A week and a half ago, horror aficionado turned independent filmmaker turned Manhattan film festival director, Michael J. Hein, passed away at the age of 41, and for the past 2 weeks I’ve been wrestling with how to write…well, something.
I don’t like calling these things memoirs or dedications. I would much rather write on things happening, like last year’s piece on the New York City Horror Film Festival. It was last-minute coverage of the event brought on by Blood Night director, Frank Sabatella, and allowed me to meet Michael J. Hein, a film director himself that began this festival at Tribeca Cinemas in 2001, gathering fledgling horror and grindhouse filmmakers together to present their works alongside more well-known classics, awarding the best of those inspired films and shorts while presenting lifetime achievement awards to staples of the industry, such as George A. Romero, Tom Savini, Tobe Hooper, Roger Corman, Frank Henenlotter, and Robert Englund.
It was this mixture of up-and-coming artists with veteran filmmakers that Hein strived create: a haven for anyone that just loved a good, blood-n-guts horror story, no matter who you knew or, as the latest trend of networking goes, who knew you. There was as close to an equal playing field at the NYC Horror Film Festival as any film festival I had the chance to attend, and it was a testament to Hein’s firm belief that we are all artists in our own right, and our art should be given equal exposure to the world no matter who we are.
I honestly believe this, because I am that indie artist treading water in a genre saturated with tried and true satire writers. Major coverage of the NYC Horror film Festival came from long-standing horror magazine Fangoria and its editor, Michael Gingold. To think the purveyor of the festival would give me a second glance as a respectable(tongue in cheek, of course, considering my genre of humor) news medium was laughable to me. I was happy to just be there for the ride. Hein had other ideas as we chatted outside the Tribeca Cinemas. “You’re a writer? Cool! We’ll get you set up with some press passes and coverage spots next year!” Just like that. No, “What’s your audience reach?” or “What publisher do you represent?” or anything else so stagnant in the entertainment business. Instead, he welcomed me in with open arms as if I was the editor-in-chief of The New York Times.
That was what Michael J. Hein’s passion was aside from filmmaking: helping art grow, no matter where the seed had been planted. Sadly, this is also what we lost with his passing, but I don’t want to cubbyhole this as a memoir, or a dedication. That wouldn’t do Michael’s memory justice. Instead, let’s declare this a calling to continue on with his passion, dedication, and respect.
Rest in peace, Michael. You treated us indie artists like mainstream entities, in horror, music, and comedy. We’ll keep that flame alive as best we can.