"QUITE SIMPLY, THE BEST HORROR-THEMED BLOG ON THE NET." -- Joe Maddrey, Nightmares in Red White & Blue

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Six Degrees of Sinbad: Working for the Brother of a Genre Legend

The Vault of Horror has led to a whole lot of unusual experiences over the years, and certainly my love for horror in general has led to some fascinating discoveries. There was the time I got a chance to review the script for See No Evil while working for WWE (sort of painful, but a privilege nonetheless.) There was the time I wound up editing copy at Wine Enthusiast magazine with one of the staff members of the old Famous Monsters of Filmland. Most recently, The Vault of Horror did more than bring me an interesting experience--it actually helped open up a career door for me. It was one of those times I was grateful to be a horror blogger.

As you can imagine, when going on a job interview, I'm never really sure if bringing up The Vault would be a good idea, or a bad idea. It does represent some of the writing of which I am most proud, so there's always the temptation to show it off to prospective employers. But naturally, there's also the fear that they're going to look down their collective noses at my little online ode to blood and guts. So it's usually a crap shoot, and I like to feel them before I cart out the ol' VoH.

It just so happened, last year, that while interviewing for a prominent position with Juran Institute, an industry-leading quality management consultancy firm here in Connecticut, that I found myself sitting across the conference table from a CEO who seemed like he just might be interested in checking out what I was really capable of doing as a writer and also in terms of managing a blog. After all, a large portion of the job's responsibilities would be the writing and maintenance of the company blog. So as you can imagine, I wanted to give him a glance at what yours truly could really do when given the reigns of an online domain.

And so, going for broke, I decided to show him what I can do. I punched up The Vault of Horror on his laptop and held my breath. Either he would be impressed at my creation, or he would take one look at The Human Centipede vs. The Very Hunrgy Caterpillar and have me shown to my car. I waited as he scanned the page, my fingers crossed under the table. Would he find it totally unprofessional?

"Hey..." he said, as his eyes moved up and down the screen. "Have you ever seen Night of the Living Dead?"

It was right then and there that I knew that showing him the blog was the right thing to do. He got it. Not only did he get it, but he informed me that there was actually a connection between his company and the genre. As it turned out, Dr. Joseph Juran, the founder of Juran Institute and one of the most respected gurus of the quality management business, was the brother of Nathan Juran--the director of such films as Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, The Deadly Mantis, as well as the Ray Harryhausen classics 20 Million Miles to Earth and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

The Oscar-winning art director for the 1941 classic How Green Was My Valley, Nathan Juran carved out a niche for himself as a journeyman director of westerns and sci-fi cinema in the 1950s and 1960s, later transitioning to TV with shows like Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel. The fact that I was interviewing to work for a company founded by his big brother was just another one of those surreal moments in the life of a horror blogger.

"Did you do all this yourself?" he asked me. And I was proud to say that I had. We got to talking about Nathan Juran's amazing films, as well as other horror flicks.

I landed the job with Juran Institute, and was proud to serve them as Communications Director, helping to get their social media presence off the ground, and working to advance the company blog, both visually and content-wise. From that point on, I became known as the "horror guy" in the office, and it wouldn't be unexpected, for example, for me to be asked my opinion of Let the Right One In just before a big board meeting. It was a gratifying experience, and I wouldn't say it's an exaggeration to say that I very well might not have gotten the opportunity if it hadn't been for The Vault of Horror. Not bad a for a guy who just wanted to write about scary movies.

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