“Panic Fest 2023”
I met director John Pata at my first convention which was Wizard World Chicago. He and his directing partner Adam Bartlett had their feature film DEAD WEIGHT for sale at their table and I immediately noted the quality of the cinematography of the film playing on the table and intrigued to see what the full film looked like I purchased one. My gateway into independent horror, I was shocked due to my low expectations and how they were blown away by this film. I went back the next day and purchased another. That was almost 11 years ago and John and I have been friends ever since. He has been my sounding board when I was starting The Blonde in Front and I’ve supported any of his cinematic endeavors however I can. John is legendary throughout the independent film community for both his influences and involvement in a number of films both big and small that span the genre filmmaking world. Known for his generosity, genuine character and excellent craftsmanship for whatever aspect he is involved with a film, when you meet him you most likely will never forget him. With his third feature BLACK MOLD having its World Premiere and winning both the Audience Award for Best Indie//Feature Film AND Best Actress at Panic Fest I had to get an interview in before he gets a franchise with Marvel or a Star Wars spin-off.
You just had your world Premiere of your feature film Black Mold at Panic Fest, what did you do right after?
We were lucky enough to have a huge number of the cast and crew at Panic Fest, so we all went out for a post-premiere celebration. This group of people are truly incredible and it was so great to just be around each other, laugh, reminisce, and celebrate everyone’s work. Then we headed back to Panic Fest for the karaoke party and I made a fool of myself singing Weird Al’s “Dare To Be Stupid.”
How many films were you involved with at Panic Fest this year?
I somehow ended up with three films this year. BLACK MOLD, which I wrote/directed/edited; BUG BITES, a short directed by my really good friend Danny DelPurgatorio that I edited; and BROOKLYN 45 directed by Ted Geoghegan. I came down for a few days to shoot BTS stills and interview the cast and Ted for the EPK. This is where I first met Jeremy Holm, who plays The Man Upstairs in BLACK MOLD. We sat down for our BROOKLYN 45 interview on December 8, 2021 and Jeremy’s first day on set was exactly three months later on March 8, 2022.
What makes Panic Fest so special to you?
There are a lot of reasons, but at the core of them is the community. The horror community that Kansas City has cultivated is truly unreal. Everyone is so enthusiastic and supportive and welcoming. The fans there are so hungry for the genre, it’s so refreshing to see. And there’s no pretentiousness or attitudes abound, everyone is so damn personable and just wants to have a good time. Also, having the mixture of podcasts and Nightmare Junkhead’s Game of Games makes it about so much more than just watching movies. It’s just fun, so damn fun and for some reason Kansas City/Panic Fest continue to be really, really kind to me.
Oshkosh is your #1 city. Would you say that Kansas City is a close second and why?
I’m not going to do any ranking of cities because that might get me in trouble, but let’s just say that I would have moved to Kansas City years ago if it didn’t get so hot there. I’m the opposite of most people; the older I get, the less I can tolerate hot temperatures. For real though, fuck that heat and double-fuck that humidity.
Black Mold was a very personal film for you as you discussed in the post Q&A. Do you think you’ll make another feature as personal to you as Black Mold?
I didn’t necessarily expect BLACK MOLD to be so personal when I began writing it, it just sort of happened so I can’t really say. However, I think anything I write will always be personal to a certain extent. That’s kind of just how I am.
What did your lead cast bring to their characters that was not on the page?
In a lot of ways, they brought everything. Characters never become 3-dimensional until they’re on set, in wardrobe and makeup, with an actor making choices. There’s a foundation on the page, and the cast built upon that. They brought humanity and life to these characters, as well as their own ideas. Getting to sculpt the characters through collaboration with the cast is such a rewarding experience.
With the weather, locations and overnights this seems like many things could go wrong and yet didn’t on screen. What is the scene that surprised you the most how smoothly it went?
The last scene in the film (scene 35) was 11 pages and I pushed to shoot it over the course of three days. I have never extended a scene over multiple days before, especially one that important and with so much going on. I knew how to approach it but it’s one thing to think about it and another to actually do it. Even over the course of three days, it was a lot of work but it was exactly what we needed to do to craft the conclusion of the film. When we wrapped the third day of the scene, I couldn’t help but think, “Holy shit, we did it!” And of course we did, the cast and crew were beyond incredible and there’s no way we wouldn’t have.
What would you like your cinematic legacy to be?
I don’t think of things like that. It’s been nine years since I’ve directed so who the heck knows if I’ll ever get to direct again. I’d love to, but getting one film made is damn near impossible and I’m not going to assume it’ll happen again. It would be sick as hell if it did, though.
AND the litmus test question for The Blonde in Front; Who is your favorite space pirate?
Some might think this is a stretch, and they might not be wrong, but I’m going with Roland Deschain from The Dark Tower series.
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