2010: The Year I Make Contact

2009 seems to have been a tough year for many. I know it had its share of challenges for me. I move toward 2010 with some real-world optimism as I have signed with a new agent and have some projects in the works that I am actually quite excited about.

No one knows how it will all pan out. But like many, I have my desires and my goals. One of the biggest for me is getting my next film off the ground. After losing THE PLAGUE to a set of producers and an industry-mindset that are the creative equivalent of artistic genocide, I have found myself with an opportunity to re-examine my goals and the way in which I try and manifest them. I have also tried to look even more deeply at my desires, actions, reactions, instincts, strengths, and weaknesses.

One of the realizations that I’ve come to understand on my journey is my need to be seen for who I am. Maybe not a unique desire, but one that has guided my actions and emotional reactions for many years. A lifetime, in fact. As a Scorpio, I seem to fall into a category of folks who somehow manage to never actually feel like others see us for who we really are. While that belief may be true in some instances, it is indeed a definition of myself that I maintain and create in my worst moments. Having THE PLAGUE taken from me in post production put me face-to-face with one of my worst nightmares; that the part of myself I was sharing with the world –the part I felt showed me for who I was– was taken away from me, dramatically altered, and placed out there with my name on it for all to see.

What an odd experience. I suppose not every filmmaker feels that his or her film is a reflection/representation of who they are and therefore losing that film is not quite as traumatic an experience. But for me, even though this was a low-budget genre film, it was the culmination of a lifetime spent trying to figure out who I am and how to share that.

Why is this so important? I don’t know that it is in the grand scheme of things. My closest friends and family members know who I am and can see me quite clearly, I believe. As best as anyone can. But I still have this desire to express myself in an even larger sense. I’m not talking fame here. That holds very little interest for me. But expressing some part of myself that comes from deep inside, some human element, something unmasked and vulnerable, something pure. So how does that translate into a low-budget horror film, you ask? Damn good question.

I suppose it has to do with the fact that I rely quite heavily on my subconscious in both my writing and my filmmaking (not altogether unique as this often can’t be helped regardless of intent). It is not just “technique’ that interests me. It’s like telling someone the details of a very personal dream, but bumping it up a notch and allowing others to actually participate in and even “feel” what my subconscious has exposed. So any film that comes from that place in me is going to be quite revealing, even if the viewer does not see it as such. And honestly, that part is not for the viewer’s benefit, but my own. But hopefully that element brings something unique to the film and the experience of watching it that is true to who I am and an honest reflection of the human being inside. An honest reflection of Hal.

A bit much to place on the shoulders of a movie? Not in my eyes. Anyone who allows themselves to create, in any medium, has the opportunity to reveal themselves through their work. Quite often, for some, it is impossible to do the work and NOT reveal themselves. But Hollywood is a town and an industry not particularly concerned with the human element or in being an avenue for self-expression. It is not anywhere near the top of their list of requirements or demands. But these past few years have taught me that it is at the very top of my own personal list.

So I enter 2010 with the knowledge that this is within my reach. My next project, CLEAN, is a part of me unlike anything else I have written. It is my goal to turn that script into a film that reflects me equally. And to make it my number one priority to put that film out there unadulterated. Pure. Regardless of how it is received or interpreted. It is the only reason I have for doing it. In many ways, it is my therapy. But it is also my gift. To both myself and to anyone else who takes interest in or is effected by it.

And while I fully expect this to be another tough year, I at least believe I have a legible roadmap and a pretty damn good sense of direction.

So to speak.

2010: The Year I Make Contact

New Hal Masonberg PLAGUE Interview

It’s all about grass-roots.

In my ongoing campaign to get the proper cut of my film THE PLAGUE released, I agreed to do an interview for a gentleman by the name of Michael L. King. Michael hosts a series of Youtube film reviews. It’s a small and very personal series, but filled with charm and a love of film. Based on Michael’s sincerity and genuine interest, I agreed to be interviewed on camera for his “series”. In doing so, I was given an opportunity to talk in detail about my experiences writing and directing THE PLAGUE and the subsequent horror of having the film taken away from me in post-production and completely re-cut by the producers and distribution company. It is, in many ways –and for such a limited audience– the most comprehensive telling of this tale to date.

In truth, I fully expected Michael to edit down my answers to the most important/interesting elements, but he chose to post them in their entirety. So while I do repeat myself occasionally, I hope that the story I’m sharing here is somewhat interesting nonetheless. It’s certainly A tale of low-budget filmmaking in Hollywood that I’m sure mirrors many other very similar (if less articulated) experiences.

The purpose of my being so open about my experiences is twofold for me. One is to let folks know that the version of the film out there is not representative of the creative team involved (and that includes the outspoken cast and crew) and to hopefully get the proper cut released, but also to offer this cautionary tale to other filmmakers who may be able to avoid a similar situation. Or, for those whose films have already been re-cut beyond recognition by folks who didn’t care about the integrity of the film itself, to show that it is not only okay to speak up, but is, in fact, important if we hope to change the attitude in Hollywood that this kind of behavior is okay and comes without consequence. I’m not talking vengeance here, just letting the audience know that many of the films they’re seeing are not the films as they were intended, and that filmmakers need not be victims of these situations and should stand up for what they believe in and not be bullied into silence for fear that they’ll be ostracized or blacklisted. For me, if you believe in the film you’re making, then believe in it enough to stand up for it.

That’s the path I have chosen. Granted, it’s not for everyone, but I have personally found it to be extremely empowering and it has helped me define for myself exactly who I am as a filmmaker and what is most important to me. It is, like all things in life, an ongoing journey.

Here are links to all 7 parts of MLK’s (freakin’ epic) video interview:

Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7 .

New Hal Masonberg PLAGUE Interview

Losing Dan O’Bannon

The great Dan O’Bannon has left this world for another. A sad day indeed. For us, that is. However, wherever he’s headed, they’re in for a treat!

For those unfamiliar with Mr. O’Bannon, he was the talented visionary screenwriter behind such beloved classics as ALIEN, DARK STAR, HEAVY METAL, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, TOTAL RECALL, and many others, not to mention doing visual effects on a little film called  STAR WARS.

Mr. O’Bannon died at the all-too-young age of 63 after a 30-year battle with Crohn’s disease. We will miss him and his creative spirit.

Losing Dan O’Bannon