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

Starvoice • 02.04.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYtn-500_img_1303

Judith Light turns 62 on Wednesday. We couldn’t get enough of her as Claire Meade in Ugly Betty, but really, how can we not cherish Light’s extensive work as a gay rights and AIDS activist? The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center named their library after her. Last spring, she joined Cyndi Lauper’s Give a Damn campaign joining the likes of Elton, Whoopi and Anna Paquin.

………………………….

THIS WEEK

Sun and Mars are in a long dance together through Aquarius. Dissonance from Venus and Pluto, both in Capricorn, can turn that into a war dance. It’s too easy to build up resentments over nothing. Strive for clarity and self-awareness. If you feel wronged, own your part of it and move on.

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AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Some bee in your bonnet has you agitated and touchy. What’s at the bottom of this? Who are you really angry at? Yourself? Talk with someone who knows your BS better than to fall for it.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
One of your friends is out to double-cross you. Keep your radar up. Standing with one foot in the future and one in the past blinds you to the present. Focus on what matters at the moment.
ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Consider social demands before agreeing to any. Focus on challenges at work. Reexamine your goals and your strategies. Are they realistic? Even the best plans need an occasional tweak.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
You prefer safer paths, but are now easily goaded to big gambles. Some risk-taking is good and necessary; exercise foresight, good sense and moderation. If it looks good, go for it.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
New sexual adventures take you to places you’d never dreamed of. Be careful. Bragging about your new erotic adventures is also fine, but be careful about “the time and place for everything.”

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
You and your partner need some spice in your love life. Take turns granting each other’s desires. You’ll be surprised. Be careful where to discuss. If it gets out that could also be a surprise.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Your efforts on teamwork are admirable, but remember that teamwork is not necessarily what you say it is. Work at taking orders and suggestions, then show how you can carry those out.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Sports injuries and accidents are out to get you. Whatever you do to relax, stay focused on developing technique and keep your eyes open to usual risks. But you’ll look sexy in a cast.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Fun and games at home start more fights than they prevent. The best application for rough competitive energy could be wrestling to see who gets on top.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Family fights break out too easily. Discussing those problems with a friend is more helpful than putting it in the face of your folks. Work helps relieve tension gets you some perspective.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
In your heart, you know compulsive spending is counterproductive. Sit down and analyze your finances. Learning a new game or creative outlet is helpful, if it doesn’t get expensive.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Trying a new look either gets expensive or challenges your resourcefulness. Go for something radical and dramatic, even if it’s just for those special occasions.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas