All Hail The Popcorn King! A New Documentary about an Inspiring Author

I usually write about my favorite television show, Supernatural, on this blog. But as an author, I admire other authors – especially ones who are able to write lots and lots of books with characters that capture reader’s imaginations and inspire them to change some of their world views. I also admire my fellow Supernatural fans and creators, including my good friend Hansi Oppenheimer. I so enjoyed working on her Squee project films – we share a love of Supernatural and an appreciation for creativity of all kinds. So when Hansi put her creative talent to use on a new project, I couldn’t wait to see it.

I had the privilege of watching a screener copy of Hansi’s new documentary film about groundbreaking author Joe R. Lansdale, ‘All Hail The Popcorn King’ – and found it captivating. Not only is it an intimate portrait of the author, it is also a walk through history. East Texas and its rich background comes alive through Lansdale’s memories as he paints a vivid picture of how things were when he started writing, inspired by the everyday (and yet unique) people around him. The drive in movie, the small town library, comics and Bugs Bunny cartoons, soap opera radio shows. The typewriter with keys that stuck and early manuscripts messy with white out and smudged carbon paper – as Lansdale himself says, some of his uniqueness comes from the meshing and crossing of different forms of media in the late 50s and early 60s as Lansdale was growing up.

[Joe and Bruce Campbell on the set of Bubba Ho-Tep]

Lansdale talks like he writes, and you don’t want to look away. He’s a storyteller, and that lends itself to a documentary. Hansi Oppenheimer makes the film a visual feast to go along with the verbal one, just as rich in walking us back through time. Vintage footage of drive-in movies and intermission concession ads create a feeling of nostalgia that works well with Lansdale’s rememberings.

The film traces Lansdale’s influences through the eyes of those who know and love him as well as through Lansdale himself. He walks us through his own history as he walks through the parts of East Texas that formed him, repainting the current landscape with his memories of what it was like when he was a young boy. It’s a rare glimpse into what makes an author tick, of the influences that impacted his writing and his style of storytelling. Lansdale has created characters who were groundbreaking in terms of representation, and who were inspiring enough to help people get through tough times in their real lives.

Joe: To think that fiction can do that, can have that impact, that’s kinda humbling.

That statement sort of encompasses both Lansdale’s influence and who he is as a person. How wonderful to have a film that captures both those things while Joe is still with us – and still writing.

I asked filmmaker Hansi Oppenheimer about her reasons for making this film and her appreciation of Joe and his work.

Hansi: I’ve been a fan of Joe’s work since the 80’s. I finally had the opportunity to meet him two years ago  when I was invited to appear at a con in Houston. I reached out to him to see if he’d be available for an interview for my Youtube channel and he invited me to Nacogdoches for lunch and the interview. After the interview, I reached out to him for a piece on a short about Joe Bob Briggs that I was working on and he wrote me the most beautiful, touching, funny piece and got it back to me in a day. I was so grateful that I promised him my next film would be about him and I ‘m so glad I did. I’ve never worked with anyone who was more honest, generous and collaborative. He reached out to some of the biggest names in Hollywood and introduced me so I could include them. As Mick Garris said “If you’ve read Joe Lansdale, you love Joe Lansdale”. He truly is a genre unto himself.

[Joe and Nick Damici on the set of Hap & Leonard]

I also wondered which of Joe’s stories and characters spoke to her personally and why?

Hansi: I really love The Drive-in. I’m obsessed with Drive-in culture and his novel takes that and turns it on it’s head. Another favorite is The Magic Wagon which is about a traveling medicine show in the early west with supernatural elements. I adore the Hap & Leonard series about  two “brothers” who try to fight the good fight despite overwhelming odds. (Sound like some characters we all know and love? Yes, Hansi is also a Supernatural fan) It was briefly made into a wonderful series on Sundance TV and is available on Netflix. I also loved his run on the comic Jonah Hex.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten many more favorites and there’s so many I haven’t even read yet. As his son Keith said “He writes them faster than I can read them.” He’s written over 50 novels and 500 short stories! So there’s something for everyone in his work. But the best thing about Joe is he is as genuine a human as you can find. He won’t bullshit you and he’s been a supportive and encouraging member of the creative community for decades.

[Joe, Don Coscarelli and Joe’s niece, Pamela Lansdale]

[Joe, Karen, Keith and Kasey Lansdale at their home in Nacogdoches, Texas.]

There will be a screening of ‘The Popcorn King’ in Austin, Texas, on August 18 at the historic Alamo Draft House. Joe Lansdale himself and his family will be there, along with Brian Keene, Rick Klaw and Yuri Lowenthal, among others.  Filmmaker Hansi Oppenheimer and Joe will also appear at KillerCon on August 17 in Austin to discuss the film, hosted by Brian Keene. And on October 5, George R. R. Martin will host a Q & A and screening with Hansi Oppenheimer at the George R. R. Martin Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which should be fascinating.

There is also a a DVD available for pre-order at the Squee Projects site at  https://squeeprojects.com with bonus featurettes and additional interviews that didn’t make it into the final cut of the film.

Squee Projects is also looking to partner with people to bring the film to smaller community venues. If you would like to host a screening or partner with Squee, you can contact them at squeeprojects@gmail.com.

–Lynn

Happy Birthday Matt Cohen!

This is birthday month for the OG’s of the Supernatural family – and today is Mr. Matt Cohen’s turn! We first met Matt shortly after he appeared on the show as young John Winchester, and were enamored of him from his very first con. He didn’t know how conventions worked and assuming there were thick boundaries between the actors and the fans just wasn’t on his radar, so Matt wanted to hug each and every person he met that weekend. His down to earth personality and infectious genuine joy made him a fan favorite from day one. The first time we sat down to chat with him, we realized there was so much more to Matt Cohen than a pretty face or an incredible physique. (Not that we didn’t already know that)

The first time Matt shared the stage with Richard Speight Jr, his frenetic energy and rapid fire improv style were a bit of a contrast with Matt’s more laid back approach. We watched as Matt and Rich found their rhythm together, both in panels (later joined by Rob Benedict for the now iconic R2M) and in Friday night karaoke. Matt and Rich together spearheaded the evolution of karaoke into a few fans taking the mic in a hotel bar to a crowd of fans singing along and batting a hundred balloons in the air as actors and fans share the mic onstage. It’s been a wild ride, and one that Matt has been an integral part of.

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Happy Birthday Jason Manns!

 

One of the best things about being a fan is that it broadens your world in ways you never expected. I fell I love with a television show and ended up with so much beautiful music in my life. I’m sure that doesn’t happen with every TV show, but Supernatural just happens to star a lot of very musically talented people, and those people know some wonderful professional musicians. Jason Manns is one of them.

Jason has been an integral part of the Supernatural conventions since early on. At the first Supernatural cons, the musical guest was usually Jason Manns or Steve Carlson, which means these conventions have had good music since almost day one. Both Jensen and Jared are huge music lovers, which means many of their friends are musicians – that explains Manns and Carlson at cons, as well as Brian Buckley Band and that incredible duet by Ackles and Corey Taylor. It also explains JJ from Kaleo at Jared’s house yesterday.

One of the very first videos I ever saw of Mr. Ackles after I embraced being a fangirl was one with Jason Manns – the old Youtube classic of Jensen singing “Crazy Love” at some lucky person’s wedding. I immediately ran out and tried to find out everything I could about Jason (and may have watched that Youtube video approximately 6 million times).  Then Jason gifted us again by performing Crazy Love at one of the first Supernatural conventions, Asylum in the UK – and pulling Jensen up for a duet. Once again, video watched 6 million times. Here’s a little trip down memory lane…

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Happy Birthday Rob Benedict!

 

Today is a special day because it’s the birthday of a special person – actor, singer, writer and just plain awesome guy Rob Benedict!

I’ve written many times about how Rob is the heart and soul of the Supernatural conventions, and it’s just more true every year. Once Rob and Louden Swain became the house band, and Rob and Rich became the con hosts, the Creation Supernatural conventions turned into something that no other con has been able to duplicate. So much of the energy and the positive vibe and the pure FUN of a con is due to Rob and Rich and their boundless enthusiasm. Didn’t get more than an hour of sleep the night before thanks to too much partying with fellow fans? Don’t worry, Rob and the band will wake you up and get you in the mood for celebrating in no time.

Louden Swain has become our favorite band for many Supernatural fans. Sometimes I think about how sad it would be if Rob had never been on Supernatural or ended up coming to conventions or brought the band with him, because then I never would have discovered Louden Swain’s incredible music. Tragic! The Saturday Night Special is often my favorite part of the con, because it’s the time when we all come together and feel most like a family – the passion in that ballroom on a Saturday night is infectious, lifting your spirits and setting your soul singing. So much of that is due to Rob.

He’s more than the front man for an awesome band – he’s the linchpin that pulls us all together. When Rob had a stroke at the Toronto convention several years ago and had to give up conventions while he worked on recovering, we all felt his loss like a palpable thing. Not just fans, but his fellow cast members, missed Rob and his energy and kindness and sincerity – he’s never shied away from expressing his emotions, both in song and in words, and that has made the SNS the powerful emotional experience that it is. When Rob was gone, the SNS became all about keeping that emotional energy alive while we crossed our fingers and waited for Rob to come back and take his place at the mic. When he did? That concert was a ten-tissue-pack experience for everyone, on both sides.

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A Typical (Atypical) Fairytale – A Chat With Supernatural’s Brendan Taylor and Sabrina’s Annette Reilly

 

 

One of the wonderful things about fandom is how it expands your world. When I fell in love with Supernatural, I fell in love with a whole universe – not just the fictional one that I adore, but everything encompassed in the hashtag SPNFamily. That means I discovered beautiful music, met some of my best friends, participated in charity projects that have changed the world for the better, and discovered all sorts of creative projects that actors who have been on Supernatural have gone on to make. I mean, I never would have laughed my ass off over Kings of Con if I hadn’t kept following Richard Speight Jr. and Rob Benedict – unimaginable!

My most recent discovery, from following the threads of Supernatural as they expand ever outward, came courtesy of Supernatural alum Brendan Taylor, who memorably played New Doug opposite Briana Buckmaster’s Donna on the show. I chatted with Brendan about his guest spot on the show last season and got to know him a bit, so when he tweeted about a new project, I decided to check it out. Am I ever glad I did!

A Typical Fairytale is a Storyhive winner, so it’s currently up on Youtube for your viewing pleasure. I watched it because Brendan was in it, but within a few minutes I was thoroughly and completely engrossed. It’s a magical little film, with wonderful acting and visually gorgeous, and told all in verse – it almost has the allure of a Dr. Seuss book, which to me is a very good thing indeed (or if you want a more recent example, Megan Padalecki’s beautiful books Big Mo and Little Moon). But that’s not what made me immediately contact Brendan to see if he wanted to do an interview about A Typical Fairytale – it’s because the film is important.

I’m a psychologist, so it’s my job to help people deal with whatever challenges they’re facing in life. I’ve worked with clients facing all sorts of difficulties, many of them coming from the culture within which we all have to survive. I’m also a professor teaching human development, and a researcher who looks at the impact of media on things like identity development, so I know how important it is to see your own experience reflected on a screen or in the pages of a book. A Typical Fairytale is the story of a king and queen and their child, the princess – who it turns out is actually a prince. The journey of the prince in figuring out who he is, and the journey of the prince’s parents in struggling to accept that their daughter is actually a son, are portrayed as a poetic fairytale – and yet their journey taps into emotions and reactions that are utterly realistic. It’s the sort of media that can make a difference, for children and adolescents in the midst of their own journey or for parents and other adults who need to be there for them.

The first time I watched it, I had to reach for the tissues. And then reach out to Brendan to find out more about the film. Turns out that A Typical Fairytale is a passion project for everyone involved, including Brendan and Annette Reilly, who both stars in the film and acts as director and producer too! Brendan and Annette were in Canada (Annette on her way home with someone else driving) and I was on the East Coast of the US, but we made it work with a late night conference call!

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