October 27, 2022
Talk talk talk ... StoryCorps director takes the mic | I survived opening night at Velocity Esports | All the horror films for this Halloween | See Hear Do: Take a terror train, see a haunted film, and more
"A ROAD TRIP that’s been going on for 15 years” is how massive nationwide oral history project StoryCorps describes its Mobile Tour. The signature airstream will be in town through November 9, so we called Danielle Andersen — who worked on the project in the field before becoming Mobile Tour director — to get her take on life as a StoryCorps facilitator. What’s it like, spending a year on the road, away from friends and family, setting up and operating a tiny recording studio in a variety of locations, and sleeping anywhere from student housing to senior living facilities for four to six weeks at a time? It turns out, the logistical challenges are the easy part. How these stories impact those who hear them and those who tell them is where the real rubber meets the road.
Since you've been involved with StoryCorps, what's the most surprising thing that someone has said during an interview?
I think the thing that always surprises me the most is when we get people in a booth that have known each other for their lives: like couples that have been married for 50 years, elderly parents with their children, and something comes up that is brand new to one of those people ... That's always kind of a special moment.
StoryCorps has been around for nearly 20 years now, so it’s seen a lot. How did the COVID pandemic impacted StoryCorps’ work?
We were on the road in Fresno, California, in March 2020, when the rest of the country went into lockdown. So, we pulled our team off the road, and we shut the tour down for about a month. During that month, we reoriented all of our programs to the virtual space … It was challenging, but we learned a lot and there's quite a bit that we're carrying forward from that experience.
With the pandemic still with us, we are still offering people the option to record in person or virtually from their home. We’ll continue to offer that option even when we’re out of the pandemic. We found that it’s increased accessibility in a way that's diversified our participants, and it's also opened up the recording space to people who want to record with somebody in another location … That's pretty cool.
How do your facilitators handle hearing more difficult stories? How do they work through that?
I don't want to speak for anybody other than myself, but I think that everybody processes in their own way. We do some work with the idea of compassion fatigue or burnout – with our facilitators, we get them to recognize their own symptoms when they're sliding into that space of burnout. What does that look like for them? We try to recognize that as early as possible, so we can help them pivot towards activities that can bring them out of that, to lessen whatever that burden is.
Speaking for myself, I always tried to remind myself that we are trying to capture what people have found important, transformative, meaningful, or what they want to share or what they want to leave behind. And that's not always going to be pretty. Lessons aren't always pretty. We all go through really difficult things, and what we're trying to do is give people a space to talk through that in order to help themselves lift that burden, or to help others.
That space is important for some people, so there’s honor in that. While it's difficult, it's not about us ... We're not recruiting people to come in and share traumatic stories. And, honestly, we have a reputation for making stories that make people cry, but that's not always because they're sad. It's because they touch on things that are familiar to us - emotions across the spectrum from happy to sad, and joyful and triumphant and tragic. No matter what that emotion is, it's going to well up in us because we can see ourselves in it.
Have you ever had stories that are so intense or so heavy that you weren't sure that you could share them out on your website? How do you approach that?
At the end of every recording, we give participants the option to share that recording with us or not. If they’re comfortable sharing it to us, we're going to send it to the Library of Congress who archives it. We’ll also have it on our archive online. If they don't want to share their story with us, they absolutely do not have to! We’ll give them a copy of their story, and they can use it and share it however they like. That said, we don't produce every piece for broadcast because it’s impossible. We have to make some hard decisions about what goes on air and what doesn't. I think as long as it rings true, and as long as people are comfortable sharing it with us, then we are absolutely excited to add that to our archive as a piece of the American Experience.
What goes into that decision process of whether to broadcast it on your website?
All our recordings are about 40 minutes long. And we give people 40 minutes of time, and the recording space, and our broadcasts are two to three minutes long. So not every 40 minute recording lends itself to be edited down like that: there are lots of amazing, wonderful recordings full of wisdom that just cannot be edited down to two or three minutes. There are some that really lend themselves to that, that are really visual. It’s only audio, but some people have a knack for sharing experiences in a really visual way - that's always helpful. I think beyond that, we have a whole team back in Brooklyn at the StoryCorps offices whose job this is, specifically, to comb through that archive to listen to recordings.
How has being involved with StoryCorps impacted you on a personal or emotional level?
I feel like it's impacted me in a lot of ways, probably some of which I can't recognize. It’s expanded me as a human being. I feel very lucky and privileged to have heard so many voices and so many experiences ... Life throws things at people and it's often very difficult. Not everything is triumphant, and I get that, but people have this amazing capacity to just keep going, to just keep moving forward ... It's something that, doing this kind of work, I feel lucky to be reminded of all the time.
There's also just so much joy and love in the recordings we do. People have so much love for their community and neighbors, and passion for their work. It can really lift you up and remind you that of the connections we have with each other.
What are StoryCorps’ plans for the future?
The Mobile Tour has been going since 2005, and is going to keep going! I am definitely biased, but the Mobile Tour is the thing that I am proudest of. We do have a number of new initiatives in the works, but I can't share too much about those right now. We're just going to continue connecting with different people, and bringing more into the experience of sharing, and recording, and preserving their stories.
StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour will be in Las Vegas until November 9th. Visit storycorps.org/vegas to schedule an appointment to record you or your loved ones’ own story.
KING KONG TOWERED above me as I drove frantically through the dense jungles of Skull Island. My decked-out adventure Jeep felt miniscule compared to the giant ape's hands, and even smaller compared to the two-headed Deathrunner trying to eat me. Kong was locked in battle with the giant beast, trying to save me from being devoured by one of its two heads.
This monstrosity of nature, also known as a Gaw, had a sudden desire to eat me mid-battle. She brandished her canine teeth and stuck out her tongue in preparation to swallow my Jeep whole. I swatted Gaw’s two tongues away with my tiny human hands, giving Kong time to toss aside his unmatched foe with ease. Gaw was injured and scurried away to fight another day. Kong won.
The ape beat his chest and let out a bone chilling roar to announce his victory. I was lucky Kong was on my side this time. The dust began to settle, and I drove into the sunset feeling like I was in the ending scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Everything around me went black and the scoreboard appeared. Chapter three of “King Kong of Skull Island VR” had ended. I removed the VR headset and stepped out of the cockpit, reminding myself I was in Town Square Mall’s newest attraction, Velocity Esports, not the jungle of Skull Island.
Having taken over the old GameWorks space, the new game lounge, bar, and restaurant bills itself as a Henderson esports venue. It still feels like an arcade — but with esports taking over gaming like Kong conquering Skull Island, let’s hope this Gaw has a couple more tricks up her feathered sleeves.
Velocity Esports opened October 21, 2022 at 6587 S Las Vegas Blvd Suite 171, Las Vegas, underneath the AMC theater. It’s open 11a.m.-10p..m Sunday-Thursday and 11a.m.-12a.m. Friday-Saturday.
IS SIN CITY Horror Fest (commonly called, “SCHF”) the nexus for everything in Las Vegas horror filmmaking? Take a look at this year’s sixth edition, November 2-6 — along with a few upcoming local horror features — and you’d conclude that yes, it is. Festival co-founders Justin Bergonzoni, Darren Flores, Mike Lenzini, and Drew Marvick have been among horror’s greatest local champions for years. This year, SCHF showcases two local feature films, Tom Devlin’s Teddy Told Me To and Chris DeFranco’s The Devil’s Door, as well as a selection of local shorts.
For viewers who don’t make it to the festival, there’s new local horror to watch at home. Prolific local filmmaker Joe Lujan’s Live Escape is now streaming on YouTube channel V Horror, and local film veteran Michael Su’s Bridge of the Doomed and Night of the Tommyknockers will be available on video on demand, or VOD, in November. Lenzini is an associate producer on Live Escape, and Marvick shows up as a zombie in Bridge of the Doomed.
Marvick is also in Teddy Told Me To, playing a chainsaw-wielding clown in a haunted-house attraction terrorized by the title character. Devlin, a veteran special-effects artist making his directorial debut, created the Teddy character in 2011 when he was competing on the Syfy reality series Face Off. “I tailored this movie to feel like films that I watched at sleepover parties when I was a kid,” says Devlin, who owns and operates Tom Devlin’s Monster Museum in Boulder City, where the movie was shot. It’s full of familiar faces for indie horror fans, and it showcases Devlin’s skill with makeup and prosthetics, along with his twisted sense of humor.
DeFranco’s The Devil’s Door is more serious, following a pair of journalists riding along with a self-described coyote who traffics immigrants across the border from Mexico. They get more than they anticipated when they encounter an evil presence in an underground smuggling tunnel. DeFranco shot the found footage-style movie in five days in Goodsprings and Pahrump, drawing on his background working on shows such as Vegas PBS’s Outdoor Nevada. “Horror audiences want to have this shared moment of being scared, but then also know that they’re perfectly fine and safe,” DeFranco says. “To be able to hopefully give somebody a moment or two like that is exciting to me.”
In the midst of SCHF, Su’s Bridge of the Doomed will be out on VOD on November 4, while his Night of the Tommyknockers will be released on VOD November 25. They’re two of the four films he recently directed for local B-movie impresarios Michael and Sonny Mahal, after working for them as a cinematographer on earlier films. Su is a fixture on the Vegas film scene, and he was ready when the Mahals called him up to the director’s chair. “It was just very easy for them to pass on a project to me,” he says. “They knew that it would be done, and that it would be a singular vision.”
Su brings his passion for zombies to Bridge of the Doomed, which was shot in the historic mining town Pioche and follows a military division attempting to hold a key bridge against an onslaught of the undead. Horror Western Night of the Tommyknockers, shot partly in Nelson and partly in Yucca Valley, California, finds an outlaw gang led by Richard Grieco’s Dirk hiding out in a small town besieged by tommyknockers, goblin-like underground figures from British folklore. Su also served as cinematographer on both films, allowing him to better express that singular vision. “A good cinematographer and a good director have a shorthand,” he explains. “I already have that inner dialogue.”
Working in multiple capacities is common in indie film, and Lujan does that in Live Escape, which is streaming on V Horror as Zombie: Escaping the Dead. It’s one of 10 feature films in a deal Lujan signed with V Horror and streaming service Jungo+, which also includes recent anthology releases Lost Souls and Hen Night. Lujan also stars as one of two police officers who stumble on a zombie outbreak when investigating a dead body at a homeless shelter. The found-footage movie is shot almost entirely from the perspectives of the two main characters. Lujan calls it “the first chapter of an all new trilogy,” and he’s already in production on the sequel.
Devlin, too, is getting ready to film a sequel to Teddy Told Me To, and he’s directed two more features since Teddy Told Me To wrapped production. Su has another movie he directed locally for the Mahals, Bloodthirst, set for release next year. That’s the kind of indie horror hustle that SCHF celebrates and nurtures, this year and every year.
Sin City Horror Fest is November 2-6 at Art Houz Theaters. Screenings are $5, passes are $40.
Train of Terror!
Now – Oct. 30
Southern Nevada’s real, live historic railroad has designed a special trip for the spookiest holiday. Dubbed the Train of Terror! it’s a Nevada Test Site-themed haunted house on wheels deemed so scary it’s not for children under the age of 13. The entire experience, including the parts both off and on the train, takes 90 minutes, and Friends of the Southern Nevada Railway members get discounted tickets. (Heidi Kyser)
5:30p and 7:30p, $35 or $50 depending on class service, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Boulder City, nevadasouthern.com/event/train-of-terror/
Oct. 21 – Nov. 6
Who doesn’t enjoy a good hobbling? Especially when it’s embedded in the totally plausible plot of a crazed superfan getting revenge on a celebrated novelist for killing off her favorite character in his latest book (after he has an accident right in her neck of the woods!). But, while the sledgehammer scene may be the most memorable from the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery (or the ax scene, in the case of the novel), there’s a heap of spine-tingling storytelling happening before and after that iconic act of violence. Las Vegas Little Theatre takes up the torch, so to speak, presenting William Goldman’s theatrical version of the horror story just in time for Halloween. ( HK)
8 and 2p, $30, Las Vegas Little Theatre Main Stage, lvlt.org
The Haunted History Tour
Spooky season calls for cuddling up to the creepiest flicks; come watch one at UNLV, as film alumni and directors Ryan and Cody LeBoeuf (known for Dealer and Now You See Me) invite all for a screening of their new feature film, The Haunted History Tour. Coming together on screen are “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” actor Roberto Raad; Tender Moon short sci-fi film star Mabel Maultsby; and award-winning local film producer and UNLV film professor May May Luong. ( JM)
6p, free, Flora Dungan Humanities at UNLV, unlv.edu/film
HallOVeen at the Magical Forest
You know the Magical Forest. But do you know its evil twin, the haunted cemetery? Where, in December, you see decorated Christmas Trees dotting a snowy wonderland walk, visitors can now find spooky trees, jack-o-lanterns, and selfie-friendly ghouls waiting to greet the little ones. Before the holiday midway moves in, Opportunity Village has made way for trick-or-treat stations and carnival games. Food, rest areas, and group ticket pricing are designed to make attending easy for families. ( HK)
5:30-9p, $22-25 (children free), Opportunity Village campus, opportunityvillage.org
Día de Los Muertos at East Las Vegas Library
Liven up the spirits at the East Las Vegas library for Día de Los Muertos. This outdoor family fair includes live music, a car show, and a community celebration welcoming back the souls from their travels to the Land of the Dead, Chicunamictlán. ( JM)
12-5p, free, East Las Vegas Library, lvccld.com
Photos and art: Q&A: courtesy StoryCorps; Film: courtesy studios; Velocity Esports: Ryan Vellinga; Halloween: courtesy venues
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