Quantcast Christopher P. Garetano interview 2

Chris Garetano
Interview 2
Back in August of 2005, we first interviewed filmmaker CHRIS GARETANO, who was just getting ready to unveil his documentary HORROR BUSINESS on the festival circuit. Now, almost 2 years later, his acclaimed film has been released courtesy of Image Entertainment on DVD. We caught up with him for an update on his debut, and he also gave us the FIRST scoop on a number of his upcoming projects, including COTTONMOUTH (a short adapted from the Gore Shriek comic by Steve Bissette), SOUTH TEXAS BLUES (about the making of the original Texas Chain Saw) and the Horror Business sequel SON OF HORROR BUSINESS. Read on for the FRIGHT exclusive interview! - by Robg. 5/07

Chris! The last time we spoke, you were at the beginning stages of touring HORROR BUSINESS at film festivals. Now that you’ve personally taken it all across the country, what’s that entire experience been like for you? Being able to work on a movie completely on your own and then show it to different audiences from state to state?

For me, movie making is a war and a great obsession. Metaphorically, it's been like a journey through rough waters where it's either fight and swim, or sink and die. So far I’ve financed my projects with my own money and any helpful connections with people in the industry have been made along the way. For most people achieving the status of “professional” movie maker is extremely difficult. It sure as hell isn’t impossible and I’m proving that everyday. I love making movies enough to deal with the difficult elements and I guess I'm completely stuck with this obsession… for better or for worse.
I spent four years getting an education in filmmaking. I spent several more working in the industry (on studio and independent films) wearing various hats (production assistant, camera technician, director of photography) and (so far) the greatest most valuable learning experience was actually creating, completing, promoting and selling the license for Horror Business on my own. I started shooting Horror Business in January of 2003 and it’s now 2007. I spent two of those years making the film and two years touring and promoting it at film festivals. It’s still playing at film festivals… this summer it will play in London, England (for the second time) as well as France.
Time is too short and the calendar moves quickly so you need to have a solid plan of action and you need to make sure this is what you really want. Movie making is not a hobby; it’s for people with guts and drive and a burning desire to tell stories. You also have to be a little crazy.

Any particular screenings or spots that stuck out for you? For example, you played HORROR BUSINESS for 2 nights in Austin, Texas and I know that trip partially inspired SOUTH TEXAS BLUES?

South Texas Blues is an idea and concept that I came up with over ten years ago. It’s going to be a unique fantasy/ period drama based on the making of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). The Texas trip was simply the catalyst that made me put some other things aside and go for it now. Austin was great for various reasons. I scouted a few locations for SOUTH TEXAS BLUES.  It was like atomic inspiration. I stepped off the plane and I was just charged with ideas during my entire trip. The candor that exists in Austin, Texas is invigorating.
It's the type of personality trait that gets my blood pumping. People out there seem to be truly honest about what they feel, and they’re very open to new forms of art. Theaters like the Alamo Draft House are perfectly evidential of what I’m talking about. It’s a wonderful chain of theaters and many of them cater to unique screenings. For example, I know the night that The Fog (remake) opened, the Draft House in the city of Austin played John Carpenter’s original Fog. It’s also a sort of Mecca for independent filmmakers of today and I was ecstatic that my first feature was playing there. The Alamo played Horror Business for a two night run and it was hosted by Joe Bob Briggs. So I was welcomed with open arms at the Alamo Draft House and I respond very well to good people. I didn't run into many a**holes in Austin. The food was fantastic as well and I'll be back there to shoot SOUTH TEXAS BLUES soon enough.

Do you still keep in touch with the majority of the subjects in HORROR BUSINESS? What are they up to? And has it been fun/interesting to re-unite with some of them for screenings?

It’s been interesting to witness the evolution of my picture and its subjects over the past few years. As I said before, I started shooting Horror Business in January of 2003 and I completed my final cut in March of 2005. Since then, Tate Stiensiek has made a successful career for himself as a make-up artist, and Dave Gebroe premiered Zombie Honeymoon on Showtime and won a Fangoria Chainsaw Award. Ron Atkins continues to make his films and has completed two new features since Horror Business. Brian Singleton signed a distribution deal with Elite Entertainment for Forests of the Dead. For everyone involved (including the previously mentioned) I know the struggle for success still exists.
I know a few of these guys (including Mark Borchardt and David Stagnari) are still working at getting their features made so it’s very rare that you’ll see the proverbial pot of gold. I think the reward is within. True success comes with honesty and self-realization. It’s only apparent when you’re honest with yourself and you know that this is what you want. The true reward is that you’re doing what you want to do. If you’re looking to get rich or famous, you’re in for a rude awakening, go sell real estate instead. I’m not saying that it’s not possible to become wealthy as a filmmaker but if fortune and fame is your sole motivation, then you’re fucked. If that’s what you seek then your work will suffer and your success is only a delusion of grandeur.
HORROR BUSINESS was released by Image Entertainment on March 13th, 2007. What's on the DVD release?

I spent a year considering offers from a few reputable distribution companies and I ultimately decided to sign with Image Entertainment. There are some extras on the DVD as well including an introduction by yours truly and a short film that I made during my very first year of film school in 1996. There’s also a short documentary titled “The Escape of Horror Business” comprised of footage that I shot during the Horror Business festival run. It offers a deeper insight on how the whole thing came together.

What do you hope that people will take away from your documentary when they purchase it on DVD?

Here's the deal… what I hope is that they keep an open mind and allow these unique moments in time to be displayed for them. I feel that if the viewer is an aspiring movie maker they shouldn't be discouraged by some of the folks in the film. It should serve as a reality check and inspire them to go for it with a more realistic outlook. Not everyone makes films the same way (especially independent movie makers) so I would never set out to make an instructional video or some self righteous diatribe on the history of horror movies.
There are about five hundred other docs and books that already accomplished that in spades. It would bore the hell out of me to do something that’s already been accomplished. What I did was write (visually) an authentic essay about the subjects at hand and that obsessive moment in their lives. What you see is what you get. It's appropriately displayed raw, open, and unhinged at times just like the life of a true guerilla filmmaker. For the most part it’s authentic because it’s completely made with the same “homegrown” sensibilities of its subjects.


Can you tell us a bit about COTTONMOUTH? It’s based on a Steve Bissette short from an old GORE SHRIEK comic book. Were those comics influential to you when you were younger?

“Cottonmouth” is simply a revenge story of four woman that rise from the grave one night to kill a “company” man whom they feel is responsible for their deaths. It’s conceptually based on fact. The women who died and their vendetta is somewhat historical.
In the eighties, there was a particular topic of corporate malfeasance in regards to a bacterial infection known as Staphylococcus Aureas. It was believed to be caused by simple tampon usage. This topic was in the news quite a bit until it was later discovered that the infection was caused by things other than tampons. I loved Gore Shriek when I was a kid… and mainly the “Cottonmouth” story. Gore Shriek was an independent horror comic that was sold through Fangoria magazine via a company called Fantaco. It was an obscure, taboo, black and white horror comic that I carried around with me for a while.
It was 1986 and horror was the most exciting thing in my life. I was ten years old. Last year (after touring Horror Business in film festivals for a full year), I was looking for something short and sweet to shoot. I was sifting through my old horror comics (anthology books like Death Rattle, Gore Shriek, and even Creepy Magazine) and I came across my issue of Gore Shriek #1. It brought me right back to my childhood.

Were you able to talk to Steve Bissette about making COTTONMOUTH into a short film? If so, what were his initial reactions and has he been supportive?

Yes, soon after I decided that I wanted to shoot an adaptation of “Cottonmouth” I got in touch with Steve and I explained my ideas to him. He was quite amiable and he told me to go for it. I’m very excited to show it to him because it was made with a great respect for his original illustrations. In terms of completing “Cottonmouth,” it has a little more to go in the post-production stages but I’m almost there. I’m currently collaborating with a very talented sound designer, Jake Hamilton (“Means to an End”).
It’s only about six and a half minutes. It was originally a three page story which I adapted into a six page screenplay. But my goal (regardless of the short running time) is to make you feel fulfilled at the end of it. I want to make you want to watch it again. I’ve seen so many short films that feel like an eternity and they’re only like ten minutes… The idea is for the movie maker to choose the right story to tell for the short form and I think “Cottonmouth” is perfect for that.
COTTONMOUTH was shot for 2 full days back at the end of August of 2006 in Long Island, NY. You also had a full crew on hand. I know with your previous films, you’re very used to working on things on your own. What was it like to have a crew & team backing you up on COTTONMOUTH? I was on set for a bit and you seemed very in your element.
Well, the first unit shoot was those two days last August with the crew but forty percent of the movie was all shot second unit by me in the weeks that followed. I’m still working on my own most of the time, but I did have the luxury of a great crew (including Wicked Effects who executed the creature design and application) and a studio for two days of the “Cottonmouth” shoot. I’m actually still going to shoot some inserts this week. When you’re working with very little money, it’s difficult to adhere to a tight production schedule. However, the lack of money can also be advantageous at times because it forces me to be creative and it also commands a particular overall texture that the picture otherwise may not have.
It’s a very uniquely specific texture and pacing that I’m talking about. My inspiration as a kid wasn’t limited to horror films. Movies like Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, Walt Disney’s Fantasia and Ridley Scott’s Legend were viewed constantly throughout my childhood. Those pictures (excluding Wizards) were made with a great amount of money but there was also this tactile sense about them that’s lost for many of today’s pictures. I think some of that inspiration is apparent in my work especially the very last scene in “Cottonmouth” where one of my characters is blasted into oblivion and a shower of lights and colors ensue.

What are you plans for COTTONMOUTH once it’s completed? Might there be an official DVD release at some point?

Well its six minutes so there would have to be much more accompanying the film to command a DVD release. I would love to make “Cottonmouth” available for people… I know that there have been quite a few hours shot in regards to behind the scenes stuff. I know both filmmaker Adam Barnick and Debbie Rochon are creating separate documents of the making of “Cottonmouth.” I think it would be great to have a couple of hours worth of behind the scenes stuff and a pristine transfer of the six minute film on a DVD, maybe even a reprint of the original comic book that Steve Bissette’s “Cottonmouth” appeared in.
In the past year, you’ve been attached to a number of projects. I’m going to list the titles of a few projects that your name has been attached to and can you give us a brief synopsis & status report on each?


Imagine if you will a fantastic trip through the imaginations of all the intelligent artists that collectively made the (original) Texas Chainsaw Massacre. South Texas Blues is the story of a filmmaker determined to make a successful picture but still retain his artistic integrity. It’s also the story of a crew of artists, college students, and misfits who (one summer in 1973) got together to make a legendary film and they had no idea it would become a legend.
Right now I’m working on the latest draft of the script while simultaneously collaborating on design work (story boards and production design) with the great Trevor Cook. Trevor is the talented artist who painted both versions of the Horror Business poster. We work very well together and it’s exhilarating to see my visions come to life in his illustrations. I’m currently finalizing a short documentary titled “On The Road To South Texas” and I will premiere that on the internet for people to see what this project is all about. “On the Road” was originally designed as a blueprint of clarity for collaborators and co-producers. I’ve also received quite a response on the internet from fans that are eager for my project to come to fruition so I’ve decided to make it (the short documentary) public when it’s ready. I should have some great news regarding this production soon. It’s a completely independent project but that doesn’t mean that I’m sacrificing quality.

SON OF HORROR BUSINESS? (Who’ll be in this one? How will it be different from HORROR BUSINESS?)

I’ve been shooting this now for about two years and throughout that time I’ve made a point not to repeat myself. Son of Horror Business is very different from Horror Business not only in aesthetic design, but in tone and topic as well. It opens with and revolves around the story of a great special effects make-up artist named Jay Wells. For the people that knew Jay, he is a legend. He was a talented and disciplined make-artist who died of a massive heart attack when he was forty years old. If he was alive now I’m certain that the entire horror community would know of him. He was one of those guys that had the talent and (self-taught) education of a Rick Baker or Dick Smith, he was just that great.
Son of Horror Business discusses the themes of pressing forward (professionally this time) in a world where age is only a number and the sacrifice of years can be astronomical. Jay died partially from the many stresses that come with trying to “make it.” And these are stresses that most of us know (people with trust funds or famous friends excluded).
Son of Horror Business still carries the theme of obsession but it focuses more on some people who have already been in the business or are in the process of breaking in professionally. I spent time with George Romero on the set of Diary of the Dead, as well as Debbie Rochon, Allan Rowe Kelly, Bob Clark and Lloyd Kaufmann.
I also plan to visit with Sid Haig on the set of his directorial debut Wittenberg. In addition to that I’ve captured a bunch of eager new up-and-comers who are pressing forward into this wonderfully chaotic world. I have some great stuff for this one and it’s going to be even more entertaining and revealing than Horror Business.

Montauk Unveiled is a project that was originally designed by John Brodie (Horror Business). The topic is very close to his obsessive, paranoid alien brain. He’s the originator and executive producer and I was hired as director, editor and photographer. The documentary regards alleged mind control experiments and alien beings that apparently (in the 1970’s) worked in an underground facillity located on the very eastern tip of Long Island, NY.
We traveled from Miami, to Michigan, to upstate NY to Montauk and gathered footage and testimonials from mainly four very interesting individuals who claim they were a part of the many horrific experiments that took place there. This is going to be an amazing movie. I can’t begin to tell you some of the things that we’ve captured. It’s just absolutely mind blowing and insane. There also many animated sequences (interpretations) executed by Trevor Cook who is working with me on several projects. Don’t expect an episode of unsolved mysteries... this film will stand alone in its own category.

MONTAUK UNVEILED teaser trailer


If you own the Satan’s Playground DVD, you can see a short example of what this film will ultimately be like. I directed a long trailer for this project and Anchor Bay was cool enough to put it as an extra on the disc. Dante Tomaselli is an American movie maker who was shooting completely independent horror movies before the whole horror resurgence that started in 2001.
I wanted to focus on Dante’s struggle as a movie maker in a very dreamlike and spiritual way. He’s an extremely interesting guy and even if you’re not fond of horror movies, I think you might truly enjoy this film as a character study. It’s about a filmmaker who is lost in his own imagination and at times in his own personal history and sadness. I think ultimately this one will have a happy ending… Dante’s no joke and I don’t think anyone should underestimate him.

The ANGEL’S GATE documentary?

I’ve been shooting Angels Gate for almost two years now and I’m in complete and total awe of my subject. Susan Marino is a living saint. She is a woman who has dedicated her entire existence to running a residential animal hospice that harbors the sick, dying, deformed and unwanted. Unfortunately one year into this project there began a controversy regarding vicious neighbors and unlawfully adjusted zoning laws. Currently the town that Angel’s Gate resides in wants them out. This film is comprised of the most intense and heartbreaking footage that I’ve ever seen. I recently traveled with Susan and some Angel’s Gate volunteers to the wasteland that is New Orleans.
We were there to rescue strays that were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and we traveled back to Long Island (by plane) with ailing dogs and cats. Susan originally (a few days after Katrina) hopped in a van and drove down to a flooded and destroyed New Orleans to rescue animals and people. I’ve never seen such dedication… it’s going to make some film. I’m waiting for the story to hit a plateau (which should be soon) and I’m going to start editing. This story needs to be told right. “The Martha Stewart Show” did a piece on Angel’s Gate and it was pure fluff... I have captured the true reality of the place and I’m not going to hold back at all.

and: www.HorrorBusinessMovie.com
and: www.myspace.com/southtexasblues
and: www.myspace.com/horrorbusinessmovie

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