Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Was A Teenage Production Assistant: In the Best of Families: Marriage, Pride, and Madness!

Production Assistant Day Work Volume 3!

This CBS miniseries started shooting in 1993, but I didn't get hired for the main unit shoot. I did hear that a 2nd unit was gearing up so I threw a resume in and got hired for a fast two day shoot - a Saturday and Sunday - fairly unusual. They were also paying horribly - basically a tiny bit more than the standard day rate at the time - but for both days. Flat, no overtime.

But you know what? It was a paying job, so I took it. Saturday we geared up for a downtown shoot. This was a true story about a crazy guy pretending to be first a medical student then later a doctor who mesmerizes his own cousin into leaving her husband for him. They commit some crimes and it has a very sad ending. Apparently the main unit had missed some shots, or there was a sequence that needed more punch - so we geared up to shoot a scene where the crazy guy - played by Harry
Hamlin - but photo doubled for these wide shots - got out of his armored truck and shot up downtown Greensboro NC in the 80's with an Uzi.

So we had the armored truck, the double - a guy named Vince - and about a dozen extras. We shot him pulling his truck into an intersection, stopping, then getting out and spraying his Uzi. After we had that we turned around to film the damage he did - first to a truck carrying 5 gallon jugs of water - then some store front property with the extras.
Kelly McGillis, Harry Hamlin, and Keith Carradine
It was very cool shooting with the blanks for the gunfire and then the various effects used to simulate his bullets hitting stuff. The water truck was loaded with squibs - little explosives that can be set off in sequence to fake the trail of bullets going across something - wild, and very cool. This was a long time setting up - but it went off without a hitch and looked amazing - the water jugs bursting and the water spraying everywhere.

Somewhere in there I did a spectacular stunt myself - I took off running to make something happen - and managed to trip over a wire holding a tent down - it sent me flying through the air and I landed stretched out on the cement sidewalk. It hurt like hell but I played it off and kept moving - a long soak later that night helped.

With the various effects this shoot took all day Saturday. The craziest moment came when there started to be a very light misting rain – not perceptible on film – but prompting the motorists driving in downtown Wilmington NC to turn on their headlights – which is a law here. The setup was a shot looking down Third Street – we were at the corner of Third and Red Cross, should you want to come and see the location. The movie was a period piece set during the time of the actual events in the 1980’s, so you would think there would be a problem seeing all of those 1990’s cars down Third – but there was a shallow depth of focus to the shot – so we had 1980’s picture cars all around us close – then everything further away was soft focus enough not to register as being the wrong time period. But those headlights were a problem.

Now – we were holding traffic intermittently, and detouring the traffic around our intersection so we could leave our picture cars and bad guy truck and water truck all in place. When we actually shot we would hold the traffic all around so the sound would be better. So they want the headlights off down the street the way we’re looking. I was told to head down there and “act like a homeless guy” talking to the drivers as I clean their windshields – but really work to get as many as possible to shut their headlights off. So, armed with a bucket of water and squeegee – off I go. Again, the traffic is being held – but I’m still walking on an open street among cars that are going to be released to move in a couple of minutes. It was a little scary being out there – but I had some success – I’d say I got 70-80% of the drivers to turn off the headlights.

We wrapped up as the sun started to go down – a fun (if low paying) day of work.

McGillis and Carradine in a prop family photo

Sunday we geared up again – this time shooting some light vehicular stunts as a warrant comes down for our bad guy’s arrest, prompting the authorities who have been shadowing him to swoop down on him for the arrest – but his armored truck proves to be too much for their midsize government issue sedans and he smashes his way out of their impromptu two car roadblock and makes his escape. As all stunt sequences do – this took a lot of setup – all morning in fact – and we finally got ready to shoot in the early afternoon. During one of the rehearsals we’d suffered a mishap – and the armored truck – meant to squall to a stop thisclose to the roadblock – accidentally hit one of the cars – doing a lot of damage to the right front (passenger) quarter panel. We did not have a replacement car – which we usually didn’t on most of the shows I worked on – and it was Sunday – so any ideas of a quick repair were pipe dreams. So, they reworked the planned shots to hide the damaged section of the car from camera – at least until after the impact on film.

It worked – but the 2nd unit director was not thrilled as it limited what angles he could use. After we’d shot the stunt stuff we moved around to a few different locations and shot some establishing shots of building exteriors with a few 80’s era cars to park outside. Nother earth shattering and the money was not great but it was a pretty good shoot and it got me better networked with one of the assistant directors in town – who might hire me for a future show.

Sorry for the lack of pictures in this post - I didn't take any and there just aren't a lot out there to grab.

Next up for this department – a TV movie reviving a beloved TV series and starring (among others) a bona fide Academy Award winner…

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Maniacal Movie Poster Monday #174!

Under Cover  (The Cannon Group. 1987)

Wonderfully silly Cannon flick with the same setup as 21 Jump Street - and look at that guy's hairline!

Equalizer 2000   (Concorde, 1987)

The always mazing Cirio H. Santiago directed yet another late in coming Mad Max ripoff with Richard Norton carrying a gun with about twenty nine barrels. And look at young Robert Patrick a few years before he was the T-1000!

Frightmare  (Saturn International, 1983)

Kind of a ripoff of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things - here the teens dig up their favorite dead horror movie star - and that makes the old guy very angry. I saw this a thousand years ago - I seem to remember liking it?

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies 7/26/14!

Who cares what picture we see?

Janine Turner surely does, and we don't want to disappoint her and make her cry - the poor woman doesn't even have tear ducts anymore after all...so it must be this one tonight..

Here's a typically cool and entertaining Larry Cohen movie that just kind of disappeared after its run on the VHS New Release shelf at Blockbuster in the early 90's. And that's really too bad, because, despite Eric Roberts' mullet - this is a really well done movie.

Roberts plays a comic book artist - so in addition to all the cool actors in the trailer and on that poster - you also get a wonderful Stan Lee cameo.

This one is on DVD - but I have it on VHS - and we could be unspooling it anytime - even tonight - as long as you don't fall ill on the way over here...

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Maniacal Movie Poster Monday #173!

Theme Week!
Glen Larson TV projects that ended up on the Big Screen!

Battlestar Galactica  (Universal Studios, 1978)

The three hour (with commercials) TV pilot got chopped down to two hours and released to theaters. I love this show - so I'm good with either version. Note - this poster was for theaters that were not equipped for Sensurround - as that crazy gimmick sound system is not all over the top third of the poster - as previous versions featured here at the blog were.

Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack  (Universal Studios, 1979)

I guess the chopped down pilot movie did okay in theaters, because the next year Universal took the two part episode The Living Legend - with guest star Lloyd Bridges - and blended it with another episode called Fire in Space for a second theatrical release. I've seen this cobbled together edition one time - it's neat to think of these TV episodes playing movie theaters.

Buck Rogers  (Universal Studios, 1979)

After the extra money from Batttlestar Galactica's pilot made its way into Universal Studios' coffers - they decided to launch their Buck Rogers series on the Big Screen first - so another Glen Larson TV show pilot got a theatrical release in the same two year period. Note - a lot of reviews from back in the day say this show uses a lot of the by-that-time cancelled BG's hardware for their effects - but Galactica was an ABC show and Buck was an NBC show - and I don't remember seeing any recycled footage, props, or effects in Buck Rogers. Can anyone tell me different?

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies 7/19/14!

Who cares what picture we see?

Arthur Hunnicutt might or might not...depending on the weather...but we'll make it this one tonight:

I'm a John Wayne fan - and I actually like him more the older he is in the movie - so I like this semi-remake of Rio Bravo pretty well. The Duke plays the John Wayne role; Robert Mitchum subs for Dean Martin, little Jimmy Caan covers for Ricky Nelson, and Arthur Hunnicutt is in for Walter Brennan.

It's a good old fashioned Western and I just added it - along with another 60's John Wayne picture - Hatari! - to the video vault so we can be checking it out any old time - even tonight - if you want to come hang out!

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Celebrity Endorsement: Bill Moseley!

I first encountered Bill Moseley in a darkened movie theater when he played THIS guy:

I thought he was a marvelous addition to the Sawyer family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - and I've enjoyed his work in scads of movies since then.

Thankfully, in addition to being a fine actor - Bill Moseley also knows good blogging when he sees it:




Thanks a lot, Mr. Moseley!
Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Maniacal Movie Poster Monday #172!


Mighty Joe Young  (RKO Radio Pictures Inc., 1949)

The third big ape movie with stop motion animation effects from Willis O'Brien (and his new assistant - Ray Harryhausen!) It's old school adventure and one of my very favorites.

Blackwoods  (Boll Films, 2002)

Hey - it's a Uwe Boll movie! That means nearly everyone in the world hates this movie! I don't - because after years of hearing this guy raked over the coals for every movie he's ever made - I watched one - Rampage - and it was pretty good. So all the haters can suck it!

The Man Who Lived Again  (Gaumont British Picture Corporation of America, 1936)

This was known as The Man Who Changed His Mind in its native England, but got this rather generic title for its American release. I haven't seen it - but it's Karloff - so you know I want to!

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

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies 7/12/14!

Who cares what picture we see?

Jerry Rushing most certainly would - so this is tonight's pick....

Yeah, it's a picture of someone's poster - but it's the biggest and best shot of the damn thing on the internet...so...

I somehow managed to see at least one of North Carolina filmmaking legend Earl Owensby's movies on VHS when I still lived north of the Mason-Dixon Line - but it was when I moved to his home state that I really delved in to his wild film ouevre - which ran from 1974 through the 1980's.

During the second run of 3-D around 1983 producer Earl got ahold of a 3-D camera system and made a handful of genre pics that were meant to be screened with the third dimension added.

Sadly, my VHS copy of this movie does not feature 3-D - but we could still be watching Sheriff Earl (producer Earl's favorite leading man) battle a dozen genetically engineered canine killing machines anytime - even tonight - if you're dogged enough to make it over to my place.

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With Anything In 3-D, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I Was A Teenage Production Assistant: The Inkwell!

Production Assistant Day Work:
The Inkwell

Matty Rich wrote and directed Straight Out of Brooklyn at the tender age of  17 - at least when the long in production movie started. After its success, he was riding high, and jumped on a period African American drama called The Inkwell, which set up production offices here in Wilmington sometime in 1993.

Here's the movie's plot summary from the IMDB: "In 1976, Drew Tate is a young teenager who has trouble dealing with life after he accidentally sets his house on fire. His parents Kenny and Brenda decide to go to Martha's Vineyard to spend Fourth of July weekend with Brenda's sister Francis, Francis' black Republican husband Spencer and their son Junior. While there Drew falls for a self centered girl named Lauren and befriends a married lady named Heather. While on their vacation, Drew deals with his parents attempts to save their marriage as well as with his own troubles. Eventually all of this leads to a life changing event for Drew as well as his parents."

Thank you Brian Washington for that.

Now in his early 20's, Rich was working on a working class family drama set 20 years previously. This meant period cars and clothing, the works. It was an ambitious undertaking considering the money involved.

Most of the movie takes place during a family vacation to the sea shore - and they decided to max out their extras on one shooting day - shoot giant wide shots for all of the beach scenes - then work their way in to tighter and tighter shots while releasing some of the extras as they were no longer needed.

With the budget they decided to ask for volunteer extras rather than pay all of them. They hired a casting lady - my old buddy Francine - and had her work on lining up as many African American people willing to come out for a day's shooting on the beach for no pay other than a free lunch and the chance to MAYBE be seen in the movie. Francine worked hard - she got local radio stations to talk about the movie; she cold called people from her talent files. and asked everyone to spread the word.

She also did something smart - she got people to agree to come out - and took down their names. It wasn't a "show up if you can" kind of thing - because that can easily lead to you getting about 18 people. This way people have committed themselves, and if they didn't show up as promised - well, then Francine just might not call you to come in for the next several shows she does extras casting for. After all, you proved unreliable on this one and made her look bad, right?

I'm not sure how many Francine called in - but I know they knew to build in some shrink (in other words - you want 100 people you call for 125 knowing at least some will not show up). In the end they got about 300 people - pretty good numbers considering no pay. I know how many they got because for this big shooting day they added five production assistants to the crew - and I was one of them.

Basically, we five added to the three or four production assistants they already had - so they had a big group to marshal this large group of extras through "the works" (makeup, hair, and wardrobe) and move them onto and off of the beach shooting location as needed. Because they wanted to get going the second there was light, our call time was something ungodly like 4:30am. We had a lot of work to do getting the extras ready, because this was a period show set in the 70's. Consequently they had picked out some "featured" extras who already had a look that could fit the 70's - especially a big afro. Some who had a good look but shorter hair got afro wigs, and they were the next visual layer. The last layer were the deep background people - who still provided form and movement, but just didn't suggest the 70's upon closer examination.

Once they got going the day just became a blur - moving people on and off the beach - bringing in the full group for the big wide shots - which again they cleverly shot first, because they knew that without a payday requiring staying to the end so paperwork could be turned in - they were going to be losing people over the course of the day. Some people thrive on the hustle and bustle around a movie production, others get bored easily. These people tend to wander away after a few hours. So they got the big shots first. Once the widest shots were done, they would have smaller groups for the tighter shots.

But Matty Rich proved to be a filmmaker with maturity to match his tender years as he flittered about across the day's work - keeping things hopping - and not in a good way - with constant demands and no clear plan to get the day's work done. So it was a day of frustration for a lot of the people there.

The only other standout moment was the lunch - which turned out to be donated Kentucky Fried Chicken box lunches - in return for several period KFC buckets being used as props for "picnics" out on the beach - and on camera. So 400 fried chicken boxes for some screentime. Well, we PA's were thrilled to dig in to our boxes - and we scarfed our two pieces, one side, and biscuit as quickly as we could.

Among the extras - there was a mixed reaction. Some people were happy to be working on a movie and enjoyed getting some free food, even if it wasn't piping hot by the time it got to them. Others found the KFC box inadequate. Still others had a more divisive reaction - they were upset that a production company would serve fried chicken to a large group of African Americans. More points to Francine here - she was called to set (she'd been in the office lining up extras for future shooting days) and with her calm influence she soon had this rising anger nipped in the bud. There was no insult intended - it was simply a way to feed the extras in an economical fashion so as not to break the budget.

We shot that day until it was almost too dark to see. Wrap took a while as well, as they were taking all of the equipment with them - so this turned into an 18 hour day. But it was a paid work day for we additional PAs, and another credit on our resume.

To wrap up - I went to see the movie when it hit local theaters - and I didn't care much for it. It had a great cast, and some good moments - but too many subplots - like the main character carrying around a doll he talked to - didn't work at all. Still, you have to give the movie some points for being a simple and quiet family drama that happened to star African Americans - in a time when most African American movies were urban crime dramas.

Next up for this department - two days on a CBS miniseries that worked out to the lowest paying job I ever held in the film industry....

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

Maniacal Movie Poster Monday #171!

Rawhead Rex  (Empire Pictures, 1987)

I saw this one well after its home video release - and I was underwhelmed. Part of the problem I had with the movie was the inexpressive face (as I'm remembering it) on the monster. It seems like it's not articulated and is just frozen in that growling grimace - which makes it look like a cheap Halloween mask. However, this stars David Dukes, who I was not as familiar with at the time, but who I worked with years later - so for him, and to see if I am remembering the creature face correctly - I'd like to see this again.

Creation of the Humanoids  (Emerson Film Enterprises, 1962)

 This is a static little sci fi talkfest made for about $57 - but much like The Amazing Transparent Man - I like this movie. It's got "something." And I'm in good company - this was reportedly Andy Warhol's favorite movie!

Eve of Destruction  (Orion Pictures, 1991)

Saw this one in the theater in 1991 - and enjoyed it. It's over the top and silly - but certainly an entertaining watch.

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

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies 7/5/14!

Who cares what picture we see?

Randall "Tex" Cobb most certainly would - so let's make this the choice for tonight...

When I saw this in the theater in 1990, I had no knowledge of the Zatoichi movies starring Shintaro Katsu - so I simply enjoyed this wild 80's style action movie with a blind swordsman (Hauer) who is almost a superhero with his sword.

Now, having seen a lot of the 26 (!) Zatoichi movies - I realize now that this is an Americanized remake of Zatoichi Challenged (1967). I love the Zatoichi movies - and I really like this one shot American version. Hauer brings a pleasingly light touch to the proceedings - and he's backed up by a solid supporting cast.

I was delighted to find the DVD in the bargain section of my local used video store - and now it resides in the video vault - ready to spin at a moment's notice - anytime - even tonight - if you care to come check it out!

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Video Vault of Mora Tau 7/2/14!

Time for some video coolness!

Here's a little behind the scenes piece on Logan's Run - one of the last major studio films to be released before Star Wars came out and changed the world the next year.

I like Logan's Run - so this is a cool clip for sure. But check out the guy who comes in right at the end modeling a slightly different Sandman uniform than what ended up in the movie.


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