Posts filed under 'Interviews'

Women In Horror: Interview with SHANNON LARK – ACTRESS, WRITER, DIRECTOR, SPOOKSMODEL, Co-founder of Viscera and former CEO of The Chainsaw Mafia by Alan Kelly

Welcome back to the 9th Circle of Horror Reanimated; right in time for Women in Horror Recognition Month and an in-depth chat with Shannon Lark.
(BTW Adam Wolf has paid for his crimes – abducting me and claiming the Soska Sisters interview as his own! I still can’t get the smell of sulphur out of my hair! Adam’s punishment involved a shiny new cage and a few hours on the wrong end of my pliers…)

The following interview was conducted via Ouiji Board from HRHQ – because we haven’t paid the telephone bill.

Flame haired, chainsaw-wielding, bold, brutal and bloody beauty queen Shannon Lark is a woman who epitomises the unique diversity of the horror genre and all of its surrounding culture: someone we can root for as a new force in the darker creative arts.

As co-director of the Viscera Film Festival and former CEO of The Chainsaw Mafia she is a force to be reckoned with, exploring every facet of the horror genre as a writer, director, producer, actress, and film festival director. Shannon is a woman who understands the alchemy of horror and the transformative power of the macabre. She has worked in a variety of different disciplines from a splatter theatre provocateur with The Living Dead Girlz to producing The Elm Street Murders AND playing Nancy Thompson as well as holding the crown for the First Fangoria Entertainment Spooksmodel!

Alan Kelly: Hello Shannon, welcome to Horror Reanimated, hope your trip down here wasn’t too terrifying…

Shannon Lark: Not at all. I’m used to strange company. :)

AK: Now first I want to ask about The Viscera Film Festival which was created in 2007 to promote, distribute and honour female horror filmmakers. When the festival first began it specialized in showcasing short films. Now, with the aid of sponsors and viral marketing, lots of awareness has been raised and in 2010 you teamed up with superbitchextraordinare and cult journalist/filmmaker Heidi Martinuzzi (Wretched) and suddenly Viscera has screenings all over the world! Could you give me the skinny on what’s in store for us gore aficionados in 2011?

SL: Viscera has come a long way from conceptualization to a full blown Festival. We have become a 501(c)3 non profit with an awesome staff (Annette Slomka, Jamie Jenkins, Stacy Hammon, Shersy Benson, Heidi Martinuzzi, and myself) who work hard all year to get these films created, seen, promoted, distributed, and to throw our annual event in Los Angeles. So many women are coming out of the wood works and out of the kitchen to make these films, and the quality of the submissions this year is truly blowing us away.

AK: You’re a pioneer for people wanting to make their mark on the horror genre – both in theatre and film – by championing new filmmakers, writers and artists wanting to work in various areas of the film industry being the former CEO of The Chainsaw Mafia (The Chainsaw Mafia is a production company and website which offers services to artists who come together to create. They have an array of services such as resume posting, discounted equipment rental, interviews/reviews of artists and filmmakers, up-to-date news, film festivals, and the Slaughter Shop) before you handed the baton over. Now you pour all your malevolent energy into Viscera, directing, acting and dismembering men in back-alleys with a chainsaw. Can you tell me a bit about why you felt compelled to start a gender-specific festival?

SL: Back in 2007 I made a short film called “Go Ask Alice” with a small group of women. I had an epiphany about the importance of this type of Festival that supports female’s working together, instead of competing. The idea is that there is enough room for everyone in the film industry: men, women, varying races, and talents. Viscera creates a platform where women can support each other in public, which is not what we are taught to do. Our species is conditionally encouraged to compete, but this is not competition, it’s about fulfilling your potential as an artist and a person.

AK: When you are selecting films to screen at the festival are there any particular subgenres you are partial to – vampire, home-invasion, zombie, noir, rape-revenge, werewolf, serial killers, ghost stories, fantastical realism, B movies, Classic et al? Roughly how many films are sent your way and do you find the process of choosing the ones which are right for the festival exhilarating or exhausting?

SL: We receive more films each year, as women all over the world discover the Festival through press outlets (like yourself), advertisements, and word of mouth. We have about 30 submissions so far, all of them directed and/or produced by women, including several feature film trailers.

It has become apparent to myself and many of the Viscera judges that women tend to make different horror than men. The female gender sways more towards psychological, body issues, rape, abstract, childbirth and child loss, and the issues of dealing with how society expects women to be perfect, tucked, plucked, and bent over. The majority of the films contain social and gender commentary from a woman’s perspective and I say it’s about damn time we have more of this dynamic in the horror industry, it will only make the genre better, more diverse, with stories more complex.

We receive quite a few humorous entries, but most of the Viscera films are just plain twisted.

AK: You are one of the women changing the way people experience horror right now; what other changes will you be pushing for within the horror industry and more importantly what areas do you think most need to be addressed and why?

SL: What? Really? I am? That’s one of the best things anyone has ever said to me! If it’s true, it’s not just me, it’s all these women collectively combined. They are the rock stars and I only hope they keep creating.

I would like horror to be more well rounded, not completely overshadowed by typical B-Slasher films. I love slashers, and watching men and women be penetrated with phallic objects is fun, but it has swarmed the genre to the point where many people think that’s what horror is. I would like that to be changed. Yes, let’s keep the slasher sub genre, horror wouldn’t be the same without it, but we should be looking at the varying types of horror that creates an internal, disturbed feeling that permeates your cells. Horror can be more than simply the fear of death, it can be much, much worse than that.

AK: Do you pitch in with all aspects of running the film festival? How difficult is it securing the right venue to screen movies and what kind of budget constraints (if any) do you encounter along the way – is there a place where people can make a donation or contribution to the festival?

SL: Absolutely! I oversee everything regarding the staff (who work really, really hard) so nothing is missed. The venue is one of the most difficult items on the list, as you have to find a perfect fit that creates the feel and respect you wish to give to your audience, Special Guests, Press, and Filmmakers. Our after party is vital for networking, so I had to do a lot of research on venues in the LA area to provide for everyone’s needs. Budget constraints are always there, however we hope to grow into an organization that can actually pay their staff, and expand our marketing to reach more women all over the world.

We have just launched our Donation Campaign, which is integrated with Women in Horror Month! You may go to our IndieGoGo page to contribute. As for independent artists, we are taking product sponsorships, wherein we promote you, as an artist, in return for artwork for our goodie bags.

AK: Can you tell me a bit about soliciting the right films and is there anybody you would like to see contributing to Viscera?

SL: Heidi is in charge of wrangling not only the Special Guests, but also contacting female filmmakers whose work we discover online. She reaches out to them for a screener, then it goes in front of the judging board.

I would love to see a directorial debut from Debbie Rochon and also from Juliette Lewis.

AK: As a director can you tell me about any forthcoming projects you will be working on?

SL: I am currently working on my first feature film, about a girl who grows up in a funeral home who can talk to the dead. It’s definitely the best thing I’ve ever written. I truly hope to shoot the film this year.

AK:Can you give me a list of filmmakers/artists/writers you admire, who you would most like to work with?

SL: Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, and Mary Harron. However, I am open to working with anyone who is professional, respectful, and creative, no matter the budget.

AK: Do you have any plans on expansion with Viscera? Will there be a Viscera films somewhere down the line?

SL: I would love to get the Viscera Film Compilations picked up by a distributor who can repackage the DVD and get it onto the shelves (or netflix). It’s important for these films to get out there, especially to a more mass market.

AK: I understand Viscera is a festival created by women for women but I’m curious, if you were sent an exceptional film directed by a man which covered terrain and themes which really interested you, would you consider screening it?

SL: I’ve seen plenty of exceptional films by men but Viscera specifically involves women to be in leadership positions on the film set.  However, I would promote the film and do whatever I could to help the filmmaker advance his work.

AK: Well this leads us to the end of our journey, thanks for talking to HR and be careful how you go….

SL: Thank you for having me! And remember, if a woman can go through the terror of pushing out a baby, she can make a horror film!

1 comment February 17th, 2011

Interview with Craig Bezant, editor/owner of Dark Prints Press by Joseph D’Lacey

If it’s a bonkers decision to become a writer then setting up in publishing must occupy the farthest boundaries of insanity. This is a personal view based on the fact that I’m a lazy slob. My experience is that people in the publishing industry work long hours and long weeks – most of it not recognised as overtime – and the reward, if there is any, is unlikely to be financial.

And yet, without courageous – foolhardy, perhaps – folk keeping the world of books alive, we authors would have no outlet for our own deranged endeavours. Often, it’s those people who set up small, independent presses who have the greatest passion and the clearest vision of what needs to make it into print. Without these innovators and without their efforts, many new writers – especially horror writers – would never find an audience for their work.

Today’s guest is a writer and magazine editor from Australia, Craig Bezant. Craig recently made the decision to take his publishing to the next level, spawning a brand new imprint called Dark Prints Press.

I was curious about what could possibly have possessed him to enter a life of self-slavery…

Joseph D’Lacey: Hi, Craig, and a very warm – nay, fiery – welcome to the sulphurous bowels of Horror Reanimated.

You’ve published a couple of my stories over the last year or two and reviewed some of my other fiction but, in reality, I know very little about you – we live on opposite sides of the world, after all. So let me begin by asking which came first for you; writing stories or editing Eclecticism e-zine?

Craig Bezant: Well, thank you for having me at Horror Reanimated. It’s kicking into summer here in Western Australia so these sulphurous bowels are nothing.

The need to write stories has always flowed through my bloodstream, so to speak, so it was definitely writing that came first. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t write – that’s my exercise routine, I guess. And with the need to write came the need to read. My teacher gave me my first novel, ‘How to Eat Fried Worms’, in Year 1, and the collection grew from there (I just can’t give a book away!). That love for reading gave me a fantastic reviewing gig at HorrorScope, and earned me a spot as a judge in the Australian Horror Writers Association’s Australian Shadows Award in 2009 and 2010.

I’ve tried my hand at writing short stories and I do enjoy it, but not as much as writing novels. I just like exploring the longer format, and thought that possibly this was wrong, that I should start out as a short story writer to build a name for myself, but thankfully found out it is not a problem at all – you should write what you are comfortable with, what you enjoy writing. But I absolutely love reading short stories from other authors, and used this passion to create Eclecticism E-zine. It was never a platform to show off my own work (although I did have a story in the first issue – come on, it was my baby), rather a chance to give others a quality publication to show their writing and artwork, especially the new and emerging writers that often get squeezed out of slush piles in favour of bigger names. And this passion to print other authors’ work grew into Dark Prints Press.

JD’L: Do you see yourself primarily as a writer or an editor?

CB: I think that, at some point in the last couple of years, I have begun to cross that line. When people realise I do both they often look at me strangely and ask, ‘Don’t you get confused with what you’re writing and take ideas from all the stories you’ve been editing?’. I have to laugh. Of course not. I have drawers of own ideas, that arrived in my mind at various times, and often I’ll have a favourite or two that I will start to research and flesh out. The writing I read for Eclecticism, and judging, in my personal time, and now for Dark Prints Press, I would never have thought to come up with a lot of that. We all have different minds, and it’s amazing to see how authors tackle similar subjects. Editing, though, is always a great way to see what works and what doesn’t – I get a writing lesson every day.

JD’L: You write reviews for http://www.horrorscope.com.au/ but you publish work in a range of genres. Do you have a favourite genre?

CB: Looking at my bookshelves, it would have to be horror (it’s why I’m here, right?), but honestly I try to read a variety of fiction. As much as possible. Often I may read too much dark stuff, especially for reviewing, and just need a release, a switch of mind frames. Then I’ll delve into comedy (Max Barry, Ben Elton, Christopher Moore), or a tech-driven thriller (Matthew Reilly, Scott Sigler, Michael Crichton), or even literary fiction (Peter Carey, Tim Winton, Zadie Smith). Those names are but a few – I have too many favourites and can’t do enough justice to them all. I’ve also found myself reading a lot more nonfiction as I’ve aged, because there is just so much in this world that I don’t know.

These days the line between genres is even more blurred. I love crime fiction, almost equal to horror, and writers such as Stuart MacBride, Chris Simms and John Connolly often use very dark horror aspects in their work (a butcher who puts their victims in pies, a killer in the guise of a supernatural creature), which I absolutely love. I am a sick bastard, I guess. But I think I enjoy that particular writing because it is well handled. It is not excessive in the sense that the gore is the emphasis. I just don’t like that type of horror. You can unnerve a reader with more than just explicit gore. Psychological horror is my favourite, hands down.

JD’L: What is about horror that fascinates you?

CB: Well, perhaps when I was younger I was drawn to horror because of the way it could creep me out – fear as a kind of drug. I still like that rush, in a way. But as I got older, I realised the reason I loved this sort of writing was that horror as a medium is not afraid to look at the unpleasantness in life, without need for rose-tinted, Hollywood-clichéd glasses. Horror always takes those ‘What ifs’ and makes them real, often to the extreme. And within a horror novel you’ll often find so many elements of other genres. You can have the love story, the mystery, the adventure, even comedy, and still scare the crap out of someone. My wife’s friend recently read a draft manuscript of mine and said they had to leave the bedroom lights on at night – that’s what horror is about! Or it can be other reactions – it can shock you into action, into positive resolutions, by showing you just how bad a situation could get. I love it.

JD’L: So, what made you decide to set up a new imprint and what are your aims?

CB: Well, the desire to start Eclecticism E-zine had been bubbling away for a long time before it eventuated – we had moved interstate for my wife’s work and I was a full-time parent with nights to fill, so I thought that time was as good as any to launch the e-zine. And I think the desire to take it further started right after that, probably even before that to be honest. Little steps first, I guess. When Eclecticism grew beyond my expectations, I had an even deeper desire to print a ‘best of’, something for the fans. And the more I looked into it, the more I began to examine the larger publishing scene – focusing on Australia, at least. For the amount of quality writers in these fields, we are severely underrepresented here in the publishing sector. So my wife and I did our research, consulted a lot of writers and small press publishers, received a general ‘You’re bloody crazy, but go for it’ attitude, and decided it was the right time to launch Dark Prints Press.

Of course, I couldn’t have done this without the support of my wife, Avril, who co-founded Dark Prints Press with me. It’s nice to have two crazy people in the household. Avril is a keen reader and has a fantastic eye for picking out what does and doesn’t work in stories. Usually, I wouldn’t give my own writing to family, because you just get the general ‘It’s good’ without constructive comments, but my wife puts my writing down (in the nicest possible way). She isn’t afraid to tear it apart, which is pretty damn cool. So future Dark Prints authors beware… Plus, Avril is the logical brains of our business. She has the skills to run the imprint successfully, and her enthusiasm for this venture is more than I could have asked.

Our aims? I’ll keep it simple by stating our tagline: ‘Shining a light on dark fiction’. Another much-needed platform to show what dark fiction writers can do.

We also want to place a great emphasis on quality – not just of the work we publish, but how we publish/present it. eBooks are hard to do there, but if we are putting the money into a print version, it should be worth it. A small press doesn’t have to act like one – too many presses have terrible covers and use awful paper and binding, and that really makes me sad. We will be using great artists like Vincent Chong for future covers, and have good ties with Australia’s Griffin Press, printers who work with the major publishers, so we hope to keep that quality continuing.

JD’L: Which is harder – publishing or writing?

CB: Hmmm, I don’t think I’m ready to answer that yet – ask me again in a couple of years! I think they are both of equal merit, co-existing nicely (at times). I mean, you can’t have one without the other (if you want to extend beyond an immediate audience). Both can be fun, and both can be taxing. For writing, so much hard work has gone into crafting the story. So for publishing, the hard work has to go into presenting that story with the quality it deserves, and to give it the opportunity to find the audience it needs, be it a select group or the masses.
JD’L: What would you like to see more of in the world of horror publishing and what would you like to see less of? Do you think major publishing houses consider such things or are they merely looking to turn a profit?

CB: More of? Everyday horror. Not to scare a reader out of living their life, but to make them think about how to approach things with caution. To wisen up to the world around them. To survive. Especially now – embrace the way our world is changing and use the horror element of unknown change. How on earth will our world be soon, with the effects of out-of-control weather, increasingly-advanced technology and weapons, financial crashes, and so on? A horror novel like James Herbert’s ‘Portent’ is even more potent today, and I think we need more of this. Awareness horror? I’ll start my own subgenre there. Done.

Less of? Well, tropes in horror tend to have cycles, and right now we’re on Vampires and Zombies. I love these, zombies especially, but it’s pretty obvious it’s almost time to move on in our cycle. I think, keep them, but merge them with something else. What, I’m not sure. Not some corny match-up of the super-monsters, that’s for sure (though it would be fun). Something like a re-invention, like David Wellington has done with his monsters. I wish I could be more explicit, but I just don’t know.

I do think major publishing houses look for the new, unique tales in horror. It’s just that, once found, they take such an angle and exploit it as much as possible, by publishing hundreds of books along the same vein (take Twilight, that started a teen paranormal romance every lazy writer and his/her dog seemed to write for). There’s nothing wrong with that from a business sense – see a demand and fill it. It’s just that I often wonder: while one unique idea is being exploited, are others not even making it past the slush pile? I kind of hope so – those stories can come to us! Whilst judging for the Australian Shadows Award, though, I can say that it was evident a lot more publishing houses are taking risks with horror, especially with first-time authors, and hopefully those risks will lead to bigger things. We obviously want to be a part of that.

JD’L: Tell us a little about DPP’s first publication and how you decided what this first incarnation would be.

CB: This month we’re releasing an anthology, ‘An Eclectic Slice of Life’, our first Dark Prints baby. It showcases the best work (picked by myself and by using reader comments) from the first two years of Eclecticism E-zine. From these nine issues, I chose 13 short stories and poems. Although these were fantastic alone, I wanted to give more to readers who have had this for free from the online publication, so I also had most chosen writers contribute a new story. So in short: 14 authors, 26 tales (23 short fiction, 3 poetry). There’s even a new story by some guy named Joseph D’Lacey. Heard of him? Oh well, there are some very good authors in there. And these stories follow the Eclecticism model, in that they cross over quite a few genres – from horror to fantasy to crime and everyday drama – but they are all quite dark.

As I said before, I had always wanted to start a publishing imprint, but I initially wanted to do this separate to the Eclecticism venture. Then, as I began editing and the anthology took shape, it was clear it fitted in quite nicely with our Dark Prints Press ethos, and was a fantastic level of quality to springboard our name and future collections.
JD’L: And what does the future hold for your courageous new imprint, Craig?

CB: Well, we’re easing in to this publishing realm so that in a few years things will really take off. So 2011 is all about establishing ourselves – setting up distribution channels, marketing, schmoozing with the industry, getting our name out there, and research, research, research into the industry. During that time we will also be putting together two short story collections, one crime and one horror. These will be released early 2012. We’ve been very lucky to grab Lawrence Block and others for the crime collection (‘The One That Got Away’), and authors such as Jonathan Maberry and Will Elliot for the horror collection (‘Surviving the End’), but submissions will also be open to other writers during the first third of 2011. I encourage everyone to have a go (www.darkprintspress.com.au/submissions.html).

Also, next month I will be meeting with a well-known Australian horror writer with an interest in publishing their long overdue short story collection, which we would release early 2013. And we would like to start publishing novellas in the next two years, so submissions for these will open mid-2011. We want to embrace both digital and print publishing, so for the novellas we are interested in publishing a line (in various genres) of eBooks first. Readers will then get the chance to rate and vote for their favourites, and the chosen titles will be released as collectable print editions. So we’ll get the best of both worlds.

Then, all things going well, we would like to start publishing novels and Young Adult fiction within a few years. So Dark Prints Press has a nice long-term plan, and it’s going to be an incredible journey. I can’t thank people, groups, and sites such as yours enough for supporting us from day one.

JD’L: As you probably know, an interview at Horror Reanimated gives you temporary but immense power. You may confer The Sword of the Ultimate Darkness upon the work of horror in any medium that you regard as a timeless classic. Conversely, you may banish forever to the Plague Pits the work of horror in any medium which stinks so badly even Satan gives it a wide berth.

Please use your godlike status now…

CB: Hmmm, how to pick just one for The Sword of the Ultimate Darkness. So many titles floating through my head. ‘I am Legend’ by Richard Matheson (my favourite, but it’s already a classic), ‘Out’ by Natsuo Kirino (very dark crime novel dripping in psychological horror), ‘Patient Zero’ by Jonathan Maberry (redefining action with zombies), anything by James Herbert (especially ‘Others’)… Well, since I’m from Australia I’ll pick something local. I read it last year during my first stint as an awards judge: ‘The Dead Path’ by Stephen M Irwin. It’s old-school horror – haunted woods, spiders, witches, a man who can see ghosts – with a very distinct Australian flavour (it’s set in a very realistically-described Queensland suburb). Terrific, terrific stuff. I would publish that in a heartbeat.

And one for the Plague Pits? Well, I’ll make enemies here. This one won awards but I just think it is very overrated, from the angle of a writer and publisher. That would be Stephen King’s ‘Lisey’s Story’. In my opinion, the editing in this novel was appalling. Any emerging writer would have had their manuscript rejected with such tiresome, lengthy prose (how many pages does it take for a split-second bullet to be shot, for instance), yet King’s publishers just let him get away with it in order to make some more millions (well, I can see a certain upside to that, but I prefer integrity). When I think of this novel, I am reminded of Homer Simpson seeing a script to The Cable Guy. He grabs it and yells that the movie almost wrecked Jim Carey’s career. I think ‘Lisey’s Story’ was that piece of work for King, but he’s bounced back since then. So throw that one to the Plague Pits, along with any obscene comments I am now likely to receive.

JD’L: Craig, it’s been a real pleasure to get the inside curve on DPP and to find out a little more about you. You know that we at Horror Reanimated wish you nothing but the greatest of success in all your endeavours and we hope you’ll come back to us with more news as you go from strength to strength. Good luck to you, sir!

CB: Thanks for having me at Horror Reanimated, and allowing me to ramble on. Another piece of the dream come true; and I promise to write and keep you updated as we begin to grow up.

Craig Bezant is the co-founder of Dark Prints Press and editor of the Eclecticism E-zine, which is archived on the National Library of Australia’s Pandora Archive and was nominated for 2008 and 2009 Tin Duck Awards. He is also an Associate Editor and reviewer for HorrorScope, for which he was nominated for a 2009 Ditmar Award (Best Fan Writer).

Add comment December 23rd, 2010

Jen and Sylvia Soska on ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk’: Interview by Adam Wolf (replacing Alan Kelly for the time being)

Welcome back to The 9th Circle of Horror Reanimated….

On this gloriously grim night, Alan Kelly lies bound and gagged in a sulphur pit! I, Adam Wolf, his blood-rag twin brother have replaced him! Horror Reanimated HQ think Alan is shooting his new TV spot ‘Alan K in the Mornin’ (those editors would believe anything I say - curse of looking sweet and easy I s’pose) but the truth is Alan Kelly’s got no talent. Wait ‘til they get a load of me!

Today’s guests are twisted twins and writer/director double act Jen and Sylvia Soska, whose debut feature ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk’ is a genre bending, taboo-breaking melting pot of sexploitation/horror/grindhouse and just about every thing else. It’s one fucked-up adrenaline-fuelled ultra-ultra-violent psychosexual whodunit which has been making bloody waves on the underground film circuit and rightfully fucking so Sir. What makes this film more distinctive than any other are the iconic characters, the cleverly conceived storylines, and the talent attached who’ve delivered a high-concept action-horror thrill-ride that would make Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino go all girlish at the knees. Just check out the fast-paced and unapologetic narrative which undoubtedly has a resonance for perverts everywhere. Myself and the staff of HR included!

Jen and Sylvia had little more than an unconventional idea and a lot of odds stacked against them but persevered despite overwhelming criticism and accomplished their ambitious goal. They hope to inspire others to set out and take the bull by the horns and get what they most desire; not just filmmakers but folk from all walks of life and having checked out their film – twice – I wholeheartedly agree…

Adam Wolf: Good Evening Girls and welcome to Horror Reanimated, I hope your trip down here wasn’t too perilous?

Jen Soska: It’s our esteemed pleasure to be here. Thank you most kindly for having us.

Sylvia Soska: Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us.

AW: You both wrote and directed your fantastic first skull-fuck of a feature ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk’- when did you come up with the idea and how long did it take to successfully get it onto it’s feet, from your original concept to full-blown furious and frenzied film?

JS: Once upon a time, we were actors. We’ve actually been acting since we were itty bitty. We ended up going to a film school that had a kick ass stunt program, but little else. After the incredible stunt portion ended, we quickly realized that the film school wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. We had a short film project where our funding, which was supposed to be included as part of our tuition, was pulled. The school told us to just absorb into another group. But, as you may guess, that wasn’t going to happen. It was during the time that Rodriguez’s and Tarantino’s “Grindhouse” was in the theatres and we found ourselves leaving class more and more to watch the film and learn from the masters. We’d always been very inspired by both directors, especially Rodriguez with his “do-it-yourself” attitude and “ten minute film schools”. We decided we were going to make our own trailer as our short film. We came up with the title “Dead Hooker In A Trunk” before we had anything else.

We needed a title that would cause a strong emotional reaction, whether it be positive or negative. It had to be something that would make us stand out and be remembered. From there, we came up with several “trailer” moments that would be stand out moments in the film. Now our film school had a list of “inappropriate” content that was not allowed in our films. Not having the school back us up, we decided to pool our resources, get our own cast and crew, and pay for the whole thing ourselves. Additionally, we made damn sure to include EVERYTHING on the “inappropriate” list and even added a few things that weren’t on the list. They seemed to have left out bestiality and necrophilia… When the trailer showed at the school during our graduation, half the audience got up and walked out. The other half was laughing and cheering so loud you couldn’t even hear the trailer! We knew we had something special. Everyone kept asking when we were going to make the film and during the shooting of the trailer, we kept joking and saying, “we’ll do this in the feature” or “we’ll have to put that in the feature”. The feature was inevitable.

SS: After the initial trailer, we had more roles to fill and lost actors for various reasons – it was hard to find people who would commit to a project with our subject matter, even though it was mostly tongue-in-cheek, and with the knowledge that the only budget would be what we could get by maxing out our credit cards. That said, the people that we did get on the Hooker team are some of the best talents in the industry. In the end of 2007, when we started production, there was a writer’s strike in LA and all the work that usually trickles up to Vancouver disappeared leaving people that would usually have full schedules free to help out.

We started with four of the originals from the teaser – Jen and myself (writers, directors, producers, actors), Loyd Bateman (producer, stunt coordinator, camera, and actor), and Maryann Van Graven (producer, key-makeup artist, and stand-in) and started to build our team. The first was our Hooker, the incredibly tough and lovely Tasha Moth, our original Goody Two-Shoes left the film two days before shooting and we ended up rewriting the role as a male part and cast CJ Wallis who ended up not only acting in the film, but also cameraing, soundtracking, editing, and doing all the post-production with us, then we lost our second Junkie due to scheduling conflicts but found the ridiculously talented Rikki Gagne who is not only an incredible actress but also an amazing stunt performer. After that we started filling the rest of the cast and crew – we got the ultimate gentleman and wonderful actor John Tench (Intellegence, Brokeback Mountain, The Watchmen) to be our Cowboy Pimp, special effects master and great character actor David Barkes (District 9, Alice) to be our perverted Motel Manager, and in the brief cameo role of God, we were lucky enough to get one of the founding fathers of low-budget independent film, Carlos Gallardo (El Mariachi, Desperado, Grindhouse).

Carlos Gallardo and Robert Rodriguez worked together on El Mariachi which launched both of their film careers. While working on the film, Robert kept a journal that was later published as Rebel Without A Crew that illustrates how he made such a grand film on such a modest budget. It suggests that creative problem solving is your best tool on set and it really is. We came up against quite a few problems during filming that we figured out thanks to that book. I highly suggest it to any film maker that wants to make their own film – it saved us several times.

AW: You both involved yourselves in every aspect of putting the film together. From casting to stunt work to character craft and even gore clean-up. Was raising funds to get the film completed difficult and is there anything you would have done differently looking back?

JS: Ha ha, we kind of skipped the whole raising funds thing. When we were first approaching people, trying to get cast and crew members, getting all excited and saying this is what we want to do, a lot of people said it would never happen. They said it was WAY too expensive and there was no way to pull it off “our way”. We wanted to figure it all out creatively, but they told us we had to do it the “right way”. As you may guess, we weren’t dissuaded. Most of it came out of our own pockets. We produced the film with help from our fellow producers. It was important to us to not rely on anyone else or to go begging for money. It seems like something a lot of people get hung up on. No money doesn’t mean no film. It simply means that you have to be creative overcoming your obstacles and spend the funds that you do have wisely. I firmly believe that low budget doesn’t have to look cheap. We had things in DHIAT that we cut out simply because we couldn’t pull them off with the desired look.

As for what I’d do differently, that’s a hard one. Even the mistakes and hardships from the project I wouldn’t change because they’ve helped shape me into the film maker I am today. Sure, there were some very tough, valuable lessons learned, but in the end, I’d do it all over again. Also, it was important for us to do as much as we possibly could on the film. We doubtfully will be able to do so many jobs on a single set again and we wanted to show the world how many things we could do. We really put our everything into the film and wanted to be a part of it all.

SS: We applied for VISAs and Mastercards and maxed them out more than the traditional way of raising funds. We didn’t have the kind of budget that other films do, so we had to be creative and maximize what we could do. There were nights before filming where Jen, CJ, and I would go to the place where we would be shooting and spend the night set decorating so that it would look cool on camera the next day. There was one scene that takes place in a ‘Sketchy Building’ and we wallpapered the rooms with newspaper – cheap, but really nice on film. After filming was done, usually at a friend’s place, we’d stay to make sure it was back to its original form – clean and blood free!

There are so many more costs than I really knew about, not to dissuade anyone, but we had to choose between our personal costs (food, clothing, rent) and costs for the film. We chose the film every time, had cost-efficient meals (toast and peanut butter) for months, made arrangements for stacking up bills, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. 

AW: Dead Hooker in a Trunk pays homage to the work of Quentin Tarantino, Greg Araki, Eli Roth and other members of ‘The Splat Pack’ and is a cool collage of Grindhouse, Sexploitation, Horror and Murder Mystery. Is that an accurate assessment, how much is your work influenced by other people?

JS: I think everyone is influenced by somebody, whether they let it reflect in their work consciously or not. Though we are very inspired by a number of film makers, Tarantino, obviously, and especially Rodriguez, we tried to ensure that our work would still be our own. We don’t want people looking at our work and saying, “That’s just some Tarantino rip off”. We have a very definite style and tastes. We try to make our dark senses of humor shine through in all our work. Since we were little reading Stephen King novels, it just seemed natural to us that some element of fun would exist even in horror.

Being twins, we talk to each other. A lot. Sylvie and I have a vast range of things that we like. Many of those things don’t seem to go together, but to us, they totally do. Our tastes do come through in our work. If we see something that disturbs or upsets us, we remember it and try to put it into our work.

SS: I have a huge amount of respect for the ‘Splat Pack’. There is something undeniably impressive about all of their styles – the culture-creating dialogue of Tarantino, the honest to goodness horror of a Roth torture scene, the gritty violence and harshness of Zombie’s films – I just love watching their work. I am definitely influenced by their work as well as my other favorite directors like Mary Harron, Takashi Miike, Robert Rodriguez, Paul Thomas Anderson, Dario Argento and so many more. Jen and I are total film nerds.

Since we were little girls, we have always been fascinated by horror movies and novels. I saw Poltergeist and got terrified. My mom rewatched it with me and made jokes the entire time; by the time the bodies were coming out of the ground we were killing ourselves laughing. We took humor and horror hand in hand. Whenever something actually awful happened, we used that humor to deal with it. Much later, it became fodder for scripts. I remember in elementary school a little boy getting hit in the back of the head by a baseball bat and it knocking his eye out of its socket. That’s in Dead Hooker in a Trunk and there are a lot of creepy things from our actual lives that make their way into our scripts. So, I guess, our story-telling is a mix between what we love and weird shit that we’ve been witness to. 

AW: Each character (Badass, Junkie, Geek and Goody Two-Shoes) begins as a stereotypical template only to turn around and give you a good hard kick in the Jones. While filming did you do a lot of improvisation or work only with the original script?

JS: We wanted the film to have an epic, larger than life feel to it. Sometimes when you see an action movie or a horror movie, you have these characters that are the heroes that you never really get all that much time to get to know, but their personalities stand out big time and when you talk about them later you describe them as the cop or the slutty girl or the tough guy. We wanted to bring that element to our characters. We wanted them to be memorable. That’s also why they never change their outfits. You get to know that Badass will always be in dyed jeans, shit kicking boots, and a low cut black tank top. It helps people know them better. Look at any comic book hero. People like to know their super heroes. When Spider-man first changed his costume, everyone freaked out. Rituals like that are important.

SS: I love that no one has names, just the stereotypes that they would be labelled with. The only character with a name is Billy, the Hooker’s pug dog. The characters in a way are all stereotypes, but there’s so much more to them than that. As the story goes on, it’s nice to see how they interact with each other.

We stayed pretty close to the script. CJ is really funny, at the end of the scenes he would add a line or two to crack us up. There were some times that the batteries were dying or it would spontaneously start to snow and we’d have to tighten up the dialogue and change lines just so we could get what we needed. We had trouble finding a gas station to shoot in, so we had Badass get thread to fix her pants and find a clue in the locally famous Amsterdam Cafe. There were a lot of times like that where people would hear what we were doing and offer to help out. It’s like a warm, indie film-making hug.

AW: You both epitomise the creatively trigger-happy – well blow me,  I’m bringing euphemisms back into fashion – and are working on something that is making me salivate all over  my keyboard. Dogfight. Women are captured, broken and forced to compete in vicious death brawls? Tell me more please, spare no details?

JS: Yes. Dogfight is a project that we’ve written for two fellow incredibly talented femme fatales, Tara Cardinal (pronounced “Tar” like in heart, not hair”) and Devanny Pinn. Last year, during February’s first annual Women In Horror month (created by our now very dear friend and third Soska sister, Hannah Neurotica of Ax Wound zine), we started a Twisted Twins’ Massive Blood Drive as a way of giving back. We tried to encourage people to donate blood everywhere in the name of Women in Horror. Tara and Devanny organized a huge blood drive in California and we began talking back and forth. We met during this year’s Viscera Film Festival where their films, Song of the Shattered and Legend of Red Reaper, were previewed. If you haven’t checked them out yet, treat yourselves to a little google. These ladies are amazing and you just have to see these films.

Dogfight is and will be everything you’ll want it to be and so much more. Absolutely there will be very beautiful women tearing the living shit out of one another and being broken into submission, but there is, if we do say so ourselves, so gripping and deep of a story that you’ll be touched and sucked in not just by the babes. It will be totally horrifying and strangely beautiful. I wish I could give you every delicious detail, but for now, my wicked lips are sealed.

SS: Dogfight is going to be very different from what you’ve seen before. It’s quite a dark piece that really goes into the human fascination of blood sports and what it is like when these women are captured and trained as human dog fighters. The script has the undertones of the more brutal cinema you would see in European films like Martyrs or Inside. The women involved in the film are so strong and talented, we wanted to make sure that the story is captivating while the violence is shocking and horrifying. I think the common misconception would be that a film revolving around a female underground fighting rink would be more eyed-candy than horror film and I want to erase that idea. Think of any time you’ve seen two women fight or brawl. When I used to spar in martial arts class, I would partner with guys and girls. The girls were intense. Women can be vicious when they fight and that will be reflected in the film’s script. Unfortunately, we’re only able to participate in the script writing aspect of this film, but I have the utmost faith in the producing powerhouses, Tara Cardinal and Devanny Pinn, and their director, Sean-Michael Argo.

AW: Eli Roth and my dear friend Hannah Neurotica (of Ax Wound fame) have sung your praises and deservedly so! You were in Tarantino’s MTV Basterds competition. Is there anybody who is a mentor for you two?  And also, what is Eli’s phone number?

JS: Eli Roth is a great friend and mentor. His support of us and our film have really meant the world to us. It’s incredible to know that someone at his level of success still cares about independent artists and work. He’s just incredible. Robert Rodriguez, who we always sing the praises of, is a big inspiration for us. We kept a copy of his book, “Rebel Without a Crew” on the set of DHIAT all the time and called it “the bible”. The way he creatively makes things work is just amazing. I love his “Ten Minute Film Schools”. At the end of his book he tells the reader to go out and make a film and he’ll bring the popcorn. I can’t wait for my popcorn, ha ha

As for Eli’s number, it’s 424-….hey, wait a minute!! You can’t hornswoggle me!

SS: Eli Roth and Hannah Neurotica are wonderful people. We sent Eli our trailer for Hooker to see if he liked it and he responded with interest in seeing the whole feature. He has been an incredible friend and supporter. He gave us advice that got us to our final cut of the film, he has passed the film along and promoted it, and he introduced us to Hannah – which was the start of our friendship. I feel so lucky to know someone who is such a strong voice for women in horror. Growing up, I felt like I was this weird girl who would never fit in and now it’s like I’m part of this whole generation of people who grew up loving the same movies I did. My mom was a big mentor to me – she and my dad were always very supportive of our love of horror.

We did compete in the MTV competition to parody Tarantino’s work to get tickets to the Toronto premiere, it was a lot of fun. We were one of the top three finalists. We didn’t get to go to Toronto, but we did get to meet up with Eli for the Vancouver premiere a couple of days later. He’s a really nice and down to earth guy. I’m really grateful for all that he’s done for us, his support has gotten Hooker far.

AW: For those of us who aren’t in the loop or too preoccupied by psychiatric assessments (I’m not being self-referential) could you give us all a bit of back-story on Twisted Twins productions and what are your plans for the future?

JS: Twisted Twins Productions is our company. All of our projects and scripts are made under the Twisted Twins name. When we were making Dead Hooker In A Trunk, it became very evident that we’d need to have a production company to do all the legal business under. Sylvie came up with Twisted Twins and I was dumb enough to disagree with her. I wanted Soska Sisters. She told me that we had to do Twisted Twins Productions because, aside from being overall better, it was a more appropriate name and, besides, our films would be called “a film by the Soska Sisters”, like the Cohen Brothers. What can I say? We’re suckers for alliteration.

SS: It is a good name, eh? We founded Twisted Twins Productions on December 11 of 2007 to do all of our film work under it. Jen and I have quite a few projects that we want to do with scripts finished – American Mary, Bob, The Man Who Kicked Ass – and a some that we’re been working on since we were fifteen – it’s a television series. We’re waiting to hear back on distribution for Hooker, complete our Youtube personalities documentary, Please Subscribe, and finalize funding for our next film, we’re really excited to start on a new project. Making movies is the best job ever.

AW: Like so many of the best of us, you both are possessed of such a wonderfully sick, smart and depraved mind(s) – is there sibling rivalry between you two? Do you have vicious sisterly clashes? Any graphic details you wish to divulge will improve our readership and raise my popularity (that’s what I’ve been told to say)

JS: Like all siblings and, I guess everyone for that matter, Sylv and I do disagree at times. Being so passionate about our work, it’s good that we care enough to stick up for what we love. It can get pretty heated, but we’ve discovered better ways of communicating and getting our feelings across to one another. We used to get in brutal cat fights when we were little. I think women are naturally more violent when they fight than men, but I digress. We’d throw each other into walls and tackle the other to the ground. Eventually we’d sort ourselves out and let up. The best thing to do was just let us work it out. If anyone ever tried to get in our way or get involved in our argument, we’d just turn our combined wrath to them. When we began training in martial arts, we made an agreement to never physically fight again (outside of play fighting which we both still engage in and would never dream of giving up!). We could probably do some serious damage to one another now. I collect weapons and have them all over my room, so it could get messy, ha.

Actually, that might make a good short film…

SS: There is a definite rivalry between us, but there is a greater camaraderie. When we have opposing ideas, there are raised voices and arm gestures, but I think that’s just our European background shining through. If Jen has an idea that I don’t like, I’m very blunt with her. She’s the same. We don’t waste time dancing around each other’s feelings – which is good practice for dealing with other people in the film industry who don’t give a shit about your feelings. Ha ha.

Before studying martial arts, Jen won any scrap – flawless victory. This will sound odd, but after training in martial arts, we talked through disagreements and scraps ended altogether. We do spar with one another to keep in shape. Jen’s kicks are brilliant whereas I’m more of a boxer.

AW: Well we’ve come to the end of our journey, She-Devils, and you’ve gained a loyal (and murderous, depending on the cut of the cheque) fan in yours truly! Would you like to offer us all here a parting shot or a shower of bullets?

JS: Thank you so much for having us! It’s been an absolute pleasure! We’ve been sending Dead Hooker In A Trunk to festivals everywhere and have been trying to get it shown in every place it’s requested. Please check out our site, www.twistedtwinsproductions.net and drop us a line! We’d love to hear your thoughts on DHIAT and our work and if you want us to send Dead Hooker to a city near you. We also have a blog on our site that we are constantly updating. You can get up to the minute details on all of our misadventures and upcoming projects. I’d like to send out a special thanks to everyone who’s seen and supported us and DHIAT. It really means the world to us every time you tell a friend about the film. All we’ve ever wanted was to make Dead Hooker as pure enjoyment for our audiences and share it with as many people as possible.

And we promise, the best is yet to come…

SS: You have two new twin friends, sir. Thank you so kindly for this opportunity to talk Hooker with you. Jen took my answer, so I just want to thank you, the reader, for checking out this interview. If you check out Dead Hooker in a Trunk please do message us and let us know what you thought – it’s rad to hear from you!

2 comments October 30th, 2010

Exclusive: Jovanka Vuckovic on her directorial debut ‘The Captured Bird’ – interview by Alan Kelly

Welcome back to The 9th Circle of Horror Reanimated!

Jovanka Vuckovic talks exclusively to Horror Reanimated today about her forthcoming six minute short film The Captured Bird. An otherworldly tale which promises to be told in the tradition of a Brother’s Grimm dark fable with nods to HP Lovecraft and has already attracted quite a lot of attention being accepted to the prestigious Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Mexico’s Morbido Film Fest, the UK’s Sheffield Horror Film Festival, LA’s Viscera Film Festival, and many others have expressed interest in screening the film, before it has even been shot. ‘The Captured Bird’ a film currently in pre-production already has some wonderful people onboard, including producer Jason Lapeyre, Academy-Award nominated production designer Anastasia Masaro (whose credits include Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Tideland and the Stephen King mini-series Storm of the Century) on production design, concept artist and art director Nat Jones (whose credits include 28 Days Later, The Devil’s Rejects and 30 Days of Night) and Guillermo del Toro (The Devil’s Backbone, Pans Labyrinth and H.P Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, which will be produced by James Cameron) and many others who will be delivering us to a place which will no doubt have an authentic sense of the otherworld.

A premise of the story is most intriguing: A little girl takes a wrong turn and finds herself in a realm which is presided over by The Shadow People. Folkloric entities which have also been the subject of numerous investigations into supernatural phenomenon and in the interview below Jovanka explains her reasons for using these chilling creatures in her first film. We also talk monster making, dreams, Guillermo Del Toro and lots more besides.

If  there is anybody out there who’d like to get involved in letting This Bird fly, please go here: http://www.thecapturedbird.com/film/contribute/

In the run-up to production Jovanka will be interviewing genre luminaries over at The Captured Bird in her very own film school, getting advice from some of the greatest names in horror. I urge you to check out her website. I am very excited about The Captured Bird and know that you will be to.

So here are a few words from Jovanka and remember, once you’ve visited Horror Reanimated, you never know who’s followed you out, so mind how you go…

Alan Kelly: There are so many landscapes, the geographical and the psychological, the places of dreams, popular culture, personal mythology and memory. Will you be weaving together all the places you’ve seen, the dreams you’ve had and the art you’ve loved in your creation of The Captured Bird?

Jovanka Vuckovic: I’ll definitely be drawing from dreams – but they aren’t really mine. Let me explain: I have a twin brother. And when we were kids, we were definitely psychically linked. He was more of a “sender” and I was more of a “receiver.” We could sit in a room together and play these mind games where I would think of a word or image, close my eyes hard and Jovan (whose English nickname is “John”) would be able to tell me what the word or image is. I wasn’t as good as reading his thoughts, which is strange as I was for sure the more oddball kid. Anyway, he used to have these experiences from time to time that he’d share with me. Sometimes I would wake up after having dreamt people I didn’t know only to find out I was picking up on one of John’s dreams. He also had this experience – which I later found out is referred to as “Old Hag Syndrome” in which he would wake up paralyzed with what he described as a black, shapeless being floating above him, holding his body down so he couldn’t move. There was also the distinct impression that there was another one in the room, just off in the corner – watching. He’d cry out in terror but no screams would escape his lips. If I didn’t make it to his room first, he would come and sleep at the foot of my bed. He never had to explain what it was – I’d just ask, “Did you see them again?” Sometimes we see these beings in broad daylight as well. If you’ve ever seen those black, shadowy figures moving just out of your peripheral vision, you’ve seen them too. They are The Shadow People. What was especially terrifying about seeing them during the day was that, for us kids, it meant they were more than just nightmares. I still see them from time to time, but of course now I try to chalk these spectres up to the hallucinogenic effects of sleep paralysis. But you can imagine my surprise when I found out that many people all over the word have seen these beings. They appear in folklore and are a subject of modern paranormal research. As I got older, I encountered more people who claim to have had sightings or experiences with The Shadow People, sometimes in conjunction with “Old Hag Syndrome” – like my brother. An old boyfriend called me once in the middle of the night after awaking from a horrifying experience in which he was being held down by a black humanoid like figure while an old woman that he could not see but instinctively knew was there watched from the corner. I had never told him about my second hand experience via my brother. Later, the future father of my child recounted an experience he had with an old girlfriend in which they were both paralyzed in broad daylight while lying in bed. A shared hallucination? Perhaps, but either way I have been fascinated by these entities my entire life. They’ve imprinted on the folds of my psyche and I have to give them life in my own nightmare-like film.

AK: You wrote The Captured Bird which was, in part, influenced by a
nightmare you had as a little girl. Was channelling that purity of
emotion – the kind that exists only in dreams – and transfiguring it into
story difficult?
 
JV: The hardest part of channelling these creatures is describing them in
words but then a magical thing happens during collaboration with other
artists. Their interpretation of my words takes on a life of its own and
the creatures become a little more interesting. In their first
incarnation, they were more shadowy, but after discussing The Shadow
People with my partner, who has his own experiences with them, they
became more corporeal – our approach to them became more of a “what if
they really existed in a physical form” type thing. Then they just
evolved from there. Hopefully you’ll find them as creepy and unnerving
as we do.
 
AK: How did it evolve? Did it begin as a short story or treatment or did you
keep a diary of ideas and images prior to writing the script for the film?
 
JV: Believe it or not, this all started as a music video for my husband’s
band, Redeemer. We tossed around some ideas and they all kind of centred
on making it more like a short film than a typical video with a band in
it. Then, as I began writing, it really took on a life of its own. This
story demanded to be told, so I ran with it. This short became a
platform for me to express myself as a filmmaker. I got my friend,
filmmaker Jason Lapeyre, on board to produce because I needed help
getting it made. Now, Redeemer is scoring the picture. I’ll direct a
music video for them in the future. A lot of people told me to
essentially alter my vision, reduce it in size and scope to something I
could shoot for 5 grand. But not Jason. Jason told me to just make the
movie I wanted to make, which is a $100,000 six minute horror fantasy.
It’s interesting when I look back on the script that came out of me when I
sat down to write. I’ll leave it up to the audience to interpret the
complex meaning behind the images in the film.

AK: “Calm, lasting beauty comes only in dream, and this solace the world had thrown away when in its worship of the real it threw away the secrets of childhood and innocence.”– Children, by their very nature are creatures who will seek out wonder, who will explore the dark corners without the knowledge of what might be waiting, just out of reach. By exploring The Shadow People I think you are tapping into very real fears, that dark shape which unfurls at the corner of our eye, the predators who linger in the shade, the uncertainty of making your way through a single day without our world being threatened. Why choose these particular beings and where/when did you first learn of their existence?

JV: Wow, you’re good. I love that quote from Lovecraft’s “The Silver Key.” You could definitely say that the little girl in my story has found Randolf Carter’s lost key. Lovecraft is most definitely an inspiration here. I started reading him when I was around twelve years old. I felt like I had discovered a secret only a few people knew about. It would be years before I encountered anyone else reading him. But back to your comment. Yes, children are creatures who will seek out wonder. They will often go where they are not supposed to – curiosity, temptation and devilishness is what drives all little boys and girls in fairy tales to take the candy from the witch or talk to the big bad wolf. This story is more inspired by the literature I read growing up. I wanted to write a gruesome fairy tale with my own very personal demons in the starring role. In this way The Captured Bird has more in common with stories such as The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves or Heinrich Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter than it does any modern horror film.

AK: Guillermo del Toro came onboard as executive producer, who else is on your team and can you tell me about what their place will be pre/post production and why you selected them?

JV: Guillermo is creatively shepherding the film, yes. He’s my Master Miyagi so to speak – his words, I can’t take credit for that awesomely fitting Karate Kid reference. To be clear, he has nothing to do with the financial fundraising aspect of the film – that’s all [producer] Jason [Lapeyre] and I. Jason is also a filmmaker and friend of mine and I can’t say this enough: there would be no Captured Bird without Jason. He has been a great mentor and producer – from helping me apply for grants to managing the budget and even day to day drudgeries of managing the social media aspect of our online community. He really commits 100% to a project, which is really a great quality to have as a producer. But most important, he never lets me give up. I’m immeasurably grateful for his friendship and guidance.

The rest of the team came together quite organically. [Cinematographer] Karim [Hussain] is a friend and filmmaker who’s got a great eye and Doug [Buck] is also a friend whose work as a filmmaker I admire very much. We were all having dinner during the FanTasia film festival in Montreal in 2009 when I told them about the film – back then it was a really vague idea that I described to them. We jammed out some ideas and in the process, Karim offered to shoot the film for me and Doug offered to edit it. To have such talented and experienced filmmakers as key people on my first foray into filmmaking is truly a blessing. I feel like with them around, I can’t screw up too badly!

Once those key people were on board, I made some phone calls to other friends such as [comic book artist] Nat Jones, whose work I am a fan of. He helped whip up those awesome concept designs that are on the website. I am convinced those drawings were a huge part of us winning the BravoFACT! grant.  Everyone loves those illustrations. Then I called Tammy [Sutton], who’s going to do all the visual effects supervision and head up the VFX post production of the film. While I plan to do the creature effects as practically as possible, there are nevertheless a great deal of visual effects in the film. It’s just too ambitious to build everything as a set or puppet. Mike Elizalde’s Spectral Motion came on board on a recommendation from Guillermo. I was totally shocked when he said “yes!” [Production designer] Anastasia Masaro actually approached us after seeing our website, which is totally amazing as she’s an Oscar nominee – which brought the grand total of Oscar nominees on this project to three. [Storyboard artist] Rob McCallum agreed to help with the storyboards after a little begging. He’s hugely busy on big budget features and agreed to help out on my little six minute film. And last but not least, Redeemer. This whole thing began as a music video for them. My partner Shane and I were jamming out ideas on a plane for a video I could direct for them and we landed on this discussion about The Shadow People and it kind of went from there. It ended up becoming a much bigger thing and I still plan on shooting a video for them but they did some temp music for the film that I thought was totally amazing so they’re going to take a break from metal music and do their first film score. Based on the samples they’ve given us, Jason and I have all of the faith in the world that they can and will create some really creepy, atmospheric music for the film.

You know, I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have such a pro team on my first short film. It still surprises me every day.

AK: You won the Gemini Award for Best Visual Effects after working for CBS as a digital effects artist and you’ve decided to take the practical route with your creature effects in The Captured Bird. What will these monsters look like, have you already sketched/made miniature models of them? And how do you approach building your own monster?

JV: I’ve always been a fan of practical creature effects. In my view, there’s a lot of ways to approach monstermaking but for me, rubber is the only way to go. I mean, if you ask people what the great monster movies are, they’re not going to say Cloverfield or Monsters, they’re going to say The Thing, The Creature from the Black Lagoon or Alien. I did visual effects for a career so I know what looks good and what doesn’t. I can see seams and bad lighting from a mile away. So I think there’s a fine balance between using practical creature effects and computers together to create movie magic. It should not be simply one or the other exclusively. This film actually has a lot of visual effects in it – we simply cannot afford to build some of these elaborate sets so we’ll be using some matte paintings and other visual effects. But as much as possible, I want to stay away from 3D. I just don’t think it looks good enough. I’d rather see a guy in a suit than a soupy, digital monster any day. For the task, we’ve approached Spectral Motion, who has experience making practical monster suits on dozens of movies including Hellboy 2. The creatures in the troll market are amazing. Every time I watch that scene, I see something new. Taking my queue from “Master Miyagi,” I’ll try to shoot some practical monsters and enhance them with visual effects – a la the troll market in Hellboy 2. I think that’s the best approach to monsters these days. For the time being, the monsters live in my head, but through working with concept artists, we’re getting closer and closer to what they will eventually look like in the film. I have no doubt that Spectral Motion will nail the creepy, weird beings in my movie.

AK: What can you tell me about your heroine, this faery like waif who goes face to face with monsters? I don’t want to say too much more than she’s just like most of us: curious, tenacious and ultimately heading toward oblivion.

JV: I don’t want to say too much more than she’s just like most of us: curious, tenacious and ultimately heading toward oblivion.

All artwork: Nat Jones

Add comment October 18th, 2010

Interview with horror artist Nick Rose by JD’L

the-food-of-lovefini-webI first discovered today’s featured artist when I stumbled across his blog. I’d been Googling my short story ‘The Food of Love’ to see if its ghost remained online. Instead, I found Nick’s site and his detailed explanation of an illustration titled ‘Brainburgers’. Nick had been commissioned to provide art for my story in an anthology now titled Darc Karnivale. His image of zombies queuing for ‘Brainburgers’ in a fast food joint appears in the book, as do many other fine examples of Nick’s work.

As you’ll glean from his frank responses to our questions, Nick has survived a lot to get where he is today.

Joseph D’Lacey: Welcome to Horror Reanimated, Nick. I’m glad you could make it all the way out to our quaint little corner of Hell.

Nick Rose: Joseph, I am very honoured. You know you’re Madison’s and my favourite writer, and you’re a wonderful man on top of that. Illustrating “The Food of Love” was probably my favourite assignment to date. And guess what? – This time next month everyone will be able to have a print or T-shirt with “Brainburgers” on it. And don’t worry, brother, if we sell a good many of these, we’ll send some money your way! After all, you gave me the idea…

Actually, this will be the very first time that fans and friends can buy prints of Nick Rose art. I really hope that I get the chance to work on more of your stories in the future.

JD’L: Thanks, Nick! It doesn’t matter about the money – you can buy me a beer next time I come to the USA!

Now, I see a lot of news about you on Facebook these days but I’m very curious about your past. How long have you been a professional artist and what kind of journey has it been?

NR: Well, actually I have been around for a long time.darc-karnivale-cover-web

My first published piece was for a fanzine called “Stellar Gas” way back around 1980. It was a Star Trek fan magazine. The picture I did was of Mr. Spock. From there I was published regularly in a Magazine called “Lost World”. Around 1990 my pro career started with a piece published in Dragon Magazine #203. I also had landed a few commercial accounts as well.

Publishing is great as far as building a fan base, but it pays very little considering the time you spend on it. Commercial art on the other hand is boring most of the time, but the pay-checks are awesome.

Now through all of this, I also was a carpet installer. It was the only way I could make ends meet. This went on until 1995. At the time computers were coming in strong and you could do an assignment in a 10th of the time. But two things were going on with me at the time.

One: I was against using computers to produce art. Two: I was growing sick of doing commercial work. I wanted to paint Dragons and Monsters, so out of frustration, I quit drawing and painting again. From 1995 to 2000 I gave up art. I packed up the studio and put it in storage.

Those 5 years where hell. I started drinking and smoking very heavy and I just didn’t want to live to be honest. I was killing myself.

Then in 2000, I got a computer for my then step-son, and he started showing me all the cool things like publishers websites. (Before this, you either had to mail your work into the publisher and pray that you would get it back, or you had to have an agent knocking on doors for you.)  But now with the internet, all of that had changed. So I became inspired again, and unpacked my studio and got to work.

Everywhere I sent samples, I was getting work. This was mainly small press, but I was loving it. I was constantly getting magazines and books in the mail that either had a cover by me, or interiors. It was very exciting. I muddled along doing this until 2005 when a Master Artist offered to train me – Master Daniel Horne, and shortly after that fantasy legend Todd Lockwood decided to help me as well.

Sammy Unmasked - Based on the movie Trick 'r' Treat

Sammy Unmasked - Based on the movie Trick 'r' Treat

As a young man, I could not afford to pay my way through an art school.  After the Army, I went to a local community college where I took commercial art for a year. The sad thing is, everything I learned from the community college is totally useless these days. The computer has changed the world as we know it. So having Daniel and Todd train me was and is a dream come true. Daniel really opened my eyes to art and I started seeing it in a whole different light, and Todd really introduced me to contrast and perspective. He had me go down town twice a week and practice drawing buildings from all different points of views. I did that for about 5 months, and I remember mumbling every time I was sitting on a bench drawing and a wino would come up to me asking me for money. But after a while I started to get it and understood why he had me doing that. It really opened my eyes to how important it was to making a good picture. I haven’t used much of that knowledge yet but I will soon.

Through the years I installed carpet to get by, but there were some years I decided to try to go full time as an artist. Financially, those where tough times, but they were also a lot of fun. I don’t even remember how I got by, but I did. For some reason when I was young I thought I would get rich painting, but the truth is, you’re lucky just to get by. Being an artist is an act of love. Now don’t get me wrong, I know a few artists that are well off, mostly because they had a spouse with good business sense, like Elli Frazetta. She built the Frazetta empire by cutting out the middle man.

I know other artists who make $20,000 per painting, but those are few and far between. In my case, 2 of those a year and I would be living better that I ever have.

These days I paint because I love to, and last year people started noticing me on Facebook, and with in a year’s time I had 4600 friends, 2 fan clubs – one with 4800 fans, and the second one with 2000 fans, and my blog has 900 known followers. That’s about 12,000 fans in less than a year. It’s mind boggling if you think about it, me just being an artist. So I guess I’m doing pretty well these days.

JD’L: It seems that very few of those who set out to become authors are ever able to support themselves through their writing. How true is this of artists, do you think? I ask because I know several and only a couple of them make a living by their creativity.janefor-tim-spooky-finiweb1

NR: Good question Joseph, and you are right. A small percentage of artists like me can make a living doing this, but I have help. I have a health problem that I get money for, and Madison works a regular job, so all of that helps.

A couple of weeks from now we will start selling prints and other merchandise, and hopefully that will get Madison out of her job so she can write full time. But even the big names I know struggle. If their wives weren’t working, I don’t think they could make it either. Now there are a few that do, but they live modestly. For the first 50 years of my life, I installed carpet 37 of those years, and was able to retire from that at 50 years old. But the sad truth is that 80 percent of the artists you see in the field right now, will be memories in 3 years. Life pressures get to them, or raising a family, or they lack the 3 things it takes to be an artist which are Talent, Heart, and Soul, and/or they are in it for the wrong reason, like they want to be famous. If you want to be famous, you’d best learn how to play music or act.

JD’L: In your case has it always been the bizarre side of imagery that has drawn you or do you also enjoy what people might refer to as mainstream art?

suzi-dd1finiwebNR: Now that is the first time I have ever been asked that, and I will do my best to answer it.

I didn’t take art seriously until I was in the army, but in the 4th grade, around the time “One Million Years BC” came out, I started drawing dinosaurs. I had always loved dinosaurs and had a big box of the plastic ones like army men that I used to play with. You heard it here first folks, Nick Rose used to play with toy soldiers and dinosaurs! Anyway, after I saw that movie, I started drawing dinosaurs in school. If I’d gone to a Junior high school that had an art program, I would have pursued art at a much earlier age. But we lived in Bigfoot country, so the best I could get was creative writing.

In high school I became a huge comic book fan and I loved Spiderman. So in the army, when I started to draw again, I was really into comics.  After the Army, I went to a local community college to take some art classes, after that I found a book by Frank Frazetta and I knew then and there that I wanted to learn to paint like that man. So I moved into doing fantasy art.

But through the road of life, dark and evil things and people have been part of my existence. Not by choice, but imposed on me by certain step-family members. For instance my step father used to beat me and my mother senseless, and I don’t care how old you get, you never get over that. I had an asshole artist tell me the other day that he was friends with my ex Stepfather, and I remember thinking that this fool was proud to be friends with a man that would do that to a woman and a child.

He also allowed his younger bother to molest me. He was told about it but never did anything about it, except call me a “faggot”. This same artist told me that I was not allowed to come to my ex step fathers funeral when it happened. I would be physically removed if I did. I’ve got news for them: I am going to visit his grave often to pay my respects, if you know what I mean. So this artist is proud to be friends with him. I think that says volumes about his character.

But because I have had to live with these memories through the years, my work has become darker and darker, and I see them getting Darker as I go. There is no cure for what was done to me, talking about it just makes me angry, so in some way, painting these images has helped me slowly but surely.

In my early years I did try to do some mainstream art because family members would tell me “why don’t you paint something people will like, like barns or cowboys?” I did try, but it was like taking a pair of pliers and pulling the skin off of my face. So I went back to being the loser artist that everyone thought was weird.

JD’L: It’s very clear that you’re no kind of loser, Nick. Certainly not to survive such treatment and come out with so much positive spirit. What fascinating about what you’ve told me – apart from your honesty and candour – is that the darkness of your work has given you comfort. Horror has many functions!

Tell me, what is your preferred medium? Do you ever work outside of it?

NR: Joseph, I work in all mediums, including digital. I believe if you’re going to make a living doing this, you need to be able to do as much as possible. My favourites are pencil, oils, and Corel painter. I used to work in pen and inks a lot, but I don’t get much call spooky-1webfor it anymore.

JD’L: I’m fascinated by the working practices of other ‘creatives’ – How does a typical Nick Rose work day go?

NR: Normally, I get up at 7:15 am, make a pot of coffee and head to the dungeon (studio) to go through my mail and Facebook. That takes from 1 to 3 hours, drinking coffee throughout. After that, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I head to the gym for 90 minutes, come home, shower and get to work. The other 4 days of the week, I shower after checking e-mail and start work immediately. Somewhere along the way I grab a bowl of oatmeal. I work to at least 7pm, sometimes as late as 9pm. It depends on the day. Then I pick out a good movie and enjoy that, have a snack and hit the hay ready to start all over at 7:15 the next morning.

warden-webStarting this week I am going to be redesigning the studio, buying new equipment and supplies. I am really looking forward to that. Right now a good portion of the floor is taken up by my movie collection. I am going to buy book cases to put them in and that will clear a lot of the floor. Then I will have space for a table where I can put together packages ready to be mailed or to matte my prints. I am also buying another drawing table, a medium size easel for Madison’s daughter to work on, and a light box for her. The dungeon is large and wide open, so I can do what ever I want down here.

Another thing is that I listen to music all day long, so I have about 11,000 c.d.’s most of them are on my iMac. I listen to every kind of music you could think of.

JD’L: Do you feel there’s a gap between your ideas and your ability to bring them into being? Arthur Machen once wrote: ‘One dreams in fire and works in clay.’ He also talked about ‘the horrid gulf that yawns between the conception and the execution’. Admittedly he was an author, not an artist. Nonetheless, what’s your personal view?

NR: At one time I would say that would have been true, mostly because my skills were not strong enough to paint what my mind sees. Now, it is the other way around, my hands can surpass what my mind sees, and improve upon it. I get excited now every time I do a new piece because I know that it will be so much more than what my mind sees. I have to ask myself, what is next, and that is a big part of why I love to paint.

JD’L: Is it only art that gets you out of bed in the morning – or, indeed, at any other time – or do you have other passions?

NR: Oh my, to be honest, there was a time I didn’t want to get out of bed several years ago at all. As a matter of fact I overdosed on pain pills, and somehow lived through that. After the Dark Angels disbanded and I realised my best friend had betrayed and stabbed me in the back, and my Step Father said he never wanted to have anything to do with me ever again, I was going to commit suicide, but as a last resort I went to the VA hospital and told them what I was going to do. They locked me in the Mental Health ward for 3 weeks, during Christmas, and worked with me to help me cope with what happened. When I went home, the girl I had been dating took almost everything I owned and vanished off the face of the earth.klowny-finalsigweb

I just existed at that point. I didn’t care anymore. I just drank and smoked all I could smoke in a day. Then a friend offered to move me up here to Michigan, where my home is now, and my life changed 100%. The first thing was I met Madison. We fell in love, and all of a sudden I wanted to live again. It has been a rough year. I quit smoking, drinking and started working out again. I found out I have COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) because of the smoking, and this last year I’ve had pneumonia 5 times. But each day I get stronger, and my will to live is amazing. Nothing gets me down anymore. I work all the time and spend time with Madison and the kids.

My career has gone through the roof and keeps going up everyday. This is the 9th interview I have done since Christmas, Joseph. I was on a world wide radio show last week and am going to be a regular on there – talking live a couple times a year – and they will be giving away prints of my work and promoting my name almost every week. You can’t beat that.

JD’L: If you had the time, money and support to do only your own work, which deeply-held, as yet unrealised idea, would you bring into the world? I suppose I’m asking, what is the piece or series Nick Rose was born to create?

NR: Actually that is coming very soon now. I am at the point where I can do what I want and turn down what I don’t want to do. I have two projects I will be starting as soon as I finish remodelling the studio this coming week. One is a series of oil paintings of my dear friend and scream queen, Ms. Suzi Lorraine. We will be selling prints, calendars, t-shits, and whatever with her image. Another is a series of books called “The book of Rose” which I am already working on. I can’t say anything about that now, because of all the thieves out there, and this is a one of a kind thing. It will have a role playing game and video game based around it, all done through my company. And on top of that, I will be painting my paintings, writing how-to book, and a book about my life including all the zombiecatfiniwebcreeps and monsters I have met on my journey, names and all.

JD’L: Beyond that, what’s next for you, Nick? I have a sense there’s a lot of work in the pipeline. Is there anything you can tell us about without giving away too many secrets?

NR: Well, between now and January I have 20 covers to do, so that’s gonna keep me busy and it will get my work out there to a much larger audience. I hope by this time next year that the number will double and we will have our own market of buyers who are fans of my work.

JD’L: I hope so too, Nick. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you and share some of your artwork here at Horror Reanimated. Thanks for joining us and good luck for the future!

NR: Joseph, it has been my pleasure. You know Madison and I are two of your biggest fans, and it has been a thrill for me to do this interview with you. To my fans, “May the Darkness Comfort You.”

6 comments June 17th, 2010

Interview with Jasper Bark by JD’L

Jaspre BarkOh, joy!

Tonight, after months of scheming and dirty deals, I have finally snared the slippery and elusive Jasper Bark, author of Dawn Over Doomsday and Way of the Barefoot Zombie. We tracked him down using private detectives, crooked coppers and undercover prostitutes. After a failed blackmail attempt, we kidnapped his children. He said we could keep them. In the end, we had to resort to a large transfer of funds into his numbered Swiss account. There’s nothing we won’t do for you, the horror-lover, here at Horror Reanimated.

Okay, that’s a complete lie. We should have strapped Jasper into the ‘interview chair’ several months ago but I forgot.

Still, he’s comfortable now. Ears pinned to the backboard with carpet tacks, hands nailed to the armrests with a staple-gun. We removed his foreskin and eyelids – purely for reasons of hygiene, you understand; the filth of the dungeon just doesn’t enter the bloodstream properly if we don’t take certain precautions. Septicaemia should be setting in about now…

Joseph D’Lacey: Welcome to Horror Reanimated, Jasper. We’ve done our best to make you comfortable but if there’s anything else you need, don’t hesitate to ask.

Now, sir, I’m curious about the various Abaddon Books worlds. To write a Tomes of the Dead novel for example, what are the parameters? Similarly, what rules exist for The Afterblight Chronicles – both of which you’ve written for?

Jasper Bark: Okay, I’ll spill the beans on the Abaddon worlds as long as you promise to omit the sordid confessions of the last hour and sew my thumbs back on.

The parameters and the rules are slightly different for both series. The Afterblight Chronicles is a shared world series. The world was created by Si Spurrier who also wrote the first novel in the series The Culled. He was supposed to write the next instalment but around the same time he sold a novel called Contract to another publisher and decided to work on that instead, so Rebecca Levene got the job.

You’ve got a pretty free reign as a writer so long as you uphold the basic ‘post plague’ premise of the world and make certain you don’t contradict any of the events and timelines of the other novels in the series. My novel picked up on some of the events in Si’s novel and I stayed in touch with Scott Andrews and Paul Kane while I was writing it, as they were both working on their Afterblight trilogies at around the same time and we were all trying not to step on each other’s toes.

Tomes of the Dead is just an umbrella title for a series of contemporary and somewhat edgy zombie novels. The only thing that connects them is the defiant attitude of many of the authors and their general interest in subverting and experimenting with the sub-genre of the Zombie novel. When the series was first launched Matthew Sprange did write a shared world bible based around the back drop to his novel Death Hulk, which was the first in the series. Editor in Chief Jonathan Oliver soon fell out of love with the idea of the series having a shared world though and decided Tomes of the Dead would simply be a line of zombie novels.

JD’L: What attracts you to writing Zombie/Apocalyptic fiction?

doomdsday-coverJB: Although both those genres have become conflated thanks to Romero’s excellent Dead movies, none of the Zombie fiction I’ve worked on has been post apocalyptic. The appeal of each genre is quite different for me.

What I like about zombies is how malleable they are as a representative icon. As society trades old nightmares for new with each advancing decade the zombie keeps adapting and changing the things it stands for in our collective unconscious. In the 30s when the zombie was first introduced to western culture it stood for the western colonial fear of the nations it was exploiting. Over the years the zombie has come to represent mainstreams fears of everything from communism and terrorism to sixties radicalism and growing economic unrest. This makes it very appealing to writers like myself who have an interest in writing social commentary and satire.

The thing that appeals to me about post apocalyptic fiction, on the other hand, is that it allows you to study society as a whole in microcosm. As we view the shattered bands of survivors trying to rebuild their life in the aftermath of the collapse of civilisation there’s a huge opportunity to examine the everyday tensions and conflicts of our current society. The backdrop of a lost and ruined world allows us to view these opposing forces in a more naked and honest light, outside of the contexts and allegiances of our contemporary culture. This throws them into sharper relief and allows us a fresh perspective of the problems they’re causing us and the long term consequences of certain courses of action.

Plus err … zombies are totally awesome. They eat brains, they never wash and they always, always win. Vampires and Werewolves might be in an eternal conflict but Zombies can kick both their butts. A vampire or a werewolf can bite a Zombie as many times as they like and it’ll still be a zombie. A zombie’s only has to bite them once and you’ve got a zompire or a werebie. (Is it just me or does a ‘werebie’ sound like a creepy undead furby fetishist?)

JD’L: When a novel has a strong theme, it can be a tightrope act walking between what the story’s about and what it’s really about. Way of the Barefoot Zombie uses the walking dead sub-genre as satire. At times I found the message blazing as brightly as the story itself. Was that intentional? Once you knew where you were going, did you find it hard to keep a lid on all that social comment?

JB: You’re right it can be a tightrope act but I’m glad you said ‘blazing as brightly as the story itself’ and not ‘strangling the fecking story to death’. I think the writer’s ultimate responsibility is to the story itself but I think the story is strengthened no end if it is about more than just the characters themselves and what happens to them. As a writer you get incredibly close to your story and subject matter when you’re spending eight, nine and even ten hours a day working on it. You can’t help but ruminate a lot on your themes, so when the greater significance of certain parts of your story occurs to you, you want to point them out.

I was a lot more subtle about this in  Dawn Over Doomsday and as a consequence a lot less people noticed. So I think this time around I was over compensating a little and trying to point out the subtext to the reader, possibly a little too much at times. But I’m only on my fourth novel and I’m still learning how to get the balance right.

I do aspire to write genre fiction that is fast paced, completely gripping but just as intelligent and significant as more weighty writing. This is a tall order though and sometimes you can fall between two stools. The sort of people who just want quick entertainment can get really annoyed when you start asking them to think a bit and the sort of people who might appreciate the more complex ideas you’re considering can be put off by the schlocky nature of some of the content.

Still, it’s not worth doing if it’s too easy is it.

JD’L: Course, WOTBZ was a lot of fun too. How important is humour in your work?zombie-cover

JB: I would say it’s extremely important where it’s applicable. It’s often highly applicable when you’re writing horror. In fact horror and humour are the two genres that are specifically geared towards getting a particular physical reaction from the audience, you either want them to laugh or hurl. Because of this it’s easy to get it wrong and get a laugh when you’re looking to horrify so, in a way, getting the laugh in first – where you want it – is a way of keeping the reader on side and not losing them.
For me it’s also a way of puncturing any possible pomposity. If you’re writing work that aims at some type of profundity and insight it’s very easy to get a bit full of yourself and to come across as sanctimonious or preachy. Humour is a great way of undercutting that and maintaining a balance in the tone of your work. It’s a way of showing that I take what I do very seriously, but not myself.

For many years I led a hand to mouth existence as a stand up performer and I wrote and performed comedy sketches for BBC radio and live theatre. So along the way I learned how to be funny. It’s another tool in my armoury I guess.

JD’L: The novel has a strong grip on the traditions and practices of voodoo. Is this something you’ve had personal experience with or did it all come from research?

JB: Initially it came from research. I knew from the get go that voodoo would be central to the plot and my conception of the zombie. I wanted to go right back to the root of the myth. However Voodoo is one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented religions in the world. Horror fiction has contributed a huge amount towards the misconceptions surrounding this belief system, so I decided I was going to treat it with due reverence and present as authentic a view as I could.

So I did a lot of reading and sought out practitioners. A lot of people were very generous with their time and shared their experiences with me and they also lent me lots of books. Research is key to my work. I also did a lot of reading about economics for this novel.

I didn’t have any practical experience of economics but I did sort of get quite up close and personal with Voodoo. Followers of the faith are known as ‘Servant of the Loa’. The Loa are the spiritual beings who act as intermediaries between us and God. The Loa commune with us by taking possession, or ‘riding’ one of their followers during ritual ceremonies where the followers go into trances and the Loa choose a ‘horse’ to take possession of, so they can talk to their servants.

Writing can be quite a ritual activity and it certainly sends you into a type of trance after a while. I write a lot about different religious beliefs and tend to steep myself in them to such a degree that I tend to convert myself as I’m writing. This means there are times when the lines between the world you’re writing about and the world you live in can blur.

When you’re writing scenes of authentic rituals that conjure up the Loa it does feel like they come and have a look over your shoulder. They also demand a co-writing credit. I didn’t really write any of their dialogue whenever they appeared in the novel I just sat and took dictation and wouldn’t have dared edit it either. So in that sense you could say I had a bit of a practical experience.

JD’L: There’s a growing trend for novelists to accompany their new releases with online video teasers but I have to say the teasers for  WOTBZ are among the best I’ve seen. Who wrote them? And how and where were they made? Also, they looked expensive – did you get lottery funding???

JB: I wrote all three. They were made over a two day period across three locations here in the West country where I live.

We had next to no funding so although they should have cost in the region of £12,000 to £15,000 to shoot we managed to do all of them for under two grand. That’s mainly because I was able to talk the incredibly talented individuals at Level Films into working for nothing. In fact everybody who worked on the three short videos gave their time and talents for free. The make up and special effects artists, the actors, the sound and camera guys they were all fantastic.

I was very up front with everyone about the fact that I had absolutely no money but they all agreed to get involved because I can be very persuasive when I want to be and the project looked like a lot of fun. In fact we all had a blast. I hope that comes across when you watch them. If you’re reading this please do go watch all three. I promise you’ll laugh and you won’t have seen anything quite like them before.

JD’L: Are there more Abaddon titles to look forward to from your good – or should I say damnably evil – self?

JB: I am at work on something new for Abaddon at the moment, it’s for a new line of titles that hasn’t been launched yet. Nothing has been finalised at the moment, so I’m going to have sound all enigmatic and leave it at that.

JD’L: Now, I’ve heard Jasper Bark also writes books for children and is well known in the world of graphic novels. When did all this start and how do you fit it in around writing horror novels?

JB: Well the comics and graphic novels probably came first. While I was working as a music and film journalist I got in touch with The Losers creator Andy Diggle, who was then editor of 2000AD and offered to get him in to see any band or up coming film he liked for free. After a screening of the film Snatch I mentioned I was interviewing the cast and director the next day. Andy told me if I could get a quote from director Guy Ritchie he’d buy a script off me no matter how ropey it was. So in the middle of the interview I asked this drawn out question about 2000AD and got Guy Ritchie to endorse it. I let Andy out of the deal though and eventually sold a script to his successor, current editor Matt Smith.

killer-fortune-4After writing grown up comics for a while I began to notice there weren’t any really good comics for kids anymore and as I was a parent myself I felt impelled to try and write some so I moved into the kids comics market. From this I moved into writing kids books. Some of my kid’s books have been translated into nine different languages while others are used in schools all over the country to help improve literacy in senior school children. I’m even published in all sorts of new media now, with a series of books for young children being sold exclusively on the i-pad and the i-phone called The Recyclies and an audiobook about to be launched on i-tunes called Mr Woznotiz. I’ve also just finished a 30 part graphic novel series for Channel 4 Education for young adults too. It’s called Alien Ink and it’s available initially on line.

JD’L: Do you think horror has a purpose, above giving people a comfortable, entertaining scare?

JB: I really do believe it has. In my opinion the best horror stories use the weird and other-worldly as a metaphor for a deeper or more personal truth. I also think that the world is quite a scary place at the moment and because of this the tropes and motifs of horror are some of the best ways of addressing the contemporary world. A lot of the horror writers coming up at the moment seem to be interested in social commentary in the same way that the New Wave and the early Cyberpunk writers previously used science fiction as a vehicle for social comment. It’s one of the (many) things I like about your work actually.

JD’L: Regardless of whether you could sell it or not, what is the book you were born to write?

JB: The Scratch and Sniff Karma Sutra – don’t know why it hasn’t been done before.

Seriously, I have so many books and graphic novels that I still want to write that I haven’t the time or space to list them all here.

JD’L: As you may know, every Horror Reanimated interviewee is imbued with a temporary but godlike power.

You, Jasper Bark, may now bestow The Sword of the Ultimate Darkness upon the work of horror in any medium which you consider the pinnacle of ghastly achievement.

JB: Well I think the EC Horror comics work of Johnny Craig deserves an honourable mention, as do the short stories of Ramsey Campbell and many episodes of the original Twilight Zone.

But perhaps my favourite horror work in any medium is the 1945 portmanteau horror film Dead of Night, which has never been bettered.

JD’L: When you’ve done that you must cast forever into The Plague Pits, the worst work of horror in any medium.

Please exercise your power now…

JB: I had to think a long time about this having seen and read a lot of terrible horror. I did consider the movie Troll 2 but that’s now kind of famous for being unbelievably bad.

So I’m going to go with Guy N Smith’s second novel The Sucking Pit. And no, that’s not cockney rhyming slang but it ought to be as it would perfectly describe this novel. Published in 1975 it manages to be racist, sexist and atrociously written with moronic dialogue, almost no characterisation and a pitiful plot.

This said I have a grudging affection for it. In his excellent book On Writing Stephen King talks about the joy you feel the first time you read a book that’s so bad you realise you could easily do better. I was about 12/13 when I first read The Sucking Pit and I was so encouraged by the thought that if something this awful could get into print then I stood more than a chance myself, that I began work on my first novel the very next day.

Now here I am, (ahem) years later, talking to you writer to writer. So I guess when I’m done here I should really head up the apples and pears get on the dog and bone and thank Mr Smith for writing something so Sucking Pit.

JD’L: Thank you for joining us, Jasper, and from all the Horror Reanimated team good luck for a dark and dreadful future!

JB: Thanks for having me Joseph, I’ve had a brilliant time … now can you loosen that tourniquet round my nuts like you promised?

1 comment June 4th, 2010

Mark Samuels: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

The twelfth entry in the Bury Me With… series focuses on the London-based mystical urban miserablist Mark Samuels.

quest for corvo“Being buried with a book can lead to later unrest. I think of Dante Gabriel Rossetti having interred, as a tribute, the sole copy of a handwritten volume of his love poems with the corpse of Elizabeth Siddal – only to have her coffin dug up years later when his poetical flood had almost ceased, so that he could retrieve it.

But to answer the question: I should like to be buried with a copy of the Folio Society’s The Quest for Corvo [by A. J. A. Symons]. Biography I often find as compelling than fiction, and the two forms are closely aligned. Attempting to encompass a person’s life (even the dullest) in a few hundred pages is a conceit of outrageous proportions, but a great entertainment. Baron Corvo – Catholic, Arch-Paranoid, author of the magnificent Hadrian VII – affords perfect subject-matter and until such time as we are fortunate enough to have a full-scale biography of Count Stenbock, The Quest for Corvo will be sufficient to keep me company beyond death.”

More information about A.J.A. Symons can be found at Wikipedia.

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Photo © Paul Kane 2007About Mark Samuels:

Mark Samuels was born in 1967 in Clapham, south London and grew up in Crystal Palace. His novels and story collections include The White Hands (2003), Black Altars (2003), The Face of Twilight (2006), and Glyphotech (2008). His work has also appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Dementia, Tales from Tartarus, Terror Tales and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Thomas Ligotti called The White Hands “a treasure and a genuine contribution to the real history of weird fiction” and T.E.D. Klein called it “genuinely chilling.”

  • Download a PDF of Mark’ short story Vrolyck, (from The White Hands), courtesy of Tartarus Press
  • Read an interview with Mark at The Teeming Brain

1 comment May 31st, 2010

Laird Barron: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

It’s the tenth instalment of Bury Me With… and the book dark cosmic speculist Laird Barron wants to be buried with is…

dark godsT.E.D. Klein’s Dark Gods, a quartet of novellas that hit the stands in 1985 as a follow-up to his famous novel The Ceremonies. Klein, a respected former editor of The Twilight Zone Magazine, gave us a tour de force with his novella collection and demonstrated his standing as a master craftsman possessed of a sophisticated and cerebral style matched by perhaps a handful of modern fantasists.

The contents of Dark Gods include Children of the Kingdom, in which the author is enthralled by the tales of an old priest regarding lost tribes, subterranean kingdoms, and an ancient evil that occasionally rises to plague the surface world; the events of Petey transpire during a housewarming party in a remote Connecticut mansion as guests slowly uncover a macabre puzzle left behind by the former, utterly mad occupant; Black Man with a Horn may well be the crown jewel of the set — certainly a classic homage to Lovecraft’s Mythos in which an elderly author shares a plane ride with a missionary who’s convinced agents of a diabolical tribe are stalking him; Nadelman’s God is the tale of a man whose melodramatic college-era poetry has been co-opted by a lunatic who believes it possesses the power to summon a monstrous supernatural entity. Hilarity ensues.

Dark Gods has exerted some influence on my writing career. It reinforced my long held notion that novella-length horror is the genre at its most sublime. Klein’s masterpiece, alongside Peter Straub’s Ghost Story and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, is always close at hand. I often open it at random to instruct  myself in the fine art of building atmosphere that gradually, and inexorably, draws in the reader and delivers unto him or her an exquisite thrill; a glimpse of the numinous in the yellowed and curling pages of an ‘80s paperback.”

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LairdBarron_by_KarenForemanAbout Laird Barron:

Laird Barron is the author of two collections: The Imago Sequence & Other Stories, and Occultation; both from Night Shade Books. His work has appeared in places such as The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, Lovecraft Unbound, Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror, Clockwork Phoenix, and The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy. It has also been reprinted in numerous year’s best anthologies. Mr. Barron is an expatriate Alaskan currently at large in Washington State.

3 comments May 17th, 2010

Michael Marshall Smith: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

The fifth Bury Me With…, and we’re thankful to Michael Marshall Smith for providing an insight into the book that has influenced him more than any, the book he’d like to take with him to his grave…

lucky jim“It’s tempting to say the book I’d like to be buried with is an iPad, of course – as that way I could not only take a ton of books but be able to chase deadlines beyond the grave, too. But assuming that’s not within the spirit of the thing, then I’d have to say Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis. I first read it when I was about thirteen, and it made a huge impression on me. I read it and re-read it, countless times, and it probably informed my sense of humour more than anything else I’ve ever read. Amis’ ability to find comedy in life’s slings and arrows, to use words as precise little hammers to attack the countless impotent little furies and frustrations of existence, has been an inspiration ever since. It was also the very first book that gave me an inkling that I might like to try writing for a career. Though if I’m allowed to entertain the idea that I might still be able to read in the grave, I might substitute a really big entymological dictionary instead. I love words, and especially enjoy reading about their journeys through time, shifts in their meanings reflecting changes in society an attitude, and how each of them – as Butler said – tries to enclose the wilderness of an idea. In effect every word is a little story in itself. With an eternity to get through, a couple of hundred thousand of those might help pass the time…”

More information on Kingsley Amis can be found at Wikipedia.

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MMS2_colour_smallAbout Michael Marshall Smith:

Michael Marshall (Smith) is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. His first novel, Only Forward, won the August Derleth and Philip K. Dick awards. Spares and One of Us were optioned for film by DreamWorks and Warner Brothers, and the Straw Men trilogy – The Straw Men, The Lonely Dead and Blood of Angels – were international bestsellers. He is a three-time winner of the BFS Award for short fiction, and his stories are collected in two volumes – What You Make It and More Tomorrow and Other Stories (which won the International Horror Guild Award). His Steel Dagger-nominated previous novel – The Intruders – is currently in series development with the BBC.

His new novel Bad Things is now in paperback in the UK, and will appear from William Morrow in the US in 2010.

February 2009 also saw the UK paperback publication of The Servants, a short novel under the new name M. M. Smith.

He lives in North London with his wife Paula, a son and two cats.

Add comment April 12th, 2010

David Moody: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

triffidsIn the fourth in the series of Bury Me With…, we asked zombie-rage-master David Moody about the book that has influenced him more than any, the book he’d like to take with him to his grave…

“The book I’d like to be buried with is The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.

When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

I was 10 when I read ‘Triffids’ for the first time. Probably far too young, but I’d just watched the opening episode of the classic 1981 BBC TV adaptation (infinitely superior to the dreadful 1962 movie and the awful 2009 BBC TV adaption) and I was captivated. I can still clearly remember the horror and unease I felt at the time. I guess the story was my first real introduction to post-apocalyptic fiction, and it had a profound effect on me.

I’d finished reading the whole book by the time the second episode of the series was broadcast – I was so overwhelmed by the story that I couldn’t wait for the BBC to catch up! It affected me on many different levels… the terror and helplessness of a suddenly blinded population of millions; the encroaching danger of thousands of virtually silent, emotionless predators; the horror witnessed by the few sighted people struggling to survive; a world falling apart without power, sanitation and other basic necessities… I’d never come across such a terrifying, all-consuming, nightmare scenario before – the entire world rendered helpless, literally in the blinking of an eye.

Looking back now, Wyndham’s story seems to have been the blueprint for many of the countless other ‘End of the World’ tales which have followed. In fact, the Triffids themselves seem to be the vegetarian alternative to my apocalyptic scenario of choice: zombies. Mute, devoid of all emotion, driven and relentless, preying on the last few remaining survivors in massive numbers… sound familiar?

Although it’s had its fair share of detractors, The Day of the Triffids remains an exceptional story which had a huge impact on me and which set me on the path to writing the kind of books I love – books in which the ordinary world becomes extraordinary in an instant, and there’s nothing you can do about it but try your damnedest to survive. Okay, elements of the novel seem twee and dated now, many of the characters are paper-thin and the horror has muted somewhat over time, but it’s intelligent and bleak and it still makes you think.

It certainly made me think. And that’s why I’d like to be buried with it.”

More information on John Wyndham can be found at Wikipedia.

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david-moody-1About David Moody:

David Moody used to give his books away for free. This unconventional marketing approach resulted in the film rights to Hater being sold to Guillermo del Toro (director, Hellboy 1 & 2, Pan’s Labyrinth, the upcoming Hobbit series) and Mark Johnson (producer, The Chronicles of Narnia series). Another of his novels, Autumn, was also adapted for screen as a movie starring the late David Carradine and Dexter Fletcher.

With the official publication of Hater and its highly anticipated first sequel, Dog Blood, David is rapidly becoming a leading voice in modern dystopian fiction.

He lives in Halesowen, UK with his wife and a houseful of daughters and step-daughters. This may explain his pre-occupation with Armageddon.

1 comment April 5th, 2010

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