Sometimes when you walk into a theater, your attention is drawn to the floor, where thousands of pop corn pieces crunch below your feet. And the seat you find has plenty of room, but the screaming child next to you, convinces you that his desire is to annoy you and prevent you from watching what was supposed to be “The best thing since Friday the 13th”. Well, watching a movie at Austins Lakeline, Alamo Drafthouse was nothing at all like that. PROPS to having a clean, kick ass place to watch bad ass movies! The food was killer, the seats were to die for, and there was more beer on tap than I can ever remember…. Seriously, there were lots of original beer.

My name is Eddie Rotten. I’m host of the Zombie Life Podcast. And myself and crew (Red Rum, Lisa Deadly, & Eric the Producer) were invited to watch the World Premier of HELL TOWN. Our podcast is a humble one, but our goal is to have fun, with fun people. And there could be no other perfect group of humans than the directors and cast of HELL TOWN!!!

We were fortunate enough to interview the award-winning directors Steve Balderson and Elizabeth Spear, along with cast members Kyle Eno, Owen Lawless, Sarah Napier, and BeckiJo Neill. And right from the very start, it was a party!

After about 2 minutes of quick talk, I threw my notes away completely, and decided to have an unscripted conversation with some incredibly talented, and funny people. The energy this cast had was contagious. I giggled… a lot! Director Steve Balderson has a presence that anyone would want to cling to and learn from, and it shows in how close his cast is. They all were in love with the story when they first read it and decided to jump in head first, make a small life sacrifice, and make this awesome film.

Lets talk about the film.

Hell Town takes place around a small group of friends, and a football team by the name of, the HELLIONS. Tell me that’s not bad ass! A plot develops, including jealousy, questionable sexuality, people turn up missing, no one knows who to blame, and bingo! You have the most original and bizarre horror comedy ever created. Elizabeth Spear and Steve Balderson guide their story through some of the most uncomfortably hilarious moments I have ever seen on the silver screen. The packed movie house was littered with screams, laughing, clapping, OH MY GOD bursts, and even a couple dry heaves by our wonderful Producer Eric.

To the very end of Hell Town, there is no prediction on what will happen. The movie is filmed as a Soap Opera. But much, much better. If Days of Our Lives was half this good the world would be a better place. Inside our interview, we were told by Steve Balderson, that a fire had destroyed a large part of their film, and we would see 3 episodes of Hell Town. In my humble opinion, I can dream upon dreams that there will be more Hell Town in the future, but I was so pleased at what I saw. It could stand alone as its own film, with no follow up, and still kick ass! Everything from the music production, to make up and lighting was stunning. Never did I once feel that it was a lower budget film, and that is testament to the power and creativity of Steve Balderson and Elizabeth Spear’s direction superiority.

Hell Town is a refreshing film. It’s a fun film. It’s a film that you want to take someone to, then drop them off and go back to watch it again. It’s not over saturated with character building, yet leaves you feeling oddly close to a character when they die a bloody, violent, hatchet swinging death…. just playing. That didn’t happen. No spoilers here, but seriously, you leave feeling satisfied, but ready for more. And when you get to watch it with the people that made it? Well, hell… there’s not many things cooler than that now is there?!

Austin Horror Society did a Q and A with the directors and cast of Hell Town after the film was over. The cast was open to questions and honest with their answers.What an incredible evening!

In the end, if Steve Balderson and Elizabeth Spear decide to continue the legacy of HELL TOWN, I for one will be first in line, with my HELLIONS Letterman Jacket on. I want to thank them and the cast for making movies fun to go to again, and doing it with bloody elegance, and seemingly effortless direction. Two thumbs way, way up.

Your Hellion for life

*HELL TOWN screens this Saturday 16 May at 7 PM in Charleston, SC where it is nominated for 6 Crimson Screen Horror Awards.  For details visit www.DIKENGA.com


The Industry’s unhealthy obsession with The Billing Block I may never fully understand, but I’m happy to discuss it with you today.

The Billing Block refers to the collection of names and credits that are positioned at the bottom of movie posters and advertisements.  Usually they are composed on fonts with tall and very narrow, vertical lines.  So small and tall and narrow that most everyone can’t read them at all.  In fact, it’s safe to say that probably no one ever reads them except the people who are in The Billing Block.

I agree, without The Billing Block, your movie poster looks unfinished or under-designed.  Just like all those laurel wreaths from awards or film festivals.  No one stops to read the text inside each laurel wreath.  People might see the words OFFICIAL SELECTION or something of the sort, but hardly anyone can see the tiny words underneath that read: Billy Joe’s Steakhouse BBQ Film Festival.  It doesn’t matter.  Having the ability to put laurel wreaths on your movie poster, or in advertisements, makes it look to the consumer that your movie is THE movie they should see.  The Billing Block has this same worthless effect.

To make a Billing Block, one should start with the name of a production company like: “Paramount Presents” and then have a little space, and follow with “a Steve Balderson film” or whomever.  Then, you’ll list your top actors who have, in their contracts, agreed to be in your movie so long as their names appear BEFORE the main title, on individual title cards (these are moments in the movie when no one else’s name appears on the screen at the same time).  Following them, you’ll type in THE TITLE of the movie.  And then a short selection of supporting stars (or other actors who have agreed to be in your film so long as they get their own title cards).  Following them will be a list of crew people: editor, writers, art direction, the cinematographer, and maybe someone else, or a producer, and ending with the director.  And repeating the same words that were the start of your Billing Block.

But, who reads them?  Who can even see them?  Nobody.  Well, nobody except the people who have their name in The Billing Block.  And god forbid someone who expects their name to be in The Billing Block and can’t find their name.  O, the unjust insanity.

Placement is an integral part of The Billing Block.  Some actors specify in their contracts they must have the THIRD placement.  Or, the FIRST.  Or the SECOND.  I’ve never heard of anyone asking for the fourth onward.  Sometimes people will negotiate that they want their name listed first, and will gladly take second position but only if on the same title card as the first person.  Even if their name will appear second on The Billing Block.

Size of the font is also a big deal.  If the star is at a 12 point font size, typically the supporting cast will be at a 10 or a 9 or 8 font size.  Usually this is because the main star gets their own title card, whereas the supporting cards are sharing their card with other names.  So their font size should be smaller to keep room for multiple names.  There are some actors who specify in their contracts their name must be written in the same font size as the main star.

Once (or twice) I’ve relished the idea of making my name (as director) one or two font sizes larger than everyone else in the movie just to prove a point.  In a joking way.  I’m not one to flatter myself with endless on-screen credits.  Even if I did the costumes, make-up, set design, cinematography, writing, and editing, and whatever else, I think it’s tacky to make a movie that has my name repeatedly credited.  So usually I just stick with “produced and directed by” and leave it at that.

But there are people out there who want EVERY credit they can get.  And that’s fine.  I say, might as well give it to them.  It’ll shut them up so you don’t have to deal with them, or listen to them.  And at the end of the day, nobody cares or knows.  I mean, right now, think about it.  Which name is listed first on The Billing Block for BASIC INSTINCT?  Which name is listed second on the credits for SPIDERMAN 2?

One last bit of advice: if you’re ever negotiating with an actor who wants the first title card, but you’ve promised it to someone else, simply offer them a credit like “AND” or “WITH” at the very end f the opening credits on their own title card.  This is what Joan Collins got on DYNASTY.  They feel special, and unique, and it works every time.


I accepted an invitation to be a Jury member at the 2013 Victoria (Texas) International Film Festival, not knowing what I was getting myself into.  My friend Jane Wiedlin would also be on the Jury and I was looking forward to spending some quality time with her.  Then I learned Rutger Hauer had a film in the festival and would be there, too.  Doubly excited.

After the festival purchased my airfare, I asked them if there were any movies I needed to watch and judge before hand, or how that would all work.  They replied, “Oh, we don’t need you on the Jury anymore, we have plenty of people already.”  Oh, okay, that’s all right.  But then why am I coming?  Should I do any seminars or workshops or anything?  No.  None of my services were required.  They decided to screen my film CULTURE SHOCK, so I was thankful I could participate somehow.

The first day of the festival it was simply gorgeous weather.  65F with sun that warmed the soul.  I sat riverside all afternoon sipping champagne and working on a screenplay, meeting new filmmaker friends and talking all things show business.  After six-hours of leisure, I decided it was time to visit the VIP room at the festival for free wine and to meet more friends.

The next morning I woke up and was surprised to find that my face was as red as a lobster.  Yes, I’d totally failed to realize the two-hour drive south from Houston was SOUTH of Houston, near Corpus Christi.  Me, fresh out of the Kansas winter, with no sunscreen, in bright southern sunshine for six solid hours.  Oops.

Some people recognized me, and knew who I was, and those who didn’t now knew me as That Sunburned Filmmaker.  I didn’t mind the attention, because it was so comical, but little did I know it was only the beginning.

A few weeks prior to the festival, a fan of mine sent me an email on Facebook asking to meet me.  I looked him up, thought he seemed nice, and agreed.  We exchanged numbers and the texts began, trying to find a time to meet.  I tried calling him, but he didn’t answer, and finally a text came telling me he’d been in a tragic accident the week prior and that his jaw was wired shut.  He could get around fine, and kind-of talk, but not for long periods of time.  His pain medication would fizzle out and he’d need to take more, and then sleep.

I shared this with my new filmmaker friends (most of whom were actually on the Jury and hadn’t been kicked off, like me), and they made some fun jokes at my expense, which I thought were pretty funny.  “I have a fan…” and before I could finish the sentence someone chimed in, “Only one?”  To which I agreed, “Yes, just the one.”  And I explained that he was coming to meet me in public, with all of them present (you never know, some fans can be insane, see), and that his jaw had been wired shut so to not freak out.  Then came their questions, “How do you even know he’s your fan if you can’t understand a thing he’s saying?”

Another filmmaker, Elizabeth Spear (director of ROUNDBALL) had a hilarious idea to make a short film, an SNL-like comedy skit, about me meeting my fan with the wired jaw.  Only the fan would be trying to ask me for Mike Patton’s email address and I keep misunderstanding him, thinking he’s asking for my autograph.  In real life My Fan is also a fan of Mike Patton’s from Mr. Bungle and Faith No More days, and learned about me when my film FIRECRACKER came out, starring Mike.  So it was basically real to life, except that My Fan was also a fan of mine!  Really!  Elizabeth told us it would be shot improv-style and in about an hour.  My Fan showed up, was totally game, and we did it.  It’s called FANS ARE PEOPLE TOO.  Here’s a link to the skit:

FANS R PPL 2 was edited in mere minutes it seemed, and then would screen before the festival’s closing night ceremony.  I thought it was fun to make fun of myself by playing an exaggerated Myself, and My Fan seemed to have fun with it, too.  Mike Patton emailed me, he also thought it was hysterical.

After the skit aired at the closing ceremony, My Fan’s jaw started to hurt (from laughing so hard all afternoon), so he called his mom to come fetch him.  (Side note: My Fan is 30 years old and wouldn’t normally need his mom to come pick him up.  Just clarifying).  So I went outside with him to have a smoke and thank him for being such a good sport.

A while later the door burst open and a woman, crying, screaming, “Where are you!?”  I turn, mortified, and she tells me that the festival director, Anthony Pedone, a longtime friend of mine, just gave a 10-minute speech about me that moved people to tears and that I was winning an honorary Maverick Filmmaker Award of some kind, and that when he finished his moving speech and called me down to accept my award, I wasn’t there!  OMG.

Click here for Part 2.