Directed by Kyle Kuchta
It’s no secret that conventions are the lifeblood of the horror community. From screenings to vendors to celebrity signings, there’s nothing like a con to get your blood racing and your brain spinning with ideas for the next big thing. Local-boy Kyle Kuchta has recently release Fantasm, a nifty little film that explores the intricacies of the horror convention, delving into the history and shared passions that make these events so vital to the community. Interviewing luminaries, new voices and familiar faces, Kuchta has truly captured the excitement conventions bring to fans and celebrities alike.
Premiering at local convention Rock and Shock, Fantasm is sure to be a hit with horror fans. I was excited to catch up with Kyle to learn more about his experiences making the project and his plans going forward:
Andrea Wolanin: You talk about your history with horror in your documentary quite eloquently; throughout the film, it’s easy to see your passion for the genre. Is there a distinct moment you can point to where this passion turned into the desire to document the community that’s grown around horror?
Kyle Kuchta: I went to film school at Syracuse University and, at the time, there wasn’t really a lot going on horror-wise. I found it difficult to express my fandom like I could when I went to Rock and Shock in my teens. Finally, in my junior year they held the first Scare-A-Cuse (now Scare-A-Con) convention. I was SO excited for it… but I went and it was disappointing for me. It wasn’t the weekend of fun I remember from conventions back home. Luckily, they’ve really improved since then, and now put on a great show. But I started to wonder why I was so upset about a bust of a convention that I had no relationship to. And then, trying to explain why I was so upset to my friends, I realized non-horror fans just don’t totally get why we [horror fans] care so much. So the idea for Fantasm stemmed out of wanting to explain to people why we love horror so much by using the idea the conventions, the epitome of horror fandom.
AW: Now, while conventions are the lens through which you explore the fandom, Fantasm utilizes interviews with genre critics and icons to explore the subject. Would you mind sharing some of the defining moments you had in working with these subjects?
KK: The film started out as this basic, observational retelling what a horror convention is. But as time went on, and as I talked to more people, it was quite obvious that there was much more that needed to be said about the community and why we’re welcoming and passionate. Filming at Rock and Shock (my home convention) was a big deal for me because this was where I started to sense what the story that needed to be told was. And it was there I got to talk to people like Joe Lynch, who as a fan and a filmmaker has managed to be on both ends of the convention spectrum. He had great things to say, as did Justin Beahm and Jack Bennett, who are both incredibly knowledgeable guys. Also, Kristy Jett and Ben Scrivens were just a blast to talk to. Kristy helped me a lot and introduced me to a lot of people who felt strongly about conventions and the horror community. Also, HorrorHound Weekend in Cincinnati was just stellar. I brought my friend Evan to help me film and it was a crazy weekend – the perfect way to end the filming of Fantasm.
AW: Your film has received a great reception and garnered a lot of support throughout the community via word of mouth, social media, and independent blogs. Do you feel the horror community is especially primed to push quality independent films to the top?
KK: My friend Alex DiVincenzo, whom I met at Rock and Shock while I was filming, helped spread the word to a lot of places. I was astounded by support from the blogs that he got in contact with. From there, people were sharing it on their personal pages, tweeting it out and really doing a lot to get the doc on people’s radars. Horror fans are incredibly passionate and we want to find creative minds that have the enthusiasm and drive to make something – we want to support them and share their work with everyone else. Horror always makes you feel a part of something bigger. Conventions make you feel like you are one with this creative community, and a community shares what it loves (and what it doesn’t) with anyone who will listen. I find the term ”independent film” hard to deal with because I’m trying to make content in an environment where I need support. And I don’t mean a studio backing or a set distribution deal – I’m talking about friends and fans that support the project I am/want to work on. None of my projects are or can be truly “independent.” I’m extremely thankful that people feel strongly about Fantasm and want to see it, and it has gotten the support it has by horror fans’ instinctual enthusiasm.
AW: You’re a New England native, but an Los Angeles transplant. As a member of Wicked Bird Media, I have to ask – what influenced your decision to move west?
KK: That’s a really difficult question. I could just say because my wife is studying out west, which is true – but not the entire truth. We both wanted to come out here, her for her schooling and I because this is where a lot of creative minds are. For the work I want to do, Los Angeles is still a major hub. There is a huge shift in the way films are made now, and groups like Wicked Bird Media are helping to make that change. But at the same time, the change isn’t fully there yet; and I know that New England will always welcome me back with open arms. It’s a timing thing, right now.
AW: This film is an impressive foray into both the documentary and horror genres. What are your plans moving forward? Do you hope to continue combining both mediums, or focus primarily on either?
KK: Thank you! I really love documentaries. I think there are still a lot of horror-related things that can be represented in documentaries, and I might be spearheading or want to be spearheading some of these things in the future. But at the same time, straight horror is my first love – I’m working on writing my first feature now. I like to have a couple irons in the fire, but also making sure that they are things that I’m passionate about.
AW: Thank you!
You can follow Fantasm on Facebook for more info about upcoming screenings, distribution and Kyle’s future projects.