In A thought, Projects

This is about drama stopping a production being finished and it takes a while to get there, but it does.

When I first got out of college, oh so very long ago, I got a call from a friend, future business partner and future former friend. He was going to be the Director of Photography on a feature that was shooting outside of Dallas at a haunted house. Not a real haunted house, but a created place called Verdun Manor. It’s still operating and the place now includes three haunted houses. The guy that ran it was named Lance Pope. He was a great guy who died way too young.

Anyway, I get this call, “Have you ever written a horror movie?”

“No,” I said.

“Want to?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Can you write one in a week?”

I started writing. The deal was, they were set to shoot on 35mm film in just a week or so. They were shooting tail ends and partial loads, but it was still film and 35mm film at that. The Unit Production Manager was also the scriptwriter and he’d fought with the director and walked on the job and took the script with him. There was a production ready to go with a director who claimed to be somebody and a producer that was really an optometrist in real life. Hey, one of my favorite photographers, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, was also an optometrist by trade.

I was promised too much money for what I was doing. I never expected to be paid a dime. I was given the assignment, one week, write a feature, it had to be set at this haunted house and it had to be about werewolves. Then the next day, another call. “Two really hot girls auditioned. Can you write them in?”

I did.

Then another call, “Hey, the special effects guys can do a hanging gag. Can you have the werewolf hang someone?”

I did. It was stupid and I knew it, but I wrote it.

I actually finished it in five days and I took one day off to play video games and go to the batting cages for awhile which means it was actually four days work. I passed the script off in a bar on a Thursday night.

The amazing thing is that it got shot. They actually made the movie. The director was insane, had an odd obsession with numbers and claimed things like, “I brushed my teeth five times today, I’ve read the script six times today.” Then he wouldn’t know what happened next while directing or wouldn’t know when an actor blew his lines. There was one section in the whole thing I remember being happy with from a writing standpoint. Thanks to randomly backing things up, I still have the script rescued from a 3 1/4″ floppy years ago. The scene in question took place after the grandfather had killed a police officer who had come to shut down his haunted house. His business manager meets him in the woods.


It’s a little scene. The actor playing Victor never got it right and the director never noticed.

Still, the movie got made with a director who walked on set in the middle of production holding a book on directing and announced he’d read it three times that morning. One of the grips said “It’s a little late for that, don’t you think.”

Still, the movie got made.

Even with an incompetent director who wore spandex shorts all the time, but was large enough to break a folding stool, the film got made. There were extremely talented people working that film with serious credit to their names. They signed on for a job and they did the job regardless of the script or the director or any of the other multitude of issues.

Still the movie got made.

And it will hopefully never be seen. See, the director who years later would sue the creators of American Idol claiming he’d invented the idea of a talent show with internet voting in the late 90’s before the internet could handle online voting for a talent show, was actually sued by the optometrist producer. The film is still in legal limbo as far as I know. There are enough judgements and liens on the property by the crew still owed money that it should never disgrace anyone’s screen.

The point of all this, the one I promised, is that there are people who fight to create and there are people who fight. We had a lot of drama in the office this week. Personal drama that produces nothing but anger and recriminations. At. certain point in the production process you have to actually produce something. There have been a lot of excuses, arguments and indecision in the past week.

There will always be fights and arguments, but they should never prevent you from creating.


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