[Originally posted on Oct. 22, 2013 at my Journalism II Blog]
Between rushing to premiere his found footage horror film and slaving at the editing bay on his most recent productions, Towson University Electronic Media and Film alumnus Chris LaMartina, 28, is tired.
On top of his 40 hour workweek at 15four Video Strategy, LaMartina has committed an additional 20 to 30 hours per week on his own productions. It’s 9 p.m., and sitting alone in the dark at 15four’s office, he reviews footage that a colleague edited earlier that day.
LaMartina works as a editor and producer for 15four. But on his own feature films, he wears many hats, including writer, director, producer, composer and editor.
“I’ve always sort of joked and called editing the dark night of the soul, because you’re forced to look at your mistakes and you regret some of the decisions you’ve made and you only see the negative because it’s a very judgmental phase,” LaMartina said.
As a 2007 graduate of Towson University, LaMartina and his producing partner Jimmy George, 33, have produced seven feature length horror films, all of which have received DVD and Video On Demand distribution.
With the premiere of WNUF Halloween Special, his latest found footage work, LaMartina will once again share with the world one of the few things that makes him happy.
Beginning in April of 2012, LaMartina and George came up with the idea for WNUF after having watched other found footage movies.
Found footage is a sub-genre of horror where the film itself had supposedly been shot as-is, capturing some terrifying event as it happened. The aesthetic was popularized by such films as The Blair Witch Project and the Paranormal Activity films.
However, LaMartina and George were upset with what they were seeing within the found footage genre.
“Most found footage films are a single location, minor characters, and they are too long and don’t do anything,” LaMartina said. To “break up the monotony,” LaMartina decided that the film could focus on a 1980’s local TV news broadcast Halloween special, investigating a haunted house and periodically cutting to commercial breaks.
To further the conceit that the $1,500 film was “found television footage,” the crew shot on VHS camcorders and degraded the quality of the tape in post production, LaMartina said.
“In the budgets we are operating in, the people who are impressed with Insidious 2 are not going to be impressed with WNUF. I knew we had to play to niche audiences,” LaMartina said. “The people who are stoked about VHS tapes.”
LaMartina had a friend transfer the recording to 100 VHS tapes, allowing him to scatter the tapes throughout East Coast VHS conventions, in the hopes of creating a marketing buzz for the film, George said.
“The whole idea behind this project was that this was a found footage tape you found yourself,” George added.
After the Oct. 18 public premiere of the film, at Baltimore’s Creative Alliance theater, the film will receive VHS and DVD distribution with Alternative Cinema.
Outside of WNUF Halloween Special, LaMartina and George have co-wrote and produced films such as President’s Day, about a murderer stalking a high school election, and Witch’s Brew, where a witch curses a batch of micro-brew beer, killing those who drink it.
All of LaMartina’s film have focused in the horror genre for a very specific reason. “The best cinema to be is primal, and what is more primal than life and death,” he said.
LaMartina is currently editing, Call Girl of Cthulhu, his seventh feature which finished production this summer.
However, George said that WNUF is likely the “most accessible film we’ll ever make.”
“I think my grandmother would like it if she were still alive, and there is no other movie I’ve made where I can say that,” said George.
LaMartina feels similarly about WNUF. “It’s the most successful from script to screen film I will probably ever make,” he said.
As a Towson graduate who still making movies in his late 20’s with his friends, LaMartina said that he has felt pressure from family members to “grow up.”
He added that people will always criticize those who are no longer a teenager but who still do things “like writing comic books and making movies.”
However, LaMartina said that he creates because it makes him happy.
“Creating is important to me, whether that’s working at a community center, raising a child or making a monster movie,” LaMartina said.
A former professor of his, Greg Faller, now the Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication at Towson, said that he remembered Chris from his International Horror class.
Chris has “more than just fan appreciation,” Faller said. “He understood the genre and conventions that contribute to a good horror film.”
Faller also said that he has been impressed with the work LaMartina has produced in the budgets he operates in and that his horror films have “kept the tradition evolving.”
To LaMartina, an original approach to everything he does is important.
“Why are we breathing then, if we’re not playing a part in a larger conversation?” LaMartina said.
At the premiere for WNUF, LaMartina and George walked around to greet both old and new friends. It was their first sold out premiere.
“For some reason, I feel guilty that we sold out. Oh my god, someone didn’t get in! I’m so sorry! It’s my catholic guilt,” LaMartina said.