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Summer of the Mess


I found out the hard way that sometimes projects fold. You can put your heart and soul into it and despite everything you do it doesn’t work out. Some things fall apart very early while they’re just being talked about. Some die after pre-production has started and some fall through after you’ve begun shooting. I learned over the years never to count on a project until you’re actually there doing the job – and sometimes not even then. It’s a sad fact of life that some people talk the talk but they can’t walk the walk.

While I was shooting The Clown I received a phone call about a horror film re-make. It was being produced through a horror magazine and they wanted me on board to provide the gore FX. I got the screenplay by horror author and nice guy Gary Charles and enjoyed it. It was a straightforward killer in the wood with some nice touches and some opportunities for cool effects. I met with the director and not long after I get an email.

The first day of shooting would involve the death of one of the characters; bludgeoned with a sledgehammer. Easy stuff for me until I read the email which enquired – Can we rip his genitals off? Of course I replied with an emphatic yes and then worried about how to do it. That ended with me sculpting and casting a prosthetic penis and pubic area (complete with gaping wound! And the penis was rigged so it would gush blood. I had a terrible time painting the thing and having to hide every time one of my kids walked in the room.

So on day one I drive 100 miles up to Northampton to meet the cast and crew. We had a major trek ahead of us lugging the gear deep into the forest where we would be filming. It was a sunny day and it was fun watching the actors going through their paces. I even rigged an on the spot FX so it looked like an actor was taking a pee. When it was my turn to step up to the plate properly it got entertaining for everyone else and rather embarrassing for me. I ended up on my knees with this poor actor gluing a prosthetic pubic area to him. It looked very dodgy indeed and of course someone filmed it and put the damn thing on the internet!

That first day was brilliant and I had so much fun. One of the coolest things was meeting world kickboxing champion Zara Phythian. She’s an amazing martial artist and one of the humblest people I’ve ever met. Sadly on the second day things went downhill. Fast.

It started in the same way with the 100 mile road trip. It was raining and the forest was a quagmire but we were undeterred. Unfortunately the director had a former Big Brother contestant in to film that day and called a photoshoot before filming. So we waited and got wet and cold and muddy and then we waited some more. We ended up starting without the director and his actor and shot a couple of FX scenes. In one poor Zara had her hand nailed to a tree which I accomplished with a nifty little prosthetic piece.

The other involved a poor actor getting their guts ripped out which involved lots of blood and intestines that I made. After that we waited again. The final part of that day involved the Big Brother “star” who along with the director was the worst for wear after spending the photoshoot in a pub. We shot her scene and then called it a day. The cast and crew were all miserable and disheartened about what had happened. On their way back to the cars the director and his “star” got lost and apparently spent hours wandering around, lost in the forest.

The film died after that, stillborn and sadly never completed. It floundered for a while I was still attached and then took a bizarre turn for the worst when an American FX artist/director got involved. In the end it became the re-make that never was but I still came away from the failed project with some hard learned experience. One thing I learned was how not to direct a film and I put that knowledge to good use when I directed my own short film recently.

The other cool thing came from a simple question; Vic, Zara’s partner asked me “Can you do broken bones?” I gave my usual answer of “yes” and not long after I received the screenplay for a cool Brit ‘B’ movie thriller – Furor: Rage of the Innocent. The experience didn’t put me off making indie films but it did serve to highlight one of the sad sides of the game. I suppose the other thing I got from this disaster movie was a terrible distaste for working with reality TV actors. On a positive note I had a great new project to look forward to…

The end of Part Three

In Part Four: The Rage Takes Over