Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Impressions

As the dust settles from Halloween and we get ready for the coming fall and turkey season, I find myself at a weird "calm before the storm" place in my life. For starters, I'm going home for Christmas and leaving town for Thanksgiving, which is something I haven't really had the luxury of doing a lot over the last couple of years. In 2009, I was shooting the final day of HOSTILE ENCOUNTER around Thanksgiving in California. In 2010, I was in post on MADISON COUNTY -- so for 2011 -- I'm trying to get away for a bit, even though I'm in post on ROADSIDE.

Shooting HOSTILE ENCOUNTER
Shooting MADISON COUNTY
I'm really excited to be getting out of LA and back to the South.. there's just something about the laid back nature of the South that really puts me at ease. Granted, it does slow me down and make me want to get back to LA as soon as possible, but it's nice to get away every once in a while and just clear your head. Especially with the year that I have coming up.. as of right now, Madison County is looking like it's going to be released in the first quarter of next year (don't quote me on that) and Roadside will be hitting festivals around the same time.. I also have a couple of films in the works that may or may not happen at the beginning of the year, so I have to be ready for anything (the unpredictable life of an indie filmmaker).

This calm feeling I have comes from the whirlwind of a life that has been the last few weeks. It was capped off with the release of our new poster (Below) made by the grossly talented Tom "The Dude" Hodge. With the release of this new poster, it seemed like a lot of new news sites caught wind of the film that hadn't before.. which is great! But it also brings along a new "audience" of people to cast judgment on the film.. and the filmmaker.


The title of this blog entry is "First Impressions" because I read a comment (yes, I read the comments posted about my film-- I know it's "taboo" or a "no-no", but it's 2011 and I'm a young filmmaker that wants to learn and plus.. I'm a glutton for punishment) from a user that absolutely trashed the poster, the trailer and myself as a filmmaker saying firmly that "Eric England only gets one chance as a filmmaker and he just killed it with me. I won't be seeing anything else from him in the future".. and while I fully understand that I'm not going to please everyone, nor do I intend to, I had to stop and wonder.. how true is this throughout the rest of the world?

My manager and I have had extensive talks about "how to introduce" myself and my work into the marketplace.. how to make the best splash. I think everyone wants that RESERVOIR DOGS style first impression, right? Or more recently, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY or SAW.. They want you to be a hit.. so that you can be successful, right? I've heard a million times.. do you want Madison County to be the first film that people know you for? Do you feel comfortable saying "This is me"? The answer is YES. Without a doubt.. yes. Madison County IS me. I wouldn't have made it if it wasn't. Every flaw. Every problem.. all me. And I'm proud of it.


The user that posted the comment hurled negative comments at the film and myself, among other internet trolls.. I'm used to this as its a common thing in the horror genre over the last decade or so. I used to be one of those kids posting on forums and reading message boards.. I'm a product of the internet. I was one of James Wan's first Myspace friends. I asked obnoxious questions to filmmakers that I looked up to.. but NEVER did I trash someone else's film, especially before I've seen it. But-- everyone is entitled to their opinion.. but before they cement their opinion, I think they should first look at why they're trashing my film and why NO film, whether made by me or not, will probably live up to their fantasy idea of "the next great horror film".

First off, MADISON COUNTY is NOT a true slasher film. I never set out for it to be one and I've said that numerous times. Is it a slasher film? Yes... among many things. It's also a dramatic thriller. It also has some comedy. It also has some satire. I set out to make a genre bending film on the inside with a very generic shell that is great for marketing on the outside. Why? Because I needed a film that would get my name out there.. people don't watch movies that look like they might be different. It's just the truth. I've gotten more comments on the Pig Head in the film than the characters, the story, etc.. because people like simple, exploitable elements.. only WE as filmmakers and fans, appreciate the little details of the story, characters, plot, twists, etc.

Along with this user's comments, I saw another user comment -- who had actually SEEN the film -- and began ripping Madison apart because Damien WASN'T LIKE Freddy, Jason, Michael or Leatherface.. saying that he had no "back story" -- (which he does), no "iconic" weapon and that they didn't see enough of him and questions were left unanswered, etc, etc...


Well, let me dissect all of this for those that are looking for the "holy grail of original horror films". First off, you WANT ORIGINAL films, right? Then why are you upset that my killer isn't LIKE the other killers you've seen in films? I did something DIFFERENT.. right? I didn't want him to have a chainsaw, a machete, or knives for fingers because that's BEEN DONE. Damien's backstory is clearly explained in the middle of the movie and the REASON you don't see him very much in the film is because.. (get ready for this shocker) IT'S NOT HIS MOVIE. Madison County is not a movie about a SERIAL KILLER. It's a movie that has a SERIAL KILLER in it. The same way Hannibal Lecter isn't the main character of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.. it's not HIS movie, it's about the people AROUND him. The parts of the movie that don't involve killing or "horror" are meant to be that way.. separate from the rest of the film.. to get to know these characters, understand who they are.. to (hopefully) care about them.


These moments have often been described as drama/comedy because they're real.. they're just natural.. which is what I wanted. Just like leaving some things left than explained.. I have sequels in mind. If I wanted to wrap those things up, I would have. Just accept it. I don't like films that wrap up in a little bow.. so I don't plan on making films that do that. And if you didn't understand something in the film.. watch it again. It's explained. It may be in tiny details.. but its explained. There are people out there that get it, trust me. They've gone into explicit detail about the details they caught and didn't like.. and I welcome those opinions because they got the full picture and made a very educated decision rather than just saying "its a pig headed killer with little gore?.. pass".

A slow burn, dramatic horror/slasher film.. I haven't seen many.. have you? No. So while Madison County is not the most original horror film in the world, or reinventing the wheel.. it does do things a little differently than what people are used to.. but people don't like DIFFERENT things, even though they bitch about wanting something NEW. They want it to be NEW.. but FAMILIAR.. THE SAME. But at the end of the day, I'm a fan far before I'm a filmmaker.. so I make films that I, as a fan, want to see. I HATED CABIN FEVER the first time I saw it.. then I grew to love it. Is it the most original film ever? Not by a long shot. But it did things a little differently. I didn't love HOUSE OF THE DEVIL the first time I saw it.. but it grew on me. It's the little details from these unique and talented filmmakers that suck me into a movie and make me appreciate it more and more as a fan.


So when I think of the first impressions made by my favorite filmmakers (whether it was their actual first impression, or just the first film of theirs that I had seen), you can rest assured that they're proud of their work or it wouldn't be out in the world for people to see. Madison County may be my first official feature film, but it won't be the first film of mine that people see in the future. Some people may see Roadside first, or whatever I do after Roadside.. and then work their way back to Madison County. But I'm a young filmmaker, I'm growing.. to sum up a filmmakers' entire body of work from their first film is a little premature and closed minded. I wouldn't do that to someone, so I would hope that no one would do that to anyone else.

With all of that said, I'm proud of the first impression I've made so far. Even if I'm not a millionaire, or my film isn't going to break box office records, its still a film that WE made together and I couldn't be more proud to use it as a way to introduce myself, and my team to the world. Be on the look out for announcements on where to see Madison County around the world, thanks to Raven Banner Entertainment! :) Rant/OFF.

'Til Next Time,

EE

Monday, October 24, 2011

SCREAMFEST 2011

Whoa.. Did that just happen? It seems like Oct 17 was a night that I was dreading for over a month.. slowly approaching, but when it arrived.. it was over before it began. The week started off with a bang.. both of my parents were able to fly in from Arkansas to help bring in the birth of MADISON COUNTY! Not since film school have I had both parents in town at the same time.. It was a wonderful and relaxing feeling.



My parents have never been to a movie premiere.. hell, I have only been to a few in my life, but my parents definitely didn't know what to expect.. neither did I. As the days got closer, I saw a couple of films before at the festival, one of which I absolutely loved.. DEADHEADS. If you haven't seen this little zombie, buddy comedy-- do so. ASAP.


But as the days grew closer, I could tell that my parents were just as anxious as I was. My Mother is the type of Mother that takes on the burdens of her children.. so she could feel my stress. My Father is the supportive type that sits back and says "whatever happens.. I'm proud of you". But for the first time in a long time that wasn't enough for me. I was about to show my movie to what felt like the world.. but in reality if was a few hundred people. But I knew it would be bigger than that because what these people said would be posted on the internet.. for all eternity.. or at least until the next Steve Jobs of the world invents something that replaces the internet and we're all erased from recent memory.

So on the day of Oct 17, I woke up a nervous wreck.. I knew the time was counting down. I started to go through my head "will people like this moment?", "what if they hate this?", "what if that joke doesn't play".. It was a nightmare. But that's just my OCD talking. In reality, I was pretty calm on the outside.. as the sun went down, it was time to meet the friends and family for dinner before hand. That was a major comfort because I was able to get a couple of drinks inside me that definitely eased the nerves.

Walking up to the theater, I saw a few familiar faces that were on their way and my stomach instantly sank.. that's when it was real. People were coming to the theater tonight to see MY movie.. OUR movie.. this thing that we created a few months ago.. They made no other plans and spent their own money.. and most of them weren't even my friends! It was an adrenaline rush of feelings.. When I got to the lobby of the theater, there were already about a hundred people or so and having heard that the number of ticket sales were only around 300 at the time.. I didn't figure it would change much.. boy was I wrong.

Upon arriving at the theater, I was informed that some of our "VIPs" weren't going to get in due to ticket sales.. Apparently, most people had waited til the last minute to get tickets before the event.. which is fine and typical LA fashion.. but we'd been pimping this premiere for the better part of a month. So my first mission was to find tickets to get for people I didn't even really know when apparently there weren't any tickets left. So what's to do? Take tickets from people who have already seen the movie.

I ended up giving my ticket up, my parents tickets and a couple of other really close friends.. and after that debacle was taken care of (all while trying to talk and mingle with friends, family, etc-- sorry if I seemed rude), I hit the black carpet for a little publicity. The people on the carpet were so awesome and a blast to talk to. They all seemed really interested in the film and were amazed at the turn out.. which by this time had nearly tripled.



When I got a chance to look around the lobby, I saw that it was literally wall to wall and there was a line going around the lobby like Jesus was signing bibles. After a few quick chats on the carpet, chatting with my manager, friends, family and future producers, I noticed everyone starting to funnel into the theater.. I was ready to lose it (not to mention, I saw Todd Bridges standing on the carpet doing interviews.. who knew he was a horror fan? Ha!)


I was pacing around the lobby as the last few people went through the door. I looked at my phone and realized, we were over an hour late.. I felt like shit. "Great, now people are going to hate this because they had to be here an extra hour", I thought. The PR people from the festival kept telling me "We'll let you know when to go out and introduce the film.. you'll be the last one in the theater". Great.. I'll go in and see how the crowd is.. as I'm walking into the theater, I hear the announcer say "We're going to have the film's writer and director come down here for a second".. and I froze. No one gave me any notice! I'm not ready! But my legs just carried me out onto the stage and luckily, Daniel and Ace were behind me.. so I didn't feel like a dipshit.



I grabbed the mic, not knowing if that was what I was supposed to do, and opened my mouth.. what came out was whatever is in the video below. I kind of planned out a couple of things to say and a "Thank You" or two.. but that was all out the window when I saw that there wasn't an empty seat in the house.


So after mumbling and fumbling through that, I ran to the top of the theater and watched as the promo played.. finally, I was shown my seat, right in between my parents-- which was nice and our logos came on.. a good cheer for each one, which I was proud of.. and then the first frame of the movie came on. My heart was pounding and as Katie was hit over the head with a shovel.. I heard people scream and cringe.. I let out a breath that I had been holding in for what felt like 2 years. It worked. People reacted.. that's all I could've wanted or asked for.


Luckily, the rest of the film played that way.. people laughed at the jokes, people actually JUMPED at the scares and when the real horror kicks in.. they went with it. I was surprised at how the movie played and what things got laughs and what things worked and didn't work.. It was as if I was learning so much about myself and my movie right there in the theater. It was probably the most educational experience I've had in a really, really long time.

Before I knew it.. "Written and Directed by Eric England" came on the screen and people were clapping.. It was weird, it was like I had just gotten laid for the first time. All I could think was "it's all down hill from here". Just like I explained in my previous blog, it was like I just had sex and now.. people were going to tell the whole world about it. How good my sex was, what I knew how to do, what I didn't know how to do.. The most intimate, personal things to me were just on a screen for hundreds of people to see and now they were at will to rip them apart.. but I was okay with it. I didn't care. I even felt a couple of awkward stares as I walked out of the theater from people who either didn't like the film or didn't want to feel obligated to approach me. It's like that moment after sex when the guy cums too fast and he's scared to try and get close to the girl for a while.. he's embarrassed.



But I couldn't tell if they were just being shy or embarrassed for me.. for the movie they had just watched. As people began to exit the theater, I got a few hand shakes and pats on the back.. some of the more memorable ones were from directors that I really respect and admire.. They told me they got my movie. They got the pacing. They got the tone. They dug the style and choices.. all I could've ever asked for.

I didn't care if everyone in the room hated the film, I just didn't want them to treat me any differently because of it. After the premiere, we hit the Formosa Cafe for drinks and picture.. I was still numb. I didn't want this night to end.. I was on a high. I went home that night and fell asleep instantly.. and like that, it was over.

The following days were all over the place.. lots of congratulations.. lots of e-mails.. lots of wondering if people liked the movie, wondering why I wasn't hearing from certain people, but it was all fine. The world didn't end and the response was as good as I could've hoped for. Is MADISON COUNTY better than The Shining and going to be remembered as one of the greatest horror films of all time? Probably not.. but people didn't hate the film, or more importantly, hate me for it. My first film.. a learning experience that I was honored to share with several hundred people as the ONLY film to sell out SCREAMFEST 2011!


An encore screening was added to the schedule due to popular demand. I don't think anyone was prepared for the short notice.. but even with only a days worth of notice, we were able to get close to 200 people back in the theater for another great and successful screening. It was late, again.. but we decided to go through with the Q&A.. which can be found online, my interview is below.. (The Q&A contains MAJOR spoilers.. so beware). The last night of Screamfest was probably my 2nd favorite of all my nights.. I got to see some great movies, my favorite being THE INNKEEPERS and enjoy the awards ceremony where my new friend, and extremely talented filmmaker Paul China won Best Director for his feature film CRAWL! The film would also take home the Best Actress award and Best Cinematography-- more than well deserved.

VIDEO INTERVIEW AFTER THE MADISON COUNTY ENCORE SCREENING



The night concluded with drinks and fun.. the way it should be. Surrounded by the people you love and enjoy being around. People I made the movie with and the people I'm going to continue making movies with. This being my first festival, Hollywood was the best place to premiere.. with all of our friends and people we admire there to support. I can't wait for the next film, the next festival and the next adventure.



'Til Next Time,

EE

Friday, September 30, 2011

Screamfest, "Success" and Vulnerability

I told myself that when I started this blog, I would write something for every month.. well August was a bit of a shitty month for several reasons. Lots of waiting. Lots of stress. It's almost as if August came and went and before I knew it.. we were in September. But here, on the last day in September, I'll blog for this month and its many ups and downs.

First off, having a blog is a pretty selfish thing-- in my opinion. It's a place where you can write down your thoughts, almost a diary if you will, and share them with the world if you choose. It's basically a place to talk about what's on your mind, but most people, like myself.. just talk about themselves. So I wanted to take a moment to shed some light on a few other people that are either friends of mine, people I admire, or just people in general that I want to see good things happen to.

First up- Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard

Director Adam Wingard and Writer/Producer Simon Barrett at TIFF
Simon and Adam are having one hell of a month in that their indie feature film, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE came out Sept 6 on DVD/Blu from Anchor Bay and about a week later, their new film YOU'RE NEXT had its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and blew critics and audiences away. Shortly after, YOU'RE NEXT was in a bidding war in which Lionsgate won the rights and plans to release the film theatrically next year! If you haven't seen AHWTD, please go to your nearest DVD retailer and purchase the film. Don't rent it-- buy it. You'll want to watch it over and over. These guys are very passionate about what they do and it shows. I can't wait to see YOU'RE NEXT and I can't wait to see what these guys do in the future!

YOU'RE NEXT!


Next up- Bradley Scott Sullivan


Bradley is the writer/director of a little indie film called I DIDN'T COME HERE TO DIE, which I had the pleasure of seeing a while back. This film is everything you want in a directorial debut. It's fun, its gory, its got a great pair of boobs and its smart. This movie is taking over at film festivals world wide! This weekend, it's playing at the Big Bear Horror Film Festival and all over the east coast for the rest of the month. Bradley is a super great guy and talented to boot. We just worked on our first little project, which will be coming out soon ;), and I can't say enough good things about him. I'm stoked to see what he does next! Check out the official Facebook Page for I DIDN'T COME HERE TO DIE to see if it's playing in your area!


Travis Stevens and Mike Mendez

Producer Travis Stevens (Left), Adam Gierasch (Center) and Director Mike Mendez (Right)
While the rest of went about our days, Travis and Mike were in downtown LA fighting off none other than the MEGA SPIDER! These two dudes successfully wrapped production on their giant spider movie this month and I'm sure are about to be knee deep in post-production. Lots of friends helped make this movie (as well as some Madison County crew!), so its great to see close friends staying busy and making movies! Travis also has several other films in post right now, one of which is THE AGGRESSION SCALE, directed by my buddy Steven C. Miller! Can't wait to see how Mike and his crew exterminated the bug.. if they did? (MEGA SPIDER 2?!) ;)


Last, but not least, Bj McDonnell


BJ has been behind the camera on a NUMBER of high profile projects ranging from Rob Zombie's Halloween to Heroes to MacGruber to dozens of other big budget movies.. but now, he's jumping into the Director's chair! It was just announced today through Variety that BJ will be helming HATCHET 3! Being that BJ was the camera op on both HATCHET and HATCHET 2, this means that BJ is most likely the perfect man for the job! Hand picked by Adam Green, BJ will continue the legend of Victor Crowley. I personally and stoked to see such a rad guy taking the reins of the franchise. Take a look at the Behind the Scenes on HATCHET.. you'll see just what kind of energy BJ is going to bring to the movie! Rock on, dude!


To all the guys, congrats! I wish you nothing but the best! 

So, September has been a crazy month.. earlier it was announced that MADISON COUNTY will be having its WORLD PREMIERE at SCREAMFEST!! For those of you that don't know, Screamfest is the film festival responsible for discovering PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. It's a huge honor to be a part of it and I can't believe the first feature I ever make is going to be showing in the heart of Hollywood at the MANN'S CHINESE for the first time! It's insane.. I'm humbled and honored. It's amazing. 


Lately I've been thinking a lot about "Success" and what is "Success" and how does one achieve "Success"? I've had people ask me.. how does it feel? And for one, I'm not successful. No one has even really seen my films yet (more on that later) and two.. I'm not rolling in dough. But do those things really equal "Success"? I mean, I AM making movies.. that is how I make my living at the moment. It's a small living, there's no denying that.. but I could be digging ditches.. or working at a nuclear power plant ;). But this is what I've always dreamed of doing. I always said.. "It's not about the money" and for the most part, that's been true.

In the past few weeks people have requested interviews, Q&As and panels.. I'm honored and humbled to be a part of all these things, but it hits me really quickly.. I'm being asked the same questions that I hear my favorite filmmakers answer. I'm doing a panels with filmmakers that I respect and own their films in my own collection.. 

I guess what I'm getting at is its amazing, the sense of community and brotherhood that being a genre filmmaker carries. One day you're a kid walking around conventions with T-shirts, hoping to bump into your favorite filmmakers and the next, you're being asked about your own film.. (True confession-- I secretly run away from my favorite filmmakers when I see them because I fan boy out. I avoided Gregg Bishop for most of Comic Con '09 because I kept seeing him everywhere and didn't wanna look like a loser when I gushed about how much I loved DANCE OF THE DEAD).


The filmmakers of the horror genre are some of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. You'd expect them to look like the Crypt Keeper, but for the most part, they're normal guys. They wear a lot of black and denim.. but that's about it. I'm guilt of it, too. So ego and narcissism aside, I think success can be a number of things. I think its a feeling more than anything. Ego is what involves money and material things.. but as far as feeling successful.. I'm getting there. I haven't accomplished nearly as much as I would like to, but I'm working on it. Which brings me to my next point..

On Oct 17, for roughly $11 dollars you can see my first official feature film, MADISON COUNTY. It's amazing. It's exciting. It's scary... 

...the feelings that I'm having. Showing your film, especially for the first time, is kind of like having sex for the first time. You're nervous, your heart pounds, your blood rushes and then.. before you know it, it's all over and you're left asking questions like "How was it?" and "What was your favorite part?".  Showing your movie is probably one of the most vulnerable things a filmmaker can do. It's your art. It's your heart. Your soul. It's all up there on a giant screen for people to rip open, examine and critique like fucking doctors or mechanics. They'll tell you whats wrong with it and what you should do better to avoid things in the future.

All of these things are rational fears, but they're part of the territory. The worst thing a filmmaker can do is make excuses for their movie. I know what my film is. It's a slasher film. It's slow burn. It's not as gory as you might think.. but it's got a lot of heart and a lot of tone to it that I think make for a really interesting take on the slasher sub-genre that we haven't seen in a while. The acting is great, the music is pretty rad and the killer is legit. But when all is said and done, it doesn't matter what I think.. it matters what THEY think. The critics. The audience. They're your PARTNERS in this metaphorical sexual experience. They can go to school the next day and tell everyone how small your dick is or how you came too fast or how you didn't know what you were doing. But, regardless of what they may say.. you have to walk into the school with your head held high like you just got done having sex with a porn star and she told you how amazing it was.

Oct 18 is going to be an interesting day for me.. I'm sure the first reviews of the film will be leaking on to the internet and as much as I'll want to not look, I'm going to have to. Why? Because like I said above.. I'm a fan. I read the genre sites everyday like parents read the paper with their morning coffee. Only I sit on my laptop and drink Diet Coke while plotting out my day. I'm sure this won't get any easier.. even as proud as I am of my films, I know they have flaws. Some of them people will see and rip open like exposed wounds, others people will never notice because only I know they're there. ROADSIDE will be following Madison shortly at film festivals next year and I'll have a new set of nightmares. But for now, I'm going to focus on enjoying this ride that I've been put on and savor every second like its my last.. 

In the coming weeks, I'll be releasing my latest work.. a short film. I haven't made a short film in over 2 years, since I made the promo trailer to pitch MADISON COUNTY. Before then it was film school.. so I'm excited to get this out there. Be on the look out for it. We had a bloody good time making it ;)


Til next time!

-EE

Friday, July 8, 2011

4 Years Ago Today - Film School: A Retrospective

A lot has happened to me in my 23 years in this world.. but none of the years have been more exciting than the last 4. You see, 4 years ago-- I moved to Los Angeles and enrolled in the Los Angeles Film School. At that point in my life I had never lived anywhere in the world but Russellville, AR and Clarksville, TN. I had only visited LA a couple of times-- both of which were my only times on an airplane. Those of you who know me best will know my disdain for heights at the time.

With my then-girlfriend. My first time in an airport.. waiting on my first flight. I was scared shitless.


Until coming to LA, the biggest cities I had ever been to included Dallas, TX and Louisville, KY. To say I was green was an understatement. In high school I was a bit of a redneck (still am to some). I hung out with roughnecks who had kind hearts and farmer's tans. We drove big trucks, drank on the weekends and all except me dipped "snuff". All good guys and all people I wish I was able to keep more in contact with today. If anyone of you are reading this, I'm sorry for being a shitty friend, but I still think about you often.

My redneck truck and I.

In July 2007 I was 19 years old and had been living in LA for about a month. I moved out in June with my then girlfriend to get acclimated to the city (boy did that take a lot longer than a month). I look back and laugh when I think about how much I thought I knew about LA. I would always say "I'm glad I moved out a month early and got used to the place". But the truth is, I don't think you ever REALLY get used to LA-- you just sort of tolerate it. I had gotten used to the traffic. Used to the people. Used to some of the food.. but not used to myself.

Living room in my first apartment.

When I first moved to LA, I was scared. I was nervous, excited, vulnerable and optimistic.. but most of all scared. LA wasn't "home". I knew it was where I HAD to be, NEEDED to be, WANTED to be.. but for some reason it wasn't home. I tried to make the best of it with my girlfriend. We tried to play family and pretend we fit in.. but the truth was, we stood out like sore thumbs. Everything from our funky accents to the way we dressed said we weren't from around here. Not to mention, I was a pretty big guy when I first moved out here-- and LA is the land of skin and bones. People start shedding weight the moment they see an "over weight" person.

At the Transformers premiere with my school in the background. Yes, that's a strap attached to my glasses.
I thought when I got to film school, it would help.. and it did, to an extent. I remember my first REAL day of film school.. we were sat in the LAFS theater (the one they sell you on so hard to come to the school and check out) and the dean asked us "what two films would you recommend to your fellow students?". To this day, I still don't know why I didn't say SCREAM-- but I said the original Halloween and Texas Chain Saw Massacre. From that moment on I was branded the "horror guy" of my class.

Now, in my particular film school a class of people was around 30-40 people. We literally had people drop out of our class the first day-- the moment we put a camera in their hands. They saw all the buttons and menus and freaked. I laughed and thought "glad I didn't learn I wasn't cut out for this that way". But the truth is-- they were some of the lucky ones. They learned they weren't cut out for the movie industry on the first day.. which saved them a lot of money and a lot of time.

My school preached about how "hands on" they were. They put a camera in your hands the first day.. literally. From there, we began shooting little films.. more like assignments. The first assignment was to shoot an entire short, in less than a minute, in one shot that was about something lost.. and something found. Of course, mine was horror themed and quickly helped cement my status. I wish I still had the short. I was on YouTube for a while, but it was nothing special-- I assure you.

A behind the scenes still from one of my shorts. This is about as exciting as it got. My buddy Adam was my actor. Sara is in the background.

As film school rolled along, I kind of kept to myself. My first group of actual friends at film school were two girls named Sara and Sandy and a guy named Cole. When everyone first walks into film school, more often than not most of the class want to be directors. Sara, I think wanted to be a writer from the very beginning (which we would find out she was kickass at) and I forget what Sandy and Cole wanted to do-- but they ended up doing sound and producing.

We were grouped together the first day of school and while I knew nothing about this ragtag group of folks, I would grow to love them over the course of the next year. I look back and laugh, remembering that I actually WANTED to be in a group with someone who looked driven, motivated and like they knew what they were doing-- but I ended up being taken away to my eventual group and ended up greatly disliking that "driven/motivated" person. So I guess it was for the best.

Growing up as a kid, even when I was confident in something, I would tend to see who looked more confident than me.. especially in school. I was ALWAYS a great sidekick at things I didn't wanna be the leader in.. but if I wanted to be a leader, I was a fucking leader. Making movies was something I didn't know a lot about at the time.. but damnit, I was going to be a leader. So looking for "motivated" people was only to build a network around myself.

During my time at film school, I was always involved with whatever was going on with movies and school. I tried to shoot something as often as possible and learn as much as I could. I quickly learned that I knew more of the "business" side than most of my peers (thank you special features on my favorite DVDs). The technical side was not my forte-- but that's why I went to school. I never became a big techy.. I was always an artist. And that's the biggest thing I learned in film school-- if you don't know how to do something, surround yourself with people who do. I've always know the value of a solid support system and that includes the team you work with. You guys are just as responsible for any success I've ever had or ever will have.

Nick to my right and Daniel right below me.

Zach in the yellow and Matt (Sound designer of Clown Town and Hostile Encounter) in between us.


The first half of film school was a big blur to me. It went by so fast. My network of friends grew greatly to friends that I still have to this day like Nick, Zach, Jon, Matt, Levi, Daniel, Omar, Scott and several other folks. Great people that I really enjoyed hanging out with. We drank a lot. We ate a lot. I gained a lot.. of weight. That didn't help me fit into my skin. I ballooned like a freshman in college.. who ate a freshman in college. That helped fuel my depression and ruin my confidence.. but somehow, I managed to keep my productivity at school up.


At about the halfway mark of school, you have to make a midterm. Now a midterm in film school is much different from a normal midterm. For our midterm, we had to take a scene from an oscar nominated script and direct it. Me being me, I picked THE EXORCIST. I wanted to do one of the scenes with Regan in the bedroom (now that I look back, I should've had her fucking herself with a cross and puking all over the place), but was scared to get too heavy on the FX bc I didn't know how to pull them off. At this point in my abilities, all I wanted to do was make "horror stuff". I didn't know the different levels and sub-genres the way I should-- I just wanted to make scary shit.

Apparently this is where I developed "Director Hands".
Me being the artistic asshole that I am, I decided to have a black priest and a white demon. I wanted it to take place in her bedroom-- but have her bedroom look like a nightmare. Like a black void. Not only that, but I re-wrote some of the dialogue and wanted to change the end (you'll notice that if you watch the short below). How ironic is that.. me, a 19 year old film student re-wrote dialogue on an oscar nominated script. Wow.

My Priest and his Demon
 
Cole produced it, Sandy starred in it (we were able to cast real actors but I wanted to work with someone I new personally so I could pull more of a performance out of them), Daniel (my producing partner on Madison and Roadside) was my 1st AD and Levi edited it (he would go on to edit Madison County and Roadside as well).

Sara doing Sandy's make-up
Below is the final product.


After The Exorcist, I began kicking around ideas for my thesis film.. Thesis films were the big thing in film school. It was all about who was doing what and what you could pull off. The rules for your thesis film were as follows: You must participate in the major you wish to graduate me (for instance, I had to DIRECT at least 1 film), you had to keep it under 15 pages, I believe and you had to have all your paperwork filed to make it an official thesis film.

I remember this process being the end of the world. The paperwork was a pain in the ass and the entire finale of film school was like one big game of dodge ball. Who was going to pick who to do what on their film? I was approached by a couple of people to DP their shorts, I was asked to camera operate, I was asked to direct a couple, I was asked to write one. I did all of the above with the exception of DPing one. I ended up writing 2 thesis films (Double Walker and Clown Town) and directing 3 (Clown Town, Drunk Dialing and Valentine). Sara actually wrote my second thesis film, Drunk Dialing. I really loved the script she pitched in class and was honored when she asked me to direct it. We had a blast making it. Valentine was more of a last minute production that involved me, Zach and our producer Mario. We also had a blast and I loved the character. Zach has a feature in mind for the character that I would love to be a part of in the future.

Shooting Double Walker, a script I wrote for a buddy.. on film (what is that?).

The main character from Double Walker
One of the gangsters in my story
Arkansas jersey and U of A camo hat.. still a redneck.

Filming the thesis projects was the biggest nightmare, but some of the most fun. Clown Town was a huge undertaking that was doomed from the start. I made the film for a little under $4,500 in 5 days. Some students were spending in upwards of $40,000-$100,000 on their films. My producer, Levi, left the country to film another thesis film in another country (on the $50k+ film) right before we started shooting and the school fucked me in so many ways, I wished they would have at least taken me out to dinner first. Needless to say, I got my film made-- and met my future star and producer ACE MARRERO!

My good buddy, Ben Watts the killer clown killing my other good buddy, Anthony.
My lead actors.. including my good friend Banks Boutte!
Daniel Dunn on the set of Clown Town
What's a good horror film without stoners in a hippie van?
We shot the entire film in this tiny ass room.. it's amazing what we did with it.
Directing pick-up shots

Here's the trailer for CLOWN TOWN





Finished film can be viewed here: CLOWN TOWN

Drunk Dialing was a bit of a different story. We shot the entire film for less than $1000 and over the course of about 5 days as well. We shot in a bar in LA, the bathroom at the film school -- no one knew we were there, which would mark the beginning of my fuck permit style of filmmaking -- and then at our DP/Editors apartment. Everyone in the film is a film student, friend except for the three girls. It was a crazy time and a lot of fun. I think we ended up getting drunk soon after the shoot.

Drunk Dialing can be viewed here: DRUNK DIALING

Valentine was something Zach had been talking to me about but we didn't make it official until a couple of days before filming. I didn't know what to expect when I showed up on set and when the mic wouldn't work (notice the shitty sound), I knew it was gonna be a bit of a task to make the film good-- but I think for $50 and shot in 4 hours, we made a pretty funny little movie. It's one that's gotten a lot of laughs and quotable moments over the years.

Full Valentine short can be viewed here: VALENTINE

Throughout most of my time in film school I was always telling people about how I was going to make a movie in Arkansas-- I was always saying "I'm gonna go back to Arkansas and make a horror film!". I don't know if anyone ever believed me.. but I was always preaching about how I was going to do it and try to include as many people in the process as I could. When graduation rolled around, I graduated as the only person in my class to direct 3 thesis films-- which wasn't saying much, but I was proud nonetheless. Having my family (and my girlfriends family) there to support me meant the world. One of my mother's proudest moments that she loves to recall is being in the Women's restroom at intermission and over hearing someone's parents saying how professional looking the "Clown Movie" was and how much they enjoyed it. At that stage, I'd take any compliment I could get.

The day of graduation

It was the first time my films had been shown on the big screen in front of an actual audience. It was scary and exciting all at the same time. I'll never forget the feeling when the title of my film popped up and the music started in the dark theater.. I froze and everyone was instantly in the middle of my story and laughing and gasping-- even though the movie is far from great, people took it for what it was.. a schlocky film student's attempt at a campy horror film. I was fine with that. Drunk Dialing and Valentine played to a lot of laughs, which made me and the writers quite happy. After the screening we went to grab refreshments with our folks, where I met most of my peers families and that night we grabbed drinks at our favorite local bar to make it official. In June 2008, I was a graduate of the LA Film School.

Sara and I at graduation
Matt and I at graduation
The guys
It meant the world to have my family there
I won't go too much into what happened after film school, because most of you have heard it or can find it spread out over these blogs-- but it took me a while to get my sea legs under me and find my path. It was over a year before I would shoot my first feature, Hostile Encounter. But until this day, I am proud that I kept my promise.. I shot a feature film in Arkansas. With my buddies Nick, Daniel, Levi and Ace. Jon edited the movie  and whether or not it was a "horror film" is questionable, but I did shoot a movie.. and then after that came Madison County. So from Clown Town to Madison County, I had maybe been behind a camera about 4-5 times before I took on my first feature. And in the last 4 years, I've directed 3 feature films. Hostile Encounter, Madison County and Roadside. And when I think about that.. I'm proud.

Directing Hostile Encounter
Directing the Madison County promo trailer (notice the director hands again)
Directing Madison County
With Ace and Daniel after wrapping the last night of Roadside

4 years ago today was the start of a crazy ride.. but it's a ride that I'm glad to be on and I hope never ever stops.

-EE