by: Eric J. Grimm
Few people understand the community of the horror film genre the way New York City based filmmaker Michael Stever does. Stever, a jack of all trades who directs, writes, films, and edits, does plenty of work filming sizzle reels and featurettes for theater productions and premieres in New York, but the best example of his artistic expression can be found in his documentaries, which explore the creative forces behind horror films and conventions.
Stever, a former actor, credits his experience as Unit Production Manager on the acclaimed 2004 documentary, Broadway: The Golden Age as having taught him a great deal about the process of filmmaking and sparking his interest in making his own films. It was on Broadway: The Golden Age that he first met producer and TheaterPizzazz.com publisher/editor, Sandi Durell. His first full length feature, 2010’s Saturday Nightmares: The Ultimate Horror Expo of All Time! documented the first annual Saturday Nightmares Expo at the Landmark Loews Movie Palace in Jersey City, NJ. All of Stever’s documentary titles have exclamation points at the end, perhaps a nod to old school musical theater titles as well as an expression of his enthusiasm over the subjects of his films.
Recently, Stever has produced two short documentaries which have been showcased at the increasingly popular Macabre Faire Film Festival in Long Island, NY. 2012’s Resurrecting Carrie! looks at common themes in Stephen King’s novel Carrie and its film and stage adaptations culminating in the premiere of the 2012 revival of Carrie: The Musical at the Lucille Lortel Theater. It features Academy Award nominee Piper Laurie, who graciously sat down for an interview with Stever after meeting him at the premiere of Carrie: The Musical. Stever’s most fascinating work is 2013’s Jan Broberg’s Guide to Thespians, Sociopaths, and Scream Queens!, is an in-depth look at the life and career of his friend, actress Jan Broberg, who, in her youth, was brainwashed and kidnapped twice by a close family friend. Stever and Broberg grew up in similarly strict Mormon households. Broberg was recently featured in a gruesome scene in Frank Khalfoun’s 2012 remake of the 1980 slasher film Maniac. What makes her story so bizarre and incredible is her willingness to take on traumatic situations in her roles in horror films and crime procedural television programs.
“I think she’s very brave,” says Stever about his longtime friend Broberg. “She’s not primarily known for horror films. It’s only in the last couple of years that she’s stumbled into that niche. I don’t think it’s an accident. She’s done really well. She’s got great chops and I’m so pleased that she’s doing what she’s meant to be doing.”
The same can be said for Stever, who is pursuing his passion of documentary filmmaking and telling passionate stories of a love of horror films. He lists Brian DePalma, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, and Andrei Tarkovsky as filmmaking influences. His love of the genre led his friend, singer/actress Jaye Maynard, to introduce him to Adam Ginsberg and LC Macabre, who started the Macabre Faire Film Festival in Long Island.
“He’s a very good actor in his own right,” Stever says of Adam Ginsberg. “I reached out to him and we struck up a correspondence. I went to one of the festivals. He and his wife saw Resurrecting Carrie! and they said ‘We want to show this in the festival.’”
Resurrecting Carrie! was well received and Stever became a judge for the film festival competition. At the fifth festival, which took place January 17-19 of this year, he presented Jan Broberg’s Guide to Thespians, Sociopaths, and Scream Queens! again to great reception from festival attendees. Stever’s most recent documentary is a behind the scenes look at the Winter 2014 Macabre Faire Film Festival.
Stever’s next goal is to secure funding to film his original screenplay Ghosts of Zion, a psychological thriller about a newly married Mormon couple who have not been entirely honest with each other. Stever drew inspiration from his own background in addition to his affinity for horror films. As Stever forges ahead, exploring the darker side of humanity through fiction and non-fiction narratives, his enthusiasm shines through and makes him a warm and exciting figure in the independent horror scene.
Jan Broberg’s Guide to Thespians, Sociopaths, and Scream Queens!
Macabre Faire Film Festival 2014: Behind the Scenes