INTERVIEW: Brendan Fletcher On Doing What We Love

What makes someone successful at what they do? Is it something you’re born with? Hard work? Experience? Let’s just say our next guest, Brendan Fletcher, is no newbie to the world of acting and has the parts to prove it. Acting since he was 13, Brendan got his first big role in the television movie, Little Criminals in the mid 90’s. Now at just 36, his discography is almost overwhelming. Brendan has appeared in productions such as:

Goosebumps (1996), Airbud (‘97), The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (‘98), Freddy vs. Jason (2003) Masters of Horror (TV series, 2006), RV (2006), Terry Gilliam’s Tideland (2006), The Pacific (2010), Bates Motel (TV series, 2014) Leprechaun: Origins (2014) , R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour (TV, 2014), The Revenant (2015), Cardinal (TV series, 2017), iZombie (2017), Braven (2018), two of the Ginger Snaps and three Rampage installments and many other great movies and TV shows.

In this podcast episode we talk Philly cheesesteaks, Stephen King and vaping — but mostly we take a look back at Brendan’s incredible career in horror films over the years and talk about what it takes to make a memorable scary movie. As of today Brendan is the last victim to be killed by Robert England’s Freddy Krueger character in the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise. Hoping it stays that way, buddy!

Brendan Fletcher is promoting his new movie, Distorted, coming out this Friday, June 22nd, in select theaters. It also stars John Cusack and Christina Ricci. The film is a psychological thriller/drama.

 

Follow Brendan on Twitter: @BrendanFletch1

Instagram: @thebrendanfletcher

Brendan Fletcher IMDb

 

 

Science!

A young man wondered, what are the chances there are a heaven and hell?

Surely, there’s enough space in the universe to house such incredible and drastic worlds.

It doesn’t add up, he thought. Wouldn’t all conscious animals have to be there, including all beings who’ve walked the earth before today? Basically everything that ever had a brain, right?

So naturally, he asked Reddit. But the top post of the day had severe spelling errors and 18,000 upvotes, All he wanted to know was, “who could figure out the amount of humans (only humans… OK, maybe monkeys too, because of the severe similarities) that have walked the earth? That’s like 5-7 million years of evolution, according to science.

So, like a fool, the young man asked his mother.

She said “you’re a bad Jew. I don’t know where I went wrong raising you to not believe in god.

Her son replied “I didn’t say I don’t believe in god, I’m still spiritual. I’m just confused about the idea of an afterlife and who I’m supposed to be praying to when I pray. Wouldn’t it make more sense that our ashes and dead cells help fertilize the soil, and call it a day?

His mother grew disgusted by the second. “ She covered her ears, cranked up the television, and turned her back to her son. “No religion”, she thought.

“But I believe in science!” He replied.

Yuck. No response.

“But mother, don’t you think it’s more likely that we are all pieces of god? That everything we experience is a branch of the God-tree? If I was gifted with this ability to question my existence, isn’t that god’s fault? And certainly, I am not the first one to ask this question, as it has been asked many times before.”

Despising his behavior, his mother yelled at him to leave the room. She had enough.

 

Clearly he’s given this more thought than she ever has.

…or she knows something he doesn’t.

“How They Do It” with Matt Roller (Rick and Morty, Speechless, Community)

Matt Roller is a Producer on the TV series Speechless. He is known for being Story Editor and writer for Adult Swim hit series, Rick and Morty, along with writers like Tom Kauffman and Ryan Ridley. Roller was also a staff writer on Community.

Rick and Morty are the incredibly dangerous adventures of Rick Sanchez and his grandson, Morty Smith. Morty’s parents, Beth and Jerry, are high school sweethearts who’ve been fighting to stay together since the inception of their first child, Morty’s older sister, Summer. Rick is constantly dragging Morty along on his irresponsible quests through the universe, where Morty often helps save Rick from his own drunken, out of control un-doings. Though, there’s a whole lot more to this grandfather-grandson dynamic. Did I mention Rick has the smartest brain in the universe?

Where did you grow up? Where do you live now? 

All over the place! I was born in California, went to elementary school in Illinois and Virginia, high school in Connecticut, and college in Boston. But now I live in Los Angeles.

How did you get started writing for television?

I wrote a pilot–a legal comedy–that won a contest. The press release from the contest got the attention of a few management companies, and off of that I got managers and agents.

At what point of the show did you join Rick and Morty? How did you become involved?

I joined for season two, and the process was pretty informal. At the end of season five of Community, Dan Harmon was looking for people to jump over to Rick and Morty. I think there was only a week or so off between Community ending and Rick and Morty starting. 

Before you began writing episodes for the show, I’m sure you had to get to know the characters inside and out. How big were the character biographies for this show? And how did you truly learn the characters in order to write for them?

Honestly, because I was coming in for season two, the process for learning the characters was to watch the rough cuts of season one that existed at the time. That was enough of a baseline to know who the characters were. And part of the joy of writing a show is inventing new aspects of characters’ personalities, expanding on what we already know about a character to make them more multifaceted. It’s possible there were character bios of some sort in a pitch document, but I never saw those.

In Ep.1, Se.2 of Rick and Morty’s “A Rickle In Time” where did you come up with the idea of Summer and Morty splitting time, creating a feedback loop of uncertainty? How long did it take you to figure out a solution?

I literally have no idea when we came up with that particular solution, because it was just one of a dozen we circled before we ran out of time and just had to pick one. Aside from the daunting technical aspects of “Rickle In Time”, we struggled for a long time with the emotional core of the story. What causes time to split? Is it chaos? Uncertainty? Insecurity? Once split, can time come back together mid episode, or can it only be split further? We had several early drafts where the split screen went from one reality to two, to four, back to two, back to four, to one, etc. Ultimately, I’m not sure we ever universally agreed on one solution, but the end product still looks cool

In that same episode, Jerry hits a deer while eating rum raisin ice cream (lol) and doesn’t believe Beth has the capability to save the life of the animal because she’s just a horse surgeon – I think it’s a brilliant dive into Morty’s parents’ flakey marriage and really tests their waters, bringing them closer in the end. Did that dynamic come natural while writing?

It probably came too naturally, in the sense that we went back to that well a few times. But I’d say the biggest motivators for this storyline were the fact that we needed Beth and Jerry out of the house while the others dealt with the repercussions of freezing time, and also the fact that I really like Coldstone.

What’s it like in the writer’s room of RaM? What about Community? Any funny stories?

Both rooms were great. It’s just a group of friends hanging out, telling jokes, making that cash money, you know? Everyone is really nice, except for Alex Rubens. Mean Alex Rubens. Does this site come up in search engines if you do a Google “News” search for your name? Alex Rubens.

Even though there’s only been 3 seasons it’s pretty safe to say RaM will be remembered for decades to come. Just look at all the fan tattoos and tributes on Reddit and Facebook groups; these kids seriously don’t know what to do with themselves in between seasons. How many more seasons do you think will come to fruition, and can you shed light on the situation with season 4 being renewed?

 I cannot! And even if I could, I would not! But if I had to guess on the number of future seasons, I would say 82.

It takes a special kind of writer to create content for Rick and Morty. Who or what are your biggest creative inspirations?

Man, it sounds basic at this point, but The Simpsons all the way. It was on at 5:30 and 6 every weekday night when I was a kid, and I watched it literally every day from third grade through high school. So it’s my entire comedic baseline. My number two creative inspiration is Real Steel, the prophetic Hugh Jackman vehicle of a world much like our own, but with elegant dancing robots.

What aspects do you find most challenging about writing for TV shows?

Having worked a number of desk jobs before I got to write for TV, I’d say even the bad parts of writing for TV are pretty great. On an individual level, I sometimes find it challenging writing my own pilots, because there’s no one in the room to bounce ideas off of or yell at me to get back to work. But on TV show, there’s always other writers to lean on. If you want to twist my arm, I’d say it’s sometimes challenging to pitch seven versions of what could happen with two specific characters in a B-story. But that’s the job. You don’t pitch the one perfect thing, because that doesn’t exist. You pitch ten options, and maybe one of them is closer to good than the others.

What projects are you writing for now? 

      Speechless! Watch it! Get me those sweet sweet residuals.

Anything else you could shed light on regarding your experience in the television industry?

Read a lot of scripts. Write a lot of scripts. Listen to criticism and hear it. Don’t get too full of yourself off of praise. Sometimes people are just being nice. And don’t spend five years working on your one perfect pilot. Even if it is the one perfect pilot (it’s probably not), you won’t learn anything new or grow as a writer from constantly tweaking the second act. Write a completely different thing. Then another completely different thing. And just keep doing that until you get to write a Marvel movie.

Follow Matt: @rolldiggity

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6066062

 

A Blast From The Past with Eric Kaplan (Podcast)

Eric Kaplan is a producer and writer, known for Fox classics like The Big Bang Theory, Futurama and my favorite sitcom of all time, Malcolm in the Middle. His work is Emmy-Award winning. Eric has also written for Flight of the Conchords, The Simpsons and published a philosophical book titled “Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation”

 Check out our very first podcast below! 

We talk writing and growing up in this sobering and humble conversation.

Follow Eric on Twitter! @ericlinuskaplan

Pick Up Eric’s Book: https://www.amazon.com/Does-Santa-Exist-Philosophical-Investigation/dp/0147516420

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0438235/

 

Getting Inside Bojack Horseman with Nick Adams

By Mitch Koehler and Jarred Geller

Nick Adams is an American television writer and author. He is currently a writer for the powerful and beloved Netflix Original, BoJack Horseman. He was also Story Editor for the series New Girl and Executive Story Editor for the series Men At Work.

Adams is the author of the book Making Friends with Black People, which he describes as a humorous but potent “how to guide” to bridging racial divides. Adams lives in LA with his wife.

1. First off, how did you get started writing for BoJack Horseman? Has this been your first major writing gig for a TV series?

The producers responded well to my writing sample and our meeting went great, so they brought me on board for season four. My first “major” writing gig was definitely New Girl. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a steady career thanks to peak TV. 

2. It must be somewhat of a challenge having multiple writers for the show. How do you go about designing an episode without stepping on each other’s toes and ideas?

On the contrary. You need multiple writers to generate enough story & jokes for an entire TV show. There have been a few people who just write the entire thing themselves, but they’re mostly savant overachievers and coke-fueled weirdos. Or it’s British. 

The showrunners has to do a good job of driving the ship and figuring out what story it is that they want to tell. The writers have to make sure we’re servicing their vision as best we can. 

3. What’s it like in the writer’s room of BoJack Horseman?

It’s great.  From the top down it’s a fun, welcoming and creative environment. Raphael usually has a clear idea of what it is that he wants. And if he doesn’t, he at least knows what he doesn’t want.  The staff is smart and funny and they’re all willing to “go there” as much as necessary.  Which is more than you’d think. Writers really put a lot of their personal lives into show. It’s part of the job. A show like BoJack demands even more of that.    

Physically, it looks like a playroom for ADHD pre-teens. And the roof leaks when it rains. 

4. BoJack is a special kind of character – he’s terribly flawed. He has a good heart but doesn’t think he deserves to be loved and can’t even love himself. Did you find it easy or difficult to write for his character?

I think there’s enough self-loathing in everyone to allow them to sympathize with him at least a little bit.  I’m the opposite of him—responsible husband & father—but yeah, I absolutely have days where I feel like a piece of shit. He also hates himself so much, it’s hard not to let him off the hook a bit.

Also, the guy can deliver a killer joke.

5. One of the most interesting aspects of the show is the foil between Bojack and Mr, PB. While they both have similar backgrounds as 90s sitcom stars in a show with the exact same premise, the similarities stop there. Bojack thinks through everything, Mr. PB goes with the flow. Bojack is perpetually cynical and depressed, Mr. PB is perpetually optimistic and happy (for the most part). How has their dynamic evolved throughout the show and how have the writers found a way to make the foil between them appear so naturally in every episode?

I started in season four, but I think PB’s grown so much into his own character since the beginning that he’s not so dependent on existing solely as BoJack’s foil anymore. Also, they’re a lot older now than they were when they first met. And they’ve both gone through a lot of shit. I think BoJack appreciates PB now in a way that he didn’t years ago. 

 

6. Let’s talk about the development of Todd and how he has branched out on his own over the past two seasons. He’s no longer purely a comical object of the show but has moved towards a more fully developed character. What is Todd’s role in the overall character make-up of the show and how has his maturation allowed the writers to tell more complex and deeper stories? And will we ever see the Todd humor from seasons 1 and 2 again?

I think all that silly Todd stuff is still there now. Todd was a kid when he started crashing with BoJack. It makes sense for him to grow up a bit. Also, him stumbling into his own complex sexual identity forces us to grow him up a bit.

7. Season 4 of BoJack is really heavy; Princess Carolyn struggles with not being a mom, Diane can’t be happy and Bojack’s even more depressed, hates his mom and just wants to do right by Hollyhock. Will BoJack finally find happiness in Season 5?

C’mon, man. It’s BoJack. 

 

8. I think Will Arnett is well known for adlibbing hilarious stuff. How much do the voice actors add on their own, and how much is written for them?

A lot of thought and effort is put into the writing of the episodes. Raphael is a “get it as scripted first” type of guy. But yeah, you don’t hire Will Arnett, Paul F. Thompkins, etc and not let them ad lib a little bit. I think the more common thing—and I’m not in the booth for all the records, only my episodes—is one of those guys or Allison or Amy or Aaron adlibbing something funny at the table read. Then, we all laugh and cross out our less funny joke and replace it with theirs. 

 

9. On BH, you wrote “Thoughts and Prayers” (Se: 4) and “BoJack The Feminist” (Se: 5, TBA). Both are very good scripts. Have you written other episodes that just didn’t make it into production? If so, what were they?

No, there’s nothing left on the cutting room floor. We figure out exactly what each episode is gonna be and then we write just those. 

 

10. Are you working on anything else right now? 

I’m writing on a new Netflix show called Tuca & Bertie. It was created by BoJack’s own Lisa Hanawalt! It’s about two animated birds and stars Tiffany Haddish. The other leads haven’t been announced yet, but they’re also super cool. Should be public soon. And like every other writer in this town, I’m always developing my own projects. 

 

11. What other shows do you hope to write for?

Just good ones. Hopefully, one that I created.

 

12. Any advice for young writers?

Write a lot. Read a lot. Learn about story. Watching a lot of TV isn’t as important as you’d think. Watch good movies. Watch good TV. Life is too short for trash.

IMDb: 

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2072419/

Get In The Pit with Chris Guertin (Sport Resource Group)

Chris Guertin is the man behind the action at Sport Resource Group. Based in Minneapolis, MN, SRG was created to give customers in the recreation industry a choice when it comes to ice hockey, lacrosse, inline hockey, gaga and soccer containment systems and accessories. The mission of Sport Resource Group is to provide high quality products to recreation professionals at affordable prices complimented by the best customer service in the industry. The company offers the highest quality customizable containment systems, portable boundaries and rink solutions to fit your needs. Whether you play box lacrosse, gaga, indoor soccer, inline hockey, cross ice hockey or dek hockey, Sport Resource Group has the products you need to make it official.

Sport Resource Group was founded by Chris and Maria Guertin in 2006. Chris has spent almost 20 years in the sports and recreation field. Beginning with internships for CBS Sports and the Florida Marlins, Chris learned the value of presenting a professional product on a consistent basis and parlayed that experience into a stint as World Tournament Coordinator for the National Inline Hockey Association (NIHA). From its inception in 1993 until its successful merger with USA Hockey Inline in 1996, the NIHA built its membership database from nothing to over 60,000 players, coaches and referees. In 1996 Chris joined the group at In-Line Sport Systems Inc (ISSI) to organize and run its successful Border Patrol Rink Systems division. After developing additional programs such as the Cross Ice Hockey program in the late 90’s with USA Hockey, Chris was ready for a new challenge. From 2004 through the beginning of 2007, Chris served as the Sales Manager for the Southeast and International regions for a local hockey company. Through those years he made many valuable friendships, forged valuable relationships with vendors and customers and developed the skills needed to consistently deliver the best possible products to recreation industry on a consistent basis. That experience combined with a passion for sports was the motivation behind Sport Resource Group.

Chris and his wife, Maria, live in Minneapolis, MN, where they can often be found playing floor hockey with their twin daughters, Savannah and Sylvia, and son, Owen.

         

When I first met Chris back in 2014, I was a junior at West Chester University, trying to get my club of Gaga (Israeli dodgeball) off the ground and into a full-time college level sport on both competitive and non-competitive levels. Hopefully West Chester University of PA will embrace the SRG way and get their own purple and gold ProWall Gaga Pit for students to hold tournaments, fundraisers and recreational activities. With the help of people like Chris, gaga can someday become a common sport across many more colleges in the US. Go Chris!

Gaga Pit:

https://www.facebook.com/Sportresourcegroup/videos/645994458781867/

You’ve been at this for a while now. How many schools and colleges use your ProWall and containment system products? What about camps, parks and recreation centers across the country?

Actually, that is an interesting question. We don’t know the real answer because we tout our ProWall System as being super-versatile. We’ll hear stores of a system that we sold as a gaga pit and now the school is using it for indoor soccer or vice versa. Overall we have over 1,100 customers and aim to add hundreds more per year. Colleges, elementary schools, parks departments and camps are our most common customers

What makes SRG stand out is the magnificent types of ProWall systems you offer, which can be customized to match school colors. And I could’ve sworn I saw Swarthmore and another college in the Midwest use ProWall setups. Which colleges have embraced your gaga pit?

Dozens and dozens of colleges use ProWall in a variety of ways. The Ohio State University (see picture) had a gaga pit made in custom colors and uses it for their own students as well as community outreach. Other schools (Arizona State University, for example) use it in the dorm and residential areas as a fun, fast way to get students together. 

What made you want to start Sport Resource Group? Where did you get the idea for a niche in customized boundary systems?

It was actually an easy decisions. There were a lot of companies out there chasing large clients with a lot of prestige and press when the projects were finished. Unfortunately, organizations like colleges, Boys and Girls clubs, YMCAs and military bases were falling through the cracks. The beauty of the ProWall System is that some of our smallest gaga pits can be purchased for $3,000 and the customer can add on to it from there.

 

If I’m a college or recreation center interested in a gaga ball pit, I’m probably concerned about space and weather damage – how easy is it to take apart and store a portable boundary system?

These are easy answers and rather than take my word for it, we refer people to our website and YouTube channel to see videos. The systems can be set up in a matter of minutes. They can also be disassembled and made smaller or added on to since every piece is interchangeable with every other piece. For weather, we bake almost 16,000 hours of UV inhibitors into every part. The vast majority of our installations are outside, so that means that we have hundreds and hundreds of customers using ProWall in the sun, snow and rain and they love it!

Whether it’s for hockey or gaga, what’s the ordering and manufacturing process like for a custom colored indoor/outdoor portable boundary system? Can you walk us through that process?

We always work with the customer and meet them at their comfort level. Some customers prefer to call in and get a quote which is then created and emailed or faxed to them. Others prefer to use our online store and we’re happy to do it that way, too. Overall, most Natural color gaga pits and soccer/hockey rinks can ship in a few days. Custom color systems take about four weeks to create. 

How many people work at SRG?

We have four workers here and a dog (Opie)! Maria is our VP of Accounting, Whitney is our Ops Manager and Kate is our Office Manager. They all do a great job and SRG would not have the success we have had without such a great team!

When you’re not out promoting your company at trade shows or conferences, what are you doing?

Our family is very active. Not only do we sell sports equipment, we also play many sports. Our children are active in lacrosse, volleyball, drama, basketball and more. We enjoy spending time with them because we know the time is short and they will be off on their own soon.

It’s amazing how your products have brought people together. What does the future hold for Sport Resource Group?

Our goal is to get more ProWall Systems out in to the public. We feel every college, kids club, private sports center, elementary school, military installation, summer camp and basically anywhere that kids flock to should have a ProWall System.

Anything else we should know about Chris Guertin or Sport Resource Group?

We just want all of our customers to know that when they are dealing with Sport Resource Group, they are dealing with a vendor who is just as passionate as they are about sports. We love the active lifestyle and truly believe in the power of sports and fun to unite a community!

https://sportresourcegroup.com

https://www.facebook.com/Sportresourcegroup/

Chris, thank you so much for your time. I truly believe you’re saving the sport of gaga one purchase at a time. Keep on doing your thing, and hopefully one day my alma mater will take notice that gaga has a place in intramural sports on the college level.

Predicting HOLOGRAMS – PART 1

 

Let us talk about one of the next big technologies to take over the world. 

Given the popularity of touchscreen phones, it’s likely that companies like Apple are and have already been working on prototypes of touch-holographic systems for phones, watches and computers. What does that look like? It probably starts out like a hologram that projects itself from a device that allows you to touch it, speak to it, and overall interact with it. I would even go as far to say that by the year 2040, there will have been a wave of holographic technology that replicates PEOPLE, or animals, or anything that resembles a cultural or animated character. And you will be able to download these characters and pay for their holograms. They will be far more advanced than today’s holographics. And far more than a screen that simply floats in the air.

Here’s an idea for a new toy. Kids download their favorite Disney characters, or better yet, make their own customizable being (or action hero, monster etc.) that can become a part of the family. The more you interact with this holographic being, the more it learns about you, and your tastes and interests. Everything about you. Instead of asking Siri or Alexa, you’ll bring up your holographic figure and ask it questions. It will be like a holographic computer. A holographic computer can be marketed in a number of useful ways, but one avenue will definitely dwell around socialization. It could be a pet, or a human, or a Disney or Marvel character. It will change the game when it arrives.

One thing you might be wondering, is how will a hologram be projected? Well one obvious version would be from a single device or two that allows the motion sensor technology to display an image(s) and then you can poke it, smile at it, or set it to only interact with your voice or face. But as future versions develop and get better as with all technologies, you will eventually be able to control it from different rooms, with hotbox sensors allowing it to drift around the room instead of a stagnant floating image. Pretty cool, right? I have a feeling everyone from a young child to an elderly person on their deathbed will find this technology useful. There will be so many downloadable 3rd party apps that it will make today’s saturation of software applications look puny.

Humans crave touch. We crave interaction. We will crave holograms. You’ll see.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

The AMAZING Interview with Guillaume Cassuto (Gumball)

By Mitch Koehler

The Amazing World of Gumball (also known simply as just Gumball) is an animated television series for Cartoon Network. Produced primarily by Cartoon Network Studios Europe, it first aired on May 3, 2011.

One might think this animated series is about anthropomorphic chewing gum, but it’s about a young cat named Gumball Watterson. If you’re not familiar with Gumball, he’s an adorable 12-year old blue cat who has a best friend—adoptive brother, goldfish Darwin. They attend middle school in the fictional city of Elmore. They frequently find themselves involved in various shenanigans around the city, during which time they interact with Gumball’s family members—sister Anais and parents Nicole and Richard—and an extended cast of supporting characters. Gumball has a knack for getting into trouble, often resulting from schemes he comes up with, but he never seems to learn his lesson.

What makes the show special is its interesting use of 2D and 3D animation. The show’s creator based several of the series’ characters on rejected characters from his previous commercial work and making its premise a mixture of “family shows and school shows”, which Cartoon Network was heavily interested in.

When I first met Guillaume, I wanted to ask “what is a French guy doing writing for Gumball?” But I soon found out that it’s Cartoon Network Studio Europe. Duh, that makes sense. After all, the show’s creator’s name is Ben Bocquelet. Cassuto wrote for seasons 2 to 4 of the show. Pretty impressive stuff!

  • Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?

I grew up in a small city in the North East of France called Nancy. I remember I used to think it was the best place on Earth, and that I’d never leave it. As soon as I did, I changed my mind of course. I still think it was a good place to grow up. It’s a city with an artistic heritage, the mouvement “Art Nouveau” was born in Nancy, and I think in some ways it influenced me to start drawing. I now live in London, which of course is a much bigger city, always buzzing. The good thing about coming from a small place in the East of France is that you don’t have to get used to the weather in London. It’s basically the same as my hometown, I’m never surprised or envious when I FaceTime my mom.

  • How did you get involved writing for Gumball?

The strangest way possible, I think. When I graduated from Supinfocom (a renowned animation school in France) I moved straight to London and I started working in commercials and music videos. I was part of the team who animated the Gorillaz music videos etc. It was a nice job, but the hours were extremely long, and as cool as it looked, it was still a commercial job… at the end of the day, we were stil selling toilet paper, or Coke, or music for a label. So when I heard that there was a new kids show called Gumball and that they were hiring for its second season, I took a pay cut and I jumped ship. I started as a background designer, and then moved on to supervise the compositing on the show.

And then one day, they were looking for writers. Ben Bocquelet, the show creator, literally walked up to me and told me “hey man, want to give it a shot?” And just like that, he gave me a chance. I submitted an episode idea with two friends who were also working on the show, and it got selected. The next day, we were asked to join the writing room. I’d never heard of anything like this. For a good reason: it never happens. Ben is just this kind of guy. He trusts his instinct, and he trusts people around him. I can never thank him enough. After that, I stayed in the writing room and wrote about 40 episodes of the show with other talented writers.

  • What made you want to write for a children’s show?

I’d always been interested in telling stories, particularly through the medium of animation. I often tell how when I was a kid, I used to pause on my VHS player, and go frame by frame on cartoons to understand how the characters changed expressions etc. Of course at the time I didn’t think it could be a career. I’d never made the connection that there were people actually making it, and that I could be part of this gang.

At Supinfocom, I co-directed a short movie, and it reignited my passion for storytelling. Sadly, it isn’t a very good short movie, but it’s a comedy and I can sort of trace back some of the work I’ve been doing since then to this first attempt.

As to why I chose “kids tv”, I didn’t really have a choice, for once, but also, when the opportunity presented itself, it sort of made sense. I never thought of kids TV as a less interesting form of TV. I think we’d be wrong to assume that kids don’t get it, or that they don’t know better. I know that because when I look back on the kind of shows I liked when I was a kid, the one that stuck with me are good shows.

  • What’s your favorite episode you’ve written and why?

Oh boy. There are a few, for different reasons. My favourite would have to be “The hug”, though. For different reasons: First, and I have to be a bit braggy there, I came up with the concept of the episode, and that’s always a bit of an achievement for a writer I imagine. Second, I also came up with the “visual hook” of the episode, which is that it’s an episode with lots of inner monologues from the characters, much like “Peep show”, which I stole the idea from. I was quite proud of that because it really tied everything together. But third and most important, the other writers who took the outline and drafted the episode did an incredible job. I think it’s one of the funniest episodes, because it’s very simple. It’s the furthest thing from a kids cartoon, it’s a silly sitcom episode. And I really enjoy that.

  • Did you collaborate with other writers when writing episodes?

Oh yes, all the time. You’d have to be crazy to trust a french person to single-handedly deliver a script in english. I’ve not written a single joke that hasn’t been deeply improved by the communal effort in the writing room.

  • What’s the writing process like?

Gumball is different from most kids show, in that it is a “script-driven” show, which means the writers (us!) deliver a fully fledged script, with all the dialogues, as opposed to “storyboard-driven” shows where they only write an outline, and the storyboard artist comes up with the “gaps” in between beats. This allowed us to be in total control of the rhythm of the episodes, and of the tone. We would generally work out an outline with Ben (creator of Gumball), then we’d have a few days to write a first draft of the 11min episode, then Ben would come back in the room and we’d do a “punch up” session, where we tried to make it funnier, or move bits around to help the narration.

After that, a very underrated part of the writing process happens in storyboard and in edit, where the board artists and the editors add jokes, remove stuff that don’t work, refine the staging and the timing… they’re often underrated, but it’s a huge part of the “story” process.

 

  • I love Gumballs mom, Nicole, but there are so many unique and wacky characters in TAWoG, especially in the episode, “The Extras”. If you had to pick a favorite character, which one would it be?

My favorite character to write for was Banana Joe. We could get away with almost anything with him, because he’s such a nonsensical character, but also somewhat tangible… and we’d know his voice actor would do an amazing job with the lines we were giving him. Gumball is the obvious next choice, because he’s the voice of the show, so anything he says or does drives the episode.

  • Have you met any kids who were big Gumball fans?

My nephews used to be fans of the show. They’re American but they live in Spain, and the show is huge there. They’re slightly too old now, so they don’t watch it anymore… In the UK it isn’t as big somehow, so we’re not really in touch with our fanbase that much. It’s a bit of a bummer.

  • Growing up, what were your favorite TV shows or movies?

My favourite TV show ever is Quantum Leap. I was obsessed with this show. Everything about it is great: the intro song, the concept, the episode ideas, the costumes… it’s a classic “Donald P Bellisario” show but it’s one of the greats.

My favourite movie for a while was Spielberg’s Hook. I loved how the movie dealt with integrating the original book in the story, I used to think it was so clever…

Animation wise, my favourite movie was and still is Fievel. I’ll say something controversial though: not “An american tale”. I’m talking about “Fievel goes west”. I was obsessed when I was little. I thought the story was amazing, the dialogues, the characters… I know now it’s not supposed to be the best cartoon ever, but for me it is.

  • What projects are you currently working on?

Hmmm… hopefully you’ll know more about it in the near future. My fingers are crossed AND I’m touching wood right now, which is probably why It took me 20 minutes to write this sentence.

  • I’m sure all of our American readers are wondering, what’s the best pizza place in France?

Are they? And they think I’m the right person to deliver an absolute answer? That’s a lot of pressure on one guy. Well I’ll say this: there’s a concept in France that I haven’t seen done as well anywhere else, and it’s… The pizza truck. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist anywhere else, I trust you guys to sell any sort of food from the window of any sort of vehicle, but I’ve never had a better truck-pizza than in France. Go to any town in the South of France and find one. You’ll thank me later.

IMDb:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3461845/

The Amazing World of Gumball:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6_xZrdQVio

The Midwest Mistress with Robbie Barnes

By Mitch Koehler

Today we chat with the beautiful and creative Robbie Barnes. No one knows more about the hustle than this actress, writer and director best known for her film, He Chose Her, and her latest movie, Whatever It Takes, among other thriller-esque projects. Move over Jodie Foster, there’s a new chick taking on the thriller industry!

1. Hi Robbie. Thanks for your time. What projects are you working on, and what will 2018 see from you?

Hi Mitch! No problem, thanks for asking me. I have 2 projects I’m working on this year. The first one is a short, fantasy-romance that we’ve already started filming. It’s a story about Jack and Sarah and how everyday for them in the picture of perfection for two lovers literally living the dream. But one of them wants to break free from their perfect dreamscape and live a life in a real world, filled with beauty, pain, and everything in between. But doing so might cost this couple everything and turn their dream into a nightmare.

The second project is vampire/serial killer story based loosely on a New Orleans vampire legend. There’s a completed rough draft and crew backing it up, but it’ll be a while until we get to it. My primary focus is “Dream Come True.”

2. How long have you been in the game?

I’ve been acting since 1998, so it’s been a while! As far as being a part of films…I’ve taken film classes in college and made a few between 2004-2009. I found the group FNA Productions to work with in 2010 and though I stayed mostly in front of the camera, I did help with some writing and editing as well as marketing. With them, I learned so much more about being behind the camera. In 2016, I created my own films with a new crew. We’ve done “He Chose Her,” “Whatever It Takes, “Beyond Repair,” and I also was the assistant director and editor of “Where Are You” and writer and actress in “Inspired.”

3. You’ve recently made a movie called Whatever It Takes. Has it been received well at film festivals? When can we all see it?

So far with festivals it’s been hit or miss, which is what I expected because of the storyline. When it gets into one, it wins. It’s won Best Feature at the Sweet As Film Festival, won a Silver Award and was nominated for Best Thriller at the North American Film Awards (NAFA), and was an official selection at the Miami International Film Festival. It’s taboo and unique because it’s a story about an escort and it presents a sex-worker in a dimensional and sympathetic light, and the movie doesn’t come down on her completely for what she’s doing. It doesn’t glorify what she’s doing but it doesn’t knock it either. It’s just a way of life and doesn’t have a spotlight on it. As far as being able to see it, I’m going to be submitting for distribution soon if you don’t get to catch it at one of the festivals it may be selected to play this year. My end goal is to have it available in 2019 on Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, etc.

4. What was the inspiration for WIT?
The underground sex world of Los Angeles. I met several people, women and men, who work some type of job in the sex industry. Naturally there’s judgment towards that lifestyle, but these were some of the nicest and most genuine people I met in that city and thought they have interesting stories behind them for why they do what they do.

5. What horror or thriller movies have inspired you?
The movie “Seven” was in my mind a lot for “Whatever It Takes.” And for when it comes to “Beyond Repair” I would think of scenes from “Sixth Sense” because I like how they portrayed spirits in that movie. It made you more empathetic towards them. Being an empath myself, I think I’m always pushing empathy a little bit in what I do.

6. I think it’s cool you’re into scary flicks (Beyond Repair, Krampus: TDR) Do you know or work with other women in the industry?

Yes, I try to collaborate with other women when possible, even if it’s having them just read over a script and give me their thoughts. I love working with Kinsley Funari-Coleman, Tiffani Hilton, Ember Burns, and Katelynn Elizabeth Newberry. They’ve been my ride or dies for a years now and I always pull them into my films if I can. I’d love to work with someone like Danielle Harris, Fiona Dourif, Dee Wallace, or Eliza Dushku someday.

7. Speaking of Dee Wallace, our second interview features director Harrison Smith, and he just worked with Dee Wallace and Felissa Rose – you should contact him. Out of the movies you’ve written, directed or acted in, which project has been the most fun to be a part of?

Wow, this is a really difficult question! There’s so many I had a really good time working on. I have 2 different answers; one as an actor and one as a director. Back in 2012, my old group made a short film for the Cleveland 48 Hour Film Project called “PheMIMEnon.” I got to play a mime alongside of my good friends, Patrick Antone. We ran around this artsy neighborhood dressed up as mimes, running and gunning cause we only had 48 hours to get the entire film complete. The genre was ‘silent film’ so we didn’t think we had a shot in hell of winning a best film award, so we just had fun with it. The night of the award ceremony, it was between our film and another group – who always produce amazing films – and we still didn’t think we had a shot. When they called our name as the Best Film winner it was like hitting a grand slam. It was Cleveland Cavs beating the Golden State Warriors in 2016. That feeling was incredible and it went off to play at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. It was the first time getting a taste of that. So for that reason, I’m going to go with that film as being my favorite to be a part of as an actor. As a director, “Beyond Repair.” I love the horror genre and I liked sticking strictly behind the camera and not have to juggle being an actor and director. My cast and crew for that film were so talented, meshed together so well, and it all blew my mind. It’s being doing so well in the festival circuit as well. I couldn’t be more proud and humbled by it. I’m very excited to tell more stories with that group and add new faces to the mix.

8. You grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. What’s that like? Where do you live now?

I love my city and defend it so hard. I used to want to get out and think the grass was greener on the other side, but then I’ve lived in LA and got that out of my system. As much as I love it there too and think of it as a second home, it’ll never be the Midwest. Right now I live in Lakewood, OH and it just feels so right. It’s a trendy, artist neighborhood with a bunch of mom and pop restaurants and bars. The friends I’ve been collaborating with all live within an hour away as does my family. I also work as a product specialist with the auto show and tour the country with it during the season, so it feeds my need to travel and see new cities. By the time a show is over, I’m ready to go back to quiet Cleveland and recharge! Maybe I would be more bored if I didn’t travel so much, but I like visiting bigger cities but having my little town to come home to afterward.

9. Is writing and acting in movies a full-time thing for you?

It pretty much consumes my life, yes. If I’m not shooting or making a schedule, I’m writing scripts or editing. Even during auto show, there’s a script or pre-production being done. I can’t live without filmmaking – it’s my sanity.

10. Who do you hope to collaborate with in the future?

Two actors I’d love to work with are Michael Biehn and Michael Rooker. They’ve both been very inspiring to me for different reasons. I’d like to collaborate with more people on the producer and marketing sides of filmmaking and add them to my crew. It would be nice to have someone who handles PR than me and of course, investors are more than welcomed as well.

11. Anything else the public should know about Robbie Barnes?

Hmm…I love the Fitness Marshall and dancing with him to his videos on Youtube. I’m getting married in June to a handsome and wonderful Greek man I met while working the auto show circuit who I’m going to drag with me to backpack Europe this summer. I’m currently obsessed with Bruno Mars, Big Little Lies, and Game of Thrones. I love animals and have two dogs and two cats. I want to spend my life making movies people enjoy, traveling the world, and maybe having ONE child someday. That’s all!

Talking Horror with Joe Barton (Netflix’s The Ritual)

Joe Barton has been a writer for the sci-fi show Humans and BBC’s Our World War. But, you might know him from his most recent film, the unpredictably original The Ritual, a new featured film on Netlflix. Barton wrote the screenplay for The Ritual and was cool enough to sit down and talk movies with us.

The Ritual is a 2017 British horror film directed by David Bruckner and written by Joe Barton. The film is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Adam Nevill.

PLOT: A group of four friends – Phil, Dom, Hutch, and Luke – embark on a hiking trip on King’s Trail in Sarek National Park, in northern Sweden to honor their friend Rob, who was killed six months earlier. After Dom falls and injures his knee, Hutch consults the group’s map and decides on an alternate route through the woods that will take them half the time. In the woods, the group begins to encounter unexplained phenomena.

Hey Joe! Thanks for joining No Jokes today and allowing me to take the time to pick your brain. A lot of people have seen your movie and so, I think it’s good timing!

1. Where are you from? Where do you currently reside?

I was born in London and grew up on the South coast in Brighton. I now spend half the week in London and half the week in Brighton because I’m basically incredibly indecisive.

2. The intro to The Ritual reminded me of 2005’s The Descent, where somebody close dies in the beginning, and it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. How did you approach writing this screenplay?

The intro wasn’t in the book which starts at the point of the guys finding the gutted elk in the tree and then flashbacks a little bit. In the book the issue with the four guys is quite internal – they’ve all grown apart and Rafe Spall’s character Luke feels distant from the others because they’ve all gotten on with their lives and he still lives a bit like he’s in his early 20s. Though I could personally relate to that on a worryingly fundamental level we did feel we needed something additional and a bit more visual and visceral to divide the group so we came up with the opening. Initially it was an office shooting that Luke survives but we changed that to the convenience store robbery when David came on board as director and was like “yeah there’s no fucking way we can start this movie with a mass shooting” and, you know what, he was right.

3. A lot of people are talking about the creature-feature in this movie, saying how “fresh” it is. What inspired the creature design? Was it your idea, or was it based off Adam Nevill’s story?

We went through a ton of different ideas for what the monster could be, mostly looking at old Norse legends and stuff. Thor supposedly had these two goats that pulled his chariot called Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjostr (‘teeth bearer’ and ‘teeth grinder’ so for a while the monster was going to be one of those. Probably Tanngrisnir cos it’s easier to spell. But we ditched that idea. In the book the creature is called Moder (‘mother’) and there’s the idea that the people in the forest were her descendants so we had lots of discussions about who exactly might be shagging this bloody great Norse God monster. Anyway, we eventually came up with the idea of a God who demands worship and feeds on pain and can grant extra-long life (it fit in with the opening as well which was handy). The design was done by Keith Thompson. At one-point David was sat in an office covered in different monster designs all stuck up on the walls. I don’t think it was a particularly healthy working environment for him but he picked a good one so we’ve got no complaints.

4. The scene where the guys wake up all around the abandoned house is very creepy, especially that room with the weird stick and bone figure. Was the finished product how you imagined it when you wrote it?

Yeah it’s creepy as shit. That scene (or a variant of it) was in the book and reading that was the moment I knew I wanted to do the movie. You’re never entirely sure how anything’s going to turn out and it never completely looks like how you imagined it but I was really pleased with that one.

5. How did you get Netflix to release the movie? Was it a Big Sell?

I personally hold very little sway over Netflix’s acquisitions department despite my many years as a loyal subscriber to their service but as I understand it they bought it after viewing it at the Midnight Madness screening at Toronto which is where the below photo was taken. I look terrible in that photo. Why have I got my hands in my jacket pockets? Everyone else has got their hands in their trouser pockets and they all look way better. But they’re actors, they know about this sort of thing. You live and learn. I was also very drunk when it was taken. I believe we all were. The film was one of the biggest sellers out of Toronto that year, about $5 million I think. I’m still waiting for my cut…

(L-R) Joe Barton, Sam Troughton, Arsher Ali, David Bruckner, Rafe Spall, and Rob James-Collier attend “The Ritual” premiere during the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival at Ryerson Theatre on September 8, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Getty)

6. What was it like shooting The Ritual? What was the budget and how long did it take?

I didn’t go on set. They told me it was fucking freezing and in the middle of nowhere so I gave it a swerve. Actually I had another film shooting at the same time called MY DAYS OF MERCY so I went to that one instead. It was in the suburbs of Cincinnati. Just before the election. Trump banners anywhere. Would have been better off with the monster. I’m not entirely sure how long it took to film either. A month perhaps? Maybe six weeks. I could be wrong. It was filmed in Romania and apparently there were bears everywhere. I also don’t know the exact budget but it was pretty low.

7. Have you written any other horror or thriller movies?

Nothing that’s been made! I’ve got a horror TV script that I occasionally give to producers when I’ve run out of other things to pitch. And I’ve got two horror movie ideas in different stages of development which I’m excited about.

8. What are your favorite horror movies from the last 10 years?

I actually don’t watch that many horror movies, truth be told. I’m a bit of a coward. I tried to watch IT on a plane the other day and just thought ‘no, fuck this’ after about 5 minutes. I can’t be doing with child-eating clowns, man. I loved 28 Days Later which I’ve just googled and seen that it’s 16 years old so now I feel really old. The ageing process and the slow unstoppable march towards death – that’s the greatest horror of all. Also Bride of Chucky.

9. That’s funny you mention Bride of Chucky. I’m still working on my first two scripts, one being Chucky vs. Leprechaun. What can audiences expect from Joe Barton in the next few years?

I can’t imagine audiences are expecting anything to be honest but I’ve got my own Netflix series which starts filming this summer so that’s quite exciting. It’s a sort of crime thriller called Giri/Haji set between Tokyo and London. There’s a couple of films that I’m writing as well that have a chance of getting made and a few other TV shows which have a shot as well. MY DAYS OF MERCY is a romantic drama starring Ellen Page and Kate Mara which should come out later in the year and I’m also thinking about buying a dog at some point but that shouldn’t really affect anyone’s life too much.

10. Any advice for young screenwriters trying to get out there?

Write a lot. Finish what you write. Read good books, watch good TV and films. Write stories that excite you rather than things you think have a better chance of getting made – it’s all about developing your voice in the early days. When you think you’re ready, start making enquiries into getting an agent – find writers you like and who have a similar style to you and then contact their reps. Learn the very basics of three act structure if you have to but don’t live by it. Drink lots of water and would it kill you to ring your mother every now and again? She worries about you.

Joe, thank you so much for your time. We wish you nothing but good luck on your Netflix series and your movie, MY DAYS OF MERCY.

NOW GET ON NETFLIX AND CHECK OUT THE RITUAL!

IMDb:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3620967/

Slasher Victim – a Golden House Interview

By Mitch Koehler

Hey Slasher Victim. So we talked about a month ago, and you enlightened me on a number of things. One, being you’re a filmmaker. The other was your masterpiece, REEL.

1. First off, what’s your “reel” name?

My name is SlasherVictim666. I am the greatest director of all time and keeper of The Golden House. Before I was on my path I was known as John McKuttle but John is no more and SlasherVictim666 is forever. On the street if you yelled ‘John!’ – I would not answer.

2. Where did you grow up? Where are you at now?

I grew up a few kilometers away from Bradburry, Ontario, Canada. I lived on a farm in the woods with my family. Now I live in Toronto because this is where you need to be in Canada if you want to takeover Hollywood and I will be in Hollywood very soon.

3. When we first met, you spoke a lot about family, and how Hollywood can be draining or take advantage of an indie moviemaker. What is true? What were your experiences with selling your movie?

Wow. I could answer this one all day but I will be brief. I made this movie about Todd and my family and then I meet this guy named Chris Goodwin (or as I call him Piss Goodwin). He offered to buy my debut masterpiece and put us on a fast track to Hollywood. Then years pass and I find out that not only has he done nothing but he also put his name on my masterpiece movie! How is that possible? Since then I have had many other offers to sell my movie (which would get us closer to Hollywood) but I am locked in for now. This is something I am currently trying to fix.

4. What is a Golden House film? What makes a Golden House film, “Golden House”?

This is the best question yet. Hollywood lies to us my friends. All the time. Many years ago it stole our dreams and twisted them up and now they sell it back to us at triple the cost. The Golden House is the Cinema of Truth. It is why my masterpieces are called REEL Hollywood is fake my friends but I will never lie to you.

There have been many movies before that were almost from The Golden House but there have only been 3 that were true….

L’Age d’Or by Luis Bunuel
Scorpio Rising by Kenneth Anger
Outer Space by Peter Tscherkassky

Now I am next to carry on the tradition with my series of REEL masterpieces.

5. Was REEL the first movie you made?

Yes. It was my debut masterpiece. My family had been making movies for about 70 years. Some of their footage is in REEL and I will put some more in REEL 2. I had been trying to make by debut for about a decade (since I was about 14) but my family was not very supportive and would mostly laugh at me and say ‘…you really are worthless…’. I told them we should turn our footage into a movie so we can move to Hollywood but they didn’t listen. That’s why I knew I had to move to Toronto to finish my debut alone. I do have to give my family credit though for helping me in the end.

6. You talk a lot about finding “stars”. What makes a star in your mind? Who is your star now and how did you find him/her?

That’s tough to answer my friend. I looked for so many years for my first star but when I found Todd I knew he was made for Hollywood. Part of the reason was he grew up in the same town as me so I thought I might be able to use that to my advantage. My stars since then have been many. To make sure they are worthy I usually do proper auditions (see picture I attached). In the end I promise I will find 666 stars.

7. I’ve said before that I’ve never really been a fan of Found Footage films, like Blair Witch Project or VHS. But when I saw REEL I was uniquely intrigued by Todd Smith’s personality. He seems like a cool guy. Is he as cool to work with? And where is he now?

Oh yes! He is the coolest person I have ever met. Let me correct that. He was the coolest person I had ever met until I met my assistant Jane. I understood Todd. He was just on the wrong path.

He needed me to help him get the fame he deserves and now that he’s in The Golden House forever we can worship him properly.

8. Did you go to school for directing or is it something you discovered on your own?

School makes you weak and dumb. I had to tell my assistant Jane to drop out. I learned everything I needed to learn from my families 70 years of making movies. Reel knowledge. Not fake lies. My family had video cameras in their hands at all times and stars were always around us out in the country. Then my family would watch the footage on the couch. I was always learning no matter what they were doing.

9. How many REEL films will there be? Will there be a new Todd Smith?

I will make REEL 2 and REEL 3 and REEL 4 and REEL 5 and REEL 6 and REEL forever until 666 stars have visited The Golden House. However long it takes. Decades. Every star is special though like a snowflake. Todd can never be replaced.

10. What can we expect from you in the next few years?

To takeover Hollywood of course! I am making REEL 2 right now and also looking at stars for REEL 3. So expect many more Reel’s soon!

Also every Friday Night at 9pm EST is the Secret Screening of REEL 1. This is where my new family gathers and we watch my debut masterpiece and I show everyone some more secret stuff!

These weekly Secret Screenings are also very important for me to get the necessary power I need from all my little horror familians. Without them and their energy coursing through my veins…I would be nothing. So please everyone come to the Secret Friday Night Screening. Contact me slashervictim666@outlook.com and I will put you on the Secret Guest List!

I also want to say I am the New New Hollywood. Me and my New Family are coming for the Hollywood Hills. This is our world now and you cannot stop us. Michael Myers is fake and old. I am Reel and New. I am the Boogeyman of now. Quit your social media accounts and then rejoin them and only follow me because I only want to follow you. Forever.

IMDb:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5089740/

Death House with B. Harrison Smith

By Mitch Koehler

Harrison Smith is the writer and producer of the acclaimed thriller, “The Fields,” starring Oscar winner Cloris Leachman & Tara Reid, the Corey Feldman horror cult hit, “6 Degrees of Hhttp://nojokes.org/wp-admin/post.php?post=52&action=edit#ell,” “Camp Dread” starring Oscar nominee Eric Roberts & horror icon Danielle Harris and the Billy Zane, Dee Wallace zombie action “Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard.” Smith’s directing debut was “Camp Dread,” followed by”Zombie Killers.” His latest horror feature, “Death House” was released theatrically February 2018 and has been performing well. He just finished and sold his first action-comedy, “Garlic & Gunpowder” for release in 2018.

B. Harrison Smith is President of Class of ’85, LLC. Directing debut: Camp Dread. He recently wrapped production on the horror star studded Death House and the action-comedy, Garlic & Gunpowder. He’s the director of Camp Dread, Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard, Death House, Garlic & Gunpowder Writer of The Fields, 6 Degrees of Hell, Camp Dread, Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard, Death House, and Garlic & Gunpowder. TV Work: Hang Men.

Smith was born and resides in Pennsylvania. He works to create high quality motion pictures on modest budgets with domestic and international success.

This interview was a little tough to conduct because Harrison was in the middle of filming, and so we had to make the time. Enjoy!

1. What and who is Class of ’85, and what do you do?

It’s my company named after a very special group of people. My work often has a strong touch of the 80s to it as my IMDb says. I am a director, writer and producer and a guy who does whatever needs to be done to get the project made.

2. I’ve seen some of your movies, most notably Death House (2018) and Camp Dread (2014). What was the hardest part about writing these scripts? Did a lot of people tryout for the movie?

Camp Dread was a fun write because I knew exactly what I needed to do and wanted to do. As long as Felissa Rose was in the film as Rachel, then that’s half the battle. For Death House it was making sure I remained loyal to Gunnar’s vision.

It starts with a good script. I gave the first draft to Mike Eisenstadt and Gunnar. Then it went to Rick Finkelstein. They loved it. Gunnar felt it was a departure from his original story but was pleased I honored his requests. Rick had a campfire reading of it over last summer and the people around it went wild for it. Gunnar called to say he gave the new script his blessing.

We now had a working script.

Then we found out Gunnar was ill. He never let on during our face to face brainstorm sessions or numerous phone calls. This gentle giant was silent on a terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He was far too fine a human being to let on to anyone. Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I think I now know why he was so urgent about the film getting made. He wanted to know the money was locking in and that it was getting done. He lobbied his horror comrades to be in the film and honor letters of intent that had been signed years earlier.

He knew he was dying and it breaks my heart to write that.

Gunnar died last fall. His last wish to both Eisenstadt and Rick was “Get this made. Use my death to exploit it. Film it on my grave if you have to in order to get this thing made.” He was adamant and we all said we didn’t want to look like parasites or vultures. He dismissed that. “Get it made,” was his final directive.

Gunnar was gone. We had a solid script. Now we needed the money.

3. I love that you’ve worked with Tara Reid, I love her in the movie Vipers. What’s it like working with people like Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th) and Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp)? Any good stories? 

Fun. Felissa is my business partner and the sister I never had. We have a blast. I love her kids and one of the best stories is that she would always have wild parties on set and one night, one of her co stars called security because the hotel party was way too loud. That’s a classic. When Felissa arrives on set the radios start buzzing and you hear “Felissa has landed! Felissa has landed!” It’s very funny.

As for Death House Kane was the site prankster. He and I quoted Blazing Saddles on an almost daily basis and he has such a brilliant sense of humor. My God he makes me laugh.

The cast of Death House were the nicest, kindest and generous people. I mean that. No egos. No divas. They were there for Gunnar and I loved them.

4. Who are your main writing partners? Who do you share your ideas with?

So far it’s been just me but I am teaming with some gifted guys for The Death House sequel, “The Farm.” I am excited about that.

5. We’re both from Pennsylvania. Pretty cool! How did you get started as a director/writer — did you ever “move to LA” and “try to make it”? Where from PA are you?

I wanted to make movies after seeing Jaws in 1975 at the age of 8. Jaws is the movie that made me want to make movies. From there my uncle got me a Super 8mm silent film camera and it went from there. I made home made comedy shorts with my brother and friends, got a local cable TV show and edited with scissors and tape. I went to video and then I failed out of college and worked in LA for awhile until coming home to try my hand here. I am presently in Lancaster.

6. Horror will always have a secret and supportive fan base. Have your projects ever made it into theatres or on TV networks? Do you care?

Yes. The Fields and 6 Degrees has limited, very limited, theatricals. Death House will my biggest theatrical and I hope it kills out there. The odds are tough for sure. Of course I care, I want BlumHouse to take notice of me and that I make good stuff for little money and I can do wonders for them as well. A filmmaker wants their work to be seen and also be able to eat and continue to do it. : )

7. Being an indie filmmaker can be tough. What are your biggest and lowest budget films? Any advice for aspiring filmmakers?

I don’t want to say that because to me they are all on the same level. Death House is the biggest but a lot of people had to do a lot get it done and when the money finally moved all the stars we wanted didn’t have open schedules. So budget is always an issue but we try to overcome with good stories and acting and production value.

I’ve attended a lot of Hollywood meetings. Creative. Business. Social. In every one of these, ideas and projects get thrown around. People get excited. Plans are made. I usually wait until the very end to ask the most important question. If it is not mentioned up front, you kind of have your answer, but it’s a game in the end to see if you’re as smart as you think you are.

That question is: Is the financing in place?

You get either leaden silence as if you committed some grave social faux pas, or you get the “well, we are talking to so and so…”

Translated: there is no money.

Don’t believe the Hollywood fables of making a film for $15,000 and making $400 million. With all legends there is a grain of truth, but like an oyster makes a pearl, it’s slathered with layers of mucus and shit. No, your $7000 movie is not going to make a million. I promise you. If you are telling investors that it will, you are misleading them at best.

Finding the money is the toughest part of making a movie. Making the actual film is easy in comparison. See my previous Cynema articles on this subject. The bottom line is: show me the money and then spend it wisely.

The filmmakers out there making these 20K and under films who promising their backers they will make millions are ruining it for the real filmmakers. If you think yet another $5000 zombie film is the path to riches…get ready to be disappointed. I knew someone who cobbled together about 25K from various people willing to take a shot on his zombie film. I told him to not make a zombie film. The market was flooded and you won’t make one that will make that money back. He even had the idea of casting some D list porn star for name value. I told him that wouldn’t work either.
He went ahead and did it anyway. The film ended up somewhere online for free. It was never bought and he should have just taken that 25K and lit it on fire. So what’s the fallout? Those people who invested will never do it again and will be sure to tell anyone else ever thinking about putting money into film to avoid it. It’s like dropping a rock in a pond. The ripples keep going out further and further.

The filmmakers out there making th3ese 20K and under films who promising their backers they will make millions are ruining it for the real filmmakers. If you think yet another $5000 zombie film is the path to riches…get ready to be disappointed.

“Death House” had a number of people come forward promising to put in funds. Some came through. I spent an entire summer courting one major financier who was vetted, showed proof of funds and in the end wasted our time and everyone’s associated with the project.

You may find people out there who have the money. The issue is, will they give it to you? They string you along…why? Maybe so they can tell their friends they are making a movie and this person, that person are in it. Maybe it’s just a game to them for power or manipulation.

Me (c) with Entertainment Factory producers Rick Finkelstein (r) and Steven Chase (l). These two men worked tirelessly to get the funding in place.

I had one prospective financier say clearly, “I could give you the million dollars you need and never miss it. But I am not going to.” Maybe this person was pushed down one too many times on the playground or didn’t get to go to the prom…who knows? However it was clear that

their unhappiness was going to affect my project. It was a power trip and nothing more from someone presented their self as a generous person and magnanimous. Disingenuous is more like it. On the flip side, it IS THEIR money and they can do whatever they want with it. Including not giving it to me to make a movie. But don’t lead me on.

This was not the case with Entertainment Factory producers Rick Finkelstein and Steven Chase. They brought me to the project over a year ago and while they ran defense on not just securing funds but ensuring all departments had what they needed…they made the making of this film a pleasure. This kind of hustle and flow from producers trickles down to the rest of the set and allows for a positive working atmosphere. Supportive producers make all the difference and they saw this as a team effort from day one.

I take issue with celebrities shilling to crowd fund their movies. Some of them made enough money on previous dog movies to finance a slew of indie projects. Going to their fans for money is a middle finger and nothing short of a friendly shakedown by taking advantage of ignorant fan idolatry.

Final funds for “Death House” locked January 2016 with a group that saw the potential of this film. The intent is to get the money back for every investor in this film. The biggest issue in that respect is distribution. The distributor is supposed to provide statements, does the accounting and you pray they do their jobs. Any indie filmmaker will tell you horror stories they’ve had with distribution. Some films are bought and never released. You get some up front monies and then that’s all you ever see.

Others are badly marketed . While you receive proper outlets, little advertising is done to highlight the film’s presence in those outlets. So while Best Buy may have your DVD, if it’s not featured in their circulars and hand outs, then how does anyone know it’s there? You may get the Wal Mart deal, but what good is it if they stock the shelves with only five copies of your film?

There are those who think they have built a better distribution mouse trap. They think they have some new streaming platform that will best what is already in place. The lure of self distribution is sometimes a siren song…it can lure you right to the rocks if not careful.

The goal for filmmakers is getting what they deserve. The stories are too many to repeat when it comes filmmakers who have submitted good product, sold it for a few percentage points above their costs and then see nothing even when the studio makes millions off a successful run.

Finding the money to make the movie is tough, but to getting it out there is an equally daunting task.

8. Do you shoot any of your films in Pennsylvania, or is M. Night the only one?

Nope. I shot The Fields, 6 Degrees, Camp Dread, Zombie Killers and 75% of Death House in PA. M. Night needs to catch up with ME. Maybe he would like to work together if he reads this. I’d love it.

9. I’ll have my contacts get in touch with M. for you. Who is your favorite actor or actress you’ve worked with and why?

Ah, I don’t answer that either because it always offends or alienates someone. I can say there have been great things about every single actor I have worked with. There are some trying times but that’s with any job. It’s the way it works.

10. Anything new or unreleased you’re working on that we should know about?

I have a number of things but I never list them until they are financed, otherwise you just look like a bullshitter. There are plenty of IMDbs littered with “In development” That means nothing. Always look to my IMDB for real projects. What’s there is real and if it falls through it gets deleted. That’s how it should work. There’s enough BS in Hollywood and a list as long as your arm of “In Development” means nothing to anyone who is real in the industry.

 11. Are you a collector?

No. I mean I had Star Wars toys as a kid. I like Godzilla figures but most have been gifts. I love them though and I can send you a pic of them.

12. I find some of the best stories to be hidden in books that are already written, just waiting for a film adaptation. I like the 1922 King adaption on Netflix – it’s creepy. Do you read a lot novels?

I do. I have read lot. There are a few books I have my eye on to get the rights.

13. Everyone knows my favorite movie is Scream. What’s your favorite scary movie?

Wow. I am going to say Lake Mungo. It’s scary, tragic and for me a reminder of our own mortality. After seeing it I reached out to the director and told him, “After 25 years I’ve finally seen a film that made me keep the lights on after watching.” I love it and it sits on my shelf. Scary, truly haunting and every parent’s worst nightmare. See it.

NOW GO OUT AND SEE DEATH HOUSE!

Harrion’s Director Reel [2017]

 

IMDb: 

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2402050/

https://www.class85.com