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October 31, 2012

Local indie filmmaker lands national distribution deal

2013 will be a big year for self-funded media network

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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Local indie filmmaker lands national distribution deal
The cast of “Necroland” poses for the camera. Holding a gun in the bottom row is Nathan Quinn of Madison Heights, who directs and stars in the direct-to-DVD movie that will be sold at major retailers across the country. The film is one of numerous projects in the works at Iron Core Media, Quinn’s self-funded film company.

MADISON HEIGHTS — In the blink of an eye, 80 percent of the world’s population transforms into hyper-violent “rage humans.” The weather spirals radically out of control, worsening the odds for the already embattled survivors as they struggle to solve the mystery behind this apocalyptic turn of events. 

Such is the premise of “Necroland,” which will release nationwide next year as a direct-to-DVD feature film sold in stores from Target to Best Buy. Nathan Quinn, of Madison Heights, has been making films for 26 years and directs and stars in “Necroland,” which he describes as “‘28 Days Later’ meets ‘LOST’ meets ‘Red Dawn.’” He said his movie also has a shot at airing on the Chiller Network. 

Like all of Quinn’s projects, “Necroland” is made through his Iron Core Media network, done on the side while he makes his living in commercial video. Many projects are in the works at ICM, all painstakingly assembled one scene at a time, each scene released first as a short “webisode” at the ICM website.

It’s a piecemeal approach dictated by the limited resources of the indie filmmaker; with funding tight, one must seize every opportunity to advance the story, whether it’s the fleeting availability of an actor or temporary access to an interesting place or piece of equipment. And when attempting productions with ensemble casts of 40 to 50 actors, there are many ways something can go wrong. 

As such, Quinn always has a high-definition camera ready, and he will often shoot stock footage or scenes with only a vague idea of how they will be used, tweaking the narrative if necessary to work with each shot. This flexibility has allowed him to achieve a sense of scale far beyond his budget, with military-grade Hummers, SWAT teams and settings ranging from prison cells and horse farms to salvage yards and factories.

He works with people across the country, and from Scotland to Mexico, to acquire footage of exotic places, which he uses to convincingly depict global events. He also enlists professionals for makeup and digital effects.       

“Nobody I’ve ever seen without the backing of a big studio is doing what we’re doing,” Quinn said. “When you go to our website, there are 10 series to choose from, all at different stages of completion, and it’s all funded by us — we’re the only source behind it. Nobody else is doing that. Everyone has their one or two projects they’re working on, but we have four major projects all looking at distribution, and another four or five in different stages of production.”

Attempting multiple projects is essential when progress on each of them is a slow burn, spanning years. They’re ready when they’re ready, Quinn said, and it’s a mentality that tests the patience of his cast and crew. But along with “Necroland,” 2013 should also be the year when a number of Quinn’s other projects will come to fruition.

The storyteller’s story
A voracious consumer of sci-fi, Quinn first became interested in film when he saw “Star Wars” at age 6.  He grew up in Mason, outside the state’s capital, and got his first VHS camera at Highland Appliance at age 14: the same day the Challenger exploded.

He experimented with filmmaking and had his own variety show in high school that played at lunchtime. After graduating in 1989, he discovered Public Access TV while attending Lansing Community College. From 1991 to 2005, he produced SKITZ TV, a comedy variety show airing across mid-Michigan. He won prizes at a couple of festivals, and his coverage of the 1999 Woodstock riots got him a national appearance on Real TV.

In 2003, he began shooting his first full-length feature, a cult hit comedy called “The Crotchening,” about a girl who goes crazy and kicks guys in the groin. Mostly improvised, copies were sold as far as London, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea, and Quinn said people still bring it up when they meet him at conventions.

In 2006, Quinn wrapped his last production under the company name Intrinsic Film, with “UnconvetionAL,” about a bet gone wrong at a sci-fi convention. The film guest-starred Larry “Soup Nazi” Thomas of “Seinfeld” fame, Dave “Bud Bundy” Faustino from “Married with Children,” “Star Trek” producer Rod Roddenberry, and Nikita Breznikov, manager of WWE wrestler Nikolai Volkov.      

In 2007, Quinn moved to the Walled Lake/Novi area. He learned a lot there, though the state film incentives had some adverse effects, causing scheduling conflicts with actors as other projects began to compete for their time. Quinn said he still supported the incentives, since he believed they were good for the state — and the state is good for film. 

“We have the aesthetic quality of 20 different states inside of one,” Quinn said. “Michigan is an endless reservoir of locations and possibilities.”

The ‘Iron Age’
Iron Core Media, Quinn’s new company, formed in 2008. ICM is nurturing such Web series as “Caught,” about a dozen widows who hire a group of mercenaries to unravel the mystery behind their husbands’ murders, and “Shadow Earth,” a cautionary tale about Big Brother government set 80 years in the future, during a conflict between the Incorporated States of America and the Resistance of the Outerlands.

Quinn also has lighter fare, such as “Paranormal Nate,” a satirical riff on programs like “Ghost Hunters” and “Paranormal State” that still manages to be creepy. And then there’s “Avis Oswald, P.I.” which Quinn calls “black-and-white Humphrey Bogart meets ‘Monty Python,’” with 1940s noir stereotypes set in modern times.   

The goal is to turn these and other Web series into films, securing distribution deals similar to “Necroland.”

Trinity Houston, producer of the indie culture show INdTelevision on Time-Warner Cable in California, has worked with Quinn since 2010. After connecting through social media, she flew out from Cancun, Mexico, to meet Quinn and see what he was making.

“I was impressed, so I ended up investing some money to help him, and I assisted with post-production,” Houston said. “I’ll tell you, as a person, he’s probably one of the wittiest people I know. He’s really kind of a one-man show, since in the indie world it’s very difficult to get a lot of people to help you.

“I really appreciate his talent,” she said. “It’s always nicer when you have a script and a shot schedule, which is how I work, but he doesn’t have that luxury often, and it’s amazing how he puts everything together, shooting pick-up shots or altering the story to fit it. It really is a labor of love — he’s really sacrificed a lot of pleasures in life to be able to create and do this.” 

Quinn calls himself a community-oriented person and said he’s interested in getting more people from the Madison Heights area involved in Iron Core Media. 

“It’s a group of great people you can trust to have your back and be there for you creatively and just have a great time with,” he said. “Iron Core Media is like a family.”

For more information, email Nathan Quinn at nathan@ironcoremedia.com, or visit the website at www.ironcoremedia.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.