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.

Give me a yell at

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.

Give me a yell at

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.

Give me a yell at

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.

Give me a yell at

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Once More, With Feeling

I finally finished up the rewrite on PETER ROTTENTAIL last night and shipped it off to the Polonia Brothers. That was a tough mutha to give birth to, for some reason. I'd hate to look back at my blog and see how long I was writing "I have to finish a big chunk of PETER ROTTENTAIL." Too long.

I remember I was watching Mark and John Polonia shoot a scene for AMONG US on this rickety bridge over a raging river when they first asked me about rewriting this script. A magician who falls under an evil voodoo guy's spell and becomes a giant killer rabbit? Hard to get my mind around it then and now. I might have thought back then that I could possibly die trying to cross that river and didn't have anything to lose, and thus said "okay." Later John sent me the script; the first half was hand-written, the second half the typed latter part of another script called PSYCHO CLOWN with "Yuckles" scribbled out and "Peter" written in. But when I look at it as a whole now, it's pretty offbeat and funny. Not another "backyard slasher," to say the least.

The most calming thing, and the most frightening thing, John Polonia says is, "If we can't figure it out, we'll shemp it."

I'm going to start right away on the rewrite of GIZZARD GUTS, a ghost pirate movie that will be the third of the four-picture distribution deal the Polonia Brothers have. It looks like this may be shot in a resort area of New Jersey, so I am going to stay pretty close to this project and try to cajole a visit to the set. Hopefully I won't be writing "I have to get a big chunk of GIZZARD GUTS done" for the next month.

Give me a shout at

Monday, October 13, 2003


So here's the last chunk of AMONG US. I'm proud of how it came out. I guess in a few months we'll know what the rest of society thinks. Mark Polonia told me, "be prepared for bad reviews anyway."

A bright orange sun comes up over the trees.
The camera's POV shows the debris from the night's reckoning, including the knife sticking out of the wall by the door.
Ray and I went back the next morning. But there had been a rainstorm late the night before, and pretty much all the signs were washed away...blood, footprints...everything.
Billy is sitting at a small table by the window, drinking coffee.
A lot of people who have seen the footage think we faked the whole thing. That everybody in the film is an actor.
Wayne is sitting among his memorabilia.
I think that if anyone watched "Ninja Bigfoot" they wouldn't be making those accusations. Frankly, I think it's the most phenomenal footage recorded yet.
Wayne thinks.
Of course, a lot of my role in the sighting was left on the cutting-room floor. When I hit the bigfoot with the rolling pin, for instance. Or when I comforted Jennifer Dempsey, when she was despairing. Sometimes the way a film is edited can really make a difference.
Wayne is hosting a cable program on a neutral set, speaking with a flamboyant woman who is waving her arms dramatically.
But I can't complain about Billy D'Amato's work, because it led me to a job hosting a new cable show. We talk about all forms of the paranormal, and take phone calls from viewers wanting spiritual readings. Nothing is set in stone yet, but we may be a midseason replacement on a major network.
Ray sits in the foreground while good-looking men in tighty-whities walk around camera equipment.
I will never work on a horror movie again. Not one freaking one. But I'm getting work. And let me tell you something. Everybody knows Barry Sonnenfeld started in porn. Francis Coppola and John Carpenter and a bunch of those 70s guys had a hand in it too, I think. All the way back, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, they all did pornos. That's where all of those fake names originated, Hugh G. Rection and all that. From the masters. But I'm not here to follow in any of those dude's footsteps...except Mr. Billy D'Amato. If I can have a career like his...I'll be all right.
Well, Jerry needs a fluffer.
Ray gets up to leave.
Billy looks philosophical.
But no matter what the critics say, I'm at peace with what we did. It's never about the critics anyway.
Feature Billy showing some KIDS how to use a camcorder.
I'm teaching a basic video class to some kids at the youth center. There are some pretty talented little Spielbergs down there. They even offered to host a film retrospective for me in the gym. Thing is, I don't really have anything to show kids.
Billy leans back in his chair.
So I'm thinking about making a kid's movie.
What, "Bigfoot Jr.?"
Jennifer enters, smiling, and sits down next to Billy. They clasp hands.
Hey, who knows? But, you know, when it's slow here at the shop, I think about things. Something's percolating in there.
Well, you know, I'm thinking a lot about...about family and things these days. Good thoughts.
Billy and Jennifer share a comfortable silence.
Feature footage of the woods, the sun-dappled leaves, branches blowing in the wind.
Is there among us? I'm convinced that there is. The evidence is overpowering.
But, you know, if there is...I say live and let live. I'll go my way, you go yours...that's what I want, anyway. And I think that's what they would want too.
The camera tracks into the sky.

Let me know what you think at

Friday, October 10, 2003

Driver's Seat

Well, I hope to hit the hammer on the PETER ROTTENTAIL script this weekend. I have done quite a bit the last few nights. A meager fall television season helps.

I hope to have a productive weekend. I need to.

It looks like I'll finish posting AMONG US Monday, for those who have been waiting for the shattering denouement, and the many more who haven't.

When you see this part in the movie, it's me playing the Bigfoot. I kind of looked around the set and realized there were no other likely candidates not doing anything standing around. So in the suit I went, coming out smelling like the inside of a flat tire.

For those who know me, yes, I would be a pretty short Bigfoot. But standing on a box helped me channel my "inner sasquatch."

I also pulled cable, cooked food, washed dishes, took stills, shot behind the scenes footage, and more...hope the WGA never hears about this.

Billy dodges his way back to the kitchen, skids to a stop, and snatches up his jacket.
Billy shrugs into his jacket, feeling all of the pockets. He relaxes when he pats the pocket where he has the car keys. He fishes the keys out.
Offscreen, there is the sound of CRACKING and FALLING WOOD.
Billy hesitates, looking around carefully. He wipes the sweat from his brow, then he grabs the camera and rights it on a head shot of himself.
Just in case we don't make it, and somebody finds this tape someday?
Mom and Dad, I love you. And Jennifer...
I'm sorry.
Billy looks past the lens, catching Ray's eye.
Let's roll.
The camera falls in behind Billy.
Billy stops cold when he sees the bigfoot standing tall in the corner. A tipped lamp casts a strange long shadow over the creature, who stands partially in the darkness and partially in the light.
They stand and look at each other for a long time. Finally Billy and the camera scoot past and through the dark, broken doorway.
Just outside the door, something catches Billy's eye. It is the paring knife Billy had used earlier, jutting from the cabin wall. Billy gives it a baleful glance.
Billy races flat-out for the SUV and lunges for the door.
As Billy tries to work the ignition with a shaking hand, Jennifer's head juts into view from the back seat.
Everything okay?
Billy opens his mouth, but before he can say anything another ROAR rips through the silence.
The SUV is pummeled, and is rocked back and forth. Flashes of fur, gleaming eyes, white teeth flash at the windows.
Drive! Drive!
Billy slams it into gear and tears away, letting the creatures fall away.
The camera flips around and gets a shot out of the back window, as one of the creatures stands in the red light of the vehicle's taillights.
As the creature gets smaller and the car speeds farther on, a triumphant HOWL rattles the windows.

Give me a yell at

Thursday, October 09, 2003

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner

So I talked to Mark Polonia last night about PETER ROTTENTAIL and asked when they wanted to see it. He said, "Last week." Yipe! I'm way behind, with a lot of life intervening in between. I got a good chunk in last night. I've just to keep on keepin' on until it's done.

The great secret about scriptwriting is that it's not you in your underwear under a tree looking at clouds and waiting for the muse to descend. It's you with your butt in a chair and having the will to sit there even when the Colts are on or whatever else.

There it is: you need more craft than art. And a cast-iron butt.

Here's more from the end of AMONG US:

Billy and Jennifer head downstairs at a more cautious pace.
They spot a nervous Wayne surveying the debris from the front door, scattered all over the floor. He looks pale and shaken.
Billy and Jennifer join him at the doorframe and peer beyond.
From the camera's POV, we see nothing in the darkness but the faint metallic glint from Billy's SUV.
Billy looks at everybody.
They work their way towards the vehicle, their pace quickening as they close in, until finally they are running full out, leaping for the doors, and diving in.
The car doors are locked with a satisfying CLICK.
Wayne expels a relieved BREATH, but Jennifer notices that Billy is rolling his forehead back and forth on the steering wheel. Her face goes cold.
Where are they, Billy?
In my jacket pocket. In the kitchen.
Billy looks out the windshield for a long moment. Then he opens the driver's door. The camera seems to follow, but Billy pushes at the lens.
Ray, you're not Ernie Pyle or whoever the fuck. Stay here!
Billy takes a few steps, and the camera is still right behind. Billy turns again.
Stay here!
Billy takes off at a run. The camera is following right behind.

Give me a yell at

Wednesday, October 08, 2003


Well, I'm back from a modest hiatus. I got a lot done around the house after several days off but still have to cop the muse to finish up PETER ROTTENTAIL for the Polonia Brothers.

I had a bad migraine Friday night, but one of the good things is that usually the next day I have some insights or some sort of creative spurt; strange, I know. But a lot of my screenplay for ROOK and some other good projects have sprung up in the "day after" a migraine.

When my mind was throwing off sparks, I had a really vivid memory of a time when my dad rode me on the back of his bicycle down by a pond, and I stuck my hand out and got a hangnail from a fencepost. And my son and a friend watched THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR downstairs, and you would think all of that together would percolate into something.

But all that happened this time was that the next afternoon I was inspired to eat a Spam sandwich.

And here's some more from the inspiring conclusion of AMONG US:

In the kitchen, Billy shucks his safari jacket and rolls up his sleeves, looking around.
Billy and Jennifer yank out drawers and bang open cabinets, looking for utensils. Billy has a paring knife, and Jennifer a long-tined grilling fork.
I'm not sure what you're going to do with that.
Jennifer makes a stretching motion with the fork.
Reach, Billy, reach.
Wayne rather uneasily hefts a rolling pin.
We should take them alive if possible.
Billy and Jennifer whirl on him.
Wayne steps back, shaking his head. Inadvertently, he backs toward a window, which CAVES IN under the weight of a hairy fist.
Billy shoves Wayne away and starts stabbing at the paw. There is a YELP, and the paw goes back out the window with the little knife buried deep.
Billy flexes his empty hand and looks at Jennifer. She shakes her head.
I didn't see anything else.
Billy looks queasy for a moment; then his face brightens a bit as he remembers.
Shit, I totally forgot. I used to keep a Swiss Army knife in the camera bag. Shit.
Billy starts racing for the staircase and up the stairs. He stops and looks back at the other two.
Come on. Higher ground.
The other two follow.
Billy starts going through the gear to find the pocket knife. Below, the POUNDING gets louder.
Billy snags his little rusty knife and holds it high, a moment of triumph. In the next second he hears the door CAVE IN downstairs in a shower of wood.
Once again the words are unspoken, and they all pitch in to barricade the door with the bed, endtable, and the like.
Downstairs, the SOUNDS of the cabin getting trashed are loud and chaotic.
Jennifer looks at Billy.
That little knife? That door? They're not going to mean anything in about five minutes.
Billy scans the room, looking for answers. His eyes land on the window.
We need to get out of here.
He goes to the window and looks out.
There's nothing out there. Maybe we can get out this window, just roll when we hit the ground.
Two stories?
Well, take your pick. Twisted ankle...or that.
She thumbs over her shoulder at the bedroom door, and the chaos beyond. Wayne swallows hard.
Billy grabs Jennifer's shoulder.
I'll boost you.
Jennifer grabs his arm in return.
It dawns on Billy and Jennifer that the noises from below have stopped.
Billy looks out the window again and really looks hard into the darkness. Then he looks Jennifer full in the face.
I think they're gone.
Remember last time. We don't really know what's going on. We'll have to take it slow.
Suddenly Wayne breaks for the door, pushes the junk aside enough to slam the door open, and bounds down the stairs.
Billy's jaw is hanging open. Then he recovers, and tugs at Jennifer.
Come on!

Give me a yell at

Friday, October 03, 2003

The low, rumbling, distant echo of a lightning storm coming

I feel like I have a migraine coming on, so I'm not weighing in with much today. I am taking a long weekend to try to catch up on a lot of stuff, not the least of which is winterizing and writing. Tonight I'm going to try to stitch up.

Here's a big batch of AMONG US, which may need to last y'all a few days before I can get back. This is from the pulse-pounding conclusion, which was shot completely differently on the set; but this contains my favorite part, where the rock from the cairn comes in through the window, and Billy and Wayne share a moment of acknowledgement. Didn't turn out the way I thought in the finished project, but you can read it here at least. A big batch of the end was actually shot hand-held, improv style, which gives it a lot of energy. We'll see which version people like better soon enough.

Billy, Jennifer, and Wayne crowd together on the porch, scanning the darkness.
Are we even going to tell each other that was a wolf?
They keep watching the treeline.
Now Billy is even more attentive.
Do you smell that?
Wayne turns his face into the air.
Smells like....
No animal you ever smelled before?
Nobody answers Billy.
Suddenly, a LOW GROWLING is heard, much closer.
In an instant, the three people are sprinting back into the house, the camera following in their trail.
Billy looks over his shoulder.
Ray! RAY!!
Billy appears to yank the camera the last few inches, then slams the door behind them.
The camera catches Billy turning the lock with a resounding CLICK. Then he turns to the others.
Check all the windows.
Feature a series of shots as the trio secure all the windows. It appears to be a series of mundane shots, much the same--until Wayne glimpses a furry head in the darkness outside.
Wayne SCREAMS and staggers back.
The others whirl around in terror.
The camera follows him as he staggers to the toilet in the tiny bathroom and VOMITS.
He comes out, sweating and wiping his mouth, talking rapidly.
I'm all right. It's just like an athlete before the big game. It's something that happens. It does happen to athletes, right?
Billy grabs him and shakes him.
What did you see?
Wayne comes out of his reverie.
I think I saw a face.
Billy's response dies on his lips as a loud CLANGING comes from outside.
Billy releases Wayne and races to a nearby window. He very carefully inches his face up to the glass.
What is it?
I can't see...
Ah shit. Something is rocking my car! My brand new fucking car! Ray, put the camera up there!
Suddenly a THUD on the wall makes Billy take a step back.
The camera whips around to try to follow the sound of the noise. More THUDS resound on the walls of the cabin.
That sounds like--
In the next moment comes a CRASH OF GLASS as a round stone breaks through a window. Jennifer SCREAMS.
The stone rolls to Wayne's feet. Curious, he picks it up out of the jagged glass and examines it. It looks to have come from the cairn. He looks at Billy with a raised eyebrow. Billy looks anywhere else.
Another rain of rocks POUND the cabin's walls and roof. The trio start creeping closer together, shoulder to shoulder, as a HOWLING chimes in with the constant barrage of rocks.
The pelting rocks begin to lessen and subside.
There is a moment of eerie quiet.
Suddenly a hairy arm breaks in a window, and in a flash retreats.
Wayne grabs his head.
The cabin falls silent again.
Billy and Jennifer exchange glances, then start pushing furniture--a couch, a bookcase--against the shattered glass.
The only sound in the cabin is their breathing.
What do you think?
Let's get the hell out of here.
Billy moves to the door, motioning the others back. He turns the lock and inches it open, peering around the doorframe. Then he opens the door wide.
He looks back at the others, and expels a long breath. As he turns to look at the door again, a large SHAPE steps in front of the frame. A YELL from Jennifer and Wayne goes up. Billy reaches over and slams the door.
We need weapons.
Something POUNDS on the door. Billy jumps away from it.
The kitchen!
The threesome race through the house.

Give me a shout at

Thursday, October 02, 2003

From my brainpan to yours

I'm chugging away, slowly, at the PETER ROTTENTAIL rewrite for the Polonia Brothers. I'm going to try to get a batch of this done over the weekend. Fingers crossed. The Bros want to get shooting on this one in a week or two, now that hail is falling in Pennsylvania and movies about girls in bikinis getting eaten by pirahna get harder and harder to shoot.

UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN by Jon Krakauer, a harrowing nonfiction story of Mormon fundamentalism, penned by one of my favorite writers. Hard to put down.

DROP CITY by T.C. Boyle. I hate to admit that I actually gave up on Ha Jin's THE CRAZED halfway through, but I did. It reminded me of what it was like to be in China in the mid 80s, but the storytelling was leaden. I might try it again in another frame of mind, though. Boyle's latest is another crunchy, complex opus, this time centered around a commune in the dying days of the Free Love era.

NAUSICAA AND THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, a manga by Hayao Mizaki, the guy who did SPIRITED AWAY and other. Intricate drawing, interesting post-apocalyptic, pro-nature story.

There's not one single new show that has set me on fire; but the season premiere of LAW AND ORDER was really good.

ASTROESQUE:I’ve been a fan of Mike Allred’s writing and art since his Madman Comics days, on forward to his offbeat “mutant beatnik� comic series THE ATOMICS and his current work on the oft-controversial X-STATIX (recently in the news for a storyline featuring Princess Di coming back from the dead as a superhero). His freshman directorial effort is ASTROESQUE, part of a multimedia triple-play tied into his RED ROCKET 7 comic for Dark Horse Comics. Allred wrote and drew a comic book, directed and started in a movie, and produced and played on a concept album, all stand-alone projects but with united themes.
ASTROESQUE tells the story of a time-traveling, space-faring “guardian angel� (Allred) who intervenes to help prevent the untimely death of an average joe (Matt Brundage), infuriating a fringe militia group in the process (though there is a convincing argument that if the “guardian angel� didn’t show up, nobody would be shooting at the guy anyway!). Plenty of slow-motion gun battles and some quasi-religious philosophical debates ensue.
The feature is stylistically offbeat, with directorial homages from Sergio Leone to Alejandro Jodorowsky, all set to a mosh-pit Morricone score. An admirable cinematography effort is offset slightly by some ill-timed edits, an occasionally spotty sound mix, and a few lukewarm performances, reportedly by Allred’s family and friends (though it’s hard to believe that it was shot in a “free weekend� as the opening credits seem to suggest). Allred himself, with his Banderas hairstyle, his Eastwood thousand-yard stare, and his coat borrowed from Laurence Fishburne, is very magnetic, and probably the baddest-looking dude every to draw comic books for a living (though John Romita Jr. is a close second).
This one's hard to find; Trent at the local comics shop loaned it to me.

Give me a yell at

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

More Among Us

Today's AMONG US segment is memorable to me because it was the first time on the set that all the actors talked about their motivations to me. Jon McBride (Wayne) told me he thought that the trio was a family, and that Billy and Jennifer were the parents, and he was the kid trying to stop the fighting. I told him I thought it was more of a love triangle. But I stopped that line of thought when Bob Dennis (Billy) got this queasy look on his face.

A bright moon shines over the cabin.
Bill, swinging a bottle of wine, observes Jennifer working over a boiling pot of pasta.
Spaghetti for the fourth straight night. Great.
Jennifer drops the ladle.
Could you at least throw some beef in there?
Wayne and I are vegans.
Vegans. I'm about to go out and kill a possum and drop that mother in there.
What is this shit anyway? Because I'm the woman I have to cook?
Wayne pokes his head in.
I'll do it, Jennifer.
What's up, Wayne, now that you're a cryptozoologist you can't eat meat? I mean, it isn't like it's a real degree, is it? You can get it from the back of Rolling Stone or something, right?
I have degrees in Biology, Zoology, and Astronomy.
Get off his ass, Billy! You've had too much too drink. Besides, where did you go to school?
The school of hard knocks.
You need a hard knock, you mean.
It's no problem, Billy's an artist and things get tense on the set. Isn't that right, Ray?
This isn't a set, it's fucking life! It's not a set!
Billy gets a little deflated.
Well, it would be better if it was.
Billy heads outside.
Billy is in his room, sitting on the edge of the bed, packing up.
Well, Jennifer is leaving tomorrow, and Wayne says he's been asked to be a guest host on some cable show, so...I guess we're wrapping it up here.
You know, I've been there before. Locations fall through, props fall through, FX fall through. Lead actors get busted or go into rehab. Somebody snorts the budget of the movie in one night. Every single project has its challenges.
He methodically works on his bags.
But, you know, there's always the next project.
I'd like to say I'll never do another adult feature. But you never know. I'll go back to L.A., I'll see what's there.
You know what, screw it, I'll go to New York again. People are making artistic statements out there. People care about things.
I want to care about things.
Suddenly, a low, eerie HOWLING is heard.
Billy drops a tennis shoe. His face registers a strange mix of emotions, including elation and fear.
What the fuck was that?

Give me a yell at