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Confessions of a Working Director - 5/6/2009


Eric Stanze's Report From Texas Frightmare Weekend.

Part 1 Of 2.

This past weekend, I was honored to be on the featured guest list at Texas Frightmare Weekend.

Thursday, April 30th, Midnight.  Wicked Pixel Cinema folks Bob Nealon, Jeremy Wallace, Jason Christ, Jim Wayer, and I left St. Louis in a van jam-packed with our convention display items and merchandise.  We hit the road for Dallas, Texas.  It rained and lightning-stormed most of the way down.  As we passed through Oklahoma, the weather went insane.  The rain pounded down, the wind pushed at the van, and those pesky flash flood warnings we'd heard about were evidenced by the several submerged streets we drove through.  Scary!  But did any of this stop us?  No.  We barely slowed down, 'cause we had Texas Frightmare Weekend to get to, dammit!

I drove through dawn, then we changed drivers and I tried to get some sleep, but it was difficult to do so.  We arrived in Dallas and I checked into our one hotel room.  (Jeremy paid for his own room.  The rest of us had to share.)  Emily Haack and two convention-helpers (taking a flight to Dallas) would be joining us - and staying in the same room.  Short on cash?  Just pile seven people into one hotel room.  No problem!

After the convention started Friday afternoon, I looked at the official schedule.  To my surprise, I saw that I was slated to do a Q'n'A on Sunday!  This being the first I'd heard of this, I was completely unprepared.  My team got a couple of the TX Frightmare staff to investigate what the topic of my Q'n'A was to be.  Eventually, we learned that they wanted me to talk about Ratline

Our Frightmare neighbor, doing business at the table right next to the Wicked Pixel Cinema table, was Emily Hagins, sixteen-year-old filmmaker.  By mid-day Saturday she had sold out of the gory zombie movie that she directed, Pathogen - produced when she was only twelve!

Emily had a constant crowd at her table and people seemed to be buying lots of her Pathogen t-shirts.  Emily's PR person (her mom) had evidently been doing her job very well.  I talked with Emily for a while and discovered that she is a very polite, quiet, and sweet person.  And the non-stop attention and media coverage she received all weekend apparently did nothing to inflate Emily's ego, as she never displayed a shred of rudeness, arrogance, or even exhaustion.  (Parents, see how great your kids will turn out if you let them explore their dark and morbid side?)

I wanted to buy a Pathogen DVD, but I was too late.  Emily was out of stock.  As soon as new DVDs are available, I'm gonna see her zombie flick.  Perhaps you should too - check it out here.

By the way, Emily is also working on a new movie called The Retelling.  And a documentary about Emily called Zombie Girl is making its rounds on the film festival circuit.  Not too shabby for a filmmaker only sixteen years old! 

One super-cool vendor at the convention was sculptor Barry Crawford, who sculpts and paints science-fiction and horror genre resin figures.  His work is amazing.  One of the figures he had on display in Dallas was of "Mark" from my own movie, Savage Harvest!  Pretty damn cool.

I met Barry at last year's Texas Frightmare Weekend, but I had a bit more time to talk to Barry on the convention floor this year.  He is an incredibly nice guy, in addition to being extremely talented.  Check out his work here.

After talking to Barry, I was informed that DeadPit Radio wanted to do an on-camera interview with me and my cast of Ratline.  We made arrangements to appear before the DeadPit lens so that Jason Christ, Emily Haack, Sarah Swofford, and I could be interrogated about our upcoming movie. is the first ever horror talk radio show on the internet.  If you have not put your ears on 'em yet, be sure to give them a listen soon.

Saturday night, there was a screening of Black Sunday with an intro by another guest at the convention, Barbara Steele (Black Sunday, The Pit and the Pendulum, Castle of Blood).  I think Barbara Steele is awesome, and Black Sunday is one of my favorite films of all time.  So I was pretty excited about seeing this screening and hearing Barbara speak.

Emily Haack and I went up to the club level to snag some eats before the screening of Black Sunday.  We sat down by some very interesting horror fans named Paul and Kay.  We found out by chatting with them that Kay is a policewoman who works a night beat in a dangerous area of a major city. 

And Paul put his life on the line for 25 years in the military before retiring last year.  It was an "eventful" 25 years, as indicated by the huge scar running all the way around the side of Paul's head.  Texas Frightmare Weekend '09 was this married couple's celebration of Paul's retirement from the military.

Paul is an enthusiastic fan of horror movies and movies in general.  He is a huge, muscular man who can fire many a deadly weapon with great accuracy... yet he is terrified of birds.  Thanks to Alfred Hitchcock.  Ah, the power of movies.

As Emily and I talked with Paul and Kay, and as they discovered who we were and what we did, Paul and Kay became fascinated by us and wanted to talk movie-making.  Emily and I tried to point out that Paul and Kay have extremely dangerous jobs that require them to risk their lives to protect others.  Making movies is completely trivial by comparison.  But Paul and Kay wanted to hear none of this from us.  Paul continued to tell us that he could never do what we do, and how impressed he is with us, and how much he wants us to see great success and reward for our efforts. 

Paul and Kay were fascinating people - and just as nice and humble as can be.  As the start time for our eagerly-anticipated Black Sunday screening crept up, Emily and I looked at each other and decided "fuck it - let's stay here."  We continued talking to Paul and Kay for another hour.

Horror movies are great.  But so are horror fans.  I've got Black Sunday on DVD at home, and I can watch it anytime.  However, meeting awesome horror fans like Paul and Kay is a rare treat.

More about Texas Frightmare Weekend in the next entry. 

Thanks for reading.

Eric Stanze