Monday, May 31, 2010

A Slow Weekend At The Box Office and the New Horror Out On DVD

Interesting weekend at the box office... and, by that, I mean that it was interestingly terrible. "Shrek" won it again, but only by default. "Sex and the City 2" and "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" both underperformed. "Sex and the City 2" was closer to expected, I guess... it just attracted NO males, unlike the first one... and I'm serious. Warner Bros. did an exit poll and they estimated that 90% of the audience was female. I'm assuming that, over time, "Sex and the City 2" will be a moderate success and possibly lead to another one. However, "Prince of Persia" really missed the mark. Disney sort of just called this one in, assuming it would be a hit. The parts were there; Brukheimer, decent title, swashbuckling, fantasy and a big marketing budget, but it didn't cut it. The marketing was a bit poor, to be honest, it wasn't really intriguing and Gyllenhaal may have been a bit miscast here. Who knows. Did anyone see it? If so, how was it? Speaking of missing the mark, "MacGruber" tumbled 63% and that's tough to do, considering how little it made last weekend... it's well on its way to becoming SNL's lowest-grossing film of all time. So, not much to talk about there. Anyhow, on to the home entertainment market. Let's take a look at the horror that's coming out on DVD this week. As usual, you can check out our Youtube Page and see the trailers OR you can click on the titles to go to their Amazon Page, where you can read more and/or buy the film.

We've all known about "The Wolfman" for a while now and, for me, it was one of the bigger disappointments of the year. Not that the film was that bad, it's just that you wait so long for something, you get so excited and then the film is just... average. As for how long we all waited for this... it was originally announced in March, 2006 with a release date of November 12, 2008. Then, it was pushed back to February 12, 2009... then April 3, 2009... then November 6, 2009... then, finally, it came out on February 12, 2010. Now, here it is on DVD.

Go figure... I had NO clue that Steve Guttenberg was still working. Now, here he pops up in the horror/comedy, "Cornered". Now, a lot of you are going to have problems with this film. Why? Because it's a horror/COMEDY and the cover art is a little misleading. Actually, the trailer is a bit misleading, too. There's far more comedy in the film than they lead on and I think they should show that. Like, your film IS what your film IS, advertise and market it appropriately. Anyhow, it did win a few awards and is getting some good reviews. So, check it out.

This is actually a rerelease of Chad Ferrin's "Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!", but it's worth talking about. His latest film, "Someone's Knocking at the Door", just came out last week, so I'm assuming that's why this is coming out this week. It's a low-budget slasher that's coming from a Troma-vet, so you know what you're in for. A good, twisted romp about a bunny-masked killer.

Then, there's a couple of mock-buster disaster films, "Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York" and "Absolute Zero". You can get them separately OR as double-pack. Not only that, they're at a great price. $6.99 for the individual films or $9.99 for both. "Disaster Zone" has Michael Ironside in it and it's about, well... a volcano under New York. Turns out that some geo-thermal experiments triggered volcanic activity and now, lava, ash and earthquakes in New York. "Absolute Zero" is about an equally unlikely natural disaster, the Ice Age hitting Miami. The temperature is plummeting to absolute zero... or -459.67 degrees and Jeff Fahey and Erika Eleniak and a few other hopeful survivors head to a special chamber in Jeff Fahey's lab.

There's a whole bunch of new Blu-ray versions of old films coming out, including the classic Troma film, "Class of Nuke 'Em High", as well as "Dark Nature", "I Know What You Did Last Summer / I Still Know What You Did Last Summer", "Bram Stoker's Dracula / Grudge" and "Focus/Refocus"

There's also a mountain of rereleases a double-packs coming out, including "Village of the Damned", "The Hitcher II - I've Been Waiting", "Identity / Secret Window", "Long Time Dead", "Darkman 2 - The Return of Durant" and "Darkman III - Die Darkman Die". I shouldn't have to explain any of those films, you should know them... if not, click on them and go to their Amazon Page.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Interview with Andrew Moorman, writer/director of "Sympathy"

I'll keep this short because the following interview is long... Now, before you write off the interview due to its length, I'd just like to say that this is another one of those interviews that I would consider to be 'required reading' for anybody that's considering delving into, what I would call, the indie horror arts.

The best part about this interview is, I read about "Sympathy" when it first came out on DVD a few weeks ago and instantly went out and got it, based on what I had read. Then, I was so blown away that I decided to email the filmmakers. Then, right away, they got back to me. Honestly, the film exceeded my expectation on many levels and I'm even MORE impressed after reading what filmmaker Andrew Moorman had to say. The film is a top-notch indie horror and Moorman gives up a great interview. With that, I'd like to get right to it...

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

Taking place entirely in a rundown motel room in the middle of nowhere, Sympathy pits three characters against each other for one long night of lies, deceit & bloody revelations. It's a claustrophobic cat & mouse game and what makes it fun is that everyone in the room thinks they're the cat. I'd call it a suspense thriller, but there are certainly shades of horror. The script was adapted from a stage play called 'Serendipity,' which was an equally down n' dirty effort by playwright Arik Martin that went on to become a critics choice on the Chicago stage. More than anything, though, I want people to know Sympathy is a truly independent film. It has robots, titties, and tons of explosions!

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

Initially I didn't give away the budget because I didn't want distributors knowing how cheap they could get the damn thing, but now that it's out it's something I'm very proud of revealing: $6,500 was the budget that got us from concept through creation and onto the silver screen. In fairness once the film was acquired for international distribution we had to spend more money on the requisite formalities, legal and such, but our final tally was still less than the catering budget on an episode of Bosom Buddies. Arik, the aforementioned writer & co-producer, was by day a dog walker in Chicago. His K9 tutelage extended to the pet of an investment banker, whom had shown an interest in Arik's artistic endeavors. We invited him out to dinner, pitched the concept and got a check the next day. It was the only thing on this film that was easy. We did paid for the dinner, though. We both made a copy of that check and framed it, while I think the investor forgot he wrote it. It's not a lot of money, but to us at the time it was a fortune of riches. Just the idea that someone would give you money to go make a piece of art, regardless of the amount is a beautiful thing. If you listen to the DVD commentary you'll hear some anecdotes on how we arrived at that budget. Less than scientific.

We’ve always preached that if you want to keep your budget down and production value high, come up with a script that has one location and only a few actors. You nailed that concept. Did you have that in mind when you came up with the idea?

Well the script existed as a play first. This was not a case where we wanted to make a movie, didn't have a lot of money, and came up with an idea to service those parameters. But luckily I had arrived at that same conclusion prior to making a feature film and went searching for the right one. You only get one debut, so I wanted one that allowed my focus to be on the actors & the narrative as those are elements that aren't dictated by budget. I came from a lot of theater as well and those are the elements I enjoy the most. I made a lot of films in college and certainly played the game of trying to forge the scope of something much larger. The budgets for my projects were always nothing, and as a filmmaker you're invariably trying to reach that level that's considered 'professional' by Hollywood standards, but I escaped that trap once I was introduced to independent cinema: the 70's movement in America, the French new wave in the 50's, even film noir of the 40's... it was all about filmmakers embracing their limitations. I decided to do the same.

Let’s talk about the script. The story kept my attention from beginning to end and had all the twists and turns you could ask for. Tell us, what makes a good script and what makes a good horror script?

I'll pass the kudos on to Arik, who deserves the credit for that. Personally I don't differentiate between any genre what make s a good script. For me nothing is as important as the characters. Avatar is a great example of a solid story told in a truly dazzling way that kept me interested & entertained throughout, but why didn't I wake up the next morning thinking about it? Why isn't it Network or Chinatown? Plot can only take you so far. We as audience members have to have great characters - relatable, likable, dislikable, believable… Whatever genre: Charles Foster Kane, Don Corleone, J.J. Gittes, Darth Vader or Jack Torrance, great characters make great scripts. They are our conduit into these worlds. Once you're in, though, it's the way the story unfolds & develops - how it holds your interest. Past character I always look for structure & pace. Are there great scenes? Are they structured in a way that works and does the pace dictate a good ride? I strongly believe in the ol' adage 'You can turn a great script into a bad movie, but you can never turn a bad script into a great movie. If the script sucks the movie sucks, no matter what amount of money or resources they throw at it or how well it's done (see: Michael Bay).

Talk about casting. Not only would your script require good actors, I’m thinking that they better like each other – that’s a lot of time to spend in close quarters. Any lessons learned there?

When you make a film, especially an independent, you're going to war. You have to cast actors that aren't just the best performers for the role but are people you want to go into battle with. Most of the casting is done in that first meeting, the initial vibe, the conversation… you know pretty instantly if that's someone you want to be in the trenches with. Then you can assess their talent and have faith that they'll get there. Getting there is the work, that's my job, but no amount of rehearsal can manufacture the right attitude and soul for this kind'a thing. I was blessed in the casting of this film. What we endured to get this film made... I truly believe there are no 3 people on earth that would have stayed in to the extent Marina, Steven & Aaron did. I tortured them to no end and they always came back the next day, ready for more.

Now, what about the set? It’s a hotel room, but it’s not really… you built it inside a barn. Talk about the decision to do that and how you made it come to life. I found out you did that after the fact, I couldn’t believe it. How much did that cost?

After I read the script I wanted to do this film 'right.' What I mean by right is the way the industry does it. I always knew it was a set because I needed to control every aspect, from design to space and light, but I wanted to do it in a proper sound stage with proper professionals and not have to cut corners or ultimately short change what I felt was a script that deserved a proper treatment. The reality was once we created a budget for doing it that way it was going to be either a long time or never until we got that money. We did give it a go, but got discouraged pretty quickly. At the same time a friend of mine had just fled the city and bought a farm house in a little town in Indiana, about an hour outside Chicago. He sent me a picture of the new digs and I noticed this big, beautiful barn in the backyard. I rang Arik immediately and said, "What would you think about shooting this movie in a barn?" We drove out the next day, pulled down a gravel driveway, slid open the carriage doors and knew instantly this was it. It just felt right. It matched the way we both worked and the way this project was always conceived. I'm a big proponent of providing the actors & myself with as little distractions as possible. You already have to work so hard to consistently suspend your disbelief when making a movie, do as much as you can up front to avoid distractions. When we saw the barn for the first time and the plot of land it resided on we decided there's nothing to do out there but make a movie. Fortunately Arik's dad & brother, as well as Aaron's brother were all carpenters by trade and whipped up a set in no time. It was under a grand if I recall and donated by Arik's dad. You can actually watch a time-lapse of the set being constructed on Sympathy's website. As far as making it come to life - my main objective in the design was to keep it simple. Too many motels in movies look like movie motels. I'm sort of an aficionado of run down motels, as odd as that is, and Arik and I scouted some 50 versions in pre-production. What you learn is that they all look relatively the same, with repeating elements of furniture pieces & layout. So I didn't over-do it. What I concentrated on was texture & color. The wallpaper is like a skin, because I viewed that room as a fourth character. The comforter, sort of the center-piece in the room was blood red. Beyond that I wanted all the furniture and appliances to seem familiar & timeless. Lastly the layout, which most people don't notice, is identical to Room 1 in Psycho.

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

I can't ever recall a time when I wasn't into film, so I have no idea what initially drew me in. I grew up in a small town in Ohio, a very idyllic upbringing that now feels like something out of Blue Velvet. I went to the cinema my whole life, to the point where my parents would drop me off when they opened and pick me up when they closed. That was my rabbit hole. I'd hop from screen to screen in a theater buried in the basement of a mall. I also used to ride my bike to an art theater, where I was introduced to movies outside the mainstream. My neighbor across the street was a cinefile and had a massive VHS collection that I'd pillage whenever possible. Then my best friend in high school was a movie lover so as soon as we got our driver's license we'd go countless times a week, sneaking in the exit door when a showing was letting out or hibernating in the dollar theater watching all the second runs. It's always been my favorite place in the wold, a cinema, and I've always spent time there, escaping into different worlds. They all feel like home. I've wanted to make movies since I can remember, and have been influenced in some way by thousands of films, directors, writers, actors, cinematographers… Anyone involved in this mystical craft has inspired me in some way.

Film school: yes or no?

No. If you got the money for film school make a movie with it instead. No better education.

What was your goal for “Sympathy”? Was it for accolades? Were you looking to make money? Either way, did you achieve your goals? Any lessons learned that you would pass on to other filmmakers?

If you make a movie for accolades or money, good fucking luck. That sounds like a recipe for disaster. The main goal was to make a feature film, which is pretty damn hard. After that it was to make a good feature film, which is next to impossible. How many people want to make a movie? Of those, how many actually do? And of those that do, how many are actually good? You're facing pretty intimidating odds on all accounts. I wanted to make something I cared about, finish it, and be proud of it when it's done. On those regards Sympathy is an absolute success and artistically I achieved my goals. I'm very proud of the movie. What I would pass on? Film is transparent - it doesn't just project an image, it projects intentions.

Talk about the indie horror film fest circuit. What did you learn from it and is it something that you would recommend to other filmmakers?

I was reinforced on what I already knew going in, which is horror fans are the greatest in the world. I'm not pandering, cause I am one. If you're going to make an indie film and hope that fans accept & embrace it, there's no better genre to be in than horror. It's a community and a family and the fests are like reunions. I'd recommend to other filmmakers to work within this genre and go to as many of these events as you can as no venue or audience will give you as much joy. To stand in the back of a theater or hotel convention hall and watch a hundred like-minded people enjoying your movie is an indescribable rush. I could have traveled that circuit for years and can't wait to do it again. At the same time what I really love about horror fans is you can't bullshit 'em with a terrible movie or they'll eat you. Literally.

Talk about the process of finding distribution. If you could pass on one piece of advice to other indie filmmakers on distribution, what would that be?

It sucks. It's long and arduous and filled with too many formalities. You go from in front of a script to behind to a camera to an editing bay, which are all exhilarating places to be, to suddenly holding a phone to the side of your head for ten hours a day bullshitting with bullshitters and trying to whore your film out to the highest bidder. Things you loved about your movie suddenly become shortcomings and people who've never seen it are criticizing it based on its stats: 'Who produced it? Who stars in it? Who's your picture rep, your PR firm? Never heard of 'em. Dial tone…' And when someone does finally agree to watch it's not in a darkened theater with popcorn & 5.1 surround sound, it's on their laptop at 10:30am with a phone ringing incessantly & Ellen in the background. I desperately wanted the film to be judged on its merits alone. In a perfect world one could say, "Watch my movie. If it sucks, throw it away - if you love it help me get it out to people." If they love it others will, it should be that simple, but it becomes about so many different things. I can't tell you how many times I heard, "We love Sympathy, we just can't market it." Ultimately you have to realize the movie business is exactly that: a business selling movies. Distribution is when you cross that line and enter a whole different realm. That being said you have to understand the business as much as you understand the art or get another career. It's a marvel in its own right. Watch movies about movies (Sunset Blvd., Barton Fink, State & Main, The Player, Swimming With Sharks, The Big Picture, etc…). Do your homework. Read the trades, bookmark BoxOfficeMojo & listen to KCRW's The Business. Read William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Joe Eszterhas' The Devil's Guide to Hollywood. Listen to as many DVD commentaries as you can, particularly those by filmmakers like Sidney Lumet. While we all hate the flawed distribution model that's been created, that sees far too many terrible films made and driven to massive success and far too many great films buried in obscurity or never made at all - it's nothing new and nothing you can change. You certainly aren't the first to face it. But my one piece of advice, having been through it, is that you still can't make your film to sell your film. Don't learn the model then make your movie to fit inside it. The studios invented the model, they spend billions on their movies and they still make flops. Just make the film you want to make then let the rest work itself out. The internet is changing distribution. Every day more people watch cat videos on YouTube than see any movie in theaters. I'm not sure what to make of that and don't endorse the creation of a feature length cat movie, but times are changing and the way people get their content is as well. Just remember why you wanted to make films in the first place and pick your path.

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

Technology pushes the arts. Indie films are closer than ever to looking and sounding like studio films and breaking down that wall will allow more indie films to enter the mainstream arena. Horror is still the one genre you can succeed in without a star as well, and the horror community is always amazing at building word of mouth and showing up when they actually squeak one into theaters. Social networking is a big element now and horror is on top of it. It's a really successful genre right now and I don't see that dying anytime soon. It's no longer seasonal either, as many horror films are coming out in February as October now. It's a good time to be a horror movie. Thankfully the J-Horror obsession has dried out. Those were all great originals but not many of the remakes were worth a shit. Personally I'm also glad the torture porn movement is seemingly on its way out. For a while there I started looking around the theater while a girl was being knife raped for two hours and wondering when we'll just resort to paying eight bucks to watch the surgery channel over a screaming track. Like all things it's cyclical and trend-based. Lots of remakes on the way - hard to get excited about that. Where I hope the indie horror scene goes is where it went in the 70s. Let's get inventive & refocus on what fear is. Fear is psychological. Watching a piranha eat someone, in 3D nonetheless, isn't scary. It might be exhilarating to some, but horror should be more than that. Let's tap back into the psyche.

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

Check out the websites:
As far as buying it I think all the standard sites carry it now: Amazon, BestBuy, Barnes & Noble, or you can rent it on Netflix but you won't wanna send it back and that'll just plug up your queue. If you do buy a copy and dig the flick contact me on the website and I'll give you an address to send the cover to. The entire cast, Arik & Myself will autograph it and send it back.

What’s next?

I'm ready to make another movie. I was willing the second Sympathy ended, but hadn't found that next film that I thought would be right. While I was looking or waiting for Hollywood to bequeath me a franchise I co-wrote a very personal film on spec. We've been tinkering with it for some time now but very recently it's finally come together and it's something I think deserves to be made, so off I go on another indie adventure. I don't take it lightly, making movies. I admire filmmakers like Terrence Malick & Stanley Kubrick that only made films they felt deserved to be made. I certainly hope to make more films, but so did Kubrick. He worked on movies for years that never got there. The main thing is I have an unspeakable amount of respect for cinema and vow to uphold it. The new film will be very different and equally as risky. If it works, I look forward to another one of your wonderful reviews. If its doesn't, at least I can say it's mine.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Inconsequential Weekend At The Box Office and A Great Week in Horror on DVD

Okay, seriously, I'm just going to whip right through the news from the box office because it's all of little or no consequence to anything that I give a rats ass about. "Shrek Forever After" won the weekend, but it was the least attended opening for a "Shrek" film... this being the fourth, if you lost count. I have a feeling that "Shrek" will live on, though... in some sort of incarnation. A kids show, video games, straight to DVD releases. Whatever. It's a good franchise. The other new nationwide release was an unmitigated disaster. "MacGruber". Wow. I mean, it took in around $4Million total. With "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" and "Sex and the City 2" coming out this week, it's done. "George Romero's Survival of the Dead" will probably do better and it gets a limited releases this Friday... so limited that I don't get it here, which sucks. Anyhow, let's look at the week in DVD horror. As usual, you can check out our Youtube Page for the trailers and click on the titles to go to their Amazon page, where you can read more and/or buy them.

I watched the first half of the first season of "True Blood", then it got away from me. Now, they're releasing "True Blood: The Complete Second Season" on DVD. Where does the time go? Are any of you big "True Blood" fans? If so, is this worth getting caught up on, really? The show has received great critical acclaim and even won a few awards, including a Golden Globe. However, I want to hear from the people that watch it.

They're rereleasing a special edition version of Lucio Fulci's "City of the Living Dead", otherwise known as "The Gates of Hell", on regular DVD and Blu-ray. Is it a classic? I think so. It was the first installment in Fulci's unofficial "Gates of Hell" trilogy, which also included "The Beyond" and "The House by the Cemetary".

The awesome indie horror, "The Landlord", comes out this week... officially. We actually spoke with the writer/director, Emil Hyde, a while back. Here's a link to the interview that we did with him. It's definitely worth a read and the film is definitely worth checking out.

Okay, I've mentioned this film numerous times and I highly, highly recommend it. If you've never been in to Japanese splatter films or you love them, but haven't seen "Machine Girl", here's your chance to go all in. This week, you can get the "Ultimate Machine Girl: Collectors Tin".

This looks like a bit of a hidden gem and I'll be on this one quick. Check out the trailer for "Babysitter Wanted" on our Youtube Page, it looks unreal. It had a very limited theatrical release in 2009, but won a ton of awards on the indie horror festival circuit.

The writer/director of "Someone's Knocking at the Door" is Chad Ferrin and he broke into the industry as a production assistant on "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" and "Hellraiser: Bloodline". He moved on to directing episodes of "Troma's Edge TV" and then started making films for Troma... with low-no budgets. "The Ghouls" was shot on Mini DV for $15K and "Unspeakable" was shot for $20K. This is his latest and, quite frankly, it looks pretty f'ing good. If you're going to go low-no budget, you might as well do something f'ed up. This fits the bill and I can't wait to check it out.

"The Shadow Within" looks really creepy, but mainly because I find twins creepy to start with. The film is about a twin that dies and the brother and family that grieve after his death. The surviving brother acts as a medium and they discover that the two of them want the same thing, their parents love. However, the dead one doesn't want to return to the living, he wants them all to join him in the afterlife.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Interview with Tom Novell, writer/director of "Familiar Faces"

A while ago, I put a call out asking people to send links to their short horror films and I promised to review them and discuss them on the site. I get to watch some horror and you get a bit of exposure. Win/win, right? At this point, a few of you have taken me up on the offer, which is great. I still have some to get to and I'll get to them, I promise. Anyhow, today, we're going to look at Tom Novell's "Familiar Faces" and as he's posted it on Vimeo, I'll embed the film in the post, right before the interview.

Before I get to that, though, I'd like to just say a word or two about short form films. I graduated film school around a decade ago and all we made were short films. Some for class, some for fun, but all because that's what you made in film school. I mean, there were a couple of ambitious guys that made features, but I was WAY too busy at the bars to dedicate that much time to one single project... besides, it did none of those guys any good. Trying to push the completion of a feature on short time and little money isn't easy and it's going to show in the final product. However, with short films, short time and little money not only works, it forces you to make a clean, crisp film. The only problem for us was, we screened our short films for the faculty, students and our friends and ... that was it. Aside from a few film festivals, none of which liked the horror films we made, there was no market or place for short films. What a difference ten years makes. Not only are there lots of places to send short horror films, there's tons of festivals that specialize in short horror and you've got this thing called the world wide web that never says no to anything and has a pretty big audience. Youtube, Vimeo, Brightcove, FunnyOrDie, whatever... Also, and this is the big thing, I don't think it's reached a tipping point yet. I think the day of the short film is still on its way. So, keep 'em coming and I'll keep talking about them and putting them out there.

Familiar Faces from thomas... on Vimeo.

Tell us about your short film, “Familiar Faces”

Familiar Faces is a short film about a homeless girl who is poor and desperate. It was shot entirely in and around Detroit Michigan in 2009. We spent 4 weeks in preproduction working on shot lists, storyboards, prop lists, locations, script revisions, wardrobe and hair/makeup. Shooting took about 3 days and post production took 6 weeks.

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

The budget was really low (under $200). The hotel room cost $150 and makeup/set design each cost about $20. I financed the project out of my own pocket.

What struck me most about the film was the camerawork, great use of focus and framing. What camera did you use and tell us a bit about how you created the look and feel.

The entire project was shot on the Canon GL2, a standard definition mini DV camera. The assistant director, Midessiam, already owned the camera and supplied it for the shoot. I operated the camera for the entire shoot with the exception of two or three shots. Most of the camera work was shot hand held. The focus/depth of field look was added in post production using a blur tool in After Effects. The overall coloring that you see was added in After Effects as well.

It was an interesting choice to cut the dialogue until a certain point. Talk about your decision to do that.

I knew I was doing all of my audio in post production and planned to do ADR for all of the dialogue. I had Dickie Ciggs come in first for an ADR session after the project was completely cut but I had gotten so used to watching it without dialogue that it didn't seem natural once I added it. I felt that the ADR dialogue took away from the dreamy feel of things. Instead, I choose use dialogue for effect only.

The music was another key element for me, it worked very well. Talk about the process of scoring the film.

All of the music is royalty free stuff found on I knew what I wanted things to sound like and listened to a bunch of different music until I found something that seemed right to me. I spent an enormous amount of time working on the timing and placement of both music and foley. I really enjoy working with sound design and believe that audio is what determines if a movie is watchable or not.

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

I am 27 years old and live in Detroit Michigan. My interest in horror movies started when I was young. My older brother and I would rent the "Faces of Death" movies and watch them after my mom went to sleep. I think I was about 10 or 11 years old. This exposed me to the brutality of the human race at a very young age. My stories tend to revolve around this extreme side of people. I fell in love with low budget horror flicks for their guaranteed boobs and violence. Although Familiar Faces doesn't have any nudity, my future projects will.

Film school: yes or no?

Not really. I have taken some one semester courses here and there but not any formal "Film School" training. I am a full time student though, constantly reading and watching movies. Always studying.

Talk about your goals behind making “Familiar Faces” and did you accomplish them?

I kept telling myself that this project would get made. Even if I had to shoot the whole thing in my backyard using my dog and my girlfriend. I wouldn't let anything get in the way of my finishing it. One of the biggest lessons I've learned in film making is that you have to be willing to compromise. Things change constantly and problems are always coming up. With low budget film making, you can't me married to anything in your script. If one of your actors quits on you halfway through, kill them off in the next scene or have a stand-in and never show their face again. Finish the projects that you start, NO MATTER WHAT.

I had my lead actress quit on me two hours into the first day of shooting. Both hotel rooms were rented with all of the cast and crew set up and ready to go. The lead calls and says that she can't do the project anymore. I had to make a choice and make one quick. We started asking around on set if anyone wanted the role and the hair/makeup girl Geanette Davidson said "sure". I was willing to get into drag and play the part myself if I had too. I was going to make this project that day, period. Geanette ended up nailing the part and did a much better job than the first girl ever could have.

My goal was to make "Familiar Faces" and that's what I did.

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

The indie horror scene is very much alive. I see it as the biggest its ever been and steadily getting bigger. With the rise of the internet and digital technology, a flood of film makers have emerged. Film making has never been cheaper or more easily distributed.

Where can people check out “Familiar Faces”?

You can watch it here - (Ted's Note: I've also embedded it above)

What’s next for you?

All kinds of fun stuff! This summer, I am writing a feature length horror movie with a micro budget in mind (~$10,000) that I intend to shoot over the summer of 2011. Also, Oliver Thompson, John Drabecki and I are finishing shooting a series of shorts that will be interwoven into a feature length movie do out in the Fall of 2010. My goal is to stay busy and persistent.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Misconceptions About Hollywood - Getting An Agent

Well, I was planning on having an interview to share today, but... people are taking their time getting back to me. No worries, I've always got something on my mind to share. Today, I wouldn't mind talking about a misconception that most people have about Hollywood.

So, life isn't exactly black and white, but it's so much easier to explain when you break it down to one side versus the other, so I'm going to do just that. Let's look at Hollywood as those who are "IN" and those who are "OUT". People who are "IN" get work from studios, they have agents, managers and can get stuff done. They get meetings, they get paid and people know who they are. People who are "OUT" have day jobs that may or may not be related to what they want to do, but it certainly isn't where they want to be, they'd kill to have an agent or a manager work for them and they don't even care if they get paid for what they create, as long as it gets their name out there. Black and white, right? So, how do you go from the "OUT" to the "IN"? Really, that's what we all want, isn't it? First off, let me just say that the transformation won't happen over night. It can take years, decades, to slowly move from an "OUT" to an "IN". However, I figure once you're an "IN", it's yours to lose. When you're an "OUT", well... you're out. Not to tough to maintain that status. Now, there are lots of ways to get from an "OUT" to an "IN" and most people think the first move is getting an agent or manager to represent them.

Alright, so... I've just finished the first draft of my most recent screenplay. I've sent it off to a few trusted sources, then, after that, what do I do? Well, most screenwriters would write up a query letter to any and all agents that accept query letters and hope that someone gets back to them. Either that, or they'd submit their script to one of those online submission sites... spray and pray. Well, not only have a just finished my script, I'm also continuing to read "The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to)" and I just happened to come across an interesting chapter on how to get an agent or manager. In order, this is what they recommend: 1. get a recommendation from someone who knows you. 2. Submit to a screenwriting contest. 3. (and least recommended) submit a query letter to an agent.

I was halfway through my generic query letter to any and all agents when I read that. Then, I thought back... you know, I have had numerous agents and managers read my previous work, granted it was all to no avail, but I did get them to read it. How? Friends, friends of friends and networking. It really is the best way to get your shit read. I had even forgot about some of the people who read my stuff, I'm going to have to go back through some old emails and rediscover them. Really, if you ask anyone that you know who's in the industry, chances are you'll get lucky. "Hey, know any agents? I'd love to get my work in front of someone" Keep asking, it'll work, even if you're asking your Mom's friend, who's cousin works in catering for "The View". The second thing, the screenwriting competitions, is an interesting one. I didn't know it, but if you place in a contest, you'll probably be contacted by some young, aggressive agent. They're always looking for the next big thing and the competitions are a great place for them to search. I've never entered one of those competitions, but I may be with this most recent script.

Anyhow, there's some ideas for fellow members of the "OUT" crowd. Hopefully I'll have an interview ready for you on Friday. If not, I'm sure I can come up with something to blather on about.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Iron Man 2" stays on top and a whole bunch of Asylum films hit the shelves

So, "Iron Man 2" tumbled a bit, but not enough to lose its first place standing at the box office. It still pulled in $53Million, which ain't chump change, but that is down 59% from the week before. What surprised me was that "Robin Hood" did a lot better than I thought it would. Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe, it's the team that brought you the all-time classic, "Gladiator", AND pulling on that film quite a bit in their marketing, I thought it was going to be a disaster. I thought Robin Hood was tired, I just think of "Robin Hood: Men In Tights", for some reason. Tough to think of Robin Hood as a bad ass, I guess... even though he actually, in fact, was a bad ass. Anyhow, it pulled in $37.1Million and that's almost in line with what "Gladiator" did and that's remarkably good for a medieval-themed film. Next week ain't aces for horror fans, as we get "MacGruber" and "Shrek Forever After", then... on May 28th, if you're lucky enough to live in a market that's showing it, you'll get "George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead". Now, to the week in horror on DVD. As usual, you can go to our Youtube Page to see the trailers and you can click on the title to go to the films page on Amazon, where you can read more and/or buy it.

Am I the only one who hadn't heard of the Kevin Costner film, "The New Daughter"? I'm just reading about it now, for the first time, and there's a lot of good things going on here. It's the directorial debut of Spanish screenwriter, Luis Berdego and he's written a few things, most notably, "{REC}", which was then "Quarantine". He also wrote the sequel to "{REC}", "{REC} Genesis", which is currently in pre-production. Now, as the butt of a lot of jokes over the last decade, it's easy to discount a Costner film, but... I have a tough time being hard on him these days. Did you see "Mr. Brooks"? If you haven't, go check that out. It may change your opinion on him. Anyhow, I loved "{REC}", so I'm anxious to check out what Berdego can do at the helm, but I'm also anxious to see Costner's next foray into horror. Could be good.

I'm going to assume that the 2 disc set of "Tokyo Gore Police 1.5" is, in fact, just a reboot of "Tokyo Gore Police", but with some added features or something. In case you were wondering... and I'm sure you were, this and "Machine Girl" are my two favorite Japanese gore films of late, so if you haven't seen either, check this out... then check out "Machine Girl". After that, you'll either think that the Japanese are out of their mind (or more out of their minds that you had originally thought) and you'll never watch another Japanese gore flick again OR you'll be hooked. Now that I think about it, it's been a while since I've watched a good Japanese gore flick. Takashi Miike usually makes about 5 movies a year, he must have something new out...

I've been thinking about it. I think I could work for Asylum Films. Seriously. I could handle a lot of the marketing and advertising. I could also help develop new titles, open up new markets, even do a bit of writing. At first, much like most people, I looked down my nose at them... rip-off movies that are just trying to trick people into watching the wrong film. Asylum - the guys who created the "mockbuster", low-budget, straight-to-DVD productions that usually emulate or copy productions by major studios. This week, they're rereleasing some of their best and they're selling them all for only $6.99 each, including: "30,000 Leagues Under the Sea", "AVH: Alien vs. Hunter", "Invasion of the Pod People", "Journey to the Center of the Earth", "Haunting of Winchester House", "Monster" and "Freakshow". So, look, it's easy to look down your nose at them, sure. Be a film snob. However, what's tough to ignore is the fact that they make money. Lots of it. They're like Roger Corman, almost all of their films make a profit. Not only that, they're getting a ton of recognition and their films aren't that bad... well, the later ones are a lot better than their earlier ones. They've turned the corner, from rip-off guys to becoming their own niche. At first, people may have been tricked into watching their films, but now... people look for them. Anyways, if anyone knows anyone at Asylum or if you're from Asylum yourself, shoot me an email. I'll send you my resume.

Friday, May 14, 2010

From My Inbox To Yours: Another Potpourri of Indie Horror News

Ahhh.... another Friday and, I've gotta say, it's been a great week. In fact, I think I may be finished up early today, too. That means one of two things, I'll either watch a couple of indie horror films this afternoon OR I'll find a patio to sit on and have a few beers. Toss up right now, as the weather IS great, but... I haven't been able to watch a movie since last weekend and I can always drink at home with the window open. We'll see how it goes. Anyhow, once again, a few interesting things have come through my inbox and I'd like to share.

I realize that most of our readers are from North America, but we do have a few readers overseas. Either way, you should know about the 9th annual Fantastic Films Weekend that takes place in the UK. They screens some great films, both old and new. Check out the list of films that they'll be screening, a lot of them are available on DVD and you may have forgotten about them. I know I looked through the list and found a few that I had forgotten about. For example, their latest additions include: Paul Verhoeven's "Robocop", Bill Rebane's "The Giant Spider Invasion", Jan Svankmajer's "Faust" and Derek Ford's mondo witchcraft documentary "Secret Rites". They're also going to be screening some new blood, including "Zone of the Dead", "Plague Town", "Shadow" and their midnight screamer, the phenomenon that is "Birdemic: Shock and Terror", a $10,000 epic that's played to sold out audiences at festivals across the US. If you're in the U.K., check the festival out. If you're not, at least go check out the site and get some ideas for your next rental.

Have you heard about I hadn't... until I was forwarded a link because someone was looking for some funding. Now, just to be clear, I'm not typing this from the rear deck of my yacht, lighting cigars with $100 bills or anything. I'd LOVE to fund everyone's indie projects, but that's just not going to happen right now. However, I CAN pass on the link to you guys because that's what IndieGoGo is all about. Basically, they look to be a collaborative way to fund ideas and they're geared towards indie projects. I mean, they are called INDIEgogo, right? Anyhow, if funding is a big hurdle for you... and it probably is, check it out. I really like how one of the ways they help fund films is with pre-sales, that's ingenious.

I love this article from, called "Cannes: The Asylum Makes Steady Profit on ... 'Titanic II'". I mean, I love it because there's a great message in there. You know what that message is? Sure, there are 'important' films out there, but people don't necessarily only want to see important films. There's a lot of people out there who want schlock. They want indie and micro-budget horror, they want "Titanic II". By the way, 'What if another ship took the same route as The Titanic and what if it ALSO hit an iceberg?' Awesome... and, not only that, they're making money on all their films! Can any Hollywood studio say that? The moral of the story? Every once in a while, it's important to realize how UNimportant we actually are.

Have a great weekend, talk to you next week!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Interview with Andrea Ricca, writer/director of the CG film, "The Furfangs"

Good God, it was almost a year ago now that we spoke with Andrea Ricca, the filmmaker that brought us the CG effects laden short, "The Guardian". Here's a LINK to the post, if you'd like to get up to speed. Otherwise, I'll summarize - we discussed his CG film, "The Guardian" and, near the end of the interview, he mentioned that his next film would be about little critters, like Gremlins. Now, low and behold, that film is done. Unreal, someone who makes a deadline and sticks to it! The film is called "The Furfangs" and I'll embed the five minute film below the interview.

As for the film itself, if Andrea was going for a "Critters" meets "Gremlins" homage to 80's films, he nailed it. By the way, what would you call those films? There was a pile of them, "Gremlins", "Ghoulies", "Critters"... and I'm sure there was more. You could probably put Peter Jackson's "Meet the Feebles" in there. Ahhh, maybe not. Funny how you don't see any films about furry little guys anymore. Anyhow, the creatures he created may not be as cute as Gizmo or as scary as a Ghoulie, but they definitely captured the look and feel. It's very well done and, if you've seen Andrea's previous work, you'll notice that he's moving in the right direction. His work is getting better and better each time.

Below is a short interview that we did with him and, like I said, below that is the actual film. I should mention that Andrea's from Italy, so there may be a few grammatical errors and things, but I'm assuming that it's because English isn't his first language...

So, tell us about what happened with "The Guardian". Did the film open any doors or get you any recognition?

After "The Guardian" (that have got a nomination for Best Independent Production at RONDO HATTON CLASSIC HORROR AWARDS) I made "Ufo Race", reviewed also on the SFX.UK Magazine, and after that came the next "The Furfangs". Although these shorts are shot "at home" with zero budget and only one MiniDV cam, they have received very good reviews from the audience and the cirtics. I hope to find some producers for the next, because I would like to reach better shooting quality.

Tell us about your next project, "The Furfangs"

"The Furfangs" is a five minutes sci-fi short movie, with 3D special effects, about mysterious and aggressive creatures who came from space.

Once again, you use 3D effects. Tell us about how you created the Furfang characters.

As I received favorable reviews about my previous shorts "The Guardian" and "Ufo Race" (which I made all by myself ) I decided to look for some collaborators to make a short movie which could be a tribute the 80's movies about little creatures, like "Gremlins", "Critters" etc. I found the collaboration of the 3D graphic designer Gennaro Acanfora that lives near to me. Music is by the composer Gianfilippo De Mattia. The creatures are completely in 3D and interact with a real character. In this short there is a large use of CG in almost every scene.
There is also some CG in kitchen utensils and the whole first scene about the spaceship that lands on earth. Some sketches about the elaboration of the creature design can be find on my site.

Talk a bit about production. How long did it take you to shoot "The Furfangs" and how long did post-production take?

"The Furfangs" took a week for the live actions shots and three months for the 3D effects; these were realized with Lightwave by the graphic Gennaro Acanfora.

Where can people watch "The Furfangs"?

The primary reference is my site were you can find most of the reviews from the international film e 3D industry press. There are also all the info about "The Furfangs" and my previous short movies, and some backstages.

What's next? Are you working on another short?

I have an idea about an escape from a volcano eruption. I made the storyboard and now I'm finding the location.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Iron Man 2" storms into the box office AND a look at the week in horror DVDs

The good news for horror and "Nightmare on Elm Street"? It came in second at the box office. Bad news? It stumbled a staggering 72% to a meagre $9.2Million and is sure to completely disappear by next weekend. Having said that, Platinum Dunes has to be pleased with how it performed, having brought in around $50Million to date and costing around $35Million to make. It'll have a great run on DVD, VOD and all that and Jackie Earle Haley has signed on to do a couple more, so you know they're going to draw the series out. First place at the box office, obviously, goes to "Iron Man 2", which kicked off the summer movie season in a big, big way. It pulled in an estimated $133.6Million and far exceeded the opening weekend for the original, plus lands 5th among the highest-grossing opening weekends of all time. What's the next big film release? Well, it's "Robin Hood" and it hits the theaters this Friday. Universal has a lot riding on it, as their track record's a bit lackluster lately and they don't have anything else that big coming out this summer... "MacGruber", "Nanny McPhee Returns", "Little Fockers". Anyhow, it'll be interesting to see how it does - early reviews aren't that great. Now, let's see what's going on in the world of DVD horror. Unfortunately, Youtube doesn't seem to be working, so I don't have any trailers posted. However, you can click on the titles to be taken to the films page on Amazon, where you can read more and/or buy it.

So, "Legion" is the biggest budget release of the week. The film was directed by Scott Stewart and written by Peter Schink, then rewritten by Stewart. The cast includes Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Adrianne Palicki and Dennis Quaid. You probably remember the trailer for the apocalyptic fantasy-horror, the creepy old lady? The film starts with the Archangel Michael, played by Bettany, who falls to earth in LA, clips his wings and then raids a police arsenal for a cache of automatic weapons... the bulk of the remainder of the film takes place in a roadside diner in New Mexico, where God unleashes angels to kill mankind because he's lost faith in humans. The budget wasn't massive, $26Million and it grossed around $55Million. Reviews are mixed and horror reviewers were particularly hard on it. My thought was, it's a rental... at best. So, here it is, available for rent. Check it out if you're bored.

"Tsunami Beach Club" was written and directed by Anthony Fankhauser and I really can't find that much about it. I know it's about an insurance adjuster that's investigating a mysterious 'Tsunami Beach Club' because a bunch of people that were invited to the mythical club wound up dead. I can't find a trailer or anything, but Fankhauser has been involved in a bunch of mock-busters, including "2012: Supernova", "Snakes on a Train" and "The Day the Earth Stopped", so you can expect similar production values... which are pretty good. I definitely don't mean that in a negative way.

You may remember the original "Flesh for the Beast", which came out in 2003. It's from Terry West, the same guy who brought you "The Sexy Sixth Sense" and "The Lord of the G-Strings", and it's about a group of parapsychologists that check out a haunted mansion and encounter three flesh-eating succubus ladies. Anyhow, he's now offering up "Flesh for the Beast Media Mix" this week, which includes a DVD, Blu-ray, CD of the soundtrack and a behind the scenes DVD called "Flesh for the Beast: Late Fee". As for the film? Expect nudity, sex and a bit of gore mixed in...

Finally, the much anticipated follow up to "Curse of the Pink Panties" - "Snatched! Curse of the Pink Panties 2". It's written and directed by Kirk Bowman and we actually spoke with Kirk a while back, right after he finished up "Bloodsucking Babes from Burbank", I believe. Anyhow, his films are great fun and here's a link to the interview that we did with him.

Lastly, it's the no-budget film, "Disposal Of A Corpse". I went online and all I could find was a 7 minute short, but it has the same guy in it that's in this film. Otherwise, I can't find anything else about this film. I'd love to know more, as it sounds like it could be alright. If you know anything about this film, please leave something in the comments section!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Potpourri of Indie Horror Related News

The sun is shining, it's Friday morning and I'm already thinking about happy hour. What to drink tonight (this afternoon)? Mojito? Margarita or two, for sure... Anyhow, if you haven't heard, as far as Hollywood's concerned, Summer starts tonight. Maybe that's why I'm celebrating. "Iron Man 2", the first tent-pole film of the season, opens tonight and it will, unfortunately, absolutely decimate "A Nightmare On Elm Street". It's funny how there are NO other movies opening today, the next biggest release is a documentary from Focus Features called "Babies" and it's on 534 screens. Paltry compared to the 4,380 screens that "IM2" comes out on. That, by the way, is the widest release in history. As for horror, next up is "George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead" on May 28th, which probably won't get that wide of release, and a film that I'm really pumped for, "Splice", which finally hits screens on June 4th. Not much after that... anyhow, I had a lot of interesting stuff come across my inbox this week and I thought I'd share.

First up is a great article from the Raindance Institute called Writing For No Budget Films, by James Burbidge. A lot of what he covers goes without saying, but it's pretty interesting to see it laid out this way. I mean, if you've ever written a script for a film you shot yourself, you'll know this stuff... and you probably learned it the hard way, like most of us did. However, if this is your first crack at writing something that you plan on producing yourself, definitely read this article.

Next, did a spotlight on the 8th Annual SCRIPT P.I.M.P. Screenwriting Competition, where they "search for the best stories by undiscovered writers worldwide". Not only is the competition well organized, they offer some great prizes and they leverage their powerful network of industry professionals to help emerging screenwriters launch successful careers. Even if you don't enter the competition, you should check out their site. They offer some great services to emerging screenwriters and can really get your script out there. We, at Dead Harvey, have used them before and can't complain. Personally, I don't like the name, but PIMP does stand for "pipeline into motion pictures". They could've thought a little harder on that, but whatever...

Remember the interview we did with Mike Schneider about the film "Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated"? Well, I just linked to it there if don't. They sent out a press release and are doing something VERY cool. Their distributor, Wild Eye Releasing, will be "distributing low-end, cheaply packaged versions of Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated to—well, to anyone who wants one." Here's the highlights of the press release: Due to the unpredictable nature of bootlegging, it’s difficult to say with precision where this DVD will surface, but checking sidewalk blankets in big cities and overloaded freebie tables at genre conventions is probably a good place to start. Once fans have their own copy, Wild Eye is encouraging them to upload it to their favorite file-sharing and Torrent sites. And this give-the-people-free-content approach is in perfect keeping with the not-for-profit Creative Commons ethos that launched the NOTLD:R project in the first place. Having said that, if you want to pre-order the authentic version, loaded with extras, click here. Otherwise, search your torrent site of choice!

Lastly, you may remember an interview we did with Belinda Greensmith about a film she was in production on called, "For One Night Only". Well, we are proud to present to you, the official trailer for the film. Enjoy! Have a great weekend everyone!