In 2016, I was given the opportunity to be the Festival Director of Monster Fest in Melbourne, Australia, an annual event put on by distribution company Monster Pictures. In this role I oversaw all programming, event coordinating, grantwriting, and aesthetic/presentation aspects of the festival.
For this edition, I expanded the festival’s horror mandate to showcase other genres including crime, action, documentary, westerns and animation. I commissioned Canadian artist Matt Ryan Tobin to create the festival poster, inspired by the new restoration of Andrzej Zulawski’s On the Silver Globe, and a sidebar called “Frequencies” which focused on small screen genre work.
The festival had an ongoing tradition of creating a concept trailer, and so for 2016 we made an homage to the trailer for the 1966 film Eye of the Devil, which would be screening at the festival. The trailer was brilliantly directed by Monster Pictures co-founder Neil Foley and Mark Bakaitis (Cult Girls).
The festival was a mix of premieres (Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, Julia Ducornau’s Raw, Alice Lowe’s Prevenge, Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog and Neil Edwards’ Sympathy for the Devil: The True Story of the Process Church of the Final Judgement, among others) and repertory offerings, and included many symposium events including a masterclass with festival honouree Ted Kotcheff (who also presented a very rare screening of his cult deprogramming film Split Image, among other things), a Romper Stomper reunion/panel, Australia After Dark: Tales from the Golden Age of Ozploitation with producer Antony I. Ginnane and cinematographer Vincent Monton, talks on Ghostwatch (by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas), The Evil Touch (by Andrew Nette), occultism on daytime soaps and a panel on Made-for-TV movies to coincide with the world premiere launch of Made for TV Mayhem’s Amanda Reyes’ new book Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999. I even gave a multimedia talk myself, on Nigel Kneale’s The Year of the Sex Olympics. You can still see the full program online at monsterfest.com.au/2016.
The real jewel in the crown for me was convincing my bosses at Monster Pictures to create a TV news desk that would be the centerpiece of the festival hub. Everyone thought the news desk was the most frivolous, dumb idea, but once it was installed, it really brought the place to life and everyone tended to congregate around it. It also became a great a place to host the various bar activities from (horror trivia, the Nightmare VCR game) and a place to interview the shorts filmmakers. These interviews were conducted by then-Fantastic Fest Creative Director Evrim Ersoy, who was visiting the festival as a juror and was quickly put to work in front of the camera! Here he is talking to filmmaker Stuart Simpson about his short film Dragon Force, which was part of the Trasharama showcase at the festival:
By all accounts 2016 was a wildly popular and successful edition of the festival, and year end totals showed it had tripled revenue from the previous year. The festival continues to be run by Monster Pictures, and now has more of a national mandate, with sister events in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.