Exclusive: Jarod Neece on What Makes a Film Stand Out For SXSW - Dread Central
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Exclusive: Jarod Neece on What Makes a Film Stand Out For SXSW

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This year marked the 30th anniversary of Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW), which combines film, music, interactive media, industry panels, and a whole lot more into one gigantic event that draws in tens upon tens of thousands of attendees and brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact during its 10-day run. It’s a smorgasbord of everything entertainment, from midnight horror film screenings to fantastic concerts throughout the city to brand parties to tech demonstrations. As Senior Film Programmer of SXSW Jarod Neece puts it, “We’re the fun zone festival, geek spring break.”

Neece knows precisely what SXSW is and what it offers, telling me, “SXSW is part of something bigger but I think that kind of adds to the fun. It is different than any other film festival, giving opportunities to cross different boundaries maybe you’re used to, getting many different people in the same room.” To say that this is accurate is an understatement. During my time at SXSW, I ran into people from all sorts of outlets with a wide variety of interests. For example, I had lunch with the CEO of a video analytics company one day and then had dinner with genre filmmakers later that evening. I wandered around downtown Austin, simply hoping to meet people and see what drew them to SXSW, often achieving this with the utmost of ease.

For Neece, his journey through the ranks of SXSW shows just how committed and passionate one has to be in order to make such an endeavor work. “I started as a tech guy here, an exhibition manager, moved up to shorts programming, I worked in the conference for a while, and then programmed features,” he explains.

Recognizing that SXSW has grown into a mammoth endeavor, Neece is aware that this allows the festival to take on more mainstream studio films. “As the festival has grown, people who want to come to SXSW, there’s more buyers, more press, more industry, more filmmakers, everybody, it’s a bigger thing now so it’s a lot easier conversation to have,” he explains. But that doesn’t mean that’s all they’re after. In fact, he makes it very clear that there’s more to a film showing at SXSW than having a studio behind it. “We’re always looking for films that have a little edge to them, definitely pushing boundaries.

For Neece, who had to sift through 8,000 submissions for the 2017 program, he’ll know if a film is worth approving simply by its feel.

You need an original vision. Like, they should get their inspiration from films but not try to copy those films. They should do something that want to do, would love to do, the motivation needs to be really pure, they need to have some sort of vision in there. It can’t just be “I want to be a famous person” or “I want to make money”. It’s, like, “I need to make this film, it’s definitive, I want to tell the story”. And then that’s going to come across a lot better than something that is packaged in a way that there’s not much soul to it. If it’s something their passionate about, something they, I don’t know, they just need to be passionate about it I guess, that’s my number one thing. If there’s no passion, it’s going to show. If you’re not doing it for the right reasons that won’t really work out.

We say we program with our guts, you can just feel it, there’s something about it that just feels authentic and when it’s not you can tell that too,” Neece tells me. He elaborates, saying, “It doesn’t have to be crazy or weird…if you’re telling a new story and telling it in a new way. It could be a film like Primer, that cost fifty thousand dollars and it’s just cardboard boxes and lights and it’s like yeah, “Ok, that guy was totally time traveling”. It was just some editing and lights and whatever. So yeah, it doesn’t need to be crazy CGI, obviously we love practical effects so yeah, something you’re passionate about, some cool story, a new way to tell a story.

When he looks back at some of the premieres and films that stand out over the history of SXSW, Neece recalls Attack the Block and Medicine for Melancholy, which was Oscar winning director Barry Jenkins’ (Moonlight) first film. He remembers Monsters from Gareth Edwards, who went on to direct Godzilla and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As he puts it, “I like the success stories of people who started here and then ran with it and turned it into this crazy career, those are always cool stories.

So, if you’re a filmmaker who wants to get a movie into SXSW, now you know what to do. Be yourself, be unique, be passionate, and make the best of what you’ve got. SXSW might show some of the biggest genre films of a given year but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in. Rather, it’s all the more incentive for you to prove you can go toe-to-toe with everyone else.

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Dread Central Presents The Lodgers – Vegas Screening and Wider Release

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Last weekend fans got their first taste of the next Dread Central Presents film, The Lodgers (review); and we’re not done yet! There’s another Dread Central Presents screening TOMORROW, February 22nd, at 7:00 PM at the Eclipse Theaters in Las Vegas, Nevada (tickets here); and then the flick will be opening wider the very next day!

To see if the film will be playing near you, click here for a list of cities The Lodgers will be haunting!

Directed by Brian O’Malley and starring Charlotte Vega and Bill Milner, the film made its worldwide premiere at 2017’s Toronto International Film Festival and has since won many awards across multiple festivals.

Make sure to follow and “like” Dread Central Presents on Facebook to stay in the know regarding this and upcoming titles!

Synopsis:
In this Gothic horror tale, a family curse confines orphaned twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) to their home as punishment for their ancestors’ sins. Bound to the rules of a haunting childhood lullaby, the twins must never let any outsiders inside the house, must be in their rooms by the chime of midnight, and must never be separated from one another. Breaking any of these three rules will incur the wrath of a sinister presence that inhabits the house after midnight.

While Edward is committed to this ill-fated life, he’s becoming more unhinged due to the fact that Rachel is not. Smitten by a local soldier (Eugene Simon), Rachel grows skeptical and begins to rebel, desperate to escape the oppression and misery of their captivity.

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Exclusive Clip: Primal Rage – Bigfoot Causes Chaos!

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Ever been driving in the woods and see or hear something that you cannot explain? Something so shocking that it makes your skin crawl off of your spine? Yeah, those moments, that usually chalked up to something completely innocuous, can be mucho unsettling. Such is the case with our bloody exclusive clip from the latest sliver of Sasquatchploitation, Primal Rage, which illustrates what can happen when you play with your food.

Directed by Patrick Magee, who co-wrote the film with Jay Lee, Primal Rage stars Andrew Joseph Montgomery, Casey Gagliardi, Eloy Casados, Justin Rain and Marshal Hilton. You can also catch this one of the big screen as on February 27th, Fathom (tickets here) will be hosting a one-night theater event for Primal Rage.

Enough talk! Get your Squatch on!

Synopsis:
Lost deep in the forest of the Pacific Northwest, Ashley and Max Carr are stalked by a terrifying creature that might be Bigfoot. Soon they find themselves embroiled in a strange land of Native American myth and legend turned real. Hopelessly trying to survive, with a handful of unsavory locals, they must fight back against this monster in a desperate battle of life or death.

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The Strangers: Prey at Night Set Visit Part 2: Screams and Flames

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[SPOILERS] As mentioned in our earlier set visit story, The Strangers: Prey at Night maintains the same feeling of isolation as the original. Even though a full-fledged production was going on in Gatlin Lake Getaway, it is hard to shake that feeling of being totally alone once wandering away from the set lighting. The dark surround woods start to close in and threaten to swallow any who stray too close to the tree line. Then the silence is broken as a beat-up 1972 Ford Ranger’s engine revs and a scream slices through the night.

Back on the lit street, the familiar looking truck has collided head-on with the side Wagner County Sheriff’s SUV. At the driver’s seat of the Ford is a man sporting a white cloth bag as a mask. The Bagman has returned. His appearance has not changed. The empty sockets of the mask still glare ominously and the painted smile poorly hides the stranger’s murderous intent.

An air of frustration surrounds the Bagman as he attempts to free the truck from the SUV. In vain, the Ford revs and struggles to no avail. Bad news for him, but good news for whomever the Bagman was pursuing. The law enforcement vehicle, with its lights flashing, had been driven by a young woman decked out in a black Ramones t-shirt and blood-splattered jeans. Her hair is jet black. The woman’s skin is streaked with dark blood and open slash wounds. The dark punk eye makeup is running, but the wearer is not.

It is obvious that this woman has been through a lot as she limps from the wreck. The context of her current state is not clear, but the shrieking that emanates from her as she produces a lighter and throws it to the ground under the collided vehicles speaks volumes. It can only be assumed that she has been chased, slashed, and emotionally beaten for hours. The scream is packed with emotions from fear to outright spite and rage. It is so powerful, in fact, that the crew members uttered stunned laudations.

As the gasoline ignites, the flames climb and spread of the mangled metal of the two collided vehicles. The Ford’s engine still violently revs as the Bagman emotionlessly tries to break free. The young woman is slowly backing away, unaware of the chain reaction occurring. The darkness of 1 AM is broken by two giant fireballs that erupt, engulfing the metal mayhem in the middle of the street. The surroundings fall silent, cut is called and the crew erupts in exclamations at the awesome spectacle.

This powerful moment was brought to us by Bailee Madison (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark).

The Strangers: Prey at Night was now on its twenty-second day of shooting and only eight more days remained. The cast and crew are well accustomed to their routines and the late night shoots have become second nature. When asked if the constant schedule of night shoots had been difficult, Madison elicited some of the virtues that the darkness has to offer, “There’s something very vulnerable about night shoots. You are emotionally in a different place when you’re awake and rested in the daytime. I think for something traumatic like this, you need to be able to access different emotions; at night you’re a lot more capable.”

At this point in production, Bailee’s character has seen a lot of action. A heavy amount of blood adorns the actor’s arms and a thick clotting mass of the red stuff covers most of her forehead. Keeping track of that damage for continuity from day to day looks like a grueling task, and makeup department head Jodi Byrne dropped some details about the process, “We have continuity photos and we take pictures of Bailee constantly throughout the day … We have to determine which takes are actually going to be used in the film and we move from that point.”

Synopsis:
A family’s road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park to stay with some relatives and find it mysteriously deserted. Under the cover of darkness, three masked psychopaths pay them a visit to test the family’s every limit as they struggle to survive..

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