the internally displaced

ChrisCrushed2It starts innocently enough; we are not all born the same. The world that greets us, however, is. It is one that has always fought to retain its shape. If you fail to fight your way into its established borders, it will, by design, edit you out.

The matter then becomes what to do about the scraps on the cutting room floor.

The story of every. drop. counts. involves itself, centrally, with two very different “scraps”. One, a young woman, a victim of violence, struggles to put one foot in front of the other. The other, a man of mature age, struggles to reconcile his success with his past.  Both find themselves displaced from their natural environment into one sustained by a population of similarly displaced that offers, in theory, a refuge. But it is one that they cannot accept. It might be said that they are “internally displaced”: refugees that cannot flee. It is not a survivable place to be for long.

Through means that appear supernatural, our main characters unite. Nature, come to find, known or unknown, in creating or editing mode, never takes a moment off. It is by its own design seeking to combine elements to generate energy, and it is that dark, volatile energy that fuels their relationship.

But something has to give. Our scraps must find their way back in or be swept away. And that is our real story. How they do it is the plot. And in every plot there are conflicts, only these conflicts come from within, like so many that go unseen around us. We find ourselves surprised when someone chooses to take their own life, as if living is our divine right. It is not. It is preciously and precariously balanced. How successfully we are able to negotiate that balance is often determined the moment we are born, before we’re even aware we’re in a fight.

There is an exploration of the displacement similarities between suicide and genocide woven into the fabric of the series. Both involve the strange, proto-Darwinian psychology of guilt gone awry, where one commits an act to survive that their conscience cannot accept. The resultant torment is exacerbated within a psychopathic social construct stuck in edit mode, characterized by an institutionalized primitivism where it becomes essential to destroy in order to thrive. And to thrive, we seek power. Often within this construct, what is perceived as an appropriation of power is simply an act of senseless violence, driven by a fundamental fear of powerlessness. In simple terms, in a society that institutionally promotes violence to survive, acts that involve bullying, sexual aggression, and on a larger scale, ethnic cleansing can be seen as natural. If every. drop. counts. is a horror story, it is within these parameters that it is.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and Episode 8 on Friday, September 26th, is dedicated to raising awareness about what we see as a horrible and senseless consequence to a flawed system of humanity. If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression – and we encourage you to learn about the symptoms – we ask that you reach out. Use whatever means you can to lend support or seek support for yourself. No soul should be a victim of violence, institutional or otherwise.

No soul should become a scrap on the floor.

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killer serial

killer serial picThe evolution of the once titled HorrorCon continues to hold steadfastly to the creative tradition of sudden change. When it’s not lingering in tortuous limbo, it’s making my head spin. I’m one who believes that anything worthwhile happens in a “red-hot minute”, before you’ve had a chance to knead it into a shapeless mess; when lightning has at last touched down, flashing a brilliant and undeniable truth.

That said, lightning rarely comes from nothing. It’s the electrifying result of much stewing and brewing that often takes the form of an ominous dark cloud slowly coming this way. Conditions for the production of a fiery spear have to be ideal, but when they are, a force erupts with certain speed that leaves an indelible mark.

What the hell am I talking about? Patience, sparky, I’m getting there.

In a previous post I described how the film was going to be cut into three episodes – an unholy trifecta, if you will – and released over the course of a weekend as a big-budget indie web series pilot that, depending on viewer reaction, would see shorter, future episodes produced in an effort to continue the story. I believe I also mentioned that the novella upon which the film was based came about during a time when I was watching a lot of HBO series like The Sopranos, Deadwood and Six Feet Under. Of course, series have always been popular, but never more than in recent times. We now thank streaming services like Netflix for new families to join, fall in love with, and watch hopelessly fall apart. A series strings you along, fully aware of its intentions but never sharing them. Still, we know what we’re in for, and we can’t seem to get enough. And since they’re piped into our living rooms and laptops, we don’t really think they’re meant for anyone else. They become a coveted second life. It’s kind of fucked up when you think about it.

And I have. A lot. In fact, most recently, I began toying with the idea of breaking the film into a full season, or exactly thirteen episodes. So my editor and I started doing just that, and come to find, it divvies up perfectly. Not just “serviceably”, not simply “well”, but ideally. Go figure, eh? I wasn’t even watching films when I wrote the damn thing, yet I set out to make one. In my defense, at the time Netflix didn’t really exist, nor did the very concept of a web series, so I may have felt I had no choice. I do now, and I’m very glad I waited.

Back to things moving at lightning speed. This coming Tuesday, August 5th, will be our first “Teaser Tuesday”. On that day, we will be releasing a link to a production stills preview via Facebook and Twitter that will provide interesting anecdotes and trivia regarding the many challenges faced behind the scenes and on our public sets. This will precede the premiere episode airing the following Friday, August 8th, and both will be broadcast on our Yellow Horse Productions Vimeo page. From then on, each subsequent Tuesday and Friday will follow suit until the final episode on Halloween. That’s going to be a special presentation, as it will also include a teaser scene for episodes to come.

Also, after the finale, we’ll be running deleted scenes and clips and perhaps some interviews with our cast and crew. Most importantly, we’ll be weighing interest against producing new episodes going forward. We’ll also be developing a DVD package for purchase that will piece the film back together in its original format and include some seriously cool swag. Hopefully, all will mark a great start to new adventures for Eliza and Co.

So, see you Tuesday. And remember…

edc

Posted in career news, Every Drop Counts: The Web Series | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

in reply to elektra luxx re: jack white

ELuxxI guess my love for Jack White started when I saw The White Stripes live. At the height of their uber-hipness, pushed past the point of over-exposure, I attended a concert at the Greek theater in Los Angeles. And I must say, to witness Jack and Meg play live, it’s almost impossible not to be on their side. This was some of the most focused, eccentric, contagious music being banged out as is nothing in the world mattered but each other onstage. After that, I’ve seen The Raconteurs a few times (I found them terrific) and The Dead Weather a couple times (confused by that one) and also Jack solo on tour with the dual male/female ensemble. On top of that, I saw him lead the band for the great Wanda Jackson (all 4 ft 7 of her, or whatever) in concert, where he was happy to fade into the background and let a legend shine. Impossible not to be won over. All around, I find him to be incredibly talented and willing to push himself (and I’m also a sucker for his graphic design color coded obsession and the fact the he is an upholsterer at heart). – Elektra Luxx

All fair comments, really. And I’ve had similar up-close-and-personal experiences with artists that have otherwise pushed me from a position of casual appreciation to mega-fan. I’ve also had the opposite experience, where a few perceived notions have pushed me into a dark corner about them and their work.

My corner with White came about this way:

I took notice of his project with Meg back when they began, and felt their sound added a much needed bright spot to the dull sheen of current radio playlists, and I believed his/their songwriting abilities stayed just about neck-and-neck with their gimmick. It was a clever trick, and his voice was fresh. However, I found that the fresh taste of the material wore away too quickly like a stick of dime store gum, where you find yourself chewing on the same piece of edible rubber for an hour until succumbing to a mild headache. Still, I had to appreciate their minimalist artful approach, and how far they came with so little. There was a real DIY vibe about them, as well, and they seemed to, as you say, shy away from the spotlight in favor of digging into doing what they truly believed.

Flash forward to the next couple of records, and the relentless beat went on. There were standouts like their cover of “Conquest”, a noisy affair that showed a refreshing sense of humor, a la our friend Mr. Beck. I sensed they weren’t taking themselves too seriously, even if Ms. Bridget Jones’ Diary was in the picture. And yes, he was channeling a peculiar outsider vibe that felt a cross between Depp’s Edward Scissorhands and Michael Jackson circa Bad. Not his fault, really, that he was showing up in all the tabloids, but he wasn’t exactly behaving as shy as he appeared, either.

The songs kept coming, in same or similar vein: stomping 2/4 beats, squealing guitars and vocals, repeating themselves in a fat white stripe of sound that held the needle at zero for the entire length of the track. There was a sense of “importance” to their insistence, like something big was happening that I still wasn’t getting. Yes, I had heard his hook, and I appreciated a newfound confidence on his instrument, but the gum, while bursting at first, was still getting stale too fast.

Soon, I felt the prolific nature of his career began to overshadow the depth and quality of his catalog. It seemed like he couldn’t stop, and perhaps no one dare ask him to. Hey, if you’re selling lots of downloads thanks to a huge crossover appeal generated from mainstream ubiquity, then why not wring out every last drop? I’m not so naive as to call anyone a “sell-out” – I can imagine how breezy it can feel on that fast track – but there is a danger where one begins to believe that what they’re doing is more important than it really is. I staved off my suspicions as long as I could, but then this happened.

To be clear, I do not intend to launch into a rant about old masters versus noobs, because times change and it’s pointless to measure one rock era against another without it becoming about one’s personal associations and individual tastes. And when I loaded up It Might Get Loud, I promised to keep an open mind, even if I did have a little trouble going along with the suggested equivalence of the chosen artists. Jimmy Page, The Edge and…Jack White? I once again dismissed my skepticism (I play guitar! I want to believe!) and settled into what I thought would be an illuminating discussion of blues theory, where it would become the focal point, not the respective careers of our trio.

And for the most part, I got that, along with White stomping away on the rickety old boards of one dusty, bluesy set after the next with both the fashion sense and outre lack of subtlety of a Magritte. I watched with fascination his fascination with vintage analog equipment, and, well, stomping, and struggled to work out where he was playing antique dealer and guitar rock trail blazer. And I confess to wincing a little when he explained to the two legends before him the ersatz genius behind, what was for all intents and confessed purposes, his super electrified nicks off one blues legend after another. I get that he’s preaching, but it almost wasn’t fair that he was there. In fact, I might have felt for him with no small amount of affection had he not appeared to take his fashionable rediscovery of the old blues greats so darned seriously. If Page’s style is the blues put through lager and a fag, and The Edge’s style is the blues filtered through Irish country folk, Jack’s is the blues put through the lens of a camera.

jack-white1So, to the Lazaretto video you posted, with Jack and his serious face standing proudly beside the hipstery label exec in his hipstery accoutrements discussing his new vinyl with a reverence normally reserved for a Japanese invention that will revolutionize the way we’ll come to think about some manner of distraction, I have to be honest when I say I actually thought it was a parody. The lock groove? The label grooves?? I was half-expecting them to tell us it was mastered to “11″. Now, I’m all for eccentricity and geeking out. I truly am. But the presentation here was so in keeping with a Jack White who I believe believes he is the new maverick of American rock music that I was left shaking my head. Forget that I didn’t find a single sample played of any interest whatsoever – again, possibly down to taste, and we’re talking mere seconds of information here – but I began to get images of retro-fabulous companies who will sell you tailored jeans made from the finest organic cotton distressed by the mastication of nearly-extinct cats and delivered to your door with a package of fresh ground coffee beans, all for four times the price-tag. The best I could say about it was, “hey, maybe he’s just another brilliant throw-back entrepreneur and I’m clearly out of touch”.

A lot to read, I know. But as I said before, I felt you deserved it. Not the fuck ton of eye-strain, mind, but a clear explanation. And before I go, I do want to say that I think fashion and style and a sophisticated eye for both lends a great deal of weight to any artistic endeavor. Such a discipline can lift a sagging melody or plot point, and in many cases, it is the point, and a not too fine one, at that. Unfortunately for me, I find Jack White’s expertly calculated career sharp in execution, but far too dull in substance. That said, I’m willing to continue to work on my opinion, with the added evidence that his execution is done with, as you pointed out, a genuine conviction.

Posted in Non-fiction | 2 Comments

every. drop. counts.

spam_can_openThere comes a time in every creative person’s life when they must put their work out there for everyone to see, and possibly kick around like an old can of Spam™. The often maligned spiced ham product is actually a decent metaphor for the work in question as it is certainly an improbable cocktail of disparate elements mashed together with a healthy dash of heat. And while the resulting taste may be an acquired one, once it’s “in the can”, all that’s left to do is find a way to get it on as many tables as possible.

Let’s get it out of the way: HorrorCon failed to land a spot in any of the twenty-plus festivals to which it was submitted. It did receive one piece of feedback from the New York City Horror Festival folks who said the director was “one to watch”, and there were some other consolatory words offered hither and thither, but the festival stage of the process was, in no uncertain terms, an absolute wash.

Now, before this post starts to sound like I’ve gathered you all here for a pity party, I want everyone to know about a few other truths that I believe are equally absolute:

HorrorCon was designed to challenge audiences.
Failure is necessary for success.
Oswald acted alone.
Wine before beer; never fear.
It will rain inky bird poop on the day I finally wash my car.

As well, there were other factors at work that, while not listed as excuses, most certainly played a role in the film’s flaccid festival return:

HorrorCon utilized the “late deadline” in almost 75% of its submissions.
Not a single consulted horoscope predicted success.
My mother neglected to join any of the submission panels.
I am not often enough “too sexy for my shirt”.
Fortune cookies are best ignored as they are full of despicable lies.

Honorable mentions include budget size, poor festival selection, no boobies on the poster, and, of course, delivering the exact opposite of that which is strongly implied by your film’s title. Which brings me to the title of this post, rather colorfully presented in the image below:

edc

Prominently including the term “horror” in the title of a film that is essentially a psychological thriller/mystery/character-driven drama may not be the best idea if you’re trying to slot into a horror film festival at the 11th hour. It’s also probably not a solid go-to plan if your goal is to sneak into a festival that eschews horror entirely. At worst, it’s stupid. At best, bravely unwise. This is why HorrorCon now goes by the far more artfully intriguing title, Every Drop Counts. If the name and logo suggest a dark and cautiously exsanguinating experience, that’s the idea. If it doesn’t suggest HOTEL BOOBIE SLASHER, that’s the idea, too. Not that there would be anything wrong with one of those, but that’s not what we made. Not even close.

However, there is plenty of cleavage. Who am I, the Pope?

There is one other aspect of the film that begs addressing, and it refers to the original conceptualizing of the story that began as a literary work. HorrorCon the novella was a 140 page psychological exploration of a girl who wanted to die and an older man who saw the opportunity to save her as an opportunity to save himself. The book spends much of the time in our characters heads, and it could be safely described as “dialogue rich”. While imagining it for the screen, it was actually the little screen that seemed the better fit, as in, a TV series. Subsequently, the screenplay takes its time with setting and attempts to allow the horror convention experience to seep into an audience’s skull and under their skin. In the end, I wanted an audience empathy meter that’s needle pinned so hard it broke through the glass and tacked their hats to the wall.

So, I did what anyone with those highly specific goals would do: I made an overlong movie! If you’re getting the faint impression that I don’t always listen to myself, you’re probably right. But I assure you, there were a lot of conversations with the mirror and others about how to go about this project, and let’s face it, there are very few, if any, “series pilot” festivals to be found. A movie seemed the best step forward in terms of furthering my career, even if it was broken into three “chapters” much better suited to episodic television. I suppose I was inspired by series that I had been watching on HBO at the time, such as “Six Feet Under”, “The Sopranos” and “Deadwood”. Of course, as of this posting, we now have “The Walking Dead”, “American Horror Story”, “Bates Motel”, dark drama “Breaking Bad” – the list grows longer every week. Perhaps due to this new proliferation of genre TV series we’ll see something akin to a “series” festival in the future, but of late I haven’t found shit, yo.

So, what does all this mean? Well, I’ll tell you. While I’ve been laying low with the project and planning the next move, I’ve also been maintaining my social media outlets and collecting a fan base, so to speak. The film has 745 lovely Likers on its Facebook Page and 2,645 fantastic followers on Twitter. The plan is that when that number hits 3,000, we’ll roll out EDC as a three night mini-series over the course of a weekend, starting on Friday at 6 pm, then Saturday at 6pm, and finally Sunday at 6pm. See what I did there? Yep, besides being devilishly clever, I’m courting horror fans again. Foolishly, perhaps, but the bet is that the new format will re-calibrate their expectations to a setting that is more favorable to the offered fare. For example, you don’t go through a drive-thru to order the Filet McMignon in your happy meal, do you? No, that would be silly. The average brain is incapable of processing a juicy filet dribbling down one’s shirt and into that crevice in your crotch where all bits of dribbly food vanish forever. Conversely, you don’t go to a fine restaurant and pay $30 for some chicken nuggets in a folded paper container with a lid that won’t stay open unless you weigh it down with something which will eventually lead to whatever’s left in the food side of the container flying across the table because the weight is now unevenly distributed. Anyway, you get the idea, and once the entire series is up, it’ll stay up for an undetermined amount of time before vanishing back into the hybrid ether from whence it came as we gather up the feedback.

But wait, there’s more! In the weeks leading up to the roll-out we’ll be releasing various tidbits related to the series including full color stills, harrowing making-of info, and maybe even a few choice clips. There will also be input from the cast and crew, and if we’re lucky, some of it will involve boobies! There will also be another surprise involving a related musical project of mine, but I’ll save those details for later.

So stay tuned, and feel free to share this post. Why? Because I still believe in this story. I still think it can touch audiences in its exploration of loneliness, loss, and the conflicting ways fan culture cashes in on the victimization of women. And just maybe it offers something so unique and special that not a single film festival knew what to do with it.

Or perhaps, at last, it’s just a helluva first effort. For sure, there are some outstanding performances, both in front and behind the camera, so I’m willing to bet it’s a bit more than a good old college try.

That brings us to your Cracker Jack™ prize video below featuring an animated depiction of yours truly seeing EDC actress Michal Sinnott for the first time on television.* The rest, as they almost never say, is the future. Let’s see if we can change that.

Until next time. And whatever you do, make it count.

 

*Michall Sinnott is actually the voice and image of GTA V character Tracey De Santa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in career news, HorrorCon, HorrorCon: The Web Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

crunching the numbers

horrorconThe basic premise of HorrorCon – a young female vendor rapidly losing the will to live learns to survive from a blood-sucking author in a similar state – bakes in an indelible setting. You either shoot this thing at a make-believe horror convention or you shoot it at the real thing. That I chose the latter was an idea born of both budget and marketing concerns. To cover the scope of my original story (poster, left) I needed a lot of people, merchandise and space; things I wasn’t in any position to pay for. But the conceit was always thus: if I pull it off and it doesn’t look “forced”, I’ve got a very marketable behind-the-scenes story to tell on the back of an epic, character-driven thriller that unfolds right in front of your lying eyes.

And you know what? I did. I pulled it off. We pulled it off. We stole this motherfucker right out from under their noses and I’d say for the most part you don’t feel the trick. I know I’m not the only micro-budget filmmaker in the world who’s tried something like this but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who’s done it this way, this immersively, all within the restrictions of one entity that is structured to make what I’ve done strictly impossible. Or at the very least, ill-advised. For that I feel a little like Orville or Wilbur Wright – take your pick – who put something in the air against a set of laws at once established, material, and punitive. And they did so on a wing and no prayer, because prayers take precious seconds and in general are thieves of effective action. Indeed, we flew with a drag so absolute on our tails that only borrowing against it would keep us aloft. But how can you borrow against gravity without eventually falling flat? Read on.

If my comparing the Screen Actors Guild to the earth’s gravitational pull seems a bit over-the-top it’s because few really understand the Screen Actors Guild, or SAG-AFTRA as they are now known. Without digging too deeply into their history, suffice it to say that at one time, actors were a pretty disorganized bunch. The profession of acting itself dates back to the ancient Greeks and probably even earlier if we’re to believe that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession – plenty of performances there. But it’s been a profession that is both revered and mistrusted. It’s among the most unpopular professions among parental recommendations for their children, and actors have even been murdered for coming too close to a devout society’s concept of demonic possession. Resisting the actor stereotype would mean avoiding terms like “neurotic”, “vain” and “flaky” to describe them so I won’t fall into that trap (oops). Still, one of the world’s most mysterious and ethereal professions has come a long, long way. Which is to say, there’s a more predictive and gainful living to be made with the craft, and likewise, in the employment of actors. Which is really to say, there are a lot of people getting very wealthy from acting who are not actors.

If one were to conduct even the most casual of private surveys, one would likely come to the conclusion that there are far more hours of entertainment to watch these days than there are hours to watch it, which could give the illusion that there is more than enough work to be had for the working actor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s take, for example, the pool of professional actors now plying their trade in Los Angeles. According to the “anthropological” entertainment industry website Hollywood Sapien, if you take into account last years SAG membership figures (122,000), added them to AFTRA’s figures minus non-actors and guild overlaps (13,000) there are approximately 135,000 vested actors duking it out for part-time and steady jobs. If you factor in the rough estimate that 80% of all acting jobs are to be found in Los Angeles, you arrive at a curvy 108,640 monologues taken, hopefully at regular intervals, from Glengarry Glen Ross. If you now consider that roughly 80% of those actors are out of work at any given time, our number is now a more angular and photogenic 21,728. That’s a working 17%. Add tens of thousands of non-union talent country-wide to the equation and congratulations acting profession, you’re now the entertainment industry’s equivalent of the Republic of Nauru (90% unemployment), which is also called Pleasant Island, so at least you’ve got that going for you.

And here’s what should be obvious: unions require dues. In return, members get healthcare and retirement benefits, but to do that, they need to work. In order to work, they need to find employers who are willing to pay them union salaries, or at least match one of SAG’s various low-budget employment contracts which include minimal working conditions (okay, you can have a granola bar every eight hours and we won’t use a real tiger), paying into the union’s pension and health plan, and my personal favorite, paying half of what their members will receive in wages for the entire project up front. Since productions like mine (I have to assume) often involve a rolling number of days depending on what can be accomplished and afforded, I had no way of determining the exact number of days any one of our union actors would be needed. No problem, right? Surely SAG-AFTRA, in their efforts to alleviate the infrequent employment of their “lesser earners”, would recognize our project as one that could help and work with us on their deposit demands. No chance. SAG-AFTRA sticks to the script, and operates entirely within the suitably dramatic auspices of what they call Global Rule One.

What is Global Rule One? Global Rule One states that “no member shall work as a performer or make an agreement to work as a performer for any producer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the Guild which is in full force and effect.” Meaning, in essence, that once you’re a member, you can only work with those productions contributing to the union till. You can’t waive your rights for a little pet project, nor can you go to another country and act your hump off in the shadow of Notre Dame. Since their humble beginnings back in 1933, SAG-AFTRA have grown very powerful and have been kicking the asses and taking the names of those members weak enough to work with the far more ubiquitous members of the low-budget filmmaking community in order to put food on their table, or at the very least, add something to their reel besides being the first person to die in an episode of “Law & Order”. Luckily for SAG-AFTRA, the great majority of its members aren’t weak in that way. Most of them fold so completely under union pressure that they’ll cut you off with the curtest of emails the instant you mention you’re not an affiliated production. In fact, it happened more than once to me before I accepted my signatory fate. One minute you’re indulging in the kinds of exciting conversations that made you want to make a film in the first place, the next you’re a member of the Communist Party back in Old Hollywood who’s just devoured an adorable puppy and is crapping it all over the inside of your pants.

Click.

Silence.

Now, before you think I’m about to go into a union-busting rant, I recognize that most of them exist for good reason. And back in 1997, having apparently acknowledged that a larger pool of working members was good for both the union and not that intimidating to the cash-cow big studios who, ever since the increased democratization of film production technology have had to compete with “little movies that could”, SAG-AFTRA actually climbed into bed with flea-bitten, low-budgie folk like myself and birthed an underweight whelp known as SAGIndie. Thanks to this little runt, cash-strapped signatories are able to hire vested actors at the low, low price of $100 a day. Sounds terrific, doesn’t it? I certainly thought so. Hell, who cares about the “half up front” deposit? Just lie, man. Make up an amount of affordable days and send them their damn deposit. As long as your actors are okay with it and the union doesn’t find out and threaten to, or actually manage to, shut down your production and forever blacklist your name, what’s the worse that can happen? Well, taking a page from the script of actors everywhere and not wanting to make waves that might destroy my career, I decided to tell them the truth – or, let’s say, as much of the truth as I knew.

It went like this: I would need my union talent for at least the four days surrounding the first convention, a filming date I couldn’t miss or postpone. Was it possible to shoot all of their scenes in that single weekend? About as possible as it is to lick your elbow, but hey, this was my first rodeo and the bulls wanted answers. So I filled out my final cast list to include only those four days, tallied up the salaries, and sent it off. A few days later, I got an email with the deposit amount that I owed them. An amount, I might add, I could just about afford. I hadn’t lied or cheated, I simply put into effect my Global Rule: get it done. Several months of updated time sheets that reflected their actual salaries later, production on HorrorCon was complete. I turned in every piece of financial information I had, paid them the 15.something percent for P&H that they asked for, and set about post-production. Soon, I thought, I’d be told the film’s account was closed and be given that nerve settling pat on the head I thought I thoroughly deserved.

Flash forward to today and my head is still waiting. The unions accountants, come to find, only look at the final cast list, not the umpteen time sheets (26, to be exact) that reflect their members’ actual salaries, so I was told I owed them a few hundred bucks. Whatever. Fair is fair. I signed my agreements, paid what I was told, and now I was being told to pay more. Hey, I’d already dropped a few Bennies on things like hair extensions, roller derby equipment, dead-eye contacts, and devil horns for a priest. What was another few hundred for a little healthcare? Of course, at the time I was at the height of frustration. I’d spent more than two cash-hemorrhaging years making this film and it just wouldn’t end. The stress raced back into my nervous system every time I saw another email from them, joining a waiting trove of stress built from dealing with subhuman condo associations, trying to sell my home, trying to buy a new one, navigating a business through a rocky economy as well as 40 minutes of traffic to and from it for my trouble. But to hell with all that, one more check and I’d finally be rid of my union obligations. How much more grief could they give me?

About another half-dozen emails worth, as it turns out. Among which, they wanted the exact dates one of my actors was paid. The range of dates on the time sheets that I supplied them in a timely fashion apparently wasn’t enough.

Fine. Here.

Then they wanted the amounts broken down to correspond with those exact dates.

Okay, okay. HERE.

They’re still waiting on those amounts.

I ALREADY SENT THEM! SEE?

Thanks, they say. Oh, and I owe them $61.20 for late payment.

Whuh? Let me get this straight: I sent them everything I could at every stage of the production, everything their ultra low-budget agreement asked for, they lose some of that information – some of which they never bother to look over – and then I’m required to resend it. Then, after all that, they charge me for the honor?

Fun fact: as per SAGIndie’s ultra low-budget agreement, unless a production company renegotiates to pay their actors more money, it cannot charge anyone to view their film outside of an officially sanctioned AMC movie theater.

What are the odds, do you think, of HorrorCon getting an AMC theatrical release? To be fair, I can’t say. Just like I can’t say what the odds are of me finding a winning lottery ticket on the bottom of my shoe. I mean, It could happen.

No business like show business, eh?

I realize everything I’ve written heretofore could easily sound like a lot of bitching over nothing. After all, the film got made, people got paid, and I am in many ways living the dream. But there’s more to the point here, and I want to be clear. I learned a lot in the process of making HorrorCon and one of the things I’ll take with me is that I love the actor-writer relationship. Directing them was a joy as well, but most of what they used from me was already on the page. When I was crouching in the corner trying to reduce our visibility in an attempt to avoid any possibly disruptive attention, my eyes were glued to Jimbo’s monitor marveling at the miracle of my words and characters coming to life. And nothing in this world sounds more attractive than working with the same brilliantly talented and brave people on my next project.

What worries me, however, is that more of them will think they need to join SAG-AFTRA in order to ascend to some golden industry standard where they will finally be able to tell their parents and friends that they’re officially an actor just because they’re paying a new set of dues. Of the dozen or more speaking roles in HorrorCon, only three were vested, yet I treated and paid all of them exactly the same. Had all of them been union members, I may have had to eliminate a few from my casting list due to the additional deposit/P&H expense. And I challenge anyone who sees this film to pick out the card-carriers. You won’t get it right, I assure you. All of them are magnificent, and cards or not, I’d hire all of them again in a second. But what of other jobs they’ll never be able to take? What if that breakout role doesn’t come with my film and they miss the next juicy chance at another? It’s heartbreaking to think about, it really is. Actors hang their asses out there to be kicked on a regular basis, and they deserve better from those who supposedly exist to protect them.

Numbers. There are plenty of them on my mind. There’s one that represents the cost of entering eighteen film festivals. There’s another that marks how many ants have crawled across my computer since beginning this entry. And there are still more counting up the days until I learn if and when my film will be seen by a festival crowd and judged, not by the numbers that went into making it, but by the number of minutes (133) it removes from their lives. Maybe it’ll be seen as just another film out there, “making up the numbers” as the saying goes. Maybe it’ll count for a little bit more.

This number I do know: $61.20. That’s all it cost to get this big bird off the ground.

Finally, for those who haven’t yet heard my interview with Jay K on the Horror Happens Radio Show, you can check it out below.

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baby, you won’t believe what I found–

DiamondsIt’s a little hard to believe that this weekend will mark almost two years to the day that HorrorCon began principal photography at Monster Mania 17. The Crown Plaza in Cherry Hill, NJ, will be at it again Friday night hosting their 24th convention, and most attendees will be oblivious to the fact that a film crew once showed up and started shooting in the middle of all the noise and chaos. We’ll never forget, of course. I imagine the vendors who let us set up in front of their booths for far too long won’t be forgetting it soon, either.

I find it amusingly poignant that we’re closing in on our self-imposed March 25th deadline by, among other things, digitally removing a visible hotel logo from one of the parking lot signs. It’s as if we’re truly moving on from what was a long, arduous adventure. One that, despite mounting stresses and continuing financial burdens, was deeply rewarding in all the best senses. I’m sure every film production creates a special bond between its cast and crew – it’s like a war in that way – but ours will be especially unique. Giving birth to a film in public is like street performing, flash mobbing, and robbing a bank all at once. All that’s left to do is divvy the loot, and the first part of that process begins the second we add the last name to the credit roll.

I’ve compiled a list of festivals that we’ll be considering in the next couple of weeks. So far we’re up to twenty-four, comprising of events held in the United States, Europe, Canada, and South America. We’re as close as Philadelphia and New York, and as far away as Reykjavik, Iceland, Porto Alegre, Brazil, and Locarno, Sweden.  Although there’s no way we can afford to hit them all, we felt it important to identify those most suitable for the film and go from there. Of course, the more of them you try, the better your chances of being accepted. And being accepted means publicity, something all films desperately need. We have quite the story to tell both on and off the screen, and it’s our goal that we tell it to as many people as we can.

As we whittle down our festival list, we’ll begin to build one for conventions. Touring the film through genre events around the country has always been our number one dream. Sharing it with “the choir” feels right to us, and means we can build a loyal, grass roots following on as many lawns as possible. Of course, we hold out hope that some kind of film/music event can be held at Monster Mania 25 in Cherry Hill. We think it’d be great publicity for everyone involved to screen at “home”, for and amongst the very people who helped make our little movie look bigger than it had a right to be. However, due to Screen Actors Guild contractual obligations, we’re not permitted to charge anyone to see it outside of an AMC theater. This leaves us with only a few options to make back our investment: charge for merchandise and a follow-up Q&A, and/or ask for donations upon leaving the screening. Everyone who manages to secure a ticket will have the option to watch the film and leave without paying, and that’s fine with us. What’s important is that people see it, connect with it, and hopefully spread the word. If only that happens, the film will have a future, and that counts far more than a quick theatrical release without the promotional resources that might generate less-than embarrassing box office numbers.

I’ve written before about various distribution models that are available to low-budget indie films, and we’re looking at them all. As previously mentioned, giving it away and adding a donation method of “repayment” is an option. Renegotiating our contract with SAG to allow us to sell the film on DVD is another. I’m not yet sure what the SAG stipulations are in terms of Video-On-Demand (VOD) and Internet streaming, but it’s perhaps something a distributor can explain to us. We think it’s important to take HorrorCon through as many integral steps and processes as possible so that we do the right thing for this one, and learn for the next one. If we’re lucky and have done our work well, our screening activities will open those doors. At the very least, they might point us in the right direction.

Time to return to our post-production crew of two (next time you watch a film, sit through the entire list of post-production credits; you’ll likely check your phone more than once such is the time it takes to list them) and continue our march towards the 25th. The score, done entirely on a single keyboard and the ThumbJam iPhone app, is just about complete. But there are still a few more logos to remove and a certain Cinematographer’s eye-glasses that were alternately left on and off while acting in one of the scenes. I’m not naming any names, but his initials are Jim Wright.

Oops.

The title of the post refers to the very first line of dialog in the film. We might say the same.

See you in a couple of weeks.

Scott

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leaves are falling all around…

…time, I was on my way. Well, not just yet. The closer I get to finishing the film, the more it struggles to stay on limb, like the last few leaves of a tree in fall. I’ve gone on and on about what it’s like to mix audio on a 2-hour plus indie film shot in public settings, so I’ll spare you a redux. Instead, I’m going to write about things burgeoning in the bubble, namely HorrorCon‘s score, a rewrite of my mini-series “B.L.O.O.M“, and the progress of a new “film” project I’m calling Close.

In the office next to the one I use most often, I have set up my old Kurzweil K1000. It needed some replacement parts and luckily, a few weeks ago, I was able to find another K1000 online. A couple hundred bucks later it was on its way from Alabama and now I’ve got a completely operational scoring machine. I began playing with every one of the 224 programmed instruments and sound effects keeping in mind the indie-ness of the film. Too spooky and it comes off cheesy, and well, off. There’s also the danger of going too syrupy with string patches, or overly retro with soaring synths. So I found a piano program that sounded sweet but wounded (Stereo Tremelo Piano) and began plinking out simple melodies. Less definitely proved to be more. The right note with a lingering, uncertain waver felt lonely and confused, just like my two main characters. So I built slowly from there and piece by piece I matched my performance with the main compositions. I’ve since added reverse cymbals, deep echoing toms, a few atonal wails and some interesting guitar sounds of Hungarian origin found in an app on my editor’s iPad. I’ll be experimenting some more today with various scenes in mind, doling out only that which feels summoned by the circumstances, performances and action. Cool stuff.

B.L.O.O.M is an interesting animal. Something compelled me about six years ago to write a five-night mini-series for the Syfy Channel (then known as the “Sci-Fi” Channel). As usual, I aimed too high, too different, too cerebral. There I was, toiling over a story that involved a dying earth and humans being scanned into android containers to keep humankind alive in space and Sci-Fi was paying people to write things like Mansquito and Dinocroc vs. Supergator. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got plenty of time for the occasional C-movie shlockbuster, but until “Battlestar Galactica”, I thought the network was really selling itself short. That said, I think I always knew I was creating a portfolio piece, but as is my wont, if I’ve got a story burning inside, I’ll take the time to write it regardless of how it might help my fledgling career. Six years later, I’m still working on it, but this go-round I’m bringing a lot more writing and production experience to it. I still love and believe in the story, so I hope I get the chance to pitch it, or produce it, someday. If not, I may just hand it out on the street in L.A.

Several writing projects later brings me to Close. This idea is heavily informed by two things: the concept of loving and sticking by someone despite their going through some horribly heavy stuff, and phone/tablet apps. I got the idea of a love triangle between two characters back when I was sweating it out on the HorrorCon set. And yes, your math is correct; you cannot get three from two, unless one of the two is actually two. You follow? Close is a demonic possession movie, but strives to step well outside of prevailing cinematic boundaries. It tries to answer questions about trust and appropriation in an age where people create personas for themselves that may not jibe with who they really are, and where things that can easily be taken – or stolen – justify the act of doing so. By setting the story in a squatting residence I hope to create an untethered existence for my characters where they’re rooted to nothing but a fabricated idea of who they are, leaving them wide open to be appropriated by something very old and clever. So far I’ve got lots of detailed notes and what I think is a cool logo:

The idea of the app came to me after I learned about a company called MoPix who offer an alternative film distribution method where you download a film complete with all the features of a DVD right onto your digital device. A related idea that you might update a title over time appealed to the creative producer me. What about an episodic film downloaded in installments? One example would be six 12-minute “episodes” that could be cheaply produced as you go. If the app sold for, say, 9.99 for an HD version, you could conceivably fund your film as you produced it. Other price points could be 6.99 for a normal resolution version, or rentals at 3.99 and 1.99. The rentals would mean that subsequent episodes replaced old episodes rather than added to them. That could be a big seller that pulls funding from a wide number of resources similar to what Kickstarter attempts to do. Also, having a film that periodically “possesses” one’s mobile or tablet device just dovetailed too nicely in a thematic sense for me to resist.

That about sums things up. I’d give my left pinky finger to have the film done before Halloween, and if it is, I’ll be sure to let you know where you can catch it – the film, not my finger. I’m thinking screeners by invitation, possibly a festival or two. Or an online horror TV station like Black Flag TV. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be able to download it on your phone. Wouldn’t that be a trick…and a treat.

Posted in B.L.O.O.M., career news, HorrorCon, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Screenwriting, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments