Saturday, May 28, 2016

Inerview with Filmmaker Eric Shapiro



Normally, I interview horror authors. Recently I got the opportunity to interview a screenwriter, producer and movie director, Eric Shapiro, who recently filmed a short film HOAX, based on horror author Greg F. Gifune’s short story, and will be released soon by DarkFuse Productions. Below is a brief description of the film, followed by an interview with Eric Shapiro.

DarkFuse Productions to Present the HOAX: 
A short film by Eric Shapiro
HOAX is a film about a man in a bar who’s hitting on the bartender and may or may not have good intentions. Set to be released digitally, mainly through Amazon Instant Video, the release date will be coming soon.
-------------------
Interview with Eric Shapiro
Eric, welcome to Dark Lucidity. Thanks for doing an interview for my blog. I just saw your new short film HOAX, and really enjoyed it. I see that it’s based on a short story by Greg F. Gifune, a horror author I’m quite familiar with. I’m curious how it came about that you adapted Gifune’s story into a short film?
Thanks so much for having me, Brian, and for your good words on the film. I've been friends and colleagues with Greg for the past few years, ever since he was kind enough to scout me for a submission to DarkFuse, which resulted in them publishing my novella LOVE & ZOMBIES (2013). Reading Greg's work, it's clear he's one of the best in the business, and in the case of HOAX, he was able to bring in Shane Staley and DarkFuse to give us a legitimate release platform. It was a chance for me to adapt an excellent story for a very strong and discerning audience, putting some wind in the sails of my filmmaking career.
On the very cool movie poster, I see that Gifune’s publisher Dark Fuse presents the film. What was the publisher’s involvement?
They're going to release it on Amazon and market it. Shane at DarkFuse was very hands-off during production, which was great. He put a lot of trust in me and Greg to deliver the film...which actually just physically happened. The hard drive went in the mail to DarkFuse late last week...
How did you go about adapting the short story to a script?
Greg was really flexible and open with me, so long as I was loyal to the story's spirit, which came easily since I loved and respected the story. A lot of the dialogue was rewired to suit my own metabolism and make the tension more cinematic and overt. I also added the pocket watch and the cutaways to the woman's home life – all elements which are organic to the source material if not explicitly present there. In general, it was a matter of satisfying my own instincts and drives as a filmmaker while honoring and capturing Greg's story and satisfying his fans.

I see that you cast Rodney Eastman, from the original “Nightmare on Elm Street” films and “I Spit on Your Grave” (2010) as the star of the film. The female lead is Jessica Etheridge, a local Northern California actress who's acted in many local films and commercials. How did you go about casting the actors?

Rodney Eastman (left) with Eric Shapiro
Rodney I knew from my debut feature film RULE OF THREE (2010). He's perfect for the lead in HOAX, and achieves mythic scale in under 15 minutes; it was an honor to team up with him again. 
Jessica Etheridge centered
Jessica I'd seen in the series DYKE CENTRAL, written and directed by my friend Florencia Manovil. Right away, I saw that she was special. Amazingly intuitive, emotional, vulnerable. Per Greg's story, you have to love and care about her character in a short period of time, and I knew Jessica could give us that connection.
I think you achieved your goal with both actors. How long did it take you to shoot the film? Did the shoot go smooth or did you have to face any interesting challenges? 
We got it all during the course of a couple days. It wasn't what I'd call smooth (laughs). I lost my father-in-law just before we started shooting, and was essentially trying to survive each moment. Plus the bar we shot in was freezing. There was a huge hole in the ceiling, and cold wind was blowing through. The actors were suffering a lot. But for reasons I can't give away, that adds to the characters' behavior. It was a cruel gift from the movie gods.
I’m working on a short film myself, as the editor and script consultant. The producer/director is shooting the film with a Red Dragon camera. What kind of camera did you use to shoot the film? Did you shoot it in HD, 4K, 6K?
Awesome! We used a Blackmagic 4K. It was my first time at bat with the DP, Dom DeShawn, and he did a tremendous job with virtually no crew members supporting his department. The first thing people say when they watch it is how great it looks – all credit there to Dom.
Tell us a little about the workflow of post production? What editing system did you edit it on? How long did editing take? Did you do sound mixing?
Funnily enough, the editor, Cathy Sitzes, built her own editing system. So it doesn't have a name, unless you want to call it “Cathy's Editing System.” Most of the editing was done inside of a week, after which we kept fine-tuning and messing with frames and moments until I'm sure Cathy wanted to toss me off the balcony. Then we got in Jesse Ehredt, from my last flick LIVING THINGS, plus a ton of Hollywood productions, to do the sound mix.
Is there anything that you learned from the work flow process that you wish you’d known before you started?
There are always dozens of little things. The process by its nature educates you into humility. In this case, simple as it sounds, the big lesson was to stick with a local team. I was new to Northern California when we started planning, and on instinct, I began rallying my old homies from L.A. to help make the movie: DP, editor, both acting roles. But that became a logistical nightmare and would have been way too expensive, so I began to shake the trees up here. In the end, only Rodney traveled up from L.A. And I really ended up enjoying the NorCal team. Very laid back vibe. More of a feminine than masculine temperament.
When will HOAX release and where can people view it?
Keep an eye on DarkFuse.com for a release date; it's all but nailed down as of now. They're going to release it just like they do their books and magazines, via Amazon.
What are you producing next? Do you have plans to make a feature-length movie of the HOAX or are you working on the next film project?
It's funny, 'cause people keep asking about a feature-length version of HOAX, which we really hadn't thought about until after the short was done. Greg came up with this terrific vision for a full-length saga, be it on TV or film. So that's not out of the question, but in the meantime we're developing another piece for DarkFuse. The band's back together: me adapting, Greg's story, Shane and DarkFuse releasing. More is on the way...
----------------
Eric Shapiro is a filmmaker, screenwriter, author, and ghostwriter. His first feature film, "Rule of Three" (2010), was released to iTunes and Netflix after winning Best Actor at the Fantasia International Film Festival, winning Best Acting Performance at Shriekfest, and having its U.S. Premiere at Austin's Fantastic Fest. His second feature film, "Living Things," was endorsed by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and released by Cinema Libre Studio in 2014. His novella "It's Only Temporary" (2005) was on the Preliminary Nominee Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award in Long Fiction and appeared on Nightmare Magazine's list of Top 100 Horror Books. The two novels he edited for Evil Jester Press -- "Candy House" by Kate Jonez and "Malediction" by Lisa Morton -- were both nominated for Bram Stoker Awards in 2014. Shapiro won the 19th Annual Fade In Award for Thriller Screenplay (with Kris Lippert) in 2015. He has had short fiction published in numerous anthologies alongside work by Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Chuck Palahniuk, and many others. Eric lives in Northern California with his wife, Rhoda Jordan, and their sons, Benjamin and Henry Shapiro.
Greg F. Gifune is a best-selling, internationally-published author of several acclaimed novels, novellas and two short story collections.  Called, “The best writer of horror and supernatural thrillers at work today” by New York Times best-selling author Christopher Rice, “One of the best writers of his generation” by both The Roswell Literary Review and author Brian Keene, and “Among the finest dark suspense writers of our time” by legendary best-selling author Ed Gorman, Greg’s work has been published all over the world, translated into several languages, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus and others, is consistently praised by readers and critics alike, and has garnered attention from Hollywood.  His novel “The Bleeding Season,’ originally published in 2003, has been hailed as a classic in the genre and is considered to be one of the best horror/thriller novels of the decade. In 2016 his short stories “Hoax” and “Plant Life” have been/will be adapted to film. Also a respected editor with years of experience in the field in a variety of positions, Greg is presently on hiatus from his position as Senior Editor at DarkFuse and at work on several projects. He resides in Massachusetts with his wife Carol, a bevy of cats and two dogs, Dozer and Bella. 
Publicity Contact: Erin Al-Mehairi
Hook of a Book Media
For screeners or interviews, please e-mail:
hookofabook@hotmail.com

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Guest Author Johnathan Janz: Stand By Me, The Body, and Children of the Dark



I’m happy to have author Jonathan Janz back as a guest on my blog. More than just a talented horror writer who can scare you with great stories, he’s become a personal friend of mine. Every year since we met a few years back at Horror Hound Cincinnati, Janz has been taking the horror genre by storm, churning out many excellent novels, including House of Skin, Savage Species, Wolf Land, The Nightmare Girl, and Dust Devils to name a few. Now, he’s just released a new book: Children of the Dark. Without further ado, I’ll let Janz take over.



Stand By Me, The Body, and Children of the Dark
by Jonathan Janz

First off, I want to thank Brian for hosting me today, for being such a good friend, and for writing such outstanding fiction.

Now that I’m here, let me tell you something I suspect many of you will relate to…

I love Stand By Me. I saw the movie back in high school and read the novella on which it was based shortly after, and both tales spoke to me in a way that few stories do. Innocence is a fleeting, precious thing, and the movie/novella combo to which I’m alluding does an incredible job of capturing both that innocence and its permanent removal. The Stephen King epigraph I used in the beginning of my novel Children of the Dark says it perfectly:

“Love isn’t soft, like those poets say. Love has teeth which bite and the wounds never close.”

When we’re very small, we long to be comforted, cherished, wrapped up in our parents’ unconditional embrace. That safety, of course, can’t last forever, and over the course of our late childhood and adolescence we begin to recognize the harsh realities of life, the razorlike teeth of love. Though we cling to our illusions, it dawns on us in a series of shattering revelations that life really isn’t so simple, that even love can pierce us deeply and permanently.

In the King story and the Rob Reiner movie, Gordie LaChance loses his big brother, which is bad enough. Just as devastating for Gordie, however, is the manner in which his parents forget he’s still alive. In the moments he needs his folks the most, they seem to care about him the least, and as a result, his nightmare becomes even more traumatic.

Chris Chambers is a great kid with a bad family, which means (in the town’s eyes) he’s guilty by association. He’s smarter than most and more loyal than just about anyone, yet the alcoholism and dysfunction surrounding him manufacture a seedy, clinging aura he doesn’t deserve but cannot shake.

These kids take refuge in their friendship, and it is this bond that forms the emotional core of both King’s novella and Reiner’s film. Like all great fiction, it is the human element—the connections we feel with the characters, the universality of the emotions expressed—that engrosses us and touches our emotions.  

These tales spoke to me during my formative years, and I yearned to tap into those emotions when I wrote my own coming-of-age tale. The two main characters in Children of the Dark (Will Burgess, partially named for Wil Wheaton, who played Gordie LaChance; and Chris Watkins, who resembles Chris Chambers in certain respects) are enduring hardships with which they’re incapable of grappling by themselves.

Will Burgess never knew his father, has a drug addict for a mom, and is charged with acting as the father figure to his six-year-old sister. Add to that Will’s poverty, his undesirable reputation in the town, and his unfortunate conflict with several bullying upperclassmen, and you have a difficult, bleak life, especially for a person so young.

On the surface, Chris Watkins is Will’s opposite. Born into a rich household, son of an influential attorney, Chris appears to lead a life of privilege. However, there are harsh truths lurking beneath the sparkling veneer, truths that are revealed later in my novel.

(Those of you who’ve read Ray Bradbury’s sublime Something Wicked This Way Comes might also be sensing a connection between Bradbury’s classic tale and my own. This is also intentional, particularly with regard to Bradbury’s central young characters.)

Like King’s characters, Will Burgess and Chris Watkins draw strength from their relationship. Like King’s characters, Will and Chris are thrust into a harrowing situation and forced to deal with it as well as they can…though at times their coping mechanisms are far from adequate.

You see, at the heart of both stories is the destructive shadow side of love:

Gordie LaChance is wounded by the withdrawal of parental love at a time when he needs it more than he ever has.

Chris Chambers is physically and verbally abused by his father. The man who is supposed to provide Chris with a positive male role model becomes a blade that stabs Chris over and over.

Will Burgess understands the sharp teeth of love very well. Not unlike Gordy LaChance’s parents, Will’s mother is so enshrouded by her own problems that her children become an afterthought.

Chris Watkins, as alluded to earlier, must face emotionally-scarring realities, and like the other three boys, the wielder of the weapon in Chris’s case is a person he should be able to trust.

In many ways, the loss of innocence isn’t as painful when strangers are the ones stealing it. But when those we love are the authors of our forced maturation, the damage multiplies. It’s a dire enough truth that people can be vicious, snarling creatures. It’s far worse to learn that the unconditional embrace of our parents is often full of conditions, full of selfishness.

Full of teeth.

I hope you enjoy The Body and Stand By Me as much as I do. And I hope you’ll give my own coming-of-age tale a shot as well.

Children of the Dark, Synopsis
Will Burgess is used to hard knocks. Abandoned by his father, son of a drug-addicted mother, and charged with raising his six-year-old sister, Will has far more to worry about than most high school freshmen. To make matters worse, Mia Samuels, the girl of Will’s dreams, is dating his worst enemy, the most sadistic upperclassman at Shadeland High. Will’s troubles, however, are just beginning.
Because one of the nation’s most notorious criminals—the Moonlight Killer—has escaped from prison and is headed straight toward Will’s hometown. And something else is lurking in Savage Hollow, the forest surrounding Will’s rundown house. Something ancient and infinitely evil. When the worst storm of the decade descends on Shadeland, Will and his friends must confront unfathomable horrors. Everyone Will loves—his mother, his little sister, Mia, and his friends—will be threatened.
And very few of them will escape with their lives.

Children of the Dark is available at Amazon
Also, check out Sinister Grin Press Website.

Biography of Jonathan Janz
Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and in away, that explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows “the best horror novel of 2012.” The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, “reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.”
2013 saw the publication of his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species. Of Savage Species, Publishers Weekly said, “Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror–Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows–will find much to relish.” Jonathan’s Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.
Jack Ketchum called his vampire western Dust Devils a “Rousing-good weird western,” and his sequel to The Sorrows (Castle of Sorrows) was selected one of 2014’s top three novels by Pod of Horror. 2015 saw the release of The Nightmare Girl, which prompted Pod of Horror to call Jonathan “Horror’s Next Big Thing.” 2015 also saw the release of Wolf Land, which Publishers Weekly called “gruesome yet entertaining gorefest” with “an impressive and bloody climax.” He has also written four novellas (Exorcist Road, The Clearing of Travis Coble, Old Order, and Witching Hour Theatre) and several short stories.
His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author’s wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true. You can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanjanz.com. You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.
Praise for Children of the Dark
Jonathan Janz brings us a vicious tale of terror with the innocence of youth in a coming of age tale that should surely make Stephen King smile.” – Dave, Beneath the Underground
“Jonathan Janz has written the next definitive coming-of-age horror novel that is sure to be mentioned alongside those that came before it. Be on the right side of history and read it now, before it becomes a classic.” –Patrick Lacey, author of A Debt to be Paid
Praise for Jonathan Janz
 “Janz is the literary love child of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum (with a little Joe Lansdale DNA in the mix), with all the terror that implies. Try him out. You won’t be disappointed.”
-Pod of Horror
 “One of the best writers in modern horror to come along in the last decade. Janz is one of my new favorites.” –Brian Keene, best-selling author
 “It’s the best of its kind I’ve read in years, such that I’d call it 'The Quintessential Haunted House Novel.' You’ve taken the old school traditions of the form which readers want and then have injected modern style, characters, and macabre, hard-edged mayhem into the guts of the story. THAT’S the way to do it, my friend!”
-Author Edward Lee on House of Skin
 “Jonathan Janz is one of the rare horror novelists who can touch your heart while chilling your spine. His work offers incisive characters, sharp dialogue, and more scares than a deserted graveyard after midnight. If you haven’t read his fiction, you’re missing out on one the best new voices in the genre.” –Tim Waggoner, multi-published author
"Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror--Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows--will find much to relish." - Publishers Weekly on Savage Species
Follow along the tour with these hashtags: #ChildrenoftheDark #StandwithWill
#JonathanJanz #SinisterGrinPress