Sunday, May 2, 2010

ASCENT INTO MADNESS

So Vaughn and I are at lunch one day and he tells me about this crazy idea he has for a script. Two friends on a road trip who meet and alien who wants to get on American idol. Okay....hmmm....sounds interesting....funny....are you taking any drugs I don't know about?...tell me more! We were walking on the street behind Aroma coffee in the Valley when he tells me this. One block away from where Robert Blake shot his wife, not that theirs the least bit of significance there, just trying to give you a picture. At this point Vaughn was fed up with trying to do something "studio" and he wanted to let the guns blaze and have some fun. We had been talking about this at great lengths in the days/weeks/months leading up to this. (Vaughn can talk, and so can I). He wanted to do something Beppo-ish, referring to his short "Beppo the Clown", and I couldn't agree more. If you haven't seen Beppo, you should. Its about a future where well-to-do people have their own personal clowns to entertain them, and it's pretty awesome. (Especially the two flamboyant flamer fellas, one being played by the hilarious Scott Ward and the other by some other awesome guy... ) Anyway, so we were discussing ideas for things we could shoot ourselves, and he tells me about this idea he has. It's about a couple of fringe folks who pick up a hitchhiking alien in the desert, whom they assume is just some lonely soul who got lost in the desert after a rave. They then encounter a few more oddballs who do a lot of drugs, shoot guns and play rock and roll really poorly. The alien has an amulet that can end the world, and he (he was a man at this point) wants the start a band to compete on American Idol, in order to spread his message of love and acceptance. He tells me it would be self contained and easy to shoot, most of it either taking place in the van or at the shack in the desert where the weirdos hang. Then he tells me he most likely has the van already secured. Okay???

We meet up and talk about the idea a few more times. Actually VV just rambles wildly over the course of a few hours and I nod. Maybe two weeks later he tells me to come over and do a table read of his new script, tentatively entitled Night of the Alien. Really? Already? Did an alien visit you at night and mind meld it to you??? So we do the reading, and its just the two of us doing all the characters at this point, or it may have been Gene Charles with us too, not sure. He was definitely there for one of the early ones. Now, its hard to digest something when you're reading it aloud for the first time, especially while acting out 28 different parts, but I remember liking it VERY much right away. It was wild and full of energy, jumping all over the place in time, just like the characters it was chronicling. While I was doing my reading, one of the characters I was doing really stuck with them, and I was locked in from that point on. I guess it was destiny. "Lemons and cloves..."

So we did a few more reads, adding people as we went, and the script got better and better. I have to say that it is now my favorite, or second favorite script VV has written, at least of the ones I have read anyway. The nutty thing is, now that its shot and in the edit room, the finished product is something entirely different. Just as crazy, just as funny, just different. Its crazy how the actual movie making process and a bunch of actors playing the characters will do that. Not to get too ahead of myself. So, everyone loves it and after one of the table reads, Vaughn tells me we are going to shoot it by the end of the year. Its now probably July and he says were going to shoot before New Years. Okay??? How??? Remember that the script seemed to fly out of him overnight. A couple of days later, and as if on cue, two members of Vaughn's posse step up and offer to produce. They start doing the legwork a producer must do, scheduling and paperwork, but get stuck somewhere in the middle of asking people for money and dealing with the Screen Actors Guild, which is one hell of a nasty bitch for anyone interested. At this point VV decides to take matters into his own hands. Hell bent on shooting by the end of the year, he gently parts ways with his producing friends, for the time being we hope, and begins to work on producing things himself. Okay? Don't we need money to shoot? And a crew maybe? Just asking... He tells me he wants to use Neil Lisk as our DP, but Neil is expensive, and since we have no money, this probably wont happen. Then, a few days later, as if the aliens came to him again in a recurring-abduction-nightmare-probing-mind meld sort of way, he tells me Neil is on board and willing to shoot for FREE, if we do it over the Holiday when he's not working. It is now October by the way. Just two short months from our start date. No biggie. Their are only a few little things left to do like finding money, a crew, locations and about 20 actors!!!

From that point on the rest is a blur. Rob and Pia Deal are there doing a ton of heavy lifting. Actors are being recommended and cast, then bailing at the last minute. Were shooting. People I recommended are showing up 4 hours late for shooting. I'm picking up lunch for 30 people at an El Pollo Loco in the barrio....and voila!!! The film is suddenly being edited and were talking about posters and log lines.

It's crazy what one madman can get a bunch of other maniacs to do if he's mad enough. I'm sure I'll probably wake up tomorrow with Vaughn telling me we won Sundance or he sold it to Fox Searchlight. Until then, I'll just keep being amazed.

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