“Against the Grain” wins Best Regional Film and Audience Favorite at the 2013 Knoxville Horror Film Festival

There were a lot of good films in this category this year – seems like some of the best in the last few years. I entered two films – “Bel Damme,” about the horrors of sleep disorders, and “Against the Grain,” about a killer and his tool. I like “Bel Damme” a lot, and for a lot of reasons. Mainly, it was the first film I had done since “The Next” in 2010 that wasn’t for a timed competition (e.g. The 24-Hour Film Festival). I didn’t have to worry about including a compulsory line of dialog or prop or character or location or anything like that. My story. My elements. My movie. With the acting talents of Randy and Carrie Thompson, the makeup talents of Ash Mac, and my new-found (and still finding) skills in After Effects, I was able to take the script I had written a year and a half ago and bring it to life, far better than I had originally imagined it. When it was finished, I knew it was one of the best films I had done. Tight script, good acting, decent effects (again, still learning), and a couple of really good scares.

The week after we shot “Bel Damme,” I got Randy and Carrie together again to work on another little film idea I’d written a couple of years ago. ¬†It was a fun idea, but could easily have been sort of a “throwaway.” Basically a monolog by a serial killer, pontificating about his favorite killing tool – a Stanley wood plane. With a very few tweaks to the script and the securing of Carrie’s parents’ garage/work shed, we planned the shoot. The original plan was to shoot it traditionally, with multiple takes and camera angles and cutaways. Turns out that Randy knew his lines so well that he could pretty much do it all in one take. I could just slowly move the camera from his face to his hands and the tool and back while he would go on. After a few takes of being pretty much exactly how I had imagined it being, I had a bit of an epiphany. I said, “How about this? Think Alton Brown (the Food Network’s “Good Eats”) while you’re telling this person how you’re going to kill them with this tool. Basically like a TV chef explaining how to carve the Thanksgiving turkey. Well, Randy had never seen Alton Brown, so my girlfriend Laura pulled up a clip on her iPhone to give Randy an idea. After seeing a few seconds of it, he said, “OK. I think I got it.”

The next take was magnificent. And the next, even better. That little tweak made a huge difference from being just a little creepy, to being rather terrifying – this guy was REALLY into his work, and there is nothing you can do to stop him from enjoying it.

All in all, the script being so short, shooting in basically one take, and Randy knowing his lines so well, the shoot took a little over 3 and a half hours, including set up and takedown of equipment. In no time, we were wrapped and eating dinner. Overall, the investment was 4 hours of shooting time, dinner for four, and gas from Knoxville to Maryville and back. The return? Awards for Best Regional Film and Audience Favorite at the 2013 Knoxville Horror Film Festival.

And even more rewarding was the number of people I overheard talking about “Against the Grain” during the festival. Not just after it screened, but after the first block of films, at the end of the first night of the festival at the bar as people were tabbing out, and even the next night in the theater lobby after the main feature. It really seems to have stuck with people.

One room, one speaking role, straight monolog, no effects, no costumes … simple. creepy. fun.


Me thinking I was looking creepy, but I realize now that I just look unimpressed. Believe me, I was very pleased with the awards.
Me thinking I was looking creepy, but I realize now that I just look unimpressed. Believe me, I was very pleased with the awards.
Best Regional Short and Audience Favorite, Regional Short.
Best Regional Film and Audience Favorite.

2013 Knoxville Horror Film Fest

Well, SofaCouch MovieFilms will certainly be representing at this year’s Knoxville Horror Film Festival.

A little backstory …

The film we did for the 7-day shootout as part of the Knoxville Film Festival was short #7 on the year. My personal goal at the beginning of the year was to make one short film per month. The seventh – “The Harbinger” – was completed at the end of August, so I was running a bit behind. I’d had a couple of ideas for some horror shorts scripted for a while. Since the timed competition “season” was done for the year, I decided to go ahead and do these two stories on my own time, on my own terms (no required elements or time limits – just the script and some actors ready to go.) This made 9 in September, putting me on track to average out one per month. Three more to go!

The first, “Bel Damme,” was shot on Saturday September 14 over the course of about 12 hours. It features Randy and Carrie Thompson as your average suburban couple, one of whom is plagued by night terrors and sleep paralysis. Heather Marie Lind plays the unwelcome presence in their home. With some excellent makeup by Ash Mac and some fancy After Effects work, this presence is rather terrifying.

The second, “Against the Grain,” was shot the following Saturday evening. With a very simple story and a single location, and only one actor with any dialog, the whole shoot took barely 3 hours! If it weren’t for a few fumbles on my part with some equipment issues, it may only have taken half the time. This one also features Randy and Carrie. This time, Randy is a demented woodworker with a creepy and unhealthy obsession with his tool. Carrie is the helpless victim who is forced to listen to him pontificate about the finer nuances of his death implement of choice. I have to say, Randy’s performance in this one is remarkable in its intensity, creepiness, brutality, and ‚Ķ gleefulness?

My original intention was to have Bel Damme, the far more ambitious of the two, be the SofaCouch entry into the Knoxville Horror Film Festival, with Against the Grain being more of an exercise in minimalist filmmaking (one character with dialog, one location, one setup, no music ‚Ķ). Since it turned out so much better than I’d even hoped, ¬†I decided it needed to be in the festival, too. So I submitted it along with Bel Damme. I was informed yesterday that BOTH of them were accepted into the festival. Excellent news! (Also, Against the Grain has been submitted to the IndieHorrorFest in Chicago, IL. Still waiting to hear back re: acceptance. Fingers crossed).

That’s two ‚Ķ The third SCMF representation will be yet another collaboration with Ryan Waller and Forthright Entertainment for the Third-Annual Grindhouse Grindout. This is where we have 6 days, 6 hours and 6 minutes to write, shoot, and edit a fake grindhouse trailer. The possible genres of exploitative films we will select from include:


and many more.

Last year we got Nazisploitation. From that, we created, “Black Furor,” the story of a black Nazi and his Jewish best friend. As you can imagine, it received the inauspicious award of “Most likely to incite protests.” (But shooting it was a blast and the final result was pretty hilarious, and the crowd loved it).

Thursday the 10th, we get our genre, and then it’s hit the ground running for the next 6 days to make something hopefully a lot of fun. Maybe this year we can incite even more protests!

The Knoxville Horror Film Festival was the first festival I entered that wasn’t part of a timed competition. That film – “The Next,” written and directed by me and Kevin Antoine – took home the “Audience Favorite” award that year (surprisingly, because it was made when I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing. There were some good shots, and the story was good, but the sound was atrocious and nearly inaudible in some sections, and a few scenes were so dark you couldn’t tell what was going on). In 2012, “Why So Serial” was selected to open the festival along with three other shorts from around the US, and Crystal Braeuner took home the Best Actress award for the festival. Then, of course, our “protest” award. So far, SofaCaouch and its various iterations have had good luck, awards-wise and audience appreciation-wise at the KHFF, so here’s hoping the trend continues in 2013!


“YoGun” – Our latest entry into the Knoxville 24 Hour Film Festival has gotten some unexpected notice

Occasionally I will zip over to the Knoxville 24 Hour Film Festival’s YouTube page to check out how many views our film “YoGun” has gotten. It’s generally been in the 120 or so range. Not the most views on the page, but nowhere near the least. The other day, I checked on it and …. WOW! There were more than 3400 views in the last week! Had the K24HFF page suddenly gotten super popular? Hmm … nope. Everyone else was still pretty much where they were the last time I checked. So I Googled “YoGun.”

What I discovered was that somehow a blogger who is a vocal advocate of gun rights posted it on his blog, his Facebook page, and his Twitter saying how stupid it was. His “followers” agreed. (I noticed, in addition to the 3400 + views, there were also 22 “Dislikes” that had been clicked). There were many comments on the Facebook link with the ever-so hilarious critique of, “That’s 4 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.” One actually said “3 minutes,” which makes me wonder if he can’t tell time, or maybe he actually liked one minute of it.

When I posted about it on a Facebook group I belong to, I got cyber-eviscerated by a guy saying that you “NEVER have someone point a gun directly into the camera. It’s disrespectful. This is just common sense!” Hmm … Apparently he is not a James Bond fan. He also told me that “in this day and age” with all the shootings and stuff, I am “not allowed” (yes … according to him I am not allowed by … whom, I don’t know) to do this in a film. Hmmm.

Thing is, “YoGun” is in no way ¬†meant to be any sort political commentary on gun control (or yoga control, for that matter). In fact, the main actor in the film is a gun owner and gun user. He is very respectful of guns and is also a defender of the Constitution and all its amendments, as is his wife (the “hot hippie chick,” according to one commenter). So to call it a liberal treatise on gun control, or presume it was “sponsored by MAIG” (no idea what that is) is pretty ludicrous.

The film was conceived, shot, and edited in 24 hours (actually, probably closer to 16, over all). The impetus of it all was the visual from the very beginning of someone in a peaceful yoga pose in a serene environment with relaxing music playing, then suddenly turning to the camera to shoot a gun at it. That’s it. Juxtaposition of extreme opposite is a cornerstone of comedy, and the fact that just telling people the premise of the film before they even see it elicits laughter, I think the choice of subjects was appropriate. (It DID win Best Comedy at the festival.)

Goofy. Silly. Funny.

Guess some people can’t take a joke. Reminds me of the old line from Bugs Bunny (may actually have been someone else, but he’s where I heard it from first): “Don’t take life too seriously. You ain’t getting out alive.”

Nevetheless, I appreciate the views (all publicity is good publicity), but I just wish it were linked from on my own YouTube page instead of the K24HFF’s page (and monetized).

Knoxville Film Festival 7-Day Shootout

Well, the film we made for the Knoxville Film Festival 7-Day Shootout is in the bag and officially submitted. 

“The Harbinger” is a bit of a fantasy/horror/thriller (We were provided “horror/thriller” as the genre element), and is¬†definitely one of our more ambitious endeavors – in story, in location, in editing, in sound, and, in particular, visual effects. I am certainly no expert in After Effects (novice at best) but I take directions from tutorials well. They’re not over the top spectacular, but for the amount of time I was able to spend on it, I’m very please with how it turned out.¬†

Many thanks definitely go out to the cast and crew –¬†Randy Thompson,¬†Ryan Waller,¬†Tiffany Tallent,¬†Crystal Humphrey Braeuner,¬†Scott Arnold,¬†Cheri Compton,¬†Ash Mac,¬†Julianna Sanderson,¬†Laura Miller, for their talent and efforts – and in particular,¬†Carrie Booher Thompson¬†for doing a wonderful job in taking over directing duties so I could focus on making pretty pictures.

And I really got some pretty pictures. Shooting at Ijams Nature Center in the Ross Marble Quarry ad at Mead’s Quarry was amazing. (The other element we had to include was an East Tennessee Landmark. This location pops up on many lists). The lighting was beautiful (even at midday at Ross Quarry – lots of dark, mossy rock walls in the background with brilliant shafts of light hitting the actors just so). Of course, Mead’s Quarry at 7:30 AM is jus gorgeous. Speaking of which, special thanks to newcomer to SCMF Julianna Sanderson for coming in at the very last minute at 7:30 AM, on very short notice, to get chased and roughed up. She nailed it completely with little preparation. Hoping she will be a regular asset ¬†for future projects.¬†

There will be no online screening of the film until after the official screening at the film festival in September. This film, along with the regular submission “Nuts ‘n’ Bolts,” will make it a fun evening for SofaCouch!¬†