Someone's in the house. He's watching. He's creeping round, only you can't see him. He's watching you from the walls. He's right behind you now. Looking over your shoulder. He wants the remote control. He's a bad boy. He wants to watch bad movies. Bad bad Ronald...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

BadRonald Peephole Review: Sunshine Girl Gets Real Creepy

Black Eyed Kids (aka BEKs) is an urban legend that's been going around for the past fifteen years, or so, with stories of encounters with children with pitch black eyes, no pupils or whites. As the legend goes, the encounters usually happen in a car, with the children asking the driver for a ride home. Other versions have the children knocking at doors, asking to be let in. All versions tell of a strange, overwhelming power that the BEKs seem to have, that weakens the willpower of the people who encounter them.

Sounds like the kinda kids you want to meet up with on a cold rainy night, right?

A caught on tape encounter with a BEK is at the open of Sunshine Girl and the Hunt for Black Eyed Kids. The viral video, featuring two young lovers in a parked car, appears to be a self-made sex video which goes horribly wrong. The young man (holding the camera) coaxes his date to take off her top, which she does, reluctantly. Nothing scary there. Until, at her window appears a young boy. It's late, and he's begging for a ride to his mom's house. He seems harmless, until they see his eyes, dark and creepy. As the couple tries to leave, the boy becomes frighteningly enraged, and starts pounding on the car.

Cut to Sunshine Girl, who sits in her room, addressing the camera, vlog style, explaining how someone sent her the video, and how the BEK legend is her absolute favorite, and how she's making a movie about them, and... Well, as Sunshine herself says, "Before I get ahead of myself..."

Sunshine Girl is the teenage YouTube sensation, who's been vlogging about her strange encounters with ghostly things around her home in suburban Washington. It's not as dark and sinister as it sounds, though some of her adventures have gotten pretty dark and sinister. Just as interesting as the paranormal encounters is her encounters with her Mom and her pop culture fanaticism. She's part Veronica Mars and part Scooby gang, wrapped up in a Ghost Hunter world.

And now she's jumping from the computer screen to the big screen, going on the hunt for these BEKs. But, first she has to get Mom's permission. As is typical in her webseries, Sunshine has to match wits with her Mom (played by Mercedes Rose). Like a teenager asking for the car for the night, Sunshine (who "reveals" her real name as Frances Jones) is surprised that her mom puts the kibosh on her plans to go meet the admittedly creepy guy who has been feeding her info on BEKs. It's these conversations that Sunshine has with her Mom and her friends that really make her program so unique.

Where most other paranomalists cable shows have bickering and forced drama between the cast members, Sunshine Girl feels more like an episode of Gilmore Girls or Seinfeld, weaving dialogue around and away from the subject matter, and then back again. This bit of flavoring is due greatly to Sunshine and Mom being an actual Mother/Daughter act.  But, also mostly due to Sunshine creator, and BEK director Nick Hagen.

We've already encountered the "caught on tape" successes of Paranormal Activity, [REC], Cloverfield and the like. But Hagen's BEK isn't your typical a caught on tape movie.  Really, it's a hey kids, let's make a movie movie. His Sunshine webseries works because of the air of naturalism he'd created, that emulates the gazillion teen vlogs out there, where kids just spill their existence out in front of a camera. Short two/three minute episodes, where the cast members ad libbed the dialogue worked with great success, giving every appearance that it's an average everyday teen YouTube rambling.  To translate to the big screen, however, Hagen sets aside the Flipcam style shooting for a more polished Hi-Def look.  Cleverly, he does this by having Sunshine hire a professional camera crew to film her exploits. This little plot point allows the BEK movie to separate from the rest of the found footage pack.

The major draw of the Sunshine world is, of course, Sunshine herself.  Not only does the camera like her, but she has that undeniable "it" factor.  Her charms and talent have attracted nearly 22 thousand subscribers, and over 10 million views on her YouTube channel.  And as much credit as she deserves for the successes of the webseries, equel credit has to go to Hagen for his credible talent behind the camera. His real genius is making Sunshine's world appear to be so unusually normal. Never going going overboard, and keeping it all "real" (real enough to have scores of fans debating -- and fighting and cursing -- over whether Sunshine is a phoney or scam artist).

And now, with Sunshine expanding into the bigger, feature length motion picture world, Hagen has pulled off another major feat, in keeping Sunshine's world still just as grounded and real. He does this, as I mentioned earlier, by creating a let's make a movie scenario. Sunshine is still playing "herself." only this time as the subject of her own documentary. She moves about her same, familiar world, dealing with her Mom, and her Scooby gang sidekick Nolan, only this time, when she starts meddling in places she shouldn't. Hagen steps up the intensity, taking Sunshine's viewers into more frightening territories, and makes it all work, again, by not going overboard. Like the best of the creepers from the 70s era, the pace begins slowly -- enthusiastic, but unhurried -- keeping the audience in a happy place. He keeps the action placed in typically not-so-scary places, like a busy block in Downtown Portland, or a suburban neighborhood.  By the time Sunshine, Nolan, and their Shaggy new sidekick Andrew meet the creepy man with the inside knowledge of the BEKs, the usual Sunshiney world becomes unsettled. But not nearly as unsettling once they actually encounter the BEKs.

This is the fun part about Sunshine Girl and the Hunt for Black Eyed Kids -- it plays fun and bright, but then watch out -- you're in for some real frights!  There are some genuinely chilling moments in this film.  Hagen pulls off a terrific caught-on-tape chiller.  And Sunshine proves that she's ready for bigger adventures.

No doubt, after seeing Sunshine Girl and the Hunt for Black Eyed Kids, there will be that moment when you see some seemingly normal kid walking about in the dark, and you're gonna just be waiting for them to look up, so you can see their eyes.  But, by then, it's too late.

Go to the BEK site, and get the movie for just a few bucks.  Seriously!  Do it now!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bad Ronald sez What the French Toast!

Don't know if you've seen CouchCutter's “F*ck You” – An Open Letter To The Horror Community -- but it's worth a read.  Even though the article (written by David Anthony) is flawed and spins around on itself, it's worth the time for the fact that it's opened the discussion on supporting independent horror.

With a title like that, I read on with great anticipation.  What I found in this FU message reminded me of a failed tape mix I once made.  Several years ago, a couple friends of mine were swapping some good ol' Country & Western mixes, and I culled together 90 minutes of Honky Tonk'n classics and Bluegrass ditties and hillbilly hi-jinx.  For the cassette sleeve I designed a cover that bore the image of Johnny Cash righteously stabbing his middle finger up to the camera.  I just liked the image.  I'm a huge Cash fan, so it caught my eye.  Only problem was, one of my tape-mix friends called bullshit on me. Rightfully so, I had to admit.  You see, I didn't have any songs, really, that were outright angry or nasty.  Sure, there were some pissy drunks, musing abut their wandering ways and wanton women and broken tractors.  My latest garage sale stash of LPs were mostly the classic cowboy stuff, and there weren't no anger in 'em.  My clever design turned out to be fairly unclever and failed to deliver a kick-ass mix appropriate to the angry Cash title design.  My bad.

I had the same bullshit response to Anthony's rant as my friend had to my cassette cover.
A fuck you you shall get

Basically, what the article said was the "horror community" needs to start supporting indie horror movies.  That if "we" make films like the remakes of Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween big successes, then why can't "we" make smaller films like Father's Day successful.  He blames the "horror community" for the fact that the filmmakers of small genre films like Dear God No! or Father's Day can't whip out films as easily as their Hollywood big wig counterparts. "There’s not enough money there for investors to get involved," writes Anthony. "And we are where the money comes from. We, as an audience, as a horror community are the *root* of the problem."  Not so much a "fuck you" as it is a tongue-lashing from dad.

He adds that "we" are responsible for the well being of the independent filmmaker, and that "we" should assure them a career, and that have failed them: "People have bills, cars, kids, mortgages, and all this other shit in-between that costs money. And as much as you appreciate their films, your appreciation is not paying their bills."  I guess "we've" been spanked.

I don't know, I was expecting something a lot more scathing and angry from a piece titled "F*ck You...". Something that would get my head nodding and fists a-clenching, like I was listening to a good vitriolic jam slam by The Who or Suicidal Tendencies or some shit like that.

My first major problem with the CouchCutter rant is the flagrant use of "we," as if the "horror community" is really such a unified or even defined thing. It's not so much the idea that all people who happen to share an interest are grouped together in a general category that bugs me.  Rather, it's the assumption that because they share a similar interest that they -- we -- all then are suppose to share the same opinions, or drives, or perceptions or bias.  Yes, we all like horror.  But none of us like all horror.  I prefer the smaller independent horror films from America. I really like foreign horror, from Great Britain, Argentina, France, Hong Kong -- even Canada (Soska Sisters, eh!).  However, I can't tell you the last time I went to a theater to see a horror film from a major studio.  But, that's me.  Some others -- Anthony includes himself in this bunch -- don't really dig the inde horror flicks.  "We" are never gonna agree on everything.  Some really dig big splashy horror, while others go the low key chills path.  Hey, agreeing on everything hasn't worked for the Democrats nor Republicans -- why would we assume it would work for horror fans?
You mean, there's more?

My other major disagreement is that the "horror community" is to blame for the failures, or lack of successes, of indie horror films.  First of all, the definition of success, in Anthony's article, is not clearly defined. The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is labeled a success because it tripled its $35 million budget, but Human Centipede is a failure because, even though it had lots of press, it made (by his numbers) only less than $3 million.  Comparatively, Nightmare is the one percenter, while HC is on welfare. I'm not sure of Anthony's idea of what makes a successful indie horror movie, but seeing that HC made that $3 mil (I'm thinking it's likely made much more on VOD alone, but I haven't been able to scare up those numbers) then it's doubled its less than $1.5 million budget AND generated a (terrible) sequel.  Seems the horror community did good by it, and made it a success.

The mistake would be to compare apples and nectarines (again, I'm not positive what Anthony's stand is, so I'm generalizing).  Hollywood movies can make $100 million, but still be considered a loser, if'n it don't match their $150 million budget.  However, an indie can make $5 million and be crazy successful, because the budget was much much lower.  With that said, any horror movie that generates a box office of $10s of millions -- that movie moves beyond the support of the "horror community" and got loads of help from the mainstream audience.  Rob Zombie's Halloween remake doubled its $15 million budget on the opening weekend, and then took in another $50 million overall.  It would be nice to think that there were that many horror fans.  But truth be told, the majority of those ticket buyers were the general public.  Teens, most likely, who like thrills and action, whether they be in a comic chase, and spy roughhouse, or horror.  Sure, lots of horror fans were filling those seats, as well.  But I'd never go as far as to say that the "horror community" made that film a success.  I WOULD go as far as to say that the "horror community" made the original Halloween the continued, cult success that it is now.

The successful indie horror movie is not going to appear as the success stories we're all used to seeing: Saw, Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project. These flicks are phenomenons, the extraordinary... at least today they are. There was a time when independently produced films were distributed by major studios on a regular basis.  That's how we got Halloween, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (and countless other indie horror gems).  These movies literally toured the Country, generating word of mouth, and building anticipation over months. Today's model of distribution is much different, with the majors relying heavily on open weekend box office.  They want instant results, so they're not going to snatch up many indie horror flicks, unless they're uniqueness can assure them a big weekend take.  Gauging the success of an indie produced and distributed horror flick by the Hollywood distribution model standard only sets us up for disappointment.  Why compare the two?  If a small budget film recoups its budget, and makes enough to pay the cast and crew properly, then it's a success.  Period.  There, we've put food on the table.

The last major problem I have with CouchCutter's FU is that a lot of blame goes on the filmmakers themselves.  If they want to make this their living, then, just like any other job they've ever held, performance matters.  Make a good film, that people want to see, and then make sure they see it.  Work!  The notion that the "community" just ought to support the filmmakers, because we're a "community" is bogus.  I'll do my share by seeking out and watching the movies I like or want, and avoiding the ones I don't think are worth my time.  But, I am in no way obligated to ensure that the indie horror filmmakers have shoes on their feet.  That's their bag.
Cripes! Will this lecture ever end?
Luckily, today filmmakers have new avenues to follow.  There's the festival route, which helps build that great word of mouth for films like Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Woman, V/H/S, The Innkeepers.  There's also Netflix and RedBox, and the likes, and Video on Demand.  There's Amazon, YouTube, Vimeo.  The market is now open, and ready for business!  Self distribution has become so much easier than back in the day, when the actual film had to be carted around city to city (anyone who complains about how hard it is to have to Twitter/FaceBook/Pintrest/blog/Flickr about their movie should read up on pioneers like William Castle or Roger Corman and the likes, to see how it's really done).  It takes work!  Even established celebs have to pound the cyberpavement -- look to Kevin Smith or Louis CK.  With every celeb who has a go of it, there are a thousand worthy non-celebs who're busting their asses too, trying to get their work seen.  Last year I checked off My Name is A by Anonymous as the Best Movie You Haven't Seen Yet of 2011.  Amazing film!  You still haven't seen it in 2012, though.  Luckily, due to director Shane Ryan's hard work, you'll get to see it soon on DVD and possibly VOD.  Also, check out what Nick Hagen is doing to get the movie he's made of his successful YouTube hit The Haunting of Sunshine GirlThe webseries has logged over 10 million views, and has over twenty thousand subscribers, but do you think he could just waltz into a distributors office and secure a deal?  Not so fast!  He's doing it the ol' fashioned way, by busting his knuckles and banging on laptop screens across the world, creating good buzz.  Will it work for him and Sunshine?  We'll see soon, when the film is self distributed online and on DVD on December 21.  

Look, I agree with Anthony on the idea that independent horror should be supported more (I'll ditto that credo for indie movies in general). Why not?  Most every Hollywood trend we've had comes straight from an indie movie: Blue Velvet, Apocalypse Now, Blair Witch Project, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, Saw, Clerks, Paranormal Activity...  Films like these, made outside the major studio world, actually drove the major studios to rethink their model... and then proceed to embarrass themselves with countless copycat clunkers. I agree heartily that we support indie horror, because I love indie horror.  I love the rough amateurishness of backyard cinema, the testing of limits with caught on tape thrills, the quietness of a limited budget.  It all makes for good experimentation.  This is where the real success lies, in the experiments, the finding of new techniques.  The clever mind will figure out ways to reach beyond the limitations, and that's when the breakthroughs happen.  Only in indie filmmaking do you find such successes.

So, yes!  Support indie filmmaking -- especially indie horror.This is the one thing I can agree with CouchCutter on.  If there is such thing as a "horror community" then get off your asses and start taking horror seriously. 
Yay! It's over!!

And as far as the "Fuck You" to the "community" -- hell, I think they deserve it.  But not in ways CouchCutter described.  Cripes, there's loads more things to dump on them for. How about fans who personally attack filmmakers whom they don't like, as if it's their right to disregard them as a human, just because you didn't like their casting choices.  How about for slamming other fans of other movies you don't like?  So what, they like vampires that sparkle!  You like movies with no solid storyline -- big whoop!  How about those twerps who laughed their way through a Linda Blair head spin, during the re-release, but now copycat the stairway spider crawl on their own Windows Moviemaker masterpiece?  How about bully blogging?  How about lame ass petitions?  How's about we all just watch a horror movie that we like and shut our faces and eat some popcorn?
Wait... that wasn't nice.
And one last thing, let's differentiate between indie horror and amateur horror. Independent filmmakers like Ti West, or Adam Wingard, or Tom Six -- and even more low budget directors like James Bickert or the Soska Twins -- these guys are clearly serious about their craft.  You may not like all their stuff, but they're working hard to create and distribute. Then there's a load of others who bang out a movie that pretty much emulates every other movie that they like, and call themselves indie filmmakers.  Their stuff is poorly shot, badly written and self gratifying. These are the filmmakers who ruin it for the others.  They ruin it by abusing the term indie, to push their self absorbed rip-offs on the fans, and they make it harder for working filmmakers to get respect for their work.  Fuck you to them...

Support indie filmmaking.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bad Ronald sez Congratulations to My Name is A

At long last, some recognition and further praise for a really really amazing film My Name Is A by Anonymous. Director Shane Ryan placed Third overall, and snagged the award for Best Art House Feature at this years Pollygrind Underground Film Festival.  Now, maybe you guys will get to see the film, rather than just hear me blather on about it.

Keep your eyes and ears open.  I expect to hear some news about distribution and play dates around the nation's theaters.

Congratulations Shane!

Friday, November 9, 2012

BadRonald Teaser: Sunshine Girl Movie Trailer!!!

One of the great YouTube success stories is set to burst off your laptop screen and onto theater screens and TV screens across the country.  Sunshine Girl is someone I've spoken about many times, with her self-recorded quirkiness and Scooby Gang ghost hunting antics (which can been viewed on her YouTube channel The Haunting of Sunshine Girl).  Her mini adventures run the gamut of fresh and silly teen girl vlogging, to some real jump-from-your-computer-chair frights.  There's ghosts and demons and paranormal mayhem.  But mostly, there's Sunshine herself.

I got word from Sunshine that she's gotten herself into a bit of a paranormal pickle.  She's been out investigating the phenomenon known as Black Eyed Kids (otherwise known as BEKs), and trying to hunt some down.  Only problem is... she found some.  Yikes!!!

The up side is, she's sharing her BEK adventures with the world in a new feature film Sunshine Girl and the Hunt for Black Eyed Kids.  Sunshine dropped this trailer off to me with a message, warning that people need to see this now!

"Bad Ronald rocks for sharing the trailer to my new movie, Sunshine Girl and the Hunt for BEKs. I can't wait to share it with everyone and be on the look out for some exclusive pics from my movie coming to Bad Ronald blog very soon!"

The BEK movie will be released 12-21-12 on DVD and VOD. Check the Sunshine Movie website for updates and make sure to jump on the newsletter.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Peephole Review: ATM is Out of Order

Sometimes you just wanna sit down for some mindless fun, and have some easy thrills and chills. And sometimes what you get is some mindless writing and directing. ATM is not a complete dud.  It had some moments (none of which I can particularly recall, at this moment), but everything gets unraveled by a ridiculously convoluted wrap-up ending.

To the strains of Silent Night, an unidentified man peruses some blueprints and satellite Google maps, warming his toes with an electric space heater, as he plots out diagrams and angles.  The pre-credit action concludes with the man pulling on a black winter parka with a fuzzy snorkel hood. Cut to young upwardly mobile dude making his way to slag the phones at a big city financial firm.  As he trudges through the crowded streets, shots of crime scene tape and body bags zip past.  The tension is surely intended.

The young man finds himself in a pickle when he has to report to a client that he's wasted their investment away to nothing.  What's worse is that the co-worker he's been hopelessly pining over is leaving the firm.  His last chance to make any kind of contact with her is at the office Christmas party.  Naturally, his goofball buddy goads him on, reminding him of what a loser he is.  He finally manages enough backbone to offer the girl a ride home, only to be cackblocked by his goofball buddy.  Next thing he knows, he's at an ATM, getting cash out to pay for the third wheel's late night munchie attack.

Unwittingly, the trio of office workers have fallen into the icy web of the killer in a snorkel hood, locking themselves inside the ATM kiosk after seeing the ominous figure outside the doors. For the next hour is a cat-and-mouse game, as the hooded killer terrorizes the trio, preventing them from escaping, and brutally and mercilessly smashing anyone who tries to help.

The gimmick of people under attack (by wildlife or maniacs) in an isolated space has become a common in horror (Open Water, Frozen, Inside...), and really, the success depends upon how the filmmaker builds the tension. Director David Brooks and writer Chris Sparling do a fine job keeping the obstacles coming, and keeping them relatively believable (if not predictable).  But the unraveling all comes in the last moments of the film.

There's nothing worse than a horror/thriller movie where everything simply falls into place, just so, so that the end twist will work perfectly.  All the obstacles dropped in the way of the trio, like I said, worked within the context of the action. All the meticulous planning we saw at the open of the movie had paid off, and the killer worked all the physical angles to successfully trapped his prey. Cool!  Not only did the killer blueprint his attack, but he also relied on some common human fear, to manipulate his victims to do things they probably never would have done in their normal everyday lives.  Wow! A cunning and crafty killer at work -- how fun! This would have been a fine enough story, had the filmmakers left it at that.  But, they had to go add their clever twist.  A twist that fails the entire film.

 (enter spoiler alert here) 

The cunning and smart hunter not only manipulated the physical elements of his "game," AND has manipulated the actions of the prey... but the twist also finds the killer manipulating pure coincidence to target all blame for the violence surrounding the entire event fully onto the young finance worker.  This twist worked very well in Wolf Creek, frustrating the audiences who watched helplessly as the sole survivor of the Outback killer's torturous mayhem gets arrested and charged with the murders. It's a twist that works because of the tenuous relationships, the isolated setting, and the physical evidence and assumptions determined by the police.  Sparling and Brooks weren't confident enough to leave it up to that.  Too bad.  Instead, they convolute the young man's actions to coincide with the intervals of the timed recordings of the ATM security camera.  So, what they are asking us to believe is that the killer not only manipulates the friends, turning them on each other with fear, but that the camera miraculously only rolls when the guy 1.) accidentally shoves the girl to the floor. 2.) He grapples with his buddy, and then 3.)Grabs at the knife put into the chest of his friend, by the killer.  Not only that, the camera rolls on NOTHING but the violent actions of the young man. To the police, this is all the visual evidence they need to pin the crimes on the young man.  He's violent, he shoves his friends around, and he has the knife in his hand.  Case closed.  What a genius the killer is, that he can control fate, on top of all things.  But, could the killer have manipulated the ATM camera, you ask?  If he had, they didn't show it.  And that would've exonerated the young man, once they cops discovered that.

So, all in all, I can't recommend ATM.  The twist is nothing but a setup, and the plot and action never rise to the occasion.   You're better off getting your money out somewhere else -- this ATM is out of order.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Malice: The Webseries Returns!

Rolling out from my grave to bring you a special Halloween alert.  Forget Sandy, or the Elections (I know, they're both awful frightening!), Malice: The Web Series is the big happening on Halloween.  Season Two premieres with a fantastic episode that expands the series in both technical and narrative ways.  If you haven't been watching, go give it a great big try.

To whet your appetite, here's an interview with Malice creator Philip Cook...

Can you give me a little background on you, and also a bit about the film community where you live and work?

Well … I’ve been knocking round a while.  In the 80s I worked on the first MTV Ids. 
And animated rock videos for the Alan Parsons Project “Don’t Answer Me” as an animation cinematographer.

I had always wanted to make features so when the animation company I worked for moved to New York I stayed behind in Washington D.C. to direct my first feature the sci-fi film OUTERWORLDwhich debuted on the SyFy Channel the year they launched.

After that I directed another sci-fi thriller called INVADER which was broadcast on HBO, Showtime and Cinemax.  And then after that I made a direct to video feature DESPISER.  These were all micro-budget independent productions.  But they all got finished, made their money back and got distributed worldwide.

How did the concept of Malice begin?

Well I still wanted to produce stories yet it is so difficult to raise money for production.  In the 80s it was possible to make a no-star-name independent genre film and get it in a movie theater.  That day has passed.

In the 90s it was possible to make a no-star-name genre picture and get it on TV and cable.  That day has passed.

In 2000 it was possible to make a no-star-name genre picture and sell videos to 35,000 Blockbuster and 27,000 Hollywood video stores.  Well those stores are all gone now.

What was left?  The web.  Produce a web series and distribute it your self via YouTube or other means?  How does it work?  How do you monetize your efforts?  Interesting possibilities.  So I started researching web series and found most of them awful.  But then I found THE GUILD, which I loved.  You could see some rough production value in the early episodes but the writing and characters were brilliant.  I thought I could do this and bring some of my production and visual effects experience to bear.

I needed a containable story.  A hook.  A compelling character.  It had to be tightly paced and character driven.  It had to have visual effects.  So I thought … hmm … well I live in this interesting house.  What if it was haunted?  It wasn’t hard for me to hear the voices of Alice and Abbey come from anecdotes of my daily life with my two daughters.  I like swords.  Dad has swords.  We also have a bunny named Plot.  You get the idea.  But we have no Ghost Boy in our house.  I made him up.  But the eyeball in the garbage disposal?  That’s real.  Hmm.  Not really.

Your cast is terrific, but Brittany Martz seems like a one in a million find.  I understand you discovered her in a not so typical way.

It was truly serendipity.  I spent months writing the scripts and getting them as tight as I could.  But I dragged my feet on producing the show.  I knew it was going to completely consume my life for a year.  And there was no point in going through all this effort if I couldn’t find brilliant actors.  It would live or die by its cast.  MALICE is a self-finance show so casting directors and the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) was out.  Being typical me I said I’ll find my own cast.  So I put out an ad on Craigslist, looking for young teen girls to be in a horror show.  Sounds creepy right?  But I crafted the ad very carefully -- listed my credits, links to my website and past productions.  The most remarkably talented young people started showing up for the casting call.  But when Brittany read the voice-over for me in her audition I was sold.  She had a lovely old-world-wise melancholy coming from such a young woman.  It’s funny because she wasn’t at all how I envisioned how Alice would look.  But she was simply amazing.  Now I can’t even see my original Alice -- it’s Brittany now.

How has it been working with Brittany, and the rest of the cast?

Brittany is wonderful.  Motivated, enthusiastic, committed, always thinking how the shot or scene is plugging into the story arc.  She really gets the process – wise like a veteran in that regard.  Frankly our whole cast was the most amenable group of people I have ever worked with.  I can honestly say we all had blast shooting MALICE.  We collectively all lived at my house for a month and made a horror show.  What could possibly be more fun then that?

The effects look pretty sweet, and the stories are great.  How tough is it to work all this magic into such a tight budget (and small crew)?

Well.  It’s hard.  MALICE’s crew was basically me as the Director/Director of Photography/Lighting Person and Art Director.  I had a wonderful committed young makeup artist Courtney Westphal who basically was my right hand on the set and I ended up crediting her as an Associate Producer.  And I had Max Heaton who just graduated from school was my Sound Recordist.  And of course my daughter Alexandra was Production Manager keeping us all straight on logistics.  That was it.  The whole gang.  Quite a few days it was just Brittany and I running around grabbing pickup shots or insert scenes – an army of one and the star!

What I find great about some of these webseries I've come across is the potential for them to go bigger.  You've now moved  beyond YouTube, right?
We’re on a couple of hosting sites right now.  YouTube, Blip.TV and most recently Koldcast.TV -- which has been remarkable.  They’re very selective of what they host on their site and they actively drive crazy amounts views.  So that’s very exciting expanding our audience.

MALICE has tons of potential.  I simply love the dynamic of Alice, this diminutive young woman being thrown into these way-over-her-head situations that she has to resolve.  And it’s not because she a superhero or has superpower.  She just cares and does the best she can.  Some of it comes down to a mere survival struggle but the other part is finding a profound inner strength when you need it.  But in the end, Alice is just a kid trying to grow up.

Right now, you have a Kickstarter campaign, to raise funds to continue.  How tough is it to find support, being outside of the usual big production areas of NYC or LA.

It’s very hard.  We have started with nothing but a hundred pages of script and lots of committed young talented people that I never even know barely a year ago.  Yet we are managing to build a community around this show. MALICE is taking on a life of its own.  Fans all around the world are discovering the show and that is very exciting.  But I feel we are merely a hundred feet up the slope of Everest right now.  And it’s a five-mile hike to the summit.  But we’ll get there.  And it will be epic!

And how challenging has it been to build a fan base?

We’d love to go to Comic Con.  But it takes money and our production runs on two sticks and a Band-Aid.  Did I mention micro-budget?  Perhaps some day.  I know if I could get Abbey (Rebekkah Johnson) and Alice (Brittany Martz) in the lobby of Comic Con wearing Battle-BunnyT-shirts and black bunny hats passing out flyers that geeks would flock to them.  Guerilla marketing with a bunny twist!

Besides all the cool weaponry and kick ass qualities of Alice, you and Brittany have developed her to be quite a positive role model for young girls.  Not only does she handle the firepower like a boss, she uses her wit and brains to get through the messes.  Was this your original concept of your heroine?  Did Brittany help mold her with you?

All of what Alice is was carefully crafted in the script.  We really didn’t deviate barely a single word from what was written.  But what Brittany did was make you believe that Alice was real, sincere, threatened, vulnerable and brave.  She sold it.  It’s quite remarkable watching her say my lines and making me hear them as if for the first time.  That is a gift and she gave to MALICE for all of you to see.

As far as Alice as a role model?  I think that’s cool.  In my view isn’t that why we want to hear and watch these stories?  To get some closure?  Take a journey?  Resolve something epic that we rarely witness in our regular lives?  Alice is a noble and tragic heroine making tough choices.  Her life is not going to be easy.

What do you have in store for Malice: The Webseries in its upcoming new season?  And secrets you can share?

In the interim we produced a special “MALICE in Space” episode that is completely out of context of the main story but features the same characters – Dad and Alice.  It was a pretty wild and intense promotion for a Space: 1999 convention coming up in L.A. in September.

Consider it another of Alice’s “wild flights of fantasy.”

After that we continue our story with Episode-Seven, which really ups the ante concerning MALICE.  We see Alice and Abbey’s house party.  And as you can imagine it’s going to be a total disaster.  What ever is going on in that house starts to show up in a big way.  And then from there … it’s a roller coaster straight down the rabbit hole!


So, what are you waiting for?  Go check out Philip Cook's amazing webseries, and watch Brittany Martz kick some monster ass in Malice: The Webseries.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hot Covers for Boom Studios

Hot new cover for Boom Studios upcoming Fanboys vs. Zombie #8



The Walking Dead's Michael Rooker Stars in a Truly Chilling Shocker From the Makers of The Innkeepers
Coming to Dark Sky Films DVD on October 2, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

BadRonald Peephole Review: Twins of Evil

Hammer Films Sexes It Up!

Hammer Horror had always been filled with as much T&A as there was crimson blood.  But, as the 70s came, the British studio, which was the previous go-to for great horror thrills, found themselves struggling to keep up.  Horror was slowly becoming less about monsters and ghosts, and more about creepy realism, with chainsaws and butcher knives and domestic demonic possessions.

Hammer's response was to do away with the T&A teasing, and offered up some nekkid flesh.  And lesbian nekkid flesh, at that.  The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Lust for a Vampire (1971) were the first two films in the Karnstein Trliogy, inspired by J. Sheridan Le Fanu's Gothic novella Carmilla, a story of a female vampire that predates Bram Stoker's more famous novel Dracula.

In this third installment, Hammer tames down the lesbian love-making (only one scene, boo-hoo), but doubles the fun by casting Playboy's centerfold sensations, the Collinson Twins (Mary and Madeline) as the film's heroines.

Having been sent to stay with their puritanical uncle Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing), twins Maria and Freida (Mary and Madeline respectively) serve up the classic struggle between good and evil.  Sweet Maria falls for the local teacher Anton (David Warbck), while lusty Freida gets horny for the local Satan worshiper Count Karstein (Damien Thomas).  Naturally, Uncle Gustav has a little something to say about all of this, and gets all "I'm gonna start another witch-burning fire stack" on everyone.

Peter Cushing is always great, and rarely ever does better in his villainy suit than when he's playing Baron Frankenstein, but as Gustav Weil, Cushing hit's new levels of evil.  As the creator of monstrous life in previous Hammer flicks, the Baron often felt misunderstood and villainized.  His madness was a result of his being outlawed.  In Twins, however, he plays a man on the side of God, who righteously strikes down anyone he and his "brotherhood" has determined to be evil (usually women of wanton ways).  What is so catching about his Cushing's performance is not just the twisted zealousness, but the almost gleeful smirk he places on his power.  He seems to be having as much fun playing the character as Gustav has in lighting young women on fire.

And big kudos got to Synapse Films -- for picking up the ball that Anchor Bay tossed up a few moons back.  Synapse's DVD/Blu ray pack is packed with some great extras, including an 84 minute documentary on Hammer's Karstein Trilogy, a featurette on Hammer props, a deleted scene, originals trailers, and more.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

BadRonald Wants a Date with American Mary

Finally! Your summer just got bloody better. Here it is, folks -- the first trailer for the fabulous Soska Sister's AMERICAN MARY.  Be afraid.  Be fucking afraid!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

BadRonald Chats with Brittany Martz of Malice: The Webseries

I don't know if you guys have been noticing, but the webernets are chock full of great original programming.  It used to be that so much of the web "television" shows either came off like a cable community access show, or worse, like a half-rate cable community access show.
Shattering the Looking Glass

YouTube has done its share of star making from the song and dance end of the world, but now there looks to be a concerted effort to find some real bonafide screen talent.  Type in webseries and you'll find yourself a list full of shows, from comedy bits to real, down and dirty action and thrillers.  One of my favorites has been The Haunting of Sunshine Girl.  After discovering that last year, I checked out the sidebar suggestions and found the teaser for a new upcoming program Malice: The WebSeries.  Instantly, upon seeing the open shot of Alice (played by Brittany Martz), a sweet looking teenage girl, dressed in some goth-punk grrl outfit and an awesome black rabbit ears cap, perched on a rooftop with an assault rifle in hand, and weird creatures approaching her from the distance -- I was ready for more.  When the series finally arrived, earlier this year, the pay off was satisfying -- a mix of sci fi/fantasy and horror, with some After School Special teenage angst, to boot.

Brittany takes on the lead role with ease and charm.  She's angsty in a John Hughes misunderstood teen kinda way -- cute and awkward, with a tomboy edge.  And then, after the spooky stuff flies, she turns all kickass, with her freaky bunny gear.  She's definitely a treat to watch.  With Rebekka Johnson as her older sister, and Mark Hyde and Leanna Chamish as their parents, the cast rounds out pretty solidly. It's a terrific show that sometimes shows it's budget.  But, that's to be expected when the show is pretty much run and operated by the one-man-band Philip Cook.  I certainly don't rag on that notion, either, since Cook and his gang pull off an amazing show. small budget or not.  This really is worth the while.

And speaking of budgets, the creator and star of the series, Bittany Martz, have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to continue producing the Internet series. I had the opportunity to chat with Brittany about her role in the series, and got some great behind the scenes knowledge.

BadRonald: For those who haven't had the good fortune of seeing Malice, yet, can you describe it for them?

Brittany Martz: Malice is the story of the Turner family who inherits late grandma's house in rural Virginia. The move reveals some cracks in the already shaky family dynamic. As soon as they move in a bad energy seems to hit the air. Dad starts acting tense, Mom's drinking problems come to the surface, and Abby and Alice cannot get along. A creepy feeling pervades and soon strange things start happening, the most disturbing of which is family members disappearing. Suddenly it's up to Alice, the youngest, to solve the mystery of the house and rescue the rest of the Turners.

BadRonald: How to did you get yourself in Malice?

Brittany Martz:  I actually found out about Malice through Craigslist. Crazy right? Phil put a post up in the talent section and I found it, contacted him, made sure he was legitimate (Craigslist can be creepy), and ended up auditioning for him all within the course of a week.
Dig that bunny cap
BadRonald: Malice starts out seemingly as a sort of haunted house type of story, with Alice discovering some weirdness going on in the house.  And of course, no one believes her... And then, things kinda get... Medieval.  And, with some wild FX, too!  How crazy can fans expect this story to get, as it continues?

Brittany Martz:  As the story continues it only gets crazier! I think a lot of people who are already watching might be formulating some ideas about what exactly is going on, but as the story continues, it goes in (what I feel) is a very unexpected direction. I remember when I first read the script I was completely shocked when the source of all the Turner's troubles was finally revealed.

BadRonald: Besides having some great horror/fantasy action, the story also involves the coming-of-age of the main character, a somewhat average, somewhat invisible and misunderstood teen girl. What's your insight into your character?  Do you relate to her? 

Brittany Martz:  I'm actually very different from Alice. I am incredibly girly and sociable. I am an only child and I get along very well with my family.
However, there are some parts of Alice that I can definitely relate to: for one, Alice lives very much in a fantasy land in her head. She has a wild imagination.  She's also a bit of an outsider - and as a theater kid, I can't deny that in a lot of circles I'm considered a little weird.
I tried to channel a bit more of my younger, angst-y side into Alice. I remember being younger, trying to figure out exactly who I was, and getting frustrated with myself and the world at large. At the end of the day, she's just a girl trying to figure out her place in the big bad world. I think that's something we can all relate to.

BadRonald:  Alice has a neat edge to her, besides handling the firearms and cutlery like a pro, she dreams of passionate fantasies, of romantic trysts in the woods with an unknown young man.  Also, the Battle Bunny gear you have on for the promotional pics and videos -- there's a real coquettish mood to it all, but highly playful and innocent overall.  It's like Alice wants to grow up, but also doesn't want to lose her childhood, either.  What are your thoughts on Alice's coming of age?  And of how you portray her maturity vs. innocence?

Brittany Martz:  Actually, those fantasies you speak of, are actually visions of the past. Alice has an almost clairvoyant quality to her. That is something the second season expands on a bit.

Alice has a particularly rough coming-of-age. Does she want to grow up? Yes and no. Yes, she wants people to take her seriously. She wants recognition that she is a capable, respectable person. And she is painfully tired of dealing with the trite social interactions that being in a high school setting entails.

But growing up means coming to terms with some very uncomfortable realities for Alice. Her father, whom she takes after, and idolizes, is not the invincible man she has always dreamed of. She has always seen him as a king, but "oh how the mighty fall." She sees that he cannot stop her mother's "problems" and despite being an ex-Navy Seal, he cannot protect his family from these strange new things attacking them. Additionally, she must face the fact that you really cannot rely on anyone but yourself to get through the toughest things in life. People leave, change their minds, go insane - you have to be tough to make it through this thing called life.
On top of all of this - Alice is pretty much FORCED to grow up in a very short amount of time. She becomes the sole protector of her family without and forewarning.

I did not try to put any emphasis on Alice's maturity. Despite her intellect and toughness, I did not want to create a super hero. She's a real girl. She's flawed.

BadRonald:  This feeling of halted childhood - or halted maturity, as well -- is a big theme in Alice and Wonderland.  You guys carry it over in your story well, not with the stuff we discussed already, but also in her family relations.  Alice looks to become independent, but also doesn't want to let go of her hard-drinking mom, her sometimes not-so-understanding dad, and her big sister, who... well, acts like a big sister.  How do you view this family?

Brittany Martz:  This family is full of problems, but frankly, I don't think they're too entirely far from average. Every family has problems. The Turners, despite their issues, have a strong sense of loyalty that sort of lives underneath the surface of their interactions.

BadRonald:  You guys have a Kickstarter funding campaign going on.  Can you let everyone know know how important this is to you and the project?

Brittany Martz:  Malice has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my acting career. I'd hate to see it end prematurely.This Kickstarter fundraiser means the world to me and the Malice family! We have dedicated so much time and hard work to making this web series as awesome as we possibly can. We would love to bring more Malice episodes to fruition, but we can't do it without help! 

BadRonald:  I've spoken to other webshows that start out as YouTube productions, but have now moved on to developing into something larger (The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, for instance).  Are you guys looking to grow, as well??

Brittany Martz:  I, personally, would love to see Malice grow into something bigger. I don't think people realize just how LITTLE funding we were working with to create the first six episodes. We already created something pretty badass (if I do say so). If we had the fan base and the funding to grow even large, we could create some truly amazing material.

BadRonald:  Have you got any hints as to what we can expect from the next "season" of Malice?

Brittany Martz: Well, I don't to give too much away? But viewers can expect a real good look at the world of the creepy things haunting the Turners, and the force behind it all! We're kicking up the action!

BadRonald:  Even though Alice totes some mean firepower, she uses her wits and brains and courage. Can you talk about the importance of creating and portraying a positive young female image?

Brittany Martz:  To be honest, when I began creating Alice I wasn't at all focused on creating a positive female image. I was just trying to create a believable person who lives through and must deal with some pretty unbelievable circumstances. She does so with great bravery and strength, but who wouldn't muster up such courage when faced with the task of saving one's family?

That being said, I do think it's important that young women (and men) have positive role models. I think that maybe Alice can teach people that even when you feel like you're at the end of your rope, there is a small spark inside of you - if you can tap into it, there's really no limit to what you can do.

Thank you Brittany!  We here at BadRonald wish the production well, and hope it finds the funding it needs to continue.  Go contribute! Come on -- how can ylou resist this plea for help!!!

Really... go save this show!!!

Save me!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

BadRonald and Shane Ryan Talk Some More About MY NAME IS A, by Anonymous

What does it take to get an incredibly brutal, yet beautifully poignant movie to be seen? I don't have the answer.  But it seems to be something about money and power.

While the Weinsteins stomp around bullying people about not showing their bully movie they've seemed to have forgotten why it was they wanted everyone to see the film in the frrst place... It's because it's important.  I haven't yet seen BULLY, but I understand the urgency.  Bullying is quickly becoming more than a schoolyard event, and reaching into the privacy of our kid's bedrooms and even their pants pocket, via computers and cell phones.  It's important that the Weinstein's film gets out there to the kids.  But, in all the bitch-slapping from the MPAA, the bottom line grabbed the brother's by the ankles and shook all the sense outa them, and they quickly jumped into Hollywood mode, and started demanding their film be put into every major movie theater from here to Kalamazoo.

In all this in-fighting, they forgot that they had an important motion picture that they wanted everyone to see.  I wish that the brothers would concentrate more on getting these pictures out there, instead of grabbing for power at their clients expense.  Maybe the boys could develop a small distribution company that could help small filmmakers get their small, but important, films out there.  It would certainly help out with a film like My Name is A, by Anonymous.  That's the title of the new film by Amateur Porn Star Killer director Shane Ryan.

Ryan hit the scene hard with his wild and brilliant series of APSK flicks, and firmly planted the seed in many people's heads that he was definitely someone to watch for.  Well... we've been watching, and he has done exactly what we've all been waiting for.  My Name is A, by Anonymous is the film we all had a hunch he could make, a brilliant, poetic tome about youth, and innocence, and sin.  Ryan's direction style -- guerrilla  documentary shooting, improvised acting, and poetic visuals -- has bloomed in full vigor in his new film.  And so is his penchant for achieving natural and soul-baring performances form his actors.  My Name is A is just the kind of film that the Weinsteins need to be putting out.  Why this film hasn't yet gained a distributor, or garnered palm leaves up the ass is beyond me.

Here is some more of a conversation I had with Ryan about his film.  Enjoy.  And go ahead and ask for this movie to be seen.

What was it about the Alyssa Bustamante story that inspired you?

Initially, I’m not sure. I end up quickly drawn to the right idea the same way I usually tend to shoot, whereas I just grab a camera and jump right into the situation. It’s usually as I’m on the journey that  I start realizing things, or seeing things I want to capture. What I guessed caught my interest, though, were several things. One, being psychology (which is what has always inspired me). I want to know -- if this girl really (killed the other girl), what was going on inside her mind? And, if she didn’t do it (as I started thinking later) what is she thinking now, being accused of it?

Another major thing that instantly caught my attention was the self-inflicted scars on her left arm featured in the infamous picture the media used to try and convince us that she’s crazy and definitely did it. I’ve suffered from self abuse, and have the exact same looking scars in the same exact spot on the same arm, so it instantly hit home for me in many ways. One, is people tend to think self abusers are crazy, and are more capable of hurting other people than people who don’t, which is totally untrue. Self abusing is simply one way of relieving emotional pain, which we all suffer from, from time to time, regardless of how happy a life we live.

Some people relieve their pain through drinking, through drugs, through extreme exercising, through road rage, through screaming at people, through physical fighting, through overeating/not eating, etc... If you haven’t done at least one of these things, I’d be shocked. The difference with cutters/self abusers is that we end up with visible wounds. People who don’t do it see it and it scares them. And the problem of self-abuse grows, we become more insecure about it because it’s not accepted the way these others things are -- you’re deemed crazy, instantly. But if you get drunk at a bar and start a fight, it’s more accepted, like “dude, you had a bad night”, or “maybe you shouldn’t drink.” Other than that, something like getting drunk is okay with people. But if you self abuse just once, you might end up with scars for the rest of your life and always be looked at like you’re crazy.

Another problem (with self abuse) is that - it works. It releases endorphins, a natural high, and you do feel better, so it’s tempting to do it again. It’s a major problem, and many self abusers have ended up (inadvertently) killing themselves. The initial reason for [cutting] is no more crazy than getting depressed and thinking a bottle of vodka will rid you of your problems. I instantly felt the isolation Alyssa must have felt, and I guess wanted to understand why and how she could turn her pain onto somebody else. What I found very strange is that a self abuser would kill somebody, especially an innocent child. Usually, they’d just kill themselves if it were that bad. And that’s when I started thinking there was more to the story. She did try to kill herself a couple of years before that, when she was 13, and she also tried to kill herself in her jail cell shortly after being arrested. So, the murder still doesn’t make sense to me. I have a huge problem with authority, have seen them turn on people, and have been very mistreated by cops when I was her age. And I wasn’t buying something about what had happened. I started thinking maybe she had been forced to confess. Then, after we finished the film, we found out her confession was thrown out because it basically was coerced. I almost think she might be the fall person for this murder. I had suspicion that Elizabeth was murdered due to the fact that her dad was a drug dealer (in prison at the time) and that it was a retaliation. He’s believed to have been responsible for this lady who’s been missing (and probably murdered), so I thought maybe that’s why his daughter was murdered and this neighbor girl who’s known to cut herself and attempt suicide was the perfect person to take the fall, explaining why her confession was coerced and why she tried to kill herself right after being blamed for this horrible crime. I mean, the girl tried to kill herself by ripping open her arms with her finger nails, that’s a pretty gnarly way to go, but makes sense given her type of self abuse was cutting her arms.

Finally, what really interested me was the mainstream media’s bullshit take on this. They instantly deemed this girl a crazy sicko within hours of hearing her so-called confession and started attacking this CHILD. Not that I don’t have sympathy for what happened to Elizabeth, I can’t fathom the idea of this happening to a human being, let alone a child, but there wasn’t any time in this whatsoever before the media acted like they had the whole story. It was simply, “hey this is a great story, let’s put this on the air, get ratings, and act like we care.” A perfect example would be this clip of this Nancy Grace bitch who is such a disgusting human being watching this again nearly made be fucking vomit.

(from 1:30-2:35 is what really gets me)

Grace acts like she cares but she cares no more than Robert Downey Jr’s character did in Natural Born Killers. It’s such an act. She’s making fun of a CHILD for trying to kill herself. This girl might not have even done it. And then Nancy Grace goes on to claim Alyssa made a lame suicide attempt because she wanted attention and to get into sick bay to get better food and whatever bullshit, like that’s what the fuck Alyssa was thinking. A known suicidal girl with self-abusive problems who is either “crazy and killed somebody” or “innocent and scared shitless” is really thinking about better food and privacy?! What a nutcase evil bitch (I’m talking about Nancy Grace). It just sickens me.  If you look at Alyssa in court she looks frightened and ashamed, either because she didn’t do it, or realizes what she did, but either way she’s doing anything but trying to get attention. She did everything she could to not even be filmed.

And that really came down to a big reason. Originally the film was called “The Columbine Effect” because it reminded me of the media attention Columbine received. I was just months out of high school when Columbine happened, so it really hit home (especially being a kid who suffered extreme abuse at school by fellow students, I felt terrified that I identified with the killers more than the victims, even though I didn’t believe in what they did at all). But what really did it in for me was a special one hour Columbine event I saw a trailer for. It was real footage of the shooting, cinematic slow motion shots mixed in with the music from the movie “Platoon.” What sickened me about it was the fact that they turned this real footage into a stylish looking experience. When you watch “Platoon”, even though stuff like that really happened, you’re still watching actors. But this was real, real children, and it sickened me and frightened me, to see the world profit off of real footage like that. It wasn’t news any more. That day, on that very day, I stopped watching television.

Now, with the internet, we’re bombarded with news even if we don’t watch TV, so I heard about Alyssa. And when I saw the kind of attention it was getting, I instantly was reminded of Columbine. The way the media handled this sickened me. Not to mention, the press I received a few months earlier when I was trying to make a sincere human trafficking film, really did it in for me on how disgusting I feel the mainstream media and the world in general is. Nobody wants to understand anything, I guess is my point, they just want to hear gossip, talk shit, eat some frozen fucking yogurt, and go to sleep and if anybody clearly doesn’t believe in that lifestyle, they’re a goddamn weirdo. But no, fuck that, I need to understand why bad things happen. I need to know what it feels like to lose a child, to cope with rape, to die a violent death, to hurt another human being. I need to know how such evil exists. THAT, I guess, would be the ultimate reason why I was attracted to this story. I need to understand how, and why.

This film has such a poetic visual style to it, in stark contrast to the APSK films (which had a different, but very effective style). Through the cinematography you were able to display the girl's pain and isolation with such grace. How did you conceive the visuals?

Originally I was going to shoot it like the APSK’s, on just a camcorder, like Alyssa is making her own documentary. But Art (the D.P.) said he could shoot it, and he had a nice Panasonic camera with a special film-like lens. We had worked together once shooting the Abducted Girl trailers, though I knew he wasn’t going to really have time on this shoot to set up shots, use a tripod, light, etc., so he had to hold the camera non-stop and work the lens at the same time, which must have sucked, but it gave it the gritty doc-style. If I had time and a budget I probably would have liked to have had that camera be set up shots and less shaky, but in the end I don’t mind handheld, obviously. Adding that camera gave extra volume to the shoot because instead of just having it be their perspective as if it’s a doc, we also get to watch them from the outside as well, though still closely enough that it feels real. And then finally, I had the idea of shooting on a 3rd camera, on DV, the format that is the shrunken image you see throughout.  I liked the idea that they were making their own documentary of sorts, and that the DV format was like somebody was following them with a camera doing a separate documentary on them, and the final camera of highest quality was capturing it more like a traditional, but gritty, indie. So, we constantly had multiple angles covered for each take, and that really helped keep the realism of it I think, which is always my biggest concern; if it looks like shit, whatever, as long as it feels like you’re right there in it. Sort of a journalism approach I think, which I’ve always considered. But as stated with my anger towards the news, I think truth is many times best told with fiction, so I basically re-create real situations and do my best to make it feel real, whatever happens, happens, as long as you get the shot.  And then I got to the editing room and was like, shit, how the hell do I put this together? I have 3 angles/formats for almost every take! Eventually I figured it out.

The performances from the girls were so powerful -- how did you work with them -- improv, rehearsals?

Katie Marsh did a lot of homework on Alyssa, at least what the media presented to us, which was the point of that character. The other characters were all of the other ways I thought this girl could be. A person isn't just one face (all evil, all smiles, etc.), like the media portrays them. So, I had to set a mood with each actor. “Katie, you're very loud, confrontational, bored and acting out, intimidating, etc. Demi, you're her sidekick, so just play along with her.” Sometimes I'd want her irritated with Katie so I'd just keep the camera going and keep pushing them, "more, more, get louder, really attack her verbally, don't put up with it this time." What happened was Kaite was actually rehearsing with her acting coach, Vicki, and Demi is Vicki's daughter. So, Katie was filming herself acting the part and Demi was in the video with her. So, because of Katie's preparation, I came across Demi Bauman, and immediately wanted to use her. Which was awesome, because that's how we got Vicki, who helped out enormously, and also Kaliya Skye, who was perfect; the sweetest, most innocent and intelligent child, somebody you would never want to see harmed. What it all comes down to is really everything just came together. I saw things, and just had to know when to grab them and what to grab, what to keep, and let everybody do their own thing for the most part, and just throw out ideas here and there to keep them going.

Teona Dolnikova I studied up on, since she had the most amounts of work and fame. I just watched every video I could find on her and got to know her as a singer and as an actress, or I guess as a fan mostly. I became a huge admirer of her work, and that was basically equivalent of if you cast an actor you're a fan of, you already know pretty much what they're going to do, so just let them do it. I don't recall giving much direction during the film. Maybe I did and don't remember it because I was busy, and just having a good time making it, but I remember spending lots of time trying to nail down the people I needed, figuring out how we were going to shoot, spent a ton of time finding the locations I wanted to shoot, and then when it came time to film, I just kind of had it all arranged and the rest in my head, so I just told everyone, “this scene is about this. Go. We’ll just follow you around like it’s really happening, don’t mind us” (aside from once in a while when it was something specific). If anyone needed help along the way I was there. I believe the only person who knew anything about Alyssa was Katie, maybe Demi since they were hanging out. But Alex and Teona didn't need to know anything to prepare, since they were playing parts of Alyssa I believe existed but were not shown in the media. Caring, sweet, abused parts of her.

There is a scene with "Angst" that really shook me, in which she's looking at her reflection, then, suddenly she punches herself in the gut, and then issues several more blows. How did scenes like this develop?

A lot of that was Alex Damiano. I actually freaked out when she did that. I ran up to Alisha and was like "what the fuck is she doing?!" I believe that was the one scene everybody went to film on their own while I was doing something across the street. I came over and saw that and freaked, though couldn't help but partially smile that we were capturing this. Again, when she did the cutting scene I panicked and thought she was really doing it. That, she wasn't, but I think she really hit herself hard, I could hear it. She was just a great find. As mentioned I try to treat things like a documentary, just find the right subject and then let it go and film it. My job is finding the people, what they do is more them. We almost cast the wrong girl, somebody I really wanted to use because we met and had a great re-pour, but with Alex I did as well, so I was really conflicted, but Alex fit the part way more and Alisha pushed for her so I went ahead and chose Alex and it paid off. Her interaction with Domi really freaked me out too. It actually felt like we were filming a documentary, watching a man force himself on his daughter, very unnerving. And I cut them early sometimes because I was the one who wasn't comfortable, and figured if I wasn't, the actors surely might not have been. But they seemed fine, so.

The actual casting search must have been difficult.

We had tons of submissions, actually, and nobody really fit until I saw Katie. But she was only 14 and I wanted somebody 18 to look younger because of the content, nudity, and having to work around a kid’s schedule, etc. But she fit so perfectly I decided to see her and just do without the nudity. But then when she was rehearsing with Demi (who also slightly resembles the same look) I got the idea of using her as well, and having the idea of Alyssa be told through multiple characters. Demi was in, so then I started looking for more girls. That’s actually when it got to be more difficult. I think Teona had applied to be in “Abducted Girl” but since I decided to shoot this first I asked her if she wanted to be in this instead. Her schedule didn’t seem to be working but I insisted on getting her, I just felt I had to have her no matter what, so that became difficult to work out. And then I needed Alex’s character, and we hadn’t met Alex yet. Multiple girls ended up being considered for that role, but some never showed up, some weren’t comfortable with it, and the rest weren’t right for it, or I just didn’t connect with the actress artistically (aside from the one girl I mentioned who I wanted to cast, but ultimately Alex was better suited for it).

See, I don’t audition usually, and I didn’t for this. I just search for the right person. When I find them, I meet them for coffee and talk with them. Then I decide if we can work together. If they’re a great actress/actor, but we have no artistic connection with each other, there’s no way I can direct them. But if even a so-so actress came along and connected with me on a project, I think they’d do great because directing somebody, especially an actress working with a man director (and with the subject matter that I do), is all about comfort ability, trust, and connection. Teona I had seen in action, so I knew what to expect, and after we met and connected that seemed set. Alex I had no idea but she seemed to get it and was psyched about it, so it was an experience along the way. Katie I hadn’t seen in action either, but she fit so well, was so easy to talk to about it and so eager to do it, I just knew it’d work. And then Demi I saw in Katie’s preparation video, so I just took her on knowing what she was like based on Katie’s video and knowing that she wanted to do it. Kaliya I trusted based on Vicki’s recommendation, so I cancelled seeing other girls who had applied for it, and Kaliya couldn’t have been more perfect for it. I guess it all comes down to instinct. If I were doing a Hollywood film, of course it’d probably be nothing like this, at all. Audition after audition until I puke, I bet.

Were there any surprises in the performances?  

Well, Alex, of course. And probably Kaliya. She was just a last minute perfect find. I expected a lot from Teona, Katie and Demi based on what I already knew, so that was more I got what I wanted and was totally happy. Kaliya I had to take a risk on and it paid off. Same with Alex.

How has the film been received so far?

Not too many people have seen it, so not really sure. From the few who have - some are really shaken up by it, a few hated it - my usual reactions I guess. Very extreme differences, not so much middle ground. My one friend, a girl my age, couldn’t even talk to me about it, it just had her in tears of how powerful but disturbing she found it, it hit too close to home for her. Though another friend of mine, a lady, my Mom’s age, absolutely hated it, completely chewed me out for an hour straight, and she’s only absolutely loved everything I’ve done, so it was surprising. Maybe because she’s got a young granddaughter now (plus her daughter), I don’t know. She totally loved “Warning!!! Pedophile Released” and “Amateur Porn Star Killer”, so it blew my mind that she despised this so much. You never know how people will react. Each film, each person, creates such different reactions.

Have you heard from anyone involved in the case?

Someone from the major local news up there contacted me for an interview. I agreed but then never heard back. I did an interview for Alyssa’s high school newspaper. But at the time didn’t attach my name to it because I didn’t want all of the bullshit that happened with me trying to make “Abducted Girl” to happen with this. I figured if I at least get the film done first, then I’ll attach my name so if the bullshit media gets a hold of it and starts their circle of complete bullshit fucking bullshit, at least it won’t stop me from making the film, since it will already be finished. The media can go fuck themselves in their own bullshit-filled ass. Aside from that some locals are pissed at me for making it, of course. Saying why didn’t I make a murder about my own town? But that’d be dumb because I WOULD have insider information and might cause serious damage. With this I had no insider information at the time, so it’s just total imaginative story-telling.

There was a murder on my quiet little street, the girl next door to me was killed by a drunk driver, the lady across the street killed herself after her husband died, some lady went missing from our town years ago and just recently her jaw bone was discovered in one of the parks I usually go to, a girl from some of my films stabbed a guy in the throat (supposedly he died), and a friend of mine lived with this girl who stabbed another girl to death in self defense, then the girl ended up hanging herself to death in her jail cell even though she was getting out on that self defense plea (and family of the girl she killed worked at the juvenile hall where she supposedly killed herself, hmmm), then on top of that after she supposedly hung herself her little brother was found hanging to death just weeks later in the play ground (supposedly this was an accident the little boy did to himself even though he didn’t know how to even tie a knot). Hell, the guy who cashed my checks got so mad at one customer (a teenager) he gunned him down at the liquor store I cashed them at while he was working, and a black man was gunned down right by my work simply for being black (this is when I worked at a restaurant where I was the only white guy, so all my fellow employees were paranoid to walk home just down the street and needed rides, so they wouldn’t get fucking shot).

All of this (and I could go on and on) happened in our tiny, tiny little town the past few years. I point this out because crazy and bizarre stupid evil shit happens around me all of the time. But I believe I’m too close to it. NOW THAT, I believe, could hurt people. It wouldn’t be speculation it would be fucking with the truth. I’m too close to it. And as said before, sometimes the best truth is fiction, so it’s better if I just do the good old fashioned “torn from the headlines.”