HORROR FILMS HAUNT SHRIEKFEST 2003
by Thomas M. Sipos, L.A. bureau chief.
[October 11, 2003]
Dozens of horror filmmakers showcased their work at the Third Annual Shriekfest
Horror Film Festival on September 20-21, 2003, at the Raleigh Studios
on Melrose Avenue, across the street from Paramount Studios -- and the
Hollywood Investigator was there!
Shriekfest co-founder and
actress Denise Gossett -- in an exclusive interview with the Investigator! -- said the festival was inspired by her
lead role in the horror film, Chain
talking to the producers," Gossett told the Investigator, "and they were
saying there weren't any horror film festivals around. I was like, oh
my gosh, this was so much fun! Why don't I start this?"
and Kimberlee Beeson began organizing Shriekfest four years ago. Said Gossett, "There are so many horror fans, and so many horror filmmakers
and writers. We thought that it would be great for people to do and
come to. It's a great genre that should have the attention that it
deserves. I love the creativity. I love the different ideas. Sometimes love the blood and guts. It's almost like any other film
[genre]; it just has a little bit of death in it."
on submissions, Gossett sees a trend away from slashers. "In the
films that we've been getting, so much of it is not the same slasher!
slasher! They have their own story. Very creative."
to discover the best in horror, Shriekfest screens both feature films and
shorts, many shot on video. It admits both older undiscovered films,
and films that have screened at other festivals. Thus, horror films
that may have failed at other festivals get a second chance at Shriekfest.
ran a full weekend, from 10 a.m. to midnight. Many of the attendees
appeared to be connected to the screened films, but Gossett said of the
festival's track record, "The majority of the feature films got distribution
after the festival. A lot of them got their distribution [from Shriekfest]. It's very exiting." She adds that Shriekfest is growing in fame and
importance. "More submissions, more attendance, more sponsors. It's fun."
how many attendees she expects this year, Gossett says, "I would like to
say a thousand, but I don't know. I'll just keep my fingers crossed
and we'll see. So far we're very happy. Everyone's great. Horror people are a lot of fun."
hosts another horror film festival, Screamfest
L.A., also in its third year of screenings. Apparently, Screamfest
and Shriekfest were founded simultaneously, each unaware of the other.
And curiously, both festivals were founded by women.
* Interview With a Celeb
Hudson came to Shriekfest to promote Feast, a short film in
which she plays the female half of a cannibal couple. Reminiscent
Raoul, Feast was written and directed by Chapman University
film student George
Newnam for his senior thesis project.
"I made Feast close
to five years ago when I first moved out to California," said Hudson exclusively to the Hollywood Investigator. "A wacky horror 'slash' comedy. I'll probably never get to play a cannibal again. One of the most
interesting characters I've played to date. So it was a lot of fun."
Asked for her opinion on
the horror genre, Hudson replied, "I like it as long as it's fun and kind
of campy. I think Scream and stuff like that would be fun too, as long as I didn't have to maybe
get too gory killing. Cause that might be scary."
horror fans' disappointment, Hudson doesn't foresee getting "too gory"
anytime soon, adding, "Right now I've mostly moved into the television
market. Mostly sitcom." Hudson is perhaps best known as "Dr.
Ginny Gerson" on TV's Scrubs and "Leona" on The Bold and the
* Interview With a Maverick
filmmaker Christopher Alan Broadstone is not native to L.A. He hails from Texas.
"I came to L.A. about ten
years ago with my band," Broadstone said exclusively to the Hollywood Investigator. "But my band fell apart when I got
here. I thought, well, I'll see what I can do with film. There's
so much film, if you're gonna do it, here's the place to try to do it.
"I had always been a musician,
hadn't done film. But I had been a huge film fan, forever and ever. Studied it on my own, reading magazines, books, watching lots of movies."
attended several "seminar classes" at the American Film Institute, but
never enrolled fulltime. "After about a year, I decided my next step
is either go to film school and spend a load of cash, and still have to
make a movie in the end, or spend the money to make my own film. I choose to do that instead."
Shriekfest entry is My Skin, a short film wherein Death, apparently
angered by people infringing on his turf, plants evidence at a murder scene,
then calls the police. The plot is not obviously related to 9/11,
yet a desk calendar before Death reads: September 12, 2001.
it's kind of weird," said Broadstone, "because I don't try to make horror
films or write horror stories specifically, but all my ideas turn out that
way. Always falling into the macabre or supernatural."
wants to break new ground in horror. "My goal is to try to get something
new and interesting happening in horror, because I think it's gotten, gone
by the wayside, in many ways. Some good supernatural film thrillers
have come out, but on the indie side, it's usually either gore or zombie
movie, schlock, or this kind of movie, or that kind of movie. I want
something more unique, more interesting, more intelligent, and try to appeal
to a broader audience than only people that watch the zombie movies, or Dracula films, or what-have-you."
how My Skin appeals to a broader audience, Broadstone replies, "Number
one, I always try to achieve a fairly decent production value. I
think that's one way to appeal to a broader audience. And number
two, having a story that kind of sucks you in, and keeps you thinking,
is gonna appeal to a more intellectual crowd. People that are looking
for more in their films than Oh look, the zombie's head got cut off, and that's the story. There's a hot chick, now she's taking her
clothes off. I try to do something that's a little bit different. A story that people can relate to in their subversive mind somewhere, whether
they would normally watch that stuff or not. Try to get offensive. I don't know, it's hard to explain."
Skin won 2nd Place in Shriekfest's Short
Horror category, and is available on DVD via the Nightmare
* Interview With an Outsider
who visits L.A. stays. Filmmaker Dan
Mundt lives and films in Iowa. He came to Shriekfest for the
screening of his futuristic 30 minute film, Damaged, but afterwards
he'll return to the Corn Belt.
Mundt described Damaged as
"a Twilight Zoneish" story of a female soldier. "My third complete
film," Mundt exclusively told the Hollywood
Investigator. "As opposed to incomplete film, of which I have several."
Mundt financed Damaged the old-fashioned way. "I paid for it from my own pocket. The
budget was about $2500, but it looks like we spent a lot more. Just
a matter of choosing locations, and props and costumes that we could get
a hold of, without expending a lot of money. I think it looks like
a million bucks."
teaches at Iowa State University. His actors are all local talent. "We have a number of actors from Ames, Iowa. Megan Finch is the lead
actress, and she's great. Michael Dahlstrom is the lead actor. We had a couple of kids who were wonderful to work with."
is big on female soldiers. In addition to Damaged, he's completed
two feature films, including Escape Velocity, about a WASP (a female
pilot in World War II) seeking a stolen plane. "Escape Velocity is set in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, France, Germany, and
a South Pacific island -- and we shot it all in central Iowa!"
Although Damaged failed to win any awards at Shriekfest, Mundt said, "We won the Broadcast
Education Association festival a year ago, an international film festival
for instructors. It was runner-up at the Cedar
Rapids Independent film festival this spring. Next week it's
at the Wild
Rose Independent Film Festival in Iowa. I don't know how it will
do, but it's an official selection."
* Interview With a Player
filmmakers operate on a shoestring outside the studio system, others enjoy
industry contacts. One of Shriekfest's slicker short film entries, Black
Gulch, by USC graduate film student Michael
Strode, benefited from top music, established actors, and a donation
personnel were all USC graduate [students]," said Strode exclusively to the Hollywood Investigator. "But my director of photography [Jonathan
Hale] graduated from USC undergrad about five years ago, and had been shooting
low-budget features, so he was very good. And the production designer
[John Collins] has done a lot of plays, a lot of different format type
things. I got lucky.
"A lot of people responded
to the script, and I had some good producers who managed to put together
a lot of things for free. The rights to Bad Moon Rising. Professional screenings. A film donation from The
obtaining free film from The
X-Files was a simple matter of Strode's producer calling the show's
line producer, their USC connection helped. "It was the end of the
TV season," said Strode, "so [The
X-Files] had a lot of short ends that they weren't gonna use,
and they get a tax write-off, since USC's a not-for-profit organization. They were happy to write it off as a tax thing. And they were nice."
FUN FACT: "Short ends are unexposed leftover film stock that are sold to film dealers (at about
25% of retail value) then resold to filmmakers (at about 50% retail value).
Recans are film stock that has been opened and loaded into a magazine (the
camera's film container) but then recanned, unused. Recans are usually
of full or nearly full magazine length, since the roll has not been shot. Short ends are leftover pieces from rolls that have been partially shot,
thus short ends occupy less than a full magazine." SOURCE: Horror Film Aesthetics.
Gulch is the story of a gang of bank robbers who target a small desert
town, only discover the town empty, save for the Grim Reaper -- and a mysterious
blond boy reminiscent of The Twilight Zone's "A Real Good Day." Filmed
in an actual ghost town, with established actors such as Christopher Bradley,
Joshua Miller, and Graham Chase, Black Gulch was expensive despite
the donations and freebies. Strode financed much of it himself --
and finds himself in a deeper hole than does Mundt.
was about $55,000," said Strode. "Enough to put me in debt two years
ago for the next 15-to-25 years."
hopes to follow George Lucas's path to success. While a film student
at USC, Lucas had shot a short version of THX1138,
then upon graduating, remade it as a feature. Strode describes his
planned feature length Black Gulch as "an exploration of the town
beforehand. The scary aspects of the town. I think there's
a lot of breathing room for people to react to. They don't have a
chance to react [in the short]. Just go go go, round around [from one scare to the next].
says of horror: "I think it's usually dismissed as a genre. But I've
always had a great affection for horror, if it's action/horror. I
think it's something where, if it's done well, it can instill a lot of
fear, and help drain away that fear."
Gulch won Best Film in Shriekfest's Short
Horror category, but is only beginning to get attention, as Strode
just finished it. "In late August we were timing the print. We screened it at the L.A. Shorts
Fest about two days ago."
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