The Smiling Man Wins Best Make-Up Award at the Los Angeles Short Film Festival 2016

Bam! We are so very grateful for winning the Best Make-up Award at the 2016 Los Angeles Short Film Festival! Huge congratulations goes to our Lead Makeup FX Artist Melanie Leandro and her team (Brittany Fontaine and Rowan Walters) for their amazing work and for our amazing actor Strange Dave for providing the canvas and breathing life to a character that's making a lot of people's skin crawl!

Check out some images of Melanie and her team at work as well as some assorted BTS photos below!

The Smiling Man Nominated for Two Awards at Fright Night Theatre Film Festival

The great news keeps rolling in as we are thrilled to announce that we are nominated for two awards at the 2016 Fright Night Theatre Film Festival: Best Horror Short Film and Most Shocking Short Film. We are in competition against some fantastic shorts, so we're just happy to be in the running and screening our film with another audience.

If you're in the Ontario area, don't miss out on this festival! They have an amazing lineup of genre features and shorts, and it's going to be a great time!

Tickets are available now! Click the link button below!

About the Fright Night Theatre Film Festival

The Fright Night Theatre Film Festival (FNTFF) is the only festival dedicated to horror, cult, and genre cinema in the greater Hamilton, ON area. Operating twice a year, this fan-favorite event screens a combined 20 feature films and shorts each bi-annual season over the course of two exciting nights of genre film mayhem at the Staircase Theatre (27 Dundurn St. N). Fright Night Theatre is not just a scary night at the movies; it’s a celebration of fringe film-making, controversial cinema, tongue-in-cheek B-movies, and the art of the macabre.

Find out more on their website at

Review: "The Smiling Man is a Piece of Amazing Horror Art"

Big thanks to the folks at We Are Indie Horror for a fantastically favorable review of The Smiling Man. We are humbled by their response to our film, it's all one could ask for as a filmmaker. I mean, damn, check out these quotes

"...some of the scariest and most intense moments in a short film."

"...each and every shot can be made a painting"

"The Smiling Man is a piece of amazing horror art that will end as a timeless classic and will outshine any modern horror feature length film. "

Check out their full review here:

Huge thanks to the entire crew who brought their A games to make this film possible, from Abbi and Strange Dave in front of the camera, David Holechek and his team behind the lens and Melanie Leandro and her team behind the makeup to Vivien Villani for his haunting score and Jamey Scott for his fantastic mix and sound design. Of course, we're nothing without the rest of the Defiant Images guys and gals.

Super stoked for SXSW coming in a couple of weeks' time!

The Smiling Man nabs Honorable Mention for Best Horror Short at the Macabre Faire Film Festival 2016

What great news! Out of 146 amazing genre films from all over the world, The Smiling Man gets to bring home an Honorable Mention for Best Horror Short back our NY premiere at the Macabre Faire Film Festival! 

Huge thanks to co-founder Elsie Ginsberg and her awesome crew for putting together an amazing fest that Newsday Entertainment calls "Sundance with fangs!"

About the Macabre Faire Film Festival

A judged film festival that provides a venue for showcasing your films within a celebratory & respectful environment, where fans can enjoy the independent films entered by those who passionately craft your Strange-ifical, Weird-ifical, Horror-ifical, Sci-fi-tastical, Fantastical and Macabre-licious films. The opportunity to win awards, increase film visibility via press and possibly obtain distribution is always part of the equation with the Macabre Faire Film Festival.

Find out more on their Facebook page

The Smiling Man Wins Best Film Overall at SF Indie's Another Hole in the Head 2015

Well folks, I have to say, this is pretty damn special. The Smiling Man just took home Best Film Overall at the 12th Annual Another Hole in the Head Festival in San Francisco! We are truly stunned for this audience award, which chose our film out of 11 days of programming covering 26 features and 90 short films in several categories.

Seriously, holy crap, right?

Super grateful for the opportunity to drive out to the city and catch the screening with a great crowd, and I even got to meet up with some dear old friends and catch some great films and chat with some filmmakers and film fans.

Huge thanks go out to the organizers of Another Hole in the Head, including the fine folks at SF Indie and the awesome New People Cinema in Japantown. We hope to see you there with another film next year!

About Another Hole in the Head

SF IndieFest's Another Hole in the Head genre film festival runs 11 days Dec 5-14 2014.This is our 12 year anniversary and we're going big. Our annual festival of horror, sci-fi, dark fantasy and exploitation cinema defies convention to bring you the most outrageous genre films from both emerging and established filmmakers. Almost two weeks of celluloid mayhem not usually found in your local cineplex!

“San Francisco’s original genre film festival is characterized by a scrappy, DIY aesthetic that eschews big studio content and recent trends towards elevated genre. Holehead’s programming remains curatorially committed to the genre’s graphic roots in shockploitation, visceral thrills and gleeful mayhem.” – Michael Guillen, The Evening Class

Find out more on their website at

The Smiling Man Review: "a truly nightmarish creation."

We are grateful to the awesome folks at Hickey's House of Horror for taking the time out to check out our film and write their fantastic review of The Smiling Man. It's got some spoiler-y bits, but it's hard to be spoiler-free when you're reviewing a film with a running time of seven minutes.

If you haven't seen it yet but want to get the gist of the review, we've pulled some quotes for you:

  • "this may be a short but it looks every bit as polished as a big studio feature."
  • "[Strange] Dave's performance is spectacularly creepy."
  • "a superbly executed and lean exercise in carefully cultivated fear."
  • "With a great cast, some superb effects work and an assured confident director who knows how to shoot horror, The Smiling Man is an absolute must-see."

Read the full review here:

If you're looking to check out the film, we'll be screening this weekend in Brazil at the MAC Horror Film Festival to close out November, and we'll be at A Night of Horror in Australia and PDXtreme in Portland in December.

Shriekfest Radio Interview This Thursday, 10/15 @ 7pm!

Tune in to Shriekfest Radio this Thursday, October 15 at 7pm when the fabulous Shriekfest founder and festival director Denise Gossett interviews AJ Briones, writer/director of The Smiling Man.

Hot on the heels of our well-received screening at the 15th Annual Shriekfest Film Festival in Los Angeles, in which The Smiling Man won the award for Best Super Short Film, we'll be chatting with Denise about all sorts of fun stuff!

To listen to the show, go to and click the Radio icon!

The Smiling Man Review: "the mark of a truly skilled manipulator of emotion."

The great folks at Horror House Party reviewed The Smiling Man during our screening at the Horrible Imaginings Horror Film Festival in San Diego. The review comes in two parts, one is spoiler-free, and the other spills most of the juicy plot details.

If you have yet to see The Smiling Man, it's probably better to just check out the "spoiler free" review. You can check it out here:

Spoiler Alert!

For those of you who have already seen it, check out their very positive review below:

Looking to see The Smiling Man? It is screening in 15 film festivals all over the world in October alone! This weekend, we will be at the Sacramento Horror Film Festival (Oct. 10, actress Abbi Chally and her mom Mellisa will be in attendance!), next weekend we will be in Boise at the Idaho Horror Film Festival (10/17, writer/director AJ Briones in attendance!), Biloxi for the Fear Fete Horror Film Festival & Convention (nominated for 4 awards!) and Louisville for Fright Night Film Fest!

For a complete list of our upcoming screenings, check out our screening page here:

The Smiling Man is "an exercise in lean yet undeniably terrifying horror." - Fangoria Magazine

Wow! Fangoria just featured The Smiling Man in their article "15 Submissions To Die For: AJ Briones' The Smiling Man!"

It reads very much like that dream article every filmmaker has ever wished to read about themselves but would never dare admit, because it's such a crazy thing to think! As a filmmaker, you make the best possible film you can make with the resources available to you and you just hope that it resonates with some people... but you never really know how it's going to be received.

I've had a very fortunate life with many career highlights: I helped launch the Sega Dreamcast, worked alongside Sonic Team to help create Sonic Adventure, created one of the very first virtual cameras using a shoe, was part of James Cameron's team that created Avatar (my boys have a picture with the Oscar to prove it), and got to help create some of the biggest film franchises out there, learning from some of the best artists and filmmakers along the way. I have to say, having my short film featured on Fangoria with such a positive and flattering review belongs right up there with all of them.

I have to provide context to explain. 

When I was a kid I was obsessed with horror movies. I never had a subscription to Fangoria, but I would take regular trips to the bookstore to buy the latest copy, alongside Cinefex, Heavy Metal and sometimes Rue Morgue. I think I had a stack of at least 50 Fangorias in my room; a room which had posters of Evil Dead 2, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Darkman and a big honking Freddie Krueger gloved sweater hand bursting out of the wall, complete with cut paper and cardboard made to look like broken drywall. In that very room I spent countless hours sitting in bed, poring over the pages of Fangoria, reading every little article and classified ad. In the corner, I had 2 VCR's strung together and a crude A/B mixing board to edit my home made movies. On my desk, my dad's VHS camcorder. Next to it, a tackle box filled with an array of paints, waxes, latex prosthetics and fake blood. I was one of those kids you could rely on having a surplus of Halloween supplies all year round.

I made short films, most of them were of the horror genre. They were terrible. One I can still remember was a serial killer revenge film called "Don't Mess with Les," about a kid who gets beat up by a gang of thugs and methodically gets even, one victim at a time. It was absolutely dreadful. But, it was  a great deal of fun to make, and I'd like to think that it helped make me who I am today.

And now, here we are.

Feels pretty damn good, and it's hard to believe the very kind words they've bestowed on our little film! 

Anyway, thanks for reading my rambling, it's been a long road putting together these 7 minutes, with roots that go all the way back to when I was a little fucked up teen. Check out the full article by clicking the image above or by clicking the link right here:

HUGE thanks go out to the cast and crew, who worked their asses off to make this happen. The Smiling Man is out in Film Festivals now, screening this weekend at 3 festivals in 3 different states (The Arizona Underground Film Festival, NOLA Horror Film Fest and Diabolique International Film Festival)! In October, we go even wider, as The Smiling Man screens in over 8 film festivals worldwide, with more announcements to come!

Horrible Imaginings Festival Wrap-up Podcast

Horrible Imaginings Festival Director Miguel Rodriguez has a fantastic podcast episode reflecting on the 6th Annual Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, held a couple of weeks ago at the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in San Diego.

Aside from being a great and insightful listen, they also mention The Smiling Man a couple of times and quote writer/director AJ Briones who talks about the amazing audience at the fest.

The Smiling Man was nominated for 4 awards at the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival (Best Cinematography, Best SFX, Best Director and Best Monster Show Short), taking home the Best Monster Show Short award and tying for second place for the Audience Award for Favorite Short Film.

Listen to the podcast episode by clicking the link here:


Film Review - The Smiling Man "will stick around in your head long after it's over."

We're thrilled to share Video Views' review of The Smiling Man, as it is extremely flattering, incredibly quotable and they gave us 5 out of 5 stars!

Here are some choice quotes:

"This is one of the creepiest and most disturbing films I have seen in some time, short film or feature film."

"...manages to be frightening without any cheap thrills."

"...will stick around in your head long after it is over."

"Abbi Chally is terrific as the little girl. The innocence and curiosity on her face which later turns into pure terror is priceless."

"Strange Dave is scary as hell"

We are super grateful to Video Views and their reviewer, Patrick Ricketts.

Check out the full review on their website here:

The 11th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival Program Out Now!

The official program for the 11th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival is out now! Watch The Smiling Man at the historic TCL Chinese Theatres along side a great selection of horror shorts!  Click the image above to check out the festival's full program, with 11 days of screenings and industry panels!

Tickets are available now! Order tickets online using the button below!

Dread Central features The Smiling Man in HollyShorts 2015's Official Festival Lineup Announcement

We were blown away to see that the awesome folks at Dread Central have recommended The Smiling Man as a must-see at the upcoming 11th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival, screening on Friday, August 14th at 10pm!

Click here for the full article on Dread Central!

HollyShorts just announced their official lineup of over 400 short films, and The Smiling Man will be showing in the Horror Block alongside other horror shorts such as Hag, Hush, Awakenings, and more. We will be screening at the historic and iconic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

Tickets are on sale online now! Click the button below to order. Get them soon, we have a feeling that this screening will sell out!

About HollyShorts

HollyShorts Film Festival (HSFF) is an annual short film festival showcasing the best and brightest short films and short screenplays from around the globe. The festival showcases the top short films produced 30 minutes or less and is looking for the best short screenplays 15 pages or less.

Find out more on their website at

The Smiling Man Poster Unveiled

We've finished the poster for The Smiling Man, just as our festival season is beginning to heat up. It's an homage to the old, iconic horror movie VHS video covers of the past.

I have vivid memories of walking into video rental stores in the late 80's and throughout the 90's, back before IMDB and RottenTomatoes, when all you had to judge a film by was its cover.

We will be printing a run of these bad boys as handouts for HollyShorts 2015, and we'll be doing a very limited run of them in their proper glossy 27x40" glory.

FilmQuest 2015: The Smiling Man gets an Honorable Mention from

I'm still reeling from the awesomeness that was FilmQuest 2015, what a perfect festival for our World Premiere!  I wish I was able to spend all 10 days of the fest in awesome Sandy, Utah surrounded by filmmakers and film fans, but in the 2 days I spent there, I met some really great people and got o see some fantastic films.

The Smiling Man was nominated for a couple of awards, namely Best Makeup-FX and Best Supporting Actor. While we didn't get to take home the much coveted Cthulu award, it's good to be in the running, and even better still just for the opportunity to sit in the audience and watch as they gasp, cringe and jump at all the right moments when watching our short.

To top it off, The Smiling Man received an Honorable Mention in's FilmQuest 2015 recap. It's a great honor, seeing as with over 250 films in the fest, it's great to be remembered.

Check out the full article here:

A great big thanks to everyone that came out to see our world premiere. We're just getting started, though. We've got some really BIG screenings coming up, and I can't wait to announce them!

Stay tuned!

The Smiling Man is "Creepy with a Capital C" -

We received some great press coverage coming out of our World Premiere screening at Filmquest 2015 this year, where The Smiling Man was also nominated for 2 awards: Best Make-Up and Best Supporting Actor.

It was really exhilarating sitting in a darkened theater watching the film with an audience for the first time! On top of that, I got to spend a couple of days meeting some great filmmakers and film fans and checking out some really great films!

Coming back home to LA, it's such a great surprise to see The Smiling Man was featured as a Filmquest 2015 stand-out short on Film Pulse, with a great write-up!

Check the full article here: