Sneak Peek #16 Shooting with Lynn Lowry

In this behind-the-scenes video, Lynn Lowry (Shivers, The Crazies, Cat People) joins our cast!  We’ve had this up on our YouTube page for a while but never posted it here!  That makes it some kind of exclusive!

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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.

Writing Character: Getting into the mind of Bigfoot

My last three posts (Drafting Pt 1, Drafting Pt 2, and Drafting Pt 3)  were about how, once we had a script, my brother and I had to come to agreement on a version of the story that we both agreed on and connected with. “Connected with…” a generic sounding phrase. What exactly does it mean to connect with the script?

Danny, three dimensions of character goodness

Danny, three dimensions of character goodness

In this case, that connection occurred when we completely changed our primary characters around and added a new protagonist, the character of Danny. Danny was not some stereotype or one-dimensional caricature made simply to fit the mold of a storytelling paradigm. He was kid with a history, a back story  and a personality that came out on the page, and lent itself to reacting to the events of the story. He was someone we could not only identify with as the filmmakers, but to whom the other re-evaluated characters could connect and interact with.

For me, connecting with the story usually begins with my understanding, or rather, my complete knowledge of the characters I am writing. Particularly my protagonist(s) and my antagonist(s). Looking back on it, I feel that the bulk of the difficulty that Tyler and I had with seeing eye-to-eye on the script was due to my blind adherence to using The Hero’s Journey as my starting point. I filled in the archetypes with bodies, but didn’t put my normal level of attention on the “people” who were to inhabit those archetypes. It was new to me, and I let it run the show instead of doing what I knew to be the correct thing to do: focus on character.

Fortunately, it was not a mistake that I made entirely throughout the script. I had given a lot of thought to one character from the beginning, because without him there would be no movie: Bigfoot (the titular Grassman of our film).

Book cover, Monster Manual (original version f...

Monster Manual (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I took the job of writing a Bigfoot very seriously. As Tyler mentioned in his last post on the genre of Bigfoot movies, there are a lot of these types of films these days where the Bigfoot is simply a raging asshole, a generic monster in a part that could have been filled by any creature pulled from your 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. (You have that, right?)

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching many of those kind of monster flicks.  But early on, I decided that I didn’t simply want to write a mindless, generic monster. I may be a skeptic, but I’m the kind of skeptic that wants to believe. I want there to be a Bigfoot, I want to see a ghost, I want to be abducted by aliens (probing is negotiable). So, if I was going to write a Bigfoot story, I wanted to write about a real Bigfoot.

Bigfoot store

Bigfoot store (Photo credit: amitp)

My basic approach was to combine Bigfoot activity as reported in documented sightings, as well as legends, and combine that activity with known animal behavior. I wanted to ensure that I didn’t just throw things in the script because they were “bigfooty” but also because they were behaviors common in other animal species. And since we’re dealing with a cryptid, I could also make some assumptions based on others work on the subject about the intelligence of a Bigfoot.

These things combined to allow me to do the same thing I would do for a human antagonist: figure out what he wants, as an intelligent animal with needs, as a character. And, armed with that answer, I was able to step into the size 26 shoes of that character and provide a rational, reason for every move it takes. Everything it does has some thought behind it which is tied to that central question of “What do I (Bigfoot) want?”

Grassman... doing character stuff...

Grassman… doing character stuff…

So, when the time came to do rewrites, the character of Bigfoot remained the same throughout. When we stumbled across a groups of characters and a story that connected, it was in large part because those characters and story connected with the existing motivations of our antagonist. The pieces seemed to fall right into the place, as if they were always meant to be that way, providing a dimension and purpose to all of them that was missing before. A common thread, a theme, which wasn’t forced, wasn’t the result of using another film as the model to work from, appeared which gave the whole script a feeling of legitimacy.

I hadn’t just written another mindless monster movie, a man vs the supernatural story. It was about people encountering and animal on its own turf, reacting to that, and facing the consequences of those decisions, man vs nature and man vs himself. To me, that’s a much more interesting world to explore as a writer and filmmaker.

Before you think me too full of myself, don’t get me wrong. I know I didn’t write Citizen Kane, or Casablanca. I wrote a Bigfoot movie. I don’t even think I wrote the Casablanca of Bigfoot films.  But, if ever there was a Once Upon a Time in Mexico of Bigfoot movies, this is it. Just wait and see. You’re gonna have a blast.

Cover of "Once Upon a Time in Mexico (Sup...

Cover via Amazon

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