We'll Fix It In Pre-Production
a mini-series rather than a feature script, we did the only thing
we could: we tore out the mini-story I had inserted into the middle
of the script. Fortunately, it was fairly modular, and we lost nothing
meaty in the process. Largely, it was there to expand upon my little
deus ex machina, my geeky comic book fan device - the Emergency
Grappling System. A lifesaving device that Marc and his brother had
invented, were going to patent, get rich, which is why they're at
the cabin to get killed, blah blah blah. It becomes very important
at the end, and I didn't want it to come out of left field. Which
it does now. Ah, well...
So the pre-production
process swung into full, brutal action. I was not privy to the auditions,
nor did I want to be; at this point, my faith was in Roger. After
all, he was the only person I knew who had finished and sold a full-length
movie, albeit one shot on super 8. I'm still not sure which mindset
ruled over me at that point - the belief that a film's director rules
supreme, or my own theatrical background.
theater is a very, very collaborative field. As an actor, I discovered
(yes, much to my dismay) that although I had good instincts, my performances
improved exponentially with a good director. As a director, I am continually
delighted by actors who have something to bring to the party; and
the few times I've worked as a sound designer (a demanding, no-glory-little-pay
job), I've worked hard to support and expand upon what was being done
onstage - the best time being when the actors and my music moved myself
and the audience to tears night after night. The audience's reaction
I had hoped for; my reaction surprised me.
I did have
a bit of input into the casting. Roger and I both knew Kent Johnson,
the actor who wound up playing Alfie, the zombie. Kent is tall, thin,
unafraid of makeup, and has the patience of a thousand monks. I knew
he was going to need the patience for what was going to be a lengthy
makeup each day.
be more than just a paragraph for my friend Diane Johnson - in fact,
"friend" is far too weak a word for her. Diane and I spent
the 80's keeping each other sane. She was such an important part of
my life that when it came time for me to marry, I could think of no
one I would rather have act as my best man. She looked great in a
down memory lane finished, I find that Diane has now gotten herself
a second paragraph. Good. I owe her that. You see, back when Nightcrawlers/Nemesis
was going to be a Mensik project, I had talked to her about the possibility
of doing the one nude scene in my script (for those of you who have
seen Forever Evil - there is three times as much nudity in
the finished film as in my script. We'll be addressing differences
like that in about a month). I approached her again, she still had
a bit of the exhibitionist in her, and I arranged a meeting betwixt
she and Roger.
I also did
some subtle pushing for my friend Red Mitchell for the lead. I had
aged a bit since that first draft, and I now at least had the wisdom
to realize that I was not leading man material - not having classical
good looks, being generally overweight, and besides which - leading
men don't get to have much fun (unless they're Mel Gibson in the Lethal
Weapon movies). Red looked good, did intense well, and needed
friends got the roles. It is to their credit that they eventually
forgave me for that. As did all my friends who were eventually sucked
into the movie. There were quite a few of them.
sidebar, during the preproduction phase: United had picked up an awful
little thriller called Terror at Tenkiller, and they felt it
could be salvaged by a new soundtrack. I don't remember enough about
the original soundtrack to judge whether that's true or not, but we
still wound up re-looping the entire film. I do not recommend trying
to search out Terror - it will not reward that effort one bit,
unless you're dying to hear what I sound like - I'm the voice of the
older character Preacher, who gets his hand cut off by what has to
be the sharpest hunting knife in All Creation. *
role in the production was somewhat up in the air - I wanted to be
on hand for the shooting, but Roger had no more money for another
crew person. I finally wound up volunteering to drive the van to shuttle
actors around between locations, and I bought reams of 35mm film to
take pictures. I also worked on acquiring the firearms for the production.
The most cost-effective turned out to be blowback guns, which look
completely realistic, produce no fire like blank-shooting props, but
some smoke and realistic shell-ejections in the case of the automatic
pistols and shotgun.
the actors met in Roger's studio one evening for a read-through of
the script, yet another holdover from our theatrical days. After this,
our production manager (who shall remain nameless) stood up to say
a few words and mentioned the blowback guns. Wishing to assure the
actors that they were totally safe, he went a bit too far, saying
that you could hold them up to your head and pull the trigger and
nothing would happen.
followed by my horrorstruck voice from the back: "But for God's
Not a terribly
auspicious beginning. Later that week we found out that Sybil Danning's
production outfit had already copped the name Nemesis - not
that they ever did anything with it. Albert Pyun eventually did. (Great.
Scooped by Pyun. I feel better now.) "How many movies
are named Maniac?" I asked.
It didn't matter. We still had to come up with a new name.
it just never ends.
Just the FX, Ma'am