Friday, March 15, 2013

Once Upon a Horror

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by writer/filmmaker Rolfe Kanefsky to talk about his Kickstarter project “Once Upon a Horror.”  Thank you for joining us today Rolfe!
Thank you for expressing interest in my very first kickstarter project. This is all new to me.

You’re quite welcome! “Once Upon A Horror” is a very evocative title, would you tell us more about the project?  

Well, I’ve always been a fan of series like “The Twilight Zone”, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, “Ray Bradbury Theater”, and of course, “Tales From The Crypt”. I was always a little disappointed with shows such as “Tales From The Darkside”, “Freddy’s Nightmares”, “Monsters”, etc... It has been awhile since we had a good show like “Crypt” or anthology movie like “Creepshow”. It’d say the most successful movie in recent memory was “Trick r’ Treat”. Although now, there seems to be a trend starting again with “VHS”, “S-VHS”, “The ABC’s Of Death”.

So, “ONCE UPON A HORROR” started as four tales that I wrote specifically for Tiffany Shepis to host and hopefully star in the last episode like Boris Karloff in “Black Sabbath”. I thought it would be fun to take the sexy late night hostess “Elvira”-style with Tiffany.  The four tales could easily be a 90 minute anthology movie but my real goal is to turn this into a pilot for a weekly television series or Fearnet webseries.


So why a horror collection series?

Here’s where it gets interesting. I would love to turn this into a series where we would film original stories like in this pilot but also open up the playing field for filmmakers around the world and include their horror shorts as future episodes in the series. In a way that Rod Serling did with the very last episode of the original “Twilight Zone” series. They bought the rights to the French short film “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” and had Serling do his typical intro wraparound for the short. I would love to do this same thing with Tiffany introducing well-produced horror shorts from around the world and use “ONCE UPON A HORROR” as a platform to introduce up-and-coming talent. And if we get enough funding for the series, we could also produce original horror shorts that talented horror writers send in.

So, the big goal is to turn this into a great networking show to promote all independent horror out there. I don’t think that’s ever been done with a Kickstarter campaign before.

Would you classify your work as more horror or horror/comedy?  I’m not a fan of the genre so when a video mentions “the three B’s: blood, boobs, and beasts” I’m not sure if I’m supposed to expect straight horror or horror comedy.  

Okay, “Tales From The Crypt” was very campy...on purpose. I started wanting to be a filmmaker after I fell in love with Abbott and Costello movies. “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” was a major influence on me. As the years went by, this blend of humor and horror has always fascinated me. “Evil Dead”, “Evil Dead 2”, “Fright Night”, “An American Werewolf In London”, “Night Of The Creeps”, and “Tremors” are some of my favorites. So, yes, my “ONCE UPON A HORROR” tales have a good balance of comedy and horror as did my past features “There’s Nothing Out There”, “The Hazing”, and “Nightmare Man”. It’s definitely has an 80’s spirit.

However, the show will also deliver on the gore and sex appeal. Each story has a weird slant with a bit of a twist that I would describe as “over the top”. We don’t play it safe. Horror, in general, should never play it safe. As the series, hopefully, progresses, I do want some straight horror episodes in the show. I want this to be scary and fun. There are many different kinds of horror films and I don’t see why ONCE UPON A HORROR can’t tell a different kind of story every week.

Your team seems to have a long of experience, how did you bring them all together for this project?  

Well, I’ve been a professional filmmaker now for over twenty years. I actually made my first feature when I was twenty and still in college. I started working with Tiffany Shepis when I cast her as “Marsha” in “The Hazing” (which happens to be premiering on the “Chiller Channel” this month”). Tiffany and I have worked together seven times now. She is a huge horror fan. We both sort of started our careers working at Troma Entertainment back in New York/New Jersey.

In 2003, when I was making a zombie comedy called “Corpses”, I met this great script supervisor named Esther Goodstein. I was so impressed with her that on my next feature, “Jacqueline Hyde”, she came along and added Associate Producer to her credits. After that, she’s been producer on most of my projects. Esther gone on to produce other friends of mine films and started working with James Duval and Dominique Swain. Through her, I met them and before I knew it I had a lot of cool people attached to ONCE UPON A HORROR both in front and behind the camera. All responded to the scripts and I’m really looking forward to working with them all once this kickstarter campaign is successful.

Also, Stacy Ekstein, another producer on the project, I met when she was an assistant wardrobe woman on “The Hazing”. I liked her and she went on to work on my flicks. Then she married Chris Ekstein, a director of photography and they started Market Street Productions. They came on board to help shoot some footage for ONCE UPON A HORROR a few years ago. Now, we’re all partners on this project and Chris will be directing the second story entitled, “Truth Be Told” that will star Dominique Swain.

Is any of the filming done yet?  Or is the Kickstarter going to pay for everything from start to finish?  

A few years ago, we filmed some of Tiffany Shepis’ wrap-arounds for the stories. She found this great place that Randal Malone lives in. He played the butler and we shot two days in his magnificent house. So, we did get a lot of Tiffany’s footage filmed but didn’t have enough money to shoot the actual stories. Now, with kickstarter we plan to finish the job.

Speaking of funding your cost breakdown makes it sound like you had originally planned on a $20,000 goal and then using stretch goals to get the rest of the way to $55,000.  Could you describe your proposed budget?  

Well, I thought this would be a perfect project to try out kickstarter because there are four separate stories. So, I came up with this tier idea. We could make the first tale for $20,000. If we get $40,000, we can do the first two. $55,000 gets us very close to making the third and if we can get $85,000-90,000.00 we can make the whole thing. Each stories gets more and more complicated and effects heavy and longer.

We decided it would be better to shoot the full pilot then just one story so we increased the goal number to shoot multiple episodes to at least have a one hour pilot if not a 90 minute one.  My hope is that we actually hit our goal and cross it so we can finance the entire 90 minute pilot/anthology movie.  But if we only reach our goal, we can make a few of the stories and then submit them to film festivals to get interest in the whole project. So, there are many ways this can be a successful project.

How did you discover Kickstarter?

I started hearing about it a few years ago. I also heard a lot of success stories. I was skeptical in trying to raise all the movie to make a feature but these four tale concept seemed to work very well so we gave it a shot. Lisa Palenica has had four successful projects on kickstarter so we brought her on board to supervise and PR the project. She thinks it’s one of the most commercial projects that she’s been involved it.

With even Oscar winning projects being funded in some part by Kickstarter do you think more and more tv/film makers will come to Kickstarter?

I think it has gotten the interest of a lot of filmmakers and I keep hearing bigger and bigger names are trying kickstarter campaigns. I hope there’s enough goodwill for the little guys as well. If studios start doing kickstarter campaigns with huge actor names attached, they could corrupt the process. Like what has happened to Sundance and film festivals in general. I’m hoping kickstarter stays diverse enough to support the little guys who really need the money to make their dreams come true.

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

Well, we already have two more promos ready to add in the coming weeks. Depending on how it’s going, we make some more shout outs. My actors are tweeting and spreading the word. I’ve contacted many friends and websites who have already been posting press releases. We will be added more photos this week and Michael Della Rossa, our special effects guy, is drawing a sketch of our “rat creature” that is the focus of the fourth tale that some lucky investor could win for the right donation.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

We’re trying to do it all. Again, this is Lisa’s area so she’s running it. But Horror Society, Fangoria, Arrow In The Head, and hopefully some other big horror sites will help us out with some little press. Unfortunately because there are so many campaign out there now, a lot of sites have already drawn the line and won’t run anything until the project is fully funded. I understand this policy but it will make it more difficult to get the word out without having to spend a lot of money that none of us have...yet.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

I will after I see how this one turns out. On April 10th, I’ll know if what we did worked and didn’t work and I’ll be able to use that as a guideline of what you should or shouldn’t do. Every project and every movie has it’s own path and journey. I’ve made a bunch of films in my career and every one of them came about a different way. What can work for one, may not work for someone else. But in general, it all comes down to how well you can network and who you know. Don’t be afraid to try anything and be aggressive without being annoying. That’s a delicate line but it can be done. A well placed “Please” and a sincere “thank-you” can go a long way.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Making movies may seem like a lot of fun. Sometimes it is but it take a lot of work and dedication. It is a full time commitment and those of us who do it, give up everything else. The studios make movies because it’s a business and a way of making money. Independent filmmakers make it because they love it and want to create something truly special. This is even more so in the horror genre. Horror can make money but there is very little respect. Hollywood has always thrown horror into a class just slightly above pornography. So, the filmmakers who work in horror do it because they love it. They know it’s an uphill battle but they love the genre and the community that honors it. Everybody knows each other and most are rooting for the other to succeed. That’s why I work in this genre and why I’ll always go back to it. The filmmakers are fans themselves and it shows in the final product. I believe that people will have a lot of fun watching ONCE UPON A HORROR. It will bring back fond memories from the past while watching something fresh and new. A return to the days when horror was fun!

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!