Kool Kat of the Week: The Legendary Catherine Mary Stewart Dishes Out Intergalactic Frights at The Springs Cinema & Taphouse Oct. 14-15

Posted on: Oct 11th, 2022 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

The one-and-only Catherine Mary Stewart, whose stellar career spans three decades (With so much more to come!), makes her way to Atlanta this Friday, Oct. 14 and Saturday, Oct. 15 for two killer The Springs Cinema & Taphouse Fright Nights events where she’ll deliver a badass retro-filled weekend! You won’t want to miss Thom Eberhardt’s NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984) screening Fri. the 14th, and Nick Castle’s THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984) screening on Sat. the 15th! Get your tail to The Springs this weekend for a frightening good time! We can’t wait to see what she has in store for us!

The Springs’ Fright Night Film series runs through Oct. 31st and their killer line-up can be found here!

ATLRetro caught up with Catherine to chat about her Fright Night double-feature events at The Springs, about playing badass female characters, and what inspired her to dive headfirst into the land of make-believe!

ATLRetro: When we heard The Springs was putting on a killer double-feature with NIGHT OF THE COMET and THE LAST STARFIGHTER in the same weekend that included a guest appearance by the one and only Catherine Mary Stewart, we were thrilled! Care to share a little about both events and what our readers can expect?

Catherine Mary Stewart: I am so excited to appear at these screenings. I will be there to meet and greet attendees before the screenings and I’ll also have photos to sign, take selfies and sign things that people bring in. After the screening there will be a Q&A for the audience to ask any questions they may have.

NIGHT OF THE COMET has been dubbed the greatest “California-Valley-Girls-With-Machineguns-Go-Shopping-After-The-END OF THE WORLD” movie of all time! Does this pretty much cover it? How would you describe the film and your role as Regina?

What I love about NIGHT OF THE COMET is that it crosses so many genres, from horror, to Sci-Fi, to tongue-in-cheek, adventure, and teen comedy. That was exactly Thom Eberhart’s intention when he wrote it and I think it makes it unique. The audience can identify with the characters, and it has stood the test of time!

The late 70s/early 80s brought us many strong, independent female characters, especially in the horror and sci-fi genres (ALIENS’ Ripley, HALLOWEEN’S Laurie Strode come to mind) including both of your characters in COMET and STARFIGHTER. Can you tell our readers what it was like to play such badass characters during this era, and what do you think it is about these particular genres that inspire such head-strong female roles?

Going into NIGHT OF THE COMET, being this strong, badass character, Regina was very attractive to me personally and as an actor. It was against type for many of the roles I had played leading up to it and was in fact more like who I really am. As an actor I want to play as many different kinds of characters as possible. That’s always been my goal. I didn’t think about the fact that Regina was kind of unusual in terms of female casting. What I do think contributes to the success of the movie and the character, in retrospect, is that Regina is accessible. She’s not a superhero or some kind of futuristic exceptional person, but just a regular teen thrown into an exceptional situation. It makes Regina relatable to kids of her age in the audience, and I’ve heard so often from fans, she gave them the confidence to believe in themselves. That they can be badass too.

I think any genre should have strong female roles. Historically, females have been portrayed as second to their male counterpart, dependent on them, or as the love interest. This is not reality. Women can take care of themselves and have control of their paths in life. We need to see more of that!!

Photo by Kevin Talley

With a slew of feature film and television credits to your name, can you tell us what your favorite film genre to work in is, and if you prefer to work in film or television?

As an actor I love to try every genre and every platform, including stage. They are all so different and present their own challenges. My goal is to be challenged with interesting characters and situations no matter what the format or genre.

How did you get hooked on acting and what are a few films that had an early impact on you?

I began my performing career as a dancer. The first movie I ended up acting in I initially auditioned as a dancer. I found the whole movie acting world fascinating and when I completed my first movie I thought I would see where it took me. If it didn’t work out I was happy to fall back on my first passion of dance. Well, it was a fascinating journey that took me on an incredible ride, and still does. I’ve enjoyed every second of it and I continue to explore all the possibilities including writing, producing, and directing. I’m excited by what the future brings! From a very young age I loved musicals such as MARY POPPINS and THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Later on, I was blown away by JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, FAME, and THE TURNING POINT.

Care to share which actors would you say inspired you most? And what it was about them that made you want to hone your own craft?

I’ve had the honor of working with some of the most iconic actors of the 20th and 21st centuries. It’s always incredible watching them work and trying to absorb what they present. One of my absolute favorite actors is Maggie Smith. I am just blown away by her talent and how she still works well into her later years.

As female actor working in the film industry, what challenges have you personally faced that seem to be a common theme amongst women in the industry?

It’s a patriarchal business. Slowly but surely women of all cultures and color are having more influence on the productions. Women are more than 50% of the population and it’s high time we are represented in a realistic, inspiring manner and stories told from a female perspective. A perspective that is just as valid as a man’s and as interesting and entertaining to the whole audience. I look forward to the day when we are blind to a creator’s gender, culture, or color behind any form of entertainment.

In your opinion, what trends and directors are pushing the envelope now? Have any film recommendations for our readers?

I love movies that are character-driven. That changes me somehow. It may be in a small way or a broader way but when I come out of the theater and I have a different perspective on myself, people, different cultures, different times, the world. When I find myself thinking about what I’ve just seen and experienced, that is what I love most. I love the stickiness of those kind of films.

You’ve attended many horror/sci-fi/comic-cons and met so many of the creators behind the film classics. What one or two encounters stand out and surprised or delighted you the most?

I love seeing people I’ve worked with. Terry Kiser from WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S stands out. He’s a lovely man. I also saw an old friend of mine that I hadn’t seen for probably 35 years. Frank Welker is one of the most prominent voiceover actors on the planet. I love him dearly and I was so grateful to see him again. As a kid I LOVED the Monkees. I managed to get a photo with each and every one of them. The first was Davie Jones at my very first convention. I had such a crush on him when I was about 10 years old.

Who are your favorite female actors or directors (from the past or present), and what is it about them that draws you to their art?

Photo by Kevin Talley

I love Julie Taymor. She has such an interesting point of view. Her background in theatre, mime, and puppetry creates a fascinating perspective that you see in her work. I’m a big fan of Gilian Armstrong. Her movie MY BRILLIANT CAREER (1979) is one of my favorites on every level. Agnes Varda and Claire Denis are also very interesting creators. Actors I love include: Cecily Tyson; Maggie Smith; Isabelle Huppert; Cate Blanchett; Alicia Vikander; Michelle Williams; Marisa Tomei; Diane Lane.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that our readers should be watching right now?

Right now I’m streaming old episodes of SEINFELD. Loving that. I’m on season 4. There is so much to choose from, but I just started THE MIDNIGHT CLUB and ALASKA DAILY. They look interesting. The last movie I saw was with Sigorney Weaver and Kevin Kline called THE GOOD HOUSE. I thought it was clever and their performances were terrific! I think the next one will be TÁR with Cate BlanchettSMILE looks like it could give me a good scare, and I would like to see THE WOMAN KING, with Viola Davis.

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

Learn the craft first and foremost. Whether it’s filmmaking or acting, do the groundwork and build a solid foundation. There is so much information online these days. Mine that. And I would suggest creating your own content. With the technology we all have at our fingertips and online sites such as YouTube and TicTock there is no excuse not to. It’s great exposure and wonderful practice.

Photo by Kevin Talley

What do you like to do completely outside of the acting/film industry world? Any favorite hobbies, places you like to visit?

I do love to travel. I’ve travelled extensively my entire life. It gives you a sense of the world that you will never get staying put. The world is not what you see on the news. I also love photography, horseback riding, food, being outdoors, nature, and my friends and family.

And last but not least, care to share what you are currently working on? Anything coming out that we should keep our eyes peeled and ready for?

ASK ME TO DANCE is a movie that I did last year. It’s a lovely romantic comedy that is guaranteed to make you feel good at a time when everything seems to feel a little dark and suppressed as we navigate our way out of the pandemic. It was just released into theaters on Friday Oct. 7th. I have also been developing several projects from theater to TV and film. I love writing, producing and my focus is directing. I will share everything when they come to fruition!

 

 

All photos courtesy of Catherine Mary Stewart and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Josh Robins of the Invincible Czars Gets Cozy with Count Orlok at the 100th Anniversary Screening of NOSFERATU at The Springs Cinema & Taphouse Oct. 7

Posted on: Oct 3rd, 2022 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Austin-based experimental rock ensemble, the Invincible Czars will be creeping into Atlanta for the first time on Friday, Oct. 7 during The Springs Cinema & Taphouse’s Fright Nights film series. The Czars, touted as “one of the best silent film orchestras in the nation” by Alamo Drafthouse, guarantees a fangtastic time will be had by all as they horrify the masses with their haunting live score to the world’s first feature-length silent vampire movie, F. W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU (1922). Atlanta is one of many stops along the way on their 2-month Nosferatu Centennial Tour, which bleeds into 49 cities across the US and Canada by Halloween. Information on this exciting and deadly event can be found here!

The Springs’ Fright Night Film series runs through Oct. 31st and their killer line-up can be found here!

ATLRetro caught up with Josh Robins, founder of the ensemble, to chat about the tour, about what inspires the Czars’ wickedly weird tunes, and what it is about film scoring that makes him tingle! And while you’re taking a gander at our little Q&A, why not check out their killer Nosferatu Tour teaser trailer here!

ATLRetro: We’re super excited that Atlanta is one of the many stops on the NOSFERATU CENTENNIAL TOUR 2022, running through Oct. 31! What can our readers look forward to during the Fright Nights film series screening of NOSFERATU at The Springs Cinema & Taphouse on Oct. 7th?

Josh Robins: We like to get the audience involved and we like to joke around.  So, there will be some interaction and humor. They’ll also see the world’s first vampire film with our soundtrack performed live by 5 players on violin, keyboards, flute, bass clarinet, guitar, bass, piano, drums, and sound effects. We also have great pants.

Can you tell us a little about the tour? We see that there have been regular band line-up changes throughout the years. Which band members will be participating in the tour?

Yes, we’re more of a collective than a band with permanent players these days.  We’ll have Phil Davidson – violin, keys, glockenspiel; Skunk Manhattan – piano, bass guitar; Louis Landry – drums, sound effects; Josh Robins – guitar, bass guitar, sound effects; Zelda Younger – flute, bass clarinet, synth.

How did Invincible Czars come together? What inspired the band’s inception?

The original line-up is LOOOONG gone. I started the band in late 2002 to try to play some of the music I’d been creating on 4-track tapes in my bedroom. I wanted to combine rock and classical instruments. The first line up didn’t last long. In 2004, the first really cohesive line-up came together. By then we were much louder and heavier, and we’d dropped a lot of the Eastern Euro influence leaning more toward metal and prog rock.

What exactly is “Czar-ified classical music?

Classical music played the way we play it — usually with some humor, weirdness, and a lot of rock.

How long have you been playing music? What did you do before? Still have a day job?

Everyone in the band has played music since childhood. We’ve all had various day jobs over the years. Most of us teach. Some are just pro musicians. I take day jobs as needed and run the band. Sometimes I go for long stretches with no day job. Otherwise, I build decks, nanny, edit video, etc. etc. between tours.

We see the band began doing silent film tours back in 2012. Can you tell us what inspired the band to start accompanying silent films?

The Alamo Drafthouse began hosting silent films with live local bands in the late 90s. I was a fan of those shows but I thought I could do a better job than most of the bands who just seemed to play their usual rock music with the movies as a backdrop. Some were great and I thought the entire concept was something that people could get into even outside of Austin. I asked the Alamo if we could do one and they said yes. We started with AELITA, QUEEN OF MARS (1924) back in July 2006.

Care to share a little about your composition process?

Hard to nail down a single process. It usually starts with one person’s idea that gets bounced around and changed by everyone either in person or by sharing files. I like to plug in my guitar and record ten ideas quickly. That’s how I came up with several of the NOSFERATU themes—just by improvising based on how I felt about images from the film. We also tend to refine through workshopping or just performing.

Which silent film is your favorite to accompany? And why?

These days it’s NOSFERATU because we’ve put so much work into it!

Are there any films you’d like to compose scores for that you haven’t yet?

HAXAN (1922), THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED (1926), METROPOLIS (1927), FAUST (1926), SHERLOCK JR. (1924) and films made by modern day filmmakers who need music.

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

We tend to like metal, post-rock, punk, classical and prog. I love Mr. Bungle, NoMeansNo, Louis Armstrong, Neko Case, Tchaikovsky, Rev. Horton Heat. We all seem to like bands like Primus, Fantomas, Faith No More, etc. And of course, film composers like Bernard Herrman, Ennio Morricone, Wendy Carlos, and Danny Elfman.

It seems many musicians are influenced by particular musicians or a particular type of popular music (the art being the whole), but a film’s score tells a different kind of story, as accompaniments or pieces or carriers of the whole. Can you tell our readers what it is about film scores that influence you and the part they play in carrying a film?

Music can set a tone for a scene the same way dialog can and because it doesn’t necessarily clutter dialog, it can do so with or without actors talking. In real life, we feel various emotions but when you’re watching an actor (onscreen or in person) it may not be clear what the character is feeling. The music can help the audience understand how the character feels and that helps put their lines or actions in context.

Is there any particular film score that influenced you the most before you began composing your own?

It’s hard to pinpoint one. As a kid of I loved John Williams scores for STAR WARS, EMPIRE, and RETURN OF THE JEDI. I loved BEETLEJUICE and PEEWEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (both Danny Elfman) and started really paying attention to soundtracks when I was a tween back in the mid-80s.

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

Bernard Herrman (PSYCHO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST); John Williams (STAR WARS); Danny Elfman (PEEWEE’S BIG ADVENTURE); the various composers from Twlight Zone episodes from the 1960s; Henry Mancini (PETER GUNN)

What are your top five favorite RETRO films you’d recommend to our readers?

ROSEMARY’S BABY – still one of the best and surprisingly Satanic for the 60s; THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE; THE CAMERAMAN (Buster Keaton); ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Disney version); THE STING

Any other music you’d recommend to our readers?

Opposite Day – the best band in the galaxy!

What are you looking forward to most during the Fright Night Film series screening of NOSFERATU?

It’ll be our first time to play in Atlanta so I’m very excited to meet some new people and finally spend some time there!

And last but not least, what are the Invincible Czars currently working on? Anything coming out soon (after the tour of course)?

We’re finally releasing our Iron Maiden tribute “The Gospel of the Beast” this winter.  It’s been sitting unreleased for over a decade! In the spring of 2023, we’ll release a reimagined version of Modest Mussorgsky‘s “Pictures at an Exhibition” for which we combined forces with an Austin band, Bee vs. Moth! And we’ll also bring our soundtrack for DR. CALIGARI back to cities in the US and Canada in the fall of 2023.

 

 

All photos courtesy of the Invincible Czars and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Brandt Gully Spooks it up with a Fright Nights Film Series Killing it through Halloween at The Springs Cinema & Taphouse

Posted on: Sep 21st, 2022 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Photo by the Marietta Daily Journal

 

 

Brandt Gully, owner and operator of The Springs Cinema & Taphouse located in Sandy Springs, GA, delivers a haunting month of creepy cinema during their Fright Nights film series, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 21st through Halloween! Not only will you have a chance to experience a killer line-up of chilling crowd favorites (NOSFERATU anyone!?) on the big screen, but you’ll also get to experience these films in special ways, including live-accompaniment and a Q&A event with cult classic star, Catherine Mary Stewart! If you’re looking to add to your spooktacular Halloween schedule, you’ll definitely want to creep on over to The Springs, Sept. 21 – Oct. 31!

ATLRetro caught up with Brandt to chat about the Fright Nights film series, what it’s like to delve deep into the business of independent movie houses, and the importance of catering to the community, no matter what line of work you’re in. While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A, why not take a peek at the fangtastic Fright Nights line-up, here!

ATLRetro: ‘Tis the season for monsters and spooky things and what better way to celebrate than to gather in a movie theatre, perched on the edge of our seats, scarfing down popcorn spooked out of our wits?! We can’t wait for The Springs’ Fright Nights Film series! Can you tell us a little about this film retrospective?

photo by Jarrod Cecil

Brandt Gully: Fright Nights is our new horror-focused series that features nine different classics through Halloween and then will continue on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. In this first ‘spooky season’ installment, we are trying a little bit of everything ranging from a 1920s silent film classic up through 80s and 90s favorites and even a couple of offerings for kids. We are even mixing in different types of movie experiences along with the screenings—a live music experience with The Invincible Czars performing their score alongside NOSFERATU (1922), a double-feature at our Springs Drive-In where we set up a 50-foot screen in our parking lot, and capped it all off with a Halloween night screening of BEETLEJUICE (1988) in our “interactive film style” concept that we call Movie Parties. We are throwing a lot of different things at our customers during this series to see what they like so that they can help guide us with future offerings. And lastly, our series will be hosted each week by our friend Sunny Midnight, who is well known in the local film and convention community for her love and work with horror and sci-fi films.

What a killer line-up! The movie selection for this series includes classics like NOSFERATU, ‘80s cult horror with NIGHT OF THE COMET, and 90s fright favorite, SCREAM. Can you tell us about some of the special events you have lined up with a few of the screenings, including a special appearance by Catherine Mary Stewart?

While we are super excited just to be screening these upcoming horror films, we really want to offer more to our true film lovers out there with interactive movie experiences. The first couple that we have planned are going to be a lot of fun. It’s hard to find a more classic horror film than NOSFERATU, which turned 100 years old this year. The Invincible Czars out of Austin, TX have been making and performing their own soundtracks or scores to classic silent films for years, and they’re touring the US over the next several weeks doing NOSFERATU at film festivals and arthouse and indie cinemas like ours. They’ll be live and on stage in front of our screen on Friday, October 7th, accompanying the film as they rock their score with a five-member ensemble using violin, flute, bass clarinet, electric guitar, bass, piano, organ, glockenspiel, music box, drums, percussion, samples and loops. It will be a fun experience to see this movie in a whole new way.

We are also excited that Catherine Mary Stewart will be visiting us on October 14th and 15th for our screenings of NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984) and THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984). Those are two iconic 80s films, and it will be a lot of fun to have her there to engage with her fans with photos and autographs as well as do some Q&A after the screenings.

Were there any films you wanted to include but couldn’t?

We originally had Felissa Rose scheduled for a live appearance for a screening of SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983), but she ended up having a filming conflict and will plan on visiting us in January or February 2023.

Can you tell our readers what it takes to put on this type of film series and what makes Fright Nights different from others around the Atlanta area?

Doing a curated series or unique screenings is a lot of work, which is why most theaters don’t do it. Our industry has gotten a bit lazy in recent years and just tends to rely on whatever Hollywood spoon feeds us to pass along to the customers. We saw what can happen with that strategy over the past couple of years when film production was halted and new releases were delayed, so we are committed to doing the work and providing cinema lovers with product we like and believe they will as well. Our goal is to make this an ongoing series, where we have enough demand to offer a weekly horror screening. In this first ‘spooky season’ installment, we are trying a little bit of everything ranging from a 1920s silent film classic up through 80s and 90s favorites and even a couple of offerings for kids. We are even mixing in different types of movie experiences in this series with traditional screenings, a live music experience with The Invincible Czars performing their score alongside NOSFERATU, a double feature at our Springs Drive-In where we set up a 50’ screen in our parking lot, and capped off with a Halloween night screening of BEETLEJUICE in our interactive film style concept that we call Movie Parties. We are throwing a lot of different things at our customers during this series to see what they like so that they can help guide us with future offerings. Since the day we opened our theater 5 years ago, it’s always been important to me to specifically tailor the experience at The Springs to our community and customers, whether it’s the film programming, the kitchen menu, or the offerings at our bar. We think listening to our customers is key to our success, and this Fright Night series is no exception.

Like indie films, indie theatres are the hidden gems in cities across the country. What are the main differences when it comes to movie-going experiences, etc. compared to your larger corporate competitors?

I like to tell our Springs team that we need to show our customers that we are trying harder than our local competitors. We definitely are, but it’s important that the customers see the result of that extra effort. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would choose a local restaurant or bar all day vs. a national chain, as long as it’s done well. I don’t think cinemas should be any different. We went to great lengths when we renovated our place and how we operate it to make sure people know we are different than the others. Even with the design, I wanted a new customer to walk in the doors and immediately see that we aren’t a chain and that this place was built and run with them specifically in mind. Our bar is a great example of this. Plenty of movie theaters have a bar these days, but it’s usually an afterthought where some corporate office across the country decided that every one of its locations should feature the same 8 beverages to meet all customer needs. I couldn’t disagree more, and we spend a ton of time listening to customers and throwing options at them and now have 18 lines of craft beer, over 60 bourbons and 20+ wines. We started with something way smaller than that but continue to evolve to make sure we are providing an ideal experience for our customers.

It’s every movie kid’s dream to own their own theatre. Is there a secret origin story on how you got hooked on movies, making you want to run your own movie house? And how were you able to make this dream come true?

I’ve been a movie lover my entire life and have so many memories from my local childhood cinema, whether it was the first movie I saw with my dad, or sneaking in to see my first rated R movie (which we don’t encourage!!!) or my first date at the movies (TOP GUN). With that being said, I can’t say that it was my dream to own and operate a place, but things have a way of working out. My entire career has been in the finance world, but in and around movies. I’ve been in thousands of theaters over my 25+ year career, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I decided to make a drastic career move and buy this place. It’s a random journey and story, but it primarily revolves around my family. My oldest of 3 daughters was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and spent most of the next 18 months in the children’s hospital fighting a terminal diagnosis. While at the hospital, I was surrounded by so many people that made my life better on a daily basis by doing their jobs with passion. That was a huge part of helping my daughter defy the odds and be a healthy young lady today, and I realized at that point that I needed to rethink my career and find something where I could get involved with the community. It’s too late to become a doctor or nurse like them and I’d be a terrible fireman or policeman, so I determined that the closest thing to what I knew was the movie business. While I won’t pretend to have the same impact as those that saved my daughter’s life, I do have the opportunity on a daily basis to be plugged into the community and help people escape the outside world for 2-3 hours and be entertained. We also do a lot of work with local schools, charities, and businesses, and it’s been a complete joy to play a small part in brightening up our community.

The Springs has been described as “fun” and “innovative.” Can you tell our readers why they should make their way to Sandy Springs to check you all out?

We will always try new things to see what gives our customers a great experience. You’ll be hard pressed to find a theater that has more diverse content; just this past month we showed films in 3 different languages, a silent film, screenings of locally made indie films, live sporting events on the big screen, retro movies at our parking lot drive-in, numerous indie studio selections, and of course the Hollywood blockbusters. If you pair that with the fact that we have a full kitchen menu, a bar with over 150 adult beverages to choose from, live music on our patio on weekends, and a host of private parties and events weekly, you’ll see that we have something for everyone.

I’m sure you watch an astounding number of films annually. What trends and directors are pushing the envelope now, in your opinion? A few film recommendations for our readers?

That’s a tough one, as I do get to see so many. I happen to love most genres, but I tend to get most excited about a lot of the indie releases that don’t get a ton of press. Certainly, the blockbusters pay most of the bills, but I always look forward to releases from some of the top indie distributors like A24 and Neon. They rarely miss in my opinion. This year’s upcoming films I’m most excited about would probably be Damian Chazelle’s BABYLON and Spielberg’s THE FABELMANS, as those guys never miss and both center around the film industry. As for overall trends with the industry, I know there is a lot of fatigue over so many comic book movies. I think some of that criticism is fair, as Hollywood does tend to milk concepts as long as they can. But I think Hollywood also does a good job of adapting based on what sells, and the success of TOP GUN: MAVERICK (2022) sent a very loud message in my opinion. People of all ages absolutely loved that movie because it was well done, had Hollywood stars, had zero social or political agenda, and was simply a fun experience that can’t be replicated at home on a small TV or on a tablet. There are consistently great films with great performances being made, but I do think we need more fun and mindless films as well similar to what we grew up on.

Film and nostalgia go hand in hand, and we see that The Springs hosts many retro film series as well as drawing crowds during your retro drive-in screenings, which of course is right down our alley. What is it about the classics that keep folks coming back for more?

People sometimes just want to escape and have fun while watching a film. We don’t always have to explore complex issues or stories presented by filmmakers, as sometimes it’s enough to just laugh or scream or tear up. There are so many retro films that elicit those emotions, and people also enjoy reconnecting with these films where they may have great memories.

 

All photos courtesy of Brandt Gully and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: The Waltz Dances On: Guitarist Jim Weider Rekindles Rock Legends with The Weight Band, Playing City Winery Oct. 17

Posted on: Oct 13th, 2021 By:

The Weight Band (left to right): Brian Mitchell, Michael Bram, Albert Rogers, Jim Weider (front), and Matt Zeiner. Photo by John Halpern/Courtesy of Jim Weider.

by Ray Dafrico
Contributing Writer

Heads up for fans of The Band, guitarist Jim Weider, former Atlanta resident and all around Kool Kat,
will be back in town for a show with The Weight Band at City Winery on Sunday Oct. 17 (Buy Tickets here)! ATLRetro contributing writer and fellow Kool Kat Ray Dafrico (Nightporters, Kathleen Turner Overdrive) interviewed Jim recently and got the scoop on Jim’s time in The Band, why he’s excited about The Weight Band’s Atlanta gig, and much more. Watch a teaser for the show here.

ATLRetro: Hi Jim, let me start by saying it’s a privilege to have a chance to ask you some questions on behalf of ATLRetro and especially since you are Fender Telecaster devotee as I am! I always felt the Telecaster was the working musician’s guitar. Am I correct?  

Jim Weider: Absolutely! it’s a big plank of wood, that’s tough to play, tough to bend, but it’s got its own tone

ATLRetro: That’s how I feel, so I had to get that that question out of the way first since I am a guitar player. So how are you? 

JW: I’m doing pretty good. Last night we played at Levon’s venue, Levon Helm Studios, so I’m just getting up and about. Looking forward to coming to Atlanta, I can tell you that.

ATLRetro: Cool, that sounds like it was a lot of fun. I’m sure you’ve told this story a million times, but for those not familiar with you or your background, let’s start at the beginning. If I’m correct, you saw The Band, that’s THE BAND at the Woodstock festival, and then 10 years or so later you ended up replacing Robbie Robertson as the guitar player?  How exactly did that did that happen?   

JW: Well it was, you know, I had slowly over the years met some of them. Some of them were living in Woodstock, or they all were living in Woodstock for a while. I had start playing with Levon Helm and his band when I moved back from Atlanta. I got into Levon Helm’s band and the All Stars, then we did some shows. Eventually in 1985, everybody moved back to Woodstock. Garth Hudson, Richard Manual, and Levon. Then Levon asked me to come on tour with them. We did the Crosby, Stills & Nash tour in ‘85, and I’ve was with them for 15 years. But it happened because of Levon.

ATLRetro:  Oh wow! That’s a great story! So what was it like playing alongside the likes of Levon, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and all those guys? 

JW: It was just great. They’re real down-home fellas, you know. They were always about the music. When we would finish a show when I first joined, they would record it on a cassette. When we headed out to the next show, we would drive all night and listen to the show to try to improve it. They were always about the music. They were just a great bunch of guys, and we did a lot of laughing.  

ATLRetro: Great, yeah, I’m a big fan. I’m currently reading the Robbie Robertson’s book [TESTIMONY] right now, and I just saw the recent documentary [ONCE WERE BROTHERS (1999)], so it’s good timing for me to talk about this stuff. So your current project is called The Weight Band. How did that come about and how long has that been going on?

JW:  it’s been going on since when Levon passed in 2012. I got together with Garth Hudson, Jimmy Vivino and Byron Isaacs, who’s now in The Lumineers, but we went out did a couple of gigs and called it Songs of The Band. Then Garth went off and did his thing, and Vivino went back with Conan O’Brien, so I just said, “you know what? People are enjoying hearing this music again, why don’t I go out again and play some shows?” That’s how it kind of started. I ended up writing an album for the band which is WORLD GONE MAD and calling it The Weight Band. That was our first studio album. Since then we just made a new one also, which will probably come out next January.  We have a live album out now, called  ACOUSTIC LIVE AT BIG PINK AND LEVON HELM STUDIOS. That’s kind of how it began, and it just started growing into a totally original group. We still do classic songs of The Band and our own original tunes. We have a new keyboard player named Matt Zeiner, who was with Dickey Betts, so [we] throw in an Allman Brothers tune and some [Grateful] Dead stuff, but it’s been a blast.

ATLRetro: Very cool. So you’re playing Atlanta at the City Winery on Sunday October 17. Tells us what we can expect at the show.   

JW: Yeah, it’s an early show at [8 PM, doors 6:30 PM]? My old buddy from Atlanta, Tommy Talton, is going to open the show and do a short set, then we’re going to come on and we’ll bring him up. I used to play in Atlanta for many years in the late ’70s, and I had a band called Full Tilt. It was with Richard Bell from Janis Joplin‘s group, Wet Willie’s drummer T.K Lively, Stan Robertson on bass. So I have a lot of friends down there, and we’re gonna have a blast! I’m looking forward to hitting Atlanta again.

ATLRetro: Actually that was going to be my next question! You must have read my mind. I was doing my research and saw that you did a lot of session work here in Atlanta a while back? 

JW: That’s awesome. Well, what first brought me to Atlanta was Axis Recording Studio. My buddy Robert Lee got me to come down as a songwriter that was involved with at that studio. I was on staff with Harvey Brooks on bass and Richard Bell. We all lived in Atlanta and recorded for people at the studio, and then at night I’d had a band, several bands really. One of them was with Jerome Olds, who’s a great singer, and then after that was Full Tilt. We used to play the Harvest Moon, Moonshadow Saloon for four sets a night, five nights a week, a month at each place. Man, that’s how you get tight!

ATLRetro: Yeah, I used to go to the Moonshadow. I met B.B. King there once. I was about 17, I think, and he was actually sitting backstage by himself. We talked for half an hour or so. He was such a nice guy, and he gave me his autograph. That was a cool club. 

JW:  Yeah, it really was. The Agora Ballroom? Those are the good old Atlanta days and I’m looking forward to coming down there. The band has got five vocalists and everybody sings. It’s the best harmony that I’ve been in since The Band.  It’s a pretty amazing bunch of guys I got with me. We even cover some Dead tunes and our own originals from THE WORLD GONE MAD album. It’s gonna be a blast, with classics from The Band of course.

The Weight Band (left to right): Matt Zeiner, Michael Bram, Albert Rogers, Jim Weider (front), and Brian Mitchell. Photo by John Halpern/Courtesy of Jim Weider.

ATLRetro: I heard you jammed with Keith Richards and Scotty Moore. Those are two pretty heavyweight guitar players I must say! I’ve met Keith before, and he was exactly like I hoped he would be, so that made me really happy, but I didn’t get to jam or anything. How did that come about? 

JW: I was producing Paul Burlison, the rockabilly guitarist, and at the same time we were cutting a track with the band for the ALL THE KING’S MEN album with Scott[y] Moore and DJ Fontana, and Keith was invited up as a guest to play with the band. So that’s how I that all happened you know, and so we cut a track and had a party.

ATLRetro Now that sounds like a lot of fun!  

JW: It was!

ATLRetro: Speaking of Keith, do you use a lot of different or open tunings with The Weight songs or The Band’s songs?  

JW: No, it’s pretty straightforward. If I’m playing slide, sometimes I’ll do an open E or open G, but yeah, not too much, just regular things for the most part.

ATLRetro: You were actually born in Woodstock, New York, correct?  

JW: Yeah

ATLRetro: What was it like growing up there? 

JW: It was nice. I mean it’s up in the country so you bring your fishing pool to school,  then after school, you can go fishing in the Esopus River, which runs right along side it and also a reservoir’s there. There’s great music in Woodstock. You see, everybody lived here at that time, so you could see everybody jamming in the bars. When they weren’t on the road, they would be out jamming because they were all in their early 30s, late 20s, so they all wanted to play when they were off the road. Buzzy Feiten and Paul Butterfield, from the Butterfield Blues Band, they were all jamming at the clubs. Charles Mingus. Everybody would be coming up playing. Back then, music was everywhere, and people really supported music. I hope that happens in Atlanta these days .

ATLRetro: Yeah, it’s been hard, That was part of my my next question. With Covid, it must feel great to get out there and play after the lockdowns and the general chaos we’ve been living through the last four or five years, six years.  How’s the tour been so far and are you out for a long time?  

JW: No, we go on and off, you know. We go out for a week and then come back, then do a weekend here and there. We have a big Midwestern tour coming up in November, but we’re not really hitting it that hard. I mean it’s tough out there now with Covid. People who are vaccinated come out and, if you feel uncomfortable, wear a mask, you know, but as long as you’re vaccinated and you wear a mask, go out and enjoy live music and have a couple of drinks. And enjoy yourself!

ATL Retro: Exactly.  I actually went and saw the The Monkees, or well, two of The Monkees, last night, and it was actually really good. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was is Mike Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz [The Monkees Farewell Tour] and I had a good time. I haven’t been out to see a band in like two years .  

JW: All right! Well you gotta come out and catch us!

ATLRetro: Oh, yes, definitely, I will be there. Is there anything else you want to add? 

JW:  I’ll just say, you know, come out, come out, and have some fun. Don’t be afraid. We’re going to have a great time, and you’ll get to hear some new tunes, some Dead, some Allman Brothers, and I got a guy who played with The Allman Brothers, two of them now. Tommy Tulston is opening up the show. So come on out and have some fun on Sunday October 17!

ATLRetro: Excellent. Thanks, Jim. I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to ATLRetro. It was great to chat with you, and I’m looking forward to seeing the show! 

Contributing Writer Ray Dafrico is a guitarist, singer/songwriter and founding member of The Nightporters and Kathleen Turner Overdrive. Check out his Kool Kat interview here.

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

Kool Kat of the Week: Holy Gut Punch! Producer Kendall Keeling Screens Her First Feature THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE at Buried Alive Film Festival 2019

Posted on: Nov 13th, 2019 By:

Kendall Keeling and the poster for THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE. All photos are provided by Kendall Keeling and used with permission.

From festival judge to producer screening her first feature, Kendall Keeling is no stranger to Buried Alive Film Festival, Nov. 13-17, 2019, at 7 Stages. The ‘60s giallo-fueled THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE screens Sunday Nov. 17 at noon. Based on a novella by Thomas de Quincey (CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM EATER) and written and directed by Kool Kat Bret Wood (THE UNWANTED [2014]), this incessant thriller subverts the formula of the revenge film, its “hero” Jonathan (Joe Sikes) enacting brutal crimes in the name of justice goaded by the cold-hearted spirit of his dead ten-year-old sister Berenice (Alice Lewis [MALICE OF ALICE photo series]) and also features scream queen Lynn Lowry (THE CRAZIES [1973], SHIVERS [1975] in a key villain role.

A longtime aficionado of horror film of the most vicious variety, Kendall Keeling cut her producing teeth with the extreme zombie short film ABED (2012), from director Ryan Lieske, who she met at Buried Alive 2010, and Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Elizabeth Massie. Next, she co-produced the horrific CRAZY2CRAZY, written and directed by Greg Daniel (currently in post-production). Keeling acquired a taste for producing, and then applied her lessons learned on these films (#1: don’t be afraid to show it, squeamish people can look away if they need to) on THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE. She also contributes movie reviews for new horror releases to STOMP AND STAMMER magazine.

So basically Kendall is a natural/unnatural ATLRetro Kool Kat of the Week, and we were dying to ask her how she discovered horror, why she has a special fondness for Buried Alive, go behind the bloody curtains of THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE, her recent recommended films, and what’s next for this cutting edge horror movie producer!

ATLRetro: What’s the secret origin story of how little Kendall got hooked on horror movies and what are a few films that had an early impact on you?

Kendall Keeling: As far back as I can remember, I have always loved horror movies and scary things. When I was about 6 or 7, I watched Friday Night Frights every week on [Atlanta’s] Channel 17. They played tons of Hammer and AIP films. I remember being obsessed with HOUSE OF USHER [1960] and the other Roger Corman Poe movies. About a year later, my dad found out that Vincent Price was going to be speaking at Emory University. He took me to see Price speak and then took me backstage to meet him after the show. He was just the most wonderful person. After that, the horror compulsion just continued to gain steam.

Kendall Keeling and Bret Wood at Buried Alive Film Festival.

You’ve attended a lot of Buried Alives and even been a festival judge. What stands out about this festival and why should horror fans be sure to attend?

I think of BAFF as family, almost. The horror community in Atlanta is just fantastic and everyone is really supportive of each other. Buried Alive is like the Christmas Dinner of horror. I have met so many amazing people at the festival over the years, most who have become friends. Blake [Myers] and Luke [Godfrey] really have a passion for the subject matter and it shows. They work very hard to keep the line-up fresh and interesting.

We’ll get to your film in a moment, but what else are you most excited about in this year’s festival line-up? Anything you think readers should definitely not miss?

What I look forward to the most every year are the shorts blocks. They are, without a doubt, my favorite thing about Buried Alive. There are always one or two that really stick with me. The features are always badass, but there is something special about seeing a 7-minute film that blows you away.

You’ve said that you only work on “films that leave you feeling gut-punched.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

I watch a lot of horror movies. I like about 70% of what I see. The 10% that I adore are the ones that stun me in some way. If I find myself saying “holy shit!” at any point in a movie, that’s a keeper. A great example of that would be Gaspar Noé‘s work. For all of the work that goes into filmmaking, I wouldn’t want to bother with something that doesn’t at least aspire to disturb or upset people.

Bret now has a number of features under his belt. Did you particularly want to work with him on a project?

Definitely. I first met Bret at a Splatter Cinema screening of Takashi Miike‘s ICHI THE KILLER [2001]. A few months later, we both ended up on the jury for BAFF. We became friends, and it was clear that we shared a taste for subversive films. We first discussed working together when he was beginning THE UNWANTED [2014]. It just wasn’t the right time or fit, so we decided to do something else once that was completed. We talked about a number of different ideas and themes, and then he showed up with a script! And here we are!

Alice Lewis and Joe Sikes in THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE (2019).

The giallo aspects of the movie (cinematography, bloodletting, music!) imbue it with that retro quality that we love while also being very contemporary, delving into returning vet Jonathan’s memories of the Iraq War and Middle East terrorism. Can you talk a little about that aspect and balancing then and now in the film? 

Well, the revenge facet of the story lends itself perfectly to the giallo style. But Bret did a great job weaving in Jonathan’s war memories and their role in the obligation he has to fulfill to his sister. Jonathan wrestles with both his decisions during the war and his inability to resolve his family crisis.

The casting also was spot on—especially Alice Lewis and ‘70s horror demi-goddess Lynn Lowry in the pivotal roles of mercurial little girl Berenice and aging, bitter Justice Merrill. Any anecdotes about how they got cast and working with them on set? 

This was Alice’s first real acting role. Bret found her a on a casting website and she was the only young girl who was scowling, so that was exactly what he was looking for in Berenice. With Lynn, that was a decision made after we started the film. In fact, the role was originally written for a man. Bret decided to rewrite the character for Lynn after meeting her during an interview, if I remember correctly. They were both fantastic to work with. On set, Alice would be laughing and playing cards with Joe (who plays Jonathan) one minute, and then snap right into Berenice and be creepy as hell the next minute. She never got tired or bored or complained. Totally professional out of the gate. Lynn really brought it for every scene she performed. She delivered a nasty, unlikeable villian and I can’t even imagine that role being filled by anyone but her now. And Lynn is so nice in real life that it makes it even more impressive.

Lynn Lowry and Kendall Keeling on the set of THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE (2019).

Loved your cameo. How did you keep your cool, sipping wine casually in the foreground while the film’s two young…er…protagonists…get to know each other?  

I was totally unprepared for that, as you can probably tell from what I am wearing. We had shot the scene with Joe and Rachel a couple of times already when Bret said he needed something in the foreground. That something ended up being me. He handed me his phone to read and I remember being appalled that he had 1000 unread emails—I am pretty neurotic, so that drives me crazy! I also remember that I drank almost two glasses of wine before he was happy with the shot.

How was the film funded and what’s next after it plays Buried Alive?

Most of it was funded through Bret’s company Illustrated Films, LLC. We also raised about $10k through Kickstarter to complete it. We are submitting it to festivals through next spring and then expect a commercial release next summer, if everything goes as planned.

You’re also a film reviewer and you watch an astounding number of horror films annually. What trends and directors are pushing the envelope now, in your opinion? A few film recommendations for our readers?

I mentioned Gaspar Noé earlier, and his film CLIMAX was my favorite one so far this year. And although it was released last year, I have gotten a lot of traction out of Coralie Fargeat‘s REVENGE. I have shown it to a ton of my friends and everyone is always cheering before it’s over. It has a lot of “holy shit!” moments. I still really like anything that smells like French Extreme, but I have also enjoyed some domestic films this year. CRAWL by Alexandre Aja was so much fun. Well, he is French, but the film isn’t.

Kendall Keeling and Angus Scrimm.

You’ve attended a lot of horror cons and met so many of the actors and filmmakers behind horror classics. What one or two encounters stand out and surprised or delighted you the most?

I love going to horror cons and I am a total fangirl. Two of the absolute sweetest guests I have met are [actor] Angus Scrimm (PHANTASM[1979]) and [director] George Romero (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD[1968]). Angus had each person he met sit down with him and just talk for about 10 minutes. It was so lovely and so wonderful seeing him enjoy all the fans. Romero is such a legend that I was about to pass out by the time I met him. He said that I had a great name and that I should be an anchorwoman. I don’t remember anything else about our conversation, but I was floating on air after that.

George Romero and Kendall Keeling.

What’s next for Kendall Keeling, film producer?

I am currently working on a screenplay for an idea I have had hanging around for about a decade now. I am also thinking about directing a music video for a kind of a horror song I wrote. I play survival horror video games whenever I can, so I am trying to work on these other things when I get the chance.

 

 

Find the full schedule and purchase tickets to Buried Alive Film Festival 2019 here.

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

Kool Kat of the Week: Rule-Bending and Award-Winning Author, Nancy A. Collins, Joins the Mayhem and Monster Madness at MONSTERAMA 2019

Posted on: Sep 23rd, 2019 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Nancy A. Collins, award-winning multi-genre author, will be joining a sinister line-up of horrorific guests during Monsterama Convention’s sixth frightening rotation around the sun! Monsterama, co-chaired by our classic monster-lovin’ fiend, friend and Kool Kat Anthony Taylor, creeps into the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta this weekend, Friday – Sunday (Sept. 27-29)!

Prepare for a ghastly weekend of ghoulish proportions including a guest list filled to the blood-curdling brim with chillers like actor Ian Ogilvy [RETURN OF THE SAINT (78-79); DEATH BECOMES HER (1992); THE SORCERERS (1967)]; actress Jane Merrow [THE SAINT (1965); THE PRISONER (1967); THE AVENGERS (1967)]; actress Pauline Peart [THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973); CUBA (1979)]; comic artist Craig Hamilton; author Jeff Strand [EVERYTHING HAS TEETH; FEROCIOUS; BLISTER]; creaturific artist Kool Kat Mark Maddox; Victorian chamber metal musicians Valentine Wolfe; 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 with our Kool Kat Nancy A. Collins and haunt on down to MONSTERAMA for a weekend of monster madness!

Collins’s writing career spans 30+ years as a spinner of wild monstrous tales in novels, comic books and short stories. She brought her infamous character Sonja Blue to life in her first novel SUNGLASSES AFTER DARK in 1989, which went on to win the Bram Stoker Award for best first novel. Collins expanded the Sonja Blue universe with several sequels and is currently working on new dark adventures for her infamous goth-punk vampire/vampire hunter character. Collins is the only woman to pen DC/Vertigo’s SWAMP THING, bringing much-needed controversy to Swamp Thing’s predominantly male perspective, from 1991 to 1993. In 2014, Collins was the first woman to be asked to write VAMPIRELLA, again giving the well-known character a new outlook with untapped new monstrous story lines and more.

ATLRetro caught up with Nancy A. Collins for a quick interview to talk comics; being drawn to monsters; killing it in a generally male-driven industries; and the monster mayhem of being a guest at MONSTERAMA!


ATLRetro
: Your debut horror novel Sunglasses After Dark [goth-punk vampire goodness featuring kick-ass vampire/vampire hunter Sonja Blue] was released in 1989 and won the Bram Stoker Award. Can you tell us what inspired you to go against the grain and create your own style of vampire?

Nancy A. Collins: SUNGLASSES AFTER DARK was, in many ways, a middle finger to the then-current best-selling VAMPIRE CHRONICLES series by Anne Rice. It was my revolt against the “pussification” of the vampire. Little did I know that it would get even worse, decades later, with the TWILIGHT series.

Following your debut, you released several others in the series [IN THE BLOOD (1991); PAINT IT BLACK (1995); A DOZEN BLACK ROSES (1996); THE DARKEST HEART (2002); and a collection titled DEAD ROSES FOR A BLUE LADY in 2002], all followed by vignettes and novellas and comics. Basically, you’ve kept Sonja Blue “alive” and kicking for a hellacious thirty years! Any exciting new horrors coming our way in the land of Sonja Blue?

Sonja Blue – Art by Mel Odom

Well, I’ve been working on a new Sonja Blue novel called Kill City for the last five years. It’s a reaction to the most recent “de-fanging” of the vampire genre. Unfortunately, it’s been slow going due to my need to work paying gigs to keep body and soul together. But I would describe it as a cross between THE BIG SLEEP, HARDCORE, and THE SEARCHERS, but with vampires. And it’s the first novel to be told from Sonja Blue’s POV.

On to your monsterific comic book endeavors! From SWAMP THING, to JASON VS. LEATHERFACE, to VAMPIRELLA and beyond, you’ve delved deep into the land of what once was a male-dominated field. Can you tell our readers how you broke the barrier and what obstacles you had to face that your male counterparts avoided?

I landed the gig writing SWAMP THING largely for three reasons: DC was looking for a horror writer to take the character back to his “roots” (pun intended); I’d worked with the then-new editor on the book, Stuart Moore, on a Freddy Krueger prose anthology, and he put me on his short list because he’d had the fewest edits on my story; and, I was living in New Orleans at the time, and was able to provide local flavor. I was the first woman to write for SWAMP THING, and to date the only one, as well. For the most part, I did not run into any real obstacles regarding my gender among the editors and staff at DC. Most of the push-back I got was from the fans, many of whom did not appreciate or understand my focus on Swamp Thing as a “family man” and the emphasis on his family. I also received some blowback for depicting LGBTQ characters and depicting ecologically-driven protestors as something besides terrorists. I remember a particularly virulent letter from a fan who resented my depiction of abortion as a fact-of-life for many women. I also got a lot of hate for ending Swamp Thing and Abby’s marriage (an editorial edict, btw), for which some fans have still not forgiven me, decades later. However, DC/Vertigo is releasing my entire run on Swamp Thing in early 2020 in a hardcover omnibus format—nearly 1,000 pages—called the SWAMP THING BY NANCY COLLINS OMNIBUS. It’s currently available for pre-order through Diamond Distribution and Amazon, among other outlets.

Art by Scott Eaton and Kim DeMulder

What was it like to be the first woman writing Vampirella, a character created by the one and only Forrest J. Ackerman? There’s got to be an interesting story about how you landed that gig. Care to share?

I ended up writing VAMPIRELLA largely due to Gail Simone, who asked me to write a story for her RED SONJA miniseries “Legends of Red Sonja” for Dynamite. It was my first comic story in fifteen years. I then pitched Nick Barrucci a Red Sonja one-shot called “Berserker,” which sold extremely well. Then Nick offered me VAMPIRELLA and allowed me free reign. As one of my mentors at DC Comics had been the late Archie Goodwin, one of the first real writers on VAMPIRELLA, I always felt he was looking over my shoulder the whole time I was working on the book. I’d like to think Archie would have approved.

Can you tell us one thing you did with the character, stepping away from the usual male-created female characters, to bring her into the twenty-first century, a character both men and women would be drawn to and proud of?

I often joke that I was probably the first writer on the series to never pleasure themselves to the character, which might have something to do with how I approached my run. I chose to reach back to characters from the original Warren run and incorporate them via modern storytelling into the series’ continuity. I also made the decision to make Vampirella a more integral part of the supernatural world by bringing in classic “monsters” from myth, legend, and the public domain, and expanded on her family and backstory. I also gave her a werewolf boyfriend and depicted their relationship as that of equal partners. Vampirella in my series is a no-nonsense monster-hunter with a well-defined sense of right and wrong but is also capable of recognizing her own prejudices and misconceptions regarding her fellow “monsters”.

What can you share about your current collaboration with comic artist Craig Hamilton? Anything monstrous and exciting being brought to life?

Art by Patrick Berke

Craig Hamilton and I, along with inker Larry Welch and colorist Gerhard, are working on BECOMING FRANKENSTEIN, a six-issue graphic series from Mel Smith’s Wild Card Ink. It is a prequel, of sorts, to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I’m not allowed to say much more than that, for the time being. But I will say that Craig’s art on it is absolutely gorgeous and we’re intensely proud and excited of what we’re creating. Becoming Frankenstein is shaping up to be best work of both our careers.

Before you became “Author Nancy A. Collins,” what inspired you to write? Did you begin writing as a child?

I’ve always been a storyteller. Even before I could read and write, I would draw stories and stand next to my parents and explain what was going on. It was a given from the age of three that I would eventually become a writer. Marked from birth, I guess you could say.

Have you always been drawn to monsters? Care to share your favorite monster or horror story? What makes that story special to you?

Like I said, I was marked from birth. My maternal grandfather was a huge Boris Karloff fan, and introduced me to the genre very early. It also helped that I grew up in the 1960s, when monster mania was percolating in the kid subculture with stuff like THE ADAMS FAMILY, THE MUNSTERS, Hammer Films, late night horror movie hosts, and GODZILLA flicks. It is hard for me to pick a favorite monster or horror story, but the first one that I can remember was a Dr. Seuss story about a pair of green pants with nobody in them that walked around on their own, which scared the bejesus out of me as a 3-year-old, for some reason.

Which writer from the past and which writer from the present have influenced and continue to influence you the most, and what is it about them that draws them to you?

There have been so many. But of the past, I would have t0 say Robert Bloch, who I would later meet as a young writer. Bob befriended me and was like a second grandfather. I devoured his short story collections, which are routinely excellent and the yardstick I use for what I consider makes a great short story, especially when it comes to weird/dark fiction.

Not only are you a killer storyteller, but you’re also a spooky horror film junkie and fanatic like us! Can you tell us your favorite horror movie and why it ranks at the top of your list?

I would have to say my favorite remains the original THE HAUNTING from 1963. It is a textbook example of how the viewer’s own mind can create far more intense scares than a room full of CGI technicians. Even after all this time, I still get goosebumps watching it.

As a writer working in the science-fiction, urban fantasy and horror genres, what challenges have you personally faced that seem to be a common theme amongst women in the industry?

Mostly being pigeonholed. I’ve written westerns, Southern Gothics, erotica, crime noir, urban fantasy, as well as horror—but I largely get described as a “vampire writer”, and that has become a largely female-centric field, in a lot of people’s minds. I also find myself labeled a “Strong Woman”, which is the nice way of saying I’ve had to put up with a lot of bullshit that male writers rarely are subjected to.

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 currently enjoying the final season of PREACHER on FX, as well as the third and final season of LEGION, also on FX. I’ve also been binging THE BOYS on Prime. I also recommend GENTLEMAN JACK; a historical romance/drama on HBO about Anne Lister, an actual Regency-era noblewoman who lived openly as a lesbian, and even went so far as to marry another woman.  And I always recommend watching THE VENTURE BROTHERS, regardless of the situation.

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

I have the same advice I give everyone, regardless. Keep submitting your stuff. Learn to tell the difference between legitimate criticism and bullshit. Nothing you write is carved in stone. Never fight with an editor. Never respond to the reviews on Amazon.

Getting back to what brought us here, MONSTERAMA 2019! Do you have anything exciting planned for our readers this year?

I’m hoping we’ll have the full-color promo posters for BECOMING FRANKENSTEIN ready in time for MONSTERAMA! If so, Craig Hamilton and I will be there signing them. And I’ll be on several panels over the weekend. The first is 6pm Friday, where I discuss Swamp Thing. The second is 10am Saturday, where I’ll be on a Southern Gothic panel, and the third is 10am Sunday, where I’ll be yacking about werewolves. Otherwise, I’ll be at my table in the dealer’s room.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Rockin’ the Candy Shop with Naoko Yamano of Shonen Knife!

Posted on: Sep 16th, 2019 By:

By Ray Dafrico
Contributing Writer

Atlanta is in for a sweet treat from Japanese band, Shonen Knife, who play Wed. Sept. 18  at Smith’s Olde Bar. For those not already in the know and one of the three-piece band’s many fans, this is your chance to get a taste.

Shonen Knife is not unlike an all-female version of The Ramones in Mondrian print dresses instead of leather jackets. They sing super-catchy pop songs in Japanese and English. They have tunes about food, cats, space, sushi bars, Barbie Dolls, Blue Oyster Cult and many other delightful, altogether kooky, themes. Formerly on Virgin Records, their fans have included Redd Kross, Nivana, Sonic Youth and, of course, ATLRetro!

The band’s currently tour promotes their new release SWEET CANDY POWER and ATLRetro was lucky to be able to ask front-person, guitarist and founding member Naoko Yamano a few questions.

ATLRetro: What is the rock music scene like in Japan? Shonen Knife seems to be the band that comes to mind when people think of rock and roll and Japan. I was curious to hear your viewpoint on it and also what it’s like to be three women coming out of the Japanese music scene?

Naoko Yamano: [The] Japanese mainstream music scene is in Tokyo. We are independent and based in Osaka, so we don’t have much relationship with [the] major scene now. In ’90s when we had a record deal with a major label, we often went to Tokyo for promotion or something, though. I don’t know much about Japanese rock scene. I mainly have a connection with independent underground bands. But anyway our music style is unique and lyrics are in English. Most of all Japanese major music were sang by Japanese lyrics. There are many all-female or women’s musicians. I’m not very conscious that we’re a female band, but we are musicians, a band.

I read in your press release that SWEET CANDY POWER is your 19th recording. That’s an incredible amount of music. Most bands are lucky if they can get anything recorded and released. Do you all write together or is it mostly one or two people or that write the majority of your songs?

I wrote all songs by myself. I record songs roughly with playing a guitar and send them to our members. They make their instruments’ arrangement and get together at a studio. Then decide the details of the arrangements.

Tell me a little about the new release? Where was it recorded?

It was recorded at Yotsubashi LM Studio in Osaka.

What made you want to start a band? How and when did the band start?

I just wanted to play music for having fun at the beginning, but now I play music for our audience and for myself. Our fans are the first. I am happy if people get happy through our music. Shonen Knife was started December 29, 1981.

So Shonen Knife tours around the world, do your audiences react the same way everywhere you go or are there cultural differences that affect the way crowds respond? Where are some of your favorite places to play?

The reactions of audiences depends on cities or situations. It is not by countries. Sometimes [our] audience is very cheerful or sometimes smiling. I can tell the atmosphere at our show is always happy. I like everywhere to play. Playing in my hometown Osaka is easy and fun, though.

As a guitar player myself I was interested to hear who your favorite guitar players are or who influenced you to start playing?

My favorite guitar players are Tony Iommi, Glenn Tipton, KK Downing, George Harrison… like that. When I start playing, I didn’t have any guitarist influences. I just chose a guitar as a tool to express myself.

OK last question. What’s your favorite food or……..candy?

I have tons of favorite food. I like nuts like macadamias nuts, edamame. Regarding candy, “Candy” in Japanese means using thick malt syrup and flavored candies or drops like Ricola or Halls. But we have many kinds and many flavors of candies in Japan. I can’t find such candies here in the US. Anyway, I like mint candy which use[s] natural mint and natural sugar. I also like honey candy, too. I sometimes like a ginger honey one. All of these are good for your throat.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Atlanta Tikiphile Allison Chaffin Gets Mugs-y and Lounges it up at the Inaugural Inuhele Atlanta Tiki Weekender February 15-16

Posted on: Feb 12th, 2019 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Tikiphiles unite! Get your ukuleles ready and hula on down to the first ever Inuhele Atlanta Tiki Weekender and second annual Atlanta HomeBar Tour Friday – Saturday (Feb. 15-16) at the Atlanta Marriott Century Center, brought to you by our Kool Kat of the Week, tiki aficionado Allison Chaffin (Mug Crate) along with her husband and tiki partner-in-crime Jonathan Chaffin of Horror in Clay (see our Shop Around feature here). You won’t want to miss a weekend chock full of tiki bar-hopping, panels, vendors, bands, demos, sharing of ideas, community building and all things Polynesian! The Atlanta Marriott Century Center is located at 2000 Century Blvd NE, Atlanta, GA 30345. Standard tickets – $99 (access to Friday and Saturday events)/Deluxe – $140/VIP – $249. For more information and the complete Inuhele Atlanta Tiki Weekend schedule, visit the website here or the Facebook event page here.

ATLRetro caught up with Allison to chat about Inuhele Atlanta Tiki Weekender, her love of all things tiki and Polynesian, and Atlanta’s hidden tiki culture.

ATLRetro: We are so excited for Inuhele: Atlanta’s Tiki Weekend! Can you tell us a little about how this event came together and the history of Inuhele?

Allison Chaffin: Last year we headed up a homebar tour that visited four home tiki bars in the Atlanta area. We named the tour “Inuhele,” which means “cocktail journey.” I feel that many people encounter tiki culture first through cocktails and then as they learn more find out that it is much more than that. During the homebar tour last year, many of the participants discussed wanting to have a bigger event in the future – so this year we are trying a full weekend event that still has the homebar tour on Sunday (which sold out immediately!), but also has a tour of the professional tiki bars in Atlanta and much more tiki culture to offer – art, music, fashion, food, and of course cocktails.

Any special events you’re taking part in at the event you’d like to share with our readers?

The weekend event has so many different things going on that I think everyone can find something special for them. I think some of the highlights for me are the drawing class with Derek Yaniger on Friday afternoon; the hop-on hop-off bus tour to Trader Vic’s, Tiki Tango and Tiki Iniki on Friday night; the art in the vending room from all over the country; the Lavalava Revue & Conga & Talent Show; the Iron Tikitender bartending competition; and the Volcano Worshipper’s Hour that I am helping to plan (you have to come to find out).

What drew you to Polynesian and tiki culture?

Actually, my husband and I had one of our first dates at Trader Vic’s at an old Tiki Torch night. These were events at Trader Vic’s that had artists, Polynesian dancers, bands, and of course cocktails and food. We planned to go and have one cocktail and check out the art and ended up staying for dinner. After that, we started seeing if tiki bars were in cities we were traveling through so we could check them out as well. We even planned Jonathan’s birthday one year around going to the Mai Kai in Ft. Lauderdale. We convinced thirty of our friends to travel to Ft. Lauderdale and spend the weekend and go to the Mai Kai and the Wreck Bar to see the Mermaids.

As huge fans of Horror in Clay, can you tell our readers the wonderful secret dark history of the company you share with your husband, Jonathan, and what drew you guys to the art of tiki mugs?

I purchased Jonathan a tiki mug for $0.10 at a prop warehouse sale years ago. This one mug started an obsession of collecting tiki mugs and ultimately art. About seven years ago, he was looking for various mugs and wanted one of Cthulhu. He thought this would be a great mug to have and no one at the time had created one, so he decided to tackle that as a need.  Luckily, he was not the only person who wanted a Cthulhu tiki mug, so we ended up running our first Kickstarter to fund the mug. Based on the success of that mug, he has continued to create more mugs based on horror fiction, and now we have nine different mugs in his collection from various artists, podcasts, and even a haunted house.

Tiki pop culture had a huge draw in the ‘90s with the resurgence of rockabilly and retro events, and we’re seeing it come back into the scene here in Atlanta with several new tiki bars opening. What do you think it is that draws generation after generation to this pop culture?

I think a lot of it has to do with escapism from the normal world. When you walk into a tiki bar, you are transported to a new environment that often time reminds you of your last vacation. I often refer to a night out at SOS Tiki Bar in Decatur as a mini vacation.

We see that you are the creative force behind MugCrate. Can you tell us a little about the company?

MugCrate is a quarterly curated subscription box. Each quarter I strive to put together a small themed tiki experience. The boxes contain at least one tiki mug and then art, bartending tools, or other tiki items. We have brought in mugs from England and items from all over the US. I work with smaller artists to get their items in the box to introduce them to a larger audience. It is amazing how many small artists are out there that I discover every month.

Who is your favorite local tiki/pop-culture artist and why?

That is a hard question. I really love so many different artists in the tiki community. I think it would come down to the type of art and what you mean by local. I am currently in love with Kymm Bang’s gravel art pieces.  They are amazing and she will be at Inuhele this weekend. I also love the amazing mug sculptures of many of the mugs for Eekum Bookum being produced by John Mulder and Pat Vassar. They produced the mug for Inuhele last year and this year and I cannot wait to see the final product. Of course, I also think my husband is a creative genius and all of his collections are full of so many in-jokes and hidden meanings that they are fun to explore.

Which tiki bars would you recommend for our readers and what is it specifically about that venue that you like?

Well, in Atlanta we are luckily enough now to have 4 tiki bars – Trader Vic’s, SOS Tiki Bar, Tiki Tango, and Tiki Iniki. I love to go to Trader Vics’ for a great menu and classic tiki drink, SOS currently has my favorite drink of all time – the Haitian Swizzle, and I am looking forward to exploring the three-floor tiki clubhouse that is Tiki Tango –  the newest tiki bar in the Atlanta area.

Favorite tiki/island foods you’d care to share with our readers?

I am not a cooked fruit kind of person, so my island food leans closer to the Asian side of things. I love good Crab Rangoon, BBQ Short Ribs, and eggrolls.

Any favorite local surf/island bands our readers should be aware of?

I am not a huge band person, so probably not the right person to ask. I did hear the The Mystery Men? play in Macon as well as here in Atlanta at the Southern Surf Stompfest and I am looking forward to hearing them again this weekend at Inuhele.

What’s next for Allison Chaffin? Inuhele? Any other exciting events coming down the pike we should keep our eyes open for?

Right now we are trying not to plan any new things since we have been focused on Inuhele for the last six months. Of course, I have heard that Horror In Clay might be coming out with a new mug in the next few months. Stayed turned for more information…

And last but not least, what are you looking forward to most that our readers should keep their eyes open for at this weekend’s event?

Inuhele is going to be an awesome adventure for anyone that attends. We have so many things going on that everyone can plan their own perfect adventure for the weekend or even just the day. I know that I personally am looking forward to the panels on Food and Fashion, the trading post (our vending room), and the Iron Tikitender competition Saturday night. Of course, above all of that I am looking forward to meeting all the wonderful people that are part of the tiki community in Atlanta. We are finding new groups of tiki loving people every day and are looking forward to seeing what the future will bring with this amazing group of tikiphiles!

Photos courtesy of Allison and Jonathan Chaffin and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Too Many Freaky Roles: Actor William Tokarsky Cooks, Talks Tapioca, and Shares an Earful about the Buried Alive Film Festival 2018

Posted on: Nov 15th, 2018 By:

That time ATLRetro took a top secret AdultSwim behind the scenes tour and thought our goose was cooked when William Tokarsky boarded the bus!

At Buried Alive Film Festival 2018 (Nov 14-18, 7 Stages) William Tokarsky acts it up in THE GOD INSIDE MY EAR, the festival’s first feature, which plays Thursday Nov. 15 at 9 p.m. Directed by Joe Baden, the movie about a young woman who hears voices has been a hit on the festival circuit, winning a bunch of awards. Critics call it “trippy” and “surreal.” Sounds like a Tokarsky movie to us!

You may or may not know his name, but if you’re into weird cult horror and comedy movies and television, you know William Tokarsky. You’ve seen his pretty face in AdultSwim’s YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL. He romanced a Goblin in Kool Kat Brian Lonano’s (CROW HAND[2014]) notorious award-winning short GWILLIAM (2015) which grossed out audiences at Buried Alive 2016 (Look for twisted “sequel/spin-off” GWILLIAM’S TIPS FOR TURNING TRICKS INTO TREATS in The EyeSlicer shorts segment Sat. Nov. 17 at 6 p.m.). If you don’t know those, he became an Internet sensation as the serial killer who cuts into the sitcom-intro-parody TOO MANY COOKS!

We cornered Tokarsky, checked carefully for sharp blades, and asked him nicely to divulge a few down and dirty secrets about his film and TV roles and why you should get the Hell down to Buried Alive 2018!

ATLRetro: Why should folks come out to the Buried Alive Film Festival?

William Tokarsky: All the cool kids will be there.

You were a judge for a previous BAFF. What was the most fun part of this task?

Judging is a lot like horse trading … everyone has his favorite.

Tell us about THE GOD INSIDE MY EAR and your role in it!

THE GOD INSIDE MY EAR is a creepy physiological thriller,  and you will only see my alter-ego on screen!

You became an Internet superstar for your–shall we say “memorable?!–role in TOO MANY COOKS?! Can you tell our readers how you landed that role? Did you have any idea you were doing something that would go so viral? Any “top secret” on-set anecdote that we can convince you to share with our readers?

I creeped out Casper Kelly on the set of YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL, and he just wanted to creep out the rest of the Internet. I told Casper “COOKS would go viral or just die on the 4 am time slot”—one or the other. I was amazed at how fast it went viral! The sweater I wore in COOKS was put in a cardboard box and lost…so keep an eye out at your local Goodwill store!

You seem to be getting a reputation for being a go-to actor for humorous horror! Another memorable role of yours was in GWILLIAM, which was featured at BAFF. How did that happen and any behind-the-scene anecdote about that experience?

Ah, yes, GWILLIAM, the sleaziest film ever made. Everyone that read for it was sober and need I say more. And it was TAPIOCA…just TAPIOCA.

With Georgia becoming “Y’allywood,” you’re showing up in all sorts of features. Any other recent roles you’d like to talk about?

I have been working on a role in Savannah on a new TV show where I am the degenerate alcoholic stepfather of the bi-racial female lead  married to her black mother it’s all about drugs and poverty. It’s a COMEDY. I can’t say what it is, but just check my IMDb page and you can figure it out. 

William Tokarsky action figure! Just watch out for that tiny blade!

Any advice to aspiring actors? Either in general or locally in Georgia?

Be nice to everyone you meet and whatever you are doing … do it so good that eventually someone will notice you.

What’s next for William Tokarsky?

My next goal is to be flown First Class to LA to deliver about five lines of dialogue in the next big blockbuster!

Finally gotta ask, what is your favorite RETRO horror movie that you’d recommend to our readers?!

My favorite retro horror is the original THE BLOB (1958).

Read our full Buried Alive Retro preview by Melanie Crew here! Buy your Buried Alive Film Festival festival passes and advance tickets to individual screenings here or at the 7 Stages box office. 

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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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