Interview with Home With a View of a Monster Todd Greenlee and Jasper Hammer

Interview with Home With a View of a Monster, Todd Greenlee, and Jasper Hammer. The other day I did a deep dive on the movie Home With a View of a Monster where I reconstructed its non-linear timeline and helped make sense of some of the more crazy elements in that fantastic movie. If you haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet – make sure you do, on Prime, youtube, or Play. Because it’s an awesome ride. Then check out my write up to make sure you got it all squared away correctly. And then come back here to read my interview with the writer and director Todd Greenlee as well as one of the leads of the film, Jasper Hammer. I had a blast chatting with these guys and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the conversation as well… as long as you watched the film, that is! hahaha. Because there are a few spoilers here that we don’t want to give away. If you have no idea what this “Home With a View of a Monster” is – here’s a trailer… and then we’ll dive into the interview.

Interview with Todd and Jasper

First, for some context, Jasper is the actor that played the role of Chance – you know, that hitman guy who was tormented by ghosts and demons from his past over the course of the movie. And Todd Greenlee is one of the writers and directors of the movie as well (along with two of his brothers that joined him in making this fantastic movie.)

Interview with Home With a View of a Monster Todd Greenlee and Jasper Hammer

THiNC. – first off, Jasper, I think this is the second film you’ve done with the Greenlee’s… no? I would love to interview them as well if you wouldn’t mind pushing my request along to them. I think the second film hasn’t released yet, no? All Eyes? What brought you into the Greenlee inner-circle of movie making fun? How did you all meet? 

Jasper – So Todd, Alex, and I went to college together at Oklahoma University. We had a bunch of classes together, they blew me away from the first short I ever saw of theirs, I think it was Freshman year Film History. We shot a ton of shorts throughout college and worked together on class projects and what not. I first worked with Todd when he was a D.P. for our buddy Rob’s short that I was acting in, and have been working together ever since. 

We became buddies and I think we have a great chemistry and understanding of each other. To be honest I’m just incredibly grateful to have met such great guys, and be lucky enough that they’re also insanely talented. My alarm clock is actually a recording of Todd and Alex saying “action” and I can’t go to bed until one of them calls or texts me “cut.” 

Todd – Exactly what Jasper said.  Jasper was such a blast to work with in college.  For some reason as soon as Alex wrote the character of Chance we immediately thought of Jasper for the part (even though we had mainly done comedic stuff with him before that).  We had made a short in college called Mourning this Morning.  That movie was a comedy for the most part but near the end got pretty emotional.  Jasper blew us away with his range.  For us it was fun placing him in a role that was completely different from what he is used to. It was hilarious having him pretty much be a PA on Home With a View for the first week or so of the shoot during the scenes he wasn’t in.  I don’t think most of the crew even knew he was actually in the movie.  To them he was just this fun guy to have around.  Then when we shot his first scene of him trying to axe down the bathroom door, the looks on everyone’s faces were hilarious.  Such a drastic difference from who Jasper is.  Haha!    

THiNC. – Hahaha! Axe down the door? I definitely have to see this new film now. Here’s Johnny!! Jasper, when you read the script, what drew you to the project? Gotta say, it might just be a perfect Twilight Zone episode… I wouldn’t be too surprised if Peele comes knocking for the rights to add it to TZ. 

Jasper – I totally see the Twilight Zone connection, and I see that in a lot of their stuff, even back to the first shorts they’d do. I think that show was a huge influence on them and I think they’ve cultivated their own unique voice from a bunch of different influences. Also Todd actually worked on one of Jordan Peele’s movies! 

Honestly, the first thing I loved about it was that it was a dramatic role. I’d been doing basically only comedic stuff up to that point, and had been DYING to do something dramatic. There’s a song by Lucy Dacus called “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” and I’d get all moody and listen to that song just starving to do something dramatic. 

Also the script seemed to be in constant evolution which was really exciting. Going from horror, to comedy, to romance, thriller, just a lot of exciting tone shifts. And to be real, I love working with them so much I’d probably do any role they made. 

Todd – Haha! Yeah, as Jasper said, I was very fortunate to be able to work with Jordan Peele on the movie Keanu.  He was very cool to work with.

Interview with Home With a View of a Monster Todd Greenlee and Jasper Hammer

THiNC.Jordan Peele has made some amazing, genre busting films, must have been amazing to work on one of his projects. Todd, Jasper, can you tell us about the shoot? I know that the Todd, you and your brother moved to LA to make movies, but eventually you got bogged down in life there, and then just headed back home to make their film there in Oklahoma. How long was the shoot, and was it arduous? 

Jasper – The shoot was a literal dream come true, the crew had a bunch of our friends from college and the Oklahoma film scene. We were up at Grand Lake for three weeks and the set felt like we were all at camp together. We’d finish early a lot which is sort of nuts for film and we’d only shoot Monday through Friday so we’d just hangout all weekend. 

It was the first feature for a lot of us and we were sort of learning as we went but in general it was sort of astonishing how smoothly it seemed to go. Probably due to the fact everyone was working so hard. It really felt like we were all a team, and everyone was giving everything they had to it. I could talk about how great that experience was for hours, and about every single person on the cast/crew for like 3 hours each. 

Also, I didn’t have any scenes in the film the first week and I had nothing else to do so I just sort of PA’d, like got everyone coffee, and helped move equipment etc. I think it sort of threw a couple people off when one day I switched from the guy bringing lunch to crazy ass Chance. 

Todd – We didn’t necessarily get bogged down here in LA.  I really love it here.  We just had the realization if we didn’t make the decision to do a movie we would never do it.  Some people unfortunately move to LA to make their own stuff and just end up getting stuck in a routine of working on other people’s projects.  We didn’t want to fall into that.  

The shoot lasted 3 weeks.  As Jasper said, it was an absolute blast.  Really felt like a Summer camp.  Usually indie movies are long hours but that one wasn’t at all.  Everyone working on the movie was very much on top of everything.  We shot in a large gated off community during off season.  There was pretty much no one around while we were shooting so that gave us a lot of freedom.   When making a movie you kind of just go into survival mode.  Somehow a lot of things just fell into place for us.  All the way down to Dennis and Rita’s van in the movie.  We originally just had a rental car for them to drive but saw that van for sale on the side of the road during a location scout.  Visually it was exactly what we envisioned in the script.  We asked the owner about using it and the rest is history.   

THiNC. – I tried my best to learn as much as I could! I guess I misunderstood one of your comments in another interview you did. Glad to hear you enjoyed your time in LA, but we are even happier you left for a bit to make Home With a View of the Monster! Todd, You and Danielle definitely carried the emotional weight of this film. (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Ellen and Sébastien’s performances – but they had sort of settled with the monster in the house.) Watching you devolve as the movie progressed was fun… I mean, no offense. One of my favorite ticks was “Rainstorms…. Rainstorms” and my favorite moment was definitely your screaming at the sky. Talk us through how you got into this character’s head.

Jasper – In the script it says Chance is listening to classical music so I asked Alex who he was listening to and he said Philip Glass. I put on his song “Opening” while I was waiting for the train one day and the piano sounded like the raindrops around me and it just sort of clicked.

At that point I stupidly hadn’t really had much acting technique training so I tried to go off what Sandy Meisner’s book told me to do, and also tried to do, what at the time I thought, would be “method”. 

Chance seemed to orbit around death. He killed people non-violently even though he has anger issues, his daughter’s death, it’s all around him constantly. So I’d listen to Philip Glass (specifically “Songs and Poems For Solo Cello”) and dwell on death for like hours and hours, my own death, death I’ve actually experienced in my life, the possible death of my family and loved ones, etc. I figured that he was devoid of joy, or that he would deprive himself of it out of penance. So I’d allocate like 4-6 hours a day where I wouldn’t let myself feel any positive emotions, and would just think of death. It got really dark, and was probably a really stupid idea, haha. 

Then I also figured there were four Chance’s in the movie. The Chance from before his daughter’s death, Chance after his daughter’s death, crazy Chance who’s seeing the ghosts, and crazy Chance trying to trick Dennis and Rita. So I made the easy choice that regular Chance was similar to real life me, Chance after his daughter’s death was the person I became when dwelling on death etc. and then from there I just reacted in the scene like Meisner’s book said to for the rest. 

There’s a whole lot I’d do differently now that I’ve had proper training, haha, but at the time I was working my ass off trying to do everything I could for the character. 

Todd – Pretty much what Jasper said.  We liked the idea of a character who was very calculated in his actions, finding himself with a woman who is beyond unpredictable.  

THiNC. – Super annoying practical question Jasper… I would love to know more about where Chance came from? We know he’s had a thrashed past. And now, suddenly he’s a hitman? What’s his connection to Kate? To Kate’s grandmother? Did the Greenlee’s give you anything there? If anything didn’t add up in this film it was that. Would love your thoughts or ideas. Heck, make stuff up and I’ll go along for the ride.

Jasper – To me Chance loved Kate, I think he saw the reflection of his pain in her. I don’t know if Chance would admit that, or even understand what he was feeling, but ironically I think he really wants her to live. 
I wasn’t given a huge backstory or anything like that, and I didn’t want to create too much in case it would sort of hijack the character they created for the story. 

I think when Chance’s daughter died he lost all hope and empathy for others, so to him killing was an equitable business. Kate’s Grandma is rich but talks to him directly so she must have taken it on herself to find me, which is interesting because she could easily pay someone else to handle it all. 

Todd – We have a short film we did several years ago called Threading the Needle.  The character of Chance (which the name is never mentioned in either movies) is in that movie also (played by a different actor and with a different name).  

Chance is someone who has anger issues (as well as alcohol abuse issues) and is trying to change (as seen through him listening to anger management tapes).  Here is his connection to Kate.  Kate comes from a family of wealth.  The root of that wealth is her grandmother.  After the death of Kate’s brother, she becomes the sole inheritor of the family’s legacy.  The grandmother in poor health would rather her family bloodline die off than see it tarnished through Kate’s reckless behavior. The grandmother hires a hitman (Chance) to kill Kate and make it look like an accident.  Chance meets Kate online and develop a long distance relationship.  He actually somewhat gets feelings for her which makes everything that much more tragic.  

THiNC. – Fascinating! So Chance literally is a hitman, hired specifically for the job. We see them talking, but the origins of Kate’s and Chance’s relationship are never shown, so I wondered if he was just a family friend – or someone she got to do the job for her. Love it. Hey Jasper, really trying really hard to find your other film, Lucky? But good lord, all the movies are apparently named lucky? Would love to promote it for you. But for the life of me… 

Jasper – I believe Lucky is still being submitted to festivals and that whole thing. I loved shooting that and Hayward Suggs is an incredible director so as soon as that’s available to the public I’ll absolutely share that!  

THiNC. – Can you guys tell us anything more about the film All Eyes? Looks really fantastic – should be a fun watch.

Jasper – It is such a blast of a movie.  Another example of an incredible shooting experience.  Our team was phenomenal.  I truly can’t wait for people to see it.  It’s full of crazy twists and turns.  It’s way more linear of a plot than Home With a View was.  We aim to do the festival circuit with it next year.   

All Eyes is a Greenlee movie so it will definitely have twists, but I don’t want to give anything away because that would ruin all the fun. All I can say is that the driving action in this one is constant. There isn’t really a down moment from the very beginning. It’s a really well paced and exciting movie, that I think is going to be a really great viewing experience. 

Ben Hall who plays the farmer is absolutely incredible, and Danielle who played Kate is in it too and is as amazing as always!  I can’t even tell you how excited I am about All Eyes. I think we really made something special, it felt like we all took the experiences from Home With A View and what we’ve done since, and really took a step forward. 

It was such a small crew and they were all just absolutely amazing, I’m for real so grateful I was able to work with such talented and kind people: Todd, James Wray, Austin Warren, Emily Calhoun, Kela Kelln, Danielle Roach, Patrick Northrip, Rebekah Payton. And of course Todd and Alex’s Mom, Dad, and Grandma were all a huge part of helping out with everything because we actually filmed it on their Mom’s childhood farm. Alex couldn’t be there for the actual filming, except we did facetime him in for one scene, but he was there in spirit! 

We’re actually doing some ADR for it here in March and I think it should be done really soon. We just filmed that one this past summer in July. 

THiNC. – Todd – selfishly, can you break down my walk through of Home with a View of the Monster – did I get it right? Where did I miss things? Did I understand the basic timeline of how things went? I only ask because, woah, it was a little complicated to attempt to piece it back together. 

Todd – For the most part you had a pretty good grasp as far as the timeline.  I would say the biggest one you were off about was near the ending where Dennis and Rita are talking about where they see themselves in 2 years.  That scene takes place 2 years before.  It’s part of the timeline after they had decided to put the house up as a vacation rental home. They are actually “ghost proofing” the house in that scene by putting child proof locks and chains on things.  You can see the cabinets move by themselves throughout the scene. The beauty of the scene is that they have all the plans of where they will be (a pretty common theme of the movie) and then it cuts to where they actually end up (tied up). Another fun thing that a lot of people don’t catch on in the parallel timelines is that Dennis’ nightmare he describes at the beginning is visually a mirror image of the scene of Chance at the pool (showing that is Chance’s nightmare).  There are a lot of scenes that take on a completely different meaning when viewed a second time.  I unfortunately can’t go into them all right now.   

Something else that is pretty big to note is that the ghost of Chance’s daughter that haunts him throughout does not actually end up being his daughter but some other kind of demon that feeds off grief.  This is evident when Chance looks at her at the end and says, “You aren’t her.”  The house feeds on negative energy and latches itself on to people.  Even though Chance tries to leave, the house inevitably grabs him back. 

THiNC. – Woah, I’m going to go retool my write up right now! #Mindblown. But I did catch the mirror image of the two. The nightmares – and the lighting you did on Rita’s face was instantly recognizable when you later did the same technique for Chance’s horror shot with his “daughter.” I even wondered if you shot them at the same time as I was watching. But this is great, I’ll definitely tweak my write up to correspond. So good.

Todd, Jasper talks a little bit about the screenplay see-saw that happened as you were writing? Maybe you could tell us more about that? I’d like to know specifically how the idea of Home With a View of the Monster came to be. I read that you were in California trying to do the film thing, nothing was happening, and you just decided to make a break for it, head back to Oklahoma and just go for it? 

Todd – I’ve been working in the film industry for over 7 years now.  I started in New Orleans for a few years working as a production assistant and eventually made my way to LA.  I was pretty fortunate to be working consistently on big budget movies.  I got to meet a lot of really cool people and work on some really fun things.  My brother Alex was doing the exact same thing, but he went straight to LA when I went to New Orleans.  We have always wanted to make movies so part of me moving to LA was to be closer to him to be able to collaborate.  We both came to the realization that if we wanted to make our own thing we just had to do it.  So we found a date we both knew we would be off work and we bought a plane ticket to Oklahoma.  Pretty much we knew exactly where we wanted to shoot (Grand Lake, OK) and who exactly we wanted to be in it (Jasper).  If all else failed we were making a movie no matter what.  Home With a View quickly evolved out of our love for horror movies and wanting to play with common horror movie tropes.  It was always funny in haunted house movies when you’d ask the question, “Why don’t they just move?”  So we took the modern day approach to that and had them put it up as a vacation rental house.  We showed that their lives ended up not being any better by just leaving.  We wanted to explore the notion of excuses people use to not do things or make changes in their lives.  For Dennis and Rita it just happened to be a haunted house.   The hauntings were more of an annoyance than anything to them.  We also embraced the idea of allowing strangers into your life, especially in today’s social landscape.  In the end, Dennis and Rita literally decide to allow a stranger into their lives by wanting to adopt.  We love making movies that start one way and completely flip on their head halfway through.  Bending and Blending genres is something we will continue doing.     

THiNC. –
What are your directorial influences, or movies that push you or inspire you? It’d be intriguing to hear how they’ve directed your artistic choices here in this film specifically. 

Todd – You pretty much nailed it with The Twilight Zone.  We grew up loving that show.  The story structure and tone really had a huge influence on the kinds of things we like to make.  I love having the rug pulled out from underneath me.  Rod Sterling never did what was expected.  

Edited by: CY