Here We Are Again


It’s been an awfully long time since I used this blog. It’s not because I was deliberately neglecting it. There have been many reasons. First of which was all the things I have been doing. Back in November I embarked on directing my second short film, Terrestrial, starring Bill Oberst Jr. and a few faces from Lepus. The shoot was quite an ordeal. I had such a bad migraine on day one that I began vomiting that morning. The next few days were smooth. Since we shot it there have been some stumbling blocks. The editor’s mom fell ill causing the first pause in completion. Then we started shooting an ill conceived improv web series and put Terrestrial on the back burner yet again. I stepped away from the series after two very stressful shoots. By that time I had accepted the position of Film Festival Coordinator for Phoenix Comicon and it consumed a lot of my time. In what little downtime I had between work and an con duties I was the subject of a short documentary about fathers and sons. It was a very cathartic thing for my father and me. All the while I have been working on writing scripts for a sitcom based loosely on my family and a horror film about demons. The latter is going to be a big collaborative effort between myself and some old and new friends. I’m very excited about it.

So let’s get to talking about each thing individually. First Terrestrial. I have talked about the movie briefly on here before. Bill was fantastic. The rest of the cast was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to make this with. Everyone was awesome. Bill’s performance was at times childlike, murderous and evil, funny and creepy. It’s got sides of his talent rarely seen on screen. We will be getting back to finishing this up very soon. I’m excited to get people to see it. As for the rest of the cast what can I say? Willman Vergara Jr. was someone I wanted to work with on Lepus but couldn’t find a good spot for. I’m so glad we found a place for him on this one. Randy Robinson and RJ Markham, who were both in Lepus, came back for more twisted fun and did a wonderful job. Everyone was very well prepared and kept us moving ahead of schedule. They were on point with their characters and delightfully funny.

As for the next bit. It’s a sore subject and I really don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or offend when I speak of it. It was a web series about ghost hunting called Specter Quest. The reason I say it was ill conceived is because we all seemed to have different ideas of what it should be and how to get there we didn’t stick to the plan I laid out. They have decided to continue on without me. And I wish them the best of luck with it.

Phoenix Comicon was a great experience this year. It was my first year as Film Festival Coordinator and it couldn’t have gone better if I actually knew what I was doing. The film selections were better than ever this year. We even had the chance to screen a little seen movie called Moontrap from the 80’s starring Bruce Campbell and Walter Koenig. Campbell was kind enough to come up to the film festival unannounced and do a little introduction to the film, much to the delight of the audience…and the staff. We had some standout movies and shorts this year. Jessica Cameron sent me her directorial debut, Truth Or Dare, to screen at the con. It’s a shame she and the cast and crew couldn’t be there. We had something happen I had never seen with my own eyes before. Two grown men came out of the screening room looking weak and pale. Both nearly threw up at what they had seen. It was incredible. I met some very talented and great people this year working at the con. I have been volunteering for years but this is the first time having this level of responsibility. I can’t wait for next year.

I was anxious to work on another movie. I have wanted to experience what it’s like to work on a documentary so I responded to an ad. I met the director for dinner. We got to talking and he wanted to make something about fathers and sons and estrangement. My father and I have had some serious ups and downs over the years. There were years at a time I refused to talk to him. Other times he was so messed up on drugs he was stealing my belongings and selling them for drug money. He even tried to convince a Mexican former boxer that I was calling him “spick” and “wetback” behind his back just to get this boxer to beat me up. My dad has been sober for more than four years now and was recently married to a great woman. I was his best man. We’ve worked out most of our issues. I asked my dad if he’d be a part of this documentary and he immediately agreed. In fact, he almost started crying before I could even tell him fully what it was all about. He hasn’t seen it yet but I am very proud of it. It was not my project. It belongs to a new friend. I am excited to continue it on. He wants to stretch it into a feature at some point and add in new subjects.

Finally, without giving too much away, I want to talk about a new movie I’m working on right now. We have a title. We have the story. We all just need to sit down and put it into proper screenplay format. I will say this – it’s about demons. It’s technically an anthology film but more in the vein of Pulp Fiction or The Signal. Each story carries over characters from previous shorts and they are all connected into one large story. I will only be directing one or two parts. The others are being done by some other new friends, one I met through Phoenix Comicon. He had a great eye when it came to making something visually striking with very little. The short I want him to do may actually be a silent film with a healthy dose of violence, kidnapping and maybe a little sex. Each story deals with a different kind of demon. We have stories ranging from half demon babies to a man everyone believes to be schizophrenic to a crossroads demon story. We’re really looking forward to our first script meeting in a few short days.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll be back soon. I kinda promise.

 

Yet Another Production Update


I know I post a lot on here about this stuff. But it’s my blog. I can do what I want. If you don’t like it then start your own blog and make fun of me for all I care. I have a thick skin. I can take it. Just try to be clever. I don’t want a bunch of gay jokes and “your mama” jokes. They’re tired and make feel like I’m still in high school. And, for the record, I hated those kind of jokes even then. In fact, I actually kinda hated high school. Not to get too off topic here but I thought people would be different as adults. Instead I just see the same kind of stupid people with more grey hair.

Anyway, back to what I actually set out to write. Today something hit the net that was a bit of a surprise to me. There is a trailer for Scream Machine, the DVD anthology that Lepus is a part of. It showed up today on YouTube. I linked it to our official Facebook page.

As far as the rest of what I wanted to mention I was giving something some thought. Lepus was a fifteen minute short that is the first of a proposed trilogy. But what if it was just one long movie instead? Could it be stretched? I think so. Add in a few more characters and have A and B stories running simultaneously and the movie could be stretched to 80 minutes. Lepus cost us roughly $1000 and we could still keep the feature at around $100,000 or there about. I’m trying to decide if it should be lengthened or sequelized.

If I was to stretch the feature I could add in the characters we came up with for the sequels, bring in the ideas we started developing for the mythology of the characters, and make it a weird and funny movie. It seems like the type of film that would fit perfectly into the Troma family. It’s worth trying. I think I will try. The money could be raised through Kickstarter or IndieGoGo easily enough, especially since we have a short film to try and sell it already. The actors would all come back for the feature. That much I’m sure of. I’m gonna give writing the script a try. I have nothing to lose by doing so.

Wish me luck.

Thoughts Of Past And Future


Here we are, just a few short months after I started this blog, and we have one short film nearly ready to show, another starting next month and The Gorram Nerd Hour has recorded nearly 20 episodes. All of that in just a few short months. When I started this blog I was talking about the features Brian Smith and I have been writing. We got detoured…but for good reason. We needed something to showcase our talent. We were a little arrogant to think that two writers with no credits to their names could get someone to give them money to produce and direct a movie of their own. Now we’ll have two things to show.

Since I was a boy I have loved movies. I would sit and watch an action movie like any little would. I loved Commando, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. I also had an affection for every other type of film. I didn’t care. If someone made I wanted to see it. Science Fiction, Horror, Romantic Comedy, Sappy Melodrama, Musicals. I just loved movies. What I took away from all of that was that it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to make movies of my own. At first I thought I wanted to be an actor until I took a drama class in High School and my teacher had me direct something for the first time. That’s when my passion made itself crystal clear. I loved the behind the scenes aspect of things. 

I always enjoyed writing. It has been a passion of mine for as long as I remember. What I wrote was always weird. I would go off and write a sequel to Romeo & Juliet in iambic pentameter or a western about aliens hiding among the townsfolk and planning on destroying the town with radioactive lima beans. So when Brian and I sat down to write Lepus I suggested we write the whole thing in Klingon save for the killer’s one line which would be in German. 

Sometimes I need to be reigned in.

We decided not to go with Klingon. But we kept Brian’s line in German. There is not one good reason for it other than it made us laugh. Lepus is a comedy, after all. We started off goofy with our next short film and decided to go darker once we started writing. Terrestrial will be a different side of our writing. It’s tone is more serious while still being quirky. 

As I write this we are only a couple days away from the open casting call for Terrestrial. I couldn’t be more excited about who we have coming in to read. a couple of our Lepus cast members are coming in for it – Jai Yunae and Randy Robinson. I loved working with them on Lepus. I can’t wait to see what they bring to this audition. We also have some other really talented people we didn’t cast for Lepus coming in for another go. Wilman Vergara II was someone I was really impressed with and just couldn’t find a good place to put him last time. This time he’s coming in to read for the lead in Terrestrial and I think he’s got a great shot at it. Adam Boggs is another up and comer I really liked and he’s coming in to read for us again. I was impressed with both of them so much. I’m glad they want to come in and try for this one. 

We’re still not at a point where we’ve been able to pay anyone for their work. It’s all just copy and credit basically. I’m amazed by the talent that has been willing to work with us for nothing. Hopefully by the time we get started on the next two parts of Lepus we have a budget…something to pay these amazing people for their time. 

Back to Lepus for a moment – The rough cut I saw a while back is good. I was really happy with how it turned out. It was a very rough cut with no score, no effects, no foley. But it was great, great enough for Walter Reuther (aka Scarlet Fry) to tell me it was his favorite in the anthology horror DVD we will be included on. And he directed all the other shorts. 

David Sabal, our wonderful renaissance man (DP, producer, editor) just got the score back from the composer. I asked for something similar to a score from the 80’s scifi and horror movies I loved so much. I wanted something like an old John Carpenter score. From what I hear the composer delivered. Hopefully I will hear it in the next few days. 

Now on to The Gorram Nerd Hour. We have been having a lot of fun recording our show every week. Brian and I love working on it. We are talking about re-tooling the show a little. The first twenty or so weeks have been about finding out what works and what doesn’t. We’re gonna be trying a few new things in upcoming episodes that could prove to be a lot of fun. We are also going to be spending the weekend of February 8-10th at the Bloody Hero International Film Festival at the Phoenix Convention Center. We will be recording our podcast, conducting interviews and serving on the jury. This is a big deal for us. I know I’m really excited about it. We may have another fun surprise for our listeners that weekend too. This will be a part of the re-tool of the show. Let us know what you think.

One last thing before I wrap this up. We had a friend from our Abnormal Entertainment family in town last weekend. Camm Harston, co-host of Raise Your Spirits with Camm and Kevin. While he was here Brian and I both guested on their show. We had a lot of fun and everyone should go listen.

Here;s hoping 2013 proves even better for Robot Vampire Productions than 2012. We’re already off to a great start.

 

Ded Moroz – A Sequel To Lepus


I was kicking around ideas of writing a sequel to something mainly just to see what we could do with it. After having a fun experience writing Lepus and Terrestrial Brian and I wanted to have another short film we could make. I had an idea for a sequel to Lepus.

Given that Lepus takes place on Halloween and has to do with the Easter Bunny I thought it would be fun to make the sequel set at Easter with a copycat killer dressed as Santa Claus. It would afford us the opportunity to still have the town sheriff dressed as Jesus fighting these killers. This time the sheriff has the role of Jesus in his church’s Easter Pagent when he’s called upon to fight Santa.

The tone will still be the same where we shoot it like an experimental German art film and fill it with weird jokes and homages to previous horror films. When Brian and I discussed it last night we both saw a lot of potential in continuing the story in this way. Plus we both wanted to experiment with writing a sequel, even if it is just a short film.

As Promised – Writing Experiment #1 Revealed


Well, Brian and I came up with a concept. We decided not to limit it to just two five word descriptions. Rather, we chose to each come up with an idea.

My idea was that it’s the not to distant future and there is no longer any cash so strippers have a card reader installed in the crack of their butts to accept tips from their patrons. Brian’s was simply five words – Muffin Top the evil clown.

It seems to me these two ideas could be married together quite simply. Muffin Top goes into a strip club and wreaks havoc on unsuspecting strippers. It could be fun to write.

Lepus Is Tentatively A Go


Brian and I just got back from meeting with the guy who was going to help us with our short film “Lepus”. He’s already read the script a few times and finds it very funny.

We are looking at October as the production time frame as the short takes place at Halloween. This gives us the chance to get the costumes, cast the piece, and scout the three locations we need.

He even mentioned that if it works out he would like to include it on a DVD showcasing short films from local filmmakers. He also liked our idea for our second short called “Terrestrial”. We pitched him the idea tonight. He wants to see the script so we can possibly shoot both in quick succession and have them ready for entry into short film competitions by April and May.

Next stop Deadsville. If we can garner a little bit of buzz from the shorts we can hopefully raise the money we want for the first feature, “Welcome To Deadsville”. It was the first script we wrote together and it is our baby. We don’t want to sell it someone else to take the beating heart out of it and put some bland, watered down thing on the screen. We want it done our way.

Lepus is going to show we can do it. Terrestrial will prove it wasn’t a fluke. This is gonna be a fun ride.

Writing Experiment #1


A few years ago I had talked a friend into writing a short story based on the first line of the first paragraph I gave him. He could write about anything he chose based on that line. I used the same line and wrote a story of my own. Then we compared. It was a fun experiment.

Next I suggested we write short stories based on two completely random ideas. He would choose one, I would choose the other. Then we would go off and write our stories based on that idea. The two ideas were as follows – “a man fights his way out of a maximum security prison in space” and “a man is in search of pirate treasure off the coast of Florida”. It was fun trying to find a way to marry a real world idea with one of science fiction.

The next concept was that we each wrote the first paragraph of a short story and the other person had to come up with a story to fit it. My friend never wrote his. It was a shame that he didn’t because I wanted to see what he would have done with a paragraph about a man who believed bird poop was good luck and was trying to get hit. Oh well.

I decided to dust off the idea of doing a writing exercise with my screenwriting partner. I suggested we each come up with a crazy idea five words or less, tell each other the ideas and write a short film about them together. I’m interested what will happen given that without the exercise we have come up with a short film about Jesus Vs. The Easter Bunny and another one about a man who believes he has an alien living in his closet.

I’ll keep you posted with the results. We are gonna brainstorm it tonight.

Another Short Film Written


My writing partner will be the first to admit that he has trouble getting motivated to write. It can be frustrating at times. Last night I wanted to work on Unhinged, our slasher movie, and he just wanted to watch Psych on television. During the commercial breaks I took the time to work out an idea and would pitch pieces every break.

Originally the story was going to be about a man who may or may not have an alien living in his closet. I wanted to it to be like an adult version of E.T. if Elliot just couldn’t let go and went crazy from it. The idea shifted a bit between the talks last night and putting it on paper tonight. The one idea that remained was that a man believes he has an alien living in his closet. The other thing that stuck was the title I pitched to him – Terrestrial. We both agreed it was a nice allusion to E.T. as an extra terrestrial.

The story goes to some pretty dark places, like how the “alien” forces our main character to order hookers, sleep with while playing Milli Vanilli music, and the “alien” watches from the closet.

What’s funny is that my writing partner didn’t realize that I was aiming for this to be a comedy, albeit a dark comedy, but a comedy nonetheless. We’re going to have someone else read it in the next couple days and see what they think. Even if the script sucks I got my partner to sit down and push through for 12 straight pages. That’s something.

“Unhinged” – Our Slasher Movie


After months of talk and vigorous note taking my writing partner and I are prepared to sit down and write our little slasher film, “Unhinged”, about two brothers and a group of students caught in the woods on the five year anniversary of several brutal killings.

The movie is going be set up as a mystery slashed film, much like the original Friday The 13th or Sleepaway Camp where the killer’s face isn’t revealed until the final act. Aside from Scream, which did things a little differently, there hasn’t really been a mystery slasher film in quite a while.

We decided to use the title Unhinged as it plays into the schizophrenic nature of several characters in the film. We talked about using Schizopolis since our first script was Welcome To Deadsville. We thought it would be fun to make names that allude to characters or events as towns. But then I remembered Schizopolis was a film by Stephen Soderbergh in the 90’s.

I have already written about 10 pages of the script and we are planning on knocking out the rest very quickly. Hopefully we should have a first draft in the next few weeks.

Writing In A 3 Act Structure


In this day and age when all the rules are consistently broken in structure of films does the 3 act structure still need to be a rule? I say yes. For every Memento and Pulp Fiction there are hundreds that could not work outside the basic structure of cinema.

Act 1 – you introduce the characters, the world they live in, and what the struggle will be. Act 2 – everything goes to hell for the characters, the struggles create huge obstacles for the protagonists. Act 3 – the big finish, the resolution. In act 3 you see the protagonists overcome the obstacles and come out the other side. Or, in some cases, the obstacles kill them or they lose.

This is basic screenwriting 101. Once you know how to play in the three act structure that’s when you can begin breaking the rules and having fun with them. If you try to reinvent the wheel before you know why it was invented in the first place it will mostly turn out a big misshapen blob that won’t get you very far.

Think about it like this – when you’re telling a story to your friends you set it up by explaining where you were, who was with you, and the basic idea. Then you move on to the meat of the story, the part where all the juicy stuff happens. And lastly, you tell them the result of what transpired. If that’s how you tell your friends a story then it obviously comes natural to you to write a story in the same way.

Once you’ve mastered that then you can move into adding flashbacks into random places to play with the story flow. But don’t expect to go full on Nolan or Tarantino with your first script. I’ve written a few and I wouldn’t even be able to master that yet.

I say these things but there are always exceptions to the rule. Maybe you see the world in a non-linear fashion and it’s easy for you to structure a story the same way. Maybe you don’t know how to write in three acts. If that’s the case then reverse it. Or don’t. Who cares? The rules are there for a reason, yes. But they are broken more than they are followed. But I do urge you to learn the rules so you have a better understanding of how to break them.