How did you come up with the original concept of the film?
I’d been trying to write screenplays for the past couple of years, my brother and I had optioned one and written two or three others. I just sat down and thought, “Hmmmm.I think I’ll write a script about a man who believes aliens are invading the earth from the moon.” And just kept going. Of course it changed radically and I re-wrote all the time, including daily on the shoot.
How long did it take you to write it?
From my senior year in college (Fall 1997) until two days before the premiere when we finished with the Dolby Stereo Surround Audio mix (July 2002).
How long did you shoot, and how many pickups did you have to go back and do?
We shot for 27 days and had six days of pick-ups. We shot a few scenes that just didn’t work and after I had assembled the first edit there were obvious gaps in the story we had to fill in. The convenient coma you mentioned in your review is one of the many moments that I shudder when I watch the film. During principal photography we shot a telephone conversation between Kristine (the lead actor, John’s, wife) and the hospital that explained John’s coma and provided a believable passage of time. But it was poorly directed and it wouldn’t cut right. So we had to do some pick-ups to take that scene out. It makes the coma more convenient and John recovers from his injury quite quickly, but at least it works as a scene which is better than having a scene that doesn’t work. We were also missing the insert of a paralyzed big toe that we shot to get a laugh. And then at the end of the film, the last big dramatic moment, was actually a very short, quick scene in the first cut. We ran out of daylight during principal photography. So we shot a good deal more of the ending, inserts and reactions, to make it more dramatic.
How close did the film come to your original vision? Was there any improvising, or things that had to be radically altered when something fell through?
Not very close, really, not from the original vision. Mostly because before I made the film I was really green and didn’t know what we could or couldn’t do. We made a lot of it up as we went which I think is pretty common for independent filmmaking. A lot of times filmmaking is the process of screaming “Charge!!!!” whether or not it’s the right place to go, just to get it done. And under those conditions, well, you gotta make some things up that you hadn’t have thought of before. And then in the editing room it all changed, that’s where we really made the film and you have to make, rewrite this film, with what you’ve shot.
Everyone has their “and then there was THAT disaster” story. What’s yours?
Ugh. The first day of shooting our lead actor got in a wreck. The original “Young Simon Applewhite” actor wouldn’t act. We had two days to shoot our opening and closing “Big Alien” sequences, I ate grass in an effort to amuse him and get him to go but he wouldn’t. We had to replace him with Conner Pate, who was a real trooper and stayed up until five in the morning in 40 degree weather while we made up for lost time. The last 20 minutes of the film was supposed to take place in the basket of a hot air balloon. We had two days to shoot 18 pages. We get there, set up the balloon at 5 AM and by 7 AM the wind is too strong for the balloon to stay up. So we scratched it and rewrote the entire ending to take place AWAY from the hot air balloon. It was a process of coming up with lines with the actors, lots of improv and Brad Walker being quick on his camera.
The music was terrific – I actually hearkened back a few times to the first time I saw “The Evil Dead,” or “Halloween,” where the music perfectly accented the mood without intruding, or worse, telling you what to feel. Where did you find the composer?
Damon Criswell is the man. Not literally, he doesn’t wear a tie and his last name isn’t Bush. But he did score our short film, “hinterland,” and we met him through our friend Matthew Trotter, who was also the line producer on the film. Damon worked on the music for at least nine months and it really does tie the film together. The problem with the film is that it changes tone practically every other scene and if the music didn’t work, if it wasn’t great, the film wouldn’t have worked. Damon has a studio in Dallas, TX, Criswell Productions and can be reached at: email@example.com.
Get the rest of the interview in part three of MARK HOSACK: THE MAN ON THE “PALE BLUE MOON”>>>
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