato Kaelins.

What is your favorite project you have ever worked on?
Hmmm…that’s hard to say. Right now I would say it’s a toss up between my own movie “405” and “300.” Both really stood out in terms of how they looked and the impact they had. They were both a big challenge and a lot of fun.

How did you get started doing special effects?
Well, my dad is a gadget hound. (I am too) so when I was a kid I would always have access to computers and video cameras and stuff. I would borrow (steal) my dads cameras and make these really dumb but funny short films with my friends. I would experiment with stop motion animation and in camera effects. This led to film school. I was almost done with my film degree in 1996 when I was introduced to modern computer generated effects. I knew about them but never considered it something that I would go into. I met a guy who owned a small studio and I bugged him everyday for 3 months until he finally gave up and offered me an unpaid internship. From there I taught myself the software and since I was dropped into a production environment, I learned really fast. I looked at it as a huge opportunity to learn something that would have cost me thousands of dollars so I was there night and day learning all I could.

I love 405 The Movie. It is so cool. How long did it take you to make it?
We shot it in 2 days. The post production and special effects took every night and weekend for 3.5 months.

In the movie, the little old lady gives you the middle finger. Have you ever been flipped off in real life before? Have you ever flipped anyone off?
Haha. Yes I have been flipped off before. In fact yesterday I did a bunch of driving and it seemed that everyone on the road was in a bad mood. I consider myself to be a very good driver but some people were clearly in disagreement with that. Along with my good driving comes a short temper so yes, I’ve given people the bird. I would recommend not doing that because you never know who will see you and you never know who it is your saying that to. Some people are crazy.

Did you actually shut down the 405 freeway to make the movie?
Haha. We joke that for that big shot we threw a dummy off the overpass and then when all the traffic stopped we started filming but in reality it’s an effects trick. We did that shot mostly with a digital still camera, photoshop and some trickery. So to answer your question, no…we didn’t have the budget to shut down the freeway. But it’s when you have those huge hurdles that you come up with your best ideas. If you are interested in specifics you can check out www.405themovie.com and look at the making of sections.

Your company is called Screaming Death Monkey. How did you come up with that name?
I was backpacking through the jungle of Peru once and stopped to make camp. While I was setting up my tent I heard this horrible scream and all this commotion in the trees behind me. When I turned around there was this little monkey wearing white face makeup and throwing spears at me…Actually I just made that up…the real story is pretty boring. Before I started this company I wanted a personal website / blog kinda thing and I didn’t want a boring url. So I put together a list of two and three word titles. Once I had about 10 I liked I sent it to my girlfriend to see which one she liked. She called me right away and said “you’re going to think I’m weird but I like Screaming Death Monkey the best.” Since that was my favorite too, that’s the one I picked. When I dissolved my former company and looked to start a new one I kept SDM because I already had a lot of the technical business stuff worked out so it was easy to get it all going. Plus I was really tired of all the VERY boring names in the VFX business. Everything is Pixel this or Digital that. I wanted to mix it up a bit, take a more punk rock attitude. And I figure you can love it or hate it but you won’t forget it.

What are you afraid of?
Screaming Death Monkeys. Haha. Actually a lot of my fears are rather philosophical and pretty lame. Basically it all boils down to fear of long term commitment. It keeps me from doing things like planning a vacation or getting married. Not a good way to live my friend. The weird thing is that the older I get the worse it gets. I should figure that out sometime.

What is your favorite type of mammal?
Girls are the best mammals on the planet by far. God definitely put in the time at the drawing board when he came up with them. But you probably mean non humans so I’ll give you two more answers. I love English Bulldogs. They are the best kind of mammal that you can hang out with. They have the greatest personalities of any dog I have ever met. I just got a new Bulldog puppy but he doesn’t have a name yet. Any good ideas? And for mammals that you generally can’t hang out with I would pick a Grizzly Bear. They are like giant dogs and are probably the most amazing animal that I have ever read about.

Has anyone you know died? What did you feel like at their funeral?
Unfortunately yes, I have known some people that have died. I never really knew anyone who died until a couple of years ago. I guess the older you get the more likely it becomes. My girlfriend’s grandfather died a couple of years ago. He was really cool and I miss him. Then I had a friend who had muscular dystrophy die about 2 years ago. That was really sad because he was only 16. Then last year my grandmother passed away. Also my dog died about a year ago. We were very close and he was about as close to a person as you can get without actually being a person. That hit me pretty hard too. At the funeral I’m generally very sad but at the same time very grateful that I got to know these people. It’s also a good time to reflect on the impact you have on the people in your life, so I inevitably think about what the world would be like when I die. I want to make sure I’m missed and that means having a positive impact on people.

If you were a car, what kind of car would you be? Any vehicle, actually?
Ooooooh…I love cars. This is a tough question. And then you say any vehicle actually? That makes it even harder because now I could be a jet or a helicopter? I’ll stick to wheeled vehicles…I think I would want to be a classic car that is in decent shape but needs to be fixed up. That way I know when someone bought me to fix me up they would love me and take really good care of me. It would feel like a brand new life. So I would be a 1964 Chevrolet Malibu SS convertible. That’s the car I bought when I was 18 and I loved it and still love it…I don’t think I’ll ever sell it.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
Hmmmm…I think my most embarrassing moment was not embarrassing at all until many years later. When I was in junior high I had the most amazingly bad haircut in the history of mankind….The Mullet. And man was it kickin. Super long in back, super short on the sides and just plain ridiculous on top. So when I see pictures of me back then I cringe. If I could time travel I would go back and tell myself to knock that crap off. So if I can impart you with one simple piece of advice; when it comes to your haircut, think about the future, man.

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Responses

  1. hope you had a good time in arizona matt! this was such a cool interview, you’re so lucky you get to interview all of these amazing people!

  2. Fun interview, Matt!

    How did you hook this up?
    Do you know Jeremy in “real life”?

  3. Cool! I read about your project on your mom’s blog and had to come over and see what you were up to. Great idea. It is sure to be an interesting book. Maybe you should keep a list of emails of interested people, so you can let us know when it comes out! Put me on the list.


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