Joe Ostrica interview
Up and coming indie director Joe Ostrica has a new horror feature entitled The Horror Convention Massacre. Our field correspondent Cody Hamman recently caught up with him and got the dish on this promising new slasher romp, as well as Mr. Ostrica's insights into the state of the genre today. Special thanks to Cody for the contribution!
Can you set up the basic story of The Horror Convention Massacre for us?
Sure. The premise is quite simple, really. A maniac is on the loose at a horror convention, bumping off the special guests, attendees and hotel employees. Caught in the middle of all of this is a hotel employee named Aaron (played by Bryan Jalovec) who is having the day from hell. He gets called in on his day off, his girlfriend dumps him and now he has to deal with all the "freaks" at the convention. Everything points to Aaron as being a prime suspect.
The idea of filming a horror movie at and around a horror convention is a great one. What inspired the idea, and made you decide to go through with it?
Thanks. I think that's one of the strengths of our film too, the basic premise. I've been attending horror conventions the past six years or so, especially in Ohio. I'm a huge horror film buff, a filmmaker and a fan of conventions. One day I was walking around Cinema Wasteland and all three of those elements came to me when I saw people walking around with makeup all over them. I thought to myself, "What if that wasn't makeup and it was real blood? What if there was an insane person running around this show and actually killing people?" The movie was born out of that simple concept.
How was filming in a functioning, packed-with-conventioners hotel?
It was insane! We knew we had only one shot at it as the convention takes place over a weekend. We estimated that we shot for 44 of the 52 hours we were at the convention. Talk about maniacs running around! We were the crazy people thinking we could pull this off, but we did it. Of course, we shot additional scenes later on, but the core of the film was shot at Cinema Wasteland.
It was important to do that. You have a real functioning show going on. It would be nearly impossible to duplicate all that activity on our limited budget.
When you have a small budget, you have to take advantage of what you've got as your disposal and one of the best things we had was the energy of a live convention. I think we did a good job of capturing that energy. Plus you have numerous extras at your disposal. People would track us down after hearing about us shooting there and would ask if they could be part of the film. Some people even landed speaking parts. Plus you've got beautiful women, horror fans in crazy outfits and celebrities right there.
Who are some of the "famous faces" we can expect to see show up in the movie?
Well let's just say we have the original Jason from Friday the 13th, as well as actors that have appeared in The Devil's Rejects, Slither, the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, not to mention a well-known B-movie scream queen.
How hard was it to talk them into appearing?
It wasn't very hard landing them. I think they felt our passion and enthusiasm and our film gave them an opportunity that every good actor lives for, a chance to shine in an improvisational moment. They were great to work with and all of them do a terrific job in the film.
What were The Horror Convention Massacre's main influences?
With The Horror Convention Massacre, I wanted to do my take on a slasher exploitation film, similar to the ones of the 80's that I grew up watching on late night cable. When you watched one of those films, you knew you were going to get the goods with plenty of bloody kills and some naked girls.
It's safe to say we've got plenty of blood and boobs in this film, so the fans will not be disappointed. (laughs)
Also, in the past 10 years, the slasher film has turned into a watered down PG-13 or lame slasher lite flick that barely earns its R rating with a bunch of teeny bopper actors that look like they should be modeling clothes. I was getting sick of those films and I know the horror fans were too. We wanted to take the genre back and give the fans what they want. This film, if rated, would definitely be R rated. Even the nudity is 80's style as it's way more than just a quick boob flash too. There are no limits with this film. As for specific names, I loved the movies of John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven and Brian De Palma growing up. I think you'll see some of that influence in my film and hopefully we pushed the envelope like they did back in the day.
What kind of equipment was used in the filming and editing of the movie?
We shot the movie on a Panasonic DVX 100-A camera. It's a 24-p camera, which means its shoots in 24-frames-per second mode, the same as film. I used this camera on my comedy "GUYS" (see www.216films.com) and am very pleased with the results. I used to be a film snob, saying I would never shoot anything on video as I had never seen much of anything I liked on the format. Shooting digitally with a the 24-p camera cuts the budget down a lot and it gives a nice film-like look. My editor Rob Schultz uses Final Cut Pro. It's also what my editor on "GUYS" used and I love it.
How will horror fans not attending Cinema Wasteland be able to see the movie? Is a DVD planned?
Absolutely! We have a DVD now available loaded with lots of special features for just $15 plus shipping. As independent filmmakers, we know how tough it is finding extra cash to spend on entertainment, so we wanted to give the fans a very reasonable price to enjoy our film. They can write to me at MySpace at www.myspace.com/ossprojects to get a copy (let us know if you want some OSS stickers or an autographed copy) or go to our website at www.oldschoolsinema.com.
How do you feel about the current state of the horror genre, and what do you want to bring to the genre with your contributions?
Acually, despite my complaining about the recent slasher films, I think horror is definitely on the upswing. Filmmakers like Rob Zombie and Eli Roth and movies like the Saw franchise are really pushing the limits of how far you can go. It seems like the hard R-rated gruesome horror film is back, so that's exciting. Even the remakes are getting better. I enjoyed The Hills Have Eyes a great deal, as well as The Descent. I hope to explore other aspects of the horror genre. My next film is more in the spirit of Return of the Living Dead and Dead Alive, with a unique setting. It will be more ambitious than "THCM." Also, it will be nice to shoot outdoors this time! (laughs)
I don't want to do just one type of horror film. I want to be all over the map and never repeat myself.
You're based out of Cleveland, what is the current state of independent filmmaking in the area?
That's a good question. There is a lot of talent in Cleveland, that's for sure. I've been fortunate to work with some great crews and terrific actors who are committed to our projects. I'm a big admirer of the Campbell brothers, who did a few horror films under their Speed Freak Productions banner and are now getting ready to take a non-genre film to the film festival circuit, so I'm excited to see what that's like. The problem is, as I'm sure it is in any small market, there are a lot of negative people who are either jealous or just want to rip anyone who is not part of their projects. In a small market like Cleveland, it makes more sense for the film community members to help one another out and support each other in any way they can. Only then will Cleveland find itself on the map like Austin or other well known film cities.
You've started your own company and are making movies independently, on your own terms. Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers out there who are thinking about doing this themselves?
The number one thing I tell everyone is start making movies, now! A lot of people talk and I kept finding myself surrounded by other talkers who did nothing else. I feel like I should already have a couple more movies under my belt by now, but that will happen very soon I think. You've got to surround yourself with people who are active filmmakers and work with them. Even if you're just shooting stuff with a small video camera around the house, get to work and get something done. Every day spent on set is a day you learn something new or learn to solve a problem. That's what filmmaking is, basically, coming up with solutions on how to get the material shot for the day in the time and budget you have.
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