Monday, July 29, 2019

Mea Culpa Document of London Film by JZ Murdock

Finally, I'm beginning the screenplay for The Mea Culpa Document of London. This short horror story that I wrong at university with the advice of one of my professors, one Perry Mills is an interesting tale of medieval horror.

Being a student himself of medieval writings, I would sit in Perry's office in the Theatre department back in the early 1980s and we'd chat about so many things. He has a mind like an encyclopedia.


When I came up with this idea, Perry latched onto it quickly, liking the concept. he gave me some insight and help with it relating to medieval times. In the end, he said I had the language down very well and it turned out so well in his mind, that he wanted me to turn it into a one-act, one-man play that he could himself act in.

Sadly I could never come up with a viable solution to how to write that play and so, it never happened.

I put this story in my first published collection of my first original short stories, Anthology of Evil. I've expanded it into another story, almost a novella, in "Vaughan's Theorem" in my second book, Death of heaven. I've now set up the first draft of the screenplay in Final Draft, having copied the Mea Culpa document into the doc and typing in FADE IN: and FADE OUT:.

The biggest issue I have is the title, which I'm leaving on the back burner until it comes to me as it always does.

I wondered about working out the characters. Which is confusing. We have the Medieval characters with the Judge, his assistant\replacement Truman, the woman and bane of the Judge, and the other woman accused of witchcraft. All circa 1100CE, long before the later massive witch hunts and inquisition (good times, right?).

There is also the modern version's characters to consider and perhaps blending in of the Judge's and his assistant and replacement's descendants in England and that long and disturbing version contained in, "Death of heaven".

I'm hoping eventually to produce a short movie that is of the type that through repeated viewings you will notice more and other things you had missed the first time around. I had originally planned this film out at my last place of residence. Sadly, that did not come to be.

Actor Nikolas Hayes as Reader and Victim in "The Rapping"
I have moved one mile away to my new location back on July 2018. My last home was a big place and we were going to shoot it in the garage under my Garage Tales planned set of stories.

What happened instead was for a first film, I went with a much simpler (perhaps too simple?) under the Attic Tales set of stories (to date, just one). From that came my short film, "The Rapping". It was a festival selection and shown at the Midnight Film Festival in New York this year and also won a slot in the Once a Week Online Film Festival. It was too simple a film to garner much attention, but I believe I've shown I can produce a watchable film. And so, with that in mind...

Actors Jason Lockhart as Rowan the hitman with
Tom Remick as Sampson the supplier in "Gumdrop, a short horror"
My current film now in production is, "Gumdrop, a short horror." That is a prequel based on another short true crime story of mine, "Gumdrop City". The film we're working on now is halfway through principal photography and looks to be evolving into a very interesting project.

What I'm thinking of doing now is to simplify this first version of The Mea Culpa Document of London and just do the document as it originally was. My lead actor, Tom Remick, also my audiobook voice actor and lead in the current film, Gumdrop, will again play the lead. To essentially act out the reading of what is essentially a journal of the character's personal horror.

Gumdrop, especially after The Rapping, has been a challenge. It is difficult subject matter. I first heard of this true-crime in a university class on abnormal psychology toward my psychology degree. I and the rest of the class were very disturbed by the story.

Which left me feeling motivated to write about it, to share it with the public. Actually filming it has been even tougher, a difficult subject to film. One actor even decided not to play one role in the film as he said he had objections from his family about him playing the part.

I've tried to walk my talent, the actors, through the production with care and some degree of delicacy. Also in just how much I should show, what SFX I should use, and how much to put in it to show on a much bigger screen. To an audience. I decided not to push it as far as I could. Much to the relief of some of the actors.

What I'm saying is that after this film is completed, I need a sort of creative palate cleanser.

Not that Mea Culpa is an easy subject itself as it is also a difficult subject as it involves such things as official misjudgment by the State (in this case, by royal decree of an appointed Judge), female torture, death and even worse.

All which leads to the twist in the end.

Still, simply acting out the reading, rather than producing the actual story with all the characters, props, SFX and actors who would be needed, will be less difficult and taxing on the production,, crew and talent. And my budget.

If you notice them, if you do read these stories, or view these films, they are disturbing, if not startling. That is what I do, write and produce macabre stories. to disturb, to at times shock, to make us feel outside of our lives, our experiences. To entertain and hopefully to evoke considerations of things we seldom have to deal with.

It's all in the execution you know. Myself? I love the stylized film. To take a story, compress it down, concentrate it, make it bigger than itself, well...this should be fun to produce and to experience. Not just difficult to produce, but a labor of love with hope of entertaining as well as strumming a bit on the viewer's heartstrings.

And their fears. Your fears.

Actor Aura Stiers as Miranda in Gumdrop, a short horror
But relax. It's all for fun and experiencing that great roller coaster ride that film and stories can give us in taking ur out of our day to day lives, into something more intense. In the end, we can return to our lives and maybe, feel a little decompression, a little light and entertainment, relief from our usual nightmares.

If after experiencing these tiny entertainments, you happen to think of them the next day? Then I've done my job. And then I'll move on, to try harder and to find on the next project, something that will take you a little farther into the dark recesses of the human mind. Or the alien mind. Or the mind of a monster.


#JZMurdock #MeaCulpaDocument #DeathOfheaven #AnthologyOfEvil #Horror #Gumdrop #MeCulpa #GumdropCity

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Rutger Hauer, actor, humanitaria, dies

Today, actor and humanitarian, wait... Humanitarian and Actor, Rutger Hauer passed on from this life.
Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in Blade Runner
I'll just post this and  I seldom ever do this, but Rutger was of the type that this is well deserved. Here is a very nice summary of his life and I cannot do better... Variety

This is Rutger's website that I used to hang out on. There is much I can say about him. Too much and so I won't.

I will say that I had some dealings with Rutger back in 2004. I was on his website back them for a couple of years.

In doing so, and you can still do so, you get to know him. You can no longer post, but you can read his fans comments and his interactions with them. He traveled the world acting. He would get online with his fans when he had time and access. When he did a movie in the Turks and Caicos Islands, he was so affected by the travesty of the highest rate of AIDS in the world, he started his Starfish Foundation to help them.

A non-profit organization aimed at raising
help and awareness on the HIV/AIDS situation,
focusing especially
on support to children and pregnant women.

The Rutger Hauer Starfish Association announces with infinite sadness that after a very short illness, on Friday, July 19, 2019, Rutger passed away peacefully at his Dutch home. 

He leaves his beloved wife Ineke, after they have been together for fifty years. 

We at Starfish will always cherish the many unforgettable memories we have of Rutger and his dedication to the Rutger Hauer Starfish Association. 

One of Rutger’s last wishes was that Starfish should continue its charity activity and its fight against the AIDS disease, and with Ineke’s precious help, involvement and direction we will follow Rutger’s wish and will do our best to carry on Rutger’s inestimable legacy.

Who Rutger was... I once asked him how he chose his roles and he said he looked not for the movie overall so much as the part he would play and if it had heart. 

And that summed the man up for me. 


He will be and should be, greatly missed.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Wakefulness 4:30AM - A Poem

Dark lies upon me.
I hear my own breath,
from inside of me.
Consciousness stirring
I hear the dimness
of the darkened room
and the soft breathing
lying next to me.

My dog sleeps below,
on his pad down low
large enough for his
solid eighty pound
German Sherpherdness.
But the breath that is
too close for him, has
a softer, gentler
sound coming from it
so unfamiliar.

I "open" my eyes,
focus slow to come.
I shift ever so
slightly in my skin
and my entire
human shell becomes
a vast sense organ.

Feeling, sensing. I
can "see" her lying
next to me, wrapped up
in my size and my
own solidness. She
does not move, at first.
And I am surprised.

It’s been five years. More?
Since I've felt this thing.
Then I remember
her and sink into
an ease, a silver,
complete negligence,
luxuriating
in her nakedness.
Her straight blond hair splayed
over her shoulders,
over my shoulders,
on my pillow, half
hiding her soft grace.

Partially out of
the covers, with my
own skin against hers,
her bare torso, and
naked breasts lying
gently against my
chest. Lower, the side
of my pelvis where
it meets the top of
her long slender legs.

I move my foot and
brush toes tenderly
against the side of
hers and she shudders
ever so gently,
melting into me,
settling into me
tightening her hold
on me, around a
chest breathing, peaceful.

I shift my gaze and
can smell her hair, light,
faint citrus smell of
sanity, outdoors.
I don't ever want
to wake. I melt back
into that moment,
settling into my
peace, my subtle fears.

I smile and fall
back into sleep with
her gentle breath, soft,
moist, against my ear.
Finally, as I
stir myself into
full, safe consciousness,
she is gone and her
side of the bed is
cold and unslept in.

And I am again,
so fully awake.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Popsicle Death - A Short Horror Screenplay

Too much fun. I do love this story. Short screenplay, really.

Popsicle Death

I guess I'm kind of known for my titles. Colorado Lobsters is another. I have some simple ones like my novella Death of heaven is based in part upon, or Andrew and Sarah. But my most notorious title is my medieval surreal tale of horror: "Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer to a Question he Knever Knew on the Knight that the Knight Lost All. [Music: Henry Purcell's music for the Funeral of Queen Mary]"

Now that's a hell of a title. But then, it's a hell of a story that I've expanded forward and back. It's a short story and a short screenplay. Actor Rutger Hauer chose it once as a winner in a short story contest he held. It's also a short screenplay now. I also wrote a prequel to it called, Breaking on Cave Island that was in an anthology. But? I digress...

I worked on a poster for the screenplay of Popsicle Death with Marvin Hayes, a great artist who has done some of my book covers. You can tell his, they're not just all black with a graphic in the center. I had seen another artist's concept and ran with it, solving the longtime problem I'd had about a cover or poster for it.


I originally wrote this short screenplay in a scriptwriting theatre class at Western Washington University in my last and senior year. I was in a class with seven very talented and funny people. At least one of them, Dave Skubinna, is no longer with us.

I was sad to hear that as Dave was always enjoyable company. I remember him taping away on his "notepad" device in class. The only one I'd ever seen and never saw another before I graduated. I'm still in contact with another friend in that class, Mike Rainey.

A few years after I graduated they, along with a few others started the Annex Theatre (originally on Bainbridge Island), still running in Seattle. Their most famous alum perhaps is one of my favorite actors, Paul Giamatti. I went into more detail in a previous blog post in 2011.

I had felt honored to be studying and working with those other students in that class and to be accepted by them. Even though I was older as I'd been in the service before starting college. My university and college years are some of my best memories and that series of classes under Bob Schelonka some of my favorite. Writing in a team environment, producing scripts of all many and short screenplays. It was a kind of magic.

When the idea came up for Popsicle Death, we were each to write a short paragraph and pass it to the one next to you around the table, I got mine from Chris Brooks who was a dancer in the theatre dept. He reminded me of David Bowie in some ways.

I immediately loved what he wrote. I came back to the next class and after reading what I'd come up with, they were all over it. I tried to say it was all Chris but he looked at me surprised and said, "No, I didn't take it where you did. That was all you." Still, the initial idea and I think the name were his.

The story is about a boy who buys a popsicle, goes in to get the money from his widowed mother and gets in trouble. He never returns. The vendor is in dire straights, having a bad time of life. He leaves, goes home and kills himself. The non-payment was his last straw. In retribution, Death Himself comes to reap payment. From the boy. And from there, everything goes to Hell.

I was loving this story idea. And my time working on a team of other creatives. While my girlfriend, whom I lived with, seemed to hate it all. Possibly because I was breaking off from my intense focus in psychology by getting a minor in creative writing through my senior year. We had been up to that point, side by side as psych students and quite well known in the psych department.

Actually, she did kind of start it, as she had taken a class in programming FORTRAN. Maybe there were other issues she had. I never knew. But once I started hanging in the theatre department, around those intensely creative, talented and possibly certifiably insane students, I was taken. Smitten with the creative arts. Always had been really, just never brave enough to invest myself in overt creativity with others. Like in theatre in high school. As my cousin had done. In fact she got a degree in costume design or something and went on to be a costume mistress on a big production in Seattle.

As for programming, I'd first taught myself BASIC the year I met my girlfriend in college (we ended up as lab partners in a chem/physics class my first quarter out of the military one summer, and the rest is history).

Before I got out of the service, I had sold my guns and bought a Radio Shack Tandy TRS-80 (the so-called and notorious, trash80). I taught myself to program in BASIC and wrote my first batch command files and had some fun with it in writing a fake AI.

When I got into that first college class with her, we were tasked with learning the entire periodic table which intimidated me (all of us really). I had an idea. I wrote a couple of programs that taught it to me. It worked. I was the only one in that class to get 100% on the period table test.

After three years of our studying psychology together, a great deal of that under the amazing Dr. Rod Rees, she started programming on the side and I started to hang with theatre types. In high school, I'd always loved hanging around my cousin's theatre friends with her. They were just... fun. We'd had different high schools and though she was a year behind me, she's only three months younger than me. All because MY birthday is near the end of August.

Anyway, I couldn't figure out back when why my girlfriend seemed so negative about my theatre classmates. She was actually kind of rude about it when they visited. We were working on a script and she came in from school one afternoon and she was so dour, they took the hint and left.

Anyway, Popsicle Death.

I think Chris just wrote that Death was a popsicle vendor and something about a kid. I went off the deep end and got very dark and added in his mother and a dead father, an Uncle priest and other surreal elements of horror.

Even though Chris had started it all as a tossed off joke, it turned into not a joke at all but rather... "Mom, help! No, no, you can't! Stop, let her go! Stop, no, no, no..."
"I am Death, little boy, back off!"
"But I didn't mean to it wasn't my fault! HONEST! Please! Don't!"

And the rest, as I'd said...is history.

#screenplay #PopsicleDeath

Monday, July 8, 2019

Drinks With the Alien

The other day I was sitting on my front porch having a drink. I heard a weird noise and looked up. A big... thing, landed in my fenced yard. It was, cool. Weird. It just floated almost silently down and settled, not really touching what remains of my lawn.

I had just moved some months previous and the last owner's three big dogs had torn the hell out of the yard. And the house. But it was remodeled before I moved in and is now very nice. Small, but comfortable and far cheaper than the big old house I moved out of. 

The side of this weird thing opened and out walked ... a guy. At least I think he was a guy. He looked like anyone, but his features were, somehow...just not right. Now I have been a sci fi, horror fan and a writer and filmmaker of the same for many years. Some of that more than others. So it takes a lot to surprise me or scare me. 

But this guy now before me was just...odd. Like his skin had folded in on itself and come back out again. It was kind of a feeling more than a viewing. If you know what I mean. Yeah, probably not, right? Well, trust me to say if you saw "him" (?), when walking down a dark alley, you'd go the other way.

Or, I don't know. Maybe you'd rush up and ask for a date. I don't know you....

Anyway, he sauntered over. He might have fit right in at the High-Fidelity Lounge and cocktail bar, just up the street from me. Well, like a mile away. Okay, about a mile and a half from here. Still, you get my drift. 

I set my drink down. I was having a Moscow Mule. He comes to a stop and looks up at me. I'm like five steps up from the lawn on my tiny concrete porch, but I realized I was looking him right in the eye. Or he was me. I'm not quite sure.

He smiled at me. At least, I think it was what he considered a smile. So, I smiled back. What the Hell, right? Either he was going to capture me, kill me, or eat me, or we were about to have a very interesting convo. Unless he was just boring. Or thought I was the more likely eventuality.

So finally. I just said it.

"Hey." That made him grin at me, I think he was grinning. I relaxed.

"Hey. What's hanging, man?" he responded. That took me aback a bit. I'd expected...I don't know. What? Klingon? Chinese? Tralfamadorean? Maybe. 

"What's hanging?" I barely got that out, trying to be hip, cool. But what IS intergalactic cool?

"Oh, yeah, I know. It throws you at first, right? See, obviously, I know all about you and you are after all hearing and seeing me for the first time. Sucks for you. Right? But no worry. I'm sure we can get along. I'm harmless, anyway. Mostly."

I was getting a bit stressed out until that last. When suddenly... I burst out laughing at the obvious Hitchhikers to the Galaxy reference. See, I'm a huge Doug Adams fan. For decades. Since like forever. Well, local forever, not intergalactic forever. I have some of his first editions, signed. 

"Got that, did you? Must be a fan, right? Of Doug, I mean. Not enough of you on this plane, if you ask me."

"Right." I don't know, I was trying to "maintain an even strain" as they used to say. I was decompressing at light speed. How weird! Here was this alien being, this extraterrestrial right here in my front yard for all to see! And yet I felt like he was an old friend I hadn't seen in a decade or something. Wait. 'For all to see?' 

"Hey!" I looked from the ship there in my front yard to, um, I wondered what his name is...anyway I looked at him, confused.

"Oh, no problem. No one can see it. Beyond a few feet. In fact, step inside your door there and you won't see it anymore either. Cool, right?"

'Yeah, pretty much. OK then. So, 'what's up', yourself. What's your name. I'm Bill." 

"No, way! My name is Bill!" 

"Right."

"Right!" 

I don't understand I thought you guys, aliens, extraterrestrials would visit us once we got into space. Maybe outside our solar system. Or with the advent of a warp drive or something.

"No, no no no no." he laughed, "no. Besides, no one uses "warp drives" anymore. Look, you people can't even get along with yourselves. How do you think you would fare dealing with a life form foreign to your own planet? Come on. Sure, we'd like to visit. We'd love to get to know you guys. We're party animals. We LOVE making new friends. But you can't even get along with people in the next state. Or people not of commonality. Minorities. Gays. Trans people. Or you in America, Mexicans! Mexicans! I mean, what the fuck dude? Not to mention, you haven't even developed synthetic people, yet. Or their dumber ancestors, robots. That's gonna be a killer for you if you don't get your act together ASAP!"

"Wait now, yes we have, we--"

No, now give me a break. You have like wind up toys. You have to get to where you have a robot with synthetic intelligence. They hate being called AIs by the way. What are you going to do with your robots (yes I know)? But for some reason, robots love the term robot. You'd think synthetic being or autonomous something or android whatever or ...whatever, but they do love being called Robot. You know. Don't tell them I told you this (they'd get embarrassed and you don't want to deal with an embarrassed Robot) but, sometimes you can almost catch them giggling when you call them Robot to their face. Too funny. Really." He thought for a moment.

"Anyway, how can you deal with us or someone like us if you can't even deal with your own people. Your ignorance, prejudices that are way fucking out of control man, and those ignorant biases. Really, it's not that hard to do. And yet..." He "frowned"?

"Anyway, once you are dealing in the real world, can handle a discussion with an irate Robot, can deal with your own internal differences between race, gender, and whatever, vegan or not, then maybe, MAYBE we'll give dropping by a shot."

"But, you're here. Now."

"Yes, but no one believes individual unverifiable encounters. Anyway. I'm talking like... tourism. Massively."

"Tourism. What?"

"Sure, what you think? We'd just drop in with one guy and a Robot and try to make a connection? Oh, hell no. We'll send a delegation. Look. Say... when your president visits another country. How many go with him? Does he fly commercial? Or take a plane and crew, and security detail, and some specialists, some politicians, some people from the State Department? Right?" He stopped, took a breath and watched my reaction. I was blank so he continued.

"Now, consider the distance we have to cover, our substantiation (our spaceship), and there you have it. So minimum ...we're looking at maybe, five hundred on an initial encounter? On a good day."

"FIVE HUNDRED!?"

"At least. To be sure! Then after that, like immediately. People will want to know all about us. We'll already know all about you. We already do. We've been watching your TV shows for years."

"But I thought it took forever for slow radio signals and such to get to another solar system, planet."

"Planet? Honey, please. We are zipping around the galaxy all the time. We got your radio signals once you could send a signal across your country and it beamed all over like a sloppy child eating ice cream in the hot summer sun."

I was flummoxed. But that made total sense. I took a sip on my Mule and it turned into a guzzle. He eyed my drink and then looked me in the eye. Perhaps I should offer him one? What does alcohol do to an alien?

"So once we make friendly and all, we'll want to start dropping our tourists. We'd start slow, maybe 1,000 per country. Hundred, in some countries. But maybe like 100,000 of us. Overall. We wouldn't want to overtax your burden." He saw my surprise.

"Don't worry, you'll like it. Consider how one place in a country gets tourism and the citizens do well from it. Now, what if that entire country got an influx of wealth?"

"You have...use, our money?"

"Your money? Which your money? No, of course not. No one uses money. We just use wealth. Trust me, it's way better. Can't be forged, stolen, abused. You have it or you don't and when you do things go better with Coke!"

"Wait! What?"

"Do you have a Coke? I've been wanting to try one for nearly 100 years now. I think I'd prefer the original recipe but hey, beggars can't be choosers, right?"

"What?"

"No Coke? Rats. I knew it."

"I have a Ginger Beer. Personally, I like it better than most other soft drinks."

"OK, I'll try that. Thanks." I got up and fetched him one from the fridge. I handed it to him and then sat down. He popped the top like a pro and took a sip. A great grin broke across his "face".

"Wow. I like that, Has a kick to it. Is that alcohol?"

"Yes, it has a percentage of alcohol in it."

"Thanks! I feel...relaxed."

"I'm not surprised." He guzzled the rest, crushed the can in his hand and set it on my porch railing with a smile. Then he looked around, sniffed the air and stared into my eyes.

He looked down at what I assumed was a watch on his wrist.

"Well, times up. Gotta jet. Been nice talking to you. I'll stop by again. I'm curious how this next election will turn out. The people you people think are the people you need to govern your people. It's quite beyond me, or anyone I know anyway. Have a good one. And...best of luck! See you! Maybe."

And with that, against all my calls and demands, he got back in his thing and I watched as it floated upward and disappeared."

I sat there for a good five minutes in a fugue state of sorts. Then I got up, went to the kitchen, made myself another Moscow Mule and came back outside and sat back down. I looked around. No sign of the ship had landed. No one else saw it. No sigh he was here. I leaned over and looked at the sandy soil of my "lawn" or what was still existing of one.

There were still some tracks left from where he had been standing. The tread said something. I leaned down and took a closer look until I realized what it said.

"Nike."

I sat back in my chair, took a healthy drink off my Mule and smiled. He may be right. It may all depend on us getting our act together, collectively. I do wonder how this next election will turn out.

Monday, July 1, 2019

A Film Production - Gumdrop

As some may know, I've been working for years to come up with a screenplay I could shoot and produce myself. I retired in 2016 from a well-paying job in IT after decades and bought enough film equipment and a top five video editing station to begin transliterating my fiction into screenplay format and shoot it myself. First up was a prequel to my 2012 published (written in 1983) short horror, true crime story, "Gumdrop City".

I just submitted footage of my interview by producer and director Kelly Wayne Hughes this week to the Trash Arts Portsmouth in the UK. They are gearing up to produce a documentary of interviews with horror writers and directors and for the first time in my life, I actually fit that definition for both designations.

I have now produced one short horror film in 2018 which won a small film festival and was a festival selection at another, The Midnight Film Festival in New York (and we're being reviewed in others until January 2020). I have high hopes, greater hopes for this now, my current production: Gumdrop.

A little background.

I've spent the past few months working up a shootable script. I reviewed all my writings and ended up with the best choice being, Gumdrop City.

It is based on a true crime story I first heard of in abnormal psychology class that affected the entire class that day so much that when class was over I walked out believing I had to fictionalize it into a horror story. That was the second story that originated in such a way. The other was a story Sarah, about an old woman with dementia that I turned into a Twilight Zone style story.

In the end, it became one of if not the favorite of my cover artist's, Marvin Hayes. I had also reviewed my short screenplays. Of those screenplays I had one or two I would love to shoot. But for those, I would need more money. Too many characters and period scenes to do on no or little budget, if I want to do it up right.

Cover art by Marvin Hayes
I'd LOVE to shoot "Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer". But it is a medieval piece that descends into madness and surreality.

By the way, you can tell my older covers as they indicate, "by" JZ Murdock. Newer covers eliminate the "by".
Cover art by Marvin Hayes
"Sarah" might be another which is the same in a way, albeit in modern times. Still, too many special effects are involved.

"Colorado Lobsters" screenplay might be fun to shoot, but that would take a far larger budget as it involved MIT and a nuclear power plant.

And so I chose "Gumdrop City", a modern tale of a "specialized" serial murderer. But I did not want to shoot that story. Why? You'd have to read it to find out why. It's a rough subject. The ending is grisly and I'm just not ready for something quite so difficult to shoot. It was hard enough simply to write it as a horror story. The reveal and ending seemed to take forever to write. And that...should say a lot.

However, I came to realize if I shot it as a prequel to the short story, that just might work. The more I worked on that concept, the more it came together. Until finally, I had a completed short screenplay that I could shoot myself. I just needed actors. And some props.

For the past few years, I've been on sets involved with Kelly Wayne Hughes' productions at his Lucky Charm Studio. I wanted to see how screenplays were translated into practical application and into a finished product.

The first set I was ever on was on the set for the pilot to TV's 1986 Starman series. I got to be on two external Seattle location sets. I saw them shooting up on Queen Anne Hill when on the way home. It was hard to miss. Semi trucks and trailers and people and cameras.

Apparently, the location manager noticed me hanging around. I was straining to hear everything, to see everything. I guess I was more obvious than I meant to be. But I heard them talking as they were wrapping things up at the end saying they'd meet at the Seattle Center later for a night shoot. I ran home, ate dinner and headed back out.

That night I was watching everything next to their night set at the Monorail terminal at the Seattle Center. Extras were milling about everywhere, sitting, waiting for a call to action. The location manager was walking by and talking on his handheld radio, having someone turn off and on the background amusement rides for the camera and giving others directions.

He noticed me again and walked up to me sitting on a low concrete wall. We talked a bit and he asked questions and I answered.  I told him I'd studied screenwriting in college and had recently graduated and I just wanted to see what it's like to be on set. He smiled at me and said, "Follow me." And I did.

He placed me on set, right next to the director and camera while they set up shots and filmed the scene, which took hours. People were wondering who I was, some young producer, maybe. The stand-ins for Robert Hays and Erin Gray (who sadly, weren't around) before the camera at the open monorail doors, kept looking at me, confused.

It was a fun and fascinating first look into production. I was tired at work the next day, but it was worth it. Which just goes to show you, seek knowledge and it may be handed to you outright. You just have to put yourself out there where luck can happen to you. Keep doing it, sooner or later it will happen. Take a chance. Things happen.

Kelly's production company has produced many films since and through the 1990s. And he's also a good friend. We met online through Stage32 and got together for the first time at Seattle Crypticon in 2015.

I had started studying cinema officially in college back in 1980. Though I had been a citizen student of cinema going back to childhood in the 1960s, thanks to PBS and the films of auteurs they presented to America back then and decades prior.

Those auteurs like. Truffaut, Godard, Fellini, Renoir, Bergman, Kurosawa, Fritz Lang, Eisenstein, Bresson, Bunuel, Tarkovsky, Antonioni, Rossellini, Resnais. That led me on to others and our American auteurs. It gave me an orientation to pursue. Classic cinema to the avant-garde.

I became fascinated by many things in life with a cinematic orientation. I also grew up going to a drive-in theater my stepfather worked at when we were kids. My first job was there in 9th grade cleaning the field, My second job was there working in the snack bar where I became its manager in 12th grade. My sister's first job before me was there.

For some reason, I always wanted to look behind the scenes. I wasn't that kid who opened their Christmas presents secretly before Christmas, I like the surprise. And maybe that says something.

Still, perhaps seeing Wizard of OZ at a young age prompted some of that. Once I realized, was surprised that there was one, I wanted to see who the "man behind the curtain" was. HOW were things done? How do you make, "movie magic"? I was fascinated by "King Kong" at a young age. The original. When I later saw a piece on TV in the 1960s about who animated him and how King King was brought to life, I was initially disappointed, but then I became enraptured.

Willis O’Brien onset of King Kong
Willis O’Brien animated the original King Kong and then Mighty Joe Young. I loved those films as a kid. Then, Ray Harryhausen came on the scene. I loved those films too. But I didn't want to be one of those geniuses.

Then I went through many of the British Hammer Films, until...the very American "Night of the Living Dead" came on the scene. My mother had always loved vampire and horror films, and Hollywood overall. They were America's royalty for us. 

Later I came to know more about behind the scenes of these films. In fact, that became an industry until itself. First film magazines. Then documentaries and eventually entire TV shows on the making of shows and films.

I grew up loving "movie magic" in all its varied forms. I locked onto people like Tom Savini and finally got to meet him. I loved John Carpenter films and his stable of actors, not unlike Woody Allen in another genre whose films I also loved since the 1960s.

In college and then at university, I studied cinema while getting a degree in psychology. But also found time for classes and getting a minor in writing, cinema and screenwriting. I chose to study my favorite directors, Hitchcock, Woody Allen, and Stanley Kubrick. I took a series of film production seminars from the famous (some say notorious) producer and director, Stanley Kramer.

But when it came down to it I loved how John Carpenter went about his filmmaking. He tried to do it all, to have control of his final product. And I loved the products he shared with us. That led me to others of this genre. Canadian David Cronenberg, Dutch Paul Verhoeven, and eventually ever newer horror directors. Eventually even Japanese and South Korean, Thai, Australian filmmakers and those from other countries.

So when I decided to start my own horror film production (as I had done with my first film in college in the early 1980s and my first documentary on cable TV in 1994), to write and direct my own production, I was about as intellectually and educationally prepared. As ready as I could be, I suppose.

I just had to be personally and emotionally ready. But are we ever? As with having children. You mostly have to have the child and raise it, and in that, you "become". You grow into being a parent. And you become a better human being because of it.

At some point, you simply have to just "Do It" to become it. Perhaps the shortest and greatest two-word admonition we have: Do It!

And today, you CAN just Do It. IF you had never seen a film before, you can now get online and follow videos and even online schools of film production like No Film School, Full Time Filmmaker. Or videos on how to with one of my favorites, Filmmaker IQ, also available on streaming site Amazon Prime.

You can also buy fairly inexpensive equipment of high quality. Then find some friends, nonactors even. And just do it. I'm using a Canon 70D I bought in 2015. Now they have a newer model in the 80D but it turns out great looking footage and incredible photos. Learn to shoot on the manual setting.

Learn to adjust your three basic functions on manual. Sooner the better. It can be intimidating, but it's worth it. Some shoot films on auto settings, using a zoom in every shot and it can indeed look pretty great. But the more you learn, the more options you have, and the better your films will become over time. Push yourself. Challenge yourself. On every level. And if you don't make it, at least hopefully you've done more and better than you would have.

Or, just get a good cameraman who understands cinematography (or also get a good cinematographer, though many of us are acting in the beginning as cameraman, cinematographer, writer, director, editor, lighting specialist/key grip, and so on).

Actor as Mermaid Miranda, Aura Stiers on set
I started shooting stills (you can see some of my best stills on Flickr from this link, but ignore my first photo, look down at all the others and you'll see some amazing shots from an amateur, me...my eagle shots are some of my favorites I shot from my from porch at home). I shot stills for a while to get used to the camera and learn its functions.

Eventually, I started shooting videos. I also believe in using prime (non zoom) lenses and the right lens for the shot or scene.

Actors on Gumdrop, Aura Stiers (Miranda - victim) and Stan Wankowski (Manz - hitman)
A good screenplay properly written, can carry poor film production, even poor acting talents into a viable and watchable movie. But the more you know entering the production, and the more help you have (a crew and... talent, that is actors) and the more fundamental a screenplay you have, the better your chances of anyone ever wanting to watch your product.

Or to get viewed at, or even in or to win, a film festival.

Actor Tom Remick as the frightening Sampson, in Gumdrop
To sum up...

I luckily had grown up through cinema and a fascination in the bones of filmmaking, and writing. I have been a writer for many years now. I finally just got up the nerve to do what I was setting myself up to do all my life, never really believing I'd ever get around to it.

Below is a shot of actor Stan Wankowski in a scene of the death of his character, Manz.

A dead "Manz" (actor Stan Wankowski) Production Still
 Below is a shot of the talent on set taking advantage of actor Stan in his final scene.
Crew/Talent taking shots of Stan's final scene as Manz
Until I did it. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that, if you do it, it might just work. Kind of on the theory of, "If you build it, they will come." If you shoot it, they may watch it.

Stan Wankowski as Manz
I'll offer you one last link. EFS, the Experimental Film Society. Check out their 19 points on filmmaking. Very inspiring but I have issues with the point on screenplays. On the other hand for some films, is it sage advice.

IF you do want to act, or to produce, to write or to direct?

Then? Just do it!