Greetings, readers. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a native of Buffalo, New York — the Nickel City, The Queen City, That Place Where President McKinley Got Shot, whatever you want to call it. So I am beyond psyched to be able to bring you the news of an upcoming Horror-oriented film festival, right in my own home town. I’d interviewed Greg Lamberson before, and was very pleased he agreed to answer my questions once more, and thanks as well to Emil J. Novak for also consenting to be interviewed. I had a few issues thinking up questions, but with the help of fellow ‘Sprayer Zach S., I was able to “wing” it. Ahahaha.
First of all, I’d like to thank you both for agreeing to this interview. The Blood Sprayer prides itself on being on the cutting-edge (pun intended) of what’s going on in the horror industry and community, and BUFFALO SCREAMS is already promising to be the sort of thing we all love.
To begin, would you both be kind enough to introduce yourselves?
GL: I’m Greg Lamberson and you’re not. I grew up in Fredonia, an hour south of Buffalo, and spent 21 years in NYC before moving back here. I’ve had three horror novels published – JOHNNY GRUESOME, PERSONAL DEMONS, THE FRENZY WAY – and one filmmaking book – CHEAP SCARES: LOW BUDGET HORROR FILMMAKERS SHARE THEIR SECRETS – and I’ve written and directed four low budget horror films, including the original SLIME CITY and the new sequel, SLIME CITY MASSACRE. I also had a hand in I WAS A TEENAGE ZOMBIE and BRAIN DAMAGE. So I’m not some schmuck who just wants to make a buck off some desperate indie filmmakers and bored locals – I’m a schmuck who really loves horror.
EN: My name is Emil J. Novak Sr. I was born in Trenton NJ. I moved to Buffalo in 1967. I have been a comic Book retailer since 1969. Along the way I’ve worked freelance in the comics biz since and have always been a sequential-style artist, which allowed me to transition easily into making movies. I have produced and worked on 10+ features since 2004 and I’m currently in the later stages of shooting DECAYED. Some of my other features are TESLA THE ACCUMULATOR (SF), BANSHEE, and SOMETHING DARK. I grew up watching good old fashion spooky-horror movies and I love that aspect of this genre best.
Why emphasize Buffalo, NY? Why not do a film festival showcasing the horror contributions of the entire state?
GL: The festival is called “Buffalo Screams” because it’s set in Buffalo, but we’re not at all limited to films made in Buffalo, WNY, NYS or even the USA. We plan to showcase films from all over. This year, half of our categories are regional, half are not. We know a lot of local filmmakers who have done quality work, and we want to provide them with a more professional showcase than they may be used to.
EN: We decided to go with “Buffalo” in the festival name because Buffalo actually does scream, it screams for an official horror film festival. Being an old “rust-belt” city, it has its own kind of darkness that permeates the city and its suburbs, influencing the scene. As the festival came together we wanted to mix solid submissions with some local color. The local movie scene in town produces a lot of good horror product, so why not throw some of our support that way?
Now, I’ll admit, I’ve been a resident of the Buffalo area my entire life, and I consider myself something of a horror fan, but I was never aware of all that the Nickel City had to offer in terms of horror! Do you find this sort of lack of awareness to be common?
GL: Yes and no. I’ve had a decent amount of press here, but there’s also a lot of artistic discrimination. BUFFALO SPREE has never even acknowledged one of my press releases, let alone shown any interest in my work. But the BUFFALO NEWS and ARTVOICE have been kind to me, and I’ve written about the local horror scene for ARTVOICE on occasion. One of our goals is to unite the horror fans in the area and to create a special event they’ll look forward to every year.
EN: Considering how busy the local horror producers are, you’d expect a lot more press in Buffalo. What I’ve noticed from my local endeavors with movie fans, groups and societies is a blatant disrespect for horror. It gets a bad rap for all the mindless horror that’s made; it kind of gets all balled up under one header known as “horror”; and the quality has a hard time reaching the surface. I tell folks I’m a movie-maker first off and I choose to work in horror because genre producers at least want to work, whereas complainers don’t make movies. Artists like Greg and myself just want to stay busy and be creative.
BUFFALO SCREAMS is very clearly a celebration of independent filmmaking; you are both independent filmmakers, and it seems like most, if not all, of the horror films made in Buffalo since THE BURNING in 1981 have been free from the tethers of the studio system. Do you think there’s something about Buffalo that fosters this independence?
GL: Yes, desperation! No one is financing studio films here. Keanu Reeves comes to town for 2 weeks and it’s a big deal. For those of us who want to make movies, we have no choice but to make them outside of the system. It’s hard work, very challenging, with few rewards. We do it because we love it, but also because there’s something inside us that won’t allow us to follow common sense and stop.
EN: Yeah, I’m a full time, hard working movie producer. I’ve stated some facts earlier in this interview. Greg and myself do see some maturation the work of some of the local producers, which is expected. It’s an addictive hobby/business which I’ll be doing until I’m pushing up daisies.
How did you two get involved together in bringing about BUFFALO SCREAMS?
GL: We’ve known each other as indie filmmakers for several years now, and Emil worked on my latest film, SLIME CITY MASSACRE. We know the same area filmmakers, and we’ve crossed paths with the same bullshit artists. We’re similar ages and have similar reference points. We collaborated on “Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Day” for the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival (along with several other volunteers) and did a great job, if I say so myself. It was the best day of that festival, and sure enough, the next year they got rid of that theme day. Horror fans don’t get any respect in this town – but they will now.
EN: One day back in 2004 Greg was in my retail business and I was talking about some movie making business to someone. Greg turns his head to my son as asks, “Is he a movie-maker?” and the rest is history. We like well done horror; blood and gore is fine as long as it works in its narrative. And we do seem to work well together and respect each other’s styles and interests.
What inspired you to organize BUFFALO SCREAMS?
GL: With all the horror films being made here, and the turnout we’ve seen at other horror events, we both want to see an annual event that will grow each year and draw attention to the area. There have been a few noble attempts, and then the next year, nothing. If we can pull all of the elements together to complete motion pictures for very little money, we can put on a good show and make it work. We have big plans.
EN: We decided to bring attention to Buffalo and the local scene, and along the way show our dedication to independent movie-makers and promote ourselves as well. Everyone needs a good spokesman for WNY horror, why not let it be us!
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of organizing this festival?
GL: A film festival is only as good as the films it shows. Films, films, films. Next year, we’ll be part of Without a Box, a service which notifies filmmakers about festivals. This year, we just want to get ourselves off on the right foot. So getting the word out to filmmakers that we’re a serious minded horror festival 2 ½ hours from Toronto, and not a fly by night event just for our own amusement, is the challenge right now.
EN: So far the challenges have not been daunting, but it will get hectic by the end of August. Though I firmly believe our experience and professionalism is making things go smoother than expected.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of organizing this festival?
GL: I’ve had the privilege of being a guest at the Beloit International Film Festival in Wisconsin, and both times at least 100 filmmakers visited, and they unanimously praised the festival as being the best they’d attended because of the way the organizers, volunteers, and city welcomed them. That’s my goal for this festival, and I guarantee that when filmmakers who attend this year spread the word about the experience they have here, we’ll be bombarded in submissions next year. I’ve already had filmmakers stay in touch with me because of BNFF from a couple of years ago, so I know we can deliver.
EN: Being able to see a full house with fans of the same interests all together under the same roof. It really gives one goose flesh! And seeing your work on the silver screen is also exciting and thought provoking.
Is there anything you can tell us at this early stage regarding what will be screening?
GL: No! I can say that we agree on what our kickoff film should be, and I’ve already seen two new features I like. Emil’s actually been in production on a film the last two weeks, so we’re going to start finalizing some things now. I’ve always enjoyed programming – I scheduled triple features at Two Boots Video’s Den of Cin lounge in NYC, and I programmed several successful midnight shows at the Amherst Theatre here in town, so I’m really looking forward to putting together a unique program.
EN: Nothing in-house yet, though I am expecting some interesting submissions from the north east, from Philly to Montreal, Canada.
What has you most excited about BUFFALO SCREAMS?
GL: Honestly, the future. There are a number of film festivals in Buffalo, some good, some bad, but I think we can really leave a mark on this city. I suspect that in a couple of years the BUFFALO SCREAMS name will really mean something to genre fans.
EN: I’m excited to see the festival grow from year to year, and the doors it opens for all those who submit. And of course make new connections and make more horror movies. Sleep? Who needs it when buckets of blood need stirring?
I’d like to once again thank Greg Lamberson and Emil Novak for taking the time to answer my questions, and urge you to check out the BUFFALO SCREAMS website. And I hope to see all of you at BUFFALO SCREAMS, October 21st through the 24th, at The Screening Room in Amherst, NY (a suburb of Buffalo)! Do your part to make this a success! Buffalo rocks. Buffalo bleeds. Buffalo SCREAMS!