Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reel Fear: Shades of blood on a budget

Fans and a handful of aspiring filmmakers turned out to get insider information from local horror filmmakers John Sinno, producer of ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction (not to be confused with the comic book), and Dan Gildark, producer/director of Cthulhu, at Reel Fear the latest installment of EMP|SFM's Exposed: Inside Film series.

Wanna tell stories on film? If you're on a budget (tens of thousands not millions to spend), consider making horror. Big name actors and their accoutrements aren't required to draw audiences to a horror, said Sinno.

Still, horror filmmaking is no easy shakes. Sinno and Gildark discussed location scouting, production design, soundtrack composition, and creating mechanical and 2-D special effects. Then comes post-production, layering in 3-D effects and fine-tuning the film.

The ZMD team spent two months on color correction to get the blood just right. There's a big difference between comedic blood, the shade they were going for in ZMD, and the dark red, color of the truly scary kind. And there's lots of blood in ZMD. Director Kevin Hamedani likes gore, Sinno said.

A short clip of Cthulhu showed off artful sound design with dripping, echoing, and splashing water layered over roaring ocean and fading into tortured, amplified screaming.

To keep a film within budget, and still realize the director's vision, a producer needs to be creative. Sinno trashed a city street with items rented from Goodwill and asked a passing cop to lend flashing reds to a chaotic zombie scene. Gildark called in a few favors from a friend with a helicopter and used some footage from the WTO riots in Seattle to convey a worldwide scene of madness and mayhem.

Once a film is done, it's time to hit the film festival circuit, get an agent, and get the legal department involved before striking a deal with a distributor. What about having a good idea, writing a script and casting? That goes without saying.

ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction shows at the Seattle International Film Festival:
9:15 p.m., June 2 at the SIFF Cinema and 10 p.m., June 4 at the Kirkland Performance Center. Cthulhu is out on DVD. New filmmakers, be sure to check out the commentary, Gildark said he shares tips. Both films employed lots of local talent. If this includes you, let us know. Where do we look for your work? How fun was it to work on ZMD or Cthulhu? ZMD was filmed in Port Gamble and Northwesterners will recognize Astoria, Ore. in Cthulhu.

Both producers said their films were inspired by the political times. If zombies and Cthulhu were our turn of the millennium metaphors, which monsters will stalk us in the next decade?

Upcoming at EMP|SFM in the Exposed: Inside Film series:
The Dark Crystal screening hosted by EMP|SFM's Brooks Peck, 7 p.m., Tues., June 16.
Labyrinth screening with puppeteer and animator, Karen Prell, 7 p.m., Tues., July 21.
The series takes place in the JBL Theater, 325 5th Avenue North, Seattle. Free to EMP|SFM members or $5 for the public. Call 206.770.2702 or 1.877.EMP.SFM1.

More news for filmmakers: Early submissions for the Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival 2010 are due June 30. The final submission deadline is August 15. The festival takes place January 30.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

UW Jacobsen Observatory: May 20 UW Astronomy "Searching for Earths" Lecture

This notice presented on behalf of the University of Washington Department of Astronomy:

"Searching for Earths"
Dr. Debra Fischer, San Francisco State University
Wednesday, May 20
Architecture 147 -,66,533,559
7-8pm *No tickets required, first-come, first-served seating*

Science fiction writers often depict the billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy as homes for other Earths; so-called M-class planets where life abounds. The science is now catching up to the fiction as more than 300 planets have been discovered orbiting other stars in the past decade. The most surprising attribute of detected planets is their diversity, and we have yet to find anything that reminds us of home. However, humanity is taking the first steps into the solar system and beyond with the goal of detecting thousands of New Worlds. This talk will focus on the types of planets that have been found so far, with an eye toward understanding how our solar system compares. We will also discuss the conditions that are important for life as we know it and our future plans to one day obtain a picture of a pale blue dot orbiting a nearby star.

Join us this Wednesday, May 20 in Architecture 147 at 7pm for a lecture by Dr. Debra Fischer entitled "Searching for Earths". Dr. Fischer is a professor at San Francisco State University and is a leader in the field of searching for extra-solar planets. She is the principal investigator for research projects such as The Lick Planet Search program, and several Keck Observatory programs to detect Hot Jupiters and short-period Neptunes.

A poster is attached for distribution.

To request disability accommodation, contact the Disability Services Office at 206.543.6450 (voice), 206.543.6452 (TTY), 206.685.7264 (FAX), or

Sarah Garner

University of Washington
Department of Astronomy
Physics/Astronomy C-319 Phone: 206-543-2888
Box 351580
Seattle, WA 98195

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Review: readings at Wayward Coffeehouse

Good news, there will be more sci-fi/fantasy readings at Wayward Coffeehouse, 570 Greenwood Ave. N, Seattle.

On May 16, local authors Kij Johnson, Tim McDaniel and Lancer Kind got this new reading series off to a fantastic start. In two hours and six stories, invoking horror, humor, and longing, they managed to pack in robots, mad scientists, mind control, and time machines (McDaniel hit all this in one story forthcoming in Asimov's) as well as unicorns, alien sex, pegasi, spacemen, a post-apocalyptic underwater version of The Dukes of Hazard (Kind warmed the audience up for this rebel yell of a story by playing the show's theme song), and "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" (Johnson's story published in Asimov's, July 2008, and a finalist for this year's Nebula and Hugo awards). Nothing was lacking, and there were door prizes.

The reading set a fierce pace. Look for the series to continue on the third Saturday of the month throughout the summer and to
feature favorites, forthcoming stories and new works. It's always fun to hear authors read their own works and get a glimpse into the writing process. Johnson shared a work in progress, "Pretty Ponies," her first horror story in some years. The tale of childhood cruelty was in solid gasp-cringe-shudder territory, but Johnson says she may make the knife cut even deeper by the time she's done. Ouch!

The next Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Reading at Wayward Coffeehouse will feature Louise Marley. Future events may include Cat Rambo and Brenda Cooper.

Wayward Coffeehouse, "Home of the Seattle Browncoats and Haven for sci-fi geeks of any fandom," is a spacious, comfy venue with lots of geek cred on display. Wayward hosts First Friday Sci-fi Film Nights and live music. Check out the upcoming calendar. It's the place to get a tasty Inara Ploughman sandwich (thick bread, tomato, and avocado spread) and a cup of Mudder's Milk (wasabi mocha).

Speaking of Firefly, the next Can't Stop the Serenity event will be 5 p.m., Sat., July 18 at the Museum of History and Industry in McCurdy Park, 2700 24th Ave. E, Seattle. A party follows a showing of Serenity to benefit Equality Now, which works to end violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world. Get tickets at

Friday, May 15, 2009

Last weekend for Star Trek at IMAX Theater

Sounds like this one's worth a go on the big, big screen. J.J. Abrams' Star Trek shows at Pacific Science Center's Boeing IMAX Theater through Thurs., May 21. Both early birds and night owls are covered. This weekend, the first show is at 10:15 a.m. and the last movie starts one minute before midnight. Or see it at: 1 p.m., 3:45 p.m, 6:30 p.m., or 9 p.m.

Weekday May 18-21 shows are at: 2:15 p.m., 5 p.m., 7:45 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Tickets are $12 for adults.

There's an educational discussion about the fact that "special engagement" films like Star Trek that get shown at IMAX Theaters are not actually filmed on IMAX film and what that all means to the viewing experience going on at BoingBoing. Fascinating. To summarize, it's not the same picture quality as a trademarked IMAX film, but still plenty big and definitely loud in the IMAX Theater.

OK, who thinks they've seen this latest Star Trek incarnation the most times and where did you see it?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Creative fires: Music, comics, musi-comics

Whatever the morning news says, it is not the apocalypse as Northwest people continue to create stuff of interest to science affictionadoes.

Look for
Aether Shanties, a fourth album with 12 songs, out from steampunk band Abney Park this summer. This follows Lost Horizons: The Continuing Adventures of Abney Park released last year. Captain Robert says we can preview many of the new songs as performed at live shows on YouTube. Here's "My Life" and "Until the Day I Die." Abney Park performs Fri., May 22 at Heaven in Seattle (tickets here) and returns to the Northwest for Conflux-NW Dark Arts Festival Sept. 25 in Portland and Seattle Steamcon Oct. 23-25.

Writers Eric Singletary and Nate Murphy and artist Ryan Hobson released the first issue of their comic The Two Percent Solution and had the presence of mind to hand it over to Tony DiGerolamo at WonderCon in San Francisco. Tony gave it a mention in issue #150 of Knights of the Dinner Table magazine. In
The Two Percent Solution, two heroes set out from beneath the flaming Space Needle in a post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest in search of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (maybe we should all geocache this location — our real life doomsday solution). The comic may have a Y: The Last Man vibe (among the creators' favorites). It's for sale print-on-demand at IndyPlanet. Follow on Twitter @two_percent.

Donna Barr, Timothy Wagner and Aaron Paul Low turned Barr's the
Desert Peach comic into The Desert Peach Musical and now they are at it again. Trippin' The Light Fantastic tells the story of two couples (one straight and one gay) and their psychic friend. A magical crystal interferes wrecking havoc with body-switching hi-jinks so that, "Everyone gets a chance to explore what it means to be straight, gay, male, female, or psychic. And in the end, lives will have been changed forever." What does this all sound like? Listen to the musical. Like the making of a good comic?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Zombie hordes in the Northwest

A friend, who recently moved from Jersey to the Seattle area, expressed an interest in/weakness for zombie literature.

World War Z is a must-read!" he said, and then got treated to a barrage of zombie-related Northwest intel. News of:

--zombie burlesque, wet slime (is there any other kind?) T-shirt contests, and zombie walks.

--Plants vs. Zombies, the game out for Mac and PC today from Seattle's PopCap Games with its infectious music video
(also in Japanese! Learn to say, "Zombie" in Nihon).

--ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction, the movie, and the upcoming screening and discussion with Seattle filmmakers John Sinno and Kevin Hamedani at the next Exposed: Inside Film feature 7 p.m., Tues., May 19 at the Science Fiction Museum. See the earlier post: Bloody scary: zombies and Cthulu.

--Crypticon, the horror convention promising monster mayhem, June 5-7 at Seattle Center.
Surely, there will be zombies.

--The Fremont Outdoor Cinema Best of Zombie Movies night with Shaun of the Dead (and possibly White Zombie), 6 p.m., July 3, 3400 Phinney Avenue North. Twitterati follow @outdoormovies. There will definitely be zombies!

--NightZero, a Seattle-based zombie-themed, post-viral outbreak apocalypse, Web comic. Read the production team's blog, Journal Zero. And just to tie all this together: Night Zero will be
at Crypticon June 7 and shooting a zombie short at zombie movie night July 3 (the short will be aired at Twisted Flick Night, Army of Darkness, Sat., July 18).

"Wow!" my new to the Northwest friend said, "I feel like I've arrived in zombie-mecca-heaven-ultra-fantastic-land!"

Or maybe he just gave me a dazed, weirded-out, whatever look. Either way, the Northwest's got lots of zombies! Probably because we've got lots of brains and them's good eatin'.

Also worth discussing, Seth Grahame-Smith's infestation of Jane Austen,
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the eternal question: Zombie sharks, redundant or extra scary?