Entries Tagged 'why don’t i just make a Shannon Lark tag already' ↓

Day 11: “I’m all that’s left.”

Crazy Eights, one of the films in After Dark's second Horrorfest lineup, is one of those films that, when it's over, you sort of shrug and say, "Umm...yup. Okay, so I just watched that." See, Crazy Eights is firmly planted in horror movie purgatory: neither good nor particularly terrible, it's just sort of there. It inspires no emotions in the viewer of any kind, and at the end of the 90 minutes you spend with it, you promptly forget about it and go about tending to your Olivia Newton-John scrapbook.

I'm not necessarily saying that I have an Olivia Newton-John scrapbook, mind you, but I almost did. When I was a wee one in that heady year known as "1980"- yeah, when Xanadu hit, ON-J fever was at its height (for me), and the world couldn't get enough of her musical collaborations with E.L.O. (at least, I couldn't), I somehow got it in my head that making an Olivia Newton-John scrapbook and selling it would be the greatest moneymaking scheme in the history of ever. I have no idea who I thought would buy it, or why I thought someone would actually pay big money for an Olivia Newton-John scrapbook, but I promptly set about cutting out every magazine article I could find about her and scotch taping them inside a notebook. Perhaps I sensed that I was on a fool's errand, or perhaps my love for Xanadu waned too quickly- whatever the reason, I dropped the project in but a few days. Had I kept at it, I wonder how much it would have brought at, say, Sotheby's (surely they would have auctioned it off for me); would I be a millionairess right now, wearing a monocle and acting indignant when some rube has the nerve to call Polaner All Fruit "jelly"? That seems likely.

I don't know why I'm thinking about all this...wait, yes I do! It's because there's not much to think about in Crazy Eights. However, this blog is called Final Girl, not Let Me Bore You With Stupid Pointless Stories From My Youth (though that's catchy), so I need to get to the horror.

After 20 years apart, a group of friends reunites when one of their mutual childhood buddies passes away. In his will, he requests that the group dig up a time capsule they buried together and...I don't know, spend some quality time together or something.

They find the trunk, and beneath the slingshots and other things left behind they find the skeletal remains of a young girl. Oops! Forgot about her!

Through a series of plot contrivances, they end trapped in an abandoned secret hospital, where they're stalked by the ghost of the dead girl as they try to piece together their shared history. When they were children, they were subjected to a series of behavioral studies that left them all plagued with nightmares and at differing levels of functionality as adults.

It's an interesting- if familiar- set up, and the cast assembled here is fairly impressive, including Frank Whaley, Gabrielle Anwar, Dina Meyer, and Traci fucking Lords. Unfortunately, they're squandered, hampered by a weak script that doesn't flesh out any personalities or histories. In the end, we don't care whether any of them live or die because we don't know any of them. This should have been horror touched with a tinge of tragedy, but there's none of either. Still, there's always something great about seeing Traci Lords in mainstream movies, so watching her get chased by a vengeful ghost is nothing short of awesome, even though it kinda sucks.

There are some huge issues with the plot- the characters make enormous leaps of logic as they figure out how to get out of their dilemma, while the audience is left shaking their heads. The events of the film happen rather quickly, but very little of the time is spent with the characters trying to physically find a way out of the hospital. All in all, it's a head-scratcher.

Most bizarre, though, is that director James Jones doesn't seem to know how to handle horror action. Thing happen and characters die, but we're always cutting away just before the violence begins and coming back a moment after it's over. I'd blame the lack of FX on budget constraints, maybe, but Crazy Eights must have cost a few pennies- although maybe it was all spent on the cast? Eh, who knows. The point is, we're never shown much of anything- to the point where scenes frequently feel disjointed.

As I said, it wasn't terrible, but it also wasn't very good...and it's a shame to see the likable cast all but wasted. I mean, Traci Lords, man!

To be honest, the highlight of this movie was the bonus featurette that compiles the webisodes from the Miss Horrorfest 2007 competition. Like some reality show set in Hot Topic, the Top 10 finalists were gathered together to compete for the dubious honor of winning the crown. The best part of the whole affair was watching Shannon Lark try to maintain interest while she was clearly appalled to find herself stuck in the middle of some goth-flavored hooker convention. She's awesome!

so i made a movie: LUDLOW, part seven

Catch up on all the previous installments of So I Made A Movie: LUDLOW right here...presented to you in GLORIOUS DETAIL!

Can I get a WOW up in here? I realize that the cliffhanger ending of the last So I Made A Movie: LUDLOW installment has left you in such a worried state that you’ve been clutching your bosoms for months now, wondering if I ever tackled my computer issues and got Ludlow finished, right?
SHANNON LARK: I even know what happened, and I’m still clutching my bosom.
Well, I did. Pretty much. No longer intimidated by the massive, complex interface, I enlisted the help of things known as “books” and an editor friend known as “Brian” (actually that’s his real name, so ignore the quotation marks), and I quickly tackled the fuck out of Final Cut Express. Once I really got the gist of the way it works I started cruising along- then I discovered what the program can REALLY do and I started all over. As I mentioned, I’d only worked with iMovie in the past, and my options with that were extremely limited- basically, the footage you put in is what you’re stuck with, save a few crappy filters. If your footage stinks, your footage stinks and that’s that.
SHANNON LARK: Brian really is his name. I’m not so sure about this “book” thing she keeps referring to.
Knowing that, I shoot WITHOUT a “Well, I’ll just fix it in post…” mentality. I frame scenes the way I want them to look, I do the best I can with lighting, and so on. But given the possibilities with Final Cut, I can think about style in ways I’d never really considered. At the risk of sounding like Princess Jasmine, it’s a whole new fucking world. I mean, this raw footage...

...becomes something else entirely- something I never thought of while we were filming, because I didn't know I could do stuff like this.

It all plays into the weird, dreamy aspects of Ludlow. It's a small, silly, obvious thing, perhaps, but to me it's quite righteous.

That said, it was a slow process. I worked each scene individually, concentrating solely on the visuals and matching cuts. With no color correction, no audio correction, no music, and nothing close to a complete film, I began to worry a bit about the finished product- especially since I was planning a screening of Ludlow in just a few weeks’ time. It was hard to get a feel of what the movie was going to be like; on June 5, less than three weeks until people were going to come to my house to watch the movie, I wrote: “Stricken with another onset of, 'Oh my gahd, this totally fucking sucks.' The comedy-horror comes so easily, but this is tough. Totally feeling discouraged, mostly because the first…oh, seven scenes are so friggin’ quiet. With no music and just a rough cut, it’s difficult to tell whether or not it’ll be…you know, boring. I’m starting to get to the action, though, and I’m feeling better. Still nervous.”
SHANNON LARK: She would call me up and tell me her woes, but I would always reply with “but you’re a badass Stacie, this movie is going to kick serious butt. Look at all we were able to accomplish in 2 days, Final Cut’s got nothin’ on you!” Etc. etc.
All I could do was plug away at it and talk to Shannon for encouragement. I’d send her screen caps or let her know what scene I was working on…Ludlow was filling up my brain, as it had for months. I love editing, so sitting in my little cave ‘round the clock working on the movie was a joy, although I was still unsure if it was any good, or whether I’d be able to finish it in time.

The Final Cut, she is complex. Clicken ze big big.

Though I try to do as much as I possibly can on my own in my movies, one thing I’m not capable of is creating music…despite the fact that I played a mean recorder in 7th grade. Since I cannot use the only songs I remember- the theme from M.A.S.H. and the Oscar Meyer Hot Dog Song- I need to turn to someone else who knows what he or she is doing. I had someone lined up to provide Ludlow with a soundtrack, but that someone…well, flaked out. No music, unreturned phone calls…my deadline was a little over a week away, and I had no fucking music.

I was seriously starting to freak out about that, when all of a sudden I received a magical email; basically, it said, “Hi, I like reading Final Girl and I’m a composer. If you ever need music for one of your films, I’d be happy to help.” That, my friends, is fucking kismet...and to my great relief, I discovered upon listening to his samples that this dude knows what the eff he's doing. I took Mr. James Barry up on his offer faster than you can say “I took Mr. James Barry up on his offer”; as he’s a local, he came by one night and I showed him a rougher-than-rough cut of Ludlow. He took a copy with him on a DVD, and a few days later he had a score for me. A score. A SCORRRRRRE. He came over again and we dropped in some tracks and…mah lord, kids. It was amazing, and it made Ludlow feel like a real fucking movie. It was 100% fitting that it would all come together in this bizarre fashion- it simply wouldn’t be Ludlow if things weren’t effed up and weird, now, would it?
SHANNON LARK: I couldn’t believe that James pulled all that together in like…2 days. He must be made of superhuman stuff, with a big C on his chest. By the way, C is for Composer, get your mind out of the gutter. Sheesh!
I met my deadline. I had my screening (Shannon and I talked about that a bit in So I Made A Movie: VOYEUR), and Ludlow was pretty well-received. The comment I heard over and over again is that Shannon is terrific- yes folks, lo and behold, she can act! She’s really fucking good in this movie. I’m proud of her performance- she makes the movie, as far as I’m concerned- and I can’t wait for everyone in the whole wide world to see it. It’s amazing what’s possible when two girls who just met get drunk together and sign a napkin contract, yeah?
SHANNON LARK: Yeah!! They all said it was good, except for that main actress who can’t really act. But I was too wasted to hear any of that; I had a date with a curtain.
NEXT TIME: The end…and beyond!

so i made a movie: VOYEUR, part five

...or, Let Me Tell You About My Grandchildren Camping Trip.

Yes, friends, it's time for the long-awaited* final installment of the saga of the making of Voyeur, a short film by Shannon Lark. I held the camera.

Part one of the making of Voyeur can be read here, part two here, part three here, and part four here.

STACIE PONDER: If the road from San Francisco to Stockton does, in fact, run through the bowels of Hell (as I surmised in our last installment), then the road from Stockton to Sasquatch Mountain runs through the bowels of said bowels. The drive was so incredibly hot, my sweat turned to steam and my face exploded in flames. LITERALLY. I’m fine now, but boy was I miserable THEN.

SHANNON LARK: It was so hot I thought I peed all over Stacie's seat, but then I realized that I was just sitting in my own sweat. Phew!

STACIE PONDER: Things cooled off and got better as we busted a move into the Sasquatch Mountain region…or, as our government insists on calling it, “Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.” If you ask me, they would see a revenue rise of AT LEAST 1% if they changed the name, but whatevs. Anyway, I was all agog at the sights and yes, the big ass trees when suddenly a ranger pulled me over. Yes, I got pulled over in a National Park by a ranger…for having a dead taillight. I’m sure the sordid details of my life on the wrong side of the tracks come as some sort of shock to you, but please- don’t judge. Or if you must, then judge my parents, Mad Magazine, and Elvira’s Movie Macabre- it’s because of those things that I am the way I am. Ranger Trotter was very nice and let me go with a…well, a warning, I guess. Despite the fact that she was very nice, however, Shannon and I nicknamed her “Hot to Trotter” and speculated about her promiscuous ways for the remainder of our time in the park.

SHANNON LARK: I think she bursts out of a cake and does a nightly striptease.

STACIE PONDER: We reached the top of the mountain (about 8000 feet) and began down the other side, heading towards the Visitor’s Center, where we figured we’d get all our campsite info, blah blah blah. After 20 minutes of steep descent and insane switchback driving, I thought I felt my brakes getting…mushy. And I could smell ‘em getting…stinky. I commented as much to Shannon, but what could we do? Within minutes, though, my brake pedal went all the way to the fucking floor- which was the moment I decided to, you know, pull over.

SHANNON LARK: I got the feeling we were gonna go over the hill at Sasquatch Mountain, never to be found again, not even by Trotter. Besides, all the sweating made me have to pee.

STACIE PONDER: So there we were, stuck halfway down the mountain with virtually no brakes. Shannon called the ranger station and we sat…and sat…and sat waiting for them to arrive. The sun sank below the horizon, Shannon peed in the woods, and I fretted the fact that whatever the problem with my car was, it was going to cost some money. I also took pictures of the sunset, which was all, like, beautiful and whatever.

Finally the rangers arrived, assessed the situation, and made two suggestions: we could either continue down the mountain, or they could call a tow, which would take several MORE hours to arrive. After a moment’s thought, I figured eh, let’s keep going. My car has a standard transmission; heading down a mountain with virtually no brakes is but ALMOST completely terrifying if you do it in first gear. Since I’m typing this, I think it’s safe for you to assume that we made it.

We got to a campsite after dark, which made for an interesting setup…not to mention that we had no wood, no lighter fluid, no pillows, and no blankets. But we persevered! As Shannon set up the tent, I went and nicely asked our neighbor if we could borrow some lighter fluid. She wasn’t thrilled with the notion, even telling me not to use it all- but she obliged. We pilfered firewood, started a fire, and busted out our warm beers. We didn’t have a bottle opener either, but I managed to open them on a big rock, all cave lady style.

The next day we set about getting my brakes fixed: there was a random garage plopped in the middle of an orange grove that was maybe a half hour away. They fixed my brakes up REAL GOOD friends, and it was cheap. So, if you ever experience car trouble on Sasquatch Mountain, I recommend that guy in the orange grove. I think his name is Robert something…unless the scorching sun that beat on my face during the drive melted my brain and I imagined the whole thing. It’s possible.

SHANNON LARK: I think we felt pretty cool: run-in with the law, brakes go out, no fire, warm beer with no bottle opener, not even a fucking blanket (we used curtains) and we made it. Not only that, we had fun! Robert was awesome.

STACIE PONDER: Shannon and I spent two days on Sasquatch Mountain, doing a bit of hiking and a whole lot of pants peeing when a bear walked by our campsite twice. We paid a visit to good ol’ General Sherman- or, as you might know him, the largest tree in the whole fucking world. Good times…but we had to head back to Los Angeles to tackle the issues with the Voyeur footage. Crap times.


STACIE PONDER: We THOUGHT it would be a breeze, that we could dump the footage onto my computer, convert it, and transfer it to Shannon’s laptop…but nothing computer-related is EVER as easy as you think it’s going to be. Finally, we discovered that we needed Final Cut Pro, and I’m running Final Cut Express. I called my friend Brian, who brought his FCP-flavored laptop over…still no joy. Eventually Brian left, but Shannon and I stayed up until 5:30am trying to get it to work. Nothing.

SHANNON LARK: We tried every conceivable possibility, and it was like a bitch slap in the face. By the end, Stacie and I agreed that if she could get the files, she would transfer them onto tape so I can hopefully see them one day.

STACIE PONDER: Shannon had to fly home later that morning, and she had to do so empty-handed. Well, with regards to footage, anyway- she did bring all the rest of her crap back to New Mexico. She left behind her hard drive, however, so I could continue working on the problem. At that point, we hadn’t even SEEN the Voyeur footage. What if it was corrupted? What if it stunk? What if we’d wasted all that time and effort? Fucking memory card compatibility bullshit. TAPES, my friends, are the way to go.

I worked for the next several days, rendering, re-rendering, importing, exporting, cursing, threatening…and finally, somehow I transferred the footage from their raw, unusable format into .mov file, which Shannon could use in Premiere. I have no idea what voodoo combination finally worked, and I’m sure I could never do it again…which is fine, because I won’t need to. I USE TAPES. I sent everything to Shannon and washed my hands of Voyeur; now I’m just anxiously awaiting the finished product along with the rest of you.

SHANNON LARK: I received the tapes a few days later, in a big happy birthday package with a big ol' birthday note that said blablabla love, Stacie Ponder. It was brilliant. The tapes worked and I could see stuff! YAY!! Voyeur should be released soon, with Ponder and Lark smeared all over it, like sticky sweat that makes you need to pee.

*your interest may vary

so i made a movie: VOYEUR, part four

Finally! I know you've been holding your breath with anticipation, but it's finally here: another installment of So I Made A Movie. Voyeur is a short film written by, directed by, and starring Shannon Lark. I acted as cinematographer.

We just know how much you dug our silly write-ups for Ludlow, so we decided to continue the series. See what you've wrought? This is what happens when you pay attention to us. Part One can be read here, part two here, and part three here.

SHANNON LARK: Once Stacie and I met the camera guy (no quotations this time guys, it’s my birthday today and I feel like doing whatever the hell I like) in the kitchen to get the footage transferred. Oh boy…to make a long story short that would drag on indefinitely, we hooked up the S x S adapter to my hard drive and imported the footage onto my laptop. However, I did not have the proper software (nor did I know I was supposed to have this software) that would convert the now imported the BPAV files to quicktime, nor did we have internet so I could attempt to download the software from Sony’s website.

So we imported it into the camera guy’s laptop, where he converted the files. We transferred the converted Quicktime files to my computer and it was a no-go. I couldn’t see them, nor could I see them in my editing program. I use Windows still (I know, I know, I suck) and my editing software is Adobe Premiere, while the camera guy uses a Mac and Final Cut Pro. After much ballyhoo and all three of us trying to figure out what we are going to do with these stupid files, we decided that the camera guy will keep a copy of the footage, I would keep a copy of the footage, and Stacie and I would go back down to LA and use her Mac which conveniently has Final Cut Express.

STACIE PONDER: This is a prime example of why I love using tapes. Yes, a large part of bias is due to the fact that I'm old and I mistrust all technology (and these kids today, with their low-slung pants), but mostly it's just that…well, I guess it's because I mistrust technology. Sure, things can go wrong with footage on tapes, but for the most part you don't have to worry about corrupted files and incompatible systems. What really sucked was that once Camera Guy split, Shannon and I wouldn't have instant access to the footage. I was a bit worried that we'd encounter problems back in Los Angeles and all of our hard work would disappear into the ether.

SHANNON LARK: The camera guy left as I woke up the sleeping Pippi and we put the apartment back together. Pippi had taken pictures of Harry’s apartment before we moved everything aside, so we got the pics and she arranged everything back to where it was. Stacie and I walked down to the parking garage and got her car after I ran up to the pay window and saw my favorite attendant, Wen, behind the glass. He practically jumped out of his seat when he saw me. At first I thought it was because he hadn’t seen me for 6 months, but then I realized I was still covered in fake blood. I bumbled through explaining that even though it was daylight outside and I was covered in blood, it was just “what I do…you know...movie stuff.”

I jumped in the car with Stacie and we motored back to Harry’s, moving all of our crap out of the apt and into the car. I left a thank you note for Harry and all three of us left the apartment, shutting the door. It was 7:30am.

STACIE PONDER: I was so exhausted that it seemed as though the ground was undulating beneath my feet. I felt like my eyes were going to fall out of my eye holes- I can only imagine how wiped Shannon must have been, considering all she'd been through during the shoot- but then I got a second or third or eighth wind…at least enough to get us home.

SHANNON LARK: We dropped off Pippi at her car and drove back to Darren’s. Stacie was still, somehow, a badass driver after being up for 24 hours. Honestly I think she might be an alien.

We dragged more crap up to Darren’s so I could reorganize and burst in the door, laughing hysterically. I still had my sunglasses on and if one didn’t know it, they might think I was drunk, or maybe still tripping on LSD I took the night before. That’s one of the many things I love about filmmaking: it truly gets you high. Higher than any drug you’ve ever taken before (except ecstasy). The feelings you derive from finishing a shoot is truly astounding. Filmmaking isn’t easy, and Stacie and I rocked its rapey-ass!

STACIE PONDER: Poor Darren wasn't quite sure what to think, no doubt. I felt- and probably looked- as if I'd just completed a tour of 'Nam, and we were barely coherent as we lugged all the bags into his apartment. I'm not sure if this cracked-out euphoria is due to the filming itself, or to the fact that we film intense stuff for far too many hours in a row and by the time we're finished our brains are leaking. Either way, it's pretty fucking awesome, if irritating to everyone else we encounter.

SHANNON LARK: After much needed showers, we hit the sack, and we hit it hard. I awoke a couple hours later and started repacking and organizing. Stacie woke up shortly after and we had chicory coffee and attempted to download the appropriate software to convert the footage to QuickTime files. Hmmm….yeah. Darren even jumped in to help us until we realized that the software is actually not compatible with windows. The prospect of not being able to access this footage hit me, and it was terrifying.

STACIE PONDER: See? Technology. You just can't trust it. Alright, so maybe it's not the technology's fault per se. It is, however, as the old saying goes: "If Camera Guy had given us all of the correct information beforehand, chances are we would have avoided most of the fucking problems with the footage transfer because we would have known what the fuck we were doing."

SHANNON LARK: So we packed up, drug all of our crap back down to the street, got in the car, and drove to Stockton to meet Pippi at a hotel she reserved for us to share. The ride out there was fucking HOT, and we were drenched in sweat by the time we made it to beautiful Stockton. Stacie and I like to be hardcore, and we like the idea that we like to be hardcore, and can sleep ANYWHERE. But it was truly wonderful to get into a nice hotel room with beds. I took another shower and got ready for the Viscera screening that Pippi organized at the Plea for Peace Center.

STACIE PONDER: The ride was ridiculously hot, which didn't do much to perk me up. Apparently the highway between San Francisco and Stockton runs directly through the bowels of Hell. The hotel room was totally worth it, though, as it was much nicer than what I'm accustomed to when I'm on the road (ahem, Ludlow Motel)…big ups to Pippi for scoring it! Wait…does "big ups" actually mean anything? Is that what the kids are saying nowadays?

SHANNON LARK: Stacie and I met her down there about an hour later, and we met her awesome friend Cherry and saw Reyna Young and Co. I bought Stacie an ice pop for being my pal and we watched the Viscera films and did a Q & A afterwards, where Stacie even like…spoke! It was nice just to sit down in a chair. I was exhausted and bruised on my ribs, arms, legs, really all over my body. I guess that what happens when someone beats the shit out of you repeatedly. :)

STACIE PONDER: It was my first ice pop in years. YEARS I SAY, and it will probably be my last. Nothing against ice pops, really, it's just that we don't tend to run in the same circles anymore. I just…I think I'm in a different place now than I was when I was having ice pops all the time- and I'm not saying it's any better, nor any worse…it's only that we've grown apart. Err…anyway. It's always a treat to revisit the first round of Viscera films. What was really interesting to me was watching Shannon's early films- after watching her work in Ludlow and Voyeur, it's obviously how much she's grown as an actress and filmmaker in a short time. Watching "It's My Birthday", for example, I couldn't help but think, "Aww, it's Baby Shannon." Oh, and I did speak at the Q & A, although I'm not exactly sure why.

SHANNON LARK: We hit the local Stockton bar afterward, which was an interesting social experiment of lonely, desperate, drunk men in America. It really felt like home to me and provided deep nostalgia I found humor in.

The next morning I made a visit to the hot tub at the hotel and we got an amazing breakfast at a local Mexican restaurant (oh my lord shrimp tacos!). Stacie and I said goodbye to Pippi and hit the road to Sasquatch Mountain to see some big ass trees.

STACIE PONDER: I was SO EXCITED to see the big ass trees. I couldn't get wait to get there. At some point before we left Stockton, Shannon said to me something like, "It's too bad we can't go camping…" to which I naturally replied "Well, why CAN'T we go camping?" Before you could say FUCK YEAH, we hit a Target and picked up a little tent, 2 flashlights, 2 coffee cups, and an aluminum percolator. What else could we POSSIBLY need for 2 nights on Sasquatch Mountain?