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: Weird Worlds and Twisted Tales: Spec-Lit Author Nicole Givens Kurtz Talks Diverse Voices, Representation and BLACKTASTICON 2018, Coming to Atlanta This Weekend

Posted on: Jun 12th, 2018 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

The State of Black Science Fiction shouts “Welcome to the Future!” as co-founders Kool Kat Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis bring you BLACKTASTICON 2018, Atlanta’s top-notch spec-lit convention (formerly known as The State of Black Science Fiction Con), this  Saturday and Sunday (June 16-17) at GA Tech’s Ferst Center. This event is chock full of Afro-futurism, steamfunk, cyberfunk, dieselfunk, sword and soul, rococoa, Afrikan martial arts, and then some! So come on out and celebrate the diverse and ultra relevant voices of current black writers, artists, filmmakers, and creators of all kinds delivering some of the most dynamic and ground-breaking speculative fiction today, including our Kool Kat of the Week, Nicole Givens Kurtz.

Kurtz, Dream Realm, EPPIE and Fresh Voices in Science Fiction award finalist, delves deep into the speculative literature genre (sci-fi, horror, weird westerns, urban fantasy, etc.). Her short stories have been published in thirty plus anthologies including “KQ” (LOST TRAILS: FORGOTTEN TALES OF THE WEIRD WEST, VOL. 2 – wild west/horror), “Death’s Harvest” (STREET MAGICK ANTHOLOGY – urban fantasy); “Kanti’s Black Box” (THE MARTIAN ANTHOLOGY – science fiction), just to name a few. Kurtz is also the mastermind behind the CYBIL LEWIS and MINISTER KNIGHTS series. In addition to her prolific writing career, Kurtz is publisher and owner of Mocha Memoirs Press, brought to life in order to bring more diverse voices to the land of speculative fiction.

ATLRetro caught up with North Carolina-based writer and frequent Atlanta visitor, Nicole Givens Kurtz, to find out more about her influences, her career in spec-lit, the need for diversity and representation, and the importance of BLACKTASTICON.

ATLRetro: The first annual State of Black Science Fiction Convention was a hit with over 500 attendees and 40 vendors. Atlanta welcomes it back for another exciting year as Blacktasticon 2018 invades the south once again! As a guest and panelist at last year’s event, can you tell us a little about your experience and what you hope to gain this year?

Nicole Givens Kurtz: The first annual State of Black Science Fiction Convention was an awe-inspiring event. It also felt like a homecoming. Many of the people there I’ve known virtually via social media. There were hugs, laughter, and a great deal of support. One of the beautiful things about the convention resided in the warmth and promotion of black science fiction. It was ours. Here we were not the fringe of the convention, but the center, its heart. That paradigm shift hit me hard, and there were times when I looked out at the sea of black faces–faces like mine–that I wanted to weep in joy.  I’ve never felt so included in a convention before.

Blacktasticon welcomes us to the future, a boundless and complex yet beautiful future. With the current state of politics, of the #metoo movement, of the societal woes and bloody wounds still saturating the present-day, what message do you hope current writers and creators bring to the table for future generations?

The overriding message I hope Blacktasticon delivers to future generations is that we (African-Americans) aren’t going anywhere. The future is full of black people, including women. We are a creative force, in all aspects of media, comics, movies, novels, and animation. This convention shows the future generations what we are capable of and what they can do. Those creative doors aren’t shut to them because of traditional gatekeepers. This goes beyond simply diversity, but the nuisances of the black collective. African-Americans aren’t a monolith, and here at this convention, all of those various talents are displayed.

Black Women in Sci-Fi Panel 2016 (l-r) Nicole Givens Kurtz, Alicia McCalla, Penelope Flynn, Kyoto M., Rennie Murphy

Do you feel it is the job of artists, writers and creators to represent what this world should be and could be? If so, which speculative fiction writer past or present would you say represents the most comprehensive ideal of how the world and its inhabitants should be?

Science fiction has always been political. Mary Shelley‘s FRANKENSTEIN is an absolute novel about hubris. So, yes, I do feel it is our job to tell stories, as humans have done since the beginning of time, since before written language. We tell stories to explain the world around us. That’s the role of artists, writers, and creators to continue to tell those stories, including what the world should be and what it could be. Past fiction writers that I feel offered the most comprehensive ideal of our world are classics such as Octavia Butler, Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, Zora Neale Hurston, and of course, Mary Shelley. There are modern writers of science fiction and fantasy who are representing the world as is or how it could be as well. N.K. Jemisin, Daniel Jose Older, Max Gladstone and anyone at Rosarium Publishing is presenting fabulous visions of the future.

Can you tell us how you got started writing? Did you start writing as a little girl? Or were you older when the writing bug bit you?

I’ve been writing stories before I could actually write words. When I was little, I would go up to my room and continue the stories I saw on television with my dolls or in my head. Once I learned to write, I would scribble the stories down, but it wasn’t until high school where I won a district wide essay contest that I realized I could make money from writing. I read everything I could get my hands on from elementary school onward. My mother encouraged me to keep reading and we spent many weekends at the public library checking out books. When I became a teenager, I would skip the mall and spend my Saturday buried in books, gaining knowledge, and losing myself in other worlds.

Your Mocha Memoirs Press mission statement is “We believe representation in speculative fiction (science fiction, horror, fantasy) is not only important, but a necessity.” Can you tell our readers a little bit about Mocha Memoirs Press, LLC, and why you feel representation is essential?

Mocha Memoirs began as a way for me to funnel more diverse works into the world, where at the time, I saw a huge gap. The company began in 2010, and at that time, I did not see vary many science fiction works that reflected people of color, women, or black women in particular. Often when I attended conventions with my first novel, I was the only black person there at all, let alone actually selling my published novel. In an effort to give back but also bring awareness to the diverse stories we can tell, I started Mocha Memoirs Press. Representation is essential because it provides positive self affirmation. Essentially, seeing oneself in media as a hero, heroine, or protagonists demonstrates to the reader/viewer, “You matter. You exist. This future is yours and you have a place in it. This story could be your story.” Everyone wants to be valued. Representation should reflect the diversity of our world.

We see that you’ve had work published in LOST TRAILS: FORGOTTEN TALES OF THE WEIRD WEST, LAWLESS LANDS, and STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMBSTONE, to name a few. Can you tell us about your love of westerns (the weirder the better) and how living in New Mexico influenced your writing?

Prior to moving to New Mexico, I lived in a variety of other places (San Diego, Chicago, Louisville) but nothing took root inside me the way the Land of Enchantment did. My mother was always a western fan, and in our household, I grew up with Clint Eastwood, SHANE, and THE RIFLEMAN. To this day, my mother still sits and watches westerns. Imagine a young black girl in a housing project watching these men settle scores with the fastest pistols in the west. As a writer, my weird western stories are rooted in the theme of freedom. This place, the west, specifically, the southwest, thrived with a diverse group of people–Native Americans, Chinese immigrants, freed slaves, and of course, wealthy Eastern whites; each having to work together to scrape out a life in this harsh, new environment, and in doing so crafted an entirely different way of life, of culture, unlike those in the East. Those differences still resonate through to this day. That’s why I write weird westerns.

You’ve had short stories published in over thirty anthologies ranging from science fiction to horror and have had your novels become finalists for several awards, such as the EPPIES, Dream Realm and Fresh Voices in Sci-Fi. If you had to choose a favorite short story or novel from your bibliography, which would you choose and why?

This is like asking me to pick my favorite child! Of all the short stories I’ve written, “Belly Speaker,” is my favorite. It’s my favorite because it is a weird western, but it is about finding one’s voice when others threaten to silence it. My favorite novel, of the ones I’ve written, is DEVOURER. In this second MINISTER KNIGHTS OF SOULS novel, Akub seeks to redeem herself from her violent past by doing something criminal.  I’m interested in redemption and how we overcome the actions of our past.

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

The writer from my past that influenced me the most is Stephen King. Most of my stories have their roots in weird, strange horror. Even if they’re science fiction stories, horrific things happen in them. Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton, Zora Neale Hurston, and classic literature such as Shirley Jackson, Alice Walker, and of course, Octavia Butler have all influenced me.

Having had the pleasure of experiencing your panels at last year’s convention, we know you’re not only 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?

My favorite horror movie of all time is MY BLOODY VALENTINE, the remake. Don’t judge me! Prior to that movie, my favorite horror films were from the 1980s: LOST BOYS, FRIGHT NIGHT and HELLRAISER. I still watch these films on streaming media whenever I need a good scare.

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

When I began my career in science fiction publishing in 2005, the challenges were getting past the gatekeepers at major publishing companies to even look at my work. So many rejections of “Cannot identify with this character,” and “Nice concept, can’t sell it.” The perception that black protagonists wouldn’t sell or that readers who weren’t black couldn’t identify with a non-white protagonist in science fiction was astounding to me. This same genre where people could identify with shapeshifting tigers, but not another human being, continues to be the drumbeat for certain editors and publishers today. The difference today (14 years later) is the convenience of small press publishing, electronic book publishing, and self publishing options that allows my work to by-pass some of those gatekeepers. Conventions like Blacktasticon help me market and connect to readers who are hungry for those stories.

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?

Five things I’m in to right now are: 1) CLOAK & DAGGER on Freeform/Hulu; 2) ALTERED CARBON-the series with Kovacs is a good cyberpunk series; 3) Sting’s TEN SUMMONER’S TALES is always in rotation; 4) Andrea Botticelli is also in heavy rotation; and 5) ROUTE 3 by Robert Jeffery is a comic series that I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment.

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

Nicole Givens Kurtz and SOBSFC guest 2016

DO.NOT.SETTLE. I wish I would’ve stuck to this advice at the onset of my career. Don’t settle. Do your research because this business requires a great deal of patience. Know what you want and do not settle for anything less.

Getting back to what brought us here, Blacktasticon 2018! Is there anything exciting you have planned for attendees? Can you give us a sneak peek into the panels you’ll be sitting on?

My press, Mocha Memoirs, will have special package pricing just for the convention. I’m on the Women in Black Speculative Fiction panel, which I’m very excited to be a part of again. Last time we had standing room only!

And last but not least, what are you currently working on and how can we get our hands on it?

I’m currently working on finishing a novella, that’s romance and fantasy. Afterwards, I’m diving back into my Cybil Lewis Science Fiction Mystery series. Then later this year, I’ll be working on my weird western short story collection.

 

Photos courtesy of Nicole Givens Kurtz and used with permission.

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Vampire Clowns, Buckets of Blood and ’80s Cult Movie Mayhem: An Interview with Mitchell Altieri, Director of THE NIGHT WATCHMEN, World Premiere at Buried Alive Film Festival Thursday Nov. 17

Posted on: Nov 16th, 2016 By:

night watchmenTHE NIGHT WATCHMEN (2016) Dir: Mitchell Altieri. Starring James Remar, Matt Servitto, Tiffany Shepis. Opening Night Feature, Buried Alive Film Festival. Thursday Nov. 17. 9 p.m. 7 Stages. $12. Trailer here. ]]

Put together vampire clowns, buckets of blood, four bored security guys and their corporate gal crush and a trippy ’80s-sounding soundtrack set in Baltimore and you have THE NIGHT WATCHMEN, which has its U.S. premiere Thursday night at 7 Stages as the opening feature of the 2016 Buried Alive Film Festival. Which is to say that we enjoyed the hell out of it.

We caught up with director Mitchell Altieri to go behind the coffins and see how something this crazy and retro got made in the 21st century. Oh, and what it was like working with James Remar of THE WARRIORS!

ATLRetro: How did you guys get the idea to mix clowns with vampires?

Mitchell Altieri: Hello Anya, thanks for having me at ATLRetro. When I was hired to direct the film, the script was already written. Ken Arnold and Dan DeLuca came up with the story and Dan and Jamie Nash wrote the script. The script went thru a few different drafts and incarnations and when I came on board there were no clowns in the script, but during pre-production Dan and Jamie mentioned that they had a version with clowns. And I was like, “yes, please.” It just really fit with the fun story we were filming!

Anything else you’d like to add about THE NIGHT WATCHMEN’s genesis?

Go see it! It’s a real fun ride, with lots of action and scares but I’d like to let the movie to speak for itself.

The movie has an ‘80s horror movie vibe down to the soundtrack. How intentional was that, and do you have a particular affinity to ‘80s horror movies, and maybe some favorites?

Yes, it was definitely intentional! I love those ‘80s horror films that you rented on VHS from the local video stores, films like THE NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984), FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) or KILLER CLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988). And that’s what I wanted to do with our film, make it super fun and scary, even silly at points like those ‘80s films.  

Loved the soundtrack. Can you talk a little about it?

Our composer Kevin Kerrigan out of London, ate it up… he had a blast scoring the music! He was so excited to do such a retro score. And the guys who wrote the original songs, Fake Figures, loved it just as much. They are an actual band that wrote and recorded these songs while on tour, so it was a fun break for them. I really wanted the score and soundtrack to make you instantly get that 80s feeling, even though it’s a film set in present day, I want the audience also think that it can easily take place in the 80s.   

Mitchell Altieri with Tiffany Shepis, Diona Reasonover, Cheryl Staurulakus, Rain Pryor & Donald Imm. Photo credit: Herbert Mann.

Mitchell Altieri with Tiffany Shepis, Diona Reasonover, Cheryl Staurulakus, Rain Pryor & Donald Imm. Photo credit: Herbert Mann.

There’s a hell of a lot of blood in this movie. How much did you go through?

Let’s just say we ran out of blood like five or six times. We used a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever run out of that much blood before.

Hopefully this isn’t too spoilery but the main five characters could have just been stereotypical, they had little touches to them that both defied the usual tropes and enhanced the humor. And you scored a great ensemble with a real chemistry who seemed to be having a great time. Anything you’d like to share about that?

Yeah, I agree. I really value strong characters in films. Even if it’s a straightforward film, you can never go wrong with interesting, bold characters. I was very pleased with the cast. Ken, Dan and Kevin Jiggetts all have worked together many times before so it was dynamic when they worked against Kara Luiz who plays the journalist and Max Wilbur, the young rookie. I challenged them and they challenged each other and had a great time with it.

Again without giving too much away, the film is full of fun scenes. What was the most fun to actually film and why?

There were a few scenes I remember just laughing out loud and not being able to stop laughing. It was mainly when the actors just started riffing off each other, adlibbing, etc, The entire crew would be in stitches from laughing. Well, you can really laugh out loud during a take, so you would look around and people’s faces would be buried in their jackets or whatever they had in their hands so they wouldn’t ruin the scene. That was always fun. I personally ruined a scene or two from not being able to stop laughing but it comes with the territory I guess.

(L to R) Kevin Jiggetts, Dan DeLuca, Kara Luiz, Max Gray Wilbur, Ken Arnold. Photo credit: Robert Neal Marshall.

(L to R) Kevin Jiggetts, Dan DeLuca, Kara Luiz, Max Gray Wilbur, Ken Arnold. Photo credit: Robert Neal Marshall.

Did you face any challenges while making the movie?

A film is a challenge from beginning to end. It is exhausting work! But for this particular set, the most challenging thing I faced was I got sick. We shot in Maryland and it was their worst winter in 76 years. I never have been sick on set but I guess the cold got me this time. But as a director on set you don’t really get sick days, so I had to push through. It was brutal. I was very thankful for an amazing crew that helped pick up the slack those few days.

OK, being a big THE WARRIORS  fan, gotta ask James Remar shared any anecdotes on the set?

I’m a huge fan of THE WARRIORS as well, so yes it was very cool to have him on set. I mean he was Ajax! He would tell great stories about different films, and how the sets were, or working with different people. We all got a good kick out that.

What’s next for you?

I’m attached to a couple projects right now that I can’t really talk about, but I also did five feature films in a row, one a year basically, so I’m also enjoying taking a little time off, traveling and just plain relaxing!!

 And finally, your favorite flavor of cannoli? 

Question should be which flavor don’t I like. Thank you for the interview. I appreciate it.

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The Horror! The Horror! Our Top 10 Retro Reasons to Go to DAYS OF THE DEAD 2014

Posted on: Feb 6th, 2014 By:

What are we doing this weekend?! We’re heading down to the third annual Days of the Dead at Sheraton Hotel Atlanta, Friday-Sunday Feb. 7-9.

1) THE THING REUNION! Given that John Carpenter‘s THE THING (1982) is one of those rare remakes that surpasses the original, we can’t think of anything more fun than meeting a bunch of the guys who signed on for Antarctic duty and ended up monster-meal. Keith David, Richard Masur, Joel Polis, Peter Maloney, Thomas Waites all together on one stage at 1 p.m. on Saturday and signing all weekend.

2) DAMIEN ECHOLS. We have followed the case of the West Memphis Three since 1993, and couldn’t be more happy that he is finally free. He talks about “Life After Death” Row Saturday at 7 p.m.

3) RUNAWAYS. We’re not sure how two of rock’s most badass babes ended up on the horror con circuit, but we’re not complaining about any chance to meet Lita Ford and Cherie Currie. Also rocking the roster are crazy ’80s metal man Dee Snider and Skinny Puppy’s Twiggy Ramirez.

4) SID HAIG AND BILL MOSELEY.  Sid Haig, one of those rare B-movie icons and character actors whose career spans the decades from Jack Hill’s blaxploitation films of the 1970s to the chaotic, creepy Captain Spaulding. Quite frankly you and Bill Moseley scared the sh-t out of us in THE DEVIL’s REJECTS and since we’re not easily scared, for that we salute you both!

5) BUTCH PATRICK, MEG FOSTER, CHRIS SARANDON, AND THE CRYPTKEEPER JOHN KASSIRThe guest list just seems to go on and on with Retro-horror goodness including the original Eddie Wolfgang Munster, one of Hollywood’s most eye-catching actresses and the star of another John Carpenter classic THEY LIVE (1988), the hot neighborly vampire from the original FRIGHT NIGHT (1985), and the man whose voice creeped us out so many times hosting TV’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT.

6) THE HISTORY OF THE SPOOK SHOW! Atlanta’s own Professor Morte leads the SILVER SCREAM SPOOK SHOW in a history lesson of this macabre art form which we are certain will both amaze and entertain. We may even learn something, too!

Professor Morte (Shane Morton). Photo courtesy of Shane Morton.

7) MARK MADDOX. If you’re a classic horror or sci-fi fan, you’ve undoubtedly encountered the work of this Rondo Hatton and Pulp Factory Award-winning artist on the covers of countless publications from Little Shoppe of Horrors to the 50th anniversary issue of DOCTOR WHO Magazine. His appearance is sponsored by Monsterama, Atlanta’s newest horror con which debuts August 1-3, 2014.

8) SPOOKTACULAR SHOPPING  Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both macabre movie memorabilia, cult classics on DVD and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories.

9) MACABRE MAKE-UP, CREEPY COSTUMES AND PHANTAMAGORIC PARTIES!! Check the schedule for make-up demonstrations, VIP parties, costume contest Saturday night at 11 pm followed by the Monster Ball. On Friday night, learn SFX make-up from the masters in the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse Presents Putrid Prosthetics, hear the funny side of wrestler-actor Roddy Piper, followed by a midnight Murder Ball hosted by Atlanta’s own most extreme Halloween attraction Chambers of Horror.

10) FRIGHTENING FILMS! The JABB 48-hour film festival featuring new indie horror, such as THE MORNINGSIDE MONSTER by ATLRetro Kool Kats Jayson Palmer and Chris Ethridge, as well as crazy has-to-be-seen-tobe-believed cult classic NEON MANIACS (1986).

Days of the Dead main con hours are Fri. Feb. 7 from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sat. Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sun. Feb. 9 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with parties going late into the night on Friday and Saturday. For more info, visit https://www.daysofthedead.net/atlanta/.

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Retro Review: It’s Simply CHILD’S PLAY: Splatter Cinema and the Plaza Theatre Throw a 25th Birthday Bash for Chucky!

Posted on: Jan 7th, 2013 By:

Splatter Cinema present CHILD’S PLAY (1987); Dir: Tom Holland; Starring: Brad Dourif, Chris Sarandon and Catherine Hicks; Tue. Jan. 8 @ 9:30 p.m. and Fri. Jan. 10 at 11:30 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Who could have predicted that a child’s doll would boast a career of evil spanning 25 years?

By 1988, the slasher film had seen its peak. The A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise delivered a fourth movie that fell far short of 1987’s well-received third entry. The FRIDAY THE 13TH series offered up a lackluster seventh film that attempted to pit Jason Voorhees against a distaff CARRIE knockoff. Producer Moustapha Akkad attempted to revive Michael Myers in an ineffective fourth HALLOWEEN film without the participation of John Carpenter. Meanwhile, the horror film world was looking across the pond for its new icons of terror: the Cenobites of Clive Barker’s groundbreaking HELLRAISER.

It might have seemed laughable on its face to combat this by saying, “well, what about a serial killing doll?” It’s not like the premise of a killer doll had never been done before. From the ventriloquist dummy with a mind of its own of 1948’s DEAD OF NIGHT to THE TWILIGHT ZONE’s Talky Tina, and from the possessed clown of 1982’s POLTERGEIST to the Zuni fetish doll of 1975’s TRILOGY OF TERROR, the killing machine posing as an innocuous inanimate figure was a familiar face on the horror landscape. But resting a relatively big-budgeted slasher film on the stuffed shoulders of a Good Guy doll must have seemed a risky proposition.

And in the wrong hands, it could have been. Thankfully, the screenplay was tightly executed, displaying a surprising intelligence and wit. The film finds serial killer Charles “Chucky” Lee Ray (Brad Dourif of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, WISE BLOOD and the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy) mortally wounded and pursued by Chicago homicide detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon of FRIGHT NIGHT and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS). On the verge of death, Chucky takes refuge in a toy store and uses a voodoo ritual to pass his soul into a handy Good Guy doll. The doll finds its way into the Barclay family home, where the now-sentient doll seeks to continue the mortal Chucky’s killing spree…and find a way to get out of his molded plastic and rubber holding cell.

The film was helmed by veteran horror writer-director Tom Holland (CLASS OF 1984, PSYCHO II, FRIGHT NIGHT) with a seriousness that served as a perfect counterweight to the cartoonish possibilities that an ersatz Cabbage Patch Kid slaughtering Chicagoans might pose. And his cast of familiar faces (and voices) helped sell that premise. In particular, the sardonic performance of Brad Dourif as Chucky walked the tightrope between threatening and humorous deftly, simultaneously communicating Chucky’s thirst for violence and his recognition that being stuck in a doll’s body is almost some kind of cosmic joke at his expense.

The novel concept, combined with the effects of the incredible Kevin Yagher and Dourif’s indelible voice work, quickly established Chucky as a most unlikely horror icon, and the film spawned several sequels in a franchise that continues to this day. Filming on the most recent installment, CURSE OF CHUCKY, was completed in Fall 2012.

Wanna play? Come out to the Plaza Theatre and celebrate Chucky’s quarter-century of slaughter with a special presentation of CHILD’S PLAY from Splatter Cinema. It’s not every day a doll turns 25.

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

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