Low-budget filmmaker Edward Martin III is returning to H.P. Lovecraft festival
If you want to know what the folks at Hellbender Media do, its best just to ask them directly.
"We make things," their website reads. "Strange and wonderful things."
Thats putting it mildly.
The low-budget film studio in Tigard has spent the past 15 years making quirky, often bizarre films that defy explanation.
In 2007, the studio made its own version of The Lord of the Rings using doughnuts in place of actors.
The creative team has made supernatural stories, animated films and has been working on its zombie opus, Flesh of My Flesh for more than six years.
Thats the stone around my neck, said Hellbender founder Edward Martin III, sitting in his Tigard home. You dont want to know how long weve been working on that one.
Martin runs Hellbender Media, which mostly consists of himself and whatever friends and colleagues he can get together to help on a production, he said.
After years of working on Flesh of My Flesh, Martin said he wanted to make something just for fun.
We had gotten so bogged down by that project, this was a chance to shake out the tubes, he said.
The result is two short films, which will be screened at this year's H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival on May 3, 4 and 5 at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland.
The festival will feature more than 30 films either adapted from or inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the early 20th century author who specialized in horror and the macabre.
Im really glad that were waking up and shaking out the cobwebs, Martin said.
Martin is no stranger to the Lovecraft Film Festival. Over the years, Martin has made several short films, which have played at the festival, and his first feature film had its world premiere at the cinematic event. In total, Martin has shown eight films there.
His last appearance was in 2009.
Martins two new films are part of a large collection of short films playing during the three-day festival.
Filmmaking has always been a labor of love for Martin, who makes instructional videos for a Portland software company by day.
Working with an all-volunteer cast and crew, its not uncommon to spend months, or even years, working on a particular project.
That was the case with Blood, one of two films Martin will be showing at this years festival.
Filmed in Estacada, the 8-minute film tells a deceptively simple story, Martin said: A group of pirates regale each other with adventure stories around a campfire one night. Ironically, the film took about three years to complete.
Crews were going to film the project in fall of 2010, Martin said, but it rained the day they were scheduled to get rolling.
It rained the next day, he recalled. And the next day. And the next day.
I swear it rained until July. It just plowed rain for almost a year, he said.
When the weather cleared, and the film was shot, it took another year of editing and post-production work before the film was completed, he said.
Since were a volunteer project, we kept having paid things coming in that we would have to work on, he said.
Martin came up with the idea for the film after writing a short story about a 13th century monk. But after meeting a group of pirate re-enactors from Portland who were looking to make a film, Martin updated the story to the New World at the turn of the 20th century.
The other film at the festival, Animo Korvoj, went much smoother.
With Animo Korvoj, I knew exactly what I wanted, and it was just me, he said. I plowed through it, and it was done in about two weeks.
Using footage of a California ghost town and spoken in Esperanto, the film tells the story of a mining town in the Old West, which uncovers something terrible deep underground.
Just for fun
When Martin was in grade school, he was bitten by the filmmaking bug, and hes never looked back.
He started writing stories in grade school and making short animated films by drawing onto strips of 16mm film.
I was drawing by hand, frame by frame, he said. It was terrible. I was drawing with a sharpie, so the stories were always just the adventures of a big smudge meeting another big smudge.
Martin has spent more than a decade making low-budget films and regularly hosts workshops across the Northwest, teaching aspiring filmmakers how to make their own films in a weekend using the equipment they have on hand.
It started out just for fun, he said.
Although Martin said horror films arent what he gravitates to the most, he has drawn inspiration from Lovecrafts work.
There are a lot of commonalities between what I think of as the universe and what Lovecraft draws on, he said. Its not so much that Im drawn to Lovecraft, its more that it feels like he sees what I see.
Lovecraft stories often use cosmic horror, Martin said.
When Lovecraft describes reality, its as a tiny island in this sea of chaos. There is a brutal coldness of the universe. It has no conscious, and that to me is far more chilling and terrifying and at the same time relieving. That feels more like reality to me.
The H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival begins Friday, May 3, at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd., in Portland.