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Tabloid Witch Awards
OF TWO ...
MORE TABLOID WITCH HONORABLE MENTIONS
by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor.
[October 11, 2005]
SuperStore is a horror film in the bloodless suspense tradition of TV's Twilight
Zone. A mother's daughter vanishes after they meet a strange
little girl while shopping at Costco -- and to the mother's growing horror, store employees don't even remember
seeing her with a daughter.
"The inciting incident was
a trip to a big box store with my sister and nieces about six years ago,"
said filmmaker Sam Zalutsky to the Investigator. "There was a tower
of Barbies. Both nieces were obsessed with Barbies. They ran
off and were hidden -- almost engulfed! -- by the display. I think when
we found them, they were talking to a strange little girl even more obsessed. Honestly, I can't distinguish fact from fiction now.
"My mind started wandering
and I tried to imagine what would happen if a child disappeared. I wanted to explore that possibility, and the bizarre places that big box
stores are. They really are overwhelming and claustrophobic.
Amazingly, Costco let Zalutsky shoot his film on their premises, unconcerned about the store
being depicted as a scary place where children might go missing.
an amazing host," said Zalutsky. "It took months of resounding no's
from other corporations before we received the approval from Costco. They are big supporters of the arts and a very progressive company. They did not require script clearance, nor were they worried about the
story. They did not require us to hire outside security as I feared,
only to have liability insurance. They were great!
"I shot the film two summers
ago, when the press was whipping up a lather over a few high-profile child
disappearances." The film was shot on "a.Panasonic
24P 900 or something series." It was edited on Final
Zalutsky used a casting director
to find his SAG actors. He found
the union "very easy" to work with. He also found it easy to work
with his child actors. "I seem to always wind up with an animal or
children in my films. A glutton for punishment, I guess.
"Children can be a challenge,
but these girls [Ryann Shane and Miryam Coppersmith] were motivated and
professional. And Miryam, who plays the wild child, had a good deal
"It was also important that
their parents were supportive of them and the film. I'd say you have
audition the kid and the parents. And that you must see as
many kids as possible in the audition process. "You must find a kid who wants to be there. I had many auditions with kids who obviously
were just there because of their parents, and that was really sad."
Running at 13 minutes, SuperStore aired on WNET's Reel
New York, and a few small festivals.
Zalutsky is raising money
to direct his feature script, Mama's Boy,
a psychological horror film. He got his B.A. in studio art from Yale
an MFA in film from NYU's
film school. He teaches screenwriting at Spalding
University in Louisville, KY. Visit his website.
Human No More
No More, hard-boiled police detective Nemo (Tony Simmons) enters
a basement office. Or is it his home? Nemo listens to a taped
interrogation of a psycho who'd killed Nemo's wife. Nemo shuts the
tape and presents us with a grief-stricken monologue, then commits an unspeakable
act upon himself.
Like his two previous horror
shorts, Christopher Alan Broadstone's 17-minute film is not so much a story
as a vignette. A "slice of life" from the dark side; despairing and
"It was a film I had to make,"
said Broadstone to the Investigator. "One, to exorcise some personal
demons, and two, to comment about the current state of the world. Especially since 9/11, I'm sick of people wearing their religious beliefs
on their sleeve and blowing their pious trumpet in everyone's face. Whatever your personal religious or political beliefs, keep them to yourself,
in your heart, and leave me and the rest of the world the hell out of it.
"That said, Human
No More also grew from a deep depression I'd fallen into after an
unexpected breakup with my girlfriend of many years. My depression
and self- doubt joined my already cynical view of mankind, raging onto
the pages of my journal in mad storms of hurt, hate, and anger. A
lot of the remorseless dialogue in the film's interrogation tape is straight
from my journal. Those were dark times for me. Much of detective
Nemo's monologue is from my journal too.
"If [psycho] Blight's and
Nemo's words are compared, it's eerie how similar their perspectives are
-- 'psychopath' and 'everyman' are only a hair's breadth away from being
the same. What they do in the end is all that separates them.
"They're two sides of the
same coin -- and that coin was me. Disillusioned, yet driven forward
by the relentless misery of losing a girl I loved more than anything in
earlier films, My Skin and Scream
for Me, are likewise dark and nihilistic. Despairing and hopeless
vignettes in which God appears absent and pointless, arbitrary evil triumphs.
"It's true, I am a nihilist,"
said Broadstone. "But on the other hand, I'm a walking, talking contradiction. I'm an indefatigable advocate of personal and human triumph -- I tear up
every time the Space Shuttle blasts off successfully. I'm also aware
that I'm one of the luckiest people in the world. I have my health,
family, friends, and my art,
which many people seem to admire. My
problem is, why me? Why not that poor guy I heard on radio who's
fighting to survive incurable cancer? Why him and not me? Is
it destiny? Is it chance? Is it karma? Is it simply that
God's on vacation? Or is it the endless injustice of reality, the
harbinger of inevitable entropy?
"On the other hand, maybe
I just need to get laid.
"At one point in my life,
I would've said I'm addicted to death and depression. Now I'd say that
I've always been overly sensitive to the absurdity, wickedness, and futility
of humanity and life in general. No matter how hard I try to be simply
entertaining, I only find true inspiration in my personal need to make
a comment on (or exploration of) life, people, and the puerile philosophies
and contingencies that perennially devour both."
The chief flaw in Broadstone's
films is that they're vignettes rather than stories. A story has a character
pursuing a goal, which pursuit ends either in success or defeat. Broadstone skips the pursuit and goes straight to the defeat, lingering
on the misery throughout the entire film.
Even so, his films are technically
brilliant. The cinematography in Human No More is beautiful, innovative, and aesthetically appropriate. A distorted point-of-view
shot follows Nemo, the images bleeding and blurring red, as though some
demonic entity is waiting for the moment to snatch the despairing detective's
"The crucifix wall was lit
with four practical red floodlights," said Broadstone, "then punched up
with two 500 watt Fresnel's with purple/magenta gels. That was necessary
because video, and even film, is almost impossible to keep in focus when
all prevailing light is red.
"The other lighting was
the practical desk lamp, which emitted a warm, yellowish light, and two
or more 750 watt halogen video lights to pump up the overall light level.
"These video lights were
diffused with a white silk or sheet of 1000H vellum, and then gelled yellow
to further enhance the warmth of the light coming from the desk lamp.
"The rest was achieved during
the post-production color correction process using Final
Cut Pro. First the mids and highs were color corrected toward
yellow-red, and then heavily saturated. The blacks were brought down
to where they began to crush, leaving little visibility in the shadows.
"The final step in bleeding
the colors was accomplished by placing a second layer of video over the
primary footage, then applying a considerable opacity drop with a Gaussian
blur. Also, in most shots, the overlaid footage was offset by one
or two frames to create a slight ghosting effect."
was shot on a Sony
TRV-900 using a VCL-R0752 wide-angle lens.
Visuals aside, Human
No More is impressive for its complex, densely layered soundtrack. Apart from Nemo's monologue, there's the taped interrogation, demonic rumbling,
music, and other sound effects,
all contributing to the film's dark ambience.
"The soundtrack was built
and mixed entirely in Final
Cut Pro," said Broadstone. "The only production sound used, short
a few stolen and processed sounds, was Tony Simmon's monologue. Everything
else was recorded post-production. All the footsteps and most Foley
were recorded wild, and cut together some six months after shooting wrapped. The interrogation tape was recorded, built, and mixed entirely on its own,
then inserted as an audio stem into the full soundtrack for the final mix.
"The ambient devil voice was another track of multi-layered audio that was
mixed in and of itself, then dropped into the final mix as an audio stem. The thunderstorm was done the same way. Most of what you hear in
the film are multiple tracks of multi-layered audio first created independently
and then dropped into the master soundtrack as a single-track element for
the final film mix.
"Any dirty or noisy audio
was cleaned up with Bias
Sound Soap. Audio effects and reverbs were achieved by
processing individual sound elements through Bias
Peak 4. Equalization of sound elements was achieved by processing
through Super Freq, a plug-in package for Peak
4. A tremendous amount of work, but well worth it.
"Nothing can ruin a movie
like a poor soundtrack."
Even more impressive, Broadstone
shot his film with minimal on set help. "To be honest, I am the camera
and sound crew," he confessed. "I use many pseudonyms in the credits
to avoid seeing my name over and over. I only take the main credits of
director, writer, editor, and re-recording mixer. I'm a self-taught
filmmaker, and for years prior to that, a musician. I credit my time
in the studio as a musician (and my experience on my previous two films)
with my ability to do cinematic audio work."
No More was shot in an old downtown Los Angeles freight depot, since
renovated and home to the Southern
California Institute of Architecture. "I had free access
because I'm the manager and buyer for the Institute's supply store," said
Broadstone. "Yes, I still have a day job, but that job allowed me
unlimited access to an amazing location. After practically living
in that basement for a month of set building and preproduction, then an
intense four day shoot, I still miss that creepy, cockroach-ridden hole
in the ground."
Broadstone recently signed
an option agreement with producer Christopher Webster (Hellraiser, Heathers)
raise money for Broadstone's first feature, Retard. "I'm attached as director," he said. "My co-writer, John Franklin
(Isaac in Children
of the Corn and Children
of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return), is attached as the mentally handicapped
More information about Broadstone's
films may be found at his company, Black
* Additional Winners
It takes more than a director
to create a worthy film, so this year the Tabloid Witch Award expands to
recognize other categories:
|As an idealistically liberal
reporter whose dark side emerges upon confronting the heart of darkness,
Sam Tsao swings from cold ambition and self-righteousness, to anxiety,
hysteria, savagery, and eventual remorse, all the while remaining true
to the moment and to her character.
The star of Mole.is
clearly Best Actress this year.
||John-Luke Montias as the
level-headed cameraman (Mole) and David Stifel
as the enigmatic ex-priest (Legion) came
close, but Tony Simmons's compelling portrayal of a man stricken with grief
and hopelessness in Human No More earns him.Best
|She only appears for the
first five minutes, but while she's up on screen, Sabrina Bertaccini steals
the scene as the gypsy con artist doing her hyperkinetic, but ultimately
This Legion performer easily wins for Best Supporting Actress.
||Donald Lopez came close
as the voodoo priest (Legion), but Best
Supporting Actor ultimately goes to James Cox.
As the gun-wielding tunnel
expert in Mole, Cox displays nearly as large
a transformation as Tsao.
|Like Mole and Human No More, Legion benefited
from extensive post-production work, and all three films' visuals aesthetically
support their themes. But for the sheer range of its camera formats
and visual styles, capturing iconic images with a perverse beauty, Best
Visuals goes to Bobby Eras and Marshall Plante for Legion.
Several filmmakers went
to great lengths for the perfect visuals, but only Christopher Alan Broadstone
went the extra mile on sound, with noteworthy results.
Broadstone easily wins Best
Sound for Human No More.
* The Final Tally
* Best Horror
Feature Film ........ Rich Mauro and Anthony Savini (Mole)
* Best Horror
Short Film ............ Robert Sexton (Legion: The Word Made Flesh)
* Best Actress
.......................... Sam Tsao (Mole)
* Best Actor .............................
Tony Simmons (Human No More)
* Best Supporting Actress .........
Sabrina Bertaccini (Legion: The Word Made Flesh)
* Best Supporting Actor ............
James Cox (Mole)
* Best Visuals ..........................
Bobby Eras, Marshall Plante (Legion: The Word Made Flesh)
* Best Sound ...........................
Christopher Alan Broadstone (Human No More)
* Jennifer Soemantri (Hollow)
* Jamie Renee Williams (Slinky
* Michael Fiore (Cadaverous)
* Sam Zalutsky (SuperStore)
* Christopher Alan Broadstone
(Human No More)
* How YOU.Can
Win Next Year!
many films this year -- here are some of the creative elements that separated
the wheat from the chafe.
|* WRITING COUNTS
"If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage." If you insist on
writing your own script, you must study the art of writing, just
as you'd study your camera. Too many directors wish to be "auteurs"
and write their own scripts -- without learning the art of storytelling.
If you're not a writer, and don't plan on learning the craft, find someone
who is. Poor writing creates many problems, such as...
* A VIGNETTE IS
NOT A STORY
Too many entries confused the two. "X rises from the grave and kills
Y. The End." Don't rely on an (often predictable) twist. Tell
* KEEP IT SHORT
a good film can be ruined by fat. Mauro trimmed Mole to
its perfect length. Slinky Milk is intriguing at its five minutes; at a half hour, it would have overstayed
Several losing entries would have been stronger at half their length. Overlong expository shots, characters wandering around or engaging in pointless
chatter, directors in love with their shots and boring the audience.
If a line is unnecessary to the story, don't say it. And if a line
is necessary, say it in a way that's sharp, funny, clever, intriguing,
memorable, or interesting. Dialogue should reveal character or move
the story forward. Characters should not sound alike. Vapid
chatter that achieves nothing may sound realistic, but banal banter makes
for a dull film.
* ACTING COUNTS
Quality acting was the single biggest element separating winning films from losing films. Actors who are wooden,
affectatious, or chew scenery can tank an otherwise decent film. Big cities
are full of trained actors seeking exposure, and even small towns usually
have a college or community theater with trained actors.
If you still insist on casting your friends and family, insist they get
professional training. Otherwise, you're shooting a home movie, and
home movies can rarely compete against more polished work.
* IT DOESN'T END
and Human No More all
underwent extensive post-production to optimize their camera footage. On the low end of the scale, some entries had that flat "home video" look,
poorly lit and with dull, fading colors. Yes, post-production can
cost money, but with programs like Final
Cut Pro, it's more a question of effort than
* SOUND COUNTS
George Lucas understood this, which is why he founded Skywalker Sound. Broadstone understands this also, which is why Human
No More is an audio feast.
* RULES ARE GUIDELINES
Rules can be broken. Human No More is a vignette rather than a story. And Slinky
Milk has no story, and no trained actors are
evident. But Broadstone's film remains powerful because of its artistry
and originality; and Williams's experimental genre doesn't require a story
Even so, rules are rules because they usually work. Violating them
is a risk that rarely pays off.
* ENTERTAIN US
While skillfully shot and acted, Cadaverous and SuperStore are
conventional horror tales of no great originality. Yet they deserve
because, while we sort of predict their endings, these films maintain our
interest. They entertain us. The writing contains no fat and
the story moves at a good pace. We are not bored or driven off by
an amateurish cast.
Contrary to some views, an amateurish cast does not produce a film that's
"entertaining because it's so bad it's good," but a film that's "so bad
All of the honored films are entertaining because they are well-written,
well-acted, and feature sharp visuals and a clear soundtrack.
OF PART TWO. RETURN TO PART ONE.
about the Los Angeles awards ceremony and the New
Are YOU a horror filmmaker seeking publicity? It's not too early to enter
our current search! We review entries as they arrive and select winners in the fall.
And if you're a filmmaker, actor, musician, or writer who doesn't do horror
-- we want to hear from you too! Email or snail mail us about your
project, and if we're intrigued we'll cover it or invite you to submit
Copyright 2005 by HollywoodInvestigator.com
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