Tag Archives: Independent Cinema

SLY KINDA GUY: AN INTERVIEW WITH STEFAN CHAPOVSKIY BY KENT HILL

There have been many a cinematic sensation born out of heart, passion and YouTube.

I think back on films like Sandy Collora’s Batman: Dead End and David Sandberg’s Kung Fury. The doors that opened to these filmmakers responsible for bold and daring exercises in bringing everything they’ve ever wanted to see on the big screen to it…no holds barred!

Now another movie-making warrior has appeared on the horizon. His name, Stefan Chapovskiy with his 80s action opus, WAR GENE. The prospect of such a film receiving a grand treatment, particularly in this era of remakes and reboots, would be a welcome breath of fresh air on top of a blistering, high-octane, action roller-coaster that makes a strong claim to be a smorgasbord of everything that was right, good and true about the action cinema that flourished until Hollywood decided the way ahead would be to stick all of its action heroes in tights.

So, ever curious to shed light on the movers and the shakers in the indie cinema world, I reached out to Stefan, hoping to learn more about the man who kinda looks like Sly, while uncovering a man driven by his passionate need to create and being in possession of the same skill-set that made the man who shares his visage, astronomically successful and a Hollywood staple.

KH: Tell us a little bit about yourself?

SC: Well, I was born in USSR in 1977 (oh God, I feel like a dinosaur now, I mean that was a completely different era). My family lived modestly but mother always tried to give me all she had, first and foremost, a thirst for knowledge, for self-development. I learned to read rather early and liked to draw some characters and scenes from my favorite books. This gave a lot of good material for my imagination and sometimes I wrote my own stories. Later sport also came into my life : swimming, athletics, martial arts(mainly taekwondo) and finally, bodybuilding(I’d like to clarify, I’m 100% natural athlete and don’t use any pharmacologic drugs (anabolic steroids, HGH or something like this). Thus, even today, when I am who I am (former winner of California natural bodybuilding and fitness championships, personal trainer, founder/president of Natural Bodybuilding Federation in Russia, actor, writer, producer, director, world traveler, husband and father) – I work out and read books almost every day. But, as you have probably guessed, there was a third element of my becoming as a creator. I’m talking about movies.

KH: When did you fall in love with movies?

SC: It’s hard to say…I guess everyone, especially at a young age, loves movies. The question is, what kind of emotions do you prefer? For example, I remember my age when I liked a horror movies. But definitely, if we’re talking about «fall in love», my favorite genre is action. No matter, what mix( action + drama , action + adventure/sci-fi/historical/etc.). That’s what motivated me most of all. But if in my childhood, after seeing Spartacus(1960) or 7 Samurai(1954), I was making a swords and fought with the neighbor kids, after seeng Bruce Lee movies I started in martial arts. Finally, one day I saw the movie Rambo 2 and it is not an exaggeration to say that this day completely changed my life : from my start in bodybuilding and military service (for 2 years, so now I am a former sergeant), to film schools in Russia, St. Petersburg and later, USA, Los Angeles.

KH: Were like so many of the cinematic giants of our time and took to making films early?

SC: Actually, no, I made my first project pretty late, when I was 34. But for sure I always felt that desire to create, by any means : painting ( I’m pretty good at it), or writing, photography or music, posing and scene choreography…you know, my coming to film-making was just a matter of time. I’d say I accumulated those preconditions for years.

KH: After film school, tell us about your quest to get yourself and your vision to the big screen?

SC: In my case, film schools were not a determining factor, because I’ve been involved with the acting since my childhood. My mother and uncle had a theater education, so I’ve acted on stage during my school years. Later, since 2001, I started to play in movies but after several years of playing stereotype characters(gangsters or bodyguards, because of my emphasized bodybuilding image in those years), I realized that I want to progress further. As I said before, I started thinking about my own projects. And idea of the War Gene movie it’s something where I can embody all my best skills : as a writer, actor, director, concept-artist, etc. But most importantly, this project is the greatest opportunity to express my love, my passion to the 80’s action movies that created me.

KH: WAR GENE is an impressive exercise in genre mash-up…was that what it was always intended to be?

SC: Yes, that was a part of my strategy. The thing is, I wrote the War Gene synopsis a while ago, in 2017 and later, a full screenplay (actually I still re-writing some details but story line is completed). But after new experience during my visit to American Film Market, I realized that promo-trailer it’s a good way to show much more about your project and get some feed back faster. Moreover that is a perfect challenge for every aspiring director. Another temptation that finally convinced me to start the War Gene independent production was an understanding that I can, literally, go back to my favorite 80’s, but this time as a film character, not as a viewer. At the same time I expected that it will not be easy (even for experienced director) to reveal the all lines of War Gene story ( just imagine the elements : a war drama, psychological thriller, an action, sci-fi and adventure, several time lines : 1984 and the 60’s, Vietnam War – and all of this under the old school style cover, some sort of tribute to the 80’s epic movies. Add to that the necessity to meet several minutes length and very small budget, so …finally I decided to increase the duration. That’s why, as you can see now, War Gene has two different, in its structure, parts (except for an intro) – the first one looks more like a movie and the second is a classic trailer. According to my director’s vision, this way allows to immerse into the film atmosphere firstly, and then to see the all its genre diversity.

KH: Tell us about the film’s journey from your mind to the film the world can now see?

SC: Hmmm, it’s a long story… Well, I have to start with the main point – my initial motivation. As you can see from my previous answers, since my teenage years I was inspired by Hollywood action movie characters(as well as probably every guy of my generation). I have to say I grew up without a father but fortunately I found someone who has taken his place and became a role model for me for a long years.I’m talking about Sylvester Stallone and his characters, especially John Rambo. By a strange coincidence, when I got older, I started to look him, partly because of my gym workouts. When I came to USA I was surprised that many people told me about it. And for sure, I used it in my performances – as a bodybuilder, then as an actor on stage. Since 2010 I’ve been focused on idea to make a First Blood prequel, about the early years of John Rambo. I was lucky to meet Sly Stallone himself a few times, contacted to Millennium Films producers and even made(as director, producer and actor) a fan-art trailer Rambo 5 : The Beginning that reached over 7.5 million views on YouTube. Finally I was invited on the set of Rambo 5 that I consider some kind of the top of this story. But at that moment I realized that I can’t pursue that dream all my life…I became older and wiser. On the other hand I was (and still am) a “pure product” of the 80’s movies, its legacy. So I started to create my own project, using all my specific experience and skills. I wrote a new, original story and obtained copyright. Here is a log-line :

“1984, a team of rangers on a punitive expedition in Colombia jungle gets abducted by aliens. During the experiment, conducted on the space station, humans are forced to pass deadly tests, competing with warriors from other worlds. “

It was an idea to combine some typical elements of the 80’s action and sci-fi movies but in the new mix. So, in 2018 I started pre-production of the War Gene short movie. I did everything step by step and was learning on the fly. First of all, I calculated a film budget(going forward, I have to say I exceeded it on the stage of post-production because of visual effects). And I was lucky to get support from my old friend Paul from Florida with whom we have worked on the set of my fan-art project (Rambo 5 :The Beginning) in 2011. So, I made a storyboard, bought (and made) props and costumes, included some rare things like a real flak vest M69 used in Vietnam War. I assembled cast and crew, chose the locations and studio. And in March of 2019 we filmed it in Florida. It was really exciting for all of us, especially a night jungle scenes. I have to say, Gavin, our cinematographer, did a great job. But most of all I was pleased with that total old school atmosphere of military brotherhood…I’ll never forget it. During 2020 I did post-production in St. Peterburg, using a Russian VFX artists and young talented composer. We worked together long hours and Ruslan were listening all my ideas and music sketches(according to my vision, we tried to reconstruct some music styles of iconic film composers from the 80’s, especially Jerry Goldsmith and Basil Poledouris). As you can see, almost every scene, even very short, has its own music theme and the same time it’s in harmony with the next one. Such a brilliant job for that short independent film.

And a couple of words about an intro. Actually I have in mind just a one intro, inspired by typical for the 80’s dark opening scenes of sci-fi movies like The Thing(1982), Terminator(1984), Running Man (1987), Cyborg (1989), etc. I’d say the making of War Gene intro were the most difficult job, because we used the real (!) scorpion and mantis. By the way, for sure none of them were harmed( despite of the our movie where they both died – scorpion was “killed in action” by mantis and later mantis was crushed by my character, Sergeant Rabek, who suffering from insectophobia, due to the post traumatic stress disorder after his captivity in Vietnam camp in 1969. But finally, I added one more opening scene, from the beginning – I mean a real chronicle compilation from the different military conflicts of the second half of the 20th century (till 1984) : Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Salvador, Lebanon, Rhodesia…I did it for more realistic atmosphere of the Cold War era when the our film takes place. And yes, I fully realized that the first intro(about 30 seconds of documentary)will scary off most of YouTube viewers…but, you know, at this level(short movie) it’s not about some profit…it’s about my director’s vision and creative expression.

KH: Like most indie filmmakers I have encountered, you haven’t let your limitations hamper the final product… Do you think ultimately, that is the key to success in the film industry, being bold?

SC: Success in the film industry…I’d say, success in your own soul much more important. It makes you HAPPY in your life, what could be better? Of course, to be a world-famous filmmaker it’s just great. But, by my opinion, you shouldn’t try to do it because of popularity or financial profit only. For 99% this direction will makes you dissapointed. But if you do it according to your soul, your passion, your creative ambitions – I salute you, this is a way to the happy life. Not for everyone, but for “creators” – it’s undoubtedly.

KH: The scale of your canvas and your ingenuity have seen WAR GENE explode as an inspired beginning to a larger work…is that the trajectory, or do you plan further, smaller films to further develop your craft?

SC: War Gene project is something I have to develop nearest years. My main goal now is to find a suitable production film company and make a feature film. Even 3 years ago, at the American Film Market 2017, during my first presentation of War Gene (at that time as a short synopsis and several concept arts), I attracted interest of several independent film companies. But I took a pause because I’d like to get the larger scale and worthy budget for this movie. Now I have a screenplay and short promo movie/trailer, so we’ll see…I say more, I already have a synopsis of War Gene 2, in case of success with the first part. Thereby, my nearest years is going to be very interesting and productive, I believe. The same time I admit some probability to make a couple of new short movies in War Gene cinematic universe – like I said I have a lot of material as a creator and really happy to work with it.

KH: I’m excited to see where you go next after such an audacious debut… I for one will be looking forward to the next movie you bring to fruition?

SC: Thank you, Kent! By the way, feel free to reach me if James Cameron will call you soon and ask for my contact info 😉 Ok, seriously, I appreciate the opportunity to tell more about my story. I’m always open for a new ideas and proposals. Everyone can contact me on my FB page https://www.facebook.com/stefan.chapovskiy   and Instagram Stefan Chapovskiy (@stefanchapovskiy) . to see what’s new in my life. My big Hello and best wishes to your readers , take care and keep in touch!

Not just another Zombie movie by Kent Hill

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Amanda Iswan has always dreamt about making movies. While she isn’t Robinson Crusoe when it comes to such an ambition, it is often fascinating to me how such a common dream defies all the boundaries the world sets before us, and how, even in a massive city like Jakarta, Indonesia, her light is burning bright, her journey to the big screen is upon us. Having traveled extensively in the country and enjoyed numerous local films, like Amanda told me, genre cinema, especially local genre cinema – you have to be a bit of a rebel to butt heads against the dramatic norms. American movies dominate the globe, so when you try mounting films that aren’t just people talking about life, love and the human condition, (even here in Australia) the finance is not there. You are forced to go rogue, go guerilla-style, and with ZETA, Miss Iswan has brought a dash of depth and difference to what isn’t your garden-variety flesh-eating extravaganza.

Film Regions International (FRI) is announcing the release of “ZETA” a new foreign language horror film that the company has licensed for video-on-demand both in the United States and United Kingdom. The cast includes Indonesian actors Cut Mini, Dimas Aditya and Jeff Smith. The film is subtitled in English for the U.S. and U.K. territories.

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ZETA” tells the story about Deon, a student in Jakarta, Indonesia who witnesses a strange incident at his school when a friend bites a nurse’s neck and becomes a raging cannibalistic flesh eater. Suddenly, he realizes the entire city has become ravaged by a zombie apocalypse caused by an amoeba Naegleria-Zeta parasite. Deon, along with his mother Isma, who is suffering early signs of Alzheimer’s, are forced to quarantine in their sky rise apartment and eventually team up with a rebel gang to get the best combat strategies against the zombie horde.

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The film is currently available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and subsequent VOD platforms will follow soon.

An offer you can’t refuse by Kent Hill

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I’m guilty of not reading Carl Nicita’s book which kicked this whole thing off…but I plan to remedy that as soon as humanly possible. Because, from the campaign art (pictured above), I thought I might be in for the stock standard gangster offering. I’d already swallowed the hook, ’cause like director Rickey Bird Jr. told me, “That’s a great title,” and indeed it is. Still, as is often the case with the gigantic strides being taken in the field of low budget film-making nowadays, like Transformers, they are increasingly becoming more than meets the eye.

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What happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas. So when Jack King (Joe Raffa, “Portal”, “Dark Harbor”) decides to try his luck at a blackjack tournament – with a little somethin’ on the side to handle for his mob boss Uncle Vinny, Vincent Pastore (HBO’s “The Sopranos”) , this tale transforms into a vodka martini shaken by an earthquake and stirred by a maelstrom. Jack’s Vegas weekend descends from one hell to the next when he is targeted by the mob after his girlfriend witnesses a murder

Booze, Broads and Blackjack, received a release on Amazon Prime Video on July 24th, 2020 in the United States and United Kingdom after racking up several awards despite being sidelined by COVID-19. The mob thriller, nominated for Best Picture in both the Los Angeles and New York Film Awards, won Best Crime Film in both festivals. In the Actors Awards Los Angeles 2020 competition – Pastore was nominated as Best in the ‘Fest and garnered Best Actor in a Crime Film. Co-star Sarah French (“Rootwood”) won Best Actress in a Crime Film.

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The film was produced by a joint venture between Film Regions International (FRI) the company behind the acclaimed groundbreaking documentary “My Amityville Horror” Hectic Films Productions, best known for “Machine Gun Baby” and Good Knight Productions.

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In addition to Pastore, Raffa and French, the film also stars Felissa Rose (“Sleepaway Camp”), Vincent M. Ward (AMC’s “The Walking Dead”) and James Duval (“Independence Day”, “Donnie Darko”).

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The film is available on Amazon Prime Video for rental or purchase and will also receive subsequent VOD platforms to follow in the near future.

RICKEY BIRD JR.

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CARL NICITA

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Not a circuit short by Kent Hill

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We have to go back to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to find the roots of Garo Setian’s AUTOMATION. A machine, a construct, built in man’s image. It will walk like him, talk like him . . . but can it feel? Can an artificial intelligence handle all of the the complexities of a human? If you prick it, it will not bleed, but it can simulate pain. If you tickle it, it will not laugh, but it could simulate laughter. RoboCop and Short Circuit are in part, about machines dealing with that veritable head full of bad wiring we call the human condition. We have the built-in propensity to be all right and all wrong in the same sentence. So if a machine were to feel the betrayal of a lie, be heartbroken by the bitterness of a romantic rejection; if we wrong it . . . will it not revenge?

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Setian’s film packs an enormous subtext for an independent production, but the small budget hasn’t stopped this cast and crew from firing on all cylinders. A workplace robot, AUTO, transforms into a killing machine when he discovers he will be replaced by a more efficient model. AUTO fears being terminated and will stop at nothing to prevent his own destruction. The human employees must band together to stop him before it’s too late.

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A few words from the Director:

It seems every day there is another news story or article concerning the threat of machines replacing people in the workplace.  We are also seeing stories about the development of robots that can learn to behave more human by observing human behavior.
So what would happen when a robot with this ability to learn, replaces humans in the workplace, but then faces the prospect of being replaced by more advanced technology?  Our movie AUTOMATION is a cheeky take on this concept.
Our goal was to tell an interesting and timely story with characters the audience cares about.  So despite the film being a satire of corporate cost cutting and planned obsolescence, there is a true heart to the movie in the relationship between Auto and Jenny.
We are so grateful to our talented cast and crew of pros who came together out of love for this script, and the desire to make something fun. We hope the audience finds AUTOMATION an entertaining 91 minutes that is funny, exciting, has a few surprises and is ultimately kind of moving.
 
Thanks for watching!
Garo Setian
Writer /Director/Producer/Editor –
Automation
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And now the director and cast…

GARO SETIAN

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PARRY SHEN

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JEFF J. KNIGHT

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KH: You join a great tradition of suit performers, like Anthony Daniels and Doug Jones; is that a mantle you aspire to?

JK: ABSOLUTELY! The performances that Doug Jones manages to portray through all those layers of special effects make up is just unmatched. There is something to having your character be presented as real as it possibly can be.  I love C3-PO, and would love to have met Mr. Daniels but we were in the strong capable technical hands of @evilted_smith, master at what he does, prop armor, weapons, helmets, guns.

 KH: What was your first impression upon reading the script?

JK: It really felt like a winner right off the bat, but then they kept adding layers to the characters and back stories which only enhanced the emotional center of the movie. This movie really does have a heart of gold. 

KH: Garo, the director, has come from a prolific career as an editor, how do you feel carried over to his directing style?

JK: He wasn’t an asshole at all! Just Kidding …. he was open to suggestions, and worked great with his first AD And DOP. He had a vision for scenes and how they would cut together and he really brought all that to life on the screen. 

KH: Actors infuse their own life experience into the characters they play; what did the part you played bring out of your own personality and in turn, what did you find the role demanded of you?

JK: Before starting onset I took some intense acting classes at the Clu Gulager school of acting here in LA. Clu is literally an old time cowboy (Gunsmoke, Bonanza)  and really told me how it was and didn’t sugar coat anything. His advice on how to present the robot to the world and how he would interact back was some of the coolest memories I have in almost 5 years of Acting and Cosplay here in LA. 

KH: Do you think the world is truly ready for a machine with the complexities of human emotions?

JK: GOD NO, we can barely keep our own emotions under wraps. Let’s work on becoming better people ourselves before we try and perfect the human being in a robot form. 

KH: If you were to wake up one morning to find all that you are transferred into a robotic body….what would you do?

JK: Not shower or shave…. for like, a while.
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KH: Tell us a little of your journey leading up to AUTOMATION?
SK: I had been filming a lot of strictly horror films and was really excited to shoot something that was also mixed with syfy elements.  I’ve known Garo as well as Esther for quite sometime and I was really stoked that the right project had come up for us to finally work together.  
KH: What was your first impression upon reading the script?
SK: I actually really fell in love with Auto and loved his relationship with Jenny (Elissa Dowling).  As much as the script was fun and quirky I really appreciated that bigger questions were being presented in the story about future A.I. and how companies are facing a lot of conflicts on saving money versus employing humans.  I was a little thrown off by Susan because I’m used to playing villains in horror but I really didn’t want to play Susan as a villain.  There’s a rule in acting of not judging your characters.  I really wanted to find humor in Susan as well. I thought that there was a lot of fear of failure in Susan which is why she had so many guards up.  I don’t want to give anything away but I really wanted the audience to forgive her and be able to root for her as well.  What I loved about the script was that it had a lot of quick jokes and was a fun ride too.  It’s a gift when you’re doing an indie film and they don’t take themselves too seriously.  I think that’s what makes a B movie really worth watching and kinda anoints it into an instant classic.    
KH: Garo, the director, has come from a prolific career as an editor, how do you feel carried over to his directing style?
SK: Knowing Garo as a friend and how excited he was about directing carried over in his enthusiasm about the project.  As an editor I think it was hard for the cast at first to understand how carefully the film was already edited in his head.  I won’t say that’s a bad thing when someone has the amount of editing experience Garo does. It’s just a different style as an actor you kinda have to take that in but not allow your work to be results based.  Garo is an extremely kind, somewhat careful, super respectful human- he goes out of his way to be a nice guy.  I felt like he was open to all our ideas about our characters.  But, there’s a point as the director where they sometimes have to kind of take the wheel and drive.  Sometimes, especially on shoots that have limited days it means not always being the nice guy.  It was exciting to watch Garo grow in a short time into a director who knew what he wanted and trusted that.  They say a movie is made three times; first writing the script, then shooting and again while editing.  Sometimes you work with a director who you think is amazing on set and then you see the film and you’re like oh no!  They don’t understand pacing or the overall tone of the story.  Watching the final cut; I was blown away by the finished film.  His attention to detail was just lovely and the movie is consistent in tone- that’s not always an easy thing when your film is a mix of genres. 
KH: Actors infuse their own life experience into the characters they play; what did the part you played bring out of your own personality and in turn, what did you find the role demanded of you?
SK: I related to Susan because I’m naturally a pretty nervous person but I can be pretty relentless in getting what I want.  I touched on this before but I thought Susan should have a little vulnerability. I love the idea of people showing who they really are in stressful situations.     
KH: Do you think the world is truly ready for a machine with the complexities of human emotions?
SK: I’m giving myself away here but I graduated highschool right as the internet was becoming available for everyone.  I personally don’t believe we were really ready for that kinda barrage of information.  So, the idea of a machine able to generate emotions is terrifying to me.  I think the purpose of technology should be to bring people closer and make life easier but I don’t think it should ever be a substitute for real human interaction.  The biggest problem is relationships are all about compromise and fear of rejection.  I’m afraid that robots would be a one way compromise from the robots- when to grow as people we both have to be willing to risk rejection and also to learn from it. 
KH: If you were to wake up one morning to find all that you are transferred into a robotic body….what would you do?
SK: Find a very high bridge and jump.
Here is a link where you can see where AUTOMATION is available to view or purchase…
 
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The road to DOOMED: An Interview with Adrian Milnes by Kent Hill

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Here I give you, dear listeners, a success story in close proximity to me. A few hours east of the old ranch lives a screenwriter who has recently exploded on the scene as part of an exciting batch of cinema, emanating from a dynamic producing duo with a lucrative business model who have created a haven from bold genre movies.

Adrian, like most of us born with the creative itch (further exacerbated once bitten by the movie bug) knows, all too well, that the road from script to screen can be perilous. Anxious waiting, exhaustive rewrites, all part and parcel of this business we’re in. All the turmoil, all the hours of doubt and disharmony can however, be washed away in the instant the house lights fade into darkness and those long nights of many words come alive on screen. The journey at an end, and the audience entertained.

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He traveled from the old empire, through Asia, till at last coming to settle here in the colonies. And it was here, in the sun-burnt land of Down Under that the distant stars and the bright lights of Hollywood glisten in the eyes of the dreamers, their twinkling transformed into a siren song, biding the likes of Adrian (and the rest of us) to take his place among them.

But it is no longer a mere wish upon a star for Mr Milnes. His hard work, determination and dedication to learning how the tricks of the trade blend with the troupes of the industry. All artists chiefly need a patron, and if you put yourself where the lightning strikes, as Adrian has, you might find yourself with green light and a go-picture.

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Due to a recent technical misadventure, unfortunately, my recording of our chat was lost. Thankfully Adrian has been a good sport and we have the interview to present in the written form below. The tale of the local lad who made good with his BRIDGE OF THE DOOMED, and the currently in post, BLOODTHIRST. The world is about to receive a healthy dose of the cinematic musings of the man who never gave up, turning what can potentially be a road to doom into victory lane.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you, Adrian Milnes

KH: Tell us a little about your love of cinema that has endured and seen you pursue this dream to write for the screen?

AM: I’ve always watched any movie I could find. When I was a kid in England the BBC used to show lots of old movies, and I watched as many as I could . The first movie that truly terrified me was an old Basil Rathbone movie, The Pearl Of Death. I was only nine, but I can still remember Rondo Hatton’s scenes. Later on, living in Hong Kong I developed a love for 90s Hong Kong movies. A lot of them were very small scale stories that could have happened two streets over, and you would never have known about it. The more you live in Hong Kong, the more you see and hear about things that most people don’t notice. A friend of mine was married to a Police Officer, and she really opened my eyes to a lot of things that happened there.

KH: Did you learn (undertake academic study) or was it picked up piecemeal as you progressed in your quest to master the screenplay?

AM: I just taught myself. I made a lot of mistakes in the early days that a course would have steered me away from.

KH: There are significantly more avenues today for emerging screenwriters to parade their talent; can you tell us about your early experiences in attempting to showcase your work?

AM: There are plenty of opportunities now for screenwriters, but they all cost money, and a lot of them aren’t worth it. There are so many competitions, coverage services and hosting sites, not all of them reputable. Ink Tip obviously worked out for me. It also allows you to post loglines for short scripts, which is a great way for new screenwriters to start. Sending out emails to producers can occasionally work, but they’re deluged with emails, and if you’ve got no credits it can be hard to stand out.

KH: You are two movies in as a scribe for the rapidly expansive might of the Mahal Empire, a radically successful crowd funded production company. Tell us about Bridge of the Doomed, the evolution of the screenplay and working with this dynamic producing duo?

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AM: Michael Mahal read my script on Ink Tip, and straight away knew he could make it. Most producers option a script for a year, and see if they can get any interest from a director, then actors, and finally investors. He was so confident he bought the script outright, and the audition call went out a couple of weeks later. He was right to be confident, as straight away there was an incredible amount of interest from investors. When they had raised enough money Michael suggested starting the story earlier at the army camp, and having Robert LaSardo as the General. Later on they were able to afford Michael Pare as well. My original script had eight speaking parts, and we ended up with over sixty. Naturally this meant a lot of rewriting, but it was worth it. I never would have written it like this, as the budget would have been way too high for most indie producers.

KH: They say the more you write makes you a better writer; what has your journey leading up to this break, and since then having written through two successful productions now altered what you thought you knew about screenwriting?

AM: I started off writing Science Fiction, then later moved on to Crime Fiction. I sold a few short stories then gave up. At that point I really didn’t think I could write movies, it just seemed so far out of reach. Having written a lot of screenplays I can now instinctively get things like pacing and structure correct. I re-read my first ever screenplay recently, thinking I might be able to tidy it up and sell it. Of course it was dreadful.

KH: Even guys who have been at this game at the highest levels say it never gets easier; has this jump into the professional ranks made it easier (in your opinion) to present specs to potential elements to possibly mount production?

AM: Once again I’ve been lucky. Since Bloodthirst, I’ve written four scripts for Massimiliano Cerchi, the originator of that movie. The first of them is going to be filmed in October with Louis Mandylor, Michael Pare and Robert LaSardo. Having that first credit definitely helps in being considered, but it’s still no guarantee. There are plenty of professional writers with huge gaps in their IMDb listing. They’ve probably sold scripts in that time that didn’t get made, but it gives an indication of what it’s like.

KH: A young guy approaches you and tells you he wants to be a screenwriter. What do you tell him?

AM: Plan your life as though you’ll never make a cent from writing. Most writers don’t sell anything, and those that do rarely make enough to live off. The middle of the market has been contracting for a long time, it’s mostly $100 million or micro budget movies now. Even if they do sell a script, it might only be for $1k. All the good things I’ve achieved in my life came through working as an electronics technician. Every writer needs to know what producers are looking for, the market is constantly changing. Right now the big thing is having scripts that can be filmed in a Covid safe way, and producers are always looking for single location scripts with just a few characters. Those types of stories are really hard to do well, but it’s great training just to try.

KH: A major Hollywood studio, out of the blue, calls you up and says they are going to spend whatever it takes to produce your next screenplay….but it has to be a remake?

AM: Some classics shouldn’t be remade, but there are plenty of near-forgotten movies that are ripe for a remake. Truth is though, if there was a lot of money involved, I wouldn’t turn anything down.

There you have it folks. Hollywood dreams are more than attainable, you just have to want it more than the next person, be willing to fail, be willing to fight, but most importantly be adventurous, and ready to write…

The Day of Reckoning: An Interview with Andrew David Barker by Kent Hill (Part 2)

 

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Three years ago I sat down with Andrew David Barker as his labor of love, A RECKONING, was beginning to emerge. The talented writer/director/novelist told me of the arduous journey, up until and including the making of the movie.

This time, we take a look back at the fates and fortunes of the intervening years; the roads high and low which make up the battlefield any and all face whilst engaged in a quest toward one’s ideal form of creative and personal expression.

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The novelist and filmmaker’s directorial debut has finally hit Amazon Prime Video in the United States. Film Regions International (FRI), the production company behind the groundbreaking documentary “My Amityville Horror” has licensed the film for video-on-demand platforms in the American territory. FRI had also been an early supporter of the film after its initial release in 2010 when the film had received a great deal of critical acclaim, however disappointingly, the film ended up being shelved for the better part of the last ten years.

Now that the film has finally received the light of day, it is very fitting and poignant considering the atmosphere with recent world events. The film tells the story of a lone man (featuring a powerful performance by Leslie Simpson, of Dog Soldiers and The Descent), trapped and imprisoned in a barren, desolate landscape. His only companions are a village of straw people with which he converses with as neighbors and friends; he even teaches straw children at the local school. Yet, this anchor, this way of habitual living, is about to become unraveled in frightening and disturbing ways.

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Director’s Statement:

“I’ve always been drawn to end of the world stories, right from an early age. The thought that all we’ve achieved, all we’ve created as a species, could go away is something that has never left me. And I’m not alone. The 20th century is littered with post-apocalyptic fiction, from George R. Stewart’s 1949 novel Earth Abides, to I Am Legend, through to Mad Max, visions of what this world will be like once civilization falls, once the power has gone out and the thin veneer of society is torn away, are rich and plentiful. The end of the world has always been a preoccupation of mankind. I wanted to create a film that added to the long list of titles that depicted what life will be like After.”

“A Reckoning is a (post!) modern day Robinson Crusoe, my ode to human spirit and all its dark recesses. This film is as micro-budget as you can get, yet, I had a large vision for it: I wanted the wide open spaces, and the decay and dirt, and the extreme weather to give what is essentially an internal, human story, a large cinematic canvas. This is my lament for our species, a tale of how the fabric of our day to day existence, the trivialities that we take for granted, could (and possibly would) haunt us in a world emptied. This film has had a long, hard road to see the light, but now, in 2020, I think A Reckoning feels more relevant than ever. This truly is the right time for our little film. Worryingly.”   –   Andrew David Barker, July, 2020. 

The film is currently available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and subsequent VOD platforms will follow soon.

Andy is a great gentlemen and his story is fascinating. We all dream, but not all of us have what it takes to see those dreams realized. Here is one man who did…and one who continues.

He’ll love you to DEATH! by Kent Hill

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When an extremely pesky poltergeist has himself a bad case of rejection, goes a little too Glenn Close and starts boiling bunnies, the sum total is Alex T. Hwang’s PARANORMAL ATTRACTION, a gleeful mixture of the psycho/sexual thriller, an intriguing social study, a ghost story and some enjoyable splashes of comedy that make this an enticing cocktail of the genre.

There are interesting twists and subversion which diverge from the numerous films with ‘paranormal’ in the title, but their unexpected nature builds to a climax which enhances the experience and makes the film linger longer in one’s memory, leaving behind it’s peers which remain content to concede to the formulaic approach.

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Paranormal Attraction tells the dark and sinister tale of a young woman, Sara Myer (Brooklyn Haley), who moves into an abandoned house with a tragic and mysterious past.  As Sarah begins to purge the house of the previous owner’s belongings, she begins to uncover its deadly secrets. Rookie police officer Evelyn Bennett (Nicole Cinaglia) helps her investigate the mysterious happenings and captures Sara’s heart. Will they learn the secrets of the house or will the house claim Sara’s soul? 

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Director’s Alex T. Hwang’s Statement:

“I have loved movies since I was a kid growing up in Korea. I remember my mom taking me to see American movies like Star Wars and Superman in theaters.  When my family moved to the United States, I found a group of friends who were as passionate about movies as I was. I made my first short film on Super 8 and 16mm camera when I was 16 with my brothers and friends, and it fueled my passion for film making even more.  Classic horror films like, Jaws, Psycho, The Exorcist and The Shinning, have driven me to make horror films.  

My wife, Katie, encouraged me to pursue my dreams and make the films that I love. I’ve always admired directors like Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter, Sergio Leone, Stanley Kubrick, and Steven Spielberg.  They are masters at what they do, and they can manipulate an audience’s emotions and take them to another place for a couple of hours. I hope I have achieved that with Paranormal Attraction. Paranormal Attraction is the third feature film I have directed and produced. I had the vision for Paranormal Attraction for a while and was so happy that I had a great script to work with. The cast was able to embrace their roles and give life to the words written on the page. I am grateful to everyone who played a part in helping to complete this film. I hope to entertain and scare all horror film fans but I believe that even if you don’t like horror films you will certainly enjoy Paranormal Attraction.”  

Paranormal Attraction is an official selection of the AOF (Action on Film) Film Festival and will be premiering at AOF Film Festival on Sept 5, 2020 @ 4PM in Las Vegas. 

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For a well crafted, creepy-good time at the movies, PARANORMAL ATTRACTION delivers the thrills, spills, laughter and chills in this fresh take on the fatal side of lust, from beyond the grave.

Now enjoy my chats with the director and cast…

ALEX T. HWANG

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EDEN SHEA BECK

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The Cinema of Solimon by Kent Hill

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There is a filmmaker working in Hollywood right now, who is out to show the big boys that you don’t need hundreds of millions of dollars to make the movies you want to make.Shahin Sean Solimon is the man behind the movement. Together with his talented group of like-minded artists, he is forging new waves to achieve epic results without the big budget price tag.

“If I inspire some thirteen year old kid somewhere to pursue his or her dreams as I have, no matter what the nay-sayers say, I’ve done my job.”

And getting the job done is exactly what Shahin has been doing.  Beginning with his first feature Djinn, Based on ancient middle eastern fairy tales written thousands of years ago, and passed down from generation to generation, Shahin crafted luscious, fantastical realms along with a pure and moving tale love and destiny.

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With his second film he took it to the next level, conjuring the days of high adventure and summoning cinema which brings to mind the heady days of Ray Harryhausen with: Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage. When the Sultan’s first born is taken by an evil sorcerer, Sinbad is tasked with traveling to a desert of magic and creatures to save her. Add into this the talents of Patrick Stewart (X-Men, Star Trek: The Next Generation), who offered his distinct vocal styling as the films narrator.

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Now, for the next big thing. In his third feature Nebulous Dark, Shahin is tackling the sci-fi and post-apocalyptic genres with one mighty stroke. It is yet another epic waiting in the wings from Solimon, who used the production, not just to make an awesome movie, but to continue to hone and harsness the ever-growing cache of cinematic artistry he has at his disposal.

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There seems to be no end to his creativity or his ability to realize his visions. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with this talented filmmaker who is, without a doubt, taking the bull by the horns and making the movies he wants to make.

“My inspiration as an artist is not about money, or fame…but about trying to project imagination, show a different perspective of life, and simply entertain.”

And entertaining us is what he has done and will, I believe, continue to do.

for more on the Cinema of Solimon, follow this link:

https://shahin-sean-solimon.com/

Into the DEEP end with JONATHAN LAWRENCE by Kent Hill

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You should, dear listener, go away and read this article (SUNK) . . . before listening to this interview – simply for ‘those who came in late’ kinda reasons….

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Films like Lost in La Mancha, Jodorowsky’s Dune, Lost Soul, and The Death of Superman Lives have ostensibly created a new documentary genre that I simply have been devouring … the ‘unmaking of’ movies … great movies that were stillborn, or that died slow miserable deaths on the path to cinematic folklore. And we’ve all heard the film fiasco war stories . . . but not like this. This is the most intriguing because it is still, for the most part…shrouded in a heavy belt of foggy mystery….

The, or one of the embattled figures at the center of this mesmerizing cyclone is a man I’ve longed to chat with since reading the aforementioned article, Mr. Jonathan Lawrence. Now, to get the winter of our discontent outta the way up front, I was certain – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that talking about the ‘FISH’ movie, (as Jonathan enlightened me, or as fate would have it as the movie’s surrogate title) was the last thing he would want to do . . . . AGAIN!

So, while I was certainly keen to devote only a small portion of the conversation to my simmering curiosity (namely EMPIRES OF THE DEEP) – I was more interested to hear the story of the man who was a part of its ill-fated inception….

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In singularly one my most engrossing conversations I’ve ever had with a filmmaker – I have really wanted talk to ever since I read about a Chinese billionaire who woke up one day and decided he wanted to make a movie – with the whole story so feverishly well documented in the article back there at the beginning. . . and, Jonathan tells me he has been interviewed extensively for a possible documentary on the subject ……. fingers crossed!!! But, this conversation is not about that ‘FISH’ movie – instead it’s about the man behind it, also a candidate for one of the best lines I’ve heard …. “I know how to be dangerous, and get by.”

Enjoy…

An Exorcism in Awesomeness by Kent Hill

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I don’t know what they are putting in the water over there in Germany, but I have of late had the privilege of speaking with some of the country’s brightest indie stars. Starting with Dominik Starck and his action movie man-at-arms, Nico Sentner. Then, I stumble into the path of a couple more revolutionaries and fine gentlemen to boot, Erza Tsegaye and Nicolas Artajo – talking about their little gem of a movie, and as history will tell, the forerunner of a new wave in German horror films . . . SKIN CREEPERS. This country Germany seems to have more than just good beer on tap . . . seems the brew cool movie-makers too.

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It’s the story (partially inspired by true events:  where a Korean family performed an exorcism on a young woman who sadly lost her life) of two unsuccessful filmmakers who want to make a pornographic movie, and things go very, very wrong. See, their lead actress . . . . gets possessed by a demon.

It’s a film,  although shot on a limited budget, that is already being recognized for its stunning visual effects and its old-school practical approach to film-making. Following a successful German theatrical run, the film is now celebrating its international release in the US, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland on multiple major VOD Platforms, including Amazon Prime and Tubi, among others.

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Filmmaker Ezra Tsegaye, worked previously in commercials as a storyboard artist for Hollywood films such as “THE INTERNATIONAL,” and is also a successful comic strip artist, who was involved in the creation of the first original German superhero comic. This background as a comic book/storyboard artist is mainly responsible for the film’s unique visual style. The picture, produced by media entrepreneur Sebastian Wolf, started the project with the intent to revolutionize German Horror Cinema, putting it back on the map by giving this extraordinary movie the chance to reach the big screen.

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So we chatted about the movie, of course. I heard what I would sound like – if dubbed for German audiences. There was talk of good beer, and a pub crawl in Berlin with the boys. How could this interviewer refuse?

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SKIN CREEPERS, get out there and enjoy it…The Exorcist meets Evil Dead with a sexy twist!