Saturday, Dec. 1st, 1979 —
We’ve just returned from another all-night shoot, then breakfast and it’s about 9:30 A.M. Early into last evening’s proceedings I began drinking “Rebel Yell” bourbon, smoked a doob, then switched over to scotch and in no time felt incredibly bad. I tried to sleep on the couch in the main room and couldn’t, then moved to the freezing back-room and crashed on a cot for several hours. When I awoke the sun was just coming up and Sam was still shooting the same scene as when I retired.
I feel like a total scum-bag. My only consolation is that Sam looks worse and assuredly feels worse.
We looked at the second load of rushes yesterday and among some real nice shots (the tire dropping through the bridge) the big events of the truck scene and the night-time knarled-hand/bridge scene were both let-downs. A bunch of the footage of the truck scene just wasn’t there, and what was there didn’t look very good. As for the bridge, well, it’s almost a total waste. the knarled hand effect isn’t there, the crane shot doesn’t work and the whole thing looks like a cheap, backyard set.
Sam is now considering shooting both scenes again — which is obviously insane since there is possibly twenty-minutes of film shot.
I entirely understand Sam’s directorial technique now: he breaks every scene down to every possible angle and films them all, thus giving himself total latitude in the editing room. It’s a viable method, but not rational for this production.
Sunday, Dec. 2nd, 1979 —
Once again I have just returned from an all-night shoot. Although things were still slow, they went appreciably faster than usual.
Sam looks like he’s on his last leg. Now he’s really like a punch-drunk boxer.
Nevertheless, he’s still right on top of the action (as he says quite often) and he’s getting some nice footage.
Aside from the fact that I still have serious doubts about the completion of this film and that neither Betsy, Theresa or Bruce is giving a particularly good performance, this film will be slick as shit and have some great things in it.
Wednesday, Dec. 5th, 1979 —
Tonight is going to be another all-nighter for two scenes: Ellen running through the woods and Rich walking into the cabin looking through all the rooms.
Last night I picked the optometrist up at the airport. He had the white “monster” contact lenses with him for the girls that are just repulsive-looking — very effective.
An interesting sideline is that they can only be kept in for fifteen minutes, five times a day. This seems like it ought to effect Sam’s shooting style just a bit, and the whole end of the movie has these contacts in.
On the way back from the airport with the optometrist I took the wrong fork on the Andrew Johnson Hwy, realized my mistake immediately, turned around on the hwy, cut across the median and was pulled over by the police. I showed him my license and he informed me I had just broken about three laws, then asked what I was doing in Tennessee anyway? I told him I was part of the production of a horror film called “Book of the Dead” being shot in Morristown, that I had just picked up the optometrist from the airport who had the white contact lenses for the monsters and I wasn’t sure of my way back to Morristown. He seemed a little incredulous, smiled, and told me to just keep going the way I was going and that was that.
Also, we (although not I) were on TV yesterday. The Knoxville news filmed this press conference that Gary has set up, then they all went out to the cabin. It was kind of funny.
The shit hit the fan yesterday finally and everyone voiced their gripes — and there were a lot of them. Rob and Bruce (not Sam) listened to them all, said something would be done, mainly with getting Sam to straighten out his act, get the schedule normalized, give someone the job of production manager and someone the job of assistant cameraman, keeping the house clean and many, many more. Once everything was aired it was all promptly forgotten and things continue exactly as they were.
I am tentatively considering just not going back to Detroit. I’d like to meet Sheldon somewhere between here and L.A. and figuring out what we can do with “Bloodbath.” I’ll call him. I would like to rewrite it myself first, but going home will just cause me grief and despair — that I can count on.
We would either have to sell it, which would be okay, but I would rather make it myself. That would entail a lot of time and money and shooting a short version which this script doesn’t really lend itself to. Also, that much time with Sheldon would drive me insane.
Much later . . .
The shooting has ceased (it’s 7:00 A.M.) and one scene was filmed — Ellen running through the woods. It was nicely done: 120 feet of dolly track (particle board), four 1000 watt lights and the 5000 watt light on the driveway, with access to a high angle shot on one side and a low angle on the other. We did twenty-two takes of her running in a nightie and undies (it was about 40 degrees), then two of her falling at the camera.
On the second take she fell hard and scraped her leg, got pissed, began cursing and said she couldn’t film anymore — shooting came to a halt.
Right now upstairs there is a discussion about upcoming scenes, many of which are with the contacts which can only come in and out five times a day, fifteen minutes at a time. For Sam that pretty much means no exact run-through and probably about two quick takes. Not because I said so, but out of necessity he will have to rehearse his actors and go for the big takes — or he will be fucked.
“Book of the Dead” is three full days behind schedule, with no contingency days.
Rob mentioned staying beyond the 22nd today, just in passing.