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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Skunk Ape Trilogy

While Stomp! Shout! Scream! is getting an audio make-over in someone else’s hands, two other tasks are keeping me busy: creating marketing & promotional materials and doing research for the next Skunk Ape script.

Back in the fall of 2003 when I was finishing the writing of Stomp! Shout! Scream!, I realized that that script should be the start of a Skunk Ape Trilogy. I came up with a structure arc for the three movies pretty quickly. #1 was a 1966 Beach Party movie with a Garage Rock soundtrack; #2 , a 1972 Animals Attack movie with Country Music; #3, a 1977 Punk Rock movie (the exact movie genre on this one still isn’t quite clear). Locations through the 3 movies would move east to west: Florida for the Beach Party, the Midwest for the Animals Attack/Country music, and Los Angeles for the Punk Rock finale. Just like in 2003, I’ve been watching all the movies I can find within the genre that I’ll be writing. It’s been a summer of Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), Empire of the Ants (1977), Grizzly (1976), The Crater Lake Monster (1977), Frogs (1972), Squirm (1976), and Day of the Animals (1977). And there’s lots more.

Watching ‘50s & ‘60s low-budget monster flicks and beach party movie is tons of campy fun. Watching low-budget ‘70s Animal Attack movies is, well... a chore. The ‘50s & ‘60s films always ended on a moral, just or uplifting note, accompanied by a speech by the lead actor, something like “Man is a thinking creature and as such, the greatest in the universe…” Often the plots in these film were wrapped up quickly, idealistically, always leaving room for hope. The low-budget horror films of the‘70s are universally filled with a palpable, persistent hopelessness. Kingdom of the Spiders ends with Williams Shatner trapped in a cabin. The last shot of the film is a matte painting of the town covered in spider webs. That’s it. Everyone dies. The End. Downer movies are not necessarily such a bad thing as source material for writing a film, but it sure makes for film watching and film making that’s just not much fun. And who wants to make monster movies if they aren’t fun? All this leads me back to what I realized when I started writing Stomp! Shout! Scream!: I have to come up with a good story, populated with interesting characters, and employ only the appealing elements of genre movies to give the film it’s style.

Another part of script research is keenly knowing the location of where things take place. Stomp! Shout! Scream! was set in Florida, partially because I knew I could save money by shooting in my home town, but also because I could clearly picture all the locations in my head while I was writing. For the next Skunk Ape movie, a small Midwest town seems like the right location, even though I’m not certain of my story yet and I’ve never spent any time in the Midwest. So, I took a road trip to Iowa for the 4th of July holiday to visit my friend Mitch and his family. I brought along the Skunk Ape costume and my camera to see how a big black ape creature looked lumbering through the cornfields. It looked pretty awesome.

For marketing and promotion, Tweet Design will be creating the poster, DVD packaging, soundtrack packaging, business cards, stationery, t-shirts, and some undetermined give-a-way item. Marketing a film appropriately is every bit as important as making a good film. I didn’t become a film maker because I wanted to be in advertising and sales, but that’s definitely part of the process. And creating posters and t-shirts for a beach party rock and roll monster movie will most certainly be part of the fun.