Dark Summer: Movie Review

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DARK SUMMER combines elements of films that have come before it but presents them in a way that gives us something new and completely original. Yes, this is a genre film but much like Paul Solet’s first film GRACE this is a shocking film that puts character and performance first.

Daniel Austin’s (Keir Gilchrist) obsessive online stalking of his classmate and crush, Mona Wilson (Grace Phipps), leads to his house arrest for the whole summer. Daniel is a modern technology obsessed teenager. So now he will spend his summer vacation with no cell phone, no Internet, no access to the world beyond his property, and, perhaps most devastating of all, no Mona.

02

As an adult, it’s easy to dismiss teenagers. We often forget the depth of emotion that we felt during this time in our lives. When you feel the loss of love for the first time it feels like it will never end. When you feel isolation or loneliness it feels like you are in solitary confinement. This is mostly because you are feeling these things for the first time; you don’t have the emotional scars that help you through. As adults we are psychologically callused and have been kicked around enough to know that heart ache and rejection pass. We shouldn’t look down on our former selves for feelings things so purely; in fact on some level we should aspire to be that raw. DARK SUMMER never looks down on its characters; in fact it reminds a cynical jerk like me to listen to my son when he enters this phase of his life and not be dismissive.
03
This is a deliberately paced and at times quiet film that slowly reveals itself as the tension builds to the eventual cacophony of the third act. While this film is scary and creepy as hell it would have completely fallen apart if not for the outstanding performances by this young cast. Stella Maeve and Keir Gilchrist are actors to keep on your radar. Trust me, they are the real deal.
04
I’m intentionally being vague about anything past the first act of this film. It takes several turns and even knowing the specific genres that it’s playing with is a bit too much of a spoiler for my taste. Yes, this is a horror film playing with the REAR WINDOW template. But unlike DISTURBIA this is an original take on that idea and, more importantly, it’s actually good. I was a huge fan of Solet’s film GRACE, and fans of that film should definitely give this one a shot.On Jan 9th, DARK SUMMER will be available in NY theatres and on VOD. Then on Jan. 23rd, the film expands to L.A. theatres.

The Guest Review

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2014

Directed By Adam Wingard

Starring Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe & Sheila Kelly

David (Stevens) is the kind of guy you want to have over for dinner. He is kind and cordial when he shows up on the doorstep of the Peterson family, claims to be a dear friend to their son who died in combat and they welcome him with open arms. This stranger is allowed to stay in their home and become a part of their lives. Shortly after his arrival people begin to die and Anna (Monroe) wonders if there is more to David than he lets on.

A soldier on leave befriends the family of a fallen comrade, only to become a threat to all around him when it’s revealed he’s hiding dangerous secrets from his past.

Adam Wingard – the director behind You’re Next and the “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” segment of V/H/S 2 – certainly knows how to build tension and create an unsettling atmosphere. All of his films are situated in a hyper reality that is very similar to our world, but everything is just slightly off. The rules and physics of his worlds are similar enough to our reality that you are pulled in but you are never allowed to feel comfortable.

Featuring music from Clan of Xymox and Sisters of Mercy, the score and soundtrack give the film a driving synth rhythm that feels like something from 70s or 80s John Carpenter, with a healthy dose of Goblin thrown in for good measure.

Dan Stevens gives a stunning performance as David. He had to be both charming and intimidating and that’s a difficult tightrope to walk. If you lean to far to either side, the character would have been unbelievable. Stevens has the physical presence to intimidate most but he has that boy-next-door charm that would allow you to throw him the keys to your new car without thinking twice about it. We as the audience all know that David is not to be trusted, and that’s where Anna steps in. She is our voice. She is the one person who smells bullshit, and Maika does a great job in this role. She brings a surprising amount of humor to this otherwise bleak tale. She is our voice and our relief.

The film is clearly an indictment on what president Dwight Eisenhower referred to as the Military Industrial Complex but nothing about the film comes across as heavy handed or preachy. This is a film with a subtle but important message and the action/sci-fi elements make the medicine go down smoothly. Constant unquestioned military action is not patriotic; in fact I would go as far as to say its jingoistic and dangerous. Soapbox portion is now over, we can resume with the article.

The Guest is steeped in genre tropes but transcends any genre. In the same way Night of the Living Dead is a zombie horror film, this film is far more than conventional labeling. The Guest opens in theaters Sept 17th.

Interview with Steven DeGennaro

Found Footage 3D Cover

Steven DeGennaro is a writer/director whose latest project is Found Footage 3D. He was generous enough to take time out of his busy post-production schedule to take part in this interview. After chatting with Steven and watching his short film First Date, I have put him on my directors to watch list, and you should too. His work is genre-bending and original. Enough of my yammering let’s get to the conversation. 

Where are you from?

I was born in New York City and grew up in New Jersey, and then moved to Fort Lauderdale, FL, when I was 10. I went to college in Houston, and then moved to Austin shortly thereafter, which is where I’ve lived now for almost 15 years. So I consider Austin home and don’t plan on ever leaving.

Where did you go to school?

I went to Rice University in Houston for my undergrad, and got my Masters and PhD from UT Austin.

What is your earliest film memory?

Honestly, I don’t remember a time when film wasn’t a part of my life and my world. Growing up, we had Star Wars and Superman II on VHS, and they were in constant rotation in my house. We had taped them both off of HBO, and I guess that my parents or my brother had failed to get the tape in in time for the beginning of Star Wars, so the version that we had began right as Darth Vader blasts into the Rebel Cruiser for the first time. So I don’t think that I ever saw the opening crawl or the iconic opening shot of the film until well into adulthood.

One of my first memories of watching something in a theater was Return of the Jedi at 6 years old. I got so wrapped up in the story that when the Emperor was blasting Luke with bolts of lightning at the end, I stood up in my seat and shouted “No Luke!!!” So, like most filmmakers of my generation, I was very much raised on Star Wars.

When did you decide to pursue film making as a career? Was there a film that made you say “yeah I can do that”

I always wanted to be a director, from the time that I was a little kid. And I was involved in theater all through school and college very actively. I made a couple of short documentaries on VHS my senior year in college, but somehow the idea of pursuing it as career is not something that really occurred to me at the time. I’m a musician and a sound engineer, so when I moved to Austin, I spent the first few years here working various jobs and trying to get a band together. When that didn’t really pan out, I went back to school and started the PhD program in Astronomy at UT. All the while, I dabbled in writing some (pretty terrible) scripts off and on, but I never really pursued it too seriously. It just always seemed like something that you had to know people to break into, or else move to L.A.

And then one day I was working my way through the extras on The Lord of the Rings DVDs, and there was a moment where something just clicked. It was like a switch got flipped, and I decided that it was time to take the idea of working on movies much more seriously. The experience that they went through making those movies just seemed so intense and amazing, and I remembered how much I loved doing theater in school. How exhausting and intense it was, but how incredible it felt to be creating something with a group of people and how they always ended up feeling like family in a few short weeks.

So I went down to my bedroom and I started to write. And three weeks later, I had my second (still terrible) feature script written. And I bought every book I could find about screenwriting and I joined some online writing groups and I worked at it and by script number three, I felt like I was getting pretty good at it.

While I did that, I started volunteering on student movies doing sound, and I learned a lot about filmmaking just by being on sets and seeing what people were doing right and what people were doing wrong.

I was in the last few years of my PhD at that point, and I still wasn’t sure whether I could or would pursue filmmaking as a career. But there came a moment while I was working on a short film at the same time as I was going through the referee process on my first published journal paper. It occurred to me that this paper that I had spent 3 years writing would be published in the top journal in the field and then would be of interest to about 6 people in the entire world, 5 of whom were co-authors (3 of whom probably hadn’t read the whole paper all the way through). Meanwhile, I was working on a mediocre student film that might play two or three festivals, but I was having the time of my life. And being on set was the most alive I had felt probably ever, even when I was tired from lack of sleep and irritated because the DP kept making my life difficult and all the other petty frustrations that happen on a film set. So it was suddenly obvious to me that if I had to spend the rest of my life writing scientific papers that no one ever reads, or working on movies that no one ever sees, I’d much rather do the latter. Of course, I ultimately want to work on movies that everyone sees, but if that never manages to happen, I’m content to keep working because I love the process.

And then, of course, I ultimately realized that if these people were making their own movies, then I certainly could, too. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked on some really great stuff in my career as a sound guy that I’m very proud to be associated with, but I’ve also worked on some real stinkers. Stinkers that costs hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of dollars. So once I felt like I had some stories worth telling, I started making my own shorts and eventually worked my way up to producing and directing a feature.

Wow.  We could not have had more different reactions to the same material. If anything, going through the “Appendices” on the Lord of the Rings DVDs made me realize I could never make a film on that scale. It reminded how stressful the little shorts I made in high school and college could be. You know in an abstract way the number of choices that go into those films would be overwhelming but when they actually start laying out all of those choices, it was such a massive undertaking its amazing they even finished those films.

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Your film First Date is a comedy but it certainly has horrific moments. Will your latest project – Found Footage 3D – have a similar tone or will it be more straight forward horror?

In some ways it’s similar, in some ways it’s totally different. First Date is a comedy that uses the traditional rhythms and structure and shot choices of a horror film for comedic effect. Found Footage 3D kind of does the opposite. It uses humor to lull you into a false sense of security and then essentially sucker punches you with all-out horror. I consider FF3D a horror movie, not a horror-comedy. Yes it has humor and can be very funny, but at the end of the day, its primary purpose is to scare you.

From the beginning, the movie that I set out to make was sort of the Scream of the found footage genre. Scream was brilliant because it made fun of the very genre that it was part of and simultaneously showed you how effective that genre can be when it’s done right. It’s one of the scariest movies ever made, in my opinion, and the humor and commentary on horror movie tropes is woven into the story so well that it never feels like a joke that’s winking at the audience. So despite its obvious sense of humor and playfulness, I don’t know many people who would classify Scream as a horror-comedy in the same way that, say, Evil Dead 2 or Shaun of the Dead are.

So that’s really the kind of tone that FF3D is trying to hit.

Scream was a great movie. It unfortunately was so good that it screwed up mainstream horror films for a couple years. Most of the Scream imitators winked at the camera and forgot to be scary. It seems like its a difficult balance to achieve in that not many film makers have pulled it off. Of course movies like An American Werewolf in London or Excision pulled it off beautifully but how do you make somebody laugh without sacrificing the scares?

To me, horror and humor are inextricably linked. Evolutionarily speaking, laughter is meant to be a signal to other members of the group/tribe that even though something scary just happened, everyone is fine so don’t worry. Think about where a lot of comedy comes from—especially physical comedy. Someone bonks their head really hard or trips and falls down the stairs. Those things could easily cause serious injury or be fatal, in which case: horror. Or the person could be totally okay, in which case nearly everyone’s first instinct is to laugh. The line between the two can be incredibly close.

There are a lot of moments in FF3D that really try to walk straight down the middle of that line. Moments that play with the idea of not immediately knowing which reaction you are supposed to have. If we’ve done our jobs right, there are several moments in the film where I really want people to get one chuckle out before realizing, “Oh shit… this just got real.” Or the opposite: “Wow, that was intense. Ha ha ha!”

From a filmmaking point of view, comedy and horror are both about subverting people’s expectations and surprising them. They are all in the timing and in the reactions of the characters in the world giving you cues. So it’s definitely not easy to combine the two, but when you have a group of actors that are as amazingly talented as the ones in our movie, it makes your job much much easier. These guys did such a great job and I’m really proud of the work they did.

At the end of the day, I think that’s the most important thing in any movie, but it’s especially important when you are trying to walk that fine line between funny and scary. You have to have characters that people care about. You have to be genuinely frightened for them when scary stuff happens, and you have to always be laughing with them rather than at them when they are being funny. If you treat your characters with contempt for a cheap laugh, then you aren’t going to convince anyone to care about them enough to be scared when the shit hits the fan, and that’s where I think a lot of horror movies go wrong.

FF3D combines two elements that at one time would have been considered gimmicks but are now fairly common storytelling devices. Did you decide to make a found footage movie in 3D and use that as your starting point or did you have the story in place and decide that telling that story would be better serviced by using the found footage and 3D devices?

The whole “Scream of the found footage genre” came first. It wasn’t until several drafts into the script that I came up with the 3D idea. By that time, the characters were fairly well established, and the idea that the guy who is producing their fictional movie Spectre of Death would think it was a really clever idea to make a found footage movie in 3D, even though that makes no real sense on the surface. So he does it for all the wrong reasons, which allows us to introduce the “gimmick” in a very organic way.

But then, as I played with the idea more in my head and started to work it into the script, I realized that it makes a lot more sense than I gave it credit for. And by the time I finished the final draft, it was an essential part of the story, not just from a plot point of view, but in how we decided to use the 3D to enhance the storytelling.

We just posted a video on our website that does a better job of explaining it that I can fully do in words, but the basic idea is that a 3D camcorder like the ones we shot on have a practically limitless depth of field. What that means is that everything in the shot is in focus at the same time, whether it’s close to the camera or really far away. And what that does is it allows the viewer to choose what to look at, the same way you would in real life, rather than be forced to only look at one plane in the depth of the shot because that’s the only thing that’s actually in focus. So it’s immersive in a way that a more traditionally-shot 3D film can be. And that really plays perfectly into the entire raison d’etre of found footage, which is feeling like you are actually there experiencing events unfold the same way that the characters do.

And then we have our evil entity, the “Spectre”. Since the Spectre is explicitly a creation of the film that they are shooting, and since it only exists inside the footage, it has abilities that wouldn’t make any sense in a non found-footage movie. So it can do things like move between different computer monitors by coming into or out of the plane of the screen. It can appear to the audience in only the left eye but not the right eye. It can cross the boundary between two different shots when they are split-screened. Combining found footage and 3D gives us opportunities to do things that no found footage or 3D movie has ever been able to do before, which is really exciting to me as a filmmaker and a storyteller.

Last year was a hell of a year for found footage horror with Willow Creek, The Sacrament and Afflicted all being personal favorites. What attracted you to the found footage genre?

I haven’t seen Willow Creek yet, but The Sacrament is one of my favorite horror movies of all time. To me, it’s up there with Blair Witch among the best the genre has to offer. I’ve been a fan of the genre ever since I saw Blair Witch in the theater. It scared the hell out of me. I wasn’t one of the people that got tricked into believing that it was actually real. I knew it was fiction. And yet, sitting there in the theater I got absorbed into the story in a way that had never happened before. Because it was so incredibly good at maintaining that level of realism, after about 20 minutes, I forgot I was watching fiction. Part of my brain knew that these were actors, but I got so wrapped up in the moment that a much larger part of my brain really felt like it was real. That, to me, is the real power of found footage when it’s done right. There’s a certain buffer that disappears. Obviously any good movie has the power to absorb you in the story and make you feel for the characters, but there’s still always some part of you that is consciously aware that what you are watching is fake. Found footage doesn’t allow you that comfort, which is part of the reason I think that most found footage movies are horror movies. Because breaking down that barrier makes you so much more vulnerable. There are so many things that would be terrifying in real life that get treated in such a trivial way in the heightened reality of movies. Found footage, when it’s done well, makes those things scary again.

You are currently in post production on FF3D.  When do you think the film will completed?

We are currently aiming to have a cut ready to go by the SXSW deadline, which is mid-November. After that, it’s up to our audience. If they want to see the movie, then hopefully a big distributor will get behind it and get us a wide release. I really want people to see this in a theater, because the 3D is so important to the experience. Of course it will still make sense and be enjoyable to people who can only see it in 2D, but it will definitely lose something awesome in the process.

Your film is from “The producers of Texas Chainsaw Massacre“.  What’s it like to see those words above the title of a film you wrote and directed?

It’s pretty cool. It’s funny how quickly you get used to some things, though. When I first met Kim [Henkel] I was all star struck and nervous around him. This was the guy who invented Leatherface, for crying out loud! So it was a little intimidating. But then we spent the next 6 or 8 months meeting every few weeks and really honing the script, and I hung out at his house to watch boxing. So now he’s just Kim, which is awesome.

But from the beginning, Kim has believed in my abilities as a director, which is humbling and gratifying. He’s fond of saying that he has “complete faith in my ability to translate from script to screen”. I mean, this is a guy who’s worked several times with Tobe Hooper. And he decided to put his name on my film because he believed in the film and he believed in me, and the movie probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise. So I’m really grateful to him and I hope that he’s proud of the finished product when we are done.

I also really hope that he’s willing to keep working with me in the future, because there is no one in this business that I have ever gotten more detailed, thoughtful, and dead-on script notes from than Kim. The dude knows his stuff, and he read every single draft with the same care and attention as if he were reading it for the first time.

What are you working on next?

Next? There’s a next? I have to get through this one, first.

 

You can find more information about Stevens work on:

IMDB

Found Footage 3D official website

Twitter

First Date Movie

 

Interview with Leigh Janiak

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A honeymoon is in many ways a transformation, the melding of two lives. For some it can mean the loss of individuality to gain to deeper sense of connection to another; for others it simply means a time of hope and promise. The honeymoon phase is a time of deep passion and optimism; our eyes are wide and the world is full of possibilities. Director/Writer Leigh Janiak, with her film Honeymoon, has taken this time of unlimited potential and driven a spike through its still beating heart.

The film follows Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) as they honeymoon at a remote cabin next to a picturesque lake. Soon into the couples stay, Paul discovers Bea in the woods, wandering and alone with no recollection of how she got there. After that night Bea starts to display peculiar behavior and it becomes increasingly clear that something terrible happened to her that night.

Harry Treadaway (Control) and Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) give fantastic performances as our young couple. This is first film for director/writer Leigh Janiak and she already shows immense talent. Much like Jeremy Sauliner (Blue Ruin) and James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now), she is part of a new generation of young film makers who are making deeply personal genre films that are breathing new life into independent cinema.

Leigh Janiak’s lifelong passion for film started with The Goonies, a film she has seen “a thousand times.” At an early age she was making backyard films using her parents VHS camcorder. She attended NYU where she focused on creative writing and comparative religion. After working on numerous short films and experimenting with Super 16 and old-school Moviola editing, she ultimately abandoned her PhD and moved to Los Angeles to pursue film full time. In Los Angeles, Leigh worked at Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way, and at Misher Films in both development and production. Leigh and her writing partner, Phil Graziadei, met as undergraduates at NYU. They’ve been friends for over a decade and writing partners since 2005. They’ve written numerous feature films together.

Leigh Janiak was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule to sit down with me for a few minutes.

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How are you holding up today?

I’ve got my coffee so I’m doing ok

What’s it like to do all these interviews back to back? It has to feel like speed dating.

(laughs) It’s good. I like it. Its crazy. But sometimes it hard to keep track of what I’m saying. I’ll be answering a question and halfway through I’ll lose track because…

We keep asking you the same questions.

Yeah and you sort of forget where you are in the answer.

I’ll apologize in advance for not having an original take on the question-and-answer thing.

You’ll do fine

How long did the screenplay take to write?

I think we started working on it… We saw Monsters which I think was the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011 [ed note: Monsters was released in late 2010] and that’s kind of what like jarred us into… why aren’t we just making a movie here? It was like, how many years are we just going to write scripts and to what end will that bring us? When I knew that I didn’t want to be very old when someone let me be behind the camera. I think that we started writing Honeymoon mid 2011 and we ended up sending it to our producer by the end of 2011.

Patrick Baker…

Yeah and his wife/producing partner came on board and it took about a year to secure financing. They raised it all through private equity. Which was very lucky for us. And then we shot the film in the spring of 2013. So it was pretty quick for indie in the grand scheme of things.

So then how much control did you have over the final cut of the film?

A Lot. I think that was the great thing about having private equity, you didn’t have these foreign film financing entities or big corporations… I had the support of the producers. I shot a teaser where I laid out my vision for the film and I was able to execute that vision the whole way through and I feel really lucky for that.

There is a clear Invasion of the Body Snatchers influence in your film and while that film was focused on a small town, your film is centered around a couple. Were you using the Body Snatchers story as a way to say something about marriage in same way they were making a film about the cold war?

The Body Snatchers trope… its a film that seems to be made every ten years. We were doing a very intimate Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie. If you look at those movies over time, they’re dealing with some sort of social issue. In our case, it was dealing with personal identity. Being in a relationship and knowing who you are. Look at Twitter, this giant hive mind which is awesome and terrifying. I think that’s where the renewed interest in body horror is coming from. It’s becoming this: What does is mean to be human. But no I wasn’t trying to say anything about marriage. People keep asking me about that (laughs). I’m not married but don’t hate the idea of it or anything.

Kind of going back to where it started. You have mentioned Spielberg or specifically The Goonies being a direct inspiration for you getting into film making. I couldn’t imagine the audacity of a child looking at The Goonies and saying “yeah I could do that.”

(laughs) No…

And I know that Monsters was the one that kicked your ass in gear. Was there a film that made you think “yeah I could do that?”

The time I really wanted to be a film maker… and I know this is silly and cliche but I think I was most motivated or inspired by… I was 13 when Pulp Fiction came out and it was so different. I went to the theater by myself in suburbia and it was amazing, it was telling all these different stories, so yeah Tarantino and Danny Boyle and all of those mid-90’s film makers… I think that was the beginning of the modern heyday of indie film and that certainly made me feel like I can do this or I should try to do this

Sorry to jump all over the place.

It’s fine.

The score for your film was done by Heather Mcintosh.

(Smiles) Yes.

She also did the score for Compliance, a soundtrack that I personally loved. Did you seek her out? Or had you seen Compliance before working with her?

I saw Compliance while we were still financing and I just thought that her score was awesome it gave the film… well you can’t judge what a film would have been like without its score but with that score it was certainly elevated and tonally just made it so uncomfortable and perfect. Heather is just amazingly talented, so yeah I sought her out and was really really pleased and excited when she came on board. We talked about Jonny Greenwood and kind of making it that unease or creeping under the skin of the audience so it wasn’t like hitting them over the head with it.

And her work certainly fits in with your small intimate storytelling, especially with Compliance being such a small intimate film.

Yeah she was awesome.

Although now that I’ve said that out loud I’m not sure “intimate” is the right word to describe Compliance.

(Laughs) Yeah it was very intimate. Quite romantic. When were dropping in temp score it took awhile to find those things that ended up working and Heather just nailed it right away. She found that right balance, it was ominous without being too on the nose.

So, what are you working on next?

My writing partner and I just finished with a pilot and its a limited series, 10 episodes and while we are trying to get that setup somewhere we are working on new feature ideas.

Do you think you will stick with genre pictures?

I consider myself more of a scifi person more than a horror person, so generally all the material I gravitate towards has a science fiction element and I think the horror will come. It’s funny as I’m saying this the pilot we are working is more of a thriller and for sure has more horror elements than science fiction. So who knows?

Thank you so much for doing this, it was really nice to meet you.

You too, have a great day

Honeymoon opens on Sept 12th and will be available on VOD the same day.  Do yourself a favor and check it out. 

Interview with Anthony Petrie

Anthony Petrie is a New York City based artist who works in multiple mediums. His pop art style has attracted clients like Marvel, Paramount, Sony, Bad Robot, Hasbro, Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network, to name a few. He creates striking images that are far more than a riposte of their subject. His work shows reverence and admiration that resonates deeply with a pop culture obsessed geek like me.

How are you today? 

Peachy!

Where are you from? 

Born: Queens, NY——> For a while: Pawtucket, RI——-> Currently: New York City, NY

How did you discover art?

When I was a kid I had these Super Mario Bros. scratch-off trading cards. One day for whatever reason, I decided I wanted to draw them while I was watching cartoons. I haven’t stopped since.

Anthony-Petrie-Sharknado

Some of your work reminds me of Roy Lichtenstein or the pop-art music posters that have had a resurgence in recent years. What, if any, specific artists continue to inspire your work?

I don’t think I’ve ever been compared to Roy Lichtenstein’s, but I’ll take it. I think just being immersed in the pop art scene, and seeing contemporary artist’s work is inspiring. When you see fellow artists in the same circle progress and try new techniques it drives you to do better yourself. Some of my all-time favorite artists are Robert McGinnis, JC Leyendecker, Mike Mignola, Chris Cooper, Sergio Toppi, and the list goes on and on forever.

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The Sharknado prints you did were great. I loved the play on the Coppertone ad. What gave you the idea of combining those two elements? 

It was a product of a last-minute brainstorm between the folks at Gallery 1988 and I. The idea was just the right balance of campiness and sophistication for Sharknado, tied together by an element that resonated with a lot of people. Those two posters were drawn and magically printed 3 days before San Diego Comic Con last year, where they premiered. I got a text from G1988 at 9pm on the Saturday before Comic Con while I was in the movie theater watching Pacific Rim. They said they needed 2 posters for Sharknado designed and printed before I left for San Diego on Wednesday, which gave me roughly 3 days to get everything done, including printing and shipping. While I was at the movie I started sketching ideas on a napkin, and then stayed awake for the next 24 straight hours drawing those two posters in order to get the separation files to the printer with enough time to print and ship them for the first day of Comic Con. In the end it was really great to have my work be a part of SDCC. As silly as Sharknado was, it had quite a presence that year, and we did a signing with the producer, director, and one of the actors of the movie.

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Do you listen to music while you paint? If so what? For some reason I imagine you listening to Goblin while you did the Shaun of the Dead print.

If I’m working on a poster for a movie, I’ll have the movie on in the background while I work, or movies in that genre. If I’m working on a gig poster, I’ll have the band’s music on. For the most part though, when I’m working, I’ll have a movie on. If I’m on a really tight deadline and I need to stay up and work fast, it’s Deftones or Rise Against. If I’m just sketching, or have some time on a project, it’s Marvin Gaye, Oldies and Country. I don’t have cable, so music is always on in my apartment. I listen to everything. I have Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Awesome Mix Vol. 1 from Guardians of the Galaxy, Bruce Springsteen, Zac Brown Band, Deftones, Alice in Chains, and the Country music station on full rotation right now. I don’t know Goblin, but I’ll check them out.

On your blog you mention that you have an unhealthy obsession with zombies. What is the most underrated zombie film?

I’ll be honest and say that while I love the idea of zombies, I am also not a zombie purist. I really love when movies take the concept of “zombie” and do something different or original with it. The slow-walking, crawling-up-from-the-grave, deteriorating zombies from the old George A. Romero movies are awesome, but they aren’t my favorite. There’s something about fast moving and adaptable zombies that just terrifies me. I might lose some credibility for this, but I really love Zach Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later are probably my favorite zombie movies, as I think they really revolutionized this idea that zombies can be created via an “infection” and be fast moving. I think it’s the added realism that really drives that terror home for me. And speaking of slow-moving zombies, Shaun of the Dead is one of my all-time favorite films, not just in the zombie genre. To answer your question though about ‘underrated’ zombie movies: I don’t think anyone ever thinks of Rob Rodriguez’s Planet Terror as a zombie film, but it totally is, and it’s amazing. Fido is a retro-inspired zombie movie that has a Shaun of the Dead kind of humor vibe to it. It’s a movie about a boy and his dog. But instead of a dog, it’s a zombie. Incredible. For all intents and purposes, Return of the Living Dead is simultaneously awful and awesome, but regardless, it has one of the most iconic zombies in it: Tar-Man. And lets of course not forget Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, which really got me started on all things horror and zombie related.

drago1

The Propaganda style used for the Rocky IV print is pitch perfect considering it is one the most jingoistic films I’ve ever seen. Despite my lefty leanings I unabashedly love that silly movie. With that being said you chose a moment when Rocky is being punched for the piece. Is that in anyway a commentary on the film itself or the United States?

Ha. There was no intentional political commentary on that poster, but if that is how you choose to interpret the image, I’m totally cool with that! I think as long as people have some sort of emotional reaction to my art, good or bad, I’ll consider it successful. That particular poster was for a show at Gallery 1988 called “Say Hi to the Bad Guy,” about cult movie villains. To me, the bad guys are always more interesting, so I thought creating art that “celebrates” them was a great concept. Even though the poster is in the style of constructivist propaganda, I do think it has a very Rocky IV sentiment to it. Most of the movie is Apollo and Rocky getting their asses kicked by Drago, who seemed super-human, so making a poster that portrays Drago as larger than life made a lot of sense.

bettle

The Beetlejuice – or Betlegeuse – print is one of my favorites of your film posters. The way you captured the essence of the film without showing any of the main characters is a testament to your ability as an artist. How do you chose a character or a moment to focus on for your posters?

Thanks. For the Beetlejuice poster, I knew from the start that I didn’t want to do something obvious. There are so many other iconic elements from that movie, I thought a bolder statement would be to leave the title character off altogether. I went back and forth on this a lot, especially considering this was only my second officially licensed poster, and I worried this would deter fans. The movie is named Beetlejuice, but I really felt that the story was about Barbara and Adam Maitland, so I wanted to showcase an iconic moment about them. In the end, I did feel like something was missing, so I ended up doing a transparent glow-in-the-dark layer of Beetlejuice which I think really tied the concept together. I try to choose content that best conveys the overall themes or mood of a movie. Sometimes that means the main character, sometimes that means the supporting characters, and often times that means no characters at all. My favorite posters are the ones that “feel” like the movie, but don’t have the characters plastered all over the page. The ones that you have to spend some time in front of that make you think a little bit. Usually this means stripping down all of the most obvious elements, and focusing on more iconic details.

How much freedom are you given when you are commissioned for a piece?

For the most part I’ll have total creative freedom. For some commercial work, licensed work, and “official” projects, there are some caveats that may include: not using likenesses, needing to use specific photo references, or a brief with general art direction. For pretty much everything else, such as gallery work, I’m free to direct my own pieces. If a project comes up that I feel will be too heavily art directed by someone else, I will decline it. It’s tough to do that sometimes, especially if it’s a good opportunity, but I’m fortunate to be at a point in my career where I’m finally able to say “no” if I need to.

Anthony Petrie can be found all over the internet and prints of his work are for sale through his website. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram or stop by his website and purchase a print. It would make a great gift for that movie geek in your life.

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