Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The First Annual Aliens to Zombies Convention - A Weekend of Wicked Awesome

After 10pm, Thursday night, we arrived in beautiful and eerily summery Los Angeles for the Aliens to Zombies Convention. We were met by Todd Masters not only one of the coolest guys that I have the distinct honor of calling a friend but also someone whose work I have admired for years. Here's a little catch up for you newcomers.

We checked in at the notoriously haunted and historical Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Blvd. Who haunts this place? Well, when Marilyn Monroe started her career as a model, she stayed at the hotel for two years in room 229 where she could overlook the fabulous poolside. Spoiled rotten, we got the room across from hers, yet did not experience anything otherworldly in the sense of the blond bombshell. It was also where the very first Academy Awards ceremony was held.

Now, if we had only gone to the convention - it would have been the best time of our lives, but Todd Masters doesn't do anything half-assed. The con would start with the kickoff party and Halloween Book Festival Awards on the evening of Friday, October 22, but before that we would go to the Tim Burton Exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) - the largest art museum in the western United States.

"The exhibition brings together over 700 drawings, paintings, photographs, moving-image works, storyboards, puppets, concept artworks, maquettes, costumes, and cinematic ephemera, including art from a number of unrealized and little-known personal projects. Many of these objects come from the artist's own archive, as well as from studio archives and private collections of Burton's collaborators."

When I was a little girl, I would hang out in the massively decorated horror section of our local video store. One day a full-sized Edward Scissorhands cardboard standee was placed in the section. Despite having a love of gore and monsters, Edward scared me. My mom noticed and asked what was different. I told her that the man with knife hands scared me. She rented the film and I learned a very important lesson - which was actually the heart of the film - not everyone who looks like a monster is a monster and not everyone who looks like a good guy is a good guy.

I got to actually see that beautiful costume that was so much a part of Edward. There was also his impressive scissorhand on display. Colleen Atwood's beautiful costume took me back to that moment and how much I had changed since I last saw it. The museum was crowded with Burton fans, excitedly looking at Burton's spooky and signature artwork, props, character designs - each person had their life touched by this incredible artist. In the same room laid the BATMAN RETURNS Catwoman suit, Jen's all-time favorite - so there was a full geekgasm for both of us there.

Our trio - Todd and the twins - then hit the street to pimp the con, no rest for the wicked. Naturally, the man was in full demand with his numerous projects, so we parted ways until the evening. It was at the Pig & Whistle that we met up with our good friends that live far too far away (until we make the official move to their town) - Miguel Rodriguez and Beth Accomando. We had some amazing food, then went back to the hotel for a very sexy interview on our bed. I kid you not. Not just anyone can make it to the twins' bed, but these folks are something special. Click here and here for a catchup on our mad love affair.

Stayed tuned for the full interview. We chatted until it was time to head to the Oscar Room of the Roosevelt. Party time. We sat with TESSERACT CONFIGURED author and her lovely friend as we chatted about horror and had some great nerding out conversation. It was also where we met the incredible, Martin Olsen, author of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HELL and the voice behind ADVENTURE TIME'S Vampire King. Also, one of the most bitingly witty and interesting men I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know - and guess what? He even took a DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK home with him.

After the awards and partying subdued, we rejoined the incredibly hard-working Todd Masters and got the thrill of any horror geek's life - we got to see his LA shop. Bodies, monsters, chunks of remains, my personal favorite was the two naked pregnant women that held up a glass slab that made up their conference table. We grabbed goodies to pimp the next day and hit Hollywood Blvd with a decapitated head to entice the fanboys and fangirls to come meet the monster makers for the next day. Oddly, we didn't really stand out that much. Hard to be the weird ones on that Blvd.

We were up and at them at 9am the next morning. We met up with Todd and hit up a grocery store for the $22 PRO MONSTER MAKER'S CHALLENGE supplies. Professional artists would work with household supplies to show you how to make a monster that looks awesome for cheap. We got the honor of hosting the event - I guess with a $2500 feature, we know a little bit about making stuff for cheap. That said, we spent a grand on our DHIAT effects.

The Convention was spectacular. There was a monster museum with creatures for various shops that are the stuff that make your favorite flick memorable. Regan, the Slither beast, a head wounded Rainn Wilson, gorillas, zombies, aliens, even the War Machine suit. At this time, I must inform you, gentle blog reader, that Jen loves Iron Man. I'm surprised that the suit didn't end up in her carry on. That said, it was War Machine fangirl mania when she had the opportunity to speak to Michael Manzel of Legacy FX about the suit and her deep love of the design work for those films.

Here's the itinerary of all the Aliens to Zombies awesome that was to occur that epic day --

ACADEMY ROOM 11:00 a.m. Aliens Keynote – Bryce Zabel, producer of NBC’s “Dark Skies” and author of “A.D. After Disclosure: The People’s Guide to Life After Contact” in a conversation with Alex Ben Block, Senior Editor, The Hollywood Reporter

OSCAR ROOM 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m. Beginning of the End
Moderator: Bruce Haring, Aliens to Zombies
Martin Olson, author, “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HELL”
Joe McKinney, author, “DEAD CITY”
David Moody, author, “THE ‘AUTUMN’ SERIES”
Scott Kenemore, author, “ZOMBIE, OHIO”
Rhiannon Frater, author, "THE FIRST DAYS"

ACADEMY ROOM 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m. – Aliens Among Us
Moderator: John Fasano, writer, "Alien 3," "Zombie Nightmare"
Steve Murillo, State Section Director, MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) Los Angeles
Alec Gillis & Tom Woodruff Jr., ADI Inc. Oscar-winning FX creators, “Starship Troopers”, “Alien vs. Predator,” “The Thing”
Shane Mahan, “Aliens & Cowboys,” “Terminator” series, , “Real Steel”

OSCAR ROOM 1:10 to 2:00 p.m. Pro Monster-Maker $22. Halloween Challenge
Hollywood’s top monster-makers are challenged to make a monster from simple household materials with limited budget. A great how-to for anyone seeking Halloween costume ideas. Hosted by the Twisted Twins, Jennifer & Sylvia Soska,
“Dead Hooker in a Trunk” and the Zurvived.it crew!

Dan Rebert, MASTERSFX “6 Feet Under, True Blood”
Steve Johnson, “Ghostbusters,” “Species”
Mike Manzel, FX “Iron Man”, “Real Steel”
Shaun Smith, “Dawn of the Dead,” “300,” Conan the Barbarian”

ACADEMY ROOM: 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. – “Fearnet – Trick-or-Treat Shorts” writer, director, producer Michael Dougherty, “X-men”, “Trick or Treat”

ACADEMY ROOM: 2:00 to 2:15 p.m. – “Beast Wishes” Trailer - Bob and Kathy Burns, Frank Dietz and Trish Geiger, Producers

ACADEMY ROOM 2:15 to 3:30 pm – The Cinema’s Simians: Monkey Men of the Movies
Jason Barnett, documentarian/producer, Founder, “P.E.G.” PRACTICAL EFFECTS GROUP
Bob Burns, special effects, “Ghostbusters”, “Kogar”, “Tracy the Gorilla”
Tom Woodruff, Jr. “Aliens”, “Zookeeper” “Jumangi”

ACADEMY ROOM 3:40–4:50 p.m. – Werewolf’s Bane – Howling to The Underworld
Moderator: Todd Masters, President of MASTERSFX. “Underworld 4”
Steve Johnson, FX guru, “The Howling,” “Fright Night”,“American Werewolf in London”
Kerry Gammill, artist, MONSTERVERSE (“X-men”, “Superman,” “Flesh and Blood”)
Michael Dougherty, writer/director, “Trick or Treat,” “X-men”

OSCAR ROOM 5:00 p.m Talking Dead – Michael Rooker, “The Walking Dead,” “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” in conversation with James Gunn, writer,/director, “Slither”,“Dawn of the Dead,” “Super”

8:30 p.m -1:30a.m. ALIENS TO ZOMBIES - Monster-Makers Bash, presented by MASTERSFX and JM Northern Media at Velvet Margarita

It was an extreme honor to be joined by the EL MARIACHI himself at the con, Carlos Gallardo. A constant supported of the indies and the DIY (do it yourself) innovators of the film scene - it was very cool that he could attend and help pimp the release of DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK in which he so appropriately played God.

We started at the alien panel - both non-believers which ended with Jen turned believer. They often cite proof as the reason why aliens cannot possibly exist, well one panelist not only had never disproved images, but he supplied verified report after repost of unidentified flying objects and others that simply leave a lot to think about. If I wasn't such a cynical bitch - he would have gotten me to. He did give me a lot to think about.

Next up was the $22 PRO MONSTER MAKER CHALLENGE and the challengers were the stupidly talented Steve Johnson (GHOSTBUSTERS, SPECIES), Dan Rebert (SIX FEET UNDER, TRUE BLOOD), and Todd Masters (everything awesome ever). We were joined by the Zurvived team that covered the event. Well, guess what? You can make some pretty fucking wicked stuff with shit that you probably already have at home in a pinch to get your monster on.

At the challenge, we met the incomparable and charming, Michael Rooker. I really thought that we would at most get a polite chat and he would be on his way to do what actors do - be awesome at a distance. I never thought that not only would we get to chat, but we also got to hang out, and there's nothing quite like talking to the HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and realize he is one of the coolest guys out there. He would join his good friend, James Gunn (SLITHER, SUPER, PG PORN) a little while later on their panel.

They bicker hilariously like an old married couple (something about being pooped on), but both men are absolutely brilliant in their own respective ways. Michael is a real actor with so much that he brings to his roles. James is a cinematic badass - he can make a flick for cheap and it's going to be gory, sexy, and exciting.

For the event, Todd had hand crafted Rooker's hand for badass flipping off severed hands. These will be on sale, ladies and gentlemen, and I do hope they take Canadian.

Next was the cab ride from hell. The Monster Maker's Bash was only a few minutes away, but we were driven to the middle of fucking nowhere and told to get out at a barred off building. So... $200 later, we arrived at the party and with some tequila, the night was completely awesome again.

The best people on the planet make up the horror community. I can't believe how lucky I got to spend so much time with people who I admire so much and were kind and generous to spend the evening with a couple of rowdy twins. We returned to the Roosevelt around 6am. I would have enjoyed passing out, but there was a mini rave occurring next door. I would find out the following morning that the hellraisers were rocker pedigrees and there were people doing all sorts of mind-expanding substances, even some I had no idea what they were. I think that's the PC way to put it.

We were picking up by dear friends and soon to be Mr. Kristian & Mrs. Fernanda Hanson - with the adorably crude puppet of Jen's dreams - Assly. These two are some of our dearest friends and it was hip as fuck to finally meet them in the flesh. And Assly in the Puppet flesh. We had a date with a real hellraiser - the master of horror himself, Clive Barker, at the Dark Delicacies. Now, HELLRAISER changed my life. I was very young when I saw it and it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The world of the cenobytes that seduced their victims fascinated me. I had no previous experience with pain and pleasure being intermixed and Pinhead, the gentleman sadist, was a monster that I would never want to fall victim to, but would love to be able to meet.

What I didn't know was that Kristian had gotten one of Clive's novels to us. I had been excitedly chatting about how Clive's work inspired the subject matter in AMERICAN MARY and when we got to the front of the line and went fangirl mute, he refused to let me escape. I told him about the film, how his work changed my life, and you know what? - he stopped the line and we talked about ___________ (sorry that's still a surprise) and he invited us to his home to speak further.

There is a character in the film with his last name in hommage to him and he really dug it. Then the most amazing thing happened - he described the image of Ruby RealGirl that was on our one sheet from the title and mixing the American imagery of beauty with the needless sexual organs of Mary, mother of God. I said, so you've seen our one sheet. No. Fuck off - that IS our one sheet. As I type, a package with DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK and some AMERICAN MARY goodies are heading to him.

I'm a highly sentimental girl and this made me cry. Literally, we went to the side to wait to get the contact information and had a wipe tears from our faces. It was literally one of the happiest moments of my life. I will never forget what Kristian and Fernanda did for us. I truly love those two fuckers.

As if that wasn't spoiling enough, they took us to Universal Walk where Jen had her date with Assly at Bubba Gump Shrimp. I bought some red hot heels which have become my lucky heels as this trip has definitely left its mark on me. I drank Duff energy drinks, went to the coolest boutiques, and was thankful that I didn't bring more cash as it would have all been spent at the most amazing comic shop on the planet.

Next we hit up the iconic New Beverly Cinema where DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK was to play on the 28th at Midnight. We ran into the ridiculously talented Tate Steinsiek (FACE OFF) who joined us in our Halloween horror flick picks for Assly's Halloween special. I met the owner, Michael Torgan, who is just as cool as the theater he runs. It was so cool to be standing there were in a few days, folks would go get their DEAD HOOKER on in a special midnight screening. We went back to the hotel to sign a stack of posters to drop off for all attendees.

After that our time was up. We took our severed head and all our goodies to the airport and went back home to Vancouver and back to the lady that I am obsessed with, AMERICAN MARY. Back to full prep mode and I couldn't be happier. That said, I cannot wait to return to that mesmerizing city and the incredible people who I can never thank enough for their kindness. Thank you for having us at the event, monster makers. Thank you for making this possible, Todd. Thank you to my team at Industry Works that got us out there.

And thank you, gentle blog reader. How about we make plans right here and now to meet up at the 2012 Aliens to Zombies Convention? Bloody wicked epic time for all.


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