Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Interview with Executive Producer of "The Open Door", Clint Carmichael

It's been a while since we've rounded up an interview for you... part of the reason is the fact that I've been pre-occupied with a couple of projects, the other part is that it's Christmas - I'm working part time over these couple weeks and I'm doing my best to catch up on some horror films, as well as finish a few video games... waste of time? Maybe, but very entertaining. In any case, we've got an interview for you today... and it's a dandy.

As a lot of you know, I'm a marketing and advertising guy by day - Indie horror aficionado and advocate by night... or whenever I find time. Because of this mix, I not only sit back, crack a few beers and get entertained by watching my indie horror, I also get a bit analytical. I wonder about who the film is catering to and who its audience would be, I look at the art and website and consider how they've been marketing the film, I consider the premise and it's appeal... all before I throw the DVD in. Really, this is all stuff that every filmmaker needs to do when they set out to create something... and, 'side note' - if you're setting out to make something and are interested in my opinion, please email me... I'm more than happy to throw ideas out there, but I digress... The point is, while I was looking into "The Open Door" before I threw the DVD in, I was already thinking that this is a film that's firing on all cylinders.

The premise behind the film is as intriguing as any I've heard in recent memory - there's a pirate radio station that appears on full moon nights and callers will have their deepest wants and desires granted, but... you better be careful what you wish for. As for the site, the art and all their marketing... it's top notch. Did it deliver? You bet... the first thing I noticed was the production quality, it was on par with a film ten, twenty or even a hundred time's its budget (granted, I have no idea what the budget was, but I can assume). Then, very quickly, you realize that common hurdles for other indie filmmakers weren't obstacles - the acting was great, the story kept me entertained and flowed from beginning to end and, of course, the effects were unreal... and there was some great gore.

I'm a fan of indie and micro-budget horror and, usually, that requires suspension of disbelief... and a lot of it. Very little was needed here. The story is well crafted, the film is superbly put together and it delivers where it needs to... and horror fans should be pleased.

We had the opportunity to discuss the film and how it was put together with Clint Carmicheal, the Executive Producer and Producer of the film, and he offers up a great interview...

So, tell us a bit about “The Open Door”

The Open Door was basically three friends coming together to green-light themselves on a feature film. We are all working pros in the business, but in different disciplines, and we thought the three of us could pull together our respective resources and expertise to create a quality feature film at very low cost. It was put up or shut up...if we pulled off what we thought we could, then this would be the beginning of creating content for ourselves. All of us had come close to getting something made before, but the usual challenges of money, egos or timing had derailed those previous projects. We all felt that this particular grouping was really strong...we have our separate areas of expertise, Clint Carmichael/actor, Doc Duhame/Stuntman, Greg Hobson/Editor-DP, which we felt covered the three critical areas of a genre feature. We all write and all of us had produced or directed projects before...Me plays, Doc 2nd unit stunts and Greg episodic TV, so we really had a great deal of confidence that we could make a solid film for very little money. Of course many favors were called in and a little luck was essential in everything working out. In the end it was a tough journey, but a very gratifying one; our little film will be distributed world-wide and audiences will get a chance to see our efforts!

If you don’t mind us asking, what was the budget and how did you go about securing financing?

The short answer is...more than a buck but less than a million. We have to keep that private for obvious reasons. We put up the money ourselves, hey no risk, no reward. It was an amount the three of us could share, but like all films, we spent more than we planned. Ultimately we felt very good about what we were able to achieve with limited resources, not many films at our level have the stunts and VFX that "The Open Door" has, and that's primarily due to relationships and creative choices.

I really loved the idea of the pirate radio station… and the fact that, throughout the film, it always remains a bit of a mystery. Talk about the origins of that idea?

Doc Duhame, who directed and wrote the script, had been listening to late night radio shows and heard one that always was dealing with paranormal issues and even occult topics. Doc and I had been working on an outline for a feature film which focused on a woman alone in a house being terrified by spiritual phenomena...and when Doc mentioned the radio show idea as the source of the evil, we all just loved it and went in that direction.

With that idea of a pirate radio station that grants listeners wishes, you could’ve gone anywhere and made the story about anyone, really. You opted to go with high school kids. Was this a conscious choice? As in, was it to make the film more marketable?

A little bit...we had already spent time working on the woman alone in a house idea and it didn't take much to morph into a teenage girl alone because we were always trying to think of ways to increase the vulnerability of our lead character. Once we decided to make her a younger character it just all seemed to fit really well into a high school social world. The influences and peer pressure of that time in our lives leads to some very questionable choices...and ultimately our film is about the choices we all make.

You also had some great effects and great gore in the film. Tell us a bit about your favorite effects and how they were accomplished.

My favorite effect is the burn...Doc being a stuntman and having many relationships in the stunt world (we met doing live stunt shows together at Universal many years ago) knew he was going to call in some pretty big favors. The burn in TOD is about as big a burn gag as you'll see in any Hollywood feature...full head to toe flames with the stuntman's face exposed. Zack Duhame (Doc's son) did the stunt, the first burn of his career, and he did a really wonderful job. The other aspect that I thought really rocked was the job our very young and talented make-up girls did on creating the burned face and head of Daniel Booko for the shot after he collapses. Genna Garner and Erika Godfrey were fresh out of make-up school when we found them for TOD, they won Best Special FX make-up at this year's Big Bear Horror Film Festival...not bad first time out of the gate!

Okay, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie film?

Well, I've been an actor for over twenty years, but I started off in film school, and although acting is a first love I always intended to produce, write, direct or in some way partner with a team of creative people who really take responsibility and author a film. To me that means you are either producing, directing, have written or are starring in the film. Those are the people that have the most impact on how and why a film works...or doesn't. Influence wise I feel I learn from everything I see (and I try to see everything). I love old Hollywood and the work of directors like: John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, William Wyler and George Cukor. But my film school experience introduced me to a whole other world of film and filmmakers and other film cultures: Japanese, French, English and even some Latin and Bollywood product. As far as I'm concerned you learn from it all...Spielberg, Tarantino, Cameron...hey even Eli Roth. Good work and even good efforts that fail can teach us. As far as what got me into the indie movement...if you want to make something happen, if you want to tell a story on film, the only way you can guarantee that you'll have the chance is to do it yourself. I think everyone who makes film is very independent by's just that if you have a commercial ability and you're good at what you do, Hollywood will come knocking.

Film school: Yes or No?

An emphatic I said before, the film school experience was important for me and really opened up my eyes to world cinema. I attended San Francisco State University...and Northern California has such a different perspective than Southern California and Los Angeles, which is where I'm from. It's really all about the art of cinema for them...and Hollywood is completely dominated by a commercial point of view. I don't think you need to debate them or be at odds with just need to understand that the more personal and art dominated a film is...the less commercial it's prospects. Popcorn movies will appeal to the widest possible audience and have the greatest commercial potential. But there will always be a place for both. The task for any filmmaker I think is to find an audience and infuse as much of your art as you can into the projects you create. If no one cares to see your movies, if you create work that is so personal very few people are interested, then you won't be making movies very long. It's an expensive medium...if you're all about the art, you can always buy a canvas and some brushes and go nuts. Film is such an expensive proposition, even as it's become much more accessible, it is still a large scale collective art form that has large costs attached. That will always have an impact on what filmmakers decide to devote large chunks of time and resources to.

Did you enter the film in to any festivals? If so, how did it do? What are your thoughts on the indie horror festival circuit?

I think film festivals in general are great...and Horror film festivals are fantastic! It's where real fans of indie films, and those of us that make them, get to meet and discuss and watch films...what could be better! Festivals run the gamut from tiny little efforts to very cool long standing fests with following media savvy and resources. But if your a filmmaker you need to get your stuff out there and let an audience tell you what worked and what didn't. It's such a great way to improve your craft. You also get to meet some wonderful people and hopefully make a business connection or two. I studied Chris Gores book before I started submitting "The Open Door" to festivals...and it was really helpful. Let's face it, unless you have lots of money, you can really blow some budget of festival submissions as well as the costs if you get accepted and attend. "The Open Door" has done great at Horror festivals as well as some indie fests that have a horror section. So far we have been accepted into eight film festivals and have won six awards. We won Audience Choice Award at the 2008 Shriekfest F.F., Best Feature Film & Best Supporting Actor at 2009 Horror UK, Best Feature Film at 2009 Dark River F.F., Silver Screen Award at 2009 Nevada F.F., and Best Special FX Make-Up at 2009 Big Bear Horror Film Festival. We just got accepted into the Festivus Film Festival which will screen in Denver come January the beat goes on. I can't image making a film and not participating in some selected's just a great experience. Bravo to the indie film festival circuit which is the grass roots support to the future filmmakers of the world!

Talk about distribution. What lessons have you learned and if you could pass on any words of advice to other indie filmmakers, what would that be?

My advice is get ready for the other really tough job in filmmaking...selling your film. Get educated about the process, plenty of books out there to get you familiar with all the basics (there is no short cut, read them). The best piece of advise I can give is...go after this part of the process with the same energy and determination that you directed at getting a film made in the first place. Making a film is hard...selling a film is harder. The biggest reason that is true is that the skill set it takes to make a film isn't the same as have to talk to lots of people who are business people and don't care that you sold blood or pawned a family heirloom to get the show made. They have their own needs and problems...and this is where the art and business sides of filmmaking collide. Be realistic, be determined and don't stop till you get it done! "The Open Door" had really excellent reviews, won a bunch of awards and was liked everywhere I went with it. But I still had to talk to a lot of agents, distributors and reps to find the right fit. You can be taken advantage of very easily at this point in the process, don't rush and go to the dance with the first girl that winks at you. We have a sales agent Lantern Lane Entertainment repping the film and we just signed a deal with Moving Pictures Film &TV to handle all foreign sales. We should be able to announce a domestic distributor very soon. But this has been a process, don't rush, but don't drag your feet too much your gut and start planning the next film. Nobody should make one film thinking it will create a takes a few to really learn this process and start building the relationships you need to succeed at this. My second film as producer, a short action-comedy starring Patrick Warburton "The Action Hero's Guide To Saving Lives" is creating even more opportunities as a filmmaker...but it all started with "DOOR".

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

Good question, but I'm not a guy who thinks in those types of terms about any genre...or filmmaking in general. I'm a "build it and they will come" kinda guy. I think you need to be aware of what people are doing, but don't try to be too clever about constructing a project because you "think this is the new thing". To me it all comes down to making a good film. If you do good work, good things and more opportunities will happen. In general, the Horror scene keeps pushing the boundaries of taste and possibility...and certainly there is a rock solid fan base for Horror product. But you better be good...and I don't think it matters if that means bloody and gore filled or more psychological and suspense driven...good versions of both types find an audience. The best films I think are driven by artistic vision from a filmmaker who plows ahead no matter what the "market" or "scene" is doing. Really good films change the direction filmmaking is going in. Right now "AVATAR" is being talked about as a game changer...only time will tell. But if other filmmakers follow suit and start creating more and more motion capture created visual FX driven films with an "AVATAR LOOK" they'll be right. Until someone else makes something that gets everyone's attention and creates a new style. At the heart of any successful film is a good story...good storytelling no matter the medium or style, is the key.

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

Please come and visit the web site...

We are hoping to announce a domestic distributor early in which point the DVD release should be coming soon!

How about I'll check back in and let you know as soon as we hear.

What’s next for you?

Well, the short film I mentioned earlier..."The Action Hero's Guide To Saving Lives" has had a wonderful reception and we are working on a feature film version right now...either studio or indie just depending on interest, timing and money. So I plan on producing something in well as continuing to work as an actor. A little indie film I worked on as an actor called "DISPATCH" should be coming out in 2010...and then there is the ever present process of going out there and auditioning for the next job! So look for me on Theater and TV screens near you...and please check in on the web sites every so often to hear the latest news!

My own site should be up by January 1st...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up and What's New on DVD, including: Lesbian Vampire Killers...

Well, they talk about this whole recession thing and they say that piracy and home entertainment is cutting into the box office, but... last weekend was the highest grossing weekend at the box office... ever. All time. No shit. "Avatar" pulled back less than 3% from its opening weekend and "Sherlock Holmes" had the second biggest open ever for a film that didn't finish number 1... which was only bested by "The Day After Tomorrow", which opened the same weekend as "Shrek 2". Even "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The squeakuel" raked in over $50Million. I did my part, too. I finally went to check out "Avatar" at Imax. Say what you will about the story and plot, the film is an f'ing spectacle. I've NEVER seen anything like it before and I can't wait to see something like that again. Unreal. If you haven't seen it, I suggest seeing it at Imax. It's an unbelievable experience.

As for the week in DVD releases, we've finally got ourselves a stellar week. As usual, you can click on the title and be taken to the films page on Amazon, where you can read more about it and even buy it. You can also go to our Youtube page and check out all the trailers.

For the indie crowd, the big movie of the week is, without question, "Paranormal Activity". The best part about it, I don't think it'll lose a bit of its effectiveness when seen on the small screen. In fact, it may be better. Think about it, they way it's filmed, it could be even more effective... it'll certainly add to the intensity and suspense. Anyhow, if you're a reader of this site and you haven't seen it, you really ought to go pick it up and watch it. It's only the most successful micro-budget film to date, not to mention it's the most profitable film ever.

"Jennifer's Body" is the follow up film for "Juno" scribe, Diablo Cody, and the film was a disappointment on a few levels. First up, it just wasn't that great. Secondly, it got slaughtered at the box office. Some of the executives blamed the marketing efforts, others blamed timing... at the end of the day, it just wasn't that good. Having said that, if you're desperate to check out a horror film with some budget and Megan Fox, go right ahead...

I'm not really sure what happened with "Carriers", which was written and directed by Alex and David Pastor. The film was completed, and actually screened, way back in 2007... it even got a lot of good reviews. Then, Paramount Vantage was going to release it last September, but I don't really remember it coming out. It must've been one of those projects that fell to the wayside when the studio's started shuttering their indie arms. In any case, it's finally coming out on DVD this week. It's about four people that are fleeing a viral pandemic that's spread world-wide and it stars Chris Pine, AKA Captain Kirk from the new "Star Trek".

"Vampire Killers" was originally called "Lesbian Vampire Killers" during it's run in the UK, where it was made. It's a horror comedy written by Stewart Williams and Paul Hupfield, directed by Phil Claydon. The funniest thing about the film is that the writers, who were both working in the comedy development department at MTV in Europe at the time, were challenged to come up with the most commercial film project and title they could to pitch as a low-budget, straight to DVD feature... this is what they came up with. It toiled around for a while, but did, obviously, eventually get made. Can't say that the reviews are good, but... with a title like that, the bar is set low. Don't know about you, but I'll be checking it out.

Lastly, there's the low-budget "Evil Offspring", directed by Tommy Brunswick and released by R Squared. The trailer that I found is in German, but the film isn't... so, it looks like the film had an overseas release. I don't know much about the plot, but the film opens with the trees and wilderness ripping two guys apart, then raping a girl. The girl then goes on to spawn some evil offspring, which go out and wreak havoc... thus the title.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Avatar" To Help Indie Film - A big stretch, but hear me out...

The big day has come and gone, as "Avatar" has officially been released into the wild. I actually haven't seen it yet, but only because I want to see it on a particular Imax screen and it was just insane there over the weekend. In any case, the worst reviews all say the same thing, unbelievable effects and a so-so story, but, then again, if you think about it, "Titanic" had a so-so story. On the flip side, the best reviews say that "Avatar" is going to be a major Oscar contender. Either way, the film is going to easily rank in the top 10 biggest grossing films of all time (some predict that it'll come second to only "Titanic"), it's a massive game-changer as far as effects are concerned and I think it's actually going to change the theatrical experience, which will, in turn, help indie film... I think. Read on and see if you agree.

Apparently there's a joke in Hollywood that goes like this: A filmmaker dies and goes to heaven. When he gets there, he notices a guy on a massive swooping crane, manning a huge HD camera... and he asks Saint Peter, "Hey, when did James Cameron die?" Saint Peter responds, "Oh, that's not James Cameron. That's God... he just thinks he's James Cameron". Personally, I love the guy. His biggest flop, "The Abyss", is awesome. I credit "Terminator" as one of my biggest influences and then there's "Aliens". F'ing "Aliens". What a classic. Now, 12 years after making the most successful film of all time, "Titanic", he's back... and he might just save theatrical film.

You see, the theatrical experience is dying. Sorry, it is. Really, there's no reason to go. I'm not saying that great films aren't being made, they are. However, there's no reason to go see them in the theater. The home experience is just as good... and better in some regards. I can pause the film to go take a shit or grab a beer. I can make whatever food I want. I don't have some 400 lbs sleaze bag sitting next to me. There aren't a bunch of loser kids texting constantly and, really, I've got STACKS of micro-cinema to watch, none of which gets released theatrically, and Hollywood fare comes out weeks, not months, after it hits the big screen, so... why would I pay $20 to go to the theater? James Cameron has the answer - offer something that I can't get at home.

James Cameron is a meticulous filmmaker, notoriously. And this meticulous filmmaker has decided to use 3D in a way that it's never been used before... to immerse you in the film. 3D has always been a circus act, a side show - "Put your glasses on now". Things poke out at you, jump in your lap or frighten you. Sure, "Coraline" did it, Imax does those nature films, but nothing like this. Cameron uses the technology to help you, the viewer, feel like you're in the film. To make viewing the film theatrically an experience... something you can't get anywhere else. THIS is revolutionary, THIS takes the idea of the theatrical experience to a new level, THIS is game-changing. I think people have tried before, but Cameron has now done it successfully. In the end, "Avatar" is going to pull in something close to $1Billion Worldwide... I mean, it hasn't even had its second weekend and it's already grossed over $275Million Worldwide. Seeing that, studios will try to replicate that. On top of that, eventually, all theaters will be digital and that's going to open up opportunities to immerse people further. Once that happens, you can go beyond 3D... we'll be delving into interactive film - text your own adventure. In 20 years, when we look back, I think "Avatar" will be looked on as the film that pushed the theatrical experience over the edge, much like how people look at "T2" as the film that really introduced CG effects. Oh yeah, and I also think this is good for indie film.

So, how could the film that purportedly cost half a billion dollars to make be good for indie film? Here's how - it's going to drive open the gap between theatrical and traditional film... and that's good for us indie guys. I think that if the theatrical experience gets driven further and further into being an immersive crowd experience, conventional film will become a whole other market. The theater will become a place where you can see concerts, live sporting events, big blockbuster films, all in a high-tech, 3D environment with THX True HD sound... and then there will be traditional film and traditional film's big market will be home entertainment. Sure, they'll get limited theatrical releases, but their bread and butter will be getting people to watch at home. As that happens, the existing gap between traditional studio films and independent films will shrink. They'll all be lumped together... which will change the way that the studios market and distribute those traditional films. They'll really start to look at how cable networks, video on demand and the internet can act as gateways to the living room. As they open up these new pipelines, they're essentially doing indie film a service... as those are the pipelines that we've been fantasizing about for quite some time. The studios WILL help us... but only after they help themselves.

Anyhow, that's all I've got for this week... as Friday's Christmas. Have a great Christmas everyone, we'll see you next week!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Avatar at The Box Office and the upcoming week in horror

As everyone expected, "Avatar" kicked some serious ass at the box office. It pulled in around $75Million over the weekend, which makes it the highest grossing opening for a movie that's neither a sequel, a remake nor a direct adaptation... and it was also the second highest grossing December opening ever, after "I Am Legend". The untold story here is the fact that the shitty weather on the East Coast kept a lot of people at home, so the box office tally should've been a lot higher - they said that theater attendance was down 50% in the heaviest hit areas. Kinda reminds me of that "Entourage" episode when "Aquaman" opened and there was a power outage. Complete coincedence that "Aquaman" was directed by Cameron, as well? Anyhow, on Friday, I was halfway through a big post about James Cameron, "Avatar" and how I think it'll help indie film, but I never finished it. I'll change a few things and finish that up for Wednesday. As for upcoming horror on the big screen, there's finally a couple of films in sight, "Daybreakers" on January 8th and "Legion" on January 22nd. As for DVD releases, as expected, it's a shitty, shitty week... not due to the quality of the films, but because only four are coming out. However, I want to talk about "District 9", as it comes out this week, as well, so I'll add that to my list. As usual, click on the film's title and you'll be taken to the film's Amazon page, where you can read more about it and/or buy it. Also, you can go to our Youtube Page, where you'll find the trailers.

Although "District 9" had a budget of around $30Million, it was still, in a way, very much an indie film. First up, it was done outside of the studio system which, by definition, makes it an indie film. However, the film was shot in a pseudo-documentary style and starred non-professional actors... and it was a sci-fi film. That's a combo that you ONLY see in indie films... and usually micro-budget films. I feel that films like "District 9" are great for indie film because they attract big audiences and introduce them to a new style of filmmaking... which, in turn, should make audiences more accepting of that no-budget style. In any case, I found the film to be fairly revolutionary and if you haven't seen it, you should. Very entertaining, at least.

Released by Lionsgate, "Shattered Lives" is the biggest budget horror DVD of the week, which isn't saying much because by most other people's standards, it would be called a low-budget film. "Shattered Lives" is another entry into the ever growing horror sub-genre, the kiddie-killer, which has been fairly big this year. From what I can tell, a bunch of creepy clowns start telling this little girl to start killing people. Reviews are generally good and the clowns look great... not sure I like the voice over work they did for them, though. A little overdone. Expect a big twist ending here, too...

"The Devil's Music" is shot like a rockumentary, so there's interviews and 'back stage' footage, as it follows the story of shock-rocker Erika Spawn. Really, this pseudo-documentary style is starting to become a staple for indie film. Why? Because it justifies the medium and the low-budget. Personally, I love it... as the more and more audiences accept it, the more doors will open for indie filmmakers - it's such a versatile filmmaking style. Anyhow, I digress... Erika Spawn gains infamy after her music is linked to real-life murders and atrocities... and the film follows her through a bunch of bizarre, bloody incidents and uncovers the creepy and violent truth behind her.

"A Four Course Meal" is directed by Clay Liford and, quite frankly, it looks awesome. It's a low-budget horror anthology, but it looks like he switches from horror-comedy to straight horror to artsy, black and white horror. If you head over to our Youtube page, we've posted the trailer that he put together. I can't do that any justice with written word. Go check it out, it's about 4 minutes long and definitely worth watching.

There's no trailer or anything for "Kazuo Umezz's Horror Theatre", but I can tell you this... if you're in to Japanese horror or manga, you'll want to check this bad boy out. Kazuo Umess is the god-father of horror manga and six Japanese horror filmmakers got together to adapt his works into this horror anthology...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What I Would Say To Adam Goodman, Production Chief of Paramount

There's been a flurry of activity surrounding the indie and micro-cinema world over the last few days and it all started with Paramount announcing that they're going to get into developing and producing micro-budget films. I recently read a post from Mark Stolaroff, the guy behind "No Budget Film School" and a writer for Film Radar, that lit Paramount up. Here's a link to the post. He's 100% right, for sure... however, as an optimist, I'd like to hear what Paramount's game plan is before I lambaste them. As someone who's been involved in indie and micro-budget filmmaking, when I hear that Paramount wants to get involved, I certainly hope that they do it right and doing it right would definitely involve reaching out to the existing micro-cinema community. In fact, I read through every article I could find, trying to find some sort of lead on who I could contact, and the only name mentioned is Adam Goodman, who happens to be Paramount's production chief. So, I guessed at his email address and sent him an email. Will I get a response? Doubt it. But if he did and he asked for help... after asking for some sort of paid position in guiding this micro-cinema initiative, coupled with some sort of signing bonus, this is what I would tell him...

Micro-cinema is a different animal than indie film. Really, there's less of a jump from indie film to studio film than there is from indie film to micro-cinema. When I talk about "indie film", I'm talking about stuff like "The Wrestler" or "Little Miss Sunshine". When I'm talking about micro-cinema, I'm talking about "Paranormal Activity" or "Blair Witch". I'm not going to touch on studio films here, they're put together by armies of lawyers, marketers, writers and producers. For studio films, the story and how the films are shot pales in comparison to what the overall concept is and how marketable the film will be. For example, "Transformers 2" was one of the biggest grossing films of the year... I'm not sure 'story' was high on their list of concerns. In any case, when dealing with indie films, story becomes extremely important. In fact, the film is ALL story. You'll need an impeccable screenplay and you're going to need great actors to bring characters to life, adding to what's on the page and giving them three dimensions. You'll probably want the director to work closely with the writer, if they're not one in the same, and you'll want an editor who's fully on board with the directors vision. In the end, it's all about story. With micro-cinema, you require an equally impeccable story, but micro-cinema filmmakers have to deal with another element that no other filmmaker has to deal with... and that's the medium itself. Micro-cinema, by its own nature, has a distinct look and feel. It's handheld, it's choppy, it's shot on DV, the lighting sucks, the sets are cramped, locations are never ideal... it's called micro-cinema for a reason. Fix all of those things and you're really not a micro-cinema film anymore. So, you have to justify the medium. "Paranormal Activity" and "Blair Witch" were both shot as documentaries. The handheld HD on "Open Water" gave it that 'real' look, like something you'd see on the National Geographic channel. A recent film that I saw, "The Butcher", was shot as a first person snuff film. The list goes on, but the point is that you need to embrace the look and feel and justify it... try to be something you're not and you're going to fail.

So, I agree with Mark when he says, "Good Luck, Paramount", but I'm cautiously optimistic. There's a lot of good micro-cinema filmmakers out there... and they're not all offspring of current Paramount employees, toiling around in L.A.. They're everywhere. Hopefully Paramount realizes this and reaches out. There would be something very cool about a studio reaching down into the micro-cinema community and asking for assistance in lifting this little sub-genre, that we all love so much, out of obscurity. If Paramount wanted to do it right, that's just what they would do. They would reach into the micro-cinema community, find some filmmakers, give them some budget... but also give them the keys to the kingdom. Keep the budgets under $100K, BUT let the filmmakers use the resources that they take for granted... Treat it like a training ground, work with them. Have your team of lawyers, marketers and developers sit in with them every once in a while and everyone can learn from each other. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, we'll see what happens... at least I know what I'm going to say to Adam Goodman if he gets back to me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Weekend at the Box Office and the Week in Horror DVD's

Well, really... for all intents and purposes, it was an unremarkable weekend at the box office. The Disney animated film, "The Princess and the Frog", won the week by taking in around $25Million, "The Blind Side" dropped to second and "Invictus" debuted in third, taking in just over $9Million. If you were hunting for a story, there's a couple in here, I suppose. One being that "The Princess and the Frog" would actually be considered a success and this is amazing for a couple reasons... one, it's animated traditionally and traditionally animated films haven't fared that well as of late. Two, the main character is black. Pretty cool, really... I'm glad to see it did well. I find it a little odd that "Invictus" had a mediocre opening. After all, it is a Clint Eastwood film with Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. You'd think it would do a bit better than that. Then again, it's a film about rugby that involves Nelson Mandela and South African history... not exactly stuff that's the top of people's minds in North America around Christmas time. For me, the big story is next week, as James Cameron's "Avatar" finally hits the screens... and, me, personally... I'm filled with nervous anticipation. Until then, there's a handful of decent looking horror films coming out on DVD this week. As usual, you can click on the title and go to their Amazon page, where you can read more and/or buy the film AND you can click here to go to our Youtube Page, where you can see all the trailers.

"Trunk" is an indie horror starring Jennifer Day and David Blanchard, directed by Straw Weisman. When I first read the synopsis, I wasn't too enthralled... it looked average, at best. However, the trailer sucked me in and now I'm putting it at the top of my list for the week. It's got a great gritty looking tone, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. The posters shows that off, as well. It's about a girl that's pushed into the trunk of a car by a serial killer and she's forced to listen to him talk about all the ways he will dispose of her... it's a view from the inside, so to speak. I'm looking forward to it.

"Mental Scars" is from Mischa Perez and it's got one of the creepiest looking killers I've seen in a while. However, I feel that he should've been taller... maybe move a bit slower. That could be just me, though. In any case, he goes by the name David Taggart, but his ancient Native American tribe refers to him as "the Protector" - a dark figure in the night who scavenges the grounds in search of human flesh... and he's got his work cut out for him here, when a bunch of investors try to turn a dilapidated old junk yard that sits on top of a Native burial ground into a profitable parking lot.

"Beyond Remedy" is German film, I believe, and it's being released here by R Squared Films. It's about a killer that haunts an old abandoned hospital and when a group of students head in to investigate the phenomenon of fear, they'll be given a specific nightmare each... catered just for them. Meh...

"Red Canyon" is the directorial debut from Giovanni Rodriguez and it's got a decent cast of actors, including the very hot Christine Lakin, "Smallville"'s Justin Hartley, "Boondock Saints"'s Norman Reedus, among others... the trailer started off quite typical, but it looks like the story will take you on a few twists and turns. It's about a brother and sister that return to the badlands of Utah to face the memory of a brutal attack... and they awaken a killing rage in a town where everyone has ties that bind.

Lastly, as Christmas is around the corner... and if regular Christmas films aren't your thing, it looks like they're rereleasing the cult disaster from 1964, "Santa Claus Conquers The Martians". I can't say anything more than it's just unbelievable. Like... really unbelievable. Check out the video review we found of it that we posted on our Youtube page.

Friday, December 11, 2009

STOP THE PRESSES! This just in...

Well, I was going to comment on the how AOL was spun off from AOL Time Warner and then segue into Comcast buying out NBC Universal from GE. I was going to discuss how NBC Universal came to be, how they're a media and entertainment conglomerate powerhouse that was formed in May of 2004 when GE and Vivendi merged them. Then, I was going to get into my thoughts on what this could mean and how it's a bit of a game changer...

Very quickly, I do want to say that the idea that a huge cable and internet provider now has a huge entertainment studio is pretty crazy. I don't think it'll effect Universal and film that much, but it will really effect TV. It'll effect how TV is delivered, how it's consumed and what TV can do. Think about it, this merger could very will be the catalyst that pushes online entertainment past the tipping point. Comcast's "TV anywhere" and NBC Universal's "Hulu" are now, in effect, one. I think this is going to open a lot of doors for indie content makers... and I'm going to have to discuss my thoughts on that later, as I just read something that stopped me dead in my tracks. So, hold the presses...

I just read on Variety that Paramount, the studio that picked up and distributed the micro-cinema smash, "Paranormal Activity", is launching an initiative that will spend around $1Million annually to develop between 10 and 20 micro-cinema films a year... and no individual project will have a budget over $100,000. Here's a link to the article on Variety. Is this it? Is this the point in time when micro-cinema makes the jump to prime time? I only have one question - how do I get in on this?

I'm definitely going to be looking deeper into this and I hope to have more news for you soon!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2010 Sundance "Park City at Midnight" Lineup... and a controversial statement

I'm about to say something that some filmmakers may think is a bit controversial. When you're writing your film... or when you're conceiving a film idea... think of what's succeeded at the film festivals, what's gone on to cult status on DVD and what audiences are watching in the theaters. I'm not saying you should copy them or rip them off, but you should figure out what your audience is watching and cater to them... Think about it, at the end of the day, who's in charge? The filmmakers or the audience? Do you think that filmmakers create audiences OR do audiences create successful films? In reality, it's probably a mix of the two. There are certainly filmmakers out there that can just do whatever they want and audiences will eat it up, but they're few and far between. If you're not one of those filmmakers, I think you need to look at your audience, understand your audience and give your audience what they want. Now, the only problem is, who's your audience and what do they want?

Me, personally, I like to turn to the festivals to see what's going on there... and there's two reasons. One, they're generally the indie freaks and enthusiasts, so if they like it... chance are, that's what other indie freaks and enthusiasts are going to like, as well. Two, they need to cater to an audience, too. They need to put together a festival lineup that people will watch, enjoy and talk about. So, really, they're doing a lot of the afore mentioned work for you. Why do I bring this up? Well, it's because Sundance is around the corner and they've just recently announced their "Park City at Midnight" lineup... which is where films like "Black Dynamite", "The Blair Witch Project" and "Saw" all premiered. Last year, they screened a pile of classics, including "Black Dynamite", "Dead Snow", "Grace" and "The Killing Room"... all of which were cutting edge and awesome, in their own way. So, what's in store for 2010? Let's take a look...

I've been DESPERATELY waiting for "Splice", from Vincenzo Natali, to come out... the trailer is unreal. It's about a couple of young scientists that engineer a new animal species and become the rebel superstars of the scientific world. However, in secret, they introduce human DNA into the experiment and, well, all hell breaks loose.

"Buried", from Rodrigo Cortes, also has had a ton of buzz about it. It's the film where a US contractor working in Iraq, played by Ryan Reynolds, wakes up to find himself buried alive in a coffin, armed with only a lighter and a cell phone.

"Frozen", from Adam Green, is about three skiers that are mistakenly stranded on a chairlift and are forced to make life or death choices that prove more perilous than staying put and freezing to death.

"Les 7 Jours du Talion (7 Days)", from Daniel Grou, is about a doctor that's seeking revenge by kidnapping, torturing and killing the man who murdered his young daughter.

"Tucker & Dale vs. Evil", from Eli Craig, is about a couple of hillbillies that go on vacation at their dilapidated mountain cabin, but their peaceful trip goes horribly awry. Go to Youtube and punch in "Tucker Dale Evil" and watch the trailer. Looks awesome and f'ing hilarious...

Last up, from The Butcher Brothers, is "The Violent Kind", about a group of rowdy young bikers that are partying it up at a secluded farmhouse, when things take a turn for the worse. Tiffany Shepis makes it into this one...

So, what can you pull away from this? Well, it looks like claustrophobia is in, for starters. Also, revenge, bikers and hillbillies are all looking good. However, my guess is that the hillbilly horror may have run it's course, "Tucker & Dale vs Evil" is sort of a lagging indicator of that... if you're interested, a lot of the trailers for these are online. Also, you can read more about the entire Sundance lineup by going to their site - click here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Run Bitch Run" and other new horror out on DVD this week...

I guess everyone that wanted to see "New Moon" already saw "New Moon", as "The Blind Side" overtook it at the box office this weekend, but really only because it slipped the least. Also, the new releases didn't exactly catch on fire... "Brothers" fared best, coming in third and grossing close to $10Million. "Armored" came in sixth with just over $6Million and "Everybody's Fine" came in tenth with just over $4Million. Having said that, those three films were all relatively low-budget for Hollywood, costing somewhere around $20 to $25 Million each. Things heat up a bit next week, as "Invictus" comes out... then, the following week, comes the 800 lbs gorilla, "Avatar". As for the week in horror DVD's, it's a bit slow, I've gotta say... although there are a couple of great looking indie films in here. As usual, you can click on the titles and go to their Amazon page, where you can read more and/or buy them... and you can head over to our Youtube page by clicking here and check out all the trailers.

So, "Run Bitch Run" is my pick of the week and it's written and directed by Joseph Guzman and it's his feature debut, although he's been involved in many other projects in various roles. It's a straight throwback to "I Spit on Your Grave" and like-minded 70's grindhouse fare, but it really amps up the exploitation to eleven... as well as the nudity... and the rape. The trailer is just downright awesome and you have to check it out.

Hey, if you've got Joe Estevez on board, we're on board... and John Sjogren got him for his film, "The Lights", and that means we're going to check it out. It's about four friends who set out on a road trip to catch a better view of a once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower, but end up in a cat and mouse game in backwater Texas.

"InAlienable" involves a complete who's who of ex sci-fi D-listers and has-beens and I can't wait to watch it. Written by, and starring, Walter Koenig (Star Trek's Chekov), it stars his own son Andrew Koenig - Growing Pains' Boner (I never made the connection), Alan Ruck - Ferris Bueller's Day Off's Cameron and a long, long list of people that were involved in Star Trek in various capacities. It's about a MAN who gives birth to an alien baby and, I think, raises it as his son... I swear, you need to watch the trailer. Wow... could be a gem.

Also out are the Spanish semi-horror's "Screams in the Night (Gritos En La Noche)" and "Cuidado Con El Angel". I can not, with a good conscience, recommend these films... but the trailer's were just unreal. If you want to see how NOT to make a trailer, go check out the one for "Cuidado Con El Angel"... it's six minutes long, has spelling mistakes in the subtitles, shows lots of useless, boring shots and the voice over is as bad as you can get.

There's a two disc collector's edition of "Gozu " coming out, so if you're into Takashi Miike or just dig messed up Asian flicks, you'll want to pick this up. I don't think it's Miike's best, but it is good and I'm a big Miike fan.

Lastly, there's a pile of Blu-ray rereleases coming out, including: The Kim Basinger vehicle, "While She Was Out"; the awesome "Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer"; the underrated "The Alphabet Killer"; indie favorite "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon"; as well as "Walled In", "Cyclops", "Red Mist" and "Sands of Oblivion"

Friday, December 4, 2009

Excessive gore, boobie hand grenades and well defined characters. A look at "Samurai Princess"

So, full disclosure on a couple things here... distributors send us films to review and this one, an Asian gore flick called "Samurai Princess", was sent to me from Well Go USA. Two, it's an Asian splatter flick and I f'ing love Asian splatter flicks. You see, usually what happens is, a distributor or filmmaker sends us a film, then we watch it and discuss it with the filmmaker and then you get those interviews that we try to regularly post. However, in the case of Kengo Kaji's "Samurai Princess", that's not going to happen. For starters, he probably lives in Hong Kong and couldn't care less to talk with us... But not only that, I'm just going to assume that there would be a bit of language barrier involved. Anyhow, the film stars a hot Asian girl by the name of Aino Kishi and it's written and directed by the afore mentioned Kengo Kaji, who's the guy who wrote "Tokyo Gore Police". If you're interested, "Tokyo Gore Police" ranks up there with "Machine Girl", as one of the best Asian films of the year... for me, anyhow.

As for "Samurai Princess", it takes place in an alternate version of a feudal Japan where people live together with highly developed mechanical dolls called mecha's... and these mecha's are killing people. Then, after a gang of rapists and murderers, well... rapes and murders a group of girls, a mad scientist goes through the carnage and creates the "Samurai Princess" from all the guts and limbs. He equips her with eleven types of built in weapons, infuses her with the souls of eleven of her fallen sisters and, shortly thereafter, she takes everyone on and kicks some serious ass. Look, the film's awesome... if you're in to excessive, over-the-top gore and can handle crazy Asian plot-lines, you should check it out. Also, I was half drunk while watching it, but it did get me thinking...

I think that it goes without saying that what Asian gore films are doing is world's apart from what North American films are doing, but I was trying to put my finger on defining what that difference is and I think I figured it out... you see, North American films are concept based. By that, I mean, the film sprouts from a generalized idea, like... this is a film based around the fact that the world may end in 2012. This is a film that deals with the gritty underground world of street racing. A hitmans daughter gets kidnapped. There's an alien invasion... this theory, of course, excludes adaptations from books and things like that, but, if you think about it, adapting a book, comic or other intellectual property is, in fact, a "concept" in itself... this film is based on the hit series of "Twilight" books... Regardless, my point is that North American films concentrate on creating a believable world in which characters can exist... and those characters and storylines become secondary. I think the Asians do it the other way... and that 'other way' is worth a look.

If you look at most Asian films, especially the gore films, surprisingly, they're very character based. In "Samurai Princess", for example, she's EXTREMELY well defined as a character... her and her sisters were raped and murdered and she was put back together as a machine, infused with the souls of her sisters, and now she's on a mission to avenge their deaths. Of course, you get the typical flash-backs, etc., as well. Now, the point is that the universe that exists around them is secondary. In fact, at times, it doesn't really make sense... and that's cool. Looking back at some of my favorite Asian films, such as "Ichi the Killer", "Machine Girl", "Tokyo Gore Police", "Suicide Club" and "Old Boy", to name a few... that idea stays true. The characters and how they interact is extremely well defined and that's where the film sprouts from, their surroundings and the world they exist in is secondary... and, sometimes, doesn't make much sense.

I'm not saying that one's better than the other. In fact, I think that a fusion of the two is probably ideal. I love high concept films and films that are based on general ideas, but I think that well defined characters and how they fit in to the plot and sub-plots is extremely important. North American horror and sci-fi filmmakers tend to spend too much time on the concept, whether it be the killer itself, the monster or the world that they're creating, and just throw in a group of teenagers as the characters and create typical storylines around them. So, when you're watching films like "Samurai Princess", enjoy the mutant mecha's, boobie hand grenades and the disgustingly excessive amount of gore... but, while you're watching those blood fountains, take a second to see how well those characters are defined and how they interact with each other, maybe you can take something away.

So, that's all we've got for this week... have a great weekend and we'll see you on Monday!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Interview With Sara Finder, Director of Horrorfest

Okay, you know about Horrorfest, right? The After Dark Horrorfest? 8 Films to Die For? Well, if you don't, you should. The annual film festival has brought a ton of kick-ass horror films to the big screen for American audiences. Films such as: "The Tripper", "Penny Dreadful", "The Gravedancers", "Frontier(s)", "Nightmare Man", "Borderland", "Mulberry Street", "Autopsy", "Perkins' 14" and "Slaughter", to name just a few. Horrorfest debuted in 2006 and it's a one week national film festival that celebrates nothing but horror. In its first year, it became the first film festival to break into the top 10 at the national box office and they've currently distributed over 1.6Million DVD's. To say that they've been a driving force behind indie horror over the last four years is an understatement....

Now, they're back. On January 29th, 2010, After Dark's Horrorfest 4 hits the screens with more of the best in indie horror from around the world. What can you do to prepare? Well, there's a lot of things you can do... however, you can start by reading this exclusive interview that we did with Sara Finder, the Director of Horrorfest. She offers some great insight into how the festival works and offers up some advice for filmmakers...

First off, tell us a bit about yourself, how’d you get in to indie horror and the film scene?

Sara Finder, Director of Horrorfest, I have been marketing Horrorfest since the Horrorfest I DVD release in March 2007. I have been working in the film/tv scene since 1995 holding various positions. Inevitably my jobs led me into the indie horror world & I have never looked back.

Most of readers are well aware of Horrorfest, but for those who aren’t, tell us a bit about Horror fest. When and why did it get started?

After Dark Films, CEO Courtney Solomon had just completed his film American Haunting. Shortly after, Lions Gate sealed a deal with him to distribute his films. His search for the next film to release led him to find several worthy horror films which then developed into the creation of Horrorfest “8 Films to Die For” Horrorfest is a one-week national film festival that celebrates all areas of the horror genre.

Tell us a bit about your selection process. What does it take to get picked up by Horrorfest?

We look for films in various ways, including: film festivals, submissions, referrals etc. The door is always open as to how we get our films. In regards to film selection we do not go out with a set idea of what we want to do. Every year is different, so we keep an open mind about which films will make it into our festival.

As a filmmaker, what could I do to make my film more festival friendly? Is this something that you think filmmakers should even be thinking about?

No, filmmakers should not be concentrating on making it festival friendly. They should be concentrating on bringing their vision to life.

What advice would you give to an up and coming filmmaker in the indie horror genre?

Once your film has been completed, never underestimate the power of publicity. Help spread the word about your film as much as possible.

Are there any success stories of note from Horrorfest?

There are several success stories, many of our directors were offered film projects due to the exposure of their films being released nationwide theatrically by After Dark Films. Last year we produced a few of our own films (Butterfly Effect 3, Slaughter and Perkins 14) and brought back a director who had his film in a previous Horrorfest – Craig Singer director of Dark Ride & Perkins 14. We spotlight the indie filmmakers in ways they would not receive if their films went straight to DVD. This exposure is extremely valuable and can definitely get them to their next film opportunity.

So, as a fan… what can we expect out this Horrorfest this year?

Horrorfest 4 will be an incredible festival. So far we have announced the below & two more films will be announced shortly. Make sure you check out for more information on each of the films including stills & trailers. We are updating the site with new goodies frequently.

Dread, the second in the Book of Blood franchise is a stylish horror/thriller about three college students working on a documentary for school focusing on what others dread in life.

Painful memories arise when Kai Koss goes back to his childhood home after 19 years and inherits his dead mother's house.

Lake Mungo
Sixteen-year-old Alice Palmer drowns while swimming in the dam. After her burial, her grieving family experiences a series of paranormal disturbances in their home

The Graves
Two inseparable sister's visit to a remote mine town turns into a mind-bending fight for survival against menaces both human and supernatural.

Life is wonderful for the people in the quiet, island town of Port Gamble....until a zombie virus outbreak!

The Final
A group of high school outcasts takes revenge on the classmates who tormented torment them.

Tell us about the future of indie horror, where’s it at now and where do you see it going?

Indie horror is alive and thriving. I see the future as one where filmmakers have more opportunities to create & make the films they dream of.

What’s next for you and Horrorfest?

Horrorfest 4 coming this January 29th is keeping me busy and will all the way until its March DVD release. Then we start all over again creating and bringing the fans more horror films they truly want to see on the big screen.

Where can people find out more about Horrorfest and how can they support it?

You can find out about Horrorfest 4 on our site at Register with us & get the Horrorfest news first hand. As well, follow us on our social networks at:, Facebook &