Background on underground cinema creator Todd Michael Smith: he’s been an independent filmmaker for the past 25 years. When he was 14, he made extremely-small-budget indie horror flicks with the Polonia Brothers, including Splatter Farm. He formed Regal Studios and started the New Cinema Movement. However, in 2006 he suffered a stroke and went through heart surgery, leading him to fold the company. In 2007 he wrote “The Writers” and in 2008 he formed New Cinema Studios in Ellendale, DE with Shane Miles and Steve McKenzie.
Cinema should be rough and earthy and have the feel of it’s subject matter. If a painting were painted like a Hollywood film is made it would simply be a poster. Shiny flat and emotionless.
The following interview with Todd Michael Smith was conducted by Alyx around April 25, 2005, when he was still running Regal Studios.
Alyx: One night, at a Necrodemon show, I found out a segment for a movie called Internet Fear was being taped by a Delaware production house, Regal Studios. The premise: Necrodemon uses the interweb to enlist Servers of the Damned to cause all sorts of chaos. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Todd Michael Smith of Regal Studios and Rob Elliott of Necrodemon were both kind enough to chat with me about the production, as well as the business of making movies and metal. My interview with Todd Michael Smith is below. Click here for my interview with Rob Elliott of Necrodemon.
How long have you been making movies?
I started making horror films when I was fourteen and have dabbled around with no budget cinema ever since. Whether running camera, acting, writing or directing. I am now 35 so it has been sometime.
What got you into the business of making horror?
When I was in my early teens, I received some publicity for a pop Art exhibit I did as well as some writing. Andy Warhol took notice and I got my name into the papers. One day, I was sitting in shop class working on god knows what, when these two little twins about 13 at the time walked up to me and said “Hey man you want to be in a horror movie?” As it turns out the twins were none other than the Polonia Brothers, probably the most prolific indie horror filmmakers today. So anyway, I acted in their film and was instantly taken with film and horror. I worked with them on several projects throughout high school and into the coming years. They taught me the basics of filmmaking in exchange for me working on everything from special effects to lighting to directing for them.
So it was kind of like a film school for you?
Definitely, I was never paid a penny but I was given the gift of filmmaking and the knowledge to do just about anything in any area where film is concerned. Of course, now I am learning a lot of stuff all over again because we used film and splicers. ( laughs )
What are your thoughts on the new Digital Age?
It’s great. It gives the young people starting out as well as the old guys like me who choose to continue staying Independent to make very professional looking films, something we could not really do back in the eighties. It was the reason I came back to film full time and started Regal Studios. The possibilities are now endless.
I know you had worked with Necrodemon in the past — was Internet Fear written with them in mind?
I had actually written the first draft of Internet Fear with just a standard killer going on the Internet and luring people but when Rob Elliott mentioned he would like the band to do a cameo in the film the wheels started turning. I sent the second draft to Rob with the single killer being replaced by an evil heavy metal band. He loved the idea and so we started figuring out how we could make it happen. Having Necrodemon not only do music for Internet Fear but also its centerpiece really added to the film and gave it a completely new dimension.
How did you handle the special effects in this movie?
For the most part, I did the special effects. It is something I learned early on and really enjoy. I can do it with one hand tied behind my back at this point. We shot mainly on the weekends so during the week I would work on the effects and figure out how I would carry them off. To be honest I am not much for digital blood and gore. I want the old time stuff.
What was the biggest challenge you came across when making Internet Fear?
I think just the budget constraints. We really had no money so it was like “okay, let’s figure out what we have to shoot this weekend and how we can do it with no money.”
How did you overcome the lack of money?
My producer Kathi Lehmer and I just did as much of the work ourselves as possible. I ran camera, did the effects, and worked with the actors while she made sure everyone was on schedule and the locations ended up secured. We both worked meticulously on the lighting using colored lights and shadow lighting. Of course, great locations really help if you’re working with a limited amount of cash.
I’ve seen Internet Fear described as an homage to Fellini. Which of his works most influenced you?
The first Fellini film I viewed was Satyricon. It blew me away because it broke every taboo not just as far as content but also in its style and structure. I think that was the main thing I learned from Fellini. I had been brought up on American cinema where there was a rule for everything. Fellini shows filmmakers there are no rules as long as you make a good film. Of course I then watched 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita and from that decided I did not have to use a standard structure in Internet Fear.
Where did the idea come from for Internet Fear?
I started writing the script one night not really knowing what was going to develop. I just somehow knew it had something to do with fear. Brought on by a fear of getting older, fear of 9/11, fear of a dictatorship in the white house, and of course fear of the Internet, which represented change to me. So upon going to bed that night I was in this weird state. As it turns out I dreamt all night about these characters and some how all these fears had manifest themselves into this horrendous horror film I viewed as I slept. All night long, I kept getting up and writing down notes. I dreamed the whole thing, which was why it was so important to me not to have to fit Internet Fear into a straight structure. I wanted it to remain dream like and as horrific as it had seemed to me.
When is Internet Fear due for release on DVD?
Internet Fear will be released in June. We meant to have it out already but as more and more people have come forward to offer their services, the project has gotten bigger and more professional… all taking more and more time.
I see you are now doing distribution through your Truly Independent DVD Series. Can you tell me a little about your next release in that area?
Our first release is a film entitled The Mental Dead. It is from a talented young director, Adam Deyoe. The Mental Dead is a good old fashion Zombie romp with young heroes Tyler and Crash. They face zombies, a mass murder, and bad weather. It’s a film made by young people so it has freshness and a bite to it. (laughs) And it ships May 1, 2005!
Finally, what are you working on right now, and what is your next project?
It’s called The Rental. It’s a gritty street drama about a young hustler and how he overcomes the streets and the strange characters of the inner city. It still has definite elements of horror.