Welcome to Poho County, which is a ficticious County that I created for my first feature film, CLOWNHOUSE back in 1988. Since then, Poho County has been the setting or at least mentioned in each of my subsequent films and I have continued to expand it, until for JEEPERS CREEPERS I and II, I had to create two other neighboring counties, Pertwilla and Kissell County.
I didn't expect to be blogging, but after frustrations with MySpace and FaceBook over the years, and as a result, losing contact with the hundreds of friends and associates I connected with there, I thought, until I can get a formal website up, how about a small intimate one?
And what better time to start than on the first day of a brand new year? One that I feel is going to be much brighter than the last few have been for so many of us. If your new year is not looking that bright or you know there will be challenges and troubles ahead that make it difficult to feel positive about the coming year, my thoughts and warmest wishes are with you.
And a personal reminder, that for me, some of my most troubled years turned out to be the times I grew the most and reluctantly accepting and moving through all the pain, anger, sorrow and fear, ultimately created something brighter and better out of my life.
I am going to start this blog posting pictures and thoughts, whenever I can. I don't really know the rules of blogging so if you do, understand they probably won't always be followed here.
I'll also do my best to keep any JEEPERS CREEPERS fans who want to brave this blog, updated on the adventure that is about to begin as we bring the 3rd and final JEEPERS film to movie screens.
And on occassion share some pics and other things that may be of interest as the end of the trilogy moves into preproduction. Maybe I can even slip you some of the new and original storyboards like these:
I will probably be talking alot about my movies here because my oldest fear is that those are the only things truly interesting about me.
But what I really hope to do is to share a lot more than that. Blogging is for the blogger as much as it is for the reader so I hope to share a lot more than simply behind the scenes stories or my movie credits here, as meager as they are.
This is my favorite funny picture of me with Jonathan Breck, the actor who plays The Creeper. Here we are working out some of the shots and blocking for the finale for JEEPERS II.
I know some of the things I will post here, I have already shared on MySpace and FaceBook, but I am repeating them because maybe it's best to start with the basics. For those of you who don't know me, that would be: Who am I and what do I do? In fact, I thought about calling this first post: "Who I Am as Opposed to Who You Might Think I Am".
In high school I often wrote, directed and starred in my films. Here I am at sixteen or seventeen, playing Carl Kolchack in a never finished homage to my favorite Darren McGavin character. All I remember about this pic is that we took it in the band room at Alhambra High School and the title of the film was "The Strange Case of Douglas Bartow" I'm not sure we ever shot a frame of film besides this still.
My early high school films were made with my best buddy Charlie Coday and his little brother Micheal. There was no video back then, so we shot on Super 8 film and paid for the film and developing with paper routes and odd jobs and bumming money from Charlie and Micheal's parents (my own would never dream of contributing to such a rediculous hobby).
Most of our movies back then were spoofs and nods to our favorite films: we were really into stop motion back then and made shorts about killer ping pong balls and super heroes that were actually just animated beer cans!
Unlike my friends (and most folks I've talked to) my four years in high school were some of the happiest of my life. I got to get away from alcoholic parents and a home that was a dangerous place --and go to a different place where I was encouraged and rewarded for being who I was.
And who I was, was someone who enjoyed writing stories, writing and performing comedy at school rallies, acting in plays and making films on any weekend we had an idea and a few bucks in our pockets.
I have one teacher in particular to thank for seeing something in me that no one, not even me, could see. Jack Holder my freshman English teacher. After reading a short story of mine, he excused me from all regular homework for my last freshman quarter on the condition I would bring in a new short story every Friday and read it to the class!
He was also the man who told me I should pick up a camera and try making one of my stories into a short film. I have many people to thank over the years for how they helped me. Loved me. Gave me strength and encouragement.
And the elderly and about to retire Jack Holder, was the first I clearly remember filling me with an awareness of my potential and a sudden and unstoppable enthusiasm for the future.
The other was filmmaker Francis Coppola, who I will never be able to thank enough for seeing in a crude little, 200 dollar backyard video, the beginnings of a filmmaker. Francis, whether deliberately or not, helped me value what I had to offer as an artist and storyteller, long before I had much faith in it myself.
In a world of confusion and despair, finding your voice as an artist is like finding an island when you were certain you were about to drown.
I was quite the overachiever in high school. I was president of the drama club, the editor of the school paper and student body president my senior year. At the same time I was in as many plays and musicals as I could be, and making films (a total of fourteen short subjects and one feature length endeavor by the time I graduated) with my buddies.
Here is a very brief clip of one of the only remaining films we made in high school. Maybe the second time Charlie and I ever picked up a camera and tried splicing pieces of film together. (Literally, because you can see the splices!) We called this one THE ERRORS of DRACULA, and I'm playing a disbelieving Karl Kolchak and Charlie is playing Dracula. These clips are silent as all of our high school films were.
I fell in love with the camera --and being in front of it too. It really was one of those rare moments in life where you fall completely for someone or something. My budding hobby as a filmmaker was one of the big reasons why my high school days I remember so fondly.
But nothing is all good or all bad. All black or all white. I was happy in one way at school, but troubled in another. I knew I was gay and knew my vehemently homophobic family could never learn of it. While it is still hard today for gay kids to be who they are --it was even harder back then.
Many of the issues I dealt with as a kid, and growing up in the 60's and 70's, I realize now are probably responsible for my becoming a successful storyteller.
Even my mistakes, and there have been some serious ones, have also taken me down paths that ultimately led me back to writing, directing and in many ways, sharing my sometimes dark and sometimes wonderful journey.
I have written and directed seven feature films to date since the late 1980's, starting with CLOWNHOUSE and then six more after moving to Los Angeles in the early 90s: POWDER, The NATURE of the BEAST, RITES of PASSAGE, JEEPERS CREEPERS, JEEPERS CREEPERS II, and PEACEFUL WARRRIOR.
It has been a lifelong journey making those films, and all the experiences in my life that informed them.
By twelve years old, movies had become my bliss. Or others might say, my drug of choice. My favorites back then were THE WIZARD OF OZ, THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTIEN and anything by Ray Harryhausen.
I think one of the reasons why movies became so important and special to me, was their scarcity in my life. We rarely went to the movies as a family. I think I can remember a total of five in fifteen years. That was before I got my own car at 16.
Remember this was a time before home video, so you couldn't just see any movie any time you wanted. THE WIZARD OF OZ was broadcast once a year and if you missed it --that was it.
Until next year.
Imagine, if like me, THE WIZARD OF OZ was one of your favorite movies of all time? And you had one night only to experience it each year? And if you missed it, you had to wait twelve more months!
Holy shit, for me it was like missing my birthday that year!
This level of movie nerdism speaks to something that probably sounds pretty pathetic to some of you --or it makes absolute sense to others.
Because, in the years of my childhood, movies were something rare, so rare it made them something especially wonderful. I think in a way, this is a sad thing to have lost, because you don't see people as excited about films today, or films feeling as special and rare as they used to.
There are so many multiplexes and movie channels now, so much instant access, those days of standing in a line that stretches three blocks to the theater, with a devoted and ravenously excited crowd to see a STAR WARS or a CLOSE ENCOUNTERS or a JAWS, have faded away like most of the great old movie theaters they used to play in.
Filmmakers are unusual people. They create their own unique worlds of "what if"?
I guess each of us do, regardless of whether we make movies for a living or just day dream when the boss isnt looking. We all spend time wondering "what if"? I have worked much of my life to put my "what ifs" into stories that I hope to share with the world.
Even when I first started making films around the age of thirteen, my excitement masked that it was a way of exploring and understanding myself. My joys, fears, what makes me laugh, what makes me cry, my great loves and my great sorrows. It is also one of the ways I learned to make sense of the tumultuous and not very kid friendly world I got continually chewed up by.
Making movies was almost a way of fighting back.
Chiaroscuro is an Italian word that describes a style of painting that uses patches of light and dark. I have always thought that this word then perfectly describes each of our lives.
Though often times we cannot understand the darkness in our lives, because we are too afraid of it, and the patches of light we cannot always fully enjoy because we are worried about where it came from, whether or not we have the right to enjoy it and especially how long it will last.
I was sixteen when I saw JAWS in the summer of '75 and if I was crazy about movies before I saw JAWS, I was INSANE about movies after.
When Steven's film became a pheonomenon, TIME Magazine did a story on him and I still remember where I was when I opened those pages and almost fell over when I read that he started out making movies with a Super 8 camera with family and friends when he was thirteen or fourteen.
After that I was a man on a mission. I was going to make films and become Steven Spielberg (I was like many filmmakers working today who grew up in the 70's, and had JAWS and Steven come along to make them decide to become movie makers.
There is a whole generation of us. I call us JAWS Babies and I can count Bryan Singer and Phil Joanou as two others that immediately leap to mind)
JAWS and Steven became my model for finding happiness and self worth. If I could just become him, I would be loved and happy. It became a large part of my dream. The way we all think that attaining our dreams will make our life complete and we will at last be happy!!
But this idea was full of assumptions. We all make assumptions and they are, as the Buddhists say about "desire": the root of all sadness.
What were the assumptions in my plan to be happy? One: that Steven Spielberg is happy. I had no idea. I knew he was successful and powerful and made films that I loved, but I had never walked a mile in his shoes so everything I thought about him was an assumption.
My second assumption was the blind belief that I could be happy if I only had what he had. A classic recipie for failure and unhappiness.
That's why maybe as a person who actually got their dream, and in a way surpassed what they thought their life's accomplishments were ever going to be, I can offer an interesting and cautionary perspective on this whole race toward your dreams thing that we each get sold on very early.
Making movies for the big screen was my dream --and now that's what I do! But each one is a Hellacious struggle to create and get funded and get onto the big screen or even the video shelf. Making movies is nothing like my "dream" idea of what making movies was supposed to be.
In reality, there was much more struggle and pain and strife in ways that you never imagine when you are dreaming about how wonderful something will be when it finally happens to you.
Don't get me wrong.
I love making movies.
I consider it a priveldge and if you love movies like I do, one of the best jobs you can have on the planet.
But it is no walk in the park. And to do it right, you make huge sacrifices in other areas of your life. Essentials like love and romance and the simple things get swallowed up in the 24/7 craziness of making films. And the glamour and glitz that is hyped about the business is just that.
Glitz. No truth just hype.
The other major revelation I have had since gaining some measure of success, is about my dream of being famous. A desire I've had since I was ten or so. We all want to be loved and admired and appreciated by others. This is the nature of human beings.
And in the case of show biz, people can say whatever they want, but I think there is a part of each of us in this industry that wants to be famous and wants to be loved and to be acknowledged to make up for something we didn't get but needed desperately.
I don't think this makes show people any different from anyone else, or any less, I'm just saying, people don't get in this business to remain anonymous.
The irony is that being famous (or in my case semi or maybe semi-semi-famous, and still to some others: infamous) turns out to be a real dead end. And fame itself, one of the most empty experiences there is. And absolutely no remedy to anyone's loneliness or pain.
Because even if you have throngs of people, masses loving you for your work - they don't really know you. They only think they do. They are making assumptions.
Based on your work they are not only making assumptions about you but are having a one-sided relationship with you based on those assumptions!
Fans? Believe me, I adore mine. I have been a fan too, all my life, so I have been on both sides of the table: that is how I know that fans are making up or creating who you are, using their own personal interpretation of your work and what they read or hear about you.
Again assumptions. And this makes being a Hollywood filmmaker a very strange can of beans. Because of the fact that your work is presented to the global community, absolute strangers are certain they know you intimately.
And because the details of your life are reported in print, on the web and on TV -often with information that is horribly exaggerated or just outright erroneous- your humiliations as well as your successes are offered up for public opinion.
Some love you. Others hate you. None of them know you.
So why should it matter that some think you're a genius and others are absolutely irrate at the journey of your life? I'm not sure, but it does. And while the majority of opinions fall somewhere in between love and hate, my point is that none of these people really know you.
They assume. Through what they read and those "what ifs" that are your work, your movies, and how people interpret them.
One of the greatest challenges I have, is living with the consequences of my actions of many years ago.
And while I am tempted to apologize yet again, or to remind the world that I have paid my debt to society, or am fighting the urge to finally set the record straight, after two decades of reading the worst kind of exaggerations and blatant misinformation about that sad chapter of my life --I am not going to do any of those things.
In truth, even though I am so grateful for the countless people around the world, who have offered it, I am no longer asking for forgiveness. Not from my friends nor from those who make the assumption that I am something less of a human being, because they find in me, some venue for their own pain, rage or guilt.
It is one of the most difficult things in life, to accept that you have hurt those you love. Youth, confusion, abuse, arrested development, I am no longer looking for explanations that excuse the damage I did to someone I cared about so deeply.
Instead, for everyone who has ever made a choice that they ache to take back, I wish a safe journey through all their guilt and shame. Because at the end of it, is the one true forgiveness that cannot be given by friends or foes, and without it, all other forgiveness is meaningless.
I put this line in my film “Peaceful Warrior”: “The people that are the hardest to love, are usually the ones who need it the most.”
We all have people like this in our lives, and to our great shock and despair, even are those people sometimes. Giving love to them, is not forgetting what they have done, but allowing them to learn and grow from their mistakes, rather than simply destruct.
Because growth allows for hope. And hope, in the human heart, and even in the world, can be the difference between a life of darkness, or a life moving toward the light.
Anyone who gets to do what they truly love and get paid for it, make a living at it -is truly lucky in this life. I have never lost sight of that. And because of the struggle it took to get to here, I don't think I ever will.
Happy 2009 and more blogs to follow... GULP!