Green’s Blog

10 Years Ago Today: HATCHET BEGINS

042505 026April 25, 2005.  HATCHET begins…

10 years ago today a motley crew of filmmakers arrived and set up base camp at Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, CA to begin the “22″ grueling days/nights of filming HATCHET.  I need to put the number 22 in quotes because in reality the shoot for HATCHET was more like half of that amount of time.  Though the film was originally intended to film earlier that year in the winter time when we would have full nights to shoot our little night-for-night production, as things tend to go in the indie world, our production pushed back and pushed back until we wound up filming in the spring and shooting at the absolute worst time of year for this particular kind of production.  To put it into perspective, 90% of HATCHET takes place outside and at night.  In the Spring in California you’re lucky to have 8 or 9 full hours of shootable darkness as opposed to the standard 12 hour film shoot that often also comes with the option of shooting even longer and into overtime if necessary.  Factor in that we couldn’t afford enough transportation vehicles and drivers to quickly travel our cast and crew from our set deep in the woods down to our base camp, and every single night our lunch break wound up taking anywhere from 90 to 120 minutes no matter how hard we tried to expedite the process.  But that wasn’t our only set-back with time.  We got pummeled with rain just 3 nights into the shoot and lost half a night of shooting when our set all but washed away.  (This would happen to us again on HATCHET 3, only even worse.)  To add one more major obstacle during production… one night we arrived to find that a major network television show had unexpectedly taken over and placed a full-size helicopter right in the middle of our set.  Even our carefully laid out electrical cables had been unceremoniously pulled up and moved aside in a pile and the entire night was chalked up as a loss for us.   How can that happen, you ask?   Well, in the indie world when you have very little money, sometimes your location can screw you over in the middle of your shoot when a bigger production suddenly shows up with a much bigger pay check to wave in front of them.  From the random set-backs… to the fact that we were shooting such an ambitious film on a meager budget that included rain towers, extremely complicated make-up effects, stunts, fire, animals, children, underwater photography, and various other things that slow a production down to a crawl… to the fact that we would show up on set each evening to find that a porno flick (that sadly probably had a bigger budget than we did) was shooting on our sets without our consent… and hopefully you can start to see why the making of HATCHET was anything but typical or easy.  By the way, I wish I was joking about the porno story, but there were many nights that we had to eat “breakfast” while watching strangers have sex on our sets and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it as it was too late to find a new ranch to shoot on or to move our entire production elsewhere.

PowertoolMassacreWatch this porn someday and you just may notice a lot of our sets from HATCHET.

I’ll save all of the untold stories for the big “10 Year Anniversary” blog (or perhaps novel with the way I tend to write) for the 10 year anniversary of the film’s theatrical release (September 7, 2007) since that is the date that “Victor Crowley” was truly born to the mass public, but I couldn’t let this pivotal day in HATCHET history go by without acknowledging and celebrating it at least a little bit.

042505 067“Victor Crowley’s” hatchet was custom made as I wanted it to have a double sided blade that is normally only found on an axe.  It’s fully made out of metal, including the hatchet handle.

Filming HATCHET may have been extremely difficult but it was also one of the greatest times of so many of our lives.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that our core crew was so fresh, young, and naive that we were just happy to be living the dream of making a movie and nothing could break our sprits.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that my intense enthusiasm and love for this project was contagious enough to make even the most jaded and skeptical crew members start drinking my “Crowley Kool Aid” and believing that the film we were making was going to actually matter and be remembered someday.   A decade later there are more interviews about the production of “Hatchet” available to read on-line than I can even begin to count and the DVD/BLU-RAY release is so jam packed with incredibly comprehensive documentaries and commentary tracks about how the film was made that it is truly the next best thing to having had been there on set with us.

Will's pics 1285“We’re making a movie!” – Sarah Elbert, Producer  (April 25, 2005… and several times every day and night of production for the next 22 grueling days after that.)

042505 047Director of Photography Will Barratt.  Hey, anyone remember FILM?

Our set photographer Christel Golden did a phenomenal job documenting every single moment of the production and there are literally thousands of photos to go through, so just choosing a few images to encapsulate what the excitement of that first day/night of production was like is extremely difficult to accomplish.  Day 1 wound up being the film’s flashback scene that accompanies “Marybeth’s” tale of the legend of “Victor Crowley.”  It was a split day that began with a day-time shoot of the scenes with “Young Victor Crowley” and finished with a night-time shoot where we shot the crucial scene of the Crowley house catching fire and “Mr. Crowley” accidentally killing “Victor” while attempting to save him.  Ambitious, sure.  But nothing could prepare us for our very first unexpected challenge.  A challenge that set the stage for the difficulties that were to come.  Let me explain…

H1 scheduleThe first page of HATCHET’s production schedule.

The Crowley house and accompanying shed was built on our main set deep in the woods at Sable Ranch many days in advance of the shoot.  It probably goes without being said, but building a house of any kind is a LOT of work.  As is protocol when dealing with fire safety, a fire marshal came out and approved the location and the fire stunt in advance of HATCHET’s Production Designer Bryan McBrien starting his build.  (We did things right and always put safety first.)  However, on the day of the actual shoot a different fire marshall came out to supervise the evening and noticed that one branch (ONE branch) of a nearby oak tree was hanging ever so slightly over the Crowley house that our crew had built.  Though the chances of the branch catching fire were extremely slim, there was still a chance.  We couldn’t simply cut the lone branch as oak trees are apparently protected in California.  So mere hours before cameras were set to roll, Bryan and his crew had to literally slice off the front of the Crowley house and somehow move it down into the ranch’s parking lot.  It was a feat to accomplish to say the least and in the end Bryan and his crew actually wound up building a new Crowley house facade in a matter of hours.  In the finished movie you would never know that half of the iconic sequence is on the real set and half of it is in a parking lot… but that is the magic of filmmaking and sometimes a crew’s most heroic efforts go completely unnoticed (at least if they did their job right).

042505 068This shot reveals just how NOT in a Louisiana swamp the set actually was.  But in the film…

042505 147

… audiences fully believed what they were seeing. When we did promotional interviews leading up to the release of HATCHET 2 we told the press that the sequel was mainly shot on a sound stage and then watched how some reviews claimed that “the sequel doesn’t feel like the original because it wasn’t shot in a real swamp like the first film was.”  The original HATCHET was shot in a combination of desert parking lot and a stretch of California desert woods with just a handful of swamp plants, trees, and Spanish moss dressed in for effect on camera.  In fact, if you watch the first film closely enough, you can actually see the pots that the swamp plants are still in.  HATCHET 2 was primarily shot on a sound stage which allowed us full shooting days and much more time to film the sequel’s extravagant (and numerous) death sequences.  For the sequel, McBrien’s crew created a completely authentic swamp inside the stage and every plant and tree seen on screen is real.  Save for the roof over our heads (which is obviously never seen in the film) HATCHET 2 was actually shot in a far more realistic swamp setting than the original film.  Lesson learned: don’t tell the press how you actually made something until after they’ve seen it.

After making it through the massive clusterfuck of having to quickly rebuild the front of the house on Day 1, I clearly remember saying that “at least we got our major set-back out of the way on the first day” but I’ve since learned the perils in saying such words and the various jinxes that speaking them out loud can bring down upon a production.  If I only knew then what the next decade had in store for the HATCHET story.  Each film in the saga came with it’s own set of difficult production obstacles and random crazy release hurdles that were almost too ridiculous to believe.  ”Ben’s” famous line in HATCHET 1 (“You gotta be fucking kidding me?!”) was a phrase uttered by many of us behind the scenes far too many times over the next decade of making the trilogy.

042505 018Inside the make-up FX trailer on Day 1.

The most important aspect of the HATCHET saga to note is that every single step of it was willed into fruition.  Not a single thing ever just “worked out” or went our way and at some point when all of the true behind the scenes stories are finally told and made public, you’ll see that the horror, comedy, and drama depicted on screen is nothing compared to what we lived through behind the scenes ourselves.  HATCHET’s eventual success and each sequel’s eventual completion had to be fought for tooth and nail at every turn.  And for that, I’m not only prouder than I ever could have imagined I’d be of this series but I’m eternally grateful for the entire experience.  All of it.  The intense highs and the devastatingly heartbreaking lows… the laughs, the tears, the cheers, the screams, the achievements and the disappointments were all one big gift.

042505 141Another little known fact, the first person to don the “Crowley” costume (or a very basic version of it) on the production was actually Kane Hodder’s right hand man and Assistant Stunt Coordinator Rick McCallum- who is the only other person to ever portray the character on film.

042505 194

For the stunt when “Mr. Crowley” (Kane) breaks through the burning door with a hatchet and accidentally hits his now fully grown son “Victor” in the face and kills him… Kane couldn’t possibly play both parts in the same shot. 042505 202One of the most defining moments in Kane’s career, he cites this scene in his autobiography as the one that opened far more doors to on-screen acting roles out of prosthetic make-up.

Someday perhaps there will be a book or a documentary or some other piece of media that truly tells the real story of how this cult slasher franchise found it’s way, but until then all I can do is say thank you to every single person who served time and stood with me on this crazy, crazy journey.  I might be the face of HATCHET as the creator and main driving creative force behind it, but it was the cast and crew of each film who really made it all possible.  Many of whom also returned again (and again) for the sequels which is quite rare for a slasher series.  But more so than anything, it was (and continues to be) the FANS worldwide who really made it all worth it.  The fans who carried us the whole way through and who continue to make HATCHET something bigger and more important than every single one of us who stood together on set that fateful first day of production 10 years ago.  They aren’t just fans, they are an army and no truer name has ever been bestowed upon a fan base.

armylogoThe greatest fans in the world.

To my cast and crew who spent such a huge portion of their lives working on HATCHET, congratulations on our 10th year anniversary of our first day of filming.  I mean, fuck… who would have ever thought??  I don’t even think “Victor Crowley” himself could have imagined what our efforts would produce.  But then again, he would probably have been too busy tearing us limb from limb to ever stop and think about what he would go on to mean to legions of horror fans around the world.

Will's pics 1472On the eve of shooting with the original 5 who put it all together and made HATCHET actually happen: Cory Neal, Sarah Elbert, Will Barratt, Me, and Scott Altomare.

So go on… put on your favorite HATCHET T-shirt and enjoy all three films in the trilogy today while dining on a “Moons Over My Hammy, yo”, some chicken and biscuits (and gravy), some of Reverend Zombie’s fancy Chips O’hoy cookies, or be a man and have a Twinkie.  Watch the various behind the scenes documentaries.  Listen to the various commentary tracks.  Reach out to any of the various films’ cast or crew members that you follow on social networking and let them hear your appreciation for all that they did.  But most of all, remember that anything is possible if you’re willing to dream, willing to work hard, willing to keep getting back up again no matter what, and willing to suffer a bit for what you believe in along the way.  From an 8 year old kid at summer camp with nothing but a Twisted Sister tape and a dream, to a handful of friends standing in a parking lot in Santa Clarita believing they could actually make a horror movie, to audiences of fans worldwide who embraced HATCHET with open slasher loving arms… Victor Crowley lives on today and forever more.

042505 101Living the surreal dream on that first night of shooting and every day since.

So heed Jack Cracker’s warnings and stay out of the swamp because with fans like the HATCHET ARMY Victor Crowley will never really die.  In fact, if you listen closely in the dead of the night tonight, I swear you’ll still hear him.  He’s still out there.  Still roaming the swamp.  Still crying for his daddy…

“Daaaaaddy……”

-Adam Green – Hollywood, CA.  April 25th, 2015.

Surviving My Own Marrow

THE MARROW has been dug up, the tour is wrapped, the press interviews are complete, the public appearances have all taken place, the traveling is over, the DVD/BLU-RAY is out in stores, and the finish line has been crossed.  It was an exhausting and bittersweet road as even though DIGGING UP THE MARROW is already one of our best reviewed and most successful endeavors in our 17 years as ArieScope Pictures (so far), the journey with this particular film saw so much “real life” happen that by the time it came out it had already become a weird time capsule of my personal life that feels like more of a surreal fantasy to me than any of the outrageous monsters depicted on the screen.  As incredibly proud as I am of the movie and of our team of artists, I’m also incredibly happy to see the journey end.  Make no mistake, this film was one of the greatest movie making experiences I’ve ever had.  From conception to the shoot to post-production, there was never a single bad day in the entire process of making the movie and I had the chance to work with some of the greatest and most inspiring individuals I’ve ever been lucky enough to work with.   But when I made the bold decision to use my real life as the grounding point for this fantasy story, I never took into consideration my real life isn’t actually the slightest bit within my screenwriting control and that no amount of rewrites, re-edits, or re-shoots could have saved me from what real life was going to throw my way.  In real life… shit happens.  And real life is completely out of your hands.  So I wound up living through some pretty serious shit over the 4 years that it took to make and properly promote DIGGING UP THE MARROW.   A movie that, while I might be insanely proud of it, also happens to be a movie that tore my heart out at every screening and during every interview, night after night after night.  But before I get into all of that (because man is it A LOT), I wanted to quickly mention our new original on-line series that many of you have already been enjoying… SCARY SLEEPOVER.

AGSS 104 6Derek Mears let me sleep in his hockey mask from FRIDAY THE 13th 2009.

SCARY SLEEPOVER is an on-line series that has various genre celebrities and artists joining me for a childlike slumber party at the ArieScope studio.  While THE MOVIE CRYPT podcast is much more serious and “technical” with it’s lengthy 2 or 3 hour-long passionately honest discussions about the struggles of the entertainment business, SCARY SLEEPOVER is a much more light hearted short form video show that is all about having fun.  The show allows fans to be a fly on the wall during an intimate social setting that pulls back the public curtain on some of their favorite artists.  More interesting than the games played, the copious amounts of junk food devoured, the funny personal stories told, the severe ball busting (usually at my expense), and the often times ridiculous pajamas put on display is that at a certain point in each episode my guest opens up and reveals what it is that they are actually scared of in their real life.  No bravado, no ego, no tough horror icon persona bullshit.  The honest answers in each episode will very likely surprise you as much as they have surprised me.

kane still 2  Kane Hodder revealed his greatest personal fear in a very rare and serious moment.

Just like the various films, TV shows, and other projects I make, I always think like a fan first in terms of “what do I want to see.”  I’m so fortunate that I’ve found myself becoming such close friends with so many artists that I admire and even more fortunate that they are so willing to come and play with me when called upon, no matter how weird the idea might be that I’m proposing to them at the time.  One of the best things about our genre is that whether you are a filmmaker or a fan, you’re an equal and integral part of the community and an accepted member of our culture.  So whenever I can, I like to do things that let the fans inside and share a little piece of what I am so lucky to have.  SCARY SLEEPOVER is shot very much off the cuff and the conversations go wherever they happen to go.  Sean Becker (SLEEPOVER’s fantastic director and editor) is the one faced with the difficult and monumental task of cutting down these slumber parties into tight 15 or 20 minute episodes (and then cutting them down even further into a 10 minute long, censored version for our Youtube channel) and to say that he’s been doing a phenomenal job would be a massive understatement.  Once we shoot each sleepover, I stay out of editing until Sean shows me a cut of the episode that he’s happiest with.  That way he decides what conversations stay in as he shapes the individual structure of each episode.  This first season will have 12 guests/episodes and potentially one or two bonus episodes of “outtakes” (stories or moments that were cut for time), but don’t hold me to that just yet.  For now the show is free to watch and made with our own money as a treat for the fans that so loyally support us and our films, so enjoy it and please continue to spread the word.   We won’t be able to do it this way forever, but for now we’re just doing our thing and seeing where it all goes.  You can watch it on our new “Original On-Line Series” page here.

danielle color option_1Danielle Harris was unimpressed with my record collection.

Alright, so back into THE MARROW.  With this film we hit the road hard with press and appearances.  In fact I did more interviews and press days for this movie than I have for any other project before.  I warmed up with a small screening of the movie at USC here in LA where Will Barratt and I took part in an extended Q&A with the audience.  The very next night I was off to San Francisco for the first night of a cross country tour where Alex Pardee and I (along with Patrick, our tour assistant and mustached guardian angel from ZERO FRIENDS) managed to hit 5 cities in all parts of the country in the span of like 6 or 7 days.  Carrying a pop-up art exhibit, the “Chicken” monster, and tons of merchandise with us… we dragged our asses from coast to coast and back again.  The tour was ambitious to say the least but despite so many things going wrong (mainly weather related as we had the unfortunate luck of going through Boston and New York right when the East coast was getting hit with yet another round of this year’s many blizzards) we made it to every city and every screening on time.  It was sorta like (cancelled) planes, (cancelled) trains, and (last minute) automobiles.  Though it may have been a grueling, sleepless journey from San Francisco to Boston to New York to Austin to Los Angeles- every audience was bigger and better than the last and every single night was a huge success.   We signed and took pictures with fans for hours after each event and every city made us feel way beyond welcomed and loved.  The very next night after the LA premiere, MARROW hit VOD and began its theatrical run in North Hollywood where we showed up at the theater for two more nights of appearances.  A few days later the film expanded to 9 more cities and I was off to Chicago for an appearance and Q&A with the audience there.  (FYI, Chicago may have actually been the loudest audience of them all.  Just sayin’.)   I flew home for about 48 hours or so before heading back to Austin for an incredible 5 hour long MOVIE CRYPT “live” event that included a special recording of the podcast with Lynch and I plus a double feature of MARROW and Joe’s new film EVERLY.  Then I went straight to New Jersey for a 3-day appearance at MonsterMania (my first actual convention appearance in almost 2 years) where the fans were absolutely incredible.  My line was so long that I didn’t sit down, eat, or even have a chance to run to the bathroom for all 3 days of the convention… and I loved every minute of it.  Best of all, while I was at MonsterMania I was able to take part in an annual charity auction that the convention does to benefit a local Yorkie rescue shelter.   Together we set a new record with over $7,000.00 donated!  I auctioned myself off for a date and also auctioned off a screen used hatchet from HATCHET 2 for a combined total donation of $2,400.00 which definitely helped the cause.  This past Tuesday I did my final appearance in support of the film when the cast and crew did an in-store signing at Dark Delicacies bookstore in Burbank, CA.  It was a perfect night and such an awesome way to cross the proverbial finish line for this film.

IMG_5803 IMG_5804 IMG_5805The tour was so much fun… when we weren’t sleeping in random airports.

Today (Friday March 27th) Moviemaker Magazine will be running excerpts from the below piece that I wrote for them about my experience making and surviving DIGGING UP THE MARROW.  Typically their “How They Did It” series focuses a bit more on the technical side of things but as the process of making MARROW was such a long and personal one… my piece wound up being, well… long and personal.  (If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, would you expect anything less?)  Though I could have written about the multitude of different cameras that we used or written about how we created the monsters, there’s a commentary track on the DVD/BLU-RAY for all of that stuff and Greg Aronowitz’s spectacular 30 minute-long “Monsters of the Marrow” documentary (included in the special features) covers the creature effects way better than mere words ever could.  The more interesting story about “how I did it” lies in the unique personal experience I went through making and promoting the film.  If you are a regular reader of my blog or if you listen to THE MOVIE CRYPT religiously some of the stuff in this piece about how MARROW originated may be information you already know inside and out.  But as this piece was written for a publication who’s audience has presumably not heard any of it before, I was extremely thorough.  Making DIGGING UP THE MARROW was an absolutely awesome experience.  The wonderful reception and response to the film has completely blown away all of us who were involved in making it.  But for me personally, that success came with a painful price tag.  This is the story of not just “How I Did It” but “How I Survived It”…

moviemakerlogo444Excerpts from the below piece will run on MovieMaker’s website today (3/27), but what follows below is the entirety of what I wrote for their “How They Did It” series.

How I turned paintings into cinema, used my real life as a story device, and survived my own true horror story making DIGGING UP THE MARROW.   By Adam Green.

For 17 years now, my production company ArieScope Pictures has created original genre films like the three HATCHET movies, SPIRAL, GRACE, and CHILLERAMA as well as a popular cult television sit-com called HOLLISTON.   These titles have been warmly embraced by a loyal and passionate worldwide culture of horror fans that have blessed us through their support with the ability to pursue every filmmaker’s dream; to do things our own way and to work almost exclusively with a tight knit family that we have held together since the very beginning.  ArieScope’s very existence is due entirely to the fans that truly go out of their way to rally behind our work, who drive hours to see our films in the select theaters that play them, who spread the good word when we don’t have the luxury of marketing or advertising to do that for us, and who pay their hard earned money to buy our DVDs or Blu-Rays as well as the various T-shirts, posters, and other merchandise that we offer on our website with all of the proceeds going right back into keeping our independent studio’s lights on.   This incredibly creative fan base often mails in everything from artwork to sculptures to deeply personal handwritten letters about what they are going through and how something I did is helping them get through it in some small way.  It’s truly amazing.

In February of 2010 we returned from the triumphant world premiere of our film FROZEN at the Sundance Film Festival to find a package at the studio from a fan claiming that “Victor Crowley” (the villain from HATCHET) was actually real and that I had not explained his mythology correctly in my film.   It included photographs of various swamps in New Orleans with areas circled that the fan was claiming to be Crowley’s actual birth place or the locations of his various killing sprees.  While some filmmakers may have found this kind of fan mail disturbing, I could see that it was merely creative fan fiction and done out of love for the character.  So I said to my business partners Will Barratt and Cory Neal, “What if we grabbed some cameras and went to New Orleans to have this guy try and prove what he’s claiming?  Even if it only wound up being a short film, it could still be funny, right?”  As fun as the idea sounded, with HATCHET 2 just seven months away from release we didn’t want to do anything involving the Crowley character or the universe of HATCHET.  Even more so, we didn’t want to find out the hard way if the guy who had mailed the package was indeed actually insane.  But the concept of using ourselves as subject matter and building a docu-style story around real life cult filmmakers who receive a package from someone with an outrageous claim was intriguing to all of us.   The concept seemed like a fresh and fun way to mix reality with fantasy and make a monster movie as realistically as possible by using our real lives and the documentary approach as our way in.  We just didn’t have the right guy or the right monsters so we went back to the drawing board with the concept.  Literally.

Two weeks later I was doing a signing at a Fangoria convention here in Los Angeles when a guy came through my line and handed me a little 14 page pamphlet on which he had inscribed, “Thanks for all of the inspiration you’ve given me.”  I thought nothing of it and added it to the pile of random gifts, short films, and other oddities that people so generously hand me at such appearances.   Later that night I opened the pamphlet, titled “Digging Up The Marrow: Excerpts From The Journals of Detective William Dekker.”  5 minutes later there were a million light bulbs going off in my head and I was texting my partners at ArieScope saying “I’ve got it.  I have the reality/fantasy movie figured out!”  Turns out that the random guy who came through my line was none other than artist Alex Pardee, someone who’s artwork I already knew and loved but someone who I had never seen in person before.  Had I known what Alex looked like I probably would have geeked out on him when I met him, but he’s such a humble and understated person that he just handed me his pamphlet of artwork and walked away.

MarrowBookletThe actual pamphlet that Alex Pardee handed me back in 2010.

Whenever Alex does an art exhibit it is way more than mere paintings on a gallery wall.  He goes far deeper than that and provides a story and a context for what you are looking at.  His 2009 exhibit “Digging Up The Marrow” was about a former police detective named “William Dekker” who had supposedly discovered a world beneath our feet where monsters live.  In the context of the art exhibit, Dekker had gone missing and Alex had found his journals and taken it upon himself to paint the crazy creatures that Dekker described in his writings.  Of course it was all made up and not an ounce of it was real, but looking through the pages of Alex’s artwork my hands began to sweat and I was wide awake and pacing my bedroom floor trying to make sense of the ideas flooding my head.  What if “Dekker” had reached out to a real cult filmmaker in the hopes that the filmmaker would tell his story to the world?  Forget the HATCHET fan letter I had received two weeks earlier, what if “Dekker” had sent me his supposed evidence instead?  What if “Dekker” actually delivered on his claims and brought me face to face with “real” monsters?  What if these creatures looked exactly like Alex Pardee’s artwork?  By using ourselves as subject matter we would ground the story in a very real world and then slowly introduce monsters as realistically as possible.  Everyone who would appear in the film would do so as themselves.  Or would they? 

The next step was to meet with Alex and see if he was into this crazy manipulated half real-half fake documentary idea.  After all, how could he not be?  The seeds for it were already all there in his art exhibit.   While I may have had a story, the characters, and an idea for a unique style of movie, Alex was the one who had the right world and the right monsters.  Thankfully it was love at first meeting and we were off and running almost immediately.  I think I had a very first draft presented to the team within 3 months of that first meeting.  We decided right from the start that because of the weird “part real/part fiction” aspect to this film that we wouldn’t let anyone in on what we were doing too early.  In fact, we knew that the less people knew about it the better that it would play.  So in order to be able to stay under the radar but not exactly have to hide the fact that we were working on something, we announced the film as “a documentary about monster art.”  Note to other filmmakers: If you ever want to stay under the radar and not have the media asking for set visits or casting news or still photos… just throw down the words “art documentary” and watch how little they pay attention to what you are doing.  Not only did we not want to frustrate our friends in the genre press by not allowing them to have any information, set visits, casting news, stills, etc… we also knew that DIGGING UP THE MARROW was going to take a very long time to complete.  To put it into perspective, during the 4 years that we made this film, ArieScope also made two HATCHET sequels, two television seasons of HOLLISTON, and an anthology movie called CHILLERAMA.  MARROW was going to be a very long production.

MARROW script pageVery little of DIGGING UP THE MARROW was improvised.  In fact, almost everything seen on screen in the finished film was meticulously scripted.

The first step was to get started on building the monsters.  By enlisting sculptor Greg Aronowitz we knew we’d be in good hands and that the creatures would look exactly like Alex’s artwork.  Too often in film you see concept art get changed around completely in the fabrication process simply because certain things don’t make sense.  The beauty of Alex’s art is that it isn’t “correct.”  Skin, bone structure, weight distribution… nothing is where it should naturally be on a living organism.  We wanted to keep Alex’s art intact and create creatures that no one had ever seen before and Greg was more than up for the task.  After each sculpture was finished, the giant clay creatures went off to FX artist Robert Pendergraft and his team at Aunt Dolly’s Garage where they faced the monumental task of bringing these things to life on screen practically.  As Robert put it, he aged about 20 years of thought upon first seeing Greg’s sculptures.  Very few of these creatures would be able to be made through typical prosthetics on actors.  There is an exceptional 30 minute documentary called “Monsters of the Marrow” on the DVD and Blu-Ray release (buy it here) that goes super in depth on the technical side of how the film’s monsters were created using puppets, tracks, garage door springs, tubes, ropes and other methods.   Suffice to say, it was a massive undertaking but in the end we successfully brought Alex’s artwork to three-dimensional life.

HarlequinDesign4SampleAlex’s concept art for “Harlequin” became…

Harlequin3Greg’s sculpture for “Harlequin”, which Robert and his crew then made into…

Harlequin“Harlequin”

While all of this was taking place we faced another hurdle; who to cast as “William Dekker.”  While I may be more than capable of playing myself (I’ve had 40 years of practice) and while we knew our monsters would work on screen when called upon, what about the most important character in the story?  Who would we cast as the eccentric and mysterious enigma of a man who sends me his fantastical story?  For weeks we debated the pros and cons of casting an unknown actor versus hiring a recognizable character actor that most everyone would know upon first sight.  It was one of the most difficult choices in making the film but one that we made by carefully thinking many, many steps ahead to the eventual screenings and the release.  The problem with a concept like this is that we knew that with the documentary approach and everyone appearing as themselves that the majority of audiences would have their beliefs suspended almost too much.  We felt as if viewers may start to think that what they were watching was in fact real.  However, right at the end of the first act (the 30 minute mark of the film) when the first monster revealed itself, they would be thrown for a loop and start declaring “hoax!”  We had seen other films attempt this and suffer that unfortunate fate where the entire experience became about whether or not the film was in fact real or fake.   It would eventually become a huge pitfall for the film’s overall playability if we tried to pass “Dekker” off as real.  After all, at the end of the day we were making a monster movie and a scripted narrative feature.  It just so happens to be told in a highly unconventional way.

IMG_35272Enter Ray Wise.  Our pitch perfect “William Dekker.” 

Right around the time that we had collectively made up our minds that we would find a great, recognizable character actor to play “Dekker” I just so happened to get a phone call from Ray Wise.  Ray had acted in one of the segments of our anthology film CHILLERAMA… but not my segment.  We had never worked together before and after seeing my offering in CHILLERAMA (“The Diary Of Anne Frankenstein”) and even more recently watching a film I had co-directed with Joel David Moore called SPIRAL, Ray wanted to change that.  I have always been a huge fan of Ray’s.  He is an icon.  He’s been in some of the biggest films and television shows of all time.  I was thrilled to hear his voice on the other end of the line but even more than that, I was incredibly impressed.  Ray Wise works more consistently than most actors in Hollywood.  He doesn’t need to be pounding the pavement for jobs.  Jobs find him.   Yet there he was cold calling me?  It was fate.  Ray Wise had to be “William Dekker” and I wouldn’t accept anyone else.   We met for lunch at Mucho Mas in Burbank, I showed him Alex’s pamphlet, explained the odd reality/fantasy concept of what we were doing, and he said yes instantly.  Thankfully his excitement only deepened upon reading my script that same night.

IMG_2582The shoot itself was a director’s dream come true.

Though certain parts of the film had already been shot long before Ray came on board, it was mainly testimonial scenes from various artists discussing monsters and why they choose to believe in them or scenes of Will Barratt and I traveling to meet with “Dekker.”  The real meat of MARROW was shot over the summer of 2013, mainly in our real homes, the ArieScope studio, or out in the woods in Santa Clarita where we had created the cemetery set that would serve as the home to “Dekker’s” supposed entrance into the Marrow.  The shoot was one of the greatest times of my life.  As a director I had absolute creative control, as a producer I had the dream team of artists around me giving their crucial two cents, as an actor I was working opposite the great Ray Wise, and as a fan… I was hunting for monsters.  It’s important for any actor to believe in whatever part it is that they are playing, and man did I believe.  It was my greatest fantasy come to life, searching for monsters out in the woods late at night and actually coming face to face with a few.  Especially since our creatures were all practical and looked just as amazing up close as they did on camera.  Of course there were some visual effects added in post, but only enough to compliment what was already there in the “flesh.”   By August of that same summer we were well into editing.

JoshEditingEditor Josh Ethier hard at work.

This was where I first started to get cold feet on the entire concept of the film.  Though the “reality” aspect of MARROW was precisely what made the idea exciting to us… when it is your reality you can’t help but become overly sensitive to it.  Even though every single creative decision had been debated at length and even though we had all played devil’s advocate to every choice, I couldn’t help but begin to fear the obvious.  “They’re gonna say that the film is self indulgent.”  “It is one big advertisement for ArieScope, constantly seeing their studio, their crew T-shirts, their movie posters, etc.”  You name the possible personal attack, I was already saying it out loud in the edit bay.  Thankfully I have surrounded myself with honest people who have no fear in speaking up.  Our editor Josh Ethier was one of the most important voices in this process as he remained completely objective and constantly kept my fears in check by simply asking me “If this had been a fictional cult filmmaker, what information would need to be in the story to make that character three dimensional and believable?”  “If this story had been about a fake filmmaker who made fake movies at a fake studio with fake actors and who had fake fans who sent him fake fan mail… what would you keep in this cut?”   It not only helped, but it prevented me from potentially ruining my own movie simply to save myself from the obvious criticism that would be coming my way.  However, as with any film, you need to throw it out to the wolves and test it before you can even consider locking picture.

One by one, various filmmakers were invited to ArieScope, told absolutely nothing about what they were about to watch (remember, everyone thought we had been making an art documentary in our spare time), and we would press play.  As always, I received some fantastic opinions that helped us pick up the film’s pace and fix a few issues that we were too close to see by that point.  Note to other filmmakers: If you’re going to ask someone to give you their time and watch your film it should be because you respect their opinion, not because you’re fishing for praise.  Listen to what they say and even more importantly, try out their suggestions afterwards whether you instantly agree with them or not.  If you only want to hear how great your film is, don’t bother screening it for opinions.  Just show your mother.

JoelMARROWJoel David Moore, his girlfriend Ellen Monohan, and HOLLISTON’s Axl were among the first to screen MARROW for opinions and notes.  (NOTE: I was more terrified than they were.) 

Of course one filmmaker who’s opinion we all greatly respect had the note that we feared most.  “You’re biggest mistake was casting Ray Wise.  As brilliant as he is in this, the second I saw him I knew it wasn’t real.  You should have cast an unknown.”  I calmly replied, “So about 11 minutes later when the first monster showed up… you were still going to think this movie was actually real?”  His response?  “Oh.  Yeah.  You’re right.  Nah, Ray is perfect.  Great choice!”  But we weren’t ready to lock picture just yet.  The ultimate trial by fire isn’t showing filmmakers as even they can be too close to the process themselves to truly be objective.  We needed to show a real audience and I wanted to show the most opinionated audience that I could find.  I wanted to take the film to The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, the home of Fantastic Fest and some of the most outspoken fans and brutally honest critics on the planet.  There simply is no audience like a Drafthouse audience.  I sent a screener to Harry Knowles of AIN’T IT COOL NEWS who’s annual 24-hour film festival Buttnumbathon was only a few short weeks away.  I trusted that if he didn’t like it that he wouldn’t go and post a negative review before the film was even finished.  I knew that he’d just tell me he didn’t like it and why.  But if he liked it enough just maybe DIGGING UP THE MARROW could test at Buttnumbathon.  Yeah, I’m kind of a masochist.  The next day Harry called.  “Can I play MAROW at Buttnumbathon, Adam?”  Masochism achievement unlocked.

bnat__span_hugeThe prestigious and world famous Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX.

Alex Pardee and I flew to Austin and settled into our seats for the long 24 hour cinematic haul.  The beauty of BNAT is not just that only Harry knows the secret line-up he’s going to play but that the unsuspecting audience is one of the most hardcore and discriminating audiences on the planet.  Like I told Alex, “If our movie survives this we can lock picture tomorrow and finish it.  If not… we’re kinda fucked.”  The films began to play.  The first ever screening of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.  The first ever screening of THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG.  THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY (in glorious 70mm).  POPEYE.  Yeah, we were sweating pretty bad by the time 6am rolled around and our weird little movie started.  Not only was this not an audience comprised entirely of horror fans or of people who would necessarily be excited to see the latest “Adam Green joint”… they were also exhausted and falling asleep.  I feared the worst as Harry invited Alex and I up to introduce it.  We didn’t say much at all as we wanted the audience to see the film as cold as possible, but I did explain that the film was not yet finished.  That there were still no visual effects.  That the sound and score were temp.  That there was still no color correction and what they would be seeing were merely the dailies.  With that I asked for only one favor.  “Feel free to say if you liked or if you didn’t, but please don’t post anything publicly that says exactly what it is or review the film beat by beat and ruin what we’ve been keeping secret for so long.”  One thing you have to love about Texas… they take pride in sticking to their word.  Not a single person in that audience spoiled the film on-line or betrayed our trust.  Save for one exceptionally negative reaction posted on-line pretty much everything else was positive and even better, the film played like gangbusters.  Laughs, screams, jumps, and best of all… the discussions outside before the next film started were filled with people sharing their theories about the character of “Dekker” and the world of “the Marrow.”  They were creatively stimulated.  They were using their imaginations and believing in monsters again.  It was everything we could have hoped for and more.  We were picture locked.

PicturelockedAlex and I celebrate being picture locked. December 2013.

Then, about 3 months into the finishing process and right as the film was approaching absolute completion… my entire life fell apart and the very reality I used for my film became a disaster.

FullSizeRenderMarch 23, 2014

Dave Brockie passed away suddenly on March 23, 2014.  Most knew Dave as “Oderus Urungus”, the lead singer of the heavy metal band GWAR and my character’s imaginary alien friend on my TV series HOLLISTON.   But I knew Dave as one of my best friends.  I loved him dearly.  And there he is in the first five minutes of DIGGING UP THE MARROW, proudly wearing his “Oderus” get up backstage at San Diego Comic Con and declaring to the camera “I am a monster, I’ve always been a monster, and after I’m dead I’ll be a dead monster!”  I was devastated.  I wanted his scene cut out of the movie immediately.  I couldn’t look at it.  But the team around me carefully and compassionately talked me down off of the ledge.  Not because of the massive financial costs that suddenly changing the edit would hit us with but because they knew I was making the choice for my own personal comfort and not for the good of the film.  What finally made me see the light was when someone said, “I know that it’s hard for you to hear Dave say that, but why would you rob his fans of seeing the last thing he said on camera?  Especially when it was so fitting to his sense of humor that his last recorded appearance is him joking about his own demise?”  They were right.  Had I taken it out of the film it would have been completely personal and no one would have been more disappointed in me for acting so selfishly than Dave himself.  So I left the scene in, knowing all too well that it was going to be a kick in the balls at every screening I’d eventually have to endure.

3 weeks after Dave died my wife and I got divorced.  And while she may only appear in DIGGING UP THE MARROW for a total of 4 minutes or so and while the scenes were fully scripted just like the rest of the film, they are scenes that show us at home together.  Throughout the movie my “character” refers to “my wife.”  There is a shot of us kissing and a scene of us sleeping next to each other in bed.  I wanted to cut it all out of the film but once again the team around me talked me out of re-cutting the film only to address my own feelings.  “Those scenes are in there for exposition and story.  If you cut them out just because they’re painful for you to watch, then what happens to the story?  What about all of the times in the film that you mention your wife at home?  What about the final scene of the film?  Don’t ruin the movie just to make it easier for you.  It isn’t for you anymore.  It’s for the audience.”  And again… I listened and I stood down.

I don’t need to burden you with the “woe is me” details, but like any human being I took the divorce extremely hard. I was completely heart broken and it took me almost 5 months to get healthy and back on my feet and before I could begin admitting it to anyone outside of the small handful of friends who helped me through the worst of it.   At Dave’s public memorial that August I was describing what a terrible year it had been for me and I slipped and dropped the word “divorce” while delivering his eulogy to a crowd full of 4,000 GWAR and HOLLISTON fans.  Word was out and now I was going to have to deal with the court of public opinion, the gossip, and the questions or comments about it from my own fans.  I just wasn’t ready yet.  But as DIGGING UP THE MARROW was only 1 week away from world premiering at Fright Fest in London anyway, I had to get ready for what was coming.  I couldn’t hide from it forever.  I finally acknowledged the divorce on my weekly podcast THE MOVIE CRYPT that week and sincerely asked people to simply leave the subject alone.  I said that it had happened a long while back and that there was nothing to discuss or talk about.  I wore my heart on my sleeve and requested that people move on from it and refrain from tweeting me their condolences or asking me about it because I just couldn’t take it.  And with that I headed off to London for the world premiere of DIGGING UP THE MARROW.  My super personal movie that used my real life as subject matter and that just so happened to include scenes involving my now dead friend and my now ex-wife.  Put yourself in my shoes.  Yeah.

I doubt I can ever explain what the release of this film has been like for me.  A four year process that yielded both the most rewarding creative process I’ve ever experienced and one that also has become a bittersweet time capsule of my life that now feels more like a work of fiction than the actual reality it so boldly shows.  I’ve been asked about Dave or the divorce in almost every interview I have done about the movie, on several carpets that I’ve walked for it, and several times at every autograph signing or appearance I’ve done in support of the film.  These wounds took far too long to begin healing because at every step I was asked to open them up again, whether I wanted to or not.  I’ve toured with THE MARROW and relived the worst pain of my life night after night all while simultaneously being rewarded with laughs, cheers, screams, and louder applause than I’ve ever heard for one of my films before.  The response has been far beyond anything we ever could have hoped for and only one week into release the option of doing a sequel already looks like more than a sincere reality.  It’s surreal.  But this is MovieMaker Magazine and not People Magazine, so does all of this personal stuff really matter?  Do I really need to admit all of this heartache as part of “How I Did It?”  Well… yeah.  Because that’s how I did it.

TearsPress Day #2.  Though journalists had every right to ask me about my deceased friend or my ex-wife since both are featured in the film, despite my ability to sound happy to be doing the interviews… on the other end of the phone line I was miserable.  

As filmmakers and storytellers we all wear our hearts on our sleeves.  Perhaps not every filmmaker will choose to put themselves so fully out there in their work like I do, but we all put our hearts on the line with every project in one way or another.   With MARROW, my heart just happens to be sitting out there naked and shivering for the whole world to see all because I made the “exciting and bold” choice to use my real life as the basis for a fantasy story.  Fuck me.

I share all of this so honestly not to discourage anyone else from attempting to do what I did, but to instead encourage you. Try something different like this.  Take your real life heartbreak and own it.  Use it to empower you, not to disenchant you.  Because when all is said and done, if you don’t put your entire soul into every frame of every story that you tell, then you shouldn’t be making movies in the first place.  Just be prepared to bleed a little for the things you love.  Be prepared to bleed for cinema.  It’s a wonderful thing.

IMG_5288Healthy and strong again at the triumphant Los Angeles premiere. 

In the end, when I went digging up the “Marrow” I found way more than just fantastical monsters.  During this long experience I found the love again for what it is that I do with my life.  I learned to believe in the impossible again.  I learned to think outside the box again.  I learned that nothing can stop me unless I let it.  I learned that I truly do work with the greatest people on the planet.  I learned how to create, to imagine, and to love as honestly and fearlessly as a child again.  All because I allowed a pamphlet of artwork to inspire me and take me to dark and wonderful places.  All because I didn’t quit when my life went to shit and when promoting this film became unbearably hard on a personal level.  I hope that when you go digging up your own “Marrow” that you come out with the same perspective that this amazing journey has given me.  Try something different.  Make something that doesn’t make sense.  Take risks, fall down, and get hurt a bunch on the way.  You’ll heal and it will be OK.  In the end you just might find yourself holding the best thing you’ve ever created in your very hands because it is within your own pain that the stories worth telling actually exist.

Oh, and that one exceptionally negative reaction from Buttnumbathon that I mentioned earlier?  It said that my film was “criminally self indulgent” and that “Adam Green sure is in the Adam Green business.” You’re damn fucking right and there’s no business I’d rather be in.   I don’t make movies for the paychecks or for the fame or for the glory.  I don’t make them for critics.  I make them for an audience that has learned to expect nothing less than for me to always put my entire heart and soul into each and every project I commit to.  Being me is all I can be and all I ever will be.  That’s what makes my movies my movies.  My willingness to dig deep and expose my true self is exactly what makes each one of my films worth watching.

So keep digging up your own “Marrow”.  There’s nothing to be afraid of.  Trust me.  I’ve been down there and I lived to tell about it.  You will, too.

Marrow holeDown in my “Marrow” hole …and back again.

-Adam Green  (March 2015)

 

FROZEN TURNS 5

 

5 years ago this weekend, FROZEN world premiered at the Sundance Film festival in Park City, UT.  It is hard to believe just how fast time has flown since then. Sundance 2010 still remains one of the best moments of my career and watching just how well FROZEN was received is still one of my greatest personal triumphs. It was such a joy to hear people in the audience (most of whom still didn’t know what I looked like back then as HOLLISTON had not yet happened) say “Three people in a chair? This will never work.” right in front of me… and then watch so many of those same people become exhausted, emotionally devastated, sweaty lumps in their seats over the next 94 minutes. And I truly owe it all to my fantastic crew and my three fearless actors who never quit on me no matter how many times I may have broken them with what I put them through. Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, and Kevin Zegers are still three of my biggest heroes and the movie never would have worked without them. While early reviews show signs that next month’s DIGGING UP THE MARROW is going to give FROZEN a critical run for its money, FROZEN is still my best reviewed movie to date in the mainstream press worldwide. (HATCHET 2, released only 7 months later that very same year, is a close second as far as positive mainstream reviews go.)  The more time that passes the more I hear from people who ski or snowboard how they heard complete strangers talking about the movie while waiting in line for the lift at various ski mountains. Even more specifically, the conversations often include someone fearfully saying that they don’t want anyone in their group to mention FROZEN when they are on the lift.  The MacGyver’s of the world continue to debate “what they would do” and so many interviews I do (for completely different projects) wind up with the interviewer wanting to tell me their own ‘stuck on a ski lift’ story. And let’s not forget the absolute comedy of the now infamous review that slammed the film for the “fact” that the actors were “so obviously on a green screen and not really in the elements” and because “the wolves were poorly computer generated.” My actors (both human and canine) would still beg to differ with that critic. I love all of it. In the end, this simple yet insane idea struck a big chord and five years later I can only look back and wonder what we were thinking putting ourselves through such a brutal shoot. (“It’s just three people in a chair, how hard can it be?”)

Here are some rare behind the scenes photos, many of which you have likely never seen before…

FHI_6106 FHH_4126

Emma Bell was the very first person to audition.  She set the bar so high that no one else who came in after her could even compare.

FHH_5669

Kevin Zegers almost lost this gorgeous face to “Shadow”, one of the scarier wolves used in the film.  In the scene where the wolves surround “Dan”, you’ll see a black wolf walk right up to Kevin and start to sniff his hat.  If we left even one more frame in that shot you would have seen the trainers come running in to take “Shadow” away.  Though the other wolves all ignored Kevin while we shot that scene, “Shadow” really wanted to know where Kevin got that hat and if it came in “Wolf” size.

FHH_7775

No.  They weren’t in a studio against a fucking green screen.

FHI_4046

Emma bravely makes her way down the mountain.

FHI_5987 FHH_6439 FHH_6428 CIMG0736

Production Designer Bryan McBrien created a small ski lift set in the mountain’s parking lot where we could safely wire the performers in for stunts and vertically move the chair up and down for the make-up team to apply certain make-up effects.  So why not shoot the whole movie like this?  Why make everyone go up the real mountain?  Well, had we shot the whole movie this way I would have been completely limited in my available shots and angles.  The film would have had no scope whatsoever and the camera would have seen the lodge and the parking lot had I shot any other angles than the ones that we specifically designed this set for.  You can see the amazing forced-perspective set that Bryan built in Adam Barnick’s 90 minute “making of” special features on the Blu-Ray or DVD.  Still the best bonus features I’ve ever seen on an indie release, ever.

FHI_5840FHH_6428

Some last minute direction before shooting.  You’ll notice the yellow safety harness I am wearing.  That’s because Will Barratt and I were the ones operating the two 35mm cameras for all of the scenes where the chair lift was actually moving.  (All of the scenes where the chair was stuck were shot using a 50′ Panavision techno crane that was operated safely from the ground.) The grip department built a rig that allowed Will and I to hang in front of the actor’s chair but no one in the camera department felt safe shooting that way.  I bravely said I would just shoot it myself… and then almost pee’d myself once I was up there.  When I was looking through the lens I was OK because it didn’t seem real.  But when I’d take my face away from the glass to change a lens or speak to the actors…I was terrified.  Will was way more brave than I was.

FHH_6439

The rig/bucket that Will and I hung in to shoot the scenes where the chair was moving.

FHI_0220

“Maverick” was so beautiful that it was a challenge to do as Sled Reynolds (our trainer) said and NOT try and pet him or make eye contact with him.  As an animal lover it was hell for me to follow instructions and obey the rules. But…

FHI_2093

…thankfully Sled allowed me my chance on the last day of shooting with the wolves.

FHI_3503

Even though Shawn had safety pads in his jacket and even though this was a wolf/shepherd hybrid (not one of the pure bred wolves), it was still a scary day of filming.  Especially for Ashmore.

FHI_5987

Emma Bell truly gave me everything she had.  I adore her.

FHI_6106

Shawn still has marks from the safety harness he had to wear to do these stunts.  The pain you see on his face in the movie is very, very real.  The wide shots of “Lynch’s” climb across the cables were performed up on the actual mountain by stunt man Chester Tripp, but we filmed Shawn’s close-up angles in the parking lot’s forced perspective set.

FHI_5840

The real heroes of FROZEN.  Together we conquered a mountain.

Somehow we did it.  Thankfully I have a crew/family that just hasn’t figured out how to say “no” to me yet. Without them I could never accomplish a goddamn thing. So as Sundance 2015 begins this weekend, I say “Happy birthday FROZEN!”

And stay off the slopes, you guys.  Skiing kills.

-AG
FHI_3503 FHI_2093

The 2014 “Year End” Blog

2014 was chock full of painful kicks to the nuts, extremely difficult life changes, frustration, heartbreak, grief, and more deaths than I hope to ever have to mourn in one calendar year ever again.  At this point I’m just happy to see the eternal 365 days that were 2014 finally end.  However, even through all of the hard times, 2014 did still manage to somehow shine an occasional bright ray of light and even the most devastating events can now be looked upon with clarity and even appreciation as odd as that may sound.  Lessons were learned, strength was found, and even in the darkest hours there were positive moments that prevailed.   As anyone who has spent time being put through life’s proverbial wringer can attest, it’s never easy to see a light at the end of the tunnel while you’re still careening through it.  But we’re heading into a brand new year so even as I look back at such a difficult period of my life with honesty, I’m gonna try and do so with as much of a positive spin as possible and start 2015 off right by standing back up strongly on my own two feet.  As always, this annual reflective purge is gonna be a long one and possibly take you until next year’s “Year End Blog” is up to get through.  So make some popcorn, grab a case of Coke, and let’s begin…

DUTM_ONESHEETsmall

The official theatrical poster for the US, released today through Entertainment Weekly.

This year DIGGING UP THE MARROW was finished, we world premiered it in London, it was wonderfully received, and it was snatched up for distribution and is due out in the US on February 20th (theatrical and VOD – details coming).  Given what an experimental project MARROW was, its success to date is most certainly something to be celebrated and I’m beyond proud of all of the talented artists I was lucky enough to get to work with in all facets of the production.  I especially look at what people like Alex Pardee, Greg Aronowitz, Robert Pendergraft, Sam Balcomb and their hard working and talented crews accomplished with the film’s creature work and I’m not only grateful that I personally got to live (on screen) in this fantastical world we created but humbled just to be part of the same project as the crew that I so closely collaborated with on it.  A few weeks ago I finally got to show MARROW to Ray Wise (who is not only the film’s lead actor, but also the only person in the film not playing himself) and his unbridled excitement and exuberant pride over what we created had me walking on air for the rest of the month.  Watching Ray smile, laugh, and jump out of his seat several times was incredibly rewarding and ranks up there with one of my favorite parts of the film’s journey so far.  Seriously, watching Ray Wise get scared and jump off of my couch from a Ray Wise jump scare…?  What beats that feeling?!  We’re all just as anxious as you are for the film to come out for the public to see.  

IMG_35272

The incomparable and legendary Ray Wise as “William Dekker”.

For those that still don’t know much about DIGGING UP THE MARROW or what it even is, don’t feel like you’ve missed something or been left out.  We purposely held back most details until now as we wanted to keep the film as ambiguous as possible until just before it was ready to be released.  We even went as far as to say that we were making “a documentary about monster art” when the film was first announced just so that we could operate completely under the radar while we took our time making it.  I’ve said this before, but if you want to get everyone to look the other way while you attempt something experimental and weird just say the words “art documentary” and watch how fast they turn their sights in any other direction.  This was for no reason other than the fact that we didn’t want to frustrate anyone in the media by denying them production updates, casting news (especially when there wasn’t really a standard “cast” to speak of), set visits (there were very few actual “sets” and only a few fully constructed environments that production designer Travis Zariwny and his crew built), or the ability to come to any kind of preconceived notions about the film we were making.  Being completely honest, even we didn’t know if what we were attempting to create was even going to work let alone how to explain it in a neat little log-line, so keeping details contained to only the small hand-picked group of artists that made up our creative collective turned out to be the best way to go about this particular production.  We knew that making MARROW was potentially going to be a long process and the last thing we wanted was to put pressure on ourselves to finish and release it within a time frame that the public would deem acceptable.  Consider that two full seasons of HOLLISTON, CHILLERAMA, and HATCHET 3 were all made during the same time period that we made MARROW and hopefully you understand what I mean.  Cool, so what is it then, Green?  I thought I’d never ask…

DekkerWall

William Dekker’s “work” is disturbing business.

DIGGING UP THE MARROW is a pseudo documentary where we used our real lives as the foundation for a frightening fantasy.  In real life I had received fan-mail back in 2010 from someone claiming that the legend of “Victor Crowley” is actually a true story and that I had messed up the “facts” in my mythology for the villainous ghost that served as the backbone for the HATCHET films.  One of the more creative works of fan-fiction I’ve received to date, this package came complete with images of “the actual swamp” where “Victor Crowley” supposedly grew up and I enjoyed the hell out of it when I read it, even if I wasn’t quite sure whether or not the individual who wrote it was indeed crazy or not.  Of course in real life I made up “Victor Crowley” when I was merely a child at summer camp as chronicled in the terrific special features that producer Sarah Elbert created for the DVD/BLU-RAY release of the first HATCHET film – watch her documentaries included on the disc if you never have!  When that particular piece of fan-mail arrived we were just coming off of FROZEN’s world premiere at Sundance and for the past year we had been brainstorming ideas for something to make on our own.  Something that only we could make using all of our assets (which potentially meant even using ourselves as subject matter) and something completely independent with no one else to answer to much like what Will Barratt and I did way back in the day when we were first starting out with COFFEE & DONUTS – our first movie and what ultimately became known as HOLLISTON.  For a very brief few minutes I actually toyed with the idea of contacting the person who had sent it and heading down to Louisiana with cameras to make a documentary about their outrageous claims.  ”Maybe it would make for a fun special feature or on-line companion piece when HATCHET 2 comes out later this year, guys?”  But then it was pointed out that my fun little side project wouldn’t be so fun if or when this particularly delusional and possibly insane person “DELIVERANCED” my ass out in a New Orleans swamp.   Not wanting to produce anything that could potentially stain the love for my “Victor Crowley” character’s mythology among fan’s of the HATCHET films or something that could result in me being forced to “squeal like a pig”, I didn’t give that idea a second thought and I tossed the package.  (Side note, save for artwork or other appropriate gifts that may come in for me, I throw everything out once I’ve read it as saving it all would be weird and some of if contains very personal stuff that was intended for only I to read.)  However, only a short while later I met artist Alex Pardee while doing an appearance at a horror convention and he handed me a pamphlet for one of his more recent art exhibits called DIGGING UP THE MARROW where the story-line behind it was awesomely similar in concept.  Whenever Alex does an exhibit he goes much further than merely displaying his latest artwork on fancy walls for people to marvel at and instead creates a full-on storyline to go with the exhibit that you are looking at.  Alex’s story behind MARROW was that a former police detective named “William Dekker” had discovered a world beneath our very feet where “monsters” indeed exist and had commissioned Alex to paint the inhabitants of “the Marrow.”  And.. boom.  It all clicked.

MarrowBooklet

The art exhibit pamphlet Alex Pardee handed me in 2010.

To write too much about how we did it or how some of the film’s most unconventional decisions were made would be premature and very much “spoilers” at this point, so I’ll hold off on that stuff until the movie is actually released.  What I can say now is that this collaboration was one for the books and the love affair between all involved with making this film is one of legend.  We had such a blast while we pushed, challenged, and helped each other make this film and 4 years later Alex Pardee is one of my closest friends.  Alex and his artwork have become a gigantic source of inspiration for me and in some ways just having him as part of my life has helped push me forward in my never ending quest to improve as a storyteller.  And the same goes for MARROW’s creature sculptor Greg Aronowitz who was another incredible talent that I had the honor of working with for the first time on this film.  While I was already more than familiar with Greg’s work (look up his credits, he’s been an integral part of many of your favorite Hollywood blockbusters, too), his friendship and experience not only as an artist but also as a director himself instantly made him a cherished part of the ArieScope family.  We’ve jokingly used the term “manipumentary” when describing the sub genre that this film should be categorized within since MARROW is essentially a manipulated documentary at the heart of it.  Even though it is told in the documentary format, it can’t be called a “documentary” because it is a controlled and scripted narrative that dives (or digs) into a fantasy world where monsters are indeed real.  At the same time the movie can’t really be called a “mocumentary” because almost everyone in the film is truly portraying themselves and allowing the cameras into their real lives, not to mention the basic fact that MARROW isn’t a comedy and that most of the people you’ll see in the movie didn’t know what we were actually making or the bigger picture story that they were a part of telling.  Most involved only knew their scenes, pages, or lines.  And MARROW is certainly not a “found footage” movie either, although we sadly fear that some may try and label the film as such when trying to place it in a pre-established box.  By definition a “found footage” movie leans on the concept that what you are watching is supposedly un-edited footage that is being shown to you exactly as it just so happened to be captured on camera before being found/discovered.  MARROW is presented as an edited documentary complete with eerie sound design by Matt Waters and a wonderfully creepy score by Bear McCreary.  Hell, even in keeping MARROW feeling “real” there are merely only a few seconds of “shaky-cam” in the entire feature film.  So label the movie whatever you decide to label it but to us, DIGING UP THE MARROW is simply a narrative, scripted feature film told in an unconventional manner and one that we hope you find incredibly interesting and enjoyable.  Repeat viewings should prove to be quite fun as you will likely notice new things.  Or think that you did!

IMG_3957

Bet you can’t find where Alex Pardee is hiding in this picture!

I gotta be honest, it’s unsettling to sit through screenings of MARROW and watch this surreal time capsule of my life play out.  Keep in mind that MARROW’s journey started for me in January 2010 and the film was shot in intervals over the course of the next 3 years.  Though we had screened a “work-in-progress” cut back in December of 2013 when Harry Knowles (excited by the unfinished version I had shown him) was kind enough to include MARROW in his annual top secret ButtNumbAThon 24-hour film marathon.  Alex and I nervously showed up in Austin, TX and surprised the unsuspecting audience around 6am with the first ever glimpse at what we were actually making (and received a phenomenal response) but the film was actually only completed-completed merely 5 months ago.  By the time we world premiered the finished movie to an audience this past August at FrightFest in London, so much had already changed for me in my personal life.  Watching the screen and seeing Dave Brockie in his “Oderus Urungus” costume say “…and after I’m dead I’ll be a dead monster” (shot backstage before HOLLISTON’s San Diego Comic Con panel two years before his sudden death) or watching scenes play out that show me at home with my (now) ex-wife… it’s painful for me and in many ways it doesn’t even seem like it was ever my real life in the first place.  But that’s the risk I took with the entire concept of MARROW and regardless of how my personal life may have taken a few sad turns since shooting it, I’m still glad I took that risk as it is that real life aspect of the story that makes MARROW so unique as a film.  Like I said above, I’ll save my full analysis and “look back” on making MARROW until the film is about to come out or until it has been out for awhile and you’ve had ample opportunity to see it.  Thankfully there will not be many more times when I have to personally sit through the movie while in a theater full of people that I know are all uncomfortably thinking “wow, this part must be hard for Green to watch” when certain things play out on the screen.  At one point I even considered re-cutting the movie to remove such scenes since I had the luxury of doing so before world premiering it this past August.  But after discussing that idea with my fellow collaborators on the film, it was decided that those moments are only in there in the first place because they are part of the story and serve an expositional purpose in the narrative.  Removing them would only be a disservice to the movie even if those moments might personally make me feel uncomfortable now.  After all, as real and honest as so much of MARROW might be, at the end of the day it’s still a movie.  The blending of real life and fantasy is precisely what makes DIGGING UP THE MARROW what it is, so who would I have been to alter or re-cut the film just to address my own personal issues in watching it at a handful of public screenings?  DIGGING UP THE MARROW isn’t for me anymore.  It’s for the audience that pays to see it.  Sure, some moments might hurt for me to watch, but thankfully I can distance my real life from it enough to see it for what it is.  And in the end I’m really, really proud of it.

IMG_2537

 Me, Alex Pardee, and Will Barratt. DIGGING UP THE MARROW, summer 2013.

DIGGING UP THE MARROW’s theatrical, VOD, DVD/BLU-RAY, and all other release info (including the official trailer) is all coming in just a matter of days.  And yes, you will be able to pre-order autographed copies of the DVD and Blu-Ray in our BUY STUFF store as soon as we are allowed to post the final artwork and DVD/BLU-RAY release date.  Soon!  So soon!  And if you have yet to pick up any of the variant teaser posters that we have for sale in the store here on this site, I highly suggest you do so soon.  When they’re gone, they’re gone…

corriAdamfacebook

Don’t cry, HOLLISTON fans.  It ain’t over yet…

I know that it sucks for fans of HOLLISTON that it has been in “TV show purgatory” since Dave Brockie’s death and FEARnet being shut down, but that doesn’t mean the show is over.  You’re probably just as sick of hearing me say that as I am of saying it, but not a day goes by that I don’t hear from someone asking me what the latest news is so I’d be remiss if I didn’t address it in this “2014″ blog.  At this particular moment I may not have the good news you’ve been waiting for, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t possibly have that good news soon.  A big reason why I hold back on sharing current details is that TWICE now we’ve been told that we were ready to go only to have the most random thing put a stop to it.  At one point the arrangements for our return were so real that I even wrote the first few episodes of Season 3 “in good faith” (one of the most ironic legal terms used in the entertainment business as it almost always ends with the one being asked to have faith also being the one done wrong for daring to actually be trusting and have faith in another human being or company- but hey, “it’s just business, man”) and delivered them to the cast to start working on… only to have to sadly tell them “false alarm” merely a few weeks later.  It’s just the sad nature of this slow moving and uncertain business and why you should never say anything publicly until you know without a doubt that things are for real and that there is no possible turning back.  Given what we’ve been put through since our last day of shooting Season 2, for the longest time I couldn’t even think about HOLLISTON and all of us who work on the show needed to step away and focus on other things, our real lives, and new projects while we healed.  Every TV show endures it’s fair share of storms, but man have we collectively weathered a shit tornado together in 2014.  Since Season 2 aired in 2013 there have been births, deaths, marriages, divorces, cross country relocations, and new projects for all of us.  You know the stories.  In hindsight, I’m thankful that we were already on hiatus when the hits started coming our way.  What would we have done if we were in the middle of making Season 3 when all of the bad stuff went down?  Even if we had finished shooting Season 3 before the shit hit the fan… then what?  Would Season 3 be bound in legal and financial red tape and stuck on a shelf forever had FEARnet licensed it and then been closed down?  What if we had been forced to make Season 3 and make a contractual delivery date while still reeling from the tragic loss of our friend and co-star or while I was in the middle of the worst times in trying to emotionally recover from my own divorce?  What if I had still been down for the count and physically unable to promote it or had to cancel all scheduled appearances and live shows?  I look back now and I am so grateful that HOLLISTON was able to be put on hold for 2014 as I could barely make it through each day let alone lead a production or be on my best creative point.  So yeah, even the set backs and hurdles all happened for a reason.  I know that fans of the show are anxious for another season and I know how much it sucks still not having any kind of official word or time frame on when or if the show will return, but just maybe everything happened the way it did for a purpose?  Maybe when I write next year’s “year end blog” there will be a whole section on what an incredible time we had making Season 3?  Or maybe there will be a sad story on what crazy thing happened next that prevented the show from moving forward once again?  Perhaps… and I know no one wants to hear this, but it’s a possibility… next year’s “year end blog” will have a short paragraph explaining why I chose to walk away from my own show and call it a wrap?  Only time will tell but at the moment we’re all still feeling very confident that we’ll be back in the saddle before the end of 2015.  The fans in the Holliston Nation have been unbelievable with their faith, determination, and support.  While I’d give anything just to have Brockie back and to not have had any of the other bad circumstances happen (while FEARnet going under may not directly effect the future of HOLLISTON since we have always owned the rights to the show, let’s not forget all of the great people and all of our personal friends who worked for the network or who wrote for the FEARnet website that were suddenly left unemployed when the hammer fell)… the positive that I can choose to take out of it all personally was that I experienced a whole new side of my own fans.  I saw tremendous strength, true compassion, and a wonderful side of humanity that I never would have fully realized had those events not happened.  Especially the way that fans poured out their support when Brockie left us.  The cards, the gifts, the letters, the on-line postings, the turn out at Dave’s memorial, and most of all the tears that were shed not only because Dave was taken from us but because the fans deeply felt for us and what we were going through.  The hurt may still be there and will of course never fully go away, but I have a ton to be thankful for and my entire world got a little bit smaller and a little bit better because I went through all of it.  Am I reaching here to find some positive in all of this?  Yeah, probably.  But I can either keep wallowing in pity and crying over how “it’s not fair“… or I can slap myself in the face, say “suck it up, asshole”, and try and find some good in all of it.  We recently aired a “HOLLISTON REUNION” episode of The Movie Crypt podcast where Joe, Laura, Corri, and I spilled absolutely everything on where we’ve been and where we’re at with a future season … plus we gave the fans a fun little surprise at the end when the podcast seamlessly turns into a new, fully scripted radio play episode of HOLLISTON.  It was our way of saying “we’re still alive” and the response from our fans was overwhelming and extremely touching.  It was a lot of work to pull off but man was it worth it.  Haven’t heard it yet?  Listen to the episode for FREE on iTunes or directly on Geek Nation right here.

Holliston_Season 2_090412_JPEGS 64

The empty HOLLISTON set.  See you again in 2015…?

As I mentioned above, for any one professional setback (like HOLLISTON’s damnation to purgatory or my more recent exit from directing CROOKED LAKE after losing almost a full year of my life to it) I can produce more than a handful of iron clad reasons why the projects that got delayed or simply didn’t happen weren’t actually setbacks at all but were indeed blessings or (in some cases) full-on bullets that I dodged.  Looking at my own personal growth as a human being, I think that prior to 2014 I’d typically look at any kind of hurdle or unwanted change in my life as “the end of the world.” Hey, I have an enormously passionate and dramatic heart, get over it.  But one good thing that my own personal hardships of 2014 taught me is how to look at difficult situations objectively once I can have sincere clarity that isn’t clouded by my admittedly overpowering emotions.  Once I reach the point where I can step back and see things for what they are or see where their paths were ultimately heading for me had I stayed on them… it’s possible to find gifts hidden in the rubble.  Sorry to get all metaphysical on you, but for the first half of the year when I was hurting the worst (especially in the early Spring when both my marriage and one of my closest friends died within mere days of each other), I often found myself spending long hours talking to Dave.  He is everywhere you look here at ArieScope as the office/studio and edit suite walls are adorned with various posters and promotional photographs from the first two seasons of HOLLISTON among all of the other films and projects that we’ve created over the past 17 years.  In our “talks” I’d ask Dave for help on certain things now that he was hopefully my guardian angel for real and not just playing my guardian angel on the show.  Though talking to him may have been cathartic and while it may have helped me process what I was going through simply by speaking my troubled mind out loud… I’d often wind up angry and disappointed when the very things I was asking Dave to help me with panned out the completely opposite way.  (Hmmm… life imitating art?)

Dave Adam BW

Dave telling me what to do with my life.  (Season 2 rehearsal – August 2012.)

Here’s where I lose a bunch of you reading this blog, but I understand if I do and I don’t mind.  A close friend of mine is a very respected clairvoyant and while it’s too long a story to get into here and now… if you can have faith in whatever religion or other belief system that works for you, trust that as far fetched and weird as it may sound, I’ve had enough “can’t possibly explain it any other way” experiences over the 14 years I’ve been lucky to have known Marilyn that my talks/”tune-in” sessions with her are something that I now always walk away from considering very seriously.  I try to never touch on religion, politics, or other heavy stuff like that since, after all, I’m just a guy who makes movies and who cares what I think about that stuff?  I have no answers to life’s bigger picture questions so you shouldn’t look to me for any.  Again, I might lose a bunch of you here but in my communication with Dave I expressed how angry I was that after asking him for such very specific help, so many things didn’t turn out even remotely like I was asking and praying for them to.  I’d say how let down I was that, as one of my “guides”, he didn’t help rectify things or help change their course.  The response I got was always the same.  “Who says I didn’t fucking help you?  Just wait.”  Maybe you can’t possibly subscribe to believing in the existence of “another side” or that anyone has the ability to communicate with those we love who have crossed over to it.  Maybe you find your guidance and strength in something more popular like organized religion.   Maybe you believe in nothing.  Whatever your own thing may personally be… if it works for you I say “great!”  The point in all of it is, like Mick Jagger sang: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.”  Looking back at 2014 and the events and situations that I could only see as being the end of my world at the time… truer words may have never been spoken/sang.  You’ll never really know until it’s all over and you’re at the end of your story.  So whether or not there really is another side and whether you really had something to do with it all or not… thank you for not helping me get what I wanted, Dave.  I understand now.

The_Movie_Crypt_Shirt-LOGO2

Sing along… “It’s the Movie Crypt!”

Still with me?  Don’t think I’ve lost my mind?  Really??  Well, OK then!  Like I said earlier, 2014 did manage to have its share of bright moments and doing the weekly Movie Crypt podcast provided many of those for me.  It’s such a joy to sit down for 2+ hours each week and discuss not only each guest’s individual career path but also the very personal stories and struggles that each artist has been through on their journey.  Every guest has something to learn from and every recording leaves both Lynch and I walking away feeling just as inspired as our audience is from hearing these recorded conversations.  2014 was relentless in terms of incredible Movie Crypt guests and not a single episode recording felt like an obligation as much as it felt like a gift.  (Hey, not getting to spend enough quality time with your friends?  Create yet another unpaid job for yourself that forces you to sit down together with no distractions and talk for 120 minutes or more each week.)  From Darren Bousman’s epic 3 hour episode filled with his own shocking tales from the trenches, to Zachary Levi’s inspirational life outlook, to Jordan Peele’s amazing and well deserved success story, to Dee Snider’s very personal and grounded guidance, to Bobcat Goldthwait’s unmatched honesty and humor, to Luke Greenfield’s unbelievable “Steven Spielberg letter”, to Seth Green’s straight shooting advice, to Rachael Leigh Cook proving just how kind and real people in Hollywood can actually be, to Slash’s humble storytelling and compliments to Joe and I about HOLLISTON, to Lexi Alexander’s extremely polarizing point of view on movie piracy, and everyone else who took the time out of their busy schedules to sit down with us and spill their guts… every week and every guest has been our favorite. We often joke that The Movie Crypt is like therapy, but it’s not “like” therapy… it is therapy.  Even during the times this year when things were feeling all but hopeless in my own life, the two hours or more each week I spent in that recording studio always helped get me back on my feet and moving forward again.  (Or at least crawling forward if I couldn’t exactly stand up on my own just yet.)    The latest numbers that were shared with us show that we now have over 300,000 weekly listeners and that was only Geek Nation’s direct numbers.  Factor in our iTunes numbers (which at the time of this blog have unfortunately not been shared with us) and our actual listenership is likely in fact even much, much higher.  2014 went out with a bang for us when this week’s issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY Magazine included THE MOVIE CRYPT in their “Top 20 Podcasts” list…

MovieCryptEW

 With over 285,000 podcasts on the internet… making EW’s “Top 20″ ain’t too shabby.

If you listen to the show regularly you’ve heard Joe and I mention a possible “end game” for the podcast in passing but rest assured that absolutely nothing has been decided and we don’t plan on going anywhere just yet.  We just have a lot to consider as we rapidly approach our 100th episode and the 2 year anniversary of the podcast.  With how successful our show has become we just need to figure out a scenario that makes more sense for us personally.  We’ll get there, don’t worry.

Arwen4

Arwen may not ask a lot of questions when we interview podcast guests, but she has the answers to the hard hitting ones like “Who’s a good girl? and “Who wants a treat?”

Of course I couldn’t post a blog about 2014 without a few picture of Arwen.  If you follow me on Instagram than you know more about what Arwen did this year than what I did.  I bombarded my account with #DailyArwen photos and she became the unofficial third host of The Movie Crypt (she’s even featured front and center on the T-shirt) by being included in every guest photo this year.  So what gives?  Sure, everyone loves a cute dog picture from time to time and of course every dog owner thinks the world needs to see pictures of their dog eating, sitting, sleeping, or recording a podcast.  My non-stop Arwen posts probably got to be a little much, but in a time period of my life when I was feeling at my worst nothing made me happy like Arwen did and continues to do.   That’s certainly nothing against my two cats (Tyler and Perry), mind you.  They just don’t mug for the camera like Arwen does and they sadly don’t enjoy going with me everywhere I go.  This year I went through a long, long period of having nothing that I cared to share on social networking.  Publicly I kept as stoic an on-line presence as possible and found joy in sharing whatever Arwen was doing at the time that made me smile.  If you follow me on social networking sites like Twitter or Instagram or Facebook then you know that I typically don’t post anything too personal or share any kind of negativity.  I have a love/hate relationship with our modern era of social networking.  On the plus side, it’s a fun way to keep people connected and given what I do for a career, it’s proven to be the absolute best possible way for me to maintain a strong relationship with the wonderful people in my growing fan base who truly make my days brighter with their all too kind personal messages to me.  Especially given that those sites consist of short bursts of information whether it be a 140 character tweet or a simple Instagram image.  I can’t post epic blogs/novels like this more than a couple times a year.  If it weren’t for social networking I never would have seen such amazing things as “Goats Yelling Like Humans” – a YouTube clip that embarrassingly still makes me laugh (hard) even after the 100th time I’ve watched it.  Never seen it??  Watch it here.  But for all the good that it does, social networking can also drive me crazy with the negativity, the griping, the complaining, the misinformed opinions, and the need that some people have to express their thoughts on anything and everything, 50 times a day, as loudly as they can.  For every incredibly important, insightful, intelligent, and life changing posting I see (“Goats Yelling Like Humans”) there are hundreds of postings crying for attention, making everyone else’s bad day even worse, or flooding people’s feeds minute by minute with someone’s every thought.  But if I can post about an ArieScope on-line sale, information about my upcoming films, or sickeningly cute pictures of my dog… then of course everyone else on-line has the right to tell the world that they are stuck in traffic, that their coffee isn’t hot enough, that they don’t like Mondays, or that some other terrible tragedy has befallen them however undeservingly so.  If you’ve ever looked at my feed when I am going through the unfortunate events that always seem to plague me when undergoing air travel, then you know that I too can be guilty of the very same thing.   Hey, I’m not perfect either and I’m not picking on the individual people who do any of the things listed above that bother me.  That’s what the “mute” or “unfollow” buttons are for and it’s nothing personal when I take advantage of those options.  I’m just saying that I personally try my best to keep anything negative to myself and I choose not to contribute to or look at anything upsetting or unnecessarily distracting being thrown my way.  So while I was undergoing my own personal crisis, mourning, and grief, Arwen became my go-to for… well… for everything.  She has become my bona fide living security blanket and I rarely spend a minute without her.  She comes to work with me every day, she’s on set, in my dressing room, in editing, at every podcast, at meetings, at every social gathering… she even has her own “desk” at ArieScope.  Yeah, somehow I became that guy.  The one who walks around with a small dog under his arm wherever he goes.  As a barista at a well known coffee chain once said to me, “A dog like that belongs on a women’s arm.”  Well, you’re probably right but fuck you.  Dunkin Donuts is better anyway.

ArwenMorningBath

Arwen making the sun shine again.  Who knew that all I needed was a bath?

I found myself explaining Arwen’s constant presence by telling people that “she gets separation anxiety when she’s not near me” but the truth is that I am the one who gets the separation anxiety.  If you had told me back when I was growing up with Dobermans and Rottweilers as my family dogs that someday I’d be this attached and in love with a Yorkie, I wouldn’t have believed you.  But then again I get insanely attached to any animal I come into contact with in just seconds.  I once posted a blog all about how I’m kind of like “Snow White” and how injured animals come to me because they somehow seem to know that I’ll take care of them.  Over the years, sick or injured squirrels, possum, birds, ducks, cats, and even chickens have all found their way to my doorstep or literally limped their way into the ArieScope office. I can’t even drive by road kill without it ruining my entire day.  True story- I once went home from school crying in 6th grade after another kid stomped on my Sea Monkeys and killed them because “Sea Monkeys are gay.”  I’d say that I hope that same guy is blowing dudes for meth behind a Lynn dumpster today… but I’m not bitter.  (Plus, last I heard, that asshole wound up in even worse circumstances as he grew up so karma apparently already found him and fisted him hard.)  Point is, if you’re not someone who has ever understood the incredible benefits of having a pet and if you’ve never experienced the unconditional love that comes with a dog or cat’s heart… you’re missing out.  Maybe your circumstances are such that you can’t personally rescue one of the zillions of dogs or cats sitting in shelters all over the world praying for a person of their own to take them in before they get euthanized.  Maybe you hear through a friend that they know of a dog who had a litter of puppies in need of good homes (that’s how Arwen happened) but you can’t personally do anything to help.  I get it and I’m not trying to make you feel guilty for not owning a dog or cat of your own.  In fact, better to NOT take an animal in if you’re not equipped to take care of it properly and as if it were your child.  But if even just one person who reads this blog takes in a homeless dog or cat or donates just a dollar to a local animal shelter, this diatribe was worth it.  The below photo was taken when I was at the peak of my grieving this year and lying on the HOLLISTON apartment set couch (which at the time was located inside the ArieScope office) and feeling like I was dying.  Whenever I looked up, there was Arwen.  Literally watching over me 24/7 and doing her part to take care of me when I needed help.  I have no idea how I would have made it without her and she continues to be my rock every day.  So yeah… I posted an obscene amount of pictures of Arwen this year and that’s why.  She’s not just my family, my best friend, and my companion… she’s also my hero.

Arwen2

Arwen keeps a watchful vigil above me.  April 2014.

I’ll close by coming back around to the most positive aspect and the most powerful lesson I learned in 2014, which is the good, the support, and the strength that I found in other people.  I’m incredibly fortunate to come from a wonderful family and to have an unusually tight circle of friends that not everyone else is lucky enough to have, and I never take that for granted.  It’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in movies and in songs but this year I saw firsthand that the whole “If I got a call in the middle of the night that you needed me, I’d be there” concept is absolutely no bullshit.  As the poet Jon Bon Jovi sang, “Through the years and miles between us it’s been a long and lonely ride, but if I got that call in the dead of the night I’d be right by your side… blood on blood.”  Some of my closest friends are still the people I grew up with.  At this point, knowing some of these people for close to 4 decades, I am confident that no amount of time and no number of miles will ever change that.  When shit was at its worst this year I reached out to the lifelong friends who live nearby (how lucky am I that some of my oldest friends also happen to live in or close to LA even though almost all of them thankfully have nothing to do with Hollywood?) and said “I know we haven’t hung out in awhile but… I need you.” and they were there in an instant despite having their own busy schedules with work and children at home to take care of.  Another childhood friend even flew in from Colorado  just to “make sure for herself” that I was really OK upon hearing that I was going through some heavy shit.  Not a lot of people are as fortunate as I am to have friends that date all the way back to 1st grade.  Friends who never judge, guilt, or hold it against me for being so busy, for not being able to hang out as often as I’d like, for going long stretches of time when they barely hear from me because I’m on back to back productions, or for pursuing such a nonsensical and inherently narcissistic career.  They are still right by my side if needed, as if no time has passed at all, and they continue to cheer me on as loudly and as truly as they did way back in the day when I first said “I’m gonna be a filmmaker”.  Since relocating here to LA 15 years ago I’ve also been blessed to have made friends with some equally incredible people who have not only become just as important to me as my childhood friends but who can also effortlessly integrate themselves among those same lifelong friends as if they too grew up in Holliston, MA and have always been part of the family.  If it’s hard to comprehend why that’s such a big deal, try leaving a small Norman Rockwell town like Holliston behind and spend 15 years living in LA because your career aspirations dictate that you have to.  Don’t get me wrong, there are more good people than bad here and you don’t have to look all that hard to find incredibly nice people to spend your time with.  But having an abundance of friends that are “fun friends” and having friends that are truly “take a bullet for you” family are two very different things and I’m so, so lucky to have such incredible people from the latter category as part of my life.   While I’ve always been aware of my good fortune, I’ve never truly appreciated just how lucky I actually am until I was faced with this past year.  I guess that’s how it is supposed to work in theory though, right?  Someone goes through some seriously heartbreaking shit and their family/friends drop everything and come running?  Well, it was humbling to witness firsthand just how accurate that theory actually is.  The point in all of this (and I swear I’m getting to the point) is not to write an open “thank you” letter to the family that carried me through the moments this year when I needed them most.  Truth be told- my immediate family, childhood friends and “childhood friend equals” rarely read these blogs, or listen to my weekly podcast, or keep tabs on my daily Twitter feed because they’re just not into all of that stuff and, well, they already know whatever personal stuff I may be going through.  Although, come to think of it that actually may not be true.  Sometimes my mother knows what I’ve been up to before I call to tell her because she “saw it on Twitter” and she’ll probably read this whole blog (and then let me know whatever typos and grammatical errors I made)- so if you’re reading this blog… HI, MOM and please don’t ask me to explain what “fisting” is.  All of those people that have been with me through my life and who have helped make me the person that I am or helped keep me grounded as time has gone on… they know how I feel about them and how much I need them.   However, this year I saw not only how incredible my family and friends actually are but also just how amazing and important my fan base truly is to my life.

ArieScopeTattoos

Fan art.

I could write on and on about how much it matters when my fans support my work, wait in a long line to meet me at an appearance, buy something from the ArieScope website to help us keep going, or take the time out of their own lives to tell me how much what I do actually means to them.  A lot of people who do what I do have similar sentiments for the people that make their careers possible.  (At least I should hope so.)  But what I can’t put into accurate words is just how much I appreciate the way my fan base rallied behind me when my chips were down this year.   It’s impossible to describe just how much the sincere love they bestowed upon me actually helped get me through it so I won’t even try to or cheapen how I feel with an attempt at explaining it.  Instead I’ll just say THANK YOU.  I heard you, I felt you, and I love you.  Even more importantly… I needed you more than I ever realized.  It’s absolutely no bullshit whenever you hear me boldly declare that my fan base is superior to all others.  They are.  It goes so far beyond just “[Insert movie title] is my favorite movie, man!” or “I have all of your posters on my wall, dude!” or “I love you, man!”  There is a collective beating heart behind it all that runs way more personal and far deeper than that.  And I know I didn’t earn it because I’m some prodigal filmmaker or God’s gift to the art of storytelling in cinema and television.  I know that I’m far from the most talented individual making (or making up) their way through this industry.  So what did I do to deserve this?  Well, if there is a secret to be shared in any of it, I think it boils down to the fact that you attract back what you put out there and… me?  I have continuously put myself out there in a major way since Day 1.  My very first movie, the super indie $400 budget COFFEE & DONUTS made in 1999 (which due to rights issues will never be distributed but if you’ve seen HOLLISTON, trust that you’ve already seen the gist of C&D) was incredibly personal.  I used my real life, my first major heartbreak, and my struggle to “make it” as the storyline and I played myself in the movie.  A few years later it was HATCHET (my love letter to the old, fun slasher films that I grew up with) that first connected me to a very specific worldwide audience who just so happened to feel the same way I did about the state of the horror genre at the time.  With HATCHET I was also extremely open about my experience making the film and my crew and I chronicled every step of the journey in daily on-line journals and with extensive DVD/BLU-RAY bonus features that made that same particular audience feel like they knew all of us personally.  With FROZEN I shared many of my personal fears.  And I’m not just talking about the obvious ones like my fear of heights, being forgotten, claustrophobia, or death.  I’m talking about the real heart of the movie where the characters share their personal stories that are all directly taken from my real life.  As strange and irreverent as it may be, HOLLISTON couldn’t possibly be more personal and the show’s success can be directly correlated to how its fans emotionally connect and identify with the characters.  Every movie I’ve made has my real self in it in a major way.  Even the short films I’ve made for fun over the past 17 years now… like the one about my very real problem using public restrooms (STAGEFRIGHT), or Joe Lynch and I portraying slightly more idiotic versions of ourselves trying to get to a horror film festival in London (THE ROAD TO FRIGHTFEST series), or the first time I went to Mike Mendez’s annual Christmas party and was unprepared and unaware that there would be a gift exchange (WINTER TALES “GIFTS”), or The Movie Crypt podcast and everything else in between… all I’ve ever been is myself.  I know, I know…”How dare I?”  I don’t have an answer to that, I guess I just dare to.  ”Who does this guy think he is?”  Well, given that I use my weaknesses, failures, heart breaks, shortcomings and personal flaws as subject matter… I’m not exactly sure how to answer that one either.  I’m not doing anything that countless other story tellers don’t do, although in some cases I may literally put myself into my work which is not something that too many others do, I guess.  But I’ve always shared myself in a way that’s a lot more open and honest than some may be comfortable with or understand.   And to be clear, I don’t share details from my current personal day to day life as much as I share my past experiences and feelings.  There is a difference between it all and hey, I need to have a private life, too.  Point is, if I had to put my finger on the reason why I am so fortunate to have the kind of fans that I have… I think it’s because I receive back the heart that I am willing to share.  It’s the difference between getting letters about why someone loves something I’ve made and requesting an autograph… and having someone write to you simply to tell you that they’re thinking of you because they know you are hurting or leaving a very sincere “chin up, dude” type posting on Facebook or a 4 page handwritten letter telling you what you mean to them.  And fuck, does that mean the world to hear.  For instance, last week I heard from a young fan of what I do that she would be listening to The Movie Crypt podcast over Christmas while undergoing and recovering from yet another (but hopefully FINAL) cancer treatment.  A girl far too young to have to be facing that kind of ordeal, but she is.  Bravely and head on.  The same day I heard from several different individuals that were stationed overseas as part of their military duties who were watching my films, listening to the podcast, or enjoying the Holliston Christmas Special while they spent their holidays endless miles away from home.  I hear from people on an all too regular basis who are struggling with even heavier burdens than I can comprehend.  Though in an ideal world my wish would be that I would never receive messages like those simply because NO ONE should ever have to live through such things as life threatening illness, death, going to war, suicidal feelings, despair, depression, deeply personal loss, heartbreak, divorce, and far more…  hearing directly from real people about how something I do is helping them through terrible hardships makes every painful struggle that I myself endure completely worth it.  And I don’t just mean within my career.  I’m also referring to things within my own personal life that I don’t often choose to share in any detail.  Especially with HOLLISTON which is the one I hear about most when it comes to someone leaning on the show to heal, find inspiration, or to be able to laugh at their own hard times in order to keep going and get through whatever it may be they are facing… it reminds me just how worth it this difficult journey has been and how fortunate I am to be in the position that I am in.   The door really does swing both ways.  For all of my cheerleading and “never give up” bravado that I put out to whoever might be listening… the honest truth is that I want to give up and quit at least twice every single day.  Those messages, postings, letters, tweets… they keep me going and remind me not just that what I do matters, but that I matter.  Can a horror film, a candid podcast, or putting my real life on display in the form of a sit-com ever matter enough to change the world?  Probably not.  But it absolutely can matter enough to change an individual’s world in a positive way.

So to finally pull this novel all together… it was a shit year full of trials, tribulations, and hard times.  But thanks to my wonderful family, my dearest of friends, my unbelievable fans, and the unconditional love of a Yorkshire Terrier… I’m still here, I’m still going strong, and I’m going to be alright.  Although I may have never been happier to see a year come to an end, at the same time I am grateful for all the good that this same terrible year succeeded in showing me.  I’m grateful for all that I actually have.  And I’m eternally grateful for all of you.  Tomorrow is a new year, a new day, and a new story to be told.  In a few weeks, 2015 will kick off with the release of DIGGING UP THE MARROW which is fittingly my most personal film to date.  The achievement will come with reactions ranging from praise… to criticism… to “thank you” letters from fans… to deeply personal attacks against me.  So as I strap on a helmet and brace myself for whatever is heading my way that I brought upon myself simply by being me, I ask myself… is it worth it?  FUCK YES.  Not just because there is nothing else I know how to be or would ever want to be, but because you make it worth it.

And with that I put 2014 to bed once and for all and dream of a 2015 filled with happiness, success, love, and dinosaurs.  Because dinosaurs are awesome.

ArwenAdam sleep

2014.  Adam and Arwen out.

-AG

16 Years of Halloween Fun

ArieScope Halloween

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…!”

Last week we launched our 16th annual ArieScope Halloween short film, “Happy Halloween”.  Starring our friends Shawn Ashmore (FROZEN, THE FOLLOWING, X-MEN) and Brea Grant (HEROES, DEXTER) and featuring the fantastic debut of Sam Barratt (Will’s youngest son), “Happy Halloween” was our biggest opening day for a Halloween short film in all 16 years of doing them.  Yes, even bigger than “Jack Chop” which took about a week to catch on and blow up into the viral hit that it eventually became- although “Happy Halloween” will never come close to “Jack Chop’s” popularity being that it’s a serious piece.  (Serious shorts aren’t exactly the “Oh my God, I need to forward this to all of my friends, family, and co-workers right away” kind of shorts.)  Moments after we launched the short our site was crashed by all of the people trying to view it.  It came back on-line just a little while later only to be crashed again.  And again.  And again.  All day long.  Even better… reactions have been phenomenally positive and we have yet to receive a single complaint over the fact that we chose to go “serious” with the concept this year instead of the usual irreverent and silly concepts that our audience has come to expect from us each year.  We try our best to never repeat ourselves with the Halloween shorts and to always surprise the fans in one way or another (down to the fact that we never reveal any information about them or say who will be in them until the moment they are released), thus no “Jack Chop 2″.  ”Jack Chop” was (to quote “Nicolo” himself) “one… and ya fahkin done, kid.”  Of course the “Nicolo” character has lived on as a re-occurring character in HOLLISTON, as a quick cameo in 2010′s Halloween short “Just Take One”, and he’ll be back again in something else one day, promise.  After “Jack Chop” became a big hit it was not easy to follow it up the next year as we knew that no matter what we did it would never stand a chance at hitting as big.  So we went for “cute” instead of “hilarity” when we did “Just Take One” in 2010.  But that’s how these shorts work.  Given how fortunate we are to always be so busy with our various “real” projects (films, the TV show, etc- not to mention our actual lives) and how hard it is to gather up so many members of our family all on the same night when they are each also incredibly busy… why do we still do it at all?  I thought you’d never hypothetically ask…

IMG_1827Brea Grant and Shawn Ashmore run lines together before filming.

In 1998, Will Barratt and I made a short film called “Columbus Day Weekend” where Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers stalked the same camp site and the two slasher icons ultimately fell in love with each other.  At the time, we were both working at Time Warner Cable in Boston, MA making low budget local commercials and therefore we had access to their production equipment, a perk we would ultimately abuse to the fullest extent just a year later when we made our first feature film COFFEE & DONUTS with the same “borrowed” BetaSP camera and basic lights.  ”Columbus Day Weekend” was something we made to show at my annual Halloween dinner party and it was never intended to be shown publicly anywhere else or become our calling card and do anything for our careers.  (We would have tried much harder if that was the case!)  We figured we’d show it at my party for a laugh and that would be it.  But it changed so many things for us, starting with the fact that in order to properly mimic the opening credits of a FRIDAY THE 13TH film we needed a production company name.  We quickly came up with the name “ArieScope” because we’re both Aries and “scope” sounded “film-ish” to us… plus we needed something on the spot right then and there if we were to screen the short at that night’s party.  (So by “quickly came up with it” I literally mean that we came up with the word in less than a minute.  After all, it was just gonna be used one time, right?)  We altered a Dodge ram logo from a commercial we were currently working on at work (Allen Mello Dodge in Nashua, NH), slapped it on the front of the short, and figured that would be the end of that.

OLD ArieScope LogoOur original logo.  Sorry Dodge!

16 years, 9 feature films (so far), 2 seasons of a TV show (so far) and 60+ short films (so far) later… the rest is history and the name “ArieScope” has not only stuck but also now means something to so many genre fans around the world.  ”Columbus Day Weekend” wound up being passed around all over and even though it was incredibly amateur and silly (really, it’s not very good at all), it eventually garnered the attention of folks at a major Hollywood talent agency and not too long after that I had packed my bags and was driving 3,000 miles away from home to chase the impossible dream of becoming a professional filmmaker… and that’s where the struggle really began.  Keep in mind that this was long before streaming video on the internet so “Columbus Day Weekend” was being dubbed over and over again on VHS and this was also at a time when not every single person and their mother was making short films with fairly decent quality equipment.  These days if “Columbus Day” was to be made and passed around it would be laughed at (for the wrong reasons) and probably would have been more of an embarrassment than an achievement.  But that’s also exactly why we don’t hide it from our fan base and why we keep EVERYTHING up on this website for all to see.

MPAA

The first official ArieScope office in Hollywood, CA – 2005.  The journey has been full of hard times and beat downs.

It would be a fair argument to say that we should only keep our best work on this website now that we have the careers we are so fortunate to have doing this stuff professionally.  A sane industry professional might say that we should hide the early amateur stuff or any of the “just for fun” projects that maybe didn’t work out all that well in the end.  But given the massive amount of aspiring and up and coming filmmakers that have begun to look to us for inspiration over the years, we think that it’s encouraging and helpful to show our scars and let everyone see just how it all started and how we’ve continued to hone our craft over the years.  Every artist has a beginning and as nice as it would be to make people believe that the very first thing you did worked out perfectly or that everything you attempt to make turns out great… well, that’s just not true for anyone.  So we keep all of it on this site for the world to see, both the successes and the failures.  With “Columbus Day Weekend” especially, it’s fun for HATCHET fans to see things like the genesis of the “belt sander kill” which we would eventually get just right about a decade later when “Victor Crowley” sanded “Jenna’s” face off in the trilogy’s first entry.  Over the year’s we’ve had plenty of hits and plenty of misses with these short film projects, so we figure why not show and celebrate all of it?  From the more popular shorts like “Fairy Tale Police”, “Saber”, “Jack Chop”, “The Tiffany Problem”, “The Tivo”, and “Driving Lessons”… to the big misses (in my opinion) like “Steven’s Room”, “Trick Or Treat”, “Sexy Nightmare Slayers”, and yes, “Columbus Day Weekend” (depending on how you look at it) they’re all here for you to see.  And we’re proud of ALL of them for the simple reason that they are all part of our journey from wide-eyed ambitious dreamers making low budget cable commercials to the guys who somehow have managed to make a living in entertainment.  This website holds our entire story and we’re proud of it.  In an age where indie filmmakers boast how they made a feature film for a micro budget, we often remind ourselves that COFFEE & DONUTS was a feature film made for a mere $400, shot on BetaSP, and edited tape to tape back in the summer of ’99 when it wasn’t so common for everyone with access to a camera to make an actual movie.  C&D launched our careers and after 13 years of “development hell” and “almost’s” eventually became what is now known as the TV show HOLLISTON.  Where there is a will there is a way and if two assholes from Boston can do it, so can you.  Don’t believe me?  Just watch this cable commercial I did for Castle Creek Miniature Golf in Salem, MA back in 1998 by clicking here.

I’d like to think I’ve come a long way.  At least I’d like to hope I’ve come a long way.

16 years later… what a long, strange trip it’s been.  Thanks for joining us and for making it all possible.  ”Happy Birthday” to us and “Happy Halloween” to you!  Here’s to whatever happens next…

sign photo

 The day we hung the sign outside of our studio.

-AG

A FAREWELL, A RISING PHOENIX, AND SOME AMERICAN MONSTERS IN LONDON

photo 4

DIGGING UP THE MARROW variant poster #1 of 4, made exclusively for the world premiere at Film 4 FrightFest in London.  

This past weekend DIGGING UP THE MARROW unearthed in London at Film 4 FrightFest, a festival that I have not only attended and premiered 8 of my films at to date but also a festival that I have declared to be my absolute favorite genre film festival on the planet again and again (and again).  It was an absolutely spectacular premiere and one of my favorite film premieres that I’ve had in my career so far, despite my decision to keep it an intimate affair- which I will explain the reasoning for in a bit.  But before I get to the triumph that was this past weekend, I want to point out just what MARROW’s premiere was coming on the heels of…

I know that so many of you who read this blog also listen to my podcast THE MOVIE CRYPT religiously, so by now you likely know just what a colossal machete in the heart and personally devastating year 2014 has been for me so far and why I have not done any appearances, conventions, or festivals.  For those still catching up or who perhaps don’t listen to every single episode of the podcast, Lynch and I opened Episode 65 (the E.T. commentary) with me spilling some of the details on just what kind of personal heartbreak this year has had in store for me so far- and I want to take a moment to say “thank you” again to everyone who heard it or who heard about it for honoring my request to not ask me about it or comment about it further as it is more appreciated than you can possibly understand.  The gist of it all is that for many months earlier this year I was reeling after being divorced by my wife and in a very bad state though I did my best to keep a brave face on publicly wherever and whenever I had to do so.  As explained in the podcast, keeping the whole thing private for so long helped make it so that there was no unnecessary outside pain and suffering added to it by strangers who can’t resist the urge to make it their business and also so that by the time it became public knowledge it would be “old news”, something not worth people taking the effort to gossip about, and something I was already emerging on the other side of.   So I hid myself away and save for a couple of wonderful friends who took care of me through the worst of it, I did everything I could to avoid facing the rest of the world.  But as life always has a cruel way of doing, I lost one of my closest friends right at the moment when it felt like things couldn’t possibly get any worse and on March 23rd Dave Brockie suddenly passed away.  While I was able to somewhat secretly go through the pain of the divorce by myself for the first half of the year, with Dave being such an iconic public figure and a main cast member of HOLLISTON, there was no way to not step up and acknowledge it, accept it, and deal with it.  As fate would have it, there was an in-store signing that the HOLLISTON cast had already committed to doing here in LA on April 8th many months prior to Dave’s passing.  The date of the event unfortunately fell mere days after we lost our friend, but as fans of the show had traveled from very far away to be there we had to “go on with the show” despite the fact that we were still mourning and in shock.  We had watched Dave go through this same kind of thing himself when GWAR lost guitarist Cory Smoot in 2011 but had to continue on with their tour anyway.  It was awful to have to watch the band carry on without being able to deal with their loss properly, but that’s show business unfortunately.  While canceling on the HOLLISTON fans who live in LA would have been completely understood and accepted by them, canceling our scheduled appearance on the ones who had already paid so much money on flights to travel from all over just to see us at a signing wasn’t an option and therefore we went through with it.  Thankfully we have the greatest and most sincere fans that exist, so we were ultimately glad that we did the appearance as the outpouring of love and support that we received that night truly helped us through it in many ways.

BoatThe “Oderus Urungus” costume at Dave Brockie’s memorial in Virginia, August 15th. 

Two weeks ago I spoke at Dave’s public memorial in Richmond, VA and delivered my eulogy before the thousands of fans who pilgrimaged from all over the world to pay their final respects.  It was a beautiful service complete with a viking-style send off where the “Oderus Urungus” costume was burned on a boat in the lake and once the weekend was over it felt like a bandage had finally been put over that massive gaping wound.  Images from the weekend are everywhere on-line and my eulogy can be seen here in this video that someone in the crowd shot on their phone.  It starts around 14:40 in the video and while the person shooting it sadly had to change their battery right at the most memorable part (where I had the entire audience turn to acknowledge their “metal family” standing beside them and a few thousand metal heads all held hands together- something I’ll never forget the sight of)- the majority of my speech is all there.  Giving that eulogy was one of the most difficult but most inspiring moments of my life so far.  If you watch the whole thing, you’ll see just what a hard time I was having getting the words out as I’m usually a bit better at public speaking.  I do this stuff quite often.  It’s part of this career and normally I actually enjoy doing it as it’s “entertainment”.  But while I was pacing the backstage area before going on, it dawned on me that this time was like no other as I was about to speak before a crowd as myself as opposed to playing the part of “Adam Green the filmmaker” or “Adam Green the actor” or “Adam Green the comedian”.  Randy Blythe (LAMB OF GOD’s singer who was speaking right before me) put me at ease when he put his arm around me and said “that’s exactly why you’re here.”  He reminded me that no one was expecting a “show” and that they were there to hear what I, the real person who knew and loved Dave, had to say.  That it was OK to fumble through the words and say “um” a thousand times or to have to keep stopping to compose myself. And when I heard him introduce me and say “Dave was on a TV show called HOLLISTON” and the entire place began cheering… I realized that I was among family and suddenly the words I had prepared weren’t all that important.   The fans gathered there didn’t care if I cried, if my voice trembled, if I got overwhelmed, if I stuttered and got confused, or if I sang out of key because I was trying so hard to not break down.  And as you’ll hear if you watch the clip… the fans carried me through the entire thing.  They cheered me on when they could see I was losing it, they let their voices be heard when they appreciated something I said, and they sang for me when it was becoming clear that I was struggling to find the notes.  I say it all the time how much I love the fans… but just in case I haven’t said it enough… I LOVE THE FANS.  I got through this difficult moment of saying goodbye to Dave publicly because I was surrounded by truly wonderful, passionate, and caring real people.  I’m so grateful for the hearts of everyone who was there at Haddad’s Lake that day and I’ll never forget that feeling as long as I live.  In fact, for the first time in so very long… I started dreaming about HOLLISTON again and contemplating another season with excitement instead of resentment, sadness, or fear of what it will be like to stand on set in front of a closet door that won’t open again.   For those still wondering and waiting… the team behind HOLLISTON is now talking much more seriously not just about how to return to HOLLISTON, but more specifically… when.  I’m writing again and, well, we’ll see what happens from here.  Hopefully 2015 sees “Adam”, “Joe”, “Laura”, “Corri”, and “Lance” back together again…

boatfire

The best image I’ve found on-line of the burning boat.  An amazing send-off.

A mere 72 hours after the memorial I was on a plane to London for the world premiere of DIGGING UP THE MARROW.  It was a bittersweet journey to London as it was hard to go celebrate the very first official screening of the film coming off of such a tragic and heartbreaking 8 or 9 months.  Of course at that point if I had the choice I would have rather stayed home with my pets/family and wallowed in depression on the couch, but as cruel as life can be at time… it also has a way of giving you what you need, whether you can clearly see it that way at the time or not.  As you’ve noticed, we’ve been handling DIGGING UP THE MARROW very delicately and quite differently than how we usually handle a film.  From calling it “an art documentary” for the 4 years that we were working on it just to stay under the radar (by now you’ve probably figured out that it’s not so much of an actual documentary as it is a fantastical story that uses the documentary format as a launching point), to not releasing a trailer publicly (yet), to not releasing stills and other images or clips from the film… we’ve kept it all very close to our vest(s).  You can read one of my previous blogs about it or hear more about all of that on various episodes of THE MOVIE CRYPT, but FrightFest felt like the perfect venue to officially unveil the finished film for the first time.

photo 3

The Vue Cinema in Leicester Square, London – home of FrightFest 2014.

In discussing the placement of the film within the festival line-up with the festival heads (Alan Jones, Ian Ratttray, Paul McEvoy, and Greg Day) we opted to only have the film play once on the “Discovery Screen” at a prime time (Saturday evening) as opposed to having it play 3 separate times on the 3 “Main Screens”.  It was a bold choice to head into a festival world premiere with only one smaller screening available for the audience to attend and without making any specific information or footage of the actual film available to anyone beforehand- but it turned out to be the absolute right decision.  The reaction was way beyond what we had hoped for and even better, we’ve managed to keep this little shroud of mystery around the film going for at least a little bit longer.  So far, fans and critics who attended have honored my request to not spoil the film itself within their glowing praise for it on-line and while I know that there are folks in the press who are frustrated by the fact that we have not created any screener copies for anyone, thankfully many turned up to watch the film properly- on the big screen and with a real audience.  Now that we’ve begun the process of closing on our distribution plans, of course there will eventually be a trailer and other materials made public as there is no getting around that.  Will seeing that stuff spoil a little of whatever magic we hopefully created?  Probably.  But you can’t release a film without those things and expect general audiences to want to see it.  As I said to the cinema on Saturday night, all of us involved with DIGGING UP THE MARROW feel like sometimes there can be too much information made available about a film before it is ever screened and we wanted to try and deliver a unique experience, free of self-imposed expectations, spoilers, and preconceived notions.  It was overwhelming to see the cinema sell-out with fans who were there not because of hype, a trailer, or clips they saw on-line beforehand… but simply because they were happy to go into a movie absolutely cold with no idea about what they were going to see and because (at this point in our track record of films) they trusted that we would deliver the goods.  I’m so incredibly grateful for that trust and while I can’t promise that every single fan will always love every single thing I create equally when I do so many different types of things… I can promise that I will never abuse that trust.  We’ve earned it over the past 16 years since Will Barratt and I first started ArieScope Pictures and all of us who work on these crazy projects cherish that trust deeply.  It was easily one of the best responses I’ve ever had to a film premiere at FrightFest and the audience response during the film and afterwords was just terrific.  So what’s the deal?  Normally isn’t the goal to try and plaster the internet with your trailer, reviews, and hype everywhere you can?  Are we crazy for purposely choosing to only screen the film once at a festival knowing that so many would not be able to get in to see it?  Are we keeping details too under wraps?  I don’t know.  Maybe?  But in full transparency and honesty, as much as we may be “making it up as we go”, it has of course been a calculated choice to handle it all this way.  This is a very different movie and one that I never would have been able to get financed or produced right out of the gate in my career for a number of reasons.   Even though the movie may feature so much “reality”, in the end it still is a “fantasy.”  We just tried something different this time and approached the project very experimentally right down to the fact that it is inspired by art.  While you may often see movies that are “based on a true story” or based on a novel, it isn’t every day you see a movie that says “inspired by the art of Alex Pardee” in the credits.  We won’t be able to keep this vagueness going forever as eventually someone who sees it will take it upon themselves to spoil that for everyone, but the fact that we’ve been able to keep MARROW somewhat of a mystery for so long is really, really great.  For now at least- what we’re doing seems to be appreciated and it’s been great fun to do it this way.

FrightFest programFrightFest program 2014.

So when can YOU see it?  Well, even though last weekend was the very first time we ever screened the film publicly and normally I’d be saying “it’s still going to be awhile before we know about any of that stuff”, I can tell you that we are in the truly rare and extremely fortunate position of having already accepted an offer for US distribution and that other countries around the world should hopefully not be too far behind in terms of figuring out who we will be going with.  I got on the plane back to Los Angeles hearing that the screening had been a huge success and landed to news that we had closed on the USA and that it was from one of the places circling the film who we knew would really, really “get it”.  More info on who will be putting our film out soon.  We can’t say anything until after they do, so for now we’re just happy to know that we’ll be working with them on this and patiently waiting to hear and share more details.

I’ve made an incredible summer for myself, despite being drowned in ashes and coming off of so much heartbreak and pain.  I found my spirit again through applying myself creatively in work, through the solace of an amazing circle of friends and family, through the love and support of my fans, and through the music that I love.  From seeing GUNS N ROSES play in Las Vegas in June, to seeing DANGEROUS TOYS play in San Antonio in July, to seeing AEROSMITH & SLASH play in Los Angeles in July and in Las Vegas in August, to the big upcoming end of summer finale of seeing my personal “holy grail band” TWISTED SISTER play in New York City next weekend… everything’s gonna be alright.  Plus, it’s impossible to forget just how loved and appreciated you actually are when you come home from a trip to this…

ArwenSuitcase

Arwen was about to ship herself off to London she missed me so much.

It’s been one hell of a difficult year so far to say the least, but I’m still here, I’m still alive, and I’m doing fine.  It sounds so cliche but it is true that it’s always darkest before the dawn and like the end of AEROSMITH’s “Get A Grip” record proclaimed… “Remember, the light at the end of the tunnel may be you.”  It really is true.  Don’t give up… go on.

Indeed.

-AG

10 RECORDS

Last week, Alex Pardee and I revealed the first image ever from DIGGING UP THE MARROW when we simultaneously tweeted out the below picture with only the words “The Marrow Is Real”.  A very subtle tease of course, but as we’re still a ways away from being able to share any release plans we gotta hold back for now.  In case you missed it, here’s the very vague still photo that we revealed.  What is in the photo exactly?  Guess you’ll have to wait and see!  It was announced this morning that the world premiere of the film will be happening this August in London as part of FRIGHT FEST… so UK fans, grab your shovels and get ready.  Watch the Film 4 Fright Fest website here for ticketing details.

Chicken

“The Marrow Is Real.”

Seeing as how it’s way too early to spill any more details on DIGGING UP THE MARROW’s release, I’ll get to the point of this blog which is actually not career related and is something I’m writing just for the fun of it for a change.  When your career is also your hobby it’s easy to lose track of the many other things in life that bring you joy.  Especially in this career that is almost always a 24/7 marathon.  Music has always been an exceptionally important component in my life.  I’ve been to anywhere between 300 and 400 concerts, followed some of my favorite bands for well over 30 shows each now, and at one point long ago I was even the singer for a serious band called HADDONFIELD.  And by “serious” I mean we played shows weekly, got paid to do so, and for a fleeting moment it even looked like it could have possibly become an actual career.  So when I get the occasional day or two off for myself like this, I tend to spend it going through my records and just being happy to do so.  I think vinyl still sounds better than any other format save for the band playing in front of you live.  I know that vinyl became kind of “hipster-esque” for a few years but for those of us who have always listened to records and will forever continue to do so, we can’t let that passing fad phase us or turn us off from it.  Much like the “it’s so cool to be a Geek” bandwagon phase that is thankfully on its last legs, you gotta let the tourists have their moment and just wait for them to move on to the next “in” thing that comes along.  It can be annoying when suddenly a whole new group of people claim to love something you’ve loved for your whole life, of course- but you have to remember that it takes nothing away from you personally.  (Well, except when Metallica’s “Black album” hit big and all of a sudden I couldn’t get good seats to shows because half the audience was there just to hear “Enter Sandman” and “Nothing Else Matters” and somehow had better seats than me, even if they were won from a radio station contest.  Those years were frustrating for sure.)  In fact, I’ve spent hours of my life trying to get people into the things I like.  So the way I see it, if someone suddenly wants to be the world’s biggest fan of something I really am the world’s biggest fan of, great.  Enjoy your brief stay and I’ll still be here to wave the flag when you’ve moved on to the next thing.

While I briefly considered writing a blog about the 10 RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE… too many of those are obvious albums that most everyone owns or at least knows extremely well, so where would the the joy be in that?  Instead I thought it would be more fun to dig just slightly deeper and share 10 of my favorite records that may not be so obvious even though many of them are from very well known bands.  Of course my hard rock and metal brethren will likely be very familiar with all of the below, but this is geared more towards those that are not necessarily diehard music fans or who are young enough to have missed these gems entirely and maybe only know these band’s bigger hits.  Who knows?  Maybe you’ll seek one or two of these records out for yourself and find a new favorite of your own?  To clarify, this is not a list of my ultimate Top 10 Favorite Records of all time… just 10 favorites from my own personal record collection that maybe aren’t all that well known but that I think are worth your time checking out.  To help make it easier to narrow down, I only picked albums from my record collection.  If I don’t have it on vinyl it couldn’t be in the running.  An honorable mention to all 25 TWISTED SISTER records in my collection including singles, bootlegs, re-issues, re-masters, etc.  By now you likely know of my serendipitous connection and life-long friendship with Dee Snider and his family and that TWISTED SISTER is far more than just a band to me, so while there were plenty of  ”lesser known” TWISTED records on that one shelf alone, I opted to just say “they win” for this blog post and leave it at that.

And this is most definitely one of those times when I’m glad that this blog doesn’t have a comments section as I’m sure there are gonna be some passionate reactions and “WTF?!” exclamations to a few of these picks, but hey… my blog, my record collection, my choices!  Enjoy!

========================

1.) SKID ROW “Slave To The Grind” 1991

photo 4

In 1989 SKID ROW’s debut self-titled album was an instant hit selling over 5 million records almost overnight.  Songs like “Youth Gone Wild”, “I Remember You”, and “18 & Life” monopolized MTV and were on the radio constantly.  I was 14 years old when I got that tape (I wouldn’t re-purchase it on both CD and vinyl until a few years later) and I played the shit out of it. But it was 1991′s “Slave To The Grind” where SKID ROW showed that they were so much more than just another glam rock band and let their metal side truly start to show.  While “Slave To The Grind” debuted at #1 and boasted successful singles like “Monkey Business” and “Wasted Time”, the record showcased a much heavier band than what many glam rockers probably expected.  For me personally, by the time I was 16 I was more into thrash and speed metal and slightly less into the fun glam rock I had been raised on, so this record came at the perfect time.  I wasn’t looking for another “I Remember You” by that point, so songs like “Livin’ On A Chain Gang”, “The Threat”, “Quicksand Jesus”, and the title track “Slave To The Grind” were a hugely welcome surprise.  Sebastian Bach’s voice is nothing less than godly and even tracks that could be incorrectly considered power ballads like “In A Darkened Room” and “Wasted Time” put the other bands of their era to shame.  I remember being so excited to get the version of the album that had “Get The Fuck Out” on it (the song was replaced by “Begger’s Day” after the initial run) but as nasty as the lyrics were and as much as my 16 year old self loved any song with the word “Fuck” used in it that many times… I have to admit that “Begger’s Day” is actually the better song.  I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that “Slave To The Grind” just might be one of the greatest sophomore efforts ever recorded by a band.  So if all you know of the Skids is “I Remember You” and “18 & Life”… give this record a spin and think again.  Now that I’ve actually lived through some shit, some of the songs hit unbelievably harder than they did 2 decades ago.

“You said, you’d never let me down, but the horse stampedes and rages in the name of desperation. Is it all just wasted time? Can you look at yourself when you think of what you left behind? Is it all just wasted time? Can you live with yourself when you think of what you’ve left behind?  I never thought you’d let it get this far, boy…”

2.) WHITE TRASH “White Trash” 1991

photo 2-2

Not just because I wanted to add a “happy” record or two to this overwhelmingly dark list but because this record truly is fucking awesome and has been in constant rotation for me since it came out.  In full disclosure, I actually like their sophomore record “Si O Si, Que?” even more but I have never been able to find it on vinyl so it couldn’t qualify for this list.  WHITE TRASH had a video for the single “Apple Pie” (Side A, Track 1) that some of you may remember MTV playing constantly for about 11 days back in ’91.  (To my younger readers, MTV actually stands for “Music Television” and they used to play nothing but music videos, I swear.) Their song “The Crawl” (Side B, Track 1) was also the theme song for MTV’s “THE JON STEWART SHOW” way back from before the world realized that Jon Stewart is actually wicked smart and stuff.  WHITE TRASH’s blend of funk, soul, and rock is an audio party for your soul and you’d have to be the biggest sour dick in the world to not smile huge while listening to it.  In fact, I almost feel like I should have listed this album last just in case any of you actually listen to all of these records in the order I’ve listed them and wind up in a week long depression because of it.  While “Apple Pie” may be the only song that these guys were barely known for, it’s the deeper cuts like “Party Line”, “Lil’ Nancy”, and “Buzz!” that best showed off this band’s unique style and it’s the (sorta) self-titled “Po’ White Trash” that is the true hit off of this record in my opinion.  Try it out some time and lighten up your day.

“Don’t you know I’m so bad right now, Po’ white trash, Motherfucka who d’ya think you are?, Po’white trash, Said I got to know, baby got to show, Po’ white trash, Mmm you smell so fuckin’ good, honey, Po’ white trash…”

3.) MEGADETH “So Far, So Good… So What!” 1988

photo 3

It always pains me when music historians or even members of MEGADETH themselves dismiss this record as one of their weaker efforts.  Is it as seminal an album to the thrash movement or for the band’s legacy as 1986′s “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?” or 1990′s “Rust In Peace”?  No.  But goddamn do I love it so.  While songs like “Set The World Afire” and “Mary Jane” have remained two of my most favorite MEGADETH songs since I first ever heard them, it’s “In My Darkest Hour” (Side B, Track 2) that I have found myself leaning on like an old friend at several of life’s lowest moments.  This song is scarily the most angry, sad, and heart broken suicide anthem ever recorded in my opinion. In fact, the song is so powerful and directly to the point that I actually considered not even pointing it out as I fear that somewhere out there a severely depressed and unfortunately impressionable young boy or girl will discover it because of me and interpret it completely the wrong way.  There’s always that one unstable person who doesn’t understand that a song is to be taken as an outpouring of emotion and an expression to be connected with rather than literal lyrics to be used for creating bad ideas in their own heads.  Much like the warnings that come on alcohol labels, “In My Darkest Hour” is to be used and listened to responsibly.  We’ve all been there, we’ve all had love completely crush our souls, and we’ve all felt indescribable despair and anger.  Thankfully there are albums and songs like this that I have been able to bang my head to, thrash out to, and sing/scream along with until the dark clouds would pass.  Because after all… the dark clouds always do pass.  Since I was only 13 years old this record has helped me get through some pretty heartbroken times.  Maybe someday it will help you, too.

“Time has a way of taking time, loneliness is not only felt by fools.  Alone I call to ease the pain, yearning to be held by you, alone so alone I’m lost, consumed by the pain… the pain, the pain, the pain… Won’t you hold me again?  You just laughed – ha, ha, bitch.  My whole life is work built on the past, but the time has come when all things shall pass, this good thing passed away.”

4.) LOVE/HATE “Blackout In The Red Room” 1991

 

photo 2-1

It’s almost criminal that LOVE/HATE’s debut record “Blackout in the Red Room” didn’t come out until the Sunset Strip era’s of glam rock was already on its last legs as this band was poised to be huge and was by far one of the best of their kind.  Way more (let’s say) GUNS N ROSES than (let’s say) POSION, I don’t even feel comfortable lumping them in with glam rock and would prefer to just call them a “rock band”, but they were marketed by Columbia as a hair metal band and that’s how they’ll always be remembered, like it or not.   I was fortunate enough to see LOVE/HATE a number of times when they reunited in 2007 and did shows periodically in the LA area for 6 years before officially disbanding once again in 2013.  (Even sadder, they kinda broke up with each other publicly on Facebook which was disheartening to watch happen, but that’s the world we live in now.)  While singer Jizzy Pearl possessed an Axl Rose vocal style and elicited the stage presence and swagger of a reincarnated Jim Morrison and though guitarist Jon Love was so massively talented that he singlehandedly made the band sound as if they had 3 guitar players on the stage at all times, it was LOVE/HATE’s bass player and main song writer Skid who was always the one to watch.  Save for perhaps Flea, I’ve never seen a bass player command an audience with such unbridled energy and glorious weirdness.  In fact, every time I was fortunate enough to get the chance to see LOVE/HATE play, I always made sure to get to the venue early and stake out the area in front of the far left side of the stage just so that I could have the best possible view of Skid who was indeed “the show”.   Skid even painted the artwork for the band’s album covers.  But this isn’t a dissertation on LOVE/HATE (believe me I could write a short novel about the merits of this astoundingly amazing group who often holds the ever rotating #5 position in my top 5 of all time alongside mainstays AEROSMITH, METALLICA, TWISTED SISTER, and GUNS N ROSES), it’s just supposed to be some words about their debut album “Blackout In The Red Room.”  While I easily could have put their second record “Wasted In America” on this list instead of “Blackout” (they’re completely equal to me), I chose to go with the first record simply because I’ve owned it for 2 years longer.  I first got this album on cassette tape (as was the way back then), but upon buying my very first CD player I opted to re-purchase “Blackout In The Red Room” as my first ever CD rather than buying something new.  That’s how much I love this album.  While every song on it is a hit for me, “She’s An Angel”, “Mary Jane”, and “Straightjacket” (the first three tracks on Side B) are my go-to’s whenever introducing someone new to LOVE/HATE.  It’s raw, silly, dark, fun, dirty, dangerous and everything else you would hope for in a rock album.  Whatever you do, don’t opt for their “Greatest & Latest” compilation that’s available on iTunes if you want to seek this band out.  The songs on that release seem to have all been re-recorded many, many years later (something we’re sadly seeing many older bands do these days in order to reclaim their work back from their original record label) and they’re just not the same.  Get the original records.  I promise that if you’re a hard rock fan you’ll love it instantly.  Happy listening and …green buds inside you.

“Mommy takes the strings off your bass so you won’t hang yourself, Could things be so bad when you’re loving life with everything you have…”

5.) ALICE IN CHAINS “Jar of Flies” 1994

photo 3-1

ALICE IN CHAINS is a household band name to any music fan, and while I’ll never argue over the sheer greatness of records like “Dirt” or “Facelift” and the more radio friendly singles that they offered, for me this band has always been defined by their second acoustic driven EP “Jar of Flies” which is just perfect from start to finish.  I’m often surprised how many people never actually bought it as they didn’t consider it an official album being that it was only an “EP” and because it was acoustic based and therefore not really ALICE IN CHAINS in their opinion.  Sacrilege!  I remember sitting in my college dorm room and listening to it on headphones for the first time and being swept away within the first few chords of the haunting opening track “Rotten Apple”, teary eyed upon hearing the sadness of the second track “Nutshell”, soaring high over the beautiful third track “I Stay Away” and out of my own body by the time the sixth track “Don’t Follow” concluded.  (And no, I wasn’t on drugs.)  You can only imagine my excitement when I finally got my hands on the double vinyl record of “Jar of Flies” and “Sap” (their first acoustic based EP) just last year.  For me, this record is kind of like a stripped down and modernized “Dark Side Of The Moon” for ALICE IN CHAINS. If you don’t already own it, shame on you.  If you do but have just never heard it on vinyl… get it and hear it again for the first time.  There is more soul in this collection of songs than most of the 90′s alternative/grunge movement put together and this record really is ALICE IN CHAINS (and the late Layne Staley, especially) at their peak.  Pay attention to the gorgeous harmonies between Staley and guitarist Jerry Cantrell who sing together like a modern day Simon and Garfunkel.

“Yeah it’s fine, We’ll walk down the line, Leave our rain, A cold trade for warm sunshine, You my friend, I will defend, And if we change well I’ll love you anyway…”

6.) DANGEROUS TOYS “Dangerous Toys” 1989

photo 5

I originally bought this album on cassette tape simply off of the amazing artwork on the album cover created by artist Tommy Pons.  Terrifying clown?  Sign me up immediately.  My local record store (Strawberries) even had this really cool Jack-in-the-box display holding the cassette tape at the check-out counter.  I went back in numerous times to ask if they would sell it to me but they claimed that very few of them were made, that they were not for sale, and that employees at each store had already claimed them long before they were ever displayed.  I was always on the look out for that display- my own personal “holy grail of DANGEROUS TOYS stuff” – and decades went by with no luck.  Then, right after filming Season 1 of HOLLISTON, one of our camera operators on the show (Brian Sowell) emailed me an eBay link for the coveted Jack-in-the-box display!  I jumped on the very rare and very expensive item and I’m happy to say it is now proudly collecting precious dust on its very own shelf of my record collection.  I’ve had an (almost) lifelong love affair with DANGEROUS TOYS ever since I first heard their debut album.  They were my first concert (Boston’s Orpheum Theater playing with TORA TORA and LA GUNS – November 17, 1989) and in 1999 when they released the live album “Vitamins and Crash Helmets Tour” you can’t even imagine how floored I was to discover that the exact show that I saw was the one they chose to use for the album.  How cool is that??  To own your first concert experience ever on an officially released CD?!  What were the chances?  Just over a month ago TOYS’ lead singer Jason McMaster started following me on Twitter and yes, I was kinda star struck and bragging to my friends who sadly just couldn’t understand my excitement as they didn’t know the band.  (Their loss!)  I actually love this band so much that I’m flying in to San Antonio, TX for just a matter of hours in order to see an upcoming reunion show later this month.  Who knows, maybe there will be TOYS fans from even further away than Los Angeles flying to Texas just to see the show and then flying home again first thing the next morning, but I’d wage a healthy bet that I’m alone in my musical pilgrimage.  Getting to the point, DANGEROUS TOYS debut album has been a mainstay on my turn table for my entire adult life so far.  Their Texas southern flare, their often times hilarious lyrics, McMaster’s wailing and powerful voice, the shredding dueling lead guitars… hell they even have a song called “Scared” (Side A, Track 2) that’s dedicated to ALICE COOPER.  What’s for an 80′s teenage horror and metal fan not to love about this record?  They had two sorta hits with the album’s openers “Teas’n Pleas’n” and “Scared” plus a deeper cut called “Sport’n A Woody” which kicked off Side B and gained some fame among metal fans because… well because it’s a song about having an erection.  That’s “cock-rock” in its most literal sense, no?  In 8th grade some friends and I did a DANGEROUS TOYS lip sync performance to “Take Me Drunk” as part of my school’s talent show and I offended a lot of parents when I reached into my pants and gyrated a bit more sexually than a 13 year old should have been gyrating with his hand down his pants in a school talent show.  Little did I know then that this event was a sign of things to come for me and I’d eventually wind up getting crucified by a much more powerful group of parents (known as the MPAA) for the first two HATCHET films.  Hey, simulate masturbation by grabbing hold of your thirteen-year-old junk in front of the entire school or put a scene in a movie where a girl gets her face belt sanded off and all of a sudden everyone hates you.  What gives, man?  Anyway, this record is great fun and great music no matter what anyone else may try and tell you.  Horror fans probably know TOYS’ song “Demon Bell” from Wes Craven’s SHOCKER soundtrack (see my #7 record choice below).  If this record hooks you I implore you to pick up the rest of their albums, too.  There’s a song called “Angel N U” on their sophomore record “Hellacious Acres” that is this band at their musical best, but start with the original record.

“Momma’s lace and whisky on the top shelf, Somehow they got caught up in my dream, Monsters on my right and cobwebs on my left, Scary man standin’ right in front of me, Hey man I think I like being scared and I wish you all were there…”

7.) SHOCKER “The Music” 1989

photo 1-1

Wes Craven’s SHOCKER boasted one of the greatest heavy metal soundtracks of all time.  Here’s a “shocker” for you… I only saw the movie opening day because there was a DANGEROUS TOYS song in it.  The soundtrack had been released earlier than the movie itself and when I saw the list of bands on it (all contributing new songs) I knew this movie was destined to be one of my favorites.  I’m happy to say that it still is to this very day.  Think I’m kidding?  Throw on the movie one day and listen to the full-length fan commentary track that Joe Lynch and I did for it on The Movie Crypt podcast here.  SHOCKER’s soundtrack had songs from DANGEROUS TOYS, ALICE COOPER, MEGADETH (covering ALICE COOPER), IGGY POP, and a “created for the movie soundtrack band” called THE DUDES OF WRATH featuring Paul Stanley (KISS), Tommy Lee (MOTLEY CRUE), Rudy Sarzo (WHITESNAKE), Michael Anthony (VAN HALEN), Vivian Campbell (DEF LEPPARD) and Desmond Child (the guy that wrote every song that was ever a hit for almost every band – seriously, look him up sometime) aptly titled “Shocker”.  The soundtrack also contains great tracks from lesser known bands like BONFIRE and SARAYA who’s song “Timeless Love” is essentially the theme of the movie as Craven used the melody often throughout the film itself.  The ALICE COOPER / MITCH PILEGGI (“Horace Pinker”) rap/rock duet called “Shockdance” is simultaneously both the highlight and the lowest moment of the soundtrack, which is all the more reason to love it.  Whether you’re a fan of the movie or not, one spin of this record and hopefully you’ll see/hear what so many of us who were teenagers at the time of its release love about it.

“I was born without a soul inside so I’m gonna tear out your heart and try it on for size, You gotta have a soul to get to go to hell, that’s where I wanna go to ring the demon bell…”

8.) TOOL “Aenima” 1996

photo 1-2

I know, I know.  How could this album even remotely be considered for this list when it’s easily one of TOOL’s best known and most popular releases?  “Real deep cut, Green.”  But hear me out first. This list is about records and not CDs, MP3′s, or what have you… and listening to “Aenima” on vinyl is like hearing a whole different album and (screw it, I’m gonna be overdramatic and say it) an otherworldly experience of the most grandiose proportions.  I’ve always agreed with the philosophy that there are genres of music… and then there is TOOL.  More passive music fans likely know the album’s singles like “Stinkfist”, “Eulogy”, and “Forty Six & 2″ but it’s the record’s title track “Aenima” that is the most powerful and terrifying for me personally.   When I first got this record I was still living in Boston and had not yet moved to Los Angeles so Maynard’s lyrics skewering LA and a very large sector of its citizens didn’t really hit home like they so very much do today.  In the song he literally wishes for a final earthquake to flush it all away and what is so scary to me on a personal level now having lived here for 14 years is that even though I fear “the big one” ever hitting… deep down I can’t help but see Maynard’s point.  Seeing TOOL play live here in LA and singing along to “Aenima” you can’t help but be emotionally conflicted and that to me is something quite rare in music.  I could go on and on about this record but as it’s already so popular there isn’t much I can offer that you don’t already know except to say that no matter how well you may think you know this album, once you hear it on vinyl you’ll appreciate every sound on it even more.  The record itself is not all that easy to find and it can be on the expensive side if you do track it down, but if you’re a collector and a fan I’m telling you it’s worth it.  The mastering is just perfect and the fact that the two records in the set come pressed on bright orange vinyl with no track listing (in typical TOOL fashion) makes it fun to listen to as you almost have to listen to the whole thing each time since there is no simple way to find the track you’re looking for at a glance.  Oh, and if you’ve never seen the YouTube video of the young music students covering “Forty Six & 2″, well, prepare to have your minds blown here just like over 6 million others have to date.

“Fuck L Ron Hubbard and fuck all his clones, Fuck all these gun-toting hip gangster wannabes.  (Learn to swim.)  Fuck retro anything, Fuck your tattoos. Fuck all you junkies and fuck your short memories.  (Learn to swim.)  Fuck smiley glad-hands with hidden agendas,  Fuck these dysfunctional insecure actresses.  ’Cause I’m praying for rain, I’m praying for tidal waves.  I wanna see the ground give way.  I wanna watch it all go down.  Mom, please flush it all away.  I wanna watch it go right in and down.  I wanna watch it go right in.  Watch you flush it all away…”

9.) AEROSMITH “Honkin On Bobo” 2004

photo 4-1

Yet another household name band, but an album that sadly isn’t as popular with the masses as it deserves to be.  Containing 11 covers of mostly 1960′s blues and jazz bands and only 1 new original song (“The Grind” Side B, Track 2), “Honkin’ On Bobo” is the band’s tribute to many of the artists and styles that inspired them.  And it absolutely rules.  I’ve seen AEROSMITH 32 times (with shows #33 and #34 coming up in just a few weeks) which puts them just above METALLICA to win the title of “band I’ve seen the most”.  My cats (who turn 11 years old this month) are named “Tyler” and “Perry” and if you listen to The Movie Crypt podcast than you’ve likely heard about the life changing afternoon I spent with Steven Tyler this past April when he put things into much clearer perspective for me with the simple word “congratulations” and taught me how all levels of success contain the same exact struggles and copious amounts of bullshit… “So it’s all alright, man.  It’s aaaaall-right.” There is no greater or more unique voice in rock n roll, period.  (Think I’m exaggerating and just fan-boying out?  Watch this and then try and tell me that Steven Tyler isn’t the greatest of all time.)  ”The bad boys from Boston” seem to have made a deal with the devil himself as even pushing 200 years old (or whatever age they’re at these days) they only get better and better live, something no other band with a 40+ year career can boast with any sort of truth. To call me a “fan” would be a vast understatement and I drop everything and arrange my life around their tour schedules as I fear the day that they bid farewell to the stage for good.  ”Honkin’ On Bobo” contains the spectacles (yeah, that’s right, I just called some of these songs spectacles) “Never Loved A Girl” (Side A, Track 5) and “Eyesight To The Blind” (Side A, Track 3) that leave you feeling like nothing less than a standing ovation is in order when they are finished.  You won’t find any Top 10 hits or power ballads on this record, just a pure celebration of the rock, the blues, and the jazz that inspired “America’s Greatest Rock N Roll Band”.  Buy this record.  Buy all of them.  And do yourself a favor and see them live.  God forbid they hang up their instruments anytime soon, you’ll regret it forever if you don’t attend the Church of Tyler at least once in your lifetime.

“I was hangin’ with the Devil when we made a pact, I’m drinkin’ welfare whiskey smokin’ food stamp crack.  It was one part sour, two parts sweet, three parts strong and four parts weak.
I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than to be crowded on a velvet cushion…”

10.) GUNS N’ ROSES “Chinese Democracy” 2008

photo 5-1

Aaaand this is where I lose about 80% of you which is why I figured I’d put it last.  I have very few friends who I can even say the words “chinese democracy” to without them getting angry at me and going off on the usual tirade that “GUNS N ROSES is not GUNS N ROSES anymore but just Axl and a cover band”.  Well, maybe it’s the “fan for life” gene in me (when I commit to something I commit) but I like everything that each member of the original GNR has gone on to do since the original line-up so tragically imploded in the early 90′s.  I’m a huge Slash fan, a Duff fan, an Izzy fan, I saw Adler’s Appetite play many years ago and enjoyed the hell out of them, I loved Velvet Revolver, and yes… I am and always have been an Axl Rose fan, too.  I’ve read the same books, read the same interviews, and heard the same stories and rumors you have.  I’ve seen the Youtube videos of his not-so-finer moments getting pissed off on stage… but truth be told, I don’t know him personally and I’m not interested in any of that.  I’m talking about a record.  The music.  As over-produced as “Chinese Democracy” may sound at times, the songs themselves and the musicianship is incredible in my opinion.  Perhaps you never knew or cared, but one of Axl’s single biggest influences as an artist is Elton John.  Maybe I’ll lose the other 20% of you with this statement (especially in a blog hailing bands like DANGEROUS TOYS and MEGADETH), but yes, I too love Elton John’s music.  Tracks like “Street of Dreams” (my favorite song on the record, Side A, Track 4), “Madagascar” (Side D, Track 1), and “This I Love” (Side D, Track 2) exude Elton John and this record sounds and feels like the record that Axl always wanted to make.  Is “Chinese Democracy” another “Appetite For Destruction”?  Of course not.  But that kind of lightning in a bottle will never happen again and I don’t believe that Axl ever intended for this record to be the next “Appetite”.  In fact, it always struck me as his evolution into a new phase.  (Even if it took like 40 years and 15 million dollars to get there.)  This record was a whole new thing for Axl and he just so happens to control the rights to the band name, so deal with it.  If it helps, create your own album cover and call it “Axl Rose” instead and then give it another chance under new pretenses.  Some of the bands I most respect have evolved and changed up their musical direction over the years (MINISTRY, METALLICA, etc) and for me personally, I like that a lot even if at first I don’t always love the latest risk they may be taking.  I don’t need the same album over and over again.  I already have the other one, so give me something different with the next.  For me “Chinese Democracy” is a great album.  Having seen the “new” GUNS N ROSES twice now I can also say that they are phenomenal live.  The show I saw in June in Las Vegas was the best of all of the times I’ve seen “GNR” perform since 1991.  A 3 hour long set featuring everything you could possibly want to hear, old and new, played with note for note perfection.  Axl’s voice was better than I had ever heard it before and best of all… he looked happy.  Really genuinely happy.  And me?  I really like seeing Axl happy.  It can’t be easy being him or dealing with being under the microscope that comes with being a rock star of that magnitude. I applaud “Chinese Democracy” for being a new step (albeit a long step to finally take) and I listen to it often.  Of course I’d love to see a reunion with the original band as much as the next guy as that’s the GUNS N ROSES I grew up with.  But give the current line-up(s) credit where credit is due.  They had nothing to do with the break up of the original line-up and at this point some of them have actually been in “GNR” longer than the founding members were.  So like I said at the beginning, take it or leave it.  But I hope you give this record a fair chance and take it for the great album it is as opposed to the old album you hoped it would be again.

“What this means to me is more than I know you believe.  What I thought of you now has cost more than it should for me.  What I thought was true before were lies I couldn’t see.  What I thought was beautiful is only memories…”

=========================

So there you go.  10 records from my collection to consider adding to your own.  Writing this blog entry was a fun and much needed break so I hope you enjoyed at least some of it as much as I did.  Stay tuned for news about DIGGING UP THE MARROW’s release and of course… the future of HOLLISTON.  The more time that goes by, the more the family begins to heal over the loss of our brother Dave Brockie.  I’ve got a movie to go make at the moment, but just know… we’re starting to pick ourselves up and we’re starting to… you know… talk.  Your patience means the world, so don’t stop believing that we will return to the stage again.  And I mean that most sincerely.

Until next time, “You’ve been great, we’ve been… a wicked long blog about the most random records ever!  GOODNIGHT!”

-AG

 

I LOVE YOU TOO, DAVE BROCKIE

OderusEp9

ODERUS: “Tell me something personal about me that only a true friend would know.”             ADAM: “Um.  You… you smell like a bag of dicks.” – HOLLISTON S2, EP 9.

Sunday night March 23rd, 11pm.  I was at the ArieScope office watching a movie with my friend Robert Pendergraft (make-up effects artist from just about everything I’ve ever done) when I noticed that I had several missed calls from Laura Ortiz on my phone.  I remember thinking “I’ll just call her back tomorrow morning” but there was also a part of my gut that thought “Uh-oh.”  In this day and age when someone actually calls late at night, rather than sending a text or an email, it usually tends to be bad news.  Then again, my friends all know how much trouble I have sleeping and therefore it’s not really that odd to call me at all hours of the night as chances are about 100% good that I’ll be awake and working anyway.  Then a text from Laura came through: “Is it true?”  For some reason this actually made me feel slightly better and even a bit amused.  With all of the recent rumors I’ve seen on-line about the next season of HOLLISTON (everything from fans claiming to have been told by FEARnet representatives at their local horror convention that “Season 3 is green-lit and coming soon”… to rumors that Season 3 was already filming and that I was trying to keep it a secret from the public until production was totally finished- none of which is true by the way) I figured it was something related to the show in one way or another.  Or perhaps it was some other silly gossip about my next film which I have signed onto but not yet announced publicly yet?  Maybe even a bullshit rumor that I had split up with my wife or that I was having an affair with some hot young actress?  Perhaps it was the same old fan gossip that my co-star Corri English and I were together romantically in real life?  I even thought “Ooh, maybe it’s a rumor that I’m dead!  Wouldn’t that be a funny one!”  Whatever it was, it couldn’t possibly be anything important or anything that Laura didn’t already know the real answer to.  She must have just been calling to laugh about it with me.  But after a few minutes my curiosity was just too much and I realized that I was not going to be able to concentrate on the movie until I found out what Laura was calling for.  I paused the movie and called her back.  ”Sorry, Robert.  This will only take a quick second.”

In that “quick second” life suddenly changed.  Turns out that a Virginia based website called Style Weekly had broken the news that our beloved friend and HOLLISTON co-star Dave Brockie (known to millions all over the world as “Oderus Urungus”, iconic lead singer of the pioneering heavy metal band GWAR) had passed away.  The defense mechanism known as “disbelief” kicked right in.  ”It can’t be true, Laura.  He just called me this morning.  It’s a hoax or just a stupid rumor.”  But what was most unsettling was that Dave’s life-long friend (oddly enough also named Adam Green) had posted underneath the comments on Facebook confirming the news.  ”It’s true.  He’s gone.”  This couldn’t be a hoax.  Even Dave with his incredibly morbid sense of humor wouldn’t do this as a joke.  Especially not with GWAR’s guitarist Cory Smoot (“Flattus Maximus”) passing away just 2 years ago.  Death was something to be joked about on GWAR’s stage only, not in Dave’s real life.  Something was wrong.  Something was incredibly wicked fucking wrong.

I called Joe Lynch and within 30 minutes both Joe and Laura were here with me at the ArieScope office sitting around the table (the table where the cast first reads and rehearses each new episode of HOLLISTON) frantically searching the internet for news and calling everyone we could think of that might know what was going on.  If Corri English still lived in LA you can bet that she would have been here within minutes, too.  It was close to 3am New York time so I just texted her saying “Please call me as soon as you wake up.  Don’t look at the internet.”  Denial was in full effect and we must have come up with at least 15 different scenarios for why this news was not true, why it was a mistake, or why it was a joke.  Around 1am Dave’s touring manager called me back and confirmed the worst.  Our brother Dave Brockie was gone.  ”Oderus Urungus” had left the building for the final time and returned to his home planet of Scumdoggia.  Nothing would ever be the same.

b2a8632f0c06ddbe7ff95cf084d441d8

L to R: Joe Lynch, Laura Ortiz, Me, Corri English, Dave Brockie – Entertainment Weekly 2012

It’s important to note that I don’t use the word “brother” lightly.  It’s not a term thrown around like those guys who annoyingly call everyone “bro” in conversation or who refer to you as “brother” affectionately in emails and texts.  This cast is truly a family that reaches far beyond just performing together.  Many artists (both in front of and behind the camera) form strong bonds through working together creatively, but very few carry that very same bond into their real lives when the cameras are put away and the sets are dismantled and locked away in storage.  To put it into perspective, if I ever needed an organ transplant my castmates would undoubtedly be on the front line saying “here, just take mine”.

Having confirmation of the terrible news, I shot off a few emails and texts to HOLLISTON’s producers and of course, to our other brother in the cast Dee Snider.  It was going to be a bad morning for a lot of people when they woke up.  I still can’t even imagine what Dave’s bandmates are going through.  Brad, Mike, Todd, Brent and the Slave Pit crew, some of whom have loyally been a part of GWAR for three decades now.  Not to mention the millions of Bohabs (GWAR fans) worldwide who are all hearing the news this week, the staff at Metal Blade records, GWAR’s management… all wonderful people that I have gotten to know since first officially casting Dave in HOLLISTON back in 2010.  Dave’s incredible personality, insane art, and enormous beating heart touched millions of people and I am certainly not the only one to have had such a special connection to him.  It has been incredible to watch not only the metal music world but the entire entertainment world acknowledge this enormous loss and hear so many people come forward with such respectful and sincere words about who Dave really was and what he meant for our entertainment culture as a whole.  There are many “one of a kind” people out there, but there was and only ever will be one Dave Brockie.

984046_10152267388854675_623823204_n

 Beavis and Butthead weep.

At the time of this writing there is still no cause of death known.  Of course it only took about 48 hours before on-line reports about Dave’s death began using the phrase “possibly drug related” even though the toxicology report could take 6 weeks or more to actually come back… and I can’t tell you how much that angers me to read.  I wasn’t there with him.  I can’t tell you anything that isn’t already in the press and no, I don’t have some kind of inside information that I’m holding back.  All I can do is speak to Dave’s character.  I spent an enormous amount of time with him.  Not only working on HOLLISTON but also backstage at GWAR concerts, sitting him with him on the tour bus, in hotels where we were appearing to promote HOLLISTON… and countless hours, hours, and hours on the phone.  Dave was an early riser and he would call me extremely early in the morning on a regular basis just to talk.  He knew that chances were good that if he called me at 7am his time (4am my time)… I’d already be awake and around to talk.  He also called from the road to check in constantly, not so much to tell me about how he was doing but to see how I was doing.  Though I’ve known Dave on a fan-level for 25 years, in the 4+ years that I have been incredibly close with Dave on a personal level, never once did I see him use or even speak of hard drugs.  I encourage everyone to listen to Dave’s appearance on THE MOVIE CRYPT podcast last summer at San Diego Comic-Con where we spoke about his life and career.  You can listen to it here.  In this interview he was incredibly honest and candid about everything, including his stance on drugs.  It’s probably the most comprehensive and revealing showcase available in terms of who Dave really was and what his personal journey was like.  By the end of that two hour podcast you’ll feel like you really knew him, too.  I know that it’s difficult to believe that the lead singer of the world’s most outrageous heavy metal band was not a hardcore drug user, but he was not.  I can’t tell you what the medical examiner’s report will say, but I can tell you that my friend Dave Brockie did not live his life like some rock star cliche.  Out of all of the possible reasons for Dave’s death that have crossed my mourning mind these past few days, a drug overdose is absolutely not one of them.  That was one of the most beautiful things about Dave Brockie.  He didn’t need mind-altering substances to be crazier than you.  He just was.

Gwar-2-1024x664

Dave Brockie / “Oderus Urungus” … 1963 – 2014

This past August Dave turned 50.  While we sat in an IHOP together eating incredibly and unhealthy greasy food he excitedly boasted about his recent comprehensive physical exam and how his health was absolutely perfect  - the irony of which is of course not lost on me.  Dave may have dressed up like a giant space alien, he may have written and performed heavy metal music, he may have sprayed down his audience with all kinds of over the top fake blood in concert, he may have had long hair (sometimes) and tattoos, he may have made incredibly funny and offensive satirical jokes when in the “Oderus Urungus” character… but beneath all of that was a brilliant mind, a true artist, a terrific musician, a walking encyclopedia of history knowledge, a die-hard Redskins fan, a novelist, a painter, a poet, a comedian, a storyteller, a lover of cinema, a business man, a generous soul, an inspiration, an entertainer to millions, a cultural icon, and a loyal friend.

GWAR-Hell-o-510920My first GWAR album.

When I was fourteen years old I got my first summer job working as a bag boy at a Cape Cod supermarket.  I was already a full-blown metal head by that point having started out on bands like Twisted Sister, KISS, Alice Cooper, Guns N Roses, and anything glam metal.  I had just started to include thrash metal like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax in my regular listening diet.  Sometimes I’d bag groceries behind a cashier named Eric who was an older and musically wiser individual.  Upon mentioning to him how much I loved Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” record he simply replied, “No, dude.  GWAR.  Listen to GWAR.  They’ll change your life.”  He let me borrow his cassette tape of GWAR’s “Hell-o” and well… he was right.  It changed my life.  Only I couldn’t have possibly conceived then just how much GWAR would indeed change my life in the long run.  I spent my next paycheck on GWAR’s more recent record “Scumdogs Of The Universe” and I was enamored. I couldn’t believe there was a heavy metal band that dressed up like giant alien monsters and who sang the absolutely most offensive and hilarious songs I had ever heard.  (Hey, when you’re a 14 year old boy nothing impresses you more musically than a song like “The Salaminizer” where the singer says the word “fuck” about 8,000 times in just only 3 minutes and 35 seconds.)  I was obsessed with GWAR and as soon as I got back to school that Fall I introduced my friends in Vigilante (my high school band that was about as good as the name sounds) to GWAR and we quickly learned how to play “Sick Of You”.  It was the very first song we learned how to cover.  Yes, all three magical chords of it.  I tried the best any 14 year old boy could to model my singing voice after Oderus’ voice since we had a similar range and over the next two decades (starting once I was old enough to go) I made it a priority to always see GWAR perform whenever they came through whatever city I was living in or at least a city that was within a few hours drive.

I could go on and on about my experiences seeing GWAR concerts, my favorite songs from each album, and what a huge fan I have always been of Dave’s and of the band’s, but there are thousands and thousands of fans just like me saying and feeling the same way right now.  What I’d rather offer up is just how much GWAR helped shape my sense of humor and my ability to laugh at everything from popular culture figures to political leaders and just how influential Dave’s wit was to becoming an even more accepting and tolerant human being.  While an outsider who never “got” GWAR might view the band as offensive or even outright blasphemous, us Bohabs always appreciated the next level humor, the social statements, and the outrageous creativity that GWAR exuded.   One of the most genius things about Dave/”Oderus” was that he could literally say anything and get away with it.  Whether it was calling-out a public figure on their own bullshit or simply purposely saying the most ridiculous thing possible for no other reason than to push people’s buttons… what was someone going to do?  Argue with a rubber alien?  You kind of just had to laugh with him or risk looking like a complete fool.

Dave accomplished so much in his fifty years on this planet.  Forget about GWAR’s many successes as both a band and as worldwide cultural icons for 30 years (how many other bands can say that?), but Dave’s unique mind and artistic skills were truly transcendent.  Whether he was writing about football for a sports outlet, acting as an “intergalactic reporter” for FOX News (the ultimate irony if you knew him), painting some of the most unique art out there, publishing an epic horror novel steeped in historical events (WHARGOUL), or acting in a TV sitcom… he was so much more than just a guy who portrayed a foul mouth talking alien that fronted an incredible heavy metal band.  Just try and compare him to another human being, living or dead.  You can’t.  It’s also important to note that when Dave passed away he was at a point in his career where everything was firing at full blast.  GWAR had just finished touring Australia and Japan mere days before he passed away.  GWAR’s latest album “Battle Maximus” was easily one of the band’s best records ever.  HOLLISTON Season 2 was just about to come out on Blu-Ray and he was building legions of new fans every day.  He was completely happy with where he was at in life and he had so many new ideas and projects he was excited to start on.  He didn’t have to go through the painful process of becoming irrelevant, having the world stop appreciating his art, or having to get a dreaded day job working day in and day out simply to make a living but not out of passion.  We should all be so lucky.

Oderus advises Adam

“Oderus” gives me life advice.  From Season 1 of HOLLISTON.

HOLLISTON was a life-long dream project of mine.  To date, I love it more than any other project I’ve ever created.  There’s enough information out there as to how the show came to fruition (and how obscenely long it took me to actually get it made) but ever since the concept of my character having an imaginary alien best friend who lived in his closet and served as a guardian angel of sorts came into the picture… Dave/”Oderus” was who I dreamed of in the role.  When I found myself backstage at House of Blues pitching him the concept of HOLLISTON it took less than 3 seconds for him to say “I’m in.”  Not “how much money are you offering?”  Not “well, you’ll have to talk to my management first.”  Not even “I’ll need to see a script first.”  Sure it helped that he had already seen my movies, but Dave (like any true artist) was about doing what he was excited about doing and what he was passionate about.  GWAR is the perfect example.  If you think the guys in GWAR spent the past 30 years rolling in money and throwing away millions on fancy cars and mansions in the Hollywood Hills… think again.  They were a working class band who always did things on their terms and because they loved doing it.  If you could only see how humble they all actually are.  Underneath those larger than life costumes are 5 regular guys who travel from city to city together cramped into one bus and playing their asses off night after night.  And this is no average traveling band, mind you.  The amount of work that goes into a GWAR concert is like nothing you can imagine.  The “slaves” who handle everything from the behind the scenes mechanics to playing characters in the show itself had me in awe the first time I watched a full concert from backstage.  Bob Gorman in particular who has been with the band for the run of their career (and who GWAR fans would know as the “skateboarder” who meets “Sleazy P. Martini” at the start of their grammy award winning movie PHALLUS IN WONDERLAND) not only works harder and faster than anything I’ve ever seen, but he even had to pick up Joe Lynch (who is easily twice his size) at the end of a show and feed him to the band’s on-stage “meat grinder” simply because Dave asked him to.  I couldn’t lift up Joe over my shoulder and carry him across the stage, and even I am a bigger guy than Bob.  These guys are simply incredible and they have never done it for any kind of fortune and glory other than having the opportunity to do their thing.  So with that mentality, of course Dave agreed to play my imaginary alien friend on HOLLISTON and thus began an amazing real-life friendship where the lines between Dave being my guardian angel on the show and my guardian angel of sorts in real life quickly became blurred.

photo-4

Backstage at House of Blues – November 5, 2011

If the 14 year old me could only have known what Eric the supermarket cashier meant when he handed me that cassette tape and said “This will change your life.”  My life has been blessed like that and I never, ever forget it or take it for granted.  And I don’t just mean that I’ve somehow found myself becoming genuine friends with many of the artists that I grew up idolizing.  It’s that people like Dave Brockie and the countless other “celebrities” that I created impossible expectations for in my childhood head have all not just lived up to those expectations but surpassed them in every way.  As Dave says on the podcast that I posted earlier in this blog, he attributes all of that to my own personality and my ability to invest in and put together such amazing groups of people that are willing to drink my creative Kool Aid and believe not only in me and my various passion projects, but also in each other.  Maybe that’s true.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky.  It’s very hard for me to tell being this close to all of it.  But Dave truly, truly loved every single person he worked with on HOLLISTON.  Not just the cast who he worked with most closely, but every crew member who was there each day working hard to make the show happen against incredibly hard odds.  He was always polite.  He was always in a good mood.  He was always gracious to be there and thankful for the opportunity.  Most of all, he never failed to let everyone know just how much he loved them and how much he enjoyed every moment he had with them.  And I think that’s one of the greatest successes of Dave Brockie’s life.  That even leaving us suddenly and without a chance to say goodbye… everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) in his life knows how much he loved and appreciated them.  We could all only be so lucky to have nothing left unsaid when it’s our time to go.  If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s not just to remember to tell the people you care about that you love them… but to do it every moment that you get the chance.  I never got a single voice mail from Dave where he didn’t sign off with “I love you.”  For most men like myself, there’s just something uncomfortable in doing that.  You kind of feel stupid or embarrassed to say “I love you” to someone else save for your parents, your wife, or you children if you are lucky enough to have children.  Then again, Dave spent his entire life half-naked on stage’s worldwide wearing a thong with his ass hanging out.  Nothing… and I mean NOTHING… was ever going to embarrass Dave Brockie.  And he was a better man because of that.

scared cast

Rock and Shock – Worcester, MA – 2011

Lynch and I will be doing a podcast episode dedicated to Dave soon.  We’re just waiting until we are a little bit better prepared for it.  Fans who listen to THE MOVIE CRYPT religiously will notice in some of the upcoming episodes that we dance around it a bit and force ourselves to focus on the guest at hand.  I know that there are people waiting to hear words from each of us in the HOLLISTON cast and as a fan myself I understand it completely.  Whenever an artist I admired has passed on, I am always anxious to hear from the other artists around him or her.  Somehow it helps.  So I didn’t want to wait another day to post something about what Dave meant to me, and a written blog was the best way to get it out without stammering on and on through a wide array of emotions.  I am grateful to say that I’m just not very experienced with grief like this and a lot of what I am personally feeling is completely new to me.  I’ll find myself overcome with tears one minute, laughing the next, and then angry a minute later.  I have spent a lot of time these past few days talking to Dave on the various HOLLISTON posters hanging on the walls here at ArieScope, which I suppose in the grand scheme of things isn’t that much weirder than the show itself where he lives in my closet and only I can see him.  Only this is real life.  I am anxiously awaiting the point in the grieving process where I can celebrate his life rather than wallow in tears because he is gone or stand before his image and yell at him for leaving when we still had so much to do together.  Fans of the show are starting to ask what my plan is for potential future seasons of HOLLISTON and how I’ll creatively handle the situation.  All I can say is that the show’s future is the least of my priorities at this very moment.  Would Dave have wanted the show to go on?  Of course.  He’d kick my ass if I had the opportunity to make more seasons of the show and walked away because he is gone.  For now though, I can’t even think about it.  What I can say is that the fans have absolutely overwhelmed all of us with their unimaginable outpouring of support and love.  There are more letters, messages, and comments than I can possibly read.  But I am reading all of them.  I’ve found great strength in witnessing the sheer magnitude of how much Dave meant to people and I can’t stress enough just how much everyone in the world of HOLLISTON appreciates and loves you all.

419753_327802780653966_2143374719_n

HOLLISTON fan art.

I wish I could end this eulogy blog or whatever it is with a proper goodbye to my friend Dave.  But I suppose I don’t really know how to do that just yet.  Instead I’ll offer my total and unwavering condolences, my heart, and my prayers to everyone else who is grieving right now.  To the HOLLISTON cast and crew, I hope you celebrate the times you had with Dave and all of the incredible laughter and positive energy he brought into our lives,  To my friends in GWAR, your loss is insurmountable and we all grieve with you.  I wish you all tremendous strength in the coming days, weeks, months, and years and I know without a doubt that whatever you each do next as artists will be something I love.  But to the fans of HOLLISTON, of GWAR, of everything Dave Brockie… my heart goes out to you the most.  For all of the love and admiration you had for Dave/”Oderus” so few of you actually got the chance to meet him in person or to spend the kind of precious time knowing him and creating with him that the rest of us were blessed with.  For that I am truly sorry.  But as you grieve, remember that without YOU there would have been no “Dave Brockie the entertainer”.  You gave him the opportunity to live the life he lived through your loyalty, support, and appreciation.  You weren’t just a huge part of Dave’s life… you made Dave’s life the amazing life that it was.  Never forget that.

In closing, I leave you with the last voice mail that Dave left for me.  Some might say that it’s an odd choice to share such a personal thing so publicly, but I have been listening to this voice mail over and over and over again since Sunday night and I think that it so perfectly encapsulates everything I have said above and who he really was.  A sweet, loving, wonderful, and passionate man.  He didn’t just change my life, he made my life better.

 

By the way… I love you too, Dave Brockie.

-AG

UPDATED 3/7/14: HOLLISTON Dave Brockie Tribute Video

HOLLISTON Dave Brockie Tribute from ArieScope Pictures on Vimeo.

HOLLISTON Season 2 – Special Features

On April 8th HOLLISTON Season 2 finally comes home to Blu-Ray.  Hopefully by now you’ve pre-ordered your copy from us directly but if you haven’t already done so… just click here.  While all Season 2 Blu-Rays ordered from ArieScope.com come with both my autograph and Joe Lynch’s autograph on the cover, only pre-ordered copies will come with a third surprise cast member’s autograph on the cover as well.  It likely goes without saying, but when you buy stuff from us you support all of us and our projects directly… so THANK YOU for buying your copy here.

OK, so why is Season 2 only being released on Blu-Ray and not also on DVD?  First of all, don’t shoot the messenger!  If I had $10 for every angry tweet or other social networking message I’ve gotten about this matter, Season 3 would already have been financed and shot.  Seriously, it’s not my fault nor is it the fault of anyone else associated with making HOLLISTON itself.  If it were up to us, of course DVD would also be an option for you to purchase, but unfortunately it isn’t up to us.  So that you can hopefully understand their reasoning, Image Entertainment (HOLLISTON’s distributor) made this decision based on a few key factors.  The most obvious factor being that DVD is going the way of VHS extinction now that Blu-ray players are so affordable and common (most all modern gaming systems even come with a Blu-Ray player built in) and now that so many people have big screen high definition TV’s.  If you’ve ever watched a DVD on a big screen TV and compared it to what watching a Blu-Ray looks like, then you know just how awful a DVD actually looks all blown up and stretched out since DVD resolution is so much lower than that of Blu-Ray.  According to a representative from Image, the Season 1 Blu-Ray far out sold the DVD which is another major factor in their decision making.  But most importantly is that Season 2 contains well over 340 minutes of content.  (That’s about 4 feature films for those keeping track.)  While a Blu-Ray disc is big enough to fit all of that content on one disc, a DVD release would likely take 3 if not 4 discs and therefore more extensive packaging… thus making it remarkably more expensive not only to produce but also more expensive for you to actually buy.  So as unpopular as their decision may be for those still holding on to their old DVD players, VCRs, and cassette tapes… times are changing and there’s nothing we can personally do about it.  Of course Season 2 is already available to purchase quite cheaply on Amazon streaming, on XBOX, and on iTunes (where you can get the full un-cut Christmas Special as well) for those who are still anti-Blu-Ray.  So no matter what, there is a way to buy and watch the show legally.  Still want to gripe to someone about the lack of a DVD release?  Image Entertainment has a Facebook page here.  But be nice!  Remember that without Image supporting HOLLISTON from day one, the show very well may never have been made in the first place.

But now for the fun part!  The coveted special features on the Season 2 Blu-Ray release!  Though I usually like to wait until I’ve got the disc in my own hands and after I have watched it through myself before declaring what exactly will be on it, Image has not yet sent me a check disc to view.  So if any of the below winds up not being on the Blu-Ray, don’t blame me.  However, Image assures me that the below information is accurate and that they have included everything that we created and delivered to them.  So here goes…

813cgaev8kL._SL1500_

Not only does the Blu-Ray include all ten episodes from Season 2 and the un-cut full version of “The Christmas Special” (it was cut down by 5 minutes for television) but also over 70 minutes of special features!  Bonus content includes: THE MAKING OF SEASON 2 (A behind the scenes piece that covers the making of Season 2 overall), BECOMING LANCE ROCKETT (A piece detailing Dee Snider’s incredible make-up and wardrobe in Season 2), THE SEASON 2 HOLLYWOOD PREMIERE (See what you missed from the red carpet and after party), THE BLOOPERS (Yeah, sometimes we fuck up and we know you love to laugh at our mistakes just as much as we do! You’ll even get to see the raunchy joke that I was supposed to perform at the end of Episode 9 “Kevin’s Wedding” where I instead completely choked by not being able to stop laughing…), ELEVEN DELETED AND ALTERNATE SCENES (See what didn’t make the final cut and find out why as I give an on-camera introduction and explanation for each set of clips before they begin), “LOVE IT DOWN YOUR THROAT” MUSIC VIDEO (See the entire music video for Lance Rockett and DYVER DOWN’s first ‘original Van Halen cover song’), “CAN YOU HEAR ME” MUSIC VIDEO (Corri English’s band BROKEDOWN CADILLAC was kind enough to give us their official music video for “Can You Hear Me” which Corri performed on stage during the ‘Farm Festival’ in the Season 2 finale), “THE ROAD BEHIND” FULL PERFORMANCE (See my entire performance from the opening of Episode 7 “Blobby” where I fully embarrassed myself in front of my dolls- I mean, action figures), HOLLISTON “LIVE AT ROCK AND SHOCK” (The very first full 30 minute live performance/table read that the cast ever did at a convention.  It’s an original script that I wrote specifically for the event and the performance includes surprise celebrity guest stars), and finally… COMMENTARY TRACKS on 10 of the 11 included episodes featuring myself, Joe Lynch, Laura Ortiz, and Sean Becker (who directed many of the episodes this past season).  The only episode we skipped doing a commentary track for was Episode 7 “Blobby” simply because we could only fit 10 commentaries on the Blu-Ray.  Since 80% of that episode is animated it was the likely choice to skip.  Don’t fear though, any good stories we had about that episode were discussed in the other commentary tracks.

It is important to point out that we personally created all of this content and gave it to Image Entertainment for free.  Why did we do that?  Because we LOVE YOU for spending your hard earned cash on supporting our show and we want to give you everything that we possibly can and make your purchase special with content that you will only be able to see if you buy the Blu-Ray.  The truth is that we know just how many fans of the show choose to watch HOLLISTON as cheaply as possible, whether that be only watching it when it airs on television, downloading it on streaming sites like Amazon, XBOX, and iTunes, or when the show eventually hits places like Hulu or Netflix (no release dates for those two outlets set yet, sorry).  Sadly, far too many “fans” also steal our show on illegal torrent sites which is a big reason why there is still no announcement of a third season.  A show like HOLLISTON is not cheap to make given its high production quality and all of those incredible guest stars that you love to see.  But unlike the major network or high-end cable network shows you watch, HOLLISTON is an independent production made on an extremely modest budget with our collective hearts, blood, sweat, and tears.  No one involved is getting rich off of this show.  In fact, many people involved (like myself) often put a lot of their salary back into the show in order to bring you more episodes and in order to keep the quality as high as possible. That’s why HOLLISTON can be so original and not quite like any other sit-com out there.  We wouldn’t be able to do half of the stuff that we do if we didn’t have such complete creative control.  By making the series independently we were able to make a sit-com that blends outrageous humor, heartfelt drama, tear-jerking emotion, gory horror, heavy metal icons, and all of those genre stars that you had never before gotten to see perform comedically in a traditional sit-com.  Until HOLLISTON, network sit-coms just didn’t seem to cater to us – the horror fans, the “outcasts”, the struggling artists, the “geeks”, or the “metal heads”.  They underestimated us and it truly seemed as though they felt that if you were in the demographic that liked horror than you wouldn’t possibly also like to laugh, to cry, or to see yourselves represented in a format that was simply never made for people like you or I.  In my opinion, we were most always shown in a condescending way by the sit-coms that would portray us through pedestrian heightened stereotypes or as minor characters and supporting sight-gags.  But if anyone out there knows what it’s like to struggle to chase a dream, to repeatedly have doors slammed in our ambition’s faces, to be broke as shit, and to suffer real relationship heartbreaks… it’s us.  That’s why more so than any other genre, we are our very own culture.  Thankfully places like FEARnet and Image rolled the dice, believed in us, believed in YOU, and pre-licensed HOLLISTON so that we could put together the budget needed to make the show correctly.   But while the show may be considered a success based on the audience reactions, critical reviews, and incredibly passionate fan base… if the series doesn’t recoup its budget or show some sort of profit for those outlets, it simply will not continue.  The cards are against us as FEARnet is still a very small network that not everyone can watch and when the show hits places like iTunes and Blu-Ray there is no marketing or advertising in place to support it.  (You’ll notice that HOLLISTON doesn’t even have the pull or financial support to be listed in “new releases” but instead just kind of shows up in the “H” section randomly one day.)  It has all been up to the cast, the crew, and the fans to let the world know about it.  And man… that ain’t easy.  But as Han Solo said, “Never tell me the odds.”  We can continue on if you help us.  Support the show and buy the Blu-Ray or buy a season pass on iTunes.  Tell everyone you know about it and make noise on-line about it.  Know someone who is illegally stealing it from us on-line?  Punch them in the dick.  Help us make a third season happen and help us get enough episodes made so that the show can finally start being distributed in other countries, too.  ”Adam”, “Joe”, “Laura”, “Corri”, “Oderus”, “Lance” and “Axl The Cat” need your help if they’re to keep the lights on in the apartment at “13 Francine Street”, if they’re to keep “Mass Cable Network” in business, and if they’re to keep that generic beer flowing at “Casey’s Crossing”.  Buy the Blu-Ray… keep HOLLISTON going.

A blog with more details on where we are at with future seasons of HOLLISTON and news about my upcoming film projects is coming when I can.  Promise.  It’s already been an amazing and crazy year so far (just wait ’til you read about my afternoon with the great Steven Tyler!) but it’s only just getting started.  In the meantime, hopefully you are listening to THE MOVIE CRYPT podcast and keeping up with all of the stories and everything that’s been happening on a weekly basis.  For HOLLISTON fans, Corri English will be our guest next week (airing on iTunes and GeekNation.com starting Monday March 17th) and we’ll be speaking at length about where we are at with a third season- so don’t miss that episode!

In the meantime, I continue to thank and love you all.  Enjoy the Season 2 Blu-Ray and for those in Los Angeles, a bunch of us from the show will be appearing at Dark Delicacies bookstore in Burbank on the night the Blu-Ray comes out (April 8th).  Check out the “NEWS” section of this website for the details.

“In Market Basket we shop.”

-AG

 

 

GOODBYE 2013

Or … THE LONGEST BLOG EVER.

Happy New Year!  Now that there exists THE MOVIE CRYPT weekly podcast, blogging has become a lot less necessary or exciting- save for the entries where I share rare set photos, storyboards, or other information that I can’t “speak” on the podcast.  Looking back at this year in blogs, the SPIRAL “Photos” blog and FROZEN “Storyboards” blog seemed to be the two most popular, but given how far and how fast the podcast has grown, that really only makes sense.  So since I really didn’t blog that much all year, this year end wrap up is going to be a big one. 2013 was an incredibly busy and difficult time but also a milestone for both myself and all at ArieScope in an enormous way.  In an effort to save your eyes and not make this entry a full-on novel (oh, who am I kidding- the end of the year blog is ALWAYS a novel and you’re gonna need 3 days, a case of 5-Hour Energy, and the skillful patience of a sea urchin to get through this blog alive), let’s get started and just “hit the highlights”, shall we?  By the way, if you scream “HIT THE HIGHLIGHTS” in James Hetfield’s high pitched 1983 KILL ‘EM ALL voice on “Hit The Lights” it makes reading the rest of this blog extremely fun.  And wicked metal.

“LARRY DAVID” GOES TO MOOREA

2013 began with a much needed vacation as Rileah and I adventured off to the island of Moorea in French Polynesia.  Moorea is a smaller, reclusive island near Bora Bora where the entire resort is essentially standing over the most beautiful natural aquarium that you’ve ever seen.  We had a private bungalow over the water where you could literally roll out of bed and step right into the ocean.  Sounds like paradise, right?  For the most part, location wise- it truly was.  But it definitely wasn’t the best vacation we’ve ever been on.  We have only been able to take a couple of vacations in our decade together due to the demanding schedules that we both keep so I don’t have that many vacations to compare it to, but this one had more than its fair share of flaws.  If I intended for this blog to be a comedy sketch I’d go into all of the things that went wrong on Moorea (starting with the fact that it POURED at least 6 and 1/2 out of the 10 days we were there or how the neighboring bungalow played “Gangnam Style” on a straight loop for 5 of those days or how I wound up having more “Larry David” moments in 10 days then most will have all year long) but I can’t explain how nice it was to be “technology-less” for ten days and how much needed the sleep and time together doing absolutely nothing were.  Looking back, those 10 days probably got me through 2013 given the production marathon that I was coming off of and the crazy year I was about to embark on.  I was literally in production from the start of 2012 through the day we left for Moorea on January 4, 2013.  2012 was ridiculous with finishing and releasing Season 1 of HOLLISTON, writing and living through the difficult production of HATCHET 3, writing and shooting Season 2 of HOLLISTON, writing a new draft of KILLER PIZZA yet again, post-production on Season 2- including the completion and launch of the Hour-Long HOLLISTON CHRISTMAS SPECIAL, shooting pieces for 2014′s DIGGING UP THE MARROW, and the appearances, tours, and promotion that go along with what I do for a living.  Keep in mind that while the phrase “writing season 2 of HOLLISTON” may be merely five short words- that alone actually translates to writing 11 different screenplays (close to 600 pages of material) while being on location in a New Orleans swamp for the shooting of HATCHET 3.  So by the time we sat down on the plane to Moorea… Rileah and I were both in need of time away in the most desperate way.  Perhaps on one of the podcasts next year, Joe Lynch and I can both go into our various “vacation nightmares” (he has had plenty of his own disasters, too) and I can explain how I became “the Larry David of Moorea”, but for now I’ll just say that the island was gorgeous and the vacation was a great way to start 2013.   I’m just saying that had I known that I would come home from the coast of Tahiti having watched it rain for a week, being extremely disappointed by the expensive resort’s service, and knowing all of the words to “Gangnam Style” – I would have stayed here in LA and gone to the movies instead.  Much cheaper.

Moorea

Moorea – January 2013.

POST-PRODUCTION ON HOLLISTON SEASON 2

Once I returned, the next five months were all about post-production on HOLLISTON.  I was locked away with my fellow HOLLISTON director Sean Becker and editors Ed Marx and Josh Ethier as we edited and posted what is essentially 3 feature films worth of material in less time that you typically get to edit, score, sound design, and color time 1 feature film.  (If you count the Christmas Special – 4 feature films.)  It’s very hard, but it is also so incredibly fun and every day is a joy as we laugh our asses off while facing the difficult challenges that come with cutting hours and hours of footage together in the best way we can figure out how.  I’ve said it many times, but the production of HOLLISTON (every single step of it- from writing through delivery of the final episodes) is such a wonderful experience in every way that I only wish every filmmaker could experience something like it over the course of their careers.  There is literally never a bad day and I go home (briefly) each night excited to get right back into it as soon as possible the next morning.  The show is a blessing and one that I will gravely miss should it not continue on for a third season.  As you know, at this time we still don’t know what the future holds for HOLLISTON, but more on that coming up…

Holliston post

Sound mixing HOLLISTON Season 2 at Todd AO Sound Stage, Burbank – April 2013.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

In March, the most extensive tour I’ve done since first promoting HATCHET in 2006 began as I hit the road on and off for 9 straight months promoting both HOLLISTON Season 2 and HATCHET 3.  It sounds fun, doesn’t it?  Well, in a lot ways it is very fun.  Getting out there face to face and not just meeting the fans who make this all possible but also PERFORMING live shows for them (shows that I write from scratch and tailor to each city we perform them in) is an honor and the only reason my HOLLISTON cast mates and I are willing to do what we do.  But if you think the endless trips to the airport, waiting in security lines, countless hours of uncomfortable plane trips, sleepless nights in hotel bed after hotel bed, not seeing your family or friends for weeks on end, and the debt (yes DEBT) that we go into by doing these tours is all “fun” you’d be very wrong.  It’s a lot like being in a band where you deal with life on the road because those few hours that you get performing for and meeting the fans make every bit of hassle worth it.  But unlike a band and unlike the other celebrity guests who appear at the conventions, screenings, and other events that we appear at… we don’t get paid a dime and go out of our own pockets for a lot of the expenses.  Believe me, it’s our choice to do it that way so we have no right to complain.  We’re lucky to even be wanted at these things and grateful for every fan that we have or that we win over by doing these free appearances.  We could easily charge each fan for our time, our autographs, our pictures, or our performances… but we don’t.  And we are the only ones who don’t charge.  It’s just the way I do things right now because it’s what I personally believe.  Trust me- I GET IT and those who charge have every right to do so.  Some would say (and have said) that I’m an idiot for NOT charging (and if you could see what it ultimately winds up costing me by doing these tours you would likely say the same thing)- but it is my choice.  I’m a story teller and all I want to do is both spread the word about the stories I have to tell and give back and thank the fans who support those stories.  That’s why you only see me doing appearances when leading up to a release of one of my projects.  I don’t do them unless I am actively promoting something new because I can’t afford to do them nor do I have the time to do them as I’m (thankfully) always working on the next thing.  But the honest truth is that I’m at “this” level- whatever that level may be considered to each individual.  While all of my films have had theatrical runs in the same theaters as the major studio pictures and while my TV show is available in all the same outlets and formats that any major network show is… what I don’t have (at this level) is real marketing dollars, serious publicity campaigns, or costly advertisements pushing and letting people know about my work or where to see it in the widest way possible.  So I can either shrug my shoulders and say “not fair” as the efforts of my crew and I fizzle and die… or I can do something about it.  To let down my guard and be completely honest, do I like having to be both the filmmaker and the salesman?  Hell no.  I would much rather watch millions get paid by a network or studio distributor to spread the word about my work, turn on the TV and see commercials for it on major network channels, drive down the street and see billboards on every corner, turn on the radio and hear the commercials every break, show up at the handful of junkets that a publicist arranged, do a few interviews, and keep working on the next project.  But until that happens, this is my life and this is how I need to do things.  And like it or not, this lifestyle is also exactly why my work has succeeded so far.  It’s a tricky line being both the filmmaker and the “accessible guy who is always out there promoting” and one that I struggle to try and balance daily.   And I don’t just mean the appearances or interviews.  Chances are about 100% that if you’ve ever written to me (whether it be through fan mail or social networking) you’ve gotten a personal response.  It has certainly taken its toll and I’m not quite sure just how many more of these tours I have left in me or how long I’ll be able to stay so completely accessible, but I’ve always done whatever I can do to support my own work if no one else is going to do it for me or help me with that crucial and pivotal aspect of it all.  Had I not given all of myself to these various appearances, promotional campaigns, and tours… there would be no success in ArieScope Pictures, there would be no “franchise” in “the HATCHET franchise” and there may never have even been the 7 feature films and 2 seasons of a TV show that followed in “Victor Crowley’s” wake.  If that’s what it takes to retain my independence and keep making the projects that I actually care about and that I actually want to make, than that’s what I’ll do as long as I can hold out.  Here’s what can be heartbreaking about these tours though…  Think about what you just read and now imagine what it feels like to be in whatever city I’m in that weekend, to give away a free poster or fancy 8X10 photograph (that I paid for), to spend however much time a fan wants with me, to sign for them and take a picture with them, to give them personal advice about navigating the industry or film school if that’s what they are asking of me… and then have them (with absolutely NO shame) tell me how they pirated all of my films on-line or how they stole HOLLISTON off of a bit torrent site because they didn’t want to pay $1.99 an episode (or $12.99 for the entire season) on iTunes or even $15 for an autographed DVD through this website.  It’s like saying “my way of thanking you for all of this is to do my part to try and make sure that you never get to make another project again”.  It’s infuriating, it’s crushing, it happens way more often than you would hope, and to be honest, it fucking hurts.  Deeply and badly.  Remember, the movie business is a business.  If these projects don’t at least recoup their budgets or turn some kind of small profit for the powers that be that finance them- we don’t work again.  However, the major silver lining in all of this is the enormous amounts of fans that will stand in line for hours of their lives just to get 30 seconds of one-on-one time to say “thank you” as they plunk down their theater ticket stub, DVD or BLU-RAY that they bought and ask me to autograph it.  The countless letters and stories of how what I do helped someone through a hard time in either a very small or very big way.  Whether it be your average fan, a physically handicapped person,  a mentally challenged individual, an abused woman or man, the local “outcast” who is made to feel like a “loser” by their peers at school, the military service men and women… words can’t express what it feels like to meet these amazing people and hear what they have to say about my work or about me personally.  Believe me, the honor is all mine.   And those moments are what keep me going and the memories that I hold so dearly.  To my fellow filmmaking peers who read this blog, the next time some executive makes your life hell, you hit a “wait, I’m broke again?!” dry spell, or some blogger or “critic” goes after you personally… think about that letter you have likely gotten from that stranger out there on the other side of the world who’s life you touched in a positive way and I can all but guarantee that things will come racing back into very sharp focus and perspective.  The fans have given me more support and strength than anyone else has in this industry.  Lest ye forget… fans make the industry go around and are as every bit as crucial a component of filmmaking as the original draft of your script itself.

photo

Standing ovation in Cincinnati – March 23, 2013.

THE MOVIE CRYPT OPENED ITS DOORS

On Monday May 6th, THE MOVIE CRYPT podcast creaked open its doors and launched on Geek Nation and (save for holidays like July 4th or Thanksgiving) we haven’t missed a week since.  Though Joe Lynch and I originally started the podcast with the intention of doing it for only the 10 weeks that HOLLISTON Season 2 would be airing and using it as a forum to discuss each episode and promote the series, the podcast quickly found a life far beyond what we ever expected and has since amassed an enormous and loyal following of listeners with its candid “Inside the Actor’s Studio” style filmmaker on filmmaker discussions covering all aspects of the movie making industry.  Whether it be a director, writer, producer, actor, composer, cinematographer, costume designer, editor, agent, or even a rock star, THE MOVIE CRYPT is so honest and informative that by the 6th episode we started hearing from college students that their film school professors had recommended that they listen to the podcast each week.  Given the terrific listenership we’ve acquired we now take the podcast very seriously, securing fantastic guests (both famous and soon to be famous as well as people who are so far behind the scenes that they don’t typically get the chance to be front and center discussing their craft for 2 full hours).  Rather than use THE MOVIE CRYPT as a source of promotion of any kind we instead look to it as a “service” to those looking for advice, inspiration, or merely information about how the industry really works.  Or at least… as much as we (and our guests) know about it.  We’ve turned down guests asking to come on as publicity for an upcoming project’s release and we’ve found ourselves telling publicists that contact us looking to book their client that we simply don’t operate that way.  We choose the subject matter, we invite the guests on, and we pick the topics based on what we think would be interesting or helpful to our audience and, of course, we also have fun doing an occasional “fan commentary track” to movies we love or by doing amusing bits like Bruce Fuery’s “Fists Of Fuery” where we poke fun at ourselves and keep it real the best way we know how.  To quote both of our wives (who comically enough are the only two guests so far to cancel on appearing and need to reschedule on us) “did we really need another obligation added onto our schedules?”  Most definitely not.  I can’t tell you how hard it was to keep the podcast going on schedule while Lynch was away in Serbia shooting EVERLY for 3 months and while I was filming DIGGING UP THE MARROW at the very same time.  But for both Lynch and myself, THE MOVIE CRYPT isn’t so much of an obligation as it is a hobby and something fun to do.  And having a hobby is sadly a thing that went out the window for both of us many years ago and it is a welcome thing to invite back into our lives.  At this point, Geek Nation still doesn’t pay us anything for our time or services and we’re free to end it all and hang up our microphones whenever we feel like it has become an obligation.  We do it because we want to do it.  So who knows just how long THE MOVIE CRYPT will last but for now it has been great fun and in some ways even a saving grace as these amazing public conversations with individuals we respect and admire helps remind both of us that we do still kinda love doing this for a living.  For me personally, I actually take great joy in helping, advising, and teaching others trying to get their start and this is the best way I can do that on a larger level.  It’s often said that “those who teach are those who failed” but I can say with full conviction that I actually look forward to one day teaching when I’ve lost my luster for this business.  In fact, Will Barratt and I have been starting to talk very seriously about possibly opening ArieScope’s doors next year for classes on production, writing, directing, acting, producing, film financing, distribution, and cinematography.  I was always disenchanted with professors I had who dished out “advice” and “critiques” but who had never actually made a movie, had never sold a script, had never been part of the actual industry, or had never even been on a real set in their lives.  Wouldn’t it be great to take a class or workshop with people that have done it and are still doing it now?  Someday when it all slows down and I’ve swallowed all of Hollywood that I can take, I look forward to settling down into teaching more permanently and changing the same kind of “teacher/student” situation I lived through (and paid top dollar for) for someone else.  Not listening to THE MOVIE CRYPT yet?  What’s wrong with you?!  Listen on iTunes or right here.

1379489_583986904996575_1755102733_n

Fan submitted drawing of Lynch and his Carebear.

BOSTON WAS STRONG

Back on April 15th at 2:49pm EST my hometown of Boston was rocked with tragedy when bombs went off at the finish line for the Boston Marathon senselessly killing 3 people and physically injuring at least 264 others.  You know the story.  I’ve already posted an entire blog dedicated only to this tragedy and the efforts I made in the wake of the marathon bombings to help my hometown, so I’d rather not get into all of the minutia of it again here as the details aren’t what matters for this year end wrap up.  This 30 second TV commercial that ran on cable channels throughout New England explains what the actual events were, so just click here.  Long story short, with the help of two incredible friends of mine on the ground in Boston (Gina Migliozzi and Stacy Buchanan) who deserve all of the credit in the world for the fundraiser’s success (along with the dozen or so horror fans that selflessly volunteered to help make sure things ran smoothly), I headed a 3-day event to raise money for the Governor’s ONE FUND dedicated to helping those most affected by the tragedy.  It took place May 28th – May 30th starting out in my hometown of Holliston, MA (almost exactly where the starting line of the marathon has always been located on the Holliston/Hopkington line), moving on to Worcester, MA, and ending in Boston, MA (less than 2 miles away from the finish line and the spot of the tragedy itself).  You can read the blog entry itself here to get all of the details of what the exact events were, but most importantly is that I appealed to my friends within the genre industry to help out in any way they could by donating items to be auctioned off at a “Boston Strong” rally/party that we held at the Worcester Palladium.  Instantly I heard back and received amazing one-of-a-kind items from wonderful people like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Chris Columbus, Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, Sid Haig, Dee Snider, Dave Brockie, Tyler Mane, Sid Haig, Alex Pardee, Joe Hill, Zakk Wylde, Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton, Anchor Bay, Dark Sky, Metal Blade, Darren Lynn Bousman, Joe Knetter and many more.  Genre websites like Dread Central, Shock ‘Til You Drop, Bloody-Disgusting, and so very many more all donated advertising space or posted articles to promote the event.  Local businesses made donations, gave us space to hold these events, and helped promote the 3-day event.  My friends Joe Lynch, Laura Ortiz, Kane Hodder, Mick Garris, Joel David Moore, Derek Mears, Zach Galligan, and Kip Weeks even went as far as to show up in person (many on their own dime), spending time with fans who turned out, generously signing autographs and taking photos for free, and helping me host the 3 nights of events.  Fans turned out in droves and dug deep into their pockets to donate and help the cause in any way they possibly could.  As crazy as it sounds, out of this horrific tragedy came the most memorable, touching, and wonderful experiences I’ve had not just this year but in my entire life.  While we had ambitiously hoped to raise $10,000.00 after all of the expenses were paid out (locations, permits, security, shipping, etc) we wound up writing a check for $15,000.00 to the One Fund… all in the name of the horror community.  Proving yet again that there is no community more caring, more generous, and more sincere than us horror fans.  While our hearts may be bloody and a little twisted, they’re also enormous.  It’s important to point out something about the fans that donated by attending the various events (all of which were priced to be as affordable as possible so that everyone could attend who wanted to), by bidding on items, or simply by dropping what they could in the various collection buckets we carried with us from each event to the next.  These are not people that are wealthy by any stretch of the imagination and I can’t even tell you what it felt like to watch someone who is unemployed and in dire financial straits of their own drop their last $5 on something like the HOLLISTON Season 2 preview screening or $25 on something like the HATCHET series marathon.  Together we helped those who needed help and stood united in the face of senseless hate and violence.  I don’t remember much about my closing remarks on the final night except that they involved a lot of emotion.  The attached video that was created by the volunteers who helped organize and run the event says it all.  There are a lot of links included within this blog, but if you only click on ONE of them, click here.  It’s only 4 minutes or so- but worth watching every second of.

Adam in Holliston, MA

Getting ready for Night 1 in Holliston, MA May 28, 2013

HOLLISTON SEASON 2 PREMIERED

On June 4th HOLLISTON Season 2 started airing on FEARnet.  What followed were ten amazing weeks as each new episode aired and the cast and I conducted weekly “live chats” with the show’s rabid fan base and rejoiced in the incredible feedback we’d get on-line, in our fan mail addresses, and at the appearances that we continued to do across the country (and even across the Atlantic in the UK) all summer long.  Season 2 is my absolute most favorite thing I’ve done yet and (in my opinion) the best work I’ve done so far.  Despite the severely limited ways that there were available to actually watch it, the series continued to snowball and win over more and more people as it went along.  On the convention circuit we consistently had some of the biggest turn outs and held our own against juggernauts like THE WALKING DEAD (the #1 show on television) that also tore through the convention circuit this past year with it’s undead version of Beatle-Mania.  These days Season 2 is available on both Amazon streaming and iTunes where you can also watch the un-cut version of The Christmas Special- our best and most important episode yet in my opinion as it was the point in the series when HOLLISTON truly came into its own and abandoned all fears or cares for expectations as it moved into Season 2.  We’re told that the DVD and BLU-RAY will be out in April of 2014 with Hulu and Netflix to follow.  We also hope to soon hear word about when other countries worldwide will start getting the series.

The big, hard question that has made the last round of appearances we’ve done together as a cast quite difficult to get through is “Will there be a Season 3?”  The only answer I have for you is that “talks have begun” and “I don’t know” …but if I had to be completely honest- I’d have to say that it is anything but a sure thing.  It has nothing to do with the show itself.  Even severely limited in ways to watch the show, our Season 2 finale placed #7 on GetGlue’s top trending shows on television when it aired on August 6th- beating out major network show’s like SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, THE VOICE, and BIG BANG THEORY and HOLLISTON is now far and away the most popular thing we’ve ever created at ArieScope not to mention that it remains to be FEARnet’s only original show.  Just imagine how much higher the Season 2 finale may have placed had the show been available to everyone on all platforms at the same time.  Now that’s just GetGlue which is far from an industry standard rating system, but when you’re on a network that is not yet part of the Nielson ratings system, you go off of whatever you can to gage viewership and GetGlue has been a terrific resource.  The show’s fate depends entirely on budget decisions that are dictated by people that have never even seen HOLLISTON but whom decide what dollar amount they are willing to give places like FEARnet for a budget to work and remain operational with.  Remember that FEARnet was not created to provide original content.  The network was originally conceived to show old movies and re-runs of old, cancelled shows or foreign TV shows that they could acquire the rights to air for a low price.  The only reason that HOLLISTON happened was because the network president (Peter Block) personally had a vision to do more with FEARnet than just show old movies and recycled TV programming.  He believed and supported us all the way by being as creative as he could be with scraping together the budget we needed.  FEARnet would of course love to be able to do more seasons (what good comes out of losing their only original show and going back to having no original shows?) so it’s nothing personal and not their decision should they be told they can’t continue doing it.  As much as we ALL appreciate the letters and postings “demanding” a third season, I always ask that fans keep in mind that the desire for a third season is already there on all parts and that hassling or blasting the network does no one any good whereas simply THANKING them and showing your support could potentially (in some universe) go a lot further in providing them with ammo to prove why they need to continue their only show. But the grim reality is that SONY (their parent company) announced their plans for a 100 million dollar budget cut earlier this year and you can bet Lance Rockett’s pleather pants that FEARnet will be feeling the wraths of those budget cuts down there at the bottom of SONY’s priority totem pole.  This is all just my personal perspective as there still is no ultimate answer and obviously I hope more than anyone that the powers that be find a way to continue on with HOLLISTON.  It would be a crying shame to see it end so prematurely over their parent corporation’s inflicted budget cuts (especially when the budget for a full SEASON of HOLLISTON is less than half of what most other networks pay for just 1 episode of one of their own 1/2 hour comedy series)… but life isn’t fair and these business decisions are purely financial and not based upon the creative merits or the reception of the series so far.  (Remember what I wrote earlier about internet piracy and how it destroys independent projects?  You’re looking at a prime example right here.  The sad truth is that FAR more people watch HOLLISTON illegally than do legally and if that were different… Season 3 would have already been shot by now.)  Who knows what will happen?

Truth be told, if HOLLISTON should go away it will be like watching my dog get run over by a car in front of me and I’ll likely never fully recover from the heartbreak or be the same again.  (Dramatic?  Yes.  But spend 13 years doing whatever you can to get a show made the right way and with the right people and then work as hard as I did pouring your entire heart and soul into something before you judge my sentiments.)  For now, all any of us can do is wait and see.  I’m constantly fielding questions about why we don’t just go to a different network or why we don’t “Kickstart” the next season so that everyone can get the show at the same exact time on all platforms- but the honest truth is that A) it’s not that easy, B) while we’re not yet completely counting it out- none of us involved particularly believe that in an age where so many fans steal and torrent their entertainment content that they’d ever step up and “Kickstart” enough for us to possibly continue the series at the same high quality and standard (even though if “Kickstarter” DID work- the idea of being able to release the show everywhere at the same time is very appealing to both us and to the fans of the show who struggle to find ways to see it), and C) while we are of course exploring other options “just in case”, we all still believe in and are loyal to FEARnet and would love to see the show continue airing there.  It is an honor to be a network’s first original show and we all want to see FEARnet… a horror network thrive and continue to grow.  In a perfect world HOLLISTON would only be the first of many original shows on FEARnet and 3 years from now FEARnet would be available in every home that wants it.  No one is giving up yet and we are trying every way we can to keep the lights on at “7 Francine Street, Apartment 13″.  So keep your support coming, keep the letters going to FEARnet (1601 Cloverfield Blvd, Santa Monica CA 90404), and like the underlying message of the entire series says… don’t stop believing.  We’re not.  More on all of that when I know more, but there are some potentially exciting scenarios being discussed and no one is giving up hope or passively just waiting to see what may happen.

If all goes well we’ll soon be back together again on our sound stage in Hollywood shooting Season 3.  I have literally gotten down on my knees nightly and prayed for that to happen- and I am not really a “praying” type of guy.  Should the day come next year when I am standing on that set alongside Joe, Corri, Laura, Dee, Oderus, and Axl… when the lights come up on Travis Zariwny’s amazing sets… when producers Sarah Elbert and Cory Neal have done all of the hard work to get things ready to go and actually shoot… when Will Barratt is standing behind his wall of monitors looking at the camera shots about to happen…and when Sean Becker shouts out “Roll sound!”… and I hear the stage bell “RIIIIIING“, commanding silence from all present… I will cry my eyes out and force us all into a 30 minute delay in schedule while poor Desiree Falcon has to re-do my make-up all over again from scratch.  It’s OK though as everyone else on that set will most certainly be crying with me.

Photo #6 Holliston group couch

The Holliston Christmas Special.

VICTOR CROWLEY FOUND HIS DADDY

Just 10 days after HOLLISTON Season 2 launched, HATCHET 3 opened on June 14th in a handful of US theaters and everywhere on VOD, eventually hitting DVD and BLU-RAY on August 13th and bringing my story of a misunderstood and tragically cursed ghost named “Victor” and a strong willed and ass kicking girl named “Marybeth” to an epic finale conclusion.   I already posted a blog saying goodbye to HATCHET and all about the bittersweet 10+ year experience that living through the trilogy was for me.  The extreme highs, the equally extreme lows, the triumphs, the regrets, the amazing people who held me up through it all and gave back everything I tried to give them and then some, the people (both Hollywood institutions and individuals who should be institutionalized) who tried to stop me or who took advantage of me, the people who betrayed and hurt me, and the fans that literally gave me everything I ever could have hoped for with their undying support and love along the way.  Making a movie (let alone a trilogy) is a lot like living through a boxing match and when the final bell rings you feel like Rocky Balboa’s face on the inside and the last thing you want to do is throw out or take in all of those punches again.  It’ll take many more years before I can really see the HATCHET experience through clearer, wiser eyes and properly reflect on the many great victories and the many great mistakes I may have made artistically and professionally in both business and in judgement.  But now that at least a little more time has gone by and I’ve gotten to hear from so many fans just how pleased they were with the finale (though some are still in denial that it’s really over) I couldn’t be happier with how well HATCHET III was received around the world.   So why end it now?  Why not keep it going when the fans want more?  Well, these three movies were always my plan.  And I’m proud of all three of them.  I don’t want to see the series continue on just because it could.  Who knows?  Maybe someday I’ll feel the need to resurrect “Victor Crowley” and bring him back.  But for now, if more HATCHET films happen any time soon it won’t be my personal choice nor will I be so heavily involved creatively.  I’d like to go out on a high note and 20 years from now have HATCHET be considered a franchise that only got better with each film and that never overstayed its welcome or became a soulless cash grab.  Ultimately, I’m just so grateful for everything that the series did for starting my career, the many other careers it helped play a hand in getting started on all levels both in front of and behind the cameras, the fans (Hatchet Army!) worldwide that embraced and loved “Victor Crowley”, and the place that HATCHET has secured in the horror history book’s chapter on slasher cinema… wherever the series may happen to fall in each individual’s own personal history book.   I may always have “Victor Crowley’s” shadow cast over me in some way, but I’m OK with that.  And I don’t just mean literally (there is a life-size “Victor Crowley” in my office and I’m writing this in his shadow right now), I’m talking about the perception that he continues to cast over me as well.  But the point is, my story for HATCHET may have ended this past summer but “Victor Crowley” will always be a part of me.  While I obviously wrote the movies and while I was standing there on set when he found his father, accepted his fate, and was finally set free from his curse- it was not until I watched the movie with an audience for the first time (May 30th in Boston, MA) that “Victor Crowley” was really dead and gone for me.  Hearing that audience audibly gasp when he spoke on camera for the first time and the standing ovation that erupted at the end are certainly two highlights from the HATCHET experience that I’ll choose to hold on to.  So long, “Victor Crowley”.  May you rest in piece even though you’ll always be looking over my shoulder in one way or another.  You’re always welcome there.

GreenType BW

“A Boy And His Monster” – Photo taken during production of HOLLISTON Season 1

I FOUND MONSTERS 

The process of making DIGGING UP THE MARROW first began back in January 2010 and we’ve been slowly chipping away at it since, but this past July and August we were finally able to buckle down and fully focus on finishing the bulk of the shooting.  As you know by now, we’ve purposely been keeping this project as far under the radar as possible and we haven’t spilled too many details about it save for two different teaser posters and other little hints here or there.  There were several reasons for that, the biggest one being that MARROW is a very unique film that’s stylistically unlike anything we’ve attempted before and even we weren’t entirely sure where exactly it was going to go before it ultimately reached its finish line.  Therefore, everyone involved just felt much more free creatively if we kept details to ourselves rather than make announcements or commitments of any kind prematurely.  We didn’t want to potentially find ourselves hit up by press looking for information, updates, casting info, stills, clips, or set visits.  Seriously- want autonomy with a project?  Throw out the term “documentary” and watch how much more freedom you get from prying eyes.  Even our friends and colleagues knew next to nothing about it and assumed that we were just making a “documentary about monsters”- which is true.  Sort of.  There are even people who appear in the movie that didn’t know exactly what it was.  They only knew the scenes they were in or the questions they were being asked on camera.  For the longest time we were not even referring to this as a “movie” internally but instead as an “experimental art project”, mainly because the whole concept was inspired by art.  Alex Pardee is my favorite living artist and being able to combine creative forces and share our mutual childlike love of monsters together was an absolute dream come true.

MARROW has been one of the most creatively liberating experiences I’ve had to date.  It is pure wish fulfillment and I got to play “make believe” in a way I never have before.  Just like the amazing experience that is making HOLLISTON, there was never a single bad day or bad experience in the entire making of this film no matter how challenging it was at times.  Now that the movie has screened publicly (albeit an unfinished “work in progress” version) information is out there if you dig for it (pun intended) but more on that later when this obscenely long year-end recap winds down.  What I can now tell you about DIGGING UP THE MARROW is that it’s a weird hybrid style of film that we’ve been jokingly referring to as a “manipumentary” – meaning a manipulated documentary.  It’s a very unique style that merges a huge portion of reality and real life with a large portion of fantasy.  So the term “mocumentary” doesn’t quite fit as a lot of what you’ll see in MARROW is actually real and while it is certainly funny at times, it’s not a straight-comedy like most “mocumentary” films are.  While there are moments where we present “evidence” and therefore do not cut away or cut at all- it’s also not a “found footage” movie either.  ”Found footage” inherently means that “what you are viewing is supposedly footage that was found and presented untouched” and normally consists of a lot of handheld shaky camera work that purposely looks and sounds amateur to help convince you it’s “real”.  This movie is neither full mocumentary or found footage- so it’s been a head scratcher for those who have seen it as they can’t put it in an already established box or categorize it in an existing sub-genre.  Now, I have not seen every single movie ever made so I don’t want to be so bold as to say “you’ve never seen anything else like it” as for all I know, maybe you and everyone else you know has seen ten films constructed in this very manner before.  Therefore I prefer to just call it a “real life monster fantasy movie” and let you decide what category you’d personally put it in.  In my opinion the category someone puts it in is irrelevant.  In fact, seeing as how we won’t even be finished with post-production until February and likely won’t have any kind of information on where and when it will first premiere publicly or what the release plan is until much later on next year… let’s not worry about the details in this blog.

All that matters right now is that I spent my summer getting to work very closely with a very tight group of extremely talented people on a movie that we are all very proud of and extremely excited about.  I spent many a night over July and August out in the woods looking for monsters and I had an absolute blast.  I can safely say that I believe monsters are real, even more so now than when I first saw Alex Pardee’s artwork and when I first  presented the screenplay to those hand picked to be involved with this special project.  It’s a bold movie in that we used ourselves as central subject matter and as the entire conceit for the story’s jumping off point.  Therefore, MARROW gives a very honest and open look into our real lives, mine above all.  But once you see the movie you’ll understand why as the whole concept is built around a reality based core in an effort to make the audience truly let down their guarded suspension of disbelief and (hopefully) let a little bit of fantasy into their reality- just like we did in making this movie and telling this particular story.  I’m so anxious for the world to see it so that I can talk about why we did things the way we did them and how exactly we did it, but to get too deep into the “making of” details this early would majorly spoil the magic that I hope we created for your entertainment.

Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll hate it.  We expect to get a variety of reactions.  As I do with any film I make, I guide the editorial process along by showing various versions of the edit to filmmakers (other directors and producers mainly) that I respect and gaging their reactions and comments as I consider my next move in the mental game of chess known as “picture locking”.  Watching those reactions was so much fun.  The beauty of this particular film is that most everyone I screened it for knew absolutely NOTHING about it going into it so our “test’ screenings were way different than they were on any other project.  On a creative level, this past summer and fall were some of the most exciting months I’ve had in my filmmaking career and it was both challenging and rewarding to push ourselves and take a risk making something as unique and personal as this movie.  Oh, and as an actor- getting to act opposite the great Ray Wise in a leading role was as insanely fun as it was intimidating.  More on all of this coming when the time is right and more about how our first public screening of the movie went towards the end of this blog.

Marrow art

The Marrow is real…

FEAR AND LOATHING

In September I went on my annual writing retreat to Las Vegas where I locked myself in a suite for 5 days and did nothing but write.  I actually debated including this in my highlights only because without discussing what I was actually writing I know that even bringing this up may seem like a tease to some, but I assure you that there is really no need to get into the specifics.  This script could wind up being a movie I make in the next few years, it could wind up being a movie someone else makes, or it could wind up on the shelf collecting dust for all I know.  Hopefully I’ll finish it soon, but it’s an idea that first came to me back in 2004 (while at a Type O Negative show in San Diego, of all places) and that I had attempted to write that same year after doing a shit ton of research and preparation.  However, the process wound up causing me to have such bad night terrors that I filed it away deep in my closet for almost a decade.  As with anything anyone writes, you never know if it’s going to be any good until you’ve finished a draft worth sharing so for all I know this could turn out to be complete garbage.  But it was the first time in 4 years that I had the opportunity to go write something new that I was writing “just to write” as opposed to something with a deadline or pending production timeline attached to it.  In 2010 I wrote DIGGING UP THE MARROW but since then it’s been countless drafts of KILLER PIZZA (more on that in a bit), over 1,000 pages of HOLLISTON, 3 Halloween shorts, and HATCHET 3.  This new script has no expectations looming over it yet and so the process of just seeing where it goes and what happens with it has been extremely welcome.  So why Las Vegas?  For some reason Vegas has just always worked for me as a writing oasis.  To many writers it would seem like the absolute worst decision to go on a writing retreat in a place where you have every distraction in the known world surrounding you, but what I find helpful is that there is no sense of time in Las Vegas.  If it is 3am and I’m hitting a wall, I can go for a walk and clear my head for a bit.  Play a slot machine for 15 minutes.  Get something to eat.  However if I was in a remote cabin somewhere and I hit a writing wall at 3am, I’d panic and likely pace the floor all night long feeling desperate that nothing is happening and that the pages aren’t spilling out of me.  To each their own, but for me Las Vegas has always brought me good writing luck and this trip was no exception.

writing

My hotel room desk in Las Vegas – September 2013.

THIS IS HALLOWEEN

If you know enough about me to actually read my blog (especially this obscenely long entry that has likely seen you age ten years and possibly seen your kids head off to college in the time that has transpired since you first began reading it) than you likely know that I live for Halloween all year long.  Whether I’m counting down the days on Twitter or posting pictures of our decorations (always up by Labor Day), Halloween is my Christmas.  This year was definitely one for the books as I did every single “haunted” event that LA had to offer from “Halloween Time At Disneyland” to “Knott’s Scary Farm” to “Universal Halloween Horror Nights” to “The Griffith Park Haunted Hayride” to “Delusion” to “Blumhouse’s The Purge: Fear The Night”.  I even made it to Syracuse, NY to screen my movie FROZEN, to Boston for a HOLLISTON cast appearance/performance at “Rock And Shock”, to Atlanta for a HOLLISTON cast appearance/performance at “Walker Stalker Con” and I also took in a Megadeth show the week of Halloween itself.  But the biggest festivity of all was making the 15th annual ArieScope Halloween Short Film (“Halloween Hugs”) which was some of the most fun I had all year.  If you missed it, you can watch it here.

halloween short shoot

Shooting “Halloween Hugs” – October 2013.

DELIVERY TIME?

It’s been awhile since I’ve had any sort of update on KILLER PIZZA, a project that began for me 4 years ago this February and that has run the gamut of development, to excitement, back into development, to being picked up by a major studio (MGM), back into re-development with countless new drafts, taken away from the studio again and put into turn around, back into development, to “about to happen”, and then back into development again.  Through all of this, I have stayed on as the sole writer and the script has only gotten stronger and stronger with each step.  As I’ve said before, KILLER PIZZA is not an ArieScope project but one that I am writing and (it seems very much like, at this point) directing for producer Chris Columbus’ 1492 Films, producer Raffaella DeLaurenttis, and CJ Entertainment- so it is not my place to say much at all about it until they do.  But I know that many of you have been waiting for an update on this for a long time now and that it has been frustrating wondering whatever happened to 16 year old Toby Magill and the monsters he was supposed to spend the summer fighting.  Just a few weeks ago I was called in for a meeting with all involved and it appears as though this project is not only still very much alive, but that it could even start rolling cameras next year.  I saw the first pass at a shooting schedule, some of my key crew members were contacted for rates and availability, and the monsters have started to be designed.  You could almost call it “pre-production” but not quite.  Is it really going to happen in 2014?  God, I hope so.  Though you’d think that by now I’d be over it and disenchanted with the whole thing, if you could only meet the people I am so fortunate to be working with on this project you’d know why I’ll continue to believe in this movie and remain excited about it no matter how long it takes to actually get started.  I am getting to work with the best of the best and this process (though long) has been fantastic.  I have great faith that 2014 will be the year of my monsters.  Not just the ones (hopefully) being brought to life on screen in KILLER PIZZA but the ones I already captured on screen from deep within THE MARROW… which brings me to my final highlight of the year…

Killer Pizza box

KILLER PIZZA is… coming?

I BROUGHT MONSTERS TO TEXAS

To end the year with a bang, I tested my luck and sent an unfinished version of DIGGING UP THE MARROW (again, the film won’t likely be 100% finished with post-production until February) to critic Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News fame and wanted to know if he thought it might make a worthy addition to his 15th annual 24-hour film fest birthday bash known to die-hard cinema geeks as “Butt-Numb-A-Thon”.  It all happened very fast.  I was contemplating just how to best first unveil this film to the public after keeping it quiet for so long and all of us involved were just itching to find a cool way to bring the movie out of the ArieScope edit suite and show a real audience what we had up our sleeves even though the film was not yet color-timed, sound designed, scored, or containing the final visual effects.  I wish I could say it was my great idea to slip the film to Harry but it was really Joe Lynch’s idea.  ”You want a cool way to unveil the movie for the first time?  How about Butt-Numb-A-Thon?”  If you’ve never been to Butt-Numb-A-Thon or never heard of it, Lynch was so completely right.  There really is no cooler event to first show your film at.  BNAT is a 24+ hour festival of films that Harry personally programs each December at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX with the whole fun of it being that the audience attending has NO idea which films the line-up will actually contain or what they will be seeing at any point in the marathon.  The films programmed range from silent black and white classics to brand new never-before-seen Hollywood blockbusters.  Over the past 15 years many films have played there before playing publicly anywhere else.  Films like AVATAR, THE HOBBIT, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, KING KONG, KNOCKED UP, and even my movie FROZEN secretly all played at BNAT first.  Simply google “Butt-Numb-A-Thon” if you want to see the whole history of it and the lists of incredible films that have played there, but the point is that it is truly, truly an honor to have your film in BNAT.  This year DIGGING UP THE MARROW played alongside premiere screenings of Scorsese’s THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, Miyazaki’s THE WIND RISES, and Jackson’s THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG as well as classics like a 70mm print of THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY and Robert Altman’s POPEYE just to name a few.

Now I used the term “tested my luck” because to most any filmmaker it could be considered suicidal to send an unfinished version of your movie to a guy who is considered by most to be the biggest and most influential critic on the internet.  But even given everything I have said about how unusual of a movie THE MARROW is, I was confident enough that a guy like Harry who has seen it all would very likely appreciate this picture, especially given that if you’re well read in his reviews, interviews, and articles- he’s basically a giant 5-year old at heart and loves monsters as much as the late, great Forry Ackerman did.  (Shame on you if you don’t know who Uncle Forry was and what he meant for fantasy, sci-fi, and horror culture.  Look him up!)  I obviously can only speak from my own experiences with critics but for the most part whether they have loved or hated my work I feel like they’ve almost always been fair in their personal opinions on me and on my work.  (I’m only talking about those that I consider to be actual professional critics – not just anyone with a website.  I’m sure you can tell the difference between the two.)  And yes, though I have usually lucked out and gotten very positive reviews for my work, I am also referring to some of the bad reviews I have gotten, too.  They were usually fair opinions.  If you’re going to be a filmmaker for a career, especially if you’re going to work in genre films, you HAVE to be prepared for a wide range of reactions to your work and know how to take it with a grain of salt- even if deep down that salt sometimes feels like it was harshly rubbed into a freshly open wound and stings so wicked bad that you want to curl into a ball and pout about it for a few days.  That’s life.  For every competent voice who loves your movie there will be someone out there with an equally competent voice that absolutely hates it.  And let’s not even get started on the countless more who can’t even spell or form a proper sentence who will hate on you and your work, too.  For instance, at the time of this posting- 3,760 intellectuals have rated Spielberg’s RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK a “1″ or “Worst.  Movie.  Ever.” on the popular film database website IMDB which many within the industry refer to as “the place where intelligent conversation goes to die.”  (Note to first time filmmakers, don’t be tempted by curiosity and just avoid places like IMDB like the plague.)  That’s cinema, folks- and every opinion is a valid one so long as they are fair, they state their opinion soundly, and they don’t take cheap shots or make it either a personal attack or a fanboy celebration- whichever reaction it may be.  They’re just opinions.  But critics come with the territory, like it or not.  Is it fair that you can spend years of your life trying so hard to create something new against impossible odds only to have someone shit all over it publicly because they didn’t personally like it?  Yup.  Is it fair that they can say whatever they feel like but that you cannot defend yourself, respond, retort, or even correct incorrect details in their review?  You know what?  YES.  I’m not saying you have to like it, but you do have to accept it and learn how to deal with it if you’re going to do this.  The dart board can’t throw darts back and defend itself.  It’s just the rules of the game, so grab a helmet, identify the few voices you respect enough to read, and tune all of the rest of it out.  Way easier said than done, mind you.  While I would hope that most critics will appreciate the stylistic or personal risks I have taken with DIGGING UP THE MARROW, I can tell you right now that not everyone is going to.  Some are going to see that I used my real life as the core device to mix a very honest reality with a fantasy world and only dwell on that aspect.  Spoiler: there are exactly three minutes of setting-up my actual real life at the beginning of the movie.  Who I am, what I do for a living, how passionate the genre fans are -it’s all part of the story and the same exact details you’d need to establish even if it was a fictional filmmaker/protagonist and not a real one.  But there will inevitably be some bitterness over that when the movie starts screening because, well… how dare I?  You’ll see what I mean.  But I came to terms with all of that when I committed to this idea and typed the first word of the script and all of us who worked on this film are ready for it.

The point in all of this is is that when I mentioned to a few close filmmaker friends that I had mailed DIGGING UP THE MARROW to Harry Knowles unfinished, they were very, very worried for me.  What if he hated it and killed it before it was even completed by trashing it to other influential people he associates with?  I mean, we already knew going into this movie what we’d be up against- so why invite it to potentially happen so prematurely?  But the thing is, and again- this is all just from my personal experiences with Harry and most every other professional critic like him, he takes absolutely no joy in trashing someone’s work and I trusted that even if he did absolutely abhor my film, he would wait until he saw a finished version to cast his final judgement or at the very least hold back his review until the movie was being released.  But thankfully, he didn’t hate it.  In fact, he liked DIGGING UP THE MARROW enough to program it in BNAT which says a lot.  It was an honor to be there in Austin not only sitting among so many incredible fellow film geeks but also having contributed a movie to the line-up itself.  Because the version of MARROW that we showed was still unfinished, I asked the audience to hold back on actually reviewing it publicly, though I added that people were welcome to say whatever they wanted to say about what they personally thought of the film- if they enjoyed it or not.  Thankfully everyone who was there has honored that request so far, giving me faith that if it’s the right audience, maybe it is actually OK to share my work early again some day.  The BNAT audience is possibly the most hard-core and film savvy audience out there as it takes serious commitment to sit your ass down in a theater for 24 or 25 hours straight and watch whatever movies you’re going to see, so again I felt confident sharing the film early with that specific crowd, as discriminating as their tastes may be.  So when can YOU see it?  That is a question I cannot yet answer but my very strong advice would be to stay far away from any information about THE MARROW until the time comes for you to see it yourself.   Don’t let anything spoil it save for the posters or trailers that WE create for you and that we WANT you to see before seeing the actual movie.  You’ll thank me later, promise.

Point is, this BNAT screening was absolutely unforgettable for Alex Pardee and I and we had a blast watching and listening to people respond the way that they did.  With a movie as weird as this one is, you just never know how people will react.  I mentioned earlier in this blog (maybe 4 or 5 days ago back when you first started reading it) that DIGGING UP THE MARROW is a personal movie in the fact that we used ourselves (myself and cinematographer Will Barratt especially) as protagonists in the film in an effort to mix the very reality that we had full access to with the fantasy world that we created.  The entire conceit of the film and the story itself rely on this choice and it would not have been the movie it is any other way.  So we had no idea… Will they accept what we’re attempting to do?  Will they enjoy it?  Will it resonate with them?  Will they understand why we made the choices we made and appreciate those choices?  Most importantly… will they believe?  I’m proud to say that we flew home from Austin absolutely overjoyed with the response that we got from that first ever surprise preview screening.  It played amazingly well- and how your film PLAYS is more important than anything else.  You can feel if a movie is working or not simply by sitting in and watching the audience very carefully.     But truth be told, BNAT was merely one successful screening and therefore we can’t let ourselves start feeling too confident just yet.  Believe me, some very sour and personal trashings from the on-line critic community are coming my way next year with this movie- you’ll see.  But we ended 2013 on an extremely high and triumphant note.  We’re all even more fired up to attack the finishing process and we’re all incredibly excited to screen the movie again as soon as the opportunity arises.  I can’t wait to be able to discuss it with audiences (which is a big reason why Alex Pardee and I are considering touring with it – so that we can bring not only the movie but also perhaps the original art exhibit and ourselves to each city that we can get to) but as of this time I have no clue what our release plans will be exactly for this film or how those  plans will coincide with our schedules on other projects.

alamo

The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in Austin, TX – December 7, 2013.

LESSONS LEARNED

2013 wasn’t all creative accomplishments and hard work that paid off nor was it all triumphs and victories.  This year also held the culmination of some harsh life lessons and realizations ripe with moments of painful clarity that sucked to live through but that I’m grateful to have experienced and to be rapidly approaching the other side of.  Especially through doing THE MOVIE CRYPT, which has become almost a weekly classroom “therapy” session of sorts, I feel like I learned more about myself and the movie business in this past year than I learned in the previous 5 years combined.  Looking forward to 2014 and beyond I can only hope to better myself both as a human being and as a professional, to create an even better and healthier environment for myself to live and work in, to learn better ways to make my decisions, to better handle the choices I’ve made for myself, to learn better ways to time manage it all, to continue to eliminate negativity from my life, and to continue to learn how to avoid a continued cycle of bad decision making- mainly, to start leading with both my heart and my head … not only my heart.

Many who read this blog are aspiring filmmakers or working (perhaps even struggling) filmmakers, so I’ll offer the following for your consideration… Not happy in your current situation?  Change something.  Not later… now.   Do you feel abused, unappreciated, or taken advantage of by someone, some thing, or by the environment your living, working, or merely existing in?  Stand up for yourself and sweep your life’s deck of the problems and negative people if it is an option for you to do so.   If it is not an option… just walk the fuck away and move on to greener pastures.   Wouldn’t it be great if everyone were always happy with you?  Sure.  But it’s OK if everyone isn’t always happy with you, too.   You’re only cheating yourself when you do things to make other people happy.  Especially if those things are costing you grief in the long run.  I write all of this in vague generalities because I’m not talking about my own painful lessons as a means for airing grievances (of which I am happy to say I no longer have any of, not to mention that if airing grievances was my intention I would name names or specific projects- all of which I’ll save for the inevitable book one day) but because I believe sharing my experiences may indeed help a few (if not a lot) of people who are living through very similar situations.  Hey, if I’m not going to use this blog as an open and honest diary of shared personal experiences or if I’m only going to talk about how great things are, what’s the point?

I was the recipient of many long overdue gut punch lessons this year and I want to share the perspective that I gained in actual day-to-day career situations, both personal and professional.  Most importantly, as you’ll see, is that I’m talking about the things that I did wrong.  A much older, wiser, more experienced filmmaker than I proposed the following question to me earlier this year when he observed me being treated in an offensively unfair way by underserving people whom I had empowered by giving away far too much of my good nature to: “Who’s wrong in the situation… the shark who bit the guy or the guy who swam with the shark?”  It’s an obvious and common anecdote but one I feel is worth sharing and contemplating as it sums up my own bad choices and my own mistake ridden patterns perfectly.  The shark is doing what is in its nature to do.  It can’t help itself.  Even if it tried as hard as it could not to bite the guy, even if it promises that it has changed and it won’t bite the guy again, whether it feels justification or horrible regret for biting the guy… at the end of the day… it is still a shark.  However, it’s the guy who thought he could change the shark’s behavior, who thought that he could be the one guy that could swim with the shark and not get bit, who had the audacity to invest his time and effort in either the shark or the shark-like environment that he willingly put himself in… he’s the one who fucked up and deserves the blame.  After all… (wait for it… wait for it)… he knew it was a shark.

Painfully obvious, right?  And by “sharks” I most certainly do not only mean people but also situations.  When I applied this message to some of the bites, back stabs, abuse, or bruises I’ve received from various people, endeavors, and situations over the past few years- the truth is that they all came from situations that I willingly put myself in, from people I willingly worked with, helped, or gave too much of myself to because- even though I knew the potential pitfalls I thought that the pitfalls wouldn’t happen to me and I felt as though I could navigate them.  I felt invincible.  They were all situations that I created myself because… well, honestly (and sadly) because I wanted to be nice and because I wanted to be liked.  My fault- 100%.  Now, sometimes in life you won’t have a choice but to live through a difficult process.  The waters you’re swimming in have sharks everywhere you look or you’re living/working in a place built by and controlled by sharks and you legitimately don’t have another choice.  Perhaps the shark infested stretch of water you’re swimming in is literally the only path to get to that next body of water you’re trying to get to or perhaps it is just a necessary step that you simply can’t avoid in “paying your dues” on your way up.  Fair enough.   But at the very least, know how to identify the sharks and know how to identity a shark-like situation and the bites will in fact hurt far less.  Keep your eye on the sharks so that you’re ready for the attack when it inevitably comes your way and so that you’re not shocked that it even happened to you in the first place.  If you can possibly swim away first…if it’s an option to get away from or to completely avoid a potentially painful situation… do it.  And when the day comes that it is your own body of water that you control and that you created for yourself to exist in, be vigilant at keeping the sharks out and don’t allow anything or anyone in that isn’t making your environment a better, happier, and more productive place.   This is your life, your space, your work, and most of all your heart.  Defend it- vehemently.  Learn from your past mistakes in judgement and how to identify a shark, a parasite, or other negative person/thing when you see one coming and eliminate it out of your life immediately.

It isn’t easy and I’m still learning how to better handle it myself.  I’d be lying to you if I tried to tell you that I haven’t made the same mistakes again and again and again.  I’ve had negative experiences and then gone right back to working within those very same circumstances again for the next project and the one after that and the one after that.  I was too weak and insecure to believe it could get better or that I even deserved any better.  I was grateful for whatever I got because this industry constantly reminds you that “you’re lucky to even be here or to have this opportunity in the first place”.  Sure, it’s true that it is nearly impossible to actually get a project off the ground and of course it is true that you’re fortunate each time a project actually comes to fruition at all.  But until you learn how to stand up for yourself, the situations won’t get better.  Sometimes “standing up for yourself” may mean walking away from a project that you really want to do.  Lesson learned, better to hold your project back and wait for a healthier and safer scenario than to willingly step into a bad situation that you already know better than to step in to.

I’ve made the same mistakes with people, too.  I once had several different financing entities (all places or resources that I had worked with famously before) say that they would only finance and distribute a project if a certain player on the proposed team was not going to be involved. Better yet, the individual in question told me horror stories about every single person they had ever worked with.  All of their past experiences had ended in fire and brimstone.   Now a healthier, more confident, clearer thinking professional would realize that if the very people that they enjoyed working with are all refusing to get involved with someone… and that this same someone has had a bad experience on every project they’ve ever worked on- maybe there is an obvious common denominator at play.  How many more red lights or signs from God did I need to realize what I was potentially getting myself into?  But no, because of my own insecurity and desire to be liked by everyone, those warnings only made me feel pity for that individual and made me want to help them finally have a good experience rather than slapping me in the face and convincing me to not just walk… but RUN away before it was too late.  I learned the lesson the hardest way possible, took years off my life, and subjected my crew- my family- to an absolutely torturous experience that some of them have still not forgiven me for.  ArieScope is my home.  A home that I built from the ground up.  The various projects and the people I work with- they are my life.  Yet I invited in a shark that almost (almost) destroyed it all for good.  But I can only blame myself.  I knew it was a shark.  I took for granted that it is my key responsibility as a leader to protect my family and I lead us into a bad situation all because I wanted to be nice to someone that had more warning signs attached to them than a pack of cigarettes.

Another example of foolish mistakes I’ve made that I could have avoided… years ago there was someone in my fold (who for the purposes of this story will actually represent elements of several different people) whom I always found myself having to fight for to work on a project because the powers that be simply didn’t trust, like, or want them there.  I bent over backwards even though this person consistently let me down, took me for granted, did their work at the last minute, and even bad mouthed me behind my back.  I would go as far as to make excuses for this person even though they literally only had work at all because I created it for them.  Why did I do it?  Because I felt bad for them, I pitied them, I wanted to help them change, and because I didn’t want to be the bad guy.  But I mainly did it because I felt like I owed them something for having worked on earlier projects for little to no pay.  These were all self-created obligations that I imposed on myself and these were continued mistakes that I made because I didn’t want to face the confrontation of saying “no”.  In the end I wasn’t helping anyone.  I wasn’t helping this person, I wasn’t helping the projects, I wasn’t helping my career, I wasn’t helping anyone else’s professional opinion of me, and I was certainly only hurting myself as it added loads of grief to each already difficult situation I was facing.  But even after all of that- it literally took this individual trying to extort money out of me for me to finally snap and see the light that everyone else around me could see coming since Day 1.  I felt obligated to this person (and several toxic others just like them) because I looked at it as though they were helping me when in fact they were only helping themselves.

Aspiring filmmakers- take note.  There is a feeling you will inevitably acquire on your first few endeavors that you owe the world and your life to everyone on your first few projects because they are working for little or no pay.  Wrong.  They wouldn’t have worked on those projects unless they were also getting something out of them- even if it’s just a credit, the experience, the pay that they need at the time (however high or low that pay may be), or the opportunity to “network” and prove themselves for the bigger projects hopefully coming your way in the future.  If they had a better option- believe me they would take it and just wish you all the best.  If you think they’re choosing to work on your project because they are some kind of “saint”- ask yourself what else they would be doing if not working on your project.  Look at their other credits and their other available opportunities besides the ones you are creating and providing for them.  There is a reason they are sticking around and it’s not because they just want to help you.  They are either gaining or expecting to gain something.  This was a lesson that it took me far longer to learn than it ever should have and I continued to keep people along for this difficult ride because I felt obligated to do so, even though I knew there were better, healthier options available to me.  But again, it was my fault and I only did it because I was afraid they wouldn’t like me if I said “no”.  I had a hero complex born out of vulnerability and insecurity.  I wasn’t a “hero” at all.  I was a fool.

Even more unforgivable were the times that I handed somebody something that they had not worked for in the same ways that I had worked for those opportunities myself.  In my situation, I did things like that simply out of the joy I got from doing them.  It feels amazing to do someone you like a favor, but even though your intentions are good, they can also prove selfish on your behalf if not as equally sound as they are in business as they are in heart.  Each person’s journey is going to be different, that’s a given.  But when you give someone an opportunity (whether it be as seemingly insignificant as a PA job or as significant as reaching out your hand to help them skip over some very important steps that they would have normally had to take), give that opportunity to someone who has done exactly what you’ve done to get to where you’re currently at and the chances are much stronger that it will be a positive experience for all involved.  You’re not doing anyone any favors if you do it any other way.  It’s unfair to both of you as you’re setting that individual up to let you down no matter what.  Inevitably you’ll become disenchanted with them if they don’t exude the same work ethic that you display and even worse, you’ll eventually resent them because you’ll start feeling like they didn’t earn what you gave them the same way you had to earn it.  And on the independent filmmaking scale, these will most likely be friends that you’re trying to help meaning that now you’re risking destroying that friendship or scarring it permanently.  It’s not about who is right or wrong.  Everyone is different and everyone is right in their own mind.  It’s about finding the right matches.  For instance, if your personal path to success materialized before you rather quickly, chances are good that you’ll have a positive experience with most anyone you help as your expectations won’t be so unrealistically high.  But if you’re someone who it didn’t come easy to, who suffered and scratched and clawed to get to where you’re at… don’t help anyone with grand gestures who didn’t share your exact same path or you’ll only both regret it in the end.  It’s not their fault that they didn’t go through the same experiences that you had to go through and you can’t be shocked when at some point in the process they actually begin to feel entitled to what you gave them or take it (and you) for granted.

Think about it in more basic terms.  The kid who’s parents bought him an Xbox One this Christmas won’t ever feel the same way about the gaming system as the one who will be shoveling driveways and mowing lawns all year long in order to get an Xbox One next Christmas.  Neither kid’s path to their Xbox One was right or wrong and I’m not saying either is to blame for the way they got their Xbox One systems.   I can personally like the kid who gets handed whatever he wants just as much as the kid who has to work longer and harder to get the same exact thing (or opportunity)… but what I’ve learned about myself is that I can identify and co-exist on a more productive and healthy level with the kid who put his time in shoveling the driveways and mowing lawns because that’s what I did, too.  People’s circumstances and journeys to get what they want are massively different- and therein lies the ultimate disconnect.  Going back full circle to the whole swimming with sharks analogy… swim with people who shared your same journey, help those who swam where you swam, and you will find that you’ll have a much better swimming experience together.

I’m proud to say that as painful as it was, I eventually learned to start identifying and stop repeating my bad habits as often as I was repeating them.  I’m getting better at it and I hope to make those mistakes far less in the future.  Invest in the right people and invest your time, your effort, and your talent in the right situations, projects, and environments.  There are way, way more good people and healthy situations out there, way more “good fits”, than there are bad ones.  If you keep finding yourself hurt in situations, feeling badly, feeling used- be willing to figure out and adjust what you’re personally doing wrong and don’t blame anyone else for what they did to hurt you if you created the opportunity for them to hurt you in the first place.  You’ll find that more often than not- bad experiences do not just come out of nowhere.  They were there waiting all along in a scenario that you provided and made possible.  Blaming the “sharks” and crying that it’s unfair or that you didn’t deserve to get bit by one of them will get you nowhere.  Create a good place to exist and learn how to discover safe people to swim with and watch how much better and productive your life starts to become.  It may be as huge as a career-defining adjustment (walking away from a project or choosing to work with different people) or as small and simple as opting out of a specific evening’s social setting, but whatever it is- if it hurts you, if it annoys you, if it fucks with your flow, if it takes excessive time away from being creative, if there is a place you’d rather be or people you’d rather be with… admit what you’re doing wrong and do something about it.  Life is too short to share with the wrong people and everyone isn’t always going to like you or appreciate you.  Throw a shark or parasite out of your personal space or simply stop working in a situation filled with sharks or parasites… and they will undoubtedly hate you for it.  It will certainly hurt.  I’ve literally moved mountains for people or handed them everything I could only to have them literally HATE me when the day came that I stood up for myself or stopped.  It sucks, but in the end you’ll be OK, I promise.  Don’t waste your hate on anyone and remember that forgiveness is more productive than grudges.  Don’t do anything out of self-imposed obligations or because you like being the good guy and want to be someone’s hero.  You’re not actually helping them and you’re most certainly not helping yourself.   So don’t wait to cut out the bad.  Make changes today.

Happiness starts with you alone.  

LOOKING FORWARD 

Other than finishing DIGGING UP THE MARROW, so much of what I’ll be doing in 2014 is still up in the air and can’t be confirmed or announced publicly just yet.  But things are looking really good and I have my hopes up uncontrollably high.  This coming year could very well be the biggest and best year for me yet, but you never really know until it’s over.  For all I know, it could wind up being the worst year ever but I have faith.  For me, this holiday break will be spent recovering, resting up, reconnecting with friends, getting healthy, and getting ready for all that is hopefully to come next year.  I’ll be logging in many mindless hours on CALL OF DUTY, reading books, watching movies, and spending time at home with my family, where I belong and where I very much need to be right now.  I know 2013 was a difficult year for so many people but tomorrow is always a new day and tomorrow always has the potential to change everything and be better.  I wish you all the most Merry Christmas ever and a wonderful New Year.  Thank you for being here, for being a part of my life, for all you’ve done to support my work, and for being the absolute greatest, most loyal, most passionate, and most generous friends and fan base anyone could ever hope for.  If I could give each one of you a big wet sloppy kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve, I would.  But since I can’t, I’ll instead leave you with a heart warming and deeply touching song that I wrote this year… just for you.  Click here.

Love

- AG