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Moriarty Visits The Vancouver Set Of John Carpenter

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

July 2005 is going to be a month worth celebrating here at the Labs for a long time to come. As Harry so effusively announced, my son Toshiro (or “Toshi” as everyone’s calling him for the moment) was born early on the morning of July 6th. The past three weeks have been pretty extraordinary as I’ve gotten used to this amazing new presence in my life.

But today I’m going to tell you about the second-coolest thing to happen to me this month, something that could alter my life just as much as Toshi’s birth did.

Mere hours after he was born, principal photography began in Vancouver on “Cigarette Burns,” the episode that Scott Swan and I wrote for MASTERS OF HORROR, the anthology series that Industry Entertainment, IDT, and Nice Guy Productions are all producing for Anchor Bay and Showtime Networks. John Carpenter directed the episode, which stars Norman (BOONDOCK SAINTS) Reedus and Udo (THE KINGDOM) Kier.

This’ll be the first thing you guys are going to see of mine, and now that I’ve been to the set and I’ve seen how closely Carpenter stuck to the script, frankly, I’m amazed. Whatever you think of the final episode, love it or hate it, there’s not a thing I could complain about or that I would change. They shot what we wrote, except for moments where Carpenter came up with some great ideas that actually expanded upon what we wrote. They gave us complete creative freedom, and then they actually lived up to that promise. Once Carpenter came onboard as director, the producers never gave us another set of creative notes. When they say that this series is all about giving these directors room to play, they’re not kidding.

So how the hell did this happen?

How did Scott and I get so damn lucky?

Many paths led us to this place, and it feels like several things came full circle at the same time here. I’ve written on this site before about my time at Dave’s Video, and one of the guys I met while working there was Mick Garris. We’d chat whenever he came into the store, and when he geared up into pre-production on SLEEPWALKERS, he invited Scott and I to observe the process as much as we wanted. They shot on the Sony lot the same time as HOOK, and Mick had worked for Spielberg as the story editor on AMAZING STORIES, so we ended up getting a peek behind the scenes on that production, too. Mick was just the most open and sincere guy, and we stayed in touch over the years. The first time he mentioned MASTERS OF HORROR to me was at the Saturn Awards a couple of years ago. It was still just an idea at that point. A few months later, Mick followed up to let me know that the series was definitely going to happen, and would Scott and I like to come in and pitch an episode?

Scott and I were just wrapping up our work on CLIVE BARKER’S DREAD at the time, and as much as I like that script, it was frustrating to try and adapt that story with the PG-13 firmly in mind. There’s no question that the success of THE SIXTH SENSE and THE RING have changed the economics of the modern studio horror film. Everytime something like THE GRUDGE comes out and does well, it reinforces the idea that PG-13 is the only way to go. But if you pick up the excellent Criterion DVD release of VIDEODROME, one of the extra features is a panel discussion from the Z Channel in 1982, hosted by (surprise, surprise) Mick Garris, in which he talks to John Carpenter, John Landis, and David Cronenberg about the restrictive nature of working with the MPAA. In other words, these filmmakers have been wrestling with these issues of censorship (both internal and external) for over 20 years now. MASTERS OF HORROR is, in many ways, a reaction to that. One of the things we were told before we even pitched our episode was “No restrictions, no worrying about ratings, anything goes.” That’s something you never hear upfront. The difference this time is that Anchor Bay was already signed on as a producer, so no matter what, we knew there would be a place for the films to be distributed. That sort of freedom is liberating.

Scott and I quickly put together ideas for six or seven different episodes, and then we pitched Andrew Deane and Mick. They considered two of the ideas before finally hiring us to write “Cigarette Burns,” which we had originally wanted to do as a small indie feature. We knew it was a very odd story, though, and writing it as a one-hour film felt like a great way to tell the story without having to worry about what sort of opening weekend it would have or how many pretty WB actors we could stick into it. Once again, here’s the official synopsis that VARIETY printed a few weeks ago:

Jimmy Sweetman knows how to find rare film prints. However, nothing could prepare him for the daunting search for LA FIN DU MONDE, a film allegedly shown only once and rumored to have driven its audience into a murderous frenzy before the theater mysteriously erupted in flames. Working for a shadowy patron, Jimmy’s increasingly obsessive investigation becomes nightmarish and deadly. Finally he discovers LA FIN DU MONDE’s infamy is well deserved. This supernatural CHINATOWN is a chilling look at the power of cinema and the lengths to which we will go to satiate our private demons.

Aside from the sheer hubris it takes to compare our work to CHINATOWN, that’s a pretty accurate summary of the episode. It didn’t change much from our first draft, either. The only things we had to change had to do with budget, since what we turned in the first time was too ambitious. We had too many locations, exterior scenes set in Paris and Germany, lots of scenes set while driving, and one incredibly elaborate and ornate set that was only going to be used in one scene of the movie. We must have given the UPM fits with that first draft. To the credit of the prodcers, though, they didn’t freak out. Instead, they told us that they’d show it to directors to see who responded.

When they called to tell us John Carpenter was going to direct the episode, it seemed too good to be true. Even now, after we’ve wrapped production, it still hardly seems possible.

See, as much as I love Argento (and there’s an affectionate nod to him in the episode) or Dante (who graciously helped us with some research for the episode) or Tobe Hooper or Stuart Gordon or any of the other filmmakers involved in the series, I’ve got history with Carpenter. This is another one of those full circles, one that’s almost storybook perfect, and it proves to me that life’s got a funny sense of humor.

In order to fully appreciate the punchline to this particular cosmic joke, you’ve got to back up twenty-two years, to when I was thirteen years old. And, yes, I know that there are more flashbacks and flash-forwards in this article than in any three Tarantino films combined. Anyway, I was living in Chattanooga, TN, at the time, and I’d already been bitten by the movie bug. Bad, too. I felt like I was a million miles from Hollywood. Whenever I told people that I wanted to make movies for a living, I would get the same inevitable reply: “That’s nice, but what are you really going to do?” The only person I knew who had anything to do with the film industry was Kathy Carver, the mother of my friend Craig. She handled local extras casting whenever a film came to town. She’d worked on pictures like HONKY TONK FREEWAY and THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT DOWN IN GEORGIA. Still, it wasn’t like there were films shooting in our area every day, and it made the industry seem impossibly far away.

Then, one day, the proverbial circus came to town. Craig told me that his mother was about to start casting extras for a few sequences from STARMAN. Right away, I knew what it was. STARLOG had already covered the film’s slightly rocky path from script to screen. It was infamous as the project that Columbia traded Universal for E.T. I knew that Brian De Palma was supposed to direct it at one point. But more than anything else, I was aware of it because John Carpenter was attached. Even at 13, I was crazy about his work. I remember conning my parents into taking me to see THE THING by telling them, “I hear it’s a lot like E.T.” HALLOWEEN had hit me on an almost chemical level the first time I saw it. That’s a hell of a film for a nine-year-old to wrap his head around. The idea of meeting the guy who made those films was incredible to me, and as the day got closer, I could barely sleep. Two days before I was going to visit the set, I broke my arm, so when the day rolled around, I had a fresh white cast in place.

My mom drove me out to the motel that was being used as the base camp by the crew, where we were met by Peter Silbermann, the unit publicist. As we all drove out to the location together, I chattered away happily at Silbermann, who seemed a little freaked out by how into movies I obviously was. By the time we reached the place where all the trucks were set up, he was openly amused, and he took me straight to John to introduce me. When we walked up, John was discussing the next scene with Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges. It had only been a couple of years since the release of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, so it would be hard to overestimate the extent of my schoolboy crush on Allen, and Bridges was the star of KING KONG and TRON, so I was overwhelmed by everyone.

The thing I remember most from that day, 22 years ago but clear as a bell, was the overwhelming kindness of everyone I met. Allen sat with my mother and I and talked about Tennessee and knitting and southern cooking and, just to indulge me, RAIDERS and ANIMAL HOUSE. Bridges showed me the make-up gag they were using to make his hand glow during the scene they were going to shoot. And Carpenter... he sat me next to a monitor and explained to me exactly what a director did. As he talked, and as I watched them work, something clicked for me. “This is possible,” I remember thinking. “This is a real job. It isn’t some magic trick. It’s a job, and one day, I want to do this.” Everyone took turns signing my cast, and when I left the set that afternoon, Silbermann gave me a copy of the script at John’s request. It was the first screenplay I ever read, the first time I’d ever even seen the format, and I read it over and over and over in the year between that day and when the film came out. It was my first experience with seeing how something could changed from script to screen, and I was fascinated. And, of course, all of that came rushing back to me when we got the word that John was signed for “Cigarette Burns.” Our first notes meeting with him was positively surreal, one of the strangest afternoons of my life. I mean, I’ve seen John many times in the years since 1983. He was another regular customer at Dave’s, Harry and I went to his house for dinner once, I interviewed him about the BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA DVD when it came out, and I hung out in the recording studio while he scored GHOSTS OF MARS.

But actually sitting down to discuss something that we wrote with him... hearing him talk about how he planned to approach certain things, listening to him defend his favorite moments in the script (there’s a jet-black sequence that Carpenter kept in because “it just knocked me to the back of my chair”)... it all seemed like some sort of out-of-body experience for us. It was also the most bracingly honest notes session we’ve ever had. I totally understand why Carpenter’s never been the kind of guy who makes one studio film after another now. He seems to have no patience for the typical bullshitty development speak, and he doesn’t tap dance around his opinion. He must scare the holy fuck out of development guys who don’t know what they’re talking about. When he thinks something’s wrong in the script, he’ll tell you, both barrels right between the eyes. For the first thirty minutes or so, I wrestled with the impulse to run screaming from the room, convinced that we were unworthy of even being at that table.

I’ll pause here so you can tell me in the TalkBacks that I was right.

... okay. Feel better now? The more we listened to all of John’s notes, going page by page, we realized that they all boiled down to one note, just repeated many times. “Keep it personal.” The things John challenged us on were the generic “horror movie” scares, or the CGI lightshow that we originally wrote for the ending. John pushed us to focus in on our main character and his ghosts and to never let things become something we’ve seen before. By the time we finished that first three-hour notes meeting (for a script that only runs one hour), we had a good sense of what John wanted.

It only took us eight or nine more drafts to get there. Because of the intense time crunch, we had to respond quickly with each new pass, and for very different reasons each time. We had to make sure that all of the locations we wrote into the script were able to be found in Vancouver. We had to make sure that every scene and every character was justified budgetarily. Each of these episodes has a ten-day shooting schedule and around $2 million for a budget. That’s tight, especially when your story deals with a character who goes around the world and flashes between the past and the present.

The last set of hurdles we had to jump before they could start shooting involved the clearance lawyers. See, you’ve got to hand your script over to a legal team whose whole job is to tell you why you can’t use any of your character names and you have to change all of your references to real movies or events. Clearance just about drove us crazy. “Jimmy Sweetman” became “Kirby Sweetman.” “Julianne Matthews” became “Annie Matthews.” Little things like that were annoying but manageable. It wasn’t until they told us that we had to call our film-within-a-film something. Other than LE FIN DU MONDE that I lost my infamously short temper. I was determined to dig in and fight.

Not surprisingly, I lost.

Or more accurately, I compromised. See, Abel Gance laid claim to the title LA FIN DU MONDE back in the ‘30s with his epic about... well... the end of the world. I’ve never seen it. I’ve never heard anything about it until we wrote this script. It’s not commercially available in Region 1 in any way, shape, or format as far as we can tell. And, to top it all off, we make it fairly clear in the script that LE FIN DU MONDE (notice how our title’s grammatically incorrect? Smart, ain’t we?) is the work of a gifted lunatic named Hans Bakovic. Notably not Abel Gance, no matter how vigorously you mispronounce it.

Didn’t matter. No argument was going to gain me the right to use that title. So we chose the best of the offered compromises, not realizing we were setting up our lead actor for a full day of frustration in doing so. The film officially became LA FIN ABSOLUE DU MONDE, or THE ABSOLUTE END OF THE WORLD. Perfect for an arrogant Eurotrash art film “messiah” from the early ‘70s. You can’t help but sneer when you say it. As soon as we finished with all the back and forth about clearance, it really sank in. They’re starting production this week. John’s in Vancouver now doing prep. They’re casting. KNB is hard at work designing the make-up effects.

This is really happening. Right now.

I kept half-expecting Ashton Kutcher to pop out. I am man enough to admit that if I had, in fact, been PUNK’D, I would have cried like a little girl on MTV. So thankfully, he didn’t, I wasn’t, and the cameras finally rolled.

Another last minute name change created an odd moment for my co-writer Scott Swan during his first day on-set. Like I said earlier, I was a little busy on the morning of July 6th, but Scott had flown up to Vancouver the night before. He was there for the very first set-up. Hell, he rode out to the location with John that morning, I learned later. So it was that he found himself starting the day standing next to the director of Halloween in front of... The Myers House.

It wasn’t intentional. The guy’s name in the script was Peter Dunnigan. Some alarm somewhere went off though, when they ran that name, so somehow, “A.K. Myers” became the replacement. So there’s a Myers House in our script now. Crrrrrrazy.

I spoke to Scott a few times during his stay in Vancouver. He spent the first three days there. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. He saw some of my favorite stuff from the script played out, including the first meeting between Kirby, played by Norman Reedus, and Bellinger, played by Udo Kier. My film geek OCD seemed pleased by the odd synchronicity of having someone from BLADE and someone from BLADE 2 in the film. This scene sets the stakes for the whole rest of the film, and it leads into one of the strangest scenes we’ve ever written.

When I spoke to Scott about it, he was thrilled. He said he thought there was some great chemistry going on. Norman’s got a hard role here, the Joseph Cotton role in KANE, the observer poking into a story, putting it together piece by piece. The supporting cast gets to have all the fun until the end. Every step along the way, he runs into really extreme characters that test him. Bellinger’s the one who gives him the initial push, and the choice to use Udo turned out to be inspired. Mick Garris evidently suggested him, and Carpenter took Udo to Musso & Frank’s to see if they clicked. Musso & Frank’s is old Hollywood seedy decadence, untouched since the ‘20s, and it must have been just the right atmosphere. Scott’s stories about Udo’s enthusiasm had me rolling, and the first time I walked on-set, Udo walked up to the two of us and said, “Okay, confess. Who is the Shakesperean? Who loves to write the Shakesperean speeches?” A smooth-talking flatterer... that’s what he is.

Scott told me that he apologized to Norman for making him say LA FIN ABSOLUE DU MONDE at least twenty times in the film. The French-speaking crew helped Norman through his brutal first day of it. By the end of the shoot, he was able to rattle it off with authority, but at the Myers house, Scott wanted to hide so Norman wouldn’t kick the shit out of him.

The things that had Scott worked up when we talked, though, even more than Udo’s work, were the make-up creations he’d been seeing. There’s a character played by Christopher Redman in the film that isn’t a creature or a monster or anything conventionally scary. It’s meant to be more pathetic and awful than anything else. I saw Scott’s photos, taken with a small digital camera outside in bright sunlight, and I thought the make-up looked great there. He described the reveal in the episode, though, properly lit, and it sounds wild... very theatrical. Something terrible also happens to Fung, played by Colin Foo, and Scott wa on-set when it did. Scott’s like me... a lifelong reader of FANGORIA and FAMOUS MONSTERS, an ‘80s-bred gorehound. He’s a make-up geek, so seeing a really bloody gag played out that you wrote... the way he described it to me, I was almost jealous.

But I was confident that I’d be headed up for some of the shoot. I brought my wife and the baby home from Cedars-Sinai on the 8th. The following week was pretty much a blur of work, and then Scott left to go down to Comic-Con that weekend. There was a big MASTERS OF HORROR party scheduled for the House Of Blues that night, and a panel earlier in the afternoon. I ended up staying home, though, enjoying my time with the family and avoiding all the drama of San Diego. It’s such an “event” now that it’s exhausting, even for one day.

Instead, I waited until Scott came back on Sunday, and we caught an afternoon flight to Vancouver. I loaded up my iPod with pictures of Toshi and my wife, but even so, it was hard to go. My wife’s the best. “You have to go,” she said. “You won’t forgive yourself if you miss the whole thing.” Until Scott and I checked in at the hotel, I could hardly believe it. We went walking near our hotel downtown, took a look at the Vogue Theater on Granville, which doubles as the theater owned by Kirby in the episode, and it looked appropriately seedy.

The next morning, we were downstairs in front of the hotel at 6:30, where he found Ron, one of the drivers, waiting with the van. Drivers are the coolest people on a film crew, nine times out of ten. Drivers know everything. Scott had met Ron during his first trip up, so we had a great conversation already going when John and Gina, his assistant, came downstairs.

John’s not an early morning person, which I can relate to. Normally I only see 6:30 AM if it’s at the end of a long night of updating. Even so, he warmed up and chatted as we drove out to the soundstage where we were going to spend Monday and Tuesday, the final two days of the shoot. We talked mainly about videogames, since he’s a pretty devoted gamer. He gave me some tips for getting through the level I’m stuck on in DESTROY ALL HUMANS. I had my video camera ready to go, my Sony DCR-HC42. It’s practically pocket-sized, and I had a ton of batteries all charged up and several hours worth of blank tape.

So of course, the first shot of the day was a nude scene. So... camera off.

While they were lighting, I wandered around the rest of the stage. We were waaaaaay the hell out of downtown Vancouver, in a place called Burnaby, and it was a huge single stage. The witch-house from Stuart Gordon’s episode was still standing, and there were various bits and pieces of Don Coscarelli’s sets pushed up against the walls. Our first scene was being shot on a set re-used from Mick Garris’s “Chocolate,” which finished production a few episodes before us. It was actually one of the only quiet moments in the whole film that John was starting with that day, one of Kirby’s happy memories. Intimate moments between Norman and Zara Taylor, who plays Annie. It was nicely done, and once John felt like he got it, he called “Cut, print, check the gate,” then turned to Attila Szalay, the D.P. for the episode, and smiled. “Let’s do some drugs.”

So they set up the next scene with Norman and Zara, another flashback, this one with the two of them tying off, shooting up. John made more of a character moment out of it than we had in the script, and there was a nice bit of character choreography between the actors, something Norman told me later came from her.

It was strange, because it made me hate my main character a little bit, but it also suddenly filled me with sympathy for him. It’s one thing writing a scene in a script, but actually seeing those words become flesh and blood, Norman suddenly became Kirby for me.

As much as we wanted to stay and watch the next scene, Scott and I had to leave the set and go back to the hotel for a few hours. Chris “PROJECT GREENLIGHT” Moore had arranged to meet us at our hotel, where he rented a conference room so we could all get on the phone to our execs at New Regency to talk about RACE WITH THE DEVIL, the job we’re just now beginning. The call went great, Chris showed us some awesome storyboards, we ate a great lunch, and then Scott and I wished him well and hauled ass back out to the soundstage.

The only remaining evidence of the scenes we had missed was a bloody bathtub. Zara, a petite girl who reminds me of ANGEL’s Amy Acker, spent the better part of the morning nude, but she had some time to relax before her next scene. By now, everyone else had moved onto our main set, the screening room at Bellinger’s house. They shot most of Bellinger’s stuff on a real location, but enough freaky shit goes down in the screening room to justify building it as a set. It was completely convincing when we stood in it, complete with a working booth that housed two real projectors. Udo was wandering around by this point in a tuxedo, going over his upcoming scenes. He recognized Scott and asked him how Comic-Con was. Scott mentioned something he found there, and Udo demanded to see it. Scott went back to John’s trailer to retrieve two lobby cards from ANDY WARHOL’S BLOOD FOR DRACULA, which Udo proceeded to sign while regaling us with a story about masturbating during the filming of that film’s bloody climax. And he somehow made it all so tremendously urbane and charming that it’s easy to imagine Udo telling the same story to someone’s grandmother without causing the slightest bit of offense.

They start setting up the day’s big gag... maybe the thing I’m most curious about in the whole episode... but it’s going to take a while still...

The first few set-ups with Bellinger were relatively benign, reaction shots more than anything. Watching John shoot, I learned that Udo Kier is great with props and that he has the eyes of a silent movie star. He knows exactly how to find the light with them and use them to maximum effect. Once the scene moved from the theater to the projection booth, things got real interesting. Bellinger’s ultimate fate in the film is pretty extreme stuff, a combination of a crazy dramatic moment and a wild gore effect. When we wrote the scene, Scott and I were just trying to make each other laugh. That’s part of the fun of writing with a partner... that joy that comes from goading one another. When you’re standing there watching Sarah Graham and Mike “Fast” Fields, the on-set KNB artists, and they’re working to rig up Udo Kier’s stomach, it gets even funnier. I noticed that a number of people who hand’t watched any of the earlier shooting began to crowd in so they’d be able to watch once the cameras rolled. Before that, though, John shot some green-screen inserts involving Zara covered in blood. John poured the blood onto her carefully, covering her, then directed her to scream as part of the effect that ties the whole episode together. By the time they got those inserts finished, the crew was ready to roll on Udo’s big scene. We spent the next three hours watching take after take, angle after angle, every single one of them solid gold. Udo got several ovations from the cast and crew watching, and my favorite touch was Udo’s last line, an improv that he brought to Scott and I just before they shot the scene. It’s a killer, and Udo really milked it on every take. The laughs he got from all of us were a mix of appreciation and dark delight. Watching the sense of play between John and Udo and watching how everyone else reacted to them, it felt like we were watching a showdown. Part of that came from the fact that John carries his Panavision viewfinder in a sort of leather holster. He’s been using this same one since ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, and he’s got the title of every film he’s used it on etched into the body of the lens. You look through that lens, it’s the same one he used when he created Jack Burton or Macready or Snake Plissken, the same one that framed up THEY LIVE or PRINCE OF DARKNESS or IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS. And here he was, using it to set up this totally batshit moment with Udo Kier, who’s acting his ass off, and no matter what happens with the episode, that afternoon made it all worthwhile. Scott and I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time.

The next day was just as amazing. Another early start. Tuesday was all about Norman. This was the end of the ride for Kirby Sweetman, one way or another, and the return of Christopher Redman. I was so pleased that I would get to see the Willowy Being in full appliance, but even so, I was still startled when I saw him walking over to the craft service table. I walked over and introduced myself, and I examined the KNB work up close. Howard Berger’s the main guy listed on the call sheet, but it was Sarah and Mike I saw on-set. They were also in charge of keeping the once-again-naked Zara Taylor slicked down in blood all day. She sat around in a terrycloth towel, like a sort of twisted Beach Blanket Carrie, in remarkably good spirits despite visible discomfort. On-set in the screening room again, Norman had to come face-to-face with... something. And there was a whole lot going on at once. Carpenter was shooting fast, but it seemed to be precise, orchestrated mayhem. Sitting behind the screen on the outside of the set, we could see the images being projected. Sitting in video village, we were treated to a giant backwards drive-in movie all day. Lots of blood was spilled. Norman finally cut loose as Kirby, which made perfect sense. He was numb up till this point, and it really seemed like Norman got it. I’ve liked his work in films before this, and he seemed easygoing as we spoke. At one point, I asked him if he’d seen OVERNIGHT, the film about Troy Duffy, and Norman immediately leapt to Troy’s defense. He seemed intensely loyal to Duffy, and I respect that. Norman’s one of those guys who is quiet and private when you first meet him, but as he gets comfortable, he warms up and completely changes. He’s got a very wry sense of humor, and it comes through in some of the choices he made. Everyone seems to have tuned in to that very dark sense of humor that is one of Carpenter’s trademarks, and the takes that please John the most seem to be the ones that make him laugh like a mad scientist huddled over a twitching brain on a tray.

Towards the end of the day, John was moving incredibly fast, and he and Attila kept both cameras running, shooting their own second unit at the same time as the first, picking up some important key moments from throughout the film. Christopher Gauthier, a familiar face from FREDDY VS JASON, shows up to shoot a film as “Timpson,” the projectionist at the Vogue. It was a cool moment, too, my favorite bit of Timpson’s, as he explains the title of the film for anyone who doesn’t know what a cigarette burn is.

Mick Garris showed up for a while, and talking to him about his episode “Chocolate,” he seemed very pleased. In fact, he seemed pretty happy about the entire series, the episodes he’s already seen and the ones that were still being prepped. Tobe Hooper was in the offices upstairs while we were shooting, getting ready to start his film the next day, and Don Coscarelli was in town working on the post for his episode. Everything was running along exactly as planned, and as Lisa Richardson and Tom Rowe, two more of the producers, showed up toward the end of the day, they also seemed very pleased. Talking to everyone on the crew, people seemed excited by the demands of each different episode, and more than a few of them brought in posters and DVDs and soundtracks for John to enscribe at the end of the day. Pretty much everyone seemed to be a gushing Carpenter fan when pressed on the subject. Scott and I were both given posters that were made up by the art department, replicas of the LA FIN ABSOLUE DU MONDE one-sheet that hangs in Bellinger’s office, and they were signed by John, Norman, and Udo.

We wrapped for the day fairly early, and it was impressive to see how calm John was right up to the end. As the last few shots rolled, someone broke out Dixie cups and chilled bottles of a delicious Montreal beer with a very specific name, one that was an inside joke for everyone working on the film. When we wrapped, there was a huge round of applause for John and for the cast and crew, and somewhere in the middle of it, Scott looked at me and said, “The last fifteen days here have made the last fifteen years pay off in full.”

I agree.

Without any exaggeration, I can say that my life has changed twice in one month. And the thing that blows my mind most is that one day in the future, I’ll be able to sit down with my son and put in the DVD (or the Blu-Ray or whatever the hell comes after that) of “Cigarette Burns” and say, “They made this the day you were born.” I have no idea what to expect when I see the film for the first time. I remember the first night a play of ours opened, and the feeling of sitting in a theater listening to a couple of hundred people reacting to something you wrote. The thrill of that was the unpredictability from night to night.

The thrill this time is the permanence. There are so many things I’m still curious about right now. We’re still not sure if John’s going to score the film or not, but we’re praying he will. There are whole sequences that I haven’t even seen a still from. I have no idea what Katja looks like, or how the Dalibor sequence plays out.

But I’m confident. This is a group of people, this crew, who love horror movies and who love these directors and who love the jobs they get to do right now. At one point, we were sitting in front of Jim Dunn, the stunt co-ordinator. He sounded positively chipper as he said, “On the next show, we get to throw three naked girls into a dumpster... for real. And then, while they’re still naked, we get to set them on fire. For real. This has been a great week.”

Sorta says it all.

I’ll be back with my DVD Shelf and more reviews as the week wears on. Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

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