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Bring Back Real Horror!

The 1970’s, 80’s and even the 90’s horror movies were a unique era, where the genre was at it’s finest.  Many features eventually became classics during this time.  Budgets were structured and simple.  Locations were cost effective and multiple.  The resources to get distribution and funding were at an easier path.  There were also many legendary directors that created masterpieces.  Whether it was a feature, sequel or prequel.

The horror industry, then suddenly started to decline when the year 2000 hit.  Less and less horror flicks were being produced due to the economy tanking and scam artists became relevant.  When this happened,  it devalued the business and put greed before creativity.

Whether a horror film is a classic or not, it’s viewed as a coping mechanism or an escape from this sick and crazy world we live in.  Stress from our jobs or personal issues take a toll on our lives, as creature of habits, our minds are always looking to break free, to find a release and break out of this bubble, we all live in.  Digging into our creative thoughts when watching horror, gives us the ability to become mentally stronger, to better cope with the craziness that we deal with, from day to day.

The population sees horror in different forms.  Whether its, a creative form of artwork, from a visual perspective, serious illness or death.  I get it, not everyone is going to buy into the horror genre.  The big picture is to look deeper into some of these films.  Subliminal messages are a perfect example, or just listening to strong delivered dialogue, makes us more aware of what’s really going on in the world.

Some of the best horror films are the ones that come from the heart.  Real stories from the past,  tied with a balanced amount of special effects, can create unique stories that your audience can relate to.  Setting the tone, developing an intriguing story and delivering a killer ending, will keep your audience on the edge of their seats and continue the emotional rollercoaster rides in their heads.

So where do we go from here?

I truly believe and want this genre to make a comeback.  There’s so much good, the horror industry has produced in the past.  Let’s go back to the grass roots and bring it back!

Christopher Levy takes charge with his new film company CineMonte Productions 

The film industry and the business of movie making are quickly changing thanks to the demand for streaming services. The new releases from big production companies are dominated by superhero franchises, remakes, sequels, and when we get tired of sequels, here comes the prequels. Now is the time we start producing films that engage audiences with real stories and original screenplays. 

Christopher Levy has worked for powerhouses like Goldstein Films and Lionsgate. He has produced films with James Wan and worked amongst A-list talents such as Drew Barrymore, Penelope Cruz, and Keanu Reeves. He is a Los Angeles native and his dedication to film production would lead to, building up skills, relationships, and knowledge in the film industry. When he met his former girlfriend Vanessa Paradis, he took his journey to France, producing miniseries and the feature film Fanfan, written by the talented Luc Besson (Director of the Fifth Element and La Femme Nikita). His 20 years in LA and valuable experience in the film industry have helped shape his vision of what CineMonte Productions should be. 

Christopher is now based in Las Vegas. With his newly formed film company, he aims to look for feature films for worldwide distribution, selecting films to be seen at the largest Film Markets such as Cannes and Berlin. Christopher has been involved with Cannes since 1997, whilst representing his former companies. 

These past years have certainly been incredibly busy for Mr. Levy, as he also founded The Las Vegas International Horror Film Festival (LVIHFF) in 2019 and started a new streaming site CINEFLIK. The LVIHFF is an international film festival that accepts films and screenplays from around the globe. The festival was created as a platform to showcase the established and up-and-coming filmmakers who pour their talents into short and feature films. The majority of the films that show at the festival have scored distribution deals and are being seen by hundreds of thousands of horror genre enthusiasts. 

The streaming site CINEFLIK is an outlet for all the creators who struggle to get their material seen and heard. Christopher understands how competitive is it to sell a film or script, in an industry that will consider money over the content. Streaming sites are a growing platform, easy and accessible it is the future of media. What better way to make sure that talented filmmakers can produce their stories and ideas and make sure it will be seen? 

CineMonte Productions has been the culmination of years of experience in the film industry and seeing rooms full of unread and neglected scripts. Hundreds of tapes and DVDs would be discarded as trash and not given a single chance, as they were labelled as unsolicited movies. Chris sees the incredible potential of these struggling artists and what their ideas can offer. He is tired of Hollywood producing the same storylines, they are running out of ideas. It is time that we take interest in Indie filmmakers and give them a chance to express their passions. His film company is all about originality, making films with actual stories.  



Multi Award Winner Short Film Suvahhdan’s “Blind Folders”

Mumbai: Indian Short film “Blind Folders” wins a Gold Medal at the prestigious UK Seasonal Short film Festival Held in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK in Best Drama Short film Category. The film has been Written/ Directed By Suvahhdan and Produced by Deepali Angre (Deep Sea Movies).

The Film “Blind folders” is a Mumbai base story of 3 blind children’s and 3 prostitutes’ earning their livelihood in the big bad city. In aligned to their work, how they come across various situations of materials rang? And, in those situations how they lose themselves and their humanity. Mumbai is said to be the city which never stops and is a dream city, but in saying that Mumbai is also losing its emotions and human values, said the director Mr Suvahhdan angre.
Film “Blind Folders” Has Been in Finals at the Lisbon Film Rendezvous and was premiered at Lisbon, Portugal on 4th Oct 2019. Apart from that the film has been Official Selected in 14 International Short film Film across the world in Los Angeles, Portugal, London, Global Sessions, Edinburgh, etc

Mr Suvahhdan, The writer/ Director of the film has Directed Film Aadesh-Power of law, A film on Famous adv Ujjwal nikam and Has Made India’s first film on Child terrorism called “Billu ustaad”. Both feature film released in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Now, Mr Angre is working on a Teenage Romantic Musical Feature film “Campus” Which will feature Actors Manoj Bajpai and Johnny Lever.
Main Cast Includes Mithila Naik, Leena Nandi, Dr Shrawani Mahind, Guarang Tade, Hansraj Manjre, Shubham Sakhre, Vaidehi Karche, Ankeet Jadhav, DOP Gurpreet Singh Johar.

Shefik (Virtually) Travels to South Africa to Host New Video Series for Hip Hop Film Festival

JOHANNESBURG — Out of over 5,000 festivals in the world, Hip Hop Film Festival ( is the only festival to focus on writers, directors, and producers who grew up in the global culture of hip-hop. While the main festival is headquartered in New York City during the first week of August every year, the world tour is currently underway. From Saturday, May 30, 2020 to Sunday, May 31, 2020, the festival will be held in South Africa, highlighting filmmakers from that area. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, this year’s festival will be held online. Free all access passes are available via Eventbrite at, upon donation to Harlem Film House, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Harlem Film House is the production arm of Hip Hop Film Festival, operating year round workshops, theatre productions, and live events. While also offering business consulting to filmmakers and content creators in underserved communities around the world, Harlem Film House creates an economic ecosystem, by providing filmmakers various services and resources to ensure career longevity in film, theatre, and related entrepreneurial pursuits.

Founded by filmmaker and philanthropist C R Capers, Hip Hop Film Festival features every genre (mystery, sci-fi, horror, action, romance, etc.), from filmmakers throughout the world. It is also the only film festival that shares the profits from the festival with the filmmakers selected to participate. Although the festival is titled “Hip Hop”, that does not necessarily mean all films will be about hip-hop. Rather, the term is used in reference to the filmmakers who grew up in the elemental culture of hip-hop and the wide-ranging narratives they project to the screen, as a result of being incubated by such culture.

“As Hip Hop Film Festival branches into South Africa, the festival continues its commitment to empowering filmmakers and movie lovers that grew up in the universal culture of hip-hop,” says C R Capers.

Media personality Shefik ( of the syndicated radio show “Shefik presents Invocation” ( is hosting a new video series titled “Conversations from the Culture” for Hip Hop Film Festival in South Africa. Although episodes of the series are available for viewing on-demand via exclusive broadcast on 24/7 Films (, the series itself will make its official debut during the festival, on Sunday, May 31, 2020, starting at 2 p.m. SAST (8 a.m. EDT). Selected South African filmmakers sit down with Shefik to discuss film, South African politics, and more. The complete festival schedule can be viewed at

Comprised of key selections and finalists of Hip Hop Film Festival in South Africa, Season 1 of “Conversations from the Culture” highlights the following filmmakers based in South Africa and its surrounding areas: Lwazi Nonyukela (The Chronicles of African Battle Rap); Gugulethu (Zulu Return); Richard Fontaine (Zulu Return); Madu Dube (Conversations with Millennials); Refilwe Moseamedi (The Pursuit of Achaz); Megan-Leigh Heilig (It’s Where You Find Yourself); Reinier Smit (The Fighter); Brendon Groenewald (Original Royals); SPeeKa (Slaghuis Joint Elements); Khalid Kader (The New Wave, The Message); Cole Gallant (The New Wave); Nic Botha (The Message); Mzwakhe Dhlamini (Tales from the Fisch); Abongile Ntsatha (Sipho Dlamini); and Thanky L. Hamutenya (Ntombezulu).

“South Africa has some of the most compelling filmmakers I have ever engaged with,” says Shefik. “Their stories are thoughtful, compelling, and vibrant with amazing energy.”

Shefik is a Professional Member at the New York Chapter of National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (New York Emmys), as well as a National Associate Member at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (Primetime Emmy Awards). The organizations are dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational, and technical achievements within the television industry. They recognize excellence in television with the coveted Emmy Award.

As a multiple award wining videographer and producer, Shefik’s work has been featured in television broadcasts and video productions for TIME magazine, The Washington Center, “Unsung” (TV One), Broadway World, and a major news station in New York City. Additionally, his photography has been featured in print and online publications, such as Daily Mail, Harvard Kennedy School Magazine, Playbill, and China Press. Shefik currently serves as a Technical Lead at NBCUniversal, where he is leading the development of business critical applications and web-based technology for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan; the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China; as well as other major sporting events throughout the world for NBC Sports.



  ‘American Wisper’ is the true story of the unsolved
murders of an African American family.
In the summer of 2016, three children and their mother were found
shot to death in their large, N.J. suburban home.
They were discovered by father and husband Josiah Wisper


– A brash businessman who owned bars, restaurants, stores and real estate in Harlem, New York. Wisper quickly became a pariah in the Harlem community – and was viewed with suspicion by friends, relatives, and people he had known for nearly half his life.
The film is based on true events, and based on withheld police reports issued at the time of the murders.
And, according to producer Howard Nash, the ending will leave you speechless.

The producers want it known that they are seeking to have the original case re-opened, and feel that a film in wide release is the only way to make that happen.
But, a clarion “Call to Action” isn’t as easy as it sounds: according to writer/producer Howard Nash, “I’ve noticed a fair amount of bias when it comes to smaller, independent films with African American leads.

The smaller movie sites and platforms are not even selecting them. So it becomes even more important to get the word out, so that people can see things for themselves.” Nash raised his funding independently, and today remains gratified that he ignored Hollywood’s “professional” advice while he was developing the project.
Indeed, Nash says American Wisper is the movie that Hollywood hoped would never get made. When presenting the project to major studios, he was repeatedly told that “no one will ever come and see it”.. and one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood once told Nash to “make the family white”, as doing so would make the project “a lot more marketable”. It has now played at festivals all over the world, won nine International Film Festival awards, and is currently nominated for seven more. But, more importantly, it continues to expand its audience, having clocked more than 57,000 views on Amazon since its release in March.

“Wisper.. a very tight thriller without clear heroes or victims—thanks to a tight directorial effort, a tense
script and strong performances by all involved.. it’s a genre movie that shouldn’t be missed.”
Mike Haberfelner / SMT News & Reviews

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“As the Earth Turns” – 80 years-in-the-making award-winning silent Sci-Fi film!

The stock market has crashed, the economy is failing, there is political turmoil around the world.  As much as this sounds like today’s news headlines, this is the the world of a young man in the Pacific Northwest over 80 years ago.

In 1937, in Seattle, a twenty-year old budding filmmaker using his own equipment, had already created 58 plays and 9 never released, award-winning films. This director would go on to work for Disney Studios, and direct and edit a 1950 Academy Award Documentary. Richard H. Lyford’s films have developed a following among film historians since his early “amateur” films are some of the first “indie” films ever created outside of Hollywood. Lyford experimented with special effects, and models, and was becoming an excellent director. His final and most challenging film of this era was “As the Earth Turns”, with a screenplay based on “The Man Who Rocked the Earth” by Arthur Train and Robert Williams Wood, 1915. It was filmed in the Pacific Northwest, in and around Seattle. “As the Earth Turns”, is presented for the first time after 80 years of development! To finish his vision, a professionally mixed orchestral soundtrack, by Pacific Northwest film composer, Ed Hartman has been added to the presentation.

“As the Earth Turns” is a 45 minute, sci-fi film that foresaw WWII, future- technology, climate change, and the extreme need for peace, as the world was drifting back into world war again.   The film has been in 121 festivals, and won 135 awards/nominations.
The main character, “PAX” (“Peace” in Latin), is played by Lyford, himself, a scientist who desperately wants peace. He uses climate-changing science to keep mankind from war. The lead actors are both male and female. The lead actress, Barbara Berger (AKA Barbara Berjer) portrays a hard-working newspaper reporter. Her strong character, “Julie Weston” leads the hunt for the villain all the way to the end of the film. Berger had a long career on Broadway and television (ironically including “As the World Turns”).

The acting is dramatic, professional and realistic. Lyford used early homemade FX including controlled dynamite explosions and miniature models similar to those used in “Flash Gordon” (1936 Serial). His make-up work was excellent (he loved Lugosi and horror films) and his framing of the picture is mature and developed. Lyford was very capable of directing his acting troupe, as well. A legendary location in Seattle, “Gasworks” was used for PAX’s lair. The film has similar themes to “Things to Come”(1936), “In Like Flint” (1967), and even a little “Austin Powers” (1997). Some of the dialogue seems to come out of the TV series “Star Trek” (1966), and even “Dr. Strangelove”(1964). The film was shot in B&W, but the last scene was shot color for dramatic purpose, foreshadowing “Wizard of Oz” in 1939.

“As the Earth Turns” is an example of a true “indie” film, completely shot outside of Hollywood. It is an amazing educational film for any filmmaker to learn from. This filmmaking had no sophisticated technology available. It has multiple- exposure
sequences (including a very professional title sequence), “day for night” shooting, simple transitions, and intense editing between live-action and miniature model sequences. Richard Lyford did his best with very limited resources. This film is a great lesson for anyone in media creation, today.

“As the Earth Turns” now available on Amazon.  Coming to Turner Classic Movies in the fall of 2020.  Other distribution TBA.


I recently spoke over the phone with Hollywood icon David Winters about his new book, Tough Guys Do Dance. The book not only shares many details about his decades in show business, but also  his desire to leave behind a legacy for others to follow. For those less familiar with David, or anyone curious about what to expect in this new book, we started by discussing a few key points in his long career.

David started his career at a young age working mostly in television with roughly 150 roles by the age of 17.

Marc Heller: A lot of people know you from West Side Story. You were Baby John in the play, and A-rab in the film. How did this all come about?

David Winters: At the time I was on a Broadway show called Shinbone alley at the Broadway Theatre starring Eartha Kitt and Eddie Bracken. It was based off a book by Mel Brooks. I got a call from Jerry’s (Jerome Robbins) secretary. I thought she was putting me on so I hung up. Fortunately she called again, and said that he was about to do a new play called West Side Story, would you like to audition for it? Who wouldn’t want to audition for Jerome Robbins. So I did the audition, and I thought it was terrible, but Jerome thought it was great. I was the first one signed, but I had overheard that Chita Rivera was hired as well. She was the standby for Eartha Kitt on Shinbone alley, so I couldn’t wait to tell her I was working on West Side Story too.

Marc: How did you go from being in the Broadway play to being in the film?

David: I was in London at the time, doing Oliver. I was the Artful Dodger. And I got an offer to do the West Side Story movie.

Marc: And were you aware of how huge the film was going to be?

David: Yes, because the Broadway show had been so huge. Myself, and everyone in the show were getting such a great reaction

David also noted that at 17, he was the youngest person on set.

Marc: So West Side Story was a huge transition for you, after having done so much television, now you were becoming a theatre and film star. Was that your ultimate goal

David: Broadway and film were the ultimate.  In those days if  you were an actor, no one wanted to do television. So your goal was to become a film and stage actor.

David went on to mention his friends Sal Mineo, James Darren, and Michael Callen. Specifically that they all went out to Hollywood and became big stars. But that there were also a lot of people who went out to Hollywood, and wound up being waiters and suit salesmen. He had hoped that an attempt to become a contract person for Columbia Studios would prevent that from happening to him, but after working on Last Angry Man, no further contracts were offered. So he opened up a dance studio in Hollywood

Marc: So tell me about the dance school.

David: It was very successful. We had live music in the school. The dancing was my style, it combined jazz with street dancing.

Marc: And how did you come to meet Ann-Margret?

David: Mickey Banks, who was an assistant in West Side Story wanted to bring a young girl over who was in Bye Bye Birdie. He said he wanted me to teach her private lessons. And we just clicked. She looked great doing my steps, she looked different from everyone else.

David explained that she liked him a lot, and recommended him to Elvis, which is how he got the choreographer job for Viva Las Vegas. And after his work on that film, Elvis went on to continue to use him as his choreographer.


David also went on to do 5 movies and a stage show with Ann-Margret. It was a musical sequence that he produced that convinced Mike Nichols to cast her in Carnal Knowledge which earned her a Golden Globe.

David’s first Emmy was for his show with Nancy Sinatra, but since no category existed for dance, they gave him an award for “Outstanding Achievement in Television”. However, the following year, the Emmys would create a new category, “Outstanding Choreography”, which was awarded to him for his work on Ann-Margret’s show. It’s something he’s very proud of as it leaves a lasting legacy, and now people who follow him can be rewarded for their work.

That’s the key to this book, not just to tell fascinating stories, but about David’s desire to leave behind a legacy, to hopefully inspire and encourage others. Before I get into that, however, I have one last, and very funny story to share.

For those not aware, David directed a cult favorite movie from the 80’s called Thrashin’ starring Josh Brolin. It’s a major part of skating culture, and it has a huge following. Especially considering that Josh Brolin is the lead villain in the newly released Infinity War, I had to ask David about it.

Marc: Can you tell me any stories about Thrashin’?

David: That movie, actually, I wanted Johnny Depp for the part. I auditioned 600 kids, and I took Johnny in to producer Chuck Fries, and Chuck didn’t like him. We both had to agree, and Johnny was a nobody at the time, so he said  no, you can’t have him. Johnny reminded me of James Dean at the time. So Chuck tells me to go find someone else. I spent 2 months around the country, I call Chuck , tell him I found the guy, and send back Johnny Depp again. Chuck goes crazy, he says you can’t have him, he will never make it, you can’t have him. So I apologize to Johnny Depp and we wind up hiring Josh Brolin for the part.

David mentions that he knew Chuck for some time, and would go on to speak to Chuck afterwards, and occasionally leave him a voicemail saying it was David and Johnny Depp.

There are a lot more fascinating stories to tell. About his relationship with Paul Newman. More stories about Ann-Margret and Elvis. Stories about Barbara Streisand and a Star is Born. Sonny and Cher. His relationship with Linda Lovelace, and a lot more. If you want to read about these stories, make sure to pick up the book.

David’s book is not all about  dance and show business. Starting at a year and a half old, he had his first near death experience. It would not be his last, and was even once told by a doctor that he had 25 seconds to live. In the book he candidly discusses his trials and tribulations throughout his life.

It makes David proud  when he sees students of his like Walter Painter go on to win 3 Emmys for Choreography. David very specifically said to me that what you leave behind is important.  So hopefully people who read this book are inspired by his stories and help to carry on his legacy.

In closing I want to share this one last conversation I had with David, that will better explain the title, and purpose of this book. Following up our conversation on legacy, he shares this story with me.

David: So I’m on a studio lot, and there’s a guy coming down the lot, he’s following me, yelling “stop , stop!” But he’s sounding kinda friendly. He says “David Winters!” Which is kind of strange because he knows my name, and he comes up to me, and it’s Henry Winkler. Do you know who that is?

Marc: Of course, Fonzie.

David: So he comes up to me and says I want to shake your hands. When I was a young boy, I wanted to be an actor, and a singer, and where I lived, they all said to me, that’s for sissies, you don’t do that, it’s not for real men. When I saw you in West Side Story, you inspired me to go into show business. I know you weren’t a sissie.

Marc: So men were actually afraid to do song and dance because other guys thought it made them sissies?

David: Absolutely, and you never know in life what inspires people.

I want to thank David for his time, and please be sure to pick up a copy of  Tough Guys Do Dance.


I’d like to introduce you to filmmaker and actor Mark Pirro. For those not familiar with his work, he is most known for making successful micro budget films. Most notably, A Polish Vampire in Burbank, which was shot for a modest budget of $2500. The film went on to make $500,000 when it was released in 1983. Recently, I did a Q&A with Mark to discuss his film career, and his latest film Celluloid Soul. I started by asking him about when he made A Polish Vampire in Burbank.

Marc Heller: Mark, you did this at a time when there wasn’t digital technology, and you had none of the advantages aspiring film makers have today. You lost your star, you had to cope with injuries from a car accident, and as time went on, you lost more people. What drove you to put this film together despite all of these obstacles?

Mark Pirro: Well, I guess it’s the same force that drives a drug addict to get his fix. I had a strong passion for filmmaking. Once I started Polish Vampire, from then on, my only goal was completing it. When Eddie Deezen, the original star of the film, left the project, I already had several days of filming invested in the movie and didn’t just want to call it a loss; so I regrouped, did a little re-writing of the script, jumped into the role myself, and kept forging ahead. Same thing for when I had gotten into the car accident. It was either about buying another car, or start taking the bus and finish the movie. I was in my early 20’s and didn’t really have a lot of money to bat around, so it was an either/or situation. I have to wonder if I would still have that kind of determination today. And yes, today’s technology has changed everything. Today, there is no excuse why a person can’t go out and make his own movie. Back in the day, it was budget. Not anymore. The big irony here is that my last five features cost less to make than my first one from 1983.

Marc:A decade after you released a Polish Vampire in Burbank, aspiring film maker Robert Rodriguez shot El Mariachi for $7,000. The film went on to become a multi million dollar franchise, and Rodriguez has gone on to become a very successful director. Do you feel that your successes as a director made it possible for other opportunities such as El Mariachi to become possible?

Mark: I doubt I had anything to do with it. A filmmaker will always figure out a way to get his project made. Polish Vampire may have been unique in that it was one of the first films, if not THE first film, shot for $2500, that actually got mainstream exposure on the home video market and on USA Network, but it was all about timing in that case. Home video recorders had just come along into the mainstream and distributors were looking for product. The studios were reluctant to give up many of their films for home viewing; so here comes a film, brand new, made exclusively for the home video market. That’s why it got snatched up so quickly.

Marc: I want to briefly go back to your time before the release of A Polish Vampire In Burbank. You were an aspiring filmmaker. You get a job at Universal studios, where you connect with like minded people. Together, you rent out a theatre and create a film festival. Your contribution is The Spy Who Did It Better, starring John McCafferty who would go on to frequently act in many of your other films. The film was an homage to James Bond, a franchise which we both love, sort of. I know you aren’t the biggest fan of Daniel Craig. So I have to ask, who is your favorite Bond?

Mark: No question about it: Sean Connery. He defined the role. You know when he dies, that’s what’s going to lead the story – the original James Bond. We based The Spy Who Did it Better solely on the Connery Bond movies, right down to his pose in the opening gun barrel scene. Even McCafferty’s fake accent was based on Connery’s voice. I even had the honor of meeting Barbara Broccoli around the time we were making the film. A tour guide friend, Eric Douglas, knew her, and she was working on a little super 8 film. He asked me if I would be willing to go to her house and help her with it. I was thrilled to. In fact, one evening John McCafferty and I went over to her house and watched “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” with her in 16mm (remember, there were no VCRs in wide use back then). Ahh sweet memories.

Marc: Am I correct that one of the filmmakers at that festival was Frank Darabont?

Mark: Yes. He made a short film called “The Maltese Mystery,” which was a Humphrey Bogart film noir spoof. Very well made. I met Frank when we both worked as ushers at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood in the late 70s. I knew he was a filmmaker too and when a fellow filmmaker and I put together the festival, which was dubbed by the L.A. Times as “The Poor People’s Film Festival,” I invited Darabont to be a part of it. I even helped him put in sound effects for the screening. The original film just had music and narration.

Marc: The Spy Who Did It Better was a short film, how was the process to transition from that to a full length movie?

Mark: Not a big transition. Really the only difference was that it just takes longer to make, and you need to rely on people sticking around a bit longer. In fact, when we started Polish Vampire, originally entitled Virgin Vampire, we weren’t sure it would be a feature. I think the original script was about 60 pages. It’s when Deezen quit and the script was retitled and rewritten that the movie’s length increased. I’ve since learned that you try to cast people you’re familiar with and know that they won’t flake out on you. I have very few flakey actors these days.

Marc: Moving forward, in 1987 you filmed Death Row Game Show, starring John McCafferty as a smarmy game show host in a role that seemed to be written for him. When you made the film, did you think that three decades later this would closely mirror how our society has become?

Mark: It is sort of where we’re headed, isn’t it? No, we were just out to make a fun little movie, with no pretensions. It was my first 35mm film and the first time someone else gave us money to spend, so it was just about getting through production without blowing it. It was a bit overwhelming, working with grip trucks, bigger lights, and some people trying to take advantage of our inexperience with the medium, but all in all a pleasant experience.

Marc: Vinegar Syndrome recently released an amazing blu ray of Death Row Game Show. They did a 2k restoration, and added a ton of special features including The Spy Who Did It Better in its entirety. How did this come about?

Mark: I got contacted by Vinegar Syndrome, who told me that they just acquired the rights to the film from Crown Pictures (the owner of the film). They asked if I’d be interested in doing a commentary for it. I had already done a commentary for an earlier release by a company called Code Red Video, but Vinegar Syndrome didn’t have the rights to that one. So I invited actors John McCafferty and Robyn Blythe to join me and we did a new commentary. It was easy to get them since we’ve stayed in touch all these years. Then Vinegar Syndrome asked me if I had any other material to include on the disk and I offered them a ‘making of’ documentary that I put together in 2013; and to complete the package, I offered them two short films that I made years earlier (both featuring McCafferty): The Spy Who Did It Better and a 22 minute comedy called Buns. I also gave them a remastered version of Deathrow Gameshow itself. There were a lot of technical issues with the film that I hated since 1987. Thanks to today’s technology, I was able to ‘fix’ a lot of the problems with the film; mainly audio problems and a few visual flaws. I would have preferred that the remastered version was the only one out there, but VS wanted to keep things pure, so they released the original flawed version. But at least they included the remastered version, so there’s some solace in that.

Marc: A notable name that pops up in your films is Forrest Ackerman, who was in Curse of the Queerwolf and Nudist Colony of the Dead. Did you have a relationship with him beyond your films, and what was it like to work with him?

Mark: He was the best. I met him through Plan 9 From Outer Space’s Conrad Brooks, who was also in a few of my films. After filming Polish Vampire, Conrad, who knew Forry, suggested we have a screening of it at his Ackermansion in Hollywood. We brought the film to his house and ran it. I told him that I was starting another film (Curse of the Queerwolf) and asked him what he would charge to appear in it. He said something like, “I’m cheaper than cheap.” In fact, he once quipped that if you can’t afford Vincent Price, you can get him for less the Price. He did Queerwolf for free, and Nudist Colony for nearly free. He loved doing cameos in movies, whether they had a budget or not. We stayed in touch over the years, pretty much right up until the end. In fact, he did the narration to the documentary on the making of Polish Vampire, and did the forward to my 1994 book on filmmaking: Ultra Low Budget Movie Making. Great guy. I miss him.

Marc: Modern filmmaking has changed a lot due to political correctness. Everyone is stepping on eggshells. Yet, you are not afraid to tackle subjects other people won’t touch. Most notably religion. How did God Complex come about?

Mark: I’ve always thought that religion was low hanging fruit when it comes to comedy, and had wanted to do some kind of religious parody for years. My film Nudist Colony of the Dead kind of danced around that concept, but that movie dealt more with religious zealots as opposed to God himself. Around 2007, I started writing a script called “Jesus Christ Conquers the Martians,” and that was going to be my religious parody. The concept was that citizens of Mars were getting too smart, so the Martian leaders decide they need something to ‘dumb them down.’ One of the leaders suggests that they borrow what’s kept people on Earth dumb for quite some time: Jesus. So they travel through time and space, kidnap Jesus right before he’s crucified, take him to Mars, and hilarity ensues.
Well, I got about half way through the script and then hit a roadblock in the story. The concept just ran out of steam. Once Jesus made it to Mars, the script didn’t really go anywhere. So, I switched gears and decided to go back to the Bible. I mean, there’s enough comedy in there to sustain a story, and that’s what I did. Following the Bible’s narrative, I made God a fat, bald, jealous, egotistical moron who can’t seem to get anything right, and really only does the crap he does to impress his girlfriend. Once I used that as a launching pad, the script just wrote itself. The movie covers many of the more popular Biblical myths: Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, Moses and the Burning Bush, the story of Job, Abraham and Isaac, and of course, the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Naturally, we took a few liberties with the stories (like Virgin Mary suing God for sexually molesting, and getting her pregnant, in “The Deity’s Court,” and an angel of God delivering the message of Jesus’ birth to Joseph as a singing telegram).

Marc: And how did you get the idea to make a talking Jesus toy?

Mark: The Submissive Jesus Pray Answering Talking Head. At the end of The God Complex, God and Jesus are forced to sign a contract not to interfere with science or intelligence ever again (which is why you haven’t heard much from them in over 2000 years). So to blend in, but not attract attention, they conceal themselves as employees of a Toy Factory. A toy being created under their noses is the Submissive Jesus, which answers your prayers by saying 1 of 100 random smart-ass phrases with the twist of his crown. Anyway, we had one made for the film, then I thought it might be a cool thing to mass produce a few more and market in the real world. So I had a batch made up, created a handful of commercials for it and started selling them at Almost 10 years later, we’re still selling those little holy bastards.

Marc: Speaking of ideas, do you have a creative process? Or do ideas like a giant killer ass just come to you?

Mark: I’m always trying to think concepts for stories. I think that’s one of the hardest parts of the creative process: coming up with something worth spending your time on. When I start a movie, I know I’m going to be spending at least two years of my life with it, so I want to be passionate about whatever project I pick. It’s like a relationship. If you know you’re going to be spending some lengthy time in this relationship, you had better be really in love with it. Sometimes one project can lead to another; for example, the movie Curse of the Queerwolf was inspired by a minor character in Polish Vampire in Burbank. There was a Queerwolf introduced in that film. The character always got great reactions at screenings, so that gave me the idea to create a whole movie based on that character. In the case of Nudist Colony of the Dead, we just started with a title and built from there.

Marc: Although you are known for fun movies like the films previously mentioned above, you also made movies about serious subjects. Color-Blinded addresses race issues.

Mark: That one came as a result of my dating Darwyn Carson, a black actress in several of my early films. She often spoke of how different her life, career, and relationships would be if she were a blue-eyed blonde. So, that gave me the idea of creating a movie about a beautiful black gal who one day wakes up as a beautiful blonde Caucasian woman. Up until Rage of Innocence, that was probably the closest thing to a movie of mine that had some human emotion attached to it, and required real acting – something that wasn’t a prerequisite to appearing in any of my earlier films.

Marc: And then there is Rage of Innocence. Which is a complete 360 from what we are used to seeing from you. It’s a really powerful film. How did Rage of Innocence come about, and will we see more films like this from you in the future?

Mark: Don’t you mean 180? 360 brings you back to where you started. Screw it, what do I know about math? Where was I? Oh yeah. Having made nothing but comedies for over 30 years, I guess my comedic well started drying up. So rather than fight it and continue struggling with attempting to come up with another funny film, I decided to follow the darker path and see where that would lead me. It led me to Rage of Innocence, the story of a 15 year old sociopath named Raven who will stop at nothing to keep men from dating her single mother.
Oddly enough, with the #metoo and #timesup movements, the movie seems to suddenly be rather timely. I mean, there are many careers that have been lost by accusations of sexual misconduct, without any judge or jury trial. Rage of Innocence kind of takes on that same concept. In that film, Raven, becomes the main antagonist to a man who starts dating her mother, against Raven’s wishes. She knows exactly how to frame our hero, and making it look like he does things that he of course never did. She’s so good at it that he ends up getting his 13 year old daughter taken away from him, and gets sent to jail; all because of Raven’s convincing accusations – with forensic proof to back it up. That’s a pretty terrifying concept, I think. As far as the future goes and will I make any more films like this one? It’s difficult to say. I really never know what’s next. Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve often said that each movie I finish will very likely be my last one. Then another project comes along that tickles my fancy. Right now, at this moment, I’m not all that ticklish.

(Author’s note, he is correct, I meant 180, I will hang my head down in shame now)

Marc: Your latest project is Celluloid Soul, which features comedy legend Judy Tenuta. Can you tell me a little bit about this film and how people can see it?

Mark: Celluloid Soul is about a suicidal writer who has just lost his girlfriend, and is depressed and lonely. He happens to become fascinated with this actress from a couple 1939 movies he watches at a friend’s house. He becomes obsessed with finding out who this unknown actress was and whatever became of her. He eventually finds out that she’s still alive, although about 98 years old. He gets her on the phone and becomes inspired to write a screenplay about her life.
After writing a great script, he convinces her to meet with him. She’s reluctant at first, but eventually agrees. To his surprise, when she shows up on his doorstep, she looks exactly as she did in the 1939 movies; completely in black and white with moving vertical scratches going through her. He, of course, believes he’s losing his mind, as do his friends.
Right now we’re looking into some kind of decent distribution for the film. The distribution game for indie films has changed dramatically over the years. A theatrical release is pretty much out of the question, and DVDs and BluRays are sort of becoming yesterday’s medium. Streaming on demand video seems to be the way these days, although unless it really takes off, there’s not a lot of money in it. Film Festivals are sometimes good exposure, but I’m not a big fan of them. What annoys me about festivals is that one winds up spending more than the budget of the movie just to submit and in many cases, get rejected.

Marc: And can you tell us what it’s like to work with Judy?

Mark The best. I’ve made several short videos with her over the past few years. They’re called “The World Accordion to Judy,” and they cover all kinds of topics. You can find the entire series of videos on Youtube. We also made a bunch of Trump parody videos, where I play the moron and she plays his wife, Malaria. We’ve done a few music videos, etc. She’s a joy to work with. When I asked her if she’d like to appear in Celluloid Soul, she agreed to do it. I’ll always be grateful for her adding a touch of elegance to the film.

Marc: Is there anything else you would like to mention? Are there any other upcoming projects?

Mark: Nothing concrete at the moment. I’ve considered remaking or somehow revisiting Nudist Colony of the Dead, since I was never really all that satisfied with the original film. Technology has come a long way. When we made the original film, back in 1991, we were using the crappiest super 8 equipment imaginable. We were lucky if we even got a decent exposure, and many times we didn’t. We also didn’t have the best singers and dancers, and since it was a musical…well…good singers and dancers could have been a worthy asset. However, if I were to revisit this film, I wouldn’t want to do it again on a micro-budget. There’d be little point. That film needs someone like Tim Burton to get involved.

Marc: Where can people find your movies and connect with you?

Mark: They can always go through my website – I’m also on Facebook, like the rest of the world. In addition, many of my films are on Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant. DVDs are all over Ebay. And, as of this time, my representatives are busily trying to secure other streaming outlets. Also, if your readers would like to have all their prayers answered and possess all the power of God, they can get a Submissive Jesus Prayer Answering Talking Head at  That is all and God B. Less.


Verne Troyer, Mini-Me in ‘Austin Powers,’ Dies at 49

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock (8963067p)
Verne Troyer
Starkey Hearing Foundation Awards Gala, Arrivals, St.Paul, USA – 16 Jul 2017

Verne Troyer, the actor best known for playing Mini-Me in the Austin Power films and one of the shortest men in the world, has died. He was 49.

The news was announced in a post to his official Facebook page.

“It is with great sadness and incredible heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today,” the statement reads. “Verne was an extremely caring individual…[he] hoped he made a positive change with the platform he had and worked towards spreading that message everyday.”

In addition to his credits in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Austin Power in Goldmember,” Troyer also acted in the first Harry Potter film as Griphook the goblin. He had more than 25 other film credits to his name, including roles in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “The Love Guru,” and “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”

Born January 1, 1969 in Michigan, Troyer was raised in the Amish faith for a time, but his parents eventually left the religion. He graduated from Centreville High School in 1987.

Troyer’s unusual height of 2’8″ was a result of achondroplasia dwarfism. He has stated that his parents “never treated me any different than my other average-sized siblings. I used to have to carry wood, feed the cows and pigs and farm animals.”

Read the full announcement of Troyer’s death below.

“It is with great sadness and incredibly heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today.

Verne was an extremely caring individual. He wanted to make everyone smile, be happy, and laugh. Anybody in need, he would help to any extent possible. Verne hoped he made a positive change with the platform he had and worked towards spreading that message everyday.

He inspired people around the world with his drive, determination, and attitude. On film & television sets, commercial shoots, at comic-con’s & personal appearances, to his own YouTube videos, he was there to show everyone what he was capable of doing. Even though his stature was small and his parents often wondered if he’d be able to reach up and open doors on his own in his life, he went on to open more doors for himself and others than anyone could have imagined. He also touched more peoples hearts than he will ever know.

Verne was also a fighter when it came to his own battles. Over the years he’s struggled and won, struggled and won, struggled and fought some more, but unfortunately this time was too much.

During this recent time of adversity he was baptized while surrounded by his family. The family appreciates that they have this time to grieve privately.

Depression and Suicide are very serious issues. You never know what kind of battle someone is going through inside. Be kind to one another. And always know, it’s never too late to reach out to someone for help.

In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation in Verne’s name to either of his two favorite charities; The Starkey Hearing Foundation and Best Buddies.”


Weinstein Co. Adds Board Member to Navigate Bankruptcy Sale

The Weinstein Co., which is two weeks away from a bankruptcy auction, appointed a new board member on Friday who will weigh in on the sale.

Ivona Smith is a consultant at Drivetrain Advisors, a firm that provides independent board service for companies in bankruptcy. According to a statement on Friday night from the Weinstein Co., Smith was added at the urging of the committee of unsecured creditors. The five-member committee includes an actress and former Weinstein Co. employee who have filed suits accusing Harvey Weistein  of sexual misconduct.

The committee is seeking to maximize the value of the Weinstein Co. estate, providing the largest possible return for creditors. In addition to Weinstein’s victims, the unsecured creditors include numerous law firms, studios, and vendors.

“We are delighted to welcome Ms. Smith to our Board,” Bob Weinstein, the company chairman, said in a statement. “Ms. Smith brings not only substantial expertise in the bankruptcy sale process, but also enhanced transparency toward [the] Board’s goal of maximizing value for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Smith has 20 years of experience in distressed investment. The other board members are Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov, and Frank Rainone.

Lantern Capital has submitted a stalking horse bid of $310 million, plus assumption of debt, for the company. Lantern, based in Dallas, intends to keep the company going. Other bidders are said to be solely interested in the company’s 277-title library. Bids are due on April 30.