EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with GoreZone editor Bryn Hammond

This week I got together with the founding father and Editor-in-Chief of the internationally-distributed GoreZone Magazine, Bryn Hammond, to discuss the past, present and future of the mag. But, like all things in the spotlight, controversy looms, and Bryn saw perfect opportunity to set the record straight. This controversy has created quite the buzz on the internet in the past few days and has attracted the attention of some of the film industry's biggest names, such as legendary US film critic Roger Ebert. I'll let Bryn explain the recent goings on and give his side of the conflicted story ...

Bryn: The online posts are funny and quite a distorted look at the situation. They're extremely one-sided as well, I might add. It must be a slow week for online news, that's all I can say! I know the internet has flattened the traditional media hierarchy, and that journalistic ethics are growing more complex, but online writers really ought to check their sources; so far the reposts are inaccurate. But then, that doesn't stop most journalists, does it? These writers do not generally receive clear-cut information and guidelines when they start blogging, so a lot of what they write about is inevitably going to be bullshit. And, because there's so much more diversity in the ranks of quasi-journalists, I guess it would be hard to create a code of “blogger ethics” that could fit all of them.

The person Roger Ebert referred to wrote an “open letter” accusing us of sexism, bad grammar and homophobia. It was all his personal opinion. I didn't read it to be honest, but it pissed off a couple of my staff — who work extremely hard — and if it pisses them off, it upsets me.

The guy dropped me an email telling me about his blog, to which I replied. That was the end of that as far as I was concerned, until I received a message telling me that my comments were both rude and upsetting. Some guy had made a post in my name. So, I requested that this post was removed, or I'd have the blog removed completely. He of course refused, naively spouting off about freedom of speech and all that bullshit. Also, he ranted that it was our IP address spamming his website. Was he high? We can prove our IP and I guarantee that it won't be the same. They even got it in reverse order. Regardless, as the Editor-in-Chief of a successful magazine with international distribution, I'm far too busy to spam college boys.

He had been given ample opportunities to remove the posts, but his only response has been to repeat “freedom of speech”. I'm all about positive thinking so have moved on and am leaving this in the hands of my legal team. They're dealing with it. I just don't want false crap on the web in my name. If this guy is serious about pursuing journalism, he should really be putting all of his energy into his studies as opposed to trying for five minutes of cyber-fame. If he really wants to make a name for himself, he should work as hard as I have, rather than leeching from an established brand. It's very sad and silly, but hey, that doesn't stop people writing about it.

Also, this crap about me apparently being homophobic and fattist is extremely bizarre. Anyone who knows me would find that extremely amusing; I'm the most liberal person you will ever meet. Suzi Lorraine and I have had a good laugh at what these bloggers call news. If people want to pre-judge me, go for it. They can say what they want and try to character assassinate me, but so far they're doing a pretty bad job of it! Only the other day I was called the Anna Nicole Smith of the editorial world. Can you just imagine?!

All I will say is that what people like Ebert, Dangerous Jamie (the blogger) et al need to remember is that today it's me, but tomorrow, it could be them, so they should really watch what kind of bullshit they're writing and talking about, as this could come full circle and bite them on their butts one day!

Q. Going way back now to day one for GoreZone, what was the inspiration that sparked you to want to create a horror magazine?
Bryn: When I was really young I did a church magazine, but it got banned as it had horoscopes in. It was a gossip horror mag, and the first issue had Freddy [Krueger] on the cover as it was a Halloween special. I also wrote a lot of comics as a child; I just loved the whole picture selection process. I would read magazines for hours. When I stayed at my nan's, she would take me shopping and I'd spend hours in WH Smith and the local newsagent's with their shelves full of mags.

Skip to age 24 – I started working for a local paper and got the buzz back. I toyed with loads of names and GoreZone Magazine stuck. We registered the name and own 100 percent copyright, so ignore what certain people are saying. Check your facts, bloggers! The rest is history. When I held the first issue in my hands back in 2005, it was the most exciting feeling I have ever had. I make sure the mag covers everything I want to read, how I want to read it. I hate arse-licking columns; I want a blunt read that tells me what's happening behind the scenes and what the likes of Eli Roth do when the cameras stop rolling. Does he go home and chill with a bottle of wine, or does he go out clubbing and have midnight orgies with the girls from the Playboy Mansion? [Probably the latter]. I love gossip and I love horror even more. I think we balance that well in our magazine.

What was the initial reception to you putting out a brand new horror magazine in an area that had been dominated for years and years by the likes of Fangoria and Rue Morgue?
This may sound really ignorant, but I have never, ever read an issue of Rue Morgue. I once flicked through a friend's copy, but I just didn't like its content. As for Fango, I lost interest in it years ago. It became overpriced — or at least did in the stores near me — and just bland. I wanted more from my horror. I think a lot of our readers felt the same, or at least that's what they have told me. But saying that, I think there is a place for all three of us. You only have to look at how many gossip mags there are on news-stands, and we fans are voracious customers of all things horror, so I don't see Rue Morgue or Fangoria as competition as we are all very different in terms of look and content. We are aimed at people who want their horror as 100% juice, not from concentrate.

I think something that makes us different is that we are quite a sexy mag – we have recently been called Loaded for horror magazines. We have also been compared to GQ and Vogue, which are both huge compliments. We also definitely do not kiss the arses of the studios, and keep all the films that we write about on the same level of respect, no matter the budget. Take for instance Issue 54, on sale March 9th: we cover Paranormal Entity, Zombeak, Poltergeist III, Across the Hall, and Rahtree’s Revenge (plus much more). How diverse is that? We even have an amazing interview with director Jeff Broadstreet, who reveals what it was like working with diva Karen Black.

What were the trials and tribulations of launching GoreZone and grabbing your audience?
Believe it or not, there weren't any. Horror fans are extremely dedicated to the genre. GoreZone Magazine's readers are my extended family. We tapped into a ready-made audience and our readership has grown and grown. I love every one of our readers as they are making my dreams a reality and I am doing a job that makes me very happy.

I had over 100 emails supporting and backing me up to the hills with regards to the “open letter”. A lot of our readers were extremely upset and offended by the way I have been treated just because I'm protecting my name. Hell, they have all said they would have done the same, so having such a supportive network really helps me sleep at night. The readers know me and they know the claims of abuse are extremely out of character and are false, so that's the only tribulation in the years we have been printing, and to be honest, I just see it as publicity. You know what they say — no publicity is bad publicity!

I'm stoked by the warmth of the readers and the response from the studios. One thing I find difficult to understand is the ignorance surrounding horror. Even in 2010, people still think horror is no different than porn. Some people I speak with almost have heart failure when I tell them what the mag's about, but when they get a copy of it, they call me back and apologise, saying how astonished they are at how slick it is.

October 2 and 3 this year will feature the third annual GoreZone Weekend of Horror international film festival. Although it's a way off yet, is there anything you can tell us about this year's fest? Having attended the original Weekend of Horror back in 2008, what can fans expect this time?
The first year was mad! The second year we listened to all of our readers' feedback and did what they wanted us to do, so it was more of a chilled experience. We relocated to the Prince Charles Theatre. The readers are in love with it and after holding last year's event there, I can see why, it was absolutely amazing. We are just signing the movies off now so it's all very exciting. But all I will say is that it will be much better than in 2009, and people can expect the same family atmosphere and more entertainment for their money.

What was the experience like for you to go from horror magazine editor to horror film-maker with The Summer of the Massacre?
You know what? I still haven't stopped to think about it. It's been one hell of a rollercoaster the last five years and because things don't slow down, I don't really have time to sit back and think about my achievements. I love the process of making indie horror on zero budgets, and so having the film released was a great buzz. Would I do it again? Probably not — I'll leave it to the professionals.

Currently I'm writing and producing our free DVD which comes with each issue of GoreZone. The show is hosted by Emily Booth and is called Emily Booth's GoreZone Movie Massacre. It's a fun romp and is very tongue-in-cheek. We try and raise the bar each episode and have a great team of sponsors behind the DVD. It's filmed every other month and it's like a reunion of talents and creativity. We are unstoppable when we are together and it's one hell of a laugh.

The third episode stars Tom Savini. Emily also gets to cut the head off of a very well-known horror actress, which was just so funny! It's very camp, but that makes it even more fun.

Just announced has been the GoreZone Awards. What can you tell us about this undoubtedly blood-spattered ceremony?
This year's GoreZone Weekend of Horror will be the ceremony's home. Both Christa Campbell and Emily Booth will be hosting the film festival and awards. We are currently in talks with two very big brands to sponsor the ceremony. I can't say too much on that score as I don't want to jinx it! At present, we're having the awards made and we're all very excited. We're starting to put the nominees together now as well, so it's all go. The readers will be voting – I think the final vote has to be down to the public because it will mean more to those who take home the awards.

What have you learned in the last five or so years from running the magazine that will make its future bigger and brighter and bloodier?
Don't look back. I always look to the future. I also have a motto: you're only good as your last issue. I have that pinned to my office wall and it's a firm reminder that I cannot become complacent. Another thing I have learnt is to remember who puts bread and butter on the table — the readers! Treat people the way you want to be treated. On the contrary to what the rumours may be, I'm not an arsehole, and anyone who has met me or knows me will tell you that. I give as much as I can. I have a huge heart!

GoreZone is starting a course at select colleges during the summer for any budding journalists. For more information, please drop the GoreZone team an email.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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