Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Was A Teenage Production Assistant: Island of the She-Devils Part Two!

Wherein once again you may wish I'd gone for three parts by the time you reach the bottom of this Megapost. Just keep reminding yourself "There's lots of pictures...there's lots of pictures...there's lots of pictures..."

When last we left off - bad news had come down the pike - erstwhile co-producer Lewis had returned from Parts Unknown - but with none of the $2000-$3000 he'd promised to raise for the production of Island of the She-Devils.

I wasn't happy that he'd come back empty handed - but that was as far as that went - but then I did get upset when Lewis acted very "la de da" about it - acting as though he'd never really meant to get my hopes up and acting as though I was taking all this much too seriously.

I fired Lewis. Seriously.

That left a hole in the crew as Lewis was supposed to be co-producer - and that left a hole in the cast as Lewis was supposed to play Dr. James Hyphen-Hyphen. It also left us with no money whatsoever to make the movie.

I decided to press on and try to find alternate funding. (What I wouldn't have given for a IndieGoGo / Kickstarter back then!)

We kept on rehearsing the script - and as I'd already been reading Dr. Hyphen-Hyphen's role throughout Lewis's absence - everybody said I should just go on and take the role myself. So I did. I went out and bought a goofy looking "explorer's outfit" all in khaki and a great hat to wear - and Dr. Hyphen-Hyphen was truly born.

Dr. James Hyphen-Hyphen

As far as funding - I went and made pitches to a few working film professionals in town. Despite my incredibly compelling pitch and the obvious quality of the product - no one contributed. In reality - they were all looking to involve themselves in the really serious type indie filmmaking that might never be seen by anyone but film festival judging committees. I on the other hand wanted to make a goofy movie that would evoke memories of turning on some old Roger Corman flick on The Late Late Show or renting a brand new Jim Wynorski or Fred Olen Ray movie on VHS.

As the fall approached, I had zero investors. I was working on local TV commercials with my old buddy Chuck - the guy who got me my first extra work on Amos-n-Andrew - and I was continuing to do little bits of extra work here and there (I'll try to cover those in a separate post). So I had a little money. More importantly - I had a special little piece of plastic in my wallet. No. Not one of those.

A credit card. And heaven help me - I used it.

Although that's not my name on the card, weirdly it
is my credit card number!

I worked out a deal with Chuck to rent his equipment - it wasn't cheap, and was going to represent an investment of several hundred dollars. I also employed two young men to provide me some makeup effects - my buddy Jeb and a gentleman we referred to as Hamster. They made up a list of what they'd need to craft all of the effects in the script - and I paid a makeup house somewhere $500 for it to be sent to us. Once it arrived they went to work. One thing that Hamster was bringing to the party was some prop tool molds that he'd been bequeathed at the end of production on Super Mario Brothers a couple of months previously. He had molds to make foam rubber pliers and screwdrivers - stuff so the prop toolbelts the actors wore could be filled with these lighter models - but none of them really interested me. However, he did have something that did interest me - a mold for a sledgehammer head - when I discovered that I promptly wrote in a sledgehammer battle as part of the climax of the movie.

All these years later - my foam rubber sledgehammer
is still in great shape! And don't you love the axe handle!

Next up was wardrobe. I had decided that the She-Devils would be running around the island in designer swimwear - allowing each woman appearing in the movie to wear her own swimwear that they already felt comfortable in and that they knew made them look good. As we'd be shooting outdoors I told the girls they'd wear high heeled pumps so they wouldn't endanger bare feet out in the boonies. To explain this in the movie I'd written in a scene where the scientists find an old crate in the She-Devil village that has stenciled on the side "Swimwear and Shoes for Sports Illuminated photo shoot" - a scene that eventually got cut as I never got around to getting someone to build/get me a crate, let alone get anything stencilled on it. Not explaining it just made it sillier and more fun I reasoned. I know better now.

In any case, I had Renee and Chantelle come by my place with some bikinis to show me - and WOW what a great idea I had with this wardrobe choice! However, the girls balked at my high heeled pumps idea and asked to show me another idea they'd had - so when they came out in their bikinis to show me how they looked - they were instead wearing - cowboy boots! Cowboy boots were still a fashion must have at the time - so every female who appeared in the movie had them! And as goofy as it sounds - it worked. It gave the girls something more structurally sound and safe to wear for running around - and it still gave them the lift of high heels.

This would have been the poster image.

With this fashion decision locked in - I presented the idea to Michele - who was able to put together a splendid outfit for Sabrina that was a little less revealing than a full on bikini - but which still amply showed off her physical charms. I couldn't have been happier.

Sabrina, Queen of the She-Devils

The next step was to get some special props made. I'd written in to the script that all of the She-Devils wore crystal necklaces - which tied in to the energy buildup and worked with some other aspects of the story. I went out to a local business that sold gemstones and jewelry - and I got the gentleman there to make me up a dozen crystal necklaces on thin black rope - and asked him to use a larger crystal for the twelfth - Sabrina's Queenly necklace. In addition to a credit for the business in the movie's end credits - at the end of production he would get nine of the necklaces back to sell as memorabilia when the movie came out. My three female leads would get to keep theirs. When I returned to see him - the necklaces looked great - and he'd gone above and beyond on Sabrina's - he'd found a cat skull in the sand dunes outside the place, and he'd utilized it in Sabrina's necklace - making it look really amazing.

Sabrina's necklace. Right there. In the center!

It was edging up on October when all of this was finally in place. Now all that was left was to make the movie!

The shooting took place across the month of October in fits and spurts - mainly the weekends, but some other days in the week when Chuck wasn't using his equipment too. We bled over into November for a pickup day that only featured two of the actors. All told it was about twelve shooting days - averaging 10 hours or so. I don't remember the day to day events or activities - but I have a couple of stories to tell about the shoot (Oh goody! More words!) but now it's time for some pictures. Cast member George (playing comic relief annoying sidekick Cosmo) was a talented photographer - and he spent a few of the days on set taking photos for me. Consequently - as he was kind of on his own with this while I was busy producing and acting and directing - we never thought to get a cast shot that featured him - so no pictures of the character of Cosmo were ever shot.

These are three versions of a prop photo used in the opening moments of the movie. She is Lisa, playing Kelly, and he is Bob, playing Bob. She calls him on the phone and leaves a message on his answering machine with the photo standing nearby - the one on top was the one we actually used. This was a fast and cheap way to get the plot explained within seconds, and it set Bob up as the lead.

Bob Martin and Dave Everitt in a dramatic moment. Note the prop on Bob's belt - not a cell phone -  this was the early 90's - it's his "electromagnetic spectrometer" - which comes in very handy more than once on the island.

The She Devils - Megan and Lucinda. Jeepers.

From left - Zach (Les), Lucinda (Chantelle), Dave (Jeff), Bob (Bob), Megan (Renee), and Dr. Hyphen-Hyphen (lil ol' me!)

We're watching a plane in flight - yes - I actually rented a plane for this movie! PRODUCTION VALUE!

Jeff shows off his patented gadget - which we called the Psychometric Crystal Reader.

At one point in October Chuck wanted me to shoot one of his commercials for him while he was doing something else out of town - and he told me I could use the equipment after the shoot for free for the day he'd be gone. So, after shooting the TV commercial - I started calling around to see who was available - and from there - what we could pull from the script to shoot quickly.

Jeff laying down on the job.

It turned out only Jeff and Chantelle were available. Now, as we'd proceeded through production, both leading ladies had asked for more material - new scenes featuring them to allow them more acting time on screen. And I had obliged them - so I decided to shoot the new scene that involved the two of them. To save time - I figured we could shoot it right outside my apartment - bumped up against some bushes that looked like the foliage down behind the aquarium. The scene involves them in post coital bliss after taking a break from saving the world for one last sexual encounter - in case they fail and the world blows up at least they'd go out with a bang. The sex is not shown - and when we find them they are both supposedly naked under some rather convenient blankets they had.

To shoot this Jeff was in gym shorts and shirtless. Chantelle was in gym shorts and a strapless bikini top - which she pushed down pretty far to allow a fair amount of cleavage under the blanket. We shot the scene, just a couple of shots, and wrapped up. A half hour, tops.

Chantelle looking coy at the thought of appearing to be naked under a blanket...

Well, as we were breaking down the equipment and getting ready to leave, a guy comes walking up. As I go to greet him and see what he wants, he flips out a badge. Turns out he's a cop, and he's come to see what's going on as apparently people in my apartment building saw us out the window and had called the police to report that we were out there "shooting a porno" (!) I told him we weren't and explained what we'd been doing (calling it a "student film" so there would be no talk of shooting licenses or anything like that) and I think I showed him the footage on the tiny camera monitor to show him there was no nudity or anything - just Jeff and Chantelle chatting under a blanket. He never got any less stern, but he told us it was okay - we were free to go. So we did - quickly. That cop and I actually ended up running across each other again - but I'll leave that story for the future...

More pictures!

All is not well on the Island of the She-Devils - as these shots from one of the riveting action sequences shows...

Looking like I know what I'm doing as a director.

Renee behind the scenes.

The boys chat about the weather.

This was another possibility for the poster.

Crew guy/actor Josh on the left; crew guy/actor Jon behind me manning the boom - and me eyeing the scene.

An overdressed She-Devil.

Apparently a female (not Renee or Michelle) around the production was miffed at how good Chantelle looked at 6:30am.

Behind Chantelle is the only Hooters girl to actually appear in the show - I may have mistakenly gave the impression Chantelle and Renee were Hooters girls - they certainly could have been, but were not - this young lady - whose name I've forgotten - came out to shoot one day with us. When she saw the primitive conditions - no trailers (she didn't wear her bikini under street clothes as requested - and consequently had to change covered by blankets held up by Renee and Chantelle) and our ragtag production methods - she apparently went back to the restaurant and rough talked us.

The next big Hooters girl day was to support Sabrina's big scenes as Queen of the She-Devils - and I was given the impression I had about seven girls lined up - and on the morning of the shoot they didn't show! I was left scrambling for young women to show up in bikinis for me. I got three - and Renee actually did double duty - running home for a different bikini and wig to give me a fourth She-Devil for the day - as much as I already adored her before - I was head over heels for her after she helped save me that day.

And this actually touched off a goofy conceit for me - all my four leads actually played two roles - the second in disguise (just like The List of Adrian Messenger! Not!) Bob was also the Australian pilot Oliver Wording Bittman-Warthog; Renee was the second She-Devil (who coincidentally kills Bittman-Warthog); Jeff was one of my Nazis; and Chantelle was a maid cleaning Bob's apartment in the opening scene (when a TV news report comes on that Bob's ship has been sunk in a violent tropical storm - the ultimate minimalist filmmaking - you never even SEE a boat - just hear a news guy talk about it - the maid steals his VCR and runs away)

Still my good friend - here is effects makeup guy/actor Jeb as Milo, Dr. Hyphen-Hyphen's ill-fated assistant.

The area behind the Fort Fisher aquarium where we shot the bulk of the movie would flood during high tide - so one shooting day we chivalrously carried our leading ladies through the flooded section to higher ground to shoot - that's me carrying Renee above, and Jeff carrying Chantelle below.

The ladies go after Bob - why? You'll have to see the movie for that...

I shoot away with my script professionally held under my arm as Jon booms.

I could explain just what's going on here - but then I'd have to bore you.

Now it's time to meet the Nazis:

That's Jon in front - Jeff is hiding his face under his helmet - and Josh is in back. 2/3 of my Nazis were played by young Jewish men. This made us laugh a lot.

Yes, I know they're in American army uniforms. I know it NOW....

I don't think Sabrina finds the Nazis much of a threat...

Argument on the Island of the She-Devils!

That concrete bunker behind Bob had something to do with World War II and watching for enemy submarines - in the 1960's a guy known as the Fort Fisher Hermit lived in it. In the 1990's it served as Dr. Hyphen-Hyphen's scientific installation on the Island of the She-Devils!

Lucinda brings the boys an important prop - check out that hang in mid-air - great photography by George!

Behind the scenes - shooting a Sabrina monologue. You see how good an actress she is - she could act with a broomstick holding a microphone covered with a gym sock in her face!

A fun publicity shot as the ladies turn the tables on the villainess...

A chilly Renee bundles up in a prop blanket.

And here's one of my favorite sequences in the movie:

The plan to save the world involves stealing Sabrina's Mega Crystal - after seducing her. Obviously there's only one man for the job. And he's exhausted.

Oh boy. She's waking up. I hope she doesn't notice her necklace is missing...

Oh bugger. She's noticed.

"I've had a wonderful time, but I think I'll split."
"No...I WILL!"

Another action sequence. Jon is monitoring the sound, letting me concentrate on the picture - while crew member/actor Dave booms and keeps our actresses' warm covers handy just off camera.

Blooper on the Island of the She-Devils!

Preparing to shoot the "watch the airplane" scene.

I love the action of this picture. George nailed another one.

The ladies. I adore them all.

A repeat picture from part one - but here's the real story - that tour group is in my shot - and I'm overacting an angry reaction for this shot.

A She-Devil Queen and her director.

And with that, the cast and crew of Island of the She-Devils disappear into the land of legend...

After we'd wrapped, I cobbled together a VERY rough cut using VHS dubs and two VCRs - none of the cuts was sharp - because the VCRs both had a second delay coming into and out of pauses - so you can hear me say action sometimes, and match cuts don't - stuff like that. Through this rough cut I saw that there were several points where an additional insert shot or something would make the movie flow better - and one scene I thought I'd cleverly played out in one long shot turned out to be interminably long and needed closeup coverage shots to break it up. That wouldn't be too difficult - a day, maybe two - of pickup shots and the picture would be fine.

The sound, on the other hand, was a mess. Despite the camera utilizing a wired mike that we boomed on the end of a broomstick - the sound we'd picked up was pretty bad across 70-80% of the movie. We could never find anything to cover the mike that would muffle the constant wind that came with shooting near the ocean. Oh, and the scenes on the beach? They were like a silent movie with the wind and the crashing surf. In fact, during shooting I purposely rewrote a bit of dialogue to get the character of Bob to want to leave the beach - he says the beach is "too open," but really I was helping the sound a little by moving over the dunes - just that little bit made the sound only half as bad. So, in addition to investing money in the reshoot day, and the rental of editing time in a studio - it was the sound that was going to be the most costly post production element - an almost complete replacement of the sound track. I had spent a couple of thousand dollars so far - and I was guessing the post was going to cost another couple of thousand. All of it on one credit card - my only credit card.

I was working on getting the post set up - and I called out to Cinema Home Video to let David DeCoteau know that I'd finished principal photography and would hopefully be sending him a screener tape in a few weeks.

So, I'd spoken to Mr. DeCoteau sometime in the last three months - and now I'm calling him in November or December - and the phone was answered by a different someone - who then proceeded to tell me that David DeCoteau had sold the company! While I was reeling from this news - I still had the presence of mind to ask if I might send the new owners a screener of Island of the She Devils - and I was then informed that they were "regrouping and examining a new business model" and that they weren't looking for any movies for release for the the foreseeable future.

So there it was - I now had no real place to go with the movie. So I had to decide - invest the same amount of money to get the movie into shape and hope to sell it? Or cut my losses and shelve the project.

I shelved the project. I just couldn't risk spending another couple of thousand dollars without even a company willing to look at the movie. The raw footage was boxed up and put into storage (I still have those tapes - though because the masters are 3/4 inch tape - not a VHS cassette - I have no idea if they've held up all these years.) The rough cut on VHS still survives - I pulled it out and dusted it off and risked a play a couple of months ago - it still looks okay. I won't put it into another VCR until someone can assist me burning it onto DVD - so I can keep a digital copy at least, even if the VHS cassette rots.

Over the years since I lost touch with a lot of the cast and crew - Bob moved to LA to try to break into acting - and rumor has it retreated back to Ohio a year or two later when things didn't work out. Jeff is still here and we've run into each other a time or two. Renee and I lost touch - but I believe she might still be around - just haven't tracked her down. Chantelle moved to LA to try for an acting career - she got a speaking part on Unsolved Mysteries - but gave up the acting thing and got married out there. Michele and I are still chums - I periodically refer to her as Your Highness when we see each other - which still makes us chuckle. Everybody else has moved on to other things and other places.

There's been a couple of blips on the remake radar in the intervening time - I sent the script to Troma - but they didn't bite - and there's an indie producer here in town that's been circling the script for the last six months or so - though it will go through a thorough rewrite if he takes it - and even though that rewrite would be by me - I'm loath to change it. I probably will though - and if it actually gets made and released - and you watch it - be sure to look for a hidden Easter Egg on the disc - I'm going to try to sneak the rough cut (or at least clips from it) onto the remake as a secret bonus - but you're already in on the secret! Sorry this one ends on a bit of a down note - but although I may not have gotten the movie on video shelves across the country and around the world - I did come out of this project with some good friends, and eventually - after months of interest being added to the original credit card debt - an unfinished movie that might rival the budget of Waterworld!

Next up for this department will be a brief catchup on the bits and pieces I did during the long fallow period from late 1992 into mid 1993. And then - the one after that will detail my part in helping to desecrate the memory of a film legend's classic movie...

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Fascinating story, sorry it ends the way it does. I was really wanting to see the resulting movie and was hoping I'd be able to dig up a copy somewhere.

    I'm familiar with Cinema Home Video through being a fan of J.R. Bookwalter, who made several movies for the company, including six churned out in a period of seven months. It's a shame DeCoteau sold it off before getting yours on shelves.

    - Cody

    1. Thanks Cody - maybe the remake will happen and you'll find the Easter Egg on the new version. If only CHV had stayed in DeCoteau's hands - I might have had She-Devils lurking as an Easter Egg on one of their other releases - like Galaxy of Dinosaurs is lurking on some ghost in a school movie they released. I also definitely would have had a Bad Movie Police disc released. It would have been epic!

  2. Ok, Dr. Hyphen-Hyphen, this is pure awesomeness... You rented a plane! I wish like hell the movie had been made. It would have a place of honor in my collection for sure. ;) The next time you make a flick, I want in. :)

    1. I did rent a plane - there's actually several more stories I could tell about this thing - but my lord this post is already so long - and I couldn't figure any good place to break the production stories. In those pictures where we're looking up there was no real plane - we're pretending to watch it - "acting" if you will - but in a scene a couple of moments before there was a plane, and it took off on camera and everything! We even through a dummy out of it! The rough cut survives - and if you come hang out - we can check it out. Just adjust your expectations all the way down - then lower still - the pictures make it look a little more...movie-ish...than it really is...

  3. What a great story Craig. Hopefully you can sell the script so we can have more She-Devils. Can never have enough.

    1. Thank you Maurice - it would be nice to get a remake into production - you're absolutely right - you can never have enough She-Devils!

  4. No time to read, blame it on the xmas stress. I promise, I'll read it over the next few days when it's getting a bit less stressful.

    1. No worries, chum! The post isn't going anywhere!

    2. *phew* what a long, loooooong post. Gladly, it's packed with pics of girls... super-hot girls :-)

      Seems like you had one helluva time shooting. So sad that it never got to see the light of day. I strongly hope that I'll get to see the movie sometime... no, not the new one. Your version, of course! My blog buddy Craig as goofy explorer - I must see this! :)

      Oh btw, looks like I'm gonna make it to America next year!

    3. Sorry - I know you tend you like your blog posts to be concise - but I couldn't find a good spot to break the second part - the bulk of the writing was the production, then the post production, which was a bit of a downer. So it all went in to Part 2. I will break up future long posts into smaller, easier to digest chunks.

      We did have a blast shooting. and we partied pretty good to celebrate during and after too! I'm thrilled to hear you might be headed this way! Do you know any details yet? Where, when, etc? If you can spare any time for here - that would be amazing. And we can definitely watch as much of the Rough Cut as you can stand. Let me know your plans when they form up!

    4. Haha, no problem. Your blog more and more becomes a second Cool Ass Cinema. Brian also does some uber-large posts, but I always find the time to read these posts :)

      Will be in October and I'd like to visit NY, your place and a very good FB-friend of mine in Ocala, FL.
      I'll provide you with more details over the next few weeks! Woo hoo :D

    5. Oh btw, would you be interested in doing a double-review? I'd love to review the three Blob-flicks together with an olschool-Blob-fan :-)

    6. Absolutely! Email me and tell me how we work that!