Meet Marshal Hilton, the Sheriff who didn’t let the Bunnyman down

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Marshal Hilton is honest and sincere, sometimes truthful to a fault. His muse is inner exploration and world observation, bringing life to words, often times living in the dark and painful places where Drama shines the light brightly. Making Movies is a “We Game”, not a “Me Game”, a Team Sport, Collaboration in its purest form, a lesson Marshal learned many years ago… “If it’s inspired and honest, I want to hear about it, experience it, dream within its confines, its whimsical space, it’s dark corners…” says Marshal Hilton.

indieactivity: How did you get connected to the Bunnyman project?
Marshal: I worked with Carl on Bunny Massacre back in 2013. My character Sheriff Baxter was supposed to die at the end of Bunnyman Massacre, but due to technical difficulties and scheduling Carl couldn’t kill him off. Carl liked the character so much that he decided to bring him back, albeit slightly maimed and very revengeful, to give Sheriff Baxter a proper death. Carl sent me the script for Bunnyman Vengeance and said, “Let’s kill Baxter proper like…”

Actually for Bunnyman Massacre, I auditioned for the part. And to be honest with you, I got the part because I fit the shirt, seriously. I did a scene with an actress during the audition. We did the scene, Carl said thank you to the actress and she left the room. Carl asked me to stay, reached into a bag underneath the table and pulled out a Sheriff’s shirt wardrobe prop and said “…Try this on…”. It fit, and he said, “…You have the part…” And that’s how it went down.

indieactivity: As lead on the project, how did this ‘choice’ work for you?
Marshal: It’s actually three choices. Be on time, be prepared and be respectful. I make these same choices on every film I am blessed to partake. The publicity and profile of Hollywood makes it appear to be a very large town, but it’s actually a very small town. If you spend enough time working in Hollywood, people talk, both good and bad. Every film you work on broadens your Brand awareness in the talent pool. I’ve been fortunate to have worked on close to 70 films over the last 25 plus years, so there’s going to be people that have watched your work, so do good work.

You have to remember, most people working on a set, and specifically in the Independent film world, aspire to a greater creative future. In Hollywood everyone has a dream, a script and a headshot. Most Production Assistant’s, Assistant Directors and various crew members all have a script or story they want to tell one day. Most went to a film school of one kind or another. Everyone wants to keep climbing the ladder. Hopefully they like what you’re about and see working with you on something in the future. You’re always surrounded by ambition, so try to stay on point.

You never know, that person that brought you a bottle of water on one film set, could pop up one day, offer you a film role, and be your next Director.

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Marshal Hilton as Sheriff Clint Baxter in Bunnyman Vengeance (2017)

indieactivity: What part of the story challenged you? What drove you to get on the project?
Marshal: I tend to gravitate too, and get cast, playing characters that are “Kind Hearted Bastards”, as a producer recently described it. There’s a sense of pain, vengeance, betrayal and anger floating underneath the surface. Those qualities seem to be emotional traits that are easier for me to find within myself, and those are most likely a better question for a therapist? They can either be rural country types or high-end wealthy manipulative educated types. I suppose it’s just a matter of the quality of the wardrobe  It’s safe to say you’ll probably not be seeing me wearing a sweater driving a mini van in a film anytime soon. It just doesn’t fit my mug 

indieactivity: You’re not new to indie films. What do you enjoy about the work that keeps you working?
Marshal: Getting the phone call from your Agent, “…They want you…” It’s a feeling that‘s hard to describe. It NEVER gets old! Being given the opportunity to play like a child and get paid. The meeting of fascinating people from all parts of the globe in pursuit of creativity; travelling to parts of the world that you would have most likely never travelled too; the feeling of communal focus that can be achieved within your temporary “Production Family”.

When everyone is supportive and on the same page, making stories come to life is breathtaking. Indie films also tend to tackle subject matter that the Studios would rather not risk doing battle. Packaged Properties funded from large corporate entertainment entities for mass consumption, come with a vast array of conditions placed upon the filmmaker, from casting decisions, to creative manipulation, to political correctness. Indie films tend to be autonomous and a freer creative environment.

indieactivity: Give an example of a direction you received from the director during the production?
Marshal: We were shooting the finale of Baxter’s moment of truth and Carl yells out from behind the monitor, “ …turn you head to the left, I want to see the reflection of Bunnyman in your sunglasses…” It turned out that he also got my hands on the gun in the reflection of the glasses as well. It’s a pretty cool shot.

indieactivity: How did you create your character from ground up?
Marshal: I’ve also always been attracted to the stoic nature of old western and rural characters, and if I can put that kind of spin on a character then I know its going to be fun for me. I love the old West! I truly do feel as though I was born in the wrong century. Sheriff Baxter was a hard boiled, kick ass country sheriff, a “Good Guy” only because he hated idiots more than himself  There’s is just something about cowboy boots, a crisp cowboy hat, sunglasses and an ornery attitude that makes for a fun afternoon of filming.

A “Creative Choice” can be an external stimulus, an internal stimulus, or both. The trick is to make them very specific, consistent, and repeatable. As for the physicality or external qualities of Baxter, it was actually two things that gave me a “sense” of Baxter, the Cowboy Hat and Sunglasses. Both props are my personal property and I used them both on my first Bunnyman film. I have many cowboy hats, but the Grey hat is more of a formal dress style cowboy. Baxter fancies himself as slick and powerful. It’s tight, rigid, and well shaped, kind of like Baxter’s Type A personality. The Mirror Sunglasses also give Baxter the ability to “hide” his thoughts and feeling while in plain sight.

As for the “Internal Choice” for Baxter, in the original script for Bunnyman Massacre the “Sheriff” actually didn’t have a name. He was just attitude on paper, a quiet stillness about him. He didn’t say a lot but would kill you with a stare. I’m a huge Clint Eastwood fan, so that essence, along with the cowboy hat, sunglasses, and rhythms just felt right. I asked Carl if we could name him Clint. The last name Baxter just sounded hard and nasty. He liked the name so that’s how Clint Baxter came to life.

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Marshal Hilton as Sheriff Clint Baxter in Bunnyman Vengeance (2017)

indieactivity: As lead on the film, describe the feeling of responsibility that you shouldered?
Marshal: Taking on a Lead Role in a film is always a daunting task, not just from the amount of work that you have to prepare, but the ability to maintain the focus over the process of filming the story out of sequence, and all the technical parts of getting the shots. There is also I believe, the reality that everyone on the production watching how you work and your attitude towards all involved. I think that as a Lead actor you have the opportunity set the tone of the creative environment. Indie film sets are tough environments with often overworked and underpaid folks killing themselves for ten to fifteen hour days.

The morale of the crew is the most important asset on a film Set to make your days. Film crews talk. If they like what you’re doing, see your commitment to the material and are supportive of your work, often they will feel like they are working on something that’s going to be cool. If they sense that, they’ll work their asses off. They will see that you respect the entire process and that you’re there to help them be successful as well. That energy will circulate through the entire company.

Believe me, if you’re only concerned with yourself and act like an arrogant asshole, that energy will kill any chance of the crew being engaged. And a crew not engaged is a film production that will fail nine times out of ten.

indieactivity: Explain one creative choice you made on set during production?
Marshal: The stunt we shot for one of Baxter’s scenes was a bit dicey. Without giving up too much, whenever you deal with the hood of a moving car on an old dusty road, and a psycho dude in a giant blood covered bunny suit, all bets are off the table  My “Creative Choice” was to have the Director actually do the stunt gag in real time to prove to me it was safe. Remember kids, it’s just a movie…

indieactivity: What did you take away from the film production?
Marshal: My hat, my sunglasses, and the satisfaction that Sheriff Clint Baxter died in a manner fitting to the twisted world of the Bunnyman.

indieactivity: What do you like most about the director, and his collaboration with his team?
Marshal: Carl is a creative freak. And I say that in the most loving and respectful way. His imagination is a scary and very odd place. The stuff that runs amuck in his head is frightening. Its funny, but most of the guys that I’ve met that delve into the dark depravity of genre films have been some of the most unassuming and quiet people you’ll ever meet. Don’t get me wrong, Carl is strong willed and has a definitive opinion on things, but you’d never suspect that while shaking his hand a seeing his smile, that deep within lays an unfiltered distorted imagination.

I have another Script that he wrote called “Blood Angel”, about a time travelling Nazi named “Icarus” that has landed back on earth in search of his genetic offspring, as he attempts to recreate his bloody version of the 3rd Reich. I’m attached to the film playing an older, sceptical, grizzled Detective that’s trying to figure out how to protect the young girl at the heart of the story. It’s a crazy psychological time travel dream-like story in its Steam Punk Industrial vision. It’s so gnarly and poetic in its spirit. It’s very unique and I can’t wait to get working on it.

indieactivity: What is next for you?
Marshal: I have a number of projects in various stages of Post Production but these are the nearest to completion. I have a film coming out soon that I’m very excited about called “Primal Rage” (formerly “Primal Rage, the Legend of Oh-Mah”) that we shot in the forests of Northern California and Oregon. It’s directed and created by Practical FX Master Patrick Magee. Patrick is a genre veteran that has worked in the trenches of independent film for many years. As a collaborator, he get’s it. He was a gracious and caring host. The cast and crew was a terrific bunch of team players. We hiked and ran around out in the forest for several weeks. It was one of the more enjoyable shoots I’ve been on in many years.

Although I generally do not watch my work in public, I did watch a private screening of the film. It’s done really well. It’s most definitely a Theatre experience film. Stunning forest visuals, action, suspense and a thundering sound track. It’s an intense experience. The best description I can give you is, think Arnold’s “Predator”, in the deep forest, with angry fur and carnage. I’m confident in saying that the legend of Bigfoot will never again be seen in the same light. It’s going to have Theatrical Release in early 2018.

There’s a teaser trailer for the film on Dread Central. You can follow me, or the film, on social media to stay tuned as to the exact dates.

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Marshal Hilton as B. D. in Primal Rage (2018)

I also just finished shooting a Dramedy Episodic Pilot titled “FLICKS” that will be pitched to FX, Netflix, Amazon, and all the usual suspects. It’s a quirky character driven story about a struggling screenwriter whose been bumping around town for 10 years and just can’t seem to break through Hollywood. I play his agent Elan, a rough and tumble, foul mouthed, bull in a china shop Talent Agent.

He’s an animal. It very much has the Indie feel of a show like the Jim Gaffigan show. It’s a small intimate slice of life piece. My description of the story theme is something along the lines of “Entourage”, except the main characters are still eating Top Ramen and can’t seem to catch a break. It’s about all the insanity and failures people deal with on the “lower levels” of the Hollywood swamp. There’s definitely no lack of storylines.

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Marshal Hilton as Elan in a Dramedy Episodic Pilot titled “FLICKS”

I also just finished shooting with an old friend Director/Writer Jesse V. Johnson on his latest action film “The Pay Up”, with Scott Adkins, Louis Mandylor, Tony Todd, Vladimir Kulich, and Michael Pare’, Produced by Daryn Simons and Deborah Del Prete for Cohesive Entertainment Group. It should be a 2018 release. And in true Jesse Johnson form, it will be kick ass bloody good time!

In December of last year I Co-Starred in a Sci-Fi Adventure Drama feature with Gary Daniels, titled ‘ASTRO”, co- written by Asif Akbar and Bernard Selling, and Directed by Asif Akbar. We shot it in Roswell New Mexico. Also in the ensemble cast are Louis Mandylor, Michael Pare’, Randy Wayne, Dominique Sewain, Max Wasa and others. I play “Alexander Biggs” a mysterious billionaire space entrepreneur who recruits an old friend and colleague to help him discover the mysteries of an extraterrestrial life form he’s discovered in another solar system. It’s currently in Post Production and I assume it should be out sometime in 2018.

I also will have a Supernatural Thriller Film hitting the Festival circuit in early 2018 titled ‘Echoes of Fear”. It’s a Supernatural Horror Thriller by husband and wife team Brian and Laurence Avenet-Bradley, the creative team behind “GHOST OF THE NEEDLE”, “DARK REMAINS” and “MALIGNANT”. I can’t give you too much here, other than to say I play “David”, a kind-hearted yet nosy next door neighbor who Alysa ( Trista Robinson ) keeps running into as she confronts the haunting of her grandfather’s house.

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Marshal Hilton as Priest in The Pay Up (2018) with Scott Adkins

indieactivity: What advice do you give actors regarding what you learnt on the project?
Marshal: Well, specifically to this film, I’d say just because your character dies in the script, in Hollywood, a character is never really dead? Lol. On the serious tip, if you do good work, and the Director digs what you’re about, you will hear from them again. They will think about you when they’re writing or casting their next film. This business is a relationships game. As for career advice, I’d say be patient. A career in the Arts is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long and spiritually challenging haul. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “…Screw this shit!, I’m done…”, and yet here I am.

Know that you will fail many times. You will get screwed along the way, many times, often by people you’d never expect, and at times, from those closest to you. If you’re pursuing acting strictly for fame and fortune go home now grasshopper, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Save your heart and dignity, because you will lose both. If you need love from complete strangers to feed your self-esteem, you’ll be better off saving the life of a shelter dog. That’s a level of unconditional love Hollywood will never offer.

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Marshal Hilton as Alexander Briggs in the Sci-fi action thriller ASTRO. Photo courtesy of Film Factory 2017

On the flip side of that, you will meet some amazing people. Baby steps leads to more of the same. Every job you get, regardless of pay or status, is a success in the context of just how many folks would have died to get the job you just landed; respect the opportunity, it’s a blessing. In the early career stages, you will often not recognize your successes’ in the context of the “Big Prize”; but they all count, they all add to your depth as a professional; deep waters is an admired quality in this business.

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