Kool Kat of the Week: Ashley Thorpe Summons the Spirits of BORLEY RECTORY, Britain’s Most Haunted House, at Buried Alive Film Festival 2017!

Posted on: Nov 13th, 2017 By:

Filmmaker Ashley Thorpe.

In 2010, a trio of English filmmaker Ashley Thorpe’s short animated movies so captivated audiences at the fifth annual Buried Alive Festival, that they created the Visionary Award just for him. Ashley alas can’t make it back across the pond for the 12th annual Buried Alive (Nov. 15-19 at 7 Stages), but his Carrion Films‘ first feature BORLEY RECTORY is a much-anticipated festival highlight, screening Saturday Nov. 18 at 8 pm.

Ashley’s previous works formed a portmanteau of supernatural legends from Devon, where he resides with his wife Sue who played the femme fatale of “Scayrecrow,” a haunted highwayman’s revenge tale with a distinctly Hammer Films vibe. Also played at Buried Alive 5 were “The Screaming Skull” and The Hairy Hands.” BORLEY RECTORY is an eerie documentary chronicling the historic paranormal investigations of an Essex manor nicknamed “The Most Haunted House in England.” The unique look and high quality of his earlier works allowed him to expand the production to his most ambitious yet and attracted the star power of a who’s who of British character actors including Julian Sands (GOTHAM), Reece Shearsmith (LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN), Nicholas Vince (HELLRAISER), and Jonathan Rigby (ROUND THE HORNE…REVISITED). In the past few years, Ashley also realized a lifelong dream to become a cover illustrator and interviewer for Fangoria, the seminal horror movie magazine for anyone who came of age from the ‘70s onward.

ATLRetro caught up with Ashley to find out more about his quest to summon the specters of BORLEY RECTORY and more macabre matters.

ATLRetro: You grew up on Hammer Horror and your shorts have a bit of a Hammer look, even with some cameos” as I recall in Scayrecrow.” Did Hammer movies inspire you to be a filmmaker? Which is your favorite and why?

Ashley Thorpe: I’ve always loved Hammer horror. It was the Universal classics of the ’30s and Hammer horrors that were the first horror films that I felt brave enough to watch as a kid. I thought they were glorious. I was actually inspired to become a filmmaker via animation, so weirdly it was artists like Svankmajer, the Brothers Quay and David Lynch that made me believe that this was a medium that could really express the things going on in my head. The influence came back when I was producing “Scayrecrow,” a tale of a ghostly highwayman, and started imagining what it would have been like if Hammer had produced it, full of blood and thunder!

How did you first learn about Borley Rectory and what about it, other than the obvious most haunted house in England,” inspired you to make a film about it?

I discovered the story in the USBOURNE BOOK OF GHOSTS at the local library as a boy. I was very susceptible to frightening material when I was young—due to suffering from night terrors—but there was something especially haunting about this one story and I just kept going back to it like a tongue probing a bad tooth. I loved that moniker “The Most Haunted House in England.” This wasn’t just “a” haunting, it was “THE” haunting.

The story is replete with such delicious gothic imagery—a nun bricked up within the walls, a phantom carriage driven by a headless coachman, cold spots and spectral messages scrawled upon the walls. Wonderful material. It also represented the beginning of that blend of scientific method meets the supernatural which, of course, was such a huge influence upon things like Shirley Jackson‘s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and Richard Matheson‘s HELL HOUSE. At the time it was quite groundbreaking. Now, of course, it all seems so archetypal. Its fascination also lies with the people. All the major players in that case were curious characters. They’re all quite mercurial and mysterious so at the end of the case you’re left with more questions than answers. In fact, the ghosts are far easier to pin down than those investigating them!

Is it correct that BORLEY RECTORY started out as a short but expanded into a full feature? Can you talk about why you decided to take that bigger plunge with this particular project and how the finished film differs from your original concept?

Incredibly the thing developed organically. It wasn’t initially a conscious decision until quite late into the project. As each cast member came on board—from Reece onwards—I amended the script to give more interesting scenes, better dialogue, all without even considering how this would affect the running time! They were so good I wanted to give them more material. Seems obvious now, but at the time I was so buried in the practicalities of animating, trying to earn a living, looking after my then baby daughter, the day-to-day things, that it wasn’t really until I cut together the first seance scene last year that I realized that there was no way that this would be a 30-minute film.

Surprisingly though the finished film doesn’t really differ from the original concept at all. Another thing that I hadn’t really anticipated was how the pacing would affect the overall running time. Again it sounds ludicrous. I wanted BORLEY RECTORY to harken back to an earlier age of cinema, far from the machine gun edits and gimmicks of modern horror. I wanted long slow takes, so your eyes can explore the frame and realize that you’ve been staring at a ghost all along. One of my favorite sequences lasts for about two minutes and consists of about four edits intercutting between a little girl staring into the darkness at the end of her bed and what she sees there in the shadows.

L-R: Reece Shearsmith. Ashley Thorpe, Jonathan Rigby.

You have some pretty prominent British character actors involved, some of whom like Julian Sands and Nicholas Vince, are familiar to US horror fans. Any stories about how they became involved and what it’s like to work with them?

I worked with Nicholas—albeit briefly—on “The Hairy Hands,” wherein he contributed the voice of one of the radio callers and we kept in touch hoping to work together again. I met Julian initially via a retrospective that I wrote for Fangoria on Ken Russell’s GOTHIC (1986). Julian found my short films online, loved them, and after watching them asked if I was working on anything currently. As it happened I had just finished the script for BORLEY RECTORY. So we recorded Julian’s narration around Christmas 2011 and then some additional passages at Trident Studios last year. Both Julian and Nicholas are wonderful, genuine, sincere people. They’ve both been so supportive and done nothing but sing the praises of the production since it started. Whenever we meet it really is like meeting old friends. My children pretty much consider Nicholas a part of the family!

And Steven Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees was to do the soundtrack. How did you meet him and what happened with his illness?

Again Steven Severin became involved with the project due to a Fangoria interview. He was touring VAMPYR [(1932) silent film soundtrack] and performed in my home town, so I grabbed the opportunity to interview him about his work both past and present. We kept in touch and I suppose Steven must have looked into what else I did apart from the Fangoria journalism and came straight out and asked me if I was working on any animations and would I consider him scoring my next venture. I’ve always been a huge Banshees fan so I was over the moon.

As to how it was working with him, I haven’t really had much of an opportunity.  The curse of Borley struck again. Steven has been in consistently poor health since recovering from a kidney transplant while we were shooting. For a while it looked as if he was going to be fine and was keen on cracking on with the scoring. Around the time that the first cut was sent over early this year Steven suffered a major pulmonary embolism and was rushed to hospital. So, after discussing it with Steven and agreeing it was definitely the best plan until he could complete or create a companion piece, the remaining scoring duties were completed by my long-term collaborator Mick Grierson who did an amazing job at scoring the film beautifully under ridiculous time constraints.

Although he is still recovering Steven has stressed that he is still planning on finishing the special music for the pledged vinyls, but until he is out of hospital I cannot unfortunately give a concrete date as to when this will be. It’s all been a bit of a car crash really, and it’s been down to Mick that the film even reached completion when it did.

L-R: BORLEY RECTORY Producer Tom Atkinson, Julian Sands, Ashley Thorpe.

Financing an independent film is always a huge challenge. You did two Indiegogo campaigns, as I recall, and had some prominent supporters like best-selling author Neil Gaiman singing your praises. Did you also have private investors? How did you do it?

Yes, the project was financed via two Indiegogo campaigns. The first one raised just shy of £7K back in 2013 which—although about £3K short of our target—allowed us to get the production underway in the summer of 2014 and shoot the majority of Reece’s sequences as his involvement had raised the profile of the project tenfold. Once I’d animated that central montage of the journalist essentially telling us the legend, we rolled out a second campaign that raised a further £13K in the end. The campaigns themselves were a huge amount of work but I was lucky on the second one to have a team behind me led by my producer’s wife Alice Bonasio. She stressed that I should concentrate on generating media to share while she and a small team “got it out there.” It was very successful.

The money raised was channeled directly into the production: hiring the studios, equipment, costumes etc. I did have a couple of private benefactors who put extra money into the production, and it was due to them that I was able to continue working on the film as although the production was financed I was made redundant [laid off] pretty much at the start of production and essentially lost my livelihood. These people kept me going at a time when it seemed as if everything—redundancy, family illnesses, burnt-out Macs—was loaded against me finishing it.

Your previous films have all had a distinctive look, i.e. animated but not necessarily what the average viewer would expect as an animated film. Can you talk a little about the effects you employed for this film to make it…dare I say…genuinely scary?!

Yes, they’re not your traditional animation. They are a collage of a number of different techniques really. The actors are all filmed against green screen and then rotoscoped whilst the backgrounds are all digitally painted and animated over. There’s a little traditional animation in there—some of the ghosts are painted—and a little 3D stuff done in After Effects, such as the aerial shots of the Rectory, but my aim was to take the footage of the actors and make them resemble the look of the “painted” backgrounds as much as possible. I also spent a great deal of time working into the footage to take the digital shine off of it using masks with various strengths of blurring to emulate  a depth of field that we’d really struggle with doing live at the green screen composite level. BORLEY RECTORY has pretty much every technique I know applied in it in some way.

Seance scene in BORLEY RECTORY.

BORLEY RECTORY has already screened at a number of festivals and has a few awards under its belt. Where has it screened so far and have you been pleased with the audience response?

Response so far has been staggering really. It’s not an easy sell or an obvious “crowd pleaser,” it’s what I call a “Marmite film,” but it’s been snapped up by the festivals and feedback has been very positive. I think we’ve played 14 so far with more coming in weekly and all those initial festival appearances were by request rather than us having to submit via normal channels which is incredible. We premiered at GrimmFest in Manchester October 8 and then played Cinemagic in Belfast, Dead of Night Southport, Telluride Horror Show in Colorado, Celluloid Screams in Sheffield, Horror-Rama Toronto and the Folk Horror Revival in Edinburgh. Last week we won “Best Animated Feature” at Buffalo Dreams and after Buried Alive in Atlanta, we’re set to play Sydney, Australia at A Night of Horror festival. One of my favorite responses was from Lisi Russell, Ken Russell’s wife, who wrote a lovely review online. She adored it.

“Thorpe’s vision of the legend is elegant, meticulously cinematic, beautifully spooky, atmospherically enveloping. The detailed and seamlessly inter-woven animation and rotoscope by multi-talented Thorpe is hypnotic, shocking, visually stunning–each shot an artwork. This is a film for film noir lovers as well as haunted house and psycho-horror fans, conjuring up echoes of classic early British horror films like THE INNOCENTS, THE HAUNTING, PSYCHO. Asks important and unusual questions about what we need from ghosts as well as what they need from us. This film is very, very different. Ken Russell seal of approval.” – Lisi Russell

You came to Atlanta in 2010 when Buried Alive screened three of your shorts and I believe you have a certain fondness for this festival. Is it special to you that it’s screening here and what can you say to anyone on the fence about attending Buried Alive?

I had enormous fun when I came across in 2010. It was actually my first bonafide horror festival and I didn’t really know what to expect, but the team behind it were so passionate about what they were doing and really made me feel special. So many great memories. The festival itself is wonderfully eclectic as well. They program every aspect of the genre, so there really is something for everyone. The genre should be about diversity—there should be room for every style, every era—and Buried Alive reflects that beautifully. I really wish that I could have made it out there to attend in person, and with my film’s production history in mind, the fact that my film has been programmed right before a screening of ED WOOD is genius.

Nicholas Vince in BORLEY RECTORY.

You also are an artist and have done a bunch of Fangoria covers, as well as writing articles for Fango. What was that like and how do you feel about the recent demise of that seminal horror movie magazine?

Well. Fangoria was a big part of my youth. I fell in love with it at high school back in the ’80s, and growing up in a small British town it was something of a revelation. Pre-Internet, these films and their production felt a million miles away, so finding Fangoria on the newsstands was incredibly exciting. At school, it felt like an outlaw magazine. So you can imagine how excited I was to be asked by [then-editor] Chris Alexander to both write and eventually produce covers for it. As a result, I got to meet wonderful people like John Hurt, Peter Sasdy, and, of course, it put me in touch with people like Julian.

How it all collapsed is really sad. You could see that there was serious trouble brewing when the payments became few and far between and contributors started bailing. I’m still owed hundreds of dollars which I’m sure I’ll never see, and judging from some of the vitriol online, my story is not an uncommon one. The publisher ran it into the ground and destroyed it. So sad.

What’s next for Carrion Films?

Apart from touring and then sourcing distribution for BORLEY. I’ll be catching up on some illustration work and looking towards the next project. We have a couple of options. A script for SPRING HEEL JACK exists in an early form which would be a Victorian melodrama. I also have HELL TOR which would be an Amicus-style portmanteau based upon Dartmoor ghost stories. Although there looks to be a chance that my next project may be adapting a popular British genre screenwriter’s novella. We’re in talks with the agent at the moment so we’ll see what happens next.

Purchase advance tickets to BORLEY RECTORY and passes to Buried Alive Film Festival here.

All photos provided by Carrion Films and used with permission.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Liza Colby Has a Lust for Live Music

Posted on: Oct 25th, 2017 By:

Photo credit: Evan McKnight.

By Geoff Slade
Contributing Writer

The Liza Colby Sound has been playing loud, driving guitar rock with a groove since 2009, but they will perform in Atlanta for the first time on Thurs. Oct. 26 at Star Bar.

Think The Black Keys on Prozac (they seem to be enjoying themselves). In addition to Liza, the “Sound” also includes Tom McCaffrey on guitar, Alec Morton on bass and C.P. Roth on drums (original guitarist Adam Roth passed away in 2015). And between them they boast an eclectic and pedigreed resume that includes working with Ozzy, Jim Carroll, Joey Ramone, Gloria Gaynor and as Denis Leary’s backing band. They are awesome and fun and if you don’t love the music they make, well, then you don’t like rock ‘n’ roll.

But once the show starts, they could turn into lizard people, and I doubt anyone would notice. Liza Colby is the type of performer adjectives like “soulful and sultry” were put together to describe in the first place. She sounds like Aretha and moves with Mick’s menacing sexuality (Without Jagger’s goofiness. You know what I’m talking about). A sweaty, sexy cross between Tina and Prince, maybe?

And if it’s sexist to describe women in these terms nowadays (and it probably is), I apologize, but check this out. Better yet, in her own words: “When I sing, I want it to be badass, feminine, empowering, and ooze sexuality.” She nails it across the board.

This is not to say this band coasts on the seductive charisma of its eponymous front(wo)man. Their songs are pure hard rocking soul treasures. Singable, danceable, and definitely memorable. Check them out Thursday, and tell your friends about your new favorite band on Friday.

A consummate Kool Kat, Liza herself took some time last week to talk with us about music, her band, and why she does what she does.

ATLRetro: First off, I saw an INTERVIEW in which you said Tina Turner and Iggy Pop were huge influences for you. Could Tina have fronted The Stooges? Would that be anything like The Liza Colby Sound?

Liza Colby: I’m sure she could have. But the two are such radical, powerful forces unto themselves that the separation is what’s so inspiring. The contrast rather than the composite. What’s similar is the intense, high energy, shows. They were both a spectacle. And if people see from our live performance the punk rock rawness, and chaos of Iggy and the Stooges and the soul, femininity and bad ass-ness of Tina that I have pulled as my influence then I’m stoked.

It looks like you are in the middle of a tour. Are you on the road a lot?

We are! Not nearly enough. I love being on the road! We played Philly last night and we’re headed to Pittsburgh now. I am literally writing this in the van. It’s taking me a titsch longer than usual because I get car sick.

I know New York City is home now, but is that where you are from originally? How about the rest of the band?

Born in Mass, Raised in CT. Alec Morton (Bass) DC, Charly (Drums) Philly, grew up in Princeton, NJ, Tom (Guitar) Philly. Northeast band through and through. 

Does being based there influence the music you make?

Absolutely. The common thread is the grit, toughness and tightness that comes with the east coast. Maybe it’s the brutally cold winters mixed with the sweltering summers. The extremes. The convenience and accessibility of getting around the Northeast. The attitude. Leather jackets. The come in, kick ass, and leave mentality. And the pride of being a NYC band.

How did you come together with such a kickass band? Seriously, these guys have worked with everybody!

My husband was a friend of our original guitarist, Adam Roth. Adam brought in his brother Charly and bassist Alec who had already been working together as a unit in various bands and projects. And we just clicked. Yeah all of them had amazing resumes but this was just all our vibes lining up.

Tragically Adam passed almost two years ago and it was a terrible year trying to recover. Charly and Alec brought in guitarist Robbie Mangano (Ghost of a Sabre Toothed Tiger, Band From Utopia) who really helped us find our footing again. And then Charly found Tom McCaffery and he just completed the sound, fit us to a tee. The well of talent in NYC is so deep, but still we’re very lucky to have gotten through this.

Which song should we link to right here for anyone unfamiliar with The Liza Colby Sound? Why this song?

Our new single “Cryin'” off our soon to be released EP DRAW (November 17) It hits hard and get’s right to the point. It’s a blues-based rocker with soul for days and a killer riff.

Photo credit: Johan Vipper Delancey.

You’re playing Star Bar this Thursday. Are Atlanta crowds any different from rock fans elsewhere?

We are indeed! And the show is FREE! Soooooo you’re basically losing money if you don’t come. First time playing in Atlanta and we’ll be there with our soul mates/pharmacists The Sweet Things who booked the show with their label Spaghetty Town Records. So many of the best bands these days are coming out of ATL so they must be doing something right down there. Also anyone who knows anything tells me that Star Bar is the coolest spot in town, so we’re totally stoked.

Did you grow up performing music?

I did. My mom, dad, brother and I are all professional musicians. Performing and music are the foundation of my existence. My mom tells this story of me at a pre-verbal age performing on the coffee table in front of her and my dad to jazz a la mode. Musta been a trip.

What is your favorite thing about performing live?

Live music presents a shared moment that exists purely on the energy that the audience, and performer have at that specific time, good or bad and then it’s gone. If you weren’t there, sorry, you missed it. There is something really special about that. And a great performance is one of the highest highs you’ll ever feel. 

When did you first realize you wanted to do this for a living?

I was around 16, I had been writing and really enjoyed the process. By 18 when I went to college not for music (get ready cause this was actually my major) but for recreation and leisure, I realized that I had ventured too far off the reservation. Music was the only thing I wanted to do and that has been the focus ever since.

Photo credit: James Hartley.

When did you first realize you COULD do this for a living?

It was always a feasible option thanks to watching my parents. My brother and I saw that it was possible. And it’s a long hard road. But my mom at one point said something along the lines of:

This is a really hard business and road to take. But if you can’t live without it then you have to go for it.

Your confidence radiates from the stage. What advice would you give young musicians regarding owning their sound and style?

Keep on doing it. Put in the time (the amount is open-ended) and that is both simultaneously daunting and exciting. Be true to yourself no matter how uncomfortable it may feel. I have always liked what I like, when I like it, and sometimes I feel like I’m alone. It’s all subjective. The practice is to block out the noise and comparisons, and if you can develop a forget mechanism, you are nice. You are not as good as your best day and you’re not as bad as your worst. And create, and create, and create. 

Which is more important to you as a musician, creating or performing?

Those two are not exclusive. I don’t think you can have one without the other. The objective is to create an immersive experience for an audience. Make a space out of a non space.

Photo credit: James Hartley.

You seem to enjoy your work (the entire band does), but it is clearly work. How do you and the others bring such fresh energy and excitement to your shows after the better part of a decade?

It all takes work. Doesn’t matter what you do. We love what we do. We love music and rock and each other. Luck of the draw and we got lucky. The shows are the easy part, we are all gig whores!

Are you working on anything new?

Oh yeah, always! I love the hustle and grind. We are in the process of recording and writing our next record that will be out in 2018. I’m finishing up the sophomore EP for my other project The Gold Setting. And I have a few more seeds planted and pots on the stove. I have been in creative overdrive! 

And finally, I read that your voice has appeared on SESAME STREET! How did that come about?

Charly Roth (drummer) has been working with them for years and asked me to be the voice for the letter “Q” song. Not gonna lie SO MUCH FUN!

Thanks, Liza! We’ll see you Thursday at Star Bar with The Sweet Things and Night Terrors. And like she said, it’s a free show, so get there early! Doors at 7, show starts at 8.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: It’s Monster Madness as Anthony Taylor, Monster Kid and Con Co-Chair, Dishes on the 4th Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION

Posted on: Sep 26th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Anthony Taylor, official Licensing & Brand Manager for the Bram Stoker Estate, author and one helluva monster-kid, co-chairs Atlanta’s favorite classic monster convention, MONSTERAMA, creeping into its fourth hellacious year at the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta this weekend, Friday – Sunday, Sept. 29-Oct. 1!

Prepare for a ghastly three days of ghoulish proportions filled to the blood-curdling brim with old-school horror connoisseurs like Sybil Danning (BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS); BarBara Luna (THE DEVIL AT 4 O’CLOCK; STAR TREK); Dick Miller (THE TERMINATOR; GREMLINS; ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL); visual effects expert Gene Warren Jr. (THE TERMINATOR; PET SEMATERY; ELIMINATORS); author John Farris (THE FURY); horror history expert and documentarian, Kool Kat Daniel Griffith of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; creaturific artist Kool Kat Mark Maddox; Kool Kat Ricky Hess (HORROR HOTEL); filmmaker and set-dec dresser/buyer Kool Kat Dayna Noffke (“Under the Bed”); Victorian chamber metal musicians Valentine Wolfe; film score musician/composer Tom Ashton (The March Violets); Kool Kat Shane Morton, ghost host with the most, a.k.a. Professor Morte; glamour ghoul Kool Kat Madeline Brumby and so many more! Get wicked and haunt on down to MONSTERAMA for a weekend of monster madness!

In addition to his duties as MONSTERAMA’s “Monster Kid in Chief,” Taylor has authored THE FUTURE WAS F.A.B.: THE ART OF MIKE TRIM, released in 2014; ARCTIC ADVENTURE, an official THUNDERBIRDS novel released in 2012; VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA: THE COMPLETE SERIES – VOL. 2, released in 2010, and more. He’s also penned hundreds of articles published in horror, sci-fi and film fandom publications such as SFX MAGAZINE, VIDEO WATCHDOG, FANGORIA, SCREEM MAGAZINE, HORRORHOUND MAGAZINE, FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and more!

ATLRetro caught up with Anthony Taylor for a quick interview about his monster kid memories; the importance of preserving film and classic popular culture; and this year’s maniacal MONSTERAMA madness!

Illustration by Monsterama guest Kat Hudson

ATLRetro: MONSTERAMA invades Atlanta once again and we couldn’t be more excited! As a life-long monster kid, can you fill us in on the creation of this labor of love and tell us what prompted you to bring a weekend full of classic monsters to the heart of Atlanta?

Anthony Taylor: I’ve attended conventions like Wonderfest in Louisville, KY, and Monster Bash in Mars, PA, for many years and enjoyed them immensely. I’d always wished there was a similar show here in Atlanta. I waited around for that to happen for so long that I finally decided to put it on myself, and Monsterama was born in 2014. Though predominantly focused on classic horror films, we embrace monsters of all genres and media, and try to provide a great weekend for people who like them.

Pop culture/sub-culture conventions, such as MONSTERAMA, are great ways to preserve film and television classics. Why do you think these types of events draw larger crowds year after year? In your role(s) as convention director/Co-Chair, are you seeing larger and larger turnouts at these types of events each year?

I’m not certain they are drawing significantly larger crowds every year; at least not the more focused ones. Dragon Con, absolutely; they appeal to multiple genres and generations. We have grown consistently since 2014, but I know some shows that report a shrinking fan base simply due to the age of the films and media they cover – the fans and those still into them are dying off.  That’s why I feel it’s important for conventions like Monsterama to keep the banner flying. If we don’t, sooner or later no one will care about these stories that we cherish. In my opinion, “millennials” just don’t seem to see film as an art form, by and large. It’s a way to waste two hours and then on to the next distraction to many of them. The films we celebrate are definitely art and deserve to be preserved.

The guests that have appeared at MONSTERAMA have been monsterific, from Ricou Browning to Lynn Lowry to Victoria Price to Caroline Munro to Zach Galligan and so many more. What can you tell our readers about this year’s guests? Anything exciting planned? And who are you hoping to snag for future conventions?

We’ve got FABULOUS guests this year! Dick Miller, the guy from every Roger Corman and Joe Dante movie ever made, will be with us, as will Sybil Danning from BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and THE HOWLING 2, to name a few. Daniel Roebuck from LOST and Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN movies will be signing for free all weekend! We also have BarBara Luna from STAR TREK and the OUTER LIMITS, Academy Award™-winning special effects master Gene Warren, Jr., Lynn Lowry (as you mentioned), and so many more. The complete list is on our website here. Next year I’d love to get John Saxon, as I’ve enjoyed all of his performances.

Not only are you seasoned in the areas of classic film and television fandom from the behind-the-scenes running of conventions, but you’re also a published author (ARCTIC ADVENTURE, an official THUNDERBIRDS novel, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA: THE COMPLETE SERIES – VOL. 2, along with articles published in several fandom magazines). What compels you to write? And what is it about classic pop culture that makes you want to share it with your readers?

I like sharing my joy in all things popular culture with other people. I don’t want to just share my own nostalgic vision on a lot of these subjects — I want to provide readers with context so they can enjoy art on a deeper level. A good example is the graphic novel WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. To anyone who picked it up after 1989, when the Berlin wall came down and glasnost pervaded Eastern Europe, it has a completely different meaning than to those of us who read it while still under the threat of nuclear war. Of course, now might be a good time for a re-read of Watchmen… I’ve written hundreds of articles and interviews for film magazines exposing what goes on behind the camera because that informs what goes on in front of it. Context makes you view art in a completely different light.

Which classic monster and/or movie would you say is the most neglected and what do you think makes them worthy of attention?

I’ve got a few lesser-known favorites, chief among them I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and CURSE OF THE DEMON. They both work to frighten or creep out the viewer on a very base level, and both are visually striking. They both create tension via a sort of poetic nomenclature and subvert the viewer’s expectations. I could recommend many films, but if you haven’t seen these two, add them to your list!

Can you tell us a little about some of your favorite monster kid memories?

The first monster I was ever fascinated by (like many) was King Kong. When I was six years old, I traded a few comic books for a gorgeous poster of angry Kong towering over New York City, Fay Wray in his hand– and it scared me so much that I couldn’t sleep with it on my wall! My mom had to re-hang it in my closet so it wouldn’t keep me up at night in terror.

We see that you’re a huge fan of classic toys and model kit building. Do you remember the first model kit? And more importantly, do you still have it?

Around the same age, I began to see ads on the back of comics for Aurora monster model kits and could barely contain my desire for the whole set. The first one I coveted was the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but the first one I actually bought and built was the Phantom of the Opera. I eventually got Frankenstein, Dracula, The Creature and a few more. Unfortunately, my originals do not survive, but I have re-issues of all of them now. Knowing they’re safe in my storage unit gives me a warm, completed feeling from time to time.

I’m sure all monster kids are dying to know — how does one become the licensing & brand manager for the Bram Stoker Estate? That’s got to be one big dream come true. Can you tell us some exciting things you’ve got planned regarding Stoker’s Estate?

I met Dacre Stoker, who runs the estate and is Bram Stoker’s great-grand nephew a few years ago and we get along well. After seeing his presentations on Bram and Dracula several times, I began to realize how much branding potential was being wasted by not having someone overseeing these matters. I spoke with Dacre and we eventually put together an agreement that made me Licensing & Brand manager for the estate. I’m working with companies in the retail mystery box realm, jewelry, tabletop gaming, and others to try and create products that will extend awareness of Stoker and his works. It’s going pretty well so far.

What was your first taste of monstrous terror, and which classic monsters are your favorites?

Aurora Classic Monster model kits

Kong! I also love the many creations of Ray Harryhausen, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Creature From The Black Lagoon. I used to be an indiscriminate collector of monster merchandise, but now I’ve narrowed things down to just a few favorites. I no longer feel the need to own everything ever made!

What about your favorite classic television series?

Gerry Anderson’s UFO – the only monsters in it are humans and humanoid aliens, but the protagonist is a bureaucrat, out on the watchtower keeping the Earth safe from invaders. He’s a hero with a briefcase, and the writing of the show made a big impression on me when I first viewed it. There are lots of great miniature effects and explosions, cute girls in silver cat suits, and groovy music, but it remains one of the most engaging and serious television programs I’ve ever seen.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

I’m afraid my days of being cutting edge are long past! I mostly listen to’70s and ’80s punk and new wave, with a general leaning towards jangly guitar riffs by bands like The Church, or Crowded House. I haunt Netflix and Amazon Prime for new films and shows like THE OA or THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE (also starring Monsterama guest Daniel Roebuck). I read a lot of bad speculative fiction but I’m genuinely amazed when something as good as Jeff VanderMeer’s BORNE comes along. I like Sirius radio now that I have it, but wish it were priced more reasonably. I’m a huge fan of Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing, especially THE REMAINS OF THE DAY and NEVER LET ME GO.

And back to one of our favorite classic monster conventions, MONSTERAMA – anything extra special in store for con attendees this year? Any special events planned we should put on our calendar? So many great things!

Friday we have a concert by our heavy Victorian metal house band, Valentine Wolfe, a tongue-in-cheek séance to raise the spirit of Harry Houdini, Cineprov will be riffing on Irwin Allen’s production of THE LOST WORLD, and we’re screening guest Brian K. Williams’ film SPACE BABES FROM OUTER SPACE, with stars Ellie Church and Alison Maier in attendance. Saturday is the Silver Scream Spook Show screening THE TERROR, which co-stars our guest Dick Miller, plus our annual Monster Prom where we have truly fabulous door prizes. Valentine Wolfe will also be providing a live, original musical score for the classic German film, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. Dacre Stoker is bringing some of Bram Stoker’s personal effects to display as well. Sunday the Atlanta Radio Theater Company will be performing BRIDES OF DRACULA live onstage. All this plus many other panels, screenings, exhibits, contests, and demos all weekend long!

A. Taylor and Monsterama 2016 guest, Caroline Munro

And last but not least, what are you up to next? Can you give us some details on any other projects you’re currently working on or will be in the near future?

My partner and I are launching a new convention in Atlanta next Easter weekend called SPY CON. If you’re a James Bond, Kingsman, Man From UNCLE or other Spy-fi fan, you won’t want to miss it! We’re still early in the process, but details are available here. And of course, work has already begun on next year’s Monsterama, which will be classic Sci-Fi and space-horror themed, and is slated to take place at the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta Oct. 5-7, 2018.

 

 

 

 

All photos courtesy of Anthony Taylor and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Dayna Noffke, Local Independent Filmmaker and Retro-tastic Gal Joins the Killer Cast and Crew of the Inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL

Posted on: Sep 18th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Photo by Andrew Shearer of Gonzoriffic

Dayna Noffke, lover of all things retro, Jill of all trades and local filmmaker (ThrillRide Pictures), joins the gore-tastic ranks of the inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL (WIHFF) brought to you by Festival Directors Kool Kat Vanessa Ionta Wright (“Rainy Season”) and Samantha Kolesnik (“I Baked Him A Cake”). The festival invades Peachtree City promising a weekend filled to the bloody brim with kickass independent women filmmakers, creators and horror film enthusiasts. You won’t want to miss the horrorific lineup of shorts and feature-length films, panels, vendors and special guests including Heather Langenkamp (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), Amanda Wyss (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET/BETTER OFF DEAD), Marianne Maddalena (SCREAM), Lynn Lowry (CAT PEOPLE/THE CRAZIES), Trina Parks (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) and more! Noffke has been given the excruciating task, yet a highly rewarding opportunity to get a sneak peek at the talent before it’s unleashed on the unsuspecting masses, as a WIHFF film judge. Competitor’s films for the film competition will screen throughout the festival weekend (Friday, September 22, 12:00 p.m. – 10:45 p.m.; Saturday, September 23, 12:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, September 24, 12:00 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.;  Crowne Plaza Atlanta SW – Peachtree City; Tickets $45 day pass ($55 at door) / $125 full fest pass ($140 at door); and $200 VIP Fest Pass (includes all speakers, workshops, films and special events including the Thursday night VIP party); Schedule for each screening block here; Tickets here)! Kick off this season of horror and make your way to the WIHFF, take a walk down the “Dead Carpet,” and experience a weekend full of killer cinema!

Noffke’s film career began in 2008 when she was cast as an extra in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II (2009). She’s been churning out what she calls “backyard no/low budget” short films ever since, while working part-time as a set dec-buyer/dresser (V/H/S VIRAL, THE VAULT) and working towards directing full-time, with no end in sight. Since 2009, Noffke’s made ten short films including “Safety First” (2009); “Mouse” (2012); “Picnic” (2012); “Recompense” (2014); “Under the Bed” (2015); with her latest being “Teaser,” which wrapped this past week. She’s also written three feature film scripts, which have done well in the screenplay contest circuit, prompting her to take the next step to produce a feature-length film in the near future. As a filmmaker who has had some pretty amazing life experiences (researched Mantled Howler monkeys in Nicaragua; took Gross Anatomy and dissected a human body, just to name a few), Noffke seems to be a perfect choice to judge some of the best independent horror films coming our way this year.

ATLRetro caught up with Dayna to chat about the Women in Horror Film Festival, what inspired her to dive head first into the film industry, her favorite horror movies as a kid, and rooting for kickass final girls. While you’re taking a stroll through our little Q&A, why not take a peek at a couple trailers for some of her short films here.

ATLRetro: How exciting to be a part of the inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL! Can you tell our readers how you got involved and a little about your role as film judge?

Dayna Noffke: It is exciting! We’re fortunate to have so many amazing film events in Atlanta and this is a wonderful addition. When I heard about the festival, I knew I wanted to be involved but I wasn’t certain that I would have a new film finished in time to submit for this year. I submitted to the organizers’ call for judges and before I knew it, I had a queue full of fantastic film work to review.

What’s it like to judge films of women who have dedicated their creativity and professional lives to the horror genre?

​It’s an honor to be entrusted with these films. I have been in the role of judge for a few different festivals now and I always take it very seriously. I know what it’s like to be on the other side — to have your work put out there for review, and I try to remember that and give each film my full attention and consideration. All of these filmmakers have my respect, because getting any film finished requires Herculean amounts of persistence and hard work. I greatly enjoyed judging, discovering new talents and seeing the evolution of those creators with whose work I am familiar.

We see that you’ve been involved in filmmaking since about 2008, when you were an extra in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II. What was it about that particular film production that made you want to make movies?

Photo by Andrew Shearer

​The experience of being an extra on that film gave me two things. First I was given the ability to see the filmmaking process and the roles on set, including watching a director who really enjoys his work. ​And secondly, I had a great freaking time on set. I felt very at home. It was a light bulb moment for me. All my life, I’d been struggling and bouncing through trying out different artistic disciplines with none of it ever “clicking.” Here it was. I got it. Prior to that experience, it wasn’t in my frame of reference to think of making films as something that I (and my friends) could do. Sure, I realized in an abstract sense that people were making them, but I hadn’t seen it up close and it was a separate world that I’d never experienced. Watching RZ direct that film changed my perspective, so yes – in a strange, roundabout way, Rob Zombie is responsible for my leap into the film world.

It was once thought that horror films were made by and generally made for a male audience. Of course we adamantly disagree, as horror is definitely right down our alley, especially pre-21st century horror. Can you tell our readers what drew you to the genre and why it keeps drawing you in deeper and deeper, as your own filmmaking career continues to grow?

The million dollar question. Why? Why are we so drawn to this darkness? I am actually a pretty light-hearted person. I consider myself lucky to have a great life that’s full of adventure and joy – which makes it perhaps even more of a puzzle. For me, I guess it is twofold. First of all, there’s the thrill. There is nothing like that feeling of being at the top of the clicking roller coaster hill or just before the corner in the haunted house – the anticipation, wanting to scream and laugh and run all at the same time. Monsters are fun, they’re fantasy, but most importantly, they’re an escape. Second, I am fascinated with human beings and that translates into a desire to understand them. While I certainly don’t empathize with people who are able to do horrible things to other people, I want to ‘get it.’ I want to know what makes them tick. Why do these things happen? I want to find sense and make something out of the chaos. I love writing about the survivors. I’m in awe of kickass final girls.

You’ve been employed in several roles in the film industry, including set decorator-buyer, writer, director, producer, etc. Is there any particular role you prefer over the others and why?

One of my favorite things about film is the collaborative nature of the art form. Working in different departments has given me an appreciation for the importance of the different aspects of filmmaking and a better view of the process holistically. I’ve been working professionally, for the past four-something years, as a set decoration buyer. I enjoy the work and it’s helped to develop my design eye, which has translated into better visuals in my own filmmaking. But ultimately, I want to write and direct. I want to be out there telling stories. I’m currently working on making that jump from set dec to being full time on my own projects. As for producing, I have done a lot of that on my projects out of necessity and while it’s a good learning experience, it’s not where my talents lie. I had a great producer, Chris Ethridge, on my most recent short, “Teaser,” and he was a lifesaver. I’m glad to hand that part over to people who are better-suited to the task.

Who are your favorite female horror directors and why are they your favorite? Were there any female role models in the horror genre that particularly inspired you growing up?

“Teaser” Cast & Crew, Photo by Ed Selby

I wasn’t really a monster kid. I was a kid who loved just about everything having to do with stories and pretending – from dolls to Grease to Star Wars – and also happened to be into all kinds of movies. I did always love the final girls who made it to the end of the horror movies — Nancy and Alice and Laurie, particularly. My list of favorite female directors is a long one! Not only are there the big ones, like Mary Harron – whose AMERICAN PSYCHO is a vision of absolute, all-out abandon – but there’s a huge list of indie filmmakers who are making waves in both short and feature length formats. Jen and Sylvia Soska, Karen Kusama, Izzie Lee, Jill Sixx, Lynne Hansen, Tonjia Atomic — the list goes on and on. What they all have in common is guts. They’re all out there taking chances and getting their stories told however they can. Their art is gorgeous and brave. I’m also a huge fan of the actors who make directing such a great job. I have been honored to work with Madeline Brumby (FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS, SPRING BREAK ZOMBIE MASSACRE), Katherine English and burlesque star Lola LeSoleil among others.

What would you say was your gateway drug/film that enticed you into the land of horror films?

The first real horror film I remember seeing is SILENT SCREAM. I recall that shortly after, my brother and I went on a FRIDAY THE 13TH and JAWS watching spree. I’d set the alarm to get up and watch films on Cinemax in the middle of the night. MY BLOODY VALENTINE also figures prominently into my childhood. ​

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

Just five? I love reading, music and films, so I’m always on a tear. There are two books that I cannot recommend highly enough. DEVIL ALL THE TIME by Donald Ray Pollack is a jaw-droopingly dark and poetic trip into the Southern Gothic. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. I’m also reading THE WITCHES: SUSPICION, BETRAYAL AND HYSTERIA IN 1692 SALEM by Stacy Schiff. It’s full of great information but not particularly academic, a more human approach to the Salem Witch trials story. As for films, Karen Kusama‘s feature film, THE INVITATION, is incredible. I’ve re-watched it a few times. It’s got a very tight, effective story and a killer cast. I will also add to the list of people singing the endless praises of Jordan Peele‘s GET OUT. It’s just that good! Since it’s September, I’m in heavy rotation on monster bop/classic Halloween music. I’m enjoying my new birthday present – Waxwork‘s limited edition MY BLOODY VALENTINE LP with score and music from the film.

What was your favorite horror film growing up?

As a child, JAWS all the way. My brother and I had a best friend who had a pool. We’d get the VHS and make a ‘movie theater’ with tickets, watch the film and then scare ourselves into a frenzy thinking that Jaws lived in the pool. I’ll also have to admit that we chased my brother around an awful lot as Jaws so… apologies on that front.  As a teenager, I really loved cheesy horror – things like MICROWAVE MASSACRE, TOOLBOX MURDERS and the like. ​I got hooked on RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, EVIL DEAD and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE then, too, and that has definitely stuck. TCM is my favorite to this day.

As an independent female filmmaker working in the horror genre, what challenges have you personally faced that seem to be a common theme amongst women in the industry?

While I hesitate to speak for every woman in the industry, I’ve certainly heard enough stories and had enough experiences to see that there are definitely barriers to being heard as female filmmakers. I have been put in incredibly uncomfortable positions at cons and film festivals, where I wanted to be involved in the film conversation but was compelled to speak up and/or leave because of the incredibly casual misogynistic and ugly talk about other women. All I could think was, “If they are saying this while I am standing right here, what are they saying about us when I’m NOT here?” I’ve been followed to my hotel room at night by creepy guys and on and on. These types of harassment are barriers to all women – not just filmmakers – feeling comfortable attending and enjoying film events and that sucks. I’m heartened to see a lot of men starting to speak out about this and standing up beside us to put an end to this kind of behavior. There are other problems, of course. Sadly, it’s a long list.

Any advice for women filmmakers out there trying to get their foot in the door?

Show up. Help other filmmakers with their projects and support them in their successes and challenges. Make movies whenever you can – it’s the only way to learn. Community makes the indie filmmaking world go round. Be relentless. The first time funding fell through for my feature, I was crushed. But I quickly realized that it’s probably going to happen a few dozen more times before that film gets made. Keep moving forward. We want to hear what you have to say.

As a filmmaker, and a film judge for the WIHFF, how does the competition look? Anything spectacularly horrorific and exciting you can tell us without giving too much away before the festival? Any particular film we should definitely check out?

​Hmmm. I’m not sure what I’m allowed to give away so I’m going to plead the fifth on this one. But trust me, the competition is FIERCE. You’re really going to enjoy this festival – it’s got everything from fun over-the-top gore to horror comedy and creature films to beautifully realized horror poetry.

What are you looking forward to most about the festival?

I’m really looking forward to meeting the filmmakers! I love catching up with the ones who I know and seeing what’s up next for them but I’m also excited to meet the creators of the films that I judged. There is so much talent out there. ​

And last but not least, what are you up to next? You’ve indicated that in 2018 you’ll be working on a feature-length project based on a screenplay you wrote. Can you tell us a little about that, and any other projects you’re currently working on or will be in the near future?

“Teaser” still with Jim Stacy and Lola LeSoleil

I have several projects in the works right now. I’m forever writing screenplays – who knows where they will take you? I finally finished up my short film, “Under the Bed” last month. It’s a fun little creature film that stars my daughter and one of my best friends – so we had a great time making it. I’m busy entering it into festivals right now. We wrapped on my latest short, “Teaser” last weekend. It’s a very lush and poetic burlesque-themed short and my biggest production so far. We have a hard deadline for getting it through post, so you can expect to see it at festivals soon!​ I am slated to shoot another short film, “Shark: A Love Story” for a local production company sometime at the beginning of the year. That one has a lot of special FX — blood everywhere! It’s going to be crazy!

I also have three feature film scripts that have been bouncing around for a while but nothing solid on production yet. It’s my goal to shoot my psychological thriller, EIDOLON, in 2018. It’s a very sparse psychological/paranormal thriller — a re-imagining of the classic Victorian short horror story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” My feature script, GET CHINO! is a comedy/grind-house hybrid about five fan girls who kidnap their favorite action star in a bid to get him to star in their film. The screenplay has been chosen as an official selection at Oaxaca Film Festival this year and I’m looking forward to hearing some feedback on that one as well and maybe roll on it in the next few years.

All photos courtesy of Dayna Noffke and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Playwright Lauren Gunderson Spins A Victorian Techie Tale with her Play ADA & THE MEMORY ENGINE’s East Coast Premiere During the 2017 Essential Theatre Play Festival

Posted on: Aug 8th, 2017 By:

This Week’s Kool Kat of the Week, award-winning playwright Lauren Gunderson hails from Decatur and joins a cast of fantastic local writers and performers at the 2017 Essential Theatre Play Festival, running through August 27 at the West End Performing Arts Center. Her Victorian-era play ADA & THE MEMORY ENGINE depicts the life and times of mathematician (credited as being the first computer programmer in history) Ada Byron Lovelace takes the stage in all its wounded, beautiful glory (schedule of performances here). In addition to Gunderson’s play, performances at the festival also include 2017 Essential Theatre Playwright Award winner G.M. Lupo’s ANOTHER MOTHER, and Dad’s Garage company member and writer for Turner Classic Movies, John D. Babcock III’s one-man show about legendary actor-director John Cassavetes, INDEPENDENT. If you love history, science, and formidable women, come on out and catch a glimpse of Gunderson’s lively portrayal of Ada Byron Lovelace, one of history’s forgotten gals of science, while supporting your local theatre!

Gunderson, named by American Theatre Magazine as the Most Produced Living American Playwright of 2016 hails from Decatur and has rejoined her Essential Theatre family with the East Coast Premiere of her homage to the forgotten women of science, ADA & THE MEMORY ENGINE, directed by Essential’s Ellen McQueen, and starring Ashley Anderson as “Ada,” Mark Cosby as “Charles Babbage,” and Brandon Partrick as “Lord Lovelace.” Gunderson’s writing career began to take root with her first play, Parts They Call Deep, winning the first Essential Theatre Playwriting Award in 2001, followed by her second ETPA award in 2004. She went on to procure other envied awards including the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, Aurora Theatre’s Global Age Award, the Eric Bentley New Play Award and the Dramatists Guild’s Lanford Wilson Award. Gunderson continues her prolific writing career, spinning tales for the stage and in the pages of children’s books (Dr. Wonderful and Her Dog: Blast Off to the Moon!).  Atlanta will have the opportunity to experience more of her works in the coming months at Theatrical Outfit and Synchronicity Theatre, which if they’re anything like ADA, we at ATLRetro be dying to catch them! We caught up with Gunderson for a quick chat about her love of writing, what draws her to the forgotten women of science, and coming home to her Decatur/Atlanta roots.

Lauren Gunderson

ATLRetro: You hail from Decatur. Was there anything you did while growing up here that fed into your ultimate career in theatre?

Lauren Gunderson: I was lucky to be in the care of some amazing theater teachers both in theatre and in the sciences. In high school theater I was lucky enough to play roles in some of the best literature there is, Tennessee Williams and Shakespeare. Lynn Hosking, Peggy Hasty and Olivia Roller allowed me those chances to be onstage and I’ll never forget it. Performing those plays gave me the kind of intimate relationship with good writing that would lead me to having a single clue as to how to write a good play. One of my favorite teachers was Joe Winterschiedt who taught physics at Decatur High. He was such a jubilant and creative science teacher and he opened the door to my understanding that science isn’t just memorizing equations and facts; it’s a completely creative and transcendent approach to knowing and proving what’s true. These are the stories I most often tell in the theatre, the stories of great moments in science, of discovery, of the tough and exciting quest for real truth.

Your first professional play, “Parts They Call Deep” won the Essential Theatre Playwriting Award in 2001, when you were just 18, and you won again for BACKGROUND in 2004. Of course, you went on to win many other awards, but what was it about Essential then that helped nurture you as a beginning playwright?

They gave me my start as a playwright. I didn’t even know if I’d actually written a play until I gave it to Peter Hardy and he said, “It is a play AND it won our new award for Georgia writers!” I’ll always credit Essential Theatre as giving me the boost, the confidence, the experience and the first professional production of my career.

What is it like being back at Essential now. How did this production come about and what’s it like to work with Peter Hardy, director Ellen McQueen and the rest of the company?

It’s an honor. I’m so proud to be in the Essential family of artists. I was working remotely with most of the team because I live in San Francisco. But I have a contingent of Atlanta friends and family who always come to see my work. (Hi MoBo moms! Hi Oakhurst Family! Hi Emory!).

Production Still: Ashley Anderson as “Ada”

How did you become interested in Ada Byron Lovelace and what about her made you think she’d be a great play protagonist? We are in the age of tech and she started it! Hers is an amazing story for me to tell because of the convergence of art and science that swirls around her history. He father was the great poet Lord Byron, her mother was a mathematician and the company she kept included the greatest minds in England. She was a visionary, a rebel, a feminist before feminism, and a woman of passion and skill. She’s also deeply flawed and broken. That makes her a great human to build a story around.

What research did you do to write the play? Were you surprised by anything you discovered about Ada?

The most fun I had while researching was visiting the Computer History Museum out here in Palo Alto, CA, where they have a working full-scale model of Babbage‘s Difference Engine (his calculator). They actually run it once a day out here and it’s a sight to see. It’s as tall as a bus and about 10 feet long. The clanging and clacking when it’s calculating is mesmerizing. I took video. So cool. Check out the video here.

Also the wonderful spirited repartee between Ada and Charles Babbage. How much of that comes from their letters versus your imagination?

Many of the letters you hear in the play are taken directly from their actual correspondence. The sass and sexual tension is all mine! (Heh!)

When and where was the play first produced? Any anecdote about that production?

I wrote it for a company here in Berkeley called Central Works, for my friend and actor Kat Zdan as “Ada” and Kevin Clarke as “Babbage.” It was a dream to write for them and a wild process putting the play together. Much like Essential’s production, the premiere was a small company, a simple production – very intimate. I think the play works well like that. But the premiere had only 4 actors and Essential is doing it without doubling – a larger cast, a bigger landscape of characters.  The original song sung in the play was written by the incredible band The Kilbanes (Kate Kilbane and Dan Schlessinger). They wrote something magnificent for the show – mathematical, moving, soaring, sad, and beautiful. I’m so impressed with it. I sing it to myself often. You can hear it on the tumblr page here.

Production Still: (l-r) Ashley Anderson, Mark Cosby (as “Babbage”)

Without giving away spoilers, Ada’s “reading aloud” of “She Walks In Beauty” frames the play. Why this particular short work rather than another of Lord Byron’s many poems?

This was the first Byron poem I remember and it still haunts me – the elegance, the meter, the imagery. I find it terribly romantic.

What was the most challenging part of writing ADA AND THE MEMORY ENGINE?

The ending. Even though the final scene was the first one I wrote, it asks a lot of the actors, the play, and the audience to go with me. But I think it surprises you and deepens the story beyond where you might think it could go.

Do have a favorite scene, either that was fun to write or that when you see the play performed, you are especially delighted by?

I love their fight at the beginning of Act 2. It’s so great to see the actors let loose and get messy with their emotions.

This isn’t your first play about forgotten women scientists. Who else have you written about, what draws you to this theme, and will there be more in your future writing?

I write a lot about science and particularly women in science. Partly because GO LADIES OF SCIENCE! And partly because there is inherently more struggle in a woman’s story than in a man’s. The world is tougher for her – it’s biased, it judges, it wants her to fail. That’s even before she gets into a male dominated field like tech or the sciences. More struggles mean more obstacles mean better drama.

It’s hard to earn a living as a playwright (or as a writer in general) but you were dubbed the Most Produced Living American Playwright in 2016 by American Theatre Magazine. What’s your secret and do you have any advice for young playwrights?

Production Still: Mark Cosby, Ashley Anderson

I write a lot. I write fast. That is, in no short order, why I’m on that list. I love to write, I love figuring out the way a story works. Writing is like solving a mystery or cracking a puzzle. I love the work, which also means I do a lot of it. If you want to be a playwright, see a lot of plays, read about dramatic structure, and write every day.

What are you writing now, or what was your last completed work and when/where can we see those being produced? Any more productions coming up at Essential or any other Atlanta companies?

I’ve got about a thousand things going on including raising two kids and a cat. I am overjoyed that Theatrical Outfit is producing my play MISS BENNET this holiday season, co-written with Margot Melcon. And then Synchronicity Theatre is producing a wild, southern, political feminist farce, THE TAMING next June. Yay plays! I am so grateful to the Atlanta theatre community. It’s so rich with talent! Also my children’s book Dr. Wonderful and Her Dog: Blast Off to the Moon! just came out. It’s about a little girl scientist/adventurer and is pretty awesome with gorgeous illustrations. The Little Shop of Stories has signed copies in Decatur.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you come back to Atlanta/Decatur, and why?

Eat pimento cheese on the porch of my mom’s cabin in the North Georgia mountains, visit The Little Shop of Stories in Decatur to buy books for my boys, visit with friends and drink wine at Donna’s house, see some plays, walk the Highline, hug my friends at Oakhurst Baptist Church.

Photos courtesy of The Essential Theatre and Lauren Gunderson, and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Vanessa Ionta Wright Dishes on the Atlanta Debut of Her Film Short, RAINY SEASON, Screening at the Attack of the 50 Foot Film Fest at The Plaza Theatre

Posted on: Jun 21st, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Vanessa Ionta Wright, local filmmaker, co-founder and Director of the Women in Horror Film Festival, and horror aficionado helps dish out a night of terror, alongside fellow Atlanta indie filmmakers, with a screening of her short film, RAINY SEASON (2017), during the first ever Attack of the Fifty Foot Film Fest! Hosted by HORROR HOTEL producer and Kool Kat Debbie Hess, the fest features quality shorts created by local filmmakers (HORROR HOTEL episode “Sleep Tight” by Kool Kat Ricky Hess et al; ATTACK OF THE FACE MELTERS co-directed by Blake K. Swell and Tyler Weddle; and MR. LOCKJAW PREQUEL: EPISODE ONE directed by Byron Erwin)! So if you’re looking for a bloody fangtastic time and want to chat it up with some killer local filmmakers, make your way to The Plaza Theatre on June 27 at 7pm!

Wright, both writer and director of RAINY SEASON received full authorization by the King of Horror himself, Stephen King, to adapt his short story, “Rainy Season,” (first published in the Spring 1989 issue of MIDNIGHT GRAFFITI), into a live-action piece of bloody art, for the sole purpose of screening at film festivals in 2015. By way of King’s Dollar Babies program, Wright invested her blood, sweat and tears along with her WIHFF co-founder and Executive Producer Samantha Kolesnik and they are excited to bring the film to Atlanta’s horror film-loving audience!

ATLRetro caught up with Vanessa to chat about her film, the Attack of the Fifty Foot Film Fest, women in genre filmmaking and her upcoming Women in Horror Film Festival. While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A, why not take a peek at RAINY SEASON’s official 2017 trailer, here.

ATLRetro: Attack of the 50 Foot Film Fest! Sounds exciting and right up ATLRetro’s alley! Can you tell us a little about the event, what inspired it, and how you got involved?

Vanessa Ionta Wright: The organizer of the event, Debbie Hess, wanted to put together a ‘mini’ fest of horror/sci-fi/suspense themed films produced by local Atlanta filmmakers that were either world premiere films or first time in Atlanta proper premieres. She wanted to curate a selection of quality indie films that would showcase and celebrate the talent and production capabilities of Atlanta filmmakers themselves. The world knows Atlanta as a premium destination for studio filmmaking with big budgets but Atlanta also has some excellent and creative filmmakers right here that can deliver the goods on an indie level as well. Collaborating with multiple filmmakers made it feasible to bring these short films to the big screen. The Plaza Theatre seemed the perfect venue with its historic background for such films. She put out a call to submit films for consideration. RAINY SEASON was a good fit.

Care to share a little about the other featured films and their directors?

I haven’t personally met any of them yet, but am very much looking forward to it, as well as seeing their films. Here is all the information I was able to gather with my spy skills: The Hesses (Ricky, Al and Debbie) produce the HORROR HOTEL series filmed in Atlanta. Ricky is the creator and primary director of the series with the first season streaming on Hulu, an anthology feature film of the 2nd season episodes which are available on Amazon Prime and coming soon to DirectTV. Their festival film, “Sleep Tight” is the pilot episode of the 3rd season and promises to creep it up with attack bed bugs! ATTACK OF THE FACE MELTERS, written by Blake K. Swell and co-directed by Tyler Weddle and Swell, features Jack, a lovable comic geek that enjoys his comics more than his girlfriend. Life takes a turn when Jack’s comic book comes to life. And LOCKJAW PREQUEL: Episode One, directed by Byron Conrad Erwin, written by Justin Craig, features a ventriloquist with mundane aspirations of becoming a children’s entertainer who becomes subject to his dummy’s more sinister desire: interrogating and torturing criminals for the mob.

We’re excited to see that your short film RAINY SEASON, adapted from Stephen King’s short story will be screening at the fest. Can you tell us a little about the film and the making of? Any interesting or crazy tales to tell about filming your short?

I feel like the entire experience from beginning to end has been crazy and interesting. I secured the non-exclusive rights back in July 2015 and began work on the script. Once the script was basically locked — I say basically because I was doing rewrites up until a day before shooting — I started putting together a team to get this sucker produced. I

Vanessa Ionta Wright

met Executive Producer Samantha Kolesnik at a film festival in Los Angeles and she was in the process of having her short film THE PRICE OF BONES (2016) produced and wanted to be more involved with production, so I asked if she wanted to jump on board RAINY SEASON.  She went from “Sure, I’ll help out,” to Executive Producer.  This film would not have happened without her. I then reached out to Director of Photography Mark Simon and was honored that he wanted to be a part of this project. Working alongside John Hughes, Mark began his career on some of the most iconic films in history (SIXTEEN CANDLES, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF). We were so lucky to be working with so many talents in this industry.

One of our biggest challenges, being on such a tight and small budget, was the fact that our set had no electricity or running water and we were shooting nights in an isolated location during the hottest days of August.  Thank goodness for generators, port-a-potties and a healthy respect for bats.

And how cool that your adaptation is fully authorized by King. Can you tell us a little about that process and how long it took for you to get King’s blessing?

This wasn’t as daunting as I thought it might be. The process was fairly simple. “Rainy Season” is part of King’s Dollar Babies Program, which allows aspiring filmmakers to secure the non-exclusive rights to his work and adapt it for the screen. I looked at the list of available stories and filled out an application and waited. Two weeks went by and I received an email granting me permission to adapt the story. I signed the contract and mailed my dollar bill to the “Master of Horror.”  The completed film can in no way make a profit or be distributed. It is for festival use only. So many people have asked, “Why on earth would you make a film that can’t be distributed or make any money?” I look at this film as a very expensive resume. I felt like this film could be a great opportunity for everyone involved to take the next step. Plus it doesn’t hurt to have Stephen King’s name on your film.

Behind the scenes – RAINY SEASON

Are there any other horror stories you’d like to adapt to film, those that have yet to hit the big screen?

I am always late to the party when it comes to reading. Generally, I’ll read a book and think, “That would make an awesome film!” and then I look it up and it’s already been done. I also read a lot of older books…I might need some book recommendations on new horror releases.

Can you tell our readers what drew you to filmmaking and which filmmakers would you say inspired you most?

I think I’ve been drawn to filmmaking my entire life, I just didn’t realize that it could be a career. I started writing stories at an early age, and the moment our family got a VHS movie camera I started bringing those stories to life. I have always been inspired by those who can take the seeds of an idea and grow it into a visual medium that can evoke an emotional response, be it laughter, tears or fear. I grew up on television and movies.  So much of it was still new. Premium cable television got popular in the early 1980s and I was front and center. I was always drawn to the scarier programs. I remember sneaking around to watch COMMANDER USA’s GROOVIE MOVIES and films like MY BLOODY VALENTINE , FRIDAY THE 13TH III, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, CAT PEOPLE and more. I was also an avid watcher of the early TWILIGHT ZONE series and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. I loved suspense more than anything. Gore was fun, but the anticipation of terror got me every time. And the horror of the 1970s and 1980s is so iconic. I watched films by John Carpenter, Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper and thought, “I want to do that!”

As an independent female filmmaker working in the horror genre, what challenges have you personally faced that seem to be a common theme amongst women in the industry?

I don’t know that I have faced any challenges in the industry due to being a woman. I think the challenges I have faced are common to all independent filmmakers regardless of gender. There is an audience for every film and I think as filmmakers we are all trying to find the most effective route to get our films in front of those audiences. Filmmaking is expensive, time consuming and extremely competitive. I think for years this industry has been dominated by men at the top, but we are seeing more and more women in these top creative and executive roles. And I certainly don’t think that I, or any other woman, should be given opportunities simply based on our gender. If I get hired as a director it should be because I am the best director for the job, not because I’m a good female director.

It seems that little by little, women are finally getting the attention they deserve when it comes to film, especially within the horror genre, which brings us to your Women in Horror Film Festival coming up in September. Can you give us a sneak peek into that venture and why you think it’s important that these types of events take place?

Samantha Kolesnik and I are very excited to be bringing this event to the Atlanta area. As genre filmmakers, we have noticed an unbalanced representation of women at horror film festivals and at the box office. We decided to create a platform to showcase female genre filmmakers and screenwriters. Not to create a women only event, but to promote those women who are currently creating films and screenplays and to get them noticed in an otherwise saturated market. We are striving for more equality in the industry, a balanced representation of talented filmmakers and writers. We are very excited to be welcoming some very special guests to the event that many horror fans will recognize: Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Jen and Sylvia Soska, Horror Producer Marianne Maddalena, Lynn Lowry, Horror authors Mylo Carbia and Meg Hafdahl and famed zombie from AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD, Sonya Thompson.  These trailblazing women have been hugely supportive of what Samantha and I have created and we’re thrilled to be working alongside them. The festival will be accepting submissions through July 15, 2017, and the fest will take place September 21-24, 2017, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel & Conference Center in Peachtree City, just down the street from Pinewood Atlanta Studios and Raleigh Studios, home of THE WALKING DEAD.  Your readers can go here for more information.

Who are your favorite women horror directors and why?

Some of my favorites would be Kathryn Bigelow (NEAR DARK), Jennifer Kent (THE BABADOOK), Mary Lambert (PET SEMATARY), Mary Harron (AMERICAN PSYCHO). I am quickly becoming a fan of some amazing up and coming indie directors like Heidi Hartwig (WONDER VALLEY), Justine Raczkiewicz (WASTE) and Audrey Cummings (BERKSHIRE COUNTY). Why I like these particular directors? They know how to tell great stories. They are able to scare and disturb audiences while also creating thought provoking subject matter. I like them because they make great films. It’s why I like any director. I know I’m leaving people off of my list. I could create a spreadsheet of my favorite horror films and directors and you could offer a centerfold-type fold out for your readers. -Ha!-

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

I love lists! I’m limited to only 5?! WATCHING: THE KEEPERS (Netflix Docuseries); MAKING A MURDERER (Netflix Docuseries); submissions for WIHFF – even though Sam and I are not judging the work, we are watching and enjoying all of the films, so that has been taking up a lot of my screen time; and some of my all time favorite films and TV shows in no particular order: RUSHMORE (Anderson), RAISING ARIZONA (Cohen Bros), HALLOWEEN (Carpenter), PSYCHO (Hitchcock), PULP FICTION (Tarantino), GOODFELLAS (Scorsese), A BRONX TALE (DeNiro), BACK TO THE FUTURE (Zemeckis), SLING BLADE (Thorton), ROCKY (Stallone), DIE HARD (McTierman), ALIEN (Scott). Series that I love and have loved:  THE WALKING DEAD, HEROES, BREAKING BAD, FRIDAY THE 13th the Series, AMAZING STORIES, STRANGER THINGS, GREATEST AMERICAN HERO, V, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, DARK SHADOWS, etc. There are so many more that I will remember after this is printed!

Any advice for women filmmakers out there trying to get their foot in the door?

This advice is for all filmmakers. Get out there and make your films. Find good talented people to work and collaborate with and get your film made.  There are so many resources for funding now. Get your hands on a good script or write one yourself and do it. There is no career in film without the film. And surround yourself with good, creative, talented people. You never know who you might meet, so network like crazy. Go to film festivals, get involved with the local indie film scene, and offer to help out on set even if you don’t get paid. Favors get repaid, so support each other, and treat your cast/crew with respect and kindness.

Getting back to what brought us here, Attack of the 50 Foot Film Fest! Anything exciting planned for fest-goers? Can we expect this to be an annual event, something we all can look forward to in years to come?

I’m not sure if this will become an annual event, but I do hope so! I love that Debbie Hess is giving an opportunity to local filmmakers to screen their films. This is about sharing our work. It’s not a competition and we are all there to cheer each other on and give audiences a chance to see some films they might not otherwise have the opportunity to see. And the Plaza is just a super cool venue, so much history there! Friends, fans and moviegoers will have the chance to meet the filmmakers and even the cast of some of these films, which is pretty exciting in my book.
And last but not least, what’s next for Vanessa Ionta Wright? Any other films in the works we should know about?

Right now I am enjoying the RAINY SEASON ride. It’s currently hitting festivals and I want to enjoy the success of the film before I jump into the next one. And WIHFF is keeping me pretty busy as it’s the first year! My plan is hopefully direct a feature in the next year or two so Samantha Kolesnik and I have been making a plan to make that happen. We are actually currently working on a screenplay together, which I am very excited about. I will be at the Attack of the 50ft Film Fest so please be sure to stop by and say hi, I love meeting people!

All photos courtesy of Vanessa Ionta Wright and used with permission.

 

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Kool Kats of the Week: WOLVERTON Co-Writers Michael Stark and Terrell T. Garrett Get Adventurous in Turn of the Century London Where the Science of H.G. Wells Goes Head to Head with the Mysterious

Posted on: Jun 13th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Michael Stark, former screenwriter for Disney and Universal Pictures and current purveyor of rare horror and sci-fi books (Burnt Biscuit Books) “in the shadows of Pinewood Studios,” and Terrell T. Garrett, screenwriter, reside south of the Atlanta Airport, a.k.a. “Hillbilly Hollywood.” Having written several screenplays together, they decided to take an artistic leap and are currently in the process of producing their first comic, “WOLVERTON: THIEF OF IMPOSSIBLE OBJECTS, along with artist Derek Rodenbeck. Initially slated for the big screen but not quite making it past Hollywood’s current aversion to original works, WOLVERTON was revived as a self-published comic book and labor of love for Stark and Garrett. This action-packed story entangles Jack Wolverton, gentleman thief, within a wicked supernatural web, and “Only he can save the world’s most powerful artifacts from getting into the wrong hands.” While their tale takes place in turn of the century London and Wolverton holds H.G. Wells’ science in high esteem, as opposed to the superstition-riddled occultish general population, “Wolverton isn’t exactly steampunk,” tweeted Stark. “He’s more Schvitz Punk!” The premier issue is finished, however, Stark and Garrett made a decision to add four previously cut pages back in before it goes to the printers, so all you retro-fabulous turn of the century comic-loving kiddies will have more action-packed goodness when it hits the shelves!

Stark and Garrett’s home-grown labor of love is being crowd-funded by a Kickstarter campaign, in part to cover printing costs (28 full-color pages with a 5000 copy run!), but also to put feelers out to gauge interest in their project. They are offering many enticing perks for backers, including digital and hard copies, exclusive signed prints and the chance for a few lucky folks to get drawn and/or written into the action. So come on out and be a part of WOLVERTON history and snatch up an adventurous perk or two via the Kickstarter campaign available through July 6! Check out the full range of rewards here!

ATLRetro caught up with Michael Stark and Terrell T. Garrett to gab a bit about their upcoming comic,  writing for the Hollywood machine; and why going with crowd-funding made sense for this project. While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A, why not take a peek at the teaser trailer and a wee history of WOLVERTON here.

ATLRetro: How did you and your co-writer, Terrell T. Garrett, come up with the idea of “Wolverton?” What inspired the tale and why set the story in turn of the century London?

Michael: I had an old script about a gentleman thief that I pitched to Sean Connery’s company before he did ENTRAPMENT. I wanted to dust it off, but Terrell yawned, finding the trope a bit old-fashioned. So, out of the blue I blurted out: “What if we set it in Edwardian England and he only stole magical objects like the Monkey’s paw?” Suddenly, my writing partner leaned in, very interested, and we knew we had a great idea.

(l-r) Co-Writers Terrell T. Garrett and Michael Stark

Can you tell our readers a little about the creative team behind WOLVERTON?

Michael: I was making a good living writing in Hollywood in the ’90s without actually having anything produced. Those days have changed. The new normal is free options and free rewrites which is why I started looking at trying a different format. Our artist, Derek Rodenbeck, was an army vet whose testimony of overcoming great tragedy with his art really moved us. We think we found a very talented, young man.

Terrell:  I’m currently adapting Alistair MacLean‘s novel, FEAR IS THE KEY, for the big screen. In fact, most of the stuff I’ve written has been in the screenplay format except for a few short stories here and there and a novel that I’m working on at a glacial pace. I’m also a new father.

What is it about the “gentleman thief” trope that inspires you to create a character like Jack Wolverton?

Michael: We were getting known in Hollywood for writing wild set pieces.  I wanted to do something that mixed action with the wit and sophistication of a Preston Sturges or an Ernst Lubitch film. The Gentleman Thief trope fit both worlds perfectly.

We see that you and Garrett worked together on several screenplays, and that you’ve optioned a few to Universal and Disney. Comics and film are similar in that they both rely on dialogue, action and visuals to deliver an awe-inspiring story. As a screenwriter and now a comic book writer, what would you say are the biggest differences between the two, and the challenges of each?

Artist Derek Rodenbeck

Michael: I thought it would be pretty easy to transpose the script into comic book format. I was dead wrong! Especially because modern comic books like modern screenplays have far less text in ‘em than when I was a kid. So, even after we basically locked the book, I’m still calling the letterer and asking if we can fit in a new bit.

Can you tell our readers what drew you to screenwriting, and who would you say are your most inspirational screenwriters/films?

Michael: Thank God for PBS in the 70s.  I saw a Francois Truffaut and Luis Bunuel film festival when I was 10 years old and knew then I wanted to be a screenwriter. Not a director ’cause I looked lousy in jodhpurs. At NYU, I mentored under three Academy winning screenwriters: Ring Lardner JR (MASH, WOMAN OF THE YEAR), Waldo Salt (MIDNIGHT COWBOY, SERPICO) and Ian Hunter, who could tear apart and fix just about anything.

Terrell: I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker when I saw JURASSIC PARK when I was 14 years old. Something about the collective awe in the theater and seeing all the names in the credits made me realize I wanted to be a part of the movie magic. My favorite screenwriters and filmmakers who inspire me are Walter Hill (ALIEN franchise), James Cameron, Jane Goldman (KICK-ASS), Frank Darabont (THE MIST), Dan Gilroy (NIGHTCRAWLER), Joe Carnahan (THE GREY), Bryan Fuller (HANNIBAL TV series), Jon Spaihts (DOCTOR STRANGE, PROMETHEUS) and Diablo Cody (JUNO).

Of course we have to know, as a native Long Islander, what made you fly south, and what is it about Atlanta that’s kept you around for so long?

Michael: That is a very long and surreal story, but basically I was given a month to live a decade ago and went on a spiritual journey that ended up with this nice, Jewish kid from Long Island becoming a minister in a small, rural GA church. That of course would make a good screenplay, but I strictly believe in never writing about your own life. Oh, yeah, I didn’t die BTW.

Most kids (and now adults, as the guilty pleasure no longer carries the negative geek stigma) can’t wait to get their grubby little hands on the coolest of the cool comics. What comics were your favorite growing up and what are your favorites now?

Terrell:  I grew up reading Chris Claremont X-MEN comics and the ’90s issues of THE NEW MUTANTS. PREACHER and Neil Gaiman‘s SANDMAN blew my teenage mind. These days, I’m enjoying Alan Moore‘s PROVIDENCE, Brian K. Vaughan‘s SAGA and Matt Fraction‘s ODY-C.

MichaelTeam Marvel and mind warping EC reprints. Now anything by Alan Moore.

WOLVERTON began as an original screenplay and was then regenerated into a comic book. Can you tell us a little about that process and whether seeing it drawn on the page in color helps visualize how it will look on the big screen?

Michael: The screenplay was a director’s wet dream with action scenes that were beyond hyper kinetic. Derek did a great job capturing that energy on the page. Even Wolverton’s hair is constantly in motion.

Any plans to take the tale back to Hollywood after its success as a comic book?

Michael: Well, there was just a huge bidding war over a friend’s graphic novel, so, yes! Hollywood is more interested in acquiring existing material than original screenplays. Maybe they’ll come to us this time if the comic book is successful.

Why a Kickstarter campaign for WOLVERTON? What are the advantages of taking the crowd-sourcing route?

Terrell: We chose Kickstarter because it just felt logical. A lot of creatives have used the crowd-sourcing platform and have found success, especially in the realm of comics. We figured it was worth a shot. Not only to hopefully cover the cost of printing, but to see if people would be interested in our little story.

You’ve put together some great bonuses for investors, ranging from digital and hard copies to exclusive signed prints and the chance to get drawn into the action (Exciting!). What can folks looking to invest via Kickstarter expect to get when they back your comic?

Terrell: Backers can, firstly, expect a fun adventure story full of cool visuals, sparking dialogue and great characters.  Secondly, for the backers who dish out a little extra, they can expect to see their likeness or the name of their business in comic book form or own exciting and original artwork. Thirdly, they can know that they invested in a story with little risk, and have contributed to the dream of a brand new father.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

Terrell:  Nonfiction Book: MIND HUNTER: INSIDE THE FBI’S ELITE SERIAL CRIME UNIT by John E. Douglas. Podcast: LIMETOWN. Podcast: THE BLACK TAPES. Science Fiction Book: RED RISING by Pierce Brown. Novella: “Agents of Dreamland” by Caitlin R. Kiernan.

Michael: I’m cycling through John Ford westerns and Jeeves and Wooster books at the moment. I’m not sure what I’ll spit out after that combo meal. Although, Terrell and I already wrote a script about Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Victorian London.  That may be our next comic book.

Any advice for writers and/or artists out there on putting together and publishing their own comic books?

Terrell:  Treat the artist as your collaborator. Be patient with the process. Never give up.

Michael: Who knew sticking it to the man – the man being Hollywood – would be so damn expensive. Many people I went to film school with are now editors at Marvel and DC. Some even started their own publishing companies. I knew if I asked for their advice, they’d probably talk me out of it and I didn’t want to be talked out of it.

Getting back to why we’re here chatting you up, WOLVERTON, and the comic book’s Kickstarter campaign! Without giving too much away, what can you tell our readers a little about the comic?

Michael:  Here’s how we pitched it to Hollywood. In turn of the century London, Jack Wolverton, gentleman thief, specializes in stealing the arcane, the accursed and the occult. With war about to break out, only he can stop the world’s most powerful artifacts (The Monkey’s Paw, The Hope Diamond and the Portrait of Dorian Gray) from falling into the wrong hands! Think Indiana Jones meets Pirates of the Caribbean.

And last but not least, how many issues are planned and how can our readers snag up their very own copies?

Michael: We are printing up 5,000 copies and you can get a copy before anyone on the planet does by backing us now. If the ship carrying them through the high China Seas isn’t attacked by pirates, expect a summer release.

All photos courtesy of Michael Stark and Terrell T. Garrett and used with permission.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Jeffrey Butzer Delivers A Lynchian Tour de Force with His “Club Silencio: Music From the Feature Films of David Lynch” Kicking Off Its Southeastern Summer Tour at The Earl

Posted on: May 30th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

It’s been exactly half a decade since we shot the breeze with Atlanta’s own jack of all musical trades and film score junkie, Jeffrey Butzer (The Bicycle Eaters/The Compartmentalizationalists). So we caught up with him once again to get the scoop on his upcoming venture into the bizarre land of Lynch. His “Club Silencio: Music From the Feature Films of David Lynch” tours the southeast this summer with a killer kick-off at The Earl this Friday, June 2 at 9 pm, featuring the “Ladies in the Radiator” also known as Butzer (guitar); T.T. Mahony (synth/piano); Bicycle Eaters Matt Steadman and Sean Zearfoss (rhythm section); Ben Davis (sax), Jade Poppyfield and Renee Nelson (rotating vocalists). Club Silencio promises an unconventionally surreal evening sending you dangling head first into The Pink Room. And if you just can’t get enough Lynch-madness after the June 2 date, you can catch the tour at its stops at the High Dive in Gainesville, FL on June 23, at Saturn in Birmingham, AL on July 8, and at the Caledonia Lounge in Athens on July 15!

ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey Butzer for a quick tête-à-tête about “Club Silencio,” his love affair with film scores and film in general, and what he and the Bicycle Eaters/The Compartmentalizationalists have been up to in the last five years. While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Butzer, why not listen to a bit o’ Butzer and The Compartmentalizationalists’ “Mother’s Gray Dress.”

ATLRetro:  It’s been nearly half a decade since we spoke to you about the release of The Bicycle Eaters’ new 7-inch HIDING PLASTIC SPIDERS. So much has happened since, and now you’re diving head first into David Lynch’s land of the bizarre with your newest musical escapade, CLUB SILENCIO: MUSIC FROM THE FEATURE FILMS OF DAVID LYNCH. What draws you to Lynch’s film scores?

Jeffrey Butzer: What I love about Lynch’s work is his element of surprise. The new TWIN PEAKS series is a great example of that. I love that every week I have no idea what I am getting into. Will it scare me or be hilarious?  …Who knows?

Your CLUB SILENCIO tour was originally slated for 2008, as a follow up to your BEAUTIFUL LOSERS: THE SONGS OF CAVE, WAITS AND COHEN and A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS tours. Of course we have to know, what took so long and why now?

I am not sure? It wasn’t feeling right in 2008. I never could get in to the mindset to put it together. As Lynch would say, “The ideas weren’t coming.” I had a set list, which really hasn’t changed very much. But that was it. Earlier this year, I had a conversation with a musician who was sort of pushing me to finally do it. Then Julee Cruise and I sort of discussed a mini tour, which neither of us could make happen but, at that point I was really into the idea again, and with the timing of the new TWIN PEAKS it was easy to get everyone motivated.

Can you tell our readers a little about “The Ladies in the Radiator” who will be performing with you on the CLUB SILENCIO tour?

Yes, my longtime collaborator T.T. Mahony is playing synth/piano, Bicycle Eaters Matt Steadman and Sean Zearfoss are the rhythm section, Ben Davis (Purkenji Shift/Noot d’Noot) on Sax, Meghan Dowlen a.k.a. ”Jade Poppyfield and Renee Nelson (Jarboe) are both singing on different dates. I am playing guitar. It is a really great band. I am really happy with all the arrangements.

Film scores are a big influence on your music, with the Bicycle Eaters and The Compartmentalizationalists, et al. It seems many musicians are influenced by particular musicians (past or present) or a particular type of popular music (the art being the whole), but film’s scores tell a different kind of story, as accompaniments or pieces or carriers of the whole. Can you tell our readers what it is about film scores that influence you and the part they play in carrying a film?

I am a film lover in general. I like when films have no music, like in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN or films by my hero Luis Bunuel. But, I also like when music is almost like a main character in a movie, like THE MASTER or films by Fellini, for example. I am not sure how film music influences me exactly. I guess I like the abstract nature of creating feelings out of noises. Mood is my primary goal in the music that I create.

We see that you’ve composed several scores as well for films such as Raymond Carr’s WILD IS THE WIND (2011); HITORI (2014); GOOD GRIEF SUICIDE HOTLINE (2015); ABACUS, MY LOVE (2014); BIRDCATCHER (2006), etc. Do you prefer composing behind the scenes, or playing in front of a crowd? Pros and cons?

I enjoy both for different reasons. Making a score is really strange to me. I really never know what I am doing. I still do not have a method of working and I don’t write out music. Matt Steadman (producer, musician) and I normally meet and see what happens and eventually we come up with music we are happy with. Live shows are very thrilling for me. Something like Club Silencio is fun, because we get to have our own Lynchian spin on expectations. We created this as massive admirers and fans of Lynch and have put together the show we would want to see. I’m getting really obsessed with details like stage plot, lighting, clothing. We put a lot of thought in to these types of shows. We really want them to feel special and fun for people.

Which film score(s) influenced you the most before you began composing your own, and how did it influence you?

Nino Rota’s 8 ½, Michael Nyman/Peter Greenaway scores and the spaghetti westerns by Morricone and Luis Bacolov were all influential to me.

Who are your top five favorite film composers and the film scores they composed that moved you most?

In no particular order my favorites would be Nino Rota (8 ½); Angelo Badalamenti (most Lynch films); Ennio Morricone (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST/ THE GREAT SILENCE); Michael Nyman (A ZED AND TWO NOUGHTS/ THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER); and Carter Burwell (FARGO/ BARTON FINK). However, it is difficult to speak about influence. As a musician I strive to not show my influences. I can say that when I sit down to write, music is the last thing on my mind. I am typically thinking about a story, sometimes my own, sometimes a book or film. Then, I try to musically paint a picture. I am very bad with narrative, which is probably why I am drawn to filmmakers like Lynch, who seems more concerned with mood.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be listening to right now–past or present, well-known or obscure?

1) Rowland S. Howard, the guitarist from The Birthday Party has a great, dark, and beautiful album called TEENAGE SNUFF FILM; 2) the singer Lhasa, especially her song Rising, and a song called “That Leaving Feeling she recorded with Stuart Staples of Tindersticks. She passed away a few years ago. Her voice is one of my favorite things; 3) Leonard Cohen’s underrated album NEW SKIIN FOR THE OLD CEREMONY is an all time favorite of mine; 4) Emiliana Torrini’s version of “If You Go Away” has been in my steady rotation. I love Brel’s version of course, but hers in a wonderful modern take; and 5) Rennie Sparks (The Handsome Family): Many now know of them from the theme from True Detective, but do yourself a favor and delve in to their world. Rennie’s books and paintings are so strange and vivid and their last album is one of their best. Rennie, as a writer is one of my biggest influences.

Back to the surreal. If you had to choose just one (I know it’s hard!), which Lynch film would be your absolute favorite?

I honestly cannot pick one. MULHOLLAND DRIVE is always in my top three. BLUE VELVET is the first one I fell in love with. INLAND EMPIRE is a misunderstood masterpiece. If you’ve only seen it once and are on the fence or don’t really like it, see it three more times. It is so dense it demands multiple viewings.

You’re taking this epic and eccentric beast on a trip across the equally bizarre south this summer after your gig at The Earl on June 2, with shows at the High Dive in Gainesville, FL (June 23); Saturn in Birmingham (July 8); and the Caledonia Lounge in Athens (July 15). What exciting things can folks expect when they come to one of your shows? And will this be the last of the tour, or will you be giving Atlanta an encore presentation in the near future?

If this goes well, we plan to make it a summer tradition. We are doing our best to make you feel like you are visiting the Pink Room/Black Lodge and deliver the best renditions of these iconoclastic songs as possible.

And last but not least, any other exciting plans in the future for Jeffrey Bützer? The Bicycle Eaters? The Compartmentalizationalists?

Bicycle Eaters have our first vocal full-length in the editing room as we speak…er, type. I’m also writing a play/screenplay entitled “Partialisms” that I plan to bring to a stage or screen in the near future.

All photos are courtesy of Jeffrey Butzer and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Dan Dixon Invites You to PLS PLS Get JET BLACK and Out to The Earl on Saturday April 15!

Posted on: Apr 12th, 2017 By:

By Geoff Slade
Contributing Writer

Atlanta-based band PLS PLS have a brand new record out called JET BLACK and finish up their latest tour this Saturday April 15 at The Earl (Get tickets here). Frontman Dan Dixon has been on the Atlanta music scene for a long time, best known for a decade of Dropsonic.

So Dan has no reason to beg and we probably owe him an apology that we didn’t make him Kool Kat of the Week sooner.

ATLRetro: You’re playing The Earl on Saturday. Are you on the road right now?

Dan Dixon: We leave this Friday [April 7] – we’re doing a cozy little run of eight shows. I’m looking forward to finishing up in Atlanta on the 15th. We’ve been rehearsing a set where we just play the new album front to back – by the time we get through the first seven shows, we ought to have it sounding pretty good.

You’re from Atlanta originally, right?

I grew in the suburbs of Cobb County. It’s a notoriously conservative area, the flip side of which is that my high school was a breeding ground for quite a few musicians. The Black Crowes, Robin Finck (NIN, Guns N’ Roses) and the great Jerry Fuchs (Maserati), to name a few – all of them went there.

Do you think that had anything to do with the musician you became?

Definitely. I was a skulking, long-haired, greasy-faced, goony teen who smoked weed and played guitar in his bedroom. When that kid is surrounded by doughy, future fraternity brothers, one tends to find outlets to express one’s… let’s say, dissatisfaction with the world around him. That sort of thing got me into music that was more “indie” I guess. Back then it was just what they didn’t play on the radio – Fugazi, Jawbox, Jesus Lizard, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, all kinds of shit. Needless to say, my tastes have expanded a bit since I was 17, but I can still hear some of that stuff in what we’re doing now.

PLS PLS with Dan Dixon in center. Provided by PLS PLS and used with permission.

Were you always in bands growing up? Any particularly noteworthy or ridiculous in retrospect?

Dave Chase, the bassist in PLS PLS, and I started our first band around eighth or ninth grade. We loved GN’R and Metallica and Public Enemy and Primus and it all came together to make something particularly awful. We got into cooler music at some point, thanks to our older, more savvy friends, and eventually formed Dropsonic, which we did for 10 years and six albums.

Which artists do you consider your influences? Have they changed over the years?

There’s too many to try to list here. I go through phases, like everyone else. I’ve always had a hard time reconciling all the different things I’m into with the music I create. I don’t ever want it to sound like I’m in my “Dylan” phase or my “electronic” phase or some bullshit like that. I, at least, can always hear me, as well as my influences, loud and clear in the records I’ve made. That said, there are clear examples of me trying to incorporate stuff outside of the genre that PLS PLS is a part of into PLS PLS songs. “60’s Love Song” (from EP EP) was me listening to a bunch of Roy Orbison. “Fast as Light” from LP LP has a super obvious nod to Jesus Lizard in the bass line, but the guitars and synth are ’80s New Wave. “Exes” has an Iggy Pop vibe. I’m not saying I’m as good as any of these folks, just that I can hear it in what I’m doing. I was listening to a lot of Kate Bush and Genesis during the making of the new record, if that tells you anything.

Many of our readers are fans of your former band of more than a decade, Dropsonic, and likely consider PLS PLS your “new band,” though it’s been around for several years now. How and why did PLS PLS come about? How are the two bands different?

PLS PLS started as a home demo kind of project where I wasn’t sure it would even become a live band or that I would do shows under that name. Just me, in a room, making stuff. Dropsonic was a proper band. It was three individuals whose styles and ideas were all represented – sometimes for the betterment of a song, sometimes not. It was mostly democratic. A lot people don’t realize how much stuff Dave wrote. Most of the songs on our last record were based off of Dave’s ideas, and it’s probably our best record. PLS PLS is my songs and my production, so everyone’s parts are written to serve the song. I can still hear Mike, Dre, Dave and Derek’s personalities in their playing, but it’s all there to support a melody, a lyric, or create a specific atmosphere – no one plays any bullshit just for the sake of playing some bullshit, which is something I was pretty guilty of in Dropsonic. Though sometimes that can be cool too.

Is it pronounced “Please Please?” Why not spell it that way? Am I an asshole for asking? (Be honest)

Yeah, it’s pronounced “Please Please.”  I chose to spell it without vowels so that it reads like a mournful robot. Pleading, yet soulless.

PLS PLS with Dan Dixon in center. Provided by PLS PLS and used with permission.

I’m always interested in whether a musician finds more satisfaction in creating or in performing. Would you rather write your best song or have your best show?

I still love both of those things. Just because you write a decent song, it doesn’t matter until you lay it out in front of people and let them love it or hate it or feel indifferent. I can’t move on to the next record or batch of songs I’m going write until the one in front of me has been judged. And as for the second part of your question, I don’t know which I’d rather, but I hope neither of those things has happened yet.

You’ve been doing this successfully for quite awhile. What advice would you give any young musicians interested in longevity?

Don’t be precious about it. Make music. Release it. Play shows. Tour. Rinse. Repeat. I’ve worked with people who can’t finish an album or keep re-recording the same songs – it’s a band killer. You can’t get any better without moving forward and you can’t move forward without finishing your current thought. Put a fucking period on the sentence and move on. Also, if they offer you money, take it. It probably won’t happen twice.

Working on anything at the moment? Anything coming out soon?

Well, our new record, JET BLACK, is out this week. Otherwise, I’ve got half a dozen new songs that are in various states of disrepair. We’ll see what makes it to the finish line.

Who came up with the idea for the awesome COCAINE video?! Was it as fun to make as it looks?

I’m not sure if it was the director, Video Rahim, or myself who had the idea of doing a MIAMI VICE thing, but he definitely wrote the script and storyline. It was a lot fun to make. I got to drive a boat and shoot people and get interrogated. Pretty cool. He definitely makes some of the best videos out of Atlanta and has developed his own style and a whole scene around what he’s doing.

Where’s the best place to check out your music? What’s the best PLS PLS song for the uninitiated?

The best way to experience PLS PLS is either to come to a show or listen to the vinyl. But for someone who wants to stick a toe in the icy waters of plaintive robot rock, all three releases are available on all the digital streaming platforms and through iTunes etc. I can’t name one song to rule them all, but just put on JET BLACK and see if it doesn’t make you feel some kind of way.

Thanks again! Anything else you want to mention?

Nah, that’s all I got.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Author and Filmmaker Frank Perry’s Official Biographer Justin Bozung Dishes on Atlanta’s Frank Perry Retrospective Presented by Videodrome

Posted on: Mar 28th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Justin Bozung, Atlanta author and transplant from the far reaches of the north is working closely with Videodrome staff as they present their Frank Perry Retrospective via their JavaDrome film portal, which kicked off in January 2017. The most recent in the series, THE SWIMMER (1968) screens Friday, March 31, at 8:30pm, and will include an introduction and Q&A with Bozung, as Frank Perry’s official biographer. Prior films in the series included MOMMIE DEAREST (1981); PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1972) [never released on home video]. The series’ finale will be Perry’s LAST SUMMER (1969) screening in late April 2017 [yet to be released beyond its ‘80s VHS release].

Bozung has an expansive resume delving deep into the retro fantastic! He’s assisted in book projects documenting and analyzing Stanley Kubrick, has conducted over 400 interviews for several book projects, documentaries and magazines including Fangoria, Paracinema, Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope and more. ATLRetro caught up with Justin Bozung for a quick interview about his work as the official biographer for Frank Perry, his extensive knowledge of Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING and Norman Mailer, and the importance of preserving film history.

ATLRetro: While we are a bit biased here at ATLRetro about this wacky little city of ours, what is it about Atlanta that drew you to our neck of the woods?

Justin Bozung: My wife! She received a job opportunity that was too good to pass up.   So we sold our house and packed up in Ann Arbor, Michigan in late 2014 and drove toward Atlanta. As a freelancer, I’m pretty open-ended and am able to work from anywhere so it made sense for us to leave the cold and snow behind. And I’ve always been fond of Georgia; having spent some time here over the years during various travels and vacations in the south. I’m a big soul, funk, and jazz music fan. So being able to come and live where Curtis Mayfield had his own record label, but also, be within driving proximity of where James Brown was born and lived many years of his professional life and owned his own radio station is great. Central Georgia also owns The Allman Brothers and Otis Redding—so living in the South is really a soul music lover’s dream come true! Memphis, the home of the great Stax Records, isn’t too far away either. And I’m completely fine–I’m not ashamed–in saying that as a Michigan-born guy, I’ll take Memphis and Stax Records any day of the week over anything produced at Detroit’s Motown. There’s something about the water down here that gives the music a special quality, something that Motown doesn’t have that Stax does... And let’s not even get started on the subject of Athens, Georgia and R.E.M.–

As Frank Perry’s official biographer, can you tell our readers a little about why you think he is one of the many undervalued and underappreciated filmmakers and why you wanted to spread the Frank Perry love via Videodrome’s JavaDrome film events?

Well, there’s a pretty easy answer to that. The internet is interested in Frank Perry.   Fortunately, today, with the rise of social media and bloggers pulling active duty–interest in Perry and his films has really grown in recent years. He made some really wonderful films, and it’s important to note that Perry was the first independent filmmaker to be nominated for an Academy Award. He was nominated in 1963 for his independently-financed and produced DAVID AND LISA (1962), which shot for approximately $200,000 in Pennsylvania. Perry was nominated for Best Director but he lost out to David Lean, who won for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)! Perry’s little film went up against LAWRENCE! Jean Renoir, said “I feel that this film represents a turning point in the history of film.”

Prior to Perry, where there had certainly been others producing independent films on the East Coast– John Cassavetes‘s SHADOWS (1959) being the touchstone–others like Russ Meyer and his THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS (1959), and H.G. Lewis in Chicago with his “nudie cuties” were also bringing independent film to attention. Perry was the first to make a “respectable” independent film and to be noticed by the mainstream. In his way, he changed things. Even with someone like Cassavetes, who by 1959 was a well-known and very established Hollywood film actor–his film SHADOWS still didn’t afford the average guy the idea that maybe he himself could just go out and raise the money and make his own film as a profiteer. Perry had no experience as a filmmaker, really. On the first day of shooting DAVID & LISA, he couldn’t figure out how to turn the camera on. And in pre-production he read several books about film directing. His film school was the library.  It really makes one remember what was going on in independent film in the late 80s or early 1990s with directors starting out like Robert Rodriguez. While Perry had come from the Actors Studio and done some Second Unit work for hire prior, he had not really directed anything on that scale before. His gift was in working with actors. I consider him a conscious, classical director. He worked very much like George Cukor who loved working with actresses and literary adaptations. Frank set the wheels on fire and got indie film some important notice in Hollywood. DAVID & LISA made the studio system, although on the verge of completely crumbling, sit up and take notice that things were shifting culturally.

On March 31, JavaDrome will screen Perry’s The Swimmer (1968). Were there any particular reasons you chose the films that are slated for screening?

Well, the guys at Videodrome split the selections down the middle for this retrospective on Perry’s films. I hand-picked two and Matt Owensby picked the others. THE SWIMMER was a film that Matt really wanted to show as part of this retrospective. It should be stated that this retrospective on Perry’s films here in Atlanta marks the first multi-film retrospective of his work in the USA since the mid 1980s. In fact, I can’t help but suggest that the recent Los Angeles retrospective of his work last month, put on by Quentin Tarantino at his New Beverly, was directly inspired by our own little retrospective here in Atlanta–knowing how Tarantino seemingly likes to monitor video stores all around the United States and see what they’re up to.

Videodrome is our little purveyor of the forbidden fruits of the video and film world and are avid supporters of film preservation, which of course is why they hold a sweet spot in our hearts. As a historian, can you tell our readers a little bit about why you think film preservation is important and how important businesses like Videodrome are to the preservation of film?

I’m just starting to get acquainted with a few of the guys that work at Videodrome. The fun part about going into the store is that they really have a massive selection of titles, but more importantly, Matt and John and the rest of the crew really embrace you. And they’re not elitist or snobs either. They care about and endorse the films of Truffaut just as much as they love and admire the films of Greydon Clark. The latter–preservation, is important as well, certainly. I’ve been struggling with that myself working with Frank Perry’s Estate. Frank made two films that are impossible to see.  The first, I recently discovered the master materials for in an archive in California. We’re talking with some film preservation folks now about financing the restoration of one of these, his JFK: ONE MAN SHOW (1984)–which was made and shown on PBS twice before vanishing off the face of the earth, it seemed until I located it. And then there’s his 1968 documentary that Perry fans aren’t even aware of that he made about political unrest in the Middle East, because it’s mysteriously not listed on his IMDb page. The Estate has access to the last print that is known to exist. Just to use these two instances as an example, if there weren’t people “out there” tracking down films or storing prints or whatever–archiving cinema–we may all lose out in the future.  So it’s the key to film studies, really.

You also collaborated with Colorado’s Centipede Press in putting together a large volume entitled Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film. Can you tell our readers what role you played in the process? Did you learn anything enticing with this publication that isn’t common knowledge about Kubrick or The Shining?

The book came out in the early spring of 2015 and sadly, it’s already out of print, I believe. It was a massive 750-page book on the making of the film. I was involved with the book, as a project, very early on, researching and getting clearances for many of the previously-published essays and interviews that are included. I also dug up some visual ephemera, and conducted about 45 hours of interviews with most of the cast and the crew from the film itself—which are all included in the book. I interviewed or was in touch with the entire crew and most of the living actors that starred in the film. The book was edited by Danel Olson, but, 350-400 or so of those 750 pages are my contributions to the volume. The book is filled to the brim with new information about Kubrick–things that people didn’t know about him and the film itself including line items about his attention to detail, his admiration for baseball, his love of driving cars fast and more.  There’s information in the book about what went on behind-the-scenes of the film that has never come to light prior and addresses his notorious reputation, but also looks at his craftsmanship. It’s page-after-page with new information on Kubrick.   I tried to debunk many rumors that have been swirling around in the zeitgeist for many years about Kubrick and I used the interviews in an attempt to give readers a doorway onto the set in England for 13-months back in 1978/79. When it came out, ROOM 237 was really on everyone’s lips–so there’s a lot of talk in the book about that documentary as well. It’s a great book, though.  I’d suggest that it’s an essential addition to any film lover’s library. Michael Dirda of The Washington Post called the book “a major advancement in film studies,” or something like that.

We see that you’re also involved with author Norman Mailer’s estate and that you work on several projects dedicated to him. What can you tell us about those projects?

I become involved with Norman Mailer in early 2014 and made a 12-hour audio documentary about his much-maligned 1987 film, TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE, my favorite film. I interviewed most of the crew members and some of the actors and visited some of the shooting locations in Provincetown, MA. My interest in the film came out of my friendship with TOUGH GUYS actor, Wings Hauser. He first introduced me to the film in 2011, when I was about to interview him for a magazine.   The documentary was released online, and the Norman Mailer Society invited me to talk about the film in the fall of 2014 at Wilkes University. Shortly after that, they asked me to become involved in several projects that they were working on. One was Project Mailer, and another was archival search-related. I created a Mailer podcast for them, which runs bi-monthly on ProjectMailer.net. Basically, I just present audio from the Mailer Archives ala podcast format ala the old Grateful Dead Hour with David Gans.    In early 2015, I started putting together a dense, academic study on Mailer’s films.

He made 6 films from 1947-1987.  I love his films, even though, most of the Criterion Collection audience doesn’t. Criterion released Mailer’s 1960s films through their Eclipse series in 2013. They scratch their heads as to why CC would put out such “awful” films. They’re very important works of art that not only comment and inform on Mailer’s influential texts of the 1960s, but also, in their way, influenced his writing in the process of crafting them. They also have historical context in relationship to the direct cinema movement of the mid 60s with films by D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles Brothers. There, likely, may never have been an ARMIES OF THE NIGHT without WILD 90 (1968), for example. Mailer wrote himself into that book as a character–in the third person–directly out of the influence that the editing of his first film, WILD 90, had upon him while he was writing that Pulitzer Prize-winning “novel as history, history as novel”–to use Mailer’s description. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I was looking at myself as a character,” during the editing of his own movie.

His film MAIDSTONE (1971) is a obvious pre-cursor to reality television. I certainly do not lay the blame on reality television on Mailer, but he was creating that type of aesthetic tension and propaganda–and recording it–on film, some thirty years before reality television came along. Cinema was in Norman Mailer’s blood. He had a keen interest in cinema, and a fine grasp of cinema aesthetics very early on in his life–before he became the writer enfant terrible of the 1960s that many remember him as today.   He was a frequent guest at Amos Vogel‘s legendary Cinema 16 in New York City. He saw the films of Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Warhol, Mekas there. He helped to fund the films of Robert Downey Sr. and Ron Rice. Mailer’s writing is profoundly cinematic, and the cinema is one of his strongest and most-used metaphors in his writing and it’s throughout his texts. His ideas on film are really in sync with filmmakers that would be his peers of the era. My book, The Cinema of Norman Mailer: Film is Like Death comes out this September via Bloomsbury.  It’s available for pre-order on Amazon now. And this September I’m starting work and collaborating with the Mailer Estate on another book on Mailer, but this time around, it’s about the writer, not Mailer: The filmmaker.

As a film buff and historian, what was your gateway drug into the land of cult film, or film in general?

I’ve always been interested in film, for as long as I can remember. I grew up as a classic, indoor-type of kid. I grew up in the VHS and pay cable era of the 1980s.  My parents gifted me with HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime. I recorded everything off and watched it over-and-over. Film has always been very important to me as an art form. I love all film. I don’t pay attention to genres or labels. Film is film. There aren’t any “good” or “bad” films, just films. I love Larry Buchanan, Michael Bay just as much as I do Delbert Mann, King Vidor and Jerry Lewis.

You’ve also published several articles and interviews in magazines such as “Fangoria,” “Paracinema,” “Shock Cinema” and “Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope.” If you had to choose a favorite interview and/or article that you contributed, which would it be and why?

I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years. I think around 400 or so. I may be the only person you’ll meet who has done over 75 interviews with various crew and cast members from several Stanley Kubrick movies, hundreds of hours logged, and all on tape. I imagine myself as being in the Guinness Book of Work Records under “Most Interviews Done Associated with Stanley Kubrick.” My favorite though….I have two.   The first was with actor Wings Hauser, because we became great friends out of the experience. The other is with comedy legend and screenwriter Bill Richmond. Richmond wrote almost all of the Jerry Lewis solo movies like THE PATSY (1964) and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963). He wrote for TV shows like The Carol Burnett Show, Bewitched, All in the Family, Welcome Back, Kotter, Blossom etc… He was a mad genius of comedy. It was just one of those great one-in-a-lifetime experiences, where, consequently, we stayed friendly with each other after it was over.  Bill sent me the best birthday present the year after even…and when he passed away last year—that was really sad for me.

Can you tell our readers a little about your Frank Perry biography and any other current projects your working on, and where our readers get their hands on your published works?

The biography on Frank will be published mid-2018 and is a full-scale biography blended with some analysis. I’m finishing it up now. I’ve been working on it since early 2015, but there was a full year where I didn’t work on it at all, due to some legal tangle with his Estate and an outside party. It is the first book, first study on Perry. I’ve been working closely with Perry’s family and estate on the project and I worked closely with his wife, Barbara, before her recent passing. But also, Tom Folino, Perry’s long-time friend, assistant-turned producer. I’m in touch with his surviving family members and as with all of my projects, I’ve got about 200-hours of interviews in the can with various crew members and actors, family friends in support of the work itself. The book looks at Perry’s life and his films, but also looks closely at the projects that slipped through the cracks–like his near adaptation of Terry Southern‘s naughty-satire novel Candy which looked like it was going to be made as early as 1964 into a film.  This, of course, lead to Perry making of THE SWIMMER, but I’ll talk about how that all happened this Friday at the screening with Videodrome. Your readers can find all of my work on Amazon here. This year I also expect to finish up an academic volume on Michael Bay, called Michael Bay: High Art / Low Culture.

Do you have any advice for those writers just starting out?

Quit wasting time on Facebook. Write every day. Research and research. When you think you’ve found everything. Stop. Then wait 2 weeks and research some more. You’ll always find something extra. If you say you’re going to write tomorrow, then you better do that. Don’t put it off, because it damages your unconscious, and that’s where all the words come from–from inside of you. Don’t piss off your unconscious. Don’t write anything for free. Your time is valuable. Writers should say something new; they need to formulate new and profound ideas. So do that. And last but not least, opinions are so very rarely ideas.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be reading, watching or listening to right now—past or present, well-known or obscure?

Well, I’m more of a reader than I am anything else these days. I read one magazine currently–Philosophy Now. It’s my favorite. Some things I’ve enjoyed tremendously this year so far would be Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story by Carlos Baker. It was published in 1968 and it’s probably the greatest biography ever written; Free Fall by William Golding –a classic, but undervalued work of existential literature; Jurgen by James Branch Cabell — one of Margaret Mitchell‘s favorite novels published in 1919; Margaret Mitchell: Reporter reprints Mitchell’s pre-Gone with The Wind Atlanta journalism; Claire Vaye Watkins‘s Battleborn–a fresh, newer voice in short fiction with family ties to The Manson Family; Altamont, Joel Selvin‘s incredible recounting of the dark, metaphysical Rolling Stones 1969 Atlamont music festival; and Manly Health and Training by Walt Whitman.  As far as music goes I’m really a jazz and soul guy, so anything by John Coltrane. My favorite Coltrane record is GIANT STEPS although I’m very attracted to his metaphysical explorations like ASCENSION. Anything Sun Ra. Sonny’s album NUCLEAR WAR is relevant with today’s political climate. His writings are wonderful as well.  James Brown‘s REVOLUTIONS OF THE MIND, the new Otis Redding: The Complete Whiskey A Go Go Shows Box Set is always on my stereo or phone!  Films I’m currently into are Michael Bay’s Director’s Cut of PEARL HARBOR (1999) shows Bay in his Abel Gance-meets-John Ford glory. Vincente Minnelli’s TEA AND SYMPATHY (1955), Paul Morrissey‘s 1980s trifecta: FORTY DEUCE (1982), MADAME WANG’S (1981), and MIXED BLOOD (1984) are important works. Morrissey is the last great absurdist of the 20th century. Paul and I have talked some over the last couple years about doing a book together, and I would love to do a book on Morrissey, but he’s too cantankerous. Melvin Van PeeblesTHE STORY OF A THREE-DAY PASS (1968), James BridgesMIKE’S MURDER (1984) are masterpieces, and PICASSO: MAGIC, SEX & DEATH, a 4-hour 2001 documentary is a must-see!

And last, but not least, care to share anything that our little world of Atlantans don’t know about you already?

I don’t want to share anything else about myself, but I would like to suggest this little hiding spot out in Smyrna, Georgia that I visited recently. A restaurant called Vittles.  It’s a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that still allows patrons to smoke inside while you sit there eating. Not that I’m standing up for smoker’s rights here, but it’s cancerously-nostalgic. It’s like stepping into a small-town diner in the early 1980s. You can get 4 massive buttermilk pancakes covered in butter, two huge deep-fried pork chops in corn flake crust, and two eggs scrambled all for $6.99. Their claim to fame is their gift shop, which is basically a garage sale that is going on every day concurrently while food is being served. You can buy cement statues of dogs and “Man with No Name” poncho sweaters.  It’s a pretty awesome place that I highly suggest visiting for the delicious food and the bargains. You can fill up and then spend a few hours huffing it over on the Silver Comet Trail which runs from Smyrna to well into Alabama. Forget about Krog Market or Ponce, Vittles is where you need to go!

Photos courtesy of Justin Bozung and used with permission.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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