Mike Ryan, producer
labor day once seemed to be a long way away, alas time marches on, sorry for the late response. I'm thinking along these lines, feel free to let me know to expand or contract.....
Pre 1970's the individual studios had seperate identities that were known to the consumer. WB was the studio that brought you social realism, MGM gave you the biggest stars and the best production values in musicals, RKO gave you gritty tight small scale B-pictures etc. Now with these studios run by bean counters and group think controlled by lowest common denominator priorities the studio as brand has been lost.
Glasseye Pix is a brand stamp that I know will bring me a type of picture that will be rooted in a savy sence of cinematic history and be driven by an insighful perspective on the world today , despite spanning multiple genres from social realism to comedy horror. When I see that it's a Glasseye Pix I know its is worth seeing, just like back in the 80's when I bought an album on the 4ad label or Dischord or Twin Tone label I knew roughly what I would get. In the current and future consumer landscape of product overload it's the labels, the brands, that have a specific niche vision that will secure consistent consumer attention. Glasseye is the brand of smart cinematicly savy gritty entertainment.
As a production model, the Glasseye aesthetic is the future. The bloated overheads and fixed costs of the big studios has in effect doomed them to create non challenging cinematicly conservative soulless fluff. The Glasseye model of high production value for minimal money is the only way that an actual production company can surrvive in the future. Small nimble adapatable production based aesthetic is the key to success in the land of shrinking budgets. Combine the production ability that allows Larry to produce more for less with his aesthetic vision and you'd have to say that Larry is the Jack Warner of the 21st century.
Kelly Reichardt, filmmaker
“When people ask me if I feel there is a film community in NYC I immediately think of Glass Eye Pix. Larry Fessenden and Glass Eye have been a part of almost everything I've done in film these past 16 years (could it be 16 years? I think we shot “River of Grass” in 1993, but I'm bad with dates). Larry starred in that film and we spent a long hot summer in an editing room together where he put me through the Fessy school of cutting and sound design. Later he and Glass Eye produced “ODE,” a 50-minute super 8 film and then more recently “Wendy and Lucy,” which Larry also acted in. That's the truly amazing thing about Glass Eye – that they will throw their support behind a super 8 film or an indie feature. Glass Eye just gets behind filmmakers and whatever they may be into at that moment. There is not a criteria. Larry will spend as much time talking to me about a 10-minute experimental film as he will a full-length narrative. He personally is into narrative storytelling, but he is open and curious and always has a perspective that shines new light on a project whatever the project is. Fessenden and his company have been super generous to me in such a variety of ways. Larry really doesn't impose himself when he produces. He is just there for whatever is needed. That could be advice or an editing machine. I think because Larry is the sort of filmmaker that he is he's also the perfect producer, because he'll be the producer he would want on his own film.”
Joe Maggio, filmmaker
Joe Maggio here. I've just wrapped on my first film with Glasseye. It's tentatively titled MAD CHEF (formerly known as BITTER FEAST). It was financed by MPI Media and is part of a three picture slate which Glasseye is producing. I've never made a horror film before and why Larry gave me this opportunity is a mystery only he can explain.
I've been making independent cinema for ten years and can tell you from firsthand experience that something like 90% of the producers in this
business are either incompetent, or rank charlatans, or both. Larry Fessenden, Pete Phok and Brent Kunkle (the core of Glasseye Pix) are
exceedingly rare exceptions. They read the script for MAD CHEF and decided they wanted to make it. MPI had misgivings and Glasseye fought for me. They simply wouldn't take no for an answer. It took a while and there were times when it seemed the entire slate was going to fall apart, but eventually Glasseye's passion rubbed off on MPI. At this point, other production companies would have used the financier's reticence as leverage to control the director or advance some nefarious agenda. Glasseye gave me total creative freedom - in fact, they relentlessly pushed me to be as bold as I possibly could.
Now in the editing process, I keep waiting for something bad to happen, for Larry to step in and force me to make some horrible editing choice in the interest of a more commercially viable film, thus reinforcing my dim view of the film business and of humanity in general, but so far so good.
“One point I'd like to highlight. As you and everyone else in the film world knows, the process of getting an independent film financed and produced, especially in this economic climate, is about as pleasant as having your teeth cut from your gums with a rusty pen knife. For the life of me, I can't figure out why Glasseye does it, why they fight for other filmmakers the way they do. I wouldn't go to so much trouble for anyone, not even for myself. And it's not like Larry sits behind a desk, makes phone calls, does lunch and lets others do the heavy lifting. The man gets into it up to his elbows. He loves production. The entire Glasseye team is on set every day, fretting away alongside the director, busting their collective ass long after every one else has gone to bed. Larry pulled out all the stops in making MAD CHEF, calling in favors, getting his friends, including James LeGros, to participate. MAD CHEF is shot almost entirely in Larry's own home, which meant literally tearing the place apart and occupying it for several weeks. His son Jack helped with the props. Beck Underwood, Larry's wife, is responsible for the incredibly amazing production design. Larry acted in the film and often cooked for the entire cast and crew, and I don't mean he tossed a sack of bagels onto a plate and opened a container of cream cheese. He's a fabulous cook and takes as much pride in his breakfast eggs broiled in dill butter with smoked trout as he does in his film work. And that's really the point I'm trying to make here - that somehow, and for reasons I cannot fully comprehend, Larry puts as much energy and passion into the films he's producing for other filmmakers as he does his own films, which in my opinion is the most remarkable thing about Glasseye Pix.”
I could go on, but I fear I've said too much already. Let me know if you need any quotes or insights in areas I've not touched on and I'll gladly
Ilya Chaiken, filmaker
Larry is a true filmmaker's filmmaker- he eats, sleeps, and pisses movies, and he wants good movies to get made. And I think he draws people towards him that not only appreciate his artistry, but understand the kind of compulsive filmmaking that he practices. I don't think there is a Glass Eye Pix 'collective vision' in the sense that all the films coming out of there subscribe to a particular aesthetic or formula. If anything, Larry stands behind the director's right to be a dick about his or her vision, and I think that's why you see so many completely varied kinds of movies and directors being supported by GEP. There is, however, a collective understanding about the process of filmmaking, the approach to production, which is to get it done by any means necessary, work with what you got (and sometimes that means nothing), and make something good. And more often than not, the end product transcends the means.
A little about my history with Larry/GEP-
I first worked with Larry when he acted in my first feature film, starring as the male lead 'Max' in 'Margarita Happy Hour'. (We ended up in Park City at the same time, me at Sundance with MHH and he at Slamdance with Wendigo).
Years later, when I was trying to get my second feature off the ground, I brought the script for 'Liberty Kid' to Larry. I knew he'd been producing small horror films, but judging from the 'Margarita' experience, I knew Liberty Kid might be the kind of New York story he'd respond to. I also knew that he pracficed the kind of filmmaking that the script necessitated (as described above). Fortunately for me, Larry really believed in the script, understood its urgency, and he took it to people he thought would respond in kind. Before this, I had already been casting for months, just pretending to be in production. With GEP behind me, we continued to cast out of the tiny office space, which we shared at the time with racks and racks of period zombie costumes for 'I Sell The Dead', the next picture on deck. It was like a barn-raising. We shot for 20 days. Many of the Liberty Kid crew stayed on for the next several GEP projects. My DP Eliot Rockett shot Ti West's 'House of the Devil'. Brent, LK's production office coordinator, has been running Larry's office ever since. (Etc.- I can come up with more of these if you want)
With one of my upcoming projects, 'The Unloveables', starring Eleanor Hutchins and Kevin Corrigan, in which Larry makes a guest appearance as a lecherous landlord, I am leaning on the GEP family heavily for everything from crew to locations (even shooting in their new, more spacious DUMBO office) to production advice...
THat's all for now... Like I said, let me know if you have questions. And yes, GEP is very boy-dominated. The nice thing, though, is that they ain't no frat boys.
Glenn McQuaid, filmmaker, special effects supervisor
I'm writing this from a pub and raising my Guinness to my good friend and mentor Larry fessenden! I met Larry, appropriately enough, in a pub, it was the wrap party for Jim McKenny's The Off Season. I had already seen and loved Wendigo and so I basically threw myself at him and offered him any visual effects work he may need for his future projects. Our first collaboration came with Ti West's The Roost, where I provided all the CGI bats for the movie pro-bono. After that I pursued him to star in my own short film The Resurrection Apprentice. We had a great time on set, I loved what Larry brought to the character of Willie Grimes and so it felt natural enough that we would extend my short film into a feature script which eventually became I Sell The Dead. Before we got started with ISTD though, Larry invited me off to Iceland to serve as 2nd unit director and Visual Effects Co-Ordinator for The Last Winter.
Larry is one of the most infectiously enthusiastic people I know. He loves cinema, all aspects of it. He was a mentor to me all the way through ISTD. I had many conversations with him while writing I Sell The Dead and it was just brilliant to have him there to help give me the creative push I needed to create the world within. He never balked at the idea of making a period flick on a low budget and he always encouraged me to make write the script that was in my heart and we would figure the rest out later,we'd figured out a way to make it happen. There's something very punk about how he approaches projects as a producer, there's no rule book with Glass Eye Pix really, just a bunch of great people who are giving it their best to make good movies.
Having your producer also be your lead actor might seem a bit odd but to his credit he threw himself completely into his character every time he set foot on set, we collaborated very much as actor director. It was a great time, a very fun, stressful, ambitious and fast paced production. I learned a ton and I owe it all to that mad, lovable fucking genius.
Jeremiah Kipp, filmmaker, assistant director, movie critic
Larry Fessenden has been a friend and mentor to many new filmmakers, ranging from B-movie genre pictures to soulful art house films. His company, Glass Eye Pix, has engendered a family atmosphere, where the guy doing the sound design or titles on your picture might wind up being the director of the next feature. There is a strong sense of community and loyalty within the company, and people look to the top to see how to behave. As a producer, Larry fights very hard to protect and nurture the director's vision even if it means pushing the director to do better, and he also creates a heiarchy very different from most sets I have been on, where the crew is treated with equal respect.
If there's been any problem with the Glass Eye Pix model, it's only that by supporting other filmmakers and their work it takes Larry away from his true passion, which is directing. He's had the support in recent years of people like Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman, which has helped him advance beyond the low budget independent world into a wider arena. But his own time to write and create has been limited, which is a great pity. I think his films are profound, melancholy, haunted works -- the works of a humanitarian who is deeply sensitive and upset about the way we treat the world, and each other. Larry's world view has, in fact, grown more pessimistic as he's grown older, but he has a son and it's galvanized him to continue striving, even if it's a lost cause, to make a better world. It's an earnest commitment -- and in our cynical times, a rare one. It's my hope that Larry takes a break from producing to develop more of his own material. He's working on a remake of THE ORPHANAGE right now, but it would be great to see him return to a low budget, personal film next. He's spoken at times of doing a mid-life crisis version of HABIT -- I suspect the metaphor would be a good one for him, when so many have been drawing energy from him, and he struggles to keep his integrity as a filmmaker and family man, and to stave off the encroaching darkness of our modern world.
Michael Vincent, filmmaker
I apologize for just getting to this but I am just getting back to the computer after attending a very sad funeral. Larry Fessenden gave me your information and told me to send you some thing about Glass Eye Pix and what it meant to me.
Glass Eye Pix gave me my first job in film when I was a teenager just fresh off the Chinatown Bus in New York City. I learned the city by running errands to various equipment and post houses. I would clean up the office and was rewarded with a key that gave me 24 hour access to editing equipment in our small studio basement on Elizabeth street. Larry would always bring in films from home and would tell me to watch them and we would have a discussion after . Through these talks and watching him work I would learn so much and began to view him as my father of Filmmaking. I only found out i was an artist when Larry told me I was. I graduated from "Glass Eye Pix University" when Larry Agreed to Finance a film that I would make with actress Molly Donovon called "The Grass is Greener". It will be playing at the Woodstock film Festival this fall and because of Glass Eye this shy kid from the country is now a New York City Filmmaker chasing the cinematic Dream.
Jeff Grace, composer
My name is Jeff Grace. I am a composer often working with Larry Fessenden and Glass Eye Pix. I apologize in the timing of getting this to you. Been a very hectic summer!
Just some background on my relationship with those guys - I started working with Larry and Glass Eye Pix in 2004 on Ti West’s film THE ROOST and have now done a total of seven feature films, a number of short, and an episode of FEAR ITSELF (entitled ‘Skin and Bones’) with Larry for NBC. I am also scheduled to score GEP’s three films slate with MPI Media of BITTER FEAST, STAKELAND, and HYPOTHERMIA. While much of the projects I have worked on with Glass Eye Pix have been genre pieces, I have also worked with them on dramas like Ilya Chaiken’s LIBERTY KID. Every project seems quite different, yet there is always a great striving for uniqueness and quality as well as a profound sense of camaraderie and community.
There are a lot of great things about working with Glass Eye, far too many for a brief discussion! But, the ones that probably strike me the most are uniqueness of the projects and support for filmmakers’ voices, the incredible sense of community, and the opportunities that Larry has offered to so many people with the projects. That support goes from the directors and writers to the actors to the crew members and post production folks. It’s tough to get started in the business and get the experience you need, but there is a huge amount of support from Larry and everyone for people to really develop a voice or strong set of skills. That’s pretty clear with the directors, etc but what people don’t realize is that goes for everyone and it this is one of the huge secrets of what makes GEP so effective. While they are constantly working with limited resources and funds, they look at what they do have to work with and figure out a way to do the most with that.
The projects definitely present their challenges. Small resources and limited finances are no surprise in indie film. The old adage – cheap, fast, and good….. pick two - is always a running joke with us. The budget is always small and the goal always ends up pretty ambitious, but I think they are a hundred times better than others with the way they use money. And they are extremely grateful for people’s talents and hard work – there is a lot of appreciation and a support. Thankfully, music and sound always get a lot of attention thought, and support from Larry and company. But, you’re still dealing with really limited resources. The interesting thing I’m discovering now is that, with the right support and plan, those limitations often contribute to coming up with a creative and unique approach. For THE ROOST we had money for a string quartet for 2 days of recording. That was it. But, they gave me a few months to really mine those resources for everything I could get, and I still think that is one of the best scores I’ve done. A string quartet wouldn’t have been my first choice for taking on rabid bats that turn people into zombies, but it was what we had. But, by embracing what we had and then those guys supporting me, It became an effective element of the film. Now I can’t imagine the film without that approach..
With Trigger Man we had even less resources! I had a cellist and a percussionist. That was it! But, Ti gave me the time, space, and support to try out different things and I think we came up with something that really works and is unique. While the film certainly isn’t wall-to-wall music, when the music does play, it takes on a lot of responsibility in the film. There just aren’t a lot of other resources to work with. But, that can be great for a composer – opportunities to shine that work organically in the film. I think any creative person wants that. If necessity is the mother of invention, give your creative people time to invent and you can come up with some great stuff. The funny thing is, the best compliment I’ve received from Variety came from that score – the cheapest score I’ve ever done!
For THE LAST WINTER and I SELL THE DEAD we had a larger budget and we wanted orchestral scores for both of those films, but the budget was no where near what it would have cost to do the scores by Hollywood means. So again, we conceived of specific approaches that we could do and worked creatively within those confines. It’s hard work, but it’s also really rewarding. I’m not John Williams, and he’s already got that job anyway. But, Glass Eye has asked me to be Jeff Grace and given me opportunities and creative support to do that, and it’s actually gotten me some really nice notice. If I had been doing more mainstream films and been asked to work in more traditional manners, I don’t think that would have happened.
It’s been interesting over the past five years to see all the people and projects that Larry has supported. The number of people Larry has helped to try to establish themselves in whatever it is they do is something. Ti West has done three films with Glass Eye Pix, writing, directing, and editing. Graham Reznick wrote, directed, sound designed, and composed half the score for I CAN SEE YOU, and has done the sound design on a whole slew of Glass Eye’s films. Glenn McQuaid wrote, directed, and edited I SELL THE DEAD, but he also does a lot of visual work on everyone else’s films. On set you see the same people behind and in front of the camera project after project. It’s great.
That sense of community I think is really important to what GEP is able to accomplish. From the simple things like - it makes things easier when I’m stuck in my five by five New York composer’s ivory tower – there’s a community of people all on the project digging in hard, not just some mysterious person who answers emails in the middle of the night!
And as a composer specifically, the inclusion is extremely helpful. They bring me on early and I go to set whenever possible. This is a huge help, especially when people are asking for something unique. In general, composers, music, and sound are often an after thought. But, they are all really great resources for a film, especially indie film. Getting music involved as early as possible is a huge asset. You don’t have to make final decision at the beginning, but you can substantially make up for financial shortcomings by giving music time. To be really creative and unique usually takes time and space. Pressure is usually not your friend there. And there is also an invaluable opportunity for the composer to become acquainted with the material and personalities involved by coming on early. I love going to set and seeing what they get, and then what they do with it. The decisions the filmmakers make helps me understand a lot about their projects. I’ll even do the music for the trailers early on, and a lot of times that ends up becoming a main theme.
But, the thing is that Glass Eye Pix values what people do enough to bring them into the fold and welcome them. They really try to get a sense of what it is you do well and make the most of that. A lot of heart goes into the projects and I think it shows. There is that real ‘labor of love’ vibe, but at the end of the day, there is a real sense that we’ve created something.
Happy digging in this and again, sorry so late - I need an assistant!!
David Leslie, performance artist and curator
HOW WE MET:
When I performed my first stunt ( Rocket Jump ) in soho Larry and I did not know one another. He showed up at the event with his vid camera out of curiosity.
I had to make the doc of the Rocket Jump so I began to ask around the community for knowledge of who was there shooting the event so as to collect footage from all the many cams that were on site that night. ( fyi: the great Nelson Sullivan was there that night as well shooting and his ‘dance’ around the event was simply divine! )
A friend told me that his roommate had been there and he had shot the jump…. he suggested I get a copy of the tape from him and also informed me that this guy had a umatic beta edit system set up in one room of this apartment on 12th street and 1st ave.
I met Larry a week after the jump and we looked at the footage of the jump together, I was loving his cam work ( the ”fessicam” as it would come to be known) and I dug the young man’s energy … he was guarded yet clearly a passionate and enthused young man… a “special” young man…. I could see that this guy had “the shining”.
A week later Larry invited me to a performance party I his place. He and his crew were a rowdy bunch of brilliant hooligans .. They were a hard drinking gang of young artists, actors, poets, activists and rockers … They had a performance comedy troupe called Humorville ( check spelling with Larry). Their apartment was packed like a sardine can. Larry had rigged cameras and monitors all over their 12th street apartment so you could watch the live action antics of the comedy theater from 2 different rooms if you could not squeeze in to see it in person… there were also cameras recording the audiences so you could people watch. Larry and his troupe were doing a piece called “ The Daisy Chain Stiffs “ and all I recall is that the plot involved a murder and that these guys were all gangbanging one another while screaming out dialogue that was indiscernible … it was brilliantly bad … and I left his place that night knowing that I had met my match .. My collaborator.
TRAILERS, PROMOS, POSTERS,TEE SHIRTS, COSTUMES, SET DRESSING, MOVIES:
We agree to working together to make the documentary of the stunt performance … it becomes THE ROCKET MOVIE .. the first of approx 20 projects we did together .. including all the trailers, the live event vids that intro’d the stunts, the ephemera … or eye -candy that accompanied or accessorized these live events and documentary screenings.
The stunt performances.. the live actions, were done specifically for the purpose of eventual screenings.
PERFORMANCE ART OR MOVIES ?:
The performances appeared to be fully realized fully produced live events …. and they were to the live audiences that were there to see the spectacles on the nights that they happened …. but more important to me , and more lasting and more significant to my art is that the stunt were actually more ‘shoots’ than they were ‘performances’ …. for me they HAD to be screened in order for my vision to be fully realized … to be complete…. To have a conclusion. My inspirations to do this body of work was born on screen (TV or movie) and for my act, my art to be complete, Larry Fessenden would make that screening happen for me.
Forgive the cliché, but I surely know that I could not have done it with out him.
By way of Larry being at this first stunt with his beta cam and my introduction to him a week later I gained a collaborator who would become my most cherished best friend. We have worked together for 23 years and Larry, Beck and Jack are family to me.
BAD VIDEO AS ‘FILM’?:
Nobody was screening video I those days except for shit hole dive sports bars that would broadcast football games … you could barely tell what was going on.
These things were called ADVENT .. I think … they had 3 big “guns” of projected color and a special curved screen that was coated with a pearly silver mylar.
We needed a van to move this big ass fucker around … took 2 men to pick up the projector !!
Larry hated that we would screen on this piece of shit projector. The image was totally fucked … but I wanted a screen .. and I wanted size. I was a size queen and so I tolerated the bad quality
Also he ( and others ) weren’t keen that I would call our vids “movies” … to the filmmakers around that time we were not making “movies” … we were making “videos” … and my argument was that a narrative moving picture ( regardless of how poor the quality) was a “movie”.
I was scoffed and scorned as I insisted to our community that one day we would be making and watching our MOVIES on video. Back then it seemed inconceivable to all of my film folks … now ALL of these same people are enjoying their work made w/ vid cams and screened on vid projection systems.
You so know that I enjoyed having them all tell me that I was right … but to me it was obvious and only the stubborn couldn’t see where we were headed.
GLASS EYE LARRY:
Larry had to decide back when we were doing titles if he was going to sign the work we did as Larry Fessenden or as Glass Eye Pix. I wanted him to use his name but he was insistent that Glass Eye was going to be the working name of the entity that would produce these and eventually many, many other works.
Baby’s got much back !
Never have I ever seen an artist with his work ethic … and I do know a plenty !
He’s a father, a producer, an actor, collaborator, musician, writer, activist, chef, home improvement dude, host of grand parties, puppeteer, a mentor to many and a dear friend …. and he does it all balls to the fucking wall boldly and so very authentic and so beautifully. I am in awe of Larry. Gawd, do I ever have such a man crush on my Dear friend!!!
FROM THE DARK SIDE???:
Despite his “dark side” styling’s, his monster drag, his sometimes scowl and grim demeanor, the misanthropic grimaces, his oft heard howls of despair and disgust, his rants of dumb and gloom …….I can surely attest that Larry is the most enthused, hopeful, and good hearted citizen that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and the blessing of working with. Larry is one of those unique, very most generous kinds of artist .. by that I mean that he willfully and tirelessly spills his brains, his blood, his nervy guts for the sake of a more hopeful message, for the viewing pleasure of his , for the inspiration of his community, his collaborators and the apprentices’ ….. but most importantly, and most definitely for the sanity of this troubled young man who would surely weaken and fall prey to the horrors that chase him… His courage capture his demons coupled with his passionate, driven talent has been his most generous to himself.. it is his gift, his benevolence of self that holds Larry on his edge, keeps him this side of sane and therefore gifts us all the art of Glass Eye Larry.
By Brian Lueth — amazon.com comment
One of the most underrated production companies in the genre today undoubtedly has to be Larry Fessenden's Glass Eye Pix. Why companies like Lionsgate throw away thousands of dollars to hacks like Ulli Lommel and The Shadow Factory just boggles the mind, especially when you've got incredibly capable, creative people like Fessenden and Glass Eye Pix out there struggling to make quality genre cinema. In my opinion Fessenden's The Last Winter was a socially relevant and seriously underrated film, one of the best indie films to see release in 2008 in fact. When I came across McQuaid's I Sell The Dead, I knew I'd be in for some fun.
I Sell The Dead was wonderfully entertaining; it's like a cross between Gordon's Re-Animator and The Doctor and The Devils. It's rare to see a horror comedy / buddy flick let alone a horror comedy / buddy flick that's not only a period piece but also features vampires, zombies, a little slapstick and wildly engaging characters. I dare you not to fall in love with the drunken, grave robbing antics of Willie Grimes!
I Sell the Dead is a keeper. When it hits DVD, I'll be purchasing a copy for myself. It's that fun! Now, it's not the second coming of horror comedy or anything but it's a refreshing departure from the "brutal" nu-sploitation trashola we're seeing hit disc and theaters these days. Sometimes it's nice to kick back, laugh and enjoy your viewing experience. Thanks Glass Eye!