Sunday, September 21, 2014

Amos Satan's Horror Show

Hitting the big screen this Friday, September 26th at 10 p.m. at the Englewood Cinemas in Dayton, Ohio.  I will be at the front of a long line of autograph seekers.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Thought He Passed His Own Shadow, By The Backstage Door

New reader George writes,

Hi, I'm 19, Irish, and trying to be a scriptwriter. know any submission points?

Hmmm, I would say work up one or two spec scripts based on what you would like to write. Then focus on nurturing relationships and sees what evolves.

It's tricky in my world (b movies) because a lot of people write their own scripts. Also a lot of people get burned so it takes a long time to build trust and relationships (probably also true in A list movies, don't know).

Work on your craft, start to meet people through the internet or visiting conferences, etc.

I hope this helps.

Questions always welcome at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

How Years Ago, In Days Of Old, When Magic Filled The Air

Since I sadly had to miss the Blue Whiskey Film Festival this year for the first time ever, I decided I would do a little road trip for myself to take its place, and ended up at GenCon for the first time in about ten years. 



The best new thing was all of the food trucks along Georgia Street.  Ate there all the time.


The best old thing was the paint and take miniatures.  I don't play miniatures much any more, but still painted one.

The first five dollars I spent (not the last).

My friend Jon Solita got me hooked on the auction, where crazy stuff like this was.







Lots of celebrity sightings.  Crazed musician Andy D, who played at GenCon; The Angry DM, who I tried to thank for including me in a pickup game of "Kobolds Ate My Baby" with a bro hug, and almost got punched in the face; my pal Andy Britt, who was some video game character I don't know but other people dug; my old microcinema pals Jon Solita and Jay Neander; Blue Whiskey's Mike Noens, who was screening his film "Brightside" in the GenCon Film Fest; b-movie dude Rob Merickel; and Wil Wheaton, just chillin TFO and playing D&D with everybody else.  Plus my brother Eric, who took some of these pics.






Saturday, August 02, 2014

I'm Just Looking for Clues at the Scene of the Crime

Sharknado 2 is loose upon the world, and--I'll say it--the world is better for it.

I watched a shark movie marathon on SyFy leading up to it, and as a result found this interview with screenwriter Jose Prendes.  It did make me a bit melancholy how the AV Club spoke to Jose Prendes (in full disclosure, I don't know him).  It reminds me of the time an interviewer asked me what was the worst movie ever made.  Does my spiritual guide Michael Tolkin get asked this?  (Answer:  probably not.  Also, Michael Tolkin once wrote an email to me that I treasure.)(PS I answered Triumph of the Will.)

It makes me mad people say all the SyFy movies are automatically "bad."  There are some that are lazy, some that are cynical, some where people are cashing checks, but that is all movies.  The SyFy ones where the people behind the scenes are fans as well differentiate themselves.  And the fans can sniff out honesty vs cynicism, as I have said before.  Do you think Sharknado director Anthony Ferrante (disclosure:  we are FB friends) was serious when he had a guy get swallowed by a shark and chainsaw his way out?  He did it because he is a fan, and made it for fans.

I think people mix up "bad" and "cheap."  You know what movies are really bad?  All the Transformers movies, both GI Joe movies, both Thor movies, the first Hulk movie, Pacific Rim, Battleship, on and on and on.  They just look better.  If you put the screenplays side by side, with no money attached, they are no smarter than the cheaper SyFy movies.

I had somebody once tell me that if they couldn't get a "real" movie made, they would just whip out a few quick b-movies.  The truth is, people work just as hard making b-movies.  I challenge anyone who thinks it is easy to make a b-movie to try and produce one.  And then, if you can get that far, get somebody to distribute it.  I have sold (I think about) 25 scripts in the last 15 years, and my ninth movie is coming out in September.  I think that is a very high batting average for screenwriting, and I think many would agree.

Same with acting.  Is there anyone worse than Megan Fox in Transformers?  I think Sarah Lieving in Super Shark and Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus is much better, and probably got paid Transformer's coffee money.  I think Danielle Donahue in Meateaters and Joni Durian in Haunted House on Sorority Row are better than Sarah Lieving, and probably got paid Super Shark's coffee money (in full disclosure, I wrote but did not cast both of these).

This really isn't written to fans.  As I have said, fans can smell intent, and they are loyal if you are one of them.  Those are the people that keep me going.

Until later I am at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Monday, June 30, 2014

In The Town They're Searching For Us Everywhere

This is what I did last week; camped, hiked, cooked over a fire, chilled the eff out.   It was the first time my wife and I had gone on a straight vacation in four years.  I read four pulp paperbacks I nabbed from a flea market; they had names like Ambush Basin and Wyoming Manhunt.  On stormy nights, which was half the week, I stayed in the popup camper and worked on a new screenplay. The screenplay has a very claustrophobic setting and somehow with the thunder, lightning, and rain constantly drumming on the canvas, and the thought of eminent escape to the van for safety, I was able to channel some pretty claustrophobic scenes.  Hopefully I can talk more about this screenplay shortly.

In the meantime Scarewaves is wrapping up in what has been a very productive screenwriting time for me.  In the last eighteen months I have seen two movies out--Meateaters and Haunted House on Sorority Row--and two more in production--one under a nondisclosure and Scarewaves.  I completed Doctor Zombie for director Mark Polonia which should go into production this fall.  I finished a vampire movie and did an action movie rewrite.  I am finishing a sci-fi movie and may be doing another horror rewrite in the coming weeks.

I thought with the collapse of the video store industry and a streaming solution (for the b-movie market) still not fully realized it was all over.  But it's not.  In some ways the SyFy Channel has filled that space, and it's something we all talk about writing for.  There are some inroads for VOD in the b-market (notably Amazon Instant and just a splash of Netflix) but for whatever reason, and nobody can explain it to me, people are still buying DVDs.  I think Blu-Ray is more like a collector's market (like Laser Disc was once upon a time), so it has not replaced DVD like some thought.  I just don't know, but for now people want scripts so I think I'll poke along for a bit.

Until later I'm at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

In My Mind And In My Car



Over in Ohio on the set of "Scarewaves," the horror anthology I wrote a segment in for director Henrique Couto.  My part starts a little "Double Indemnity" and ends a little "Dawn of the Dead" and I'm happy with how it looked on the set.  Shot in a nice couple's house who didn't seem to be worried about the police getting called when we threw a sheet-rapped dummy into their farm pond.  Thanks to Christopher Page for the middle photo, which looks like I'm bossing Henrique around.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

And You Touch The Distant Beaches With Tales Of Brave Ulysses

I didn't know I had been gone this long without blogging until a loyal reader emailed me and asked where I was, and up to that moment I didn't realize that people were that hard up for fresh content on the internet.

A lot has happened to keep me away from here, good and bad.  We had the longest, most terrible winter I can remember since those Ice Age late 70s winters, only this was worse because I was the one responsible for the shoveling, and the frozen pipes, and the hot water heater and furnace both quitting, and on and on and on.




Why I bothered to make fake snow, I'm not sure.
It got so bad, I started making hooch again.



But some really good things happened, like my grandson was born on January 1, 2014, the first baby born at Cincinnati Mercy hospital in the New Year, and instantly became the cutest baby on the interwebs.





And then there was another special delivery:  Haunted House on Sorority Row.  My screenplay got made into a movie got made into a tee shirt.
Close readers of the blog will note that the time from when I became re-acquainted with director Henrique Couto at a local film festival to when this movie was actually screened was very short indeed.  Close to nine months, ironically enough.  I got to go to the premiere in Dayton, Ohio, this winter and sort of felt like the chaperone at a Juvenile Detention Prom.  But the movie played like gangbusters at both screenings and I'm very happy with how it came out.  I would post a photo, but they were all confiscated by Homeland Security.

Another movie, Meateaters, from my old friend Mark Polonia, came out at very close to the same time, almost a twin as it were (grandbaby theme still in full effect).  It is currently available on Full Moon Streaming and garnering some buzz for its whacked-out dino-noir sensibilities.  I'm also quite happy with my screenplay for this one and hope it sees wider release.

That's all the news fit to print, more or less, and I will try to be more diligent as I have a few more projects in the hopper; a project that is on ultra secret down low lockdown is in post production, but I can blab all I want about Doctor Zombie, a throwback horror film I wrote for Mark Polonia, and a segment I have in Henrique Couto's upcoming horror anthology Scarewaves.

Until then you can catch me at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.




 

Friday, October 18, 2013

I'll Play the Part, But I Won't Need Rehearsing




I was very flattered to be asked to be an extra in "Haunted House on Sorority Row," which I wrote for director Henrique Couto.  A lot of times screenwriters aren't invited to the set, because they see things like this.  I told him that being a solid citizen in good standing I could only be around for the first five pages and the last five pages of the movie and then Henrique said "Well, we spiced up the first five pages."  So this is from (SPOILER ALERT) the last five minutes of the movie, which is okay to say because I already blabbed it to the twenty other extras standing there, deep in the backwoods of rural Ohio. And that was only because they clapped when Henrique introduced me, and I basked in that in case they booed me after the premiere.  Though I have my doubts, as I met a lot of nice people that night.  Being on set, I would say this house is actually spooky in real life, which bodes well for the movie.  Just driving there, I thought Mapquest was sending me to a mass murderer's kill site.  Hopefully we will all see each other at the premiere, in the not too distant future.

You can read an article I wrote about being an extra, "I Was Bigfoot's Shemp," right here on this site.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Someone Found The Letter You Wrote Me On The Radio

Loyal reader Richard writes:

I am a big fan of your work and the genre(s) you work in. And from reading your blogs, I have gotten the impression that spec scripts are difficult - VERY difficult - to get made. In the low-budget arena, it seems getting commissioned through relationships to write other people's projects are the way to go. It's all who you know, as I've learned.
 My question is really more about the actual writing element, not so much "breaking in." When you write a project, are you writing with the budget in mind? I know some folks, like Mark Polonia, are INCREDIBLY resourceful and make movies that look way bigger than their budgets are. But does that affect your writing?


Richard, you are 100 percent correct, I have been hired now to write or rewrite I think 25 scripts in the last 14 years and none of them were specs.  I have really only written two specs; the very first one I wrote, to signal that I could do it, and one I really wrote for myself thinking I would produce it one day.  In the b-movie world it is hard enough because your average low to no budget film director is writing their own scripts, either to save money or more likely that they are making films to begin with because they have a story they want to tell.  But sometimes what they have is a concept or idea, or they have already sold a title and poster to a distributor without a script (that has for sure happened on some of my projects, believe it or not), and that is where there is sometimes a window of opportunity.

There's no doubt it is about building relationships.  The person I have collaborated the most with, Mark Polonia, is someone I have communicated with for a number of years and started just by nurturing a friendship.  Some other examples among many are director Ivan Rogers, who unfortunately has since passed away, and director Henrique Couto, who I actually met way back when he was in high school.  There are so many pretenders, dreamers, wannabes, and fringe personalities in the b-movie world that when you have had any success and/or notoriety at all you have to pick and choose who you work with carefully.  Once somebody knows you are legit it makes it easier.  When you can look out for somebody else and help them you also put karma in the bank.

I have learned to write as cheaply as possible.  If there turns out to be more money, ideas can always be added back in.  With Mark, I pretty much know who exactly is going to be in it and what the locations are going to be, and try to play to those strengths.  I learned about Henrique from watching his other work.  Same with Ivan Rogers and others.  And often they will flat out tell you, we have an ape suit, let's make a bigfoot movie (and so on).  I try to use minimal locations, crisp dialogue, limited roles, focus the action over a single day or night, no crowd scenes, no complicated effects, flesh out the movie by building kill scenes and other scenes like it related to the main action  so that they can be shot at different times and places.  Those are pretty much my main tips.  :)

Thanks for the email, and good luck on your own projects.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Don't Go Into The Basement...No, I'm Serious, Don't Go Into The Basement

Haunted House on Sorority Row started shooting this weekend in Dayton, Ohio.  This screencap from Henrique Couto is scaring me, and I wrote the dang thing. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hanging Judges

Another great year judging the Blue Whiskey Film Festival in beloved Palatine, Illinois.  Best of Fest went to a great French film for the second year in a row:  Tu Seras Un Homme (You’ll Be a Man).  I also liked The Treehouse, The Grand Design, 88 Miles to Moscow, 16 Acres, Harold Camping versus the End of the World, Andrew Bird: Fever Year, and many more.  You can see the Awards Ceremony on YouTube here

Blue Whiskey Dinner Bell




You will never be starved for good eateries while at BWIFF, nor lack for hospitality, for which I can attest.  Although the Meat Skillet at Billy's Pancake House has passed into legend, there are always other good places to try and collegial folks to break bread with.

The Blue Dahlia


I dream of this place year round.

Talking Blue








It seemed like interaction with filmmakers at BWIFF was at an all-time high this year, with many there in person and even more Skyping in from around the globe.

More Blue Bell




We had a couple of good concerts mid-week, but I couldn't hang around too late; I look like somebody's dad, or an undercover policeman.