Park City’s Top Dead Center Films horror projects break into global film festivals
What: “Stay Out of the F******* Attic” virtual screening with the Atlanta Horror Film Festival
When: 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15
Screening passes: $15-$30
What: “Babysitter Must Die” virtual screening with Frightfest
When: 11:45 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 24
Where: Online only in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man
Top Dead Center Films hopes to slay horror-movie fans during the film-festival circuit this month.
The Park City-based independent horror and science-fiction movie production company’s debut, “Stay Out of the F****** Attic,” and sophomore project, “Babysitter Must Die,” have been respectively accepted into the Atlanta Horror Film Festival that runs Oct. 14-19, and the FrightFest in London, from Oct. 21-25.
Gary and Julie Auerbach, who formed Top Dead Center Films a year ago, couldn’t be more happy.
“We’re excited, because these are our first prestigious festivals with our new company,” Julie said.
The festivals will help get the word out, even though both films have already been sold to distributors, Gary said.
“Festivals are great marketing tools to get into other festivals, and this is a great boon to the company and the films,” he said.
“Stay Out of the F****** Attic,” directed by Jarren Lauder and co-written by Lauder, Julie Auerbach, Jesse Federman and Jason Scott Goldberg, will screen virtually at 9 p.m. on Oct. 15.
The film is about a diverse group of movers, comprised of ex-cons, who peel back the horrors of an old Victorian mansion and its creepy resident.
“Babysitter Must Die,” directed by Kohl Glass, and co-written by Glass, Julie Auerbach and Kevin Tovolaro, will screen at 6:45 p.m. on Oct. 21-25.
The film, which pits a babysitter against a gang of violent cultists, is a “coming-of-age story at its heart,” said Gary.
“It’s about a young lady who is caught between being a girl and becoming a woman,” he said. “She has to use the skills she learned working with the Mustard Scouts to fight the cult. Although it’s a home-invasion style of movie, it has a sweet side to it.”
Both film festivals have pivoted into virtual events, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Auerbachs learned their films had been accepted a little more than a month ago.
“There were a lot of other festivals we submitted the films to that outright canceled,” Gary said. “So this is a boon for us.”
Both films were shot last fall, and wrapped post-production earlier this year, Julie said.
“Looking back, we really lucked out, because we were able to get it done before the COVID shutdown,” she said.
In addition to a quick turnaround, a smaller budget gave the films a leg up on other large-production projects, especially with the temporary closing of some movie-theater chains such as the Regency Theatres, Gary said.
“COVID-19 was truly a disruption in the industry, and while everyone’s been having issues, bigger films that demand expanded crews and major foreign and domestic theatrical releases are the ones that are still unsure how things are going to work out,” he said. “So I think the model of doing films at lower budgets also makes sense in the fear platform.”
Working with smaller crews and casts is nothing new to Gary, who worked at MTV and produced such shows as Jon Stewart’s “You Wrote You Watch It” and the live “Hangin’ with MTV.”
“The way we were trained was, ‘Here’s five bucks. Go shoot this film or commercial,’” he said with a laugh. “Seriously, though, working with lower-budgets forces you to be creative. You really have to sit down and think about what you have to do, because you can’t do a take 50 times or spend a lot of time fixing things in post (production).”
Those scenarios also lend themselves to more collaborative situations, Gary said.
“With big crews, you will have 10 people working lights or 10 people moving grid stands, but with us everybody is doing everything, and they all feel like they are really part of something,” he said.
“You also get to know people better when you’re working with a smaller group, because they become engaged and start thinking about the bigger picture,” Julie added. “We saw that working with our Utah crews. Not only were they nice and professional, they really knew how to make the process fun.”
Although the Auerbachs formed Top Dead Center Films last year, they have a track record of producing successful content in Hollywood for more than 20 years.
Gary created and produced the programs “Paranormal State,” “Singled Out,” “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County,” and the Peabody Award-winning MTV documentary “Decade.”
Julie, a writer and producer from Utah, is known for her work on “Charmed,” “Birds of Prey” and “Nashville.”
The Auerbachs, along with their daughter Lucia, moved to Utah because they got tired of Los Angeles.
“Our whole intention is to shoot as much as we can in Utah,” Julie said. “While we were a little nervous of setting up a company here, we are fortunate we did. We have made some great contacts with people up here and have seen the company grow in such a short time, although it feels like it’s been a long year.”
“Stay Out of the F******* Attic” and “Babysitter Must Die” will be mass distributed early next year, Gary said.
“I think by the time that happens, we’ll have moved on to other films,” he said.
Julie confirmed Gary’s hunch.
“We’re in preproduction on two more projects that we are pushing to film in Utah,” she said. “We’re about to start shooting again, finally, after the COVID pandemic.”
Editor’s note: The Auerbachs’ daughter, Lucia Auerbach, is a high school intern for The Park Record.
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