Here We Are Again


It’s been an awfully long time since I used this blog. It’s not because I was deliberately neglecting it. There have been many reasons. First of which was all the things I have been doing. Back in November I embarked on directing my second short film, Terrestrial, starring Bill Oberst Jr. and a few faces from Lepus. The shoot was quite an ordeal. I had such a bad migraine on day one that I began vomiting that morning. The next few days were smooth. Since we shot it there have been some stumbling blocks. The editor’s mom fell ill causing the first pause in completion. Then we started shooting an ill conceived improv web series and put Terrestrial on the back burner yet again. I stepped away from the series after two very stressful shoots. By that time I had accepted the position of Film Festival Coordinator for Phoenix Comicon and it consumed a lot of my time. In what little downtime I had between work and an con duties I was the subject of a short documentary about fathers and sons. It was a very cathartic thing for my father and me. All the while I have been working on writing scripts for a sitcom based loosely on my family and a horror film about demons. The latter is going to be a big collaborative effort between myself and some old and new friends. I’m very excited about it.

So let’s get to talking about each thing individually. First Terrestrial. I have talked about the movie briefly on here before. Bill was fantastic. The rest of the cast was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to make this with. Everyone was awesome. Bill’s performance was at times childlike, murderous and evil, funny and creepy. It’s got sides of his talent rarely seen on screen. We will be getting back to finishing this up very soon. I’m excited to get people to see it. As for the rest of the cast what can I say? Willman Vergara Jr. was someone I wanted to work with on Lepus but couldn’t find a good spot for. I’m so glad we found a place for him on this one. Randy Robinson and RJ Markham, who were both in Lepus, came back for more twisted fun and did a wonderful job. Everyone was very well prepared and kept us moving ahead of schedule. They were on point with their characters and delightfully funny.

As for the next bit. It’s a sore subject and I really don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or offend when I speak of it. It was a web series about ghost hunting called Specter Quest. The reason I say it was ill conceived is because we all seemed to have different ideas of what it should be and how to get there we didn’t stick to the plan I laid out. They have decided to continue on without me. And I wish them the best of luck with it.

Phoenix Comicon was a great experience this year. It was my first year as Film Festival Coordinator and it couldn’t have gone better if I actually knew what I was doing. The film selections were better than ever this year. We even had the chance to screen a little seen movie called Moontrap from the 80’s starring Bruce Campbell and Walter Koenig. Campbell was kind enough to come up to the film festival unannounced and do a little introduction to the film, much to the delight of the audience…and the staff. We had some standout movies and shorts this year. Jessica Cameron sent me her directorial debut, Truth Or Dare, to screen at the con. It’s a shame she and the cast and crew couldn’t be there. We had something happen I had never seen with my own eyes before. Two grown men came out of the screening room looking weak and pale. Both nearly threw up at what they had seen. It was incredible. I met some very talented and great people this year working at the con. I have been volunteering for years but this is the first time having this level of responsibility. I can’t wait for next year.

I was anxious to work on another movie. I have wanted to experience what it’s like to work on a documentary so I responded to an ad. I met the director for dinner. We got to talking and he wanted to make something about fathers and sons and estrangement. My father and I have had some serious ups and downs over the years. There were years at a time I refused to talk to him. Other times he was so messed up on drugs he was stealing my belongings and selling them for drug money. He even tried to convince a Mexican former boxer that I was calling him “spick” and “wetback” behind his back just to get this boxer to beat me up. My dad has been sober for more than four years now and was recently married to a great woman. I was his best man. We’ve worked out most of our issues. I asked my dad if he’d be a part of this documentary and he immediately agreed. In fact, he almost started crying before I could even tell him fully what it was all about. He hasn’t seen it yet but I am very proud of it. It was not my project. It belongs to a new friend. I am excited to continue it on. He wants to stretch it into a feature at some point and add in new subjects.

Finally, without giving too much away, I want to talk about a new movie I’m working on right now. We have a title. We have the story. We all just need to sit down and put it into proper screenplay format. I will say this – it’s about demons. It’s technically an anthology film but more in the vein of Pulp Fiction or The Signal. Each story carries over characters from previous shorts and they are all connected into one large story. I will only be directing one or two parts. The others are being done by some other new friends, one I met through Phoenix Comicon. He had a great eye when it came to making something visually striking with very little. The short I want him to do may actually be a silent film with a healthy dose of violence, kidnapping and maybe a little sex. Each story deals with a different kind of demon. We have stories ranging from half demon babies to a man everyone believes to be schizophrenic to a crossroads demon story. We’re really looking forward to our first script meeting in a few short days.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll be back soon. I kinda promise.

 

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Yet Another Production Update


I know I post a lot on here about this stuff. But it’s my blog. I can do what I want. If you don’t like it then start your own blog and make fun of me for all I care. I have a thick skin. I can take it. Just try to be clever. I don’t want a bunch of gay jokes and “your mama” jokes. They’re tired and make feel like I’m still in high school. And, for the record, I hated those kind of jokes even then. In fact, I actually kinda hated high school. Not to get too off topic here but I thought people would be different as adults. Instead I just see the same kind of stupid people with more grey hair.

Anyway, back to what I actually set out to write. Today something hit the net that was a bit of a surprise to me. There is a trailer for Scream Machine, the DVD anthology that Lepus is a part of. It showed up today on YouTube. I linked it to our official Facebook page.

As far as the rest of what I wanted to mention I was giving something some thought. Lepus was a fifteen minute short that is the first of a proposed trilogy. But what if it was just one long movie instead? Could it be stretched? I think so. Add in a few more characters and have A and B stories running simultaneously and the movie could be stretched to 80 minutes. Lepus cost us roughly $1000 and we could still keep the feature at around $100,000 or there about. I’m trying to decide if it should be lengthened or sequelized.

If I was to stretch the feature I could add in the characters we came up with for the sequels, bring in the ideas we started developing for the mythology of the characters, and make it a weird and funny movie. It seems like the type of film that would fit perfectly into the Troma family. It’s worth trying. I think I will try. The money could be raised through Kickstarter or IndieGoGo easily enough, especially since we have a short film to try and sell it already. The actors would all come back for the feature. That much I’m sure of. I’m gonna give writing the script a try. I have nothing to lose by doing so.

Wish me luck.

1st Round Of Auditions Are Done For Terrestrial


Another day of auditions completed. We found most of our core cast and they were amazing. The tone for this one is much different and darker than what we did with “Lepus” and the people auditioning just got it. How we’ve been so blessed with the people we’ve had the chance to work with is beyond me. We got really lucky with the “Lepus” cast and many of them came in for the audition tonight and proved they can go beyond playing the broad goofiness to playing darker comedy. 

If you would have asked me a year ago where we’d be right now I would not have expected this. Brian and I were sitting around wondering if our feature script for “Welcome To Deadsville” could even get sold. We didn’t have connections. We had no experience. So we wrote a couple of shorts for me to direct. “Lepus” was picked up for distribution before it was even shot and now we’re making “Terrestrial”. This will show a different style in writing for the both of us and directing for me. 

We had three people who worked on “Lepus” come in to audition for us tonight. Each one of them brought their own special magic to what we wrote. We also had some others whom we want to work with but couldn’t find a good fit for last time around come in. Then there were the new guys. All of them did wonderfully. They are going to make my job very hard. We had about eight people come out for three roles. We didn’t ask too many people as we didn’t want to feel as though we were rejecting very many. I think we found exactly what we need from certain people. I need to review the audition tapes before final decisions are made but I am very happy with everyone I think we may cast. 

Now we get down to real fun – finding locations, working out actor’s schedules, props and transportation. 

A Quick Terrestrial Update


Later tonight we will be holding an open casting call for our next short film entitled Terrestrial. We are really looking forward to it. Several of our actors for Lepus have asked to audition for us again. I guess they enjoyed their time working with us the last time around.

The story is about a man who has lost everything in his life – how wife and kids have left, he’s been fired from his job. He doesn’t even have any furniture left. This is all due to the belief that there is an alien living in his closet. He attends a support group for alien abductees and they laugh him out of the room. It is then that the alien in the closet begins to tell him to kill.

Everyone that has read the script says that it is unique and darkly funny. I just hope we can find the right people to do the script justice. We will find out tonight.

Thoughts Of Past And Future


Here we are, just a few short months after I started this blog, and we have one short film nearly ready to show, another starting next month and The Gorram Nerd Hour has recorded nearly 20 episodes. All of that in just a few short months. When I started this blog I was talking about the features Brian Smith and I have been writing. We got detoured…but for good reason. We needed something to showcase our talent. We were a little arrogant to think that two writers with no credits to their names could get someone to give them money to produce and direct a movie of their own. Now we’ll have two things to show.

Since I was a boy I have loved movies. I would sit and watch an action movie like any little would. I loved Commando, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. I also had an affection for every other type of film. I didn’t care. If someone made I wanted to see it. Science Fiction, Horror, Romantic Comedy, Sappy Melodrama, Musicals. I just loved movies. What I took away from all of that was that it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to make movies of my own. At first I thought I wanted to be an actor until I took a drama class in High School and my teacher had me direct something for the first time. That’s when my passion made itself crystal clear. I loved the behind the scenes aspect of things. 

I always enjoyed writing. It has been a passion of mine for as long as I remember. What I wrote was always weird. I would go off and write a sequel to Romeo & Juliet in iambic pentameter or a western about aliens hiding among the townsfolk and planning on destroying the town with radioactive lima beans. So when Brian and I sat down to write Lepus I suggested we write the whole thing in Klingon save for the killer’s one line which would be in German. 

Sometimes I need to be reigned in.

We decided not to go with Klingon. But we kept Brian’s line in German. There is not one good reason for it other than it made us laugh. Lepus is a comedy, after all. We started off goofy with our next short film and decided to go darker once we started writing. Terrestrial will be a different side of our writing. It’s tone is more serious while still being quirky. 

As I write this we are only a couple days away from the open casting call for Terrestrial. I couldn’t be more excited about who we have coming in to read. a couple of our Lepus cast members are coming in for it – Jai Yunae and Randy Robinson. I loved working with them on Lepus. I can’t wait to see what they bring to this audition. We also have some other really talented people we didn’t cast for Lepus coming in for another go. Wilman Vergara II was someone I was really impressed with and just couldn’t find a good place to put him last time. This time he’s coming in to read for the lead in Terrestrial and I think he’s got a great shot at it. Adam Boggs is another up and comer I really liked and he’s coming in to read for us again. I was impressed with both of them so much. I’m glad they want to come in and try for this one. 

We’re still not at a point where we’ve been able to pay anyone for their work. It’s all just copy and credit basically. I’m amazed by the talent that has been willing to work with us for nothing. Hopefully by the time we get started on the next two parts of Lepus we have a budget…something to pay these amazing people for their time. 

Back to Lepus for a moment – The rough cut I saw a while back is good. I was really happy with how it turned out. It was a very rough cut with no score, no effects, no foley. But it was great, great enough for Walter Reuther (aka Scarlet Fry) to tell me it was his favorite in the anthology horror DVD we will be included on. And he directed all the other shorts. 

David Sabal, our wonderful renaissance man (DP, producer, editor) just got the score back from the composer. I asked for something similar to a score from the 80’s scifi and horror movies I loved so much. I wanted something like an old John Carpenter score. From what I hear the composer delivered. Hopefully I will hear it in the next few days. 

Now on to The Gorram Nerd Hour. We have been having a lot of fun recording our show every week. Brian and I love working on it. We are talking about re-tooling the show a little. The first twenty or so weeks have been about finding out what works and what doesn’t. We’re gonna be trying a few new things in upcoming episodes that could prove to be a lot of fun. We are also going to be spending the weekend of February 8-10th at the Bloody Hero International Film Festival at the Phoenix Convention Center. We will be recording our podcast, conducting interviews and serving on the jury. This is a big deal for us. I know I’m really excited about it. We may have another fun surprise for our listeners that weekend too. This will be a part of the re-tool of the show. Let us know what you think.

One last thing before I wrap this up. We had a friend from our Abnormal Entertainment family in town last weekend. Camm Harston, co-host of Raise Your Spirits with Camm and Kevin. While he was here Brian and I both guested on their show. We had a lot of fun and everyone should go listen.

Here;s hoping 2013 proves even better for Robot Vampire Productions than 2012. We’re already off to a great start.

 

My Top 10 Genre Movies Of 2012


I’m going to start off by saying that “genre” in this case is anything from superhero to science fiction to horror. So you will see a mix of them all on the list. You will hear this list on The Gorram Nerd Hour where Brian and I discuss it. Next week I will be giving you my bottom 10. But, for now, here we go – 

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10) The Dark Knight Rises – Batman Begins was the greatest Batman origin story put on film. The Dark Knight was a great movie with a lot of suspense and an amazing performance by Heath Ledger. The Dark Knight Rises had Bane, Catwoman, Talia Al Goul, a reluctant Batman and no sense of dread…even when the city was being held hostage. But it still managed to be a very good movie. Not the best of the trilogy but a fitting end to the Christopher Nolan era of Batman.

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9) The Avengers – Joss Whedon did what was nearly impossible. He took all the established Marvel characters from previous movies that Marvel owns the rights to and gave them the chance to shine individually and as a team. The movie itself is both funny and exciting. It’s not the greatest thing Whedon has ever directed. That honor goes to the pilot episode of Firefly. But the man did what few people could ever hope to do in bringing The Avengers to life.

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8) Chronicle – Josh Trank and Max Landis deserve a lot of credit. Found footage movies are Hollywood’s answer to low budget filmmaking anymore. And they tend to be made by low rent directors who wouldn’t know how to tell a traditional story. Not true with these guys. The made a found footage movie with a twist. This was like watching a polished film but still kept the grittiness of the found footage sub-genre. The script by Landis was great. Trank’s directing was spot on. It was a wonderful debut film from some talented guys who I hope won’t disappoint in the future.

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7) Silent House – Yes, I admit that the film was very predictable. But I saw the film more as Elizabeth Olson’s journey than the outcome. And what a performance she gave. The movie solid from beginning to end anchored by a powerhouse performance.

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6) Dredd – I remember seeing the awful Stallone movie based on this character back in the 90’s. When I heard they were rebooting it with Karl Urban I was pleased. Then I found out it was being directed by Pete Travis and written by Alex Garland and I went from pleased to excited. The character stuck closer to the comics while the story itself deviated. Urban’s performance was amazing. That man deserves more love from the geek community. Between Chronicles Of Riddick, Star Trek and Dredd the man is a champion of geek cinema. 

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5) Prometheus – If I didn’t lose you by putting TDKR and The Avengers so low on the list this one will probably make you think I’ve lost it. I’m sorry but I love Prometheus. It’s smart movie making. Ridley Scott and Damon Lindeloff set out to make a cerebral summer movie and succeeded on all counts. 

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4) John Dies At The End – I remember when this book came out and I fell in love with its strange, funny and irreverent take on the genre. The movie, written and directed by Don Coscarelli, captured the feeling of the book expertly and got amazing performances from the entire cast. The movie is not for everyone. If you’re a fan of Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep or the Phantasm series you’ll love it.

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3) Safety Not Guaranteed – I couldn’t help but find a cute photo of Aubrey Plaza for this part because the movie will make you fall in love with her. The film expertly made with great performances. It’s close to not being considered “genre” but I feel it needs to be included. Mark Duplass was amazing as the man who may be crazy or he may be able to time travel. This movie needs to be seen. 

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2) Cabin In The Woods – Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard crafted a story that was not only a traditional horror film but something completely different and original. If anyone ever tries to make a sequel I will save up my money, fly to wherever you live and shoot you in the face.

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1) Looper – I cannot say enough good about this movie. Rian Johnson’s directing was perfect. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were amazing. The story was smart and engaging. Emily Blunt was great. There was a really cool time travel/action story as well as a wonderful emotional arc for the characters that pays off beautifully at the end. The movie was genre filmmakers on a budget should aspire to. I know it inspired me to keep plugging away at what I do.

 

There you have it, folks – My top 10 genre films of 2012. Don’t forget to tune into The Gorram Nerd Hour to hear me and Brian argue about the list.

 

 

 

Next Up – Terrestrial


Now that Lepus is nearly finished Brian and I have settled on our next project. We want to make our short called Terrestrial.

We wrote it directly after Lepus. I started wondering what Elliot would be like if E.T. never came back to him like he promised. Would the adult Elliot be messed up by this? Our answer was yes. He believes he has an alien living in his closet whom he shares a psychic bond with. This alien is telling him to do bad things. It caused his wife and children to leave and got him laughed out of his Alien Abductees Anonymous group. The alien forces him to take his revenge.

This short film, while still funny, is much darker in tone than the over the top weirdness that was Lepus. Now it is just a matter of putting together a cast and crew for the short. We would like to use some of the people we used in Lepus. I also plan to play a small role this time. Brian, who has apparently been bitten by the acting bug, has asked to play a role again.

When we were casting Lepus we saw some very talented people that we just couldn’t find a good fit for in that short. I would like to bring them in for this one. The script is more dialogue heavy than Lepus was and we need good people for it. I’m hoping we can get this put together by the end of February.

Fingers crossed.

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! 

Writing Ded Moroz


Brian and I were fairly ambitious with our first short film, Lepus. We had 13 speaking parts, 9 deaths, multiple scenes and set ups. Before we shot it I pitched to him the idea of making it a trilogy.

In Lepus we had a man dressed as the Easter bunny killing people on Halloween. In Ded Moroz we will have a man dressed as Santa killing people at Easter. We are still trying to decide what the third killer will be but it is going to be set during Christmas.

Brian and I sat down for a while tonight to write about 10 pages. This will be longer than Lepus and the final installment will be the longest. The hope is that when it is all finished we have something that is roughly feature length.

All the surviving characters are returning. Some will live. Some will die. All we know for sure is that we are only half way there. We made each other laugh several times tonight while writing Ded Moroz. It was probably the most fun we’ve had writing together since writing Lepus. We love the characters. We love the nonsense. We love that we are making each one bloody and weird.

In Ded Moroz we are upping the body count. With nine kills in Lepus we wanted to go for at least twelve this time. We have plenty of fun ideas for how we kill people in this. We have already written six. We have plotted death #7 and know where we are ending the story. We just don’t know who else dies along the way.

We also know that Sheriff Cristos will be dressed as Jesus again. A slightly different looking Jesus from the first one. You’ll just have to wait and see what I mean. We also have people in drag, people dressed like reindeer, people speaking French, and God knows what else before we finish.

There are going to be more locations, more scope. We don’t want to rest on our laurels. We really want to deliver with this thing. Editing on Lepus begins in a couple days. During that time Brian and I will be sequestered in the editing bay with our friend and partner in crime, David Sabal. We may try and work some writing into our schedule during the week. Stay tuned for more.

In the meantime you can click here to see photos taken during the Lepus shoot. Enjoy.

Another Lepus Update


The cast is secured. The locations are set. We should have most of our props and costumes. We had one victim left to cast. I may have spoken with someone this morning willing to do it. It’s a non-speaking role so it was hard to really find anyone how was a proper actress to show up, dress in a sexy nurse outfit and die.

Brian and I have been friends with a girl for years. She’s very pretty but not an actress and never had any aspirations to one. So obviously we never really thought about her. I sent her a message on Facebook about a week ago asking if she would like to be an extra at the Halloween party scene. That’s when Brian suggested I ask her to be the sexy nurse. She called me this morning and said she would get back to me tonight about it.

This is the last piece of casting we had left. I can’t wait to get started. We have a production meeting this week to discuss the project and see if there’s anything else we need to stress about but everything is looking great so far.

What’s great is that we have places that would work perfectly for the Sheriff’s station, the party house, and the few other locations we need right at our disposal. I am so excited to see what my actors do with the material. They were all amazing at the audition, even the ones we didn’t cast.

Go to our Facebook page http://facebook.com/TheCristosSaga for more details coming soon.