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Home arrow Entertainment arrow Dark Gallery arrow THE INDIE THREAT THAT IS GORE - A Badly Titled Conversation with Chris Gore.
THE INDIE THREAT THAT IS GORE - A Badly Titled Conversation with Chris Gore. PDF Print E-mail
Written by by Mike Watt   
Jan 17, 2005 at 02:00 AM
Anyone who's been a long-time fan of the independent film scene recognizes the name "Chris Gore". A vocal supporter of independent film, Gore created the paper magazine Film Threat in the mid-'80s, which grew to a veritable (albeit mid-scale) media empire by the mid-90's, with a video guide, a number of spin-off publications, and a home-video line which included Gore's own film "RED", starring Lawrence Tierney.

Then the bottom fell out of the entertainment industry, printing costs skyrocketed, and the niche magazine was forced to fold. At the same time, Gore and his remaining FT fellows created Film Threat Online, one of the first - and today, one of the biggest - film-related websites on the 'net. Angrier and edgier than Ain't It Cool News, Film Threat.com predated that fan-based site by a trio or more of years, and has grown to gigantic proportions since then. The site boasts thousands of archived film and video reviews, interviews, covers streaming media, and film-related print media.

A successful author as well as journalistic visionary, Gore is the author of a number of books - including The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide and The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made. He just finished production on his first feature - MY BIG FAT INDEPENDENT MOVIE - and has recently joined forces with B-Movie.com as part of the Indie Force Coalition, as Film Threat is, once again, distributing independent films to eager viewers. Current FT DVD titles include the award-winning spy-spoof AGENT 15, and JAR JAR BINKS: THE F! TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY.

So FILM THREAT DVD is more or less an off-shoot of the distribution company you ran through the magazine?

Yeah, in the '90s we had a distribution company that distributed about fifty films under different deals, and we had a promotional vehicle under the name "Film Threat Video Guide". And we distributed about 15 or 20,000 copies of the video guide throughout the country, and that was our main source of advertising these films for release. This was before the internet. So it was an underground magazine. We actually did quite well with it, [promoting] these movies under the Film Threat banner.

Well, the bottom fell out of print in the '90s and a lot of magazines went away all at once, including Film Threat. In late 1996, early 1997 we retired the print magazine and put all of our efforts into an online pub, which I think has paid off. Because we were recently named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top five movie websites on the internet.

Have you found that the online version of Film Threat has gotten the same respect and attention as the print magazine?

Oh, greater. Infinitely. Doing the stuff online was originally supposed to be a fallback plan - like 'well, let's just go on the internet until we get the money to come back as a print mag'. And then, it turns out, the web is just a so much better way to reach people. Having spent almost a decade in print, I can tell you that it's frustrating to wait six to eight weeks for that magazine to suddenly be in the hands of the people on the street. Aside from the fact that paper prices are insane and we're a specialty magazine - a specialty best translates on the internet. Think about it, you can find any fetish or any arena of film or pop culture or whatever. You can find a group dedicated to it. I think that's why Film Threat translated so well on the internet. We were one of the first out there, and we've gone through about four incarnations of the website.

But the experience of distributing the movies in the early '90s through the magazine is what led us to doing [Film Threat DVD and joining the Indie Force Coalition]. I was frustrated at seeing a lot of films at film festivals that weren't getting distribution, that weren't getting seen. And it occurred to me that if Kevin Smith made CLERKS today, he wouldn't get picked up by Miramax for a million dollars. You know what I mean? Through that frustration, I decided, you know, I should put my money where my mouth is and help filmmakers get their movies distributed.

What do you look for specifically in a movie for the Film Threat DVD line?

Well, it has to have a hook in order to sell it. What I mean is, we have our title, the JAR JAR BINKS: THE F! TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY. Well that has a hook because it's of course related to STAR WARS, and there are STAR WARS fans that will buy anything that is STAR WARS related - heck, look at EPISODE I and EPISODE II. [laughs]

Nice to see you get a quick personal canard in there!

[laughs] Yeah, right. Just as a quick aside - the worst part of those films is how simultaneously awful and great they both are. There are really great, kick-ass cool concepts and there's stuff that's just god-awful. So, what are you going to do? That's why I think Lucas works better in groups that don't blindly say 'yes' to all his ideas. Unfortunately, that's all we have right now - folks that blindly say 'yes'.

Anyway, bottom line - just something that can sell. We did a documentary called STAR WOIDS, about the fans who stood in line for EPISODE I. That was our test. We launched this website to promote the line of DVDs and also promote our services to filmmakers. It's kind of a unique business model - there's a lot of information about it on the website.

Basically, what we do is we don't get the rights to the movies. What we do is partner with the filmmakers to help them sell as many copies of their films themselves. So it's basically self-distribution with a marketing partner. So we help filmmakers make the right decisions about how to sell their movies, and then we offer them a place to sell them. So that's sort of how that goes. We try to keep it a real simple deal. And that's it. We're looking for stuff that's unique. Being part of the coalition just gives us - it's definitely in line of the way I like to do things, which is very DIY guerrilla style. And I think that's how these films need to be sold.

The challenge over the next year is to try and break these big corporate conglomerates, the Best-Buys and the Blockbusters and get our films into these chain stores. Right now, we're doing okay with the Mom and Pops - but reaching them is the easy part, we just let them know we exist. The chain stores are where the real challenges lie. And that's where we rely on our Film Threat readers to buy the stuff on line. You know, so we count on them for that.

What do you think about the current state of indie filmmaking?

When it comes to independent film - look, if an independent filmmaker can sell a few thousand copies of their movie that's great. But independent filmmakers at that level are never going to make a lot of money. And it shouldn't be about making money. It should be, at that point, about launching a career. Just like going on the festival circuit, you're not going to make money on the festival circuit, but what's going to happen is you're going to begin your career in film. People are going to learn who you are. Just like putting your movie out on DVD. Putting your movie out on DVD is like 'here's a resume piece for me'. If you make a little bit of money back, great. But let's face it, at that level, if you're selling less than 5000 copies of a DVD, you're not making bank. The marketing costs of that DVD is what makes the movie so costly. You've got to buy ads in all the catalogs and national pubs, do a lot of promotion and marketing. We kind of combine that into one group - we're basically saying here's a group of independent filmmakers that normally would self-distribute their movies. I'm saying to all the filmmakers out there who are thinking of self-distribution: don't do it. We make it cheap for you to do it because we combine our resources, we give you free advertising and we act as a coalition of filmmakers who have come together to say 'hey, we have made films of note.' We try to sell the libraries as much as we try to sell the individual titles.

Also, I think that filmmakers should think about making films, not distributing their movies. Otherwise you're going to spend the next two years of your life trying to squeeze as much money out of your movie as possible. And believe me, you won't get rich out of it. You might make back the money you spent. And if you worked a manager position in a fast food place you might even make more. I think that if you want to have a career in film, you have to be willing to move on. You have to be able to say 'okay, next project.' And don't even think about trying to make money. You should look at it as gravy if it makes a little something.

Most of the filmmakers who have signed with us realize that. They just want to get their films into the right hands. They say "I want people to see these films. I want some recognition and some note for what I've done."

And we also don't just accept every film on the planet. We're very selective about the films we decide to release, because we have to put our name on it. So just by us releasing the film, it's sort of a vote of confidence. And we hope that people will see that every film we release is of a high level of quality.

I think that - I've said this before on the Film Threat site - it's extremely difficult to be a filmmaker, because you really have to master balancing two parts of your brain. One, you have to be incredibly creative to succeed as a filmmaker. Additionally, you have to be very business-savvy. Usually, these two skills are never found in one person. You usually get saddled with one or the other. Most filmmakers tend to be of the creative types. And those people aren't particularly good at business, which screws them at the end. Then you get the filmmakers who are good at business, who make mediocre films, who succeed in spite of how bad their work is. Point to a lot of people in Hollywood. To be a masterful filmmaker, you have to balance the creative side with the business side.

Any chance we'll see some of the old FT movies come back around on DVD?

I'm actually releasing my own film, RED, through Film Threat DVD. And that's going to come out in a real kick-ass special edition. That's kind of the movie that won't go away, that haunts me forever. It was just a short I made back in '91, '92, and I just fell out of filmmaking forever. Because, quite frankly, I had a kid. My girlfriend at the time, now wife, got pregnant, so I dropped the whole bohemian lifestyle of a struggling, starving, broke, independent filmmaker and remained responsible in the corporate world doing Film Threat magazine. More recently I've been planning my escape because now my kids are at an age where they'd rather do crap by themselves.

Which brings us to your new feature film.

Yeah. [What happened was] I wrote a couple of scripts over the last five years - none of which have sold but a couple of which have almost sold. And I got really frustrated, thinking 'man, I see the movies that get made - I can tell you my screenplays are better than a lot of crap I see get produced.' The only way I'm going to make it as a filmmaker is if I produce the stuff myself. So I vowed that the next script I wrote, I would produce, which ended up being this film, MY BIG FAT INDEPENDENT MOVIE. It's a spoof movie, like SCARY MOVIE, NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE, and it spoofs not just a lot of familiar independent films, but also the independent film world. We wrapped shooting last month, shooting during the entire month of October, and now we're in post and we will be for the next four months. I hope to premiere it at a film festival in March of 2004.

The Indie Force titles are available for purchase through www.b-movie.com
For more information about Film Threat DVD visit www.filmthreatdvd.com
For more information about Chris Gore head over to www.chrisgore.com

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