The Bad Movie Report

Making A Bad Movie:
My Personal Nightmare


We'll Fix It In Pre-Production

Faced with 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.

You see, 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.

There should 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 tuxedo.

That trip 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 the work.

All these 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.

One interesting 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. *

My 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.

Finally, 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.

This was followed by my horrorstruck voice from the back: "But for God's sake, don't."

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.

Some days it just never ends.


Just the FX, Ma'am