Kenneth Lui

Kenneth Lui
Director | Editor

Kenneth Lui

DG: What is your name and company name and URL?

Kenneth Lui. Mental Pictures (Website).

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?

My specialty is directing and editing.

DG: What are you currently working on?

I’m finishing up my first feature film. It’s a mockumentary about assassins. Like Spinal Tap only with hitmen.

DG: Who do you consider your mentor and why?

I consider James Cameron a mentor. He inspired me as a child when I first saw The Terminator which he wrote, directed and designed. I was excited by the idea that there was a job that let you write, design, and shoot your own films.

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

We all have fears and fantasies and I think the horror/scfi genre is perfect for exploring the “what if” in the existential endeavor we call human existence.

DG: What do you love most about this business?

Coming together with fellow artists to create new worlds.

DG: What do you dislike most about this business?

Posers who don’t have respect for the craft.

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

Finishing my feature project.

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

Do your homework and endeavor to create something no one has seen before.

DG: Anything else you’d like to say?

Be kind to yourself and others.

Michaela Zannou

Michaela Zannou
Actor | Screenwriter | Producer

Michaela Zannou

DG: What is your name and company name and URL?

MZ: Michaela Zannou, www.michaelazannou.com.

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?

MZ: I am primarily an actor and screenwriter. This past October I dipped my toes into filmmaking and was an executive producer for a pilot I wrote.

DG: What are you currently working on?

MZ: Currently, I am in the post-production process of “Couples Therapy”, a pilot episode I wrote, produced and starred in. “Couples Therapy” tells the story of Natalia, a couples therapist who treats high-maintenance New York couples while her own marriage is falling apart.
I am also working on finding the right “home” to produce my feature screenplay “The Retreat”, a horror/mystery about an immigrant girl and a corporate retreat gone wrong, which was a finalist on the “Shriekfest” screenwriting competition.

DG: Who do you consider your mentor and why?

MZ: That would be my screenwriting teacher Jason Greiff. He is a wonderful teacher and an even more wonderful human who has been incredibly supportive, patient and generous with his time and advice throughout my screenwriting endeavors.

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

MZ: I think people are drawn to the excitement and thrill of the genre. Each story is a mystery that unveils itself piece by piece while we are at the edge of our seats, uncertain of what may come next. I believe the audience enjoys trying to figure out what is going on and make speculations only to have their “theories” shattered by an unexpected twist. At the same time, I find that horror/scifi movies are a safe way to channel our inner darkness and live vicariously through the characters in the safety of our home or a movie theatre.

DG: What do you love most about this business?

MZ: I love the endless possibilities in storytelling. Screenplays and movies tell stories in a very direct and realistic way, it’s so easy for the audience to relate and feel a part of the movie themselves. We can tell the stories of real people who could be your friends, neighbors, or you. We can tell stories about alternate realities and fairy tales, going as far as our imagination is willing to take us. We can make people laugh, cry, reflect on things and maybe even change perspective. By telling the stories of people who are not a part of our familiar world, who perhaps have different problems, upbringing, views and surroundings, every movie has the ability to expand our horizons and open our minds just a little bit every time.

DG: What do you dislike most about this business?

MZ: I don’t like that it’s so hard for filmmakers to get their projects produced. It really is a shame that many talented artists are limited by lack of money and connections. Of course, that makes one work harder and I like to believe that their perseverance will eventually pay off. I can’t help but wonder, however, if things were a little easier on filmmakers and they could focus their time and energy on new projects and developing their talents uninterrupted, how many more wonderful films and stories would have come to existence?

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

MZ: I am particularly proud of writing, producing and starring in the pilot episode of “Couples Therapy”. It was the most exciting and educating experience I’ve ever had as an artist and it opened up a whole new world for me.

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

MZ: Believe in yourself and your artistic voice. Collaborate and be open to other people’s input but, at the end of the day, trust your instincts. This is a marathon not a spr​int. Enjoy the journey.

DG: Anything else you’d like to say?

MZ: I would like to thank all the people who have inspired me as a writer and an actor. Actors, writers, directors, friends, lovers, coworkers, classmates, teachers, people who are no longer part of my life. They all left their mark on me and ignited something in me that I somehow turned into art. For that I am grateful to every single one of them.

Sean Olson

Sean Olson
Screenwriter | Director | Producer

Sean Olson

DG: What is your name and company name and URL?

Sean Olson, Trash Panda Entertainment, www.trashpandaentertainment.com

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?

I specialize in filmmaking. I started out my career as an editor in both television and film, and then transitioned into writing, directing and producing.

DG: What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a new sci-fi film called Integrating Anna. It’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with artificial intelligence set 50 years into the future.

DG: Who do you consider your mentor and why?

When I first started out in the business, Lori Allred gave me my first shot as a news editor in the Phoenix market. She really took a shot on someone fresh out of college and pushed me to become the editor I am today. She focused on my fundamentals and gave me a lot of time on the AVID (this was in the early days of non-linear editing, so our news station only had two). When she moved to the Denver market, she brought me with her and created an environment where we could experiment, especially during sweeps. She even gave me an opportunity to edit my first documentary which further enhanced my storytelling skills. We ended up winning an Emmy for the doc.

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

I feel the horror genre is so big because people love to be scared, especially when they are watching with an audience. With sci-fi it’s all about the imagination and the creation of worlds and characters; you get to see something that isn’t part of the real world.

DG: What do you love most about this business?

I love collaborating with so many creative people. The whole process of making a film is different each time, because each film’s needs are unique. That’s what makes it challenging and rewarding at the same time. We’re all constantly learning and innovating.

DG: What do you dislike most about this business?

The word deferred… it’s a nice way of saying you won’t get paid.

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

Taking my two sons to the theater to see a movie I directed on the big screen couldn’t be beat. Winning “Best of Fest” at the Bentonville Film Festival comes in second, it was a total shock.

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

Work hard and don’t give up. Do it because you love it and you can’t live without it, because to make it you have to be devoted. Networking is key, you never know where people’s path’s lead, one day someone’s assistant could be your boss, so treat everyone with respect.

DG: Anything else you’d like to say?

I feel very fortunate to be doing what I love and have met so many people in the business that I’ve become lifelong friends with.

Mark Steensland

Mark Steensland
Director | Screenwriter

Mark Steensland

DG: What is your name and company name and URL?

I’m Mark Steensland and my website is www.marksteensland.com.

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?

I have directed a couple of features and a bunch of shorts, but I’ve always been a writer first and I’m focusing on that much more than anything else these days.

DG: What are you currently working on?

I’ve got lots of projects in various stages of development. I find it it’s really helpful to have more than one thing going so that I can switch to something else if I get stalled on one of them.

DG: Who do you consider your mentor and why?

So many people have helped me over the years in too many ways to count. I feel as though I’ve been mentored by the filmmakers I grew up admiring. Brian De Palma’s PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE was the movie that made me want to make movies and then John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN convinced me it was possible to be successful with limited resources. I was lucky to have some teachers who really made an impact. Frank Tomasulo when I was working on my undergraduate film degree and Victor Comerchero when I was doing graduate work. Both of them really changed my perspective about things in a profound way.

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

Story-telling is obviously very important to us. I think we especially like things that are fantastic because they get at the truth in a way other things don’t. Take the ghost out of HAMLET or the witches out of MACBETH and you don’t really have any story left, do you?

DG: What do you love most about this business?

The people! As an artistic person myself, I love to interact with other artists. I think all of us really do follow a different beat and it’s so cool to be in the same space with lots of them. Like at Shriekfest, for instance!

DG: What do you dislike most about this business?

The waiting. Now more than ever it seems like things move at a glacial pace. That’s one of the reasons I am focusing more on writing. I can always write–even when I’m waiting for a producer to read a script.

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

Winning Best Horror Feature Screenplay at Shriekfest in 2015 with JAKOB’S WIFE is definitely one of the highlights. Especially now that Barbara Crampton has made it into a movie with herself in the title role! I’m also especially proud that my short film PEEKERS opened for Dario Argento’s MOTHER OF TEARS when it played at the Fantasporto Film Festival.

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

The most important thing is to never give up. If this is what you want to do, you won’t be able to give up.

DG: Anything else you’d like to say?

Shriekfest is truly one of the best fests in the world and that is due to you, Denise, and the incredible love and support you have for all of us Shriek Geeks! None of us can ever thank you enough. But I’ll keep trying!

Jen Badasci and Christopher Allan Poe

Jen Badasci and Christopher Allan Poe
BadPoe

Jen Badasci and Christopher Allan Poe

DG: What is your name and company name and URL?

Our writer/director partnership is named BadPoe, short for Jen Badasci and Christopher Allan Poe. You can find samples of our writing as well as short films at https://badpoe.net/

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?

Our first love is screenwriting. There is something about building worlds, creating entire Universes on paper that excites us. We’re driven by putting our characters into seemingly impossible situations and then sorta bearing witness to how they navigate their way out of it. We’re also passionate about producing short films. After years of producing sci fi/horror music videos, it seems like a natural transition to get into making narrative shorts in the same genre. We like to tell stories that are very visual, with as little dialogue as possible–more of a less is more approach. Shadows and smoke are so much creepier to us than showing the entire creature in full light. At some point, we intend to tackle a feature.

DG: What are you currently working on?

Right now, we’re working on writing and directing a short film in the same Universe as our screenplay, DARK NOISE. After that, we’ve got a new screenplay–mostly beated out–with a new concept that even our spouses don’t get to know about. Loose lips and all that 😀

DG: Who do you consider your mentor and why?

JEN: Actually, I met Chris through our writing mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill. She’s a California author who taught us how to write fiction and non-fiction for publication. She’s also the first person who showed us that we could have careers in writing. After I graduated from college, I called Bonnie to find out if I could come to her writer’s table. Although we kept in touch through email, I hadn’t seen her in 15 years. It was a three hour drive to get to her table, but I didn’t care. Like a lot of writers, my motivation to produce is driven by having deadlines, so the trek once a week was completely worth it. Bonnie said, “Oh my god, yes. I can’t wait for you to come meet your brother.” Which I thought was such a bizarre thing to say, but she was right. Chris was most definitely my brother.

CHRIS: Jen nailed it. Neither of us would be here without Bonnie and what she’s done for new writers. As far as our influences, I lived a decent amount of time in Maine. Most people regard King as the most prolific and successful horror writer of all time, but in Maine, he’s a god. Apparently, every person who ever lived in Maine was his neighbor at one point. Jen and I have both read him since we were kids. We also appreciate how much he’s willing to do for new talent. As far as directing, it’s John-motherfucking-Carpenter for both of us. Jen even got me a THEY LIVE poster signed by Carpenter. She has THE THING 😀

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

CHRIS: Shit, this dates back to the beginning of human writing. The Bhagavad Gita. Most of the Bible is a horror story. The Grimm Brothers. The Penny Dreadfuls. Red Riding Hood is a cautionary tale of wandering off into the forest. The kids who heeded that warning lived. The rest were wolf food 🙂 To add to that, these days, most people reach old age. In the absence of Darwinian law for humans, we crave living in those life-or-death moments that provide the visceral reaction that makes us feel alive.

JEN: I agree. I also think it’s about straight-up caveman shit. That primal part of our brain that forces us to ask ourselves what we would do in a situation like those in horror/sci fi films. Unlike almost any other genre, horror and sci fi tap into the foundation of who we are as a species. I think most of us are pulled into our innate sense of survival when we watch horror or sci fi, and if the film does its job well, we, as our caveman selves, will feel satisfied that we would have survived that situation.

DG: What do you love most about this business?

CHRIS: Pure creation.

JEN: Yep. It’s a great mixture of creating worlds as well as having an avenue for telling powerful stories that people can relate to.

DG: What do you dislike most about this business?

CHRIS: Dishonesty.

JEN: Yeah. There are a lot of bullshitters in this business. The closed system is also really disheartening.

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

CHRIS: It’s not pandering when I say winning the award for Best Sci-Fi Screenplay at Shriekfest. Jen and I have won awards for different things, but we’ve never felt more at home or with our people than we did at the festival.

JEN: Ditto.

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

There are gonna be a million people telling you what you can’t do. Ditch them and surround yourself with the people who are doing it, or at least willing to get out and help push the car. Also, take control of your own narrative. In other words, if you want to make a movie, make one. Don’t give up your power to the industry machine. Dictate your own terms.

DG: Anything else you’d like to say?

Denise, you’re a badass, and we appreciate all you’ve done 🙂

Samuel Peirce

Samuel Peirce
Journalist and Film Reviewer

Samuel Peirce

DG: What is your name and company name and URL?

Samuel Peirce, but I usually go by Sam. I write film reviews under the moniker Listener Sam at http://theoverlooktheatre.com/ and as an occasional guest contributor to Bloody Disgusting at https://bloody-disgusting.com/author/samuel-peirce/

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?

Screenwriting for sure. I’ve shot a few shorts and plan to shoot more, but it’s the writing and storytelling that appeals most to me.

DG: What are you currently working on?

I’m currently sharing a feature-length horror western, SALT WEST. I’m also working on revisions on MESSIAH COMPLEX, another feature about a cult in an apartment complex. I’m also outlining another feature, THE CENOTE, about a honeymooning couple who become trapped in a Yucatan denote, and researching a historical piece. I like keeping a lot of irons in the fire. I get bored when I’m not telling stories.

DG: Who do you consider your mentor and why?

Luis Camara (Writer/Director of Steel Trap, Silencio, and writer of You’re Killing Me Susana) — As a freshman in college, I took a course that he taught on Creative Storytelling. At that point, I was studying biology, and while I’d done some creative writing in the past, I’d never been introduced to the screenplay format. We bonded over a mutual appreciation for horror (including his own goofy flick, Steel Trap) and Luis taught me about screenwriting and sewed the seeds that grew into the passion I have now.

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

With regards to horror, I think taboo plays a major role in creating such a large and cohesive community. It’s a genre that allows for films that are transgressive in a way that other genres aren’t, and the films that get made tap into subject matter that’s often unpleasant to talk about. Because of that taboo, horror fans and creators latch on to one another to share their love of topics that others don’t as readily accept. I think sci-fi has a large following for similar reasons, but instead of being transgressive, it explores stories that can’t exist in other genres by design.

DG: What do you love most about this business?

The people. I’m normally a pretty introverted guy who’d rather spend his time somewhere isolated writing page-after-page than going to a social gathering, but without fail, I’ve found friendship and camaraderie at horror festivals. Seriously, horror filmmakers are the best.

DG: What do you dislike most about this business?

The hustle. I’d much rather just spend my time writing and seeing people enjoy my work then have to split focus into marketing myself.

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

Earlier this year I optioned my screenplay THE SUBURBAN KALEIDOSCOPE.

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

Make writing a habit like showering or brushing your teeth. Write even if you don’t want to write, and write even when what you write sucks. Eventually, you’ll find the good stuff, and if you don’t, don’t be afraid to start over.

DG: Anything else you’d like to say?

Thanks so much for the interview! If anyone wants to connect you can find me on twitter @samuel_peirce

Stuart Creque

Stuart Creque
Screenwriter, Director, Producer

Stuart Creque

DG: What is your name and company name and URL?

Name: Stuart Creque, Company: Creque’s Alley Productions, www.creque.com

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?

I’m mainly a screenwriter, but I have directed one short and produced another.

DG: What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on producing and directing another short film and am writing and rewriting several feature scripts and a pilot.

DG: Who do you consider your mentor and why?

My mentors are Biff Yeager (who produced and directed a short I wrote, and who let me on set during production), Scary Cow Productions (a filmmaking collective in San Francisco), and Roadmap Writers (an educational services company for screenwriters).

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

Horror satisfies the human need to feel mortal fear and danger while letting us survive the experience, while sci-fi tells us that no matter what the future holds, humans will always remain human.

DG: What do you love most about this business?

What I love most is seeing my work on the screen and hearing the audience react the way I hoped they would.

DG: What do you dislike most about this business?

What I dislike most is the struggle to get my work onto the screen.

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

My proudest accomplishment is adapting a short story my daughter wrote into a feature screenplay, and then seeing the resulting film on the screen.

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

My advice to newbies is to keep creating new projects and to make some of them yourselves, if you can find people who want to help you make films.

Tracy Charlton

Tracy Charlton
Screenwriter, The Building (2009)

Tracy Charlton

DG: What is your name and company name and URL?

My name is Tracy Charlton. No company at this point!

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?

I’m a screenwriter.

DG: What are you currently working on?

I’m revising my screenplay NANO with my friend and co-writer Martha Chang. It’s a sci-fi thriller that takes existing nano technology and runs with it. I’m really excited about its potential!

DG: Who do you consider your mentor and why?

I was lucky enough to be one of the winners of the inaugural Meryl Streep/NYWIFT writing lab 4 years ago. There were 12 writers — chosen from over 3,500 scripts! — and we became good friends. We read each others scripts and try to help each other in any way we can. I consider all of them to be co-mentors.

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

They take you to a different place from the ordinary world in fun and scary ways. Horror is so primal — it’s like when you’re a little kid and you’re afraid there’s a monster under your bed. And with sci-fi you can just let your imagination run wild. I love all the crazy stuff you can play with in a sci-fi script.

DG: What do you love most about this business?

Telling stories and getting to work with other creative people.

DG: What do you dislike most about this business?

Pitching! I’m the worst.

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

My spec thriller script THE BUILDING was made into a TV movie starring Erica Durance.

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

Find your tribe. This is a tough business and it makes all the difference in the world to have a group of people who have your back.

DG: Anything else you’d like to say?

Never stop learning, revising, trying to get better. Those little moments of perfection we’re all trying to create in film only come from a lot of hard work.

Ray Kermani

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Ray Kermani
Writer, Director and Screenwriter

Ray Kermani

DG: What is your name and company name and URL?

Ray Kermani, Shadow Pictures

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?

Film director and screenwriter of short films. I really like to direct my own screenplays.

DG: What are you currently working on?

At this moment, I’m working on three new horror short films. “Ghost Bloggers”, “S.O.S. Monsters” and “Bad Moon.”

DG: Who do you consider your mentor and why?

Being a huge fan of John Carpenter and Sam Raimi I kind of consider these two directors as my mentors. I admire Carpenter’s pefect atmospheric scenes as well as his way of storytelling. Raimi on the other hand, is a master of camera work and sound design. He knows how to create a compelling viewing experience.

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

Basically, we all love to be scared or just be intrigued by the “unknown”. Whether it’s by a story or a film.

DG: What do you love most about this business?

The thing I love the most about this business, is the fact you get to meet new people. The US festivals have always been so good and generous to me. I’m very grateful to be recognized in America.

DG: What do you dislike most about this business?

I live in Belgium and that is probably one of the worst countries as a horror filmmaker to live in. Horror and scifi are definitely not popular over here. Luckily, my movies are being very well received outside of Belgium.

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

Right now, I’m promoting disability in horror. There’s just not enough diversity in horror and scifi films. We’re all the same people on this planet and it’s no effort for filmmakes at all to work with everybody, no matter what your ethnicity, gender, disability or religion is.

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

Get yourself surrounded by passionate and ambitious people who elevate your film to a higher level. Make as much as short films as you can. Consider making short films as your learning school. You’ll sure make mistakes, but mistakes make you only a better filmmaker.

Dave Bundtzen

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Dave Bundtzen
Writer, Producer and Director

Dave Bundtzen

DG: What is your name and company name and URL?

DB: My name is Dave Bundtzen. My company is Flix Digital. All of my horror short films are available at my YouTube Channel Flix Horrorhttps://www.youtube.com/c/FlixHorror

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?

DB: I am a writer, producer and director.

DG: What are you currently working on?

DB: am prepping a new horror short film titled Widow Maker. I hope to premiere it at Shriekfest next year.

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

DB: I have had many mentors over the years so I could not name just one. I find that mentors suddenly become available at the exact point I need them. It’s funny but it has happened time and time again. I am always so thankful for their guidance and insight.

DG::I love that! Why do you think the horror/scifi genres have such a large following?

DB: I think of all genres horror has always been considered the red headed step child. Films in the past have been done for lower budgets and without major star power. Film critics usually dislike horror films as a rule. Yet the audience over the years accepts this and loves them. The audience for horror is very passionate. This is why I love it so much too. I have made other genre films, from comedy, drama etc, but horror is always the most fun and I love to watch the films with an audience.

DG: What do you love most about this business?

DB: Making the impossible happen. Creating a story in your head and then down the road seeing it play with an audience is an amazing experience. I love it.

DG: What do you dislike most about this business?

DB: Egos. I am not a fan. I try to work with cast and crew that leave their egos at the door. Egos just get in the way of the process for me.

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

DB: I have built my career on always learning, being a good person, working hard and having fun while doing it all.

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

DB: We are in the best stage ever to be a filmmaker. Make movies often and post them for feedback. You will be amazed by what you can learn and the vast audience that you can reach.

DG: Anything else you’d like to say?

DB: I want to thank Shriekfest for the amazing opportunities it has brought to me. I am so thankful that I have been a part of the festival. Thank you!

DG: Dave, the pleasure is all mine! Thank you for chatting!

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