In the past we have spotlighted the indie horror flick Char Man from producer/director Kipp Tribble. Recently, we got the chance to exchange messages about the new horror film he produced and co-wrote titled The Stay.
Who? Myself and Scott Hamm wrote and produced the film, with Scott making his directorial debut. Charles Huddleston was our other producer as well as our cinematographer. Scott and I both also star in the film, alongside Nija Okoro, Rob Mayes, and Michele Martin. We also had a fantastic crew and would like to put a spotlight on Robert Felsted, Jr., Ezequiel Garcia Lopez, Ryan Bounphasaysol, and Jaclyn Lopez. They were rockstars during production and we couldn’t have done this without them. In the end, we were happy to receive several offers for distribution, and ultimately assigned North American rights to Gravitas Ventures. Distribution for the rest of the world is being handled by Cardinal XD.
What? Here is the short synopsis… When Hayden (Scott Hamm) realizes his marriage to Misha (Michele Martin) is slowly falling apart, he organizes a secluded couples’ weekend with best friend, Chris (Rob Mayes), and his wife, Nora (Nija Okoro). Though it starts off as a relaxing getaway, they soon encounter an odd caretaker named Bo-Lee (Kipp Tribble) on the property. The vacationing group become increasingly suspicious of Bo-Lee and his possible sinister motives, all while a dangerous secret begins to surface.
Where? About 90% of the film takes place at a secluded Airbnb style rental. It is surrounded by hiking trails and open property, all tended to by the caretaker, Bo-Lee. In reality, we actually filmed at three different locations. The main house was in Aqua Dulce, California, a bit north of Los Angeles, and that had the house, barn, trailer, and horses you see in the movie. The hiking scenes were filmed on a different property not too far from that location. And the scenes set at Hayden’s house and Chris’ garage/backyard, were both filmed at Scott’s mom’s house a few miles south of Los Angeles.
When? We filmed the movie in early 2020… as in the first day of filming was on January 2nd! There was a very tight window for when everyone would be available, so we braved the cold temperatures and went to work, finishing up near the end of the second week of January. Thankfully we got the film in the can and into post production before the world shut down in March of 2020, but the pandemic did delay our post process a bit. The film was released for rent or purchase in North America on March 16, 2021, and just became available on Amazon Prime on June 18th. Our international release is coming soon.
Why? The original idea for the story started because Scott had rented an Airbnb, and thought the process was so easy that you could just rent a property and pretty much do anything in it without prying eyes. Scott and I had worked on a couple of films previously and were looking to do another one together, particularly in the thriller genre. So he came to me with this idea and an outline of characters that are like people most of us know or have in our lives. They were relatable and so were some of the issues they were dealing with… whether it be relationship trouble, unsuccessful attempts at becoming parents, general insecurities, jealousy, or even dealing with an inappropriate weirdo. We set about building a script based on those initial ideas, while leaning into the thriller aspects.
How? People can find The Stay for rent through most cable VOD services, as well as streaming services such as Prime, FandangoNow, Vudu, iTunes/AppleTV, GooglePlay, YouTube Movies, Hoopla, Microsoft Xbox, Vimeo, and more. It is also available on DVD through online stores such as Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Best Buy, etc.
What is the first book in “The Revengist” series, Drug Wars Part 1: Lethal Dosage, about? Lethal Dosage is about detective Frank Malone, River City’s toughest and most violently over the top cop as he battles the most dangerous drug ever let loose on the streets. He takes on the mob with a series of partners until he gets face to face with the source of the poison. Tongue in cheek and full of insane action, Lethal Dosage is one part Dirty Harry and one part The Naked Gun but with a Canadian twist.
What inspired The Revengist? I was a big fan of a trash fiction website (Glorious Trash) that looks at the 70’s and 80’s men’s action/adventure book series like The Executioner, The Butcher, The Assassin, The Penetrator (!), etc. and from there started to pick up the more insane sounding ones at used book stores. Luckily they’re usually cheap and a gold mine of wtf moments. You had writers working with brutal deadlines and little oversight sneaking in some of the most bizarre moments; like one where the author had his character go off on a rant about a certain model Ford for having a faulty carburetor, or another having his character visit the Olive Garden and complain about the food. While lots of those books are garbage, you get some real gems and the schlocky nature fits my sensibilities perfectly. I’d been working on a screenplay about a younger Frank Malone from my movie The Killing Death and decided to switch it too a book series instead. It would be way cheaper that way. So The Revengist is basically an insane 80’s action movie full of one-liners and ludicrous moments like a team-up with a Robot Mountie, fusing ninjas, a gun armed Russian assassin, killer babies, you name it. Pierre Trudeau even makes a cameo! The series is set in 1981 with lots of era topical humor and a Cannon movie vibe.
The series is set in the same universe as my movies and films, so there’s some connections for anyone that’s dived into the whole thing, but you aren’t required to have any more knowledge if you just wanted to enjoy this pulpy thriller. If you always wanted to know what a hyper violent Naked Gun would be like, The Revengist is your answer.
We learned a bit about you, I. D. Russell, in our first book spotlight (Indie Book Spotlight: Heart of Stone), but please tell us a little bit more… I’m busy. I make movies, I write books, I put out YouTube content, I read, I practice martial arts, I’m a Dad, I’m a gamer, and I have way too much knowledge about retro pro-wrestling. I’ve always got something on the go and have loads more books and movies in the pipe. Stay tuned for some wild stuff! I grew up in the 80’s so I love that era of action movies, horror movies, comedies, etc. Everything I’m working on is mixing in bits of what I came up with, like The Monster Squad, Police Academy, Transformers, Night of the Creeps, The Naked Gun, kung fu movies, video games, and schlocky pulp books, etc. At some point, I hope people start to notice.
How can we read The Revengist Book 1: Drug Wars Part 1: Lethal Dosage? You can find the entire Revengist series on Amazon and my website:
Next week sees the return of the world of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead in the new weekly series Skybound X. And I’m not even talking about the lead story in the series being “Rick Grimes 2000” (pictured above left), which is a sci-fi based re-imagining of the fan favorite zombie killer (as introduced in TWD #75). What I’m talking about is the first comic appearance of Clementine from Telltale’s The Walking Dead video game. She will be introduced in a stand alone story in Skybound X before spinning off into her own ongoing titled Clementine, that will be written and drawn by Tillie Walden. I’m excited that we can return to the world established in The Walking Dead, and while I love Kirkman, I’m also excited to see someone new playing in his sandbox. Check out these awesome variant covers featuring Clementine (I’ll be picking up the cover on the right):
SKYBOUND X #1 Official Description: Celebrate a sensational 10 years of Skybound with a cavalcade of your favorite creators and all-new stories of your favorite series past, present, and future! Each issue of this oversized, weekly series will kick off with a new chapter of a serialized THE WALKING DEAD story – RICK GRIMES 2000 – by ROBERT KIRKMAN & RYAN OTTLEY!
In addition, we’ll be debuting all-new series and characters every issue, starting with the first appearance of the most requested WALKING DEAD character of all-time: Clementine, star of the bestselling Telltale’s The Walking Dead video game series! Did we mention new ULTRAMEGA and MANIFEST DESTINY stories?! If you want to know what to expect in Skybound’s next 10 years, it all starts here! Writer: Robert Kirkman | Artist: Ryan Ottley
The first issue of Skybound X hits stores on July 7th!
What is your book, The Curse of Odin, about? It’s a steampunk adventure, set in an alternative version of Victorian London, and revolves around a teenage pickpocket named Blink, an inventist (not inventor) named Thaddeus Q Abernathy, and a 2,000 year old woman by the name of Lady Talány. An anarchist called Legren plans to attack the city as part of a nefarious plot. Blink, while attempting to steal from Abernathy one night, but gets caught up in the hunt for the terrorist, and in doing so, uncovers a secret world of myth and monster hidden beneath the London of man and machine.
What inspired this story? Honestly, there’s a few things. I’m a massive fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories and read them once a year. There’s something appealing about anti-heroes like Holmes and the chaotic good they represent, so without a doubt, those stories were a big inspiration for me. I’m a history nerd at heart, and while I love sci-fi and fantasy, stories of Britain from yesteryear were hugely important to me. They allowed me to create a world which was driven by mechanical devices, but still had the feeling of a recognizable historical time-period (even if it’s an alternative one).
Tell us a little about you. Who is Jo Kutya? I don’t know what to say. I’m a gardener, film-buff and history lover, a bit of a world traveller, and an objectively terrible cook!
How can we read The Curse of Odin? It’s available on Kindle and paperback from Amazon, along with other absolutely fantastic titles from the other authors in the Shadow Spark Publishing roster.
The past two weeks, the independent film and TV distributor Indie Rights Movies have opened the floodgates of their expansive movie catalog on YouTube. And many more movies of all genres are scheduled to premiere on the platform over the next two months. Included in the mix of movies released have been more than 20 documentaries (click here for a playlist of docs). We’re spotlighting three that stand out in the crowd…
The Town That Loved Bigfoot Official Description: This down-home documentary chronicles the struggles of a sleepy town in Alabama as it’s sparked back to life by embracing local lore and learning to love Bigfoot. (YouTube) Watch Online
Halloween In A Box Official Description: Hear the story behind beloved Halloween costume manufacturer Ben Cooper Inc. Learn about the Star Wars license, the Batman license and the potential Spiderman cover-up! (YouTube) Watch Online
I Want To Believe Official Description: A thrilling study of the UFO phenomenon and the people who dedicate their lives to it. (YouTube) Watch Online
My favorite genre of indie films is horror. I always love seeing how inventive filmmakers can be with lower budgets. How will they scare us? Director Mark W. Curran chatted with us about his horror flick Abandoned Dead, which stars horror icon Judith O’Dea from my favorite indie horror flick of all time, Night of the Living Dead.
Who? It was written, produced and directed by me, Mark W. Curran. It stars scream queen Sarah Nicklin (Sins of Dracula) and Judith O’Dea (Night of the Living Dead). Supporting characters include a creepy caretaker played by Chris Parker and the main antagonist is a psychopathic doctor. This was my first feature film. I shot it in 2015. It was picked up by Gravitas Releasing and enjoyed a US and Canadian release on the streaming platforms. It was then picked up by Indie Rights for the re-release last year, which is the color-enhanced ‘Director’s Cut.’
What? Abandoned Dead tells the tale of a security guard, trapped in a run-down inner-city medical clinic and terrorized by supernatural forces which threaten to overtake her. It also touches on loneliness, alienation and the fallout from childhood abuse.
Where? It was filmed in scattered locations around LA, but the main part of the movie was actually filmed in an old medical clinic in Artesia. It was really a creepy place. I think there were rats in the attic. Sometimes late at night some of the crew said they saw ghosts. I didn’t see any, but I suppose that doesn’t mean they aren’t there!
When? We made it in 2015 and it was released in 2016. We shot it on weekends over a 6-week period. We had a very small cast and crew. All of the people on the set with the exceptions of the lead actresses were working on their first feature.
Why? I’ve made some short films and shot some commercials and always wanted to do a feature. Having worked as a security guard when I was younger, I’d experienced some odd and scary things, namely on double shifts late at night walking through abandoned buildings my mind would play tricks on me. I always thought it would be cool to write it into a movie, and when the location became available to shoot in, I wrote the script based on some of those experiences.
How? You can watch Abandoned Dead for free on Tubi TV. Click the link below or search on the app for “Abandoned Dead.”
We had the pleasure of meeting Kenneth R. Frank, the writer/director of Family Obligations, through one of our long time film contacts and I’m really happy we were able to connect. Kenneth has perfected not only the art of making indie films, but forging human connections through his films. He took us on a deep dive for his directorial debut Family Obligations, and his passion really shines through.
Who? Family Obligations is the second feature film from In the Garage Productions. I wrote the film, directed it, and shot it. My wife Shawna Brandle is our lead producer who handles budgeting, scheduling, paperwork, works as SAG liaison, and basically oversees all logistics for our projects. Her sister Brett Brandle also serves as a producer and does a lot of the design work on the films. Chris Mollica plays the lead in the film Peter Steele and was one of the editors. Kevin Wolfring was my assistant director on set who doubled up as sound man most of the time, as well as being the other editor. Those are the key people in our company. Chris and I have been best friends since high school, and we ended up married to a pair of sisters. Kevin is a former student of mine from my teaching days, so it’s a very tight-knit group. The only way I could have launched a film like this and got it made at the budget we could handle is knowing that I had these people along for the ride with me.
Of course, even with this core filling the biggest roles, a film still needs many more collaborators, and we were able to find so many great people to work with on this. In front of the camera, we cast Frank Failla to play Peter’s Uncle Frank, and he was perfect. Frank is a retired cop who I first saw doing stand-up comedy and learned he had been acting for a few years. He took to the role so quickly, and it was great to see him paired with Chris in these scenes. We saw our lead actress Chandler Rosenthal in a short film that Kevin had written and directed. She joined the cast to play Melanie, the single mother who lives in Frank’s apartment building that befriends Peter and starts a relationship with him. The rest of the cast is a mix of veteran actors in New York like Jerry Colpitts and Brian Silliman along with some new faces. My older daughter Eleanor plays Melanie’s daughter Mia, who has some fun scenes with Chris’s character. My younger daughter Peppa also appears in a small but important moment in the film. She was initially reluctant to be a part of this, but has since negotiated for more time on screen in future projects.
To fill out the crew, we were very fortunate to find our colorist Jan Klier before production began. I knew that getting someone very knowledgeable and experienced to produce the final image was critical. I had some very specific ideas on how I wanted to tell the story through color, but I also knew that I was shooting this myself and needed to work very quickly, so whoever handled this task would also be fixing a lot of my mistakes, so I needed to trust that Jan could deliver. Not only was he a great colorist, but he was so easy to work with that we ended up asking him to do our final sound mix and delivery of master files, as well. He’s going to be my director of photography on my next script that I’m directing, My Sister’s Wedding.
From start to finish, the theme of a successful film is finding collaborators you trust, and that’s also true in the distribution end of things. Family Obligations is available through MBUR Indie Films Distribution. We have dealt with a few distributors in our time, and MBUR has been the most communicative and transparent of any we’ve seen.
What? The film tells the story of an isolated person who is finally drawn out of himself and into meaningful relationships for the first time in his life. It’s about the power and the pitfalls of involving yourself in other people’s lives. The main character Peter Steele, played by Chris Mollica, returns home to settle affairs after his father’s sudden death. Initially, he tries to push through everything as quickly as possible so he can get back to life as he knows it. He hits a snag when he discovers that his father was actually responsible for taking care of his own brother, Peter’s Uncle Frank.
Slowly, Peter realizes that taking care of Uncle Frank might be the second chance he didn’t have with his father. Frank, however, is a reluctant patient, and Peter finds him a challenge to relate to. Through Frank, Peter also meets Melanie and her young daughter Mia, who live in the same building. Melanie and Peter find some common ground, but Melanie seems to have wrapped her head around living with responsibilities for another person.
So the film is really about this man learning how to (& sometimes how not to) relate to people he cares about, not to see everything as transactional but as something that he actually allows himself to feel.
Where? The film is set and filmed on Long Island, where my wife Shawna and I live with our family. In fact, much of it is in our hometown, even in our apartment building. We shot in the Chinese restaurant we order from. We shot in an office building across the street from the school where I taught for thirteen years. We shot in a laundromat around the corner from our home.
We made our first feature film The Mix out in Los Angeles, and that was a great experience working with an amazing cast and crew located out there, but we really wanted this to be a product of where we lived. I wanted to show the places I knew. I wanted to work with people around here. Incidentally, people were so kind to us in making this. It really felt like the community embraced us and helped in ways great and small. Some locations gave us a break on their rate or didn’t charge us at all.
People were generous with their time and knowledge. It was a great experience getting to make this out of our home.
When? We shot the film at the end of 2018, played festivals throughout 2019, and released the film through MBUR in 2020.
The film is set in present day, but we did some conscious things to give the film a little “age,” if that makes any sense. First, we shot on a digital sensor the size of Super 16mm film, and our color grade emphasized those qualities with lots of grain and a general warming of the colors. Secondly, the settings for most scenes are older brick buildings with sort of outdated decor and design choices that hopefully evoke what would have been this character’s childhood. He has come back home to where he grew up, and I wanted it to feel like the places hadn’t changed since he left. There’s a throwaway joke about him having this antiquated cell phone in an early scene, and I think that a lot of this character is frozen in time when he probably should have been evolving out of this lonely state.
You’re also alone with these characters in this film. There are no real cultural references or intrusions from outside their lives. To me, that was very important. You, as an audience, needed to be inside the world of these kinds of lonely people whose lives go on, day by day, largely unaffected by pop culture moments around them. So, in a way, I hope that as the film ages, it would become harder to pin it to any specific time but you would instead just feel a mood of these characters’ world.
Why? This film was a very personal expression for me. I’m someone who has always thought about and written about family in as many different forms and expressions as I could find. I think the fundamental question I’m always asking myself is how to situate my individual identity in the context of the people around me. Then, building off that, what are my responsibilities to that group of people and what are my responsibilities to myself? Hence the title, Family Obligations.
Ironically, when I’d get up on a stage for Q & A’s after screenings, almost every moderator would ask me if the events of the film were based on personal experience, and they’re not. After seeing the film, most people have assumed that I had a similar relationship with my father or uncle, and I haven’t. But the film’s story is a synthesis of a lot of things I’ve seen and thought about for many years: the misunderstandings across generations, how we take care of the sick and the dying, how we make peace with other people’s limitations, how we forgive others, how we forgive ourselves (hopefully). So I developed this story out of a desire to explore those questions I had.
What I hope is universal for people watching is the feeling of being pulled out of your own experience and into someone else’s life on terms you don’t get to dictate. At some point, I think we’re all called to serve some role in another person’s life that we don’t get to control. Whether that’s taking care of someone when they’re sick, dealing with a loss, helping someone through unforeseen difficulties of their own, or something else entirely, at some point we acknowledge that we don’t control all aspects of our lives. So what do we do then? What kind of people are we then?
How? Family Obligations is available on Blu-Ray disc at many sellers online. It streams free on Tubi TV and Plex, and it is also available for rent or purchase at AltaVOD and Amazon. The movie just became available on HooplaDigital.