“What’s the moral of the story? Well, when it comes to making a movie, it takes a village.
“A village full of perverts, blowhards, drunks, floozies, violence, death, over-crowding, budget cuts.
“A village full of jerks and idiots, each and every one doing their level best to corrupt and twist your vision until one night you come home and find your precious script half-naked in the stair well doing push-ups on top of another man just to eke out a few more desperate moments of precious screen time.
. . .
“Oh, you meant ‘Red Plague’ itself? Yeah, I don’t think it had one.”
Well, we went and did it. We may not be saving the rec center, but we put on a show and we’ve got a film coming! (Check out the theme song here!)
My old pal Zubair Simonson and I had spitballed an idea years ago, where two losers fall ass over tea-kettle into making a zombie movie called “Red Plague.” In our brainstorming, these were two guys without a plan or a script or a sense of moral guidance, but possessed by the unshakeable faith that this was their ticket to the big time. What starts off as wish fulfillment with the two creators aggrandizing themselves would spin out of control as they realized that their ambition far outstripped their talent and they became more and more insufferable.
That was our idea, I mean. No, not us us. Wait . . . what?
The idea was to be a mockumentary “making of” spliced together with the resulting Z-grade movie that they put together, complete with nonsensical plots, fast re-writes as they burn through lead actresses, and rock bottom special effects. We’d intended a fast paced madcap adventure that celebrated the triumph of creativity. Or something.
Anyway, that was four years ago.
To Zubair’s unending credit, though, he kept up with the idea and just last year found a group of people (esp. director/co-leading man John Ponger and the amazing producer Daniele Campbell) who were willing to make it happen. They fleshed it out, pulled together an amazing crew, and over (mostly) 2 days a couple of weeks, filmed the goddam thing.
Even more surprising, they let Zubair spend A LOT of time in front of the camera.
I was lucky enough to get to jump in and participate. Zubair sent me a rough draft of the script for the actual “Red Plague” part of the film (the mockumentary scenes were improvised after being loosely sketched out by John and Zubair) and asked me for some comments. Comments turned into some re-writes and, in the end, I think we came up with a script that was coherent and funny and, well yes, a little bit dumb, but intentionally so.
I found it an interesting challenge to write an intentionally bad script. The rough part is making something coherently bad, since the film makers (in the film, not John and Zubair) believe 110% that they are making a good movie. (Well, I mean John and Zubair thought so, too, but there’s really is good.) To this end, dialogue couldn’t be flat out atrocious, there couldn’t be horrible randomness, and there could be cheapness, but never laziness. These were guys who had every intention of making a great movie, so they would know about things like how to build up tension, how to foreshadow, how to work in 3 acts, how to put in subtle movie references, etc. But they were still terrible at it.
Even more fun was writing the parts in the movie-within-a-movie that reflect the things going on in the mockumentary. There’s a rotating cast of lead actresses that get killed off-screen or act up on camera, so it was great fun to try to guess where people would go and try to write something that could fit in to a structure that hadn’t been improvised yet. I’ll have to wait until the finished product to see if it all jibes, but I am optimistic.
Anyway, it was a blast to see a group of people getting together to actually saying our words and acting out our ideas (although mostly Zubair and John’s ideas). When you see the movie, I’m frowning a lot because I was trying to stay in character (I have a minor speaking role in the mockumentary as the harried writer), but inside I was cracking up. I kept thinking, “I can’t believe I’m getting away with this. Do they know I made that up?”
To sum up, great experience with a great cast and crew. All the credit in the world to those guys and gals. I’ll keep you posted with more as post-production progresses.