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.