My year-end blogs have usually been summaries of what has gone on with me for the year. Typically they are detailed recaps of the productions, the films, the big moments, and a few other comments about looking forward and what is to come. 2010 was easily the most chock full of crazy moments yet, starting with the production of HATCHET 2 and FROZEN’s world premiere at Sundance quickly followed by FROZEN’s U.S. theatrical release… and that was all just in the first 5 weeks of the year. As the year progressed there was post-production on HATCHET 2, a worldwide tour supporting it, conventions, appearances, press junkets, the world premiere in London, the assassinated U.S. theatrical release (and the MPAA/ratings controversy that was a circus to live through), and already the film’s exclusive premiere On-Demand. Throw in FIVE new “Road To FrightFest” shorts, the annual Halloween short film (“Just Take One”), the launch of the new website, production on CHILLERAMA, production on a new web series (news to come early next year), writing the upcoming KILLER PIZZA, all the “behind the scenes” business stuff that you don’t hear about… as well as development and pre-production on several other projects that I haven’t even spilled the news on yet… and it’s been the busiest year of my life. Oh yeah, and I’m pretty sure I got married in there somewhere, too. The whole thing is a bit of a blur, but here I am on the other side of it. The triumphs, the acclaim, the love, the standing ovations, the laughs, the screams, the struggles, the battles, the wounds, the scars, the stories, and the growth… above all is still the ringing in my ears of the audiences applauding and cheering. 2010 was an epic year to say the very least. However, as exciting as it was, I have to admit that I’m very happy to bid 2010 farewell since I’m already over my head into 2011 and beyond. A New Year’s resolution that I’ve started on early is to try and dedicate more time to myself, my friends, and my family… and to slow down just a bit on all of the work so that just maybe I’ll live long enough to enjoy some of these accomplishments.
So along those lines I thought that a different and cool idea for a 2010 “end of the year blog” would be to highlight just some of the amazing accomplishments of some of my friends. After all, you’ve got all of the earlier blogs to read through if you want a recap on all the stuff I mentioned above, right? So here are just a few outstanding highlights of 2010 from friends of mine that you may already be aware of from my past projects/films… some that are just close friends… and maybe some that are involved in things on my horizon. In an effort to keep this somewhat manageable I tried to stick to just TEN folks as there would be just way too many friends to point out otherwise. So here goes… and pay attention as there just may be announcements down the line about a project or two of mine that may or may not involve one or two of these folks.
1. ZACHARY LEVI
If you don’t already know Zac from NBC’s CHUCK and from my 2008 film SPIRAL, then by now he’s hopefully a household name in your home from his stunningly perfect work in Walt Disney’s TANGLED. While so very many of my friends have earned opportunities to take part in huge films and television shows (my frequent collaborator and favorite actor of all time Joel David Moore was just in AVATAR in 2009), there’s something that’s just so “absolute shining star moment” about not only getting to provide a voice in a Disney film, but in actually becoming a full-on Disney PRINCE. And I’m happy to say that this is something that even Zac himself is well aware of as during his introduction to his friends and family screening at the Disney Lot last month he could barely contain himself emotionally in his opening words. I wish I could put into words not only how proud I am of Zac’s successes but even more so how hard he has worked for and how much he deserves every one of them. I frequently said on the set of SPIRAL that if I could buy stock in a human being I would buy it in Zac. Maybe someday they will offer it, but lucky for all of us he is just getting started.
2. CORRI ENGLISH
You may know Corri from her various TV and Film work or from “The Tiffany Problem” (my personal favorite of my Halloween short films), but over the past year she and her country band BROKEDOWN CADILLAC have made huge strides for themselves. BROKEDOWN had their on-screen debut in Disney’s RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN but has since provided songs for quite a few TV shows including nine songs on the CW’s HELLCATS and an on-screen performance on this past Fall’s cliffhanger episode. Corri and her band have more going on for themselves then I can list, but one of the things I’m most proud of is that they just completed their THIRD tour of the Middle East performing for our troops. All of us send thoughts and prayers to our soldiers in harm’s way, but not all of us actually go over there to play live music for them THREE times. A true American and an extremely talented one, keep an eye out for Corri and look up BROKEDOWN CADILLAC today.
3. JOE LYNCH
We’ve done 15 episodes of “The Road to FrightFest” together, one of the kids in FROZEN was named after him, we make up two of the four directors involved with the recent production of CHILLERAMA, we dressed up and died together as “Ernie and Burt” (spoiler!) in this year’s Halloween short film “Just Take One”… and yes, of course there are more projects together coming down the road. But this year Joe finished production on KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM which can best be described as a heavy metal horror comedy fantasy adventure of epicly metal proportions. It was an intense production and something that I can personally say Joe had been waiting for and working very hard on for an insanely long time, so it has been a joy to hear the updates and watch the progress on his long awaited follow up to WRONG TURN 2. I wish I could say more about it right now but I’ve been warned that I will lose hit-points and perhaps be forced to eat chain mail if I say much more about it. You’re all gonna lose your heads over this one when you see it next year though.
4. SETH GREEN
You know him from, well, everything. This year Seth and I shared something in common in that we both won prime time Emmy Awards. Wait, no. That was just him. But we did both successfully pull off getting two insanely hot and geeky women to somehow fall in love with us enough to marry us and become “Greens”. Seth and his hilariously talented crew DID however actually win a prime time Emmy for ROBOT CHICKEN in the category of “Outstanding Short-Format Animated Program”. If you’re not already watching ROBOT CHICKEN then I sort of don’t like you. It’s not easy to pull off such an original and complex animated comedy series, especially when in many cases entire bits are less than a few seconds long yet STILL make you laugh. For those that often ask, no we are not related. But our wives are best friends which in a way has made us one big “Green” family and we may or may not all play with our toys together on Sundays. It made me very happy to see Seth and ROBOT CHICKEN receive such incredible recognition at the Emmy Awards this year. It’s a great reminder that if you do what you love and put your love into what you do, that eventually even “they” will have to stand up and take notice.
Our cat Chewbacca has had a problem with peeing on the guest bathroom floor ever since Rileah and I moved into our new house a year and a half ago. Before that he used to pee in the guest bathroom of our old place. It was part “hatred of guest things” and part “I’m a huge asshole” but it was something that was tearing both Chewbacca and our family apart at the seams. Guests would come over and no matter how many Yankee Candles we would burn, within moments they would ask “Hmmm, did a cat piss in the guest bathroom?” It was awkward. But through hard work, perseverance, and our family’s love … I am happy to say that Chewbacca has made it a full YEAR without peeing in the guest bathroom. He’s now a “litter box only” kind of cat and we’re all confident that his new lifestyle is here to stay. It probably helped that last year I installed a baby gate that he’s too old to jump over and that now he just can’t get in there any more, but we’re all still proud of him anyway.
6. ROBERT PENDERGRAFT
You know Robert’s make-up effects work from the HATCHET films and from my last seven years of Halloween short films. Robert has been part of the team since the first day we met to discuss my crazy idea of making a mock trailer to raise the financing for HATCHET, but he’s always been very happy to sort of lurk in the wings and doesn’t care much for getting the credit or accolades he deserves. The best example would be the Mrs. Permatteo face rip/pez dispenser kill in HATCHET which not only stole the movie but which has become legendary in horror cinema. (Yes, that was Robert’s handy work.) So after all of these years of watching Robert perform under other effects masters and not get the glory, I’m thrilled to see that this year he started his OWN shop, that he keyed his first feature film (HATCHET 2), and that he and his crew trumped the practical effects of the first film. Determined to find a way, Robert and his crew actually built all of the effects for HATCHET 2 out of his 90 year old Aunt’s garage (how’s THAT for indie filmmaking, folks?) and has thus named his new effects shop “Aunt Dolly’s Garage”. Not much makes me prouder than seeing someone talented and loyal get their shot to take it up a notch and then to watch them knock it out of the park.
7. JASON MILLER
Jason started as an intern at ArieScope Pictures about 4 years ago just as we were putting the finishing touches on HATCHET’s theatrical release. While his job was originally to sit in the front office and answer phones and do odd jobs he quickly (and I mean within weeks) kept taking on more and more responsibilities and always went above and beyond with any task. If you can even find something that he doesn’t already know how to do he’ll learn it and then do it better than anyone else. A jack of all trades he has since worked his way up to being a producer on FROZEN and HATCHET 2 as well as taking on 2nd Unit Director duties on both films all while juggling anything and everything thrown his way. And while that’s all well and good, the thing I’m most proud to see is that Jason finally went all out on making his own short film (INFECTED). While it’s not necessarily his first short film, it’s the one that he’s really putting himself out there with, taking every bit as seriously as a feature, and one of the things I hope will help him take the next step towards his own writing and directing career. From what I’ve seen so far I expect it to be pretty f’n awesome when it’s fully done. If all goes as planned, INFECTED will be doing festivals next year and getting the attention it needs to help Jason create a feature-length directing opportunity for himself. Who knows? Maybe by next year at this time he’ll have left working with ArieScope in his dust and some new future writer/director will be answering HIS phones at Rockwiler productions. I don’t just expect great things to come from Jason, I can actually guarantee it.
8. A.J. BOWEN
To think that when I first called AJ Bowen into my office to discuss writing a role for him in HATCHET 2 that he was actually considering throwing in the towel on acting for awhile is equal parts hilarious and disturbing. As time always proves, it’s always when things seem the most frustrating that another door opens and all of a sudden things turn around. In AJ’s case, an entire building’s worth of doors have opened this past year and he’s been working non-stop and proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he’s one of the top rising talents out there. While I sadly had to miss it at Fantastic Fest because it played opposite HATCHET 2 (we had to add a second screen due to audience demand and I had to pull double duty running back and forth between theaters to do two simultaneous Q & A’s) the best part of the festival was hearing that AJ won “Best Actor” in the Horror Features category for his work in A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE. While festival awards may seem like a dime a dozen to some people, Fantastic Fest has a very opinionated and hardcore panel of judges each year and they don’t pay any mind to the buzz or previous accolades of other festivals. Only at Fantastic Fest could Kane Hodder win “Best Actor” for HATCHET back in 2006, a role that most judges would not even realize the importance of. Sure Kane was up to his usual tricks slaughtering people behind crazy make-up appliances… but the fact that he also played a very dramatic role out of that make-up and actually moved people was something that no one ever expected or thought he could do. So to hear that Fantastic Fest had honored AJ with a “Best Actor” award means that he’s not only good at what he does but that he’s continually doing something challenging, unique, and that critical eyes aren’t expecting. While the award is a huge win in itself, for my money I am more proud of AJ in the fact that he stuck to his guns and keeps making bold choices in doing what he FEELS LIKE doing and not just sticking to a contrived and manipulated journey that plays things safe or appeases outside opinions. As someone who lives and works by that same standard, I’m excited to see AJ is here to stay and that he’s taking off in whatever path he dictates for himself.
9. CODY BLUE SNIDER
If you’ve watched the “behind the scenes/making of” FROZEN (special features created by Adam Barnick which I still say are the best I’ve ever seen on an independent film’s DVD release ever) then you are familiar with Cody (AKA “Schneiderman”). A family friend who half-jokingly asked to come work on one of my films if I ever needed him, I took Cody to task on FROZEN and he took on the role of Director’s Assistant. He quickly became the shining star of the set and even more quickly ruined life for any unfortunate person who takes on that role in any of my future productions as it would be impossible to live up to his legacy. Not only did he do an exceptional job in the role but he was the production’s jester and most popular guy on set. He stepped up to Production Assistant on HATCHET 2 but in the meantime left college to make his own short film which was all based on a story by his beyond talented brother Jesse. ALL THAT REMAINS is a moving and awe inspiring first effort that trumps anything in its path and is in a league all its own. Currently wowing and sweeping film festivals everywhere it’s been nothing short of joyous to watch Cody go from the set clown to the guy running the show in such a short amount of time. While it’s been a banner year for the entire Snider family (Dee is currently rocking Broadway in ROCK OF AGES, Jesse keeps having hit after hit with his comic books, and the entire family has entertained TV viewers with GROWING UP TWISTED) watching Cody’s success has been the most personal for me to watch and cheer on from the sidelines. If anything it is a testament to the entire family as they approach each project as a team with everyone wearing various hats to help each other out as needed. Hopefully you get the chance to see ALL THAT REMAINS soon as I doubt you’ll be able to stop thinking about it for days after it is over.
10. RILEAH VANDERBILT
Saving the best for last, nothing has been more enjoyable to watch than my own wife’s hard work and success (along with the rest of Team Unicorn: Clare Grant, Michelle Boyd, and Milynn Sarley) with various on-line projects, most notably the video for GEEK & GAMER GIRLS which became an internet sensation with over 3 million views on all of its various placements combined in just a matter of weeks. With hundreds of thousands of original content efforts flooding the internet daily and searching for an audience, I don’t need to point out that this is in no way an easy feat to accomplish. GEEK AND GAMER GIRLS celebrated the feminine side of Geekdom and proudly waved a flag for all things “geek” that was held by four very real and very sincere geeks themselves. Most importantly for me is that Rileah did it on her own. With success always comes the jealous and the haters who want to find an angle that someone else had an advantage or that “it’s not fair” and so I have purposely stayed completely out of these projects and merely watched proudly from the sidelines. Even with the few smaller roles Rileah has played in some of my films, she auditioned and proved herself alongside everyone else as to avoid the inevitable “handout” accusations. With a special nod to directors Dave Yarvo (GEEK & GAMER GIRLS) and Sean Becker (Team Unicorn’s latest A VERY ZOMBIE HOLIDAY) I can’t help but think that Rileah and Team Unicorn have proven not only that they’re talented but that with hard work and perseverance, “Girl Power” is no joke and no passing fad.
So there you have it. Just ten nods to to ten people that I’m more than proud of and grateful to see good things happen for in 2010. Maybe you were already aware of all of them, but hopefully for some readers I’ve turned you on to some new people and projects that you may have not already been into.
And with that I will say “so long” 2010 and “bring it on” to 2011. To every fan and friend who has been there for me over the years and to all of the new ones who climbed aboard this past year, thank you for being here. I say it all the time, but your support means more than the world to me as without it I wouldn’t keep getting the chances to pursue all of these projects, stories, and crazy ideas. I wish you all the very best in the upcoming New Year and hope that you also take the time to celebrate the people that you are proud of in YOUR life as you reflect back on this past year. While it is hard not to focus on your own trials and tribulations, it has been proven time and time again that when you look at life as something we’re all doing together… it really is that much more fun.
Happy New Year!