Jay Kay Interviews Chris Hallock of the Boston Underground Film Festival

A fixture of the Boston horror community in journalism, an acclaimed screen writing and the programmer of the renowned Boston Underground Film Festivals’s “Homegrown Horror” short film block, we are proud to get some time here on “Nightmare Conjurings” with the talented mind of Chris Hallock discussing BUFF18, “Diabolique” Magazine and much more in horror!  

Jay Kay: Chris, it is always great to speak with you about horror, film, and the Boston film community.  Three years is a chunk of one’s life and time.  How much has the three years meant to you writing, creating stories and working with the Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF) coming this March 23-27 at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA?

Chris Hallock: Jay, it’s always wonderful to you about horror and life in general! Three years is a huge portion of time, but at the same time, it feels like it’s gone by in a flash.  I’m always engaged in something at any given time, whether helping out with a film fest, a film shoot, or some other project.  I like to stay busy, and the past three years have been especially fulfilling on those fronts.

JK: The “Homegrown Horror” block has been a showcase for some of the best, brightest and most infamous filmmakers in the New England horror community. Talk about how important this block is as well as the impact of it on you and how much it meant to you before you started to curate it.

CH: I have the privilege of working with the Boston Underground Film Festival to give a platform to our native artists, and I’m incredibly proud of how the “Homegrown Horror” block has grown during that time.  My hope is that in addition to sharing some great films, the program encourages others to pick up a camera and make their own films.  I think it’s important to share in the communal experience and be inspired by these creators sitting right next to you.  I know it inspires me!

JK: Tell me about how you finally oversaw the selections of the “Homegrown Horror” shorts and what does it mean to you to have this responsibility?  Talk about giving the news to the filmmakers that they are a part of this block and BUFF.

CH: I’ve always admired the team behind BUFF, and was ecstatic when approached by Nicole McControversy, the Director of Programming, about adding a local block.  It means the world to have the responsibility because art and storytelling is so rich in our region, and film is an effective and affecting way of experiencing it.  I generally spend the year looking for unique films in festivals, local screenings, social media, fundraising campaigns - I follow everything that time allows.  I reach out personally to individual filmmakers to check out the films, and compile a list of everything regardless if it will work for the festival or not.  It’s a thrill to offer a spot in the festival to budding filmmakers and witness their enthusiastic response in return. 

JK: What does this year’s block of shorts contain and does each year raise the bar with overall quality of film on every level? 

CH: The bar is absolutely rising each year.  The quality of work blows me away, and I have to make tough decisions when it comes to cutting a potential film. I’m working under a time constraint (about 75 minutes) or I’d happily include more films.  I’ll also suggest films as potential pairs for feature films when I find something appropriate.  We like to have a local presence outside of this one specific block.  We have a few alumni returning with films including Andrea Wolanin’s “Cleaning House”, Alex DiVincenzo’s “Tourser Snake”, and Corey Norman’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “Suffer the Little Children.”  We also welcome newcomers Coco Roy (Don’t Drink the Devil’s Blood) and Jarett Blinkhorn (They’re Closing In) among some other incredibly talented folks. 

JK: Talk about the minds behind BUFF - Nicole McControversy, Kevin Monahan, and Bryan McKay.

CH: I’ve not met a more dedicated group than that trio.  They truly agonize over every detail when it comes to putting that festival together.  I’m talking about everything from the quality of film selections to the unique parties to the artwork used in branding and promoting.  I can be excessively nerdy and obsessive when it comes to this stuff, and its tremendous working with like minds who work so tirelessly, yet so joyously.  

JK: What does this year’s edition of BUFF have for the fans and what are you looking forward to?  How enjoyable is it to see the dysfunctional family at BUFF and network?

CH: As with most festivals, there’s so much going on and never enough time to spend with everyone, but I’m always thrilled to see the dysfunctional family, even if it’s just to share a smile across the room or a fist bump during karaoke.

JK: The “Homegrown Horror” block is one of the best attended blocks during the long weekend, it is a favorite to many, maybe only rivaled by the Saturday Morning cartoons… talk about the crowd that attends.  How did this block affect you as a member of that crowd before taking over the programming and now after you have? 

CH: Homegrown Horror is pretty much my baby and I’ve been doing it since the inception in 2013, so I don’t have the context of seeing it outside of that. However, I still sit in the audience because even though I’ve watched each film multiple times, I still enjoy the big screen experience.  I especially love gauging the crowd reactions.  I like to call them the BUFF rowdies, and they’re usually a boisterous bunch. 

JK: On a very positive note, how is writing for Diabolique with “FRIGHT FROM THE FRING” going and your acclaimed screen writing?

CH: I love the column because it allows me to bring to light films that may not be on the radars of a lot of fans.  The focus is “movies that reside on the outskirts of the multiplex,” so it can be any independent film on a festival run, limited distribution in small theaters, streaming online…I like to keep on top of these things anyway, and appreciate having an outlet for it in the pages of Diabolique. 

As far as creative output, director Chris Esper is finishing up a dark comedy I wrote called “A Very Proper Man,” and my frequent collaborator Izzy Lee (Postpartum, A Favor) and I are trying to hammer out a feature script.  I’m helping on the production end of a few other projects, Porcelain Dalya’s “Calling in Demon” and Farah Rose’s “Rapture.” 

JK: Where can they find out more about the programming for BUFF?

CH: The best place to find out about BUFF is the website bostonunderground.org or follow us on our social media spots on Facebook and Twitter. 

JK: Thanks so much Chris!  Look forward to seeing you at the Boston Underground Film Festival at the Brattle Theater March 23-27!