Thursday, December 28, 2006

Final Thoughts for 2006

I've been taking a lot of stock of my life over the past few weeks. 2006, while being 100% better than 2005 for us, creatively-speaking, really tried to go out kicking and screaming since the beginning of December, unleashing a lot of hell upon us. I'll refer everyone to my previous blog, which details the absolute worst day of my entire life and kicked off a chain of, while not tragic, per se, certainly annoying events. But that's the way most years seem to go out, so I'm trying to take it all in stride.

2005, as I've mentioned, was one ball-kick after another, and I vowed that 2006 would be an improvement. And it was. We shot 3 1/2 really stand-out projects this year (High Stakes, Abattoir, Blood Bath and our upcoming Retreat which will be finished by the middle of January). Put on a pretty decent convention, put out four really great issues of Sirens of Cinema, and set the ground-work for what might be an even more successful 2007.

2006 saw me drift in and out of a number of part-time jobs, most of which ended due to my conflicts outside of gainful employment. But this December, I landed something that is not only paying me consistently, but also wound up being terrifically flexible, ensuring I won't have to quit or inconvenience anyone when Amy and I have to travel out of town for shoots, conventions, etc. (It's so flexible, I went to work last Thursday to be told that the entire office was closed from the 22nd to the 2nd, so that was a pleasant surprise.) What's better, I actually enjoy the work. Yeah, I have to drive an hour and a half to get there, drop Amy off at work, then walk two miles across the City of Shattered Dreams and Tumbleweeds that is Pittsburgh, PA, but that's going to ensure that I will also get back into shape and lose some of the full-time writer's physique I've acquired from sitting on my ass every single day for the past five years.

And I'm slowly relearning how to accept happiness. It will take a lot of work, and a possible new and nifty prescription of American medication (the chemical solution to life's problems) to get back on track, but I think I actually made some headway today.

It's my biggest problem right now: suspicion of good fortune. I live with the constant fear that I am standing on a big white 'X' and any time something good happens, I'm convinced that it will immediately be followed by a falling piano. It's gotten to the point that any amount of good news has me not only knocking on wood out of heathen superstition, but coming to feel in my heart of hearts that the good fortune will be, at any moment, snatched away from me anyway so there's no point in actually celebrating. In short: I've conditioned myself, Pavlov-style, to reject happiness like a mismatched transplanted organ. I replace any good feelings, as quickly as I can, with suspicion, dread and, usually, anger.

And quite frankly, I'm tired of feeling this way.

I've counted here, many times over, how this self-fulfilling prophecy has worked for me. I celebrate a script deal, then watch it slowly turn to shit in the hands of others. I complete a project, then dread that it will be poorly-received, rejected, etc. And I have to ask: is this fate's doing, or my own karmic sabotage? Is optimism truly an invitation for luck to vanish? Or is my pessimism simply taking over the minute a smile creeps onto my face?

So I tried an experiment today.

Yesterday, we took our car in for a simple alignment and oil change. The whole job would have cost $50 tops. An hour later, our mechanic calls with this question: "Did you know your oil pan is cracked and that your car is officially undrivable?" Our $50 quick fix suddenly became a $400 nightmare. We're only a few days past Christmas, folks; we got no money to cover this very necessary expenditure. So last night, while I tried to hang out with Don and Jeff, both of whom stinging from problems of their own, I wallowed in worry and doubt and fret.

This morning, we discovered that my first paycheck from the new company had come in just before Christmas and I hadn't opened it. Inside, minus taxes, was about half of what we need to cover the car. (The other half will arrive in a matter of days from one of the companies I do publicity for.) Even better, I discovered that I'm making roughly a dollar per hour more than I initially expected from this new company.

Now the experiment: I allowed myself to be happy about this turn of events. It was fortune. If I'd opened the mail on the day it had come, we'd have spent the money already - either on other bills or on more presents for each other or... well, the list is endless. In any event, it would have been allocated for other things. We found it at just the right time. I gave myself exactly one minute to worry - was the phone going to ring and announce some new car problem? Would our second car's wheels miraculously and simultaneously blow off in all four directions needing a replacement to the tune of my first paycheck right down to the penny? The minute passed. Nothing new and disasterous happened. I had, it would seem, sidestepped the 'X'. The piano didn't fall. So I relaxed.

This wasn't easy for me. Being raised Catholic, martyrdom comes very easily to me. I considered the above a very big step in my becoming a new human being. One that will actually allow himself to be happy.

I don't know if anyone's noticed, but I can be a bit of a bastard. I know, I know, it's hard to believe. I don't take compliments well. I have mastered the Ninja style of Sarcasm and use it in both defense and offense. I'm narcissistic, self-loathing, edgy, jumpy, raging, egotistical and tend to lash out at those I love and refer to it as "affection". And God (or whoever) help me, I'm trying to change. Mellow at the very least. I'm tired of smashing bones on unyielding walls when frustration pushes me to the breaking point. Mainly because my breaking point is getting easier and easier to reach any more. Hence the grey hair, the TMJ, ragged nails, and steel cables connecting my neck to my shoulders. T'ain't healthy. But I'm trying.

So my New Year's resolutions have nothing to do with the sit-com cliches. I just want to work on making 2007 work better for me than 2006. Again, professionally, we already have some wheels turning that could translate to some really exciting projects including a new feature, the possible sale of two past features and the possible appearance of yet another of our past features in dollar stores across the country. Sure, there are a lot of "maybes" in there, not a lot of "is"s, but they're all steps in the right direction. There's a lot of potential for "woo hoo" in there. I'd like to actually feel the celebration when they happen. And you'll notice, too, the "when" there. Because, for the love of God (or whoever), I'm very, oh so very, tired of "if"s.

So the big white "X" be damned. Imaginary fate piano be damned. I'm going to try giving optimism a shot. I'm going to try very hard to not turn every corner prepared to duck a punch. I'm not so naive to know this isn't going to be difficult. I'm fully aware that I'm talking about undoing years of conditioning, Catholic and White Guilt and plain old modern day pessimism. Just because I wear a lot of black doesn't mean I want to go Goth, emotionally.

So bear with me, me, because you're in for a hell of a battle, I think.

***

I'd like to leave 2006 with a collection of random thoughts:

- Driving across the McKees Rocks bridge the other day, I noticed a Pro-Life abolitionist standing at the light wearing a sandwich board. On it was a photo of an aborted fetus, in a circle, with a big red line through it, like a "no smoking" sign. I realized I never see any pro-Choice people doing the same sort of thing. What would the Pro-Choice equivalent to that sign be? The same picture of the same dead baby, only with a "Thumbs Up" next to it?

This thought got me giggling all the way across the bridge. Which is what made me realize, yet again, that I'm a very sick individual. And that thought made me proud.

***

Speaking of "no smoking", two restaurants are suing the City of Pittsburgh - with backing money from RJ Reynolds, no less - over the recent city-wide smoking ban. And I applauded the suit, feeling more than slightly greasy that I agree with any stance that RJ Reynolds "Big Tobacco" is taking.

I don't smoke; I hate smoke. It makes me physically ill. I hate the way I smell when I come home after a day spent with smokers. I needle my smoking friends and thank them for the cancer whenever they light up around me. I think it's an idiotic habit. And I insist that if they're allowed to smoke, I should be allowed to chronically masturbate. (And it makes me uncomfortable when they tell me to go for it right there in their living rooms...)

But I never want to be the guy who tells someone what they can and can't do. I ask that people don't smoke inside my house. Everyone I know who smokes respects that. Most of my smoking friends will point their smoke away from me as much as possible. But if this ban goes through, what's the next thing to go? Table salt? Alcohol (again)? Noisy children? (Actually, that last one isn't such a bad idea) Once you outlaw one thing, other things follow. It's a dangerous path, this smoking ban, and I want to see it eliminated. If I end up in my grave because of second-hand smoke-induced cancer, at least it came from the lungs of my friends and at least I wasn't rescued by the Gestapo.

***

Dane Cook isn't funny. I'm sorry everyone. And the Original Kings of Comedy are none of the above. Redneck humor can go away now too. We already have pro wrestling, what do we need Larry the Cable Guy for?

***

The title of the movie Invincible annoys me. It's about a guy named "Vince", so I'm sure Hollywood thought it was being clever by naming the film Invincible. Really, what the title is translating to is The Inability to be Vince. It was a dumb idea, guys. For Christ's sake, think!

***

I'm tired of cute talking animal movies. I thought after Barn Yard and Flushed Away and Over the Hedge that everyone else was too. Then Happy Feet came out and we're back in that rut again.

***

Freedom Writers
... how many times are they going to make this movie? Dangerous Minds, Take the Lead, Step it Up, Dead Poets Society ... Teachers, could you just have a positive influence on your kids and take pride in that? Stop writing books about the experiences. Please. Just give us a decade or so to recover, okay? We're all still stinging from Pay it Forward.

***

The Star Wars Trilogy was released, unmolested, on DVD around Thanksgiving. All is finally right with the world. We can finally stop holding our breaths in fear of what Lucas may do to us next. We got our childhood back...

Until next year,

Mike Watt

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Today I had to kill something

I woke up this morning, aching and recovering from a cold. I took out the garbage, fed the horses and discovered our dog, Zoya, attacking a deer.

Deer are everywhere down here. They live on our property - especially during hunting season; they seem to know we don't allow hunting on our 30 or so acres. We dodge them every day on the road. Five years and we haven't hit one yet. I'll stress yet so as not to jinx myself. People consider them nuisances, which is fine.

Got the dog inside, inspected the deer. She was hurt, obviously, and lying in the ditch where we'd found our other dog, Lilly, a few years back. The deer must have been very hurt as she let me not only get within a few feet of her, but let me touch her. Not the smartest of moves, but I'm an animal person.

Amy called, told me to keep the dogs inside because there was a deer lying in front of our mailbox. "Nope," I said. "She moved." Tufts of deer hair lined the trail where she'd dragged herself to what she thought would be safety. Amy had seen her this morning. Drove the the Waynesburg police station - found it locked. Tried the county office. It was wide open, but no one was there. She called local then state police, who promised they'd be out. No one came.

I went back out, sat with her a bit, dragged some more cover over near her so she'd be hidden from any random dipshit driving down the road. Living in a rural area, folks get overzealous with their rifles around here. Saturday, while filming, some drunken assholes saw some deer in our neighbor's yard and started shooting at them from their car. And at our horses and Ralph's sheep in the process. Those were the assholes I wanted to protect this deer from.

I left her some of the horse's apple chips and went back inside to get some work done. Bill gets up around 9:30. He hunts. He'd always been my go-to guy when wounded animals appeared in the past. I've never even killed mice rescued from cats. Except for one raccoon and one suicidal chipmonk, I've never even hit animals with my car - despite the fact that I live on a pitch-black road. And I've always managed to avoid deer. But I knew it was inevitable that this deer would need to be put down.

About nine am, I hear a rifle shot outside my house. Running out in boots and sweatpants, I discover a guy about my age with a scope rifle, barrel resting on the ledge of his truck door (steadying his shot or expecting the deer to return fire?). He fired again and took a third shot just as I came out. An older man--don't know his name but recognize him from some of the very few community functions we'd attended and who obviously knew us--came around the car to me. "How many fucking shots are you planning on taking?" I demanded. The deer was already wounded and lying fifty feet away in a ditch and this asshole needed THREE SHOTS?
"Sorry, didn't know you were home," our neighbor explained. Then explained further that his son-in-law had overshot the first bullet, but the second put her down and out of her misery. "What was the third shot for?" I wanted to ask, but didn't want to talk further. Part of me was glad that she was down and at peace.

They drove away as quickly as they could - not even bothering to check on her. I went over to do that.

And she was still breathing. And still struggling. And the bullet hadn't hit anything vital.
And she whimpered.

I ran into the house, called Bill and asked him to come up as quickly as he could. Since I'd woken him up, it was going to be a few minutes. As I called Amy, in a rage at our stupid fucking neighbors, I loaded my .45. The same .45 I've used as a prop for the last two movies. The one I've pointed at all my friends, unloaded. The .45 I've used for target practice, failing to hit any target under five yards. I went outside.

She was still whimpering. Bill was still a few minutes out. And I knew that if her wounds from the car were so bad that she'd been unable to get away that this new pain couldn't possibly be any worse.

But she was whimpering. And breathing heavy. And then she looked at me.

I don't know how to kill deer. I don't know where their hearts are.

I put the gun to her head, between her ear and her eye, looked away and pulled the trigger.

I know it was the adrenaline that made her try to get up. The blood stopped flowing almost immediately, so I knew she was dead. I know the movement was reflex, the body shutting down. But it felt like I sat there forever to wait for everything to stop. It was only a minute or so, but time really did slow down as I waited for this poor animal to die. And I hated myself - for pulling the trigger, for having to, for crying while I did.

I sat there with my hands on her, waiting with her. Stupid, sure. But I had to. I couldn't make myself walk away from her.

Bill pulled up a minute later, checked my shot, assured me that it had put her down at once. That it was a good shot. Never once cajoling me for crying or being upset - not that he would have, but others around here would.

He helped me move it across the road to the other side of my property, where nature could take over. Foxes and raccoons have to fatten up for the winter and it was better than letting her rot on a landfill somewhere.

Her rear leg was shattered - I could feel the bones grinding as I hefted her up, afraid the meat was going to tear away. There was at least one compound fracture. Whoever hit her ran over her leg and kept going. It had to have been agony for her for the last three or so hours.

Let me tell you, it would have been easier for me to open fire on our dumb-ass "helpful" neighbors than it was to pull the trigger on that poor deer. I've never killed anything before. Never wanted to. Right now I'm sick and I'm angry and I know that there are more than a few of you out there that think I'm a royal pussy right now, but I don't give a shit.

Today someone put me in the position where I had to put a gun to a living animal's head and pull the trigger. I had her blood cool on my hands. And that's going to be with me. If not for the rest of my life, then for the rest of the day. And this isn't how I wanted to spend my day.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Other places you can find us

A few months ago, my good friend at EI Cinema, Mike Raso, approached Amy and I to contribute to the suppliamental section to the anniversary DVD of John Russo's Santa Claws. We managed to run down Bill Hinzman, another friend, who appears in the movie and did the movie's cinematography. We interviewed him, I whipped up some liner notes and additional interview questions for Debbie Rochon and sent the raw footage in.

The DVD finally hit the shelves in September. EI sent me some copies, which I promptly misplaced during the Genghis Con hoopla. Debbie emailed me to compliment me on the liner notes, though, particularly in my restraint as I refrained from ridiculing the movie in the slightest. Santa Claws is a fun little slasher that opens itself up to a lot of cheap shots. I felt it was my duty to mention Russo's missteps with Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Edition and Children of the Dead, but they aren't slams. It wouldn't be fair to beat up on the movie you were hired to introduce. It was the first "film scholar" duties I was hired to do since the commentary for SRS's DVD of Campfire Tales.


In October, a brand new edition of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre hit the stores in a snazzy gold tin keep case. It boasts a number of extras including a new documentary, Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw, directed and edited by Mike Felsher of Red Shirt Productions. I had forgotten that he'd shot a good deal of footage at our first Genghis Con, PA show, when Gunnar Hansen and Ed Neal were our headliners. He also interviewed me about Chain Saw a month later at Monstermania in New Jersey.


A large amount of this interview actually wound up in the documentary, along with interviews with the extremely wonderful Ken Kish of Cinema Wasteland. I was shocked at how much Mike used, actually. I was also shocked at how self-deprecating I was during the piece, but oh well. Sometimes, that's me.


Even though I've been in the game as long as I have, it's always a surprise to see the things that I've contributed to or wind up involved with, even in small ways. I recently wound up as the publicist for the exemplary Severin-Films due to the recommendations from Alex and Ian at Heretic Films and Ed Samuelson from DVD Maniacs. Apparently, publicity is not something I suck at. But it was still nice to learn that people I work and with for have a high opinion of me.


I'm hoping that the work for EI turns into more work next year. Quite honestly, stuff like the job I did for Santa Claws and Campfire Tales were just fun. I'd like to do more. But, in the meantime, I'm content to kill myself over our own stuff. Speaking of such things, look for Blood Bath: Blood Wrestling Vol. 1 to be available in January. We're taking pre-orders now. We'll also be beefing up the official Happy Cloud site in the coming months and starting two new and exciting projects (as I've already mentioned). So maybe I shouldn't be so quick to wish for more work. I'm already busy with more than I can handle. If the Film Gods are truly benevolent, they'll let all this effort translate into money...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Robert Altman and the GOP Majority: Rest in Piece

I’m surprised that no one has commented on Robert Altman’s death. Maybe it hasn’t resonated yet. Maybe a lot of you thought he’d already died just after “Gosford Park”. I always had a fascination with Altman, but never really especially enjoyed his movies. I don’t particularly like any of his films, though I do respect them. I think he revolutionized dramatic presentation and know he was an actor’s director. He just wasn’t much of an audience’s director. I do think that American filmmaking will suffer from his loss. Like him or hate him, there was no one else like him.

* * *

I've been meaning to mention the best thing about the last elections: all the voters were so adamant about sending the Republican incumbents a message that they had forgotten to get hysterical about the Democrats sneaking into their houses in the middle of the night and revoking the Second Amendment as they slept, taking their guns away. When Kerry was running, that’s all I heard from the galloping galoots in my little rural paradise. “If the Democrats gain power, they’ll take all your guns away. You won’t be allowed to hunt no more! Or protect your family!” Protect them from whom, I’m not really sure. If a rampaging maniac wants to trek the three miles into the country to reach my house and kill me, he’s earned the right to try.


But this time around, most people were more concerned with getting rid of the current crop of GOP warmongers. But now that the dancing has died down in the streets, the fear is starting to creep in. I saw a little sign—actually a big sign—taped in the back window of a large mom-mobile, lettered in hysteria and blocking the driver’s vision, screaming that PA’s Governor, Ed Rendell, is “going to take your guns away”. And must be stopped. Even though he was just re-elected.


Now I don’t follow politics quite that closely, but I have never heard Rendell make any rumblings about gun control in the slightest. He’s a hunter, for one thing. And he’s also far more concerned with making slot machine gambling legal in the state. And figuring out how to lower property taxes without allowing anyone to really benefit from this lowering. Those are his two main concerns—you might even say, his only concerns.


So to all the hysterical gun-toting, meat-eating folks out there (and I consider myself to be both), *ahem*: No one is going to take your guns! For one thing, most of you own multiple guns. What happens if Ed Rendell, or Al Gore, or whoever, shows up at your door asking for them? You’re going to pull a gun on him. They all know this. Your guns are safe.


So shut the fuck up and go hug your kids.


* * *


Personally, I’m happy that the Democrats took power. I really am. Now I’m only terrified that over the next two years, George Bush will somehow declare himself Caesar and never go away. Rather than my former terror that the U.S. will be simply blotted off the face of the map by our own hands. Or that intellectuals will be rounded up, sodomized and shot (no, wait, that could very well still happen).


Now, while I’m happy that the Republicans got their asses handed to them, I’m not so na├»ve to think that anything is actually going to change. I understand how the world works. Governments of any nation attract only the corrupt and ineffectual. No one sane or with any integrity would want the job!


However, I do understand psychology. So while I don’t think change will happen, I am convinced that change will actually happen. Or, rather, that people will believe that something has changed. The economy will recover because people will think that, with the regime change, the economy has recovered. Even if gas prices stay where they are, so long as they don’t spike another dollar, people will be content. And they’ll start to relax and begin to deficit spend again. And thus, the economy will recover.


With the Democrats in power, people will think that the war will come to an end, despite all evidence to the contrary. So when Bush does leave office in 2008, the war will inevitably end and the American people will attribute this end to the change in power. Even though nothing really changed.


And I’m desperately hoping for this perception. I need the American people to believe that change is occurring.


Because I have movies to sell. They don’t have stars or big budgets or media tie-ins. And I need people to start risking their money on movies they’ve never heard of, just like they did a decade ago, when I didn’t have movies to sell. So I need movie fans to relax and start spending money they don’t have. I want a little chunk of wonderful Capitalism.


I’m not asking the entire country to sacrifice baby formula or insulin for copies of The Resurrection Game, but if they could go without a pack of cigarettes for a single day… Yes, I realize that doing without insulin might be more realistic…


Anyway, isn’t that the spirit of Capitalism? The American Dream? That if you work your ass off, you can be rich and famous and tax exempt? Puppies and blow jobs for everyone? Isn’t that what it breaks down to in Econ 101?

Or did I make that last part up?

Brief updates

There's a whole slew of updates over at the Happy Cloud Pictures blog. That should answer all the nagging questions that four of you have been asking.

Been meaning to update this for some time but either couldn't get around to it, couldn't slog my way through the rest of the work fast enough or, to be honest, just didn't have the energy. I'm a strict believer in only blogging when I have something to say. As strange as it may seem, there are days when I just don't have anything to say.

But, I will now perservere:

After a few crazed weeks of trying to put the new issue of Sirens of Cinema to bed and editing Blood Bath: Blood Wrestling Vol. 1 (see below), we managed to fit two more shows into the year. The first, It Came From Lake Michigan, granted us the opportunity to catch up with friends Sofiya Smirnova, Brinke Stevens, Michael Berryman and Debbie Rochon, and allowed us to meet a whole slew of new cool people like Elske McCain, the musician Mars, the awesome Eddie Deezen, a cool collective of Wisconsin filmmakers and the guys behind the upcoming Hot Rod Zombies.

While the show itself left a bit to be desired, this could have more to do with the fact that nobody seems to live in Racine, Wisconsin. To prove this theory, I went for a walk in search of any kind of food and passed one person on the street. My walk took place at one pm on Saturday afternoon. The only people in the Quiznos (the only open restaraunt I stumbled upon) were myself and the two people behind the counter. It was nice to come home that weekend.

The next week, we were supposed to head out to Tampa for a show I won't mention here. No point in running it down. Amy had been helping promote this convention in its various forms for about three years. When it finally came to it, the inexperienced promoter hadn't been able to raise the money to bring us down, but didn't let us know about his dilemma until the Wednesday before we were supposed to leave. Annoyed, but having no choice, we elected to stay home and take a road trip to Cleveland to see A Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D.

I was a lot more pissed off than Amy (who was only a little bummed that she was missing spending her birthday in the warmth of Florida and, more specifically, the hotel pool), as it turns out, the show barely attracted thirty people in three days. Again, I was more annoyed than Amy was at this promoter, I don't wish those kinds of numbers on anyone. It is my sincere hope that this show didn't bankrupt the poor, misguided guy.

Finally, this past weekend, we were guests at the first Hotel Horror Convention in Warren, Ohio, held at the same odd little Comfort Inn that Dark X-Mas had been held last year. The show did fairly well for a first-year, thanks to the dilligence of promoters AJ, Josh Maldonado and Lynn Mars (of Doorway Productions). And it was nice to finish out the year with Brinke, Tim Gross and our new favorite person, Dee Wallace. I even managed to line up some new content for next year's run of Sirens, so a good weekend all around. Sadly, I was unable to drink as much as I usually enjoy to at these things. My Irish side felt a bit cheated.

But with the year coming to a close, it'll be nice to have a few weekends to ourselves at home. Of course, those weekends will be filled with the cringe-inducing combination of filming and Christmas shopping. And I'll be facing the wonderful inevitability of aging again in January.

But there are some cool things that might possibly pay off over the next few months and, provided I'm not standing on a large white 'X', said things might actually happen. So I remain optimistic. Or, at least, too exhausted to worry about it.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

IL-literature

So, I wake up this morning and see from my email alert that a "User has commented on your YouTube movie". And I know right then that this can't possibly be good news.


Sure enough, the "comment", such as it is, is a misspelled mess telling me that my little teaser for Severe Injuries "reli reli reli sux". Their spelling, of course. They also spell the word "that" as "tht", which seems to be an epidemic on YouTube. The word "That", one of our favorite impersonal Pronouns, obviously has too many letters for our on-the-go, have-to-make-my-opinion-known InterneTeen crowd.


So I thanked Mr. Constructive Criticism for his time and told him that the minute I translated his message into English, I'm sure that I'd take his comment to heart. Which was a pointless exercise on my part. I doubt the comment-eer will come back to check and see if his "thoughts" upset me or not.


And if he did check and see my response, no doubt he'll get all up in arms, which seems to be another epidemic. If you call them on being the little illiterate punks that they are, they come back with, "This is what makes us different. This is our generation, dude." At least, that's what I think they're saying. Who can tell with the abbreviations standing in for words?


This isn't an American disease either. The wordsmith who posted this latest is from the UK, where English was invented.


So what makes the "kids" on the net different today is the inability to communicate? Are they, as a generation, aspiring towards autism, then?


Personally, I'm not sure what annoys me more about the email-culture that swarms the internet: the smugly illiterate compositions or the compulsive need to make your opinion known, particularly if all you have to say is "tht sux".


Now, bear in mind, please: I was not hurt or offended by the criticism. Criticism rarely bothers me, and when it is delivered in such eloquent terms, even less so. "Tht sux" is not criticism; it's barely more than striking random keys with your elbows. My bitch is the pride these lower primates take in their non-sentences and their negative opinions.


WHY does it suck, Your Honor? Or don't you have enough random consonants to formulate support for your opinion?


As an editor, I used to get irritated with the misuse of "your" versus "you're", "its" vs. "it's", "their", "they're" and "there"--I suppose now I should just be grateful that any of the letters make it into a word at all. And that a thought is being conveyed.


My brother-in-law, Darren Little, and some friends made a highly entertaining video parodying street magicians like David Blaine and Chris Angel, "That's Street Magic". Anyone with half a brain will figure out in the first four seconds that this is a parody--not of the magician's tricks, but of their supercilious attitudes. There are currently 845 comments on the video, most of them the equivalent of "tht sux".


Here's one classic piece of Illiterature: "lmao. from an adults point of view i would thing ur weird and should get a life. from a magicians point of view i would say dont bother doing shit like that, from a kids point of view your weird and that was some SHIT."


What the hell does that even mean?


More entertaining are the people that didn't get it at all! That the tricks presented in "That's Street Magic" are SUPPOSED TO BE FAKE! There is a scene where a man "swallows" three pens. He's not hiding the fact that he's just dropping them past his head. The fact that he's doing this with a straight face and "street" attitude IS THE JOKE.


Ahem: "BULLSHIT!! that wasn't even my card... thos pens were clearly being droppd on the floor... there was a cut the size of Australia when he was coming out of the box... and why do you think they didn't show the top of him when he was floating...?? could it be because he has a harness lifting him upp... *duh*.. =| DON'T BE FOOLED... GO TO CHRIS ANGEL TO SEE REAL TRICKS!"


By the way (or BTW in netspeak), in the last instance this scholar is referring to, Darren announces that he will now levitate. The camera pans to his feet. They lift from the ground, hover, and then lower. Our genius critic was quick to spot a "harness lifting him upp". In reality, Darren did a chin-up on a set of monkey bars. No harness required.


So does this indicate that the lower primate's mind was at least thinking? The gears were grinding, at any rate.


I am particularly fond of the reams of negativity to be found on Netflix. Go over there and look up Citizen Kane, arguably one of the finest films ever made. Look at the illiterature that piles up in the comments section for Orson Welles' first feature. "Tht sux" pops up more than once. "My friend said it was borning [sic] and he wuz right!"


Page after page of mental diarrea just like this. It's positively astounding.


Am I wasting my time being annoyed by things like this? Are comments pages merely the electronic equivalent of a graffiti-covered wall? Or is our culture in some serious trouble here?

I'll admit to being guilty of IM-contractions. I'll use a "brb" and a "k" (because OK just takes way too long to type!). I'm guilty of the and even the ;) and :) -- I admit it!


But I also have a habit of spell-checking my outgoing email. Particularly to parties I want to impress-- or at least trick into believing that I'm a somewhat intelligent human being.


The English language has difficult rules, I agree. We have consonants that pretend to be vowels (sometimes 'Y'??). We have other letters that pretend they're not present at all. (silent 'H'?? Are you on crack?)


"Did you know the 'sugar' is the only word where the letters 'su' make an 'sh' sound?"


"Sure."


Dammit!


So I'll cut the little grammar monsters a bit of slack in this area. But I can't seem to excuse sloppy execution when it comes to conveying ideas. Are our schools in this much trouble? Are we not even bothering to teach children (teens, adults) methodology behind communication? Or is this the by-product of our electronic culture? Did the Information Age devolve into the Dis-Information Age? Is it more important to have your voice heard than to have anything to say?


If it is... well, tht sux, dunnit?


* * *


While I'm sure so many of you are pondering the above futilities, I'd like to point you to the Very First Trailer for Abattoir. It's dark and grainy and has a really crappy compression. But it exists and is available for perusal.

A cleaner version can be found HERE. It's big, though. Be warned.

If you post "tht sux", even as a joke, and I know who you are... I will hurt you. Just be warned.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Another quick update

I've been putting off writing one of these for a while now. When life wasn't getting in the way of updating, I just wasn't in the mood to share my intimate thoughts with the entire world (or the six people who actually read this). Just been moving in and out of stages of "too busy" or manic depression.

By now, Genghis Con has come and gone. If you read Amy's blog, you got the gist of what happened. I'm planning on doing something up for Film Threat very soon, as well as my end-of-the-year recap of other shows. Ultimately: it was a good show. Everyone had fun. Some people even made some money. In the end, the people who whine the loudest about there being nothing to do in Pittsburgh abandoned us for college and high school football games.

I've said it before: Pittsburgh is an unsupportive town. If it doesn't have a ball attached to it, the residents don't want to hear about it. This isn't a lame excuse; we did everything right as far as publicity goes, improving over weaknesses from last year. I'm not going to beat myself up about anything. We did the work. But like Yogi Berra said, "If they don't want to come, you can't stop 'em."

The Blood Wrestling went over like a charm, though. And we'll have a cool DVD available by the end of the year. I watched a couple of professional wrestling shows to give me an idea of how to edit the footage, but discovered lots of loud posturing briefly interrupted by a few moments of actual wrestling. Leading me to believe that we should go out and shoot more loud posturing from the ladies...

Abattoir, if my exhausted eyes don't deceive me, is in picture lock as we speak. I have received 99% of the music from Scooter McCrae and am in the process of fixing up the sound design now. We're right on track for a finished product by Halloween. We've already been approached by a major distributor and a film festival, so maybe we did do something right.

We just got back from Cinema Wasteland, which has become our favorite show of all. This time was less fun for me because I spent the entire weekend with a nasty cold that just refuses to go away. Even as I write this, various things are dripping out of me, my eyes refuse to focus. It's annoying. Still, I got to hang out with James (Frankenhooker) Lorinz and saw his cool little "test short", Swirlee. Swirlee is about a gangster whose head is made of ice cream. Yes, it is, too! David Caruso is in it and he didn't annoy me once. I liked it so much, I did a little dance. Then popped more Day-Quil.

Sirens of Cinema #5 hits the stands next week. It's gorgeous. Gatefold cover by Mike Lilly (Vampirella). See if the vampires inside look familiar to you. They should.

We're officially in pre-production on a new movie. I don't want to give anything away, since it's still in the planning stages and the script needs a polish, but it's going to be cool. Bloody. Evil. Fun. Think Hellraiser with a sense of humor.

More later. Must die now...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Quick Update

A great weekend for friends and family. Mike and Carolyn came over to cook Amy and me dinner, which was fabulous and should happen much more often.


Last night, Don and Megan came up to help us shoot the last effects shot for Abattoir, which is going to be a show-stopper on-screen, I can promise you! (And ironically, it'll be seen very early in the film!) I'm cutting it into the main feature tonight.


Scooter McCrae tells me that he's working overtime to get us music for the film in time for our special sneak preview at Genghis Con on Saturday, 9/16.


And speaking of such things, Fangoria posted this notice about Abattoir and Genghis. Pretty cool of Mr. Gingold, I must say!

I'm not doing reviews any longer...

Of course, every time I make this vow, something yanks me back.

I was never comfortable doing reviews. They're not my strong point and they take me longer to write than straight essays or articles. Others can knock them out a dozen at a time. Me, I'm lucky if I can get one out per hour. Maybe I'm too close to the business -- too much empathy for the filmmakers behind the movies because I've been there. It's hard for me to see the flaws in indie films. (Hollywood films, I have no problem with this...)

A while back - several years, actually - I stopped reviewing movies I didn't like. I'm not good at the insult review: "This movie is worse than having a glass rod inserted into your urethra and broken off!" I'll leave those to the reviewers who have mastered this art. Again, I'd feel bad later. What's worse, I'm too accessible to filmmakers. I'd get nasty email for weeks following a bad review from the artists, their friends, family, co-workers. It wasn't worth my time. Particularly when, more often than not, I'm not paid for the review.

But then an odd thing began to occur, almost immediately, after I'd give glowing reviews. I'd get the same email messages nitpicking the review. "You said you loved it, but then you commented on the bad edits. Do you know how long I spent editing that thing??" Or "I don't think her acting was 'weak' at all." Keep in mind, again, these were little things mentioned in an overall positive review. No one can make a perfect movie.

Recently, I was contacted by acquaintances to do a rush review. I was asked to set everything aside, watch their movie and expedite a review to help them out. Because I'm an abject moron who still believes that every request could possibly be coming from Jesus in disguise (thanks to my many years of Catholic school), I set everything aside and watched their movie. I loved it. I wrote a review. I got it to my editor with amazing speed, even proof-read it and everything. I basically compared the film to something smiled upon by God.

I didn't get a 'thank you' from either one. I got called on a fact that there was no possible way I could have been privy to (that who I thought was their distributor in fact was not, but one of their investors, despite the fact that the film began with the distribution logo as the very first image!). Keep in mind, I received a shiny DVD-R in a plain envelope without even a letter accompanying it to explain what the friggin' thing was. No press kit, nothing. (Of course, the last time these guys had asked me to review something, they couldn't be bothered to even send me a copy of the movie!) And, of course, not even a "thanks for your time". And the one guy called me at home four times to make sure I received it.

I'm not going to name names. They're good guys, they work hard, and their movies are really terrific. I cannot take that away from them. They're doing the movies right and everyone should see them.

But they're indicative of defensiveness of the artists we deal with on this level. The slightest criticism (or, in this case, a fact that should have been clarified on their end) and filmmakers can't handle it. So I'm done. No more reviews. If this sounds like whining, so be it. But I'm too busy and I don't like being told how to do favors for people.

****

Sixteen days until Genghis. The tension mounts!

****
Post-script five minutes later:

Okay, I just re-read the one guy's email. He did give me a half-hearted "Thanks for the review, just read it, but..."

So I take it back. I was thanked. But shit, what have I done for them lately?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I'm an uncle! Instead of just being a mother...

I have a niece! Haley Althea Spano was born Monday, August 14, 2006 at 9:45 pm.

For the first time in my life, I'm an uncle--weird in and of itself.


Amy spent most of the day at the hospital. I went straight over after work. Liz, Amys sister, had been in and out all weekend with contractions and false labor since the previous Wednesday.


When she was finally born, the family rushed in to see her, all pink and new, and Liz, exhausted but looking happy. Then the nurses took Haley away to be bathed and we got to watch these enormous women toss her around like pizza dough. Then there was more cooing and cryingmore from the family than the baby, who only being an hour or so old, looked exhausted herself.

With the baby arriving, Amy and I took in Mike and Lizs cat, Butters, who was originally born at the stables near our house in Waynesburg. Butters is in our house now and traumatized. The other cats dont like herwhich is astounding considering the one cat loves everybody and everything. But he hissed and she swatted and now Butters is hiding under the dishwasher and Duke has run outside to pout. The other cat, Gypsy The-Formerly-Fat, couldnt care less about the new cat one way or another, so long as he gets to eat.


****

With the temp job at an end, I can concentrate next week on getting the house in some semblance of order again. With so many shows spaced so closely together, we hadnt even bothered to unpack from one trip to the next. Just tossed the clothes into the wash and back into the suitcase, then off we go again. The next few weeks are going to be just as busy, of coursea set visit to The Rage to watch Bob Kurtzman at work, a side trip to Monster Mania just for the fun of it and to spread more Genghis fliers around, then more preparation for Genghis and the Blood Wrestling, which is intent on killing me.


(The Blood Wrestling thing has us all stokedalmost to the point where were feeling to hell with Genghis! Lets just do the Blood Bath event. Ironically, Toe-Tags Crusty, who had the idea in the first place, wont be able to make it to the show at all! Which is sad all around. None of the Toe Tag folks will be in the house as it turns out. Their new movie, Red Sin Tower, which is looking amazing, is due for its own premiere right around then, so theyre swamped with their own machinations.)


Scooter McCrae has been sending me pieces of his score for Abattoir. Lots of sinister, ethereal pieces and one genuine gunslinger piece so far. Its very weird: Ive never had anyone score for me before. Im used to getting lumps of music and cutting the image to fit it. Hes waiting for me to finish cutting so he can score directly to picture. Were having a tough time meeting in the middle, which is amusing, but also nerve-wracking since were trying to get everything done in time to premiere it at Genghis. Worse comes to worst, we do a sneak preview of the fine cut. We still have two effects shots to shoot anyway. Hopefully the time will arise to allow us that luxury as well.


After Genghis, provided were not broken, quivering shells of the people we once were, were hoping to start production on our first horror movie. (Wait, vampires, serial killers and zombies dont constitute horror? Not according to distributorsat least not in the case of The Resurrection Game!) Itll be a brutal, hopefully scary and gleefully violent piece of nastiness that I dont want to talk about just yet. Suffice to say, our villain will be someone so wonderfully sick and evil that people will (hopefully) feel guilty for rooting for, but they will anyway. Think of Pinhead without the self-righteousness I have a terrific location available to us, but weve had a tough time meeting up with the appropriate parties to get in and make sure its all we hope it will be. Best case scenario: it is and we go to town for three weeks to knock this baby out!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Where I've been...

Wow… been a while since I had ten minutes to myself to write something. Where the hell did my summer go?


For the most part, I’ve been working a temp job at this documentary company a ten miles from Amy’s office outside Pittsburgh. Check that: it was supposed to be a temp job, but they decided my first few weeks there that they had really been looking for someone full time. The fact that they had hired me three days a week didn’t tip me off to this fact, though. I thought things would have been perfect. I could re-arrange my schedule (so my direct supervisor (ten years younger than me) told me, the out-of-town trips wouldn’t be a problem—yay!


Well, no. Because her direct supervisor didn’t want that to happen. I’d either work Monday, Wednesday and Friday or… well, not. They’ll show me. Without me, the work just won’t get done! “What do you think of that?”


See, I have too many “outside interests” for this company, as it turns out. “This isn’t a 40-hour-per-week job,” I was informed. “It’s a 24/7 job.” Surprisingly, they only want to pay you like it’s 40 hours, though. The extra time, thinking about the company, coming up with new innovative ideas on your spare time, it would seem, was on your dime as well.


So it’s not working out. Tomorrow is my last day. Which is fine with me. I only needed some extra money before Genghis came on like a freight train. Monday, I can devote more time to the companies I do PR for. And my temp agency agent tells me that there’s plenty of part time work out there, so I should not worry. After Genghis, I’ll find a new office that doesn’t care that I occasionally have to switch some things around. (And won’t condescend to me at every turn and ask if I took my San Diego Comic-Con business meetings in costume.)


The only crappy thing is that I really enjoyed the work. Granted, I was doing little more than scanning WWI documents and captioning pictures for their website and upcoming documentaries, but it was interesting work. I dug it. I run the risk of having the next job being interminably boring, stressful or, like the Post Office, damaging to me physically. But, oh well. Them’s the breaks, right?


****


As you’ll soon read in Film Threat, Amy and I traveled to the Comic-Con in San Diego, Twisted Nightmare in Cleveland and Horrofind in Baltimore. We saw a lot of friends, drank copious amounts of alcohol and sold fewer DVDs and magazines than we’d wanted to. But at least fun was had.


Today, I auditioned for the Movie Week version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. I thought sure I’d nailed the written version—a multiple choice SAT-style test with nothing but movie trivia. I knew that I’d missed three: one about Soul Food (which I haven’t seen), Legally Blonde (which I’ve avoided) and one about Ishtar (because there are some things my brain refuses to acknowledge ever existed). As it turns out, the first Palm D’Or was not awarded to 1955’s East of Eden but Marty. So I missed four. Okay, still not bad out of 30, right? 88% is still a passing grade in college.


Apparently not on Millionaire. Seriously, I was astonished that I didn’t make the cut. My arrogance aside, I’m a major film geek! I mean my pride was at stake here. So either the curve is really high, to keep people from wasting their time or, as some people have said to me, I over-shot it. I mean, really, they’re giving away a million dollars to the winner. They don’t want people to do it too easily. Personally, I have accepted the latter explanation. My ego needs this to be true. I mean, really… Really! I read the Maltin Guide cover-to-cover every year! I’ve seen a lot of movies.


Honestly, I don’t have any other kinds of information up there.


****

Hopefully, I’ll be back in the swing in these last few weeks before Genghis takes my life away and leaves me a broken shell of a human. Don’t forget people: Blood Wrestling!! Check it out, tell all of your friends and come to http://www.genghisconpa.com!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Abattoir is a wrap... well... principal photography anyway...

Yep, we wrapped principal last Saturday. Thanks to our new Associate Producer, Mike Scarfo, we got to shoot in the Smiling Moose on the South Side. We had four scenes to get through, two of which we had brought down Zoe Hunter to finish out her role as "Jess". We figured that we'd be there all day and even arranged to hold our wrap party in the newly-modeled upstairs bar around 8pm. We began production at 9:00 am...


Around noon, we had one sequence left to go.


Even stretching things out and getting more coverage than usual, we were still going to finish up around 3pm. Even breaking for lunch and taking LOOONNNG breaks in between. We'd never been that ahead-of-schedule before. We shot some of our best-looking stuff; everything was cool.


Which wasn't how the weekend started off... our hectic Friday culminated in my getting stuck in a gay pride parade in Oakland while trying to pick up Zoe at her hotel. I was gay for about three blocks until I managed to turn left and go straight again. We arrived at my parents' place to shoot a poor-man's-process car scene only to realize that I'd left my XLR cable 50 miles away at Waynesburg. Fortunately, I had our GL-1 and it's crappy external mike (that managed to fuck up High Stakes the last time we used it...), so we actually had to do old-school double-system! (Using the GL and the external mike in the car; shooting the visual with the XL2, synching up with one of the actors clapping their hands as a visual slate... *sigh* Hardcore filmmaking!)


But Saturday went without much of a hitch. We went back and hung out at Zoe's air conditioned hotel for a while then returned to the bar to get rip-roaring... celebratory.


So save for two pick-up days, we're done. Done, done, done. We have a 75 minute assembly right now, figure two minutes of gore to insert, another five minutes to shoot with our "special guest" and three minutes of a title crawl - we'll have an 85 minute movie. Hell yeah!


Now, I'll leave you with these links: Fangoria running our new press release. Complete with new and exclusive pictures!


The Deadpit reviewed our Severe Injuries on their radio show (about 1:40 minutes into the show).


And JimmyO gave a shout-out to our upcoming Genghis Con II: The Wrath of Con. 'Cause he's awesome.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Just taking a break from working to say this...

Genghis Con II: The Wrath of Con is coming soon. We have some really cool guests lined up and some cool vendors to go with them. We're doing the Pretty-Scary.net film festival again and this time around, Mike Haushalter and Secret Scroll Digest are running the movie room. It's gonna be big, folks! If you're a vendor and haven't gotten your booth, or a fan and haven't pre-ordered your tickets, seriously, what are you waiting for? Fun shall be had!

We're still struggling with getting our official websites back on line. (Thanks again to our hijackers who succeeded in making our lives difficult these past few weeks.) Look for Happycloudpictures.net and .org to be up and running soon. In the meantime, I created an official Myspace for The Resurrection Game. It needs friends. And a distributor, but mostly friends.

Mike-Watt.net has been updated. I started going through my output and making a little bibliography of where my work has appeared since 1998. I came to the conclusion, midway through doing this, that I have severely lost track of the places I've written for.

Abattoir is three days from being complete. One full day on location and then two pick-ups (including one day with our "Special Guest"). Our title song, by the way, is called "Dark Sonnet" and was written by Neil Gaiman and performed by Lorraine `a Malena. I can't thank these amazing ladies enough for donating this song to our opening credits.

Finally, Sirens of Cinema #4 just came off the press and is our most amazing-looking issue to date. Interviews with Leslie Easterbrook (The Devil's Rejects), the "Victims of Chainsaw Sally", and a whole lot more. Check it out and buy yours from the official site today!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Nature and the unnatural

Yesterday, I'm in the kitchen, making dinner (steak, coincidentally enough) and I see a large grey animal with a long swishing tail amble past the window. I'm used to seeing deer use our land as expressway, but this was bigger than a deer. So I go outside to investigate and discover a small herd of at least ten cows hanging out in my yard. Yes, we live in cow country. And sheep country. But I own neither and am not used to random stray herds wandering around. One looked at me.

Then the dogs discovered them and moved in, barking their heads off, and the cows took off into the woods. They didn't come back.

Somewhere around here is a very angry dairy farmer.

***

Abattoir news: This weekend, we wrapped shooting the Bathory House set, much to the relief of the house's owner, Ron and Stacy. We finished up numerous random battle sequences and a great deal of "spackling" (shots meant just to fill holes in the film - some people call these "pick-ups"). Very little blood, but a terrific gore-gag involving Ron's head and a thrown knife. We may go back later in July to shoot Debbie Rochon's extended cameo, if Stacy can bear us for one more day (fewer people this time around, Stac'... and Debbie will probablyn not be throwing herself around in mock battle).

It was a big Sheridan day as well, as there were numerous holes to fill with my character during the battle. I wrote one sequence where someone comes out of nowhere and punches me off my feet. Our good friend, Lee Wildermuth (who you may remember from Were-Grrl) came down for the day, with her partner, Ingrid, to take care of some effects and lend moral support. Lee towers over me (and everyone else), so I thought it would be cool if she were my assailant for the scene. We didn't even need to rehearse. She threw a wild punch and I reacted - by sailing across the room. (Ron and Stacy have amazingly smooth hardwood floors... I zipped right past the camera at one point!) It made for an impressive sequence in the assembly.

So now, with this weekend out of the way, we only have four days left. I realize I've been saying that for a while. It seems like we always have four days left. Things kept coming up - Thursday is our last spackling day for Aaron Bernard, Stacy and Alyssa Heron. Then we have a day at a local bar (the Smiling Moose, owned and run by Reggie Bannister's band-mate, Mike Scarfo), a day of gore pick-ups in front of a green screen (as we didn't want to just spray blood all over Stacy's house), and the Debbie day.

Then we can concentrate on editing, scoring and color-correction. (Still looking for a copy of After Effects for Mac... if anyone knows a guy...) I'm still shooting for a completion date of early August here.

***
In all the chaos and despair of last week, I forgot to mention the one cool thing that happened: I got to interview Jon Voight. (Fucking Jon Voight!) He was in New York, in a limo, driving to the premiere of his new movie, The Legend of Simon Conjurer .

At one point, we were discussing his career as a whole, and how he rarely repeated characters. I came up with one similarity and it was a cool one. His title character in the goofy, 1967 superhero spoof, Fearless Frank, was a precursor to his iconic turn as "Joe Buck" in Midnight Cowboy. Voight seemed amazed that I'd heard of Fearless Frank. "Thats funny, isnt it? It IS funny that the silly character, Fearless Frank, would be prophetic and that Id go on to play that guy in earnest later. I was just doing a silly thing and then all of a sudden we go and do it seriously. Wow. That proves that you really do know my career and that you're a dangerous man. Any man who knows Fearless Frank is a dangerous man!

So that made me happy. Read the rest of the review here.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

With regards to identity theft

Over the weekend, Amy and I discovered that we'd been the victims of identity theft. After we spent months updating our sites, including an update on Saturday, wrestled with our email host changing hands, notifying people about email address changes, doing countless work to update all of our records, we missed that our happycloudpictures and amylynnbest domains had apparently expired.

And two vultures came in and snatched them up.

This is nothing new, of course. Pretty/Scary.net used to be a .com, before the company that the domain was registered through decided to hold it hostage after a dispute with its co-founder. For no reason other than they could. There are plenty of conscience-free, amoral people out there. Let me tell you about the ones we just discovered.

Our domains couldn't possibly do these two "men" any good. The traffic they generated was modest and was comprised solely of our fans and supporters. We worked hard on both sites, not to mention the companies they represented, and have owned these domains for five years. These two "men" claim that their "robots" found them available and bought them on "online auction". The one who bought HCP claimed he spent $400 for it, because it was such a hot name. (I went through this trying to buy Mike Watt.com a few months back. That "gentleman" wanted to extort $1100 out of me for my own name - thinking I was the bass player, I imagine.) He'd gladly part with it and "give" it back to me for the modest price of $500, due to all the time and effort he put into it. Not to mention the expense.

His name is Sergey. Hey, Sergey: what about all the time and expense we put into it? That doesn't matter to you, does it? Because you saw an opportunity for extortion. And you took it. And you were rude about it in all the email messages we exchanged.

Amy's thief, Jason, is even lower, as far as I'm concerned, because amylynnbest is OBVIOUSLY SOMEONE'S NAME! And he's now holding it hostage and won't even return a phone call or an email to tell us what his outrageous price would be to buy it back.

To sum up: Amy and I have killed ourselves to create something that didn't exist before us. Whether you like our movies or think them enormous wastes of time, we worked to build up Happy Cloud Pictures and Amy Lynn Best. We did it because we believe in ourselves, our friends and our productions. We created. These two guys stole.

I'm sorry. There was technically no "theft". They bought the domains, for whatever price, fair and square. But you can't tell me they were unaware that they were owned and operated by people. I'm sure they didn't care what we went through over the years, nor could they care LESS who we are, what we achieved or what the domains meant to us.

They didn't "steal" the domains.

They tried, however, to steal who we are.

The fact that both Amy's name and Happy Cloud Pictures are both trademarks BELONGING to Happy Cloud Pictures doesn't seem to be an issue that they can concern themselves with. Copyright Law is beneath them. Extortion, now that's the name of the game! They claim (well, Sergey is claiming; still haven't heard from Jason) that the domains will make their companies a lot of money because of the traffic they generate.

Well that traffic, again, is generated by our friends, our fans, our supporters. And people who support independent film and artists.

So I would like to ask that everyone, until further notice, ONLY go to happycloudpictures.net or .org, and amylynnbest.net once they're set up. Don't even go to the previous .com sites out of curiosity. I'm sure they'll be Adult Friend Finders or porn gateways in no time flat. But please, don't sate your curiosity. Don't let Sergey and Jason win. (This plea won't hurt their profits, trust me. I'm sure they've done this to countless souls in the past. Their children won't go hungry by my call for principal.) Rather, allow your curiosity be served by visiting http://who.godaddy.com/whoischeck.aspx?Domain=HAPPYCLOUDPICTURES.COM and http://who.godaddy.com/whoischeck.aspx?Domain=AMYLYNNBEST.COM

Check out who Sergey and Jason are. Their information is public record. No harm would be done by dropping them a quick note, or a phone call, and congratulating them on their victories over people like Amy and myself. I mean, what were we thinking anyway, having dreams and working our asses off to achieve something? What a long way to go! When you can just wait for someone else to do all the hard work and then buy it out from under them? Thank you, Sergey. Thank you, Jason.

Thank you for the lesson.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Robert Kurtzman interview

Just wanted to quickly announce that Film Threat put my my interview with KNB co-founder Robert Kurtzman. Check it out here.

This is the beginning of a series for me, as I'll have pieces with Dick Smith and Toe Tag Pictures' Jerami Cruise coming up soon.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Seven years, no itch

Today, Monday, Amy and I will have been married for seven years and together for a total of fourteen. The realization of just how lucky I am – how lucky we are – keeps hitting me with odd regularity. It’s pretty amazing, actually, these days, that anyone can stay together as long as we have. We have our problems—everyone does—but we’re still very much a team in all respects. I know that I love her more now than I did when we first got together.

With everything that’s been going on lately—between filming Abattoir and preparing for Genghis Con II—we almost forgot that our anniversary was coming around again. We actually had to consciously schedule some time to just celebrate!

While I waiting to pick her up, I’m sitting in the little house in Mount Oliver—Sheridan’s safe house/High Stakes house—capturing the footage we’ve shot so far. I’m only going to get through 4 of the seven hours, however, as I’m teaching myself Final Cut as I go along. So far, I’d say 95% of the footage is gorgeous and usable as it is. There will be some necessary color-correction down the line, of course, and I’m still deciding if I should throw a Magic Bullet filter on it to give it a more saturated feel, but aside from that, everything is coming together very well. Once I get all this into the computer, I can start editing and seeing how it’s all going to come together.

We shot all weekend again, starting with Sheridan’s fight with Pris on the stairs of the Bathory house. Pris is being played by Alyssa Herron (Severe Injuries) and she’s all tall and graceful in the role. And by “tall”, I mean a full foot taller than me. So when Amy instructed her to attack me all out, she did, and I had a difficult time staying upright and finding the necessary leverage to keep her from knocking me over. So that fight will look cool, anyway.

Rachelle Williams (The Take-Away Spirit) ended up being able to come down at the last minute—we weren’t completely expecting her due to schedule conflicts, but she turned out to be a hell of a trooper and faced the PA Turnpike with aplomb to arrive and shed her clothes for us as “Carlotta”. She and Pris end up seducing and killing “Mr. Price” played by Nic Pesante (who provided a bit of nudity himself, actually, so no one can call us sexist as far as this movie goes!). And you have to truly admire a pair of actresses who can just start making out with each other on film after only having just met about an hour before. (That goes for Stacy and Zoe from last week as well!) Fortunately, I’ve known Rachelle longer than I had Zoe, so I was a little more comfortable with the directing this time out, i.e. ‘Put your hand there, kiss that, lick there…’

Don Bumgarner provided some truly gruesome effects for this scene, including an eye-rip and a leg that had been made to look like the girls had gnawed it to the bone. This will be the first vampire movie (that I can recall) where the vampires actually play with their food! It’s actually pretty gross, to tell the truth.

Saturday was a bear, though, in terms of scheduling and getting everything done before people started to pass out from exhaustion—particularly Amy and me. But by the end of the day, we’d shot a good dozen pages and four sequences (including pick-ups from the previous week).

Sunday was fairly easy, truth be told. It was more a pick-up day than anything else. The longest stretch involved a three-page dialogue scene between Bill Homan and Steve Foland and that was hammered out in about an hour. All in all, we did more hanging outside and just talking than we did working. For a change. Not surprisingly, the first weekend Tim and Charlie were available to pitch in, we didn’t have anything for them to do. Tim did bring us a big box of Gross Movie Reviews books. And a pair of gold sticks to get rid of our flies. He’s good that way.

So with this weekend behind us, we have a grand total of four days left on the schedule—okay, six with pickups. Of course, these next four will be nearly impossible to finish with everyone’s busy schedules… But at least Abattoir will be finished in the same year it was begun… unless I just jinxed myself by writing that out loud.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Surviving Abattoir

We had a whirlwind few days last week, but now we're mid-way through Abattoir's shooting schedule. Give or take a few, we shot over 30 pages in three days. This included dialogue and effects shots, double or triple the page-count in terms of set-ups. Plus two new people we'd never worked with before, generously donating their time to make a strange little vampire movie!



We picked up Sofiya Smirnova at the airport on Friday morning (after a slight scare that she might not be able to make it due to a family tragedy - which only proves what an amazing person she is!) and, after a brief stop-over at our place to refresh and grab some coffee, we were off to the main location, which happened to be the Victorian house owned by co-star Stacy Bartlebaugh-Gmys and her husband, Ron. Shooting went pretty well and smoothly, even though I was the only male in a house full of women (or, as I liked to put it, "the lone sausage in the taco factory" - which just endeared me to the cast!).


Now, the reason I was a tad uncomfortable is because of the delicate balance of the female nature. As everyone knows, because it's a biological law: with any given group of women in one location, after about fifteen minutes, their cycles synch up. (Corollary: "one or more women left alone in a room will instantly devolve into a topless pillow fight".)



But we got a ton of stuff accomplished, including an uncomfortable flogging scene involving Amy's character, Elizabet, punishing Alyssa Herron's Pris. Uncomfortable for Alyssa, that is, as she was the one being flogged. (Oddly enough, for our company, Amy did not actually whip Alyssa... this time around anyway.) She was kneeling nearly naked on an over-stuffed chair, reacting to the swish of a riding crop very close to her bare skin. Don't let anyone say our cast isn't dedicated!



Fortunately for me, Carolyn Oliver, from Secret Scroll Digest, was on hand to be my AD for the weekend. Amy and I don't usually have ADs - we're often thrust into that role ourselves, on top of everything else we have to do, so it was nice to have someone around to do the various tedious AD chores (which, in our case, also included Script Supervision and continuity). I also had to be my own DP as Jeff Waltrowski was stuck at work all day.


Saturday, we went back to the house in Mount Oliver to shoot Amy/"Elizabet" and Sofiya/"Zhora" killing two of the main characters. This was the first time we shot with Aaron Bernard ("Seth") and the first time Bill Homan would be on hand to play Tom the mercenary. Don Bumgarner, my effects lead, was on hand to provide the bulk of the effects (including teeth-casting and appliance-affixing), helped out by Kelly Fritz and Carlos Savant (returning from shooting with us on High Stakes). We had five scenes to blast through between 10am and 6pm. We actually wrapped about 7, which made me feel bad, but it took as long as it took. At least we got Bill out of there in time to get to work.


Midway through this shoot, another heart attack: Zoe Hunter was having trouble getting to Pittsburgh. She was due on set for Sunday so we could shoot her death scene (we had too much to do and we'd never get to the crucial bar scene in time!) and had to come from New York (hey, she coulda said 'no' when we asked if she wanted to work with us! But we're just so darned cute, it's hard to refuse us. Particularly Amy.).


Ultimately, she hopped on a bus and rode the eight torturous hours squeezed beside ... okay, no cheap shots at people who ride Greyhounds. You know how unpleasant it can be, though.


Saturday night, Amy, Sofiya and I crashed at Stacy and Ron's so we wouldn't have to trek all the way back to Waynesburg. Rest was sparce as the price we paid for Zoe coming via bus was we had to be up at 6am to pick her up. We got back, put her to bed for a couple of hours, and then were back and awake at 10am. Ready to go. Or, at least, upright.


Sunday was another whirlwind. We needed to get Steve Foland out of there so he could get back to the Pittsburgh Comicon, so we concentrated on his scenes first. Then we had a fight scene between Sofiya and Megan Ruggiero (playing "Charlotte") that resulted in blood and black bile (don't ask). This was the first time Stacy had ever had that many people in her house and her OCD was working overtime. (It's a gorgeous house; she and Ron killed themselves to refinish every surface of wood and decorate it as beautifully as it is... you'd freak out too, trust me!)


The last sequence was a sexy and bloody murder scene involving a three-some gone very wrong. This was the sequence Sofiya was looking forward to all weekend - "Am I still writhing in the blood in ecstacy?" she asked all day. And how could we possibly disappoint her?



Jeff not only lit this scene beautifully, he also had to be in it.


"I don't want to take my shirt off." he said. "I'm fat."


"Dude," I explained. "You're in bed with a topless girl, while two other girls writhe on top of you... You could be eating a sandwich all the way through - no one's going to notice!"


A touch of Southern Comfort later, he was fine with the scene.


Again, we wrapped an hour later than I'd hoped, but the footage came out beautiful. This has very little to do with my expertise, though. It's impossible to photograph Stacy's house badly. Finishing up, we all drove over to Oakland to the "Fuel and Fuddle" to celebrate a successful weekend.



Returning Sofiya and Zoe to their transportational outlets, Amy and I dragged ourselves back to Stacy's the next morning and repacked the car. We'd gotten a total of ten hours of sleep in three days and not only felt it, but looked it. We still had an hour's drive back home, where we went immediately to bed, pulling the dogs up to our chins and trying to recover.


We still have eight days of shooting to go, give or take, but this would be the worst stretch. While we still have to bring Zoe back for a day, and then Debbie Rochon for her "special appearance" (it's weird to shoot a movie without Debbie, she's been a part of our family for so long), nothing we have left to do will be as stressful. We'll have effects days and action days and dialogue days, but they won't be packed on top of each other like stressful Lincoln Logs. We're still on track to have this finished by the beginning of June.


So with this weekend down, I was able to concentrate on finishing up Sirens of Cinema issue 4, planning #5, capturing footage and working with Amy to plan Genghis Con II: The Wrath of Con.


You know, that's how we relax.


Oy.


Meanwhile, here is a link to more pictures, courtesy of Zoe.



Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Abattoir, exhaustion and whining

So... we started shooting Abattoir two weeks ago by choosing something simple to kick off with - namely a four-hour trip to Baltimore to film with folks we'd never worked with before in a location we'd never seen. Fortunately, the aforementioned folks were JimmyO and April Burril, Lesley Vernot, Stephen and "Tall Katie" (all from Chainsaw Sally) and Eric Thornett from Piranha Pictures. Also on hand was Jason (whose last name I don't think I ever knew), a martial-artist who provided some much-appreciated kicking. Make-up was provided by buddy Mike Conlon (and assisted by his buddy "Bull" - thanks, man!). The location was an amazing former Korean-Catholic church owned by JimmyO's friend and colleague, "Kit".

Shooting went swiftly and more-or-less efficient (if tinged with our usual chaos) as we drove through some impromptu fight choreography and gore and ended with Amy, April and Lesley topless and chewing on my neck and wrists. See, it was a flashback sequence involving my character (a suave and ruggedly handsome Irish vampire hunter) and Amy's character (a dark and beautiful vampire madame)... nevermind. No matter what you do, when you try to describe a horror movie, you inevitably sound stupid. Suffice to say: blood and breasts. These are the things that make the horror world go 'round.

Although, the next day, when we got together to celebrate April and Jimmy's daughter, Willow's, 2-year birthday with a big family party, I couldn't help but feel guilty about what I'd done to the little girl's mother the next day. "Don't worry about it," Jimmy told me. "You should see what I do to her mother!" And yet, I was oddly uncomforted by this remark.

Back home, we spent the rest of the week catching up and preparing for our "domestic start date", which was this previous Friday. This time, the cast consisted of Stacy Bartlebaugh-Gmys, Alyssa Heron and Tim Gross; the crew: Amy, myself and Jeff Waltrowski; effects: Don Bumgarner and Kirk Owen. And the eight of us all squeezed into Don's basement shop and the narrow area outside his apartment to create a dark, scary alley for Tim to kick the crap out of Stacy and, in turn, get demolished by Alyssa. Much blood and pain was involved (as detailed on Tim's Bastards of Horror site), mainly because Tim decided to torture himself. Don, too, was torturing himself because he'd only given himself a week to complete a very complicated effect that wasn't quite ready come time to shoot. Since I'm the king of inserts (no pun intended), it wasn't that big a deal. We can go back to it. And it'll be worth the wait.

(A brief aside, Robert Kurtzman, one of the founders of KNB Effects Group, Inc., called my cell when we were on our way. He wished us all luck with the production. Can you ask for a better blessing than that?)

Saturday, several of us reconvened at the tiny little High Stakes house to shoot my dialogue and close-ups and attempt to block out a scene to be shot at a future date, once Easter was out of the way and no longer taking my cast away for family obligations.

I realized halfway through shooting this scene, as I forgot line after line, that I had every potential to utterly sink this movie with a crappy performance. For some reason, though I haven't really acted in eight years (if you can call the smirking and falling I did in The Resurrection Game "acting"), I decided to give myself all the exposition in the movie. So there are pages after pages of long speeches that I have to deliver. And, because I loathe and despise myself as a human and a deity, I decided that my character also has a thick Irish accent. Fortunately, since I couldn't remember a lot of my lines, that negatively effected my ability to keep the accent consistent... wait, fortunately? That can't be right...

This coming week, we have Sofiya Smirnova coming in from Chicago and Zoe Hunter coming down from New York. Shooting will take place at the little house and in Stacy's grand Victorian home in McKeesport. (For those familiar with Pittsburgh terrain, McKeesport and Mt. Oliver are nowhere near each other... so, yay!) And we will attempt to shoot something like fifty scenes in four days.

Now, on Friday, we shot 24 set-ups in three hours, which included nine effects shots. Saturday, we shot five pages in about an hour. So we move fast. While we can move at least this fast, it would help if we could move faster. I'm anticipating some severe exhaustion break-downs come Tuesday.

Pray for us. Any theology will do at this point. We'll take what we can get.

***
So we finally caught Good Night and Good Luck last night. The movie is compelling though completely without a climax (which is in keeping with the historical story they were telling). I couldn't help but wonder where the Edward R. Murrow's and Fred Friendly's of today are hiding. Why aren't our journalists (with, oddly, the exception of John Stewart) speaking out as loudly against the McCarthy's of today (of which there are more every day)? Guantanamo Bay, gas prices, the war in Iraq, the upcoming war in Iran, wiretapping, hunting accidents--why are we sitting here and taking all of this? Why isn't anyone speaking out?

Wondering this out loud, Amy grumbled that, instead of complaining, maybe I should do something about it. Sure, I have a blog! Beware evil-doers!

The sad fact is, I don't have the power. I'm not in a position to reach millions of Americans. I'm not a respected war correspondent who was already the voice of the people when he took on Washington injustice. And while I'd love to think that I had the mettle to do so, I have no idea if I would be strong enough to do so.

I don't do much of anything of importance. I write constantly, but about entertainment. I write about and interview indie filmmakers, actors, actresses. I report about what movies are cool, what should be avoided. On one hand, I suppose it could be argued that I'm giving people who deserve it an opportunity for promotion, to reach people who might otherwise never have heard of them. Or it. Or whatever.

And I have had the opportunity, I suppose, to report about more-important issues. I could be reporting about the war. I'm sure I could convince Film Threat to send me to Iraq... to report about Iraqi movies, or interview Iraqi celebrities... that might be all I'm qualified for. I don't know.

I don't know if I would do "more important" work if given the chance. I do know that I'm no more a Murrow than the folks currently working out there. I think, sadly, that his like will not be seen again.

So I'll probably continue to whine about high gas prices and the totalitarian practices of our current government, because on a Quantum Physics level, my voice alone can effect reality, right? But I don't see myself reporting from the roof of a war-sieged building holding a film festival any time soon.