Dogwood Pass: Old West Town and Haunted Attraction

Dogwood Pass, CYoungmedia, Chris Young
Mike and Sharlene: owners of Dogwood Pass.
(Recently I was privileged to visit with Mike and Sharlene Montgomery, owners and creators of an entire authentic Old West gold mining town replica situated in Southeast Ohio. As a testament to the quality of their work, the official Roy Rogers Memory Museum chose to permanently relocate there and is now open to the public. For the month of October I decided to sit down with them and talk about Dogwood Pass, especially the way it transforms into a haunted attraction every year.)

How did this authentic old West town come to be located in Eastern Ohio?

Mike: I was born and raised here. It started out as a hobby, I built a saloon, and it turned into a town, period.

So you just built it one building at a time.

Mike: One building didn't look right so we added another building, and the second building looked like it needed another building, the third looked like it needed another, and another. One street looked like it needed another street...

Dogwood Pass, CYoungmedia, Chris Young
Welcome to the 1800's.
How many buildings do you have total?

Mike: Twenty-seven or something like that. I haven't really counted them all, yet.

Sharlene: We have plans for five more this season.

Mike: Yeah, we're adding five major buildings this season.

Sharlene: We're definitely a gold mining boom town: buildings go up.

How big is it?

Mike: You know that's hard to guess. It's going up and down the hill. Where it will end up at, I don't know. It covers more than an acre now, probably.

Dogwood Pass, CYoungmedia, Chris Young

Where did the idea to turn it into a haunted old west town every year come from?

Mike: My grand kids.

Sharlene: Well we always did haunted things for our grand kids for years and years and as the town grew so did the haunted town. Then the public started hearing about it, so it kind of grew from there.

Mike: We haunted one building one year for our grand kid's Halloween party and then it went to two, three, four buildings so then we decided to open it to the public.

How many years ago was that first one?

Mike: The first one was probably ten years ago.

How did people hear about it?

Mike: Basically word of mouth in the community, as far as Halloween goes, and it spread from there through social media.

Dogwood Pass, CYoungmedia, Chris Young
Just a friendly local.
How many extras will you have working this year?

Mike: At least seventy-five people. Seventy-five to one hundred for this year.

Sharlene: And they're all volunteers.

Mike: We gain ten to fifteen people every year.

Can you describe some of the attractions or events that you have?

Mike: The Halloween event is everything from Old West zombies to ghouls and goblins, Jason and Freddy Krueger and the headless horseman, you name it. We even have snake buildings.

Sharlene: It's definitely a haunted Old West Town.

Do you supply all the costumes?

Mike: Oh, no. We supply a lot of the stuff. But the actors get so into it they bring their own mask and makeup. Our local “Miss Kitty” for the Old West events, she's a great makeup artist. Her whole family comes and starts making people up.

Dogwood Pass, CYoungmedia, Chris Young
The family that scares together...
Sharlene: We have some very professional looking makeup. It's pretty scary. We've been rated one of the top haunted attractions in Ohio.

Mike: The whole family will haunt one area, so that's kind of the way it works.

Do the groups that come in pretty much just go where they want?

Mike: Well, no. We kind of set it up. We rope the town off and herd the people in a certain way. So we say: “hey we need you to do this, or we need you to do that.” But we use everyone's ideas.

Is there food available?

Sharlene: There are vendors outside.

Mike: Outside in the line. Last year was our biggest year. We really opened it up for four weekends and people came from Cleveland, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and everywhere. They were hearing about it, and you'd look out the gate here, where they come in, and there would be three or four hundred people in line out there. So, again, that's another thing that's outgrowing us. We're trying to keep up with it.

Sharlene: And this year we're so excited because we have a professional actor that's actually going to be the headless horseman and he's got his own horse and costume. He's going to be outside the gate. There will be haunts going on outside. We have a big movie projector we put up so while people are standing and waiting they can watch the horror flicks. So we try to entertain them inside and out. The town has scenes of terror all through it.

Mike: It takes probably twelve minutes just to get through the saloon.

Sharlene: It's a 45 minute haunt at the very least. Every year we get better.

Dogwood Pass, CYoungmedia, Chris Young
Live horse opera.
How is the town used the rest of the year?

Mike: For old west festivals and school field trips, weddings and graduation parties.

Sharlene: We also host Texas Hold'em tournaments in the Fall and my husband's concealed carry classes in Fall and Winter. We try to utilize the town every weekend and do something. We're having a big Christmas thing this year where we're going to light up the town for the first couple of weeks in December. So we're excited about that too. We think that will be a lot of fun. All of our our volunteers love the town and they come to play and partake. It really creates a great atmosphere.

Dogwood Pass, CYoungmedia, Chris Young
Western wonderland.
Mike: You know there's nothing in this area for families to do. Nothing that they can afford. We're trying to make something affordable and entertaining and local for the families within a hundred mile radius of here. For less than the price of a movie you can come here, spend a day at a festival, watch the Old West shows and whatnot.

Sharlene: And we're very family friendly. We cater to the family. We're alcohol free so we can avoid any kind of issues that would come from that. We have a very respectful neighborhood and we adore our neighbors and we take into account the community.

Mike: You can rent the town for parties and weddings and that's not to say that's alcohol free. They're allowed to bring their own drinks in. You rent it, it's on you. We don't serve alcohol for our festivals. It's not a dry town, but we don't supply it for a lot of festivals or Halloween.

Do you try to stay historically accurate?

Mike: That is my biggest goal is to keep it as historically correct as possible.

So it's educational for families.

Mike: Very educational. This year we've been doing a lot of field trips for schools. From sixth graders on down. We do a lot of Christmas parties. We also support special needs groups.

Sharlene: Every year we have a CF benefit. We sponsor a child that has cystic fibrosis and all the proceeds go to that family.

Mike: All of our tour money that we get for daily tours, we put that toward putting on this benefit every year. We pick out a local family every year with a kid that has cystic fibrosis and everything we make that day goes to the family.

Dogwood Pass, CYoungmedia, Chris Young
"I think you boys have had enough beans already."
Sharlene: And we have so many people that walk into the town, fall in love with it, and donate things. Some people from Alabama saw a little sign on the highway about Dogwood Pass, then stopped and looked into it. They said they had an antique doctor's kit, and would love to give it to the town. We have an 1800's family Bible a local family donated, and I've yet to put it under glass and display it like it should be. I'm kind of keeping it hidden back until I get everything just right. This town is a living history, from the cavalry units to the Indians to the townsfolk. Every building there'll be someone representing someone from times past. There's the mercantile, or the blacksmith

So if you want people to be able to come here, where is the best place for them to go to find out more information?

Mike: You can find us at "Dogwood Pass" on Facebook.


If you like this article, check out my interview with the director of the "Scary Stories documentary."

Angel of Reckoning Premieres on VOD

I'm very excited to announce that the latest KillerWolf Film: "Angel Of Reckoning" is now available on Amazon, iTunes and Vudu streaming video! I acted as DOP and editor so I hope everyone will have a look and leaving comments. In the meantime, "Hellcat's Revenge" has wrapped principle photography and I am now deep into the edit. But that's just the beginning of what's to come. Stay tuned.

Angel of Reckoning, Poster, cyoungmedia, KillerWolf Films

Davide Melini Interview

Davide Melini, cyoungmedia, The Sweet Hand Of The White Rose
Davide Melini directs the "Sweet Hand Of The White Rose"
(Today I'm talking with up and coming director Davide Melini. So far he has 6 short films under his belt and has been an assistant director on "Rome" and "Penny Dreadful" not to mention getting to work with "Giallo" icon Dario Argento.)

Davide, what was your childhood like? Have you always wanted to work in the industry? What filmmakers have influenced you the most?

I have to say that I’ve grown up in cinema, because I’ve got an uncle who's worked there for 30 years. I started to visit him on the job, and I loved it from the beginning. For me it was incredible to discover the world “behind” a movie. Step by step (and very slowly), I started to study it and many years ago, I wrote my first screenplay. I’ve continued to write until I directed my first short film, "Amore Estremo" in 2006.

When I think about who influenced me the most, many names come to my mind (a truly endless list!) I like to say that I’m influenced by everybody and anybody. I mean, while I’m watching a movie, I analyze it from all the points of view. Watch a movie and study – this is the best school! But after that, every director has to be able to develop his own style.

Amore Estremo, Davide Melini, cyoungmedia
Tell us about your first short films “Amore Estremo” (“Extreme Love”) and “La Sceneggiatura” (“The Screenplay”).

"Amore Estremo" was a very dark and violent thriller, which was based on a secret and impossible love between two young people (Michela Bruni and Leonardo Pace). The main idea was to find out the limits of love. Despite being a good screenplay, the film leaves much to be desired. It was the first time I was working behind the camera and the result was a bit amateurish. But “Amore Estremo” has definitely been a necessary step in my development, because I realized how difficult it was to bring a screenplay to life. In the same year I tried again, making "La Sceneggiatura", a pure horror short film, where a young award winning screenwriter (Matteo Pianezzi) starts to write a horror film, despite the reluctance of his girlfriend (Claudia Nicosia). But soon he realizes that, sometimes, mixing reality with imagination can be very dangerous. With this film I started to see things in a different way and although it’s not perfect, I consider it the first professional movie I've made. With “La Sceneggiatura” I began to participate at festivals and won my first award.

Davide Melini, The Puzzle, cyoungmedia
You caught the attention of film critics with your third short film "The Puzzle". How did that come about?

I was pretty happy with the "La Sceneggiatura", but my hunger to grow better was too strong. I absolutely wanted to discover why the films I watched in the cinema were better than mine. There was still too much of a difference! So I started to study in a deep way all kinds of films. I took a break for two years in which I also moved to Spain. Here I met the producer Ezekiel Montes who gave me the opportunity to realize my third short film, "The Puzzle". After arguing with his son (Alessandro Fornari), a woman (Cachito Noguera) decides to relax, doing a puzzle. But sometimes puzzles hide dark mysteries. When Ezekiel Montes only gave me one night to shoot, I started to think on how to involve the audience, but it was very difficult. What could I do with so little time? I knew how to do ​​a four or five minute short film and I bet everything on rhythm. It was the only thing that interested me. I thought that if I could not tell too much with the story, I would have to rely entirely on the visual part and this is exactly what I did. I think that's been the key to its success.

Davide Melini, The Sweet Hand of the White Rose, cyoungmedia
Two years later you made "The Sweet Hand of the White Rose", an amazing short film which won many festival awards and has been screened worldwide. What can you say about this movie?

In order to forget about a heated discussion with his girlfriend, a man (Carlos Bahos) decides to get in his car and go far away. But a little mistake and a meeting with "White Rose" (Natasha Machuca) will change his life forever... "The Sweet Hand of the White Rose" is a purely fantastic short film, it's a dark fairytale, full of dramatic moments. Compared to my previous "The Puzzle", this film is more soft, less claustrophobic. I must admit that I have fulfilled one of my desires which was to shoot in a cemetery at night! Most of the short was filmed in the Monumental Cemetery of San Sebastián, located in Casabermeja, the purest and most beautiful cemetery in Malaga (Spain).

You've also worked on mainstream television shows such as “Rome” and “Penny Dreadful”

Yes, we are talking about big productions, with high budgets. The set design for "Rome", built inside the “Cinecittà” studios, was really incredible! And what about the Roman soldiers costumes and all the make up and special effects? Simply amazing! "Penny Dreadful" was another very complex production, whose crew was made of more than three hundred professionals and almost all of them were from Dublin. There were twelve assistant directors and only a guy from Barcelona and I were "foreigners". All the others were coming from Ireland! We shot for three weeks in the desert of Almeria and inside "Fort Bravo", which is the biggest Western-style film studio in Europe. Working with Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson ("Rome"), Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett and Wes Studi ("Penny Dreadful") has been a real pleasure!
Josh Hartnett, Davide Melini, Penny Dreadful, cyoungmedia
Josh Hartnett and Davide on the set of "Penny Dreadful"

What was it like working with Dario Argento?

Another realized dream! Seeing him on the set it’s really amazing. When the Master speaks you have to be quiet and open your ears, because it’s like a film class! He has perfect knowledge of cinematic language, each technique and all objectives. To see how he works and the way he shoots a film is something exceptional. As a lover of horror movies, I can’t not love this great director.

Some film critics consider you a natural heir to Argento. How do you feel about that?

I say that there is no point of comparison. Dario Argento released masterpieces like "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage", "Deep Red" and "Suspiria" (to name a few!), while I have only worked in independent short films. I thank the film critics, because it’s always nice to hear good words about oneself, but the truth is that I’m light years away from the Maestro.

Davide Melini, Lion, cyoungmedia
Currently you are working on two new short films. The first one is titled “Lion”. Where did the idea come from? What kind of film is it and what should we expect?

When I write a screenplay, my mind has to be clear, always. There must not be any kind of restriction. This way the story almost writes itself. In the case of “Lion”, I felt the need to write something newer and stronger. My idea was to enter into the darkness and explore real terror. I set only one key limit: the characters should be totally isolated, so I cut off any way of escape. I immediately imagined an isolated chalet, lost in the middle of a snowy forest, so that the focus shifts inexorably onto the only available light: the house. Knowing from the beginning that it will be impossible to escape, the chalet is charged with an even more metaphorical power. And once the audience will be in the corner and can’t run away, I will show them all sorts of horror. All I can say is that once inside the house, you will pray to get out.

What about the cast?

The film stars Pedro Sánchez (an 8 year old who has already had experience in some TV commercials), Michael Segal (a very popular actor in Italy) and Tania Mercader (a talented stage actress). I’m really very proud of their work!

Deep Shock, Davide Melini, cyoungmedia
The second one is “Deep Shock”, which is announced for 2017. What can you tell us about it? Is this a giallo film?

“Deep Shock” does attempt to pay tribute to the Italian film genre called “Giallo” and the title of this project is inspired by the most famous horror movies of two of the most important Italian directors: Dario Argento (“Deep Red”) and Mario Bava (“Shock”). It’s a short film that mixes thriller and horror elements. The goal is to recreate the magic and true intrigue from the 70s, adapting them to the technical evolution and development that this genre has experienced all along. It was shot with the same crew as “Lion”, but the cast has obviously changed. “Deep Shock” stars Muireann Bird, Francesc Pagès, George Bracebridge, Lorna Larkin, Erica Prior and Luis Fernández de Uribe. It’s my biggest and most important project and it represents my last short film, before trying to move to a feature movie.

How did you obtain financing?

The principal producer of “Lion” and “Deep Shock” is my cousin Luca Vannella, and it’s only because of him that I’ve been able to produce them! In the space of a few months, five of Luca’s colleagues (Alexis Continente, Vincenzo Mastrantonio, Bobby Holland, Ferdinando Merolla and Roberto Paglialunga) joined him to finance the shorts. Besides, I also had the opportunity to work closely on “Penny Dreadful” with three of them – Luca, Alexis and Vincenzo. I remember that it was a magical and surreal period for me: I was working in one of the most famous TV series around the world and, at the same time, I had the opportunity to talk every day to them about my short films. Aside from the economic aspect, they were also very important on set, because they put their wide film experience at the service of the crew.

Do you have a regular crew you prefer to work with?

No, although I'd like to. What's better than counting on film professionals who helped you in the previous film? Unfortunately the independent film world is very difficult, full of idlers and envious people... all it takes is winning an unknown festival to feel like a God! It is a long and complex speech. Maybe it’s better if I leave it for another time, hahaha.

What was the greatest moment of your career?

I'm still waiting for it, lol.

What advice do you have for other independent filmmakers?

This is a difficult world, where all that glitters ain't gold. The way is very long and full of obstacles, but if one believes in his work, he will have no regrets. My advice is to be humble and strong at the same time and keeping your feet on the ground is essential (don't get excited too much for winning a festival award and do not get too depressed when a negative review comes out). Remember that we must always improve ourselves, because there will always be someone who knows more than us.

Where's the best place to find information on your projects and see your work?

You can watch all my short films, see posters and stills, read reviews & interviews and discover all the festival awards and TV premieres by visiting my official blog. I also invite you to follow the Facebook pages for "Lion" and "Deep Shock". You can discover all the latest news there.


If you like this interview, you might also enjoy my talk with Sevé Schelenz.

"Scary Stories" Documentary Interview

Scary Stories Documentary
The documentary your school librarian disapproves of.
For many of us, growing up in the American school system meant there were certain children's and young adult books that were part of our shared experience. Alvin Schwartz's series of "Scary Stories" managed to send a collective thrill through a generation. I'm very happy to be able to talk with Cody Meirick, producer and director of a new documentary on these influential books.

What was it about the Alvin Schwartz books that made you think they warranted a documentary?

First and foremost I saw a great story to tell. I saw that it had a lot of great topics to explore regarding literacy, folklore, art, and censorship all wrapped into a single title. It has a great number of fans that are adults now but fondly remember growing up with these books. That along with the fact that they are arguably the most banned books of the last 30 years. It makes for a great story. Surprisingly, no documentary has taken on the subject.

Did you first become aware of them as a child?

Yes. I'm one of those who saw something online when I was in my 20s and the memory of those books came flooding back. I am in many ways the ideal age, mid-30s, to tackle them. These books really became wildly popular when I was 8-12 years old (late 80s, early 90s) when I was just beginning to read a lot.

Is this your first film?

This is my first full-length documentary.

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
"The Grimms' Fairy Tales of our time."
How significant are these books to children's literature in general?

I think the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books are unique in a lot of ways. They got a lot of children reading while giving them their first taste of folklore at an ideal age. They are placed next to book series like R.L. Stine and many others, but they are unique because they are taken entirely from folklore and oral tradition. I liken them to being the Grimms' Fairy Tales of our time. The original stories from the Grimms' brothers were also quite dark and twisted. Along with that, these books are significant and unique because they became popular and controversial right when the censorship of children's literature was really beginning to be noticed, catalogued, and tracked in America. They aren't the first books to be taken out of schools and libraries, but for the first decade that we had any lists truly trying to track this information, they were #1 on the list. So I think they will always hold a special place in the book censorship movement in America.

Who have you interviewed for the film?

I have conducted nearly 40 interviews so far, but I'm not quite done. Interviews include family members of author Alvin Schwartz, including his wife Barbara who is mentioned a number of times in the books. They include R.L. Stine and a few more authors writing in the genre of children's horror. They include a number of prominent folklorists and scholars that have written about the scary stories we have been telling children throughout history. And they include some prominent names in regards to book censorship.

Wonderful Sausage, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
Wonderful Sausage!
These books were banned in some cases. Is that still the case today? What are your feelings on censorship?

These books aren't challenged or banned as much as they were years ago. What you'll find is that there tends to be trends in censorship. In the 80s/90s/00s books with "occult", witches, and similar religious objections were higher on the lists of people who wanted to take books out of schools and libraries, but now we are seeing more titles with sexual situations and homosexual characters higher on the list. So it of course varies over the years. I'm looking at this documentary as a way to examine the banned books movement which in many ways truly began in the 1980s. So looking at the last 35 years, this book is in some ways the ideal book to use as an example. And you have to remember, the author passed away in 1992, so there hasn't been a new Scary Stories book in 25 years. The fact that it was so high on the list in the 90s and 00s I think says something as far as their staying power and cultural impact.

As for censorship, I've begun to shape my feelings in a lot of ways based on interviews. Overall, I think one of the biggest takeaways for me is that the topic isn't discussed and debated enough.

Do you have a favorite book? A favorite story?

I don't have a favorite book, since I think they blend together so much and people often remember particular stories rather than books. As for stories, I'm a fan of The Bride, The Toe, and more and more I'm warming up to Harold who is often mentioned as a favorite of people's.

The Haunt In The Cellar, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
The Haunt In The Cellar
What do you know about illustrator Stephen Gammell? Were you able to interview him? Is there any possibility of HarperCollins reprinting with the original art again?

Unfortunately Stephen Gammell has a policy against interviews. I've tried; he is the first person I reached out to when beginning this documentary. I'm still leaving the door open and hopeful, but I also want to prepare people, since over the last 30 years it is my understanding that he has declined to be interviewed or involved in a lot of projects. If I'm not able to get that interview, I do have a way of including his voice in this documentary in a unique way that I think is the next best thing to an in-person interview. And certainly the illustrations will be discussed in great depth. As far as a reprint, the Schwartz family doesn't seem to have a problem with it, and it seems likely if they do move ahead with a film adaptation that a reprint with original illustrations seems like a slam dunk for when that happens. That said, it's really up to the publishers and the rights holders.

When can people expect to see the finished documentary?

There isn't a set distribution route yet. What I'm trying to do is get it ready for likely entering into festivals in 2017 and then we see what happens. That is a common path for documentaries such as this. So we'll see.

How can we stay up to date with the project?

You can sign up for my newsletter at or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


(If you liked this interview, check out my talk with Patricia Coleman here.)

Man's Biggest Fear Has Risen Again In Davide Melini's "LION"

Davide Melini, Lion, cyoungmedia, Chris Young, horror, short film,
Up and coming italian director Davide Melini (Dario Argento's "Mother of Tears: The Third Mother" and "Penny Dreadful") has a new short horror film titled "Lion" coming this Halloween. It stars Pedro Sánchez, Michael Segal ("Colour from the Dark", "Anger of the Dead"), and Tania Mercader.

Synopsis: "An isolated chalet in a snowy forest... A man blinded by alcohol... A woman unable to rebel... And an 8-year-old child troubled and dark... The silent night is broken with cries... the start of a terrible nightmare..."

Shot with the Red Epic Dragon 6K this short also has some unusually prominent producer credits attached to it, such as Luca Vannella ("Thor", "Harry Potter", "Apocalypto", "Heart of the Sea"), Alexis Continente ("Thor", "Penny Dreadful"), Vincenzo Mastrantonio ("Titanic", "Moulin Rouge", "The Passion of Christ", "Romeo + Juliet"), Bobby Holland ("The Dark Knight Rises", "Game of Thrones", "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows", "007 - Quantum of Solace"), Ferdinando Merolla ("Troy", "Gangs of New York", "Hannibal Rising"), and Roberto Paglialunga.

Melini has been singled out by multiple horror sites as a filmmaker to watch. So make sure to check out the complete crew list on IMDB and follow the film on Facebook and Twitter for news and updates.

"Heir" Short Film Review

While writing this I still feel uncomfortable, like there's something unpleasant I need to clean up, a bad smell in the basement, something rotten in the wall, something dead I don't want to think about that might stink less if I ignore it long enough. It's a tenacious feeling that I've only felt once or twice before.

I've just finished watching the latest short film from producer Zach Green and director Richard Powell called "Heir" starring Bill Oberst Jr. and Robert Nolan. It was a little difficult for me to fully grasp what was going on the first time around (probably my fault, I can be a little slow) so I sat through it a second time and felt more up to speed. There is another layer of meaning running under the narrative that is not so much profound as it is brutally accurate, even insightful, or maybe the physical allegory is too distasteful for casual viewing. Whatever the case, it contains scenes that are not easily forgotten.

Robert Nolan's nocturnal emissions.

The story begins with a late night email, the screen casting the only light on our protagonist, Gordon, played with uncommon confidence and subtlety by Robert Nolan. There is the briefest exchange of messages in which a meeting is agreed upon, followed by a moment of uneasy contemplation. Gordon stares at an orifice in the palm of his hand that weeps a sticky mucous.

I don't believe it's in the best interest of first time viewers to say more. This short should be experienced without context or foreknowledge. I will say that Gordon's friend is played by the ever reliable Bill Oberst Jr. and I can't say that I've ever seen him give a more powerful performance. It is no exaggeration to say that he is absolutely riveting in his casual malevolence. It's also no small feat that Nolan holds his own quite well when sharing screen time with Oberst. I've discussed the short with Bill and his interpretation of the part, and he truly understands the nature of evil. Lucky for us, his earned mastery delivers an unforgettable portrait of depraved hunger. Someone needs to give this man an Oscar, already, dammit!

Bill Oberst Jr. eats everyone's lunch.
Director Richard Powell has crafted a Cronenberg style tale of degradation and temptation that is sure to hit all the wrong buttons in all the right ways for a body-horror short film. It took a while for me to finish this review and I owe Zach Green an apology. Fortunately dozens of other reviewers have already sung it's praises and they are well deserved. You owe it to yourself to keep an eye out for this short, and anything else coming from these filmmakers. They're dangerous and that's a good thing.

To find out more about films by Fatal Pictures, you can visit their site here.

"Peelers" Interview With Director Sevé Schelenz

Today I'm talking to Sevé Schelenz the director of "Peelers". This new addition to the stripper horror sub-genre will have its world premiere at the Palm Beach International Film Festival on April 9th. Can you tell us a little bit about the film?

You bet! "Peelers" is about the closing night of a small town strip club when some unwanted guests arrive and all hell breaks loose. We follow Blue Jean, the owner of the club, as she looks to get the final night off with a bang. Unfortunately, she gets more bang than she bargained for as patrons and friends around her begin to suffer from that nasty thing that seems to happen in all horror movies… "death".

Lisa DeVita is listed as the co writer. How do you two know each other?

Lisa (Devits) and I met in the industry while we were working at one of the biggest production companies in North America. She was employed as a Post Coordinator and I was a colorist. The funny thing was that we didn’t initially connect on making films together, it was actually through playing baseball. I’d been playing for a while on a co-ed team and we needed an extra girl for one of our upcoming games. I asked around the office and Devits told me she played. Once we got her out on the field and realized how good she was, she came back to play more games and then we got to know each other. I was just finishing my first horror feature titled "Skew" at the time, and we began chatting about films in general. Everything else seemed to develop from there.

Sevé giving his agent what he wants.
Where did the idea for "Peelers" come from?

After "Skew" did its festival run and distribution, my sales agent asked me, "So, what's next?" I actually had a number of features that I was developing (both by myself and with others) but most were either comedies, thrillers, or sci-fi. He told me flat out that I should do another horror. I did have a horror film I was developing at the time but it wasn't on the forefront of my projects (and it wasn't "Peelers"). I asked him what he thought would sell and I'd see if it interested me. He said, "More blood and more boobs." Well, quite honestly that didn't interest me. I was more into anticipation-building and psychological horror. But I went away and thought to myself, "I know I can get the blood in there, no problem, but what about the nudity?" I just wasn't interested in having gratuitous breast shots. There had to be a reason for it. So, I thought, "Where would we see nudity and accept it would be there... A strip club." So I did some research and it turned out there were not a lot of stripper horror films and of the ones I found, they just weren't that great. So, I felt there was an untapped sub-genre of horror there. I went to Devits and asked her if she would be interested in writing the script. I had three requests of her and they were: a strong female character(s) who kicked ass, a deft story and some good twists. Devits' eyes went wide and then she told me a story about something that happened to her while she was at a strip club in Las Vegas. From there, "Peelers" was born. Oh, and if you want to know that story, just ask Devits. She'll tell it the best.

Practical makeup rules.
How much did practical effects play a part?

Practical effects played a huge part in "Peelers". We definitely wanted to go with real effects over visual effects as much as possible. Not that I have a problem with VFX. As a matter of fact, we have our share of visual effects as well and they are crucial to the film. Trust me, without VFX we wouldn’t have had the chance to do many of the shots that just couldn’t be done practically on the tight budget we had. I worked with our amazing Special Effects Supervisor Keir Vichert on the practical effects. After he read the script, he was quite literally jumping up and down with excitement. Early on in our meetings, he brought so many suggestions to the table on how to do the shots. We also enlisted our main SFX vendor, MastersFX to provide many of the rigs needed to pull off certain shots. MastersFX has done special effects for Elysium, Robocop and Twilight: New Moon. Keir worked closely with them to create many of the unique effects you see on the final film.

Wren Walker knocks it out of the park.
What was the casting process like?

We threw out a wide open net for the casting. With having so many characters to fill, we really wanted to see as many actors as we could. When I made Skew, the pool of actors was quite low. I think it was a really busy time for production in the city and we struggled to find the great cast that we ended up getting. For "Peelers", it seemed the opposite. We had a good range of actors audition for several of the roles. Surprisingly, we had a lot of talented girls show up to auditions. I say “surprisingly”, because we were worried that actresses would hear “stripper horror” and think ditzy, damsel-in-distress types with fake boobs, when really we were going for something different, something against type for "Peelers". We wanted characters with brains, women you could sympathize with who come in all shapes and sizes, confident in their own skin. So, we were worried there would be a lack of actresses interested in the roles because how could they know this coming in to cold auditions? Well, we were wrong because selecting our female roles was a bit tough due to all the talented options. However, when it came to the lead character, Blue Jean, we actually had difficulty casting her. None of the girls really fit the role. As a matter of fact we really only had two viable options in terms of who could play her. Funny enough, Wren Walker came in late into the audition process because her boyfriend saw our ad and encouraged her to read for Blue Jean. She almost didn't come in. Luckily she did, and she nailed it. Wren just owned the Blue Jean role right off the bat. When we made our final decisions and offered her the role, she was ecstatic.

A different kind of "red light district".
Was your direction influenced by any other films or filmmakers?

There really are so many amazing directors out there, both big and small. I have learned so much not only from making films myself but by watching others as well. I would say Tarantino has a huge influence on me. From storytelling to composition to long shots to characters owning the screen. What he brings to the screen, every time, is a pure passion and love for filmmaking. Whether you like all his movies or not, you can’t argue against the fact that he absolutely loves film. On the flip-side, I think Robert Rodriguez has a great command of frenetic storytelling. He seems to approach it from an editing point of view, which is where it all began for me, in the edit room. It’s funny because "Peelers" is being described as Tarantino meets Rodriguez, which is a huge compliment for me. As for specific films, I have been influenced by so many. I’m not a one-genre guy at all. I love to see all types of films. As a matter of fact, Oscar season is one of my favorites. No matter how you cut it, this is the time of year when the best of everything comes out. A good script is the number one important thing for me and when you have that, you have the beginnings of a great film.

Sevé still bugging people about film after all these years.
You have served as an editor, colorist, digital artist, producer and more, on multiple projects. How did you become so involved in the industry?

I began “filmmaking” when I was a young teenager. This involved constantly bugging my parents to buy me a camera and after months of pestering, they finally broke down and got me one. Back then the only affordable camera (and really the only video camera) for home use was a VHS. I filmed constantly, day and night with both my friends and family. I think they were pretty sick of it by the time I left for university so they were glad to see me go. Of course, I enrolled in film school, at York University in Toronto, Canada. After that I got a job doing dubs at a post facility, not exactly the glamorous filmmaker path I had envisioned right out of the gate, but that pesky thing known as rent kinda got in the way. From there though, that opened the door to working in editing and eventually color correcting. But the one thing you learn pretty quickly as an indie filmmaker is the old adage: “If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.” So true. When you can’t find anyone to fill a role, that role goes to you. I had to learn on the fly how to do production design, VFX, sound, just to name a few. You become an expert at jumping in and learning as you go. In the meantime I was meeting so many different people in the industry and writing scripts at home. Eventually the two worlds came together and I had a chance to work on some of my own projects. I have to say, if you want to achieve anything in this industry you just can’t quit. As a matter of fact, that’s the message that pops up on my phone screen, “Never Give Up.” Every time I hang up the phone, it pops up and reminds me. It helps me get through those really tough days when you’re not sure if the film will ever get finished. Nothing can stop positive determination. Nothing.

Can there ever really be enough stripper horror films?
Do you have any other movies in the works?

I, or I should say, “we” have many projects in the works. I’m working on some of my own films and some with others. Right now we have a finished script that’s a family comedy and a draft of the first book in a sci-fi trilogy, which is meant to eventually go to screen. We also have a handful of other projects in different stages of development. From comedy to thriller to sci-fi to another horror, it’s all there. When story is your number one concern followed by character, you spend a lot of time in the early stages of creation to make sure you get it right. It’s important to know you can only hope to make a good film if the script is good. That is mandatory.

Where can people go to keep up with your latest projects?

With so many projects in the works, it’s hard for fans to know what stage many of them are at because they’re always in flux. The best place to keep up with things is on IMDb. Just check out my link here to see what I’m up to. For "Peelers", we’re at a very exciting place right now with the beginning stages of film festivals and will follow this up with distribution. This will probably be about a year ride for the film. Just go to for all the details. Our Facebook page is also updating all-things stripper-horror on a dally basis so make sure you follow-up there too.

Stripper Horror Comedy "Peelers" Gets Premiere Date

The makers of the Independent Cult Horror Feature SKEW (2011) step it up a bloody notch as they begin their festival run with their follow-up horror flick PEELERS.

What starts out as the last hurrah on the closing night of an infamous small-town strip club, quickly turns into a night of bloodshed when a crew of coal miners shows up and with them a deadly contaminant. Former baseball player and current club owner, Blue Jean Douglas has decided to hand over her bar to a new owner and leave town for good. But Blue Jean’s plans are thwarted when she discovers the magnitude of the epidemic that has been unleashed. With victims piling up, Blue Jean must step up to the plate to protect her family, her friends, and her bar before it's too late and she loses everything she holds dear.

PEELERS destroys the cliche stripper horror sub-genre by giving us a story packed with exciting twists, baseball, strippers of unusual talents and a strong female lead. What’s being described as “Rodriguez meets Tarantino” and “Not just a great indie film, but destined to be one of the funnest films of 2016”, has Director/Producer Sevé Schelenz pretty stoked about giving genre fans a whole new ball game of horror.

The world premiere will be at the Palm Beach International Film Festival in Florida on April 9th, 2016

"Harvest Lake" Interview: Tristan Risk

(Tristan Risk is a multi-talented performer, creative and all-around creative exotic. Recently she added her considerable talents to the film 'Harvest Lake'.)

Tristan Risk

Brian K. Williams has said you accepted a role in 'Harvest Lake' after reviewing the script. What was it about the story that convinced you to get involved?

It had tentacles, need I say more? No, I kid. There's far more to it than that. There was a number of factors that attracted me to this story, all retractile humour aside. It wasn't a straight up horror film, it offered some fantasy, some science fiction and elements of horror. I've not seen anything quite like it, and I knew Scott Schirmer of 'Headless' and 'Found' fame was involved, so I knew that this would anything but typical. The writing was clever too - the dialog was snappy and I appreciate some good patter between characters. And because: tentacles.

What kind of preparation did you undergo for your part?

I worked closely with both Bryan Williams and Ellie Church before I got to set. Ellie and I had a large number of scenes together, and so talking to her about our parts and our interactions was the best prep. I also watched a lot of 90's films that had the bitchy chick in it that you were supposed to hate, but you kind of had a crush on - think Nancy from 'The Craft' and you will likely catch my line of thinking.

Tristan Risk, Ellie Church, Harvest Lake
Tristan and Ellie together again in 'Harvest Lake'.
You've worked with Ellie Church in the past. Can you tell us a little about that as well as your working relationship in 'Harvest Lake'?

Ellie and I have had some pretty crazy adventures together and this is only our third production together, and I hope not the last. The last time we worked together was when we were in Atlanta on James Bickert's 'Frankenstein Created Bikers'. Because neither of us had scene together, and there was a lot to shoot, she and I got to spend quite a bit of time together. So you can imagine when Sugar and Spice are hanging out, unsupervised, on a set, then the pair of us can get up to no good. There were a large number of raids to craft services, pestering other folks on set, and impromptu photo shoots. It's a sad thing that we live so far apart, because she, and so many other people on set, were folks that I'd actually go out of my way to spend social time with, were geography not a major factor.

Nevertheless, Ellie is an exceptional actress and an icon in genre film with projects like 'Time To Kill' and 'Headless' under her belt. Her talent is palatable from when you see her on screen, and her warmth comes through in spades, even when she's splattered with blood, which is not something that one could say of every actress.

Tristan Risk, Kirsten Hogan, Happily Ever After
Kirsten Hogan and Tristan in 'Happily Ever Evil'.
You were the writer for the short 'Happily Ever Evil' and are a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and others. Do you have any aspirations to write / direct a feature of your own?

Actually, I should clarify that point: Kate Kroll (Calamity Kate) and I co-wrote 'Happily Ever Evil'. It was on the last tour I did with my former band prior to me quitting, and we were locked into a three month long tour across North America and Europe. Tensions were high, and so we would take off to cafes while in Germany to work on it. It was our way of avoiding the others and venting, and it proved to be very therapeutic. When we got home, Kate pushed to make it into a short film and directed, produced and had a cameo role in it, which I was really impressed by. It wasn't her first film, either. Her documentary 'No Fun City' that she co-directed about Vancouver's punk scene is good viewing, and she continues to dazzle onstage with her troupe The Lost Girls. A legit Renaissance woman, all around!

I have written a number of script treatments, mostly shorts, but two features. I've been sitting on them for a while but this year will be the one where I tentatively dip a toe in directorial waters. It will be based on a short story I wrote that was first published in Malevolent Magazine, and I'm excited to bring it to life. I'm not certain how or if I will succeed as a director, but it will all go towards experience. Besides, I figure if I wind up being a terrible director, I'm happy to step back in front of the camera again and let someone else drive. As for a feature, if I can show myself that I can handle a short, I might just grow a pair of iron ovaries and go out and see about financing for the feature in my hot little paws called 'Skynn'.

Do you have anything in particular that inspires or motivates you when you run into difficulties? What is your Muse?

When I hit a wall I dig deep in my brain to find common experience to whatever my character is facing and just go deep into that head-space. It's oftentimes my go-to, and while not everyone likes this method of 'method', so to speak, if I'm truly struggling I hit up the director. I feel thankful that this isn't a problem that I've really had to deal with (yet) since the larger bulk of my directors and crews I've had the pleasure of working with are pretty on point and 98% of the time we've all shared a really good rapport.

Tristan Risk
Is there anything personally or professionally you would like to do that you haven't already accomplished?

Of course! There are so many interesting characters to portray from an acting standpoint alone that I don't think there's really adequate space to talk about it at length. Suffice to say, I still have a lot of work ahead of me in what I hope to do from an acting standpoint. I don't think I'll be able to look at the film version of my curriculum vitae and think, 'Well, shit... I've done it all. I'd better go learn to fly a helicopter or something."

Outside of acting, I've recently started to do more circus training in acrobatics and aerial hoop, and it's refreshed my passion for the stage and touring. My circus troupe, Caravan Of Creeps has a number of tours lined up for this year, and I've been really enjoying collaborating with jugglers, sideshow freaks, contortionists and what-have-you. It's definitely rekindled my love affair for touring with this company. As well, I'm hoping to release a series of highly stylized fetish videos, either direct/write/produce short films out of my own writing, and publish a book this year.

So yeah, I'd say my work is long from being over.

You appear to have successfully created a rather unique life for yourself. What advice do you have for others who want to blaze their own trail?

I think that you just answered my question for me there, to be honest. If you want to blaze your own trail you will. It will be borne out of a need to create something and express myself. I was told that there was a myriad of reasons why I couldn't model. Instead of moping that I might not be good enough, I went out, found photographers/make up artists/fashion designers that wanted to collaborate, and we made art together.

Tristan Risk
The same with burlesque, as when I started there were no classes or schools that taught it - I just went out and put together outfits out of whatever I could scrounge, and got stage time opening for bands and later found other people who were doing the same and teamed up. Hell - I had a website that I learned to code HTML because that WAS your social media at the time! Now there are infinite resources available, which is awesome, but it strengthens my heart when I hear about people putting on shows and parties because they want to - not because they took all the classes.

If there is something you want in life, you won't wait for it to drop into your lap. I find that kind of laziness vastly irritating and the sense of entitlement of a lot of folks saddens me. Anything worth having or doing is worth pursuing on your own terms, and while it might not always be easy, or financially viable, or handed to you, if you have the drive you can make it happen.

What is the best way for people to keep up to date with your many pursuits?

I have a website that I tend to spend more time with my thoughts on and where I am unencumbered by the limitations of social media. You can check out my writing there at and I like to liberally sprinkle it with interesting NSFW photos. If you prefer the ease and access of social media I am on both Twitter and Instagram as @littlemissrisk, and you can usually find me on some form of stage in a state of undress as well!


(If you enjoyed this interview, you may like my conversation with Ellie Church here.)

"Harvest Lake" Interview: Brian K. Williams

Brian K. Williams, Headless Movie
Brian as "Slick Vic" in "Headless".

(Brian K. Williams is best known for the festival award winning contemporary grindhouse favorite "Time To Kill" and it's equally lauded short "Play Me", both starring Ellie Church. He recently performed producer, cinematography and editing duties on "Harvest Lake". The initial Special Editon Blu-Ray of "Harvest Lake" has already sold out.)

Harvest Lake, Ellie Church, Tristan Risk, Movie Poster
Hello, Brian. It's great to have you with us today to talk about your latest project: Harvest Lake. How would you describe the movie?

"Possession", meets "Society", meets "Picnic at Hanging Rock", meets an Abercrombie and Fitch clothing commercial. It's different, it's not like anything I've seen before, which excites me. It's erotic, sexy, thought provoking, much different to what people would expect from the people that brought you "Found", "Headless", and "Time To Kill".

Besides shooting and editing the film, what were your duties as producer?

I financed half the film, spent a lot of time casting, location scouting, wardrobe, basically Scott (Schirmer) and I both worked together very closely all of the way through the entire movie, from deciding on a concept, to final delivery, and now marketing. We would meet up daily, for hours, during pre production, and post, discussing every tiny detail, and deciding together.

The trailer is very dreamy and atmospheric. Is this indicative of what we should expect from the film?

We think so. We struggled thinking of a trailer concept, since it's such a different kind of film, and ultimately Scott edited the trailer, and I did the color for it. We knew we needed to be honest with the trailer, and not attempt to make the film look like anything it's not. We wanted to convey sexuality, sexuality of all kinds, dreamy, beautiful images, beautiful people, otherworldly vegetation, a good portion of the trailer comes from my favorite part of the film, which is a very dreamlike, atmospheric, score heavy, dialogue free section.

Headless, Movie

What is your relationship with Scott Schirmer?

I have known Scott for a couple years, and first got the chance to work with him on the film "Headless". He's a perfectionist, and hard worker, and likes taking about movies as much as I do. He's a great guy to work beside, and a good friend.

Was "Harvest Lake" influenced by other films or stories?

When we were first brainstorming about the film, before the script, we talked about many different influences, and stories. Ultimately the film evolved, several times, even in production, and in post, to become what it is. I think it's influenced by a lot of things.

How did Tristan Risk become involved?

Ellie Church had worked with her in a couple movies very recently. Being married to Ellie, I can luckily get the scoop straight from the horse's mouth so to speak, so I knew of her passion, her fire, and her knowledge and work ethic. I had met and spoken with her briefly on set previously in.2015 on another film she and Ellie were in together that I played a brief cameo in. I also got a huge recommendation from James Bickert, writer/director of the upcoming "Frankenstein Created Bikers". I mentioned her to Scott, and after talking it over, decided to email Tristan's agent with the script and an offer. Tristan loved the script, and accepted the role, and she was a delight to work with, and I can't wait to work with her again.

Harvest Lake, Movie
Something watching at the lake.
How much of a part do special effects play in the film?

Interestingly, we wanted very little effects in this film, and went into it with that goal. Effects are expensive, take valuable time on set, can go wrong, etc, and we were trying to keep our budget low, and time short, and we had very little time before we started shooting. Once I read the script, I told Scott, "man, there's a lot of FX in this thing", so there ended up being much more than originally thought. The effects are great, and feel natural, and photographed beautifully. Everyone on the FX team really busted their asses, on some very long days, with me freaking out around them. They are so good at what they do, and handled the pressure with ease.

What is it like working with your wife, Ellie Church, on this and other projects?

It's like any other actress really. I have such concentration and passion on set, that she's not my wife when we're there. She's an actress, and a damn good one too. I'm lucky to have that much talent around me so often. She elevates me.

Ellie Church, Harvest Lake
Ellie Church feels like she's being watched in 'Harvest Lake".
How can people see "Harvest Lake"?

Everyone that pre ordered will be getting their double disc limited collector's edition set at the end of January, into the first of February, depending on the shipping time. The special bonus dvd's are here, and the blu rays are being replicated right now. After that, It will be at film festivals, conventions, and a few theatrical screenings beginning in March, and sometime in mid March, the limited edition single disk blu rays will be available for purchase at , , as well as other locations to follow.

What do you have planned next?

Already in pre production for the next one, cameras roll mid February on something Scott and I are co-producing again, that will be announced soon! I also will be going to Croatia this March for 15 weeks working beside Albert Pyun, editing his upcoming space opera "Star Warfare Rangers and the Cyborg Witch of Endor". I have recently gone full time with filmmaking, so expect to see a lot more from me. I'm "for hire", and available as a DP with my own dual black magic camera set up, or as an editor, colorist, director, producer, whatever is needed! And sometime this year, I hope to be able to start production on a sketch based sex comedy I wrote, in the vein of "Kentucky Fried Movie", called "Space Babes From Outer Space".

Where can people go to keep up with your projects?

I'm pretty regular on Facebook, and Twitter and keep up on "Harvest Lake" updates at the Harvest Lake Facebook page.


(If you liked this interview, check out my talk with Ellie Church here.)