Hey baby, you won’t believe what I found––

March 7th, 2013

It’s a little hard to believe that this weekend will mark almost two years to the day that HorrorCon began principal photography at Monster Mania 17. The Crown Plaza in Cherry Hill, NJ, will be at it again Friday night hosting their 24th convention, and most attendees will be oblivious to the fact that a film crew once showed up and started shooting in the middle of all the noise and chaos. We’ll never forget, of course. I imagine the vendors who let us set up in front of their booths for far too long won’t be forgetting it soon, either.

I find it amusingly poignant that we’re closing in on our self-imposed March 25th deadline by, among other things, digitally removing a visible hotel logo from one of the parking lot signs. It’s as if we’re truly moving on from what was a long, arduous adventure. One that, despite mounting stresses and continuing financial burdens, was deeply rewarding in all the best senses. I’m sure every film production creates a special bond between its cast and crew – it’s like a war in that way – but ours will be especially unique. Giving birth to a film in public is like street performing, flash mobbing, and robbing a bank all at once. All that’s left to do is divvy the loot, and the first part of that process begins the second we add the last name to the credit roll.

I’ve compiled a list of festivals that we’ll be considering in the next couple of weeks. So far we’re up to twenty-four, comprising of events held in the United States, Europe, Canada, and South America. We’re as close as Philadelphia and New York, and as far away as Reykjavik, Iceland, Porto Alegre, Brazil, and Locarno, Sweden.  Although there’s no way we can afford to hit them all, we felt it important to identify those most suitable for the film and go from there. Of course, the more of them you try, the better your chances of being accepted. And being accepted means publicity, something all films desperately need. We have quite the story to tell both on and off the screen, and it’s our goal that we tell it to as many people as we can.

As we whittle down our festival list, we’ll begin to build one for conventions. Touring the film through genre events around the country has always been our number one dream. Sharing it with “the choir” feels right to us, and means we can build a loyal, grass roots following on as many lawns as possible. Of course, we hold out hope that some kind of film/music event can be held at Monster Mania 25 in Cherry Hill. We think it’d be great publicity for everyone involved to screen at “home”, for and amongst the very people who helped make our little movie look bigger than it had a right to be. However, due to Screen Actors Guild contractual obligations, we’re not permitted to charge anyone to see it outside of an AMC theater. This leaves us with only a few options to make back our investment: charge for merchandise and a follow-up Q&A, and/or ask for donations upon leaving the screening. Everyone who manages to secure a ticket will have the option to watch the film and leave without paying, and that’s fine with us. What’s important is that people see it, connect with it, and hopefully spread the word. If only that happens, the film will have a future, and that counts far more than a quick theatrical release without the promotional resources that might generate less-than embarrassing box office numbers.

I’ve written before about various distribution models that are available to low-budget indie films, and we’re looking at them all. As previously mentioned, giving it away and adding a donation method of “repayment” is an option. Renegotiating our contract with SAG to allow us to sell the film on DVD is another. I’m not yet sure what the SAG stipulations are in terms of Video-On-Demand (VOD) and Internet streaming, but it’s perhaps something a distributor can explain to us. We think it’s important to take HorrorCon through as many integral steps and processes as possible so that we do the right thing for this one, and learn for the next one. If we’re lucky and have done our work well, our screening activities will open those doors. At the very least, they might point us in the right direction.

Time to return to our post-production crew of two (next time you watch a film, sit through the entire list of post-production credits; you’l likely check your phone more than once such is the time it takes to list them) and continue our march towards the 25th. The score, done entirely on a single keyboard and the ThumbJam iPhone app, is just about complete. But there’s still a few more logos to remove and a certain Cinematographer’s eye-glasses that were alternately left on and off while acting in one of the scenes. I’m not naming any names, but his initials are Jim Wright.

Oops.

The title of the post refers to the very first line of dialog in the film. We might say the same.

See you in a couple of weeks.

Scott

Ears for Fears

September 4th, 2012

Say what? Exactly. This audio mixing business is dragging, but it’s getting done. And redone, unfortunately. But we can’t say we didn’t know this would happen. Back when the idea for shooting this film in live settings was conceived, we expected some difficult audio challenges. You can’t yell “quiet on the set” when your set is a raging horror convention. The regular sounds of a busy hotel do enough damage, as it is. Loud televisions in the room next door, the tap-tap-tap of renovations and repairs, flocks of south-heading geese; we had our hand’s full, even if those hands were as capable as those belonging to experienced pro Max Kalmanowicz.

Yet, it feels right to be targeting our finish date in October. The colors associated with fall –– mottled greens, golden browns, blackened reds –– match our color palette well. Of course, most horror fans’ favorite holiday caps a glorious end to an already beautiful month. The natural order of things begins ticking to a stop, until the stillness of winter brings short days and long nights. These are perfect conditions to celebrate all things scary. And dammit, we’ll be among those celebrations if we have to work around the clock.

There’s also the matter of our score. If you’ve been following along on our Facebook Page, you will have already learned that the task of making the music to accompany our story has fallen to yours truly. I plan to color in only those shapes that support and highlight the narrative depth, and I’ll be taking my cues from some wonderful artists who have been generous enough to lend us their talents. Among them, The Michael Miller Crusade, Hot as Sun, and most recently, The Mouth of Ghosts. A full-on performance by The Young Werewolves takes the production up to a musical level of which I could never have dreamed. I’m so excited about how this all works together. Now, it’s up to me to link their compositions into a larger statement by weaving a minimalist fabric of shared musical themes sprinkled with some flavor of my own.

Many have asked what our plans are going forward once we’re done. I’m happy to say I’m not sure. Why does that make me happy? It makes me happy because there are so many wonderful new distribution opportunities for indie filmmakers. The traditional route –– if the film is well enough received –– is an exciting one as it injects all of our names into the realm of the industry known. We get theater schedules and press junkets and probably our share of red carpets. While that sounds like a dream, it can come at a high cost. You see, I’m nobody in this industry. I will have to hand over the rights to everything we’ve worked for just to be allowed beyond the velvet rope. Is it worth it in an age of digital distribution? Ten years ago, that answer might have been a different one.

Ten years later, I’m excited about the idea of spreading the film around to festivals and conventions and private screenings. Because I financed the picture against the value of my home, I’m not in a terrible hurry to pay back investors (although there are a few who have it coming). I will never be in a better position to test the waters and learn from my mistakes. Also, HorrorCon is a different animal than most, one that is designed to last and hopefully find its way into the libraries of the genre faithful. Therefore, I’m not overly concerned about being a hit out of the gate. Its time will come, and if I’ve played my hand well, remain. It’s a long love letter to the colorful fringes of popular culture, a place to which, in my own way, I’m proud to belong.

The software is fired up and the headphones are on. Time to isolate the hisses, hiccups and hot spots and seal it all with a wicked kiss. Let the leaves flutter to the ground. I much prefer a mottled green, golden brown and blackened red carpet to any I’ve seen walked by my more accomplished contemporaries. With that, I leave you with our favorite fuzzy trio.

Stay well…

Funlisted Number

March 14th, 2012

We’re a few days back from our return to the scene of many crimes, otherwise known as The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, NJ home to Monster Mania 21. What do I mean by crimes? Well, we filmed so many scenes there that one might say we had no right filming that three months later it feels like we stole our movie. A very watchable rough cut is complete, and despite the personal cost of producing this project, it looks far more expensive. Of course, that was the plan. We’re weeks and weeks of sound mixing away from popping the cork, but suffice it to say we’re satisfied at this stage and when our old booth space was made available, we were eager to share the news.

Monster Mania has grown quite a bit since I first walked the aisles of blood-soaked merchandise and ogled genre celebs such as Linnea Quigley, Ken Foree, Doug Bradley, and Gunnar Hansen. This past weekend we had a host of crossover talent on display, such as Anthony Michael Hall, Lisa Marie, David Prowse, and Michael Rooker. Of course, Robert Englund commanded his usual lengthy line (5 hours!) and it doesn’t seem to matter how many times he shows. From all accounts, he delivers with enthusiastic banter and impromptu artwork accompanying each autograph he signs. Lots of love going on, there.

As for our booth, we had a blast meeting dozens of people with nearly every one signing up for our mailing list and a listing in the credits. We gave away two kinds of logo stickers and teaser posters, with our swirl design and Nic’s half-faced teaser being the big winners.

So, the booth and the trailer did it’s job, and we’ll be adding photos of both as well as some of our guests over at our Facebook Page throughout the coming weeks. For now, it’s back to sound mixing and getting the film ready for a possible screening at the end of April.

Lastly, I need to thank all 122 people who signed up for our mailing list and helped us spread some swag. You made our weekend, and we loved meeting and chatting with you. There was also a visit from a couple of cats at FANGORIA, and we’d like to thank them for taking such an interest in our story. We’ve got two to tell, one on the screen and one behind it. Both involve degrees of stress and terror that are always fun…some more in retrospect, but that’s horror, eh?

Once again, thanks Connies, Conners, ex-cons, and continental breakfasts. We’ll keep everyone posted about our possible exclusive FREE premiere at Monster Mania 22 in August. We want to bring it home to the faithful for the price of your signatures. That’s just how we swirl.

 

Happy Trailers…

January 21st, 2012

With enormous thanks to Pete Yorn, Yellow Horse Productions and Publishing would like to present the long-anticipated teaser trailer set to “Vampyre”. If you like what you see, feel free to visit our HorrorCon Facebook page and “Like” the film. This is the first phase of marketing the project, and the more support we get, the better.

We recommend that you select an HD setting (720, 1080) for viewing. Hope you enjoy.

And, In the End…

December 14th, 2011

…the risks you take, are equal to the film you make. And therein lies the biggest lesson of this entire journey, for me. I’ve learned quite a bit – we all have, I think – but in both creative and practical terms, it bears sharing that the hard way is always the best way. When I think back to why I create, I’m reminded of being a kid and losing myself in the dreamworlds that felt more real than my own. Films, songs, literature; it was always about getting lost in something that held answers in a kaleidoscope of fantasy. And great answers only come from hard questions. Isn’t that why we continue to explore outer space? Aren’t we always in search of a brighter light? Maybe, that’s just me.

Shooting principal photography for HorrorCon was, at times, a painful, grueling slog. It was war, wrought with stress, doubt, panic and pain. On top of all the inherent snafus, I had a pesky, idiot neighbor to deal with, a lawsuit against myself and my business, and the constant threat of disaster caused by delays. I’d been learning about other indie projects that had to put their productions on hold due to season changes, financial woes, and a host of unforeseen calamities (our own Chris Kies was hit by a truck while riding his bike) and the longer these things go, the more fate is tempted. But despite everything, I had the team I needed to get through it, and we have several terabyte drives worth of proof. I have never in my life relied so heavily on the passion and abilities of others, and relinquishing that kind of trust and faith and being rewarded so lavishly is quite a lesson in itself. Sure, it’s a little film by today’s standards, and it will have its blemishes and scars, but it truly lives. It lives because we sacrificed so much, and threw our deepest energies into it at every turn. We gave ourselves no choice, no escape. Every second – every blood cell – counted. No ivory tower sound stage to protect us from the intrusions of the world meant we had to fight for every shot. I may be crazy (by all accounts, I am), but I swear it made all the difference.

And if there was ever an argument for making your own luck, we’ve got several key witnesses to support it.

So where do we go from here? Well, we’ve got it all to do, really. After the holiday break, we’ll be scheduling a looping session to fix up some audio, and there are a couple of small clips to grab at the Yellow Horse studios. It will be wonderful to spend some time with the group again in a more relaxed setting. It’ll probably be very strange to see some of our actors looking very different for the first time in a year, too. In fact, the day we wrapped marked almost one year to the day I first held auditions in Jim Wright’s Brooklyn studio space. Folks, I strongly recommend taking a year out of your life and giving something like this everything you have. Spare nothing and dig deep. You will never, ever regret it.

Once looping is complete, we’ll assemble, have a private screening for our core group, then set up an invite-only screening for some important feedback. The deadline is March 9th. Why, then? Because that’s when the next Monster Mania Horror Convention is being held at our favorite hotel. Won’t it be fun to return to the peeling wallpaper and jaundiced halls that, on occasion, sucked out every ounce of hope we could possibly muster? By then, probably. And to be fair, there’s always a way to get it done. You just write yourself out of a corner and rely on the beautiful, crazy people you hired to make it work.

Speaking of those people, there simply aren’t enough blogs in the world to thank them. I do hope HorrorCon rewards them well into the future, and I plan to do everything in my power to make it a success. There are several options, some of them overlap, and this blog will continue to chart the film’s passage through the tricky waters of post-production and international film distribution. I do see film festivals in our future. That much is certain. And I can imagine offers from distributors, some of which I already have on file. But it really boils down to this: do you sell? If so, how much? Or, do you retain 100% ownership and take it around to the numerous horror conventions on your own, using a multitude of publicity channels to generate a fervor of interest. We’ve got a hell of an independent filmmaking story to tell, and believe me, it will be told and told well.

So, now it’s time to pack away the props, shelve the scripts, and square up any outstanding debts. It might be a good idea to divert interest for awhile, too. Let the New Year ring out, take a deep breath, and go back in with fresh eyes, fresh ears, and a ruthless red pen.

The dream is real, now.

Absolute stars.

In Retrospect…

December 5th, 2011

…I should probably have kept my mouth shut. We were halfway through “day two” of our weekend shoot, and I felt the need to share how things appeared to be getting easier, making saying goodbye to the hotel, the headaches, and the hurtin’ on my wallet harder to do than I thought. Needless to say, our remaining shots took longer than expected, and there were a few rethinks on set-ups. Worst of all, poor Max had an early call-time the next day and had to grab some Zs while he waited on various costume changes and lighting tests. To his credit, he didn’t snore. To ours, we didn’t stack any random objects on his forehead and take loads of pictures.

All that said, everyone continued their run of outstanding performances, both before and behind the camera. And while finishing in style is our goal, there was something drab about closing room 1243 for the final time. I lost count of the scenes we shot in there – using every angle and piece of furniture to its fullest – and within those peeling, jaundiced walls is really where this film lives. Much like the famed “Room 237” in The Shining, it’s a place of troubling questions and horrifying answers. It’s also a place where Stanley Kubrick’s name was referred to more than once for inspiration; a habit that would spill out into the halls, and all the way down the stairs into the lobby.

A few of us have joked that the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill, NJ, has become our home away from home. For me, there’s far more truth than jest in that observation. I’m pretty sure I greet 90% of the staff by their first names these days, and voices raise markedly upon my return. I believe quite a few in our cast and crew enjoy similar relationships with various representatives of the hotel, from housekeeping, to engineering, to the smiling faces at the front desk. Back in March I was sure they would long to see our backs, but now I feel they enjoy our requests for early check-in, extra bell carts, and patience with strange noises and visions. For the most part we leave behind only footprints that are easily vacuumed away. There may have been a couple…scars left behind, as well. At least one we take with us (how’s that hand, Chris?).

Then there were five. Five scenes, two days, one weekend. After, no more “camera up” and “speeding”. Only countless moments of luck, brilliance and bravery forever preserved in a little movie about a little girl who learns that, sometimes, one must spiral downward to be saved.

Date: December 10-11
Place: Crowne Plaza, Cherry Hill, NJ
Call Time:
1 pm
Stills: in the usual place.

Let’s do this.

We’re Descending…

November 22nd, 2011

…on our final approach. This past weekend went exceedingly well, which means our six days are now down to four. My cast and crew may want to kill me for this (or something else, already) but it feels like we’re finally locked in all the way. To be fair, the learning curve was enormously huge and always changing, and the constant threat of coming up short was always there. Not anymore. Of course, conditions were perfect for us to run around and get what we needed as the hotel was, at last, moderately busy. There was only one wedding, by my count, and Philcon 2011 saw a manageable amount of space traveler traffic. Still, to think that most of us hadn’t laid eyes on each other before the first shoot in March is mind-boggling. As it stands, we’re crossing off the shot list with assured and certain speed, and the stuff looks amazing.

Now we break for that big eating and sleeping holiday before we reconvene at our home away from home on the 3rd of December. It’ll be another two-day session, with stuff that requires a little more complexity than last weekend’s material. However, since rewriting a number of scenes to keep us at one location, I reckon we’ve saved ourselves a lot of time and aggravation. I also feel the energy increasing as the light at the end of the tunnel grows larger and more intense, so that’s good. Real, real good.

As always, there are stills on the Facebook Page. You’ll see a couple of new faces in there (stairwell/hotel desk), and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their time, effort and enthusiasm. They did an awesome job.

Date: December 3-4
Place: Crowne Plaza, Cherry Hill, NJ
Call Time: 1 pm

Closer…

The End is Nigh…

November 15th, 2011

…and in this case, that’s a good thing. We’re drawing on what little energy (and money) we have left to finish strongly, and then it’s time to hunker down for a long winter’s edit. We’ve come a long way – beginning our journey back in March – and a final shoot date has been set in early December, a few days before my birthday. That’s going to be some birthday, let me tell you.

For me, this adventure began on August 27, 2006. That’s the date of a draft email I saved about a film or a miniseries that would take place at a horror convention. In it, I’m hashing out characters in search of a story: a poorly aging starlet, a drug-addled child actor, a snobbish ingenue, a horror author widow, and even a pair of slasher fanatic newlyweds who make a plan to kill themselves on the last day of the convention. There was also a version that included a little vampire girl who fed on conventioneers in her father’s bathtub, and masked serial killers who end up stalking each other in order to claim their turf. It’s interesting to explore how far HorrorCon has come in five years, with those earliest images emerging from a black and white fog like monster films from the 50s.

And yet, rewrites continue to happen. Among them, the very first scene of the film – the very first image – has been drastically changed in order to fit it into our time schedule. I’m being truthful when I say I believe the scene is stronger and more memorable, and I’m looking forward to shooting it this weekend. Funny, also, to think how out-of-sequence our shoots have been. It’s a credit to my actors that they’ve managed to adapt so well. It’s a credit to us all that we’ve made it this far. Just a few more days – six, in fact – and we’ll have plenty to show for our collective efforts.

This movie bears little resemblance to the original ideas from which it was adapted, which makes me wonder if the story has grown or simply shifted focus. I can say that I’ve never lost faith in the story as it stands. I believe in what it’s become, and that’s where my energy comes from, flitting from finger to finger across the spiraling, hypnotic universe that is HorrorCon.

Date: November 19-20
Place:
Crowne Plaza, Cherry Hill, NJ.
Call Time: 11 am

See you, there.

The Universe Zigs…

October 19th, 2011

…HorrorCon zags! Goodness, did we have to jump through some hoops to get footage these past two weekends. In no particular order, we were forced to deal with:

Sudden Flocks of Geese
Ill-timed Wind Gusts
Impromptu Wedding Bands
Traveling Swim Teams
Eighteen School Buses
Testy Department of Engineering Heads
Tippy Tappy Renovators
Mid-Afternoon Fire Drills
Intermittent Crotch Rockets
Continuous Airplanes
Shouty Rugby Players
Endlessly Blowing Leaves
Surprise Alarm Clocks
Schizophrenic LED Panels
Powerless Elevators

…and a steady supply of Crowne Plaza Staff Communication Breakdowns. All in all, it cost us approximately three-and-a-half scenes that we won’t be able to recover along with our remaining scenes until early December thanks to some last-minute scheduling conflicts. Do I need to get drunk for the entire month of November? Yes, yes I do.

BUT…despite all of our setbacks, we still do manage to go forward. And I must say, we’re starting to look like we know what we’re doing. The stuff somehow gets better and stays consistent with what we’ve shot since March. The talent is, well, very talented, come to find, and all hands are most definitely on deck. We’re in the fourth quarter and guarding a slender lead. All we need now is to keep focused and tough it out. If suffering the consequences of immense gravity is an indication that we’re destined to make a planet-sized impact, bring on the stupid geese, I say.

Noteworthy amongst our accomplishments was the “band scene” this Sunday past. The venue was astonishingly ideal, The Young Werewolves suave and scintillating in equal measure, and the extras…well, let’s just say I was blown away. About 35-40 of our movie’s closest friends showed up looking fearfully fabulous, and boy did they bring it. We had sexpots, sickos, Superbads and, of course, our always dependable Boardwalk Brawlers. In fact, there was one moment where I afforded myself a few seconds to take it all in.

For the most part, the sight of me during a shoot is one of scowling concentration and furious intensity. There are just so many decisions to be made at once and I’m always trying to think ahead and keep the ship sailing with maximum efficiency. Not only is it a financial issue, it’s a momentum and energy issue, as well. Trade-offs are nonstop, and every second wasted could mean heavy regrets later. Yet, there I was, squatting on the side of the stage ready to restart the music after TYW’s I Can’t Resist ran its course for the tenth time, and it hit me: the enormity of the miracle that was the fantasy before me. Lights were spinning, the band was giving it large for the cameras, and the crowd in front of them were so freaking into it, it was untrue. If every rodeo is like this, get my ass on a bull.

All in all, we stall and crawl, yet we get back up and grab the ball. We’re going to get there, people. And I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that when all is said and done, there will be plenty of taking-in to write about. Oh, yes.

Thank you Team HC, from the cast to the crew to the good people who made Sunday the 16th so special. You are all absolute stars.

As always, Mark Zuckerberg has some stills to share with you.

Sunday Bloody Sunday…

September 27th, 2011

…the sixteenth of October, @ Merighi’s Savoy Inn in Vineland, NJ – friends near and far are invited to participate in an afternoon of horror movie-making magic. I am very pleased to announce that Philly psychobilly legends, The Young Werewolves, will be performing for our cameras, and we could use a few dozen, rabid fans to cheer them on.

There are two scenes to be shot, and as they take place on a Saturday night at a horror convention, appropriate attire is encouraged: zombie get-ups, Goth gods and goddesses, fringe freaks, and black, black, black. This is not a masquerade party, but a horror party. So no cute costumes depicting the Kardashian sisters or anything (although, they can be frightening), but generally creepy is okay.

Also, we can’t have “costumes” or masks that involve recognizable horror characters like Michael Myers or Charlie Sheen due to licensing issues. Keep it generic, if you’re inclined. If you just want to show up in your comfiest duds, that’s fine, too. You would barely know most horror fanatics if you ran into them on the street, which when you think about it, is even scarier.

Shooting films can be fun and most count being involved as a great experience. For those who haven’t done it, it’s important to know that there are lots of times when you’re standing around doing nothing. In fact, most of you will only be required to chat at a reasonably low level and look like you’re enjoying yourself. Others will be asked to cheer for the same thing over and over again as if each time is the first time you’re seeing it. Some of you will be instructed to move this way and that, reacting to something that isn’t there. Sounds like a normal day at work, you say? Excellent.

We can’t promise that your snippet of acting genius will find its way into the final cut. Nor can we pay you outside of some bottled water and high fives. What we can promise is that those in attendance will be part of a first class, professional film production with a handful of talented actors and a killer band. Not bad for an October Sunday afternoon.

We’re still finalizing times, but we hope to begin setting up around 12:00pm, shooting at 2pm, and carrying on until around 7pm (NFL updates available upon request). So, if you’re interested, contact us here in the comments section or on our HorrorCon Facebook Page so that we can get some idea of how many to expect.

Howla back, yo.

– Scott