by Lucy Leitner
A is for Aaron J. Shelton, a local filmmaker and instructor/editor at the Douglas Education Center who calls serving as AC on the Honey Boo Boo episode of Toddlers and Tiaras his claim to fame.
M is for M is for Mothership, Shelton’s two-and-a-half-minute entry into the ABCs of Death 2 competition, a horror short contest in which the public votes for the winners with the Facebook Like button. The rules are simple — create a short film inspired by a word that begins with the letter M. Shelton went the extra-terrestrial route.
“Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated/terrified by aliens, alien abduction and UFOs,” Shelton said.
He brought in Andy Westfall, who is currently wrapping up the soccer documentary Muerte o Gloria: The Rise of the American Soccer Fan, and mentor Robert Tinnell — a director, comic book writer, producer (Surf Nazis Must Die), and DEC’s Factory Digital Filmmaking Program Director — as producers. Tinnell suggested that the short alien film be part of the Final Product class, a course for students in their graduating semester to create a short film with an industry professional.
“The students just didn’t fetch coffee,” Shelton said. “I mean, some of them did that, but they also served in prominent roles.”
Indeed, every major role outside of producer, Shelton’s writer/director credit, composer Duncan Blickenstaff, and actor (local pro Seth Gontkovic) was filled by a DEC student. Tom Savini Special Effects Program students, led by Carlos “Mayhem” Alba, created the special effects with student Jess Phillips was responsible for wearing some of those special effects (the alien suit). The Director of Photography (Michael Scardina), Assistant Director (David J. Oates), and Editor (Nick Eisel) jobs were all completed by students as well.
The school schedule condensed shooting to the weekend before the competition deadline in a model home in Morgantown, WV. Post production took place in a grueling week that included 25 visual effects shots. The hard work paid off and Shelton’s film is a sophisticated, exciting, and weird two and half minutes that deserves more votes than (probably) many winning politicians got across the nation on Tuesday.
Just visit the film’s page at the A,B,Cs of Death 2 website and click the Facebook Like button above the video to vote.
Learn more about Aaron Shelton’s work by visiting www.aaronjshelton.com.
by Lucy Leitner
For the third time, Steel City Secret Cinema comes to the Hollywood Theater in Dormont. As usual, the film is more hidden than Hollyburgh has been in the past six months. But here’s what event founder Colin Matthews is willing to divulge:
Friday, November 1.
7:00 to 9:00 PM:
Live music by Tracksploitation.
Gallery featuring local art inspired by the film
Food from Round Corner Cantina, The Salted Pig,
Market District, Aladdin’s Eatery, and Eat ‘n Park.
Beer from East End Brewing (Big Hop IPA and Blackberry Rye).
9:00 to 10:30 PM:
Poster unveiling by Pittsburgh artist Zeb Love.
This season’s film is a dark comedy. It is not regionally significant, which eliminates, surprisingly, nothing. As usual, all proceeds benefit the Hollywood and Lawrenceville WORKS!
“I’d like to think this event has been a success because it’s unique, and of course, it’s for a good cause,” Matthews said. “So even if you don’t see the movie you were expecting, you’ll still leave the night feeling good about yourself… and of course we have plenty of beer to go around.”
Tickets are available on Showclix and it’s probably a good idea to get them immediately seeing how the event has been growing in popularity. About 150 cinephiles turned up for the spring Day of the Dead screening and tickets sales for Friday’s event have already surpassed those for the Romero classic.
Even though the movie is a secret until 9:00 Friday night, even though the only hint is a genre — no comedy can be blacker and more painful to watch than the black and gold comedy of errors we’ve been seeing every Sunday this season.
by Lucy Leitner
Before last year’s Atrocity exhibition, I was a bit apprehensive. Sure, it seemed cool and my friend Lita D’Vargas would be performing, but the event page also showed a guy hanging from hooks implanted in his skin. As someone who has trouble with National Geographic photos of African lip plates, I didn’t think this would be the event for me. I’ve fallen asleep during The Exorcist and laughed hysterically at A Nightmare on Elm Street, but Tod Browning’s Freaks gave me nightmares. So, the concept of a live, modern-day sideshow made me uncomfortable.
The specter of pinheads and those afflicted with Proteus Syndrome is not necessarily a rational fear. More people may actually have Proteus Syndrome than this worry. However, I saw the suspension act and extrapolated terrifying sideshow from there.
Instead, when I attended the annual show at the Rex Theater, I found that it featured a burlesque performance with tentacles and current RuPaul’s Drag Race finalist Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 running around mostly naked in a chicken mask.
It turned out to be my kind of event.
“It’s a gathering of talented weirdos,” said event organizer and sideshow/burlesque performer Macabre Noir.
Many assumptions about Atrocity are probably wrong. This Saturday’s event is not a freak show. Yes, it is a spectacle and this year’s theme of Commedia Dell’Morte Carnivale denotes a circus atmosphere. This is accurate. But it’s not a sideshow. It’s a combination of the main stage of early 20th century circus performances and the Renaissance-era Italian masked theater commedia dell’arte.
Some artists are billed as “drag guignols.” The music will be Bat Cave. There will be ballyhoo entertainment.
I can tell you how to say “end mill” in at least five different languages (and explain what an end mill is and how it can be as genocidal to nickel-chromium alloys as Pol Pot), but I don’t know what any of those words mean. You could ask Siri to tell you what they are, but attending Atrocity guarantees that you’ll see more nipple tassles. Siri doesn’t wear those. Prude.
Carnivale is a celebration of several nearly lost forms of entertainment, a Rosetta Stone for people like me who are not well-versed in strange, dark, yet comical theatrical stage spectacles in the many eras B.A.C. (Before Alice Cooper).
And it has a story. That you can read on the Atrocity web site.
The Atrocity show is different from goth nights and fetish events that pop up in town with some regularity. This is an almost academic fusion of the old and the new, an appreciation of influences that made each performer who they are. With booze.
And a concession stand. With popcorn and black and white lollipops. And a sense of humor. Drag queen Cherry Baum will host the event with a comical flair as a circus ringmaster.
Penny Delapoison will perform a sideshow/burlesque number. Her narrative performance last year to The Dresden Dolls’ “Missed Me” — the sweetest song about pedophilia second only to Faith No More’s “Edge of the World” — got me hooked on Amanda Palmer’s entire catalog.
Countess Von Tella, billed as a “notorious bizarre performance artist” will likely do just that. Last year’s number involved what appeared to be the top of Bib Fortuna’s head. It was highly cool.
Lita D’Vargas will perform a show-long burlesque striptease between acts. “Lita can tell a story,” Macabre said. “If I give her the lyrics, she can figure out how to take her clothes off to it in a day. She’s a professional and has a passion for what she does.”
“Pain-proof man” Gypsy’s promotional photo depicts him lying on nails. He’s a founding member of Kabarett Vulgare, the performance artist troupe from which most of the local acts hail.
Legendary Pittsburgh jazz chanteuse Phat Man Dee will provide a surely striking vocal performance with much more than a hint of bizarre.
Flesh suspension artist Reverend Decay, from Frederick, MD, will do something interesting that is apparently not flesh suspension this year.
New Orleans-based Vinsantos will contribute a vocal and piano performance while Cherry Von Bomb will come to town from Charlotte, NC for a burlesque/sideshow act.
“Pittsburgh’s premier pain-proof clown and performance arsonist” (according to his Facebook page), Andrew the Impaled will lend his strange sensibilities to the evening. Drag/burlesque/sideshow performer Lilith DeVille will also be featured.
The floor of the Rex will be filled with vendors peddling the art darker than anything that requires training to defend oneself against.
The preparation for the next Atrocity starts as soon as the previous one ends. After about six months of planning the aesthetic, theme, and story, and booking performers, Macabre and her artistic partner Dr. Morose (the two also run the House of Oddities) begin promotions with a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to bring in out-of-state entertainers.
“We don’t do it for money. It’s just an excuse to get together, make stuff, be weird, and do something cool,” Macabre said.
This arduous preparation process, the “weirdo exchange program of foster homes” to house the out-of-towners, the behind-the-scenes intrigue — it’s all fodder for a movie.
Brian Cottington of Daggervision Films has been chronicling the event for a documentary that he plans to premiere in the fall. As of this writing, he’s filmed interviews with most of the Pittsburgh-based acts and plans to capture the out-of-towners as they filter in Friday.
“For me the main purpose of the documentary is to illustrate two very real points. One, that there is this massive underground event that occurs each year filled with some of the most bizarre acts you can find in Pittsburgh,” Cottington said. “The second, and arguably more important point, is that these individuals, despite their outward appearance and weird talents, are deep down as human and normal as everyone else. These people have morals, values, families, and friends.”
He’ll have three cameras at the show to get footage of the acts and capture audience reaction.
“When the entertainers are happy, the audience is happy, everyone is happy,” Macabre said.
While the event so scholarly in so many regards, it set the record for booze sales at the legendary Rex. It is a simultaneous homage to and update of performance art forms of the past.
It’s not what you’d expect.
It has lofty ambitions.
Learn more about Atrocity on Facebook.
by Meg Huber
“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can change the world.”
-Howard Zinn, The Optimism of Uncertainty
Such was the message of Steeltown Entertainment Project’s recent event, “The People Speak Live: Student Edition.” The event took place as part of Steeltown’s Take a Shot at Changing the World contest.
Middle and high school students from Westinghouse, CAPA, Environmental Charter School, and Highland gathered together on April 24 at Pittsburgh CAPA downtown to perform for their parents, their peers and their supporters. Several of Pittsburgh’s well-known public figures joined the students on stage, including Sally Wiggin (WTAE) , Chris Moore (WQED, WPXI) and Lynn Cullen (Lynn Cullen Live).
Inspired by historian Howard Zinn’s book Voices of a People’s History and the documentary The People Speak, the kids prepared pieces of art that reflected how they see their place in the world and what they might do to change it. The performances included everything from interpretive dance to singing to original short films.
Guided by teachers and staff at Steeltown, the students prepared their pieces with one central theme in mind: how can the world in which we live be changed for the better?
In May of last year, Steeltown and WQED brought actors and activists together for the original event, The People Speak Live at WQED’s Fred Rogers studio. Actors Matt Damon (Promised Land, Good Will Hunting), Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) and John Krasinski (The Office, Promised Land) joined hometown figures, including Cullen and Vanessa German, to read from the works of Howard Zinn and inspire the community to dig deeper into history, to question our world, and find a way to take action.
On Wednesday night at CAPA, the students showed how inspired they were. Several acts, including a poem, a slideshow and interpretive dances, poignantly portrayed what it is like to live in Homewood, or one of the “bad areas” of the city. A particularly moving piece showed pictures of all the vacant, boarded-up houses and neighborhoods through which kids walk to school every day and where they call home.
Several girls from Westinghouse put together a song/skit that showed their reaction to arts education cuts that are being made in their school. They recreated one of their classrooms on stage and started a beat with their pencils and scissors, accompanying two songs, beautifully sung (Impossible by Shontelle and 16 @ War by Karina Pasian).
Several budding filmmakers debuted their short films at the event. One film, meant to raise awareness about pollution and the environment, showed what it might be like to live in a world 50 years from now where we can’t breathe the air. Another filmmaker asked several people around Pittsburgh what they like about the city and what they wish they could change, and spliced clips together so each person interviewed said one word of a sentence that was turned into a poem.
And what performance would be complete without dancers? Several girls created an interpretive dance involving a homeless person, a doctor, a lawyer, and someone in show business and the impact they had on someone living in poverty. Two girls from CAPA danced, one in black and one in white, representing our need to work together and to stand united.
The mood was light as the kids clapped along with the singer and guitarist as they performed “Over My Head (Cable Car)” by the Fray. They encouraged each other to talk about their videos and dances. They laughed during the rap video produced by a seventh grader encouraging fair trade. And they enthusiastically applauded every performance and every performer.
With their show of creativity and hard lessons learned, it looked like many people in this world have something to learn from these students, rather than the other way around.
Wiggin, Moore, Cullen and CAPA’s Kate Daher each added their own thought-provoking message throughout the night. Lynn Cullen read a passionate piece about women’s rights, and Moore encouraged the kids to read and learn history outside of what their school’s textbooks teach and explained that knowledge is power. Wiggin read from Jane Goodall’s book Reason for Hope emphasizing the need to avoid “just-me-ism,” where you think one person can’t make a difference. And Daher concluded the night with our opening quote: small acts can change the world.
Learn more about Steeltown’s Take a Shot at Changing the World contest at www.takeashotcontest.org. Students can submit their short film about how Pittsburgh has changed the world or how they could take social action. The deadline to submit is May 1st.
by Lucy Leitner
The Film Factory is an appropriate name for this Steeltown Entertainment Project venture. At Saturday’s The Director’s Pitch, Steeltown President Carl Kurlander reiterated his non-profit’s mission to discover, incubate, and export talent.
Yes, the project exports talent — like last year’s winner Yulin Kuang, who is currently in LA working as an NBC page and screening her short films — but the ultimate goal is to keep that here. To be able to sustain an industry in Western Pennsylvania, for the demand to meet the rapidly growing supply. It’s not an embargo against Hollywood. It’s an honest factory that cultivates talent and grooms it, not a sweatshop that churns it out en masse for quantity.
This emphasis on quality is evident in the grueling Steeltown Film Factory process. Twelve semi-finalists were selected from over 200 entries. Those twelve were whittled down to three finalists whose scripts will be read by Carnegie Mellon drama students at the And the Winner Is… event at CMU next month.
The panelists for Saturday’s event represented a departure from the usual Steeltown judge selection in that only one, Gretchen Berg, is a native Pittsburgher. She knew she wanted to write since she was a student at North Allegheny High School and became involved at the TV station there. She studied film at Northwestern University where she met future writing/producing partner and fellow panelist Aaron Harberts.
Harberts was originally a journalism major whose first assignment was covering the Clinton scandal. But when he didn’t feel like going out in the snow to get quotes and decided that he much prefer making them up instead, he realized, “You should get out of journalism today!” So he transferred to the film school. With Berg, he has written and produced hit TV series, including Beverly Hills 90210 and Revenge.
Writer’s Guild of America — West President and Party of Five creator Chris Keyser took a different path from college to Hollywood. He was originally studying law, but took playwriting classes when he realized that he wasn’t going to be a lawyer anyway.
It proved not to matter where the judges were from — this was a tough panel. With a superiority complex.
“We feel very strongly that our notes are better than the previous panel,” Keyser said.
“They should never be invited back,” Harberts added.
The semi-finalists presented not only their revised scripts, but also their budgets.
Judges worried that Dennis Schebetta’s budget for My Date with Adam, in which a wedding planner falls for a robot, would be too tied up weddings. Harberts cautioned about the expense of these spectacles and the need for extras that get taken for granted.
“Locations aren’t really where the heart of the movie is,” Keyser said.
Glenn Syska’s The Sketch was universally praised during The Writer’s Pitch for its uniqueness, but it encountered some obstacles when it came to production. One of the central characters is a charcoal drawing. Animation is time-consuming and expensive, particularly when juxtaposing it against live action. Though Syska had the total budget accounted for down to the cent, Harberts cautioned the he may have “short shrift the post-production.” Berg said it reminded her of something French, romantic, and tragic while Keyser praised it for being imaginative and surprising.
Heather Gray signed while she pitched her script and budget for Life After Deaf. Since her short film about the collision between the deaf and hearing worlds is not profane, it’s a good thing she was speaking or else I would have been lost. The panelists appreciated the simplicity of the story and the fact that it all takes place in a hospital, which makes it easier to shoot on a budget. The lone concern appeared to be whether the one day that Gray allotted would be sufficient to shoot the entire film.
Laci Corridor acknowledged that her plans for Two Thousand Bridges are ambitious in terms of cast and locations. The central character of the short, which Keyser described as “beautifully written and subtle,” is a young child. While Corridor is open to either a male or female, Berg cautioned about the regulations for child actors and that the shoot would have to revolve around the young performer.
DVE Morning Show host Randy Baumann’s Tire Stem Sushi would require a closure of the Strip District for filming. The panelists warned that this may pose a problem, even with the proposed all-star cast that includes Billy Gardell, Steve Byrne, and Iliza Shlesinger. A major point in the script is the cult following surrounding several Strip staples — it would be an exercise in cruelty to deprive Pittsburghers of access to them even to film a movie.
While the judges deliberated, last year’s winner Kuang presented her latest short film and announced that The Perils of Growing Up Flat Chested has been accepted into the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Third-place winners Scott Peters and Tony Poremski debuted their finished short Escape from St. Quentin’s.
At the end of the event, only Syska, Schebetta, and Gray are moving on to the next round in which their films will meet another round of constructive criticism before the winner is granted up to $30,000 to film the short in Pittsburgh.
“Hollywood is wonderful,” Harberts said. “You have all these people legislating your creativity and killing your soul.”
Maybe that won’t happen if that creativity is kept in da ‘Burgh.
by Lucy Leitner
Last year, the second round of obstacles in Steeltown Film Factory entrants’ quest for $30,000 included Rusty Cundieff. This Saturday, the six semi-finalists that have already bested the Chapelle’s Show director in the Writer’s Pitch portion of the epic journey will meet three new judges who will decide their fate.
The extremely helpful villains of this level of the game include Chris Keyser — President of the Writer’s Guild of America, West and creator/producer of Party of Five. The veritable tag team of producers and writers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts — with credits that include Revenge, Beverly Hills 90210, Roswell, and Pushing Daisies — will also help determine which of the six remaining contestants will make it to the finals.
Witness the showdown from which only three entrants will emerge victorious at University Center on Point Park’s campus at 11 AM (doors at 10:30). Tickets are still available through the Steeltown Entertainment Project. No one will be vanquished, but it will be a fascinating event nonetheless that provides an opportunity to hear from accomplished film industry professionals and emerging local talent.
Randy Baumann — Tire Stem Sushi
Laci Corridor — Two Thousand Bridges
Heather Gray — Life After Deaf
Dennis Schebetta — My Date with Adam
Glenn Syska — The Sketch
Though this is not an audience participation game and your opinion on the scripts has absolutely no bearing on the results, please read the semi-finalists’ entries on the Film Factory website. They are good. These panelists are far more difficult to pass through than a horde of zombies. If you’re playing a video game.
by Lucy Leitner
It’s not often that a sequel to a secret can be a secret again, but that
is exactly what is happening with the Steel City Secret Cinema event.
In October of last year, event founder Colin Matthews satisfied out mid-lockout hockey cravings with a surprise screening of Slap Shot at the Hollywood Theater. On April 26, the shrouded event returns, but this time with more blood than even the Hanson brothers can draw.
“I learned a lot of what worked and what didn’t from the last time around and took everyone’s feedback as to what the event needed. The two big changes were to move it to a Friday night and, of course, bring in a beer vendor,” Matthews said.
This time around, the secret film is an ‘80s cult horror movie. So I can continue to believe that it is Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh. Or, since Matthews says its not limited to Western PA this time, I can hope for Sleepaway Camp.
A $15 advance ticket gets you admission to the screening as well as a gallery of local art inspired by the film and pre-show food, a drink ticket, a raffle ticket, and entertainment from DJ duo Tracksploitation. The $35 poster pass ticket scores you a limited edition 24 x 36” poster by local artist Matt Ryan Tobin as well.
All proceeds will benefit the Hollywood and the Toonseum.
Matthews is looking to expand the event to other locally run theaters and host it more frequently than every six months.
Someday, when we’re least expecting it, it may be Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh. But, then again, no one is ever expecting Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh.
Get tickets to the event via ShowClix.
by Lucy Leitner
From the seafood buffet at Luke Wholey’s Wild Alaska Grille to the “White Whale” drink on the event menu to co-producer April Gustafson’s aquamarine hair, the premiere of Ahab was an immersion into the sea. The only part of the ocean missing was, thankfully, the smell.
Ahab director/writer/producer Brian Holton said he wanted to do something different. He did. Both in terms of the premiere as a singular event and the film itself. Holton’s reimagining of Moby Dick moves from the sea to the land and makes the white whale a black man.
Most impressively, Holton managed to extrapolate the eternal theme of the futility of vengeance from the 500+ page novel and condense it into a 21-minute short film. To someone like me — who believes that molasses is too slow at any time of year, who only has the patience to get through the whistling intro to Guns N’ Roses “Patience” because of an unfortunate fanaticism when it comes to Axl Rose, who shares Sammy Hagar’s feelings towards state-mandated speed limits — this is the greatest thing ever.
Ahab is not a fast-forward dance remix of the Herman Melville classic — it is a reinvention.
This is Moby Dick for the Twitter generation.
The Ahab of Holton’s film (Sean McCollum) grew up in the impoverished “Docks” of Pittsburgh. He had two options — crime or fish. He chose the former and has risen to the top of his gang, the Black Hand, in which he uses “fish” as messengers. But then there’s the vile, chilling Levi, his white whale, who is shown only in violent flashbacks to, as Holton says, maximize his ominous impact
“I’ll cut his throat and spill his blood for everyone to see,” Ahab says.
The restaurant setting introduced some acoustic difficulties, as did admittedly intoxicated attendees who attempt to insinuate themselves into blog posts by talking through the film, so I was only able to catch much of the dialogue upon second viewing in my apartment. However, like any instance of sensory depravation, this inability to hear thrust more of my attention on the visual aspects of the film and I found myself typing “really cool shot of…” several times. These range from dangerous femme fatale strutting through a warehouse to Tarantino-esque music, to an overexposed shot of a cane-using Ahab, to a quick dialogue-free scene of Gustafson as Ahab’s ex-wife, Elizabeth, dolled up as a post-modern gangster moll/raver chick that you know would be an eccentric villain more dangerous than Levi in an extended version.
Holton cleverly incorporates aquatic metaphors into the dialogue in a manner that makes sense in context without being overly obvious. His substitution of a simple “set sail” for “get going” is a subtle homage to the source work and just smart screenwriting.
Holton transformed the thriving, trendy Lawrenceville into the crime-ridden “Docks” while still incorporating Pittsburgh’s unique eccentricities, like Atlantic and Pacific streets. He uses the slum setting to tackle not only the futility and destructive nature of vengeance in general, but how it applies to current urban crime and the pointlessness of gang warfare.
Ahab is a short film with intentional ambiguity and certain aspects that Holton leaves up to the viewer’s interpretation. I will admit that I did not understand some of Ahab, but I also neglected to turn on my headlights when I left the premiere and was not aware of this until the police informed me, so take that observation as you will. However, whether or not there is a loquacious, drunk dude next to you who thinks he’s making hilarious jokes about batteries, Ahab deserves multiple views.
It is not a linear story, which adds to the artsy experimental quality of the film. It could easily be longer. And Holton intends it to be so, as he will release an extended cut on DVD in July.
The voice-over narration is reminiscent of 1990s crime films of the post-Reservoir Dogs epoch in which non-linear formats, clever dialogue, and an eclectic ensemble cast were en vogue. By introducing all these interesting minor characters, like The Ocean “who will cook you dinner, then slit your throat,” Holton positions Ahab for a feature film adaptation.
“It’s a dense novel with a lot of layers,” Holton said during a Q&A session after the screening. “I could shoot Moby Dick forever.”
And that is what makes Moby Dick a classic, why its epic length and Byron Leftwich pacing enable it to still be required reading in this ADHD era. Its themes are eternal. It doesn’t matter if there is no sea and the object of the obsession is a white whale or a black dude. Vengeance, whether served hot or cold, is a dish that will ultimately destroy its chef. Let’s just hope that chef is not Luke Wholey because even to a non-seafood fan, that buffet looked pretty fantastic.
An extended cut of Ahab will be available on DVD in July.
Holton is planning a screening with a download party for the full soundtrack.
Keep following Hollyburgh for updates on Holton and Gustafson’s adventures within the national whaling community.
Stay up to date on Ahab by following on Facebook.
by Lucy Leitner
There are a thousand words that could describe Daggervision Films, but the photo below does a better job of displaying the blend of macabre, fun, and horror fandom that Daggervision is all about. Though steeped in all these things, the creative partnership between Brian Cottington and Johnny Daggers is founded in independence and the belief that the little guy still matters in horror.
In a way, Daggervision honors the heritage of Pittsburgh. Zombies were reinvented here by a film student with a small budget and a vision. There was no star power behind Night of the Living Dead, yet it revolutionized the genre. It stripped down horror to raw scares. Daggervision has a similar ideology — to create a uniquely creepy product that doesn’t rely on exploitative crutches like excessive gore and nudity.
In 2010, Johnny Daggers had completed and roughly edited the short film Samhain: Night Feast, but placed an ad on Craig’s List for someone to do more polished post-production work. Cottington, a recent graduate of the TV Video department at Robert Morris University, replied to the ad and a productive partnership was born, as opposed to what is usually conceived on Craig’s List. When Samhain won the Bastards of Horror short film festival at the Horror Realm convention, Daggers decided to launch a full-fledged production company. The next project was Caustic Zombies.
Daggervision is also responsible for horror anthology homage Tablet of Tales that served as Cottington’s master’s thesis at Chatham University. Daggers and Cottington are currently at work on Mon Anam Cara, a dark fairy tale with no dialogue aside from Hellraiser star and new Pittsburgher Doug Bradley’s narration. Local horror artist Steph Sciullo created the sets and production will begin in the spring to accommodate a 2014 release. Animation, puppetry, miniatures, stop motion, live action will be used to tell the tale of about an undead couple battling a dark force that has ravaged the land.
Aside from an active presence on social media and near ubiquity at local horror events, Daggervision also has a weekly podcast. After reading an article in which Kevin Smith said that podcasting was the new form of publicity and expression, Cottington decided that a weekly show was the way to go. Like Smith’s fanboy love of comics and Star Wars that infiltrates all his work, Cottington and Daggers are just as much horror fans as they are contributors to the genre.
They had some success on Live365, but have been garnering more interest and higher-profile guests — like John Kassir (the Cryptkeeper) and Bradley — since they were invited to join Spookshow.tv. The horror talk show airs live at 10 PM every Friday night and the podcast is posted on the Spookshow site the following week. During the show, Cottington, Daggers, and their guests talk about their projects, the state of modern horror, and, when I am a guest, apparently Terri Schiavo becomes relevant again.
The mission of Daggervision is to show that originality still matters in horror. It’s about creating something different instead of rehashing the same plots and contrivances. It’s about creating new villains instead of just putting Jason Voorhees in outer space, or even an Ilya Bryzgalov mask. Though the latter is an awesome idea that I hope to make a reality someday. I have no statistics to back this up, but it appears that the horror genre has suffered most from Hollywood’s recent play-it-safe attitude. More horror movies seem to be remade than any other genre. Successful low-budget American horror has been relegated to found footage films because indie horror moviemakers can simply not keep up with today’s special effects. But even something that was once innovative can quickly stale due to oversaturation.
That is where Daggervision comes in. They are horror fans making movies for other horror fans.
Learn more about Daggervision Films on their site: daggervisionfilms.com and Facebook
Check out the podcast at http://spookshow.tv/category/daggervision/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DaggerVisionFilmsHorrorTalkRadio