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.

I DON’T DO REALITY: An Interview with Gabrielle Stone

Gabrielle interviewInterviewee Gabrielle Stone (above right) in Harrison Smith’s Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard – 2015. / DRC writer Tyler Keeton (above left).  / Image rights belong to respective owners and not DRC.


Actress Gabrielle Stone was destined for a life in creative energy and force from the start. As the beautiful daughter of esteemed horror icons Dee Wallace (E.T.CujoThe Howling, Rob Zombie’s Halloween) and Christopher Stone (CujoThe HowlingLove Me Deadly), it was only a matter of time before the young starlet embarked on her own path to success. Stone’s most recent feature, Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard (Harrison Smith, 2015), was a modernized entry into the zombie sub-genre of horror, and featured her acting alongside her mother. The film was met with acclaim from fans and critics alike, arguing it offered a fresh take on survivalist and feminist cinema. Check out the trailer (above).
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Independent horror cinema has seen quite the evolution in the past few years, with several entries leaning towards a throwback to classic plot lines and monstrous entities. As February 2016 has been deemed the 7th Annual “Women in Horror Month,” it was important to DRC writer Tyler Keeton to interview a powerful female — not specifically bound by the confines of the genre, but all corners of the entertainment industry — who has her groundwork laid out and knows exactly where she plans on going. Ms. Stone has also recently acted in Cut! (David Rountree, 2014),and Speak No Evil (Roze, 2013), the latter of which featured her in a chilling lead role.
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While Stone has strong roots in horror, she does not want to be known as a strict genre worker. In a new chat with DRC, the lovely actress speaks out on acting as a powerful force and artistry, shares her experiences growing up with acclaimed actors for parents, and spills some of her upcoming projects. Check out the interview (below)!
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DRCWhy is acting so important to you? How does it feel seeing your work on screen?
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STONE
I love acting for so many reasons. I love creating art that makes people feel different emotions. And it’s helped me heal and get through some difficult hardships of my own. Some roles have really been like…therapy for me. When you can use what you love to make other people feel, there’s no better job in the world.
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(Gabrielle [right] alongside mother Dee Wallace [left] {image does not belong to DRC})
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DRCIn a world so riddled by and obsessed with popular culture, what was it like growing up with internationally successful actors for parents? Were you allowed to see their films as a child?
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STONEI saw all their “appropriate” stuff as a child. It baffles me when I hear kids were seeing Jaws and A Nightmare on Elm Street when they were five. I think I saw Scream when I was thirteen or fourteen…and didn’t sleep for a month. So I definitely watched E.T., the new Lassie series they did, her series Together We Stand…but Cujo, The Howling…those all came later. I think I saw The Frighteners when I was a little younger, because I was on set for all of it. So I did see that in theaters when it came out. But once I saw Cujo, I started to love the genre, and as I grew up, definitely fell in love with scary movies. 
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(Stone in Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard.)
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DRCYou are quickly building a legitimate and credible portfolio of acting credits. Director Harrison Smith is full of quirky, fresh takes on classic horror cinema. What was it like working with him on Zombie Killers? Are there any wild stories from set?
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STONEI love Harrison. He’s a great director, who has become a great friend. Zombie Killers was an absolute blast. He’s super easy to work with, and really lets you have fun and trust your instincts. Stories from set? Most (stories), I would probably get a ton of people in trouble if I told! (Laughs) I do remember absolutely freezing my ass off during the scene with Mischa (Barton) and I. It was 7am…in a bra…and refrigerated blood. I was like violently shaking and shivering. Harrison kept saying, “Don’t worry…you just look really scared!” 
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DRCSpeak No Evil was one of your first feature-length acting credits. How did you land the role? How did that film influence your current stance on staying in the industry? 
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STONEIt wasn’t my first feature, but my first starring role in a feature. The casting director, Helen McCready, recommended me to (director) Roze. That film was such a blessing. I absolutely loved the whole cast and crew, and Roze and I are good friends now and have worked together twice since. It was a huge learning experience to see that I could handle a film that I was in, in every scene. I’m really proud of it. (Smiles)
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DRCAs a powerful female on the rise in the world of horror, what is your reasoning behind horror being so important, as an art form? Who are some of your biggest female influences in the genre? Is there any particular actress you’d love to work with?
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STONEI don’t really view myself as a female on the rise in the horror genre. I get offered a lot of horror roles that I turn down if the material isn’t strong. It has to be the right horror for me to want to do it. I don’t want to get stuck in any specific genre as an actress, because I love many genres. The horror fans, though, are insanely awesome, and I love being able to be a part of the horror world. It’s so cliché, but once I saw Cujo, I knew I wanted to be an actress. I think my mom’s performance in that film is mind blowing. There’s a ton of people I want to work with…the list grows daily. (Smiles)
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(Stone’s mother, Dee Wallace, in The Howling.)
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DRC2016 is full of new releases. Are there any films you are most looking forward to seeing?
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STONEI’m definitely looking forward to seeing a lot of the festival films that were at Sundance this year. Outlaws and Angels. I’ve worked with the director, JT Mollner, on three shorts, so I’m excited to see his first feature. I’m such a huge movie fan.
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DRC: Are there any other projects you’re working on this year?
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STONEI’m currently raising the last funds to direct my first short titled, “Stay.” Super excited to jump behind the camera, although I’ll also be acting in it. I just finished two films. Dance Night Obsession, with Sabrina Bryan and Antonio Sabatto Jr., should be out sometime this year. Also a drama/fantasy, Ava’s Impossible Things, that I am beyond excited to see. There’s also a ton in the works that I can’t talk about yet. I’m so excited for what this year is looking like so far! 
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DRC(Laughs) The time has come. Every reality star has his or her own shallow tagline on the series’ opening credits. What would your tagline be, as a fearless lady in the business of film?
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STONE: (Grins) “I don’t f****** do reality.”
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Gabrielle Stone is truly a young force to be reckoned with. Follow her current and future projects on Twitter and IMDB, and look forward to seeing her face on the big screen time and time again.

 

 

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.