Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday... and Some Festival Updates

Today is Black Friday, so my guess is that most of you are waiting in line to buy shit at major retail stores right now. For your history lesson of the day, Black Friday actually has two meanings. One is a day of absolute stock market catastrophe, specifically September 24, 1869 (which preceeded "Black Tuesday", which stole the name). The other is today, the day after Thanksgiving, named so because it's a stressful and chaotic experience for retailers. Regardless, I was thinking that "Black Friday" is a cool title for a horror film, so I went over to and checked out how many films share the title... it turns out that are 6 films called "Black Friday". The first is from 1916 and it's a historical drama, the second is the horror film from 1940 with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and is about gangsters and brain transplants, the third is a drama short from 2001, the fourth is an action adventure from 2003 about a high-powered attorney who returns home from work to find his family held hostage, the fifth is an award winning film from Anurag Kashyap about the Bombay bomb blasts and, finally, the last one, which should be coming out soon, is from Ethan Terra and it's an indie horror starring Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Andrew Divoff and Tiffany Shepis!!! Now, why did someone not tell me about this? And why isn't it coming out this week? Need to know more...

Anyhow, December is around the corner and there's only one more festival that may be playing something horror related... it's the Beverly Hills Hi-Def Festival and they're basically just showing off the HD capabilities of the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills. However, there's lots of shorts and features and it's only $10 to get in to see a whole program. You can go through a list of all the titles there and it looks like there'll be a few horrors... lots of indie shit, anyow.

Now, there's a lot of festivals that have deadlines in December, as it's the end of the year. So, if you want to get a snippet of what's coming up soon, you have a film that's just about finished or you're ready to submit, here's a list of festivals that have deadlines in December. I'm not going to say anything about them because there's too many of them. I'll just put up all the links. So, until December...

2009 Eerie Horror Film Festival

A Night of Horror International Film Festival

Anubis Digital Quick Bites Horror Film Contest

Bare Bones International Film Festival

Boston Underground Film Festival

Dam Short Film Festival

FilmGo Film Fest

Fresno Filmworks Film Festival

Heart of England International Film Festival

Sacramento Horror Film Festival

Sci Fi London: The London International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film

Show off Your Shorts Film Festival

Swansea Bay Film Festival

The Nickel Independent Film Festival

Thursday, November 27, 2008

An Executive Decision to Take Thanksgiving Off

I had a post that I was working on, but I've made an executive decision to take the day off. So, instead, I'm going to post the latest video from Fewdio which has a Thanksgiving-ish theme, sort of.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, we'll be back tomorrow! And take my advice, drink heavily tonight (today).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Interview with Scilla Andreen, CEO and Co-Founder of IndieFlix

When we post the interviews with indie horror filmmakers, we hope that we accomplish two things. One, we hope that we give that particular filmmaker a bit of promotion and, hopefully, help him sell a few extra copies of his film. Two, we hope to inspire other filmmakers to get off their asses and go make their films, then give them some promotion once they do... we try to keep the cycle going, as our view is that the world simply needs more indie horror. I mean, you hear a lot of talk about how the market is oversaturated, but fuck that. It's not. I think indie film, especially indie horror, has yet to fully come in to its own and when it does, there's going to be plenty of room to grow. And if you can keep your budget low and you can make a good film, there's no reason you can't make your money back... and some. The problem is that most filmmakers aren't really 100% sure what to do when their film is done. That's why we don't only interview filmmakers, we also try to interview distributors and festival directors... and this interview, with Scilla Andreen, CEO and Co-Founder of IndieFlix is one of those interviews.

Let's just start off by saying that IndieFlix is an awesome service for indie filmmakers and is something you really need to look in to, for sure. They're one of those companies that's pushing the envelope further by delving into new technology, such as VOD and online distribution AND they're on your side. Long and short, we love the service and we're very appreciative of the fact that she took some time to answer our questions. It's great to get a view from the other side of the trench, as she gives you some insight into what distributors and festivals are looking for. So, if you're going to read only one of our interviews this week, maybe it should be this one... but check back, anyhow. You never know.

Please tell us about yourself. Where did you start out and what brought you into the world of indie filmmaking and distribution?

I was at NYU studying political science. I wanted to be a litigator. I fell in love with a Director, Andy Field, 7 years my senior. I helped him out in a pinch when a stylist was a no show on the set – I jumped in and did the job. It came naturally and I made $800 for the day. At 20 yrs old that was awesome money. I left school for a year to work in the industry and never looked back. I quickly moved into doing features and television in LA. My first series was The Wonder Years. I got nominated for an Emmy and proceeded to go to one great show after another working with some of the most talented people in the industry. During my hiatuses I started directing and producing short films which ultimately led me to independent films and finally creating IndieFlix.

Tell us about Indieflix. When was it formed? What’s the mission?

My producing partner, Carlo Scandiuzzi and I founded IndieFlix in 2004 as a distribution solution for filmmakers. We created a company that we wish existed when we were on the festival circuit with our films.

Our Mission: IndieFlix is dedicated to providing a forum for filmmakers and their audience to interact, and to building a community that translates artistic vision into commercial success.

IndieFlix promises to build a fair and open market to empower filmmakers to be the engine of their achievement and audiences to be a vital part of a movie's success. IndieFlix is committed to encourage public opinion and power of choice while reinvesting in the independence of film, the people that craft them, and the organizations that support them.

We believe that every movie has an audience, every filmmaker has a story to tell and each story has the right to be shared. is an online independent film distribution and discovery site offering affordable DVD and streaming to customers all over the world. Founded by 2 Award-Winning Filmmakers in 2005 and headquartered in Seattle, WA IndieFlix has a growing collection of over 1500 award winning features, shorts and documentaries for all ages. Not sure what to watch? Email us and we can help you choose.

“You should be watching movies not looking for them”
Go to: or email at

Talk about your model of distribution and how it differs from the more traditional forms of distribution.

IndieFlix is practically the polar opposite to Hollywood. In fact when we launched everyone thought we were nuts letting filmmakers keep their rights and the lion share of the profits. Over the last 4 years and 1500 films later we have only had about 20 films leave us, most for an exclusive distribution deal. With regard to how we differentiate ourselves from our competition online we are in the process of launching several marketing initiatives. We recognize that filmmakers are the best champions of their own works but they need tools and prodding to work their magic online. We are all, including Hollywood, trying to figure out what is most effective in connecting with our communities online. It’s a rapidly changing time right now. You almost need a cowboy mentality and that takes a lot of energy. We are providing a tool kit.

Our services are non-exclusive. You keep your film rights and we give filmmakers 70% of the net. We are very transparent about all costs and there are no fees whatsoever. We can customize the distribution of your film by delivery method and territory and if you only want to distribute your film digitally, that's not a problem. If you only have the DVD rights, that's okay too. IndieFlix is a "Filmmaker First" marketplace and Distribution Company built to empower Filmmakers to be both Artist & Entrepreneur and to make Film Festival screened work from all over the world available to the broadest online audience. Once you are listed on the site our goal is to help you market your film. Further, IndieFlix has alliances with key online delivery platforms such as iTunes, Hulu, Joost, Snag, Amazon VOD, Netflix and Xbox360. We now provide titles to these outlets offering filmmakers even more revenue opportunities at the same 70/30 split. This link can offer even more info - Filmmakers: How It Works

Do you ever go out and look for films to distribute or do films mostly come to you?

For the most part filmmakers come to us. I thought about doing it like our competitors, getting a Baker & Taylor account and ordering several thousand films from Criterion, Kino or Image to populate the library. But we wanted films that had worldwide rights and the ability to curate content on to multiple platforms. By building our own library in this way we are also able to distinguish ourselves even more so. We have strong word of mouth so word gets around though we have started to do more targeted outreach now that we have more staff. We have about 15 new films sign up per week from all over the world.

Since our 1500+ filmmakers work directly with us we are a VERY hands on company. We answer our phones, we work closely with the filmmakers and we are just now starting to be much more hands on with our customer base. We are growing so fast it’s hard to keep up sometimes!

If you are looking for a film, what do you look for?

Films must have played as an "Official Selection" at a film festival, however, we do make exceptions in special cases so please don’t hesitate to submit your work to us if your film hasn’t yet been accepted to a festival. We do not accept any Pornography or Instructional video submissions. We look for high production value, good story and of course you have to have the legal right to sell the film. Sometimes it is a struggle but we do stick to our mission that every film as an audience and every story has the right to be shared. We try not to make too many judgment calls. There are films on our site that I would not have approved but not for our mission and a few of them sell really well every month. It’s amazing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We remain a fair and open marketplace.

The submission process is very straightforward and free (except the cost of shipping your master to us). Simply go here and set up by clicking on create an account to add information about your film. You’ll then be prompted to print and sign a Filmmaker Agreement and send us the master. Upon receiving and screening your film we will contact you. Release dates are typically slated for two to three weeks after receipt of submissions.

Do you think filmmakers should be thinking about distribution when they’re in pre-production… or even the writing stage? Or, should they simply make the film first, worry about distribution later?

Excellent question! The minute you want to make your film – today’s filmmaker must think about who will watch it and start that dialogue now, the earlier the better.

If they should be thinking about distribution in pre-production… what kinds of things should they be thinking about? What can they do to make their film have a better chance of securing distribution?

Existing in the world means interacting with people. Technology has allowed us to build our own audience and community that supports our efforts as filmmakers. Use it. Hollywood values a film that has a built in audience and marketing campaigns in place. Though the bottom line for Hollywood distribution is you must have a famous, credible name in your movie too. Fortunately the world is your oyster and right now filmmakers have more power than ever before to monetize and self distribute affordably on trust worthy platforms. Hollywood no longer controls the playing field. I suggest that all filmmakers go to Lance Weiler, famed director of Head Trauma and The Last Broadcast shares openly a multitude of ways to get your film out there and how to build an audience. Lance is on our advisory board and he has been hugely instrumental.

Talk about budget. Do you think there’s a minimum budget that a film should have? Is budget an issue?

Budget should not be an issue unless it’s too high. I have seen some unbelievable films made for less than 5K. I have seen films made for 25-50K and many of these films go on to make several hundred thousand dollars. Once again technology has provided us the ability to make first class movies on an economy budget. Big budgets are not cool anymore. The smaller the budget the more one can show their true talents as a filmmaker.

Regardless of budget, what do you think makes one film sell better than another?

Accessibility and marketing. Of course films have to have a good story no matter what but mostly people need to know about it and in these times you can’t just walk around naked one weekend and expect people everywhere to notice. You have to start stripping in pre-production or development.

Talk about the film festivals, particularly the smaller, indie festivals. How should filmmakers approach them?

Filmmakers should strategize their festival play. It’s another expense incurred. Also note that too many festival screenings and awards and standard distribution won’t touch you. Your film becomes damaged goods to Hollywood. They think if no one has scooped you up by the 3rd festival then you’re not worth it. What we are doing is lining up filmmakers to play a festival and after that screening during the Q &A the film is announced that it is available on several platforms. At that point there is press, reviews, heat and attention on the film, In today’s market filmmakers can strategize their distribution and day and date their films. Use the festival like a theatrical. Take advantage of the theater, the audience and the free marketing.

If I’m a filmmaker who’s just finished a film, but hasn’t considered the festivals and hasn’t considered distribution yet, what would you say my next steps are.

Research festivals. You can go to for festival submission service. Be sure to apply to your local film festival your community will want to support you first. You can apply to as many festivals as you want but be choosy about your first 3. Get to know the festival directors and programmers. They all know each other and share their experiences about filmmakers. For God sakes do not be a prima donna, be kind, patient and forgiving to everyone at the festival – it will make a huge difference. Follow the rules don’t create issues for the festival.

How does horror sell on Indieflix? Any thoughts on the the indie-horror scene?

Horror and docs sell well on IndieFlix. I think there is a lot of easy, fun alternative marketing that can be done to monetize and market films in the horror genre. It has such a dedicated fan base.

Talk about the indie film scene… where’s it headed? What’s next? What can indie filmmakers do to prepare for the future?

Filmmakers need to be online and be willing to share themselves with their community. They will support your work from one movie to the next and each time it gets easier and easier. Luddites lose! The filmmakers and the cast and crew should be talking about the film. The film should have it’s own profile pages on sites. Start sharing little pieces of the movie before it is out. Ask for advice from your online community – keep the questions simple and direct. Put trailers and clip on line everywhere – easily done via Keep your rights, keep it non-exclusive, check out references before putting your content up for sale on some cool site. Forget DRM it’s only going to hold you back. If you film is available everywhere and it is affordable there’s no need to pirate. Don’t be too protective. Pick a scene and let people mash up your work and spread it around. It’s free marketing for you. Think of it like letting your kid play with other kids in the playground. Let go and let it grow.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Linkapalooza - The Winds of Change in the Indie Horror Film World

You smell that? I think the winds of change are finally starting to blow over the film world... well, the indie film world, anyhow. Just take a broad look at the business right now, all the studios and the conglomerates that own them are losing money and market share. Their stock prices are plummeting, they're laying people off and selling assets. As far as films are concerned, they green light fewer films and the ones they do, have to fit a certain criteria. They know that they have to dump tens of millions of dollars into just marketing a film and that's outside of the hundreds of millions it costs to actually make the fucking thing... and all that in the time when we're in a global economic meltdown and everyone's trying to save money. Couple that with the fact that you can buy an HD, broadcast quality, camera for around $1,000 and get all the software you need online, for nothing (a few hundred bucks if you're not into pirating). Then, the internet provides almost every networking and marketing tool you could need. So, what do I think this all means? Well, I was just reading about how there's a new term in New York called "Frugal Chic", or something like that. Basically, how it's "in" to be cheap now. And I think you're going to see a rise in the low - no budget film world, as people turn to other sources for entertainment and embrace the fact that there's very little wastage in true indie filmmaking. Where it's starting to be "in" to wear cheap clothes, drive a fuel efficient car and find deals, it's going to be "in" to support micro budget film. Think about it, it makes sense to me...

Honestly, I have a ton of thoughts rattling around in my head on this, but I'll stop there... and share a few wicked and FREE resources that I've found online that you need to read or bookmark. Actually, the first two are good resources that you should check out, the third thing is just some cool news that you need to know about.

Filmmaker IQ: Okay, so this is a site that you really need to bookmark... and it's not because Dead Harvey gets mentioned in their post, Horror Filmmaking, From Script to Scream. In fact, that Horror Filmmaking article, alone, is a must read. There are so many DIY tricks on props, make-up, special effects... I don't know what else I can say about it. If you're like me, you'll bookmark it and start going through all their links, one by one, trying out all the shit that they're talking about. Very cool site.

While I'm mentioning Filmmaker IQ, I should mention another site that I came across called Film Festival Secrets. It's from Chris Holland, who's been writing about movies, film festivals and indie film since 1991. He actually has a downloadable pdf version of his book, Film Festival Secrets, available for free, on the site. You just have to join his newsletter. He's worked with the Austin Film Festival as their director of marketing and still screens films for them. He's now the director of festival operations for B-Side, which you may recognize, as they have that film fest community software. Anyhow, he put together a book on getting your film into festivals and it's probably worth checking out, especially if it's free. I'm going to join up and get it now, so if there's some catch or something, I'll be sure to come back and edit this post. (Ted's note: Yeah, it's free... just downloaded it)

Here's the last sign that the indie horror apocalypse is upon us... a movie about monkeys with guns gets green lit. Here's a a link to the article, 'War Monkeys' feature in works on It's the biggest budget film that Dark Horse Indie has ever done and it's apparently filled with monkeys, guns and explosions. The plot revolves around two janitors who, during a Christmas holiday, get trapped in an underground research facility after accidentally unleashing military-trained Rhesus monkeys. Now, is it me or does it seem that there's more and more films like this coming out these days? Seriously, I think indie horror is starting to get more and more mainstream. So, when you're writing, get crazy, think way out there... it's starting to catch on!

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Horror Out on DVD Today, including the 'feel good' Christmas film, Two Front Teeth.

At first, I was thinking it was a mediocre week in horror, but after weeding out the rereleases and multi-pack's, there's a good group of films coming out. And it's a good thing, too. Unless you're living in L.A., the weather's starting to go to shit and you're going to need stuff to watch while you sit inside and drink your face off. As usual, if you want to help us out and you were planning on buying one or some of these films, just click on the title and buy it through Amazon, through us. Also, go over to our Youtube page and check out all the trailers.

So, to get us into the Christmas season... co-written, directed and produced by Jamie Nash, "Two Front Teeth" is my pick of the week. I haven't seen it, but I was just reading about it in Rue Morgue while I was in the can and was thinking about how I need to get my hands on it, then I find out that it's actually coming out this week. Nash was the guy who wrote "Altered", directed by "Blair Witch" Alum Eduardo Sanchez, which came out a year or so ago... I'm just going to have to quote Nash about his film because I can't make this shit up or do it any better. "Two front Teeth" takes place "the night before Christmas and Gabe Snow, a tabloid writer haunted by the Ghosts of Christmas past, is investigating a Yule Tide conspiracy. Gabe knows that Flight 1225 was brought down one foggy Christmas Eve, by a flying creature with a "glowing nose". Now, a blood-sucking Vampire - Santa Claus - has put Gabe on his list and unleashed the demonic fury of the North Pole. An army of zombie elves, who have no interest in Toys or pointy hats or dentistry, are about to turn Gabe's white Christmas blood red. Will Gabe find the true meaning of Christmas? Can he stake a heart that's two sizes too small? What will he find under his tree?" Awesome... I love it.

My second pick of the week has to be "Conjurer", mainly because I know the film well and we've interviewed Clint Hutchison, the writer/director. "Conjurer" has gone on to win a couple of awards, the Action on Film Award for Best Horror Film and the Festival Prize for Best Feature Film at the Dixie Film Festival. It's about a photographer and his wife, who move out to the country to start a new life, but begin to suspect that the ramshackle cabin on their property is haunted by the malevolent spirit of a long-dead witch. It's a great film, really well done. You can check out our interview with Hutchison here.

"Urban Legends", from Bill Osco, actually came out close to a decade ago, but I have to mention it because they're rereleasing it and Osco is a bit of a legend. Why is he a legend, you ask? Well, he produced "Mona the Virgin Nymph", which was the first porno film depicting explicit sex to receive wide theatrical release in the US in 1970. He basically paved the way for porno... he went on to produce similar films, like "Flesh Gordon" and "The Great American Girl Robbery". He also wrote, produced and acted in "Night Patrol", which is a bit of a classic, as well. He's only directed a few films, including "Gross Out", "Art of Nude Bowling" and this, which is reenactments of seven "urban legend" stories, based on facts that were documented by the FBI.

"Dead of Winter", which was originally called "Lost Signal", is the directorial debut from Brian McNamara, who's actually a Golden Globe nominated actor for his portrayal of Dean Karny in the TV Movie "Billionaire Boys Club". He's also been in Seinfeld, The O.C., Star Trek: Voyager and a bunch of other stuff, if you're interested... you'd probably recognize him. Anyhow, the film is written by Robert Egan and Graham Silver and it's sort of like "The Shining", where a couple finds themselves battling the elements of winter, as well as inner demons. It's apparently based on true events.

"Kemper", directed by Rick Bitzelberger, comes from Lions Gate and it's based on the true story of Ed Kemper, a serial killer who murdered ten co-eds in Santa Cruz, CA during the late sixties and early seventies. Looking through Bitzelberger's filmography, he's taken quite the path to get to this. His earliest credit is for acting in the cult classic, "Beware: Children at Play", which was awesome. After that, it looks like he started working for Penthouse or something, writing and producing films like "Erotic Confessions" and "Penthouse: The All-Pet Workout". Then, there's a a short film he directed called "Say the Secret Word", a few legitimate Christmas TV shows... and then this. Goes to show, there's no ONE way to make it to directing features.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Interview with Chris Penney, writer/director of "Return of the Curse"

The more I talk to indie filmmakers, the more I find out how similar we all are. Similar in mentality, similar in influences and similar in what we want to accomplish. Obviously, there's more than enough differences in things like political views and opinions on other random shit to go around, but we, as indie-horror filmmakers, do share some common threads. Such as... How many of us sat in our seats, mouths agape, during the opening of the original Star Wars when the Star Destroyer flew over our heads? How many of us saw Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Chucky, Pinhead, Leatherface or even Hannibal Lecter for the first time and thought, "Fuck, yeah"? How many of us sat in our garages or basements with our Dad's new video camera and shot film after film, experimenting and being enthralled with what we could create? How many of us thought to ourselves, at one point or another, "Before I die, I WILL make a feature length film." That one thing is something we all share, that desire to make feature films; some as writers, some as producers, most as directors. Whether you're from an upper-class Beverly Hills family or from a blue-collar farm in Kansas, that desire and interest is something that I share with you and you share with all of these other indie filmmakers... and chances are, at one point or another, I'm betting that someone told you that you're going to fail. For most of us, that only strengthens our resolve.

It certainly strengthened Chris Penney's resolve. Penney's film, "Return of the Curse" is, in some ways, your typical low-no budget indie horror film and, by that, I mean it's shot on DV, edited at home and had a low, low budget. However, in other ways, it's anything but typical and, by that, I mean it's a very well crafted indie horror that works without a lot of the elements that horror movies seem to require, such as loads of blood or tons of nudity with a hot, young cast. (no offense to the cast of "Return of the Curse"!) The film relies mostly on it's story, which is slowly revealed in a well-crafted script that'll hold you until the end. That goes without mentioning its sharp editing and transitions, which must have taken forever to plan and execute. Having said all that, the most important thing is, it's a great entry into the indie horror film genre that Penney can be extremely proud of and has us anxiously waiting to see what he comes up with next. We had the opportunity to talk with him about the film...

First off, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie horror?

I am from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I work as a corporate drone by day for a major health care organization. During nights and weekends I open up my creative process and work developing independent films with my wife, Amy. As far as horror movies, I have a general dislike for slasher and gore hore; however, I am really moved by dark horror movies like John Carpenters’ In the Mouth of Madness, the original Nightmare on Elm Street, the Ring and any other well done, non predictable dark films. My favorite movie of all time is Pulp Fiction followed by Platoon and Mulholland Drive. I really enjoy comedy as well and will eventually produce a comedy, probably on the lines of Office Space or something similar as I live in that environment. My influences are many; however, I strive to be as much of me as I can be.

Film School: Yes or No?

After the fact, yeah. I went to Compass Film Academy. Compass Christian Film Academy, where my horror films weren’t quite accepted by the other students. In fact, I was really brushed aside. I think it was either the difference in age, or maybe the difference in beliefs. Either way, I really don’t believe that six months there taught me any more than I’ve learned from my own personal experiences and trial and error; just basically earning my education from the University of Life. You can learn the rules all you want, but without life experience, it doesn’t do you much good.

Tell us about “Return of the Curse”, where did the idea come from and what made you actually get out there and do it?

It’s the sequel to the movie, “Sleep Disorder”, which was rooted in the true paranormal activity that goes on at Nunica Cemetery. I got into the idea of hauntings and contacted Nicole Bray from the West Michigan Ghost Hunter’s Society, which is a widely- known organization in the Midwestern United States and known world- wide in the paranormal community. She’d hooked me up with a guy named Johnny Reb, who is a hard- core Civil War historian and owns the haunted mansion, Landon House, which is right outside of Burketsville, Maryland, where the Blair Witch Project was filmed. From that experience, the seed for “Sleep Disorder” was planted. “Return of the Curse” follows the lives of the people after that part of the story ends. Initially, I had no intent on making a sequel, but I’d learned a lot from making “Disorder”, and the ideas just poured in from that point. The momentum was there, and went with it.

What was the approximate budget for the film and how did you secure financing?

There was no budget at all for this film, aside from what was, literally, left over from my paycheck after paying bills, etc. The entire crew/cast (one- in- the- same) chipped in where they could, and I would estimate that we’d spent, collectively, roughly two grand on it, including posters and other promotional materials. We literally flew by the seat of our pants, and financial security was not a word in our language. We did it on our own, and believed that even if the film didn’t make a sale, the experience would propel us creatively and technically, further toward the next film.

What did you shoot on and how long was the shoot?

The film was shot with three different cameras, all Sony VX-2100. Most of the time we ran two, but rarely did use three at once. I have recently upgraded to a Sony HVR-V1U. Very nice picture. I use Sony Vegas to edit with some FX programs like Boris FX, Adobe After Effects, New Blue FX and Magic Bullet.

For me, what stood out was the story and how well it was put together on screen. Now, to do that, you need two things: a good script and do a TON of pre-production. So, this is a two part question… Talk about the screenwriting process, how do you go about crafting a script and talk about the pre-production process, how important is it and what kinds of things do you do to make sure you get all the coverage you need??

I have a very unorthodox process that does not follow conventional wisdom. Film school tried to teach me that I had to have a well defined script with a solid story with a series of events that happen at certain times that was set within a precisely gauged template. They also told me that storyboards are critical to success and I would surely fail without following the “Hollywood” process. I have never been able to follow the “Hollywood” process. Generally, I get an idea and shoot some footage and try to adapt a story to the footage. This is generally what needs to happen to start my creative process. As I begin to come up with an idea, I then write a script that evolves during the production process. I usually get to the point of obsession and think of the story constantly. Yes, the pre-production process is important, however, I just have to do what works for me as an artist. Planning and diagrams and rehearsals are helpful and necessary, but the spontaneous process will trump this every time.

You got some great performances out of, what I’m going to assume are, non-professional actors. A stand out for me was Russ Fithen acting all sketchy and insane… talk about directing amateur actors.

Basically, I gave them the template, the script, the outline. I gave them the latitude to be creative within the parameters of what we, collectively, had discussed about the scene. It’s a catch-22 when it comes to trying to be the director and cinematographer, so learning to trust the actors who were involved in a scene proved to be a key element to making the scene successful. Myself, I do not perform to my fullest potential with very specific directions, and try to encourage the same element of self- expression and creativity with the actors. Oftentimes, the ad-libbing takes over, specifically toward the end of the film, and the scenes unfold with words and feelings that are completely organic to the actors who are not just acting, but become one with the scenario. This worked well for all of us.

I loved the cut-away sequences, like the B&W warped head with the blood, as well as the fake infomercial. Were these always in the script or were they afterthoughts that were added later?

The infomercial was an idea from the very beginning, because I wanted to add a comedic element to the film. The B&W with the blood was a late-night, spur-of-the-moment thing, which ended up being one of the few truly gory shots in the movie. We came up with most of our ideas in that fashion; just talking about it and then saying, “Let’s just do it.”

What were some of your biggest hurdles in getting the film finished?

Technical problems, no-show crew/cast members, scheduling problems due to the fact that we’d all had full-time jobs. I also took a lot of crap from people who thought I wasn’t skilled enough to enter the film production market. My boss once told me I would never be anything other than a hobby videographer. I also was told by an experienced film guy that belonged to the West Michigan Film and Video Alliance the I had no business producing films as I would only embarrass myself. This stuff only fuels my fire and makes me work harder. I will prove them all wrong!

Did you hit the festivals with it? If so, how did it do? Is the festival circuit something that you would recommend to other filmmakers?

No, the timing was off for the film festivals that I had known of in our area, and though we’d attempted to make these deadlines, it was found that the “Independent” Film Festival in Saugatuck did not really cater, nor welcome the truly Independent films (one symposium I’d sat in on at the festival stated that their budget was seven million dollars). I’d entered “Sleep Disorder” to the same festival the year before and received no response from them, whatsoever. I thought that odd, given the fact that the local-art community in Grand Rapids represents themselves as being most supportive of all local artists. As it turns out, there are limitations that go along with that whole idea. There are limitations within this conservative community, individuals who judge the quality of a work of art by “whether or not they would hang it above their couch in the living room”. I’d love to find a film festival where the true, out-of-pocket filmmakers could show their films in a constructive, almost conference, where filmmakers such as myself could talk about our films in a casual setting and learn from the techniques and experiences. No big names or money involved.

Talk about distribution. What was the process like for you? Any advice that you’d pass on to other filmmakers looking for distribution?

Distribution is something that we all strive for, to share what we have created with others. My first three movies played at a local movie theater. With “Return of the Curse”, I put the movie on Indie Flix and Create Space in hopes of selling enough copies to finance an upgrade in equipment. Unfortunately, after two years my total profit has been about $20.00. I did send a screener copy to Brain Damage. They were interested and are now distributing this film. Since “Return of The Curse” was released in October, it will be a while before I see how it does; however, I have not set any unrealistic expectations. It would be awesome to recover my investment and have the ability to purchase more equipment. I just hope to keep on doing what I am doing.

Talk about the indie horror scene. What do you think about where it’s at now and where do you see it going?

I have seen a fair amount of indie horror films. Some have been very good, others not. It seems to be dominated by slasher, gore- type films. This is OK, but I think the non- film person assumes when I say that I do indie horror films that I am producing gore. I also see a trend where higher budget, major movies are taking over and pushing the true indie artist aside. Again, I will mention the film festivals. Our closest film festival is the Waterfront Film Fest in Saugatuck Michigan. I submitted my first film to them with a promotion kit and several follow up phone calls. I’d assumed, since we were local, we would have a shot. Unfortunately, they did not return or calls or follow up with us in any way, shape or form. When attending this local film festival, we were shocked to discover that the majority of films, although independent, were large- budget productions with major name actors.

Where can people find out more about “Return of the Curse” or, better yet, buy a copy?

Return of the Curse is available on line at Netflix, Blockbuster, Best Buy, Barnes and Noble and most major retailers that deal in online movies. Copies are also available on Indie Flix and Amazon.

What’s next for you? Any new projects in the works?

Today, I’ve just completed a 36- hour render of a movie I’ve just completed. It is my first high- def project, titled “The Basement”. This movie represents a major turning- point in my film career. It is a very dark movie; however, it is much more artistic than anything I have done in the past. It was by far my most difficult project as we’d lost two hi- def cameras and had a total hard- drive crash. We’d also lost several of the key actors that had worked with us in the past. Unfortunately, we’d lost actors that were already cast in this movie in major roles. But...this forced us to be more creative and we’d finished the entire film with the three remaining cast/crew members, Nate Fennema, myself and my beautiful and talented wife, Amy.

I am going to focus on the promotion of this film as I believe it is my best and I am very proud of it.

After taking some time off, I think I am going to do some documentary work, as I am really into animal rights. Following this, I might start my first comedy or, if I get a wild idea, I might do another horror movie. We will see.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Distributing Your Indie Film Part V: Imagination Worldwide, Well Go USA and Monarch Home Video

Back by extreme, popular demand, it's the fifth installment of "distributing your indie film"... and I only know it's popular because our indie horror distributors page is the most clicked on page on the site... and here I thought it may have been Brad's drunk ramblings or my arm chair insight into the industry. Guess not. Anyhow, most of the companies on the list right now are the obvious ones or bigger ones, but the three below came to my attention because they were the distributors for some of the films that we've recently discussed with their filmmakers. I do hope that one day our 'indie horror distributors' page will be a complete guide to the who's who of indie horror distribution, but until then it'll have to be a work in progress... which gives me an excuse to write about distributors every couple weeks or so and keep posting this girl in this shirt. She's an indie filmmaker.

Now, to just give you our little warning, we do think that you shouldn't rush into any deal that's offered to you. Send a package and screener to all these guys, then weigh your options. Also, always read the fine print on your contract. And, as usual, if any of you guys have stories, good or bad, that you'd like to share, let us know. We're a community here and we really need to look out for each other.

Imagination Worldwide is an international motion picture sales and distribution company based in L.A. Formed in 2003, it is owned by Chairman and CEO Pierre David and Reel One Entertainment. David has produced or executive produced over 100 movies, including "Scanners", "Videodrome" and "Deep Cover". Recently, they've distributed "The Zombie Diaries", "Five Across the Eyes" and "The Hamiltons", so they're big into the whole indie horror scene. Now, I'm not sure if they distribute themselves or if they work more as a sales agent for you, but either way, I've heard good things. If you head over to their site, you can go to their contact page and find the email addresses for everyone, including Travis Stevens, their director of Acquisitions & Marketing.

Well Go USA specializes in the acquisition and distribution of entertainment programs in the television, digital and video market throughout South East Asia and North America. They have extensive retail relationships and currently sell products directly to key mass merchants, specialty chains, record retailers and wide distribution. If you go to the site, you'll notice that they do a lot of exercise videos and kung-fu stuff, but don't fret. They also recently distributed "Beneath the Surface", "Zombies Anonymous" and "Death of a Ghost Hunter". They're big into the Asian market, so if you think your film caters to that audience, these guys may be the route to go. They're partnered with a bunch of guys, plus they distribute on to Amazon, Blockbuster, Best Buy, etc... Unfortunately, they don't have much of a contact us page, it's just a generic deal. However, there is still a way to get a message off to them there... so head over to their site and do it.

Monarch Home Video is one of the oldest indie distributors of home video products... and they were formed in 1989. They're a division of Ingram Entertainment, the largest wholesaler of prerecorded DVDs and video games in the US, so... that's good. Oddly enough, they're the guys behind all the "Ernest" films. However, recently, they've released films such as, "Conjurer", "Vampire Diary" and "Dark Remains". The good thing is that they actually have an acquisitions page on their site, as they're "always looking for new product". Right there on the page, however, they admit that they're looking for films with budgets in the $1M - $5M range with a marketing hook. My advice? Lie about your budget. Everyone does.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Interview with Bill Houser, writer/director of Martin Gimbley's Escape

Do any of you guys listen to KCRW's "The Business"? If you don't, I recommend it... It's an NPR show out of Santa Monica, that you can podcast, and it's all about what's going on in the industry. If you're interested, you can find out more about it here. I was listening to an older episode where they talked to Danny Goldberg, a music executive, about the music industry and how it's changed, where it's going, etc. Obviously, I'm not going to go into detail, but basically they were saying that the big labels are no longer as relevant to musicians as, say, the concert promoters, video games or ad agencies are. Further, as it takes a lot of marketing dollars and work to build up an artist, the labels just don't take risks on new artists much... they can't afford to. Now, the music industry got hit hard by digital and the labels are making less than 50% of what they did just a few short years ago. As much as the studios think it has, film hasn't been hit that hard yet, but it will. So, I think what's going on in the music industry is VERY relevant to the future of film.

So, what does that mean for you indie filmmakers? Well, for one, don't expect a studio to take much of a chance on you... or anything, really. Every project they green-light will have been looked over by an army of accountants, executives and other people who don't know a thing about film. The art and craft of film are the LAST things on their mind. So, where do you turn? Well, first, you go out and make some shit. Then, you turn to the festivals and you turn to the internet. Seriously, if you have no money, write a script and enter it in festivals, submit it everywhere. If you can scrape together a bit of cash, go make a short, do the same thing. Sharpen your skills, leverage what you've got. Then, take that and leverage it again, and so on, and so on. It's a battle, but it's definitely a battle you can win.

Anyhow, I recieved an email from Bill Houser, who is fighting the same, afore mentioned battle that most of us are fighting, and he was looking to get a bit of promotion for his short film, "Martin Gimbley's Escape". A film that he made for nothing, for the sake of making it and sharpening his skills. The result is a very effective little short with a good story and a bit of gore. Anyhow, with everything I mentioned above in my mind, I thought... instead of just mentioning it fleetingly, I'll ask Bill a bunch of questions and find out, exactly, what he was thinking and what the process was like. That's what we're here for... if you've got a short or some project that you'd like to have people notice, let us know. We're more than happy to try to get you guys some promotion.

First off, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie horror?

It's hard to know where to start when the path is as crazy as mine has been...Straight out of high school, that would be 20 years ago, I was accepted into a couple colleges for film studies. However, I ended up getting convinced that I should stay in my local area of Hannibal, Missouri and go to a community college. Film studies turned into criminal justice, and I ended up getting a Master's degree in CJ. I basically gave up the idea of filmmaking, and labored through my 'career'. While all this was going on I was also continuing with my hobby of paranormal investigation, and though it seemed completely unrelated to film, it actually is what put me back on the filmmaking course. Our investigation group, Show Me Paranormal Investigations, was/is a fairly conservative evidence driven group, and a couple years ago we ran into the wave of popular ghosthunting. We quickly discovered that the clients that were contacting us now didn't care about the evidence they just wanted us to confirm their ghost stories so they could be like the shows on TV. Paranormal investigation had become a part of the entertainment business, and I just kept thinking that if that's what it was coming to, then it was time to drop out of that arena and just make scary movies. Well, the thought stuck and all those dreams came flooding back on me until I reached the point where I was obsessed with filmmaking again. At 38, it's a little late for film school, so I basically put myself through a crash course. I read and watched everything I could find about film. I probably read thirty plus books in a year on directing, editing, and acting.

This short was basically my thesis film, and I'm about 80% pleased with it.

As for influences, my biggest in the horror genre would be John Carpenter. His films have something that you can't put your finger on that make them get inside you. The Fog is a good example, it's not a great movie, but I can watch it over and over again...and apparently a lot of other people feel the same way.

Tell us about "Martin Gimbley's Escape", where did the idea come from and what made you actually get out there and do it?
I'm not a big fan of short films. At least most short films that have no story, and are really just scenes. I wanted to tell a full tale that would work in under ten minutes, and I really struggled to find something that was right. I finally had the idea to do a modern fable. To revisit the story of the guy that thinks a pact with the devil is going to be a good thing.

Once the screenplay was finished, in June, I really pushed to get this project done by Halloween. I knew it was basically going to tell us what we might be able to do in the future.

What was your budget for the film?

What's a budget? This was very much a no-budget short. We begged and pleaded to get this done. No paid actors, no crew, and I did all the post work myself. I wouldn't have done it any other way though, because I wanted the learning experience.

What did you shoot on and how long was the shoot?

The film was shot on Canon HV20's (now HV30's if you're looking for one), and I can't say enough about this little cam. Having seen stuff shot on $10,000 pro cams and the footage from the HV20 for under $1,000...I'm sticking with the HV20. As with any cam, the picture quality is more about lighting. This is one of the big areas we'll be working on in the future. Also, I want to mention Andrew Kramer and, awesome sight for Adobe AfterEffects tutorials, and we used their Film Magic project to get the greenfilm stock filter for this short. We planned a three day shot, and ended up with a three day shot...but with an unplanned month off waiting to get access to a jail for a 20 second scene.

I thought it was very sharp, no messing around. Right to the point. Talk about putting together a short, from concept to completion.

Thanks. I think the biggest issue is understanding what your story is going in, and what it is expected to be coming out of production. The old rule of a screenplay page equals a minute of footage is pretty solid, so you easily get a good idea of what you're dealing with length wise right from the start. The biggest mistake I've noticed with a lot of indie stuff is that the director tries to edit in camera, and clearly doesn't give the editor enough choices. I think some of that comes from trying to storyboard every move, and believing that the finished film is really going to come out that precisely. Especially on a short, shoot coverage and more coverage and a little more coverage. There's no way to know what will work when you set down to edit. I also think that it's important to try to establish a mood. The colors of the film, music of the film, and the setting should all be trying to move the audience into a mood so they can be effected by the story.

What were some of your biggest hurdles in getting the film finished?

There's an old saying that a film is written at least three times: when the screenplay is written, when it is shot, and when it is edited. Okay, for an indie film you have to add in a couple more: like when you can't get kids to play the parts (the script was originally written with Martin being a child killer) so you have to rewrite it two days before you shoot so that the victims are women instead. I think the general rule is what ever you think will be hard...will be hard, and whatever you think will go easy...will be impossible. Also, the editor really needs to learn to be more organized...he's a hack!

Did you enter it into any festivals? If so, how did it do?

Martin Gimbley's Escape was finished in October this year, so we missed most of the festivals. We're still pretty up in the air about if we're going to enter it in festivals or not. Really more concerned with what comes next, and getting something feature length finished.

What was your goal when you set out to make the film? Was it more about honing your craft or were you hoping for it to open some doors?

This project was an absolute training exercise, and a bit of a recruitment poster. As I said, I'm not really interested in shorts. So my direction is definately to get a feature done, and recruiting the right actors is a big part of that. It's easy when they can see something that you've finished and get a feel for how you do things. This was a lot more about gaining the full support of my people for future projects than it was about attracting attention from others. Although we will take some attention...especially if it comes with money.

I am kind of interested in doing a web series. You know, a 10 part thing made up of 6 minute episodes to tell the whole story. Maybe Dead Harvey could run it.
(editors note: we're listening...)

Talk about the indie horror scene. What do you think about where it's at now and where do you see it going?

The indie horror scene is awesome now, because everybody has a shot. The only concern I have is I see a lot of multi-million dollar films trying to look like indie horror. Shot in HD with soap opera lighting...they are just painful. It's a bad thing if the standard slips to the point that anything will pass as acceptable because it's 'indie'. I know I'm not 100% satisfied with the production value of this short, and I would be screaming if I didn't know it would get better in future projects. Pretty sad that the people that have the means to make something look good don't have the skill or the will.

Where can people check out "Martin Gimbley's Escape"?

Martin Gimbley's Escape can be viewed and downloaded at:

It's actually on there in two versions, one with the greenfilm stock (the original), and one with the footage with out filter as it was shot with the HV20.

What's next for you? Any new projects in the works?

Confusion Films will be shooting BloodCache, our first feature this spring. You can find out more about it on our website. We may also shoot another short prior to the beginning of the feature. If so this will be with the cast from BloodCache, and will basically be a warm up so we can all get use to each other.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Interview with Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiessen, co-directors of "Five Across The Eyes"

If there's one thing I could say for sure about us over here at Dead Harvey, it's that we're not timely. I don't mean that in a bad way, really... what I mean is, rarely do we have breaking news or anything like that. At the root of it all, we're really just a bunch of indie horror guys that hear about, or watch, other indie horror films and want to hear more about them and share the stories. So, in the end, we're usually the last guys to talk to filmmakers. It actually works out, if you think about it, though. They're getting continued promotion after most people don't care anymore... Anyhow, as usual, that's not my point. My point is that with much shock and amazement, I picked up the latest issue of Rue Morgue to see that "Five Across The Eyes", from co-directors Ryan Thiessen and Greg Swinson, had just been reviewed... and here, Brad's already talked with Ryan and Greg about the film! Chalk one up for Dead Harvey. And if you're keeping tally, that's Dead Harvey 1, everyone else... a whole lot more than 1.

Anyhow, "Five Across the Eyes" is getting a whole lot of buzz and it's a wicked indie horror, really well done. It's a true case study in how a low-no budget horror film should be made, marketed and distributed. It screened at a ton of festivals and has even won an award at the Southern Appalachian International Film Festival. And, like I said, Brad had the chance to ask Ryan and Greg a few questions about the film...

Tell us about your background. Where are you from and how did you get into film making?

Ryan- Greg and I are both from Tennessee and raised in the town that Evil Dead was shot in. I would have to say that I got into filmmaking back when I was about 15 years old. Greg, who had been making backyard productions for a while, asked me to come play 2-3 characters in his video adaptation of the game Mortal Kombat. I later realized that I needed to stay behind the camera, and haven’t looked back since.

Greg – Made my first short film when I was in the sixth grade and I’ve been doing in ever since.

"Five Across the Eyes" is a very unique title. Where did you come up with it?

Greg – Actually, I stole it. I heard it in the chorus of a Duskfall song and thought it was catchy, but what did it mean. I looked it up, saw that it meant ‘a slap in the face’ and I knew right then that was it. It also helped that there were five girls in the movie.

Film school: yes or no?

Ryan - Nope. I went to a normal college and studied Digital Media (Web Design, Digital Art, Digital Video, etc..). Then got a job doing film/video work for a media firm. Which basically meant that I got paid while I learned the ropes.

Greg – I attended Full Sail in Winter Park, FL.

What films/directors have influenced you most and why?

Ryan - Well, for Five Across The Eyes, we looked at some of the older low budget classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Evil Dead. These films were made with next to no money and still are more scary and horrific than most modern day horror films. We also looked at the TV series, The Shield. It is shot to look rough, grainy and handheld, which really puts the viewer in the action. We decided that style of shooting would really fit the FATE story, so we borrowed from it.

"Five Across the Eyes" has a very 70's look and feel to it. How did you pull it off?

Ryan - That's easy. Crappy equipment. We shot it on MiniDV and had next to no budget. We basically had to beg, borrow and steal everything we needed to shoot. So I guess we kind-of shot it like it was an old Grindhouse type movie.

What was the budget and how did you attain financing?

Ryan - We shot it for about $4,000. And to attain financing, Greg and I just pulled it out of our own pockets.

What challenges did you face during the making of this film and how did you overcome them?

Greg - Well, I'd say that $4K budget was one of the biggest challenges. We also had to shoot in the film in under 10 days. This made for a super tight schedule. The movie also all takes place in real time and at night. So, that meant that as soon as it was dark, we were out on location, shooting all night long. Then during the day, we pulled the van into a blacked out garage and continued shooting the scenes that didn't require us to see outside the van windows.

Describe your approach to directing?

Ryan - Before we start shooting, Greg and I figure out all the elements of each scene in the movie. The blocking, how the scenes are played, where the cameras are going, etc. Then when we get on set, Greg goes over the scene with the actors and gets them up to speed while I get all the technical stuff in line. We had a crew of about 3-5 people on FATE, so Greg and I had to cover a lot of duties that normally don't fall at a director's feet. For example, not only did Greg direct, but he also did all the blood and make-up. Which as the movie went on, required more and more of his time to do all the various wounds our main characters sustain.

How is the distribution going? Any tips you can give to aspiring filmmakers on getting their movies out there?

Ryan - I can't complain at all about distribution. We were very lucky to find a sales agency that really believed in our film (Imagination Worldwide, for anyone wondering). They deserve all the credit on the distribution. Not only did they get it hooked up with Anchor Bay in the US, but they also got it released in several foreign territories worldwide, including Lionsgate in the UK. I guess my only advice to other filmmakers is to try to find a good sales rep that really believes in your film. Unfortunately, I think that has to do with luck more than anything else. We found ours, or actually they found us, through MySpace. I can tell you that the market is oversaturated with the same old stuff we've seen for years. So, as a filmmaker, telling a really good and unique story can really help you when comes time to look for distribution.

Where can people find out more about, "Five Across the Eyes" and, better yet, buy themselves a copy?

Ryan - Check out or You can also order it on,, and probably anywhere else that sells DVDs.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Horror out on DVD this week, including The Zombie Diaries

It's a pretty good week for horror... well, indie horror, anyhow. There's no big-budget horror films coming out this week. In fact, there's no big-budget horror films coming out for a while, which is cool with me. So, as usual, if you want to buy the films and want to help us out, please click on the titles and buy the films off Amazon, through us. Also, be sure to head over to our Youtube page, where you can find all the trailers.

Here's one of those sad truths... At this point, this side of the pond, very few indie horror fans will have heard of "The Zombie Diaries" and when they do find out about it, most will just assume that it's a rip off of "Diary of the Dead". Well, Dead Harvey's here to tell you it's not. True, I have no idea of when Romero actually came up with his idea, but Kevin Gates and first-time filmmaker Michael Bartlett actually released "The Zombie Diaries" first AND completed it first. They come up with the idea in the Fall of '04 and it had its theatrical debut on October 29, 2006. The film, obviously, has a very similar premise to "Diary of the Dead" and it was shot hand-held on DV. Now, I don't want to start a fight or anything, but I will say that a lot of people think these guys did a better job than Romero did... but I'm not going to pick sides. So, you check it out for yourself and be the judge.

A few weeks ago, I was commenting on how it's great to see Ken Foree making it into a bunch of indie horror films, now it seems like a week doesn't go by without seeing Ken Foree in some film. This week, it's "Splatter Disco", which gets my Best Title of the Week award. It's directed by Richard Griffin, who co-directed "Necroville" with Billy Garberina, whom we posted an interview with last week. Griffin has written, directed and edited a lot of quality indie horror, including "Creature from the Hillbilly Lagoon", "Pretty Dead Things" and "Raving Maniacs". The plot for "Splatter Disco" revolves around a fetish nightclub that's under attack by a bunch of narrow minded moralizers. On top of that, now there's a psychotic killer targeting the club and killing the patrons. So, it's up to a pair of unlikey lovers, a drug-loving hippie attorney and the club's closeted bouncer to uncover the truth and save the club. Indie horror at it's best! Go check it out...

If you've been laying awake at night, anxiously waiting for the next installment into the 'gay horror' scene, you can finally get a good night sleep tonight. "The Gay Bed and Breakfast of Terror", which has apparantly become a bit of a fan favorite at gay film festivals, is finally being released on DVD this week. It's about a gay-friendly bed and breakfast, where a God-fearing mother/daughter team lure gays to either convert or kill them... It's more comedy than horror, with characters like the bastard child of a hundred Republican delegates, the lesbian nun who likes to seduce young women during bingo and the drag queen who hooks up with a butch lesbian... and, that's not to mention that everone's eating human mince meat muffins all the while. What can I say? If gay horror's your thing, you'll need to check it out.

"The Devil's Curse", which was originally called "Credo" in it's native UK, is the feature length directorial debut from director Toni Harman and writer Alex Wakeford. It's an indie horror that's set in London, England and it begins with a group of theological students who decide to test their faith by proving the existence of Hell. Then, years after they're all found dead, another group of students show up. However, these guys aren't there to prove the existence of Hell, they're there because they got evicted from their student digs... then they discover that they're not alone.

"Kreating Karloff" was written, directed, produced and edited by Vatche Arabian and it won him the Commendation Award at Festival of Fantastic Film in the UK and the Jury Prize for Best Experimental Film at the Honolulu International Festival. The film is a documentary where, for the first time in 75 years, a young actor (Conor Timmis) brings back to life two of Universal's iconic Karloff monsters, "The Mummy" and "Frankenstein" for an elaborate screen test and tribute to the legendary Boris Karloff. If you're into the old-school horror and horror history, it could be a fun film to check out.

"Km 31" was originally released in its native Mexico as "KM 31: Kilometro 31". So, for its North American DVD release, they dropped the "Kilometro 31" because there's no way that we're going to be able to figure out what that means. Written and directed by Rigoberto Castaneda, it won a few awards, including: Best Visual Effects, Best Costume Design and Best Sound at the Ariel Awards in Mexico. It's about a haunted stretch of highway, by the Km 31 marker, where supernatural accidents are caused by the ghost of a mother that lost her boy there years before.

I don't know much about it, but I figured I'd mention this "Indie Sinema (7-Pack)" that's coming out, as well. It's from Fat Cat DVD and it's a 6-disc set containing 7 films, including: Kingdom of the Vampire (1991 & 2007 versions), Genuine Nerd, Polymorph, Bent Volume Two, Eddie Presley and Townies.

Lastly, Trey Parker and Matt Stone's classic, "Cannibal! The Musical" is being rereleased as "Cannibal! The Musical: 13th Anniversary Edition". The 2-disc edition contains over an hour of new, in depth interviews and two full-length commentary tracks, including the infamous "Inebriated" commentary track, never-before-seen deleted scenes, production stills and more.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Film Festival Updates, but not really at all... more of a rambling post on new media.

So, I've got a predicament. By the time I woke up this morning, I had decided that my post today was going to outline all the horror festivals left in the month of November. Easy, peezie, Japaneezie. So, I went through my usual steps of researching and collecting information, only to find that there's only two festivals in November... The Red Blood Buenos Aires Festival, which is Argentina's only festival that specializes in fantastic, horror and bizarre films and the Sitges Fantastic Film Festival in Catalonia, Spain. By the way, if you'd like more information on either of them, here's a link to Red Blood and here's a link to Sitges. This lead me to two conclusions... First off, if you're thinking of launching a new festival, November's the month to do it. There's a gaping hole there that needs to be filled. Now, the other conclusion is that I'm left a few paragraphs short of what would be considered a decent post, as I didn't want to talk about two festivals that 99% of our readers couldn't attend. So, what can I talk about?

Do you guys remember the classic Youtube clip, "David Lynch on iPhone"? Cracks me up every time I watch it... and whoever added the music is a genius. Here's the link, if you haven't seen it. Now, I don't have an iPhone... but I am a Blackberry user and mine doesn't play movies. I'm almost certain that the new Blackberry Bold and Storm can play movies, but I have the "free with a monthly plan" Pearl, so I don't watch movies on it. However, I DO watch movies on my PSP. I do it all the time. There's a great freeware program that will convert ANY video format into mpg4, which is what PSP plays (PSP Video 9, if you're interested). So, if I've bought a DVD, received a screener, ripped a movie off a friend, downloaded it off the internet, whatever... I just drop it in, convert it and it's on my PSP. The quality is awesome, too. I also have a cable that connects my PSP to my TV which cost me $10. No, I didn't get it to play the video games on the TV (looks like shit), I got it so I could watch the movies on the TV. So, every once in a while, I dump 3 or 4 movies into my PSP, then when I'm riding the bus, I'm at the gym or I'm taking a crap, I can watch bits of films. Then, when I get home, I connect it to the TV and I can watch the rest of it or a complete other film... whatever the fuck I want to do, really. So, what's my point? My point is, I wouldn't be able to watch HALF the movies I do, if I couldn't watch movies on the go or use a portable media player... and I don't think I'm alone in my media consumption habits. Sorry, David Lynch, but stuff like this is changing the way we watch movies and consume media, as a whole.

Really, we haven't even come close to where we're going to end up... if that sentence makes sense. I use the PSP and that freeware, which makes a straight PC to PSP connection, nothing special. But, check out some of the other things that are going on out there. Ever heard of a company called Archos? They make a media tablet that's a big touch screen with a 60 GB hard drive. You connect it to your TV and it acts as a PVR. However, you unclip it and everything that it's recorded will play on it when it's acting as a portable media player. It also connects to your PC, so you can dump files back and forth. It's also basically a little computer on its own, as it can connect to the internet through WiFi and view complete webpages better than the iPhone. Oh, by the way, it also clips into your car and works as a full GPS system, plus will play all the media files you want it to while you're on those long trips. The thing is F'ing amazing, here's a link to their site, if you're interested in it. You think something like that will change our viewing habits? That whole system is fairly expensive now, but what about when the prices come down and other companies start making similar products? I could go on and on about what other companies are up to, but the long and short is that digital media is changing everything and, like I said, we STILL don't know where its going to end up.

Don't get me wrong though, I still believe that nothing will replace the TV. Now, I'm not talking about the content on the TV, I'm talking about the TV itself. Let's be honest, as far as home entertainment, it's still king. Within a few years, everyone's going to have a huge LCD or Plasma in their living room... and no portable media device can compare with that. The only change I can see would be if they incorporate touch-screen technology into them, but really... let's not underestimate how lazy we all are. I'll take a kick-ass remote over a touch-screen TV in my living room, any day. So, the real change is going to come in how we get the content to that TV and THAT'S where the world is going to change for indie-filmmakers. I foresee a day when I can create my own website that contains whatever content I want it to and you'll be able to grab it, one way or the other, and it'll instantaneously play on your TV. I don't think there will be a cable company or network involved, either. It'll all be done through some internet based portal device, some sort of bastardization of an XBox, PS3 or Tivo. Where will the money come from? Well, I think there will be some sort of advertising aggregator that will input ads into my content, which are targeted and will cater, specifically, to the person who ordered it. The advertiser will pay that aggregator, who takes their part of the money, then gives me the rest. In the end, the viewer wins because he's getting the precise content that he wants, the advertiser wins because he's reaching the exact person he wants, that aggregator wins because he's getting paid and I, the indie horror filmmaker wins becomes I have an audience and I'm getting paid to distribute it. That would be nice... wouldn't it?

How's that for a rambling post?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Interview with Blake Reigle, writer/director of Beneath the Surface

I love indie horror... and although it really spawned in the 70's, I feel like I've been there since the beginning. I grew up on 80's horror and quickly got into films like "The Toxic Avenger", "Evil Dead", "Bad Taste" and "TCM". But that's me and I'm not your average film goer, the average filmgoer expects things like name actors, expensives sets and effects, as well as a certain look that indie film just can't give. I think I'm the opposite now. When I see that indie look, my mind is open. I'll accept almost anything that happens and I'll almost always find something that I like. However, when I see a studio film, I get very analytical. I look for things to complain about. It's just that, for me... if you have an unlimited budget, you better have 0.0 flaws. None. I better be absolutely blown away, from beginning to end. What I really wish is that regular filmgoers could see a few good indie horror films that would open their eyes to the genre, make them realize that it exists and make them want more. It would take a film that is well acted without name actors, look professional and have a great story. "Beneath the Surface", from Blake Reigle, is just that type of film.

If you're an indie horror fan and you're trying to get a girlfriend, boyfriend, buddy or anyone, really, to appreciate indie horror, check this film out. "Beneath the Surface" is as good as low-no budget indie horror gets. It's a true gem and I really hope it gets noticed... and it got comments like that out of me without having much nudity or gore. I had the chance to ask Reigle about the film and this is one of those interviews that, as an indie horror filmmaker, you're going to need to read. It's long, it's detailed, but I'm sure you're going to be able to take a lot away from this as you head into pre-production on your next film...

First off, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie horror?

I got into indie horror cause my brain gravitated that way in regards to the ideas I was coming up with and films I love. Indie horror has such an awesome community of people that all work hard to better the genre and help each other out. It seems to be a youthful garage rock star genre as well filled with sincere artists who are fueled by love for the genre. Indie horror is currently the strongest independent genre and I am proud to be a part of it.

I worked for the producer of the spiderman movies at the end of college and got to be on set and meet Sam Raimi. He was the nicest guy on the planet and said he could not wait to watch my movies – that event really jump started me.

Back to the Future. Watched it a thousand times as a kid. It’s a film I always look at when writing. Also loved the Aliens series and old Wes Craven films. My mom saw I was obsessed with movies, and watching a lot of dark stuff, so she introduced Hitchcock to me at a young age. I remember renting Vertigo and Psycho often from the public library during elementary school. In terms of people that I admired growing up: Robert Zemeckis, Alfred Hitchcock, Tim Burton, Wes Craven, George Lucas, John Hughes, Don Coscarelli, and Sam Raimi. I watched everything and still do.

A lot of influence comes from comics, Brian Wood and the Luna Brothers on the indie side, and Michael Stracynski on the major side.

More than anything, I get most my influence from music. What I am listening to creatively drives what I am writing more than anything outside my emotional seif. I listen to a wide range of stuff, mostly metal, such as Norma Jean, Rob Zombie, and As I Lay Dying. Mix that with softer stuff like Paramore, moody stuff, and old country roudhouse tunes. I am a total Libra!

Film School: Yes or No?

Yes. USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Beneath the Surface is your first feature… where did the idea come from and what made you actually get out there and do it?

The initial spark came about at comic con years ago. My mind was racing, more than usual since I had just been overloaded with creative material all around me, and I started thinking about what if some awful boyfriend of the girl you were in love with ended up killing her? Well, the only way to get her back at that point would be to reanimate her. Lots of people can sympathize with the situation - Someone you have a crush on or love could be with another person that you have this sixth sense feeling about, that nothing good is going to come of it, only evil, and any attempt at interfering has high potential of making you appear crazy, more so in the eyes of the one you desire. And if you don't do something it's going to drive you crazy as well. If disaster strikes, then you are really going to loose it and end up doing whatever it takes to bring her back. Bring on the zombification! However, RIP is written on tombstones for a reason.

In BTS, Ethan brings Kahlah back from the dead in order to clear her name also, to prove her death was not as the media and authorities reported it.

It is through archaeological and anthropological means that our leading lady is transformed into the living dead. My friend’s mother is an anthropologist and she provided me with the same Harvard study that Wes Craven used for "The Serpent and the Rainbow" It became my foundation for building the living dead scenario, combined with various other significant Haitian zombie facts, to revive our love interest.

Other themes and parts to the story derived from the deceitful nature of our modern environment. There is a large portion of society today that has paved over everything, mind, body, soul, and including any shred of belief in something, considered by many to be, of fantasy or not scientifically proven without a doubt. The irony is that most of what we read in the newspapers and hear in the media "as fact" is totally spun crap. BTS suggests that what we read in comic books has the potential to be the truth and what is in the papers is fiction. Don't bury what is in your heart because someone else's mind says so.

I decided to do it after realizing how mortal we are and how quickly we can leave this earth. If I died yesterday I wanted to know I put a picture on the screen, even if I sat in a theater by myself and watched it. The trick to getting a movie made is JUST DO IT! DO IT CAUSE YOU WANT TO BY ANY MEANS POSSIBLE. I witnessed so many film school grads in their mid thirties saying they aim to be directors. I did not want to be one of those people. If you want to be a director, do it. Just make sure you know how to run the show.

I noticed from your profile on IMDB that you’ve worked as a PA and an assistant on a few big budget films. Did having jobs like that help out in getting this film done and would you recommend that other aspiring filmmakers take those kinds of jobs?

Slumming it as a PA on studio films was hard but worth it. Paying your dues provides a good production education. A working crew can easily tell who paid their dues and who didn’t and I believe they hold a special respect for those who did.
I was able to get first hand knowledge on how each department runs, tricks of the trade in the real world, proper procedure etc. Also, after working on several studio features, you collect crew lists and meet hundreds of people that you can turn to with questions and favors.

I moved back to Orange County to shoot the film and set up a smaller version of a studio production office and moved through each production department’s duties. My good friend, Brad Patterson, had worked in film for a couple years and was the first to sign onto the project. He read the script, the second after I finished writing it, and provided a big boost in momentum. An artistic genius, Brad first took on the art department and production design duties and later helped out with just about everything else production wise.

There is a highly organized and intricate work ethic that studio production’s have spent years mastering, similar to the way organ’s work together inside the human body. In BTS’ case, it was similar to having the heart, lungs, and balls alone providing life support and filling in for all the other organs. Organizational skills utilized in film production were the most important tools gained from working on multi million dollar sets along with the social ballet between cast and crew.

What was the approximate budget for the film and how did you secure financing?

I have been told by numerous people to stop stating how much was actually spent. The production cost was close to nothing. Hustled what I could and had a Visa card. I have yet to hear of a feature in the last few years that was made for less, even on

What did you shoot on and how long was the shoot?

We shot on the Panasonic DVX 100 camera. Nate, the DP, did an amazing job lighting for the camera and color correcting in a way that really pushed the envelope.
We shot by location, tackling the school and bedroom scenes first over 2 weeks. Then we shot nights and weekend days here and there for a period of 2 months.

There was very little gore or nudity, yet it was very entertaining from beginning to end. Was the lack of nudity and gore a creative decision?

There were some gore scenes that were cut from the script due to money, would have liked to have them in the film. In terms of nudity, the story and tone of the film did not call for it and would have thrown viewers out if they were wedged in.

The story was very well crafted and, for me, that’s one of the reasons it worked so well with minimal amounts of nudity or gore. Talk about the screenwriting process and what you think makes a good story.

I like to have the story build in my head, from the first shot to the last. I want to be able to watch the entire movie in my head and then purge it out onto the page quickly. I created the story in my head while sitting in traffic in LA. I wrote half the script in my car actually and then over a period of ten days at my house. I also write with specific songs in mind, usually the song that helped me develop a particular scene.

You have to care about, at least one of, the characters and take the ride with him or her. Like sports, you have to root for somebody, your lives become connected for that period of time. When the lights go out, the lap bar goes down and you want to be on the edge of your seat.

I feel good stories tap into an audiences inner quirks and take them on an emotional journey that makes them reflect on themselves while thinking about how what they have just experienced can benefit them.

I really love stories that take two polar opposite things and make them collide, most good movies do thing cause it is a perfect engine for good drama.

I thought you got unbelievable performances out of your actors, yet almost all of them have next to no credits to their names…. Talk about getting good performances out of amateur actors.

You should screen test while casting to make sure they look good / interesting on screen. Eyes are very important in conveying the complete range of emotions. Even with amateur actors, casting is so important. A person with no credits can carry major productions if they are found. I put in the work but feel very blessed with who was put in my life.

Earning the actors respect and trust is very important as well as having everyone click as friends. We would hang out as if we were a family. Rehearsals helped, trying different adjustments. While shooting on set I would simply treat each actor with respect, while pushing them to their best performances based on their individual personalities, and aim to mold their emotions utilizing metaphor techniques, memory recall, believing it’s reality, and ultimately driving the energy as hard as I could where applicable. Each actor has something that works specifically for them, you have to find the right tool per actor.

What were some of your biggest hurdles in getting the film finished?

One word: Technology. Science is not perfect and screws up randomly all the time. You want to count on this magic box to crunch millions of 1s and 0s correctly all the time but it doesn’t and humans don’t have it mastered. This can cause moments of extreme health wrecking stress. Robots 3, Humans 0.

Did you hit the festivals with it? If so, how did it do? Is the festival circuit something that you would recommend to other filmmakers?

Did a couple fests: The Seattle True Independent Film Festival and the Sacramento Horror Film Festival. Won the “Best Feature” award at the Sac Horror Fest and the “Hottest Zombie” award in the Seattle.

I submitted to the “bigs” and genre fests on the west coast. Festivals are great for building press and fans. It has gotten very political, commercial, and expensive though. I think it is best to do a couple, do well, and go for distribution. Don’t worry about rejections at all cause programmers are working to fit their molds and needs. Get a couple, work it, then ride the wave to shelves.

Talk about distribution. What was the process like for you? Any advice that you’d pass on to other filmmakers looking for distribution?

I just kept on sending screeners and press kits out. Got bites. Really happy I did not take the first couple offers cause Well Go came along and they have been awesome! Working with Well Go has been a breeze and I hope they continue to grow in the indie horror genre, they have been so successful with the other genres they distribute, so I have no doubt they will. Advice to others: put together a list of positive press quotes and quotes from titular people in the industry for your sell sheet that you give to potential distributors. Have a marketing game plan you can convey to potential buyers.

After it’s all said and done, what would you have done differently?

There was no time left prior to production on BTS, but if possible I would have liked to have had much more time for script development. Script and casting is the most important and should be given as much time as needed.

Where can people find out more about Beneath the Surface or, better yet, buy a copy?

Beneath the Surface is available for rent at Blockbuster and Netflix. Purchase at,,,, fye, hastings stores nationwide etc. THANK YOU!

What’s next for you? Any new projects in the works?

I just finished co producing the definitive Friday the 13th retrospective documentary HIS NAME WAS JASON that I teamed up with Masi Media Productions on via my executive role at Crystal Lake Entertainment. It airs on the Strarz network on February 13th and is available on Anchor Bay DVD the same week. I also helped on the development of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT out next year.

I have a slate of scripts and ideas in different phases that I have been currently working on: horror, comedy, drama, even a racing flick. The plan is to shoot a couple large scale shorts in the coming months and then target the next feature script to push into production as soon as possible. This past year I teamed up with a few people and went in on some TV pitches and look forward to pitching feature material in early 2009. Ultimately aim to be shooting another horror feature ASAP.

Lastly, talk about the indie horror scene. What do you think about where it’s at now and where do you see it going?

It continues to grow and grow. There is nothing else like it. It is here to stay. It reminds me of skateboarding, which was an underground thing a decade ago, but now our culture is drenched in it.

Like everyone else, I am worried about the economy and its effect on filmmaking. DVD sales are down, which really hurts indie horror, and a lot of great high praise indie pics were not theatrically released. I was bummed that “The Signal” did not do better in theaters, I thought it was a very intelligent and awesome indie that would have hopefully opened the gates wider for others. The indie horror scene will push through the tough times better than the domestic car companies and survive. Like the protagonists in our films, we will make it through hell. Indie horror is a nice monster that will never die. We need to make hail mary passes and go buck wild, be more unique than ever, and continually re event the wheel.

Ultimately, the indie horror scene is in our control. Put your dollars into the stuff you want to see more of. Simple as that.