STX MEDIA-It's Story Time Telling Tales
STEAM Being a small company like, STX Media, usually means you wear more than one hat. What are your roles?
Sal Hernandez (SH) Executive producer, director of communications, production manager, makeup artist, screenwriter, actor… I’m sure there are more.
Jacob Grim (JG) Director for all productions, editor, cinematographer, graphics artist, screenwriter, and little bit of acting.
SH The cool thing about our partnership is that we identified what we were responsible for early on. We had the discussion of “what can and can’t you do; what can and can’t I do” and we stay within our lanes. I handle a lot of the business stuff; however, Jacob and I work together on all decisions. Nothing gets done without an okay from both of us and that’s the same for an artistic standpoint as well.
JG No production or story ideas will go through until we’ve both gone through it and have our say.
STEAM That probably helps you find the little things.
SH We’re open like that on the set too. If someone (an actor) says he can’t do a line or can’t physically do something we’re open to making changes. The script is not a Bible; it’s a blueprint for what we want to do.
JG We are both pretty good about writing dialog, so that it feels like something a person would say. Our scripts are not grammatically correct and without slang; we put in what people do and say, not how it’s supposed to be.
STEAM What exactly does STX Media do?
SH Horror films, commercials, graphic design, commercials, logistics, and music videos. We also manage personal appearances and other public relations for Teri McMinn and Ed Guinn, who are original cast members of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), as well as its Director of Photography Daniel Pearl. We’ve recently partnered up with the coordinator of Fantom Fest, a San Antonio horror convention, to facilitate the event’s first Horror Film Festival.
JG In fact we just completed a music video for Sabbath Assembly, a metal band from New York. They came here, we shot it at Zeros, and it is a great video.
STEAM How did you get interested in the horror genre?
JG I have always had a passion for it. I would stay up and watch horror movies at night and as a kid I knew it wasn’t real, but I wanted to know how it worked and how they made it. I was so curious about it that I would go to the library. I was very little there was a book about the monsters in the old movies and I remember checking it out and looking at the pictures, and saying that I want to be able to do that. So, even as a youngster I was into writing scripts; my mom still has some. Then as I was growing up I would mess around with my parents VHS camcorder and make little movies. And as I got older it became more financially feasible to make movies on my own using digital camcorders. DSL’s came out about the time 7-Days Competition started, so my friend and I said, “Let’s try it!” And that was my first short film.
SH I was not a sheltered child, so when I was very little I was watching horror films. I remember there was a hallway going to the restroom and I would run through the hallway, smashing into the wall at the end, and say Freddie Krueger was after me. I loved going to my grandmother’s house because she had cable and I could watch more horror films. Watching was only part of it; I was interested in how they made people look like that. And of course that’s how my interest started me in studying. Around 2008, 2009 a friend of mine and I were talking about movies and that we should film one, and I finally said, “Let’s just do it. Put up or shut up.” So we made a short.
STEAM How long have you worked together as STX Media?
JG In May it’ll be two years.
SH Jacob and I had done a short together, “Deviant Behavior,” (which is going to be our next feature film) and then went our separate way. We came back together to work on a short, Stained Affection, for the South Texas Underground Film Fest (STUFF) in 2012 which won Best Story. Well, we realized that we worked well together on this project and decided to do a horror comedy with “The Roommate.”
In these two years we have done somethings that I never imagined we’d get to… like interviewing Marilyn Burns, who was the original scream queen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it was actually her second to last interview before she passed away. We interviewed Tony Todd, who most famously played Candyman. We also interviewed James O’Barr, the creator of The Crow.
STEAM How did you get these interviews and what are they for?
SH It was just a chance we took; we asked and they said yes, so we filmed the interviews and have them on our Facebook page.
STEAM Besides horror, what other genre’s do you work in?
SH My own take it is that with a horror movie you can sell it anywhere, anytime. However, you can’t sell a comedy or a romantic comedy as easily unless you have big stars in it. Horror films work because as long as you have good actors that the audience can identify with (actors that resemble a niece, a nephew a friend) you can put those actors in a situation and the audience will follow. And historically if you look a lot of big actors they had their start in horror, like Kevin Bacon and Johnny Depp. Actually, Universal, a major film company, started with horror films.
JG The reason you can do horror is because you can combine it with any other genre; horror-comedy, horror-action, horror-romance. It’s just a pliable genre that can be molded with anything. That’s what The Roommate was, a horror-comedy. That’s what I personally like about horror. Also, you can sell horror anywhere. It has ups and downs as a genre, however it is always there and people like to be scared. So, take The Roommates. It is a comedy, with the funny lines and situations, but it’s got the scary parts too. The Roommate has been nominated at a number of film festivals for Best Short, Best Actors Actor and Actress, Best Screenplay Writing, and Best Directed. At the Austin Indie Flicks it was also nominated for Audience Favorite.
SH It was off the cusp of this success that we decided to do another short, why don’t we take all of these great ideas we have and make a full-length feature, Dreadtime Stories. Some of the shorts are films we had done and wanted to make changes, improvements to or ideas that we had and wanted to do.
STEAM How did you get in the make-up side?
SH Well, it all started with the movie “Halloween” for me. I had just learned that foam latex is the same stuff used in filming. Its foam rubber and sponge finally mixed together, kind of like a kitchen sponge. When it attaches to your skin it forms a bond and moves with you, your expression on the outside is what you’re doing. In fact, in Dreadtime Stories, you’ll see former Halloween costumes that I put together.
STEAM I’m sure you’ve probably put together some quite amazing Halloween costumes.
SH Our costumes have become an expected even. Starting in about August, people begin asking what our plans are.
JG Let’s just put it this way, we’ve taken a few Pictures!
STEAM So, tell us about “Dreadtime Stories”!
JG “Dreadtime Stories” was filmed here, in Corpus Christi, with no budget and with a volunteer cast and crew. We began filming in the fall of 2013 and principle photography ended in the early summer of 2014.
SH The film is about how a party turns bizarre when a malevolent book makes its way into the hands of the attendees who reveal its tales of monsters, madmen and the supernatural. The book itself is evil and if you are a dark souled person it feels good to hold the book, but if you are a light souled person it makes you feel ill and reject it. The film is an anthology of 10 shorts/chapters and the tag line is, “Some stories are better left untold.” Each short has its own trailer and can be marketed by itself; so with that being said, we can bring out a different short every month, and the promotion will last through a year. At this point we are in the process of submitting to film festivals around the world. As of right now, Dreadtime Stories has been screened at the 2014 South Texas Underground Film Festival and been officially selected to the San Antonio Horrific Film Fest and South Carolina’s Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest. The idea behind the film is to make people want more, so really we are just laying out the bricks and planning to hit independent theaters.
STEAM Do you attend all these film festivals you are accepted to?
JG As many as we can. That said these festivals are expense and everything comes out of our pockets. Just the expense of submitting to a film festival is $40 or $50, and we’re putting out for 15 or 16 it starts adding up. Of course, some are just too far away, like South Carolina for us to even consider it.
STEAM What was the most complicated filming of Dreadtime Stories”
SH Each short was done in a weekend. The most complicated was the transformation of the werewolf.
JG What makes it interesting was that we filmed the whole short in 15 hours, in two locations, and it included the transformation.
STEAM That is so cool!
SH That was what was so complicated for us because you know we can’t pull off American Werewolf In London, but by really working the camera and good edit cuts we pulled it off.
JG That was one of the main things when I wrote this story and presented it to Sal. It was if we can’t do this part then let’s not do this short, because I don’t want it done poorly. I didn’t want people to watch the whole movie and the only thing they remember was that terrible transformation.
STEAM So while you’re watching it on monitor, did you ever think we have to go reshoot that part because it didn’t shoot well?
SH We plan that pretty well, especially any part that has a monster or makeup work in it. We’ve never actually reshot anything; we’ve changed camerawork and the cuts and edits as those are just choices that you have to make. Sometimes we think, “I really wanted this shot,” but something wasn’t quite right, and we had to go around it.
STEAM As you said, Dreatime Stories was completed with a cast and crew of volunteers, which tells me there is a great deal camaraderie between the different companies here.
SH There are a lot of very talented people here both in front of and behind the camera lens. Psychotic Productions brought in a lot of equipment that we needed. We had the best crew: sound and boom operator John Rosales, intern/2nd camera operator/behind the scenes videographer Jake Gonzalez, Make-up Assistant and Production Assistant Sam Mata. It wasn’t a full on, “let’s do this all together,” but we did bring groups in to help us with aspects that we needed. Chad Caron from Dark Dimensions Haunted House did set design for the segments “Punishment” and “Distension,” Isaac Rodarte from Psychotic Productions who provided additional equipment and operation for the segments “Harvest Hollow” and “Forgotten,” and Blanca Tamez from Wicked Pissah FX for providing the make-up and special effects for the segment “Empty.” Pablo Schmitt composed the original score for the "Dreadtime Stories" theme song for the introductory credits and the song during the end credits is called "Don't Blame it on Me" by the band Koruptore which will soon have its own music video featuring some of the monsters from "Dreadtime Stories." We are overwhelmed with the amount of support and enthusiasm we have received from everyone and we appreciate all the hard work and sacrifices.
STEAM Sal, I read on Facebook not to long ago, that you went to Hollywood for an awards presentation. What film was that for and what did you win?
SH Yes, but first this was Pablo’s project and I was fortunate enough to have a free weekend when he needed an extra hand. 48 Film Project is an international film competition and they flew us out to Hollywood for the awards because we had been nominated for the short, "The Deal." The film "The Deal" was screened in Hollywood at the Directors Guild of America. I won Best Actor and Best Writer Pablo Schmitt won Best Film. This was a really great experience and although I was working for another film company and acting for them I was still representing our company, because that’s where I learned all of these skills.
STEAM One last thing… you mentioned cheating. Can you explain what that is and what is the length difference between short and feature films?
JG Cheating is when you use a prop to do one thing and the actual use of it is for something else. Example would be your front door. I like the shape of the door, but I don’t want it to lead outside, I want it to lead into the living room, so we would “cheat” the door opening. When you open that door in real life it would take you outside, but in the movie you would walk through to the living room. A really good example is a parking garage downtown that we’ve used for so many things: a patient’s room; an insane asylum; walk way into an old abandoned building; and once as a parking garage.
SH Each film festival sets their own time limits, but for general rule a short is up to 40 minutes while a feature is at least 43 minutes. Horror films are usually in the 90 minute range, so when we realized that Dreadtime Stories was 105 minutes we thought that it was long; however, it runs together so smoothly that the length doesn’t seem to be a factor.