Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Digging Up the Dirt with KillDozer and Jorge Marrero of Silver Scream Film Festival & Famous Monsters of Filmland

Famous Monsters of Filmland has long been a staple for monster, sci-fi, and horror aficionados young and old. Even before the blood soaked images of Fangoria caught my eye as a teenager, I knew where to go to read up on those true genre legends who paved the way with hard work, imagination, and a love for all things fantastic. Growing up in the bay area is tough for a monster kid who usually lives vicariously through such publications. We turn the pages and see the lucky boys and girls shaking hands and taking pictures with our film heroes all while wishing someone would make that dream come true for us. Well thanks to Famous Monsters and Silver Scream Film Fest #3,  the dream will be a reality this weekend in Santa Rosa. I was lucky enough to get the inside scoop from Jorge Marrero who has been working long and hard on bringing us one of the greatest film fests in existence! And in our own backyard!! 

KillDozer: Introductions first. Who are you? What is your role with Silver Scream? How did you become involved in the fest and Famous Monsters?

Jorge: My name is Jorge Marrero, I'm the Production Manager for the Silver Scream Fest and Famous Monsters. I've been with FM since 2015 and Silver Scream since its first year. Since its inaugural year, I've had the pleasure of organizing the indie film portion of the festival. From setting up the submissions to leading our judging committee to select which films are accepted and obtain special accolades.

KillDozer: What has your journey been like, starting as a fan to now working for what is easily the most recognizable and iconic monster kid publication?

Jorge: I was blessed with a family that raised me with the classics, Chaney, the Universal monsters, Addams Family, The Munsters, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Twilight Zone, and a strong addiction to comic books. As a young adult, I studied the arts and film which has helped me hone in on my fandom as a career. It also helped that my wife, the FM art director, recommended me to Phil Kim, owner of Famous Monsters of Filmland (and keeping the Monster Kid spirit alive). Since then it's been a dream that I don't want to wake from. I've had the opportunity to draw and write for comics division, American Gothic Press, write and produce for our first televised show, Famous Monsters TV, produce and host our FM Podcast, and with Silver Scream I get to help put a spotlight on young emerging filmmakers. I mean we get to curate the monster fandom that we grew up on, how horrifically awesome is that?!

KillDozer: When did the idea for the fest first arise? What were some of the challenges you didn't expect but were able to work through to make the dream a reality?

Jorge: We can thank Phil Kim and Neil Pearlmutter for concocting the beautiful monster that is Silver Scream. They had been bouncing the idea around for a few years. Since Phil was publishing "The" monster mag and Neil was hosting the very popular Cult Film Series at the Roxy Stadium 14, they were already halfway there. Being that both of them were locals to the Santa Rosa area they really wanted to bring that Hollywood film fest feel to their community. Of course, the biggest challenge was getting those celebrity powerhouses to come up to Santa Rosa to a film fest they never heard of. Luckily for us, most people in the film industry either grew up fans of the magazine or at least knew of the legacy that is FM. So people like John Landis, Rick Baker, or even Robert Englund made time to attend the festival and help us kick off such an amazing event.

Silver Scream 2016

KillDozer: Last year Silver Scream took place in Dallas. What was that experience like? What was the inspiration for having it in Dallas?

Jorge: 2017 gave us a lot of scheduling hurdles. We had guests of Silver Scream whose filming schedules were conflicting with the event's dates at the same time we at FM were prepping not just for Silver Scream but also the Dallas convention. When the Dallas fans started hearing about the film fest they were very interested in it. So it brought us to a place where the best solution looked to be for us to combine the two together. Making Famous Monsters Convention Dallas even bigger than imagined (since we were in Texas this was very fitting). The outcome of this was tremendous but also very taxing on our staff since we were running two events at once.

KillDozer: In the current economic climate of the bay area do you find it more of a struggle to put together a fest like Silver Scream in your own hometown? What kind of obstacles do you run into now?

Jorge: Honestly doing a film festival up here has possibly been easier than doing it in Southern California. You have to compete with so many other similar events while up here there aren't really many if any film fests like ours. Admittedly we wondered what the festival would look like after the devastating wildfires that hit our area last October. But in the end, we knew what had to be done. Silver Scream could not only be a nice escape from reality but it could also give back to people in its community. That's why we decided to give all proceeds from the special dinner events to the Santa Rosa Wildfires Fund.

KillDozer: What does the team look like that puts together this amazing event? Do they all work for Famous Monsters as well?

Jorge: Since this is a collaboration from Famous Monsters and The Santa Rosa Entertainment Group (SREG) both sides do their part to make the fest happen.

KillDozer: One thing I have always admired about Silver Scream is the way it brings attention to new films and filmmakers while still paying tribute to the legends who have paved the way. How do you go about choosing the titles that will screen? Do you have any favorites playing this year that you would dub a "must see"?

Jorge: So glad you appreciate it because it's our goal to celebrate what made us fans and showcase that future cult classic to be. On the tribute side of things, Neil had been wanting to do something that honored the ladies of horror for quite some time and this year it just worked with the timing of social awareness and schedule of our special guest. Celebrating the Creature films felt like a no-brainer after rave success of The Shape Of Water which has been loved by our whole staff.

As for the indie film portion of the fest, it takes a lot of hard work and days to weeks on end of reviewing short and feature films multiple times, plus reading hundreds of screenplays. It's such a grueling process that we take very seriously. It's possibly one of the hardest things we have to do just for the fact that we can't accept every submission and it's heartbreaking cause as filmmakers we know how much effort is put into creating these pieces of art. That's why this year after the festival we're going to be sharing the Honorable Mentions on our Silver Scream site where people can not only view them but they can also vote for their favorite. The winner will receive the first ever People's Scream Award.

KillDozer: Other modern conventions and fests have been condemned by the horror community due to their lack of respect to the fans while Silver Scream has maintained the opposite reputation. Why do you think that is? Is this always top of mind when putting something like this together?

Jorge: As someone who went from fan to employee of this monster kingdom, I think what helps us stand out from the crowd is a mix of different things. One is that we always try to treat our fans the way we want to be treated. We've had the opportunity to work at plenty of other events and see what to and not to do. Having a company whose founder also helped create San Diego Comic-Con doesn't hurt either. The SREG is a third generation owned company that's been in the business of entertainment and customer satisfaction for decades in the bay area. Another thing is both of our companies, FM & SREG, are connected with a lot of these industry actors, writers, and directors. So we're aware of how to treat them to ensure they have just as much fun as our attendees. Lastly, we're fans too. Go into any of our homes and you likely find a shrine to our genre fandom. Heck, every corner of my home has statues, props, movies, comic books, etc..

KillDozer: I must say that your location and schedule are mind-blowing. Being able to theatre hop all day long in an actual theatre that looks like art-deco meets a neon 80's time capsule is the thing genre fan dreams are made of. What do you have to go through to secure such a venue and how did you come across it?

Jorge: That's where having partners like Neil and SREG comes in handy. The Roxy Stadium 14 is one of many theaters they own. It also happens to home Neil's Cult Film Series that he holds every month, which everyone should check out if they haven't yet. It definitely creates the best setting imaginable for our film fest.

KillDozer: What experience do hope genre fans will have at Silver Scream?

Jorge: For people who are already fans, the chance to relive that moment when they first discovered the thrill of these cult classics. For the newbies, to be able to say "Silver Scream introduced me to a fantastical world where anything is possible". For everyone to experience the future of what the next line of filmmakers has to offer us.

KillDozer: With so many amazing titles to choose from, how are awards decided and what are the categories?

Jorge: Like I stated before this is not an easy process. We factor in everything from writing, acting, directing, editing, special effects, and most importantly originality. We have our staple in the award categories like Best Feature, Best Short, etc.. Then there's our Imagi-Movie award which is awarded to the one film that exemplifies everything we're looking for in a submission. There were quite a few documentaries sent in this year is the first year so we'll be giving our first Best Documentary Award.

KillDozer: Where can we go to keep up to date with everything going on at Silver Scream and Famous Monsters?

Jorge: Everyone can stay updated with through and And also on Facebook at SilverScreamFest and FMOFL.

KillDozer: If you had to pick a team between the Monster Kids, The Slasher Kids, or the Sci-Fi Kids which team would you join?

Jorge: Oh man, you're pulling at my heartstrings here. OK, since I'm a huge fan of the A Nightmare On Elm Street and Hellraiser series I'm going to have to go with The Slasher Kids.

KillDozer: What is your most prized movie memorabilia possession?

Jorge: It would have to be my replica Rorschach mask and grappling gun that my wife got me for my birthday. The day I get my Freddy Krueger glove though that will be unbeatable.

KillDozer: What film would you not mind seeing a remake of?

Jorge: Many will argue this but the Bride of Frankenstein. Only because we've seen so many redos of the Frankenstein tale and some that I truly love like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein with Robert De Niro. She deserves some modern day love. Please, someone, get Guillermo Del Toro to do it!

KillDozer: What is the first autograph you ever received?

Jorge: I started off strong, the first autograph I obtained was from Stan "The Man" Lee on an Amazing Spiderman #669 variant. Later that day I got that same book signed by Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos, Edgar Delgato the current creative team at the time.

The folks at Silver Scream get that sometimes money can be tight and can be the one thing holding you back from going to an event like this, so if you act fast you can still grab tickets at a discounted rate on GrouponYou can also check out our interview with Neil Pearlmutter here.

See you at the Roxy Stadium 14 this weekend!


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