Friday, Nov. 23rd, 1979 —
Yesterday was probably the nicest Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. After shooting the knarled-hand/Bridge scene until 6:30 A.M., with two generators, a thirty-six foot crane, three fog machines and 4000 watts of light, we got up at 11:00 A.M. to go to Gary Holt’s Mother-in-law’s house for the Thanksgiving meal.
It was sunny and warm, the colors wonderfully vibrant, the setting rural and rustic.
The meal was extravagant, the people folksy and hospitable, we rode around on Gary’s son’s go-cart, we played football, played with the two Dobermans, three tiny kitties, and two Pekinese dogs, watched Detroit vs. Chicago on TV, showed “Within the Woods,” actually helped a neighboring farmer herd some cattle that had wandered astray, then came home and watched the rushes — some of which are great, the rest good, then I went to sleep and awoke today at 6:00 A.M. and am presently defecating my Thanksgiving meal.
Saturday, Nov. 24th, 1979 —
Once again we are about to leave for the dirt road location at Clinch Mt. Yesterday we filmed the scene with the subject car swerving in and almost hitting a logging truck and I filmed a couple of shots. It never looked as good as it should have.
Dissension among the cast and crew seems to be building. Some of the gripes are:
Sam never shoots a master-shot of anything, therefore the cast never gets to play out a whole scene, he’ll spend hours filming an insert, then not have time for three other shots, he spends very little time telling the actors what he wants, he’ll do a few run-throughs, but mainly for the camera’s sake, not the actors, he films everything from every angle, except the really important things like the bridge scene (which bugs the shit out of Tom). Supposedly we are three days behind, but I’m not sure whether to believe it or not since Campbell, Tapert, Raimi seem to think it necessary to withhold or lie about certain things. For instance, Rob told me the bridge scene cost $2300.00, whereas Bruce said $1200.00 — that’s a big discrepancy.
My neck has hurt for four days, and yet, even with all this I’m still enjoying myself.
My tape recorder keeps getting taken out to the cabin, left overnight in the cold, which kills the batteries, then I track it down (since no one returns it) and if I want to use it I have to buy new batteries which runs me $5.00.
This production is depressing me again. It rained last night so we can’t go to the dirt road and alas it’s just sitting around.
I guess that it must be a reflection of my comportment, but I do not like the way I’m treated by several people here. Betsy gives me upward of four dirty looks and snide comments a day, always to statements of mine not directed toward her. Theresa simply doesn’t deal with me at all and Sam (this is the major one) appears to not only not want my suggestions on open questions, but is more than a shade reticent to let me do anything that takes any amount of thought or creative input. When he decided to go with multiple cameras yesterday, he immediately asked John to run camera #2, then began wondering aloud who had the ability to run camera #3 and only after I asked and he gave it some thought would he let me run it. Today he was thinking of a method for a fake shot, opened it up to suggestions from Dart, didn’t like what he heard then just left it to Dart.
This sounds like paranoid ravings, and maybe it is, but I’m still mildly bugged.
I talked for a long time with Tom Sullivan last night and rather enjoyed myself.
Mainly we talked movies and I told him the story of “Bloodbath” [which ultimately became “Thou Shalt Not Kill . . . Except”] and he liked it, then he told me this totally bizarre idea of his about other dimensions, ghosts, “actual demons,” “actual sea-serpents,” that just went on forever.
So far, if I did a film, of these folks I wouldn’t mind using John Mason in some capacity, Tim Philo as camera operator, both Goody and Dart as carpenters and P.A.s and possibly Tapert as producer — but, that’s just jerk-off thoughts.
Speaking of paranoid ravings, this production is making me paranoid. I’ve got this odd, unfounded fear I’m going to get fired — I’m assuredly replaceable, as a matter of fact I’m totally expendable, I have no basis for this fear, yet it persists.
These guys are freaking out with all this money, they can’t stop finding ways to spend it. Now they’re having Dart build a slanted, twenty-foot ramp running from the edge of the porch out in front of the door to get another crane effect. It’s ridiculous.
Why am I in this absurd position? The idea of working on a movie is great, but the grief just isn’t worth it. To be on a production with good friends and intentionally and continually placed in a lower position is maddeningly insulting. I really want to tell them to fuck off, but it won’t accomplish anything. I’ve tried to keep a good attitude throughout but it’s difficult — I have ideas that I have to force on people just to get them to listen, not even accept them.
And, I think I’m sick, too.
And yet a little while later…
It appears as though this production is running into some trouble. The high brass is in a special conference this very moment discussing it; how to keep going with exteriors while it’s raining, or to go interior with a cabin that is as yet unfinished and unfurnished.
At this point, this is what I would do: stop shooting for a couple of days, get everyone out to the cabin, rehearse every move, every lighting set-up, finish fixing the place, dress it, wait for it to stop raining, then keep shooting (the rain is supposed to end on Thursday) but now do the long tracking takes that comprise so much of the footage, then get the inserts and go home. Tom asked if I suggested this to them and I hadn’t, nor will I. I’ve made as many suggestions as I’m going to.
This meeting is taking place in the room adjoining mine so I can’t go to my room.
The question is: why is all of this bothering me so much? It’s not my film, why should I care? I’m backassed on both points. I want to care, but I don’t really, and it’s not my film, yet I wish it were — at least in some part — then someone might take heed of my words.
But why do I want them to take my word? Isn’t their’s enough?
No. It’s not.
We are now four days behind and there is a good chance tomorrow will make five.
Sam does not have a firm control of the situation at all.
Of course I never thought he did, but his movies always turned out well. That was Super-8 though, this is 16mm and a lot of money. There are a million variables in this business. Someone once said that being a good director mainly consisted of answering better than 50% of the questions right. This has always made sense to me but I’ve never seen it so intensely illustrated. Everyone bombards Sam with questions continually and I’m not sure if his average is better than 50% at this point. We are fourteen days into a forty-three day shoot — one-third of the way in — “Book of the Dead” is theoretically one-ninth shot (if it was ever going to run ninety minutes). The big answer now is “once we get to the cabin things will really move.” As far as I can see it’s not too much different from shooting in the car, and that took forever. Sam doesn’t really know what he wants. I’m convinced.
I saw part #2 of “Salem’s Lot” on TV and it was drek. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was a fluke. Tobe Hooper is bad — not even mediocre — bad.