Camp Motion Pictures Brings the Chris LaMartina Creation WNUF: HALLOWEEN SPECIAL to Limited Edition VHS! And it’s MAD GROOVY, man!!
Director Chris LaMartina sips and thinks. About VHS. And making movies. And never wearing sleeves.Can you give us a little bit of self-history and how you got into making movies? I started producing/directing micro-budget horror flicks when I was still in film school. I had grown up making weird little monster movies and stop-motion videos, but my real inspiration for making features were people like J.R. Bookwalter and Eric Stanze (both filmmakers are actually referenced in WNUF)... Folks that were doing rad stuff on shoestring budgets. They were pivotal in my development because they made me realize micro-budget movies could be effective and original. I learned from them that you didn't need big budgets to develop production value. Inspired by those folks, I began making horror flicks (mostly horror-comedies) within the budget range of $5k-$15k, with my notable features being PRESIDENT’S DAY: an 80s slasher homage about a psychopath dressed as Abe Lincoln killing high school student council candidates, and my flick, WITCH’S BREW about two micro-brewers who get their latest batch of alcohol cursed by a coven of witches.
The title card a flashin' for WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL. STAY TUNED, TAPEHEADS. This one's gonna get RAD.Where did the idea for WNUF come from? What inspired you to put this all together? I'd wanted to do a "found footage" feature for a while. I was helping produce transmedia (viral/social media) content for Ed Sanchez's flick, LOVELY MOLLY and I realized how much fun it was. Plus, we thought it would be cheap to produce a found footage flick, and it could be done relatively quickly. I pitched dozens of found footage concepts to my co-producer, Jimmy George, but none of them ever stuck because our brand with Midnight Crew Studios has evolved into high-concept horror comedies... and humor is rarely that prominent in a found footage flick. So, we analyzed the found footage genre, particularly the elements we despised: How boring they could be (how do we break up the monotony?), their basic logic flaws (why is this even being recorded?), their minimal cast (how do we inject more colorful characters), etc.... At the same time, VHS resurgence had begun, and folks all over were getting super serious about collecting tapes. I grew up as a child of the video store and I could totally relate... and there was something about this aesthetic that was invigorating and inspiring. That paired with the found footage problems... It just clicked. I'd been a fan of kitschy local television ever since I was a kid, even working for 3 years at the government TV station here in Baltimore, and there were two weird stories that really stuck out for me that began the narrative of WNUF. I'd heard a story about a radio broadcast made at the Edgar Allen Poe house (in downtown Baltimore) in the early 1980s. They’d broadcast a live seance. From what I understand, nothing crazy happened, but I've never heard the actual content. There was something about that idea that stuck with me. It seemed to almost invite the paranormal with a healthy dose of William Castle-style showmanship. The second inspiration here was Geraldo Riveria and his infamous "Satanic Panic" episode. My late friend Andy Copp had burned me a DVD of that episode, and it was truly amazing/ridiculous. Watching that bootleg disc with its grain and VCR-hiss was perfect... and I knew this medium (video) and the aesthetic (the “bootleg” look) had to inherently be a part of our story. Our found footage flick would be a legitimate television broadcast; therefore, the found footage question ("Why is this even being recorded?") became a moot point. We could break up the stale limited locations with "commercial breaks," and between a news broadcast and "expert guests" we could have our typical weirdo ensemble cast that populated our previous horror comedy flicks.
Transylvania's Public Access Channel? Nope. It's just WNUF doing their Halloween thing. DIG IT.The homage to low-budget early 90s cable access delirium is dead on, man. It's to the point where people might mistake it for the real thing. Was that ever an angle you were thinking about working? Like it was really a found footage thing? The goal from the beginning was to shoot on tape stock and run it through a VCR three or four times. We weren't going to be like those filmmakers who slap a "bad TV" filter on their 7D footage and call it a day. Making it look era-appropriate was crucial to our plan. As fans of low-budget horror, for far too long, we'd felt ripped-off by people who took the short cut. All the new content was shot on VHS, SVHS, and DVCAM... But the commercials were a whole different story... We got a license for a stock footage database (with new footage and old standard def stuff). Then, I reached out to every filmmaker I knew who was shooting video in the late 1980s. We got a ton of great, ridiculous re-purpose-able footage. We wrote and edited commercials based on the content we gathered. It was a truly bizarre project, and I'm so happy with how it came together. A bunch of my comedian/improv friends helped write some of the copy based around b-roll, and a few of my out-of-state filmmaker buddies ended up producing some of their own footage for commercials in the flick. It was definitely full community engagement.
My personal copy of WNUF: HALLOWEEN SPECIAL found in parts unknown.I believe you were also working on you current film CGoC while you were making / spreading this film through the underground. What was is like doing both these flicks at the same time? Or did you have WNUF done before? So... 2012 was an insane year. We wrote 3 drafts of CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU our Lovecraft-inspired horror sex-comedy and while Jimmy George, my co-producer, was polishing our second draft, I had this wild idea to make WNUF. I was convinced we could shoot WNUF in no time (and that was not entirely true… ) so, we wrote in June/July and shot most of the story segments in October (80% of the narrative story was shot in 3 days). While we were shooting WNUF, we were running an overwhelming Kickstarter project for CGoC (We ended up raising $27k to make that. WNUF was shot for about $1500.) It was a very intense, stressful period. I was editing WNUF every morning and night while I was working full time, teaching, and playing in two punk rock bands. I would even leave my full-time job at a video strategy firm during my lunch breaks to edit WNUF. There was a ton of time spent mining through b-roll for the commercials and story segments, and I was still editing well into the pre-production time for CALL GIRL. I finished WNUF in early March, and we started shooting CALL GIRL on March 30, 2013. It was a highly productive and energy-draining time, but I was determined to be as creative and efficient as possible. I just remember drinking tons of coffee and 5-Hour Energies and burning out at least a few times a week. Whatever it takes, right?
Chris on the set of CGoC. Dig those killer boobs, man! Image captured by Josh Sisk.Can you tell us a little bit (more) about the production? A day in the making of WNUF? The first thing we shot was the "Stay Sure" Tampon ad. It was one of the only commercials that was actually all new footage. At the same time, I began reaching out to filmmaker friends for old 1980s b-roll and getting my assistant editor, Danielle, to begin categorizing b-roll by subject matter (i.e. lawyer ad, safe sex ad, 1-900 hotlines, etc). As for the narrative, we had a complete script (with just slugs that say "2-min commercial break"). I didn't want the film to feel scripted, but I did want certain story beats to hit correctly. So, we assembled the entire principal cast involved with the Webber House story and did 2 weeks of intensive rehearsals/improv sessions. I gave the leads YouTube reference links to explore personas I wanted them to emulate, and I had them research the roles heavily. When we finally got to set at the faux Webber House (actually an unused rectory on the grounds of an active nursing home), we shot each Halloween Special segment until we got the content right at least twice... shooting simultaneously with 2 broadcast cameras. I was DP with one camera and my buddy Tim (an old co-worker from my government TV station job) was the other. At the end of the day, we shot about 40 pages in two days. It was remarkable and a bit exhausting but undoubtedly one of the most painless shoots I have ever conducted. Shooting on tape again was a really great switch, but I'm not going to lie... it was super weird framing things for a 4x3 aspect ratio again.
And you KNOW there's a VHS ad in this bad boy. And it RULES. Click HURR for the full commercial, dudemanbro. FREE KEYCHAIN? I'm there.You're going with a VHS only release of this flick which is totally righteous and groovy. Why just VHS? Do you think you'll ever do a DVD for this flick? I wanted to release it first on VHS only because I knew that our core audience would understand the joke. If you're still watching stuff on a VCR, chances are you remember local television with a fondness and share my affinity for weird esoteric content and obscure video cassettes. So many horror fans can relate to the time before YouTube, when finding something truly insane and rare was an actual adventure. You felt like a sleazy cinema detective, trading secret tapes and bizarre programs. I wanted to create that sense of a secret society, and I knew an initial VHS-only release would be the perfect rollout. We will eventually do a DVD release with audio commentary, bloopers, and more goodies (including some of the commercials that didn't make the final cut for various reasons)... but it was important that we do VHS-only first.
The awesomely awkward STAYSURE Tampon commercial. Click it and stick it. EWWWWW.Are there going to be any groovy goodies with the release? A WNUF shirt? Maybe the tapes will be delivered in a Halloween treat bag?! Candy corn scented tapes?! Yeah, I'm a dreamer. I actually think it's a pretty standard release. I know the DVD will have some great additional content, but nothing with the tape. If somebody reading this wants additional goodies, add me on Facebook and I'll sell you my sweaty underwear for a discounted rate.
Another analog aesthetics soaked still from WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL. Funny... that's what I was planning to do when I got home later.Why do you love VHS? What is it that attracts you to it? Movies were a window into a strange world that fascinated me as a little kid. I remember walking down the "Horror" section at my mom-and-pop video store and being both terrified and disgusted. It felt like I shouldn't have been seeing that stuff... like it was some invitation-only society of sickos. My urge to delve into the unknown inspired plenty of my development as an artist, and collecting tapes was my brain food. My godmother would record all kinds of goofy stuff on late-night cable for me and would leave tapes for me when I came home from elementary school. They were education. They were inspiration. They were crucial to my growth as a filmmaker. There's this romanticism with VHS that doesn't exist with digital downloads or even DVDs or Blu-rays. It was an age before the Internet... where getting that hard-to-find tape was a real adventure. It was exciting when you made those discoveries... it could be at the thrift store or a mom-and-pop video store near your grandparents' house... or on a summer vacation. To me, VHS reminds me of that perpetually un-quenched curiosity that made me into a genre fan.
The Limited VHS Edition of WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL available now from Camp Motion Pictures!What do you think of all the VHS love that's been happening? The VHS revival is really fantastic. It makes me nostalgic in the best way. It's rad to nerd out with other fans. Although, sometimes, I think folks get carried away with $200 tapes and other expensive pricing. While some folks go bonkers over first editions or rare big boxes, my fascination stems from super-rare titles or movies that will probably never get released again (stuff like "Nude Video Dates Vol. 1" comes to mind). What else have you got cooking right now? I know you're currently filming CGoC... Anything else in the pipe line after that? I haven't even started editing CALL GIRL yet, but we have started dreaming of our next project. It's very possible it will be a web series with a really cool approach that I can't wait to share... but right now might be a bit premature. Every time I finish a feature, I always think about writing/directing a non-horror flick for the next one, but for some reason, I always come back to horror. It's not only our brand, but it's also something I feel deeply inside my person. The monsters keep coming... and I have to put them to work before they eat at me. Anything else you'd like to say to all the tape heads out there? I hope all the videovores can find a copy of WNUF HALLOWEEN SPCIAL ‘cuz I think they'll really dig it. If you can't afford it, get your friends to make you dupes of their tapes. (My distributor probably doesn't want me to say that, but I'd rather have fans see it than not.)
That's the spirit, Chris! This is one dude that knows how to play the game of life, man. Do yourself a favor and check out all his stuff. It's a testament to the DIY spirit and attitude, and the love for genre flicks bleeds through every frame. Be sure to groove on over the to the WNUF Gallery on Youtube and pick yourself up a copy of WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL before they really are HISTORY! DAMN!