An Interview with Chris Garetano – By Brian Morton

 At the Chicago Weekend Of Horrors, I had a very strange experience. When I was checking in, I saw a man who I thought I recognized, but I wasn’t sure from where, and I kept seeing him around the hotel. Well, we crossed paths a couple of times, and I’m sure that he thought I was something of a weirdo, because I kept looking at him. Well, we finally ran into each other in the elevator and he invited me to a screening on Sunday morning, once he handed me the card, and I saw it was the documentary, Horror Business, I knew where I’d seen him…in the pages of Fangoria magazine, his name is Christopher Garetano and, it turns out, he’s one of the nicest people I got the chance to meet over the weekend. I saw the movie on Sunday (a review of which appears in another part of this issue), and it’s a great documentary on independent filmmaking! So, after the screening I stopped Chris and asked him a couple of questions.

BM – What interested you in filmmaking? And horror movies specifically?

CG – I was inspired by a series of events that began with exposure to many horror films at a very early age. In the eighties, my parents owned two video stores and I was subjected to cinema at all times. I would hang out in the horror movie section of the store and stare in awe at the gore-laden boxes that sat high on the shelves… I remember staring at an old VHS box for H.G. Lewis’ Color Me Blood Red (where a woman was nailed to a wall and disemboweled) and being absolutely disgusted and fascinated by it. My ultra-saturated cinema childhood seems to be the case in point with many of the new generation of horror filmmakers. Two other huge inspirations were Tom Savini’s Scream Greats Vol. 1 (a classic documentary about the horror renaissance man) and Fangoria magazine. I was obsessed with Fangoria; it became my true outlet. On another spectrum, I had a monster makeup kit and I wanted to be Tom Savini. I was fascinated with the man and his work. Recently I was waiting in line at a Best Buy store and I overheard a young kid talking with his mother. She said to her son: "Why are you getting this one?" (She was referring to a Dawn of the Dead DVD grasped tightly in his hands.) And he replied because it has Tom Savini in it. I was having flashbacks… it was weird. The man (Savini) is still making that same inspirational impact today as he was years ago.

BM – Horror Business is a great look at a few of the independent filmmakers across the country! As an independent filmmaker yourself, what advice would you offer to others?

CG – Chasing a career in film can become a serious sacrifice and years could pass by before you ever make any progress. I think any aspiring filmmaker should really think before they make the decision to go ahead with it. Make sure it’s something you really want to do with your life. I wouldn’t recommend it for dilettantes or weekend warriors. You need to be tough and you need to be willing to cut everything else out of your life… That is unless you have astronomical amounts of finance or your uncle Francis is a big time film producer.

BM – As an independent film maker yourself, how do you finance your own films, and what would you tell new film makers about the financial end of movie making?

CG – The beginning of your career is going to be a fierce battle and you must find a way that works for you personally. You can’t play by Hollywood rules when you’re not playing with Hollywood money and you must re-adjust their rules to fit your own filmmaking criteria and budget. You need to start with a story that fits your situation. Plan your first project around what’s available to you. Write your screenplay around what you have. Be smart and be creative. There are so many locations (cities, state parks, national parks) that are available for free and are breathtaking. I currently finance my projects by saving money and understanding how not to spend it. You can make an amount like two thousand dollars go a very long way if you know how not to spend it. If making movies truly means the world to you, you must sacrifice all other extra curricular expenses and dedicate yourself to movie making.

BM – What was the hardest part of making Horror Business?

CG – The most difficult part was not having sufficient equipment when I needed it. My computer crashed about four times during the entire editing process. Therefore, I was left with the shuddering thought of having all of my hard work erased each time it happened. It was scary but it was a risk I chose to take. It was like a hardcore boot camp (in terms of problem solving and improvising) and it kept me on my toes. It did get a bit difficult late in the editing process, but that was mainly because of the repetitiveness and the long hours. I was editing Horror Business for months without end and there was one night that I began to hallucinate and I wanted to blow my brains out all over the wall. I must admit I’m looking forward to working with some less antiquated equipment for my upcoming projects.

 BM – Of all the filmmakers you contacted, what led you to select the group featured in Horror Business (Mark Borchardt, Ron Atkins and David Stagnari)?

CG – I was publishing an independent horror magazine titled “Are You Going?” and most of the contributors (David Stagnari, H.G. Lewis, Mark Borchardt, John Goras) eventually became subjects of Horror Business. “Are You Going?” was a great precursor to Horror Business and is very much like the film only in a magazine format. They all had an honest sensibility about them that the film really needed. I couldn’t have a bunch of pretentious independent filmmakers telling me how great they are- it wouldn’t have worked for this film. The whole purpose of Horror Business was to expose and explore this (guerilla filmmaking) lifestyle for what it really is: a struggle and a dangerous obsession.

BM – Your film Inside on the Fangoria Blood Drive DVD is a very different kind of film. It’s like nothing else on the DVD and it’s probably my favorite on there, because of the unusual style of storytelling you used. Why did you decide on such on unconventional way of telling your story?

CG – Thanks man… My goal with Inside was to tell a feature film story (of suicide and possession) in eight minutes. The short was a challenge because it was made with almost no money, and I chose to tell the story as a series of vibrant and kinetic visuals. I wanted sight and sound to lead you through an eight-minute nightmare. Movie making should be a complete freedom and you should experiment with your craft every chance you get. Every now and then, I run into someone who saw and really understood Inside and I know I did my job right.

BM – I noticed a number of nods to other horror films in Inside, but the one that I wasn’t sure about (whether or not it was intentional) was at the end. Was the camera noise in the final minutes of the film an intentional tribute to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or was that just the sound you chose to use?

CG – Maybe subconsciously, I was influenced by the obvious. Chainsaw was such a strong influence on me and that will ring true for my upcoming drama titled SOUTH TEXAS BLUES. The sounds that you hear in Inside were all created from scratch; there were no borrowed sound effects in that film. I shot Inside in three days and I edited it in about a week. It happened so fast but it wasn’t long before that I had experienced a serious tragedy in my personal life. There were some obvious nods to Black Christmas but mainly it was inspired by the blackness I was feeling at the time. Life can be great but (as you know) it can also really f*cking suck. A filmmaker should use that energy in their work. It’s their most valuable asset.

BM – Inside is told in such a way that you could draw several conclusions about the story (one of the things I loved about it), any plans on maybe expanding on the story?

CG – Maybe, in some form or another… I do have plans for a horror film that will be very free and experimental like Inside and it will deal with many stories and subjects in a two-hour period. That’s going to be so interesting to make. I’d love to give people an unforgettably unique experience with a horror film and I don’t think that’s achievable with a straightforward or traditional narrative. When I do make my "horror film" it’s going to be like nothing you have ever seen.

BM – At the Chicago Weekend Of Horrors, you mentioned that you’re working on Son of Horror Business. Can you tell us a little about that?

CG – I’ve already shot about 34 hours of footage for Son of Horror Business and it’s going to mark the beginning of a new and wonderful film revolution. The first Horror Business notes the struggles and frustrations of guerilla horror filmmakers. Son of Horror Business is a celebration of the new generation that’s rising from the ashes to fight the war against mediocrity. It’s going to be loud, fast, outrageous and angry, like a rebellious newborn son.

BM – You say you have 34 hours of footage shot for Son of Horror Business. How many hours of footage did you gather before finishing Horror Business?

CG – Ultimately I shot about 75 hours of footage before I completed Horror Business and I’ll probably shoot twice that amount for Son of Horror Business. There’s so much happening in the world of independent horror movie making that it’s important to tell the story right. I truly believe that we’re witnessing the very beginning of a new revolution in movie making and now more than ever films are becoming the voice of the people and the art of the people.

 BM – Can you tell us who will be featured in Son of Horror Business and why?

CG – My main focus is on a series of new horror filmmakers that are currently working hard to break through into a professional position. Horror Business focused mainly on the struggle of the guerilla filmmaker and this new chapter will focus on the rising new movie-making revolution. There will be updates on all the filmmakers featured in Horror Business and then the focus will shift to the recent deluge of independent horror moviemakers. “Son of Horror Business” will display a wonderful variety and an outrageous celebration of this new revolution. Filmmakers like Paul Solet (Means To An End, Grace), Allan Rowe Kelly (I’ll Bury You Tomorrow), and Scott Goldberg (All I Want) all represent uniquely different examples of this movement in movie making. I’m also going to focus on the irresponsibility of some guerilla filmmakers by telling the story of Debbie Rochon’s (cult movie actress) misfortunate and extremely neglectful on set "accident" that resulted in the near severing of her fingers.

BM – Any plans on making a full-length feature? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

CG – Well Horror Business is feature length (82 minutes), Son of Horror Business will clock in at about two hours. I have a few other projects in development one of which is titled South Texas Blues and it’s a drama (set in 1973) that will explore the making of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I will recreate and illustrate the many wonderful stories that have been told over the years by the people who lived them. The wheels are already turning for this one and it’s becoming difficult to sleep at night. That’s what I’m talking about… find something that keeps you up all night thinking about it and that’s what you should be doing with your life.

BM – Growing up around a video store, you’ve obviously seen more than your fair share of movies. Any favorites that are currently out there? (Not that you have a lot of time to watch movies right now!)

CG – In recent years films like Chopper, The Machinist, Audition, The Manson Family, Habit, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Eyes Wide Shut, Funny Games, and Animal Factory. I love movies and always will but I’m so mentally adhered to making my own now that I’m reducing my movie watching time to a minimum. There are many filmmakers out there who believe that the only film education they need is to watch a lot of movies and that’s a false danger zone. Movie making is a learned craft and education is crucial. You don’t need to go to film school, but you do need an education in moviemaking. Watching many movies (as your only education) is only going to teach you how someone else made a film and it will pervert your pure vision. A true moviemaker must have a pure point of view. With so much information that’s bombarded at us, it’s difficult to achieve a pure point of view, but it’s not impossible. My suggestion (to aspiring movie makers) is to clear your mind to find what’s unique about yourself so you can express that to the audience.

Thanks again Chris, after seeing Horror Business, I can’t wait to see Son Of Horror Business!

You can see that Chris is hard working and serious about his craft and it shows in his work, you can check out Horror Business at Horror Business and his short film Inside is on the Fangoria Blood Drive Vol. 1 DVD, which I’m sure you can find at your local retailer or rental place! Or you can keep up with Chris at his My Space Page or you can check out his upcoming movie South Texas Blues at Chris’ South Texas Blues My Space Page. We here at RC wish Chris the best of luck, but with his talent, I don’t think he’ll be needed much of it!