Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Horror out on DVD this week... too much good stuff this week!

Seriously, there hasn't been a week like this in horror for a long, long time. I weeded out double-packs, rereleases and special editions and there's still a long list of quality horror here. As usual, if you're interested in the film and want to help us out, please click on the title and buy it off Amazon, through us. You can also go to our Youtube channel to check out some of the trailers. Now... let's get to it.

If you checked out our interview with Joshua Nelson from yesterday, you'll know that his next film, "Pink Eye" comes out today. Actually, Melissa Bacelar, his co-star in "Skinned Alive", is back in this one. "Pink Eye" takes place at a prison-like, dilapidated insane asylum where secret drug testing has gone very wrong... doesn't it always? Who ARE these doctors? Some patients die, others become raging, homicidal lunatics. Then, one patient escapes and brings death and terror to an unsuspecting town and everyone in it. It's essentially the same team that brought you "Skinned Alive", as it's written by and stars Joshua Nelson, has hottie Melissa Bacelar in it and is directed by James Tucker. This is a group of indie filmmakers that we're big fans of, so make sure you check this one out.

"Five Across the Eyes" is co-directed by Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiessen, the story comes from Marshall Hicks and the screenplay was by Swinson. It's an indie horror and it's about five teenage girls who get in a bit of trouble, then end up driving a van through an area that the locals call "The Eyes", where they're being chased by a guy in an SUV that they happened to damage earlier... As it's a low-budget indie, there's a few cool things they did to cut corners, including shooting the entire film from inside the girls white van. I haven't seen it yet, but this is the kind of thing that Dead Harvey's all about. I'll try to get in touch with these guys and talk with them about the film.

"Bryan Loves You" is produced, written, directed by and stars Seth Landau, it's also got Tony Todd, George Wendt, Tiffany Shepis and Lloyd Kaufman in it. It's based on the true story of a cult that takes over a small Arizona town. It's another take on the 'lost footage' style of filmmaking, which is another great way to cut corners on cost... in this case, a psychotherapist looks through camcorder footage and security tapes that witnessed the whole ordeal. I like the whole idea of 'lost footage', as it's a great way to justify using shitty cameras and low-production values... and I don't mean that in a bad way, really. I mean that in a good way.

"Summer Scars" is another low-budget indie from the UK and it's won a bunch of awards, including best actor at Austin Fantastic Film Fest, a few awards from BAFTA Awards, best narrative feature at Santa Cruz Film Festival, best child acting at Seattle True Independent Film Festival and bronze for best suspense / thriller at WorldFest Houston. It's written, produced and directed by Julian Richards, whose got a lot of good shit to his name, including the really well received "The Last Horror Movie", which came out in 2003. This is his latest film and it's about a group of teens who are faced with a life-changing experience when they meet a deranged drifter.

"Necroville" is actually an award winning film, as well, having won the best New Mexico Filmmaker award at the Santa Fe Film Festival. It was co-directed by Billy Garberina and Richard Griffin and it was co-written by Adam Jarmon Brown and Garberina. It's yet another low-budget indie, this one taking the schlock route... which I always appreciate. The film takes place in Necroville, a city overrun by zombies, vampires, werewolves and other monsters. Jack and his best friend work at a monster extermination company and he spends his days battling monsters and trying to please his girlfriend... but his two worlds collide when Penny's ex-boyfriend returns to town, as the unholy master of a coven of bloodthirsty vampires. Once again, this is a film that's right up our alley, so check it out.

Intriguing name, interesting concept, boobs on the box art... which can only mean one thing, "the darkest and most attitudinal all female collective on the planet", The Satanic Sluts, must be back. And back they are, in "The Satanic Sluts 2: The Black Masses". This is directed by Nigel Wingrove, who is, more famously, the guy who founded Redemption Films in 1992 following the banning of his film "Visions of Ecstasy" in 1989/90. He was largely responsible for bringing the work of Jean Rollin, Jess Franco and Dario Argento to the mainstream horror audience. "Satanic Sluts" is an all girl internet collective and the subject of this film, plus a few others. The Black Mass is also the name of a night club that Wingrove operates... specializing in strong horror, banned films and Europorn, you can expect this to be, well... over the top.

I guess "Pulse 2: Afterlife", the sequel to 2006's "Pulse", which was loosely based on the the 2001 Japanese film, "Kairo", would be the biggest budget release of the week. There's a third film planned, as well, called "Pulse: Invasion". I can't say that I was a huge fan of the first "Pulse", it was your standard PG-13 horror film from Dimension. "Pulse 2" is written and directed by Joel Soisson, who has some very interesting credits to his name, including being the director on: "Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence" and a couple of "The Prophecy" sequels, as well as, but not limited to, writing "Hellraiser: Hellworld", "Mimic 2" and "Dracula 2000". He also produced a whole helluva lot of good stuff.

This is something that I usually wouldn't cover, but I thought I would because I have a point. R.L. Stine is most well known for creating "Goosebumps", but he's written tons of books, almost all of them are horror for younger audiences. This film, "R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly", is another adaptation of his works. Now, like I said, I usually wouldn't comment on a film like this, as, really, I'm not going to see it, but it is worth mentioning for this one reason... targetting younger audiences is an easier way to sell your film. It boils down to that whole PG-13 vs. R rating debate. My personal opinion is that I like R rated films a lot more, however if you were a studio and just wanted money, you'd make a PG-13 film to attract a larger audience. Knowing that, if you are putting together a project that you wanted to pitch to a studio and it could be toned down for a younger audience... should you do it? It's a whole other category that I think is underserved right now - horror for kids.

"Buried Alive" is from Paul Etheredge, whose spent the bulk of his career in the art department, having worked on films like "JFK", "Hexed" and "I Shot Andy Warhol". This is based on the FEARnet digital series, following a group of friends who find themselves trapped inside coffins. On FEARnet, they were just a bunch of very short, shorts... as each person woke up in the coffin. This ties them all together, has them unravelling the clues, plus has siblings Meg and Travis above ground, trying to figure it out and save their friends, as well. To be honest, I didn't watch any of the shorts on FEARnet, but it was done fairly cheaply and could be worth checking out.

The orignal "Rest Stop" was the first direct to DVD release from "Raw Feed" and, to be honest, was quite good... even though it had Joey Lawrence in it. Now, we have the inevitable sequel, "Rest Stop - Don't Look Back". The director of this one, Shawn Papazian, was actually the second unit director on the first, which is pretty cool. So, it looks like "Raw Feed" promotes from within. He also directed a film called "Horror High", back in 2005, so this isn't his directorial debut, but pretty close. "Don't Look Back" revolves around the brother of the Jesse (from the first film), who sets out with a few friends to find the missing couple from the first film.

"The Vanguard" is written, produced and directed by Matthew Hope, whose only other directorial effort was 2005's "In the Field". It comes out of the UK and it's a low-budget indie about one desperate survivor in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. It screened at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival and it was fairly well received. I haven't seen it, but the trailer looks pretty f'ing good.

"Breathing Room" builds on the whole reality game horror thing... however, this one appears to take things a little further. This one starts with the main character being thrown naked into a desolate room with thirteen strangers, where she discovers that she's the final contestant in a "deadly game". The twist they throw in here is what I call the "Shoot To Kill" twist, where one of the contestants is the actual killer, you just don't know who. Now, I know that this story twist goes way beyond the Kirstie Alley film from 1988, but that where I first recognized it, so that's how I remember it. In any case, this was co-written and co-directed by John Suites and Gabriel Cowan.

"The Devil's Muse", written and directed by Ramzi Abed, is a new take on the Black Dahlia murder... which seems to never get old, for some reason. I guess it's an interesting story, but it happened a while ago. If you're not aware of it, Elizabeth Ann Short, subsequently nicknamed the Black Dahlia, was murdered in 1947 and it was gruesome - she was found severely mutilated, with her body severed in half and drained of blood. They never caught anybody and it's still considered a mystery. "The Devil's Muse" is about an actress who gets to play Elizabeth Short and an entire dreamworld awakens around her... all the while, a killer is on the loose collecting women and killing them in time for the 60th anniversary of the murder.

"Ghouls" is another Sci-Fi Original, this one from director Gary Jones, who was also behind "Planet Raptor: Raptor Island 2", "Crocodile 2: Death Swamp" and the upcoming "Boogeyman 3". "Ghouls" has William Atherton in it, who I'm going to think most people remember as Richard Thornburg from "Die Hard" and "Die Hard 2", as well as "Days of Our Lives" own Kristen Renton... who plays Morgan Hollingsworth (I had to look that up, I swear). The film is about a college student who returns with her father to his home country only to discover that her family holds a dark secret that involves her... and I can only assume that it has something to do with ghouls.

"Kiss Attack" comes from Carlos Batts and is the story of five deadly beauties spawned by Vlad Drakul, cursed with a poisonous and venomous kiss... and, a revolutionary sex fantasy blending an exotic cast, featuring comic illustrations, animation, martial arts and ground breaking music, it's beeing hailed as the first ever action / erotic film. I may just have to look further into this one...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Exclusive Interview with Actor, Writer and Producer Joshua Nelson

Really quickly, I usually like to start off Monday mornings with the new DVD's coming out this week, but there were so damned many of them, that I'm going to have to finish that post later tonight. However, in it's place, is a wicked interview with Joshua Nelson. Check it out...

I've mentioned the film "Zombies Anonymous", which was originally called "Last Rites of the Dead", a few times, plus you'll find it residing in our 'Top 10' films on the left there... it was one of my favorites of the year and we talked with writer/director Marc Fratto about it a few months back, here's the link to the interview, if you're interested. Then, not too long ago, I checked out the film "Skinned Alive", which was originally called "Eat Your Heart Out" and it had one of the same actors in it, a guy by the name of Joshua Nelson. Now, in the world of indie horror, it's tough to stand out as an actor, but I noticed Nelson right away. As soon as he appeared on screen, I recognized him and knew I was going to be in for a great performance. Truly, he stands out... and I'm not sure if it's because he has a bit of an 'early DeNiro' look and feel to him. Further, what's really exciting is that another one of his films comes out tomorrow, a film called "Pink Eye", but I digress... again. Aside from being a great actor who's worked both on big sets and small, is that he also writes and produces a lot of the films that he's in, including "Pink Eye" and the film that we'll discuss here, "Skinned Alive". He's definitely a guy to keep on your radar, as he's a great actor, a great writer and, so far, I've found that all the films he's been involved in tend to be among the best indie horror's of the year. So, I was very excited to be able to discuss "Skinned Alive" and the indie-horror scene with Joshua Nelson, who will give you some great advice and insight.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences, where did you get started and what brought you into the world of indie filmmaking?

I was literally born a horror fan...I was fortunate enough to have a very cool, hippy/singer mom that played with people like Jimi Hendrix, so she let me watch whatever I wanted as a kid...and that was nothing but horror & monster movies. I was obsessed with King Kong, Godzilla, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits as a kid...soon after came Night Of the Living Dead and The Exorcist...that started my continued love of horror. Years later I became an actor and after that a filmmaker, but continued to stay in the horror world!

Film School: Yes or No?

My film school was the real world...I learned everything I knew from being on film sets...and everything from Multi-Million Dollar films to literally hundred dollar films. And while film school is a great thing, I was lucky enough to learn hands on...not to mention I could never afford film school.

You've worked in a variety of roles, including (and not limited to): Actor, Writer and Producer. Where’s your focus? And, subsequently, what drew you to the other areas of filmmaking? Is there an ends to a means here or some sort of method to your madness?

No, Just a bunch of madness...I am first and foremost an actor...however, when work was slow I decided to create my own work...so my longing to stay creative launched me into writing and filmmaking. However, I still have no money, so I had to learn how to make films on no-budget...and while difficult, it is possible.

Let’s talk about the film “Skinned Alive”, which you wrote, produced and acted in. How did you go about securing financing and what was the approx budget?

I was forced to start making Vietnamese Porn again...oh wait, that was something else...The budget was Low, and I don't mean when some indie filmmaker brags that he shot his film on a very low-budget of $500,000...I mean REALLY low. I was very fortunate that Melissa Bacelar, head of Lost Angeles films was looking for a film to Producer and this was the one she wanted. I had been working with Melissa and casting her in my films and plays for years before that so it worked out perfectly.

What was it shot on and how long was the shoot?

Shot on DV, Panasonic 24P and shot in 9 days. A very short time to make a feature but like I said, no money means hard work!

I’ve always found that indie filmmaking differs from big budget films, in that indie filmmaking tends to really be more of a collaborative effort, where on big budget films, people need to play their specific roles. Having said that, I’m wondering, what’s it like to write, produce and act in something that you're not directing?

It sucks....kidding...it's great because I love to multi task and I have found that a small and competent crew is very often better and more efficient than a large crew where there are 20 pa's who basically smoke and sleep and no one knows what's going on. The tough thing is, I want to make larger budgeted films but I know that when more money comes into play, creative control gets lost...and I'm scared of that.

From the concept perspective, there was a lot that I really liked about this film. First off, I think you may have the only film with a cannibal hooker in it… which is fantastic on so many levels. But, secondly, the whole idea of the Jeffrey character falling in love with her and accepting her for who she is… is awesome. Great concept. Where did the whole idea come from?

Thank you! It was completely based on the concept of how far one would go and how much one could accept in the person they love. Some people deal with and accept drugs, alcohol, gambling addiction…violence…so I wanted to know if a man in love could accept the fact the woman of his dreams kills and eats people? Of all the problems I've dealt with in ex-girlfriends, a cannibal would have been the least of my problems!

Also, you didn’t shy away from the gore, which I, obviously, appreciated. Talk about using gore in indie films. As in, do you see it as necessary or was it more of a creative choice?

As a horror fan I love blood & gore...sometimes people say it's not necessary but my favorite time for horror was the late 70's and early 80's so I am a huge gore fan! So I think it's necessary AND my creative choice...I just wish I had a lot more money to put into the FX. I have been super lucky to work with Jerely Selenfriend of Monster In My Closet as his work is amazing and he works with my budget restrictions. And let me mention the case of my film Aunt Rose...it had 4 or 5 really disturbing, kick ass/gross effects in it and they were all CUT from the version Anchor Bay released...they totally de-fanged my film and no one has ever told me why...

Tell us about some of the hurdles you overcame to get the film done. Any advice you can pass on to other indie filmmakers who might be just setting out to make a film?

Yes, Bust your ass in pre-production. Make sure the actors are rehearsed and know their lines and make sure they are comfortable with the script, their characters and that they have no questions going into the shoot. The more prepared they are the better the shoot will be. And also handle all the little things way before hand....secure your locations, make sure every one knows exactly what they are wearing in each scene, have all your props ready and even if your budget is ridiculously low...make sure people eat! It can be pizza and sandwiches but do make sure they eat well and have a ton of snacks, drinks, water on set all the time...if no one is getting paid at least stuff them with Twizzlers and Root Beer!

After it was all said and done, what would you have done differently?

I would prayed a little longer each night for more money...I have always been blessed with great casts and crew...all I have ever needed was more money....oh and not to get screwed over by almost every distribution company I work with...and almost ALL have screwed me kin one way or another.

Did you enter it into any festivals? If so, how’d that go and what can you pass on to other indie filmmakers who are thinking of entering their film into festivals?

I didn't submit Skinned Alive to too many festivals but it did premiere at the Spooky Movie Film Festival in Washington, DC (Those guys are great!) and it won best Feature (and best breasts) at the Backseat Film Festival (Those guys are also great) I was a little disappointed that it didn't get into the New York Horror Film Festival. I mean, come on...even if it sucked, how could they not show a film about a flesh eating hooker eating people in New York City!!!!! I think it would have been a hit there.

What about distribution? How’s that going? Are there any lessons that you would pass on to other indie filmmakers who’ve just finished a film and are looking for distribution?

Yes, basically if you actually sell your film, you're not going to make much, at all, and they now have full control. Distributors changed the titles of films every time. NO ONE GETS OUT was changed to AUNT ROSE and EAT YOUR HEART OUT was changed to Skinned Alive. They can even market your films differently if they want...so prepare for that. Companies that give you no money in a any way usually let your film say as is.

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

You can buy a copy at VIRGIN MEGASTORE or online at Amazon.com or TLAVideo.com. Blockbuster video, who carry some of the worst shit horror films ever decided NOT to carry Skinned Alive. So Fuck You Blockbuster! You can also rent it from Netflix.

I also really want to touch on another film that you acted in, “Last Rites of the Dead” or “Zombies Anonymous”, as it’s now called. Personally, it was one of my favorite indie films of the year. That’s a film that, I believe, you just acted in, as opposed to wrote, produced and acted in. Talk about the difference between just straight up acting in a film vs. being more attached to it.

I loved Zombies Anonymous, originally called Last Rites of The Dead. It was a fantastic script and wonderful opportunity. It was also great to "Just Act" in that one. I love writing and producing but with that comes a lot of pressure and I'm a nervous person to begin with. When I can be JUST AN ACTOR in a film it's really nice for me now....like going to a spa for a massage...I can just relax and do what I do. But Zombies Anonymous is a must for horror fans because it's such a different take on the Zombie film.

Lastly, talk about the indie horror scene. What do you think about where it’s at now and where do you see it going?

Obviously it's been opened up for almost anyone to be able to make a film these days thanks to DV...and that's both a good thing and a bad as you see really good stuff from people that could never afford to shoot on film and you see really bad stuff from people, well, that should be shot...kidding...but you know what I mean. I also think sights like yours are an amazing way for low-budget, independent horror films to get noticed...we hardly have money to finish our films much less spend money on advertising so I thank you for helping us!!!!!!! (and if your readers want to help indie filmmakers may I suggest you go out and buy SKINNED ALIVE, PINK EYE, ZOMBIES ANONYMOUS, THE BLOOD SHED AND I'LL BURY YOU TOMORROW) Just go on Amazon.com and charge them all, it's like getting them for free...

Thanks Joshua! ...and look out for information on "Pink Eye" in the next post, as it gets released tomorrow.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Film Fest Updates: Chicago Horror Fest, Zero Film Festival and Schlocktober

Well, thank F'ing God it's Friday. I deserve every drink that I'm going to have today... and tonight, and for the rest of the weekend, including Sunday, which will revolve around watching lots of NFL. Anyhow, let's go into the weekend with some film fest updates. There's some to attend, plus some new one's to look into... and by the way, that's a pic of Tiffany Shepis from her film, "Home Sick", and she'll be at the Chicago Horror Fest this weekend...

So, if you're in the Chicago area and a reader of the site, I'm pretty sure you know about the Chicago Horror Fest, which is this weekend. This is a festival that's all about the three B's - Babes, Blood and Booze, and we know that because it says so right on their website. They're screening a few killer indie horror films, including: "Dark Reel", "Squeal", "Spine Tingler", "Midnight Movie" and "Evilution". They also have appearances by Tiffany Shepis, Svemgoolie and Ron Fitzgerald and, well... a whole lot more. For more information, you can go to their website here.

I was just recently informed about the all new Zero Film Festival, which is going to take place in L.A. this Dec 1 - 6. I'm hoping to get some more information out of them, but for now... it's basically a film festival designed to showcase zero budget films. They're hoping to "bring those in the Los Angeles cinematic community who are tired of big-budget, paint by numbers 'independent' movies together for a week of original visions, great films and good parties. They are currently accepting submissions, so go check out their website here.

Lastly, I'd like to mention the largest single screen horror and cult film festival in NYC history, called Schlocktober. It's taking place every night in October at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater and you can expect world premieres, retro-shclock classics, special guests, free screenings and, of course, more. You can't submit your film, as they're hand-picked, but there's at least one film that they're screening that is a MUST SEE FILM and I'll get to that in a second, but first... They're having the world premiere of "Trailer Park of Terror", which is based on the Imperium Comics series; they're screening "Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie", which was in a few festivals; there's a Saturday Splatter Show and "The Tooth and Nail Terror Show" from our buddies at Wild Eye, the guys who brought you "Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69"...AND, the must see film that they're screening is "Tokyo Gore Police", which is, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece. To quote THEIR quote, "This gleeful sci-fi destructo party mixes STARSHIP TROOPERS with ROBOCOP, then grafts the love child of Shinya Tsukamoto and David Cronenberg to its back, screaming with body horror, and douses itself in a waterfall of thick, bubbling gore". I'll reiterate... MUST SEE - see for yourself, click here for the trailer. For more information and an up-to-date calendar, click here.

Anyhow, hope that's enough to get you through the weekend...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Distributing Your Indie Horror Film, part IV: Indie-Pictures, Passion River and Film Baby

I like to do a minimum of one post per day, five days a week. Usually, I've got two or three interviews or ideas waiting for me to just fix up and post, but this morning... nothing. So, after staring through a few empty beer bottles and into the matrix of screens on my home office desk for a few moments, I checked my email. Then, I checked the stock market to see how it reacted to W's speech last night. (positively... for now) After that, a bit of porn. Then, when I realized that a post wasn't going to write itself, I decided to take a look at three more indie horror distributors that have been brought to my attention by some of you guys. Today, I'll look at Indie-Pictures, Passion River and Film Baby.

I've talked to a few guys who've distributed their films under Indie-Pictures and they've had nothing but rave reviews. To be honest, it's one of the only distributors that's batting 1.000 with people I've talked to. I actually reached out to these guys, as I wanted to talk with them and find out more, but... well, they haven't got back to me yet. I'm sure they're just taking the time to draft a proper letter or something. Anyhow, and this is from their website, they've "developed a model of distribution specifically designed to support the independent filmmaker, challenge many of the existing assumptions about distribution of independent films, and create opportunities for both films and filmmakers which have until now not existed." There's more on their website there, including contact information for both the CEO and Chairman of the Board.

Passion River is another new company that's been brought to my attention. Actually, they're not new... just new to me. They've been around since 1998, which some in this industry would consider an enternity. Now, they operate a little differently than other distributors. They do acquire, distribute and represent indie film projects, but it looks like they'll also act as a sort of shopping cart for indie filmmakers, meaning... you want us to just wholesale out your film? Fine. You want marketing services? Fine. You want us to take care of the whole thing? Fine. You want more information on how to contact them? Fine. Here's a link to their film submissions page.

Film Baby calls themselves a "haven for independent filmmakers and those that love independent film" and it's more like a self-serve type of deal. As in, there's really no submissions policy. Just get them the film, they'll distribute it and most, if not all, of the marketing and promoting is up to you. Some of the "cool tidbits", as they call it on their site, are: they're non-exclusive, there's a one time fee of $40, they only keep $4 of the sales price of your film and you set the sticker price, they pay you every week and they'll distribute it digitally, if you're interested. You can go here to set up an account and get started.

A little post-script here... go check out our section on indie horror film distributors here... and I know I'm missing a lot. So, if you've distributed your film through a particular distributor that's not on our list, especially if you had a good experience with them, let me know.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Exclusive interview with Drew Maxwell, writer/director of Guardians

No question, I grew up on "Star Wars", it was definitely the film (or films) that had the most impact on me. Ever since I watched that massive star destroyer fly over my head, I've been a changed person. (granted, I was around 4 at the time) From there, it got worse (or some would say, better) There was "Clash of the Titans", "Krull", "The Thing", "Dreamscape", before "Terminator", "They Live", "Aliens" and on and on... it's what got me where I am today. I've always been checking out every obscure horror and sci-fi film I could and I've always had a huge soft spot for special effects. In fact, the first film I EVER made was a stop-motion battle scene using all my Star Wars figures using my Dad's old school video camera (had a porta-pack seperate from the camera) Anyhow, with the advent of CGI, special effects have been taken to a whole new level and, as we all know, "T2" changed film forever. However, you very rarely see lots of CGI effects in low-budget horror, as it's kinda costly. That's particularily why I was excited to get the effects-heavy film, "Guardians" into my DVD player. It was written and directed by Drew Maxwell, who's also one of the founders and visual effects artists at Lightning Rod Studios, the company that made "Guardians". The film is about a bunch of mercenaries who come to a small town to kill off a bunch of creatures that have been summoned into our dimension by a group of occultists. If you were raised on the same films as I, you're going to get a big kick out of this... it's a guaranteed good time. Dead Harvey had the chance to discuss the film with Maxwell and, as usual, he offers a lot of good advice and insight, but if special effects are your thing... this is a must read.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences, where did you get started and what brought you to filmmaking?

I work as an artist in both traditional and digital art (Photoshop, Painter, ZBrush 3D etc.) I started out in comic books and in animated television development. I worked to develop cartoon series and game concepts for Warner Bros. Animation. If you are interested in my artwork you can visit drewmaxwell.net I always loved film and was obsessed with comic books as a kid. I decided to start a production company with my business partner Dan Kattman; I had written a few screenplays and wanted to direct and Dan is an entertainment attorney and visual effects artist. We make a great team. Our company is called Lightning Rod Studios and rounding out our administrative staff are film producer Amy Dowd and VFX supervisor / artist Chris Gruber, two extremely talented artists and leaders in our company. We have a great team of employees, contractors and interns including 3D modelers / animators, After Effects artists, Shake artists, cinematographers, sound engineers, etc. We produce about 2-3 feature films a year and provide VFX and production services to numerous producers for their films as well. We specialize in organic visual effects.

As far as my influences, I love the basic filmmaker stuff that everyone else does. Stanley Kubrick, John Carpenter, Akira Kurosawa, good 70's horror, arthouse films, animation, comic books and graphic novels. I love old kung-fu and samurai films as well.

Film School: Yes or No?

I went to art school and studied film there.

Where did the idea for “Guardians” come from and what made you actually get off your ass and go out and make it?

The idea for Guardians is heavily inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and horror comic books. What got us off our ass was simple - stop talking and just make a film at all costs. It was very hard work, and in hindsight, maybe too ambitious for the budget.

How did you go about securing financing and what was the approx budget?

Our first film was picked up by Shoreline Entertainment out of LA. We formed a great relationship with them, and then entered into a two picture deal. I am not at liberty to discuss the budget.

What did you shoot on and how long was the shoot?

We shot the movie on HD using a PS Technic 35mm lens adaptor and a set of various 35mm lenses. We shot for four weeks.

Obviously, it was a CG heavy film, which is so rare to see for an indie horror. Tell us about the process of setting out and making a CG heavy film on a low budget.

Well, the difficulties we went through making Guardians taught us that we needed to do the CGI work in house. So looking back, it is kind of hard to watch the CGI in the film because we have come so far since making Guardians. The CGI we are producing now is light-years better - our company specializes in visual effects, major CGI work, digital back-lot techniques, etc. You have to start somewhere.

Talk about the CG process on an indie film. You guys happen to specialize in this, but is it something that’s impossible for other indie filmmakers to do?

It is possible if you have people with talents in animation, modeling, texturing, lighting, compositing, motion tracking, etc. We had to learn all of this stuff ourselves. Luckily I could draw and Dan could composite. That helped tremendously. Guardians was like being thrown into the deep-end of a pool and quickly learning how to swim. Not easy! But nothing is. Also, you MUST be willing to work on a shot for two weeks and if it's not the best, hit delete and start again. This can be very difficult for most artists, but you have to work like this. OR you should hire Lightning Rod Studios, sit back and not reinvent the wheel. SHAMELESS PLUG!

Further to that, the film is very big in idea. I thought you did a great job in creating a believable universe for your story to take place in. Talk about creating that universe on a low-budget. What would you pass on to other indie filmmakers who don’t have a lot of budget, but have “big” ideas.

Thank you for the kind words. This is big for me. I am all about the look and feel of what is on screen. I spend a lot of time doing concept artwork and designing props, etc. As far as budgeting goes, you have to make a little go a long, long way. Spray paint is your best friend! We went through about 50 cans of paint on this film. Making things look old and worn helps. Distress everything. Props and people. Get rid of any logos and go for that "timeless look" as far as hair styles and clothing. Lighting is key here as well. Do not over light.

Tell us about some of the hurdles you overcame to get the film done. Any advice you can pass on to other indie filmmakers who might be just setting out to make a film.

Ok, most people think "let's make a movie! It will be fun!" This is true if you are making a student film that doesn't need to be sold. Making low-budget feature length films for a studio is hard, thankless work. In the trenches. In the mud. If you don't love it and you're unwilling to work non-stop with no time off for 12 months, then do not make a real film. Just have fun with your friends. You will NEVER sleep. NEVER!!! There will be one hurdle after another. Filmmaking is combat. Make sure you have a great team that works well together. My wife is the most supporting, patient, hardest working person on Earth! Without her, I never could have done this. Let people drive their respective cars (jobs). If everyone tries to steer the car at the same time, it crashes. Be flexible! We worked hard for Shoreline to give us an opportunity, and we made the most of it.

After it was all said and done, what would you have done differently?

Well, hindsight is 20/20. I would have fought harder for what I wanted to do with the story and shots. You feel so much pressure from the clock and all of the little issues that arise on set. Now, I try very hard not to let those things distract me while filming. You learn so much by doing. If I were to talk about what I've learned to do differently, it would fill this whole page. Just make a lot of films. Be hard on yourself. Keep honing your skills. You will get better every time you do it.
Talk about the festival circuit, how did that go? What did you learn? And what can you pass on to other filmmakers who’ve finished an indie horror and want to enter it into festivals?

Because Guardians was made for Shoreline Entertainment, we had distribution in place before we made the film. So we did not enter into many fests. Guardians was an "Official Selection" at a few fests and the film was nominated for "Best Science Fiction Feature Film" at the Shockerfest International Film Festival. That was very cool.

What about distribution? How’s that going? Are there any lessons that you would pass on to other indie filmmakers who’ve just finished a film?

Like I said, we had distribution in place when we made the film so that was great. Shoreline sold the film in foreign markets first. Our films do very well in Japan. I think it must be the animation / comic book influenced side in me that they respond to. Shoreline secured a deal for US domestic and Canada with Warner Bros.! We were very happy about WB and now you can buy the DVD almost anywhere.

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

For more information about Guardians and the other films that we have produced and are working on: LightningRodStudios.com, Amazon.com is the easiest place to buy the DVD, but it is available at any major online retailer.

What’s next? Do you have any projects in the works? “Guardians” does set itself up for a sequel… you guys working on that?

Yes, we are extremely busy with our films and VFX work for various clients and producers. I have written and directed three films since we made Guardians and we have improved so much in that time. One of my films is called CARNIVOROUS and it was shot almost completely in front of a green screen. The film has over 2000 visual effects shots and it is currently a finalists for "Best Fantasy Feature Film" at Shockerfest. Carnivorous is not out yet on DVD until after the fests, but it should be soon. We are shooting our biggest film yet this fall. It is called SHADOWLANDS. It is a post-apocalyptic samurai monster movie. Should be really fun stuff. We are developing a TV series as well but I can't talk about that yet.

Drew continued on via email and I wanted to share some of his further thoughts...
When you make low-budget high concept films, it can be discouraging at times because when your modest film is on the shelves next to the 200 million dollar films, people expect the same outcome. People who don't like indie films can be unforgiving and quite harsh. I am proud of what we've accomplished on a budget that's probably less than a lunch budget for one of those 200 million dollar films. Guardians was a learning and growing experience for us. I want to encourage filmmakers to go for it. Don't let anyone or anything stop you if you love it. You will get better and better. It's not easy but nothing of value is.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

linkapalooza - September 23, 2008: Actually Getting Paid in Hollywood... and Other Useless Junk

None of my links this week are really 'breaking news', per se... but they are interesting. This is stuff that may actually help you as an indie horror filmmaker. However, before I get to those links, let's look at a link where we're just trying to help you get a job... you know, so you can actually pay those bills. ...and, I know, the picture has nothing to do with any of this... or doesn't it? You decide.

Ten Ways To Break Into Hollywood on forbes.com: This article could be just kinda funny to you, but it's from Forbes and it goes through the ten easiest ways to get a job in Hollywood... and it got me thinking. If you're an indie filmmaker, especially an indie horror filmmaker, you can expect to live fairly close to the poverty line for a while... especially if you're concentrating on your writing and filmmaking more than you are on that whole 'making money' thing. So, your best bet is to try and get a job in Hollywood and pursue your indie horror dreams in your spare time - no one said this is an easy way to make a living, remember. Leisure time is, well, a luxury. If you get a job in the industry, you're going to be able to network, get ideas and be close to the action... which, at the end of the day, will be a catalyst for your career as an indie horror filmmaker. It's also better than doing something completely unrelated, like driving a cab or working as a telemarketer or something.

Sundance Channel to offer new pay-per-view option on latimes.com: If you read the next blurb below this, you'll see that people aren't making too much dough off of paid downloads, but it is nice to see that they're trying to change the field up a bit. Sundance Channel is now offering a pay-per-view option that's 'dedicated to independent films that did not have a theatrical release'. They seem to think that this service could 'democratize and emancipate independent film' and if I knew what 'emancipate' meant, I may agree... however, I can say this. You're probably not going to see too many slasher flicks available on this service. It's nice to see that they're laying the groundwork for someone to make a horror version, though.

DVDs Account For 81% of Video Spending on Multichannel.com: This article resides in my 'get to know your audience' file, which I've been kind of hammering on people lately. Really, it's basic marketing. Find out as much as you can about your consumer (in this case, audience), find out what they want, when they want it and how they want it, then give it to them. That doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your artistic vision, but it could give you some direction. This is very generic information, but interesting, none the less. So, to sum it up... DVDs is where the money is (we knew that, though), but there are a few interesting things there when you break it down. 41% of consumers PURCHASE the DVDs versus 29% on RENTALS... only 0.5% is spent on paid downloads. Knowing that, what would make someone BUY your DVD over the next guy? (Think added value, like: extras, a poster, bonus CD, artwork, who knows..) There's more in there, too... interesting stuff. Know your audience!

HBO launches Web series on THR.com: It's interesting to see what the big guys are doing in online media. This article is about HBO's "experimental offshoot" called HBOlab, which, I'm guessing, just comes up with crazy ideas that use other distribution methods... namely, the web. It does seem like there's lots of people who get discovered through their online efforts, then sign a TV or film deal. However, there's very few TV or film guys that can make a successful web-based show. There's two things to take from stuff like this. 1. You have to keep an eye on what these big boys are doing. 2. Get ideas from what they're doing... the web is the only place where we're on even footing with these guys. We may not be able to get in the theaters or on TV, but we sure can do what they're doing on the web.

Monday, September 22, 2008

September 23, 2008 - New Horror on DVD this week, which includes Argento directing his own daughter in sex scenes in "Mother of Tears"

From my perspective, it's a little bit of a weak week, so to speak. I mean, there's some great releases, including Argento's "Mother of Tears" and The Pang Brothers "Re-Cycle", but there's NO real indie-horror this week! Bummer. Having said that, there's some good stuff to check out. As usual, if you want to help us out and buy the films off Amazon, through our site, please click on the titles. Also, go check out all their trailers on our Youtube page.

So, yeah, "Mother of Tears" is the big release of the week, even though most of the public has no idea of what this film is about and will just be picking up the Dr. Sexy film, "Made of Honor" when they go to Blockbuster. "Mother of Tears" is, of course, from Dario Argento and is the last intallment of "The Three Mothers" trilogy, which started with "Suspiria". It's great that this is finally done and out, as Argento's been threatening to make this film since the 80's, but it didn't finally go into production until October 2006. Unfortunately, it was never really promoted that heavily and it had a limited theatrical run in June of 2008. For me, the best thing that comes out of a film like this, aside from the knowledge that he had to direct his own daughter in some serious nude scenes, is the fact that a lot of people will now look back on Argento's work, which includes some absolute classics, such as: "Susperia", "Inferno", "Phenomena", as well as collaborating on "Demons", "Demons 2", "Zombi" and even the original "Dawn of the Dead". Any way you slice it, Argento's a classic, deserves a ton of credit and his latest film needs to be checked out... even though he's a sick bastard for directing Asia through some sick, twisted nude scenes. (check out the trailer)

I totally forgot about "Pathology", but here it is on DVD, already... where does the time go? It was directed by Marc Schoelermann and had a limited release on April 18, 2008 and it has a decent cast, including Alyssa Milano, Milo Ventimiglia (from Heroes), among others. It's about a group of medical residents studying pathology who devise a deadly game; to see which one of them can commit the perfect murder. It's from the same guys who wrote "Crank" and "Crank 2", there's nothing really indie about it or anything really interesting, either, so... moving on.

"Vipers" is another Sci-Fi orginal, this one starring Tara Reid, directed by Bill Corcoran. To quickly gloss over this, it's about a group of genetically enhanced vipers on the loose after a break-in at a medical research lab... and these vipers don't just bite, they eat. Next.

Here's something you need to check out... "Re-Cycle" is an award winning film from Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, otherwise, known as "The Pang Brothers". They're the guys behind the original "The Eye", the original "The Messengers" and, even, the original "Bangkok Dangerous". "Re-Cycle", known as "Gwai wik" in it's native Hong Kong, won the international fantasy film award at Fantasporto and various visual effects and sound effects awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards. I haven't seen this yet, but I'm a huge fan of the Pang Brothers stuff, so this is going to be a must-see for me. Go check out the trailer on our Youtube page, it looks f'ing awesome. If you're into visual, surreal films, this should be one for you. It's about an author who see's the main character from her book, follows him, then gets trapped in his world of terror.

"Copycat" is not the film starring Sigourney Weaver from a few years ago, this one comes from Lionsgate and it was directed by Andy Hurst, who's made a bit of a career from writing sequels. He wrote "Wild Things 2", "Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough" and "Single White Female 2: The Psycho". This is not his directorial debut, though. He made a couple films in Germany "Project: Assassin" and "You're Dead", before make the North American film, "Are You Scared", which I saw... and was not scared. "Copycat" was originally called "Diary of a Serial Killer" and it's about a journalist who is tormented by the serial killer who took her mother's life. She investigates the only clue he ever leaves behind at his crime scenes, his diary pages.

"The Suicide Song" is a Japanese film, originally called "Densen uta" and it's about the urban legend that there's a song that fatally affects its listeners. It's directed by Masato Harada, who's done a ton of films, but none that I've heard of. "The Climbers High"? "The Shadow Spirit"? "The Choice of Hercules"? "Bounce KO Gals"? Okay, I'd check out that last one, for sure.

If you're into history of horror film and, more specifically, the history of the vampire movie, you may get a kick out of "Blood Sucking Cinema", a documentary from Barry Gray. It's only 57 minutes long, but it has interviews with Stuart Townsend "Queen of the Damned", Len Wiseman "Underworld", John Carpenter "Vampires", Joel Schumacher "The Lost Boys", Kristanna Loken "BloodRayne", Corey Haim "The Lost Boys", John Landis "Innocent Blood", Leonard Maltin and "Ain't It Cool News" own Harry Knowles.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Film Fest Updates: The Toofy Film Fest, Rotten Jack's Creep Show and The Echo Park Film Center

For once in my life, the fact that you can search your browser history turned out to be a good thing. As I scrolled past all the porn, sports and social networking sites I was on last night, I came across the links you see below... which were all in a post that I wrote last night, but it didn't save for some reason. So, yeah... this is the second time I've written this. And it better work this time...

Let's take a look at three distinctly different events going on, one's a festival, one's a convention and the last is a film center.

The Toofy Film Fest, founded by Jeff and Mark Siebert in 2004, takes place in Boulder, Colorado in the Boulder Theater every September. As it's mid to late September right now, they're obviously closed for submissions, but keep an eye out for when they re-open for 2009. It's a more laid-back festival than most and it plays out more like a big party... for example, one of their tag lines was "Relax... they're just movies." Be careful when submitting, though, as they're not genre specific. They probably wouldn't be into anything that's too hardcore. Having said that, you never know. One of the cool things about them is that they're partnered with Current TV, whose chairman is former Vice President Al Gore, and their producers meet with filmmakers and will entertain pitches. I can just see how the meeting would go between a Dead Harvey reader and Al Gore... "Yeah, so... the main characters are a family of super-rich, psychotic midgets who live like royalty during the day, but dress up as chimps and kill the 'regular folk' at night... what do you mean, 'No'?, that's bullshit."

Rotten Jack's Creep Show takes place this weekend, September 20, in Buffalo, NY. Now, Rotten Jack's is actually a store, they're "America's premiere horror & halloween boo-tique", in fact. However, this weekend is their second annual "Creep Show" and it's a big convention, where you can buy movie apparel, props, horror collectibles, etc. There's also tattoo artists, paranormal groups, musical acts and celebrity guests. If you're a regular reader, you know my stance on conventions. I think they're equally as important as the film festivals. If you've made a few films or if you could band together with other filmmakers, you should become a vendor and sell DVD's, talk with the people and, hell, get everyone's name, number and email address, so you can keep in touch with them. Great places to sell merchandise and network, as it's all like-minded people there... who've come to a convention to spend money.

Lastly, let's look at The Echo Park Film Center. The only reason I found them is because if you look at the last post, Fewdio is screening their short "Laundromat" at the 62nd Film Festival in L.A. So, I just assumed that was it was the 62nd time that an event called "Film Festival" was occuring in L.A., but when my crack google skills couldn't come up with anything close to that, I dug deeper. Then I found The Echo Park Film Center, which is is doing an event called "62nd CINEMA", as in "Sixty-Second Cinema". Quite witty, but it does make it hard to search for. Anyhow, when I went to the Echo Park Film Center, I found that they do tons of screenings, events and shows. Just go to their site, it's crazy. Anyhow, if you're in the L.A. area, you should check it out and get involved.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"DOOR 17", Another New Short From FEWDIO

The short horror films from Fewdio come fast and furious... and I had to post this one, as it's officially my favorite to date. Damn, they do good work.





Oh, and I should mention that Fewdio's films have been accepted into a whole bunch of festivals... here's a list of the films and which festival they'll be playing in. If in you're in the area, make sure you go support them!

THE TAP - Fantastic Fest in Austin

BREACH - Fantastic Fest in Austin

CURSE - Sacramento Horror Fest

THE LAUNDROMAT - Toronto After Dark

BEDFELLOWS - HP Lovecraft Fest in Portland

CONVICTION - HP Lovecraft Fest in Portland

LAUNDROMAT - 62nd Film Festival in Los Angeles

THE TALE OF HAUNTED MIKE - Screamfest L.A.

ALL THE FEWDIO FILMS - The Scare Fest in Nashville

For more information on Fewdio, go check out their homepage here.

Exclusive Interview with Gris Grimly, writer/director/artist of "Cannibal Flesh Riot"

This was a while ago now... but, I get home after, what was probably another long day, and I hit the mailbox. A few bills, junk mail and, thankfully, a screener. I open it up, like I usually do, on the elevator ride and as I walk down the hallway towards my condo, I hold in my hand the screener for Gris Grimly's "Cannibal Flesh Riot". Right off the bat, I'm stoked. First off, Grimly has put together an unreal package that, to my knowledge, hasn't really been done before. It's the size of a CD package, with a cover designed like a comic. However, when you open it up, the left hand side actually contains a comic book inspired by the film, and the case itself contains not only the DVD of the film, but also a CD with music inspired by the film. Quite frankly, it's genius. Why more people don't put together packages like this, I have no idea. Now, if you don't know who Gris Grimly is, he's a fairly well known artist and storyteller, probably best known for his "darkly whimsical children's books". Actually, I think he's a hell of an artist and his talent shines through on this film, which has a really cool, unique look and feel. (including a few kick-ass claymation sequences) All in all, this is a great package and definitely worth your time. We had the pleasure of discussing the project with Grimly and he has lots of advice and insight to offer...

Tell us a bit about yourself. You’re an artist, writer, filmmaker and more. Where did you get started and what brought you to filmmaking?

Overall, I’m a storyteller. I don’t think I’m a great artist. I don’t think I’m a great designer or a great writer. My spelling and grammar is atrocious. But I’m a creative and unique storyteller. I think that is why people are drawn to what I do. Because it’s something new and intriguing.

I didn’t really have intentions of getting into film. As a child, I wanted to do creature and monster designs and effects. There for a while I wanted to make puppets for Jim Hensen. My first professional creative job was illustrating Monster Museum for Hyperion Press. After that, I started to get 1-2 book gigs a year.

Since the first book came out, I kept creating and coming up with new ideas, started a line of apparel and pursued different types of licensing. The filmmaking just happened.

Film School: Yes or No?

No. My schooling came from two books. “How to shoot a feature film under $10,000 and not go to jail” and “Rebel without a crew”.

Where did the idea for “Cannibal Flesh Riot” come from and what made you actually get off your ass and go make it?

“Cannibal Flesh Riot!” was originally going to be a comic book project with my friend Peter Sandorff, who played guitar for the Nekromantics. He wanted to release a limited edition 7-inch vinyl with music composed to a horror comic written and illustrated by me. I started the comic being influenced by old horror pulp and EC horror comics. The story of Stash and Hub evolved from that.

In the meantime, me and some friends were talking about making a movie. At the time, it was going to be a full feature about a werewolf shot in a friend’s backyard. But the concept and story started to get carried away with wire tricks and car crashes. I realized “we can’t do this!” I decided to keep it simple: two guys in a graveyard having a conversation. That was “Cannibal Flesh Riot!”. We were just wanting to do it for the fun of it with no thoughts of releasing it to the public. But after seeing the footage from the first day I thought, “This isn’t that bad.”

How did you go about securing financing and what was the approx. budget?

The budget was somewhere between $4000-$6000 for a 30 minute short. At that range, there is no need for securing funds. You just whip out your credit card and rack up debt.

What did you shoot on and how long was the shoot?

We shot the film on the DVX100. The primary footage was shot in 7 days about 8-12 hour a day. This doesn’t include the days shooting the stop motion segments. That is a little more difficult to calculate.

There was a very distinct look and feel to the film. For me, it played out just like a comic and really had a comic book feel to it. Tell us about achieving that look.

The two main influences in the look of the film were old 50’s B horror films and EC horror comics. I also think that being a cartoonist, translating my thoughts into a live action film is going to have a comic book like feel. We just did our best to make the sets and props as well as the characters look like my artwork.

I f’ing LOVED the brief scenes of claymation. Tell me about the decision to go that route, especially because I noticed that you used brief bits of CG

The CG effects were an afterthought. As we were editing the footage, the idea of bugs crawling around on Stash came about. But the film was already shot. So we turned to a friend for CG. The moth was also going to be stop motion, but we found complications with getting the shot properly and also turned to CG. The stop motion shots in the film are for two reasons. One, to remain consistent to the look of old horror films. I’m a fan of Willis O’Brien’s and Ray Harryhausen’s work. This was a tribute to them. I’m a fan of animation techniques in general and will incorporate them into future projects if it fits. The other reason was budgetary. When you only have a few hundred dollars for the monster, you’re not going to make a 50-foot animatronics Gut Tongue. I would rather see it in stop motion using real meat than CG any day.

Tell us about some of the hurdles you overcame to get the film done. Any advice you can pass on to other indie filmmakers who might be just setting out to make a film?

We had a very little budget, which is always going to cause problems on set. I think there will always be hurdles no matter what budget you are working with, but it is much more difficult to overcome these hurdles when you can’t buy your way out. We shot in the LA area without a permit or insurance. This means we needed to shoot on friends’ private properties. So you could only imagine how limited our options were. We shot the graveyard scene in a friend’s backyard, which was next to a rooster farm. I didn’t think this would cause a problem since we were shooting mostly at night. But this was a cock fighting rooster farm and those cocks were pissed off all the time. They would crow all the time. We found a way around it as best we could. Most of it had to be cleaned up in post. Other than that, we ended up scheduling the shoot during the worst monsoon Los Angeles has seen in 20 years. We lost many shooting days because of this. But again, the best we could do is shoot the interior shots when it rained and the catch the exterior shots when the weather shined fondly on us.

After it was all said and done, what would you have done differently?

There are many things I would change. It’s not that I’m not proud of it. We made a kick ass film. But I learned a lot during the process. There were many times I wanted to go back and shoot something differently or go back and fix this or that. But sometimes, you just have to cut the umbilical chord of the bastard child and squeeze out the next one.

Talk about the festival circuit, how did that go? What did you learn? And what can you pass on to other filmmakers who’ve finished an indie horror and want to enter it into festivals?

I found out that festivals are extremely political…even some of the smaller ones. You have a better chance if you like the taste of shit on your lips. But that’s not my style.

Another thing that I loved was your choice in packaging the film up with a short comic adaptation, as well as a CD of music inspired by and from the film. It makes the film worth purchasing, as opposed to just watching in a festival or ripping off the internet. What were you thinking when you put it together?

I don’t always know what I’m thinking. Sometimes I think I’m mad. Especially when I was getting into producing a compilation CD. I listen to some horror punk and psychobilly music. I love when bands sing about old horror movies, mainly because I love old horror movies and there is that connection to the song. As I was finishing up the editing on the film, I thought it would be cool to ask friends from bands that I knew or worked with to do a song inspired by CFR for the limited edition run of the DVD. While a few of them agreed, most of them had to pass for whatever their reasons. Some of the bands were on a crazy tour. Some of the bands broke up. It wasn’t what I expected. But instead of giving up, I decided to approach a bunch of bands I liked, but didn’t know. Out of those were Mister Monster, Blitzkid, Ghoultown, Creature Feature and a few others. I sent them all copies of the film with a letter stating what I was doing and asked if they liked the film would they contribute a song for the compilation. It was a lot of hard work, but in the end, we put together a killer collection of music.

What about distribution? How’s that going? Are there any lessons that you would pass on to other indie filmmakers who’ve just finished a film?

Currently, the movie is only available as the self-distributed DVD through Mad Creator Productions. I’ve been asked about distribution, but I’m not interested in it right now. I’ve thought about doing a few other short films that could be released and distributed on DVD in the future as a collection.

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

There is a “Cannibal Flesh Riot!” myspace. That is good enough for getting info. You can find that at cannibalfleshriot.com. The DVD, Score and other merchandise can be purchased at madcreator.com.

I feel that I should mention that you’re also an accomplished artist, clothing designer, etc. Where can people buy your art and other products?

Same place. madcreator.com

What’s next? Do you have any projects in the works?

I’ve just finished up shooting a music video for the band Ghoultown. The song is called “Mistress of the Dark” and stars none other than Elvira. If that wasn’t awesome enough, the video was shot at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. I’m finishing it up now and plan on releasing it in October. The band and I are collaborating on a special CD/DVD release for early next year which will include the single “Mistress of the Dark” and a few other B-sides, the music video, making of documentary and some other kick ass special features. We are all looking forward to that. Then I will focus on the next thing, which will hopefully be the next short.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Exclusive Interview with Daniel Boneville, writer/director of Lily

I came home one night, probably a little intoxicated (okay, definitely intoxicated), and I decided to watch a bunch of the short horror films that had been starting to pile up by my TV. The first film I grabbed was "Lily", from Daniel Boneville. After a minute or so, I stood up, took out the DVD and put it aside... now, I didn't do that because it was bad, not at all. In fact, it's an awesome film. I did that because it's intense and surreal, two things that my beer soaked brain wasn't able to handle at that particular time. I'm glad I did set it aside, as when I did sit down to watch it the next day, I was sucked right into it... and if you like surreal films like this (think "Jacob's Ladder"), "Lily" is a film for you. It's about a guy, desperate for salvation, who's lured into a Faustian business arrangement with a mysterious stranger who makes him adhere to a bizarre set of terms that will test the fabric of his reality. On top of that, the film stars Peter Facinelli, who you may remember from "Six Feet Under", "Fastlane" and, uh... "Dancing With The Stars". Dead Harvey had the opportunity to ask the writer and director, Daniel Boneville, a few questions about the making of the film and, as usual, it's a long read... but definitely well worth it. There's lots of insight, advice and stories and Boneville was more than happy to share...

First off, tell us about yourself as a filmmaker. Who are your influences? What's your directing style like?

First and foremost, let me thank you for the opportunity to even answer these questions, and for your interest in my work. You guys are doing an awesome job over there!

Ahhh, the salad days of youth. I grew up on movies like "Jaws", "Rocky I-IV", "Predator", "Commando" ,"The Karate Kid Part 1 & 2", "The Dark Crystal"; and these movies will always have a special place in my heart thanks to the glorious adrenaline-fueled memory of the 1980's. But as I moved into my teenage years, it was primarily the works of Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone that set me down a path towards appreciating the art of filmmaking on an entirely different level. Other directors I admire include: Coppola, Woody, Coens, Kubrick, Spielberg, Mann, DePalma, Fincher, Fellini, PT Anderson, W Anderson, Altman, Henson, Nichols, Tarantino, Lyne, Spike Lee, Spike Jonze, Stallone, Gibson, Malick, Solondz, Payne, LaBute, Soderbergh.

As far as my directing style goes, the visuals come first and foremost in my mind and the rest of the pieces fall into place afterward. I've always shot all my own work, so I go in with a pretty extensive shot list based off the script or concept. I must admit that I have a tendency to shoot a lot of coverage, most of which is planned, and then whatever strikes me on the day. For a movie like "Lily", which clocked in at 35 minutes, I shot well over 25 hours of footage. Though that seems excessive, it's a large part of how I was able to accomplish a more cinematic look shooting video, paying meticulous attention to achieving the quality that I wanted. I typically spend a few days by myself going out and shooting location cutaways that could be relevant to any given scene later on in the editing process.

I've also served as editor, sound designer, and composer on all my work up to this point, so I tend to think about these aspects of the process very early on. Having done this since college, I've gained a large respect for all aspects of the filmmaking process, and I've been able to achieve a sense of self-sufficiency when it comes to getting things done at the level I expect, without having to rely on the whims of others. Being able to to wear multiple production hats also obviously cuts down your budget invaluably.

In terms of story, I enjoy rather quirky sensibilities and dark humor, and never shy away from the stranger aspects of things. I like movies with energy where you sense the director's hand behind them, as opposed to a more generic approach. I try to welcome any and all creative collaboration from the people I work with, and to establish a comfort level amongst the actors and crew.

Film School: Yes or No?

I attended the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. The primary reason I even applied to that film school was because I knew both Scorsese and Stone had studied there.

Where did the idea for "Lily" come from and what was your motivation to get it made?

Through my job at NYU, working for the film industry liaison, I was able to meet Oliver Stone on more than occasion over the years. Eventually, he invited me out to Los Angeles and I wound up working for his company Ixtlan. During this time, I also had the opportunity to work as assistant to actors Jennie Garth and Peter Facinelli. Peter saw some of my earlier work and was impressed by the visual tenacity. He commissioned me to write the script for "Lily", in an effort to collaborate together for the first time; so essentially the movie was written with him in mind as the lead. He wanted to do something in a surreal style based off the work I had showed him, so that was the starting point for our story's genesis behind "Lily". My roommate at the time and writing collaborator had a dream where a young woman was dug out of a beach at dusk, wrapped in plastic. That single image was the seed from which the tale grew, and we subsequently incorporated an extensive "beach dig" sequence into the movie.

The rest of the cast fell into place after Peter was signed on. Maggie McOmie, who has rarely engaged in projects since starring with Robert Duvall in "THX 1138", was a thrill to work with – especially considering that "Lily" pays homage to George Lucas' aforementioned classic. I've known KC, the lead actress, since high school in New York. People like John Klemantaski and Brooke DeBettignes I met in LA, and they're just incredibly supportive and talented. I was also very fortunate to snag make-up FX artist Justin Stafford, who has worked on countless Hollywood blockbusters including "The Grinch", "Planet of the Apes", and "Spiderman 3". The crew was comprised primarily of friends that I've known since I was younger, and they really made the completion of this project possible.

How did you go about securing financing and what was the approx budget?

The financing was raised through independent investors, mostly myself and people that I knew. When all levels of production are taken into account, for both Los Angeles and New York, I would say it cost around $15,000.

What did you shoot on and how long was the shoot?

I shot "Lily" on a single 24P digital camera - the Panasonic DVX1000. The movie was shot on and off for a few months over the course of a summer, but the actual shooting days probably amount to about three weeks.

What struck me the most about the film was the surreal feeling you created. What aspects of the filmmaking process were most important in creating that feel?

Thank you! Yes, that was the idea from the start. As I mentioned before, first and foremost it was the visuals, which I knew were going to be heightened to support the surreal nature of the piece. Each individual scene was designed to represent an aesthetically distinct and contrasting style. The hope was that when these varied scenes were juxtaposed, the result would have an intense, yet beautiful cumulative impact. For example, the contrasting black and white VS color sections were all in the script. Some scenes were meant to look gritter, dirtier...like the first time we're exposed to the "White Room" and Peter is bearded. Then later when he returns to that same room with his mother, the idea then was to achieve a more dreamlike quality via smoke, softer focus, and the twinkle lights. Some scenes were designed to employ frenetic cutting, while others like the beach wandering/digging sequences were designed to have long wide shots linked by slow dissolves. The scene on the cliff is shot handheld for the most part in aid of a more natural feel. The opening beach scene in Italian is like something out of warped Fellini film. Some of the primary visual/audio influences for "Lily" were movies like "2001", "The Shining", and "Solaris". The post-production work on "Lily's" visuals was also very extensive. Every single shot in the movie was later enhanced via filters such as contrast, sharpness, additional saturation, color correction, etc. This helped greatly in upping the production value and making the visuals look more cinematic.

The heavily layered sound design would also prove integral to achieving the overall surreal effect along with the music. My editing/sound partner and I had about sixty tracks of audio running at all times, which was an extremely tedious process in terms of sound editing, and most of the effects were made in-house. But if you put headphones on or play "Lily" on loud speakers, that kind of detailed work pays off because it sounds much more professional as opposed to many of the hiss-laden shorts you see out there. This was another way of making the production value seem higher. The music itself was primarily used as underscoring, with lots of layered female voices setting the tone. I recorded my soprano friend Kristin singing all different notes and melodies that I played her on the piano, and then multi-tracked those voices any way I saw fit. This kind of sound was heavily influenced by "2001" (Think of what you hear every time the Monolith appears). Other sections of the movie relied more on quiet to punctuate things, but all was planned in advance and noted in the script.

Tell me about the sets and the locations, this was another aspect that stood out for me.

"Lily" was shot in Los Angeles, and all post-production took place in New York. Los Angeles can can be a rather unfriendly place to shoot for people on a shoe-string budget. For a city that was basically built around the movie industry, I never realized how much red tape, annoying permits, and insurance there can be to deal with. Sometimes, you gotta just get what you gotta get, and if you get thrown out - so what? So here we were again trying to maximize a small budget by utilizing existing locations which I knew would be visually interesting like the Santa Monica pier, the Mulholland Overlook, secluded beaches in Malibu, etc. For the club scene we shot inside The Derby, where they shot "Swingers". That was probably the most expensive location per hour.

When it came time to build a set like the "White Room", we transformed my apartment into the set. We purchased about $900 worth of white fabric and covered every inch of the room. It was kind of amusing because our apartment looked that way for months and every time we had visitors, they would have to take their shoes off so as to not tarnish the white floors. The white twinkle lights were a favorite aspect of mine, but logistically difficult to string together in a functional way. They, along with the burning candles and unventilated room, caused the temperature of the set to raise up well over 100 degrees. In between takes, Peter would stick his head inside the freezer to survive. That dreamy blinking light visual came from "Eyes Wide Shut" if memory serves, from the party scene at the Sydney Pollack character's apartment.

I was happy with the exterior visuals cause it's much easier to make something that's already visually interesting look interesting. As I said before, this was all shot on one little handheld camera, with one additional wide angle lens; so I was pleased that we achieved a cinematic quality. The shot on the cliff at dusk where Peter shoots his lover is a favorite of mine. I also enjoy the visuals underneath the pier when Peter's waking up from unconsciousness. And of course, the turnaround reveal of the old woman's face near the end with the black eyes (an homage to "Jacob's Ladder" by the way). That was pound for pound probably the most expensive shot in the movie, because those contacts were custom made and there was extensive additional make-up applied; but it was also one of the earliest shots that I came up with, and another one of those images that helped define the movie. You can see "The Shining" influences in that sequence. Overall, it was fun to be able to shoot as far out there as I wanted in terms of style, because I knew this piece could handle it.

The editing was also something that stood out, as it's very frantic and fast at times. Is this something that came out in the editing room or is this something that was in the script?

The editing process was long and involved, as always seems to be the case with my work. Damn this obsessive compulsive disorder!!! The montage work was indeed scripted in detail. However, I obviously couldn't account for every single shot that would ultimately be captured, so a lot of that is figured out in editing. The script itself had several sections specifically noted as visual montages, that were meant to be cut to music and sound effects, most of which I already had in mind or had already composed. There are long sections of the movie where there's no dialogue at all, and this technique is something I've played with before - where you let the power of the visuals and the audio tell the story on their own. That to me is the purest form of this medium. If you can do that and not make the movie drag, it's an accomplishment.

Tell us about some of the hurdles you overcame to get the film done. Any advice you can pass on to other indie filmmakers who might be just setting out to make a film?

Even though this was a small project, there are always hurdles and headaches in every aspect of the process. Trying to get any movie I've attempted made has proved difficult, but that goes with the territory I guess. The most important thing is to not get discouraged, no matter how tough things get. If you come to embrace the challenges and expect them, you'll set yourself up for a lot less heartache. If you're lucky enough to have people close to you that share a common goal, embrace and nurture those relationships. Stay humble and remember that decisions have consequences that may not always be apparent in the short term. Sadly, sometimes the people around you actually want you to fail to make themselves feel better, so don't let anyone tell you what you're worth or what you should do with your dreams. It can be difficult trying to establish credibility when you're starting out, along with dealing with the day to day reality struggles that any artist must face. Boo hoo! It's par for the course, and you gotta take the good with the bad in handling the many curve balls that life so wonderfully throws at you. Stay focused and persevere. Oliver Stone gave me a valuable piece of advice a few years back: "Let not defeat reign over your brow. The victory is truly in your mind - every day."

After it was all said and done, what would you have done differently?

I was happy with the end result, and impressed that we were actually able to match so closely what was written in the script. I knew going into this project that it wasn't going to be easily accessible to audiences. It's the kind of movie where you either go along for the ride or you don't. Most reactions to "Lily" have been polarized in that people either love it or hate it. It was of great personal significance that both Oliver and Peter strongly endorsed the movie publicly, as they're both seasoned veterans in the film industry and people that I respect.

Looking back, I probably could have made the story more understandable, though I do stand by the fact that there is a definite narrative to this movie, and it does reward on repeat viewings. It's pretty complex and dense for a short film, and that's something to strive for. What's funny is that I never really considered it a horror film when it was conceived, but more a surreal drama. I guess I can't deny the horror aspects when there's blood everywhere and a knife-wielding old woman running around. It has some very intense sequences, especially in the first six minutes. Those scenes are difficult for some to watch, even though most of the gore is off-screen. The "Birth" sequence at the beginning is a prime example of how effective and impactful the use of good sound design can be. In general some of the editing could've been toned down, but hey I was going for intensity.

Talk about the festival circuit, you won a lot of awards and screened at a lot of festivals. What did you learn? And what can you pass on to other filmmakers who've finished an indie horror and want to enter it into festivals?

I used WithoutaBox for the majority of my festival applications. If you're making a short film, the ideal time would be 10-15 minutes. "Lily" is 35 minutes, which pushes the boundary for programmers at these festivals, and on more than one occasion I was told that "we would love to show your film, but we can't find a proper way to program it into our schedule." I don't apologize for it's length because the story is what the story is, but it helps to have a shorter movie. Also, when you're dealing with movies that inherently contain challenging content or gore, that can be a disadvantage for acceptance. But there are a number of festivals out there that embrace unique and ballsy work.

At the festivals, try to make contacts that might be able to help you down the road in terms of investments. Short films only have a certain shelf life, so leverage what you can, when you can, into that next larger project. Also, whenever possible, befriend press people and try to get your name in print somewhere so you can add it to press kits, portfolios, etc. You may have to schmooze it up, but that's the game.

What about distribution? How's that going? Are there any lessons that you would pass on to other indie filmmakers who've just finished a film?

"Lily" hasn't been distributed. It was made for the most part as a calling card and financial leveraging tool for larger projects, unrelated to this particular content.

Where can people find out more about "Lily" or, better yet, buy a copy?

"Lily's" web page is: myspace.com/lilythemovie

You can view clips of "Lily" there along with some of my earlier work that gave me the opportunity to make it. In those clips you can see where I was laying down the stylistic groundwork in terms of visuals, editing, and sound design.

You can contact me directly at lilythemovie@gmail.com to purchase a DVD, or to discuss the movie. I would be happy to answer any questions.

If you were given an unlimited budget and full creative license, what would your dream project be? Also, what's next? Do you have any projects in the works?

Unlimited budget?!?!?! Why must you tempt me so? That's a big question. I guess it would be something along the lines of what I've been writing and raising money for now - a project that calls upon more of my own personal experiences in a unique way, is very interesting visually, and people can relate to more as a whole. I'm interested in having characters that, even if only on screen for a few minutes, are extremely detailed and interesting (Think John Turturro in "The Big Lebowski"). The surreal stuff is great don't get me wrong, but it's not what I've been directing my efforts towards as of late. I want to make my "Mean Streets" here in New York, getting more of my rather twisted sense of humor onto the screen, while maintaining an interesting dramatic story. My hope is to reach a larger audience than with past works, but still translate an individual voice, intensity, and stamp as a director. I would love to collaborate with Peter Facinelli again, and have crafted a role for him in the next project. I feel confident that although this next movie is much larger in scope and budget than anything I've ever attempted, we'll be able to pull it off.