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Let’s face it, rising production costs and the difficulty of securing distribution stop many aspiring (or even established) filmmakers in their tracks and keep worthwhile projects on the shelf. However, filmmakers, writers, directors still have stories to tell. The question is: how do they get them to audiences the quickest and most artistic way possible?
We recently sat down with renowned genre filmmakers Larry Fessenden (Habit, The Last Winter) and Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead, V/H/S) at the New York Comic Con. It’s no surprise that these two, along with their team, were manning a popular booth at the largest gathering of comic, film and genre fans on the East Coast. Fessenden and McQuaid are the brains behind Glass Eye Pix, a well-known New York production company that specializes in offbeat independent films both in and out of the horror genre. They are the people who brought you The House of the Devil (TFF 2009) Wendy and Lucy, Stake Land, and the upcoming Tribeca Film release, The Comedy.
Their most recent endeavor is the second season of their audio anthology, Tales From Beyond the Pale, a favorite of horror and genre junkies alike, using the tag line “radio plays in the digital age.” From the extensive network of Glass Eye Pix collaborators, Fessenden and McQuaid assembled a collection of premiere artists, writers and actors. Acting alumni include Vincent D’Onofrio, James LeGros, Sean Young, and Fessenden. Filmmakers Joe Swanberg (V/H/S) Joe Maggio (Bitter Feast), Jeff Buhler (Midnight Meat Train), McQuaid, and more have also contributed.
Why did Glass Eye Pix decide to produce the digital radio series to get their stories out there? Glenn McQuaid recalled the moment of inspiration: “Larry and I were driving to the set of Jim Mickle’s Stake Land with Larry’s son, and we put on an old radio show. We just got into the show and its format. We were just drawn to that whole crazy vibe of wrapping yourself up in an oral world. It seemed like a really viable and vital way of getting our stories out there.”
The leap into radio stories was not particularly a stretch for the pair, McQuaid explained. “At its heart, Glass Eye Pix has always been a multi-media company.” Fessenden added: “So when Glenn suggested that we do a series of radio shows, it was only natural to try. We feel that all our films use that real embellished sound. We love the whole idea that sound design is an essential component of storytelling. It saves a lot of money, but it also brings you into that world of imagination.”
Why were their collaborators so eager to explore alternative storytelling mediums? McQuaid explained: “It was a way to hang on to the rights. Everyone who was involved is able to bring their own stories. In that sense, it’s a platform for writers and filmmakers either to get ideas out there either initially or to just produce a radio piece and leave it at that.”
What is it like for the actors? Fessenden mused: “In this business, you’re endlessly trying to engage actors for their name or money value. They are delighted to be able to come in, work on a story for a couple of days, hone in on a character and offer it to the audience. We all share that one thing in common: we all love to make stuff.”
As filmmakers themselves, both McQuaid and Fessenden are well aware of the difficulties inherent in getting a film made and the frustrations creative artists have with this often long and harrowing process. McQuaid explained: “You can try to get a feature film off the ground for years. With Tales From Beyond the Pale, there’s just this sense of excitement [for artists] to be putting new content out there and keeping their own brand alive in their own tone and vibe. ”
With one successful season of Tales From Beyond The Pale under their belt, the gruesome twosome are welcoming the challenge of moving their stories to the stage, performing before a live audience for season two. McQuaid stated that their motive for the new format is more creative than financial: “There’s a sense of daring in it. We wanted to push ourselves out of our comfort zone just a little bit more with this new content. It’s actually a pretty daunting thing to invite the audience into that storytelling process.” Fessenden added: “I also have a tremendous respect for the process of making art. When I was younger, I was very intrigued with pulling back the curtain. You’re able to see all the decisions and the seized opportunities that make a story fascinating to tell.”
So should aspiring filmmakers follow suit into alternative storytelling territory? “From the business perspective, you might ask what the point is of making these things?” Fessenden mused. His answer was pretty convincing: “Audio books are more popular than they have ever been right now. Everyone is plugged in to their iPods, iPads and whatever. There is a context in the real world where this all makes perfect sense.” McQuaid added: “We’re also putting these out as Glass Eye Pix content and so they will remain. These live shows just solidify the brand of what we’ve already done. They keep our names out there. We’re just glad we found a new way to get content out there, relatively speaking, anyways.”
What other examples are out there where filmmakers are using different and faster mediums to share their stories? Give us your thoughts in the comments!
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