Bizarre: The Way it Should Be

All right. Tonight rocked. I just had the good fortune to catch a screening at Lincoln Center’s Scary Movies fest (which has terrific programming, by the way). It was the new horror anthology The Theatre Bizarre — which deserves to become the new benchmark for modern-day horror anthologies.

The Theatre Bizarre

Now, if you’ll excuse the Stefon impersonation — This movie had everything. It had dead deer, cannibals with a sweet tooth, buckets of blood sans the buckets, evil naked toad ladies, slashers in love, eye syringes, scissors south of the border, psycho German Pinocchios… you know, it’s that thing where a guy in makeup walks around on stage like a marionette with an accent and becomes more human only for you to realize it’s Udo Kier?

Anyway. Suffice it to say that The Theatre Bizarre is a welcome modernization of the horror anthology. Twisted, perverse, and extreme, it is light on self-mocking camp and strong on emotional meat (and sometimes literal meat as well). It’s a welcome return to the true roots of horror. It ain’t silly. Collectively, it’s an exploration of the darker side of the human psyche — and that’s where horror truly shines.

Well done. Or should I say: Terrifically raw.

 


The Departure Arrives

Hi all! Remember me? It’s your friendly neighborhood blogger and I’ve been away for a looooong time. My apologies. I had a movie to make, and quite frankly, the amount of time I’d have liked to use for posting throughout production was quite simply not up to par. And by ‘amount’, I mean ‘any’. Just couldn’t do it.

But the movie is almost finished now. Just winding up some post stuff, so now I could come back to sharing what’s up and whatnot. And one of the things that has been up is a new band I’ve been involved with called The Departure. Early in the summer I shot a video for them, and just recently, I shot an EPK to help promote them. Both can be found on their web site, thedeparture.net. So check them out. Support their cause, buy their EP and say how awesome they are. Like their Facebook page. Tell your friends. Spread the word. And um… do whatever else you want to do. It’s a free country.

Seriously: Check them out. They’re teens that write and perform their own music. And they ain’t Justin Bieber. And they’ve got the heart you wish everyone had. Here’s a glimpse:

Departure

 


GAME ON.

So we’ve done it. And by ‘we’, I mean all of you wonderful backers who have helped support Til Death and its Kickstarter campaign. Thank you all — we’ve hit our goal!

To celebrate, I’ve unlocked a new Literature Reward package for all you horror readers out there: pledge $75 and get either the short story adaptation of Til Death, or the short story adaptation of our next short, All the Live Long Day. (Which is an entirely different kind of beast than Til Death — instead of being haunting and romantic, it’s a blackly comic view of corporate culture that’s just goddamn horrific and hysterical. It’s good shit, of an entirely different breed.) So check out the Kickstarter page for more info —

But first things first: We’ve got ourselves a movie to make. We’re just starting pre-production now, but as we progress, I’ll update the news here. I’ll also, when time allows, gather my thoughts regarding my own experience with Kickstarter. I hope sharing the ins and outs of my experience will help anyone about to embark on a crowdfunding endeavor of their own.

So stay tuned… I’m looking forward to getting down and dirty with production over the next several weeks, but I’ll post thoughts, tips, and ramblings as I can.

 


Love this Kickstarter thing…

Kickstarter

I’m reposting something here, my latest update for Til Death that could be found on the Kickstarter page for the movie. It just about sums up my love for Kickstarter. It’s not about the money. It’s about the collaboration. It’s changing film as we know it, and making every step of the production process that much more accessible to all. What’s not to love about that?!

So here’s the post, for your reading enjoyment:

I am feeling pretty good today. Yes, we are significantly closer to our funding goal for Til Death — and though that’s thrilling, that’s not what I’m talking about right now. What is making me happy is a message I received from one of our backers. I’ll leave him nameless here (since I don’t want to blindside him by just calling him out), but his email response to a thank you message from me put a huge big fat smile on my face.

In his email, he mentioned he had seen my previous film Subject Two just recently, and he was happy to contribute. He went on to say that with all the remakes and sequels offered by mainstream Hollywood, he was thrilled to see original ideas in the works, and was happy to assist.

And then I started to smile. Because how awesome is that. Seriously. Aside from being flattering (and yes, I was very flattered), I found this email to be indicative of what makes Kickstarter so great. Not only does a project like mine (or the gazillion others here on Kickstarter) mark an alternative to mainstream Hollywood, but it also allows strangers — such as myself and this backer — to find each other, connect our kindred indie spirits, and support each other. As you all support me by helping to fund the film, I provide you with something you’d like to see. It’s a win-win for all of us, and I take it to heart.

I feel this makes the entire filmmaking process that much more enjoyable, from both the filmmaker’s and the audience’s perspective, and it really is a new way of making films. It opens up the production process and allows the audience to be involved from Day One. I thank Kickstarter, and all of you wonderful backers, for allowing me to be able to connect and engage with you.

So that is why I am feeling pretty good today. Because you are all AWESOME. :)

I just wanted to share that sentiment. We’ll be talking again soon. Until then — Thanks again for your support!

 


8K and climbing

I’ve been away for a while — and my, how things change!! Our Kickstarter campaign for Til Death has reached a significant milestone: We’ve reached $8K! That’s 80% there, and just $2K shy of our funding goal of $10K. It’s getting crazy close, and the excitement is building. So, if you are so inclined and if you can, please contribute to the cause. Any amount will be welcome. It’s a fun journey, and I’d love to have you be a part of it.

But on other fronts… The reason I’ve been away is because I’ve been hard at work directing a music video. It’s for a rock duo called The Departure. They’re this insanely talented brother-sister team out of Park City, and there is no doubt in my mind there are great things in store for them. They’re young, charismatic, know how to spell, bang heads, and can rock until the cows come home.

(Literally. Where we shot, the cows starting creeping in. It was sorta freaky.)

I’ll be posting pics, music, stills and whatnot in due time. So in the meantime, just remember two words:

DEPARTURE. AWESOME.

Oh, and maybe five more:

TIL DEATH. CONTRIBUTE. PLEASE. THANKS.

More news coming soon!!

 


After Week 1

Okay. So Til Death’s Kickstarter campaign is one week old today. And we’re 30% to our funding goal. (!) I’ve said it before in my project updates and tweets and other messages, but I’ll say it again here:

WOW.

The response has been entirely enthusiastic and supportive on so many levels. I am humbled and flattered. Not just by the donations, but also by the massive support we’ve received through our (continually expanding!) network on Facebook, Twitter, and (ahem) real life.

Thank you all and let’s keep it going!

 


Til Death is on its way…

It is with great excitement to finally be able to announce: My Kickstarter campaign for Til Death is up! Please enjoy the video, and if you would like to contribute (financially, promotionally, spiritually) then that would be AWESOME too. :) Help spread the word! And visit Til Death’s official site for more info. Thanks.

 


Thorazine, anyone??

So just a day or so ago I read A.O. Scott’s NY Times review of Thor and I loved it. I thought it was witty, incisive, thoughtful, and sprinkled a dose of reality into this Hollywood pipe dream we all buy into every year in the name of the Great Summer Movie Season. It was cynical, claiming Thor is the ultimate victory of commercialism over imagination (paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it), and I couldn’t agree any more fully.

Though I hadn’t seen the movie.

CUT TO:

A day or so later… um… today. Just saw Thor. And I gotta say to the Great Scotts of the world, including my yesterday’s self: STOP IT!! Yeah, we love to be highbrow and think movies have to mean something and be remarkable in some unexpected way, or at the very least have some depth beyond the surface… but who cares if they’re not? It’s a MOVIE! It’s FUN! There’s a bunch of explosions, yay!! ENJOY IT, just like you did when you were a kid and the sheer spectacle and fascination of it all eventually led you into the business of film. Or, perhaps more accurately, the business of criticizing the business of film. Which can very easily be seen like a grownup criticizing a kid for not being grown up.

Because really… we all grow older, but movies don’t. Nor should they. (Did I say nor? Ugh. I am getting older!). And just because you’re grown up now and realize that the world is more complicated than you thought it was, and you expect movies and all art to reflect that complexity, to validate that you’re not as happy as you once were when you were, um… five… then like an abusive parent, you blame and accuse your innocent child for not being more awesome and perfect than you are, and they should DEAL WITH LIFE, DAMN IT!!

Not that the parent’s wrong to wish better for their kid. But it sure ain’t the kid’s fault that they don’t dip into the deep end when really they only came to splash around and get wet.

Which is where Thor really kicked it. We all splashed around in the spectacle of it all, then we got out of the pool… er, theatre… and felt better for it. Our childhood imaginations were rekindled. Reminding us not of how difficult the world is but how wonderful the escape from it can be.

Thor is not a triumph of commercialization over imagination. It is a win-win, a triumph of commercialization AND imagination. It’s not a loss for thought and meaning, just a temporary reprieve from the need to pursue it.

But of course, the world at large already knows all of this. It’s just the intellectuals that need reminding every now and then: In the fight between intellectualism and imagination, imagination always wins.

And that’s the way it should be.

 


Ramping Up…

All right, so I launched this blog and then I promptly went away for a while. Sorry about that. I’ll do better moving forward. I promise!

So what’s been up? Other than working a day job and handling regular life type stuff that nobody really cares about? Well… In a week or so you’ll be able to see what’s been up. I’ve been hard at work making a cool pitch video for Til Death, which I’ll be launching on Kickstarter in the near future. I’m putting the finishing touches on it now, and I imagine I’ll be spending a week or so figuring out this damn compression situation that I always seem to run into, but it WILL BE UP SOON!!

I’m very excited. It’s a very creepy and strangely romantic movie about an extreme case of sympathy sickness. And yes, there’s broken bones to go with the broken hearts. Don’t laugh at me, but I think it could be as romantic as the end scene in The Fly (Cronenberg, not Vincent Price). And if you don’t think The Fly is romantic, watch it again! I remember coming home from college one weekend, driving 8 hrs from Michigan to Maryland, just to head straight to a midnight movie in Greenbelt to watch The Fly, and I was NOT disappointed. (Though my mom was. Couldn’t I have come home first??)

Anyhoo… I just wanted to let you know I haven’t forgotten about you out there. You’ll be hearing from me more often. And I just might bring pictures, too…

 


Lionsgate Micro-Budget????

OK. So I hear the news that Lionsgate is all about making micro-budget movies now…(read me)… and I get to wonder: Weren’t they always about that? Or as close to that as a mini-studio can get?

Hell, Saw (which they only distributed) cost just north of $1M, and their sequels weren’t much more. Tyler Perry’s stuff is all in that same range as well, south of $10M or so. And now suddenly $2M is a ‘Micro-budget’? In my world, micro-budget is far south of that. Certainly south of $250K… more realistically south of $50K. We made Subject Two for less than that!

I know it’s cool and all to make a micro-budget film nowadays, but just because you call it ‘micro-budget’ doesn’t make it so. I mean — at least make the budget accessible to the common man, y’know? Or else what’s so micro about it?? (Maybe it just means you pay everyone with coins??? Or really small bills???? )

Here’s the sad irony here: With the appropriate producer fees, cast, administrative, distribution, and other overhead or ATL expenses, that $2M number actually would shrink down to at about half that number. Or less. And one micro-budget movie from Lionsgate could probably equal 4 or 5 micro-budget films from other filmmakers. And yet even despite that, if they’re spending $2M on a film, they’re still spending $20M+ on advertising… which arguably could be better spent by putting that money on-screen (at least in something more favorable than a 10:1 ratio in the marketing dept’s favor).

Hell, in the old days they would make a film and figure out how to market it. Now it’s the other way around. Woe is Hollywood…

Seriously. Let’s read between the lines here:

Lionsgate tries to posture themselves by announcing something they’ve always done, and in so doing manages to buy themselves some surface-depth indie street cred. They can also now justify paying people less because they’re only committing $2M to a budget that might normally be $5M or so (yet they can afford far more). And when they ask a writer, director and producer to work for under $50K each (or better yet, justify asking the hyphenate writer-director-producer to work for under $50K), they’ll also readily fess up that their studio exec’s are taking a hefty pay cut as well — even though those same studio execs have the cushion of the 9 other movies on their annual slate while the individual filmmakers do not). And this doesn’t even begin to touch the issue of skirting the unions…

Of course, the indie filmmakers will leap at the opportunity for such indentured servitude, all because Lionsgate has the carrot to dangle of great distribution, so it’s all “worth it”. And back-end deals will try to make it even more attractive to the filmmaker — though of course, this is Hollywood, and if ‘BACK END’ were a cryptogram, it would decode to read ‘FUCK YOU.’

So… such a ‘micro-budget’ system by a mini-major, though sounding good at first, is not so much a change of strategy as it is a change of facade. It’s still business as usual, just with a lower budget — and it’s not like Lionsgate can’t afford bigger budgets; they’re just choosing not to. Not a bad call, really. Because they can get away with it. Smart.

And to be clear – this may sound like (okay it does sound like) I’m bitching about Lionsgate. I’m really not. In fact, I love Lionsgate, and I love that they’re doing this. But I do think any excitement over their announcement needs to be tempered. Let’s look at the logic, not the headlines. They’re still looking for name talent (they sort of have to, really, to justify the marketing), and it’s not just actors: the directors and producers they’re working with will tend to be seasoned veterans. It’s the same game, just a smaller version and with less features. Sort of like ‘Monopoly Jr’. Or ‘Holiday Inn Express.’

Trust me, though, none of this is Lionsgate that’s irking me— it’s more like the current nature of the film industry. Revenue and attendance continues to dip and diversify, and everyone’s feeling it, including the big boys, so people and companies will do what they must.

But can’t the true indies still own the phrase ‘micro-budget’??? Is that too much to ask?

Fine. Go ahead. You Goliaths call it whatever you want. We’ll just go find some other term to coin. We could use ‘guerrilla’ — but that seems so old school. How about… Pocket change. That’s what we make: pocket change productions.

No. That sounds stupid.

Fuck! What are we going to do when they take away what we call ourselves??!!

I guess we’ll just have to rely on our own true grittiness to get us through. Wait — That’s it! True Grit Productions! I like the sound of it!!

Now if only that wasn’t taken, too…

 


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Why So Serious?

    You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be.

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