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Count To Ten, And Start Again

Happy belated new year, everyone. We’re a little over two weeks into a milestone year. 2018 is an anniversary. It was ten years ago that Repo! The Genetic Opera, a film that I co-wrote and in which I played a starring role, was released in theatres. This accomplishment paved the way for what would become a very exciting and unique decade for this ragtag artist.

In 2008, I could not have predicted the course that my life would take in the decade to follow. At the time, I was singularly focused on the moment, and that moment was Repo! Having spent years developing, producing and nurturing the project, when its film manifestation was at long last available to the world, the moment was golden. Finally being able to share the musical movie with others was so exhilarating, acute and surreal that I, along with a few souls who were close to the project, worked tirelessly to extend the Repo! experience for as long as we could.

2008. It was the first time in my then thirty-one years that strangers recognized my work as an artist. It was my first experience with pretty women being nervous to talk to me, as opposed to the other way around. Repo! also provided my first real brush with traveling, and the release of the film (and our efforts to stretch our shining Repo! moment as far and wide as possible) inspired a series of road tours. The echo of the work we did on those movie tours still reverberates in the way I approach art today.

A lot has changed in ten years, but I still define my life in accordance with my art projects. As such, I’m especially proud of this past decade. 2008: Repo! The Genetic Opera. 2009: The Molting comic book series. 2010: The Tutor online painting series. 2011: Count Tarakan: Bad Ass Russian. 2012: The Devil’s Carnival. 2015: Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival. 2016: American Murder Song: The Year Without A Summer. 2017: American Murder Song: The Donner Party.

Even though not all of these projects were equally successful, I look back on this resume and feel both satisfied and hungry to do better. Like any artist, I don’t want my best work to be behind me, but, as I face this new decade, I struggle with the notion of finding happiness in the present versus always battling towards a better horizon.

2017 was a great way to conclude the decade that began with Repo!‘s film release. It’s been one of the happiest years of my life, and, perhaps without coincidence, it’s been a year where I’ve felt a real sense of control over my artistic output. But 2017 also had its dark moments, its deaths.

This past fall, halfway through American Murder Song‘s “The Donner Party Reunion Tour”, our sound tech, Darius Hamilton-Smith, got word that his older brother was killed in a a car accident. Even though the theme of our traveling show was desperation and murder on the American frontier, none of our touring company was prepared for this real-life reckoning with death. The situation rocked us, but the devastating experience also brought our touring family closer together in remarkable and lasting ways.


The closing week of 2017 also brought with it the passing of a friend of some fifteen odd years. Sergio Diaz was not only a pal, but a model for one of the characters in my The Molting comic book series. At Sergio’s wake, members of his family, who I’d not previously met, thanked me for immortalizing him in my comic. Even though I’d drawn Sergio as a hoodlum smoking speed in a gangbanger garage, their association with me and their lost loved one was an emotional revelation. It made me proud. A week later, unexpectedly, I’d find myself at a museum touching fossils that were over two-hundred million years old. I couldn’t help but form connections with those ancient bones and all of the themes of this blog post.

This blog platform itself is also ten years old. I began penning entries here roughly a month before Repo! was released in theatres. With the changes that social media has thrust into all of our lives this past decade, I’ve found myself writing less and less here, ditching long-form blogs in favor of shorthand social posts. As such, I’ve contemplated doing away with the TZ blog altogether. I hang on to it, however, because I view its collected works as a bit of a museum—or, indeed, a graveyard.

With all this talk of years and legacy, it is perhaps no surprise that my most current project is rooted in history. American Murder Song is a collection of original murder ballads that focuses on specific crimes in America’s past. The first cycle of songs are centered in 1816, the infamous “Year Without a Summer” where climate anomalies devastated New England. The second series of tunes is on The Donner Party, America’s favorite pioneer cannibals, and their ordeal trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter of 1846.

Saar Hendelman, American Murder Song‘s co-creator, and I are in the process of deciding which historical event to focus on next with the project. In doing so, I can’t help but wonder how the choices that are made this year will shape the new decade. Life willing, I’m exciting to see what 2028’s blog will reveal.

In the meantime, this anniversary year should not be skipped over. Repo! is an accomplishment. The movie is not only a milestone for those involved in its creation, but it’s been a source of entertainment and, dare I say, inspiration for audiences across the globe. For those of you who have been part of the Repo! journey this past decade, how would like to see its tenth birthday celebrated? Outlandish or realistic, I’d love to read your Repo! Birthday Party suggestions in the Comments section below.

(image credits: 1 & 9: photos – Alisa Burket; 3: graphic design – Sean Scoffield; 4: photo – Carlos Serrano Cubells; 5 & 8: colors – Molly Rodman, letters – Oceano Ransford; 6-7: photos – Steve Wilkie; 10: photos – Will Rot; and; 11: photo – Suthi Picotte.)

  • Critic Corner

    I would to see the script released. Would be amazing to see the screenplay for a kick ass movie.

  • Zach Brehany

    For the tenth anniversary, what would be nice would be if a pseudo Criterion styled release was given, filled with more interviews, making ofs, retrospectives, alternate cuts (I hear rumours about a four hour edit of the film), the soundtrack on vinyl, etc.

    • Philip

      Omgosh soundtrack on vinyl would be amazing

  • Mandy

    Another repo tour but have special 10th anniversary things.

  • Beth Faulstick

    Loved the 5th anniversary party in NYC! I have been long anticipating the day when REPO! Shadowcast events are in every town like Rocky Horror. I would love to see a tour of this- including the beginning of our standardized audience interactions, much like at the 5th Anniversary screening. (Perhaps with less singing along…then again, perhaps not!!)

  • Jennifer Suoja

    Have a contest. How did Repo! Change your life?

    Reward could be big or small, an autograph or a cameo in the next project. A portrait by you. The list goes on.

    • Beth Faulstick

      Another cool contest would be fan created content, inspired by REPO! Submissions could be Any kind of art, music, film, etc.

      Or a cover contest.

  • Emily Jayne

    I can’t believe it’s already been a decade since the release of Repo! It’s so surreal to see that the project is still so highly regarded in the cult classic community, as it should be! I could not be more proud of all that you’ve achieved! You are a brilliant artist, Terrance! Your work is unique, fascinating and always keeps my on my toes! I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for you, and what project may be next! I’ll be celebrating Repo with rum, popcorn and the movie on repeat! Get together with some of your close friends and watch it with them! Bask in the glow of your work!

  • Paul Tidd

    Do a live concert of the entire Repo album.

  • Charles Davis

    Wasn’t the original cut of Repo like, 3 hours long? Releasing THAT would be an amazing way to celebrate the anniversary it it were possible, lol. Also liking the idea of some kind of fan contest or a way for fans to share how Repo has positively impacted them on some kind of official platform for celebrating the anniversary.

    • Jessie

      OH MY GOD, YES.
      I would throw my money at you SO quickly if an original, uncut version was released. Hell, I’d back a Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, or GoFundMe to make it happen, if it was necessary!

    • Rachel Zilberg

      Seconded, wholeheartedly. This would make my life.

    • CM Addams

      Completely agreed. I will never forget when the movie was released, did nothing but play on the repo forums that entire summer and started the best family.
      Even if I have to kick down the doors of Lionsgate myself I would love for this to happen

    • Liz VanHoutte

      That would be amazing! A ten year anniversary release, with the uncut version, and maybe just maybe, the original short film?

    • Matthew ‘Raving Rendal’ Ulmen

      yes please, I would love to see the full version

    • Stephany Leroux

      Oh my goodness yes!

    • Andromeda Aristy

      DUDE YES 😀

    • Than

      I concur that would make me inexplicably happy

  • Messr. Night

    First off, my condolences to you, Darius, and Sergio’s family for your losses. Even in this macabre bunch, death is never easy.

    I do hope you decide to keep this blog open. This past month of binge-reading your posts was quite the eye-opener to who you are both as an artist and a person. It has been a privilege and pleasure to read. Not sure if I should apologize for the 60 or so comments I’ve likely spammed your inbox with (and will continue as I finish page 1), but I can’t honestly say I’m sorry for it. It’s been a lot of fun to read.

    As you’ve yet to settle on a time period I’d recommend that, should you choose the prohibition era, to look into Iron Mike Malloy a.k.a the man who wouldn’t die. If nothing else, it’s an interesting and bizarre tale.

    For the ten year anniversary, it would be fun to go on a tour of some sort. I’m sure you can gather old and new fans, and inspire them to see your other projects. I’ve met young teens who are fans of Repo, it’s a whole new demographic to reach out to!

    Happy Anniversary, Terrance!

  • Nat Reid

    Oh man, just any tour and I’ll be there. I got on the repo train late, just before the 5 year anniversary and before I’d gotten immersed into cosplay. I’ve been to every tour since. I desperately want to do a cosplay of Mag and it would be the perfect excuse.

  • Ms Presh

    I don’t think I am the typical Goth fan. I was drawn to Repo for the emotional content it provided. This blog was a perfect example of that. That’s my input…..TESTIFY

  • Vince Clark

    Are stage show rights available? Could be a good anniversary treat to make stage rights available to put on around the world.

  • Riley Whittenburg

    TZ, Repo! helped change my life. I was on a combat tour to Iraq with the US Army and your movie blew me away. It made me fall in love with rock operas all over again. After seeing that movie, I couldn’t help but watch it again, and again. I got to where I could sing along, in key, and enjoyed every minute of it. I still have my DVD copy, and even though I have kids now, I’ll make sure to watch it again on this momentous occasion. Thank you for a decade of wonderful memories. I still recommend the movie to people today. It was truly a blessing.

  • Monica Grindstaff

    I would love a 10 year road tour with shadowcast groups of Repo! That would make this Shilo’s heart very happy.

  • Drew Fernandez

    Livestream a shadow cast, make it interactive for those watching at home. Whatever you decide, please include Paris Hilton, she was a real sport playing a parody of herself, and she really did well in the movie!

  • Drew Fernandez

    Also, a Mondo vinyl release would be MAGIC!

  • Lucinda Otto

    I’m sure this comment will be lost in the void amongst all the others, but I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for presenting your art and creativity to us. Thank you for inspiring me personally, for revealing the beauty in the macabre, for unknowingly pushing me as an attempting actor to dream of working on one of your projects, if only as an extra, and for inspiring my creativity and pushing it past its limit in things like my costuming (I was the Tamara cosplay you highlighted a while back). These ten years have inspired my creativity and the creativity of others so from the bottom of my repossessed heart, thank you

  • Eilidh McNeil

    I first saw Repo! about two years ago. It was airing on the Horror channel at some ungodly hour of the morning. I vaguely recognised the name as something a friend had mentioned, and I set my TV to record it. Two days later I had a free evening, and fell in love. I watched it at least ten times over the following week. I’ve seen more musicals than I can count since then, but Repo! has remained by far my very favourite, and I now recommend it to anyone who will listen long enough. I genuinely cried at the end, and still do. I still marvel that this film manages to blend gory horror with an incredible plot and have such emotional impact, and come out of it with damn good life lessons. Acquaintances have become close friends after discovering a shared love of the film. It’s wormed its way into my writing, my art, and my entire life. I could, in a pinch, pretty much recite it at this point.

    For about a year now I’ve been transcribing unofficial sheet music in my spare time, and I’ve got a lot of messages from people thanking me for it and saying how much they’ve wanted to play the songs themselves but never been able to because there was no sheet music before. There is more demand for it than I’m capable of supplying. Given that, how about an official sheet music collection for the anniversary? I will bet my own beating heart against that being popular.

    Beyond that, I second the suggestions below for a director’s cut edition of the film, or an anniversary tour. I could die happy if I got to see it performed live.

    My final suggestion would be to release the full original stage play script in some format – I have the first half saved from the old site, but I would dearly love to see how its origins ended.

    Thank you so much for creating a film and world I truly, truly love.

  • Elyse Shelley

    Weren’t you guys gathering footage for a documentary some day? I remember Spooky recording for it! That’d be fun to see.

  • Jessica Martinez

    A live Repo! tour would be so amazing! Especially if there was a stop in Chicago 😉

  • Megan

    Please release the sheet music for Infected! I am a Broadway professional and would love to showcase the song in a Cabaret in NYC!

  • Arielle

    I can’t believe Repo! turns a decade old this year. That movie has been a part of my soul ever since the night I first watched it. I was young, and it was (and still is) influential to me. I have so enjoyed following your creative endeavors ever since. They are each special and magnificent. You deserve much continued happiness after all the joy that your artistic talent has given to us fans.
    To commemorate the anniversary of Repo!, it would be awesome to see an anniversary-edition DVD or poster perhaps? May 2018 bring you many wonderful things.

  • Kellie Stewart

    I would hate to think of you doing away with your blog. Another road show of Repo! would be an amazing way to celebrate. I have no doubt that once it got started, you’d end up having to add dates because as we all know… you started this Opera shit and it has pulled us in for life.

    • Katie

      “you started this Opera shit” was perfect and extremely accurate

  • Caramia Capone

    Another Repo Reunion tour pls.

  • Brian Jones

    I doubt you’ll remember me Terrance, but I won the costume contest at the first San Diego showing of the Devil’s Carnival dressed as repo. I’ve since represented by wearing that costume to comicon San Diego (not recommended, leather and vinyl head to toe in August in San Diego….dehydration followed) , I also have worn it to RHPS shadow casts and Halloween (won a few contests at parties too). Needless to say I have had my life enriched by your work. I also would love to see a longer cut of the movie for a 10th anniversary celebration. Thank you for continuing to blaze a maverick trail through show business and the art world.

  • Cayla Steger

    Repo! for me has honestly been life-changing. Every time I watch it, I am filled with the same wonder and awe as the first time I was introduced to it. Anything you wind up doing to celebrate Repo! will be exciting without a doubt. If you were to do a live tour of some sort, I’d take every measure to go see it. We have some great venues in Colorado. Just sayin’. Repo! as not only a work of art, but as a dream become a journey, then a reality has inspired and driven me to go and make my 10 minutes into something much more.

  • Jaye Lynnette Williams

    I agree, i would love to see the full version of the movie.

  • Kimberly Ann Nunn

    Yes please release the orginal version of repo if we cant have a sequel thats the next best thing

  • Laurie Neufeld

    From the sounds of it you went to Dinosaur? That is an incredibly beautiful spot, in addition to the cool fossil record. My heartfelt condolences on your losses, as well. As to celebrating 10 years of Repo!, maybe it’s time for another cake? Maybe with Zydrate blue frosting?

  • Katie

    I know so many people would love a roadshow of some sort, including myself! If a roadshow isn’t feasible it would be neat to choose one or two major cities for a panel/meet and greet/Repo! showing. There should definitely be some sort of celebration – preferably where the cast comes together and fans can come out!

  • ImaniFa

    I can’t believe it’s been about 10 years since I walked into Hot Topic, where at that time I was friends with the manager, who asked me that day if I liked Paris Hilton, to which I retorted “HA! Of course not!” and he said “Well have I got a movie for YOU to watch!” XD That night I was introduced to one of my favorite movies of all time, definitely my favorite musical of all time, beating even Little Shop of Horrors for the top spot. A movie that not only became an obsession of mine, but also taught me that I can sing Opera! (I had no idea that I could sing like that previously) That movie was Repo! of course. I proceeded to watch it frequently, learned all the songs, bought the soundtrack and played that CONSTANTLY, and I even bought a sterling silver Zydrate gun necklace from Rocklove Jewelry to wear and show my love for the movie! I introduced all my friends to Repo! by having viewing parties at the time, and I think that’s a great way to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of my favorite musical, so I dunno about you guys, but it’s time to make some Zydrate drinks and invite some friends over for a fresh viewing!

  • Cat

    Living in Australia and even seeing a fan base here really shows how impactful Repo! is. I think I first saw this film back when I was in year 7 and is still one of favourites of all time. It’s really a inspiration to me and I get beyond giddy when I get to share it with new people. Thank you, just thank you from the bottom of my Geneco heart <3

  • Earendilgrey

    I would like to thank you for the past 10 years. Your movies, comics, and music have helped me make it through a difficult time in my life, fighting major depression and anxiety and suicidal times. Here’s to future and many more life experiences ahead.

    As for a 10 year celebration, a special edition of Repo would be amazing.

  • Emrys Figgins

    Wow, it’s crazy that it’s been ten years already! I discovered Repo! about a year after it was released, in 2009. I was probably too young, (about 13) but my mom encouraged my interest in it and took me to see a shadowcast, like she had done with Rocky Horror when she was young. Repo! (along with the rest of the art you’ve created over the past decade) has been a constant in my life for the past nine years, and has been absolutely formative for me and helped shape me as a person and as an artist. I don’t know who I’d have been without it!

  • Sylvia

    A show in NYC or Jersey would be nice lol. Or a comic book series spin off it could even be a web based comic. I’d die.

  • Jean-François Martel

    To this day i still wish i had started going to Fantasia in 2008 instead of 2009 so i could have seen Repo! on the big screen.

  • Bethany Serene Wright

    I no it is probably not possible… but a ten years later short? Or release the behind the scenes that was played at the TDC release? I would love to see it again.

  • Gayle Blake

    Id love to see an reunion tour but I know thats a hardthing so maybe just a reunion show which can be broadcasted on the internet as well.

  • Angie Donnay

    Congratulations!!! But also condolences. Thank you for sharing your art and vision with so many and here’s hoping you get at least another 10!

  • Nicole Marie

    I’d love to see all of you guys come out to Orlando for Spooky Empire this fall…it would also be a grand place to start the murder tour.

  • Mephilia

    A tenth anniversary re-release in theaters of Repo is something my friend and I have hoped for ever since we found it! I don’t doubt midnight screenings or a director’s cut release would both be successful. Maybe some new merch too, like something to do with Zydrate or the genetic opera?

  • Liz VanHoutte

    Deepest sympathies for not only the loss of your friend, but for the loss Darius’ brother. It’s never easy, and there really aren’t words that anyone can offer to make the pain of loss any better, it still hurts. Though they may be gone, they won’t be forgotten.

    It’s honestly hard to believe that it’s already been ten years. I can remember being over at a friend’s house and watching Repo! for the first time on dvd, and being absolutely blown away by it. The visuals, music, story, the whole lot of it was amazing, and I adored every moment of it, and still do today. I listened to the soundtrack on repeat, watched the dvd more times than I can count, witnessed a shadow casting of it at ACen back in 2010, and got down to Zydrate Anatomy every time we found ourselves at Necto in Ann Arbor. It’s one of those pieces I will always go back to, will always love, and will continue to draw inspiration from.

    As for how to celebrate the tenth anniversary, that’s hard to say. I know I’m not alone in saying that it would be positively badass to see a screening tour happen, or a re-release of the dvd with all sorts of new behind the scenes stuff. It would be amazing to have that group experience again, watch it on the big screen with a crowd of people who love the project, too. I think I even saw someone in the comments mention a live streaming of it, which would be something else. MST3K: Repo edition, anyone?

    Here’s to another ten years, and whatever they might bring. More memories, more stories, more glow in the dark hearts, lining the walls and ceiling of a shitty Chicago hotel room. Cheers!

    • Messr. Night

      To more glow in the dark hearts and less mishaps in the hot tub, hear hear!

  • Tim Meunier

    Sacramento loves repo.
    I’d love to throw it a party

  • Racer

    A week late to the comments section but would love to see some artifacts from Repo’s pre-movie history unearthed as well! Barely a whisper of its first life on stage left online…I think it would be really cool to see more of how we got to the movie in the first place!

  • Sarah

    I’m not sure I even have the words to say how much Repo! has
    meant to me. I came into the fandom a bit late compared to others (Halloween
    2012), but it was the time in my life when I really needed it and I will
    forever be grateful. I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today
    without it.

    There are so many fantastic suggestions here as I read
    through all the comments…I’m going to jump on the bandwagon of hoping for a
    tour of some kind for sure. (the Repo!/TDC double feature event in Chicago was,
    hands down, one of the top 5 best nights of my life) A director’s cut with special
    features and behind the scenes and all those goodies would be phenomenal. And
    fan contests are always a scream – I LOVE seeing what everyone comes up with.

    One thing I’ll add that I don’t think I saw mentioned
    already – how about a re-run of merch?? I can’t be the only one who’s sad that
    they missed out on those ‘Property of GraveRobber’ underwear xD

  • Eddie Nile

    Not gonna lie,
    I’ve told pretty much everybody I meet about your films for the past 10 years.
    It seems to me that everything you release is pure gold. (Still can’t wait for the final chapter in The Devil’s Carnival)
    If you’re planning a party, I would recommend a tour in the Canada area. I don’t know very many people who haven’t at LEAST seen Repo!
    Thanks TZ, keep up the amazing work.

  • Philip

    I would just love to see another tour with mostly repo songs but could incorporate all the greatest hits. I also think you should auction items yiu can part with if you still have stuff from the show. Orginal script and stuff, I woulf definitely start a bidding war.

  • Andromeda Aristy

    I would be so sad if you deleted your blog, Terrance– I love reading your posts, no matter how infrequent they are! I must say, though, an open livestream would be really awesome, with you and Saar! Maybe answer questions from the fans, or share stories from your tours? Though, I like Charles Davis’s idea of re-releasing the full, original cut of Repo! if that was possible– shit, I’d pay top dollar for that in a heartbeat! I didn’t actually start following your work until after I saw The Devil’s Carnival, but I’m glad I still do– as an indie artist myself, your work inspires me, (and saved me from a very hard time in my life) and Terrance, I hope you create more art for plenty more decades to come! Happy Anniversary, Repo!

  • Oberon Gustacroft

    I could marry my wife a third time with Pavi officiating? The movie probably saved my life. Being in line that third time at that precise moment meant meeting my wife. Won’t really go into what happened from 2010 on but let’s just say I’ve considered legally changing my name.