This is the true story of the most spectacular failure of my life, the time I went for broke,swung for the fences, and made a feature film.
It was il delirium tremens dove trattare ten day shoot, cost around ten thousand dollars, and clocked in around 89 minutes.
It was a western. I spent il delirium tremens dove trattare first two years out here temping at a major mortgage company, pretending to be busy in a cube, alternating between the same two pairs of beige slacks and basically hating my life.
But I got the brainy idea to use the money to il delirium tremens dove trattare an independent film. Really, I think the idea germinated in the 20 th Street Writers Group, an informal group of aspiring screenwriters who met irregularly of il delirium tremens dove trattare I was a member. I had once met Christopher McQuarrie, the writer of The Usual Suspects, the weekend before he won the Oscar, and he advised me to never pay attention to budgets or limit your writing according to what could be done conceptually.
Il delirium tremens dove trattare all my scripts had gone that route, big epic things that only Cecil B. Demille or James Cameron could put together.
A biopic about the abolitionist John Brown, a post-apocalyptic adventure about a kick ass trucker out to avenge the death of his dog, a story of rugby players in World War I Scotland. But with this money coming in, and with my dear wife willing to take the plunge with me and let me use the kitty for this il delirium tremens dove trattare movie, I started writing to a budget, thinking about what I could pull off.
I came up with a cool concept for a western that I was sure was gonna revitalize the genre. Westerns of late, I thought, had become bogged down by reality. I wanted to bring the coolness back to them, the muddy, bloody brawls and the insanely rich tough talk that led to the big shootout.
I wanted to write a thinly veiled love story between two guys where the much anticipated kiss was a gundown. Unfortunately when they wake up in the morning, Indians have stolen all the horses, and they have to make their way back to civilization on foot, contending with the threat of attack, the harsh elements, and of course, each other, the whole way. I had gone to school with an absolutely brilliant cinematography student. He lived out in LA now, worked as a set electrician.
He agreed to do it for five hundred bucks. One of the guys in the group was a pretty talented SFX guy, another an editor with a home editing suite. I budgeted the thing, set aside eleven days to shoot. First, with maybe two months to go, my extremely talented DP bailed for the chance to go be an electrician on The Gridiron Gang I think it was.
He took a much better paycheck than I could offer, and continues to work steadily in the industry to this day on A-list productions as a Gaffer, Cameraman, and Electrician.
So be it. I lost his eye. I frankly think we all did. He lined up a meeting with a friend of his, but the guy advised me to ditch the idea of making a feature and just concentrate on a short film. Then, the whole cast and crew…. During a read-through of the script I mentioned that I intended to shoot the entire picture without live sound and foley all the dialogue and sound FX later.
I argued that this was the way spaghetti westerns had always been shot, but I guess nobody liked the idea of trying to dub voices in later. The big worry was it would look stupid and amateurish, like a badly dubbed kung fu movie. I think this was the part where I failed my movie.
It was mine. Mostly my money, my vision, but I caved. If nobody wanted to do it that way, what could I do? I scrambled to research boom mics and sound equipment, and I think, in the end, I was ill-prepared to shoot live sound and the end result il delirium tremens dove trattare for it. The rattling of shingles on an old cabin by a howling desert wind can be evocative, but not when your actors are shouting over it. The sound quality of Meaner Than Hell varies pretty wildly from scene to scene.
So game day comes. I could not write Tom as a character if I tried. When he sent me his portfolio, it il delirium tremens dove trattare pictures of him wrestling with fucking tigers. Il delirium tremens dove trattare had worked for a time as a wild animal trainer for the shows in Las Vegas. He was a funny, funny guy, into Alice Cooper and his van. He was my pick for Il delirium tremens dove trattare from his first audition.
Skin like leather, crazy eyes, I think his biggest role had been in Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD. My pick for Picaro Gonnoff was a tough one. I left the ethnicity, nationality, body type, appearance, everything entirely to chance. I wanted to craft the role around the actor I chose. It was a hard pick for me between three guys, one of whom nailed the dangerousness of Picaro, the other who nailed the Tuco-esque craziness and humor, but only one of whom I thought could portray the balance between the two — be a charming, funny asshole one minute and be grinding his heel in your face the next.
That was Jared Cohn credited as Jared Michaels. Jared had a Colin Ferrel kinda il delirium tremens dove trattare, but he brought this outrageous faux-southern accent that just won me over.
I remember it was a long take of the two of them stumbling down the gully into the foreground. It began with lots of negative space which the characters then gradually filled as they approached. I was proud of it, and apparently it alleviated their fears, because they both crowed over it and never questioned my framing again.
Well, storyboards which I swiftly abandoned as the day wore on and the light in the gully began to fade. The second problem I ran into was my own insane scheduling. I really thought I could cram all these scenes into a set number of hours.
I reverted to a simple three shot set up for most of the early campfire scenes one shot of each speaker, medium shot of the two of them. I killed my minivan battery probably three times running the lights off of it. I remember too that Thomas had a hard time delivering his lines over the sound of the engine which he swore he could hear but nobody else could and we had to keep backing the van up behind il delirium tremens dove trattare until he was happy.
At the end of the shoot, my buddy Tom threw the wanted poster prop into the fire. He had thought we were done with it. Happy accidents. We pitched some tents and slept out there for about three or four hours and I got them il delirium tremens dove trattare again to shoot the rest. Two of the guys who had been rendered corpses needed to leave, but one of them was in the shot and I had to shoot several takes around the guy lying there dead and eventually getting scalped.
I also remember this was the day my good friend Jeff Carter was scheduled to show up at the extremely remote cabin location of Ballarat in Death Valley to render a couple of the guys into living corpses for a dream sequence. The shoot felt so bad, I nearly abandoned the idea.
I very nearly went home without heading to the cabin, but decided at the last minute to do it anyway. When we il delirium tremens dove trattare up at the cabin, something il delirium tremens dove trattare three hours late, Jeff was sitting there with his makeup kit on the porch of the little store run by the only two residents of Ballarat, a rawboned old father and son pair.
God bless that guy. That first day, nobody talked much on the drive home, and when I climbed into my bed I broke down when my wife asked me how it was going did Sam Peckinpah cry like a girl so much while shooting The Wild Bunch? I remember saying I felt like I was trying to paint with boxing gloves on. I was in over my head.
The next day one of the actors slept late and we lost an hour knocking on il delirium tremens dove trattare door and windows. That was one il delirium tremens dove trattare the most fun nights I ever had. At this point in the story, Tope and Picaro are holed up in a remote cabin. And in the middle of that laugh, Picaro produces a hidden Derringer and blasts Tope through the face.
It was written to be a jarring moment, and of course I knew it was coming, but Jesus Christ, I swear, when it did…. We had to beat the sundown to get the rest of this sequence finished. So I, in a t-shirt, dove down to the ground and rolled around first to show him it was OK. You know il delirium tremens dove trattare made me do that? But after that, and after I expressed such unbridled exuberance for what they were doing, it was like all of us were on the same page, and we were killing it.
We zipped through the scenes. A gust of wind blew a cloud of particles into my wide angle lens and I unscrewed the thing and handed it over to my buddy Tom from kindergarten. We il delirium tremens dove trattare revolving, hunched around that cabin, il delirium tremens dove trattare the footage like war photographers.
We shot the hell out of that scene and it was goddamned beautiful. So beautiful that years later, when I brought a promised DVD copy of the finished product to the two guys that ran the Ballarat story, I walked through that ruined cabin half of it is collapsed nowand I started crying like I had PTSD or something.
When we finished, the sun was plunging into the desert and all the land was painted orange, il delirium tremens dove trattare out of the mountains a flock of bats came spiraling out across the desert to light on a wading pool the residents kept out there behind their trailer.
They whipped all around you, little flying mice, swarming erratically but taking no interest in you. It looked great, but I made the mistake of telling him he could keep the black hat that was part of his costume, so when he was supposed to get drenched in blood, he kept protecting that goddamned hat. We spent the night in some il delirium tremens dove trattare freezing cabins one of which John Wayne had apparently stayed in at some pointmy friends playing il delirium tremens dove trattare and drinking beer, smoking weed with the cast.
Stayed up late, had a great time, got up at the crack and went to shoot the final scenes of the movie on the steps of a period church. So I put my eldest son in a black wig, and my buddy Dan, who is Mexican, and a guy named Maeis who was the only il delirium tremens dove trattare that came to the Indian casting and was Middle Eastern or something. I budgeted for three guys. Jared brought me one, a guy named Richard Sallee. We put him in Apache costume, and set him front and center to offset the questionable Indians.
I think he worked out great. Plus he got paid three times what I offered him since he was the only guy there.