Wednesday, August 07, 2019

ATLiH: Walking The Concrete Carpet

An ALL THE LOSERS IN HOLLYWOOD entry from 2006...

Thursday night I went to a movie premiere. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were no shows, and I didn’t get a chance to joke with Bill Murray or Jack Black. Entertainment Tonight didn’t scream for an interview with me, and I wasn’t blinded by a million flashes from press cameras. I didn’t get a chance to ask either recently single Kate Hudson or just divorced Denise Richards to ask if anyone was sitting next to them (and might I?). You see, this wasn’t one of those fancy red carpet movie premieres in Westwood or at Grauman’s Chinese in Hollywood... this one was held at the Culver Studios (where David O’Selznick’s huge mansion offices sit, you’ve seen it in the credits before GONE WITH THE WIND and NOTORIOUS) - it’s part of Sony. That still sounds pretty good, right? But this was a rented screening room - no red carpet, just a concrete sidewalk. And the movie wasn’t some big studio blockbuster, it was the latest film from legend-in-his-own-mind Donny Vitamin.

I *have* gone to those red carpet premieres a couple of times. The late Chris Penn was a friend of an actor I’ve worked with a few times, so I walked the red carpet at the premiere of MULLHOLLAND FALLS as part of his entourage. On the real red carpet it’s mostly about not ruining any photographer’s shot of Nick Nolte - basically trying not to be seen on the red carpet.

Here, no one cared if I was on the concrete sidewalk except the security guard who made sure my name was on the list before pointing out where to park the car.

This was a Donny Vitamin movie.

I don’t know where I first met Donny. Might have been at the American Film Market, might have been at a Film Artist’s Network meeting. Donny is a character. He has this comb-over-fro.... kind of reminds you of Trump’s hair. Poofy. And he's always popping vitamins... I think he told me he gets regular B-12 injections. Donny has been around forever, working as a comic book writer and cartoon writer. His big claim to fame: he wrote the novelization of a huge hit movie because he went to college with the director. That novelization became a best seller in paperback due to the film being a massive hit... and a career is born!

I saw Donny’s first film on the big screen TV in a coffee shop (also a premiere with no red carpet) - it was a *musical* about a guy who gets transported back to cave man times and has to escape stop-motion dinosaurs left over from some other movie and a clan of amazon-like cave girls lead by a too-old-for-a-loin-cloth Karen Black. If you can get past the song and dance aspect, the film is... clumsy and not all that well made. Compare it to DINOSAUR ISLAND, co-directed by my friend Fred Olen Ray and my arch-enemy Jim Wynorski which is a fun 6 pack movie about Navy guys who get shipwrecked on an island filled with half nekkid women and man eating dinosaurs. ISLAND isn't going to win any Oscars or make any ten best lists, but it's a pleasant waste of time. It uses the same elements as in Donny's - just put to better use. ISLAND is like an R rated Edgar Rice Burroughs story (and, as a kid reading those books, the Frazetta covers and descriptions of what the women were hardly wearing - the books were R rated to begin with). ISLAND is a fun T&A film, Donny's movie is... a really inept musical.

Oddly enough, the cinematographer on DINOSAUR ISLAND was the cinematographer on Donny’s new film which is a sequel to his previous (low budget horror) movie that I watched on DVD - which was crudely made, but featured lots of naked women. The sequel is more of the same. Basically a soft core porn film about an aging museum curator who discovers an ancient amulet that allows her to recapture her youth as long as she has simulated lesbian sex with a different stripper-trying-to-act every night. Of course, the museum is some cinderblock building with a nick-knack shelf fill of Egyptian junk, and the editor’s office at a big tabloid newspaper is a desk and chair shoved up against the wall in some warehouse. In one of the first scenes, two strippers show up at the opening of the mummy exhibit at the museum. What were they doing there? They acted like strippers, with air-head dialogue about liking old stuff. You know what they were doing there? They were setting up a pointless simulated lesbian sex scene after they leave the museum. What does that have to do with the story? Nothing. Did they have to be air-head strippers? Nope - but, you know, all air-head strippers have lesbian sex in their free time. This is so far past lazy writing I don’t know what to call it!

The film had zero production value - as if it was thrown together at the last minute. The dialogue was awful and the story made no sense at all - in one scene a captured tabloid reporter is wrapped like a mummy for no apparent reason, except that it would be cool to have her unwrapped in the very next scene. They can't even come up with a *bad* excuse to wrap her up! Characters stumble into scenes without reason or motivation... and the whole film looks cruddy. Obviously shot in a warehouse, without anyone caring enough to make it look like whatever location it’s supposed to be in the story.

Before the film, Donny did a little intro where he told us the film was shot for $100k in a week. Now, that isn’t much time to shoot a film, but my CYBERZONE (DROID GUNNER) film was shot in 9 days (a week and an extra weekend) and it looks pretty good. It’s also a sci-fi action flick with space ship battles and all kinds of other time consuming production value elements. As for the $100k budget, afterwards I wondered what they did with the money. Seriously. I’ve seen films made for half that budget that looked much bigger and, well, competent. Since the whole thing was shot in a warehouse in a week, we aren’t talking much in the way of cost. Cast was non-SAG, crew was probably minimal... where did the money go? This terrible film a friend of mine made, SLAUGHTERHOUSE MASSACRE, was shot for a third of their budget in 12 days with lots of gore FX... and a couple of nekkid women. Oh, and we rented a small town location for a chase and did stunts and had a room full of sides of beef, plus a tower of pig heads and some other cool production value stuff. We *built* sets! Even when things went wrong, like losing the school at the last minute, they built a classroom set that looks like a real classroom. It was built in a warehouse, by the way. But there are classroom seats and a chalkboard and the walls are dressed like a classroom. This was all done at the last minute... and looks a million times better than anything in Donny's film.

It seemed as if the only reason this film was made was the simulated lesbian sex stuff. Now, I like nekkid girls as much as the next guy. I can understand why a middle aged man with a bad comb-over would want to make a movie filled with nekkid girls in their 20s. But why make it a *bad* movie? It seemed as if the film part was just an excuse for the nekkid girls. No effort was put into anything, except rounding up nekked girls. The thing that pissed me off the most was that tabloid office, because with a little effort they could have made it look like a real office - but they didn’t. Porn films have better production value - and who cares whether a location is convincing in a porn film?

Sure, this is just a cruddy T&A film, but why did it have to be a bad one? It’s being sold as a horror film, so why not spend a *minute* on the horror plot? Or some real horror? Or some suspense? Why not make the sets convincing? The story convincing? The characters more than moronic cliches (porn films have more characterization than this film - really!)? The leading lady’s acting was bad on purpose - she was given air-head dialogue and then played it so over-the-top that *cartoon characters* are more realistic. Why *try* to make it crappy? Why not make it the best it can be within the confines of budget and schedule and talent? Donny told me he spent twice as much time writing the script as he did making the movie - and the result is something that’s worse than a porn script! Those lucky plumbers and pizza delivery guys have better motivation and dialogue... and more realistic acting. If you’re going to go to all of the trouble to make a film, why not at least *try* to make it good?

You know that scene in ED WOOD where Johnny Depp watches the terrible scene and says “Perfect!” - that’s an untalented film maker who is passionate about his work. At least Ed Wood *cared*. The thing I don’t understand is when they don’t care. I once had a director *read the newspaper* on set, yelling “Action!” and “Cut!” when nudged by an assistant. What is this guy doing in the business? This is my big beef about Donny's film and many other films - the people making them don’t care.

I think you can have nekkid girls a third your age in the film and *still* make it a good film. Even if you have limited talent, if you *try* to do good work, if you *care*, at least the film will be the best you can make it. It may not be great, but it will be something.

After the film was over, there was a little reception with wine and veggie platters in the parking lot. Many cast members were there - including the strippers, who were more intelligent in real life than on screen (they had to be). I think more thought was put into the veggie platters than the film... but I was confused by the whole screening. Why would you rent a theater at Sony to show this film? Why not just collect your check and pretend you never made it? After a few minutes of mingling with sub-Z grade “celebs” (from the Rock Riddle cult - I will do an All The Losers post on them in the future), I bolted down that concrete carpet to the parking garage and got out of there.

Even if you are doing a low budget exploitation movie, you have to *care*. You have to make it the best movie possible at whatever your budget is. Donny only made one film after this... and then people stopped giving him money to make movies. I have no idea what he's doing now.

- Bill

Names have been changed to protect the... well, not exactly innocent!


deepstructure said...

it's amazing to me the kind of horrible films that get made - even in b movie land. but then again, if you don't care about the quality of the films, there's obviously nothing about the market that will make you. since obviously these films still get bought and distributed.

aggiebrett said...

So what is the purpose of these movies? Are people buying them/ Paying to see them? Surely there is a return SOMEWHERE, else why piss away the money and resources to make them?

My brain hurts.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean no porn panel posting for a while?!

English Dave said...

There were strippers there? And you left????

I have much to learn.


Good post, Bill.

Even if the story sucks and you CARE...

So might a few others...


Anonymous said...

Even Troma seems to show a love of film, and (usually) pride in the craft, in their movies. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

You see, this is the problem:

They didn't hire me. I write horror and know lots of strippers. I'm a girl too and I'd have stripped for free. I'm that desperate to get a film made ; )

Sadly, quite possibly people would pay money NOT to see that last part...

wcmartell said...

Dude, these were not prime strippers, but cast offs with odd implants and so much "fat repositioning" that their bee-stung lips probably tasted like butt. I scrammed!

- Bill

Darkstream said...

Hello. I just wanted to drop a quick comment and let you know that I'm a big fan of your script secrets page. I've read it faithfully for over a year and have found it to be most helpful.
Thanks for taking the time to help others chase their dreams.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to second the thanks on the script secrets page.

I'd also love to see a blog post on work habits. How long on average do you take for a rough draft (or how long do most screenwriters). How long is prep/research and how long is actually writing that sort of nuts and bolts stuff.

wcmartell said...

You know, I need to generate some new Tuesday tips... maybe I'll throw some work habits stuff into the mix.

- Bill

wcmartell said...

leif - the porn panel post is up.

- Bill

wcdixon said...

Thanks for the stop by Bill, but I still like your stories better.

I've always said...nobody 'tries' to make a bad movie or tv series, but sometimes shit happens or limitations get the better of you or whatever, but nobody 'tries' to be bad...

Maybe you've proven me wrong.

And I've seen those stripper/actresses of which you speak --- ugh...was in LA interviewing/casting for a low budget faux reality show and spent a day across from several - and they were scary. Not just in appearance, but in their arrogance or blindness or something to how untalented and unattractive they were, but they acted like they were in the game...Hollywood insiders...

There must be a whole sub-culture there of fringe players and hangers on and wannabe's - part of me was repulsed and part of me fascinated...a documentary perhaps?


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