About thomasedwardseymour

Considered one of the "Top 20 Contemporary Underground Filmmakers in the U.S." according to the "History of Independent Cinema" published in 2009. Has won 14 indie festival awards, has directed seven features that have been covered and reviewed everywhere from the NY Times to NPR. Thomas's online content created for Black20 studios has reached over 25,000,000 views. The video "PG 300" (Cake Town) has 9 million views just on youtube alone. Was World Champion Record Holder on Twin Galaxies for the Konami Mame Arcade game "Crime Fighers" until his record was just recently defeated. Tom is published in three books about indie filmmaking. His latest film "London Betty" narrated by Clint Howard was just bought by Maverick Entertainment. Before that his Best Selling (York Entertainment) film "The Land of College Prophets hit 193 on the imdb pro ratings in 2005 the week of it's release.

VHS Massacre Too sneak peek results!

So we had a sneak peek of VHS Massacre Too at Anthology Film Archives in New York City last week. I really didn’t know what to expect on a  freezing, Wednesday night in the East Village but I loved it. I saw a lot of friends and family, some fellow grad students and a lot of Troma fans! I even signed some autographs and Thom DeMicco and Dwayne Steeler from Troma were there. The thing about having an event is that although I was relieved that it was well attended, the press generated from the event was far greater. So as an example both Dread Central and the Horror Society both covered the event. So thousands of people are now aware of the film and that’s pretty cool! So if anyone out there has a film but is reluctant to screen it, I’d say go for it and Anthology Film Archives ,New Filmmaker New York is a great place to submit!

In other cool news the Independent Horror Awards has selected VHS Massacre Too for competition. It appears to be a competition that celebrates indie horror flicks that are off the beaten path and rebels against cookie cutter studio films. So it’s an honor.

“VHS Massacre Too” begins its festival run in 2020!

I decided to change my approach to entering film festivals with VHS Massacre Too, my tenth feature film. I’ve written off the top film festivals like Sundance, Slamdance Telluride and so on. After entering them with my other films over the last twenty years I’m simply tired of bankrolling film studio premieres with my hard earned money. In a sense I’ve donated thousands of dollars to the studio film industry. I am convinced that unless it’s a film connected to the studio system or you have major representation (and they think they can make money off you), the odds of getting in are close to zero.

So in result I’m targeting A few larger City Film festivals, Underground festivals, low-budget, exploitation film fests, and (medium sized) film awards shows and contests. I entered them over the last few weeks and I’m already getting results! You figure a followup documentary to a film about VHS and exploitation films is definitely a niche film! I made a video describing exactly which film festivals and contests I’ve entered but my intention to get as much out of my dollar in regards to official selections and wins and so far it seem like it’s going to be ok.

– Impact Docs Award – Official Selection for competition
– Filmmaker New York – Official Selection (Anthology Film Archives January 8th Premiere in NYC)
– The Indie Fest – Official Selection 
– Accolade Global Film Competition – Official Selection 

Creating your own Streaming Service

For the last few years now, people have been able to create their own independent Roku channels at a relatively low cost. As I write now I myself am experimenting with creating one through Vimeo to host some of my features and series work. This is of course nothing new. Troma Entertainment for example is always fast to jump on new technologies. Originally the Troma Now streaming service launched through VHX, but a few years back they were acquired by Vimeo.download (2)Some of my older feature films that were distributed through MVD Group would pop up on these cool Roku channels like Midnight Pulp, ZP TV, etc. but recently I found out that the 24 Hours Movie Channel will be carrying my first film Everything Moves Alone and possibly Land of College Prophets.

It is hard to say if this is any kind of gold rush because the checks I’ve gotten for being on these streaming channels are usually for 20 or 30 bucks at a time but the ability to create these channels is pretty exciting in and of itself. You can create your own channel directly through Roku and set up your own potential advertising. Plus it is actually easier to set up than you’d think. This Tutorial can walk you though how to create your own independent channel in 5 minutes. The drawback is that you are bound to the Roku company.  So your revenue can be suppressed just like on YouTube or Amazon Prime. Still it may be another way for Indie filmmakers to generate a few bucks and we have to keep exploring new media technologies.

Returning a 30 year old VHS to Troma!

Next Friday I’ll head to Troma Entertainment to return a 30 year old VHS that actually says “Return to Troma ASAP” and to speak with the B-movie king himself Lloyd Kaufman. Hopefully he will forgive the tardiness. The film was a screener copy of Killer Condom. This will for the most part, finish off VHS Massacre 2 although I might snag one of two more interviews and I still need a ton of B-role. This film I don’t believe is like the first one, more of an exploration of the challenges that B-movie filmmakers go through, be it censorship, or financial woes. Joe Bob Briggs seems to be one of the most important people celebrating these kinds of films. His drive-in academy award nominations are my favorite. Some of these fringe films and filmmakers end up being really important to the main stream. I think I can have the film close to finished by the end of the year.

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In other updates, tomorrow my short documentary entitled Artifact featuring author Jonathan Alexandratos will play at Yale University as part of the New Haven documentary Film Festival. I’ve made three of these short films some very recently, The Toy Shop was included in my first critique in the Hunter Intergraded Media Arts program earlier this month. I’m over the halfway mark and closing in on my M.F.A. it’s been challenging but I’ll be glad when it’s finished. That’s all for now.

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James Rolfe, Shawn C. Philips, JR Bookwalter join VHS Massacre 2!

I was excited to learn that James Rolfe had actually watched the first VHS Massacre and liked it but more about that later. So I’m slowly chipping away at my MFA and I’m about half way done at this point. The Hunter Intergraded Media Arts Program has been challenging but it will ultimately be rewarding. It’s been humbling being a 42 year old graduate student and it is exhausting working full time and going to school at night. I’ve gotten to learn from Academy Award winning cinematographers and NPR Radio producers. In this sense I feel like I’m starting to get the most out of Living in New York City, even if it took a decade or so to find a decent quality of life. As I prepare to be a father I wanted to have a project going to tinker with on the side the same way my father works on computers, inventions, or wood working. So at least for now that seems to be the VHS Massacre films.

The great news is that over the last month I’ve gotten some really solid interviews. James Rolfe a filmmaker known as the Angry Video Game Nerd has joined the cast of VHS Massacre 2. The views on his web-series are literally in the billions. He made his first feature a few years back and I got to hear about how that process went.

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The next person to join the film is independent film juggernaut and film reviewer Shawn C. Phillips. With over a 130 movie credits, he has carved out a solid career but also his physical media collection is really amazing! His insights into the value of exploitation films are really powerful as well!

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Lastly but certainly not least Mr. J.R. Bookwalter, that man whose first feature was funded by Sam Raimi (The Dead Next Door). He has worked on so many Full Moon classics that it will make your head spin. For instance Witch House 2,3, Curse of Puppet Master and so on! He’s had a great career and his expertise in independent film distribution is a really important in regard to this film. A few more interviews, some B-roll and I should have enough material to finished VHS Massacre 2! Hopefully toward the end of next year. With the success of the first VHS Massacre, it is my hope that I continue to work in the documentary field.

I was thinking about it and the narrative feature films I’ve done over the years, Everything Moves Alone, London Betty, Mark of the Beast were done to the best of my ability. The budgets, give or take were about 10 grand a piece and I really did try my best and push things are far as possible. They even had stars in them like Ellen Muth, Clint Howard and Daniel Von Bargen. Here’s the thing, running around with a camera over my shoulder and moving lights around for 12 hours a day is a young man’s game and that’s what it takes to make a feature length film so cheaply. With documentary you can do a couple of interview a month in your spare time and it’s a lot more manageable. So you could say I’m retiring from narrative feature length films until which time as someone funds $100,000 plus project for me. If I’m going to make another narrative I need to be able to take my time, hire the right people and do it right.

Another reason to want a higher budget is that the average viewer has changed in their expectations. The way film criticism is set up online, where people are pushed and encouraged to rate and review has really created contempt for small films because as some statistics are starting to find, angry people tweet and review more than happy people and so it’s never an accurate representation online. When a low-budget film gets trashed there is no recourse, no million dollar PR machine to counteract this through advertising. So it dies on the vine right there and it becomes difficult for that filmmaker to make another film. I grew up in a time where a low-budget feature film was considered a kind of miracle and people wanted to see what you could do for no money. Now many young adults think of content as free, and when people think something is free, they don’t always appreciate it as much. So it’s a different era.

As far as my career in documentary film it is Troma Entertainment that makes this worth doing. For filmmakers like Eli Roth, Debbie Rochon, James Gunn, Marisa Tomei, Matt Stone, Trey Parker or Sam Jackson, Troma is where you start out your career. For me although I’ve had some successes, it may be where I end up but I think I’m ok with that. Stay tuned for more news!

VHS Massacre 2 hits rough-cut phase and Cinemassacre give us praise!

“We love VHS Massacre!”

-Cinemassacre

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I spoke briefly with James Rolfe (The Angry Video Game Nerd himself) and he actually saw the first VHS Massacre and loved it! This is really cool. I’ve been watching his videos for years now. We may even be able to include some video of him in the new doc, fingers crossed!

I made a push this week to get VHS Massacre 2 into rough-cut phase. I need to get a few more interviews and I need more footage of video stores and such. It’s a bit of a mess but I needed get it to a point where I could show some folks and get some feedback.

The films examines the importance of certain exploitation films from Night of the Living Dead, to the Toxic Avenger. It seems like every year it gets harder to turn a profit making independent films so it makes sense that the ones that do make it tend to be sensational. Troma films always come to mind, they pull no punches for instance Shakespeare’s Shit-storm look to be a gross-out masterpiece. The trailer is pretty graphic so please watch at your own risk. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

VHS Massacre 2  is about how films and filmmakers have been marginalized, kept out of venues, kept from being paid what they were owed and how the system is so corrupt that we’ve nearly lost an entire generation of independent filmmakers to predatory distribution practices. Even filmmakers who had lawyers, agents and that have signed good contracts have been robbed of money owed to them by the Hollywood system. Everyone knows the film & music industry is a tricky business but we examine what we may have lost in not allowing people to move to the next level. It’s a simple argument, the system is too corrupt to be a hierarchy of competence and therefor a large amount a talent is lost because if you can’t recoup your money, it’s hard to keep making films.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, we speak with people who are still making it happen and we examine what we can do to fortify Independent films moving forward. If you have 15 minutes give listen to some of the upcoming VHS Massacre 2 discussion topics above!

 

 

VHS Massacre 2!

As the new year begins a few things are starting to fall into place. My 10th feature length film and second feature length documentary VHS Massacre 2 is coming along slowly but I’m making steady progress. I just finished a great interview with my friend Jason Carvey. He is a writer/director that cast John Krasinksi (The Office,Jack Ryan) in one of his first feature films. Carvey speaks about how certain distribution companies have really hurt independent filmmakers. Even when a film is profitable sometimes the distribution company refuses to honor their contract and pay filmmakers. I had the same situation happen to me with the film Land of College Prophets back in 2005. The film was successful but York Entertainment refused to pay us once they reached the break even point. If you can’t pay back your investors it can become difficult to raise more money again. This in a weird way works as a form of censorship though this is not necessarily the intention of a crooked distributor or the studio system. By financially starving out independent filmmakers “society will eventually lose out” to quote my friend Professor James Richardson.

This is different than banning a film from major streaming sites like in the case of Debbie Rochon’s Model Hunger. This is particularly bizarre in that I can watch films like Human Centipede 1-3 or a Lars Von Trier film on most formats but simply because Debbie has an unrated film from a smaller distributor, they lack the power and influence get it though. The third piece of this would be the outraged mobs on social media helped to get Debbie fired from her day job for playing evil nazi villains or doing nudity in films, something that even academy award winners have done like Christoph Waltz, Holly Berry or even Charlie Chaplin. With nearly 300 features under her belt Debbie Rochon might be the most prolific American Independent film star in history…and she has been treated like shit. She is a trailblazer for women in the genre and routinely tops lists of women in horror. To paraphrase her, “the judgement I get from a seemly younger generation is baffling.” Looking down on her for the roles she has taken. A bizarre twist to me that they can’t see a hero from a villain.

Exploitation films are meant to do what studio films can’t, push the envelope. Specifically in the horror genre that idea of a non-offensive nightmare seems rather toothless. After all we see horror film to be scared and shocked in a safe way. Odd that people would try to hold horror films to the same standard as a terrible network sitcom. This documentary has led me down some strange path but I think it is a good thing.

Then there was Blockbuster Video. Jason speaks how in order to get certain films into Blockbuster, films at times were heavily censored. In addition that fact that Blockbuster killed the independently owned video stores is a from of censorship because they only carried family friendly content. Exploitation films and low-budget content was to a significant degree excluded.

What I see from these three forms of censorship is problematic. What tiggers people now might not be what triggers people ten years from now. So in destroying a filmmakers career on social media, we may lose out on how we may reinterpret a film in the future or we may lose out on how that artist evolves. James speaks about how black exploitation films of the 70’s planted the seeds for Marvel Superheroes in present day. Even though the representations are imperfect and in some cases offensive we can look back and see that they are very important. If we look back at the past and cringe a bit, it is a good thing because it means that we’ve made progress. If we demonize the past by the standards of today the whole world looks evil though that lens. The problem is what we’re doing in 2019 will be demonized in five years as well but we don’t yet know how. How do you know you are the right side of history until the future bear its results. So I don’t think censorship good for a society in the long run. Take what is relevant and meaningful from the past, leave what is irrelevant where it originated, in the past. As of right now that that feels true to me. As the film unfolds I hope to learn more.