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AICN HORROR SDCC 2013 Q&@: Ambush Bug talks with the guys responsible for all of those awesome The Scream Factory BluRay re-releases, Jeff Nelson and Cliff McMillan!

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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Q’s by Ambush Bug!

@’s by The Scream Factory’s
Jeff Nelson and Cliff McMillan!!!

Ambush Bug here with another interview from the showroom floor of this year’s San Diego Comic Con. This is one of those interviews that’s a little different from the norm, but one I was looking forward to since I have been such a fan of these guys’ painstaking work, and you should be too. Over the last year or two, The Scream Factory and The Shout Factory have rereleased some of the most comprehensive and beautifully retouched BluRays of such films as THE HOWLING, THE BURNING, THE FOG, LIFEFORCE, HALLOWEEN II, HALLOWEEN III: THE SEASON OF THE WITCH, SWAMP THING, and others. I had a chance to talk with Marketing Director Jeff Nelson and Cliff McMillan, Acquisitions and Productions, about how these guys continue to do some of the best BluRay rereleases you should all be owning (click on the images to find a link to my review of each of the films featured). Here’s what they had to say…

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): So I’m here with Jeff Nelson. What’s your role at Scream Factory?

JEFF NELSON (JN): Marketing Director.

BUG: And Cliff McMillan?

CLIFF MCMILLAN (CM): I’m Cliff McMillan, and I do acquisitions and production.

BUG: When I heard that you guys were here at Comic Con, I really did want to not only talk with Adrienne Barbeau and everything and some of the other people that you guys have lined up, but I also wanted to talk to the people behind the scenes. I’m really curious how this works, how you guys find the movies you re-release and that whole process. I think a lot of people are curious about that aspect of these re-releases and how you choose them, what do you use in them and everything. So what are your roles as far as how this is all put together?

JN: Well, I would say that I came out right off the bat, and we’ve tried to communicate this to our fan base, is that Cliff and I are fans of this stuff. We love this stuff. This is a labor of love. So we start there. When we get a list of titles or we have access to titles that we can get films from, we will scour them like “I like that one” or “fans have been requesting this one.” We take that into account and go from there. As far as roles are concerned, Cliff is a big driver. He’s the person who actually acquires the titles. He goes in to our heads at Shout Factory and there is a process, a projection process like sales process…it’s kind of boring, but you get the gist of what we think has potential and then we talk about the titles, fan bases, what hasn’t been released, what hasn’t been exploited, you know...

CM: Our acquisitions come to us in many different ways. There are independent producers of movies that approach us and the other is we have…Shout Factory has deals with all of the major studios for TV product, because that’s what Shout did really well when it started and to this day, releasing classic television or new television series. So we had ins at all the studios, so after we did the Roger Corman collection, which was about a year and half, then we started looking at the studios. I think the first one was Universal who agreed to talk to us, and they really didn’t want to sublicense. They had only sublicensed movies to Criterion, so we talked them into it. We showed them what we did with the Corman library and so they said “Okay, we will give it a shot.” It took over a year to do that deal. People were saying “Why are you putting HALLOWEEN 2 out? Universal already put it out.” When we sat down to talk to them, they had no plans of doing the movie and in that entire year they had put it out and that’s when our title came out, but they didn’t do any extras aside from put TERROR OF THE AISLES in there. So your first deal with Universal I think was nine titles or something like that.

JN: Yeah, and then we had a title from Fox, TERROR TRAIN, that was at the end of a deal at Fox and we wanted to do something with it and we were like “Well, let’s put that in so it beefs up that.” I think Scream got off to a very successful launch because we announced these nine or so titles right off the bat, like we came in thunderous. People were like “Oh my god, what do you mean? Not only do you have two HALLOWEENS and a John Carpenter movie with THEY LIVE, but you’re putting out DEADLY BLESSING, which has never been put out before from Wes Craven, and a couple of other stuff...” I think that got peoples’ attention very quickly. For me on the marketing end, I managed the Facebook page and the now Twitter page, but it was always my intention, and it has become it, to foster a horror convention mentality on Facebook, so fans who love going to horror conventions, that’s their thing but can’t go to them all of the time, well, on Scream Factory, at least on our Facebook page, we hope we get the kind of community in the sense of we’re talking about our titles, but we are also talking about horror titles, not just ours. We are talking with the fans and doing fun polls, because then it helps our titles, because you’ve got fans to a degree running the show putting them on a platform and seeing what they are. Not all the titles are everyone’s favorites, but boy every time we announce something people are like “I thought I was the only one who liked that one” and people are like “No, I do too.” It’s a fun process.

BUG: You mention DEADLY BLESSING and more recently you released THE BURNING, two films that are definitely cult classics, but I don’t think many people know about them as far as today’s people. How do you balance speaking to the fans and giving them what they want, but also trying to give something to those people who have never heard about that film before?

JN: That’s an interesting question. Here’s how I think we approach it. You have to make sure that your original fan base is satisfied first, and that’s where I think we go out of our way. If you are doing a collector’s edition of THE FOG, what can you do to make sure that a FOG fan who has seen this movie for thirty years is going to appreciate it? As far as new people to the table, we think that the positive response to these titles brings in those younger people that see the veterans of horror films buzzing around and they are like “what is this film?” We use newly designed art work on our collector’s edition, which sometimes has a comic book approach or a fun kind of fresh remixed feel to a classic.

BUG: I was going to ask you guys about the covers. Where do you guys find the artists, and where do you come up with the imagery?

CM: I’m a big fan of the Mondo posters that they do. I think that stuff is just great, and that was really where the inspiration came from. A lot of people were like “They just did what Arrow does over in the UK.” Well actually, that wasn’t even who I was thinking of at the time, it was Mondo, and I just started looking for artists that I really liked and thought were really talented and that’s how we got the slate of people that we use now.

JN: And we are bringing on some more, too. We’ve had artists contact us. We get a majority of positive on this stuff. We do have, I would say, five percent of people, hopefully less, that are just more vocal that no matter what new artwork we do, they’re just like “just stick with the original” and, you know, we give them that option.

CM: Studios don’t.

JN: Studios totally don’t, but we know that as fans ourselves, yes a new design attracts, it refreshes, it remixes the title so to speak, but on a reverse rack there’s an original poster with what you saw either on the video shelves or what you saw in the theater back in 1982 or whatever. That’s important to a collector.

BUG: And sometimes those old video releases had multiple covers as well. I’m thinking of THE BURNING, and I can think of almost three of them that they had, the shadow, the painted cover, a romance novel looking cover as well...

JN: Yeah, I mean, we try to keep as purists to that. Believe me, when we are getting the design and we are looking at it there are taglines and things where I’m like “Okay, you’ve got to keep it like this or fans are going to knock it.” We are very sensitive and the fans are very passionate and sensitive on it. I mean, these are movies that they love.

CM: I think some of the fans also scour the artwork when we put it up to find stuff. It was Q, somebody noticed that we had spelled something wrong on the current cover.

JN: But it was on the original poster that way, too. That’s the whole thing. There will be grammatical errors that a copywriter will try to change and it’s like “No, that’s how it was on the other poster. I know that’s not how it’s supposed to be, but let’s try to keep it here and see what happens.” I mean, we try our best to try and accommodate and make sure that at the end of the day when somebody is plunking down their twenty dollars or so for one of our BluRays that they are coming home and they are looking at it and they are enjoying it and displaying it.

BUG: If you are wanting to show somebody a complete example of the dedication you guys put into these, what disk do you give them, or what’s your favorite so far?

CM: Probably PHANTASM 2. I mean, I’m a huge fan of the whole series, and so that was one of the first titles that I wanted to get from Universal hands down. It was great. Don Coscarelli was wonderful to work with, and I think we did a lot of great extra features and we had all that footage that Greg Nicotero had shot on the set. That’s probably the one that I like the most.

JN: THE FOG, as I’ve motioned in other interviews, is my all-time favorite film of all time, not just horror film but all-time favorite. What I think our presentation brings to the table is not only is the picture the best that it’s ever looked, we had Dean Cundey, the original Director of Photography on the film, sit in on it. We took every extra that was on the prior MGM DVD release, we put that over, we added our own, we…

CM: We added stuff that wasn’t on their disk too, stuff that was on the laserdisc that wasn’t carried over to the MGM disk for some reason, so we added that.

JN: We have Jamie Leigh Curtis, a twenty minute candid interview with her, which no other company was able to get. She doesn’t just talk about THE FOG, she talks about PROM NIGHT and TERROR TRAIN and HALLOWEEN 2 and a whole bunch of other stuff, but there’s great commentary. I would say that THE FOG is a great example of what Scream Factory is all about, but I would have to say PHANTASM 2 is also good, but THEY LIVE was also an amazing a package. I’m looking at Cliff when I say that, because him and his DVD special features guys…at the end of the day, they’ve got to bring that content in to make the collector’s edition be gold.

CM: It is funny, and I sat in on a panel yesterday for the digital bits, and I was sitting there thinking about all of the other people that were on the panel, and they were all people that were producing PROMETHEUS or the new HUNGER GAMES, so they’re on the set and they are doing interviews. We don’t have it that lucky. You’re trying to find all of these people, a lot of people that have left the business or aren’t around anymore, and finding them and getting them to talk. It must be so nice to be working on a new movie and have access to all of these major stars.

BUG: Or even like passed away, like THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN and things like that.

CM: You know, ROLLING THUNDER is one of my favorite movies and I was able to put that out and we got freaking Tommy Lee Jones to sit down and do an interview and people are giving it one and a half stars for extras, and it’s like “What was I supposed to do? Dig up the director? He’s dead. What do you expect?” They put you in the same category as the major studios.

JN: Another thing to put out there too is, Cliff just said it, we are an independent studio. We do not own the films out right. We have to spend money to get them, so they are sort of like you’re in the black already. So you have to spend money on extra features, but there’s a budget that you have to adhere to and sometimes we have talent that even if you think “She hasn’t done a movie in forever,” she or he may ask for something more than we can afford and we can’t do it, so then when the release comes out people are scratching their heads like “I can’t believe they didn’t get so and so.” We are like “There’s a lot of behind the scenes…” There’s one thing that we like to communicate to the fans is that although we are not at liberty to fully disclose some of those behind the scenes, just know that there’s a lot of hoops to go through and a lot of hurdles to jump over for us to get these products out. I often laugh at Cliff when I’m looking at our row of BluRays of what we have done to date and I shake my head and I go “I can’t believe we pulled this off.” I mean, we both have to deal with a lot of challenges.

CM: I won’t say his name, but we had a director that actually showed up to do a commentary and sat down and said, “Just so you know, I really can’t talk about this movie.” And walked out and left and people are like “Why didn’t you have him do a commentary?” It’s like “We had him there…we can’t make somebody talk about a movie.”

>JN: But again, despite some hoops and hurdles that can some time make us go “Argh! What are we doing?” we have a strong love for this stuff and that’s what keeps us going.

BUG: It really feels like you’ve scoured every possible avenue to find stuff, like you said like laser discs and from VHS and possibly DVD special editions and stuff like that. What’s coming up for you guys over the next year? Can you reveal that here?

JN: Tonight at the panel we will be announcing about five or six new films that will be coming at the latter half of this year and 2014. We had originally wanted to announce like ten or fifteen titles tonight, but there were some deals on a table, studio’s names that we can’t disclose and independents that we can’t disclose where they don’t come in on time, so we cannot do it, but I know I speak for Cliff--we have an aggressive slate.

CM: Yeah, I mean if these deals come through, then our output next year is going to be huge. It’s just waiting on the studios. I mean, the studios are kind enough to offer us titles from their library, but it’s just a very long process.

BUG: I know you guys are busy getting ready to head back to the con. I was wondering--is there a film that’s your dream project to get your hands on?

CM: Jeff’s just got announced.

JN: The fact that I’m working on THE FOG, yeah. So to work on that, everything from here for me is really gravy. I will say, though, and thanks to Cliff for bringing this stuff in, DEADLY BLESSING was a personal favorite of mine. We have an upcoming slasher double feature called X-RAY and SCHIZOID, really cheesy films in the early eighties that have never been…they are really cheesy, but you know what? They are fun. I was excited about NINJA 3. There are some other titles we’ve just learned this week that PROM NIGHT and CURTAINS got put out from another label.

CM: I chased those for about a year.

JN: We tried. You know what, we can’t get everything. Believe me, we just can’t get everything, but I’m a happy clam.

BUG: How about you?

CM: Mine would probably be SUSPIRIA. I love that movie. Anchor Bay did a good version, but it really needs to be on BluRay, so that would be the one I’d love to work on.

BUG: Well, I just can’t wait to see what you guys have next. When I get home I am going to be watching THE FOG and SWAMP THING, so I’ll probably throw all of this together in one big interview or maybe space it out through a week, but it’s definitely on my to do list as soon as I get back. I saw those BluRays and they are sitting right there beside my television. I can’t wait to check them out.

CM: I hope you like them.

BUG: Great. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today, and best of luck with the con and the panels tonight.

JN: I know. Another hurdle. Thanks!

BUG: Look for more The Scream Factory releases covered when they are available on AICN HORROR and check out the website here Look for my reviews of the Scream Factory’s latest releases SWAMP THING, THE FOG with an interview I did at SDCC with the legendary Adrienne Barbeau, plus a review of the X-RAY/SCHIZOID Double Feature Pack very soon!

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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