Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Quirk and the Dead Moving Along Nicely!

Our Ken MacGregor-penned zombie comedy The Quirk and the Dead is chugging right along, and turning out nicely. So far, we've shot at a graveyard, in an abandoned store, and in an abandoned flea market. We even got chased off a location, which is a first for us (and as guerilla movie-makers, we are very proud)...

We are trying to raise a small budget for this movie via, which is an awesome web fundraising site, that allows people to check out projects and pledge money towards them. We are mostly tyring to raise enough moolah that we can afford to zombify a whole mess o' folks at the end of August, when we shoot the actual mass zombie footage (plus, we are gonna need A LOT of pizza!). If you are interested in investing (even $10.00 would be really helpful), you can check out our Kickstarter page by clicking here.

Here is the first teaser trailer, to whet your appetite:

Meriwether Done!

Well, firstly, it looks like I lied whan I said I'd be updating this blog more in 2010. Frankly, I don't understand how anyone can be serious about creative endeavors AND keep up with some kind of current blogging about it at the same time. Turns out I just don't have that kind of zeal. Sigh...

But, who cares? We have exciting news to share-- The Meriwether Device is finished and has been sent out to 10 festivals around the USA. We're keeping our collective fingers crossed, as it turned out better than we could have planned, thanks to the awesome Lionbelly squad of actor-folk and crewniks. Yahoo!

We will be debuting it in the fall as part of our annual pre-Halloween film extravaganza-- more details to follow. In the meantime, here is a MUCH better trailer for it, which captures the vibe of the thing more than the original teaser version did:

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Quirk and the Dead Gets Underway!

Last weekend, on the day before Memorial Day, the intrepid Lionbelly posse rode out to beautiful Highland Cemetery in Ypsilanti for the inaugural shoot for our new zombie/comedy THE QUIRK AND THE DEAD. This new movie was written and is being co-directed by Ken MacGregor, and stars Joe Sacksteder, Kelly-Jean Passage, and himself in a story about life and love after the zombie apocalypse. Since Zombies are a little on the over-used side right now, you can imagine that only a REALLY good script could lure us into Romero territory. Needless to say, this one is funny, scary, and original, and Ken did a kick-ass job...

We were happy to have Ian Line, cinematographer extraordinaire, along for his first Lionbelly shoot. He is really great to work with and consistently gets the goods. Also along for their first taste of crewing were husband and wife duo Tracey and Dan Sonntag, who busted out some slate and boom operating action for the shoot. Tracey also provided the photographs for this posting...

Overall, we are off to a good start on this critter and all of us are excited about getting to the brain-eating later in the summer, when we shoot the massive zombie attack scenes. We'll keep you posted...

Tweedle Ken and Tweedle Brian, Co-Directors

Sara Jackson, Producer!

Ian Line Gets All Cinematographish

Joe Sacksteder Gets Down & Dirty

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First MERIWETHER Trailer!

The editing of The Meriwether Device is going strong, and we almost have the first cut finished. In the meantime, here is the first teaser trailer for it, complete with the awesome musical stylings of BAGOTRIX!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Awesome Music News #2: EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE!

In other non-movie news, we are happy to announce that Brian Lillie's 4th album, EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE, will be released in the next week on the website CD Baby.

A website for the new album, with lyrics and full credits for the awesome musicians contained within, will be going live next week at

We will keep you posted on this album, which we are told makes a wonderful gift for the grad in your life...

Awesome Music News #1: BLACKWATER BALLAD is back!

From rehearsal of the EMU dramatic reading of Blackwater Ballad

We received cool news last week: the Eight Wonder Theater troupe is going to be putting on BLACKWATER BALLAD, the musical written by Lionbelly stalwarts Joe Zettelmaier and Brian Lillie, this summer at the beautiful Village Theater in Canton, Michigan.

We'll post more information on exact dates, cast, etc., as it is known...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Funnest Shoot of ALL TIME?!

On the morning of March 19th, 2010, a small group of movie makers got into their cars and headed up north about 200 miles to shoot their latest short, The Meriwether Device. 6 cast and 5 crew, 2 cameras, lots of DV tapes, frozen pizzas, tomfoolery, and one really cool house by a lake. It all added up to our most successful and enjoyably exhausting shoot yet. It was 3 days of solid work, but the comraderie and creativity of the thing kept us all going...

Some highlights:
  • Jim Roll, bless his giant fuzzy sideburns, managed to work through the pain of KIDNEY STONES (which he thought was just a really bad stomach ache), and finish his role without missing a single scene!
  • Al "Owl" DiBlassio was along for his first movie with us behind the camera, and he and Jen were like a 2-headed cinematography beast. I do believe this is the best-looking footage we've gotten so far.
  • Once again, as is our custom, we ran out of time shooting at night and had to cover windows with garbage bags and tarps in order to finish the indoor portion of the shoot. We at Lionbelly are considering hiring ourselves out as garbage bag wall engineers for other filmmakers. Whoever invented contractor-grade garbage bags deserves a whole bunch of wet kisses right on the mouth. From Jim...
  • For the first time, we were able to watch dailies of the shoot each evening, as a group, which was quite helpful. It takes a lot of the tension out of the equation when you KNOW you have good footage to work with as you go, rather than praying it will all cut together later, sight unseen.
  • Joe Sacksteder did a great job slating everything and taking copious notes as the shoot progressed, as well as overseeing many of the production and assistant director duties.
  • Maggie Meyer, who played "Angie", was along for her first acting job with us and she fit right in and did great work, throughout. The other actors consistently hit it out of the park, and it felt like a true ensemble. Carol Gray, Tom Szymanski, David Serra, Kristin Beckett, Jim Roll and Ms. Meyer were all on their game and managed to keep the energy level high, even at the end of an 18 hour day of shooting.
The movie is now in post-production mode and coming along nicely. We will post more about it as it gets beaten into shape during editing, scoring and mixing. Overall, though, it seems like a very fortuitous beginning for our 2010 slate of projects.


You can join the Facebook page for The Meriwether Device here, for up-to-date news, etc.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Countdown to the New Movie Shoot!

Greetings, all...

After saying I was going to update this here blog thing more often, I sorta sputtered and nosedived back into virtual silence. No, this did not happen purely because of lameness, though I'm sure some inherent laziness helped. The main reason is that we have been busy, busy, BUSY, ladies and gentlemen! That's right, the great mechanized beast that is Lionbelly Media is about to embark on its 2010 slate of projects with gusto...

To that end, we have begun preproduction on our "Untitled Scary Short" that will be shot in late March in the snowy hinterlands of northern Michigan. We don't want to give anything away yet, story-wise, but let's just say it has to do with a sciencey dude who thinks he knows what makes an antique "spiritualist machine" tick, but is sadly mistaken-- much to the chagrin (and endangerment) of his friends.

The picture at the top of the post is of an actual Victorian era device, the Duchenne Machine, which was the world's first portable apparatus that could apply a small electrical charge to patients. Duchenne himself used it for everything from studying the human smile, to attempting to cure neuralgia. We wonder if he ever used it to speak with the dead. Prolly not, but a fella can dream, right?

It's going to star Carol Gray, Tom Szymanski, David Serra, Kristin Beckett and Jim Roll (and one other player to be named later), and will be featuring music by BAGOTRIX (i.e., local composer Paul Schmitter). Our pals Paul Walther and Joe Zettelmaier helped brainstorm the story, and Markus Nee is going to be heading the antique machine-making crew.

We will keep you posted on this critter as we start rehearsals and it goes into production. I've got a good feeling about this one...

More soon!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Machotaildrop, Y'all!

Wow! This looks amazing...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Orpheum Bell Live Video!

Way back in 2009, December 4th to be exact, Lionbelly Media filmed the awesome band Orpheum Bell's CD release show at The Ark in Ann Arbor, celebrating the release of their second album, Pearls. It was an amazing show, from beginning to end, and we got some cool footage which will all eventually be edited up and available through the band. In the meantime, here are three highlights of the show to whet your appetite...




Sunday, January 3, 2010

An Interview with ADAM WINGARD!

Adam Wingard (with Amanda Crawford)

Adam Wingard is a young filmmaker from Alabama who has made two features so far, HOMESICK and POP SKULL, plus zillions of shorts. He’s a triple-threat, meaning that he shoots, directs and edits with equal aplomb. Sometimes, you’ll hear old-timers say that a director should never edit their own stuff, blah-blah-blah, but for my money Wingard proves that there are people who not only should do it, but there are some filmmakers who have to do it in order for the true visionary quality of the work to shine through.

That’s what knocks me out so much about Mr. Wingard’s films—the visionary aspect. I was first turned onto him via his (FORGOT MY MEDS) trilogy of short films, which led to POP SKULL. That movie completely blew me away with its audacious blend of naturalism and insanity, with one of the most impressive editing jobs I’ve ever seen. Dang!

So, Adam was nice enough to agree to an interview for the Blogatorium, which is about to follow. In it, I ask a ton of questions about POP SKULL because I was still in the middle of being freaked out by it when I wrote the questions-- but please keep in mind that he’s got a ton of other great stuff already made and in process. You should do yourself a favor and check out his YouTube channel, which is chock full of great shorts.

Without sounding like some mythologizing dorkwad, I feel it would behoove all of us “serious” cinephiles (and especially those like me who lean towards darker and weirder stuff) to keep an eye on this Wingard kid because he is going to make increasingly larger waves over the next few years.

Without further adieu, we happily kick off the new year with…


ADAM WINGARD: Here are 19 rules I abide by when directing low budget cinema:

1. Cinema is not magic if all you are concerned about is tricks.
2. Don't fix it in post.
3. Shoot it and edit it as fast as possible. Start it and finish it before you lose your enthusiasm.
4. Never trust anyone to do something that you can do yourself.
5. Learn everything and forget it all. You can't make a movie with a rule book.
6. Fuck CGI unless you have the money to make it work. Even then be aware of its limitations.
7. There should be one voice on the set, the director’s, all ideas should be funneled through him.
8. If it doesn’t feel right it probably isn't. Don't be afraid to ask your cast what they think is right or wrong with the scene and its blocking.
9. If they aren't reliable 100% of the time, don't use them.
10. Don't over think it.
11. Let the location and weather dictate the mood and lighting.
12. Don't force it, there are ideas floating around that are better than anything you could pre-conceive. Be aware of this.
13. Don't let your personal life or problems show up on set. You can deal with all that later.
14. There is no wrong way to shoot or edit a scene. How can you cross a line if there is no line?
15. Always remember when shooting, all of the stress, lack of sleep, and unforeseen problems that pop up along the course of filming are insignificant. In a few weeks time they will be forgotten but the film will always be.
16. Nobody cares about your "behind the scenes". Focus on the product.
17. Don't be afraid to use genre. It’s the quickest way to get attention for yourself.
18. Make films that you want to see not what you think people want to see.
19. Don't take yourself too seriously.

LB: Can you give a bit of an overview of how you got started in filmmaking? Do you remember any formative experiences that made you want to make movies?

ADAM: I come from a family of three brothers so as you can imagine we were always trying to find new ways to amuse ourselves. What started out as an obsession with genre films such as the Ninja Turtle movies and the Alien trilogy eventually moved into a desire to create films once my parents finally got a VHS camcorder when I was in sixth grade or so. During this last Thanksgiving my family all sat down and watched some of our early short films. There’s an interesting theme of home invasion in most of them. There are literally dozens of short films where we would all take turns playing different roles in the same scenario, a man breaks into the house while everyone is blissfully unaware and proceeds to murder the family. I wonder if it was just bad plotting or perhaps we were subconsciously acting out a real fear of home invasion.

LB: What can you tell us about your early days of filmmaking and what was the first thing you made that felt like it was on the right track?

ADAM: When I was in 8th grade I read Robert Rodriguez's book "Rebel Without A Crew" and it totally changed my perspective on what was possible. Learning about what Rodriguez did opened my eyes to the modern reality of filmmaking, which is to say you no longer need a ton of people and money to make something happen. I decided then that I would not, and could not, allow anything to stand in my way. My life from that point has been a constant learning process of trial and error. Before I was 18 I had already shot three feature-length backyard action movies and countless shorts. Of course those early films are all garbage, but it’s a process.

LB: It's rare to find someone who has such an eye for shooting, as well as strong editing chops and an actual directorial style. Have you always been drawn to all those aspects of moviemaking, or did you take on those tasks more out of necessity at first? Do you have a favorite aspect of filmmaking?

ADAM: I did try the standard crew approach early on with HOME SICK. On that one I had a DP and a camera op and all that jazz. It just didn't work at that point because I didn't have the proper reference points of how certain things operated and how long it should take to do something. I got totally trampled by my crew because I couldn’t supply the proper motivation and vision, it felt like I was trying to drive a car with my feet. It was after that film that I took an analytical step back and decided that I couldn't keep going like that. So I picked up my camera again and started learning to truly be my own DP and editor. It was then I began making 48hr film fest shorts, which I still do to this day. Nothing can prepare you better for filmmaking than shooting and editing a film within the course of a weekend. For me it was important because I discovered that my style is one of a sort of organized chaos. I like to do almost no planning and allow the actors and location to speak for me. I think some people tend to over think things, especially from a technical perspective, in the low budget film setting. When I see behind-the-scenes footage of a movie with a budget of ten grand and they have 20 people walking around, it makes me laugh. How absurd and wasteful. In that cramped environment with no financial backbone you’re just going to walk yourself into a world of stiffness and half-achieved concepts.

To answer the last part of your question, my favorite aspect of filmmaking is, hands-down. the editing. The production side of things is just so stressful to fully be enjoyed, although at times that can be the most exhilarating part, but as an artist I find the most rewarding task is putting the pieces together.

LB: You are also a painter of some skill. Are there any aspects of painting that you feel give you a leg up in moviemaking?

ADAM: I started painting in the summer of 2007 towards the end of my psychedelic phase. Painting really enriched my existence on a very base artistic level because it opened new doors of expression. Once I started painting I realized that at last in between film projects I didn’t have to just sit around dreaming about the next thing-- I could work as an artist expressing my thoughts and emotions on a daily basis. (CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT SOME OF ADAM'S PAINTINGS AND PHOTOGRAPHY)

I think the key to expanding yourself creatively in general isn't one of intellectualism, we can't learn everything in the conventional sense like we can for technical operations in school, sometimes you have to let that inner spark grow through continual instinctive means mixed with ongoing experience and mastery over technical factors. Of course it helps to know the technical end of things but that isn’t going to create your unique stamp.

I know this is a far-fetched way of putting it but I think Bruce Lee's philosophy concerning Jeet Kune Do and martial arts in general holds a lot of weight when you compare that to doing creative works. Heres a quote from Bruce Lee that sums up what I mean nicely - "Art is the expression of the self. The more complicated and restricted the method, the less the opportunity for expression of one's original sense of freedom. Though they play an important role in the early stage, the techniques should not be too mechanical, complex or restrictive. If we cling blindly to them, we shall eventually become bound by their limitations. Remember, you are expressing the techniques and not doing the techniques."

LB: So, you directed a feature-length horror movie at age 19, with a cast that includes many recent horror icons. How on earth did you pull that off?! What was it like working on your first feature. Did you enjoy the experience?

ADAM: I dropped out of high school in order to go to film school a year early. It was a sort of in-and-out kind of trade film school called Full Sail, in Orlando. I've never been good at school so the idea of being done with it in about a year was an attractive one for me. I met E.L. Katz there and we came up with the concept of doing a sort of dream-like slasher film. HOME SICK is a bloody mess, no doubt about that, but it was an important learning process for me, a wake up call if you will.

I remember I read an interview once with Quentin Tarantino talking about how he wished he had a b-movie phase early in his career, instead he sort of skipped that whole step and went straight to the big leagues. Well I certainly don't have that problem but I did get my b-movie phase which is a beautiful thing. One of the things people miss when watching the film is we didn't just want to do an homage italian 80's slasher thing, we didn't want to update the genre with a post modern kind of Grindhouse approach-- E.L. and I made this thing in 2003 before all that. We really wanted to make a film that was so insane and un-self aware that it would just blend right into those types of trashy films. I watch it now and it seems like it was made by a total stranger, a madman, and to that effect maybe that means we succeeded for better of worse. With all that said I loved working with Bill Moseley and Tom Towles. For me they were larger than life, it was sort of like talking to Santa Claus everyday on the set. I couldn't ever believe it was real.

LB: Your second feature, POP SKULL, is just an amazing movie. You hear people say that stuff is "unlike anything else" all the time, but rarely is that an accurate description. In POP SKULL 's case, it's completely dead on. It boasts one of the most over-the-top edits I've ever had the pleasure to have experienced, and there is SO much going on as far as the formal construction of the film-- I'm wondering how on earth it came to be. What set the movie in motion, how did you shoot it (as far as size of crew, amount of time shooting, etc.), and how did you get into the space of that editing style?

ADAM: We shot it slowly, comfortably, with little or no crew, over the course of a year and a half, and I drank a lot of cough medicine for reference. That pretty much sums it up. I think we just made the film to have a good time and experiment with improv acting. It’s weird that the movie blew up the way it did. After going to festivals for a year I forgot this wasn't "THE" film. We were just fucking around. I'm ready to move on now though. I've got quite a few things going on again at last.

LB: What did you shoot POP SKULL on, camera-wise?

ADAM: We shot it all on the DVX 100 A and B, with the exception of the scene where Lane's mom drives him to his ex's house and when he takes a bath. Those were shot on the Cannon XL2.

We didn't have lenses or anything-- it was all just making the best of the DVX. I found that the DVX did best in shallow depth of fields. Helped it from looking too cheap. I always turn my master pedestal to about -7 or so to ensure there is a crisp highly contrasted image before I even start color correcting. I can't stand to see in shadows, they have to be pitch black.

LB: What did you edit the movie on, software and system-wise? How long did it take? Any details or stories you have about this process would be really appreciated.

ADAM: I edited POP SKULL on Final Cut Pro HD version 4.5. It’s hard to say how long it took since I was sort of editing it in segments as we shot and re-shot material. The whole film was a sort of patchwork of streaming psychedelic-infused consciousness. In order to ensure a proper first person perspective for every five to fifteen minutes worth of edited footage I would drink a bottle of Robitussin and trip out on the footage. The robo trip is a sloppy, intense ride that sort of makes time slow down and intensify. Something about it, though, made me stay honest to the material and gave me insights on when I felt certain scenes needed to be cut down and in what way.

I should sort of make a disclaimer right now that this is not how I work on all of my projects, it was just appropriate for this one. I was making a film about a robotripping depressed kid. I wanted to get in that head space as accurately as possible so that's what I did. Perhaps that's why there are so many people that don't really click with the film, they aren't watching it from the right perspective. Hell the first time I showed Lane the film I made sure he was on acid haha. Those were the days.

LB: There is a lot of amazing music and sound design in POP SKULL. Who did you work with on the sound design and score, and what kinds of goals did you have in advance? Did you have sound to work with on the edit, or did you do a visual lock first and then bring in the audio?

ADAM: I did the sound design in Final Cut Pro and my friends Kyle McKinnon and Justin (a.k.a. Jasper) Lee did the score. I've always hated those conventional Hollywood scores that sound more like a bunch of sound cues than they do music. I have a rule that says if I wouldn't listen to it on my ipod then it has no place in a movie.

The way I work with Kyle and Jasper is I ask them to come up with a couple of songs and we just talk about general moods or themes or even song examples. The important thing is they have come up with actual MUSIC that can stand on its own before I even put it in the film. I don't start editing even one frame until the score is complete, then I make the film to the music. With POP SKULL that is totally true because my on-set sound was shitty enough where I needed to constantly have music playing to mask it.

LB: After making POP SKULL and learning what it had to teach you-- how will you approach the making of your next feature differently? Along those lines, do you have any big projects currently in development that you care to talk about?

ADAM: POP SKULL helped me work with improvisational acting. There’s nothing more real than having the actors say something that is in their head and their own words. If the goal is to make the acting invisible, then this can potentially go beyond that altogether, eliminating any essence of a performance. All that is left is reality...

That’s if it’s done right, there’s plenty of lousy improv acting out there.

LB: What are your goals as a filmmaker, both artistically and career-wise?

ADAM: I have no idea what my goals are. I just plan on churning as many of these things out before I die.

Right now I'm prepping for shooting A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE which is a serial killer revenge film Simon Barrett wrote for me. I've been filming these short films about date rape which I will turn into a sort of anthology feature. I also wrote a revenge film script this year which I hope to film after those two projects are done. I want to be as prolific as Takashi Miike in 2010.

LB: Who are some filmmakers you admire, and what are a few favorite films? Any more obscure titles you think our readers should hunt down?

ADAM: Takeshi Kitano, Shinya Tsukamoto, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Joe Swanberg, Lodge Kerrigan, Werner Herzog, Gasper Noe, Gus Van Sant, Darren Aronofsky and, of course, the best-- Stanley Kubrick.

I have a few obscure films I would like to recommend that aren’t just from the list of directors above. A film that I feel is totally overlooked is POSSESSION by Andrzej Zulawski. Sam Neil and Isabelle Adjani give bat shit crazy performances and the low key natrural photography is some of my favorite ever. Another of my favorite films is GONIN by Takashi Ishii. It’s an operatic crime film shot in a strange colorful way that could only be done in Japan. Lastly have you ever seen that movie THE VAGRANT starring Bill Paxton? I'm sure this is the long lost golden gem of the 80's, I don't think it ever came out on DVD. To me it feels sort of like a cross between EVIL DEAD and FREEWAY. Very fucking funny movie.

LB: Lastly, being a horror nerd I am always pleased when the genre attracts truly talented people. Are you a big horror fan, and do you see yourself dabbling in it for the foreseeable future? Do you have any specific comments relating to the making of stuff that's scary and disturbing?

ADAM: I've always said to my friends that every film could use a little horror in it and I mean that. Just imagine how much better LOST IN TRANSLATION would have been if there had been ghosts in the hotel. In a way everything I do is a horror film and probably always will be.