Today it's our pleasure to have a few words with my hometown film festival Thriller! Chiller! Festival director A.E. Griffin was
nice enough to answer some question about the past and future of horror and Michigan's best horror/si-fi festival.
Epic Horror Could you tell us about the history of the Thriller! Chiller! ?
Thriller! Chiller! Back in 2006, fellow festival director, Chris Randall and I were discussing the state of film festivals in our region and how they seemed to megalomaniacally focus on drama and comedy films, programming content in a way which played it safe and narrow with an audience's expectations. We weren't seeing any kind of significant attention in the programming of the kinds of movies we'd grown up with and admired as kids. Namely the edgier genres of action, horror, sci-fi and suspense oriented independent movies. So we built a film festival we'd want to attend where they recognized the craft and artistry our our favorite kinds of movies! Nowadays, every major film festival in the region includes an 'after dark' block of programming and we're proud that in part we helped to inspire their change of attitude! It's a step in the right direction anyhow.
Epic Horror So what really goes on behind the organization of a film festival like Thriller! Chiller! ?
Thriller! Chiller! As with any passion, it takes many, many hours of planning and dedication to make Thriller! Chiller! a reality every year. Our core team is comprised of indie filmmakers and we've been able to work together to create an adventurous and fun event our community deserves every year! I feel our indie film spirit binds our visions together and we approach Thriller! Chiller! with a sense of wonder and humility in our responsibility to each other, the festival and its part in our community.
Epic Horror Since 2006 are you where you thought you would be ?
Thriller! Chiller! In many ways, yes, we've accomplished the main goals we've set for the festival so far. Shirley Clemens of Twain Girl, our marketing director, has developed a system by which we accomplish the task at hand by week, month and year on behalf of the festival. We focus on those tasks and the goals are merely milestones on a longer timeline. She's phenomenal!
Epic Horror Is there a particular part of the program where you think you took a different approach then other festivals
Thriller! Chiller! When we started out we'd heard both directly and through the grapevine that our immediate region was too conservative to handle a "horror festival" and that misconception in part fueled our passion that much more to forge ahead. We're not a horror festival, we're a genre festival. And the fact of the matter is our community is not closed off - or 'afraid' of - a curated event which screens the very best independent action, horror, sci-fi & suspense movies from around the world.
Epic Horror Will you continue using Grand Rapids historic Wealthy Theater in 2014 ?
Thriller! Chiller! In 2014, Thriller! Chiller! has relocated the festival to downtown Grand Rapids. Our main venue and headquarters will be at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts (UICA) on the corner of Fulton & Division, and our partnerships with other venues in the immediate area are currently coming online. Once we have programming secured for those venues we'll make those announcements shortly! At some point we'd love to reincorporate the Wealthy Theater back into the fabric of our festival's mission on behalf of our community.
Epic Horror How do you guys pick which movies get to be screened at the festival ?
Thriller! Chiller! We've developed a comprehensive screening process to program the festival with the very best content we receive from submitted movies from around the world. All submissions are watched at least three times - on average up to five times - by at least three different screeners and rated based on the merits of storytelling. We always take into account personal preferences and are exceptionally careful about any individual's personal bias based on style over substance. We then match up the movies based on the vibe they give off as a collection of work representative of that particular year and discuss at length how we can market each movie as a unique endeavor and then as a whole to our audience. I won't kid you, it's tricky. I'm sure there are easier ways to do it but those ways typically come at the cost of one's integrity. And a festival that skimps on its integrity is doomed to fail. We've seen the results of this happen over and over again with our fellow festivals.
Epic Horror Who is the judging panel made up of ?
Thriller! Chiller! Our judging panel, the people who decide the awards, are made up of a fluid group of film professionals and film critics in our area. It changes every year based on their ability to offer their time and consideration on behalf of the festival. However, with that all said, we've consistently asked for the assistance of John Serba of Mlive, Tim Doty of Fox17, Stephanie Webb of WZZM and our long time friend and filmmaker, Mark France to lead our panel.
Epic Horror With the rise of Indie Horror success will we see the next Ti West or Eli Roth this year ?
Thriller! Chiller! Most definitely! Check out the work of Mike Flanagan! His short movie, Oculus, played in our first year of the festival and was recently expanded into a feature and it's fantastic! He's also been recently hired to adapt the Stephen King's novel, Gerald's Game, into a movie!
Epic Horror Merriam-Webster defines Horror as a very strong feeling of fear, dread, and shock. What's your definition of Horror ?
Thriller! Chiller! Loss. Pure and simple. In horror movies, the penultimate of terror is the threat of loss. It's when we realize this that we're probably most alive, and really become aware of what we have which defines us.
Epic Horror Best Indie horror movie of 2013 we haven't seen, and the worst ?
Thriller! Chiller! One of my favorites is Buck Wild! We had the good fortune to screen it at Thriller! Chiller! 2013 and it's now streaming on Netflix. Find it! Love it! And one movie which didn't do it for me from 2013 was Gravity. Granted, not an outright horror movie, and yet if the context had been set up better the whole story should have been far more terrifying. Ultimately, it was far too self aware as the filmmaker's passion project, and in my opinion, was hung up on needless exposition. I felt like it treated the audience like we were too stupid to relate to what was going on just because the story was set in space.
Epic Horror To you what makes a film an Indie, budget, cast, or distributor ?
Thriller! Chiller! Any movie that takes charge of its fate outside of the mechanism of merely being a 'product' is operating with an independent spirit. If the movie has a release date before it even has a script, or a studio is sifting through its intellectual properties to package nostalgia for just the right demographic, it is not independent. They both have their place however, and I enjoy both kinds of movies at every chance I can get to watch them in the theater.
Epic Horror CGI or old school SPFX? And why ?
Thriller! Chiller! I prefer a blend actually, and when done properly, they make for a better story in a safer work environment. Its actually more creative to come up with an inventive solution which can be resolved digitally versus just throwing someone into a meat grinder to get the shot. No one should risk their life or die making a movie. And dying for something as meaningless as a stunt or special effect for a movie's sake is just plain stupid and foolish. Conversely, CGI has made many a studio and director lazy. That "we'll make it in post" attitude shouldn't be the reason to skip over a moment which could have been reached in the story on a practical level with the actors on a set.
Epic Horror And with the recent release of Godzilla, what's your favorite Tokyo destroying monster, and why ?
Thriller! Chiller! Godzilla. Because its Godzilla, of course!
Epic Horror Fast or slow zombie ?
Thriller! Chiller! Fast! Slow! Either way, I don't want them anywhere near me!
Epic Horror If people want to help how can they get a hold of you ?
Thriller! Chiller! They can reach us via our contact page at www.thrillerchiller.com
Epic Horror Thanks for your time whats the one thing you want people to take away from this article ?
Thriller! Chiller! Thriller! Chiller! is adventure two hours at a time! A film festival turned up to eleven! And we'd very much enjoy the chance to meet anyone who loves these kinds of movies as much as we do!
Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival!
2014 OCTOBER 22 - 25
WEDNESDAY to SATURDAY, baby!
Michigan's international film festival celebrating genre movies!
Named one of MovieMaker Magazine's Top 20 Horror/Sci-Fi film festivals of 2013!
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