Monday, January 26, 2015

Sometimes It's Not Ghost

                                                       
 
This is not a new episode of Life with Fred & Lucy, but maybe it should be. My father was the king of practical jokes and I’ve mentioned on the "Life with Fred & Lucy" page the many tricks my father had played on the entire family over the years. That old saying, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, is so true and I’ll go one step further, the gene for practical jokes runs amok in the Maratea family.

I’m guilty of carrying that particular gene and it has also been passed down to my daughter’s three boys better known as the desperadoes, but this post is about a practical joke that I had forgotten all about.
                                                                     

Several weeks ago, my daughter and her husband purchased a new bedroom set. I had stopped over to see the set and to check out the remodeled master bathroom. My daughter was in the kitchen putting on coffee for us and I was about to head down to the kitchen to tell her how much I loved what she and Jim did with the master bedroom.
                                                                 
                                                             

Something stopped me before I left the room. Was it the spirit of Fred, my deceased father? I’d been thinking about him and my mom over the holidays, so maybe it was he who placed the devilish thought into my head. I began to move the little knick-knacks that my daughter keeps around her room to different places. I was on a roll. The St. Joseph statue went from her husband’s side of the bed to hers. Her photos of the kids were moved all over the place and finally after moving her make-up and hair products to different shelves, I placed a teddy bear that belonged to my father when he was sick, in her bathroom with a bathing cap on its head. Done with my mischief, I headed down to the kitchen for coffee.
                                                                      

I had expected my daughter to call me by that night to say she saw what I had done, but she didn’t and over the next two weeks, I forgot all about the prank. Then, I went over her house yesterday to visit with her and the boys before the big snow storm. While there she asked me to take a ride with her and Nathan to Ross and Game Stop. “Sure,” I said.

As we were driving, my daughter was having a problem with the electrical system in her car, and she had remarked, “I don’t know what’s going on anymore, mom. Strange things have been going on at the house and now this car is acting up.”

“What strange things,” I ask.

“I think the house is either haunted, and if it is, you and your friends will have to come and investigate. But, maybe, it’s someone coming into my house when I’m not home.”

This was the first I was hearing about these events, so I said, “Well, you know Fred and Lucy like to visit you and Aunt Lucy when they’re not hanging out in my attic. Maybe it’s their spirits.
                                                                         
My daughter shook her head. “No, when they visit, they don’t move things around. I’ve been asking the boys if they’re playing jokes on me, but they said no.”

Nathan chimes in from the back seat. “You ask us every day and Josh and I keep telling you that we don’t go in your room.”
                                                                        

“What about Uncle John?” I asked, because my daughter and her husband had been taking care of Uncle John ever since Jim’s mother passed away.

“No, he doesn’t go into my room. I’ve taken to locking my bedroom door when I’m not home, because it’s every day that I find things moved.” My daughter was very upset and I, as of yet, hadn’t put two and two together.

Nathan pipes in again, “Grandmom, she’s been yelling at us because she thinks we’re doing this to her.”

“What things are moved?” I asked.

“Grandpop Fred’s bear, pictures, my make-up....”

BINGO!

“Uh, Re did you say Fred’s bear?” My daughter nods and I glance back at Nathan with this ‘deer in a headlight’ expression on my face. “That was me.”

“What?” my daughter asks as she pulls into the parking spot in front of Game Stop.

“I moved a lot of stuff around in your bedroom a few weeks ago as a prank, but you never said anything and I had forgotten all about it.”

Nathan is laughing his head off and my daughter is staring at me. “Tell me what you moved?” she demands.

I rattle off the items I had moved, then she and Nathan begin laughing. “Mom, because I didn’t notice everything that you had moved all at once, I’m thinking that it was something new each day.”

“Well, at least you know it’s not ghosts,” I say between belly laughs.

Just then her car began to make all kinds of strange noises. We couldn’t turn it off. Not for a while at least. We didn’t know what was going on with the car, but her husband checked it out.  He could find nothing wrong. If it wasn't the electrical system, then maybe it was my father saying, “Good one!” I'd like to think it was.
                                                                         

Friday, January 23, 2015

Eraserhead

                                                         
I wrote about this film last year for Biff Bam Pop! The Canadian Pop Culture site where I am a senior writer, but  I've also decided to share this post on my blog. Enjoy 

I love horror films, but there are a few that have worked their way into the recesses of my mind and made a permanent home for themselves. One such film was Eraserhead, a 1977 black and white film which went past the definition of surreal. Eraserhead was written, produced and directed by filmmaker David Lynch, who would later go on to direct such movies as The Elephant Man, Dune, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and the television series, "Twin Peaks". 
This dark and brooding film may have been inspired by Lynch’s fear of fatherhood, his daughter’s extensive surgery for her severely clubbed feet and his five years of living in a troubled neighborhood of Philadelphia.
Hmmm…thought provoking since I was born and raised in Philadelphia and I love horror stories.
The filming of Eraserhead began in 1971, but because of Lynch’s meticulous direction, this film remained in production for a number of years and was kept alive not only by regular donations from Lynch’s childhood friend, Jack Fisk and Fisk’s wife Sissy Spacek, but by investments made by cast members. 

The Cast
Jack Nance played Henry Spencer in Eraserhead, Mary X was played by Charlotte Stewart, Mary’s mother was played by Jeanne Bates, her father played by Allen Joseph, the beautiful neighbor across the hall was played by Judith Anna Roberts, Jack Fisk plays the part of The Man in the Planet and The Lady in the Radiator is played by Laurel Near.
I’ll try to explain the plot from my point of view because anyone watching this film will eventually walk away with their own concept of what this movie is revealing. The movie starts with the man inside the floating planet pulling and pushing gears, while creatures resembling sperm swim in the background. Meet me after the jump.

The Plot

We see Henry as he makes his way through an Industrial cityscape. The scene is dark, noisy, threatening and sets the mood for the entire film. When Henry reaches his apartment, his beautiful neighbor tells him that his girlfriend left a message for him to come to her house for dinner.
 Now I have to pause here to mention Henry’s hair. He reminds me of a well-known character from the Seinfeld Show. What do you think?
                                                                        

Henry arrives at Mary’s house and meets her family, who are not your classic Norman Rockwell family…no, they’re more like the Addams family, very strange. The family behaves in a lifeless manner bordering on robotic at times. The father asks Henry to carve the roasted chicken that is placed on the table, but the chicken begins to move as Henry cuts into the meat. Reminds me of my first Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey was a little underdone, but luckily no one got sick. Henry learns that Mary had his child and now he is forced to take her and the baby back to his dirty and dark apartment. But there is something very wrong with it.

The Baby

Something is very wrong with the child and Henry is not happy with either Mary or the deformed baby. The baby has a snakelike head and all it does is cry. It refuses to eat which upsets Mary. 
                                              
 
Henry on the other hand is distracted by the need to have an affair with his beautiful neighbor and by his visions of The Lady in the Radiator.
Henry does have a sexual encounter with the neighbor, but the baby frightens her during her visit. Mary runs away and Henry must care for the child. At this point Henry has a dream that his head falls off and a young boy finds the head and brings it to the factory where they use parts of the brain to make erasers for pencils.
                                                                   

Henry unable to stop the child from crying takes a pair of scissors and cuts open it swaddling cloth. I won’t describe what is inside; you’ll need to see the film. Henry stabs the child and as the child dies and its head begins to grow until it turns into the planet seen at the beginning of the film. The Man in the Planet struggles to work his levers as the planet bursts apart. The show ends with Henry being embraced by the Lady in the Radiator.
                                                                      

My Thoughts
This film had a surrealist and sexual theme and spoke to me about the ills experienced in an Industrial Society. Did this inspire David Lynch’s making of Eraserhead? Can Industrial wastes cause deformities? Philadelphia is a beautiful city, but it was also home to a lot of industry. Silent Spring the book by Rachael Carson was published in 1962 and told of the health concerns encountered when Industries polluted the world. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Medicine Cabinet Surprise


                                                         
                                                                   

I have a feeling that most of the time, I kind of coast through life and seldom notice things that other people consider useful. Events happen and I just glide along not really paying attention to minor details. I’ve always considered myself to be an observant person, but I’ve come to realize that my observations were always centered on people, their aura, their actions and emotions. When it comes to objects, if I don’t use it or need it; it doesn’t exist.

Today, after babysitting the toddler that I tutor, I was at my computer sipping on tea and working on my interview of Andy Burns, Editor-In-Chief of Biff Bam Pop and author of Wrapped in Plastic: Twin Peaks and, my friend.
                                                                      
                     
My husband was working on the sink in the bathroom. I didn’t know it was broke, but he was fixing, hammering, drilling and running from our bathroom to the basement to check on the pipes. I wanted to help, but I don’t think my husband has recovered from the last time I offered to help with the plumbing and...well...let’s just say...Dan does not trust me with sharp objects.

Like I said I was working on the interview when Dan gives out a yell. “Marie! Come down here. I want to show you something neat.” I was hesitant to go into the basement because a few moments before he asked me to come down, I’d heard him let loose with a string of explicit language.
                                                                   

When I went into the basement, this is what Dan showed me. Razor blades! There was a ton of razor blades. “Where did these come from?” I ask.

“They are from the wall behind the medicine cabinet,” his reply.

“But, how did they get into the wall?”

Did you know that there is a slot in our medicine cabinet to put used blades? I didn’t. Supposedly, the used blades are pushed through the slot to live happily ever after or, until Dan decides to do plumbing. My husband was surprised that I didn’t know about the slot. I saw it, but never knew what its use was for.
                                                               


“How did you get rid of used blades?” he asked.

“There was a slot on the back of razor cartridges that my dad would place his old blades in; new blades came out the top; used blades on the bottom.”

We’ve only dislodged a few hundred blades so far, but there are more inside the wall. They can stay there for all I care. As my husband finishes the work on the bathroom, I’m sitting at my desk wondering why someone would invent a slot in the wall for old blades. It must be a man thing.

 
 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Life with Fred & Lucy, Episode 37: Graves 'R' Us

                                                        
 
This isn’t the normal Fred and Lucy stories that I usually tell to people when I’m remembering my parents, but in a way, it’s quite relevant. My father, always the planner, always the practical one when his OCD wasn’t in overdrive, was a stickler for preparing for the future. It didn’t matter what the topic was; he was prepared.
                                                               
 
In case of world chaos, he had enough food, water and emergency supplies squirreled away to make any Zombie Squad Member proud. Fred used this ‘better prepared than dead’ mindset even in how and where he wished to be buried. He and Mary (our loving stepmother and wife #3) had gone shopping for their ‘last home’ and picked a  lovely spot at the Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery in Marple Township, Delaware County, Pa.
                                                                               
                                                                       
This was not just a grave to Mary and Fred and, cemeteries meant more than just death. I remember the many occasions that my father and stepmother asked me to drive them to their future graves. They wanted to “check it out,” and make sure the neighborhood (the section they were to be buried in) was still populated by nice people and not losers. I usually had a few grandkids with me, so we packed a lunch and threw a few folding chairs into the trunk. We ate, then me and the grandkids would roam the area and look at the tombstones, or father would spend the time telling my grandkids funny stories about his younger days. Finally, we'd pack up and head home. These trips were always fun, but visiting the dead wasn’t new to me.                                                       

I don’t know if this is an Italian thing brought over by my parents, but I remember growing up with Fred and Lucy packing us four rowdy children into the car to visit dead family members at the Holy Cross Cemetery in southwest Philly. The aunts and uncles would join us there. While the adults chatted over lunch, my siblings , cousins and I would check out the mausoleums or the huge ornate tombstones. The ghosts that I saw, always seemed happy for the company and didn’t mind that we kids would accidently walk upon their graves. Yes, I saw dead people. I'm an Empath. It runs in the family.
Fast forward to the present when my father died. Grave bought, coffin chosen, inheritance divided equally among the four children, my father left little work for the survivors to worry about. A year later, when one of my husband’s sisters (single) had become seriously ill, the decision was made for us to chip in and buy two plots with each plot holding two coffins. The plan was that Dan and I would be Diane’s roommates so to speak.
                                                                            
                                                                       
The extra grave would be saved for an emergency. Rent a grave?  The three of us decided on a secluded spot at St. Mary’s Cemetery. We selected an area in front of a big tree with wooded area nearby. Perfect! When Diane passed away, she was placed in a grave that she had chosen. 
                                                  
My mother, Lucy, who was living on the west coast with her second husband never planned for the bid “D”. She was afraid of dying and afraid of being buried in the ground, alive. I couldn’t bury my mother with Tom, my stepfather, because he’d been cremated and his ashes had gone to his daughter. When Mom died, I took her ashes home to New Jersey and placed them in the new niches that St. Mary’s Cemetery now has available. Mom would be in the same cemetery and we would be neighbors. Everything was set in place, or so we thought. Mom in upper right corner. Dan and I next row down                                                               
                                                                       
Over time, my husband and I began to like the idea of cremation and small niches a whole lot better than graves, so after talking about it, we sold our plot and bought two niches. We are now located in the row under my mom, Lucy Aniello. We would still be neighbors to Diane, but we would be a little bit further down the trail.  It turned out that it was a good thing we moved. I can't say the same for my sister-in-law, Diane.
Construction
                                                                     

To add more ramps and make interstates 295 and 42 N/S freeways wider, the State has taken a large swatch of land away from the cemetery and included the land into the plans for major construction. Do you remember the wooded area and big tree that we liked when we first bought the plots? Gone!  Diane now has 42N/S Freeway as a neighbor and, we can’t afford to move her.  There is also a historic home in close vicinity to Diane that was used as an underground railroad during the Civil War. It is slated to be torn down for the larger highway. Shame.
                            Dan looking at construction 10 ft. from grave                              

So, Dan and I are set for the inevitable and  like our new digs, or will, when we're dead.  I've mentioned to my sister Lucy and her husband that there are two niches left on the wall and, they are right next to Dan and I. She's considering the prospect of becoming our neighbors after death. I found out that my Uncle Mario and Aunt Rose will be residing at St. Mary’s when they pass away, too. It will be one hell of a big party at this cemetery with all us crazy ghosts hanging out.  I asked my daughter if she wants to purchase two niches for the future, but she’s young and thinks we’re all crazy.
Update
I found out that we can get ceramic photos placed on our niches. That is so awesome and I know what picture I want on mine. What do you think? Too much?
                                                                                 

 Nah!!! I'm going with it! Dan, on the other hand, wants the picture of him in his dress uniform from the Philadelphia Fire Department on his niche.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Part Two of The Book Asylum with Author Laura Kaighn

               
 
There is a little shop up in Blackwood, New Jersey that sells old and new books. The Book Asylum is located on 26 N. Blackhorse Pike and I’ve been to this little gem several times in the last two years. There is something special about this little shop that also hosts a cafĂ© with damn good coffee, teas and bakery goods. Yummy! And, the reason for this good feeling is due to the owners Jeff and Rosemary Moore. You can find my interview of them, here.

                                                                

Today, I’m interviewing Laura Kaighn, who is a published author, a professional storyteller and a pretty amazing woman. Best of all, she is a very good friend. Laura and I both belong to the South Jersey Writers’ Group, but she is also co-facilitator of The Book Asylum’s Writing Group. This is Laura’s site: http://www.ladyhawkestorytelling.com

Steampunk Granny Chats with Author Laura Kaighn

Marie: “Hi Laura. Surprise! I wanted to interview you before you began the meeting with the group. What is the name of your group here at The Book Asylum?”

Laura Kaighn: “We call ourselves “The Book Asylum Writers” or the “Asylumites” for short. Word doesn’t like how it’s spelled, but I said the heck with it.”

Marie: “How often does your group meet, here?”

Laura: “Actually, there are two parts to the writers’ group. Mine, in which we focus on writing, critiquing, feedback and little mini workshops on the writing process and concepts such as plot and character development, and all that stuff. We meet on the first Thursday of every month. There is another woman, who is a retired art teacher named Pam Laurenzi. She comes in for journaling. She gets them writing, but it’s not organized where they have to have a theme for the night. Pam gets them to write and they share what they’ve written around the table. All positive feedback, and they have a good time. And that’s it.

                                                                  

So, depending on what you want to experience as a writer or to grow as a writer, you decide if you want to come to one or the other, or both. It’s very open, and Pam is very good. She’s a sweet lady. She switched days with me because I was originally doing the third Thursday, but that is when the South Jersey Writers’ Group meets. Pam was willing to switch with me so that I could attend the meetings while she was here doing her thing here. That’s the writing group, I call myself the co-facilitator because I bow to her since she was here first.

It started with Johanna Swank. She’s a member of the South Jersey Writers’ Group. When she was finished with her workshops, she asked if we wanted to stay as a writers’ group. Everybody thought that was a great idea. At that time, I had poked myself in towards the end, and she asked me if I could take over. First it was only going to be the one night when she couldn’t make it; but before you knew it, I was here. I’ve been here every first Thursday.”

Marie: “How many people are there in the group?”

Laura: “Overall, we have around twenty-one, but luckily not all twenty-one people show up for the meeting. I keep in contact with them through e-mails. We have a core group of about five writers that are here pretty much every time. And again, some don’t necessarily come to my group. They’ll go to Pam’s because they are interested in just journaling without any end product, like a book or memoir.”

                                                             

Marie: “So, on your end are you trying to help people get published?”

Laura: “Well, just to be better writers. I help them with whatever they are interested in. I have an entire list of topics that we’ll touch upon from time to time. If they have an interest, I’ll put together a bunch of stuff. And then we’ll do a writing exercise. I’ll show them examples, or they’ll give me examples. We’ll critique and go over where their weakness and strengths are: grammar, punctuation, dialogue, character development. You know, whatever. So I’ll periodically bring that list up again and say, “Okay! We’re just playing ‘Swap & Share’ all the time and reading aloud.  Now, let’s get back into the writing process. What do you want to attack, next?”

I know that I’m going to have to touch upon Point of View again, because that’s a bit complicated for those who are interested in writing fiction. We have a couple of people that are interested in memoir, but not a lot of poetry. Even my other group at the Margaret Heggan Library; they’re not really interested in poetry, but memoirs mostly and autobiographies. One member over there is writing a cookbook with family stories. She keeps getting sidetracked with her ninety-three year old mother. I said to her, “You better get back here.” It’s a diverse group between the two venues and I enjoy their company. I learn from them as much as I think I guide them.”

Marie: “You’re a busy person because you have several books published and you are busy doing book signings and also doing presentations. When is your next presentation?”

Laura: “I don’t have anything scheduled at this point. But because it is the beginning of the year, that is the topic that I’ll be broaching with both groups. I want to know what they want to take away from this and what instructions I can guide them through that will make them stronger writers. We will be picking more topics. I have a list of strengths and challenges. What I do is: I’ve collected their works in a recent assignment. I took them home, checked them over and made a list of where I saw that they needed help. We are definitely going to be touching upon dialogue, grammar rules, using good verbs, good adjectives, strong subjects and all that stuff. I’ll do sentence structure and dividing up sentences so they aren’t rambling on. Just those things that I saw some needed help on.”

Group Member, Claudia: “I tend to ramble.”

Laura: “I do too. I end up with long, long sentences and then when I go back to proof-read, I go, “You’ll run out of air by the time you get to the finish. It’s time to break it up!” So, yeah, that is what we do a lot of. We write, and then we look at our writing. It’s not just writing, “Oh this is wonderful. I love it.” You need more specific feedback if you want to get better. We help each other with the critiquing. But once in a while, I’ll bring them all home and give them a more thorough once over.

If you are a strong writer, yourself, you can step back a little bit and see some things that other people missed because they are focusing on the story or focusing on the grammar and it’s hard to do both, plus focus on the dialogue and word choice and sentence structure. That’s why there are four different editors to go through when you get a book published. There is the copy editor, the line editor, the proof reader and...”

Marie: “The developmental editor, right?”

Laura: “Yes, exactly, which is the first one to see it. That’s a lot to think about. So, I do what I can.”

Marie: “Well, you’re having fun and it’s a great coffee shop/ book store to have these meetings at.”

Laura: “Oh yeah. Jeff and Rose are such wonderful people to have us here, and they let us talk loud.  When we are at the library, we’re in the conference room. So we just shut the door and we laugh and don’t worry about anyone shushing us or having the librarian shaking her finger at us.”

Rosemary: “I love when they do Mad-Libs.”

Laura: “Yes, we do Mad-Libs. When I did substitute teaching, I always had at least three activities just in case the teacher didn’t leave materials and I couldn’t do a lesson. I would say, “Hey, let’s do this.”  I always had my goody bag, like these which I got from ‘Toys R Us’ while Christmas shopping.” Laura hands me one of the flip books to look over. “One is Story Starter, the other is Silly Starters and this is Creative Thinking. It’s slated for grades first to third, but you just throw it out and write a journal entry. It’s challenging.”

                                                                 

Marie: “I know you do storytelling events. When is the next event?”

Laura: “It’s not a public event because of it being so early in the season, but I’m happy to say that Rabbit’s Tale and Other Rites of Passage has been accepted by the Spring Hills Senior Living Centers, and there are eight facilities, mostly on the east coast from Florida up to Connecticut.  Once a month, they are reading, sharing and doing activities based on one of my stories. Last month, for December, it was “Dad’s Charlie Brown Tree” because it was Christmas. This month, in fact next week on January 12th, I’ll be going to the Cherry Hill facility and reading “Tornado Child”. It’s the story about my three year old little sister who got into my room and wrecked it. In February, because of Chinese New Year, I’ll be doing the story, “Holding up the Sky” which is based on a Chinese fable. “

Marie: “Are there any public events?”

Laura: “In the summer, I’ve already booked a program for the Burlington County College on July 15th for the summer reading program. It’s at 5 Pioneer Blvd. in Westampton and here are the directions.” http://home.comcast.net/~ladyhawkestorytelling/site/?/event/view/110/

Marie: “People can check on your calendar of events on your site?”

Laura: “It’s not up yet, but there will be more events posted between now and then. The only ones that I post on my website are the ones that are public.”
Marie: Thank you Laura for taking the time from tonight’s meeting to chat with me. For all my followers out there, you can find all of Laura’s works here:  http://home.comcast.net/~ladyhawkestorytelling/site/?/page/Writer%27s_Portfolio%3A_A_Collection_of_Works/

Steampunk Granny's Interview with Director Jeremiah Kipp

                                                           

I have to say that I meet the most talented people in the Independent Film Industry. I recently had the pleasure of being contacted by Jeremiah Kipp. He’d sent me his website and the link to several of his short films. Busy tying up other interviews I’d been working on, it wasn’t until the beginning of January that I was able to watch the three films Jeremiah wanted me to review. Were they good? Hell, yeah! And, I’ll do a short review of Minions, Painkiller and Berenice right after the interview.

Jeremiah Kipp's directing credits include THE SADIST starring Tom Savini, MASTERMIND starring Chris Sarandon, THE POD starring Larry Fessenden, CONTACT (commissioned by Sinister Six annual screening series), The Days God Slept (Best Director-Horror Hound 2014), CRESTFALLEN, THE CHRISTMAS PARTY (Cannes and Clermont-Ferrand), EASY PREY (commissioned by NYC's annual Vision Fest, DROOL (commissioned by Mandragoras Art Space),SNAPSHOT and THE APARTMENT (commissioned by Canon to premiere their XL2 at DV Expo 2004) Producing credits include the feature films SATAN HATES YOU(created by Glass Eye Pix, starring Angus Scrimm, Michael Berryman and Reggie Bannister), GOD'S LAND, LET'S PLAY, IN MONTAUK, THE JONESTOWN DEFENSE AND THE BED-THING (directed by Pulitzer Prize-nominated Matt Zoller Seitz). Assistant director credits include I SELL THE DEAD starring Dominic Monaghan, SOMEWHERE TONIGHT starring John Turturro, ONE NIGHT starring Melissa Leo, and the Sundance Award-winning MAN (dir: Myna Joseph).

                                                         

Marie Gilbert:  Hi Jeremiah. It's a pleasure to interview you. I'll start this interview by asking what got you interested in writing and directing films?

Jeremiah Kipp: There's an early photograph of me as an infant standing by a chalkboard, having drawn a picture of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man, so images and movies were always a strong part of my life.  My grandparents would read to me, so there was a sense of storytelling.  And one day I saw in the newspaper that they were seeking actors for a local drama troupe.  Filmmaking began in the form of a VHS camcorder our family had, which was meant to record weddings and gatherings, but I immediately co-opted it for zombie movies in the backyard.  Video-making combined the visuals of drawing, the narrative of stories and the performance of acting.  It felt like I'd found my home.

Marie: Is it just horror films that you like to do? If horror is your love, where did this inspiration come from? Who inspired you?

Jeremiah Kipp: I've had the good fortune to make movies in several genres, but horror is close to my heart. Fear is such a primal emotion, even stronger than love and hate.  An early inspiration was the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, which immersed the viewer into a strange and aggressive new world.  It felt like the filmmakers themselves were insane, and that the viewer was thrown into a world of mad people.  On a lighter note, DAWN OF THE DEAD played into fantasies of living in a shopping mall.  Genre films were beyond reality, they took a great imaginative leap into something dark and adult. Tobe Hooper and George Romero were two early, vital inspirations.

Marie: You have a lot of films listed in your IMDb, but which one is your favorite and tell me why it’s your favorite?

Jeremiah Kipp: I don't have a favorite but there are a few that felt like big steps forward.  THE CHRISTMAS PARTY in 2003 gave me an opportunity to work with children and older people in a dark narrative about a holiday event thrown by Christians, the kind who want everybody else to be Christian too.  It was my first time having a movie that suspended the viewers in a state of taut anticipation, and it was a great joy screening it at festivals around the world.  

The next big one for me was CONTACT in 2009, about a drug trip gone wrong, where we started paring everything down -- plot, dialogue, even color, trying to get down to the pure essentials.  The silence in that movie felt like an ambush; I felt like it was another movie where we gave the audience a compelling ride.  It was also a pleasure to make.  The movie is dark and unnerving, but the making of it was filled with a sense of jubilation and excitement.  It was my first time collaborating with director of photography Dominick Sivilli, who became a vital partner on several movies to follow.  And a very close friend.

Marie: Your films have won awards, but which one did you not expect to win?

Jeremiah Kipp: It's been surprising to see how much PAINKILLER has connected with people, since it was an intensely difficult film to make.  The behind-the-scenes environment was stressful, with various departments at odds with each other, going several days over schedule and way over budget. It was painful and I was happy when it was over, but what's funny is that a good or bad experience behind the camera often has very little reflection on how good the movie turned out.  PAINKILLER has proven to be intense and engaging, and I'm proud that my collaborators and I were able to make something that had such an effect. The fact that it's won awards and is building a good reputation is incredibly pleasing.

                                                           

Marie: I loved all three films, but Painkiller, the short that won Best Short Film Bronze Antenna Award, really hit home with me because of having lost family to cancer (the slow, painful kind). Was it hard on the actors to understand what you expected from them and that some of the scenes would be, for a better word, brutal?

Jeremiah Kipp: You try to create an environment of trust with the performers, so they can mine the characters and understand the content of the film. We had a few rehearsals for PAINKILLER, which was great, so by the time we got to the set the actors could just parachute into the dark situations.  One of my favorite parts of the job is making discoveries along with the actors, and the cast of PAINKILLER was particularly fearless.

Marie: I checked on one of the commercials listed on your site. It was for Calvin Klein and it was good. You seem to carry over this sense of mystery and darkness that you bring out in your films into this commercial. Is this what they wanted or did they let you have complete control on how to present the product?

Jeremiah Kipp: I had complete artistic control over that spec commercial, so there was no conflict at any point.  

Marie: What are you working on now?

Jeremiah Kipp: We're finishing up post on a non-horror short film called SOUND/VISION about a Palestinian girl taking music lessons from an Israeli piano teacher. It felt great to be making a movie about a possible friendship, one fraught with cultural tensions.  And I'm gearing up to make a vampire feature that promises to be quite grisly.  A few other offers have just started coming in, so 2015 seems like it's off and running.  I love to work, and filmmaking allows you the chance to see places you might not otherwise get to. Last November, I filmed on an island in Maine, then a monastery, an abandoned hospital and a sound stage converted into a padded cell.  When people say they want to run away and join the circus, sometimes I feel like I already have.

Marie: Thank you Jeremiah for doing this interview with me. You have won yourself a loyal fan.

For all my readers out there, I’ll give a short review of the three films specifically sent to me by Jeremiah Kipp for me to review. I’ll tell you right now that I loved each one.

                                                                       
Minions
“Minions” was written by Joseph Fiorillo, produced by Lauren Rayner, directed by Jeremiah Kipp and stars Lukas Hassel, Cristina Doikos, Robin Rose Singer and Lauren Fox. “Minions” brings out the best features of what I consider, film noir. The tagline claims the film is a true story about witches, but we learn that it’s so much more than that. The music, which is haunting, sets the mood as we watch William (Lukas Hassel) heading down deserted streets towards the Witch’s Path, teased by the voice of the unseen Abigail (Lauren Fox).Is William in a trance? Has he been bewitched? When he comes across two young ladies, Sarah (Cristina Doikos) and Katrina (Robin Rose Singer) we fear that he has entered a trap. But, in this dark and sexual thriller, things are not what they seem. Here is the trailer for Minions
http://kippfilms.com/theminions.html

Berenice
Berenice is an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s story. Written and directed by Jeremiah Kipp and starring Thomas Mendoza, Cheryl Koski, Susan Adriensen and Bob Socci, Berenice is part of a horror anthology called "CREEPERS" out on DVD right now, available for order at creepersfilm.com 

                                                    
The film begins with us watching a quiet young man working on a model car. He is comfortable living in his own world, but we see quickly that he exhibits obsessive compulsive tendencies. His mother (Susan Adriensen) informs him that his cousin Berenice will be spending the season with them and they want him to keep her occupied. There was some type of connection between them as children, but as adults, Edward (Thomas Mendoza) seems to fear the beautiful Berenice (Cheryl Koski). Bernice is seriously ill and she suffers from epileptic episodes that leave her close to death. Unable to deal with the girl, who is both sexually attractive and increasingly ill, Edward focuses on the only healthy part of her anatomy. Berenice is a horror film that leaves you chilled to the bone. Excellent! Here is the trailer:

http://vimeo.com/106858110

Painkiller

This was my favorite. Painkiller is A Jerry Janda Film in which he also has a part. It’s directed by Jeremiah Kipp and stars Kelly Rae Le Gault, Thomas Mendolia and Jill Di Donato. This is horror at its best and gruesome. What if science could find a way to block the horrid pain of cancer with an alternative to the harsh chemicals of Chemo therapy? Sounds innocent enough, right? When two scientists work with DNA manipulation to create a bio-symbiotic cure to block pain, all hell breaks loose. This film gives new meaning to pain management. Here is the trailer:

http://vimeo.com/109060209

Conclusion

Do yourself a favor and check out Jeremiah Kipp’s website. You’ll thank me. As a special treat, Jeremiah has allowed me to include this full feature of The Christmas Party. Enjoy
THE CHRISTMAS PARTY can be seen in its entirety (for free) here:

http://kippfilms.com/christmasparty.html