By Michael E. Miller
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The crew almost immediately began shooting Blackout, this time using a superior-quality digital camera. The film was completed in just two months for a little more than $200.
Depending upon how you look at it, what happened next was either plain old dumb luck or a flash of movie magic.
Enter onetime Florida film maker Tim Ritter: "I was on one of those horror chat-room Internet things, you know, where fans get in there and talk about stuff," he recalls. Someone on the site mentioned Massetti's films, which piqued his interest. Ritter was still making films, but he was also a consultant for Sub Rosa Studios, a leading, low-budget production company. Sub Rosa also distributes films on its B-movie.com Website, which claims a million hits a month. He contacted Massetti and got a look at Shadows and Blackout. "I thought, 'Wow, this stuff is spectacular considering budget and equipment and the limitations, especially compared to what's being released now.' The acting quality is many notches above what a lot of people are able to get at that level. It's just so hard to find believable actors. Everything about [the film making] is solid." He releases a self-effacing laugh. "I've done quite a few of these movies, so I know how hard it is to get that quality. I thought it was better than my stuff, and I've been doing this, who knows how long, 20 years?"
Ritter's support led to a distribution deal with B-movie.com. "It actually gives us an audience to see our movie," Massetti says. "It gives us worldwide distribution. We're probably not going to make a lot of money with it, but knowing that my film is available to the public really makes me feel successful." His goal is to finish Realms of Blood this year so it can be released on DVD by next summer.
So who's buying these low-budget films? "I would say the target audience is 17- to 34-year-olds," Ritter says. "A little younger if they don't have real extreme stuff in there. But diehard splatter films? Probably 16 and up. Best Buy has tons of B-movies of all kinds. Last time I was there in the horror sections, there were teenagers buying armfuls of the stuff."
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Massetti has gathered the three main actors to rehearse for The Cologne, one of the four segments that make up Realms of Blood. Colameo plays a loser with the ladies who believes his luck will change after buying a fragrance guaranteed to drive women paroxysmal with lust. And indeed, his fortune does change -- from bad to worse after he ignores the directions. Today, Colameo wears a black Slayer T-shirt and full regalia of facial hardware. His object of desire is played by Christine Ashe, an auburn-haired beauty wearing a short skirt and sandals with five-inch cork heels. Fish plays Colameo's workplace foil and also has designs on Ashe. Written by Ritter, Cologne is a blend of horror and dark comedy.
"We could put a lot of comedy in this 'cause it's gonna be sick in the end," Colameo pronounces as the four discuss just how droll they should play it.
"Do you want me to play this so stereotypically bitchy?" Ashe asks. "I mean, the way it's written, I'm soooo mean."
Advises Massetti: "I was looking at it that you're a nice person but this guy's such an annoyance to you that you don't know how else to get it across to him. A lot of this is going to be from his perspective. It's going to be surrealistic. The world through his eyes is really weird."
They read through a scene in which Colameo brags about selling four life insurance policies that day, then asks Ashe if she'll go with him for a sub sandwich dinner. She and Fish openly mock this nerd.
After a half dozen run-throughs, Massetti says to Colameo, "What's bothering me when you're doing your lines is that your New York accent is still coming through. You seem kind of tough." Colameo, who started out as a production assistant and has no formal training in acting, cracks everyone up as he tests out other accents. A swishy, gay voice gets an immediate thumbs down.
"I can do Jewish," he suddenly announces. "Hey, guys... oh, wait, I can only do Jewish women." His accent seems to disappear when he ratchets his voice up a notch and gets nasal.
"Nick is a devout horror fan," Massetti says of Colameo on another day. "We hit it off right from the beginning. Even though he'd never acted before, in his mind, he thought of it as easy and had a great performance [in Shadows].
"I believe filmmaking is a collaborative effort. If the actors develop the characters, they become them and come up with things I don't even think of. I encourage my actors to put in their two cents, to try something different. Then I have something to work with in the editing room."
Massetti doesn't end the artistic cooperation there, however. The soundtracks for his movies include tunes by local bands Death Becomes You, Deadstar Assembly, and American Pie, whose lead singer, Sheyenne Rivers, has a role in Realms of Blood. "We think independent film and the music scene down here should work hand in hand, because they're in the same boat: trying to get exposure," he says.