I just got back from the set of ISO (In Search Of), the Bigfoot movie I have been referencing for a while; the distributor posted the title on Facebook, so it's Facebook Official, which is the only kind that seems to count these days. And of all the title iterations I think it's my favorite, because it plays off of both ISO as a film speed and also the old quasi-documentary TV show.
And that's where ISO lives, as a gang of Super-8-loving teens get tangled up in a mystery involving Bigfoot sightings, sinister hunters, and missing parents. I think I was a good fit to write this one because I was a teenager in the late 70s-early 80s shooting Super-8 movies of my own, and I hope that if the movie doesn't explicitly give off that vibe I hope it implicitly does, with no cell phones and internet but with muscle cars and high fives.
In the late 70s I was drawing a comic book featuring me and all of my friends fighting a war against the Russians in the far-off 90s when a friend decided to do a couple of film adaptations. I agreed because at that time I was admiring from afar a group of older kids making Super-8 James Bond homages and elaborate sci-fi films (and at least two of these guys went on to work in the industry, one being pretty successful). Being natural-born Hoosiers, one of our films featured a basketball game between the Russians and Americans to decide the fate of a small town. The other was I think something about diffusing a bomb and featured a soundtrack you could play on a cassette tape right alongside the silent film.
Christmas 1980 found Santa bringing me my own Super-8 set-up and me and my brother went on to make a ton of short films together, Star Wars and Ghostbusters and Batman parodies as well as G-men movies and vigilante pizza deliverers.
I tried to put nerdy, motor-mouthed me in the film, or maybe a cooler version, with all the things we talked and thought about with movies. I also tried to thread in what it's like to figure out friendships and families and relationships. But of course it's a Bigfoot movie, but it's not the most unbelievable thing in the movie because the lead guys both have girlfriends by the end, whereas I had barely talked to any girls at that time.
I just spend a few paragraphs telling you what I tried to put into it, but I would bet any of my loyal readers 20 bucks there will be at least one Amazon review that reads, simply, "It sucks." If you can't deal with people thinking you suck, don't make a movie.
The other reason I really wanted to write this screenplay was because I would get to hang with two people I have worked with the most over the years, Mark Polonia and Henrique Couto. Mark is a legendary b-movie director, hidden in the wilds of Pennsylvania, who cut his teeth as a young dude in the direct-to-video explosion in the 80s and has directed over 50 movies. Henrique also busted out as a teenager and has been hot in multiple genres with close to 20 movies under his belt. The first screenplay that ever got produced of mine was for Mark (also a Bigfoot movie!) and I have done seven movies for him all told. I have done four movies for Henrique, who acted as Director of Photography for this one. I was the first person either of them had hired to write a screenplay, having written all of their prior ones themselves.
My mind was kind of blown to think we were going to work on a movie together--my lucky 13th screenplay turned into a movie--that I referred to it as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in a previous e-newsletter, and loyal readers helpfully supplied me with a few GIFs. But the b-movie world liked it as well, with over a hundred likes on Facebook and Instagram of a photo of me, Mark, and Henrique, with comments ranging from "B-movie Expendables" to referencing the forming of Marvel Comics The Defenders. I've always said horror fans are the most loyal, and it remains true.
Somebody smarter than me once said that working on a movie set is like being in a war--long periods of boredom with sudden bursts of frenzied activity. I think that's true. I spent a lot of time holding a boom mic or using giant foil-lined bounce cards to reflect the sun onto actors' faces. But it's probably less boring to me because I got to see the movie come to life. Meeting the actors who look exactly like you thought and the ones that are bringing something new to it. What the director thinks you meant by certain scenes. Everybody puts in a little part and makes it something that isn't just me typing at my little corner desk in rural Indiana but is a blend of everybody's thinking.
Being around means you get to answer questions too, like the young actors asking me what the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir was, who Boo Radley was, what Lord of the Flies was about, leaving me to wonder about the state of education for the youth of today. Thankfully I was not there for the film club scene at the school, or I might have died a little inside if I had to explain some of my old movie references.
ISO is like nothing I've ever worked on. It's PG, and features a largely teen cast. It is ostensibly about what Super-8 films meant in my formative years, and what that was like. Today they are finishing shooting in rural Pennsylvania, and I'm back home again in Indiana. I'm eager to see what happens next with this project.