Born in 1975 from Worcester Massachusetts, Jeff Hayes is a producer and
a talented singer who is best known for bringing the Sleepaway Camp
legacy back. Jeff is the webmaster of sleepawaycampmovies.com and the
consulting producer of the new film 'Return to Sleepaway Camp'.
HF: What is it that you love about Sleepaway Camp?
Jeff: To start, I've been a lifelong fan of horror movies. The death sequences in
Sleepaway were very creative and packed a punch. I liked the large assortment of
wacky, colorful characters in Sleepaway that were all very memorable. The
characterization was great and I love good characters. I liked the mysterious aura
about the film and the mysterious nature of the story. I liked that it felt realistic at
times (kids played kids instead of 20-somethings playing teenagers) yet also campy
and over-the-top at other times. This movie has a very unique vibe all it's own. I'm
also a sucker for a movie set at camp. Camp is like the perfect location. I guess if you
put all these elements together then you've got a winning combination.
HF: For the kids at home that aren't already familiar, how did you get involved with
Return to Sleepaway Camp?
Jeff: Between 1998 and 1999, I tracked down Felissa Rose (Angela) and Jonathan
Tiersten (Ricky) who were the lead actors in Sleepaway Camp. I was on a mission to
get another Sleepaway Camp movie made with some of the original characters
Returning and I also wanted to interview them for the website. Nobody knew what
ever became of anybody involved in Sleepaway Camp and I thought it would be fun to
unravel some of the mystery and share it all with the fans. Both Felissa and Jon were
very receptive to the idea and told me that if we could make it happen, they would
love to be part of another Sleepaway. Before I went out to NY to meet up with Felissa
in person, I asked her to dig out anything she could find from back in 82 when she
made the movie. She dug out some wonderful photo albums and scrapbooks. While
we were going through this stuff at her apartment, we came across a camp
memories book that she had and found an old phone number to writer/director
Robert Hiltzik's girlfriend, Missy inside. I decided to call the number, hoping that it
would be another stepping stone towards finding Robert, and the lucky stars were
with us that weekend because it ended out leading me to him (he was now married to
Missy). I had a long talk with him about bringing back Sleepaway and told him to go
check out the website.
He was amazed because he had no idea that almost 2 decades later, people were still
interested in Sleepaway Camp and it's colorful characters. He thought it was dead and
buried. I let him know that I also tracked down Jonathan and Felissa and they were
both game for doing another one. Then I put him on the phone with Felissa. It was
their first conversation in over 15 years! The 3 of us kept discussing the possibility of
doing another Sleepaway and by the end of that weekend, Robert was completely
enthused and said, Lets Do It! He told me he had written a script for a sequel back in
1986 that did not contain any of the original characters but he decided not to pursue
it. After our meeting, he decided to dust it off and re-write it, this time adding some of
the original characters and some of the other elements that I told him the fans liked
best about the original. While we were continually working on getting the movie going,
I got an e-mail from Tom Van Dell (who played Mike in Sleepaway). He was intrigued
by the website and everything that happened over the past few years. He told me
that he would be interested in getting involved as an investor/executive producer and
felt very confident that we could make this movie happen. I called Robert, told him
about my discussions with Tom, and gave him Tom's number. Shortly thereafter,
Tom came on board as an executive producer and during summer 2003, everything
else fell into place and a September start date for production was set.
HF: Tell us about the progression of your site from the beginning. I understand it
started as a fan site and is now the official site of Sleepaway Camp and Return.
Jeff: Australian Horror buff John Klyza and I started the original website in 1998 as a
way to re-interest people in these cult classics, give fans worldwide a place to enjoy
all things Sleepaway Camp, and possibly get a sequel going. It was great to see the
response it was getting from fans all around the world who were all still very
interested in the Sleepaway movies. After I started tracking everybody down, things
just kept growing and word about the website really spread nicely. I arranged a
commentary with Anchor Bay Entertainment to get on the Sleepaway Camp DVD. I
put together the Sleepaway Camp Reunion for Fangoria's Weekend Of Horrors in
2001. All this stuff kept building even more interest and opened a lot of doors for a lot
of people. That's how it all started.
HF: What familiar faces from the original Sleepaway Camp can we expect to see in
Jeff: Jonathan Tiersten returns as Ricky and Paul DeAngelo returns as Ronnie. Does
Felissa return as Angela? Well, Anything is possible. She worked on some of the
behind-the-scenes featuretes with me while we were at camp and I made sure to give
her an Angela cameo in those.
HF: Does Return have any relation to the Sleepaway Camp sequels?
Jeff: No. Return picks up 2 decades after the events of the original Sleepaway and
continues with the original story that Robert Hiltzik wrote. Let me clarify something
about that because fans ask about this frequently. It is not a diss to Sleepaway Camp
2 and 3 by any means. I think those movies are great fun! Robert wanted Return to
be a continuation of the original story that he created and not the alternate storyline
that the sequels took.
HF: What is new and different about Return compared to the original Sleepaway
Jeff: Return takes place 2 decades later and is set at a new camp. Ronnie has grown
into a very paranoid guy, after dealing with all the post-trauma from the original
movie. He's now junior partner (and Head Counselor) at Camp Manabe, but he's
become very skeptical. It's interesting to watch how his character has grown since
the first movie. He doesn't have any cool red jogging suits in this one though. Ha!
Ricky is understandably no longer involved with Camp but he mysteriously has a job in
the same neck of the woods as this new camp. The murders start up again and
everyone becomes a suspect. In a lot of ways, Return is a lot like the original, which is
the type of horror movie we need out there today. There's a lot of wild new things
HF: How did you manage to track down the majority of the cast from the original
Jeff: I did a LOT of research, especially online. Making the first break was the toughest
but after months of research, I located Jonathan Tiersten in 1998. We met up and he
told me all the things he remembered about making the movie. I used some of that
to revise my searches then kept hammering away. Oftentimes, a minor piece of trivia
that one of the cast members would give me would give me an idea to locate another
member of the cast. It's amazing because back in 1998, Nobody knew where any of
these people were. Now, you can find my interviews with most of the cast on the
HF: Tell us about some of your solo projects and their influences, and most
importantly, where can we see them?
Jeff: Grandma's Secret Recipe is about a sweet old Grandma who flips out and kills
her snotty ingrate of a grand-daughter with an old family ice pick! After the grisly
murder, she tries to coerce her anxiety-riddled son to help her dispose of the body.
It's a gory horror-comedy about the importance of family bonds and how to make a
good cannibal stew. Felissa and Robert both have cameos in it. My influences for it: As
kids, my sister and I would sometimes spend a Saturday night over my Grandparent's
house and my Grandmother always let us rent horror movies. That's where my
passion, excitement, and inspiration for horror movies began. I'm currently editing the
Grandma sequel and let me tell ya, Grandma's latest stew is 10 times as squishy! And
to further the Sleepaway connections, I have Daryl Wilcher (Riff from Sleepaway 3) in
this one as well as Felissa reprising her news-correspondent role: Angie Angel. I grew
up on a lot of the 80's slasher movies (seeing many of them for the first time at
Grandma's house) and they are definitely another big influence.
Another project I did is called Blood Brothers and it is my first feature-length movie. It
took me 4 years to shoot it. I basically rounded up a bunch of friends who were
interested in making a movie and we did it! I shot it on a camcorder and edited most
of it at home. Since we were all just everyday people with everyday jobs, we would
schedule shoots when we could get the necessary people together and then we'd go
out and shoot scenes. That's why it took 4 years. We made it for nothing and we all
did it purely for the passion of making a movie. With all that in mind, I think it came
out pretty well, especially some of the murder scenes. The raw nature of the movie
gives them a very brutally realistic look and feel. For more info on where to see these
gruesome little tales, check out www.thegrandmamovies.com
HF: Any word on a release date for Return to Sleepaway Camp? The fans are waiting!
Jeff: I'm hearing that it's possible the remainder of the post production will be
completed by summer. Post production on Independent movie making isn't easy by
any means but we keep striving until we get there. It's been a long time coming but I
think most of the fans will agree that it was worth the wait. Enough of these remakes
already- it's time to Return To Sleepaway Camp!
Interview done by: