haunting season may have just passed us, but that doesn't mean the
horrifying acts can't continue, especially when it comes to movies. And while the average movie-goer has probably burned themselves
out last week on freshly released material and classics at home, the
hardcore set of horror fans are always seeking out something new.
Lucky for them, as well as the thousands of local film fanatics
impatiently waiting for late January to come, there's a festival this
weekend that should satisfy both.
The Salty Horror Film Festival kicks off tonight for the next four days with an array of gritty, gruesome and gasp-filled flicks. With at least twenty different full-length films, several shorts, a 48-Hour like competition, special guests, plus a surge of side-events and activities to compliment the screenings, this weekend is literally a paradise for those who adore the gore. I got a chance to chat with festival creator Mario DeAngelis about his career and the coming events, plus his thoughts on Utah film and the approaching festival season.
Gavin: Hey Mario! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Mario: I'm originally from Chicago and moved to Utah in 2001. I started doing film by just meeting others who wanted to do and just work. I've produced over 100 short films, feature length documentaries, music videos, PSA's and commercials. I have made short films in all genres including horror.
Gavin: What got you interested in film, and what were some of your early influences?
Mario: One of my influences early on was Orson Welles and Fritz Lang. Hitchcock's early work has been driving me for the fact that simplicity is the key to great story telling. Lately I've been producing short films with one location, two or three main characters.
Gavin: Did you seek out any college for film, and if so, what was that experience like for you?
Mario: I never went to film school. I took two film classes at the U, but producing projects is my film school and working with professionals is how I learn. I feel I'm working with the best in Utah. And I learn from working with UVU film students and students from the art institute just as much as working with associate cinematographer TC Christiansen and producer/director Richard Dutcher.
Gavin: How has it been for you producing and directing your own films over the years, and entering festivals yourself with your own works?
Mario: Producing my own projects and helping others is a fantastic life. However, it is hard. Over the years there are the times you get into festivals ans sometimes you don't. The key is not to give up, quit or get mad at the rejection. Learn from it. That's all you can do.
Gavin: What made you get into the staffer role for film festivals and helping produce them behind the scenes?
Mario: I started helping Leslie Harlow with the Park City Film & Music Festival is 2006 as a producer. At that time I had no plans or desire to do my own film festival. So in essence I accidentally started learning about film festival production. Then I became in charge of an internal film awards program at East Hollywood High School. I decided to do the SHIFF last August and then the ball started rolling from there.
Gavin: How did the East Hollywood opportunity come about, and how has it been for you teaching over there?
Mario: I won't talk about East Hollywood at this time. There is no connection between them.
Gavin: For those who may not be aware, tell us about the Salty Horror Film Festival.
Mario: My main influence for starting SHIFF is anyone who has started a film festival. They are my influences, and include Robert Redford, Robert Rodriguez and Leslie Harlow. The festival itself is a competition based festival like any other festival but there has never been a horror film festival in Utah. This is our first year, first time ever. One of the main things that needs to be said is I have a lot of help. About sixteen people have been consistently doing specific tasks and pushing us along from month to month since August 2009.
Gavin: How did the concept for it come about and what was it like for you developing it?
Mario: In 2009 I came up with the concept to do a horror film fest based off of how popular haunts are in Utah. Also many filmmakers I know make horror films. Those factors and the fact that no one has yet attempted it led me to the decision that there should be an outlet for indie horror in Utah and open that to the world. In the end we received about forty submissions from the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. making what started out to be a domestic fest competition into an international film competition.
Gavin: You've got eight different categories for submissions in various fields. Why did you choose to have so many, and how has it been receiving and previewing those submissions?
Mario: Submissions started coming in and the quality far exceeded our expectations. I do have my favorites but only want to highlight films based on some unique factors. "Evil Things" is a film shot in the same manor as "Paranormal Activity" and "Cloverfield" and is quite enjoyable. A local feature the maze highlights top quality on a low budget, top Utah talent and a decent production value. "The Maze" features Richard Dutcher as an actor, but Richard is also a producer and director. He directed our opening of festival feature "Evil Angel" screening tonight at 7:30 over at The Broadway. "Evil Angel" has garnered six awards in other horror festivals all over the country. Although not in competition, it stars Ving Rhames, shows high quality from an independent film company right here in Utah. The awards amount is a normal amount of awards for a film festival.
Gavin: this year you have an event called the Demon Chaser Challenge. What exactly did that entail and what were some of those submissions like?
Mario: We are very excited about the Demon Chaser Challenge. Brian Higgins organized this contest of making a horror film in 36 hours. Seven teams competed in this contest and the quality was actually very high for the teams. These awards will be given on Sunday night at 7PM at The Tower the same night as the Salty Horror Awards. All DCC submissions will be given and audience award will be chosen as well. It was a successful experiment and Brian Higgins did an amazing job running that competition.
Gavin: You also had a Miss Salty Horror competition, along with other tie-in events over the course of the year. How were those events and who eventually won for 2010?
Mario: Actually there is no Miss Salty Horror this year. This competition is being revamped into a reality web series to start some time after Sunday. This series will feature contestants vying to be Miss Salty Horror and the winner of the series will be crowned. More attention was placed on production the "2011 Girls Of Salty Horror Calendar". The calendar, produced by myself and Jonathan Rogers, was a huge success and can be purchased through the website and at the festival. Other events throughout the year were designed to market the brand and it was successful. My staff was very integral in the success of all these events including a concert at Burt's Tiki Lounge two weeks ago.
Gavin: You have a number of venues on board to showcase the films including the Tower, Hive Gallery, SLC Library, etc. How was it getting everyone on board and planning out the schedules?
Mario: The Hive Gallery and the Salt Lake Film Society have been very gracious and brave to let a first year festival into their venues. Emily Edmunds at Hive, as well as Amy and Tori at SLFS have all seen the vision of the SHIFF and believe it all to be a win-win. These venues will hopefully continue working with Salty Horror as it grows. The process has been fairly simple to work with them.
Gavin: You've also got some guests coming in for the event. Who can people expect to see and what will they be doing? And are there any other last minute surprises people can expect?
Mario: Along with G Tom Mac and Brooke McCarter we have two very popular comic book names attached to the festival, Ben Templesmith and Ben McCool. These two top horror comic heavy weights collaborated on the title "Choker". Templesmith hit gold with his very prominent title 30 Days Of Night which he was co-creator of. These two artists are being sponsored by the SHIFF and Black Cat Comics. They can be seen twice during festival. There will be a panel discussion about horror comics on Friday at the Downtown City Library at 3PM, and again for a signing at Black Cat Comics Saturday morning at 11AM. The panel discussion will include Radio From Hell movie critic Jeff Vice, owner of Black Cat Comics Greg Gage and indie filmmaker Loren Teryl, moderated by myself.
Gavin: Going local for a bit, what’s your opinion of the local film scene, both good and bad?
Mario: The local film scene is very exciting and growing - fast. In all genres the film scene in Utah is actually exploding with multiple film projects with a range of budgets from Hollywood pictures such as "127 Hours" to low-budget indie horror such as "Blood Fare". All of these projects include the best crew and talent in Utah and many of them have something to do with Salty Horror. Producer/director JA Steele of "Blood Fare", which is in post production and shot completely in Utah, directed a picture Denizen which will be a late-night screening at SHIFF. From panel discussions to Q&A with indie filmmakers, they will have their chance to meet other filmmakers, producers, directors who are all looking for their next project. Maybe, just maybe, one of the films screening at SHIFF will get picked up for distribution which for every filmmaker, is the end game.
Gavin: Is there anything you think could be done to make it more prominent?
Mario: The Utah film scene can be made more prominent by Utahns spreading the word, attending the festivals, Facebooking, YouTubing film festivals such as the SHIFF, the Salt Lake City Film Festival, the Park City Film & Music Festival, An October Evening and multiple other festivals running in Utah throughout the year. Sundance Film Festival is a phenomenal opportunity for filmmakers. Along with Sundance and Slamdance, filmmakers have opportunities all year long that can put Utah on top of the answer board to the question: "Where should I go shoot my movie?" The answer is Utah. Utah has crew, cast, locations, post, everything everyone needs to make a movie. Now Utahns need to attend all festivals offered and show other great states for filming that Utah can compete with their great states. The Utah Film Commission is doing a fantastic job of getting more projects to come to Utah and trying to raise the states incentive program. This will continue if Utahns attend these festivals and show Hollywood Utahns want more festivals, bigger films and more films to come here.
Gavin: Are there any local directors you feel are at the top of their game?
Mario: Filmmakers who are at the top of their game are directors such as Richard Dutcher, director/producer of "Evil Angel", "Gods Army" and "Brigham City". Richard is making his next picture as we speak and recently did a campaign on a site called Kickstarter and that campaign was very successful. His film "Triptyc" raised over $7,000 in just two days. TC Christiansen is also a director/producer I highly respect for his love of the medium of film and respect for his actors and crew. These professionals and many others in my mind will keep pushing Utah higher up the list of good films being made in this state.
Gavin: What's your take on other film festivals and competitions in Utah and what they do for the film community?
Mario: Forging a relationship with other festivals has been a major hinge pin in the marketing of the SHIFF. Four festivals and film competitions have embraced a relationship with SHIFF seeing the future of an allegiance between those who are trying to do the same thing. We all are trying to give a platform for filmmakers and bring professionals together. What this does for the community is make it stronger. Producers of these festivals have all stood up and said we should be together for together we are stronger. I respect each and every person who is running a film festival in Utah because, let me tell you, it's noy easy. It is a humongous undertaking, responsibility and a daunting task that one person can noy do. It takes the community to pull off a film festival, making a film, running a competition, running a music festival, community event, is very time consuming and most of the time no one is getting rich off it. Its done because people want to be a part of something great.
Gavin: What's your opinion on organizations like the Salt Lake Film Society and the Salt Lake Film Center and the work they do to bring films to town?
Mario: I have complete respect for the Salt Lake Film Society and the Salt Lake Film Canter. Both bodies are bringing films to Utah that should be brought and run so many special screenings and events in town that I can't get to all the ones I want to get to. They are making a difference. SLFC and their Fear No Film will become a partner with SHIFF. They have expressed interest and that relationship will build throughout 2011. the SLFS has been great to work with and they have been very supportive of the SHIFF. They have been flexible in letting us use The Broadway and The Tower and ware working with us to produce a fun and effective film festival. Their relationship with Sundance is a plus because they absolutely and totally know what they are doing.
Gavin: What can we expect from yourself over the rest of the year?
Mario: For the rest of the year you can expect to see the name Salty Horror International Film Festival more and more. We will be staring much earlier in the year hosting events, promoting filmmakers, sponsoring other events all leading towards the end game of getting you to always wait for the SHIFF as many filmmakers and film goers wait for Sundance Film Festival in January. We want to be the consistent event in Utah in November hands down. We want to do what we do all year so everyone has at least heard of the festival and if they wish check out our awesome horror movies.
Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Mario: Last thoughts go out to the hundreds of hours spent by my amazing staff who always come through for me. And they don't stop. They give and they give and it has been a miracle already. I absolutely site the work of dozens who have stuck with my vision. the SHIFF is not a one man show. Never has been. Never will be. Twenty-five years ago Robert Redford had people believe in him at the beginning. Every festival on the planet had its year one. This is ours. And it may not be perfect, we are learning. But we are close. Now we need the people to come. We've built it, now we need people to check us out and give us a chance. I do believe people will have a good time. And we are also holding a pledge drive of our own. We need donations but you get things if you donate. Go to IndieGoGo.com and search Salty Horror International Film Festival, donate what you can.
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