With the rise in popularity (and drop in price) of digital video equipment and technology, it’s become easier than ever for aspiring filmmakers to shoot their own movie. This has, of course, led to a market flooded with backyard gorefests. It’s tough to stay on top of them and harder still to ferret out the good from the bad. “I always say the good thing about video is that anyone can make a movie and the terrible thing about video is that anyone can make a movie. I was just reflecting on this recently. Back in the days when things were shot on Super-8, even making a feature on Super-8 took a lot of effort. You have to put a lot of planning and ambition into it. And while there are certainly people who are doing that now, there are also people who are just sort of knocking stuff out on a camcorder and expecting it to compete in the professional film world. Which is, again, not to say that I haven’t seen some camcorder movies that are great. It’s just that there are so many movies flooding the market now, it’s getting harder to weed out the good stuff. Most of the people who are sending stuff to us—I think we get a bigger percentage of the good stuff. The people who send the movies to us are fans of the magazine and those are the ones who are really fans of the genre, and are less likely to be making just a knock-off film. Or something that will get them a little attention or money so they can move onto the next thing. I have seen quite a few good movies of that type that have come into the office. Every so often, when we have the space, we run “Notes from the Underground”, and we give these people a chance to talk about the films and the productions and how they surmounted the problems of making a low budget film, and the tricks they used to sort of maximize their budget and their resources.”
While the production end has gotten easier, the distribution part of filmmaking has conversely become more difficult in procuring. With the aforementioned flooded market, most reputable distributors are shying away from movies shot on digital video. Film is still the preferred medium—which seems hardly fair, but not exactly difficult to understand. Audiences, too, still seem to prefer film, even when they would be hard-pressed to tell the difference just by glancing at the television screen. Ask the random Blockbuster Video shopper, and chances are good that he will tell you that “professional” equals “film”.
“I think there are still people who are prejudiced towards stuff shot on video in general. They think it’s not as good as film, that it’s an amateurish thing. When I take a look at something, I look at how it was shot as a film. There are some people who can shoot (on video) the way that real movies are shot, with the same professional(-looking) camera angles, and sense of pacing and storytelling. I saw a really good movie called ‘Witchunter’. It was a very low-budget film, shot on video. But it’s got a great look to it. It’s very professionally made in terms of the pacing and the scenes and the shot selections and stuff. It’s put together a lot more professionally than a lot of independent movies that were shot on film with bigger budgets.”
Gingold continues, “Right around the time I started (at Fangoria) in 1990, Mark Pirro (“Curse of the Queerwolf”) was kind of the king of this sort of thing. He’d been doing these Super-8 features. He inspired me, and I actually shot a Super-8 feature many years back that has become mired in post-production blues. I haven’t had the money to pull together and get the post sound mix done, which is going to be a big expenditure. But I’ve been here at Fango since the whole shot-on-video thing has come of age, as it were. Some of the earlier ones, like J.R. Bookwalter’s early stuff, like Ozone—he was one of the first ones to really make kind of professional-looking features on video that looked and played like real movies. Even though they were shot on video for very little money. Scooter McCrae’s “Shatter Dead” is another one that was a really good movie. Then there was a lull for a while, but now it seems to have started up again with the camcorder revolution. So there’s both really good stuff and really bad stuff coming out of it. So, again, I don’t subscribe to the prejudice of ‘Oh, it’s shot on video so it must be lousy’. Take a look at the movie and see. Another one that I loved was Lucky. Again, shot with very limited means, a very limited budget, but had a damn good idea and a great execution. Another one called Savage Island that just came out. It has a really rough intentional shot-on-video look, but it’s also very intense and scary. So, yeah, there’s some really good stuff coming out on video. On balance, there’s at least as much, if not more, than what’s coming out of the Hollywood studios, as far as horror’s concerned. God knows I’ve seen enough hundred-and-fifty million dollar budget movies that are horrible. I’m more eager and interested in giving coverage to something like “Savage Island” than I am to something like “Van Helsing”.
“I think there’s a good number of good video horror films that have come out over the last few years that will stand the test of time. It’s just a matter of getting them seen. Back in the old days, these movies would play in drive-ins, and now they come out on video, and you don’t quite have that kind of communal sense of seeing them. You take them home and you watch it with some friends, or whatever. But word gets around and the internet has been very helpful also to help get the word spread on these things. Again, not only can anyone make a movie, but anyone can also set up a website to get publicity for it. And the independent horror community is generally very supportive of each other. You do get the inevitable conflicts between people, but for the most part, people are happy to put links to other people’s movies on their site. And I think that’s healthy. And while there are a lot of movies being made, and thus a lot that aren’t very good, the more the better, because there’s also a better chance, then, that there will be more that will be good.”
Get the rest of the interview in part three of MICHAEL GINGOLD AT HOME IN “THE TENEMENT”>>>
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