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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mickey Keating and Lauren Ashley Carter: Pod, Bereavement and the Brown Menace

The world may know Lauren Ashley Carter from Lucky McKee’s The Woman...or from Jugface . She has haunting eyes and a big screen presence with some serious acting chops. What you maybe don’t know from her resume is that she’s funny as well...Hopefully we’ll get to the bottom of the Brown Menace story before the end of this interview.

Mickey Keating is a screenwriter and director whose credits include Ritual (which I have seen and enjoyed) and the upcoming Pod. He has a wicked style that is part throw-back, part modern and all gut-wrenching. I’m looking forward to seeing the next thing that squirts out of his head.


MK: Good! We're getting to the final stages of post, so I'm starting to feel the impending sense of empty nest syndrome that'll take over once we send this film out into the world.

LC:  Doing pretty well, thank you for having us!

Mickey, you are in post production on a film called Pod which you wrote and directed and in which Lauren stars.  In the IMDB description I see things like intervention..horrifically awry...snowy...isolated. These are ingredients for mayhem. Can you fork over some details about this movie?

MK: Pod's a paranoid drama about a family intervention that just keeps spiraling more and more out of control until the whole thing crumbles into a full on nightmare. It's definitely a very violent and scary love letter to the original Twilight Zone, particularly to the more paranoid episodes like The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street and Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?, but it's also got the finger prints of things like The Manchurian Candidate and Silent Hill all over it. 

The killer one sheet teaser!

It was mentioned that Pod was filmed in Maine in the middle of winter. How did that go?

MK: It was a winter wonderland every day and we made snow men in between set ups. Just kidding. It was very, VERY cold and both our crew van and the equipment truck got stuck in the ice quite a few times. I made Lauren run back and forth, take after take, in negative degree weather for hours one night. She was a total trooper about it. Fortunately, our gear never broke, but we had a couple close calls pulling off long steadicam shots when the ground was literally an iceskating rink. At the end of the day though, there's nothing that can compare to the way that snow covered lake house looks in the movie, so I wouldn't have done it any other way. 

LC: I'm from Ohio, so I'm used to the cold and snow, and I love it. That having been said, the house we were in was a summer house, so for the first time in my life, I slept with socks on. But I agree with Mickey, the exterior shots of that lake house take your breath away. 

How did you get started in films...

LC:  I always wanted to be in films. I started doing theater as most actors do, and then worked with Moderncine (The Woman, Jug Face) on a film called Rising Stars. The company had already made horror films (Headspace, The Girl Next Door, Offspring), so when the producer Andrew Van Den Houten and I discussed our love of horror films, it was decided that I would meet Lucky McKee since they were getting ready to begin casting for The Woman. I love the genre, but more than anything, I love the experience of making movies. There is no greater joy. 

Mickey-- not to drop names, but Assistant to Mr. Blum?

MK: Yes! Well, first I worked for Larry Fessenden and his company Glass Eye Pix during the summers when I was in college. One day I found their phone number and called them up and was like "I love your guys' movies so much and will do anything to help out." so I got to be their intern that way. That place is built on the importance of the artist-driven filmmaking and the individual vision, which is a great thing to learn early on. In my last semester of college I moved out to LA, and got internship at Blumhouse where I was later hired as a full on assistant. That entire company is just amazing and very important to horror and indie filmmaking in general so I'm very proud that my first job out here was with them.

Behind the scenes on Pod. She sees something up his nose. like odd and controversial subject matter. Should your neighbors worry?

LC:  Probably.  I've always found the odd and controversial more truthful, to put it simply. My life, and the lives of most people I have met, are more complicated than a lot of the stories to come out of the industry. I like a good romantic comedy every now and then, too. And I also loved to be scared by film when I was growing up. I liked fantasy and the way that directors like Cronenberg, Kubrick, and Lynch were able to put these dark thoughts and characters into such beautiful and sickening imagery. I wanted to be a part of that eccentric magic. I still do. I love extremism because it pushes me as an artist, and as an audience member. It forces me to think more deeply about my own opinions. 

Have you always leaned toward the dark side?

MK: More or less. All my favorite films tend to be very dark in one way or another, so I don't know what that says about me. Making horror films can be a form of therapy when you're neurotic like I am. 

LC:  Definitely. I find that a lot of actors do. To be able to be as truthful as possible requires a great amount of concentration and knowledge about how far a person can be pushed. When we watch people as they are pushed to their limits morally, emotionally, physically, so much is revealed about our own selves. 

Behind the scenes on Pod. This is what happens when you don't follow the script.

If you couldn’t make films...what then?

MK: I'd probably spend most of my time lamenting about not making films and wondering where my life went wrong. 

LC:  I agree with Mickey on this one. It's just the most devastating thought. I would definitely own a lot of rescue dogs, and probably sit around watching Death Becomes Her on a loop while eating cold chinese food. Every day. 

I got a sneak peek at the short film Bereavement, in which Lauren acts and also produces. I’ll just say it’s about a mass funeral of sorts...darkly funny. How did that come about?

LC:  I am very good friends with the writer, Arthur Shapiro and his fabulous wife Marlene. Arthur had written Bereavement as a short theater piece. He wanted my opinion of the play, and I told him that I saw it as a short film. He said he knew nothing about making film, and I offered to get a cast and crew together. So, I kind of happily jumped into producing it as well. Natasha Kermani is the director, and she really held my hand through the entire process. She is as talented as she is beautiful, and I think we made a great short.   (Demonauthor’s note: it is a pretty great short!)

Tell me a bit about Warwick St. Productions.

LC:  Warwick St. Productions consists of Arthur, Natasha and myself. I'm writing a piece now, a horror-comedy short, and we're also developing a web series. We plan on making a name for ourselves with dark comedy and odd/eccentric pieces that concentrate on the human condition. And above all, we want to form a solid crew, and a nurturing environment. 

Since you’ve both worked with him before, describe working with Larry Fessenden--dude’s been in everything.

MK: Larry Fessenden is a hero of indie filmmaking. I was totally starstruck when I first met him a few years back. It was still pretty surreal when he showed up to act in Pod, even though we'd known each other for a while by then. Somewhere in the middle of the first shot it hit me that I was directing dude who made Habit. 

LC:  La!!!! I'm sincere when I say that I wish he was on every set that I was. He is such a great presence. He is calm, and so fucking funny. He's a pro. 

Behind the scenes on Pod.

We all know a film production ALWAYS goes according to plan. Can you each give me an example of an on set disaster that you survived/laughed at/learned from?

MK: Nothing went HORRIBLY wrong, I don't think. I had a bigger budget to play with compared to my first film, so it was nice to have more time to build from my experiences on that and make something that's a step up. Indie film sets are always one wrong move away from a disaster, but we were fairly fortunate, especially since we were shooting in the absolute middle of nowhere and would've been really fucked if something essential broke. I kinda had blinders on to most things that didn't involve directing though, so maybe Lauren has some better dirt she can spill. 

LC:  Mickey's crew was incredible. Everyone was on the ball and wanted the same thing. I think it all came down to everyone trusting each other. The only disaster was the drive up to Maine. The day before there had been a huge snow storm, and the van was not prepared for the icy roads. At one point, we slid off the road into a ditch. No one screamed or panicked, we all just accepted the van plummeting into the snow pile. 
We all got out and everyone started shoveling and pushing and working together. I used my DVD case to shovel (no, I didn't save the day. It was really a pathetic effort). Out of nowhere, 9 pm on the dark road in Maine after this storm, a truck of twenty- somethings stopped and had a chain to pull us out of the ditch. 
They said that they had decided all of a sudden to go out and get ice cream, and if they hadn't, who knows how long we would have been out there. 
Now, if that's not a reason to legalize marijuana, I don't know what is! 

Is there a dream project?

MK: I hope I never make a movie that isn't a dream project!

LC: Mickey has a million fabulous ideas and scripts, and I love them all! My biggest dream is to be a villain one of these days!

Behind the scenes on Pod.

Did you ever catch the Brown Menace? (no it’s not an STD)

LC: I set the traps! I'm waiting to go back and check.
(Demonauthor note:   More news as there is news.)

You two plan on working on more projects in the future. Anything in particular you can talk about?

MK: Yes! There's nothing cooler to me than when directors and actors work together over the course of several films and I'll write roles for this lovely lady as long as she puts up with me. There are two films that could go next, it's just a matter of which one gets its financing first. 

LC:  I had an incredible experience on the set of Pod. Mickey is articulate, and I really trust him as a director. We love a lot of the same styles and performances. It's as close as it gets to feeling a child-like freedom: there are no boundaries, everything is possible, and someday we're going to rule the world and eat ice cream for breakfast.

Thanks to Lauren and Mickey for their time and input. All photos are property of Mr. Mickey Keating.

So... I didn’t get the scoop on the Brown Menace...yet, but there is some great info here and good news for horror fans.
Watch for Pod and Bereavement and anything else from this pair. The future looks gruesome.

For more info:  like, follow, stalk at the links below.

Lauren’s Links:

Mickey’s Links:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Meet Tyler McAlister: A busy man making movies.

He's young, he's a bundle of energy...and he has a camera. He's Tyler McAlister and he is busy.
A little about the man, from the man:
In 2008, I made a few videos with some WWE action figures, in 2011, I made short skits, in 2012, I made my first short film "Inglorious", then the following year in 2013, I made my first full length film "Cashing Checks For Salvation".  And now it's 2014 and I'm trying to work on all my projects at once, Bouncing back between running two YouTube channels (which I'll link at the end of this article) and starring in and directing my new film "The Kentucky Derby" based off of the article by Hunter S Thompson.  

While I can't promise that I'm at the Hollywood standard, I can promise that you'll at least be entertained by what you're viewing.  And hopefully I make some kind of mark (negative or positive) that'll cause you to spread my work like a disease.  Probably not the proper way to describe some media you want to introduce some one to. 
Let me try that again, 
Hello, I'm Tyler McAlister and I'm a director, actor, writer, and occasionally a musician.  I create movie reviews, skits, and now, full length films.  I play the majority of my roles on my YouTube channel, creating personalities to counter act with my own to make for quite a entertaining show, I also appear on shows both as myself and as my other personalities.  And I also run a gaming channel where you can view me playing a wide range of games.   If you would like to view my work, feel free to follow any of the links given below.

And now for some prying and overtly nosy questions:

Dan:  I start all my interviews with:  How the hell are ya?
Tyler:  The hell I am.
1. Why film? Why not fronting a metal band or naked skydiving?
I actually always wanted to start a band being completely honest, I actually do have a side music project that I'm working on!  Not sure why it came to film, but I've always had a knack for acting and entertaining, it's all around the most fun, and nerve racking thing I do.

2.  I've watched several of your videos...I see action and thriller elements. Influences?
I'd have to say I drew a lot of inspiration for my last film from "Pulp Fiction".  Films like that, as for people who inspire me, I'll have to say directors like Stanley Kubrick and dedicated actors like Johnny Depp.

3. Favorite movies? I know it's tough for most to pick a #1, so give me 5 you can't live without.
My #1 movie of all time is "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", as for another four.... hmmm... The Shining is in there, Godzilla vs Monster X, The House on Haunted Hill (the 50's one, not the remake... god no not the remake), and finally, Jurassic Park, childhood favorite for sure.

4. Where do you get your energy from?  Please say demonic possession...please say demonic possession.
I'm sure my co-producer and my mom would call it that, which in a way it is, because it just randomly comes to me without warning, I never jot anything down, I keep all my ideas in my head, unless it's going to be a full length film. 

5. Biggest challenge for film-making?
Getting people to show up mostly, no wait, scratch that, finding locations to film, because unfortunately I live in a cultural vaccum.   

6. What's your rig? Camera, editing suite, sound equipment? How do you put these films together?
I'm pretty bare minimums in that area, to throw the movies together I used a program called Camtasia, and for throwing in effects I use Adobe After Effects, As for the sound equipment and camra, I've got a Xacti HD camera and a tri pod.  I do good for what I'm given. 
(demonauthor note:  Awesome!)

7. Favorite snack food?
Bad movies.

8. Hollywood or indie?
Honestly going with both.

9. CG or practical effects?
Depends on the movie, like if it's "The Langoliers"' flying hair balls with chainsaw teeth vs the original Godzilla, then I'll side with practical, but if it's Godzilla (1954) vs Godzilla (2014), then I'll take CG.
10. Anything else you want to mention?
I'll throw in some promotions for some people I work with, Austin Bender who acts in my movies and also helped produce the last one, is on YouTube as Durax Redneb, and Matthew Valero is another actor I work with and his YouTube channel is just his name.
 Thanks Tyler. Now everyone go hit his links right down there VVV

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tales of a Newbie Filmmaker.

So...twenty years ago or so I bought this computer which came with a "video capture card" in it. What the hell is that? I started reading about on this newfangled internet thing and was amazed... You mean I can digitize my own video? And edit it with this weird software called Adobe Premiere? I think it was version 2.1 at the time. 4.2 quickly became my favorite.
There was 3D modeling and animation software and there was software that made movie "titles" and even a couple things that I learned so I could make that dreaded yellow scroll into the starry distance that George Lucas made famous.

Yeah, Suck it Abrams. I wrote and filmed Episode 7 in 1998.

I was hooked like a heroin addict. I filmed everything, maxed out my sears card on a couple camcorders and an SVHS deck so I could output my masterpieces and watch them on TV. I even painted a wall in my own damn house chroma-key blue. Me and my buddy Jim filmed all sorts of outlandish shit with the worst possible lighting in that cramped dining room and made spaceship cockpits out of Christmas lights and pegboard. We learned how to rotoscope so we could make lightsabers and we even had this one scene where he smacked a digital robot in the face. It was brilliant--okay it was one step above Twilight.
My bride...or as she is known to the Sith, Darth Shmoopie. Salt waterfall is in the background.

Like I said, hooked. Then, I spent the next ten years and most of my free cash on a stack of books on film-making, script writing, photoshop, non-linear editing, 3D modeling, CG effects, camera tracking, character rigging, character animation,

This is Catdaddy Dribblefingers. He rules.
character design, lighting your scene, lighting for effects, compositing...then I read all about how to do these things on a budget...then I looked up forums and tutorials on the internet about all of the above...then I looked up some more. I bought DVD's just so I could watch "The Making Of" videos in the bonus features. I studied practical effects and horror films (my favorite) and watched scenes, paused frames, rewatched scenes until I knew every pixel. I even poured salt over a black piece of felt to make a CG waterfall just like I saw ILM do for Episode 1 (not my favorite) and you know what? It worked pretty well.
I pined for better equipment, better books, better tutorials...I was a sponge, full of information. Then I joined the navy and had to give up a lot of my creative time--I still snuck some stuff in, but for the most part it was swabbing and painting and learning weapons and radar stuff. Sailing, ya know?

If any of this sounds like you--seek help. It's out there. Then friend me on facebook, we need to chat.

Here's what I didn't do...
1. I didn't film anything. After that year or so of acting goofy with my friend Jim, I just didn't film anything.

Dave Grohl put it best when he said something like: You have to get out there and just suck.

That's how you start. That's how you begin anything. You suck at it. Walking, talking, driving (although some people never get good at driving), anything. Sucking is how you learn. You have to suck and then see the suck for what it is and learn how not to suck. So now, at almost 42 years old, I'm itching to suck at making films so maybe I can make some that don't suck.
I'm impatient, so it might take a while. I did the same thing with writing stories...and I don't think my writing sucks, but I know quite often, my presentation has because I'm impatient. It was more important for me to get the story out there than it was to make sure it was polished. Lesson learned. Are my stories polished now? Well, let's just say they are better than they used to be.
One of many crappy droids I built and animated for Ep VII.

So, long story short...a few months back I was standing in my living room with another friend of mine, Brett...and he had a clapboard and a camera rig and we had some lights and a makeshift dolly and we were filming something and it was a blast. My dog was licking fake blood off the floor. The finished product? Well, Brett's images were beautiful. My editing? I got carried away with this ceramic frog thing...never mind. My story telling? I think it kinda sucked. Which was exactly what I intended it to do...unintentionally.
The frog that answers all questions.

The next project will be a little better. Maybe a whole lot better...and I'll let it simmer a bit longer before I thrust it upon YouTube.

Go out there and do it people. Even if it's just for viewing in your living room...and when your buddy says, "Why am I staring at a ceramic frog?" you can tell him with pride, "It's a metaphor for the state of the world." Who cares if he gets it.
A still from the proof-of-concept for my next short, Seventeen.

I'll keep you posted on the progress of my next film (teaser here). For now, you can watch the one with the frog and try and figure out the metaphor...
Keep it creepy, y'all.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An UNWELCOME review: A short horror film by Nathan Erdel.

Every once in a while you find a little hidden gem amongst the crappy backyard offerings of aspiring film-makers. Not to say the one I’m about to discuss is crappy or backyard... Ignore all that. The point is, occasionally, your searching pays off. 

Here is a student film made right here in good ol’ Bloomington, IN as part of an IU film class. It’s written and directed by a guy I’ve met and would like to work with because his mind is twisted in a way I understand. From the opening credits and noises, it took me back to the days of my youth when I would rent a flick directed by some dude with an Italian last name. I would sit up after my parents went to bed to watch it in the dark on the living room TV (because we only had the one VCR). 

I have to describe the living room  of my youth for you real quick. See, it was a long rectangular room on the back of the house and the TV was in the farthest corner against the back wall. Next to that was a stone fireplace and if the wind was just right, that fireplace sang an eerie tune.  Behind me had to be 15 or 20 feet of empty real estate before you got to the kitchen and that was another 20 feet of empty real see what I’m getting at? In the dark after midnight, you had your back to a lot of open space. Creepy. Atmosphere was with that in mind, I give you writer/director/editor Nathan Erdel and GentlemanMonster Productions’ film:  UNWELCOME.

UNWELCOME is a slow burn short horror film with a running time of just over 25 minutes. I won’t spoil any more than I have to, but some things must be described so buy and watch the DVD/Bluray before you read beyond this point or don’t bitch to me.

The story is simple. Charlie and Sadie move into their first place and quickly notice some odd things happening. Stuff is misplaced, messes are found that neither of them will own up to and it causes unnecessary tension on the young couple. When it gets to be too much, Charlie hooks up a webcam to see what’s causing the disturbances and what he finds is no bueno. Not to mention Sadie is alone in the house at the time. Is it demons? Ghosts? The answer will surprise, and if you're tired of the glut of derivative horror crap out there, delight you. Charlie rushes back to save her...but will he succeed? Or does darkness prevail? Ooh, fished in. Now you gotta watch it.
Benjamin Schuetz and Lindsey McDermott as Charlie and Sadie. Napping through the evil.

The sound is effective with music by Robby Benson who created some synth tracks that take you back to the early 80’s (yes, that Robby Benson--who also Executive Produced). Songs were provided by Chicago’s own horror punks, TheNecroholics, including the tune “Unwelcome” which was written just for the film. There’s a wicked solo in that one. 

The visuals are killer. Bravo to Leya Taylor as the DP for some excellent low-light scenes and also to the director as well as all involved for using the sets to their fullest. There is a lot of tension and clever camera work. UNWELCOME isn’t an effects film, but there is some wicked practical stuff to digest thanks to The Clockwerk Creature Company.
Something isn't right.

The pacing is great, the dialogue is tight and the acting is solid by both Benjamin Schuetz  as Charlie--who looks a bit like a bald Justin Timberlake with a beard--and the lovely Lindsey McDermott as Sadie. They are quite believable as a couple with the usual issues but an underlying love that can’t be denied.  
The show may be stolen by Kate Braun, who you might know from another horror gem entitled FOUND. Kate plays a transient woman you wouldn’t like to meet--any more info on that would be criminal but she is brilliant. Then there’s Victor Miller as Uncle Ghastly, a late night horror host who hams it up with smarm, shameless plugs and a bit of foreshadowing. By the way, Mr. Miller is the same man who penned the original Friday the 13th. If, boys and girls, you pay attention, you’ll catch the director’s wife, Kara, who also produced the film, in a cameo.

Victor Miller as Uncle Ghastly. I don't know who the dead guy is.
While not perfect as it has its moments of low-budget charm--those things most horror fans look for and savor--UNWELCOME is definitely a welcome (ugh. Puns) entry into the growing world of short films that I can't seem to get enough of. Go Horror!

That much as I’d like to, I just can’t spoil the ending. 

Well done to Nathan and his team. Your passion shows and I for one, can’t wait to see the next Gentleman Monster Production!

For more on UNWELCOME, go like the film's page on Facebook.
To keep up with Gentleman Monster Productions, add this link to your bookmarks.