Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just Out - Paranormal Activity 2 Trailer, Plus Some Festival Updates

Let's just start this post off with the hottest trailer that's been uploaded in the last 24 hours... the trailer for "Paranormal Activity 2". Be among the first to check it out...

I have no idea of what direction they're going with the actual film, but I really like the way they've kept with the 'found footage' theme for the trailer by incorporating what looks to be surveilance camera footage. I was ready to get all negative, but I do like what they did... having said that, let's see how the movie turns out.

Anyhow, to the point of today's post, what's getting embarassing is how poorly I've maintained the film festival section of the site. I'm always preaching about how important the festivals are, yet I don't update that portion of the site. Ironic, maybe. Embarassing, definitely. So, each week, for a while, I'm going to pick a festival, talk a bit about it, then update their listing in the festivals section. Today, I'll do two, Shriekfest and Fright Night Film Fest.

It's the final call for entries for the 10th Annual Shriekfest Film Festival, which is being held in L.A. from September 30th - October 3rd. Shriekfest will accept shorts, features, screenplays and more, just head over to their site to read all about it. The main goal of Shriekfest is to help support indie film, indie filmmakers and screenwriters in the horror/thriller/scifi/fantasy genres and, for that, we salute them.

This is the 6th Annual Fright Night Film Fest, which takes place in Louisville, KY. They're doing some big things and have some great guests, including: Roger Corman, Tyler Mane, a Fright Night reunion, a Dawn of the Dead reunion, Night of the Creeps... unfortunately, the deadline for film submissions has passed, but they doesn't mean you can't attend. Also, we're going to be doing an interview with Ken Daniels, the director of the fest, soon. So, look out for that.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Box Office Review and a Good Week for Horror on DVD

Wow, I am in no condition to be operating my computer, let alone be writing this post... I was out of town for a gong-show wedding where I drank like a sailor on his last weekend before heading out to sea, then flew back home late last night. Flight was delayed three times, finally got home at 4AM... alarm went off at 7:30. Brutal. Anyhow, I'm ridiculously tired and terribly hung-over, but I'm going to try to power my way through this.

The box office was, once again, dominated by "Toy Story 3", but that's no real surprise. "Grown Ups", the ensemble Adam Sandler flick, did as expected and came in second. Third was "Knight & Day" and the press is all saying that the Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz film was a bit of a let down. However, I heard it was tracking really badly. So, the fact that it pulled in over $20Million isn't that bad as far as I'm concerned... having said that, I don't know the budget off hand. Further, I was talking with a few people that saw it and they said it was actually a pretty good movie. Lastly, just to add insult to injury, "Jonah Hex" had the worst week to week decline, falling 70% to just over $1.5Million - poor "Jonah Hex". As for upcoming films, we all know that "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" has all the Twi-hards going crazy and it's going to dominate the next few weeks. However, I'm more interested to see how "The Last Airbender" does, as I really can't believe that studios still give M Night Shymalan money to make movies. Horror-wise, just around the corner, we've got "Predators" and "[Rec]2" coming out on July 9th. "Predators", the Robert Rodriguez reboot of the "Predator" franchise, is opening wide, "[Rec]2", not so much. Anyhow, on to the horror that's coming out on DVD. As usual, check out our Youtube Page to see the trailers and you can click on the titles to be taken to the films page on Amazon where you can read more and/or buy it.

Okay, (Ted's note), I've gotta whip through these because I'm fading fast and have way too much to do today, so I apologize for anything that appears cryptic or doesn't make sense...

The big release of the week is the remake of the Romero classic, "The Crazies". Quite frankly, I thought it did the original justice. Especially considering that most people don't consider the original to be a classic. They did change a few aspects from the original, but it was really just to update it a bit. It's worth checking out, for sure.

"The Eclipse" is a dramatic horror film from Conor McPherson, who's adapting a stage play that he did. It's dramatic, it's slow, but it is a horror. If you're used to more visceral horror, this may be a bit too slow for you.

"Versus" is actually about ten years old, but it's getting a rerelease on Blu-ray this week and it's kind of a kick ass Tokyo Shock film. Good versus evil, kung-fu, blood, guts... it's worth picking up if you haven't seen it.

If you like your vampire films mixed in with a little sexy-times, "Temptation" is for you. I haven't seen it, but it looks like you can expect it to be a bit heavy on the lesbians and nudity, light on the gore. Not that there's anything wrong with that... nothing at all.

"A Nocturne: Night of the Vampire" is an indie horror out of Australia, being distributed by Troma over here. I haven't seen it, but it comes from the Australian underground and it's a so-called 'goth original'. It's getting great reviews and, apparently, is shot really well and has a great look and feel for something that's shot on DV.

Lastly, I have to mention two awesome rereleases: "Teenage Hitchhikers" and "Uncle Sam" on Blu-ray. You know, I'm thinking that "Uncle Sam" may be ripe for a remake... I'd like to see a reboot of that. "Uncle Sam wants YOU... dead".

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Interview with Brendan O'Neill, recent winner of the "2 Weeks 2 Make It" competition

Just as I'm getting back into the groove... I'm heading out of town again. I'm only gone for the weekend, I have an out of town wedding to go to, but it does mean that I won't be posting anything on Friday. Come Monday, things should be all back to normal... at least for a while. In any case, we have a great interview for you here, today. So great that you won't even want me to post anything on Friday, you'll prefer to just read this again... or finish reading it, as it's quite long. We're talking with Brendan O'Neill today, whose Stickleback Productions team have just won the 2 Weeks 2 Make It competition for his horror influenced music video for the band Wise Blood. We've spoken with O'Neill before, when he was in pre-pre-pre-production on a film called "Hell Hall", and we'll see where he's at with that, as well. Now, let's take a look at the history of music videos...

Music videos and film are, obviously, closely linked. I mean, really... a music video IS a short film. However, the music video doesn't have quite as long a history. There was always music added to silent film AND there were feature length musical films, but music videos, as we know them, really came about as a way to promote and market musicians and they really didn't come into their own until the 80's. That was when MTV based their entire format around the medium. Now, the two worlds are virtually on top of each other and you can probably thank Michael Jackson for that. Seriously. The most successful and influential music video of all time is "Thriller", odd that it's based in horror, huh? Anyhow, it was 14 minutes long and actually told a story. From then on, the medium burst out in different directions and became a creative stomping ground for some of today's great directors. Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze and David Fincher ALL got their starts by doing music videos... and there's many more. Today, Lady Gaga's "Telephone", a 10 minute short film, has been viewed billions of times and did it all online. Any way you slice it, music videos aren't a bad place to be. So, now... check out the video, then read what Brendan O'Neill has to say...

Wise Blood "TV Dinner Lady" by Stickleback Productions from Brendan O'Neill on Vimeo.

Tell us about the music video you just made. It just won the 2 Weeks 2 Make It competition, what’s that all about?

The 2 Weeks 2 Make It competition originated in Sheffield, England. It was the brainchild of native New Yorker Rob Speranza of the South Yorkshire Filmmakers Network You can learn more about it here.

According to the blurb "its a music video competition pairing randomly drawn teams of film makers and musical artists who then have exactly 2 weeks to shoot and edit a music video from scratch! The aim is to have fun and encourage teamwork, initiative and creativity whilst working to a challenging fixed deadline."

This was the inaugural Birmingham edition of the competition so 13 film crews from all over the West Midlands were put into a hat and drawn against 13 local bands. We then had just 2 weeks to make a great video.

This effectively means that you prep immediately with a view to shooting the next weekend and then do all your post production and grading etc with the week remaining

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

Originally there was no budget but I managed to persuade the band to pay for things like lens hire and also one location. I rang around realtors in Birmingham trying to find a swanky apartment to film in but none of them were interested in helping so at the last minute I had to beg and bribe a friend who fortunately lives in exactly the kind of creaky, old house a serial killer might live in to help out.

There was also a lot of incidental expenses like petrol, offal, gallons of home-made fake blood, boiler suits and bacon sandwiches - which are essential to British film making etc. Sundries really!

Mostly though we got things for free through volunteer locations, borrowed props, equipment and creativity. I have networked relentlessly for the last few years so I was able to pull in a lot of favours because people knew who I was and what I was at.

All the surgical instruments and instrument table were found by Wise Blood the band including the really cool bone saw that the killer handles. I provided the whetstone from my carpenter's tool bag and the meat cleaver from my kitchen.

The DSLR cameras - a Canon 5D Mk III and a Canon 7D were sourced by James Stoneley the Director/DoP. I borrowed the dolly and jib from another friend and other bits and pieces of kit from local production houses.

As for the other locations - the Bar Bluu location people were great and just said "cool go ahead". Likewise the band scenes were filmed at the Friction Arts warehouse - an internationally renowned but local arts organisation with whom I am friendly.

The actors were sourced from some of my contacts but also via free casting calls on Star Now and the UK version of Casting Call Pro. These calls were very useful as a lot of people applied even though it was emphasized that it was a zero budget, unexpensed shoot.

I was really lucky that Jonny Lee-Kemp who played the serial killer really fitted my request for someone who had something of an Antony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) or Christian Bale (American Psycho) look and sensibility. He drove all the way up from south of London to be on set for 8 am and we didn't let him go until 02.30 the next morning so he really was the star of the show in more ways than one!.

I had worked with Laura Edghill - the blonde actress before on a small piece I had done as a return favour to help another actress who was the lead on my first film Black Widow - a 48 hour competition zero budget film shot in Birmingham,UK and Madrid, Spain!

Steve Rylands who appears very briefly as a barman in the background has been in all 4 of my films now which can all be seen on the Stickleback Productions Vimeo or YouTube channels.

Coincidentally both him and Dave Martin from the band both appeared in the locally made, medieval battle re-enactment comedy Feintheart. Steve as an actor in the bookshop scene and Dave as a Viking swordsman.

Talk about some of the differences and similarities between making a music video and, say, a short film.

I think one of the main issue was syncing what was going on in the song with what was going on on screen - something you don't have to worry about in a short. We used Pluraleyes to help sync the action and the song which took a lot of pain out of the process.

Other issues were things like working with a band who although performers aren't actors and trying to get the best on screen performance and shots from them. We were lucky as we drew a really good, co-operative band who had a great song that lent itself to a fairly straightforward narrative.

It was particularly good for us as filmmakers in that it allowed us to make a mini horror film within a promo. Although we had to be very careful to stay within competition rules by just hinting at violence rather than actually seeing any.

The band also made great runners as they were used to electrics and cables and humping stuff around. A lot of crossover generic skills - roadies and runners aren't so different.

Great gore in the music video, what did you use? Talk about all the effects.

Just red and blue food colouring thickened with chocolate syrup for the blood made to internet recipes by Hannah Raison - our very gifted make-up artist. The selection of guts were real though and were sourced from a butcher at the local Bull Ring indoor markets here in central Birmingham.

Ashley Allen who edited achieved the really brilliant jerky "Talking Head" style effect which emphasixed the Jeckyll and Hyde nature of the killer using dropped frames, masks and other effects in FCP.

Tell us a bit about the indie music video scene. Is this something that other indie filmmakers should be looking at getting involved in?

There are definite sychronicities. I think bands these days simply have to have some sort of video of their singles and songs on the internet if they want to get noticed.

Because digital distribution has become so easy - its a very crowded market place if you're trying to sell your digital wares whatever they might be. The better quality video a band can put in front of their internet audience the more chance it has of breaking and going viral with the subsequent benefit that has for profile and download sales plus things like merchandising and revenue from live gigs.

Bands that want quality should get in touch with their local indie filmmakers and work out a budget and/or a deal that benefits both parties. This could mean all sorts of things. For instance the band could agree to do a fundraising gig to help finance a short for the filmmakers in exchange for a promo.

Likewise the band and filmmakers could agree to share revenue on the promo from itunes or Tunecore exposure. There are lots of creative ways that you can help each other out by giving in-kind assistance that creates win-win results.

Has winning the competition opened any doors for you?

Its still early days but having won the competition has certainly raised my stock and put me on certain peoples radar.

I'm currently talking to a local band about doing a video for a new song of theirs in which I hope to take a further step in the learning process by using compositing and CGI effects. This experience will also help prepare me for what will be needed on Hell Hall.

As prizewinners Stickleback Productions also get to make another budgeted video for a band called the Special K's who are a dance-pop outfit from Brighton.

The promo is also an invaluable marketing tool for all concerned. As you know my l main aim is to write and direct feature length films but any promos, corporates or event filming that increases my skills that I can get in the meantime is invaluable - not to mention the networking opportunities that these things provide.

Theory is great but you only really learn about film making by getting out on set with whatever equipment and resources you can get and making a film.

In some respects filmmakers are living in a golden age as social networking makes it very easy to find actors and crew to work with. The key thing then is to build good relationships with good people based on honesty, integrity and mutual respect for each others skills, abilities and needs.

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

My influences would be summed up as World and Indie cinema though I love US directors like Scorcese and Tarantino plus homegrown ones like the UK's Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and Neil Jordan over in Ireland. I also love a lot of the new directors coming out of Spanish and Latin American cinema.

I've always been a film buff since high school and have always been a poet and writer. Poetry has actually been a very good grounding for moving into film making as they're both all about sequencing images in a very nuanced way.

Until relatively recently it was expensive to make a film. The accessibility caused by the drop in price of and accessibility to digital video and editing equipment has changed everything. Now writers like me don't have to wait for someone to pick up their script.

Just find some actors and crew, throw a fundraiser to get some cash to feed people and get out there and make a film. I'm always totally upfront with people about there being no real budget but find that people will still work with you if it its a good project and helps build their reel or profile as cast or crew.

Hopefully having no budget wont always be the case but its definitely a good discipline creatively to make something from nothing and at the very least shows possible investors or funders how much you can do with very little.

Last we talked, you were working on an idea, “Hell Hall”. Where’s that at now?

Like most writers I have various ideas on the go. Hell Hall is on the back burner at the moment as its quite a resource hungry one to do though it will get done eventually as not many filmmakers have Aunts who live in creaky old stateley homes. I'm very fortunate in having access to that one great location!

As an Indie producer/director I have to be conscious about what is actually achievable with the resource you have i.e. its much better to make a 30 minute quality short than a 90 minute feature that sucks.

With that in mind I'm hoping to do the UK's first Mumblecore style film - a quirky off-kilter Rom-Com called Swings and Roundabouts which will be set against the back drop of Birmingham's very vibrant music scene. Led Zep, Duran Duran, Moody Blues, Dexy's, UB40 - we have a very rich musical heritage here!

Film school: yes or no?

No. I have had some screenwriting tuition but have basically taught myself through a combination of bespoke courses and self tuition. The other thing is just to gather good people around you and trust them to do what they do well.

My view is that everything you need to know or learn is out there for free on the internet so whats stopping you?

I've had a lot of project and people management experience in industry and education so that plus the writing/creativity is my strength plus being able to pick up new things quickly which I learned from being a technical writer.

Where can people check out the music video?

Best quality is on Vimeo here. but you can also watch it on YouTube here.

What’s next for you?

Well I have just been approached by a very well connected businessman who wants to help me find money to make films. Over the next month or so I will try and ramp up quickly to make Swings and Roundabouts but if that's not feasible then I will go with Trouble At My Door - a half hour dysfunctional family wake drama that is written, cast and locationed and ready to go.

Always have a plan B.

After that and come September I'll be back down to writing my play for the Royal Court Theatre in London which is yet another possible outlet for my writing.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Box Office, a handful of new DVDs and an explanation

You may be wondering... exactly where has Dead Harvey been over the last week? Well, the brain trust was down in L.A. We were meeting people, discussing projects and, most importantly, downing frothy beverages every chance we could get. Now, we're back and with renewed vigor... and we'll see how long that lasts. So, first off, let's get to the box office.

The big film of the weekend was "Toy Story 3" and it extends Pixar's track record to 11 straight blockbusters. Not only are their films good and prove that wide audiences respond to stories that are universal, simple and well told, they work well with brands, sponsors and advertisers. They've got a system down. So, how can that style of success carry over to horror for you guys? Well, think universal storylines, things that scare everyone. Think about stories that aren't complex and involved. Truly, you can look at Pixar's reasons for success and show how that same process has worked for many of the best horror franchises. "Nightmare on Elm Street" is about nightmares coming to life. "Friday the 13th" is about that unknown in the woods. The list could go on and on... The other wide release was "Jonah Hex" and it was an unmitigated disaster. It wrangled a mere $5.1Million and ranked 8th. It was one of the worst openings on record for a Western, as well as one of the worst openings on record for a comic book adaptation. There's been a lot of rumors and talk about why it was so bad, but the fact remains... it bombed. I still haven't seen it, but now I sort of want to, just because it was so bad. Now, let's see what's coming out on DVD this week. As usual, you can go to our Youtube Page to see the trailers and you can click on the title to go to the Amazon Page.

You know it's a slow week in horror when the PG-13, SyFy original, "Fireball", is the first film I talk about... and I can't talk about much more than the plot. It's about a former football star, turned convict, who discovers that he has the ability to create fire by mere thought alone.

The Roger Corman classic, "Death Race 2000", is being rereleased on both Blu-ray and regular DVD. The film came out in 1975 and was directed by Paul Bartel and starred David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. I'm sure you know the plot, as it was recently remade, but it's about a dystopian future where the United States has been destroyed by a financial crisis and a military coup. Political parties are now a single Bipartisan Party who also fulfil the religious functions in a unified church and state. Citizens are kept entertained by gladiatorial entertainment, which includes the Annual Transcontinental Road Race, where points are scored not just for speed, but for the number of innocent pedestrians struck and killed. At the time, Roger Ebert gave it zero stars...

"Nosferatu" is being rereleased and this incarnation is called the Gothic Horror Collection and also includes Vampyr & Le Vampire. If you're not aware of the film, it's essentially the worlds first horror film. It was released in 1922 and it's a German film, filled with German Expressionism and was really revolutionary for it's time... obviously. In 1923, all copies were ordered destroyed and for a long time it was only talked about... however, copies were hidden in cinemateques and eventually made their way out.

That's it, really.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Interview with Bill Houser and Jim Knutelski, the guys behind "Hidden"

I'm seriously considering writing a book... granted, I wouldn't have to do much work on it. We've done over 200 interviews on Dead Harvey and most of them are just collecting dust somewhere in cyber-space. I'm thinking that I'll write some sort of commentary or a loose story around the indie horror world, then work in all these interviews. It would be a sort of like "The Indie Horror World As Seen By Indie Horror Filmmakers" or something like that. Okay, I'd have to work on the title... but would you pick that up? I would. Anyhow, once again, we have a great interview for you today. This is one is from Bill Houser and Jim Knutelski, the guys behind the upcoming micro-budget horror, "Hidden".

We spoke with Bill a while back, when he had just finished up a short film called "Martin Gimbley's Escape". You can read that interview by clicking here. He used that short to hone his skills, get some practice, then he was going to tackle a feature. Well, here we are, about a year and a half later, and that feature length film is finished. The film is a massive step up from their previous effort and it's a real achievement. What struck me most about the film was just how ambitious it was. They didn't let a grandiose plot, multiple characters and weaving story lines hold them back. They did a great job of holding the idea together and delivering a well crafted, well executed feature length film. My hat's off to them for sure, the film is something to be proud of.

Now, the interview is long. Real long... but I'm going to post the whole thing, as I think there's a lot of advice in here that new filmmakers can use. If you're one of those filmmakers that's just armed with a camera, an idea and unwavering resolve, you should read this from beginning to end. However, before we get to the interview, I'm going to embed the trailer.

First off, tell us a bit about “Hidden”. What’s it all about?

JIM: On the surface it’s a story about what can go wrong with a competitive geocaching event when the sponsor may not have had the best intentions when planning the event.

BILL: The deeper story is about family secrets and betrayals. I like to think that it’s a classical Greek tragedy wrapped up in the skin of a slasher flick. Of course as the writer my view may be slightly warped. Ultimately, we were trying to capture the spirit of the late 70’s and early 80’s slasher films. The genre movies from that era, unlike most of the crap that tried to copy them in later years, actually had very suspenseful core stories.

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

JIM: The budget is what we (Bill and I - executive producers) could afford to spend over the 12 week shoot. Meaning that there was no financing other than what we could put into the film with personal finances - checking, savings, credit cards, etc. You can become very creative on a low budget film when you need to. "Ummm honey, I need to buy that rock climbing equipment that I have always wanted - I'm not planning on rock climbing any time soon, but we will probably need it for stunts during the shoot." Use your imagination on how these conversations ended up. Let’s just say that we were nowhere near the industry standard on a low budget film, the entire cost was well under 6 figures.

BILL: We learned a lot about where we could get away with cutting cost and where you really shouldn’t. Also, had we paid for people to do all the post production stuff we did ourselves we would have ended up paying this project off for the next thirty years..

You primarily shot outdoors, which is great. Nature makes some great sets, which tends to be a bonus when you’re on a limited budget. Really, the setting made the film. It was basically a character itself. Talk about your locations, how you picked them, where they were...

JIM: The film was shot entirely in northeast Missouri and east central Illinois. We selected locations based on what we needed according to screenplay, what we knew we could get within a short distance, what was FREE, and what did not require legal documents to proceed with production of the film.

BILL: From the writing stage on we had hoped that we could make the film look bigger by using a variety of settings. We didn’t want this to just be another film ‘out in the woods’, it was important that each of the scenes had a distinctive image. As you said, their own character. The Waterfall, The Cliff, The Caves…each one with its own purpose and feeling.

JIM: The waterfall was a challenge. We scouted a few before settling on the one we used. Finding a cliff around here is simple. Finding a cliff you can throw your lead actress off of without hurting her is another thing. Our cast were all troopers and did all of their own stunts. Convincing Ellen Hinch (Trish Garrett) that the climbing harness would hold her was a hurdle. Apologizing for the bruises she had after 3 or 4 takes and bouncing off the rock face while tied to a rope was another, but it’s easier to beg for forgiveness than to get permission. "Hey you’re already bruised up now - why not just finish up this shoot and not have to go through this again."

Having said that, shooting outdoors can pose a lot of problems. Limited access to electricity, tough to set up the camera, bad lighting… talk about some of the hurdles and lessons learned from filming outdoors.

BILL: Weather was probably the single biggest issue. It turned what was suppose to be a 20 day shoot into a 40 day shoot. I can’t tell you how many times we got everything and everybody on location only to watch a lovely sunny day turn into hurricane conditions. Nothing to do, but pack everything up and send everybody home.

Beyond this we did struggle with a lot of the technical issues you mentioned, partly because of the conditions, and partly because of our inexperience in working outdoors.

JIM: Sound was one of the big ones. Although several of the locations "look" secluded they were not. Try getting everyone set and ready to shoot, only to realize that the diesel machinery just started up for the day and will be warming up for the next 15 minutes, or the highway 50 yards away has an abundance of choppers riding by this particular day, or that the neighbor next door is mowing the lawn. It can be very frustrating when it is out of your control.

BILL: I’ll never shoot near running water again. If you haven’t experienced this you can’t imagine the sound issues it causes. The sound changes with every different mic move making it nearly impossible to analysis and edit in post. Leaving you with the options of leaving the background sound as is or trying to dub all the dialogue in post. Either way the overall quality suffers.

JIM: We also had issues with power for equipment. We had one shoot that was an "all nighter" and we thought we came prepared with lighting and power. The power system failed about 30 minutes into the shoot and we improvised with flashlights and any other light we could find for the rest of the night- the shoot must go on. Always have plan B, C, D for equipment because Murphy's Law is still alive and well.

BILL: And to make things worse that night we were a couple hundred yards up the side of a cliff. It was truly dangerous, and Jerry Irick (Tiny Hunsaker) has the scars to prove it.

We also got a special visit from the ‘Boys in Blue’ that night. Try explaining why you have a girl tied up and dangling off a cliff at 2:00 am to a couple cops…big fun.

JIM: Yeah, even though we were on private property and had permission to shoot, that doesn’t keep the neighbors from complaining to local law enforcement when they hear a woman screaming bloody murder.

BILL: It was a pretty brutal shoot for everybody. I know I didn’t even think about going out into nature for the next six months.

JIM: As a matter of fact, after completion of the shooting, we made a pact that our next project would be 100 percent indoors where we would have much more control over the environment. That was several months ago and we are now probably dumb enough to go back to the great outdoors for our next production.

You had a lot of characters and did a great job of creating separate identities and storylines. Talk about the casting process and how you managed so many actors.

BILL: Well, I went in knowing I was writing a less than incredibly original script. I know that a lot of writers won’t admit that straight out, but it was very much part of the plan for this movie right from the start. We were making an 80’s style slasher film, people that like the genre have a general understanding of what these films are about. So, knowing the nature of the story, I wanted to create an eclectic cast of characters. I wanted characters that fell into broad stereo-types that everyone would understand, but still felt like real people. One thing that works well on an independent film that doesn’t generally happen on bigger pictures is that the script was actually adjusted in several ways after the cast was on board. We already had the pattern for the characters, but then we custom fit it to the actors.

JIM: We had a normal casting call and had a good response which meant a decent pool to choose from for leading roles. As far as the smaller parts, if you were willing, you probably got some part in the film. The crew was also thrown in front of the camera when the need arose. The entire crew performed some sort of double duty during the shoot.

BILL: As far as directing the actors, we worked a lot on some core acting skills prior to filming. Okay, really just one core idea, “Stop acting”. Above all, I wanted them to understand that the characters I had written were now their property. That I had handed off the characters to them, and they were responsible for truly bringing them to life. Part of that included allowing a liberal interpretation of the screenplay. This approach worked amazingly well with several of the actors, but less with others. Considering the experience level of the cast, I was sincerely pleased with the work that they did. I’m looking forward to working with many of them again in the future.

So, last time we talked to you, you had just finished up a short film, “Martin Gimbley’s Escape”. Did anything come of the film or did you do exactly what you said you were going to do and use it as a learning experience to go off and make this feature?

JIM: It was an excellent learning tool for the feature. It did fairly well on the internet and at one point had several thousand hits. We are including it as a bonus short on the DVD. It could become a full length feature in the future, or a longer short. We still like the story.

BILL: We learned a strange lesson about finding an audience from Martin Gimbley’s Escape, it was barely noticed on YouTube or any USA based site, but was lifted off of YouTube and posted on a German horror site where it clocked a ton of hits. I’ve gotten e-mails in Japanese from people that watched on Japanese language sites we never even knew existed. Overall though, it was training, but like Jim said Martin may return in the future to tell the rest of his story.

Talk about the differences in making a short and a feature. Any key bits of advice that you would give to a filmmaker that’s thinking of moving on from short films?

JIM: The feature film was a larger monster by necessity: more cast, more crew, and a logistical nightmare compared to the short: setting up locations for several weekends of shooting instead of one or two, feeding people, transportation, setting up several locations, scheduling, technical issues, etc. Plan, plan, plan and write everything down. Find people that are "go getters" and can make wine from water on 30 seconds notice while keeping the director and cinematographer from killing an actor/actress on any given day. Get a variety of people to work with that are from different backgrounds. You never know when someone's obscure experience or skill will come in handy in the middle of a shoot.

BILL: It was exhausting. Still, my advice would be to not waste your time doing five or six shorts, and jump in there and make a feature. Making shorts is like playing in a tee-ball league and comparing it to major league baseball…not even the same game. In my opinion, completing a weak feature is still light-years ahead of making a decent short.

Part of my issue with making a bunch of shorts is that, as I mentioned in the previous interview with Dead Harvey, too many of the shorts I see are scenes not complete stories. I’m sure other people feel differently, and that’s cool. I just figure if your goal is to do feature films…then do feature films. Do the best you can with what you have. You get the opportunity to do a better treatment of a story in the future, fine…do it again. That’s essentially what happened with Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, and if you count the promo short they made before the first movie they made that film three times.

What’s your goal for “Hidden”? Is for accolades, are you looking to make money or are you just looking to get a feature under your belt?

JIM: When we started we had a specific goal, earn enough to finance the next project. As the process went on we started thinking about other issues like how this first film establishes the identity of Confusion Films, and what else can we learn from the process of distributing this film.

BILL: As with the short, we couldn’t care less about festivals or awards. We just want to get out to the indie horror fans in the most reasonable and convenient way we can. Let the people who understand what’s involved in making truly independent films like ours decide what they think about it.

JIM: You always hope for the best and that you made something that people enjoy watching. Then they will remember you and hopefully be receptive of your next project. We have a large list of lessons learned, a few we covered earlier. After this shoot, we plan to implement a few key ideas that will give our productions some needed technical improvement. We know that we were not perfect on this shoot, but we also feel that it is a quality product that is worth your time to watch. We have screened the completed production and received some very favorable comments, including yours.

BILL: From the start we understood that this film was not going to be our masterpiece. It was part of a plan we had to get to where we wanted to be by our third production, and I truly believe we’re on target to meet our personal goals for the quality of our films. This one is good, horror fans will enjoy it…be ready for the next one.

How are you going to approach distribution with “Hidden”?

JIM: We have a few different approaches to consider: Conventional, web, or a combination of them. We are definitely leaning toward web based distribution – direct download for a fee. There may also be distribution of DVDs, but due to the cost of media, packaging, and shipping, it is the least favorable option. Our goal is to keep the retail cost of "Hidden" and, any other productions we complete, low - just like the production costs. Why should the customer have to pay for distribution if we can find a creative way to cut the cost?

BILL: The bottom line is we didn’t spend 20 million, and don’t need to make 200 million to please our shareholders. Fairly positive that we will be looking at a very low priced direct download to own option directly from us. We’re still looking at the numbers, but it is very possible that we’re talking $2 to $3 downloads in a format that the customers can burn to DVD, transfer to their personal media device, or whatever. We’re also looking into some other options that were suggested by DEAD HARVEY…because once again you guys prove that you actually give a shit about independent filmmakers. At any rate, the film should be available this summer.

Where can people find out more about “Hidden” and/or get their hands on a copy?

BILL: Our website:
The trailer is up on the site, and getting heavy circulation around FaceBook. We haven’t started our media push yet, but it is coming. We should have a webpage devoted strictly to HIDDEN up in the next week. DVDs and the downloads we were talking about should all be available by August…you know there’s a Friday the 13th in August. There might just be an incredibly low priced download available that night. Maybe we’ll make it only for those people with the secret DEAD HARVEY password.

What’s next?

BILL: Well, ironically after I said what I did about shorts, our next project is a feature length film composed of shorter individual story segments inside of a wrap-around story. Basically like the Creep Show movies. I recently started collecting all the old Creepy, Eerie, and Vamperilla comic magazines and the stories for this feature were heavily inspired by the tone of those stories. Of course, we’re bringing the action up to the intensity level that the modern horror audience expects. Right now the working title is Penny Dreadfuls.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Getting Caught Up With A Couple Of Old Friends

I thought I'd share a few videos from some friends of Dead Harvey. The first one is from Jeff Palmer, who's still in promotional mode for his film, "The Sleeping Deep". We spoke with him a while ago, right after his script won the top prize at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in 2008. If you'd like to read our original post, where we interviewed him about the win, click here. Since then, he's made various trailers and promo pieces and is doing his best to get the film made, here's his latest 30 second teaser.

Next up is Blake Reigle, writer/director of the film "Beneath the Surface" and he's gone off and made a spec commercial for Bud Light. Now, if you're very observant, you may notice that the lovely lady in the spot is Alexis Peters from the upcoming "Hatchet 2". "Beneath the Surface" was an unreal film and we discussed it with Blake a while ago, here's the link to it. Otherwise, check out his spec commerical spot.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Another Weak Weekend, Especially for "Splice"

So, it was another weak weekend at the box office. "Shrek Forever After" spent a third weekend in the lead, but it was really due to the fact that "Get Him to the Greek", "Killers", "Marmaduke" and "Splice" all underperformed. I guess that's not entirely fair, "Killers" and "Marmaduke" were disasters, but "Get Him to the Greek" did fairly well, considering it stars Jonah Hill and Russell Brand. It did come in second with a respectable $17.5Million take. "Killers" came in third and stars Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl and cost $75Million. "Killers" got terrible reviews, too. Whatever. The disappointed for me was how poorly "Splice" did. Reviews were great, it stars Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley and it was the only horror to get a wide release... but it only pulled in $7.5Million and came in 8th. Shame. Personally, I thought the trailers were a little weak and far too reminiscent of "Species", but still intriguing. They really could've done a better job on the marketing. All I can say is, hopefully it goes on to a good life on DVD and VOD. Anyhow, moving on to the horror that's coming out on DVD this week... you can check out the trailers on our Youtube Page and you can click on the titles to be taken to their page on Amazon, where you can buy them and/or read more about them.

I don't know if "Shutter Island" is considered a horror, but it has elements of horror and it's a Scorsese film. I like both, so I'm going to talk about it. I won't let the cat of the bag, plot-wise, but it's about U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, played by DiCaprio, who is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Boston's Shutter Island Ashecliffe Mental Hospital. The film is based on a best selling novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane and, believe it or not, the film gave both Scorsese and DiCaprio their best box office opening to date. Crazy, huh? It remained #1 for five weeks straight, too, and is now Scorsese's highest grossing film of all time.

"Bloodlock" is a low-budget horror from filmmaker William Victor Schotten. It was his second film, after "Dead Life". He's since made "Sabbath" and "The Brass Ring". It's about a couple that buys a fixer upper house in a small town and discovers a secret room in the basement, locked up behind a heavy, titanium door with a cross and mystical writings. So, of course, they want to open the door and, of course, they do. What's behind there? A vampire. What's he do? Kills people. Or does he? You'll have to see it...

"Creek" was originally called "The Unfortunate" and it's directed by Lola Wallace, starring Cassie Jaye and Aaron Leddick. Unfortunately, they should've stuck with the title "The Unfortunate" because it's tough to do any research on something called "Creek", when there's "Wolf Creek", "Blood Creek", "The Creek" and 40 other horror films with the word "Creek" in the title... anyhow, it's about a group of friends that are on their way back from a horror convention and are lured into a roadside attraction that promises them the opportunity to find gold... cursed gold that's protected by ghosts that are out for vengeance.

"Metal Man" is the directorial debut from special effects guy, Ron Karkoska. He did the effects on such classics as "The Hills Run Red", "InAlienable" and "Reeker". He also worked on the upcoming "Dahmer vs Gacy", from friend of Dead Harvey, Ford Austin. "Metal Man" stars Reggie Bannister and is, really, a mock-buster rip-off of "Iron Man" and if you're in to the campy stuff, it looks like it's a film for you. I haven't seen it, but the trailer looks great.

Friday, June 4, 2010

D8 and an interview with Owen Mulligan, the writer/director of "The Smog"

Did any of you check out any of the D8 conference? There's lots of clips online. For those that care, it's the "All Things Digital" Conference and you can find out more about it here. It just took place from June 1 - 3 at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California... just 30 miles south of L.A. Anyhow, it's where guys like Steve Jobs of Apple and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft get to talk shit... it also drew speakers from the film world, like James Cameron, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Levitan. Anyhow, the most interesting stuff comes out when guys like Jobs and Ballmer talk about the future of mobile devices and technology. Really, it's very pertinent to us in the film and media world because what they do will dictate how consumers, well... consume media. There's a lot of arguments on where mobile devices and technology will take us, but one thing is clear... to me, at least. Short form film has a future, without question. I have watched feature length films on phones... or phone-sized devices, but usually when I'm on a flight. Outside of when I'm crammed into a small space with 5 hours to kill, I don't see when I'd ever watch a 2 hour film on a small device. Having said that, there are numerous occasions throughout the day where I would watch short form media on a phone or phone-like device. It's a no-brainer. Technology is heading this way and the content will follow. Mark my words. Short film has a bright future.

Anyhow, as I believe so much in short film, I'm going to continue to discuss and highlight short films that readers forward me. Maybe someday, someone will turn to Dead Harvey to be a short horror film aggregator for mobile devices. How about that? Anyone out there have some money to invest? It's a great idea... email me, let's talk. So, the film we're going to look at today and discuss is Owen Mulligan's "The Smog", the film is embedded and the bottom of this post. It's under 10 minutes, it's got some great effects, great gore and it's a bit of a new twist on the zombie genre. It has a great look and feel to it and I'm really anxious to see what he comes up with next.

Tell us about your short film, “The Smog”

It’s about a man trying to survive as a mysterious and highly toxic smog overtakes the city turning those exposed into murderous maniacs with severe skin and respiratory disorders.

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

The budget was around $1,000.

Obviously, you draw a lot on zombie films, but this is definitely a new take. Talk about where the idea came from and how you developed it into a short.

I wanted to do a zombie film but doesn’t everyone? Even middle school kids are making zombie films now. Anyway, I realized that if I was going to do one it would have to be an original idea. This search for originality led to the idea of combining elements from two of my favorite films Night of the Living Dead and John Carpenter’s The Fog. I didn’t want to use fog so I started thinking about smog. I did research and read about the killer smog of 1952 that overtook London. Thousands of people died. This catastrophe really got me thinking. I soon had my idea of a modern day toxic smog that somehow turns people into murderous maniacs with fucked up skin and such. Not exactly zombies but close enough!

I loved the color and smog effects that you used, it looked great. Talk about how you created that look and feel.

I used a small fog machine and all the lights (with the exception of a few practicals) were covered with green gel. On some of the shots, I used sheer woman’s stockings over the camera lens to make it look really smoggy. The colors and shadows were enhanced in editing with color balance and color curve effects.

The smoggies looked great, too. Talk about how you did the make-up.

It took me forever to create the look but it came down to using a blithe spirit body paint as a foundation, some shadowing, liquid latex, and fake blood. The final layer was apricot preserves dyed green to get a slimy, wet look…very much like big globs of green snot. The actors then used foam tablets in their mouths and a special green dye from Germany was used in their eyes.

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

From a young age I always thought about making a movie but that seemed too impossible so by the time I was twenty I didn’t think about it much anymore. Ten years later or so I was heavily involved with politics and started doing some camera work because of my involvement and the idea of making a movie came back. The digital technology was available and there was nothing to stop me. I love movies but I’m also influenced by old black and white TV shows like The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone. I love Alfred Hitchcock and John Carpenter’s work and thank God for Robert Rodriguez!

Film school: yes or no?

No. I have zero training when it comes to film and that’s fine by me. I do have a bit of dramatic arts and theater training though, which helps when working with actors.

Talk about your goals behind making “The Smog” and did you accomplish them?

I wanted to allow myself to be more spontaneous when shooting and to use mostly improvised dialogue. I also wanted to make something violent and gory. I feel I accomplished my goals. I got what I wanted and then some.

Also, I can’t help but think that this premise could carry a feature. Any thought put into that?

Definitely. I knew this could be a feature but I didn’t have the money for a feature so I made the short version. I think it would be a blast to make a feature out of this but I would want it to be a thousand times more violent and gory.

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

I think the indie horror scene is in a good place and this will only get better as Hollywood continues to alienate true horror fans by making shitty remakes, prequels and sequels year after year after year. I almost feel like there is a conspiracy to destroy the horror genre (and we know that will never happen). Anyway, Hollywood is not the future of horror in my opinion. The horror genre is wide open for the indies thanks to the Internet and digital technology. The possibilities are endless and I think the indie horror scene has the potential to explode. Filmmakers should share what they know to help make this happen. Fuck Hollywood.

Where can people check out “The Smog”?

You can see it on my YouTube channel and on my production blog starting June 4th, 2010.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to continue to make shorts for awhile and also work on some feature screenplays.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Pirating Debate Continues...

I'm just wondering where all of you stand on the whole piracy issue that's plaguing Hollywood these days. Here's a short piece that I read on Cynoposis Digital this morning that got me thinking...

In one of the biggest anti-piracy efforts yet leveled at individual users, the producers of Oscar winner "The Hurt Locker" are laying down a legal gauntlet for illegal file sharers, seeking damages against 5,000 people in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. Voltage Pictures feels as though the movie's popularity on P2P sharing sites - it was uploaded some 6 months before its official U.S. release - has severely hampered its sales at the Box Office. The movie has grossed less than $17 million despite winning 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director for helmer Kathryn Bigelow. The lawsuit lists the defendants by their internet Protocol (IP) addresses, with lawyers planning to subpoena individual ISPs to identify the offenders. Individual users will be asked to pay $1,500 each to be released from their liability.

Now, I've never made/produced/created/shit-out a piece of content that's made any significant amount of money and, if I did, I may change my tune, but as of now, I'm of the "information wants to be free" train of thought. Growing up, I had a dark room in my basement, we had film editing equipment and later on we had one of the first VCR's and camcorders... and I don't want to know how many copyrights I've infringed on. And it never stopped. I use the torrent sites regularly, mostly in place of a DVR to find TV shows that I've missed or to get stuff that's not available to me here... and I don't lose sleep over it. In fact, I've preached that indie filmmakers should consider putting their films out there themselves. Why not? If it gets your film out there, finds an audience and gets you noticed, isn't that what you want? I can see why the studios hate it, but isn't this something that's existed since the dawn of time? Really, from sneaking into movie theaters to pirating workprints, it's all the same. Someone's trying to see something for free. It's part of the game. Could you imaging suing someone $1,500 for sneaking into a theater? No... but that's sort of what they're doing here.

The other problem I have is, no one has ever been able to link piracy to a lack of box office revenue. You can claim that it only grossed $17Million dollars despite winning all those awards, but... it's still a war movie and war movies have done terrible over the last few years. You can't just compare it to "Slumdog Millionaire" or "No Country for Old Men" because they're all best picture winners, you need to go apples to apples. How did Iraq war movies do? "Green Zone" had Matt Damon and did $35Million, "In the Valley of Elah" had Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, Charlize Theron and was very critically acclaimed, it grossed under $7Million. "The Messenger", with Woody Harrelson, nominated for best screenplay, grossed a meagre $1.1Million. So, look... maybe it's not the awards, maybe it's the sub-genre you're in. Seriously, you're just looking to lay blame. Let it go. I thought this was all settled after the "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" debacle. Remember, the studio was outraged... a work-print had been lifted and pirated, the film was on the torrent sites a month before it was supposed to come out. Everyone was screaming bloody murder, then... it had a domestic gross of $180Million and people shut up. My opinion is, the bulk of the people who pirate studio films wouldn't pay to see the film anyhow. So, no loss. The only loss comes if your film sucks and these guys talk shit about it. "The Hurt Locker" was an awesome film and I don't really see any way that piracy could've stripped them of any significant box office revenue, but that's just me.

So, what do you think? Where do you stand? I've met people who froth at the mouth when you talk about downloading pirated films and I've met people who will do anything they can to get around paying for content... Me? I'm somewhere in between.