Lawrence Donini is the creator and producer of the upcoming TV series “Hell Hunters” we first told you about last month. He is also the founder of LawsLair Entertainment Group, a full service entertainment conglomerate. With one feature film currently in production and two more projects in development, he took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with Carsten and talk about the series “Hell Hunters”, the circumstances that inspired it, and the people who make it happen.
The announcement of “Hell Hunters” spread like wildfire through the media and the project already has several big names attached: Horror icons Bill Moseley and Michael Berryman take the lead with one role still vacant, as well as stars like Miguel Nunez Jr, and “Copycat” star William McNamara. The series will be directed by “Rogue River” and “Sum of 9″ Director Jourdan McClure. For Lawrence Donini, “Hell Hunters” is the first venture into horror, fusing elements of related genres like action, suspense, crime, drama and thriller.
Carsten: Hi Lawrence, how are you?
Lawrence Donini: I’m doing great, thank you.
Carsten: What inspired the idea of “Hell Hunters”?
Lawrence Donini: Well, bullying, child abuse and sex crimes have been a major problem in society for as long as I can remember. Despite increasing media attention it seems the problem of violence against others is still growing along with the impact on the victims. Even the CDC (Center of Disease Control) got involved and is actively supporting prevention programs and studies to gain better insight into the problem. I guess that qualifies these crimes as a disease our society is suffering from. Never the less it just seems that the punishment never fits the crime. I wanted to send a message to those who have experienced being the victim, and that Justice is being served for them, on the small screen.
Carsten: How did this all begin? I mean, when did you think ‘Hey, I’m going to write a TV Series’?
Lawrence Donini: I was working on the movie version of the project with New Zealand writer, Emily Hansen, when I got a call out of nowhere from an old high school football teammate of mine named AJ “Ajacks” Denton, who now lives in Minot, North Dakota. He explained that the city of Minot was recently devastated by a flood and that, if there was anything I could do to help, it would be much appreciated. I had no idea there had been a flood there. I thought, we could turn this movie version into a TV Series and just run with it. We agreed that a successful TV series could definitely help the rebuilding of the city. So, we began writing episodes.
Carsten: So “Hell Hunters” is a fresh idea, definitely not a remake of the 1986 action-horror by the same title with Steward Granger? Sorry, but with the barrage of remakes being pumped out these days, one just gotta ask.
Lawrence Donini: The “Hell Hunters” TV series has absolutely nothing to do with the old movie by the same name. We began creating the comic book about a couple of vigilantes straight from Hell that were hunting down the scum of the earth. The title stuck. We added the comic book into the story, and named the series “Hell Hunters”.
Carsten: Who are the main people behind “Hell Hunters”?
Lawrence Donini: I was sleeping on the couch of dear friend of mine, Corey Keer, when the series was created. At the time the only people that were involved with the project were Emily Hansen, AJ Denton, Corey Keer and myself. When writing the series, we were inventing characters left and right. I was talking to a friend of mine and radio DJ host, Thom Hazaert, AKA Hazard. We knew we need a seriously twisted character in order to please the horror fans. Based upon Thom’s name and real life personality, I created the character Hazard. I am a huge fan of Bill Moseley, and when I mentioned Bill’s name to my roommate, Corey Keer, he got excited. Corey said, “I know Bill.” Let’s just say, Corey was not lying. We sent Bill the script, he read it, and immediately put me in touch with his manager, Judy Fox. When Judy came on board, it was like having my own personal guardian angel. She got Jourdan McClure to direct and helped me invent the character Lawrence Beasley, played by another one of her clients, Michael Berryman. Once we got further into development, Elizabeth Schell came on board as an Executive Producer, along with Sean Morelli of Dream Vision Studios, Andrew Gora, John Duffy, Chuck Wagner, Brad Spalter and Marc Jeffreys.
Carsten: The trigger for the plot of “Hell Hunters” is bullying and the consequential decision of the victims to turn the table. Although “Hell Hunters” is fictional, bullying is very real for many people and especially children. What do you think its real impact in real life is, and what do you think is the best way to deal with it?
Lawrence Donini: I have personally experienced bullying, as a child. I know what it’s like to be picked on. The impact, negativity has on a child, is detrimental. You have no idea what it really does to a child, mentally. The Child feels isolated. Alone. That no one understands how they feel and what they strive for. I talk to the children. I tell them what life is really like. The best way to deal with it is, not through real life violence, but actually talking about how you feel with others, before you make a rash decision. But, while real life violence is not the solution, it is something that might happen in our minds, our imagination. When someone becomes the victim of a bully – or any other violent offender, for that matter – our mind may wander in the territory of revenge, physical retaliation. Maybe that is a remainder of an ancient instinct to defend ourselves… It takes a certain mindset and psychological set-up, although, to turn this fantasy into a reality; a set-up far most victims don’t have. Therefore, for a victim to actually become the aggressor is very rare in real life. What most do, and by all means should do is something else: Get their perspective on things. Because, real life is not a video game, movie or TV show. It is real. And you only get one chance to make it. Time passes, people get older, and wounds are healed. Forgive, but don’t forget.
Carsten: The main characters of “Hell Hunters” adopt personalities from a comic book. This comic book does not yet exist, but I know you are producing it to be used in the series. Do you have plans to release it in the future?
Lawrence Donini: The comic book is in production and is designed by Timmy Engelbrecht, Dee Magee and Sammy Ramos. The comic book from the television series will be sold in limited quantities, once the series airs.
Carsten: Some people blame violence in fiction – be that horror movies, video games, or whatever – for violence happening in real life. In “Hell Hunters” a comic book delivers the blueprint for the main character personas. What do you think about the influence of fictional violence on real life?
Lawrence Donini: I look at it like this… A child is going to make decisions based upon their own house home structure. It is still a major step from the virtual world of a third person shooter or a comic book to real life. Even though the animations in these games have come a long way, I think everybody realizes that it is not the real world – and it would not work in the real world. In the game, you put on a character you are not, and can not be – in real life. People know that. If the parents teach their children right from wrong, and love them, there should be no confusion on what’s real and what’s fiction.
Carsten: The main characters – Ajacks, Hazard and Jill – kidnap, torture and kill people. And their body count reaches to the thousands. All their victims, although, are criminals, “scum of the earth” like they are called in the synopsis. Are Ajacks, Hazard and Jill the bad guys in “Hell Hunters”?
Lawrence Donini: At first the audience might think that these characters are the bad guys. But once the series goes on, you will get to know each character’s past, and understand why they are the way they are, their upbringing, and that what they do is justified.
Carsten: Lets talk about you a little bit… This is not the first production you are involved with, but it is your first venture into horror. What about the genre appeals to you most?
Lawrence Donini: I have always been fascinated with the Horror Genre. When I was a kid, Salem’s Lot and A Nightmare on Elm Street scared me to the point of insomnia. I loved the rush. And just couldn’t get enough of it.
Carsten: While the definition of ‘horror’ is very individual and different for everyone – ranging from psychological situations to blood-and-gore slasher films and beyond – what makes a good horror film or series for you?
Lawrence Donini: The story. Most Horror is all about senseless violence, killing and naked girls. But where is the story? In “Hell Hunters”, we dig deep into the characters pasts and send a crucial and graphic message to parents, predators, aggressors, as well as those who have been victimized.
Carsten: The cast of “Hell Hunters” will be comprised of multi-talented horror icons like Bill Moseley and Michael Berryman, and also have its sexy girls with Kelley Sumption and Mindy Robinson. Sounds almost stereotypical for the genre, but the series is meant to be more than that…
Lawrence Donini: Yes, the series is meant to be much more than that. Whether, they’re sexy, hideous or just outright demented, each character has a past and there are reasons why they are who and what they are. And during the series, we get to find out what makes these characters tick. We get to find out what is really going on in the mind of each character. If there is sexiness to a character, it is purely by genetics and not intended for perversion.
Carsten: There have been rumors that Michael Biehn might star in “Hell Hunters” and some claim to have debunked those rumors. What is the official statement on that right now?
Lawrence Donini: We are in talks with Michael Biehn’s representation. That is all we can say right now.
Carsten: Thank you very much for your time Lawrence, and we look forward to more from “Hell Hunters”.