Saturday, March 12, 2011

Beginning this post on a somber and serious note, I am really quite disturbed with what is going on in Japan. It really was kind of inevitable, they've been predicting another big earthquake on the scale of the 1923 Kanto quake for 30 years now. It looks just like a Toho film, except it's real. The chilling footage looks right out of Shinji Higuchi's Sinking of Japan. The whole nuclear power plant business was hauntingly predicated by Tetsuro Tamba's Dr. Nishiyama in a sequence in Prophecies of Nostradamus and the city of Sendai, which is thrashed by Legion in Gamera 2, was hit hardest it seems. It was pretty haunting to see the same airfield that Gamera and Legion duked it out on awash in tsunami waves. Thankfully, unlike in Deathquake/Magnitude 7.9, Tokyo was quite well prepared and the damage to the city and loss of life in general has been surprisingly minimal. Yet it is quite disheartening to see this country whose artists and culture has given me so much inspiration over the years (I sometimes jokingly call myself "Japanese trained" as a filmmaker) in Katrina-like shambles, with millions without power and food starting to dwindle until the rescue parties reach everybody. My prayers are with the people of Japan and I will be donating when I can. It's gotten to the point where I'm just so sick of all the world's violence and chaos I've just been meditating and praying for peace every single night. Here's a good fundraiser via the Japan Society of New York.

As far as business goes, preparations for Alison in Wonderland have continued as usual for the last few days. I'm kind of exhausted and haven't slept much keeping up with the Japan earthquake, but I've been trying to distract myself with work and a little alcohol. Undertaking the slow and tedious but very necessary process of making a shooting script and shot list for it and also building a new piked head as well as mounting the existing ones so they can stand up right. Four months till it shoots, it's getting down to the wire now.

I also have just finished work on a new draft of The Witch's Castle, my gritty crime drama pet project based on the Shanda Sharer murder, that runs about 118 pages. I'm pretty happy with it though I have my uncertainties about it as well. I worry it may not be cohesive enough in its current form but it is certainly the best version yet. I hope to get if off the ground the moment Alison in Wonderland is lock stock and barrel. This new script has more exposition and focuses on why it happened as opposed to just how. It's more of a drama now, a character study on those with dysfunctional lives. The influences that I've tapped are many from trashy stuff like John Waters and Harmony Korine's Gummo (a movie I really like) to gritty horror movies like DePalma's work, Last House on the Left, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I Spit on Your Grave to Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures and The Lovely Bones to Stanley Kubrick and the documentary quality of Kinji Fukasaku's yakuza movies to that nice slice of life Americana quality the old educational shorts have. I tried to stay pretty true to the crime itself while also maintaining my own sensibility and interpretation. I want to film it in a style sort of like "American neorealism", there will some long takes in the film, the tone will be starker, there will be my first split-screen sequence since Little Red Riding Hood and the musical score will be more minimalistic with a heavy use of ambient noise and sampled and distorted public domain library music. The color scheme of the cinematography will be muted and muddy, I have considered shooting the movie in black and white in fact. I'll probably film most of it in New England, but I'd love to shoot a few scenes actually in Madison, Indiana, where it all happened, especially at the real Witches Castle, but I wonder if I'll be allowed to?

I have taken some liberties with the story like I've said. The names have all been changed so to avoid litigation (Toni Lawrence and Hope Rippey are both of out prison and it won't be too long before Loveless and Tackett are out too), I have tried to really delve into the psychology of the Melinda Loveless and Laurie Tackett characters (called Christina McKinney and Lauren Hardt here) and probe their unbalanced minds like Peter Jackson did with the young murderesses in Heavenly Creatures. Christina McKinney is a character a lot like Clockwork Orange's Alex. She's an utterly despicable sociopath, but she is bizarrely likable, you can see how seductive she is and she has her reasons for being the way she is. Lauren Hardt is obsessed with the macabre, very emotionally disturbed and desperate to rebel against her domineering, fundamentalist Christian mother who is losing her control over her and her part in Sharon's murder is really just an unleashing of years of pent up rage. In one of the biggest and more controversial changes, I have chosen to combine Hope Rippey and Toni Lawrence into one character, Karen Shepherd, though a lot of the old Hope Rippey character's actions have been given to Christina. In real life, Toni Lawrence was date raped about a year before Shanda's murder and I think had that not happened she wouldn't have been there. For Karen, that is fleshed out considerably. She is a prime example of the pack mentality and how, when the chips are down and people are at their worst, "the best", as W.B. Yeats would say, "lack all conviction". Sort of like how Kinji Fukasaku treated the yakuza thugs in his movies, I have an odd degree of sympathy for the murderers of Shanda Sharer which is kind of manifest here. They all had their own unchanneled rage at the world and sadly it was allowed to grow until a poor young girl had to bear the brunt of it. I have written the script fairly objectively and tried to show it from all sides. The Shanda Sharer character, called Sharon Summer here, has been given more of an emphasis and her dysfunctional family life is given some airtime to give it all more of a tragic air. The story of The Witch's Castle is about the tragic side of human existence. I think people will like Alison in Wonderland, not so sure how this one will go over.

I considered working on Coup D'Etat and Horror Colony as well, but I'll save those for when Alison is in post-production. All my time and resources need to go toward that if I want it in the can by fall.