The Sixth Annual Chattanooga Film Festival Gets Bizarre and Unearths Four Killer Days of Movie Madness & Mayhem, April 11-14!

Posted on: Apr 8th, 2019 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

The Chattanooga Film Festival kills it again during its 6th year invading downtown Chattanooga (Chattanooga Theatre Centre (CTC), The Moxy Chattanooga and Miller Park) this Thursday-Sunday April 11-14. CFF has way more to offer than your average film festival and promises a weekend chock full of killer films (features and shorts blocks), workshops, presentations, podcasts and parties! CFF prides itself in sharing films with the masses that are “unique, challenging, critically significant, and a helluva lot of fun!” This year’s festival showcases films ranging from monsters, rockin’ tunes, geek magic, sinister good times and homages to classic films and bizzaro television series. Here are our top 10 reasons to high tail it on up to our wonderfully weird little sister city to the north for the Chattanooga Film Festival!

1) MALLORY O’MEARA & THE CREATURE. Delve into Mallory O’Meara’s recently released biography, The Lady from the Black Lagoon (Hanover Square Press, March 5, 2019). Take a peek into the life of Millicent Patrick, killer actress, make-up artist, special effects designer and creator of the head costume for Universal’s Gill Man, a.k.a “The Creature.” Patrick’s legacy was nearly forgotten, but O’Meara gives Patrick her due in this monstrous retrospective. O’Meara is scheduled to give a 30-minute talk, a reading and will sign books for all you Millicent Patrick fans. Catch O’Meara’s event from at 3pm on Friday, April 12 in the Classterpiece Theatre! And if you’ve never caught Jack Arnold’s monstrous classic CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) on the big screen, then you’re in for a special treat! Chill with the Creature at 8:30pm at Miller Park on Saturday, April 12!

2) CRISPIN HELLION GLOVER. Spend the night with cinema icon, Crispin Glover [BACK TO THE FUTURE franchise; television series “American Gods”; David Lynch’s WILD AT HEART (1990)] from 7pm – 11:3pm Friday, April 12, as he presents a “Big Slide Show 2,” screens IT IS FINE! EVERYTHING IS FINE (2007), which he co-directed with David Brothers and tells a psycho-sexual tale about a man with severe cerebral palsy who has a fetish for girls with long hair. According to Glover, screenwriter Steven C. Stewart “wanted to show that handicapped people are human, sexual and can be horrible” – a film you definitely will not want to miss! After the screening, stick around for a book signing and meet ‘n’ greet with Glover! An Evening with Crispin Glover takes place in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre.

3) GARY SHERMAN.  CFF Guest and horror film director/producer Gary Sherman [POLTERGEIST III (1988); DEAD & BURIED (1981)] brings you special treats at CFF this year! First, catch a screening of his ‘80s thriller film with mutilator pimps, Hollywood hookers and more, VICE SQUAD (1982) on Saturday, April 13 at 4:20pm with an introduction and Q&A afterwards with the director, screening in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre! On Sunday, April 14 at 10am, learn The Secrets of Poltergeist III with Sherman in the Classterpiece Theatre. You won’t want to miss Sherman dive deep into the “smoke and mirrors” behind the film’s practical special effects and more!

4) SO-CAL DESERT PUNK. CFF presents their Sonic Cinema Block screening of Stuart Swezey’s documentary DESOLATION CENTER (2018) and see the untold story of the Reagan-era anarchic punk rock desert events that have seeped into our culture by way of phenomena such as Burning Man, Lollapalooza, Coachella, etc. The film will be screened in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre on Saturday, April 13 at 12:30pm!

5) GEEK LOVE – EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. If you’ve ever wondered where the art for Dungeons & Dragons originated, look no further! Directors Kelley Slagle and Brian Stillman present their 2018 documentary, EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, which explores the history, influences and stories behind the artwork that helped create the world of Dungeons & Dragons. The film will be screened in Bruce Springscreen Theatre on Sunday, April 14 at 10:30pm!

6) BJORK IN THE JUNIPER TREE. Get medieval with Bjork with a 4k restoration screening of Nietzchka Keene’s debut Brothers Grim-esque film THE JUNIPER TREE (1990) on Sunday, April 14 at 8:40pm in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre!

7) METALPUNKOCALYPSE. CFF plans to rock your face of this weekend! Get hellbent during the Metal Madness After Party on Thursday, April 11 at 10pm at The Moxy, celebrating the Heavy Metal in cinema with themed cocktails, metal face painters and more! Or catch a screening of Eric Pennycoff’s heavy metal terror SADISTIC INTENTIONS (2018) on Friday, April 12 at 5pm in the Screena Turner Theatre, followed later that night by Jonas Akerlund’s LORDS OF CHAOS (2018) where an obsession with creating “true Norwegian black metal” turns truly sinister at 11:30pm! And who needs Saturday morning cartoons when you’ve got Destroy All Movies!!! The Punk on Film Panel with Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly at 10am Saturday, April 13 at The Moxy, with a hilarious take on Hollywood vs. the Punk Rock Movement “when horror films and party comedies became infested with mohawks and mayhem!”

8) MEMPHIS ‘69. CFF presents a rare treat with a screening of Joe LaMattina’s documentary MEMPHIS ’69 (2019), which showcases the 1969 Memphis Country Blues Festival celebrating the 150th anniversary of Memphis, all thanks to Fat Possum Records’ acquisition of the nearly 50-year-old footage. LaMattina’s doc features a rare view of performances by Johnny Winter, Bukka White, Rufus Thomas and more, screening Friday, April 12 at 3:30pm in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre!

9) HELL-BENT AND BEWITCHIN’. Atlanta’s own Ben Winston’s feature debut, HELLBOUND (2018) world premieres at CFF! You won’t want to miss this witchy, satanic tribute to the classic films of the ‘70s, shot in B/W on 16mm, and described by CFF staff as giving off an “Easyrider/Texas Chain Saw Massacre/Race with the Devil vibe.” The film screens Saturday, April 13 at 2:30pm in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre! Winston and producer Tim Reis will be on hand for the film’s introduction and a post-film Q&A!

10) COWBOY WHO?
Get weird as CFF presents a screening of the first season of Canada’s bizarre children’s show “Cowboy Who” which aired from 1990-1994 (condensed to 90-oddball minutes) curated and introduced by Peter Kuplowsky. Have a wacked out good time on Saturday, April 13 at 10am in the Screena Turner Theatre.

 

Chattanooga Film Festival main hours are Thur. April 11 from 4:30pm to 12am; Fri. April 12 from 10am. to 1am; Sat. April 13 from 10am. to 1:30am; and Sun. April 14 from 10am to 12am. For more info, visit the Chattanooga Film Festival official website here.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Local Filmmaker Debbie Hess Brings Tricks and Treats to The Plaza Theater with the Return of the Fifty Foot Film Festival on October 30

Posted on: Oct 25th, 2018 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

In this season of ghosts and goblins, Debbie Hess, Executive Producer of the award-winning web anthology series, HORROR HOTEL, where the only recurring character is a menacing dilapidated motor court hotel where “People check in, but they don’t always check out,” along with jack of all film-trades son and Kool Kat Ricky Hess brings Atlanta a special treat (and maybe a few tricks) with the Return of the Fifty Foot Film Festival, invading The Plaza Theater on All Hallows Eve-Eve, October 30, at 7pm!

Return of the Fifty Foot Film Fest gives local sci-fi, horror, suspense and fantasy filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their films at this one-night only event. From premiere screenings to award-winning film shorts, this wee festival delivers a one-stop-shop of terror you won’t want to miss! Last year’s inaugural event, Attack of the Fifty Foot Film Festival, sold out to a hell-raising standing-room-only crowd and featured films by Ricky Hess, Kool Kat Vanessa Ionta Wright (Women in Horror Film Festival) and so many more! This year’s event promises twice as many filmmakers as the previous event, so you’ll definitely want to get your tickets early! Tickets can be purchased here.

ATLRetro caught up with Debbie to chat about the Return of the Fifty Foot Film Fest, the web anthology series HORROR HOTEL, and the importance of local film festivals for indie filmmakers.

ATLRetro: Attack of the 50 Foot Film Festival invades Atlanta for a second exciting year! Can you tell us a little about the event and what inspired you to bring it back to film lovers Atlanta-wide?

Debbie Hess: We decided to bring the event back for a second year because it was so well received last year and we still saw a need to provide a venue specifically for Atlanta-area filmmakers to raise the awareness of the awesome creative talent we have here. Events like this help to promote content creation and provide a chance for the community to support, encourage and recognize our Georgia films and filmmakers who can get eclipsed by all the media attention and national focus on the larger studio films that are coming here for production. And that is a great thing of course, but we need to constantly be aware that we have content creation going on in our own backyard as well and foster a support system to be able to show these quality films to the community. There’s nothing quite like seeing the film you have so lovingly and laboriously produced shown on the big screen.

What makes this event different than other film festivals?

Several things really. First off, it is for Atlanta-area filmmakers only. Most film festivals have entries from all over the world, although many festivals now program sections for local content only, which is good. When you are thrown in with filmmakers from countries that have a lot of grant programs available to make indie films and they are given a lot of money to make a short film, it’s not a level playing field. Most of your local indie filmmakers have similar resource restrictions, which makes it a load more fun to see what everyone has been able to do with that. And with this festival, all the ticket proceeds are split between the filmmakers (whose entry fee is their split of the theatre rental) allowing them more resources to help with their filmmaking. Both last year and this year we have covered the theatre rental fee and had earnings left over to go to our filmmakers. It’s a win-win. Secondly, it’s not a competition festival so there’s no stress involved or disappointment if you don’t win something. Everyone is a winner who has the fortitude to produce a finished film in the first place. It really is more of a celebration of the accomplishments of our local filmmakers right here in our own backyard.

Can you tell our readers what it takes to put on this type of film event?

Horror Hotel – “No Time For Love” (Jason Gaglione and Kat Rarick)

Sure! It’s quite a bit of work even for a small one like ours. We start out by reaching out to area filmmakers to see if they have a recent film (preferably a premiere) that they would like to submit. I can truly appreciate the dilemma that larger festivals must have in deciding which films to accept. Being a filmmaker myself surely helps because I can judge a little better and appreciate the qualities of an indie film. Some things just don’t require a big budget to get right – a good story, well-written and executed with attention to good filmmaking techniques, along with good editing, good sound, good acting etc. Since this festival is limited to films in the sci-fi, horror, suspense and fantasy genres, we are looking for films that have done a good job creating that “environment” for a visually appealing film in those genres. And then there is the challenge of programming those films in a fixed amount of time and in our case, a short period of time. We would love to have been able to include more of the films that were submitted.

Then there is the promotion work involved to get the word out. Because we want the community to come out and see the films, you have to go as wide as possible to advertise and market that. We post on all the larger and more popular community calendars that are online. We post on all social media and encourage all the filmmakers to do the same. We send out mass emails and loads of press releases and market packages to all the local media including TV stations, radio stations, online publications, student newspapers, podcasts creators, etc. This year we are so grateful to be covered by a number of great media outlets in the Atlanta area that are helping promote the event and the filmmakers. But by far, the filmmakers themselves have the most influence over who comes out to see the films.  It’s their invitations to friends, family and people who worked on their film that will garner the most attendees.

Care to share a little about the films and their directors/creators?

I’d love to since that’s what it’s all about!

THE WISH & THE WISP – Written/Directed by Vashmere Valentine is a delightful fantasy film currently sweeping up awards globally on the festival circuit. It’s about two bickering siblings that learn the true magic of believing when they find a real wish and encounter the menacing creature who wants it back. RESIDENCE 906 (premiere screening) – Directed by Heather Hutton, written by Michele Olson and produced by Iesha Price. Made with over 50 females, this film is a paranormal thriller about the mysterious deaths of a paranormal investigator’s team that force her to confront an enigmatic demon. NO TIME FOR LOVE (premiere screening) – Directed by Ricky Hess. This new episode of HORROR HOTEL is a sci-fi tale about time catching up to a reclusive sailor when a pretty girl brings the modern world into his life. It includes loads of special effects. Fans of The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons will enjoy this one. FEAST – Written/Directed by Melissa Kunnap is a horror short that recently won best regional film at the Women in Horror Film Festival. The logline reads “A young intern finds out more about his boss and circle of friends than he’d wished to know,” and contains well-done effects. LIVING NIGHTMARE – Created by Jonathan Gabriel and Kristina Miranovic is an anthology of three actual nightmares based on unforgettable accounts, contains very nice sets and effects and is a real skin creep! BAD CANDY – Written/Directed by Scott Hansen is a horror short about a naughty trick R treater which has stunning cinematography and excellent costumes. Creepy clown alert! MR. SMILES (premiere screening) – Written/Directed by Tyler Hunt Weddle is a horror short about a girl who discovers a storybook in an attic whose characters come to life. Goosebump inspired, Freddy Kruger executed. PET’s tagline says it all, “A man with a short fuse and an empty checkbook introduces his irritating boss to man’s best friend,” written/directed by Justin Craig (premiere screening).

With HORROR HOTEL, you’ve made filmmaking a family affair [you as producer, your son Ricky Hess as the horror anthology’s creator/director and your husband Al Hess as the writer]. Can you tell us a little about the creative process within the family unit and any pros/cons working so closely with your family?

Yes, it has been a family affair and this year we added a new addition to our family, my new daughter-in-law, Allyson Hess, who works on set with us as well. My son Ricky is a powerhouse of talent. He not only is the creator/director but he also does nearly all of the post-production work including editing/color/sound/effects etc. PLUS he is a skilled camera operator as well. My husband, Al, is the writer for the series but he is also a talented props builder, lighting technician, set builder and so much more. Over the years, we have all increased our skill level and learned to do more in other areas which is pretty typical in indie filmmaking. The more you can do yourself, the higher the likelihood you can get something finished. Working within the family has its advantages in that decisions can be made quickly and you have a trusted unit to bounce things off of and get honest feedback on your ideas.  There are always differences of opinion in the filmmaking process and you have to work through those sometimes a little more carefully within family, but in the end we all have a deep respect for each other’s opinion and we work it out.

HORROR HOTEL has become a successful horror anthology, haunting into its 3rd season. What can our readers expect to experience this season, and where can they go to catch new episodes?

For our upcoming 3rd season, we have made longer films than we normally do, so there will be fewer of them. We tried to up the bar on our production with more challenging episodes that required more effects than we normally have had. Our pilot episode SLEEP TIGHT is about killer bed bugs that invade the hotel rooms. And yes, we did use some real bugs,  although they were not bed bugs of course, but we used what is referred to as movie bugs, hissing cockroaches, which are pathogen free and harmless to humans. Nonetheless, quite creepy! It premiered in last year’s festival and got a great response and feedback. It was probably one of the more ‘horror’ episodes we have done as a lot of ours tend to be more sci-fi themed.

The episode we are premiering this year from the 3rd season is sci-fi with loads of special effects and centers on a reclusive sailor (Jason Gaglione) who has shuttered himself away in his hotel room for decades. No one locally has ever seen him. A pretty girl (Kat Rarick) tricks her way into his room and the story is about what happens inside the room after that. We turned the room basically into a time machine. It was extremely challenging and required a ton of SFX make-up, pulled off beautifully by master make-up artists Greg and Sandra Solomon of Etcfx in Newman. If you like stories like THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, you will like this episode!  Ricky did some exceptional work in post-production as well with some of the visual effects. We had to experiment with quite a few things. So, expect more production value out of 3rd season. It will be releasing later this year or early next year. Currently HORROR HOTEL can be seen on Amazon Prime as an anthology feature film of our 2nd season, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and select episodes are on DirectTV as well.

What drew you to become a filmmaker and what keeps you playing within the horror genre?

I entered filmmaking by wanting to help Ricky make his HORROR HOTEL series. We had our house used as a set a few years back and we became fascinated with the process and thought it would be great fun to do some ourselves and help him out with that project. Really, the show has more sci-fi stories than mainstream horror. More like THE TWILIGHT ZONE-type of tales, which I love –  stories and films that take you to another place and stretch your imagination. I will always tend towards that type of films as favorites.

Is there a film/series you have always wanted to make? Or still plan to make?

We’ve tossed around some ideas for other series but have not nailed anything down. We are just focused at the moment in getting the 3rd season ready to distribute and let the creative juices flow after that!

Smaller local film festivals are all immensely popular these days. How important are these festivals to independent filmmakers? What’s the draw to submit a film and have it screened at one?

It’s much easier to be seen in a smaller local film festival, plus because it is in your community, more people will be able to actually attend and support you. The festivals are vital to indie filmmakers especially those making primarily short films as shorts don’t have much distribution possibility like feature-length films, yet they serve a vital purpose to showcase a filmmakers creative ability as well as those who work on them. Festivals add credibility to a filmmakers resume and at least prove a curator thought highly enough of them to be accepted.

Who would you say are the filmmakers or films that inspired you the most and what was it about those particular filmmakers/films that inspired you?

I am a very retro kind of gal and most of my favorite filmmakers are classics like Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling. I like the kind of horror/sci-fi they brought to film by creative storytelling and excellent tension building without all the fancy effects. I am a huge fan of most of Hitchcock’s more successful films. No favorite one in particular.

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’d say probably just getting taken seriously and being respected. There are a lot of basic female common traits that work for us in filmmaking. Most females tend to be much more organized than our counterparts. I can always count on female cast and crew to be a little more attentive to details, return correspondence quickly and keep their calendar events in check. No male bashing here, just a noted difference in my own experience.

Within the last few weeks comments were made by a well-known production company insisting that he would hire female horror directors if only there were women to be hired. What is your response to this claim? How important do you feel it is to ensure representation exists within the industry, on local and international levels?

Well, the backlash was immense after that came out and they have since apologized, but it obviously was misspoken as hundreds of people if not thousands of people cited their own female peers as adequately qualified and we know that to be perfectly true just from our own local gals who produce quality work. I think the horror genre was just generally thought to be more male-dominated in the past because of the nature of the content, but festivals like the Women in Horror Film Festival held right here in Georgia certainly proves that to be false.

Claims that there aren’t any female horror filmmakers are obviously ludicrous, as Atlanta is chock full of them! Who would you say are your favorite women horror directors and why?

I know of several first-hand that as it happens, have been in our film festival or are this year. Vanessa Ionta Wright, founder of the Women In Horror Film Festival held in Georgia, has done some beautiful and creative films. One was from a Stephen King short story which screened at last year’s festival. And we have not one but two female filmmakers in this year’s fest. Melissa Lee Kunnap has a horror film in there as does Iesha Price. They BOTH contain high quality work. As a matter of fact, Iesha’s film, RESIDENCE 906 was primarily a female production with over 50 women in the cast and crew, only 2 males. That’s impressive to say the least.

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?

Watching – Just finished up OZARK on Netflix. Give the series GOLIATH a try on Amazon Prime if you are into Billy Bob Thornton, which I am. I am a huge fan of the FARGO series and the original movie – just plain good storytelling with most excellent creepy characters. I am retro when it comes to music stuff – mostly oldies from the ‘70s. I love reading mystery novels and am constantly burning through books and am currently reading Randy Singer.
Any advice for up and coming filmmakers out there trying to get their foot in the door?

Whatever your budget, start with the basics. A good story is first. Get advice on what you have before you film. Don’t get too attached to an idea if it needs to be improved or trashed. Film with the purpose of making it as good as you can possibly get it and employ all the good filmmaking techniques you possibly can. Do your best work always knowing that people will judge you for it. Always be learning and improving your work.

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

We will be talking briefly after the screening to the filmmakers and I think a few of them will have some exciting announcements about upcoming projects they will share. Annual event? We will see. We take that one year at a time and see if there is interest among the local filmmakers to make it happen!

Photos courtesy of Debbie Hess and used with permission.

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Murder, Mayhem and Madness! Our Top 10 Horrorific Reasons to Haunt on Down to the Inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL

Posted on: Sep 19th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

The Women in Horror Film Festival kills it at Crowne Plaza Atlanta SW – Peachtree City this Thursday-Sunday Sept. 21-24. A showcase of creative kickass female minds behind every aspect of the horrorific cinematic and filmmaking experience, contemporary and retro alike, the festival has much to offer all the horror cinephiles in your life. From slasher gore-fests to comedic catastrophes, here are 10 of our top reasons to get your spine tingled at the WIHFF!

1) ELM STREET GORE-GALS HEATHER LANGENKAMP & AMANDA WYSS. These ladies won our horror hearts with their portrayals of nightmare-filled teens Nancy Thompson (Langenkamp) and Tina Grey (Wyss) in Wes Craven’s ‘80s classic spawning its own hellacious franchise, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984).

2) LYNN LOWRY. From Kathy in George Romero’s THE CRAZIES (1973) and Ruthie in Paul Schrader’s CAT PEOPLE (1982), Lowry’s a swell scream queen who’s been killing it since the ‘70s, and is going strong as ever with at least ninety on-camera titles to her name (some current titles are announced or are in pre-production).

3) TRINA PARKS. Best known for her role as Thumper in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971), Parks’ career spanned the ‘70s with appearances in an episode of Rod Serling’s NIGHT GALLERY (“The Phantom Farmhouse” – 1971); DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (1975); THE MUTHERS (1976) and more. She came back deadlier than ever in David DeCoteau’s IMMORTAL KISS: QUEEN OF THE NIGHT (2012).

4) WIHFF CASKET OF TERROR. For all you gore-lovers and horror hounds, just purchasing a festival pass earns you the chance to win some pretty monsterific prizes in the Casket of Terror, which includes autographed memorabilia, DVDs and other horror goodies. Purchase a VIP Pass and you get 3 entries; a Weekend Pass earns you 2 entries; and a Day Pass will get you a single entry. Who doesn’t love terrifying treats?!

5) FRIGHTENING FILMS! The WIHFF has heads rolling with three days of non-stop action filled to the bloody brim with films galore! Friday’s (Sept. 22) schedule includes a Thriller Shorts Block, a Features Block (SHORT CUT, dir. Prano Bailey-Bond; MURDER MADE EASY, dir. Dave Palamaro), a Non-Competition Showcase Block and a Comedy Shorts Block. Saturday (Sept. 23) terrifies with a Horror Shorts Block, a Features Block (MARCO POLO, dir. Chelsea Peters; DEADTHIRSTY, dir. Jason Winn), an International Shorts Block, and a bonus Features Block (I SHOULD HAVE RUN, dir. Gabriela Staniszewska; 3, dir. Lou Simon). And Sunday (Sept. 24) gets gory and kicks off the day with a Features Block (STITCHED, dir. Heather Taylor; BUZZARD HOLLOW BEEF, dir. Joshua Johnson), a Student Shorts Block, a Southeast Block, and a second bonus Features Block (THE CHUTE, dir. Stacy Sherman; RUIN ME, dir. Preston DeFrancis). So, come on out and discover some new terrifying talent!

6) WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE SCREENING. You won’t want to miss a special screening of WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994), followed by the Nightmare Panel with panelists Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss and Marianne Maddalena, Friday, Sept. 22 at 6:30pm.

7) TWISTED TWINS – THE SOSKA SISTERS. From DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK (2009) to AMERICAN MARY (2013), Jen and Sylvia Soska have soaked up the indie cult-classic limelight as writers, actors and directors, churning out homage after homage of grind-house filmmaking. Come on out and catch the twisted sisters during their panels “You Finished Your Film, Now What?” (Sept. 23, 3:45 pm); and “Whose Film is it Anyway?” with Amanda Wyss (Sept. 23, 8:30pm).

8) MANIACAL MAKE-UP. Nadine Al-Remaizan and Christine Ramirez of Ramirez FX demonstrate the madness that is monster make-up and SFX with their “Create Big Budget Looks on a Shoestring Budget” panel/demonstration (Sept. 23, 11am).

9) WARPED WRITERS. There wouldn’t be films without writers, and of so WIHFF offers up two highly acclaimed horror/thriller/suspense writers Mylo Carbia, a.k.a. Hollywood’s No. 1 horror film ghostwriter turned author (THE RAPING OF AVA DESANTIS / VIOLETS ARE RED) and Meg Hafdahl (“Dark Things” / TWISTED REVERIES: THIRTEEN TALES OF THE MACABRE series). Both will be selling and signing during the festival.

10) SCARE-TASTIC SHOPPING.  You won’t want to miss out on the horrorific wares the festival vendors have to offer, from handmade horrors, to gothic gifts. During your stay, why not stock up on macabre movie memorabilia, cult classics and creepy clothing, costumes, accessories and more. Vendors will be selling/meeting guests from 12pm – 8pm daily during the festival.

Women in Horror Film Festival main con hours are Fri. Sept. 22 from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Sat. Sept. 23 from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.; and Sun. Sept. 24 from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.For more info, visit the Women in Horror Film Festival official website here.

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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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Celebrate Madness and a Decade of Dread at Synchronicity Theater With the 10th Annual Buried Alive Film Festival!

Posted on: Nov 12th, 2015 By:

By Aleck Bennett11.14
Contributing Writer

The 10th Annual Buried Alive Film Festival; Saturday, November 14, 12:00 p.m. – 11:50 p.m.; Sunday, November 15, 12:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.; Synchronicity Theater; Tickets $10 per screening block / $50 all access pass; Schedule for each screening block here; Tickets here.

Halloween might have been two weeks ago, but there’s no reason why Atlanta’s horror community shouldn’t claim the entire month between it and Thanksgiving to create a haunting holiday season. That’s why having the always-amazing Buried Alive Film Festival right smack dab in the middle simply makes sense. In its tenth year, the band of morbid mad doctors behind the scenes (including ATLRetro Kool Kat Blake Myers) has assembled a monster of a festival and is bringing it to rampaging life at Synchronicity Theater! Venture in to witness horrors, paranormal and psychological, ranging from the frighteningly funny to the atmospheric and haunting. And, given the people involved, expect buckets of blood served up with every course.

The festival kicks off on Saturday with Shorts Program 1: Tentacles, Slime, and Problems. A series of shorts delivers on the program’s title, with a host of unsavory creatures on display—none so disturbing as our fellow man, however, as depicted in the Southeastern premieres of HEIR and Florian Frerichs’ adaptation curtain_posterof Roald Dahl’s gruesome classic IN THE RUINS. Also be sure to catch the contemporary eldritch horrors of 666 SQUARE FEET, which was picked as an official selection at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, Cthulhu Con, the New York City Horror Film Festival, NecronomiCon, Filmquest and more.

Follow that up with Feature Program 1: CURTAIN, which is preceded by the short film HAG, featuring THE EXORCIST’s Eileen Dietz and CHILDREN OF THE CORN’s John Franklin in a tale of the downsides of sleep paralysis and somnambulism. CURTAIN is…well…it’s about disappearing shower curtains in an ex-nurse’s tiny New York apartment. But as with many of the other subjects on offer, don’t leap to any conclusions from that short summary. With maniacal energy and flourishes of wacky humor, we’re plunged headlong into an epic story of cults, portals, unlikely friendship and the hazards of showering.

After a quick break to gather your nerves, return at 4 p.m. to leave the live-action world behind with Zerch_PostalAnimation/Puppet Program: Drawn, Quartered, and hands stuck up our butt. We’re treated with a series of surreal short subjects that take us places that flesh and blood cannot alone. This ranges from the Victorian ghost story of THE MILL AT CALDER’S END (featuring the voice talents of Barbara Steele and Jason Flemyng, and performed using bunraku rod puppets) to the stop-motion shorts of local filmmaker Britain Cramer. Also worth checking out is the dramatic shadowplay of MONSTER and the Southeastern debut of the delightfully dreadful BUNNY BIZNESS.

Haven’t had enough? Of course you haven’t. That’s why you’re sticking around for Shorts Program 2: Violent Crimes. Each short deals with the bloody transgression of social codes, whether from the perpetrator’s point of view, or the victim’s. Whether it’s climbing the corporate ladder of organized crime in the hilarious BAD GUY #2 or the horrors awaiting a person on the other end of the scalpel in SURGERY (based on legendary British writer/producer Brian Clemens’ last story idea), you’ll find more than enough gore to satiate your bloodlust.

HEAD (Poster)Ready for more long-form entertainment after all those shorts? Well, sit back and enjoy Feature Program 2: BUNNY THE KILLER THING. The program is introduced by the world premiere of the short film HEAD, in which a grieving widower does anything in his power to keep his wife with him. BUNNY follows, a gruesome exhumation and insanely funny send-up of 1980s horror tropes, from the secluded cabin in the woods, to the sex=death equation, to the man-in-a-monster-suit menace. In this, a horrific half-human/half rabbit monstrosity stalks a group of Finnish and British youth while in pursuit of anything resembling female genitalia.

We close out the night with a special feature presented by the inimitable Splatter Cinema crew: a 40th anniversary screening of Dario Argento’s classic giallo, DEEP RED. Be sure to see the accompanying Retro Review of this title (Coming soon!), but rest assured that this is an absolute must-see.

After a night to recover from the horrors of the previous day, we find ourselves back at the crack of noon for Shorts Program 3: A Lighter Shade of Blood Red. As the title suggests, this is a good-humored set of Chompshorts. From the love of a vengeful family pet in LITTLE OLD CAT LADY FROM RANCHO CUCAMONGA to a mother’s love for her undead son in ZOMINIC, from the tasty trap of I AM CANDY (in its Southeastern premiere) to the delicious set design of EAT, to zombie kidnapping in CHOMP, there’s a little something for the twisted side of everybody in this program.

From one extreme to another (in a festival of nothing but the extreme), we come to our next shorts program, Shorts Program 4: Gross People and Their Problems. Again, the program’s title lets you know what you’re in for with this set: the troubles that beset those who don’t quite fit in. There’s the health-crazed satire of RECIPE, the Wes Anderson-ian nightmare comedy of CRUSH, the American premiere of the disturbing family horror FROM THE GUTS, the extremes of VHS horror found in NASTY, and much more. Twisted people, twisted lives, twisted problems and twisted nerves are what you’ll find onscreen.

The next program explores the outer bounds of horror and filmmaking technique, in Shorts Program 5: psychoticExperimental and Music Videos. Split fairly evenly between experimental shorts such as BIRTHDAY’s Satanic ode to silent-era cinema, experimenting with serial killers in PSYCHOTIC! and the symbolic odyssey across the rivers of HADES, there are boundary-pushing music videos from artists such as Vyla Vice’s “Come With Me” and Atlanta’s own Gunpowder Gray and Casket Creatures with “Saints” and “GKMF!” (the latter directed by some guy named Lucas Godfrey (ATLRetro Kool Kat article here), who might just also happen to be the festival’s Event Director).

Then it’s time once again to focus on the long-form with Feature Program 3: THE INTERIOR. We transition into the feature-length section this time with two short subjects. First up is local director Brian Teague’s 1580 AM, which documents the GoPro footage found after four friends disappear in in the woods. It’s followed by THE FISHERMAN, about a Chinese fisherman who ventures out of the harbor and into the pits of horror when he catches something unexpected in the deep. Then our feature THE INTERIOR receives its Southeastern premiere. It’s a tense, atmospheric journey into the isolated woods of British Columbia as we follow a young man who has recently been diagnosed with a grave illness. As he seeks TerryBrendaTeaserPoster2_WEBrefuge and retreat, he finds that something else is in these woods, and it’s pursuing him deeper and deeper into the interior. A building sense of unease and tension, coupled with gorgeous photography and a great central performance makes this one you must check out.

We close out this year’s festival with a palate cleanser in the form of Shorts Program 6: Closing Night Shorts. A little bit of everything for those who have made it through the horrors of the previous two days, you’ve got demented comedy in the form of SISTER HELL and LARRY GONE DEMON, haunting and atmospheric horror in THE POND, mind-melting action in EL GIGANTE and THEY WILL ALL DIE IN SPACE, and the aptly-titled THE END. A fun and frightening serving of sadism: your treat as you prepare to leave this chamber of horrors and venture out into the real world where you can let your guard down and rest easy. Because surely none of the fantastic horrors on display could possibly manifest outside the walls of Synchronicity Theater, could they? Could they?

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com.

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