5/28/2016-On this hot and humid day was the SRS Fest with the CNY premiere of three horror films that were made, in part or in full, in CNY. They were “Empire State of the Dead,” “She KIlls” and “Night of Something Strange” (NoSS). They started at 1 PM, 3 PM and 5 PM respectively. Me & Le Deb arrived early enough to get our DVDs / blu-rays of Empire and She Kills (sadly, NoSS wasn’t available at this time) which came with bonus posters. I’m gonna need a bigger place at this rate 🙂
“Empire State of the Dead”-This was the culmination of the winners of a zombie short film contest Ron Bonk ran in 2014. Here’s a list of the ones that made it to this film…
-“Blessed Are The Meek”-(Mad Angel Films)-Matthew A. Peters
-“Fresh Meat”-Chad Foster / Jamie Storrs
-“Necropath”- (Cayo Industrial Horror Films)-Joshua Reale
-“Occupied”-(Torchman Films)-Geoff Orlowski
-“Revenant”-David Royal / Andrew Peters
-“What’s The Matter With Allison?”-Alex Bell
-“Zombie Hipsters From Upstate”-(Upstate Down Productions)-Stephen Long
With this was a wrap-around story that Ron filmed to help tie them all together. In “Blessed Are The Meek” (played during Ch. 5 “Prey of the Living Dead”) I played the role of Draven-a Joker-like character who leads a group of killers. We (Ryan Santiago and Greta Volkova ) all wear variations of skull makeup (done by Melody Wilkinson). There were some cuts in this one. Not from Ron, but from the original due to the time restraints via the contest rules so, sadly, a few gems (IMO) got cut (one with me with me doing something “interesting” with the telescope immediately comes to mind). 🙂
I have to admit to having a lot of fun with the Draven character. In fact, I’d say that, currently, he’s one of the best roles I’ve done. As in many MAF productions, Matt allows me to modify my dialogue and I did just that -along with improvising stuff on the spot during filming. I remember Steven Handzel-who was the co-writer of the original script (entitled “Zombie Horde”-which I changed to “Blessed Are The Meek”) saying a few times “Where is this / that in the script? 🙂
(Matt forgot to send him a copy with my revisions). They all went along though-even during some tough parts (like what I end up doing to Cassandra Hayes-all pretty much made up on the spot-plus I accidentally did land a back swing to her face while filming. Glancing blow but still…). It was rough at times, but we all got thru it and put in some great stuff. And , if I may…One of the reasons I came up with making Draven “Joker-like” as well as having the gang wear skull makeup was due to one of the rules of the contest-which was no one actor could be in a staring role in more than one short film. Both Matt and film producer Brian Hewitt had gone after me as soon as the contest was announced and I wanted to do both so I came up with the way I’d portray both Draven and “Knife” in both films. Both producers allowed me to do this and “Knife” is also currently one of my favorite roles. Sadly, Brian’s wasn’t finished by the due date so it didn’t make the cut (I played a stereotypical (albeit kinda large) nerd in that one). The goal was to make the two roles polar opposites of each other and it would’ve been interesting to see if I could’ve pulled it off in the same film. However, Brian’s short film, called “Locked In” was released online and can be seen via this link so for those who have seen Empire (or even not), check it out and see if I was able to do it or fell flat on my face 🙂
The other short films were great too, as was the wrap around story. It’s always cool to see your fellow actors pull off great stuff. Plus I learned a few things. I now know what a big Rocky fan Jonathan Straiton is for example.:)
It was great to finally see this film in full and hope it does well in sales and whatever festivals it’s submitted to. I have to admit I would love to play Draven again at some point-I guess that depends on who owns the role (Ron or Matt) and how well the role goes over. I did get some nice compliments at this screening about Draven so…you never know 🙂
“She Kills” was on next. I’d seen an advanced screening of this previously. It seemed like there were a few edits made between then and now. I specifically noticed that my quick cameo wasn’t so “minute” anymore 🙂 I have jokingly said that, if I ever get on a national late night TV show and I’m being interviewed, there will be a situation where it will be like “Remember when you did this?” and this clip will be shown (HA!). The movie is still as warped and wacky as I remember it. One thing to note while watching this movie-it’s a tribute to the grind house / exploitation films from the 70’s. Back then, they didn’t have the means of making films like they do now-either financially (whereas now the “common man” can do it) or via technology . Back then, you couldn’t do take after take-it cost too much. Sometimes you could only do one take and if there were continuity errors and / or mistakes, many times they were left in. That’s part of the genre’s charm-which is different than a regular movie having the same problems. So She Kills is an ode to all that and yes, there’s stuff like that in this film. It has a pretty twisted sense of humor to it. This was originally conceived to be a twin movie set with NoSS and there are tie ins-besides the use of several of the same actors (in all three films actually). There’s some great acting in this one-and a lot of brave stuff. Just watching this, I know that a number of actors who didn’t end up in the cast would read the script and say, “No-I’m not doing that!” 🙂
A little BTS stuff on this one. During the initial casting auditions, both Jonathan and Ron had asked if I could audition for the role of “Blue.” I wasn’t able to due to doing some filming during the same time with Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II. Having seen David Royal’s performance as Blue, there’s no way I could have matched that-he had that role down. I still got in though so it all worked out… I guess my title “The Saltine Warrior” was given to me cause, during the filming of NoSS, half the time I was eating saltine crackers (in an effort to spread out the money I got for food) so… Another great job by all those involved in this and it’s already getting a lot of great reviews which can be seen via the She Kills FB page and or on SRS Cinema LLC’s pages.
-Then came NoSS. Out of all the films, this is the one I was waiting for the most. Mainly cause all I’d seen were the teaser and trailer for it. Also, filming for this was done in 2011 / 2012 so that’s a long wait. It was worth it though. NoSS isn’t available via online streaming or DVD / blu-ray, but is currently hitting the festival circuit and doing very well-it’s already won four awards. Some of the reviews have been awesome as well. I heard that, at the Phoenix Film Festival, the first night half the people walked out cause they were so disgusted by it, but the second night was a packed house (NoSS also won the best horror film award there). NoSS also has a pretty twisted sense of humor to it, but it’s done more as an ode to 80’s horror films as well as films like “Evil Dead II.” I’ve always said I have a strange detachment while watching myself onscreen, but it was really apparent here. I was watching not only myself from 4-5 years ago, but also many of the scenes where I was around even if not on screen and seeing it all finally put together. In addition, 2011 was actually my first year of me being serious as an actor so I was, in a way, in a different mindset than I am now in 2016. It was awesome and I definitely need to watch this at least 20 more times when I finally get my copy of it. (I always watch my performances multiple times when I get my copy, basically, to critique my performance and to see what I could’ve done to improve on it…as well as ego gratification of course (I am, after all, my biggest fan) 🙂 NoSS is still currently the hardest film I’ve ever worked on-it was hard on everyone, but the results were worth it and it showed on screen. I have to admit there were a few times I watched myself doing something on screen and was like, “I really did that?” 🙂 Le Deb even asked me that about something I did onscreen. so…:)
Great, great job to all involved in this and I can’t wait to see the reactions / reviews of this as the NoSS virus spreads out further.
This was also my first time being one of the people who went up after the movie to talk about the film and take questions from the audience. NoSS was the one that got the most questions and I did manage to get some video footage of it, but it’s a little choppy. Hopefully I can salvage it and get something online soon. I did get some pics and they can be seen on my Acting page on Facebook via this link
Sadly, due to the heat / humidity as well as it being Memorial Day weekend, the amount of people per showing became less and less. I’m not 100% sure, but I think Ron plans on having this triple feature again during this year’s Scare-A-Con in Syracuse, NY towards the end of September 2016 so if you missed this one and / or weren’t able to see all three movies, here’s your chance to do so. Great job by all involved! Here’s some links to check out for more info on these films.