Monday, November 2, 2015

What’s so FANtastic?

The Second Annual FANtastic Horror Film Festival took place this past weekend and I can say there were many positive things about the experience this time around.

First of all, HE WAITS screened and was very warmly received.  Among the positive feedback, I had people tell me they thought it deserved to be made into a feature, that it should be used as a PSA (you have to see the film to know why) and that, as the lead, I was incredibly creepy (which is a compliment, in this case, as the titular “He” has nefarious intentions that remain unnervingly undefined—a bold choice by filmmakers Sam Ghazi and Cheryl Compton).  When a film under ten minutes has that kind of effect on an audience, you know it’s working.
Second, I was honored with an award for winning the screenplay competition with my script for GARDEN PARTY MASSACRE. I had just completed principal photography on the film and here it was getting an award already.  I can’t say that wasn’t a warm fuzzy and I hope it’s a sign of things to come.
But most important—and the best thing about the festival—are the people.  So many talented and genuinely lovely people attend this festival.  The mad duo of John Iwasz and Sanj Surati, the debonair David Rountree, the spirited and lovely Tiffany Fest and Sheri Davis, the wise and wonderful Patty Sharkey, the ever elegant Lynn Lowry, my man Bill Oberst, Jr. and so many others I consider friends.  Rookies and veterans all gathered in a truly supportive and familial spirit.  Many thanks to festival directors JoAnne and Mike Thomas for being the key influential part of making this festival not so much a competition, but a celebration.  Because we are family.
And that’s what’s so FANtastic.
Bill Oberst, Jr. and I in creepy shadows
on the (blood) red carpet.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Once More Unto The Breach

It’s not news that making a movie is difficult.  My first feature “Deadly Revisions” proved no exception and provided me a cornucopia of complications and conundrums through which I learned valuable lessons. Daily challenges emerged for me to struggle with and overcome: some related to time, others to technical difficulties, artistic clashes, manpower issues; you name it, I dealt with it.  Completing a film is such a monumental task, only the mad ever do it a second time.
Well, I must be mad.  For, at this writing, I have just completed principal photography on my second film, “Garden Party Massacre”.  But, truth be told, it was easier this time, thanks to the lessons I learned the first time around.  For example:  limited locations are nice; one, single location is nicer.  One camera is required; two are preferred.  Night shots are heavenly; lighting them is hell.  And so on.  So I wrote “Garden Party Massacre”—a story that takes place one, sunny day in a single location…and I planned to shoot it with at least two cameras. 
I also crewed up a bit wiser.  I didn’t have a full-time script supervisor on “Deadly Revisions”, so continuity issues were up to me to catch most days.  I had one for “Garden Party Massacre”: the brilliant Amy Coughlin--who did a far better job than I, leaving meticulous notes for my editor.  I also traded in some electrical hands for that second camera operator.  You can’t always shoot with two cameras simultaneously:  certain lighting setups or complicated shots require single camera action.  But you can often shoot opposing over-the-shoulder shots at the same time or get a medium shot and a close up at the same time; this allows you to cut your shoot time down dramatically and lessens the demand on your actors to repeat the same intense scene too many times.  My DP Nate Cornett handled the first camera and John Hill handled the other.  I had worked with both of them before—as an actor—and knew I was in good hands.
And so, with a great crew, a talented cast and buckets of blood, I forged once more unto the breach and slayed the many-tentacled beast that is film production.  And if you’ll forgive me pushing the metaphor and boasting, I think the result is going to be a monster hit!

To learn more, check out:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I Fight Demons

It’s about time I write a new blog entry.  I have been quite remiss in this.  I’ve been avoiding it for a while because I felt I had nothing to say.  Or, rather, that I had nothing I wanted to say.  I had lots to say; I just didn’t want to blog about it.  But then I thought, perhaps, that sharing what I was feeling might help others feel not so crazy.  Not so alone.  So if this gets too touchy-feely for you, feel free to flee to the next blog.  I’ll never know. 
The rest of you are nosy little buggers, I assume, so read on…

The life of an artist is full of unpredictability, so we cherish the parts that remain constant; when one or more of those parts go off the rails, it can be anywhere from disorienting to debilitating.  If we are lucky, the event may provide a welcome challenge and even inspire creativity.  If not, we may become paralyzed, agitated or depressed.  I have had such a disruption and struggling with the fallout has been and continues to be a silent but insidious, raging roller-coaster within me. 

On the one hand, the event demands a careful evaluation of assets and aspirations: I am required to reexamine financial options, opportunities and outcomes; to consider my family’s needs, hopes, and dreams; to face my ongoing personal struggle to align livable commercial rewards with my artistic endeavors.  It is a sobering situation.  I fight demons.

On the other hand, it may be a sign from the Universe that the time is now.  Or, in a less cosmic light, I might say that circumstances have arrived that, though on the surface they may seem unfortunate, they may in fact allow for me to turn things to my advantage.  To discover new paths.  To tap new fonts.

In short, outlook is everything.  My outlook, alas, has proved floundering: from energized output to lethargic apathy to morbid despondency.  You might say I’ve been flirting with manic-depressive behavior.   But flirting is supposed to be fun…and this feels like torture.  The artistic sensibility is that of a mystical, ephemeral fragility, encased in a colorful armor of panache and perspicacity.  Such nebulous centers are hardly immovable, hardly hearty.  We artists aim to keep the armor up—even when there is nothing to support the outer shell but swirling fairy dust.

Life challenges are not uncommon and mine are of no more import than anyone else’s.  I know that.  And I know that, one way or another, I shall forge ahead, perhaps with a stronger shield, a swifter sword or more dense star stuff in my gut. Time and future circumstances will tell, but I’m hopeful the determined side of me shall vanquish the despairing.

And so I fight demons.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Coming of Age

Stephen King’s “Carrie” is a coming of age story, complete with growing pains, lessons learned and exceptionally horrific melodrama.  It’s interesting and sweetly fitting that the musical “Carrie” has had its own coming of age story.

The first production of the musical “Carrie” was a bona fide mess.  The book and score weren’t half bad, mind you, but RSC director Terry Hands made such surreal and expressionistic artistic choices that the show became a stark, non-cohesive mish-mash; what was good was often clouded and confusing and what was weak was amplified to the point of incredulity.   As a result, despite a stellar cast, the show was a thunderous flop and Michael Gore (score) and Dean Pitchford (lyrics) removed it from the public, allowing no other professional productions…for over twenty years. 

Fortunately, for those of us who knew there was a genuinely moving musical lost amidst Hand’s preposterous smoke and laser beam show, Gore and Pitchford re-worked the entire opus, learning from what must have been as horrifying an experience as the titular character’s first period in the high school gym showers.  With great tenacity, faith, and judicial editing, they kept the good stuff, rewrote the weaker sections and the result is a show that is clear and a score that is solid; one they have unleashed at last for productions be mounted.

The La Mirada Theatre grabbed that chance and, thankfully, director Brady Schwind is not only up to the challenge, he makes one wish he’d been around twenty years ago.  Everything the RSC version got wrong, Schwind and his team get right:  not only does the score pop, soar and haunt, but Schwind’s staging makes that energy manifest in fitting choreography (via Lee Martino), effective lighting (Brian Gale) and some spectacularly clever, but appropriate, stage effects (Jim Steinmeyer and Paul Rubin).  The orchestra makes the score sound glorious as does the very able cast, led by waif-like lovey Emily Lopez as Carrie and a fiery Misty Cotton as her codependent, crazy mother.  The themes of bullying, poor parenting and religion gone wrong have only become more prescient in today’s world and so, rather than feel dated, the show proves very much a cautionary tale for today. 

In short, the musical “Carrie”, much misaligned in her early years, has at last come of age.  And it’s about bloody time.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday the 13th

A scary day. A day of rumored, infamous bad luck.  It became the name of an internationally known horror movie franchise.  I even shot my film DEADLY REVISIONS at the same cabin as that franchise’s fourth installment: partly as homage and partly to play on the theme.

But let’s get real.  There is no such thing as a bad luck day.  There is no such thing as bad luck at all.  Or luck of any kind.  As sentient beings, there are things we can know and things we can do; this combination allows us to control a percentage of our world.  But the other percentage—the part that’s out of our control—is a result of infinite forces of nature:  other beings, timing, and all the rest coordinate to create the moments of our lives.  To call that mysterious alchemy “luck” seems to me reductive and immature; a dangerous combination that allows for embracing such nonsensical beliefs and behaviors as avoiding cats of a certain color, leaning ladders, and stepping on cracks.

While I enjoy the mythology of Friday the 13th, I enjoy it for its preposterousness.  It’s a day to laugh at the foolishness of days gone by.  I only hope one day we can laugh at some of the preposterous things people believe today.  I don’t want to extend this idea here, but I ask each of you reading this to ponder what ill-advised thinking and behaviors might be resulting from similar archaic beliefs people continue to hold today.   I dare say Friday the 13th may be the least scary of them all.

In the meantime, I’m off to hug a black cat.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year's Blog

L.A. Movie Award for "Best Feature Film"
The photo above, to my mind, shows someone reaching for a star.  That image seems appropriate for aspirations, hopes and dreams for a new year.  That it happens to be one of the awards my film DEADLY REVISIONS won last year only adds to the metaphor:  that we should honor those who reach, for it is the reaching, not the star, that matters.

I reached for many stars last year and only caught a few.  But the reaching brought so much more.  I was lucky enough to get cast as  an actor in projects that included OLD DOGS & NEW TRICKS,  NATURAL BORN FILMMAKERS, DYSFUNKTION and HE WAITS, but the fun had and friends met are what made those experiences unique. I also had the honor of auditioning for projects at Warner Bothers, Paramount and for shows like CSI: CYBER, MAJOR CRIMES, and Steven Spielberg's EXTANT; though not cast, the opportunity was memorable.  The point is:  you may not reach every star, but if you're focused on it, its light shines on you, anyway.
I had much light shining on DEADLY REVISIONS last year:  we won the L.A. Movie Award for “Best Narrative Feature” and “Best Actor” for Bill Oberst, Jr., the Terror Film Festival's Claw Award for “Best Feature Film Screenplay” and the FANtastic Film Festival awards for “Best Actor” and “Best Actress” (Bill and Cindy Merill).  Then we landed distribution through SGL Entertainment and so the film will be out in VOD, DVD and BluRay in the coming months. For a guy who just dove in and helmed a feature film with no idea what he was doing, I can't express how amazing that is.  I reached for a star and ended up over the moon.

As for this year, there are many projects on the horizon; which ones will reach fruition is not up to me alone, but I will reach just the same.  I am also aiming to show more patience, more peace, more kindness and more love.  I think the world can use it...and so can I.

So...what are you reaching for?

For more about me: Gregory's Official Website
Or: Gregory's IMDB Page


Monday, December 8, 2014

Best of the Fest: Twisted Tails

For those of you who didn’t make it to this year’s Twisted Tails Film Festival, I’ll try to give you short wrap up of my experiences so you can know what you missed.  And you missed plenty!  Let me explain why…

Never mind the films (I’ll get to those), the people and auxiliary happenings had me smiling inside all day long.  Of course there were celebrities signing photos and goodies (one of the original ‘Lost Boys’, Corey Feldman, ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ maven Eileen Diets and scream queen beauty Chanel Ryan to name a few), but—as the festival is a charity event for local animal rescue Paws in the City—there was also a silent auction for movie memorabilia as well as an afternoon visit from some adorable, adoptable pooches needing homes (but happy just to give and receive some love).   Fast Custom Shirts was there with a fun selection of wearable gifts and main man Joe Garcia brought a selection of his latest artwork which is not wearable, but about as cool as it gets.  You just have to see it for yourself. Two small samples are here. I met many wonderful, fun people with all manner of talents and we talked, laughed and had buckets of fun. 

Then there were the movies.  I couldn’t catch them all, but here’s what I saw and what I thought about what I saw...

Day one’s features were that rare breed of comedy/horror.  “Get Dead” writer, director and star Markus Baldwin knows corn and camp; with obviously limited resources, Baldwin’s hick-filled yuck fest about a mythical killer pokes fun at horror clich├ęs with tongue firmly in cheek.  It’s low brow, low budget snark.  And I have a veritable fanboy crush on left field oddity Banjo Phil.  Joe Grisaffi’s “Conjoined” is an adult fairy tale gone wrong.  In a cartoonish world, a nebbish man’s marriage to a woman with an attached (and psychotic) twin proves a study in discomfort:  awkward silences, inappropriate comments and gory violence often make the viewer as uneasy as the characters.  But Michelle Ellen Jones is Barbie doll sweet throughout and Jake Byrd makes a juicy meal of his strange “best friend” role.

My feature “Deadly Revisions” started Saturday off and got a nice round of applause, followed by Shawn Ewert’s “Sacrament”, featuring Marilyn Burns.  “Sacrament” aims to mesh the drama of a hunted young man, the comedy of a teenage group’s outing and a gory yarn about religious killer/cannibals; though it feels uneven, it looks exceptionally good and the teenagers are all terrific--as is much of their funny dialogue.  And full props to the risk of having an out, accepted (and even sexualized) gay couple as the leading heroes of a horror film:  sadly, still a bold choice in today’s market, Ewert’s film can proudly claim it as a coups.  Then came “Bloody” Billy Pon’s already infamous “Circus of the Dead”.  This sick, ultra-violent and yet often darkly hilarious freakshow about psychotic killer clowns is bred to be an instant cult film.  Its gritty, grotesque gore-fest is as unflinching as it is outlandish and lead Bill Oberst, Jr.’s drooling, demented Papa Corn seems meant for iconic status.   Some trimming would sharpen the jaws of the rambling beast, but as it is, “Circus of the Dead” bears a  brazen, brutal bite you’re not likely to forget.

Day three, a scheduling snafu caused me to miss the first half of Grzegorz Muskala’s “Whispers Behind the Wall” (“Die Frau hinter der Wand”, translated, more closely as “The Woman Behind the Wall”) and the second half of Tommy Faircloth’s “Dorchester’s Revenge”, but what I saw of each left me impressed.  Both are incredibly well-made films with excellent production values.  Jason Vail fairs well as a teacher haunted by his past experience with the titular “Dorchester” in this sequel to the original parody horror yarn of a crinoline-wearing killer (appropriately called “Crinoline Head”).  In “Whispers”, a psycho-sexual thriller of a law student’s first love gone wrong, Vincent Redetsky is a sweet-faced, bespectacled babe drawn into beautiful sociopath Katharina Heyer’s web of madness; the film’s final reel is a totally satisfying, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. 

There were also many good short films along the way, most notably “Special”, “Service” and “Snake With a Human Tail”.  (Apparently, short films beginning with “S” fair well.)  Mikeal Burgin’s “Special” has a nice twist to the end of a child abduction tale and Jerry Pyle’s “Service” has a nice twist at the beginning of what is just a situation rather than a full story--though it’s nevertheless wickedly intense.  In writer/director Spencer Gray’s gritty, unapologetic “Snake With a Human Tail”, the connection of a sadistic, child-molesting priest (Marv Blauvelt) and a transsexual prostitute (an impressive Sheri Davis) proves to be far more than just odd happenstance. The film is fraught with enough ideas and images for a feature film, which, interestingly, is its only weakness:  it feels too long for a short film and, yet, still somehow underdeveloped.  But the bulk of what’s there is bold, powerful and provocative filmmaking; I look forward to what Mr. Gray will come up with next.

All films were shown on a huge screen with a glorious sound system in one of the large and comfortable theaters at the Angelika Film Center; it was an excellent venue to enjoy films.  Props to Tammy Dupal, Twisted Central, Paws in the City and everyone involved in putting this memorable event together. Combining a fine selection of films and an opportunity to provide help for such a worthy cause should keep the Twisted Tails Film Festival on the map for a long, long time.
The amazing Tammy Dupal (& some dork).


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Back on Broadway

Once upon a time, I more regularly shared my thoughts of each trip to Broadway and the shows I would see.  But one day I thought: “Who cares what I think?”  And while the answer may still be “no one”, I’ve decided to put down my thoughts on my most recent visit to the Great White Way because I wonder if I’m alone in my yearning for days gone by, if I’m romanticizing the past, or if something is missing from the newer breed of original productions. 

Of the four shows I saw, three had elements of greatness, but not one of the three was a solid, flawless show.  The talent on stage (and in the orchestras, where they existed) proved uniformly stellar as did the direction and design of the shows.  Brilliant comic timing, singing and dancing bubbled forth in abundance across the board and the musicals proved exceptionally clever and eye-popping in their presentation.  The core of any show, though, is the writing and—in both scripts and scores—these shows suffered from weaknesses that made me less than fully enraptured.

Matilda is buoyed by witty set design (an alphabet-infused choreographed number, a child-spinning shtick and self-writing chalk are but a few of the treats) and the incredibly talented adult cast members who actually steal the show from the children—which is a feat in itself, since the little tykes are all damn good.  But the story ambles and the score is sketchy:  half of the score is strong, with several bona fide showstoppers, but other songs miss the mark; while Act Two pulls out completely undeveloped "magical" elements.  Matilda won me over, but more on style than content. And I can't get the anthem "Revolting Children" out of my head. 

The fact that A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder won “Best Musical” but not “Best Score” tells me I’m not completely mad that I found the patter-inundated score forgettable and tiresome at times.  It’s an entertaining enough show and, rather uniquely, one that has a better second act than first, partly since the former takes too long to get its stride with too many of those aforementioned unmemorable songs.  However, the talented cast sings it all beautifully and Jefferson Mays as virtually the entire D’Ysquith family is comic Broadway gold, aided by clever direction (which also won a Tony) and stage effects that make the murders jolly good fun once they get going. 

Then we come to the newest hot ticket item:  Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play.  Newcomer Micah Stock is surrounded by giants Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally, F. Murray Abraham, Rupert Grint, Stockard Channing and Matthew Broderick; the stars are all at the top of their game and young Stock still manages to stand out as an adorably dopey coat steward.  The play promises and provides countless laughs and gags, though some are far from timeless:  too many jokes are so au currant they’re doomed to demand constant rewrites or die once this cast and season are gone. Poor Mr. Broderick is also saddled with dull didactic diatribes on the meaning of theater which stop the play cold.  Fortunately, the whiny and preachy passages are outweighed by the frothy good fun. The cast delivers McNally’s yuks and shtick with laudatory gusto and panache; yet even a shiny disco ball (used twice, no less) does not distract from the fact the play is anemic fluff.

But then, like an unexpected miracle, there is Once.  It likely surprised many that such a small show would take eight Tony Awards for 2012 (including “Best Musical”), but I’d say it was kismet because it would have been a shame for this near perfect show to have been buried by more monolithic musicals.  Everything about Once is inventive and on point.  The cast is also the orchestra which, since the show is about musicians, is contextually appropriate (as opposed to recent John Doyle gimmickry).  The audience is invited to join in—literally—as the musicians have a pre-show jam fest and theater guests can come on stage and have a drink amidst the merriment.  Thus, Once wins the audience over before it has even technically begun.  Then the show starts, almost seamlessly and, unlike the aforementioned theatrical offerings, there’s not a wasted or weak moment.  The songs all have a place and a point, the scenes are adroit and the characters fresh, full and flawed.  No more than ten minutes into the show, lead Paul Alexander Nolan sings the signature song, accompanied by the refreshingly offbeat Jessie Fisher; the simple and sweet melody paired with Nolan’s haunted eyes and soulful voice is so achingly beautiful, it’s enough to make a grown man cry.  Not once.  Twice. No amount of stage machinery, celebrity or marketing can compare with great writing, be it music, lyrics or prose—especially when it is brought to life with such raw and passionate talent.

And so, while I may have begun this with something akin to a dies irae, I can assure you great theater is alive and well.  We only have to take risks, seek it out and support it.  You never know when you will find something that will make you weep with astonishment at how beautiful art can be.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The First Festival

Actors Lise Hart and Mikhail Blokh and our awards.
My film DEADLY REVISIONS had its world premiere in Los Angeles last month.  It came with great fanfare:  not only was I notified I had been accepted to the festival, I was informed my film had won two top accolades!  Yes, our first film festival and we were already the proud recipients of the L.A. Movie Awards for Best Narrative Feature and Best Actor (For Bill Oberst, Jr.).  Not a bad beginning at all.

The festival was hosted by my friend Stephen Tako, a terrific bonus, as he’s a very gracious, supportive fellow actor.  The screening was also the first opportunity a few cast and crew had to see the film.  Then, of course, there were the awards.  With Bill out of town shooting another film, I ended up with my hands full. Fortunately, I had the help of the other actors for some of the red carpet photos as you can see above.   The wins have spurned more distributor interest and it has been an experience to see what has come our way.  But I’ll discuss more about that at a later time.

For now, we’re getting ready for more festivals.  Our New York premiere is next week at the NYC Independent Film Festival.  Then we make our San Diego premiere Halloween night at the FANtastic Horror Film Festival, where we are nominated for five more awards.  Next up is the Texas premiere in December at the Twisted Tails Film Festival in Dallas.   We’re also official selections of the Terror Film Festival and the Depth of Field International Film Festival (where we’ve been nominated for “Best Horror Film”).

So if you’d like to see the film ahead of any release, grab a ticket to one of the screenings.  And, since festival directors love when the director is present to talk about the film, it’s my goal to make an appearance at as many screenings as possible, so look for me and come say “Hello”. 
Selected reviews to date:
"Amazing Flick!"
(GuestStars Blog)

"Mind Blowing!"
(Char Hardin Blogspot)

(A Bucket of Corn)

"Genuinely Fun Jolts!"
(Ain't It Cool News)

"Very Clever!"

(re-Search my Trash)

"A twisted mind bender!"
(Twisted Central)

"Gleeful fun!"
(More Horror)

“A well-made, tension filled thrill ride!”
(Horror Society)



Monday, September 1, 2014

The Fall Festival Season

More often than not, part of a film’s emergence in the public eye takes place at festivals.  Most folks are familiar with Sundance and a few others, but there are hundreds upon hundreds of film festivals:  some wide in scope, others very specific to a certain niche.  The goal of the filmmaker is exposure and the chance at attaching a few laurels to their film.  It is also a chance to network and find others who may be good partners for future projects—especially eager investors.  

For my film DEADLY REVISIONS, we entered a wide range of festivals:  from the larger, broad spectrum events to the smaller, genre specific options.  Though festivals continue throughout the year and we don't know all the festivals that have as yet to invite us to be in their line-up, we have been confirmed as official selections of the NYC Indie Film Festival, the Twisted Tails Film Festival in Dallas and the FANtastic Horror Film Festival in San Diego--where we screen, appropriately, on Halloween night.

And so the festival preparations began:  acquiring marketing materials, marking calendars, booking flights and hotels, etc.  As the director, it has been my goal to make a personal appearance at as many screenings as possible.  Festival directors love when the director is present to talk about the film and I’d like to honor that.  Actually being there will also give me the chance to hear how different audiences react to the film:  extremely valuable information you just can’t quite capture any other way.

So if you’d like to see the film ahead of any release, grab a ticket to one of the screenings.  And come say “Hello”.  I’ll be the nervous, nerdy guy in the back, with no fingernails left.

Reviews to date:

"Amazing Flick!"
(GuestStars Blog)

"Mind Blowing!"
(Char Hardin Blogspot)

(A Bucket of Corn)

"Genuinely Fun Jolts!"
(Ain't It Cool News)

"Very Clever!"

(re-Search my Trash)

"A twisted mind bender!"
(Twisted Central)

"Gleeful fun!"
(More Horror)

“A well-made, tension filled thrill ride!”
(Horror Society)