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Mark Steensland Talks The Weeping Woman and Tengu

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Filmmaker Mark Steensland has been in our newsfeed quite a bit recently. Between the world premiere of his short film The Weeping Woman this weekend at Motor City Nightmares and the news that he had just acquired the rights to the novel Tengu, we thought it was time to talk to the man himself and find out more about his projects.

Dread Central: This spring has been shaping up to be huge for you, first the world premiere of your new short film, The Weeping Woman, and now the announcement that your Chang Shao Trading Co. recently acquired the rights to the novel Tengu. You have to be riding pretty high, right?

Mark SteenslandMark Steensland: Yes. It’s all good. We have a lot of irons in the fire right now, but that’s a requirement these days because the wheels in the film business tend to turn slowly.

DC: You are having your world premiere for The Weeping Woman this weekend at Motor City Nightmares in Detroit, do you have anything special planned for the screening? Any Q&A, etc.?

MS: We do. We have a couple of posters that have been signed by Stephen Geoffreys, and we plan to give those away. We also have buttons with the tagline that we’re going to give away, and I’m planning to give a few lucky audience members copies of Fabio Frizzi’s soundtrack from the iTunes store. I’m not sure what else we will have time for.

DC: You cast Stephen Geoffreys as your lead in The Weeping Woman; how was it working with Evil Ed?

MS: Steve is a great actor, and I knew he would be perfect for this role. I have to admit that I was nervous. We were going to have a very limited amount of time with him — only two days total — made even shorter by the fact that we had so little daylight because we were shooting in the middle of winter. I had met him at the Eerie Horror Festival in 2010, and I had a good impression that was only confirmed during the shoot. He really was a trooper to work in those conditions for that amount of time. We’re hoping to work together on something else in the future.

DC: Be honest. Did you ever say, “Oh, you’re so cool, Brewster!” to him?

MS: (laughs) No.

DC: You also cast Melissa Bostaph (a DC alum) as the titular Weeping Woman in her first role; how did she do?

MS: She was great, given all the pressure. And I think she really enjoyed the work. I understand she’s been cast in a couple of other things already so maybe this will be the start of something new for her.

DC: I have to ask: Fabio Frizzi, the man behind some of Lucio Fulci’s most memorable tunes — you got him on a genre project, his first in 20 years. How did that come about?

MS: I’m a huge Frizzi fan. I have to say it’s Fabio’s music that, for me, anyway, makes the Fulci movies what they are, especially City of the Living Dead and The Beyond I worked with Patrick Savage and Holeg Spies on my last three movies. They’ve since gone on to score films such as The Human Centipede so things are really breaking out for them, which is great. But there was some concern about getting our schedules to mesh. And then it just kind of hit me one day. I was listening to some of Fabio’s music and thought he would be perfect to score this movie. So I wrote to him and told him a little bit about the project. He read the script and he watched my other short films and he really liked everything so he agreed.

DC: What do you think about the final product (score)?

MS: Honestly, I can’t imagine anything better than what he did. The first time I heard his main theme, I totally flipped out. In my mind this score is right in there with the other two scores I mentioned. His music is so identifiable, and yet he managed to do something totally new without making it sound like an imitation of his other work. It’s fantastic. And it’s on iTunes for only 99 cents!

DC: How has The Weeping Woman been received by those that have seen it? How has the reaction been versus your previous projects?

MS: I have discovered that I am a more divisive filmmaker than I think I am. It just seems that some viewers get things out of my movies that I didn’t intend or see until afterwards. On The Ugly File, for instance, I heard that many people were really offended because it had to do with deformed children. Frankly, I was shocked. This wasn’t a reaction I expected — especially from a horror audience — but there it was. A lot of people were very uncomfortable with Sucker, but I think that was mostly because they were thinking about where the movie could go rather than where it actually goes. And as much as people seem to like Peekers, there are some haters out there. But that’s just the price of doing business. So with this one it’s been split. Some people really like it, and some people don’t like it as much as my other films. For me, personally, I have to say that I am very satisfied with this one. Working with Stephen and having Fabio’s music and the winter backdrop — I love it.

DC: Tengu. You just picked up the rights; what do you have in mind for this one?

MS: Well, I think it’s ironic that when we optioned the book, the Japanese tsunami and nuclear problems had not yet happened. So I feel like this might be a raw nerve out there because of the novel’s subject matter. On the other hand we’re exploring some ways that we might be able to make it work for us.

DC: Anything to say to fans of the novel?

MS: I’m a writer first and a filmmaker second so I respect the writing. As with every project of mine where we’ve adapted an existing story, we’ve made sure to involve the original author as much as possible. I won’t name names, but my writing partner and I were involved with pitching our take on a book to a major studio, and we came up with something we thought was a good adaptation. We were told that we had “stuck too closely to the source material.” Needless to say, we didn’t get the job. So, as with those other projects, Graham Masterton is totally involved. I think we may have to make some major changes — especially if we set it in the present day — but I don’t want to do anything unless Graham is happy.

DC: Any other projects coming down the pipe that you can talk about now?

MS: Rick Hautala and I have written two drafts of a feature version of Pigeons from Hell. This is my favorite short horror story of all time. It was written by Robert E. Howard, who is better known for Conan. The story has been adapted before — for the Thriller series in the 1960s. And as good as that version was, it really missed the best parts of the story. This was a case where our pitch to the studio was to stick as closely as possible to the source material, and they agreed. So while we did make some changes, they really have more to do with making the story big enough for a feature film.

We also still have the option on James Newman’s book Animosity, which was just published by Necessary Evil Press. It’s a great book and James loves our screenplay. We also have a script called The Special, which Rick and I wrote for Masters of Horror, but we were pitching it for the third season, which didn’t happen. So we re-wrote it as a feature and have a good cast attached so far, including Stephen Geoffreys, Tiffany Shepis and Lynn Lowry. We’re trying to get this financed now so we’ll see. There’s a bunch of other things in various stages of development, and you just never know which one might take off. I’ve been in the business long enough to understand that at least.

Mark Steensland Talks The Weeping Woman and Tengu

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Graham Humphreys Reveals His Poster For An American Werewolf In London

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Graham Humphreys continues to cement his position as one of the top horror artists in the business with his stunning new poster for An American Werewolf in London. This piece was created as a private commission, and fans of John Landis’ 1981 classic are going to love it. You can view the final design of this incredible poster below.

Final design with text.

Graham also provided us with a detailed statement about the creation of the piece, along with a bunch of screen grabs taken throughout the process. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can see how the final image looks before the text was added. In case you missed it earlier, you can also check out our extended interview with Graham here.

Exclusive Statement from Graham Humphreys
As a commercial artist and illustrator, there is only limited scope to make a job entirely your own – so with each project you are answering a brief in order to fulfill the needs of a client. Of course, the client may choose to give you free reign, though this is with the understanding that you are acknowledging their needs and thus expected to work within certain unspoken parameters. Mostly, these confines are defined by how a product is to be sold, licensing instructions and an understanding a market. With this in mind, the client is paying and thus nominally always right… though it would be unprofessional not to make them aware that other options might work better for them!

Without these commercial constraints, a private commission can remove the barriers because no market is to be met and there is only the artist and the private client to answer to. Creating a poster for a familiar and heavily licensed title is an entirely different prospect if it is not going to be generating money in the public domain and is thus essentially ‘fan art’. Unlike say, a T-shirt company ripping off someone elses art and charging money for the printed image, or perhaps a poster reproduced without permission by either the license owner or artist, then sold for profit.

Here, Dread Central have asked me to talk through one such commission, ‘An American Werewolf in London’, painted as a private commission for an individual that wishes to own a unique image that they themselves have made happen. NB: All likenesses and specific imagery (including the title and names etc) are subject to license and copyright and not for any use other than as examples of a work in progress (and of course, all rights are reserved!). Just need to make sure that it absolutely clear!

The client had commissioned two previous posters from me (as well as numerous poster designs from fellow artists), so a basic understanding of expectations had already been established.

My work begins by watching the film from beginning to end – to re-establish my own connection to the film (if one already exists). I saw ‘An American Werewolf in London’ (in London!) on it’s first run and the proximity to many of the locations (Tottenham Court Road tube station, Piccadilly Circus, being the obvious ones) made it instantly impressionable for me. Existing posters, in particular the official theatrical versions and various home-entertainment sleeves, focused on a limited image pool. My job was to find new ways of representing the film, free of the past baggage, but also to listen to my clients requirements.

Looking for a fresh perspective means avoiding the familiar stills that have defined the past marketing, this is achieved by making screen grabs from the DVD or blu-ray. As with most commercial jobs, I generally make a selection of about 40 images, then review these reducing the number to about 15 that have the best narrative potential, including a good visual range of actor expressions and reactions. My client required the Werewolf, London references, the moors, David and Jack, a full moon and the ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ pub sign… then whatever else I chose to include.

On the basis of the selected screen grabs, I make necessary light and contrast adjustments in photoshop, make them greyscale (removing the distraction of colour) and print them out at a size I can easily trace in pencil onto paper. All the pencil sketches are then scanned into photoshop, so that I can rearrange, resize and move around in order to determine the best layout, one which tells a story and has a visual impact. (I find it’s better to present sketched layouts rather than a photocomp’s, partly because the photographic material is usually of varying quality, but also because a pencil rough is more fluid and does not dictate the final impression).

Selected screen grabs.

Selected screen grabs 2.

My first idea involved a portrait of David looking lost and frightened (I felt this was essential to the story), the Werewolf with it’s head bursting through the cinema shutters/signage (the idea of breaking the fourth wall), the decomposing Jack (a perfect metaphor for David’ s own life falling apart), his nightmare of the home invasion (one of the most effective and horrific moments in the film, I felt), plus Brian Glover’s ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ local – a look that defines rednecks and racists the word over when confronted by ‘other’!). I also wanted to add the tube attack victim to open up the carnage. Although Jenny Agutter’s nurse added the romantic dimension for an audience that expects the convention, I wanted to concentrate on David’s story, so chose to only include her face as if she were painted on the shutters, ie. a film poster element.

I was surprised that the client didn’t want the home invasion creatures, nor the reference to the sleazy cinema hordings (which I thought made a good location gag – obviously not!), they also did not want the rotting Jack. It was disappointing to lose these great horror elements, especially as they’d particularly wanted ‘horror’! But a compromise was reached by including the transformation scene at the bottom, and reinstating the moors (which I’d thought unnecessary).

Fortunately, my second sketch was well received and the painting could commence.

On the basis of the selected screen grabs, I make necessary light and contrast adjustments in photoshop, make them greyscale (removing the distraction of colour) and print them out at a size I can easily trace in pencil onto paper. All the pencil sketches are then scanned into photoshop, so that I can rearrange, resize and move around in order to determine the best layout, one which tells a story and has a visual impact. (I find it’s better to present sketched layouts rather than a photocomp’s, partly because the photographic material is usually of varying quality, but also because a pencil rough is more fluid and does not dictate the final impression).

Once I have my sketch approved I reintroduced the photographic source material over the sketched parts, so that my layout remains exactly as approved and so that I’ll have the best possible likenesses to trace onto the watercolour paper.

Early sketched elements.

I usually have a basic idea of what colours I’m going to use. In this instance I knew that I wanted a silvery blue moonlight to bathe the entire image, but also the contrast of the orange glow of artificial lighting, the pub and cinema foyer. I knew the big splash of red in the wolf’s jaw would jump out, becoming the focal point. This painting took about three days to complete, the sketch process (including the grabs) about a day upfront.

Composition design.

The final painting was scanned and all the text added in photoshop.

My client will now make a full size poster print, to be framed, from the file I send him. Next up, ‘The Thing’!

Final painting before text was added.

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Syfy Renews Z Nation for a 5th Season; Season 4 Finale Airs Tonight!

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Syfy’s popular zombie series “Z Nation” just keeps shambling on, and tonight the two-episode Season 4 finale, “Mt. Weather/The Black Rainbow,” airs. If you’re a fan of the show, we have good news for you… it’s not over yet as David Latt of The Asylum has announced on Twitter the pickup of “Z Nation” for a 5th season! So you can expect lots more adventures with the gang in 2018.

Below is the official word from David along with a brief synopsis of what’s ahead tonight in the finale, which kicks off at 9/8c.

Synopsis:
In the mind-bending two-hour Season 4 finale, Warren and the team must stop Zona from launching operation Black Rainbow, which will cleanse the landscape of both zombies and humans. In Part 2 the secret of Warren’s Black Rainbow dream is unlocked when they reach their final destination. The cast includes Kellita Smith as Roberta Warren, Keith Allan as Murphy, Russell Hodgkinson as Doc, Nat Zang as 10K, Gracie Gillam as Sgt. Lilley, DJ Qualls as Citizen Z, Ramona Young as Kaya, Justin Torrence as President Donald Trump, Michael Berryman as The Founder, Micheal Daks as Mr. Sunshine, Anastasia Baranova as Addy, Sydney Viengluang as Sun Mei, Joseph Gatt as The Man, and Natalie Jongjaroenlarp as Red.

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First Look at Chris Alexander’s Space Vampire

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Who says all vampires have to be all extra-broody or sparkly or take up residence in Transylvania? Certainly not indie filmmaker Chris Alexander, who has just unveiled the first images and posters for his latest foray into film, Space Vampire!

The movie stars Ali Chappell as a beautiful female alien parasite who falls to earth with an intent to drain women of their life forces. As if women don’t have enough problems in this day and age!

Alexander wrote, directed, edited, filmed, and even provided the score for this intergalactic terror tale. Talk about a jack of all trades, eh?

Enough talk! Dig in!

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