Crash Report: Why the hell are you making a short horror film?

No choice. Dammit.

In 2008, my vampire horror/action script RED AGENDA won First Place at the International Horror and Sci-fi Film Festival in Phoenix ( Afterwards, thanks to the festival’s promoters, producers contacted me like crazy. One even reached me through my Kutztown University email because he was at Sundance and had heard it was an “awesome” script. I also got my second agent (my first had moved from New York to Los Angeles, got drunk, stole a Jaguar, went to jail and got her ass kicked out of the WGA).

As a screenwriter, I had impressed producers in the past with my work and knew all too well that nothing may materialize – and that’s why the sale of script is often referred to as “hitting the screenwriter’s lottery.” But with a young and hungry agent, and after having exchanged emails with some of the producers, as well as phone calls, I thought something might happen.

Then, two shitty things happened: My agent got pregnant, bailed on her one-year-old agency (leaving over a dozen screenwriters in the lurch), and the economy collapsed. The latter, as I’m sure many of you are aware, caused producers and studios to run for cover and not take chances on new writers.

That was that.

Oh, and then vampire mania became the latest Hollywood craze, sucking the life out of the genre – especially with all that TWILIGHT bullshit. (Now, however, a production company thinks the time is right and is trying to raise money for the project. I’ve been in contact with them twice over a six month period. I still may not get the sale, but they haven’t changed their phone number or email address on me yet.)

Since that win and subsequent disappointment, I have won another contest and additional scripts faired well in others. But again, hitting that lottery is extremely difficult. There are so many scripts circulating that the chances of selling a screenplay are ultra-low. According to ScreenStyle: The Screenwriting Store, roughly 100,000 feature scripts are written each year and Hollywood produces about 500. Google this stuff and you’ll get different numbers from a multitude of sources, but the fact remains: The market is flooded, and Hollywood can afford to be as picky as hell.

If I can’t sell a script, then I might as well make my own movie. Now, just writing that sentence gives me the shivers. The scary part is that it will take money I don’t have – and lots of it. Plus, I don’t want to churn out some low budget piece of shit that continually degrades the genre (I don’t want to be an idiot running around with a camcorder and recruit friends as actors). Therefore, I’m taking a trial step: making a short horror movie first. This will be roughly five minutes in length. And the goal is to create something of quality so I can enter the work into contests and, hopefully, generate enough interest to attract investors to my own feature horror film. And believe me, if I don’t like the result of this short movie, I won’t show it to a soul. This has to be worthwhile for cast, crew and me.

Plus, there’s something else weighing in on the venture. This project is more out of need than out of want. I am a writer. I want to remain behind the scenes, sell my work, and, if possible, make a living off of my writing. But I have a Master of Fine Arts degree, and I teach in higher education. In order to earn tenure, at Kutztown University or anywhere else, I need a volume of work. Contest wins are great. Published poetry, short stories, conference presentations and academic papers are wonderful as well. However, for real impact, I need a published book or a movie.

And no, vanity publishing is frowned upon to the point where my career would be destroyed. Self-publishing is not taken seriously. But to make a movie, since it is such a collaborative project as well as an expensive enterprise, is seen as admirable.
I love teaching and want to remain in academia. I am confident in my storytelling ability and want to please an audience.

I have to make my own movie. Dammit.

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