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- Tell us who you are.
My name is Miguel Rodriguez, and I am a teacher by day who spends nights immersing myself in the study of all things horror. One of my degrees was filtered almost entirely through the horror genre and its relevance to human expression, as well as the stigma it experiences from most mainstream views. In recent years, I have channeled my research and thoughts through my podcast Monster Island Resort, as well as through my San Diego horror film festival Horrible Imaginings Film Festival.
- So what are 3 of your favorite horror films of all time?
You had to pull a favorites question right at the start didn’t you? Well, at least we are getting this out of the way! These questions are absolutely impossible to answer, but I guess I will go by eras. For the inception of film, I will go with “Nosferatu” for its innovation in both special effects, as well as in the imagery that horror continues to try to copy even today. For the post-WWII world, I have to go with “Gojira,” or the original “Godzilla” film from Japan. Not the American version, but specifically the Japanese version, which dealt with the literal fallout of the war in a direct and haunting way. Finally, for modern horror, I think I’m going to choose “Night of the Living Dead,” which heralded the true spirit of independent horror in a brilliant and thoughtful way.
- Tell us why you started the Horrible Imaginings?
That is an easy one. San Diego didn’t have a horror film festival before Horrible Imaginings. In fact, horror-based events or activities simply seemed to not exist in this city. Meanwhile, just a couple of hours north in Los Angeles, it is a horror fan’s paradise! Several horror festivals, events, stores, and more exist there. I didn’t want to have to make the drive there every day, though, so I decided to bring the darkness to our backyards here in San Diego.
I am an east coaster originally, hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, where the horror genre seems to be generally more understood for some reason. I never felt the stigma against the genre as palpably as when I moved here to San Diego. There is a real air of prejudice against it in this city. A huge part of my plan for both Horrible Imaginings, as well as Monster Island Resort, is to answer that stigma with intelligent and thoughtful horror programming.
- How do you think the Horrible Imaginings differs from other festivals?
I think our most acute differentiation from other festivals is how we view the horror genre. Our definition of what constitutes horror is extremely broad, and many of the films we choose to screen would not be considered horror by many general views. It is my personal intention to broaden what can be considered horror, as well as to smash the constraints of the narrow boxes with which we imprison our definitions of horror. I am far more interested in what stories, emotions, or elements are trying to be communicated by film. If those stories, emotions, or elements are overridingly dark, difficult, or uncomfortable, then it can qualify as horror in my estimation.
The other ways we differ is that we try very hard to show not only films, but a whole range of other art forms or fields of study. The idea here is to show how elements of horror can influence our lives in a variety of ways. This year, we had a neuroscientist talk about brain science and how he uses zombies to demystify science for his students, macabre interpretive dance, architecture designed to withstand the zombie apocalypse, a terrarium of carnivorous plants, and sculpture, as well as a huge variety of horror themed desserts! All of this is included in the ticket price.
- So why a horror festival?
In all my studies of storytelling in human history, from high art to pop culture, I have always felt it in my core that the horror story is the most profoundly sincere of all art forms. There is no pretention with true horror. No airs to put on. No bluster or condescension. Certainly not like in other art forms. Horror is constantly being accused of baseness (in some words or other), but it is that exact baseness that makes horror so genuine and visceral. I appreciate that sincerity and genuineness in a profound way, and it is for those reasons that I continue the Hell and pain of putting on a horror festival. The truth is that the best horror comes from the independents because the studios are cowards. The indies need a venue. That’s about it!
- Do you have any other projects film related that you work on?
I have produced a few films, including Shannon Lark and Lori Bowen’s film “I Am Monster,” which screened this year. Mostly, though, I am so busy with screening films in San Diego that my entire attention is focused there. I promote and host The Film Geeks screenings, Schlockfest at the Public Library, Shot by Shot at Whistle Stop Bar, as well as Horrible Imaginings main events and special screenings. Whew! I am exhausted just listing all of it.
- What is one of your favorite behind the scenes moments at the fest?
Honestly, every single year my favorite moments come from nailing down a programming block, testing those films on the projector, and thinking to myself, “holy fuck these people are in for a treat!”
- What can people expect at Horrible Imaginings?
People can expect an intimate environment watching a very eclectic program of films and arts entertainment with like-minded individuals. They can expect lots of free treats and new friends. I strive for a friendly environment, despite our horror themes!
- What is next for you?
This Friday, I am screening the awards winners, including NAKED ZOMBIE GIRL, at the San Diego Film Consortium’s Halloween Event at Bang Zoom Pow downtown. Next Wednesday is this month’s SCHLOCKFEST at the New Public Library downtown, where we will be screening the Oliver Reed-starring Hammer classic CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF.
- Do you do any other type of events?
See question 6 😉
- What is one tip you think other film makers should know about submitting to festivals?
I think it would really help filmmakers to research the programming at festivals in previous years to see how well their films relate. For my own film festival, that won’t help too much because of the eclecticism of my programming, but my festival is completely free to submit to, so it’s less of a problem if one is rejected. Other festival submission fees can really add up, so make sure you are submitting to the right ones!
Also, if you are making a short film, TRY to keep it under 15 minutes! If it is longer, it had better be exceptional!
- Tell us whatever you want! Promote whatever you want! And make sure to send us some links to some trailers!
You can follow me on Twitter @MonsterResort and, of course, on Facebook if you search Horrible Imaginings or Monster Island Resort. Listen to the show on iTunes or at www.monsterislandresort.org! Follow Horrible Imaginings at www.hifilmfest.com!
You can get information on all screenings and events through those sites!
You can also see trailers for almost all the films we screened by clicking on the titles here: http://www.hifilmfest.com/films-and-showtimes/