Monday, June 30, 2014

In The Town They're Searching For Us Everywhere

This is what I did last week; camped, hiked, cooked over a fire, chilled the eff out.   It was the first time my wife and I had gone on a straight vacation in four years.  I read four pulp paperbacks I nabbed from a flea market; they had names like Ambush Basin and Wyoming Manhunt.  On stormy nights, which was half the week, I stayed in the popup camper and worked on a new screenplay. The screenplay has a very claustrophobic setting and somehow with the thunder, lightning, and rain constantly drumming on the canvas, and the thought of eminent escape to the van for safety, I was able to channel some pretty claustrophobic scenes.  Hopefully I can talk more about this screenplay shortly.

In the meantime Scarewaves is wrapping up in what has been a very productive screenwriting time for me.  In the last eighteen months I have seen two movies out--Meateaters and Haunted House on Sorority Row--and two more in production--one under a nondisclosure and Scarewaves.  I completed Doctor Zombie for director Mark Polonia which should go into production this fall.  I finished a vampire movie and did an action movie rewrite.  I am finishing a sci-fi movie and may be doing another horror rewrite in the coming weeks.

I thought with the collapse of the video store industry and a streaming solution (for the b-movie market) still not fully realized it was all over.  But it's not.  In some ways the SyFy Channel has filled that space, and it's something we all talk about writing for.  There are some inroads for VOD in the b-market (notably Amazon Instant and just a splash of Netflix) but for whatever reason, and nobody can explain it to me, people are still buying DVDs.  I think Blu-Ray is more like a collector's market (like Laser Disc was once upon a time), so it has not replaced DVD like some thought.  I just don't know, but for now people want scripts so I think I'll poke along for a bit.

Until later I'm at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

In My Mind And In My Car



Over in Ohio on the set of "Scarewaves," the horror anthology I wrote a segment in for director Henrique Couto.  My part starts a little "Double Indemnity" and ends a little "Dawn of the Dead" and I'm happy with how it looked on the set.  Shot in a nice couple's house who didn't seem to be worried about the police getting called when we threw a sheet-rapped dummy into their farm pond.  Thanks to Christopher Page for the middle photo, which looks like I'm bossing Henrique around.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

And You Touch The Distant Beaches With Tales Of Brave Ulysses

I didn't know I had been gone this long without blogging until a loyal reader emailed me and asked where I was, and up to that moment I didn't realize that people were that hard up for fresh content on the internet.

A lot has happened to keep me away from here, good and bad.  We had the longest, most terrible winter I can remember since those Ice Age late 70s winters, only this was worse because I was the one responsible for the shoveling, and the frozen pipes, and the hot water heater and furnace both quitting, and on and on and on.




Why I bothered to make fake snow, I'm not sure.
It got so bad, I started making hooch again.



But some really good things happened, like my grandson was born on January 1, 2014, the first baby born at Cincinnati Mercy hospital in the New Year, and instantly became the cutest baby on the interwebs.





And then there was another special delivery:  Haunted House on Sorority Row.  My screenplay got made into a movie got made into a tee shirt.
Close readers of the blog will note that the time from when I became re-acquainted with director Henrique Couto at a local film festival to when this movie was actually screened was very short indeed.  Close to nine months, ironically enough.  I got to go to the premiere in Dayton, Ohio, this winter and sort of felt like the chaperone at a Juvenile Detention Prom.  But the movie played like gangbusters at both screenings and I'm very happy with how it came out.  I would post a photo, but they were all confiscated by Homeland Security.

Another movie, Meateaters, from my old friend Mark Polonia, came out at very close to the same time, almost a twin as it were (grandbaby theme still in full effect).  It is currently available on Full Moon Streaming and garnering some buzz for its whacked-out dino-noir sensibilities.  I'm also quite happy with my screenplay for this one and hope it sees wider release.

That's all the news fit to print, more or less, and I will try to be more diligent as I have a few more projects in the hopper; a project that is on ultra secret down low lockdown is in post production, but I can blab all I want about Doctor Zombie, a throwback horror film I wrote for Mark Polonia, and a segment I have in Henrique Couto's upcoming horror anthology Scarewaves.

Until then you can catch me at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.




 

Friday, October 18, 2013

I'll Play the Part, But I Won't Need Rehearsing




I was very flattered to be asked to be an extra in "Haunted House on Sorority Row," which I wrote for director Henrique Couto.  A lot of times screenwriters aren't invited to the set, because they see things like this.  I told him that being a solid citizen in good standing I could only be around for the first five pages and the last five pages of the movie and then Henrique said "Well, we spiced up the first five pages."  So this is from (SPOILER ALERT) the last five minutes of the movie, which is okay to say because I already blabbed it to the twenty other extras standing there, deep in the backwoods of rural Ohio. And that was only because they clapped when Henrique introduced me, and I basked in that in case they booed me after the premiere.  Though I have my doubts, as I met a lot of nice people that night.  Being on set, I would say this house is actually spooky in real life, which bodes well for the movie.  Just driving there, I thought Mapquest was sending me to a mass murderer's kill site.  Hopefully we will all see each other at the premiere, in the not too distant future.

You can read an article I wrote about being an extra, "I Was Bigfoot's Shemp," right here on this site.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Someone Found The Letter You Wrote Me On The Radio

Loyal reader Richard writes:

I am a big fan of your work and the genre(s) you work in. And from reading your blogs, I have gotten the impression that spec scripts are difficult - VERY difficult - to get made. In the low-budget arena, it seems getting commissioned through relationships to write other people's projects are the way to go. It's all who you know, as I've learned.
 My question is really more about the actual writing element, not so much "breaking in." When you write a project, are you writing with the budget in mind? I know some folks, like Mark Polonia, are INCREDIBLY resourceful and make movies that look way bigger than their budgets are. But does that affect your writing?


Richard, you are 100 percent correct, I have been hired now to write or rewrite I think 25 scripts in the last 14 years and none of them were specs.  I have really only written two specs; the very first one I wrote, to signal that I could do it, and one I really wrote for myself thinking I would produce it one day.  In the b-movie world it is hard enough because your average low to no budget film director is writing their own scripts, either to save money or more likely that they are making films to begin with because they have a story they want to tell.  But sometimes what they have is a concept or idea, or they have already sold a title and poster to a distributor without a script (that has for sure happened on some of my projects, believe it or not), and that is where there is sometimes a window of opportunity.

There's no doubt it is about building relationships.  The person I have collaborated the most with, Mark Polonia, is someone I have communicated with for a number of years and started just by nurturing a friendship.  Some other examples among many are director Ivan Rogers, who unfortunately has since passed away, and director Henrique Couto, who I actually met way back when he was in high school.  There are so many pretenders, dreamers, wannabes, and fringe personalities in the b-movie world that when you have had any success and/or notoriety at all you have to pick and choose who you work with carefully.  Once somebody knows you are legit it makes it easier.  When you can look out for somebody else and help them you also put karma in the bank.

I have learned to write as cheaply as possible.  If there turns out to be more money, ideas can always be added back in.  With Mark, I pretty much know who exactly is going to be in it and what the locations are going to be, and try to play to those strengths.  I learned about Henrique from watching his other work.  Same with Ivan Rogers and others.  And often they will flat out tell you, we have an ape suit, let's make a bigfoot movie (and so on).  I try to use minimal locations, crisp dialogue, limited roles, focus the action over a single day or night, no crowd scenes, no complicated effects, flesh out the movie by building kill scenes and other scenes like it related to the main action  so that they can be shot at different times and places.  Those are pretty much my main tips.  :)

Thanks for the email, and good luck on your own projects.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Don't Go Into The Basement...No, I'm Serious, Don't Go Into The Basement

Haunted House on Sorority Row started shooting this weekend in Dayton, Ohio.  This screencap from Henrique Couto is scaring me, and I wrote the dang thing. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hanging Judges

Another great year judging the Blue Whiskey Film Festival in beloved Palatine, Illinois.  Best of Fest went to a great French film for the second year in a row:  Tu Seras Un Homme (You’ll Be a Man).  I also liked The Treehouse, The Grand Design, 88 Miles to Moscow, 16 Acres, Harold Camping versus the End of the World, Andrew Bird: Fever Year, and many more.  You can see the Awards Ceremony on YouTube here

Blue Whiskey Dinner Bell




You will never be starved for good eateries while at BWIFF, nor lack for hospitality, for which I can attest.  Although the Meat Skillet at Billy's Pancake House has passed into legend, there are always other good places to try and collegial folks to break bread with.

The Blue Dahlia


I dream of this place year round.

Talking Blue








It seemed like interaction with filmmakers at BWIFF was at an all-time high this year, with many there in person and even more Skyping in from around the globe.

More Blue Bell




We had a couple of good concerts mid-week, but I couldn't hang around too late; I look like somebody's dad, or an undercover policeman.

True Blue

Festival Director Mike Noens and I take a picture together at the end of every Fest.  I think in the very first one, I was standing next to his sonogram.  He's slept about six hours since then.

Decision 2013

That long, late night where we do all the voting.  Kind of looks like Nighthawks, with better jeans.  It was a truly great film festival this year and I can hardly wait to see what my old friends in Palatine cook up next time.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

It Ain't No Country Club, Either

I was thinking about one time when a b-movie producer whose name would probably be recognizable to readers of this blog called me out of the blue on a Saturday afternoon.

"What are you doing?"  he asked.

"I'm putting a new sink in my downstairs bathroom."

"If I asked somebody out here in L.A. that, they'd tell me all about their projects."

"Well, I don't live in L.A."

I have just, unbelievably even to me, finished four screenplays in 11 weeks.  MEATEATERS is already in post-production for director Mark Polonia and HAUNTED HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW is in pre-production for director Henrique Couto.  The next one I did is a vampire movie that I won't say anything more about at this time and the fourth movie is on double secret lockdown and even I am surprised who I'm working with on it.  I am actually getting ready to go into rewrites on that one so I have to say in fairness my first draft was finished in three weeks, there may be a few more in the next drafts.

Because it's already leaked out, my next project is DOCTOR ZOMBIE for director Mark Polonia and I suppose I need to get cracking on that.

Now that I have returned from self-imposed exile I have to remind myself to be careful; work with friends, pick projects carefully, put one foot in front of the other.

Until later I am at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

No Joy In Mudville

Longtime readers know that I am a big minor-league baseball fan, so the manager of a local minor-league team asked if I wanted to be Honorary Manager for a game; surely setting them on the path of an epic curse, but it was fun to wear this jersey one night.

Done On Both Sides

In a few stills offered up by my pal Jeff Kirkendall from the set of Mark Polonia's MEATEATERS, we see two intrepid cops who started off chasing some bank robbers and ended up squaring off against a dinosaur.  Admittedly, I recycled the plot from an old episode of LAW AND ORDER.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Garden Party

In the top photo, here is the first bounty from our square foot garden.  In the bottom photo the pumpkin, which apparently fell in a meteor and I'm afraid I can never kill it now, is growing rampant.

The Agile and The Agitated

Man, I could write "Fast and Furious 7" just from looking at this picture.

Marvel Two-In-One

More glimpses into the dark recesses of my mind while I'm doodling and talking on the phone at work.

World's Least Finest

I hope this papercloth tablecloth was there for this reason.