Leave money on the nightstand for ‘Call Girl of Cthulhu’

Chris LaMartina

For a kid who grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, Chris LaMartina makes pretty good films. You should give him some money so he can finish his latest project “Call Girl of Cthulhu.”

That, in a nutshell, is the gist of LaMartina’s latest plea on Kickstarter, where he and colleague Jimmy George are trying to raise a whopping $25,000. The truth is, LaMartina and George REALLY DO make pretty good films. And 25K is nothing in terms of a film budget.

I first met Chris about four years ago when he was screening his movie “Grave Mistakes” at the Creative Alliance. Since then I have seen his films”President’s Day,” “Witch’s Brew,” and the “Book of Lore.” The stories are suspenseful and full of all the great plot twists and devices you want to see in a good horror movie–without being cheesy. The dialogue, for the most part, is believable. The casting  and acting are stellar and the special effects and production impressive for these super low budget films. To me, each one of their films has gotten better, tighter, more well developed than the last. The films possess that distinctive alluring campiness that makes them simultaneously charming but also relegates them to that category of DIY films. This does not mean they are bad! You just have to set your bar at a certain height and appreciate what they have been able to achieve with a next-to-nothing budget.

LaMartina and George know that they can make make much better films, but that takes money. Their previous projects were family, friend and self-funded. “Witch’s Brew” was partially funded through a Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly $14,000. Until some Hollywood producer decides to throw a couple millions dollars at them, they will be forced to rely on the kindness of strangers to support their film making habit. Or, as they put it in their recent Kickstarter campaign, they are “whoring” themselves out to raise the dough for this project. Appropriate enough, given the film’s title.

The Kickstarter campaign for “Call Girl of Cthulhu” ends on October 3, 2012. Currently, the project is only half funded. The way Kickstarter works is, if you don’t make your funding goal, then you don’t get any of the pledge donations! With the clock ticking, I asked Chris to answer a few questions about his film making history and his current endeavor. This is what he had to say.

Tell me about your first film. And I mean FIRST FILM!
Hmmmm. As in first feature or first short? I’m going to assume short film here and it was probably an embarrassing experiment at stop motion animation that I did with action figures around age 11.

How did you and Jimmy George meet?
Jimmy and I met through a mutual friend in the punk scene circa 1999. At the time, I was camcorder-swinging hooligan who taped local bands and made little horror movies. Jimmy was a bit older and was hammering out scripts. We became friends then, but Jimmy moved to L.A. for a bit, and we lost contact. We re-connected years later and began writing/producing together.

Chris and Jimmy George (right).

Who else is critical to your film making process?
There is a definite “team” that has evolved with Midnight Crew Studios. Ryan Thomas is our frequent associate producer and casting director. Our special effects team is Aftermath FX, run by the illustrious Jason Koch and Kaleigh Brown. Other essential crew members are Nate Spivey, Jonathan Boushell, Clint Kelly, and we have steady relationships with actors and actresses like George Stover, Nicolette Le Faye, Shawn C. Phillips, Ruby LaRocca and many more…

I loved”Witch’s Brew.” How has that been received since its release?
We haven’t gotten a bad review yet so it’s been fantastic, and the film is slated for DVD release this fall. We’ve got accepted into two festivals (Killer Film Fest in Massachusetts and Fear Fete in Louisiana). I won “Best Director” at KFF, and we won “Best Comedic Horror Feature” at Fear Fete.

Which of your other previous films have received critical acclaim? 
“President’s Day” has played the most festivals and “Book of Lore” has gotten some solid reviews. The short films don’t have a wide reach because in the United States, there is not a solid platform for short films to find an audience.

Which has been your favorite to make so far?
All of them had their moments of glory, but in general… I don’t think making movies is especially “fun”. It’s a lot of hard work and while we have a positive, goofy demeanor on set… we try to stay focused and serious about keeping things moving. Shooting in a high school for “President’s Day” was a blast, but the heat and long hours made it quasi-miserable. “Witch’s Brew” was definitely the toughest shoot for us… from both a production standpoint and the personal life experiences I was going through at the time.

Where did the idea for “Call Girl of Cthulhu” come from?
The title came first. Both Jimmy and I were huge Lovecraft fans and I grew up with stuff like “Re-Animator” and “From Beyond”. The title was originally an idea for the October installment of “Lost Trailer Park: Never Coming Attractions” (a faux movie preview web series we produced in 2010-2011), but Jimmy pushed the issue, telling me that it was too good to just be a two-minute fake trailer. Ironically, this how the idea for “President’s Day” bloomed too.

Is the project completely cast?
We haven’t cast anything really. We’re not shooting this sucker until the spring. We will probably cast in February.

Where are you filming?
Most of the production will be in Baltimore (city and county).

Insanity sets in.

This is also your biggest budget. Why the bigger budget?
Jimmy and I have joked about this quite a bit. In “President’s Day”, we killed the student body in a high school. In “Witch’s Brew”, we massacred the residents of a town. In “Call Girl of Cthulhu”, we’re ending humanity as we know it. So there’s lots of monster, tentacles, and some insane effects… we need the money just to tell this story correctly.

OMG, what if you don’t make the Kickstarter goal?
If we don’t make the Kickstarter goal, we wont make the movie. No joke. It’s that simple. We can’t make this film for under $25K. It deserves a budget.

What is your day job?
I’m lead editor at a video strategy firm in Hampden. I also teach an editing class at Community Media of Baltimore city. Before that, I was a producer/director for the government TV channel that the Mayor’s Office in Baltimore operates. They pay the bills (and my health care costs). We make movies because we have to. I live to tell stories and film making is a great avenue for storytelling. I can’t stop. I just can’t.

What life experiences have prepared you for this particular moment in time?
Every film gets bigger (and, hopefully, better )… we believe we’re in a spot where we can use this money efficiently and effectively to produce a Lovecraft-inspired horror flick that will please fans of his work and tell a fun, gory story that is a little better than most of the low budget dreck out there already.

You are also a musician. What instruments do you play? Tell me about how music plays a role in your projects.
I play guitar, bass, drums, and a little bit of keys. In regard of our own films, I’ve scored every feature (and short) since “Grave Mistakes”. Sometimes I’ll edit to my scores, other times I will write compositions based on edits. John Carpenter and Robert Rodriguez are two huge influences in this regard. Being an editor/composer is the perfect mix to creating a solid tempo for a film.

What music do you like to listen to?
Mostly punk rock/classical/jazz/bluegrass.

Where do you hope to see yourself in five years? 10 years??
This is always a tricky question. I don’t know. Wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, I’ll still be telling stories in some fashion. Whether it’s movies, comics, or fiction… it’s inconsequential as long as I’m still creating.

Is there anything else you want people to know about your project?
Donate to our Kickstarter or else it won’t happen (!!!)

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