Shaun Benson: Actor and Director

Written by: Francesco Vincenzo Iacono and Celeste Iacono

Shaun Benson Actor

Shaun Benson is a Canadian actor and director who was born in Guelph, Ontario. From a very young age, Shaun studied the arts including piano, ballet, and modern dance. He attended the University of Western Ontario and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry.

During his University career, he began to perform seriously and garnered roles in university theater productions such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Bones, and Biloxi Blues. Post-graduation, Shaun went on to study and train at the George Brown College Theater School in Toronto.

Shaun made his television debut as Jonah Gleason, a series lead, on the critically acclaimed series The Associates (2002), which led to another lead as Patrick Heller for the PAX network on Just Cause (2002-2003). He is best known for playing Leonid in Kathryn Bigelo’s K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) opposite Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, playing Steven Lars Webber on General Hospital (2004 – 2005), Bob Taylor in Populaire (2012), the mysterious Simon in Kept Woman (2015), Ezekiel in The Boys (2019), and Mike Farrar in A House on Fire (2021).

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shaun Benson and asking him a few questions about what first got him into acting, his career as an actor, his experience in directing Barn Wedding, his time on the daytime soap opera General Hospital, his experience filming A House on Fire as well as his musical aspirations.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in acting? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as an actor?

Shaun Benson: I’ve always been a performer. I played my first piano recital at age 5 (badly) and was dancing onstage by age 9. The inspiration was a blend of things like watching Singin’ in the Rain (still my favorite all-time movie), The Sound of Music, and James Bond, etc. as a kid and also just how much fun dancing and school plays were.

TCS: What famous actors were among your early influences and how do you think they shaped your acting style?

SB: Gene Kelly most definitely—he shaped my style in that I am not afraid to go classically large with a role and I’m not afraid for it to be fun. In later years, it was Keanu Reeves, Robert De Niro, and Matthew McConnaughey. De Niro for depth and Keanu and Matthew for the fun and joy of watching that sometimes actors who take themselves too seriously can lose.

TCS: Can you share with us your experience in directing Barn Wedding?

SB: Simply put Barn Wedding was the best artistic endeavor of my life. Working with the actors to create the characters – then the writer, then the cinematographers, then all of the editing and sounds mixing etc.— it challenged me daily and made my motor rev in every gear to the redline. Just the way I like it.


TCS: How did you prepare for your role as a villain in the 2015 movie Kept Woman?

SB: Preparing for Kept Woman involved a lot of research into my own favorite film villains and then giving myself daily permission to be bad — both as a human and as an actor. I had to embrace a lot of darkness and then let it out because Simon doesn’t actually disagree with his own actions. So first I had to dig into the perversity of the actions and then I had to have fun executing them. It took its toll.


TCS: Tell us about playing Dr. Steven Lars Webber, perhaps your best known role, on General Hospital.

SB: That was a sheer delight. The cast and network of that show are so talented and engaged – far more than I was expecting. My run was only a year but I learned and gained so much more than I could ever describe. Huge shout outs to Jill, Maurice, Rick, Corbin, and Nancy.

TCS: How did your participation in Louis Nowra’s film K-19: The Widowmaker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, influence your acting career?

SB: The influences of that film are still being felt 13 years later. I don’t even know what I learned because I was on set for 3 months but not in a ton of scenes. So I got to watch and absorb. Certain pennies only drop years later and some haven’t yet, I’m sure. The biggest thing I learned, that I’m aware of, is that it’s ok to be both technical and in the moment. Harrison and Liam are masters of this.

TCS: Tell us about how exciting it was playing Bob Taylor in the French film Populaire?

SB: It was exciting beyond measure. Paris 4 months Premiere on the Champs Elysee, working with Roman, Berenice, Regis, and Deborah and Laurent and Guillaume etc. etc. etc. — it was perfection from day 1. It is a beautiful film in a beautiful country made by beautiful people.


TCS: Can you describe for us your experience working on documentaries such as Flight of the Butterflies and Casting By?

SB: Flight of the Butterflies was a bit like Populaire (except for my Montezuma’s Revenge day 1!!!!) The people involved and motorcycling through the Mexican countryside with Stephanie Sigman (the next Bond girl) on the back and ultimately shooting a scene with half a billion butterflies — forget it. Perfection.


Casting By
was as eye opening as a project has been as I was the photographer for the first half and therefore was a fly on the wall and got to hear some of the world’s greatest talents talk about the casting process. Just invaluable.


TCS: Can you tell us about your new Lifetime Movie A House on Fire and what the true story is based on?

SB: The movie A House on Fire is based on the true story of Deborah Green and Mike Farrar. Debora (portrayed by actress Stephanie March) was a brilliant oncologist whose underlying mental illness led her to ultimately burning down her home, killing two of her children. The film follows her and Michael’s life together as they navigate each other and the last gasps of their marriage and her career as they careen towards this tragic conclusion.

“Shaun


TCS: How did you prepare for your role as Mike Farrar?

SB: Preparing for the role of Mike involved a lot of work both internally and externally. The external was doing the homework on the people, researching the incident and reading Ann Rule’s book, Bitter Harvest, which the film was based on. Additionally, it also meant getting a rhythm and way of moving and talking that, while not huge shifts, made it Mike and not me. The internal work involved intense imaginative work which opened myself up to what each heightened scene needed. After shooting, I spent my nights decompressing for an hour or more just to create space for the next day’s version of the same!

TCS: Share with us some background concerning your iTunes podcast?

SB: I always woke my lady up by ranting about politics or traffic or excitement about my week and I thought I should give her a break and share the ramblin! It’s been a huge success with thousands of listeners in 50 countries.

Listen to the Shaun Benson, Chatting Between Takes podcast now.

TCS: What would you consider your best and worst moment so far in show business?

SB: My best moment happened recently when the first film I directed sold out to standing room only and won 2 awards – but most importantly I felt like my 8 year old self watching it. And my worst was when drugs and alcohol killed my career for about 5 years. I’m in my own 2nd life in this career and I’m as grateful as a man could be.


TCS: Backtracking to your time at the University of Western Ontario to now working as a professional actor, is there a specific role that you’ve either played or portrayed that you would you say is your favorite and why?

SB: My favorite would have to be the character of Lewis in a play called Waiting for Lewis. I was so naive and inexperienced but got guided by Fabrizio Filippo and Joanna McIntyre to do what I still believe is some of my best work and it also let me know this was a career I could excel at.

TCS: Is there a specific role or type of character that you haven’t played yet but would really like to?

SB: COMEDY! COMEDY! COMEDY!

TCS: Can you share with us your interests and hobbies outside of acting and directing?

SB: Karate, car racing, cycling, motorcycling, hangin at the mall with my lady, playing in my band Emmy Rouge, chillin’ out, and binge watching TV shows.


TCS: Where did your interest in music come from and how did you land writing for the LA based band Analog Smith?

SB: My house was always full of music. We had a piano, banjos, guitars, and a violin — so I just mucked around. Truly the summer camp I went to was where it all coalesced into writing and performing. The band was started like most — a few dudes who liked how each other carried it. The writing followed pretty naturally from that.

About Francesco Vincenzo Iacono

Francesco Vincenzo Iacono  Photo

Since 2012, Francesco Vincenzo Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Ash Costello from New Years Day, Williams Honor, Stacey David Blades, Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, The Rockin’ Krolik, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas.

Additionally, The Creative Spotlight has also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Paranormal investigator Kitsie Duncan, Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice, the Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

Francesco earned a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he also received a Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

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Kitsie Duncan – Paranormal Researcher

Written by: Frank Iacono

Kitsie Duncan - Paranormal Researcher

Kitsie Duncan was born in the Chicagoland area, and lived in several cities growing up. Kitsie now calls Bloomington, Indiana home where she lives with her husband Chris Jay. From a young age Kitsie always loved the spotlight and was always involved in choir and drama. She took a hiatus to raise her children, but now that they are grown she is perusing her lifelong dream of researching the unknown.

Surprisingly, Ms. Duncan lived most of her life terrified of the existence of the paranormal. After losing her father she wanted to know more about life after death. This hunger for knowledge led her to the world of ghost hunting and paranormal research. Quickly she found herself obsessed with proving that the spirit world isn’t as scary as many think it is.

For over twelve years, she and her crew at the Oddity Files have investigated some of the most infamous haunted locations in the world. From those investigations, the team came away with evidence that not only proves those locations are haunted but that the spirits occupying those places have a unique story to tell.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, we caught up with Kitsie Duncan where we talked about her paranormal influences, her research as a member of the Oddity Files investigative team and companion podcast, her first published book as well as her short and long-term future plans.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a paranormal researcher and whom or what would you say inspired you?

Kitsie Duncan: Thanks to the movie Poltergeist, I honestly grew up terrified of the paranormal. However, it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I finally wanted to learn more about it. At the time, my dad passed away suddenly. There were no official goodbyes, not even a “see ya later!” So, I wanted to know if there was a possibility that he could still be watching out for me and my family. With that, I started watching some of the paranormal reality TV shows, and I quickly became obsessed with wanting to explore further.

In my new book entitled I’d Rather Talk to Dead People: My Journey as a Paranormal Researcher I delve deeper on this topic. If you would like to order a copy of the book it is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Kitsie Duncan paranormal researcher

Photo By Cassandra Michelle Photography

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Kistie Duncan or the show Oddity Files on Amazon Prime Video, please share with us how you first started out and created the show?

KD: After becoming obsessed with the paranormal, I quickly found myself participating in investigations with an Indiana Paranormal Team. Sadly, my time with that team didn’t last very long. However, it was a valuable time as it afforded me the opportunity to get my hands on all the exciting paranormal equipment. The whole experience highly intrigued me, so I invited some friends to join me on an investigation where I brought along one of those fancy infrared cameras (e.g., a camera that films in the dark). At that time, I started putting some of our adventures on YouTube. The response was great.

Eventually, we narrowed the team down to Clayton Abbott, my son Carter Jostes and myself. This newly aligned team captured some of the best evidence we had ever gotten before. With that, I submitted the Oddity Files show to Prime Video and here we are 3 seasons later.

TCS: Can you introduce us to the Oddity Files investigative team and describe for us each member’s responsibilities?

KD: The Oddity Files crew investigates notoriously haunted locations all over the world. The team is known for its unique investigative style. We retrieve evidence and tell the stories that the entities want us to tell.

Our team consists of the following:

  • Clayton Abbott: Investigator and King of Drone Footage
  • Kitsie Duncan: Lead Investigator, Editor, Booking Agent and Director
  • Carter Jostes: Camera Man, Tech Guy and Investigator

Oddity Files Kitsie Duncan

Photo by Kemper Enchantments

TCS: In Season 1, Episode 1 of the show entitled “Culbertson Mansion,” you and the team investigated the Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site, once the home of William Culbertson, who was once the richest man in Indiana. Can you please share some insight about the investigation as well as how you and your team utilized a device called the Odd Box during your research?

KD: Our investigation of the historic Culbertson Mansion, marked the first time that it was just the three of us conducting research. Equally, we were one of the first teams to actually do an overnight investigation which afforded us the opportunity to try out a bunch of new things including the use of the Odd Box. The Odd Box is an amplifier hooked up to a spirit box, with some reverb and other ways to adjust the sound to provide better overall quality. The Box also contains a copper wire with some crystals attached to it and a big ole rechargeable battery. To this day, it has become the best piece of equipment I own. Since that first investigation, these devices have made it possible for us to have a real-time conversation with many of the spirits that we encounter.


TCS: In Season 2, Episode 2 entitled “Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum” you and the team traveled to in Cripple Creek, Colorado to experience a taste of the shadier side of life in the World’s Greatest Gold Camp. Can you please share some insight about your investigation in the original Teller County Jail and the lives of the lawmen who were charged with keeping the peace?

KD: This Colorado-based location was odd. Not only were most of the crew suffering with altitude sickness, after landing and traveling straight up to Pikes Peak, but we think we may have also seen a phantom hitchhiker on our drive too.

The evidence from this investigation was truly all over the board, it really left us scratching our heads. In one part of the building, we spoke to a little girl via a flashlight session, and in the room next to it there was an entity that was breathing down one of our guest investigator’s neck.

In the basement, there’s a strong possibility that two of our investigators were attacked by an entity that refused to interact. Additionally, I personally felt like I was being choked in a jail cell. Needless to say, I’m not in any rush to get back there.


TCS: In Season 3, Episode 1 entitled “Octagon Hall,” you and the team investigated Octagon Hall, widely regarded as one of most haunted places in the South with ties to the Civil War and Slavery. Can you please share some insight about the investigation as well as how you and your team utilized specific technologies and/or devices to unearth evidence about the historic location?

KD: This was my second trip to Octagon Hall and the evidence never seems to disappoint. However, the energy had changed for sure in one of the rooms on the third floor since my last visit. When I was there the first time, I was very uneasy in the hallway between the two bedrooms that went out to the terrace. Nonetheless, I never got any evidence that told me why. But this time, it was answered for me, and the whole third floor just felt lighter and less heavy.

Apparently in the years since I had been there the resident team of Octagon Hall had unearthed a wedding ring of one of the slaves that had been there. The team has now dedicated and placed that ring in the same hallway that used to scare me, and in my heart of hearts, I think it’s the reason for the change in the vibration of that hallway.

Additionally, this was the first of many locations where the team and I got to use my SLS camera (e.g., thanks babe for the birthday present) and with it, we think we captured a little girl playing hide and go seek with us.


TCS: Can you share some highlights and memorable guests that you’ve featured on your Paranormal Podcast also called the Oddity Files?

KD: Through my day job, I have so many amazing friends and some of them have some pretty recognizable names. I’m so grateful to have had my friends like, Bruce Campbell, Norman Reedus, Robert Englund and WWE Superstar Paige on some of our earlier podcasts. NOT bragging at all, but it was super cool to hear their personal paranormal stories and to be able to share them with all of our great listeners.

TCS: Who or what inspired you to write your first book entitled I’d Rather Talk to Dead People: My Journey as a Paranormal Researcher?

KD: My dear friend Dave Schrader asked me if I’d ever thought about writing a book, and I was like, well there’s a pandemic going on and I’m out of work, so why not. In all seriousness, I thank my lucky stars for Dave introducing me to the amazing people at Beyond The Fray Publishing. I feel like this was something I needed to do to get me to the next step in life.

TCS: Describe for us the strangest case you and/or your team have worked on to date? And, have you ever experienced anything truly terrifying? If, yes, please explain.

KD: Here’s the thing, my lot in life right now is to prove that ghosts aren’t scary. I’m of the firm belief that they are just trying to communicate with the living. And, sadly the living is afraid of what they don’t understand.

The Oddity Files Crew and I have now gone our separate ways. Don’t worry, there are no bad break up stories, it was just time. And, in writing my book I’d Rather Talk to Dead People: My Journey as a Paranormal Researcher, I realized that I CAN communicate with the dead, and that investigating had gotten me over my own fears of the unknown.

Now it’s time for me to give back, the most prominent things I learned about paranormal investigating I learned from the spirits themselves. SO, I now want to be the bridge between the living and the dead and help them to communicate. And show the living that the things that may be scaring them are just the spirits trying to get their attention.

Now, with my friends KJ and Tiffany Rice, we’ve started Paranormal X Road and we’re hoping to change the public’s view on the paranormal. We are a team of 3 fearless women, who will bring light and positivity into the hearts of those living fearful of the paranormal.Empathy for the living and the dead is what helps acquire the real evidence and solve the mysteries of the paranormal.

TCS: Do you use psychic mediums during a paranormal investigation?

KD: Yes, I absolutely do. I highly recommend renowned Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice. She is the best spirit medium in the business.

TCS: In your profession, I’m sure you are constantly approached by unbelievers so how do you handle the naysayers?

KD: Actually, I am not really approached by unbelievers or naysayers. If I am, I just agree to disagree. More often than not, when I bring up the paranormal to someone outside the field, they generally have their own story of an experience they can’t wait to tell me.

TCS: What does the short and long-term future look like for Kistie Duncan?

KD: In both the short and long-term, I plan to continue being an active paranormal researcher. My mission is to help people who are living with a haunting or are in pain from the loss of a loved. I want to be able to give the living answers and the give the spirits a voice.

View a sneak peek of my new venture entitled Paranormal X Roads:

To stay connected, please join me on the following:

• Kistie Duncan Facebook
• Kistie Duncan Instagram
• Kistie Duncan Twitter
Oddity Files Amazon Prime Video
Oddity Files YouTube

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Since 2012, Frank Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Ash Costello from New Years Day, Williams Honor, Stacey David Blades, Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, The Rockin’ Krolik, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas.

Additionally, The Creative Spotlight has also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, Pennhurst State School and Hospital, Paranormal investigator Kitsie Duncan, Spirit Medium Tiffany Rice, the Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

Frank earned a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he also received a Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Christopher R. Mihm: Retro-Styled Filmmaker

Written by: Frank Iacono

Christopher R. Mihm is the writer, director, editor and producer of films coined as the “Mihmiverse,” a series of award winning, loosely interlinked feature-length films styled after 1950s-era “drive-in cinema.” He has been described as the king of new old, good bad movies!

Christopher, the Minnesota-based maverick, officially began his illustrious filmmaking career in 2006 with the release of his first retro-styled film entitled, The Monster of Phantom Lake. Made on a nearly non-existent budget, this B-movie went on to garner much critical acclaim, appear in many genre-based film festivals, win multiple awards, and continues to screen across the world.

Since The Monster of Phantom Lake, Mr. Mihm has released one 1950s-style feature a year, many of which have received numerous accolades, nominations, and awards. His sixth film, Attack of the Moon Zombies, received the most “2011 Dead Letter Awards” at mailorderzombie.com. House of Ghosts, Mr. Mihm’s tribute to the films of classic horror master William Castle, won the coveted Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for “Best Independent Feature.” The Giant Spider, a tribute to the “giant bug” films of the 1950s, took first place in the “Action/Horror Feature” category at the 2013 Highway 61 Film Festival.

Throughout his career, Mr. Mihm has been featured in many publications, both off and online, including Sci-Fi Magazine, Scream, and Scary Monsters Magazine. Mr. Mihm was the recipient of the first-ever “Roger & Julie Corman Intrepid Filmmaker” award at the 37th annual ValleyCON in Fargo, ND and won the “Best Director” award from mailorderzombie.com.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher R. Mihm to ask him a few questions about his early filmmaking influences, his writing and creative process, his all-time favorite b-styled movie and his upcoming projects and events.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in the film industry, and who or what inspired you to pursue a career as a writer, director and producer?

Christopher R. Mihm: I’ve been interested in making movies for as long as I can remember. I have many positive memories of going to the movies as a kid and, as a result, the idea of making my own movie became something that greatly fascinated me. As a teen, I played drums in several bad rock bands and I developed a keen interest in audio recording. I went to college to study the subject and, while there, ended up taking classes focused on audio for film and television. Excelling in those courses, I eventually ended up doing work for a local cable access station. This gave me experience shooting and editing video. Finally, once digital technology progressed to the point where I could make a movie that “looked like a movie” (and not something made on cheap VHS video), I took all of my life and educational experience, got together with friends and family and made my first movie, The Monster of Phantom Lake!

TCS: What famous filmmakers were among your early influences and how do you think they shaped your approach and film style?

CRM: Growing up in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, I was a big fan of the films of Steven Spielberg. I have always loved that, even with his more serious work, he understands the idea of making sure his movies are entertaining. I feel like a lot of independent filmmakers often ignore “entertainment value” and focus too heavily on “art for art’s sake.” Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with the art form or pushing that envelope. But, when it comes at the expense of simple ENJOYMENT, that’s a problem!

As a guy in his early ‘40s, Star Wars and Star Trek were huge influences on my love of cinematic science fiction. Other filmmakers I enjoy from my childhood include Joe Dante, Robert Zemekis and, with Ghostbusters being my all-time favorite film of the ‘80s, Ivan Reitman.

TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Christopher R. Mihm or your overall body of work, please share with us some details of your 13 films in “The Mihmiverse?”

CRM: My 13 films are all connected to each other, sharing common fictional locations or characters (and actors) or both, forming what has been coined “The Mihmiverse”.

    • The Monster of Phantom Lake: The Musical!

      Based on the multi-award-winning film, The Monster of Phantom Lake: The Musical! follows guitar-wielding, a-rockin’ scientist Professor Jackson, his smitten graduate student and five swell teenagers as they discover the terrifying effects of “Atomic Waste” in the form of a horribly mutated “shell-shocked” World War II soldier / lake-algae monster! The Monster of Phantom Lake: The Musical! was filmed in July of 2016, during the play’s world premiere run at the historic Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie, Wisconsin! The Monster of Phantom Lake: The Musical! was created specifically to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the release of my first film, The Monster of Phantom Lake.

    • Demon with the Atomic Brain

      A failed attempt to weaponize a machine capable of opening portals to other worlds creates an exponentially expanding bubble of fractured space-time which threatens to engulf the entire universe! An elite team of specialists must enter a “crack” in the disturbance and make their way down a rabbit hole of increasingly more dangerous alternate realities to find and shut down the machine which created it! Will their last-ditch attempt to save humanity be successful? Will this be how the universe ends? Find out in writer/director Christopher R. Mihm’s exciting homage to the sci-fi adventure films of the late 1950s: Demon with the Atomic Brain!

 

    • Weresquito: Nazi Hunter

      Horrific Nazi experiments have left a surviving American WWII soldier with a terrifying condition: at the sight of fresh blood, he transforms into a man-sized, blood-sucking killer insect! Refusing to let his affliction destroy him, he instead commits himself to using his “powers” for good—by finding the people responsible and bringing them to justice!

 

    • Danny Johnson Saves the World

      Young Danny Johnson (Elliott Mihm) must use his smarts and adventurous spirit to stop devious, pint-sized aliens—and their unstoppable robot—from brainwashing the children of Earth as a precursor to worldwide domination in writer/director Christopher R. Mihm’s retro-styled, sci-fi take on classic family films like The Goonies, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and The Princess Bride!

 

    • The Late Night Double Feature

      A double bill of 1950s-style B-movie shorts from writer/director Christopher R. Mihm, the king of “new old, good bad” movies!

      X: The Fiend from Beyond Space

      On a decades-long mission to Alpha Centauri, the crew of the UESPA spaceship Endeavor are awakened from LD-sleep to find themselves in orbit around a rogue planet. Finding nothing but a seemingly dead alien on the planet’s surface, the Captain decides to bring it aboard for further study. But, the crew quickly realize the creature is not dead… and it’s very hungry.

      The Wall People

      Following the death of his wife, scientist Barney Collins (Douglas Sidney) finds solace in his new role as a single dad to his only son. However, when the boy disappears from his bed under mysterious circumstances, Barney loses his grip on reality and becomes a shut in. Eight years later, he resurfaces with a wild theory: his son has been taken by an otherworldly entity that steals sleeping children through interdimensional portals in their bedroom walls! He enlists the help of his old colleagues (Mike Cook and James Norgard reprising their roles as Dr. Edwards and Dr. Gabriel, respectively) to potentially save his son from the clutches of this inhuman threat—or prove he is certifiably insane!

 

    • The Giant Spider

      When radiation left behind by atomic weapons testing creates a gigantic killer mutant arachnid, it’s up to a trio of scientists (Mike Cook, Billie Jo Konze and James Norgard), a General of the Army (Mark Haider), and a newspaper reporter (Daniel R. Sjerven) and his fiancée (Shannon McDonough) to figure out how to stop the hungry beast from devouring the entire county in writer/director Christopher R. Mihm’s ode to the giant bug films of yesteryear.

 

    • House of Ghosts

      With House of Ghosts, his first supernatural thriller, writer/director Christopher R. Mihm pays tribute to the works of the master of classic horror, William Castle! Rich socialites Isaac and Leigh have a tradition of throwing exclusive dinner parties that include unique (and expensive) forms of entertainment. This time, they’ve booked a spiritual medium who promises to “open a portal to the great beyond” and allow the couple’s equally eccentric guests to contact the “afterworld.” But, before he begins his presentation, the occultist offers a warning: once the door has been opened, no human being can anticipate or control what might come through. Regardless, the group collectively agrees to go forward, only to find itself greatly disappointed by the results… at first. Trapped in the couple’s oversized house by a massive winter storm, the partygoers begin to experience unexplainable and increasingly frightening things. As these occurrences intensify, it becomes apparent that something evil is at work. Can the group survive the night or will ignoring the medium’s warning be the last thing they ever do?

 

    • Attack of the Moon Zombies

      Twenty years have passed since Dr. Vincent Edwards (once again played by the ever-talented Mike Cook) took on a certain radiation-mutated bat creature and he is ready to retire. While training his replacement on the Jackson Lunar Base, the two stumble upon a seemingly impossible discovery: alien plant life on the surface of the moon! Unfortunately, exposure to the spores of this otherworldly flora cause instant death. Too bad those killed by them don’t stay dead and instead, want nothing more than to replicate!

 

    • Destination: Outer Space

      During a test flight of Earth’s first faster-than-light-speed rocket, an incident occurs that throws test pilot Captain Mike Jackson (originally introduced in 2008’s Cave Women on Mars) halfway across the galaxy! Lost in deep space, Captain Jackson must use all his wits and derring-do to find a way back to his beloved home world. A film unlike any other, Destination: Outer Space is full of excitement and otherworldly adventure that includes mysterious alien planets, robotic lifeforms, beautiful space pirates, alien creatures hell-bent on galactic domination and much, much more!

 

    • Terror from Beneath the Earth

      After years of underground atomic testing, one of the animals living within the Wisawa caves (a system that stretches from Phantom Lake to the Deadlands) has undergone a radical and unimaginably horrible transformation! While exploring the caves, Dr. Vincent Edwards (Mike Cook) and colleague Rosemary Bennett (Stephanie Mihm) stumble across evidence in the disappearance of local children. After reporting the find to the local sheriff, Dr. Edwards and Rosemary are tapped to lead a rescue attempt. Along with the sheriff and small-town farmer Stan Johnson (the children’s father), the rescue party quickly comes to the realization that if the caves don’t get them, whatever unseen terror lurking in the shadows just might!

 

    • Cave Women on Mars

      It is the future: 1987. Humanity has finally left the confines of its home world. When the two-man crew of the MARS-1 spaceship lands on the surface of the red planet, they are astonished to find it strangely Earth-like. After deciding to split up and scout around, Lieutenant Elliott stumbles across an amazing discovery—primitive, matriarchal warrior women! He is promptly taken prisoner by the Martian beauties and led unwillingly across the alien landscape. While his commanding officer, Captain Jackson, searches for his lost comrade, Lieutenant Elliott encounters unimaginable excitement in the form of fierce monsters, exotic vistas, strange magic and most unexpectedly… true love! An astounding adventure unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, Cave Women on Mars is not to be missed!

 

    • It Came from Another World!

      It Came From Another World! chronicles the continuing adventures of everyone’s favorite ‘a-rockin’ scientist, Professor Jackson. First introduced in 2006’s The Monster of Phantom Lake, Professor Jackson finds himself tasked yet again with saving the planet from certain doom. When Professor Jackson’s colleague and best friend Dr. Frasier doesn’t return from a scientific expedition in the deep woods, the Professor is sent to find and retrieve him. While searching, the Professor and Canoe Cops Sven and Gustav stumble upon an enigmatic meteorite that may hold the answer to Dr. Frasier’s disappearance—and something far more cataclysmic than they could ever imagine! Can our intrepid heroes unlock the secrets of the mysterious “rock from outer space” before its otherworldly power threatens not only the fate of the entire universe, but Professor Jackson’s wedding plans?

 

    • The Monster of Phantom Lake

      A shell-shocked ex-soldier transformed by Atomic Waste into a revolting monster wreaks havoc at a high-school graduation party in writer/producer/director Christopher R. Mihm’s first film, a monochromatic tribute to the B-movie flicks of the 1950s. The summer sun is shining, and a group of recently graduated teens has taken to the outdoors to celebrate their newfound freedom. Something horrific is afoot in Phantom Lake, though, and as the rampaging beast makes his presence known to the horrified teens, a dedicated scientist and his beautiful graduate student soon realize that they may have just stumbled upon one of the most important scientific discoveries of their lifetime.


TCS: Tell us about how you established funding for your first movie The Monster of Phantom Lake? Are you currently working with bigger budgets?

CRM: My first film was completely self-funded. The budget was close to non-existent, with the greatest expenditure being mini-DV tapes (it was filmed on a Panasonic DVX100A which used mini-DV tape) and our $35 monster costume! Everyone involved volunteered their time and donated whatever they could to the production. Basically, it was a grand communal experiment that, in the end, worked out far better than anyone thought it ever would! Since the fifth film (Destination: Outer Space), all my movies have been crowd funded. Because of this, our budgets have grown—though they’re still a fraction of a single day’s worth of production of a Hollywood film!


TCS: When your first film wrapped, did you envision spending the next decade making a film a year?

CRM: Honestly, no! The star of my first film and I had a running joke about The Monster of Phantom Lake which basically came down to the expectation that I’d make the one movie, get 1000 DVDs made, hold a world premiere locally and then, five years later, we’d be sitting around wondering what to do with the 800 unsold DVDs sitting in the garage! However, the film was very well-received and, when we sold through that first run of DVDs impressively quickly, I was inspired to keep making movies. To date, I haven’t stopped!

TCS: Tell us about how excited you were to discover that The Giant Spider, a tribute to the “giant bug” films of the 1950s, took first place in the “Action/Horror Feature” category at the 2013 Highway 61 Film Festival?

CRM: It’s always fantastic to win awards, but I don’t generally seek them out. As a guy who makes retro-styled films, I was most excited to personally win the “Roger & Julie Corman Intrepid Filmmaker Award” from the Fargo Fantastic Film Festival and for The Giant Spider to take home the “Forrest J. Ackerman Award” at the Famous Monsters of Filmland Film Fest!

TCS: Can you share with us your experience in directing Demon with the Atomic Brain, which was recently screened at the 2018 Blobfest in Phoenixville, PA?

CRM: Demon with the Atomic Brain is my 12th film in as many years and on most of the previous 11, I used a lot of the same actors and crew people. With “Demon,” I added a handful of new people to the mix and I felt it really helped reinvigorate my love of the filmmaking process. It was nice to share the experience, collaborating with new folks, and bringing new people into the “greater Mihmiverse.” Also, by this point, my younger children are now old enough to truly help in front of and behind the camera, thus making the entire process a family affair! I enjoy being able to spend time bonding with my kids and enjoying my favorite activity in the world!

TCS: Among the films you’ve made, which one is your all-time favorite? Equally, which one do you feel made you a better, a writer, director and producer and why?

CRM: It’s hard to pick an overall favorite, if only because every film I’ve made holds a special place in my heart. The Monster of Phantom Lake was my first, so it has that. The Giant Spider is mostly considered my best work. I made Danny Johnson Saves the World with all of my children, so that one ends up being very dear to my heart.

The one film that I feel really made an impact on my writing/directing/producing/editing, etc., has to be my second, It Came From Another World! I feel like I made a lot of important mistakes on that one and it taught me that it’s okay to be critical of my own work. It taught me how to give myself permission to make changes and to REMOVE stuff to make a better end product. It’s an important lesson every creative person needs to learn. Not EVERYTHING you do is gold and you need to be able to be honest and realistic with yourself and your own work.

TCS: If you were given the opportunity to go back in time and change something in any particular movie of yours, which movie would that be and what changes would you opt for?

CRM: I’ve seen every one of my movies hundreds of times and by the time the general public sees them, all I see are the flaws! Often, they’re small and things NO ONE would ever notice. But, being so closely involved from the writing, through production and all the way through post-production, it’s hard for me to see them as anyone else would. That’s not to say I think my movies are BAD. Not at all. But, it is pretty well impossible for me to pick any ONE thing I’d want to change!

TCS: Can you tell us about some of the cast members that have become familiar faces in your films, and the benefits to having reliable cast members to work with from film-to-film?

CRM: To date I’ve released 12 films and have two more on the way. To date, I held auditions for only the first three and the 12th. From those few auditions, I ended up meeting a whole slew of actors, many of whom I didn’t end up using in the films they auditioned for! Some of them, like actor Daniel R. Sjerven (who has appeared in several of my films) has a great “classic leading man” presence that works very well for the retro films I make. He’s a good friend and I enjoy working with him, thus, I end up putting him in many of my films. There are several “character actor” types I have put in quite a few of my films and all of them have wide ranging talents that make it easy to continue to cast them. People like Catherine Hansen, Mike Cook, James Norgard and Rachel Grubb all fall into this category. Michael Kaiser (who is also my stepson) has been the “man-in-the-suit” monster in every film I’ve made which requires it. If there is no need for a monster, I make a point to find a place for Michael. He’s actually the only actor to appear in EVERY single Mihmiverse film!

One of the big plusses of using a lot of the same actors in my films is the shorthand we develop. They know how I work and how I think. I know what makes them tick and often, with the actors I reuse, they really understand the types of films I’m trying to make. This makes the process much easier and we end up with fewer production headaches!

TCS: Over the years, there have been many films that mimic the ‘Golden Era of B-movies’ but many fail to capture the genre’s true essence. Why do you think your films achieve that?

CRM: I think one of the things that I really strive for is a sense of authenticity in the actors’ performances. So many of these homage type films fall deep into the parody category where the actors are trying to act wooden, or “wink and nod” at the audience. I tell every actor in my films to treat EVERYTHING in the script as dead serious. I want them to give me the absolute best performance they can. Treat everything with honesty and earnestness, even to the point of corniness. A lot of those old films are considered “corny” by today’s standards, but I think that’s one of my favorite things about them!

I love the (pardon the pun) black and white nature of a lot of them. Good guys are good because they ARE, and the bad guys are bad because THEY ARE. There isn’t much room for gray areas. The audience isn’t expected to try to understand and feel for the villains. They’re supposed to root against them! That simplicity informs the way I want actors to play their parts. Play them as real, but lacking ambiguity (unless the story absolutely calls for it). There’s an authenticity in embracing that corniness and treating it with respect. Be real, regardless of the fact that you’re fighting a giant spider! It may be a low budget special effect, but it doesn’t change the fact that in the reality in which your character exists, that spider WILL EAT YOU! Act accordingly!

I also think that having such small budgets is a huge plus. We don’t have the ability to employ the high end (read: expensive) special effects a larger budget would afford us. So, we’re stuck trying to find a way to just make it work, much like they did back when the amazing digital tools we have now just didn’t exist.

TCS: Can you please describe for us the creative process that you’ve employed which has enabled you to produce and release thirteen movies in thirteen years?

CRM: Over the years I’ve been able to refine my particular process down to a bit of a science. Once I’ve decided on whatever movie I’ve decided to make, I sit down and write a script. This usually takes about a month (at most). During the scripting process, I already have some of the production team working on things, in particular the monster(s). I have a great working relationship with the guy we call the Master Monster Maker of the Mihmiverse, Mitch Gonzales. He’s an insanely talented artist who has been creating the monster masks for my films since movie #6, Attack of the Moon Zombies. Over the years, Mitch and I have figured out the most efficient way to go from idea to execution that works best for the both of us. So, while I’m writing, I’m keeping him in the loop so that he can be working on the beginning stages of the monster(s). The guy is also great to bounce story ideas off of!

Once the script is done, we jump right into pre-production and casting. Because I work with a lot of the same actors, I usually already know who I want in which roles WHILE I’m writing a script, so by the time we’re in this stage, we’ve already jumped ahead to costuming and scheduling! Pre-production usually tends to be the shortest section of the process because as soon as we’re ready to go on even a single scene, we jump right in!

Next, we shoot the film. Because our budgets are so miniscule, actors often are only paid in food on set so, not wanting to get in the way of their everyday lives (since they need to make money somewhere!), I schedule shoots around the cast’s free time. This ends up being a LOT of weekends, which actually works even better for me! Shooting on the weekends means that I can be editing what we shot during the week. This makes it much easier to know if we’ve missed anything AND it informs my directing choices because I can see how a character is coming across in the final film. This allows the actor and I to better refine the performance. Having the weekdays free also makes it so other tasks like set building or prop creation doesn’t conflict with filming days. Principal photography tends to take the most time, lasting anywhere from three to six months.

Once we finish shooting the film, I usually have more than half the film edited! From there, I just need to buckle down and finish it up! Usually within a month or two I’ll have a rough cut completed. Very quickly thereafter I’ll sign off on a final cut and the final pieces come together (cutting a trailer, making a poster, authoring the DVD, setting up a premiere, etc. etc.)

I’m almost always working up to the very last possible moment and the entire process takes about a year. We hold our world premiere and not long after, I’m on to the next one!


TCS: Where can The Creative Spotlight readers find more information about your films and purchase copies?

CRM: The best place for information about my films is my website @ sainteuphoria.com. Otherwise, there is an official Facebook and Twitter page for the films of Christopher R. Mihm, which I update as close to daily as I can manage. Copies of my film are available for purchase at my website or through Amazon.com. They are also available to stream through Amazon Prime!

TCS: When you first started out in the film industry, did you intentionally set out to create strictly retro, b-movie style films or was it something you simply fell into?

CRM: As a tribute to my late father who really loved those cheesy old films and introduced me to all of them, I made my first movie, The Monster of Phantom Lake. It received such a positive response that I decided to make another and set it in the same “shared universe.” I had tons of fun doing it and realized I had a bit of a talent for it so, I decided to make another. And another. And another! So, it’s a weird mix of both. I, obviously, deliberately decided to make these kinds of films but, I really didn’t expect to enjoy it so much and never stop!

TCS: What is your favorite retro, b-movie style film of all time and why?

CRM: This is a hard one to answer! I love so many of those films! Usually when confronted by this question, I lean heavily on a few choices. I think the movie Them!, which is about giant ants, is definitely one of the BEST from that era. Effectively creepy and exciting and extremely well made for the TYPE of film it is. Even though it’s not the BEST movie, there’s something really magical about This Island Earth. The look and feel of it is a perfect example of 1950s-era science fiction—not to mention it has one of the best movie monsters ever with the Metaluna Mutant! I’m also a big fan of the films of Bert I. Gordon. He made a lot of movies about oversized (and some undersized) people and creatures. There’s something unique and fun about his films, be it The Amazing Colossal Man or Beginning of the End (about giant grasshoppers!) or even Attack of the Puppet People!

TCS: If you got the opportunity to remake a classic retro, b-movie style film, which one would it be and who would star in this movie?

CRM: There’s a film from 1957 called The Brain from Planet Arous. It’s an over-the-top low budget sci-fi movie about a psychotic alien brain creature that comes to Earth, takes over actor John Agar’s body and forces him to try to take over the world (naturally). It’s the kind of thing I could EASILY pull off, even on the budgets I’m used to! Plus, John Agar is one of my favorite actors from that era. I previously mentioned an actor named Daniel R. Sjerven who has appeared in several of my films, most notably in The Giant Spider. Mr. Sjerven has a distinct “John-Agar-ness” about him that would make him the perfect fit for a remake!

TCS: When it comes to filmmaking, what does a typical day on set look like for you, the cast & crew?

CRM: We tend to shoot very quickly. To make sure the films are never “perfect” (I’m not Stanley Kubrick by any stretch of anyone’s imagination!), the actors show up to the set and we do any prep needed (makeup, hair, costumes, etc.). Then, we block out the scene. This is basically the only rehearsal we do before we just START SHOOTING! I don’t do any real pre-visualization. Instead, I get as much coverage as possible and let the movie come together in the editing room. I tend to limit everyone to two or three takes per setup. This allows us to cover A LOT of ground over a very short period of time. We can usually manage a page or so of the script per hour. After we’re all done shooting, I have each actor redo their lines directly into a microphone, so I have a high-quality recording of their audio. This allows me to maintain aural consistency across the entire film. It gives the actor and I a little extra time to hone in on their best performance AND it makes it, so I rarely ever need actors to come back and rerecord their dialogue!

TCS: What would you consider your best and worst moment so far in the filmmaking industry?

CRM: I’ve experienced so many great moments since I started making movies! From seeing my films on a drive-in screen to the awards I’ve been fortunate to win and that one time I was awarded the key to a city. (Yes, that really happened!) If I had to pick ONE moment that tops everything, it has to be the world premiere of my first movie, The Monster of Phantom Lake. Seeing my name on the big screen in a REAL movie theater full of people who really seemed to enjoy my work was beyond compare!

It’s not all fun and games, of course. My obsessive pursuit of making movies has cost me a few friends. I’ve dealt with some interesting people, some of whom turned out to be, shall we say, rather negative influences on my mental health! I’ve had to deal with distribution deals going the wrong direction. Then there’s the frustration that comes with my own internal criticism of my work and that ever-present feeling that everything I do is terrible (I know a lot of artists deal with this same thing). And, of course, there’s always the poorly written, misspelled, sometimes downright rude and negative reviews you come across. I realize that not everyone is going to like what I do, but I will never understand what possesses certain people to take to the internet to say some of the ridiculous things they do!

TCS: What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers who want to make a mark in the movie making business?

CRM: I often tell aspiring filmmakers to just keep doing it however THEY want to do it. There really aren’t any rules when it comes to content! If I can find success making black and white, cheesy drive-in-era style movies, there’s a market out there for whatever they want to make! They just need to KEEP MAKING MOVIES. The more they make, the better they’ll get and, maybe someday they’ll even make it to the “big time.” OR, they may develop a cult following with their unique cinematic vision! The sky is the limit as long as they go out there and DO IT. Never stop learning and never stop creating!

TCS: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or events?

CRM: I’m on the cusp of releasing my 13th film, Guns of the Apocalypse. I describe it as a post-apocalyptic spaghetti Midwestern. It’s basically a retro-inspired post-apocalyptic story with many western elements. However, I filmed it in the winter in Minnesota, hence a “Midwestern.” It’s unique and I’m quite proud of how good it turned out! My film AFTER Guns of the Apocalypse is called Queen of Snakes. It’s a supernatural revenge story with an amazing monster! I’m close to the end of principal photography and, should everything work out, I plan on releasing that in the Spring of 2019. As for events, I keep a calendar of upcoming (and past) events at my website at sainteuphoria.com!

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Since 2012, Frank Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.

Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas. Additionally, we’ve also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he earned his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.