Hey everyone, some positive news, VHS Massacre Too wins Best Documentary at the Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival! I had the honor of giving an acceptance speech below. I also posted a new podcast episode about controversial films including a discussion on the films Cannibal Holocaust and Green Inferno. My hope with VHS Massacre Radio is to concentrate on the stories behind controversial movies in a 20 minute segment with perhaps a guest here and there. In film festival news the major award competition we are currently entered into is the Telly Awards! We should find out how did next month. We are also currently nominated for Best Documentary at the Bare Bones international Film Festival! You can vote for you favorite trailer here actually!
So it’s been a hot minute since my last update. Adjusting to what is the new normal. What is inspiring is that people do carry on, people figure out ways to make things work, whether that is working from home, taking online classes or creating media.
So I’m continuing on with my MFA as CUNY has converted all it’s classes to remote learning and I’m working from home during the day. I was in a pretty sweet spot a few months back, I had gotten into about ten or so film festivals (with VHS Massacre Too) and it seemed like this was going to be different, like after the success of the first VHS Massacre (FilmRise and Troma) things were on track to be more successful but suddenly things started getting cancelled left and right. This is nothing new for me. Sometime around 2008-2009 after the economy cratered, my life and career was essentially erased and it took about a decade to cover. I think things will be different this time. Because although some film festivals just cancelled film festivals or delayed them indefinitely, other film festivals decided to figure out a way to make things work. Bare Bones International may convert to an online Awards Show, Miami International Science fiction film festival with do a virtual showcase and awards show and the Accolade Film festival after just a few days delayed posted their winners!
So some very cool things have happened since my last update. My new documentary feature VHS Massacre Too has made some progress in the film festival circuit. I’ll have exact dates soon but the film will play at the Horror Hound Weekend in March 20-22nd, Bare Bones Film Festival in Muskogee OK, April 2nd-3rd, the Miami International Film Festival (TBA). Also last week I was notified that the film was a semi-finalist at the L.A. Independent Film Festival Awards (more info next month). To date the film has won 5 awards. We are still waiting to hear back from about 20 other film festivals. I think a good goal would be have the film play in 10 cities.
On a side note HorrorHound was one of the three horror magazines (including Fangoria and Rue Morgue) that I read growing up so it was really great to be included in their convention and festival screening! At the end of the day for most American low-budget features, film festivals serve as our theatrical run. This has sort of taken the place of four-walling, when you’d bring your film to one city, promote the local screening and then move to the next city. To some degree the math doesn’t work on four-walling anymore, advertising is expensive and film attendance is down. I think Kevin Smith can pull it off with his special events but its harder if you aren’t already famous. So film festivals are a way you can get your movie played on the big screen. There is risk of course. You have to shell out some money.
A good scenario would be to get accepted to a third of the festivals you enter, so it’s not sure bet by any standard. Certain festivals like Sundance take 14,000 submissions a year and probably only play a few hundred films. So it may be smarter to avoid “bankrolling” certain festivals that play mostly studio releases. In the next few months the results of World-fest Houston the, Webby Awards and the Telly Awards will be in and I’m hoping VHS Massacre Too will do well. I did end up entering Austin Film festival. It’s one of the Top festivals in the world. I can’t seem to totally extinguish this desire to “buy a lottery ticket” if you will. But I couldn’t enter Sundance and Slamdance one more time, I actually felt ill when considering giving my money to those studio film festivals. Dreams shift as you get older. Artists need to create their work to feel normal or navigate the world and all its challenges. So I know I need to keep creating but I also want to get the work seen. That’s my goal these days, complete solid work, offer it to an audience and move on to the next thing.
I watched the Dead Next Door (1989) recently a film directed by J.R. Bookwalter, funded by Sam Raimi and features the voices of Bruce Campbell in the film. The Blu-ray is amazing. My super-wife got it for me for Christmas! The film was shot on Super-8 and was cleaned up to a point where is looks pretty awesome. J.R. is featured in my new documentary and it was a pleasure watching this film. What can I say? It’s a cool zombie flick made in an era that just makes it irresistible. I mean come on, an 80’s zombie flick, it’s worth checking out just for that.
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.
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
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.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.
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.
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.