Producer Daemon Hillin talks work, COVID and ‘Apache Junction’

Provided by Jeff Michael
Photo courtesy of Saban Films

Prolific film producer Daemon Hillin has quite a few projects up his sleeve, including the action-packed new movie Apache Junction, out now!

With a proven track record of producing noteworthy and financially viable films throughout the world, Daemon has produced such films as Hellblazer starring Bruce Dern, Death Of Me starring Maggie Q, and Luke Hemsworth, and Killing Winston Jones starring Richard Dreyfuss. He just worked with the late DMX on the action film Fast Vengence.

Apache Junction is an outpost of lawlessness, a haven for thieves and cold-blooded killers. After big-city reporter Annabelle Angel (Scout Taylor-Compton) arrives to write an article on the town, she becomes a target when notorious gunslinger Jericho Ford (Stuart Townsend) comes to her aid. Now Annabelle must entrust her future to a man with a deadly past, as Jericho heads toward a tense showdown in this thrilling Western that unloads a double-barreled blast of action. Costarring country music superstar Trace Adkins and Thomas Jane.

Check out my conversation with Daemon! 

You are a producer on quite a few things, most recently Apache Junction. Can you tell me what a producer does?

Daemon: Oh, absolutely. So, the producer is the bearer of everything for a film. From a business and a creative standpoint, we’re in charge of everything from finding the material to finding the director to finding the cast, that’s what we call the packaging side of things, to financing it to delivering it to collecting all the monies. It’s a very long process. People see a movie, it’s very quick, but the entire lifecycle of a film, for a producer, could be like four years or longer sometimes.

There are also quite a few producers on this film (Apache Junction). What was your role?

Daemon: I’m the lead producer. This was my baby. And I was in charge of everything in this movie. I was in charge of setting it up, of finding the distributor (Saban Films), of putting in the offers to the talent I brought in, you know, Thomas Jane and Trace Atkins and all these different amazing cast members that we have. I really did everything from a business standpoint, and then I let the creatives be creative. I’ve done many films with Justin Lee and I let Justin be creative. I handle the business and I see it from the very beginning to the very end. And you’ll see a lot of producers on this, and it’s a lot about financing. So I’ll bridge together different people to bring in the financials in order to execute the project. We were very fortunate, we had our sales company, who sells all my movies, they got us our deal with Saban, which was a very nice financial piece. Then we had the executive producers from Origo Financial Services, like Avi Haas and Rich Carlo and Frank Salzano. Financially, their firm came in and monetized like three quarters of the budget. And then we had Vasily Bernhardt, and then Wanna Choy. So that’s why there’s all these different producers, everybody kind of has a different role. I’m leading everybody in the direction of making a film.

So, with you being the producer you chose this project, right?
(Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images) Provided by Jeff Michael

Daemon: Yes, so I chose this project. We were going back and forth with our sales company on what is working and what’s needed in the marketplace and domestically. Westerns do very well, they track very well. So when Justin Lee brought Apache Junction, and after reading the script, it just felt right. It felt like the right time, like this is what we should do. And one of my dearest friends, Stuart Townsend, was saying, ‘hey dude, I want to do a Western,’ and I thought, okay, this makes sense. I have these actors that I know, that I’ve worked with, that are already talking about Westerns, so why not? Let’s do one! 

That’s funny how it kind of did your job for you in a sense.

Daemon: Yeah. It’s difficult now, like every film has its own difficulties, but some films just come together very nicely. Now this movie had a lot of like, ‘well, how are we going to get through this?’ moments. We got shut down in New Mexico, you know, it was the start of COVID, so we were terrified. How were we going to finish this movie? What’s going on? Is a zombie apocalypse going on right now? People were really worried so we dealt with a few of these, ‘oh my moments’ in this movie, but it did really come together.

How did COVID affect you as the producer?

Daemon: Besides losing my hair, I think I have post traumatic stress syndrome because of it because I had mobilized like 80 people. And as the producer, you’re responsible for all these people under your wing. And when you don’t know what’s going on, it’s hard to find a solution. I was having to deal with the local government, dealing with the unions daily. Everybody was learning, at this point, how is this going to affect us, and we saw restaurants closing and all of a sudden we couldn’t get catering. Then I was going to lose my set photographer, then lose this person, then that person. It was this sense of overlying anxiety that we’re just kind of like having to breathe deeply, and, and stay calm but stay in the right direction. We had like six days left. We shot out Trace Adkins and we shot out Thomas Jane, and then two days later we got the call from the state of New Mexico. They said, ‘thank you very much, but we would appreciate it if you would shut down.’ They didn’t demand it but we needed to do it. We were one of the last movies at that point, still shooting. We’re like, ‘we’re doing this, we’re gonna get through this,’ but it got to the point where the state was calling. So we had to go on hiatus, we shut down in March and then we picked up in December. And what COVID did to us, because of the time frame, from when we shot to when we picked back up, one of the issues was that we had an actor that had to fly home to Costa Rica. So once that actor got there, they got stuck there, because of visas and everything, they couldn’t come back. So we had to time this and make sure that we were in the right position to make sure that we could get our actor back in, shoot them out, and then get them back to Costa Rica. So, between the actors being all over the place, all over the world, they ended up repainting and rebuilding part of the town that we shot in. So, at this point, we lost our set. So then it was a matter of like, ‘how are we going to finish this movie? Where’s our location?’ It took us some time and Justin had scouted this place called the White Horse Ranch out in Landers (California), and we made it work. We pieced those together so, it’s a movie that’s set in this old western town, Apache Junction, but it’s literally two states that we pieced together in a film.

That’s so interesting because you can’t tell in the movie.

Daemon: I had creatives on that. Our DP, Logan Fulton, and Justin Lee, and our on set editor were able to take these pieces and combine them. And I think that they did a great job. I’m very happy with what they did and how they did it. That’s about, like hiring the right people to do the job.

Photo courtesy of Saban Films
So now that COVID is, fingers crossed, on its way out, are things looking up for you and other producers?

Daemon: Yes, I believe so. There are always worries now, you know, because COVID hasn’t gone away, it’s, it’s something that is there. But we’re getting a grasp on it, we’re able to control it a little more, but with all these variations, you still have worries, and they still affect you and they affect you financially. So you’re gonna get a COVID insurance policy, then you need to do all the COVID testing, all these small details that you need to add to a film. It’s drastically increasing our budgets. We’re happy that we’re getting a grasp on things, but also at the same time, COVID has been a really huge burden financially on every movie being made.

According to your IMDB page, it looks like you have five projects that are coming out soon. Are you able to talk about any of those yet?

Daemon: Yeah, absolutely. I just shot a film in Maui, and it was with Justin Lee again. So for that film, Maneater, we made a practical shark, we built a practical Jaws-style shark. We went in a totally different direction on this. We went from a Western to a Jaws-style movie. And we ended up working with Trace Adkins again. We had a great cast on that one, we had Trace Adkins and Nicky Whelan, and Shane West. We shot that in Maui, so it was a totally different vibe. And then, for future projects, I have some that are not even listed on my IMDb that will probably go sooner. The next project that we’re shooting is in Malta, and it’s directed by James Cullen Bressack. They just have a great tax incentive over in Malta and that’s one of the reasons that we’re going to go shoot. And yeah and then everything else is very dependent upon cast. They’re in development, we’re ready to go, but then at the same time, we can’t go until we have the cast because the cast is what generates that distribution deal, which then trickles down and triggers all my financing. So that’s the process and that’s the way I’ve been working.

Is there anything else you would like to say about the life of a producer or about Apache Junction?

Daemon: The life of a producer is probably one of the most stressful professions, but also one of the most rewarding, to be able to do something different every single, solitary day to see the world. I love my job and there’s nothing I’d rather do, even with all the stress that you have on a daily basis. I love producing and with Apache Junction, I hope that audiences are able to go in and watch the film and take themselves out of their daily lives. Go watch a movie for an hour and step away and enjoy it. 

Photo courtesy of Saban Films

Apache Junction is now available and be on the look out for Daemon’s other projects coming out soon!