NIGHTMARE NATE: An Interview with Nathan Thomas Milliner

DRC - NATEInterviewee Nathan Thomas Milliner (above right). / Milliner’s artwork for Scream Factory titles Halloween II, Halloween III, The Burning, The Howling (bottom left). / Artwork for Volumes of Blood (above left). / Image rights belong to respective owners and not DRC.

Nathan Thomas Milliner is giving back to the world that so inspired him as a child. As a writer, director, and artist, Milliner’s work can now be seen around the world. Though Nate is most known for his recurring work with Shout!/Scream Factory — in designing newly-commissioned artwork for DVD/Blu-ray releases –, his work in the independent horror scene is also picking up massive momentum. Milliner’s debut directorial feature, A Wish for the Dead, was shot in 2011, and is finally being released this year. Along with the debut, Milliner is also behind the critically-acclaimed short fan film The Confession of Fred Krueger, as well as segments in Volumes of Blood and its upcoming sequel, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories.
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Milliner’s original artwork for the Halloween 4 cast reunion at HorrorHound Weekend Cincinnati 2010. Find more of his brilliant work here.
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In between his busy work load, Milliner had the time to chat with DRC writer Tyler Keeton on the importance of the horror genre, the genre fandom, and the future/current state of horror cinema. Check out the interview below!
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DRCAs someone so well-versed in the realm of horror, what is the importance of the genre, to you? What initially drew you to the genre?
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MILLINERThe importance of the horror genre is essentially to make the audience apprehensive before they walk into that theater to sit down.  Keep them nervous and uncomfortable–scare them a lot, if you can–make sure they laugh a few times and, ultimately, walk out feeling they just had a very fun time.  That was what drew me to the genre.  It was fear at first, and then that undeniable sense of fun you get in watching.
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DRCYour artwork is breathtaking. Your originality shines through with each creation. As you have served on commission for Scream Factory’s releases of Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, The Funhouse, Terror Train, Deadly Blessing, The Burning, and The Howling, what has been your proudest artistic accomplishment to date? What release was the most challenging, in terms of wanting to please the horror fandom?
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MILLINERI’m not sure what my proudest artistic accomplishment has been, as I have been very fortunate to have several.  I would say maybe a tie between the cover to the Never Sleep Again: The Making of a Nightmare on Elm Street coffee table book, the blu-ray cover of Halloween II (my first), or one of my films.  Either Encyclopedia Satanica or The Confession of Fred Krueger.  Each cover is a challenge, although some come easier than others.  But the responsibility to the fans is in every job.  I have to show my respect not only to the film, but to those who love it.  I need to understand the film and understand why those fans are so obsessed.
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DRCAlong with your original artwork, you are also a writer, director, actor, and producer. Tell us a little about the 2009 film Girl Number Three. Was it difficult transferring  pieces from your own graphic novel into someone else’s hands for a screenplay and feature film?
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MILLINERI had written Girl Number Three to be a short film for me to one day direct.  So yeah, it was hard turning it over to another artist to direct.  Luckily, I was asked to write the screenplay — although the director had some requested changes.  It was tough, but he said to me one day, “You have to let me make it.”  So, from that day on, I did my very best to keep out of his way.  Let him take the reigns. It is important that the director has that freedom and single vision.  I think Herschel felt more pressure to please me than I had letting him take it.
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DRC2015’s Volumes of Blood was met with acclaim from fans nationwide. As an attached director, what was it like collaborating with other filmmakers to form a cohesive genre film? Tell us about your own individual contributions.
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MILLINEROn the original Volumes of Blood, I was asked to direct a segment.  I was sent three scripts and the only one I cared for was “The Encyclopedia Satanica, which had been written by a guy named Todd Martin.  While I liked the story, I felt the script needed a major overhaul.  It had potential, but really needed changes and additions or subtractions.  They allowed me to basically rewrite it to fit my vision.  Again, very important that it be the director’s vision.  I did art direction, storyboards and cast the lead actress.  The rest of the cast was assigned.  I had a great time–despite the lack of time–making the film and worked with some of the most talented and hard working people around.  The same crew and half my cast reunited very soon to make Confession of Fred Krueger.  On the sequel, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories–I am writing two segments, acting in one and directing one I wrote, titled, “Fear, For Sinners Here, which I am currently editing.  My first time as the editor.  Once again, I cast, storyboarded and did art direction on the film.
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DRCAs you directed a short fan film, The Confession of Fred Krueger, it is obvious you have strong devotion and respect for Wes Craven’s original masterpiece. It is very important to note your own fan film was met with acclaim, as many hailed it to be more than a mere “fan film,” and worthy of its own merit and credibility. This had to be exciting for you.
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MILLINERI had wanted to make that film since I was twelve.  It was rewarding in itself just to make it.  Having the fans react so positively and accept it and call it more than just a fan film, or “the best fan film,” and all of those wonderful things, was very nice to see.  I knew many fans would reject it, but the response was definitely more on the positive side.  It was my love letter to Wes.  Sadly, he passed two weeks before it premiered.  But that film is my thank you to him.
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DRCYou recently completed your own feature film, A Wish for the Dead. How has the film translated with the horror fandom, and did you meet your own expectations for the film? It is an extremely admirable feat to touch on so many areas of the entertainment industry and extended independent film community.
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MILLINERWell, the info going around on A Wish for the Dead is false.  It isn’t my new film.  I shot Wish in 2011.  It is just now getting released. But it has been done a very long time.  It was my first time directing, and I was very green.  I was not really prepared to direct that film, and while it is a decent film, it was a very collaborative effort between myself and the director of Girl Number Three.  Making a feature is a tough thing to pull off.  I am excited for those who worked on it to be able to see and share it, but I was a little worried about it being called my new film — as it was made 5 years ago, and I have made three other films since it and have learned and grown so much since.  It is a good film — for a first film, I would say.
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DRCYou have support from so many fans worldwide. How has it been for your wife, Brenda, and daughter, Lily? Are they also fans of the genre? It has to be a creative and inspiring household.
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MILLINERMy wife loves horror.  My daughter is curious.  She is artistic and has grown up on sets and at horror conventions.  Brenda and Lily get recognized and called out to by strangers at cons.  I am sure it can be as surreal for them as it is for me.  The horror community has been good to me.  I love these people.
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DRCWhat and who are some of your own favorite films or filmmakers? Every film lover has his or her own inspirations and idols.
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MILLINERMy top five films are Taxi Driver, Reservoir Dogs, Dazed and Confused, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Favorite filmmakers are Tarantino, Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, The Coen Brothers and really too many to name.  I have had a lot of inspirations and idols.
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DRCIf someone were to ask you how to get started in the writing or film industry, what would be your piece of advice?
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MILLINERDo it every day.  Learn something every day. Work hard, never stop — despite rejection or self-doubt.  Don’t be in a hurry to get success or respect, and enjoy any and all opportunities and successes no matter how small.
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DRCOriginality is key when it comes to creative genius. As so many modern horror films recycle old tropes and cliches, how do you approach your own work?
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MILLINERWe are all essentially recycling the same stories over and over.  It comes down to how you tell it, your vision, your style, your personal voice, and your execution.  I always try to make left turns.  Hemingway said great writing is leading the reader down the same path they know and then when they know where they are going, go the other way.  Paraphrasing, but it has always worked for me.
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DRCWhat is the importance of the horror fandom, to you?
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MILLINERFans need to lighten up and remember that this genre is about having fun.  I fear the community has turned on itself a lot.  Cannibalizing itself.  The elitist and so-called “true fans” are making the genre a sour place to hang out.  Remember what it was like renting that crappy b-movie with your friends over pizza and soda and just having a blast with a scary movie?
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DRCLastly, let’s say you are cast in a reality series documenting your own life and work. What would your tagline be?
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MILLINERWake up every day and make something.
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Be sure to follow Milliner’s brilliant work on his website, as well as IMDB, Facebook, and Twitter.

A MORE ADULT WORLD: An Interview with Jeffrey Landman

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Interviewee Jeffrey Landman (above left) performing at Ryan Black’s “88’s Cabaret” in West Hollywood, CA – 2009. / Halloween 5 original artwork (above center). / Landman’s performance as Billy Hill in Halloween 5 (above right). / Image rights belong to respective owners and not DRC.

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It is always fascinating to witness the meteoric rise of an individual so well-versed in different areas of creative ability. Actor Jeffrey Landman proves to be an inspiration on and off the silver screen. At the young age of eleven, Landman earned his eternal place in the hearts of the horror fandom as Billy Hill in Halloween 5 – one of the most inventive, gruesome entries to the franchise. His performance in the film proved a sense of vulnerability, emotional connection, and maturity beyond his years. Much like John Carpenter‘s original film, the franchise once again returned to a focus on terror through the eyes of preadolescence.

Check out a tender moment between Billy (Landman) and Jamie (actress Danielle Harris) below.

After seeing a new interview of Landman in a bonus feature documentary for Anchor Bay Entertainment and Scream Factory‘s Halloween: The Complete CollectionDRC decided to contact the actor in September 2015 via Twitter. Long before the official launch of DRC, the playful tweet (below) provided motivation to eventually interview Landman for the site. Charming and wise in the art world, Landman is a theatrical force to be reckoned with.

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Although genre fans may remember him for his slash-tastic performance as Billy Hill, Landman now focuses on his work in the world of theatre. Landman is currently taking the stage in his role of Edward Kleban in Coachella Valley Repertory‘s production of A Class Act. Landman is receiving endless amounts of recognition for his dedication to the role and the world of the show. Writer Jack Lyons of Desert Local News praises Landman: “Jeffrey Landman plays (Edward) Kleban with charm, style, and terrific timing. He sings, he dances and he emotionally draws the audience into his nuanced performing orbit by the sheer force of his talent.” 

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Landman (above) embraces his writer side in A Class Act (image belongs to CV Rep).
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Between endless rehearsals, previews, and performances, DRC had the privilege to have a brief, but insightful glimpse into the life of the astounding actor. In this NEW interview (below), Landman chats with DRC about life as a child actor, his own favorite films, and his biggest theatrical accomplishments to date.

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– DRCWhat, to you, makes the horror genre so important? As someone whose face is remembered on the silver screen by so many diehard fans, how would you handle someone approaching you for a major horror film today?
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LANDMANEveryone loves a good scare. That moment your heart starts racing….. (Smiles)  If anyone out there is looking to cast their horror film, I am certainly always open to return to the genre that has brought me so much.
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DRC2015 was a huge year for the horror genre. From the kooks of Roth’s The Green Inferno to del Toro’s highly anticipated period-pressed Crimson Peak, the year’s releases crossed nearly every nightmarish territory. 2016 is a new year. What do you foresee being the big release of 2016? Is there any particular film you’re most looking forward to?
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LANDMANI am really looking forward to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, as I was a huge fan of the book, and the entire genre of classic literature/horror mash-ups. I like a little bit of a sense of humor in my horror films, and hopefully, the “wink” factor will be there. I would LOVE to see a return to the 1980s style of horror. Those films had a fun, campy element to them. I recently re-watched the entire Elm Street canon, and they had a wonderful amount of fun — something I think is somewhat lacking in our current horror films.
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DRCBeing a child actor has its perks and its cons. Most seem to crumble under the pressure, but you have made a lovely life for yourself. Tell our readers a little about your experiences in Halloween 5. What was it like having media attention as a child? Has it influenced the way you perceive the world today?
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LANDMANI was very lucky with the way my childhood career played out, in that I was never really under a lot of media scrutiny. It was such a different time — really the pre-internet age. I was able to avoid the trappings of what we currently assume about child actors. I also have a wonderfully strong family that truly put me and my needs first and foremost. It was also very helpful that during Halloween 5, I had Danielle Harris in every scene with me. Since there were two kids on set, everyone went out of their way to ensure we were taken care of and were never scared on set. Being a child actor certainly has changed the way I view the world, in that I had a different set of childhood experiences than the average kid. I was forced to grow up in a more adult world than most children, and had to make grown-up choices when other kids were still being kids. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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DRC: What was it like working with the legendary Donald Pleasence? Are there any stories you remember with him on set?
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LANDMANDonald was a wonderful presence on the set and it was such an honor to work with such an amazingly accomplished actor. Especially working with him on a Halloween movie, as he is (and always will be) the branch connecting the series. He was wonderful to Danielle and I, and would spend time in the makeup trailer telling stories about his career and life. My only regret is that I was too young to really understand what a gift it was to spend that time with him.
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DRCI see you’ve made a name for yourself in the world of theatre. Tell us how you broke into theatre. Any crazy stories from backstage?
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LANDMANI actually started in theatre, and was appearing on Broadway in Les Miserables, at the time I was cast in Halloween 5. After the film opened, I returned to the stage, appearing on Broadway again in the early 90’s in Falsettos. For the past two decades, I have been working steadily on stage and in the recording booth. I would have to say that my biggest accomplishment to date was starring in one of the biggest Broadway hits ever at the age of ten, after my very first audition. As for funny things happening backstage, all my fun stories basically involve someone messing up…(Laughs) Not very fun out of context.
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DRCWhat has been your favorite theatrical accomplishment to date?
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LANDMANEvery show I have done has been wonderful for its own reasons, but my favorite HAS to be appearing on Broadway at age 11 in Les Miserables. Being my first job ever, it will always have that place in my heart. To say it changed my life is a supreme understatement, and no matter what else happens, I will always have that experience of being a part of such a mammoth show that everyone the world over has some connection to.
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DRC: If you could pick three of your favorite films, what would they be and why? Are there any films that have changed your perception of life and existence?
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LANDMANIn no order…All About Eve. BRILLIANT acting and writing! All That Jazz. It’s an amazing look at life as an artist, and it’s visually stunning. The Long Kiss Goodnight. Such a very underrated movie. I just love it. I would say that All That Jazz changed my life…in the way I view art, and understanding the drive and passion to make it.
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DRCNothing should be overly serious. Every reality star has his or her own tagline. Something shallow, like, “People try to rope me in…but I lead this rodeo.” What would your tagline be, Mr. Landman?
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LANDMAN: (Laughs) B-B-Billy may stutter, but Jeffrey always speaks clearly.

Landman shows off his impeccable chops (above) in a performance for the “Back to Bravo” Benefit for Camp Bravo 2014. Be sure to follow Landman on Twitter. The world is his platform for entertainment.

 

DEATH HOUSE: An Interview with Writer/Director Harrison Smith

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Dripping Red Cinephile writer Tyler Keeton (above bottom right) and featured interviewee writer/director Harrison Smith (above top right), President of Class of 85 film production company (home to four feature films and a Discovery reality series). Smith has found domestic and international success with his work, and continues to build his empire in the genre.

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If anyone connects with and understands the value of the horror genre as its own driving force and entity, it is the brilliant Mr. Harrison Smith. Smith is a recent contact of mine, and has quickly become a close friend and collaborator. The list of credits spanning Smith’s expansive career continues to grow each year. A wildly free spirit, Smith stands firm when it comes to conjuring up new ideas for films that set him apart from other independents in the genre. His most recent feature film, Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard (2015), features performances from Billy Zane (Titanic), Mischa Barton (The Sixth Sense, The O.C.), and Dee Wallace (E.T.CujoThe Howling). The film revolves around “a young militia” combating “a coming dead horde” in a “rural town decimated by the fracking industry” (courtesy of IMDB).  Check out the intense trailer (below).

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A year prior, Smith unveiled his tribute to ’80s camp slashers, with Camp Dread (2014). The film features performances from Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight), Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 & 5Rob Zombie‘s Halloween H2), and Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp). Camp Dread lovingly embraces the tropes and cheese of its important predecessors, while offering a modern take on society’s obsession and love affair with technology and all things “reality.” The film arguably sparked and set the bar for an onslaught of other tributes to the golden age of slasher cinema. The trailer (below) is loaded with screams and familiar faces to any fan of the genre.

Smith is currently finishing work on his upcoming feature, Death House, set to debut later this year. The film’s logline explains: “A secret government facility becomes ground zero for the most horrific prison break in the history of mankind.” No stranger to working with iconic genre actors, Smith is excited to add Danny Trejo (MacheteFrom Dusk Till Dawn) and Freddy Kruger himself, Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise), to his impressive casting repertoire. Both are set to star in Death House, along with returning icon Dee Wallace.

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☣ In this EXCLUSIVE new interview for Dripping Red Cinephile, Smith shares his thoughts on the current state of the horror genre, teases his new projects, and reminisces on his own favorite memories during production. Find the interview below.

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 – DRCThe new year is here and we’re all excited for the upcoming horror releases. Is there any particular release you’re most looking forward to?
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SMITH(Laughs) Death House is the one I am really psyched about.
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DRCWith a new year comes time for your own work to flourish and garner even more attention. Are there any projects you’re currently working on? Any creepy details you’d like to spill?
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SMITHWe have Death House and Love Bites at the top of the list. We are attaching talent and excited about what is coming. There are also things going on with my production company and can divulge some exciting news, once finalized. I am developing a sweet supernatural horror, called Keepsake, that I hope to have going into production this summer. A lot in the air, but again, it’s about bringing a number of things home. You crow when the egg is laid, so I don’t do a lot of crowing until monies have transferred, contracts are signed and things are locked. Then you really have something to report on, you know?
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DRCCamp Dread had you working with genre legends Felissa Rose and Danielle Harris. What’s your favorite memory from set? If you could sum up the experience in ONE Apple emoji, which would it be?
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SMITHWow. A lot of good memories from that set. I will say the night we shot the beach campfire scene….we were racing against time with a storm coming in. It was late and the Doppler radar was giving us a minute-by-minute breakdown of when the storm was coming. We literally could see it approaching on our cells by the mile. And you know what? That thing hit us just when the radar said. The whole feeling of suspense was palpable onset. It was fun…because it was like this monster coming for us. People shouting: “here it comes..!” It was like a living thing bearing down on the beach. And when someone said “here it is,” there it was. On cue. The storm was very punctual. I coulda called “Action!” and it would have started. (Laughs) An emoji to sum up Camp Dread? Hmmm….the coffin.
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DRCTell us about your childhood. What film made you realize you wanted to have a career in film? For me, it was Hitchcock’s Psycho. An utter masterpiece. Is there a specific film moment that stands out in your mind from watching at a young age?
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SMITHJaws was the movie that made me want to make movies. I saw it with my mom when I was 8 in 1975. To see over 200 people scream together, laugh, enjoy and then stand and applaud at the end…I knew then “This is what I want to do.” Jaws was the first movie I saw get an ovation.

As for a specific film moment? Hard to say. I do know that 1967’s Mad Monster Party also had major influence on me at about 4 years old. Francesca was my first crush as a boy. However, the film still holds a place in my heart and sits on my DVD shelf. 

The classic Universal monsters were always a favorite and I would watch them all the time with my grandmother. (Smiles) Bride of Frankenstein still holds up as one of the best sequels ever made. I love it. 
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DRCI give you major credit for standing your ground on cynicism in cinema. Films should not force-feed audiences didacticism in a play-by-play. What made you want to address this in entertainment? Tell us about your blog.
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SMITHWhat triggered it? Michael Caine’s quote for making Jaws: the Revenge. I think that film is the worst film ever made, for a simple reason: it was made by people who knew better. That is the center to my term, “Cynema.” Bad movies can be bad, and sometimes they can be great. But Jaws: the Revenge is not just bad, it’s cynical – because it didn’t try once and as part of a venerated series, is cynical. There was zero attempt to make a good movie. Zero. No one cared. It was about squeezing out a few more bucks to get a Bahamian vacation for the winter. It was about seeing just how dumb the movie goers would be and if they would swallow such garbage. 

My blog says it all, and I have a piece on Jaws 3 and 4 on there. I don’t know if Jaws 3‘s director was cynical. I don’t think he was a “great” director, but he had some cynical people to work against. Yes, it’s about making money, but when you make something with utter contempt for the people watching it…that’s Cynema. 
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DRC(Claps) Lastly, I always like to end interviews on a light and fun note. Let’s say you’ve just been cast as the latest and greatest reality star. Most reality stars have their own hilariously bogus and shallow tagline. Something like, “In this bar, I’m top shelf. Everyone else is cheap vodka.” (Laughs) What would your crazy tagline be, Mr. Smith?
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SMITHSh*t stops when I walk in the room.
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Follow Smith’s work on Twitter, and be sure to watch out for his venture into new and bloody territory in the new year. Dripping Red Cinephile looks forward to working with Smith again in the near future, to discuss his upcoming productions.