Archive for the ‘THAT Movie’ category

Movie Diaries 22

July 9, 2007

Watchers of the Greater Dark, Act II

In the parking lot of the hotel where our meeting took place as guns and equipment are being loaded, we learn that Murphy was in the unit that investigated the disappearance of several children shortly before Rio vanished.  Such disappearances happened in the area every twenty years or so, going back to the late 1800’s.  In his investigation, Murphy visited and questioned Whitefeather who owned an occult shop in town.  Although not implicated in the disappearances, the investigation ruined Whitefeather’s business, and he committed two years later.  His only remaining descendent, Joy Beck, blames Murphy for her father’s death but is the team’s only hope of finding the key Rios was searching for.

Once at the Beck home, Murphy, refused entry by Joy Beck, sits on the porch while Kate and JD question her.  Eventually, she offers them a small Aztec or Mayan statue of a head that belonged to her father, and from it Kate receives a vision of a river and gazebo.  There is both nearby, so head in hand the team jumps back in the car and races to that location.

At the river, Kate’s intuition leads the team to a bluff where they find an ancient carved face matching the statue of the head in Kate’s hand.  She and JD climb the bluff to the face, and find hidden within a leatherbound book wrapped in oil cloth.  A storm is brewing, so the team retreats back into town to rest and investigate their find.

Arriving at a coffeeshop, they are told by Bill to remain where they are: Watchers agents are on their way with a package.

Coffees in hand and secluded in the upper loft of the coffeeshop, JD opens the book: it is a diary written by Frank James, detailing his involvement in the Watchers and revealing the healing powers of the local spring waters.  Jesse, it seems, did indeed die after being shot but was resurrected by the magic in the waters of Shiloam Springs.  Shiloam Springs is the 19th century name of Excelsior Springs, Missouri.  After being brought back to life, and having found the Key of Solomon, Jesse and his brother Frank bury the artifact in what would be Jesse James’ grave.

Two Watchers arrive with a large metal case for Kate.  When she opens it she find an ornate silver staff with a large, flame-shaped crystal head.  When she takes it out of the case it responds to her touch by flaring with an intense light.  As it does, JD notices two more people in the coffeeshop: dressed in black suits and standing by the door, agents of the shadowy government agency MJ12 are waiting to take the James diary and the staff.

While JD and Murphy confront the two, Kate and the other two Watchers leave.  JD and Murphy follow, and the team being making their way to the Historical Society Museum.  They gain admittance to the archives and make several discoveries:

In 1905, the same year Jesse James – using the alias Thomas Howard – truly dies, Elizabeth Bathory arrives in town from Hungary.  She is met by, and later marries, a Dr. Musgrave, who the team believes is the infamous Jack the Ripper.  The first set of child disappearances is reported in the local paper.

Dr. Musgrave keeps an office in the Royal Hotel, and the two share an apartment there.  The team decides that’s the next logical place to visit.

As the team nears the hotel, a storm begins to brew above it, and energy begins to crackle around the Royal sign.  Kate and Murphy discuss the Bath of Immortality: Bathory would drain the blood of local village girls and bathe in it, believing the practice lengthened her life.  Kate suddenly stops.

In the front window of the hotel, Kate sees a group of children.  Murphy recognizes them as the group that disappeared at the same time as Rios.  Unable to open the main door to the hotel, Murphy shoots out the lock but when they enter, the children have disappeared.

In their search, they are attacked by Katarina, Bathory’s living dead handmaiden, who attempts and fails to steal the staff, and they barely escape.

Next Up: The Death of the Scholar

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Movie Diaries 21

July 5, 2007

Watchers of the Greater Dark

Preface: it was MLD’s intention that this movie be passed off as a documentary.  There is no fucking way that will ever work: the target audience for this movie (14-30 year old males who play MMUDs and RPGs, wear costumes to movie premieres and refer to themselves in the third person) is far too savvy.  There are also large holes in the narrative flow, pieces that are introduced but never used, and places where you’re going to shake your head and think, “Who wrote this shit?”

I’ll do my best, but no promises, mm’k?  So, strap it on, honey, we’re going in:

ACT I: EXPOSITION

Twenty years ago, a Watchers agent, searching in Excelsior Springs for a segment of the Key of Solomon, disappeared, never to be heard from again.  Although his whereabouts were known, his fate was not, and he is presumed to have died.

In the meantime, the organization he worked for, the Watchers of the Greater Dark, cross-dimensional peace keepers, have become aware of an increasing amount of inter-dimensional traffic: they suspect their arch-enemies Starry Wisdom are trying to open a Greater Gate to allow the entry of their god into our world, and their efforts to stop it have met with no success.  Nine teams have been dispatched worldwide: all but two have been lost, with the remaining teams’ statuses unknown.

In a move of desperation, WOGD summons its last remaining agents in the hopes that these few can stop what is quickly becoming a war: a war WOGD is losing.

Detective Sean Murphy.  Skeptic; tactical specialist and newest member of WOGD; injured on his first and only mission, stabbed in the leg by a halberd in a misunderstanding with the Swiss Guard.

J.D. Crockett.  Long time member of WOGD, embittered and vengeful after the murders of his family by members of the Starry Wisdom cult working under the instructions of their leader “Mr Bibb”.

Dr. Doug Arle.  Scholar, researcher.  Expert in local history.

Bill.  The audio/video tech and mission coordinator.  Referred to as “the quarterback”.

“Cecil”.  His real name is never revealed.  Cameraman, documentarian.

Kate West.  Youngest member of the team, she’s suffers from amnesia: her memories go back no further than 1995 when she was “found” by Bill.  Kate is special and extremely important, indeed the key to this Forlorn Hope, but no one around her is aware of this fact until much later.

The team is assembled and given the history.  They learn about Rios’ mission, and that he was able to send one final message, but it was not received until that morning: Starry Wisdom is planning to open a greater gate that night, and the path to the means to stop that from happening leads to a man named “Whitefeather.”

As the briefing concludes, Kate detects the presence of something in the room: the briefing has been compromised, and the team quickly leaves to gather supplies and equipment before visiting Whitefeather.

UP NEXT: ACT II, The Fellowship of the Head

Movie Diaries 19

July 2, 2007

Are you familiar with the addage in theatre that if you see a gun onstage it will be used before the end of the third act?  MLD would fill a scene with guns (metaphorically speaking) and never acknowledge them again.

Child abductions.  A hugely important plot point in the first fifteen minutes.  Brought up again only once in the second act.

The “key”, that lightsabre thing here.  We struggle to get it, kill off a member of the cast for it, and use it (here it comes..!) to   o p e n  a n   e l e v a t o r.  Duh-duh-duhhhhhhhn.  Although Lezlie has to carry it for the remainder of the movie, it’s never used , or even mentioned, again.

MJ12.  They periodically show up, act menacing, get in the way, but otherwise have no purpose.  They don’t move the plot forward.  Although, to be fair, any time our heros reach a spot where they’ve stopped moving, MJ12’ers show up and push them to the next plot point.  They’re the dudes (and one dude-ette) in the clip behind the link.

Lady Bathory.  The villain we chase throughout the film.  We see her once.  At the very end.  With bad dialog.  From a bad angle.  The real villain, if screen time is any indication, is her handmaid, Katarina.

And let us not forget that she married Jack the Ripper, alias Dr. Musgrave, in 1905.  Where’s he?  Nobody knows.

MLD was a master of Missing the Moment.

Movie Diaries 18

June 28, 2007

Well, that hasn’t happened in  long while.

Monday, I went to bed late (for me – about midnight), and then laid in bed unable to sleep until about 3:00.  My mind simply would not shut off.

The week before we left for Colorado I met with Lezlie and Dave (the “Gunslinger”*) at the Westport Coffeehouse to talk movie making and possible opportunities.  As it often does in these circumstances, talk turned to The Movie.

* Now that the jig is up, I might as well start calling The Gunslinger by his given name: Dave.

Yeah, THAT movie.  I can take a guess why it still figures in my world when it probably shouldn’t.  For starters, I don’t have anything to replace it.  But more than that, we all worked very very hard on it and it seems a shame to see it rot on Lance Mallia’s hard drive next to all the bondage porn and bukake**.  There’s some good cinema there, waiting to be chipped out of the unyielding rock.

I really do believe that.

(At this point, it would be useful for you to know that the movie WAS edited into a rough product by one of the crew.  No effects, no music, and at 3-1/2 badly-paced hours it cannot be watched without someone there as a guide.  This is not the fault of the editor, it should be said: he made every effort to stay true to MLD’s vision, and that was a mistake.  When you’ve got lemons like this, no amount of sugar will make it into drinkable lemonade.  It’s awful, and that fault lies squarely in MLD’s lap.)

** This is the last time I will address Monsieur Le Directeur by name.  Like Voldemo— er, You Know Who, MLD as I shall call him, shall remain forevermore nameless in my journal.

Anyway, back at the coffeeshop, we three catch up on who’s talked to whom, what folks are doing now, etc., and we all agree that the movie as it stands now is unwatchable.  Dave, who is AD’ing on a project for the National Geographic Channel and has worked on many, many movies over the last twenty or more years (so I take his advice pretty seriously)  leans agross the table and says to me, “You really ought to finish that movie.  Put it together, you know?”

Lezlie gives me that “told you so” look.  (In fairness, Dave is not the first person to say this to me.)

I had a hard time taking it seriously at the time.  Now that it’s had time to ferment, though, the idea has merit, and bits have been bubbling to the surface.  The water is murky yet, and I’m going to need a lot of help, both technical and legal.

I’m going to start using the Movie Diaries to help me track the thoughts in my head, and document the process for everyone’s collective amusement.  In a somewhat out of character move, though, I’m going to lock them to my friends list; you are welcome to read them, and I invite comment!

Every little bit helps, you know?

What kept me up Monday into Tuesday morning was a sudden vision of how to fix Watchers of the Greater Dark: what pickups need to be shot; what footage needs to be discarded and reshot; how to make it into a real and coherent story.

Next up: The story as it stands now.

Movie Diaries 17

November 18, 2006

What to do, what to do…

As a movie-director hopeful, I’ve been working a little with the writer of The Movie (yeah, that movie), trying to pare down what was a hopelessly convoluted mish-mash of plotlines and desperate reachings for character connections and little bits of history that should tie it all together, and never. Quite. Succeed.

A sixteenth century murderess, along with one of her complicitous maids, manages to find a way to live forever by bathing in the blood of the local village maidens, and, somehow, drags her maid along for the ride. Sometime around 18-somethin’somethin’, she arrives in Excelsior Springs and meets up with Jack the Ripper, who is disguised as a respectable town doctor, and the two plot to take over the world.

Somewhere along the way, we find out that she’s tied in with a group that dates to the time of Akhenaten, the Heretic Pharaoh. We guess that she chose Excelsior Springs because of all the Mayan decorating touches, and we all know that the Mayans and the Ancient Egyptians were, like, Spiritual Brothers and all that. Besides, rural Missouri is where all villains SHOULD have their headquarters, right? Centrally located with beautiful scenery, and really good barbeque restaurant right down the street. It’s ideal.

What does she plan to do once she’s taken over the world? As Murphy observed, maybe she and Jack plan to open an ice cream parlor and offer some interesting “Flavors of the Day.”

Oh, but that’s not all. No, not by a long shot.

Seems she’s not the real Bad Guy at all. THAT’s someone else entirely, and she’s just a pawn of this big guy with a manicure, a black suit and a reasonably good Romanian accent. His goal? Open a portal to the Big Somethin’R’Other and let through an Avatar. What’s an avatar, and why does he want one? For the same reason I want a hi-def TV I suppose…maybe they’re fun to watch.

Fighting this organization almost since it started, much like environmentalists and Starbucks, is another group, The Good Guys. What makes them interesting is…um…I mean, they…and then we…well, they’re The Good Guys and we’re supposed to root for them.

Both groups, being nearly as old as Very Old Things, are very very rich with all the resources several thousand years of accumulating stuff (hi-def tvs, for instance) can get you. That is, except The Good Guys who have exhausted all of their resources fighting The Bad Guys in what is now an all out war.

The evidence of the war? A phone call saying, “There’s a war.”

The final hope for mankind and future phone traffic? An audio engineer, a retired police detective, an amnesiac, and The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Along the way through their journey, we find out that The Good Guys have connections to The Knights Templar; the Masons; Frank and Jesse James; Ben Franklin and about two-thirds of the Founding Fathers; Colonel Sanders; and the original Broadway cast of Cats. The source of all this info? A diary hidden in a Mayan face sculpted into the side of a hill that, in spite of being a hundred yards from the town main street and easily visible from a major resort hotel, is never discovered in one hundred fifty years of local economic development.

Oh, damn. How could I forget The Other Bad Guys, or rather, the Sort of Bad Guys? A government agency – assuming US government, but you never know: the other possibility is Mossad – that dresses all its agents like Jake and Elwood and whose sole purpose is to gather all the artifacts (oh, yeah, there are artifacts) before The Good Guys get to them. To save the world? Well, maaaaaybe. Their only real use in the plot is to get in the way of The Good Guys, and abandon one of their own to provide a love interest for the radio engineer in movie two, like any audience is going to believe a radio engineer has a love interest. Pfftt…right.

Somewhere in there, we need to shoehorn a couple of ancient Jewish relics, too, needed to fight evil. I mean, we all KNOW the Jews and Mayans were bitter enemies, don’t we? Did I sleep through that class?

Plot holes? A few. Missed opportunities? One or two. It was planned that there would be four movies to explain it all. Movie One was never finished, and sits, mostly raw footage, on a shelf in BF, Kansas.

So, while it looks like perfect opportunity to fix something broken, it is not. The man largely responsible for this mess who is the supposed owner of it clutches it protectively to his breast like Norman Bates with the corpse of his mother, and his take on it is that if HE can’t finish it, then no man shall.

Isabeau, are you listening? Except in this case, Msr. Le Directeur isn’t threatening shapeshifting by the light of the moon…he’ll just sue. The bishop might have gone far with that, come to think of it.

However, there is a seed here. A much reduced story, with fewer plot points, simpler motivations, and one focus. Pick a character, any character, swirl the story around her (or him), reduce the villain count to one or two, make your monsters and demons a little less obvious – in other words, leave the red spray paint at home – and … I dunno … write dialog.

Movie Diaries 16

June 22, 2006

Directing: A Brief Tutorial

  • Arrive on the set when you say you’ll arrive on the set. Have your shooting schedule, notes, and script with you.
  • Have the set ready before the actors get there, especially if it’s a night shoot. Have your lights set, your cameras and camera operators ready to go. Don’t leave your actors waiting for four hours while you figure out what you’re doing.
  • The time between “Action!” and “Cut!” should be uninterrupted unless the scene is a complete train wreck, in which case, back up and start over. You cannot jump in, give the actors direction, and then restart at that point and expect to get usable footage, especially if what you’re filming is supposed to be documentary. In the glossary at the end of this handbook you will find “Action!”; “Cut!”; “That’s a wrap!”; “Quiet on the set, please!”; “We need more blood on him…”; “How can you be out of bullets?”; and even “Bill, what the fuck was that?”

    You will not find, “Pause!” Anywhere.

A typical day on set.

EXTERIOR. THE RIVER. DAYTIME.

KATE, MURPHY, THE SCHOLAR, AND THE GUNSLINGER ARE
STANDING ON THE SHORE. KATE HOLDS A SMALL CLAY
HEAD, “THE ARTIFACT”.

KATE
So, what do these markings mean?

MURPHY
That glyph there is “head”…there, “water” or “river”.
“Head” under “water”.

ALL TURN TO LOOK AT THE RIVER.

KATE
It can’t be that easy.

BILL
(voiceover)
Occam’s Razor, Kate.

DIRECTOR
Pause!

ALL
???

DIRECTOR
Bill, need you to say that a little louder.

BILL
(voiceover)
We’re going to redo all my dialog in post, aren’t we?

DIRECTOR
Oh, shit, yeah, that’s right. Okay, everyone..?
3…2…1…UN-PAUSE!

KATE HANDS THE STATUE TO MURPHY.

KATE
Here, hold this a minute.

WITH THE SUDDEN REALIZATION THAT SHE NEEDS TO GET THE
STATUE IN THE WATER, KATE BEGINS REMOVING HER GEAR.
AS SHE DOES SO, THE STRAP OF HER BAG GETS HUNG UP ON
HER BELT BUCKLE.

KATE
Damn!

DIRECTOR
Pause!

ALL
???

DIRECTOR
Gunslinger, can you help her with that..? Ok, thanks,
back to where you were…and…3..2…1…UN-PAUSE!

MURPHY
(to the director)
You know, when you restart the camera, Gunslinger
will have moved.

DIRECTOR
He moved back.

MURPHY
Yeah, I know, but his position has shifted. You’ll be able
to see it.

DIRECTOR
That’s okay, we’ll fix it in post. We’ll cut to something
else.

MURPHY
Cut to what? You’ve only got one camera…

DIRECTOR
(ignoring MURPHY)

Everybody ready? 3…2…1…UN-PAUSE!

Bill
(voiceover)
Shouldn’t we start over?

DIRECTOR
It okay with you, Bill, if I get to be the director for
a while?

Okay. Here we go. Scene 4, riverbank, picking up…3…
2…1…UN-PAUSE!

KATE REMOVES HER JACKET AND KIT BAG, AND WADES INTO THE RIVER,
GUNSLINGER CLOSE BEHIND, GUN DRAWN AS IF TO COVER HER. SHE
IS FRANTIC TO GET ACROSS BEFORE THE STORM BREAKS, AND MOVES
WITH ASTONISHING PURPOSE.  GUNSLINGER HAS TO REALLY MOVE
TO KEEP UP WITH HER.

DIRECTOR
Pause!

KATE FREEZES, HER MOMENTUM BROKEN. DIRECTOR CONFERS
QUICKLY WITH THE CAMERAMAN, WHO SHAKES HIS HEAD.

ALL
???

DIRECTOR
No, sorry, my fault! 3…2…1…UN-PAUSE!

And so on. I don’t have the footage in front of me, but as nearly as I can remember this is a verbatim retelling of the scene, and is more of a script than we ever saw. We only got one take because, at the conclusion of the scene, the two principle characters were wet and spattered with mud.

The footage is damn near unusable.

Movie Diaries 15

May 10, 2006

Last year at this time…

…I was being introduced to a neat group of people, and getting ready to work on a movie. I haven’t written about that experience for a long time. There’s been a lot that’s happened, and now with some distance it’s probably time to note some of it down.

I still won’t use names, though. Can’t sue if you can’t prove libel.

I tend to avoid names, anyway. In this context, most of the people involved in this project make more sense in the narrative when referred to by their titles. Those who were there or those close to us know who they are, and that’s enough.

The project was one big hush-hush-whisper-whisper of a thing because – stretching all credibility – it was supposed to be a documentary. A Men in Black meets Blair Witch Project, but without the fancy suits of the former, and the staggeringly high production values of the latter.

Yeah, that was sarcasm. For a variety of reasons I shall detail within, I don’t believe the movie will ever see the light of day. Or even the flourescent lights over the Wal*Mart 5.99 DVD bin. Some of it is that it was a good idea executed badly, some of it is legal, and all of it falls squarely on the shoulders of Monsieur Le Directeur.

Might it have worked? Oh yeah, as a series of films, a lighthearted romp with guns, monsters, and very pretty girl in a tank top, it would have been fun, might have sold a bunch of copies and made us all at least some of a living. As a documentary, it was embarrasing.

Yeah, Bill, you say that now. You were pretty gung-ho at the time.

Okay, yeah, I was. Frankly, we all were. (Struggling for safety in numbers.) I am proud of the work we did.

When I say I’m proud of the work we did, let me be perfectly clear who I mean by “we.” That’d be me, Lezlie (the aforementioned tank topped pretty girl, referred to in previous entries as “Kate”), Murphy (about whom I have written extensively), and The Gunslinger. You may remember a fifth member of the core cast, The Scholar, but he turned out to be such an abysmally bad actor and on-set whiner that his character was killed off by The Writer before the climactic battle at the end of the movie, fully two films earlier than originally planned. (I am pleased to note that the writer had started expanding my character quite a lot.)

Our cameraman, who we shall call “Cecil”, was very good. Very good. He kept up with the action and held the camera steady, and in my opinion all of our good footage came from his camera. His eye for framing and what to focus on never missed. Our writer was also good, though she had precious little to do except expand upon – and sometimes around – the ideas oozing out of Msr. Le Directeur’s little T & A mind.

It was in the director’s conception that us actor-types would be given only the general scenario but no context besides what our characters should have already known, so that everything we did would be “spontaneous”. The scenario would be so clear that our path would be almost predetermined, and we’d follow the “script” without even knowing we were doing so.

There are two assumptions that are mind-bogglingly wrong with that.

  1. We’re actors, and damn good ones. Give us nothing to work with and we’ll get bored and destructive, and make our own movie without you.
  2. The scenario was too complex, requiring so much exposition to make it understandable to the audience that the actors eventually had to be given a script, which took the form of a plot outline. In other words: the scenario broke down until the director started…uh…directing.

Which, by the way, he sucked at.

Up next: How not to direct a movie.