Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interview With Ken Daniels, Festival Director of the upcoming Fright Night Film Fest

I'm not sure if you've been paying attention, but the film industry is in quite a bit of trouble. To quote Hudson from "Aliens", "We're Fucked". They're fighting a fragmented audience, they're fighting new technology and they're fighting piracy. Basically, there's a growing amount of content, a lot of which is free, and everyone's trying to reach a shrinking audience... Really, what the film industry is going through is a lot like what the music industry went through not too long ago. Here's the silver lining... or, what I like to call "the worm at the bottom of the bottle". The music industry has changed course and is figuring out how to make money again. How are they doing it? Well, live performances, merchandise sales and licensing are the big ones. If the film industry is fighting a similar battle, what can they learn?

For starters, we need to think like a band - think beyond one incarnation. Meaning, we need to create an idea, a character or a storyline that lives beyond one film, we need to think like a franchise. That way, you're building an audience, as opposed to looking for a new one with each film. Not only that, as you build, you become more marketable and you can leverage what you have with each new project. That's where merchandising and licensing will become options. The other thing that I think is going to become more and more important is the film festivals. They're the film world's equivalent to concerts. People may not buy your DVD for $5, but they'd probably pay $5 to see it in the theater with 100 other people. Think about that. Not only that, it's a place where you can sell that merchandise and a place where you can build that audience. From the viewers perspective, it's like a party and a place to network, find out about new films and meet their favorite filmmakers. Festivals really are win/win situations for everybody in the genre.

However, some people are talking about how there's too many film festivals. Well, I have news for you. There's not enough. It's a growing market and there's going to be increasing demand for them. I don't see why each and every town doesn't have at least one festival for every genre. I don't see why there's not various travelling festivals that go on tour, hitting numerous towns. I think that the festivals are going to be increasingly important for the fans, for the filmmakers and for the genre itself. You, as a filmmaker, need to know more about them... and that's why we here at Dead Harvey continue our quest for information... to pass on to you. Here, we talk to Ken Daniels, festival director of the Fright Night Film Fest, one of the top fests for indie horror. I hope we can bring you more interviews like this and I also hope you can take something away from this.

And if you want to read the first interview we did with him, click here.

We talked with you a while ago about last years festival, so we’ll try not to be too redundant. However, just to refresh our readers memories, tell us a bit about the Fright Night Film Fest.

We are the 3rd Largest Genre Film Festival in the Country. The largest in Mid America. This year more MUSIC, TATTOO'S, PARTIES, INDUSTRY SEMINARS FOR FILMMAKERS are just some of the new things to look forward to. We are on our 5th year and getting better every year.

So, how’s the last year treated you and Fright Night? What have you been up to?

We've been searching for ways to improve the festival beyond what others shows are doing. We've have several elements that all shows have but we've changed and added more of other elements all the while making it intimate enough to make friends year in and year out.

Have there been any changes in the festival since last year?

We've added more tattoo artist's. You'll see the addition of much more music. More parties. We've enhanced it with more industry seminars then before.

You’re screening a few films this year that Dead Harvey readers should be familiar with, such as “The Ugly File”, “Livestock” and “Shadows Light”. What are some of the other highlights from the selections this year?

There are quite a few great movies this year. Tell all your readers to be on the lookout for these great films, "Thirsty" is one great little short starring Michael Bailey Smith and Tiffany Shepis.

Fright Night has become one of the key festivals for true indie horror. Talk a bit about where indie horror is now and tell us where you think it’s heading.

Wow this is a loaded question. I'll tell you what I really think. I've got two really different sides to this issue and unfortunately the side that doesn't have the good news is the side that is really in the right. First of all I love, and I mean love meeting filmmakers at all levels of experience and desire. The great thing about living today is you can buy all the equipment you need for 10,000 dollars to make a good little movie. That's also the bad news. With everyone out there making a movie there are a lot of really bad movies out there. I see so many of them that it's frustrating because I know that talented filmmakers exist. The really bad news is that there's only a limited amount of venues to showcase your films. Sorry folks. That's the truth. Marketing and business rule the creative world unfortunately. Look at what's going on with really big celebs today. Some of these are really BIG CELEBRITIES. With the sheer volume of movies being put out many of these movies never make it to cable. They go straight to video. It's not just because they aren't good. Some of the films I've seen are really good. It's just that some knucklehead in charge of distribution to theatres thinks that the movie won't have an audience. Every studio whether it's independent or not of even the big studios is trying to recoup their money. They don't like taking any kind of risk. They try to find the most marketable movie possible. Let's say Transformers 2 for example. They spend 200 million to make a movie like this to bring in 500 million. One of the reasons I heard from someone in the industry is it's easier to focus everything on one movie then produce 20 movies at 10 million. They told me that by the time you market, do the prints and get everything done you won't be able to make as much money. It's crazy but true. The glut of horror movies coming down the way is pretty evident. The good thing about being in this moment in history is also the bad thing. Every JOE SCHMO thinks they can make and movie and they send them to film festival's or try to sell them online. Sorry people. My belief is for another few years anyway is that online isn't the way to go. The only thing people are downloading online is information products and PORN!!

Personally, I feel that the horror festival circuit is the backbone of the whole scene and they’re integral on various levels. Aside from fans attending and filmmakers submitting, what can indie horror fans do to support indie horror?

One of the greatest things that can happen is if filmmakers would learn to market better and for the fan's to buy their movies and not download them for free. I think that independents shouldn't charge 20 dollars or even 10 dollars for their movies. How about 2 for 10 dollars. The fan's overall aren't rich. The fan's must keep going to the film festival's and conventions. The very next John Carpenter could be at Fright Night this year.

Fright Night accepts a lot of horror films with low budgets, which is fantastic. What elements do you think make a GOOD indie horror and what elements do you think make a SUCCESSFUL indie horror? Is there a difference?

A good horror film does'nt really have to have a great story. From a fan's point of view and horror fan's are the coolest as well as some of the most intelligent people I've met can tell you that sometimes the best elements are the execution of everthing in a professional way. We would all rather see a great short film rather then a crappy long feature length indie that couldn't sustain itself for very long. A successful indie horror movie has to have all the elements. Look at Gregg Bishop's "The Other Side" made for $15,000. Or "The Blair Witch Project" actually produced by a fellow Kentuckian Gregg Hale. You have to have several things:

1. A Unique Idea
2. Good Audio
3. Good Acting
4. Good Lighting
5. Good Camera's.

Notice I didn't say story or screenplay. I love a great screenplay but let's face it some of the most marketable movies and successful movies had zero story.

What can getting a film accepted to the festival mean for a filmmaker?

Major Distribution. We've had over 7 films get distribution after our show. Several well know studios picked up several movies. Secret buyer's come to the shows and pick movies they are interested in and ask us after the show.

When and where is this year’s festival and how can people find out more about it?

We are at the CROWNE PLAZA HOTEL NEXT TO THE AIRPORT in Louisville Kentucky. You can find out more about it at

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