Friday, July 30, 2004

Galaxy of Terror

As I mentioned yesterday, I went down to Indianapolis to help critique short films submitted to the Oranje Arts and Music Event in the Circle City. I finally met Tino Marquez of and other DV-slinging Hoosiers, trying to get their name out there from the Heartland of America. Seemed to be a good group of people.

There were some really solid shorts submitted, including two by Peter O'Keefe of South Bend; I especially liked his LULU TAKES A LOVER, which starts off as a quirky romantic comedy but ends in an explosion of Shakespearean tragedy, but BAD ADVICE, which told a parallel, split-screen story of a drug deal gone wrong, was also impressive. LULU is available at ifilm and is worth a look.

There was a decent little art-house piece called REPRESSION that will probably play pretty well also, and a little slice-of-life drama from Bunk Films called 2 A.M. that was nicely shot, though I enjoyed it well enough that I would have liked to see less in medias res and a more fully-expanded story.

All in all the shorts were well-received by the group there and I think this event will represent the scene pretty well. Seeing good work just makes me want to kick my game up a notch too.

Give me a shout at

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Dr. Cyclops

I am going to Indianapolis tonight to judge some short film entries for the Oranje Arts and Music Event on Saturday, September 18 in Indy.  I belive these same entries may be used for another Indy Movie Experiment this fall in the Circle City as well.  It's the first time I've done anything with anyone local and probably high time that I started keepin' it real with my Hoosier peeps.  I'm looking forward to seeing what the statewide micro scene is all about and meet some of the people.

Speaking of Naptown, I've also got to spend a few days gearing up to run some games at GenCon--the biggest board game, miniature game, card game, role-playing game con in the nerd-verse-- which is just a few weeks away.  After many years of just playing at the Con, my brother and I--along with our pal The Caveman--decided to switch it up and run games for the first time, under the moniker Flayed Goblin Gaming Group.  We are running an Axis and Allies board game variant, a D&D hack-and-slash dungeon, some Marvel Superheroes SAGA games, the Circus Maximus board game, and a d20 Modern version of AMONG US (with a DVD given out to the best player).  My brother is visiting this weekend and we are going to spend some time trying to work up the AMONG US module.  If you are doing the Con, look for us.

Until then, give me a shout at

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Nyoka and the Tigermen

Christopher Sharpe's SEX MACHINE is underway, a Gen-X Frankenstein story I did a polish on, and you can see some cool updates right here.  I'm excited about this one, and I think it has a lot of potential.

I changed my avatar, courtesty of Jon Ashby of, who snapped that manly pic at Mt. Rushmore during Microcinema Fest.  There's a couple of nice articles about the fest written by Jason Santo over at, for anyone interested on the behind the scenes side of it.

I saw a nice adaptation of THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR Sunday night at Ball State in their summer theatre season, setting it in 50s suburbia.  Gives me hope for my own original prose, modern dress Shakespeare spec script I have been toiling away on.

A couple of things in the hopper I hope to report on shortly.  'til then, give me a yell at


MCF #7

I've gotten a couple of requests for more MCF pix from faithful readers. Here is our "Jurassic Park" style jeep ride sponsored by Chris Hull and the South Dakota film commission. Great experience in the back country of this fabulous park. Preventing soon-to-be-famous director Miguel Coyula from feeding his sandwich to a bison is my contribution to the future of Hollywood. Posted by Hello

Monday, July 26, 2004

Manhunt in the African Jungles

I bound my weeping poison ivy in gauze, and like a lurching b-movie mummy stumbled off to my 20th class reunion on Saturday night.  As I had hoped, I was not the fattest, nor the baldest, though a candidate for either, and had the prettiest wife.  I graduated with about 250 people from a very stratified school of haves and have-nots and was surprised to see much of that intact after all of these years.  Our most famous classmate, Cynda Williams was not in attendance, leaving me and a guy who used to be a stuntman, I believe, to represent the Hollywood glitterati.  Like in high school, my cluster of friends did not belong in any of the major groups (as described in most Hollywood movies, natch) so we made a point of circling the wide room and speaking to every single person, with the various results that we might have expected two decades past.  Funny how the world goes 'round.

I did get back in touch with my old playwriting partner from high school, who is now a doctor in San Diego surfing on weekends while I toil away at a basement office in our hometown.  But it reminded me about what I loved about writing, all those long years ago.  We wrote one-acts for the Melissa Ellis Playwriting Contest, a statewide high school contest which very happily was headquartered at our school, and judged by Ball State professors, making it convenient to attend and bask in the glory of our peers.  We won second place one year, first the next year.  I also won two honorable mentions for plays I wrote solo.  Five plays in three years, and four of them placed.  I remember delivering one by bicycle at the last minute, after typing it on my manual typewriter, much the same way I would deliver my David Letterman scholarship project a few years later.  I think I've been chugging away in some form or another ever since. 

The funny thing is that they were all written on typewriters, and gone to the dustbins of time.  We couldn't even remember the names of two of them, even with some of the very thespians who trod the boards in these performances right there (For younger readers, this was in the days before PCs made all of this easier).  I remember composing our creative endeavors to "Dark Side of the Moon" playing over and over on my partner's record player (again, before CDs) until his father came in and said that he did escape Hungary by crawling under barbed wire with machine guns at his back to come over here and listen to this kind of music.  And, in hindsight, he was probably right.

So the reunion was okay, probably hindered by the lack of connectivity one feels when their elementary school, middle school, and high school are all closed, and all of the school newspapers you edited, playbills you appeared in, yearbook photos, and on and on, are probably all in a big landfill out in New Jersey somewhere. 

I also have had the distinction of walking to every school I ever went to, including college, never riding the bus.

For the curious, the play that had them rolling in the aisles back in 1983 was "How To Get Mixed Up In International Intrigue by Just Plotting A Simple Murder."

Until next time, go Titans, and give me a shout at

MCF #6

Microcinema Fest's annual filmmaker group picture at Mt. Rushmore, this one taken by (I think) Sharla Linn holding Murray's camera. There were more filmmakers there by half than could roll out of bed, for whatever reasons, for the pic. Posted by Hello

Friday, July 23, 2004

Don Winslow of the Navy

Hey, DVD talk reviewed AMONG US also.  Here's the link, but scroll way, way to the bottom.

I haven't done a meme from The Daily Dirt in a while.  So here's today's, with answers off the top of my head:

1. Do you like your name? Why or why not?

There are a lot of badasses named John.  "Big Bad John."  John Wayne.  Johnny Cash.  John Wesley Hardin.  The list goes on and on.  I didn't like John Oak Dalton so much as a kid, but like it a lot better now.  For one thing, you can google me a lot easier, without getting the science guy or the navy guy or the guy from Survivor.  My parents thought the oak tree lived a long time, and grew to be big and strong (remember, I was born in 1966).  The other choice was, and I'm serious, Bogota Michael Dalton.

2. If you could change the spelling of your name, would you?

No, I don't like "John" without the H.

3. If you could change your whole name, what would you change it to?

King John Oak Dalton.

4. What girls' name do you like?

The other girl's name we thought of when our daughter Sarah was born was Madeline.

5. What boys' name do you like?

Had Sarah been a boy he would have been Moses.  Though I was partial to Brick.

20th Class Reunion Saturday.  Steroid shot in the butt today to try to clear up massive case of poison ivy in time.  We'll see.  Report back Monday.  Until then, give me a shout at

MCF #5

Me and the soon-to-be-famous Miguel Coyula standing next to some alarming artwork at the Dahl Arts Center for the opening reception of Microcinema Fest. Posted by Hello

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Invasion of the Saucer Men

A little pimping:  A good review from Cinescape Magazine of AMONG US, available for your viewing pleasure right here

Somebody found my blog by typing in the following:

Does California always observe daylight savings time?


Tis of little importance

Truer words were never spoke.

Give me a shout at

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

MCF #4

The Elks Theater, hosting the Microcinema Fest, with Sheri Carter, Roman Berman, Jason Santo, Sharla Linn, Stacy Monty. Posted by Hello

Damnation Alley

It looks like RAZORTEETH, a pirahna script I rewrote for the Polonia Brothers, is going into post; and Christopher Sharpe's SEX MACHINE, a Gen-X Frankenstein story that I did a little polishing on, is just getting underway.  I'm eager to see both of these projects come to fruition.

PETER ROTTENTAIL and AMONG US seem to be popping up everywhere, if you're looking for them.

I'm pretty well done with my annual summer spec script and am getting a few nibbles on some other potential projects.

Poison ivy between my fingers, so that's it for typing today.  Give me  a shout at


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

MCF Sunday

Man, what a lot of great movies at Microcinema Fest.  Miguel Coyula's one part Shakespeare, one part Orwell RED COCKROACHES cleaned up with seven awards, including the coveted new Panasonic camera, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.  Even though he likes to make movies where people kill their moms and sleep with their sisters.  TOM'S WIFE, about an abused woman in rural Texas in the 30s, clocked in with four well-deserved awards.  My pal Tyler Wilson's short ABOMINATION netted two, and the very moving AMERICAN INDIAN GRAFFITI snagged two as well.  All in all 25 awards spread among a handful of films.  It really gave me a spark to keep going with my own work, and go to another level.
I spent the weekend cleaning out the easement behind my house, pruning branches and shrubs, and ended up with a big-ass case of poison ivy, all over my face, arms, and legs.  Just in time for my 20th Class Reunion on Saturday.  Just what I needed!
Give me a shout at

Monday, July 19, 2004

MCF Saturday

More movies Saturday at Microcinema Fest in Rapid City.
ORANGES--REVENGE OF THE EGGPLANT:  A crazy comedy featuring various fruits and vegetables trying to foil an archvillain's revenge scheme.  Opens with an eye-popping army invasion of "Bananastan" but after a while the story becomes involving enough that you sort of forget how much puppetry work and scale modeling went into every single scene.  Really a neat achievement.
AMERICAN INDIAN GRAFFITI:  Technically poor, emotionally rich story about two best friends who share tragic pasts, and the various people whose lives intertwine theirs, was probably the worst shot feature I saw in the festival but the most emotionally resonant.  I actually was teary-eyed a few times--though they were manly tears.  The feature won awards for best supporting actor and screenplay.  If they get their tech in line these guys are really going to have something good in the future.
INDULGENCE:  Goofy dark comedy feature about a straight-arrow kid who meets a cute nurse and decides to chuck all his inhibitions in order to win her, leading to a long night of debauchery.  Offbeat to say the least, but with an uplifting message that you don't need to drink paint to fit in.
THECAMPUSHOUSE.COM:  I only sat in for about half of this by-the-numbers horror feature about a spooky house that of course some people decide to host a reality show in.
EXHUMED:  Inventive zombie outing looks to be three seperate shorts--samurai fighting zombies, a 40s film noir undead piece, and a 70s-flavored drive-in-looking post-apocalyptic undead battle--but you find out that all three are tied together, although shot in wildly different fashions.  Unique presentation, neat storytelling.
More tomorrow; until then, give me a yell at

Friday, July 16, 2004

MCF: Friday

As I said yesterday, I watched TEN features and shorts the Friday of Microcinema Fest.  Here are my capsule reviews:
SOLACE:  Nicely done short about a family's loss, almost all done with music and photos.
UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS:  Solid little action-drama about various lives intersecting in a college town, including a drug-dealing prof and an addled thug.  Suffered a bit from what I call "young dude's writing syndrome," where you have extremely hot girls falling for nerds, girls begging forgiveness from guys, and other things you find out never happens in the real world once you're old and married.  Nicely done, but you can't help but think how much shorter the movie would have been if someone had dialed "911" on at least three occasions.
TOM'S WIFE:  After "Best of Fest" winner RED COCKROACHES this feature cleaned up the most awards with a tale about a young abused wife in 30s Texas whose fortunes begin to change with exposure to the outside world.  Moving story, beautifully shot.  The acting took home best actress and supporting actress prizes, as well as one for cinematography.
MURDER:  ACT ONE:  Noir short that was a bit muddied visually and thematically.
THE PASSAGE:  Great action set pieces, but thick-headed plot-wise; grim revenge tale has great fight scenes and is visually striking but features too many of those shots where cool guys wearing sunglasses (inside), with guns to their sides and leather coats flapping, walk around in slow-motion badass mode.  Stars young guys who probably couldn't wait to show it to the guys who picked on them in high school.
LADY X-BEAUTY, BULLETS, AND INTRIGUE IN BOSTON:  A clever spy short from Jason Santo, part of the "Lady X" online series, nicely shot and acted.
LAFFO:  An audience fave, but I couldn't understand this short featuring a clown getting beat up by the mafia in a TV studio.  Generation gap, I guess.
DARK EXPOSURES:  Admirably recreated noir short about a hardboiled photog could have been lifted right from the 40s; but seemed a bit emotionally aloof, more of an exercise in noir style than a short.
WILL'S DR.:  Polished slice of life short about a homeless guy, and a kid who strikes up a conversation with him.
SHOCKHEADED:  Disturbing, almost unpalatable, horror feature riffs on 70s Scorsese and Shaw Brothers and 90s Lynch while shooting on what looks like 80s technology.  A guy is dispatched to find a girl he spots on a pirate porn/snuff channel and ends up getting in too deep.  This and RED COCKROACHES were probably talked the most about in the lobby afterwards.
Tomorrow, I watch some more stuff.  Until then, yell back at

MCF #3

Jason Santo, his wife Sheri, and I after teaching our "Film Boot Camp" at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City. Grateful crowds still inside. Posted by Hello

Thursday, July 15, 2004

MCF: Thursday

Yesterday I mentioned that I spent the first two days out in South Dakota teaching a Film Camp with Jason Santo of, at the lovely Dahl Arts Center. On Thursday the film fest started in earnest, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time to fill in as a judge, as the praise from those who enjoyed our film classes was still echoing from the Black Hills. I saw 18 features and shorts over the next three days, and will try to give a brief account of them over the next few entries.

CHARLIE CHARLIE: The first short of the festival, a whimsical story, kinetically shot, about a girl's active daydreaming life. Nicely done, and I was eager to see it, as its director (Shogo) is DPing SEX MACHINE from Christopher Sharpe that I recently did a rewrite over.

NUMBO: Caustic Aussie comedy short has hyper guy finding out his lady love is moving to the trailer down the road with a new beau (I forget what they call trailer parks there, but it's a trailer park), with attempted homicide and a few dance numbers ensuing.

ABOMINATION: Two cops find a couple of kids parking in an empty lot, but aren't too pleased with who they find, in this powerful short. Tyler Wilson snagged "best drama short" with this one, and rightfully so; it was excellently shot and presented in a sophisticated manner, with lots of energy. I was especially surprised as Tyler (who roomed next door to me in the dorms) seemed to need at least twelve hours of sleep a day, and couldn't stay awake more than a few hours at a stretch. But he must be full-bore on the movie set.

BREAKFAST WITH THE COLONEL: Rough-hewn but gut-busting feature tells of an Orwellian future as seen through the eyes of one slacker who basically ends up joining the rebellion because he's too lazy to get up and go to work. Lots of funny moments and a fully-realized worldview, although the ending cheats a bit.

TERRARIUM: A throwback to old-school sci-fi, done with a lamentably straight face, has a batch of astronauts getting picked off one by one by some rubber-suited monsters after crash-landing on an inhospitable planet. Done with a lot of heart and a lot of effort, but earned a lot of catcalls from the audience.

RED COCKROACHES: I knew this one was going to be big when I saw it a while back, but the audience was stunned by this totally original tale of incest and matricide in an acid rain-soaked future Earth. It is a $2,000 movie that looks like a two million dollar movie. The director, Miguel Coyula, was a very nice guy, despite his choice of subject matter, so I will bear him no hard feelings when he rockets to superstardom. He was one of my roommates during the festival, and I told him on the last day to remember who had shared his bed all week when he became famous. Okay, so it was a bunk bed, but I was grasping at straws.

The next day I watched (gulp)ten movies. More tomorrow. Until then, give me a shout at

MCF #2

The South Dakota Film Commission tour of Custer State Park, near where "Dances with Wolves" was shot. Roman Berman, Stacy Monty, Jeremy Neander, Jon Solita, Jason Santo (crouching), Miguel Coyula, Wally Fong, me, Sheri Carter. Kevin Costner, not pictured. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Return from Rapid City

My blog's brief silence was a result of being at Microcinema Fest in sunny Rapid City, South Dakota last week. Two days of teaching and 18 movies later and I'm back in the real world.

Teaching the "Film Boot Camp" at the Dahl Arts Center with Jason Santo proved very rewarding. We had between 20-30 people there both days, local students and adults, and covered a wide range of topics lickety-split. I hope they got as much of a charge from our presentations as I did getting to meet so many interested and interesting people. The best part of microcinema is that you get to hear the voices that generally go unheard. I hope some of these people gird their loins, pick up a camera, and leap over the precipice.

Today I'm catching up on everything that went fallow in my absence; more tomorrow.

Until then, give me a yell at

MCF #1

The Magnificent Seven (Jeremy Neander, Jon Solita, Jay Neander, Miguel Coyula, me, Tyler Wilson, Wally Fong) at Mt. Rushmore, the last day of Microcinema Fest. We were the first to land at the sparkling NAU dorms, and thus male bonded. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Live from Rapid City

So last night I was at a bar with some filmmakers, and as is the will of a cluster of filmmakers the "Top Five" list came out, and I went first and offered DR. STRANGELOVE, SUNSET BOULEVARD, THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI, STALAG 17, and MANHATTAN. Then came some from other people, and this list included REAL GENIUS, RETURN OF THE JEDI, THE GOONIES, and many others that were hard to hear because my ears were bleeding.

Then a filmmaker I admire named Jason Santo, who was willing to defend the honor of THE ABYSS and 2010 with a broken beer bottle, observed that his favorite directors are people like Spielberg and Zemeckis, and mine are people like Kurosawa and Truffaut, yet he is making penetrating dramas about the human condition and I just streeted a killer rabbit movie called PETER ROTTENTAIL. So faced with this brutal self-awareness I blindly groped for my beer, which I might have anyway.

But here's what I think. I once read the screenplay for THE PLAYER by Michael Tolkin, and in his introduction he mentioned (and I am paraphrasing here) that a lot of people go to L.A. loving Bergman and then end up making b-movies, thus inadvertently infusing them with self-loathing and cynicism; and that the trick was to love Bergman and love b-movies both and be able to apply the sensibilities of one to the other. That's where I hope I am; but it's the public that votes, so here's hoping.

Give me a shout at

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


My wife and I had a nice getaway weekend at Brown County State Park, a lovely spot in Southern Indiana, staying at the Abe Martin Inn; tempting fate, as a visit there twelve years ago on the night of our fifth wedding anniversary ended up in a trip to the emergency room in nearby Columbus, and a doctor telling me "Wow, that's the first life or death surgery I ever had." Even though we were initially chilled by seeing the SAME GUY working at the front desk, we enjoyed horseback riding, hiking, et al, and if you want to be jealous of my go-go Hollywood lifestyle, then all you have to do is follow this link to see where we ate dinner, one of the top five dinners I have had in my life, and I have not been known to miss many fine dinners. I had a bison steak. A nice recharge for the days ahead, and hopefully a new bout of creative energy.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Phase IV

I have to give a shout out to this guy, who gave my blog a nice review over at his blog. His is worth a look as well, an interesting read.

I'm getting a lot of mail about PETER ROTTENTAIL, and I've heard it's selling well. And to think I almost didn't take the rewrite job! The Polonia Brothers mentioned it shortly after I carried some heavy equipment over a rickety old "Indiana Jones" -type bridge while hanging out on the set of AMONG US, and I think my mind wasn't entirely clear, being somewhat paralyzed by fright. I remember telling them I wasn't sure if I could help them with a giant killer rabbit movie but I would look it over.

Soon enough John Polonia's original draft came my way via mail, a real Frankenstein monster fused out of a typed earlier script called PSYCHO CLOWN and some handwritten new pages, then bolted back together. It was a crazy story about a giant rabbit killing people with all kinds of nutty stuff, including pointy carrots. I still wasn't sure what I could do but thought I would give it a try.

I think I'm pretty good with characters and dialogue, so I built up the relationship between the two leads, the relatively straight-laced James and his slacker cousin Lenny, and hung all the killings on an incident at a bad birthday party years before (and we've all had those, or been to them). I think the truth is that if you make real characters viewers can care about you can put them in any sort of bizarre situation and people will go along for the ride. And that appears to have been proved out here, as people seem to like the two main characters quite a bit in PETER (helped quite a lot by their charismatic performances, I think).

Then I laced it with a lot of raunchy humor that I figured I could blame on John Polonia if people got offended, but I ended up with solo writing credit, so I have nobody to blame but myself.

I think the first scene that was shot was when Peter rises from the grave after a couple of teenagers, in typical fashion, read out of an evil book. I remember Mark Polonia called me that night and said they were a little worried about how it would turn out, and I answered, "Why are you guys telling me, you THOUGHT UP the freaking thing!" But the ball really got rolling the next time they shot and I think they immediately felt better.

And I think it turned out quite funny, if not downright bizarre, with some good performances. If you check it out, give me a yell at