Russ Emanuel

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Russ Emanuel
Director of 2016 Best Sci-Fi Feature Film “Occupants”

DG: What is your name and company URL?

RE: My name is Russ Emanuel and my company name is Russem Productions (www.russem.com)

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?

RE: Filmmaking is my specialty –directing.

DG: What are you currently working on?

RE: I am currently working on the action film The Assassin’s Apprentice which will shoot in early December, starring Tarah Paige, Robert Picardo, and Marina Sirtis. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6151014/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

DG: Wow! You’ve been busy! Who do you consider your mentor and why?

RE: I would say Professor Richard Friedman at the UCLA Extension Program. He is the one who made me think seriously about the production aspects of filmmaking.

DG: Nice. Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?

RE: Because people love to see what is possible, including the horrific and fantastical aspects of life.

DG: very true! What do you love most about this business?

RE: I love meeting fellow filmmakers and seeing what we are all capable of doing when working together. That’s what make filmmaking an artistic and worthwhile venture.

DG: That is so very true! What do you dislike most about this business?

RE: To be honest, it’s more of a critique of Los Angeles, but I hate the parking situation here. And Hollywood is located in Los Angeles, so it’s a necessary evil!

DG: LOL too funny! I know, when I’m meeting a friend I always ask what’s the parking like? What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

RE: “Occupants” and “Girl With Gun” are my best films to date. And honestly, the Shriekfest award is definitely the highlight of my filmmaking career.

DG: AWW, thank you! I love that! Well, you deserve it! Any advice you’d like to give newbies?

RE: Just take the plunge and don’t give up.

DG: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to say?

RE: Thank you to Shriekfest again for the “Occupants” win for ‘Best Sci-Fi Feature’. It was an honor to just be included in the Shriekfest family let alone win.

DG: The honor is all mine! Thank you so much for making our 2016 extra special! It was great chatting!

Jeff Bassetti

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Jeff Bassetti
2015 Semi Finalist Screenwriter with “Children of the Dead”

DG: What is your name and company URL?

JB: Jeff Bassetti and my company is “Omega Tots”, which was the original title for CHILDREN OF THE DEAD a few years back. A buddy convinced me that it was a silly name for a horror film … tonally, more comical than serious so I changed it and kept it for my company name. www.omega-tots.com … although, the site is currently under construction, so there isn’t much to see right now I’m afraid. The facebook page has a few photos from our concept trailer shoot.

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?

JB: I am still figuring that out. Both, screenwriting and filmmaking [directing]. I was fortunate to have worked as an intern at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic [back in the analog days] I’ve co-written, co-produced and directed the indie feature, F-STOPS [2001], which was an incredible learning experience for me. We made all sorts of mistakes… the biggest was rushing the edit to make a film festival deadline for the Houston World Fest where we did win the Silver Remy for Best Thriller. The biggest success on F-STOPS was being able to go back in and recut it thanks to Mike Cavanaugh and David Sconyers at Key Code Media. Since then I have been spending time writing, perfecting story craft, but I am looking forward to getting back on set soon.

DG: Wow! Very cool What are you currently working on?

JB: I’m writing several projects actually, although CHILDREN OF THE DEAD is my primary focus right now. My compadres in the craziness, Fiana Feldman, Roland Feldman, Lawrence Kim, and Brian Hillard are all working really hard to raise financing to shoot COTD; ideally in the spring or summer of 2017. Beyond that we are spending time figuring out how do we deliver a high dollar value project on a lower budget without it looking like a lower budget. Aside from that I am tinkering around with the second chapter to the COTD story.

DG: ooh! That is great! I can’t wait to see it. Who do you consider your mentor and why?

JB: I admire quite a few filmmakers… David Fincher, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro, Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Tyler Perry, Lucas, Spielberg, Kubrick and Scorsese… Yeah, there are a lot of them actually. To this day, I still am finding nuances in all of their work.

DG: Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?

JB: It’s a safe place to explore and experience the thrills and terrors of “what if?” Digging into the sinners and saints of the human condition. I think we simply like a good scare every once in a while. Especially now, with everything going on in the world… You would think people would gravitate more towards comedy [and they are], but I think this cathartically is backwards… I think that when we get stressed out, we seek out something to analyze it. Look at the Blumhouse Purge series of films… they’re reflecting our fears of what America is and could become. That we are incapable of keeping our inner beast contained and controlled. With election season upon us… we’re fearing both sides probably pretty equally about what is going to happen if either Hillary or Trump get into office.

DG: LOL very true! What do you love most about this business?

JB: I’ll let you know when I think I’ve really gotten into it. Maybe in 2017 I will know more. Standing in the back of a theater gripping your hands tightly until you hear the first laugh at a legitimately intended joke was the biggest thrill for me during F-STOPS screenings.

DG: I’m sure! All those nerves! What do you dislike most about this business?

JB: I’ll let you know when I think I’ve really gotten in. The difficulty in piercing the veil. Some people seem to be fortunate or skilled at getting in… I probably just made a few wrong turns on my path and I won’t realize the value of that until later on. Either way, I’ve been writing, so it’s been time well spent.

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

JB: F-STOPS was my first. Good or bad… the film has a manic passion within it that audiences [the few who have seen it] have connected with. From standing in the back of a theater, you can tell when they [audiences] are genuinely laughing or gasping. That’s the end-game, the thrill you hope to experience as a filmmaker. I think CHILDREN OF THE DEAD will be my next.

DG: Any advice you’d like to give newbies?

JB: It’s a marathon, not a sprint… unless your path turns out to be a sprint and then in that case, run your ass off! Rewrite your first draft and be happy about doing it. Sorry to say that no one’s first draft is genius. Hemingway said “The first draft of anything is shit.” And it hurts when you come to this realization… if you are fortunate to have this realization, but it is something you need to come to grips with. COTD was not well received in the festival circuit when I started out… but I’ve been rewriting it, taking in and considering opinions as I go and a lot of the critiques have helped. It also helps a lot when people are diplomatic about telling you what you’ve written sucks and has problems. In kind, you have to take it in and then consider what they’ve said. I struggle with that one a bit still. If you do have the luxury of time, walk away from your story for a while and start another one, spend time with your family, go camping, do a job which frustrates the hell out of you, anything to clear you head so that when you come back to your story, you can see the mistakes. My festival acceptance rate has gone up ever since, so I must be headed in the right direction. The really funny thing is when you look at it and ask yourself, “Why didn’t I just do that in the first place?” And, Filmmakers can get myopic if they are the writer, director, editor blah blah blah… I don’t like to actually edit myself. I want that objective perspective to challenge me and bring something new to the table with the material I’ve written and shot. If this really is a collaborative medium… find people who are smarter than you and collaborate. If people are bringing you solutions as they point out the problems / issues / mistakes… they are worth their weight in gold [IMO]. You may not like what they are telling you, but give it a listen, and you might find clarity from their perspective … unless they are just hateful trolls.

DG: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to say?

JB: I’d like to thank my wife, Elizabeth for putting up with me when my mind goes elsewhere. Thank you!

DG: Thank you Jeff! It was great chatting!

Alan R. Baxter

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Alan R. Baxter
2006, 2007, 2014 Screenplay Finalist & 2015 Screenplay Semi Finalist

DG: What is your name and company URL?

AB: Alan R. Baxter, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1433225/

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?

AB: Screenwriting. More specifically, writing for television.

DG: What are you currently working on?

AB: A thriller/mystery series set in a small rural town in Florida. Think True Detective meets The Killing.

DG: Oooh, sounds cool. Who do you consider your mentor and why?

AB: Irvin Paik. He was an assistant editor on the show, “ER.” At the time, I was a post PA and eager to learn the ins-and-outs of editing. He went above and beyond to teach me, including meeting up outside of work. I will never forget his kindness and generosity

DG: That is great! Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?

AB: Sometimes the real-life horrors are too much to handle. These genres allow people a safe way to tap into these fears and be entertained.

DG: So very true! What do you love most about this business?

AB: I love the shared enthusiasm and passion for film and TV

DG: That is so very true! What do you dislike most about this business?

AB: People who talk the talk, yet don’t have anything to back it.

DG: I hear ya! What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

AB: My reps took out my pilot and I had a bunch of meetings at companies. For my first meeting, I remember sitting in the lobby and just admiring all the posters: Terminator 2, Aliens, The Walking Dead. I thought to myself, “This is pretty freakin’ cool.”

DG: Yes, it is!!! Any advice you’d like to give newbies?

AB: Join a writers group. It really forces you to push yourself and hone your craft. Plus, everyone is really supportive.

DG: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to say?

AB: Don’t forget to live life. Spend time with your family, travel and meet new people.

DG: I agree!, so important! Enjoy that adorable little baby! Thank you Alan! It was great chatting!

Tim Morgan

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Tim Morgan
2003 Screenwriting Finalist

DG: What is your name and company URL?

TM: I’m Tim Morgan, website http://www.timmorgan.us

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?

TM: I’m a screenwriter who’s gone indie filmmaker. In Robert Rodriguez style I do a lot on my projects – I’ll run cameras, sound, lights, etc.

DG: Excellent! What are you currently working on?

TM: Right now there are two projects nearing completion – a new novel, the launch of a scifi series called WITCH CITY. And I’m also hard at work on an animated motion picture based on my zombie novel, THE TRIP.

DG: Wow! You’ve been busy! I love the novel The Trip! A fun read for zombie lovers! Who do you consider your mentor and why?

TM: I’ve had many over the years – most have been awesome. Specific names – David Allen George and Bill Cunningham at Salem State College; Larry Maness at Rivier College; and Earl Blakesley. Every single one of them had consistent advice, and I credit them with making me the artist I am.

DG: Nice! Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?

TM: These genres are very closely related since they speak to primal emotions. Horror, of course, is about fear. Fear is not a bad thing; it’s kept us safe and helped us get to where we are as a species. I’d say sci-fi is about possibilities. Showing people what could be helps them escape what is.

DG: Nice explanation! What do you love most about this business?

TM: When you get on a project and the team clicks – magic happens. The most exciting thing about pulling a project together is when the actors take a risk, get you to move in a direction you didn’t think of, and then the moment winds up being even better than you could have imagined. It’s an awesome experience when it happens.

DG: That is so very true! What do you dislike most about this business?

TM: Sending a rejection is rough. There are lots of talented people and in the end you can’t work with all of them, you have the role you have. You’ve got to learn to make decisions in the best interest of the project. It feels a little better, but it still stinks to tell people they can’t get on the boat.

DG: Oh my! Yes, welcome to my world! I hate rejecting people…it’s so painful! What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

TM: I sent my first novel, THE TRIP, around for a good year before making the decision to independently publish. It was scary – no, terrifying at first – to strike out on my own, but so many people think it’s cool I have books on Amazon they can buy. I meet people at conferences, comicons, meet-ups that tell me they wish they could do this. Going indie has taught me so much that benefits me in so many ways, from casting to selecting cover artists and editors. These are valuable skills to have, and they’ll benefit you in so many other areas of life.

DG: Yes, it is inspiring! You should feel really good about all that you have accomplished! Any advice you’d like to give newbies?

TM: A lot of people get their first bad review and act like it’s the end of the world. It’s not. Your significant other still loves you. Your children (if you have any) still love you. Your dog or cat still loves you. The sun will come up tomorrow. You will create again. Try to take something away from the review if you can, though with the internet you may wind up with a mean troll who isn’t saying anything constructive. It’s tough, but don’t fan the flames. Some people you just will not reach: focus on the people you *can* reach. That’s your audience.

DG: Great advice! So true, you just can’t give up! Anything else you’d like to say?

TM: Do not expect the artist’s path to be quick, or easy. It can take years and success is not guaranteed – find other things outside your art to bring you happiness as well. Don’t suffer all the time for your art – it’s more difficult to create if you don’t live life. And whatever you do – don’t give up.

DG: I agree! We have very similar views about our careers! Thank you Tim! It was great chatting!

Kristi Barnett

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Kristi Barnett
2013 screenwriting semifinalist and 2015 finalist

DG: What is your name and company URL?

KB: Kristi Barnett – Mindspawn Media – www.kristibarnett.com & www.mindspawnmedia.com

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?

KB: I specialize in genre screenwriting, namely, Horror, Comedy but am also delving into family films/fantasy and sci-fi.

DG: What are you currently working on?

KB: I’m doing development work with a NZ production company called Libertine Pictures who’ve optioned a horror script and commissioned me to write another. I also have one other horror in development with UK/Canadian producers.

DG: Wow! You’ve been busy! Who do you consider your mentor and why?

KB: I am incredibly fortunate to have the extremely talented Neil Cross as a mentor at the moment. He’s into all manner of genre and loves horror. He also understands the writer’s lot in life and all the struggles and triumphs one goes through to get their ideas into production, so has been able to guide me through the ever changing waters along with the excellent development executive at Libertine Pictures

DG: Excellent. Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?

KB: Horror in particular is such an archetypal genre that plays on every human’s deep rooted fears. It plays well internationally because we all know what fear is, what it means to be scared, or creeped out or even disgusted. We understand that feeling the images and ominous sounds give us; and if you took the dialogue and score off the horrors, we’d all still understand the fear from the universal expression of terrified looks on the character’s faces. So horror reaches a large audience simply for being universal. Sci- fi is a little less universal yet the concepts of reaching into realms of pure fantastical possibilities, or playing with notions of time and space and being able to really play with wondrous ideas and philosophies, lends itself to the human eternal question of, “what if”? We all love to try and contemplate that question and are completely fascinated by our answers.

DG: LOL very true! What do you love most about this business?

KB: The notion of entertaining an audience. Entertaining a reader, having producers, directors and others realize the potential of your story being something they could get involved with and coming together to simply… entertain. (And hopefully make money as well).

DG: Yes! What do you dislike most about this business?

KB: Trying to find the right people to help do all the above. It’s so hard getting anyone to even read your work let alone people who decide to invest in you. And then, you have to deal with your work being stripped away and dissected to get a script everyone likes, not just you. And dealing with all the ideas and constantly wondering if you’re doing the right thing and if you’re actually any good; and will they somehow decide you’re not? The roller coaster of self-consciousness in one’s work is wearisome. (And not making money).

DG: I hear ya! It is frustrating. I wish there were a better way. What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

KB: Having one of my scripts optioned after years of trying. I’m also quite proud of the writing, directing and producing I did on the first Twitter movie called Hurst (aka @karenbarley), which was one of the first transmedia projects back in 2010/2011 and was very difficult for me – as I did a lot of the publicity and all the media and tweeting myself over a live 3 week period. To this day, media students around the world contact me about it. I’m also just proud that I’m still going on and trying.

DG: I love that! It truly is a process and it’s exciting! Any advice you’d like to give newbies?

KB: Learn the basic 3 act structure. Learn formatting. Get a good screenplay word processor like Final Draft or Fade In. Don’t worry about getting an agent. Concentrate on getting a good concept that will appeal to producers. One you think will be commercial but unique so they may bite and read the script. Producers are the key to getting your work made; agents will come later if at all. Find a mentor if you can. Surround yourself with other writers even if it’s just to go for monthly drinks. Enter competitions and festivals that are tailored to your genre and think about paying for their script reader notes. If possible, learn what goes into producing a film and go on set to see how things are done. Don’t be afraid to say no to collaborators if you’re not feeling it. Explore all possible avenues to get your work seen but don’t harass people. Most of all, if you’ve been told you’re good and if you’re placing in competitions, then don’t give up.

DG: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to say?

KB: I’m still learning.

DG: Yes! We all are! Thank you Kristi! It was great chatting!

Greg J. Austin

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Greg J. Austin
2011 screenplay finalist and 2015 screenplay quarter-finalist

DG: What is your name and company URL?
GA: Greg J. Austin, www.gregaustin.co
DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?
GA: Screenwriting
DG: What are you currently working on?
GA: Finishing (yet) another rewrite of my sci-fi screenplay Haven’s End and the novel version’s final edit with my publisher is about done.
DG: Wow! You’ve been busy! Who do you consider your mentor and why?
GA: Editors Liz Burton and Dr. Bob Rich — patient and knowledgeable author/editors. Nathan Parker who wrote the screenplay Moon is one of my favorites to learn from by reading and dissecting his work.
DG: Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?
GA: Wonderful, mindboggling escapism in every sense of the word. Brilliant off-world scenes to the colorful characters that struggle to the end on post-apocalyptic Earth
DG: What do you love most about this business?
GA: Working with like-minded writers/editors when honing my ‘final’ drafts. Film festivals and meeting up with the many, varied members of the film community.
DG: What do you dislike most about this business?
GA: Not much — maybe that it’s extremely difficult getting the studios interested in looking at big-budget concepts
DG: I hear ya! What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
GA: Winning a bunch of awards for my writing, including being a finalist at Shriekfest for RITUAL
DG: Woo hoo! Any advice you’d like to give newbies?
GA: Write the stories that you like and interest you best, though keeping to a reasonable film budget for screenplays should be a consideration. Good screenwriting software helps!
DG: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to say?
GA: THANKS for the promotion
DG: Anytime! Thank you Greg! It was great chatting!

Taylor Albertson

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Taylor Albertson
2015 screenwriting quarter-finalist and 2015 semifinalist

DG: What is your name and company URL?

TA: Well, my name is Taylor Albertson. I’m a screenwriter fighting to make it, I currently work for Regal Entertainment Group. I’m on IMDB at IMDB/Taylor Albertson. I can also be found on Facebook.

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?

TA: Screenwriting is most assuredly my specialty. I feel called to do it. Everyone is endowed with their own special gifts and this is mine.

DG: I agree! What are you currently working on?

TA: Right now I am editing two features, Signs of Warning, a faith based script, and Rise of The Dragon, a horror script you may be familiar with!

DG: Yes, it was Semi Finalist last year! Who do you consider your mentor and why?

TA: This may sound weird, but Cameron Cubbison at ScreenCraft. I do not have really any screenwriting friends that I am in constant contact with, but I do use that service frequently. Cameron isn’t someone who is not personable. When he sends me my notes he offers words of encouragement, even advice.

DG: That’s great! Make sure you are on the Shriekfest 2015 Group too. Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?

TA: Why would they not? Horror gives us that classic good versus evil battle that we get to participate in safely. And when good wins, and usually it does, we get to feel just a little bit better about the world we live in, we have hope that good will triumph here too. In terms of scifi, we are all naturally curious people. There is so much about our world/planet/universe that we do not know or understand, and scifi gives us possible answers to all of those questions.

DG: Yes, great answer! What do you love most about this business?

TA: Being able to get the stories in my head out.

DG: Yes! What do you dislike most about this business?

TA: It is so very hard to break in if you do not “know” someone. Not impossible, just hard.

DG: I hear ya! Perseverance! What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

TA: I have two and I’m not kissing up here. Dragon made it far in your contest and that means a lot, because when I wrote the first draft it was crap. It really was. With each draft I got better and better at what I was doing, and I went from not making it to making it. That gave me hope, and all writers need a burst like that. The second is being a BlueCat Quarterfinalist with Signs. I went to a session with Gordy in Chattanooga with another script that was/is a great idea but was pretty much crap at the time in terms of formatting and viable ideas. So to be able to take another script into the contest and have it make the cut is vindicating and again shows me how far I have come.

DG: Congrats! Any advice you’d like to give newbies?

TA: Never give up, If you’ve got that calling, if you’ve got it in you, commit to doing it, and commit to learning.

DG: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to say?

TA: The road is long, but worth it.

DG: I agree! Thank you Taylor! It was great chatting!

Maria Alexander

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Maria Alexander
2012 Screenwriting Finalist with “Mrs. Winchester”

DG: What is your name and company URL?
MA: Maria Alexander, www.mariaalexander.net
DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?
MA: Screenwriting.
DG: What are you currently working on?
MA: A drama spec script for the Warner Bros fellowship in screenwriting. I’m super excited about it as it’s coming together beautifully. I’m also plotting the third book in my Snowed teen horror trilogy, which I’ll talk about more later in this interview.
DG: Wow! You’ve been busy! Who do you consider your mentor and why?
MA: When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was completing a formal film mentorship with Clive Barker. These days, I consider two close TV writer friends as my mentors: Eric Wallace, who’s a producer and writer for MTV’s Teen Wolf and former Eureka writer; and Lilla Zuckerman whose credits include Suits, Haven and Fringe. Such amazing writers!
DG: Nice! Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?
MA: They’re both exciting genres for storytelling. Horror takes us to psychological and emotional extremes we don’t find in other genres, while science fiction can make us think about where we’re at and where we’re going. (Black Mirror, anyone?)
DG: LOL What do you love most about this business?
MA: I love that TV is taking risks that traditional book publishing simply isn’t. Thank god MTV has discovered how much teens love horror, and they’re blowing up everything with it. Teen Wolf in particular creates horror with heart, which is my favorite form of entertainment.
DG: What do you dislike most about this business?
MA: Toxic personalities, workaholism, and sexism.
DG: I hear ya! That is frustrating. What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
MA: It depends which writing career you’re talking about. My debut novel Mr. Wicker won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. That happened in 2015, just after I’d signed with Alex Slater at Trident Media Group. I’m incredibly proud to be a client of TMG, and I’m even prouder of Snowed, my new YA horror novel that’s on submission. It’s the first in a trilogy, and if you like teen horror, it will knock your socks off. (CAA handles Trident’s film options, for those who are interested.) When my teen beta readers told me my characters actually talked like teens (unlike most of the YA books they read), I think I might have bust a button then, as well. But I’m also extremely proud of the narrative design work I did as a freelancer for DreamWorks Animation last year with veteran screenwriter and former Disney Imagineer, Dean Orion. I was honored to have the opportunity to lend my storytelling talents to the (top secret) project in such a deep way, and I always love working with Dean. He’s the best!
DG: Wow, that is amazing! congrats! Any advice you’d like to give newbies?
MA: Surround yourself with sane people in the business as much as possible, take care of yourself, be professional, and learn everything you can about what makes a good story. I’ve read too many scripts (and draft novels, for that matter) that have a handful of cool scenes but don’t tell a coherent story. Not everyone is a natural storyteller but it can be learned.
DG: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to say?
MA: I have a short story called “Hey, Little Sister” coming out in an anthology this year alongside stories by Neil Gaiman (another former mentor), Clive Barker and Paul Tremblay. The anthology is called Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories and it’s being published by Crystal Lake Publishing. Check it out!
DG: Awesome! Thank you Maria! It was great chatting!

Ryan LaPlante

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Ryan LaPlante
2015 Finalist Screenplay “The Path”

DG: What is your name and company URL?

RL: My name is Ryan LaPlante. You can find me on twitter as @theryanlaplante or on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/screenplaysbyryanlaplante/

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?

RL: I’m an actor and my love of storytelling has led me to become both a screenwriter and (occasionally) a director. I find these tasks satisfying in different ways, you’re either helming the ship (directing) or you’re the architect who designed it (the screenwriter).

DG: I like that analogy! What are you currently working on?

RL: My debut feature as a director, HOLY HELL, is touring the US festival circuit through 2016. I’m also developing a screenplay (working title: THE OLD FAITH) in partnership with Audrey Cummings, the Director of Berkshire County.

DG: Nice! I love Audrey! Who do you consider your mentor and why?

RL: My biggest mentor has been Larissa Mair. She’s a Casting Director in Toronto who has worked on some of the biggest TV series and films in the industry. I started acting at her theatre company when I was a teenager and she was the one who showed me how to make a living in the entertainment industry. I can say, without reservation, that without Larissa I would probably be a lawyer (which sounds awful to me but would probably have been a better financial decision). *laughs*

DG: LOL Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?

RL: I think horror and comedy serve a lot of the same purposes in storytelling. They both allow us to explore taboo and unacceptable parts of society in ways that are cathartic and high-energy. It’s an interactive medium (you’re gonna feel something, or you’ll be trying not to) and everything is on the table.

DG: LOL very true! What do you love most about this business?

RL: I love that making a film involves a team: you have a large group of people and you’re all working together towards an ephemeral and elusive goal. It’s a constant battle to get there and it requires trust from everyone. Every successful film project is a miracle that you all created together.

DG: That is so true! What do you dislike most about this business?

RL: The business aspects: sorting out the paperwork, dealing with the finances, and the battle for a good distribution outlet. You know – all the not so fun stuff. *laughs* But it’s all worth it to get your work out there!

DG: It is frustrating, but so worth it in the end! What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

RL: I am incredibly proud that my screenplays have done so well on the festival circuit. The Path was a finalist at Shriekfest (love you Shriekfest!) as well as the Mile High Horror Festival and the NOLA New Orleans Horror Film Festival. For a new Canadian screenwriter, it’s been an incredible honour to have had such a response in the USA.

DG: woo hoo! Shriekfest loves you too! Any advice you’d like to give newbies?

RL: Whether you’re an actor, a director or a screenwriter: go do it. It’s going to be a battle, and parts of it are going to suck, but know this in advance: you’re going to be part of the filmmaking process and it’s going to be glorious! For screenwriters specifically – collaborate. Take the notes, look for the underlying notes, and make format your best friend. Play within the rules and you can write movies that win awards AND get made… Or at least that’s what they tell me, ask me again in five years. *chuckles*

DG: LOL, Great advice though! Anything else you’d like to say?

RL: Thank you. Thank you for putting together such a great festival, and building opportunities for screenwriters and filmmakers who are dedicated to their work to promote both themselves and genre film. LONG LIVE HORROR AND LONG LIVE SHRIEKFEST!

DG: Aw, thank you so much Ryan! It was great chatting!

Jesse Burks

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Jesse Burks
2014 official selection “One Please”

DG: What is your name and company URL?

JB: Dr. Jesse Burks. 6512 FILMS – I don’t think I’m quite to the “website stage” just yet. I have FB and Twitter links to my first film ONE PLEASE and my newest film, CURED.

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?

JB: I enjoy both – and consider myself a master of neither 🙂 I love the act of seeing something rolling/thrashing/squishing around in my head and eventually capturing that on paper. Since I’m new at both filmmaking and screenwriting – I’d say I’m much more comfortable with screenwriting at this point. Now… that doesn’t mean I’ve learned all of the technical aspects of that craft by any stretch of the imagination – but I’m more comfortable putting a story in a screenplay form than I am with the actual shooting of a film. Hopefully, I’ll get better at both as time goes on.

DG: Oh Jesse, I’d say you are pretty good at both. What are you currently working on?

JB: I’m almost complete with post-production of another horror short with Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) and Scout Taylor-Compton (Halloween) – titled CURED. It’s odd, creepy, and a throw-back to horror films of the early to mid 20th century. I was fortunate to have the opportunity for Eric England (Madison County, Contracted) to co-direct/ produce with me on this film. Having the chance to work with Eric has been fantastic! He has so much experience and creativity – can’t tell him thank you enough for bringing his talents to this project. I’m diving into my third short now – THE FARMER IN APARTMENT 8 – probably my oddest/goriest film yet.

DG: Wow! You’ve been busy! I cannot wait to see both! Eric is a great guy and you two together can only make magic. Who do you consider your mentor and why?

JB: Since I’m not a classically trained filmmaker, I can’t say that I have one specific mentor. I think there are tons of filmmakers that I enjoy watching and most of what I write about – and try to film – is based upon what I watch and enjoy. If you ask me “hey, if you could have an established horror filmmaker that you would jump at the chance to work with…who would that be? Who would you like your mentor(s) to be?” It would be the Soska Sisters.

DG: Nice! Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?

JB: It’s a timeless genre. From people sitting around fires thousands of years ago, to sitting in theaters in Los Angeles this past Tuesday, people love being scared. People can’t get enough of that tight, sick, quasi-vomitous feeling in their stomach that makes them both want to stay and run away screaming at the same time.

DG: LOL very true! What do you love most about this business?

JB: That there’s never a new story – or a different spin on an old one – that can’t be told. There’s ALWAYS a new way to creep someone out – or make them jump – or make them sick – or make them scream to everyone around them that “you should NEVER see that, it’s just too hard to watch.”

DG: That is so very true! What do you dislike most about this business?

JB: I wish I had more time to devote to it…I’d make something even more horrible.

DG: Hee hee I love your positive attitude! What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

JB: That my first film, ONE PLEASE, was accepted into so many festivals… but THE main thing is that the legendary horror actor MICHAEL BERRYMAN was kind enough to be in my first film. He gave me a chance on that little short film and I can never tell him thank you enough for how many doors he’s opened.

DG: That is awesome! Any advice you’d like to give newbies?

JB: You absolutely have a unique story to tell. If you don’t tell it…no one ever will.

DG: Yes! Great advice! Anything else you’d like to say?

JB: Even though I’m not a trained filmmaker… I am a board certified, practicing surgeon… so I do know a few things about blood 🙂

DG: LOL I’m sure you do! Thank you Dr. It was great chatting!