By Nathan Duke
Floral Park’s Jim Haggerty has directed more movies this year than most filmmakers produce in a decade.
The 35âˆ’yearâˆ’old director is putting the finishing touches on three horror films, which he will debut this spring and summer on DVD, before he prepares to release his first comedy in late summer and then gets to work on his most challenging picture to date — a kung fu film. Haggerty, who has been making films in Queens for a decade, said he is attempting to create a low budget movie empire in the borough with his recently created Yellow Ape Productions.
“It’s the only name that wasn’t taken,” he said of his company. “We were going to call it Green Gorilla, so I couldn’t believe it when there were already several media companies with that name. I’m a Bâˆ’movie guy. I never wanted to make Hollywood movies. I like making wacky, lowâˆ’budget independent films like the ones I grew up watching.”
He said he admires microâˆ’budget genre filmmakers and that he has more respect for a director like Ed Wood, an American filmmaker often considered one of the worst directors of all time, than studio filmmakers with unlimited money at their disposal.
Haggerty attended Manhattan’s Hunter College and SUNY Old Westbury in the early 1990s and his first postâˆ’college gig was not as a filmmaker but as the host and creator of a cable access program, “Jim Haggerty’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Party,” which primarily featured interviews and onâˆ’location performances from 1980s hair metal bands.
His first foray into directing did not go as planned. In the late 1990s, he began work on an alien film which eventually fell apart after the lead actress decided to stop showing up.
“It was then I said that I’d no longer work with anyone I didn’t know,” Haggerty said.
In 1999, he made “The Slasher,” a low budget horror film that he shot guerillaâˆ’style, using friends’ homes and showing up at locations for quick sequences, rather than attempting to get city location permits. He also used cameras from the TV station at which he worked, while a professor at Old Westbury would allow him to use the college’s editing equipment to cut the film at night.
“It was such a fun movie to make and it was then I realized that this was what I am here to do,” he said of his experience shooting the film.
The film debuted to a packed audience at Long Island’s Malverne Cinema.
Four years later, Haggerty shot his second film, “I Dream of Dracula,” another horror film which is available for purchase in box sets of recent, lowâˆ’budget horror films.
It wasn’t until this year that the Queens native was able to direct his next film. But by the year’s end, he plans to have completed and released five new movies, including horror anthology “Grave Danger,” which will premiere Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. at Bellmore Movies on Long Island, as well as two other horror films that are scheduled to come out this summer — “Witchmaster General” and “From the Inside.”
Haggerty said he also plans to release his first comedy, “Is This a Joke?”, by the end of the year and will begin production on a kung fu movie this summer. His wife, Susan, acts as primary editor on most of his films.
He said he is also in the process of designing a new Web site, where fans of his work can purchase DVDs online rather than have to look for them in video stores.
“I’m going to take out the middle man and do it myself,” he said. “We’re trying to set up a cottage industry where we crank out movies. We generally clear our costs, but I hope, at some point, there will be a steady amount of money coming in from it. But, to me, it’s art and not commerce. I don’t do this for the money.”
Haggerty said he would eventually like to get a theatrical run for one of his films, perhaps at one of Greenwich Village’s independent movie houses.
And said he would like to bring some joy back to the horror genre after it has taken a turn for the dark, bleak and increasingly violent in recent years. He said he hoped his movies were more reflective of the genre pictures, such as “Don’t Look in the Basement” or “Psycho from Texas,” that he watched growing up in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I don’t want to make things that are disturbing or ugly,” he said. “I don’t want to make films where people are tortured. Most of my movies are kind of funny. I think these types of films should be a roller coaster ride and it should be fun.”