We’re really excited for the chance to share this interview with Amanda Reyes, who was a major inspiration in our decision to do multiple made for TV movie weeks! She was good enough to do an extended interview and shared her feelings on several of the films we’ve already covered!
Amanda is an archivist, author and film and television historian. She edited and co-wrote Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999 (Headpress, 2017) which celebrates the made for television film, and was featured on Barnes and Noble’s Best of Horror list for 2017, and was nominated for Book of the Year at the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. The book is an expansion of her TV movie-centric blog, Made for TV Mayhem and its companion podcast. Most recently, her essay on anthology shows featuring scary holiday episodes was published in Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television (Spectacular Optical, 2017).
Reyes has been a guest speaker at international film festivals, TV movie screenings, and academic conferences in such places as England, Australia, and stateside in Austin, TX, where she currently resides. She also contributed the commentary tracks for the Blu Ray release of the 1977 telefilm The Spell (Shout Factory, 2017) and the upcoming release of Last House on the Left (Arrow, 2018). And, she is the curator and co-presenter of the Alamo Drafthouse’s Made for Television Mystery Movie series, which runs quarterly as part of Terror Tuesday. She also loves slashers and soap operas, and is completely obsessed (and slightly disappointed) by how much she relates to Alison on Melrose Place.
B&S About Movies: How did you get into TV movies?
Amanda Reyes: When I was pretty young our local channel used to run a lot of telefilms as part of their weekend afternoon programming. It was such a gateway into horror because I was only four or five when I saw movies like Gargoyles, Horror at 37,000 Feet, etc. Those were game changers for me! I also saw some great dramatic telefilms like Circle of Children, and dark comedies like The Girl Most Likely To… So even though I didn’t recognize them as TV movies at the time, I was heavily exposed to several amazing small screen films at a young age.
B&S: And how did this lead to Made for TV Mayhem?
AR: As I got older, and these films began to air less and less, I got really nostalgic for them. I started buying bootlegs off of eBay, back when they allowed that. Then I wrote an article about TV movies for a fanzine called Debaser. As a lover of odd films, I found myself wanting to write more about these films, many of which seemed truly lost. That got me into blogging. I started Made for TV Mayhem about a decade ago on Livejournal! I’m still a bit of an idiot with technology, but the blog, which is now on Blogger, is popular and people don’t seem to mind the typos or sometimes hinky coding! Anyway, while I was working on the book, I wanted to expand my audience and branched out into podcasting, which is just an extension of my blog but with an even more casual vibe. I really enjoy doing both, and wish I had more time to blog!
B&S: Have you talked to any of the talents that worked on these films?
AR: I have. I guess the most important person I’ve met and spent real time with was the late director Gordon Hessler. I got to spend a day with him in his amazing home in the hills of Los Angeles. We drank cosmopolitans and talked film with the friend who brought me over to Gordon’s house! That was so exciting. Hessler is a bit of an underrated figure in the telefilm world. He’s got an amazing filmography, and his thrillers are always heavy with atmosphere. Anyway, he was a really wonderful and talented man.
Other people I’ve met are Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, and Parker Stevenson, who was kind of blown away by how much I loved This House Possessed. He loved to tell funny stories about his work in the TV movie and was just as charming as you’d expect. I’ve also talked with John Carpenter about making Someone’s Watching Me! I’ve met several others as well, but those are the biggest names that come to mind.
I interviewed Lance Guest for my blog. It was mostly about his work in the Afterschool Special, but we did discuss some of his TV movie work. Most people that I’ve met who have some work experience with the telefilm hold it in very high regard. It’s a tough gig – short shooting schedules, little money, and lots of restrictions. They have to create these little worlds without a ton of resources, and are generally really wonderful at doing it. They really respect the work and the medium, and so I like to give that respect back.
B&S: Why do you think so few of these films have been released to DVD or are streaming?
AR: I don’t know for sure, but think it’s partially because there are rights issues. Some of these movies were co-produced between networks and studios and I think the licensing might be a little complex. Also, the people who have the rights don’t often think there’s a market for TV movies. There’s some truth to that. A lot of TV movies don’t really profit in their home video releases. That’s why the Warner Archives model is so important for the TV movie. The print on demand service is a great way to sell DVDs. They don’t have to worry about paying for thousands of copies of something that won’t sell. I was hoping more companies would take that route, but since Warner Bros. owns those films, and most companies only license titles to distribute for a finite period of time, I can see where it’s not as feasible.