Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A few last-minute links

Just a couple of new links to entertain you before 2005 is but a bitter memory.

First is the hilarious Cannibal Aneurysm. Written and directed by Happy Cloud Pictures' Charlie Fleming, starring Bill Homan and crewed by Tim Gross, Jeff Waltrowski, Amy Lynn Best and myself. It's proof that Bill left alone in a room is funny.

Second, a ridiculously perverse interview with Necro-Phil, conducted by Zombie-A-Go-Go. Too wonderful for words.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

As I writhe in pain...

Passing another kidney stone. Yay. I made a doctor's appointment for tomorrow, which I loathe and despise. It's not that I fear doctors; I just hate all the time that's wasted waiting around for them to come in and say, "You're sick; take these; pay the receptionist."

But while I writhe in pain, I'm also happily under the influence of my last painkiller (left over from a root canal several years ago, found way in the back of my medicine cabinet). And as anyone who knows me can attest to, I'm a happy drunk. One of those "I love you, man!" type of drunks, which is a direct contrast to my normal personality.

So I'm watching The Devil's Rejects, watching my friends Messers Haig and Moseley playing the most reprehensible humans ever depicted, feeling odd and sentimental. And I'm scanning my friends on this list, feeling the same.

As wretchedly sarcastic as I can be in person, you know where you stand with me. Amy likes to say, 'It doesn't matter what he says to you, if Mike is talking to you, he likes you'. And it's true. I don't bother with people I don't care for. The people I'm closest to don't have to question my loyalty to them. (Yeah, the Happy Cloud Pictures way of showing affection is seeing how quickly we can make the other person cry, but the more vicious we are to you is, generally, in direct proportion to how much we like you. Ask Jasi "Stuntbabe" Lanier some time about her trial by fire on Were-Grrl.)

Not sure where I'm going with this, except to say that I have a lot of amazing friends and I'm grateful for each and every one of them.

... Finally, the second issue of Sirens of Cinema should be hitting the stands this week. Check out Barnes and Noble and dig the cool Kong cover by Michael Apice. Content includes interviews with The Ladies of Serenity and Mirrormask, a new Pretty-Scary article by Amy, a Rapturious set report by Debbie Rochon, and a cool Three Queens for Kong article by my father, Bill Watt (with incredible art by Liza Biggers).

We're right in the middle of putting the third issue together now, for sale in March. Check out issue two and have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What this season means to me

It's almost as if the holidays snuck up on me this year. Pre-Genghis, that's all we were focussed on. Then, all of a sudden, it's two-thirds through December and we'd barely cracked the shopping. Every year, we vow to have a leaner Christmas and every year we end up spending more than we either meant to or actually have. Every year, I split the time between grimacing at the endlessly-repeating Phil Spector-style mall soundtrack of carols and making fun of them. ("Later we'll have some fucking pie/ and do some caroling..."; "You better not shout/I'm telling you why/Santa Claus is fucking a clown").

We have the usual argument of "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas", only this year it seems to be a federal issue (hot on the heels of a bizarre "Intelligent Design" argument that has William Jennings Bryan wishing he could be deader). While it usually doesn't bother me one way or the other, I was a little irked that the only stamps I could buy at the Post Office were the "Madonna and Child" (not Ciccone, you Philistines). I made a crack that my friends would be surprised to see these coming from us and the clerk roared with laughter. "Right, a Jewish household sending the Virgin Mary on cards!" To which I just smiled and stared at her, wondering how she got Jew out of "Watt". Of course, if I copped to being an Athiest married to a Wiccan, I'm sure we'd be run out of town, so I let it go. Fine, according to this clerk, I'm Jewish.

Adding to the stress of the season comes with the frustration of people taking two weeks off around the holidays, meaning that most of my (hopefully) upcoming business deals are on hold until January 5th. On top of that, lost packages, long lines, idiots at the stores, people trying to run you off the road because there might be snow sometime in the next few hours.

Having no affinity for wrapping presents, having no idea what to get people I've known for years, having no idea what I did to make me feel like my spine is jutting through my back while I wrap said presents, having a fit because something we'd just bought was sucked into the house minutes after we arrived home, having no time to decorate and then feeling guilty because we didn't...

And then, I take a minute and realize that I actually like the holidays. I was raised on Christmas, so that's what we celebrate, religious preferences aside. I like Christmas trees. I like the classic specials. I like 24 hours of A Christmas Story. I like creating ridiculously inappropriate Christmas cards. I like the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas and own it on CD. I like A Muppet Christmas Carol and am grateful that it's finally available in widescreen.

I love It's a Wonderful Life. I play the "George Bailey" game on a regular basis - it's thereputic. (For those who live on tropical islands and have never seen the Capra classic, the "George Bailey Game" is the mental exercise where you picture life if you had never been born. Figure out what things would be like for those around you if you'd never been there to touch their lives. It's a terrific way to feel good about yourself, if only to justify your own existence. If you're an unselfish kinda sucker, you'll also play the game wherein you remove a good friend from the equation and see how empty your life would be without them.)

I like the Chuck Jones version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I have an affection for the cheesiness of the Rankin/Bass Rudolf. I even dig the cynical Christmas specials that crop up, like Dennis Leary's A Merry F*ckin' Christmas and MadTV's Raging Rudolf.

I like getting together with friends and family. I love the fact that we can stymie our family into giving us gift cards, so that Christmas seems to last a few weeks longer. I like coming home with Best Buy bags filled to the brim with all the DVDs I hadn't gotten around to picking up all the previous months.

Yes, it's too commercial. Yes, there's a lot of pressure. Yes, there's a lot of rushing around, spending too much money, blah blah blah.

I like giving gifts to those I love. I like having the excuse to do it. I like that it signals the end of what is usually a very long year. I like that cynicism and innocense can go hand-in-hand during the same season and neither feels out of place.

All in all, I like the Christmas Season. And I'll like it even more when it's over.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New time-waster and a new Christmas gift to one and all

So, Amy gave me the link to Yahoo Avatars. After about half an hour, this is what I came up with:

Yahoo! Avatars

Looks just like me, dunnit?

We spent a terrific weekend with JimmyO and April Burril, along with their daughters, Lilli and Willow, and a good number of the Chainsaw Sally allumni, like Shawn and "Far Away" Leslie (my nickname for her - long story). We drove down to Baltimore to join them for their Yule Celebration. It was the closest thing to a vacation we'd had all year and it was just fun. All we had to do was hang out and have a good time. (Quite frankly, it was just weird.)

The closest we came to feeling the pressure of responsibility was doing a bit of Christmas shopping at this amazing store we tripped over called "Wonder Books and Video" in Frederick, MD. It's one of those places you could lose yourself for hours. A dusty, claustrophobic, endless maze of books and DVDs. If it weren't for our having to meet up with Eric Thornett and Jason Russler (of Shockheaded fame), we might not have been able to drag ourselves out of there.

So in light of the holiday season, I decided to post two more bits of my past creativity:

And to All a Good Night is my idea of a Christmas card. In fact, it was my and Amy's Christmas card a few years back. It's demented and sick and horrifying. Just like the holiday itself. The picture was designed by Bill Homan and colored digitally by Amy.

The Sponged Stone is my requisite take on A Christmas Carol, using Scrooge as a character. He's paired up with a recurring character of mine, Jefferson Taz (cool character, dopey name), a supernatural private eye that I've used in a couple of stories. It's probably not hard to figure out the inspiration for this one.
They're short and they go down easy. Let me know what you think if you get the urge to check them out.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

PFC Everyman - or, back when I was a dirty, stinking liberal

When I look back at my career as a writer, I consider PFC Everyman as the very start of things. I was still in college when I wrote the one-act play, inspired by my disgust at the Gulf War and the rumors of the renewed draft. Of course, the Gulf War took place in 1990-92, so you can't say that my ire was that great. In reality, the play was more inspired by my love of Warner Brothers cartoons more than anything else.

But I wrote it and submitted it to a local playwriting competition - the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, which had been around for only a couple of years prior to my submittal. PFC Everyman was just one of ten plays chosen for the festival, and would be granted a week-long performance by the theater company that chose it - in this case, Pyramid Productions. It would be directed by a man who would become my good friend and theater mentor, Ted Hoover. (Happy Cloud Pictures fans will recognize Ted as "Christopher Pope" in The Resurrection Game).

Ted and I sat down and slogged through four more drafts of this play. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate to write more than two drafts of anything, and this was a hell of a sobering experience. My ego was exploding to have my first play produced, only to have it punctured by the news that it wasn't yet good enough for the stage. Ted and I argued, and he always deferred to me, while, at the same time, managing to convince me to do what he thought would be best for the script. Ultimately, he was right, and I owe the final draft's structure entirely to him. The original draft was all over the place and had no real method to the abject madness.

So PFC Everyman had its run, the third installment of a three-play evening, three weeks into the four-week run of the festival. Under the way the New Works Festival was set up, the audience members who attended every play could vote on the best one of the festival. Those votes would be tallied up and awards were granted at a special ceremony/dinner at the end of the month.

It was the first event Amy and I attended together. We'd only been dating less than a year at this point. I was happy to see that PFC Everyman had been nominated in every category except "Outstanding Performance by a Female Lead", which was fair because we didn't have a female lead.

By the end of the evening, we had either won or placed in every single category, which included "Outstanding Performance by a Director", "A Screenwriter" and "Outstanding Production". I was all choked up when I accepted the award - a giant glass arrowhead called "The Donna", after the Festival's founder. I actually proposed to Amy for the first time during my acceptance speech (which I hadn't prepared, because I hadn't expected to win).

This launched my brief but successful career in theater. After that, I penned one more one-act (which won a national championship) and a short 10-minute play which again won a "Best of" performance.

And then I dried up completely. I never wrote another play again, because I stopped relating to the theater. My head and heart became firmly entrenched in filmmaking and I have rarely looked back, save in fondness.

Ted continues to write and direct some outstanding pieces of work (he's an outstanding piece of work himself). Most of the cast went on to do other things - for a while, Mia Price was a Radio City Rockette. One of the actors who had to bow out of the production did so for a role in the Jean-Claude Van Damme film, Sudden Death, which was shooting at the same time. I didn't blame him. I haven't heard from him again since, either.

Looking back at the play, I'm still entertained by it. A lot of the jokes are terribly forced. Some of them are ripped off from Beetle Bailey, while others are ripped off from Bugs Bunny and the Three Stooges. It's ridiculously heavy-handed in its satire and about as relevant today as it was then. Which is to say, as relevant as you want it to be.

Is it good? Probably not. Is it funny? I think it is. Is it as scathing and revealing as I thought it was when I wrote it? Not in the slightest. When I first wrote it, I thought it was just scandalous, particularly in its views of the church and homosexuality! What a pioneer I was!

I'm less liberal in my thinking now than I was then. Actually, I was less of a liberal than I was an idealist, though I was just as cynical about the military, government and religion as I am now. Nowadays, I consider myself to be an extremist in both camps - favoring capital punishment almost to the point of making mandatory; pro-choice; pro-Gay Marriage; pro-environment; anti-government; pro-Arts; anti-Hollywood...

I've included a link to the play here. You'll have to download Adobe Acrobat if you don't already have it (which is unfathomable to me as I believe that program is coming bundled with newborn babies these days). If you happen to be part of a theatrical troupe and, for some ungodly reason, you find enough merit in it to actually want to perform it, just drop me a line. The rights are available. At any rate, if you decide to check it out, let me know what you think.


It's raining slush and ice outside. And I'm dying. Whatever cold is going around right now, I have it, and it's killing me. I've already been out to feed the horses, and of course I forgot to pick up medication for myself, because all I could think of was getting home and going back to bed. And I would have done just that, except the cold has settled in my back, making it difficult to lie down.

Which is just as well, because I have to announce the winners of the first Hollywood is Burning Screenplay Competition today and finish writing up the requested critiques. (I'm amazed at how many people requested the critiques... out of fifty-some submissions, only five people didn't request the critique!) I've already announced the second contest, an all-horror one as I got tired of the endless slush of very bad comedies and dramas. (Oh, my GOD, there were some lousy submissions!)

And to top it all off, something died in my office. I think it's in the chimney, of course, and impossible to get to. So, yay, I get to inhale decomposing animal for the next few days. Longer if the temperature remains cold.

So, there it is: my misery laid out for all to see. I will now graciously accept donations of money and chocolate chip cookies.

(Yeah, there are a lot of plusses happening today, but you know how it is when you're sick: you tend to focus on the negative...I'll post more positively tomorrow.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Back to the grind...

After typing this for about half an hour, good ol' reliable Myspace decides to give me "sorry, an unexpected error has occurred". Gee, thanks.

So here we go again, let's see if we can recapture the magic here...

People are starting to post about their experiences at Genghis Con. My good friend and editor-in-chief at Sirens, Rick Danford, posted this over at the House of Horrors.

Our wonderful friends JimmyO and April Burril, without whom little of Genghis would have been possible, posted these pics over at the Chainsaw Sally site (movie coming soon to a rental house near you! Stay tuned). Our equally good friend Ryli Morgan and Mark Baranowski posted these over at Ryli's homepage. So it would appear that everyone (save three disgruntled individuals) had a great time. For me, it was a five-day blur of stress with brief pockets of overwhelming gratitude.

Looking back, it was simply wonderful to see an entire room filled with virtually every friend I have, both in the industry and outside of it. Our families were mingling with people we new first from movies and then in person. There were folks I'd known for close to twenty years (Justin Wingenfeld and Bill Hahner, I'm looking at you!) and people I'd only gotten to know and care about over the course of this year (Ken and Pam Kish, Tony and Abby at Xploited DVD, Jeff and Pam Fugate...). Again, with the few minor exceptions, I can't think of a single person who was indispensible and responsible for making Genghis Con the success it was. At some point, I will most likely post a huge, long, sloppy "thank you" list, doubtlessly forgetting many people in the process. So please accept this blanket "thank you" in the meantime. (And very special thanks to Heidi and Bill Homan... you know why and thank you again!)

The past few weeks, far from being relaxing, have been taken up by Cam Romero's debut, The Screening. While Amy hasn't shot much yet--they're concentrating on getting a lot of the complicated action sequences out of the way first (which isn't a bad idea)--some amazing stuff has already been shot with Debbie and Alan Rowe Kelly. And I can say, without reservation, that the effects team are some of the most professional, talented individuals I've ever met. Benzy, Nate, Kevin, Midian, Dustin, Max and Liz, (and anyone I missed)--here's to you guys! I look forward to exploiting you in the future!

Between all of that, I'm spending the bulk of my time finishing up the first Hollywood is Burning screenplay contest so I can announce the winner by December 15 and make way for the second one. Because, you know, I'm insane.

And once that's done, I can turn my attention to a new screenplay, Shudder, based on an original story by Matt (Vicious, Loaded Dice) Green. I've never adapted someone else's story before (not to any great extent, anyway) and I'm actually having a good time with it. If all goes well, this looks to be our next production, possibly to start in January.

After a tremendous amount of problems, Sirens of Cinema #2 is out the door and at the printers. Look for it on the stands later this month. We may have possibly outdone issue #1 with this one! It sports a beautiful Kong cover by the amazing Michael Apice, and contains stuff like "The Women of Serenity", a fantastic piece on Mirrormask by Heidi Martinuzzi, a brand new Pretty-Scary article by Amy, a Rapturious set report by Debbie Rochon, and an overview of the Kong ladies by my father and film scholar Bill Watt (with a beautiful painting by Liza Biggers accompanying it).

Dead Men Walking hit the shelves a few weeks back and has been garnering mostly-positive reviews. People seem to dig the gore but think the acting is pretty weak. The reviewers have been kind enough towards the script end, which makes me grateful for that; it keeps the villagers away from the door. I'm told it's selling and renting pretty well, actually, so that's a good thing. What the hell--it is incredibly gory!

So with Genghis out of the way, and Thanksgiving already having come and gone like a jackhammer, we only have Christmas to look forward to. It's going to be a lean Christmas, too. NyQuil and Tic-Tacs for all. And then, a week later, it's over. 2005 buried in a shallow grave, two bullets in the back of its skull (which is how I like to usher in the New Year--intimidated and quaking in it's booties). It was a ball-kick of a year, to say the least, though infinitely better than its Marquis de Sade-emulating predecessor, 2004.

If the groundwork we laid this year comes to fruition, there should be plenty to look forward to in 2006. New productions (including a follow-up to Amy's sexy documentary, The Spicy Sisters Slumber Party), new website overhauls, the possible official release of The Resurrection Game (keep your fingers crossed!), and, perhaps, should the madness overtake us yet again, Genghis Con, PA 2006. Because, you know, we're insane.

Amy's all tilty (photos by Mike Haushaulter)

Sign by Tom Sullivan

Jim Steinhoff with our official banner (by Roger Beckett, designed by JimmyO)

The "Women in Horror Panel" - standing: April Burril, Debbie Rochon, Amy Lynn Best, Heidi Martinuzzi, Gigi Fast Elk Bannister; seated: Debbie D, Lilli Burril, Dan Best (he just wanted to be in the picture), Brinke Stevens, Ryli Morgan. Not pictured, Syn DeVil. Large white face in foreground: The Pretty-Scary Film Festival Award-Winner Devi Snively.

The Happy Cloud Pictures panel - Charlie Fleming, Amy Lynn Best, Necro-Phil, Bill Homan, Mike Watt, Bill Watt.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Genghis Con - an overview

This is the first chance I've had to breathe since Genghis Con closed on Sunday (Amy hasn't even had a chance yet). Our duties technically ended on Monday, after we got our guests back on their planes and trains. From there, it was pick up the dogs, drive an hour home and collapse for the rest of the day.

It's tough to judge a show as "success" or "failure". While we may have fallen short of our financial goal (though not by much), by Sunday, everyone said that they had a great time and hope we do it again next year. We drew in a little more than five hundred people for the whole weekend, which is terrific for a first-time show, or so we're told. There weren't too many problems (two unhappy dealers and one snotty "guest" who left an hour after she got there) or disasters (lack of promised karaoke (for which we apologize - technical difficulties) and Amy's DVD player stolen from the screening room - thanks to whoever did that, btw!). While it was stressful, it wasn't unmanagable.

There are too many people to thank for this last part. The entire Happy Cloud family came out to lend a hand and we'll be eternally grateful for that. If anything, Tim Gross claims that it was the best weekend of his entire life, so how can we argue with that? So I guess we'll add this to the success end of the spectrum.

Maybe Monday I'll be able to concentrate further and do a more detailed account of the weekend. But for right now, I'll just say thank you to everyone!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mom! The Abyss is staring at me!

It seems that every post starts out that way. "I haven't posted in a while because I've been busy..." Which is definitely true. But as God is my witness, I don't know where the time goes.

There will be days where I sit for nine hours in front of this computer, sending out press releases for Genghis Con, writing articles, answering email, whatever, and look up around 6:00 and realize I haven't eaten or moved all day.

I think H.G. Wells got it wrong. Morlocks didn't become the way they did because of a lack of technology, but the opposite: too much. The pansy-ass Eloi with their spinning discs - feh! They're the techno-illiterate. The Morlocks were the ones who had DSL and were plugged into the blogsphere! That's what made them the pasty, no-sunlight, zero-muscle-tone, grunting-in-communication, bad hair, bad teeth, club-weilding fiends that they were!

I hiss when the sun hits me. And while I can still lift heavy objects, I don't quite have the muscle tone I did ten years ago. I finde myself communicating in grunts on occassion, but that could just be because I've been married for six years.

I spent the last two weeks or so writing the new draft of Cam Romero's 24 Frames Per Slaughter, which is no longer called that, but I'm not sure if I can talk about it further. The movie is very different from what we started out to make. It's a lot wilder, and strangely, given my penchant for on-screen violence, a lot more brutal. They start shooting in a few weeks, and everyone's heads are spinning. I'll fine-tune his latest polish today and see where that gets us. If we all survive the process, it's going to be a hell of a movie!

On top of that, it's just been Genghis Con controlling my life. We ran into some last-minute catastrophes yesterday that Amy quickly resolved between heart attacks. We knew something would happen last-minute. It's just the nature of the business. But that's what's consumed our waking and sleeping life. But in a week and a half, we get our lives back. Until then, however, in the words of Frederich Nietzche, age 10, "Mom, the abyss is staring at me!!"

One final word about Genghis Con. I do an awful lot of complaining about this business. I rail and shriek about the disloyalty, the backstabbing, the phoniness, etc. And in the midst of all the dirty-dealings and just plain insensitivity, I miss the people that surround me.

Amy is the real genius behind this show. To be perfectly honest, false humility aside, I haven't done a great deal. She's the one who organized it from start to finish.

And beyond that, Genghis Con is happening because of all the people who are coming, our personal friends, who believe in us and have helped us out every step of the way. We couldn't have done it without the love and support of our guests and our staff. Which is why I refer to our company as the "Happy Cloud Family".

And I don't know what to attribute this to. While Amy can occassionally make Julie Andrews look like Hitler, I, however, am not usually the most pleasant of people to be around. I never set a hobo on fire, but I'm not world-famous for my tact, either.

So whatever the reason, I just want to extend my thanks to everyone. (If you want a near-complete list, visit the Guest page of the website. A full list will appear here soon, but I don't want to leave anyone out, so I'll wait.) If our dreams were contagious, I'm glad of that. And I'm grateful for all the support!

Thank you.

Designed by JimmyO

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A quick update, then back to the grind

Got back from The Halloween Horror Picture Show in Tampa. It was a fun trip, despite a ride in a plane smaller than a phonebooth and weather that made you feel like you were hanging out inside someone's mouth. Amy was one of the hosts of the day, along with our friends Debbie Rochon and Brinke Stevens (and our new friend Denice Duff). There were some promoting problems on the part of the venue, but I won't go into it here. You'll have to wait for December's issue of Sirens of Cinema for that. (And speaking of such things, the new issue is out, so if you haven't picked yours up yet.... well, I can't think of a way to shame you into it - it's too early. Just go buy one. If you can't find it in stores, buy it off the site. Buy two, just in case.)

I'm immeshed in multiple rewrites on Cameron Romero's first feature, 24 Frames, though I'm told that title will be changing soon. The project keeps getting bigger by the day. I'm relying on the producers to keep this from becoming Apocalypse Now. (I'm kidding... Cam hates the smell of napalm, whatever the time of day it is.)

In other news, as I mentioned in my last post, I have to major-to-minor coups coming out at the end of the month. The first is this one:

I contributed the story "The Dead Life", which most of you know is an excerpt from The Resurrection Game novelization. There are some terrific stories in here - a lot of cool twists on the zombie sub-genre, a lot of things I wish I'd thought of. The Undead can be ordered here.

Second, coup is this:

This is the zombie movie I wrote for The Asylum. You'd think after this, The Undead and The Resurrection Game that I'd be tired of zombies. And you'd be right. But I think that's just a phase I'm going through right now. C'mon, zombies are the new vampires (or are they the new "yellow"? I forget). And Dead Men Walking can be pre-ordered here, and released on October 25.

Finally, I'd like to mention that the Happy Cloud Pictures website is up and running again after a year-long hiatus. Thanks to Camop, particularly Joel, Joe and Mike. It still has some tweaks to go through, but it's there again. Now we have to get Hollywood is Burning whipped into shape.

Now I head back to polish 24 Frames. If I survive the rewrites, I'll drop a line later.

(Oh, wait, Genghis Con! We just added Tom Sullivan! If you're not busy the weekend of November 18th, you have no excuse but to come down and hang out with us!)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A new proliferation

This past weekend at Wasteland proved that there are periods where, quite frankly, I'm hard to escape. Apologies to my enemies who do their best to avoid me because, darn it, I'm just everywhere.

The new issues of both Ultra-Violent and Sirens of Cinema hit the stands this weekend. Sirens, as I've crowed endlessly about by now, is the relaunch of the title once published by Draculina, now put out by RAK Media and edited by moi. Ultra-Violent is a fantastic once-underground mag put out by Scott Gabby and managing editor Art Ettinger. I have a piece in the latter on my hero Scooter McCrae.

At Wasteland, I ran into another hero, Andy Copp, who informed me that he recently posted positive reviews of our movies Severe Injuries and The Resurrection Game. For which I bought him a beer. But he was attending a screening of his own movie, so I drank it for him. (Because I'm a good friend)

I later discovered that Fangoria was running a full-page ad for the movie I wrote for The Asylum, Dead Men Walking.

Fangoria also ran a piece on the film I'm writing for G. Cameron Romero entitled 24 Frames. So a lot of people came over to ask me who the hell I thought I was writing for George Romero's son? (To which I'd grin and say 'Jealous, much?' and they'd say 'Bitch!' and go right for my eyes.) This single piece managed to get all over the place in a matter of hours, as I found variations of it on at least two dozen movie sites. So... okay, that's weird.
And then I got an email that a zombie anthology I'd contributed to, The Undead, just released its cover art. Which you can see here.

Finally, another friend, Roger Beckett, recently returned from his wedding in Indonesia. He quickly told me that he'd had a meeting with a prominent Indonesian director who had - wait for it - heard of me! That's right, somehow, word of my magnificence has reached Asia. (Or the fact that Film Threat can be read all over the world. I'm sure there are people in Outer Mongolia saying "who does this hack think he is?")

So, there you go. That was just one weekend, for pete's sake! You'd think that, with my being this famous, people might actually know who I am... and would give me presents.

Monday, October 03, 2005

And my universe continues to spin...

Thursday night, I'm sitting at dinner with Amy and Bill and I start feeling this cramp in my back - like I pulled a muscle. Within minutes, I'm doubled over and I can't breathe. I can barely see. With that in mind, we excuse ourselves from dinner and I have Amy take me to the hospital.

As I'm turning blue from the pain and lack of oxygen, I struggle to give the half-listening triage nurses my insurance info. The pain won't let up. It's not throbbing - it's just there, constant and militant in its desire to kill me. I felt like something had wrapped around my kidney and was squeezing it.

That's when I realized what was going on. I made a quick, breathless phone call to Jeff Waltrowski, who had endured a similar ordeal earlier in the year. Jeff confirmed my suspicion: kidney stones.

Oh... yay. A brand new horror to confront as I take a brand new shuffle towards the mortal coil. That's right: I'd hit thirty a couple of years back. The warranty has expired on my body.

About a half-hour later, I lay twisted and gasping on a table back in the ER. I still haven't seen anyone. Suddenly, I'm no longer in pain. It didn't taper off - it just stopped. As quickly as it came.

I gave the knuckle-dragging orderlies another ten minutes. Still no visit, but still no return of the pain. So I got dressed and prepared to check myself out.
That's when the orderlies suddenly realized I was still here. As I prepared to leave. Images of lawsuits dancing in their heads, one hulking brute of a life-giver hastened to find a doctor who would at least talk to me before I exited.

The good doctor, a former extra from Gandhi, drew me a nifty little picture of my kidneys and my urinal tract and gave me a quick session on what a kidney stone actually was, in case I failed to dope it out from its far-from-self-explanatory name. What I had probably endured was something the size of a grain of sand (though as tense as I've been lately, I wouldn't have been surprised if it turned out to be a particle of a diamond) that had passed through the stem. He had the mouth-breather fetch me a urine strainer to catch it. Not being interested in examining this said-grain any further, I immediately forgot the plastic funnel-shaped screen.

Oddly enough, the only thought going through my mind at the time, beyond "Christ, make it stop!", was "can I spend the entire weekend like this?" I had this thought because it was the eve of Cinema Wasteland, and I wasn't about to miss it. I love Wasteland. It's practically the only show I enjoy doing. And kidney stone, unbearable pain, or no, I was going. Which would have made me just oodles of fun to be around, I can assure you.

But as of today, four days later, I am still pain-free. I should probably return to my physician for an ultrasound to make sure there's nothing else rattling around back there. And I'm sure I'll do this sometime after my visit to an oral surgeon, who will determine whether or not I should have my impacted wisdom teeth removed.

And after that, the kidneys and the teeth, I think I'll go in for some elective open-heart surgery. You know, to round off the year.

Monday, September 19, 2005

New Film Threat piece up

In my ongoing responsibility to expose the filthy underbelly of fandom, I give you this piece about Flashback and Twisted Nightmare Weekends. In other news, Genghis Con Pa is still rolling along. Check out the brand-new updated site.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

New reviews and a big ol' gripe

Got a message yesterday that a film festival that requested The Resurrection Game, went through all this rigamarole about banner exchanges and cross-promotion, etc., has not only decided not to show the movie, and to not tell me they weren't showing it, but also never bothered putting up any of our banners on their site. After we had promoted their fest on three of ours.

Now, I'm glad I didn't waste the money on a submission fee to said festival, but if they had requested it, shouldn't they screen it? The same thing happened to us earlier in the year and in both cases, mysterious sets of "judges" were to blame for the final decision. Just a crappy thing to do to people, is all I'm saying.

In the meantime, the movie is getting terrific reviews, as evidenced at Cultcuts and Creature-Corner. In fact, I don't think we've gotten a negative review yet (critical, but not over-all negative). While that will probably change at some point, it indicates, at least to me, that we have a good movie on our hands.

So why are all these festivals asking for it, then dropping it at the last minute? It's not too long - they knew it was a feature! And if it is something like, "lack of nudity or gore", I'm gonna be really mad. Horror fans are always shouting about how they want something different and don't want to be "talked down to" by movies like House of Wax, yet the different stuff doesn't seem to catch a break. Maybe I'm wrong... maybe I've been defending "horror fans", when really actually I've been defending the hardcore fanatics: the guys who know their giallo from their hentai.

Not the regular hard-heads of Middle America who rent anything with bloody letters spelling out the title. The ones who seem to not only make up the majority of the "horror fans", but seem to be ruining it for the rest of us...

Shoddy promoters, horror kiddies, or harcore poseurs? Who's to blame here? Who let Cry_Wolf get made?

Friday, September 09, 2005

A cowboy pisses off the wenches!

So, the other day, I wrote about how I set out looking for things to piss me off, in a masochistic exercise in self-aggrivation. This past Sunday, I did the opposite, though accidentally.

Amy and I made the rash decision to head out to the PA Rennaissance Festival, which we've attended sporadically over the past few years, though we were religious about attending back in the days when Taso (Knightriders) Stavrakis and his company did the jousting and the dueling. The last four or five years haven't been that great, and for the most part, the comedians and acts are exactly the same, year after year.

But this weekend was pirate weekend! Charlie and his family were going. It was an opportunity to hang out with them... and a bunch of pirates! Really, who doesn't love pirates?

All the ads say things like "period costumes encouraged!" Charlie and I always joked that this year we'd go as a cowboy and a retro-50s spaceman (hey, they don't actually specify what period you should dress in! It's all implied, and being an American, I don't take too well to subtlety). Well, I upheld my end of the bargain.

I went as a cowboy.

Amy had on her peasant shirt, but skipped the flowing skirt due to the 80-degree weather. I, however, being of heartier stock, had jeans, boots, a leather vest, neckerchief, hat, and a holster (for water). I'd even borrowed a pair of Bill's spurs for good measure!

We got to the fairgrounds and opted to give blood in exchange for free tickets. It would go to helping out the Katrina victims and would also, well, you know, get us in free.

So there I was: a cowboy amongst a sea of pirates and similarly-overheated mideval types, wandering from hackneyed joust to baudy performances by "Wicked Wenches". When I ventured to yon establishment to purchase my customary turkey leg (sadly, they were out), I found myself being glared at by the beveredge wench.

"There weren't cowboys during the Renaissance," she said.

"There wasn't Diet Pepsi, either."

She didn't like that response, but sold me my drink anyway. However, I didn't get "Another five pounds for the queen, huzzuh!" like the guy in front of me did.

A little while later, I was admonished by a sword vendor: "Dude, you're in the wrong time period altogether."

"Yeah," I said, "I got here late."

I had to admit, I was enjoying being the anachronism, but I wasn't prepared for the actual pissed off looks I was getting from the workers. Even those pretending to be the King and Queen of the Fair seemed annoyed by my presence.

Now, I wasn't actually making fun of anyone. I wasn't even pretending to be a real cowboy - just a guy dressed like a cowboy. But I didn't take into consideration that people who travel with these fairs take not only the fair, but themselves, very seriously. So... okay. The bar wenches can refer to themselves as the incredibly demeaning term "bar wenches", and spill out of their wonderfully- to poorly-made bodices, and the "knights" can wander around with their codpieces outthrust, but woe unto you that steps into the realm of fantasy with any sense of irony about you! This is no place for whimsy!

It's like any cliquish gathering, I suppose. Horror fans don't like it when non-horror fans show up. Anime fans don't like people to scoff at them at their own convention. Gamers don't like being shaken down for their lunch money at their own gigs. So I guess my showing up in American Western garb was psychologically depantsing a lot of the Renaissancers.

Which, I suppose, begs the question: why did I go in the first place?

To be perfectly honest, I was in a silly mood. I'm not afforded a lot of opportunities to dress like a cowboy, and I wasn't about to pass this one up. I wasn't there to actually piss people off, but, on the other hand, I'm not sorry it happened. I knew I looked ridiculous, but I wasn't implying that anyone else was. I just wanted to have a little fun. That I wound up having fun at your expense, little miss "no cowboys during the Renaissance", only added to my enjoyment.

Geez, folks. You're saying "thee" and "thou" and selling pretzels on sticks and wearing wool in the middle of summer. Give a cowboy a break!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Searching for comforting rage

With all that's going on in the world these days, I shouldn't force myself to go looking for things to upset me.

I woke up, read the paper, and was gripped with absolute enimity. New Orleans is underwater, thousands upon thousands of people have been left with nothing, countless people dead or injured... and there's looting going on. Not people panicked for clean water or medicine, but folks raiding stores and ruined homes for appliances and clothing, to sell to the victims at high prices, and then justify to reporters and police that they "deserve" the things they stole! And now there's a shoot-to-kill order in Louisiana to prevent such things (to which I say, "Bravo and aim for the brain!")

Because, as a society, there are always new levels of low to plumb. Whatever the horrors we face on a daily basis, there is always someone around the corner waiting to exploit your tragedy for their gain.

Look at the gasoline situation. Because oil rigs were damaged, because there is a coup going on in Nigeria, the price of gasoline - a necessary and vital evil in this society - has skyrocketed over $1.50 more per gallon over the past two weeks. Most of those "in charge" will say that is because the price of a barrel rose because of these problems, etc. But tell me - look me in the eye and tell me - that the oil companies are NOT benefitting from these higher prices. Tell me that there are execs who are not sitting back, puffing on a cigar and hoping that the world-wide misery lasts forever. Tell me that, then tell me another one.

(And hey, all you hard-line conservatives out there who voted our current administration into office, I want you to fix things. You did this. I didn't vote for things to go this way. My guy didn't make it to the White House (but... but... things might still be this bad if HE had been in office... right? Yeah, sure...). So I'm holding all you Red Staters responsible for the current situation in the world today. We are the single most-hated country in the world (sure, we sneer at Luxemborg, but they're not ruining anyone's lives), our "liberation" of Iraq was a land-grab excuse that backfired on us all, we're mocked, scorned, abused and are both directly and in-directly responsible for world-wide famine. Don't throw your fucking flag in my face, don't tell me that if I don't like it I should leave - where is there to go? - don't whistle Dixie, piss on my head and tell me it's raining. Don't blame the war (we started it - yes we did! Don't quote 9/11 at me, either!), don't blame the hurricane, don't blame the Democrats or Republicans (neither party is the real culprit - the current administration is made up of something different entirely), don't blame Pat Robertson and his cry for assassination, in fact, don't blame anyone at all but yourselves. You pulled that lever - you prolonged this agony. Now go and do something about it. If my guy had won on my vote and things were still this bad, I'd be out doing something, trust me. But this ain't MY fault and I'm not footing the bill for it. If you voted Red and you're bitching about the high price of gas, point the finger at yourself. Fuck you - fix this!)

So with all that - and an ongoing family crisis, and friends of mine in severe pain caused by others - what do I do?

I look up Citizen Kane on Netflix to read the bad reviews.

There are reviews that give this movie a single star for its efforts. People bandy about "boring", "predictable", "disappointing", etc.

And there it was: the familiar rage.

Because, really, it had begun to dissipate a tad. I turned the page of the paper and saw just how many people were rallying to help the flood victims down south. Because as loathesome as a civilization as we Americans can be, we do chip in for a crisis. We dig deep when it hits home hard. We put aside being our ugly, Capitalist selves, as a whole, and help out others who are hit with tragedy. We did it for the Tsunami victims, too, so it's not just empathy for the home-grown. Looters be damned - you're all scum and you know it - the rest of the country is heeding the call.

And the gas will eventually come back down to something we'll all consider reasonable, though we'll never see a $1 in front of that decimal ever again. We won't; trust me. But it'll happen. And we'll all start to wise up and clamor for hydrogen fuel cells, which will someday turn Big Oil into Big Hydrogen. And the circle of life - in this case, the snake eating its own tail, for that is our civilization - will go on.

After my umbrage had subsided, and I started to see the good in the world, I just HAD to sabotage myself. I had to go looking for trouble. And stupidity. And arrogance. And yes, there is such a thing as a wrong opinion. And being contrary for the pure sake of things.

But for fuck's sake, there was a review on there that actually used the age-old, Internet message board battle-whine: "It's the worst movie I've ever seen!"

And they were talking about Citizen fucking Kane!

You know what the worst movie they'd ever seen before that was?

The Godfather, Part II.

And that's when my old friend outrage showed up, bags in hand, ready to stay. I had him pull up a chair, and we played "Live, live, die," the rest of the afternoon.

Because these are the clowns upon whose backs we're riding upon. These are the looters in cyberspace. They're ransacking our culture, rather than our goods. They're dumbing down our society and poisoning our collective subconcious with their asinine spoutings. I don't know that there's enough yang out there to counter this yin. I really don't.

And just as they were out to upset people, there I was, feeding into it, begging to be upset. I walked into the trap clearly marked "Trap: Do Not Walk". I did it to myself. Because I wanted to be outraged. I want to know that there are wolves at the door, even if I have to go out and leave a trail of M&M's for the wolves to follow. This is my disease. I was the guy at Roarke's Drift calling up neighboring villages and asking them to send more Zulus.

It's me. I've come to the conclusion that I can't bear to see the forest for the trees. I have to look at the garbage littering the beauty. I have to see what I know I'm up against, even if I have to use binoculars and a road map.

I'm not seeing the generosity; I'm seeing the parasites. I wasn't seeing the five-star ratings; I was looking for the one-stars.

And if I don't stop doing this to myself, I'm going to go mad.

And the only comfort I'll have, as I rest the gun barrel between my teeth, is that I was right all along.

And dammit, that's hardly a comfort!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Ever-reliable IMDB

I'd like to thank whoever screwed up my IMDB listing. Yes, it was very nice of you to want to help. However, if you're such a fan of the bassist Mike Watt, why don't you know that he and I are not the same person?

If you're such a fan of his, why couldn't you look at the listing - just glance at it - and realize that the frontman for The Minutemen was NOT in Gladiator Eroticus and did NOT write and direct The Resurrection Game?

Yes, I realize that this is the fault of the IMDB for making it very easy for the average keyboard jockey to make updates to any page they wish to. Shame on them for asking for assistance.

But, seriously dude? You're an idiot. And a terrible fan.

For one thing, look at the top of my listing where it mentions my age.


Watt the bassist was in his 20s when he fronted The Minutemen. Shouldn't that tell you something if you're such a fan?

Further down, where it lists my biography, and it mentions the slew of magazines I wrote for - Cinefantastique, Femme Fatales, Film Threat, etc... Are any of these listed in Watt's Hoot Page? Hmm, Captain Fan?

Now, there are a ton of people far less cool than one of the greatest living bassists for me to be confused with. I'm flattered by the confusion, really. I'm sure Mr. Watt is less-so. On the other hand, he probably doesn't get the miscommunique that often. The last time I spoke to him on the Film Threat boards, he had gotten a single email asking him if he were the FT writer, so he told me I could be THE Mike Watt, and he'd be THE OTHER Mike Watt, because, as a bassist, he was comfortable with being in the background.

That was very nice of him.

I don't take umbrage at the mistake. I take umbrage at the fact that you spent a great deal of time messing with something I'd spent a great deal of time putting up. Yes, in the great scheme of things, it's the IMDB, and matters not in this world of high gas prices and wholesale overseas slaughter. But, again, you're obviously a great fan of this man.

So, again, why didn't you know that I'm not him?

Go pick on Bruce Campbell... he's really Glen Campbell, the singer. Or didn't you know that?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Back on the road

August: first weekend Chicago, second weekend Cleveland, fourth weekend Baltimore... tomorrow we're back on the road to hit the New Jersey show, Monster Mania. A lot of our friends are going to be there, including Debbie Rochon, Joe Knetter, Sid Haig and Suzie Olber, and Robert Mayr and Glenna Chao (our once-a-year Horrorfind friends). Should be a good time and a good opportunity to promote Genghis Con a little further. Still, it's yet another weekend where we're driving for an insane amount of time. And there's not much of an end in sight.

I mentioned to Amanda Rossi, at The Asylum, that we were heading to Horrorfind a few weeks back. She responded that she'd never been to Baltimore. I realized, essentially, we hadn't either. Yeah, we'd been to Horrorfind every year for the last five years, and were there again for the ludicrous Creepcon show many years ago, but we've never actually been to Baltimore. At least, not where we spent any time in the actual city.

The same goes for most of the cities we visit. Okay, there's no real sense in visiting Cleveland, but I've seen very little of New Jersey, even though we're there at least three times a year. We've driven to Tennessee, through West Virginia and Kentucky, been up and down the East Coast more times this year than I can count. But we don't really see anything beyond the hotels and the highways. It's a weird way to experience America. It's even more surreal to realize that you're in a city you've never been in before, and you're hanging out with people you'd seen just a week before, but have never seen outside of a hotel ballroom.

I have never seen Sid Haig during the light of day. Nor half the con guests I've become friendly with. I'd met the late Matt McGrory (The Devil's Rejects) countless times and the last words we'd exchanged were "see you in a few weeks", as we were bound to run into each other again at one show or another. But never in a real social setting. There would always be a table and/or a line of people between us.

We have these monthly family reunions with people that I've either only ever seen on movie theater screens or in subterranean furnished-and-carpeted caverns, surrounded by hundreds of other people who are, possibly, feeling the same surreal disconnection I feel. Which is why you should never stop to think about the convention circuit... or your head starts to hurt.


One last very important thing: our friend, actress/model/singer Ryli Morgan is in the hospital for a very serious heart operation. Take a few minutes to send her and her husband, Mark Baranowski, some good karma for the weekend.

More to come soon

I just conducted an interview with Fred Vogel of Toe-Tag Pictures, over at his shop. It was a very good interview, and I hope it'll make a good article.

But while we're on the subject of writing - I implore everyone who is a writer, in the vicinity of this blog, to check out this article.

Anyone who wants to write, is currently writing, for print or online, heed this article's advice!

Friday, August 12, 2005

New interview with moi

Patrick Desmond, who wrote and directed the star-studded horror/action film, Absense of Light, conducted an interview with me regarding The Resurrection Game. You can check it out here. My name is spelled "Watts" in the title and in the nifty little intro given to me by my friend and editor Dave Dreher, but I've been assured that it'll be fixed soon. It's a good interview, though.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Back from yet another show

Wiped out from three days in Cleveland for the Twisted Nightmare Weekend. Three days of drinking, partying and avoiding any danger of possibly making money (well, Amy made money... I just sat there and tried to stay awake). Got to see old and dear friends: Debbie Rochon, Lilith Stabs, Joe Knetter (for the 2nd week in a row), the Low Budget Pictures crew (!), Brinke Stevens, Don, Megan and Tom--the fine folks at Cleveland FX, the lovely crew of Specter Studios, good ol' Henrique Couto, Pam and Jeff from Hell's Orphans, Tom Sullivan and Pat Reese, Mr. Ted Raimi (another group of people to whom deja vu is just an everyday thing) and an undoubted slew of people I'm forgetting. Not to mention those responsible: Robyn Griggs and Keith Kline!

Bill Homan came up and we shot a few promos for Genghis Con with both Necro-Phil and Bill's latest creation, MINI-PHIL! Look for those to show up on the official site very soon.

So now we have two weeks off before Horrorfind. The vacation will be nice.

There will be con coverage of this and Flashback going up soon. Until then, check out new pieces over at Fangoria and B-Movie and marvel at the wonder that is me.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Latest news from the front

Last few weeks were the usual whirlwind I've come to expect from my life. I'm no longer a slave to the Post Office. My first tour came to an end and they decided not to renew it. There was a full-timer at another office, see... now he works there making three times what I was. So... yay.

I hired on at Cameron's company, Camop, but I'm doing commissioned sales. It could be a while before I earn enough to keep eating... Anybody need a website? Give them a call. (Hey, how many of you would die to tell people that your website was designed by George Romero's son?)

We took a trip up to Chicago for Flashback Weekend. More on this in a later post. Suffice to say, another nine-hour car trip is not in our future any time soon. Chicago: do something about your traffic, willya? It shouldn't take the same amount of time to go twelve miles as it did the previous 500!

Still, we got to hang out with Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Joe Knetter and Ted Raimi. Got to see J.R. Bookwalter, Ariauna Albright, Hugh Gallagher, Pam and Ken Kish of Cinema Wasteland and Pam and Jeff from Hell's Orphans! And there was a rumor that Bruce Campbell was there too, but sequestered as he was downstairs, under the jealous eye of his publishers, we didn't get to see him. Maybe at Horrorfind...

Now we're gearing up for Twisted Nightmare in Cleveland, which is usually more akin to an indie swap meet, but hasn't failed to be a good time yet. If you're in the area this weekend, drop on by. I'll be the one standing off to the right of Joe Knetter's naked ass, gouging my eyes out with a melon-baller.

New post up at the Dead Men Walking blog. With hot and sexy pictures to go with it. Check it out!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The rant that fizzled...

I was going to write this enormous rant about journalism.

Inspired by my previous rant about indie filmmaking, I was going to go on this enormous tirade against the so-called "techno-journalism" that ruined the world of entertainment reporting with sloppy "cut-n-paste" interviews, which seems to have invaded the wonderful world of print, if Entertainment Weekly is any barometer of the current state of pop writing.

And I may still do this.

But not today.

Today, I'm celebrating the completion of the first new issue of Sirens of Cinema under my editorship.

Rick and Bob first approached me in mid-April, and we got the job done, from scratch, in about three months. This isn't akin to breaking land-speed records, but it's pretty amazing considering most of us involved were new to the game (at least to the positions we'd found ourselves in). And I think there's a lot to be proud of here. We're going to have a great Dave Nestler cover... it's gonna be swell.

So couple that with the final installment of my Land of the Dead premiere coverage going live on Film Threat and the incredibly-supportive Paul Scrabo's posting terribly dorky pictures of me from the Film Worker's Film Festival up on his site, and I'm feeling pretty good about the world today. Why ruin it by focussing on the evils that surround my specific skew?

I think I'll just finish up a few things today and enjoy, for once, some good karma.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Adding to our culture

(I started writing this yesterday, but my computer crashed before I could hit "post". I wasn't sure if I could recapture it, or even if I wanted to, but I'm having one of those rare days, both quiet and disquiet because I have nothing in particular that I have to do, so I figure I’ll give it another shot. I have to write something today, so it may as well be this.)

Invariably, at whatever job I’m holding down or enduring, the word gets around that I write and make movies (“invariably” because I usually tell people, to prove to them—and to myself—that what I’m doing now is my job and not who I am). And also invariably, after the mixture of bemusement and indifference works its way through the office or dock, someone will suggest, “You should make a movie about this place.”

To which, someone else will answer, “No one would ever believe it.”

And God knows movies have been made about more mundane subjects, so I generally nod, or crack wise about something going on with the establishment, and then we move on. Or the conversation will veer towards the fact that I don’t make any money doing what I’m doing, and that the movies have not granted me international success and fortune, because, obviously, I’m here, doing what I’m being paid to do, and not out hobnobbing with the stars. Just as they were and were not. So then, invariably, the subject will be gradually dropped, as they return to their careers and the things that fill up their lives outside of work.

These jobs are usually whatever I can get at the time I need them, so it’s rare that I get to work with anyone who has any frame of reference for the film community I live in. Working at a rural post office at the ass end of Pennsylvania, just a few short miles from the West Virginia border, bringing up Shockheaded or Witchouse 3 is the same as discussing life on the moon. No reflection on the people I work with—this is just beyond their realm of experience. “Movies” to them, are whatever just came out at the theaters or at the Giant Eagle video section. For most “average” people, and this is a hard fact we’re all in the community very aware of, our movies would be viewed as some sort of cute experiment and not “real” movies.

Maybe the same can be said about foreign films to some of these folks as well, or quiet, but big budget, “indie” films that spew from Sundance annually. The most in-the-know people at my post office reference “indie” films like Run, Lola, Run and Sideways and act like they’re on the verge of joining a secret society for having seen them. I suspect that you throw Scrapbook or even Tromeo and Juliet at them, or any kind of punk underground movie, and they wouldn’t know whether to watch it or feed it.

Which makes our jobs just that much harder, doesn’t it? It’s impossible to make a movie, doubly-so to get distribution for it, and triply-so to get anyone to watch the damned thing if it does come out. So what is “impossible” cubed? What is the outcome of these Herculean tasks we’ve set for ourselves? And why are we so content to litter our narrow market with junk? Because we’re constantly told by distributors that only sex and gore sell? We need higher body-counts. We need a higher tit-count? Push the envelope—but not too hard. Serial killers are in, in, in.

Okay, so you make a crappy serial killer film and get distribution for it and then what? Make another one so you can get that one distributed? Further add to the bigotry that all indie-made horror movies are shitty and shot-on-video? Why is it that even when we do things right, it’s still wrong? Because the market dictates what we will make, comes the answer, and the market is set by analysts who know just what the audience wants to see and nothing beyond will play.

I’ve made this rallying cry before: what if we defied the “markets” and gave the audience something it didn’t know it wanted? What if we all started making intelligent horror movies, the kinds we all grew up on? What would the “market” reflect then?

No, there’s nothing wrong with escapism. It’s intrinsic—often the only thing keeping guns out of mouths at the end of the day. The working public needs its bread and circuses.

But as a culture, we need more than that. Every movie we make, in some way, adds to the zeitgeist of the culture we live in. Not just the snarky “ain’t I cool for knowing this” pop culture, but our collective unconscious, what makes our society more than just a collection of drones who work day in and out and wage war on different collectives. When we add shit to the culture, we’ve added nothing but shit. Add something interesting, even if unsuccessful, and you’ve added something that might just resonate enough to reach beyond the target audience hungry for boobs ‘n blood.

We’re all hungry. Everyone who makes movies outside of a studio, with our own tiny pockets of money, yearn to make bigger movies, to actually make a living doing this. So why start the career with the first steps taken adding to the mire? Why not make something that makes people think while they cheer the killer and drool over the naked girl? Even if the movie falls flat on its face, at least you tried to do something a little unusual. Why tell a story if its been told a thousand times before and a hundred times before better? Tell a story only you can tell. Don’t worry about developing a style. Tell a fucking story. And maybe a future generation will discover your movie for themselves and think it’s pretty cool and go on to be inspired to make something of their own. Now we’re adding to the culture, rather than just spreading the manure around. Ain’t none of us getting rich off this stuff. The best we can hope for is to make something we’re proud of at the end of the day. But project yourself into the last days of your life and look back. Do you really want to leave behind a legacy of noisy, forgettable schlock? Let Michael Bay have that epitaph.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

New Dead Men Walking blog entry

Just posted a new installment of the Dead Men Walking blog. It's a fucking tease. I'm sorry. I'll have actual information soon.

Why I've been too busy to post...

It's been a long couple of weeks. As usual. Most of the past few days have been spent editing the relaunch issue of Sirens of Cinema--which entails hunting down writers who were just dying to contribute, then vanished soon after pitching, hounding folks for pictures and generally wrestling with multiple programs just to beat the stuff that I had into some sort of order. I knew it was going to be hard work, so at least none of the above came as any sort of surprise. Still, I always believed that Sirens could be something great. I think we may be on the verge of that now. Our new issue should hit the stands in September.
Our very first Genghis Con ad runs in the new Videoscope magazine, hitting the stands soon. It was a little weird to see it in there. There's no escaping this show now. It's in print! We have to put it on!
I have a couple of pieces running up on Film Threat right now. First and foremost is the next installment of my Land of the Dead Premiere coverage. I'm really proud of this piece. It might be my Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas... or, at least my Thin Thighs in 30 Days.
There's also my interview with David Latt, whose version of War of the Worlds either just hit the shelves or is about to. It's really good. A terrific adaptation of the novel. You will believe that C. Thomas Howell can fly... or at least act.
My review of Death Defying Acts is running too. You can read about Debbie Rochon's adventures trying to sell this movie at Cannes in the new Videoscope too. (See how it all comes together? Call me a hack, will ya?)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Observing my life from a safe distance

I've said it before: I lead an odd life.

I started the day at 5am, finishing up an article about my adventures with Cameron Romero and his company, hobnobbing at the Pittsburgh Premiere of Land of the Dead with Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Greg Nicotero.

From there I went and spent a couple of hours at the Post Office, doing my time as the fill-in janitor while the full-time guy is on vacation.

I came back about 9, sat down and began editing the relaunch issue of Sirens of Cinema magazine, laying out my interview with Amber Benson and giving the once-over to pieces on Amy, Debbie Rochon and Brinke Stevens.

About 2 pm, I had to call it quits so I could make my second shift as postal janitor.

Around 5, I stopped at the stables to feed our horses. I didn't see another living soul until Amy came home about 6:30.

Came home, found our dogs lying in the grass on the front yard. I put them back in their fenced-in run, found the hole they'd dug under the fence, filled it in with a cinder block I found lying under the porch. I surveyed the weeds and vowed to call around to our neighbors this weekend to see if I could borrow a few sheep.

Went inside. Returned email from various indie producers and collected more pictures for the issue and my next Film Threat article.

Right now, it's so quiet, it would be almost unnerving if I wasn't so used to it. I haven't heard a car go by in almost an hour.

I knew I wasn't a city person; I'm still not sure if I'm a country person. But looking back at how I spend my average day, I can't get over how weird it is being famous and unknown at the same time.

Anyway... here's a new Severe Injuries review from Kevin Smith's Askew Reviews site.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Quick update

There is more coming soon, but I wanted to make everyone aware that I started a new blog dedicated to the movie I wrote for The Asylum, Dead Men Walking, which goes into production next week.

Check out this new blog here.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Brief snippets from the Premiere...

There will be more, but I'm fighting a number of weird panic attacks today, no doubt brought on by exhaustion from the past few days...

After Amy and I put in so much time at the CamOp offices, I think Cameron knew he wouldn't have made it home alive if we hadn't at least gotten to MEET Quentin Tarantino... Hey, I broke the goddamned story, I deserved at least a handshake. Thanks to a number of weird little "fires", I didn't get an introduction, so I introduced myself to the man who influenced our current generation of artists.

I told him we were putting together a gift basket of "Pittsburgh-made" movies (mostly ours, Project: Valkyrie, Low Budget Pictures' Mulva 2 -- I HAD to, come on!!, so what if it was made in Buffalo) and he said, "Dude, that's the coolest thing anyone's offered me all night. I can't wait!" Which made me feel good.

The second coolest thing: when I met Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, I gave them my cards, with a third one for Nick Frost. Simon said, "Oh, YOU'RE the Mike Watt people were telling me about. Nick's gonna put this on his desk!"

Because, apparently, Nick Frost played "Mike Watt" in their Spaced show in the UK. So the fact that I had a ready-made in helped break the ice. They were really nice guys. They got a gift-basket too. We didn't do one for Rodriguez. I didn't have any more discs, I didn't know he was coming until the last minute, and I doubt he'd give a shit one way or another.

I gave Savini a hug after the screening for his turn as "Machete Zombie", which I believe he did to get up the nose of Leonard Lies from Dawn of the Dead (who plays "Machete Head Zombie")... Tom looked like I'd handed him a live rat and would probably have preferred that.

Before we went in, Nicotero said to us, "I really want to know what you guys think of my work on this. I'm actually nervous."

"Oh, yeah, I heard you really laid down on the job, man. No effort whatsoever..."

"No, man, seriously, we went all out--"

"Greg, come on, I was kidding."

"Told you I was nervous."

Afterwards I shook his hand. "What did you think? Really?"

"Greg, you already had my admiration. You don't need compliments from me. Who the hell am I?"

"Someone whose opinion I want, dammit!"

...Those were my highlights. Oh, and when Amy and I, separately, met Michael Jordan and both said, "Hey, you were in Space Jam!"

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

New Clothes

This morning, I made another ever-dangerous pass at mowing our front yard with our riding mower (aka "The Mangler vs. Children of the Corn"). Since my back injury in May (not related to "The Great Crash of Early Last Month", but adding to the suffering), I haven't been able to keep up with it the way it needs it (blood sacrifice, moonlight curses, binding pentagrams burned into it with napalm), and as a result, small families of pygmies have moved into the denser growths closer to the woods.

Because it is so thick, I can't even get close to the actual wooded part, and I'm going to have to get a neighbor down with one of their industrial machines to recarve the path that goes around our property. I own 30 acres but can only traverse fifteen feet. The rest is jungle.

I got best results this morning by driving to the top of the front hill, releasing the clutch and letting gravity bring the mower down in a less-than-graceful arc, braking just before I leap the cliff and hit the paved road beyond. This helped prevent the mower from stalling and kept me from further straining my injuries through such strenuous activies as steering. Now I have a deep and roiling sea of mulched cuttings to deal with.

And, of course, as I was doing this, I was thinking about my recent shopping excursions.

With the Land of the Dead premiere tomorrow, Amy and I decided to splurge just a little and update our waredrobes. She only ever buys clothes for conventions these days. I only get new clothes when someone in the family dies. Or I see a t-shirt I like at the aforementioned conventions. As a result, I still wear things I wore religiously in college.

So I was bound and determined to buy a new dress shirt and a new pair of pants. Hell, I might even buy two dress shirts.

Now, having finally accomplished these tasks, I am left to wonder why the hell women enjoy shopping so much.

For one thing, two dress shirts and a new pair of slacks set me back $70.

For the second, the two shirts I bought, when I got home, were magically transformed into "things I actually did not want, nor, I'm certain, did I buy". Actually, the correct "for the second" was the actual buying process.

To purchase these shirts, I had to venture into department stores usually reserved for cutting through on my way from the parking lot to Suncoast. Department stores that are vast mazes of ugly clothing and uglier people, who would be indistinguishable from the multitude of manniquins if not for the rippling texture of their skin. Normally, the amount of time I spend in stores such as these are proportionate to the ease at which I find the doors opening into the mall proper. In short: very little at all.

But I was forced, in the name of "updating my waredrobe", to venture into the depths of these consumer hearts of darkness in search of a pair of coverings that cannot be found at Wal-Mart. To get to them, I had to frequently dodge the hunchbacked elderly who cluster like molecules around random fabrics alledging to be "housecoats", keeping the grandma haute couture alive for future generations (or rather, future past generations).

I had to travel deep, fighting my way through a gauntlet of parfum-iers, who alternately spritz you with toxic clouds of fragrance or try to lance your jugular with little scented razor-edged wedges of cardboard.

And finally, upon reaching the ludicrously-titled "Men's Section", had to dive deep into the dregs of so-called fashion to find a mere two shirts that my body will not reject like a tainted liver.

Racks upon endless racks of hideous and over-priced jackets, pants, and ties enscribed with seizure-enducing patterns. It was there, this very weekend, that I learned that 70s porno-collars were back in style, with horizon-line points and a width equal to a wedge of the finest Pepperidge Farm cheese. I also learned that the salespeople that work there do not necessarily shop there.

And there are clothes out there made from fabrics that are not found in nature and are not, I believe, actually created by man, either. And these fabrics have names like "Sateen". I never once wanted to own anything made of "Sateen", but I had to admit, I liked the look.

Finding two shirts in the same style, of the same cloth, in the exact size I took, was a task worthy of Heracles. One that I promptly failed at, as I discovered upon returning home. Somehow, on my way back from these textile torture gardens, my "Sateen" shirts had undergone a transmogrification: one grew a full size too large and the other evolved into a cloth wholly unlike the "Sateen" tag that it boasted. This non-"Sateen" cloth could be used to cut diamonds. The too-large genuine "Sateen" shirt could be used to house a family of four.

I discovered this, of course, after I had finally disassembled the shirts from their packages, removing countless pins, folds, tags and bits of cardboard and plastic that held them together in a dense and symetrical origami that made them resemble doorstops rather than actual dress shirts. This ordeal took roughly three hours and a team of four strong men.

And I was stricken with the Lovecraftian horror of having to journey back to the store to exchange them.

Which I did.

But this time, a salesman was eager to help me. Very eager. Not only did he grow up out of the floorboards behind me, fluttering around to assist in my plight, but I think he wet himself during the transaction.

He measured me, to get the exact fit of shirt required. Back and front. Including the inseam.

And then he dove into the myriad racks of what were, to my eye, identical shirts arranged in identical configurations separated only by their prices and the logos of their incestuous creators: "Geoffrey Beane" on one side "Calvin Klein" on the other. House payment on one side, car payment on the other.

The impeccable salesman was muttering as he went about painting the roses red -- "16 neck... 16 neck, oh dear... Not sure I have the black in "Sateen", but let's look, shall we? ... Yes, 32-34, perfect length if I ever saw one... Arrow-brand? How did this get here? I'll have to look into that little faux pas..."

And he was not speaking to me.

Finally, my shirts were located. The colors I wanted. The desired "Sateen". In my size. Obviously, the man was an expert.

The dreaded "return" part of the transaction arrived, and I sat in dread as he sifted through the tags rescued from the trash; I watched, perspiration dripping, as he sorted the individual bags, and scanned my receipt. I was certain that the entire event would be rejected at the last by my omission of some vital piece of cardboard found beneath the collar at the back.

But it went through. And I walked out of that store a poorer man, but the proud owner of two shirts that would not only fit, but would somehow disguise the fact that I am more of a t-shirt-and-jeans kinda guy and that I can dress like this at will and comfortably.

The shirts are not comfortable. Nor are the pants. I look in the mirror and am reminded of the time I wore a suit to Horrorfind, in anticipation of a business meeting taking place that afternoon. A friend remarked, "Why all the trouble? Did you see how they" [meaning the producers I was meeting] "dress?"

"Yes," I replied, "but they're not trying to impress me."

So all the time I spent, growing up, rebelling against my parents world and their desires for me to wear a necktie to "look professional" are finally bearing down upon me, worming into my conscious and sub-conscious like Ceti eels. I have become a "business-casual" man.

And I don't like it one bit.

Monday, June 20, 2005

New article up and running

Last week, over on The Horror Channel forums, I found myself in the middle of a ridiculous flame war over another indie slasher movie. During the course of that argument, the filmmaker himself discounted my opinions because I was a mere "videomaker". This week, my opinions are being discounted because I not only didn't like this particular movie, I don't like Kubrick's The Shining either.

Apparently, in order to be a "legitimate" filmmaker, you must never have shot on video (although, that's where this particular filmmaker started) and you must like everything everyone else likes. Or something like that. Horror fans are really weird and touchy. I should know, being a horror fan myself (or a pathetic, lame, b-movie fanboy with talentless friends, according to this filmmaker's rabid fanbase...).

But, anyway, it was my own fault for expressing my opinions in a public forum (and, in the case of The Shining, being paid to write an article in which I express my opinions publically). In any event, far from being at odds with this other guy, I wish him the very best of luck with his projects in the future. Filmmaking is something he believes in, and as a result, believes in himself. Whether I like his movie or not should be of no consequence to him, and I applaud anyone who actually finishes something in this ludicrous business, film, video, or cave painting.

To that end, I offer this: Film Vs. Video: Another Timeless Argument, which just posted on today. This pretty much sums up how I feel about the format elitism.

And with that, I intend to avoid message boards for as long as I can. I give myself a week...

Friday, June 17, 2005

The "Indie Horror" Algonquin Round Table... for lack of a much-needed better term...

Back in 2002, my good friend Bill Hahner came down to our place to shoot his scenes as Lilith Stabs' character's boyfriend, "Steve" for Severe Injuries. At one point, Bill is on his hands and knees, in his boxers, wearing a top hat, and providing Lilith an ottoman for her ridiculously-high-heeled boots.

He turns to Amy and I and says, "How do you do it?"


"How do you constantly get your friends to travel and be in these bizarre movies?"

I looked at Lilith. "Yeah," she said.

I shrugged. "You tell me," I said. "You're the ones who traveled."

They didn't have an answer, obviously, and we continued with the shoot.

I was reminded of the scene in Burton's Ed Wood, where Bill Murray's "Bunny Breckenridge" asked Depp's "Wood" the same question. "How do you get all your friends to get baptized so you can make a monster movie?"

There is no answer to the question. I have no friggin' idea. For some reason, we have this tightly-knit (if not tightly-wound) group of people who will constantly come through for us, regardless of whatever bizarre thing we come up with. They're there for movies, for conventions (both going-to or actually holding ... *ahem* Genghis Con...), photo shoots, etc. Bill, Lilith, Tim Gross, Charlie Fleming, Francis Veltri, Jasi Lanier, Debbie Rochon, Stacy Bartlebaugh-Gmys, Jim Steinhoff, Nic Pesante, Jeff Waltrowski... They've become part of the Happy Cloud Pictures family, for as far as that goes. They're all wonderful people, they're all ridiculously talented, and Amy, Bill Homan and I couldn't possibly be more grateful.

And, obviously, we're not alone in this craziness. Chris Seaver at Low Budget Pictures has put together an outstanding group of people he relies on for his insanity; the same goes for the Crazy Ralph crew, the Wicked Pixel family, the Gonzoriffic commune, the Tempe Productions company... in order to survive in this business, you need more than a company or a repetory, you need a family. In the truest sense of the word. Folks who will watch out for you, stick up for you, and do whatever you need in order to make your dreams happen. And thereby making your dreams their dreams.

I get cynical about this business because it is so ruthless. Often, you're up against people for whom their success is not enough, they need your failure as well. Or you're up against the decision-makers who screw you in the time-honored tradition of "it's just business".

But I'm often very optimistic, too, because I really do believe that good things do happen to good people. Maybe not all the time (okay, definitely not all the time), but luck or Karma or balance or whatever, it's all cyclical. Life isn't always filled with shit, just as is it isn't always filled with parades. To succeed in this business, making art or "art", you have to be smart, strong, and tenacious. Talented helps too, but--and Jennifer Lopez thanks the her Lord for this fact every day--it's not a requirement.

On one message board or other, someone asked if there really is an indie film community. And this question pops up every now and then, and the way I answer it depends on my mood. It's easy to say "no" and dismiss the very notion of community, but then again, that "no" is becoming more and more difficult to assert with any kind of assurance any more. Happy Cloud Pictures didn't get to where it is today (wherever that may be) by existing in a vaccuum. We have very loyal fans, and we have, as I've pointed out, an outstanding support base of friends and family.

Does that mean that years down the line, TV movies will be made about the DV Algonquin Round Table that meets up at Chiller twice a year, with Seth Green playing me and Alexis Bledel playing Amy (or whoever)? Probably not.

Do I think that we're all contributing to an exponentially-increasing body of work called "independent horror" that is slowly making its way, unsuspectingly or otherwise, into the lives of those not only seeking it out, but those also stumbling into its path now and then?


I think that very many of us are making an immeasurably valuable contribution to the medium and those ripples through our culture will be noticed eventually. "Independent horror" is more than a niche-cult any more. I think, in a lot of ways, it's become an artistic movement, for better or for worse (with both ends of the spectrum adequately on display at any given time). Perhaps its influence will only be noted on the same lines as the "drive in" movies were -- the best of the exploitation films that continue to be popular today. I don't think we've reached the broadest area of our target audience yet. But I do believe that they'll find us eventually.

"Independent horror" is a rich, multi-faceted, ever-evolving thing. There's room for all of us. And I think it's exciting. The good and the bad and the mediocre. Every movie ever made is somebody's favorite movie. (Just as the following is true, appropos of nothing: "everybody is somebody's hero"... chew on that the next time you start feeling down about the state of things...)

I don't think we've even begun to hit our stride yet. If you consider that this current wave of indie filmmaking started in the very early '80s, when the VHS home-video camera boom coincided with the first of the video rental chains. There is still a great demand for product from an even bigger variety of outlets. I think this demand will continue to grow in voraciousness, just as the outlets will continue to evolve (internet, on-demand, DVD culture, etc). And for the best of us, who continue to hone our skills and grow as artists and storytellers, I really do believe that the best of our efforts will be rewarded in time.

And it's not just that I have to believe that to continue to survive emotionally in this business. I look at what my friends and peers are making, the good and the bad, and I love what I see on the base level: creativity unleashed.