Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Internet Web Tubes: Cheerbleeders, Elm Street and more...

What's going on out there on Al Gore's internet? As usual, quite a bit.

A little while back, we interviewed Peter Podgursky, the guy behind the USC thesis film, "Cheerbleeders". What sucks about reviewing and talking about short films is the fact that they can be hard to get your hands on. Nothing like getting a bunch of people interested in a film that they're probably not going to be able to see. Well, this is the internet age, my friends, and, if I may quote Homer Simpson, "The internet? Is that thing still around?" Well, yes it is. And right now, and for another week or so, you can check out "Cheerbleeders" on New Blood, for FREE by clicking here. Also, I have to like the fact that they linked back to our interview with Podgursky, which you can also find if you click here. It's a great short horror film and it's a great interview. If you're in film school, thinking about film school or went to film school... or you just like good, short horror. Check it all out, good stuff...

Here's a link to an article that was on and, really, it's just for interests sake... You see, they've cast the major parts for the reinvisioning of "Nightmare on Elm Street" and you're getting "Twilight" actor Kellan Lutz, "Terminator" the TV show's John Connor - Thomas Dekker and Rooney Mara, who are all joining Kyle Gallner, who will be playing the role that Johnny Depp played back in 1984. So, am I the only one who thinks that all these actors are just a bit too good looking to be in this? I thought the same thing with the "Friday the 13th" remake, to be honest. Maybe I just consider myself overwhelmingly average looking, but I always figured that the idea was that the people in these films, the kids of elm street or the kids who visit Camp Crystal Lake, could be anyone - meaning, they could be you. Now, though, it's like they're from The WB. I think having model-like actors just adds to the disconnect between the viewer and the film, but... that could just be me. I usually root for the killer, anyhow.

Here's a wicked article on called "How Can Independent Video Producers Compete In The Super-Premium Era? ". Now, I know that most people still see the big screen as the Holy Grail of filmmaking, with the small screen (TV) coming in second... however, that should change. I've said it a million times, but if you look at your film as just content and you're just trying to reach eyeballs, the internet is your buddy right now and, one day, it'll be your BFF. Not only that, as we progress, your content will be monetized a lot easier online... (read: you'll make more money with online content) That's not to mention, you'll have complete creative freedom and won't have to worry about being too over-the-top or anything. Anyhow, not only is the article interesting, the few comments at the bottom are interesting, too. The article is talking more from an advertising perspective, like... if you're making a web-based series and are looking to compete with the networks for ad dollars. Good read, though. You should know about this stuff.

Let's dip back into the well and read another article from them, this one called "Adults Steering Clear of Movies". The long and short is, 'pricey, star-driven thrillers and dramas' are stinking it up at the box office... they use "State of Play" as an example in the article. On the flip side, in these recessionary times, youth oriented films are kicking ass. It's easy math, when you think about it. Adults are worried about jobs, money, mortgages, bills, etc... and, not only are they cutting back, when they're looking for entertainment, it's probably going to be escapist-type stuff: horror, action, sci-fi, etc. Now, kids don't give an F about the recession. They're worried about who's going to buy them beer on the weekend or what brand their MP3 players is. On top of that, they don't care to see 'pricey, star-driven thrillers and dramas', anyhow. They've always been into the escapist stuff. So, if you're a budding screenwriter looking for something to write about right now, think about beefing up the young adult aspects and toning down on the serious stuff.

Lastly, remember those random clips that wound up in my inbox? You know, the ones that are really for the upcoming Donnie Darko film, "S. Darko"? Well, here's the third installment. I gotta say, these were all very well done and this last one really ties it all together. I'm not just saying that because they were done by our buddies at Fewdio, either. Anyhow, here's a link to the first one and here's a link to the second one. Last one is embedded below.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Repurposed Interview With Author of "The Dead Parade", James Roy Daley

Am I the only one who feels like they're working twice as hard for around the same amount of money these days? For those that are interested, my 'day job' is in marketing and advertising - I help put together marketing plans, I bring in advertising dollars and I also do some creative work. I love it, but my pay is commission based and/or project based and for a few months there, say... late December to the end of February, work was dead slow - a direct result of the economic meltdown. The ONE good thing was, it gave me lots of time to work on the site, plus work on Dead Harvey side projects. Now, though, it seems like things are heating up... but clients don't want to pay what they used to pay. So, I'm working twice as hard for, like I said, about the same pay. I guess this is all part of the new economy. We're going to shake things up, people are going to swing deals and, when it's all said and done, we'll find a new common ground and work our way back up. My personal feeling is, we've seen the worst of it... and that should be good for everyone. Lord knows I'm just glad to be working and bringing money in. Having said that, I'm no economist... and, well, this site isn't about the economy.

The point of all that is because I feel guilty. I feel guilty because, for the first time on the site, we're re-purposing an interview. This 'new economy' has me working a lot and my Dead Harvey inbox is jammed with unread emails. I do have an interview or two somewhat ready to post, I also have a few people that I need to send interviews to, plus I have a STACK of DVD's to get through. I usually catch up on weekends, but haven't had the chance lately... poor me, I know. I just feel guilty, as I like to put our best stuff out there every day. Regardless, a while back, we were in touch with horror author James Roy Daley and wanted to talk horror with him and he sent us a message, saying, basically, "I just did an interview on 'N 2 Horror', why don't you use that?" Now, that's generally not my style, but, as I need something to post, it is today!

James Roy Daley is a writer, a drummer and he's even made a few films. His book, "The Dead Parade" is getting wicked reviews and is now available everywhere. If you're interested, here's a link to its page on You can find this exact interview on the 'N 2 Horror' Myspace page, which you can find here. They've actually got some pretty cool pics and links to upcoming horror films, you should go check them out and befriend them, if you're on Myspace.

Anyhow, here's the interview with James Roy Daley, courtesy of 'N 2 Horror'...

First off, I would like to say thank you for your time. I’m excited to purchase your new book as well read your other work. I just want shoot a few questions your way.

What got you into writing horror?

I’ve always loved horror. At some point, after doing the musician thing for a long while, I decided to go to film school. I wanted to direct horror movies. Soon enough I realized that before a movie is directed it must be written. I figured I needed to start writing or I’d be condemned to tell other peoples stories, simple as that. So… I started writing scripts. Scripts turned to short stories. Short stories turned to novels. Novels turned into book deals. I think one of the reasons people are connecting with my work is the fact that I learned how to write a story in school. I know all about plot points, story arcs, Syd Field and all the other stuff they teach you in film school.

Do you have any inspirations? If so, who are they?

At this point, I’ve written three novels. The first one, The Dead Parade, was released a few months ago. The next two are coming. The stories so far seem to be getting crazier as time goes on, and I don’t know any other writer that’s writing the way I do. The stories––not the writing style, but the actual stories––seem to be inspired by insane films. Think: The Evil Dead, Slither, The Thing, Haute Tension and Dagon––and you’ll be getting close.

As far as the writing style goes, aside from Sarah Langan, none of the new guys inspire me. I’m inspired by the modern day Masters––Stephen King, Robert McCammon, F. Paul Wilson, Peter Straub, Richard Laymon… guys like that. I write simple, mean, violent, horrific poetry.

Have you ever considered shooting a film based off any of your books?

James Gunn should make my stories into movies and hire me to be his first AD. If he’s busy, I’ll consider it.

Who is your favorite author?

Stephen King.

If you could say anything to your fans, what would it be?

My third book is called The Roadside Diner. It’s so good I’m freaked out. I don’t know if I’ll ever write anything that good again.

This may sound weird, but we would like to know. What is a fear you have?

I saw a ghost at my parents place once, inside my old room. My mom believes I saw it; my dad only laughed at me, said I was a fool. I want side with my dad but I don’t think I can. Every time I sleep in that room I sleep with the lights on.

Once again, I would like to thank you for your time to answer these questions. It sure means a lot to all of us horror fans. We all for sure will be on the look out for your new book.

No Problem, take care.

Monday, April 27, 2009

New Horror Out On DVD This Week: The Uninvited, Martyrs and more...

Finally, a week in horror that you can write home about... we get a great mix of films, from big-budget Hollywood fare, to low-budget Hollywood junk and from big-time foreign horror to low-brow domestic film. It's a Festivus miracle! A week for everyone! Anyhow, if you click on the titles, you'll be taken to their page on Amazon, where you can find out more about them and you can always head over to our Youtube page and check out all the trailers.

As far as theatrically released films are concerned, "The Uninvited" is probably the biggest release of the week. It's a big-budget Hollywood film and it hit the theaters January 30, 2009 and it grossed a total of just under $30Million at the box office. It's a remake of the 2003 South Korean film, "A Tale of Two Sisters", but is unrelated to the 1944 film of the same name. It's the first feature film for directors Tom and Charlie Guard, who had big careers as commercial and short film directors for companies like Nokia, Euro Disney, PS2 and Xbox and it was produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, who happen to be the two that started the whole Asian remake craze when they redid "The Ring" in 2002. I don't think I have to tell you too much more about it, as you're probably aware of this one and know what you're getting into.

Now, as far as we're concerned, the big release of the week is "Martyrs", the French film, written and directed by Pascal Laugier. "Martyrs" first screened during the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and was released in France on September 3, 2008. It's a brutal, horrific film that depicts extreme graphic violence and is being categorized as one of the 'new era French horror' films, of which "Inside" is a classic example. Personally, I find these films refreshing... and I'm a huge fan of new era French horror. It's not that I find horrific violence refreshing, but what I DO find refreshing is the fact that they're going the opposite direction of North American film. Where we're toning things down for mass audiences, they're ramping things up for specific audiences. Trust us on this one, go check it out...

"While She Was Out" has a great cast, but had a very limited theatrical release and wasn't really reviewed all that much. Oddly, the few people that did review it, said it was pretty good. The plot is generic, but L.A. Weekly called it a "surprisingly enjoyable female revenge tale". It stars Kim Basinger, Lukas Haas and Craig Sheffer and it's a, uh... well, a female revenge movie. It was written and directed by Susan Montford and I'm not sure what else I can say about it.

First off, it's a horror comedy, so don't let the fact that Ron Jeremy is in a film called "One-Eyed Monster" throw you... In fact, this one looks kinda funny. Adam Fields wrote and directed and it's about a hostile alien that wreaks havoc on the cast and crew of an adult movie. Did we mention that the hostile alien takes the form of Ron Jeremy's detached penis? Yeah, go check out the trailer. Could be a must see.

"The Possessed" is a Sci-Fi original documentary that comes from Christopher Saint Booth. If you're really into demonic possession and go for the real stuff over the Hollywood stuff, you should check this out. Apparently it was one of the better originals that aired on Sci-Fi AND it's chalk filled with extra footage. It surrounds the story of The Watseka Wonder, America's first documented possession in 1870. It's 'the chilling story of a 13-year old girl...who became possessed by spirits of the insane dead.'

If you know about "Satanic Sluts", I probably don't have to tell you that "Satanic Sluts III - Scandalized" comes out this week. However, if you're not aware of "Satanic Sluts", they're a tongue-in-cheek burlesque group from the UK and they've expanded into films, they have a website, they have pin up calenders and on and on. This is the third film in the series and if you check out the trailer, you'll know exactly what you're getting with this one - lots and lots of naked, sadistic chicks.

"Synesthesia" came out in Japan in 2005, as "Gimi hebun" and it comes from Toru Matsuura... if you're into over-the-top Asian gore, you're going to pass on this one, although it is a good flick and has some great surreal imagery. It's about a guy who has a rare condition called synethesia, where one form of stimulus triggers a completely separate response... he keeps it a secret, even from his fiance. Then there's Mari, who also has synethesia and keeps it a secret. Their paths cross and they get caught in a world where they uncover serial murders, mysterious codes and a bizarre stranger, Picasso - 'The Merchant of Death'.

"Exit 38" is from co-directors Dean George and Joel Franco and it's a good looking indie horror about an elite unit of FBI agents who are hunting a conniving vampire in a small Nevada town. It features James Hong, who you'll remember from tons of shit, but mainly as Quan from "Tango & Cash". It also features Martin Kove, who you'll ALSO remember from tons of shit, but mainly as John Kreese from "The Karate Kid" or, maybe as Ericson from "Rambo: First Blood Part II"? You know him... yeah, you know him.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Film Fest Updates, A Wrap Up and... "The Mutant Chronicles"

Well, here we are... Friday. Bless. I can already taste the cold beers... that could be because it's 8AM and I'm three beers in. Kidding, I'm only on my first.

Anyhow, for horror fans, it's a bit of a slow weekend at the theaters. If you're lucky enough to live in L.A. or New York, though, you're in the only two cities that are playing "The Mutant Chronicles". Otherwise, you're stuck with Disney's "Earth", "Fighting", "Obsessed" and/or "The Soloist". It's too bad, too. "The Mutant Chronicles" looks awesome. It's got Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman and John Malkovich in it... check out their site here. Why couldn't this have got a bigger release? Seriously, it looks wicked...

So, on to our wrap up, updates and such and such... As you know, we're all about helping out friends around here. Remember that, as if there's anything we can do to help you out... make sure you let us know. For example, do you remember Tom Seymour? He's the co-writer and co-director of all the "Bikini Bloodbath" films. If you want to read the interview we did with him a while back, you can find it here. Anyways, he sent us an email, asking for a bit of help on getting people to vote for his film, "London Betty", to be one of the finalists in the Hobboken Film Fest. So, click here to go to the page on The NY Post's site where you can vote for it... now, go vote for it. I'd do it for you.

There's also a couple of new festivals you should know about...

This is the 4th anniversary of the "NBC Universal Short Cuts Film Festival" and they've just expanded to accept comedy, drama, sci-fi and, that's right... horror. Obviously, there's going to be lots of industry people that are watching these, so it's probably a pretty good deal for you, especially as there's no entry fee, so... why not enter? The other thing is, it's NBC Universal... really, they're probably looking for new content and some good ideas. Ideally, you'd be submitting a film that's 5 - 7 minutes long, although they will look at stuff that's up to 30 minutes long. So, if you've got an idea that could be good for TV, this could be a good opportunity for you.

Then there's the "Producer's Challenge! Presented by the Producers Guild of America" and it's not too hard to figure out what's going on here... First off, there's the "Produced By Conference", which you can register for and it's basically a weekend conference, where you can hang out with and hear from a bunch of A-List producers. There'll be speakers, networking opportunities, workshops, things like that... However, they're also doing a video contest and they're looking for narrative shorts, documentary shorts and webisodes. Prizes include a mentoring lunch with a 'mega-producer', such as Gale Anne Hurd, Marshall Herskovitz or Mark Gordon; an all-session access badge to the 2010 Produced By Conference and equipment for future projects and much, much more! What I find interesting is the fact that they're looking for webisode content... Considering that you probably know more about making a good webisode pilot than they do, it could be a good opportunity to get something out there.

Let's just mention a few of our good festival friends now...

Coming up in Louisville, KY this August 14-16, it's the 5th annual "Fright Night Film Fest". They're the largest genre film festival in mid-America AND they're currently accepting submissions for all types of films and screenplays - click here to be taken to their submissions page. It's a wicked festival to both attend and submit to, so check it out. We'll definitely keep you posted on this one...

And, did you read our interview with David Pruett, the Festival Director of Dark Carnival Film Fest? If not, check it out here. It was a great interview, good insight for filmmakers looking to submit to festivals. Anyhow, they sent me a press release to post... this is another festival that I'll continue to keep you posted on...

We welcome you join us for the 1st Annual Dark Carnival Film Festival Screenplay Competition. We are excited to include a competition for screenplay writers who enjoy writing what we love to watch - HORROR. The writers start it all so we want to be part of discovering new talent.

The winner of BEST SHORT SCREENPLAY will have their script produced as a short film to premiere at the 2010 Dark Carnival Film Festival!

The film will be produced by Clockwerk Pictures and Dark Carnival Oddities, a new production/distribution company that pools the talents of a variety of indie horror veterans. THIS IS A FIRST FOR ANY INDIE HORROR FILM FEST, SO DON'T MISS THIS CHANCE!

In addition, there will be a feature length category. The winner of the BEST FEATURE LENGTH SCREENPLAY will win a cash prize up to $500!.

For the 1st Annual Screenplay Competition, the odds of becoming the top winners in the Dark Carnival Film Fest are in your favor unlike these veteran screenplay competitions. We are looking for the best-from-the best to scare us.

Accepting Entries NOW!!!! If you are a student (over 18), we have a special discount rate just for you.

For more information contact us at or visit our web site at

That's it for this week, folks... have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Interview with Frank Perrotto, writer/director of "Timid"

Independent film has been around forever, really. As soon as one system is set up, there will be a group of filmmakers who make their films independent of that system. However, the idea behind independent film has changed over the years. Recently, and by recently I mean the last decade, there's been various forms of independent film. Hollywood calls independent film, films that are made outside of the studio system. Therefore, indie film can have a budget well into the millions, have name actors and other name talent attached. What I tend to call independent film is something completely different... what I call independent film is sometimes referred to as micro-cinema. Films that are made for next to nothing, generally guerrilla style and are usually shot on DV. That style of filmmaking is really in its infancy, as the cost of being able to produce a micro-cinema film has really only dropped dramatically in the last few years...

If you look at the history of innovation in film, you really have to look to the edges... and generally, you're looking at the scummy, filthy edges. Usually, porn and horror. I could write an essay on it, but those two genres are what pushes the industry in new directions. They were the first to adapt to video, they were the first to adapt to the internet and they were the first to adapt to the micro-cinema style. The thing about porn and horror is, the audiences don't care if it's shot on video, they don't care if it's shorter or lower-budget. They get what they want out of the content, regardless of whether there's a name actor, a big budget or fantastic production value. It's only later, after audiences have grown accustomed to that style of content, when other genres adapt to this new filmmaking process. So, horror and porn can succeed in an arena where other genre's end up having a tough time. That's why I was particularly interested in Frank Perrotto's "Timid" because, although it is dark and it has horror elements, it's really a drama that's been shot in micro-cinema style.

"Timid" is well acted, has a great story and will entertain you from beginning to end, no question there. Perrotto is definitely a talented filmmaker and I'll be anxiously waiting to see what he can do with a bigger budget. The film is crafted well and has all the elements needed to be a successful drama with a decent festival run... however, it's shot on DV and on a micro-budget. You see, horror can have great success here, as it just needs to be filled with gore, nudity and general mayhem and violence. However, how successful can a well made dramatic film be when it's produced on this scale? Who knows? I do know that, down the road, there will be plenty of dramatic, as well as comedic, musical and other genres done at this scale that will be hugely successful... but Perrotto just may be a bit ahead of his time. In any case, the film deserves its just rewards and it's definitely worth checking out. We had the opportunity to discuss all of this with Perrotto and the interview is long, but definitely worth the read...

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

Well, growing up in a New Jersey suburb during the 80’s, of course everything from Spielberg and Lucas is a major influence. But my parents were pretty ‘loose’ in what they allowed me to watch, so I think by the time I was six, I had already seen The Shining and Raging Bull. They just didn’t tell me to leave the room or anything, so by that age I think I was pretty messed up! It didn’t dawn on me as a career until I was 16 and two things happened: 1) I read George Lucas: The Creative Impulse, by Charles Champlin, and that made me think, for some reason, that I should be a writer. I was starting to feel that I should be doing something creative and was encouraged to write more by my high school english teacher at the time. But then the second thing happened, which is that I saw “Lawrence of Arabia”, and that just knocked me flat and made me realize I want to direct movies. Since then, the influences are all over the place, but mostly late 60’s and 70’s films like Dog Day Afternoon, Scarecrow, The Last Detail, and Midnight Cowboy. I just love those directors and the documentary style they brought to their films.

Film School, Yes or No?

I’m both for film school and against. The part of me that is for going to film school says that if you’re 18 or 19, and you have the means, and you’re not going to be paying loans off for the next 12 years, then yes, go to film school. That social part of filmmaking is hard at first for a lot of people and it can be very discouraging if you’re insecure. Of course, so is everyone else but you’re the director, so who are the cast and crew going to pick at? So by going to film school, it provides a safe place to fail. It’s said so much that’s a cliché by now, but you’ll also make some of the most important connections of your career.

The other part of me says that if you really have a lot of confidence and you’ve done your homework, and you have a few short films under your belt, then take the 20k+ that you’ll spend on school and go shoot a feature instead. If you have to go to school, get a degree in something else at a small community college or state university and make films on the side. Take some of the money from your loans and start buying equipment.

My own experience with film school is that I went to USC’s summer directing/producing workshop four days after graduating high school, and that program thrusts you into seven weeks of non-stop filmmaking. Not only that, you spend one day a week on the Universal lot (the actual lot, not the theme park) with guest speakers. The first day at Universal, it was 12 or so students and then Gerald Molen, who produced Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park for Spielberg, had literally walked over from Amblin where he’d just had a conversation with ‘Steven’ about the move to Dreamworks. That same day, we had the production designer on the Jim Carrey film Liar, Liar, take us on a tour of all the sets while they were still being built. It was like that every week, just big names showing up and treating us like we were their peers. I remember Rob Tapert, who is Sam Raimi’s producer, asking me where I was from. I said, “New Jersey”, and he said, “Stay in New Jersey, don’t come out here… stay there and make a film.” That was a nice piece of advice that I never forgot, but I think after the film is done, Los Angeles is really the place to be, which is why my wife and I moved here a few months ago.

The USC experience spoiled me horribly, so when it came time to go to the University of Central Florida in the fall, I had to do two years of general ed before I could even apply to their film school. In that frustration I found another school in Orlando called Full Sail, which was 13 months/50+hours a week, and I hate to say it, but I didn’t have a good time there at all. It’s a purely technical school, though it wasn’t advertised as such. This was 10 years ago, so it may have changed since, but that was my experience. It was nothing like USC, which is pure film. Several of the people I was in that summer program with have since gone on to some success in genre films. I cut a 16mm project that summer with Gregg Bishop who went on to direct “The Other Side” and “Dance of the Dead”, and Jason Shumway has a sci-fi indie he’s working on called “Enigma”.

Tell us a bit about “Timid”, what’s it about and where did you get the idea?

“Timid” is the story of Tim Idalco, a guy in his late 20’s who is the introverted, bookish type. At the start of the film, he’s in a situation typical of a lot of young Americans today: he’s struggling financially while working a job that he hates with credit card bills piled sky high. He wants the brass ring (and his girlfriend wants a ring of her own), and he has an idea of how to get it through this web start-up. So he gets in touch with an old friend from high school, Jack, because he knows Jack has the means to invest in this business. Jack wants to get their friendship back on track, and Tim just wants the money. So right there, you have that tension, and so he dangles the money over Tim’s head, twisting his arm to get him to come along for a weekend at a hunting lodge with three of Jack’s old meathead friends: Bryce (the leader of the trio), Sidler, and Teddy. Over the long weekend, they give Tim a really hard time, setting up this alpha male situation that plays out over the remainder of the film. The Peckinpah film “Straw Dogs” was a big influence when I was writing the script.

The script was written around the fact that we had access to a hunting lodge that my father is part owner of. It’s been passed down in his family since they built it in the 1940’s, but he’s not really a hunter. So he was there a few years ago to fix their heat and he came back and said that I should consider it as a location to shoot something. I then took an incident that happened to a friend of mine one weekend in the poconos with a bunch of guys who were drinking too much, and then I yoked it together with something from my own life, where an old high school friend was going to invest in a film I wanted to do. I put those two story elements together and that became the script.

What was the approx budget and how did you secure financing?

The budget was just under $16,000, although we actually doubled up on some of that money by selling equipment and using it for post-production. If I’d already had the equipment and the lights, which a lot of people do, it would have cost about $7,000. Everyone got paid something, it wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to keep everyone around!

I went to friends and family, asking them to invest, and most of them said no. Prior to Timid, I was raising money with my actor/writer friend, Dave Scotti, to shoot a 35mm short film. He had written and played the lead in a short called “The Right Hook” which launched Luke Greenfield’s directing career. A good deal of the book “Short Films 101” is devoted to the making of that short. The idea for Dave and I was to do another of these “balls-to-the-wall” career-launching short films, but we had a few disagreements and that project fell apart. At that point, I had already raised $6,000.00 for the short, so that went into the pot for Timid. I managed to raise another $5,000 and then I went to my father and I told him that if I had at least $4,000 more, we could start by September. If we didn’t get it, I would have had to give the money back and wait until Spring, because the film just didn’t work shooting in the Jersey winter. He stepped up, as did my wife’s uncle with the initial investment, and if it weren’t for those two, I would never have gotten to make the film so I really owe it all to them.

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

I shot on the HVX200 using P2 cards. We shot 720p at 24 frames per second, natively. We did the 720p native because I could use one P2 card and break every 20 minutes to get my head together while we offloaded the card.

That said, we had to go back and reshoot some scenes, mainly the conversation between Jack and Tim that is really the crux of the film. That didn’t work as originally shot and so we rewrote it and tried different things until we wound up with what’s in the film. At that point, I had already sold the HVX200 to get started on post-production, so in order to get a lot of leftover inserts and to reshoot that scene, I purchased a Canon HV20, which I absolutely love. There were some people who said, “but it won’t match, blah, blah, blah,” but it was all I could afford to finish the film and improve the story. Using Apple Color, it matched up fine. When ‘matching’ becomes a bigger priority than getting your point across, then I think you’ve gotten too far away from what’s important.

The movie takes place in Hoboken, New Jersey and then a hunting lodge in New Gretna, New Jersey. All of the set-up in Hoboken was shot piecemeal over 8 months. There were just so many locations in those first 30 minutes that we would just do it on weekends whenever everyone was available and we could use the location. Doing it that way enabled us to widen the scope of the film and shoot in quite a few locations we couldn’t shoot in if we had to lock them down to a schedule.

For the hunting lodge scene we had a block of 6 days in order to get through 60 pages of material. That got whittled down, and I really wrote myself into a pickle, because I wanted to see how far you could go with these cameras getting incredibly beautiful images with available light or just a bounce card and then a sound guy and one or two grips. So I wrote a scene in a motel nearby, I wrote a scene on a boat… I went nuts and, at times, paid the price for it because one thing going wrong meant shooting pick-ups months later.

I thought the idea behind the film was very timely… I think there are lots of people that can identify with the themes and ideas behind Tim Idalco’s situation. You did a fantastic job creating his character and his desperation. Was today’s economic climate and society something you were thinking about during the filmmaking process?

Yes it was. I first started writing it in 2006 before the majority of this stuff happened. I was working a temp job for Verizon Wireless with my friend, Tom Prickett, who plays the main character. His daughter was born right around the time we were going to shoot, so we put it on hold for a while and then I got into doing the 35mm short that I mentioned previously. Once the short fell through, I came back to Tom and asked him about doing ‘Jack Dog’, which was the title at the time, and he was ready to go. So by then it was the summer of 2007 and the housing market is falling through and gas prices are sky-high… the whole sub-prime mess was well under way. I wrote that into the script and the original scene where Tim asks for the money had Jack mentioning sub-prime specifically with regards to Tim wanting to buy a house. Doing it that way seemed a bit too on-the-nose, which is another reason we reshot the scene. But I never expected things to get as bad as they are now and for the story to dovetail a little bit with the insanity of the times we’re in. It definitely helps the film but I don’t know if I’d call that luck!

I have to ask about the score. Near the end, the score was very basic, almost just repetitive noise. I have no idea if it was on purpose, but I thought it was extremely effective. Talk about the music and score of the film.

Right now, we still have a temp score that’s about 90% music by a well known synth-music duo called Boards of Canada. I doubt we could get the rights, although if we find a distributor, who knows? For the a movie like this, a psychological drama, I believe it’s better to use whatever music puts the film in the best possible light whether you can get the rights or not. If you have a horror or science fiction film, I think it’s better to have a complete package that they can just pick up, print the DVD’s, and then send them out to netflix and walmart. A film like this is obviously a tougher sell, so I think you have to show a distributor that the film does work as a movie-going experience, and that’s not always possible with the music you can get on a tight budget. But it’s also important not to go too far and have your movie center around Beatles songs or something that’s too difficult to replace.

With regards to the repetitive sounds, that’s from the tail end of a Board’s piece called “Everything You Do Is A Balloon.” I had a feeling that the only thing that would work in that last 10-12 minutes would be something where you didn’t know if it was meant to be music or ambient sound, and I felt like that would build the tension or make the audience uneasy. I got the idea from the ominous bells near the end of “Boogie Nights”, where you know you’re on the downward slope just from the music and I wanted something similar, but organic. In the sound mix (which we’re still tweaking) I’ve since lowered those sounds a little to push them to the background so it would be less confusing.

I thought you did a great job casting, the group of guys were perfect… but Tom Prickett did a great job playing the nervous, unconfident Tim. There was one scene, in particular, where he takes his girlfriend to go play pool at Bryce’s place and his awkwardness and incompetenence made me a big uncomfortable – very effective scene. Talk a bit about your directing style and how you created that feeling.

I just like the actors to feel they’re in a collaborative atmosphere. On a film like this, the script is a jumping off point. Very often, we would stand around and go through it line-by-line, and anything that felt weird or unrealistic would make us stop and try to fix it. Sometimes you can’t find a solution or you don’t have the time, so you do the best you can with the script, and that falls on me. But the tension itself I think was easy to create because the actor who kind of plays Tim’s nemesis, Shawn Dempewolff, did such a fantastic job at creating the character of Bryce and making him not only an asshole, but a likeable asshole! And then, as an audience member, you know you’re supposed to be with Tim, because he’s the main character but goddamn it if you don’t like this Bryce guy! I think that created an inherent tension that wasn’t there as much on the page. It also doesn’t hurt that Tim’s girlfriend is thinking the same thing about Bryce and often shows it. So I think a combination of the incredible talent of the actors, which casting great people does 80% of your job as a director, and then the other 20% is just knowing when they’re right and you’re wrong and giving in.

Tell us about some of the hurdles you overcame to get the film done. What advice can you pass on to other indie filmmakers who are just setting out to make a film?

My number one piece of advice is to stick to your vision and whatever it is that got you excited about making the film in the first place. That and having a good support system, whether it be a close friend, your spouse, or a family member, are the only things that will get you through it. But you really have to hold on to what you care about and stay connected to the reason you’re doing it. It’s such a difficult thing to do a feature film that once you’re finished, you have respect for anyone that can actually get through it with a finished product, no matter what that product is. I think our biggest hurdle on Timid was the scope of the script, which was actually my own fault. I set out to see how much I could do with the money we had and although we got it all in, there are times where you’re like… why didn’t I just write two characters in a room? The other big hurdle is that I was doing a lot of it myself. Most of the time it was my wife, Danielle Kinder, who was the producer on the film, one or two grips, the actors and then me directing, holding the camera, and doing the lighting. I edited about 80% of the film alone, and then I found this talented young guy, Alex Megaro, to help out near the end. I also had to put the editing on hold because I got a gig as an editor on a show for MTV, and it was impossible to edit all day there and then come home and do even more editing on the film.

Did you enter “Timid” into any festivals? If so, how did it do and is the festival circuit something that every indie horror filmmaker should consider doing?

We just entered a handful of festivals and probably won’t hear anything for a few more weeks. I’m doing a filmmaker blog on the website,, which I’m actually starting the first entry with a link to this article. Any news about festivals, screenings, and whatever else will be on that site. The other part of the question, should you consider festivals, I say yes. I think especially for horror films, there are plenty of great places to get your film out there and you have a great chance of actually getting it in in front of an audience and, if it works, getting distribution. I went the other way and did a drama, which the jury is still out on the festival thing for me. From speaking to other filmmakers who have done the festival circuit with a dramatic film, the consensus seems to be that the festivals a dramatic indie need in order to survive have become more political and vague than Hollywood itself. I feel like you at least have a reference point with regards to getting into the studio system, because they care about one thing: money. So what makes money? Horror, sci-fi, comic books, and star-studded romcoms or Oscar grabs. Ok, I get that, so you make your movie within that framework and maybe you wind up with The Exorcist or The Dark Knight. The indie scene, on the other hand, seems bent on the whims of whomever the programmer of the festival is and their politics. Having gone to a few festivals myself, I often end up staring at the screen going, “that got in?” In one instance, a friend of mine had a film that was denied by a festival that I went to, and I’d say his was better than at least 50% of the films that I had seen there. So did anybody actually watch it and compare it to the other entries? You have to wonder. I also think it’s becoming very difficult for low-budget dramatic films to find an audience or a distributor now that the big festivals are programming more and more of the lower-end Hollywood fare. You look at the photos from Sundance and every group of people behind every film looks like an ad for the Gap and they’ve got some famous tv actor that wants to get into features in their film and the budget is $2 million dollars. I mean, is that really an indie?

Talk about the process of finding distribution. What would you tell filmmakers who’ve recently finished a film and are looking for distribution?

Since Dead Harvey is geared towards horror and I’ve recently investigated doing a horror film, I think the main thing is to get into a few of the horror-centric festivals. Once you do that, you’ve got some leverage when you start cold calling or emailing the tons of distributors that are out there. Don’t expect to make a lot of money, if any. Just try to get it released and hope that it at least makes money for the distributor, because then it will be easier to get the money to make another one. You become a proven quantity. It also seems like having a great image for your poster or DVD cover is important, especially for horror, as well as a good title and a product that they can easily slap a UPC on and start selling.

Most low-budget films are horror based or are extreme, in one way or the other. “Timid” does have its dark ending, but it is, for the most part, a dramatic film. What can you tell us about the market for low-budget dramas? What’s the response been like?

Like I said, from what I’ve seen and heard, I think it’s very difficult. That’s not really a surprise as distributors are only thinking about how they can sell it. If you’re running a business and you pop in a horror film with some memorable kills and a killer with a fancy mask and he’s got a special tool that he commits his murders with, and then you pop in some tearjerker with no stars, which one is the easier sell? I’m lucky enough that I have some violence that is organically part of the film, so I can take certain images and be selective and suggest the violence in my poster and the trailer. But I think if you’re going to do a film about two people who just can’t find a way to be together and one of them has a terminal disease and it’s sad and weapy, then you better have your ducks in a row and know ahead of time what the likely outcome will be.

As far as the market, I actually believe that there is almost no market for low-budget drama except for other people who make low-budget films. If you’re making a drama, it must be so good that it can’t be ignored. Whether Timid fits into that category isn’t for me to decide, I only did the best I could with what I had. I did purposefully incorporate certain elements that made it timely and more visceral so that it might be an easier sell. With horror and sci-fi, you have far more leeway with regards to the quality of the acting, since they’re often more about a clever idea and a sense of fun. I think the acting in Primer is passable, but once they suck you in with their idea of time travel, you can’t help but get caught up in it to see where it’s going and it’s one of my favorite sci-fi films because of that.

Where can people find out more about “Timid” or, better yet, buy a copy?

We have a website,, or you can go to our page on IMDB, which we’ll soon be updating with a scene from the film, a new trailer, and whatever other information or news comes down the pike. Feel free to email me through the site if you have any questions or to request a screener DVD.

Talk about the indie scene and indie filmmaking. Where do you feel it is now and where do you see it going?

Right now, nearly anyone can make a film with very little money. The reality, however, is that very few of those people will be able to make a living at it. So I think over the next few years, the number of indies being made will actually go down. Forty years ago, you had to really want to make a film, because the learning curve of the technology was a lot different. If you look at Scorsese’s first feature, it has a messiness to it and his later style sometimes shows through, but you can tell that he really wanted to say something on film and the fact that any of it got through to the final movie is almost a miracle. He even said, “if something came back on the film, then that was pretty good.” Now it seems like everyone is worried about, “are you shooting 4k or 2k?”and “do you have a good DOF adaptor?” and all of that, but the audience and the market are the ultimate arbiters of what gets released. You can shoot in IMAX, and if it’s not interesting, nobody is going to care. Conversely, if you have a great story and good actors, you can shoot on VHS and people will still watch it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about the visual quality, it definitely has increased in importance, even to distributors, but I think the digital technology has made a lot of indie filmmakers lose sight of the two most important things: the story and the talent of your actors.

Other than that, I believe that George Lucas was right from day one about pushing HD. The move to digital will take the power out of the hands of the studios for one simple reason: distribution will soon involve sending out 1,000 digibetas or HDCAM tapes rather than twelve or thirteen extremely heavy cans of film. On one hand, you need a system of trucks and delivery guys, huge sums of money, and access to film labs capable of printing thousands of reels at a time, and then on the other hand you need a dupe house, a fedex account, and probably less than $20k. The studios will still have power because of their enormous resources and the synergistic opportunities of being a conglomerate, but it will make it easier for smaller entities to compete since they won’t need those distribution channels that have been in place for over seventy years. Then it becomes a matter of, now that the playing field is level, how do you even sift through all the noise to find the gems? That’s the part that I think everyone, even other filmmakers, are hoping will die down just a little bit over the next few years as HD technology crests.

What’s next for you? Do you have any projects in the works?

The next project that I’m doing is a science fiction character blog called The Grey Corridor and it’s at It centers around this very strange guy, Woods Ulmann, who wrote a book a few years ago called Xenophobia, about his experiences with alien abduction. As the story picks up, he’s struggling with writing another book, so he’s bought a video camera and started a blog in order to have more immediate access to his audience. Through all the various forms of social media like twitter and facebook, and then things like his youtube channel and the blog, we’re going to tell a story over about 40-50 blog entries, hundreds of tweets, and about 12 youtube videos. Ultimately, the blog will lead to a short film that will premiere online and the entire arc of the first ‘season’ leads up to this short. We’ve really set about writing a satisfying story where if you pay close attention to the clues planted throughout these sites, then there are a number of pay-offs in the story down the line. Honestly, it’s an experiment to see if we can start a sci-fi franchise for little to no money that could lead to something bigger, like… I don’t know, a sci-fi channel original movie! We kind of want to do a lonelygrl16 for the comic book and sci-fi set, something that we’d like to see online ourselves. There will be videos and other content on the site very soon, so just bookmark it now or get the RSS feed, or facebook and twitter request Woods, and then you can stay in the loop as it starts up over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Indie Horror Related News And Info From The World Wide Web

It seems like we've reached a tipping point with the internet... I mean, not the news part, the distribution part. So, I'm definitely going to be posting once a week on internet and internet related things that are pertinent to indie horror or indie filmmaking. At this point, the internet is your biggest, best and cheapest tool for marketing and PR, but, soon enough, it could be your easiest and most profitable distribution channel. The internet! It's not just for porn anymore!

So, right out of the gate, here's some big news... Although the video's will be hosted by the studios, who will retain control, collect traffic and ad revenue and avoid sticky copyright problems, Youtube is now, in fact, showing Sony, CBS and Lionsgate Movies... legally. Click here to see the article on called "Youtube Creates Channel for Movies, TV Shows". This is actually a pretty big deal for a few reasons... the first reason is, this legitimizes Youtube as a real distribution channel and could enable it to create partnerships and generate some real revenue. For you, it means you could follow suit. If it catches on, there's no reason that there wouldn't be a Sony channel, a CBS channel, a Lionsgate channel, a Dead Harvey channel and your channel... then people could scroll through them, mark favorites and use it like they use iTunes. The other thing that I think is pretty big here is what it could mean for the internet as a distribution channel. Currently, the internet is seen as a place where people get pirated and illegal content, plus watch videos of people getting kicked in the balls and check out tranny porn. This shit here, this is legal. This can create a win/win situation. I mean, what if the studios started teaming up with the Torrent sites next and said, fine... remove prerelease and leaked stuff, like what just happened with "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (My God, what a disaster!) and we'll provide you with DVD quality releases when they're legitimately released on DVD... but we're putting in ads and we want a good portion of the revenue. Like I said, this all adds up... and one day, the internet will be your biggest distribution source and major studios and indie guys alike will both be making money off it.

So, check this out... We've talked plenty about the future of film and I've mentioned how I think that, as we progress, you're going to see more and more marketing and advertising dollars subsidizing film projects. To me, it just makes sense... it's no cost to the viewer, it helps pay for production and the advertiser gets their brand in front of an audience. Everyone wins. Well, now there's Filmmortal. Taken right from their site, "Filmmortal is a revolutionary tool which enables Filmmakers and Advertisers to bid on Product Placement opportunities in REAL TIME. The company was founded on the principle to help aspiring and talented indie filmmakers get their dream projects made by receiving financial aid in return for placing products and brands in scenes or storylines." I'm not sure when they got started, as there's not a ton of activity on it... but there is activity. In fact, there's some serious activity. I don't think it costs anything, so you should definitely check it out. Why wouldn't you try to raise some extra coin by listing your project?

Like I've said many times before, when you're an indie filmmaker, you're not just the filmmaker. You also have to be the producer, the PR guy, the marketer, the agent, manager... everything. And marketing and PR is probably the biggest thing that you need to know, it'll make or break your film. It'll make it sit on your computer or it'll put it on the shelves of your local video store. Having said that, there's always something you can learn from watching the big boys... and here's an article to check out from called "Marketing Lessons from "Paul Blart: Mall Cop", which you can find here. Now, to be honest, after reading the article, things like The Superbowl and when you release your film aren't going to have much of an effect for you, but there is stuff you can take away from this. I think the most important thing is to try to involve your community. Get locals involved, inform the local press of what you're doing, then, once it's done, try to get a local screening, promote the hell out of it in town. Then, put together a press kit, based on everything that you did. Not only will doing all that boost your confidence and get you rolling, the press kit and the result of doing all that could help you sell the film.

Lastly... another strange clip wound up in my inbox. I think the cat's out of the bag on what's going on here, but... did you see the first one? Find it here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Interview with JJ Connelly, the writer/director of "Gothkill"

Random thought number 1: A little while ago, I was talking with Brad about some random issue and we ended up discussing the fact that film guys all tend to have this strange gift/curse of being able to see things in third person. You know what I mean? Like, say you get in a drunken altercation with some prick and it just turns weird... would you ever take yourself out of the experience and think, "damn, I'm going to have to write this shit down when I get home. There's good stuff here"? I do that all the time... not the drunken altercation part, but the part where I take myself out of the situation, look at it from a third person perspective, and observe. I'm not sure if that's a learned ability or not, but I've found that a lot of film and creative people are like that.

Random thought number 2: I'm into metal. Now, if you saw me walking down the street, there's no way that you'd assume that. By looking at me, the last place you'd think I'd show up at is at a metal show, but I love 'em... and every time I see a band like Slayer or Slipknot, I take in the surroundings. It's amazing. However, as Doc Holiday would say, "my hypocrisy goes only so far..." I've been to a few metal shops, looking for shirts and stuff like that, but I don't really delve too far into the scene. Having said that, it's a scene that I'm interested in and would love to learn more about. I have a big soft spot for metal and anything related to it...

Tying random thought 1 and 2 together: I'm really intrigued by the goth scene, due to my love of metal mentioned in random thought number 2, which piqued my interest in JJ Connelly's film, "Gothkill"... and, after talking with him, I found out that the roots of this film came from that same ability to see things in third person that I discussed in random thought number 1. You can read on, but, essentially, JJ was at a goth party and his mind started to wander. What crossed his mind was, probably, exactly what would cross my mind and the result of that thought was this film.

The film itself is extremely well done, especially considering that it's his directorial debut. I'm amazed at how well he developed the story and weaved it in and around, using various techniques and points of view. People who are into goth will probably dig it, but you don't have to be in to the scene to enjoy it... in fact, you may enjoy it more if you're not into the goth scene, but you'll have to check it out to see why. It's a great film with a great story and I definitely recommend it... and, not only that, I'm glad I had the chance to discuss it with JJ and find out that he, too, has this amazing ability to see things in third person. Really, much like Spiderman's superpowers, it's a gift and a curse.

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

The real question should be "what took you so long?"As long as I can remember, I've wanted to make movies. Drive in type movies by directors like Dennis Hopper and Roger Corman have always been a favorite of mine. Because I grew up in a blue collar town, I had no idea how to pursue a career in the arts. Only after I met my friend Kirk Larsen, (Art director, costumer and all around great guy to have on the set of Gothkill) did I realize that I could just do it. He brought me to my first film shoot to help him with some grip work.

Film School: Yes or No?

No. I grew up in a real blue collar environment. I learned by doing.

Tell us a bit about “Gothkill”, what’s it about and where did you get the idea?

The idea came from several places. I remember walking into the "Vampyres Ball" at The Bank in NYC back in the'90's. Seeing all the occult trappings, I thought to myself, "I wonder how most of these people would react if they ever encountered a real demon?" There were some urban legends going around about the Goth scene at the time as well. I didn't believe them, but thought they would be entertaining in a movie. Around that time, I also saw Dee Snider's "Strangeland" and wanted to write a sequel. I had no way of contacting Mr. Snider, so "Captain Howdy" became "Nick Dread".

What was the approx budget and how did you secure financing?

It was supposed to be under $50,ooo. It ended up at just under $100,000. Financing came through a friend of a friend. He, like me, always wanted to make a movie. His background was in business, so he settled with financing it rather than doing it himself.

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

We shot in digital video on a couple of Panasonic X-100's in 24p. It was supposed to be a 10 day shoot. It ended up taking 19 months.

The film revolved heavily around the goth scene and the look and feel was extremely authentic. So, did you get actors to research the goth scene or did you get people in the goth scene to research acting? Talk about creating that look and feel.

A great many of the cast are from the Goth scene and were more or less playing themselves. This is especially true of the extra's, featured extra's and the smaller roles. Others, like Michael Day, Eve Blackwater and Erica are trained actors. Of the three, I'd say Michael Day had the least actual exposure to the Goth scene. He did a remarkable job and really pulled off the role of a pompous ass / poseur well. He's actually a very down to Earth, cool guy.

Flambeaux was fantastic as Nick Dread. In fact, you did a great job on casting. Where did you find him and talk about the casting process.

Flambeaux was an acquaintance I met through a cousin of mine. He's been performing at NYC underground events for years. I went to see his first Off Off Broadway show "World of the P Cult" in the Summer of '02. I was so impressed with his acting that I came back three nights in a row and taped his performances. When funding for "GothKill" became available, it was a no brainer. Flambeaux was the man.

The story had a few flash-backs, as well as a few cuts to Flambeaux in hell and even some scenes where he addresses the audience. To be honest, I thought it was a very complex story and it was put together on film very effectively. Talk about preparing for the shoot and how you managed everything.

My screen writing teacher cautioned me against using flashbacks. I've always been a fan of shows like "Forever Knight" and "Highlander", so flashbacks come naturally to me. Addressing the audience was a nod to Spalding Gray. I've always loved his films and his style. Flambeaux and I both believe in mysticism and are very interested in our Celtic heritage. We can talk about it for hours. As complex as the story was, as long as he "Got it" , and I know he did, I was sure I could pull this off.

When you’re dealing with sex, violence, religion, etc… it can be tough to deal with actors, let alone the rest of the crew. Talk about your directing style.

Ha! Is "deer caught in the headlights" a directing style? This was my first time. I was terrified. I hadn't learned this by doing. I had read Robert Rodriguez book "Rebel Without A Crew". I watched Joe Mantello direct "Assassins" and "Wicked" because I was working on those shows. I noticed how Joe never raised his voice, never embarrassed his actors. He pulled people aside and discussed what he wanted from them. That seemed pretty cool, so I went with that. It works.

Tell us about some of the hurdles you overcame to get the film done. What advice can you pass on to other indie filmmakers who are just setting out to make a film?

Don't ever hire your crew off of that guy's online "list". You know who I mean. You want some used furniture? Go to that guy's list. You want a crew? Do your homework. Ask around. Use any and all contacts you have. Check references personally. As for the hurdles, there were a ton. The first producer, who I won't name, hired way too many people, most of them off that "list" and pissed away over $60,000 in four days. We had to fire most of the crew and shoot the bulk of the movie in small pieces, over a period of over 18 months, as small sums of money came in. Scheduling was a nightmare, and we had to use body double's on several occasions. The guerilla style we shot with, as well as all the hats our small remnant of a crew had to wear, actually made us tight knit little movie making machine. It was hectic, but fun.

Did you enter “Gothkill” into any festivals? If so, how did it do and is the festival circuit something that every indie horror filmmaker should consider doing?

We entered not as many as I would have liked, but it can get expensive if you submit your movie to everything. We had our European debut in 2008's "Gimme Shelter Film Festival" in Athens Greece. It was well received over there. Closer to home, we've been in the Coney Island Film Festival in 2008 and in 2009 we're slated to be in the next "Evil City Film Festival" .

Talk about the process of finding distribution, what would you tell filmmakers who’ve recently finished a film and are looking for distribution?

Support your local horror / cult film scene. You never know who you're going to meet at these small events. It was at such a screening that I ran into Rob from Wild Eye Releasing. It was at the Pioneer Theatre in NYC (R.I.P.).

Where can people find out more about “Gothkill” or, better yet, buy a copy?

Wild Eye has a web site, and there is an actual GothKill website as well.

Talk about the indie horror scene and indie horror filmmaking. Where do you feel it is now and where do you see it going?

It's tough. Big studios seem to enjoy passing off some of their films as "indie" projects. Hollywood is the land of remakes and sequels. Even a lot of the smaller festivals and fan sites seem to schill for the major studios. Money is tight these days, so that makes things even tougher. If people really want to keep indie horror alive, they need to support it. Get out to those screenings. Buy the dvd even though you can copy it from a friend. Come to our websites and send us emails. Let us know you're watching and you want more. If there's a demand for it, and you let us know, we'll find a way to make it happen.

What’s next for you? Do you have any projects in the works?

I have several scripts backlogged. We were all set to start on a movie about an all girl vigilante gang, but the economy hit our backer so we had to put it on hold. I'm going to start shopping a couple of scripts around later this year.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Horror Out On DVD This Week

Before I get to the horror DVD releases of the week, I'd like to mention "The Wrestler", which also comes out this week. Now, I'll admit something here... I do watch the occasional non-horror film and, I've gotta say, I've enjoyed a few of them. Not all of them, but a few of them... Granted, I do find that my tastes are wildly different than people that, say, liked "Milk" or "Frost/Nixon", but as a film guy, you have to appreciate a well done film. "The Wrestler" is one of those well done films and, if you haven't seen it, you really should. It had a budget of $6Million, which isn't much, considering the cast and how well it did and, as a low-budget filmmaker, you should appreciate the way it was put together. Check it out, you won't be disappointed. Anyhow, now to the horror. As usual, click on the titles and you'll be taken to their page on Amazon and you can also go to our Youtube page and see all the trailers.

"Laid to Rest" is written and directed by Robert Hall, who's actually a fairly big name in the make-up and effects world. He's currently working on the Breck Eisner directed remake of Romero's "The Crazies" (due out in September), has spent a bunch of time on "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles", plus worked on such projects as "Prom Night", "Pineapple Express" and "Red Sands". He's written and directed a couple of other films, "Lightning Bug" and "Behind the Sting", specifically. "Laid to Rest" stars Bobbie Sue Luther and has an appearance from "Sarah Connor Chronicles" lead, Lena Headey, and it's about a young girl (Bobbie Sue), who wakes up in a casket and has a traumatic head injury and no memory of her identity. She 'quickly realizes that she was abducted by a deranged serial murderer and must survive the night and outsmart the technologically inclined killer who is hell-bent on finishing what he started.' Just flipping through a few reviews, it looks like you can expect a pretty good slasher flick here...

"The Burrowers", released by Lionsgate, comes from award winning filmmaker J.T. Petty, who won a special jury prize at the Boston Independent Film Festival for his film, "Soft for Digging". What's really cool is that J.T. Petty has spent a bit of time in the video game world, having written for the game "Batman Begins", as well as for "Splinter Cell". Further to that, I believe this feature was based on an web-based series that was also called "The Burrowers"... so, it goes to show that there's many roads to the goal and Petty took a non-traditional route. Hmm... I may have to get in touch with him to discuss this all with him. Very cool. Anyhow, this film is part creature-feature and part Western, as it follows a rescue party in the old West that falls prey to creatures that come up from underground to feed on the inhabitants of a small town.

Lionsgate is also releasing "Sam's Lake", from writer/director Andrew C. Erin, which was an official selection at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. One of Erin's other films, a drama called "Simple Things", won him three awards. "Sam's Lake" is about Sam, who takes a group of friends to accompany her on a retreat to the cottage she grew up in, much like she does every summer. However, this time, Sam and her childhood friend Jesse take the group on an adventure to revisit the site of a murder and end up face to face with the terrifying legend of Sam's Lake...

"The Poker Club", from director Tim McCann, based on a novel by Ed Gorman, is about a weekly poker game turned bad... Aaron Tyler and his three best friends end up accidentally killing a burgler who's broken into Aaron's home. Fearing the consequences, they dispose of the corpse and agree to take the secret to their graves. However, they soon discover that someone knows what they've done and is now playing a murderous game of revenge with them. The reviews are quite good, so if you're into character driven films with a horror twist, this could be for you.

If you're into erotic horror anthologies (and who isn't?), "Fear Girls: Volume One" is your pick of the week. It's from writer/director Robert J. Massetti and it's four vignettes... the first is about a voyeuristic feast of a female vampire claiming her latest victim after an exciting sexual seduction, the second is where a victim turns the tables on their stalker in a sexy and bloody climax, the third is about an S&M party that takes a wildly violent and unexpected turn and the last is where we encounter some of the sexiest women in the world as they deliver nasty stripteases. 'The Fear Girls are hot, but cold blooded in these thriller tinged stories of passion and fate. Mature audiences only... view discretion is advised.'

Lastly, for all you Hellraiser fans, Clive Barker's releasing the "Hellraiser: Boxed Set" this week. Well, Anchor Bay's releasing it, but... whatever. If you're a fan, you may dig it. It's loaded with almost 3 hours of bonus material and it comes in a custom made Hellraiser Puzzle Box that slides open to reveal the discs...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Your Career In Film, Plus A Look At Some Festivals

I was just thinking about how hard it is to break into the film industry, especially as a writer or director. Really... think about it. Take almost any career path: lawyer, doctor, teacher... whatever. There's usually a set path to success available, if you choose to take it. You get your education, then you look for a place to get started and your college, in a lot of cases, will probably help you out. There's job fairs and, sometimes, the different businesses and institutions come to your school to tell you why you should consider them as a place to article or start out. One way or the other, you usually get a job in your industry of choice. Then, as you get familiar with everything, you work your way up, move from job to job and, slowly but surely, pick your career path. Obviously, there's more to it than that, but consider the path of a filmmaker... You graduate college, then, almost instantaneously, get a job that's unrelated to what you want to do. It could be 'kinda' in the industry, like as a PA, assistant or in the mailroom, or it could be completely unrelated, like bartending. Now, for no money at all, start writing, or, collect some money from that money tree in your backyard and go shoot something. Either way, go out and do it on your own and, chances are, you're going to incur some debt along the way. On top of that, chances are that very few industry insiders are going to help you out. It's one of the only industries where it seems like those who are already in try, to keep others out. Even in professional sports they have an draft, then they place you somewhere and let you work your way up... or let you figure out that you were never meant to play professional sports. I do know that the film industry favors the wealthy, too... in that you see a lot of rich kids get into it and their parents support their efforts. That way, they don't have to take those unrelated jobs that get in the way of their careers. I mean, at the end of the day, this is all to the best of my knowledge. Much like you, I assume, I've really only seen one side of the fence. Sad state of affairs, I know...

However, I think things are changing a bit. Really, if you wanted to be in film from, say... it's inception through to the 70's, you just did it. It was like working in steel or lumber. Then, the 60's and 70's brought on that onslaught of 'film school' filmmakers, as all you had to do was go to film school and you were going to get a decent job in the industry. Spielberg, Coppolla, Lucas and those guys were the first wave of that. Then, from the late 70's up until around now, the industry became like a secret, locked and guarded garden. Anyhow, like I said, things ARE changing. The internet and new media are rattling the foundations of the studios and opening doors for everyone else and this explosion of film festivals has given indie filmmakers a new forum to showcase their work.

This is why I always harp on the festivals and promote them... I think they're absolutely integral to the indie filmmaker. They're even ground, in a way. They're a place where you can compete, mingle with and relate to those on the inside. You need to read about them, attend them and submit to them. So, after that long, drawn out lead in, here's a few festivals to consider...

The Women of Horror Film Festival is taking place on Saturday, April 25th from 5PM to midnight at the Portage Theater in Chicago. There's a pile of films screened and there's vendors, giveaways, booze, a raffle, special guests, movies, trailers and more. Tix are $12 online or $15 at the door. Seems like a steal. Here's a link to their site.

Independent Film Festival Boston takes place April 22-28 and it's hailed as the city's best-run and most popular film festival. This year's event continues the festival's tradition of great movies and personal appearances by the filmmakers and actors who created them. Guests this year include Hal Holbrook, Barry Corbin, Brian Cox, Ondi Timoner, The Farrelly Brothers and more. Tickets for individual shows just went on sale, here's a link to their site.

The Calgary Underground Film Festival is already under way, as it runs April 14-19, but if you're in Calgary, check it out this weekend. If not, remember it for next year. They're known for screening a lot of edgy, sex-laden and violence-filled, wacky fare. Here's a link to their site.

The Hollywood Film Festival is one of those big ones and it has an approaching deadline, which is April 30. That's the regular deadline, you can probably still get your film in after that. This is one gets a lot of industry insiders and is definitely one to attend and submit to. Here's a link to their site.

The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon, which takes place in Portland, OR, has been getting a lot of good press lately and is a rapidly growing festival. They only accept Lovecraft-like films, but... you know what? Almost anything can be considered Lovecraft-like. May 1 is the early deadline and here's a link to their site.

Oh yeah... and Fangoria's LA Weekend of Horrors is happening this weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Centre. For more info, go to the Fango site, which can be found here.

That's it, folks... have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Interview with Jason Horton, co-writer/co-director of "Edges of Darkness"

Looking back at the history of horror and connecting the dots to where we are now, you have to turn to writers like H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. If you look at their works, especially their early works, a lot of what they did were intertwined short stories, such as Lovecraft's "Cthulhu Mythos". This style of grouping short stories and poems together led to horror being easily adapted to pulp fiction and, later, comics and graphic novels. As the horror genre grew and spread, horror delved into many different formats and mediums. However, as horror does lend itself well to that short story format, you still see a lot of projects that use it. Think of Clive Barker's "Books of Blood" or Stephen King's "Different Seasons". Further, that same style of writing was adopted into what is now known, in film, as the horror anthology.

As far as film and TV is concerned, the most significant horror anthology films may be 1962's "Tales of Terror" with Vincent Price, 1965's "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors" and, of course, the TV show, "Twilight Zone". In fact, "Twilight Zone" may have been the show that took the horror anthology from camp to mainstream, but, in my opinion, it really took off for horror with "Creepshow" and "Tales From the Crypt". Since then, the idea of the horror anthology has been used over and over again and for various reasons. The first, and easy reason, as discussed above, is that horror lends itself well to the format. The other reason is, it's far easier to create an anthology when you're dealing with a low budget and limited time. Thus, there's been piles of low-budget horror films done in the anthology format.

Jason Horton and Blaine Cade's film, "Edges of Darkness", is one of those films. It uses the backdrop of a zombie breakout, but intertwines three intriguing stories and borrows from various different sub-genres of horror. For me, it was like watching a no-holds-barred "Tales From The Crypt". Really, it's a beautifully crafted anthology that will, not only keep you involved until the end, but will shine new light on some of those old sub-genres. The acting is great, the effects are beyond believable and there's plenty of good gore. As is, it's a massive achievement and a great film, but when you find out about the budget and time constraints, it's all that much more impressive and, because of that, I think it's easily one of the best low-budget horror films of the year, so far.

We talked with Jason Horton and he answers some questions for us, as well as offers some great insight into the making of the film...

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

My tastes are all over the place, from splatter to more artsy fare.I was in high school when Reservoir Dogs came out. I guess you could say that was my gateway movie. I heard Tarantino talking about Walter Hill, John Woo, Brian Depalma, Peckinpaw and Goddard, just to name a few. While I had already seen many of those films, I hadn't really put one and one together and thought of them as a part of any one director's body of work. But I really think my movie "education" began there.

As far as horror goes, John Carpenter is big influence. He loves him a siege picture and so do I. My first 2 movies were both to different extents siege pictures. I also love Romero's intelligence and Raimi's energy. Early Peter Jackson stuff is great. Meet the Feebles is one of my favorite movies.

Film School: Yes or No?

I did go to film school and consider it valuable. But I learned way more actually working on and watching movies. Rise of the Undead was shot right after I came out of film school. Then, I worked a few years as an Editor and Dp on several features, then did Edges of Darkness. I think the difference shows.

Tell us a bit about “Edges of Darkness”, what’s it about and where did you get the idea?

Edges of Darkness at it's core is about groups of broken people trying to connect or reconnect (in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.)

At a base pragmatic level, I knew I had a very low budget, so I went about creating a movie that I could feasibly shoot. Of course, I always try to push my boundaries both creatively and financially. I'd rather take a risk and have it fall flat, then to just play it safe.

What was the approx budget and how did you secure financing?

This was obviously a microbudget production. We spent right around 10k on production. Then a bit more in post.

I was working as a camera op on a comedy documentary and met Stephen Kayo. He was producing that. We got to talking and he was interested in production another one of my scripts. It was larger budget and we felt we need an intermediate move. So I conceived Edges and he put the funds together.

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

We shot on the Sony Z1U. While I'm happy with the end product, i wouldn't recommend the HDV FORMAT for feature work, especially with HD camera rentals as low as they are now. We had several delivery problems.

The shoot was 8 days of principle. Then we did 2 or three re shoot days a few months later.

The film was almost like a really well done “Tales From The Crypt”, it blended three stories over the common theme of a zombie outbreak. Talk about the screenwriting process and pre-production. How did you prepare to tackle a shoot like this?

My screenwriting process is fairly straight forward. I work out the story in outline form and do quite a bit of character research (creating back stories, ect..) Then I dive in. Edges was written fairly fast. I had a producer interested in the concept and I wanted to finish quickly before he lost interest (as often happens in the Indie world)

Originally the stories were written weren't meant to be intercut. They were written to be stand alone anthology pieces. It was intended to be much more of a Creepshow type movie.

It was during post, I began to discover strong thematic througlines running through all three stories and made the decision to inter cut them. Plus I had never seen an anthology cut together in this manner, so the though of doing something fresh was exciting too.

There were two things that pulled the whole movie together for me. The first was the actors. You did a great job on casting and they all gave very believable performances… talk about both the casting process and your directing style.

You hear this over and over from directors, but I was really lucky with the cast. It's rare to find actors with such charisma and strong work in micros.

To me the biggest thing that separates micro budget movies from large productions is the acting (well, acting and sound.) So I think that's really important to put the extra effort into finding proper actors and then working on those performances.

We did one large "cattle call" audition and then 1 round of call backs. In the cattle, I first just see what they're going to do with no input from me. Then after the 1st read, I give them an adjustment to see how they adapt. Then based on that, I make decisions for call backs.

In production, although I have definite opinions, I give the actors quite a bit of freedom in the choices that they make, as long as they jibe with the overall vision. But I am a bit of a stickler for sticking to the script. It's not that I'm against improv. But on a movie like this with a very limited schedule, there just isn't the time to explore that on set. We do a bit in rehearsal though.

The other thing was the effects… most of them were simple, yet effective. Who did them and tell us about how some of your favorite effects in the film were accomplished.

I worked with Tom Devlin's 1313 FX on some other stuff and just love his work. I think our zombies stand head and shoulders above other low budget zombie movies. That's my favorite aspect of the practical effects. I also, really like the bowling ball through the zombie's head. It was a little cheesy, but oh so fun. Tom simply attached a cut out foam piece on the back of the zombie's head. Then we use frame by frame photoshop to create the ball coming through the front of her mouth.

The whole film took place, essentially, in one apartment building. First off, was that on purpose? As in, did you purposefully write the script, knowing that you were going to film it all there? Talk about the issues of filming in one location…

That was totally 100% planned from the get. Before I even broke the character or story elements I knew I was going to write something in a single apartment complex. The main issue was sound. We scouted the warehouse where we built our apartment set during the week. And it was dead quiet. We got out there on the weekend to shoot and it was chaos. There was a car wash next door with a constant compressor and shooting water. Sometimes music.

Other than that, I have no complaints. Shooting all in one place frees you up to work more on the performances and camera. We able to move pretty seamlessly through set ups.

Tell us about some of the hurdles you overcame to get the film done. What advice can you pass on to other indie filmmakers who are just setting out to make a film?

If you want to make your own movies, start working on other people's money. Do whatever you can do. Be personable and nice to everyone you meet. You never know who's going to help you in future. We're all in it together. It's not a competition.

When you're doing a real independent the only real hurdle is money. But that can be overcome with a little thought and preparation. My advice is to write around what you have. I had a friend with access to a warehouse that we could use for a set. He was also a amateur carpenter, so I knew I could build minor sets. I had an fx artist that owed me a big favor, so I knew I could write some fairly complex make up stuff. But if I didn't have that, I would have tackled the script differently.

Do as many favors for other movie makers as you can. I worked for two years in LA on other people's stuff for little or no money. And I was able to call in those favors on Edges.

Did you enter “Edges of Darkness” into any festivals? If so, how did it do and is the festival circuit something that every indie horror filmmaker should consider doing?

I didn't. I had started doing press on Edges before it even wrapped. I sent preview clips and an early trailer to every horror site I could find. A few distributors stumbled upon this press and where asking me about the movie before it was even finished.

Talk about the process of finding distribution, what would you tell filmmakers who’ve recently finished a film and are looking for distribution?

1st and foremost you have to have something sellable. I'd like to just hide behind artistic integrity. But if you're film isn't sellable, no body's going to buy it. I won't mince words, I feel my 1st movie was pretty bad, but it was a sellable concept.

Also, from the beginning you need to think about how your going to sell your movie. What's the trailer? What's the one sheet going to look like? Are these things that make people want to see your movie?

I've been extremely lucky. With my 1st movie I just sent screener to a dozen or so distributors and got 3 offers. On Edges it was even easier.

Where can people find out more about “Edges of Darkness” or, better yet, buy a copy?

I keep our myspace page updated regularly.
Shoreline Entertainment is making the market rounds now. Next up is Cannes. We've already been released in the UK. I expect a US DVD release date to follow Cannes.

Talk about the indie horror scene and indie horror filmmaking. Where do you feel it is now and where do you see it going?

Horror is the best genre for an indie filmmaker. You don't need a name or money. Just some ingenuity and a sellable concept. I expect that Internet and self distribution will become more prevalent in the future.

What’s next for you? Do you have any projects in the works?

I got a bunch of scripts. The next one to go into production is TRAP. It's a kidnapping thriller about a middle aged man who falls in love with his 14 year old victim.

I'm also developing three horror movies. They're not related, but would all three be shot at the same time.

Then there's Feud, which is a larger budget item. I'm still looking for the funding.

I just try to stay working.