Sunday, May 27, 2012



JEREMY: Okay, by this point both Dar and Joe had completed their own short films; we were in the newspaper; we had our premier in which their films received much praise and Dar and Joe were hailed as talented up and coming filmmakers. Florida was just over the horizon and I found myself facing a terrible dilemma: I had yet to shoot my own short feature.  This was something I yearned to do as I didn’t want to be considered just the ‘actor’ in the group.  I had as much vision as Joe, Dar and Jesse, and I was determined to prove it.

I talked with Joe the day after the premier about showcasing my own directorial talents. Joe agreed but said it would have to be something quick since we would be leaving for Florida next month. This didn’t bother me as I was confident I could finish principal photography within a week’s time. Editing might be a tad trickier but not impossible. Joe asked me what I had in mind to shoot. Being the big old west freak that I was at the time I told him I wanted to do a western about a group of gunfighters battling over two halves of a stolen treasure map. It would be based loosely on a novel I had penned not too long before called The Devil's Bounty.

I figured the movie would have me, Dar, Joe, Jesse, and as many other people as we could recruit chasing each other around the wooded areas and railroad tracks behind my grandmother's house. The house itself would serve as headquarters while shooting and we could have the end shootout, which I planned to be this big O.K. Corral style standoff twixt the main gunfighters, in a gravel lot behind the house. Joe was all for it and said he would talk to Dar about helping out.

The relationship between Dar and I had improved since Laugh A Little but we still weren't on the best of terms. I was clueless at the time as to why and when I would ask Joe about it all he would tell me was that I needed to sit down with Dar and "Talk about it."
Now, when it comes to discussing personal problems I've never been the type who can sit down with a cup of tea and have a little tête-à-tête with another human being ("I say, old bean, I feel you have been shunning me for no apparent reason of late." "I do apologize for that, old man, but you must understand that I feel threatened by your relationship with my closest friend." "Oh my, I did not realize, I am ever so embarrassed. More tea?" "Yes, please, and these cookies are heavenly.").

I used to abhor confrontations. A bare-knuckled brawl I had no problem with, but whenever I had to deal from a purely emotional standpoint I would simply freeze up. I've improved a lot since then, but at the time I preferred to leave the lid on the pressure cooker of our relationship, allowing Joe to handle whatever negotiations needed handling between us.

JOE: I don’t remember exactly what it was about Jeremy that had Darren so irritated. I didn’t want to go back and forth between the two playing the ‘Jeremy said this and Darren said that’ game. So I told each of them on separate occasions that they needed to sit down and talk out whatever it was that had them on edge around each other.

The funny thing is that Dar agreed to join my project as one of the lead actors, but Jesse, whom I expected to have no difficulty with, said he was going to Disney World with his family on the week we planned to shoot and couldn't make it. I was disappointed, not only at the loss of one of our group's more talented actors, but also because I had planned to use Jesse's camcorder.

Well, Jesse, being the swell guy that he is, said he would lend us the camera while he was away. Joe and I walked down to his house, which was an hour's walk both there and back, and Jesse hurriedly snuck the camera out to us, explaining that it was his father's and he wouldn't approve of a couple of strange kids he didn't know using it.

You can't fault the guy for that, especially as expensive as cameras were back then, so I assured Jesse that we would handle it like a newborn babe and Joe and I quickly took off before his old man grew wise to what we were up to.

On the one hand, it was great that Jesse let us borrow the camera, but on the other it sucked that he was in such a hurry to hand it over before his father found out that he forgot to give us a battery charger or plug for which to hook it up and let it charge. Of course, me being the Neanderthal that I was, I knew nothing about cameras and thus did not realize this error until it came time to do the first shoot (though, now that I think about it, it's kind of weird Joe didn't catch this important detail right away, he being much more knowledgeable than I in the field of technology).
And when I say "first shoot" let me make it clear that this wasn't like Laugh A Little where we had a nice studio at CIRT and access to their equipment; this was me, Dar and John Mattingly (fresh from his role as the disgruntled homeowner in Blood Pudding) standing in a clump of woods with no lighting or reflectors for controlling the light, and me with a camcorder that was quickly running low on battery power with no means of recharging it.

JESSE: The camera thing was totally my fault. I had forgotten to charge it the night before. I passed out after a long night of work. I did get into a shitload of trouble though. My Father found out I let the boys borrow it. He wasn't pissed because I loaned it out, he was pissed I didn't tell him. He gave me a whack on the head and said, "Just tell me next time, knucklenob." I've always loved that phrase. Thanks Pop.

I would love to have been in the movie but the timing was bad. We had been planning the Disney World trip for quite a while; so far back that I was able to save up enough money to pay for my entire trip myself. But I was excited about being in the movie and made mention of shooting my stuff when I came back. This didn't work out either as everyone else had plans the following week. Jeremy had to go with the two birds in the hand and forget about the one in the bush (Boy, that didn't come out right). I was disappointed for the poor guy, especially after hearing about his plans for a big shootout at the end.

The role he had for me would've been right up my alley, that of the smart-ass asshole. Yet it was not to be. Disney World wasn't cheap and I didn't want to piss that money away. Sadly, I bought a cowboy hat while down there, secretly hoping Jeremy and I would shoot some scenes with me in it to help fill out his movie. In the end, though, there just wasn't enough time.

JEREMY: Joe and Dar had wanted to shoot my project as soon and as fast as possible. Because of this time limit I decided to just write out the movie's plot points and allow the actors to come up with their own dialogue on the spot. The risk of crappy performances all around were high, but we were all pretty fair at adlibbing; we had done it on several occasions during Joe and Dar's movie, so I wasn't too concerned.
Besides, my main goal at the time was to showcase my visual style. I had no illusions that the story would be weak and the acting wooden. That's what you get when you make a movie with no script or professional actors, but I figured the one saving grace would be the great camera angles I had developed in my mind from hours of watching the likes of Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch), Toino Vale (My Name is Nobody), and John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven), to name but a few.

I was happy to get John Mattingly for the shoot even though he couldn't act. I only had him for one day but that was all right, I would simply have Dar's character kill his character at the beginning of the film to show what a bad ass Dar was.

DAR: At first I thought Jeremy was trying to do Wastelands because he was jealous of the movies we were doing and he wanted to have his movie out there too. I had a great time doing it. I thought it would be fun. I always had fun doing movies with the guys so doing another one was icing on the cake. I enjoyed getting on the railroad tracks and pretending, and dressing up as weird characters. And being with the group, my best friends, was great.

Dar and John showed up at my place late in the day due to prior obligations and just ahead of a storm brewing on the horizon. John was decked out in this cool black leather cowboy attire with snakeskin boots and a snakeskin band around his Stetson hat. He looked fantastic and I almost felt bad that Dar had to kill his character off so soon, especially since Dar was dressed less than spectacularly in blue jeans and a white dress shirt.

I was horrified by this. I mean, I knew our budget was next to nil and therefore I had to rely on my actors to assemble their own wardrobe, but I wanted each character to visually stand out in some way; jeans and a white dress shirt just wasn't going to cut it. Since time was of the essence I told Dar that we'd start with him as he was and have his character change his costume at some point later in the film.

I asked John if Dar might be able to pry off his snakeskin boots after he killed him (my thinking being that maybe Dar's character could steal a bit of clothing from each person he kills and assemble his costume that way), but John explained that the boots were expensive and he didn't want to part with them. We were losing light at this point and the thunderheads were drawing nearer by the minute, so I decided to just go with what we had and ushered the two out into the woods. Once there Dar asked me what I wanted to shoot first and I stopped dead in my tracks, suddenly realizing that I didn't have the first clue.

I had it in my mind that Dar and John would argue over a piece of the treasure map and get into a scuffle, which culminates with Dar shooting John in the head, killing him. He takes the piece of the map and heads off. Now, having all of this in my head is one thing, but without a written script, shot sheets or storyboards to go with I found myself at a loss. I saw Dar watching me impatiently and thought, Dammit, I'm blowing it! I nagged him and Joe to let me shoot my own movie and here I am blowing it!

I couldn't let them see that I didn't know what I was doing, so I collected myself and said I would start with Dar washing his face at a nearby stream with his gun on the ground beside him. Since the sun was setting we would get this tranquil golden reflection off the water's surface. I would then have John walk up slowly behind Dar, beginning with a tight shot of those cool snakeskin boots and pan up his body, pausing at his face as he raises his pistol, thumbs back the hammer, and tells Dar to get up slowly.

We would then cut to a close up of Dar's face in the foreground with John standing over his shoulder in the background. Dar would make a snide remark as he begins to rise, but then he would roll to one side at the last second, grab his own pistol as he went, and the shootout would commence.

I did a take of the golden shimmering water, which is disrupted as Dar thrusts his hands into it and then followed his cupped hands as they rise and splash water onto his face. I liked it and called for another take just to cover my ass. I called action and right on cue it started to sprinkle. I said to hell with it and told the actors to keep going. There was a boom of thunder and Dar said he didn't want to be near the stream with it raining. I called him a pussy and kept filming. Then the low battery light flashed on the camera and my gut twisted itself into a pretzel.

Dar asked what was wrong and I told him. He said we might as well call it a day but I was determined to get as much footage as I could because I wouldn't have John again after this. I decided to get all of John's scenes first and intercut them with Dar at a later date; I mean, what the hell, maybe I could find a better costume for Dar by that point. I got John into place, called action...and the camera died on me.

I had no choice but to call it a wrap. John headed home and I never saw him again. Dar gave his condolences to me on a shitty first shoot and left me on the front porch of my grandmother's house, wondering how I was going to find another camera in time to shoot my movie.

Joe called a couple of days later and said he knew a guy who would lend us a top of the line camcorder if we would let him be in the movie. I said no problem, delighting in the fact that I would not only have a camera in which to shoot my movie but another actor to replace John Mattingly. Joe said the guy's name was Joe Woodruff and that the only catch was that he couldn't be in the movie more than one day. I asked if we would be able to keep the camcorder until the end of the shoot and Joe said no. The camera belonged to Woodruff's dad, and he would take it with him when he left.

"One day?" I exclaimed. "You got six months to work on your movie, and Dar got three or four to work on his, and I only get one lousy day?"

Joe sympathized but explained that we didn't have a month left, let alone six, and this was most likely the only opportunity I would have to do my project, so I had best take it while the taking was good. I let out a long sigh and agreed.

JOE: I don’t remember exactly why Woodruff would only lend us the camera for one day. It may have had something to do with his father. I think his dad would only let the camera go for that long. I had borrowed a camera to shoot Blood Pudding. I broke that one once and had it repaired. I couldn’t borrow that one again. It was the best I could do at the time. I told Jeremy about it and asked if he’d want to do that. Understandably, he wasn’t very happy about it.

True, the Blood Pudding shoot was spread out over six months, but that was because we didn’t shoot in the winter. We shot it in the fall and the spring. I wish we could have had the same amount of time to work on Jeremy’s movie, but it just wasn't to be. So we did the best we could with what we had.

JEREMY: I stayed up all night before the shoot preparing the plot outline and shot-sheets. I was determined not to be caught with my pants down like last time. I met Joe up at Marsh around eight. We then came back to my place where we prepared our costumes and went over the scenes we would do first. Since Dar wasn't set to arrive until around we would shoot all of the scenes revolving around Joe and I (and Woodruff, who was set to arrive at nine) first.

I had to alter the script because we didn’t have as many gunfighters as I had originally planned. Oh sure, there were other guys we knew who could've played bit parts but none of them could make it on that particular day, so I had no choice but to pare the story down to revolve around Joe, Dar, Woodruff, and myself.

I still needed a woman for the role of my wife, but I had that covered. One of the cashiers at Marsh had expressed great interest in acting in one of our films and had told me on more than one occasion to call her any time and she'd hop on over. I tried calling her the night before but couldn't get through, so I figured I'd wait a couple of hours before calling her that morning just in case she was still asleep. All she would have to do is come over for maybe an hour, shoot a few scenes, and then she would be free to leave.

Joe called Woodruff a little before nine and gave him directions to my house. I told Joe to remind him to bring a colorful western style costume. But when Woodruff arrived I was disappointed to see his ‘costume’ consisted of a long gray trench coat, a Hawaiian shirt, Homburg hat and loafers. I pointed out that this was supposed to be a western and he looked like a reject from some bad dime store detective novel. He simply shrugged and said that this was the closest thing to a costume he had. I let it go because I had no other choice and proceeded to shoot the first scene of my movie.


The original plot of Wastelands boiled down to this:

Joe and I are partners who come across one half of a map that leads to a buried money box. When Joe discovers that another gunfighter, played by Woodruff, has the other half of the map he shoots me, takes our half of the map, and leaves me for dead, hoping he can enter into a partnership with Woodruff. I am found barely conscious by Dar who agrees to patch up my wound and help me track down Joe and Woodruff in exchange for half of the buried money. Meanwhile, Woodruff rejects Joe's proposition of a partnership and tries to kill him. A fight ensues and Woodruff escapes, wounding Joe in the process. Dar and I track Joe down to a saloon where he is nursing his own wound while contemplating his next move. Since Joe has an idea of where Woodruff might be going I renew my partnership with him and now me, Joe, and Dar are all three in pursuit of Woodruff.

Along the way we stop at my character's home to rest and plan our next course of action. Joe makes moves on my wife, which nearly brings me and him to blows. A brief scene between my wife and I reveals a bit of my past. I was a guerrilla fighter for the confederacy during the civil war and had robbed banks, stage coaches and trains since then in an attempt to get back at the northern squareheads who wouldn't allow the remnants of the shattered Confederacy to lay down their weapons and go on with their lives. My wife represents the human aspect of my character. She is the moral compass that steers me from the path of absolute damnation. Without her my character is lost.

Once we have rested and formed our plans we head out in pursuit of Woodruff. Along the way the three characters continuously bicker and Joe and I get into at least one row. As they pursue Woodruff they discover that he is, in fact, hunting them. It makes sense since he needs their half of the map as much as they need his. There are a few brief encounters and shootouts between Woodruff and the trio. We succeed in getting the map from Woodruff but he escapes with his life intact. Joe, his own private feud with me having reached its peak, betrays us by making off with both halves of the map in the middle of the night.
Now Dar and I as well as Woodruff (independently) are after Joe. I am disturbed to discover Joe's course leads back to my house. When Dar and I get there we find Joe has taken my wife as a bargaining chip and left me a note, stating that if I didn't cease my pursuit he would kill her.

I form a plan with Dar (who could care less about my wife but just wants the money) that hearkens back to my guerrilla days, which involves tracking Joe from a distance and bushwhacking him when his guard is down. The wild card in this is Woodruff, who is hunting us all. The attempted bushwhacking is foiled when Woodruff intervenes and my wife is mortally wounded. With my moral center destroyed I become an instrument of vengeance.

Dar, unable to cope with me any longer, sides with Woodruff, who grudgingly accepts him, at least until they kill off the rest of us. Joe finds the money box and while he is in a saloon waiting to catch a train I arrive and call him out. I no longer care about the money; all I want is revenge for my dead wife. Dar and Woodruff show up and the four of us square off in a vacant lot. In the ensuing gunfight Joe, Dar, and Woodruff are killed and I am mortally wounded. I take the money box, which is no good to me now that I'm near death, and toss it away. As I walk off down the railroad tracks I grow smaller and smaller until I'm nothing more than a speck on the horizon. I then pause and drop dead.
Fade out:

The end.

That was the plot as I originally wrote it, but it was way too involving to shoot in one day no matter how hard we worked on it. But I was determined to give it my all nonetheless.


Joe was decked out in a black shirt, a white and black tie, black Stetson hat, black slacks, combat boots, and a long black trench coat I had given him a few months before (if memory serves, it was the same coat I wore in Blood Pudding). Like Woodruff, he wasn't exactly dressed for a western, but, unlike Woodruff, at least he looked cool. Along with his dark eyes and natural acidic nature he was perfect to play the main antagonist of the piece.

I asked him what he wanted his character’s name to be and he promptly said "Boris." I asked for a last name and he told me Boris didn't have one. I liked that as it added a touch of mystery to the character. I threw on my duds, which consisted of a dress shirt, tie, black vest, black slacks, cowboy boots, and a white wicker hat. I dubbed myself "Cole Wilson" (keep in mind that this was years before Lance Henrikson played a character of the same name in Dead Man) and proceeded to shoot the first scene of my movie.

The scene in question takes place a quarter of the way in, after Boris has shot me and left me for dead and Dar has patched me up. Boris is sitting at a bar, nursing a glass of whiskey as he contemplates how to retrieve the other half of the map from Woodruff. I walk in and toss my hat over his drink before he can grab it. After a few tense words we decide to put our differences aside for the time being in order to retrieve the map.

My grandmother had a dining room counter with some stools that we dressed up to look more ‘western-like’ and we shot from an angle to avoid capturing all the knickknacks and decorative plates.

JOE: This was a fun scene to shoot. To hide a phone on the wall we hung a hat on it. It looks funny there.

We thought it would be cool if Boris would quote Poe at various points in the movie. We always seemed to find just the right quote. In this scene, I got to quote Poe, point a gun at Jeremy, and drink weak tea that was posing as whiskey. It was fun and I think it established the mood for the rest of the day. I had a lot of fun shooting Wastelands.

JEREMY: Because we were in such a hurry to get everything done we didn't even bother to rehearse. I gave Joe the rundown on what I wanted, told Woodruff how I wanted the camera positioned, and we shot the scene several times. Unfortunately, Woodruff wasn't a natural with the camera and it shows in the finished work. I would have preferred Jesse, whose cinematography on Laugh A Little had won them their prestige's award of best short feature, but, alas, he was tripping the light fantastic at Disney World.

The next scene was supposed to take place at my character's house, after his wife is introduced and Boris follows Cole into the bedroom to keep an eye on him while the character changes into clean clothes. Boris was supposed to have just witnessed my Achilles heel in the previous scene when he watched me interact with my wife. Hoping it is a weakness that he can exploit he casually remarks, "By the by, your wife's kinda cute. Think she'll go out with me?"

JOE: Boris is one of my favorite characters. He’s a villain. It’s always fun to play a villain. When Cole threatens Boris with death if he hurts his wife, Boris just smiles crookedly at him and tells him to take a number. Everyone wants to kill Boris and that’s the way he likes it.

JEREMY: This scene would change drastically when it came time to call my actress. I cannot remember the young lady's name for the life of me. She answered on the third ring and when I mentioned what was up she expressed her disappointment that she would be unable to shoot that day as she had a previous engagement. I told her it would only take an hour of her time at the most but she persisted that she was simply too busy to make it that day. "But," she assured me, "I can fit you in tomorrow, how about that?" I told her tomorrow would be too late, thanked her all the same, and hung up with a curse.

Great, I thought. We just did half-a-dozen takes of a scene where my wife is the central piece of the conversation and now I have no wife to show for my efforts.

I briefly played with the idea of going back and re-shooting the scene sans any mention of a wife but the clock was ticking and we literally didn't have a second to waste. The next scene, I decided, would be the introduction of both Joe Devine and Joe Woodruff's characters. This is the part where Boris confronts Woodruff and attempts to make him his partner. Things don't go according to plan and in the ensuing gunfight Boris receives a glancing shot across the leg as Woodruff makes a hasty escape.

By this point Dar called and said he was on his way over. We went out front and waited for him. Ten minutes later we spotted him walking up the street with a pretty little strawberry-blonde girl at his side. We all wondered who she was as she didn't look old enough to be one of Dar's girlfriends.

Dar introduced the girl as sixteen-year-old Heather Schuth. He explained that they weren't exactly boyfriend and girlfriend but they were quick on their way to that point. Joe and I called him a cradle-robber (amongst other things). Both of us believed that he was just going to use this shy little gal and then toss her to the curb when something better came along. Well, as of this writing they are happily married with one beautiful daughter and another on her way, so what do we know?

My second thought after introductions were out of the way was that maybe I could talk Heather into playing the part of my character's wife. She was a little too young and I didn't even know if she could act her way out of a wet paper bag (yeah, like anyone else there could) but I was desperate and willing to give anything a shot at this point.

I asked her and she flat out refused, stating that she felt uncomfortable in front of the camera (which is ironic considering that she somehow managed to unintentionally show up in several key scenes of the finished movie that did not call for a young lady with flowing, strawberry-blonde hair). I told her I understood but was determined to get her into the movie regardless, even if I had to pester her throughout the remainder of the day.

JOE: Which he did.
DAR: Heather and I were just hanging out that day. I told her what we were doing and she wanted to come and see my friends. She had a good time. She was just a kid, but we were all kids then. She was sixteen at the time, and at that age you just want to get out and do something with a bunch of boys.


JEREMY: We went ahead and shot the scene between Joe and Woodruff, and it was here that our constant ad-libbing led to a hilarious moment involving Woodruff. Now, some people can adlib and some can't. Joe and Dar were naturals in this department. Woodruff wasn't. Since Woodruff had been unable to come up with a name for himself I dubbed him ‘Frank Dodge’. I don't think he cared much for the name because when Joe calls him "Frank" during their mounting argument Woodruff yells in a cracked, just having reached puberty voice, "Listen pal, I done told you, my name’s not Frank, its Evol...EVOL!"

At first I thought he was saying he was evil because, well, 'Evol' sounds like 'Evil', but, alas, this turned out to be the name Woodruff wanted for his character. This garnered howls of laughter from the rest of us. By this point I knew the short feature was going to be crap with a capital "C" so I decided to relax and just have fun with it, to see how campy we could make it. That's why the "Evol" bit remained in the finished work.

JOE: Woodruff used to call himself EVOL in high school. He signed my yearbook that way. I don’t remember why he started doing that. He wanted to call his character EVOL in the Wastelands movie too; except, when you say EVOL out loud, it sounds just like EVIL. So that really cracked us up.

Shooting the fight with Woodruff was a lot of fun. It was a purely improvised fight scene. We mostly wrestled around on the ground. Woodruff was a skinny little dude but he was strong. This scene ends with Woodruff pushing me away from him and then shooting me in the leg before he makes his escape. It ends with me yelling, “You bastard!” Great fun!

JEREMY: To call this movie a western would be stretching it quite a bit. Joe suggested that it could be like the old Roy Roger's westerns where they have electricity and cars. I decided that it would be best if I didn't stick the movie in any particular timeframe. Maybe it could pass for an alternate reality, or the not too distant future. In short, I would leave it up to the audience’s imaginations.

Now that Dar was here we could shoot his scenes. Last time he had worn blue jeans and a plain white dress shirt. He most likely thought he would never hear the end of it from me because this time around he brought a completely off the wall costume made up of his mother's long brown leather coat, which barely fit him, a yellow button up shirt, corduroy pants that were so tight he couldn't button them, a large brown belt, women's reading glasses, and galoshes.

It looked as if he'd stolen the clothes from a variety of people, so I decided to make his character a scavenger. I asked him what name he wanted and he said "Billy Jack Higgins." The handle seemed to fit, so I agreed.

DAR: I got the idea for Billy Jack Higgins from a live action Dungeons and Dragons game I used to play called Myth. I played a thief in this one particular game and decided to incorporate that character into Higgins. Whenever I was doing a play or one of our little movies one of my favorite things to do was to go to Amvets and try to find pieces of the character little by little. I’d try to find weird pieces of clothing. So when I decided to put together the Higgins character I went to Amvets and found different odd coats, pants, and shirts. It was fun. I guess I was acting like a scavenger picking different things out.

Higgins is like a librarian who went crazy or something.  He was really smart but kind of a weakling. He wanted to prove himself so he kind of became like a Mad Max character.

JEREMY: The opening shot goes right from the title of the movie (the name of which I hadn't come up with yet) to me lying sprawled on the railroad tracks with a bloody hole in my stomach. We then cut to Dar's galoshes as he walks into frame, pan up him, and pause on his face as he lights a cigarette. He approaches me and begins to scavenge through my pockets. Weakly, I plead with him for help. Dar asks why he should help me and I explain the missing map. Dar decides that that is indeed a good reason and helps me to my feet.

There is a comical moment of him trying to steady me and get me walking, but my character, being nearly dead at this point, refuses to cooperate and Dar ends up having to carry me.

This was all improvised and shot in one take from the moment Dar hunched over me and began rifling through my pockets. Joe was providing the camera work at this point, which was a marked improvement over Woodruff's. The scene was no masterpiece, but it was decent enough, and it provided a strong opening for the movie.

At this point we decided to take a break. While we sat in the living room of my grandmother's blessedly conditioned living room I discussed the problem of not having an actress to play my character's wife. I decided that Boris had come across Cole's wife earlier in the film while searching for him and killed her. This would make his earlier comment "By the by, your wife's kinda cute, think she'll go out with me?" more cryptic. Since Heather didn't want to act in front of the camera I thought I might at least get her to play the corpse of my character's wife, whom Cole stumbles upon when he comes home to check on her.

I bugged Heather endlessly until she agreed to do it. However, she refused to have her face on camera so how I ended up shooting it was to have Boris, Billy Jack, and Cole walk up to the house. Cole tells the boys to be on their best behavior and opens the front door. As he does this his wife's hand plops out, pale and lifeless. Boris spouts something by Edgar Allen Poe and Billy Jack makes a snide comment, which sends Cole into a rage (I believe the line was "Y'know, with your half of the money you can afford to buy yourself a new wife").
Cole grabs him and tosses him roughly to the ground. Since none of this was rehearsed Dar wasn't expecting me to suddenly charge him, grab him by the collar, and fling him on his back. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time, and the "JESUS CHRIST!" that escapes Dar's mouth as he sails through the air was priceless.
DAR: Heather had a good time being the dead arm that came flopping out of the door. She was nervous that day, that’s why she didn’t want to be in it. She’d be in front of the camera now. She’s gotten better.


JEREMY: We then shot the first meeting between Billy Jack and Boris, which, when viewed in chronological order, takes place immediately following the saloon scene (apparently, Cole had Billy Jack wait outside like the mongrel he is).

JOE: This scene was also fun. My character, Boris, meets Billy Jack for the first time. Billy Jack offers Boris his hand to shake. Boris just stares at him as if he is offended by the gesture. As we walk away, Billy Jack follows Boris and makes a face at him. This is just another example of how on it Darren was that day.

JEREMY: After that, we shot the scene following the one in which I discover my dead wife (or, at least her hand), in which Boris and Billy Jack tell Cole to pull himself together or they're going to go after the gold without him. "No," Cole tells them, "I'm with you boys to the end."

As the three men walk off Frank Dodge appears behind them, laughs maniacally, and follows.

Now, when I told Woodruff to laugh maniacally I expected a low, sardonic bellow (and I both explained this to him as well as demonstrated). I called action and Woodruff lets out this stilted HA!-pause HA!-pause-HA!-pause-HA! in a high, cackling voice. I was so frustrated I wanted to grab him and yell, "What the hell is the matter with you? Okay, you're no actor, I understand that, but are you telling me you can't even do something as simple as laugh without sounding like the Joker on ritalin?"

JOE: Woodruff’s evil laugh was hysterical! Jeremy explained to him what he wanted, but he just did not seem to grasp the concept.

JEREMY: We did several more takes, all of them just as stilted.  I accepted them for as good as I was going to get.

"Cut!" I shouted. "We're burning sunlight! Move on!"


After shooting all of our scenes on the railroad tracks and around my grandmother's house we moved production into the nearby woods. We found a clearing with a large tree stump and I laid on it for my operation scene where Dar gets me drunk and removes the bullet lodged in my stomach (Of course, in reality if I survived such an amateurish operation I would be laid up for months, delirious with pain. Ah, the magic of movie-making). This scene was also done in one take with the two of us adlibbing our dialogue.

I can still remember Dar hovering over me with my knife in his hand. At one point his character offers Cole one of those miniature bottles of booze you get on airplanes (which we swiped from my grandmother's liquor cabinet). "Here, you might need some of this," he tells Cole with wide-eyed glee. "It tastes real good. Y’see, I got it from this one lady named Helga. She’s a big fat lady in a bar." Then, in a conspirator’s whisper, he adds: "She's a whore."

It was a beautiful performance on Dar's part. In fact, Dar was so laid back and easy going on this day of shooting that I almost didn't recognize him as the same despotic tyrant who had made my life hell on Laugh A Little. It seemed as if he was really into his character and, most important of all, he was having fun. The only problem I found with this scene was that at one point while Joe Woodruff was moving around us with the camera he accidentally got a brief glimpse of Heather and Joe in the background. None of us realized this until after the shoot, and, of course, by then it was too late.
It is moments like these that are the reason I do multiple takes of scenes. Unfortunately, on that day I had to go against my better judgment for the sake of completing the movie on time.

Now that I'd established that Boris killed Cole's wife I decided that our next scene would be where Cole makes the discovery himself. I suppose we should consider Cole somewhat of a dullard for taking this long to put the pieces together, but let’s cut him some slack and say he just had a helluva lot on his mind at the time. He was in shock over his wife's death, been shot in the guts, and had made a deal with a psychopath in order to locate the other half of a treasure map that was currently in the hands of another psychopath. He was overwrought.

So anyway, we did the scene of Joe and I walking down a wooded path, talking. I realize he's the one who murdered my wife and the brief partnership between the two characters ends abruptly as Joe flees under a hail of bullets.

Dar asks what he's supposed to be doing during all of this and I tell him to hang back for the time being, maybe scavenge through the foliage or something. Dar says no problem and we do the shot of Joe and I walking along, conversing, supposedly the focal point of the audience’s attention. Yeah, right. All Joe and I were doing was divulging important dialogue that's supposed to help move what little plot we have forward. Big deal. The real focus of this scene is on Dar, who manages to steal the spotlight even though he's a good twelve feet or so behind us. I must say that Dar's comic timing was on the mark that day, because every little comment or gesture he made left us all in stitches.

What went down was this: I called action and we started walking along the trail. Dar appears around the corner of some brush, seemingly out of breath, and sees how much further ahead we are. He throws his hand in the air as if hailing a taxi and calls, "Guys!" in the nasal-like voice he used for his character. He then looks around at the dirty clothing littering the ground and, true to his character, he begins pawing through them (I wouldn't recommend this myself, only Dar would scrounge through a pile of clothes laying along a muddied wooded trail). Joe and I begin to fight and Joe takes off while I fire my gun at him.

Dar then inches up with a pair of stiff pants clutched protectively against his chest. He sees me eyeing them and says, rather cheerfully, "I found me a new pair of pants!"


The day was humid and Joe was sweating his balls off in his all black costume, so he wanted to kill off his character, Boris, as soon as possible. I was disappointed, to say the least. I really liked Boris and had wanted to save his death for the big shootout in the gravel lot behind my grandmother's house. However, it was clear that we weren't going to have enough time to build up to, let alone shoot, the coup de grace as originally envisioned, which most likely would've taken an entire day in itself to film, so I consented to Joe's wishes and decided it was time to start wrapping up the movie.

JOE: It just seemed like the appropriate time in the movie for Boris to die. My wanting Boris to die at this point really had nothing to do with how hot it was. Boris is a fun character to play. I wish he could have lived longer, but, you know, too much of a good thing can make the good thing a bad thing.

JEREMY: Boris' death scene is short and brutal. We have Joe pretend to be urinating on a tree, his back to the camera. Woodruff sneaks up behind him and places his sawed-off rife to his head. They exchange a brief bit of dialogue and a scuffle ensues. Even though Joe's character is getting the worst of it he still cries out, "Give me the other half of the map!" as if he's on the giving end and not the receiving. Woodruff throws him to the ground and retrieves his fallen weapon. Joe sees this and begins to limp frantically away. Woodruff shoots him in the back and Joe falls dramatically to the ground, arms held out as if he is Christ on the cross.
Woodruff then walks up to him and shoots him cold bloodedly in the head. He rummages through Joe's pockets, finds his half of the map, lets out another stilted HA!-pause-HA!-pause-HA!-pause-HA! and takes off.

JOE: I would have liked Boris to go out more brutally than he actually did. The fight scene between Boris and Evol is pretty lackluster compared to what we had done earlier that day. Time did not like us that day and a rainstorm was coming. That was another reason why we only did one take of Boris and Evol fighting to the death. So the final confrontation between Boris and Evol is passable but weak.
JEREMY: The next shot is actually one of my favorites in the movie. We begin with the camera level with Joe's prone body on the ground. Suddenly, Dar and I appear in the distance, looking like Lilliputians from Gulliver's Travels running along Boris' chest. Gradually, we become larger and larger until we are towering over Boris' body. The camera pans up and out for a master shot in which Dar and I ad lib our scene. Dar once again steals the show as he attempts to filch Joe's tie and boots, constantly getting in my way as I search the corpse for the map.

"I get his tie!" Dar exclaimed. He dived for the tie and tried to undo it (no clip on here. Joe is one of the few people I know who can tie his own tie). I told him brusquely to get the hell out of my way and shoved him aside. He fell on his ass and was immediately on his feet again, attempting to wrench off Joe's combat boots. He was like a buzzard diving for a piece of ripe meat. It totally fit his character and it was all Joe and I could do to keep from laughing and ruining the take.

Cole and Billy Jack then go in search of Frank Dodge, who now has both halves of the map. Unbeknownst to our characters Dodge has decided to tie up his loose ends and is hunting us in turn. He appears out of nowhere and shoots Billy Jack in the head, killing him. He then taunts Cole with the map. "If you want it, come and get it!" He yells, ripping off Ray Liotta from the film No Escape. He then disappears into the surrounding foliage. Cole runs along the railroad tracks in search of the elusive Dodge, his gunshot wound slowing him down considerably.

By this point storm clouds were gathering on the horizon and I knew we had to finish up before it began raining. I tried to calculate the odds of it raining on both days of my shoot and lost count.

Here's how the movie ends: Woodruff swaggers up a yard ahead of me and shouts, "You're making this too easy!" I tell him to throw down the map. He retorts with, "Why? I'll just be picking it up again!" (Woodruff's best adlib, by the way) There is a moment’s pause and then we draw our guns at the same time. Unfortunately, my wound slows me down and Woodruff is able to plant a bullet in me.
I don't go down right away, though. By shear will-power and a savage growl I manage to stay on my feet long enough to fire off three rounds into Woodruff before keeling over. The two halves of the map fall against the hot barrel of Woodruff's gun and catch on fire. As it burns there is the ominous sound of thunder in the distance.



The final scene was hastily shot to beat the coming storm. Despite that fact it is still a halfway decent ending to the overall film. My biggest gripe with it has to do with the part where Woodruff is shot.

Now, this isn't rocket science. The director calls action, you pretend to be shot and fall down. Children have been acting this out for generations. So, what happens? I call action, Woodruff jerks a few times as if hot lead is slamming into him, and begins to fall. At that exact moment a streak of lightning flashes behind him.

Yes! I thought. What are the odds of capturing lightening on screen during a character's brutal death scene? One in a million? No, more like one in a trillion!

My excitement was short lived, however, because just as Woodruff begins to fall he stops, breaks character, and says, "Ah, I fucked that up. Let's do it again."

If I had a real gun in my hand at that moment I can assure you I would be writing this from a prison cell.

We did one more take of Woodruff being killed, with me resisting the urge to make it a reality, and then I called it a wrap.


Everyone went home after the shoot except Joe, who stayed behind long enough to watch the footage with me. Despite how lackluster, or in some cases, god awful the performances were, as well as the fact that I'd had to rush through each scene without proper lighting, a script, shot sheets or storyboards, I had finished my own feature and was as happy as a sailor in port. The only question now was how was I going to edit it?

CIRT had, by this point, shut its doors to us, and editing from VCR to VCR was possible, but it was cumbersome and the end result was certain to look rather shoddy with colored lines flashing across the screen every time I edited a scene together.
The footage was amateurish enough as it was. I wanted to at least have the benefit of a decent edit. Joe told me Woodruff's father owned an expensive editing machine. I asked if Woodruff's old man might let us edit the movie on his machine and Joe said he'd find out for me. He called me a day later and said it was a done deal. All we had to do was meet Woodruff at his house and he'd help us edit it together.

Looking back over this chapter it seems I've been rather hard on Woodruff.  Despite his crappy performance and uninspired camera work he was an all around decent guy who showed up and provided a camera when nobody else would. The movie could not have been made without him.

Woodruff lived clear on the other side of town so Joe and I grabbed our bikes and huffed it up there. We arrived an hour or so later, sweaty and excited at the prospect of finishing the movie. Woodruff had told Joe that the editing machine was top of the line and that we could convert the film to black and white. I wanted to do this in the hopes that it would give the product a more polished and professional look.

He also said we could layer music over the movie as well as sound effects. This pleased me even more because I needed to add in the sound of gunfire over the pitiful pops of the cap guns we had used. And, best of all, we could put credits at the beginning and end of the flick. No shooting painted credits on a garbage bag ala Blood Pudding. No, sir. This was going to be a professional edit, just as I'd hoped.

It was late in the evening when we arrived.  I can't remember why this was, but I think either Joe or I had to work that day. But that was fine since we planned to stay up all night if need be. By this point I had decided to call the feature Wastelands; my reasoning for this being that since it was no longer a western maybe it could be a futuristic tale set in some post apocalyptic society, or something equally lame (cut me some slack, I'd just turned twenty a couple months earlier).

Before we were even in the house Woodruff hit us with the first bad news of the evening. His father didn't want us touching his expensive equipment, so he was going to edit the footage for us, with us supervising. The second thing was that his father had to get up early the next morning for work so we had a deadline of around to finish.

Great! I thought. Why the hell is MY movie the one constantly being rushed? One day to shoot it in and a handful of hours to edit. I felt as if I was getting the bum's rush everywhere I turned.

JOE: I was under the impression that Woodruff would work the editing equipment while we supervised. It was a bit distressing that his father wanted to do the edit and wouldn’t trust Woodruff with his equipment. Woodruff was thrown off by this as well. He thought his father was going to start us off and then head to bed. I don’t remember why we got such a late start on the edit. In the middle of editing Woodruff’s dad would get annoyed and say this was taking too long. It didn’t make sense to us that he gave Woodruff permission to let us edit the movie and then get annoyed with how long it was taking. Woodruff told me he knew how to use the equipment and didn’t understand why his father wouldn’t just go to bed.

JEREMY: Woodruff's father was a nice enough guy; the mere fact that he was willing to waste his evening helping us on our project was proof enough of that, and bless him for it, but he didn't understand the first thing about how to edit a movie.

Since Wastelands was shot out of sequence we had to fast forward and rewind a lot to get the parts we needed in chronological order. This seemed to get on the guy's nerves and I began to dread telling him when he would have to wind through the tape to a specific scene or which of the multiple takes I wanted him to use for fear of him throwing us out before it was finished.

Sometimes he wouldn't cut a scene fast enough and we'd just have to move on and live with it. I asked him if he could put it in black and white and he told me the process would take too long and we didn't have time to do it (secretly, I believe he just didn't know how to do it and didn't want to take the time to find out). I told him I needed to add sound effects over the gunshot scenes and he told me the machine didn't have that particular sound effect in its files.

Luckily, I came prepared with a couple of my western movies. I figured we could plop those bad boys into the VCR and record the gunfire from there, but he said he couldn't do it and I ended up having no choice but to do the sound effects by mouth. So, every time one of the characters fires a gun in the movie you hear what is clearly a person making a PKOW! sound.

By this time it was well after and Woodruff's father was griping that he had to get up early. We threw in the credit sequence and I asked him if he could hold on long enough to add the music track to the movie. He sighed and told me to hurry up. Unfortunately, CD's were still a relatively new and expensive concept at the time so all I had on me were tapes containing the music I wanted. Since he wasn't about to sit around waiting for me to fast forward and rewind to the particular tracks I wanted I basically had to make do with whatever I happened upon first.

I lucked out in the opening and ending scenes with music from Ennio Morricone and John Berry respectively. I just happened to find tracks that were eerily haunting from both composers and it bookends the movie quite well. As for the rest of the movie, I think I'd just as soon forget.


JOE: I had a lot of fun working on the Wastelands movie. It was a relaxed shoot and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. I liked Wastelands so much I asked Jeremy to write a feature length version, which he started on while we were in Florida. Unfortunately, Jeremy destroyed the edited version of the movie in one of his trademark rages. All that survives is the raw footage and a couple of rough edits he did. I still enjoy watching the rough edits of it from time to time. Thanks for the memories guys!

JEREMY: The finished movie was (and is) an embarrassing mess. It's nothing at all like the action/adventure western I'd imagined (I know, I know, welcome to the world of making movies). I was so ashamed of it that I never showed it to any member of my family let alone potential backers or film buffs.

I had wanted to make a short feature to stand alongside Joe and Dar's own work. However, even though the feature fails in every respect, I don't regret making it. The one good thing to come out of it is the memories of hanging out on location with my friends; all of us having a good time doing what we loved. And in that and that alone I believe Wastelands to be a complete success.



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