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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The Horror! The Horror! Our Top 10 Reasons to Spook on Down to the 4th Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION

Posted on: Sep 27th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Illustration by Monsterama guest Kat Hudson

What are you up to this weekend? We’re monster mashing it up with a helluva killer Kool Kat extravaganza and more at the 4rd Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION, creeping and crawling into town this Friday-Sunday, Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta! From legendary actors to ghastly séances, here are our top reasons to get your classic monster fix at MONSTERAMA!

1)  THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI SCORED LIVE. Valentine Wolfe is back for another year, providing an eerie auditory experience as they accompany Robert Wiene’s 1920 classic silent horror film, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, Saturday at 1pm!

2) HOUDINI SEÁNCE. You won’t want to miss MONSTERAMA’s first ever séance! And who better to raise your spiritual expectations with a conjuring of medium debunker and escape artist extraordinaire Harry Houdini, than ghoulish guests Kool Kat Shane Morton, Daniel Roebuck and Marcus Koch! Raise your spirits Friday at 11pm!

3) SILVER SCREAM SPOOK SHOW.  Kool Kat Shane Morton, a.k.a. ghost host with the most, Professor Morte and the Silver Scream Spook Show featuring the Go-Go Ghouls and guest, Dick Miller will terrify with a live spook show followed by a spook-tacular screening of Roger Corman’s THE TERROR (1963) on 16mm, Saturday beginning at 4pm!

4) FANGTASTIC FILM AND TWISTED TELEVISION.  It’s monster movie madness with screenings of horrorific classics (mostly screening in 16mm) including Charles B. Griffiths’s DR. HECKYL AND MR. HYPE (1980), featuring guest Dick Miller; Roman Polanski’s THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967); Lainie Miller’s 2014 documentary, THAT GUY DICK MILLER; Roy Ward Baker’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970); an unannounced Ballyhoo Motion Pictures documentary; and a special adults only (21+) screening of guest Brian K. Williams’ newly released SPACE BABES FROM OUTER SPACE with special guests Allison Maier and Ellie Church, and a slew of more slaying cinema! Or get terrified T.V.-style  throughout the weekend and catch screenings of THE OUTER LIMITS – “The Sixth Finger” and “The Architects of Fear”; STAR TREK – “Devil in the Dark” and “Mirror Mirror”; made for TV movie, THE QUESTOR TAPES (1974); and you won’t want to miss a super rare screening of Kolchak THE NIGHT STALKER and more!

5) CINEPROV RIFFS THE LOST WORLD. Madness, monsters and prehistoric creatures, OH MY! Hilarity ensues as New MST3K writer Larry Johnson and CINEPROV riffs Irwin Allen’s THE LOST WORLD (1960) Friday at 9pm!

6) SPOOKTACULAR GUESTS. Catch some killer guests, including Sybil Danning (BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS); BarBara Luna (STAR TREK); Dick Miller (GREMLINS; ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL); visual effects expert Gene Warren Jr. (PET SEMATERY; ELIMINATORS); 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”); film score 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, actress Allison Maier (FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS) and more!

7) MONSTER MAKEOVERS.  Get gore-gous with monster make-up galore as part of this year’s Makers Track! You won’t want to miss SSFXLAB’s “It’s Alive” event, creating Frankenstein’s monster in 3 different ways; SFX for the smallest creatures in your life, with the “Littlest Monster Maker,” event featuring mom/daughter duo, filmmaker Kool Kat Dayna Noffke and ultra spooky Vivi Vivian; and win some monstrous prizes with the annual FACE-ON make-up contest! And don’t forget to stick around for a creeping cornucopia of frightful faces and monster masks!

8) WARPED WRITERS & LITERARY PANELS. Writers make the monstrous world go ‘round, so check out guest authors, Dacre Stoker, Bram Stoker’s great grand-nephew (DRACULA THE UN-DEAD); John Farris (THE FURY); Sean Linkenback (THE ART OF JAPANESE MONSTERS); Charles Rutledge and vampire aficionado J. E. Browning (GRAPHIC HORROR: MOVIE MONSTER MEMORIES). And you won’t want to miss out on some wicked panels of the literary variety including “Our Favorite Trashy Horror Novels,” with Jeff Strand, Clay Gilbert and Eddie Coulter; “Dracula 120th Anniversary Spectacular,” with Dacre Stoker, J.E. Browning and Kool Kat Anthony Taylor; “Nevermore – A Poe Tribute,” with Kool Kat Mark Maddox and Mike Gordon, and so many more!

9) SCARE-TASTIC SHOPPING. Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both classic horror memorabilia, cult classics on DVD and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories. So come on down to the dealer’s room and check out all the toys, collectibles and monstrous goodies you can get your ghoulish little hands on!

10) MONSTER PROM. Hey all you boils and ghouls, get frightfully funky at this year’s Monster Prom, Saturday at 8:30pm! Dust off the old rat-infested tux, clear out the cobwebs, shine up your shoes and get ready to do the Monster Mash, and maybe even Time-Warp into the wee hours of the morning, hosted by Professor Morte and DJ Deathskiss!

MONSTERAMA main con hours are Fri. Sept. 29 from 4 to 12 a.m. (with screenings at noon and registration at 3pm); Sat. Sept. 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.; and Sun. Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more info, visit the MONSTERAMA official website here.

 

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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: 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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ATLRetro’s Haunted & Hellacious Halloween Guide 2016

Posted on: Oct 26th, 2016 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Calling all ghouls and gals! Come see why we think you should raise hell in ATLRetro this Halloween season!

1. Head Rolling Tunes! Get sinister All Hallows Eve weekend with a helluva lot of rancid rock ‘n roll! Rock out10.29StarBar ghoul-style at The Star Bar with Elzig (Elvis meets Danzig), The Crush and B.S.O.L. (Oct. 27)! Or celebrate 25 hellacious years with their 25th Anniversary Bash rocking out with Pretty Vacant (Sex Pistols tribute); Horror Business (Misfits tribute); and Nameless Nameless (Nirvana tribute) (Oct. 28)! And you must boogie on down during their 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll ‘70s Disco Party & Halloween Bash featuring The Biters (as The Disco Bitches), Dinos Boys, Bad Spell and Gunpowder Gray (Oct. 29)! Get horrorified at the Clermont Lounge  as Captain & Maybelle present a Halloween Shock ‘n’ Roll Sideshow featuring terrifying tunes by Fiend Without A Face, Kool Kats the Casket Creatures and special guest Reggie Bugmuncher (Oct. 27)! Or get rocked with Mac Sabbath and Black Juju at The Loft (Oct. 29)! The BadAsh Allstar Team hosts a Halloween Monster Jam at 5 Seasons Brewing (Oct. 29)! Get monstrous and go, go Godzilla on down to the Variety Playhouse for a night with the Blue Oyster Cult (10/29)! The Earl gets sinister and delivers a night of honkytonk rock ‘n ‘roll with their Halloween Party featuring The Goddamn Gallows, Gallows Bound, The Vaginas and Stump Tail Dolly (Oct. 31)!

2. Fangtastic Films!  Catch RiffTrax Live’s screening of Herk Harvey’s CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962) at theatres across Atlanta at 8pm [Avalon Stadium 12 (Alpharetta); Perimeter Pointe 10; Hollywood Stadium 24 (Chamblee); AMC Barrett Commons 24 (Kennesaw); Regal McDonough Stadium 16 (McDonough); Carnival of SoulsCinemark Tinseltown 17 (Fayetteville); and Georgian Stadium 14 (Newnan)] (Oct. 27 & 31)! It’s a night of ectoplasmic proportions at Venkman’s with a free screening of Ivan Reitman’s GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) at 7pm (Oct. 27)! Or make your way to ASO Symphony Hall for a screening of Tim Burton’s THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) with a live performance of the award-winning soundtrack by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at 8pm (Oct. 28)! Venkman’s dishes out a Cartoon Brunch featuring a screening of Tim Burton’s THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) (Oct. 29)! Or spend the evening with Vincent Price with a screening of Andre DeToth’s HOUSE OF WAX (1953) at The Plaza Theater, running Oct. 28 through Oct. 29! And don’t forget to Time-Warp it up with some uber musically-inclined transsexual aliens at as they continue their tradition of screening THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975), featuring the live cast of Lips Down on Dixie at midnight, with special Halloween treats (Oct. 28-29)! Get bewitched with a screening of Kenny Ortega’s HOCUS POCUS (1993) at dusk at Atlantic Station during their “Spooky Film Fest” (Oct. 28)! Videodrome and JavaVino (JavaDrome) present another rare treat with a screening of David A. Prior’s SLEDGEHAMMER (1983) at 8:30pm (Oct. 28)! Get twisted with Kool Kats, The Hess Family with a complimentary screening of Horror Hotel Season 2’s “LIFE AFTER MEN” at Studio Movie Grill in Alpharetta from 6pm to 12am (Oct. 27)!

3. Dance with the Dead and BOOgie down!  It’s Halloween hysteria at Avondale Towne Cinema during Kool Kat Shane Morton, a.k.a. ghost host with the most, Prof. Morte’s Monsters of Mock Dance Party featuring Stephen Skipper’s Rolling Stones Tribute, Van Heineken and OC/DC at 8pm (Oct. 28)! Or rattle 10.28Avondaleyour bones during Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX’s Fright Night Halloween Party, dripping with devilish drinks, costume contests and more (Oct. 28)! Spook on down to The Beacon’s Halloween Haunted House Warming Party featuring a haunted house, costume contest, food trucks and rockin’ tunes with Smithsonian (Smiths tribute), Anna Kramer & The Lost Cause and the Rock*A*Teens (Oct. 29)! Make your way to The Howard House in Kirkwood for the 11th Annual Scarendipity Halloween Bash featuring Voodoo Visionary, Mayhayley’s Grave and so much more (Oct. 29)! Rock on down to the Masquerade for their 6th Annual Boos & Brews Halloween Party (Oct. 29)! Make your way to Club Famous for Coffin Classics Halloween: Goth, Darkwave, Industrial with Kool Kat VJ Anthony (Oct. 29)! Grab your favorite boil or ghoul and rock on down to the Red Light Café’s Halloween Prom featuring Roadkill Debutante, Burning Truck and Till Someone Loses an Eye (Kool Kat Aileen Loy) (Oct. 30)! Radio Cult dishes out a “Japanese-Anime” themed Halloween bash at Deep South Deli & Pub (Oct. 28)! Get your ghouls, goblins and ghosts fix at Skyline Park ATL’s Haunted Heights Halloween Bash featuring acrobatics, THRILLER zombies, live DJ, themed cocktails, midway games and more from 8pm-12am (Oct. 29)! Boogie down to Opera Nightclub for their Atlanta Horror Story Halloween Spectacular, featuring costume contests, special drinks, prizes and more (Oct. 29)! Do the Monster Mash at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club’s annual Halloween Dance Party (Oct. 29)!

4. Gothic & Ghastly.  DJ Silkwolf and DJ Merlot will drag you to Hell at Mary’s during their Goth Nite Printfeaturing death rock, post punk, goth anthems and more at 9pm (Oct. 27)! The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra gets phantasmal with their Phantom of the Orchestra event at 3pm (Oct. 30)! Haunt on down to the Historic Oakland Cemetery for their annual hour-long Capturing the Spirit of Oakland 2015 Ghost Tours, featuring music, a fortune teller and more! Come on out and tiptoe through the graves, make a few new spirited friends and hear the hallowed tales of some of their eternal residents, running from 5:30pm to 10:30pm, through Oct. 30! Or spook on down to the Fox Theatre as they get haunted during their annual Fox Theatre Ghost Tours, chilling your bones through Oct. 30!

5. Horrifying Hikes ‘n’ Haunts.  Nightmares are what this season’s9.23 all about! So, spook on down to Netherworld Haunted House in Norcross and spook it up through Nov. 1 (7:30pm-10:30pm week days; 7pm-midnight weekends)! Get terrified at Sinister Suites Hotel of Horror in Griffin, GA, spooking through Oct. 31! A little blood splatter never hurt ya, so trek on down to Carrolton, GA for a helluva lot of haunted hillbillies ‘n’ dead rednecks at Camp Blood, horrifying through Oct. 31! Put on your horrorific hiking boots and make your way to the Dolls Head Danse Macabre Halloween Hike at Constitution Lakes, hosted by The Georgia Conservancy from 7-11pm (Oct. 30)!

6. Thrilling and Chilling Theatrics, Art ‘n’ Parades.  Creep on down to The B Complex for the Art Exhibition and Performance sleepy hollowReception for “Will You Be My Nightmare” at 6:30pm (Oct. 27)! Or wake the dead at the Michael C. Carlos Museum’s Mummies & Mixers event featuring music, costumes, as classic Boris Karloff film and more from 7-9pm (Oct. 27)! Be the Headless Horseman’s next victim and get your bones chilled at Serenbe Playhouse’s thrilling presentation of their immersive spooky attraction and show, THE SLEEPY HOLLOW EXPERIENCE, haunting through Nov. 6 (Wed-Sun at 8pm; Fri-Sat at 10:30pm)! It’s a night of murderous clowns and gut splitting laughter as 1Up Comedy presents the Roast of Pennywise the Clown/Stephen King’s IT at the Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge (Oct. 27)! Spook on down to the Buford Highway Halloween Parade and Pop-Up, from 5-8pm (Oct. 29) Make your way to the Atlanta History Center for the Day of the Dead Festival featuring traditional dance, crafts, authentic Mexican food and more (Oct. 30)! Terminus City Tattoo (Duluth) delivers a day full of tricks, treats and tattoos with their 2016 Halloween Bash featuring $50 Halloween tattoos (12-7pm), followed by a killer bash kickin’ off at 8pm, with a costume contest and more (Oct. 29)! Or catch “The Ghastly Dreadfuls” spooking it up with creepy stories, frightful songs and devilish dances at the Center for Puppetry Arts, haunting through Oct. 29!10.27Clermont

7. Tricks, Treats & A Witchin’ Good Time! Cast a spell and make your way to the Mable House Arts Center’s Hogwarts Halloween at 6pm and 8pm (Oct. 28)! Spook on down to Callanwolde Fine Arts Center for their “Halloween Night on Callanwolde Mountain” family-friendly party featuring trick-or-treating, live music with the Callanwolde Concert Band featuring Matthew Kaminski, costume contests and more (Oct. 28)! Maniacal laughter ensues during The Village Theatre’s Halloween Improv House Party featuring an improvised Salem Witch Trial and more (Oct. 29)! Spook on down to the Ponce City Market for their A Haunting on Ponce: Eat, Drink and Be Scary, horrifying through Oct. 31!

8. Decaying Eighties.  Eighties it up at Venkman’s with a Totally ‘80s Costume 10.29TerminalParty featuring Members Only (Oct. 27)! Get strange at Criminal Records during their “Stranger Things: Vol. 1 Soundtrack” Listening Party with special guest Randall P. Havens (Mr. Clarke), a costume contest and more at 7pm (Oct. 28)! BOOgie on down to The Music Room for DJ Jaycee’s Edgewood “Thriller” Michael Jackson Tribute and costume party (Oct. 28)! ATL Collective delivers an evening of rotting flesh as they raise the dead with their performance of Michael Jackson’s Halloween classic, “Thriller” at Terminal West (10/29)! Kool 10.29BasementKat Becky Cormier Finch and Denim Arcade deliver a rockin’ ‘80s Halloween Party, featuring a costume contest, a “Thriller” dance class and more at the Wild Wing Café in Suwannee (Oct. 29)!

9. Get Funky and Groove Like a Ghoul!  Put on those dancin’ shoes groove like a ghoul at The Basement as they get down with forty thousand years of funk during their Keep on Movin’ Halloween Dance Party (10/29)! Get terrified from beyond the grave with Here Come the Mummies at City Winery (Oct. 31)!

 

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Kool Kat of the Week: Horror Family Values – The Hess Family Gets Twisted, Raring to Spawn Season 2 of their Award-Winning TWILIGHT ZONE meets Alfred Hitchcock meets Ray Bradbury Web-Series, HORROR HOTEL!

Posted on: May 20th, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crew10888544_564774920288902_2843828761362776837_n
Managing Editor

Ricky Hess, local geek at heart, jack of all film-trades and series creator/director, has resurrected a living, breathing, monster of an 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.”And he’s drug mom and dad along for the bloody ride! Inspired by the creepy fantastical worlds presented in THE TWILIGHT ZONE and ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, HORROR HOTEL delivers that nostalgic deep-in-the-gut suspense and spine-chilling plot twisting angst that gained incredible popularity in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and has successfully seeped into the 21st century psyche with a raging resurgence. From what we hear, there’s always a vacancy at HORROR HOTEL, so check in if you dare and catch Season 2, filled to the bloody brim with aliens, androids, ghosts, psychotic killers – all invading your homes in the very near future!

Ricky, no film-school rookie, has dabbled in producing, directing, writing, SFX – all while creating shorts, web series, commercials and music videos. While brainstorming HORROR HOTEL, he gleaned the business knowledge of mom, Debbie Hess (executive producer) and writing/carpentry skills of dad, Al Hess (writer/set builder), to create one helluva horror filmmaking family and production team! Season 1 of the web series premiered in 2013, spanning 90 minutes of content in six twisted episodes, which can be purchased as a complete series, with each episode running 12-20 minutes in homage to THE TWILIGHT ZONE’s style and format. In 2014, the series garnered much attention from the L.A. Web Series Festival (LA Webfest), and won in four categories: Outstanding Directing, Outstanding Sound Design, Outstanding Series and Outstanding Score. And now, with Season 2 in post-production, you’ll have ample opportunity to catch a ghastly glimpse at Atlanta’s homegrown throwback to the masters of suspense and mystery! You owe it to yourself to take a step off the beaten path, check in to HORROR HOTEL and try to make it out alive!

"Aliens Stole My Boyfriend", Season 2

“Aliens Stole My Boyfriend”, Season 2

ATLRetro caught up with the Hess Family for a quick interview about HORROR HOTEL; the series’ homage to ‘50s and ‘60s horror television; and what it takes to create a successful web series. And while you’re daring to take a peek at our little Q&A, get a twisted taste of the making of Season 2’s “Coma Girl” and “Brain Robbers in Love.

ATLRetro: First off, your web-series, HORROR HOTEL is a perfect fit for ATLRetro! We love all things TWILIGHT ZONE, Alfred Hitchcock, Ray Bradbury and more! Can you tell our readers how HORROR HOTEL was born?

Ricky: I was attending a convention in another city and was seeking out an inexpensive place to stay. I ran across several suggestions but some contained warnings about the neighborhood and possible “risks” staying there, etc. I thought to myself, why would anyone want to stay someplace with such a dangerous reputation. The idea occurred to me that it would be fun to make a series about such a place and the odd, creepy kind of encounters that could occur there. The idea for HORROR HOTEL was born from that.

We see that HORROR HOTEL is a home-grown family affair, with Debbie Hess (mom) as Executive Producer, Al Hess (dad) as Writer and Ricky Hess (son) as Creator/Director. What’s it like to come from such a creative family working so closely with each other? And of course we’d like to know, who’s really the boss?

Ricky: It’s great getting to work with my family on the project. It is the most rewarding thing to me about producing the series actually. My mom and dad were somewhat new to the movie making business, but they each had skills that were needed to put a movie project together. My dad and I had for years enjoyed making up creepy stories on long road trips to amuse ourselves and he’s had some previous writing experience. Not to mention he is a great carpenter and builds all our custom props and set pieces. He’s also a good lighting technician from his years of photography. My mom, Debbie, has a pretty good business head on her and had dealt for years in the marketing world working at advertising agencies, newspapers, radio and television. She is a salesperson at heart and can endure the grueling job of marketing and promotion. I had worked for several years on other people’s projects doing everything from special effects to editing. I moved over to doing most of the directing on the series and do most of the editing as well. So together we make a pretty good, complete team.

Who’s the boss? Well, all our decisions are made together and there are always compromises that have to be made on everyone’s part to settle on a direction, but being family, this is probably a little easier since we know each other so well and have respect for each other.

You’ve stated the major influences for the series are THE TWILIGHT ZONE and Alfred Hitchcock. Are there any particular episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE or any particular Hitchcock tale that inspired you more than others?

Al: My favorite TWILIGHT ZONE episode is “Invaders” with Agnes Moorehead. Tiny aliens invade an old woman’s house and hurt her. My favorite Hitchcock episode is a Ray Bradbury tale, “The Jar,” where a farmer buys a creepy pickle jar from a side-show that’s got all this weird stuff floating around in it.

"Invader", Season 1 - Troy Halverson

“Invader”, Season 1 – Troy Halverson

Do you have any additional retro/vintage influences for this series or for other projects you are working on?

Al: I’d like to make something showing a near future world containing a utopian/dystopian conflict. Things that used to scare people during the times of Orwell and Huxley, like being controlled by machines, aren’t so scary now that it’s happened. Each new generation of communication devices and surveillance equipment gives everyone a sense of security even though it necessarily strips away individual human rights and privacy.

Since HORROR HOTEL is an anthology series, like THE TWILIGHT ZONE and ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, would you say production is more or less difficult than a straight series, with recurring characters, etc.? What would you say are your biggest challenges?

Debbie: Horror works well in the anthology format because people are ok with a short story that is complete in itself and not continuing. Production-wise however, it definitely has its challenges. For starters, to tell a complete story circuit in each episode and do it well, requires a longer length episode which is always harder to do. HORROR HOTEL episodes tend to run longer than most web series, from 10-22 minutes. The first season contains over 90 minutes of content; the equivalent of a feature length film. We have to recast for each new episode, which takes time. With a serial series and recurring characters, this is faster and easier. We also have to retool the set for each new episode, completely redecorate a new hotel room specifically for that episode (new costumes, new props, new everything).

It’s like shooting a whole bunch of short films all the time. The advantage of shooting an anthology is that people can randomly pick out episodes to watch and don’t have to follow a story arch to know what’s happening. Probably the biggest challenge is simply wrangling all the different cast and crew it takes to do a series like this. First season alone took over 100 people to produce, which is a lot for a web series. It’s always a challenge to fit people into the schedule puzzle and keep a project moving forward to completion. Once we set a production schedule, we will do whatever necessary to keep that locked in and not postpone it. Too many independent film projects start but don’t finish. That’s not an option for us.

"Brain Robbers in Love", Season 2 (L-R) Phil Spartis and Deborah Childs

“Brain Robbers in Love”, Season 2 (L-R) Phil Spartis and Deborah Childs

What are some of the major differences between television/film formats and the web-series format?

Debbie: For a series produced for traditional television, there are specifically timed breaks (acts) to allow for commercials. The standard TV format calls for 22-24 minutes of actual story for a 30-minute program and anywhere from 44-46 minutes for an hour-long program. With a web series, they can be any length because primarily they are streamed online with no required commercial breaks, although many times they do have commercials depending on the platform. As far as the actual production, the same applies for traditional TV or a web series. You use all the same equipment, follow all the same procedures; everything is the same. The only difference is the viewing platform they will be primarily presented on.

Everyone making a web series should strive for as high a production value as you possibly can. With the advent of so many different ways to view digital series now, from your computer to your big screen TV, you want content that looks really good, with broadcast quality, high resolution, good filming techniques, etc. It’s the only way to have a series ever be seriously considered by higher caliber platforms.

What do you think separates HORROR HOTEL from other web series and makes it one-of-a-kind in the industry?

Ricky: Well, the fact that it is a true anthology sets it apart from the majority of web series out there, but we are not one-of-a-kind necessarily. We have tried to bring back old-school storytelling where the plot and story lines matter the most and we just try to fit in special or visual effects to enhance that. Sometimes filmmakers rely more on visual effects and some kind of “wow” factor to endear an audience but that gets numbing pretty fast without a decent story.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about your nominations and wins at the 2014 LA WebFest?

"Life After Men", Season 2 (L-R) Baby Norman, Deborah Childs and Anastasia Pekhtereva

“Life After Men”, Season 2 (L-R) Baby Norman, Deborah Childs and Anastasia Pekhtereva

Ricky: It was an honor to receive four nominations and wins at the 2014 LA Webfest for Outstanding Series, Outstanding Directing, Outstanding Score and Outstanding Sound Design. The decision came after a review of all episodes in the first season, but the two episodes that screened at the festival were “Tilt” and “Guillotine.

What was your process in obtaining the talent for the series? How did you snag up Grammy Award-winning Matt Still, who scored the music on the “Guillotine” episode and actor James Edward Thomas (Al Sharko), who also acted in the ‘80s television reboot of THE TWILIGHT ZONE?

Debbie: We cast for each new episode locally from the large, talented actor pool in Atlanta. We post audition notices first on our Facebook page to give our fans a chance to submit for an audition first. After that, we post on a number of casting sites primarily focused on Atlanta talent. We continue to be amazed and pleased at the truly talented group of local Atlanta actors we have been proud to work with. James Edward Thomas showed up to audition for episode “Houdini’s Hand” and was a perfect fit for the only recurring actor thus far in the series, Al Sharko. He is not only a fine actor, but a valued family friend. He also appears in episode “Invader” as sci-fi writer Rodney Silvers.

It was actually his connection to Matt Still that facilitated Matt scoring episode “Guillotine” which James is in as well. We were so honored and excited to have Matt work on an episode. His reputation as a premiere music producer working with mega stars like Elton John, Madonna and a who’s who of rock ‘n’ roll folks was just amazing and thrilling for us. He did a most excellent job on the scoring of “Guillotine” and obviously it caught the attention of LA Webfest judges. We have been fortunate to have a number of excellent musical artists work on the series including Royal Teague, Kenneth Singleton II and Quinton “Q” Amy in the first season alone.

"Four Eyes", Season 2 (L-R) Jeremy Michael Grey and Michael Gladden

“Four Eyes”, Season 2 (L-R) Jeremy Michael Grey and Michael Gladden

HORROR HOTEL currently has two complete seasons. How can our readers go about getting their grubby little hands on them?

Ricky: Currently the first season is released and can be seen on Hulu, AT&T U-verse, MSN Videos, and xfinity streaming platforms. It also broadcasts on the Shorts Network channel on DirectTV and AT&T U-verse. The new second season is working through post-production, releasing in the upcoming months.

What’s next for HORROR HOTEL and the Hess family? Are there more seasons in the works and if so, can you give our readers some juicy details (without giving away too many details)? Any other projects in the works?

Debbie: We are currently concentrating on post-production work for the second season and getting that distributed, but we are also kicking around some new ideas and worlds we would like to explore. But here’s a little tickler of upcoming second season episodes: Expect cute aliens that crash land their space buggy on the motel parking lot looking for Earth boyfriends; a macabre maintenance man at a convalescence home who falls in love with a comatose patient; a narcissistic businesswoman who swaps brains with a younger business associate; a family of female clones, one of whom has committed a murder; a paraplegic hit-man hired by a disgruntled ex-husband to take out his wife; and an Orwellian tale set in the near future where males are virtually extinct and women rule.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you in an interview but they never do, and what’s the answer?

"Houdini's Hand", Season 1

“Houdini’s Hand”, Season 1

Ricky: Q: What happens to the many props and costumes you have after each episode? A: I’m so glad you asked! We really like our custom props like the “Houdini’s Hand” ornate box, the brain swap machine from second season’s “Brain Robbers In Love,” the custom ham radio from “Invader,” the hand-carved space buggy from “Aliens Stole My Boyfriend,” and a host of other one-of-a-kind props. Not the least of which is our miniature motel model we built for miniature photography seen in episode “Invader” and “Aliens Stole My Boyfriend” to date. We like to display these for visitors to see, a sort of HORROR HOTEL mini museum if you will. Most of the costumes get saved as well, and we have even reused a couple, like the Nazi uniforms and the Rufus Bass costume because you never know when some of these characters might be resurrected!

All photos courtesy of Horror Hotel LLC and used with permission.

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