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The Schlock Party II: Out of the Closet, Into the Fire

Last week, I told this story:

meyer bros

Our trailer unexpectedly received a bunch of positive attention on the Internet, because the very awesome Avery Guerra liked it and started spreading the word around. Then, Joblo.com referred to it as “Schlock Party” but that was totally fine, because the worst review we ever got was that a film of ours was “just ok.”

I love it when people like our work, because the best reason for making movies is to make people happy.  It’s awesome when you see people laughing and enjoying themselves while watching something that you had a hand in. But at least “schlock party” is an emotional response, whereas “just ok” is a lot like saying “I suppose I could have committed suicide during this film and it wouldn’t have bothered me one way or the other.”

The part of the Joblo story that really stung about the schlock party story is when I was quoted as saying: “Our prior horror efforts, including Consumed are dark, grim tales, which we enjoy, but didn’t feel that tone was what we wanted in a Bigfoot film. We agreed that Jaws had a good balance or horror, comedy, and adventure which we are attempting to capture.” Then author responded with: “Based on the two trailers below, farther from JAWS this film could not be.”

Sigh…

Me as Dave Smith, the androgynous lead singer of BADNESS

Me as Dave Smith, the androgynous lead singer of Badness.  I guess if you can tell anything from the picture, it’s that I’m sooo the opposite of a tool.

I, naturally, felt like a complete tool.  My quote was very tool-ish, but why was it necessary for this guy to point that out? Back in the old days, when we were promoting Badness, our imaginary rock band that couldn’t play instruments, promoting our work seemed much easier.  We had a couple films and a website for the band and, for some reason, I was always much more outgoing and impervious to ever feeling like a tool.  Like I did now.  It would take a well-known speech by actress/director Jodie Foster to help me start to comprehend why.

In ninth grade, I had to give a speech about myself in English class, and thinking that would be super easy, I didn’t prepare anything.  I said I made movies, cause that was really all I did, then I ran out of material.  After 2 minutes of me staring blankly at the rest of the class staring blankly back at me, Mr. Carey took pity on me and started asking me questions and trying to coax me into not looking like a total ass.

“Who writes your films?” he asked helpfully.

“I… uh… I usually write them,” I answered.  I was a writer AND a director.  Wait till they found out I also acted!

If they had seen any of my films, they'd be even more impressed!

If they had seen any of my films, they’d be even more impressed!

“And how many films have you made?” was the follow up from Mr. Carey’s stupid teacher face.

Shit.  I done tons!  Let’s see…  I won’t count the cartoons I did on our Texas Instruments computer.  So, let’s see.  Teeth was my first.  Then we did Adventure Barney.  Wait, that was technically Dennis’ movie.  Do I count Vacation ’88?  It was just a home movie, but I thought it more of a docudrama.  Then there was the one I was currently working on.  But that didn’t count cause it wasn’t finished.

“One,” I answered.

Mr. Carey blinked at me.

“You usually write your own movies,” he said incredulously, having lost any pity he may have at one time had for me,  “but you’ve only done one?”

This picture of me taken during my high school years is proof positive that I wasn't a tool.

This picture of me taken during my high school years is proof positive that I wasn’t a tool.

All I could do was return to my seat with my head hanging low and accept the realization that high school was really going to suck for me.  This episode was humiliating and while I don’t mind telling you about it, I would be mortified if it was ever posted online.   It was perhaps this incident that sent me into the Filmmaker Closet.  I adopted a very strict Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy when it came to my film work, and that isn’t the best promotion strategy.

Years later, I produced a short about drunk driving that I was shopping around to different educational film distributors.  This is the first time I had ever done anything like this before, and I was terrified, naturally.  I distinctly remember I wouldn’t even refer to the film as a “film” when talking to people about it.  I called it a “video.”  Somehow, “video” sounded less George McFly to me.

About the same time, actress/director Jodie Foster delivered a speech that I, and a lot of other people, were greatly moved by. She said, “You gotta lose yourself to the music  The moment – you better own it.  You better never let it go.  You only got one shot.  Do not miss your chance to blow.  This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo.”  Powerful words.  Words so powerful they were even made into a song by Eminem.

I remember that song playing in the car when I was on my way to transfer my miniDV master of my film  to a real format that professionals used so I could ship it off  to its new distributor.  And, even with the liberties Eminem took with Foster’s poetry (like adding something about his mom’s spaghetti), the song was very inspirational.  And it reminded me that I do only have one shot – one life – and this is it right now.  There’s no dress rehearsal.  And there’s no time for shenanigans.

That’s a hard lesson to get through one’s thick skull, and it took years, but I knew it was time to come out of the Filmmaker Closet.   I had been so comfortable as Dave Smith from BADNESS because I was promoting our work as Dave Smith and wasn’t preoccupied with what people thought of him.  I knew I either had to stop caring so much how I was coming off and pay more attention to what I was trying to accomplish or I needed to put on the wig and become Dave Smith forever.  Which wouldn’t have sounded so Norman Bates-ish if the real Dave Smith wasn’t stuffed in my attic.

The real Dave Smith.  We all go a little mad sometimes.

The real Dave Smith. It’s not as if he were a maniac – a raving thing.  He just goes a little mad sometimes.  We all go a little mad sometimes.

So, I switched to a strict Didn’t Ask?/I’m Telling You Anyway policy when it comes to the movie.  At times, I’m embarrassed at the self promoting whore I’ve become.  But it’s my duty to be a whore – for the film, for myself, and for everyone who busted their butts helping us out.  I have to spread the word.  It’s part of the job.  No one will ever hear of your film if you try to promote it from the closet.

I’m even cool with it if Mr. Carey tracks me down one day and corners me on some rambling. nonsensical babble I just spouted.  Because maybe this time – if I really pay attention – I’ll see one lone dude in the classroom thinking, “Cool!  I love a good Sasquatch flick!” While my classmates laugh their asses off at me.

Last week, I said that the lesson we took from our Joblo experience at the time was that that you have to be extra careful that what you say to the press can’t be misconstrued.  But I think maybe the real lesson here is people aren’t just going to be critical of your work, but they will set out to make you look like a tool -especially if you just said something toolish – and you need to get used to that.

Not missing footage from Kingdom of the Spiders starring William Shatner and Tyler Meyer... but it could be

Would a tool ever present himself this way? Obviously not.

A lot of people use “I don’t care what other people think” as an excuse to be a dick.  Don’t be a dick.  But don’t judge yourself by what others think.  Work hard.  Stay focused.  If you believe in what you’re doing, there will eventually be others who feel the same way, unless you’re doing some kind of weird puppet/poop/snuff film.

I remember bracing myself for the inevitable blizzard of negative comments that would no doubt accompany the Joblo story.  Hopefully, I’d be able to handle them and it wouldn’t derail the motivation that this sudden, unexpected burst of publicity had brought us.

But only one person ever commented.

avery

Thanks, Avery.

-Tyler

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The Schlock Party

In February 2010, we were still recovering from the hectic shoot from the previous fall.  Our plan was to recharge during the winter and regroup in the spring.  So I put together a trailer using the available footage to get everyone – including myself – pumped up again about making this film, and also to be able to show to people we were trying to entice into working with us.

On YouTube, our trailer was spotted by Avery Guerra, who seems to be some kind of highly skilled professional cool-stuff-liker/promoter.  (Not that our film is cool – just Bigfoot.)  His IMDb listing includes credits as publicist on The Devil’s Rook and Gila! (The Giant Gila Monster remake.  Awesome.) as well as “thank you” credits on several other horror/scifi films, including Paranormal Activity. (!)  So from what I can tell, he’s helped a lot of indie filmmakers like us out with spreading the word about their films. 

He was nice enough to ask for some info that he could pass along to some cool-stuff-liking websites.  I wrote up an email describing the film to him and sent it to Dennis to look over before I sent it off.  I have a tendency to be a little too flippant, and Dennis helps me curtail that because he hates laughter (and puppies).

A writer reacts to positive feedback: "I hear a 'but' coming..."

Thinking about those bastard puppies.

In my email, I had described our film’s tone by comparing it to what they were going for in the 1999 The Mummy remake, with the combination of horror, humor, and adventure, adding that I thought The Mummy wasn’t entirely successful at the mixture.  Dennis said The Mummy sucked and changed it to:

“Our prior horror efforts, including Consumed are dark, grim tales, which we enjoy, but didn’t feel that tone was what we wanted in a Bigfoot film. We agreed that Jaws had a good balance or horror, comedy, and adventure which we are attempting to capture.”

Which I would never say.  Ever.

We went with that and the story, along with the quote, was posted on Ken Husley’s awesome site Monster Island News.  And that was really cool.  Someone actually gave a crap about our movie.  It was like a real movie.  Cool.

How often do you get to take a not-at-all creepy picture like this?  I bet people will think I'm a wizard!

How often do you get to take a not-at-all creepy picture like this? I bet people will think I’m a wizard!

I never saw the movie, but I bet he's a real asshole.

I never saw the movie, but I bet he’s a real asshole.

And then, much to our surprise, other sites started picking the story up, mostly due to the fact that Avery is awesome and spread the word around.  And then i09  posted an article titled “Screw K-Pax We Want Zonad, French Mutants And Bigfoot’s Cousin The Grassman” Yeah!  Screw K-Pax!  We were getting lots of hits and praise on the trailer, and it felt good.  Very motivational, too.

And then Joblo.com picked up the story.  Mind, you, I hadn’t heard of any of these sites, because I only go to kissonline.com and theforce.net, but Dennis was pretty impressed, so I followed his lead.

meyer bros

Cool!  Wait… They just called us absurd.  We were actually more offended that we’d been labeled “The Meyer Brothers,” the inevitable moniker we thought we could somehow avoid – made all the worse here by shortening “brothers” to “bros.”  Shit.

The first line of the story was “Wow.  Talk about a schlock party!”  I was pretty sure this was an insult, but had to look up “schlock” in the online dictionary to find out what it meant.  Seemed like an insult, but the addition of “party” made it sound like something fun.  Futhermore, who had been talking about schlock parties?  As far as I could tell no one, or I might know what a schlock party is.

meyerbros2

Just called it absurd again.  Son of a – wait, they’re talking about us like anyone has any idea who we are other than the 30 people who watched The Spooky House at the 2003 Ohio Independent Film Festival.   And, look, next he’s quoting me like a real filmmaker!  Awesome!

quote

Hey, cool, he made it sound like Consumed was an actually film we made!  Wait!  We didn’t say it was like Jaws!  We said were were trying to mix comedy, horror, and adventure like Jaws did!  Son of a shit!  We look like complete tools!

nepotism

Who was talking about nepotism?  Did I miss that?  Was that at the schlock party?

The “absurd” and “schlocky” comments didn’t bother me so much as looking like a complete tool who thinks he’s Steven Spielberg.  We get negative comments about our work all the time – If you can’t deal with that, you shouldn’t be making movies.  Or doing anything, really.

This isn’t a tirade against the author of that post.  It’s his job to post cool stuff or lame stuff and either praise it or make fun of it as he see’s fit.  He just called me out for sounding like a complete tool.  This filmmaking stuff is a very public thing.  And, as you learn and grow, your failures happen in front of everyone.

If I were a tool, would I be able do this?

If I were a tool, would I be able do this?

The lesson we took from this experience at the time was that that you have to be extra careful about what you say to the press because it can be easily misinterpreted.  But then I decided that lesson is stupid because we kind knew that already anyway.  I have since found a much more profound lesson in all of this, which is also something we knew already anyway but is the kind of thing you can know for years, but not really know it until you finally find out.

I’ll get to that next week in Schlock Party II: Out of the Closet, Into the Fire. 

-Tyler

What many claim to be the only known photograph of an actual schlock party in progress.

What many claim to be the only known photograph of an actual schlock party in progress.

100 Years… 100 Squatches: AFI’s List of the 100 Greatest Bigfoot Films of All Time

It’s February – Women in Horror Recognition Month – and I can’t help but think how lucky we’ve been to get to work with some incredibly talented women on this project – From popular horror names like Jessica Cameron and Lynn Lowry to my sister-in-law, Rachel Meyer, who creates most of the make-up and props that make our film our scary, and also keeps our shoots from imploding.  Were it not for Rachel, The Legend of Grassman would be me and Dennis out in a field with a cardboard Bigfoot.

To illustrate, here is a still from a film of ours that she wasn't involved in.

To illustrate, here is a still from a film of ours that she wasn’t involved in.

598571_463573303698815_1555667317_nA couple months ago on Facebook, I met one of the official ambassadors for this year’s Women in Horror Month, Jovana Dimitrijevic.   She’s a Serbian filmmaker who’s in preproduction on a feature version of her short film Women’s Court and runs the Girls Can Do Horror Facebook page.  

She had contacted me about another non-horror project I’m working on.  Our conversation naturally turned to horror movies – her movie, my movie, other people’s movies.  She told me she preferred classic atmosphere and suspense to modern gore and showed me a clip of a Serbian horror film she loved as a kid and naturaljeroijg—

WHAT?!!! IS THAT A VAMPIRE!!! AND NOT LIKE A BELA LUGOSI VAMPIRE!!! THAT’S A DAMNED FOLKLORE VAMPIRE!

Yes, she said. They have a rich vampire tradition in that country. “Vampire” is actually a Serbian word, she told me.

In case the clip didn't horrify you enough.

In case the clip didn’t horrify you enough.

I love folklore vampires!  They make Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee look “sparkly”  by comparison.  Folklore vampires are a bit more like zombies (which are nothing like folklore zombies). They’re dirty. They smell. And they eat their own family members! I love it!  Dennis and I even have a folklore vampire movie written that we want to produce.  I had no idea there were actually vampire folklore movies! Here are links to two of them:

Leptrica (The Butterfly) – with English subtitles

Sveto mesto (The Holy Place) – with Russian subtitles that can be translated into badly translated English

Just as I had never heard of a folklore vampire movie, the idea of a Bigfoot-themed horror film was totally foreign to her.  In her experience, Bigfoot was a subject best reserved for cable tv documentaries. 

“WHAT??!!!!” I exclaimed.  “NO BIGFOOT MOVIES IN SERBIA?!!!  BUT HOW CAN–  Ahh…  you have vampires.  You don’t need Bigfoot… Clever girl…  So much cooler than werewolves, too.”

100YEARS2_TempTile_250x250She asked if I could recommend a couple titles, so what I gave her the American Film Institute’s recent list of 100 Greatest Bigfoot Movies Ever Made.

But, wait!  There’s no AFI list!  Bigfoot movies suck!  Dammit!  How do I…  Shit!   The jig is up!  I’ve been found out!

As I prepared to delete my Facebook account and erase all online evidence that I had ever even been involved in making a Bigfoot movie, I remembered that thing she said about liking atmosphere and suspense over gore.  Maybe I can do this.

What follows is my own personal AFI list of the top 100 Greatest Bigfoot movies.   Unfortunately, due to the nature of the genre, only 9 films made it.  Last week, I hailed the 1933 film, King Kong, as not only the Eighth Wonder of the World, but Greatest Bigfoot Movie Ever Made.  I won’t be including that since I’m inconsistent and it doesn’t feature an actual Bigfoot.  It will, however, be on my upcoming list, 100 Greatest Giant Ape Movies, which includes exactly one film.

Most of these films are from the 1970’s, since my interests apparently stopped developing shortly after I turned six.  (I love Star Wars, Star Trek, KISS, and Bigfoot.  That’s it.)

HORROR

The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

legend_of_boggy_creekThis is 70’s drive-in movie phenomenon that is often cited as the best Bigfoot film ever made.  But before you watch it, there’s something you should know.

It kinda sucks a little.

It’s a rated G, so there’s not much violence to speak of and no one says “fuck,” if that’s what you look for in a movie.  This is a very low budget effort, and features mostly nonprofessional actors, but if that bothers you, you should probably shouldn’t be reading The Legend of Grassman’s production blog.  (Let it be known, however, that our film has plenty of violence and comes with a 3 “fuck” minimum guarantee.)

Also, sometimes the film takes a break so a guy can sing a song about how lonely the monster is, or about how a minor protagonist, Travis Crabtree, likes to ride in a boat or something.

But it also has atmosphere, creepiness, and a this-stuff-seriously-really-went-down approach to the storytelling.  It evokes that dark, beautiful and terribly delicious fear you felt as a kid that there may be a monster hiding just inside your closet, but also a sense of wonder and discovery that comes with knowing that the unassuming forest behind your house may harbor secrets no one has ever seen.

If you’re a big fan of this film, you might want to check out the following books:

The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster

Smokey and the Fouke Monster

Sasquatch, The Legend of Bigfoot (1977)

MV5BMTM1NzEwMzc0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjQ1Mjg5._V1_SX214_Another psuedo-documentary, but rather than Arkansas, this story takes place in Bigfoot’s hometown of the Pacific Northwest and focuses on actual Bigfoot lore (Boggy Creek’s Fouke Monster wasn’t associated with Bigfoot until the movie was made).  It’s not totally saturated in creepy atmosphere like Boggy Creek, but it has it’s moments, some of which are reenactments of actual historical Bigfoot accounts.

This is another  G-rated horror film, but aimed more at kids.  A huge chunk of it is completely unrelated stock nature footage and its characters include  a comic relief Jar Jar Binks-type, a bitter skeptic, an ornery old man gold miner type, a fake Indian who talks like Tonto if he were high, and a scientist who refers to the skeptic’s critical thinking as “negativity.”

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s the downside here?”

Yeah…  But somehow it all comes together for me as a classic Bigfoot film.

Fun Fact:  George Lauris, who plays the objectivity-hating scientist also directed the film footage used in the non-Gagnam Style internet sensation, Guy on a Buffalo.

Creature from Black Lake (1976)

CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE2aUnlike the previous G-rated psuedo documentaries on this list, this one is a straight-forward hardcore PG-rated horror film.  The plot revolves around some guys who go out into the woods, only to get their asses kicked by Sasquatch.

This isn’t quite a “Savage Sasquatch” horror movie like we’re used to these days where Bigfoot mercilessly rips the hell out of everyone for no reason.  It’s a more adult Sasquatch, The Legend of Bigfoot.  Unlike that film, Creature from Black Lake is a traditional narrative, with a darker tone while at the same time being funnier and more lighthearted.  There are no fake Indians with stupid lines.  (Sad face emoticon.)

There is, however, a lovable goofball named “Pahoo,” and Jack Elam in a supporting role as Jack Elam.  Enough said.

Night of the Demon (1980)

This VHS distributor decided that the wanker scene was the best selling point of the film.

This VHS cover is notable for 2 reasons  #1 – The distributor decided that the wanker scene was the best selling feature of the film.  And #2 –  Someone who actually designed covers for a living thought this picture (of what looks to be a dude pissing himself while a stoned, lipstick-wearing Sasquatch looks on) made a pretty damn good one.

I heard this one was one of the worst entries into the Bigfoot catalog.   I found a copy at a horror convention and prepared for the worst.  Holy shit!  It was awesome.  I mean…  it sucked, but it was awesome!  It’s got that 70’s Bigfoot feel, but something has gone horribly wrong with Bigfoot – He’s an ultra-violent roid-raging rapist who hangs out with Satanists and pulls a urinating biker’s wanker off in one scene.  In his book, The Bigfoot Filmography, author David Coleman mentions this as the start of the “Savage Sasquatch” sub genre that continues to dominate modern Bigfoot films in which the isolated peace-loving creature is depicted as some kind of crazed asshole monster who kills for no reason.

If I had to recommend a Bigfoot film to horror fans, I think I’d recommend this one.  Even though it sort of sucks.  Except it’s awesome.

DOCUMENTARIES

Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie (2008)

not_your_typical_bigfoot_movie_xlgIf you like offbeat documentaries like King of Kong, Best Worst Movie, American Movie, or Confessions of a Superhero, you might dig this one.  I think it’s the best Bigfoot movie ever made. (Counting only Bigfoot movies that actually involve Bigfoot… though there is no actual Bigfoot in this film.)

It follows Dallas Gilbert and Wayne Burton, two good-natured but down-on-their luck guys in a dying factory town, who cling to their long held dream of finding Bigfoot as the only hope for turning their lives around. Real-life Bigfoot hunter Tom Biscardi is very convincing in his role as a total dick.

If you like this film, you should check out their webseries, Dallas and Wayne: The Bigfoot Hunters.

The Mysterious Monsters (1976)

Mysterious Monsters.  These assholes ripped off David Coleman's Bigfoot filmography cover.

Mysterious Monsters. These assholes ripped off The Bigfoot Filmography’s cover.

At one point in the 1976 documentary, host Peter Graves says that we’re sure to uncover indisputable proof of Bigfoot soon because it wasn’t too long ago that the Loch Ness Monster was thought to be nothing more than a myth, and now it’s universally accepted by scientists that dinosaurs, which were previously thought to be extinct, actually do hang out in Scotland. Upon viewing this film over 30 years after it was made, I was astounded by this claim and have come up with three possible explanations for it:

1. This film is the only surviving evidence of the creature due to a massive coverup that has been perpetrated on the world by someone who doesn’t think dinosaurs are cool.
2. The film I saw is an alternate version of The Mysterious Monsters made in a parallel dimension (where the Loch Ness Monster was accepted by science in 1972) that was accidentally left here by vacationing dimensioners.
3. In the 1970’s marijuana was popular.


In this next clip, Peter Graves starts making a bit more sense.

Bigfoot: Man or Beast? (1972)

The Pumping Iron of Bigfoot movies, with guest appearances by John Green and Rene Dahinden – the Arnold Swarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno of cryptozoology. It starts out as kind of a forced, more awkward version of The Mysterious Monsters and then morphs into a cinema vérité documentary about Bigfoot researchers every bit as natural and unstaged as Pumping Iron was. The film follows Robert W. Morgan, the Mike Katz of cryptozoology, as he slowly discoveres that Mother Nature has hidden his t-shirt. A stand out moment for me was when a lab technician calls to tell him the hair samples he sent in are human body hairs from the lower extremities. Morgan takes this as promising news, but I’m reasonably certain she meant it was someone’s pubes.

Also features the most awkward body language in a husband/wife interview ever captured on film.

Also features the most awkward body language in a husband/wife interview ever captured on film.

HONORABLE MENTIONS THAT I CAN’T BRING MYSELF TO PUT ON A “BEST OF” LIST

sasquatchhuntersSasquatch Hunters (2005) Sasquatch Hunters is so poorly made that the filmmakers have created something pretty entertaining. It’s not on the same level with The Room or Plan Nine from Outer Space, and I have yet to find anyone who feels the way that I do about it, so it could just be that I’m an asshole who likes laughing at people’s hard work. Still, I’ve watched this more than Citizen Kane and if I had to choose between the two films in a fire, I would hope that some responsible film scholar might come along save Orson Welles’ masterpiece for future generations.

This.

This.

Shriek of the Mutilated (1974) The plot revolves around some guys who go out into the woods, only to get their asses kickwkrejgnw WHAT IN THE SHIT?!!! I guess the best way to describe this film is it’s like Night of the Demon if it sucked.

So that’s my list.  Did I leave something off?  Did I include too many awful films?Comment below and let me know. 

It’s worth noting there were a couple Yeti films made in the 1950’s that are probably worth checking out, but I never watched any of them because the 3 minutes I saw of The Snow Creature sucked too much and The Abominable Snowman stars Peter Cushing, the sunavabitch who ordered the destruction of Alderaan.

sasquaAlso on my to-watch list is Manbeast: Myth or Monster (1978) and Sasqua (1975), a lost film that was recently discovered but I still can’t find anywhere, so technically it’s still lost, I think.

Grassman PosterIf I had to describe The Legend of Grassman by comparing it with these films, I’d say it’s most like Creature from Black Lake mixed with a more polite version of Night of the Demon with a sprinkling of Sasquatch, The Legend of Bigfoot, and unrealistic aspirations to be The Legend of Boggy Creek. Also, it has a cameo from Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie. (Literally. Dallas and Wayne play themselves.) And again, we guarantee a minimum of 3 f-bombs or your money back! The plot revolves around some guys who go out into the woods, only to get their asses kicked by Sasquatch.

I leave you with this – another incredible video from Europe that Jovana opened my eyes to. It’s not related to vampires, or even Bigfoot, but I kinda wish it was.

-Tyler