Amanda Goodman watched “The Goonies” every Sunday as a child, and as an Astoria resident, she loved that the ‘80s adventure comedy took place in Astoria, too. What she didn’t realize was that it was set in Astoria, Oregon; she had just assumed that the scenes were in a part of Astoria she didn’t know, and she’d walk around thinking, “I’m like the Goonies!”
Now, the screenwriter and filmmaker understands that it’s not her hometown in that film. Still, Astoria has always inspired her to tell stories.
“I don’t really get this feeling in Manhattan or Brooklyn, but in Astoria, wherever I am, I’m creating stories in my mind, and it’s all inspiring,” Goodman said. “What is the story here? What could happen here? What’s interesting about this location? And I think that’s just a testament to Queens in general. It’s a very cinematic location.”
That’s why she’s setting and filming her upcoming vampire web series “You Only Die Once”—inspired by a short film she shot of the same name—right here in our neighborhood.
Most popular vampire films and television shows take place in California, in small towns, or even in Manhattan, she said, but “Queens, especially Astoria, is just so gothic and so meant for horror; it’s amazing to me that it’s not featured more.”
The horror genre has always been a big part of Goodman’s life.
“Not a lot of girls my age were writing these horror screenplays and short stories,” she said.
She now uses that childhood interest to make her own work. “I thought, why not use two things that make me unique—that I am someone in this industry who is from Astoria and my deep understanding of the horror genre—and that’s where I am now.”
Goodman’s first short film was a female-driven horror comedy called “Cori’s First Horror Movie,” which was shot in one day around Halloween of 2015 in her apartment in Astoria.
“It got a lot of good reception in terms of people understanding what my voice was, and that was the first time I really delved into filmmaking in that way,” she said. “I think I’ve always been a director; since I was a kid I would do ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketches and all that kind of stuff, and weird little comedy things. But this was the first time that I wrote a script that I produced.” She also directed and acted in the short.
“I still can’t process how I did all that,” she said. “Now it becomes second-nature, because you get used to where you are on time and having the right people with you on set, but it was a good starting point for me because I had no expectations. I just had this really fun story, and it turned out that people really, really responded well to the humor and the style and just the understanding of the genre in general.”
Goodman wrote the screenplay for the short film “You Only Die Once” around Thanksgiving and shot it in Astoria a few months later. She had a premiere party on Friday the 13th at Q.E.D. Astoria, which she said has been “so supportive” of her project.
“I was a nervous wreck,” she said, “because you spend so much time with it. To have a ton of strangers be in the room, and to hear the reception at the Q&A, that’s when the idea sparked about the [web] series, because people were asking, ‘Oh, so this continues now, right?’ And I was like, ‘No.’”
So a month after she premiered the film online, she started writing a web series, without even planning for it to go into production. But after she wrote it, she fell in love with the story and the characters and wanted to dive into it again.
She views the film as a pilot for the series in a way, but she says that “the series is written in a way that if you see the film it adds to it, but we start from a place where it’s not confusing. If they go back and watch the film, it’s kind of like an added layer. I like to say it’s kind of like the ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ pilot: it’s so cheaply made, and some of the actors never even made it to the show, but it’s still one of those really great things—I have it on VHS, actually; I bought it on eBay.”
Goodman had an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the series, but she’s keeping it fairly low-budget.
“I’ve always been very good at making a really good genre product at a very decent price, because I think with a lot of genre films in general, it’s about the director using their imagination to create things,” she said. “You don’t always have to have high, Hollywood, blockbuster budgets to make things that are really effective.”
She wanted to make the web series grander than the short film and up the production value, she said. She’s working with some of the same crew, and the web series will have all of the original cast members, with some new characters added.
“All the stakes are higher—I hate saying ‘stakes,’ because I keep saying vampire puns every time I talk about the project,” she said, laughing. “But it’s true.”
Also working on the web series are Astoria actor Lyssa Mandel, who regularly performs her show “The Bitch Seat” at Q.E.D., and Astoria makeup artist Lenore Koppelman. Koppelman has a background in face-painting and only recently began working on movie monster makeup, Goodman said.
“We’re getting grosser and grosser, so she’s excited,” Goodman said of Koppelman. “She’s a big horror fan, too, so I write these really gross visual things and she’s like, ‘I can’t wait to do that,’ so that’s what’s really fun.”
Astoria residents might just see some of Koppelman’s work being filmed in Astoria Park later this year.
“People might be seeing a crazy half-zombie vampire when we shoot outdoors in December. People can see that there are lights and cameras, so hopefully no one calls the police and goes, ‘There’s a monster in Astoria Park,’” Goodman joked.
Goodman already has plans to shoot another project in Astoria Park. She is currently writing a feature-length screenplay called “The Change” that she describes as a “mother-daughter werewolf horror comedy,” and the climax takes place on top of the Hell Gate Bridge.
So can we expect a season two of “You Only Die Once”?
“I would love to keep it going,” Goodman said, depending on logistics. Like the short film, the first season of the web series will have an ending, but it will leave the audience with “kind of a fun teaser.”
“I just believe so much in this project and the people involved,” she said, “and giving a voice to not just women in film but women in the horror genre and to Astoria.”
“You Only Die Once” will be hosting two events later this month: an Undead Ball at The Black Rose (117 Avenue A, Manhattan) from 8 to 11 p.m. on Oct. 22, complete with a costume contest, drinks, giveaways, a tarot card reader, and the series’ makeup artist, who will be doing gory makeup on guests, and an event at Q.E.D. (qedastoria.com) on Halloween night.
The web series will be filming later this year, with its released date to be announced.
Visit yodoseries.weebly.com for more information.