Category Archives: Tales of me

DGC Nominates The Familiar for Best Short Film

The Director’s Guild of Canada has nominated The Familiar as one of four shorts for Best Short Film.

The Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) announced the 2010 DGC Awards nominations. Comedian Dave Foley will host the annual gala on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto. The Guild will celebrate the career of acclaimed director Sidney Furie (The Ipcress File, Lady Sings the Blues) and the extraordinary contributions of Don McCutcheon and Paul Bronfman to the DGC and the Canadian film and television industry.

Click this link to view a complete list of the 2010 DGC Awards Nominees.

Georgia and Washington welcome us back!

The Familiar will be playing the Atlanta Horror Film Festival, but Ted Turner’s home has asked for us again.  The film will be playing the ATLANTA UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL on August 28th.

On top of that, Washington State seems to like us as well, and being a big Twin Peaks fan, the feeling is mutual.  The TRI-CITY INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL will be showing The Familiar October 15th and 16th.


I have to admit that I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the trailer for Kody Zimmermann’s short film The Familiar. Sure, it looked good and had a fair bit of comedy but with everyone and their mother trying to cash in on the vampire craze, trailers can be deceiving but I was definitely intrigued.

This is one of those instances when the trailer doesn’t disappoint. Written and directed by Zimmermann, The Familiar is the story of Sam, a guy obsessed with vampires. He’s recruited for a job as a familiar to Simon, a centuries old vampire, a job which basically has him doing the work of a personal assistant. He hates it but stays on, bidding his time until Simon turns him because that’s what he wants: to be one of the undead. After a run in with a vampire slayer, Sam’s world is turned upside down and he takes some drastic measures to change his unhappy career path.

Zimmermann’s short is a great product of post Buffy vampire comedy. It’s sharp, witty and at times down right hysterical. Though some of the acting by the supporting cast leaves a little to be desired, the leads are stellar and though Paul Hubbard as Simon initially comes across as a caricature, it’s clear pretty quickly that this production isn’t taking itself too seriously (the voice over alone is enough indication of that). In the film’s 22 minute running time we get more entertainment value than some movies cram into 90. Yes, this one’s a winner.

The Familiar is currently making the rounds through various film festivals including Action on Film and Retrofantasma among others. If it comes your way, I recommend you check it out because this one’s a keeper. Can’t wait to see what Zimmermann has to offer up next!

Two for the Road

Two more film festivals have let the Familiar into their house: The Atlanta Horror Film Festival and the Action On International Film Festival.

About the Atlanta Horror Film Festival: since 2006, the festival has been a favorite of filmmakers and fans from Atlanta and beyond. Our focus is to celebrate independent cinema, and we strive to feature as many great films as we can during this great weekend of horror.

We will showcase the very best horror, sci-fi, gore, mysteries, dark comedies, experimentals, creepy, campy films of almost every genre you can imagine!

Although we love traditional horror, we are not attempting to create the typical showcase of blood and guts. We are looking for cutting-edge films that represent the new genre of horror – films that audiences can’t and won’t forget.

About the Action On Film International Film Festival: Action On Film Festival is a film festival that was started in Long Beach, CA in 2005 by writer, producer, director Del Weston. The film festival was originally part of the Long Beach International Martial Arts Championships and was underwritten by tournament producers Frank Trejo, Jr. and Steve Cooper. The festival operated in Long Beach at the Long Beach Convention Center from 2005 until 2007.

The original founders of the festival were Del Weston, Alan Bailey and Scott Buchan. The festival director is editor and producer Josh Neufeld who has held the post since 2005.

In 2008 the festival moved to its new home in Pasadena, California where it was hosted by the Laemmle Theaters and the Regency Theaters. The festival showcases over 400 films, shorts, documentaries, animation and experimental projects annually in the categories of action, comedy, drama, documentary, etc.,


Vampire flicks come at us from all angles these days. Most of the films suck, plagued with cliche story lines and a heavy dose of gothic cheese.

No thanks!

But The Familiar takes the vampire world to another level by bringing an extremely fresh and interesting perspective to the the story: through the eyes of a vampire’s assistant. The protagonist loves everything vampire and ends up scoring his dream job. Sounds cool, right? Wrong! Soon, the allure of the job diminishes when the young man becomes stuck doing all the mundane, shit tasks that would make one hate their job no matter what field. He sweeps up, manages bank accounts, pays hookers (the vampire loves hookers), chops up the victims and disposes bodies. Top it off with a dick head for a boss, the vampire verbally abuses his loyal employee throughout the story, and the narrative unfolds.

This film hits home because people can relate to the protag’s experiences. Think about a job you have been stoked on and when you show up the boss hands you a broom or asks you to clean out the employee microwave. One’s heart shatters as they scrub away that ten month old burrito that has been nuked and nuked and nuked and seems in the midst of evolving into the Toxic Avenger all the while the person asks, “I went to school for this?” Toss in a tosser for a boss and you’ve been served a classic shit sandwich. Yummy, yummy. It sucks and writer Kody Zimmermann knows it. His attention to this sort of detail helps engage the audience. The vampire symbolizes your asshole boss!

The Familiar is an all around solid flick. It has played several film festivals, winning multiple awards including the much coveted FANG BANGER Stiffy! It’s well shot, acted, written, and directed, but what I enjoyed most was the comedy. It’s hilarious and truly an original take on a worn out genre. The film engages for a full twenty-two minutes and leaves the audience wanting more. Good thing for us The Familiar sets the story up nicely for future installments. This story is begging to be made into a feature. Let us hope.

For any fan of horror or the vampire genre, The Familiar is a must see and will not disappoint! Get your ass out to STIFF and check it out!


I’m so happy to show we received two awards: The Rincon International Film Festival awarded us Best Horror Short, and the River Bend Film Festival honored us with the High Point Award — an award that says we scored the highest amongst all the screeners.

When you’re a filmmaker — actually an artist of any kind — you worry if anyone is going to “get” your work.  Sure, you can say you’re doing it for yourself, but hell, we all want someone to say: “that’s pretty good” or at least, “I’m glad I watched that instead of flipping to Cheaters.”

I’m happy this film is enjoyed by people.  And I’m really happy it’s getting awards.  Cause awards are cool.  Thanks, festivals!

Filmmaker finds support in Midwest


Tribune Staff Writer

Devi Snively says one anecdote explains why filmmakers are leaving Los Angeles and loving the Midwest.

Director Devi Snively’s “Trippin’ ” will be shown at the 2010 Riverbend Film Festival in South Bend on May 1-2

On screen

The River Bend Film Festival takes place Thursday through Saturday at Indiana University South Bend and at Century Center at the following times and locations:

7 p.m. Thursday at Room 1001 Wiekamp Hall, IUSB, 1700 Mishawaka Ave., South Bend

7 p.m. Friday at Century Center, 120 S. St. Joseph St., South Bend

9 a.m. Saturday at Century Center.

Tickets are $10-$8 for Friday events; $5-$4 for events taking place from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday; $10-$8 for events taking place from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday; $10-$8 for events taking place from 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday.

Saturday day passes are $20-$18; weekend passes are $30-$25.

For a list of the films screening at the festival and workshop times, go to

“If you try to shoot a film in L.A. and you’re in a neighborhood and you show up with your camera and your lights, the neighbors look at you and say ‘You’re making a movie,’ ” Snively, whose latest movie “Trippin’,” debuts Saturday evening at the River Bend Film Festival, says. “And they’ll pull out their leaf blower and start (running) it real loud, knowing that you can’t film and then you have to bribe people to turn it off.”

Filmmakers find a different reception in other parts of the country.

“In the Midwest, people see your camera and crew and they come over and say, ‘Hey, can I help?’ ” she says. “People are just nicer and more supportive.”

The contrasting experience explains why Snively has no plans to make movies in California. That’s why filmmakers are receptive to overtures made by officials in states such as Indiana and Michigan.

That means that the maturation of South Bend’s filmmaking community and the expansion of the River Bend Film Festival comes at an opportune time, Snively says.

Before last year, the festival had been based at Indiana University South Bend and was known as the IU South Bend Independent Video & Filmmakers Festival. The festival was founded in 2002, organizer Tim Richardson says.

At that time, the festival primarily focused on the work of local filmmakers.

Over time, the festival started to attract shorts, feature length films and documentaries by national and international filmmakers, Richardson says. This prompted him to seek a larger and more centrally located venue for the festival.

This year, more than 70 films will be shown during the course of the three-day festival. Richardson says that the offerings will be diverse.

The festival begins on Thursday with screenings of short films and Lloyd Kaufman’s cult classic “Toxic Avenger” at IUSB.

On Friday, the festival will feature a block of family-friendly short films shown at 7:30 p.m. at the Bendix Theatre in the Century Center.

A block of shorts that have more mature themes will be shown at 9:30 p.m.

The festival kicks into high gear on Saturday with feature length and short films being shown in several venues inside the Century Center. Categories include experimental short films. Another block of films will address ecological themes.

There also will be documentary films and a block of gay- and lesbian-themed films shown on Saturday.

There also will be several workshops including one conducted by Kaufman.

Richardson says local films will be screened on Saturday. On Saturday evening, a block of short films categorized as dark/sci-fi will be screened at 7 p.m.

One of those films is “The Familiar,” which takes a unique spin on the bloodsucker story.

“The Familiar” centers on a man who is fixated on vampires and wants to become one. He leaps at a chance to become the assistant to a 400-year-old vampire, but he soon realizes that he has accepted a job from a man who is literally and figuratively the boss from hell, Richardson says.

Later that evening, the audience will see the local premiere of Snively’s “Trippin’.”

The film tells the story of a road trip to a remote cabin that goes horribly and tragically wrong.

Snively says it not surprising that many independent filmmakers opt to make sci-fi or horror movies.

On horror movies, filmmakers are limited only by their imaginations, she says.

“In fact, some of the best films I have seen (in the horror genre) are because people didn’t have money,” Snively says. “I think some people get lazy when they have a lot of money.”

Not having a massive budget definitely forced Snively and her crew to think outside the box. One scene in “Trippin’” involved a coyote.

“We didn’t have the money for a live coyote and a coyote trainer and whatever extras or insurance we might need, so we found a way to use taxidermy and digital effects,” she says.

The innovations worked, and many people who saw the movie thought Snively used a live coyote.

People in Chicago and Cannes also will get a chance to see Snively’s handiwork because “Trippin’” was accepted into festivals in those locations. The Cannes Independent Film Festival is a festival for indie filmmakers that takes place at the same time as it’s larger and more famous cousin, the Cannes Film Festival.

“It’s very exciting, and (going to Cannes) is a great opportunity because (the festival) is run by producers and we have free lodging for three weeks,” Snively says. “We could never afford to stay there otherwise.”

Snively adds that she also is excited about being invited to screen her film in South Bend. She notes that getting into any film festival is a major coup at a time when it is increasingly difficult to get accepted because so many filmmakers are submitting movies.

Festivals give filmmakers a chance to network, Snively says, but the event is the first chance for filmmakers to gauge audience reaction to their work.

“You get a sense of the kind of movie you made because a lot of times you don’t know what kind of movie you made until you have an audience,” she says.

The city of South Bend also will benefit from hosting the River Bend Film Festival, Snively, who along with her husband splits time between Mishawaka and California, says.

She notes that the area’s film community is becoming more sophisticated. Snively says the area had a group of filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers who met informally when she came to the area. Now, the filmmaking community has grown and organized around a formal group known as the Mid America Filmmakers.

“As more people come to town and see the potential, it can bring the film industry here,” Snively says. “In fact, that is already happening.

She notes that it is easy to find apartments in Los Angeles.

“That’s because everybody’s leaving, and they’re leaving because all the work is leaving because nobody wants to make a film there,” Snively says. “And I feel that Indiana can jump in and take advantage.”


The Familiar, from Canadian writer-director Kody Zimmerman, is a great-looking horror comedy about a vampire buff who thinks he’s found the ticket to immortality and good times galore when he becomes the assistant to a centuries-old bloodsucker. Turns out it’s just a really crappy job for a wholly unreasonable employer. Sent on endless bloody errands with no appreciation shown in return, the put-upon subordinate would look at Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada with envy.

Zimmerman’s own unhappy experience as a personal assistant to a Hollywood actor (discreetly unnamed on his website’s notes) inspired the film, and the antagonism between horrid boss and silently fuming employee plays with “been there, done that” veracity. As a comedy, the film is more likely to generate a small smile than any big laughs, in part due to a flatly read narration from lead actor Torrance Coombs. Coombs (who can be seen in the final season of Showtime’s The Tudors) is a bit better in his dramatic interactions, though co-stars Paul Hubbard (spewing vileness with panache as the vampire) and Brock Shoveller (as the assistant’s genteel predecessor) easily steal the spotlight from him.

What really makes The Familiar stand out is good old-fashioned filmmaking craft. Too many modern low-budget horror features try to skate by on dizzying handheld camerawork, chaotic editing or gimmicky premises – a trend sure to grow after the box office success of Paranormal Activity. But Zimmerman and company show more aesthetic ambition than that. Shot on professional grade HD video, the film had the professional sheen of a high-end 35mm production on the DVD screener I watched. Zimmerman’s years laboring in the industry may have given him tech and production connections many do-it-yourself filmmakers would envy, but he and cinematographer George Campbell show they know what to do with the tools.

Boasting solid pacing, active (rather than overactive) camerawork, striking composition and even some effective visual effects, The Familiar shows an assured directorial hand and should be a nice calling card for Zimmerman to move upwards in the film biz. The 22-minute film has been making the festival rounds since last October and if it comes to your area, it’s worth catching.

More Festivals!

I am so happy to say we’ve hit two more festivals — the Seattle True Independent Film Festival and the River Bend International Film Festival.

Seattle’s True Independent Film Festival (STIFF) was started in 2005 by a group of filmmakers whose feature film Swamper was rejected by the Seattle International Film Festival. STIFF was modeled after the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City UT as a way to champion local and true independent films that they felt were being left out of the local film program. The Stranger film critic, Andrew Wright described it as “like a belch in church (in the best possible way)” All films that screen at STIFF receive a one-of a kind award called a “STIFFY”. Past STIFFIES run the gamut from “Best Buddy Movie”, to “Hottest Zombie”. On average, STIFF receives close to 500 submissions per year and screens over 125 films as part of the ten day event.

Founded in 2002 , the River Bend International Film Festival was originally called The I.U. South Bend Independent Video & Filmmakers Festival and ran for seven years on the college campus, showing hundreds of films during those years.

2009 was the start of our new look and venue as The River Bend Film Festival in the heart of downtown South Bend in the Century Center. The only independent film festival of its kind in Northern Indiana, this  festival is open to anyone who makes shorts or features, on video or film, including high school and college students.