There is no progress without time and aging is part of it. I’m turning 40 and I guess that’s ok as long as I have a few irons in the fire. As the youngest of three I’ve always felt “younger”, like I didn’t know as much as my brothers or that I was constantly behind. 40 is a kind of standard for admitting that one is middle-aged and it’s a bit of a bummer. My birthday is on January 20th. In that past it has been associated with the presidential inauguration and even sometimes MLK day. For the past 8 years at least it was kind of cool with Obama and all that. This year for my birthday I get a bit of a shit sandwich with the inauguration on Donald Trump. My ninth film co-directed with Ken Powell is coming out on Blu-ray soon and has already been featured on Amazon Prime. The reviews have been solid and I really could not have asked for more. The film VHS Massacre: Cult films and the Decline of Physical Media bares a harsh truth, it is nearly impossible in the U.S. for a low budget indie filmmaker to make a living off the scraps of streaming revenue share. There does come a time, as an artist when you do have to dig in and improve the conditions of your day job even if it takes years. I have been lucky in that, working in a college film department has a tremendous amount of crossover with filmmaking.
Mike Aransky, Tom Seymour and Greg Kissner working for IGN.
So from here you start asking yourself what CAN I do here? In my over 20 years of filmmaking I have always found a way to make and “sell” feature films. I feel like I’m good at creating opportunities. I could get a movie done in a way professional enough to “sell” for distribution (at least contractually) and get them to market. Right now I can’t see a path forward for progress at this point but I could make another one the same way. I’ve done the corporate thing working at CBS, NBC, Fisher Price etc. I’ve worked with the famous Indie film studio Troma Entertainment and Lloyd Kaufman on several projects. It was a dream come true but it’s not something you can make a living on. Even the podcast that I host (New York Cine) with Dave Leute, Ken Powell and James Richardson was a top ten podcast for the third year in a row on Podbean but where do I go from here? Sometimes I have to ask myself, to what end?
That being said I will always make films but now I’m looking at opportunities that are ACTUALLY around me. I’ve been going back to school for about 3 years now. I finished taking two classes the Graduate Center (CUNY SPS). This means just two more classes and I’m finished with another degree, a B.A. in Media and Communication. Also I started the application process for my MFA degree. So with some luck I’ll be starting on that this year. I think about how I want people to think of me and what they would call me. A film director? A teacher? In the summer I’ll start lecturing my first class in the CUNY system. And three years from now when I finish my MFA, I could go from Lecturer to Professor in theory. This is something I’m willing to hard work for. Over the past few years this desire has been slowly growing to a point where I must do this, I must be this. I’m hoping the MFA program with take me in a new direction with my filmmaking. Sometimes in being forced to do projects you really break outside of your comfort zone. Currently I’m a tenured Senior Technician in the CUNY system and although I do teach students in the lab I’m looking forward to running my own classes. I can not help but be obsessed with titles. One thing I like about education is that if you put the time in, do the work, you get the degree. You certainly have more control over things than you do in the success of making and selling and Independent feature. As an artist, if I’m being honest, I made those films for myself and now I want to go to get my MFA for myself. I think we all have to hang in there, don’t let the election get you down, work your opportunities you have or make new ones.
There is no progress without time and aging is part of that, from a brand new baby born, to an old man’s dying breathe. I’m turning 40 and I guess that’s ok as long as I have a few irons in the fire. It also doesn’t hurt that I have an amazing Fiancee as well.
It’s been a busy few weeks. I recently got to work with my friends Mike Aransky and Greg Kissner for IGN. We covered the New York Comic Con specifically cosplay. So we had the chance to work with some IGN hosts and interview cosplayers like Yaya Han and others. I honestly am not part of that world so I had never heard of those folks. It was hard work, we’d shoot for a few hours, come back and edit and complete a piece of video and go back out to shoot more. We averaged about 3 videos a day. I’ve been doing this kind of work my whole life so I’m not sure why I was so stressed out.
I used to work for CBS and it was similar, you have to finish the editing because the news has to air that night. But I think it reminded me most of my time at Black20 and I think that’s why I was a little rattled. Those three years and cranking out comedy content, getting paid next to nothing, drinking too much coffee to keep our concentration. I just wasn’t sure I ever wanted to do that kind of work again but it was actually satisfying. It was a bit outside of my comfort zone though. I much prefer working on a feature film over the course of a few years. My latest documentary (co-directed by Ken Powell) , now available on Amazon Prime entitled VHS Massacre, seems to be doing very well. It’s about the video store era and the decline of physical media.
In any case Greg Kissner and I did some solid work at IGN equating to several million views and that feels like a victory to me. It was good to hang out with Mike Aransky with who I directed several feature films in the past including the 2001 film Everything Moves Alone which is now on VHX and YouTube and Amazon for those who want to have a watch. Mike had told me that every now and then someone at IGN brings up a few of the mashups videos that Mike, Greg and I created and Black20 and it puts a smile on my face.Watch Mantis and The Spirit I remember being particularly ridiculous.
A few people hit me up on Twitter about the Bikini Bloodbath Films. I always thought they were kinda of funny. Though this scene sort of reminds me why I don’t act that much anymore. It’s cool to know that people are still watching them. It may be thanks to Film Rise that seems to be working with our film distributor MVD to get them out. I actually discovered the Film Rise Roku Channel which has some pretty great free horror titles.
This year I want to look for a new project. A few things have been put on the back burner for now including Skate Nazi’s Must Die (A script I completed) and also working with Troma on the Tales from the Crapper Series. So I’m leaning towards finding a new documentary subject to work on. I’d like to find a real mystery to explore. Maybe something New York based. I love that Resurrect Dead Documentary. The whole film is actually available on Vimeo. Something like this could be great if I could stumble upon it.
I’ve been working with Peter George to try to develop a sequel to the 1987 cult classic Surf Nazis Must Die hopefully with Troma but it’s pretty early in the process. I finished writing the script, Skate Nazis Must Die, a sequel involving post apocalyptic skateboard gangs in New York. It might happen, it might not but it’s been fun to try to do it. So it’s in development as they say. Peter is a very cool guy that I got to Interview on my podcast New York Cine Radio last month. Even if nothing comes from it, it’s been great to pitch the idea to Lloyd Kaufman and work with Peter.
A few weeks back Ken Powell and I got to go to Troma and work with Lloyd Kaufman and John Brennan to shoot the Blu-ray Intro for VHS Massacre. It was a lot of fun. The plot of the introduction involved us traveling back in time to stop Lloyd Kaufman from re-investing in VHS Manufacturing in the late eighties. It was a nice send off to the VHS Massacre project and I’m glad to be a part of it.
VHS MASSACRE ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT AND FILM REVIEWS
We did pretty well in the festival circuit. Troma may do one last push and enter a few more festivals and awards shows, Houston Film Festival, Gotham Awards and a few others. We shall see what happens. As far as reviews we’ve done well. Ain’t it Cool called it “A Fantastic Documentary”. So far I think everyone has understood what we were going for in this doc, and that has been the most surprising to me. more reviews below!
NEW YORK CINE RADIO
On the New York Cine Radio, a podcast network that I run with my friends, James Richardson and I had the change to Interview Indie Film Guru Chris Gore, creator of Film threat Magazine and host of DVDueday on G4 TV! He’s running a Kickstarter to revive Film Threat. We talked about how you can’t review a no-budget Indie film in the same way that you review a 200 million dollars Hollywood flick. You must consider Independent film in my opinion like Minor League Baseball. You might see the best game ever in the minor league and you may see some of those players hit the big time, but you need to have different expectations because it IS more impressive to see something solid with so little resources. In any case please donate to Save Film Threat! Let’s help give Indie Filmmakers a fighting chance to get some good solid Independent media.
VHS MASSACRE FILM FESTIVAL SCREENINGS
Norwich Radical Film Festival – Rooftop Summer Series Our Wicked Lady – Manhattan Film Festival – Cinedelphia Screening – Manhattan Film Festival – Dragon Dreaming Film Festival – Miami Film Festival WINNER! – Galley 5 Screening Series
REVIEWS AND STORIES
Things Go. Monster Kill The Troma Now original series that I created is on it’s fourth episode. Troma Entertainment is working with Film Rise so our Documentary VHS Massacre is now available for free on Amazon Prime! This is a pretty good feeling, I’ve had films on Netflix and Amazon on Demand but the fact that anyone can watch it on Prime is pretty awesome.
I just finished up taking another college course. I registered for two classes in the Fall and when those are finished, I’ll only need two more course to complete a new degree. Work goes, I can’t wait to take some time off this month and do some writing, I started working on a project that could really be great but it’s too early to really talk about.
New York Cine Radio continues to expand. We’re a network at this point with shows like New York Cine, Tribbles and Trilobites and Geek Mutiny and Bit Rot. Summer is usually slow but we seem to be maintaining a decent audience at bout 25,000 listens a month, it’s down from a few years back but it’s still solid. It tough to say if any of this will ever add up to something but at the very least I’m very excited about the Amazon Prime thing.
It’s been a busy a Month. Monster Kill, an original series that I created recently launched on Troma Now which is the streaming service for Troma Studios. Troma is of course the longest running Independent Film Studio in the U.S. and I’m really happy to be working with them. So anyway, what is Monster Kill do you ask? It’s a series in the vein of Up All Night or MonsterVision in which Louanne Louanne (Played by Maggie Champagne known for her appearances on the Amy Schumer Show) and (Super Tromette) Double Dementia host a late night, horror themed TV show in which they play terrible films like Merminators from Space, Flying Snake Attack, Night of the Infomercial or Groom of Bigfoot. The shows run about to 15 minutes and they have some fun fake movie trailers and commercials spliced in. They premiered two episodes this week and a new episode will come out every two weeks after.
I had farmed out three of the films to be directed by Oswald Barrios, Troy Bernier, Erik Swain, Girard Tecson and Ken Powell. That allowed me to direct one episode, and direct all of the actual TV Show elements with Maggie and DD. The toughest part for me was re-cutting the shorts to flow properly with in the show and then edit the show as well. We are currently working on the fifth episode now and I really get a kick out of the end results.
My documentary VHS Massacre: Cult films and the Decline of Physical Media premiered on Troma Now last Month and managed to get some really great reviews. A stellar review from Ain’t it Cool News! They called it “A really fantastic documentary.” I certainly could not have predicted that. We also received a positive reviews from Cinema Crazed, Poop Culture Podcast and Zombies in My Blog. Also recently I got word that the New Haven Documentary Film Festival will be playing VHS Massacre as an Official Selection in early June, more info to come! This is great! When Ken and I created this documentary we really had no idea of what to expect from the festival circuit, typically with any of my last films Mark of the Beast, London Betty, Land of College Prophets, I’d enter about 25-35 film festivals and we’d get into about a third of those. With VHS Massacre I just couldn’t enter that many financially, so I submitted to probably about 15 and the NHDFF actually makes our 5th film festival so far. So statically I’m running about the same one out of three official selections and I usually win at least one festival. (I have always believed that getting a feature film into a festival is much harder than a short film because of the time commitment). The cool thing is that festivals that VHS got into are all new for me. So this is the first time I’ve played at any of them and some are pretty big or well respected! So I can say that completing a feature length documentary took me to a different place and working with Troma has been really fun for me. In a way a dream fulfilled.
Miami Science Fiction Film Festival (Winner Best Doc)
Cinedelphia Film Festival (Pre-fest Screening)
Manhattan Film Festival (Official Selection)
Australia’s Dragon Dreaming Film Festival (Official Selection)
New Haven Documentary Film Festival (Official Selection)
Hey Everyone! Cinedelphia will be playing our new documentary VHS Massacre this Saturday at Viva La Video at 8pm! I hope to see you all there!