Opinions are not right or wrong. They are the way one person sees things as compared to another. Because of this a lot of times opinions differ.That very basic explanation leads into the heart of this article.
Recently, Blood Sprayer writer Zach S. reviewed a film called Deadlands: The Rising, you can read that review here. Zach is always one to give a detailed review no matter how much he likes or dislikes a film, and that’s what we love about him. He’s not just some jerk saying “It sucked” he spells out why it didn’t do it for him, and the readers as well as our staff appreciate that. Zach didn’t enjoy Deadlands: The Rising and wrote in his Zach way what he didn’t like about it mixing humor into his review which is what Zach does best. Let’s not mince words, he was being a smart-ass, but a very witty smart-ass, and the review made me laugh out loud more than once.
This latest review caught the attention of the films director, Gary Ugarek. If you scroll down to the comments at the end you can see he even responded to it. In this day and age of epic typed battles on the interwebz it is rare to see someone respond to criticism with anything but fighting words . Ugarek’s response really impressed me, and the other powers that be here at The Blood Sprayer. I decided there was only one way we could further dignify his decency, and that was to let him comment on his own film and about our review.
One thing I want to make clear, we stand behind Zach’s review because it is his opinion and is neither right nor wrong. I can’t admit I’ve seen the film so I can’t even tell you how I feel about it. There are a million scathing reviews of a million low budget movies out there, this is but one of them. We here at The Blood Sprayer wholeheartedly support Independent Filmmakers, in fact a few of us here want to be filmmakers so it wouldn’t make sense for us not to. We want everyone to have a voice, and if it means sending us a “rebuttal” of their review then so be it. It may not change anybody’s thoughts on the film, maybe some people still go on hating it, however it does give you a voice and a face to put with the film. With that said I would like to post Ugarek’s response via email about the review, and about his film in general. We really appreciate him taking the time to send us such an eloquent response.
Gary Ugarek’s Email:
As a filmmaker you can choose which road to take when it comes to people reviewing your films. You can be ignorant and not worry about what people think, or you can learn from your mistakes and read every single review. I don’t think any filmmaker would disagree with me when I say seeing your name in print or having your films talk about is a bad thing, even if the review is bad. I think down deep inside we are all as Kevin Smith says, “Press Whores”, but for me I like to read the reviews to learn whether or not the film reviewer actually paid attention during the film or by his writing style whether or not he/she personally cannot deal with films that have budgets that are below say $1,000,000. For the horror genre, $1,000,000 is considered large budget.
So after returning from a filmmaking panel in Baltimore on Friday May 28th 2010, I find a new email message from a friend with a review from Deadlands 1 aka Deadlands: The Rising. The folks at BloodSprayer.com delved into my first feature film and from what I could tell pretty much hated it. I actually think the review is about on par with the review from Bloody-Disgusting.com which pretty much shredded the movie.
Now I could have been a dick and pretty much jumped n the comment board and lashed out at them, which probably 3-4 years ago when the movie came out would have been my likely course of action but instead as I have shot and released two feature films as well as worked on many short films and web series I have learned to just be more gracious in the fact they took the time to watch it, write about it and therefore giving me more press, even bad press can be good press.
In terms of the review, I think some of what was stated was pretty fair. It was our first attempt at making a movie and when we all decided to do this I had no prior working knowledge of the DC/Baltimore indie film scene so I did what Uncle George Romero did with his first outing… I grabbed a bunch of friends and set out to make a movie. Which in lies some irony because between 2003 and 2004 I was able to work on Two Romero related films. I did a lot of BTS (Behind the Scenes) reporting on the DAWN of the DEAD remake in 2003 for my online website, www.wetnwildradio.com and that led to playing a Zombie in Land of the Dead in 2004, those two experiences plus watching coutnless other low budget zombies films made me finally want to go out and live my dream and that was to direct a movie.
Anyway, I made my comment, thanking them and moved on. I go to sleep, wake up and find an email from the folks at BloodSprayer.com allowing me to write an article and tell the audience and visitors to the site my thoughts and side of things. I thought about it for a minute, got me some coffee and then replied, “sure… why the hell not.” More press, doesn’t hurt especially when we are about to start Deadlands 3 next year and already have two major studio’s vying to get their grubby hands on it.
Now the reviewer did get some things incorrect. The throat tear gore scene actually occurs during the films traffic jam. Deadlands 1 is a sort of love letter to the genre. He also did mention a few other things, but nothing worth nit-picking about… except the throat tear scene. =) That one sort of irked me I will admit.
Now when it came to Deadlands 1 I had three simple goals I wanted to achieve.
Goal #1 – it had to be epic. I didn’t want to stick to backyard filmmaking I wanted to go above and beyond what most people do with their small budgets, and with Deadlands 1 we had just shy of $11,000 USD. I sat through many a low budget zombie flick and the filmmakers waste too much money on excessive amounts of gore that actually tend to dumb down the experience. Leave the gore to Savini and Romero. They did it best and in my eyes with Low budget filmmaking it is a great motto to live by when I say… Less is More. It is not the amount of blood on the screen it is the visceral nature of the kill. This actually proved very true during screenings of the movie at film fests and other venues. People gasp and cheer at throat rip scene. So… MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
Goal #2 – Had to have an evacuation traffic jam massacre scene – Something not even done in large budget zombie films, I wanted to get this into the mix.
Goal #3 – Have fun.
Now in my eyes at the time the film was finished we seemed to have accomplished every single goal. I had no prior experience in filmmaking, other than playing a zombie, but I said screw it if Uncle George could do it so could I. I learned editing, and some other filmmaking tools on the fly. When it comes to the music, I already have some experience in that realm so making a score that was heavily synth driven was easy for me, and quite fun.
The score for my films both Deadlands 1 & 2 seem to get a lot of attention, in fact my co-composer and producer from Deadlands 1 dubbed my Carpenter Jr. because he thought, as did many reviewers my scores were similar to John Carpenters stuff. I usually just smile and laugh about it, but so many reviews have mentioned it is now my sole focus to only use synth driven scores in all my films.
Was Deadlands 1 trial and error filmmaking? You bet your ass it was.
We basically took a small outline and then morphed it into a screenplay. The actual screenplay for Deadlands 1 is what became Deadlands 2: Trapped, which really has nothing to do with the first film, it is simply just a second entry in my Deadlands series. The only difference is I re-tweaked that screenplay to add in the government conspiracies.
As a filmmaker you can use Deadlands 1 to learn what you can do and what you can’t do with $10,000. One lesson I learned, and strictly live by, is never to act in my films again, only bit cameos where I walk past the camera. Don’t ever try to direct yourself in a movie your first time out. You spend more time trying to cut around your performance in order to make the project work. Deadlands 1 also shows that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish something big. How many super mow budget films get to close down a 4 lane road and jam it with 100 cars and have a 100 zombie run amok eating their way through the motorists… until Deadlands 1 I don’t know of any… and as I noted I watch a lot of low budget zombie films. We also did something other indies don’t do much off… use dollies and cranes. You have to be resourceful when making a movie. I feel Deadlands 1 can teach to learn how to stretch a dollar out of a penny. (I recommend checking out the commentary, something I am not sure the reviewer did, but I could be wrong. he didn’t mention it in his review.)
Deadlands 1 is rough, I am even planning to do a complete overhaul of the edit very soon and re-release it. I have even talked with Brian and we talked about doing some re-shoots of certain scenes to clean it up, but I then thought… FUCK IT, I will use the material I have I will just re-cut it and re-shape it a bit more to see if I can try and fix a lot of what is wrong with it. However, as I noted in my comment on the site… I am still very proud of that film. it has accomplished a lot of things.
Deadlands 1 is probably one of the better known lower budget zombie films, and that sheer knowledge and exposure has only helped me gain more acceptance within the filmmaking community. It has remained TEMPE ENTERTAINMENTS Best Selling Zombie DVD ever released since it was released and if you google the title, the sheer amount of hits you get back is staggering. Filmmakers want exposure, and that is what i consider good exposure. Now does that mean the film is good or bad… that is up to the individual viewer. Put it in context of what you’re looking at. Obviously it is a shot on video film, so you sort of have to break yourself off of the polished big budget filmmaking you’re used too in order to get into a film like this, but if you’re a true zombie fan you should enjoy the movie even without its flaws.
Be warned it does take 26 minutes for the first zombie to appear, but I had to try and set a tone as the world began shutting down. It didn’t quite work out as I had planned, but I think if you pay close attention and think about zombie apocalypse scenarios, it should play out pretty nicely once you set your mind to the tone and pace. (This is just my advice)
Anyhoo, I am glad I had the chance to write a little something about the review. I hope the guys at BloodSprayer will give Deadlands 2 a chance. I feel it is a much better movie and more on par with what i wanted too accomplish when i made Deadlands 1, but int he end I can only be grateful that the people are giving the film a look.
Anyway, best wishes and I hope you guys check out the other stuff I have worked on
DEADLANDS: The Rising
DEADLANDS 2: TRAPPED
Once again a huge thanks to Gary Ugarek for taking the time to respond to us. And in the future, please feel free to send us anything related to past or future endeavors, we’d be happy to give you more press, good or bad 🙂