Thursday, March 17, 2011

Two New Seahorse Reviews

A long time ago, Matt Barry, writing over at Rogue Cinema, had some nice words to say about our film:

I was intrigued by the Russells’ decision to let several scenes play out in one long, uninterrupted take, which is well-suited to dialogue-driven character comedy such as this. ...

Son of a Seahorse works as a quirky, off-beat indie comedy, sometimes raunchy but often good-natured.

And while we're keeping the phrase "quirky, off-beat indie comedy" as far away from the DVD cover as possible, we did appreciate his review.

Simon Abrams-- who, as he discloses at the top of his consideration, is a friend of ours (though we've never met)-- also had some kind words to say about the film, over at Extended Cut, claiming to be

impressed by the way that writing/directing duo Tom and Mary Russell used such a broad style of acting to make a movie filled with jokes consistently uncomfortable. David Schonscheck plays up Nick Kilpatrick's mercurial attitude by constantly over-acting. In any other context, this would be grating but the longer the film goes on, the more apparent it becomes that the Russells are trying to alienate you. If anyone needed proof that a character study doesn't need to follow a sympathetic character in order to be ingratiating or even just satisfying, this is the film. A worthy descendant of King of Comedy.

What I think emerges from these two reviews, and the three (two negative, one positive) that have preceded it, is that the film is one that can be looked at in different ways. A. A. Dowd said that

The Russells are [not] cut from any shape or variety of traditional Hollywood cloth. These two are loud and proud indie guerillas. They favor marathon takes and lengthy digressions, long shots and longer conversations. It's tempting to lump them into the mumblecore camp, except their sense of humor is somehow both drier and broader, with an affinity for garish caricatures and bizarro non-sequitors. ...

Son of a Seahorse is all over the map. It sets up Nick as a kind of perpetual straight man, and then subjects him to the judgments, scolds, rants and taunts of various weirdos and walk-ins. Schonscheck has a certain hangdog charisma, but he's also inconsistent. His performance seems to fluctuate in proportion to his co-stars, who range from accomplished improvisers to transparent amateurs. The first scene, for example, works like gangbusters, mostly because Schonscheck is evenly matched by Swanberg. A later encounter with a raving lunatic (Tom Russell himself, moonlighting as an authentically unhinged cameo player) establishes the lead as a skilled comic foil. He's undone, alas, by some faulty support– from lisping cartoon bit actors to deer-in-headlights non-professionals. (I definitely could have done without the tired There Will Be Blood parody, too.) ...

If Son of a Seahorse often seems like a different movie scene to scene, its saving grace is its uniting principle: that marriage is the most rewarding pain in the ass you'll ever willfully subject yourself to. It's hard not to have a certain affection for any film that deals with married life in a way that's neither cloying nor rigorously cynical. The Russells, husband and wife filmmakers with a word or two to share on the subject, invest their hit-or-miss comic enterprise with an endearing breadth of genuine feeling.

Nick Rombes (author of Cinema in the Digital Age) gave the film its shortest but possibly most complimentary public review, over on twitter, where he called it "a hilarious, terrifying film."

And then there's the Filmrogue (not to be confused with the above-linked Rogue Cinema) podcast review, which basically accuses us not only of incompetence but, I guess somewhat amusingly, fraud. (The link that pops up in a google search is, perhaps thankfully, broken.)

Like I said: diverse opinions. Hopefully this will translate into more interest in the film when the DVD is re-released in the next few months.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


A.A. Dowd, a critic we respect as much for his biting prose as his discerning taste, wrote a review of Son of a Seahorse. And, to be sure, it ain't a rave; the notice is mixed with a definite lean towards the negative. And while of course we have a different opinion about the film's success or worth, we still really dug the review because he gets us, he understands where we're coming from, and it does give a prospective viewer a pretty good idea of what the film is like and whether or not they think they're going to dig it.

The Russells are [not] cut from any shape or variety of traditional Hollywood cloth. These two are loud and proud indie guerillas. They favor marathon takes and lengthy digressions, long shots and longer conversations. It's tempting to lump them into the mumblecore camp, except their sense of humor is somehow both drier and broader, with an affinity for garish caricatures and bizarro non-sequitors.


If Son of a Seahorse often seems like a different movie scene to scene, its saving grace is its uniting principle: that marriage is the most rewarding pain in the ass you'll ever willfully subject yourself to. It's hard not to have a certain affection for any film that deals with married life in a way that's neither cloying nor rigorously cynical. The Russells, husband and wife filmmakers with a word or two to share on the subject, invest their hit-or-miss comic enterprise with an endearing breadth of genuine feeling.

Read more here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Poster, and Snake Oil.

SON OF A SEAHORSE is a dispatch from a personal hell with punchlines. It's the story of Nick: angry for good reasons and no reasons, self-destructive, self-loathing, slippery, brought to larger-than-life by DAVID SCHONSCHECK.

He's aided and abetted by a collection of stylized performances that run the gamut from gleefully over-the-top to deliciously deadpan, all marshaled by directors MARY & TOM RUSSELL in service of a SHARP and DEFIANT THROAT-PUNCH of DIY COMEDY.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


With some considerable new tools at our disposal, Tom and Mary Russell are proud to announce new-and-improved but every-bit-as-scrappy DVD releases of our films The Man Who Loved (2007) and Son of a Seahorse (2008), coming in 2010. Not only will each disc be given a spiffy packaging redesign, but each film is getting a new sound mix and a host of bonus features, including, yes, that holiest of holies, Directors' Commentary Tracks.

More details (sneak peaks of the new packaging, lists of bonus features, and release dates) will become available in the next few months. But as a consequence of this shift, the previous DVD editions will no longer be available for purchase as of January 30, 2010.

Now, if you want to wait and buy the new ultra-spiffy editions later in the year, that's cool and the gang. But if you can't wait to get your hands on some ultra-indie self-distributed goodness and want to buy the cheaper and (comparatively) bare bonesier editions we put out last year, now is the time to do it.

Each of these old editions retail for $15 and are eligible for Amazon's Free Super-Saver Shipping. But remember, these editions of The Man Who Loved and Son of a Seahorse will no longer be available as of January 30.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Son of a Seahorse Got on a Best of the Decade List!

... well, it's my list, but still.

Hasn't been much happening since the last post-- we've sent several screeners out, received a lot of private feedback, not much public as of yet-- just one extremely negative review and one extremely positive tweet. The film seems to be very divisive-- slightly more than half the audience loves it passionately and the rest despise it, with no middle ground, no shades-of-gray. So either we're on to something. Or we're not.

Either way, we'll keep you posted, and as more reviews come in (i.e., as soon as we get some positive public feedback to balance out the negative public feedback), we'll be sure to link to them in this space.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


  1. David Schonscheck telling God that He has an anger problem.
  2. Robot that dispels steam from its ears, created by Steampunk Legend Jake Hildebrandt.
  3. Joe Swanberg remains clothed for his entire performance.
  4. Samurai duel at sunset.
  5. Porn starring Daniel Taintview and his son, B.J. Taintview. What does he eat? Hint: it ain't your milkshake.
  6. Bonus features include: three episodes of Ned and Sunshine (the zombie sitcom) including one no longer available online; a children's film about a suicidal snail; and a discussion of the film with the cast and crew.
  7. Nothing happens in the last twenty minutes.
  8. The film provides a probing examination of self-hatred, anger, and masculinity that informs the way the film is structured.
  9. Every time you spend $15, we get $3.30. Support real independent film!
  10. It's a god-damn masterpiece.

Son of a Seahorse-- Now on DVD!


Our film Son of a Seahorse is at long last available on DVD.

From an audacious opening scene that runs over 22 minutes (before the credits!) to an ending that is as quiet as it is disquieting, SON OF A SEAHORSE is an unusual (and unusually satisfying) comedy from the Russells. It's a very funny film about a very angry man. That conflicted and explosive man is played by David Schonscheck in a star-making performance that is contrasted and complimented by Adrienne Patterson's smart and stylish performance as his no-nonsense, sharp-edged wife.

The film features creature effects by Steampunk Legend Jake Hildebrandt, a supporting performance by filmmaker Joe Swanberg, and awesomeness, as always, by the Russells. It's DIY filmmaking at its boldest, brassiest, and funniest in a disc that's jam-packed with extras.

BONUS FEATURES: Three episodes of the zombie sitcom Ned and Sunshine; the full version of suicidal children's story Bernard the Lonely Snail; "Indoor Voices", a discussion of the film with Mary Russell, Tom Russell, David Schonscheck, and Adrienne Patterson.

It's only $15 dollars-- a bargain, to be sure. We're not saying that you have to buy it-- we're just saying if you don't we might not be friends anymore. BUY IT NOW ON AMAZON!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Finalish DVD Slip Cover

As we finalize the details/contents for our self-distributed DVD of Son of a Seahorse, we gave the cover another once-over and spiffed it up a bit.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Son of a Seahorse DVD Cover Design

For many low-budget filmmakers, marketing is a word that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Marketing is about selling, not about art; about targeting an audience, not engaging them. And then there's those filmmakers and studios that are all about the marketing, all about selling the tickets and not about, you know, making a good film, making something that lasts.

In fact, so much was Tom's dislike of marketing that the first film the two of us made together, Milos, did not have a website, as was the trend. It was Mary, perhaps the more realistically minded of the two of us, who insisted on having a page for The Man Who Loved and Son of a Seahorse.

But now that we're self-distributing our films via Amazon (starting with The Man Who Loved), we can no longer ignore that marketing aspect. DVDs require DVD slip-case covers, and self-distribution requires some degree of self-promotion.

And actually and honestly? Mr. "I Hate Marketing" finds that he kind of enjoys the process of finding & creating images that might (1) communicate what the film is about and (2) persuade someone to purchase it, of deciding on and then arranging different elements, of creating "logo families" and tag-lines. It has absolutely almost nothing to do with filmmaking, but it is a sort of bastard art in its own right. (And even Mr. "I Hate Marketing" can admit that he has some serious love for some of the old posters, especially those that came out of Eastern Europe: so striking, so lovely, so kinetic.)

Anyway, with that preamble out of the way, we thought we'd take you through some of the various forms the marketing (such as it is) for Son of a Seahorse.

To begin with, there was this poster:

Three things here that you'll note: the blue font (Aardvark Bold, which was actually used in the film), this particular shot of David screaming, and the salmon-coloured suit that he's wearing. These three things remain pretty constant through-out the various itinerations that follow, mostly because they're distinctive and, we hope, memorable.

Our second poster is really just the first with the full cast; a miniature version of this was sent to festivals along with the screener. Were we doing this to try and capitalize on the presence of Joe Swanberg in our cast? You bet your ass we were. Did it work? Not in the slightest.

Our next poster concept was a little more daring:

Notice that the three motifs we mentioned before are present: the blue Aardvark, the screaming David (in the form of the line drawing), the salmon-suit. In this case, the suit is suggested by negative space, the colour filling up the poster. The shot of David walking also had a nice "lonely man" motif-- something that we felt reflected well on the film.

I think it's a really neat concept for a poster. Unfortunately, we couldn't quite execute it to our satisfaction. The major problem was the drawing: if you look back at the first two posters, David's facing left. We drew it that way, and then flipped it; flipped, it just doesn't feel "right". At the same time, the head facing inwards (towards the walking David) didn't feel right either. We tried it without the drawing--

-- but it's not striking enough, doesn't communicate enough about the film. When we started working on the DVD cover, we abandoned this concept and went back to our original for the front. We tried the drawn version of that same image, now facing left once more, for the back.

We added as text one of the best lines from the film:

Unfortunately, that line is Adrienne's. Putting it next to the David head makes it look like it's his line. And then it doesn't make any sense: is the angry guy yelling at himself to stop yelling? We decided we had better go for a more traditional back-of-the-box text, in all its ego-stoking glory. Gone went the head.

Also note that instead of a solid orangey-pink-salmon back we added a blue box and separated them with a bar of black/stills. This put a greater deal of stress on the use of blue for the text, making blue and salmon our film's two marketing colours. But that "Jam-Packed With Extras!" blue is a little lost in the bottom box, and so we made one more change:

And, by the way, it is going to be jam-packed with extras. In addition to a mini-commentary like the one we provided on The Man Who Loved, you'll find the complete short film Bernard the Lonely Snail, and three episodes of Ned and Sunshine, the zombie sitcom, including one no longer available online. And, heck, we might even throw in a trailer or two:

(Really, seriously, click on that HQ button; the "standard" edition lags and chops all to hell.)

Unless we get a sudden offer from a distribution company (which, being poor, we'd be more than happy to accept), you can expect Son of a Seahorse to be available this June for fifteen measly dollars. Heck, buy it with The Man Who Loved to qualify for that free super-saver shipping. Or wait until later in the summer, when our long unseen original cut of Milos will be made available for the very first time, also with various fine and sundry supplements.

The marketing of that one, of course, will be a whole 'nother discussion...

Monday, April 27, 2009

DVD guarantee

There are two "burnable" DVD formats: DVD-R and DVD+R. DVD-R are compatible with 90 to 95 percent of players, while DVD+R are compatible with about 87.6 percent of players. (The players that can't read -R's can read +R's and vice-versa.)

The copies of our films available through are burned onto DVD-R discs. Our own DVD burner burns DVD+R discs; our player, like most newer players, plays both formats just fine.

If, for any reason, your player cannot play the DVD-R disc, we will be happy to replace it with a DVD+R copy. Our e-mail address is on the back of each DVD slip-case.

Son of a Seahorse should be coming out in early June.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tom and Mary Russell Interview at The Counter Project

The Dearborn-centered culture and entertainment site "The Counter Project" recently asked us a few questions about our films and our decision to distribute our films ourselves, starting with The Man Who Loved. You can read the entire interview here.

This is the first time we've ever been interviewed, and so as you can imagine we're pretty psyched about it. Go ahead and give it a look!

Monday, April 6, 2009

New Trailer!

Hey, everybody! It's a new trailer for Son of a Seahorse!

We'll probably be releasing a dvd of SOASH (as all the cool kids call it) sometime before the summer. In the mean-time, you can take a gander at our film from 2007, The Man Who Loved, now available for purchase via and CreateSpace.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bookmark Turtleneck Films

It's been a while since we posted over at Turtleneck, and as more than one friend has remarked, we have so many blogs that it's hard to keep track of it all.

The New Turtleneck Films makes it a lot easier. Everything posted on our other sites-- for example, Son of a Seahorse and The Man Who Loved-- will be cross-posted here. And there will be new news on both sites (and, by extension, this one) very, very soon as we have some rather exciting things in the works.

You'll also get some movie and game reviews. All in all, we should be posting more frequently. So stay tuned and check back often.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Five Years

Today is our fifth wedding anniversary.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cast Showing

Late Tuesday night, we finished the film. It is exactly 96 minutes and 28 seconds long, and we sent it off on Thursday to a certain film festival with our fingers crossed.

On Friday, we had a cast showing. Present were our leads, David Schonscheck and Adrienne Patterson, David's wife Stephanie (who has a small but memorable role) and the always-entertaining Peter Jurich and Mariya O'Rourke. Mariya had to leave about two-thirds of the way through the film due to some family matters, and while we're not sure if this film, like the last one, is exactly to her taste, she did seem to enjoy herself at least up until that point.

There was a lot of laughter through-out the film. Tom's sides were aching, but in that good way. Our last film had a number of comical moments, and was certainly (we think) entertaining and thought-provoking, but Son of a Seahorse is more of an overt comedy and it showed.

Afterwards, we asked what they thought of it. Everyone still present said that they enjoyed it, that it was good, and that the other actors were good in it. Peter and Stephanie expressed concerns about the pacing of the picture and the opening scene, which now clocks in at over twenty-two minutes.

Peter said that scene moved along really well, that it kept his interest and attention, that it built a certain momentum. He was not advocating cutting the scene or cutting it down but instead actually made a very serious suggestion as to how to make the scene longer. He just felt that the rest of the film doesn't build the same momentum as our opening set piece.

David disagreed with him on that point; he felt that the momentum was fine. Everyone agreed that the film slows down during its last twenty minutes or so, which is really a matter of structural design. Peter mentioned that around that point, he had time to think more deeply about David's character, Nick, and what his motivations may be, which is one reason why we did that.

Adrienne said that while she didn't notice any lagging while watching the film, now that we were talking about it she wasn't so certain. She also expressed some concerns about the final scene.

"Even when we were shooting and rehearsing it," she said, "I didn't know quite how it fit or was going to play."

"If there's something like that in the next one," said Tom, "please, tell us. Don't be afraid to challenge us. We're all making this film together, not just me and Mary, but all of us, and we need your input. We can work together to make it better or figure out what the problem is."

"I did say something at the time," said Adrienne.

Tom didn't remember that; Mary, diplomatic as always, was silent.

Peter, getting tired of all the questions, finally turned it around and asked us what we thought of it.

Said Tom: "Well, I can't really answer that question right now, because I'm still totally in love with this movie. I'm too close to it. After a few months or a year, the love starts to wear off and I can be more objective. But at the moment, I look at it, and I see, wow, this works and this is funny and what about this character moment here and I like the way this does this. So I can't really answer."

Mary: "I'm satisfied with it. I have some issues with some of the sound recording, but you can hear just about everything and there's no spikes. I think it's better than the last one, and the next one will be even better than that. So I'm happy with it."

Another trailer and poster are coming soon, and, of course, we'll be keeping you updated so make sure you check back regularly.

EDIT: P.S. Modesty dictates that we do not direct your attention to this blog's sidebar, especially not the GAMES BY TOM RUSSELL section which features a super-cool action-packed shooter about alien flowers.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Our mysterious super-secret special mystery guest star (of mystery) is no longer so mysterious. Today, we recieved a disc containing what will be one of the most memorable performances in the film-- that of Joe Swanberg, the director of such fine films as LOL, Hannah Takes the Stairs, and Nights and Weekends.

To paraphrase Ben Affleck, Joe Swanberg is a gentleman and a prince.

He set aside some time in an already hectic schedule to commit this terrific, funny, and laudatory performance to video for us. And now that we have that, all the pieces are in place; all that's left to do is place the music and the end credits.

And just in time, too; the deadline for our festival of choice is this Saturday. The plan is to finish the hell out of it tomorrow and get it in the mail; on Friday, we'll have a cast showing.

Expect another trailer and poster sometime in the next week as well.