Aug. 19, 2003
Director Tom Doran's
comments on my review of Spookies:
My name is Tom
Doran, one of the (3!) directors of Spookies.
I am stunned
that there is a favorable review of it!:)
I agree that
the DVD is pretty sad - what with the "extra" still shots
seemingly chosen at random. Though there were thousands of still
shots taken during the initial production.
Just to clear
up a few things however. The original ilm was made in 1984. The
script, sadly, was dictated (or rather a lot of the "ideas"
were) to us by the backer of the film. It was a matter of accepting
these concepts, or not getting to make the film at all.
The film was
indeed finished (as Twisted Souls), and editing progressed through
February of 1985. The main problem was that the optical effects
man was screwing up big time, and none of the shots he did (which
were few in number) were usable. This started to cause huge strains
in our relationship not only with him, but with the backer. Some
of the effects were a legion of flying ghosts (ala Raiders of the
Lost Ark), who fly out of the graveyard (there were originally no
zombies, and were expressly forbidden to use them - a problem, imaginary
or not, of British video censors: or so we were told), and other
things: demons coming out of the ouija board, etc.
The film was
put into a very rough cut when we parted company with the backer
in a legal dispute. Since the effects could not be finished, and
suddenly with that, the final cut, he (the backer) decided to re-shoot
scenes to replace the effects shots still undone. No actor would
return to that "re-shoot", or rather 2nd shoot, hence
the other scenes which bear no relation to the other action. The
other action in this case being the carloads of nincompoops who
stumble, willing, into the mansion. Brendan Faulkner and myself
directed all of that footage with those actors, and all the effects
(floor effects mainly) relating to it. This included the muck men,
spider woman, snake demon, hallway demon, split-head monster, etc.
What we did
NOT do was anything involving the kid in the beginning, cat person,
old sorcerer and his bride, or zombies. The "final" director
is wrong in stating that the only footage she used was the effects
shots - she never directed any of the footage with our actors -
two of which were out of the country, and many of the others engaged
in another film directed by Brendan Faulkner at the time.
All that said,
it is unfortunate that there is no existing cut of the original
film - though while not good, was at least coherent :)
The film was
shot more or less in the ratio of the the video and DVD - it being
seen "wide" would only cut a bit of the top and bottom
out. In fact if you look at the scene just before the fist fight,
you will see the tops of the lights in the frame just below (they
are on the balcony).
In any event,
nice to see a kind word about the film - regardless of the shape
it ended up in.
As I said, it
was completely finished except for the opticals - in fact, at the
end, when the chemical vial is tossed at the split-head Carol, the
couple un-ages, and escape the house - the flying ghosts are sucked
back into a now glowing house, which explodes. The tombstones melt
as well (some tests were done of that, as well as light pouring
and burning through part of the mansion). The character played by
Joanellen Delany dies however, and the last shot has the "hero"
and his girlfriend standing among the melted tombstones as the sun
is the opening - which featured a hobo wandering through the graveyard
- he decides to sleep the night in the mansion when he is attacked
by invisible spirits which tear his clothes and face (these effects
by Jennifer Aspinal, now with Mad TV), and he is hurled (via stuntman)
20 feet into the air and into a wall - he escapes, screaming like
motivations and nuances (really, there were some) is now missing,
but what can one say. Lots of other shots, bits and pieces mainly
are gone as well.
Again, my thanks.
My follow-up email
I asked Tom about some of the more elaborate effects and how he
was able to pull together such a large crew of special effects make-up
artists. Here's his reply:
As for the effects
crew - it originally started out with Arnold Gargulio as main man.
He had Gabe Bartalos as one of his main assistants (who very quickly
graduated into something better). I am not sure where Jennifer came
from, but I presume through some contact with Arnold or Gabe, or
something like that. I remain great friends with Gabe, so I will
give him a call to see if he remembers. We had earlier used Arnold,
and Gabe, on a show-reel for another film (Hellspawn) which sadly
we did not raise funds for - though when we started with the Twisted
Souls project, we tried to convince the backer to go ahead with
that, seeing as how we had shot 20 minutes of it already, etc. But
in order to control us, he said no. Too bad, it was actually a pretty
I did some of
the make-up designs myself for Twisted Souls, though only did one
of the heads of one of the "muck men" (who did not fart
in their original conception). Why and where I found the time, God
only knows. We brought on John Dodds, mainly because of the work
load on Arnold (during pre-production). During the first couple
of weeks of production, Arnold left - he couldn't handle the enormous
amount of work, and we elevated
Gabe and Jennifer to take over (Jennifer at first was doing all
the glamour make-up, and continued to do so, as well as doing a
lot of the old age make-up for the final scenes, and retouching
a ton of the other stuff).
When the backer
decided to re-do the finished film (as I said before, to take care
of the lack of optical effects, and the scenes with the actors that
required them), he brought back Arnold, and some of his friends.
Neither Gabe, Jennifer, or to my knowledge John Dodds went back
to help. On those other scenes, Arnold, I presume did all the zombies
catman (and the little blue "dwarf" boy). As I probably
mentioned as well, no zombies, catman, old sorcerer, blue boy were
in our film, and these were done by Josephs.
I also designed,
but was altered by many, what we called the Hallway Demon - that's
the pile of pulsating goo that has its spinal cord wrap around Charlotte
Seely. That was also worked on by one of my art department people
Tom Mollinelli (a terrific artist, who also helped to reconceptualize
that design - he also designed and built the Reaper - costume and
all - though not the head which was made by Arnold, and extensively
redone by Jennifer - same with the demon face of Carol - done by
Arnold, reworked by Jennifer). John Dodds designed and built the
Snake Demons (face based on a design of someone else who's name
escapes me, but was made for an abandoned English film - I'll get
back to you on that); The Spider Woman (monster only). The small
mechanical spider(s) were engineered by Ken Walker (there were supposed
to be a couple of spiders which attack the actor Pete Iasillo, but
one of the attack scenes was cut out - that whole scene was butchered.
Jennifer did the extention, at the very last minute, that shoots
out of the spiders mouth). Nicky Santaramo worked as an assistant
on it as well. CineMagic had a very big article of it way back then.
One book wrongly
claimed the film was nothing more than various special effects show
reels that we put together, with a story tagged on. It may certainly
seem like that, but there were no show reels previous to the film
- all is original to it. Where do they get these stories? One book
even said the film collapsed during production. Well, as you know,
there are various and distinct parts that make up a finished film:
pre-production, production, and post-production. I can't say this
enough however, the film did not collapse during production (defined
by all standards as the period encompassing the actual shooting
of the film). We had assembled a rough cut of the film (we were
months into post
production), when the special effects man screwed up, and legal/financial
issues came to play between us and the backer. He couldn't replace
the opticals (being done at a bargain price), so decided (with coaxing
by the other director) to reshoot those scenes - when the actors
refused to do so (and two were back in Europe), he had little choice:
find someone else to do the opticals, or re-shoot. He choose the
I am not sure
what Arnold, John Dodds, and some of the others are up to, but Gabe
does tons of things as you know, and Jennifer is now on Mad TV.
It was a crazy
and disturbing experience, and I have been working on a book myself
about it all (or a book that encompasses at least part of the making
of the film, along with others I have worked on. Though whether
anyone will want to read or publish a book on such a wretched, obscure
film is anyone's guess.:)).
I will give
you some more stories next time - have to run now, as I have been
engaged to write a play about Watergate, and need to get back to
digging up research.
Glad to hear
from you, and will write again soon.
All the best,
Effects Supervisor Al Magliochetti wrote in to comment on some of
Permit me to introduce myself . . My name is Al Magliochetti and
I am, to use Mr. Doran's terms, the optical effects man on Spookies
who was "screwing up big time" in his interpretation of the events.
I find it a little sad that after 19 years Mr. Doran is still using
me as the scapegoat for the failure of his opus, so I thought I
would take the opportunity to enlighten you to some of the details
that Mr. Doran conveniently left out in his letters on that subject.
To begin with, Spookies (as you no doubt are aware) was originally
titled Twisted Souls and the writing credit is shared by Mr. Doran,
Brendan Faulkner and Frank Farel . . in that order. The budget
for this film was $ 300,000.00 - Total. To put that in perspective,
a low-budget 35mm film with a fair amount of effects at the time
was generally slated at $ 800 to 900,000.00; so we were essentially
operating at one-third of the industry minimum from the outset (although,
to be fair, Troma films were indeed in the $300,000.00 budget range
- although their projects were always far less ambitious than the
Twisted Souls script.)
Now, I had nothing whatsoever to do with writing this script. And
while I was aware that the backer did, in fact, insist on some changes,
Mr. Doran's letter to you is the first time I've heard that the
backer "dictated" the ideas of that script. As far as I knew,
the script was written in it's entirety by Mssrs Doran, Faulkner
and Farel and the changes that the backer wanted were implemented
later on - and were of a minimal nature (for example, changing the
name of Peter Iasillo's character "Richard Talmadge" to "Richard
Adams" because the backer's son was named Adam and he apparently
wanted to immortalize his child on film in this fashion.)
One has to wonder, if the backer did dictate such an ambitious script,
why Mr. Doran, Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Farel (who were the film's producers
as well, by the way) told him it could be done for a mere $ 300,000.00.
In April of 1984 I signed a deal memo for my involvement in this
film - the terms were 6 weeks of work for a total of $ 4,000.00
- at the time, the film was called Goblin (probably due to the backer's
insistence on a one-word title which, for some reason, he thought
was more marketable than a two word title … Go figure . . . )
The script was still evolving at that point and while I did know
the total budget for the film, I had no idea how much was to be
allocated to my end to produce the visual effects and animation.
When one budgets a film, the general rule of thumb when it comes
to visual effects are to set aside somewhere between 5 - 20 % of
the total budget, based on the amount of the effects involved.
Since Twisted Souls had somewhere between 60 and 80 visual effects
shots slated to be done(to my recollection, anyway . .I do have
the storyboards, still, and there's approximately 40 shots in the
climax alone), I figured that I'd have somewhere in the neighborhood
of 50 to 60,000.00 to create all the visuals they'd written. I discovered
later that since the concept of the visual effects was so vaporous
to the producers, they actually budgeted the entire rest of the
movie first, and whatever money they had left over, they used as
their visual effects budget . . It wasn't until one of the
final meetings before we actually started production that I found
out that my entire working budget was a grand total of $10,000.00.
When I voiced a concern that it was FAR too low, Mr. Faulkner asked
what I thought would be more realistic . . my response was
"add another zero," at which point, Mr. Faulkner literally shrieked
"A HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ????!" as though I was some manner of
insane man. Please refer to your own letters from Mr. Doran
as to the effects they had slated - - specifically "a legion of
flying ghosts (ala Raiders of the Lost Ark)" and "the flying
ghosts are sucked back into a now glowing house, which explodes.
The tombstones melt as well." It doesn't take a math genius to figure
out that Raiders of the Lost Ark had somewhat more money and time
to play with to generate such visuals . . .
Allow me to quote from the script, if you will:
"Suddenly - a horrific, ghostly apparition springs forth from the
grave. Only inches away, it shrieks in his face and gravitates away
from him. Then, one after another-ghosts emerge from the graves.
Horrible, inhuman creatures - twisted and distorted visages. There
are DOZENS of the flying fiends. They zoom about the air shrieking
And that's just the beginning of ONE scene . . . .
(and, once again, to put this in perspective, two years after Twisted
Souls I supervised the visual effects and animation on another low-budget
film titled Brain Damage, made by the incredible team of Frank Henenlotter
and Edgar Ievins . . the budget for THAT low-budget film was $ 900,000.00
and my effects budget was approximately $ 15,000.00 - which was
fine for that film, as they had modestly budgeted only 10 shots
for optical effects and a few stop-motion gags to be executed on
set. In that case, everything came in on time and on budget,
as that team knew how to make a movie..)
So, basically, here I was legally attached to a show whose producers
had allocated roughly one-TENTH the required funds to do the job
properly. My only alternative was to figure out ways to do most
of the optical effects in-camera, rather than taking them to a lab
to composite . . and this is what I attempted to do..
Another crippling blow to Twisted Souls was the cinematographer
that was hired. As the start of production got close, a number
of individuals were interviewed for this position - including one
that I supplied who had a very good track record as far as working
under low budget constraints - but the producers decided to hire
a rather bullying ex-green beret primarily because he owned his
own lighting package and thus, on the surface, appeared to be more
cost effective. To be fair, while this gentleman wasn't a bad cinematographer
by any means, he didn't really care for the restrictions of low
budget filmmaking and, therefore, took as much time as he wanted
to light a scene and generally used as many lights as humanly possible.
(note, for example, any scene in the main ballroom when the mummy
falls out of the closet . . . there were 4 overhead wooden
struts installed with a minimum of 8 to 10 lights on each one, and
the room bore more of a resemblance to a disco rather than a film
set, and you can clearly see evidence of dozens of individual spots
of light, each focusing on a portion of the frame. Again, while
this is not a big deal on a larger budget film, a low budget film
generally requires 30 to 40 shots (camera setups) to be done per
day. In the case of Twisted Souls we were lucky if we got
up to 15, primarily because of the time involved to re-light every
time we changed a camera angle. And, unfortunately, because
this cinematographer was rather a strong willed, feisty individual,
the producers (including Mr. Doran) were, quite frankly, scared
to death of him.
Now, before this man came on board I'd given the producers a set
of guidelines to follow. I told them that the effects could be completed
on time IF they stuck to these rules and did what I told them to
do. When this cinematographer came on board, one of the very
first things he did was to establish himself as being at the top
of the pecking order and, thus, any guidelines that I suggested
to keep things on schedule were immediately thrown out. This
action virtually destroyed the ghost sequences quoted earlier in
Our main shoot began in mid-August, 1984 and was to continue for
six weeks - finishing at the end of September. The idea was that
we'd shoot the ghost sequences FIRST so that I'd have background
footage to manipulate and composite while the rest of the movie
was being shot - and then move into the film's climax which was
slated to be shot near the middle of the schedule. Our cinematographer,
unfortunately, had other ideas.
His strategy was that, since the ghost sequence was a night-exterior,
it'd be foolish to shoot it in August when the nights were shorter
and he insisted on shooting it LAST when the nights were longer
so he could squeeze off a few more setups in an evening. Well, fine
. . . unfortunately that pretty much killed the schedule as far
as my workload was concerned because now I had virtually NOTHING
to do for most of the shoot, since my backgrounds wouldn't be shot
for weeks. Again, Mssrs Doran, Faulkner and Farel made this
decision in spite of my protests. As it turned out, this cinematographer
took so long to shoot this movie that we weren't done in September
. . or October, for that matter. In fact, we wound up shooting
these night-exterior scenes in NOVEMBER where the temperature hovered
around the freezing point (you can clearly see breath coming out
of the actor's mouths on quite a few of the night shots . . needless
to say this wouldn't have occurred if it was shot in the balmy evenings
of late summer.) The problem with it being so cold was that nobody
worked as fast, so even LESS got done, in spite of the extra few
hours of night available to us.
You will note, by the way, that in the credits to Spookies there
is no separate listing for anyone providing practical effects (sometimes
referred to as floor or stage effects, or more generally "special
effects".) Basically, there's three different categories that effects
fall into . . . makeup effects, which were handled by Gabe Bartalos
and Arnold Garguilo on this film (and to a degree, Jennifer Aspinall
and John DODS - not Dodds - as Mr. Doran insists on calling him
. . .. more on this later) optical effects, which is what I was
supposedly hired to provide, and the aforementioned practical effects
. . which generally encompasses breakaways, explosions, pyrotechnics
and anything not covered by any specific department. I was,
in fact, very surprised when I discovered that apparently my hiring
as a visual effects animation specialist required me (in the eyes
of the producers) to be responsible for ALL of these on-set effects
as well. Mind you, I was not licensed nor insured by any agency
to provide any of these pyrotechnics. I didn't even have the
paperwork to lawfully purchase the detonators and chemicals required
for such effects. But, again, in trying to be accommodating to these
producers (it was, after all, my first feature film and I was TRYING
to do everything that was asked of me by those in charge.)
What became painfully apparent was that there was no end to these
practical effects as many of them were not listed in the script.
In fact, what I supplied on set was approximately quadruple to anything
that was listed on those pages, but I gave it my best shot . . .
even when I was told one day "oh, by the way, we need those 10 torches
to ignite and burst into flame magically" for the next day's shoot.
I spent the entire night cobbling together dozens of pyro charges
out of the few materials I had available which, because they weren't
the Proper materials caused misfire after misfire on the set, spoiling
each take (after which, the green beret cinematographer would declare
us shut down for an hour while I reset each charge . . and so he
could take a break and go windsurfing at a nearby beach…)
Also, due to Arnold Garguilo's abdication as the makeup effects
supervisor I also wound up jumping in to help Gabe Bartalos out
with the massive makeup effects workload. (Arnold was indeed
overwhelmed by these producers . . and was particularly incensed
at the military-like attitude our cinematographer had on the set.
In retrospect, he was the only one with brains enough to walk away…)
In fact, I find it kind of interesting that most of what Tom Doran
credits to Jennifer Aspinall was actually work that I accomplished.
Jennifer, to my recollection, did not "rework" ANY of Arnold Garguilo's
work, although she did provide the old-age makeup on the principle
actors at the film's climax.
I wired up the glowing eyes in the Reaper and the Carol monster
. . along with her glowing brain and ouija planchette. I dissolved
the muck men. I even designed the mechanism and dumped the
50 gallons of red water through Tom Molinelli's breakaway wine cask.
I did the pyro in the burning gravestone. I melted the demon statue.
I made and detonated the fireball when the Reaper fell from the
roof. I animated (with time lapse exposure of a penlight) the weird
energy coming out of the hallway demon (which Jennifer Aspinall
did NOT rework . . that was all done by Arnold for the face and
tentacle and by Tom Molinelli for the body.) I melted Adrian's
face. I time-lapse animated sparklers around the Carol monster at
the film's climax. And, in excised sequences, I slammed a
breakaway bottle into the hobo-character's face and even provided
a cardboard version of a full moon to be reflected into a puddle
as the film's original first shot. Consequently, I find Mr.
Doran's claim that none of my shots were included in the film to
be patently ludicrous. There were also completed shots of gravestones
melting with ghosts flying over them, beams of light blasting out
of the windows of the house and the house being eaten away by a
blinding glow. These were not used due to the confiscation of all
my equipment before the completion of the sequence.
The effects sequences would've been completed, as they were well
on their way, but unfortnately the production ran out of money
and expected me to work for free until everything was completed.
And even THEN I tried to be accommodating and continue the work
as best I could (although I did insist that there was no way I could
continue for free.) To supplement the few dollars they were
able to pay me, I had to take on other work on the side and during
one weekend where I was out of town on a location shoot, the producers
of the film let themselves into my facility (breaking in is too
strong of a term, but they did not, in fact, have legal access to
that property) and confiscated EVERYTHING that they thought belonged
to them . . including some personal items which have, to date, never
It was after this incident that I separated myself from any further
contact with this production and sometime shortly thereafter, in
February of 1985, the backer chose to do his reshoots with a new
crew AND CAST. (By the way . . Mr. Doran's claim that the
original cast was busy shooting a new film with Mr. Faulkner is
not quite accurate. That film "The Killer Dead" was shot LATER that
year - in the summer, to be more specific. And as I recall Mr. Doran
spent most of his time on that shoot sulking in a car with his arms
folded. I know this for a fact because I was there . . apparently
even though I "screwed up big time" Mr. Faulkner asked me back to
do another film with him. Mind you, I was his second choice,
as they'd hired another Twisted Souls effects person who bailed
on them the minute the insanity started again. To date, this
film has not been distributed, to my knowledge . . although I did
hear that the title was changed from "Killer Dead" to "Non-Vegetarian
Zombies from Outer Space" and Mr. Doran's girlfriend, Cecilia Cosentini
("art director" for Spookies) supplied a computer-generated title
sequence for it in recent years.
So, there you have a few details that were left out by Mr. Doran.
Basically, they wrote a 3 million dollar script and had one-tenth
of that money to actually make the film; and when it just didn't
happen Mr. Doran chooses to blame the last person on the chain,
rather than admit to his own mismanagement. For the record,
one more thing Mr. Doran conveniently leaves out is what I've done
in the intervening years. He notes that Jennifer Aspinall
does Mad TV and that Gabe Bartalos has done "tons of things." But
he neglects to mention that I'm probably the most successful person
to come out of that crew, having supervised both Brain Damage and
Frankenhooker while still in NYC following Spookies and supervising
effects or contributing to very high profile feature films including
Addams Family, Hook, Rocketeer, Star Trek 6, The Dark Half, Jason
Goes to Hell, Bounce, Miss Congeniality, The Cider House Rules and
the Dune miniseries (with whom I share a crew-Emmy award alongside
Mr.Doran's girlfriend, Ms. Cosentini) among many, many others.
In closing, I find it very sad that Mr. Doran was so traumatized
by this series of events that he's still trying to pass the buck
to me nearly twenty years later. All of us involved with Spookies
have learned from our horrible experience and moved on - some with
greater success in the industry than others; whereas Mr. Doran has
never made another film and seems to look for any excuse to whine
about his one failure, which he still maintains was all my fault.
As I stated, I'm getting a little weary of being the scapegoat for
the mismanagement of those producers and as I've saved the script,
contracts, storyboards and shot lists from that film, I can prove
just about everything I've stated above.
Further, I submit to you that if Mr. Doran were the true talent
he claims to be, and that if none of the misfortunes with Spookies
were his fault, one would think that in the last twenty years he'd
have at least one project to show for himself.
Visual Effects Supervisor
Doran Responded to Al's letter:
Just some short
follow-ups to Al's letter.
Al says: "Now,
I had nothing whatsoever to do with writing this script. And while
I was aware that the backer did, in fact, insist on some changes,
Mr. Doran's letter to you is the first time I've heard that the
backer "dictated" the ideas of that script. As far as
I knew, the script was written in it's entirety by Mssrs Doran,
Faulkner and Farel and the changes that the backer wanted were implemented
later on - and were of a minimal nature (for example, changing the
name of Peter Iasillo's character "Richard Talmadge" to
"Richard Adams" because the backer's son was named Adam
and he apparently wanted to immortalize his child on film in this
Al was of course
not privy to this part of the process, and whetheror not this is
the first time he has heard this, what I stated is completely true.
I don't understand how he can comment on something that happened
when he wasn't there and has not asked either Brendan, myself or
Frank (who wrote the majority of it) about before he makes this
statement. The backer insisted from the start for
specific concepts. We had given him two seperate scripts previous
to writing Twisted Souls, and came up with at least a dozen ideas
for other scripts. All of which he rejected. He then began to give
us his ideas for what he wanted to see...and it was up to us to
try and find a way to include them. Which proved to be impossible
in the end...hence the rather rotten script. These included scenes
of teenagers driving around in cars (we still don't know why). Lots
of them. He insisted that some make-up done for a film that he had
attempted to make in England be used - though in this case it only
amounted to the head of the snake demon. Which was re-sculpted of
course, and improved, but the original idea for these creatures
came from that first film, though greatly changed by John Dods.
The ideas for flying ghosts was to be a substitute for zombies.
In England at this time, and indeed across all of Britain, there
was a campaign against "video nasties"...one of the problems
being a series of Italian Zombie films which were deemed a bit too
gruesome for England (some of these "nasties" were blamed
for various deaths in England. The government claiming they influenced
some young boys to murder). The backer's company had released a
number of these films through his video company, and was feeling
the strain of the government's attack on the horror film industry
(mainly in the form of films released on video) on him in England.
It was indeed in a meeting with his lawyers in Manhattan that that
particular dictate about substituting "flying ghosts"
for zombies came
about. The backer had also seen a series of drawings done by myself
and Brendan for other film ideas, and wanted those concepts (the
"hallway demon" and Spider monster, among others), though
greatly changed later on by others, incorporated into the film.
We spent many days going over the script as it was being written
with the backer...often sitting in his hotel in Rye Brook, reading
aloud every bit of it, and then listening to his demands for changes.
Al was not there I can assure you. We did not write a script, hand
it to him, and then wait for his changes...though there were those
that came later as well. Name changes were certainly part of that,
but he went over the details in advance, then waited till we wrote
a chunk of it, read it aloud to him, and he either went with that
or made further changes. Once he okayed all of this, the final script
was given to him, and little if anything could be changed (though
some things were elaborated or changed during filming as could be
done or not done. There are things in the film that aren't in the
script, but are of a minor nature as far as re-thinking the script
goes that is). The backer also insisted on the ouija board angle...a
tired concept at best. He also insisted that one character's head
had to split open and light pour out of it! Why or how was of no
importance to him. And frankly, in the script it really made no
sense. We indeed had to fight to keep his idea of a gorilla running
around out of it! For Christ's sake, a gorilla! And not only that,
according to Brendan, he wanted the gorilla to do very specific
things...such as pop out from time to time from trap doors.
As to why one
would take on such a project "knowing" it to be underbudgeted:
Foolish good-will; plain foolishness, and perhaps the thought that
it could be pulled off. After all, one doesn't often get a chance
to be handed a film project. The budget was given to us BEFORE a
word was written...and a simpler project would indeed have been
a saner choice, but the determination to alter concepts as it was
written was something no one could forsee...and though bailing out
before it was ever filmed was certainly an option...we didn't do
it. We took a chance and failed in the end to accomplish what we
really wanted to do. No one got paid much money...certainly not
the producers - in fact the sound woman made more money than me
(though she and everyone else worked for their pennies and
then some). We owned nothing in the way of points to make up for
"In fact, I find it kind of interesting that most of what Tom
Doran credits to Jennifer Aspinall was actually work that I accomplished.
Jennifer, to my recollection, did not "rework" ANY of
Arnold Garguilo's work, although she did provide the old-age makeup
on the principle actors at the film's climax."
the make-up on the reaper's head first done by Arnold (adding to
it, as well as re-painting it, not resculpting from scratch), and
applied the make-up to the actor's hands - which was also from time
to time applied by Cecilia Cosentini, though I think Gabe sculpted
those skeleton applicances; Arnold supplied rubber skeleton gloves
which we did not use because they did not fit the large hands of
one of the two men playing the reaper. The gloves were used on the
dummy that was pushed off the roof, and a copy used on the "statue"
version. Jennifer re-did, through added appliances and painting
to the Carol monster face and hands - also originally done by Arnold.
She had nothing to do with the mechanical effects of those creatures.
A re-paint job was done on the mechanical head by Cecilia Cosentini.
Jennifer, to my knowledge, also created the extension that comes
out of the mouth for the Spider woman.
I find Mr. Doran's claim that none of my shots were included in
the film to be patently ludicrous."
Al is correct,
and I mis-spoke. I was refering to optical shots done during post
which were not used and I did not make myself clear on this issue
- these included most specifically images of the spirits depicted
on the ouija board flying off in a blaze of light. The editor at
the time complained about the
shots not being able to match because of the grain...which sadly
caused the backer to go nuts. He went running around to optical
houses in NYC trying to come up with solutions...even trying to
hire other effects people (though I don't recall who these people
might have been - in any event, it is what he said he did, while
we were editing). His panic about this caused a huge problem, and
that just escalated out of all proportion - he in fact re-edited
the film himself (with the editor acting then merely as a cutter),
while I was out sick for two weeks, and hacked it to pieces, leaving
out all of the scenes that might have included the still-to-be-done
opticals - of course the film made no sense in this cut with those
things removed. In the end, since time had passed and the video
"nasty" problem had abated politically in Britain, the
zombies ended up BACK in the film.
the few dollars they were able to pay me, I had to take on other
work on the side and during one weekend where I was out of town
on a location shoot, the producers of the film let themselves into
my facility (breaking in is too strong of a term, but they did not,
in fact, have legal access to that property) and confiscated EVERYTHING
that they thought belonged to them . . including some personal items
which have, to date, never been returned."
If Al is refering
to his facility in Ct., then I certainly wasn't there, and can't
disagree that it happened - though I am aware that the backer went
up there, perhaps with Frank to get back the camera and other equipment.
If Al is missing personal items as a result, then it is an issue
he needed to have taken up with the backer and his corporation (which
he may have done)...who owned everything. This included the script,
props, equipment bought, etc. EVERYTHING. While we were the producing
company, the backers company owned and controlled every bit of it
from their position and contracts with our company. Payroll and
production expenses were dolled out on a weekly basis from this
corp, and into ours. We had to put in a weekly request for funding
in order to continue from week to week...a maddening way to do things,
which often resulted in the inability to buy or rent things in a
timely manner. Never at any point in time was there anything other
than a weekly allowance of the
budget in our bank account. This was done for his own legal reasons
which I won't and can't get into here. Needless to say, as Al well
knows, MANY people had many things vanish into thin air - props,
equipment, paper-work, money,...everything under the sun. We all
lost belongings, both personal items and items owned outright by
the backers company - and not just lost, but things obviously stolen
or misappropriated in various ways. This does not justify any of
it, but it is a fact. We, "the producers" did not make
any decision regarding "firing" Al, nor the confiscation
of the equipment rented for the production. After all, we were also
"fired"...which resulted in our legal action. The end
of the original film came about, whether one likes it or not, because
of the refusal of the backer to go ahead with finishing the optical
effects - which he deemed un-usable, and as regards those specific
shots, they were. If the backer had spent the money he used for
the ridiculous reshoot to instead get the effects done, then it
wouldn't have ended as it did perhaps. Al would have been able to
get them done easily for the foolish amount of money put into the
re-shoot. But who on earth knows what went through the backers mind
(but I do have my informed opinions, which must remain silent).
after this incident that I separated myself from any further contact
with this production and sometime shortly thereafter,in February
of 1985, the backer chose to do his reshoots with a new crew AND
CAST. (By the way . . Mr. Doran's claim that the original cast was
busy shooting a new film with Mr. Faulkner is not quite accurate.
That film "The Killer Dead" was shot LATER that year -
in the summer, to be more specific."
reshoot was NOT in February of 1985, as we were still editing the
film in Manhattan at that point in time. They went back to the mansion
to film in May and perhaps entending into the very early part of
June of 1985 - in fact he only started in ernest after a lawsuit
instigated by us was finally settled in April. I believe, but am
not certain, that the reshoot lasted 9 days of actual shooting (I
don't know how long pre or post production lasted). The Killer Dead
started filming in June. The backer did indeed call many of the
actors of the original shoot trying to get them to come back. When
they refused he went with a concept that could incorporate new actors.
"For the record, one more thing Mr. Doran conveniently leaves
out is what I've done in the intervening years. He notes that Jennifer
Aspinall does Mad TV and that Gabe Bartalos has done "tons
of things." But he neglects to mention that I'm probably the
most successful person to come out of that crew..."
I didn't go
into what a LOT of the other crew members did after the film - he
wasn't the only one - and frankly have not followed his career enough
to comment should I have chosen to do so, though I did know that
he did work on the Dune mini-series. The DP went on to a successful
future in film and TV; script/continuity went onto a very successful
career in TV; Sound woman continues to work to this day; and frankly
I don't really know too much of what anyone else has done. Being
the "most successful" of course is relative, and of course
meaningless except to stroke one's own ego, but I guess I would
have to put Jimmy Muro, the steadi-cam operator on Twisted Souls
at the top - having worked on many major Hollywood films such as
Titanic, JFK, Field of Dreams, Terimator 2 and most recently as
the DP for Kevin Costner's latest film Open Range. I was recently
told on very good authority that Cameron even put back the filming
of one of his films by a couple of months in order to get Jimmy
to work on it (Jimmy just started a family and wanted to spend some
time with them).
On another issue,
I did just speak to Brendan Faulkner who may or may not be writing
to you...in any event, he did clear up one other assumption that
was made regarding Brendan's film The Killer Dead. The quote is:
"Mind you, I was his second choice, as they'd hired another
Twisted Souls effects person who bailed on them the minute the insanity
started again." Brendan
has informed me that the original man they were talking to regarding
doing effects, decided against working on the film when he asked
the production company for a contract that would indemnify him in
case anyone might be injured by his use of explosive squibs. Brendan
brought the subject up to his attorney who informed him that no
such contract was possible, as there was no way one could do such
a thing. You just can't indemnify yourself against your injuring
someone, even while doing your job. And certainly not in these circumstances.
This effects person decided that since he could not be supplied
with that kind of contract that he could not work on the production.
He in fact never did. I remember him as a pleasant and considerate
person who was highly skilled while working on Twisted Souls.
"In closing, I find it very sad that Mr. Doran was so traumatized
by this series of events that he's still trying to pass the buck
to me nearly twenty years later."
And I find it
utterly amazing that Al refuses to take any of the blame for the
things he did indeed do wrong, but goes out of his way to blame
ME for not taking blame. So, it goes both ways. As for being traumatized,
well, sorry, assume what you will. I have not spoken to Al in over
15 years, and if he heard anything at all it was hearsay...and meaningless
in that regard certainly. If however he ever makes a film, goes
through what we all went through, and came away with nothing, then
perhaps he will change his mind about the effect something like
this can have on one's career. Being a hired hand is a much easier
way of life than trying to raise funds for a film.
Mr. Doran has never made another film and seems to look for any
excuse to whine about his one failure, which he still maintains
was all my fault."
I have indeed
made another feature which is now being edited (though of course
Al couldn't possibly know this, yet claims with authority that he
does), but my writing has taken precedence for the last 7 years.
This includes two script sales; a commisioned play soon to be produced
which I will be directing back east; and many other writing jobs
of a nature that has nothing to do with film. That said, I have
been 1st AD; 2nd AD; 2nd unit director on features and TV pilots;
been storyboard artist on many features and movies of the week;
designed props, storyboards and did special set designs for two
movies of the week based on the Macgyver TV series; and been hired
as historical researcher for a series upcoming on the History Channel.