Saturday, April 09, 2011



JESSE: Production started around the time Mark Watness became our new teacher at CIRT. The reason for this was because Mark allowed us free reign with the equipment. It was about this time I learned that Jeremy, who was supposed to be assistant director, was being replaced by Becky Sandlin. She wanted to get production started quickly and chose that coming Monday for our first day of shooting.

She did this without consulting the rest of the crew (namely me) first. I had to work that night at my job at O’Malia’s Grocery. Since I had already re-arranged my schedule to fit in scenes to be shot later in the week I was already pushing the limit’s of my boss’s patience. Now I found out a last minute shoot was planned for a night I had to work. So either I called in to work or they would have to postpone the shoot.

I called Darren and told him that we would have to postpone until a day freed up in my schedule. He asked why I couldn't call in sick or something. I told him that, for one, I needed the money to help fund the trip to Florida. And two, I knew it would piss my boss off if I didn't show up. Darren then went into salesman mode, explaining how badly he needed my presence on the set. After an hour of mind-numbing discourse I called into work. My boss wasn’t happy but eventually relented to my pleas.

Now, we had to decide on what we were going to shoot.

JEREMY: I often joke that the reason Becky replaced me as assistant director was because she was sleeping with Dar at the time. I couldn’t compete with that so I respectfully stepped aside. Actually, Becky was a competent assistant director who tackled every scene with the same vigor that she showed Dar in the bedroom. Becky always had my respect on the set (to the extent that I show anybody respect), and though I would have preferred to remain the assistant director I decided to let it slide and instead concentrate on my role as Skip Wes.


JESSE: Becky was a freshman when we met her at Tech. She was smallish in stature; I'd be playing it nice by saying she was 5'4". She had a tendency to wear tight jeans and T-shirts and was never seen without her trademark bifocals. She became co-director about a week before the first shoot, during which she and Darren got together on a regular basis.
He would tell me stories about wrestling with her while working out the basics of the movie.

She was with us every day of the shoot. Her main job on the set was to make sure everyone did what they were supposed to do. One of her other jobs was applying make-up for the cast. The way she applied the make-up was basically to sit on your lap while she did it. Every guy on the set loved this technique because she would flash her breasts and rub herself against your knee as she did it.

She didn't do much else until the talent show scene at the end. Even then she wasn't doing much to deserve co-director status. Also, she had this weird quirk. Whenever you touched her throat she would laugh uncontrollably. This meant that every chance we got Dave, Jeremy and I would touch it; especially when she got into one of her bossy moods.

JEREMY: Here's a quick example of a day on the set with Becky:

BECKY (lecturing Jesse): You're not shooting this right. I want it from a low angle and then move in slowly on Darren as he turns around.

JESSE: I like my way better.

BECKY: I don't care what you like, I'm the assistant dir—

Jesse touches her throat.

BECKY: —eehahahahaha...Stop that!

JESSE: On Monday Darren and I sat around CIRT trying to decide what to film first. Since I hadn't seen hide or hair of a script I had no clue. We knew our leading lady, Maggie, would be on the set that day, which meant the most logical thing to shoot was a scene involving Jenny Charles and Darren. Darren mentally went through the scenes in his head, a lot of which were improbable because they involved locations we didn't have access to yet. He brought up a scene we could shoot on his front porch involving him and Maggie. It sounded simple so we decided to go with it just to have something in the can.

We grabbed the equipment and rode the bus as far as we could to Darren's neighborhood. We then lugged the equipment several blocks to his house where we met up with our actress and our new co-director, Becky.

The scene in question takes place right after David and Jenny’s first date. Jenny drops David off at his house (that's right, she drove. No wonder she dumps the loser). They walk to his front door and exchange dialogue. After this they share a quick kiss and she leaves. End Scene.

The four of us arrived at Darren's house at four o'clock. Darren and Maggie headed inside to get into wardrobe. Becky stayed on the porch and watched me set everything up. After an hour Darren and Maggie emerged from the house. Becky and Darren discussed the scene with Maggie. I sat there and waited for them to finish. I still needed these knuckle-knobs to stand in their arranged spots to make sure they had head room in the shot.

Around five thirty they finished their discussion and I was able to complete my work. The scene was set in a matter of seconds and we began shooting. The shoot went extraordinarily well. It took us about an hour and a half to do all the dialogue in a master shot and then we did close ups of the two saying their lines. We finished it all up with a shot of Maggie walking away.

Now let me tell you, the shoot went smooth as fucking hell. This would be the first time Darren and I worked together and I took this as a great sign. We were all laughs and giggles, having a good time. Darren fucked up his dialogue a lot 'cause he was nervous, but he remained calm and just went right back at it. He was most nervous when he had to kiss Maggie, but he nailed it in one take.

DAR: It’s the best scene in the movie. I was excited about kissing Maggie. I was a little nervous too because I was afraid I was going to do a bad job. She was a really pretty girl. Overall, I was excited because it was the first time we were shooting something for the film, things were starting to get moving, and I knew we were going to enter it into the contest. So I was also nervous about that.

JESSE: Now, on the directing front I got no direction, but I wanted none. I liked being left alone to decide the visual outlook of the movie. Darren worked well this night with his actors. I was quite happy and thought the rest of the shoot would go smoothly.

Oh, but how wrong I was.


David would be joining us for the second shoot, so how about a little background on the poor bastard. I actually met David Patrick when he was a freshman and I was a junior, but I didn’t actually talk to him until the following year. I had a commercial art class with a teacher named Mr. Price. I walked in and saw this skinny kid sitting at one of the desks. I barely recognized him, because the year before he had a crew cut and now he had long hair. We started to talk and became quick friends.

I then corrupted the poor boy. We started skipping every first class with Darren and going to breakfast at Hardee's. Dave and I even took over Price's class. Everyone looked to our lead as to whether we'd be fucking around that day or actually working. I invited Dave to work on the movie with us. He lived only a block over from Darren and was willing to help. Dave agreed and joined us for every shoot we had at Darren's house. After we finished the movie I got him a job at O' Malia's with me. We quickly took over that place as well. Dave is one of my brothers and he always will be.

JEREMY: David Patrick is one of the coolest guys I know and is in many ways the fifth member of the group. He can't act, he can't write, but he is a whiz when it comes to make-up effects. He can make latex mask that are as good (sometimes better) as any mask you will find in a store. Starting out he was just some guy I saw working on the set every day, I wouldn't get to know him until after our Florida adventures a couple years later.


JESSE: The second scene we shot boiled down to this: David comes home after horribly losing a talent contest to Skip Wes. He enters the kitchen and in his depression grabs an unappetizing looking snack from the fridge. He goes upstairs, eats it and almost pukes his guts out. This leads to him looking in the mirror and telling himself how big of a loser he is. End scene.

We shot this fucking scene about a trillion times. Each time the food he grabbed out of the fridge was different. The first time we did it he ate a jar of mayonnaise and he did almost vomit. The second time it was lemon juice. The third time I think it was cold meatloaf and ice cream. We shot this scene on three different occasions because Darren lost the first day’s shoot, then the second one was eaten by the editing machine, and the third we cut from the movie due to time. He ate all that shit for nothing, which is hilarious to me.

Anyway, on the first day of the second shoot I arrived at his house right after school to get everything set up. I was upstairs hauling all of the equipment out of the bags and lugging it around when Darren walked in with Dave right behind him. I had, of course, invited Dave to the shoot to act as my assistant. He would help me set up lights, carry equipment and so forth. Darren asked if he could have a word with me out in the hallway. I told Dave to just unpack the rest of the stuff and then stepped into the hall with Darren. I noted how pissed he looked. The exchange went like this:

DARREN: What the hell is he doing here?

JESSE: I invited him. He's going to help me around the set.

DARREN: Well, I don't know if I like him being here.

JESSE: Grow the fuck up. He's my friend and he can help out a lot.

DARREN: He's your responsibility. Make sure he doesn't fuck up.

JESSE: What the fuck ever.

I went back into the room and helped Dave finish setting everything up. After a while Darren came upstairs with Becky. We started to shoot the scene, which should have been relatively easy. Yet Darren was now tense and kept fucking up. The scene had no dialogue in it but he couldn't get it right. He ate fourteen spoonfuls of mayonnaise. Becky finally said the scene was good. I disagreed with her and said it was still crap (I admit that in a couple of takes I fucked up a camera movement here or there) and we should continue to shoot it until we got it right. Darren agreed with Becky and we moved on to the mirror scene. We shot this for about an hour and a half. It was never right and you could see Darren growing more and more tense with each take.

Finally, he called for a five minute break. Dave and I went into the den while Darren and Becky went to his room. We sat around and shot the shit until I realized half an hour had passed. At this point I began to grow annoyed. I hate wasting time on a set, it pisses me off. I went to Darren's room and banged on the door (yeah, he might have been getting laid but I didn't care, we were there to shoot a movie). When there was no answer I walked right in (didn't care if they were naked or not). They were both lying on the bed, holding each other. I yelled for them to wake up and get to work. Darren decided to call it a night. He was too tired to continue and said he would take us home.

DAR: I remember that through the whole process of making Laugh A Little I was constantly driving everybody home. That got tiring after a while.

JEREMY: Of course, you were the only one of us at the time who had a license and access to a car.

DAR: My mom’s car, yeah.


JESSE: Darren dropped off Becky first because he wanted to talk to me. He asked if Dave was going to invite himself to any more shoots. I reminded him that Dave didn't invite himself, I did. I also told him that Dave would be at every shoot since I needed his help. It would also give me someone to hang with while Darren made moves on Becky. He said that Dave was a distraction and made him tense. I told him to get used to it 'cause Dave wasn't going away. I never understood why he didn't like Dave and I guess I never will.

JEREMY: In retrospect, I believe Dar didn’t want Dave on the set during filming because he was nervous about acting in front of him. On the surface Dar was an easy going and confident guy, but beneath that exterior was a boy still searching for himself, who wasn’t as confident as he led others to believe. Hence his being pissed about Dave showing up and then screwing up take after take as a result.  Of course, keep in mind I don’t hold a PhD in psychology so I’m mostly talking out my ass here.


JESSE: The third shoot consisted of the following scene: Skip and David run into each other in the hallway at the talent contest and begin to argue. This scene was shot first at Darren’s house and then reshot at CIRT. It would ultimately be cut down to a single clip of Jeremy staring menacingly into the camera in the finished movie. End scene. 

This was the first time my good friend and all around brother-from-another-mother Jeremy would be present on the set. Darren, David and I sat in Darren’s upstairs living room, bullshitting while we waited for Becky to finish with Jeremy’s make-up. After about ten minutes Jeremy entered the room in full wardrobe and white-face. Darren looked him over and said there was something missing. He walked over with a black make-up pencil and went to work on Jeremy's face. When he finished he moved aside to reveal a Hitler mustache he drew under Jeremy's nose.

David and I looked dumbfounded at Jeremy. He looked back at us with a what the fuck? expression. He hurried to the bathroom to look in the mirror. A moment later we all heard him yell "Aw, hell no!"

He returned to the living room, livid about how stupid this was (I had to agree. For one, if anyone had a Hitler mustache shouldn't it be David, who had a thing for Chaplin?). Darren asked for my opinion and I said it looked stupid but it was his movie. Both he and Jeremy would continue to argue about this for the next hour or so. Someone finally suggested a Snidely Whiplash mustache. I liked this idea as it wasn't offensive and was also pretty funny. Jeremy agreed and the argument was settled for the time being. Darren drew the Whiplash mustache and we shot the scene.

JEREMY: The mustache scenario was the first seeds of a blooming animosity Dar and I would harbor for each other throughout the Laugh A Little shoot. I always felt that Skip Wes should have a pencil-thin mustache, ala Errol Flynn. The character was refined, sophisticated, a gentleman and a dancer, the last thing he was going to do was wear something as unfashionable as a ‘Hitler mustache’.

I was never in love with the Snidely Whiplash 'stache either, but at least it conjured up images of the old silent era villains tying damsels to railroad tracks, which was the look we were shooting for. I just think the pencil-thin mustache would have fit the character better is all.


JESSE: Darren drove Jeremy and I home. In the front seat Jeremy and Darren continued their argument about the mustache.  After listening to this for several drawn out minutes I finally screamed, "Would you two shut the fuck up?"

Now, I had no worries about what Darren would do, but Jeremy, he could kick my ass with his pinky (he still can, as I am a weakling). Luckily, he saw that he was arguing about bullshit and let the matter drop. We rode in silence the rest of the way and I felt relieved my ass wasn't kicked (remember, I didn't know Jeremy all that well yet).

JEREMY: The whole deal in the car is a classic Jesse moment. Jesse has no problem with telling people what he thinks, and people he doesn't know especially. So there's Dar and I telling each other to shut up when this high-pitched voice squeals from the backseat, "Why don't you both shut the fuck up?" I was so startled by this unexpected twist to the argument that I burst out laughing and decided to let the whole thing lay, at least for the time being.


JESSE: I think something should be said about Jeremy's performance as Skip Wes. As written, the role was this one dimensional asshole that David has to overcome. Yet, as played by Jeremy the character became more complex. Jeremy played Skip Wes as a man playing a character. His exterior was all bluster and confidence. Deep inside, however, you could see that Skip Wes and David Daryl were one in the same. Skip just covered up his insecurities with this character he created for himself.

It was a brilliant performance. I have to mention it here because almost all of it was ultimately cut from the finished film. All that survives of Jeremy's great performance is a single silent shot of him staring menacingly into the camera and the talent show scene at the end in which he has no dialogue. It's a crying shame such a wonderful performance was cut out. I might be bias; he is one of my best friends after all.

JEREMY: Nobody was more surprised than I was when I watched the film for the first time and realized all my scenes had been butchered more than a teenager camping at Crystal Lake. I had always intended for Skip and David to be mirror images of each other.  Deep down both men had a considerable lack of self-esteem. However, where David wore his heart on his sleeve, constantly bemoaning his lot in life, Skip understood that nobody could respect a person who didn't respect himself. Skip wanted to be liked, he wanted to be respected, looked up to with almost godly awe, so he created the very image of that which he longed to be. If there was a party he made sure to be the center of attention; if there were important people in the room he made sure to shmooze with them; if a date was required, he brought one on each arm.

Here once again is why the ‘Hitler mustache’ just didn't work (Snidely Whiplash 'stache either). A man as self-conscious of his appearance as Skip Wes would never go for something so unstylish. Of course, at the time I don't think Dar had a full understanding of Skip Wes. Yes, he created him, but Dar's version of Skip was simply a one dimensional obstacle for the hero to overcome (as he inevitably became in the finished project). I believe Dar was more interested in exploring the depths of the David Daryl character, which he was playing and had more of an emotional connection with.  Thus poor Skip Wes was destined to be so much background filler, which is a shame, because the character deserved better.


JESSE: This was the shoot where I was the tense asshole on set. The scene in question is where Jennifer breaks up with David. They argue and it ends with her walking out in a huff. This was ultimately cut down to a single, silent shot in the finished movie. It was the first shoot in which we had the entire day to do it in. It was a Saturday and we planned to do this as well as finish the mirror scene.

I showed up around the same time as Dave. The two of us went to work setting everything up. By this time Dave and I were getting really good at this. It got to the point where we could have everything unpacked and set up in half an hour tops. Dave was so in tune to what I wanted he could almost set up the lights himself, but I'm too much of a control freak about camera and lights to give anybody free reign. I'm trying to get better, honest.

Maggie and Becky arrived shortly after we finished. A half hour later we were shooting. The first shot was over Maggie's shoulder looking at Darren. They went through the scene and it sucked. I let it go and suggested we shoot it again. Becky agreed and we gave it another go. We wound up doing this one shot twenty times. By this point I was really getting sick of this. I said to Darren, "Hey, where's the cue card reader?" He looked at me like, "huh?" I told him it sounded like he was reading his dialogue from a cue card. Maggie gave her two cents about how she thought it was fine. I looked at her and said, "Of course you think that, you're doing just as bad as he is." Like I said, they were wasting time by not being prepared and time is a precious commodity on the set.

Becky got into a huff, saying I was over-stepping my boundaries. I shot back with "I wouldn't have to if you two were doing your jobs." This was pissing everybody off except Dave. He felt their performances were bad too, and if Dave of all people can spot a bad performance then you are in fucking trouble. I told them we should stop shooting and let the two actors rehearse for a while. Darren again asked to speak with me in private. It went like this:

DARREN: What's wrong, man?

JESSE: This is sucking really fucking hard.

DARREN: Do you really need to be so angry though?

JESSE: Yes (no, I didn't really) you guys are giving the worst fucking performances ever. You both are really wooden and this is an emotional scene.

DARREN: I'm not saying you're wrong, you just need to relax.

JESSE: Fuck you, I'm here on a fucking (I say fuck a lot, by the way, whether I'm happy, sad, angry, or just plain indifferent) Saturday and you're wasting time. You need to get your A-game going and you need to do it now.

DARREN: Why don't we take a break and you go get some air?

JESSE: Yeah, why don't we waste more time?

I finally relented and took a break. I walked around the block, calmed down and came back in. We finished the scene in about three hours. I just kept my mouth shut through the rest of it.  We decided to break for lunch and then come back and shoot the mirror scene. Dave and I went upstairs to set up the equipment. A few minutes later Darren came in and said Joe and Jeremy dropped by the house. I asked why they didn't stay. Darren said they had too much to do. For the real story we must go to Jeremy and Joe.

JOE: Jeremy and I dropped by to pick up some pages of poetry Darren was illustrating for my poem book, An Apparition or Two. He knew we were coming by. I don't remember if I knew that he was shooting that day or not. I was never told when they were shooting. I did offer to help, but apparently he didn't need my help because he never asked for it. Darren didn't tell me much about the shoots other than they were going well. I hadn't talked to Jesse all that much at this point so the only way I knew what was going on was through Jeremy. The day we dropped by went something like this:

Jeremy and I arrive and knock on the door. A few minutes later, Darren answers.

DARREN: What are you guys doing here?

JOE: We're here to get the pages you promised me.

DARREN: Oh. We're shooting right now.

JOE: Okay. You knew we were coming to get those.


He retrieves the pages he finished. I stared at them, disappointed. I don't remember what I said at this point. He handed over some shoddy work. He was capable of so much better. I figured I'd deal with it because Jeremy was also illustrating the book and he was a fine artist in his own right. So either way at least some of it would be good. Darren didn't ask us to stay and help out with the shoot. He didn't ask us if we wanted to stay and watch the shoot. He didn't seem to want us there at all. I don't remember what Jeremy and I were doing that day. We walked from our houses to his, which took us about thirty minutes. His greeting to us is burned into my memory, "What are you guys doing here?" What was that all about?

JEREMY: I remember feeling left out when I saw the shoot taking place without me. At the time I had it in my mind that even if I wasn't the co-director of the film I was an important part of it. I had helped write the thing, draw the storyboards, was playing the main villain, and was, over all, one of the founding members of the group. As I stated earlier I believe Dar was self-conscious about acting in front of people and the reason he didn't want Joe there was because he was afraid his best friend would disapprove of his performance.

As for me I sincerely believe that, for whatever reason, Dar had taken a disliking to me at this stage of our lives and was slowly attempting to exclude me from the group. I never quite understood why this was. By this point I had come to love Dar and Joe like brothers (more than my own brother, truth be told) and I believe the fact that he didn't return this sentiment, expressing his disdain in small ways like not inviting me to the shoots, is why I felt left out that day.

Dar and Joe were the first human beings I opened up to outside of my own family. Sure, I knew lots of people but I had never really had a person that I could call a friend. I suppose in my mind-frame I considered myself the Doc Holliday of the group; the black sheep who latched onto the Earps (in this instance DIP Entertainment) and followed them faithfully to the ends of the world and back (or at least to Florida).

DAR: I know Jeremy thinks we didn’t get along at that time but I really liked him a lot. I was kind of stubborn and didn’t want to tell him that I liked him. And it was my way of testing him every second. But I really liked his creativity. I liked who he was as a person.

JESSE: Becky came upstairs after Maggie went home. She and Darren began to discuss the scene. Becky finally said, "Why didn't we finish this scene?" Dave retorted, "We would have if you and Dar weren't sleeping together." I laughed my ass off and Becky turned a bright red. Ah, I heard it from Darren about that later but it was worth it. Dave isn't known for his quick wit, but sometimes he lets loose a winner. We finished the mirror scene an hour later.


We rode home that night in complete silence. Tension filled the air like a cloud of noxious gas over a bean eating contest. The only words spoken were our goodbyes to one another. For my part, I wasn’t mad or anything, just emotionally drained. All I wanted to do at that point was sleep.


This was my favorite scene of the entire Laugh A Little shoot because it contains the strongest imagery. This was the dream sequence in which David's Grandfather visits him from beyond the grave. The two have a talk which leads to the creation of the Dar character. This then leads into a montage of David posing as the Dar in various settings around the house, like in doorways, on the stairs, etc.

The part where David's grandfather appears is shot in color. It reminds me of The Wizard of Oz, so I always call it the ‘Oz scene’. We all gathered for the shoot around six in the evening. Jeremy came to the shoot even though he wasn't in the scene (I guess Darren finally decided to invite him). We assigned Jeremy as boom mike operator. I showed him all the equipment and how it worked.

It was nice to have an extra hand in helping with all of the equipment. Maggie was also at the shoot even though she had no part in it. She, Becky, and Darren sat around talking while the rest of us worked. After about ten minutes everything was set up and ready to go. The scene was going rather smoothly. Darren was his usual tense fucking self. Jeremy, though, was consistently fucking with him, which kept us in good spirits

JEREMY: This might have something to do with why Dar never invited me to the set. I ruined one of the takes where Dar, as David, is talking to his grandfather. As the boom mike operator it was my job to position the mike over Dar’s head just out of camera shot. At one point Dar says his line and, thinking he had finished, I placed the mike in his open mouth as a joke. You know, kind of like “Oh, oral fixation, huh?” I thought this would garner some laughs from the crew. Imagine my surprise when everyone glared at me instead.

JESSE: Darren announced that he was ordering pizza for everyone. He then took me aside and asked if he could borrow twenty bucks since he only had ten on him. I handed him the twenty and told him what pizzas I wanted since I was paying (I knew I would never see that money again). After he ordered them he said he was going to pick up Joe at Marsh. I was pleasantly surprised since this meant our entire group would be there.  

Joe arrived at 9:30. By that point we'd finished our portions of the pizza and the only one left was a vegetable/pineapple hybrid Darren had ordered. Whether Joe liked vegetable/pineapple or not he ate every slice left in the box without blinking an eye (Joe is the king of bottom feeders. He will eat anything given to him. We still debate whether or not he’d eat a shit sandwich if someone offered it to him for free). He then turned on the X-Files and settled in.

I sat a few minutes and watched it with him. There was nary a word exchanged between us the whole time. I quickly grew bored and went back to work. Joe followed and asked to see the camera.  Oh, so now that you're interested in something, you're Mr. Chatterbox, I thought. Actually, all he said was "Can I see the camera?" and not a whole hell of a lot more. Jeremy appeared from nowhere (guy's a fucking ninja) and listened along with Joe as I showed them the camera and how it worked. I found out later that Darren promised them a chance to use it on Blood Pudding. I then had to get back to finishing the rest of the shoot. Joe returned to his X-Files and Jeremy helped us set up lights in the hallway. We finished the shoot an hour later.

JOE: I was allowed to come to a shoot! I don't remember why. I just knew Darren was gonna pick me up after work so I could watch the shoot. This would also be the first time I met Dave Patrick. I would not see Dave again until after I returned from Florida. Darren told me they were shooting with the fancy camera from CIRT. He also said he’d let me use it to shoot Blood Pudding.

First thing's first...there was pizza! And it was free! I hadn't eaten for a while, so I indulged (JEREMY: For Joe, an hour is usually considered "a while"). I sat in the other room where the X-Files was playing. Jesse followed me in and stared at the TV, commenting that the X-Files was a good show. Having said that, he left the room. What an odd fucker, I thought as I finished my pizza. Keep in mind that I still hadn't had the chance to talk to Jesse all that much.

After finishing my pizza I went to see what was going on. Shooting hadn't started yet so I asked if I could see the camera. Darren pointed me Jesse's way. Jesse showed it to me. I thanked him and then grabbed a spot in the room to watch the rest of the shoot.

JEREMY: I remember how excited I was that the entire group was assembled for the shoot. I have always felt that when we are together with our interests aimed at a singular goal there isn't a force on earth that can stand in our way. Being there that night with Joe, Dar, and Jesse I felt like I was on top of the world. We were young, had our entire lives ahead of us, and, most importantly, we were making a movie, the singular thing I had come to base my life around. Actually, we were making two movies,wo movies, since we were shooting Blood Pudding at the same time as Laugh A Little.

In fact, Dar had created a snazzy opening credit sequence for Joe's movie, which I believe was one of the reasons Joe and I were there (the other being to check out the fancy CIRT digital camera, of course). The sequence had blood trickling down one side of the screen while red credits played over a black screen. It was a cheesy effect by today’s standards, but on our budget this was really high class stuff. Ultimately, that footage was lost (I have no idea how) and we had to go with a more simplistic opening credit sequence.
Oh well.


JESSE: I sat around on Darren's porch waiting for my Father to pick me up. Dave waited with me since my Dad said he would take him home too. Dave was telling me about how his Father was making fun of us. I wanted to know what he meant by this. Dave explained how his Dad thought all actors were gay. I was relieved because I wasn't acting at this point. I told Dave his Dad was a nut. Dave laughed and said "Yeah, that's what my Mom says" (by the way, I've always thought Dave's Mom was hot, especially after I saw her in a bikini).

JEREMY: Cough! Pervert! Cough!—Oh, and I’d like to see Dave’s dad make that gay crack about Lee Marvin or Charles Bronson.

JESSE: Dave and I just shot the breeze and enjoyed these few minutes of no tension on the Laugh A Little set. Jeremy and Joe walked by us and said their goodbyes and headed for their humble homes on foot. I will always remember this as a great shoot. Everyone was together for the first time and, most amazing of all, there was no arguing on the set.


As I said before, the character of the Dar was inspired by Charlie Chaplin. Yet, if you were to see him you would naturally assume he was a mime, due to the white make-up and black triangles under his eyes. His outfit consisted of a white dress shirt with a vest and suit jacket. He wore a pair of baggy pants and a small top hat on his head. He looked just like a mime filtered through Charlie Chaplin. 

The Grandfather, as Jeremy already pointed out, was a knock off of Emmett Kelly. The wardrobe consisted of a grungy looking suit while the make-up was a simple white outline around the lips and black smeared around his jaw-line to look like a five o'clock shadow.

I remember Dar mussed up his hair to match the look of Emmett. Becky, when applying the make-up to Darren's face, would comment on his pimples. The pimples were hard to cover with the white make-up. Darren was scared of STD's and was constantly asking his friends if they thought he had a disease. He asked this question only less frequently than if we thought he was fat.

JEREMY: Every time Dar saw a mirror he would whip up his shirt, look at his stomach and inquire if we thought he was fat. This became so repetitive that after a while we would just shout "Yes, you're a fucking whale! Get over it!”

JESSE: I got fed up with hearing him constantly ask this question so I walked over and told Becky those weren't pimples, they were warts. "He's been playing in some nasty areas." Darren went into a minor panic. He actually believed he had herpes for the next three weeks. I finally thought "Wow, this is more sad than funny" and at last told him he didn't have herpes; that I was just fucking with him. He then thought I was just being nice and trying to spare his feelings. Three years later someone finally explained to him how herpes worked. That person was not me.


We decided to use CIRT for our last week of shooting since we needed a place large enough to pass for the location of the talent contest. Darren got permission from Scott to shoot there. Scott said he would lend a helping hand any way he could. So we brought back their field equipment and set up shop in studio one.

DAR: I was glad we were able to use CIRT for the finale. When you shoot outside in the environment you don’t have as much control as you do on a sound stage. We had everything we needed there. We had someone up in the director’s booth at all times. We had unlimited sound, we could control the lighting. It’s harder when you shoot out in the field, because it takes more work. You’re trying to find a power source; you’re trying to deal with ambient sound. I thought CIRT would be a better place to film a scene like the talent show. It looks drab now that I look back on it. I should’ve dressed the set up more, but we did the best we could with what we had.

With all that was going on we just didn’t have enough time to do everything we wanted to do. And everything was made up as we went. I think I strayed away from the script a lot. We shot scenes the best we could. But spring break was moving faster than we anticipated and we just couldn’t get everything that we wanted filmed.

JESSE: The days would basically go like this: I would wake up at six a.m. and walk to CIRT on Fletcher Ave. This was about a mile walk for me. I would get there at seven a.m. and set up the lights and cameras. Dar would arrive with everyone else around eight. David would not join us for these shoots. CIRT was too far away and Darren wouldn't bring him. Jeremy showed up for two or three days of the shoot. Joe showed up for one. This would be the most tension filled week of the entire project.  

The first day at CIRT was a reshoot of the confrontation in the hallway between Skip and David. I finished the set up early and, to kill time, popped in a tape of Beezelbubba by The Dead Milkmen in the radio room. Jeremy entered a moment later with a tape. He said he found a song for a script I was writing called Life Insurance, which was, as I always described it, about gangsters in Riverdale. He played it for me and it was a kick ass song ("Mob Rules" by Black Sabbath). We talked about the Life Insurance script and I told him about a character he could play called Ace, the mute albino hitman. A minute late Darren busted in and wanted Jeremy to get ready. Jeremy left the room to do just that.

Darren and I then went over the scene’s set up. The hallway led to studio one. I had pulled one of the huge studio cameras out into it as far as I could. I then turned off the hallway lights and set up a light in every doorway and opening. I had also craned the camera up so it was at its top position. I explained to Darren that he would stand at the closest position to the camera without blocking it. We wouldn't see him because the camera was up high. Jeremy would enter the hallway at the other end. As he approached the camera would slowly descend like a crane shot until we saw Darren in the foreground, pacing back and forth.

I would operate the camera while Becky monitored the shot in the control room. Jeremy returned, dressed in wardrobe and in full make-up. I waited for Darren to explain the scene to him. Ten minutes passed and Darren hadn't spoken a word to Jeremy so I ended up doing it myself. He was pleased with the idea and said it was a cool introductory shot for his character. I put down his marks and we started to shoot.

Things went bad right from the first take. Darren called cut and asked Jeremy to do it again. He said the dialogue wasn’t spoken right. He didn't say this in a nice manner at all. Jeremy picked up the negative vibe from Darren right off. After each take Darren’s verbal abuse grew worse and worse. He seemed to be berating Jeremy for no other reason than he could. This pissed Jeremy off considerably. 

The scene was supposed to wrap by noon, but by 3:00 p.m. it still wasn’t finished and I had to leave for work. I told Darren where all the equipment went when they were done, gathered up my things and left CIRT. About five minutes out I remembered that I had forgotten something and returned to the building. I entered the hallway in time to see Jeremy ramming his fist into the wall. Darren was screaming something at him. I have no clue what this was about. Maybe Jeremy will enlighten us.

JEREMY: By this point Dar's hostility towards me had reached its zenith. He was extremely tense on the set, feeling as if utter doom was lurking around the corner, ready to pounce on him. He was so nervous that he was making everybody else nervous. I believe his way of dealing with this problem was to take it out on the cast and crew; or, for a better scapegoat, yours truly.

We did the first take of me in the hallway. Dar yelled cut and told me my performance sucked. I let it slide and did the take again, and again he berated me. By this point I was really pissed off and tense and it was totally screwing with my performance.

Finally, after the third take Dar shouts at me "That sucked! Do it again and do it right!"  That was it for me. I punched the wall and retorted with a "Fuck you! How am I supposed to do it right with you yelling at me?" He then looked at the wall and at me and said, "Don't you EVER do that again!" I'm not quite sure what happened after that, which is probably for the best.

JESSE: None of this footage was used for the movie. It was nothing more than a lot of unnecessary tension.


I called Darren later that night on my lunch break to find out what happened. He basically said that after the wall punching incident the shoot was over. They just returned everything where it went and headed home. He said that it was a total waste of time. This was bad news because if we didn't finish shooting by the end of the week we wouldn't finish, period. I never found out the reason behind the outburst.

JEREMY: Well, now you know, bucko.


JESSE: Now, I know what you're thinking, "Man, that guy is fucking tense" (and if you're not that's your own problem). What was behind all this tension? I can't really answer this question to the fullest, but let me try a little psychiatry. Laugh A Little was Darren's first time staring in as well as directing a film. He had acted many years in plays and other productions, yet he had never directed before. This could be the reason behind all the high anxiety. He had a need to do everything to the best of his ability and it was killing him when things didn’t go the way he envisioned them.

Yet, I feel the main reason for all this tension stems from the painful relationship on which the movie is based.  Darren’s doomed relationship with the real Jennifer kind of broke his heart. Here he was trying to capture some of that on screen. Does it excuse how he treated people on set? Fuck no it doesn't. He just didn't know what to do with that pent up anger.


The scene scheduled to be shot this day should have been a simple one. It featured David and Jennifer sitting in a movie theater on their first date. They have an extended conversation about life while they wait for the movie to start. I was finishing up the final pieces of setup when everyone arrived. The usual people were there: Maggie, Becky, and Darren. Surprisingly enough, Joe Devine also walked into the studio. I exchanged helloes with everyone then went over the scene’s set up with Darren. He looked happy and everyone got into gear.

While the actors changed clothes I showed Joe the studio and its equipment. A half hour later everyone was ready to go. The actors got in there places and Joe and I sat next to a TV monitor, which showed what we were taping. The scene was horrible and the acting was the number one problem. Darren also kept dropping his bowl of popcorn, which were actually shreds of Styrofoam. After each take he would ask Joe what he didn't like about the shot.

Joe said he didn’t like the way the shot was set up. I told him it wasn't going to change. He then said the acting was bad. So we kept reshooting the scene over and over again. Joe and I lost total interest in the shoot. We both gave suggestions on how to improve it but were repeatedly shot down by Darren. So we both started to goof around. At one point I grabbed a pencil and was pretending to throw it. Well, at one point I actually threw it and it landed right in the popcorn bowl. Darren became super pissed and kicked Joe and I off the set. He said we were nothing more than a distraction. So Joe and I, feeling we had no business being there if Darren wasn't going to accept our help, happily left the set.

We walked over to one of the editing suites where I pulled out a copy of No Cure for Cancer and popped it in. We both sat there laughing our asses off. When it was over we still saw no sign of Darren so we started to talk about movies and The Simpsons. After a while Darren came out and said the scene was finished and we were done for the day. He was tired and needed to rest. He also said that he was pissed at the both of us. We just laughed and went back to our conversation.

JOE: This was a fun shoot, even if I did get kicked off the set. It's the only shoot that I was there for the entire time of filming. This was also a chance to get to know Jesse better. It's true that Darren needed popcorn for this scene but didn't bring any. He was supposed to sit down next to Maggie and offer her popcorn. To double as popcorn we tore up some Styrofoam cups. A lot of the time Darren would tilt the bowl toward the camera so we all could see the fake popcorn inside. The shot was fine. I just thought it needed to be tighter since they were supposed to be in a crowded theater.

After each take Darren would look to me and Jesse for thoughts on the scene. We were being so truthful that Darren and Becky could not take it. Jesse throwing things at them was the last straw and so we were kicked off the set. Also on this day Jesse transferred some of the Blood Pudding footage to another tape so Darren could edit it at CIRT. We ended up shooting Blood Pudding on a consumer quality camcorder. I don't remember if it was finished yet or not (JEREMY: It wasn't).


JESSE: Darren read us the riot act all the way home. I really wasn't listening so I have no clue what he said. I was wondering how we were going to set up the next day's shoot since that was the scene I was supposed to do a cameo in and I was a bit nervous about it. We were also going to shoot the video store scene without a video store. So my brain wrangled around how we would accomplish this.


I will say that through this whole shoot something strange was going on. Darren and Joe had formed their own production company called DIP. Jeremy was then added to the group with me coming in last (Dave was never a member of DIP since Darren didn't want him in the group). Yet the entire time we shot Laugh A Little I saw Joe twice and the first time all he did was eat pizza and watch X-Files. Jeremy, who seemed excited to be working on a movie, was there for his scenes and made it for a couple of others but that was basically it.

I always got the feeling that when they were there Darren didn't want them there. I can't explain why, but it seemed that way. I always thought this was weird considering they were his production company. I mean, how did I get the job as director of photography when Joe was equally experienced in that area? How did Becky become assistant director instead of Jeremy (it had to be more than just sleeping with Darren)? I think those two would know better than me.

JOE: I really don't know what was going on. I remember in the beginning Darren told me I'd play Skip Wes, then, later, he said I wouldn’t. That didn't bother me. I don't really like acting anyway. Darren and I had shot a few things before and did three live comedy shows together. So...I don't know. Not helping out on Laugh A Little as much as I would have liked did give me time to concentrate on Blood Pudding, which was a good thing.

JEREMY: Ditto on the Blood Pudding part.


JESSE: We shot two scenes this day. Scene one was before the confrontation between Skip and David. David, nervous about the talent show, is puking his guts out. He comes out of the men's room and runs into a security guard. The security guard (played by me) tells him that he smells like puke. End of first scene. The second scene was David meeting Jenny in the video store. End of second scene.

I came in early like I always did to make sure everything was set up by the time everyone arrived. I had figured out how to shoot the video store sequence and was setting up the scene I would appear in when everyone arrived. Sadly, it was all the normal crew again.

Becky sat me down and started applying the make up for my scene. Darren walked by periodically to see what was going on. This was the first time I’d ever had make-up applied. I found it was cold on your face at first and became comfortable after a while. Darren started to make jokes that now I knew how he felt. Yeah, it wasn't all that bad; a nice set of tits to look at and a girl on your lap. I had no problem with this whatsoever. Actors had it easy as far as I was concerned.

We then shot my scene, which took us around two hours to do. This was due to the fact that Becky was on camera. Darren played his role to perfection and me…well, I overacted the fuck out of it. I played the guard like he was the biggest piece of white trash in the world. It was fun and it seemed to go by quickly enough while I was acting. After that, it was time for me to get back into my regular role as cameraman.

JEREMY: I got to sit in the control room for this scene, watching the monitor and telling Becky via the microphone where to move the camera. It was one of my favorite moments on the Laugh A Little shoot.

JESSE: Now it was time to shoot the video store scene. I brought in a cart that was used to transport tapes and put it in front of a blank wall. It looked like one used in video stores so I figured it’d do the job. I then grabbed a movie poster I brought from home and hung it on the wall. We now had our homemade video store. I set up the camera and went to the control room where I watched as the two gave their performances. We shot it for about two hours before calling it quits. I changed for work and left them to clean up the mess.

I was quite pleased at how close we were to finishing the shoot. We had two days left and we'd be home free. There was the final scene, which was all dialogue and the talent show scene, which had no dialogue whatsoever. That was going to be a bit more trouble since it involved a lot of running around. The talent show was scheduled for the next day. We would just have to get all of our ducks in a row before shooting.


I learned a lot about Maggie Mallory on this day. She and I were sitting in CIRT's classroom, eating a couple of foot long Coney dogs. She told me that every dress she wore on set she had made herself specifically for the movie. I couldn't believe this since every dress looked professionally made. I told her that she had quite a talent there. She looked at me sadly and said, "I'm not an actress."

Knowing she wanted the truth I agreed with her. She told me it was something she always wanted to try. She was always told she was good and now knew this was just placating. I felt bad that I was the first person to smack her with the truth. We talked for quite a while. She revealed herself to be an intelligent, sweet, and beautiful person. Even though she was lousy in the movie I am glad I got to meet her and thought it was worth suffering through her performance for that honor.

JEREMY: Kind of a backhanded compliment there, Jesse, but quite moving nonetheless.


JESSE: The talent show scene went like this: The Dar sits on a bench with his girl Jennifer. Skip Wes comes by and tries hitting on her. This erupts into a fight with the two chasing each other around. Finally, The Dar gets the upper hand and knocks out Skip. This scene is highly implausible, so I always figured it as a metaphor scene. I mean how did David get his worst enemy to help him perform in the talent show? 

For the talent show I decided to utilize all three cameras in the studio. I set up each camera and locked them into place. This meant I would have to sit in the control room and cut between the cameras. After I finished with the lights and cameras I grabbed three tapes to use. These being 1/2 inch tapes they were quite cumbersome. I loaded one up in the broadcast room and then showed Becky how the cameras were set up. I told her I'd be in the control room cutting between the cameras and that she didn't need to touch anything. She gave the affirmative and we got to work.

There are two things I will always remember about this shoot. The first being Becky screaming at the cast. When we first started shooting, the actors did their thing, running around and acting like goofballs. Since the scene was supposed to be silent we had no audio running. So Becky started screaming instructions at them; telling them to run faster, to go here, to go there, and so on. This just confused the actor's and did not help them in any way. She continued to scream through the entire scene.

The second thing is this: At one point while Darren and Jeremy are chasing each other around they stop, put up their dukes and start swinging and missing each other. They went through this quite a number of times. The scene was going fine until one of Jeremy’s punches laid Darren on the floor. When this happened I saw Jeremy on the screen waving his hands around. Then I saw him laughing, so I figured everything was all right. I then heard Becky screaming, "You knocked him out! Somebody get some water!"

I started laughing too at this point. Jeremy entered the control room and asked if I saw what happened. My own laughter answered his question. Jeremy pointed at his pinky and told me that was all he hit Darren with. Jeremy had knocked Darren out with his pinky. On the screen I saw Darren finally get up, looking woozy. Jeremy ran out of the room to check on him. Needless to say, this led to our first break of the day.

DAR: You know what? Jeremy knocked me out and it was deliberate. I still owe him a good knockout. I’ll wait until his back is turned.

JEREMY: The fight scene between Dar and I was the best part of the shoot for me. I had a good time running around the set and coming up with vaudeville type antics like tripping each other with canes, prop falling and so on. Since we didn't choreograph anything we were forced to improvise, which meant we did take after take of chasing each other around, trading blows, tripping, falling and stealing kisses from Jennifer who watched on like Olive Oil in the old Popeye cartoons.

After a while we began to wear down. Neither of us had eaten that day and we had been at it for hours working up a sweat in the hot studio lights. Dar decided to do one more take before stopping for lunch. We went through the scene same as the others but when it came time to duke it out I noticed Dar was a little off his game, sweating and breathing heavily. He threw a punch, which I dodged. I then threw a punch, which Dar was only partially able to dodge due to being so worn out from all the running around.

The knuckle of my pinkie grazed his temple and he went stiff with this blank look on his face before collapsing to the floor like a marionette that's had its strings cut. I stared at him in shocked silence for a moment, part of me wondering if he was feigning being unconsciousness as part of the scene. But after a few seconds ticked by and he was still laying spread eagle on the floor I realized that I had accidentally knocked him out. I was positive everybody was going to turn on me, yelling and accusing me of being a big mindless brute who had injured their star/director, so I did the one thing I felt was appropriate at the time: I laughed.

Jesse's voice sounded over the intercom, asking what had happened. Becky yelled frantically that I had knocked out Dar. There was a brief silence followed by Jesse's laughter filling the room.

I babbled something about not meaning to hurt him. I was convinced that Dar would have to go to the hospital and be treated for a mild concussion, which I would have to pay for out of my own pocket. I felt uncomfortable with all of those accusing eyes on me so I went and talked to Jesse in the control room until Dar came around and groggily got to his feet. I hurried over to him and asked if he was all right and he said "Yeah, what happened?" I told him and he just shrugged it off and called for lunch. I later asked Jesse if he had recorded the incident and, sadly, he told me the tape had run out seconds before the incident took place.

JESSE: Once finished we sat down with the three tapes and watched the footage. Scott was switching tapes for us through the entire scene. Unfortunately, he didn’t change them at one point and we missed the punch. Since we were able to dissolve from camera to camera, creating one continuous shot from different angles, we already had the scene cut together. All we had to do now was put it in the movie.


All we could talk about on the way home was Darren's glass jaw. It was cracking us up that he went down so fast and easy. Darren did his best to defend himself, but in the end he just couldn't do it. Some people on the set felt Jeremy punched Darren on purpose (can you guess why?). I, on the other hand, knew that if Jeremy had put everything he had into hitting Darren he would have broken his jaw. So, again, I go with what Jeremy says.

JEREMY: I was so physically and emotionally drained on this last day of filming that I literally fell out of the car when Dar dropped me off. I managed to get to my feet, say my goodbyes, and hobble up the walkway to my house. I was only on the CIRT set for three days, but it seemed like years. What I remember most about it when I look back is the constant battle of wills with Dar.  But that’s what happens when artists work together on a project.  Sparks are going to fly.


JESSE: During this time CIRT's employees kept coming up to me with this seriously pissy attitude. I was totally blindsided by this. I did not know what they could be pissed about. Well, I found out that on the days I left early Darren didn't return everything to where it went. I also found out that we were leaving messes around and not cleaning them up. I don't remember anyone ever making a mess. I think that was a bullshit complaint, but the other was true. I found this out from Darren himself. He said they were too tired when the shoot was over to clean up. I could have beat him. CIRT allowed us to finish our last day as long as I promised to return everything where it went. I gave them my word and I kept it.


The last scene we shot for the movie also happened to be the last scene in the screenplay. It goes like this: After winning the talent show David sits in the dressing room, reveling in his victory. Jenny comes in and dumps him right there on the spot. He is heartbroken, but two seconds later a gal named Hope Dawn comes into the room. David asks her out, she agrees, and he is happy again. Fade Out. The fucking end.

I set up a shot that would be a close-up of Darren and move back to show the two girls. I showed Darren the close-up and what it would look like. He loved it so much he said he wanted the entire last shot to be this close up. I asked about the girls and he said that wasn't important. I was almost crushed by the size of his gargantuan ego. I told the girls what was going on. They didn't care as long as the movie came to an end. So we went with it. We shot the scene, which took an hour to do.

DAR: I know the close up of me at the end there bugged a lot of my friends. They thought it was narcissistic, but they’re as narcissistic as I am, so whatever. When my character starts crying in the final scene after Jennifer dumps him I think it makes them a little jittery and antsy.

They also like to comment on how quickly David bounces back after he’s dumped. That’s teenagers, you know? Teenagers go through that kind of thing. They’re so back and forth. They rebound easy because they’re not really sure what love is – what true love is. It’s not just about sex. There’s more to it than that. There’s friendship. So that’s probably why it was so easy for that character to rebound to someone else, because it was just a reflection of my own relationship with Ginny Keefe at the time.

JESSE: I can’t believe you just justified that shit.


We were all so happy to be finished with the shoot. On the ride home we started sharing stories about our experiences as if it’d happened years ago. We all went to our respective houses and enjoyed a good night's sleep. I knew a bigger job lay ahead of us: post production and that most dreaded of beasts, editing.


Getting the movie in the can was the most tension-filled part of making Laugh A Little. Darren was a ticking time bomb the entire time. The most trivial of things would piss him off and the things that should have bothered him didn't. It was like he became a different person during production. He was angry all the time and for some strange reason he isolated himself from his two best friends, Joe and Jeremy. I still love him though. The film came out okay even though he left a considerable portion of it on the editing room floor. Though I must say it is impressive that he was able to cut out a major part of the story and still get his point across.

The actors did what they were supposed to do. I would say they were great but Jeremy was the only great one of the bunch. His performance was beaten down by Darren though. When Jeremy would start to take his acting to an interesting place Darren would berate him.

Maggie was sweet and she remembered her lines. She never missed a line. She couldn't deliver them worth a crap but she remembered them. Darren was playing himself; he really couldn't fuck that up. I still think it was a great time in my life. I was shooting a movie, meeting new friends, and learning a lot about my chosen profession. I was quite happy with the freedom I was given. I want to thank Darren for giving me that chance. I'd also like to thank everyone else involved in the production.

Next: Laugh A Little, Act Three: Editing and Aftermath.


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