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.

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