Undead babe and the Zombie Army!

My Bears lost today but I wasn’t watching, because I was at the Chicago Horror Film Festival, which held it’s final screenings and awards show Sunday at the Portage Theater in Chicago. Unlike the Monsters of the Midway, my screenplay Belzec: The Made Undead won first place in its category at the CHFF. It beat five other finalists, including a ditty called Jug Face.

The Chicago Horror Film Festival, run by the indomitable Willy Adkins, has been an indie staple for 12 years, showcasing some pretty terrific horror films, many of them produced in Chicago. A good example would be the film, Moleman of Belmont Avenue, which had its premier at the festival. The film, produced in part by Zombie Army, features a number of actors from Second City, including Tim Kazurinsky and Dave Pasquesi.

I saw Moleman (silly and very Chicago) as well as a short vampire flick entitled Afraid of Sunrise. In addition, I got to meet Elias Matar, who won best director for a terrific undead picture called Ashes, a film I happened to catch at the Waterfront Film Festival earlier this summer. It’s great and will be out in limited release and on DVD shortly. See it. Finally, I also screened What They Say a creepy film about a “cutter” who does what comes un-naturally. Actress Heather Dorff won best actress for the film and was in attendance as well, donning a sexy horror gal costume. Yum.


Heather Dorff and Willy Adkins

Winning is cool, but the boobs and blood are what make these underground festivals so much fun. That and all the hardworking dreamers trying to make a go in movie making. For sure it’s a nerdy, Goth experience but what can I say? I’m an introverted writer that grew up in a grind house. When I was a boy we used to sneak into the Parkway Theater on Broadway (long since demolished, I think it’s a Lens crafters) and see triple features totally unsuitable for youngsters… Deranged, Enter the Dragon and The Exorcist. How’s that for a Saturday matinee?


Me (left) and other winners, CHFF

Before I get back into advertising (soon come!) I wanted to prove my chops at screenwriting. Whether my Belzec zombies see the light of day or not, I did what I set out to do, and in my crazy little world, that counts for something.


Where else will you see a freak eating razor blades during intermission?


Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!


Co-Founder, Waterfront Film festival: Hopwood DePree

So my script, Belzec The Made Undead won 2nd or 3rd prize (they don’t tell you which) at the Waterfront Film Festival in Saugatuck, Michigan last week. Don’t make fun. This is the same festival that premiered March of the Penguins a few years back. The WFF has been going 13 years now and is considered a top tier festival.

Elated, I made the 2 ½-hour drive in significantly less time than that. To add to my good fortune I was invited to stay at the household of Lesa Werme and her delightful family. They made me feel very welcome, even leaving out a piece of her daughter’s homemade carrot cake for when I came in late from seeing the film, Ashes, which was pretty damn good by the way (the cake and the film).

Once ensconced in the quaint resort town of Saugatuck I hightailed it to the screenplay winner’s reception downtown. There I met several of the other finalists, including the Grand Prize Winner, E. M. Spairow. A native of Michigan, she now resides in California. Fittingly, her script, Manifest is an LA Noir thriller.


Some of the winners, screenplay reception

Winning here has already generated interest in the script by several interested parties. That’s the big prize, really. It’s damn hard breaking into Hollywood (let alone advertising), you not only have to do a tremendous amount of work on spec but you need to work all the angles as well. Even then is no guarantee. The WFF was the first festival I entered. So I am one for one.

Make that two for two! Last night I received notice that Belzec: The Made Undead got first place at another festival, The Indie Gathering. I am over the proverbial moon. I guess all those years in the grind house are finally paying off!

Belzec: The Made Undead imagines an undead plague in a Nazi concentration camp. A group of American POW’s attempt to escape, even harder now, when they ‘can’t tell the living from the dead.’

In addition to Belzec, I’ve also written a screenplay for my second novel, The Happy Soul Industry. While not entered into any festivals (yet), it is in the hands of some very good people.

Last week, I had the pleasure and privilege of addressing the Federation of European Publicity Exterior (FEPE) on out of home (OOH) marketing. In case you couldn’t tell from their name, FEPE is the association for outdoor advertising in Europe. It is because of my lengthy experience with Altoids, and the resulting affiliation with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), that I found myself in Spain. I am passionate about outdoor advertising. Unlike the other mass media, I feel OOH is becoming more relevant in the 21st century, not less. And not just because of the obvious reasons, i.e. innovative technology and synergies with mobile. Below is a bit from my discussion, which I hope you find interesting. Bear in mind it was excerpted from an oral presentation. I was pointing to pictures while I spoke and I can’t include all of them here.

Along with social media, the new, new thing in outdoor advertising has been the explosion of digital technology. DOOH media spending will increase almost 60% from 2009 projections to 2013. We’ve all seen creative examples, tons of them already at this convention. Digital innovation has reinvented the medium. Yet, rather than feature more of these in my presentation, let’s look instead at some seemingly low-tech executions that, in my view, are as modern as anything out there.


Live roaches in plexi-glass!


Making the Chicago river Shamrock Shake green…

With these example we see the real power of outdoor advertising: an ages-old ability to generate ideas without QR codes, new technology or even electricity. Because of its old-fashioned pedigree, I think many of us try way too hard to prove how contemporary outdoor advertising is. We hasten to pimp the newest technology, arguing that it makes OOH competitive with all the other screens out there.

In the 70’s, digital watches were all the rage. So sleek, modern and cool, we all had to have one! And then we didn’t. We quickly rediscovered the timeless beauty of time. Now digital watches are just a curiosity. The ultimate irony: they are nostalgic!


Digital: far out and groovy!

I’m not suggesting digital formats are trite. Far from it. Its possibilities are endless and evolving. I’m just suggesting there’s something to be said for the old school as well. after all, the first sign one sees driving into Las Vegas says what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas as well as anything in the 21st century, maybe even more so.

I bracketed the above portion of my presentation with sections about signage, propaganda and popular culture. Signs comprised the very first ads on earth and will never become obsolete. I’ve shared some of these ideas on Gods of advertising before. If you are interested in my entire presentation to FEPE, please feel free to contact me.


Outdoor ads are old as man…


Didn’t see this yet…Old Madrid


Or this… New Madrid

As usual I didn’t sleep a wink on the plane, even though I was in business class, buffeted by droning engines, able to fully recline should I desire to. None of that mattered, I might as well have been straddling one of the engines. I don’t sleep on planes. Never could. Even when I drank all I got was drunk. Years later, I’ve learned to just read and write and watch a movie.

Today, flying from Chicago to Madrid was roughly seven hours. By the time I finished my dinner, I’d managed to kill almost three of them. Unfortunately, the movie player was acting up, though I wasn’t upset because the selection of videos was lame: “Rabbit Hole” and “Country Strong.” Pass. Fortunately, I’d brought along an excellent book, the memoir “Townie” by Andre Dubus III. Sometime after the first hundred pages dawn was flirting at my window.

Fill out the pointless immigration form. Seriously, what is the point? These are SO EASILLY FORGED. I didn’t even bother writing the correct flight numbers… All that remains is landing safely, getting my tired ass through customs (presumably with my bag), finding my driver (hardly a gimmie), and getting to the Intercontinental Hotel, hopefully before noon.

I know this isn’t a travel blog but travel is what I’m doing, so attribute the above paragraphs to my scrambled brains. Tomorrow I make a presentation on outdoor advertising to FEPE, the European Advertising Federation. It’s the same speech I did in Michigan last week. Only better ;-)

Update from my hotel room:
Madrid is the cleanest city I have ever seen. Not a speck of litter from the airport to the hotel. Blue skies. 80 degrees. I don’t know what I was expecting but this exceeds it.

Now I must take a siesta…


“Hmmm, Rapture.”

Do you think the elimination of people constitutes the “end of the world?” I sure as hell don’t. Frankly, I believe the world would be just fine without us, better even, with demonstrable improvement every day we’re gone.

All this ‘end is near’ talk reminds me that doomsayers need to speak for themselves and not for every living creature on the face of the earth. Frankly, we are all culpable. We immediately think the world has no meaning without us in it. This sort of arrogance drives me crazy. So much so, I wrote a novel about it. Entitled The Last Generation, it imagines a world where people can no longer bear children. The book’s tagline: “It’s not the end of the world. It’s just the end of us.”

Years later, Alan Weisman wrote The World Without Us, which explored these ideas even further. It was far more popular than my book and almost as good!

Still, mine is a minority opinion. Most people tend to believe in some form of human manifest destiny. It goes something like this: We possess souls and other creatures don’t, therefore we have dominion over them and everything else under the sun. Non-believers can substitute “intellect” for “souls.” Either way, when it comes to our perceived superiority even normal (and presumably smart) people can be as sanctimonious as Glenn Beck, as unbridled as Donald Trump, and as relentless as any given dictator. We say we deserve ‘our place in the sun’ (at the expense of other lesser organisms) merely because we exist.’ We mistake the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as a license to commit all manner of atrocities, big and small, many without even thinking. The bible tells us we are created in God’s image so naturally we are in charge of everything else.

Like you, I didn’t particularly want to perish on Saturday but I’m calling bullshit on the arrogant position that if the Rapture did occur it would have meant the end of the world. Like hell.

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