Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Feast of Flesh news

The movie formerly-known as Abattoir, now completely and from henceforth forever known as A Feast of Flesh, was officially announced by Fangoria last week. Read all about it by clicking this link. Camp Motion Pictures' Blood Earth Films label is putting this out November 6.

As you can imagine, this is pretty exciting news for us. It'll be our first official release since Severe Injuries and seeing it about to go world-wide is just boggling the mind right now.

While I'm not sure at the moment who created the promo art, I can say that the photo was taken by David Cooper, who is also the chiarascuro master who took my icon photo and is the D.P. on Professor Jack and the Electric Club (below).

We'll give you more news as we get it. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


The Splatter Movie odyssey continues to continue. This past weekend seemed oddly relaxed, perhaps due to the fact that we were all aware that it was our last big weekend. This shoot’s guest star was Tom Sullivan, effects wizard of The Evil Dead and co-star of The Absence of Light. Like Debbie Rochon weeks ago, Tom plays himself in Splatter Movie, so it wasn’t a stretch for him to get into character. He and his nephew, Sean, came in Thursday night, allowing for an easy, leisurely shoot on Friday.

Saturday, as we wrapped Tom’s scenes, we completed a crucial sequence with a Steadicam, thanks to Patrick Desmond. He and Rich Conant of New Illusions Studios came down to help out, making the trek from Ohio to lend a hand. In this sequence, Stacy Bartlebaugh-Gmys, our star from Abattoir, gets hung up a few feet in the air by one leg wrapped in barbed wire. To her credit, she never complained nor batted an eye when six large men lifted her from her ladder perch and helped her into position. Granted, she was more afraid of the ladder, but that’s beside the point.

Sunday consisted of a tricky decapitation attempted with only digital removal. Half the shots in the sequence had to be shot with multiple layers, to be combined later in Photoshop and After Effects. If it worked as well in practice as it did on paper, it should be a fairly sweet – if extremely bizarre – sequence.

Just before that, however, through a series of fortuitous events, we sweet-talked our way into using a cherry picker and got an awesome aerial shot for the opening of the film. Despite my abject hatred of heights, I found myself leaping into the bucket of the crane, belting in and shooting the shot from 60 feet in the air. Two keys: never taking my eye from the camera eye piece and never, at any point, actually thinking about what I was doing. Neither DP Jeff Waltrowski nor Amy could look at me while I was up there and not just because they were in the shot below. They were certain that the second they glanced in my direction, I’d spill from the bucket, the crane would fail and slam me into the ground, I’d drop the camera… None of those catastrophes actually happened and, eventually, I was returned to Earth. It’s not an experience I’d care to duplicate but the shot turned out sweet.

One thing I’d like to bring up for the education of other indie filmmakers out there: when Amy and I arrived at the site on Sunday, we discovered that all of the power was out. Saturday, the Department of Public Works was installing new telephone poles and making a god-awful amount of noise, but they didn’t disrupt the power. Sunday, they were still installing and, at this point, were disrupting power. Fighting down the panic of having to cancel the indoor shooting (already made complicated by the ongoing construction going on at the Hundred Acres Manor), we were just about to go up to the workers and ask if power would be restored when a woman in a little sports car drove up, leapt out and started screaming at the guys working. We couldn’t make out what she was saying, but there was much arm waving and hysterical body language. After a minute, she stomped back to her car, slammed the door, gunned the engine and peeled out of the parking lot. This presented a terrific opportunity for us to not do that. Instead, we brought the guys doughnuts and water, talked about the weather and asked how things were going. The foreman volunteered the fact that the power would be on in a few minutes and to let them know if their noise interrupted shooting.

The morale of this story: don’t be a dick. Most people are generally interested in being helpful. If there’s a result you’re looking for, and the people before you are the most likely candidates of helping you achieve that result, not screaming at them tends to make all the difference. The second morale: be on the lookout for dicks and try to time your non-dickhead approach to directly follow their inappropriate behavior. There’s no better opportunity than looking good in comparison to someone worse. With so many assholes in the world, with so many terrible filmmakers/athletes/etc., sometimes showing up and not being horrible is all the effort needed. Not taking part in the World’s Biggest Cocksucker Competition, an on-going reality show, is usually the smartest move.

Anyway, we’re in the home stretch on the film now. For all intents and purposes, we’re about three days away from completion, and we’re not even talking three full days. One day of scene and two half-days of pick-ups. Then we’ll have a finished film. One that some people will be completely unable to make head or tail of, one that many others will find both satisfying and pretentious at the same time, but ultimately, one that people will look at and say “Only Happy Cloud Pictures would have done this movie.” (“Would”, not could. The distinction is considerable.)

So make sure to keep checking both the Splatter Movie Myspace and the Amy Lee Parker Tesseract Myspace. Fun stuff is coming all the time.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tippi Hedren is loose in the ducts!

Two weeks ago, Amy and I took a break from killing ourselves on the Splatter Movieset and turned towards killing ourselves to get to New Jersey in time for the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors.

Like the Chicago show, the Jersey Fango is a great time and a terrific opportunity to network and catch up with friends. Unlike the Chicago show, we don't make a lot of money and the crowds are a lot thinner. Theories abound to explain this. The best one seems to be that the fifteen Monster Manias held throughout the year and the two Chillers draw attendance away from Fango. It's not like the golden days of the early 2000's when people had money. Gas tanks must be fed and at a higher price! Otherwise, the Eldritch God Dick Cheney will awaken, rise from his subsea slumber lair and shoot us all in the face.

Anyway, we like the show, profits be damned. So, Friday morning, we drove our six-plus hours to Secaucus, arriving around 11:00 in plenty of time to set up and relax before the 2:00 early-bird entrance time. Except the second we stepped through the door, we heard from line-dwellering friends (I'll Bury You Tomorrow's Alan Rowe Kelly and Art and Alana from Ultra Violent Magazine) that Creation Entertainment, the company in charge, will be opening the doors at noon to accomodate the demand. Our three-hour window vanished before our eyes.

Check in, rush upstairs, change clothes, sponge off the road dust, rush downstairs, find the registration, find our table - hi, hi, hey, good to see you, what's happening? what the fuck did you do to your hair? Tony Timpone? Passed him in the lobby. Good to see you. Not that way, I hate that guy. Hi, just a sec, be right back.

Our table was actually in a really good spot. We were in a corner, at the rear of the room, against a wall, between a loading door, an indie company promoting a movie called Closet Space (I believe... it's been two weeks and I'm old, sue me!) and our best friends at Pop Cinema (including the incomparable Paige K. Davis, filmmaker and organ grinder monkey Henrique Couto, and my good friend of nearly 15 years, Justin (Skin Crawl) Wingenfeld). Which was just awesome.

Then, as we began setting up, we heard a terrible scratching, screeching noise. At first, we thought someone had on some sort of odd sound effects record and put on the "Birds" track. A small rain of debris fell next to us and we looked up - there was a bird's nest just inside the drop-panel ceiling, under the sprinkler. There were holes in the wall between our room and the parking lot (the whole hotel was a disaster, incidentally - crumbling ceilings and walls, stains throughout) and the birds found this just lovely. Beneath the sprinkler, on the floor behind our table, a collection of twigs, dust and powdered bird shit had accumulated.

At first, this was funny. I mean, at most shows that are NOT Cinema Wasteland, we're used to being shit on figuratively. Now we were being shit on literally. We shook our heads, hung our posters, displayed our new issues of Sirens of Cinema (on sale now wherever Sirens of Cinema is sold!), and sucked it up. The nice thing about Creation Entertainment-run shows is that the head of security, Tammy, has become a great friend of ours over the years. She's awesome. She saw the bird shit. She went ballistic. "Tell the hotel, right now, to clean this up. This is a health hazard."

Oh, yeah. Bird shit isn't healthy to breathe or be around. Yeah, the little winged rats are cute, but they're teaming with mites, fleas, all sorts of unpleasantries. And these bastards were also loud.

So I politely (yes, politely - I can be polite! Go fuck yourself!) asked the nice something-Americans behind the hotel desk to send maintenance to vacuum up the pile of disease we were sharing space with.

Sometime Saturday afternoon, after two more requests and a mention of "health code violation", a two-man team of custodians arrived with a push broom and a dust pan. Away went the now-large pile of bird debris into the garbage - a receptacle located exactly four feet away on the other side of our table.

By this time, we'd hung a sign on the wall that said "Yes, there is a bird's nest in the ceiling", having grown tired of answering the question "is someone playing a sound effects record back there or are those real birds?" The avian shrieking wasn't helping our sales, that's for sure. Every now and then, the squawking would get so loud, I'd bang on the ceiling with a poster roll, yelling at them to shut up and feeling like the grumpy old guy downstairs. It usually resulted in silence for ten to thirteen seconds. Then they'd start up again. Every third time I tried it, I'd bump one of the panels and get a face-full of nest as a reward. That was fun.

In between the bird-battles, we got the chance to catch up with fine folks like Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, star of Argento's eagerly-awaited The Third Mother, who contributed to the new issue of Sirens; Scooter McCrae, master of weird horror like 16 Tongues and my underpaid composer; Tabitha and Mom Sharon, who run Corpses by the Bunch, who had their own woes to deal with; Anthony and Karen from East Coast Kitty. I met Stan Winston for a moment. He signed my Pumpkinhead DVD (for f/x wizard Eric Molinaris' birthday) and shook my hand before I was punched out of line, Time Bandits-style, by his After Dark handlers. We had a nice evening's dinner on Friday with Debbie Rochon, mere hours before she had to fly to Italy. Intrepid Fango editor Michael Gingold swung by (and we joined his nibs, Scooter, and about a thousand other people from evil clown movie 100 Tears for dinner on Saturday - a nice, intimate affair). We showed folks the Professor Jack and the Electric Club trailer I'd cut. We thrilled folks with some sneak footage from Splatter Movie. We drank to kill the pain caused by the incessant squawking of ceiling-dwelling sparrows.

That afternoon, one of the customers passed out in the aisle and hit his head on a table. Amy went to help him up and he latched onto her arm, wouldn't let her go. He was disoriented, had been drinking, and didn't know his own name at first. About an hour later, the paramedics from the hospital across the street finally arrived. The man, Bob, couldn't tell anyone his address or even how much he'd had to drink. Another man, who first identified himself as Bob's "handler"--then "friend", then "neighbor", then "a guy who drives him to horror shows"--just wanted to take Bob home. Bob was dehydrated and his blood pressure was through the roof. The paramedics, with Amy's help, got him into a gurney and wheeled him out of the room - almost taking Amy with them, as Bob still wouldn't let go. These are the adventures of my own personal Wonder Woman.

Saturday night was spent with our friends from Digger Films, the French Canadian film crew. Steve, Dave, Hugo and their buddies P.H., Johnny, T-Bag and Nova (these are all nick-names, of course; French Canadians all have Klingon names unpronounceable by their U.S. neighbors). T-Bag, incidentally, was not this magnificent man's real nickname. He told me, in a very noisy bar, to call him "T-Man". I didn't hear "man". So he was amazed when I replied, "You really want me to call you that?"

It got even funnier, later, when I realized my mistake. Not that I corrected it. The hilarity increased when the others discovered what "tea-bagging" actually was. I convinced the others not to tell him until they were halfway home. He was a lot bigger than I am.

(Unfortunately, he was told the truth towards the end of the evening. Somewhere along the line, we'd picked up a guy from Rhode Island who insisted there were fifty-two states in the Union: Washington D.C. and "East Virginia". As a result, I referred to him as "52" for the rest of the night. I like giving nicknames. It's a source of power. It was, of course, 52 who broke the news to T-Bag, feeling sorry for the poor, lost Frenchie. The joke was on 52, though, because T-Bag thought that was just as hilarious as the rest of us did. So there, 52!)

Sunday, I was not hung over. Miraculously. I was tired and desperately wanted to go home, but that's normal Sunday fatigue. My table was still over-run by bird mess and they seemed even louder today. Tammy had finally run down someone from Creation to witness the tragedy. Majid, the talent co-ordinator, was outraged. He demanded that housekeeping do something. Tammy insisted that I get my hotel room comped. The hotel didn't want to do either of those things. My fear was they would kill the birds, but by wildlife laws, they're not permitted to even move the nest. Finally, the same two custodians showed up with a plastic bag and draped it over the sprinkler inside the ceiling to prevent further mess.

This pissed the birds off even further. They started moving to the exposed hole in the wall, poking their beaks out and squawking at us with visible outrage. So, great, we go from lung disease to tetanus shots from beak-punctures. Yay.

I was very grumpy at this point. Irrationally, I was thinking this was a respect issue. That they'd stuck us in the corner intentionally - ha ha, wouldn't it be great if Mike and Amy got shit on all weekend? I knew this wasn't true, of course, but when you get into a pissy mind-loop, it's difficult to free yourself from it. While browsing the Pop Cinema table, an actress I don't particularly get along with, but never had anything against, appeared beside me with a ratty-looking entourage. They started heckling Chainsaw Sally, the star and director of which happen to be, of course, really good friends of mine. The actress agreed and tossed the DVD aside with derision. I smiled at her and pointed to one of her movies. "You were really good in this, by the way," I said.

She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, thanks."

I pointed at another one. "And you really sucked in this."

Her jaw hit the table. I gave her a bigger smile and walked away.


Anyway...Majid, still outraged, took us up to see one of the heads of Creation to rectify the situation personally, even though it wasn't Creation's fault or responsibility. It was, however, Creation's show, so I thought a personal apology would be nice. With the show in full swing, though, including a couple hundred swooning middle-aged James Marsters fans, no one else from Creation could be spared. We did end up getting our hotel room comped. This vanished expense actually pushed us slightly into profit! So we spread the love and bought stuff from our vendor friends.

The highlight of Sunday was breakfast with Justin. He's my oldest "adult" friend. I've known him since 1991 and we've seen each other through some extreme highs and lows, got each other jobs, gigs, acted in each others' movies. Since he moved to New Jersey with his wife, Trinity, and Amy and I moved to the farthest reaches of PA, we don't see each other that much. Now he has a beautiful new baby (Reagan Poe), a slew of good reviews for his movie Skin Crawl, we have our company, farm, horses and dogs and cats - it's hard to find time to just sit and talk. Breakfast was cold and late but the company couldn't have been better.

The drive home, as usual, was long and painful and seemed to take forever. Sundays, regardless of the show, always suck. It's filled with goodbyes and packing and exhaustion. Sundays should be banned from conventions, as a rule.

Still, I can't say that we weren't treated really well, particularly by Majid, Tammy and her daughter Amber, and their compatriot Chris. Fangoria always hosts a good show, regardless of the turn-out, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't looking forward to next year, regardless of the wildlife. I'll just bring an umbrella next time. And possibly all of the cats.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

So very tired...

Is it appropriate that "Once in a Lifetime" is playing as I write this? "Letting the days go by / Water flowing underground..." I'm staring at the daunting task of recapping the last three weeks of my life when all I really want to do is go back to bed.

As all right-thinking people who read this blog know, we're in the midst of shooting our new production, Splatter Movie: The Director's Cut, yet another odyssey-sized epic attempt at selling out and failing miserably, judging from the gorgeous footage rife with subtext. All the folks at the Hundred Acres Manor - Ted, Tom, Damon, Ethan, Brandon - have been stellar, upstanding folk who are virtually bending over backwards to accomodate us, even when it puts a crimp in their own busy schedules.

The weather, however, hasn't been as friendly. Last weekend, in particular, it hit about 90 degrees. The Manor, for all of its courtesies, isn't air conditioned - nor does it need to be in October, when it's open to the public - so it's difficult to get air flowing through some of the narrow hallways and the crowded make-up room.

Still, that gripe aside, the shoot has been nothing if not interesting. First, kudos and a big shout-out to our make-up team recruited by Eric Molinaris: Jimmy, Brandon, Scott, Steve, Luke, Collin - you guys are awesome. Lorena, our lead glamour make-up, is also particularly awesome. Special thanks to our other folks: Mike H., Carolyn, Jeff, Matt G., Aaron, Nikki, Nic, Catherine, Jon and our PAs, Jordan and Dan. And if I forgot anyone, trust me, I have more thanks to go around. I'm a very thankful guy.

This last shoot revolved around Tiffany Warren Yarborough and Sofiya Smirnova. Sofiya came in from Chicago to play herself playing herself. She's basically the "survivor girl" of Tesseract, the movie-within-the-movie. In Tesseract, she also plays an actress making the movie-within-the-movie-within-the-movie, which is called Splatter Movie. So she had a lot of screaming to do. Because we are the folks we are, we doused her with stage blood just prior to her screaming. It made the scream real. Sofiya also got the opportunity to beat on our Grendel character with a latex baseball bat. Which was not fun for the actor playing Grendel. Not fun at all. He still has bruises. Weep for him.

Tiffany is playing an actress named Brenda. If you've been in the business for more than eight minutes, or have gone to any horror convention, you've encountered a person like Brenda. She's the "gonna take the horror industry by storm, you ain't seen no one like me!" type o'gal. She backs this statement up with the false confidence that only comes in a bottle. Since Tiffany is the exact opposite of this type of bravado display rack, she had some work to do creating the bitchy, slutty, annoying actress. But she did so beautifully.

So those were good things.

Not good things: aside from the weather, we had our very first - and I mean very first no-show in ten years of filmmaking. For some reason, we had a hard time filling an admittedly thankless role of a second obnoxious actress to play off of Tiffany's Brenda. Our first choice dropped off the face of the Earth. Our second was asked incorrectly by an associate (both of them have since forgiven us). Finally, we turned to a blind recommendation - something we are always hesitant to do. We didn't know the actress in question, so that was a wild card, but she was suggested by a very good friend of ours, and that lowered the risk in our minds. This new actress answered email promptly, was good at communicating, did not sound like a drooling idiot on the phone, asked questions about the character. In short, she was doing everything right.

Friday night, she called Amy to double-check call times. We confirmed we'd reimburse her travel.

Saturday, she was due to arrive at 10:30. By 11:00, we figured "traffic". We weren't ready for her yet anyway, so no big deal.

By 1:00pm, she still wasn't answering her phone. We knew she was not going to be playing with us. And, for some reason, I wasn't bothered by this. We asked the crew for recommendations, got a couple more, but it was Nic who came through. A good friend of his - who co-starred with Amy in (don't laugh) Marty Jenkins and the Vampire Bitches - Ashley, didn't live too far away and was ready to jump in. She showed up just at the point when we were ready to start the scene, looked over her lines, dove right in. (And when you see the scene, you'll understand why I used the word "dove") Amy took all of this in stride as well and just adjusted her directorial skills appropriately. That isn't to say that threats of corporal punishment were not leveled... All the good directors use that as leverage though. So we're told.

Now, again, this should have driven us into a wave of panic, but we were truthfully too busy and way too fucking hot to really worry about it. Tiff was staying with us for the week. We knew we could recast during the interim if it came down to it. It wasn't a big deal. It could have been a big deal, however, given different circumstances. But we had things under control. I guess it helps to work under the worst possible conditions for a decade.

But, again, we've lost locations, we've been escorted from premises, we've had to reshoot 40% of already-shot footage when lead actresses move to Greece, we've been through re-writes, retitling, late-comers, heat stroke, missed opportunities, lost investors and post-poned projects, but we've never had a no-show. Now, things come up. Problems arise. Personal shit always rears its ugly head at the worst possible moment. When it happens, you call. You don't email someone thinking they'll get it eventually. We're understanding folk. Be honest with us.

Still, it worked out for the best, so there's no reason to bitch, is there?

I spent the bulk of yesterday fighting with my Mac and my deck but ultimately captured the four hours of footage shot (roughly an hour on four tapes, three cameras - we're not that good) and the majority is gorgeous, thanks to Jeff Waltrowski's lighting and all of his, Jon's and (particular shout out) Aaron Bernard's fancy camera work.

So we have three days until we have to return. The heat, as I mentioned, is supposed to break to a nice, comfortable 75, which will be a nice temperature in which to torment Rachelle Williams and Elske McCain. Then it's a weekend with Tom Sullivan. Then, we should have the majority of the film complete. Save pick-ups and reshoots, hopefully minor. I'll keep everyone posted.

Back to work. Miles to go before I sleep. And I should probably eat something today.