a Lawrencian interview
by Anne Tangeman
Joel Sanderson, computer whiz, artist, and long-time film archivist,
has resurrected the legacy of the late night TV horror fest, with
a twist, to Lawrences public access channel. Public access channel?
Yeschannel 99, which comes with basic cable, is usually a steady
stream of religious programming and QVC shopping shows. Joel was able
to land the sweet spot of 11 p.m. Friday nights to broadcast his Basement
Sublet of Horror, a classic late-night horror show complete
with scary host Gunther Dedmund. Sanderson frankensteins
an old horror filmcutting out the parts that drag and adding
in bits of film from industrial and educational films from years
gone by. Its classic fright-night fun with many surprises.
The debut episode featured Atom Age Vampire interspersed
with duck and cover nuclear preparedness films, how to
make the perfect cup of coffee, and a dainty bit with a 1950s teen
getting advice from her mom about burgeoning feelings towards boys.
Joel, who has been cutting up films for years with his Escape
Drive In and MT Pockets Budget Film Fest, spoke with me recently about
How did you come up with the host, Gunther Dedmund?
The characters come to me in dreams I have. Gunther Dedmund
the name was in a dreamhosting a TV show. This was a dream I
had in the early 80s. It always just kind of stuckand
that someday I wanted to do a TV show.
Did you ever do horror make-up and such when you were a kid?
Yeah. I had all the Famous Monsters of Filmland makeup magazines
I had all the stuff. I used to do like Harold
all sorts of gruesome things. I tried to take a course
in makeup in college but I was asked to leave because the instructor
didnt really like monster stuff.
Where do the films come from that you are using?
Im using some of the films I have but in order to broadcast
it, they all have to be public domain and they all have to have no
copyright restrictions. That eliminates a lot of stuff I already have.
(The room where BSOH is filmed) thats my work area in the basement.
Thats just one part of it too. I wanted to a more elaborate
show. The premise was about a TV set thats kind of evil or haunted.
If you were in the show say, youd walk in the back door and
there would be a TV with like a roulette wheel on it that spins around
and has letters that spell out a genre. If it spells out horror
the TV comes on and its Gunther Dedmund. Then theres a
science fiction host, an adventure host
I didnt really
want to be stuck in one genre, but in order to pull off the show,
the cheapest way was the horror one because my basement is a ready-made
set. I didnt have to build a set; I can just go down there and
turn the camera on. Everything else is more elaborate. If this goes
anywhere, like the next season, I might like to expand it into the
How long is the season?
Ten weeks; then theyre replayed. Ten weeks puts me to the
first week of school in fall, then the replays put me one week before
Halloween, so I can have a Halloween show.
What kind of cable access do people have to have to watch?
It used to be on a lower numbered channel but they just moved
public access to channel 99. At this time, as far as I know, theres
nothing but local religious programming on. I think Im the only
show that is something different, so they were actually kind of interestedthey
want more people to do stuff but theres a whole approval process
you have to go through. You cant do anything commercial, you
cant do anything political, so once you pass, and get producer
approval your public access produceryou can go ahead with
your show. The time slots just depend on when they have an opening.
For me they picked Friday at 11 p.m., which is perfect. Thats
what I wanted. They dont stay on past midnight, so that was
perfect. I was surprised that a lot of people applied for it, but
very few actually come through.
Its a lot of work.
I was shocked by how much work it really took.
It looks very professional. When you were growing up did you have
shows in Wichita that were like creature features?
Actually the opening of this show is a parody of Wichitas
horror host because I was planning on doing this in Wichita too but
Wichita isnt going to do public access anymore. The horror host
show in Wichita was called The Host and Rodney. The later
shows had a house on a hill, the camera would zoom in, there was a
light on in the dungeon and the camera would zoom up to that window
and cross fade into the dungeon set. So, thats my joke, since
I live in a ranch house and grew up in a ranch house, its just
funny to me to have it be a ranch house.
Whats in store for the next few episodes?
"House on Haunted Hill," "The Magnificent Gladiator,"
"The Brain that Wouldn't Die," and "The Last Man on
Earth." Id like to do a Carnival of Souls tribute,
where I condense the film down and interview whoever is left in townso
do one serious show. And some friends of mine bought the Carnival
of Souls house, so I could shoot the hosting stuff there. Ive
already got permission to do that.
Where do you get the films?
The majority of the films are from www.archive.org. Its
a massive online information resource. They started carrying feature
films. About a year and a half ago they started carrying DVD quality
films. I can download thoseits already in digital formand
I can just edit that down. Plus, they list the copyright of the films.
That gives me a ready-made documentation. The other films, starting
in the late 80s, all the film libraries were converting to video.
My name got out as a guy who would come pick up the film for free,
so I drove all over the Midwest going to film libraries with my truck
picking up all this stuff. There s just tons and tons of film
that got thrown away. At one point, two-thirds of my basement was
full of film and even I couldnt stand it, so I wound up getting
rid of a lot of it. That film is harder to use because I have to run
copyright searches on everything and provide documentation. Its
easier for me to download from archive.org because I can just print
out copyright status. Anyone can go there and download stuff and make
their own TV show.
How difficult was it to get on public access?
They get a lot of applications, but very few people actually end
up doing it. I show them documentation and they preview it and if
it meets their standards of quality and their standards of decency.
If you pass those two, theres no problem. Theres some
political stuff in the background of some of these films, but its
so slightlike the atomic footage
Do you do it all yourself?
It would be nice to have some help, but up to this point, I didnt
want toits so much time that I didnt want to commit
people. Theres no money. Ive asked several people to help,
but right now people just dont have the time. The biggest problem
is shooting the bridging segments because Im just sitting there
with the camera and a monitor doing it over and over again. The other
problem is that I cant see that well without my glasses. The
glasses Im wearing are my glasses from junior high, so I cant
see a thing. So, it takes a lot of time. Plus keeping track of the
sound levels, etc.
Whats the hardest thing about it all?
Just being the host I think. I have a monitor next to the camera,
but its hard not to look at the monitor and talk to that. The
majority of the footage I host is outtakes
Who would someone talk to if they wanted to do a public access
The thing to do would be to go to the sunflower broadband site,
go to the Free State Productions page and theres a public access
link on that page that gives a complete breakdown of the rules.
Check out the Basement Sublet of Horror on Channel 99 Fridays
at 11 p.m.
Explore Joels other work and more details on the Basement Sublet
of Horror at his website:
To learn more about public access TV in Lawrence: www.freestatestudios.com/