A filmmakers view of Fantasia Film Festival. / by Al Liptak

I arrived in Montreal around 3am.

    As I crossed the border into Canada for the last leg of my 5 plus hour drive, the Canadian punks, SUM 41 came on the radio. I took this serendipitous moment as sure sign that good times were to come during my first ever Fantasia International Film Festival experience. This was the location where “Kitty Kitty Bang Bang,” 30 second short film written, directed and produced by me, Al Liptak of Kirby Productions was to debut.

    After a good night sleep I took to the French streets of Montreal to pick up my filmmakers badge. It was then that I ran into friend and founder of Moderncine and Tentsquare.com, Andrew Van Den Houten.

    "AL!" Andrew said with a smile. "Perfect timing! I'm just about to go have lunch with Anchor Bay. You wanna come?" Do I want to come have lunch with the distributors of Evil Dead, Hatchet, and hundreds of other favorite horror movies of mine? “Yes, Please.” And so a trip of a lifetime for a horror fanatic began- chit chatting away with Anchor Bay over an artisan pizza!

    I consider fear one of the strongest emotions. To possess the ability to evoke emotion and create fear or scare somebody is an unexplainable feeling. I enjoy evoking emotion in people and changing that emotion. That’s why my favorite filmmakers don’t just do horror, they do horror comedies. Movies are my escape from everyday life. To me, genre films bring that escape from reality to another level. You don’t have to stay in the boundaries of life.  You can go anywhere. The Fantasia International Film Festival unites international hardcore genre film fans, distributors, and makers, all the while premiering movies during the three week annual event.

   It has been my ultimate goal in life to make a feature length movie since the young age of nine. It is because of and thanks to the Fantasia International Film Festival that I discovered The Frontières International Co-Production Market. A united group of established producers who care enough to help newcomer filmmakers (such as myself) get their films made for the North American and European market.  A group that reassures me that my childhood dream is accessible. There are people on your side.

    It seemed, everywhere I walked I bumped into somebody important in the filmmaking industry. I even sat down for a "coffee break" with a creative executive for Dimension Films (despite the irony of no one at the table being coffee drinkers).

    Directors, producers, industry execs., film festival coordinators all hanging out together drinking beer and eating hors d'oeuvres on a rooftop in downtown Montreal. This was the VIP cocktail hour that I, being a filmmaker, got to be a part of! It was here that I had the chance to hang out and chat with Joonas Makkonen, Director of "Bunny the Killer Thing” and its star, Enni Ojutkangas. We made an instant connection.

    I couldn’t believe how many of my amazing genre filmmakers were around. Director of "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" and "Wild Things," John McNaughton was even there chatting and taking photos with the directors of "Tales of Halloween" including Mike Mendez and Neil Marshall. Oh, did I forget to mention... I was standing a foot away from NEIL MARSHALL?!?! Yes that Neil Marshall of “Dog Soldiers,” “The Descent,” and “Game of Thrones” fame. I told Neil how I believe "The Descent" is the scariest movie to come out in the past 15 years and he was very appreciative. He even asked me about “Kitty Kitty...” and told me he loved that the title was a homage to another scary film about child catchers (“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”).

    Cut to the premier of, "Tales of Halloween." One of the main reasons I made the trip. The theater was sold out. Directors Axelle Carolyn, Mike Mendez, Darren Lynn Bousman, and Neil Marshall all introduced the film and the crowd when crazy. I was in heaven. The audience at Fantasia is like no other. They understand the horror genre completely. Clapping, laughing, ooing, awwwing. This collective group of people appreciate a great cameo and an obscene amount of gore like no other. These were “my people.” This was the crowd I wanted to witness my next film. I felt at home.

    The “Tales of Halloween” after party was the place to be! Time to kick back with all the amazing filmmakers, writers, directors, and even videogame producers.. Andrew Van Den Houten came up to me as I chatted with a few locals who were asking me about my short and asked, “So you ready to make a feature next year?" I laughed but inside I was completely inspired. I couldn't wait to expand my craft and reach a bit further. My dream of making a feature may not be as far away as it once seemed.