(The Last Blunder is a humorous weekly serial detailing the making of a true independent filmmaking catastrophe. I hope all of you who read along find it entertaining and can relate to it to some degree. The names of the participants have been changed. Any comments, suggestions, compliments, or criticisms can be sent to damianATkaverasfilmDOTcom. Enjoy!)
The Last Blunder: Chapter 1 by Damian K. Lahey
It was 2001 and The Last Blunder was to be my third film produced in Wilmington, NC. The previous films had turned out sub-par at best. The director of The Last Blunder was a Balthazar Spankenstein, whom I’d been introduced to during one of the aforementioned productions. “Spanky”, as his friends not so affectionately referred to him, had been trying to get this film made for twelve years. His expansive investment package for the film was the template we all used for our own shows. He’d originally wanted to raise 500,000 dollars for the film but had only managed to scramble together 170,000. Inspired by our films, he decided to go ahead and make it. It was time for him to get his hands bloody and get in the trenches with the rest of us indie gorilla filmmakers!
That was the popular story around town anyway.
In actuality, there was a far less romantic reason the film was going forward. And that involved a rather sticky situation that Spanky had found himself in. Our director had to make the movie by July, or else he was going to have to return the money to the investors. This he couldn’t do as he’d shamelessly spent 60,000 dollars of the money on himself. We were left with 110,000 dollars for production. The director had spent a third of the money over a three year period living the high life and picking up chicks by saying he was making a film. Big dinners, big dreams, and big hype – that’s where it all went.
The Last Blunder was about Spanky’s last summer of innocence - when his dad got a new job and he had to move and leave his friends behind when he was 12. Spanky “spiced up” the painfully autobiographical story by killing off his mom w/ cancer and making the father character a raging, brooding alcoholic who couldn’t shower, shave, use the bathroom properly, or do anything but sit on the couch and cry his brains out over his dead wife. The events took place in 1981. There were lots of Elton John songs in the script and it all revolved around a neighborhood swimming pool championship and some awkward sexual stuff. It was lousy material and everyone knew it. Spanky had shot a trailer for the film to lure investors and to inspire potential crew members to work for nothing. It highlighted less the coming of age theme of the story and favored instead the degenerate drunken father, who was constantly blathering inanely or rooting through his decrepit refrigerator, which looked like something from an Evil Dead film. Crazily gnawing through rotten lettuce, poor Dad looked more like a crazed zombie vegetarian than he did your average neighborhood alcoholic. As a sign of things to come, it wasn’t very inspiring.
Spanky’s favorite director was Francis Ford Coppola. He’d seen the Godfather movies, Apocalypse Now and Dracula. He had never heard of Rumble Fish, The Outsiders, The Conversation or any of the others. And he didn’t care either. He didn’t watch movies or read books about movies. Besides, our 36-year-old auteur assured us, shooting wedding videos and cutting them together deck-to-deck in your garage apartment gives you all the experience you need to make a great film.
It’s important to note that out esteemed director was also dating a 17 year old. Suzy Midriff was assigned as my assistant production office coordinator. She was also put on payroll, which really drove me up the wall. Aside from her relationship with Spanky being illegal, she was also not “mature for her age”. She was a piece of trailer trash with big hooters. She and Spanky constantly made references to their out of control sex life that was both unprofessional and gross. They didn’t deem any situation inappropriate when it came to sucking face or heavy petting. When I told Mr. Spankenstein that I’d appreciate it if he steered those activities away from The Last Blunder business, he was truly surprised and informed me it was a common way to relieve stress.
When I arrived in town, one of my first tasks was to do the break downs and scheduling – but there was a problem there. Spanky had written the script using a word processor from the '80s and all he had was a hard copy of The Last Blunder as the IBM PC JR he’d typed it on had crashed. That meant I had to retype the entire thing, as Spanky wasn’t much of a typist. He knew it would be a painful task however, and volunteered to keep me company. I thought it would be more painful if he was around and tried to beg him off, but he insisted. Instead of bringing over some pizza like I suggested, he brought over his buddy who was a local artist in town. Spanky had tipped off him off that I was a huge Bob Dylan fan, so the guy showed up with an 8x11 Dylan sketch he’d done and tried to sell it to me. I offered him twenty-five dollars for it, and that was me supporting a local artist. He became incensed and told me that he sold them downtown for seventy-five dollars. I told him he needed to take it downtown then, because if he knew what Mr. I-Blew-Sixty-Grand was paying me, he wouldn’t press the issue.
While I typed away as fast as possible, these two jokers smoked a bunch of weed, and busted out their guitars. Explaining to me that they believed George Harrison to be the one true almighty Beatle, they proceeded to serenade me with all of George Harrison’s originals and yes, that included "Tax Man". Suzy Midriff provided harmony and backing vocals. She didn’t do too well with the weed though. When she wasn’t yacking in the toilet, she was dancing around mindlessly, flashing everybody her gazongas. But around midnight, with Suzy, Spanky, and his brother in arms all passed out on the couch, The Last Blunder was typed up in Movie Magic Screenwriter and pre-production could begin in earnest!
— Damian K. Lahey
(I want to thank everybody for reading, as the misadventures of The Last Blunder continue next week…)