As you know, we here at Goth Chick News are great fans of the indy film industry and there’s nothing we love better than getting a peak behind the clapboard. Well, there was that one intern who refused to watch any film that didn’t have a title soundtrack by Celine Dion, but oddly enough he got sent out to pick up a YooHoo for Scott Taylor on his second day and just never came back.
So you can imagine the excitement when Wyatt Weed (Pirate Pictures), Billy Hartzel and Corey Logsdon (State of Mind Productions) agreed to give Black Gate an exclusive look at their short film Outpost 13 before it launches into what will surely be an exciting journey.
Clearly recognizing a bandwagon headed down the yellow brick road of success, it was obvious the only thing to do was jump on. But not before squeezing a little insider information out the boys on how they turned their creative imaginations into movie magic.
An Interview with Wyatt Weed, Billy Hartzel and Corey Logsdon
Conducted and edited by Sue Granquist, June, 2012
GC: Could each of you give us a brief rundown of how you got into making films? Was it to get dates?
WW – I wish. When I first started this, I hoped it would be glamorous, but when girls hear that what you’re basically doing is playing with models in your basement, it hurts your reputation more than it helps. Then I moved to Hollywood and started making films professionally but found that everyone in Hollywood was trying to get laid, too, so once again, the odds weren’t in my favor!
I got into films because of Jaws, Star Wars, and Close Encounters. They were so cool and had such an effect on me that I had to do that.
BH – The ladies swoon when you tell them that you like to spend your time with other nerds sweating under 1000 watt lights and fighting over the last bologna sandwich that was sitting out for six hours.
I’ve always been a big fan of Dungeons and Dragons where you could tell stories to a group of friends and see how the story plays out. Film offers the same satisfaction of telling a good story to a hungry audience.
CL – My dreams of making films grew long before my aspirations to get dates. At the age of 10 I had a passion for sharks. I believe for most boys it is either sharks or dinosaurs.
I wanted to be a marine biologist and study Great Whites in the wild. That’s even nuttier than wanting to be a filmmaker. So in my search for fuel to feed this passion I came across the film Jaws. It was in a documentary on this film that I saw for the first time the process of how a film was put together. At age 10 this was astonishing to me.
I soon dropped the shark thing and began making movies. I made my first movie the summer I saw that documentary. The film I made was a fan film of the biggest inspiration to any 10 year old aspiring filmmaker – Star Wars. I then went on and directed Zombie Epidemic at 19 in 2007, Fear in 2010, and Contamination: A Convention Story in 2011 and numerous shorts in between with more planned for the horizon.
WW – So in a way, Corey and I are Jaws blood brothers, just separated by about 25 years…
GC: You’ve all done a variety of jobs in the film industry. Can you tell us about your favorite project and why?
CL – Zombie Epidemic. The reason being because I had no clue what I was doing. I was a kid running around with a camera playing filmmaker. That is an experience I will never experience again. It was all one big learning experience. We had so much fun on that film. Zombie Epidemic was my hurdle. It was my first feature film. I finished it and I when I did I told myself “You’re a filmmaker now, you’ve made a movie” That first movie will always be my badge that I did it.
WW – I have great memories of Shadowland, my first feature. But back in 1992 I worked on a science fiction project called Star Runners. I produced it and was the co-director. It was the first time we were given all the toys and all the money to do it ourselves. We learned so much, it was an experience I still draw upon – even though the project didn’t turn out that great!
BH– I don’t know if I’ll ever have as much experience as Mr. Weed, although I try to extract it from him when I can, but Outpost 13 was the first project I worked on from conception to release and being able to write something and then have a group like Pirate Pictures be able to take the script and make it a reality is magical.
GC: All film makers seem to have one “holy grail” project they dream of working on. Do you have one yourselves and if so, what is it?
CL – I have a project I plan on making someday. I am not experienced enough at this point as a filmmaker to tell this story and I know this but I’m getting there.
Growing up as a child I had a close friend. This friend struggled a great deal with mental illness and being in and out of psychiatric care most of his young life. He dealt with some abuse issues and his life eventually spiraled out of control leading to incarceration. My friend had such potential to make whatever he wanted of himself. He was just made some bad choices and had some bad luck.
I would one day like to tell his story. The film is about a 12 year old boy with Bipolar disorder. His father is abusive and he attempts suicide for the first time at 12. The child is placed into psychiatric care. It is his story as he goes from psychiatric facility to residential living facility to the next trying to get his illness under control and live a normal life. The story becomes his journey to become reunited with his family. I hope to make that film within the next 5 years.
WW – There’s one project based on a classic book that I won’t name, because there are other Hollywood filmmakers, famous filmmakers who are trying to get this book made and they keep postponing or canceling the project. If they keep failing, I’m eventually going to develop the clout or connections and slip in there and do it myself.
After that, I would love to make the epic live-action version of Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest, do it in the tradition and style of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.
BH– Until recently Outpost 13 was my holy grail. Right now I’m still feeling around, hopefully more Sci-Fi.
GC: We hear that securing funding for indy film projects could be the most difficult component in the process. How did you launch Pirate Pictures / State of Mind?
WW – Pirate Pictures had a single “angel” investor who was a friend. He put all the money in and has been very easy to work with, very cool as a partner.
The creative freedom has been amazing, something I know I’ll never get in Hollywood. Pirate Pictures is now self-sufficient, and our investor comes out and works on shoots, maintains equipment, and contributes to how the company is run.
BH– Beg, borrow and steal.
CL – I started State of Mind by working two jobs while going to school. One job paid bills and kept me fed and alive, for the most part. The other job went entirely toward the first project, Zombie Epidemic.
I saved every dime I could to make that movie. I borrowed, begged, but never stole cause that’s absurd. I got together whoever was willing to help and made my movie. Zombie Epidemic was essentially my film school. I saved up money to make the movie and put myself through film school if you will.
On Fear I knew what I was doing and brought in investors and had found my current business partners Billy and Chase Campbell. Still, College Student + College Student + College Student = No Money. We currently fund our film projects by doing video projects for local bands, corporate gigs, and even wedding videos; whatever it takes to raise our budget.
WW – Corey brings up a good point – making films is fun and our primary focus, but we at Pirate Pictures survive month to month by doing commercials and industrials. That pays the rent.
GC: Corey, since we here at Goth Chick News maintain that zombies are the new vampires, can you tell us more about Zombie Epidemic?
CL – Zombie Epidemic is a mockumentary from the viewpoint that zombies are a pressing global issue. It is a series of interviews with experts, scientists, government officials, and victims. It covers the history of the zombie crisis since its origins and throughout history.
The film is serious in tone with comedic elements. It is a satire on the state of things in the country. The acting is atrociously hammy and ZE has garnered an instant cult following with fans of the zombie genre.
When I finished it I was so embarrassed of the film. I thought it turned out so terribly. We made it for $500. Then we started selling copies and I started getting feedback. Of course we got the people who hated it; as expected. Then we had those who LOVED IT.
Really? What? Zombie Epidemic?
So I have gotten behind this cult following. I hope to one day remake the project with a bigger budget and better actors; now that I know what I am doing as a filmmaker of course.
GC: Indy films seem to be enjoying renewed attention, maybe as a backlash against the mega-budget blockbusters. Can you give us a peek behind the curtain of how Outpost 13 was created?
WW – When we started into this, we all decided that since none of us was rolling in money, we wouldn’t go nuts on budget – it should cost as little as possible. After all, this was for a local contest, and even if we did win, the prize money wasn’t that much. So “spend as little as possible” was a pact that we all helped each other stick to. One of us would walk in with some knick-knack and everyone else would jump on them – “How much did that cost?!?”
We did some initial designs for the lab interior and exterior, but kept the interior vague – there were shapes indicated, but nothing specific, so we had a visual guide that could vary depending on what materials became available. Then we all collected our junk together and brought it to the table.
CL – I have always found the key to making films on a shoestring budget is to rely on friends. We were fortunate enough to have the location of the Milton Schoolhouse and that was a tremendous asset. My friends Meredith and Joel own an old school house that was converted into a glass factory in the 70s. The building is really fantastic. I also used this location for my second feature Fear. This location had so many pieces of random junk and debris that the set really dressed itself.
We had a few key props we had to build; the virtual reality chair, the incubation tubes, and the monitor. These were all constructed from a combination of parts and pieces we already had and a few trips to the dollar store. We love the dollar store. With a few days work of piecing things together from around the school, in conjunction with things we had, there was a working set. It’s all about working with what you have and being really creative. For example: The base to the incubation table is an old DDR pad Billy had built. (Dance Dance Revolution)
WW – When it came to the effects, we stuck to the same philosophy – we used what we had, recycling old model pieces and bits of things that were lying around, and designed the exterior of the lab based on those parts.
But the most amazing thing was that the geodesic balls were actually made of paper, card stock to be exact. There’s this whole thing on the Internet called “papercraft”, and it’s a whole culture of people making anything you can think of from paper – really amazing stuff. We downloaded this geodesic ball pattern that was actually supposed to be a soccer ball but took it into Photoshop and made it a hi-tech structure. The model looked awesome, but it was a bit fragile. Thankfully, we only had to do one shot.
WW – I feel Silent Running is the ultimate ecological film, and the image of those giant geodesic domes floating through space has been with me since my first viewing. It follows that the image that popped into my head when we talked about making a nature project was those domes, the isolation that the character in that film felt, the sadness and wonder, both at the same time.
I originally wanted to include a very similar geodesic dome, but as the project evolved we included a geodesic ball shape that ended up being cool in a different way.
Silent Running is a drama first, a science fiction film second, and a “message” film third, and it’s valid as any of those, which is quite an achievement. It is also an amazing example of low-budget filmmaking. I recommend that any filmmaker see that film.
GC: We know that Wyatt had originally created a script for Outpost 13 which he set aside for Billy Hartzel’s idea. Can you tell us a bit about this evolution and the creative process behind it?
WW – As we’ve said before, “Outpost” started as an entry into a contest that was for “nature-themed” films. I met up with Corey and Billy one night to work on a music video, and after the shoot we were talking about the contest. I said I had an idea and would probably do it. Corey said Billy had an idea and they would probably do it as well. I think Corey suggested that we should work together, so we decided to swap scripts, see what we thought of each other’s ideas.
To be blunt, I’ve been doing this a long time, and thought my script would just bulldoze over any idea Billy had. I figured, “He’s a young writer, his idea may be good, but his execution won’t be there.” Then I read his script and it was nuanced, with great concepts, mature writing, great narration. AND it was more upbeat and had a better ending than mine. I conceded to Billy’s script right away. Now I fear him and am planning his untimely demise.
BH – After Wyatt and I swapped ideas we found out they were very similar. I don’t remember if I actually ever read his script or not though.
As far as being a young writer I’m a bit shy about it because everyone with a laptop at a coffee shop is a writer. I’m just happy that I wrote something that impressed Wyatt like it did. It really means a lot to me that he has taken me under his wing in the way that he has. Also, he would have better plans for my demise if he would stop posting them on Facebook.
GC: Outpost 13 features actor Guy Stephens. Where else might we have seen him?
CL – Guy Stephens plays a small role in the feature film Fear. State of Mind Productions also just worked with Mr. Stephens last weekend on the 48 Hour Film Project – St. Louis on a project called “No Strings” where he plays a character called ‘The Puppeteer’. No Strings is a 5 minute short about crime lord manipulation and control. This will screen at the Tivoli Theater this week in St. Louis. We are very proud of this film.
GC: We know Black Gate’s exCLusive access to Outpost 13 is just the beginning; can you give us any hints about what’s next?
WW – Anything we do we will be happy to talk about. I’m a promotional WHORE for Black Gate (GC: And THAT is why we love Wyatt). Seriously, we’ll talk when the next feature starts up, when the book gets done, and when we do our next few shorts.
As for Outpost 13 specifically, we all feel it’s a good starting point for a series…
CL – Our new film Contamination: A Convention Story will be available soon. This film is a documentary on Sci Fi and Horror conventions, and the fans and celebrities that attend them. It seeks to find the reason why fans and celebrities alike travel across the country to take part in these events (GC: When you find out, please let the employees of Black Gate know). It features interviews with Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, G Tom Mack, Gary Klar, Brad Loree, Bill Johnson, Cody Deal, as well as a cast reunion of the 1994 Fantastic 4. It will debut at the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase in July.
Fear (title subject to change) is our next feature narrative film that will be released early in 2013. Fear is a horror anthology in the style of classic films and TV shows like The Twilight Zone and Creepshow. It is stylized after the EC comics of the 50s with a modern twist.
The stories include that of a scientist bent on finding the component to reanimating the extracellular matrix to save the girl of his dreams. Bank robbers on the run seek refuge with a Russian family in an old farmhouse, but the origins of the family may be more dangerous than the murderous duo. A child murderer may be in for more than he bargained for when he picks up a brother and sister with something else on their minds, and three other tales a horror and suspense.
GC: Could each of you tell us what’s next for you? And in case you’re wondering, yes, this is a shameless, thinly veiled request for more Black Gate exclusives.
WW – I am finally starting to develop a new feature film; a project I’ve been wanting to do for years called “Little Miss”. It’s a horror-thriller that has some classic elements to it. But before I start into that full time there’s a novel that I have to finish. I’ve set aside some time this summer to do that, then I will launch into the movie in the fall.
BH– We’ve been tossing the ball back and forth on a gangster / mob feature that we would like to shoot later this year. Also, this is my first interview and love to answer questions, fire away.
WW – Shadowland has done pretty well with US DVD sales, and we are finally getting a lead on digital download and some television play. We are also starting to sell overseas territories. I think we’ve sold Taiwan, Australia, Germany, and some others. It’s slow, but it’s steady. Just when we think it’s over, it takes another breath and keeps going.
GC: For all the aspiring film makers out there, what is your advice for getting your project noticed by the industry?
CL – Know your craft. With the advance of digital cinema there are more filmmakers out there making movies than ever before. Cameras that can take fantastic quality videos are getting cheaper and cheaper and everyone has one. Learn it. Know your camera.
Lighting. Sound. Editing. Learn every facet of how to put of film together. Every aspect of what makes a film works. When you understand not only how to shoot a scene a certain way but why it should be shot that way you are making a better quality film.
So it is about immersion in the art. It has to be your passion. When you’re eating, sleeping, and breathing film you will get noticed. You just can’t give up.
WW – I agree with everything Corey said. Plus, your film has to contain something OUTSTANDING, be it story, directing, photography, acting, or ideally a combination of all of those things, but something that gets attention, gets people talking. I don’t mean exploitation – that’s too easy. I mean a quality that gets people to react, like “I just saw the funniest film”, or “I just saw the coolest action scene”, that kind of thing. There are a million people out there making films, but concept and quality always rises to the surface. Know your craft, execute it well.
BH– Love. You can buy all the cameras in the world, but you make a movie that you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as a turn of the worlds. Love keeps her on the screen when she oughta fall down, tells you she’s hurtin’ before she keels. Makes her a film.
WW – Damn, Billy, that was beautiful! And familiar….
Are you an aspiring film maker with a question to ask or a story to share? Post a comment or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.