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Blog Posts

Surviving Cinema: 'A Blast From My Past'

I am currently holding top-secret negotiations with a distributor about not only releasing Ratline, but also distributing the entire Wicked Pixel Cinema line, including my older titles, Savage Harvest, Ice From The Sun, and Scrapbook, plus a big two-disc re-release of Deadwood Park, which will include its feature length behind-the-scenes documentary and a collection of other bonus features that have not yet seen the light of day.

When Deadwood Park was first released back in 2007, a very impressive two-disc collectors edition DVD was planned.  However, communication problems between us, the sales agent, and the distributor ruined that plan and a very scaled-back single-disc release went out instead.  My top-secret negotiations with this new distributor may provide us the opportunity to finally release all the cool stuff we wanted to include with Deadwood Park, so I'm excited about this potential deal.

This distribution deal would also include two new movies that have not yet been completed: Five is directed by Jessie Seitz (co-story writer on Deadwood Park and an executive producer on Ratline) and the movie stars Jim VanBebber (Deadbeat At Dawn, The Manson Family).  I am the film's executive producer, one of the editors, and I play a small acting role in the flick.  The second of these two new films is a small top-secret side project we've been chipping away at, off and on (mostly off) for a few years.

This new distribution deal is far from being set in stone.  This is just the negotiation phase, and while I am excited about the possibilities, I know the deal may still change drastically, or not even happen at all.

While typing up an overview of this plan for the distributor, I had to reach back into my past to hype my older titles, starting with Savage Harvest, which I made when I was 21 years old (I am 39, as of last month). 

My most vivid memories of shooting Savage Harvest center on my poorly planned shooting schedule.  My youthful ineptitude at the time in scheduling a film shoot resulted in us being overworked and dangerously sleep deprived.  18 to 20 hour shooting days were the norm, often with only 4 or 5 hours turnaround time (the time between wrap of one day and the start of shooting the next day).  Also, at the start of the shoot, we were all battling off heat stroke at the peak of a broiling and muggy Missouri summer - and at the end of the shooting schedule (39 days spread out over several months), we were freezing our asses off in the painful cold.  That shoot beat the hell out of me, my cast, and my crew.  Still, even at that young age, and even while dealing with all the hardships, I took time to pause and appreciate what we were doing - pulling together and working as a team to accomplish something that was difficult.

Call it achievement, education, time wasted, or anything you want - but as I was typing up my overview for the distributor, I was stunned when I stopped to consider just how much I've experienced, doing what I do.

My 20's and 30's saw me write and direct seven features, produce more than I can remember right now, act in a handful of features, and produce, shoot, edit, and/or direct a dozen or so shorts - all of which can be found out there in the world on DVD.  Add to this the fact that I was a special effects artist on a western called Defiance, shot back around the turn o' the century, and I've simply pitched in and helped as a grip, sound recordist, etc. on a smattering of other indie shorts and features over the past two decades.  Most recently, last year, I was in upstate New York directing second unit on Stake Land, shooting a documentary on the making of that movie, and even providing a voice over performance to that film.

Before Savage Harvest, my first professional filmmaking experience, I'd been toiling away on a small stack of student shorts, shot during my high school years, plus a student feature I wrote, produced, and directed my senior year when I was 18 years old, and another feature I made in college.  (Both of these student features later saw home video distribution around the world - embarrassing, as they both really sucked.  Recently, I was in a video store in Austin, Texas and there on the shelf was one of these student films of mine.  I wanted to steal the tape so I could burn it.)

I've spent the vast majority of my life on a film set, writing, or enveloped in post-production.  At an age when most people want to settle into a steady, comfortable office job, I’m still battling location, budget, and scheduling problems while outside shooting in the freezing cold and sleet at three o'clock in the morning. 

It feels weird, thinking back over the many years, because there just aren't many people who live such a life.  Not that mine is over - I'm just gettin' started.  And not that it's been a joy ride.  It has, in fact, been more uphill battle than satisfying reward.  Most importantly, it's been strange, fascinating, scarring, and beautiful life experience.

Thanks for reading.

-Eric Stanze