Interview by Joshua T. Gravel
Baltimore filmmaker Chris Lamartina, director of the zombie-trailer-homage TOOL SHED OF THE LIVING DEAD and faux TV spot GHOST OF THE RAVEN, talks Shock Festival, Edgar Allen Poe and his latest filmmaking project.
When did you first become involved in the horror genre?
I got serious about filmmaking when I was around 18 or so. During my first year at college, I started doing a segment each break for an anthology that would become DEAD TEENAGERS. It was crummy-looking movie shot on consumer gear for about $300, but it got a distribution deal and gave me hope that I could continue making films for a wider audience. Shortly after completing DEAD TEENAGERS, I met up with an old friend, Jimmy George, and we began working together. We somehow managed to raise a little bit of money to make our first film together and have continued to churn them out since then. So far, we've produced 3 features together, BOOK OF LORE, GRAVE MISTAKES (these two are coming out as a double feature through Camp Motion Pictures in May 2010), and the recently wrapped PRESIDENT’S DAY.
Fill us in on how you become involved with Stephen Romano Presents Shock Festival DVD?
My girlfriend gave me Stephen’s 2008 book, SHOCK FESTIVAL, as a Christmas gift last year and it quickly became one of my favorite possessions. I loved the artwork, the articles, but most importantly... the mythology. Stephen’s grasp of what makes the culture of exploitation film so great is strong and few have done it as well as the book did.
I picked my two trailers for different reasons. I chose GHOST OF THE RAVEN because I'm located in Baltimore and my apartment is literally five minutes from Poe's gravesite, so I figured I had to. I felt a need to represent my hometown and I've always felt an affinity for Poe. He's popped up in my life many times and in many places: I was recently contacted by the Baltimore Museum of Art to produce a piece inspired by his work for their upcoming exhibit, and Poe was a subplot of a romantic comedy script I wrote last year that won third place at the Baltimore Screenwriting Competition.
TOOL SHED OF THE LIVING DEAD seemed to be the most open-ended and easily one of the most silly, niche titles in the book. I knew I could gather some friends in a weekend and get some great footage. I also knew about an abandoned graveyard where we could shoot a few shots and incorporated them into the trailer.
TOOL SHED OF THE DEAD is one of the films with the least coverage in the book, was this a limitation on the project or was it freeing?
It was definitely freeing. I didn't want to take away from Stephen's vision of these films, so when producing both, I tried to keep his vision in mind. Since TOOL SHED is very limited in coverage, I tried to think about what films it would be like...
The TOOL SHED trailer is definitely I DRINK YOUR BLOOD in tone, but if it were a feature, I imagined it like GARDEN OF THE DEAD or even an early Andy Milligan film... that's the type of film stock/damage I was going for... that scratchy faded-red (because of poor storage) look that many of Milligan's features have. As a former projectionist, I was trying to achieve what color damage would traditionally occur to the prints in the color correcting process.
Can you tell us a little about the actors you worked with?
For my two trailers, all the actors were friends. For my features, we've had auditions and managed to work with some really great folks. For my latest project, PRESIDENT’S DAY, I got to work with a group of great actors such as George Stover (John Waters’ Female Trouble and Desperate Living, Don Dohler's films), Ruby Larocca (star of Seduction Cinema films), and Shawn Phillips (from Youtube’s Don and Murph Show).
Who worked on the technical end of the production, specifically cinematography, music, and special effects?
I wrote, directed, and edited both trailers. I scored the music for TOOL SHED, but Mars from Dead House Music did the music for GHOST as per Stephen's request. I'm glad I could use it, since it's perfect for the trailer.
I did some of the special effects, but my friend Randi Williams did most of the zombie makeup.
I understand that a couple of your films will be released this year; can you give us some additional information?
BOOK OF LORE and GRAVE MISTAKES will be released as a double feature from Camp Motion Pictures on May 18, 2010.
BOOK OF LORE is an atmospheric horror flick about a small town that is plagued with a surprising number of bizarre local legends that start to "come true". It won Best Horror Feature at the 2007 Shockerfest International Film Festival.
GRAVE MISTAKES is a campy throwback to 1980s horror anthologies like CREEPSHOW and TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE. It follows a grave robber who tries selling stolen jewelry to an old antiques dealer, but instead of trading goods, they trade stories of ghosts, zombies, vampires, and other supernatural entities.
The double feature disc should be jam-packed with extra features, commentaries, making-of featurettes and tons of great stuff for fans of low-budget horror.
Are there any current or future projects you would like people to know about?
I'm currently editing PRESIDENT’S DAY, our latest film. It's a gory social satire about a maniac in an Abe Lincoln outfit who is killing all the candidates for a high school student council election. I'm pitching it as a cross between ELECTION and SLEEPAWAY CAMP PART 2. So far, it looks like it will be a lot of fun.
You can keep up with Chris and PRESIDENT’S DAY on his myspace page,
On FaceBook http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/PresidentsDay
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