Sunday, August 31, 2008
Congrats on the film, Nick and C.J. and thank you for the interview!
DH: Tell us about yourselves. What's your background and what got you into making movies?
NICK: I was inspired by James Cameron's "Terminator 2" to get into film making. At 14, I got my first video camera and starting making short movies with my friends. In the following years, I studied acting at the highly respected South Coast Repertory for two years, excelling in its acting program. Once I decided to take it to the next level I attended the Art Institute of California – Los Angeles. Every few weeks we would be required to shoot a 5 – 10 minute project. I would usually make a horror or action short, which usually the teachers didn’t want to do. But, when I showed them to people the reaction was amazing and we always stood out from the crowed because 80 percent of the classes were making dramas. At one of the film festivals I ended up winning the top three awards for my horror short “The Last of the Zombies”. Since then I have made and worked on a ton of productions that have brought me a lot of success in film making.
CJ: Nick and I both attended the Art Institute of California - Los Angeles, majoring in film & TV production. We kept making horror and action shorts even though our professors repeatedly asked us not too. Everyone else made dramas and comedies but we had no real interest in being like everyone else or creating a bunch of ambiguous drama shorts. Although, our teachers didn't like us making shorts filled with cheap scares and fake guns, our peers seemed to enjoy it and we repeatedly kept receiving awards at festivals for it. We just wanted to understand how to make horror movies and we wanted to focus on what we wanted to do later in life. I think Nick posted a bunch of our old student projects on you tube (just type in "movieman11" and "kingcj316").
Growing up, there were three movies that blew me away and jump started my dream to go into film making. They were: "Big Trouble in Little China", "Jurassic Park" and "Aliens". Even as a kid I said to myself, "I have to be in the movie business".
DH: Film school: yes or no?
NICK: I’d have to say “yes”, I attended the Art Institute of California – Los Angeles where I met up with a lot of talented young filmmakers. CJ and I started taking classes together and formed a great friendship and film making relationship. I feel what I learned in school showed me the workings of a real set and the fast pace “always on the ball” nature of it.
CJ: I'd say "yes". Nick and I went to film school and it helped us narrow down our style of film making and gave us room for error. It's always good to be surrounded by like-minded people who share the same goals as you. One important element of attending film school is that you're able to create a network of friends and work associates that you can work with after school. Also, Nick and I learned how to shoot quickly, cost effectively, and develop a shooting style. We walked away from school with numerous projects and experience under our belts, not including what we were learning on film sets outside of school. At the same token, there are plenty of success stories of people who didn't attend film school. There are no absolutes to anything. It's what you make of your experiences.
DH: Where did the idea for, "Creepers" come from?
NICK: Creepers was an idea I had for years but never got around to doing it until CJ asked me if I wanted to work on another movie with him. I pitched him the idea and he liked it. Within a week he had written a great rough draft. CJ had taken my ideas about aliens using flesh to hide and blend in with us and made it more about two characters and how they deal with the possibility of one of them being one of these things.
CJ: Nick and I throw ideas out to each other all the time. For "Creepers", I told him I wanted to do a project that he directed and I'd write. He pitched me the idea of aliens with skin falling off their flesh. It's an idea he had years ago, that I remember he talked a lot about. I liked it. So, when writing the script, I wanted to make a more personal story with epic proportions in short film. This idea of an alien attack happening without any clear knowledge of what triggered it or why they're doing it... its happening and chaos ensues really got me going. "Creepers" is a bit of a mystery story. I wanted to have a man and woman who were physically and socially opposite of each other who were forced together under extreme circumstances. They slowly learn what's happening and it causes even more tension between them.
DH: What film and/or films have most inspired you as actor and director and why?
NICK: My main influence for “Creepers” was John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. With “Creepers”, we really tried to play up the fact that the end of the world is here and you can’t do a thing about it. “The Thing” really captured that dread like no movie ever has. The pacing and tension in that movie is so intense. “Creepers” pays a lot of homage to it and brings some new elements to it.
CJ: I often get inspired by John Carpenter's "Big Trouble in Little China". I'm not sure why but, it gets me pumped. I think it's John Carpenter's music score and just this whole "Fish out of water" element with a lot of action and Chinese mystique that's very appealing to me. The beginning of that movie always gets me hooked in no matter how many times I've seen it. As an actor I try to draw from my own imagination to make things a bit more unique and original. I do look a lot at what Denzel Washington, Will Smith, and Brad Pitt do. They have a wide range of performances that always draw people in whether they're quiet or speaking. With "Creepers", I watched Gerard Butler's performance in "300" and Matthew Fox in ABC's "Lost".
DH: Describe your particular take on the alien invasion movie.
NICK: Ours is different because its not the aliens coming down in spaceships, it’s about aliens taking over us. I love the character development that can come out of not knowing if the person sitting next to you is one of aliens unless they “creep” out on you.
CJ: In alien invasion movies you either see it two ways: one, it's from the point of view from various main characters in different places that unite to face an alien threat. The second is you're stuck with a small group of people, again facing an alien threat. With "Creepers" we wanted to create a more personal story that presented the question of "What would you do if aliens invaded earth?" No seriously...what would you do? When facing frightening situations, human instincts either present the worst or the best in you. That's what we wanted to show in "Creepers". You only see things from the perspectives of two characters throughout the whole story. What happens when the cell phones go dead? The radios are cut off? Your TV doesn't work and everywhere you look people are killing each other. The world is a frightening place when you don't have all the answers. Humans are unique species. Humans have emotions, feelings, and certain aspects that separate us from other life forms. We're a complicated, difficult species to understand...even to the "Creepers".
DH: Describe your directing/acting styles.
CJ: As far as our directing styles go, Nick and I tend to use more hand-held techniques, more so Nick than I. I tend to use more fluid moving shots juxtaposed with hand-held techniques. We also like to shoot more projects in digital video to give audiences a sense of realism combined with a "film look".
In acting, I usually draw from my imagination. I ask a lot of questions like "where is this character from?" and "where is he going?" I also ask myself "what makes this character unique?" In "Creepers", I tried to show an evolution of body language throughout the whole piece. I start out as a man with quick reflexes, to very still and quiet, and finally to an emotionally unstable person.
DH: "Creepers" moved from a spectacle opening to a two person one room style story, which I thought was f'ing awesome by the way. Explain to us the reason for this decision.
NICK: We started the movie that way to show the destruction that has happened in the world around the main characters. Once the characters move into the house I like the fact that it feels like their locked in and there’s no where to go or they will die. By opening the movie that way you set up the fear and tension of why they can’t leave the house.
CJ: I love to give people a catchy opening and when Nick and I talked about it, I said, "we should just have an insane opening where the audience is right smack in the middle of things". We knew we would be working with a low budget and that we wouldn't have a lot set pieces. But, this is an epic story, there needs to be some sort of action piece that separates our short film from others. From a story telling standpoint, we wanted to show audiences why two strangers would be extremely motivated to trap themselves in a house. Our opening sets up the stakes and what type of characters we're dealing with. All hell's breaking loose and if these two strangers get into it, it looks like it could be a pretty one-sided fight.
DH: How is "Creepers" different from anything you've both done before?
CJ: I think as filmmakers, as you go along with different projects your skills sharpen and you tend to push yourselves more on a creative level. With "Creepers" this was the next step for Nick and I. It showcases his visual style and my writing and acting style. Usually in the projects we've done together he usually writes and directs his own projects and I do the same. Now this time, he focused more on the directing aspect and I focused on more of the writing and acting portion.
DH: What were the biggest challenges you faced when making, "Creepers"?
NICK: Making a movie is like going to war. But, the crew did a really good job and kept really excited and pumped about making it. A big part of the crew were people who we had gone to film school with and they all knew the difficulty in making short movies on a little budget. Every movie I have ever made has things that go wrong but its at that moment when you and the crew have to be on your feet ready to switch things and make it through the problems that lay in front of you. I believe every one on set stood up to challenges that were put before us.
CJ: In the entertainment there are always challenges. We actually had a make up artist who quit on us the day before our first day of shooting so, Nick, true to form, said, "F** it, I can do it." So, sure enough, Nick did the make up for the grocery store scene. Then I found two friends who did the make up for the other days of shooting and they did a fantastic job. For the most part, production went smooth but post-production was a hassle because of the time and energy involved. Like, I said, there are always challenges but it's what brings out the best of you. In the entertainment business, no one cares about excuses or problems. Everyone just cares about the end result. We're happy with the end result.
DH: What did you shoot on and how long of a shoot was it?
NICK: The movie was shot on digital video because of the amazing look you can get. The main production was filmed in an apartment and a city block in Los Angeles California. We shot there for two days, with neighbors and people driving by giving us weird looks because half the cast were bloody and even some with faces torn off. The other day we shot at night at Pacific Ranch Market in Orange County California. The Market closed at 9 PM so we got the rest of the night to shoot the remarkable “News Report” scene.
CJ: We shot on digital video to give our story a sense of realism and it's our style of filmmaking. Specifically, we used a Sony HD-Camera, and (2) Panasonic DVX cameras. Filming went underway for three days in three different locations (Los Angeles, California-House Residence, Orange County, California-Pacific Ranch Market, and Los Angeles California-street block). The Pacific Ranch Market in Orange County provided a critical scene that has a suspenseful newscast filled with chaos. The crew for was able to shoot uninterrupted, for hours in the market for free because Nick worked as a manager at the market as a teen.
DH: What personal sacrifices were made to get the movie in the can?
NICK: Making a movie takes a lot of your time and money. So when you make one and it’s out of your pocket you have to sacrifice a lot. The Budget was very small. It only cost a couple of thousand dollars, which came out of CJ’s and my pocket. The budget went to food, blood and make up effects, visual effects, and postproduction costs.
CJ: Well, the budget for "Creepers" came out of our own pockets. So, for a while there, Nick and I were working all the time to make up for the money we invested into "Creepers". Also, time and energy were sacrificed. That's an element of filmmaking that never changes. There are always long hours and a lot of energy invested into one project at a time. Nick and I both edit for our main source of income and I write all the time, so, believe me when I say I was sick of being in front of a computer. Even now, I can't stick in front of a computer for too long like I used to. Imagine us working 9-10 hour days editing at our jobs. Then driving home and have to stick be stuck in front of a computer for an additional three hours doing the same thing you just did all day. But hey, like the man said, "No sacrifice, no glory."
DH: Will "Creepers" have a sequel and/if so, what can audiences expect to see?
NICK: Well, hopefully if the response is good we can get more work off this movie. CJ & I have talked about turning “Creepers” into a feature and have some really fresh ideas for it. But only time will tell what’s in store for “Creepers”.
CJ: One of our main goals with "Creepers" was to explore it as a feature franchise. I'm currently writing the first draft of "Creepers" the feature. When Nick and I first came up with the idea for "Creepers” we said, the story is pretty epic, so, a feature would do the world we created some justice. With a feature I’m able to give our story and characters more exposition and really polish what I thought didn’t work for us in the short film. I think now, horror films have lost it's meaning. "Horror" used to be something that will scare the living hell out of you and because it scared you so much you can't help but love it. Now, we're loaded with gore, cheap scares, and a predictable ending...I hope with a feature version of "Creepers" we can really do what "Jaws" or "The Shinning" did for audiences. The "Creepers" feature will be a lot scarier on a visual sense and "Bridget" and "Thompson" will be joined by two other main characters. The story is really flowing right now and the feature version of "Creepers" will hopefully be made the way we always dreamed of and deliver big scares unlike anything you’ve seen before.
DH: How was your experience on the festival circuit?
NICK: The festival circuit has been really great. The reactions have been amazing and it’s so nice to watch the movie with an audience to see their reaction. So far we have gained a lot of attention and the response have been great.
CJ: Thus far, it's been very cool. With horror there's a market to show your film everywhere, so, it's nice to get a chance to show your film to people who can not only enjoy it but, see the "Easter eggs" you placed in your work. Horror has a great fan base and is great beginning for up-and coming filmmakers. From film festivals, small to large, I always enjoy speaking with true fans of filmmaking and horror.
DH: Tell us about distribution. What's your experience been in that arena and what steps do you recommend aspiring filmmakers take to get their movies out there?
CJ: We had a specific marketing strategy for "Creepers" and we wanted to begin revealing the world of "Creepers" online. The Internet is an easy outlet for independent filmmakers, especially those like Nick and I who are a part of the "myspace/youtube" generation. We're also looking at different avenues at what would work best for us as far as showing or film in other ways besides film festivals. I'd recommend for aspiring filmmakers to create a solid game plan of marketing and distribution. Sometimes that can get lost in translation because you're usually focused on the whole "creating a movie" task. For us, we presented a two-minute clip and teaser trailers online and circulated them that way to spread word of mouth and to gain interest from people. Now, you can post clips on you tube, myspace, etc. and send your films to different avenues. We sent our film-to-film festivals and different places for film review that we thought would best suit us. Now, you can even sell your movie through Amazon or itunes. It's all about how you want to present your film.
DH: What's next for Nick Thiel and CJ Johnson?
NICK: CJ and I have talked about making more movies. I have also been working on ideas for other movies in the horror genre. I’m always working and still deciding at this point what to make next.
CJ: Right now, we're still promoting "Creepers" and riding the film festival circuit. I’m also writing the first draft of the feature version. Besides that, Nick has been brainstorming about some new ideas. I've been busy writing several projects and developing a promo for a new web series I created.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
DH: First off, the title for your comic, "Ninja Zombies" is f'ing awesome. Ninjas and zombies are two great things that go great together. Where did the idea come from?
SK: Ummm. My writing partner at the time. Glad you like it! She said I've got your next project: "Ninja Zombies"! And I said Ninja Zombies??? Then I said NINJA ZOMBIES!!!
This movie is definitely a fun thing and that's reflected in the title which says it all: crazy fighting, zombie gore and humor like "Shaun of the Dead" but maybe not so British. The main character is this sex obsessed guy so the movie has elements of sex and sensuality as well. It's crazy, fast and fun!
DH: What led you to working on, "Ninja Zombies"?
SK: I was studying martial arts at the time and happened to have the worst Grandmaster in the history of Grandmasters. This guy would literally lie and cheat people and use his 9th degree back belt status in that community to do so – and to me that had to be the villain in this screenplay I was starting to write. In the similar way that he dominated and controlled people in real life I made his character (the evil and actually fake NINJA ZOMBIE) dominate and control the people in his sleepy little backwards village.
My old Grandmaster was a complete sociopath-narcissist and the funny thing I found first-hand about those kind of people was that others followed them like sheep. He would do things like try to sleep with only the hot female students (he had western taste) and when she would inevitably reject his advances. He was in his 70s by the time I was studying with him and though he still could sparr and do the splits he had grown fat and a bit out of shape. Anyway, he would tell everyone that the female student was the one who was actually hitting on him! And people would believe him! And she would get kicked out of the studio or leave in shame!!!
Real dishonorable stuff went on and on and I have a book full of stories but the guy wasn't above stealing or cheating on his wife with a girlfriend he kept for years!
Most of us will never meet a Charles Manson or David Koresh or Jim Jones. And when we hear those stories we say to ourselves "well those followers must be so dumb" and "how could they be so blind" but that kind of power wielding by a sociopath is amazingly powerful – as my Grandmaster proved to me.
So my "NINJA ZOMBIE" character, Master Foo, was the same – he has his own stable of sexy girl students. But, everything changes on the day that the story's hero, Owen (think Owen Wilson type), comes to town and falls in love with Foo's number one girl.
So when our hero Owen – who works for a powerful land development firm - comes to town to gain control over the land for renovation but instead falls in love with Foo's number one girl, Tia, we have a perfect setup for the comedy and drama that ensues.
DH: How will the film and comic book differ?
SK: I'm not sure because Stephen Stern (author of "Zen: Intergalactic Ninja", "War of the Worlds", and "Beowulf" graphic novels) is doing the adaptation.
Of course I'd like the graphic novel to be exactly like the screenplay and Stephen has his own ideas so we butt heads. Sometimes he's right and sometimes I am. But, the great thing working with him is that we both agree that the project and not our ego comes first. So as long as the best idea wins we're both happy and we both could care less who came up with the "best" idea as long as one of us did.
DH: Do you see, "Ninja Zombies" as an ongoing series and, if so what do you have in store for us in the future?
SK: Stephen's interested in turning it into a comic book series (he's even been talking action figures!) so maybe after the film's released those comic books will spark some other paths to follow. That just seems too in the future to think about right now though.
DH: Ninja and Zombie stories have been told in various ways over the years. Tell us about your own particular approach?
SK: That's the danger of telling yet another zombie film. A filmmaker can't be afford to be boring. As one of my mentors (Quinn Redeker, who wrote "The Deer Hunter") says: "Takes us to where we've never been! Show us things we've never seen!" And with Ninja Zombies, though we have zombies and martial arts, that was (as it is always) my aim.
So, there is nothing traditional with the zombies or martial arts in this film. The Ninja Zombie mythical creature is a new type of mythical creature and really represents the bringing together of opposites – which to get deep for a minute, is a theme running through the film. A ninja is a graceful agile artist and a zombie is a dirty out of control ogre. The film dares to bridge these two unlikely paths. But, when you think about it life really is like that. We often do have to bring two drastically different parts together in union and rationalize them somehow.
For example I really believe that man's nature is basically polygamous but then as men we have to somehow rationalize that with another part within us when we fall in love and get married – as does my lead character Owen who boffs the bosses secretary in the first scene and proceeds to try to nail every girl he sees – until he sees the girl of his dreams, Tia.
DH: When will "Ninja Zombies" be attacking the masses in both graphic novel and film?
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Tell me about the idea behind “Forever Dead”… what made you go out and make a zombie flick?
It actually started with a short film we did the year before (2004) called Second Death. Me and a few of my classmates from our Television Production class were inspired by our teacher Joe Wilson who said he’d help us make a short zombie film if someone would come up with a script. I wrote a script about 6 people trapped in a creepy old house surrounded by zombies and Joe directed it and edited it for us. We had so much fun and really felt the story needed to be explored more extensively. So I wrote the prequel to the story Forever Dead. This time I bought my own equipment and ultimately ended up as Director and Editor for the movie. You can see excerpts from Second Death at the beginning and end of Forever Dead.
How did you go about securing financing and what was the approx. budget?
Financing was initially what I had in my bank account. No one in this movie was paid so that wasn’t an issue. We mainly needed to pay for food for cast and crew, equipment, makeup, and lots of mini dv tapes. Darrell Parker who is a good friend of mine and a fellow filmmaker came up with the idea of raising money on ebay by selling credits for the movie. This turned out to be an excellent idea and we raised about $2000 dollars doing that. We still keep in touch with all those guys and some of them have followed us into our next project, Fistful of Brains, and have continued to contribute.
What did you shoot on and how long was the shoot?
We used a Canon GL2 and shot it all on Mini DV. It took us about 8 months of weekends to shoot with is a total of around 32-35 days.
One of the highlights for me was the gore… “Forever Dead” was filled with it AND it looked great. I especially liked the various ‘Romero-esque’ stomach’s being ripped open. Tell us about the effects. Which were your favorites and how were they achieved?
Well our FX guy Bill Mulligan should really be the one to tell you all about that. He was absolutely amazing, the stuff he did with nothing really. I have to say the stomach rip with that guy running out of the woods was my favorite because it just looked so real! Bill used a lot of foam gelatin for this movie because it looks very realistic, it’s reusable, cheap, and lightweight, and not as irritating as latex is. He made a pocket with plastic wrap that he stuck to the guys chest and filled with all sorts of stuff. Then he covered it with a layer of flesh colored foam gelatin. Covered is with a shirt and it looked just like his own skin. It ripped really well too. We also bought hog casings at the local butcher shop and stuffed them with a mixture of cherry pie filling, brownie mix, cherry jello mix and caramel syrup. I’m told it was fairly tasty! Some people actually think we bought real intestines and innards from the butcher shop, which is a pretty high compliment.
I couldn’t get enough of the puppet rabbit. Any reason there was a reoccurring rabbit theme? Where’d that idea come from?
Well let’s just say I’m a big Monty Python fan. A lot of people loved the rabbit and I wish we could have used him more but he was a bit of a stinker. We kept him in Bill’s freezer and thawed him out whenever he had a scene. By the end of the shoot he was looking pretty nasty!
There were a lot of characters in the film, which you rarely see in low-budget films. How did you go about managing such a big cast and not have any glaring continuity problems?
That was pretty difficult coordinating everyone’s schedules etc. It was made more difficult when one of our lead actors Patrick Loree who played Lupus quit halfway through the movie. We’d shot the last half of the movie first fortunately so I had to rewrite it to cover the fact that he wasn’t in it. That’s why you see a lot of POV stuff and just hear his voice. I had taped our first read thru so I had him reading the lines and used that. We also used a fake Jeff Shemp for a lot of stuff. The first shot of the movie with him in the car and entering the building was someone else. Everyone else was great. They were all really committed to the movie and a lot of them had worked with us on Second Death so I never had a problem with people not showing up or not knowing what was going on. When you find a good group of people you stick with them. Many of them continue to work on our projects and I’ll keep using them until the get sick of me.
Let’s talk about the scene where you blocked off traffic, had all the cars piled up and, generally, caused havoc. To me, it would seem like an impossible scene to pull off when you’re a low-budget production. How’d you do it?
Again Darrell helped us out. He’s always looking for good locations. And found this cool dead end road that had been cut in half when the highway went through. There were no houses or traffic to deal with. We contacted the DOT for Moore County and got their permission to shoot for two days. They even gave us some roadblocks to use just to make sure no one interfered with the scene. Didn’t cost us a thing.
After it was all said and done, what would you have done differently?
Oh a whole lot of stuff. I would have shot in frame mode so it looked less like video. I would have not gone so overboard with the filters and effects. I would probably have cut back on some of the gore so people weren’t numb to it by the end of the movie. But that’s what first movies are for, learn from your mistakes and make a better one the next time.
Did you enter any festivals? If so, how did that go and what did you think of the experience?
Yes we did. We put it in the Ava Gardner Film Festival in Smithfield and won the audience award for best Narrative Feature. Of course that was a great experience. We also showed it at the Atlanta Horror Fest. Didn’t get to go to that one but we heard it was well received. Last February it showed at Connooga in Tennessee. I have to say that’s been our best experience so far because we actually got treated like celebrities. We got the luxury suite and a free table at the Expo with the other celebrities. We did a lot of panels on filmmaking and FX. Made a lot of friends. It was a great time!
What about distribution? How’s that going? Are there any lessons that you would pass on to other indie filmmakers who’ve just finished a film?
Distribution is going great! Brain Damage Films has been very good to us. We had an excellent turnout at both of our DVD release signings at Sam Goodys in Sanford and Suncoast Video in Cary. I would say make sure you specify that it has to be a stand alone release if it’s a feature. Also put a limit on how long they can hold onto it before releasing it. We had them release it within a year of getting them the files. Also make sure your files are really well organized!
Where can people find out more about “Forever Dead” and, better yet, buy a copy?
You can visit the website at theforeverdead.com or go to our company myspace page where I’ve chronicled the making of Forever Dead in numerous blogs myspace.com/adrenalin_productions. You can buy copies at Amazon.com, Suncoast video, FYI, and Sam Goodies. You can also get it through NetFlix, Blockbuster Online, and Best Buy online. Or if you’re really poor it’s a pretty popular torrent download.
What’s next? Do you have any projects in the works?
Oh yes we have lots of stuff coming up. I’m in post production now for our latest feature Fistful of Brains. We’re premiering it September 27th 2008 at 9pm at the Ava Gardner Film Festival. It’s a horror western and once again we were very lucky to have some of our old e-bay friends help us out with the financing. Check out fistfulofbrains.com or myspace.com/fistfulofbrains. In our spare time we also did a short film called Getting a Head in the Movie Biz about a special FX guy (Bill Mulligan) who loses his mind trying to make the perfect head for a low budget horror movie. We’re also premiering that one at Ava Gardner. We have another short we’re doing for one of our contributors/Executive Producers this winter and we start production on our next feature A Few Brains More: Summer of Blood in 2009. It’s a continuation of Fistful of Brains but takes place in the late 1960’s. We’re really hoping someone will throw a substantial amount of money our way this time so we can actually pay people. And I really need a new camera!
Film Fest Updates - Madison Horror Film Festival, Horror Society Film Festival and The Sacremento Horror Festival
I know we just mentioned the The Madison Horror Film Festival last week, but they already have a pretty cool update that I thought was worth mentioning. They've partnered with Apprehensive Films and are offering a distribution deal to the winners of the Best Short film and Best Feature film categories. I think it's a bit of a no brainer to distribute the winners, as it's a win/win for everyone and I think you're going to see more people stepping up and doing stuff like this... so, click on that link there and get your film in the festival.
Here's a new one, I think... I don't remember mentioning the Horror Society OR the fact that their having their 1st ever film festival this October - October 11th in Chicago, to be exact. According to them, they're "bringing you the most brutal, blood filled, and extreme horror ever seen on the big screen." Plus, it's all low-budget, underground horror and their goal is to provide "a platform for aspiring independent film directors and talent to debut their work and skills to Chicago." They've already filled the slate of films, so you can't submit or anything, but if you're in the Chicago area, do check it out.
So, here's another good festival that's done accepting films for the year... The Sacremento Horror Festival is October 17th - 19th this year and they "exist to deliver high-quality independent and popular studio-release horror films, sci-fi features and short films to the horror movie fan." They're also doing something pretty cool this year, called their "2008 Film Challenge - The Final Minutes of a Slasher/Zombie Film." It's a great idea and I'd love to see the submissions. It's too long to explain here, but it's worth reading about, just because it's a great idea. Check out the details of the challenge here.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I'm a New York City based Producer / Director. I've been working in the indie film scene going on 18 years. From PA to Special Effects work, and now Directing & Producing, I worked my way up the production ladder, and now run my own production company; MooDude Films. While horror films are not all we do, it has always been my passion. When I was 13, I caught a George Romero double feature of Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow and I was hooked from that day on. You can check out my recent films at Moodudefilms.com
Tell us a bit about NYC Horror Fest. When did it get started and why did you start it up?
I founded the festival in 2001 to help other like minded filmmakers get their work seen, not just by the fans, but most importantly, by the industry and contemporaries. At the time there were only two other festivals (also in their first year) but they were both out in LA, so building an event like this in the worlds largest media market seemed like a no-brainer. Now it seems that every state has a horror film festival, but we like to think the NYCHFF stands out as an important global film festival. We get acquisitions reps from every major distribution company in the world, from Universal and Lionsgate to NBC and HBO.
From the perspective of the film, why should indie horror filmmakers try to get their films into festivals?
It's a great place for your work to be seen, meet reps, set up connections that could lead to selling your film. I try to point out to all filmmakers, a film festival is supposed to be about making connections. A lot of film festivals out there are really only about screenings for horror & sci-fi fans and that's great, but we try to make the NYCHFF all about the industry.
From the perspective of the filmmaker, what can I expect to get out of having my film screen at the festival?
We work very hard to make sure the attending filmmakers have a great time at the event. Parties, panels, etc. Of course, I’d like filmmakers to also make some good contacts with distribution companies, producer reps, and other filmmakers.
When you’re accepting films, what are you looking for?
The same thing everyone looks for in a good film; A solid story, good directing, and talented acting. We honestly never look for bigger budgets or name actors. The NYCHFF is all about the genre and we expect a little genre knowledge from our filmmakers. We like to program an eclectic festival, so send us the best of horror, sc-fi and thrillers.
As a filmmaker, what can I do to make my film more festival friendly? Should I even be thinking of that?
No, you shouldn’t be thinking that way at all. As a filmmaker myself, my advice is never compromise your art. Make the film you want to make, never change things because you THINK a festival would be more friendly to it if you did “this” or “that” differently.
Are there any particular success stories from films that screened at NYC Horror Fest?
I’d hate to single out any one filmmaker for another, but there have been many alumni filmmakers that are now doing big stuff. The one thing I will say is that every feature film that has screened at the NYCHFF in our seven years has been picked up for distribution. I don’t think any other genre film festival can say that and we are very proud of that fact.
What advice can you give to an up and coming filmmaker in the indie horror genre?
Make your film…..period! I’ve know a lot of people that talk and talk about they are going to do this or that and it never happens. If you want to be a filmmaker…….be one!
Tell us about the future of indie horror, where do you see it going?
Who knows? Right now (I hope) we are coming to the end of this “lets go out and remake every horror flick from the seventies, but change everything about them that made them great” attitude from the Hollywood studios. I see some great indie films every year and one thing is for sure, the new Romero’s, Carpenter’s and Craven’s are not going to be found on a studio lot.
What’s next for you and the NYC Horror Fest?
Same as always, onward and upward! Great films, great panels and great parties!
Where can people find out more about NYC Horror Fest and how can they go about entering their film?
NYCHorrorfest.com. You can also google us and film a ton of press and stories on past film and filmmakers. You can also watch some great past shorts from the fest at Openfilm.com
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Sasson won the battle, though, because "Dead and Gone" is completed and all over the video stores. Plus, it features an awesome cast including Marilyn Ghiglotti, Zack Ward, Kyle Gass, Ben Moody, Felissa Rose, Gillian Shure and the screenwriter himself, Harry Shannon. Head on over to Amazon.com to buy yourselves a copy and support independent film making! There's also a book available at Amazon that screenwriter Shannon wrote based off the movie.
Thank's for the interview, Yossi! We look forward to your upcoming work!
clip 1 - Inspiration To Make Movies
clip 2 - Working With Harry Shannon pt 1
clip 3 - Working With Harry Shannon pt 2
clip 4 - How Long Did The Process Take?
clip 5 - Securing The Cast
clip 6 - Influences
clip 7 - The Score
clip 8 - Editing Connection
clip 9 - Securing The Location
clip 10 - Personal Sacrifices
clip 11 - Challenges
clip 12 - Directing Approach
clip 13 - The Yellow Jackets
clip 14 - What Was The Movie Shot On?
clip 15 - What Would You Do Differently?
clip 16 - Legal Discussions
clip 17 - Advice For Avoiding Problems
clip 18 - Advice On Distribution
clip 19 - Post
clip 20 - What's Next?
clip 21 - Where To Find "Dead And Gone"
clip 22 - Parting Words
Out of the UK, comes "Vampire Diary", which was directed by Mark James and Phil O'Shea, written by Phil O'Shea. It won 4 awards at the Milan International Film Festival and they were all the big ones; Best Film, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Actress. If THAT doesn't impress you, maybe the idea behind it will. "Whilst making a documentary, filmmaker Holly meets the highly enigmatic and beautiful Vicki who claims she is a real-life vampire. By turns fascinated by and attracted to her, Holly thinks that Vicki could be her soul mate and soon the two embark on a passionate affair. However Vicki's lust for blood is growing and when Holly discovers that Vicki is pregnant with a 'vampire' baby, she is drawn into a spiral of death, deceit and betrayal from which she will never emerge." That's right... lesbian vampires and, by the way, the lead actress is the Princess from Hellboy II. Reviews are awesome, too.
"Home Sick" comes from director Adam Wingard, who also co-wrote, shot and edited the film, and it was his first feature film. He made two horror shorts before this and one short and another feature after. This film has an unreal cast, with Bill Moseley as the smiling maniac called 'Mr. Suitcase', as well as scream queen Tiffany Shepis and Tom Towles from "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer". 'Mr. Suitcase' carries a suitcase full of razorblades and he unleashes a super human killer on a group of kids, so they are forced to take up arms with an insane Chili enthusiast if they want to survive. Fangoria calls it a "gorfest that does what so many recent low-budget shockers claim to do" and Fantasia called it "a well-shot, unsettling gorefest" with "excessive bloody effects". Dead Harvey says, sold! Where do I get my copy?
"Coons! Night of the Bandits of the Night" is from Travis Irvine and, yes, it's about killer racoons. It's Irvine's first film and it's as low-budget indie horror as it gets. First off, I can't get enough of the title... using 'night' twice is just awesome. Secondly, believe it or not, I found a review of the film on nytimes.com, here's the link, and they love it, saying "the laughs flow like rabies-infected blood in the gruesome horror comedy about a group of college campers besieged by a pack of killer raccoons." I can't wait to check this out...
Well, now it's time to get a little violent and messed up. "Skinned Alive", formerly called "Eat Your Heart Out", is from James Tucker, written by Joshua Nelson and it's being released by Lionsgate. It's about a desperately lonely man who finally meets the love of his life, but unfortunately for him, she's a prostitute who is, literally, feeding on the men of New York. "Sex will never be the same..." Disturbing violent and sexual content, language and nudity follow.
"Gimme Skelter" looks like another kick ass indie horror, this one from Scott Phillips. It's got an unreal cast, including Trent Haaga (Troma veteran), Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface) and a bunch of other low-budget indie horror regulars. It's about a dangerous, bloodthirsty 'family' traveling in a van, who decide to outdo a previous notorious 'family' by slaughtering every person in a remote small town. Now, here's the capper... on their myspace page, they say they had "several less-than-appealing offers for distribution" and they've "decided to take matters into (their) own hands and distribute the movie (themselves)". So, here is yet another chance to support indie horror! Pick up a copy!
"Puppy" is an Australian horror from writer/director Kieran Galvin and this is one along the lines of "Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door" crossed with "Black Snake Moan" or "Misery". It's about a sultry swindler, Liz, who attempts to commit suicide, but is rescued by a lonely tow truck driver... who takes her to his remote farmhouse, convinced that she's the wife who abandoned him years earlier.
I don't know why I'm writing about this and not Tromadance, but I have to comment on Uwe Boll's latest film, "Postal", which comes out today. It was made in 2007, was based on the 2003 computer game series of the same name and had its premiere in Montreal on July 22, 2007 during Fantasia Fest. The film is as offensive as it gets... and I don't mean with gore, I mean it's just offensive. The opening scene has two guys hijacking a plane to the Bahamas, only to be overpowered by the passengers, who, in the struggle for control, end up driving the plane into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. It had a budget of $18Million and after it's theatrical run, managed to gross a grand total of $142,761 worldwide. I, uh... think that says it all. Wow, Uwe... wow.
Awesome week... lots to watch!
Monday, August 25, 2008
I've loved reading comics since childhood and will continue to love them until my sight goes, so it is with great enthusiasm that Dead Harvey adds indie comic artists to it banner.
Our first is with the creator and writer of, "I, Of the Wolf": Neil Kaplan.
Kaplan has an impressive body of work involving stand up comedy and voice overs for high level video game and animation projects. He was at comic con to promote the project this year in San Diego and will be at Dead Harvey's favorite bookstore (Dark Delicacies) on Sunday, Sept. 14th at 2pm to sign a copy of the premier issue so head on down to pick yourselves up a copy and help support indie comics!
DH: You have been the voice of Optimus Prime on "Transformers: Robots In Disguise" (which is f'ing awesome by the way) as well as various other animated characters. Tell us why you decided to switch mediums to horror comics and what inspired you to write, "I, Of the Wolf"?
NK: Hi Brad, thanks for your kind words. Yeah... playing Optimus Prime was a dream come true and a pretty awesome thing to have old high school friends find when they go to IMDB!
I don't so much think of myself as switching mediums as much as showing my true colors. If I had to choose a word to describe what I am I would say "storyteller." That's where the voices and the characters all come from. I did stand up at one point and I'm looking at getting back into it again, at least a little bit. I just like telling stories.
Heck, I have an educational TV series I have in development which will hopefully be on TV, mobile phones and in print eventually.
"I, of the Wolf" is a story I used to tell to friends, sort of a "campfire" thing.†Finally, in 2005, I was in Birmingham, England as the guest of honour (notice the†"u"†since it†WAS†the UK) at Auto Assembly along with amazingly talented comic book artists Simon Williams and Jason Cardy. After I told them the story Simon suggested we work together on a graphic novel version. As soon as I got back to the states the first person I looked up was†Derek Maki, a†friend that had successfully produced an award winning film and run a comic book store. I knew I had to have Derek on my team.
Hopefully, Derek and I will bring other stories to the public to follow this one.
Due to distance and health issues, Simon had to bow out. So, with his blessing Derek and I moved onward and we’ve been able to collect an amazing group of talented artists to bring this story to the page!
What inspired me? It’s pretty simple. My inspiration nine times out of ten is the same question. No matter what the story is, to me it usually starts with "What If?" (Likely my favorite comic book series EVER)
DH: What are your favorite horror comics out now and why?
NK: I don’t read comics as often as I did when I was in my teens and twenties. BUT, I really dig Occult Crimes Task Force. Tony Shasteen and David Atchison did such a wonderful job giving that book a very cinematic feel. (Though I guess it helps having a movie star as the main character.) I also really dig the world that Rosario Dawson created for her characters. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by David that I did not enjoy!
I really dug “Violent Messiahs.”
…and Painkiller Jane was a fun book a friend gave to me.
But then again there are two creators whose work never ceases to entertain and inspire me; Alan Moore and Jimmy Palmiotti. Those guys KNOW how to tell a story… and of course they bring with them the world’s finest visual artists!
DH: Now that you've worked in the literary and film medium, tell us which you prefer and why?
NK: Wow… well, I enjoy them both. They are both such distinct ways to tell a story. Oh, by the way… you forgot LIVE performance as well.
Honestly film work depends greatly upon how you are participating. Producing, directing, writing, acting, etc. They are ALL working from a different angle toward a shared goal.
DH: Describe your particular take on the werewolf.†
NK: Well, let’s just say this…
“What if the movies and the legends got it ALL wrong?”
“What if, at the rise of a full moon, a boy saw a wolf step from the woods… transform into a man… and commit a rather grizzly killing?”
That’s the tease in the first chapter… but it goes a LOT deeper than that. We address a LOT more in the book.
“Are the monsters in the world always the ones we think they are?”
“What is more important… who we are or who we seem to be?”
OH, and let me point out that there is a difference (in my mind) between Werewolves and Wolf/Men. It would seem that if a creature is a combination of human and wolf they are Werewolves. If however, they are either one or the other at differing times, they are a Wolf/Man. Oddly, in the movie “Wolf-Man” he was a werewolf and in “An American Werewolf in London” he was a Wolf/Man. – Funny how that works, huh?
DH: What were your primary influences behind the comic, "I, Of the Wolf"?
NK: All the old Lon Chaney movies, “What If?” comic books and “An American werewolf in London.”
DH: What does "I, Of the Wolf" have in store for us in the future?
NK: A few more rather disturbing deaths and/or violence. (Hey, I warned you it was for 14 and older)
We delve into the creation of the race. (Gee, haven’t YOU ever wondered where they came from and why they exist?)
The truth behind why they “walk among us” and what their true purpose is.
Another main character (or two) will fall before this story ends. And by the end Tom meets the monster that has plagued his life and changes the course of his life thereafter.
We also get introduced to another mythical race, which is mentioned in Chapter One: “Friends and Monsters” So, I actually give my interpretation to another race of beings that play an important role in this story.
DH: How long did it take to put the comic together and how did you raise the financing?
NK: Let’s just say three years so far and we are still seeking either a publisher or an investor(s) to become our partner(s).
DH: What advice do you have for people who have just finished a horror comic to get it out there on the market?
NK: Keep plugging away and you’ll find readers and a home. That is the beautiful thing about the internet, it really has opened up the Global Market to our creativity.
When things seem bleak, look at the team of people you have gathered to work with you. If you are lucky like I was, you get AMAZING artists AND human beings like I did.
J.K. Woodward, J. Zoe Frasure, Mike Pascoe, Rob Granito, Simon Williams and Jason Cardy!!! I mean, if my story was bad, these gifted people would NOT have joined my team… so, I guess I can relax about the story I am telling and just make this happen!
Believe in yourself, your ideas and your TEAM! Never forget that your story, whatever it is, is GOLD. But also remember, that some people seek platinum and jewels. It doesn’t mean they’re dopes or have no taste. It just means you are not compatible. OK… and move on.
DH: Tell us about your experience at Comic Con this year.
NK: Well, San Diego Comic Con was our “launch.” It was slow going, but those that came by were wonderful and many have written to tell me how much they liked Chapter One. We made great contacts, and the book ended up in the hands of some very talented people and publishers to review!
DH: What's next for Neil Kaplan?
NK: Completing the Graphic Novel and either finding a publisher or getting it to market ourselves. I am recording a fairly major voice on a game that should be HUGE… but who knows what will happen there.
I am working to create a company that will provide entertainment to our troops both serving and rehabilitating.
I have an educational TV show in development... screenplays being re-written.
I teach Voice Over to the sight impaired at the Braille Institute of Los Angeles… and I am trying to develop that into a nationwide program.
…and my NEXT Graphic Novel will be “Tsao Shun and the Night Patrol,” it’s your typical Vampire, Kung-Fu, Civil War Story. (I know… not ANOTHER one!??! Right?) One thing to ponder on that one… who hates the un-dead the most?
Wow Brad… I hope I have piqued your interest (as well as maybe a few hundred of your loyal readers!) Thanks for your time and interest! I hope you’ll really dig “I, of the Wolf.” If so… go to our site and let us know! We’d love to get a lot of hits and interest; www.iofthewolf.com.
If not… maybe you can blog about something else for a few days instead. :)
Gemini Division Blasts Off Aug. 18 on Broadcastingcable.com: This is a very short article on NBC Universal Digital Studio's first original web series, "Gemini Division". The project was actually announced a few months back, in April, and it's hit a point where it needs to be talked about. The most important thing about this isn't that it's a studio with money backing a project that's going to be soley distributed online, the most important thing is, it actually has a name actress in it, Rosario Dawson. It's going to be seen on NBC.com, SCIFI.com and on its own site, GeminiDivision.com, as well as on a number of VOD and mobile platforms, Amazon Unbox, Xbox Live Marketplace and Zune. It's a 50 episode series, with each episode only being a few minutes long... check it out, if this catches on, you're going to see a wave of projects like this and if you've got an idea that can fit this format, time to sharpen the pencil and get to work.
Can Comcast Make TV 2.0 A Reality? on multichannel.com: If the fact that the studios are starting to financially back projects like the afore mentioned "Gemini Division" doesn't convince you that the internet is changing the way we watch video, maybe you should take a look at what the cable companies are thinking. This article is about Comcast, their online property Fancast.com and what they think about the future of TV. I actually get lots of emails from Fancast because I signed up for it a while ago, but I never really read them... However, I'm going to start. I didn't realize that it's more than just an online video aggregation site. It's more like Tivo on steroids... it's supposed to "navigate a universe of TV and movie content to find that special show no matter where it lives: online, on a cable network or broadcast TV station, on video-on-demand, on a mobile phone, or even in movie theaters." Now, that's cool. I t's also cool technology for indie horror filmmakers. Why? Because if this kind of system catches on, it's going to make it easier for people interested in low-budget indie horror to find your film. This is why indie-horror is about to explode as an industry. The biggest hurdle has always been finding an audience.... in a few years, that's going to change because the audience is going to find you.
Sony Goes Into 'Coma' Web Series on adage.com: Well, just when I thought that "Gemini Division" was SO groundbreaking, I read about "Coma", Sony Picture's web series that's going to be distributed on YouTube, Hulu and AOL and on AT&T and Verizon mobile platforms. Not only does this project ALSO have name actors in it, George Hamilton and Michael Madsen, but it's got something that "Gemini Division" doesn't. Big time sponsors. Sony Electronics and Microsoft have both given a pile of money to the project, as their products will be heavily showcased in the series. Either way, once again... if these guys are doing, you ought to think about doing it. To reiterate myself, get that pencil sharpened and get to work!
Consumers to Spend $6 Billion on Internet Video Services by 2013 on CEPro.com: Just to wrap this all up, why don't we check out what the industry thinks about where internet based video is heading? Well, if you couldn't tell by the title, they think that consumers in the U.S. are going to spend more than $6Billion on Internet video services by 2013. They admit that "consumption of premium internet video content to date has been low", however "the study is attributing the growth to more people owning connected gaming consoles, networked TVs and alternate video-on-demand settop boxes."
Let's sum this all up. Big companies like Sony and NBC are out making content exclusively for distribution through online properties, consumers are going to start spending piles of money on internet video services and more people are going to own connected gaming consoles, networked TVs and alternate VOD settop boxes. There's only ONE thing missing from the equation... how is the money going to be made? Well, here's my advice: don't worry about it. What YOU need to do is make content and projects that work in this new system, then find a way to use them. Build an audience. Once you have that, the rest will follow.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Just kidding. Thank you for the interview, Sarah. We look forward to seeing your upcoming work!
DH: Tell us about your yourself. What's your background and what got you into acting?
I grew up in a very Christian home, but I grew up around movies as well. As a little girl, I would watch Alfred Hitchcock movies with my dad and my mom would take me to the movies all the time. They both love film, but they never thought that I'd be an actress, that was something that strictly came from God.
DH: What horror films have had the biggest effect on you and why?
Dial M For Murder. Alfred Hitchcock proved that you don't always need special effects to be scary. What scared you the most in his movies was what he didn't show you. He was a genius.
DH: What, as an actress, draws you to the horror genre?
In a horror film, you have a wide range of emotions to work with. In the beginning you're happy, a little ways into the film you're scared, in the climax you're pretty much having an emotional breakdown, and by the end (if you're still alive) you're recovering. It really gives you the chance to act.
DH: What's the most important thing an actor needs to know regarding working in indie. horror?
Be careful! There are a lot of great indie. directors out there, but there are a lot of perverts with a camera as well. It's up to the actor to do research on who they're working with.
DH: What actor/actors do you most admire and why?
I really like Denzel Washington because not only is he an amazing actor, but he's been able to keep his faith.
I like Audrey Hepburn because she was able to be sexy and a lady at the same time. The character she played in Breakfast at Tiffany's wasn't very innocent, and yet, she was able to make her seem that way.
I also really like Hilary Duff because she actually acts her age. She didn't jump into adult roles, she took baby steps. You've got to respect that!
DH: Describe your approach to acting.
Once the cameras turn on, you're no longer you, you're the character that you're playing. Acting isn't pretending to be someone else, it's becoming that character. You've got to drop everything that you would do if you were in that person's shoes and you've got to start thinking like them.
DH: What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced as an actress?
Comedy. A lot of people are surprised by this, but it's much easier to make someone cry than it is to make them laugh. I still love comedy, though. I'm currently doing a mystery dinner theater show at the Comedy Club in Alabama. It's hard, but fun!
DH: What are some of the best and worst experiences you've had on the set?
The worst experience is also the best. I was doing a movie called Pretty Vacants and we were doing a scene where I was being stabbed in the leg. Well, the production crew had us working with real knives and on accident, I got stabbed in the leg! I had to get three stitches. The director took full blame and he paid for all my medical bills. I went back to work on the movie the following week. Ever since then, he hasn't worked with a real weapon. He really is a wonderful director who just made a mistake. What I got out of it was a cool scar and proof that I'm a hard working actress!
DH: What would be your dream movie to act in?
I would love to play Harley Quinn in a future Batman movie. I also heard that the book The Lovely Bones is being made into a movie and I'd love to be in that, too!
DH: What's next for Ginny Brock?
Aside from the Comedy Club, I just did a short horror film called No Return. Pretty Vacants will be out next month and I'm doing some modeling. (Another dream of mine!) I will probably be doing another movie with Jim O'Rear and Ted Alderman, too.
DH: Thank's Ginny! This will be very cool because you will officially be the first indie. horror actress Dead Harvey has interviewed!
Thank you so much and I'm honored!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Here's the synopsis as included in the press release:
Christian (Liam Smith) is a typical college student besides the fact that he is a serial killer. He sees death as the greatest art form, ranking his targets by degree of difficulty and making his victims his easel. Christian takes a liking to Belle (Anna Palestis) a girl in his class and falls in love. He decides he wants to lead a normal life and stop his killing ways, but old habits die hard. Meanwhile, F.B.I. agent Jack Stevenson (Chris Vanderhorst) who was assigned to Christian’s case three years earlier has grown distant to his family due to the demands of the case. He feels guilty when his family dies in car accident caused by a man falling asleep at the wheel. Jack feels the man deserves to die and battles fantasies of murdering the man himself as a way to make amends with his loved ones. When he finally tracks down Christian, he has a new plan. Although there is plenty of blood and gore, the film is different from a typical run of the mill slasher film because the serial killer is the protagonist. The role of hero and villain change throughout the film, making the viewer question right, wrong and his or her own morality. The film’s overall message is that love heals even the deepest scars and makes you question whether doing bad things for the right reasons is justifiable.
Morbid: A Love story will run the film festival circuit in late 2008 and will be released on DVD nationally and worldwide in 2009
The Morbid: A Love Story Trailer can be found on Youtube here.
May want to put the kiddies to bed when you watch this. Especially since the director sent me the following note in an email:
"I've been told to let everyone know that the murder scenes in this film are extremely grotesque i.e. baby eating, penis chopping.... Just a little something if you'd like to add it. Thank you Brad."
Now let see you top that, Hollywood. What's that I hear? No response. Yeah, that's what I thought. Dead Harvey will be interviewing the director, Edward Payson after film is complete. Stay tuned...
Friday, August 22, 2008
Film Fest Updates - Eerie Horror Fest, Festival of Fear, Madison Horror Film Festival and Scriptapalooza
The Eerie Horror Fest is one of the favorites of the indie-horror scene and, guess what? They're now taking submissions! This fest has been around since 2004 and has really grown to be one of the big indie horror festivals. Not only that, they have a screenwriting competition, as well as a video game developers section to go along with the films. Last year Fuji Film was a sponsor and gave away $2,500 to the winner of best cinematography, I'm not sure if they're doing that again this year... regardless, this year there's $10,000 in cash and prizes. They're a pretty cool festival, as one of their mandates is to try to play an active role in connecting their filmmakers and screenwriters directly with those in the industry. All that AND there's a convention, this years guests include: Sig Haig, a Texas Chainsaw Massacre Reunion, Kane Hodder, Tony Moran... the list goes on. Conclusion - for low-budget indie horror filmmakers, this is one of the festivals to go to or to enter. Click HERE for info on submitting your film, screenplay or video game or just click HERE for more info on the festival.
I have to mention The Rue Morgue Festival of Fear, which is this weekend - Aug 22-24. If you're in the Toronto area, you're going to want to stop by this one. There's tons of awesome films screening, lots indie stuff and there's lots of guests, including Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, and others... AND then there's the off site events, which means parties. If you're not in the area and aren't planning on going, it's one you should definitely look into attending next year.
Now, a festival that just came to my attention and is just getting going... On Saturday October 25th, Icon Entertainment will be presenting the 1st annual Madison Horror Film Festival. You can submit right now, but you have a small window to get your film there. Late entry is on Sept. 19. For more info on submitting your film, go here. The event will take place at the Orpheum Theatre Stage Door in Madison, WI. Besides presenting some of the best independent short and feature films in the horror genre, they are pleased to announce Kenneth J. Hall as a guest speaker at the event. It looks like they'll have awards, although they don't mention any cash prizes. Full Moon is all over their website, so they may be a sponsor or involved somehow. Anyhow, I don't know any more than what the website says. I'll try to get in touch with them and dig up more info. You can find the website here.
Lastly, one reader was asking about a screenwriting competition called Scriptapalooza. To be honest, I had no prior knowledge of it, but I did look into it. However, before I talk about the competition, this gives me a good opportunity to mention a few things that I think people should know ...and this rule of thumb goes for almost everything, too. You have to remember that most of these festivals and competitions, regardless if they're good or bad, are looking to make money. Now, that's not a bad thing, by any means. You just have to look at HOW they make their money... and Scriptapalooza not only looks legit, it looks pretty good. (1) there's a lot of industry professionals involved. That means they're looking for scripts, don't kid yourself. Studios and indie producers are asking to read what these guys have and the festival's taking a fee from them. That's good for you, it's kinda like having an agent... in a round about way. (2) They're in the press quite a bit. This means they're putting themselves out there. A lot of competitions are just lurking around in the back of horror mags or online, asking for $50 from you and that's how THOSE guys make their money. These guys are in lots of industry papers and that's not necessarily to get your attention, either. They want the industry to know they exist. (3) There's good success stories. Always a bonus to see. Long and short, these guys look legit and they look like a good competition. The only thing I don't like is that they don't have categories. So, it's horror vs. drama vs. comedy, etc. I always find that horror can get lost in competitions like this. However, there are judges from After Dark Films, Lionsgate, Asylum and a few other companies that have been involved in horror. So, if your script has anything to do with monsters, slashers, aliens or mutants, you're better off entering The Eerie Horror Screenplay Competition, Shriekfest, Slamdance or even PAGE. If you've got a dark, brooding, psychological thriller-type script, you might do alright.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
"Zombie Love" is one of the best shorts I've seen and Yfke gave Dead Harvey an awesome mp3 interview. Like Roger A. Scheck's, "Nobody Loves Alice", "Zombie Love" is even more impressive because it was made when Yfke was in school.
School is usually a time for people to f up. I know I certainly did. Yfke, on the other hand, used her time in school to pursue grants and take advantage of the equipment and availably of local actors and crew to make a stunning debut. Yfke shows us, as filmmakers, what great things can happen when determination meets talent.
For more info, check out Yfke's website at zombielovethemovie.com. There, you will find trailers and hear music from the film. Don't be surprised if the songs get stuck in your head and stay for awhile. Thank's for the interview, Yfke! We look forward to what you have in store for us next...
clip 1 - Background
clip 2 - Theatre vs Movies
clip 3 - Rehearsing
clip 4 - The Neverending Story
clip 5 - Influences
clip 6 - The Zombie World
clip 7 - Pre-Production
clip 8 - Raising The Money
clip 9 - Film Festivals
clip 10 - Grants
clip 11 - Gore As A Choice
clip 12 - Film School: Yes or No
clip 13 - Horror Stories
clip 14 - Shooting Schedule
clip 15 - Budget
clip 16 - Post Problems
clip 17 - Film vs Video
clip 18 - Getting The Material
clip 19 - Directing Approach
clip 20 - Distribution
clip 21 - Zombie Love: The Feature
clip 22 - Dream Movie
clip 23 - Parting Advice
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Just when I thought the zombie genre was getting tired, I saw “Gay Zombie”. Where did the idea come from?
I kept seeing all these awesome zombie movies on the festival circuit the last few years – I got jealous – I’ve always loved the genre (especially Return of the Living Dead). I was sort of obligated to make a gay movie cuz I’d made all these connections with festival directors and distributors, thus Gay Zombie was born. The more I developed it the more he became a closeted zombie.
How did you go about securing financing and what was the approx. budget?
Gay Zombie cost WAY too much! I was very fortunate to have a backer who footed about 2/3’s of the budget. My backer was actually a friend who wanted to do the project and had the spare dough. We spent approx three grand on just the zombie make-up and gore FX, so do the math from there. Gay Zombie had a full paid crew and hired locations etc. One day I had 40 people on set – as writer/director/producer I just about shit myself.
Tell us about the make-up and effects. I thought Brad Bilanin’s make-up was particularly good… Very zombie-like, without looking too grotesque. Who did the effects and how were they achieved.
We met with a Makeup FX artist named Frank Ippolito. My producer Maria Montgomery and I needed to decide if we were going for the “high production level” look and if we were willing to pay for it. The answer was “yes”. People are a taken aback that the zombie makeup is so professional – Frank had the whole system down – it really added to the film not to mention photos, pr, etc.
What did you shoot on and how long was the shoot?
We shot on HD, Panasonic HVX200. We also used a 35mm adapter to get the film look.
We shot 18 pages in three days – tons and tons and tons of set ups.
The acting was great, another high point. How did you cast the film? Was there any difficulty there? I can only imagine that you got some strange looks when you were telling potential actors what the film was about.
I hate casting. I usually use friends and actors I’ve met over the years in acting class – I usually write with specific actors in mind. I actually had a tough time casting the leads in this one – I opened up the casting and had official auditions – as an actor, I really hate seeing people pour their guts out when I know they’re not right. It makes me feel icky and then they email wanting an explanation why they weren’t cast. I was thrilled with Brad and Ryan.
BTW – I pride myself that actors have turned down my movies. I love it! I have had many actors pass on my projects only to see them play worldwide – too gay – too this – too that.
After it was all said and done, what would you have done differently?
Well, the 35 adapter was a pain in the ass – very tricky and difficult to focus – caused some big headaches in post. It also had a spec of dust (bad luck) on the lens which plagued us in post as well. My shot list was SO HUGE it was near impossible to shoot it in 3 days, but we had no choice. I was nearly lynched by the crew the day we shot all the house stuff when everyone realized we weren’t near done and it had already been 6am-11pm – oops. We had to cut a scene of the actor whose house we were using – he wasn’t too pleased.
One of the most impressive things about the film, to me, is the fact that it screened in over 60 festivals. What kind of advice can you pass on to a filmmaker who’s hoping to make a film that gets into festivals?
Well, you have to use the With-out-a-Box website to do multiple submissions. It’s the only way – unfortunately, the fees range from $10/$15 up to $65 a pop – however, the horror fests generally keep them pretty low. I played so many festivals because it was gay. When your movie gets into Outfest or one of the big gay fests, you start getting multiple invitations and requests to screen at gay fests all over the world. That’s how Gay Zombie has played in 15 countries – almost all without submission fees – and some even paid me!
What did you get out of the festival experience? How beneficial would you say it is to a career?
The festival experience is a fun ride, BUT, at the end of the day you’re left standing in the lobby with your friends and the other directors. Again, with gay genre, you’re much more likely to be approached by a distributor. I’m telling you – go gay! If you’re straight – go gay anyway – good story – good production value and you’ll get distribution and exposure. Also, the gay horror genre is GROWING
What about distribution? How’s that going? Are there any lessons that you would pass on to other indie filmmakers who’ve just finished a film?
Again, I’m not really savvy on the straight or horror compilations – they are much tougher to find. 2 out of my first 3 shorts got worldwide DVD distribution deals. Gay Zombie got a 3 year broadcast deal with the LOGO network – so it’s been playing on TV for real! I also signed nice DVD deals with Germany, France and the UK – at this point I don’t have a U.S deal, which is curious.
There is a company out of Canada called Ouat! They seem to be a very reputable distributor of shorts – but go for the exposure – you won’t see much money.
Where can people find out more about “Gay Zombie” or, better yet, buy a copy?
People can go to my website gayzombie.net for all that is zombie and to buy a copy for $14.95 including shipping.
What’s next? Do you have any projects in the works?
I just finished the feature length script Gay Frankenstein – it’s a real winner and will hopefully get made. I don’t think my friend with the extra dough will cough up half a million.
What kind of advice can you pass on to other indie horror filmmakers?
ADVICE from me? I’d say this – Story is the most important thing – an audience will forgive production glitches as long as the story/concept is entertaining – you don’t need to spend a ton with a great idea. Also, PACE!!!!! It’s a short – keep it moving – don’t let the audience lose focus for a second or ask, ”What is this about?”