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STEVE VERTLIEB: THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES: 
Behind The Scenes Film Production Blog #1 


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     With primary principal photography complete on MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES, we now enter the early post-production (editing) phase. Throughout Spring / early Summer 2014 we'll be making film event appearances; and to be kept abreast of dates and developments click the link below to be added to our mailing list.  To support MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES directly click the "cart" logo to go to our crowdfunding page ... you mogul, you!



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* PAGE 1 (HOME) STEVE VERTLIEB: THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES:

Synopsis / Crew Personnel / Shooting Schedule/ Teaser Trailer

* PAGE 2 - Daily LOG / BLOG; SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS  

* PAGE 3 - THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES: Film's Mission Statement

*PAGE 5 - THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES: Production Blog #2 - "Phase 2", Los Angeles, CA

* PAGE 6 - THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES: Production Blog #3 - "Phase 3", Philadelphia, PA



PHASE #1: Pittsburgh / Mars, PA
"MONSTER BASH" Convention Shoot

(Fri. July 19th, 2013 - Sun. July 21st)

by CEJ



     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.
    


                        


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Our DP, Cameron Mitchell, with makeup maestro / actor Tom Savini
(DAWN OF THE DEAD, CREEPSHOW, DJANGO, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN)


     In the weeks (hell,  months!) leading to this weekend, I’ve got to admit Peter Hyams’ stomach “butterflies (sometimes even “dragonflies”) made their presence known more than once.  Anyone who’s ever created any artistic “product” for public consumption (music, film, written story, stage performance, art or photo exhibition, etc.) knows things seldom go according to the best laid plans.  And in our case, ever shifting scheduling, creative, financial and other such standard concerns would prove not to be all. 




     Those burdens would be saddled with the irritating weight of a loud and opinionated “moral minority” - a handful of (in some respects, ... and no disrespect intended, "old school") message-boarders who felt the choice of subject for our documentary, Mr. Vertlieb, was perhaps unworthy of the spotlight we were shining upon him, as his contributions to film archive-ism and historical preservation were less of the "traditional" sort - in the way of an accumulation of “artifacts” / “objects“ (prized one-of-kind film memorabilia) like the collections of say Forrest J. Ackerman, Bob Burns and others (including of course those of said “moral minority” themselves), and more a collection of personal relationships and life long friendships with various film maker / creators such as Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Willis O’Brien, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Miklos Rozsa, Frank Capra and more; along with hundreds of letters, photos, technical sketches and more from them detailing the behind the scenes personal and technical challenges overcome in bringing their now beloved classics to bookshelves and the screen. 


 
Interviewee Veronica Carlson



     While around just as long as the other more traditional brand of archive-ism, the more (considered by some) "new aged" type of saving and preserving cinema history for posterity, was one towards which myself and many creative peers immediately gravitated as we did not have the opportunity of first hand intimate contact with those creative giants as did they of the generation of Mr. Vertlieb and others.  To us the "new aged" brand of archive-ism is one every bit  as legit and important (perhaps even more so) than the more traditionally accepted other.

     While attempting to remain positive about all of this (and about people in general) I nonetheless found myself stamping out a number of “message board” fires from that “minority” which, while I felt I certainly had no time or patience for, ultimately and ironically gave our documentary perhaps what it needed most - a sense of conflict and drama. 


   Interviewee Terry Pace with "Papa" Bradbury

      The "primary" stories we were (and are) intent on telling were A) Steve’s lifelong love of film, and how this love translated into a career in which he befriended the aforementioned filmic icons (many of whom have passed away in recent days - leaving Steve and a few others as some of our last remaining "first person" links to them and their work).  And also how during Steve's "dark years" (the loss of his TV hosting gig, dissolution of his marriage, and near bankruptcy - all happening AT THE SAME TIME!) his undying love of cinema would end up “saving” him as he’d spent his entire life “saving” it - as in preserving it’s stories, photos, letters - it‘s very legacy, for future generations.  



   
      Running parallel with this personal story is B) that of genre cinematic history (science fiction, fantasy & horror) in general, and how it - saved by those who love the medium, would also reciprocate by helping save society during it’s “dark years”.  “Saving” as in helping the populous cope in cathartic fashion with socio-political trauma.  


  Interviewee Pat Priest (THE MUNSTERS, EASY COME EASY GO)



     For while they’ve yet to achieve the critical respect of their more “serious minded” celluloid cousins, there is always a spike in the popularity of genre films when times are tough.  After WWI, film silents such as the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, THE MAN WHO LAUGHED and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME dealt with deformed characters (deformed of mind and body) not unlike those returning from the world's first mechanized war.  During WW2, "bio science" thrillers such as ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (the first filmed version of H.G. Welles' THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU), along with THE INVISIBLE MAN and FRANKENSTEIN, would subconsciously address (and allow collective acknowledgement of) the results of the first "high tech" war: a war wherein it's newly developed bio-sciences would be used both positively (medical tech saving the lives of many) and negatively (the holocaust experiments of Josef Mengele which would take innumerable souls).

Interviewee Tom Savini   


     The 1950s horror / sci fi film cycle proved a psychological catharsis during the nuclear age.  1960s era cinematic genre fare such as PLANET OF THE APES addressed many of the same Civil Rights & racial issues for which films like THE DEFIANT ONES and GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER were being protested in many areas.  And in the post 911 world, while films such as IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, STOP LOSS and even THE HURT LOCKER garnered critical acclaim but no audiences, genre material such as the BOURNE series, the first SPIDER-MAN, CASINO ROYALE and SUPERMAN RETURNS addressed similar anxieties but in a more "safe" and comfortable psychological environment.  CASINO ROYALE and SUPERMAN RETURNS would even feature sequences wherein airliners threatened to become weapons of mass destruction.


  Interviewee Butch Patrick (THE MUNSTERS, THE PHANTOM
  TOOLBOOTH, DICKY ROBERTS: FORMER CHILD STAR, THE SIMPSONS)



      Upon first announcement of the making of STEVE VERTLIEB: THE MAN WHO “SAVED” THE MOVIES, the majority of responses from friends and acquaintances (of both Steve and ourselves) were quite positive and supportive.  There was however that aforementioned minority of a few who’s concerns we undertook to address by incorporating their caveat into the fabric of our film.  



     Always intended as focal points of our documentary were a series of “sit down” interviews with some of Steve’s closest friends and professional comrades.  These include legendary Hammer Studios actress Veronica Carlson (DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, and TV's THE SAINT with Roger Moore), author Leonard J. Kohl (SINISTER SERIALS OF BORIS KARLOFF, BELA LUGOSI AND LON CHANEY, JR.), Terry Pace (Director Office of University Communications & Marketing - University of North Alabama), Juliet Rozsa (daughter of composer Miklos Rozsa), Lee Holdridge (composer MOONLIGHTING, SPLASH, INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS: STORIES OF THE KINDERSTRANSPORT), Mark Redfield (of POEFOREVERMORE) and others discussing their own professional histories and how their’s came to intertwine with Steve’s.


Interviewee Robert Dix (FORBIDDEN PLANET, LIVE AND LET DIE)   


     As a result of the "old school vs. new aged" debate over what constitutes genuine archive-ism / preservation (and I personally feel there's room for both; why others don't see it that way, I'll never know! ) a new line of questioning was added to our interview segments. 

     Each of our extensive “sit down” interviews (those conducted this previous weekend and those yet to come) closes with two questions - both of which recapitulate the central themes of our film: 



      1) “In a world of 911s and Boston Bombings, why do you think people need genre entertainment?  Or do they need it at all?”.  And …

      2) “If given the choice of either owning a piece of memorabilia from your favorite film (John Travolta’s white suit from SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, the original KING KONG puppet armature, etc.) or the opportunity to ‘get into the head’ of your favorite film maker by spending an afternoon with them or owning a series of personal letters detailing the making of your favorite movie, … which would you choose?”. 


  Interviewee - Director / Actor / Writer / CINEMA INSOMNIAC host Mr. Lobo



      Something we did not expect this previous weekend at MONSTER BASH however was the overwhelming number of celebrity conference guests and venders who also chose to comment on camera on those two questions and more in the form of mini "on the floor" interviews.  These included actors Pat Priest (THE MUNSTERS, EASY COME EASY GO), Butch Patrick (THE MUNSTERS, THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, THE SIMPSONS, DICKY ROBERTS: CHILD STAR), Robert Dix (FORBIDDEN PLANET, LIVE AND LET DIE), Gregg Palmer (TO HELL AND BACK, THE SHOOTIST), Donnie Dunaghan (SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, TOWER OF LONDON, BAMBI), George Kosana (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD); writer / director / actor / CINEMA INSOMNIA host “MR. LOBO”, makeup maestro / actor Tom Savini (DAWN OF THE DEAD, CREEPSHOW, DJANGO UNCHAINED, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN); along with Jay Fif, Steve & Ron Bejma, Cortlandt Hull, Ted Bohus and many more; every one honest, insightful, and entertaining.  Thank you all.  You not only made my childhood a memorable one in front of the TV and in theater seats, but have now made my adulthood (such as it is) equally just as exciting.  



  Interviewee George Kosana (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD)

     Thank You to the MONSTER BASH staff, including Mike and Brian in the “Creepy Classics Vendor Room”,  for allowing us to use their space during business hours to conduct a last minute spur-of-the-moment “sit down” interview session.  And special thanks to MONSTER BASH creator / host - the super awesome and awesomely super Ron Adams, for allowing us to invade Mars and his wonderful convention with a Steadicam rig, sound equipment, and a thousand questions for both patrons and guests.  Without your cooperation it never would have been possible.



      A big time “shout out” to the entire gang at the Comfort Inn (including, but not limited to) Hannah, David, Lynn, Nicole and Jocelyn.  Hours before our arrival your hotel was struck by lighting, convention ghouls and monsters were wandering your lobby, phones were down, and all manner of other problems plagued you the entire weekend.  But you all displayed an unheard of degree of professionalism, humor and, most of all, kindness and understanding for a group with more than a few special needs as well as lots of (dumb and otherwise) questions.  Everyone else we meet during our later filming in L.A. will have your wonderful spirit and professional chops as the yardstick with which to measure up to. 





      A huge “Thank You” to my brother (and co-producer) Harold Jamison.  

      And they're aren’t enough layers of admiration and respect for our MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE crew consisting of Director of Photography Cameron Mitchell and sound man extraordinaire Ryan Farber.  You took a nebulous vision and translated it into visuals beyond my expectations.  You guys rock!

      And finally to the man himself, Steve Vertlieb.  You keep thanking me, but I’ve got to thank you for helping me achieve my film making dream.  Never could I have imagined that my first outing would be populated with some of the greatest names from the dual worlds of pop culture history and learned cinema journalism.  It’s all because of your lifetime of “saving” the movies so that others who follow in your steps may do the same.
 

      Can’t wait for L.A. and PHASE 2 !!! 






                                      
                                                                                                                          Craig Ellis Jamison
(7/23/13)




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