Respect the board

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Filmmaker Israel Luna gambles with his supernatural indie thriller ‘The Ouija Experiment,’ a remake of his own earlier film ‘Is Anybody There?’

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Israel Luna learned quickly when he was in junior high this lesson: There are three rules when it comes to playing with a Ouija board. Luna’s phase — or rather, his creepy curiosity— lasted long enough for him to turn his own paranormal activities into the basis for his new movie, The Ouija Experiment.

Rule No. 1: Never ask the spirit how it died.

“Ouija is actually a remake,” Luna, formerly based in Dallas but now making his home in San Francisco, says. “It was originally shot in 2001 as Is Anybody There?, which had low production quality. [Then we realized] we had access to all this cool equipment, so we remade one of our own movies!”

Not that he spent a fortune on the remake. Luna and his crew worked on the movie for nine days and with a budget of just $1,000, but he knew the story could be shot on the cheap and still look good. Without the need of a special effects monster, Luna felt the tone created a scarier environment by suggesting more than showing.

Four friends, gathered to play on a Ouija, encounter three spirits who instill a sense of suspicion in the gamers. The “found footage” of them playing gives it a Blair Witch feel, but Luna says the film is based on his own actual experiences with the board. And those were kinda scary.

“When I had the rules, I knew this would be easy to write basing it on the real things I experienced,” he says. “My own scariest moment is in the movie. We were playing with a friend who didn’t believe in it and asked it to prove itself. The board spelled out BDRM, and later we saw a picture of his wife and girl face down in his bedroom. He got really upset by that.”

Rule No. 2: Never ask a spirit how
you are going to die.

With the success of his film Ticked Off Trannies With Knives, Luna felt some pressure to come up with a big follow-up. He knew this would be the movie that gets compared to TOTWK, though he is working on a companion piece for that. With Ouija, he’s managing expectations.

“This is not at the scale of Ticked, but I hope people see it as a different kind of movie,” he says. “This was just an experience in shooting a quickie project.”

That was the plan, at least. But after seeing the finished product, he became dubious about Ouija. At first.

“I was nervous before the Dallas screening [this month] so I called my producer, Toni Miller,” he says. “We agreed that we didn’t think the movie was very scary. And we weren’t thrilled at all by that.”

But the audience reaction contradicted Luna and Miller’s fears. Then he took the film to screen in his home town.

“I screened it in Wellington when I went home for Thanksgiving and there were so many screams! It wasn’t until then I realized I might have something,” Luna says.

Rule No. 3: Most importantly, do not stop
playing without saying goodbye.

Despite the success of TOTWK on the festival circuit, it didn’t help Luna’s bottom line all that much. More money was going out than coming in, so taking a note from Kevin Smith’s model for Red State, Luna decided to show the film himself. He says his plan poses the $64,000 question.

“You’ve caught me at a big change in my career,” he admits. “I am going to experiment with this and I think I’m going to be four-walling the movie. We’ll book the theater, screen the film and come out ahead.”

The only trick at this point is marketing and getting exposure. Luna wants to take the movie to smaller towns without indie art houses. If all goes according to plan, the movie goes into release in February — just as he wants it.

“We got a small chunk of money the last time around, but this is the fight for indie filmmakers,” he says. “I’m kind of excited but I’m kind of scared. I don’t know what I’m doing!”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Pride 2011 • 30th annual Tarrant Pride Parade moves to downtown Fort Worth

Organizers say this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever, with parade and street festival on Saturday, and popular Pride Picnic on Sunday, October 1-2

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — The Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade marks its 30th anniversary this year, and organizers with the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association said this week they are going all out to make this year’s event the biggest and best ever.

This year the parade moves from its previous Sunday afternoon time slot to Saturday morning, Oct. 1, along with the street festival that is now in it’s second year. The parade is also changing locations, moving from the traditional route down South Jennings to a more visible downtown route, moving down Main Street from Weatherford Street south to 7th Street.

The parade begins at 10 a.m., and the street festival — which will be set up in General Worth Square, on Main Street between 8th Street and 9th Street — follows immediately, from noon to 6 p.m.

TCGPWA’s popular annual Pride Picnic is doing a little moving of its own this year: It will still be held in Trinity Park, at the intersection of Crestline Road and Foch Street. But this year the picnic is moving from its traditional Saturday time slot to Sunday, Oct. 2, from noon to 6 p.m.

“I think we’re going to have a big turnout for the parade, just for the curiosity factor if nothing else,” TCGPWA Secretary Carla Parry said this week. “We’ve never had the parade downtown before. Having it downtown has never been an option before. So I think there will be a huge crowd there.”

Parry said that planning for the bigger events in the new location has been going very smoothly so far, and “Hopefully, no wrenches get thrown into our works between now and then!”

The expanded activities and downtown route this year mean higher costs for organizers, and the TCGPWA has been working diligently all year to raise the money needed to cover those costs. Parry said this week that things on the fundraising front also appear to be coming along well.

“The fundraising is right on target for where we need it to be,” Parry said. “We are giving out a scholarship this year for the first time, and we would love to bring in over and above the amount we need just to pay for the parade and festival and picnic, so that we could put that extra in the scholarship fund. But we are on par for what we need to pay for everything.

“Actually, all the money from the alcohol and food sales at the picnic on that Sunday comes back to the association, and that is money that we can add to the scholarship fund,” she added.

Parry said that city officials have been “very accommodating” in the process of planning this year’s expanded Pride events and moving the parade and street festival downtown.

She said that while the 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Fort Worth police and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission was “a horrible thing that never should have happened,” she is proud that the city and its LGBT community have used that event as the impetus for improving policies and relationships.

“We’ve made huge strides forward here in Fort Worth since the raid,” Parry said, and those strides are reflected in the city’s attitude toward planning this year’s events.

One very visible sign of that improved relationship will be Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price’s participation this year as one of three Pride parade grand marshals.

Tony Coronado, chair of TCGPWA’s corporate partners and sponsorships committee, said that Price was nominated for grand marshal by Fairness Fort Worth President and TCGPWA member Tom Anable, who also confirmed with Price that she was available and willing to participate in the parade. Her nomination was then confirmed by a vote of the association’s general membership, Coronado said.

Also elected as grand marshals this year are Q Cinema co-founder and activist Todd Camp, and female impersonator Zoe Daniels. Honorary grand marshals are retired Fort Worth

Police Officer Mike Miller and female impersonator Tasha Kohl, aka Jerry Faulkner.

“Our grand marshals this year reflect the present and the future of our community, and our honorary grand marshals were chosen as symbols to remember and honor our past,” Coronado said.

He explained that Miller is considered “our first, unofficial LGBT liaison with the police department.” Faulkner, who brought Tasha Kohl, his longtime and very popular drag alter ego, out of retirement to perform in shows over the summer to raise money for the Pride events, has a history of fundraising for the LGBT community and organizations in Tarrant County and around the Metroplex.

“The female impersonators, the drag queens, have always played a very important role in the [LGBT] community in Fort Worth and Tarrant County,” Coronado said, explaining why the TCGPWA includes them in the grand marshal and honorary grand marshal honorees for Pride each year.

“In fact, our annual Pride Picnic is actually our foundational Pride event here, the first Pride event ever held in Fort Worth, and it was started by drag queens all those years ago who wanted to get the community to come together to relax and have fun,” he said.

Parry said the street festival this year will be larger than the inaugural event last year, with corporate sponsors Coors Light and Coors Distributing Co. of Fort Worth once again donating the Coors Light stage. Local entertainer Aurora Blue headlines the entertainment for the festival, and will be joined in the lineup by a number of other performers.

The festival will feature a kids activity area, including a booth with Fort Worth P.D.’s IdentiKid program, “plenty of vendors” and a number of food and beverage stands as well as organizational and game booths. Entertainment, vendors, informational booths, a kid’s activity area and a games area with volleyball and horseshoes will again be part of the Pride Picnic on Oct. 2, Parry said, along with, of course, food and beverage stands.

Tarrant County Gay Pride officially kicks off Thursday night, Sept. 29, with shows and parties at nightclubs in Fort Worth, and continues through the following week.

For more information about Tarrant County Pride, go online to TCGPWA.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Opaque shows if love truly is blind

If a glass of wine falls over in the dark, does it leave a stain? It’s an existential question only the laundry knows the answer to for sure — and we suspect they get a lot of practice after a night at Opaque, a dining-in-the-dark culinary experience having its first go-round in North Texas.

The concept seems like the antithesis of the classic foodie meal: Where’s the opportunity to savor the presentation, to drink in with the eyes as much as the palate? And how romantic is it to sit across from your sweetheart making goo-goo eyes and suggestive leers when the chocolate comes if he can’t even see you do it?

Still, there’s legitimate intrigue and curiosity attendant to this concept, which has made inroads into culinary culture for a few years now, with defenders saying the loss of sight actually stimulates the other senses.

You can sample the experience Friday through Monday, with seatings every half-hour each of the four nights. It could take the term “blind date” in an entirely new direction.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Aloft Hotel, 1033 Young St. Feb. 11–14. Seatings starting at 5:30 p.m. $99 per person (tax, tip and drinks extra). DarkDining.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright