(Shooting the opening shot of Jeepers Creepers, in central Florida. That's me in the sun hat looking like an old and over-baked mafia don, sweltering in the cruel heat and humidity)
Call this Jeepers Blog Part Two.
Encouraged by popular demand. And proof that some times, someone actually reads this stuff and I'm not just talking to myself.
Who am I kidding? It also helps pass the time as I wait for news on the achingly slow JC3 financing. Like most Hollywood financing deals in this terrible financial climate -- it is moving along at a snail's pace.
I figure I'd share more stuff that I left off the first JC blog, (one blog previous to be exact) because I was worried it was already too long .
And remember, by clicking on any image you can access larger versions of all the material here. It feels good to share, especially Brad Parker's stunning concept art, that up till now has only been glimpsed in the special features of both Jeepers DVDs.
And if the YouTube clips on this page don't respond to your mouse? Trying clicking on them once and then hitting the space bar to get them to play.
THE REVEAL'S THE THING
In the opening shot of JC1, I wanted to give the audience a sense of wide open spaces and utter silence. The most unlikely setting for a horror story. Not a shadow in sight. Just sun and heat.
Then comes the long, long approach of Trisha and Darry's car. Their voices come to us gradually as well, faint at first -- and then suddenly they are full on, the car and their voices rush past us -- destroying the peace and quiet.
The slow advance of the car toward us, is very similar to the advance of the Creeper truck sneaking up on the kids in the next scene.
We called that "the Hitchcock reveal" of the Creeper truck. Because one of the greatest reveals of movie danger or terror, is the moment in NORTH BY NORTHWEST where Cary Grant finds himself on a lonely country highway, surrounded by fields and vast empty space -- with no threat anywhere in sight.... until a tiny spec of a distant crop duster appears in a tiny corner of the frame, high in the sky.
It is one of the greatest and most subtle "horror reveals" in movie history. Because it starts out so innocent. And we were going for the same thing with the Creeper truck's slow advance from the distance, in JC1.
Reveals are important. I design them very carefully for maximum impact. I do it for characters and even objects that are plot points. It's important in the movies because movies are pure visual storytelling. So every visual is important.
And every once in a while, we see a magnificent one. They are always simple and always powerful.
Carpenter tried a "gradual reveal" that turned into a dazzling moment in Halloween, where after scaring us throughout the picture with various sudden and abrupt jump or "boo" scares, ... while Jamie Lee Curtis cries at the sight of her murdered friends in a shadowy bedroom -- Michael Meyers emerges slowly out of the darkness behind her.
He doesn't leap. He doesn't jump and there is no "sting of music" to make you jump. He emerges slowly from the darkness (actually it is a lighting effect I believe, a dimmer brings up a soft light on the Boogie Man and he seems to emerge from nowhere) and it becomes as terrifying, if not more so, than if Mr. Carpenter had had him launch out of the dark with a big bang sound.
THE LOOK OF THE BEAST
When it finally sunk in -- into the monster boy minds of both myself and Brad Parker -- that WE WERE CREATING A MOVIE MONSTER THAT WAS ACTUALLY GOING TO BE A MONSTER IN A MOVIE -- our deep and lifelong love of creatures and their features started fueling our ideas for what we wanted the Creeper to look like.
Brad's initial sketches were a combination of his own terrific imagination, the conversations we had about a creature you didn't really know was a creature, and these rather non-descript words in the first draft of the Jeepers screenplay that describe Trish and Darry's initial look at the Creeper:
From page 58:
A tall, powerful silhouette rises out of the patrol car. Turning instantly away from them.
DARRYAs it turns -its face glints for a moment in the moonlight. The eyes. So white because they are just that and nothing else. No pupils or irises. A trick of the moonlight?
Whoa, did you see that?
Whoa, did you see that?
Trish staring. The car hasn't moved. Her hand still on the stickshift.
The figure walks away from them with a chillingly casual gait. His black coat flapping cape-like. And in the glare of the flashing red and blue, walks back toward Trooper Gideon's head.
Whistling a tune the kids have heard in the diner: Jeepers, Creepers, where'd you get those Peepers?
If you like to read screenplays, I have attached the original Jeepers Creepers screenplay here in this blog, for you to read.
I warn you though: it is not just a transcript of the Jeepers Creepers film that you know -- as many published screenplays are. This is a revised first draft of the original Jeepers Creepers, and that means it has many differences from the story that finally made it to the screen more than a year later.
You can download the file here:
(A Parker sketch of another beat in the story that was cut for time but appears in all the drafts of the screenplay: Darry finding the words "Where there's a Hell there's a way" spelled out in human bones across the archway in the Creeper's Lair)
When Brad read the script and came back with his wonderful sketch ideas, our imaginations really started to ignite. Influences came from all over.
Sometimes they were obvious. They came from creatures that we had loved as kids, and sometimes I think the influences were incredibly subliminal, and it wasn't until we were shooting that we realized who the Creeper looked like from this angle or that.
For instance was when we were shooting this scene with Breck in JC2:
A scene where the Creeper was minus a wing, an arm, and a leg, Brad realized that from above -- we were shooting down at Breck -- that the Creeper could easily be mistaken for the Creature from the Black Lagoon from that high angle.
Another heart-stopping "Creeper looks like something we've seen before" moment was after we had arrived in Florida and were still doing local casting and location scouting.My heart stopped. Not in the good way.
I didn't want to be copying anyone else's monster, not even my personal favorite, but there it was.
Another indication that what we love and what stays in our minds, will always be an influencing factor
in what we do in our own lives down the road.
A month or two away from shooting, Brad and I were cruising the aisles of the local Wal-Mart -- one of the few places for about seventy-miles that was big, bright and air conditioned -- and because of this, was strangely like the social center of the community.
We saw many cast and crew members strolling the aisles there over our four month stay - including Justin and Gina, grips, make-up, hair, best boys and even Jonathan Breck -- who for dramatic purposes while filming, was under strict orders not to meet or even say "hi" to Justin or Gina.In the budget DVD section, Brad and I were pulling out movies both good and bad -- when suddenly Parker found the old CBS TV Movie GARGOYLES.
All I remembered about the movie -- was that I had loved it as a young kid because it had monsters!
TV Movies back in the 60s and 70s, call them "the Sci-Fi Channel Original movies" of the time, rarely dipped into the realm of the supernatural -- and almost never into monsterdom.
So when they did, it was a big deal to monster fans young and old. Out of ten years of TV movies on all three networks, I can only think of a handful that went to the great, scary creature place.When they did, we got Darren McGavin fighting a vampire in Las Vegas (THE NIGHTSTALKER) and then an ancient alchemist and reanimated corpse beneath old Seattle (THE NIGHTSTRANGLER), we had David Jannsen as a bayou sheriff hunting a werewolf (MOON OF THE WOLF), a private eye battling the undead (THE NORLISS TAPES) and even a bulldozer taken over by an alien force that turns it into a KILLDOZER!
Or Darren McGavin and Sandy Dennis as parents who move their family to upstate New York and find themselves living in a farmhouse that is a stomping ground for Satan himself, in Steven Spielberg's SOMETHING EVIL. And of course a year or two later, Steven's masterpiece about a killer big rig, writer Richard Matheson's great story, DUEL.
GARGOYLES, a rare CBS TV Movie in the horror category, was about flying, reptilian critters of Biblical origin roaming the California desert. Brad and I both had vague, monster movie memories of it as kids, but that night when we ripped the 5.99 price tag off it and put it in the DVD player -- we were in for a shock.
The head Gargoyle's very low budget costume, included actual wings. They were spread and kind of hung off him as he walked. Even though the wings reflected the TV film's limited budget, it was still shocking to see this winged creature looking like a low-budget version of our soon to be filmed Creeper.The movie Gargoyles helped us too. The wings on the actor in Gargoyles looked somewhat comical and convinced Brad and Penikas and I, that this was a look we wanted to avoid.
The head Gargoyle in the TV movie had one other alarming similarity to our Creeper -- in the first scene he appears in, he bends over a woman who has passed out -- and proceeds to SNIFF HER!!!!
When I saw that it almost knocked me off the sofa I can tell you!
Now this was the only time in the film any Gargoyle sniffed anyone, but with those wings out and that reptilian look, and the creature taking a whiff of someone ... that was a major heart attack I didn't need.
Was I just remaking monster movies from my childhood without realizing it? Scorcese says that each filmmaker makes the same movie over and over again.
Was this what I was doing -- remaking and not making a movie of my own?! These are the terrible doubts and fears that rage through a director's mind as he tries to make his movie.
ORIGINALITY IS NOT AS ORIGINAL AS YOU MIGHT THINK
One of the great struggles after actually getting a movie up and going, is getting it made before someone steals the idea or simply gets a similar idea made, before you do.
I really do think ideas float around in the collective consciousness of the world, and that this is why sometimes we get two or three movies with the same idea in them and at the same time.
The rest of the time it's just out and out thievery that takes place in this biz all the time.
Hey, my first theatrical feature, CLOWNHOUSE, was from a screenplay I wrote that had a trilogy of horror stories. All three took place over a century in the same house. The script was called THREE STORY HOUSE -- and CLOWNHOUSE was the last story of the three. The story that was set in modern times.
I liked this third story enough, that after seeing HALLOWEEN (and being thrilled and inspired by it) decided to take my clown story and expand it from twenty-five pages, to ninety pages.
And create my own feature length "killer in the shadows" type thriller.
See, I don't call HALLOWEEN a slasher film, because there is practically no slashing in it at all. It is definitely in the category I would call "killer in the shadows" and one of the most chilling and brilliant, along with Bob Clark's BLACK CHRISTMAS.
When Francis Coppola read my feature length script about killer clowns, and after seeing my backyard video, SOMETHING IN THE BASEMENT in a home video competition -- he decided to bankroll CLOWNHOUSE.
He was starting his own "Roger Corman" style film company called COMMERCIAL PICTURES, and I was in the right place at the right time.
The same way I am certain his advisors and lawyers told him he was crazy to give this kid nobody knew, this untested horror movie nerd, actual money and cameras to make a feature.
I am also certain that Francis persisted with this idea because as a young man himself, Francis Coppola was given the same chance by Roger Corman, when Coppola was a fledgling film editor in the 60s, at Corman's low budget film factory: AIP.
Based on my tiny 30 minute home video SOMETHING IN THE BASEMENT -- I was about to make CLOWNHOUSE, at a budget of around 200,000 dollars. Low budget filmmaking to be sure.
But to a kid like me , whose last film was a backyard video? That took three days to shoot with a home camcorder and cost two hundred dollars?
200,000 was a fortune. And my home camcorder was about to be traded in for the cameras that shot George Lucas' AMERICAN GRAFFITI and Carol Ballard's THE BLACK STALLION.
Needless to say, I was over the moon.
I knew I had a strong idea for a horror movie because Francis liked the script and told me what he liked best about it was that every time he thought he knew what was going to happen in the story: something else happened instead.
I also knew it was a long overdue horror film idea, because everyone I had ever met or talked to, either hated clowns or was at least creeped out or unnerved by them. As I was ever since I was a kid.
I knew I had a good script because at the time, I considered my young self a horror movie expert -- and in my "vast knowledge" of horror films, knew this would be the first horror film ever about killer clowns.
(Me impossibly young at 26 or 27, surrounded by my psycho clowns, from left to right: Bippo, Cheezo and Dippo)
I had a great cast of three incredibly talented boys to play the brothers -- including the first ever, call it "debut" movie role for the amazingly gifted Sam Rockwell, who played Randy, the oldest -- and meanest -- of the three brothers.
All who would be terrorized by escaped mental patients dressed as clowns, in what my French and Italian fans would call, my first "horror fable". It was my first campfire story.
(A very young me, and an eighteen year old Sam Rockwell looking at the script for CLOWNHOUSE. In the scene, Sam, as nasty brother Randy, dresses up like a clown to scare his younger brothers, unaware that real, homicidal psycho clowns have already surrounded the house)
What could go wrong with my great killer clown idea? Let me tell you: at the exact same time I was shooting my film in Northern California -- not more than a couple of hours away in Santa Cruz, California, a movie was about to start rolling called KILLER CLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE!!!!!
I couldn't believe it. I was certain my idea or my script or something had been stolenHow could two killer clown movies suddenly spring up at the same time, shoot at the same time -- and after years and years of no killer clown movies at all?
Well it just did. I never found any indication that the talented Chiodo Brothers had pirated my idea and I know I didn't pirate theirs because I only heard about their film as we were getting ready for our own.
KILLER CLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE by the way, ended up eclipsing CLOWNHOUSE and becoming one of the most unusual, inventive and downright creepy horror spoofs of it's time.
In fact the design of those clowns and their presentation, I think borders on genius. But it is devastating to suddenly see your original idea, look not so original. Usually people think the worst: that you stole someone else's idea.
(Above: A shot from CLOWNHOUSE and a nod to one of the greatest moments in horror movie history. Here, CHEEZO, the head psycho clown, wonderfully portrayed by actor/comedian TREE (Michael West) takes a peek through a doorway as he takes bead on his unsuspecting prey.)
You'll find this "eye shot" in many horror films, not just mine, though the best I have ever seen it used in, is in Bob Clark's BLACK CHRISTMAS.
Where Olivia Hussey discovers for the first time in horror movie history that "the calls actually ARE coming from inside the house." (Now a horror cliche that is endlessly imitated)
She finds the killer hiding in a closet, staring out at her with one wide-eye, in one of the creepiest and most memorable moments in horror movie history.
Cheezo's eye in CLOWNHOUSE thrilled me back when we created the same shot! You know what Bernard Herrmann said, one of the greatest film composers of all time: If you're going to steal, steal from the best.
Brad and I wanted to makes sure that with our Creeper we would be breaking new ground. Yet, no matter how hard we tried, it felt like everywhere we looked, versions of our monster already existed in various other forms.
We had already switched out these very cool wings that were folded up like wrinkles on the Creeper's face. Brad storyboarded this idea from my script -- and we loved the way these bat wings looked coming off his face.
But Penikas thought as a make-up effect it would be almost impossible and that would push us into the digital realm for which JC1 had not the budget for.
But then Brad and Brian both said, that with those wings stretching out and flanking his mouth, he was seriously starting to resemble a first cousin of Stan Winston's brilliant Predator design.
(One of my favorite panels from the unused storyboard of the Creeper in the interrogation room where he traps Trisha and Darry)
It took both Brad and Brian to make me see it. The Creeper was indeed looking derivative in aspects we could control.
So we scratched the face wings (our final monster make-up was in an early stage of R and D where changes could still be made) and we came up with the idea, that since he is lizard or repitilian-like, maybe when threatened, he has membranes and things that puff him up -- like those lizards do when they want to look bigger and more fierce when faced with a potential threat.
We decided to give the Creeper face talons, as we call them today. Something that would unfold and transform the face of what looks like a dark and leather-skinned old man -- into a creature that isn't remotely human.
(Taking our cue from the puffed up lizard idea, the membrane between the face talons would have webbing -- the kind that we see on the wings of a bat or between reptile toes or fingers)
WHAT THE HELL AM I TRYING TO SAY HERE IN ALL THIS?
That when someone comes up and says, "Is it just me, or does the Creeper look like Freddy? Was that a nod to the Elm Street films?" The answer first is no, we weren't nodding to Freddie -- or the Predator, or the Gargoyles, or Harryhausen's Ymir or the cool little Homunculus, or even my beloved Gillman from the Black Lagoon.
(Apologies but I couldn't resist captioning this rather cheesy publicity still from the second in the Lagoon series: The Creature Walks Among Us)
But their might be little hints and unconscious homages to of all of them in our Creeper.
Brad and I had to make peace with our Creeper. Our design was our design and we liked it. Were proud of it. We worked hard on it and then Brian Penikas and his FX house, Make-Up and Monsters, worked and developed it even more.
And yes, he did have a little bit of the things we loved about monsters as kids, of course those influences are at work, for good or bad, whether we were aware of them or not.
We worked hard to make him an original. And I think that's what an artist does, he starts with what interests him, then he interprets, imitates, explores, and hopefully grows into his own vision and his own voice...
THE HARRYHAUSEN FACTOR
I showed Brad a couple of pictures of winged creatures that I liked, but I knew that in the back of my mind, I wanted the Creeper, once we saw him out of the clothes he wore to pass for human, to resemble something "Ray Harryhausen-like"
Back when Brad and I were young, (during our formative or DE-formative years if you like) if there was a name synonymous with cool creatures and amazing fantasy and horror scenes; that name was Ray Harryhausen.
(A young Ray Harryhausen gets his dream job: working with stop motion wizard Willis S. O'Brien, the man who brought King Kong to life in 1933. Ray assisted O'Brien on possibly the most magnificent accomplishment ever in classic stop-motion, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG. That's Joe in young Ray's hand. The film won the Oscar that year for best special effects)
You of the spoiled, computer graphics generations have no idea that creature animation was once possible without computers or pixels.
Ray Harryhausen created fantastic creatures and magical and frightening scenes -- with nothing more than clay, plastic, rubber and a movie camera that could expose a single frame of film at a time.
Ray -- like any truly gifted animator, was also a gifted actor. He had to be to imbue his creations with not just the illusion of life, but with a believable inner life for each of his monsters and creatures.
He also supplied every kid of my generation and the generations before, with some of the most impossible possibilities of big screen monsters and magic.
(Ray with some of his creature cast from the classic THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD)
Case in point, my favorite Harryhausen film 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. In this early and very low-budget Harryhausen, a creature from the planet Venus (called an Ymir) has gotten loose in a small fishing village in Italy. (One of the earliest reasons why my favorite kind of sci-fi is what I call earthbound sci-fi.)
It's metabolism in our atmosphere causes it to grow dramatically each day. By the time the United States government tracks it down, it is as big as a man and in my favorite scene, gets cornered in a barn in the Italian countryside.
This was one of my favorite scenes in all of sci-fi horror films when I was a kid. Sadly, the frame compression on this clip when it goes online makes the stop-motion much choppier than it actually is.
I don't know what Ray Harryhausen calls it, but I call it, the barn scene from 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH.
Maybe you can see why Harryhausen was an inspiration for generations of fantasy and horror filmmakers. Stop- motion animation might seem artificial looking by today's hi-tech standards. But when I saw them, these were incredible feats of cinema magic -that were unparalelled.
Ray was creating living and breathing creatures on the big screen - that were clearly not men in rubber suits.
Ironically, Ray was just a kid himself when he was doing his black and white classics: BEAST FROM 20 THOUSAND FATHOMS, EARTH VERSUS THE FLYING SAUCERS, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA and TWENTY MILLION MILES TO EARTH.
If you remember those first amazing moments, as I do, in Jurassic Park, where you sat in a darkened theater and saw those first magnificent shots of those computer generated dinosaurs -- how incredibly real they moved and how flawlessly they were married to the rest of the scene, if you remember that rather milestone moment in special effects technology --
Then you have some idea what audiences witnessed decades earlier when they saw KING KONG or MIGHTY JOE YOUNG in a movie theater -- and marveled at how these creatures were alive up there on the screen! Moving and alive! How the impossible was suddenly happening right before their eyes!
GENIUSES BY NECESSITY
I love what digital effects have done for the industry. And there are times when films are so digitally "enhanced" today -- that they lose all credibility. They look so painted that you stop believing anything you're seeing. You feel like you might as well be home watching cartoons on a Saturday morning.
But just the right mix of something real in front of the camera, and digital magic, and you have a moviemaking palette where the colors are suddenly endless and nothing is impossible.
But I was born part of a generation that got to witness the brilliance of men telling stories with creatures BEFORE digital magic.
So I can not only appreciate where technology has delivered us, but still have an enormous affinity and appreciation from where all that came from: the meticulous and time consuming patience it took to create full motion creatures on the big screen. Geniuses by necessity: Ray Harryhausen, Jim Danforth and Willis S. O'Brien to name a few.
(Anyone doubting Ray Harryhausen's brilliance and genius, need only take a peek at the dazzling sword fight in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS where an army of the dead rises up to do battle with Jason and his men)
The most Creeper-like Harryhausen creation -- and strongest Harryhausen influence when it came to the Creeper's naked self, has its roots back in one of my all time favorite Ray creatures and scenes. A small flying creature called "The Homunculus" is given life in THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974)
Here is the creature brought to life by the blood of an evil sorcerer (Dr. Who's Tom Baker) I show you this clip not just to show you the similarities of the Creeper design, but to show what an incredible actor Ray Harryhausen was - to be able to animate this performance, frame by frame. This small, dark creature's first waking moments.
The music is by movie music legend Miklos Roza (Jerry Goldsmith's favorite and mentor) and the cue is appropriately called "The Birth of the Homunculus".
MORE TRIVIA AND LITTLE KNOWN FACTS
1. WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK
When the Creeper first whistles the Jeepers Creepers tune as he strides across the asphalt toward the Trooper's newly severed head, we needed a great whistler. As is often the case when we are editing the movie, temporary sounds and music are added so my editor Ed Marx and I, can see how the moment is playing.
Since the first film Ed and I cut, my coming of age thriller RITES OF PASSAGE, we have gotten our collaborating down to a shorthand that allows us to work much faster than the average director/editor working on a cut of the film.
And because we are time efficient, we have time to do more with the sound of the picture than most would ever do at that early stage of the game. So we go all the way when it comes to sound FX, music and even ambiences like crickets, rain, a distant dog bark, you name it, we put it in and try it out -- even in the earliest incarnation of the film: the director's first assembly.
(Ed Marx, AKA "Mr. E", has been my editor emeritus since RITES OF PASSAGE back in '99. Ever since, I have a standing policy when it comes to Ed, and I use it on every picture I get: "Don't leave home without him.")
When we came to the moment where we needed the Creeper to whistle his famous tune, my editor Ed Marx did the temporary whistling honors.
Ed has a microphone set up as part of his Avid system and we often add lines of dialogue (you should hear me as Trisha Jenner in early stages of the edit of JC1) when putting together our versions before it goes to the sound designer.
After much time passed, we got used to Ed's whistle of the signature tune. It became part of the movie's soundtrack.
We just didn't know how much until we got others to try and whistle "where'd you get those peepers" into a microphone (looking for just the right rendition) at the final mix of the picture.
The final mix is where where dialog, FX and music are combined for the finished film. It was there that we ultimately realized that Ed's initial temp whistling, worked the best.
So in the finished film, that's Ed Marx my genius editor, whistling as the Creeper.
A director needs a great relationship with his editor the same way he needs a great one with his Director of Photography. Ed is a terrific film editor and though he would deny it, one of the major reasons why my films successfully snap, crackle and pop.
Pacing is everything and Ed and I have a real shorthand when it comes to picking the best part of a take and how to cut it into the rest of the scene.
I won't gush too much, but I rarely get to brag or thank Ed for his decades of experience, his support of my ideas and for his mastery (and my ongoing education) of the magical, essential and utterly invisible art of film editing.
It may be a cliche, but that makes it no less true: after the battlefield of actual principal photography, the movie gets made in the editing room. "The story is in the telling", is how I think Shakespeare said it.2. FROM SHAKESPEARE TO HITCHCOCK
My love of all things Hitchcock included my love of his "cameos". Hitch appears in all of his films in tiny little cameo roles that were quick and silent and that you missed unless you were looking for them.
For instance, in my favorite Hitchcock THE BIRDS, the famous director comes out of a pet shop walking two dogs on leashes - his own beloved real-life pets.
I knew I wanted to do "a Hitchcock" I would call it, in my very first feature film CLOWNHOUSE, and after that, I wanted to do one in each of my films.
If you haven't spotted me, there's good reason. I keep a low profile in my cameos, as the point is not to wave at the camera and say "Hi mom!", it's to sneak in and out without taking anyone out of the movie who is watching it.
Here are my attempts:
CLOWNHOUSE: I am behind young Casey when he wins his prize at the Circus: a cackling clown doll, whose laughter will later betray the boy and put him face to face with his ultimate nightmare.
(Whenever I see this cameo, it shocks me: Was I really that young and thin at one time?)
NATURE OF THE BEAST: I am the portly trucker at the diner that Jack (Lance Henriksen) has to squeeze by on his way to the men's room. I had put on a lot of weight between Clownhouse and Nature of the Beast, and at the final hour, totally chickened out about appearing with Lance in front of the camera - both Lance and Eric Roberts talked me back into it.
POWDER: When Powder is driven through town for the first time by his new executor Mary Steenburgen, the car drives past a theater. It is playing NATURE OF THE BEAST (which we had just finished shooting earlier that year) and the portly man walking past the theater, under the marquee is yours truly.
RITES OF PASSAGE: I am the lounge piano player at the scene at the hotel where D.J. Farraday discovers his father is having an affair.
JEEPERS CREEPERS: Originally one of the bodies on the wall in the Creeper's house of pain. My head was used more than once as one of the grisly wall coverings in the church basement, so while my original cameo ended up on the cutting room floor (but viewable in the deleted scenes on the DVD) you can also catch a glimpse of me as a corpse Darry moves past, just as he discovers the petrified remains of prom king and queen Kenny and Darla.
PEACEFUL WARRIOR: You will find me in the crowd of onlookers in the opening sequence, where young gymnast Dan Millman comes off the rings and shatters his leg into a million porcelain pieces.
JEEPERS CREEPERS II: When agreeing to do the sequel to the first Jeepers, I wanted to take on the challenge of what I thought was one of Hitchcock's greatest accomplishments -- and the proof of his strength as a master storyteller.
In a Hitchcock favorite of mine, LIFEBOAT, the master of suspense creates an entire thriller -- within the confines of a small lifeboat floating out in the middle of the sea after an ocean liner has been torpedoed by an enemy sub in war time.
The ENTIRE film takes place on the ocean, in this lifeboat with these people who have just escaped death -- and it is a damned good piece of filmmaking. An incredibly unique and bold idea and experiment.
LIFEBOAT turns out to be very suspenseful and a great little drama -- thanks to an amazing boatful of actors -- all in one single, claustrophobic little bobbing dingy.
My point is, Hitch pulled it off.
Does that take balls and talent, or what? An entire feature film in a small lifeboat! That's guts, talent and vision. Audacity and courage. The stuff vision is made of.
And even Hitch's cameo is a genius stroke in LIFEBOAT. Since he couldn't appear in the flesh since the cast was small and in the middle of the sea, Hitch turns up in a newspaper ad in a paper one of the boat's occupants managed to salvage.
(Hitch appears to be either one or both of the Before and After men in a weight loss ad on the back page of the above newspaper)
And in my own small way, since I was trying my own version of LIFEBOAT, trapping the kids in the confines of a school bus, I knew my cameo would have to be in a magazine or newspaper on the bus.
Using a publicity still taken in Houston Texas, where I am directing POWDER, we imagined me as a famous football coach and put me on the cover of a Sports Illustrated like magazine that was on the bus.
Unfortunately, every time we tried to sneak the magazine into a shot (Hitchcock cameos are supposed to be quick and subtle -- and not take people out of the movie) like having someone reading it -- with me smiling on the cover, it became way to obvious that we were cramming my cameo into the audience's face.
I had to forgo the idea of maybe appearing in JC2, then when setting up for a shot where cheerleader Rhonda (Marieh Delfino) grabs a javelin off the bus floor to take a stab at freeing Bucky Barnes (Billy Aaron Brown) from the clutches of the Creeper, we saw that the magazine was laying on the seat next to the javelin.
We put the magazine's cover facing up and it became the hardest to spot (impossible really) cameo of all my feature films.
This is a moment in the film where you aren't looking around at the scenery -- the Creeper has just punched through the bus roof -- and I knew no one would recognize the cameo moment, but it was better than not having a cameo at all, which was what I had resigned myself to.
3. THE "MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE" CONNECTIONS
Actor Eric Nenninger, who did such a great job as the bigoted Scott Braddock, had appeared for over two years with another young actor on the bus: Kasan Butcher (Big 'K' in the film, Double D's right hand man).
Both these actors were cadets at the military academy Francis, the oldest Malcolm brother, attended. Eric was actually Francis' best friend for a few seasons. So these two actors were old buddies by the time they ended up in JC2 as Bannon County Bantams.
(Al Santos and Eric Nenninger pose for some beefcake shots on the roof of the school bus where they will spend the majority of JC2. Eric missed the wrap party for JC2 because moments after he finished his last day of shooting, he took off for his honeymoon)
The other major Malcolm connection is that my great Director of Photography on NATURE OF THE BEAST, Levie Issacs, was the DP on Malcolm in the Middle for many years. Levi, as talented as he is great to work with, went on to direct several episodes of Malcolm as well.
4. KEEP ON CREEPIN'
The Creeper truck was not a fun or a healthy thing to drive. The one that had a newer transmission put in it for speed, had a very bad exhaust system.
So after every take of the truck chasing Trish and Darry's car, I'd yell cut and the Creeper truck would lurch to a halt and the driverside door would swing open and smoke would pour out of it like we were shooting a Cheech and Chong movie.The poor stunt driver would stick his head out, and suck in fresh air. I felt bad for him, truly.
5. KILLING YOUNG BILLY
When Shaun Flemming came in to audition for Billy Taggart in JC2, (the boy who is chased and then dragged through the cornfield and into the sky by the Creeper ) -- Shaun's foot was in a cast and he was on crutches.
We had seen a lot of boys for this part and none of them sounded like a real kid. Sean was the very last one we saw after weeks of seeing others. Do I have to tell you how good an actor this kid was, to get the part that he clearly could not perform in his present state.?
I said, "Shaun, you are going to be running like crazy in that scene and it shoots in four weeks. How do I know, if I give you this part, you'll be able to perform? Running is crucial to this scene. It is essential!"
Shaun's dad told me had spoken with the doctor who had promised him that Shaun would be fully healed by the time cameras needed to roll.
The day came and that kid ran like the wind! All day long! And while running turned in a great performance as well.
6. THE EXPLODING SCHOOL BUS MEETS BRUCE THE SHARK
In JC2, we wanted to suggest that the Creeper falls from such a height, that when he hits the roof of our school bus, it blows out all the windows on both sides (leaving the rear and front windshield glass intact, for dramatic purposes)
To accomplish this, the empty bus was fitted with dueling air cannons, large special effects guns that shoot an enormous blast of pressurized air on cue. Air cannons are used to blow glass out of window panes or send debris like dust into the air --to simulate an explosion without using explosives.
They are still very dangerous and that air they shoot is too. You don't want to stand in front of one, believe me. They call them cannons for a reason.
In our exploding bus stunt for JC2, we had two cannons in the center aisle of the bus, one aimed at each side of windows.An air cannon was used in JC1 as well. This is what blows out the window in the 2nd floor of the Poho Country police station. The air cannon blast simulates the Creeper flying Darry through the Police Station Window.
A Creeper with Darry in its clutches was shot against a green screen and then added to the air cannon explosion digitally.
Our Physical Effects Chief in Florida was Mike Arbogast. Mike was a particular thrill for me, being the rabid JAWS fan that I was.
Mike is the son of Effects man Roy Arbogast, who brought to life the full-scale Bruce the shark, in one of my favorite movie rollercoaster rides of all time. JAWS had its share of technical and physical effects problems for Roy Arbogast, and JC1, had its share of physical effects challenges for son Michael.
Mike said he would call his dad now and again from our set to get advice.
The biggest physical effect of JC1, was of course scrapped before it could ever be attempted: The Creeper truck colliding with a freight train at a railroad crossing.
How far had we gotten in the creation of this third act finale stunt?
We had found the train, the crossing and built a dummy Creeper truck that would blast into the side of it.
In fact, a lot of people want to know what the original Jeepers Creepers would have looked like with Trisha and Darry making a getaway in the Creeper truck , being attacked by the creature while trying to drive it -- and colliding with a speeding freight train.Only Brad Parker's storyboards survive to suggest what the real end of JC1 might have looked like. Here are a few of the thirty-some panels:
7. NOW YOU SEE HIM, NOW YOU DON'T
Two people disappeared from the kids on the bus in Jeepers Creepers II, that had nothing to do with the Creeper. One young actor, got a recurring (and speaking) role on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, shortly after we started shooting JC2.
His roll in Jeepers, a character named Beto, had already been so diminished due to budget cuts and the revamping of a script that had a larger cast than any film I had made prior) -- that when he came to me and said he'd gotten this thing on Buffy, and could he leave the show? I was in a tight spot.
You can't just have some character in your film just disappear right in the middle of it with no explanation. Not in such an enclosed space as a school bus!
But was I going to keep some young actor from taking advantage of what could be an important break for him because we had already established him on the bus? Breaks come along so rarely for actors -- and for directors too now that I think about it.
I decided to let him go do his Buffy thing. The bus was crowded with a lot of kids and no one was going to notice if one of the boys, who hadn't even spoken yet (that shooting day was still to come) suddenly wasn't there anymore.My script supervisor, my brilliant right hand woman, Patti Fullerton, must have thought I was crazy.
She was in charge of making sure everything matches. That there is continuity between shots -- and that includes continuity of people as well as props.
(Garikayi Mutambirwa as the young hero of the ensemble on the crowded bus. If he had asked to leave -- it would have been a different story)
Still, after shooting a week on the bus, with the whole team and the cheerleaders, and Izzy the sports reporter, filling all those seats, I felt certain if one boy disappeared who hadn't spoken yet -- no one would notice.
And did you? Off he went to Buffy. And I would hope your answer would be no. I didn't notice he vanished. Bet you didn't notice that there was fourth cheerleader on the bus who also disappeared early, either.
Well, did you?
Didn't think so. She was a non-speaking extra, who one day just decided that extra work on a movie was "a little more work than she expected". So next day, she just didn't show up for work.
Being an actor in a movie, speaking or not, isn't the kind of job where you can just decide 'not to come in today'. It isn't like working at the corner drug store and calling in sick.If you are in a movie, you are part of that movie and part of the movie's continuity. And when an actor is too sick to come in and often times shooting days must be quickly reworked and rescheduled or are canceled. That's between 70 and 100 thousand dollars for a day's shooting -- suddenly scrapped.
(Me with the principal cast from the bus at the Commentary Track Session for the JC2 DVD. The smiles in this picture are not created for publicity purposes. We loved each other's comapny and had some great laughs. Both when we were making that movie and doing the DVD track too. If you haven't heard the Actor Commentary on JC2 and you really like hearing behind the scene stories of moviemaking, check it out.)
As flabbergasted as we all were, that this actress just never showed up again -- we never replaced her or even tried. Sure she had been on the bus for the first half of the film and would suddenly just be gone. But she was a non-speaking extra, so my argument again, became, that with all those people on that bus -- audiences wouldn't miss her.
And if you didn't miss her, then I guess I was probably right.
(If you can point out the two characters that are on the bus in the opening of the picture and then strangely disappear without notice, then you've seen this movie more times than I have)
8. THE SONGWRITER IN ME
I seem to end up writing at least one song per Jeepers movie. I think I might be a frustrated singer/songwriter on some deep level I haven't delved into. And it does bring me a nice royalty check every now and again when on TV you hear Justin Long sing Poly-Sci Track Team Guy or in JC2 the boys singing their "fighting cock" song that is their team them song.
In Jeepers I, I got to write a spoof of a country western song, that Darry sings to his sister about her troubled relationship with her college boyfriend:
Unfortunately, our favorite take of the Creeper truck coming up from the distance and attacking, the take that is in the movie, was one where the Creeper truck got there a tiny fraction sooner than I wanted him.
Because Justin never got to finish my favorite stanza of the song. The truck and its horn cuts him off before he can sing:
Turns out you're a twit,
and a real piece of shit!
Mr. Poly-sci track team guy...
and a real piece of shit!
Mr. Poly-sci track team guy...
Oh well, Sinatra wouldn't have done a cover of it anyway. But here are the full lyrics. Since I can't write music, I would sing the song into a tape recorder and Justin would learn the tune and words this way.
My other songwriting chore in the Jeepers universe was what the boys on the bus in JC2 are singing: the Bannon County Fight Song. And since the team is the Bannon County Bantams, their team mascot is of course a red rooster.
And this mascot was picked for two reasons: one, you can easily guess, but the other is because I wanted the words to the fight song to have a double meaning. The song could in some verses, really be about the Creeper and the fate the team had awaiting them:
This was another way, like the billboard in JC1, (and the Creeper's personalized license plate) to put some humor and irony into the proceedings, as every good campfire story needs. It doesn't hinder the reality of the story, but keeps it fun and the audience smiling while they're screaming.
9. COACH CHARLIE HANNAH
Actor Thom Gossom Jr., who played the head coach in Jeepers 2, has just written a book about his short but incredibly memorable football career, and his even more incredible life as a young, black man, at barely integrated Auburn University.
I just finished the book myself and though I am not a football fan, Thom's memoir had me on the edge of my seat. It is a tale of a poor 18 year old Black man, who had a dream to play football at Auburn University. But unlike "Rudy" from the movie of the same name, Thom Gossom found himself a pioneer and a part of history when the country was being forced to wrestle with its bigotry and racism.
I like actors anyway. They are brave soldiers out on the battlefield with you. In fact, they are on the front line -- because it is their face and voice up there, out front. They are the first thing movie goers see, judge and react to while having the movie watching experience.The writers, directors and producers are like generals back at headquarters. Their ass isn't out there hanging out there for everyone to see. (Though it certainly feels like it)
When you get a look at the journey that brought someone to acting, you often respect them even more. Thom's book is a story about strength and courage, and changing history -- and it makes me even more proud to know him.
But did you know that Thom Gossum Jr.'s most terrifying scene in JC2 never made it past the stage of reading it in the script and seeing it in Brad's terrific artwork and storyboards?
There were many scenes dropped from JC2 for time and money, but this one even Francis Coppola said he wasn't sure I should cut.
This scene is where Coach Hannah, who had vanished off the road earlier in the picture while lighting flares, is suddenly heard from across the distant field where the bus was stranded. Calling out to the kids on the bus. Calling out asking for help. Claiming that his leg was broken when he was dropped by the Creeper and fell back to earth.
The coach keeps pleading for the boys to come out and carry him back to the bus.
A brave group of boys loyal to the Coach, after much drama and debate, journey out across the dark field only to find that the Creeper is an expert mimic and puppeteer:
(If we don't look like happy campers in this shot, we're not. Endless nights on the insert car (towing Trish and Darry's car) from seven pm till the sun came up, forcing us to call it a day, really took its toll on all the brave, hardworking and sleep-deprived cast and crew of Jeepers One.)
There was one great thing about all that night shooting though: at night, the sun went down and the Florida nights became cool, breezy and the only time during the day where I wasn't sopping wet.
We spent so much time on the insert car at night that we dubbed it, "The Pirate Ship" because it was like a ship -- and it had flags (what lighting people refer to as flags are actually stretched pieces of cloth to shape the lights in a shot) and it also had a nefarious crew, ready to mutiny.I overhead one crew member say, in the middle of our grueling month of night shoots, "Doesn't this f**ing Creeper ever come out during the day?"
11. THE TONE IS THE THING
Here is a perfect example of how we shaped our horror into what we hoped was a fun, horrific rollercoaster of a campfire story. This billboard my not look familiar in the glaring light of day, but it is the backdrop of one of the most graphic moment in JC1.
When the Creeper lifts the trooper's severed head and sniffs it and then pulls the tongue out of the head with only his Creeper teeth -- I wanted the audience to laugh and squirm at the same time.
What was happening on screen was horrible -- but I wanted to make sure and present it in my favorite style, a Hitchcock kind of style. We silhouetted the grizzly moment for starters -- the hint of something hideous is always more hideous than just blatant "booger eating" as I like to call it.
And the billboard itself, is not really " a wink" at the audience, because the billboard is based on many actual billboards found along country roads of a bygone age. I chose meat, and I chose the words "TASTES SO DARNED GOOD" because I found the irony hilarious in a way that didn't diminish the horror, but at the same time gave it that "campfire story" garish, goofiness that I was trying to balance with a bit of stomach-turning horror.
Whether I achieved this balance is for each of the viewers, and not the filmmaker to decide.
The meat company advertised on the billboard I insisted should be Legler Meats, to show my deep appreciation for my production designer on JC1, and who is joining us again for 3, Steven Legler.
(The diner/gas station Trish and Darry pull into is called Opper's Diner, named after my producer on JC1, Barry Opper)
Opper's Diner is in central Florida -- but it isn't a real diner. It was a one story, storage facility in a town I think that was Ocala, Florida. The storage facility was empty and off a lonely road, just the kind that the script called for.
So Steven transformed that empty concrete building into that diner. He brought in the wallpaper, counters, chairs, pay phones, tables, created and printed menus, designed and built the sign outside and even the gas pumps.
That's just some of the incredible and detailed work a production designer like Steven -- and on Jeepers his talented art director Kevin Englund, does for every set, to take a scene from a script and give it somewhere to happen that will photograph well and be what the director is looking for!
(This is the road to the storage facility (that became the diner) the road was perfect (though we had to ask houses all along this stretch of highway if we could pay them to temporarily pull up their mailboxes, so it would seem remote. Some we camouflaged)
(The diner looked so real that people would pull up to the pumps during breaks in filmming, wanting to get gas -- and we'd have to tell them the pumps were fake and we were shooting a movie. Now that is the ultimate compliment to a production designer!)
12. LAST MINUTE CHANGES AND MORE MAGIC FROM BRAD PARKER
(A rare Brad Parker storyboard from JC2, back when we thought that the Creeper should die open-faced, so we could find him up on that cross in the barn looking pretty horrific even 23 years later. I decided later that the Creeper's head folding up on itself at the end of its feeding period was visually a stronger ending to the Ray Wise stabbing of the creature.)
I also decided it would be scarier if the crucified Creeper had a closed up cowl-like head, with the talons sealing it, for our final shot that climbs the barn wall and moves in on that strange looking head.
As I know Hitchcock would have loved, coming up on the Creeper's closed head was built in suspense for the final shot of JC2 -- because we were all waiting for the head to suddenly spring open.
The studio suggested that the face suddenly fly open at the end -- every film since Brian DePalma's CARRIE decades ago has decided to go for one last jump at the films last few frames.
They want to do this because it worked so well in CARRIE and people talked about the ending and suddenly -- everyone was doing it. A surprise though is only a surprise, once.
CARRIE is where it worked and you would have to look hard for a film even years later where it truly worked again.
(More amazing designs for Creeper knives and throwing stars from the prolific and terrific pencils of Brad Parker)
(Brad's idea of the rotting and decaying Creeper church where the Creeper has its House of Pain in the basement below. Parker drew this church before we found the existing one in Ocala, Florida -- a church which was an almost perfect match to the one Brad sketched)
(Brad's concept drawing for the stitches and incisions on the dying boy Darry finds down in the Creeper's Lair)
13. IS THAT A POST-PUNCHER IN YOUR POCKET?
Or are you just glad to see me? The first time I saw this photo, which showed the early stages of farmer Taggart's Creeper cannon, the Post Puncher 2000 -- I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants.
Nobody else understood. I thought they had to be joking. How could anyone not see it? Especially in this photo!?
But they didn't. Now, I had approved the design, and maybe I had just seen sketches of the post puncher from the side -- but this front-on view of the soon to be finished prop, was so hilariously phallic (balls and all) that after my laughing fit, we made some alterations.
So I could photograph the thing from head-on and not feel like I had to go to confession afterward.
HEY -- WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING WITH JC3?!!
I ask myself this almost daily now. And I know there is a lot of curiosity about Jeepers Threepers and what the story will be like and who will be in it, etc. My very first blog had some pages of storyboard from the upcoming shoot, done by the talented Jarett Fajardo.
Here is another piece of early art from this talented kid (Brad Parker was unavailable in Hawaii when JC3 started boarding) which is a massive "Aztec- like" calendar that is found carved out of stone in JC3: Cathedral".
I won't say anything else about it. Except that it might be as close to a backstory about the Creeper that we might ever get:
I know I mentioned that JC3 will also have a prologue that will take place in the old west. Scouting locations for this little slice of Creeper history turned up a couple of funny coincidences, like this storefront we found on one of the locations:
FAME IS A STRANGE THING PART TWOI thought I'd leave you with another tale of my rather hilarious quest for the fame filmmakers hope for, but rarely experience -- at least not in the way they'd like to.
I attended my first Fangoria Horror convention about seven years ago when it came to Burbank California (a suburb of Los Angeles that houses NBC, Warner Bros. and Universal ) Lucky because Burbank is a ten minute drive from home.
I went with a friend to Fango because I didn't know what to expect. I guess I wanted a kind of bodyguard or something. Or at least moral support. It's always scary for filmmakers to go out in public I think.Because you're a walking target for anyone who knows who you are but isn't a fan. And I was pretty green back then about the whole meeting the public and talking to fans thing.
And who am I kidding -- a horror director doesn't go to a Fango convention without the idea in the back of his head that he wants to be recognized, noticed and validated.
Always a dangerous proposition -- because like looking online for validation about one's work, films or existence -- the search often yields results you'd rather not have gotten.
At this Fango convention, I wasn't scheduled to speak but Jonathan Breck and Ray Wise were there to appear onstage, do a Q and A, and plug Jeepers II which would be in theaters soon.I was browsing all the great booths and vendors that come to Fango (it's like Disneyland and a shopping mall just for horror fans) and even enjoying the occassional offhand comment from passersby, like "Jeepers rules", or the lady who came up to me with her ten year old boy and her seven year old daughter and told me that Jeepers Creepers was her son's favorite movie!
While secretly horrified that a ten year old was even watching my R Rated monster movie (you know films are rated for a reason, and that reason, is FOR THE CHILDREN) but she bragged to me that this kid had seen Jeepers in the theater and many times on video and could do a perfect impersonation of the Creeper's wail -- the one that he does at the end of JC1, when its face talons open when the SWAT Team threatens him.
Now this sound was created for the movie by mixing several horrible sounds together: a pig squeal and a cougar sound and I forget everything they used to create this awful, sustained scream the creature gives.And this mother was insistent that her son perform it for me, right there in this very crowded hallway where Fango shoppers were moving in both directions.
The boy looked less than excited about performing for me -- and who could blame him. Then I got this image of this ten year old, screaming like a banshee at me in this crowded hallway, and everyone turning and looking at the director of Jeepers Creepers being wailed at by a lady and her kids and --
Well, you get the picture. And I did too. I let the kid off the hook and told mom, maybe some other time, in a quieter place where people wouldn't necessarily have a heart attack at the sudden explosion of sound.
I may have been imagining it, but I saw the relief in the poor kid's eyes when I took away his need to perform for his mom. Boy, could I relate to that one: "Do your Paul Lynde for your aunt and uncle," my mom would say, and I would want to just die or disappear.But even that moment, made me feel appreciated in the horror universe, and that was important to me. The appreciation people seem to have for Jeepers Creepers, that was important and validating for me.
In fact, I felt like a f***ing rock star at this place.
I was browsing more horror merchandise when the guy at one booth took one look at me and said, "Oh my God! I don't believe it!" he extended his hand and I shook it, smiling and blushing at being recognized yet again. "I am such a fan," the guy said, "I've seen everything you've ever done! You are one of the best, man! You're great."
I'm blushing and he's asking me to sign something for him and I throw a look over my shoulder to my buddy that said again, "I'm a f**king rockstar here."
The guy at the booth then said, "Yeah, BLADE 2 was amazing ."
Now it was my turn to say "Oh God" and I did -- inside my head -- as I realized this guy thought I was the remarkably talented, Guillermo del Toro. Who had made some great films in and out of the genre.
I kind of stared at the guy at the booth and wondered what was I supposed to do now?
Friends of mine who are celebs and who deal with this stuff all the time say I should just pretend to be that person, sign an autograph and move on. I knew I couldn't do that.I stammered a bit and said, with sudden and crushing humility, that I wasn't Guillermo Del Toro. "Oh," the guy said, looking deflated and embarrased.
"I'm Victor Salva. I made the Jeepers Creepers movies." I offered.
"Oh," he said again. "I'm sorry."
We exchanged polite smiles and I walked away. And for the rest of the day I wondered just what the hell that "I'm sorry" was supposed to mean?
Sorry he'd made a mistake -- or sorry that I had made the Jeepers movies?!
I was having dinner with my agent about a year later, one of the rare times I went to supper in Beverly Hills at a classy restaurant, and who should walk in and take a table - but Guillermo himself.
My agent egged me on to go over and say 'hello'. Something I would never do. I don't go up to actors or directors who I have never met, even if I think they are terrific. Finally, he convinced me to go.
And I got up and I walked to Guillermo's table and introduced myself and his eyes popped open and he said, "Victor!" and stood up and threw his arms around me like we were long lost brothers.
There is something incredibly warm and genuine about this man and I told him about the Fango incident, where this guy thought I was him. He smiled and said, "Yeah, people mistake me all the time for Peter Jackson!"
Though we may have all changed shape since we were three chubby directors with tiny mustaches and goatees, we all have one thing in common. To borrow a great line from the George C. Scott film, PATTON:
"All glory is fleeting."