No B Movie review today, because I thought I would take my time to tell you a story about the time I nearly created the worst movie known to man. I can sit here week after week and mock these independent movie-makers, criticising all of their mistakes and how wrong they were when making Bikini Girls on Ice, but the sad truth is, that when I had just turned seventeen, I turned my hand to directing a movie with a bunch of friends and nearly made every mistake in the book. Thankfully, the footage never saw the light of day.
When I was first asked to make a decision on a potential future career for myself, I ended up picking cameraman at a careers meeting. I remember liking the idea of filming a wildlife documentary and spending my working life, filming leopards kill things. I can only assume this was my teenage goth phase, when I used to listen to hard-core emo music (like Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson – proper metal shit!). Deep down, I think I never really wanted to be a cameraman, but a director – I just didn’t know what a director really was. In truth, I loved the idea of using cameras to tell stories. This is what put me on the path of becoming a writer and an actor, two things I like to think of myself as today, because in order to be a director, I needed to write a script to film and, with limited cast members, often ended up acting in things myself. I made a couple of comedy sketches (deleted due to a faulty camera SD card, before you start asking for my early awful attempts at comedy), but never anything worthwhile.
Let’s fast-forward a couple of months. I ended up hanging around with a group of friends. Me and my best mate, Daniel Palmer, ended up getting lucky and hooking up with two twins (not as fun as it sounds – twins NEVER make out with each other). The four of us and a handful of other people used to drink and smoke up in the twins’ caravan and just talk about whatever seventeen year olds talked about. One day, we began discussing movies and what the best ones were. Horror is a popular subject among teenagers, so that came up a lot, even though seventeen year old Luke had limited knowledge about horror. However, when surrounded by two hot twins, you pretend to know everything about everything (note to the younger guys: you later learn that girls can see through this bullshit pretty easily). During the horror movie conversation, I mentioned that I would like to go into film. I mentioned that I wrote scripts. Dan, my mate, fancied himself as an actor (or closer to the truth, he wanted to be a celebrity rather than do a hard day’s work – he was seventeen after all). And when you are lying in a bedroom in a caravan with two twins next to you, you instantly tell them that they have the looks to be in a Hollywood blockbuster. A few more drinks later and we had drunkenly decided to make a movie together. I would write the script, they would pick the genre (horror – something I knew nothing about), and we would all lump together to rustle up some actors. Of course, perhaps we could have just sobered up and returned to doing the usual teenager antics (of which I am too gentlemanly to write about here). But, the next morning, me and the twin I was hooking up with (let’s call her girlfriend – I don’t fancy naming names in this article), got talking. She was doing the supportive girlfriend thing of telling me to follow my dreams of being a writer and I began getting inspiration for all over the place. Three weeks later and I had a finished script in my hand: TILL DEATH DO US PART. I should have burned it there and then.
Let me take a moment to try and summarise the plot of this script. The main idea of it hung on the fact that me and girlfriend were a couple, and Dan and other twin were a couple. I had a romantic subplot, without needing to convince my other friends to kiss each other (I had seen my mates around women and it would have been a hard sell). I cast Dan and his girl as the leading heroes and worked my story from there – this becomes important later. Therefore, the story went as follows. Two couples and a few mates (read red shirts), meet up for a few beers in a caravan one night (I know right – my imagination back then was pretty extensive). The movie opens with a game of poker, which basically points out which character was the ‘funny one’, who was the ‘loose cannon who could be a murderer’, who was ‘the pretty one’ (if I ever wanted sex again, that role instantly went to my girlfriend), and so on… After some standard dialogue scenes that I am sure were up there with Tarantino quality, my character gets killed off-screen. GASP! As everyone walks around the caravan trying to find where I got to, a creepy guy in a clown mask is stalking them with an axe that I conveniently found lying around the movie set, because I realised I had no access to serial killer weapons as a seventeen year old. If you hadn’t guessed yet, my character was the killer, because that was a twist that no one would ever see coming. The movie basically carries out with the cast splitting up and getting killed off by me one by one (and yes, I am aware I have angrily criticised so many movies for doing this time and time again). In the final twenty minutes, it turns out that the ‘hot girl’ is working with me and she kidnaps Dan’s girlfriend. There is a terribly choreographed fight scene, when Dan comes in and saves the day. I distinctly remember one scene where the good twin (as in not a bad guy; I am not saying the other twin was more attractive than my twin, honest!), rips out the bad twin’s eye and says ‘an eye for an eye’. Strangely enough, no producers saw the potential gold mine in the script, so it was up to me to make the film myself. We all picked a week where nothing was going on, so we could dedicate our filming time to the project and were all ready to make a film.
A day before the film shoot, Dan Palmer calls me. He has just dumped his girlfriend. She was cool and everything, but she wasn’t the one, or some bullshit, as though that means anything when you’re seventeen and hooking up with one of two twins. Needless to say, this marked my very first director’s tantrum. I went berserk. I shouted down the phone for about ten minutes of how I had been slaving away, getting the perfect dialogue and working out all the tricky camera angles I was going to be using. Do you know how much sex I was going to miss out of if this movie didn’t happen?! Dan argued back for a bit, but by the end of it, he decided not to risk my wraith and I frog-marched him onto the set the next day to film several awkward romance scenes with the girl he just dumped for… and the reasons he gave were… ‘being a little bit boring.” I didn’t care, because I had a movie to shoot, but I can only imagine the awkwardness of that corner of the room for the rest of the day. Anyway, scene one: that poker scene! This was the day I learned that poker scenes are actually a bitch to shoot. It involves so much cutting away and sharp editing. You need to show all of the players, their subtle reactions and what cards they have. Lots of quick flashes of footage. It took ages to film. The actors began getting bored, and I was soon learning that a lot of the people had showed up to get drunk as usual, but also be in a horror movie for shits and giggles. We were all too stupid to know that filming actually takes time and isn’t all blood and gore, when you are actually making the fucker. Dan Palmer himself was only in it for the making out with a hot girl sections and that scene was currently rivalling the Notebook for sheer awkwardness.
Day 2 wasn’t much better. My actors showed up in foul moods. No one wanted to waste another night of getting drunk on filming a stupid movie. They sat down and refused to emote, wanting to race through their scenes, so they could sit on the side-lines and just chat shit. Probably about my director tantrums that were coming thick and fast. One of the characters was my brother (Adam, not Liam, who must have been about the size of a chipmunk at this time), and he began getting moody that he was the first person to get killed off. I was trying to film Dan and his ex-girlfriend awkwardly kissing and he was talking in my ear about how he should be the director. I just turned around and fired him. I fired my own brother in my director’s rage. Intent on finishing this movie if it killed me, I proceeding to bump every red shirt’s death up to earlier scenes, so in about thirty minutes, it was just the four leading cast members. The death rate was up there with that scene in Kingsman: The Secret Service. So, with just four cast members left (we had to awkwardly swap cameraman duties for the following scenes), I urged my helpless team on with growls and demands.
And this is why I have walked away from becoming a director. It turned me into someone I don’t like. I am an easy-going bloke. I like simple things like watching movies, reviewing movies, getting questions about movies wrong and drinking too much wine. This is my life and I like it. Directing made me become a monster, a slave-driver. I don’t think I will make the same mistakes as I did now, mainly because deep down I knew that I was making a pretty shitty movie. The twists were predictable, the deaths were awful (looking back over the script, I think I assumed I had a few grand in the budget), and I was forcing my actors to perform at gun-point. If you bully two people into kissing, does that make you a pimp or an artist? That question sums up my life.
Does the story have a happy ending? Well, the misery kind of peaked. Day 3 saw me trying to convince Dan and his ex to show some resemblance of love of each other, when he rescues her from the bad guys. My girlfriend came up to me to suggest that I should take a break to calm down and I whirled around turning on her. I made some sexist comment about how she should do something helpful towards the film, like make me a cup of tea. And do you know what she did? She came back with a cup of tea. I didn’t tell her how I liked my cup of tea, she had memorised that herself, something I am ashamed to say I never did for her. I stood there, yelling at my best mate and my girlfriend’s poor twin sister, and I turned around to see a gorgeous cup of tea waiting for me. That moment, I realised how much of an utter twa… no, I am going to have to use Zoe vernacular here… how much of a malevolent fucking cunt this movie had made me become. I instantly relaxed and apologised. I stopped filming the romance scenes and we ended that evening, shooting the final punch-up with the terrible ‘eye for an eye’ line. It was terrible film-making, everything was done in one take and it would probably shame me to look back at it. But I don’t care. Because we finally had fun filming it. We cracked open some beer, filmed a few dodgy punches and had the fun we had been aiming for all along. Dan and his twin actually got back together, I made my girlfriend countless cup of teas and somehow, from somewhere, it changed from the worst film shoot I had ever done to one that has been one of the best experiences of my filming life.
Now that would make a good movie. I need to see if I can get in touch with those twins again.