Israel Luna’s “Ouija Experiment” screens at Inwood’s midnight movie this weekend

Israel Luna is used to working just as hard getting his movies to his public as making them — such is the life of the independent filmmaker. His Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives made it to the Tribeca and other film fests, but he’s taken an old-school roadshow approach to his latest, The Ouija Experiment.

Without a distributor, Luna has been taking the print of his low-budget horror film around the country himself, showing it wherever there’s an audience. And what better audience than his hometown for a traditional midnight screening? Ouija will show Friday and Saturday nights at the Inwood — fitting, since the movie was shot locally.

It looks pretty scary to us, too — just check out the trailer below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

I’ll be on Israel Luna’s ‘The 10%’ today, but there’s a 0% chance I’ll be taking my clothes off

I’ll be on The 10% with Israel Luna at 3 p.m. today. Not sure what all we’ll be discussing, but you can bet it’ll be damned enlightening, and I’ll try to put no more than 10 percent of my foot in my mouth. You can watch the program live here. Just don’t expect me to take my clothes off.

—  John Wright

DVtv: Easter in the Park 2011

DVtv’s Israel Luna and Brad Pritchett filed this video report from Sunday’s Easter in the Park celebration at Lee Park. To view our slideshow from the event, go here.

—  John Wright

You may see Israel Luna’s burning bush today

On today’s very special episode of The 10%, host Israel Luna and company are going to broadcast nekked. Yes, nude radio and video streaming. Why? Well, according to Facebook, “to strip down the issue of nudity.”

“One of of the topics on Tuesday is how America is okay with TV shows raping women, killing them, slaughtering them, shooting them (CSI, L&O, House, Dexter, etc.) but aren’t okay with nudity,” Luna posted Sunday on his Facebook. Which was followed by this male-heavy poster:

A slightly different tone came from today’s post (yes, also from FB) saying, “Like being naked? Thought about being naked with others in public? You may not be the only one.” Whoa. From rape to just being nude, clearly today’s episode will cover (nyuk) a wide range of nude issues while the host and panel broadcast in their birthday suits. I may have to watch to see if the subsequent show’s hosts wipe down their seats.

The 10% airs today on RationalBroadcasting.com at 3 p.m. Video of the show streams online from the site as well. We’ve fallen for it so we’ll be there. Today’s poster is after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Business Week on Annise Parker, lesbian

Annise Parker at Dallas Pride.

Business Week ran a story this week about Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

She told the magazine that when she first started running for office, it was as if “lesbian” was her last name.

When Craig McDaniel sat on the Dallas city council, he used to jokingly refer to himself as Craig McDaniel, F.O.G. Those initials, which stood for First Openly Gay, came from every reference to him by the Dallas Morning News, even when the story was about something completely unrelated. If the story was about the opening of the State Fair, it would have read, “Mayor Ron Kirk, council member Chris Luna and First Openly Gay Councilman Craig McDaniel were at the State Fair today….”

Parker’s office forwarded me a link to the story from Business Week. After rereading my own story about Parker from last week, I noticed I used the word “lesbian” 10 times. Once was referring to Christine Quinn, who heads the New York City Council, so that doesn’t count; and once referred to Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, so neither does that one. The others were mostly quoting her, though. And I never called her “Annise Parker, Lesbian.”

But during our conversation, I did ask about some of the issues she’s passionate about — like fixing the flooding problems in South Houston and other infrastructure problems. And we talked about her trade mission to China.

I think I was clearer about why she actually won — most people in Houston got past the whole lesbian thing and voted for the person they thought would do the best job. Her opponent in the runoff was a good guy who would have made a decent mayor but she had a lot more experience than anyone else running and people just like her. Her approval rating has soared since the election.

I’m surprised Business Week missed one important business piece of the story — she’s the only big city mayor who hasn’t had to lay anyone off, mostly because she’s been good at managing the budget.

She’s advanced the image of gays and lesbians as being hard-working average Americans. In my talk with her she said her family and friends were surprised when she ended up running for public office because she was more of a nerdy policy wonk.

She told Business Week, “I’m a middle-aged soccer mom and I appear in public with my spouse of 20 years and my kids. It’s hard to make me scary.”

But the line I really love is, “I take a lot of credit for raising Houston’s coolness factor.”

She’s right. We love Houston’s mayor, but Dallas has always been much cooler.

—  David Taffet

‘Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives,’ ‘March On’ and more at Austin gay film fest this weekend

If you’re in Austin this weekend, you may want to stop by the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, site of the 23rd Annual Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Fest.

Gay Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna’s controversial “Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives” is showing at 9:45 tonight, and will be followed by a talkback discussion.

And at noon Sunday, Dallas activist Laura McFerrin’s documentary about last year’s National Equality March, “March On,” will make its world premiere. We’ve heard  most if not all of the folks whose stories are featured in “March On” will be on hand for the screening.

Of course these are plenty of other films at the festival worth seeing, too. For example, we’re intrigued by “Faith of the Abomination,” about a lesbian couple (shown above) that went undercover and infiltrated an evangelical church in Austin a few years back.

For a full schedule, go here.

—  John Wright

Trannies Director Israel Luna Explains How To Get Jarrett Barrios To Give You a GLAAD Award

Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives filmmaker Israel Luna is still smarting from GLAAD's attack on his transexual slash flick that debuted at Tribeca. So he put together this little item about how to win a Gay & Lesbian Alliance All About Defamation Award. Fake GLAAD head Jarrett Barrios guest stars!

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—  John Wright

Marco Rodriguez scores onstage and on YouTube

This time last year, gay playwright-actor-comic Marco Antonio Rodriguez announced he was shutting down his local Martice Enterprises theatrical production and headed for Nuevo York to seek his fortune.

Well, things have gone pretty well for him.

Today, Rodriguez announced his latest play, the Spanish-language Dominican comedy La Luz de un Cigarillo, will be headed to off-Broadway for a production in the summer of 2011. That’s pretty big news — a step away from Broadway. Kudos to Marco!

And if you’re jonesing for a little of Marco since he left, well, check out these video for his Pico de Gallo comedy show, directed by our own Israel Luna. Funny stuff.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones