Wednesday, December 31, 2003

I Dig A Pony

Yesterday my son, my brother, and my son's friend played the massive "Axis and Allies" board game campaign we had wanted to try over the holidays. Germany took a curiously passive stance after an aggressive campaign against the Russians and rallied their forces acround the capital. Thus Britain was able to make a dangerous landing in Poland and charged with the Soviets across the landscape. But the Japanese, in trying to shore up their Nazi allies, made a surprise back door invasion of Russia and terrorized Moscow until the U.S. broke their back in the Pacific and the Communists chucked them back into the steppes. Then the U.S. and Britain had to bomb Germany into submission. A close call, but after six hours of dice-rolling another parallel universe can rest easy.

Today we'll go to dinner with my family and go to an easygoing party with family and friends. I have been going over some pages for THE PAYBACK MAN and will really need to hit that over the weekend.

What are my New Years' resolutions? See my kids through another year safe and sound. Lose 20 pounds. Stay disciplined and focused with my writing. Get a couple of movies on the video shelf or in the theater. Maybe even start my own project.

Good luck in 2004, everybody!

Give me a shout at

Monday, December 29, 2003

A Boy Named Sue

Started a Washington State Merlot wine today in a big ol' trash can (was never used for trash, though). Getting ready to frost cookies (better late than never). Talked to AMONG US co-star and general b-movie icon Jon McBride last night, who encouraged me to try to take it easy for a while. Talked to director Ivan Rogers today about THE PAYBACK MAN script and may end up polishing up a few scenes on that over break.

I completely goofed off yesterday and Saturday, a strange feeling. I usually am going full-bore, so I feel somewhat at loose ends. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Hard to tell yet.

I went to see RETURN OF THE KING with my family last night and didn't have the heart to reveal that I actually dozed off a bit and apparently missed some sort of powerful torch-lighting scene. It was a good movie, but it's the holidays, and I'm tired. I remember years ago I fell asleep during THE LION KING and missed the dad getting killed, them woke up later and wondered, where was Simba's dad during the whole thing? Also missed the entrance of Gaston during BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and wondered later, who's that dude?

Let me give a holiday shout-out to my friends over at Scott Phillips' Exhilarated Despair site, who have been checking my site a lot lately. Howdy!

Give me a yell at

Sunday, December 28, 2003

The Long and Winding Road

Post Christmas at the dawn of a new century. My wife is listening to the CHICAGO soundtrack downstairs (both versions, stage and screen); my daughter is playing THE SIMS while listening to LET IT BE (NAKED), given to her by a hopeful beau yesterday. She is a whimsical god, in a world prone to kitchen fires. My son is playing VICE CITY in his room, and I am trying not to think about the moral implications. I am reading some rewrites on THE PAYBACK MAN and listening to Johnny Cash, while dabbling in a video game my brother bought me called FREEDOM FORCE. Maybe tonight, Scrabble or Tripoli or Euchre and a movie.

The Sunday morning paper is a recap of all the happy and sad and funny and tragic shit that happened in 2003. This time next year we will be reading more of the same that happened in 2004. And so it goes.

Give me a yell at

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting

The post-Christmas fugue has set in here. The holiday passed pleasantly enough, and the weather held out, which is all you can hope for. I got some good swag--clothes and tools and winemaking equipment and some fun CDs and games. I puttered around a bit yesterday and today, somewhat at loose ends. It is the longest I have been off of work for a while.

My son and brother and I will play a big Axis and Allies marathon and take in RETURN OF THE KING. And my daughter will play some basketball. It's nice to not have more complex plans. It's been a long time since that was the case.

Yesterday I got a couple of 'zines in the mail from my pal Joe Sherlock, a pleasant surprise. Definitely capture a cool Oregon scene that I am far removed from here at the Crossroads of America. So my thoughts turn again to something I might be able to cook out over the break. One good thing about migraines--my mind always starts brimming with ideas afterwards. I love zines and homebrewed comics--just like microcinema, it is more in the doing; telling the world: I exist.

Give me a holler at

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Wichita Lineman

When I had a migraine Sunday I was at my mother-in-law's Christmas open house, so I crawled upstairs and crashed into a bed. I felt like the bed was rocking, and I had the clearest vision that I was on a boat watching the sunset in Panama City, Florida. I felt so sick that when I met a guy who was a big comics collector my brain started misfiring so much I could hardly talk to him.

Today is one of those shadowy post-days, compounded with a sore throat and some other lingering malaise. But as is often the case after a migraine, my mind is percolating with all of the writing I would like to do over the break.

Which probably won't include much from my blog. My dial-up from home is pretty much a tin can on a string. I will try, but I suspect I will be back in action around January 5 or so.

All I hope for the holidays is the same as always; peace, sanity, safety.

Give me a shout at

Monday, December 22, 2003

Serpentine Fire

I've been sick, with a migraine to cap it off, so I think I'll go right to more from my rewrite of PETER ROTTENTAIL for the Polonia Brothers, in the waning days of post-production even as we speak:

Peter Rottentail hops down the sidewalk.
Peter spies SCOTT talking at a payphone.
I'm sorry, baby, I got to pick up a second shift tonight. I'll be home late. Real late.
No, I'm not out drinking with the guys. I'm at work. Only the phones are busted so I had to go outside to a pay phone. You know how it is with technology, baby, you can't trust none of it.
Peter hops up and stares at the man.
That's why I got to do this double shift, otherwise they'll build some terminator robot to take my place and my ass will be on the street.
No, I'm not drunk, baby, it's this bad connection. You know the phones ain't the same since they busted up Ma Bell.
Scott notices Peter staring at him.
Hey, buddy, do you mind?
Peter reaches into his coat and removes his horn. He HONKS it at Scott.
Hit the pavement, asshole!
(into the phone)
No, I'm not talking to a stripper, it's some joker in a rabbit costume.
Peter lets a few horn BLASTS into his face again.
I'll call you back later, baby, I got somebody here just ordered up a heapin' plate a whipass.
Scott SLAMS the phone down and turns on Peter.
Hey, man, I got a pissed-off wife on the phone and a lap dance waiting across the street, so I don't got time for this shit, you hear me?
That's funny, I just had a pissed-off stripper on the phone and a lap dance from your wife!
Nobody talks that line of shit about my old lady but me! Let's dance, rabbit!
Peter grabs him and pretends to dance as Scott pushes him away.
What, are you one of them funny boys?
Peter HONKS the horn in his face. Scott shoves him.
Chill, asshole!
Your wife liked it fine when I honked my horn in her face!
Scott swats the horn from his hand.
It hits the ground and SQUEAKS.
Peter looks at it, his teeth gritting.
You shouldn't have done that!
Peter takes off his hat and pulls an oversized machete from it.
In one swift move, he splits Scott's head like a ripe melon.
Peter watches him fall and twitch as he slips his machete back into his hat.
Never piss off a dead rabbit!
Peter hops off.

Yeah, it's pretty weird stuff. Give me a yell at

Friday, December 19, 2003

Afternoon Delight

Here's this week's FridayFive (web link to the left).

Answer the following five questions in your weblog or journal. Please leave a comment here with a link to your post (or just leave your answers in the comments section)!

These are all off the top of my head, and I will probably think of something better later.

1. List your five favorite beverages.

Irish Breakfast tea, Vanilla Pepsi, A&W Root Beer in a frosty mug, Starbucks Cafe Verona coffee, my homemade wine.

2. List your five favorite websites.,,,,

3. List your five favorite snack foods.

chocolate-chip cookies, mint chocolate chip ice cream, Little Debbie's Fudge Rounds, M&Ms, sweet potato fries

4. List your five favorite board and/or card games.

Euchre, Yahtzee, Scrabble, Axis and Allies: Pacific, Settlers of Cataan.

5. List your five favorite computer and/or game system games.

I've never owned that many, but here goes: Civilization 2, The Sims, Neverwinter Nights, Alpha Centauri, NBA Live

Give me a yell at

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Night Chicago Died

Once more ancestral memory reached out and grabbed somebody, when my pal Scott Phillips wrote and mentioned that the song "Fox on the Run" got stuck in his head after reading my blog. The ironic truth is I posted it after reading his blog, which mentioned "Ballroom Blitz," also by the somewhat forgotten band Sweet.

Somebody more clever than me should write a script about how scraps of music go back and forth and "infect" different people; much like Joe "Dr. Squid" Sherlock got sent down an unwelcome memory lane when I mentioned Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" here awhile back.

How do you like this title, fellas?

If you knew right away the band was Paper Lace, and that they also sang the mind-sticking "Billy Don't Be A Hero," I bow at your mastery.

I even had it on eight-track!

I got some good news yesterday--my PETER ROTTENTAIL cowriter John Polonia and wife had a son this weekend, and contrary to popular belief he was not born with bat-wings and horns. Best wishes to the parents, and sorry, kid, but all your birthdays are going to suck because they're too close to Christmas.

Of course, Mark sent me an email that mentioned they were finishing the audio mix on PETER ROTTENTAIL, and oh yeah, his brother's wife had a baby.

That's a b-movie king for you!


Abby is watching a romantic film with tears rolling down her face. She has a bottle in one hand and the remote in the other. She shuts off the TV and takes a hearty slug.
Yeah, only in the movies.
She gets up to stagger off to bed.
A shadowy figure moves alongside her house, creeping up to the warm light painting a square in the yard.
It is Peter, watching her wash up and get ready for bed.
Nice carrot patch!
From Peter's POV, we see Abby slip into her nightie and exit the bathroom.
Abby is tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable, dozing fitfully.
A door CREAKS open, and a hairy hand curls around its frame.
Peter begins to stalk down the long hallway to Abby's bedroom.
Peter peers around her bedroom door, and eyes the sleeping beauty.
I'd like to show her my magic wand...but there's still work left to do.
Suddenly, Abby sits upright, eyes wide, hearing the raspy VOICE.
She grabs a sculpture off of her nightstand and gets to her feet.
She pads towards the door, the heavy artwork at the ready.
She pushes the door suddenly, revealing nothing but blackness beyond.
She expels a long SIGH, and shakes her head.
I need a man.

Give me a yell at

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Fox on the Run

Old age creeps up on you day the barber is shaving your earlobes, then you find a white nose hair, then somebody at work says "you could play Santa!" during the Christmas carry-in, and you realize that maybe you are old and fat enough to play Santa.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Speaking of seasonal horror, here's a bit more from PETER ROTTENTAIL:

Feature an extreme close-up of Peter turning the tiny metal handle on a tin jack-in-the-box. It PLAYS a strange tune.
James picks up the faint, haunting melody. He follows it over to a window.
Is that music? Lenny, do you hear that?
Lenny just SNORTS in his drunken stupor.
James moves towards the door.
Peter abruptly stops turning the little toy and starts hopping away.
James emerges on the porch and starts looking around.
Hello? Is anyone there?
James takes a few tentative steps out into the yard.
His foot brushes against the jack-in-the-box. He reaches down to pick it up, then scrutinizes it closely.
Instinctively, James begins to turn the little crank.
The music LURCHES to life.
Suddenly, an ugly Jack pops up, scaring James.
He scans the area again.
Peter disappears in the darkness behind the garage.
James notices something out of the corner of his eye.
Who's there?
James slowly sets the box down in the grass and begins creeping down the side of the house.
As he inches his head around the corner, Lenny suddenly appears behind him, scaring James.
Damn, you scared the shit out of me!
If you were going to go on a Peeping Tom mission, you shoulda woke me up!
I wasn't peeping in anyone's windows!
Lenny scratches himself.
Ah, there's mostly old people around here anyway...I heard.
I heard some weird music, and came out to find a jack-in-the-box in the yard.
Lenny looks around.
What did you do with it?
James looks around himself.
Let's call it a night, dream date.
James trails off. Then he follows his cousin back into the house.

Give me a yell at

Monday, December 15, 2003

Tequila Sunrise

I love, which is responsible for my web counter and provides some pretty interesting details as well. This is how I found out somebody found my site by typing "spanking in Hopalong Cassidy movies" into Google.

Can you really find anything on the Internet?

Did I also mention that I am not the Jon Dalton from "Survivor" either?

At any rate, here's more from my rewrite of John and Mark Polonia's PETER ROTTENTAIL, now in post-production:

The two come down the back steps and look at the overgrown yard. A garage is to the left.
Lenny cups his hands over his eyes and looks into the garage windows.
Yeah, had some good times in this garage. Grandpa's old caddy. Yeah, baby. My first time was right in there.
It must have been hard for you when Spot died.
Lenny shoots him a look.
Lenny heads back to the house.
Wonder if there's any foil up in a kitchen cabinet somewheres. Maybe we can get some cable.
You with the cable again!
James follows.
At the top of the back steps, he stops and looks back.
After a long moment, he shuts the door behind him.
The camera slowly pans across the yard, coming to rest on the dark garage window.
Suddenly, Peter's twisted face rises into view, evil eyes gleaming.
These two little pellets will be too easy!
Feature footage from some third-rate b-movie. The camera slowly pans away and tracks along the carpeted floor. A TV remote has been dropped carelessly. Several empty beer and wine bottles are scattered around. A few moments later, it is revealed that they came from Lennie's limp hand, hanging over the edge of the couch.
The camera finds Lennie sleeping. On the other end of the couch, James tosses and turns.
(murmuring) away!
Freeze-frame flashes of the small child being pursued by the shadowy magician. Lightning FLASHES, thunder ROLLS.
The magician draws closer, his killing blade ready to strike.
James JOLTS awake and looks around, GASPING.
Jesus. Just another dream.
James wipes sweat off of his brow and looks at his cousin.
Lenny moves a little in his sleep and FARTS.

Give me a shout at

Friday, December 12, 2003

I thought I would try this FridayFive blog phenomenon and see what I think (you can follow the link to your left). Here's this week's entry:

Answer the following five questions in your weblog or journal. Make sure you leave a comment here with a link to your post (or just leave your answers in the comments section here).

1. Do you enjoy the cold weather and snow for the holidays?

God, no, but it's all relative. When I lived in Minnesota, two feet of snow and subzero temperatures would be a lovely spring day. Indiana weather ain't great in the winter, but it's not that bad. But when I visited San Jose or Orlando in the winter, then yeah, it seemed bad. But at least we have more seasons than "rain" and "sun."

2. What is your ideal holiday celebration? How, where, with whom would you celebrate to make things perfect?

My extended family, in a cabin in the woods. A convenient BBQ place or a bar nearby would also be nice.

3. Do you do have any holiday traditions?

I have to go downstairs first to prepare to take pictures of the kids coming down and showing their mock surprise, as they usually have already sniffed out all of their presents.

4. Do you do anything to help the needy?
I have worked with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of East Central Indiana for quite a few years and helped out at the recent Christmas party. It is a great organization.

5. What one gift would you like for yourself?
Honestly the first thing that came to mind was a new six-foot fiberglass ladder.

Give me a shout at

Thursday, December 11, 2003


Well, I might have had a setback or two on some upcoming projects, so I think for now I am going to just post some PETER ROTTENTAIL and reflect another day.

I have decided there is one good thing about taking a cowriting credit with somebody. If there's a part you don't think turned out that well, you can blame it on the other guy.


James hesitates. Lenny notices.
I'm getting a...weird vibe off this place.
Uh, yeah. 'Cause our grandma? She croaked here, cuz. Let's go.
The pair go inside.
Lenny drops his bag on a sheet-covered couch.
What do you say? Party time!
James starts walking around the room, remembering.
James looks through the kitchen. There are a few boxes stacked around, and dust over everything.
Lenny pokes his head around.
I don't know what the hell my dad was talking about, this place is in great shape.
Good thing there's a lot of obsessive-compulsive disorder in our family.
James notices something, and points.
Look, there's a puddle of water on the floor. Hope it's not from the half-bath.
Nah, there ain't any brown trout on the floor. Hell, the water heater must be leaking. Got to get somebody to fix that.
We could do it ourselves and save the money.
Nah, I got an old buddy that will do it for weed.
Now that's how to find a professional.
You know him...Bill Mooney. He was at the "scary party."
Lenny wiggles his fingers menacingly.
You mean Billy the glue eater? I guess it does lead to harder stuff.
He walks out. Lenny follows.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Telephone Line

After I was crowing about winning those two NFL hats somebody at work said that I should check out the Pepsi website. Sure enough, all one million hats have already been given away.

Well, life's a roller coaster.

They are offering phone cards, though. Not as much fun as an NFL hat.

I think another hole in my life has formed since the local Sunday paper dropped PRINCE VALIANT a few weeks ago. I've been reading that thing since I was a kid. Great art, leisurely, intelligent storytelling...I guess it's a wonder it has hung on this long.

I heard the new mix of the theme song from THE PAYBACK MAN (which I wrote the screenplay for director Ivan Rogers) last night after getting it in the mail from the director. It's by Big Prodeje and the South Central Cartel. It's a real knockout, a great rap. If the movie turns out as tough and edgy as this song we will be in business.

Give me a yell at

Monday, December 08, 2003

Funky Town

Hey, I won another NFL hat today drinking Pepsi! Strange, since I just posted my last win on my blog Friday. 1 in 36 chances, indeed.

The power of blogging!

My pal Joe Sherlock (Dr. Squid) wrote to tell me that my post featuring my dream about Barry Manilow made "Copacabana" get stuck in his head. Then he passed it back to me, damn him. Of course, me titling this post "Funky Town" is in no way meant to be payback by sticking the words to that song back into his head, nor in the heads of any other persons living or dead.

In some more self-referential news, I used to find out some interesting things about who is hitting the site, and how often, and so on. So here's a shout out to all my homeboys from, who seem to be visiting regularly.

One other thing I found is that a lot of high schools seem to be hitting my site. I suspect I am getting confused with the scientist, who is of course long dead, or the fomer Secretary of the Navy, who I believe is alive.

I believe there are at least two more writing John Daltons out there that I have been confused with. One went to the University of Iowa and now teaches writing workshops all over and publishes literature, and the other (I believe) went to UCLA and now is in tech writing in Silicon Valley(as has been reported to me by people wanting them and finding me).

I have an affinity for the first one. Years ago I had to rush my wife to the hospital in the dead of night and rather dazedly opened a STORY magazine while I was waiting for the outcome and found my own name staring out at me; just one of many strange things in that long horrible night.

I stand before you as their shabby doppelganger, to warn about the perils of reading comics and watching b-movies and playing D&D; one path leads to the Iowa Writer's Workshop and Silicon Valley, the other leads to a basement office and scripts about sasquatches and ghost pirates and killer piranha.

But which, indeed, is the road less traveled?

Give me a yell at, or use the feedback button to the left.

Friday, December 05, 2003

The first gentle snow of an Indiana winter started falling this morning. I like it far.

I drank a Pepsi for lunch and won an NFL hat. It says the odds are 1 in 36, and I didn't even drink 36 Pepsis to get it! A little good karma today.

I need some stitchin' up time this weekend. I've been going full tilt with work and the holidays. Being somewhat out of steam, I'll go right to more from PETER ROTTENTAIL:

Lenny's rattletrap car threads its way through a quiet neighborhood.
James watches the neighborhood out of the passenger side.
The old neighborhood. Wonder what happened to a lot of those kids we used to run with back then.
You're not going back to that birthday party again, are you? 'Cause I don't want to hear about how that magician let you pet his magic bunny or whatever.
James just looks out the window.
Lenny pulls into the driveway of a small, neatly-kept house.
Both men pile out and look at the place.
Across the street is ABBY COHEN, a pretty young woman, watching them out of the window of her home and talking on the phone.
We see James and Lenny from her POV.
Hey, Claire, guess what, two guys just pulled up to that vacant house across the street.
What are they doing there?
Abby watches them grab out overnight bags.
Moving in, looks like.
Sounds like "Steely Dan" might have to go back in the old underwear drawer.
Abby watches them unload a trunkload of cleaning gear.
Don't know about that...they might be gay.
Lenny stretches his back and notices Abby watching from her window. He smiles and waves.
Her curtain snaps shut.
James clasps his shoulder.
Another day, another restraining order.
Abby peeps around the curtain.
I'll keep you up to date. Bye.
Abby clicks off.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Gabba Gabba Hey

I put some junk in the sidebar; check it out, so I don't seem like a completely friendless doofus. At least on the Internet, I can create a false persona.

The Lady Bears won last night!

Tonight I'm going to do a few microcinema reviews, and help work up a game review with my pal the Caveman for an online journal, so though I haven't typed a stroke on GIZZARD GUTS since before Thanksgiving I'll at least be honing my craft, such as it is.

Speaking of which, here's some PETER ROTTENTAIL:

The young boy is running, running.
Behind him, his unseen tormentor, in top hat and tails and lit with an uncanny light, is in hot pursuit.
A cruel-edged machete glints in the gloom.
The boy keeps running.
The backlit figure seems to be gliding forward under some mysterious power.
The machete WHISTLES through the air.
James wakes up YELLING, scattering empty bottles of beer.
Lenny, slouched in a nearby chair, raises his head sleepily.
Keep it down, man!
Sorry. Bad dreams.
Don't buy the cheap stuff next time.
James rubs his face.
Lenny, do you remember that birthday party I had at grandma's house that one time?
Man, I don't remember who I woke up next to last weekend!
James runs his fingers through his hair.
Sure you do. I saw her in the hall closet, next to your bicycle pump. What's that, the Bambi 2000?
Lenny looks sullen.
Her name is Amber, if you must know.
Lenny scratches himself.
Yeah, okay. So you're talking about that party where that crappy magician went apeshit and tried to do a Helter Skelter number on everyone.
Yeah. I've been dreaming about that a lot lately. I saw some weird shit going on that day.
Lenny sits up straight.
What, did he wave his "magic wand" at you?
James just stares off into space.
Never mind.
Look, you have a dream where you're in a train going into, like, a big tunnel, that I can tell you about. You have a dream you're eating a big freakin' marshmallow, then you wake up and your pillow is gone, that shit I understand.
James just stares and thinks.
So are we gonna party or what?
James comes around.
Let's do it.
Rock on!
They start getting ready.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Rock and Roll Part 2

Tonight my daughter has a basketball game against the mighty Wapahani Raiders (called, in common high school lingo even back in my day, the Wipe-your-heinie Raiders) and I am going to keep the stats for JV and Varsity again. I started doing this because I thought the girls deserved as much care and attention as the boys in sports; you would never see the boys varsity coach go up in the stands to find someone to keep stats, like my daughter's coach had to do. I kept the stats for my daughter's offseason and AAU teams, so I offered to do it.

I think I have a knack for it; I contribute my multitasking ability to my time spent directing newscasts early in my media career; my son contributes it to my many years spent DMing "Dungeons and Dragons."

D&D pays off again!

I love women's sports now. I remember a couple of years ago my daughter's middle-school basketball team was having just an okay season but was able to get to the county championships against hated rival Winchester. I was kicking back deciding I was going to be a progressive, liberal parent and just enjoy all the girls' successes and abilities.

Until my daughter stole the ball and got a layup, and then did it again right after, and then one of the other parents said, "How do you like that, dad?" which I didn't respond to as I was standing on my bleacher seat baying for blood.

Go Bears!

Monday, December 01, 2003

Indian Giver

A long Thanksgiving weekend. We spent about 10 hours Wednesday getting ready to host 15 people Thursday. We had a full day on Thanksgiving and a good meal. That night my two nephews (9 and 6) slept over, then went shopping with us the next day. That night we went to see ELF (just so-so) and out to eat.
Saturday morning my daughter played basketball, then my brother and son and a few friends played "Axis and Allies" into the wee hours. Once again my brother, with his disquieting affinity for Germany, knocked off my son's defense of Moscow even as I was trying to bring the British through Finland to shore up their defenses. Every time I play "Axis and Allies" I'm afraid that somewhere in a parallel universe this scenario is getting acted out.
Then Sunday I finished cleaning and winterizing post-Thanksgiving and graded a ton of papers for my screenwriting class.

Not the restful time off that I was hoping for, but the upside is that I feel like I've been off for a couple of months instead of a few days, with all that was packed in there.

On the professional front, I learned the Polonia Brothers knocked out the edit of PETER ROTTENTAIL and are finishing up the audio post as we speak. I hope to be doing a commentary track for the DVD on this one as well. I also got an update from director Bob Dennis that DEATH LAKE is about 50% done as well.

Jason Santo from sent my a big box of screeners this weekend, so I'll be checking those out in the days to come to review for his site.

And now, back to PETER ROTTENTAIL:

ROSCOE, a ragged homeless man about James' age, staggers around the corner of a restaurant and casts an expert eye on the garbage cans stacked there.
He takes a swig of whiskey from a paper bag.
Well, let's see what's on the menu!
Roscoe begins to rummage through the trash. After a few moments, he gives up.
Nopey nope! Let's go see what the three-star restaurants have tonight.
Roscoe begins staggering away, slurping booze.
A CHATTERING NOISE gets his attention. He looks around.
Who's there?
A figure stands backlit in the alley. Roscoe squints.
The pickin's are slim tonight, buddy.
The figure doesn't move.
Roscoe staggers forward.
Hey, buddy, got some change for a homeless veteran? I fought me a mess of towel heads back in Kuwait the first time around.
The CHATTERING NOISE starts up again.
Slowly, the figure's hand extends.
Rottentail is holding chattering teeth.
Roscoe inches closer, fascinated.
Then he gets the full view of Peter.
Damn, you're Fugly! That's one step above ugly. Fuckin' ugly. Looks like you got messed up in some Agent Orange or something yourself there, buddy.
Peter stares. Roscoe finishes off the bottle, and tosses it away with a CLINK into the trash. He wipes his mouth, and examines Peter again.
Wait a second. I remember you from somewhere.
A party, when I was a kid. Back before the sauce. You were a mime, or some shit like that.
Peter grits his teeth.
Hey, grubby, I'm a magician!
Roscoe loses interest, and looks around.
How 'bout you presto-chango me another drink, then?
Peter slowly pulls out his magic wand.
You got booze in there?
Sure. Want some? Open wide!
Roscoe obediently does so, and Peter squirts a slug into his waiting maw.
I've had better. What is it?
Witch's piss! Taste good?
Roscoe thinks, shrugs.
Suddenly Roscoe grabs his stomach, SCREAMING as blood and smoke run from his mouth.
Remember, don't drink and drive...on the way to hell!
Roscoe falls, as his life spills out into the dirty alley.
Peter hops away.
Lenny is concentrating on pushing a wedge of foil into a cable box when the doorbell RINGS.
It's open!
James comes in, swinging a six-pack.
Are you still trying to steal cable?
I'm not stealing anything. This is America, dammit. Porn should be free.
You're going to have to settle for free beer.
James underhands him a bottle. Lennie deftly snags it out of midair.
So my dad, and your favorite uncle, thinks that if I start doing honest work with my hands I'll stop fucking around and smoking dope and going to the gambling boats and get a real job.
That's not news.
So his new angle is that he finally thinks it's time to clean out grandma's old house and get it ready to sell. He said he'd pay me a hundred to go over there and do it.
What, you want to split it fifty-fifty?
No, I want to find some little snot-nose to do it for twenty-five bucks, and me and you spend the weekend there getting wasted on the other seventy-five.
James just looks.
Like the old days, James.
Not sure I want to go back there.
Grandma's been dead a long time.
It's not just that.
Don't wuss out, cuz!
Lenny holds out his beer.
Cowboy up!
Reluctantly, James CLINKS his beer against his cousin's.

Give me a yell at

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

I'm probably going to be off-line for a while for the Thanksgiving break; we are hosting it at our house again this year and are expecting about a dozen to fifteen people. The day after is a movie and shopping and the long weekend will hopefully be stitching up.

Here's a little PETER ROTTENTAIL for now:

Peter looks at the two corpses, then produces a large, cartoony stick of TNT from his coat.
Lighting it, he chucks it at Tejeda's house.
The house EXPLODES and collapses.
Peter, CHUCKLING, hops away.
The underworld. It has been a part of mythology since the first recorded tales.
James paces back and forth in front of an indifferent group of students at a modest Midwestern college.
Hades. Orcus. Sheol. We have always held the belief that there is a waking world...and then a world of the unknown. Are the roots primal? That as a species we recognize that in the fall, everything dies...only to rise again in the spring. Or is something else at work?
James is grading papers at his desk when the phone rings.
This is Professor James Neely.
Professor? Only if they give out PhDs for spanking off and smoking dope!
I gave up smoking dope!
It ain't too late to start back up, is it, cuz?
My college days are behind me, Lenny!
LENNY NEELY, James' scruffy cousin, sits on a faded sofa among a stack of old magazines and empties, and the general debris of an unfulfilled life.
You're still there, ain't ya?
As a prof!
Lenny scratches the strip of stomach poking out from under his dirty t-shirt.
Then you should get the best reefer and the best cooze, cousin!
James shakes his head, smiling.
To what do I owe the honor of this call, Lenny?
You busy this weekend?
Who wants to know?
Come over later. I got a business proposition for ya.
No pyramid schemes. No web cams.
We grew up together! You know me better than that!
And no mail order brides!
Lenny pauses.
She told me that picture on the Internet was really her!
Yeah, everything on the Internet is true!
Now I know that! Shit, cuz!
Lenny hangs up. James shakes his head and cradles the phone.

Give me a yell at

Monday, November 24, 2003

Indiana Wants Me

Yesterday it was 65 and sunny; today about 25 and snowy. That's Indiana, in a nutshell.

I had my eye on a big stack of RAIJIN comics at the shop; a weekly Japanese-style manga that reads right to left and the whole nine yards, but had kind of a steep price point. Well, it just showed up on the discount shelf, and I snagged a huge shopping bag full of it. Later I thought, what am I going to do with this many pounds of comics? But it's been a fun read.

Mark Polonia spoke to my scriptwriting class today. I always get a charge out of hearing his stories from the trenches. They have a big chunk of PETER ROTTENTAIL edited already. For better or worse, Mark said that about 95% of my rewrite ended up in the final project.

Here's a bit more from PETER ROTTENTAIL:

Feature Peter Krigstein's grave.
Lightning STRIKES the ground in front of it.
A moment later, a hand bursts from the ground.
Someone, something, claws through the ground and stands, silhouetted against the night--a figure in top hat and tails.
Another lightning FLASH.
This flash reveals Peter's transformed face. He is now a monstrous rabbit--the embodiment of Peter Rottentail.
Low angles show Peter trudging through the graveyard, lightning flashes pulling him forward.
Todd and Kevin come outside, sweeping their flashlights back and forth.
Your dead uncle was bogus, dude.
Yeah, so's your moms, yo.
Suddenly both stop cold.
From their POV, we see a dark figure in the shadows.
Kevin squints his eyes.
Who's there?
The figure waits.
This is private property, straight up!
The figure watches.
Don't front up in here, dude! You got to have a warrant! It wasn't like we was looking for his dead uncle's weed or nothing!
Slowly, the figure raises his hand. A brass horn FLASHES in the moonlight.
The figure HONKS the horn.
Okay, now we gonna chafe.
Kevin starts to move forward. Todd grabs his arm.
Dude. Do you know what that is?
Somebody who's about to get a beat-down.
No, dude. That's so totally my demonic slave.
Didn't you hear the shit that was in that book?
I zoned out during that part, dude.
Here, check it. Let me lay some death metal on it.
(booms out)
Come to me, my evil puppet! Come to me!
Peter lurches forward.
Whoa, dude!
Thank you, Dark Lords!
Peter lurches into view, rabbit ears and all. He HONKS his horn.
Kevin furrows his brow.
That demonic slave is whack, dude.
Todd smacks him.
Dude, this ain't some demon off a Black Sabbath album cover, this is the real dealio. I'm going to take him to school and get some paybacks on some motherfuckers.
Shit, my grams could whip his ass, G.
Shut up!
(to Peter)
Come to me! Come!
Peter shambles closer. Closer.
Soon he is standing before the two boys.
Again, he HONKS his horn.
Dude, seriously.
Dude, you may be right. I wonder if I could send this reject back and get something real kickass. Like with bat wings and hooves and shit.
Now that mutha would rock!
Okay, let me lay this shit out there.
(to Peter)
Go, slave of shadows! Go, I say!
That is so Marilyn Manson, dude.
Peter begins to rummage around in his magician's coat, coming out with a variety of offbeat magician's tricks and tools.
Finally Peter reaches into his dented top hat and roots around.
In a moment, he produces a carrot.
Oooh, look out! Demon with a carrot!
Shut up, dipshit! Where's your demon at, dude?
Whatever, dude!
Todd looks frustrated. He turns on Peter.
Dude! I told you to get outta here!
Peter stares.
Get the fuck outta here, yo! Weak-ass motherfucker!
Peter looks at his carrot, then at Todd.
Then drives the carrot right into his chest.
Whoa, dude!
Todd falls, blood burbling from his mouth.
Kevin puts his hands up.
I didn't mean that shit I said earlier. I was just playin' you. You bad. You one tough demon, yo!
Peter jams the bloodied carrot into Kevin's chest as well. The life seeps from his shocked face.
Kevin slumps to the ground, mouth agape.
Peter looks down.
The name's Peter Rottentail!
Lightning FLASHES.
Kevin's head slumps, and he is gone.
Peter looks at the two corpses, then produces a large, cartoony stick of TNT from his coat.
Lighting it, he chucks it at Tejeda's house.
The house EXPLODES and collapses.
Peter, CHUCKLING, hops away.
The underworld. It has been a part of mythology since the first recorded tales.

Give me a holler at

Friday, November 21, 2003

From the Mailbox

My pal Gary Lumpp mentioned to me that my blog seems to be mostly about me fixing my house and writin' scripts. Painfully, that is the bulk of my life right now. So maybe I'll change things up by mentioning that there was a bomb threat at my daughter's high school yesterday, and they closed to school, but the pen is mightier than the sword and tonight A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT'S DREAM, with my daughter as a fairy, but not one of the ones that gets a name, will go on as planned in the cafetorium. Then she will discard her fairy's wings, and as a true renaissance woman, rejoin the 2-1 (counting a forfeit) JV basketball team to take on the mighty Cowan Blackhawks.

And I am also going to paint the bathroom tomorrow in preparation for Thanksgiving, and work on GIZZARD GUTS some more.

I got an update from new pal Joe Barlow, who told me the director Bob Dennis changed the name of DEAD LAKE to DEATH LAKE. Joe is the editor of the feature, from a script from John Polonia that I rewrote and that (I think) two more people took a stab at (so to speak) afterwards.

Another pal, Tom Cherry, wrote to me after checking in on my script pages here hoping for the painful deaths of PETER ROTTENTAIL's misguided youths Kevin and Todd (named for b-movie mavens Kevin Lindenmuth and Todd Sheets, by the way--and you should check out John Polonia's Todd Sheets impression sometime). Coming soon, Tom, but not today:

A full moon hangs in a cold, starless sky.
Kevin and Todd come down the stairs of the dilapidated old house carrying flashlights.
Todd gropes for the light switch, and suddenly the basement is bathed in a weird purple light.
The two friends exchange glances.
Grow lights, dude! This will be the motherlode!
They both look in opposite directions, wild-eyed, the white light from their flashlights spearing the strange quasi-gloom.
Suddenly, an eerie LAUGH shatters the silence.
Both flashlights spin and zero in on its source.
Both teens see Todd's dead uncle Tejeda LAUGHING, a crazed look in his eyes, gesturing at the shocked kids.
Tejeda disappears.
Todd and Kevin exchange glances.
I can't believe it, dude.
Kevin shakes his head.
Me neither.
I'm getting a contact high off the walls, G. I'm seeing all kinds a weird shit.
There must be some righteous shit down here.
Both teens start looking around more carefully.
Todd opens one of many cardboard boxes on a nearby shelf. Then another.
Kevin notices him.
Anything, G?
Nah, just old books.
Dude, if I wanted to look at old books, I'd quit skipping school.
Todd brings out an odd-looking book, like an old scrapbook.
He gently strokes the cover, and an ominous monk-like CHORUS reverbs in the grubby basement.
Kevin shows the devil-horned heavy metal sign with both hands, fingers wiggling.
That book rocks!
I don't know, dude, this cover is weird. Like old skin. It kinda feels like kissing my grandma.
You don't think--
Naw, my grandma's still alive, dude.
Kevin comes and looks.
Dude, I don't mean your grandma! What if it's...somebody else's skin?
Dude, why? Have you ever tried to write a chick's number on your hand? It smears and shit. Who would write a book on that? Doesn't make any sense, G.
Then open it, dude.
Todd slowly cracks the cover; then suddenly slams it shut.
Whoa, dude. What if this has, like, a bunch of chick's numbers in it...all cut off of a bunch of dude's hands?
You think any of those chicks live around here?
Todd elbows him, then cracks open the book.
He starts slowly mouthing the words.
Read it out loud, G!
"I call upon all of the powers of evil and raise a profaned body to do my bidding..."
What is that, just some Metallica lyrics?
Shut up, dude!
"I stand a student of the Dark Arts. I call upon...the cursed shadows...for a reward!"
The lights dim, then come back on suddenly. A LOW MOAN is heard.
Both teens look around.
Let's motor, G. I know where we can get some ditchweed off my cousin's farm.
Let's ghost, yo.
Todd throws the book down, and they start heading for the stairs.
Feature the creepy book, in the ghastly reddish light.

Give me a holler at

Thursday, November 20, 2003

All kinds of stuff going on today; so here's a bit from PETER ROTTENTAIL to tide you over for now.

A rumpled James, tired from lack of sleep, comes into the kitchen scratching himself and hunting for coffee.
He clicks on the television.
A perky ANCHOR looks out at television land.
--you could have purchased a toy that will kill your children--later in our broadcast. But first...
The police are out to stop a hometown tradition this year; the annual desecration of the grave of magician Peter Krigstein, who committed suicide several years ago. The life and mysterious death of the self-proclaimed "Peter the Great" have become the stuff of urban legend here.
James stares at the screen.
From the news camera's POV, feature TODD, a gangly youth, standing in front of Peter's grave, festooned with toilet paper and other debris. A CG across the bottom of the screen reads: "Local Disaffected Youth."
Yeah, everybody who knows what's up parties here. It's stone freaky here at night. This dude was a real douche bag, he started trippin' at some party and was going to go all Manson up on some kids.
Can you say douche bag on TV?
Cut wide as the CAMERAMAN lowers the camera dejectedly and shakes his head, turning away from Todd. Realizing his fifteen minutes of fame are over, Todd flashes him the finger.
Whatever, dude!
Todd spies his pal KEVIN standing nearby.
Dude, your pops is going to see that shit on TV, yo!
Nah, he only watches wrestling and porno, dude.
Todd and Kevin head out of the graveyard.
I snuck some forties out of my dad's fishing cooler. You want to come back up here later?
I got something better to do. You remember that uncle I have who my parents didn't want me to turn out like?
Dude died, man. And I bet he died happy.
Why's that, G?
Know how he was always going off to New Orleans and Jamaica and shit? And he was always jamming to those Bob Marley records and all that noise?
You know a dude like that ain't sittin' around drinkin' no lemonade. So what kind of stash you think he left in his crib, yo?
Kevin stops cold.
Yo yo yo.
Yah mon.
Amen, brother.
They race out of frame.

Give me a yell at

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

For anybody keeping track, I learned my Bigfoot movie AMONG US is coming out in April, RAZORTEETH is coming out in May, and PETER ROTTENTAIL right after that. No announced dates on DEMONS ON A DEAD END STREET or GIZZARD GUTS. I heard DEAD LAKE, which I rewrote over John Polonia's script and was rewritten over (I think) twice more by others, for director Bob Dennis, is still underway, and THE PAYBACK MAN is still in development. GIZZARD GUTS is coming along nicely. God knows what I'm going to do after all of this.

I grabbed a handful of old-time radio shows from the library, including THE WHISTLER and HOPALONG CASSIDY and one of my favorites, YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR, to listen to on my commute.

My name came back up on the waiting list at the library for the generation-spanning Brooklyn epic FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, a challenging read that I hope to get through this time before somebody else claims it.

Over at I have recent reviews for WITCHOUSE 2, DEMONICUS, HELL'S HIGHWAY, and THE SANDMAN.

I am getting into Bill Willingham's FABLES, loaned to me by my pal Doug, a revisionist history version of fairy tales, which sounds kinda fey but is pretty engaging.

Give me a yell at

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Knock On Wood

Well, I decided to change my template, and ended up screwing myself up. Sometime when I have some time I am going to have to put this little Humpty Dumpty back together again.

I got struck by lightning yesterday, and GIZZARD GUTS, the ghost pirate movie for the Polonia Brothers, started flying off of my fingers. Everything is cyclical.

I talked to Mark Polonia yesterday, and it looks like PETER ROTTENTAIL will be posted by Christmas. In the meantime, here's more:

Peter is sitting at a thrift-store table with an empty bottle of rotgut and a dirty shot glass. An old radio with foil wrapped around the antennae is in the background.
Police are seeking local children's entertainer Peter Krigstein in relation to an alleged assault earlier today.
Shit! I'm a fucking MAGICIAN, not a children's entertainer! The first time I get in the news they can't even get it right!
His rabbit is eating old food off of the table. Peter strokes the rabbit.
Retread...I screwed the pooch. I'm finished. A failure.
He gives the bunny one last pat.
You were my only friend, little Retread, and I thank you.
Peter goes to a bureau against one wall and opens the drawer slowly.
From his POV, we see a gun in among the trash and debris.
Peter lifts it out.
They'll be sorry. They won't forget me.
Jesus, I can't mess this one up. My final trick.
Peter puts the gun in his mouth.
At the sound of the BANG, Retread hops away.
The gun falls from Peter's nerveless fingers onto the floor.

Give me a yell at

Monday, November 17, 2003

At the Copa...

I found out principal photography on PETER ROTTENTAIL ended this weekend, for those who are following along. Yes, it's hard to believe, but I didn't even have the damn thing written a month or so ago.

I had a kind of long weekend working on the house, and started back up on GIZZARD GUTS. I'm eager to get back at that one after a hellish respite working on home repair.

A sleepless night, as a tickling clock and my daughter's humming SIMs game ran all night, I guess to get her creations up to some other level of SIM-ness. I ended up having a dream where I drove around in a nice black sportscar with Barry Manilow. Painfully true.

Speaking of weird dreams, here's more from PETER ROTTENTAIL:

Peter is once again performing in front of indifferent kids at a crowded party. His ramshackle table is set up in front of a small group of kids.
And now...I will pull a rabbit from my hat!
Peter pulls off his top hat and roots around inside.
He comes up empty-handed.
KID #1
This blows!
Peter keeps rummaging around.
I know Retread is around here somewhere.
Another kid points.
KID #2
Mister, your rabbit is taking a dump under the table!
Peter looks under the table, spying RETREAD the rabbit. The ratty lupine is sniffing the air, with a trail of pellets behind him.
Bad Retread!
The rabbit hops off.
Peter pops back up, looking queasy. He tries to regain his composure.
And now for my finale!
KID #2
Make yourself disappear!
KID #1
For good!
Peter looks down, trying to compose himself. He thinks for a moment. Then he pulls the vial from his coat pocket.
Behold! This potion will call forth...Peter Rottentail, the evil offspring and rabbit!
A sour-looking MOM and DAD observe from the back of the room.
Is this guy saying he did a rabbit?
I thought he was going to have puppets!
We see Peter from their POV.
When I drink this, I will turn into the fearsome beast that I spoke of...and you shall all shudder in fear! Peter Rottentail!
Peter cannonballs the drink and wipes his mouth.
There is an expectant pause.
And nothing happens.
The parents exchange glances and shake their heads.
Peter looks deflated.
The kids begin to HECKLE and JEER.
Peter begins to get angrier and angrier.
From Peter's POV, weird shots of kids LAUGHING.
Shut up! Shut up, you little shits!
Suddenly the dad steps forward.
Jimmy, now daddy's going to show the magic man his own trick!
Peter goes face-first onto the pavement. He pops up quickly.
Not the table! Anything but the--
Peter's junk CRASHES onto the driveway next to him.
A wave of INSULTS from the kids wash over him from inside. Then the door SLAMS shut and abruptly cuts off the criticism.
Peter composes himself, then gets up and brushes himself up.
Suddenly, Tejeda's ear-shattering LAUGHTER drives Peter to his knees, his hands cupped over his ears.
Peter rolls on the driveway, trying to keep the weird, echoing laughter out of his skull.
You will be mine! All mine!
Peter tries to crawl away.
Never! You are mine now! All mine!
Peter tries to cover his ears again.
He sees a tall, gleaming top hat sitting on the driveway in front of him.
Peter grabs the top hat and pulls it down over his head.
Tejeda's booming LAUGHTER mocks him. Peter rolls on the ground, flailing.
Peter looks down and finds a knife in his hand. He stares at it.
Where did...
Peter sweats and shakes, looking at the knife. Then he looks up at the house, is eyes wide and red-rimmed.
The little boy from inside is watching him.
Peter stares at him with wild eyes.

Give me a yell at

Friday, November 14, 2003

Walk On By

Gearing up for another weekend of lots of home repair and hopefully a little writing. I fired off my draft of the "hoosier" documentary, and we'll see what they say in response. Meanwhile I'll slink back over to GIZZARD GUTS.

Last night my daughter won her first JV basketball game, thankfully. Tonight we are going to see THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS at the college. Always a lot in the hopper.

Speaking of the hopper, here's a bit more from PETER ROTTENTAIL:

Peter takes a tumble on the sidewalk and ends up stretched out flat. He lifts his head from the sidewalk.
RENNY, the bearded, glowering owner of the magic shop, stares down at Peter.
I can't let you in here no more, Peter. If people find out I'm the one you buy your magic tricks from I'll end up selling whoopie cushions out of the back of my van.
I just need a little something. To get me back on my feet.
Kenny shakes his head.
My cousin needs somebody to wash dishes at the diner. It's the best I can do for ya, man.
Peter stands up.
That's bullshit! You can't cut me off like this!
I'd rather let a perv drive my daughter's school bus than let you back in here.
Lotsa luck, Peter.
Renny SLAMS his shop door.
Peter slumps, then begins to trudge away.
Peter starts, and turns towards the mouth of a dark alley that runs alongside the magic shop.
Peter squints his eyes.
I don't even have bus money, man.
A dark, mysterious figure, TEJEDA, emerges from the shadow.
I don't want to take something from you, man. I want to give you something.
Tejeda holds up a little amber vial. It FLASHES in the sun.
Peter waves him off.
No thanks, I heard it leads to harder stuff.
I thought you wanted to know about magic.
Peter stops in his tracks.
Real magic.
Black magic.
Peter inches closer.
What's in that thing?
The sweat from a voodoo master's brow. A gypsy's hot tears. The blood of an unknown sacrifice. And more.
Peter blanches.
No slice of lemon with that, huh?
Wordlessly, Tejeda swings the vial at Peter underhand.
Peter watches the gleaming vial arc in slow motion through the sky.
He snatches it from the air.
It will allow you to know...the unknowable. To see...the unseen.
Peter looks at the vial.
One night in high school I drank half a bottle of Jack and did two beer bongs. How bad can this be?
Tejeda shows a wide, cold smile, and disappears into the gloom of the alley.
Peter shrugs, and tucks the vial into one lint-lined pocket.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

I cooked out about five or six hours' worth of hard-core writing on my "hoosier" documentary script. I'll shoot it to the director tomorrow, nonchalantly, like I haven't been working on it like a blue-assed dog for the last few days.

I've been talking so much about this crazy-ass PETER ROTTENTAIL script I rewrote over John Polonia's work (half-handwritten, half-spliced from another script called PSYCHO CLOWN) that I thought I would start posting it here as a follow-up to my Bigfoot epic AMONG US, one humble page at a time. It sounds like it'll be the next one completed. So here's the first salvo:

A backlit figure, in a tall top hat and tails. He is running towards the camera.
In the foreground, a YOUNG BOY is running from the shadowed figure, a look of terror on his face.
A knife gleams in the man's hand.
The boy keeps running.
The backlit figure seems to be gliding forward under some mysterious power.
The knife flashes as it arcs through the air.
JAMES NEELY, an older version of that scared kid, sits bolt upright in bed.
PETER KRIGSTEIN, a shabbily-dressed magician in an upscale home, is trying desperately to entertain some bored kids.
For my next trick--
The trick begins to unravel before it begins.
A chunk of birthday cake SPLATS against his threadbare cutaway jacket.
Not the cake, kids. Anything but the cake.
A frosting-spattered Peter trudges dejectedly towards his rusty sedan.
I got to get one more rung up the ladder.
He climbs in, and the sedan COUGHS to the life. It RATTLES out of the drive.

Give me a yell at

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Driver's Seat

Chunking away on a little doc script for the university here; did I mention the poem yesterday was from like the 1800s? That might have added to the flava. Tomorrow I'm going to try to set aside the whole day to hopefully finish it up; I'm about half-done today.

For the longest time I was eager to get done with this next batch of scripts, the four-feature deal through the Polonia Brothers; but now that its conclusion looms, all I see before me is the blasted plain of unrealized projects. Maybe I should type slower on the ghost pirate movie GIZZARD GUTS, and stave off the inevitable for yet another day.

On a happier note, I finished DROP CITY and had to return FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE and get back on the waiting list, so I was kind of at odds and ends for something to read (When I write a lot, it seems as if I have to constantly be feeding my head). My favorite library in Muncie is closed due to mercury poisoning (!) and the others were pretty well picked over. But I went to pick up my wife at the humble little volunteer library she works at and found two paperbacks I'd like to read; then today, I grabbed onto two more via What kind of happy-go-lucky karma is that?

Give me a yell at

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Back Home Again in Indiana

I've finally got the rusty gears turning on a nonfiction project I'm working on about the origin of the word "Hoosier." Here's a bit from a funny poem I am going to quote from in the piece called "The Hoosier's Nest":

I'm told, in riding somewhere West,
A stranger found a Hoosier's Nest -
In other words, a buckeye cabin,
Just big enough to hold Queen Mab in;
Its situation, low but airy,
Was on the borders of a prairie;
And fearing he might be benighted,
He hailed the house, and then alighted.
The Hoosier met him at the door -
Their salutations soon were o'er.
He took the stranger's horse aside,
And to a sturdy sapling tied;
Then having stripped the saddle off,
He fed him in a sugar-trough.
The stranger stooped to enter in -
The entranced closing with a pin -
And manifested strong desire
To seat him by the log-heap fire,
Where half-a-dozen Hoosieroons,
With mush-and-milk, tin-cups, and spoons,
White heads, bare feet, and dirty faces,
Seemed much inclined to keep their places.
But Madam, anxious to display
Her rough but undisputed sway,
Her offspring to the ladder led,
And cuffed the youngsters up to bed.
Invited shortly to partake
Of venison, milk, and johnny cake,
The stranger made a hearty meal,
And glances round the room would steal.
One side was lined with divers garments,
The other spread with skins of varmints;
Dried pumpkins overhead were strung,
Where venison hams in plenty hung;
Two rifles placed above the door;
Three dogs lay stretched upon the floor -
In short, the domicile was rife
With specimens of Hoosier life.

Yeah, 'bout sums it up. We have John Finley to thank for cementing the word "Hoosier" in popular lore. But I like this bit too:

Blest Indiana! in thy soil
Are found the sure rewards of toil,
Where honest poverty and worth
May make a Paradise on earth.
With feelings proud we contemplate
The rising glory of our State;
Nor take offense by application
Of its good-natured appellation.
'T is true among the crowds that roam
To seek for fortune or a home,
It happens that we often find
Empiricism of a kind.
A strutting fop, who boasts of knowledge,
Acquired at some far eastern college,
Expects to take us by surprise,
And dazzle our astonished eyes.
He boasts of learning, skill, and talents
Which, in the scale, would Andes balance;
Cuts widening swaths from day to day,
And in a month he runs away.
Not thus the honest son of toil,
Who settles here to till the soil,
and with intentions just and good,
Acquires an ample livelihood:
He is (and not the little-great)
The bone and sinew of the State.
With six-horse team to one-horse cart,
We hail here from every part;
And some you'll see, sans shoes or socks on,
With snake-pole and a yoke of oxen;
Others with pack-horse, dog, and rifle,
Make emigration quite a trifle.

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Monday, November 10, 2003

Monday morning my head is bad...but it's worth it, for the times that I had...

I talked to Mark Polonia and found out that they knocked out a big chunk of PETER ROTTENTAIL, the voodoo-spawned killer rabbit movie, over the last few days, and they were pleased with the results. Hard to believe that a few weeks ago they didn't have a bunny suit and I hadn't sent them a script. They hope to have it done by Christmas, the first of this high-wire act of trying to finish four features in twelve months for Sub Rosa. It looks like my DEMONS ON A DEAD END STREET will be up next, so I guess I should rewrite the ending like they asked. Then it's GIZZARD GUTS, and then I'll look at the smoking ruin of my writerly life and decide what to do next. I still have to finish up a nonfiction doc script, a few new scenes on THE PAYBACK MAN for Ivan Rogers, then maybe something else that I have some very tentative feelers out for.

Give me a yell at

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Dirty Low Down Shame

I spent today cutting and painting the trim, and painted the door and window, in my new improved bathroom; a long day, but I still get a warm feeling when I realize our old "crackhouse bathroom" is gone into a landfill somewhere. I may try to grade some papers from my scriptwriting class tonight. Some days I get a charge from going through other people's creative process, and other days it frankly just saps your will to live (let someone say that in a writing seminar!). But I'm gaining "life experience," which is good if you are writing TERMS OF ENDEARMENT but doesn't always hold you in good stead when you're writing bigfoot movies and pirahna movies and ghost pirate movies. Speaking of which, the bulk of PETER ROTTENTAIL went before the cameras yesterday and will continue on through the weekend, I believe, and I'm eager for an update from the Polonia Brothers on how it's going. I wish I was back in the wilds of Pennsylvania shooting with them.

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Friday, November 07, 2003

The Eyes of the Sun

I worked a 14-hour day on a field TV production yesterday and had a long day Wednesday, so I am finally checking back in.

I have always made fun of the whole idea of sitting in your underwear under a tree and waiting for the muse, but sometimes its tough not to wish for it a bit. Surely experience is drawn from waking life, from the floating world, and nature (as well as art) abhors a vacuum; but sometimes I could use a break.

Hopefully I will have some time tomorrow to work on my ghost pirate script and another freelance project I have promised; the keyboard goes cold in my absence. But real life often intervenes. I keep thinking, this is all life experience for future stories; but in some ways I've filled up enough life experience for an s-load of stories. So, enough for a bit.

What's that Chinese curse? "May you live in interesting times." Indeed.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2003

What Condition My Condition Is In

Poking along on GIZZARD GUTS, a ghost pirate movie rewrite for the Polonia Brothers (not needed until Spring, but I want to keep at it), and a nonfiction doc at work about the origin of the word "Hoosier."

A stack of fun TOM STRONG comics I borrowed from my pal Doug, all Alan Moore retro Silver Age hipster cool, and a handful of D&D miniatures my pal the Caveman gave me at his house Saturday.

FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE by Jonathan Lethem, a sprawling 70s-era epic about two Brooklyn kids, one black and one white, who become close friends because of their tangled home lives and their shared interest in Marvel Comics. A great read.

As I commute an hour a day, I listen to a lot of books on tape; and yet am still chunking through DROP CITY by T.C. Boyle, another huge 70s epic about the end of the "Summer of Love" and its effect on a commune who ill-advisedly move en-masse to Alaska. A rich story.

I came across two great small-press comics at the shop yesterday, both by Hoosiers. One is ROCKET GIRL, from Pickle Press, about a young woman whose obsession over a hero called "The Fire Chief" leads her to don a pair of tights herself; some fresh ideas and nice art throughout. The other is TRUST, from Graphic Panda, about a young college kid whose parents hide a secret life, which is about to spill over into his own more laid-back existence. A good genre-busting story with great art. I liked 'em so much, I linked 'em over to the side there. I've got to hang with my homeboys.

I've been watching a lot of Jason Santo's work lately, of MINDSCAPE PICTURES, compiled on BENT VOL. 3 and MINDSCAPE PICTURES PRESENTS #1. Especially potent is "Here Comes Your Man," a searing allegory featuring Gene Dante, in a magnetic performance, as a man who maliciously spreads AIDS to a series of conquests. Visually striking in shooting and editing and thematically disturbing; probably Santo's strongest piece (in many senses) and has a cold knockout role for Dante, one of those rare microcinema actors who seem coiled to leap to the next level.
Santo's work is very polished and professional, and his subjects range from romantic comedy to sci-fi to drama and beyond, so each of his compilation DVDs includes at least one short that will really knock the wind out of you.

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Monday, November 03, 2003

I took a day off from my reality TV program "This Damn House" on Saturday and did some gaming with my pal The Caveman in honor of his birthday. He ran "X-Crawl," a variation of D&D with an emphasis on fun and mayhem. It's good to recharge my batteries a bit and maybe get those creative juices flowing for the work to come.

I spoke with the Polonia Brothers, and they are planning their major push on PETER ROTTENTAIL this coming weekend; hopefully the weather will hold. I also spoke with Ivan Rogers about working up a few new scenes for THE PAYBACK MAN as he continues to shape up that project for the big screen. I've been trying to stick with 3-5 pages a day writing, but with the house in disarray it's been difficult. Hopefully as the dust clears, literally and figuratively this week, I will point myself back in the right direction.

I tried to take my Mac Performa down to the Mission, after being turned away by Goodwill, and was told they only take Pentium-whatever and above. And they didn't want my encyclopedias, either. What kind of tech-saturated world do we live in when the homeless shelter won't take Macs and encyclopedias?

Let me know at

Friday, October 31, 2003

Don't Fear the Reaper

Last night my four-day remodeling project finally ended after two weeks, more or less, with the last contractor leaving at about 3 p.m. We have spent time without a toilet and shower and eaten some meals standing up as well as watched TV lying down. Yesterday I was so slammed I felt like I aged a decade or two. This morning I woke up to the sound of my bones creaking, appropriate enough on Halloween.

Needless to say I haven't gotten much done on GIZZARD GUTS this week, nor another freelance project (nonfiction) I picked up, so I'll have to hit that this weekend. My daughter is having a sleepover, and the want list reads: Ouija board, scary movies, silly string. Tomorrow I am going to do some gaming with a pal and my brother for the pal's birthday, so hopefully I'll recharge my creative batteries.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

From the Front Lines

I was off-line yesterday at a digital-video trade show in Cincinnati. Not a great show, and a lot more homeless people downtown than I remember from the last time I was there. But I had a good meal at a great Cajun place.

I got to talking to someone about the ups and downs of freelancing and started thinking of some "war stories." My most recent one is probably seeing my script burned in a fire on the set of AMONG US, already amply detailed at this blog.

But several years back I read an ad in the paper about someone looking for a scriptwriter, and although suspicious, I called him up. I ended up going to this guy's house, and he answers the door in paint-speckled clothes and hat. I quickly learned that he was a house painter with aspirations of being a Hollywood director. He handed me a photo album which featured on its cover the guy dressed pretty much the same, drinking a Pepsi.

I opened the scrapbook up and discovered it was more or less a storyboard of a Civil War epic he intended to make, illustrated with pictures cut out of (I think) old textbooks, with photos of himself and his girlfriend pasted over some of the heads. There were also photos of John Mellencamp, who was somehow going to figure into the proceedings.

He had it all figured out; he would "green screen" all the appropriate backgrounds behind himself and the other actors and save a lot of money on the massive project. All he needed was to "just get the ideas down on paper," one of the great screenwriting warning signs (as if there were not enough already).

I peeled out of there as quickly as I could, but he still followed me out to the car.

If you're not a house painter, email me at

Monday, October 27, 2003

Down with Old T.P.

Our house got toilet-papered this weekend, the young Hoosieroon's way of saying "I like you." Worked a bit on the house and a bit on GIZZARD GUTS, the ghost pirate movie for the Polonia Brothers to be lensed in sunny New Jersey sometime next spring.

I got the first faint nibble on another project with somebody I've been eager to work with for a while, which I'll post more on later if it starts to come to fruition. Right now it's finishing the rewrite of GIZZARD GUTS, then a little work on DEMONS ON A DEAD END STREET, then we'll see.

I also talked a bit with Mark and John Polonia this weekend, and their killer rabbit movie PETER ROTTENTAIL is in full swing. Finally John even admitted he was having trouble getting his mind around what the hell they were doing. But a cool "bursting from the grave" scene seemed to put his thoughts at ease.

I have got so much chaos going on at my house with remodeling the bathroom that I'm not sure when I'll put fingers to keyboard again; but I know I will be off-line for a few days, but I'll try to weigh in Wednesday or Thursday.

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Friday, October 24, 2003

I was shocked at how many people wrote to me yesterday and wished me a happy anniversary. I didn't know there were many people out there reading this blog. Now I'll have to try to be interesting.

Last night we went to a Damon's rib place and played the trivia game on the big screen. They had a movie trivia round and I kicked some righteous ass, becoming the #1 high score of the month. The film degree pays off again! Boo-yaaah!

We also took in INTOLERABLE CRUELTY, which like a lot of Coen Brothers movies has the dry wit and detached coolness at its center of a New Yorker cartoon. Fun enough.

I will be working around the house this weekend so will probably not be writing much on GIZZARD GUTS. I have a little breathing room on this one, as the Polonia Brothers are heavily into putting together PETER ROTTENTAIL right now. The shooting on the magician-turned-homicidal-rabbit feature started going before the lens last week.

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Thursday, October 23, 2003

Happy Anniversay, Baby

Today's my sixteenth wedding anniversary. 1987 doesn't seem that long ago. It was a good year. Met my wife in January. Won a Letterman Scholarship for a script I wrote in the spring. Went to Asia as an exchange student over the summer. Used the money from the scholarship to get married that fall. So I owe Dave Letterman a lot, for helping me get married and buy that 1980 Mercury Monarch.

So yesterday I mentioned I wrote 100 letters to industry professionals to garner interest in my work. Only one person wrote me back. That was Mark Polonia, one half of the Polonia Brothers, the direct-to-video gurus whose cannibal alien movie FEEDERS, love it or hate it, is widely reported to be the first shot on video movie accepted at the Blockbuster chain.

A student of mine at Ball State brought me a batch of b-movies, and Mark's BLOOD RED PLANET was among them, as well as Brett Piper's DRAINIAC, which has Mark in the credits. I was so mesmerized by the creative energy in BLOOD RED PLANET, despite the pocket-change budget, that I found Mark on the Internet and started emailing him. A while later he sent me his phone number, and when I called he asked if I would be interested in writing a script for them.

Brett Piper was going to do FX for a project for them in a kind of trade-out for some production support they had given him, and they were down to two ideas; a giant turtle and a giant tank. I had a lot more ideas for the tank than the turtle, so I went that route. Unfortunately that had problems in preproduction, then a zombie movie I rewrote came apart in development, but one day Mark called and said, "What would you think about a Bigfoot movie?" and that one took off. It's always a real roller coaster.

Really, last winter I was thinking about giving it up altogether again, because it was such a dry spell. But now I have a lot of things in the hopper, which is nice. But I suspect the tide will go out again at some point.

That's why I think you just keep nurturing your contacts and hope for the best. Jon McBride once told me that you can't really propel others forward because it takes all of your energy to propel yourself. But if you get launched forward, you might be able to pull others in your wake; and someone ielse in your circle may be able to do the same for you. So I just help everybody I can because you just never know. You really never know.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Whre I Lived, and What I Lived For

I tried to write in my blog yesterday, but I sat at the keyboard, and my mind was a total blank. But today I woke up thinking about how I got started in scriptwriting.

More than ten years ago I was an associate producer working at a local TV station, and one day director Ivan Rogers came to appear on a public affairs program. I went up to him after the taping and asked him some questions about filmmaking, which turned into meeting for coffee later before he left town. We started keeping in touch.

A few years later Ivan was editing his action film FORGIVE ME FATHER, and I ended up helping with some action sequences; taking the VHS dubs with open edge numbers from the 35mm film, cutting the scenes on a regular video cut bench, then having the editor use the open edge numbers to cut the film. I started off doing one scene and ended up cutting about 40 minutes of the film, and got an assistant editor credit (which you can see at I mostly cut action and death scenes; in fact, I never saw any of the characters alive and walking and talking in the movie until I went to a showing at the Hollywood Bar and Filmworks in Indy.

To return the favor, Ivan helped me shop some scripts. I figured the feature film productions were few and far between in Indiana, the Heartland of America, so I thought if I stuck with screenwriting I could use the Internet and phone and not have to move from my peaceful midwestern home.

This led to a script called PLAYER IN THE GAME, a psychological thriller which I hope will still see further development. But on the strength of the project being mentioned in The Hollywood Reporter, I decided to write 100 letters to agents, producers, directors, and so on, to gauge interest in more of my work.

Tomorrow I'll let you know who wrote me back.

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Monday, October 20, 2003

Forward the Light Brigade

Starting up on another polish of DEMONS ON A DEAD END STREET, and have a little done on GIZZARD GUTS, for the Polonia Brothers.

DRIFT by Manuel Luis Martinez. My wife met the author at a writer's conference (he is a prof at Indiana University), so I picked it up at the library. Lost San Antonio teen deals with family problems and personal demons in a raw, often poignant, sometimes darky funny, novel. A little uneven in tone (between naturalistic street lingo and more finely-wrought literary observations) but a worthwhile read.

Still working on DROP CITY by TC Boyle, a sprawling epic about the dying days of the flower power era. I'll need a lot more drives back and forth to work to get through this big, chewy audio book.

I've done a ton of reviews recently over at, if you haven't checked that out lately. Some good stuff I've seen lately on the microbudget scene: LEIF JONKER'S DARKNESS, PROJECT: VALKYRIE, DEATHBED.

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Friday, October 17, 2003

Last night I went to the opening of a martini bar; the proceeds were going to Big Brothers/Big Sisters, of which I am a board member and a former Big, so it was a good cause. There was a good jazz band and I ended up seeing a ton of people I know. I saw a guy from high school who is now running for political office. My first paying job in video production was getting paid to tape wrestling matches at the high school, and in the first match I taped, this kid broke somebody's arm. I saw a girl who used to be in some of my old high school movies, moving back home and going through a divorce. Somebody came up and told me they had enjoyed some of my homemade wine at a reception. Somebody came up and asked me about my old comic book collecting cable access show. Not a day goes by that somebody doesn't ask me about it. It's like writing this blog; you shout through a doorway, and you don't know if someone is on the other side, or if it's an empty room.

I'm going to my wife's cousin's wedding tomorrow, a big ol' Southern Indiana hootenanny, and always a fun time. She has lots of "kin," and there have been plenty of weddings before, and quite a few more to go.

I've started making a few moves on GIZZARD GUTS. I reread it; it came to me handwritten in a notebook from John Polonia. Then I started piecing together a few ideas and starting the first tentative clack-clacks on the keyboard. I'll start going full blast next week, my self-imposed respite pretty much over.

You can give me a shout at

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Goodbye Blue Skies

I tried to take my tried and true Mac Performa to Goodwill yesterday, and they flat wouldn't take it. It's pretty bad when you literally can't even give a nice little computer away.

I was putting a new screen door on the house last weekend and could swear I was getting attacked and bitten by freakin' ladybugs. Then somebody told me, no, those were japanese beetles. Which made me think of a web comic I used to like, which I was delighted to find is still alive, or perhaps it looks like back to life:

Everything has an end. I started this blog knowing that one day I'll tire of it (I'm hoping to give it one year). I wonder how long my screenwriting career will go sometimes. I try to re-evaluate on every birthday whether to keep going. It seemed kind of moot to do that this year since I was ass-deep in writing, but I did it anyway. The interesting part is that once something is out there, like AMONG US, it can never be taken back, and will have a life of its own, no matter what I do next.

I was literally kinda rattling around the house last night at loose ends, after punching out about ten to twenty pages a day rewriting PETER ROTTENTAIL for several straight days. I wanted to take a few days off before pushing on, but now I think I should start before the tide goes out on this creative surge.

My article looked a little janky yesterday; so here's a direct link:

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Smoke from a Distant Fire

I got good feedback on PETER ROTTENTAIL from the Polonia Brothers today, which was a huge relief. I'm going to polish up a bit on DEMONS ON A DEAD END STREET, then tackle their ghost pirate movie GIZZARD GUTS.

I think the Polonia Brothers production is going to go: RAZORTEETH (mostly in the can), PETER ROTTENTAIL (in pre-pro), DEMONS (if the winter isn't too bad), and then shoot GIZZARD GUTS and the last bit of RAZORTEETH when it gets warm again. With AMONG US coming out in 04, then perhaps Bob Dennis' DEAD LAKE and Ivan Rogers' THE PAYBACK MAN moving forward, I could have a lot of stuff out there in the next year or so. A nice feeling.

I was taking a detour home the other night and driving on a country road when for the briefest fraction of a hair-breadth moment I thought I saw an angel on the side of the road. When I got closer it turned out to be an elderly woman in a white robe with long, flowing white hair; but it was sure a shock for a second, and has stuck with me. More portents, good ones, I hope.

To sort of wrap up AMONG US, here's an article I originally wrote for my pal Allen Richards at

A co-worker brought me a movie he said I “had to watch.� It was the Polonia Brothers’ space epic BLOOD RED PLANET. I was mesmerized. Past the motorcycle helmet space masks and the water bottle oxygen tanks and the gravel pit moonscape and the hand-puppet monsters I saw a great sense of energy and fun and love for the genre. I looked up Polonia Brothers Entertainment on the Internet, quickly found Mark Polonia, and thought I would drop him a line. At that point it never occurred to me that I might end up sleeping on his couch.

Mark Polonia and I had been writing back and forth and talking on the phone for some time, discussing projects and trying to get a few off the ground. Mark asked me if I would be interested in writing a Bigfoot movie based on an outline he and his brother John had worked up. I told him I wasn’t sure what I could do with a Bigfoot movie but that I would think about it. After I hung up with Mark the phone rang again a short time later. It was PBE actor, director, and general co-conspirator Jon McBride. He said, “You’re not going to write that Bigfoot movie, are you?�

My first draft of AMONG US was finished and sent to the Polonia Brothers with some trepidation. Deciding that there was no way to do a Bigfoot movie with a straight face, I channeled those weird stone-faced quasi-documentaries of the 1970s, Sunn Classics like IN SEARCH OF NOAH’S ARK and CHARIOTS OF THE GODS, that used to scare the skin off me as a pre-teen at broken-down Midwestern drive-ins. In my script, B-movie director Billy D’Amato (a Polonia Bros writing pseudonym), who has made a modest career churning out fare like BRIDE OF BIGFOOT and BIGFOOT HOUSE PARTY, ends up squaring off against the real thing at a remote cabin deep in the Pennsylvania woods, with an ex-lover and a weak-stomached cryptozoologist in tow. Fortunately the Polonia Brothers enjoyed the offbeat approach of my script and were eager to move forward. Now if it would only stop snowing.

Casting, FX by Brett Piper (PSYCLOPS, DRAINIAC), and some second unit and b-roll shots are done throughout the spring, in LA and Pennsylvania, with the changing seasons and locations hopefully giving the project an expansive feel. The bulk of the shooting was locked down for the end of May in Pennsylvania, and I agreed to come out and be on the set and try to pitch in. Little did I know then that “pitching in� would include everything from gathering wood to cooking food to putting on an ape suit to feeding my own script into a campfire. I was blissfully unaware of what was to come.

I touched down in beautiful Elmira, New York at 11 p.m., and was quickly whisked off to Wellsboro, Pennsylvania by the Polonia Brothers and Jon McBride. They had been shooting all day all over Wellsboro with Bob Dennis and Hunter Austin, playing the leads Billy D’Amato and Jennifer Dempsey. Early in the morning we were going to leave for the cabin that is the centerpiece for the latter third of the movie and spend several days and nights living and shooting there, so everyone was ready to call it a night. But I did get a quick tour through Wellsboro, recognizing tons of locations from PBE films like FEEDERS, NIGHT THIRST, and others. At midnight we pulled up to the house that I last saw in THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED 2. I had the surreal feeling that the whole town was a giant Polonia Brothers backlot, and I briefly wondered why the humble people of Wellsboro had not risen up with pitchforks and torches and driven these diabolical twins into the river. A short time later I was lying on Mark’s couch and asleep.

For the first time I heard words that I wrote coming out of an actor’s mouth, and it’s a weird feeling...from my laptop in the cornfields of rural Indiana to an L.A. actresses’ mouth in a van bumping down a road in Pennsylvania. It is basically a funny little scene where Billy D’Amato is driving to the cabin and talking about the differences between shooting documentaries and shooting porno movies. At the end Mark Polonia turns to me as I’m crouching out of the camera line in the back seat and says, “Well, you’ve seen your first scene comes to life!� and John Polonia cheerfully chimes in with, “We haven’t even started raping the script yet!�
Before long we arrive at the location, a cabin miles down a dirt road deep inside “the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,� with a raging river at the front and cliffs at our backs. The whole cast and crew piles out, soon to be joined by rats, snakes, centipedes, and whatever chewed on the legs of the outdoor chairs. Mark Polonia intoned, “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them,� a line that would be repeated often throughout the day and deep into the night. However, I also learned from his wife that he once chased a bear away from the trash with nothing to defend himself but his “tighty whities,� so there you go.
John Polonia gleefully told me that what is politely called “production assistant� in credits is more aptly named “prison b***h� on the set. But it was fun to be involved during the shoot, doing a little of everything from setting up lights to taping “behind the scenes� footage with my Digital 8 camera to shooting promotional stills to grilling hot dogs for lunch and washing up afterwards. At one point I was carrying the heavy tripod and camera across a rickety footbridge that would be considered too unbelievable to use in an “Indiana Jones� movie, with John Polonia right behind goading me forward, and I thought two things…one, at least if someone is rolling tape they’ll have something to sell to FACES OF DEATH; and second, I wonder what the WGA would think about all of this?
Later in the evening we set up for a major scene where the principals are sitting around a campfire and start revealing little bits of their backstories about what motivates them to find evidence of Bigfoot. Unfortunately, wet wood and five inept males could not get the fire started. Finally Bob Dennis took me aside and said apologetically, “If this offends you we don’t have to do it, but I brought an extra copy of the script…� I looked around at the fading “magic hour� and said, “light it up.� A moment later I was watching Bob feed the script into the fire and thinking, “Well, I know writers say actors send their scripts down in flames, but I bet William Goldman has never seen this.�
When we got going on the campfire scene, my heart started racing. With the night falling, the cabin lit in the background, the flickering light from the fire illuminating the actors, I looked through the viewfinder and realized for the first time that the movie was going to look fantastic. Then the next scene shot was a little away from the fire, the heart-to-heart between Billy and Jennifer, where some of their unexpressed feelings bubble back to the surface. I got a chill when it suddenly dawned on me that the acting was great too. At the end of the scene, Hunter had tears in her eyes, and the crew spontaneously clapped. John Polonia observed, “It was the first time someone cried making a Polonia Brothers movie, instead of just watching one.�
(Flash forward to a few days later, when I told Mark Polonia that I could remember the exact moment when I thought the movie would be great. He looked on, sleepy but sage, and said, “Be prepared for bad reviews anyway.�)
Fourteen hours after we loaded in gear at Mark Polonia’s house we were ready to wrap for the day. Bob Dennis, the Polonias, and I retired to an upstairs bedroom to look at dailies. When Hunter Austin joined us, she let out a blood-curdling scream. Although we assumed she was looking at the screen, she was actually watching a snake slither out of the rafters and dangle ominously over Bob’s head. More girly screaming ensued as two more snakes made an appearance, perhaps coaxed out by the warm movie lights we had used earlier. The sad part is that the girly screaming was evenly distributed among the participants, only one of which was a girl. It was loud enough that it actually woke up Jon McBride, who throughout the shoot showed the ability to drop onto any flat surface at a moment’s notice and instantly fall asleep . The fastest set breakdown in cinematic history had us bouncing back up the road to Mark Polonia’s house just a few minutes later. Quoth Mark Polonia, “I was there the day the courage of men failed.�
There is an ironically prophetic line in the script where Jennifer queries “counselor’s cabin at Crystal Lake or Leatherface’s living room?� Suffice to say, it did not take long for the Polonia Brothers to abandon their idea of the location as the center of a series called “Hell Camp.� John Polonia’s replacement idea: “Hell Yacht.�

The whole cast and crew returned to the cabin in the light of morning, shaken but determined to go on. The entire day would be spent shooting the last few minutes of the movie where the Bigfoot creatures lay siege to the cabin. It never occurred to me to ask that with Hunter, Bob, Jon, and John Polonia in the film, and with Mark behind the camera, who might be called upon to put on the Bigfoot suit.
First there would be many intense scenes of screaming, running, smashing things, swinging meat cleavers and hot dog forks and rolling pins, running up and down the stairs, and so on. Basically, everyone drew on their real-life experiences of the night before. And the real, palpable fear on everyone’s faces when shooting the scenes where the cast barricades themselves in the bedroom (aka “the snake room�) only gave the sequence some extra spice.
Late in the afternoon we returned to Mark Polonia’s house, and were treated to a great home-cooked meal put together by the Polonia Brothers’ wives, giving a much-needed second wind. Then it was off to the home of the Polonia parents, a friendly couple whose easygoing manner made it hard to believe that they spawned the twins who made SPLATTER FARM, to shoot vehicle interiors for a climactic attack on Billy’s van. Although Jon McBride had “shemped� Bigfoot in the publicity stills shot earlier in the day and John Polonia shemped Bigfoot in the b-roll, it fell upon my shoulders to put on the heavy, hairy suit and throw myself repeatedly against the windows and doors of the van while screams and shouts issued forth. It didn’t take long to realize that there were no airholes around the nose and mouth, but I tried to bravely soldier forth, ripping off the mask in between takes to gasp blissful gulps of air and wipe the sweat from my brow. My head spun only once.
I peeled off the suit, leaving it uninhabitable for other mortals, and stepped away from it smelling like the inside of a flat tire. Then I looked around and realized that principal photography was over. Like the film’s antagonist, the shoot was hairy, noisy, smelly, and left a swath of destruction in its wake. But as the cast and crew congratulated each other and said their good-byes, it was a good feeling.

With two of the main actors, Bob and Hunter, making their way home, the Polonia Brothers, Jon McBride, and I began to watch all of the footage, seeing the scenes we had shot over the last few days unfold before our eyes. Everything was there (a blessing, as John Polonia had an alarming tendency to leave the lens cap on), and not only that, it looked great. Over several hours I began to see in my mind how the film would piece together, and I thought, even if it gets panned from coast to coast and in every dusty corner of the Internet, I am still proud of what we did.
That evening I was treated to a great dinner at a nice restaurant with the extended Polonia family. There I saw a poster for the local “Rattlesnake Festival,� where denizens swarm the hills to capture and bring back rattlers to the baseball diamond in the center of town. Prizes are awarded for the biggest capture, and anti-venom and pork fritters are easily on hand. For myself, I would then apply a well-swung axe; but the fun-loving Pennsylvanians turn the snakes loose again. For the first time I thought I understood what in their formative years made the Polonia Brothers what they are today.

My last day in Wellsboro was full of odds and ends. I got to see John Polonia’s massive VHS and DVD collection, chockablock full of everything from rare Italian giallo to undistributed backyard slasher flicks to films I’ve never heard of from Russia and England to Mexico and Japan, a wall of horror titles that would make a fanboy weep and a Blockbuster rep quake in fear. I got to peruse the basement lair of Mark Polonia, where boxes of grisly props, alien hands and buggle-eyed masks and scorched spaceship models and gore-spattered swords, are packed in next to an AV nerd’s dream-stash of edit controllers and cameras and film equipment. I saw the row of PBE master tapes, NIGHTCRAWLER and FEEDERS 2 and SAURIANS and others, nestled in orderly rows in a basement, but already having a life of their own, in video stores and department stores and homes all around the world. I looked at them and wondered, would one day AMONG US be picked off a shelf in a store in a town in a country on this great spinning earth?
Later both Polonias and Jon McBride accompanied me to the airport. As I was checking my bags in the quiet terminal, the attendant inclined his head and said, “Your family can come up here and talk to you while we’re doing this if you want.� I began to muse on the idea…was this group of people more Partridge Family or Manson Family? Or was it something else, a family of artists and dreamers and technicians and of course filmmakers but above all movie lovers, who rose up from rich Middle American earth and followed their vision despite what those who cluttered the coasts might tell them was possible, embracing fans and ignoring foes while striding ever forward?
I was still thinking about it when the plane rose up into the sky.

Give me a yell at