Glenn Andreiev was only 11 years old when he created a Frankenstein -- on Super 8 film shot on his dad's Keystone camera.
"For my first movie, I modeled it very much like 'The Bride of Frankenstein.' I made this miniature set and I was trying to do what [director] James Whale did," says Andreiev, 52, a filmmaker and cinema historian who lives in Kings Park. The next year, he made a "Godzilla"-inspired short starring a claymation dinosaur and buildings made out of shoe boxes.
Clearly, Andreiev knew he was destined to make movies. Growing up in Glen Cove, he was transfixed by film showcases like "The Million Dollar Movie" and "Chiller Theater" when they aired on TV. He discovered favorite films like "King Kong" (1933) and the works of directors Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang. He also devoured books about the movies, such as the "Films of . . ." series that was popular in the 1970s.
These days, he's channeled all of his filmmaking skills and cinematic knowledge into a regular gig at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, where he hosts filmmaking workshops as well as lectures about the movies. His next program, "A Night of Hollywood's Wicked and Politically Incorrect Side," on April 28 in the Sky Room, sheds light on the racism and sexism that were prevalent in 1920s and '30s Hollywood. Audience members can expect to see Al Jolson in blackface in the "Going to Heaven on a Mule" number from "Wonder Bar" (1934), Boris Karloff and Myrna Loy as stereotypically sinister Asians in "The Mask of Fu Man Chu" (1932) and Spanky and the gang in "The Kid From Borneo," a 1933 short considered so offensive that it was pulled from rotation when the Little Rascals films aired on television.
"I try to come up with topics people are going to remember. I don't want it to be just two hours of trivia," says Andreiev, who also has hosted programs on early Hollywood scandals and long-forgotten comedians such as John Sigvard "Ole" Olsen and Harold Ogden "Chic" Johnson, billed as Olsen and Johnson. In the works this spring is a screening of "Gojira," the original 1954 Japanese edition of "Godzilla," for which Andreiev will share stories about the making of the movie and tidbits from his interviews with Haruo Nakajima, the Japanese actor who donned the Godzilla suit.
"I asked him what was the funniest thing about wearing that suit," Andreiev says. "He said that costume weighed 130 pounds. 'It was rubber and I was working under hot lights. It was never funny.' "
Andreiev's Cinema Arts lectures typically draw about 70 people, which has pleased the venue's co-director, Dylan Skolnick. "His talks really draw on his deep and immense knowledge of films," Skolnick says.
He and Andreiev met in college and through a mutual love of movies became lifelong friends. "His association with Cinema Arts started out with him bringing his films for us to see and later to show. Then he began working for the cinema and presenting his filmmaking workshops," Skolnick says. "Glenn just walked in the door, basically. He was a guy making films initially on Super 8, then 16-millimeter and now digital."
Birth of a filmmaker
Andreiev's entree into filmmaking started with his education at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, where he also got his first job on the set -- as transportation coordinator on "Street Trash," a 1987 movie written and produced by Roy Frumkes, one of his teachers.
"Glenn was a wonderful, selfless, dedicated student, which is why I asked him to work on 'Street Trash,' " says Frumkes. "He understood the wonderment and excitement of the creative process, he could absolutely be relied on and he was always upbeat on set. And he made his way into the film as an actor, doing a rather dangerous stunt at one point -- without the use of a stunt person."
It also was an object lesson in low-budget tricks. For "Street Trash," director Jim Muro turned his father's auto junkyard in Brooklyn into a cavernous and mazelike setting for the film. "It's the one thing I learned -- everybody has access to a unique location that can add so much character to a low-budget film," Andreiev says.
After graduation in 1987, Andreiev produced and directed his first feature film, "Angela," which the film's distributor rechristened as the more enticing "Vampire's Embrace" (1991) when it was released on videocassette. Shortly after that film, Andreiev moved to Jacksonville, Fla., where he indulged his love of American history by starting production on a Revolutionary War thriller called "Mad Wolf," which he completed in 1997, two years after returning to Long Island. Over the next 10 years, he made several films, including "Sharp and Sudden" (2001), the story of a fashion model being tracked by bounty hunters; "Every Move You Make" (2002), about a man stalking a restaurant owner; and "Silver Night" (2005), in which a woman goes after a gang of New York City vampires. In all, he's made seven feature films, each about 80 minutes long, that have been shown at Cinema Arts Centre. Some also have been screened at film festivals on Long Island.
'Labors of love'
Typically, Andreiev says, his films cost about $15,000 to make, although his last feature, "The Deed to Hell" (2008), had a budget in the neighborhood of $30,000 and included scenes shot in France, Italy and Greece. A typical shooting schedule is usually three to five days, he says. "On a big day, we have two carloads of cast and crew."
Andreiev says the films are real "labors of love," which usually make just enough to cover production costs. But in one case, he says, some business people were so impressed with "Sharp and Sudden," they asked him to do the film "Every Move You Make," addressing the problems with stalking.
"The Deed to Hell" (2008) was released on DVD by Singa Home Entertainment, a Glendale, Calif.-based independent film distributor. "They did a really beautiful transfer," says Andreiev, who also starred in his tale of a bank robbery gone bad.
"I've seen 'The Deed to Hell,' and it's impressive that he was able to tell a story on that large of a scale with a low budget. It has some great twists and turns," says Devon Narine-Singh, an aspiring filmmaker from East Northport who's taken one of Andreiev's classes on low-budget moviemaking.
Finding an outlet for his movies is not always easy. "It's become more difficult now because independent films are just not making money," he says. "There are few markets for them that are left, I mean markets that make money. You can show it on the Internet, but you're not going to make money."
Andreiev has typically gotten financing for his movies from local business owners who also used the film to promote their businesses. "In my films 'Every Move You Make' and 'The Make Believers,' Paul Kanter, a Huntington CPA with no acting training, played himself as a problem-solving accountant," says Andreiev. "His role in these films fit very well into the screenplay." Kanter also invested in the movie.
Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indie-Go-Go are also outlets, Andreiev says, though they bring in donors as opposed to investors. "I used them to get development funds for films -- giving out cool gifts for cash donations," he says. "With these sites, you have to aggressively promote your project to relatives and friends. If you are a filmmaker, many of your friends have lots of filmmaking friends, who have also hit them up for money."
Though Andreiev has years of experience, "It's very hard to make a living solely as an indie filmmaker. The time and cost of traveling and promoting your film can truly set you back. It may not be what many indie filmmakers want, but those side 'day jobs,' such as teaching and an occasional screenwriting gig, are survival essentials," he says. "The last thing you want to do is try and focus on filmmaking while you waste energy living on unpaid credit cards and/or dodging angry landlords or collection agents."
Classes and another movie
Teaching classes on filmmaking at his alma mater, libraries, Cinema Arts Centre, and horror and fantasy conventions has made it a little easier for Andreiev to pay bills.
"When teaching about filmmaking's past, I try to avoid the classics so many of us know and love, like 'Citizen Kane' and 'Vertigo,' " he says. Instead, he prefers focusing on "lesser-known classics," including "Three on a Match," a 1932 potboiler about a bored businessman's wife who leaves her husband and sinks into a den of depravity, and "Force of Evil," a tough 1948 film noir about the numbers racket.
"What was special about the classes was that for each film he would discuss in class, he would bring up a wealth of facts about it that really enhanced your appreciation and understanding of the film," Narine-Singh says. "In his low-budget film class, he used personal anecdotes as well, talking about his own experiences in film, which were insightful."
Andreiev will surely apply his lessons for his next movie, "Cat's View," which is still in the planning phase. Describing the movie as "experimental," Andreiev wants to tell a story about the Boston bombing from the viewpoint of an abandoned house cat.
"It probably means I'll be adopting another cat," says Andreiev about casting his star. "The cat I have now is 16 years old."