Life gave me lemons, and I made lemonade. (Literally.)

Happy Newish Year

I had been holding off on writing any updates until I heard from the two film festivals I entered my latest short Party Pooper into. Alas, both announced their rejection of the film this past week, which only supports my long-held theory that if you have to pay to submit your film to a festival, you won't get in, because most festival organizers fill their programs with work submitted by their established contacts. (Put more bluntly, the majority of festivals only play their friends' films - while taking strangers' money.) I was aware of this semi-scam going in, but figured I'd gamble on Party Pooper because I liked it so much. Oh well, lesson relearned. The film's doing all right on Funny Or Die - it even hit #1 on the "User Picks" list in December - as well as on YouTube. Combined, it's gotten over 3,000 views in less than two months. Not bad for a 7-minute film trying to make it in a 30-second world. You can watch it on FOD here and on YouTube here.

Meanwhile, I've been getting more writing work for studio Blu-rays. Hopefully I will get more of these gigs in 2009. Until then, I have delved back into the world of Web design, admittedly not with a great amount of enthusiasm, but because I need the work.

As for future short films? I have two ideas in my head. Both need fleshing out. But I see no reason why I can't keep churning out shorts this year - even while the endless wait for enough cash to shoot a feature continues. Due to the current economy, I don't predict it will be any easier to find financial backing in 2009 than it had been over the last ten years. Still, to quote Winston Churchill (correctly, for it's often inaccurately quoted): Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in. Of course, Churchill then added, except to convictions of honor and good sense. If I had good sense, I'd probably quit making films. But Winston Churchill wasn't a filmmaker.

Gotta go! (Go watch Party Pooper, that is)

Watch and Vote for Party Pooper!

Although it was more than two months after our one-evening shoot for my new short comedy Party Pooper, I finally found an editor, my talented filmmaker friend Shelli Ryan, and we got a final cut of the film a week ago. I sat on it (chuckle) for a few days in order to submit the film to a couple of film festivals, and while it will take weeks to hear back from them, I decided in the meantime to post the film online at Funny Or Die. Please be so kind as to watch Party Pooper. I think it turned out really well, and I hope you find it funny too. If so, please click the FUNNY button beneath the film, and spread the word to whatever friends, coworkers, classmates or family members who you think might get a kick out of it. Please read my September 19 update below for the cast list. I will put the film on this site in a few months, but for now I want to drive traffic to its page on Funny Or Die in hopes that it will get some word of mouth.

Meanwhile I'm writing some Blu-ray content for Warner Bros.' upcoming dark superhero drama Watchmen, even though the movie itself won't appear in theaters until March and who knows when the Blu-ray will come out? But it's fun work, and I'm learning a lot about the complex graphic novel on which it's based, even though I'd avoided it for two decades. Oh, and for those keeping track, Disney/Pixar's A Bug's Life Blu-ray should be released during the first quarter of 2009, and the disc includes a wonderful short film which I wrote the adaptation for. (Comic Dave Foley, who provided the lead voice in A Bug's Life, narrates Pixar's original pitch for the film as a sort of bedtime story. I adapted that original pitch into a script; Dave Foley basically performed my script.) Until then, I wish you all a Cool Yule and a Frantic First.

Dom Zook is a Party Pooper

New Comedy Short “in the Can”

Greetings, gentle reader. You know by now that I am a man of my word, and so I went forth and shot that short comedy film last Sunday. It's called Party Pooper, a title which basically explains the plot. (As usual, I might wind up changing the title, as I have found two extremely unfunny shorts with the same title and same general subject matter on YouTube.) The one-day shoot went well, and I think it will be a very, very funny film once it's done. I just need to set about editing it. My usual editor seems to be busy, so I'm open to any offers. Otherwise, I'll wind up editing it myself. In any event, you can be sure to see the film here once it's finished. The talented cast includes Dom Zook, Ben Dunn, Erika Godwin, Tyler Rhoades, Niki Moore (who was seen very briefly in Claustrophobia as an interviewee on the TV news) and Elaine Elizabeth Reid, who starred in my previous short Portrait of a Pensive Lady.

In other news, I had a surprise development for Dial 9 to Get Out a month ago, when my producer friend got the script into the hands of a production company interested in making it. After a very good meeting with them, and a budget pulled together, my excitement has cooled as it seems the production company now hopes to shoot a bigger-budget picture first. There is still a chance that I might get to work with them, and I'm optimistic as always, but you know show biz... that's why I'm keeping busy by making short films. I have more ideas in my head, so I should be able to crank out a couple more shorts in 2009 as well. Meanwhile, my new career as a creative writer for Blu-ray discs continues. Iron Man and Indy IV will both be released very soon, with my work intact. Buy them! I see no money from those sales, of course, but buy them anyway! Also, I recently wrote a script for an animated special feature to be included on the Blu-ray for Disney/Pixar's A Bug's Life, though its release date is yet to be determined.

Cloverfield Special Investigation Mode: I wrote this

Film Festivals, Studio Work, and More

I'd like to wish my fellow Americans a happy Independence Day. (If there's an "independent film" joke in there somewhere, I can't find it.) I have quite a few updates for you today. First of all, my short film Portrait of a Pensive Lady - retitled from "Still Life With Woman" - has been accepted into its first festival, and on August 1-2 it will play at the Ballston Spa Film Festival. Ballston Spa is a beautiful old Victorian resort town in upstate New York. The festival is free to attend, and all the short films - many of them world premieres, like mine - will be screened outdoors under the stars. It sounds wonderful. I wish I could be there. But if you live in the area or plan to visit there around that time, please go.

I've been working for Hollywood again, too. The Cloverfield Blu-ray, which features my creative writing, is now out! The disc turned out great, and the movie's many fans seem to really enjoy my work (I wrote all the entries for the film's "Special Investigation Mode," where you can watch Cloverfield from the government's perspective; this makes more sense if you know the film. I also researched all the locations for the disc's "live" map, and even wrote trivia questions for the tie-in website). The company I was contracting for then asked me back to do some writing for the Iron Man Blu-ray, which should be out in a few months, and very recently I finished up - mostly - writing work for the Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray. Big movies. Nice additions to the ol' resume. So I've been keeping busy with all that, as well as with some design work. And on top of everything, I still hope to make another short film before summer's over. I have the story worked out and it can very easily be shot in my house. I've just been lazy about getting it all together, but it will happen. It'll be my first out-and-out comedy, even if I've put a lot of comic elements into my earlier work. Once I shoot it, you can be sure that you, dear readers, will be the first to know.

Me (in foreground) and actress Elaine Reid

A New Short in Post-Production

I'm very happy to report that on Sunday, March 2, I got together with three friends and we shot a little movie about a middle-class housewife posing for her portrait... in 1662 Holland. It's my first period film! The budget is a whopping $250, with $100 of that going into the costume rental, and most of the rest going into food for the crew. Its tentative title is Still Life With Woman. If any of you can think of a more clever title for a slightly comedic, slightly bittersweet short film about the thoughts going through this Dutch sitter's head, please share. I'm not totally over the moon with my rather generic title, but for the life of me, I can't think of anything better right now. [MARCH 18 UPDATE: As of now, I'm calling this film "Portrait of a Pensive Lady."] Nevertheless, now that the footage is shot and the voiceover has been recorded, my editor Marc Wade and I are leaping into post-production tomorrow, as I want to enter it into a film competition that has a March 24 entry deadline. I don't know about my chances of getting in, much less winning any of their valuable cash prizes, but it's something to shoot for. I don't have any other plans for the film right now. I just wanted to be making movies again, and decided to pursue this story idea. I'm sure that soon enough it will appear on this site for your viewing pleasure, as well as on YouTube and the like.

In other news, I recently had a fun freelance gig writing creative content for the Cloverfield DVD. As of this writing, I'm not sure if my work will see the light of day, but a boy can hope. I am also working semi-fulltime as a creative director for a new online game for girls, which is about to shift into high gear. It has little to do with film, but it's paying the bills so that I can hopefully make more $250 shorts later in the year. In any event, the rest of March looks to be a busy time.

With my ‘two wives’ on New Year’s Eve

What’s in Store for 2008

Happy New Year to you! Let's hope 2008 is a good one. It's no secret that 2007 was, for me, mostly a news-free (and somewhat fun-free) year. I got into an arbitration case against my former foreign sales agent, I won, and although he never did pay me everything that he owed me, at least he finally signed the rights to the foreign deals over to me in the fall. What this meant was that I could at last collect my revenues from Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer's sale to Japan, more than a year after the film's DVD release there. So I've achieved a sort of closure, and now it's time that I start truly focusing on new projects. And while I promise you, dear reader, that I would make Dial 9 to Get Out right now if I had the money - with the writer's strike on (and I am not a member of WGA), it's a perfect time to gather up a talented cast and crew and shoot an independent feature - I do not, in fact, have the money. So as I hope for a new producer or for pure luck to bring in some investors, I'll have to put any feature filmmaking dreams on hold right now unless I get a brilliant idea for a feature that I can shoot for under, say, ten thousand bucks. Which is possible, but it ain't easy. Meanwhile, I am promising myself to make a short film in 2008. Hopefully several, if I can think of enough ideas. I do have one solid idea that should be pretty easy to realize. Just a one-day local shoot, in fact. I only need to find somebody who has a nice video camera. It should be a fun, pretty-looking little movie.

The Japanese DVD: yes, they retitled the film DELETE

Another Long-Overdue Update

Nothing major has happened since my last update (hence the non-film-related photo at left), but I figured I owed this site's readers a little news. First of all, despite my IFTA arbitration win against my former sales agent MonteCristo Entertainment last spring, its President and CEO Michael (Michele) Taverna failed to pay me my award. Then, two months after the announcement of my victory in the claim, his lawyer wrote that Taverna had since severed his ties to MonteCristo Entertainment - how convenient for him! - and thus a) couldn't pay me anything, and b) couldn't assign the rights to the foreign sales deals over to me. So my attorney put some pressure on them, and then voila, suddenly Taverna and his lawyer were able to pay me a little (though not everything). Then my new sales agent - also an attorney - put more pressure on, and then finally, a couple of weeks ago, Taverna signed over the rights to me, after nearly a year of insisting that he didn't have the power to do so. Funny how the story changes when the legal screws are applied, no? So anyway, while I still haven't been able to collect on the full award, getting the rights to these deals - which means I can finally collect on the sale of my film Claustrophobia to Japan - could help. No money yet from my Japanese distributors, but they seem honest.

Meanwhile, I recently left this Web producing job that I'd had since January. There was no drama-filled resignation announcement, and no bad blood - I just decided that I needed to work in design and art direction again. Project management is stressful and not particularly creative. So a-job-hunting I will go. Oh, but there is one intriguing bit of Dial 9 to Get Out news that I just heard, and that is that we finally got the script to a well-known actor's agent. Hopefully both agent and actor will like the script and sign on, in which case development can move forward at a more rapid pace. If I write nothing more about this here, then you'll know what happened!

The Dial 9 to Get Out onesheet

A Long-Overdue Update

Many apologies for the long silence. (Though it's not like I vanished off the face of the planet, as I have continued to add Lists of 9 and Movie Reviews to this site, even though it's been four months since I last posted a Development Update.) The fact is, I had been waiting for my IFTA arbitration claim against Claustrophobia's former foreign sales agent MonteCristo Entertainment (run by Michael a.k.a. Michele Taverna) to finish up before updating anybody about it. The good news is that I won the claim! I just found out last week. This means that Taverna is officially required to pay me the money that he owes me and assign the rights to the Thailand, UK, and (most importantly) Japan deals over to me directly, so that I can hopefully start collecting on the royalties from sales to these countries. Of course he hasn't paid me yet. And there's no guarantee that he will. If he doesn't, you can bet I will continue to assert that Michael Taverna and MonteCristo are people that film producers should avoid working with.

In the meantime, I got a full-time job again. My first since quitting Paramount back in 2002. It's a bit strange to be back in the corporate world - I am once again working for a company that specializes in Web design, only I am now a producer instead of a designer, which is a bit closer to what life as a film director is like. In other words, lots of planning, lots of managing, lots of decisions and lots of deadlines to worry about.

I certainly haven't given up my filmmaking dreams, however, and Dial 9 to Get Out continues to sputter ahead, however slowly. (It didn't help that one of my two producers got a job working on the TV show Lost in Hawaii just a couple of weeks after we signed our agreement.) My friend Stephanie, who has considerable casting experience, has joined the team as our casting director and is trying to contact certain name actors that we'd like to talk to, even as Gregory and Meta, the producers, prepare budgets and attempt to raise money. It would be nice to post some solid updates about this film soon, but in the event that it can't get off the ground - it's always a question of money, as you know - at least I'm now pulling in a regular salary again, so if nothing else, in a couple of years I will have saved up enough to shoot another self-funded low budget picture. That might make for a slender Updates page in the interim, but I will make my third feature film eventually. I think that's inevitable. It's just a question of what film, and when.

This is me, looking ahead

Looking Ahead to 2007

I waited a while to post an update because there were "things in the works" that I didn't want to discuss publicly until I had the assurance to do so (i.e. had a contract signed). But now I can share the news that last week I signed an option agreement with two producers to make Dial 9 to Get Out. These brave souls are Meta and Gregory. I've known Meta for several years (we met at a party - mingling can be lucrative!) and Meta has known Gregory for a while too. Both are very excited about making this picture - which is, I think, one of the two important qualities that a producer should have. (The other being the ability to raise money, of course.) With their suggestions, I rewrote the script and improved it greatly. (This is why I haven't been able to start any new scripts, as hoped - it's taken a while to perfect the one for Dial 9.) I'm optimistic about the future of this project in 2007. Naturally I will post updates as they come. Right now the goal is to start raising money and try to attach a "name" actor or two to the film. This is not going to be a multi-million-dollar deal, but it's also not going to be shot on a shoestring like Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer was.

Otherwise, though 2006 was definitely filled with highlights for me - the Getty Images win, first and foremost, but also some fun vacations and a happy home life - I can't wait to move on. Unfortunately my former sales agent Michael (aka Michele) Taverna of MonteCristo International (aka MonteCristo Entertainment) is still refusing to pay me the money he owes me from his Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer sales, so I have officially begun IFTA arbitration against him. I don't know how long this will take, or if there's any guarantee that I'll get my money. But it's better to try than to not try. In any case, I'm eager to put this ugly situation behind me. Once again, I send out a warning to all filmmakers out there to stay away from Michael Taverna and MonteCristo. It's a lousy situation, one I wouldn't wish upon anybody. If nothing else, at least I can use the power of the Internet to spread the word about this guy and his shady business practices.

On a lighter note, I wish you all a very Happy New Year and I hope 2007 treats you well.

With my fellow panelist Vilmos Zsigmond

Back from Bozeman

I just got back yesterday from my three-day appearance at HATCHfest in Bozeman, Montana, which prides itself as being not a film festival but an "audiovisual arts festival" (fair enough, as they had competitions and shows involving fashion, music and design) aimed at having industry professionals mentor and inspire students. But I was there for the film aspect of it, invited as a guest by Getty Images and rather arbitrarily put on the cinematography panel. I guess the festival committee was not sure where else I would fit in, as they knew me primarily as the Getty short film winner and not as a director of two features. So at first I felt very much in over my head, sharing the panel with, among other luminaries, Oscar-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, etc.) and Kevin Smith's DP of choice, David Klein. But they were nice guys, and while they deservedly got the lion's share of questions on the panel, I still got to speak from a director's point of view and was apparently appreciated by the young and enthusiastic crowd. In fact, I believe our panel had the largest audience of any in the festival, so I was proud to be a part of that. All in all, HATCH is a great idea and a great time. I hope it continues to grow and thrive. I'd much rather people went to HATCH than to, say, Sundance.

I now plan to start work on the Poisoned Apple script even as Dial 9 to Get Out sits eternally on the edge of moving forward. (Latest update on that: I'm waiting for a specific meeting to be scheduled with a potential producer who has money.) Meanwhile, I am experiencing the dark side of the independent film world right now, as I prepare to take legal action against my former foreign sales agents MonteCristo Entertainment (now called MonteCristo International), who owe me thousands of dollars from their sales of Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer to the UK and to other countries. (And by the way, they are now claiming that they didn't sell the film to Russia or Ukraine, a year after claiming that they did. So my apologies to any readers in the CIS who can't find the film.) I can't predict the outcome of this matter, but I can at least tell other producers who might be Googling the company's name to stay far away from MonteCristo CEO Michael Taverna (aka Michele Taverna) and whatever film enterprise he represents. I'm not the only person who is having problems getting my money from him. And unfortunately this is not uncommon in this business.

At the Getty party in New York. I’ve been watermarked!

I Won!

Good news: My short film The Closest Thing to Time Travel won Grand Prize in the Getty Images competition "The Next Big Idea" (see below entry for more details). If you're one of the people who watched the film and voted for it while the competition was running, I am very grateful for your help and support. You helped me win the $10,000 prize as well as a trip to New York (where they premiered the film at a special event filled with hundreds of drunken revelers). I am not sure whether this win will open any doors for me; I've always understood that this competition, fun though it may have been, was not about kick-starting a struggling filmmaker's career so much as it was a marketing campaign aimed at promoting Getty Images' impressive film library. But if all I get out of it is the ten grand and the New York trip, that's good enough for me. Time, however, will tell if anything more comes of it. In any event, I'm quite happy about this nice little victory.

Aside from that, I finished up my little job with Disney and am hoping to find some new things to busy up the rest of my year. There may be another foreign sale for Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer soon, but it's too early to tell. I've also been toying around with the idea of writing a script for an ultra-ultra-low-budget film that I can make with my own savings in 2007, in case Dial 9 to Get Out fails to find any investors before then.

A still from The Closest Thing to Time Travel

Watch My New Short Film – and Vote for It!

I'm very excited to tell you that I made a new short film, which you can watch right now, for free, online. It's called The Closest Thing to Time Travel and it's but a mere 60 seconds in length. As reported in the update below, it's my entry in a Getty Images stock footage competition called "The Next Big Idea". Now that it's up for public voting, I need you to watch my new film and vote for it. If I win, I get $10,000! So I need all the votes I can legally get. Please click here to watch my film. [2007 UPDATE: THE COMPETITION IS OVER, BUT CLICK THAT LINK TO WATCH MY FILM, AND THE OTHER FINALISTS' FILMS AS WELL.] If you have the time, I encourage you to watch all of the final films. There's a lot of creativity on display. But I really think mine's the best, so I'd appreciate your vote. Voting ends April 21, so if you want to help me out, do not delay. Thanks.

More good news to share: Claustrophobia was released in the UK on March 20. It's on DVD under its inescapable new title Serial Slayer. If you're in Britain, you can now see my film, so hunt it down. I know it's available at and as well as many other video rental and sales sites. I don't know which "brick & mortar" shops it's in. I suppose if your local shop doesn't carry it, you can just tell them to order the film from Film 2000, its UK distributor.

The 2006 version of me

Happy Chinese New Year

Since I missed an update on January 1, let me wish you "Gung Hay Fat Choy" - or however you want to spell the traditional Chinese New Year greeting. It's now the Year of the Dog, and as I'm a dog according to the Chinese zodiac, let's hope that means good luck. I realize it's been a while since I updated you on film developments. Frankly, up until January there wasn't much to report. And there were some other things I couldn't talk about until now. Namely the big news with Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer, which is that I have now finished my yearlong representation deal with foreign sales agents MonteCristo Entertainment, and have decided to sign with new foreign sales agents, a Colorado-based outfit called Inferno Film. Please note that Integration Entertainment continues to rep this film domestically. Still hoping for a US cable release, but I'm a small fish in a big pond as far as that arena is concerned.

Aside from that, although there is no current news regarding my feature film endeavors (i.e. Dial 9 to Get Out), recently I was short-listed in a Getty Images competition called The Next Big Idea. Out of 240 initial pitches for short films that consist of at least 50% stock footage from the Getty Images library, I made the top 30 - which means now I get to actually make my short. It will only be sixty seconds in length, but I'm still excited to be making another movie and working with some old friends again. I do believe the final films will be open to public judging in mid-March, so expect a link to it and me urging you to vote for my entry. If I win, I'll get $10,000. By the way, it's highly likely that Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer will finally be profitable this year, which is a real accomplishment in the independent film world. So if you've been toying with the idea of getting involved in independent film, please contact me if you'd like to know more.

This past January was a terrific month. My wife Miki and I bought a new car and adopted a cat, I got a short-term consulting job with Disney of all places, and I'm excited about making the Getty Images finals. It's either all downhill from here, or else January is merely a good start to a great year. Let's hope for the latter, shall we?

One of my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory screens

New Zealand and a Chocolate Factory

The New Zealand release of Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer appears to have finally happened, after a series of flips and flops. Originally I thought it was coming out last May, concurrent with the Australian release, then learned it was slated for November 17 in NZ, then found out it was today! (It still may be generally unavailable until the 17th, but I'll err on the side of danger this time.) Anyway, this is happy news as so many Kiwis worked on the film. Now hopefully their friends and families can admire their contributions. Things have otherwise been quiet on the foreign sales front, though at least I did get a fairly firm date of March 20, 2006 for the UK video release, and I'm assuming - since I got paid for it - that the Thailand video release has already happened, though it's impossible for me to track down any information about this due to language difficulties. If there's anybody reading this in Thailand who's willing to do the legwork and find my film, I'd love to hear from you.

I'd also like to take a moment to plug the DVD release of Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which happens in the US November 8 and shortly thereafter around the world. As mentioned below, I designed some of the interactive games on the second disc. They turned out great! The DVD doesn't credit those who worked on this stuff, so let me give credit where it's due, in case anybody is Googling this title or the people themselves. Whereas I, your humble servant, Mark Tapio Kines, storyboarded all the games and created the graphics for the "Search for the Golden Ticket" game, several of my friends did the rest of the work. They really are cool, these games. Possibly even better than Burton's movie itself.

The happy couple


Usually I don't post much personal news in this section, but a wedding is pretty significant no matter who you are, so I figured it was worth mentioning. In short, on August 3, 2005, I got married to my girlfriend Miki. It was a private ceremony on a hot air balloon in Northern California's wine country ("Hidden Valley", to be precise), just the two of us and the balloon captain, so don't feel bad if you weren't invited. Anyway, obviously that's taken up the bulk of my time during the past month or so - not just the wedding itself, but the big move-in, which has strained my muscles and often my patience since I started hauling my stuff into Miki's house in West Hollywood on July 31. (Trivia note: beleaguered actor Tom Sizemore once lived in this house, reportedly having cocaine parties with Robert Downey Jr. right in our living room. It's fun to be a part of Hollywood lore!)

Now that the dust is settling from the wedding and the move, I need to figure out what my next course of action is, film-wise. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to the quarter finals of the Nicholl Fellowship Screenwriting Contest (see May 4 entry, below), so I can't count on any agents or production companies knocking on my door any time soon. Which is probably best, as it narrows my future filmmaking options, making it more likely that, despite my initial wishes, I will probably self-fund Dial 9 to Get Out if I am to shoot it in 2006. Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer made a bit more money than expected on VOD, so that helps. Also, I am hoping that some decent cash will come in from that film's foreign sales, which will further enable me to fund Dial 9. (Though I have yet to see any checks from these sales, which is troubling.) One final thing, for you Kiwis: apparently Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer is not yet released in New Zealand, despite earlier reports. I don't know when it will be released, but it should be soon. (It's the same company that released it in Australia back in May.)

Yep, the misleading DVD art is the same Down Under

G’Day, Australia

Claustrophobia - yes, under its new title Serial Slayer - is out on DVD today in Australia. If you live Down Under and you're reading this, go out to your local video shop and ask for it. And if you like it, tell your friends. I actually get royalties from this release, unlike the American one. So word of mouth is extra important in this case. Thanks!

High time for some updates in general. I finally tackled the polish on my Dial 9 to Get Out screenplay. I clarified a few plot points and pared the script down from 120 pages to a more digestible 108. I was inspired to get off my ass (or, rather, on it) in order to enter it into the Nicholl Fellowship screenwriting competition by its May 2 deadline. (I also entered Sharky Baby, for what it's worth.) I don't do these contests, as most are scams, but the Nicholl Fellowship - run by the Academy - is the real deal. I'll know by July if I make the quarter-finals. Right now I stand a 1 in 6000 chance of winning - slightly higher odds than I'd have if I kept my screenplays in a box.

Meanwhile, my foreign sales agents MonteCristo Entertainment have sold the rights to Claustrophobia to Thailand and Japan. God only knows what the film will be called in either of those countries. Now, Thailand basically buys everything put in front of them, so that's not really a big deal. We'll see about Japan, though. Coincidentally, a friend just profiled me for a Japanese teen magazine(!), so maybe I'll have some new fans over there. Oh - and MonteCristo also got an offer for UK home video, but it was too low for my tastes, so I said no. Hopefully a better offer for that territory will come in soon. Finally, Serial Slayer is currently airing on iN DEMAND's Video On Demand (VOD) service in the US (and will until the end of this month), so you Yankees can see the film that way, if you have access.

Dial 9’s title page

The Script Is Done!

I'm very happy to report that I finally finished the first draft of my new script Dial 9 to Get Out yesterday morning, March 1. Only two and a half months behind schedule! I can't say it wasn't for lack of trying. It was, in fact, for lack of trying. Sorry folks. I got lazy. This is mainly because, unlike the script for Claustrophobia, I don't have the slightest clue if or when I will be able to turn this into a film. So there's been no pressure, no need to set a deadline for it. But now that it's finished, I'm satisfied with it, I'm feeling groovy, and hopefully the wheels of development will soon start turning and I can get funding for it. (If your money is burning a hole in your pocket and you'd like to invest, please contact me.) In the meantime, I'll just focus on more Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer foreign sales (a couple of offers have come in, but I won't report them until they close) and eventually start working on a new, not-so-scary script. Maybe a little black comedy called Family Friend. But there's even less of a hurry on that. (A bit of trivia: Dial 9 is my eighth completed feature-length screenplay. I don't want to hear anybody complaining about how they have no time to finish their first.)

By the way, my current film will be available - yes, under the title Serial Slayer - on iN DEMAND's Video On Demand service starting March 25, 2005. I'll try to drum up a little more attention for this bit of news when the time comes. Until then, set your TiVos.

An old poster idea is now the new onesheet

A Gaggle of Updates

It's been a busy month. First of all, Claustrophobia aka Serial Slayer is coming to a TV set near you. Yes, it's already out on DVD in the US and Canada, but for those of you too lazy to trot down to your local video store or subscribe to Netflix, you can soon watch it on the pay-per-view service iN DEMAND starting in March. I don't have a date for it yet, but it will be on or after March 14, I believe. Also, good news for my friends Down Under: Claustrophobia will be released in Australia and New Zealand on May 4, 2005. The distributor is Imagine Entertainment - no relation to Ron Howard's production company - and yes, they are also using the new title Serial Slayer. You can't win 'em all. But still, I'm thrilled to share this news.

Speaking of foreign sales, I just signed with a new foreign sales agent: MonteCristo Entertainment. They're a young outfit based in Prague, and they were recommended to me by the same person who hooked me up with Imagine, so hopes are high. I had to do some massive work getting all the stuff ready to send to them, including new poster art which is based on one of the posters I designed for the film a couple of years back.

As for the film's reception in America, well, I reneged on my pledge to avoid reading reviews. The main reason is that I got some notably good ones, particularly from Phantasmagoria, who has just written my all-time favorite review of my work. Also, the esteemed Fangoria finally posted their review, which is smartly-written and very positive (especially considering that they don't give away those stars - or skulls, in this case - too freely). There has also been, alas, a number of horror geeks who have gaily trashed this film, some literally calling it the worst thing they've ever seen. I'd be more sensitive to their harsh comments if any of these people had something useful to say, but it's mostly just childish ranting. Oh well. If nothing else, it just goes to show you how subjective movies are. How else to explain that, for The Horror Channel's web site, editor Debi Moore named Claustrophobia/Serial Slayer "The best direct-to-video film of 2004" while a sneering colleague of hers, who shall remain nameless, dubbed it the worst direct-to-video film of 2004? I guess you either get it or you don't.

Finally, some of you may wonder what is going on with Dial 9 to Get Out. Answer: I got a lot of scriptwriting done earlier this month before I became swamped with other things. I'm now at page 95. I suspect I only need to write 10-15 more pages, and it'll be done.

Melanie Lynskey and Corin Nemec, back in the day

Husker Du Foreign Correspondents?

"Husker du", for those of you unfamiliar with the '80s college band or the old American board game (which spelled it Husker Doo?), means "do you remember" in Norwegian. And let's not forget about my first feature, Foreign Correspondents, which today hits video shelves in my father's homeland of Norway. This just goes to show you how you can never give up on a film: Although it was finished nearly six years ago, even now it will be seen for the first time by somebody. And you know, recently I saw the film again, which I hadn't done in almost five years (for some reason I had always been shy about watching it in its entirety), and I found myself having grown more fond of it. It's a nicely-made, bittersweet little romantic drama with some wonderful performances - especially from the underrated Corin Nemec - and some lovely cinematography and music. If you haven't visited my ancient site for it, please do so now. You can also find the DVD on Netflix.

For the rest of you, I wish you a Merry Christmas (those of you who celebrate it) and a Happy New Year (ditto) as well. See you in 2005 with some exciting new updates.

Don’t judge a film by its cover

Today’s the Big Day

After over a year of waiting, I'm very happy to say that my film Claustrophobia is now available across the United States and Canada. I'm less happy to say that it's being called Serial Slayer, but I'm proud all the same. My editor Marc Wade got an advance copy (before I did!) and reassured me that Lions Gate did not recut the film or alter the soundtrack. Other than changing the title and creating highly misleading cover art, they've left the film alone. It may look a little too much like video for my tastes, but, well, it is video, so there you go.

Now, I've said it before, but my main concern is that the cheesy title and cover art will: a) keep away the people who might actually like the film, and b) attract the people who probably won't like it: hardcore horror geeks. Although there's been a handful of decent reviews in the online horror community, I came across my first "zero stars" rating yesterday. It was given by a moron, but nevertheless, it was disheartening. So on a friend's advice, from this point forward I'm not reading any more reviews, unless somebody tells me in advance that it's a glowing one. Call me sensitive. But it's hard enough just getting a film made - I don't want to see some random idiot trashing it on his web site.

Gee, there's so much to say today. First of all, Fangoria didn't have a review of the film in this month's issue. Maybe next month (but now I can't read it, as per my pledge). Also, my producer's reps Integration Entertainment are stepping away from the foreign sales arena, so I need to find new foreign sales reps. And I am still slaving away on Dial 9 to Get Out. I didn't finish the first draft today, as I'd hoped, but then I often miss my self-appointed deadlines. Blame the holidays. At least I'm up to page 72.