Monday, August 31, 2009

New Horror Out On DVD This Week, plus some industry news

Well, my PC is in the shop and I'm typing this out on my laptop... I'm keeping my fingers crossed, hoping it's just a power supply problem. However, if it's the motherboard, I'm hooped. Anyhow, not your problem and I can only rely on the power of positive thinking at this point. So, before we get to the horror that's coming out on DVD this week, I wanted to mention a few things that are going on, industry-wise. One, "The Final Destination" won the weekend at the box office and "Halloween 2" came in third... "The Final Destination" raked in over $28Million, "Inglourious Basterds" came in 2nd with just over $20Million and "Halloween 2" brought in around $17.5Million. I hate to just cut and paste from another website, but offered up an interesting quote about why they think this happened...

"Unlike The Final Destination, Halloween II (2009) was a continuation of the story of its predecessor and effectively offered the same slasher horror that audiences already experienced. It's difficult for horror franchises to maintain their audiences, because they are often ephemeral experiences and, once people get the scares, there's little reason to return. Franchises like Final Destination and Saw are exceptionally consistent, because they keep things fresh with new characters and more compelling suspense and mystery elements."

Interesting take, I never really thought about it that way... so, having a big long, continuing story arc is bad and creating a series that can consistantly be reinvented with new characters, elements and storylines is good. I'll have to mull that over for a bit, right after I look up the word 'ephemeral' on

The other big news is that Disney just bought Marvel this morning. Here's a link to an article on the deal from Reuters. Disney paid around $4Billion for Marvel and, personally, I think it makes sense for Disney. Marvel's a character/franchise based entertainment company with a huge library and that's Disney's wheelhouse - they're a franchising, marketing and licensing juggernaught. Marvel's set to release a bunch of movies, including "Thor", "Spiderman 4", "The Avengers" and "Captain America" and I just hope that none of that's effected.

Anyhow, on to the horror releases, not that there's much to talk about. I found trailers for three of the films and you can check those out on our Youtube page, otherwise you can click on the titles and go to their Amazon pages to find out more about them.

First up is "Methodic", which is the self-proclaimed first 'basher movie', meaning that the killer bashes all his victims to death, as opposed to 'slashing' them... it's a low-budget indie, directed by Chris R. Notarile, and it appears to draw on the original "Halloween", as it's about a guy who kills his family, is sent to an insane asylum, but breaks out to get back into the whole killing game. The film looks great and the killer looks extremely creepy... and the film was shot over 10 days. Notarile has made various online projects, as well as made numerous short films. He's definitely an up-an-comer in the industry and I may have to reach out and try to do an interview with him.

"Earth Day" is a low-budget horror-comedy indie out of Eugene, Oregon from Faux Show Productions and it's about a group of eco-crusaders who find themselves getting slaughtered as the one year anniversary of the tragic death of their leader approaches. No offense to any hippie readers that we may have, but I always love watching hippies get slaughtered. So, as their tagline goes, "forget the whales... don't worry about the trees... just save yourself".

"Humanity's End" was directed by Neil Johnson, who also directed "Manowar: Magic Circle Festival, Volume 1" and various other Manowar videos. Not that those are his biggest works, by any means, but you have to respect a guy who's made Manowar videos. Anyhow, "Humanity's End" is his biggest film to date and it's laden with effects. In fact, on, it says that the catering budget for this film alone exceeded the entire budget of his second film, "To Become One". I'm very interested in finding out the actual budget of it, as it looks great, but does have that distinct b-movie feel.... which I've grown to love, adore and crave.

Also out this week are: "Drifter: Henry Lee Lucas", which stars Antonio Sabato as Henry Lee Lucas, the serial killer that was originally popularized by Michael Rooker in "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer"; "To Dance with Death", a Brinke Stevens films; something called "Death Scream", as well as the rerelease double-pack "Blacula/Scream Blacula Scream".

Friday, August 28, 2009

Big Trouble In Little China

Well, I guess I was playing with fire... my home PC has been acting up a bit lately and it finally died on me this morning. I'll start by reaching out to any techie readers that we may have - the computer gets power, but won't boot up, turn off or reset. The only way to turn it on or off is by unplugging it. When I unplug it, then plug it back in, the fans start up, the lights go on, but no beeping and it's just blank... and it goes right back to not booting up, turning off or resetting. My gut reaction tells me it's the motherboard, but I don't know. The real problem is the information that's on the hard drive, which I never backed up. So, if I can't recover that, I'm in some serious shit. Any ideas?

Anyway, as I have no access to my interviews, saved links and other data, I'm going to have to pull this post together on the fly. That's not really a bad thing, as I was listening to a podcast this morning, from Creative Screenwriting Magazine, that I wanted to talk about. They usually interview screenwriters, but this one was the address that Peter Jackson, Neill Blomkamp and Wikus Van De Merwe gave at Comicon about "District 9". There was something that Peter Jackson said that was particularly interesting and I wanted to pass it on to all you filmmakers... Essentially, he said that because they were on such a low budget ($30Million) and didn't have executives telling them what to do and how to make their film, they could do the film the way they wanted. The way they wanted to do it was to cater directly to the sci-fi/horror, Comicon-type audience. That's why it's a character driven sci-fi movie with lots of gore, something that might not make too much sense to a studio executive. And what happened? Well, it kicked ass and lots of people went to see it. The moral of the story is, when you're making a low-budget film, don't think like a studio executive. Think like a gore-hound. What would YOU want to see in the film? You'll create a better film if you cater to a specific niche... and catering to a specific niche will probably create more of a crossover audience, which will make for a more successful film. Anyhow, you can find that podcast here, on the Creative Screenwriting blog, if you want to download it. The end is pretty cool, where Peter Jackson talks about how watching Blomkamp make this film gave him an itch to make a low-budget horror again... could you imagine "Dead Alive 2" or "Bad Taste 2"?

It's also a good weekend at the theater for us horror fans. Both Rob Zombie's "Halloween 2" and "The Final Destination" in 3D come out this weekend... and there's really no other big movie coming out, which means that "Inglourious Basterds" should win the weekend again. Me, though, I'm a bit torn on which to go see. Originally, I was thinking about "H2", but... I wasn't too impressed with Rob Zombie's interview on "The Wrap" yesterday, he kinda shit-talked a lot of stuff (link). That's not to mention that the first one kinda sucked. However, I'm not a huge fan of the "Final Destination" series, but "The Final Destination" is in 3D and I'm really into that 3D tech.

That's all I've got for this week... have a great weekend and wish me luck on my computer problems!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interview With Rick Popko, Co-writer/Co-Director of "RetarDEAD"

If I was a betting man... and I am, I'd be willing to bet that almost all indie filmmakers can be categorized in one of two ways... (1) You went to film school, but are not currently in a professional position to make films, so you take what resources are available to you to put something together OR (2) You never went to film school, but you love film and want to try your hand at filmmaking. Now, whichever category you fall into, I'm also willing to bet that alcohol was involved when you came up with the idea to make your film... and, hey, that's not a bad thing! Lord knows the best ideas are spawned from debaucherous nights. I really believe that, too. If you sit down and over think your project and think like a Hollywood executive, you're doomed. Forget about it, you can't compete. You don't have the budget, resources or talent pool. However, the booze soaked mind doesn't care about audiences, it doesn't care about metrics or what "sells" or what's "hip" or even where it's going to get it's next beer from. It just thinks shit is funny... and that way of thinking can create great indie horror films. What is it that they say about poets? They're just drinkers with writing problems...

Now, if you haven't seen the indie horror classic, "Monsturd", you need to check it out. It came out in 2003, I believe, and was directed by Rick Popko and Dan West. It's about a serial killer who mutates into a poop monster... and there's NO WAY that they came up with that idea when they were sober. No way. Well, Rick and Dan are back with "RetarDEAD" and it's all that "Monsturd" is and more. It's gory, it's hilarious, it's entertaining and, well, it's everything that you would want from a film with the title "RetarDEAD". I don't know how else to put that. Anyhow, we had the opportunity to discuss the film with Rick and he offers up an interview that should be required reading for up-and-coming or wannabe indie filmmakers. There's piles of good information in there and I highly recommend that you give it a read.

First, though, if you're interested, here's links to their pages on Amazon: "
Monsturd" and "Retardead".

First off, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie horror?

My name is Rick Popko, I’m 41, I live in San Francisco, and I do public relations for a number Silicon Valley tech companies... When I’m not doing that, I’m a husband and a dad to two wonderful girls… Oh, and in my free time, I like to produce crazy indie exploitation movies… As far as my influences, they’re all over the place… Peter Jackson (Dead Alive), George Romero (Dawn of the Dead), John Waters (Polyester), Sam Raimi (Evil Dead 2), Martin Scorsese (After Hours), Mark Pirro (Nudist Colony of the Dead) and many others.

Dan and I have been shooting crazy horror/comedy shorts for years (You can see a few of our rudimentary early works at -- enter 4321 Films in the search box). In between the sketch work, we wrote a number of screenplays, which no one in Hollywood would read. Then we got our hands on a Canon GL-1. The first miniDV camera with “Frame” mode (meaning it shoots 30 frames per second progressive, i.e., non-interlaced). As we were testing it, Dan exclaimed “We can make a movie with that!” Then, one day, we rented “Jack Frost” (the horror movie version) and said, “Heck, if this guy can make a movie about a killer snowman and get it in video stores around the country, then why couldn’t we make one about a giant shit monster?” And “Monsturd” was born.

Film school: yes or no?

I graduated from San Francisco State with a B.A. in Film. Did I get a lot out of it? No… For people who are thinking about going to film school, you’re only going to get out of it what you put in. Film school is a good place to network with other people who are into the same thing as you. I didn’t bother getting anyone’s contact info while I was there. But, if you do it right, and you stay in touch with everyone after school, you should be able to wrangle up any kind of crew to help you shoot whatever project you want to make. If you think film school’s your ticket into Hollywood, you’re sadly mistaken.

Tell us about “RetarDEAD”

It’s probably not a surprise to hear that RetarDEAD was born from the title. One night Dan and I were having beers together and he said, “Okay, I’ve got a movie idea for you. I don’t know what it’s about yet… It’s just the title… It’s called ‘Special Dead.’” I thought that was a clever title and then added, “So, they’re RetarDEAD.” Dan laughed and said, “Wait, I like that one better.”

From that, Dan and I brainstormed a ton of scenarios, none of which were flying with us. And then it dawned on us. What if we made it a direct sequel to “Monsturd?” Toss in a “Flowers for Algernon”-like subplot, a serial pervert, Jello Biafra, a real-life zombie dance troupe (The Living Dead Girlz), and second unit zombie kill scenes contributed by indie filmmakers around the country, shake that all up and you’ve pretty much got RetarDEAD.

This film is the follow up to “Monsturd”, which was an awesome film, by the way. Was the idea for “RetarDEAD” there from the beginning or did it come after completion of “Monsturd”?

Thanks for the kind words. “Monsturd” came out better than it had any right being. Things just sort of fell into place for us on that movie. As mentioned above, “RetarDEAD” was spawned from the title. Originally, we weren’t planning on making any type of sequel to “Monsturd.”… Wait, I should backtrack on that a little. Actually Dan had a germ of an idea for “Monsturd 2.”… I think it was because he liked the tagline he thought up… “Endangered Feces.” Anyway, we both agreed that we had run the poop joke into the ground, and there wasn’t really anything new we could bring to the table. We came up with a number of ideas we wanted to shoot next, including one about cannibalistic undertakers, but neither of us could ever give 100% buy-in to the projects we were coming up with. It wasn’t until we started hashing “RetarDEAD” out and turned it into the sequel to “Monsturd,” that be both bought into the project.

Without question, it’s an over-the-top film… but I’d expect nothing less from the makers of “Monsturd”. There’s a wicked villain, there’s a dance sequence, tons of blood and guts and it’s hilarious AND, on top of all that, it really, really works. I find that to be successful with this particular sub-genre, you need to go further than you think. More blood, more slapstick, etc. Talk about what you think it takes to make a successful gore/comedy like this?

I hate to quote an Apple ad, but the truth is, you really have to think different. There’s a lot of competition out there right now for eyeballs. Not only is the DVD market saturated with ancient Hollywood dreck (and remakes of the old dreck), but indie distributors are crowding the market with stuff that’s even worse! If you’re reading this and you’re an independent filmmaker, do something that’s a little different… off the wall… If you’re going to make another “killer in the woods” movie, think of something you can do that will take your movie to the next level… Maybe the killer is a dwarf transvestite… Maybe instead of the movie taking place in the woods, it takes place in a big-top circus… And the killer is one of the people from the freak show.

The other suggestion I have for filmmakers is to not cut corners on your production. Just because you don’t have a budget doesn’t mean your movie has to look like it. If you’re resourceful, you can make your $1,000 look like a million. Think of locations that have production value. Just because you have a garage available to you, doesn’t mean you have to shoot your whole movie there. Go out and find cool-looking locations to film at. And lastly, don’t pull your punches. If you’re shooting a low-budget horror movie, don’t cut away when someone is about to get killed. That’s the mark of an amateur. I can forgive a lot when I’m watching an indie movie (the stilted line delivery, the poor shot composition, the bad audio), but when I see a kill scene that doesn’t deliver the goods, I get bloody annoyed.

When you’re doing gore, you gotta deliver… and you guys definitely did that. Talk about some of your favorite effects and how you created them.

Most of the budget on RetarDEAD went to special makeup effects. We used Ed Martinez (who did the effects for the 80s zombie flick “The Dead Pit.”) If I had to only pick one effect, I would say the scene where we tore the school’s principal in half. That was pretty elaborate. We actually built the basement set in my garage (where the principal gets attacked), and we built a replica of the set on our soundstage. The set’s floor in the soundstage was raised up a foot and a half, and we cut a hole in the middle of it for our actor to slide into up to his waist. Michael Allen, our actor playing the principal, actually had to have his body cast. Our make-up artist used that to make his lower torso appliance.

On the night of the effect, Michael had to climb into the hole and get made up for more than two hours (meaning no bathroom breaks). And, because of our miniscule budget, we only had one chance to get the shot right. On most H-Wood shoots, the make-up artists prepares to do the effect at least three times in case something goes wrong. Because of this, we actually had two cameras running during the take. Overall, I think the effect came out great. The only downside was that all of the blood that flowed ran right into the hole Michael was situated in and ended up ruining my carpet.

I saw that it screened at a few festivals. How was it received? Also, tell us what you think about the horror festival circuit… is it something that other indie horror filmmakers should get involved with?

RetarDEAD has been received pretty well at the festivals we’ve screened it at. The people who turn out for these things are pretty die hard horror fans, and I think they appreciated the fact that we brought something a little different to the table. As far as the horror circuit goes, I’ve been amazed at how cool everyone is… I had this perception (or should I say misperception) that hard core horror fans would be a scary bunch of people. But it turns out that everyone I’ve encountered, even the scary-looking ones, are actually some of the nicest and most respectful people I’ve ever met.

Are film festivals the right way to go? The thing about film festivals is that they’re a good place to get attention for your film if your film is having a hard time standing out on its own. Film festivals can lend some legitimacy to your project. Honestly, we didn’t really need to take the film festival route. We actually had a couple of distributors who were pretty much willing to sign the movie sight unseen thanks to the notoriety of “Monsturd.” Still, I can’t deny that it’s fun to see your flick screened in a real movie theater that’s packed full of a bunch of drunken gore hounds.

Talk about the process of distribution. What can you pass on to other filmmakers about the process of getting a film distributed.

Expect to get screwed on your first movie… And maybe your second and third, too… We signed Monsturd with an outfit called Dead Alive. They sold 4,000 copies of the movie into Blockbuster and then promptly went out of business. Never saw a dime. We got our rights back and signed with Elite Entertainment. They had Monsturd for three years and, again, we never saw a dime. We then signed with Brain Damaged Films and they at least gave us some money for International sales.

Are we gettin’ rich off this? Hell no! If I’m not mistaken, I think we’ve probably earned about $4,000 for Monsturd to date.

A couple of tips for wannabe filmmakers:

1. Know that contracts are negotiable. If you get someone who’s interested in your movie and they give you a contract, it isn’t the end-all-be-all. You can add in there whatever you want.

2. Never sign away your movie. Know that you are licensing your movie to them. And that license should never go for more than 5 years. If the distributor hasn’t done everything they can for you in 5 years, then nothing else will happen to it while it’s in their possession. When you get your rights back, you can approach another distributor with your flick.

3. While the tools are in place to self distribute your stuff, it’s really a pain in the ass. We tried to self distribute “RetarDEAD” at first, and it ended up being too much work. If you go this route, you had better be prepared to make it a full time job… Plus you better have some capital to make the initial copies and glossy ad slicks. Plus, there are a number of outlets who won’t even talk to you unless you’ve got some reputable sub-distributor in place.

Talk about the indie horror scene and indie horror filmmaking. Where do you feel we’re at now and where do you think it’s going?

I liken the indie horror scene to the early days of desktop publishing. You remember the “zine” craze? Everyone with a computer and a copy of Illustrator suddenly fancied themselves a publisher. How much of the stuff that came out of that era was any good? Not much. I’m sorry to say that I’m seeing the same thing with today’s “indie” horror film scene. That’s not to say there aren’t some talented people out there, but they’re getting buried underneath tsunami of shit. Just because you have a DV camcorder, a computer and a software editor doesn’t automatically make you a feature filmmaker. Ultimately, I like to believe that the cream ultimately rises to the top. The people who love it will continue to do it and they’ll get better and better over time. I have no doubt that we’ll see the next Sam Raimi rise up through the ranks of micro-budget horror.

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

Our Website is RetarDEAD is available on Amazon and Film Baby (note: Film Baby still has a few copies of the original pressing of RetarDEAD. This includes our original cover AND an original soundtrack CD. And it’s limited edition. We only made 400 copies of this version and when they’re gone… They’re gone.

What’s next? Any more projects in the works?

Dan and I are currently drafting a script about an Alien that crash lands in Butte County… It will be a direct sequel to “Monsturd” and “RetarDEAD.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Horror Out On DVD This Week: It's a Boob Filled Week

I'm not a Tarantino fan. In fact, I was kinda hoping that "Inglourious Basterds" would just take a big, giant turd at the box office... However, and much to my dismay, it beat "District 9" out of the top spot and did so with ease, plus it's gettting good reviews. "Basterds" pulled in an estimated $37Million over the weekend, which is pretty damned good. Now, I know that a lot of you guys dig Tarantino and consider him to be a massive influence. Me, I just think he's kinda overrated... but, if you did go out and see "Basterds", what did you think? "Pulp Fiction" or "Jackie Brown"?

As for indie horror, there's quite a few decent looking DVD's coming out this week. Too many to get into any depth on all of them, actually. So, we've got most of the trailers up on our
Youtube Page and I'll link to all of their pages on Amazon, so you can get more info on each of them and/or buy them... you know, if you so desire.

First up is "Abduction", from John Orrichio. Orrichio has made a few other indie films, including "Requiem for a Vampire" and "The Haunting of Danbury House", among others. The trailer is filled with T&A and the film is about a small vacation town that has a secret, underground internet business that specializes in selling human organs and babies, as well as auctioning off young women into sex slavery. One of Orrichio's other boob-filled movies, "Dreams of the Dead" is also available this week.

"Red Velvet" is apparently an exclusive, but I'm not sure what that actually means. It stars Henry Thomas, who peaked at around age 13, when he played Elliott in "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial". Since then, he's done tons of films, most of which are indie... a lot of which are of the horror variety. The film looks interesting, to say the least, and the killer appears to be some sort of human-rabbit-cyborg hybrid. Very strange. Check out the trailer.

If you're into the Asian shit... and I'm not talking J-Horror, I'm talking "Ichi The Killer" and "Machine Girl" type shit... check out "Onechanbara". It's based on the hit video game of the same title - I've never heard of it, but I don't claim to be on the bleeding edge of gaming and this could be an XBox exclusive. It's about a girl, armed with a sword and wearing her trademark bikini and cowboy hat, who's determined to track down her fathers killer. Oh... and it takes place in the year 20XX in a world where zombies have taken over the earth.

There's some other low-budget indie horror coming out, including: "Promise", starring Tiffany Shepis and directed by David M. Quiroz Jr.; "Frayed" (which looks to have been heavily influenced by "Halloween"), starring Kellee Bradley and Don Brady, directed by Norb Caoili and Rob Portmann; "Ghost Image" starring Elisabeth Rohm and Stacey Dash, directed by Jack Snyder and; "The Last Gateway" (which looks f'ing good and f'ing gory) starring Kevin Schiele and Rodrigo Aragon, directed by Demian Rugna.

Lastly, I wanted to mention "The Brass Ring", which also comes out this week. I mention it because, really, our readers are probably the only people who would truly, truly get it. It's a documentary on a group of friends, with no real film experience, in rural Ohio who set out to make a zombie epic with $7,500 and a Super-8 camera.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Interview With Joeby Gibson: Creator/Writer of "Lethal: Death Squad Uprising"

We here at Dead Harvey love indie comics. It's a really exciting thing to see happening right now because, much like indie. movies, the indie. comic scene is booming and the internet is proving to be fertile ground for creators to get their material out there like never before. Joeby Gibson's "Lethal: Death Squad Uprising" is a not only a fantastic indie. comic, it's currently FREE. I highly recommend everyone who reads this post to go back and read on from issue #1. It's a very enjoyable throwback to all the 80s action movies we've known and loved and that Hollywood sadly isn't making anymore. Remember "Cobra", "Commando", "Lone Wolf McQuade", "Hard to Kill"? I regularly revisit these flicks not only for nostalgia purposes but because they hold up incredibly well as pulp-style, kick-ass entertainment and they're so much better than most of the movies those action stars have come out with since the eighties.

Joeby Gibson's indie comic captures the essence of the eighties' action movie spirit and more than delivers the goods with every issue. Much like those films, it has a fun spirit, doesn't take itself too seriously, but doesn't slack on the action and gore either. And the artwork is outstanding. Joeby gives us a highly informative interview and whether your thing is comics or movies, it's a must read. Here's hoping that Lethal lives long and prospers!

First off, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie comics?

Ok, well I’m a freelance story producer for reality TV shows and have worked on shows for major networks and cable.

One day, I just got tired of working on somebody else’s project. I can’t tell you how many times a series would’ve been really entertaining had it not been dumb down by twenty executives and the network.

So finally I got off my ass and started writing Lethal. I got into the comic scene because it was cheaper to tell my stories. Instead of paying thousands of dollars to film a concept that might not sell, I can pay very little to get my idea out to the masses and hopefully gain a fanbase.

Which do you prefer and why: indie comics or indie movies?

That’s tough because both bring something very special to the table. Sometimes indie movies are great because they’re a little bit edgier than the Hollywood fanfare. My Netflix que is probably 75% Direct-to-DVD horror films. If a movie tells a great story and can hold my attention for 90 minutes, then I don’t care if it was shot on mini-dv with no name actors. The important thing is that those filmmakers made a product that some distributor thought was profitable.

But indie comics can get away with so much more. With less money involved, the artist or writer can tell a story that will hopefully trump any of the latest Hollywood blockbusters. So if I had to choose, then I’m leaning towards indie comics because there is nothing stopping you from telling the biggest blockbuster you can draw.

Who do you believe is doing the best work in indie comics today and why?

Though he’s not so much indie because he writes for Image but Robert Kirkman is simply amazing. The “Walking Dead” series is not the usual super heroes in tights but zombies and personal stories. Thankfully AMC just picked up the series and it’s going to be written by Frank Darabont. I also enjoyed Brian Wood’s “Local”. Been a fan of that for awhile and had a nerd-gasm at comic-con when I picked up the entire series, signed by Wood.

What inspired you to make "Lethal: Death Squad Uprising"?

I’ve always been a fan of those cheesy 80’s action movies. You know the one’s where the hero is always walking away from explosions, fights are always one person at a time and a car explodes no matter if the hero hits the gas tank or not. All those Steven Seagal and Van Damme movies still hold up today. Just a few nights ago I was watching Under Siege in HD… still a classic. For research I watching every action movie from “Cobra” to “Stone Cold”.

Why did you decide to set the story in 1985?

The year just came to me because that’s when all those action movies started. You had Seagal in “Above the Law”, Van Damme in “Kickboxer”, and also around that time was “Lethal Weapon”. It just seemed right that if I was going to tell a cheesy action story that it should take place in the 80’s. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some storylines in other decades. There’s a lot of back-story to the character Lethal that I’m hoping to tell.

What separates "Lethal" from other indie comics?

I think the fact that this is entirely independent and free really sets it apart. Each month I’m putting out 16 pages of story and for free. How many big name publishers do that?

What has been the most and least fun about making your own indie comic?

The least fun would have to be the financial burden. My checkbook has definitely suffered, that’s for sure. Unless you’re a one-man DIY army, making your own comic can get very expensive. I can’t draw so I had to commission Rowel Roque, a very talented artist, to bring my script to panels.

But I will say it’s been very rewarding to work on your own material. At the end of the day, it’s my characters, scenes, and universe that’s being created. There’s no executive standing over my shoulder giving me revision notes because they need to piss all over the project. Now I’m not saying my writing is golden, but there’s a sense of accomplishment when it’s your work. I do take criticism very well. But if it’s my dime and I don’t agree, I have the right to tell you to fuck off. Now if someone were paying me to write, then that’s a different story.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in getting "Lethal" off the ground?

Mentally for many years, I was my own worst enemy. I just kept telling myself that my stories weren’t good enough or to do a comic was too difficult and people wouldn’t read it. Every month, I would talk myself out of starting a comic. Finally, I read the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. That was the kick in the ass I needed and I highly suggest any artist suffering from doubt to read it.

After reading the book I knew I had to at least try and get Lethal out there. Now, Lethal is not the best indie comic out there. Nor do I claim to be the next golden child of screenwriting. But at least I stopped reading comics, got off the couch and started writing. So for all those writers out there claiming they can write a better story, do it! Stop your barking and actually bite.

Physically, I can’t draw to save my life. Lethal would be stick figures if I had drawn it. The biggest thing was finding an artist that I felt could bring life to the story. Rowel’s artwork is simply amazing. I love seeing the script go from word to finished panel.

Also, I have no clue about this new fad the kids call the internets. I’ve never made a webpage. Seen lots of them, but never made one. After a quick tour of iweb, I ran out to the nearest Apple store and bought an imac. It’s been one of my best purchases to date.

How long does it take to put an indie comic together?

All together I’d say it takes about a month to produce a 16 page issue. Work schedules get in the way of my writing sometimes, but usually I can finish a script in a week. But that doesn’t mean the writing stops there. The script gets handed off to Rowel and it takes him a week to sketch 8 pages. I’ll send him notes and get the inked pages a week later. Then the process continues for the next set of 8 pages.

Once all the pages are inked, I’ll go in with Photoshop elements and do clean up. That takes a lot of time because I really want to put out the best looking comic possible. After the artwork has been cleaned, I’ll start lettering and that usually takes me about three to four days. A big part of lettering is rewriting. I’m constantly rewriting as I go. If I was on the ball, an issue could be completed within a month. But luckily I’ve spaced out issues so I wouldn’t be up against any deadlines that would conflict with my actual paying gig.

What have you learned so far from navigating the indie comics scene and what advice can you pass on others looking to get into the business?

What I’ve learned is you just have to get out there and do it. The industry is changing at a rapid pace. If you have a story to tell, then stop reading and starting writing. Anyone can say they can tell a better story, but to actually put yourself out there and write something for everyone to judge; that takes a lot of determination.

Also you are constantly rewriting. There are three stages of your script; the draft you give to your artist, the interpretation the artist comes up with and then the final draft during lettering.

What are your future plans for "Lethal"?

To be honest there are no big future plans for Lethal. The “Death Squad Uprising” storyline will wrap up at issue #9. Once that is done, I plan on taking a short hiatus and then hope to start up again with the next storyline. Right now it’s just about delivering a story and getting a fanbase.

If "Lethal" were to be made into a film, who would you see playing the main characters?

I’m a big fan of “Lost” and I would say Josh Holloway would be the perfect fit to play Lethal.

How can our readers get more information on "Lethal: Death Squad Uprising" and support your indie comic?

First off, if you haven’t already gone to the website, do it! It’s free and hopefully you’ll enjoy it. Also I’m on Twitter (@joebygibson). I’m doing something very special for the fans. The first 500 followers will be listed in the graphic novel coming out later this year. How many comic book fans can say their name is in the special dedication page of a graphic novel? So I thought that’d be a nice thank you to the fans.

What upcoming projects are you working on: comics or otherwise?

Well the Death Squad storyline only has four more issues left. After that I’ll probably take a hiatus. I’ve already started outlining the next volume of Lethal and can tell you things are going to get really brutal. The last few pages to the Death Squad Uprising storyline set up the next volume and I had to tell Rowel to pull back on the artwork because it was too brutal. Hopefully people will be surprised at the end of the story and will want to know what happens next. All I can say is that there’s going to be a new villain introduced in the last pages that is just gruesome.

As for me, I’m still doing my day job as a story producer. But I do have plenty of other stories to tell and believe it or not, I may do a more family oriented comic. But then there’s always a side of me that wants to do a horror comic.

Thank you for the interview and for keeping the indie scene alive. "Lethal: Death Squad Uprising" is a blast to read and we here at Dead Harvey very much look forward to your upcoming work!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What Indie Horror Is All About: An Interview With Phil Messerer, Writer/Director of "Thicker Than Water"

Every once in a while, I'm privileged enough to check out an indie horror film that reaffirms my love for indie horror... and the film we're going to discuss is one of them. It's not that I don't see a lot of good films, it's just that if I had to break out and classify all the indie horror that I watch, you could break it into five parts, four of which would be fairly equal and make up around 99% of the films. Those four parts are: the stuff that, save for family members and friends of the filmmakers, almost everyone would consider pure crap; then there's the stuff that indie horror filmmakers and fans would consider to be watchable, but most other people would think is crap; you've got the the stuff that most people would consider watchable and indie horror fans would consider to be good and, finally; there's the stuff that most people would consider decent and indie horror guys would be considered great. The fifth, and rarest category, would be the stand out films. Stuff that I think everyone would be entertained by. Stuff that, when people ask me if I've seen anything good, I recommend. Stuff like "Thicker Than Water".

Phil Messerer's "Thicker Than Water" is what indie horror is all about. The acting is top-notch, the effects are perfect (not too over the top, yet very effective), the story is great and you're drawn in at the beginning and asking for more at the end. The story is far bigger than the film, as it's like you're dropped into this small subsection of the world that's been created. It's a film that fires on all cylinders and it's just done really damn well... I'm not alone in thinking that, either. The film won multiple awards (9, I think) from multiple festivals. We had the distinct pleasure of discussing the film with Messerer and he gives an interview that I definitely think you should read.

By the way, I obviously highly recommend the film, so if you want to go to the films Amazon page, here's a link

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

My influences. Hmmm. I am very heavily influenced by Aussie flicks, actually. I know, most people don't even know what the hell I'm talking about. But I lived in Sydney for 8 years in the 90s, went to college there, kind of grew up there. And I was exposed to a very unique brand of cinema which was really just taking off there. A few of the films made it overseas, most notably Muriel's Wedding and Priscilla and a little indie (I mean, they're all indies - there's really no film industry worth speaking of) called Strictly Ballroom. Strictly Ballroom, remains, to this day, my greatest influence. It's really the mother of the film style, a sort of larger than life, in your face, make fun of everything, especially yourself sort of film style. Funnily enough I think it has its origins in horror, in a little New Zealand flick called Dead Alive. So I'm kind of bringing it around full circle.

But I was born in Russia. Moscow. 1974. Cold War days. My family broke out in 81 after several years of struggle as political dissidents. I was seven years old at the time. My father was a radio personality. My mother, a famous academician. Once they applied to leave the country, they lost their membership to the Communist Party, kind of like a social security card. They basically lost all rights as citizens. My mother kept us afloat with one of the few private businesses in Moscow, an English class for little kids held in our apartment. We quickly went to the forefront of the Anti-Government movement. My mother made a lot of noise. She had connections overseas. We were constantly harassed by the KGB. After several years she was either going to be shipped to a Gulag or exiled, as we prayed to be the case. Our prayers were answered. On May 14th, 1981, after a thorough strip search, we boarded a plane headed for the West. We arrived in New York on July 7th, which for me has always been the real Independence day. Three days after everyone else, I'm barbecuing and lighting cherry bombs. People think I'm insane.

I grew up poor, in a Domincan Manhattan neighborhood (Washington Heights). Around the corner was a little RKO movie theater that only showed horror and martial arts movies. They couldn't care less about age restrictions so I never missed a flick. My mom was pretty eccentric. She liked horror films. Cheesy ones. I was always kind of dumbfounded at this great scholar, psychologist digging the same crap I was. She and I went to every horror film together. My sister, on the other hand, can't stand horror but loves martial arts flicks and I watched all those with her. To this day, my sister still hasn't seen my film. Anyway, my mom died of cancer about ten years ago. She had dragged us across three continents in search of a better life for her offspring. I was too young to really appreciate her then. Thicker Than Water is a tribute to her and to Moms everywhere who would kill or die for their children.

Film school: yes or no?

Fuck film school! Film school's for rich kids. And they're not going to teach you anything you can't learn at Blockbuster. If you have the money, make your own film. There's your film school!

Tell us a bit about “The Vampire Diaries: Thicker Than Water”

Well, first off, it's got nothing to do with teeny romance, so if that's your kick, go sparkle somewhere else. It's a dark comedy and if you have a twisted sense of humor, if your friends elbow you for snickering in Sunday School, then this is your cup of tea. No pun intended. You have to watch the film to get that one. I've always been a bit of a trouble-maker. Maybe rebellion is ingrained in me from those days as a Soviet Dissident. Thicker Than Water is a knock on all things supposedly righteous. I think our society stinks of hypocrisy. So my film kind of throws all their precious values back in their face. Sure, it's an angry little film. I was angry when I wrote it. My wife had just left me. I just try to separate the bullshit from the truth. Don't know how well I do it, but at least I'm shedding some light on the Emperor's new clothes. Oh, and it's about vampires.

Obviously there’s an idea here that’s far bigger than the one film. Tell us about where the idea came from and how you developed it.

Now we get to the nitty gritty. Yes! Yes! Yes! There is so much more to come! I'm redefining vampires here. That whole mythos is as stale as yesterday's rye bread. And Thicker Than Water is only the tip of the iceberg. Okay, (SPOILER ALERT) my vampires are not made, they're born. They are a species, not some walking undead. There is absolutely NOTHING supernatural about them. I explain everything scientifically. They breed, amongst themselves or with humans, and their offspring are human. For their first 16 years. Then they die and are reborn as vampires. Only thing is, vampires cannot care for their young. They may eat them! So, like the cuckoo bird, they place their children in the nests of unsuspecting human families. Such a family is The Baxters. Rearing a vampire without even knowing it. That's where the story begins. Part 2 will reveal a lot more. There's practically a revelation in every scene. The whole myth was just begging for make-over. But I like to think that I kept the essence alive. I think Bram Stoker would be pleased. That is why I am especially honored to be screening at the first every Bram Stoker film festival in Whitby, England this fall. It is being held by a descendant of Bram's. Dacre Stoker. How cool is that?!!!

The vampires themselves are inspired by nature. In particular, snakes. Part 2 is entitled, The Serpent Queen. My vampires are almost reptilian. Their fangs are like those of a viper, extending from the roofs of their mouths and injecting a neuro-toxin with every bite. The victims are paralyzed. Only their eyeballs roll around in utter panic and terror. Like I said, go look for romance somewhere else.

As far as the Baxters are concerned, well, that's my family. Lara, the Goth, the rebel, is me. Helen, the goody-two shoes is my sister, Alice (the horror-phobe). Mom is Mom. My parents were divorced. And Raymond, the son, is that wild card. In our case it was my grandmother, who we dragged out of bed to go live in another country. Raymond is a pivotal character. He says little but without him the house of cards just collapses. It's hard to explain but in a lot of ways, Raymond is the key to the film's success. I know they're archetypes. But there's a reason that archetypes are archetypes. Because we identify with them. They are exaggerations of ourselves.

But the very seedling is the theme of maternal love. This sounds cheesy but when I was a kid my mother always told me there was nothing I could do that would make her stop loving me. That's a bold fucking statement! What if I came home a vampire and needed 'human sacrifices'? Huh, mom? What then? Well, my film is what then.

What was the budget for the film and how did you go about financing it?

Where there's a will, there's a relative. A few years after my mother died, she got a court settlement from an old lawsuit. Isn't that always the way life works? The money went to her kids. The official budget is $200,000. But what's money? This took three years out of my life. It was a commitment the likes of which I don't think I'll ever make again. It's one of those once in a lifetime shots that you take and depending on its success, decides what you're going to do with the rest of your life. I want to make movies. It's all or nothing for me. Yeah, it's micro-budget. We cut every corner we could. But whatever. If the fact that I was able to achieve with 200 grand what Hollywood can't do with 200 million (ei. - make a decent vampire flick), is a bad thing - then I'm guilty.

There was a lot that stood out in this film; from the gore, to the acting, to the story… you really put together a top-notch indie film. I’m assuming that you’ll have talked about developing the story in question 4, so let’s talk about the acting. You had great performances… where did you get your actors and talk about your directing style.

I auditioned. There are a lot of hungry, young, talented actors in New York. Probably more-so than L.A. At least you don't have to pay them in N.Y. And believe me, you'll need to save every penny. I found three incredible young actresses to play the leads. Jo Jo Hristova, who plays Mom was actually only 32 years old - a year younger than Michael Strelow who plays her son. So we're talking some serious caliber acting here. Jo Jo is a highly accomplished actress in Bulgaria and she brought this old school European technique that just blew us all away. First off, in life she is the bubbliest, happiest, most energetic little thing you ever did see. She talks a million miles an hour is always beaming like the sun just refuses to stop shining on her. Meanwhile, her character, Mom, is this morose, jaded, Orthodox Christian thirty years her senior. I asked her at the audition if she had any kids. She said, "No. But I have a mother." Yeah, she has some looks, boy, make you run off with your tale between your legs. The part wasn't originally intended for an immigrant but I think Jo Jo's accent added immensely to, if nothing else, the 'substance' of the role. Europeans just feel old. There's something old about them. Her dialogue is pretty bare so a lot of her character is unspoken. In the hands of a lesser actress, it might have been a disaster. But she made it her own. I think it's a performance for the ages.

The other two ladies are Eilis Cahill and Devon Dionne, both powerhouses in their own right. Devon, the vampire is hot, like Jessica Simpson hot. But she can act! She's also a dancer and brought this incredible physicality to the role. Eilis plays Lara, the Goth. I modeled the character after Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. She tells the story. She's hot too, but in a sexy brooding kind of way. I think all three will be huge stars. And I can say I discovered them! How cool is that?!

You also had some great effects. Talk about some of your favorites and tell us how they were put together.

We had some fun with it. It was never going to be an fx driven movie but it had to have some, so we put real effort into what we did have. Randall Leddy was the fx guy. He's a make-up genius. Both Devon and Jo Jo sat in the make-up chair (usually the toilet bowl) for two hours each before every shoot. On an indie set this can actually be a blessing because it's an extra four hours to get ready. The best and most complicated is probably the face peel. I wanted to see what a face really looks like without skin. Randall basically built the skinless face over a skull and then it somehow had to fit the actor's countenance which he created by smearing the actor's face with this white shit. It was tres complicated. I tried to stay out of it as much as possible. I was just in the corner, constantly demanding "More Blood!" You should really ask Randall about this stuff. But yeah, it came out great. One of the best facepeels in cinematic history if you ask me.

I also want to acknowledge the work of Randall's brother Dustin Leddy (my co-producer) - these two guys are the next Coens. As well as Michael Gongora, my own personal Mike Schank (American Movie reference) and the incredible etchings created by Rostislav Spitkovsky. These are the guys you want to be in the trenches with.

Not only did you screen at a bunch of festivals, you won a few awards. Talk about the festival circuit. Has it opened any doors and/or furthered your career? Is it something that you would recommend to other indie filmmakers?

Here's what I've learned. After you make a movie, you have build its pedigree. A pedigree is something that you need in order for a distributor to even consider your film. Now you can start building this pedigree before you shoot a single frame. By casting a star. Even if it's a small role, just stick their face right in the middle of the poster. Stars get distribution. Get more than one, you're practically assured. I had no stars. So for me, a pedigree meant festivals and press. Now I learned the hard way that press should come before festivals because festivals love free press. If you have press, you have a lot of power. But what did I know about promotion? I was a filmmaker. Then I thought, what the hell did I know about filmmaking before I tried that? So now I'm a master viral marketeer. The film's gotten over 50 great reviews and I have a veritable army ready to spread any bit of news I give them. For example, Vampfest is having a trailer contest on youtube. Within a day I had twenty publications telling people to go and vote for our flick. Which reminds me: (Ted's note: it's currently winning)

Vote Thicker Than Water! 5 stars all the way!

Must get press! If you believe in your product, get some reviews. And don't listen to that whiny asshole who says that nobody should see your film till it's distributed. Nobody's going to see his film EVER! Get it out there. Create a buzz. I now have distributors calling me! But I'm holding off. At least for a couple of months. Once you get to the money side of things, it's a seedy business. There are a couple more fests in our festival season. Let me enjoy the art of it for a minute. Then I'll let the vultures fight over the carcass.

As far as festivals, they're like summer camp for filmmakers. Loads of fun. Get drunk and talk about movies all night long. That's what we film geeks live for. But in terms of getting discovered, don't get your hopes up. Just hope you can get some people to come to your screening. My opinion is that all festivals should be free. Who the hell's going to pay 12 bucks to see some indie shit? Reediculous! Get a couple of awards to stick on your DVD box and be out. I've heard of people submitting to a hundred festivals (Me!). Wrong! Big waste of money. But there's nothing like the press. You might spend three grand on a festival, what with airfare, accommodation, promotion and booze for the afterparty in your hotel room. And still less people will know about your flick than if you spent a buck on postage to the right film critic.

Talk about distribution. What lessons have you learned and what would you pass on to other indie filmmakers?

I think I just answered that.

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

I think it has nowhere to go but up. Horror needs to evolve. It needs to become more relevant, more substantial. Horror seems to go by a different set of rules than the rest of cinema. It's like character and story don't apply. So there's a great deal of room for improvement. I see horror flicks winning Oscars. Why not? Silence of the Lambs was pretty scary. There's already a move towards it. I like what Del Toro is doing. And the Japanese. Women are finally becoming acknowledged as a genuine demographic. You know, it's important to keep your roots, to maintain that mischievous heritage that is this genre's birthright, but we must also expand our horrorizons. I like the effect that science fiction has had on the genre. It's made it more real, and more frightening. What's the first thing you say to yourself when you're scared at the movies? "It's only a movie! It's only a movie!" The best kind of horror, for me, is the kind that can happen to you on the way home from the theater.

Where can people find out more about “Thicker Than Water” or, better yet, buy a copy?

What’s next?

Part 2.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Brief Look At District 9 and A Look At The New Horror Coming Out On DVD This Week

As I suspected, "District 9" kicked some serious ass over the weekend. Rated R and shot on the fairly moderate budget of $30Million, it yanked in approximately $37Million, domestically, in it's first weekend. Which, by my math, is awesome... and, by the way, although there is a bit of bad language and violence, the R rating comes primarily due to the excessive gore. It's the talk of the town, too... so, I expect it to hang on and do quite well over the next few weeks. So, good weekend at the box office. Also, good week for horror on DVD. As usual, you can check out all the trailers on our Youtube page and you can click on the titles to be taken to their Amazon page, where you can learn more and/or actually buy them.

The biggest release of the week is "Last House on the Left", which is, of course, the remake of the 1972 classic from Wes Craven. Now, if you've seen neither of them... first off, I'm insulted, hurt and confused. Secondly, I'd highly suggest you check out the original (here's a link to it's page on Amazon) before you check out the remake. I'm not sure when I first saw the original, but it was probably in the late 80's or early 90's and it really is a monumental film. If not because of the fact that it was so controversial, because it was so groundbreaking in it's depiction of real life horror. I mean, it was only recently UNbanned in the UK, what does that say? But, I digress, as this isn't about the original, this is about the remake... which came out March 13 from Rogue Pictures and was produced by none other than Wes Craven, as well as the original producer of the first film, Sean S. Cunningham, who happens to be the originator of the "Friday the 13th" series. As for the film itself? Yeah, it's worth seeing. You'll like it.

"Death Note 3: L, Change the World" is the third installment into the "Death Note" series, which are Japanese films based on the "Death Note" manga and anime series. They basically follow college kids who try to rid the world of evil by using a supernatural notebook that kills anyone who's name is written in it. It's bigger than Hello Kitty in Japan and Warner Bros has already acquired the American rights and, no joke, there were rumors that Zac Efron would be playing the lead role, named 'Light'. In any case, the US release is slated for some time in 2011, but you can check out all the originals now.

I recently saw "Surveillance", starring Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond, and it's definitely worth checking out. In hindsight, Bill Pullman is cast perfectly. You'll be a little surprised by his performance, I think, and it's one of those films that you may want to see again, right away. It's directed by Jennifer Lynch, daughter to David Lynch, who serves as producer. In the film world, Jennifer is probably best known for her film, "Boxing Helena", which was, well... well, you can tell she's David Lynch's daughter. Now, David Lynch is best known for making fucked up films, but Jennifer actually has a flare for horror. When she was starting out, she wrote an episode for "Friday the 13th: The Series" and, now, not only did "Surveillance" take the top prize at the Festival de Cine de Sitges, she made history at the New York City Horror Film Festival by becoming the first female to win Best Director in the fest's history.

Can't go too long with out a Sci-Fi original, can you? "Wyvern", directed by Steven R. Monroe and written by Jason Bourque, originally aired some time in January, I believe. The actual idea of a wyvern, which is a winged reptilian creature, comes from Norse mythology. They're kind of like dragons, I guess. In any case, Nick Chinlund, Erin Karpluk and Barry Corbin, among others, stumble on to one on their way to Alaska and all hell breaks loose.

The only other thing of note coming out is the "Final Destination Collection", which is a cash-in on the fact that "The Final Destination" hits theaters this coming weekend... or is it the weekend after? I know it comes out the same weekend as "H2". Either way, this one's in 3D.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Indie Filmmakers, Check This Out...

I rarely look at the analytics for the site, but I just checked them and it's really interesting to see where our readers come from. Most readers come from North America, with the U.S. being the top and Canada being second... but we do have a fair amount of readers from the UK and abroad. We even have readers in Russia, Poland, Romania... kinda cool. What's really cool is that when you look at the U.S., specifically, there's only two states where not one person has checked out our site: Wyoming and Nebraska and that got me thinking... what the fuck is going on in Wyoming and Nebraska? Actually, that's not what I was thinking. What I was thinking was the fact that half of our U.S. readers come from New York and California, with about a third of the total US visitors coming from California alone. This makes sense, as New York City and Los Angeles both have huge indie film communities, but if you flip it, that means that HALF of our U.S. readers DON'T come from New York or L.A. Now, why does that matter?

Well, imagine you're an athlete from a small town. Imagine you're pretty good and you can beat everyone there at whatever sport it is that you play. What happens when you enter a state-wide tournament? What about a national tournament? An international tournament? Well, chances are, you're not going to be as good as you think you are. Now, if you're an indie filmmaker from a market that doesn't have a big indie film scene, the only real gauge of how good you are will come from entering festivals and watching stuff that gets distributed. There's really not a lot of support from the community, I'm guessing. When you're in a town like LA or New York, you can get into the scene and work with people, see other projects in production, watch other filmmakers films, discuss ideas and prop each other up, gaining success on the backs of each other. In a way, Dead Harvey tries to be just that, a community where we can learn from each other and make each other better... and I realized that we need to show more content. More clips, trailers to indie projects, behind the scenes stuff. I mean, you can read all you want, but film is a visual medium and you need to SEE what other people are doing. You can look at their production values, see how they make that look and learn from it.

Anyhow, that's why I went through my inbox and found a few clips and links that I wanted to pass on. Further, if you've got some clips of a project that you'd like to share, shoot me an email. I'd love to check it out, pass it on to our readers and get some discussion going.

First up, click HERE to be taken to The Vampire Film Festival's Youtube page. Not only do you get to vote on what goes into the festival, you can see the trailers for all the indie films that are entered. Pretty cool... "Thicker Than Water" is in there and it's an indie film that I highly recommend. I just watched it recently, great film. More importantly, though, you can see the quality of the films that are being submitted.

Next up, Gris Grimly, who we've featured a few times, has posted some behind the scenes stuff on his new short film called "Wounded Embark of the Lovesick Mind".

Here's the teaser for the film...

For the behind the scenes stuff, here's Webisode 1, Webisode 2, Webisode 3, Webisode 4 and, finally, Webisode 5. There's some pretty cool stuff in there, I definitely recommend checking them out.

Lastly, because I just got this, this morning... Go HERE to check out the latest on George Romero's new zombie flick. No clips or anything, it's just George Romero's Myspace page.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Interview With Keith Boron, Writer/Director Of "Murder Is Like Sex"

Have you ever been drunk at a bar and an argument over some film breaks out? When they break out, do you ever think to yourself, who the F are you to argue with me on this? I went to film school. I've made films. I've written screenplays. I know this shit... you're a plumber. If an argument about plumbing broke out, I wouldn't question you! So, why the hell is it that people who WATCH the occasional movie think they KNOW movies? I mean, I watch plumbing, but I don't claim to know shit about it. That's actually a stupid scenario and I think you know I'm kidding, but here's my point - there's a reason that plumbers, teachers and every other person out there has an opinion on film, they're passionate about it. And it's easy to be passionate about film, it's part of our lives. It's entertainment. It's modern day storytelling. People get sucked up into the world's that filmmakers create and they feel that they're a part of it. For some people, that passion simply starts and ends with being a viewer. For others, sitting on the couch isn't good enough - they need to create.

If you're reading this, chances are you're in the latter category. Maybe you've just scribbled a few notes and 'plan' on writing your opus... or maybe you've made 20 films. But, whatever you've done to this point, just watching isn't good enough for you. This is why I love the current state of the indie world. With inexpensive, powerful PC's and cheap equipment, almost anyone can get out there and make a film. If not for the money, just for the sake of getting off the couch and creating something. Films driven by passion. I recently had the opportunity to check out "Murder Is Like Sex", from Keith Boron, and it is one of those films. Keith made this feature film over two years on a shoe-string budget, plagued with setbacks. We had the pleasure of discussing the film with Keith and, after reading it, you'll see that he went through a lot of the same trials and tribulations that other micro cinema filmmakers go through, but he also went through some very unique setbacks. The film is definitely worth checking out, as it's a true product of passion and we're very happy to recommend it... and I also hope you take the time to read the interview.

First off, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie horror?

I've always been interested in horror movies, but didn't really watch them until the mid-80's when they became widely available on videotape.

I didn't actually get involved in the production process until my friend Bill Schotten asked me to help out on his first feature, DEAD LIFE. This was back in the summer of 2002. Although my contribution to that film was minimal, I learned a lot by watching.

Film school: yes or no?


Tell us a bit about your film, “Murder Is Like Sex”

The title was inspired by what Dario Argento said in an interview about his movies. He said the murder scenes were like sex, because they start with foreplay (stalking), progress to the main action (attack on the victim), and end in climax (death).

In the case of my movie, it refers to the lead character (Kevin Wright). He hasn't had much success in dating women, which has caused a lot of fear and resentment. He repressed these feelings because they are hard to deal with. But the feelings eventually manifest themselves, and the movie tells us what happens when he has to deal with them.

What was the budget for the film, how long was the shoot and what did you shoot on?

I didn't keep track of the budget, but it was minimal. Other than Robyn Griggs, we got everything else for free.

We could only shoot on weekends. It was over a period of two years, but would have been considerably shorter if two things hadn't happened: first, one actress was almost never available during the early stages, then the other actress decided to quit on her last day of shooting. We wound up having to reshoot her entire part. Fortunately, we got Heather Summers, who did a fantastic job, even though she had never acted before.

We used a Panasonic DVX-100, which was one of the best consumer digital camcorders at that time, in film mode (24 fps).

I really liked the whole story and thought it was drawn out well. Talk about the screenwriting process and how you put the script together

Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed the story.

Although I wrote the screenplay, it was based on a novella that I co-wrote many years ago with my friend, Mike Petrucci. In it, a guy meets a beautiful woman who turns out to be a demon in disguise. She changes into another form near the end of the novella, but I decided not to include that in the movie, because to do it well would require expensive special effects. Also, I came up with the idea about how she was created by reading some literature from Tibet about tulpas, which are entities that can deliberately created by a person's mind. Some American paranormal researchers believe poltergeists are created in a similar way, except that the person responsible is not aware of doing it, like Kevin in the movie.

The film was far more driven by the story than by sex or violence… even though the story could’ve lent itself to having some excessive sex and violence. Was this intentional?

Definitely. The story always comes first - although if we had more money, there probably would have been more sex and violence.

What were your goals when putting the film together? Was this something that you put together for the sake of just getting a feature done or were you always intending to get it distributed?

I was just hoping to get noticed by the indie movie scene. Unfortunately, after shooting, a couple of the members of my crew decided that the movie belonged to them, and took the necessary legal steps to accomplish this. I didn't find out until it was too late, so I lost control of the movie at that time.

How is distribution going? Talk a bit about the process of getting distribution and is there anything you would pass on to other indie filmmakers?

I have no idea. I set up the meeting between the distributor and the members of the company, but I wasn't there when they signed the contract. I noticed that they had never put the movie on IMDB, so I submitted the basic data (title, director, etc) for them. The distributor thanked me, but the company sent me an e-mail saying that they were upset that I had set up the IMDB page without their permission.

My advice is to always be aware of your business and legal status regarding any movie you participate in.

Where can people find out more about “Murder Is Like Sex” or, better yet, buy a copy?

I normally wouldn't promote something that was stolen from me, but since I think J.R. Bookwalter is a good guy, go to the Tempe Video website and buy it there.

What’s next for you? Any more projects in the works?

My Parkinson's Disease, which started back in '96, is so severe now that it really limits what I can do. I have started another screenplay, though.

Also, Tempe Video is releasing "The Brass Ring", which is a documentary on the making of "Dead Life". I'm in that, and one of the extras is "The Man With The Talking Body" , a 2008 short that I wrote and acted in. Check their site for more details.

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Horror Out On DVD This Week: Wild men and bachelorette parties gone terribly awry...

I can only assume that a lot of you went out to see "G.I. Joe" over the weekend, but I didn't. Personally, from a straight marketing perspective, I think it crossed a line that "Transformers" didn't. I don't know, I wasn't excited about it, but now that I see how well it did, I want to hear what everyone thought about it. Let me know, I may go check it out. Me, I'm REALLY looking forward to "District 9", which comes out this Friday... and I may talk a bit more about it later this week, as I love how director Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson got this project off the ground. Then, in a couple weeks, you have simultaneous horror releases, "H2" and "The Final Destination". That's right, horror hits it hard to end out the summer! Anyhow, let's look at what horror is coming out this week on DVD, as it's a pretty week. As usual, go to our Youtube page to check out all the trailers and you can click on the titles to go to their Amazon page, where you can learn more about them and even buy them, if you so desire.

"The Last Resort" is a modestly budgeted horror film, directed by Brandon Nutt and written by Nathaniel Bozen, Nathan Oliver and Martina Papinchak. The foundation of the film is generic enough, it's about a bachelorette party gone terribly awry, which should give you the obligatory boozing and girls gone wild scenes. However, the film does take a page from the "From Dusk Till Dawn" playbook with a 180 degree turn, when... after whooping it up, then being robbed and left for dead, they end up in an abandoned resort that's inhabited by an unspeakable evil that takes control of all who travel there.

I've been looking forward to "The Wild Man of the Navidad" ever since I first heard about it a year or so ago... it's a total throwback to the old 70's creature films and, man alive, do they pull it off. Check out the trailer. Not only that, check THIS out, it's co-produced by Kim Henkel, the co-writer of the original "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and it was written, directed and edited by two of Henkel's screenwriting/production students, Justin Meeks and Duane Graves. So, it's low-budget, indie horror... guided by someone who was one of the founders of the low-budget, indie horror scene. Like a riddle, trapped inside a puzzle, inside an enigma... with two degree's of separation from Gunnar Hansen.

"The Crypt" has nothing to do with the Crypt keeper or the tales from said crypt that he keeps... "The Crypt" is actually an indie film, which did have a brief theatrical run, about a group of thieves that break into a catacomb to steal jewels, but end up encountering the undead. It's from indie filmmaker Craig McMahon, who also did "Sportkill", "Orville" and the upcoming Lionsgate release, "Machined Reborn".

"Cowboy Killer" is a no-budget indie horror that's been getting a bit of buzz, if only because it's got the makings of a cult classic. It's a horror/comedy about a cowboy from the old west who strolls into a small town to cause a bit of havoc. Trailer looks great, where'd they dig that guy up?

Roger Scheck's "Nobody Loves Alice" is being released... or even re-released this week, as well. We talked with Scheck about it a LONG time ago, over a year ago. You can see our interview and discussion on it by clicking here. It's a great indie film and he made it while he was in school, which makes it all that much more impressive. Definitely worth checking out.

There's also something called "Rest Stop! (2005)" coming out and I can't really find any info on it... "Dark Rising" looks a little interesting, it's about a broken heart, a battle axe, a demon and a lesbian ex-fiance... You may also want to take a look at the sci-fi/comedy with a bit of horror in it, maybe, called "Alien Trespass", starring Eric McCormack. It looks like a goofy movie, sort of like a lower budget version of "Mars Attacks!".

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Tribute To John Hughes AND some info on upcoming film festivals

There's a few festivals and things that I want to tell you about, but before I do... I'd like to talk a bit about John Hughes, who passed away from a heart attack at the age of 59 yesterday.

Personally, I think it's tough to not credit John Hughes as being one of the most influential comedic filmmakers of all time. For those of us who were raised on 80's films, Hughes WAS comedy. From "National Lampoon's Vacation" to "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", he was responsible for a lot of the films that shaped our generation. I can't tell you how much I quoted movies such as "Weird Science" ("Chet, the name is Chet... and I didn't think it was a whale's dick, honey"), "The Breakfast Club" ("The next time I have to come in here I'm crackin' skulls"), "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" ("Those aren't pillows") and that goes without mentioning "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "Sixteen Candles", "Uncle Buck" and many, many more. (click here to go to his imdb page) When you look at what he wrote, directed and produced, you realize how much he meant to the world of film comedy and how much he'll be sorely, sorely missed. So, I encourage everyone to dust off their favorite John Hughes film this weekend and sit back and remember just how much he meant to you and your love of film...

There's some upcoming festivals information that I want to pass on to you... now, before you just gloss over this, I'd like to reiterate that even if you don't have a film to enter or you live no where near any of these festivals, you should still go to their sites and check out what they have going on. As I say all the time, the festivals and conventions are really the backbone to the whole indie horror scene and it's good to keep tabs on what's going on. You can see what audiences are interested in and, maybe, get some ideas. That... and I bothered to create the links, so you should use them. Here's some press releases and info that I've recently received.

Vampire Fest 2009 takes place in the beautiful city of New Orleans from October 23 - 26, 2009

Filmmakers have heard our call, and Vampire Fest has already received submissions from the United States and around the world. Vampire Fest has a number of activities planned—feasts for the mind as well as the eyes—including a literary panel hosted by writer Gabrielle Faust and events around the Vieux CarrĂ© and the Garden District. The festival will screen an international slate of vampire and gothic features and shorts and include costume parties, fashion shows and performance artists. Vampire Fest is proud to call its home New Orleans with its fabulous nightlife, Gothic architecture, international cuisine, voodoo history, beautiful necropolises, and the birthplace of jazz and Anne Rice. Submissions Are Still OPEN

Vampire Fest is seeking narrative or experimental films of all lengths that emphasize the grotesque, mysterious or desolate. Since the legends of the werewolf and other supernatural creatures are interconnected with that of the vampire, Vampire Fest also accepts films of the Gothic, zombie, werewolf, witch or ghost genre.

Filmmakers can submit online at or at until September 16, 2009.

Fright Night Film Fest presents the 7 Day Film Fest and I'm not giving you much notice on it, but check it out... what have you got to lose?

Alright all you filmmakers get ready for one of the funniest times you'll ever have making a movie. The 7 Day Film Fest was created in 2007 to satisfy all of the crazy filmmakers who love to be busy. The 7 Day Film Fest is a film fest within a Larger Film festival.

This is how it works. On August 7th (that's today) you will go to the 7 day film fest page. After you arrive on the 7 day page, you will sign up for the fest my submitting your email and paying by paypal or submitting a check to the address below before August 13th. All teams of filmmakers or single filmmakers can sign up for the event.

You must use the elements that you receive in the email. You will be notified by email. NO EMAIL, NO PLAY. SORRY!! It's that simple.

Lastly, I recently mentioned a site called, the home to the undiscovered artist. Well, they're putting on a film festival called the "Put It On Picture Show", here's some info.

Budding filmmakers can upload their films to Put It On with the hopes of winning a free scholarship to the New York Film Academy and a cash prize of $5,000 USD in one of three categories. The festival will run from July 30 and closes for entries on November 26. Internet voting will continue until December 17, and winners will be selected and announced on January 7, 2010.

The first round of the competition for best feature film and best short film will be decided by a global Internet vote, which will narrow the entries to a list of the top 10 finalists per category. At the second and final stage of the competition, the finalists for these two categories will be judged by a panel made up of one member of The New York Film Academy, Max Fraser (co-founder of Put It On), and an industry professional yet to be named. The award for best achievement in acting will be decided separately by the panel of judges, with all submissions automatically entered for consideration.

Put It On is accessible in 10 languages and was created to help unknown artists take their work from the “garage” to the global marketplace where fans can connect with them directly. Leveraging an online platform for showcasing and marketing art, music, fashion and film, helps undiscovered artists from around the world become both artistically and financially successful.