Blog Archives

More SPECIMEN: podcasts and videos

I may have mentioned it before, but we’ve started a monthly podcast to talk about sound effects stuff, genre stuff, movies, etc. And we also talk a lot about our new board game. This month we continue a conversation we started last month with Eric Van Tassell and Alan Vuchichevich, who are two of the actors in the game. They’ve also done loads of playtesting on Specimen and have some great insights on how to play the Specimen and how to play the crew. You can get all of our podcasts at or through iTunes.


We’ve also started putting up how-to strategy videos about Specimen at the Specimen page. The most recent addition deals with the Tracking units and can be seen here.

Ghost in the Graveyard soundtrack

We love those old horror movies from the late 1970s and early 1980s; the slasher films, the monster-from-outer-space films, the zombie films. What we especially love are the soundtracks. The really low-budget, simple scores that eschewed live orchestras in favor of banks of analog synthesizers and were often composed and performed by the director himself. And we love to use those soundtracks in our games. But invariably, we’ll cue up a track from one of these films to underscore a dramatic moment and realize that the players were thinking less about the game – and more about the movie the music came from.

So we decided to create our own awesome 80s horror movie music. As fate would have it, we do have a few vintage analog synths in our studio (including an old Moog Rogue and a Roland Juno 106), so we fired them up and started playing.

The result is the “Ghost in the Graveyard” soundtrack album: nine dark, moody music pieces performed on classic analog synths in the style of those fantastic 80s horror flicks.

There’s no movie, of course, just a bunch of cool music. But we kinda didn’t let that stop us. Just for kicks, as we were mastering the album, we also rounded up a couple of local actors and shot fake trailers and opening credits for the movie that doesn’t exist.

Ghost In The Graveyard Trailer #1 from Toxic Bag on Vimeo.

And we didn’t stop with the trailers! Downloads of the soundtrack from DrivethruRPG or Toxic Bag also include a special set of souvenir lobby cards, 2 movie posters and a reproduction of a 1983 newspaper ad with showtimes for “Ghost in the Graveyard.”

Clearly, we had a lot of fun working on this project. We hope you enjoy it as well.

You can see the trailers at our YouTube and Vimeo pages, and buy the soundtrack at Toxic Bag dot com or DrivethruRPG.

Special thanks to Stephanie Lewis, Alan Vuchichevich and Ele Matelan for their great work on the trailers!

4 out of 5 gamers surveyed…

Years ago, we took an afternoon off and shot some tongue-in-cheek commercials for our Game Masters and Battles products, as well as the DVD for the Bag Witch Project. We put ’em on a DVD and played them at the convention booths, and then kinda forgot about them.

Going through the office this week in search of something that might sound like an ejector seat, we stumbled on the master tape of those spots. Shameless goofs that we are, we put them up on our YouTube channel. No one’s seen these since GenCon 2001…enjoy!

More embarrassing old Toxic Bag vids at our YouTube channel.

Degas wins ALA Award

The video “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Degas,” which I sound-designed and mixed, has won the American Library Association’s Notable Children’s Video award.

You can watch a clip of “Degas” here.

Congratulations to everyone at Getting To Know!

Lost and Found: Thailand

Our friends at Lost and Found Travel asked us to record the voiceover for their new travel show pilot. The episode chronicles their recent trip to Thailand, and you can watch it now on YouTube.

They’re headed to India now, so look for a second episode soon!

Updates, late 2010

Just some quick notes on what’s happening in our world.

• One Sunday in October, we shot some footage for a series of web shorts we’re working on. Several of our friends from the Chicago theatre world came by to act for us. My brother Tim Griffin directed, and Mr. Blood is hard at work editing it all down. We hope to release it on our YouTube channel early in 2011.

• I’m going into tech this week for Kid Simple at Oakton Community College. This is my first live/foley show since 2003’s Deadworry, and it’s been fun and very challenging. My foley operator Phil Freeman is doing a great job with the enormous number of sound cues, and has constructed some fantastic sound rigs for the show. Kid Simple opens Dec. 2 and runs until Dec. 12.

• Right after I open Kid Simple I’m going straight into tech for Moraine Valley Community College’s One Man Christmas Carol, adapted and directed by Tommy Hensel. Tim Griffin and June Eubanks were in the studio last week to record the narration for the show, and I was fortunate enough to get the fantastic Rebecca Brooke M to come in and play fiddle for the Fezziwig party scene. One Man Christmas Carol will have one public performance on Sunday, December 12.

• And right after that –well, during all that, actually—I am diving into sound design and music work for Bohemian Theatre’s production of The Elephant Man, directed by June Eubanks. The Elephant Man opens opens January 7, 2011 at Theatre Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640.

re: Alice, the adaption of Alice In Wonderland that my brother Tim Griffin wrote and world-premiered in 2004 is being produced again in downstate Illinois. I’m currently working with the director to provide him with my original sound design and music from the 2004 production for this new staging. It’s very exciting to see this show go up again.

We’ll have some Toxic Bag product updates and a few other announcements soon, but in the meantime, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Return of the Bag Witch

I’ve written here before about “The Bag Witch Project,” the short film we made in 1999 as a marketing gimmick, that went on to be unexpectedly successful for us. And I’ve told you about the follow-up, 2000’s “Curse of the Bag Witch,” which was based on the TV special “Curse of the Blair Witch,” which was part of the marketing push for “The Blair Witch Project.”

Since this is the tenth anniversary of the release of “Curse,” and since we’ve had more than a couple of requests for it, we’re releasing “Curse of the Bag Witch” as a downloadable iPod-compatible movie. Featuring guest appearances by frequent Toxic Bag cohorts Alan Vuchichevich, Dan Hitzemann and Heidi Miller, as well as cameos by the “Bag Witch” cast and clips from the original movie, “Curse” is available from our website for about a buck and a half.

"Curse" VHS cover

The blurb from the original VHS tape:

The Unnecessary Investigation
That Takes Over Where the Parody Left Off!

This shocking mockumentary, created by the producers of the parody sensation “The Bag Witch Project,” further examines the odd legacy of stupidity that has occasionally bothered the gaming community of Milwaukee for the last three decades. Tracing the history of events that make up the legend, this silly story chronicles the origin of the Bag Witch, the embarrassing Harrison Barker junk food “massacre” of 1988, and the final, confused days of the three role-playing gamers who disappeared while looking for the legendary game tournament in 1998. This wholly unneeded investigation includes additional interviews with friends, authorities and experts involved in the case that were not seen in the original parody film. Before you see the hilarious “Bag Witch Project,” find out the ridiculous history of events that just might be the CURSE OF THE BAG WITCH!

Advertising poster for "Curse"

The Bag Witch: still alive somewhere

I’ve spent many hours reading through the fantastic I never thought I’d find myself there. On their “Evil is Deathly Cold” trope page, they refer to a scene from our 1999 Blair Witch parody, The Bag Witch Project. Scroll down to the “Film” section.

I gotta say, I’m pretty geeked about this.

Movie. Or not.

As we move into the next round of Toxic Bag projects, here’s some stuff I’m thinking about: This is a Good Time To Make Movies is a great look at where indie film is, by Noah Harlan. And Jane Kelly Kosek at All About Indie Filmmaking is considering four-walling a new film…
And then there’s Kevin Smith and Red State and his People’s Studio idea, which hopefully will not turn out like the Beatles’ Apple Corps experiment. (I have no idea if Mr. Smith is serious about this or not. It may just be part of the “what if?” theme of his blog post.)

We’re not sure what form our next project will take. Will it be a short, a feature, a web series? How will we shoot it, how will we fund it, how will we distribute it? We hope to have some answers soon. You’ll be the first to know.

Project Spotlight: Book teaser

We’ve just finished the first in a series of short promotional videos for Chicago author Jean Latz Griffin’s “In The Same Breath.” The book traces the history of spiritual awakenings and realizations about the immanent nature of God/Spirit over the past 3000 years, and includes weekly readings from an incredible variety of ancient and modern writers. Christine Tobias’ stunning artwork, which we used in the video, ties the ages together.

The book is available at Amazon and CyberINK. The teaser video can be seen at CyberINK’s YouTube channel.

For further discussion about Griffin’s philosophy of the non-dualistic immanence of Spirit, please read her blog, “God Swimming in God.”

(full disclosure: Jean Latz Griffin is Joe’s mother.)

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