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Talking movies with Sammie and Dan

For as long as each can remember, Dan Sellers and Sammie Cassell have loved movies and loved talking about them. More recently, they’ve begun making them – and they love that, too.

It was during the shooting of Sellers’ short film Hank vs. the Undead that the two really got to talking about movies, watching and making them, and from this friendship has sprung The Wreak Havoc Film Buffs Podcast, in which they debate, discuss and dissect film.

“We basically BS around about what’s new and the things we’re working on and then we get into one specific movie,” Sellers says. “We’re all over the place with the movies we’re discussing; we’ll do any genre, any period – the only thing is that at least one of us has to love it.”

“Working on the podcast with Dan is a blast,” says Cassell. “I had wanted to do a podcast for a while, having made guest appearances on other podcasts – but wanted a creative outlet for me. When Dan and I became production partners with Wreak Havoc Productions, one of the things we discussed was doing a podcast. I thoroughly enjoy doing the podcast, and we try to challenge each other with movies the other has not seen. With a sizable difference in our ages, I think we have a unique perspective as we watch the movie being discussed from different angles.”

Since inaugurating the podcast at the beginning of the year, Sellers and Cassell have discussed such disparate films as Casino Royale (2006), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Back to the Future (1985), SpaceBalls (1987), Tombstone (1993), The Big Lebowski (1997) and Die Hard (1988). After the death of Prince in April, they discussed Purple Rain (1984).

For their June podcast on Zodiac (2007), recorded in May at the New Vemco Music Company (where Cassell works), they were joined by yours truly – “a real film critic,” quipped Cassell during my introduction.

Sellers and Cassell have an easy, unpretentious chemistry – both on and off the air. They don’t take themselves seriously and sometimes delight in good-natured putdowns. Their affection for film is evident and infectious.

In discussing Zodiac, we not only discussed its many merits but also its historical perspective and historical accuracy. In 2007, only two films – No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood – received better critical favor, yet while No Country for Old Men earned eight Oscar nominations (with four wins) and There Will Be Blood also eight (with two wins), Zodiac didn’t receive a single nomination. Nor was it a box-office hit.

Sellers and I agree that Zodiac may be the best film of the first decade of the 21 st century – a film that works as a thriller, a character study, a newspaper film and a police procedural. That the case was never solved adds to its mystique, which became an obsession for director David Fincher, who grew up in the Bay Area during the Zodiac murders.

Remarkably, Cassell hadn’t seen Zodiac until just before the podcast, although he bought it as soon as it came out on DVD (“It was still wrapped,” he laughed). Having heard so much praise in advance, he admitted to feeling a little let down, but had unstinting praise for the performances and period detail. (He’s old enough to remember the late-’60s/early-’70s time-frame in the film.)

In addition to the podcast, Sellers and Cassell continue their adventures in the screen trade. Cassell appears in Joey Martin’s The Haunting of Four Points, currently shooting in the Piedmont Triad, and Sellers is in post-production on his feature documentary Sammie the Comic Book Man, which details Cassell’s ongoing efforts to promote literacy among the region’s schoolchildren with comic books (he’s an aficionado and collector). Sellers hopes to have it completed in time for a fall premiere.

“Sammie is able to engage young readers on a new level and create lasting impacts,” Sellers observes. “This film is meant to inspire others to follow Sammie’s efforts to promote literacy and creativity.”

In addition, the duo is developing a “mockumentary”-style horror comedy, and the Wreak Havoc Horror Film Fest will take place Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro.

The Wreak Havoc podcasts can be accessed via the official website: www. wreakhavocproductions.com. They can also be found on iTunes and on Google Play Music.

For more information about the Wreak Havoc Horror Film Fest, see www.wreakhavochorrorfilmfest.com. !

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2016, Mark Burger.

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