A NEW SITE
April 23, 2022
This has been long overdue, but I'm thrilled to finally launch a new and improved website. There's lots of fun stuff to explore and discover so have a look around and enjoy immersing yourself in the insanity.
There are still many updates and pages in progress - all coming soon - so be sure to bookmark and spread the word.
It has been a trip curating the last thirty years of my filmmaking journey and I can't wait to share what comes next.
AWKWARD ENDEAVORS PLAYS TO FILMS FESTIVALS AROUND THE WORLD
February 15, 2022
Fifteen years ago, The Minor Prophets and I convened to film our first collaboration, 4th and 99. It marked the beginning of a long and storied creative relationship. Today I’m proud to share our eighth effort, Awkward Endeavors. This short is based on a scene from a feature screenplay written by David Amadio, Gil Damon and Steve Kuzmick. Our original intent was to shoot the full-length film this past year, in and around our Delco roots, however the pandemic halted those plans. We opted for the next best thing and selected a sequence that showcased these lonely male leads and the bizarre relationships between them. A few special shout-outs – To Kathleen Kozak, for bringing the heart, soul and music to this project. To Nicole Py for joining the shoot after a last minute invitation, ensuring everyone looked fabulous. To Holly Kempf for her AMAZING poster design. And to Leah Gallo, for her patience through piano rehearsals with Des, filming in our home over the July 4th weekend, MULTIPLE viewings while in post-production and for your wonderful behind the scenes photography during the shoot (I’ll be posting photos in the coming days). The Minor Prophets and I are still eager to film the feature version of Awkward Endeavors, but until that day, I hope you enjoy this deep dish slice.
WARNER BROS. PARTNERS WITH ANIMAL LOGIC ON NEW MUSICAL, TOTO
Vancouver Studio to Bring the Famous Dog’s Tale To Life
February 9, 2021
Animal Logic confirmed today that the feature musical adaptation of Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz will be the next project produced out of their animation studio in Vancouver.
The family film will connect audiences from all ages and Toto will not only appeal to fans of the original film, but it will introduce the story to a whole new generation. Told from the perspective of Dorothy’s beloved companion, the screenplay was written by John August, with two-time Tony nominee, Alex Timbers, attached to direct. The film will be produced by Derek Frey, who previously headed-up Tim Burton Productions.
Pre-production has begun on the animated feature, with Timbers currently meeting key creatives and producers in Vancouver and recruitment of artists and practitioners ramping up over the next few months.
Toto is the latest addition to an already prolific partnership between Animal Logic and Warner Bros., spanning more than 20 years. The Vancouver studio is currently in production on an animated film based on the DC Super Pets franchise, directed by Jared Stern and set for release in 2022.
Known internationally as a digital hub, particularly for animation, Vancouver’s strong talent pool has allowed the studio to continue its growth and success alongside their Sydney headquarters.
When the Killers, Tim Burton and Winona Ryder all came to Blackpool
January 16, 2022
Blackpool and its main attractions have played host to a wide variety of filming and photography shoots throughout their history.
Few however have involved stars as well known as the Killers, Tim Burton and Winona Ryder.
Those parties, as well as Submarine and The Fundamentals of Caring star Craig Roberts, brought the town a worldwide focus when they used landmarks including Blackpool Tower and the Pleasure Beach in the band’s video for single ‘Here with Me’.
Brandon Flowers and co joined their Hollywood counterparts in the town on a cold night in November 2012, filming at locations including the tower’s iconic ballroom and dungeon, the Horror Crypt and the Pleasure Beach.
In the video, the band are seen performing in the ballroom as the video intercuts to scenes of a love story involving Roberts’ character and a waxwork of Ryder’s.
Early on, Roberts is seen purchasing a ticket to see Ryder’s performance and Ryder is seen autographing and taking pictures with fans, while Roberts gazes at both Ryder and her wax mannequin.
Seeing the resemblance in the wax mannequin, Roberts decides to take her and embarks on several dates with her, filling the apparent emptiness he feels of not having the real Ryder beside him.
The surreal date scenes include trips to the beach and a slow dance and the video ends Roberts is seen lighting a candle wick on top of Ryder’s wax mannequin and his own head.
Filming took place while the band was in the UK for a tour but the location was actually selected by Burton, who is best known for films like Nightmare Before Christmas and Batman Forever but had also directed another of their videos.
Explaining the choice, he said: “The first time I saw The Killers perform live was in Blackpool, U.K. shortly after completing work on our first collaboration, the music video for Bones. When I heard the song Here With Me I remembered seeing a wax figure of Winona in Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks in Blackpool.
“The concept of the video is inspired by the 1935 film Mad Love, starring Peter Lorre, as well as the works of Mario Bava. It was a pleasure to film in Blackpool and to work with The Killers, Winona Ryder and Craig Roberts.”
The night before filming, the band were spotted by fans as they watched James Bond film Skyfall at the nearby Odeon cinema. Cinema manager Samantha Sinclair, was quoted at the time as saying: “It was really exciting.
“They were happy to have photos taken with locals… They were really nice, not very chatty but I know they had to cancel their gig on Tuesday because Brandon lost his voice.”
Producer Derek Frey gave more insight into the location choice in an interview with Little Black Book.
He said: “Blackpool actually has many traits that typify Tim’s aesthetic. Most of his projects over the last ten years have been filmed in the UK, including Alice in Wonderland and Sweeney Todd, both of which are set in the UK and include seaside locations.
In Search of Tomorrow: A Journey Through ’80s Sci-Fi Cinema is a five-hour love letter to 1980s sci-fi movies and the definitive documentary on the genre.
March 28, 2022
IN SEARCH OF TOMORROW ~ is finally complete! It's truly the definitive '80s Sci-Fi Doc and what a list of stars we've assembled. Super proud to have helped produce this ambitious tribute to the films and actors that inspired me as a kid.
Here are some more details and stay tuned for more info on upcoming screenings and events:
If you’re a fan of 80s sci-fi cinema, this is the film you’ve been waiting for! It’s the be-all, end-all of documentaries on the genre. It would probably be better for this to be a documentary series. Instead, it’s a documentary of almost five-hours long.
It’s a film that celebrates our favorite movies while discussing and breaking down their impact on the world today. Unfortunately, the only way you’ll be able to watch the film is by pre-ordering it.
There are over 70 interviewees in the film ranging from actors, directors, producers, writers, visual and special-effects masters, composers, production craftspersons, film critics, authors, and notable experts in the field. Everyone brings something important to In Search of Tomorrow. Whether it’s breaking down a film in question or its impact on the future, no stone goes unturned. Theatrical releases are not the only films up for discussion in the film. There’s also a look at the straight-to-video movies.
Everything is discussed in a chronological basis in terms of what year a film is released. If you aren’t feeling the nostalgia by the end of this movie, you’re watching it wrong.
'Toto': Animated Feature About Dorothy's 'Wizard of Oz' Dog Sets Release Date
Warner Animation Group sets premiere for February 2024. By Chiara Elena Romero for Collider
December 17, 2021
Whether you have watched the Wizard of OZ a million times, or have yet to even see it, you are probably familiar with Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog Toto, who are transported from their home in Kansas to the magical land of Oz. In this 1939 American classic, they have to travel the yellow brick road to meet a wizard. And along the way meet Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) that needs a brain, a Tin Man (Jack Haley) missing a heart, and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr)who wants courage.
Now this classic story will be told from Toto’s point of view in the animated feature Toto which will be released on February 2, 2024. It is not only based on the classic film, but it is also based on the book Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo and illustrator Emma Chichester Clark.
Alex Timbers, the veteran Broadway director, who co-created and executive produced Mozart in the Jungle will direct. The screenplay was written by John August, who is known forAladdin, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Nines. Jared Stern is set to executive produce, alongside Derek Frey who will produce.
Warner’s ‘Toto’ Animation Gears Up. By Tom Grater for Deadline
February 9, 2021
Warner Bros’ feature musical animation Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story Of The Wizard Of Oz,based on the Michael Morpurgo book, is heading into production at the Animal Logic studio in Vancouver.
Alex Timbers is directing the film from a screenplay by John August – the story is a re-telling of the classic tale from the perspective of Dorothy’s beloved companion. It will be produced by Derek Frey, who previously headed-up Tim Burton Productions.
Pre-production has now begun, with the recruitment of artists underway. Animal Logic and Warner have been teaming for 20 years, and are now in production on an animated film based on the DC Super Pets franchise, directed by Jared Stern and set for release in 2022.
Watch The Frankenweenie Short Captain Sparky Vs The Flying Saucers. By Helen Armitage for Screen Rant.
November 17, 2021
Captain Sparky Vs The Flying Saucers continues the adventures of Frankenweenie’scanine Sparky, and here’s how to watch the short film online. Bull terrier Sparky is the brainchild of filmmaker Tim Burton and made his debut in the director’s 1984 short film Frankenweenie. The black-and-white, Disney-produced live-action movie pays a parody-filled homage to James Whale’s classic 1931 sci-fi horror Frankenstein and tells the tale of a young boy named Victor Frankenstein, who is a budding filmmaker and scientist who brings his beloved pet dog back to life after he’s hit by a car and killed.
In 2012, Frankenweenie got the feature-length treatment with a black-and-white, stop-motion-animated movie again helmed by Burton and produced by Disney, which received largely positive reviews. The film expands on the storyline of the 1984 short and follows Victor Frankenstein - not the James McAvoy movie - as he’s blackmailed by his classmates into teaching them how to raise the dead after resurrecting Sparky. Unfortunately, Victor’s not-so scientifically inclined classmates mess up the process resulting in their hometown being overrun with mutant undead pets – including a cat-bat hybrid named Mr. Whiskers, a mummified hamster and a gang of giant Sea Monkeys.
When Frankenweenie was released on Blu-ray in 2013, it was accompanied by several bonus features – one of which was a short film titled Captain Sparky Vs The Flying Saucers. It’s directed by Frankenweenie animation supervisor Mark Waring (whose other credits include Corpse Bride and Isle Of Dogs) and is written by Frankenweenie co-producer Derek Frey. The latter also released the short via his Vimeo channel a couple of years ago. Watch Captain Sparky Vs The Flying Saucers below.
Frankenweenie fans might remember that its protagonist Victor Frankenstein is an aspiring filmmaker as well as a science whiz and Captain Sparky Vs The Flying Saucers takes the form of a home movie Victor has made with Sparky. As its title suggests, the home movie is a sci-fi affair that follows Sparky as he tries to save the world from a hostile alien invasion. The short film also features the return of fellow Frankenweenie character Mr. Whiskers, although in his regular feline form rather than his cat-bat hybrid shape.
It’s actually a wonder the Tim Burton movie Frankenweenie and its mini-sequel Captain Sparky Vs The Flying Saucers were ever even made. After Burton made Frankenweenie in 1984, he was fired from Disney for wasting the studio’s money by making a film too scary for its young audiences. Thankfully, notions of what was once deemed too dark for impressionable young minds have since changed which led Disney to collaborate with the filmmaker on not just the feature-length Frankenweenie and Captain Sparky Vs The Flying Saucers but other Disney-Tim Burton movies like The Nightmare Before Christmasand James And The Giant Peach too.
Hilo rock band Professor T and the East Side Shredders gets political with new EP and music video
Big Island Music
Professor T and East Side Shredders are back with a new EP and video entitled Ratshit Weasels. The record was produced by guitarist/songwriter Trever “Professor T” Veilleux and recorded by Rob Abe at The Spider House in Volcano, HI. The band includes Jesse Shatternick on bass and Zach Var on drums. Musically, Ratshit Weasels draws from a variety of influences from reggae to blues to funk all played with a heavy rock edge.
Previously, when making a record, Trever would have all the songs written, demoed, and rehearsed prior to going into the studio. But this time when the band got together in the studio, he only brought some loose sketches: riffs, chord progressions, and a few lyrics. The actual song forms took shape while the band jammed in the studio giving the record a spontaneous live feel. The improvisation and musical interplay of these accomplished musicians are evident throughout. A music video for the title track was directed by Derek Frey, whose recent credits include producer of Disney’s Dumbo (2019).
Director Derek Frey’s comments:
Trever shared the EP with me at the end of April. I was struck by the ferocity of “Ratshit Weasels,” “Hesitation Frustration” and “Revolution Time.” It’s a rousing listen. In mid-May, he messaged asking if there was any way to do a quarantine, low budget video for the title track. The song fired me up and I was excited to have a creative outlet in the midst of the pandemic lockdown.
Trever’s songwriting has always transitioned well into the visual realm. Each song I’ve had the privilege to create visuals for has been a gift, and the vignettes of social injustices presented in “Ratshit Weasels” provided ample creative fuel.
Over the course of our many collaborations for Professor T and the East Side Shredders and Technical Difficulties, we’ve covered the genres of horror, adventure, comedy, fantasy, and romance. A work focusing on the difficult challenges facing America seemed like a natural, and perhaps overdue, progression. Aside from depicting these deeply rooted issues I was eager to showcase the sheer ineptitude, ridiculousness, and danger of Trump and his administration.
I was in the final stage of setting up for filming when news broke of the murder of George Floyd. It was a surreal and intense experience creating this video as events were unfolding in real time around the country and world. I channeled my energy and frustration with Trump’s continued failure to address these issues into the final cut. It was challenging to lock the edit because the plight of so many continues to play out.
Our two previous collaborations were “Come in the Water’s Fine” which was set in and around Green Lake, followed by “Pangea”, which showcased a volcanic eruption. Both works predated the 2018 lower Puna eruption. Now with Ratshit Weasels, we have a nation seemingly on fire. Just a bit of a warning if Trever next dreams up a doomsday song. Hopefully, if enough people get behind songs like “Ratshit Weasels” we can help stave off the apocalypse.
Veilleux on the new EP:
Lyrically the EP includes themes of social injustice and power to the people. Songwriter Trever Veilleux says, “When writing these songs, I could not have imagined that this record would be released during a time of such civil unrest, but these songs were inspired by those same atrocities that inspired thousands to take to the streets.”
The EP is being offered for “name your own price” with all of the band’s proceeds going to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. Veilleux says “With the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic happening now, it doesn’t feel like the right time to be charging for music. Releasing it this way allows people to get it for free if money is tight, and at the same time allows those that are able an opportunity to contribute to a great cause.”
Hilo Rockers Return With New Music Video – Come In (The Water’s Fine) -
Big Island Music
Hilo rock band Technical Difficulties has surfaced with a new music video titled Come In (The Water’s Fine). Directed by Derek Frey, the video features footage from Frey’s 2016 award-winning horror film Green Lake. Come In showcases TD’s leads Trever Veilleux and RaVani Flood telling the story of a group who venture into Green Lake, encountering a seductive Mo’o creature. Havoc ensues, turning their once tranquil vacation into a slaughter.
Director Derek Frey’s Commentary:
Last January I rang in 2018 at a property on the Kapoho bayfront. It was a memorable time, months before the June 2nd destruction of Green Lake and over 700 homes in and around the Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland communities.
All locations from my 2016 film Green Lake were effectively destroyed, as well as the property I stayed at in January. Sitting unedited from a trip in 2015 was footage of Trever Veilleux and RaVani Flood for a film clip-based music video for Come In (The Water’s Fine)by Technical Difficulties. I have a long-standing creative collaboration with Technical Difficulties and the shoot provided an opportunity to return to the Hawaiian Paradise Park property where I filmed my first music video for TD, Sex is Easier, in 2001. Flash forward to 2015 while I was editing Green Lake, Trever Veilleux dusted off a concept he had for a song years before, which he thought was a good fit for the film. Technical Difficulties is no stranger to contributing songs to film’s I’ve worked on, having lent a track, along with my video clip, from their song Mr. Quiet to Tim Burton’s 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I find their music to be sonically cinematic, which is why I was drawn to their music in the first place.
Songwriter Trever Veilleux’s Commentary:
I had this song, originally titled “Siren Song” kicking around for years, but for some reason I couldn’t figure out how to finish it. It had parts that I really liked, and that stuck with me, but something essential was missing and I eventually gave up on it. Then years later I was present for the filming of a few scenes of Derek’s film Green Lake, and I thought that the mood and lyrical content of Siren Song would be perfect for the movie. I sent Derek a demo of Siren Song and he apparently heard some potential there and encouraged me to finish it. The film Green Lake was the inspiration I needed to complete the song. I remember going swimming at the Wai O’pai tide pools with my daughter (which sadly no longer exist due to the same lava flow that destroyed Green Lake) and finishing the song very quickly while sitting on the lava rocks looking at the ocean, singing parts to myself and bouncing lyric ideas off my daughter.
“Come In (The Water’s Fine)”
Song by Technical Difficulties
Available on the album A Big Distraction
Tim Burton's 10 Most Frequent Collaborators - Over his 40-year career, visionary filmmaker Tim Burton has built a team around him who help transform his unique style and voice into movie magic. BY LEIGH BICICA
June 29, 2022
Tim Burton's upcoming Netflix series Wednesday marks a move into new territory for the director and producer. Yet the television show will be undoubtedly Burtonesque - and that's not just due to Burton. Over a career spanning 40 years, the filmmaker has built up a team of incredible talent, from actors and writers to producers and editors, who aid him in creating his unique fantastical worlds.
Burton consistently has extensive praise for his collaborators. In interviews and commentaries for his films, he comes across as humble and down-to-earth, never hesitating to point out a great wig or beautifully-crafted prop. Even though he ultimately decides what ends up on the screen, he clearly loves and trusts the artists around him, and wants to support them as much as they support him.
10. John August, Screenwriter. John August has written five Burton films, starting with 2003's Big Fish (which resulted in a BAFTA nomination). He is particularly skilled at adaptation, with most of his screenplays being based on novels, television series, or previous Burton stories or shorts.
His best script for a Burton film is arguably Big Fish; it's sweet, whimsical, and profound without being too sentimental, and it has a sweeping, unorthodox narrative. 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with its surreal tone, offbeat humor, and satirical one-liners, is also a stand-out.
9. Ve Neill, Make-Up Artist.
Make-up artist Ve Neill is behind some of the most striking looks on film. She has collaborated with Burton six times between 1988 and 2007, and received Academy Awards for her work on Beetlejuice and Ed Wood and was nominated for Edward Scissorhands.
Neill has a talent for fantasy films, and always knows what feature to emphasize on characters to better help audiences understand them. This is best seen with bombastic Betelgeuse's raccoon-like eyes, shy Edward's tiny black lips, and childlike Ed Wood's slicked-back hair.
8. Richard D. Zanuck, Producer.
Zanuck's storied career is laid out in this New York Times article. The famed producer had a keen sense for knowing if a script had blockbuster potential (Jaws is one of his earlier credits) and believed Burton had universal appeal - with good reason. Alice in Wonderland (2010) made over a billion dollars at the box office.
7. Helena Bonham Carter, Actress.
Oscar-nominated actress Helena Bonham-Carter worked with Burton seven times, from Planet of the Apes in 2001 to 2012's Dark Shadows. Once a couple, the pair split in 2014, making any future collaborations unlikely. Bonham-Carter has since returned to her period-piece roots.
With her doe-like eyes and ability to portray characters who hide hurt behind hardened demeanors, it makes sense Burton returned to her again and again. This is best seen in her Golden Globe-nominated performance in Sweeney Todd; her Mrs. Lovett is gritty and cunning yet deeply vulnerable.
6. Johnny Depp, Actor. For a long time, it was a given that Johnny Depp would star in every upcoming Tim Burton project. Their partnership began in 1990 with Edward Scissorhands. They worked together another seven times, with 2012's Dark Shadows being their eighth and, so far, last collaboration. Depp is known for being an extremely versatile actor whose on-screen presence is striking and charismatic. His naive, sweet, and fidgety Ichabod Crane is uncomfortable in his own skin, while aggressively wrathful Sweeney Todd, sobered by an unfair world, is bodily menacing.
5. Colleen Atwood, Costume Designer.
Four-time Oscar-winner Colleen Atwood won one of them for Alice in Wonderland and was nominated for Sweeney Todd and Sleepy Hollow. She has collaborated with Burton 13 times, including the costumes for the upcoming Wednesday.
From Edward's black patent leather jumpsuit to the pop-punk garbs of Alice, Atwood is masterful at using clothes to give audiences information about characters. One of the most romantic moments in a Tim Burton film occurs in Sleepy Hollow when Ichabod discovers Katrina, who reveals herself by pulling down the rose-lined hood of her silvery cloak.
4. Derek Frey, Producer.
Derek Frey has been the head of Tim Burton Productions since 2001. One of his duties is overseeing the famed traveling exhibition The World of Tim Burton. Before producing nine of Burton's films, he worked as an assistant on four of the director's earlier projects.
During this interview on Youtube for Dumbo, he talks with great enthusiasm and joy for Burton's art. It is clear he is a natural promoter, someone who genuinely loves the movies and can speak about them and the filmmaking process with eloquence and expertise.
3. Rick Heinrichs, Production Designer. Heinrichs and Burton's creative partnership is the oldest on this list. They met while working together on 1982's short Vincent and the original 1984 Frankenweenie when they were both Disney employees. Their most recent collaboration was 2019's Dumbo, giving them 13 collaborations. Heinrichs is highly skilled at taking Burton's sketches and turning them into full-on film sets. He won an Oscar for his production design on Sleepy Hollow, taking the 18th-century setting and giving it a spooky twist with gnarled trees, a smoky atmosphere, and a desaturated color palette.
2. Chris Lebenzon, Editor.
After editing 1992's Batman Returns, Chris Lebenzon has edited all of Burton's films, including the animated ones. They have worked together 15 times. Lebenzon has a talent for editing pop fables, usually fantasies or action-thrillers, and was nominated for Oscars for Top Gun and Crimson Tide.
One of the best modern-day fairytale movies, Edward Scissorhands, showcases Lebenzon's eye for storytelling, and his instinctual understanding of Burton's vision. The film has brilliantly executed cutting - particularly the scene of Peg determinedly putting make-up on the displaced Edward.
1. Danny Elfman, Composer.
This Emmy and Grammy-winning icon has worked with Burton a whopping 18 times. Their collaboration started with 1985's Pee Wee's Big Adventure; Elfman has since composed music for all of Burton's feature films (with the exceptions of Ed Wood and Sweeney Todd).
Elfman is noted for his stylish, jazz-inspired scores. His music immediately sets the tone of the director's films, and his songs are an indispensable part of Burton's storytelling. The fruitful collaboration continues - Elfman composed the music for all eight episodes of Wednesday.