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Smash or Trash: Robert Long II Cracks Open the Indie Industry PDF Print E-mail
Written by Written by Joe Sherlock   
Apr 22, 2005 at 02:00 AM
DG: Who is Robert Long II in a nutshell?

Robert: Wow! Always the tough question. Well, I'm a busy graphic designer in Hollywood, California that has been fortunate enough in one form or another to have been involved in the entertainment business for the last 15 to 20 years (in many different capacities). I LOVE working on independent films, and it is my passion on my off hours.

DG: I know you are a big Phantasm fan and I'm jealous of you having met and talked to Phantasm creator Don Coscarelli. How did you become a fan of the movies and how did you come to meet Don?

Robert: Don is a great guy. I became aware of "Phantasm" back in 1979, but didn't get to watch it until 1983, when it came out on video. Well, I watched it and was hooked. Strangely enough, I put it in with other movies like "The Phantom of the Paradise" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." I know that must sound bizarre, but those three movies have a certain flavor of the 1970s that I love. Of course I also enjoyed the other Phantasm movies, and awhile back I got in touch with Reggie Bannister at a convention. Things snowballed and I got to meet and be on good terms with Don. I did up the limited-edition 20th anniversay poster for Phantasm (with his okay), got to be on set for a couple of days to work as an extra on Bubba Ho Tep (yes, I am visible on the screen!), and through this association and the association of his Phantastic cast and crew I have a nice collection of Phantasm memories and experiences. You haven't lived until you have sat down for a public lunch with a small group including Don and the Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm. The stares we got! LOL!

DG: I know you've met with and have done a bit of work for another Don, Don Dohler, a personal favorite monster moviemaker of mine. Tell me about meeting him and how you've been able to work with him.

Robert: Well, Don is very much DA MAN to anyone that grew up in the late 1970s to mid 1980s who were trying to make backyard fantasy, sci-fi, or horror movies. He was the creator of "Cinemagic" magazine, which was a superb how-to guide for budding filmmakers. Don also practiced what he preached and made movies, which inspired all of us even more. His movies, while done on modest budgets, were seen on television as well as being released and available at video stores. I think we all wanted to do that, and Don showed us that it was possible. Maybe two years ago I found out that Don, who had gone on hiatus from filmmaking for several years, was back in the saddle and producing movies again with Director Joe Ripple for Timewarp Films. I contacted them immediately via their website. I offered to do some artwork for them, and did up a little poster of caricatures of their cast and crew (it is an Easter egg on their site). Well, I think Don and Joe and the rest could see the whole-hearted sincerity and enthusiasm I have for Timewarp Films; over time we've become friends. Last year I met Don and the others in person, and I am extremely honored to be able to do some graphic design for their projects. Don Dohler is a super guy, a very kind and gracious man, and the talented people he works with are the best.

DG: I hear you might move to Baltimore?

Robert: That is correct. Some people think that the only place you can make movies is Hollywood; not so. Texas, Oregon, Iowa - you name it. Thanks to technology people can now do their projects from anywhere. Don Dohler has been making movies for years in Baltimore. Maryland has a nice independent film community that has been active. Timewarp Films, Marauder Productions, and a few others are there. John Waters did several of his movies in the area too. Plus, it is a beautiful part of the country, and I would not mind buying a house and starting a family there. Los Angeles can be a very rough town, and very expensive as well. Therefore, why not move to a big - but not huge - city, get the day job going, settle into an affordable house, and shoot indie movies on the weekend? Sounds like a plan to me.

DG: You are currently finishing up work on a book, "Smash or Trash Independent Film-Making." Tell us all about it!

Robert: Actually I just got back from a book publisher's convention to learn more about what I need to do for the book. It is amazing how much the publishing industry is similar to movie making; you're trying to tell a story and trying to get it distributed. So - the book is about common sense how-to independent filmmaking. Budget-wise, we are focusing on movies that are made for roughly $100,000 or less. The genres discussed are mostly horror, sci-fi, and fantasy...but the information is such that it could be used for dramas, documentaries, kid movies...whatever. We have interviewed over 20 people in the indie business, including such names as Tom Sullivan (Evil Dead, Fly II), George Stover (Desperate Living, Blood Massacre), Donald F. Glut (Dinosaur Valley Girls, Countess Dracula's Orgy of Blood), Don Dohler (Fiend, Harvesters, Stakes), Kevin Kangas (Hunting Humans, Fear of Clowns)...the list goes on. Tremendously talented producers, directors, actors and actresses, makeup artists, stunt performers, sound engineers, post production artists sharing their knowledge and experiences so as to help others make better modest budget films. It's just a great set of experiences (including mistakes made while shooting and the lessons learned from them) and superb advice. We are very hard at work on it, and HOPEFULLY it will come together by sometime this summer. Fingers are crossed.

DG: After you began work on the book, you found a great partner in Leanna Charmish, a vet of many TimeWarp Films productions like Harvesters, Stakes and Vampire Sisters. How has she been able to help with the book?

Robert: She has been incredible on this project! I was so lucky to have Leanna as a partner for this. I contacted her a while back to be interviewed for the book (at the time I was going to do it alone). Well, we hit it off and became friends, and I was so stunned at her professionalism, talent, and knowledge that I asked if she would like to come on board as a co-author. To my very good fortune she accepted. I want to stress that while the book was initially my creation, she has been in the trenches doing just as much work on it (sometimes I feel more so) as I am. She is handling several of the more technical chapters in the book, as her background has been heavily involved in audio, video, and post-production. We are both bringing our strengths about the business to the book, and helping each other out with the other subject matters we have to tackle. Leanna has also helped me with the interviews. We actually did one together last summer when we talked to filmmaker John Bowker. It was great fun and John was an absolute blast to talk to; superb interview. Bottom line? Leanna's the best and she's doing a great job on the book.

DG: I hear that she has already tackled a chapter on audio, along with some input from other folks. What other topics can we expect for chapters, besides interviews with low-budget moviemakers?

Robert: We are trying to tackle everything in this book, which is not an easy task. You're talking about everything from story ideas to distribution of a movie to the wrap party. There are several books on movie-making (and for those of you interested in that, I suggest you have a library of these books at home to resource from) and we hope ours is different with a very common sense approach to indie movie making. We talk about stunts, casting, props, makeup, equipment, craft services, permits, product placement, sets, locations...it goes on and on. I don't think we left anything out!

DG: Tell me about your involvement with the entertainment industry? What kind of projects and productions have you worked on?

Robert: Again, I have been involved in almost all aspects of the industry, mostly behind the scenes. Storyboarding, title design, props (I supplied props for Universal's Crossing Jordan, and for Timewarp Film's upcoming project), 3D animation, miniatures, assistant video editor, still photographer, special effects, voice over artist, actor (though not great - sbelieve me), promotional designer, and so on...geez, I sound like a brag book! But you have to keep in mind that I have been in the business in one form or the other since as early as 1988. This includes working with television, radio, print, and the movie industry. Celebrities Adam West, Julie Newmar, and Angus Scrimm have had some private art assignments done by me. I have even done specialized projects for Disney, Warner Bros, and Universal as well.

DG: What else can we look forward to from Robert Long II?

Robert: Well, I have been working on two scripts which I hope to shop around or shoot within the next couple of years. One of them is hopefully a vehicle for Leanna as she is a damn good actress and I want her as the lead in the movie. There is the move to Baltimore (anyone there need a graphic designer?), finishing the book and getting it distributed, working on other people's independent projects...and maybe slowing down just enough to meet someone and start a family. The plate is pretty full. :-)

DG: Hey - thanks a bunch, Robert and best of luck with everything.

Robert: Hey! Thanks for having me here! It's been a pleasure.

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