I finally took my own advice and went to a horror movie convention last weekend, Days of the Dead in Indianapolis. Many years ago I went on the convention circuit to meet people in the industry--not the folks you have to stand in line two hours to get an autograph from, but the ones stashed in the corner of the vendor room, burning their own DVDs.
I have always said in the b-movie world you need to prove you are a normal person, who can meet commitments and deadlines and get along with everybody. The great filmmaker Alex Cox, whose film Repo Man I watched over and over at one time in my life, refers to it as kibun-- the Korean word that means a general harmony, respect, peace of mind, that you need to make a movie.
I had just walked into the lobby of this big hotel/convention center out by the airport when I bumped into a Polonia Brothers fan I knew from the interwebs but had never met IRL. Not five minutes later, an actor who is going to be in this upcoming secret project I have called Twice Shy in my e-newsletter walked by as well. So worth going already.
Days of the Dead provided a "Blue Track" for independent filmmakers, and I couldn't have been happier. I got to watch an Independent Filmmakers' Panel and was surprised how many Indiana people were on it. It was good to see, because I've never thought there was much of an Indiana scene, but this panel gave me some hope.
I could have broken the bank in the vendor room at just at two tables, Vinegar Syndrome and Severin Films, side by side. These companies are doing heartfelt restorations of movies that, in the early 2000s when I was first on the scene, you would be thankful to find on nth-pass VHS bootlegs with handwritten labels. I just had to by a restored Blu-Ray copy of Dolemite, which I first saw on loan from a friend in the early 90s, when I was first trying to figure out how to break into the scene, and inspired me to keep going. I also bought one I had never heard of, the Axe/Kidnapped Coed Blu from two-and-out director Frederick Friedel, two 70s psychological horror films made for pocket change that pack a wallop, like the best of Andy Milligan or Jean Rollin.
Regional horror films, and films where people make something out of nothing, is where I always find my inspiration. More recent films, like the all-in horror films from Bandit, like Harvest Lake and Plank Face, are current examples, and I got to meet these guys, who are making very challenging films physically and emotionally.
The guys who made Night of Something Strange were so friendly that I bought their DVD, and was pleased to find internet pal Wayne Johnson in it, as well as Michael Merchant who was in a film I wrote called Amityville Death House. It is as rude a horror comedy as you will find, so be warned.
And naturally I bought a homemade DVD with the title written in Sharpie, She Was So Pretty by director Brooklyn Ewing, who was so interesting on the Independent Filmmakers' Panel that me and my pal Brandon Bennett both decided we could spend five bucks to figure out what she was talking about. It is awash in technical difficulties, but is such an unfiltered creepfest, featuring an unsettling central performance by Jerry Larew as a serial killer and Corey Rutter as a motor-mouthed cop, that it is worth a look for b-fans.
Some people I wanted to talk to didn't give me the time of day, which reminded me that people in general aren't that interested in meeting writers, but other people I didn't know existed did, so it was worth it to go. I will be looking for some more opportunities for conventions this season, and see where it takes me.
See you next time.