Friday, November 7, 2008

Interview with Ken Daniels, founder of the Fright Night Film Fest

It's the end of another week, which means two things: 1. I'm dangerously close to getting into the sauce... and 2. we're going to talk about horror film festivals.

Just to reiterate something that we say over and over again, the indie horror film festivals are a HUGE integral part of the whole indie horror scene and if you're not submitting a film, you should get involved with or, at least, attend them. If you ARE submitting a film, or are planning on submitting a film, you should really be a regular reader of our site. Interviews like the one you're about to read offer so much insight into what you, as a filmmaker, need to be thinking about when you head into pre-production.

This week, we get to talk with Ken Daniels, founder of The Fright Night Film Festival, which takes place in Louisville, KY, but before we get to Ken, let's just throw out there that The Fright Night Film Fest is the largest genre show in the Mid South and they're starting to get a lot of recognition worldwide. They accept a lot of films and they really are a true supporter of indie horror. So, at the end of the day, if you're going to submit your film to, or attend a festival, this one needs to be on your radar...

Please tell us a bit about yourself… how’d you get into indie horror?

I've always loved the grindhouse movies. I go way back into film actually. I started as an 8 year old who loved the movies, all kinds of movies. Especially horror movies. The escapism of it all is what got me started. I became a filmmaker at 12 years old. My dad showed me how to use his 8 mm camera. My first feature was "The Menacer" a killer lurked in our neighborhood and it got us into lot's of trouble. My sister played a victim while all the kids in our neighborhood pitched in and did something. Jeff Dobrow, now a successfull, 3D animator for major Movie studios, was one of our collaboraters. He came up with the name. I went on to produce and direct 3 more films for my grade school. My teacher, Ms. Sharber, let me make movies out of the books I read, instead of writing essay's. I hated writing essay's at the time. So I made "A Really Weird Summer", "War of the Worlds Part 2" and another film called "The Taking". After a dry period I went into hibernation for a number of years. The world of business got ahold of me and I faded out of the fan scene for a couple of years. Then in 1997 I got back into it and started working with festivals in New York, Lake Placid, Woodstock, Las Vegas, San Francisco and more. After I started working for a while I accidently got into the world of Celebrity Booking. I've been lucky to work with good people in the field. Along with Gunnar Hanson, I was able to bring Teri McMinn and Bill Vail, of Texas Chainsaw Massacre Fame, to their first show in May of 2008. I've been the agent for Michael Myers, from the first Halloween to Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Sci Fi Ghosthunters to Leatherface 2 and more. Right now, my partner and I have a stable of about 30 people at our website: We work with promoters to help their show become more successfull. That's fun, but I really didn't get into it for that reason. Eventually I won't do that and I'll give it to my Joint Venture partner. Right now, I'm helping out with about 5 shows. I'm directly involved in helping them become more successfull. You'll also find me Producing films. My recent one, "The Lucky Break", got a standing ovation at our show. It blew me away. I rode in a limo with other celebrities who just made my night by telling me how good it was. I've got 3 more films in the works. They'll be ready in 2009 and 2010.

Tell us a bit about The Fright Night Film Fest… when and why did it get started?

Well, actually it started over 6 years ago when I was living on the West Coast. Then in 2005 we rented a small screen with about 125 people and had our first one. 2006 was our second one with a convention added. 2007 we really hit it big. 2008 couldn't have been any more magical as I say. We had over 35 celebrity guests. That will be the last time we ever have that many guests.

From the perspective of the film, why should indie horror filmmakers try to get their films into festivals?

The right festival can launch a career. Getting your film seen by others and critiqued is one of the best way's to get notice and create a buzz. The internet is great for buzz. It can't match the experience of sitting in a room filled with all kinds of people laughing at the funny parts of your film and getting scared at the parts you want them to get scare at.

From the perspective of the filmmaker, what can I expect to get out of having my film screen at the festival?

You can expect to get the respect you deserve, a nice laurel, fun times, possibly an award and a lifetime of memories you will never forget.

As a horror fan, what can expect to get out of attending the festival?

Horror fan's can shop for anything imaginable, artwork, sculptures, collectibles, hard to find movies, autographs and more. What else couldn't be any cooler than to be able to rub elbows with the best filmmakers and celebrities around.

When you’re accepting films, what are you looking for?

We look for something unique. I always tell individuals I would rather see a good short film then a crappy full length feature.

The judges are looking for story or concept, sound design, lighting, acting, editing, direction. We would appreciate it if more filmmakers take the time to fix their sound and work on their lighting. We've turned down a lot of films because of this.

Does budget come into play when you’re considering films?

No way. This is an independent film festival. I know a film that cost $200 that won a category a couple of years ago.

As a filmmaker, what can I do to make my film more festival friendly? Should I even be thinking of that?

Absolutely you should be thinking about that. Watch for what I said earlier. Your sound, lighting and acting. Get good actors. Don't use the same actors for every film and then submit it. This might help out some filmmakers.

At what point in the filmmaking process should I be thinking about the festivals?

Right away. Festivals are one of your best bet's for getting your film scene by others in a large group setting.

Are there any particular success stories from films that screened at The Fright Night Film Fest?

Yeah, Nightmare Man won at our festival and was picked up for national distribution in 8 Films to Die For. "Bad Reputation" hit off and secured National Distribution with Maverick Entertainment. Then you have "Dead Moon Rising", "DeadLands". "Woman's Intuition" Won Best Short Film last year and then recently Won and Emmy Award.

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

1.Learn to tell a good story.
2.Shoot a good short film first before you shoot a full length feature. Some people could have avoided the tiem and money spent if they would have practiced with a short film.
3. Never give up.
4.Always find your genre festival like Fright Night Film Fest to support.
5. Find personalities over actors for your films. Sometimes this is more entertaining.
6.Don't make a Zombie film.
7.Don't make a Slasher film.
8. Don't copy another person's idea.
9. Don't kid yourself, remain humble. Nobody likes a jackass.
10. Help as many people as you can make a movie and they will help you. Your odds are better that way.
11. Submit to Fright Night Film Fest

Tell us about the future of indie horror, where do you see it going?

That's a tough question. I think it's gonna always be there in some capacity. It's kinda hit a small saturation level today. Everybody who has a camera today wants to make a horror film. Let's all be realistic. There aren't enough customers to go around for everybody to make a living or make any money for that matter. I do think the internet will definitely be an area to look into. I do disagree with a few people who say theatres will be gone in 10 years or so. I've heard them say even 5 years. It ain't gonna happen. People love gathering. That's the reason why it won't happen as long as I'm alive. It's the escape, the smell of the popcorn, the chattering of people next to your or just the loud burst's of laughter of someone in the theatre. So I'm sorry to disagree with some people who say we will be watching our movies on a mobile phone or computer. The naysayers have been saying it since the dawn of the VCR. It's only gotten bigger for the theatre industry. Now, will there be changes in the future. Sure, but what they really are remains to be seen.

What’s next for you and The Fright Night Film Fest?

We want to grow toward a true industry show. The age of having a show survive on celebrities alone isn't going to cut it. We want to scale back on celebrities. I've been saying this for a while. If you make your show about any one thing such as celebrities or whatever else. That one thing will be the downfall of your show.

Where can people find out more about The Fright Night Film Fest and how can they go about entering their film

They can go to

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