The response from my last post was so overwhelming, I’ve decided to do it again! Thank you for your support!
OK, I did get some nice feedback (from my wife, and Monica Karell https://twitter.com/MonicaQC). I do enjoy writing this blog. But the reason I have the time to do this right now is because I’m not currently writing a screenplay. Writing screenplays is one of the reasons (if not the main reason) why the blog stalled way back when because writing a script requires every moment of writing time I have.
Here are the scripts I’ve written since February 2014:
1. MURDEROUS (1st Draft)
2. L.A.Z. (LIFE AFTER ZOMBIES)
3. MONSTER JOCKS co-written with David Samartin
4. HUDSON RIVERS AND THE MOTOR CITY MASSACRE
5. MURDEROUS (Rewrite #1, Page One)
6. MURDEROUS (Rewrite #2)
7. MURDEROUS (Rewrite #3)
8. DAD VS. DEMON (1st Draft)
9. IMAGINARY FIEND (Dad vs. Demon Rewrite #1)
10. LAKAT (Dad vs. Demon Rewrite #2)
11. JUSTIN OF NAZARETH
So that’s essentially 8 new scripts. Maybe 7 2/3 since I kept most of the first 35 pages of Imaginary Fiend when it became Lakat.
You might be wondering, “How many of those scripts are good?”
My response would be, “What’s your definition of good? If you mean, I could pick it up and shoot it tomorrow… I’d say 2, maybe 3 with some quick rewriting… And I might be crazy.”
Well, I rewrote Murderous all those times because the first draft sucked but the idea was good and it took me a few drafts to get there. This was my first script after the trauma of
The Shower Killer Party, and it felt like I was starting over. I think that script is in a good place right now and it would make a great horror movie. (If you want to make it, let me know! I’ll even let you read it first.)
This was also the first time writing a script with two kids. I had even less time. Even less energy. And more expenses.
See why I wanted to make the movie so badly before Izzy was born?
Life After Zombies is one that I didn’t execute as well as I should have. It’s got a solid 50-60 pages, but I sort of went off track in writing it. I intend to go back and fix this one. Same goes for Monster Jocks, which needs even less work, IMO. I’ll toss Hudson Rivers in this pile, too. (It was just a first draft…) These are all horror-comedies.
The triumvirate of Dad vs. Demon/Imaginary Fiend/Lakat: Trash ’em and start over somewhere down the line. Some decent ideas and scenes, but that’s all. I might try to make a short film based on the opening I wrote.
Justin of Nazareth. A comedy. No horror. No murders. I finished it a couple of weeks ago. It’s the last thing I wrote, so we’re madly in love with each other… It’s about a method actor who’s playing Jesus in a community theater production of The Last Temptation of Christ and hopes it will be his big break. He gets into an accident on opening night, nearly dies, and wakes up three days later and thinks that he’s really Jesus. (If you can fund a movie and/or are an actor who can fund a movie and wants to play an actor who thinks he’s Jesus, let me know!)
Years ago, long before
The Shower Killer Party was even a twinkle in my eye, I was faced with the realization that I had written a bunch of scripts and was going nowhere. So I pulled out my trusty marble notebook and wrote down every script I had written, and wrote down my “intention” with the story, and what the “execution” was. In each case, what I wrote had veered far from what the original idea was, and I realized that was a weakness I needed to address. I needed to outline more (and better), and really structure each story.
Did it work?
At the least, my writing improved.
And here we are.
So with a lot of the scripts listed above, the same thing applies. You’d think I would have learned my lesson, but there I was making the same damn mistakes…
Here’s my excuse:
Before I wrote The Shower (that was the title of the script so I won’t cross it out) I think I did write at a better percentage. After The Shower, things changed. I focused solely on horror. Which is why the first draft of Murderous SUCKED. I was writing more for a “market” than myself. The “market” being the “horror market.” Also, I was kind of writing towards what I was seeing. Horror movies with budgets bigger than ours. It wasn’t inspiration. It was desperation. Most of my previous scripts were comedies, action-comedies, dramedies, or indie dramas.
I messed up the Dad vs. Demon idea because I didn’t actually write it to the idea I had (a horror-comedy). I kept trying to tailor it to a movie that I could shoot for budget and I couldn’t make it work. I also wasn’t feeling funny when I was writing it, so it became increasingly dark. And I just didn’t handle it well. Frustrating. But there’s some relief in knowing why and what went wrong.
Speaking of “what went wrong” let’s get back to our main subject.
When I say, “What went wrong” I’m trying to be dramatic. I’m really describing a feeling, rather than a result. I felt like things were going wrong, and probably the most important thing I learned about myself during the process is whether or not I had the strength and ability to do something about it.
The last post was #9, and in all the excitement of writing my first blog post since early 2014, I forgot to reference Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space.
The reason I would reference that movie is because there were moments while we were shooting
The Shower Killer Party, when I felt like I was Ed Wood. (Truthfully, I felt like Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood.)
Early on during shooting I realized, “This is what’s gonna be in the movie, and it’s not how I thought it would be.” (Yes, it was a rude awakening for the first-time filmmaker.) On more than one occasion, I wanted to yell, “Perfect! Print it!” and cackle maniacally as we raced from shot to shot, getting our 11 1/2 pages a day. It was almost an out of body experience, where at points I was watching myself direct the movie. After that, it was like being swept up in a raging current, and the mental struggle is to fight or give up. In a sense, I had to do both. I fought to do the best that I could, but I had to give up the notion of getting “exactly” what I wanted.
In my infamous Valentine’s Day 2014 post, I recall talking about actor/improvisor Craig Cackowski.
I was lucky to have Craig as a teacher at iO West. One time he talked about an improv show being a fight against the current. If things don’t go according to plan, it’s easy to mail it in and go through the motions and pray for the merciless “black out” that happens to end a show. Craig described his philosophy of being able to “save a show on the last line.” I loved that idea. It required being fully engaged and taking in everything that was happening and being a part of it, because the audience was seeing it all. It’s sort of like, “Why are we doing this? Why are we watching this?” And as a performer, you can possibly find the answer if you don’t give up, and there’s a way to tie it all together or even just find some little gem of humor or wisdom amidst the mess. It’s something worth fighting for in art (and in life, I suppose).
So that’s how it felt for me on set.
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself again.
How did we get to set?
It was a team effort. We raised a good deal of money in our initial fundraising. Not enough, but enough to shoot the movie in 8 days, and more than I imagined we would. Since we were on a compressed schedule, we were raising funds and in pre-production at the same time. Not ideal, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right?
Things started to come together, with a little help from our friends. (That’s two Beatles references in one sentence!)
This movie got made because of Gulfstream restaurant.
Five of the seven producers worked there at one time.
And when we realized we needed more help, Andy and Steph were able to reach out to an old Gulfstream friend, Rikki Jarrett, to come aboard as a line producer/unit production manager and guide us to and through production. Rikki was a calm, steady hand and brought on a very talented and enthusiastic crew.
We found our DP, Harry Frith, because of a Gulfstream friend, Dan Jenski.
Harry shot a short film for Dan, and after shooting
The Shower Killer Party for us, he shot Dan’s first feature: ADDicted.
Adam Karell, a good friend from the Gulfstream days, and incredibly generous and loyal guy who is always trying to help his friends’ careers,
found us an actress to play his wife (Stephanie Beran)
and our main location (Stephanie’s house).
It’s true what they say about knowing people. Contacts, connections, it all helps. It all adds up.
The only people who are in the movie that one of us didn’t know previously were
Rob Norton (Pat)
Alexandra Fatovich (Sara)
and Katerina Kopel (Kim)
They came in, auditioned, and were amazing. I knew right away that they were right for their roles. And they all did excellent at the callbacks.
We had our cast. We had a crew. We had a location.
Now we had to go make a movie.
In the next edition of “How to Make a Movie in 18 Years”:
THE SHOWER. DAY ONE. (and possibly more)