Look out, YouTube!!!
At long last, I offer my readers something more than flowery language and pretty pictures. With today’s grand unveiling of this little blast from my past, The Ed Zone has been thrust into the brave new world of web videos. And with this first video (click the photo link at the bottom of this post), my true identity has been stripped bare for all to see. Yup, beyond this cool, calculating facade the real truth is exposed. I’m nothing but your garden variety tool.
Anyway, my best bud Sean and I have been trying to figure out how to add video to this site for many months now. Last year, on Halloween no less, I was able to post two videos that depicted a few segments of spine-chilling terrors from spooky siestas long since past but those videos came in at a scant 30 seconds or less so there wasn’t much heavy lifting required to get them up and running. Today’s feature was a trickier beast but at last, we’ve tamed it.
Thus, I announce the start of a new, recurring series at The Ed Zone. Trailer Park.
As some of you know, I have a whole catalog of video footage that I shot beginning in my Senior Year at UMASS (1993-1994) and continuing through the present. Back then, as I was enjoying my sunset years at that great school – as I was fighting a losing battle against the cruel march of time with all my might for fear of being thrust back out into the real world (back into that dire realm of responsibility) – I decided that instead of taking some Polaroid’s of my friends and getting them to jot down a few sappy sentiments, I would borrow my Uncle’s video camera (you know his better half as frequent Ed Zone contributor – Aunt Sharon) and gather my group of friends (equal parts guys and dolls) for a little impromptu video session. (Yes, I am well aware that is also the way that Internet Sex Tapes usually take shape. Fortunately for all of you, I started this little project back in the hazy, crazy days of dial-up 52K modems when the Internet was barely a gleam in Al Gore’s eye so had I somehow succeeded in coaxing my compadres into lead roles in The UMASS Debate Club I’d probably still be uploading the damned thing.)
Of course, I could have just thrown the camcorder over my shoulder and captured the candid antics of this cavalier group of coeds but then all I would be doing is making another boring home movie. Sure, it might be fun to bust out every once and awhile over the next several decades but outside of your close circle of friends, those videos only bore everyone else silly. You are never as funny as you think you are.
So, I did the next best thing. I spent the bulk of my second semester Senior Year scripting a short film that my friends and I could play roles in. The script was jotted down on loose-leafed notebook paper as I sat in those filler classes that typically populate a collegian’s course load once he has satisfied all requirements on his major and minor disciplines and is simply waiting out the last few months for that dreaded final bell to chime. Instead of snoozing away in class or swiping my buddy Justin’s Gameboy (the original unit, which like cell phones at the time, was about the size of Sputnik), I sat there in class scripting my sure-fire application for that year’s Razzie Awards. I lost out to Sliver. Damn you Billy Baldwin. Damn you to hell!!!
The result was Dumb White Guy, a riff off of that old serial killer chick flick – Single White Female. In DWG, I played the role of Skip Tyler, a dashing and popular Big Man on Campus who begins to suspect that somewhere in his idyllic school setting lurks a vicious serial killer. Yes, it’s 100% autobiographical.
With his best buddies Chazz Perkins (Rich Gobeil) and Juice Sawyer (Justin Smith), Skip begins a search for the killer before he can strike again. Soon, Skip’s world is rocked at the introduction of a new roommate – Joe Roma (Joe Dolat) – who moves in under the cover of darkness and soon draws Skip’s suspicions towards his true intentions.
Now, as the writer and director – as the loving father to this baby – I can say without reservation that DWG is… (How do I put this kindly? I don’t want to bruise my ego)… It sucks hard.
Really!!! It’s painful to watch. The writing is abysmal. The direction is flat. The acting is atrocious – with my role providing the model for the other actors of what not to do, although they did it anyway. Like the immortal Ed Wood, I have apparently never filmed a shot that I didn’t like… or use… so we have entire sequences where my buddy Joe struggles to pronounce the word category (he calls it “Clategory“) and wouldn’t you know it – the kid and the scene stay in the picture.
Joe Roma: He’s a mutipath!!!
Juice Sawyer: A multi-what???
Joe Roma: A multipath. In order to survive and blend in – he takes on personas from elements around him… most of the time, from the movies.
Juice Sawyer: Well, that would explain his Crying Game phase.
Joe Roma: Look kid, this ain’t no f$#king laughing matter.
Juice Sawyer: OK, you’ve convinced me.
There’s a reason these writers are on strike. If you made your bread cobbling together elements of the written word in a bid to reach out and touch someone – anyone – and then one day discovered that somewhere, someone had composed sentences like those listed above (the equivalent of 1,000 monkeys typing on 1,000 typewriters for 1,000 years) you’d throw your hands in the air, renounce life and strike against humanity itself. Phrases like that make ears bleed and unicorns perish.
As if that weren’t enough, the script features the most obvious plot twist since it was announced that coward Robert Ford shot Jesse James, with the creepy roommate Joe Roma revealed to be an undercover FBI agent hunting the Turner Cove College killer and my character, Skip Tyler, fingered as the murderer. His motive? He was sick of being stereotyped as your average guy – your typical dumb white guy – so in his darkest hour, he lashes out at the institution that berthed him – The Great Satan, itself – state college. Now that I think about it, that’s quite an insightful little subtext I have woven in there.
Well, it’s tough to focus on hidden meaning when your 20-minute film features several extended shots of the lead getting dressed and undressed – with my Glow-in-the-Dark Nightmare Before Christmas boxers getting heavy airplay. Why are those shots in there? Don’t ask me – I only wrote, directed and starred in it. It’s not like I handled costume design.
One major regret. With a running time of approximately 20 minutes, it’s a little tough to inject some of those finer elements that distinguish a good film such as character development, narrative cohesion and, what’s that phrase again, oh right… professional acting.
That said – it is sooooooo bad, it can be fun to watch. At the very least, it makes perfect fodder for your favorite drinking game. Every time Joe flubs a line, take a shot. Every time Ed grabs his ‘junk’, down a keg. You will be hammered in 30 seconds flat. That, I promise you!!!
As bad as it was, and it was so bad that I got fired from Shasta McNasty well before UPN could execute its own mercy killing, the experience did provide me with the impetus to begin work on a sequel. At the time, I was about a year removed from college – toiling away in the big, wide world – and missing my college pals something fierce. As a way to insure frequent reunions, I decided to begin writing the sequel to that former masterpiece. Within a few short weeks, I had the full shooting draft for Dumbguy Forever (that title places the flick somewhere around the Summer of 1995 – when the world was still looking forward to Batman Forever – well before we would all learn how very, very wrong it is to put nipples on the Batsuit).
Dumbguy Forever reacquaints us with FBI agent Joe Roma as well as former college buddies, Chazz Perkins (Rich Gobeil) and Juice Sawyer (Justin Smith). Having moved on with their lives following the death of their former friend Skip – who in the final moments of DWG was revealed to be the campus killer – the trio soon discover that some ghosts won’t stay buried. Injecting the supernatural into the script, we learn that Skip is actually a primal, elemental power – the life force of ‘dumb white guys’ everywhere. In essence, the DWG is the true face of pure evil. With Skip back, possessing untold powers, he begins creating duplicates of himself in a bid to get revenge and take over the world.
Agent Barnes: So, what are we dealing with here?
Agent Noble: Yeah Roma, what have you discovered?
Joe Roma: It’s Skip. He’s back… and he’s cloned himself.
Agent Barnes: Jesus… the bastard loves himself.
DG4EVA was bigger in every way. We had twice the speaking roles and actual location filming shots (no longer confined to college dorm rooms, we were now shooting on country roads, off-campus apartments, busy parking lots, The Banana Hammock, everywhere!!!)
To tackle the clone angle, I was going to play 8 versions of myself. We planned out one complex scene where the main Skip confronts his Skip minions and gives them a little pep talk before they go out into the world. At the time, Sean, Joe and I were living in a townhouse in Mansfield. We were going to film this sequence through clever editing – dressing me in different clothes and giving each Skip a different accent (British Skip was bloody brilliant, guvenah!!!) The whole sequence was going to be shot against a solid white wall so we could cut the tracking shot, get me dressed in the next Skip’s attire, and then restart without the audience seeing the camera breaks due to the constant nature of the background. We shot a test of one Skip conversing at a table with the second Skip and it didn’t look half-bad for such an amateur production. I’ve seen much, much worse on the Sci-Fi Channel. I offer up Mansquito as Exhibit A.
We also had big-time stunt work, as you’ll see in the following video.
In the sequence depicted in this month’s Trailer Park entry – Roma, Sawyer and Vern Julia (Ollie Kardos – the dude who gets tossed out of the truck) end up encountering Skip on a remote country road. As their truck rockets by (at a blistering 10 MPH) my character leaps onto the side of the truck and prepares to decimate their ranks.
While we were only going 10 – 15 miles per hour, looking back upon this event, I am shocked that none of us were maimed or killed. In that one shot where Roma is trying to shake me off the truck by swerving back and forth, I’m hanging onto the truck door by my hands – no harness for this daredevil. As we shot some dialogue sequences through the truck windows, there were moments where I was hanging on one side of the truck while Sean (the cameraman and this site’s webmaster) was hanging on the other side. How we were never clipped by a passing car, fell off and run over or simply arrested, I’ll never know.
And we all did our own stunt work. That is really Ollie being thrown from the truck into that scraggly field. (I think he twisted his ankle upon landing but because we didn’t get the shot correctly – we ended up having to shoot a few more takes. We sure gave him a nice eulogy when we were done and of course, donated all the proceeds from the film to his family. Ollie was a real hero.). Also, in the sequence where I jump onto the bed of Joe’s truck, unbeknownst to me, he had a strip of Velcro running along the side of the truck bed that caught my arm and stripped a 2-inch swatch of skin from my forearm. Ever the Method Actor, I went through with the filming, knowing we’d all be nursing our wounds with six or several wobbly pops at the end of the day. That Banana Hammock makes a kick-ass Appletini.
Anyway, as self-deprecating as I’ve been about these goofy little projects, I will say that they are fun to go back and view. Like I said, it beat the pants off a few random Polaroid’s lost in a lockbox in the basement. And now, thanks to the wonders of High Technology, I can bust out some of this footage and share it for the rest of my world to enjoy.
There’s plenty more where this came from. If you want to see more clips, just let me know in the Comments below.