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00:00.00
jim_phoenix
Hey, everybody welcome back to another exciting episode of what’s cracking. It’s me Jim Phoenix actually now this is an invasion as ijmbrannicck control the airwaves today instead of Jim Phoenix that’s right and friends today I’m I’m furious I’m furious to be here because that means I have to talk once again about hashtag chadts theax and if you look at my reviews from nightmarishconjurings.com deadstream episode of stream and demons that I did episode 48 you know, no big deal and also my newest kind of like teaser on haunted mtl you’ll find out why I’m so angry. Ah, but thankfully before you do all that here with me to help me process my feelings. And get back on track is writer co-writer director co-editor travis bible here to kind of talk about everything. Thank you thank you is it’s really

01:05.87
Travis
I’m I’m here and I’m here to help you I can be kind of a therapist and help you work through this anger at um, a chad Um, you know that’s.

01:15.42
jim_phoenix
Really is really hard right now. Thank you? Okay so I want you can you first kind of tell us about yourself and how you got into the film industry.

01:17.23
Travis
Um, yeah.

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01:27.81
Travis
Ah sure. Um I went to film school at University Of Texas and um, like most film school graduates. You assume you’re just going to move out to Los Angeles and be handed. You know $10000000 to direct a film. And that didn’t immediately happen so I actually got really involved in unscripted stuff. Um, some reality some documentary stuff and um did a lot of stuff for mtv which I really enjoyed and it’s a lot of fun to do um, some of the shows for for them and then I kind of um, pivoted back I guess. six or seven years ago and started getting back more into um de scripted stuff and mainly so genre stuff like sci-fi and and horror and just kind of shooting it on the side and had some luck I had a sci-fi film exit strategy that played at tribeca and that was really awesome and. Has done really well. And yeah, um, chag gets the axe was a definite um pivot from that. Um, but you know it’s still a still story. But um, yeah I think ah. I think I’ve gotten more into horror films recently the last few years with with jaggets the accent some other stuff I’m working on.

02:36.18
jim_phoenix
Yeah, because check gets the exposes a short film first. Ah, an award-winning short film if I recall correctly. Um what what kind of like made you pivot into making it a feature film.

02:41.40
Travis
Yeah.

02:49.83
Travis
Um, we felt there’s more to to like we did the short which was super fun. Um, and just so brief. You know it was like a day and a half shoot or whatever. Um, and you know it played really well like we weren’t sure I wrote the short script and we shot it. And we knew like we had some decent kind of found footage scares and me and the um producer Mike Nicholas were writing all the comments and we kind of like is this funny is this like we’re giggling. But you know what I mean but like I don’t know and then we from here did scream fest and it got all these laughs as well as the scares and it.

03:21.70
jim_phoenix
Um, the yeah.

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03:27.22
Travis
Did well and got you know Vimeo staff pick and some other nice things and so that really gave me the confidence like okay I think there’s there’s something here and so then was figuring out how to develop that into a feature and um, you’re pretty I’ll get into the weeds with you because I think you might be a little ah and we can cut out. Whatever. But. The original idea was we had just seen um, have you seen bandder snatch the interactive black mirror film. So I’ve watched that and I’m like dude this this is the future. It’s all going to be choose your own adventure. So um, me and um, the ah cowriter Kimmerton Hargrove

03:51.21
jim_phoenix
Yes, yeah.

04:04.60
Travis
Ah, put together a pitch packet and literally did a decision tree and the idea was you had 4 influencers. You could swap streams between them so you could go at any time between the streams you would impact their choices by you would decide what the comments are saying so it’s like it’s not like an act of god it’s more like these influencers when I impress. Audience and you’re kind of controlling the audience and so it was like a really crazy choose your own adventure and we had a bunch of meetings and pitched it around and everyone was like this is so cool. We don’t do this but it’s really cool if it if it ends up somewhere I would like to watch it and so. We kind of went back to the drawing board but it was super helpful to have kind of envisioned it that way because that’s where I knew going back to the feature I’m like Kimmerton this needs to be like going between these 4 streamers. Um you know and we need to keep even though it’s not technically interactive anymore. We want to kind of keep that feeling like. You’re almost one of the um, the audience. So that’s kind of where we um, we landed when we’re developing the feature.

05:05.56
jim_phoenix
And you really did that really well because what I noticed watching it a lot of times to the point where the screener is like okay you’ve had too many and so I had to buy it. Um you you never actually see them.

05:10.37
Travis
Fifth 50

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05:21.17
jim_phoenix
And never pulls Away. You’re always seeing them on a screen or doing something on the Screen. You never actually pull away to see them like behind the camera like say you know later which 2 comes to mind. But um, you never actually see them as anything else, but these influencers. Really and that that was kind of immersive I think for everybody when they see that um, especially with everything going on.

05:47.89
Travis
Yeah, we for sure we wanted to keep it from that. Um, that perspective the whole whole time. Um, you know and it it was interesting to take that approach one of the actors was even not. Sure about it you we’re actually shooting I think they I’m I’m not going to say which ordering or main character was but they were a little surprised. They actually thought we were shooting on normal. Um you know alexas or something and the phones were more props and like it’s like well no, it’s all from the phone so that was that was a surprise even for um. Some people on set. Yeah, we wanted to keep them in the in the moment the um entire time and kind of keep you there and then we wanted to for the feature since we have the time to incorporate. Ah, what’s called like screen Life. You know that unfriended um, searching missing um thing and kind of keep. Keep with that. But yeah, the whole time.. It’s like you are um, you are in the characters perspective and um, you know it was a little tricky because then you still want to feel for these characters a little so it’s like figuring out where you can can cheat that in and I think some of the screen life stuff probably helped with that.

06:59.73
jim_phoenix
Now and and checkets’ the axe is part of like this emerging subgenre of horror that’s like instant found footage so you were saying that basically um. Was black mirror that kind of started you on that path but what kind of really directed you towards that like okay, we’re going to do about streaming.

07:22.18
Travis
Well, that is ah in my head and perhaps partially it was because I have worked on some reality television onscripted so I thought even in the early mid two thousand s I’m like it would be cool if someone went on a reality show. It’s like a haunted location then it all. Goes wrong I was kicking around the idea in my head and then um I saw have you seen grave encounters Great movie I Saw that and I’m like all right. They nailed this like that’s not quite and and and that kind of put the ideas aside I’m like grave encounters like Brilliant Um, love it and um.

07:41.32
jim_phoenix
Yes, yes.

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07:55.91
Travis
I still wanted to do kind of like a blair witch type thing and it’s like how do you do that in 2019 or you know with the feature 2021 2022 and it just seemed like streamers were the answer and you know I love blair witch originally but 1 thing interesting about Blair witch and I think I remember interview with. Director saying this is that they had to justify I think was Heather thought the lead character I think she had to justify why am I filming a lot like the whole time like it’s the 1 thing I have I’m so why you film I have to keep and it’s kind of like today I think with Chad I was like I don’t think we need there is some reasoning in the film but I didn’t. Overkill because I kind of feel like if you put 4 influencers in that situation unless it’s direct peril to them. They would probably try to film and get as much content out of it and I think that’s a very sadly believable part of this this story is that they probably would keep filming.

08:49.39
jim_phoenix
Absolutely I think one of my favorite parts without spoiling too much is when um, Jennifer of Spennifer um says we have to go back. They’re getting more views than we are. We’re boring you know and I thought that was really. Great tape because I laughed out loud at that part because at first you think oh, it’s going to be because to go save her friends. No, it’s because they’re getting more views than she is and that kind of leads into that.

09:16.52
Travis
And no no I thought that was that was great and tenacia did such a good job with that. Um, that character we kind of worked together to make sure that um I mean she’s probably her character is probably the. Best person but we both didn’t want her. We wanted her to be strong and assertive but at the same time like she’s not that much better morally than the rest of them so we’ve wanted to keep that at the the forefront with that character and she did um did such a good job and um, not to get too spoilly. But so happy with everybody it sucked when um. Andevly people are getting picked off. It’s like oh man I 1 spent more time with this character you know and it. Yeah fortunately.

09:59.56
jim_phoenix
Absolutely I was kind of hoping that with kind of Spencer too because we don’t get to see as much with him. We get to see a lot more with you know, Chad and spicy Steve and their dynamic. Um, when you’re coming up with kind of their dynamic. Was there anything you were kind of basing it off or yeah.

10:17.97
Travis
Um, with spicy Steve and Chad we wanted. You know it’s interesting. So with spicy Steve um, we had the character even more like wide-eyed innocent country boy um in the script. And then Michael Benini submitted a tape reading for a toxic frat guy and I could tell he could do more so I’m like hey dude do you want to read for the um part of spicy Steve and he um did a great job with that and the dynamic with there we wanted. Um. Michael and I work together to kind of get it to a point where it’s like Chad is clearly the alpha and spicy Steve is the 1 kind of trying it but he he doesn’t really believe this and that that was kind of ah a part we were trying to to hit so I don’t know quite if the dynamics fully based that dynamic is. Based on exact influencers but we definitely wanted to make sure spicy Steve wasn’t just Chad 2.0 like we wanted you know um someone to actually feel bad and you know I think I think pretty consistently not to get too sporally but and anyone who um has a character arc and realizes like. Oh maybe we’re doing is messed up. Unfortunately, they’re not rewarded very well in this this movie. You know.

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11:37.36
jim_phoenix
Ah, it’s a fun ride though. It’s a fun ride. Um, so that kind of actually goes into one of my questions is um, the writing is so funny and so on point how much of it was written and how much of it was improvised by the characters. By the actors.

11:55.47
Travis
As a director I’m like totally open to improv so it is something we worked with, but it was relatively tightly scripted and then they kind of were able to kind of put it in their own words or if they wanted to go improv off and stuff. They could or when they’re just one like exploring the house and stuff I was like you guys just need to do some pocket dialogue. Let’s see what we can well we can do so it was kind of a mix. But I think some people and this is a testament to how fucking great. My the actors were I think some people are like oh this whole thing improv it’s like now it was. It was pretty mapped out. Um, like I said that being said it was I’m I’m old elder millennial. So I kind of knew I was kind of relying on my cast and some I can get into the some weird research on Tiktok. We’ll put that put it put in that for now. But um, as asline her my cast to make sure. Um.

12:44.90
jim_phoenix
Oh oh yeah I have a question about that too. Ah.

12:51.14
Travis
That they were talking correctly. And for instance, um, cam who played Spencer Super talented um actor hilarious. But anyway I think we had like of course is like you know, okay and he’s like just say bet and I’m like what where do you bettting me on’s like no dude. That’s what he said I’m like can tell like. Terrific all right? So like things like that that kind of kind of helped and um, we we kind of looked at the the dialogue and stuff. But yeah, it was. It was relatively tight scripted but there’s I definitely had room for for improv and you know we played around with each scene and um, definitely went through them all before um. Before shooting to make sure it sounded natural but it was one of those things where is more important for the dialogue to sound natural than to be good if you I don’t think it’s like forly written I’m hotat but you know what I mean like it’s it’s like you almost don’t want like Aaron Sorkin level like you know.

13:39.73
jim_phoenix
Yeah, no.

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13:46.33
Travis
Perfect dialogue then it kind of undermines like who these influencers are and you know buying in that they’re real influencers.

13:52.00
jim_phoenix
And it’s very authentic and Cohesive. You know, especially with the merchandise with the um you know the promos that they give out everything like that you know they’ll be in ah, a really let’s say a sticky situation and then it’s like okay well let’s. Let’s promo this or let’s you know which I think is was really hilarious as Well. Um, so the acting was really amazing like you said, um, how did you go about like with casting for the characters and how did the actors enhance.

14:16.49
Travis
Sham.

14:27.50
jim_phoenix
What you already had written.

14:29.50
Travis
Um, well so yeah, like like we mentioned it started with a short and we had a few quite a few people read just for that for the the short and um, there was some good people but they are. Embodying kind of your your stereotypical influencer. There’s a lot of people just directly channeling Logan Paul which there’s some all brothers in this chad for sure. Um, it doesn’t take that much to detect that. But it’s not It’s not supposed to be like another paul brother. It’s it’s like it hits his own thing. It’s a combination and.

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14:49.90
jim_phoenix
And.

15:03.24
Travis
And honestly those actors weren’t quite hitting the um emotional department. We actually feel bad for him is a little too much like I’m 100% onboard just to cheer for this dude to get the axe and then Spencer came and read and did a great job, especially with um, you know some of the more.

15:12.59
jim_phoenix
And.

15:21.98
Travis
Parts where it’s little more sympathetic to him but he wasn’t quite hitting like the douche bag factor. So but I wanted to go with him so I like literally called him up I’m like hey can you do 1 more read and just be the biggest asshole douche bag you’ve ever been. And then I think he walked around his pool or something and recorded like this the duious read ever. I’m like all right we got him and so it was awesome. Having already done the short having already worked with him. Um the short was actually in a way harder to shoot than the feature because i. In the short one thing I learned in my head I was like this needs to look like 1 continuous take and when we’re shooting a short Tiktok and Instagram you couldn’t hit a button and flip the phone to pov mode you know and so I made Spencer manually flip the phone so we couldn’t even use that as a cut point.

16:04.21
jim_phoenix
Oh okay. Oh no.

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16:11.51
Travis
So he’s having to get this short like when he sees the dead body. It’s not like okay your takes’ done It’s like no man you got to flip your phone around so we’re doing a 4 or 5 minute take so he got so good at that stuff and um, you know it would um I’ll jump ahead a little this was on the short and then all the other actress got used to it. They would do. Um, the features as well. They would have to do these long takes and um, they’d nail the performance and be so good and back say your performance was perfect but you didn’t quite pan right? Um, on this one shot and you need to you know pan here and you didn’t get the house enough in frame. So I have to give them camera notes. Um. As well that they had to do but they were all all game. Um, but yeah back to it so we had Spencer so that made me feel really good about the um, the feature I think I mentioned you know Michael initially applied for toxic frat guy um cam we found it was just. He was just head and shoulders. But he was exactly what we were looking for. He got the part he he understood it? Um, and once again, he was so good I wish you know there could have been more of him for sure and then tenacia it was harder to get Jennifer? um, that part was trickier had quite a lot of people but they weren’t quite hitting it. And Spencer was like I’ve worked with someone let me have her read and then she read and just completely did an amazing job with that as well. So they all enhanced it. They all what 1 thing cool about it that I didn’t even quite realize so we were we were shooting is that they all can have their own style of.

17:44.21
Travis
Shooting their own um of of when they’re shooting and um, one thing we noticed we shot a lot with Michael and Spencer um, or especially ah Michael at first holding it and doing his thing and then when um tenacia was assault in the camera I’m like.

17:47.20
jim_phoenix
Interesting.

17:58.84
Travis
Wow, your composition and stuff is so much steadier and better than the boys like so it’s just funny that each character kind of had a style for how they were shooting which was which is kind of cool to see. Yeah it. It worked out and I it did. We’re working I brought on my um director of photography robinsco our work. Ton Super talent to guy but it it. It got to him a little because you know he he wanted to hold the camera and I’m like yeah you know there’s there’s parts where he did get and he loved those days. But yeah, he had to kind we had to just kind of work with it and I’m like it has to you know it’s got to be them and kind of work with it from there but um. Yeah I Think the actress did an amazing job both you know and like in not just acting but also having to you know, kind of shoot themselves so they did a great great work.

18:44.21
jim_phoenix
Yeah, and it was it was like I said very cohesive with the story as well because that’s that’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen to have to kind of wrangle together and to make sure that they get the perfect shots and make sure it’s not too fast. You know or or.

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19:01.52
Travis
Um, yeah, and it’s working with because they didn’t I don’t know if any of them quite got it complete because even Spencer kind of obviously he was in the shore but they didn’t quite understand the screen life going in but you know I explained it as best as possible.

19:02.65
jim_phoenix
Something like that. Um.

19:17.60
Travis
And they mostly got it. But yeah, it was like it was they they did great without knowing for sure what how exactly this was all going to turn out with all the stuff on the phones and so.

19:26.46
jim_phoenix
Did they have like an aha moment when they finally saw like the the finished product.

19:33.53
Travis
I think so I think um I think yeah Tenacsia and stuff like she she was acting her hard on doing an amazing job. But I don’t think she quite. Understand the crazy vision I had in my head for like switching back between the door and now you’re gonna take Instagram pictures of yourself and it’s gonna Mark like cute debt like I’m like but if with the Instagram but I’m like just here we’re just gonna take some we’ll do it. So I think I think um. Think they’re all happy when they they saw those all put together because you know I could have just been talking on my ass and it might just been a disaster. Um, but luckily yeah, luckily it wasn’t and all they think the screen left stuff really came together.

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20:12.74
jim_phoenix
Um, so I also wanted to talk about. Um So the social media aspect is obviously like such a backbone to the movie. Um, what kind of research or process did you have to make the social media aspect so authentic.

20:30.73
Travis
Have a couple good stories for that are so I’ll start with one was like because I did want to make it authentic or the movie I think would just sync so I um created a Tiktok account and joined Tiktok I was literally trying to follow your. Because actually guess the Paul brother actually moved on to boxing. So it’s like finding new people anyway, like that are um, you know in 202021 so finding those younger influencers learning how Tiktok works to be honest because I wasn’t familiar with it in like 2020 and um so I’m joining trying to follow all these younger. People and I didn’t understand how the live chats worked and I initially just created it for my Facebook so it has like my first and last name and there’s a group like pre-partying. Um I think they were freshmen in college or something and they were literally saying like um, you know, no cap and like saying like ah you know gine slang and stuff and I’m like. This is perfect I’m just gonna join and watch this so I’m kind of watching their pre party kind of taking notes in about 3 minutes in there like it’s only 15 of them bear minds like a giant group and like who is Travis bible and I’m like and like you know what? this space is is this guy old and I’m like holy shit and I get realize like I me or had to sign out and um.

21:36.32
jim_phoenix
There.

21:41.29
Travis
Yeah I learned from there I just definitely did not luckily get any calls from the police for stalking um 18 year olds but yeah it was like ah so good lesson that yeah your tiktok live feed I guess they can can see who you are but um, anyway that that was important so we did kind of you know, learn. Ah, tried to learn a lot from there. What people were actually doing and then once we did put the movie together. We did a a test screening with just young people like um which is interesting. We didn’t actually end up doing one with a bigger we we did send it in the link individually to get notes from a fair amount of people. But. The test screening it was just really important to me to make sure that all these comments and stuff were working and so we had um, yeah, pretty much college people. Um, spenter’s younger brother organized and guys the bunch then other um p a I’d worked with and Lizziana got a bunch of Lsu Sorority girls to watch it so you know like a very young crowd. And yeah, it was a giant load off my back when they watched it and were like the um they thought it was all authentic which was good but then you get like a note for 1 thing that spinter’s little brother. Um, told me he’s like it was good but like. Like there’d be more purvy stuff like show feet and I’m like what is what is show feed and he’s like was is kind of awkward. But you know it’s just a thing people say to and I’m like I love that I’m making that a a prominent feature in this now and so I’m being a dick and giving spener’s little brother credit for show feed as much as possible and all.

23:12.62
Travis
Ah, podcast.

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23:12.68
jim_phoenix
That’s amazing. That’s amazing because that was one of the original notes that I took to um.

23:17.59
Travis
Is I’m glad people like because I was just so like I don’t know in my wife and I giggling over the name Peter Pe Pee you know like because there’s like some higher level hopefully social commentary going on with some of the comments. But it’s some. It’s like no, you just got to it.

23:27.88
jim_phoenix
Ah.

23:36.70
Travis
And it’s getting the different.

23:37.17
jim_phoenix
Honestly, it was Genius. It was really genius like all of the characters I Loved the professor I think the most in his yeating you know, like that was.

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23:44.85
Travis
Ah, thank you? Dude trying? Yeah we wanted. We wanted that and we you know it’s just getting different voices and that’s something too. Um for the first pass camemerton um, the co-writer and producer. Um, super talented guy. Um, he. Wrote some passive you know of of some of the comments and um I was like yeah these are good but these all are like all witty, all smart. All you know, punctuated correctly. I’m like you need to go back and that hurt his soul like had to go back and like I’m like watch some more Tiktok and I want you to write like you know. Bad grammar like you’re not this intelligent witty guy. You are and so he he got into it and started. Yeah, um, so that was that was our goal to kind of different voices going on in the chat and I think that helps with the all authenticity of it all and um have a mix of people and um, don’t be wrong. There’s a pain. There’s 1300 comments. But.

24:40.74
jim_phoenix
Wow.

24:41.83
Travis
Had to track usernames and anyone that talked again and there’s probably if you look at the story lines. You know you have your a and B going on screen. But there’s like a Cd going on that was kind of my my goal of what you know there’s There’s a conversation on what defines a spoiler in there. You know like just like little things that we tried to have. Go on in the the chat And so yeah, that was super fun.

25:02.61
jim_phoenix
Yeah, how many characters were there. Do you think.

25:09.12
Travis
I would say I don’t know because each username was unique, um, another funny thing Kimmerton was coming up with some usernames and we were at fright fest and I’m like. Is that username your Netflix password and he’s like oh crap so we had to like change that so he had just zoned out because we probably have hundreds of user names. Um, ah that we were doing actual characters probably 10 to fifteen because there is you know there’s the bigger ones like the Benson Brothers murder Maven the true crime podcaster evans the yeah, the teacher who doesn’t understand ye 2 people are going over spoilers Chad Pion who’s like a hero the frat guys if you notice actually they do make it appearance in the chat earlier before they pick pick him up. Um, so so there’s a lot of.

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25:56.20
jim_phoenix
Oh I’ll have to go back and see for that. Yeah, there’s a lot levels. Yeah, and I I really liked the murder Maven too. Um, yeah.

25:59.11
Travis
Yeah, there’s a lot of levels if you’re in yeah.

26:05.76
Travis
So real quick on that one that was also a we had a couple lines from her but that is 1 thing the gen z test screening if you will. They’re like a couple of them were like we like this but really want to know more about the satanic cult and you know on screen. There’s not. Tons about it so in a normal movie. You’d be like well sorry guys that’s not an option but I’m like well we have comments and so I went through and did a whole pass with murder maven and made her a much bigger character kind of explaining the satanic call while also it it fed in thematically with it that. First maybe you think she’s like someone helpful but no, she’s just like a true crime podcaster being like this is great here. Maybe you’ll be a new body for you know like so that was ah a fun character. But yeah, the um, her expanded role was because of some some notes from the um test screening. So I’m so glad we did that.

27:01.60
jim_phoenix
I am too because it also um, and I guess this is a little spoilery but ah, it also creates a red herring as well because um, that was kind of like my thought of like oh this is somebody who’s. You know partaking and and this and also stalking them or something like that you know and and she was just she was her own character and I I thought that was really interesting as well.

27:19.70
Travis
Um, yeah.

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27:28.50
Travis
Were you? Um, the first time at least do you find yourself reading or watching more when you were watching it down.

27:34.20
jim_phoenix
You know I think I was watching more but then I started getting little hints and pickups of like oh oh they’re talking about something that is important and I think that’s um I had heard I’d seen another critic that had said it was very distracting but to me. That’s rewatchability. You know there’s a reason why I’ve watched it 5 times because I can find something that’s a little bit different with each viewing that you find and I think that enhances it rather than distracts from it if you’re like going into it just being like okay well I’m just going to watch this movie. You’re not going to get. Everything to it. You know there’s layers to it which is what I liked. Um, so I think if I if you know listeners you know if that’s something that people like this is a very rewatchable film because of that I think a lot of people will still will.

28:12.10
Travis
Um, yeah.

28:28.80
jim_phoenix
Be watching it first and then go back to read more of the comments. But of course the foot guy was the funniest you know? ah.

28:34.16
Travis
That of course dude Peter P P show feet is ah is a good one. So yeah, there is yeah I think he’ve. Yeah I think that’s probably the top top character. So maybe we can do a spinoff with him.

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28:41.12
jim_phoenix
Ah, he’s a good guide.

28:49.98
Travis
We did think about even cast you know at the end we have the faces where’re like should we do a peter peepe and now I’m like man. Maybe we should have I’m not sure who that would have would have been but um, maybe it’s better from remain mysterious like you’re not sure who Peter Peepe is yeah.

28:50.50
jim_phoenix
Ah.

29:02.10
jim_phoenix
I think so yeah, put it into your imagination. You know be any of us any 1 of us walking the street. Um, so now that we’re talking more about you know the phantom and the the toxic ah frat boys the movie.

29:07.82
Travis
Yeah.

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29:19.43
jim_phoenix
Focus is a lot too on toxic fandom and what were kind of you know your inspirations or your thoughts of that going into it. Um, because in the short there’s there’s a bit of that as well.

29:30.34
Travis
Yeah, like if we’re going to get thematically into it I think I think what’s sometimes lost in these conversations with toxic personalities is that people are watching and enabling them and if no one is watching then. You know there there is no whatever Paul Brothers or whatever reality Tv show villain you want to talk about you know what? I mean like it’s it’s watching and enabling that and it’s like you know I think it’s it’s like a circle of like the characters are sometimes doing these crazy things. But they’re.

29:55.10
jim_phoenix
Is beneath.

30:09.61
Travis
Kind of doing it because the audience is egging it on and wanting to see it whether it’s just like a hate watch or whatever so you kind of this circle of dehumanization going on that you know I think was really interesting to um to explore you know and like what are it’s yeah like why are people people watching this and. So I think that’s that’s 1 thing going on and then it’s I don’t know it’s how responsible. So let’s say you are I don’t have an answer to this. But if you do put your content out to the world. Are you responsible for how it’s interpreted. You know it’s ah it’s a real question because there’s something with. Maybe when Chad um, was doing his shiha video which is one most ridiculous things we could come up with them like riding a girl in a cowboy hat which was super awkward and great to film I mean the actress told I had to like prep for I’m like this is not good. This guy gets the act and he was so cool. But um.

30:53.93
jim_phoenix
Ah, ah.

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31:04.83
jim_phoenix
Um I liked her at the end too I liked you at the and La she did you make enough I’ve made enough money that was great.

31:06.43
Travis
You know it’s.

31:13.00
Travis
Yeah, we brought her back because she was in the short and then I hit her up I’m like do you would you want to come back for the feature. She’s like totally super cool. Um Juliet Fessel but um, yeah, so we like it. It was just like let’s say Chad had good intent. Let’s just for the sake of argument. You know. But then if frat guys are interpreting that as like you know in a really misogynistic way. What’s what is his responsibility for that I’m not saying there’s there’s an answer you know, like what you are you know what? I mean but it’s it is it is interesting and 1 thing that I tried to do in. Um, when outlining the story.

31:41.84
jim_phoenix
Um, yeah.

31:50.51
Travis
Is kind of make sure that chad’s so-called support system in a way or worse than him like his cousin sucks and is probably just as bad if not worse than him. The frat guys. Or even work like it’s kind of like reap what you sow like the frack guys were a super fun opportunity for me to kind of have these guys come in and he thinks he’s saved and they suck so hard and he has to like ride and hear you know how they’re misinterpreting whatever he put out there. So I think that was one of our tactics for getting. Sympathy for Chad is just seeing these people around like his frenzy texts or just fucking with them. So you know, um, it was getting that and um, we had some subplots that we didn’t I don’t know if we got to and but we had a whole a strange parent thing going on with Chad but it seemed a little too much a little too much to try to.

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32:38.32
jim_phoenix
Oh.

32:42.73
Travis
Try to tackle. Maybe that we’re trying a little too hard. Um, but we did think in the script and we were shooting and spencer maybe even did a thing in one of the um, the opening scenes Spencer ah loving the actor playing Chad. But I think we had like a brother. He was just trying to wish happy birthday to in a strange mom that wouldn’t. Text and back so we had some extra layers of Chad that we ultimately didn’t think we needed in the final cut I felt like Spencer did um such a good job portraying that part that I think the sympathy was there so I ultimately talked to the vfx and we we cut those parts out. But um.

33:03.45
jim_phoenix
Um.

33:19.91
Travis
Kind of long answer. But yeah, um, toxic Fandom bad.

33:24.70
jim_phoenix
Yeah, and honestly what I liked about it too is in a way they become the villain as well. His fans become the villains. Um like when they call him you know during a very pivotal moment and um, just basically to be dicks you know like.

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33:38.60
Travis
Shit.

33:42.70
jim_phoenix
And having to to navigate that and deal with that and he’s arguing with them. You know for them to save him and they’re all like fuck you you know like glad you’re getting it. Um.

33:52.88
Travis
Yeah, it was. It was fun and we had the not one one call moment was from the short and I loved it so much I’m like I’m not going to top this. So I put that in and so then the feature it was what else can they do and it’s like give him bad directions like. Prank call nine 1 1 and so they think it’s all just a prank. You know what? I mean so it was kind of working to actively have a large portion of the audience like rooting against him and doing everything they could to get this, get him, get him killed yeah, get him maxed coming up with cool hashtags.

34:12.78
jim_phoenix
Yeah.

34:21.23
jim_phoenix
Get him axed.

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34:26.91
jim_phoenix
So tender feelings swipe right on my heart is available for purchase on Amazon.

34:29.60
Travis
6

34:36.24
Travis
Decided to register that you know we’re going to put it out there I Just in case it goes viral. We decided to ah to put put tender feelings out I think it worked really well for ticktock like bad tender dates but tender feelings you that is your score.

34:46.76
jim_phoenix
Can you talk about like some of the process of incorporating the music into the film because you also wrote Champ chadpeen too right.

34:57.92
Travis
Yeah, it’s the worst song ever? Yeah, um, for sure. Ah, for the short. Yeah I wrote the worst theme song ever and Mike Nicholas our producer of the short and post producer of the feature was able to find um, somebody who knocked that out for us and did a. Did a great job but better than a champ better than a champ. You’re a chad. You’re a Chad. You’re a chad be and there. Yeah, that’s the thear I think I’m to branch off into music here. Um, so we add that in tinder feelings was kind of the same type of thing like what’s a bad song so Kimberton and I wrote kind of like.

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35:26.44
jim_phoenix
Um.

35:34.41
Travis
Ah, really bad song about you know swipe right of my heart so I left on your doubts all we need is wait our love to figure this out. It just was bad and then for that I was super happy. We went on. Ah do you know Fiverr. So we went on that and there is a um.

35:48.93
jim_phoenix
Yep, yeah.

35:52.90
Travis
Super talented producer composer and singer we got to sign on and do it and he killed it did an amazing job recording it and um, initially actually so cam can s the actor plays some Spencer can sing so we’re gonna have him do it but just for budgetary reasons and logistics were like well this. This voice sounds good but um and the guy was cool with it. We um, gave him a little extra money for the vocal track and such but his condition was he didn’t want his um his name on it because he’s like yeah actual singer um, doing well where he’s from. He didn’t want like this to come up on his Spotify track list. So um.

36:27.31
jim_phoenix
Ah.

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36:30.30
jim_phoenix
I Don’t know why.

36:31.32
Travis
I think like I think in it. Yeah, so it’s credited by ah think we put Spencer Logan as the ah like that’s the character’s name and that’s the ah the singer of it. But it’s a catchy song it. It will get in your head.

36:38.46
jim_phoenix
Yeah, it is a catchy song and it was it was fun to have diagetic music in it and then also have his you know, show up on Amazon and I was very surprised about that.

36:56.47
Travis
Yeah, and then we have a um we have a score in it and um, that was super fun. Did you notice the score. That’s it’s a it’s a compliment So it.

37:02.63
jim_phoenix
I didn’t actually so I’ll have to go back and.

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37:10.83
Travis
It’s there and if you well actually I think you’ve watched it enough. You’ve earned your shit. But um, if you click around what was so cool about that is um, the first cut didn’t have a scores the short had no music was all digest and um, ah we played it and it just wasn’t quite landing and um.

37:14.66
jim_phoenix
Ah, things. Ah.

37:28.16
Travis
Our co-producer Patrick Reardin was really pushing for a score and I was thinking like Halloween screen which are dome wrong amazing scores but just would take you out of it and he’s like no, you just keep it natural and so um, he hook me up with this composer Brian Deming who like totally got it and we’re like we wanted to be organic. We wanted to feel natural. So he went down to his basement and started dragging the axe on concrete and that was the base of of of the score and it’s it started from a natural axe. It doesn’t really start till he spoiler you know faces off of burzelow and you hear that axe dragging sound and then he.

38:02.48
jim_phoenix
Yeah, yeah.

38:05.93
Travis
Just made that more and more he added some cricket sounds outside and stuff but the scores all kind of based from organic tones and um so it kind of even though it’s Non-digjetic. It’s kind of digjetic and it’s um, yeah, just this weird creepy drone. That’s that’s going on that really enhanced it and um, yeah I think it’s it’s.. It’s pretty unique because it was hard for us to even find examples what we wanted him to do but he just took it upon himself to make kind of a natural score that yeah was started with natural sound effects and then by the end is like this creepy drone. Um undertone going on that was super great.

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38:39.40
jim_phoenix
That’s amazing. Yeah I did not I’ll have to go back Definitely and and try to listen for that because I did not hear it. Yeah but I’ll have to have to put my headphones on. Yeah.

38:50.95
Travis
That’s good like I said that was he the composer knew it that was like our it was like you shouldn’t yeah I think that was our instructions like you shouldn’t even know it’s there. It should still full but it should feel so natural that you weren’t even where there was a score because you’re through Halloween or or scream or you know like something awesome. That works all well for those then you know you’re it’s going to take you out of this like in-world found footage movie.

39:13.83
jim_phoenix
Absolutely absolutely and I think that’s fantastic and and congratulations to him because he did he nailed it like you everybody nailed it to be honest, um now.

39:23.52
Travis
Thank you.

39:31.10
jim_phoenix
Speaking of everybody nailing it. You worked it looks like you worked with a tightknit crew. Um, how did they add to what you originally envisioned or wrote um like just with the effects with um, everything.

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39:44.80
Travis
Yeah, it was um on all levels. It was like ah such a great talented crew and I think we talked about you know from the digjetic musicians who are nailing the songs or whatever form like the inworld songs but um, for instance, um. The murder house or whatever. Um, that was fun. Um Kimmerton helped track that down he was based in he goes between lizzan and Los Angeles on Los Angeles based so he went there and I wish he was here because he tells the story better than me. But um, he went to scout it for the first time.

40:01.46
jim_phoenix
Yes, yes.

40:20.18
Travis
And um, it’s this really kind of suspect place. It’s in the middle of the city. So. There’s a super kroger’s right across from it. But apparently it’s there’s been so he gets there with the guy to show him and the guy like a measly like knocks really loudly on the door and he’s like. I’m coming in and I’m armed then he pulls out a gun and Kimberron’s like what’s going on. He’s like sorry there’s been some people hanging out here and squadtting here and apparently they’re in a cult or something and Kimberton’s kind of like well that’s scary but also kind of perfect. Um. And he checked it out apparently and there’s some blood on the stairs. There was actually river blood and like yeah, but anyway long long story short Kimmertons tell me all this so I’m excited to see the house for the first time and I fly in and I’m looking at it I’m like.

40:54.72
jim_phoenix
I Saw that that’s wild.

41:10.65
Travis
This is amazing and I’m like um, you know this house is so trashed and it’s exactly as I envisioned it and this cabinet’s perfectly here and there’s even locks outside the door that’s creepy and then there’s a post already right? where it needs to wooden post with a chain I’m like what are the odds and then Reese rock the production designers like I built all this and I’m like. Yeah, great I mean yeah, so like he did I’m an idiot and he did yeah such a good job and and already even spending two weeks realizing my vision and he was awesome and yeah, everyone was okay with putting on multiple hats which is great like he was also our um, our. He helped with costume production design. He was like our stunt driver. Um, lot of people had a chance to be like well you know other burros and stuff so that the axe murderer so that was that was fun and so yeah, everyone was okay with just ah I got to do a shout out to um, our our audio supervisor Brett. Um, we get there and we still hadn’t figured out a good way to do video village because the whole thing was shot on iphones and one I wanted to watch for the short it was so short I’d literally have Spencer do a take then we could watch it together but you know this we wanted to get.

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42:11.76
jim_phoenix
Then.

42:22.42
Travis
Faster and you can put adapters on your phone and stuff but it starts making it really bulky. So we didn’t want that and so Brett was like um what if you just do screen mirror and we get an Apple Tv and I’m like that’s crazy. But what if that worked so we got Apple Tv set it up to a television and we just turn on screen mirror. We had an instant video village and so we got to the point where we um, we do have to bring a mini generator. We’re out in the woods in the middle of Vienna with Apple Tv in a monitor used to to watch and it was um it it worked really well I keep we even made it behind the scenes video to send to Apple I don’t think they ever got it. But it was you know I can’t like. We shot with the iphones and it worked so well. So and you know, um I’m getting off track here. But anyway everyone yeah, everyone did a lot of things and it was a super talented crew. The the ad was down with doing ex slating and stuff like that or running like it. It just was everyone was really.

43:08.79
jim_phoenix
Um, that’s that’s amazing though. Yeah.

43:21.19
Travis
Into doing whatever and and you know it goes a little way back like from the actors I was saying who were also having to help help film. So I think everyone guy was kind of an indie production and um, you know we knocked it out and we tried to you know, um within that we were doing you know? Um, we tried to keep it five day weeks 10 hour days so everyone could come and give it. Ah, hundred ten percent and then just chill and not work crazy long over time or not even do six day weeks and yes it was it was I was so lucky to have such ah such a good crew. It’s an interesting question because um.

43:49.15
jim_phoenix
How long did it take to film it.

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43:57.10
Travis
My lime producer we were actually that was like question our premiere film less and he’s like oh no, it took like you know like twelve shooting days and it did. We got it done um actually or we finished a day or 2 early which was kind of unheard of because we factor we assume more things were going to go wrong, but we were able to still kind of soldier through and is so dialed in.

44:07.81
jim_phoenix
Um, wow.

44:16.17
Travis
So was like a two and a half week shoot there. But then you know like I shot for a few days in Los Angeles before and after and then we had to shoot all the stuff with the cousin we had to so there’s a lot of like extra stuff just pickup shoots or whatever to get and just to complete all the media to not from the main shoot. But the main shoot was pretty smooth and you know because we didn’t it was pretty much. Ah, we we didn’t do tons of lighting. We did some you know to give it the right look but it had to be a general lighting setup for each scene because we’re shooting 3 60 all around um long takes. Obviously you know to keep that live stream feel going on and. Rehearsed with the ares tons and you know luckily once again I keep saying and working with such a great group that they just immediately were nailing it and so yeah, we were able to when we were going we were we were going and then you know I think um, the swamp was ah was probably the most challenging shoot because it was like.

45:14.26
jim_phoenix
Oh my gosh.

45:14.55
Travis
° um, at a swamp we’re fighting. It’s supposed to but it’s already drizzling. It’s like supposed to be pouring rain. Um, and so yeah, tenacia would have like 10 coats on and just try to warm up and then go and just give it and act like she’s just bubbly and fine like so such a trooper and then um camemerton. Was the one who volunteered to be burrows in the swamp. So he’s sitting in the swamp I’m like some virgin self like tenation I talking details like where should to grab on the shoe like the should just be mud here and Kimridge Sky guys I’m standing in a swamp right now. It’s ° can we just shoot so it um it was fun but everyone was like. Gung ho for and it and I think the shots worked out and it I think it was good to get out of the house and shoot something a little different. So.

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45:57.55
jim_phoenix
Absolutely that was one of this the scares that did get me actually so I I I knew something was going to be but I think just the way that it it was shot so quickly I think that really worked in that you the whole.

46:04.33
Travis
Again.

46:17.54
jim_phoenix
Movie and I know I said this in my nightmarish conjurings thing. Um you know because there’s that whole hitchcock quote of you know you show everybody the Bomb. Everybody’s going to you know, have all of these emotions. But if you show only the audience The bomb You know we’re going to feel the tension whereas the characters don’t. And I’m paraphrasing obviously um, but that’s how this movie really felt is we as the audience kept seeing things that the characters were not seeing and that added so much to the suspense and the tension of that did now I know you did um.

46:37.71
Travis
Again.

46:55.26
jim_phoenix
Some sci-fi but did you usually work in like suspense or or like thrillers or things like that.

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47:02.20
Travis
no I you know I did I mean you know no and yes there are like there is a lot of um. I worked on an Mtv show called the challenge which is like a competition show but point being there’s a lot of like countdown pictures like survivor except with like younger Mtv people and then also more drinking and partying or whatever but they’re still doing these actiony challenges right? and that kind of did help with pay pacing intention of like. Lingering on those shots and stuff and making sure the um the moment hits right? So I had that is ah is a background but no I wanted to make sure I um I got that part right? And so 1 thing especially with the um feature is I made sure to go back and watch you know your blair weights your grave encounters paranormal activity. And see what they’re doing that worked for me what what scared me and there’s just a lot of cool shots and stuff in that that inspired me and um, another thing that was important for that is what I realized is um, you can’t rely on a score on paranormal activity or. Graven encounters the found footage. So I’m like what are they doing for the jump scares and I’m like okay we need someone to like you know water is good and break it water you know, like axes get you know like we have to have those hard hits to make the um make the sound effect land and then yeah I think it’s just about um.

48:26.30
Travis
Letting the shots go longer than you think they need to be and even that I’m still learning I just shut another proof of concept horror short and I got back and I’m like still was like fuck I should have shot this longer. You know so it’s like really really as a director I’m trying to get better at making sure I hold on those shots and you know and you got to figure out when to break away from the tension. Not to. Go back to this focus group thing too much but there was 1 or 2 things where the the gin scare they’re like I don’t know if they actually noted that but they’re like we wish there’s a little more buildup to some of the scares and that was something so originally with the the gin scare. She actually gets a call from ah Spencer. And he makes it’s it’s a pretty funny joke about like we could do a song with your cat like I need you write me out like it was just and it played funny but it was still undercutting the tensions. You just heard this sound. That’s like okay we don’t we. Don’t want that there but then sometimes for instance, not to go through. You know there’s a. professor pat hotwiring a car was like the perfect. Let’s get people calm and comedy. So yeah I I didn’t have tons of experience but I tried to make sure to do the research and I have quite a lot of experience with with editing um, that’s kind of my main thing so I knew to kind of try to drag out those things.

49:25.90
jim_phoenix
Ah.

49:41.66
Travis
Build up the tension. Um I am sad you didn’t get a chance to see it in a theater I don’t want under cause it’s only available on streamer now. But um, it it was when you have that five one sound going and that like it it was um it it was amazing and um, it actually changed my whole.

49:47.39
jim_phoenix
I told.

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50:00.43
Travis
Perspective on theaters even though I’ve been a theater goer you know, but I’ve never been like avid I’ll go to a movie like once a month um but now I get it. Ah you know chrispher noll you know I’m like okay I see it because it’s like it is even more awesome in the theater. Um, but if you’re listening this, it still plays really well on a Tv.

50:15.70
jim_phoenix
It does.

50:17.40
Travis
It’s even more disconcerting on a phone because I think it feels more real. Um, if you want to put headphones you get better sounds. So it’s not not um, Oppenheimer here. You can you can watch it on on streaming your phone. But yeah.

50:33.53
jim_phoenix
Yeah, you know and it is funny I’m just going to say this real quick I’m just going to ask? um because you’re talking about Mtv and some of the mo ah things that you were working on. Um, did you ever get to see um a show back because I’m also an older millennial. Call them Tvs fear and that was very going into. Yeah.

50:52.18
Travis
Oh yeah, my um mine my neighbor when I moved in to my apartment in college was was on that. So um, yeah, that was that was.

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51:00.10
jim_phoenix
Really oh my gosh.

51:06.47
Travis
That show was wild and I was like was it and she was like no I felt a good like because I was like no this is stay and I I think they cast the right people who are susceptible. You know likes different on that. So like Eric um Eric Gibson our our producer is um.

51:13.91
jim_phoenix
Yeah, yeah.

51:23.38
Travis
A little more i’ say scare but he he was not having like I’m not going to go to the murder house. We’re shooting at it at 2 am m but my mind it’s still on directing I wait literally a couple times went and scouted it like by myself with a flashlight and I’m like Kimmerton just meet me is like you want me to meet you at the murder house at one thirty in the morning and I’m like yeah. Nike’s like I don’t but um, yeah fear did you ah were you a fan of fear back in the day. Yeah, that that show is cool.

51:47.49
jim_phoenix
I was such a fan. Yes, yeah, that was and it’s funny that you said that too because um, my dad used to work for pandavision and there was a couple times in Detroit they would be in ah like an abandoned warehouse and stuff in.

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51:55.15
Travis
And.

52:05.64
jim_phoenix
Even the security guards would be like you know what I quit like too. It’s too weird. It’s too creepy you know and it’s kind of funny. Ah.

52:11.96
Travis
Yeah, it’s and I get scared I still get scared of certain certain things. But I think it’s just yeah I have issues and I get when it’s directing. It’s like my mind is so focused I forget to be scared because I’m just. Thinking about the the movie so much and not the yeah, there’s real blood and there are people there and I’m going to? Yeah, so I’m not the smartest first. Yeah I’m not saying Eric and Kimberton are wrong I think they’re right I think I’m the one who’s um, not scared enough.

52:28.95
jim_phoenix
And the the house could have been a murder house you found real blood.

52:47.31
jim_phoenix
All right? So I heard through whispers and by whispers I mean through your Instagram ah that you brought one of the props home. Yeah.

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52:57.54
Travis
Yes, yeah, the dead bodies. Um, we have. It’s been a back forth. So we um, how do you fly? A dead body is a good question that my um, my parents actually live in Shreveport where we shot the movie. So my dad figured it out. Um, and bought a giant duffel bag. We put a dead body in it and we show up at the airport and they’re like what’s in that I’m like a dead body like ha ha ha and they’re scanning in. They’re giving me this sideline there I like so we flew it all the way back to Los Angeles um for a while we now have um.

53:35.59
Travis
2 had 2 dead bodies because I bought one for the short as well. My wife was just you know, thrilled that werere ah that did these props people. Yeah um, so no, they we put it out took pictures and stuff and um, right now it is.

53:42.47
jim_phoenix
Um, you’re collecting dead bodies.

53:52.87
Travis
Back in shrife porks. Another friend used it for a movie and we’re in the process of cutting it up and sending body parts of it to influencers for unboxing to help promote the movie so that we’re giving. Yeah, we’re really trying to maximize use every part of the ah the dead body and let none of it go to waste.

54:04.19
jim_phoenix
That’s amazing.

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54:10.11
jim_phoenix
You should have a Patreon and the more you spend the better. The the body piece.

54:11.60
Travis
So.

54:15.80
Travis
Yeah, you get the ribs if you put enough in or the head. Yeah I think I’m gonna keep the head for myself I was talking to rees and I’m gonna have you you know like Futu Rama like the head jars or whatever. Um, um, that’s what I was thinking and and my wife actually surprising is on board with that. She’s like okay thatll.

54:28.83
jim_phoenix
Um.

54:32.13
jim_phoenix
Well I mean it’s not a whole dead body. It’s just the the head. You know it’s yeah so all right last couple questions. How do people go and buy Chad gets the answer. How do they.

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54:33.31
Travis
Dollars though. Yeah, just the head So the bot Yeah, the whole one was a little excessive. So.

54:50.44
jim_phoenix
Find like updates is there I know there’s the Instagram but what else is there.

54:51.40
Travis
Sure we got a lot. We tried that we got a chag gets the ax instagram at jag gets the axe we have um jag gets the ae dot com which is nice that we’ll give you the link tree of all the places to get it. We have a Facebook if you’re. Elder millennial or parents or whatever you are who still uses that. Um, we got we. We got that? Um, we have a ticktok that I’ve been working with the um with the ah Spencer’s ah girlfriend is very she’s she’s kind of helping with our social media manager. So we have a Tiktok. We’re doing all kinds of fun stuff. Um, a chag gets the ae tiktok. Ah, you can follow me at the Travis bible on Instagram and um I guess most importantly, if you you know the link trees everywhere chaitex dot com but it is available on just as a download or rent or purchase on Amazon apple google voodoo I think even Youtube yeah, all that any place you can. Ah, think you’ve in Vimeo. Any place you can pay or download. it’s it’s there so yeah I would um, we’re indie film. So it’s literally every every download helps every review helps if you want to rate us on I guess if you hated it. You don’t have to but even then go but i.

56:04.38
jim_phoenix
Yeah, ah you won’t get a good body part then mean a stinky old toe.

56:06.42
Travis
Yeah, you’ll get a bad.. You’re going to growing and get like a toe if you give us ah a once our yeah, but um, all that stuff helps it with a movie of our our level um to help kind of hopefully make it match with the algorithm and get it to ah to a wider audience because it’s at this point I Just you know. Hope as many people get a chance to to check it out as as possible.

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56:27.10
jim_phoenix
And last question what are you working on next.

56:32.76
Travis
Um, I do have a a couple projects. But um I am finishing up ah visual effects and post-productions for a short about a demon that wipes people out of existence at a laser tag match and um, it’s going to be. Fun. It’s a little more horrorre. It’s not shot on phones. Um, but it’s actually proof a concept for ah, a feature script I have but I’m incapable of just kind of sitting for a year or two so I had to shoot something so we um you know made ah a shorter version. So yeah, that’s I would say that’s the main thing in this this space i’m. I’m working on and I’m you know super excited about that and hopefully getting that out there next year

57:14.53
jim_phoenix
That would be amazing. So I appreciate you coming here I appreciate you talking with us. Um I feel a little less angry now that we’ve kind of talked about everything and you know I feel calmer.

57:24.00
Travis
Good I you work through the works through these these feelings of resentment for for Chad getting the axe or whatever but you know.

57:31.61
jim_phoenix
You know? yeah I feel like we’re at a good place now. So I can finally give you a good review. So.

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57:36.26
Travis
Good I appreciate that and it was graping on here and yeah, um, you know, um I like I said that was ah think your review was the the first one and it was very entertaining so very well written and you know and it didn’t hurt that you ended up lacking the movie. Don’t get me wrong, but um. Yeah, it’s so good. Yeah.

57:57.15
jim_phoenix
That was an aside ah all right? Thank you so much.

58:01.70
Travis
Thanks.

Real skull. Don't ask. You wouldn't believe it if I told you.

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Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, Kelly

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Launched in October of 2023, Suburban Screams is the latest project by acclaimed horror master John Carpenter. It’s a true crime/unsolved mystery series covering events that have terrified people living in, you guessed it, the suburbs.

The story

Our first episode, titled Kelly, is the story of two roommates named Dan and Joey. The actual Dan and Joey tell the story from their own perspective, interspersed with dramatic reenactments. This did feel very much like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

One night when Dan and Joey have their girlfriends over, they decide to play with an Ouija board. Since they don’t have one, Dan makes one on a pizza box, complete with a planchette. This is, of course, when things go terribly wrong.

Still from Suburban Screams, Kelly.

Honestly, I have never heard anyone say, “I had a great time with that Ouija board, I’m really glad we did that.”

The couples make contact with a spirit named Kelly. This is very upsetting to Dan’s girlfriend May, as she had a cousin named Kelly who went missing and is presumed dead.

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Dan then finds himself haunted by Kelly. He throws up water, finds his kitchen chairs stacked on the table, and is followed around by a haunting song. Dan feels like he won’t find peace until he helps Kelly find peace.

What worked

There was a lot to enjoy in this first episode. Specifically, I loved the horror visuals. Dan’s vision was very creepy, as an example. And I loved the shots of the body floating down the river. These images were eerie and upsetting.

The storytelling from Dan and Joey was also well done. While I have my doubts about the validity of this story, these two men believe wholeheartedly in what they’re saying. I certainly believe that they experienced something disturbing. Either that or they are some fantastic actors.

What didn’t work

That being said, some things rubbed me the wrong way in this episode.

I’d like to start with the herbs Joey burned during the Ouija session. It looked like sage, or maybe sweetgrass.

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As some of you might know, I am a practicing witch. So I do feel the need to point out that if you want to open a door and invite spirits in, you probably don’t want to be burning sage or sweetgrass as those are going to negate any spiritual activity. This was for sure the action of someone who does not know what the hell they are doing. It just irritated me.

Also, maybe don’t throw open a door indiscriminately to the spirit world. Just saying.

I also didn’t love the acting by Ben Walton-Jones, who played Dan. While it wasn’t a terrible job, the character felt overacted. I don’t know how he had room for that pizza, since he was chewing the scenery most of the episode.

Honestly, this episode felt a little underproduced. When I saw John Carpenter’s name, I was expecting something with some real production value. Great acting, great effects, great music. None of those were in effect here. I’m not sure where their budget went, because it didn’t go to any of the things it should have.

Is it true?

So that brings us to the big question. Do I think this story is true?

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Well, it is verifiable that Kelly Lynn Fitzpatrick was a young woman who unfortunately was found dead in 1999 in Quebec. The rest of the story, so far as I can find, is up to speculation.

Do I believe someone could contact the dead on an Ouija board they made out of a pizza box? Yes, I do. Because Dan made it with his own hands it might have worked better than a store-bought board. But do I think he was haunted to this extent by the spirit of Kelly?

Well, I would say that I believe this about as much as I believe the story of the Amityville house. Something certainly happened here, but I am sure that the details shared in this episode of Suburban Screams are highly overblown.

In the end, while I did have fun watching this episode, this fun was tainted. I would have enjoyed it more if it was presented as a fictional story loosely based on real-life events. Because that is almost certainly what it was.

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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Original Creations

Dirty Clean Sweep, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Wendell was a germophobe. His obsessions with cleanliness extended far beyond the reach of OCD and even hypochondria, because for all that he was totally infatuated with his own mortality and utterly convinced that he was sick, it was his peculiar obsession with germs that eventually drove him to an insanity that doomed the world to an unexpected and dire destruction. For Wendell was the reason for the Clean Sweep.

When the COVID pandemic happened, it only increased Wendell’s fear, and his germophobia worsened significantly. He started meticulously waxing all of the hair off of his body, even his eyebrows, and would shower several times per day, using an abrasive pumice to slough off any dead skin that might otherwise accumulate and attract mites. As his manners and habits surrounding cleanliness became more and more rigid and involved, he left his house less and less for any reason whatsoever. He began to treat his home environment like a hospital or chemical facility and reworked everything to minimize debris, personally installing air filtration systems that rivaled some of the most sterile industry environments and cleaning everything constantly (he had once worked in HVAC and now no longer trusted anyone else to be involved in his efforts).

He took advantage of all of the delivery services, with packages coming to his back porch once weekly. He had everything on video camera and would scream at anyone who didn’t follow his explicit instructions through a small speaker in the ceiling. If a delivery-person didn’t first sanitize their hands with the supplied wipes and then put on latex gloves and booties before turning the door handle to drop their package on the specified table, they were yelled at and reported, and a bad review was left for whatever service had sent them.

Dirty Clean hand sanitizer out and about
Dirty Clean…

Wendell only order packaged foods, simple soups and cereals that would not come in contact with the world outside of their factory packaged settings. He meticulously researched processing plants to determine what he could and could not consume according to his own standards of cleanliness. When a parcel was delivered, he would leave it where it sat for two to three days time depending on the weather, all the while monitoring it. He would eventually suit up in a tyvek jumpsuit, goggled and gloved, and brave the porch himself in order to extract his needed food and hygiene supplies. Whilst there, he would spray and wipe down the porch, replenish the hand sanitizing wipes and latex gloves, and take everything that might have come into contact with the outside world out with his trash. The cycle would then repeat again a few days later. Every delivery included yet more gear to perpetuate his clean infatuation. More latex gloves, more wipes, more sprays, more tyvek suits… And every time his labors increased…

While Wendell continued to go about his business, ordering life necessities like soap and soup online, a slow and subtle change to his environment began to take over. It wasn’t obvious and, as he never put any distance between himself and his bubble world, he was unaware of the shift. It began because of a spore, well more of an anti-spore like blossoming of suddenly self-aware sterilization. No one really knows where it came from, or how it managed to get such a strong foothold, but perhaps it was because of Wendell’s meticulous cleaning habits. For this strange and unusual being, or beings as it were (for it was hard to tell whether there was a single individual or a number of them all acting under one consciousness), though unaffected by cleaning reagents and the like, had once been highly susceptible to bacteria and rarely survived at length when competing for resources with other species previous to its evolution in Wendell’s abode. But the bereft home was the perfect outpost for it to thrive, and it finally managed to gain a foothold. It grew rapidly and had soon infiltrated most every corner.

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As mentioned, Wendell didn’t notice, or perhaps he welcomed the change. For this strange surface skimmer actually looked even cleaner than its surroundings, appearing as an even brighter less dingy white that almost seemed to glow. It embodied cleanliness, at least insofar as we have come to perceive the concept. And the more that it acclimated to its habitat, the more resilient it became, learning to alter its own surroundings to its gain by killing off any and all other life forms that stood in its way. When a small quantity of some bacteria or mite or other single-celled threat was introduced, say on a box surface or embedded in the cardboard, the newly evolved clean critter would attack and annihilate them almost as if it were itself composed of harsh cleansers like bleach and ammonia. It seemed to develop a memory for different organisms and found a way to destroy most everything. It steadily increased in size and became stronger and stronger.

Clean Dirty hand sanitizer out and about
Clean Dirty…

Finally, one day, it had grown large enough to determine that Wendell himself was a threat, for no matter how clean his environment or person was, he still harbored a myriad of organisms required to keep a human healthy and fully functioning. He was inherently dirty and had to be eliminated. And so the creature he had fostered at length, by providing a nearly sterile environment for its incubation, rose up and destroyed him. It did so while he was sleeping and so he had no awareness of what had happened; had he realized a blanket of seemingly sudsy foam was suffocating him he would have panicked thinking it was some sort of bacterial infection or the like. But he blissfully slept through his untimely death, and the aggressive new organism worked to dispel all of the unclean bits and detritus of his being.

After finally taking over the whole of the house, this new creature began to spread, much like a fungus or a rot, dismantling all in its path in order to leave a wake of clean sterile nothingness. Although it has been said that nature abhors a vacuum, somehow this void had become powerful enough to negate that and continued on its path of complete and utter destruction, leaving nothing living in its path. Before too long it had absorbed the two neighboring houses, and then the houses just beyond those, in a sort of reverse infection that defied logical explanation. The local health department and center for disease control were perplexed; these spaces seemed too clean to harbor such a deadly silent killer and yet something was slowly annihilating everything in its path on a microscopic level. It almost acted like a slow progressing chemical spill but yet there was no evidence of such either.

Before long, word had gotten out and samples had been taken and distributed across the globe. One of those samples was eventually leaked intentionally, as a weapon of mass destruction, and was unable to later be contained. The Clean Sweep was upon all and the world began to be disinfected wholly as it spread. Life was literally in the balance, slated to be eradicated and left to a sort of shiny surface devoid of substance. All was being cleansed, slowly but surely. What started with Wendell, whom would never be known or acknowledged as the source of this new terror, had grown to be much larger.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

If you enjoyed this tale, here is another creepy story about cleanliness. Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

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Book Reviews

A Misfortune of Lake Monsters: a Book Review

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As summer approaches, there’s nothing quite like reading a book with warm campy vibes. It’s especially true if you’re lying on a sunny beach. Nicole M Wolverton’s A Misfortune of Lake Monsters matches that picture perfectly. It’s described as a creature feature with a Stranger Things-esque friend group.

Although set in modern times, I found the story felt like something out of the 80s (in a good way). Character dynamics reminded me of The Goonies and IT while the narrative combined just the right amount of adventure, romance, and horror to bring out nostalgia and comfort at the same time. Anyway, let’s dive (hehe) in! 

Plot

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Lemon Ziegler has one aspiration in life – to become a vet. Unfortunately, that would involve leaving her hometown, which is a problem as she is obligated to continue the family business. While such a situation is not out of the ordinary, the business itself definitely is. Lemon must impersonate Old Lucy, the town monster (a nice homage to the Loch Ness myth). 

The decades-old legend about this creature swimming around in the lake is keeping tourism in the town alive. Because of this, poor Lemon has no other choice but to follow in her family’s footsteps. She keeps this secret from everyone, including her best friends, Derrin and Troy. The latter is harbouring feelings for Lemon that are stronger than friendship. As he is a teenage boy though, he is too afraid to make a move (much to Darrin’s enjoyment). 

Things take an unexpected turn when a real monster shows up, hungry for blood. As one could guess in these kinds of stories, no one believes Lemon at first. This only allows the creature to claim more victims (and yes, I feel the saddest about the poor dog). Once the adults finally decide to do something, it alerts the FBI, which makes the situation more difficult for our gang. Unsurprisingly, they are the only ones who can stop the monster from wreaking move havoc.

In the midst of the riveting adventure, we also see Lemon go through a character arc. She stands up to her grandfather, allowing him to see her as an adult for the first time ever. There’s also the blossoming of her and Troy’s romance. The pair awkwardly navigate the transition from friendship to romance in an adorable way. At its heart though, this novel is about family, blood or otherwise, and how strong connections can sometimes be the only way to save your life. After all, who could defeat a multidimensional monster by themselves?

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Overall thoughts

I had a blast with A Misfortune of Lake Monsters as it combined all the components of making an effective adventure story with enough heart to make you care about what happened to the characters. They are sympathetic yet entertaining and their relationships feel organic down to the dialogue that, while a tad cheesy, is oozing with charisma.

The reasons I am giving it four stars are more individualistic. I tend to go for a darker type of thriller/horror and this story, although not short of gore, ultimately steers in a more heartwarming direction. It’s something I anticipated knowing the age range and found fitting with what the narrative was going for.

I also would have liked a slightly different as I feel the story entered more of a sci-fi subgenre in the last third. While that’s fine overall, it is not my first choice of horror. Considering these things are more down to my personal preferences as a reader, I would absolutely recommend this book. I’m excited to see what the authors does next!

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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