Interview: Director/Writer Tom Smith and Director of Photography John Piekos

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Director and Writer Tom Smith had another showing of Valentine Bluffs, a fan film made in nine days by a group of talented artists including John Piekos, the director of Photography. Valentine Bluffs is a fan film with quite a few beautiful homages to MY BLOODY VALENTINE. I was able to talk to Director/Writer, Tom Smith, and his DP John Piekos. I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years. I spoke to a lot of talented people. It was a great interview. The screening was held at the Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center in East Stroudsburg. Some of us were able to go and stop in Derailed… They serve food and drinks. There’s also a great taco place, ROGUE TACOS located directly next to the cinema. Also, Frazetta’s Costumes is located within walking distance, so if you get a chance go and visit East Stroudsburg. Tom and his hardworking crew were so excited for the film. It had previously sold out, and they decided to have another showing for the film. When the lights turned down, and the film started, everyone was excited.

Tom said filming was nine days, and they took another day to film some more in the mine. The miner is portrayed by Chuck Ryan. He does cosplay and more. The film starred, the LEGENDARY Lloyd Kauman, Michael Everett Johnson, Mike Sutton, Richard John Walter’s, Christina Munn. Sarah Schoofs, Nicolai Kabana (who was also in attendance), Zachary Seekins, Laura Scott Wise, Penelope Bohunko, Roland Keller. J.J.Phillips, Stevie Wilder I was informed about this fan film by my friend Mr. Joe Scrizzi, you can follow Joe on social media. He’s quite a visionary. After the film, Tom and John sat with me to talk about Valentine Bluffs. Over the years, I have done interviews in some wild places. We decided to do the interview in the theater. We all sat on the edge of the stage and had a great conversation. We were joined by photographer Chris Dorshutz. It took three years to get this film made. Tom had a few major setbacks, yet still, he created an amazing fan film. COVID played a part in the film’s challenges.

Hi Tom, please tell us how this manifested for you?

Tom- It’s easy. My Blood Valentine was my favorite film growing up. I went to Tom Savini’s Special Effects school. It was great being on different sets, and I wanted to do this. Years ago I was at Horror Hound vending, and I got my picture taken with a cosplayer.

Harry the infamous Miner?

Tom- Yes! Four years later, I had this idea that I wanted to do a sequel, a well-deserved sequel that should have been out years ago. I had the idea, and I started reaching out to people. I wanted to find out who the cosplayer is? Finally, someone said, you need to check out this guy, Chuck Ryan, and I reached out to him on Facebook, and I explained that I wanted to do a fan film. I sent Chuck a copy of a short film I made, and he said we were legit. Chuck lived in Wisconsin, and we worked on this, and then Roland Keller came in as my producer. This was supposed to be a fifteen or twenty minute short film.

What made you decide to make this into a feature film?

Tom- The backers on the indiegogo.com campaign. We raised enough money to make it a feature film.

What do you want to say to everyone that will be watching Valentine Bluffs? What do you want people to know from your perspective?

Tom- Just enjoy it. I think it’s the sequel that should have been out years ago. We’re just fans of the film. I wanted to see the miner back in the mine.

It was great to see the miner back. It was great to see an OG character come back.

Tom- Yes, it was cool.

I saw Peter Anthony’s name as a supporter. He’s awesome.

Tom- Yes, he was actually supposed to be in the film and due to COVID, he couldn’t make it out. He’s a good guy.

A lot of work goes into these films.

Tom- We were three guys trying to raise money to make a film.

Would you offer any words of wisdom or advice in regards to campaigns?

Tom- Don’t do it if you don’t have to. It’s like a full-time job. The film is done and we’re fulfilling all the perks now.

How did you get everyone ready for the film? The cast, crew, and yourself?

Tom- How I usually direct, I have conversations with my cast and crew. John Piekos, the DP (Director of Photography) came in late, a before shooting, we had a full crew, and they cancelled on us. I knew John from before, and John was supportive, and he stepped up bigtime. We lost our editor, and John stepped up as the editor.

John, what was it like working with Tom, and working on Valentine Bluffs?

John- Looking back on it now, I don’t think I ever thanked you, Tom. You gave me an opportunity and I will always be indebted to you for that. It was great. I wasn’t sure what I was getting in to. Once the camera started rolling, I felt like I was in my element, I felt comfortable. We worked great as a team. Tom had the vision; I had the technical skills with the camera.

The cinematography was beautiful. There are some great shots in this film.  Did you guys face any challenges while shooting in the mine?

John- Oh, absolutely. Going into the mine, we weren’t sure what was going to happen with the camera. The equipment was right near the entrance to the mine, and within five minutes everything was all wet. I had to go with a weather safe camera.

Tom, what made you pick the locations?

Tom- We had a lot of locations. My producer Roland Keller was a big part of that and Tom Adelbock was a friend of ours, and he came through with a lot of locations. The VFW was right up the street. We thought it would be difficult to find a mine so, we were planning on building the interior of a mine. We were able to get a mine.

How did you get the special effects prepared?

Tom- It was a long process, we always knew it wasn’t going to be a gore fest. I’m a special effects artist. I wanted to concentrate on the story, and the characters.

How do you feel now that the film is complete and it’s in theaters?

Tom- I just hope people enjoy it, and have fun with it.

What are you working on next?

Tom- Our next project is an anthology. We’re hoping to shoot it over the summer.

John, how do you feel now that’s it done, and in theaters?

John- I still see it in my sleep as an editor. You always want to do the best work that you can. We spent countless hours working on this. It was a labor of love.

Any advice or words of wisdom John?

John- You have to have a good team, that’s the only way to succeed.

Tom- One thing I will say is that John’s right, you need a good team, a good family. We are a family and we had good collaborations.

I thank you, Tom, John, and everyone for taking the time to do this interview for Horrornews.net.

Tom- Thank you so much, Janel

John- Thank you so much, Janel


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