By Jordan Gerdes
Today we have Mike T Lyddon, film maker and marketer at Reel Progress LLC!
FOF: First and foremost, tell us about yourself !
ML: I’ve been making low-budget genre features since 1994, starting off by co-writing, directing and producing two films shot in New Orleans – Cut Up (1993 with Jeff Turick) and Zombie! Vs. Mardi Gras (1995 with Will Frank and Karl DeMolay). At the tail end of 1996 I established Reel Progress LLC as both a filmmaking and internet marketing company just as the tech boom hit. Over the next several years I did very well in online sales/marketing which paved the way for the next few films.
In 2001 I made a sci-fi-horror-comedy called Night For Nixie in Washington State, then moved back to the Gulf Coast before heading off to South America in 2005 to volunteer at as a Vet Tech at an animal shelter in Venezuela. It was there that I met some blokes from the U.K., and over the next few years we travelled around South America recording traditional and indigenous music for our company Howling Earth. www.howlingearth.com
In 2011 I started pre-production on another feature which would end up being called “Horror Anthology Movie Vol. 1.” This one had six segments and ran two hours long. I wrote and directed three of the short films including “Thing in the Shed” which I will talk about later. 2014 saw another anthology called Creepers featuring a segment I directed based upon a Joe Lansdale story called “By the Hair of the Head.”
In 2015 I made “First Man on Mars,” a 70’s style satirical horror flick which paid homage to films like The Incredible Shrinking Man. It was picked up for distribution by Summerhill/Tomcat Films and remains with them to this day.
After that, my ex-wife and I moved to Lima, Peru where I started developing the idea for “Witch Tales,” or “Cuentos de la Bruja,” another anthology film, but this time based upon lesser known pre-code horror comic books from the 1950s. We filmed this simultaneously in Spanish and English using a bilingual cast and the Spanish version is currently doing the film festival circuit. So far it’s been in 10 festivals and garnered 6 awards.
FOF: What do you do? And why do you like it?
ML: With films I liked to do a bit of everything. I find the screenwriting and pre-production phase very interesting, and during production I enjoy directing and doing special make-up effects as much as possible. Post is probably the most tedious aspect. Editing the rough cut is great, but doing all of the anal fine tuning/sound tweaking/ADR/foley work can be mentally exhausting, and by the end, you’ve looked at the same film so many times its hard to tell if its the next Citizen Kane or Manos, Hands of Fate lol. My eyes….my eyes! But when you’re making no-budget features, you end up doing a lot of things normally reserved for a larger crew. Typically I work with a crew of six others, so it’s pretty tight.
FOF: Explain a little bit of your process? Where do you find your inspiration?
ML: Early on I was very inspired by science fiction writers like Harlan Ellison, Phillip K. Dick and Phillip Jose Farmer and of course horror authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.
With films it was always a huge mix of periods and genres going all the way back to ground breaking horror films like “The Island of Lost Souls” all the way to 21st century movies like “Pontypool.”
And I am always a sucker for a good horror-comedy. I continue to draw inspiration from films like Return of the Living Dead, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and early Roger Corman classics like Creature from the Haunted Sea and Bucket of Blood. The snappy, irreverent dialog is something that is sadly missing from a lot of flicks these days.
FOF: What drew you to horror in the first place?
ML: As a child, Saturday morning creature features and cartoons were a huge part of my early formative years. I’d watch the old horror films and cartoons like Scooby Doo and The Banana Splits. Movies like The Blob really scared the shit out of me back in the day.
FOF: What is your favorite horror work? (Movie, Show, Art, Book, whatever you want)
ML: I can’t name just one, but movie-wise I’d go with Island of Lost Souls, Creature from the Black Lagoon, both versions of The Thing, Richard Elfman’s Forbidden Zone, Dr. Caligari (1991).
Recently, Pontypool, Primer, and House of a 1000 Corpses really blew my mind.
FOF: What has been your favorite thing you have gotten to work on doing this?
ML: Tough one. I love aspects to all the films I’ve made. With special effects I’d say the prosthetic work on Cut Up and First Man on Mars were really cool, while I enjoyed directing some of the segments in the horror anthologies.
FOF: What role do you think your specific style of art plays in the community overall?
ML: To warp impressionable minds lol. Really, I just hope people are entertained by my films. There’s nothing worse than someone telling you (or a critic) that your movie bored the hell out of them! Then again, there are some so-called “critics” in name only. I recall one classic review for Zombie! Vs. Mardi Gras on Rotten Tomatoes. Poor guy’s brain was fried because he couldn’t make sense of the film and especially the end credit roll where Zombie! and his true love are running toward each other (Zombie is kind of lurching fast lol) in the classic slow motion embrace and this guy was like “How can the evil zombie get the girl in the end?”
FOF: Anything you are working on that you want to highlight?
ML: As I write this I am in the U.S. attending a few horror film festivals/conventions where Cuentos de la Bruja or segments thereof are showing including Days of the Dead, Fantasm Orlando, and Halloween Intl. Film Festival in Kill Devil Hills, NC.
Getting back to “Thing in the Shed,” I just sold the short story to a small publisher and it will be part of a horror anthology coming out soon. I adapted the screenplay to a short story back in 2016 and for the last few years have accumulated about two dozen rejection notices, but the 25th was the charm! The moral of the story is “never give up,” because someone, somewhere down the road may buy your morbid little masterpiece.
FOF: : If you could do anything with any horror franchise, what would it be?
ML: In general, I’d make it mandatory that anyone making a “reboot” of a horror series (or standalone film for that matter) be required to also screen the remastered version of the original film for theatrical release and let the audience decide what’s what. And you already know what’s what because reboots generally suck ass!
FOF: Anything else you’d like to say?
ML: When you make a feature film, always pay your cast and crew. If you have a group of people who are going to work 12 hour days for two or three weeks, they should be paid decently for their efforts. Even if you have to split pay/percentage of profits on the back-end, pay your people something, not only because they deserve it, but also because they’re liable to stick around during all the shit that you put them through in the production.
Thank you for the interview, I really appreciate it.
Thank you so much to Mike for talking to us. This has been such an awesome and informative interview!
Check out his IMDB page as well!
Stay tuned for more creators this month!