If there is one thing I’ve learned from the Baltimore arts scene, besides how to look fashionable on a yearly clothing budget of $1.50, it’s that any of your artistic passions can come to fruition, at least on a local level.
Always wanted to publish a short story? Shred guitar riffs on stage? Create performance art so incomprehensibly pretentious that we’ll all just assume you’re a genius? Well, our city has a whole community ready and willing to help you achieve you dreams. Heck, you can even write a humor column for an AOL owned, regional, online newspaper, without proper education or any real grammatical skills! or good werd power and stufff.
One of my favorite examples of local DIY creativity pushed to the limit is that of award winning filmmaker Chris LaMartina. LaMartina decided as a child that he wanted to make scary movies, so that’s what he does. He hasn’t let budgetary restraints, type 1 diabetes, or the fact that no one buys DVDs anymore, hold him back.
LaMartina (along with his writing partner Jimmy George) has produced no less than five feature length horror-comedy films in as many years, including the "cursed beer" gore fest Witch’s Brew and the school election gone murderously wrong movie, President’s Day. Most of the films are of such exceptional quality you won’t believe these are micro-budget movies starring people you may know.
LaMartina is currently developing his most ambitious project to date, The Call Girl of Cthulu, where he will bring to screen all of the cosmic macabre of the classic H.P. Lovecraft tale The Call of Cthulu, without any of the racism (hopefully).
He explained to me that his obsession with horror stories began as a youngster when his beloved Aunt Lulu and he would "drive to visit my great grandparents grave once a week and she would tell me all these wild urban folklore bits she heard at her job."
Apparently in the late-1980s there wasn't a fax version of Snopes.com to debunk these "true" stories of stalking hook men, violent gang initiations and late night encounters with ghostly church attendees.
In addition to scarring—I mean scaring young Chris—with these morbid tales, Aunt Lulu tales inspired the boy’s creative ventures. She even typed out his earliest original horror writings, which were literally just a series of non-sequiturs: "The hand came out of the grave!, Thunder crashed!,etc."
Fortunately Chris’ story telling has evolved over the years. In fact he recently came within a machete thrust of Hollywood acknowledgment when producer/ writer Philip Stark (South Park, That ‘70s Show, Dude, Where’s my Car?) rewrote a LaMartina/George script entitled Tombstoned. However, Chris and Jimmy were not exactly impressed with the reworking.
"They cut out our straight-edge hardcore gang that beat up our drug dealer/protagonist, and wanted to add Snoop Dogg as a supporting character," LaMartina said.
The script has since been stuck in rewrite limbo.
Will Chris LaMartina ever rise like an ancient sleeping god out of the local theater screenings, and indie festival circuit scene, into the public consciousness at large like John Waters and Barry Levinson? Possibly.
"I’d love to be a full time screen writer," Chris said.
But he acknowledges that it’s more difficult than ever to make money off of movies. Chris said he will be fine as long as he can continue being a story teller in some medium.
But it doesn't appear LaMartina will be bolting for Hollywood any time soon.
"You can make your hometown better, or you can move away,” he said. "I am incredibly grateful for the local scene…we have an amazing community here."
If you would like to lend a hand (or tentacle) to help get Chris’ upcoming The Call Girl of Cthulu off the ground, visit the Kick Starter page by clicking here.