Monsters, Marriage, and Murder in Manchvegas:
Our first indie-filmmaker story at TMAYM.com is a double-feature, with Charles Roxburgh from ShockMarathons.com describing the making of two DIY feature-length films.
Many thanks to Charles for kicking things off!
A gorgeous co-ed drapes herself onto a bed, seductively toying with her hair. Her partner on the twin bed in this cozy dorm room is a male student, a guy she considers a friend, but about whom she might be having stronger feelings of late.
“Why is it that you can always make me laugh,” she coos, gazing dreamily at the guy.
Our young man maintains his position on the edge of the bed, sitting ramrod straight, a bottle of liquor clutched tightly in his fist. He looks away, apparently quite nervous about the beautiful female’s advances. This young man is Radish. Yes, his name is Radish.
It’s the moment of truth for Radish. He suddenly speaks up. “I... I’ve gotta go do my inventory for the coach.” With that, he pops up from the bed, hurries out the door, and down the dorm hallway, giddy, sporting an odd smile.
Matt, Tom, and I jumped from the couch, cheering, hollering, questioning, theorizing, basically freaking out. What a great scene we’d just witnessed! Radish’s rebuffing the delightful girl’s advances and his subsequent weird joy is unexpected and oddly charming. And his name is Radish; how great is that! We rewind the film, partly to take notes, partly to ensure that such a curious little scene just graced a horror movie. Thus, Final Exam (1981) won us over. To this day, we even use the I’ve-got-to-go-do-inventory-for-the-coach-line in regular conversation. (Q: Want to come over and help me mow the grass? A: I would, but I've gotta go do inventory for the coach).
My name is Charles Roxburgh and I’d like to tell you a bit about the two movies my friends and I have made: Freaky Farley (2007) and Monsters, Marriage, and Murder in Manchvegas (2009). Matt Farley, Tom Scalzo, and I went to college together. We began enjoying VHS horror screenings while at school, and soon enough decided that we'd like to make some of our own.
Some quick facts about Freaky Farley and Monsters, Marriage, and Murder in Manchvegas:
–Both movies were shot on super 16mm film.
–Filming took place predominantly in New Hampshire.
–No outside producers or financing was involved. We scraped together what we could, on all fronts.
–The majority of our actors are non-professional. These are people doing it for the sheer joy of it. Or because we begged them incessantly.
Movies like Final Exam serve as a powerful inspiration to us. In fact, check out Monsters, Marriage and Murder in Manchvegas for a direct homage to Radish. Our character Vince–a sweep-up boy from the wrong side of the tracks, played by Kyle Kochan–uses the gotta-do-inventory line to cover his shy nature whilst in the arms of beautiful young lady, played by Sharon Scalzo. We love the unique character moments, the low budget can-do spirit, and the free-and-easy style that results from not being overproduced. Similar low-budget horror influences include: The Pit (1981), Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake (1975), The Devil Master (1977), Fiend (1980), and Memorial Valley Massacre (1988). These are some entertaining movies! Regarding influences that I've experienced on my own, outside the Matt and Tom horror marathons (which we refer to as ShockMarathons), I'd cite Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and the TV shows Get a Life and Twin Peaks.
Seeing as we have such an affinity for late-1970's and early-1980's movies, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that we appreciate motion picture film. Going into Freaky Farley, I knew full well that we'd have quite a hard time pulling off various locations, props, and costumes. But with film, at least we always had the organic texture we were after. Digital scratches, jitter, or artifacts...heck no! Our movie is rough around the edges, but so were our filming conditions, and so are our characters. Even if it's on a subconscious level, I think that super 16mm film, especially when coupled with a 1970's zoom lens like ours, helps to put the audience in the right mood to experience a quirky horror/comedy story like Freaky Farley.
Perhaps the hardest part of shooting on film was that our particular setup (Krasnogorsk K-3, modified for super 16mm) only afforded 100-ft rolls. Thus, after every three minutes of filming (actually less, when you consider all the slates and a bit of waste at the tail), I had to open up the camera, unload the used film, and load a fresh roll. This created some downtime, but not enough to be seriously detrimental to a day's shoot. That camera sure is noisy, though. Use a camera like this to film a feature at your own peril!
As a filmmaker, you're never going to have everything perfect. I humbly offer up this advice for any other filmmaker to consider, as I've come in contact with many people who've had a hard time getting a start on their own projects, due to waiting for everything to reach some near-impossible degree of perfection. I truly think that you just have to gather all your resources, pick a time in the near future that seems best, and roll with it. And once you start, don't stop. Momentum is everything when making a movie. When the actors and crew are excited about the project and you're making progress, don't let anything derail the team. On Manchvegas we had a main actress drop out two days before she was supposed to start filming. Farley and I dropped a character, rewrote any scenes that were affected, and promoted another actress to the vacant role. It worked out just fine.
If I had to pick our biggest hurdle so far, I'd say that the lack of a promotional budget is the hardest to overcome. All ad space costs money, so any filmmaker wishing to push his or her film must be extremely diligent and creative. For us, the ball is entirely in our court regarding getting the word out there. We continue to try our best.
Are you interested in checking out our films? I hope so! Freaky Farley is currently on Netflix, and Manchvegas should be back up there once Netflix re-orders some DVDs from us. Please save Monsters, Marriage, and Murder in Manchvegas to your queue to help convince Netflix to order more! In the meantime, the easiest place to check out Monsters, Marriage, and Murder in Manchvegas is on iTunes.
Our goal was to make two breezy, fun pictures that just might, if we got lucky, find a way into the hearts of a few viewers out there. Just as we were dazzled by Radish's giddy moods and curious actions in Final Exam, we hope that perhaps a few viewers will find a moment or two to remember in our films.
If you know anyone who's willing to give low-budget, essentially homemade, films a chance, please pass on the word about our movies. We'd really appreciate it!
Our website: shockmarathons.com
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