Often stories must be told that are not the 800 page epic type. If you’re a writer, you come up with a short story and luckily for you, there are plenty of magazines which still publish them. And if you’re the I-win-lotteries-all-the-time kind of luckster, you might even get paid!

As a short-filmmaker, it’s a bit more depressing. You’ve got to be creative and resourceful, have nerves, survive the minefield of production, and—importantly—you must shell out a good chunk of (your own) money just to get a 20min movie. Let’s say you did real well, but then what? Say the word ‘short film’ and commercial distributors act like you just poked them in the eye. Having a film that didn’t make it to the other side of 90 minutes? What went wrong?

Yes, there are film festivals. You can be sure many know how to look out for their own financial interest. They charge you steep entry fees and sign up sponsors while keeping down costs by using student volunteers and getting some bargain deal on a local venue. But what’s the return for you? A moment of “fame” as your film screens with dozens of others in a mostly empty micro theatre? (We’ve been at a number of festivals where the only "audience" was the projectionist.) But what else can you do? Of course you need to get reviewed! But that’s even harder than getting in a festival. Usually, your film must be first available for purchase and, let's face it, there is no real market for shorts as there is for feature films. Putting it up on YouTube won't make you money either. So, is all your investment in creativity, labor and cash completely wasted?

Well, when Felix Gilfedder approached Cultmachine and told us of Popcorn Horror, we thought this could help solve the dilemma. What Felix and his partner David Patterson, short-filmmakers themselves, came up with is an app that’s not only designed to create a community among horror fans and short-filmmakers (plus other creators as well), but also one that establishes a system where fans can reward filmmakers with micro-donations. The idea: filmmakers can keep on making shorts and fans can get their daily dose of horror straight on their phones and tablets. Sounds like a win-win?

ANDREAS KOSSAK: Felix, you're the co-founder of PopcornHorror but you're also an indie filmmaker.  What got you started and what kept you going?

A low angle "Dolly" move for SLIDE
FELIX GILFEDDER: I first thought about the idea 6 years ago when I made a 1 minute short called Slide and thought that it would be cool if I could show it on my phone. At the time this was not possible. Then when I got my first smart phone one of the first things I did (as a horror fan) was search for horror apps. I found most of the apps poor and lacking in imagination. I decided that I could do better. So combining my love for horror and independent filmmaking I came up with Popcorn Horror -- a horror cinema experience in your pocket.
I got a little bit of grant money to get us of the ground (5K) and everything else has been built and sustained on hard work, favours and the joy of doing it. I start my day by watching a bunch of cool horror shorts – that’s no hardship.

SHANNON LUSTER: What advice would you give filmmakers who attempting their first shorts?

On the set of LUELLA DIES
FG: The best short films should be about you, your life, an experience or something you feel passionate about. Let people read your script and get feed back -- if the script does not work then the film will not work. Try and make the film as contained as possible. A really good 4 mins is better than 16 mins of mediocrity. Collaboration is king find other passionate people to work with: photography, costume, makeup, editing, visual effect they will add layers of quality to the film and they are out there.  Be as imaginative as you can. There are thousands of shorts made every week. What is going to make yours stand out and how are you going to get it out there. It’s not as simple as setting up a YouTube channel and waiting for the views to roll in. The good news is that if you put the hours in and spend time following and interacting with the digital film community then you can build an audience.

Peeping Tom (1960)
: What films and which filmmakers influenced you?  Any particular era, style, genre that youre into?

FG: I am a serious movie buff and although horrors are my favourite I pretty much watch anything from anywhere. If I had to pick out a couple of major influences I would say David Cronenberg, Hitchcock, Michael Powell, John Carpenter and Alan Clarke. Hitchcock is the master of suspense, Cronenberg films are visual treats, Powel's story telling is incredibly powerful, Carpenter is the king of horror filmmaking and Clarke gives you a prolonged adrenaline kick. I guess there is no particular era as these filmmakers' work stretches over 5 decades although 1960 was a vintage year with PSYCHO and PEEPING TOM.
I am also a big fan of New German Cinema, which came at such an exciting and transitional period for Germany with a new crop of filmmakers emerging after the war like WendersALICE IN THE CITIES and Herzog’s, STROSZEK.

SL: You did a Masters in History.  Was that an attempt to switch tracks and appease certain parental expectations, or did it grow out of your obsession of making films? Was the transition from History to Film challenging?

Production of THE STRAND
FG: When I was 16 I went to see my career officer and told him I wanted to be a film director. He told me you can’t go to university and become a film director, so how about history? At the time he had a point there was very little in the way of film schools in Scotland which thankfully is not the case anymore.
I love history and have no regrets on studying it for 4 years. In my second year I made my first film the BOOKS a tongue and cheek homage to Hitchcock’s, THE BIRDS. I had never done anything that felt so right and from that moment I knew that this was for me come hell or high water.

AK: It seems that your time at Sidney University became a major turning point for you.  What did you study and how did it change your perspective about what you wanted to do?

University of Sidney (source Wikipedia)
FG: Firstly, Scotland is not a sunny place. I read recently that we have a national vitamin D deficiency problem due to lack of sunlight. So if I was to do a second degree it was going to be in a hot country.  I wouldn’t say going to Sydney was a turning point as I think I always knew I wanted to be a filmmaker but felt that a year in a filmmaking environment would be good for me. It was a great year on all fronts both for my level of vitamin D and for an introduction to a host of films and filmmakers that I had never heard off, I made 5 films and made some great friends.

AK: After Sidney you traveled the world and made number of short films.  Tell us about that time.

FG: Over a number of years I traveled around Asia, Eastern Europe and South America. You can sound like a bit of a
Shooting HAZEL
wanker if you start waffling on about how important travel is for opening your mind, so it is probably suffice to say that traveling informed me as a person and helped form my world view which in turn feeds back into my films. In terms of filmmaking during this period I think the most important film you can make is the first film you make outside the safe house of an educational institution when you perhaps do not have easy access to equipment and a structured project and you have to create the entire process of your own back. My first film in that environment was HAZEL, that was important to keep the momentum going.

SL: It seems that during this time you also came up with the idea of starting Popcorn Horror.  Did anyone inspire you? What triggered the idea?

Popcorn Horror Profile Logo
FG: I had the idea for Popcorn Horror about 6 years ago. I made a 1 min short horror film called SLIDE and thought it would be cool to show it on my phone. At the time there was no smart phones and it was not possible. Over the years I had talked about the idea in pubs with friends but never took any serious steps to making it happen. By that time the tech had caught up and phone screen where getting better, we had 3G and apps where growing in popularity. At the same time the internet was becoming crowded with content and it was difficult to get lots of the stuff you like in the same place. I wanted Popcorn Horror to be a place for horror fans from around the world to get a horror fix on the move, a place that, you know, you are going to get great short horror films and news, plus I also wanted to create an interactive experience (send in quotes, news, posters and films). All the content on the app is user generated. Basically, I made the app that I would want on my phone.

SL: Why were you drawn to the horror genre?

FG: I guess it was the extremity of the experience. Horror films deal with the darker side of the subconscious - death, sin, evil, the things we do not openly talk about and it’s a place to explore these parts of the human experience. On a simple level I like to be scared and I find exploding body parts funny.

David Patterson
AK: Tell us about your partner and co-founder David Patterson.  What's his background?

FG: Me and Dave met at Sydney University and hit it off. We have been making films together ever since and it kind of makes sense to have Dave with Popcorn Horror in the States (he lives in LA) and me in the UK and Europe. Working with someone as passionate about the company as you and someone you can have a laugh with makes all the difference.

AK: How do you guys compliment each other in your areas of expertise?

FG: Dave, has a more “light” taste. He is more Tim Burton. I am a little more the darker, the better. This for some reason creates a good balance.

AK: The two of you live on two different continents, what's a typical workday like?

FG: A lot of emails and then the 6pm Skype call my time, which is about 9am Dave’s time, which normally starts with me whining about how good the weather looks and telling Dave that I hope he gets skin cancer.

AK: Let's get more into the nitty-gritty of Popcorn Horror. How does it work?

Felix Gilfedder holding the App

FG: Popcorn Horror, a mobile phone app, is a bite sized, horror, cinema experience in the palm of your hand. The ever mutating weekly content is user generated and includes the best short horror films from across the world, news, quotes, and much, much more. You can download the app for free on Android, i-Phone and i-Pad. AND IT’S AWESOME AND FREE!

AK: How is Popcorn Horror different from other websites that show short films?

FG: I think we are the only specialist short horror film mobile phone app. We really work hard at brining the best shorts from around the world into a single location as well as providing other interactive features. I believe that we have the best archive anywhere in the world.  We also pay our filmmakers.

AK: What happens when a fan likes a film and wants to support its filmmakers.  How do the Blood Stamps work and how do the micro-donations end up with the filmmakers?

Blood Stamp Book - Main Page
FG: Next year we will be looking to launch a new web channel and the Blood Stamp - a community tool set for independent horror filmmakers offering free content in the digital space. We provide a Blood Stamp button that can be embedded within a piece of content or website. Members can then micro donate from 4 donation options which is deducted from a monthly allowance (as much or as little as you like). You can also purchase exclusive content offered by the web publisher (a Big Stamp) as well as discovering more about their next project. If you do not have enough money in your allowance for the big stamp item you can select to make a direct payment from your account.
One of the big questions is this: why would people sign up if they can get the content for free? The answer lies in the fact that the Blood Stamp is more than just an opt-in system. When a user becomes a member, they will receive exclusive promotions, content, rewards and community features - the more you stamp, the more they get back. The idea is to provide an open, flexible and engaging system that provides a rich experience for the audience, while helping to support content creators in order to create more of what we love.

Blood Stamp Benefit Screen
AK: Does Popcorn Horror take a cut, or how do you guys survive? 

FG: At the moment we both still work in the film and TV industry. I started out as a camera loader and do cam assist work on commercials and camera directing work. Although the app is free we do have a donation option that unlocks two extra films and will allow you to watch the films offline. Thankfully, people like what we are doing and become an official member. This money help cover the costs of the app.
For the Blood Stamp we will look to have a 30/70 profit sharing with the filmmakers. For every dollar spent the filmmakers gets 70c and Popcorn Horror get 30c. This will help us support and develop the system. In the future if we can get the numbers to work we would like to increase this division.

AK: Let's say someone has an indie horror short and is interested in getting it on Popcorn Horror, how should they proceed?  What are the requirements, like copyright forms, actor releases, etc.?

FG: We accept submissions of all horror films under 20 minutes, you must have complete rights for the film including music and all we really ask is that you try and scare the shit out of us. 

The Popcorn Horror App
SL: You don't take all film submissions.  Who makes the decision and what are you looking for?

FG: I create a short list and we have a committee of 4 people to decide. Cara, has been part of Popcorn Horror form the start and I often get her opinion on the films. However, for the new web channel we will be taking on much more films.

SL: Do you consider psychological horror shorts for your website?

FG: Yes, we try and get a real cross section of horror films: funny, gory, arty, tense and psychological.

AK: How can all the horror fans watch films on Popcorn Horror?

FG: You can download the app for free on Android/ iPhone and splurge on horror. The app is free with new films and content added every week. However, if you like what we are doing please donate and help keep the app going.

AK: Do you plan to open up Popcorn Horror to other content creators?  What's the future?

FG: The future is the web channel with lots more films and community features and the Blood Stamp – it would be really exciting to create a tool that will help new generations of independent filmmakers.

Texas Frightmare
SL: How far along are you with all the development work and what still needs to be done? 

FG: We have all our tech solutions in place for the web channel and Blood Stamp and have some pretty advanced art work -  all we need to do is raise a bit of cash and make it happen.

AK: Do you have sponsors and partnerships with other companies and festivals? 

FG: We are actually running a short horror film comp called “Blood Games” with Texas Frightmare and Gabrielle Faust (Horror writer). Collaboration is definitely the future so hopefully lots more in the future. If anyone is interested in putting a film into the comp or finding out more info please visit: http://www.popcornhorror.com/bloodgames/

AK: How can people support you guys in getting Popcorn Horror up and running?

FG: Download the app, give us a review, tell your friends, become a member, keep sending in great horror films and support our new web
Dave, Felix & friends at the epicenter of Tinseltown
channel and the Blood Stamp experiment. Until the 11th Nov. we are running an Indiegogo crowd fund tohelp raise money for the web channel and Blood Stamp, please check it out… we have some really cool gifts for getting involved - indiegogo.com/popcornhorror

SL: What’s next for Popcorn Horror?  Which direction do you want to take it in the future?

FG: We would love to get involved with horror feature films and hopefully with the Blood Stamp we have a tool that will help the filmmakers we love make more films. We are also working on some of our own scripts and will hopefully have a short out at the start of the year.


Popcorn Horror on Indiegogo

Popcornhorror.com Official Website

Popcorn Horror on Facebook

Popcorn Horror on Twitter -- @PopcornHorror

Felix on Facebook

Felix on Twitter -- @FelixGilfedder

All photos and graphics: © Copyright by Felix Gilfedder and Popcorn Horror, 2012