While Nic worked on raising money, from friends, businessmen, and, mostly, his own pocket – (though Steve says proudly: “My ex-girlfriend gave us money for the movie.”) – Jeff and Steve set out to write the feature film script. “My ex-girlfriend’s grandfather had a house in Delaware,” says Steve. “After we were fully psychologically recovered from the (uncompleted) short film and its foibles, we went to a beach house and picked out the first draft of the script in about three days.”

Jeff nods. “I think me and Steve took turns doing the re-writes. I did the second one, and I would change some stuff that Steve had put in, and then give it back to him. Then he would do the third draft and he would put back what I took out and take out what I put in.” (laughs)

Steve laughs with him. “And eventually it worked! Of course the first draft was like forty-pages? The difficulty was that we had no idea how to write the script without seeing the locations to block out the action sequences. Essentially, what we had to do was figure out how to beef it up without making it look like we’re just adding filler. It was like, ‘okay, let’s try and develop (the heroine) Ann as a character even though she’s only a plot complication.

(laughs) Let’s give Frank some more cool ‘Hellraiser’ speeches. After the first draft, the story developed out of necessity.”

“I’ll say a note about the script,” Nic says. “I would have been behind the project even if it was a horrible piece of crap. I would have done it for fun. But I wouldn’t have been as confident about it, I wouldn’t have put my own money into it, or my family’s money in, if the script and story weren’t as good as they were. From the very first draft, I was very, very impressed.”

With the script ready, the team secured locations and equipment. Much of their lighting was provided by the Lawrenceville indie-friendly company Performance Lighting. A chief location was found in Club Laga. Filmmakers usually have a lot of friends, thereby provides the crew, incidental cast. The principal character of Jim Cranston, the likeable loser-turned-hero, was written for Steve, others they found locally. Nic found Anne Richardson (“Anne”); the villainous mutated neo-Nazi Frank was played by local actor Dave Droxler. “Everyone else is a bartender,” says Jeff. “Professor Jack’s side-kick buddy is a bartender. The guy walking down the street (during the opening credits) is a bartender. Senator Dan Maxx was played by Jimmy Kuhl, he’s a bartender. I actually had Jimmy Kuhl audition for Dan Maxx one night at the Fuel ‘n Funnel in Oakland. I was having a good time (laughs). I had the script in my school bag with me, so I started having everybody read for Dan Maxx. Everybody. I was having girls read for it. I grabbed anybody. Jimmy Kuhl came up to read for it and he did a really good job.” Things were pretty much set to go.

Then, as they are known to do, the filmmaking gods decided to rain on the parade. Team Project: Valkyrie had hired some art students to provide the extensive make-up and special effects. With a week before shooting was to begin, the students had vanished, taking their payment with them. “But we showed up at their house like Ray Liota in ‘Goodfellas’ and got our money back,” Steve says.

Nic picks up from there. “The money wasn’t as big of an issue as it set us behind schedule. We had to find a new crew and pay them – that was the only part of the budget that we actually went over.”

“And that really hurt us because, not only were we paying them that much money to do the job, but the new effects guys – Steve Tolin and Greg Piotrowski – were constantly rushed,” Steve says. “So, frequently effects did not go as planned. Certain things fell by the way-side.”

“When we got Steve and Greg in, we had a week before we started shooting, and they had a ton of things to come up with,” Jeff says. “They built the robot suit. They had to do all the life-casts. They redesigned all the make-up.”

The make-up is pretty extensive, actually. Project: Valkyrie’s villain, Frank, is a young skin-head who gets ahold of a Nazi-created virus from Professor Jack’s war-time artifacts. The virus transforms people into mutants that deliberately resemble Captain America’s nemesis, “The Red Skull”. By the end, there are about a dozen red skulls running around, wreaking havoc everywhere, and the make-up work is top-notch, professional-level. “Steve Tolin is the man,” the trio agrees.

There were other set-backs as well. Any production will have them. One part called for a child actor, and the first one obtained was removed by his parents who objected to the violence in the script. (Make no mistake, Project: Valkyrie is a black comedy. It’s terrifically funny, but also ridiculously gory. The climax involves numerous deaths-by-chainsaw, for example. And yes, that’s part of the comedy.) Other problems were circumvented by creative scheduling, getting into certain buildings and locations after hours – with or without the owner’s knowledge, getting the shots they needed at all costs. Or “it’s easier to get forgiveness than it is permission”.

The interview continues in part three of “PROJECT: VALKYRIE” VS. THE WORLD>>>

Posted on June 25, 2004 in Interviews by


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