Santa Rosa hosts Silver Scream Film Festival
There are two ways to look at Phillip Kim’s personal history. Either he misspent his youth watching horror and sci-fi movies and TV shows, or he was wisely preparing himself for his future career.
At this point, the second theory clearly wins.
Now Kim, 46, of Santa Rosa, is an independent filmmaker and publisher of the iconic fan publication Famous Monsters of Filmland, and he is about to add film festival producer to his credits.
His first Silver Scream Film and Comic Festival runs March 4-6 at the Roxy Stadium 14 movie theater in downtown Santa Rosa. The three-day was organized by Kim and Neil Pearlmutter, vice president of the Santa Rosa Entertainment Group, which owns the Roxy.
“I was 6 when my family emigrated to the States,” Kim said. “Lots of homes were without TV back in the ‘70s in Korea. So when we got to the States, I was glued to the TV. I believe ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’ were the biggest impact. I loved ‘Twilight Zone’ then and still do.”
What many regard as merely escapist entertainment serves an important social function for Kim.
“Society as a whole does not like to address macro-social issues while the problems are current and fresh,” he said. “Sci-Fi and Horror is really a safe medium for people to express the problems. It is a pressure valve, a safe place for all sides of the discussion to take place.”
More than 40 classic and indie horror films will be screened during the three days of the festival, including “American Werewolf in London” from 1981 and “Nightmare on Elm Street” from 1984.
The program also includes guest appearances by “American Werewolf in London” star David Naughton, the film’s director John Landis (who also directed “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers”), and its famed makeup artist, Rick Baker. “Nightmare on Elm Street” stars Robert Englund and Heather Langenkamp also will appear during the festival, and fans can attend Q&A sessions and panel discussions.
Traditionally a light-hearted and pun-filled look at horror films both old and new, Famous Monsters of Filmland was founded in 1958 by publisher Jim Warren and editor Forrest “Forrie” J. Ackerman, a writer and literary agent who claimed to have coined the term “sci-fi.”
“Forrie represented everybody - L. Ron Hubbard, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein,” Kim said. “Everybody who was anybody in the science fiction world was represented by Forrest J. Ackerman. He was about my age when he was getting ready to retire from that career.”
Ackerman edited Famous Monsters for 25 years, until 1983. The magazine fell into the hands of another publisher during the 1980s and ‘90s, and eventually became mired in legal battles over who had the right to publish it.
Kim, who was working as a real estate developer at the time, bought the Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and trademark in bankruptcy court in 2007 and resumed publishing it in 2010. The same year, he also released his own independent science fiction film, “Downstream,” which he filmed partly in Sonoma County on a budget of $1 million.
Famous Monsters of Filmland is published on a bi-monthly basis in Los Angeles and continues to be a bestseller in its genre. The next issue will be No. 285.
During his colorful career, Ackerman filled the 18-room Griffin Park house he named “The Ackermansion” with classic movie memorabilia, including a replica of the famous woman robot from Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film “Metropolis” and Bela Lugosi’s cape from the original 1931 “Dracula.”
“No one collected that stuff back then,” Kim said. “People thought it was garbage. Forrie used to dumpster-dive all the time to get artifacts, so he had an enormous collection.”
By the time Ackerman died in 2008 at 92, much of his collection had been sold piecemeal. After his death, the estate auctioned off the remaining items.
Kim, married with two sons 13 and 16, now divides his time between Los Angeles and Santa Rosa but said he feels no need to relocate permanently to Southern California.
“I grew up in Santa Rosa,” he said. “I will never leave Santa Rosa.”
The magazine’s long history and exceptional reputation gave the Silver Scream Festival a powerful boost and allowed Kim to stage it in his own hometown, and to line up top-notch guests. “When I took over Famous Monsters, I knew that it came with some perks. You could spend a lot of money to start something new, but you can’t buy time. When something’s been around since 1958, you can buy that, but you couldn’t recreate that. You’d have to wait another 58 years,” he said.
“I don’t take credit for any of that, because I wasn’t the publisher back then, but what I’ve done is take over the magazine, and I hope I’ve been respectful of it. I hope our curation of it makes these guests feel safe in taking part in what we do.”
You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @danarts.
Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat
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