Freddy Beans here with an interview with the founders and hosts of BEYOND FEST, Christian Parkes and Grant Moninger.
BEYOND FEST, located at the Egyptian Theater, is the highest attended genre festival in the U.S. Built in partnership with American Cinematheque and Death Waltz Recording Co. it’s now in its 6th year. La Boca designs the festivals surreal artwork (see above) BEYOND FEST is a not-for-profit entity, meaning they put all this hard work and sweat into producing this thing for us, the fans.
We are right in the middle of BEYOND FEST as I write this. Its last showing is Oct. 10th, so if you're in the area and love horror films make sure you check it out or mark your calendar for 2019. When afforded the opportunity to interview these two, I had to say yes. So, without further ado, enjoy!
Freddy Beans: Hello Christian and Grant, how are you guys doing today?
Christian Parkes: Doing well. Doing well.
Grant Moninger: Doing great!
FB: To start I’d like to know how you guys met and eventually created BEYOND FEST?
GM: Christian really came off the street as just some random guy. He said he wanted to do this genre festival which sounded pretty cool. He wanted to do it in three weeks, which is an insane amount of time…and not that cool. He enticed by mentioning he had [the band] Goblin (SUSPIRIA) set up to play the festival opening at the Egyptian here in LA and at that point I’m all-in. Like let’s roll the dice here, because I can’t get Goblin to play here, that’s amazing. I think now I should turn it over to Christian to give his point of view on how that all went down.
CP: Yeah. Um. I didn’t actually have Goblin. That was just fun talk. So BEYOND FEST was born upon a lie. Total fabrication!
FB: Most great ideas spring from there right?
CP: Yes, yes they do. So I get a hold of a booking agent, 6 years back and at that time Goblin’s never been to the U.S. before. I’m talking to this booking agent who honestly had no idea who they were. So I’m like shit. Let’s get them to come to LA and we’ll get them these amazing shows and amazing venues like the Egyptian theater, one of the most iconic theaters certainly in LA.
FB: It absolutely is!
CP: Right? Well the booking agent believed me, he thought I had the amazing venue but the reality is I didn’t even have anything let alone the Egyptian. I was kind of bluffing on both sides for a bit and luckily they both took the bait. And BEYOND FEST was born.
GM: Cut ahead 6 years to the present and we’re on the phone with one another 24 hours a day, still putting together this fest. BEYOND FEST was born on that bluff. I remember that first year how we were trying to convince people. “Hey man, come out to our thing it’s BEYOND FEST!” You just kept saying the name “BEYOND FEST” like it was a thing and after a while people just started going with it. The name sounded good and we had a lot of great young filmmakers give us their films and we sort of willed it into being. The name was just great and has stuck.
FB: That’s awesome! Sounds like a crazy ride.
BEYOND FEST has grown pretty massive in 6 years. It’s presenting 46 features, 24 west coast premiers. You have HULU and SHUDDER now co-presenting what is 14 days of movie madness. I guess I’m asking if you ever envisioned BEYOND FEST turning into this monstrosity?
CP: When I moved to LA I didn’t know anyone, and the Cinematheque at the Egyptian theater was hosting this cool horror/sci-fi festival but it was pretty small and wide in scope. So, you’d have a Ray Harryhausen film followed by a real mashup of film that didn’t make sense. I loved going there. I felt at home. LA’s such a broken city everyone is on their phones. It’s difficult to bring people together. Here was a place where it felt as if likeminded people were able to enjoy the experience of watching fucked up movies together. That really inspired me.
I left LA for 6 years and when I came back there wasn’t anything like a FANTASTIC FEST or a FRIGHT FEST or STITCHES or anything like that. So we just thought let’s try something and see what happens. That first year, like Grant said, we didn’t have a clue what we were doing and we just kind of threw everything together we could on the screen.
Now we’re on our 6th BEYOND FEST and it’s just gotten sillier and bigger. More people are coming out but also distributors who we couldn’t get arrested with before. They are coming to us and asking if they can screen with us. So no, the original intent was simply to screen films and give likeminded fans a home and watch some cool movies. It’s just exploded from there. Grant and myself, we’re just fans at the end of the day. It’s the contributors that have turned into what it is today.
FB: Yeah, it’s definitely only growing. I think it’s clear it will evolve beyond what you know it as today. You have all of these great titles at BEYOND FEST so much so it’s a bit tough to keep up for us dedicated horror-philes
CP: Thank you!
FB: Well it is.
I am wondering how you decipher the content between the films and contributors and if there’s a chance you can give us a quick snapshot of that process?
GM: Cronenberg was something we decided we wanted 6 years ago when we started this thing. That was a dream. There’s no bigger guest for BEYOND FEST than David Cronenberg. Every year we aim for him and hope the stars align. He said yes this year it was like a dream come true. He’s so beloved by not only the fans but everyone that’s ever worked for him so everyone wanted to come down. If so many weren’t already working on other films we would have had 100 people on these panels with him. Once we had David the rest fell into place. Christian can expand on that?
FB: Sure. Thank you, Grant.
CP: There’s always a collection of newer movies and established titles we can select from. That’s the beauty of this. We can show old titles that are beloved and we can show new titles from those unestablished or coming up. There’s literally Grant, myself, Spencer, Death Man from Mondo Records who’s also been with us from the very beginning. Every year, we review anywhere between 500 and 600 films. We simply work our way through them, start at the top and work our way down. It’s got to have unanimous approval to be seen by the masses. I can’t just love a film and put it up. Everyone has to weigh in. It’s not unanimous, instead I should say there has to be an absolute majority in agreement.
FB: Sure, it’s a democratic process.
GM: We get into some debates here and there, but in the end, we love what we have. We were at lunch the other day already talking about next year’s festival right as the press release for this one is going down. So we’re always hustling and looking for new young filmmakers. You can find them anywhere.
I was playing poker with Emma Tammi who directed THE WIND and she tells me her film got into Toronto and I’m like what?!?! Look over here, we’re BEYOND FEST. (Laughs) If I hadn’t been at that game we wouldn’t have THE WIND which is an absolute find with huge praise out of Toronto. So we’re always programming no matter what we’re doing or where we’re at.
FB: That’s really cool. You brought up David Cronenberg. I’m a huge fan of Dr. Decker and not sure how you got him. You said it took 6 years, so what was it that got him to finally commit?
CP: We received very polite declines over the years and it was just kind of the right time for him. He doesn’t consider himself a genre filmmaker. During the Q & A yesterday he said he wanted to do comedies, which was awesome. If we would have had a comedy festival maybe we would have had him years ago. It was just the right time and he felt it might work especially when Grant and I presented to him. We made it clear we wanted it to be pretty deep from a film standpoint. It’s not just VIDEODROME and THE FLY, there’s crash in there and NAKED LUNCH, SPIDER. Thirteen of his films in total, for this fest. He’s been very complimentary in the way we programmed this. We tried to make this as thorough a look at his work as we could. With a combination of timing, persistence and then programming, it all just blended together.
GM: I think it’s also timing on our side, as I don’t’ think we could have hosted David the first year. Doing such an extensive deep dive where we’re shipping these beautiful archive prints from Toronto. The consulate offered to bring him here because he’s so beloved in Canada. I think it was just timing where it was perfect for him and us to do this finally.
FB: Thank you Grant. I have a fun one for you both. Grant first please, what is your favorite all-time horror film?
GM: Hmmmmmm. Christian you go first because I know what yours is going to be.
CP: Favorite film is JAWS. I’m not sure if it’s a horror film. But it generally scared the shit out of me as a kid and I’m still one of those people that won’t go in the water to this day. JAWS is the one that impacted or most affected me. Then a trinity of movies I can’t live without in the horror space and that would be: DAWN OF THE DEAD, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and then DEAD RINGERS. Every one of those films was perfect in what they set out to do.
FB: Yeah, those are pretty great ones.
CP: They’re classics and they just wrecked you!
GM: Mine would be KNIGHTRIDERS by George A. Romero. It’s a movie where knights are jousting on motorcycles. I think it’s brilliant. I think my favorite horror films probably are the ones that touched me as a kid.
So NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD scared the hell out of me as a kid. It felt like it was filmed as a documentary, the woods in back looked like the woods in my town. It just added an entirely new dimension to movie watching.
Then when I was 10, I saw the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and back then you could roam as a kid by yourselves. I remember everyone had left. I was alone at home and the town seemed empty and I’m watching INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. No cars are going up or down the road and there’s no noise and there’s a phone ringing in a phone booth. I remember answering it, and there was no one there. I have some weird memories here in LA and I lived nearby taking a nightly walk up Beachwood where they actually shot the INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. That puts me at ease somehow now.
FB: You both had some great ones there. I’m getting you guys are big fans yourselves. What’s your favorite part of this experience with BEYOND FEST.
CP: There is no experience I enjoy. It’s fucking hell.
CP: it’s truly hell until October and then I recuperate. Will the people like it? Will they come out? Like Grant said we’re programming up to the last second, it’s absolutely terrifying.
The best moments are like when we played RAW last year, the west coast premiere of RAW. The theater was screaming and that had a taboo cannibal theme. Here’s a film that was unknown, first time filmmaker, subtitles, and the entire theater going nuts. That’s something that will stick with me.
Or BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99, when Vince Vaughn gets in that first fist fight and he snaps the guard's arm. All 600 people in attendance, screamed in unison together, it was beautiful.
Getting to see the standing ovation last night and the night before for David Cronenberg was great. It’s about that fan response. It’s the only reason why I do it. All the ticket sales everything goes to the 501c3 American Cinematheque, we are not profiting here. The reaction of the fans I what makes it all worth the while.
GM: We’re still small but have very good dedicated team. We’re on our feet the entire time doing the logistics behind scenes to make it all happen and that’s part of the magic. We have 15 hours a day where we can think of nothing but these films and what we’re showing. It’s hard work but it’s a blessing to escape reality. Like Christian said with the standing ovation for David Cronenberg or last year Dario Argento was asking us if anyone was going to come. We are like Dario we have 3 sold out screenings of people coming to see you. He was just amazed at that absolutely shocked. There’s times @10:30 on a Thursday night in LA and there’s a packed house for THE DEVILS. Which is just very cool that they want to come out and see stuff like that.
FB: That’s touching to hear how Dario got to experience that through your festival. How many more years do you see BEYOND FEST going? Or are you doing this for eternity? (Laughs)
CP: I’m done. I’m done for eternity. I can’t take this anymore. Honestly, as long as people will keep coming out and as long as filmmakers keep showing to share their films we will just keep going. Even though we put a lot of work in, it’s not actually our festival. It belongs to the people that come out. We are in service of the people that are buying tickets and sitting in the seats. So as long as they keep coming out we’ll keep working.
FB: Do either of you want to talk about any future projects you’d like to share with AINTITCOOLNEWS?
CP: Nothing for me. We’re just fortunate to be in the position we’re in. As soon as this one ends we’ll start programming the next one. We stay involved with anything for American Cinematheque too. Right now though we’re still thick in the weeds on this one.
GM: We’re only at the halfway point right now.
FB: Well I love what you do. Good luck guys. I’ll probably be out there next year and it sounds like I might meet you as Christian said you were screwed and may be doing it for a while if the crowds persist.
FB: So thank you for your time today, I really appreciate it!
GM: Appreciate it brother.
CP: Yeah, thanks so much.
Til next time, Kids!
- Freddy Beans