Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Horror Movie Expert Tony Timpone (WSC ’85) Shares his Journey from NYU Journalism to his Dream Job, as Editor of “Fangoria” Magazine

Tony Timpone is an expert on the horror industry. He was the editor of “Fangoria,” the nation's leading horror magazine for 25 years and continues to act as a consultant. He served as a producer on Bravo’s documentary series “The 100 Scariest Movie Moments” and acted as a consultant, writer and researcher for AMC’s show “Eli Roth’s History of Horror.” He is the co-director of International Programming for the annual Fantasia film festival in Montreal, which, according to Quentin Tarantino, is the “most important and prestigious genre film festival on this continent.” Timpone is also the author of “Men, Makeup and Monsters: Hollywood's Masters of Illusion and FX,” which profiles twelve masters of screen special effects.

What did you study at NYU?

When I was first studying at NYU I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to major in. While I was in high school I had been a freelance writer and it was a dream job of mine to work at a magazine. It wasn’t until my junior year, when I started writing for the two NYU student newspapers, “The Courier” and “Washington Square News,” that I realized that I wanted to major in Journalism.

I was born in NYC, raised in Queens and I was a commuter student at NYU. Most of the friends I made were also commuters. I’d take the subway to West 4th Street, go to classes, then I’d take the train to work.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time at NYU?

When I was a student, there were great lectures in the Loeb Student Center with various guest speakers. I had the chance to meet Gene Roddenberry (creator, writer and producer of “Star Trek” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) when I was working for the newspaper. I spent time getting to know him, before his presentation, which is a favorite memory.

Tony Timpone: his story continues
It was fun writing for “The Courier,” since it gave me access to film screenings and I had the opportunity to interview many prominent and rising filmmakers. I met Brian De Palma (director of “Scarface”) who was promoting “Body Double.” I also met John Carpenter (director and writer of “Halloween”) who was promoting “Starman” at the time. I met Jim Jarmusch (award-winning independent filmmaker) when he was promoting one of his first films, “Stranger Than Paradise.” I think I was one of the first people to interview Joel and Ethan Coen (Academy-Award winning writers, producers and directors) who were promoting “Blood Simple,” the first film they ever directed. I later had the chance to follow these filmmakers’ careers when I was the editor at “Fangoria.”

Working at the school newspaper as a Journalism student offered me great opportunities for networking and helped me envision a career. The classes I took gave me the nuts and bolts foundation of working for a publication. I was able to parlay it into a career by creating opportunities outside of the classroom.

Were you always a fan of the horror genre?

Always. I grew up reading a magazine called “Famous Monsters of Filmland,” which was the “Fangoria” of its day, for kids. I’d always wanted to write for a magazine like that. “Fangoria” started in 1979 and was targeted to older kids and young adults.

Tony Timpone with Academy Award-winner Guillermo del Toro
Tony Timpone with Academy Award-winner Guillermo del Toro

What are your favorite horror movies?

My all-time favorite is Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Other favorites include: “The Exorcist,” “The Omen,” “Jaws,” and “Alien.” And some of the early slasher films: “Halloween,” and “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Also, some of the 1930’s Universal monster movies: “Frankenstein,” “Dracula,” and “The Wolfman.” I am also a big fan of the period when the classics started getting remade, in color, by Hammer Films, like “Horror of Dracula” and “Curse of the Werewolf.” All great films.

I’ve been really excited about the elevated horror wave we’ve been seeing lately, such as “Hereditary,” “Midsommar,” “The Witch,” and “It Follows.”

Can you talk about horror movies that hold a mirror up to society and explore an underlying social or political message?

“Rosemary’s Baby” is definitely one, and the movies Jordan Peele is making. “Get Out” is a very game-changing, sophisticated horror film that looks at society and race, and twists it into a dark scenario. And “Us” has socio-political underpinnings to it. You go back to Don Siegel’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” from 1956, which is a comment on McCarthyism and conformity and the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s. “Dawn of the Dead” is a zombie movie about consumerism, as is Jim Jarmusch’s new film “The Dead Don’t Die.” I love horror films when they are layered like that and have a subtext that creates a wider discussion.

Tony Timpone with the the villain in “Halloween,” Michael Myers
Tony Timpone with the the villain in the “Halloween” films, Michael Myers

How did you get started in the horror industry?

While I was in high school, I was the president of the Science Fiction Club and I created and edited a fanzine. I used to go to science fiction and horror conventions, run by a company called Creation Entertainment. There was very easy access to the creators and actors at that time. I would go up to “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” stars and interview them. I submitted my interviews to science fiction and horror magazines for publication. While I was just starting at NYU, I was successfully selling these articles.

I tried to break into “Fangoria,” but it was very hard to get published by them in the early 1980’s. The magazine was structured differently than most other magazines and was written entirely by two editors. They wrote four articles each per issue and did not accept freelance material. However, they had a sister publication which was a monthly science fiction magazine, called “Starlog.” While I was still a student at NYU, I was able to sell a few articles to “Starlog,” such as interviews with actors in the “Star Trek” films. I’d meet these actors at conventions, or if I found out they were going to be performing in a Broadway show, I would write to them and arrange interviews while they were in town. I also sold articles to other niche magazines, like “Monsterland” and “Enterprise Incidents.” But “Fangoria” was the magazine I really wanted to work for.

A month after I graduated, when I was meeting with the job counsellors at NYU and trying to figure out what to do next, the editor of “Starlog” called me up with an editorial position that could be a foot in the door at the company. I interviewed and got the job, and was told that I’d be working on a number of their sister publications. Luckily for me, the week before I started, one of the co-editors of “Fangoria” left to work on another publication. On my first day, I immediately started working at “Fangoria.” “Fangoria” editor David Everitt and I hit it off and I started writing articles.

Several weeks later, Everitt decided to leave, and Dave McDonnell, the editor of “Starlog,” decided that he would mentor me and edit “Fangoria” for a year until I was ready to take on the role myself. I became editor when I was 23 years old. I still wrote articles as the years went by, such as interviews with Quentin Tarantino and visiting the set of David Cronenberg’s “The Fly.” We had changed the editorial structure, so we had a pool of freelancers submitting material. We developed a great roster of writers, some were published authors or celebrities. It became a big enough job just editing the publication. “Fangoria” became very popular in the mid-1980’s with the release of “Nightmare on Elm Street” and its sequels. The horror industry became less niche and more mainstream.

We created several offshoots of the magazine: “The Bloody Best of Fangoria,” “Fangoria Horror Spectacular,” “Fangoria Poster Magazine,” and “Gorezone.” At one point I was editing five magazines a month. It was a crazy period where our audience couldn’t get enough.

I was the editor of “Fangoria” for 25 years. It was the coolest job in the world. We organized conventions, we produced movies, we wrote books. I got to live my dream every single day. I got to meet all of my heroes – actors Vincent Price and Christopher Lee; filmmakers David Cronenberg (“The Fly”), George Romero (“Dawn of the Dead”), Sam Raimi (“The Evil Dead”), and Clive Barker (“Hellraiser,” “Candyman”). It was such an exciting time.

Tony Timpone with radio co-host Dee Snider, lead singer of Twisted Sister
Tony Timpone with radio co-host Dee Snider, lead singer of Twisted Sister

Can you talk about your experiences as a co-host and producer for Fangoria Radio on Sirius XM?

Around 2005, Fangoria was bought by a post-production company called The Creative Group. They were very ambitious about the scope of what we could do and they kept me on as editor. We started a weekly Sirius XM radio show which was hosted by Dee Snider (lead singer and songwriter of the heavy metal band Twisted Sister), Debbie Rochon (award-winning horror actress), and myself. Every Friday night from 10:00 PM until 1:00 AM we interviewed the best horror movie filmmakers and performers. We had no problem filling those three hours because everyone in the business wanted to be on our show. We had guests ranging from Eli Roth (NYU alumnus, TSOA ’94; co-writer and director of “Cabin Fever”) to Mel Brooks (co-writer and director of “Young Frankenstein”).

You have acted as a producer on several projects. How did that come about?

People have approached me with various projects over the years. I was a producer on Bravo’s documentary series “The 100 Scariest Movie Moments” in 2004. Recently, I was a consultant, writer and researcher on AMC’s “Eli Roth’s History of Horror.” The show had an intellectual approach and is a definitive documentary series of the horror genre.

I also co-produced the annual Fangoria Chainsaw Awards, an award ceremony for horror and thriller films, and Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors, a traveling horror film convention.

Can you talk about the Horror Equity Fund (HEF) and your role as Vice President?

It’s a platform to help fund, create, market and distribute horror-centric film and TV projects. We have a slate of eight projects in various stages of development with some great talent involved.

You started working at “Fangoria” in the mid-1980s. How has the genre evolved over time?

Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth used to come to “Fangoria” conventions when they were kids. They went from sneaking in, since they couldn’t afford a ticket, to now being on stage at these conventions.

Horror was a niche industry when I first started at “Fangoria.” It had a devoted following, but it wasn’t mainstream. Then, with the release of “Scream” in 1996, horror found a new audience. In the 80’s there were some months when I would struggle to find projects to feature on the cover of the magazine. By the time I left my role as editor, in 2009, there were four or five projects competing for the cover. Now there is so much more content.

And everything old is new again. I was covering the original “Evil Dead” films in the 1980’s and in 2014 “Ash vs. Evil Dead” became a television series on Starz. The original “Halloween” came out in 1978 and just came back in a big way with the 2018 film. We used to cover “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and there is talk of a reboot.

Can you talk about your book “Men, Makeup and Monsters: Hollywood's Masters of Illusion and FX”?

It was published in 1996, around the time when “Fangoria” became more mainstream. We’d have cameos in movies and TV shows. I came up with the idea of this book, profiling masters of monster makeup and special effects, since the effects were kind of the stars of the horror films of the 1980s. The book featured artists such as Academy-Award-winner Rick Baker (“An American Werewolf in London”) and Stan Winston (“Aliens,” “Jurassic Park”). The last chapter of the book examined how CGI effects would change the industry. Practical effects and CGI still go hand-in-hand.

What is next for you?

I have been the co-director of International Programming for the annual Fantasia film festival (www.fantasiafestival.com) for over twenty years. It is a three-week festival in Montreal in July, so I am on my way there. I hope to be producing films in the years ahead as well, both horror and non-horror. It has been a great ride so far!

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