MS: First off, let me thank you for the opportunity to speak with you, I know you’ve got to be a busy guy. I’ve been reading about your film and it’s certainly something I’ve wanted to see for a long time, is that part of the motivation of making it? What made you decide that you wanted to take us all on a journey with you?
KK: Documentary and horror should go hand-in-hand more often than I think they do. Horror fans love to learn everything there is to learn about the genre, so we buy the special edition DVDs with the extra disc, or we’ll buy the “Making Of” book. But I felt like there wasn’t necessarily the best representation of what horror fans are like in our element. So I wanted to make Fantasm in order to help represent horror fans accurately to others, as well as showcase the convention experience. I was surprised to find that there aren’t a lot of docs on conventions. There’s Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors from the ’80s, UnConventional from 2004, but that’s about it. And those films are convention-specific (UnConventional being about Chiller). So I wanted to make something a bit more universal.
MS: Once you had the ideas and the motivations, what happened next? Did everything fall into place fairly rapidly or was it a long time coming?
KK: Everything had to fall into place kind of quickly because originally, Fantasm was just going to be my senior thesis to get my degree at Syracuse. It was only going to be a 20-minute observational documentary about horror conventions. I had from September to December of 2012 to shoot everything for that version. But as I started filming, the whole idea of exploring the convention vibe and sense of community and camaraderie started to be the focal point, and it was going to take longer than 20-minutes to explore that. So, Spring of 2013 I went out a shot some more footage to make this final piece. But between September 2012 and March 2013, I had very few production issues. No problems shooting at any of the conventions, and only a few travel issues. The great thing about the horror community is that most people are eager and willing to help out other passionate, driven people. When I’d present Fantasm to people, they were almost always on board.
MS: I know that a lot of fans out there have never had the right opportunity to make it to a convention. What was your first convention and was it the experience there that hooked you? How did it go?
KK: It was 2006, I was 15 and I went to Rock and Shock in Worcester, MA. It blew my mind completely. The fact that there was an event specifically for horror fans got me all warm and fuzzy. It still does. My mom took me that year and had a great time herself, so we made it a yearly thing until I went off to school. Rock and Shock holds a special place in my heart, for sure. Of course, at 15 I didn’t realize how much more there was to a convention than just getting autographs and buying shirts. There was a whole community aspect that I didn’t get involved with until I started filming Fantasm years later. When I returned to Rock and Shock to film, I got to see the whole picture. I realized that while the guests and panels and screenings are all the foundation for a convention, a deeper level and deeper connection can be felt amongst the fans, and that’s why a lot of people go.
MS: It seems like everything has its ups and downs, what were your best and worst experiences over the course of your convention-going?
KK: Aw man, that’s tough. My best was just this last month, Rock and Shock 2013, where I got to premiere Fantasm. I flew in from California the night before and was all out-of-it. I crossed the street with a box full of Fantasm promo stuff and at the other side of the crosswalk were like, eight people that I was REALLY looking forward to hanging out with that weekend. And these are all people I wouldn’t normally get to see besides at a convention. It was just a really warm “welcome home.” My worst actually doubles as my second-best in disguise. When I was studying at Syracuse, I attend the first annual Scare-A-Cuse (now Scare-A-Con). I hadn’t been to a convention in two years because I was at school and there weren’t any in the area. I’m so pumped about this convention because I really missed the con atmosphere. I go by myself because I can’t get any of my college friends to go with me and spend the money, which was totally understandable. I go on Saturday night and the convention center is sparse. Not a lot of vendors, not a lot of guests, not a lot of people in general. I was totally heartbroken. I went home trying to explain to my friends why I was so bummed out, but they really couldn’t grasp it. And honestly, I was starting to wonder why I cared so much, too. This is where the first ideas about Fantasm came from; I wanted to explain to people what made conventions so special. Luckily, Scare-A-Con is going strong and has improved immensely since it’s first year.
MS: I’m sure lots of fans out there would love to know more about you. What’s your past? Did you grow up watching 80’s slashers? Were you in a group of friends growing up that shared your passion?
KK: I was actually born in ’91 and don’t have the same nostalgia as a lot of other horror fans. I mean, I love 80’s slashers, but I grew up on a strange mix of things. My grandparents would show me a lot of the old Universal monsters and 50s sci-fi movies when I was between four and six, and then there was a lull where I wouldn’t watch any horror because I was so afraid of it. Then, and this is going to bother some people, I saw The Grudge in theaters when I was 12 and totally got back into horror. So between 12 and 15, I started getting my hands on a lot of recent horror (Dawn of the Dead remake, House of 1,000 Corpses, Saw, etc.) and also reading Fangoria and Dread Central. I gathered a decent amount of knowledge about the genre, and all my peers thought I was bizarre. There weren’t a lot of people I could share this passion with. Which never really bummed me out that bad because I knew that at least every October, I was the go-to guy for movie suggestions! Anyways, I got to be a senior in high school and then went to Syracuse to study film where I was able to connect to people on a similar level, or at least people who were as passionate aboutsomething as I was about horror. Then came Fantasm where I finally was connecting with horror fans about the genre that we love so much. My upbringing is a little different than a core group of horror fans (especially those who make up the convention scene), but the horror community is so welcoming that it’s always fun to share my story.
MS: We’ve heard nothing but good buzz surrounding Fantasm, what has the experience been like?
KK: It’s been wild, man. As a horror fan, I know how excited I can get about projects that I think sound awesome. It was one of those things where I knew that the horror community could be excited, or they could care less, and I was worried people wouldn’t be on board with the documentary. But the response and enthusiasm for Fantasm has been unbelievable. I wish I had more words for how amazing it has been that people really care and want to see the film.
MS: Any upcoming dates on when and where fans can see it, I think it’s safe to say that everyone is anxiously awaiting the opportunity!
KK: Unfortunately, with convention season coming to an end and winter on its way, there aren’t a lot of screenings going on. The film is in consideration at a few festivals, so hopefully it’ll be around. Working to get it screened at a few different conventions over the next few months!
MS: Future plans? Any talks of going to digital download or disc?
KK: Nothing set in stone just yet. I wish I could say more, but you can “Like” Fantasm on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to keep up-to-date with all news!
MS: Thanks so much for your time, we truly appreciate it. What you’re giving genre-fans is a true gift!
KK: That means so much, thank YOU!
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