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Low Budgets, Antihistimines and a 30 Page Script...3 Days of Movie Making Bliss.
A first person account through the blurry eyes of Prof. Tread
Look at the size of that barrel! That's nothing compared to holster it would take to hold it.

Is there anything more fun than getting together with like-minded friends, all of you pitching in on a creative effort, and ultimately putting it out there for the masses (however sparse those masses may be) to enjoy? Okay, sure there is, I’ve seen some of your girlfriends. I'll admit, even on a pretty good day, it’s a distant second to the worst sex but, most of you nerds aren’t having any of that no how, so for the sake of discussion, you can live vicariously through me as I describe three of low budget movie making madness. I'mnot going to share plot details or reviw the work it's more of just a run-on, jumbled slice of my existence told through my beer googles. Quickly, a little back-story.

Tim Ritter, wunderkind indy horror filmmaker made his second film (his first was scripted and shot while he was still in high school) when he was around 18, it was pretty big success, you may have seen it and even if you haven’t, if you are over 30 and a horror fan you’ve probably spied it on the shelves at the local mom and pop video store, or remember the Fango ads or something. Tim Ritter wrote and directed TRUTH OR DARE-CRITICAL MADNESS. It was a pretty big deal and a great way to start a promising horro film career. He eventually wound up in court fighting to keep the credits to his own film. Not to be swayed from his vision to align himself with his idols, Craven, Cunningham, Carpenter, Romero, Cronenberg, Waters, Lewis, Savini and the like, Tim dove right into his second feature, KILLING SPREE, he found even though TRUTH OR DARE had been a success, investors were not lining up to finance his epic. But tenacity and prodding from others helped Ritter realize that his film could get made. It did. Tim went on to write, produce and direct a handful of other features, many with the same cast and crew members, Kathleen Ritter his wife of 16 years, his pal the likeably insane Joel Wynkoop, Asbestos Felt and a handful of others. A pioneer at video self distribution, like similar minded crazies such as Ron Bonk, Donald Farmer and Keith Crocker, Tim refused to let something as stupid as cash, shooting format of some other lame shit, stop him from seeing his projects through…he's still that way today. But older, wiser and more experienced at getting the job done. it was inevitable that once Tim moved to Kentucky that Brains On Film and Twisted Illusions (Tim’s company) would eventually swap spit…this, my little buttwipes, is how it all went down.

Director Tim Ritter placing giant "Xs" through the parts of the script we completed. That's the best part of the day.

Tim, Bro. George and I have been swapping emails, soda pop and coffee, as well as discreet parking lot discussions now on for a few months, swapping tapes, t-shirts and phone numbers and yakking about “doing something together.” Like me, Tim is plagued by “the job.” But that hasn’t stopped him from getting his first novel published, as well as recently getting a handful of his past features out on DVD through Sub Rosa Studios, as well as, securing a position over at Sub Rosa Midwest handling distribution. Needless to say Tim has been, like the rest of us “busy.” Bro. George produced Paper Cut; we were hitting the conventions and of course getting the boot from the Internet. Busy. But a couple weeks ago, Tim dropped me an email.

"What was I doing May 16, 17, and 18?" Included was a script. 30 pages. Tim was putting together the sequel to his anthology that was released back in 1985, TWISTED ILLUSIONS. Two of the segments were complete, neither had Ritter’s script or direction behind them, Tim needed to produce his segment. Would I be up for helping? Needless to say, I said I was more than a little happy to do it. Even without reading the script. I forwarded the email to myself and read it at home. A few locations, fun dialogue and cool little twist at the end, shit, this looked like more fun contemplating my genitals which is usually how I spend my weekends. It seemed pretty easy from teh production standpoint and had the potential for big fun. I was in. Bro. George was going to Tribeca Film Festival the week before and also planning a trip to L.A. he was not going to be able to help, Jumpin’ Joe on the other hand, was ready to bite into a part. We were in. Brains On Film meets Twisted Illusions.

The next couple weeks, consisted of Tim and I exchanging ideas on locales, the script and potential actresses. Tim had spoken with Jasi Cotton Lanier, a name he had gotten from the aforementioned Donald Farmer. I dropped an email to Lilith Stabs. Atlanta based scream queen, I volunteered to play the male lead, a stalker. Tim had a very limited amount of jack, no , not cheese, money. Jasi was in for a day, Lilith agreed to do it super cheaply, but after some consideration, I decided maybe we could save the money and use her on something more substantial in the future. We wanted to pop our collaborative cherry for as little cash as possible. Tim nominated his lovely wife Kathy as the prime stalkie. Our BOF pal, Heather, aka Laybea Minor, just back from NYC would fill the other female part, Joe, he'd tackled the part of the sleazy sheriff. The segment, titled Dexter Deadbeat, was cast. Jasi would be the one “actress”, the rest of us; just family and friends. Ten pages of script would have to be shot each day over a 3-day period. Tim and I both reassured each other…”aw Heck, we can do it.”

Jasi Cotton Lanier gets ready to "ride." Tread-style.

As the days approached, we sorted through the who's, what's and where’s. Tim sent me a detailed shooting script, breaking down the 3-day shoot. He decided to shoot some scenes involving only Kathy’s character the week prior utilizing his family’s farm in South Eastern Kentucky. Both he and Kathy ended up at the doctor’s office. Seems these Florida natives weren’t familiar with the over-abundance of Poison Sumac his parents wooded land was home to. Tim’s case, mild, Kathy’s was another story. 350 mg of antihistamine was the doctor’s order. Tim also shot some dialogue and driving scenes in his own garage, draping his windows and creating a pretty impressive night time set as I witnessed when I arrived at his house with Wilder, my young'n, to sign some paper work and discuss the upcoming weekend. The first thing you notice about Tim when you start to work with him is that he is really laid back. Quite different from my years of experience working with Bro. George, who can only be described as anal, nervous, Napoleon-like and nitpicky. But it works for him. What can you say? Everybody needs its asshole. Bro. George is that and that bag of chips that people talk about. That's why we roll like a Yin and Yang I guess. Tim had an old Halloween mask he had bought on clearance; sort of a rubber sock hat with a fake nose he thought might work for my character. He handed me a prop .44 Magnum, some gloves, I signed my release as well as the release allowing the production to begin in my living room. I put the mask on. We both laughed. Maybe the mask wasn’t the “right” look for Tim’s somewhat Terminator-like character. We were still up in the air about some minor details, I would see that Jasi made it into Lexington on the night before principal shooting began, get her in her room and arrange to get her to my house on the first day of shooting. We also decided that we would shoot at Tim’s place of employment, a local hotel the night that Jasi rolled into town. And just like In Hollywood, the male lead would have to coach Under 10 Soccer Practice. I'm talking about me.ry an dkeep up! Anyway, at the hotel, I’d stalk Kathy down the halls; she’d hit me with a stun gun and escape. And that is how the shoot started. I showed up at 1:30 a.m. we exchanged pleasantries and got down to stalking, sneaking, shooting and yes, you inquisitive SOB, Kathy did really hit me with a stun gun.

Jasi and I, that's Jasi in the towel. I'm the cute one.

I had suggested to Tim that maybe my character might be slightly “odd.” Maybe I could dress more like a skin-headed, psycho bill collector than a cyborg. He agreed that might work. See I Told you he was laid back. My suit coat protected me (barely) from Kathy’s wicked aim with that stun gun. Tim had also corralled a cart that was used around the 600-room facility to deliver newspapers. He jumped on the cart with his Sony in his hand and we chased Kathy down the hall for a couple passes. The results, like a low budget Stanley Kubrick tracking down the hallways of the Overlook in THE SHINING. Kathy returned the favor, hoisting Tim’s frame lumberingly away from me as I skulked down the hallway after here. The three of us, laughing, sweating and trying not the wake the sleeping patrons, we ran from hallway to hallway, from terrace to parking lot and back. We were finished with everything in a brief 90 minutes. Me, I was off to bed, I had to be up in 4 hours. Tim was still at work, he wouldn’t be off until 8 a.m. We decided to meet and pick up Jasi, who I had spoken to on the phone and gotten settled that evening at the Motel 6. We’d meet at 8:30 a.m. 30 minutes after Tim got off work, I told him at the Motel 8. The wrong hotel. Inadvertantly, of course. I went home and got ready for the next day...

Looks like fun eh? It was for Jasi, sure, me? Well, I was thinking about pudding. And drying off my couch.

The next morning I got up. Shaved, showered and headed to pick up Jasi Cotton Lanier, Jasi bills herself as “a stunt babe” nowadays. She’s had a fairly noticeable exploitation career in the past 5 years, showing up in everything from Troma fun like TERROR FIRMER to the more exploitative fare like HELLBLOCK 13 and Indie Edge’s UNDERGROUND WRESTLING. What I did for sure know about her, she looked as cute as a button and she was 5’1” and 98 lbs. The script called for me to treat her pretty roughly. What fun, I get to beat around attractive teensy gal for a few hours. Pretty easy to get up in the morning knowing that dish is on your breakfast menu. I realized on the drive out, I had left her cell number on my computer, and I doubted very seriously that would be the name she had checked into the hotel under. I called the hotel. No Jasi Cotton Lanier or no Roxanne Michaels, another name she has acted under. I arrived at the hotel. And began to walk around the parking lot. It was nice morning. I noticed someone in the distance waving to me…it wasn’t Jasi, it was instead Kathy, they were looking for Jasi and I, next door at the Motel 8, at least I fucked up by naming the nearest possible hotel bu mistake. Kathy and I walked over and met Tim, his sister Wendy and her beau, Richard. We then went next door and I continued to look around for Jasi, sure I had figured out which car was hers. I was right, a petite redhead dressed in a slinky skirt, t-shirt and Chuck Taylors approached me. It was obvious that we were looking for each other. We were the 2 freaks in the Motel 6 parking lot…They left a light on for us. I put her in my wagon, Tim and his crew jumped in their ride and off we went.

At my house, we drank some coffee. Jasi and I ran through a few lines, Tim and I lit the living room, moved some furniture, rolled up a rug and we got down to business, first shooting my entrance to the house. Tim was a free spirit as a director, not really telling me where he wanted my character cerebrally. I was more than a little nervous. I wasn’t sure how to play the stalker. Robotic and relentless was sort of Tim’s vision. Relentless I got in spades (just show me a pair of panties you need removed) robotic, I’m more than a little lax. Plus at my size, there are not too many folks who’d buy that I was very intimidating. I needed a slight edge. I decided, A sort of natural mix of Ernest T. Bass meets Harvey Keitel with a dash of humorous semi-psychosis might just come off pretty convincing with my limited range. Shit, who don’t like Ernest T.? You just ain’t ‘Merican if you don’t. I worked the nerves down, doing all the shit that would get me to the door, no biggie, but I would have to square off with Jasi soon enough. MORE