In 1989 you were involved with the production of a film called The
Basement, a film that has been released for the first time on
VHS/DVD only very recently. In a few words, what is the film about?
is a horror anthology in the tradition of Tales
Crypt and Creepshow. The film was shot in the summer of 1989 on
Super 8 film.
did you get involved with the production of the film, and whose brainchild
was The Basement
to begin with?
went to William Paterson University here in New Jersey with the
Basement film crew and director Tim O’Rawe. Tim and I were already
making short films together when the opportunity to shoot The
came up. The short films can be seen on both The
collection and the Ghoul School-Splatter University Edition on DVD.
Basement's director Timothy O'Rawe - is he still around, and what
has become of him?
Tim moved from New
Jersey to Hollywood in 1991. He worked on a few scripts including the 1995
Julie Strain film Midnight Confessions. He currently lives in
Florida with his wife Kathleen. He teaches and is still writing.
You have done the camerawork on The
Basement and also Timothy O'Rawe's follow-up Ghoul School.
What can you tell us about Michael Raso, the cinematographer?
Cinematography was my
concentration all throughout school. During the 1980s and early 1990s I
was always behind the camera shooting. As time marched on I realized that
in order to make a living making films I was going to have to launch my
own releasing company. Frustrated relying on others, I launched ei
Independent Cinema in 1994. ei Cinema was a direct-to-video company. We
would produce and distribute our movies to video stores. Little did I know
that managing such an operation would take up all of my time – leaving
me either on the road or behind a desk. For the time being I had to give
producer and cinematographer, did you have any creative control over The
I have always worked well
with Tim O’Rawe. He would explain his shots and vision and I would make
suggestions on how to shoot it. We had already been working together for a
few years so he trusted how I would interpret his shot on paper.
Basement was shot on Super 8, right? In a word: Why?
Tim observed how well J.R.
Bookwalter’s The Dead Next Door turned out and decided that Super
8 was the way to go. As someone who was already shooting 16mm
semi-professionally, I didn’t agree but it was Tim’s budget so I went
with the flow.
The Basement ever
screened publicly, and what were the audience reactions?
Basement was shot and quickly shelved (for 22 years)! The film was
mostly underexposed (shot dark) and the technology in 1989 didn’t allow
for a quality transfer to videotape. Tim shelved it and immediately moved
on to Ghoul School - thankfully, shot on 16mm.
have remained in indie filmmaking all the years since The
Basement. What has changed over the years?
I started my own production/home video label in
1994. It was all life changing. I entered the business as a filmmaker and
I quickly was forced to become a businessperson. “Forced” because if I
did not adapt to corporate culture I would not have succeeded. Dealing
with big chain stores (Blockbuster, etc) required me to do business on
their terms, and that meant adapting. It was very helpful that by the time
I started my own business I had already worked for Comacst and was
familiar with dealing with customers and clients.
back at The Basement,
what are the lessons you've learned from today's point of view?
have learned to always do a test shoot before undertaking a feature film.
Using new (or old) technology? - Test it before diving into a big project!
made you think now would be the right time to release The
The idea to release The Basement
came to us (me and Paige Davis here at Camp Motion
Pictures) organically. Paige suggested releasing a “Big Box” VHS. VHS
releases were mostly released in these oversized (and awesome) packages in
the early 1980s. What a great idea, pitched way before the House of the
Devil release I might add! The Basement had never, ever been
released – the timing was right!
You just have to say a few words about
the wonderful VHS/DVD combo box you released The
Basement in, and the other films that come with your movie! And
what made you choose exactly these movies?
From what I recall, the title selection happed quite
naturally. Don’t know why it was those titles exactly!
What can you
tell us about your company Alternative Cinema?
Bookwalter founded Alternative Cinema
in Akron, Ohio in 1993. By the
mid-nineties, J.R. moved to Hollywood to work for Full Moon and sold the
magazine and catalog business to me. I re-launched Alternative Cinema
it has been going strong ever since. These days, it has become the
one-stop shop for all things cult movies. It’s a real, old-fashioned
catalog company. We mail out tens of thousands of catalogs in a year and
although we’re on-line as well, lots of orders come through the mail.
for film buffs like myself, Alternative Cinema
has released many a
cinematic rarity over the years. Now how do you get hold of all these
forgotten films? And what can you tell us about Michael Raso, the film
I started my businesses
(catalog company Alternative Cinema
and home video labels Pop Cinema / Camp Motion
Pictures) in the early 1990s, so over the years different
producers and content owners have contacted me to see if I wanted to sell
their movies. I believe in long-term relationships so almost all of the
titles have remained over the years. This has resulted in Alternative Cinema
being a huge
catalog of cult movies, which is awesome.
I’ve been a horror film since
I was a child and my life was heavily influenced by the many hours of
viewing the fantastic horror films from the 1930s through the 1970s. I
remain a fan of the classic original films and haven’t really kept up on
all the re-makes.
Alternative Cinema also has a production
arm though. What can you tell us about the films you've produced over the
My production and home video
labels are a separate company called Pop Cinema. Under Pop I have such
labels as Seduction
Cinema, Shock-O-Rama, Camp Motion
Retro-Seduction Cinema. I’ve produced over one hundred films since the
mid-1990s. They’re all low budget but have had quite a bit of success
with them – here in the US on DVD, playing cable television and cracking
international markets as well.
As what kind of a producer would you describe
I consider myself a practical
producer. Filmmaker Brett Piper said it best when he said,
“Mike is the best type of producer. He hired me and stayed the
hell out of my way.”
I trust the people I hire
and I’m confident that these folks (people like Brett Piper [Brett
Piper interview - click here] or Tony Marsiglia [Tony
Marsiglia interview - click here]) are capable of completing their film and doing the best
possible job. So, it’s true… I allow directors to get their movie made
with the minimum of interference from me.
Some of your favourite Alternative Cinema-releases,
old and new?
I don’t really favor one
title over another. Most titles were a joy to produce and I value each
Seduction of Misty Mundae, you for the first (and so far only)
time moved into the director's chair. What caused that decision, and what
can you tell us about the film as such?
Spending all my time producing didn’t allow me to
have the time to be involved in the creative process of movie making, so I
decided to take some time to direct a feature. At the time (early 2000s),
most of our erotic features were comedies and I felt it would be
interesting to have an erotic drama in our assortment of titles.
In my opinion, The
Seduction of Misty Mundae is very much reminiscent of the films of
Joe Sarno - a comment you can at all live with?
Joe Sarno, Michael Raso
At the time The
Seduction of Misty Mundae
conceived, we had just started to distribute the films of Joe Sarno. The
film is an absolute homage to Joe Sarno’s films, especially his Inga. I specifically made it as a “throwback” film.
of the good Mr Sarno, you have not only re-released many of his films from
the 1970's but also produced his comeback film Suburban
Secrets - now how did that come about, and what kind of a man was Joe
Joe Sarno was an amazing guy
and I miss him dearly. He passed away two years ago. By 2001 I was already
buying and distributing a number of Joe’s titles. During a screening of Inga
at the 2001 New York Underground Film Festival I asked Joe why
he hasn’t made a film in 20 years. His reply was “no one has asked me
My label Seduction Cinema
was already in production on many films, so I asked Joe if he’d like to
make a new film. He was excited by the idea and we immediately started
planning the feature Suburban
Any future Alternative Cinema
want to talk about?
Sure thing! Our newest
– clever independent undead crime caper
directed by Billy Garberina (Necroville, Feeding the Masses).
– Camp’s hilarious stoner-horror-comedy
and director Devi Snively are featured in April Fangoria # 312 Notes from
the Underground! Coming 04/10/2012
the Grey Man – this
smart paranormal possession investigation tale from director Wayne
Capps was praised by Harry Knowle’s Ain’t it Cool website.
Ground Zero – called “Blood-splattered
and creepy” by the critics, Ground
Zero is a visceral new take on the zombie origin genre that will have
you on the edge of your seat! Coming 08/14/2012
The Alternative Cinema Podcast crew: Michael Raso, Bill Hellfire, Erin Russ, John
Collection – Joseph Sarno’s erotic masterpiece and
sequel that propelled Marie Liljedahl to international stardom now
available for the first time in a gorgeous new collection!
A few words about your Alternative
I started the AC
Internet Radio Show in 2009. It’s a fantastic way to chat up all the
amazing films that are on DVD. Since Alternative Cinema
not only carries
films from my studio but also Blue Underground, Synapse, Severin and many,
many more – there is never enough time to talk about all the movies.
The AC Podcast has been compared to early morning “Drive Time” radio
because of the zany folks on the show. John Fedele, Bill Hellfire [William
Hellfire interview - click here] and Erin
Russ (star of Porkchop) join me monthly. Please do check it out!
Filmmakers who inspire you? And
your favourite movies?
George Romero –
a solid, hardworking filmmaker, mostly inspired me. I love all the
horror classics from Universal
to Hammer-Horror to the schlock of the 1970s.
... and of course, films you
Don’t really hate
anything – I’ll try to watch anything. If it bores me, I just move on
to another show.
Your website, Facebook, whatever else?
heartbeat is at Alternative Cinema. Search Alternative Cinema via
if on The Facebook.
for the interview!
Thank you for the