"Not 'Hollywood Independent' - writer John Oak Dalton is the real Real Thing." --Cinema Minima."Very weird and unpopular b-movies and comics."--Blogalicious. "After watching the film I am left to wonder if he had some childhood trauma he is not telling us about."--IMDB user review. "Screenwriter John Oak Dalton wanted to be in Hollywood. Instead, he's in the rustic kitchen above the Germania General Store, stirring a pot of boiling hot dogs."
--The Harrisburg Patriot-News.
Tonight we are putting the final polish on "A Postcard from Farmland," the short I DP'd for the show "Small Town Scenario." It is debuting two weeks from today at the Community Center in beautiful downtown Farmland, Indiana. The short will be accompanied by about a twenty-minute "Behind the Scenes" segment that undoubtedly will show me jumping up from the railroad tracks to get away from an oncoming train (cool shot, though), leaning way out from the roof of a downtown building for another shot, and other dumbassed things. I'm proud of the short, though, and am glad to be able to give something back to my little town. Jesus, though, how did I ever get the nickname "Sparky?" You can read more at the show's web journal, http://reelpie.blogspot.com/.
I'm going to be way, way offline for a week or so. Until then, watch the SEX MACHINE trailer a few more times.
I couldn't believe all the emails I got yesterday after posting the link to the SEX MACHINE trailer. I think I woke up to about a dozen, with more trickling in all day. I think even the picture I posted of me using the outdoor camping shower didn't generate this kind of email.
As much as I would love to put a bunch of spoilers here it is considered more gentlemanly in the screenwriting world not to disclose such things, but suffice to say that two major characters in the trailer are seen only briefly, and two minor characters more significantly. I think Christopher Sharpe was trying to put some misdirection up there. It certainly bears up to repeat viewings, as I can attest.
Just a quick shout to let everyone know that Christopher Sharpe's long-awaited SEX MACHINE teaser trailer is up at: http://www.asphaltplanet.com/sexmachine/blog/. Multiple speeds, no waiting! Workplace friendly, more or less. This is a project I did a rewrite over some time back, but I'm sure all the cool parts belong to Chris.
I just found out that PETER ROTTENTAIL will be shown at the B-Movie Weekend in Syracuse, New York on July 21st.
I got a peek at some of the CGI work for the Polonia Brothers' HELLSHOCK yesterday via email and I think so far, so good.
Last night's editing session for the TV show "Small Town Scenario," with local residents Kevin and me and trained media professional Jeff at the Final Cut station. Note Kevin's enjoyment of my homemade wine as a lubricant to the creative process. Our short movie "A Postcard from Farmland" will be shown in town July 8 at the Community Center. Read more at www.reelpie.com.
Loyal readers know that I sometimes write mystery book reviews for "Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence," a publication associated with the Magna Cum Murder Mystery Conference. For your passing interest, here is my most recent entries, submitted today:
THE FINAL SOLUTION by Michael Chabon The World’s Greatest Detective, unnamed but slyly recognizable, has retreated to solitude during World War II. But a strange mute orphan, and his garrulous parrot, bring his deductive skills back to creaking life in Michael Chabon’s fanciful homage to Sherlock Holmes. Interestingly, it is not the trail of murder, but the missing parrot, that sends the detective on the path once more, trying to solve one final case before his mortal coil expires. Chabon, more known for mainstream fiction like THE ADVENTURES OF CAVALIER AND KLAY, produces more than just a mystery, with ruminations on the war and its effects on the people of Europe. A bit of a curio, and a slender volume, but a nice read.
A WINDOW IN COPACABANA by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza A solid police procedural from Brazilian author Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, translated from Portugese, about a police detective who diligently tries to find out who is putting out hits on other cops and their mistresses, despite opposition from above as to the resolution of the case. Well-written and cleverly plotted, with a likeable protagonist, but of special interest for the insight into another culture and everyday life in Rio de Janeiro, where police corruption, and a men’s mistresses, are commonplace facts of life that have to be dealt with. The most recent entry in an ongoing series from Garcia-Roza.
THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE by Philip Pullman Wry thriller puts a contemporary spin on the traditional English melodrama. Here we find plucky heroine Sally Lockhart, upon the mysterious death of her father, embarking on a death-defying adventure through the sordid back alleys of 19th-Century London, all opium dens and precocious street urchins and mysterious shadows by gaslight. British author Philip Pullman is light on his feet, and spins an interesting story of a missing jewel, an uprising in India, and the drug trades, with a somewhat somber denouement. THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE seems pointed a bit at young adults, but the subject matter is certainly enjoyable by those older, and in some ways perhaps more appropriate.
THE FACE OF THE ASSASSIN by David Lindsey Compelling espionage tale finds a police artist who rebuilds the faces of recovered skulls for criminal cases, shocked to one day discover that he has rebuilt the face of his identical twin—the brother he never knew he had. Somewhat reluctantly, he embarks on a dangerous mission to find out what happened to his lost sibling. In the fashion of Ludlum and LeCarre, there is world-spanning intrigue and plenty of double and triple crosses as our hero is drawn closer to a confrontation with a mounting threat against the United States. Complex, muscular novel with engaging characters and situations.
WEDNESDAY MAY 25--A journalist, with a photog in tow, show up at the set from Harrisburg, the state capitol. They had been nosing around the night before, but stayed through until morning to see the cherry picker shots for the open and close of the feature. But the cherry picker never arrived, and everyone seemed disappointed except the unflappable Mark Polonia, (who has seen more b-movie disasters than Irwin Allen) who simply said, "We'll move on." I had been keeping my eye on the photog, hoping he would get a picture of me in full William Goldman mode, nodding in approval at the Polonias from a discreet location, instead of a shot of me going to pick up the pizzas or picking up all the trash in the church. I really didn't expect to be interviewed, so I was surprised when the journalist climbed into my van as I headed down the road to our lodgings to boil some hot dogs for the cast and crew's lunch. I was chatting along, trying not to talk out of my butt too much, when the reporter asked me if I was interested in going to Hollywood. It seemed like a dizzying anomaly for a moment. I was in our rented rooms above the local general store, boiling hot dogs. That morning, while I was drinking coffee with the locals downstairs, I learned a group of them had chased a mother bear and her three cubs down the main street of town the day before. It was not the William Goldman moment I had hoped for. But I was reminded of a shelf of free paperbacks in the store below, alongside the video rentals and the Polaroids of hunting adventures and the fresh coffee. I had found a Philip K. Dick book I wanted, a welcome find, and left a paperback I had brought. This brought me more happiness than almost anything else all week. I remembered an interview I had given a while back where I recalled that as a child I had never thought about writing the New York Times bestseller but instead thought about my Great American Novel being on a dusty shelf in some out-of-the-way place, and a kid finding it and reading it and thinking: I could do better. I think about my movie experiences the same way. I have always been drawn to the underground, the unheard voices, the photocopied 'zines, the local bands with their homemade cassettes, and so on. Let my movies exist, not under the searchlights of Hollywood, but on a shelf in Germania, Pennsylvania, and let some disenfranchised youth from our great Flyover Country between the two coasts find it for rent, and be inspired to go on the same long, crazy trip I have taken. That great, beautiful country sang by my windows as I took my leave of this latest cinematic adventure and pointed my car towards home.
This past weekend I volunteered for a new television show called "Small Town Scenario," where a TV crew shows up and helps local residents of small towns make a short subject centered around small-town life. Who would have guessed the big city would ever come to my humble home of Farmland, Indiana? Here I am trying to remember that you point the big end towards the actors and you put your eye to the small end. Read more about "Small Town Scenario" at www.reelpie.com.
Here I am at the Chocolate Moose in Farmland, Indiana, with fellow crew members and local actors. I can't decide if my past experience in TV production makes me a ringer of sorts, or a terrible impediment to success. Read more about "Small Town Scenario" at www.reelpie.com.
TUESDAY MAY 24--Today was the first day of shooting at the historic church in little Germania, Pennsylvania. What man of the cloth allowed the demonic twins to have unlimited access to this sacred spot remains a mystery. Though I remembered the ban on cussing at the church from earlier in the pre-production phase, when I had to rewrite the script to take out the bad words. As I pointed out in an early post, if we were going to hell, it wasn't going to be for cussing in a church. I have always been amazed that the good people of the small towns of Pennsylvania--Wellsboro, Ansonia, Germania, and so on--don't rise up with pitchforks and torches and drive the Polonia Brothers across state lines into the wilds of upstate New York. As a for instance, we couldn't get cell service, so Ken VanSant (Lt. Bonham) walked down to a pay phone in front of a mom and pop store. This was unfortunately after the scene where he gets wounded and thus had some bloody bandages on. Apparently this caused a bit of a stir in downtown Germania, a stalwart hunting and fishing community where such injuries are perhaps not uncommon but certainly not welcome. Though later Dave Fife (as a German prisoner) walked into the local honkytonk with a leaking neck wound and a Nazi uniform and apparently didn't cause a stir. But this is what happens when Hollywood comes to town. After a few 12-hour shooting days a mild form of hysteria sets in. This is why you see uncontrolled laughter on blooper reels when nothing is that funny. In a "you had to be there" moment, I was weeping with laughter when Mark Polonia called for quiet on the set, and Brian Berry and Brice Kennedy were in the choir loft, eyes bugging with mock concentration, ever so slowly trying to remove snacks from crackling plastic bags. The funniest thing that happened that you didn't have to be there for, but it helps if you know that Brice Kennedy is from West Virginia, is when Brice threw a mock actor's hissy fit and said he was going back to his trailer, and Dave Fife cracked, "You don't have to go all the way home." Tomorrow, actual journalists come to visit.
MONDAY MAY 23: Today we hauled equipment under two barbed-wire fences to state land behind the Polonia Brothers ancestral home in Ansonia, Pennsylvania. Mark Polonia insisted it was okay but seemed to be keeping his eyes peeled for rangers anyway. This was my first glimpse of D.P. Matt Smith and his low-riding purple van laden with dolly tracks, a jib, and every kind of light setup imaginable, including the low-budget filmmaker's friend the Chinese lantern. People who might scornfully say that the Polonia's movies were all shot with handheld camcorders would come to a reckoning on this day. The authentic costumes and weapons add much, though everyone's shoulders are hunched against the eventual FBI raid, or the appearance of nervous hunters. John Polonia voices his fears that he might have gotten on some unwanted lists by buying Nazi armbands and costumes from casually-perused websites.
Lots of tramping in the woods, with a fog machine providing some spookiness. Mark gives the actors a faceful of leafblower to simulate a "cloud of souls" passing over the troops, and it is amusing to watch people's skin flapping back against their skulls. You sort of come to realize that World War II filmmaking is a lot like the various descriptions of actual battle--long periods of boredom and inactivity spiked with sudden bursts of madness and desperation.
Later we retire to a gravel pit, where I stand down at the bottom and allow Brian Berry and Bob Dennis to lob mock grenades down on me, and I retrieve them take after take. Angling for that "Grenade Wrangler" credit.
Even later we go to John Polonia's basement for some underground stuff, a location seen in more features than any Hollywood backlot. Mark and John decide to scrub a scene where the soldiers accidentally shoot a cat who jumps out in one of those patented scares oft seen in such films. John voices his concern for showing cruelty to animals. Meanwhile, behind him, Jon McBride is pointing out to curious castmembers where he was standing where he was whipped with hooked chains in HOUSE THAT SCREAMED 2, and where Ken VanSant took the machete to the skull in PETER ROTTENTAIL.
Our ragged band returns home late, after about a 14 hour day. Tomorrow, the haunted church.
I renewed my library card today over lunch. What a great feeling. Almost as good as voting, or hearing the Star Spangled Banner before a high school basketball game in Indiana on a snowy Friday night.
But I got a genuine shock when I got an email from Michael Tolkin yesterday. He had written an interesting essay that has helped me over a few rough patches in my humble career, and wrote me about some of my comments about it here at this very blog (as seen way back here). He must have been googling pretty deep to find this dusty basement corner of the Internet, and I appreciate him taking the time to write. I'm not ready to knock my screenwriting hero William Goldman off his pedestal, but Mr. Tolkin's now a close second.
As I predicted, I got eliminated from John Layman's American Idol-style blog competition for being away from the internet last week. It was fun while it lasted, and lasted longer than I thought. I got a pantsload of hits from the fine people at John's site too. Here's what John said:
WEEK SIX LOSER#1: MARY BRICKTHROWER'S THE WRETCHED GIRL WEEK SIX LOSER#2: JOHN OAK DALTON It's not like John Oak Dalton did not warn us. He said he would not be blogging for a while, and then ceased to. However, to use a (blegh!) sports analogy, one does not stop playing the game when you are on the verge of making the playoffs. Sadly, we must bid a fond farewell to JOD. However, it should be mentions, that in recent posts from his blog, John used headers from various Alice Donut song titles, and that did not go unnoticed. I wonder, is John actually a fan, or was he just shamelessly trying to survive the competition. It doesn't matter now, as John Oak Dalton has been eLAYMANated!!! At least JOD goes out with a bang for using Alice Donut songs, while Mary B goes out with a humiliating whimper.
D.P. Matt Smith looks on while the Polonia Brothers and Jon McBride check out his pimped-out rig, dolly tracks, gib, and all. All this crap went over and under a barbed-wire fence. Thankfully I just had a tetanus shot last summer.
SUNDAY MAY 22: I decided to get off the interstate and cut cross-country towards Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, a baseball game murmuring on the radio and the rolling hills easing past my windshield. Soon I arrived in the hometown of those unholy twins of b-moviedom, the Polonia Brothers. I thought the shooting would be done for the day, but learned from Mark Polonia's wife that they have been held up. But soon the cast and crew burst in, chatting excitedly. A planned "guerilla" filmmaking shoot in some local basement locations with permissions of the "don't ask, don't tell" variety went a tad sour when the sprinkler system went off, with flooding ensuing. I asked how things went otherwise, and learned that it had gone well, with one person being cut in half, and another beheaded by an evil priest. And just like that I was down the rabbit hole and back in the world of b-movie filmmaking.
Another publicity shot from HELLSHOCK. Here Brian Berry (HELLSPAWN), Bob Dennis (HOUSE THAT SCREAMED), Ken VanSant (RAZORTEETH), and Bryce Kennedy (HOUSE THAT SCREAMED 2) captures German soldier Dave Fife (PETER ROTTENTAIL). A cast of Polonia Brothers All-Stars, as Dave pointed out.