We got a SURPISE in Columbus…
When Elsa and I traveled to Columbus to award Jason Tostevin this year’s Impy, we weren’t prepared for our reception. The Impy recognizes cinematic achievement in short horror films produced in Midwest, but the rules somewhat jokingly note “with the possible exception of Ohio.” The genuine Buckeye hospitality we were shown made us seriously consider revising that proviso. Honestly. What could (nearly) prompt a change of heart in this second-generation Wolverine? In addition to his artistic skill, Jason Tostevin, producer of “I Owe You” and mastermind of “Hands Off Productions,” also throws a great party.
We convened at the Gateway Film Center, an impressive cinema destination in the heart of Columbus, adjacent to the Ohio State University campus. For this celebration, Tostevin gathered some of the principal talent involved in making “I Owe You” such a dark gem.
Trista Caruso who played “Diane” in “I Owe You” has also appeared in several “Hand Off Productions” including the medical horror short “Room 4C (2011)” and the heart-warming fantasy “Stones, (2010)” both of which were done as part of Columbus 48-hour film festival. (View her other IMDB credits here.)
Elsa happily reports that actor Brian Spangler (who played “Cam”) is as handsome in real life as he is on-screen. She was also not surprised that he fronts a band (Barefoot Swagger.) Brian has also appeared in several previous Hands Off productions, including twisted romantic horror tale “Til Death (2013)” and “Help Wanted” which was produced for the 2013 Columbus 48-hour Film Festival.
(View Brian’s other IMDB credits here.)
I was particularly pleased to meet Randall Greenland whose script provided a tight narrative cohesion. Many short films have a keen visual style and some even feature great acting but Randall’s economical and expressive script pushed “I Owe You” to the winner’s circle. Randall is also a long-time member of the team and has provided many scripts for Hands Off Productions. (View his IMDB credits here.)
Tostevin has assembled a team of folks who enjoy each other’s company and that sense of easy collaboration comes through in their films.
Jason has also found creative ways to work with other independent filmmakers. While taking his films to festivals, Tostevin encountered many remarkable short films that he knew wouldn’t get screened widely due to their brief running times. Tostevin worked with other award-winning directors to collect seven admirable films in “Seven Hells (2014)” a feature length anthology that premiered at the Gateway Film Center in the fall of 2014. Check out a teaser for Seven Hells here. Included in this collection is his own piece “‘Til Death,” a comedy-horror short about the unintended morning-after consequences that four guys discover after killing their partners. “Til Death” has won over 100 awards in various festivals, making it perhaps the most winning-est short in Ohio film history. Check out the “Til Death” listing at IMDB here. “Seven Hells” was such a success that Tostevin plans another anthology film, this one collecting various romantic-horror films suited particularly well for Valentine’s Day. I like a guy who finds ways to spread horror all around the calendar.
Jason chose the perfect location for this award celebration, namely The Torpedo Room, a steampunk-Jules Verne themed restaurant located inside the Gateway Film Center. I immediately fell for the decor of brass portholes, woodcut sea monsters, leaded glass and a view screen that looped classic Verne inspired movies. The Torpedo Room is a fully licensed restaurant featuring fun food and drink. I had a brussel sprout pizza and a blood orange wheat beer. The Torpedo Room’s concept is the design of Columbus restaurant legend Elizabeth Lessner whose other clever eateries include Dirty Franks Hot Dog Palace and the Surly Girl Saloon all heavily themed, fun eateries. (Elsa and I added them all to our growing list of Cool Things to Do Next Time in Columbus. Before meeting Jason, I couldn’t have imagined such a list was possible.) One clever way The Torpedo Room partners with the Gateway is in creating special drinks to tie into the current running shows. Elsa and I are always scoping out what we call “Weird Date Nights,” and having the Torpedo Room inside the Gateway makes the traditional dinner and a movie easy and enjoyable.
Jason also arranged a personal tour of the Gateway Film Center. This modern day movie palace features both state of the art digital projection as well as not one but two theaters capable of showing 35mm prints. (Yes, there’s a difference.) While traversing the hidden innards of the building, I asked if the Gateway, like most theatres, was haunted and I learned of “Barry” (named after “Barry Lyndon,” of course) a good-natured spectre who occasionally unplugs devices and moves small objects. The Gateway makes great use of this facility to celebrate film, from independent features to classic gems to contemporary blockbusters. A couple of their on-going programs might particularly appeal to readers of DailyNightmare. The “Nightmares from the Crypt” film series screens lesser seen horror films worthy of a second look while their “Nightmares on High Street” series shows the best independent contemporary horror. I was particularly interested in their monthly “Show us your Shorts” event which is like an open-mike night for film. The first ten participants get to share their short film with the audience who votes for their favorite. Winner takes home the ticket sales for the night. What a great way to inspire filmmakers and foster a sense of camaraderie. The Gateway Film Center seems committed to making film a fun communal event.
Elsa and I chatted, munched and filled our list of cool Columbus must-hit locations, but we had one last question for our gracious host. We at the DailyNightmare believe horror is best seen against a backdrop of hope. What gives Jason Tostevin hope in this world?
My personal relationships make me hopeful. Some of the best, most supportive (and challenging, in the best way) people I’ve met have been on the film festival circuit; we’ve become an international network of indie filmmakers who promote and support and look out for one another. That’s pretty special and makes me optimistic.
In life, my wife and kids make me hopeful. Seeing my girls grow up in a world where there are real social issues being talked about and acted on — where most people agree that my daughters, when they’re grown, should be paid the same as men, that they don’t need to marry (but they can, including if they’re gay), that they should be free from men’s sexual expectations, that bullying is bad — has me optimistic that they’ll live in a world with better men and women than their parents did. And that’s kind of why we do it, right — tell stories and create a new generation. So the world gets better?
On this note, Elsa and I bid adieu to Jason Tostevin and the wonders of Columbus, assured in the fact that this year’s Impy had found a worthy home.