I have always wanted to create something memorable on film and, unfortunately, I have been fighting the label of “backyard cinema guy” since my first two films were released. In 2008, EVIL AWAKENING was released by Tempe Entertainment, followed by a 2009 release of RISE OF THE SCARECROWS. EVIL AWAKENING was filmed in 2001, and RISE OF THE SCARECROWS was completed in 2004. Distribution was difficult and when I finally achieved that, my first two films were older and there were a lot of things that I did incorrectly and, upon their release, the viewers were kind enough to inform me of them, over and over again.
2008, I filmed SCARY TALES, a film that was more experiment than anything else. It would an effort to improve what I could on the extremely limited budget. I got better actors and worked very hard to make a better movie and it was, but then things begin to really change for the better when I began writing a movie called “FAMILY SECRET.” In December of 2008, I wrote FAMILY SECRET, a whodunit horror movie with a lot of 1970’s influence, but it was actually a film that I didn’t believe I would be able to produce for at least a couple of years. I had put away a couple of thousand dollars to buy a new camera and some lights, but getting the cast, locations, and budget to make the movie seemed far-fetched at the time, but then I ran into an old friend. After seventeen years, I ran into a buddy from High School, Jamie Swimm, and he, and his brother Craig, opened up so many doors for FAMILY SECRET. It is safe to say that without them and their contributions, the movie would have been far more difficult to produce and may have not been produced.
I began seeking investors, figuring that I would need about 10 G’s to make the movie. I met up with an acquaintance and he seemed interested to invest, but would later ask for a meeting with his partners that owned some computer company. We met at a restaurant and they offered me 15,000 dollars, BUT there was a catch…several of them actually. They began telling about how porn sells and that the movie would need a great deal of nudity and gore to sell, and they also wanted to bring in a co-director, cast the film, and basically take my script and throw it into the fireplace. I ate and left and elected not to contact them again, considering the fact that they didn’t know anything about art and had no consideration for my flick.
Webhead Entertainment, LLC., headed up by Alex Pierpaoli, would show interest and we ironed out a deal over coffees to bring FAMILY SECRET to life. I had a budget. I immediately began purchasing what I needed to make the gore better (a big complaint in my prior films) and to hire a team.I hired John Golden, a film graduate, to be the Director of Photography, hired Rick Caride to take care of the special effects/gore, hired Forris Day, JR., to edit, brought in Steven Joseph Adams to co-direct, and began organizing the film. It was the most difficult project I ever produced. I held auditions in Northampton at the Clarion, and ended up hiring about 80% of those that showed up. The main character, “Geno,” would be played by Forris Day, JR., an actor with a lot of stage experience and some film experience. He immediately won the role with his charisma and ability to act. I initially had another actress slated to play Geno’s sister “Claire,” but she would make some demands prior to the filming, eventually leading to the decision to remove her from the cast and seek a new actress with only a month or so before production began. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Answering the call was the talented and charismatic, Jaki Valensi-Lauper, a seasoned actress and a pleasure to work with. Another late addition was Brent Northup, who would assume the role of “Detective Dwyer,” bringing his amazing skills and talent to the character. Alex Pierpaoli would become “Uncle Gary,” a role that nobody else could have played. Coming from EVIL AWAKENING and RISE OF THE SCARECROWS, where the actors were terrible to this was refreshing. It was an amazing cast and crew.
On June 7th, 2009, official production began at Diamond Junction Bowling Lanes in Palmer, Massachusetts. Initially, there was no bowling alley in the first draft of the script, but alley owner, Forris Day, JR., offered it and I quickly pounced on the opportunity, creating a scene which became known as “The Bowling Alley Massacre,” and which also turned out to be one of the most grueling scenes to film. The filming would last from June 7th through October 4th, filming every weekend, 12-18 hour days.
FAMILY SECRET Notes:
- Tonya Kassler was originally cast as “Sarah Vershon,” but would be moved to the role of “Cindy” when the original actress became unreliable and seemed to offend the majority of the cast.
- 3 Time World Boxing Champion Jose Antonio Rivera and B Horror Movie Star, Crazy Carl Robinson both acted in the film.
- It took 8 months to edit the movie, leading to many more nights of pizza and coffee.
- Sonora, Common Thrill and the Putrid Flowers made up the soundtrack for the movie.
- A great restaurant and bar in Springfield, MA, PAZZO was nice enough to close down part of their bar for hours to allow us to film a scene.
- Many of the actors and actresses got speeding tickets on the way to the set. It became a daily occurrence.
- FAMILY SECRET played to a packed house, big screen, in Wallingford, CT.
- FAMILY SECRET played Halloween Night at Elwoods to a packed bar in Monson, MA.
Tempe Entertainment, owned by filmmaker JR Bookwalter (SANDMAN, OZONE, THE DEAD NEXT DOOR) would distribute FAMILY SECRET, releasing worldwide on March 22, 2011. The DVD would feature many extras, including a photo montage, bloopers, trailers, a mini-documentary about candlepin bowling, and much more. It would also feature a trailer for SCARY TALES (2012). I would learn so much about filming on the set of FAMILY SECRET and because the quality was so much better than the 2008 version of SCARY TALES that I elected to scrap the project, but then I thought that I could save some of the tales I shot if it had a good wraparound story, which eventually turned into me reshooting the entire film, and I’m very glad that I did. FAMILY SECRET will be released soon and has already been covered by FANGORIA and IFC, along with many other great sites. The support and hype surrounding the release of FAMILY SECRET has been great and I hope that it does what I believe it will do. I want to recapture the shock and surprises of the 1970s. I don’t believe that anyone will guess the ending and won’t believe the surprise after surprise that I have in store for them. This is a movie that will be talked about and I just hope that not too many people will give away the surprises.
Over two years of my life has gone into building FAMILY SECRET and I am very excited about its release. I have written FAMILY SECRET II, which will go into production in 2013 if all goes well. I look forward to everyone’s opinion, good or bad. I thank everyone involved for their dedication and belief in the project. It was a lot of long days, but everyone did a great job, I met a lot of new great friends, and I hope that it will be the beginning of a movement to bring horror back what it used to be.