So I’ve been working on my M.F.A. for the last years at Hunter College in the Integrated Media Arts program with a documentary film concentration. It’s rigorous program 3-5 year program but I’m in the home stretch. I recently finished my thesis project, a 25 minute documentary about the King of Royalty Free music Kevin MacLeod. Given the circumstances of the world right now I think it came out well. It was able to get John Brennan from Shudder network’s The Last Drive-in to be a part of it as well as co-host Marcus Park from the Last Podcast on the Left. Troma President Lloyd Kaufman is also featured in the project.
Kevin MacLeod the focus of the film has created over 2,000 songs that anyone can use for free in their projects as long as they give him credit or pay a small one-time fee. His songs have been heard hundreds of billions of times but very few people know who he is. I’ve been using his stuff for years and for me it was important to try to bring attention to a person show has helped out a lot of independent filmmakers and content makers over the years.
So I have a few things left to do, pass my thesis defense in which I screen the film and have a discussion with my advisors and present a 20 page paper to go along with the film. I think I can be done with the paper in the next few weeks. So the question then become what to do with a short documentary. Well it just so happens that Troma is the perfect home for the short. They are the longest running independent film studio in the U.S. and it makes sense that they would have an interest in the subject matter. They might end up putting MacLeod on the VHS Massacre Too Blu-ray which is exciting!
So what’s happening with VHS Massacre Too? As of today we are finalists at the Lit International Horror Festival in North Yorkshire United Kingdom! The film has 20 film festival wins, about 27 official selections and about 10 nominations. We’re still waiting to hear from a few more festivals but it’s been an awesome trip so far and who knows what will happen moving forward! Their is no official release date for the Blu-ray yet but the film should come up in the first quarter of 2021.
Some very cool things have happened since our last update. We just won Best Documentary at San Fransisco IndieFest as part of the Another Hole in the Head screening! Our new documentary featureVHS Massacre Too has racked up 18 awards and 25 official selections total for this this film alone. We’ve screened everywhere from the Anthology Film Archives (sneak preview) in New York City, Horror Hound Weekend in Cincinnati, to Miami Sci-Fi, Kransk Film festival and more. We also just got a great write up in Pixels Garage as well!
So VHS Massacre Too continues to surprise me. To date we have won 15 awards and will play at the Kansk International film festival in Siberia, the Spirit of Independence Film Festival in England and probably a third festival in September. This week we heard that the 21st annual Bare Bones Film Festival in Muskogee Oklahoma gave us a Best Documentary and Audience choice Awards.
We’re working on the Blu-ray release of the film now. Lloyd has a tradition of doing introductions to his Blu-ray releases and to me this was always one of the best things about buying the physical media. Not only do you have permanent access to these titles but it harkens back to when auteurs would introduce films… Alfred Hitchcock presents, Quinten Tarantino presents. So I feel really honored to have Lloyd doing an intro to my film and it’s funny as hell, like always. Lloyd who was close friends with Terry Jones does a slow approach to the camera from out of the woods, and then references Monty Python’s famous line “Now for something totally different”.
Lloyd Kaufman’s latest film Shakespeare’s Shitstorm will play at the Fantasia Festival this Saturday August 29th virtually so get your tickets here! It’s cool to see the film playing at such a large film festival to launch it’s festival run! So this is great news but it is bittersweet because Troma’s YouTube channel has recently been suspended! This is very strange because the page has nearly 40 million views, close to a million subscribers and there is no clear reason as to why it has been suspended. I mean, are free B-movies so dangerous? And what can we do to fight back against film censorship? We may have to start a petition, more information soon.
Some exciting news. For those have have been curious about the VHS Massacre Too documentary release. Thom Demicco and the Troma Entertainment gang have started work on creating the the Blu-ray! Believe it or not, this was up on the air for a bit. I think everyone was unsure about just how we would all proceed during these strange circumstances but Troma is forging ahead. There is no official release date yet but I should have some more information soon. There will be some really awesome extras like the full James Rolfe (Angry Video Game Nerd) Interview in which he talks about how he independently created the Angry Video Game Nerd feature film! Also Professor James Richardson and I did the audio commentary along with some additional extras!
Festivals wins and laurels!
VHS Massacre Too recently won Best Documentary and The Audience Choice award at the Underground Indie Film Festival! I don’t think I have ever won an audience choice award before! It was a great screening and Q & A! In addition we were given a Honorable Mention Laurel from the L.A. Underground Film Forum. In total we have won eleven awards and a half a dozen other nominations, honors and selections! So far so good!
Troma Dance at the Drive-in!
Troma Dance Film Festival News! As Joe Bob Briggs says, “The Drive-in will never die!” I am excited to hear that Troma Dance will take place at the Mahoning Drive-in next month! Details here. It warms the heart to know this festival in its 20th year will take place in a physical space!
My New Short Film
MacLeod: There Can Be Only One is a short documentary I’m going to start working on about the king of royalty free music Kevin MacLeod. He may be the most listened to musician in history, I guess that’s what happens when you write 2,000 songs and let the internet, films, games, podcasts and apps use them for free! More news to come but listen to the newest VHS Massacre Radio show to learn more about this project!
So some of you know that I’ve been on an eight year journey in my college education. I had two A.S. degrees for the longest time. So it took me three and a half years to obtain an B.A. in Media and Communication from the CUNY School of Professional Studies. I then started at Hunter College in NYC to study film production in the Intergraded Media Arts program. So I’m still going. I have a class that starts up in a few weeks. I’ll be learning about grant writing for film. I’ve also completed a course in teaching online through Blackboard software and although I’ve been using it for years it is a step forward to be formally educated in using it. This could help me down the road if I decide to pursue online teaching more often. With luck I should have my M.F.A. degree completed by by Christmas.
I was notified that there is an excellent review in HorrorHound Magazine of VHS Massacre Too. It has been nearly a decade since I’ve been featured in a major horror magazine so it was very meaningful to me and they actually liked it! Order a copy today! Here is a quote!
“VHS Massacre Too is Infused with nostalgia, humor and passion… without a doubt worth watching!”
-Jay Kay, HorrorHound
This week I’m happy to report that VHS Massacre Too has won two awards including Best Documentary and Best Low-budget Project at the the 41st Annual Telly Awards. This makes 9 wins and 11 selections. We are also entered in 20 other film festivals including a screening at Horrorcon UK in late September but we will screen at the Underground Indie Film Festival virtually on Saturday June 13th. As more information comes in I’ll be sure to update everyone. There is no release date yet for VHS Massacre Too. Troma Entertainment has informed me that they are looking at a summer release and I’ll be sure to post updates as they come!
On a personal note I finished another semester at Hunter College in the Intergraded Media Arts program which means I am now “in thesis”. With some luck I’ll have my M.F.A. by Christmas. I’ll spare you the details of how crazy things have been but I was proud to barrel through the semester under the circumstances. I made a few videos including a little news package on my wife and how she’s helping New York restaurants and companies promote delivery services during the epidemic. Also I posted a lecture on how to use symbolism and metaphor within cinema. My thesis project will be on the King of Royalty Free Music Kevin MacLeod! You’ve heard his music a dozen times and you didn’t even realize. In any case it should be a fun project. Drop me a line if Kevin has been a big influence on you!
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!
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.