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.

No comments: