Friday, October 18, 2013

I'll Play the Part, But I Won't Need Rehearsing




I was very flattered to be asked to be an extra in "Haunted House on Sorority Row," which I wrote for director Henrique Couto.  A lot of times screenwriters aren't invited to the set, because they see things like this.  I told him that being a solid citizen in good standing I could only be around for the first five pages and the last five pages of the movie and then Henrique said "Well, we spiced up the first five pages."  So this is from (SPOILER ALERT) the last five minutes of the movie, which is okay to say because I already blabbed it to the twenty other extras standing there, deep in the backwoods of rural Ohio. And that was only because they clapped when Henrique introduced me, and I basked in that in case they booed me after the premiere.  Though I have my doubts, as I met a lot of nice people that night.  Being on set, I would say this house is actually spooky in real life, which bodes well for the movie.  Just driving there, I thought Mapquest was sending me to a mass murderer's kill site.  Hopefully we will all see each other at the premiere, in the not too distant future.

You can read an article I wrote about being an extra, "I Was Bigfoot's Shemp," right here on this site.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Someone Found The Letter You Wrote Me On The Radio

Loyal reader Richard writes:

I am a big fan of your work and the genre(s) you work in. And from reading your blogs, I have gotten the impression that spec scripts are difficult - VERY difficult - to get made. In the low-budget arena, it seems getting commissioned through relationships to write other people's projects are the way to go. It's all who you know, as I've learned.
 My question is really more about the actual writing element, not so much "breaking in." When you write a project, are you writing with the budget in mind? I know some folks, like Mark Polonia, are INCREDIBLY resourceful and make movies that look way bigger than their budgets are. But does that affect your writing?


Richard, you are 100 percent correct, I have been hired now to write or rewrite I think 25 scripts in the last 14 years and none of them were specs.  I have really only written two specs; the very first one I wrote, to signal that I could do it, and one I really wrote for myself thinking I would produce it one day.  In the b-movie world it is hard enough because your average low to no budget film director is writing their own scripts, either to save money or more likely that they are making films to begin with because they have a story they want to tell.  But sometimes what they have is a concept or idea, or they have already sold a title and poster to a distributor without a script (that has for sure happened on some of my projects, believe it or not), and that is where there is sometimes a window of opportunity.

There's no doubt it is about building relationships.  The person I have collaborated the most with, Mark Polonia, is someone I have communicated with for a number of years and started just by nurturing a friendship.  Some other examples among many are director Ivan Rogers, who unfortunately has since passed away, and director Henrique Couto, who I actually met way back when he was in high school.  There are so many pretenders, dreamers, wannabes, and fringe personalities in the b-movie world that when you have had any success and/or notoriety at all you have to pick and choose who you work with carefully.  Once somebody knows you are legit it makes it easier.  When you can look out for somebody else and help them you also put karma in the bank.

I have learned to write as cheaply as possible.  If there turns out to be more money, ideas can always be added back in.  With Mark, I pretty much know who exactly is going to be in it and what the locations are going to be, and try to play to those strengths.  I learned about Henrique from watching his other work.  Same with Ivan Rogers and others.  And often they will flat out tell you, we have an ape suit, let's make a bigfoot movie (and so on).  I try to use minimal locations, crisp dialogue, limited roles, focus the action over a single day or night, no crowd scenes, no complicated effects, flesh out the movie by building kill scenes and other scenes like it related to the main action  so that they can be shot at different times and places.  Those are pretty much my main tips.  :)

Thanks for the email, and good luck on your own projects.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Don't Go Into The Basement...No, I'm Serious, Don't Go Into The Basement

Haunted House on Sorority Row started shooting this weekend in Dayton, Ohio.  This screencap from Henrique Couto is scaring me, and I wrote the dang thing. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hanging Judges

Another great year judging the Blue Whiskey Film Festival in beloved Palatine, Illinois.  Best of Fest went to a great French film for the second year in a row:  Tu Seras Un Homme (You’ll Be a Man).  I also liked The Treehouse, The Grand Design, 88 Miles to Moscow, 16 Acres, Harold Camping versus the End of the World, Andrew Bird: Fever Year, and many more.  You can see the Awards Ceremony on YouTube here

Blue Whiskey Dinner Bell




You will never be starved for good eateries while at BWIFF, nor lack for hospitality, for which I can attest.  Although the Meat Skillet at Billy's Pancake House has passed into legend, there are always other good places to try and collegial folks to break bread with.

The Blue Dahlia


I dream of this place year round.

Talking Blue








It seemed like interaction with filmmakers at BWIFF was at an all-time high this year, with many there in person and even more Skyping in from around the globe.

More Blue Bell




We had a couple of good concerts mid-week, but I couldn't hang around too late; I look like somebody's dad, or an undercover policeman.

True Blue

Festival Director Mike Noens and I take a picture together at the end of every Fest.  I think in the very first one, I was standing next to his sonogram.  He's slept about six hours since then.

Decision 2013

That long, late night where we do all the voting.  Kind of looks like Nighthawks, with better jeans.  It was a truly great film festival this year and I can hardly wait to see what my old friends in Palatine cook up next time.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

It Ain't No Country Club, Either

I was thinking about one time when a b-movie producer whose name would probably be recognizable to readers of this blog called me out of the blue on a Saturday afternoon.

"What are you doing?"  he asked.

"I'm putting a new sink in my downstairs bathroom."

"If I asked somebody out here in L.A. that, they'd tell me all about their projects."

"Well, I don't live in L.A."

I have just, unbelievably even to me, finished four screenplays in 11 weeks.  MEATEATERS is already in post-production for director Mark Polonia and HAUNTED HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW is in pre-production for director Henrique Couto.  The next one I did is a vampire movie that I won't say anything more about at this time and the fourth movie is on double secret lockdown and even I am surprised who I'm working with on it.  I am actually getting ready to go into rewrites on that one so I have to say in fairness my first draft was finished in three weeks, there may be a few more in the next drafts.

Because it's already leaked out, my next project is DOCTOR ZOMBIE for director Mark Polonia and I suppose I need to get cracking on that.

Now that I have returned from self-imposed exile I have to remind myself to be careful; work with friends, pick projects carefully, put one foot in front of the other.

Until later I am at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

No Joy In Mudville

Longtime readers know that I am a big minor-league baseball fan, so the manager of a local minor-league team asked if I wanted to be Honorary Manager for a game; surely setting them on the path of an epic curse, but it was fun to wear this jersey one night.

Done On Both Sides

In a few stills offered up by my pal Jeff Kirkendall from the set of Mark Polonia's MEATEATERS, we see two intrepid cops who started off chasing some bank robbers and ended up squaring off against a dinosaur.  Admittedly, I recycled the plot from an old episode of LAW AND ORDER.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Garden Party

In the top photo, here is the first bounty from our square foot garden.  In the bottom photo the pumpkin, which apparently fell in a meteor and I'm afraid I can never kill it now, is growing rampant.

The Agile and The Agitated

Man, I could write "Fast and Furious 7" just from looking at this picture.

Marvel Two-In-One

More glimpses into the dark recesses of my mind while I'm doodling and talking on the phone at work.

World's Least Finest

I hope this papercloth tablecloth was there for this reason.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I Know You're Working For The CIA, They Would Not Have You In The Mafia

Crazily, I just finished another screenplay this week, written right from page one. I started on Wednesday July 3rd and finished Saturday July 13th, a new land speed record. I would not have taken on this insanity except for my wife left the country for two weeks, typically a time of Doctor Who marathons and Sloppy Joes.  Needless to say I had some time on my hands.

It is the third screenplay I have completed in eight weeks.  Astoundingly, one of them, MEATEATERS, is already in post-production after a quick shoot in rural Pennsylvania; and another, HAUNTED HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, is supposed to go before the lens before the end of August.

I have never seen anything happen so quickly.  The hookers and cocaine promised by one of these two directors mentioned above hasn't even shown up yet.

This latest screenplay is about the lives and loves of a gang of female vampires, so perhaps it is just as well that my wife was out of the country while I was writing it. The rest of the information about this one is redacted until I get the high sign from the director.

I fell into the routine of day job work, coming home and writing for a few hours, and then rewarding myself by watching a movie and eating dinner in front of the TV; a sad glimpse into the grim parallel world I would have lived in had a pretty girl not gone out on a blind date with me in 1987.

I watched 20 movies while she was gone, a nice round number.  Not necessarily the ones I thought were the best, but the top five that inspired me to keep going, were THE DEVIL'S KISS, SARTANA KILLS THEM ALL, THE TALE OF ZATOICHI, A COLT IS MY PASSPORT, and MANNAJA: A MAN CALLED BLADE.

Just as I was delivering the vampire movie another surprising project fell into my lap, which I am hoping to work on during the days next week, while giving my nights over to the Blue Whiskey Film Festival.  Also, redacted until further notice; and I might have a zombie movie after that.  Dinosaurs, haunted house, vampires, (redacted), and zombies; not a bad 2013.  Thankfully it seems I have a little stored up in the tank, after going into exile for several years.

Until later, I am at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Friday, July 05, 2013

More Meateaters

As MEATEATERS wraps principal photography in Pennsylvania (say that three times fast), my pal Jeff Kirkendall sent along a few more photos featuring leads Danielle Donahue and Steve Diasparra.  In the top photo, Danielle gets a key to a fortune from a crime boss in, shall we say, the old-fashioned way (Me and Al Hitchcock, who did okay for himself, call this a MacGuffin).  Next, cinematic wisdom might indicate that if you get two cups of fake blood thrown on you and then get chucked into a lake you probably ain't coming back for the sequel.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Vegetarians Unwelcome



  Jeff Kirkendall and Danielle Donahue sent me a few snaps from MEATEATERS, a "Dino-Noir" I wrote for my old pal Mark Polonia, wrapping in the wilds of Pennsylvania.  Don't rob banks and don't fight dinosaurs, kids.  More updates to come.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Garden of Earthly Delights

Staving off the zombie apocalypse, we started building a couple of raised bed gardens on a cold spring morning.  Because of a cool, rainy summer, these have gone crazy.  Square Foot Gardening techniques and a raised bed plan from the interwebs.  I'm guessing, with the dirt we had dropped off from a local nursery plus all the wood and supplies, these cost about $100-$125 each.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Candles Blew And Then Disappeared

Just as MEAT EATERS with director Mark Polonia started shooting yesterday I delivered the first draft of my latest screenplay, HAUNTED HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, to director Henrique Couto.  That's right, I delivered two screenplays in six weeks, fueled largely by my 70s Lite Rock Pandora station and Dunkin Donuts French Vanilla coffee (my two favorite albums for inspiration are ELO's "Out of the Blue" and The Fifth Dimension's "Greatest Hits on Earth," then two sugars and some half and half).  Loyal readers may ask, how can you just have delivered the first draft and yet I see a poster before my eyes?  Grasshopper, in the great b-movie tradition, this poster and a treatment were done first to secure funding--a system that has worked since Roger Corman bought his first typewriter.  Truly, when I explained the premise to my daughter and her boyfriend he proclaimed "sounds legit!" but what conflict that might have caused in my feminist daughter's household I don't know, as I do not peek into the window of their relationship.  The good news for me is that this will be shot in nearby Ohio, the bad news being that as a married family man I should probably not be present for pages 3-6, and definitely not pages 28-70, then maybe just be at the craft table for 71-80.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Good Morning, Mister Sunshine

As I have posted before, I have been in self-imposed exile from screenwriting for a few years.  But people kept throwing ropes down the well so I finally climbed back up.

I have slowly but surely found myself in this odd place where all the stuff I worked on and all the people I worked with and knew in b-movies and microcinema have faded enough into the past to be nostalgic to new people.  Strangely I have found tons of Facebook groups and the like springing up collecting VHS tapes and a sudden resurgence in shooting on SVHS which we only did because we were poor and desperate and at the fringes of society.

Then I got a shout-out in this book about "cult pictures of vision, verve, and no self-restraint" and I started to wonder, if I was never cool before, can I ever become cool in retrospect?

Yesterday I found out that a movie I worked on some years back, Peter Rottentail, is coming out on one of those megapack DVDs called "Movies That Made My Mom Puke."  I don't know if it's false advertising or not but my mom might get a little pop-eyed at it, but I don't think she'd puke.

I was recently asked to be interviewed for a proposed project on the go-go microcinema world that was here and gone and called my old pal Mark Polonia to make sure the interviewer was above board with everything (you can read the results in the header of my blog from the last time I was interviewed).  Mark gave the interviewer the thumbs up and before we knew it Mark and I were talking about old times.

Mark is working on a retro line of movies right now and the next thing I knew we were collaborating on MEAT EATERS, a cautionary tale about the perils of using dynamite indiscriminately near where some dinosaurs may be frozen.  I would officially call it a "dino-noir" and, after amazingly flying off of my rusty fingertips in just three weeks, it will be going before the lens--stop-motion monster and all--at the end of June in the wilds of rural Pennsylvania.

And just this week, another project with somebody I wanted to collaborate with came out of the shadows.  Stay tuned.

Until then I am at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

For A Few Euros More

Back in Italy for the third time, and this thing hasn't chopped my hand off yet.

Fistful of Fanta

Snack truck in the Borghese Gardens, Rome.  Orange drink goes down easier when endorsed by the Pope.