Interview with Festival Directors Lee Marohn & Paul Salzer (NORTHEAST WISCONSIN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL)

This film festival is part of the Northeast Wisconsin Horror Festival (NeW Horror Fest), whose goal for our second year is to continue bringing together fright enthusiasts and attract new audiences to the wonderful joys of horror fiction and cinema. The film festival owes its beginnings to the Oshkosh Horror Film Festival (OHFF).

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Matthew Toffolo:What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

[Lee] Our primary goal is to get people to watch independent horror films. Our feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

[Paul] Our festival also helps filmmakers by offering different types of horror films (from dark comedy to gore to supernatural thrillers). I hope that exposing audiences to diverse films creates an audience base that is more receptive to different types of films. This gives filmmakers the freedom to make stories they want to tell, rather than the ones that fit the commercial trends.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

[Lee] More of the same from 2016! Great independent horror films in a huge variety of styles. Everything from 2-minute shorts to full-length feature films.

[Paul] We also try to bring filmmakers and the audience together. We hope to expand on our question-and-answer segments between films blocks.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

[Paul] Submissions should recognizably be horror-based (which we define as having the capacity to scare, disgust, and frighten audiences). Film should be completed works. “Work-in-Progress” screening requests will be handled separately and on a case-by-case basis. Films that contain significant non-English spoken dialogue must provide on-screen English subtitles as the audience will primarily be English speaking. There is also the standard copyright related qualifications regarding films. Basically, submitted films need to be submitted by copyright owners or authorized representatives.

[Lee] We also PREFER films with a Wisconsin connection.

Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

[Lee] At some festivals? Definitely. We give EVERYONE a chance. Films are judged on their own merit. We don’t compare films to each other.

[Paul] For me, I don’t think student films get the attention they deserve outside of the college system. It probably because of the economics of things. It’s really hard for me to say for sure why though.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

[Lee] We love horror films. I helped with a previous film festival at the same venue for 5 years. The organizer gave it up in favor of actually MAKING movies, so we saw the void and jumped at the opportunity.

[Paul] Like Lee said, we love horror films. And I like people that like horror films. So the festival is a great why for us to get together, watch horror films, and talk about the things that make us like them so much.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

[Lee] Almost effortless.

[Paul] We had a few hiccups our first year, because we didn’t quite have the notification process figured out yet. The process should be basically automatic this year though. We are also using more of FilmFreeway’s features this year to speed up our selection process.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Lee] Hopefully, inspiring more local filmmakers to make films. We’ll continue to showcase Wisconsin-made horror and show great films from all over.

[Paul] My plan had always been to expand festival beyond just films. I would like to see the horror festival be a citywide (and even regional state) event to promote horror.

What film have you seen the most times in your life?

[Lee] Star Wars. Well over 600 times. In terms of horror? Jaws. Probably 200-300 times.

[Paul] The Exorcist.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

[Lee] To me, no matter how bad or cheesy it is, a film is great if it entertains me.

[Paul] Like anything involving art, a great film needs to make me feel.

How is the film scene in your city?

[Lee] Almost non-existent, sadly. There are a few filmmakers (some with multiple awards), but FUNDING is the big missing factor. I personally know of at least a half dozen films that could be made if funding was available.

[Paul] It’s growing though.

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Lee Marohn

A lifelong Wisconsin resident, his first exposure to horror was a midnight showing of The Thing from Outer Space on TV.  Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, his love of horror films blossomed with the arrival of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees.  His favorite horror movies of all time are Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Jaws.  His non-horror obsessions are Star Wars, Firefly/Serenity and Lego.  In addition to a full-time job, he has worked part time at a comic shop for 22 years.  As a volunteer at the Time Community Theater, he worked during the Oshkosh Horror Film Festival and was part of the movie selection process.  After 5 years of the OHFF, the organizer needed to give it up.  After a year without a horror film festival in Oshkosh, co-organizer Paul Salzer approached him about organizing a new fest. The rest is history. Lee has acted in several local film projects and produced two locally-made horror films.  He prefers to work behind the scenes and hopes to produce more.

Paul Salzer

A resident of Oshkosh since the late 80s, Paul’s love of films came from renting VHS tapes from the local video store in Palmyra, WI.  He enjoys science fiction, horror, and comic book films.  He maintains a film review blog and podcast called Forsaken Film Reviews.  He is also the co-host of a monthly film discussion podcast titled The Film Jerks.  He’s current goals include being more active in independent filmmaking.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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