Low Budget Doesn’t Have To Mean “Crap”

First off, I have been a bad blogger. I haven’t posted on here in a while. For that I am truly sorry. I could blame the holidays or just life getting in the way…whatever it is I promise to get better about posting in the near future.

Now, on to the subject at hand. Seeing that I review movies on a regular basis, both on here (well, not lately) and on The Gorram Nerd Hour, I see a lot of crap. But does low budget/straight to video/shot on video mean we have to settle for crap? No. Brian and I spend a lot of time on what we write. It’s the only way to be sure our stuff is actually good enough to shoot. Sure, we want to include blood and gore. That’s gonna sell your straight to DVD movie faster than anything else…well, except for boobs. The trick is to do it in a way that works. 

Recently we had to watch some movies for The Gorram Nerd Hour that were amateur efforts. I’m not going to say they were bad. I didn’t think so anyway. What I will say is that had they taken just a little more time on the script the movies would have turned out a lot better. 

Recently we finished our first short film, Lepus, and we have heard nothing but good things from everyone involved in the post-production process. It’s going to be included on a DVD of shorts directed by Walter Reuther aka Scarlet Fry. He told me that he thinks Lepus is the best short on the DVD. Why? Because we didn’t just rest on idea of blood and guts. We wrote a fifteen page script with a three act structure, interesting characters, cool gags, odd humor and lots of blood and guts. I also wanted to make the short look good. We took our time to get the camera angles needed to make it look more dynamic. We tried to find actors we knew would fit the parts. Even the actors who were friends and family were only chosen if we knew they could do it. We had a lot of really talented people we didn’t cast after the open casting session, people I want to work with in the future. They just weren’t right for the roles. That’s why we got great performances. We chose right. 

Enough about my project. Back to my point. If you choose well, write well, shoot coverage, and don’t rest the camera in one spot a la Kevin Smith you can make a movie that looks good…even on video. And for the love of God don’t include the tickle monster as your killer! 


Lepus Is Part Of Scream Machine!

Alrighty folks, from the start it has been talked about that we would be a part of something once Lepus was finished shooting. Well, as it turns out that something is a feature called Scream Machine. The other shorts were all done by former horror host Scarlet Fry. He and our DP David Sabal had worked together on all the other shorts. They were looking to add another one to the line-up before they put this baby to bed. Because Brian Smith and I are friends with David and happened to show him a script right around the same time he jumped at it and off we went. 

I don’t know how we got so lucky to be able to get distribution on our first short film but it happened. We also got incredibly lucky with our cast. It’s been amazing how things went for us. Just a few months ago Brian and I were feeling dejected because nobody even wanted to read our feature script, “Welcome To Deadsville”. Now, Tyler Gallant wants to star as the lead in it. He wants to make the proposed sequels to “Lepus” and he wants Brian and me to collaborate on a feature he and Kat Garcia came up with. And, about a month ago, I was talking to Bill Oberst Jr. about “Welcome To Deadsville” and he wants us to keep him in mind when we are ready to shoot. I would love for him to play the Phil character. Things are looking good. 

We still have a couple pick up shots to do. The biggest thing is just making sure my sister’s death scene is sufficiently gory. Unfortunately we have to wait about a week or so for David to get back from Boston to shoot it. There are a bunch of photos from the last night of shooting up at our Facebook page. There are a lot of great shots of Victoria Paege dressed like a sexy nurse before, during and after she gets all bloodied up and bruised. Also, you can check out the iMDb page. It’s still not complete yet. There are a few fixes to be made. First, I am listed as an actor in it but when you click on my name it goes to some kid in Texas. Not me. Second, Brian’s credit somehow got attached to a different Brian E. Smith. Third, my director credit isn’t up yet. Otherwise everything else is there. Go check it out, “like” it, and come to Phoenix Comicon for the premiere!

Shooting Lepus: Day Four

Well, we did it. We wrapped our ambitious little short film at about 2:30 this morning. It was our biggest day on set. We had multiple cast members and several extras, each with their own timetables we had to consider.

We were going to try and start with my nephew first and get the shot out of the way so we didn’t have to have an eight year old on set all night watching people die. The problem was his scenes were with a woman playing a sexy nurse. We had trouble finding a person for the role. At the last minute we had Victoria Paege come in. We had to wait for her to finish with hair and make up so we tried to shoot as much around her as we could.

Our first shot of the night was Kat Garcia and Kelsee Benson arriving at the Halloween party with a moment of dialogue. We had a Vulcan and a husband and wife pair of Mandalorian Mercs playing Twister. We had Kat in a chicken costume walking and talking with Kelsee who was dressed as sort of schoolgirl.

After that Victoria was ready. She had no dialogue. Her entire part was all about body language and she nailed it. My nephew Brennen was great as the eight year old throwing the party.

Then we were finally ready to knock out the dialogue scenes with RJ Markham, Kat, Kelsee, Tyler Gallant, and Jai Yunae. I can’t express how lucky I feel that we got the cast we did. Every single person did such an amazing job.

I have already talked about Tyler and Kelsee quite a bit in previous posts so I want to take a moment and talk about some of the supporting cast. Jai Yunae was fantastic as the lovelorn woman who desperately seeks the approval of Sheriff Cristos. She took just a few weird pieces of dialogue and turned them into something Brian and I didn’t even see when we wrote it. It took a long time before we got around to shooting her scenes last night so she took decided to become our unofficial still photographer. The pictures she took we incredible. She stuck around late even though she had an 8am call time for another short she was starting immediately after this one, also co-starring Tyler.

RJ Markham was another great find for us. He came in for the day to play Farmer. He not only shot all of his scenes but then stuck around to help is clean up all the blood and guts afterwards. He was a real trooper. And his performance was great. We had a lot of fun having him on set.

I know I have talked a bit about Kat Garcia already but I have to say how amazed I was with her last night. She didn’t want me to know, and I didn’t find out until a half hour after we wrapped, but she had a really bad ear infection during her scenes and was in terrible pain. She soldiered through and you would never be able to tell when watching her performance.

She wasn’t the only sick one on the set last night. David Sabal, our DP and producer, was also sick all night but never once complained. He just did his job and stayed to help clean after. I can’t thank him enough for the work he put into our little baby.

Last, I want to talk about the most awkward part of the night. There is a scene in Lepus where a woman gets killed by having a vibrator jammed into her mouth and out the back of her head. Before we knew we going to have a shot at professional actors we planned on Lepus being nothing but friends and family. Well, the first person we asked to play this role accepted, much to my surprise. My sister said yes to doing it. The reality really sunk in when Cherith was sitting there last night with vibrator in hand and Brian was about to shove it into her mouth. No matter what direction was given it just sounded dirty and wrong. Example – “We’re gonna a couple takes, Cherith. I’m gonna have Brian put it in and pull it out a few times. When he puts it in I want you to look terrified. How’s your gag reflex? Can it go any deeper?” Oh, the joys of being a director shooting a scene where your sister has to put a vibrator in her mouth. What was I thinking when writing the scene? What was I thinking asking my sister to do play this part?

I also wrote a scene for my nephew Brennen where he’s supposed to walk out of a bedroom with a sexy nurse two to three times his age and smack her on the butt and say “thanks babe”. That was awkward. The entire cast and family was sitting there watching as we shot the scene too. Brennen did a great job but he was so nervous about smacking Victoria on the butt. We told him he didn’t have to if he was uncomfortable. We found out after a few takes he was grabbing it. We never knew.

I can’t believe we got away with it. I want to thank everyone involved. Kelsee did great for this being her first time. So did her brothers and sister. All the extras that came out last night were so good. A special thanks to Justin Blair for taking direction so well, dressing like a Vulcan and knocking his one line out of the park.

We are going to have some pictures up on our page soon. Go here and you will see them soon.

Shooting Lepus: Day Three

Day three of Lepus was a very short day. We had just a few shots to get. There was a scene with the two sisters, Kelsee and Sierra Benson we couldn’t get to on day two. Then we headed over to Cherith Pruitt’s house to do a quick shot of her sleeping restlessly as she has a psychic vision.

We kept day three light because we thought we would not have Tyler Gallant or Kat Garcia available. They thought they may have been on a shoot for a major motion picture for Warner Brothers. It turns out the scene got cut and they would have been available to us all day. It did afford us time to record the latest episode of The Gorram Nerd Hour with Tyler as a special guest. So it all worked out.

Day four, our final official shoot date, is going to be a big one. We have nearly the entire cast, several extras and multiple kills to get through. It’s gonna be a long bloody night. I can’t wait to get started.

Lepus Shoots In Three Days

I have to admit that I am dreaming out a little about shooting my first short film. Around the beginning of September I went through a brief bout of anxiety but it passed quickly. Then I was completely zen about the whole thing. Well that fear has reared its ugly head once again now that there’s only a couple days to go before we start.

I’ve been doing my prep work. I have been making shot lists and storyboards. We had the table read a few days ago that was a lot of fun. Overall, I am very excited. This is what I wanted after all. I suppose even the big directors get nervous before a shoot on a major motion picture. I can’t imagine that anyone feels comfortable with the prospect of shooting a $200 million feature and having it lose money. I guess if I put it like that and remember this isn’t costing us one red cent then I should just be calm and enjoy the ride.

The problem is that I am putting pressure on myself. I don’t want this to look like crap. I want a short that I can he proud of, something that is funny and weird and that people will enjoy…even if they don’t get it. If this looks like some of the shorts I have seen then what is the point in doing this at all? That’s what I’m freaking out about. It’s not the performances, it isn’t the costumes, it isn’t the gore factor. No, it’s me. I am freaking out about me. Do I really have what it takes to do this?

I know deep down that I have the knowledge. I know that my whole life has been leading to this moment. I know somewhere inside of me that I won’t fail. Bit I still have that fear. Oh well. I’ll get over it. Lepus is gonna be fun and weird and bloody, all the things it is meant to be. If it isn’t then I will blame Brian (just kidding, Brian).

LucasFilm Is Now Disney Owned?!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard the news. Disney purchased LucasFilm for a whopping $4.05 Billion. That is Billion with a B. This is a crazy bit of news. Nobody even knew it was on the market.

Disney wasted no time talking about their plans for LucasFilm. They intend on having Star Wars Episode 7 in theaters by 2015, the same time as Avengers 2, with 8 and 9 to follow shortly after. This is great news for Disney, but what does it mean for fans?

First off, Disney owns Marvel Studios and their comic book line. That means Dark Horse Comics will lose the rights as soon as their contract is up. There’s no way Disney is going to re-up that contract now. Marvel was the first company to release Star Wars comics back in the late 70’s and they will have it back again in just a couple short years.

Second, we must address what this means for the fans of the movies. Star Wars and Indiana Jones are both owned by LucasFilm. Fox and Paramount only had distribution rights. Now that Disney owns them that means we won’t have Lucas making poor decisions on how to handle these two properties. Instead we’ll have Disney making those poor decisions…maybe. The good thing is Kathleen Kennedy is staying on as the head of LucasFilm. This could go the same way as Marvel or Pixar for Disney where they are able to make their own decisions while having access to giant bags of money.

People that know me know that I hated the Star Wars prequel trilogy and didn’t really like Indiana Jones 4. With Lucas out of the picture we finally get to see other people step up to the creative plate and give us a new vision of the worlds Lucas created. We may also finally see a Star Wars television series.

After so many years of Lucas slowly losing his touch with what fans want we now get to see what may be a bold and creative new playground set in his sandbox. Overall I am excited. I still have reservations about it but that comes with the territory.

Lucas is also keeping ILM. That’s his baby, something he seems to care about more than screwing his fans with inferior product. One of my biggest complaints with the prequel trilogy was that Lucas seemed more in love with his technology than with his stories or actors. I say let him have the tech and give the other stuff to people who care about the stories.

Brian and I talked about this subject in detail on our podcast we just recorded. It will be available on Monday. And when my friend Dave and I record our Midichlorian Mayhem podcast (coming soon) we will be touching on it even more.

Don’t forget to go “like” our facebook page. There is always new stuff to talk about and we want your feedback. We also do weekly polls where you get to tell us what we review on the show. Go check it out. And while you’re there go “like” our other pages too. You can find them here and here.

The Gorram Nerd Hour News

It seems things are moving in the right direction with The Gorram Nerd Hour. Brian and I have been putting a lot of effort into promoting the show. If you haven’t listened yet you really should. After the success we had at The Rapture Horror Expo recently we decided that we would like to keep doing more podcasts from festivals and interview guests.

Up next, unless something else pops up, us the Bloody Hero film festival in February. Chris Martin, one of the festival head honchos, asked me at Rapture if we would like to be involved. I said yes, of course. We also know for sure we will be podcasting live from Phoenix Comicon in May. I am trying to work out a deal to work the International Horror and SciFi show in April as well as seeing if we can get into The Amazing Arizona Comic Con in January. I haven’t heard back from the last two yet. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime I have an old friend from high school stopping by for our next show where he will try and convince Brian and me that the Star Wars prequel trilogy didn’t suck. Then we will be doing our Halloween show where I intend to talk about John Carpenter at length.

We also were talking about trying to get press passes to and a possible interview with the lovely and talented Danielle Harris when she’s in town next month screening her directorial debut. We are certainly doing our best to put on the best show possible for you all. I hope you’re tuning in. If you haven’t seen or heard the show yet go to http://gorramnerdhour.blogspot.com and check it out. We are also available on Stitcher, iTunes, and have video stuff available on YouTube. Just type in Gorram Nerd Hour and you’ll find us. Also, please go “like” our Facebook pages http://facebook.com/TheGorramNerdHour, http://facebook.com/TheCristosSaga, and http://facebook.com/RobotVampireProductions. There’s a lot of great stuff coming. We promise not to disappoint.

Paranormal Entity

There are a lot of movies out there that capitalize on the names of others. There’s Snakes On A Train, Transmorphers, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, and a multitude of others that do it with the art on the cover box or poster. Last night I watched Paranormal Entity. It took several aspects of what people responded to in Paranormal Activity and gave them a new twist…or attempted to anyway.

The movie begins with a family who just lost their husband/father. The mom was still an emotional wreck and began talking to him as if he was still alive inviting a presence into the house. The movie was shot as a found footage film complete with hand held video cameras, cameras stationed in the bedroom, and a camera in the living room. Weird stuff begins to happen in the house.

The movie was directed by Shane Van Dyke, a man who is no stranger to making features similar to bigger ones. He directed Titanic II and A Haunting In Salem, as well as writing others like The Day The Earth Stopped and Transmorphers: Fall Of Man. It’s not that the movie was bad it just didn’t have the same eerie feel as Paranormal Activity.

When making a found footage movie it is very hit and miss. Chronicle did a great job. So did The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Even The Last Exorcism was passable. But there are too many that rely on that idea too heavily and others that just don’t know how to use it. This felt like Van Dyke just wasn’t sure enough of what he was doing. I place no fault on him as a writer. The script wasn’t bad. The acting was far above what I expected. Erin Marie Hogan and Fia Perera were good as the sister and mother. And Van Dyke was good as the brother whom we rarely see on camera as he’s the one holding it. All in all I would say it was a worthy effort but not executed to its full potential.

I’m gonna have to give 2 out of 5 stars. I’m reluctant to go so low but I don’t feel justified to go higher.

Now go follow what Brian Smith and I are doing by checking out and “liking” our Facebook pages.

http://facebook.com/RobotVampireProductions, http://facebook.com/TheCristosSaga, http://facebook.com/TheGorramNerdHour or go over to http://gorramnerdhour.blogspot.com and listen to our podcast, visit our sponsors, give feedback, or just tell us you love us. Also, don’t forget about Rapture Horror Expo next weekend at the Mesa Convention Center in downtown Mesa. We will be there along with some really big horror icons, scream queens, zombies, bands, up and comers, and many others including Paranormal Entity star Erin Marie Hogan. http://www.rapturehorrorexpo.com October 5-7.

Mending Fences

About a year ago Brian Smith and I finished writing Welcome To Deadsville. We wrote it after meeting a director that encouraged us to do it. He said that if the script was good he would direct it. After several meetings with him we realized he just didn’t understand the material. We tried to find a way to handle the situation and tell him we wanted to find someone else to direct. We were afraid he would take it personally and weren’t sure how to approach the subject. While trying to figure out a way to talk to him about it the problem just sort of went away. We harbored no ill will toward the man and we hoped he felt the same way. We all just moved on.

After a short time Brian and I discovered that he had a new film project in the works and everything was going well for him. We were focused on making our short films which we decided I would direct and Brian would produce. It all seemed to work out. In fact, we are grateful to the man for giving us motivation to get started.

Here’s how it went. I met him at Phoenix Fearcon about a 1 & 1/2 years ago. We got to talking about our mutual love of horror movies. A couple weeks later Brian and I met him for drinks and pitched him the idea for Welcome To Deadsville. He encouraged us to write. So we got the Final Draft program and hammered it out. At the same time Brian got to know a man who was working at the Phoenix Comicon and got us both in there to work in the film festival. It helped us make some new contacts. That leads us to how we found someone to help us get Lepus going. That also led to getting our podcast off the ground and getting in with Abnormal Entertainment.

It’s amazing how one chance meeting can change the course of everything. Sure, the Phoenix Comicon was a separate thing but we wouldn’t have had as much reason to do it had we not first written a script and had something worth meeting these people for.

That pretty much gets us up to speed. So now I would like to say I wish this other director the best of luck with his current project, The Fallen One, and all future endeavors. We spoke last night and agreed to cross promote each others work. You can find a Facebook page for The Fallen One with more info but I will tell you this much – Fred Williamson is in it as well as two of my Lepus cast members, Rob Edwards and Kat Garcia.

And don’t forget to go “like” http://facebook.com/RobotVampireProductions, http://facebook.com/TheCristosSaga, and http://facebook.com/TheGorramNerdHour as well as visiting Abnormal Entertainment’s Facebook page and http://abnormalentertainment.blogspot.com and http://gorramnerdhour.blogspot.com .

Alright, enough shameless self promotion for now. Thanks for your support

The Gorram Nerd Hour

Ladies and gentlemen,

Brian Smith and I have been picked up by Abnormal Entertainment to do a weekly podcast called The Gorram Nerd Hour. Each week we will be reviewing a B grade genre film from past or present. This weeks episode we reviewed the 80’s classic Night Of The Creeps starring Tom Atkins and Jason Lively. We also talk about movie and television news, comic books and whatever else comes up.

We are very happy to have been included in the Abnormal Entertainment family. They have been putting on The Atomic Fallout Society for some time now with our friends Tony and David Sabal who later added Brian into the mix. Kevin Moyers and Camm Harston have said some very kind things about our first show we did independently and decided to pick us up after that. We are very grateful.

Very soon we are starting production on our short film, Lepus, and we plan to do a show from the wrap party and have some of the cast and crew on. In the meantime Brian and I are compiling a list of B movies to watch and review. So far we know we will be reviewing Jessicka Rabid, They Live, C.H.U.D., and a few others with our own brand of snark and appreciation for the art of making enjoyable bad movies. Those who have followed this blog know I love these types of films and I am so glad we have an outlet to share it with the rest of you.

Head on over tohttp://gorramnerdhour.blogspot.com and give it a listen. Also make sure to go “like” our Facebook pages http://facebook.com/RobotVampireProductions, http://facebook.com/TheCristosSaga, and http://facebook.com/TheGorramNerdHour. We’d love to hear your feedback.