It wasn’t fair, really. Here I was, seconds away from making my big debut in a feature film, and the snot just wouldn’t stop coming. Not to mention the fact that I was shaking like a wet dog, not only on account of the cold (which I also blame for the endless snot flow) but from sheer, unadulterated terror. At that moment I couldn’t help but wonder how exactly I’d ended up here, at this drive-in movie theater in the City of Industry (one of only two drive-ins remaining in the L.A./Orange county vicinity, in case you care), freezing my balls off and taking photos of a “dead guy” in a dumpster while a dolly-mounted movie camera captured my every move…
My role? Crime scene photographer. My co-stars? Veteran actor Barry Bostwick (Mr. Brad Majors himself, for you Rocky Horror fans) playing a small-town Sheriff investigating the scene of a brutal murder, and Ahmed Best (Jar-Jar Binks!) portraying a small-town mayor. Which I guess would make me a small-town crime scene photographer. (Is that how I’ll appear in the credits? If it’s possible for me to have a name, I’d like it be Mick. Mick, the Small-Town Crime Scene Photographer. Just put it in.)
Of course, I knew damn well why I was here – I was here because I’d agreed to come (did I mention it was Superbowl Sunday?) to report on the final night of shooting on the John Landis-produced horror/comedy Some Guy Who Kills People. How I’d ended up in front of the camera wasn’t really much of a mystery either – I had a pulse, after all, and they needed a dude to play a photographer. Yet despite the fact that I could’ve been a mentally-deranged orangutan and they probably still would’ve enlisted my help, I was nevertheless somehow flattered that they asked me. Alas; the pull of Hollywood is too great for any mere mortal to resist.
“Could you try taking the photos in between the dialogue so you don’t overlap the actors’ lines?” first assistant director Cory Johnson asked me after my first take. Sure, I told him. Of course. No big deal. But inside, I felt the weight of failure already settling in. It’s not even like I had to memorize dialogue – my direction was merely to move around and take photos while trying to stay out of the actors’ way. And yet somehow, I was feeling inadequate.
A few more takes; after each one, I inevitably pivoted my head in the direction of Mr. Johnson, expecting some new note. Could you try not trailing so much snot on the next go-round?, I imagined him asking. And maybe do your best not to look like such a fucking retard next time. It’s getting awkward, really.
Ok, let’s rewind. I showed up at the drive-in around 8pm, ushered through the gates by a couple of young P.A.s presumably “locking up” the set (I’ve been there, dudes) on a freezing-cold February evening (it was probably around 40 degrees, which in L.A. terms is pretty much sub-zero). I was then led to speak with Ryan Levin, the screenwriter and producer of the project, sitting Zen-like in front of the monitor as the crew around him prepared for another take. The scene being filmed (I’m not giving anything away because it’s the first scene in the movie) involved a hapless victim, being menaced by an off-screen assailant wielding a sharp object. I’m also giving absolutely nothing away by noting that the scene featured lots of screaming, lots of frenzied motion, and lots of good-natured laughter on the part of cast and crew once the cameras finished rolling. Orchestrating it all was fast-talking director Jack Perez, best known for such direct-to-DVD critical darlings like Wild Things 2 and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.
Ok, so I was being sarcastic there. Sue me. In all honesty, I’ve never watched a “Jack Perez joint” – for all I know, Wild Things 2 is a lost classic just waiting to be re-discovered. Regardless, I wasn’t there to talk about Wild Things 2, or even 2006′s 666: The Child (also directed by Perez and released to capitalize on that year’s The Omen remake). I was there to talk about Some Guy Who Kills People, and like Mick – my crime scene photographer character – I was bound and determined to get to the bottom of it all. And so, after a few introductions and some small talk with Levin and his producers Michael Wormser and Micah Goldman, Levin and I took off on a moonlit stroll to the other end of the parking lot to chew the fat a little.
You’re looking incredibly dapper this evening, Mr. Eggertsen, Levin told me in my own head. Your penetrating eyes bewitch me. It is possible for a journalist to develop a crush on his subjects, after all – and Levin ain’t too shabby to look at. Short, scruffy, and handsome, I found the writer (he penned an episode of Scrubs and currently works on a Disney show called I’m in the Band) to be cordial, easygoing, and seemingly ego-free.
“I made a short film called The Fifth about 3