Seriously? I only posted one blog this entire year? Well, two blogs if you count this one, I guess. Given that I do a weekly 2+ hour podcast and that I am active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and (sometimes) Periscope, frequent blogging has most certainly become a thing of my past. For those that enjoy reading these blogs/novels, I apologize for slacking this year but I hope you’ll agree that it’s better to be too busy making new things than to have the free time it takes to write lots of long blogs, right? (Because we all know I am incapable of writing a short one.) It’s been a tradition to finish each year with a written recap of the biggest events and life lessons learned in the last 365 days, so here goes. Deep breaths, folks. We’re gonna be here awhile so let’s all hold hands and just maybe we’ll get through this together…
WE RELEASED SEASON 2 OF SCARY SLEEPOVER. The year started with a bang! Season 2 of “Scary Sleepover” premiered immediately (January 6th) with the now legendary and tearjerking Tony Todd episode. Don’t get me wrong, Season 1 of “Sleepover” was an absolute blast but as with any series, Season 2 is when most shows really take off and come into their own. With “Scary Sleepover” perhaps Season 2 was so great because this time around the guests had all seen the show before and therefore came prepared to throw down with more than just their pajamas. Remember that when we shot Season 1 the guests who did the show had no reference episodes to watch first and therefore did the show on sheer blind faith that we would create something good. Perhaps it was just something in the air this year… but holy shit was Season 2 of “Sleepover” just incredible. The honesty and vulnerability displayed by every guest was magical and each week we were flooded with feedback from fans who were touched by what they watched and who had connected with the artists they love on a whole new level. And that’s the entire point of the series. To tear down the curtain between artist and audience. That candid personal connection is what makes the weekly “Movie Crypt” podcast so special and precisely what makes “Scary Sleepover” one of my proudest creations. Together we laughed (a lot), we cried (a little), we bared our deepest fears, we displayed our worst fashion, and we became closer as a genre community. From Tony Todd’s tearful confession about his late brother Donald… to Joe Lynch’s heartfelt story about saying farewell to his father… to Kristina Klebe’s brave discussion about breast cancer… to Lucky McKee’s devastating tale of losing his first love… to the opening 8 minutes of the Dee Snider season finale which have become the most viewed 8 minutes of any video in the history of this website… Season 2 of “Scary Sleepover” didn’t just blow our audience away, it blew us away. To try and sum up the season’s most pivotal moments would only be a disservice to the guests as every episode should be absorbed and devoured, not recapped in a blog. So if for some reason you still haven’t watched all 28 episodes that we’ve released in the two existing seasons so far… seriously, get on it over this holiday break! The episodes are all FREE to watch here and you have no idea what you’re missing. Season 2 is also now available on our Youtube channel for those of you who are too stubborn to watch anything that’s not on Youtube.
I’m just as anxious as you are for us to shoot new episodes but making “Scary Sleepover” is not nearly as easy as we make it look. Something I can’t stress enough is that “Sleepover” is a full-on TV show. In fact, if we were to add commercial breaks you’d easily have a half-hour broadcast talk show. We try and keep the episodes as short as possible without sacrificing the heart of each one, but given the amount of footage that we actually shoot… we could easily turn “Scary Sleepover” into a proper 1/2 hour or even hour-long weekly television show. I point this out only to stress just how time consuming of a show “Sleepover” is to produce each week. In addition to the actual nights of shooting, most episodes take around 60 hours of editing- the majority of which falls on the shoulders of series’ director and editor Sean Becker. While I may step in to edit the guest introductions or help with editing certain sections of episodes- the amount of editing I personally do is insignificant compared to what Sean does as the director. ”Sleepover” is a reality show, so from the show’s inception I didn’t want to direct or edit it since I am also one of the subjects on-camera and I would therefore be too close to each discussion to remain completely objective. The charm of “Sleepover” is the rawness of it. It is shot in such a way that the audience feels as if they are just hanging out with us and listening in as opposed to watching a slick, polished, over-produced program. As you’ve seen, we’ve even left moments in where microphones have malfunctioned or started rubbing against someone’s pajamas as they spoke. Moments that would most certainly be re-shot as a second or third take or ADR’d in post-production if this show needed to pass QC standards for a broadcast television network. But we don’t believe the show would have the same feeling if we were to have guests come back in a few months later during editing to try and re-create the most personal moments they shared. Can you imagine how different the show would be if we were like “Hey- remember two months ago when you told that story about your father dying and you were crying? Can you come back in and do that again real quick? The sound was a little muffled.” Of course the answer to that issue is simply “hire a pro-sound recorder/mixer to be there for the shoot as opposed to just slapping microphones on and getting whatever you get” which brings me to my next point. We purposely keep the actual production very intimate with a crew of merely 3 or 4 of us working multiple jobs behind the scenes of each episode. We’ve done two full seasons for FREE, putting our own time and money into producing the 28 episodes that we’ve released so far. It’s a full-time gig for at least 5 months out of each year on-top of the 3-4 full-time gigs we each already juggle. No exaggeration, every episode we’ve done so far has crossed the finish line with at least a 24-30 hour straight, sleepless stretch getting the show finished and uploaded in time. While on one hand we’re so very thrilled that “Sleepover” has become such a success with fans- it has also become such a massive undertaking each season that the show will literally kill us all if we don’t change the scenario for how we make and release it moving forward. What exactly does that mean for future seasons? Well, we’re exploring our options and I’ll keep you posted when I know the exact plan. (Don’t worry- we’re doing it. I’m just saying the circumstances for where and how you watch the series might change a little.) For the next 6 months you’ve got 22 new “Horrified” episodes to look forward to while “Sleepover” continues it’s current slumber/hiatus. And man is this upcoming season of “Horrified” awesome! We finished shooting the episodes just a few weeks ago and we’re hard at work putting them together for you now. I know you’re looking forward to the laughs and embarrassing stories (which we have plenty of this season, don’t you fear) but the very second that actor Michael Rosenbaum (SMALLVILLE, IMPASTOR) finished telling his story for our cameras we knew that his episode would be the season premiere. One of my favorite aspects of HORRIFIED is that you never know what kind of story you’re actually going to get when you hit play each week. And that’s the thing… nor do we when we shoot the stories for each season. We hear each artist’s story for the first time when we shoot them. Usually we find ourselves laughing or cringing, but every so often we get hit with a story that’s so messed up that it just levels us. So when we decide on the release order for each season we try our best to design it in a way that gives you a similar experience to what we had on set. Take that as a warning.
The new season of HORRIFIED starts on January 25th with a new episode premiering every Wednesday all the way through June 21st. We’re editing through the holidays and man, we’re already tired. But who loves you? We do.
I DISCOVERED LEGOS. If you follow me on social networking or watch any of the shows shot at the ArieScope studio then you’ve certainly noticed the ever growing Lego presence that has been building (plastic brick by plastic brick) all around me over the past year. To back up just a little bit, when I went through the shit storm that was 2014/2015 (see the two previous year-end blogs) I was fortunate to have a handful of friends who knew I wasn’t doing so well and who tried to help me through it anyway they possibly could. I’ll forever be grateful to those friends who stopped by to check on me even when I didn’t want them to. One of those friends, being the fellow toy obsessed geek that he is, would bring by random Lego sets for us to build while we’d talk. I had no idea just how helpful putting together those little plastic bricks would actually be… or how far I would ultimately take it. As a child I had no interest in Legos. Who wants to work to put together their toys and who wants to play with toys that don’t look nearly as cool as actual action figures? I sure didn’t. But man was I missing out! I’ve always known that Legos are a part of many artists’ creative process. Sean Becker (who I work with on things like HOLLISTON, “Sleepover,” and “Horrified”) has always had legos on his desk here at work and if you haven’t yet seen the 2011 SOUTH PARK documentary “Six Days To Air” and watched Trey Parker build Lego sets while his genius brain does it’s thing- watch it! But Legos were just never my thing before this past year. On January 7th and 8th I built my first big Lego set (SLAVE 1, pictured below) and spent the next 24 hours straight doing nothing but following the illustrated instructions and putting the pieces together. When it was finished I not only felt way better, I had also cracked at least 3 story points I had been struggling with on the script I was writing at the time. Therapeutic, relaxing, comforting, and fun… building Legos has become a full blown addiction. Think I’m exaggerating? Well, I had to start ordering at least 2 sets at a time out of fear that I would complete them all and have nothing left to build. And I’m not talking about the quick 30-40 piece sets. I’m talking about stuff like the GHOSTBUSTERS Firehouse (4,634 pieces), the Jawa Sandcrawler from STAR WARS (3,296 pieces), and the Disney Castle (4,080 pieces)… just to name a few. Sets that come with instruction books that are the size of Tolstoy’s “War And Peace” and that take days to put together. I would pace the floor waiting for the next package to arrive from Amazon or Toys R Us. There was even a night where I found myself wandering the toy aisle at Target just before closing while I desperately tried to find a decent sized STAR WARS set that I hadn’t already built just to get me through until the next delivery. I started buying sets that I didn’t really even want. I just needed something. But then again, I haven’t robbed a bank or performed sexual favors in a back alley for my Lego fix yet so as far as I’m concerned I’m still coming out on top here. However, if someday you turn on the news and see that I’ve held up a Toys R Us for a Lego STAR WARS Death Star… don’t be surprised. I’d list all of the Lego sets I built while I worked in 2016 but it’s quite embarrassing so let’s just say that I built ALL of the sets worth building, that I have no room left anywhere in the studio to possibly display another one, and that the only reason I’ve (temporarily) kicked the habit is because there literally just aren’t any sets left for me to build that I have any interest in. In all seriousness though… Legos work and they were a huge part of my 2016. I highly recommend them as a healthy way of dealing with stress and as a great addition to your own creative process.
I WENT ON A TWISTED EUROPEAN PILGRIMAGE. If you’ve been around here long enough then by now you know just how much the band Twisted Sister means to me and all about the serendipitous and amazing relationship I have with my childhood hero turned close friend Dee Snider. 2016 marked the end of the band’s 40 year career and Twisted Sister said farewell to the world by headlining a string of huge summer festivals… all of which where conveniently located on the other side of the planet. When Dee first suggested that I do whatever it takes to attend as many of those shows as I could, I gave the usual “Yeah, I’ll definitely think about it” answer that really means “What are you crazy?” But the more I thought about it and the more that my friends and family weighed in… the more I realized I would be a fool to not go. When else in my lifetime would I ever have an opportunity to travel the world and go see my favorite band of all time perform nightly in front of 100,000+ rabid fans for their final shows ever? And not just as a face in the crowd, but as a personal guest of the band standing right there on the stage- or wherever I wanted to stand for that matter?
The “All Access” part of an “All Access” pass is no joke and just like Dee promised, these European festivals are light years ahead of the terribly produced American music festivals that I was used to attending. Honestly, I don’t think I can ever go to another American music festival after witnessing just how much better they handle things overseas. It’s not just the festivals that are better, it’s the fans. 4 huge festivals in 4 different countries, 10 (or 11) full days of metal surrounded by 100,000+ fans, and not a single fist fight or drunken altercation seen. Everyone was cool and there wasn’t a single asshole encountered. At an American hard rock or metal festival? You see several fights a day. You just can’t avoid it. I could pontificate for days on just why this is but let’s table that discussion for another time. Anyway, all I had to do was figure out how to get there. There were a dozen reasons why I shouldn’t have gone but after weighing the pros and cons the deciding factor all came down to one thing: my childhood friend Scott Barnes.
You’ve likely caught me reference Scott in my work. One of the jokes that always gets a huge laugh in HATCHET is when Mercedes McNab’s character “Misty” finally finds her cell phone and instead of immediately calling for help, she instead first checks her “missed calls” and proclaims “Eww, Scott Barnes called me?!” In my segment of CHILLERAMA (“The Diary of Anne Frankenstein”) “Adolf Hitler” (Joel David Moore) shouts “Scott Barnes!” at “Meshugannah” (Kane Hodder) when trying to get him to kill one of his Nazi soldiers. For over 30 years now, Barnes has been like a brother to me and we’ve probably attended well over 100 shows together over the years (I lost count somewhere in the late 90′s) and ever since our first concert together in 1989 at age 14 (LA Guns, Dangerous Toys, and Tora Tora) we had always said that someday we’d go to one of the massive European festivals we had grown up reading about in the pages of Circus magazine. One of the many things that I’ve always admired about Scott is that he really makes an effort to get out and experience new things. I’m always impressed how he’ll go to great lengths to see new places, to visit friends, and to make the most of whatever free time he gets. Me? It’s always work-work-work and when I do get a rare day off I prefer to either keep working or to sit on my ass, not get in the car to go hike a national park or even just go see friends that live 10 minutes away. I’m tired, man! And I always have a list of excuses at the ready for why the world will somehow end if I ever stop working. But when Scott said “we have to do this”… well, we went. Using frequent flier miles (thank you, ten years of traveling the globe for work) and expert planning (all Scott) we made our way to Sweden, Austria, Italy, France, and a then a quick stop over in the UK before heading back to the US. Scott planned the whole thing with more skill than a seasoned travel agent. To say that the experience was life changing would do it no justice. It was so much more than that. It would take an additional novel to describe the entire trip and some of it is just so unbelievable that attempting to explain it would be a lost cause. But as a life-long Twisted Sister fan (I’ve been a full fledged, card carrying S.M.F. for 33 years now) and after the crazy journey life has brought me on in regards to my friendship with Dee… to be standing on those massive stages in front of those endless oceans of metal fans… to be watching the most important band in my life destroy the crowds with their power and ferocity… to get to see the band band perform in front of music fans who know and love all of their songs and not just “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock”… to have the lead singer stop and dedicate a song to me (!) in Sweden or run over to the side of the stage during a guitar solo just to embrace me (!) in France… to literally get the entire photo/press pit to myself in Austria and watch an entire show from in front of the front row with a hundred thousand fans sectioned off a solid ten feet behind me… there just aren’t words.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate that life has lead me down a path that has included meeting so very many of my heroes. People always warn you “don’t meet your heroes”… but I’ve thankfully never once been let down. (At least not yet.) I can’t stress enough just how much I never, ever take any of it for granted. No matter where my career achievments will ever lead me- I’ll always be a fan first and I’ll never lose the reverence I hold in my heart for the various artists who shaped and inspired me. Rather than go on and on about all of the amazing things I experienced over in Europe following Twisted Sister this summer I’ll just say this: someday when it’s all over and I look back on my life, the shows I saw this summer will still be ringing in my ears and I’ll never, ever forget the almost out of body moments each of those nights gave me. It was made all the more special that I got to experience it with one of my oldest and closest friends. At least someone else knows it was all real because the few times I’ve tried to share the stories even I found myself not fully believing them. I mentioned the opening 8 minutes of Dee’s episode of “Scary Sleepover” earlier. If you don’t fully understand just how or why this experience was so life-changing for me… take a beak from reading this blog and go watch the opening to Dee’s episode. I may be incredibly sad that I’ll never get to see Twisted Sister perform live again, but I’m so lucky that I got to see them off in the best way possible and if you’ve heard Dee’s new solo record “We Are The Ones” than I don’t need to tell you that nothing is over yet. In fact, the best may very well still be yet to come.
THE MOVIE CRYPT SAVED LIVES AND BROKE RECORDS. Joe, Arwen, and I put our weekly podcast to good use this past August and did our first ever 48-hour live broadcast to benefit “Save A Yorkie Rescue”- a cause that is near and dear to our hearts as not only is our show’s mascot (and the real star if you ask most people) my own Yorkie but both of us are huge animal lovers and rescuers ourselves. The only other blog I posted this year (the one located directly beneath this one) is a full recap of the event so I’ll let you read all about the specifics there. However, since posting that blog we’ve learned that what we did that weekend not only saved a ton of dog’s lives- it is also going to put Joe, Arwen, and I in the Guinness Book of World Records for “the longest live podcast ever.” The fact that we would set a world record never even dawned on us and the only way we even found out about it was when another podcast starting posting on Twitter that they were about to set a new record with an upcoming 12-hourlive broadcast. Fans started sending us the other podcast’s posts and saying “didn’t you guys already do a 48-hour live broadcast?” So GeekNation looked into it and yes- our “Save The Yorkies Marathon” is apparently far and away the longest live podcast ever performed according to Guinness. GeekNation just has to provide Guinness with a few more pieces of required documentation and then the title is officially ours. (Perhaps it already is by the time this blog is actually finished and posted.) Who would have thought? Among the list of things I set out to accomplish in my lifetime, breaking a world record was never really one of them. But leave it to us three idiots to break the world record for talking of all things!
If my grade school teachers could only see me now they’d say… well, actually what they’d say is “yeah, that sounds about right.” Even when I told my childhood friends about the achievement they were like “You mean you didn’t already hold the world record for talking?” As I stated in my re-cap blog about the benefit, Joe and I plan to make our “Save The Yorkies” marathon benefit an annual event and we are already plotting and scheming the segments and guests for 2017′s marathon. All the thanks in the world go to our dozens (and dozens) of friends who were guests on the show throughout the weekend and who performed their various talents or who spoke with us for a few hours in the middle of the night- all for the love of dogs. On behalf of Joe, myself, Arwen, the wonderful volunteers at “Save A Yorkie Rescue,” and especially on behalf of the dogs that we all helped save… thank you to every fan who found it in their hearts to not just take what we were giving out for free but to also give back to the cause we were doing it all for. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s the charity stuff that I do that is the biggest reward in all of this. Every time I get handed an absolute shit budget and somehow have to create something that’s actually halfway decent with it, every time I wind up somehow paying to work on things that hundreds of thousands (or in many cases millions) of “fans” just pirate/steal from us (note the quotes on “fans” – if you steal the entertainment that you enjoy you’re just helping to kill itand you have no right calling yourself a fan), for the years of my life that I’ve spent making something that’s made other people rich who had nothing to do with making the thing in the first place and who didn’t share a dime of the profit, every time I pour all of my heart into a project only to have it shattered to pieces by the time the project is over… I think about the charity opportunities this career has granted me and I am able to get back in the ring and throw down again. Sounds like lip service, I know, but it’s absolutely 100% true.
The podcast itself continued to have some absolutely incredible episodes and stunning moments throughout 2016. As we climb towards our 200th episode (coming up in March) both Joe and I are still baffled how we’ve done the program so consistently (even while shooting new films we’ve still never missed a week in the almost 4 years we’ve been doing the show so far) and how we’ve never repeated a guest in all of that time. We’ve already got great things lined-up for 2017 but after all of these years it’s becoming evident that our self-imposed rule of never repeating a guest may be a rule we’ll need to start lifting every so often. Not due to a shortage of guests (there are still so, so many artists waiting to do the program that we want to get to- we’ll never run out) but because some of our previous guests have gone on to accomplish and experience some amazing things since first coming on the show and several years later it would be a crime to not bring them back on to share those new experiences. So in 2017 you just may start to hear a few familiar voices sitting down with us once again, not to mention the introduction of some new segments and the retirement of some old ones. Here is as great a place as any to say “thank you” to the fans who have donated to the show through our “feed Arwen a treat” program. You guys have no idea just how much it helps whenever you give back or whenever you buy something from our on-line store here.
GHOSTS, GUNS, ROSES, AND A COMA. This year Guns N Roses finally re-united (sort of) to save the world and I was there at the first two shows of the tour in Las Vegas in April and again both nights in Los Angeles in August just a few months later. Of course I was with Scott Barnes at all 4 shows- but we were also joined by a whole bunch of other childhood friends from Holliston, MA at some of the shows which made the GNR reunion a reunion of our own.
Another of my most favorite bands of all time, I can’t express the joy in my rock n roll heart to see Axl, Slash, and Duff on the same stage again as the last time I saw them together as GNR was way back in 1992. Hearing the song “Coma” live was the highlight of all four shows. ”Coma” is the ten minute-long masterpiece that closes out “Use Your Illusion 1″ and it is a song I played on repeat during the darkest times of 2014/2015 when I was living through what was essentially an emotional coma of my own. It’s a song that the band had only played a handful of times back in their heyday and a song that I never got to personally hear live in any of the set lists I saw them perform way back when. Shits gonna get a little dark here for a bit, but please bare with me because I assure you there is a good reason for drudging all of this shit back up one more time. There’s a light at the end of this tunnel and an extremely important life lesson that I learned from 2016. Here goes…
“You’ve caught me in a coma and I don’t think I wanna ever come back to this world again, I kinda like it in a coma ’cause no one’s ever gonna make me come back to this world again, now I feel as if I’m floating away, I can’t feel all the pressure and I like it this way, but my body’s calling, my body’s calling: won’t you come back to this world again?”
Each performance of that incredible song was a scary but highly cathartic trip down memory lane through my own darkest hours and I walked away each night realizing more and more just how successfully I had finally come out the other side of it all. This summer’s GNR shows were a religious experience, especially coming on the heels of my surreal visit from (what I can only call) a ghost earlier in the year. If you missed my story about “Harvey” when I told it on the podcast shortly after it first happened, let me explain. (And yes, I know this is where I lose some of you but that’s fine with me. It’s what happened.) One Saturday this past spring I just so happened to be at home and an old man randomly came calling. I stepped out to get the mail and suddenly this man was standing right in front of me. He literally came out of nowhere. The way my front yard is set-up, I can clearly see down the street in both directions and this man was notthere when I first stepped out to open my mailbox. A split second later, there he was standing right in front of me. ”Sorry to bother you, but I grew up in this house.” I was startled to say the least. The man proceeded to tell me his name was “Harvey” and that he had traveled down from the Bay Area just to see the house he grew up in “one last time.” (The full story gets even stranger as he mentioned that he knew I’d be there and that I’d be kind enough to allow him in before he began his travels that day- but I won’t get into all of that here.) He asked if he could come inside to look around and, me being me, I obliged and let the stranger inside to walk through my home. I put Arwen in her crate so that she would leave the man alone and not smother him with her signature (very wet) Yorkie kisses that all guests receive. ”Harvey” told me all kinds of facts about the house- but the fact most relevant to this story is that he told me that his uncle had passed away in the back bedroom. My bedroom. ”Wait… someone died in my bedroom???”
“Suspended deep in a sea of black I’ve got the light at the end, I’ve got the bones on the mast, well I’ve gone sailing, I’ve gone sailing. I could leave so easily, my friends are calling back to me, I said yeah, they’re leaving it all up to me when all I need is some clarity and someone to tell me what the fuck is going on, goddamnit…”
Surprisingly this information didn’t freak me out as much as it probably should have. I’ve lived in the house for 8 years now without any kind of paranormal incident or even so much as a negative feeling. I’ve loved this house since the day I first moved in and while it was briefly plagued with a few unwanted memories after 2014, it was nothing that a few coats of different paint, new furniture, and a little re-design couldn’t erase. I asked “Harvey” what exactly his uncle died from and why he passed away inside the house and not in a hospital bed. His answer was chilling. ”When we were kids, my parents told me that my uncle had a heart infection and that’s why he couldn’t leave that bedroom. But once we were much older my mother explained to me that he actually died of a broken heart after my Aunt left him.” [I’ll spare the details here to help keep some things private for both “Harvey” and for myself.] ”After going through all of that, my uncle crawled into that room and just never came out again. There was nothing anyone could do. He blacked out the windows and just wasted away until after a few months… one day he was just… gone. He was only in his early 40′s but the best way to explain it is that he just gave up. He just lost the will to live. He stopped eating, stopped living, and just… faded away. It was terribly sad to watch happen but there was nothing my parents or any doctors could do. They figured it was just a temporary depression and that he would come out of it at some point, but one day it was just over.”
“Slipping farther and farther away, it’s a miracle how long we can stay in a world our minds created, in a world that’s full of shit. Please understand me, I’m climbing through the wreckage of all my twisted dreams and this cheap investigation just can’t stifle all my screams, and I’m waiting at the crossroads, waiting for you, waiting for you, where are you?“
At this point I’m just standing in front of “Harvey”… frozen. I hadn’t told this man a single thing about myself but I could tell that he somehow knew that only a year or two before… that had been me. In that same room, with black curtains I had hung up to block out any light, going through the very same thing. Only in my case I was lucky enough to pull out of that dark hole. And then he smiled back at me and said “You’re gonna be OK.” I was shocked. He asked if he could go outside and look at the backyard and I kind of choked out a “Yeah… sure.” He walked back outside, I turned around to let Arwen out of her crate, and when I looked back again… he was gone. Not in the backyard, not in the front yard, not down the street. Gone.
“No one’s gonna bother me anymore, no one’s gonna mess with my head no more, I can’t understand what all the fighting’s for, but it’s so nice here down off the shore, I wish you could see this ’cause there’s nothing to see, it’s peaceful here and it’s fine with me, not like the world where I used to live… I never really wanted to live…”
I’ve since spoken with a few friends about the “Harvey” visit (not too many as I mean, come on, I know exactly how insane it all sounds and I wouldn’t believe it either) but after talking to the friend that I consider to be the authority on stuff like this (Marilyn Kapp- a highly respected clairvoyant who you hopefully heard during her appearance on the 48-hour live Yorkie benefit where she “tuned in” with Joe and his departed father) I’ve come to one conclusion. And this is entirely my own conclusion, not something Marilyn or anyone else offered up or put in my head. I think “Harvey” was the man who passed away in my bedroom. I think he was one of many people/energies in there helping me, standing over me, and pulling for me to get back up.
“Zap him again. Zap the son of a bitch again…”
And I know this fucking sucks to read – especially for anyone close to me who may read this but who never knew just how bad it really got back then- but there were so many nights during that period when I would stare at the blackness and find that full days had gone by with me just laying there in the dark wishing I would just go. Months slipped by in this state. Months.
“Live your life like it’s a coma, won’t you tell me why we’d wanna, with all of the reasons you give it’s kind of hard to believe, but who am I to tell you that I see any reason why you should stay, maybe we’d be better off without you anyway?”
I can’t stress enough that I’d never ever purposely do anything to hurt myself, but with all of that awful shit coming down on me at once and in just a matter of days… Dave dying, the divorce, my life’s work being left in limbo between my friend’s senseless fucking heroin overdose and some stupid corporate merger… it was too much heartbreak to endure all at one time and I just shut down. Yeah, the same guy who is always preaching “never give up” and “you can do it” got knocked way, way down and I felt like an absolute fraud while I was down there in the ground. I’d go in to do the podcast and I’d talk up the guest and encourage the audience that they can take on the world and do anything they believe in… only to rush straight home where I could hide and continue covering up all of the mirrors in my bedroom and bathroom (places no one else would ever see if they came by) so that I wouldn’t have to look at myself anymore. It’s weird, almost other worldly, the things that you’ll do when you’re in a state like that. Like, you can completely tell that something is desperately wrong and that you’re behavior is literally just you begging yourself to get help… but something else is controlling you.
“I got a one way ticket on your last chance ride, got a one way ticket to your suicide, got a one way ticket and there’s no way out alive…”
Someday I’ll write a book about my life/career (like any artist does further down the line) and at that point perhaps I’ll truly share everything. There’s just no need to go that deep here in a blog though. Let’s just say that it’s easy to go to a therapist or a doctor and have them tell you “you’ve gotta eat something” or “this too shall pass” but how you handle actual crippling depression when it happens to you is beyond anyone’s control but time’s.
“And all this crass communication that has left you in the cold isn’t much for consolation when you feel so weak and old, but if home is where the heart is and there’s stories to be told, no- you don’t need a doctor, no one else can heal your soul, got your mind in submission, got your life on the line, but nobody pulled the trigger they just stepped aside, they’ll be down by the water while you watch ‘em waving goodbye…”
In my lifetime I had been terribly sad before… but never in such a long, dark actual depression. That was all a first for me. Never had I become so lost that I couldn’t do anything but lay in the dark and watch days pass by without so much as turning on the TV or even showering. I hid how bad it was from all of my friends, I didn’t go to work, I cancelled any meetings that would come up by saying I “was sick,” I faked my way through occasional phone calls with family, and I showed up to the podcast with Joe each week and acted my way through it like everything was somewhat OK. I never told anyone what was really happening… I just went through it. For more than a full year I didn’t attend a single social event and rarely left the solitude of my darkened bedroom unless it was to go to the studio and hide out there, to show up for the podcast, or to appear somewhere because I had to for work. It was all just playing a role. Friends would ask how I was doing. I’d always say “starting to feel better.” But I wasn’t. In fact, I was getting worse and worse.
“They’ll be calling’ in the morning, they’ll be hanging on the phone, they’ll be waiting for an answer but you know nobody’s home, and when the bells stopped ringing it was nobody’s fault but your own. There were always ample warnings, there were always subtle signs, and you would have seen this coming but we gave you too much time, and when you said that no one’s listening why’d your best friend drop a dime, sometimes we get so tired of waiting for a way to spend our time…”
The only way I can describe “Harvey’s” visit was that he was a ghost who came to deliver the message loud and clear that I had survived and that it was all finally over now. I didn’t realize until he was gone that I had never shaken his hand. I had never offered him something to drink or eat. I just stood there and listened to his stories and then just as suddenly as he had arrived he was suddenly gone. But I’m not gone. I’m still here. And I’m so glad that I am.
“It’s so easy to be social, it’s so easy to be cool, yeah it’s easy to be hungry when you ain’t got shit to lose, and I wish that I could help you with what you hope to find, but I’m still out here waiting watching re-runs of my life, when you reach the point of breaking know it’s gonna take some time to heal the broken memories that another man would need just to survive.”
Whatever it is that you’re going through, know that it can and will get better. ”You’re going to be OK.” And to “Harvey”, wherever you are… thank you. I understand and appreciate it all now. I am OK. I’m fucking OK.
It was quite possibly the most important life lesson of them all so far. Well played, 2016.
FRIENDSHIP WAS TRAGIC. In October we released the very first HOLLISTON comic, made and distributed by our friends at Source Point Press. The 54-page graphic novel hit stores in late October and was so well received that a sequel was green-lit immediately. I had absolutely no expectations with “Friendship Is Tragic” as aside from the Hack/Slash and Hatchet crossover comic that came out in 2011 I had no real experience with the world of making comic books so far. ”Hatchet/Slash” was more like a guest appearance of one of my characters (“Victor Crowley”) within a pre-exiting universe and within a comic series that was already extremely popular and successful, so this was going to be completely different. With “Friendship Is Tragic” we were attempting something totally different as this was a brand new, stand alone book, and the first new official HOLLISTON story to be released since the various tragedies we endured shortly after Season 2 had finished airing. We had no idea what the response would actually be like.
Would the fans of the show like it? Would comic fans who perhaps had never seen the show before like it? Would the work of these talented comic artists pay off or would the comic merely be viewed as a cool novelty item to go along with the show at best? Thankfully, the comic continues to receive amazing reviews, fans of the show were absolutely thrilled with it, and so many others who picked up the comic are now becoming fans of the show because of how much they enjoyed it. After what we’ve been through and the many set-backs we’ve faced with finally getting Season 3 in front of cameras- this was an important win for the future of HOLLISTON. There was a lot riding on this endeavor, not only because Source Point Press is a fairly new company who had everything to prove but because this was the first HOLLISTON endeavor in the show’s new world – which is sadly a world without “Oderus.”
You don’t need a degree to understand the double meaning of the title “Friendship is Tragic.” Yes, it’s a cute little mockery of the MY LITTLE PONY television series “Friendship Is Magic” but… yeah… what we’ve been through together is fucking tragic. I’m overjoyed that fans embraced the book the way they did and now that we know that the comic format works so well for HOLLISTON, I’m even twice as excited for the next installment (“Carnival of Carnage”) which will open up the universe even further to include even more of the other HOLLISTON characters that fans love from the TV series. Just like with “Friendship is Tragic” I’m completely involved with developing “Carnival of Carnage” and knowing the story line I have absolutely no doubt that you’re going to love what the dudes at Source Point Press are doing with it. We’ll reveal more artwork over the coming months and as soon as we know the release date we’ll obviously share it with everyone right away. Yes, there will be a way to pre-order cast signed copies from us again but that won’t begin until we’re much closer to having an actual release date. To everyone who bought “Friendship Is Tragic” – THANK YOU. Your support only helps us get Season 3 moving faster and it was amazing to see how the “Holliston Nation” has only grown bigger and stronger since we were unceremoniously thrust into this hiatus.
So yeah. ”WHY HASN’T SEASON 3 BEEN SHOT YET??” Sigh. Because “reasons.” Isn’t that enough of an explanation?? No? “But you guys said… and then you said…” OK, fine. I’ll try harder to explain. There are a few easy (and a few more complicated) explanations why we still haven’t shot it. But no- we have absolutely not abandoned it and we are continuing to work (very hard) on getting things in order and ready to shoot. The simplest reason to understand why it hasn’t happened yet is that when your main cast includes two working directors and a rock star among the main 5 characters- scheduling is an absolute bitch. Joe and I are both in various stages of production on our new films that shot this past year, Dee only just wrapped his final shows with Twisted Sister last month and is now gearing up to embark on a solo tour, and Corri is a mom who no longer lives in LA full-time. There hasn’t been any possible way to get us all together in the same place at the same time for long enough to properly rehearse and shoot the next season which requires many of us to drop several months of everything else. In my case as the writer, the show-runner, and one of the two directors on the series it’s about a YEAR of dropping everything else for me- or somehow simultaneously working on everything else at once which nearly killed me when we made Season 2. But scheduling aside- we’re still waiting on all of the financing to be in our hands anyway. However on the good news front… most of Season 3′s episodes are written and we have been rehearsing and working out the new material in the very limited opportunities where we have all been able to be together this past year. Hopefully you heard our live broadcast of one of the new season 3 episodes during the 48-hour live “Save The Yorkies” charity benefit that we did with The Movie Crypt podcast this past August. We closed the marathon with a full cast reading of one of the upcoming Season 3 episodes.
Why isn’t that live reading available anywhere? Well, like we said when we first announced that we were going to perform a new episode during the marathon- the episode contained enormousspoilers about Season 2′s cliffhanger ending and what’s to come next season so it was only going to be performed live that one time only. You could either listen to it live and be in on it with us- or miss it and wait for the new season to find out what happened/is going to happen. Miraculously, the thousands of fans who were listening when we performed the new episode have honored our request to not post any details or spoil the episode for anyone else who missed it. Fans have shared their reactions to it but have done so very carefully as to not spoil anything. I can’t tell you how grateful we all are for that loyalty and for the fact that our fans have that kind of respect for their fellow fans. The more complicated reasons can all be filed under “boring business shit” that while typical and expected is still always so, so frustrating to endure while you’re in the middle of it. But that’s every project. It would take forever to type it all out, it would confuse the shit out of you trying to keep up with it all, and it is a safe bet that by the time you finished reading about one situation we’re waiting on it would have already changed into a completely different one and now be irrelevant. It’s like playing Tetris and you go through periods where the blocks coming down just don’t fit correctly no matter how you try to spin them. Then suddenly it all clicks and it’s “oh shit, we’re going!” Still, we’re closer than ever to being ready to get started again. Well… I should say that we’re as close as anything can ever actually be in this business where there are numerous false starts, where plans change overnight, where networks merge or dissolve, and where funding magically disappears the night before shooting begins. But we’ve “been there, done that” and at this point none of the usual industry bullshit is a new experience to any of us- which is precisely why we’re being so, so careful with how we do a new season, where we do it, and when we do it. I promise I won’t forget to tell you when shooting gets underway. You don’t need to send me weekly tweets asking if there are any updates. It didn’t slip my mind and the whole waiting process is frustrating enough for all of us without you asking what the latest news is every few days, I assure you. In the meantime, enjoy all of the other things we’re each continuing to bring you on a non-stop basis. I know that you love HOLLISTON. And no one appreciates just how much you love HOLLISTON more than I do. Be patient.
I SHOT A NEW MOVIE. Somehow in addition to everything else that I did this year I also directed my next film. This new movie will be ArieScope’s 10th feature film which is yet another huge milestone for us. Way back in 1998 when Will Barratt and I were first shooting COFFEE & DONUTS for a whopping $400 budget (by now you know the story of C&D and how it eventually became HOLLISTON) we only hoped and dreamed that one day we’d be able to make a realmovie. ArieScope Pictures celebrated our 18th anniversary this past October and almost two decades later it’s nothing short of miraculous that this has become what it has become and that we’ve somehow lasted, remained independent, and survived all of the massive changes the industry has gone through (and continues to go through) on an almost weekly basis. Yes, by this time next year we’ll have released our 10th feature film! I finished the first draft of this next movie around this time last year and now a year later… here I am in post-production, editing, and watching everything come together slowly but surely.
So why the secrecy around it? Honestly, because that’s how we tried things with DIGGING UP THE MARROW on our last rodeo and we found that it’s simply better for you (the fans) the more quiet we can keep things. In an era where movies are discussed to death in the media long before they even shoot and where films get spoiled by constant announcements, news updates, set visits, stills, clips, and trailers upon trailers way too far in advance of a film’s actual release date… we find that keeping details under wraps just makes the experience that much more fun for the fans when the movie is actually ready to be seen. With indie films, it’s not about an opening 3 days that you need to try and build up to with millions and millions of advanced dollars in advertisements. Yes, this movie (like all of our films) will have a theatrical component to its release but it won’t be dropped onto 3,000+ screens as it is not being distributed by a major studio that has the 25+ million in marketing that is required to do a wide release properly. It’s being distributed by a smaller studio that we’ve successfully worked with before on other films and (much like we did with MARROW) we’ll also be touring with it. It’s perfectly fine to travel it city by city and keep building through word of mouth- the very best form of advertising there is. Believe me, keeping things under wraps for as long as have so far only makes it way harder on us as in this day and age as it is no small feat to keep the making of a movie completely quiet and off of the internet. I want to be careful not to build things up too much because it’s not like we’re talking about a secret STAR WARS movie or something that’s going to change the movie going world as we know it- it’s just our next movie. But if we can suddenly drop a trailer mere weeks before it comes out or if we can announce it by actually screening it for an audience that wasn’t expecting to see it like we did with MARROW… isn’t that just way more fun? And isn’t fun a big part of what most movies are supposed to be about anyway? All will be revealed in due time.
I believe that half of the reason why MARROW was received so well was because we just started screening it one day and no one had time to overthink it or jump to any sort of conclusions about it until after they actually saw it. Think about how weird of a movie MARROW is conceptually given that it’s essentially an Alex Pardee art exhibit turned into a movie where we blurred the lines between a documentary and a fictional narrative to try and create a different cinematic experience then what you were used to seeing. MARROW is nearly impossible to put in an existing sub-genre category given the various storytelling elements we used in it. To this day we can still only shrug when reviewers try and label it as a “found footage” movie (it’s not) or a straight-up mocumentary (it’s not) but then again, these days anything that’s not shot in a traditional narrative form gets lumped into the “found footage” category by some. Honestly we don’t know exactly what sub-genre MARROW fits into either so we were flattered by the reviews and the responses that applauded the “I don’t know what sub-genre to call it” aspect of the film. The unusual story telling method of MARROW was a major reason why we were so excited to make it and why we were willing to take the risks that came along with trying something as weird as using ourselves as “characters” in a film. Imagine the pre-conceived conclusions that would have been jumped to months before releasing it (if not years before, given that MARROW actually took 4 years to make) had we shared exactly what the movie really was before being able to just show it? Secrecy was the right way to go. As far as the new movie goes, I’m not saying that it’s necessarily anything like MARROW and I’m certainly not yet celebrating that we got away with keeping it fully quiet. All it takes is just one person to shoot their mouth off to spoil it for everyone and that could very well still happen at any given moment between now and whenever we first unveil it. If that does happen, there’s nothing the rest of us can really do at that point except be majorly disappointed for you, the fans, that someone out there would disrespect you enough to rob you of the surprise we tried so very hard to give you. But we’re very excited about our latest endeavor and I hope that that no one spoils it for you. I think that you’ll dig what we’ve created when you see it at some point in the coming months. For now I’ve still got a shit ton of work cut out for me with it… and miles to go before I sleep…“and miles to go before I sleep.”
The very first behind the scenes photo from the set! This is a photo of the camera slate that was taken off of the monitor so unfortunately the cinematographer’s name is cut off. My partner in cinematic crime on this film was Director of Photography Jan-Michael Losada who was a rock star in every way… but more on that once the movie is unveiled and I can finally discuss it.
Originally fake-titled “Arwen’s Fancy Dinner” on the screenplay itself for the year prior to actual shooting, we eventually shortened the fake-title to “Arwen’s Revenge” simply because it was easier to fit on the camera slate and on any other places where it was necessary to list some sort of title. I know that some of you probably wouldn’t put it past me to make a movie about my dog… and that some of you would even actually love to see that movie, but… no, it is not a movie about Arwen, nor is it about Arwen’s fancy dinner, nor is it about Arwen exacting revenge. Sorry if the fake-titles had your hopes up in some weird way. Perhaps if we ever make a sequel to this it will focus on Arwen’s dog adventures but only time will tell if a sequel is necessary.
2017 IS GOING TO BE ABSOLUTELY HUGE. On January 25th Season 2 of HORRIFIED will premiere and a brand new episode will be released right here on ArieScope.com every Wednesday all the way through the end of June. At some point next year my new film will hit select theaters, VOD, streaming, DVD/Blu-Ray, and eventually all of the usual places all over the world. The Movie Crypt already has some incredible guests lined up for 2017. The weekly program will pass 200 episodes in March and next year Joe, Arwen, and myself will “stay awake so that they don’t get put to sleep” once again as ”The Yorkies Strike Back” (the official title of next year’s 48-hour live marathon event). Hopefully we raise even more money and save even morelives than last year’s benefit. I’ll be touring for the 10th anniversary of HATCHET and doing as many appearances, screenings, and conventions as I possibly can. Speaking of appearances I’ll also be touring in support of my next movie and Joe, Arwen, and I are hoping to do a few more live Movie Crypt appearances next year, too. The live episode we put on in Austin, TX in 2015 was such a fun night and we are going to try and bring the podcast on the road to more and more places if our schedules permit. But again- please consider everything else I already have going on next year before getting upset if I don’t make it to your city on this upcoming tour. As badly as I want to hit every city that I can hit, shake as many hands as I can shake, accept as many hugs as you have to give, share as many of my stories that you’ll listen to, and make as many of you laugh as I possibly can… I’m no good to anyone if I drop dead and every day that I’m away is another day that the next project is being delayed. I’ll do whatever I can to make it to a city, cinema, stage, or seedy back alley near you in 2017.
In 2017 you’re going to get a new HOLLISTON comic (“Carnival Of Carnage”) from our friends at Source Point Press. You’re going to get a whole bunch of new HATCHET comic books as our friends at American Mythology go balls out (or “balls hanging from trees”) resurrecting Victor Crowley with a new life in the pages of comics. The slumber party will continue with Season 3 of SCARY SLEEPOVER (exact date TBA but likely in the late summer/fall if I had to guess right now). You’ll get the 19th annual ArieScope Halloween short film in October. And yes… somehow in the middle of all of that I have every intention of finally shooting the new season of HOLLISTON that you’ve been waiting on for so, so long now. It’s been such a long, hard road but if you keep us in your happy thoughts I have a great feeling that things will stay right on track. Lastly, we’ve been developing some new weekly ArieScope original series that will be LIVE streaming experiences in the coming months (possibly even weeks) but more on all of that wicked soon. It’s not even Christmas yet so who can possibly say just how next year will ultimately unfold? There is so much in the works that I can’t disclose yet but whatever happens I know that we’re gonna have one hell of a year, my friends. Happy holidays and I hope I get to see a ton of you on the road next year as we celebrate 10 years of “Victor Crowley” together.
Thank you for your continued incredible passion for what I do. Thank you for your unwavering support, thank you for your laughs, thank you for your screams, thank you for your constant encouragement, and thank you for all of your love. You make it all worth it and I love each and every one of you right back. – AG