Friday, June 12, 2009

In which we Can Has Cheezburgers

Well, I was wrong. The Creeping Terror stunk.

Now I am willing to stipulate for the record that people are entitled to their dreams; and it's obvious that it was The Creeping Terror's director's dream to make a Real Movie. And I am willing to stipulate for the record that the director likely scored a used 16 mm camera and a used splicing block. And I am willing to stipulate for the record that the director likely knew a guy who knew a guy who was willing to write a Gripping Space Age Adventure for beer money; and that after he got the script, the director more n likely talked his friends n relations into coming up to the lake for a couple of weekends to act in his Dream Real Movie. And I am willing to stipulate for the record that the director very likely maxed out his credit cards on lab fees, and dubbing studio time, and wound up with one or two prints of his Dream Real Movie. And I am willing to stipulate for the record that the director highly likely spent a year or two pounding the pavement knock knock knocking on producers' doors until finally somebody wrote him a check for $.05 more than his out-of-pocket expenses, so he could live his life happy n secure in the knowledge that he made and sold his Dream Real Movie to a real Hollywood Producer Guy, and actually made money on the deal. While I'm at it, I'll stipulate that the director was a nice guy who loved children and puppies, and I'll throw in a veliciopede for good measure. I'm perfectly willing to stipulate all these things, because this is what makes our country great.

But I'm not willing to stipulate that Achieving Your Dream necessarily results in a Good Movie. In the case of The Creeping Terror, it didn't even result in a competent movie. O, it would be too easy to fisk the movie; besides the MSTies already did it years later. No no, sitting in our living room watching the thing play out ... well, fisking the movie would be like taking candy from a baby. Like taking feathers from a chicken. Like taking an honorary degree from Notre Dame. What's the fun in it?

Now I would not have said it this way 23 years ago, but this is what I thought about the Work, this is what I teach my kids about the Work, and this is what I still believe about the Work: you gotta get up and do the Work, every day. You set your daily Work time, and you show up for Work, and you do your Work during your Work time. If you write, you write during your Work time; if you draw or paint, you draw or paint during your Work time; if you play music, you practice your music during your Work time; if you design, you sit at your drawing board (we're still in the 80s, folks) and you design during your Work time; if you dance, you take class during your Work time; if you garden, you garden, etc. Whatever it is that you do creatively, you show up every day (6 out of 7 is good, 5 out of 7 is pushing it, 4 out of 7 is Right Off) during your Work time and you do your Work. You do not wait for the Muse to hit you in the eye with a big pizza pie, because that's not going to happen. You show up, you do your Work. Later you can take a break, drink a beer, hang with the gang, whatever. So it was pupu for me, Joe, that The Creeping Terror didn't inspire me with th' Muse o Wackiness -- but it was Work time and I had to write a teevee show to amuse n delight dozens, and it was due Thursday and we had the same three days we had had all season to do it. So I had to start writing on that yellow pad and not stop until I had broken the show.

It would be lovely to report that I saved the breakdown and the script; but they're long gone. But I sorta remember the thought process. And it went something like this:
  • We don't know what the ratings are, but we can count and we've been on the air more than 13 weeks and nobody's kicked us out yet. Matter of fact, the "real" WLEXers seem a tad friendlier. Maybe it's mere familiarity; the signs n portents suggest that The Powers That Be are happy with the numbers, which means that MT must be making itself felt in audience land.
  • If MT is gaining share, it's either because more people are continuing to watch teevee and turning to MT, or it's attracting viewers away from The Other Movie. Or both.
  • If The Other Movie on The Alpha Station is not growing, or is losing audience, they would not be happy about it. Especially if it was a result of no-count shabby upstarts like nous.
  • If the Millie-verse extended beyond the walls of WLEX, and The Alpha Station behaved like MT's "WLEX", they would react by making an inappropriate choice and following it all the way through.
  • If that were the case, the appropriate Inappropriate Choice would be to indulge in industrial sabotage.
  • If The Alpha Station were to indulge in Industrial Sabotage, it would do so publicly. Which means it would sabotage the program. And since no one on the program appears to be paying much attention to the movie, the weak link would be to sabotage the movie.
  • There's the show.
So I ran the idea past Barb, who was not all that interested because it sounded too High Concept, and High Concept doesn't play very well. Plus, there were rumblings that we were getting too far from Hosting a Movie, which is what we were supposed to do. So if we did this storyline ... but staged and played it mimicking the movie we were showing ... heh ...

The show pretty much wrote itself over the next two nights; we did very little in the polish beyond tightening here and there. We decided that since the movie seemed to be popularly known as The Carpet Monster, we'd use that as our Monstrous Device. Why the Alpha Station would employ a monster as its agent o mischief was irrelevant; this show took place in the Millieverse, so of course they'd use a cutout agent for plausible deniability. Duh.

When I dropped the script off at the station, Keith handed the audio copy to Doug, they both started reading, and started smiling before they finished the first page. Doug looked up first: "You need music for this, right." It wasn't a question. I agreed that a cheesy movie soundtrack would be a Very Good Thing. Keith looked up next: "You want to do this in black and white?"

Huh. Didn't know that was an option. It was very early for dropping the script off -- we usually dropped it off around 8:30 - 8:45, this was closer to 8, so the station had just gone to the network's feed for prime time programming, the guys had just taken over the studio for the night, and there weren't any local commercials to plug in until the half hour. So we pulled the bookcase flat out, turned on the light, and pointed a camera at it while Keith, Doug and Terry futzed with the electronics. I watched over their shoulder while they tried various things, and after a few minutes we all concluded that we probably couldn't make this work -- for this week. The set was lit wrong, and it looked like without some significant lighting adjustments we wouldn't be able to get enough sep between foreground (Barb) and background (set) to be able to clearly read Barb in the studio. It also looked like there would be real problems in the various building locations, which were all usually shot with available room light. One of the guys pointed out that if we did the whole show B&W, the only color would be the commercials; and after thinking about that one for a minute, we all decided that this interesting concept needed more work and we'd come back to it later.

Later, I thought this was a very good thing indeed -- the guys now own the show, they're taking ownership of production and working the problems. All we needed was to plunk a piece of carpet on Bob and do the show, and we just happened to be throwing out some old exhibit booth carpet from Ruckus Etcetera that very night. So I went dumpster diving, came up with a piece of carpet, and threw it right back in the dumpster -- the thing was so stiff it wouldn't drape worth a hoot toot, and was so heavy nobody could wear it. We decided we'd use a bedspread instead. (Still have that bedspread -- it's on The Michael's bed even as we speak.)

At this time, we're still doing the show live; so we show up at the studio very full of beans n mischief, Barb tells Bob he's going to have some fun tonight, we make our obligatory faces at Mike n Mindy as Mike sonorously advises the viewing audience to "stay tuned for SNL followed by MT, where tonight they're showing The Creeping Terror -- sounds like fun."

It was.

Next posts, we'll parse the YouTube clips.

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