PHASE #1: Pittsburgh / Mars, PA
"MONSTER BASH" Convention Shoot
(Fri. July 19th, 2013 - Sun. July 21st)
Peter Hyams is a director who’s name is perhaps unknown to much of the general film going public, but who’s films themselves the vast majority are quite aware. OUTLAND, THE STAR CHAMBER, RUNNING SCARED (that’s the 1986 Gregory Hines / Billy Crystal comedy / actioner and not the 2006 Paul Walker mafia caper wanna-be), 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT, the Harrison Ford WWII fave HANOVER STREET, along with THE PRESIDIO, NARROW MARGIN, TIMECOP and SUDDEN DEATH (Jean Claude Van Damme’s two best films), END OF DAYS, THE RELIC and many more. Beginning his career as a TV journalist, he’d write a number of scripts (among them BUSTING and TELEFON) before making his directorial debut with CAPRICORN ONE - which he also wrote. In a video interview he was once asked about any “sense of nervousness” felt while directing that all important first film, a rather sizeable effort concerning the first manned landing on Mars, and how it is faked by NASA (in best conspiracy theory fashion - on a soundstage) in order to not lose multi-billion dollar corporate funding as well as continue to keep in play a number of current political agendas.
Hyams admitted a certain degree of “butterflies in the belly” trepidation before the commencement of filming. But on the very first day of principal photography, on the California desert no less, his “wariness” instantly vanished when a column of trucks came over the hill, and the head Teamster driver asked him a most simple question, “Where should we park ’em?”. Hyams recalled from that moment on, and to the present day, there was no more nervousness, as a greater part of directing is simply making “one decision after another” with no time for the luxury of nervousness. I now know EXACTLY what he means.
This past weekend (Fri. July 19th - Sun. July 21st) we commenced the first phase of shooting GullCottage’s debut feature film, the documentary (tentatively titled) STEVE VERTLIEB: THE MAN WHO “SAVED” THE MOVIES, at the MONSTER BASH Classic Monster Conference convention in Mars, PA. Yes, that’s correct - the “Monster Bash in Mars!”. Rather ambitious for our first time out of the gates, it's a "small" documentary which in essence is three separate films combined. 1) an intimate one on one "in his home" conversation / portrait with/of our subject (and good friend) cinema archivist / historian / film music expert Steve Vertlieb. 2) a visual document of his annual trip from Philadelphia, PA to Los Angeles, California - where he regularly meets up with life long friends, who also happen to be legendary staples of the film industry (among them Juliet Rozsa, daughter of BEN HUR, EL CID, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THIEF OF BAGHDAD composer Miklos Rozsa, and until recently with the late Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson). And 3) Our docu's most colorful "mini film within a film" aspect - our crew following Steve as he attends MONSTER BASH, the last of the old school "Mom & Pop"- run genre conventions.
The antithesis of the grand scale, commercially devoured San Diego Comic Con-like gathering, MONSTER BASH (the favorite convention of the late Forrest J. Ackerman) is unique in that it's attendees are of an older film going generation (those raised on the classics of the 1930s - 1960s), consists of many professionals (genre writers, film makers, collectors, college professors, cinema journalists) as fan attendees, and many families who travel cross country every year to attend.
Our weekend of filming at MONSTER BASH was one helluva ride for all. Thoroughly exhausting (from the 5 ½ hr. road trip from Philadelphia to Mars - just outside Pittsburgh, to jammed packed filming days) it was also without a doubt the most exciting weekend of my year thus far, and quite possibly of my entire life. Saturday alone consisted of hours of footage captured on the convention floor, as well as exterior Steadicam, “sit down” interviews (the staging and lighting of which is always a bitch), and gorgeous 2nd Unit (and our three man crew was both 1st and 2nd Units) material captured in the mountainside township of Mars - it's mini town square flying saucer and “Mars Travel Agency” two particularly charming and memorable filmic ops.