Monday, January 28, 2013

Interview: Days of the Dead Promoter Adolfo Dorta

It’s coming.  In fact, it’s almost here.  Atlanta’s biggest annual horror party is this weekend (Feb 1-3), at The Sheraton hotel in downtown Atlanta.  I’m psyched, the winners of my ticket contest are psyched, hell, the entire Southeastern contingent of horror geeks is psyched.  The guest list is sick, and there will be more cool stuff to buy than…actually, I need to stop.  If I keep going I’m gonna start sounding like an excited little kid ranting about Christmas.  Actually, there’s a reason for that.
Anyway, Adolfo Dorta, one of the promoters of Days of the Dead, dropped by to tell us a little about what to expect this weekend.  If you’re still on the fence about joining us, here’s the low down straight from the horses mouth.  Once you read this and inevitably decide that you’ve been a fool and there’s no way in hell that you would miss it, you can order tickets and get all of the details HERE.

SOC:  Word has really spread through the Atlanta horror scene about DOTD since last year, and there’s a lot of buzz at ground level for DOTD:ATL 2013.  How is the pre-show buzz this year as compared to last year from a promoter’s standpoint?

AD: You know, despite it being hard to tell with me living out in the midwest and being almost 14 hours away, I always have folks in the area emailing me or calling me saying great things about the buzz going on for our return to the area, especially given that we're settling into the heart of downtown Atlanta this time. Ticket pre-sales have also already surpassed last year's show with two weeks to go (which tend to be the time the majority of our sales happen). We're all really stoked.

SOC:  With the move from the outskirts of town into the belly of the beast, along with moving into a bigger hotel that somewhat knows what it’s in for (as a DragonCon host hotel), how do you think the con will be different from last year?

AD: If last year's show in Peachtree City could be thought of as us dipping our toe in the waters of the southeast, this time around we're doing a cannonball off the diving board right in the middle of the pool. That said, I think one thing we do try to do is keep all of our shows fairly consistent so fans know what to expect from a DAYS OF THE DEAD event: great guests, great events, and a wild party atmosphere that runs very late into the night and ventures into the kind of debauchery few shows would dare touch. We're proud to be a horror show and we wear our love for the genre like a badge of honor. Everything our fans in the south loved about our first show will be back, with much more of it to go around.

  There are three big reunions going on at DOTD:ATL this year (Return of the Living Dead, House of 1000 Copses/Devil’s Rejects, Blair Witch Project).  Are these kinds of “themed guest lists” the direction you want to take in the future as opposed to centering it around single big guests?

That's a great question. I’m usually not a fan of big reunion based shows just due to the fact that you run the risk of alienating anyone who isnt a fan of the movie being showcased, but with the case of this show, I think an exception was warranted. Most of the cast members of House of 1,000 Coprses/Devil's Rejects are actors/actresses with such a rich body of work that even if you aren't a fan of the Rob Zombie movies, chances are you are still a fan of something else they worked on, ie. Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, PJ Soles, Leslie Easterbook, Michael Berryman, Danny Trejo, etc. Return of the Living Dead is such a great film that I consider an 80's classic, and the full cast has only ever done 2 or 3 other shows before, so we thought it was a great opportunity to bring them to the southeast. And in the case of the Blair Witch Project, this will be only the second time ever that the trio has ever appeared at a convention, and for us it provided a rare opportunity to do something related to one of the most iconic and influential horror films of the last two decades.
So while I wouldnt discount having similar big "theme reunions" at our future DAYS OF THE DEAD shows (we actually just did a big Texas Chainsaw series reunion in Indianapolis this past July), we tend to prefer having a little bit of everything and not dedicate too much of the show to one or two aspects of horror when the genre itself is so wide and diverse, much like our fanbase.

 SOC:  Speaking of the guest list, this year’s is absolutely huge.  Is there ever a point when you say, “Maybe we should stop or we won’t be able to top it next year?”

When we first started out, our goal was to cap it at about 40 guests. While the inclination is always that "more is better," you also have to consider that most horror convention patrons operate on a limited budget and we want to make sure that we don't overwhelm them with too much where they wouldn’t be able to afford meeting everyone they want to meet and still having some scratch left over to support the awesome vendors we have in our dealer room. From a business standpoint, it probably also would have also made sense for us to reel it in a bit, but we just had cool guest after cool guest come to us wanting to get involved in the show and being big fanboys ourselves it's often impossible to say "no," especially with guests that we also happen to very excited about meeting.
In the end, we never worry about topping ourselves the following year - we embrace the challenge. As long as the fans keep coming and supporting what we do, we'll work to find new ways to wow them.

 SOC:  The last couple of DOTDs have hosted members of KISS, and with Michael Graves and Eerie Von being guests in Atl, is music something you’re consciously focusing on more?

Most defintiely! We're all big music fans and most horror fans are as well so why not? Graves was actually booked for our first ever Indianapolis show in 2011 but had to cancel due to touring so he's been looking forward to making up the date with us. Eerie was a guest at our last Indianapolis event in July and he had a great time and was a really cool guy we're happy to have back. We're hoping to have at least a handful of music guests, particularly from the world of punk and metal, at every show moving forward.

  You’ve obviously dealt with a lot of big stars and genre icons.  Is there one that left you star struck and gave you that “Holy shit, I’m actually talking to ________” moment?

John Waters without a doubt. He was very down to earth and easy to deal with which made it all the better. As you can imagine he also has a great sense of humor.

SOC:  After last year’s con, everyone had a great Gary Busey story to tell.  What’s yours?

AD: You know, surprisingly I don’t. Though I did see the video online of the guy who gave him one of those exotic fantasy knives as a gift and am surprised that nobody was seriously injured that weekend. Gary looks a little too excited to be wielding that thing.
(SOC note: Adolfo, you have no idea.  I’m surprised I’m not dead.  Remind me to tell you that story sometime.)

 SOC:  Some killer independent horror productions either premiered or had their first Atlanta screening at DOTD in 2012.  What can we look forward to in terms of screenings this time around?

AD: Our friend Luke Godfrey with Chambers of Horrors is going to be putting together a "Best of Buried Alive Film Festival" and re-screen some selections at DAYS OF THE DEAD for those that may have missed it the first time around. We should have the official titles posted in a few days.

SOC:  You’ve only been doing this a little over a year, but you’ve promoted some very successful and well-received shows.  Do other shows/promoters still see DOTD as the new kid, or are you a veteran by now?

AD: Truthfully speaking, most promoters in this business dont tend to speak well of each other in any capacity, and given that DAYS OF THE DEAD is a grassroots show birthed by fans without any ties to a magazine or major corporate sponsor, Im sure we'll always be the new kid in one way or another. Personally, I kinda like the idea of continuously having to prove myself with everything we do and carrying a big chip on our shoulders - it's not unlike the horror genre we love so much. As long as the fans continue to love DOTD, the other shows and promoters can see us however they choose - most of them are businessmen and not horror fans so it isnt something that weighs on us.

  Some say the horror genre is at a low point, while others say these are good days to be a horror fan.  From your unique perspective as an organizer of horror events, what is your assessment of the state of the horror genre in 2013?

AD: I think that horror hasn’t been as popular as it is now for quite some time - look no further than the fact that Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D was at the top of the box office (2 weeks ago) and that The Walking Dead is one of the biggest things on TV in years as proof. That being said, I think we're also at a point where you're seeing a lot of new blood coming into the horror scene on account of its mainstream appeal. I have tons of friends and co-workers who tell me all the time "You know, I was never a horror fan, but Ive been watching The Walking Dead and American Horror Story and I think I kinda like this stuff." I always love using that as an opportunity to turn them on into things I feel better represent the genre and hope something sticks. If the extent of what someone thinks horror is about starts and ends with The Walking Dead, I definitely find that disappointing, but I also think it makes for a great gateway for people new to the genre to explore its roots and dig deeper.
On an independent level, I think the horror genre is absolutely rocking. As proof of that, I urge anyone to check out your excellent write up of The Best Horror Flicks of 2012, where all except 1 or 2 would be classified as independent releases. (By the way, I think you hit the nail on the head with most of your choices)

  DOTD is the only event of its kind in Atlanta, and since this is only the second year, there are still a lot of people who will be coming to their first ever horror convention.  What advice would you give to the horror con virgins to help them get the most out of the experience?

AD: I usually just tell people to show up, not plan to sleep for the entire weekend, and seriously check any pretentiousness at the door and just have fun and let your hair down. I think our shows are like one of those movies where the least you know going in, the better. A lot of first timers make the mistake of spending too much time planning like they’re going on some frou-frou cruise. Just come join us, be yourself, and let loose among your fellow horror family. Free that inner monster from its dungeon for a few days.

 SOC:  Last year, I tried to warn you that the Atlanta horror freaks are crazy.  Be honest; in terms of how wild the party gets, how does Atlanta stack up against the other DOTD cities?

AD: We actually talk about Atlanta all the time in terms of it being the city with the greatest collection of freaks. Our parties in Chicago and Indianapolis may have been bigger, but there was something twisted about Atlanta that the other locations just don’t have. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but you all are some wonderfully sick f**ks down there - just our kind of people!

SOC:  Do you have any announcements that you’ve been holding off on that you can spill the beans about here on SOC?

AD: As of right now, we've announced everyone that is already set to be there but I will say that I wouldn’t be surprised if a few more guests don’t turn up on the weekend of the show. We've been hearing rumblings of a few other people just showing up to the party at the last minute so I would keep my eyes peeled!

SOC:  Any last words for the Cellmates?

AD: We just look forward to seeing everyone there and encourage everyone to spread the good word to all their friends. Don’t be that person that stays home and then spends the next year kicking themselves in the ass for not going. Come on out and have a great time with us!

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