Thursday, 22 May 2014 10:54

Chiller Couple: Q&A with Anthony and Shirley Griffin of Thriller! Chiller!

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Anthony and Shirley Griffin of Thriller! Chiller! Anthony and Shirley Griffin of Thriller! Chiller! PHOTO: Elizabeth Merriman

You recently announced big changes for Thriller! Chiller! in 2014. You added an extra day and are moving downtown to the UICA. What helped you make that decision?

Anthony: Well, the demand from last year's festival. ... We like to touch base with our audience and see what they enjoyed and a lot of them wanted to see it larger. With downtown and the interest in it and everything going on, we took the chance.

So you took the festival from Wealthy Theatre to downtown Grand Rapids?

Anthony: We've moved it all downtown. We love Wealthy, it was a fantastic situation for us, they've done a wonderful job, but it was time for us to do something different.

Shirley: We talked about it and considered it for probably a year. We're very cautious about it we wanted to expand, but we also wanted to make sure that our customer experience stayed the same.

How did you get the UICA on board?

Shirley: We were thinking about them and they were thinking about us. It just was a good time. They were looking to expand the work they do with local filmmakers and we were looking to expand our festival.

Anthony: When that kind of opportunity presents itself and you meet someone who is into you and you're into them and you want to do something together, why not take that opportunity to do something for the larger crowd overall.

What was it about the UICA? Did it offer more space or a longer time period for the festival?

Shirley: I think being downtown was the main thing. We want to be part of the downtown experience.

So providing more entertainment options for people when the festival lets out each night?

Anthony: Exactly. We signed on with The Pyramid Scheme, so we'll have a day there. And then there are a couple venues we've talked to. We haven't done anything formal, but we're still working on a lot of that. Our goal is to change it from a central-location festival to a walking festival with the UICA as the headquarters.

What's your biggest speed bump with the festival?

Anthony: Our biggest speed bump is convincing people that we're more than just horror movies. We're sci-fi, action and suspense movies. So if someone says they don't like those movies, but they liked The Avengers, well, we play those types of movies, too.

How did you two meet?

Shirley: We met in college. We both went to Western and worked at the student newspaper. I was the Arts and Entertainment editor and he wrote the movie reviews.

Thriller! Chiller! debuted 2006. How did you get it started?

Anthony: Chris (Randall, Thriller! Chiller!'s co-founder) and I had started a group called the Grand Rapids Screenwriters Guild about a year earlier. ... We were talking about the state of film in general and the incentives of that time. He had made a movie earlier, but because it was a horror movie, it wasn't getting a lot of play. I was just disappointed in general that there wasn't enough focus on genre movies. And Chris was talking about programming really cool movies at a local theatre chain. So of course we're laughing on the phone and then said, 'We should just do our own festival then.'

You brought in Shirley in 2010. How did Shirley help the festival?

Anthony: It wasn't that we didn't have a focus, but she calls it 'random acts of marketing.' She gives us more structure and strategy.

Who is Thriller! Chiller!'s audience?

Anthony: You get the arthouse crowd and you get the grindhouse crowd. They're not that far apart. If you're a fan of movies and you love movies, you can appreciate the art form in any way. When Chris and I started out with it, we wanted people to understand that going to genre movies wasn't a throwaway experience. It could be more meaningful in a way.

Shirley: For us, we play more independent movies, so they're your favorite movies you haven't found yet.

Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Lindsay Patton-Carson. Photo: Elizabeth Merriman 

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