Greetings to you all on this fine Saturday. It’s the first weekend I’ve had in three weeks where I can relax at home after attending back-to-back conventions in Williamsburg, Virginia (Scares That Care Charity Weekend 4) and most recently the second annual Midsummer Scream Halloween Festival in Long Beach, California to support screenings of my award-winning short film “Frankenfriend” — also my directorial debut! It’s been very exhausting to say the least, especially while juggling a full-time job and ensuring my dog Maxwell was taken care of in my absence, and I’m just now getting around to writing up a post here about my Midsummer Scream experience from last weekend. First off, having attended my fair share of conventions over the past 15 years (San Diego Comic-Con, Baltimore Comic-Con, the Fright Night Film Fest / Fandom Fest in Louisville, Maryland Horrorfind Weekend, Monster Mania Con, the World Fantasy Convention, and the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention), I must say that Midsummer Scream was like no other and easily my favorite of all of the aforementioned venues. Why? Because it did not feel like a convention; it was more of an indoor Halloween theme park . . . and Halloween is absolutely my favorite day of the year.
The 15,000 or so guests in attendance at the second annual Midsummer Scream (held on 29 and 30 July at the Long Beach Convention Center) were treated to a plethora of dark delights that included the following:
- Presentations on premiere haunted attractions such as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Knott’s Scary Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, and Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood;
- Panels on the Winchester Mystery House, television paranormal investigators, Ben Cooper Costumes (hey, I had one of those!), immersive horror theater, and even the cult Nickelodeon television series “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” as a bonus;
- Live performances of audio dramas, a vampire cabaret, creepy puppets, marionettes, and other macabre theatrical productions;
- Short film block segments of various themes in the Screaming Room presented by HorrorBuzz;
- Classes on Halloween weddings, ideas for using dry ice, Halloween decorations, starting your own Escape Room, and even an introductory class to necromancy and spirit communication;
- And previews of some of Southern California’s haunted attractions in The Hall of Shadows!
As if that weren’t enough, Midsummer Scream also featured Urban Death (a series of immersive theatre experiences and escape rooms) presented by Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, a kid-friendly craft area with performances by Buster Balloon, at least 200 exhibitors and vendors on the Showroom Floor, makeup demonstrations, a pumpkin carving workshop, and a kitty adoption area (with orange and black cats)! Not to mention awesome celebrity guests (such as Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson, Bela Lugosi, Jr., Kane Hodder, and Sid Haig) and insanely cool costumes! Rick West, the Creative Director of Midsummer Scream, did an extraordinary job of bringing a theme park aesthetic to this festival and you can read more about his vision here.
Now, with all that said, you can understand why I was super excited (yet anxious and slightly terrified) to have “Frankenfriend” selected to screen at this event during the Screaming Room’s family friendly short film block. Although I had a pretty good idea Midsummer Scream was going to be a major event based on the caliber of talent that would be present, I had no idea how large it actually was until I arrived at the Long Beach Convention Center on the morning of the 29th to check in and retrieve weekend passes for myself and my guests. But unlike the Scares That Care Charity Weekend 4 convention I’d just attended in Williamsburg, where I did not have my “Frankenfriend” posters thanks to a Fed Ex kerfuffle, I was well-prepared this time around and did not come empty-handed! In addition to posters, I also created 12 gift bags (intended as free giveaways) featuring a signed promo copy of my first illustrated book The 12 Frights of Christmas: A Collection of Yuletide Perils, a severed foot prop tucked in a stocking, a holiday fruitcake, a DVD copy of “Frankenfriend,” and a signed poster — something I’d not done since handing out handmade accordion books in tiny caskets at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention in Crystal City, Virginia. Here are a couple of pictures of these things, which also includes the Santa hat I wore throughout the weekend:
Upon my arrival inside the convention center, with my mother and her sister Patti (visiting from North Hollywood) in tow, I went over to the Screaming Room to see about the complimentary weekend passes I’d be receiving per the initial selection e-mail I’d received six weeks earlier and had the distinct pleasure of meeting HorrorBuzz.com founder / editor (and Screaming Room Curator) Norman Gidney. It was he who really quelled any anxieties I had about my screening later that day (Did he like it??? Was the sound okay???), got me to relax, and put me in the right space to where I could focus on making the most of my time at Midsummer Scream. Thank you, Norm!!! Now for more pictures . . . including one of me holding a poster while wearing my lucky shirt I’d purchased from Dark Delicacies five years earlier when I was in the Los Angeles area for a screening of my student short film “Living With Lycanthropy,” and another standing with my Aunt Patti.
At around 1pm, after spending an hour-and-a-half cruising through the convention center to try and take in all of the various goings-on at this festival, I regrouped with my guests at the Screaming Room for the Happy Halloween! and the Family Friendly shorts programs since they were back-to-back. What a marvelous assortment of films! My personal favorites from these two blocks (excluding my own little entry) were “The Witching Hour” (very touching!), “Spooky Breakups,” “Long Drive Home,” “The Green Ruby Pumpkin” (whimsical and magical!), “A Dark Night at the Wrong House,” “Nightmare Cows,” “The Children, the Coffee, and the Real Horror,” and the delightfully cheerful “Rainbow Girl.” You know I had to take a few pictures . . . especially when creepy dead things occupied some of the chairs!
The screenings aside, I spent the remainder of my first day at Midsummer Scream and all of the second day navigating my way through the showroom floor carefully examining exhibitors’ booths (Miss Havisham’s Curiosities at booth 319 was a real hoot!), observing people’s costumes, and taking photographs of anything of interest that suddenly caught my eye. I also got to meet some truly amazing people, most notably Del and Sue Howison of Dark Delicacies at booth 223 (yes, I bought another shirt!) and the very gracious people running Seraphim Inc. (the Official Clive Barker Store) at booth 435 — again, thank you all so much for the beautiful book of Clive’s paintings!!!
Then, as the second day of this phenomenal festival was winding down and the number of gift bags I’d brought was dwindling, the highlight of my visit came when I stopped to get an autograph from Disney Imagineering legend Terri Hardin at booth 129. Not since seeing Ray Bradbury and Sam Weller at San Diego Comic Con in July 2010 have I ever been so inspired . . . in the span of maybe 30 or 40 minutes, she engaged me in the most important conversation about breaking into and enduring in the business of creativity I’ve ever had, encouraged me to keep pushing toward my dreams no matter how much I fail, and to never give up. The time she spent talking to me (as in standing up, face to face) was magical and invaluable, and I feel very fortunate for having met her and her equally wonderful associate — thank you so much, Terri!!!
Here we are posing for a photo; the fact that we were both wearing shirts covered with skulls was entirely coincidental! Or was it???
(Me feeling overwhelmed . . .)
Final thoughts . . .
In closing, before I leave you all with goo-gobs of additional photos from the festival, I would like to thank Norman Gidney, David Markland, and everyone at Midsummer Scream for helping to make my festival experience as an out-of-town filmmaker a very memorable one — okay, best ever! Thank you to Del and Sue of Dark Delicacies, the Seraphim Inc. crew, and Terri Hardin Designs for the great conversation and just being awesome in general! Lastly, I would also like to thank the cast and crew of “Frankenfriend” (Trinity Jordan, Anthony Jordan, Colton Snyder, Amelie Salada, Jason Benfield, B.J. Huston, Dewey Tron, Thomas Ferguson, and Michael Conlon) for everything . . . because without you all I would not have been able to make this short film in the first place!
Thanks for reading.
Charles M. Kline
Writer / Producer / Director