Yes, This Is Comedy! Show Night Of The Living Date (short) Vampire Time Travelers Amazon Warrior Merchants Of Death Vampire Night Bloodstream Chain Of Souls The Not-So-Grim Reaper I Know What You Did In English Class
Q) Tell us a bit about yourself; where you are from, what your influences are, et cetera.
Husband, father, suburbanite by day, quirky filmmaker by evening. (I sleep at night). I'm like John Carpenter meets Mike Brady.
I grew up in Cleveland Ohio, which is probably why I make the films that I do. Every B, C, and D horror movie ever made found its way into the Cleveland television arena at one time or another. Talk about an influence!
My two biggest filmmaker heroes were probably John Carpenter and George Romero. No surprise, huh? Which one of us weren't influenced by them? They, and their two movies, Halloween and Night Of The Living Dead jumpstarted a whole new generation of filmmakers.
And for good reason. They were simple, basic, quirky, scary and go for it These guys showed us that low budget does not mean low quality. They spent little and gave us a lot … and this is the filmmaking philosophy that I live by to this day!
Just out of college, I won a National ACE Award and an Emmy Award for writing/directing/co-producing, Yes, This Is Comedy!, a Mad TV-type sketch comedy show.
Shortly thereafter, my new bride, Mary, and I took off for Hollywood. While there, I worked as a writer/director/producer for ABC, Nickelodeon, and the Learning Channel on various television shows.
My experience in LA holds a special place. All the full-length features I've made or have been involved with so far happened there. It was during this time that I really sharpened my writing, directing, producing, editing, composing and acting skills.
But now, I have moved back to Cleveland, Ohio. Affordable technology and digital video has enabled me to return to my home to make movies here. There's just a feeling in the air here that lends itself to good horror movies. Good people with good values. The perfect place to inject some good monsters! (Notice Halloween and Night Of The Living Dead both took place in the Midwest!)
I will return to LA periodically for various projects, but my main base of operations will now be in Cleveland.
Q) How did you first get involved with the horror Sci-Fi genre of filmmaking?
I got involved for the same reason Albert Brooks does what he does, and John Carpenter does what he does; it's in me to make these kinds of movies. I don't make horror/comedies because I'm a fan of that genre … I'm a fan of that genre because I make horror/ comedies.
When I first moved to LA, all I did was write movie scripts. 12 hours a day. And the scripts I wrote all involved fantasy, comedy and horror. My scripts were, as one studio exec once said, "sort of like Woody Allen meets Stephen King." Another studio exec called them, "Zucker Brothers on acid."
All these studio execs sound impressive? I once thought so. But I soon discovered that Hollywood really isn't all that receptive to hard-working, talented, Emmy-award-winning kids from the Midwest when it came time to actually making a movie.
And so, after years of beating my head on the wall, reciting "why does Hollywood keep churning out crap instead of working with me?", I discovered something that changed my filmmaking direction forever … the Filmlook process!
At that time, I knew video backwards and forwards. It's what I always worked with because it was cheap!! But it still looked obviously like video, which is not the look I wanted for my movies.
But now, here was a process that lets one shoot on video and give it a film-like look. WOW!!!!! The time finally came when I could finally make movies, my way, without selling my house! Who needs Hollywood?? I was off, and never looked back!
Now, Filmlook isn't 100%, but it's pretty good, depending on how you do it. It was certainly good enough to finally make my first full-length feature, Vampire Time Travelers!
Story wise, Vampire Time Travelers includes … childhood fears, funny men in closets, flesh-eating globs, sadistic sorority leaders, psycho-geek tennis players, werewolves, masked nude women in cages, time travel, … and oh, yes, vampires!
Sound nuts? It is. It's actually a collection of what could have been short stories, but never were. You know how dreams are a collection of various little scenes that aren't really connected? Well, that's exactly what Vampire Time Travelers is, except the scenes are connected.
The actual title is Vampire Time Travelers … Bite Her In The Butt! In the movie, the vampire has been trapped in a coffin for years. When she's released, she's rusty. Her neck bites won't penetrate her victims. Biting victims in the neck won't work for an out-of-practice vampire.
Well, according to my movie, there's only one place a rusty can effectively bite their victims. They gotta bite 'em in the … well, you can figure it out!
My advice on watching Vampire Time Travelers … just go with it. It'll all make sense … eventually.
That's sort of my style. My movies are all a collection of things that could have been short stories, all rolled up and tied together by a main story …. and all coming together at the end in a big bang.
My latest film, I Know What You Did In English Class is like that. The main story is about a teacher driven insane by five creepy students in her class …. and 15 years later, she comes back after them in a very Nightmare On Elm Street meets Airplane style.
Her approach is where the "short stories" come in. Each way she gets her revenge on her former students is like a short story unto itself.
I Know What You Did In English Class took a step up in technology; it was shot on digital, as opposed to regular video. And, I used a digital camera that has a built-in Filmlook. It looks even better than Vampire Time Travelers. The richness of film at no cost!
Don't get me wrong. I love film. Nothing beats that look. But there's so many steps involved, and it's just so darn expensive. I have TONS of respect for these independent guys who have raised 50 to 100,000 dollars and shot their projects on film. I'm amazed that they did that.
Me? Well, my talents do not include the ability to get people to give me money for a film. It's just not in me. Getting people to work with me for free is another matter. That I can do. But to invest? No.
Until or even if the time comes to make my movies on film, digital video is the way to go for me. It's affordable, and I can put my energies into what I do best; Film-Making, as opposed to Film-Raise-The-Money-ing!
Q) Tell us about your on-line radio show.
Ever since I was stuck in a summer job driving a truck that only had an AM radio, I have been hooked on radio talk shows. I always thought it would be cool to have a show of my own.
Several years later, I hooked up with Adrenaline Radio.com and got my shot. What better way to learn how to be a talk show host than by talking about something you know and love; low to no-budget moviemaking.
More specifically; no-budget moviemaking with class and quality.
That is what I am, after all. A microbudget, and even sometimes, NO-budget filmmaker. Remember that philosophy … spend little, get a lot? What one doesn't have in money, one must make up for with creativity.
Just look at the string of Hollywood "blockbusters" that have flopped in the past few decades, and you will discover what many of us long ago just plain knew: lots of money does not equal a good movie.
You can throw all the money you want at a bad movie, and no matter what happens, one thing will remain: it will still be bad. Better looking maybe, but still bad.
If you want to make a good no-budget movie, you need a good script (that's do-able on your budget) and good acting. These things can pretty much be free of charge if you know what you're doing and have passion for it. (and find people who share at least some of the passion.)
And so, my radio show, B+ Moviemaking, was born. It can be heard Wednesdays from 4 to 5 PM Pacific Time (7 to 8 PM Eastern) on www.AdrenalineRadio.com. Adrenaline Radio.com … we start where traditional radio ends!
I got the name B+ Moviemaking from my philosophy about always making the best movie you can. Take your lack of money and substitute creativity in story, directing, editing, etc. Lack of money should not equal lack of creativity.
So, don't make a "B" movie; go the extra miles and make it a B PLUS. (ah, that coveted "plus"!)
My show has been on over a year, and as time has gone on, I've had more and more guest filmmakers on the show. The show, in many ways, is a weekly spotlight on a filmmaker and his/her latest film.
And why not? Why just listen to me every week? Listen to others who are doing the same thing I am. The difference is, we all do it differently, so every week it's something new.
Not to mention that I just plain love talking to others who are taking advantage of the budget-friendly world of filmmaking we now live in. Thanks to digital video, filmmakers are finally able to make their films, their way, and there's some darn good movies out there that never would have seen the light of day even a few years ago because of the expense that used to be involved.
What was once an age of dreaming is now an age of doing!
I'll admit some of the films I've seen are better than others, but I always remember that anyone who gets off his butt and makes a movie … knowing what goes into it, and the time it takes to do it … that person deserves to be listened to and acknowledged for their achievement.
I'm just thrilled that I can give them a forum.
Q) Tell us about your segment of ALIEN CONSPRICY, THE NOT-SO-GRIM-REAPER...
Many years ago, I wrote a script called, The Not-So-Grim-Reaper. It was about a documentary filmmaker who spends a week with The Grim Reaper. I took a comic twist (obviously) in the vain of Spinal Tap (an all-time favorite of probably most of us), and more recently, Fear Of A Black Hat.
It involved several afterlife scenarios I've kicked around over the years. Like the Reaper interviewing for an assistant; in this case, a former lab skeleton who was also an actor. (he played the part of the skull on the pirate flag).
Or, you thought Y-2K was bad? How about Y-ONE-K! Oh, the panic then! The horses will stop trotting! The abacus beads will fall off! They'll be a mass torch failure!!
And of course, the two upset dead people who want to be reincarnated because they lived in the Dark Ages. They're jealous, because the 21st century has cool stuff like grocery stores and computers, while they got stuck living in a really stupid, backward time like the Dark Ages. It's not fair!
Get the gist??
I liked this script. The problem was that it was only 40 pages long. So much for that being a feature! Several years later, I read the script again and found that I still liked it. But it was still 40 pages long!
Right around that time, Kevin Lindenmuth approached me to do a segment for his Alien Conspiracy series, and I saw it as a perfect opportunity to shoot The Not-So-Grim Reaper. It was one of those fate things. I took the script, fixed it up, and added the aliens (the Greys) as sort of a catalyst for the filmmaker to do his documentary.
I guess I did a good job, because it's now done and in the Alien Conspiracy series!
I have to hand it to Kevin, and how he respects the filmmakers he asks to work with him. He gave me total creative control on the segment, and as a result, I delivered what I feel to be an effective piece, creatively and otherwise.
Kevin, unlike many producers, gives the filmmakers the freedom to do what they do best. Makes sense, doesn't it? What the filmmakers do, after all, is what attracted him in the first place! Hollywood would turn out some better movies if they operated this way!
After all, when the plumber comes to your house, do you tell him which wrench to use?!
Plus, the Reaper was one of the favorite characters I have ever played. In my movie, he's basically this stand-up comic-type guy who complains that he's just misunderstood. "I don't decide who dies", he insists. "I'm just the technician!".
Q) How did you cast your actors?
First off, the quality of acting you have in your film is of the utmost importance. If you have poor acting in your film, it will automatically be labeled as amateur! Or cheap! Period! I don't care how good the script is. If you don't have people who can deliver it, you've lost a HUGE chunk of quality.
This is why I tend to work with the same people over and over again. Hey, I already know what they can do, and that they CAN do it. Why go elsewhere? (plus it can be a real pain looking for new people all the time!)
All the actors involved in The Not-So-Grim Reaper are people whom I have already worked with on one or more other projects, mostly on I Know What You Did In English Class. No one auditioned. I just called each one up, told them about it, and they all said yes.
Sure, it sounds easy, but this came after years of working with all different kinds of people. So many were weeded out to create what I feel is a core group of some really great actors and actresses. I am very fortunate to have found them.
Again, having a group like this is something that is advantageous to any filmmaker, from micro or macro-budget!
And speaking of that group, I'd like to thank them all for the great job they did … Michael Lundy as the filmmaker, Russ Towne as the Angry Dead Guy, John Griggs as the Man From The Dark Ages, Carol Metcalf as The Woman From The Dark Ages, Kathryn Glass as the Hit-By-The-Truck Girl, Charlene Simpson as the Pretty Dead Girl, and Angelia & Matthew Szekely as the Children In Heaven.
Thanks for shining, guys!
Q) What was the weirdest thing that happened during a shoot that you've worked on?
One freezing Cleveland December night, while shooting a comedy sketch in light clothing and high snow mounds, my partner Russ remarked, "we'd better win an Emmy for this!". He was joking, of course.
Six months later, on a warm June night, we won that Emmy!
Q) What are the new projects you are planning?
First, I'm going to finish I Know What You Did In English Class.
As for totally new stuff … not sure yet. Living in the Midwest again after being gone for 13 years, means that in some ways I am starting over. I am looking for a new group of actors to work with here, and have totally different locations at my disposal.
Making movies in the Cleveland area will be a whole new chapter of filmmaking for me. But I look forward to it because my roots are here, and not too many people around here are doing it. Plus, I can probably get locations here that I couldn't get in LA.
I'll probably do a project or two which will take place both here and out west. That way, I can work again with some of my favorite actors out there that I've gotten to know over the years.
I'm leaning toward a movie about Halloween. Halloween is a big thing in the Cleveland area, and the climate has the look of Halloween. Fall, leaves, etc.
And of course, I'll continue doing my radio show. I want to polish it to be the best it can be, while working to be the best radio talk show host I can be. Internet Radio is still in its infancy, but when it really catches on, I want to be ready.
Q) Anything you want to add?
Make your films. A short time ago, the only excuse for not making your movie was that it was too expensive. Yes, it was! If you wanted that film "look", film was the only choice a short time ago, and it was just financially out of reach for most of us.
The excuse was somewhat understandable.
But that once sole excuse is no more. Digital video and affordable technology (home computer editing systems for example) has made making your film totally do-able. No more hoping that Hollywood will "choose" you.
So, there is no more excuse. Any and all filmmakers can really be filmmakers now. If you still are making excuses, you are not a filmmaker; you are a film-talker.
I said it before, and I will repeat it … the age of dreaming has become an age of doing.
And finally, I would like to thank some people. First of all, the greatest parents to this day, Laszlo and Edith Szekely, my lovely, loving, and ever-supportive wife, Mary, and my cute-as-can-be, better be well-behaved offspring, Angelia and Matthew.
And, I want to thank my following filmmaking/radio colleagues; without their generous friendship, top-notch knowledge and talents, and overall belief that I actually know what I'm doing, I would not be the filmmaker/radio host I am today:
Russ Lindway, Bruce Van Dyke, Gary Rainer, Jimmy Jerman, Raymond Storti, Steve Jarvis, Dennis Devine, Nick Federoff, Jason Stephens, Kevin Lindenmuth, Antonio Cortese