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When Scott Hansen entered college, making music videos and full-length feature films wasn’t exactly the first thing on his mind; however, he has always had a passion for the demonic and sinister creatures dwelling in his imagination. Inspired primarily by 1980’s horror flicks, Hansen turned his attention from making comic book characters to bringing his dark obsessions to life in both music videos and movies. After a brief stint in Los Angeles, Hansen brought his talents back home to Virginia Beach to build his brand as a director and producer, creating his first feature film Monumental, as well as hundreds of music videos with bands and musicians of all genres. His music videos have premiered on CMT, MTV, MTV2, FUSE, BET and VH1. In addition, Hansen has also had music videos featured on in-store reels for American Eagle and Hot Topic.

In 2011, he founded Digital Thunderdome, based in Virginia Beach, to be a premiere production house offering high-end video of all kinds. Digital Thunderdome is a bicoastal company with an additional office located in Los Angeles, and Hansen plans to open a third office in Atlanta within the next six months. In February 2015, Digital Thunderdome released it’s first documentary, Until It Hurts, and during the next two years, they will be releasing two more films, The Possession Experiment and Psychotronic FM. We spoke with Hansen, who has been named the “Del Toro of Music Videos” about his love for the grim and ghoulish and how that has helped him build his digital empire on the east coast.

You are well known for your experience doing music videos for bands and musicians of all genres, from WILLIE NELSON to WE WERE GENTLEMEN, and everyone in between. Can you tell me about how creating these videos helped you break into the film industry?

I was in film school for special effects and comic book art, and I accidentally got introduced to music videos because I was in a band. This was when I went to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). I had to make a video for our band so we could tour. So I made a crappy video, and that opened my eyes to a different experience and got me away from the band stuff. Then that led to films/movies, which was good practice for making movies using a smaller budget. I still do occasional music videos, but I’m definitely into the movies now full-time.

I was in the visual effects [program at SCAD], and did special effects like monster stuff. I did a lot of sculpting and a lot of drawing to make creatures. I kind of left that when I was accidentally introduced to short films, and I just jumped straight into that right away. The only major at the time, since I was in my senior year, to jump to was motion graphics and broadcast design, which is a hybrid of visual effects and filmmaking.

Why did you decide that this is what you wanted to pursue as your career?

My dream was to make sequential art, which is comics; my dream was to be a comic book artist. I realized it’s fun drawing comics all the time, but that the chances of getting into Marvel and drawing big comics is a very long road. When I got exposed to filmmaking, it kind of opened my eyes. I think the main thing was I really wanted to make the creatures myself and make movies about the creatures that I used to draw and make for other films. My first three years of college I made monsters for everyone else’s films; I would make their ghosts, Draculas, werewolves, big foots, and all kinds of funny stuff. People just came to me because I could make them, and I flipped it around and thought I could do this too. So I decided to focus on filmmaking.

Has your interest in monsters ever made its way into any of your music videos?

Yeah! A lot of my themes in music videos are definitely very dark and on the scarier side. There are a number of videos dealing with a darker element. My work in general is very dark compared to other commercial directors or filmmakers. I’ve definitely been called the Del Toro of music videos before, which is hilarious and a compliment. I’ll take that any day. I just love blood, and creatures, and all that stuff. I’m definitely an 80’s kid; that was the heyday of horror movies.

Other than when you lived in Savannah, Ga. for college, have you always lived in Virginia Beach?

I actually lived in Los Angeles for four years. I moved out to Los Angeles to do what every filmmaker does and tried to work on the big lots. I worked on The Dark Knight, and as a background extra for all these movies stalking Christopher Nolan to try to get in there and get my scripts off. I made a bunch of contacts with a lot of different people working a lot of different sets. There was a lot of stuff I didn’t get credit for because I wasn’t a part of [the Screen Actors Guild] or in the film union, which is thousands of dollars. So I just tried to P.A. and get in wherever I could.

It opened up tons of doors, and I pretty much realized that you don’t need to be in Los Angeles to make films. This was right when Louisiana was putting out their huge films, and then Atlanta came out pretty much leading the pack with Los Angeles at number three and New York at number four, as far as films being shot in regards to budget range. Atlanta just passed Los Angeles this past year. Running my studio in Virginia Beach is cost effective because in Los Angeles I would need four-times the amount to run the same studio.

Since you have become more established in your career, you have created both short and long-reel films with your new company Digital Thunderdome. Can you tell me why you decided to pursue that and how creating your own company has helped you develop your skills as a filmmaker?

Yeah, I used to just be by myself as a director. The whole thing about Digital Thunderdome is that it is “creativity.” Not to sound cheesy but what I like to do is to find the most creative people I know and surround myself with them. I feel like the better your team is around you, that makes everything better from special effects to casting, producers, budget people. If you find more talented people and surround yourself with them, you are going to be more successful faster; that’s what’s been starting to happen.

Here I am making movies in Virginia that would cost me $2 million in Los Angeles to make the same movie that I just did for a lot cheaper, and when I showed people the film, they thought it took $5 million. It’s [about] using the trickery of technology and what I have available to me. Everything in Los Angeles is expensive so to put Digital Thunderdome here was really smart just because it is so much cheaper, and I am actually going to be opening a second office in Atlanta in six months. That is just taking more advantage of the tax incentives they are giving in Atlanta right now, which is really good.

In February, you released your latest film, Until It Hurts, which tells the stories and sacrifices of some of our Navy SEALS who selflessly gave their lives for our country and the very unique way that Dave Hall, a retired SEAL sniper decided to honor his fallen friends and brothers. Why was it so important for you to tell this story?

I actually got approached by a friend, and we had just come off of Monumental, which was my first feature. This guy approached me I guess because I had an art background. I had seen tons of war documentaries, but I had never seen one that revolved around a piece of art. The “paintbrush” was a sniper rifle, which I thought was very interesting. When they showed me the art and the 79 names on the art, they all had their own individual stories. Some of the stories were portrayed with Lone Survivor and Black Hawk Down, some of the same names on the piece of art. Me being a fan of those two movies, [I thought] that was too hard to pass up. They approached me to direct and produce it, and it was one of the first projects for Digital Thunderdome. Monumental was done with me just directing and a different crew. It’s a very sad film, but it’s very moving. It makes sure you ask a lot of questions and brings a lot of controversial issues with the public and the veterans. It’s definitely a different film from the horror film stuff. It’s a polar step into an entirely different direction, which shows some well-roundedness.

What is the next project that you are working on?

We are just finished up The Possession Experiment, and then we are going into a really cool project which is definitely in my roots. It’s called Psychotronic FM, and it’s an anthology film, kind of like Trick or Treat or Tales from the Crypt. It’s basically five stories that all interconnect, and we got Sig Haig and Michael Berryman from The Hills Have Eyes. I got Glen Danzig from the MISFITS, and we’re in talks with Ron Pearlman right now. We’re really crossing our fingers with that. Also, Brendon [Urie], the lead singer of PANIC! AT THE DISCO actually contacted us wanting to be in a movie, which I was [really surprised by]. He is pretty huge in the music world. He had seen The Possession Experiment trailer — somehow, some way. They are managed by the same guys that manage WEEZER and PARAMORE. That kind of jump started everything. So he’s in on it for one of the shorts, and we have Dee Wallace from The Howling and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

It’s basically an 80’s movie. Sig Haig is a radio disc jockey back in 1984, and it’s super old school. This guy is working as a disc jockey on Halloween night, and each call that comes in, he asks each called to tell their scariest story. Each story from each call leads into one of the shorts, and then they all interconnect and the DJ is connected too. It’s definitely a gritty, throwback to the 80’s special effects. We are prepping for a shoot this October.

Do you have a projected release date for it?

Maybe next year sometime. Halloween 2016 is what we will be shooting for, or right around Halloween. It’s definitely a good year-long project.

For more updates on Scott Hansen and Digital Thunderdome, be sure to visit their website, follow him on Twitter, like their Facebook page.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Falls Church, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with friends.

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