Friday, April 30, 2010

What Would You Sacrifice For Art?

If you've sent me an email and haven't heard back or are wondering why I haven't posted anything since Monday, it's because it's been a hellacious and stressful week. Now, it's not due to anything that bad. I'm not sick, nor are any family members and I'm not teetering on personal disaster. It's all, as a friend of mine says, 'First World Problems'. Problems that the vast majority of the world would gladly take in trade for their current issues. Anyhow, there's been sleepless nights and lots of over thinking... and in that over thinking, I thought about my career path and how I got to where I am. Much like most of you, I have some friends who border on the poverty line... and I have some friends who live in sprawling mansions. Me? I fall somewhere in between. Every once in a while I think, how did one get to one place and one get to the other? Sure, I know some trust fund guys and people from wealthy families who've never had to worry, but I'll leave them out. They're anomalies. The truth is, when I look at my friends who are on the lower end of the spectrum, they almost always have picked a career that's arts related or is based on following some sort of dream. The other end of the spectrum? Stock brokers, finance guys, accountants, lawyers... and for a lot of them, their careers are a means to an end, when can I retire? Yes, I have friends that love jobs that I would consider menial and yes, I have friends who have earned great success in following their dreams, but they're also anomolies. As for me, as usual, I tried to balance risk and reward and went somewhere in between. So, what's the right thing to do? If you could go back in time, what would you do? What would you tell your kids to do?

You've heard it a thousand times. Find out what you love to do and do it, the money will follow. Well, I got news for you, that doesn't always happen. I knew from a very early age that I loved media, movies in particular. However, as I grew up and learned more, I just fell in love with the whole thing. Movies, TV, Marketing, Advertising, all of it. I love the creative aspects and I love the business aspects. Having said that, when I went to film school, I specialized in screenwriting. I LOVE writing a story. I love creating something, pulling something out of nowhere and making it something tangible. So, I figured that I would stick to media jobs where I could explore all the difference facets of the business, while allowing me the time to write on the side. I could learn the business, while pursuing my passion. Now, on paper, I have a good job and have built up enough of a resume to make me an asset to any media company and I still write on the side. However, I can't help but wonder... what if I had given up one of the two? What if I had said, "Fuck it, I'm taking part time jobs and odd jobs and putting every waking hour into writing..." OR "Fuck it, I'm giving up the writing and I'm going to go balls out on my career"? Then where would I be?

Like I said earlier, it's not that I'm in a bad position. I'm not, I'm doing just fine and don't feel sorry for me. Not by any means. My stress and issues are from problems that a lot of people would long to have. However, in times of stress, my brain starts clicking... especially when I try to sleep. Like any artsy guy, I get over-dramatic, I over-analyze and I think in third person... I'm just wondering if any of this stuff has crossed your mind and what do you think? In any case, I apologize for not having any real new indie-horror related material up over the last few days and I can't promise that I'll get back to regular posting next week, but I'll try.... and only because I love it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Kick Ass" and "The Losers" beat up by "Dragon" and a look at the week in horror on DVD

Even though "Kick-Ass" eked out the box office win last week, it fell off a cliff this last weekend and "How To Train Your Dragon" took its top spot back. "The Losers", which I would classify as in a similar sub-genre as "Kick-Ass", was, much like "Kick-Ass", a financial disappointment... Also, it should be duly noted that both of these films were heavily marketed. The second and third spot went to "The Back-Up Plan" and "Date Night", which are both girly, date movies... really. Fourth place went to "The Losers" and "Kick-Ass" was fifth. Now, even though I try to on a consistant basis, I can't speak for the masses... BUT, I thought "Kick-Ass" was pretty good. So, why didn't it do well? I don't really know, my guess is that demographic just doesn't go to the theaters any more, unless it's for something huge. Good kids movies are always profitable for various reasons; kids like to see movies multiple times, they take their parents, a lot of these films are for kids, but cast a wider net... Further, as long as teenagers don't want to talk to each other while they're on their awkward dates, the date movie will continue to pack them in on Friday and Saturday nights. Now, what does that say for "Nightmare on Elm Street", which comes out this Friday? Will horror transcend this action-comedy trap and prove that it's still a viable genre at the box office? I think so. I think it'll take top spot and I think it'll do it easy. Anyhow, the other news is, not only did "Avatar" prove that there's a way to make money on huge budget films, it proved that the DVD/Blu-ray market is more than just alive when it shattered the sales record held by "The Dark Knight". Is that because there's a bigger home entertainment audience these days or is it because "Avatar" is such a juggernaut film? That's a good question and I can't answer it. Since we're on the home entertainment market, let's check out all the horror that's coming out on DVD this week. As usual, you can head over to our Youtube Page and see all the trailers and you can click on the title to be taken to the films Amazon page, where you can read more and/or buy it.

Should I really be giving "Transylmania" any time here? Probably not. If you think entertaining action-comedies do poorly at the box office, how do you think crappy horror-farces do? Piss poor. This is actually the sequel to the 2006 film, "National Lampoon's Dorm Daze 2" and, quite frankly, it sucks... no pun intended. What sucks even worse is the fact that you could probably have made over ten low-budget features on the budget they had for this. Anyhow, next...

"Sympathy" is a low-budget horror film and it absolutely lit up the indie horror film festival circuit. Unfortunately for me, this is the first that I've heard of it and I'll definitely be checking this one out as soon as possible. From what I've read and seen, this looks like one of the films you need to look up to and emulate. There's only a few actors, they keep the locations to a minimum and they take a typical, run of the mill story-line and turn it on its head. Indie horror filmmakers, this your film to check out this week. I don't know what's up with the trailer that I found, but it's the only one I could find.

"Marked" is the first of three films released by Night Light Films this week. The others are "The Fear Chamber" and "Passed the Door of Darkness". All three have notable actors and a bit of budget behind them, plus they all look pretty good. "Marked" is a creepy looking paranormal film, "The Fear Chamber" is about serial killer that steals organs and "Passed the Door of Darkness" looks like it takes the serial killer genre to a whole new level... and they all look fairly gruesome. Now, what's REALLY interesting is how cheap they are. They're $6.99 each. I'm wondering if these guys are testing the waters on new price points, trying to open the market up. In any case, all the films look worth watching and, at that price, it's just a bit more than renting them. Also, I'm going to look further into this Night Light Films business...

"Spirit" looks to be a micro-cinema film and, unfortunately for them, they picked the same title as the big-budget film, "The Spirit". So, I can't find much about it and I don't have the time to do serious digging. Lesson: if you don't have a big budget for marketing and making your film stand out, you probably want to pick a title that stands out a bit more. Something that's easy to find. Try to do a search for "Spirit", then do a search for the afore mentioned "Passed the Door of Darkness" and note the differences.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Horrorfind, Scarefest, HP Lovecraft Film Fest and news from my camp...

A bit of good news from my camp... I officially finished the first draft of my latest script. Now, it's not in any condition to show anyone, but it's done - 109 pages of raw, unpolished screenplay. I'm going to take a few days off from it, then take a few passes through it and fix it up a bit. Then, it'll go off to a few trusted sources and I'll take it from there. When I first conceived of the idea, which was basically a modern take on "Taxi Driver" with a bit of Lovecraftian angle, I had the whole story plotted out in my head... then, you know how it goes. I wrote out the treatment and promptly dumped my Lovecraftian angle. Then, as I'm writing, a few more changes, add a character here, change the ending a bit, move this, alter that and, guess what? The whole thing is completely different than what I originally conceived. I don't know if this happens to you, but, to quote Indiana Jones, "it happens to me all the time". Anyhow, I'm pretty happy with it... at least until I get feedback. Now that I'm taking a short break from that, I can try to tackle my inbox and, quite frankly, that's a far scarier place than anything I can come up with. In keeping with last week, I'm going to pass on some new information from the festival world.

So, Horrorfind Weekend is coming up in September, it takes places over the 3rd-5th in Gettysburg, PA. Horrorfind is a great mix of everything, they have a film festival, they'll have celebrities, events, seminars and parties. According to their site, the best way to describe the weekend is like this, "P.T. Barnum had "The Greatest Show On Earth" with his circus, Horrorfind has "The Spookiest Show On Earth" with the Horrorfind Weekend". If you live on the East Coast, it looks to be a great one to attend. In fact, it's not too far from my parents place... I may have to plan a visit around then.

Scarefest is a ways away, but they've already wrangled up some pretty big stars. The horror & paranormal convention takes place in Lexington, Kentucky from November 5th to 7th and, already, they've got George Romero, Adrienne Barbeau, Amelia Kinkade and Tom Atkins swinging by. The cool thing about this festival is the fact that it's also a paranormal convention, so they have psychics, ghost hunters and demonoligists there, as well. They actually don't do a film festival, so to speak, but they do have screenings... I think.

The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon has a couple things going on. They have the annual festival in October in Portland, Oregon, as well as their first film festival in L.A. in September. I like the fact that they're specialized, all submissions have to be influenced by or related to Lovecraftian themes or stories. Having said that, don't feel shunned... you'd be surprised how far reaching Lovecraftian themes and ideas can go. I mean, he's one of the godfather's of modern horror, after all.

That's it for this week, have a great weekend and we'll see you next week!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Having An Idea Ripped Off... ever happen to you?

I was thinking about all this, this morning and I was just wondering what you guys thought and wanted to know if there's any horror stories out there...

So, I've been reading "The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to)" by Brooke A. Wharton... I just started it, really. The first chapter is called "Why Do My Ideas Always End Up In Someone Elses Script?" - it's all about copyright and protecting yourself. After reading it, it's pretty amazing when you realize the myths that persist around copyright, such as registering your idea with the WGA is an effective copyright (it's not), mailing your script to yourself can prove ownership through the postage dates (it doesn't) or that you can sue someone if they steal your idea (you can't). Truth is, there is absolutely nothing stopping anyone from stealing your idea. This is why you always see movies with similar premises, this is why The Asylum is allowed to make films like "Snakes on a Train", "Pirates of Treasure Island" and "AVH: Alien vs Hunter". You can copyright an original piece of work, but an idea? A premise? A thought? No. There are ways to protect yourself, but an idea is just an idea. Now, having said that...

I was listening to a podcast from The Advertising Show this morning, where they were interviewing a guy named Scott Belsky. He authored a book called "Making Ideas Happen" and founded a company called Behance, which develops products and services for the creative industries. He was talking about how a lot, if not most, of the creative ideas in the world either just die or fizzle out because they're never executed properly. The reason being is that most creative types don't thrive in corporate environments and they hate to actually share their ideas. He says that we need to share, we need to discuss and we need to write these things down and create action steps around them. We need to create an infrastructure that nurtures and develops creativity, not hinders it. So, talk about your ideas, put them out there and find people who want to discuss them. The more you do that, the better your ideas become and the better chance there is that they'll actually be executed.

So, it would seem that these two things are a bit contradictory, right? Well, yeah... one is the left brained, legal thing and the other is the right brained, creative thing. So, what to do? Here's the thing... I've talked with SO many people who won't disclose their ideas and they hold them tight. "This idea is so great, I just can't tell anyone about it". I can't think of the last time that any one of those people actually made anything... The truth is, most people won't steal your idea. The studios only steal successful ideas and if your idea is successful, you're already sipping mai-tai's on the beach, so don't worry about it. However, let's go worst case scenario, you're pitching an idea and you get turned down, only to see your idea on the screen a few years later and the guy you pitched to is involved. Well, there are ways to prevent that from happening (you'll have to read "The Writer Got Screwed"), but it does happen. But, is that a reason to continue to hold your ideas tight? I mean, if you just hold on to all your ideas, they may never get out. If you look at risk vs reward... Personally, I would risk having an idea stolen for the potential reward of furthering my career and having one of my concepts come to fruition. Maybe I haven't been screwed over enough, maybe I think that most people are honest and trustworthy, I don't know. At the end of the day, I'm going to keep throwing my ideas out there in the hopes that one of them catches. If it gets stolen in the meantime, at least I tried.

What do you think? Are there any horror stories out there? Just interested to hear what other think about this...

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Kick Ass" Gets Pummelled and The Upcoming Week in Horror On DVD

So much for that experiment... "Kick Ass" fell flat at the box office, losing out to "How To Train Your Dragon", which has been in the theaters for a few weeks now. Now, as usual, there's a lesson to be learned here. They're calling this sub-genre a superhero-comedy and this particular sub-genre does not do well when it's not geared for a very young audience. The most successful film in this sub-genre and, really, the only successful film out of this sub-genre, is the animated film, "The Incredibles". If you expand the sub-genre, you could make a case for "Watchmen" to be in there, as it's not exactly your typical superhero film, either. It wasn't a comedy, but it did step outside the comfort zone of a standard superhero film. Regardless, it ALSO underperformed. So, what can we learn? Well, for screenwriters... stay away from the superhero genre all together. I certainly wouldn't be pitching it. Audiences haven't been flocking to spoofs, comedies or any other type of sub-genre that steps out of the typical superhero framework and that means that the studios won't exactly be clamoring over each other to get at another one, especially one that's on spec. However, I think this may open up an opportunity if you're in the indie or micro-budget film scene, as I do think we may be ripe for a new take on the superhero genre and it's going to have to come out of the low-budget world. This is an arena where risks can be taken and I'd love to see a low-budget superhero horror or something that really turns the genre upside down. Something can be done here and it's got my brain going... if you're an indie-horror or micro-budget filmmaker that's looking for an idea and this got your wheels spinning, shoot me an email - I've got a few ideas. Anyhow, let's take a look at the horror that's coming out on DVD this week. As usual, head over to our Youtube Page by clicking HERE and you can see all the trailers. You can also click on the film's title and be taken to its page on Amazon, where you can read more and/or buy it.

So, I really liked "The Lovely Bones". It's not a slasher film, it's not gory and it's not really that scary, to be honest. However, there are definitely some thriller-type moments, the film deals with death and purgatory and, well, there's a serial killer in it. The film had a budget of $65Million, which is quite low by Jackson's standards, and it only grossed just over $93Million worldwide, which makes it a bit of a dud, money-wise. Although it gets a bit preachy and sappy, it's worth seeing, especially if you're a fan of Jackson's earlier, non-gory work like "Heavenly Creatures". Also, I have to say, I'm always a sucker for any film that explores the after-life, I just like seeing people's interpretations...

This is the first that I've heard of the film "Homecoming", but it does star Mischa Barton and it was directed by Morgan J. Freeman, not the Morgan Freeman that you're thinking about, Danny Dufraine, but the guy who made "Hurricane Streets" and won three awards at Sundance in 1997 with it. Freeman also did "Desert Blue", some of "Dawson's Creek", "American Psycho 2" and was a producer on "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County". The film is about a former small-town golden boy and his new girlfriend that come home to discover that his high school sweetheart, played by Barton, has an unhealthy obsession with him.

"Fraternity Massacre at Hell Island" is written and directed by Mark Jones and he's doing some interesting stuff here... sure, you have the typical fraternity tom-foolery surrounding a killer clown that's escaped from a mental home, but you also have the main character battling homophobia. Jones has made a few gay-themed projects, including a web-based soap opera called "The Edge of Happiness" and another feature called "Eli Parker Is Getting Married?". To be honest, the inclusion of gay themes in your film almost guarantees you exposure at festivals and in the media, as well as distribution. It's an interesting angle to take, whether or not you're actually gay... may help you get financing, too. Just some thoughts.

"Knife Edge" is a British film that came out in 2009. It's about a successful Wall Street trader that returns to Britain with her family to find that her new home in the countryside contains a disturbing secret. The film is directed by Anthony Hickox and it's a return to horror for him. His first film was "Waxwork" in 1988, then he went on to do such films as "Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth" and "Warlock: The Armegeddon" before getting into more mainstream straight to DVD stuff like a few Dolph Lundgren and Stephen Seagal movies in the late nineties and early two thousands. Welcome back, Anthony, let's hope that Dolph and Stevie don't miss you too much.

"Braincell" is a micro-budget film from Alex Birrell and it's about a wave of violence that spreads due to the strange experiments of Dr. Joseph Cornwall. The film has a great cast of micro-budget and low-budget horror stars, including Raine Brown, Joe Zaso and friend of Dead Harvey, Billy Garberina. Top of my list for the week, for sure.

There are two films from Khavn De La Cruz coming out this week; "Vampire Of Quezon City" and "The Family That Eats Soil". He's done a ton of films, they're all messed up, and he's the outspoken, experimental filmmaker that's considered to be the father of Philippine digital filmmaking. In the late nineties, he owned and managed Oracafe, which was a cultural hub for Philippine writers, musicians, filmmakers and other artists and went on to make twenty three features and over seventy short films. Very interesting guy and I want to check out a bunch of his films now.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Is It Happy Hour Yet? Well, until it is, here's some info on some film festivals...

Summer must be right around the corner... I really want to sit on a patio and drink cold beers imported from Mexico that are served in icy buckets, all the marketing campaigns for all the Hollywood tent pole films are gearing up and my inbox is filled with emails about upcoming indie film festivals. It's a good time to be alive. Then again... I guess it's always a good time to be alive and I'm not really willing to entertain the alternative. Anyhow, as you know, I think that the indie film festival scene is one of the most important facets of the indie horror industry and we all need to submit our films, submit our screenplays, attend the festivals and, generally, do whatever we can to support them. There are major shifts coming in the industry, but the festivals will always be the backbone. So, if you're involved with a festival and I'm not already signed up, please sign me up for your newsletter or send me an email and I'll keep pushing your information out to our readers. I used to dedicate every Friday to talking about the festivals and I'll do it again, as long as the emails keep coming in. So, here's some information on some of our favorites, click on the links to be taken to their homepages...

The FrightNight Film Fest is coming up this July 30 - August 1st and the deadline for submissions is June 21st, still plenty of time! It takes place in Louisville, KY and they give you a full meal deal. You can submit feature length films, short films, screenplays and even trailers. They also do piles of events and have lots of guests. This year, they have the living legend, Roger Corman, plus a "Night of the Creeps" and "Fright Night" reunion and a lot more. Frightnight is a staple in the festival scene and they accept a LOT of films, so... this is definitely one of the festivals to take a closer look at.

Shriekfest is now open for submissions, deadline is May 22 and late deadline is July 10th... hmmm, I wonder if I can have my script done for it? I'll keep you posted on that. Anyhow, they've added two new categories, so check this out... you can submit features, shorts, documentaries, music videos, screenplays and now webisodes and original songs. How about that? This is their 10th year and they do a real bang-up job. It takes place in L.A. and it's one of the ones that you want to be involved with, for sure.

Dark Carnival is also now open for submissions and they accept shorts, features, trailers and NOW, screenplays. To be honest, their festival isn't for a while, it's in November, but they've just passed on that they're now accepting screenplays, so I thought I'd mention them. From what I hear, they're a helluva lot of fun and do a week-long celebration of all things horror, including art exhibits, live entertainment, merchandise vendors, special guests and, of course, the festival itself. It's held in Bloomington, Indiana.

Have a great weekend everyone and enjoy a few buckets of beer!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Short Films and an Interview with Andrew Newall, the Writer/Director of "Someone Else"

Just a few days ago, I had yet another conversation about how hard it is to break into this industry as a creative type... They happen occasionally and people who haven't "broken in" are, obviously, far more prone to them. What's interesting to note is that everyone that I went to film school with that concentrated on something more technical, say... camera or sound, has done very well for themselves. In fact, one of my good friends from film school, the guy who shot all of my films, went on to shoot reality TV. He's great at networking and has subsequently travelled the world as a cameraman and is now directing a reality show for MTV. On the other side of the coin, I know of no huge success stories of people that concentrated on just the creative stuff like writing or directing or filmmaking, as a whole. Is there a moral here? I don't know, but then again, it all depends on your definition of success... and I'd like to think that our stories aren't over yet. In fact, I'd like to think we're still in the first act.

Anyhow, the debate rages on in our little circles, usually after far too much booze. Someone got a nibble from a studio, someone has a literary agent reading their material, someone just finished a script, someone just had their indie film distributed, yet... here we all are. Waiting around for success to come knocking. What's the best route to take? Should you write spec scripts? Should you make low-budget features? Should you make short films? Or should you just take a job in the industry, somewhere, then pursue your filmmaking and writing on the side and wait for the two worlds to merge? If you're looking for an answer, I don't have it. All I can say for sure is, you're not going to succeed if you don't keep trying and nothing happens overnight, so you might as well be doing one of the above mentioned things. Myself, I'm concentrating on writing, but I do think the world of short filmmaking is going to explode and it's going to be a great place to be.

Let me just say that if you've made a short film, I encourage you to send it over to me. Usually it doesn't cost anything, just post it online and I'll watch it. It's for completely selfish reasons, too. Due to how people consume media now and where things are going, I think short films are going to become more and more marketable and are going to be getting more and more respect and I like checking them out. Whether we know it or not, we're watching more and more short films all the time through Youtube, on Facebook and other sites, not to mention all the festivals that are popping up. Anyhow, I just recently saw another great short film, this one called "Someone Else", from Andrew Newall and I spoke with him about the film. Technically, the film was great. It was acted well, shot well and it looked fantastic. However, for me, where it excelled was in how it was all put together. The film really opened this little window into this horrifying world and told a complete story. He could've flushed it out, but he didn't. It was quick, it was concise, I mean it was only four minutes long, but the story you get is so much longer. In fact, I was left thinking about it for a lot longer than four minutes. Anyhow, we had the pleasure of discussing the film with Newall...

So, tell us about your short film, “Someone Else”.

It’s a 4 minute film about a young woman who lives on her own, who frequently finds things have been moved out of place here and there. This has been going on for a while and she’s not sure if she’s done it herself or if there’s someone else somewhere in the house. The young woman is played by Karen Bartke.

If you don’t mind us asking, what was the budget?

The budget was around £200 (approx $300). Most of that went on hiring the office location for a day. Cast and crew all worked for nothing, which was fantastic.

I love horror films that are based around fears and anxiety revolving around what happens when you sleep. Really, it’s when we’re at our most vulnerable. So, where did you get the idea from?

I wanted to write something that would scare an adult, so I thought the best thing to do was ask an adult what scares them and go from there. Psychological fear seemed to be a common theme, and I was looking to do something more psychologically scary than gory anyway - not that I don’t like blood and guts. I make time for zombies and vampires.

The film is only 4 minutes long, but you did a great job of telling a full story. The antagonist doesn’t say a word, yet… with just a few actions, in just a few seconds, I completely get her character. Talk about how you flushed out the idea and developed the characters.

The antagonist (played by Sharon Osdin) never had any lines from the beginning. I felt her scene didn’t need any. The actions would hopefully explain themselves. From the start, I knew it was going to be a real person hidden in the house. A real threat gave it a more eerie feeling. The trickiest part in the character development was making it feasible that another person could be in the house, unnoticed. How did they get in and why were they there? Writing a quick character bio helped, even though her background isn‘t mentioned. She became a stalker taken to the extreme. She monitors the house owner’s actions/reactions, mannerisms, day-to-day patterns, until she decides she wants to take her place. I’m glad it came across as a full story, and not a couple of minutes taken out of a longer film.

Now, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you in to film?

The interest in film was there from a young age, but the idea of being seriously involved just seemed away up in the clouds. I used to work beside Simon Ross, who co-produced Someone Else. He was doing film production at college and I talked to him about it all. He suggested I get a book on screenwriting as a start, so I did, and started pouring out ideas on to scripts. Mark Boggis, the DoP on Someone Else, was a filmmaker friend of his and I helped them out on a couple of their early projects, running for them, storyboarding, etc. I saw every project we worked on was bigger than the last, and in 2002, we wrote and produced Cool Blue, which Mark directed. It got shown at a film festival in Glasgow and I saw my name on the big screen as a writer and producer. That was a buzz, and I thought if I could do it with that one, I could do it again.

As far as influences go, I get most inspiration from reading interviews with writers/filmmakers, and watching their DVD commentaries. That way, I’m hearing about what they do in their own words, whether they’re from here in Scotland or wherever. I like what I’ve seen of Christopher Nolan’s films. His Batman films have been good, but I really liked Insomnia. I think he could direct a good horror. I also like some of Brian De Palma’s work. I’ve seen some smooth camera movements in his films and that’s what I was looking for in Someone Else. In Scotland, the first names that pop into my head would be Peter Mullan and Lynne Ramsay.

Film school: yes or no?

Can’t answer that one as I haven’t been to any but it sounds like a sensible start.

What’s your goals for “Someone Else”? Are you looking to enter into festivals and get some accolades? Are you just using it as a calling card and are looking to open some doors? Talk about why you made the film and what your goals with it are. Have you accomplished those goals?

I made it to enter into Zone Horror’s film competition in 2009. As it happened, we missed the deadline but it was too long anyway (Zone Horror’s film has to be 2 mins max). We had two scripts to choose from: one was a horror comedy and the other was this one. My immediate goal is to get it into festivals, not to go looking for accolades but just to see how it holds its own in competition, and to see if people get scared!

Have you entered it into any festivals? If so, how did it do? Is the festival scene something that you would recommend to other filmmakers? Why or why not?

I’ve submitted it to some but so far, it hasn’t played. It had a screening in Manchester in February. Even if it didn’t play at all, I’ll promote it other ways. Reviews so far have been fairly positive, I’m happy to say. I’d recommend the festival scene because you’re getting it promoted and it’s being seen by an unbiased audience. One thing you’d maybe want to watch for is the entry fees can mount up if you’re targeting the major ones all the time.

Did you learn anything through the process of getting the film made that you could pass on to other filmmakers who are looking to go out and make a short film?

The biggest lesson I learned from the whole production was to be as organised as possible before the shoot.

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

I think we’ve been seeing more psychological horror in film in recent years, as opposed to mainly gore or “jump” scares. Using an example from short films, Kasting was good. It won the 2008 Zone Horror competition and I thought it was very well done, very atmospheric and kept tension building. It made perfect use of their 2 minute rule. El Orfanato (The Orphanage) was a Spanish feature from 2007 which I enjoyed. I liked how it used the children’s game near the end. Where do I see the indie horror scene going? Well zombies and vampires don’t look like they’re going away any time soon…

Where can people check out “Someone Else”?

Nowhere at the minute, unless I send them a DVD copy! Hopefully at a festival soon. After I’ve taken it as far as I can, I’ll upload it to you tube. Cool Blue, our other short, is on there.

What’s next for you?

We’re determined to film another short this year. We have a few scripts we’re looking at. Personally, I’m hungry to do another one. I had a short story I wrote make it to the finals in a competition in the U.S. I think it would make a good short.

Monday, April 12, 2010

News From The Box Office and The Upcoming Week in Horror

So, comedy beat out action at the box office... kind of. Really, there was no clear winner, as "Date Night", "Clash of the Titans" and "How to Train Your Dragon" all came in within a couple million dollars of each other, which is nothing. What's a couple million dollars? However, they did come in, in that order. "Clash" dropped big time and "Dragon" held in there a lot better than people expected. Not much to report, really, so I'll just look to next week. This coming Friday has two big movies coming out, "Death at a Funeral" and "Kick Ass". Let's just say that I won't be seeing "Death at a Funeral" and leave it at that. However, I'm really interested in "Kick Ass", as, to be honest, it's really unique and I want to see how it does. It's based on a comic book of the same name, although the rights to the film version were sold before the first issue was even published. It's about a teenager that wants to become a superhero, then gets caught up in a bigger fight when he meets Big Daddy, a former cop that's training his eleven year old girl to be a ruthless vigilante. I'm interested in it because it really seems to be going for a younger demographic (an eleven year old antagonist, a teenager that wants to be a superhero, a flashy soundtrack), HOWEVER, it's been called "jaw-droppingly violent", "relentlessly violent" and has an eleven year old girl that is more vulgar than a bus load of drunken sailors on their way to a whore house. The budget wasn't that big, by Hollywood standards, only $28Million, so I guess the risk is low for Lionsgate... but it's an interesting angle and I do want to check it out and see how it does. Anyhow, on to the horror that's coming out on DVD this week. As usual, you can go to our Youtube Page and check out the trailers and you can click on the titles, where you can go to their Amazon Page and read more and/or buy the film.

The new Platinum Dunes reinvisioning of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" hits the screens in a couple weeks, so we're getting some rereleases of the original. Quite honestly, I still think of the original as a classic. I grew up on Freddy and I heart him, what can I say? An antagonist with the personality and look of Freddy Krueger that comes after you in your dreams is simply f'ing ingenious. When do people watch horror movies? At night. What do they do after the movie is over? Generally, go to bed. When does Freddy get you? When you go to sleep. From a writing perspective, it's just damned smart. Your nightmares are real, now go to bed. Damn. Anyhow, you can now get the original "A Nightmare on Elm Street" on Blu-ray and get the entire "Nightmare on Elm Street Collection" on regular DVD.

"Creature of Darkness", written and directed by Mark Stouffer, is about four young couples that head off to do some off-roading, but end up being attacked by 'The Catcher', an alien (or human or thing... I don't know) that's "a skilled and brutal hunter of human specimens for alien science". Reviews aren't that great, but it does look like it's got a bit of budget behind it. The trailer's very strange, as it has an official trailer at the front end, but then it cuts to this choppy sequence of events that I can't really figure out. I'm not going to lie to you, I really don't know what's going on here. Next.

Aliens are big this week, as you also get "Infection: The Invasion Begins". The title sounds a bit low-budget, but it's got a decent cast of people that you'd recognize and it's directed by Howard Wexler. This is the first real film of this kind that Wexler's directed, but he's spent a long time in the camera department, both as a cinematographer and camera operator, splitting his time between making straight-to-DVD horror and porn. Granted, it's been mostly horror for the last decade or so... but a career in porn will linger like the smell that filming a porn leaves behind... not that I know. I'm just guessing. Really. Anyhow, the plot is fairly interesting, as it's about a small town that WAS attacked on September 9th, 2009 and the film takes place sixty years later with the last survivor recounting the details of what the government calls 'the start of the modern plague'. Interesting angle, I like that.

"Daisy Chain" comes out of Ireland and it's directed by Aisling Walsh. It was nominated for best achievement in production and best actress for Samantha Morton at the British Independent Film Awards. You've got a classic horror backdrop, where an emotional fragile family moves to a remote village following the tragic death of their baby daughter, which sets up them taking in a disturbed and orphaned autistic girl called Daisy. One thing leads to another and, as you would expect, Daisy is not what she seems... in fact, she may be something far more malevolent.

Around seven years ago, Sean Tretta brought us "The Great American Snuff Film" and it went on to become a bit of a cult classic. Now, we get "The Greatest American Snuff Film", which in long form, is called "The Greatest American Snuff Film - Directors Cut Special Edition". Now, I don't know if this is a remake or reinvisioning of the original, but if you haven't seen the first, it'll be worth picking up. What's great about these films, and what I love about them, is the fact that he's justifying using an extremely low-budget medium. Yes, it looks low-budget. Yes, it's gritty. Yes, anyone could put this together... but that's the point. You want to know how to make a no-budget film marketable? Look at what Tretta's done with these two films.

"Mental Scars" was actually already released... and not that long ago, just back in December. I'm pretty sure what I said then is still valid: "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.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Screenwriting Resources and My Public Announcement

I'm halfway through writing a screenplay. Well, maybe more like three quarters, I don't know. It's tough to say. The whole thing's written out (except for the second half of the third act, but I know where I'm going there) and I just keep going over it and over it and over it... I've been working on it for a while now, at least six months. Truth be told, if I could do nothing but write all day long, not only would I be done now, I would've been done months ago. Instead, I try to get, on average, an hour a day in. It's not a lot and sometimes that hour accomplishes nothing... and sometimes I don't even get that hour in. Balancing life and a full time job with a passion that I'd like monetize isn't exactly as easy as pie. Then again, I can't make pies. Regardless, the end is near. I started writing this script after I came up with the goal of writing at least one script per year until... something happens. Maybe until one of them sells, there's a big career change in my life or something to that effect. It sounded easy when I came up with it. My main problem is that, usually, I love working on multiple projects at once, but when it comes to writing... I can't do it. It's like trying to make a baby with nine women over one month, as opposed to making a baby with one woman over nine months. Sounds good on paper, but it's not going to work. So, when it comes to writing, I uni-task, no multi-tasking. When other ideas pop in my head, I write them down and put them in a folder on my desktop and forget about them. Then, when I'm done with this one, I'll go through them all, pick another idea and waste a year of my life on that. So, why am I telling you all this? Two reasons. One, I thought I'd share a couple of good resources that I've unearthed and, two, I read somewhere that when you announce your goals publicly, they have a better chance of coming true. There you go, a script a year... I said it.

My new favorite resource for screenwriting is Pilar Alessandra's "On The Page". Pilar is a teacher and lecturer, as well as a consultant. Her students and clients have sold to Disney, DreamWorks, Warner Bros and Sony and have won lots of prestigious awards. She worked her way up through being a script reader and later a Senior Story Analyst for various studios before getting into the whole teaching game. She started "On The Page" in 2001, started up a writers studio in 2004, created an instructional DVD and presents a weekly podcast. Now, you'd think that with a bio like that, she'd be about as entertaining as an insurance seminar, but she's great. She has guests on all the time and their banter makes you feel like you're in the scene and it makes the whole screenwriting process seem very doable. I highly recommend subscribing to her podcast. Go to her site, and read up on her.

The other resource that I recently picked up is a book by Brooke A. Wharton called "The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to)". I'm a film school grad, I've taken advanced screenwriting courses and I've read dozens of screenwriting books and countless scripts. However, I've never read a book about the actual business practices of writing for the entertainment industry and that's exactly what this book is. Most books are about HOW to write, this is about what to do AFTER you've written. If you're an aspiring writer, I highly recommend it. Here's a LINK to the books page on Amazon.

So, that's all I have for this week and I'm hoping to actually get a couple of hours of writing in today. I think I have the time. Anyone else out there currently working on a project? Throw something in the comments section. Remember, if you announce it publicly, it has a better chance of coming true. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Getting Your Film Distributed - A Talk With Trevor Hirsch of Seminal Films

Hey, I know you... you're that indie filmmaker with that idea in your head and you want to get it out, right? Yeah, right now, you're wondering how in God's name you're going to get this thing done. You've come to the realization that there's going to be lot of hurdles between the point where you were drunk at the bar and an idea emerged and the point where you're going to see that idea in a box on a shelf at Blockbuster. Well, look, most hurdles pose questions that are easily answered: where do I get equipment, crew and actors? If you can't answer those questions, just go back to the bar and keep thinking or... drinking, whatever makes you happier. However, some questions aren't that easily answered: how am I going to afford this and how do I get it distributed when it's finished? Well, I can't help with financing, but I can help with distribution... sort of.

In our ongoing quest to bring you as much knowledge about the indie film world as possible, we've been talking with indie filmmakers, producers and distributors and sharing what they've learned with you. Today, we have a great interview with Trevor Hirsch of Seminal Films and if you're the guy that I was talking with in the first paragraph, you're going to want to give this a read. Seminal Films is LA based and they specialize in indie film acquisition and production and they have an exclusive DVD output distribution agreement with Entertainment 1, the world's largest indie CD/DVD distributor. They distribute various genres of films, but horror is one of their key genres, having distributed such indie horror films as "Ninjas vs Zombies", "Clownstrophobia" and "Mutant Vampire Zombies From the Hood". Trevor offers up a great interview and if you're interested in the distribution process from the eyes of the distributor or you're interested in making a film that's more easily acquired, you should give this a read.

Tell us about Seminal Films. How long have you guys been around and what do you guys do?

Seminal Films started in 2009. We are primarily an acquirer and distributor of independent films, with our aim being to maximize viewership of moving pictures and profits for filmmakers. Mathius Mack Gertz, the Vice President of Acquisitions, handles the majority of our film acquisitions and sees them through the entire process from screening the film all the way up until the film’s release. We have a strategic DVD output arrangement with the Entertainment 1, the world’s largest independent DVD/CD distributor in the world. Our films are subsequently released on DVD to a number of different media carrying outlets, and are available on Video On Demand through various internet and television outlets as well.

How about yourself? What got you into film and how did you end up with Seminal Films?

I personally just recently joined Seminal in February after the company relocated from Edmonton Alberta, Canada to its new offices located on The Culver Studios Lot in Culver City, California. I previously attended the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Film and Media Studies Program and worked in various production and development roles within the film and television industries. I now do the marketing and manage Seminal's various site - etc..

What made me want to work within the industry is film’s unique ability to inform, inspire, and entertain in ways no other medium is able to.

Mathius Gertz became Vice President of Acquisitions in 2009. A graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Mathius has produced a number of films and worked in nearly all aspects of the film industry.

Seminal distributes a wide variety of films, including: documentaries, comedies, dramas, family films, reality and, of course, thriller/horrors. From a financial standpoint, which films do best?

Much is dependent on the quality and marketing of the film. I wouldn't say one genre is vastly different from any other, however the horror genre has produced films for us that meet and in some instances exceed our expectations.

What are the different ways that Seminal acquires films?

We acquire directly from film makers, through sales agents, and in concert with other distributors.

When you're acquiring a film, what qualities are you looking for?

Quality, marketability, Theatrical distribution, a film’s success or entry into various festivals, and recognizable talent.

Briefly take us through the distribution process. You just acquired a low-budget horror, now what?

Our distribution is a hybrid. We collaborate with the film maker to design art work. They will send us screeners to send out to reviewers as well as buyers at Walmart, Blockbuster, Amazon, Netflix, etc.

We will design sell sheets to go in books that are sent to retailers and we will customize marketing to take advantage of psyco-specific niches in the market place. In addition, an on-line campaign will be drawn up and implemented by our IT department. If the film maker is inclined, we will help them do a limited theatrical release as well.

I'd assume that the process of distributing a film differs from genre to genre, talk about the differences in distributing, say... a drama versus a horror?

There are definitely differences in distributing different genres. The horror genre is unique and different from many genres in that it has such a cult following and there is a genuine fanfare amongst those in the horror community. With a drama there is usually more of a focus on who is in the movie, if the acting is solid, if the story comes together, and whether it has had success on the festival circuit. With a horror film, it is more about the film’s take on certain aspects of the horror genre, the aesthetics, its originality, and whether it produces an excitement amongst viewers.

What are some common mistakes that filmmakers make and, if you could pass one piece of advice on to filmmakers, what would that be?

If you want to make a film that is a passion project, don't worry about the distribution. Just make it, do the festival circuit and move on.

However, if your goal is to fill a niche in the marketplace, you would be advised to get advice from a number of people in the industry as to what the market needs. Then write your script and make your film with that in mind. Most people in this business will give nearly anyone fifteen minutes on the phone to help them in their career. You just have to have the confidence to ask. My one piece of advice is that once you find what the market needs and you have the script to fill it and you are putting a budget and funding together, make sure you budget for one or two actors with some marketing potential. Even if you have to raise the budget a little or knock something else out. Retailers want names that people know. It is a whole lot easier to sell a good horror film with Gary Busey in than without. Also, remember that this is a collaborative medium. Don't do everything. The film will probably turn out better if someone other than you shoots it and edits it. Lastly, the best kind of film to do for the home entertainment market is one that is evergreen. family films, Christmas movies and horror films with plots that incorporate Halloween or Valentines Day.

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

I think the state of indie horror is in a great position right now, thanks largely in part to the internet, social networking, and word of mouth within the horror community. People have a fascination and dedication to the horror community that is unlike that of any other genre. What is great for indie horror filmmakers is that it is possible to create great horror films on a limited budget if you are skilled in the filmmaking process and have a great idea.

Talk about the future of Seminal Films, what's your plan over the next few years?

Short term we want to distribute about fifty films a year for the next two or three years and then start making some of our own. We also want very much to put money in our filmmakers pockets. We believe that a hybrid distribution model like ours is the way of the future for indie film, Combining the best of traditional and self distribution models.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Titans Clash in More Ways Than One and The Week in Horror

Well, they told us that the Titans would clash this weekend and they did... in more ways than one. "Clash of the Titans" absolutely dominated the weekend with an estimated take of $61.4Million, which shatters the previous Easter opening weekend record, held by, of all films, "Scary Movie 4". The other story of clashing titans is about how three monster films battled it out to get on those coveted 3D screens. According to Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros, "the more 3D screens you have, the better off you are" and "Clash" managed to get on 1,810 of them, which was fewer than "How to Train Your Dragon", but that's because "Dragon" already had exhibitors locked in and they couldn't switch over. "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland" were both on far more screens because they were the only games in town at the time. So, why is this a big fight? Well, let's do some math... 3D screens accounted for 52% of the gross, yet only 1,810 of the 6,700 screens were 3D. I'll spare you the math on this, but that means that the 3D premium added around $10Million to the bottom line. Do you think numbers like that will influence the studios? Damn straight, but the problem now turns to convincing the exhibitors to convert their 2D screens into digital 3D screens and THAT, my friends, requires a lot of money. Money that neither side thinks they should pay for. It's definitely an interesting time for the big boys and it should be fun to watch it all play out... Anyhow, let's check in on us little guys and take a look at the horror that's coming out on DVD this week. As usual, you can see all the trailers on our Youtube Page by clicking HERE or you can click on the title and be taken to it's page on Amazon.

"Blood Ties" is (or was) a Canadian TV show based on the "Blood Books" by Tanya Huff. It premiered in 2007 and the series revolves around Christina Cox, a former cop, turned detective. She teams up with a 480 year old vampire and their mutual attraction is complicated by her relationship with her former partner, who happens to be her lover. It was a critically acclaimed series, there's a big cult following behind it and the Canadian production company wants to bring the show back, but they're having trouble raising the financing... and now it's been dead for a couple years. My guess, it's done. However, you can now get "Blood Ties: The Complete Season One" on DVD and Blu-Ray.

"Taxidermia" came out in 2006 and it's a Hungarian film by Gyorgy Palfi - and I'm missing more than a few accents and squiggly lines over letters in his name there. It's a surreal film that revolves around dark comedy and horror and, most notably... body horror. The film comes highly recommended and apparently it's one of those films that just has to be seen to be believed. So, trying to explain it probably wouldn't do it any justice. Check out the trailer and if it seems like it's your kind of thing, it probably is.

"Sensored" comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week and it stars the sci-fi legend, Robert Picardo... of "Star Trek" and "Stargate" fame. "Sensored" did the festival circuit and had a lot of buzz. Of note, the film was shot entirely on the 'Red One' ultra-high definition digital camera. I'm not sure if it was the first film to do that, but it was definitely one of the first indie horror films to do that. The film revolves around Picardo, who plays a children's book author that's tainted by his own childhood evils - murderous fixation, delusions and terrifying rampages ensue.

"Autumn" is a low-budget indie zombie film that's based on a book series of the same name, by David Moody. The book was published freely on-line, back in 2005, and spawned an entire series. Reviews of the film are somewhat mixed, but the trailer looks great and fans of the book series are very happy with the film.

"Tony", the first feature from Gerard Johnson, looks awfully creepy. It's a gritty depiction of a solitary serial killer that attempts to socialize with the outside world, but all his would-be acquaintances end up meeting their demise. Reviews are great and it looks like a twisted and entertaining film. It's definitely topping my list of films to check out this week.

"Blood Red Moon" is a micro-budget film from Scott Patrick and he seems to draw heavily on "Twilight"... and I say that with a grain of salt - check out the trailer. Megan's new in town and she falls in love with a vampire, Victor. There's a rash of murders in town, Victor is suspected and Megan's the only one who believes that he's not responsible.

"Blood Forest" is another micro-budget film, this one from Bill Barton. It's about the last remaining "Brave" of the Arkansas Cave Tribe and Bigfoot. Yeah, you read that right. The "Brave" think of old Bigfoot as a protector and the residents think that Bigfoot is killing people and, now, a drunk reporter from the UK is in town to get the scoop. That's what I get from the trailer and what I could find online, anyhow...

I couldn't find the trailer for "Malpractice" or much else, for that matter, but I love the premise... college students go to their internship at a mental hospital, only to discover that the inmates have escaped and have been running the asylum. Lots of potential with that idea, I hope they do it right.