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Guest Interview!

My friend and cohort, Zach Owen, recently contributed this pretty cool interview to the Useless Critic with director/writer Greg Lamberson. Check it out! 

What originally attracted you to filmmaking?

Greg:  When I was four years old, I was obsessed with comic books and cartoons, like all kids are. But I just never grew out of it. The other kids got into baseball and things like that, but I just got into a deeper and deeper love of movies.

Who are your greatest influences (for filmmaking)?
 Greg:  I’ve always liked monsters, dating back to my childhood. I have always enjoyed Hammer films and Roger Corman movies, which were syndicated to my local TV stations back in the days before cable anmd home video. George Romero certainly influenced me, he was a real rebel at that time, with DAWN OF THE DEAD and MARTIN. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had a huge impact on me. He's perceived differently now because the mainstream acknowledges him. But he was a big deal back in the day, a  true cult filmmaker.

How has illegal downloading impacted your work?

Greg:  Well now, more than ever, it certainly has. Literally a day does not go by when Google Alerts doesn’t notify me of at least two different places that are offering my new film as a torrent. The negative side is that the film will probably never break even and never make a profit. Big studio films get released, even if they are pirated, they are still going to gain a certain amount of revenue and cables sales. Independent filmmakers take so long to get a film made and distributed that when the pirates hit, most of the audience has already downloaded the film illegally. The positive side of the internet is that Playstation Network and Xbox Zune allow people to download SCM (Slime City Massacre) for  three dollars. The general belief today is that the only way for micro-indie filmmakers to make money now is to do a film for less than $5,000, and I don’t want to make films for that amount of money. I’m working on a script right now for Debbie Rochon to star in, but can’t go to investors with a straight face and say ‘Here’s why you should invest in my films.’

Certainly no more than five publishers ever mentioned Slime City when it first came out. But the internet now allows an awareness for products.  If you Google the film now, 100 reviews will pop up, most of them positive.

Which film in your filmography are you most satisfied with?

Greg:  Slime City Massacre. It was the first time that I set foot on a set and knew exactly what I wanted, what I was doing, and how to get it. The best way to learn filmmaking is to learn from your own mistakes; you fix those mistakes as best as you can, and never make them again. I was able to work with the actors a lot more on SCM, instead of just letting them do the best they could on their own. I was able to work with them to hone the scenes.  That's really what directing should be.

What originally attracted you to writing?                  

Greg:  I don’t really see huge difference between being a filmmaker and a novelist. Obviously one is about a team effort, and one is a solo effort. But telling a story is still telling a story. I got frustrated by the fact that the market was changing as far as independent horror films went. At one time, distributors were hungry for product and it paid decent money for homegrown efforts. But the market crashed and distributors stopped paying advances for those films.  I started making my films for lower budgets instead of larger budgets, and that’s not the trend you want. After my third film, Naked Fear, which had a lot of post production problems, I decided to go into novel writing. I didn’t want to tell stories that were limited by budget. Writing novels allows me to tell the equivalent of big budget movies, which is what I want to do.

I’ve done four films of my own since 1986. I’m actually able to make a slight living as a novelist, where as a filmmaker it’s always been a labor of love.  I'm writing my tenth book since 2004, and I've sold all of them.  Publishers pay me to write for them, but when I make a movie there's no money in the budget to pay myself.

 What was the process for producing a text book like (Cheap Scares)?

Greg:  It’s the most work any of my books have needed.  It runs 100,000 words; typically 'how to' books run about 50,000 words, so it’s like two books in one. One is based on my experiences, the other is a how to book featuring lengthy interviews with filmmakers, distributors, and marketing execs. I conducted the interviews over the phone, recorded them, then painstakingly transcribed them, and when I learned the book would be too long I had to cut them in half anyhow. That is a book I’m proud of, I get fairly frequent emails from people who said that it was a big help to them, which was the goal.

Has the invention of kindle, e-books, and online sales positively or negatively impacted your written works?

Greg:  It’s a big change for the industry right now. I have not seen a huge change with regards to my work. I am fortunate my books are published, which is what I prefer. My books are always available in print, and for kindle and as audio books. I have author friends whose works have not only been saved by ebooks but took off because of them. It’s pretty impressive to see. My publisher is heading more and more in that direction. I’m working on a project that is about incorporating all kinds of cutting edge technology into what would be solely and e-book.

many thanks to both Zach and Greg! 


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