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Gore and Loathing in Phoenix II: The Writing of "One Bloody Night"


Part of a series of essays related to the on-going production of an Arizona-based indie horror film, One Bloody Night.

With the first draft of the screenplay done the first thing I did, naturally, was work on the 2nd draft. I needed to flesh out the initial story and dialogue. Now that I had a working idea I went over to my friend's house (the place where the shoot would take place) and got an idea of how the action would actually have to take place. I would also need this information so I could work on accurate storyboards.

I have drawing experience so I thought I would knock these out in a few weeks. I was very wrong.

I started this project as an exploitation, T&A gore-fest; so the screenplay needed to be little more than a vehicle for these things to take place, hence I knocked out the screenplay with little effort or thought. I however wanted the movie to look good and give prospective crew, actors and other participants an idea of the flow of the action and be able to visualize what was going on. So I put much more effort into the storyboards.

This was when my simple nudity-blood-sex-gore-flick started to take its first turn. The first few nights I worked on storyboards, were spent really making them look good (I do take pride in my work); this takes valuable time.

Soon, another factor slowed the production: love. I met a girl and we were both madly in love. This lasted for several months in which little but talk happened on the flick or the storyboards. One day she decided she was no longer madly in love with me or in love with me or wanted to see me.

It was a month after this blow that I realized an important lesson in making movies: love is bad for movie making. Soul crushing pain, abject depression that leaves a void in your heart (and your time) is great for getting movies made. All those tear-filled nights alone are just begging to be filled with productivity.

Can't get to sleep thinking of "her" - get up and punch up the dialogue on the screenplay. Find yourself with a gun in your mouth at 2 AM after drinking all night trying to work up the courage to pull the trigger - take that energy and go draw some storyboards. Head in your hands with despair thinking of how you can't trust your emotions because they always lead you to a bottomless pit of suffering - climb out of that pit for a while and go surfing the web for distributors for when you finally have your flick done. It will get you thinking of the future.

I sat down one night and decided that every night from there on out I would draw at least one storyboard a night until they all were done. But once you draw one, often many more would follow and I managed to get them drawn rather quickly. Getting them scanned into my computer, sized, shaded, compressed and turned into a form that could be viewed by the public at large was another matter.

My next step was to gather prospective crew and, later, cast. I had many of the people who could actually shoot the flick, but there are many other things that need to be done to get a movie made. To this end I set out to build a website that at first could be used to inform people interested in the project about the flick and how to contact me etc. I will even put a trailer on the site comprised of the storyboards I drew; I needed to do something with them. Later, after production, I am going to turn it into a promotional site for the flick.

I decided right off to by a domain name that was related to the movie, I hadn't created the title yet and only settled on "One Bloody Night" because it had blood in it and kind of said what the movie was about. I actually hate the title now, but I made a decision some time ago that this production was going forward, warts and all.

This brings me to another important realization I had on the production of this movie. It being my first movie, I don't expect it to be great cinema. In fact, I had conceived of this project not to be great cinema, but an exploitation flick that I could have a reasonable chance of selling. Also, this being a "B" movie, I could allow myself some latitude when directing and not take it so seriously and just have a bit of fun.

But as the movie progresses I become embarrassed over the quality and content of the screenplay. I have spent much time on the look of the flick, and the marketability (as in the sex, gore and nudity), I found myself realizing I wanted the movie to be a bit better even if I had to sacrifice these elements. I found myself rewriting, rethinking and agonizing over details until I was at the point I wanted to chuck the whole thing and start over.

I had to come to terms with the fact that if you work out everything to be perfect you will never get anything done. Like the title that I hate, I have tried to stop agonizing on details and just move forward with what I have. If I were to spend my time perfecting the story I would have long ago trashed this screenplay and wrote something better, redone all of the storyboards, started the production from scratch and quite possibly never made a movie.

I made a decision after I accepted that title that I hated. I decided to go ahead, set dates, gather crew and cast and, when the date arrives, shoot this movie, period. At the end of the shoot I will have what very few have to their credit: a completed full-length flick. It may not be everything I wanted or imagined, but this will be the first of many and you can't make a second movie if you never make the first, no matter what you think of the flick in mid-production.