THE GEEKS SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH: A TRIP TO CINEMA WASTELAND

Every time I think of this show, The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” starts playing in my head. Endlessly.

This is the show I’d previously reported as “being at war” with Frightvision. As I’ve come to discover, however, that’s not quite the case. Cinema Wasteland, held outside of Cleveland twice a year, is actually a fun, entertaining show, packed to the gills and run extraordinarily well by promoters Ken and Pam Kish. Things are constantly moving—panels, screenings, informal talks—that, as Ken told us, “I don’t have the time to sabotage another show, even if I wanted to.”

So much for the “war”.

Either way, Frightvision is gone and Cinema Wasteland remains. Amy and I decided at the last minute to set up at the April Wasteland, after having been befriended by Ken Kish during our “Creepshow” debacle. (Long story short: we got involved in a show that didn’t happen. We gave it our best shot after the original promoter took ill and left it in our hands, but there were too many obstacles in our path. Ken was supportive of our efforts the entire time we suffered under this show and we can’t thank him enough for that.) We have a lot of friends who both set up and attend this show religiously and we felt it was the best show to do to ease back into the convention season.

As I mentioned, we’d squeaked in at the very last minute, but despite that there was no time to promote Amy’s appearance at the show, within an hour after the doors opened on Friday, Amy had a good-sized line forming in front of our table and the dealer’s room was pretty well packed. It was an excellent indication of things to come.

Fridays are usually easy con days. They’re busy, but not overwhelming, and contain a nice, excitable buzz that usually grows to epic proportions on Saturday. As this was the first show of the season (for us, anyway), we spent most of the time catching up with friends like Reggie Bannister (“Phantasm”), Tom Sullivan (“The Evil Dead”), Art and Alana from Ultra-Violent Magazine, Michael Felsher (“THE Ultimate Film Fanatic”), Michael Gingold from Fangoria, Pam Fugate from Hell’s Orphans, Damien and Ed of “Living Dead Dolls” fame, and a slew of our buddies from over at the B-Headed.com message boards (I love this industry; where you only know people by their screen names—hanging with “Necrophagia”, “Thoracic Disruptor” and “Edfantom”). Other headliners included the great Robert Quarry (“Count Yorga, Vampire”), Sybil Danning (“V: The Series”), Terry Lofton (“Nail Gun Massacre”) and ‘Jason’ himself, Kane Hodder.

Our big draw for this show was the premiere of the official Severe Injuries DVD. I don’t know about the rest of you indie guys out there, but I felt like a real filmmaker for the first time when I opened my first case of these babies and saw them all shrink-wrapped with “Security Device Enclosed” stickers slapped on ‘em. Friday was a pretty good day for us—better than we’d anticipated, which we felt bode well for Saturday.

So Saturday arrived and we got up early to get breakfast before the doors opened at 10am. We stepped into the parking lot and were greeted with two inches of slushy, wet, nasty snow. Then the wind whipped us back into the lobby.

Yay. Spring on the East Coast. Thank you, Lake Erie. Great Lake, indeed.

Some of the vendors and guests began grumbling, muttering “bad omen” and other such vendor-y superstitions. And the weather kept getting worse. The highways were covered by the time the doors had opened. Snow was coming down harder and harder, mixed with hail by noon.

But it didn’t seem to affect the crowds. Those with pre-sold three-day passes sallied forth and made it in, money in pocket, ready to spend. And there was still a steady influx of walk-ins the entire day, despite the horrific outside conditions. This is evidence of either the rabid nature of fans, or what a great show Cinema Wasteland is.

Around mid-afternoon, the snow was still not stopping, but neither was the crowd. Tim Gross, one of my producers and co-stars of “Severe Injuries” made it in around mid-afternoon and began to immediately hawk our wares. In all seriousness, this has to be witnessed to get the full effect of Tim’s carny skills (rivaling those of madman Henrique Couto (“Faces of Schlock”). His method of selling is somewhere between P.T. Barnum and Bugsy Siegel. It’s truly inspiring.

At one point, Tim took a break and vanished for a couple of hours. Then, suddenly, he reappeared at the table. “Terry Lofton wants to meet you,” he said.

“Terry Lofton wants to meet me?”

“Yeah, I told him about The Resurrection Game, and he was impressed that you shot it on film.”

Which turned out to be true. That Tim had spent a good hour talking to Terry Lofton did not surprise me. Tim is a huge “Nail Gun Massacre” fan. That Terry Lofton wanted to meet me solely because I had shot a movie on film was a bit of a shock. But he did, so I went over and we hung out for about forty-five minutes, discussing the brutality of the business, film vs. video, and, oddly, the weather. We exchanged movies and have actually kept in touch these last few weeks.

Which goes to prove something I learned just a week later. Amy and I met up with Scooter McCrae and Michael Gingold in New York to attend the World Horror Convention. The WHC is held primarily for and by horror authors and the publishing industry. Held annually in a different location, it attracts magazine and book publishers, authors and editors, and a few media celebrities. This year, the guests of honor were Harlan Ellison, Amber Benson, Joe Lansdale and Mick Garris. As Ellison is one of my heroes, and Benson is one of our friends, we made a point to drive up and attend.

Author shows are much different from media shows like Wasteland or Chiller. For one thing, most authors are not accustomed to “hanging out” with the public. Writing is a solitary gig, for the most part, so a lot of authors suffer from social anxiety. As a result, there isn’t a lot of friendly banter. In fact, Scooter, Amy and I spent a good deal of time in the hotel bar, swilling ridiculously over-priced drinks (you’d have thought we were buying glasses of gasoline for what we ended up paying!) right next to people I’d known more or less professionally over the years, but their group just wasn’t ready to mix with ours. We weren’t getting “standoffishness” from them, just a sense of unease. It isn’t quite as bad as Scooter’s experience with groups of authors—when he confessed to being a filmmaker at a past event, he was suddenly met with the backs of the folks he’d been talking to. The WHC wasn’t this extreme, but it was noticeable.

At media shows, at any given moment in time, you’re right up against someone you’ve either watched on television, seen in movies, or read about in magazines. Nine times out of ten, they’re treating you like they would their neighbor or new acquaintance. But media folk are used to being in the public eye, shaking the public hand (as ill-advised as that can be). Barriers are usually down at shows like this. As long as you’re not some Lovecraftian horror of a fanboy oozing up to drool “I’m your biggest fan,” you’ll probably get along fine with just about anyone at these things.

All in all, while nothing grand and spectacular happened, it was a really great weekend. My highlights, apart from getting drunk with Joe Knetter and his crew, and talking shop with Mark Redfield (“Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde”), was discovering that people actually read my work! Tom Sullivan and Pat Reese both mentioned that they’d read my coverage of last year’s Frightvision show and deemed it a fair and honest report. Then Chris Seaver and his Low Budget Pictures crew thanked me for the positive review of Mulva 2, seen here on these very pages. So, it was very nice to discover that I’m not just out here writing for myself!

So there you have it. Cinema Wasteland: recommended. There’s one in October, too!

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Mike Watt attempts to explore all the things that make Geek culture great, as well as pointing out all the things that make Geeks genetically superior to all other humans. During the course of this exploration, he may undoubtedly have to reveal horrid truths about Hollywood and Mainstream Cinema, as they compare to the riches of independent filmmaking. Ultimately, he hopes to bring higher awareness of and respect to Geek Culture, as well as secure a hefty book deal and the accolades of his (richer) peers. Feel free to lavish him with affection (or bitch at him) at hollywoodisburning@hotmail.com.

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Posted on April 27, 2005 in Features by
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