I Like Horror Movies is proud to present another entry in our ongoing interview series! Tonight, we had the opportunity to speak with one of San Diego's most valuable assets: the founder of the Monster Island Resort Podcast and the first-ever San Diego Horror film festival Horrible Imaginings, Miguel Rodriguez! Miguel has brought Horror home to Southern California, and is here to discuss the next exciting film series taking place on Wednesday, December 22nd 2010:
ILHM: Miguel, what were the first horrible imaginings you can remember experiencing on film as a kid?
MR: As a kid I was fascinated by all kinds of horror movies. I was more or less raised on television and movies, and many of my favorites were the horror movies coming out at the time like Nightmare on Elm Street or American Werewolf in London. That last one is actually a bit of a milestone for me because it is featured in the Making of Thriller documentary because John Landis directed Michael Jackson's Thriller video. When I was a kid, my mom borrowed that on VHS from the library in order to show me how movies were made and how they are make believe. I think it was her way of separating reality and fantasy for me. Anyway, I was OBSESSED with that documentary. I made her check it out from the library constantly, and it is largely responsible for my werewolf obsession. A lot of the makeup work they show is turning Michael Jackson into the werewolf, and I thought that was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. From a very young age, I was introduced to horror movies, rather than shielded from them, and there was always conversation surrounding them.
ILHM: Did your parents support your Horror habits?
MR: Horror was a bit of a secret in my house. My mom and her side of the family are all horror fans. My dad and his side are not. I think it was an agreement of my parents that I would be shielded from horror stuff when I was born, but that ended when I was three or four years old and I was left with my Grandmother. Actually, my mom tells this story on episode 2 of my show Monster Island Resort as a tribute to my grandmother, who passed away in June of this year. Anyway, my parents went on a date, and when they got back to my grandmother's house they overheard her telling me a story about some killer hacking someone's head off and blood squirting everywhere. It was pretty much all over after that. My aunts and uncles would always have monster movie nights where I was introduced to all kinds of classic and modern horror. I absolutely have to give credit to my dad for one thing, though--it was he who took me to see Godzilla 1985 when it was released theatrically here in the States. I wonder if he knew what kind of monster THAT would create!
ILHM: When did you first begin writing about films?
MR: I've written about everything for a long time. I've worked as a freelance writer and copyeditor, I keep a journal, I write about all kinds of topics. Writing about films comes naturally because I am passionate about them. I didn't start really making that public until this year, though, for a number of reasons--not the least of them being that I'm my own worst critic. As much as I love films, it has been hard for me to convince myself that I have anything to say about them that other people would enjoy reading. You hear a lot from writers that they write for themselves, but if I'm going to put something online, I'm writing for my readers or listeners. I want them to be entertained by what I'm doing, and maybe learn some trivia along the way.
ILHM: How did Monster Island Resort Podcast finally come together?
MR: Monster Island Resort is actually a Myspace group I had a few years ago. It was all about Japanese giant monster movies then. I would have trivia contests, post videos, share news, and stuff like that. I had always thought about starting a podcast, but never did for the same reasons that I was reluctant to share any of my thoughts or writings on movies. That, and I have no experience doing anything like a podcast, and knew very little about what I'd need and what format it would have. There is a fantastic Godzilla podcast out there called Kaijucast, run by San Francisco's Kyle Yount. It's all Godzilla all the time over there--well, "Godzilla and his many rubber suited foes," as they say on the podcast. That was a big inspiration for me finally deciding to give that a try. I also got some encouragement online from August Ragone, author of "Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters." He told me there was always room for more, so I bought a microphone and rambled away a first episode. It's been growing exponentially ever since.
ILHM: What was the inspiration behind starting San Diego's first Horror film festival, Horrible Imaginings?
MR: It wasn't inspiration so much as desperation. I've lived in San Diego for a good amount over a year now, and for most of that time I've been painfully cognizant of the lack of horror events in town. Googling "horror San Diego" invariable leads me to San Diego Comic Con stuff, and having been there I can say that not even the con is particularly friendly to real horror. So, I found a few places in Los Angeles like the Downtown Independent and the New Beverly--theaters that do good horror screenings pretty often--and I would make the trek there to get my fix. At this point, I still had zero friends in this area so I was on my own. I attended The Viscera Film Festival and BLEEDFEST by myself, too. They are film festivals that spotlight female genre film makers, and I loved the idea of giving a stage to marginalized artists. I also loved the idea of giving a stage to independent film. I think it is something that is sorely needed, since the most difficult part of filmmaking seems to be getting visible. It was on the drive back from Los Angeles in early August that I decided San Diego needed an event that was both horror-themed, and that would provide visibility to independent artists. Three months later, Horrible Imaginings happened. And I have some pretty amazing friends in town now!
ILHM: How were selections chosen or submitted?
MR: For this year, most selections were already chosen before I even had the idea. Some of them were submitted and I found a way to squeeze them in, but the others were films I had seen and decided to give them a little venue right from the beginning. It's important to note that my original intentions for Horrible Imaginings were a bit more modest than what it became. Now, my vision is quite a bit larger for next year.
ILHM: Did you expect to see such an overwhelming response from the local community?
MR: Not at all. I was actually afraid there wouldn't be an audience for an event like this in San Diego. Many people I've talked to seem to doubt it. When I came up with this idea, I was completely on my own. I didn't know a single person in San Diego, which makes promoting an event extremely difficult. Through social networking online, I was able to meet some really passionate and supportive people who I now call my good friends. The owner of the 10th Avenue Theater, Jeff Cotta, has also been extremely supportive of an event like this. He is doing a lot for the art community, and I was extremely pleased at how receptive he was to a horror event. I maintain the feeling that horror is something that people are drawn to at a subconscious level, even if they are loathe to admit it. I know the horror fans are out there, I just need to get the word out and unite them. But I am very happy with the response I got to Horrible Imaginings--I hope to see more faces at my next show!
ILHM: The second festival, aptly named Ho Ho Horrible Imaginings, is fast approaching. Which films will be screened this December?
MR: There are some real holiday treats here! We are starting out with some real schlocky goodness with Thankskilling, a crude hour-long splatter movie about a killer turkey. Then, the 15-minute short Treevenge. That one is about killer Christmas trees, and it's made by the people who are bringing Hobo with a Shotgun to life! Finally, I am ending with Christmas Evil, a very good Christmas-themed horror film.
ILHM: We understand there will be a special guest in attendance?
MR: Yes, the director of Christmas Evil--Lewis Jackson--will be in attendance to discuss his masterpiece. I am very excited to have him on board. What a treat for San Diego!
ILHM: Have the filmmakers and distributors been supportive of the event?
MR: Oh extremely. For the last event, I received an awful lot of encouragement from the distributors and the film makers. I am thankful for those filmmakers who were able to attend. I think I've said before at how grateful I am for Rialto Pictures and how receptive they were to my screening of Peeping Tom. It would be very easy for a company of their stature to ignore an extremely independent venture like Horrible lmaginings, but they were on board all the way. Of course, Grindhouse Releasing is also fantastic. For the Christmas show, I've been dealing directly with the film makers, and they are all happy about Ho Ho Horrible Imaginings.
ILHM: With a large selection of holiday-themed Horror films in existence, why were these three chosen in particular? Do you have a special connection with any of these films?
MR: Hahaha, well I don't know if I should admit this, but it started because my friend Beth said "I wish someone would do a holiday double feature of Thankskilling and Treevenge." So I did. Christmas Evil was mentioned by my friend Leland, and I love that movie so much I had to get it, as well.
ILHM: What is the most rewarding part of putting on these special events for San Diego?
MR: I honestly think the single most rewarding thing for me was during the first Horrible Imaginings after we screened Nicolas Simonin's short DERAILED. There was an 10 or 11 year old boy there and he walked out spaghetti-legged out of the theater and said, "that one was real scary!" I truly think there is something cathartic about a feeling like that--it's a big part of the draw of horror for me. Also, every time someone has approached me and thanked me and said how long he or she was waiting for an event like this in San Diego--that tells me how sorely it was needed. Very rewarding, indeed.
ILHM: Monster Island Resort Podcast is also involved in the upcoming Bleedfest, taking place Sunday, December 5th. Can you tell us a little more about the event?
MR: Oh definitely, I mentioned the first Bleedfest earlier. It was created by Brenda and Elisabeth Fies, the producer and director of The Commune, which was screened at Horrible Imaginings. As female genre film makers, they know first-hand some of the inequalities in the film industry. Bleedfest is an attempt to level the playing field by spotlighting female genre directors and they will be screening films on the first Sunday of every month at CAP Theater in Sherman Oaks, CA. On December 5th they are showing suspense films. It may be a quixotic attempt right now, but the hope is that over time things may change and female film makers will get more recognition. I am excited for this upcoming event on December 5th, which will have shorts, awards, special guests, and they will be featuring the French director Caroline Du Potet's newest thriller IN THEIR SLEEP. If you haven't seen Du Potet's INSIDE, then you should check it out. Just prepare your stomach for some churning!
ILHM: Where can readers find out more about the Monster Island Resort Podcast, the Horrible Imaginings film festival, and Bleedfest?
MR: The websites are always best! www.monsterislandresort.org, www.horribleimaginingsfilmfest.com, and www.bleedfest.com. You can also look up all three on Facebook, and don't forget to friend me on there! I'm always up for saying HELL-O!
Miguel, thanks again for taking part in tonight's interview, and for anyone that isn't already following the Monster Island Resort Podcast, the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, or the Bleedfest Film Festival, please be sure to visit the links above and support local and Independent Horror!
Interview By: Carl Manes.