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The Making of Evil Ambitions
by Michael D. Fox and Mark Burchett
When we started B+ Productions we said we'd shoot a feature, toss it out to the public, and if the response was favorable, we'd do another. Well, our greatest fears were confirmed. Our first movie, VAMPS: DEADLY DREAMGIRLS met with better-than-anticipated success (see AC, Spring, 1996). Excrement. That meant we once again had to go through the amusing little Burmese disembowelment ritual called Movie Production. And to grind just a pinch more salt into the gaping wound, AC wants us to re-live the arduous ordeal in public. Bastards. If we weren't such money-grubbing-capitalist-pig-dog-publicity-junkies we'd refuse to spew the toxic mojo indemic to the production process onto these pages. But then, we wouldn't be true independent movie producers,would we?
We knew that if we were ever going to see the mega-check to finance a project, our second effort would have to be more complex than VAMPS. While critics -- and more importantly, customers -- have noted that VAMPS is better than your average low-budget-vampire-stripper-falls-in-love-with-a-priest-wow-look-at-the-naked-babes flick, we needed to use a broader canvas this time around. We needed to think bigger. Bigger story. Bigger locations. Bigger stars. Bigger breasts. You get the idea. We sifted through the dozens of scripts and fetal scripts we had filed away ("Shameless Plug For A Writing Gig" Alert) and reworked an old treatment called SATANIC YUPPIES. This would be the working title for our opus about an intrepid reporter covering a series of ritualistic murders. We were wrestling with the title because we were afraid that, while the script had it's fair share of dark humor, it sounded like a Mel Brooks movie.
Through discussions with national distributors, we were told that a lot of small videostore chains and mom-n-pop operations got cramped colons over any movie title with the word "SATAN" in it. Given that we wanted to eventually take lots of mom-n-pop's money, the camel's back was broken. SATANIC YUPPIES morphed into EVIL AMBITIONS.
Since the murders are being committed by a satanic yuppie cult bent upon posession acquisition and career enhancement, we thought the title would effectively sell the concept while adding "A" tones to our B+ movie: something that reinforced our philosophy as a company. We readily recognize that nobody is going to pick up our version of RAIN MAN. Extremely heady premises need macro star power to sell, and we couldn't afford to hire Tom Cruise's hair dresser. At our budget levels we need nakedness and mayhem. But just because you're doing a "B" movie doesn't mean you can't attack the process with "A" sensibilities. Alfred Hitchcock did "B" movies, he just told the story with "A" flair.
Phase Two in Preproduction Hell commenced when one of our stars, Jenni Huss, had to drop out on us two weeks before shooting started. Jenni had done a tremendous job as "Heather" in VAMPS, and we were looking forward to working with her again, but she chose to take an out-of-town project that was to overlap our schedule. It's a shame, because we would have loved to have showcased her in EVIL AMBITIONS. Luckily the person who took her role did a wonderful job, so it probably worked out for the best. We hope Jenni is featured as well in the other production, if and when it ever gets released.
As with VAMPS, when we brought in covergirl Lorissa McComas to add some name recognition/star power to the production, we wanted to bring some national/international names to EA. We had met Bill Heinzman (the memorable zombie from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD) at the Secaucus Chiller in Spring, 1996, and he had impressed us as the most gracious, easy-going, fun-loving flesh-eater we'd ever met, so we were psyched when he agreed to play our butt-tight beaurocratic newspaper editor, Miles Bishop. Debbie Rochon (B-movie babeasuarus whose credits include ABDUCTED II, SANTA CLAWS, and TROMEO AND JULIET), brought to the project professionalism that's rivalled only by her on-screen beauty. In her role as Madame Natalie, the reporter's quirky psychic confidant, she was asked to give an exhastive high-energy performance in a scene where she psychically connects a little to well with the murderous yuppies, and a sceance turns into what amounts to a bad acid trip. After a take that left her hoarse and out of breath, Michael, always being the sensitive guy when it comes to actors needs on the set, walked up to her and said,"Great! O.K., Deb. Now we're going to do that about five more times." Not a complaint out of her. Either she's a consumate gamer, or she just thought he was part of a hyperventillation-induced hallucination.
But as day one of production loomed, we we couldn't escape one frightening fact: we were short on babeage. We had several female roles that weren't cast, yet. And call us sexist pigs, but all you have to do is casually walk down the aisle of any fan or programming show and you'll soon realize that, as a rule, low-budget features live or die on special effects and beautiful women.
Lucy shot a fight scene with Rob "Lester" Calvert that called for her to be bare-footed. (Would it be too exploitive of us to mention she's also in her underwear for this scene?) But more to the point, Calvert was wearing motorcycle boots: motorcycle boots that prevented him from realizing that he mashed Lucy's bare right big toe into the concrete not once, but FOUR different times. Her toe was spewing blood, but she kept on going, no doubt using the pain for motivation as she kicked Calverts butt. But what's a little blood during a production that featured:
Being gluttons for punishment, we dove into post production immediately after our footage was shot. We knew it was the only way we'd be able to hit our deadline of less than six months from script to final product in sellable form (i.e. cassette in a killer box).
We did it with VAMPS, but EVIL AMBITIONS was considerably more complicated every step of the way: longer script, more characters, more locations, more involved special effects, more costumes, more props, more set-ups per scene, 16-track digital sound, animated graphics. In short, we were trying to do VAMPS-and-a-half in less total time, while still only having one full-time player: Michael. Everyone else involved with the project had other full time jobs to worry about. Are we nuts? Maybe. But we figure that quality and expediency go hand-in-hand as we approach investors for larger projects. Our mantra is "On Target; On Budget; On Time." There are countless big and small-budget movies lying in limbo, half-completed, never to be seen. No B+ Project will ever be counted in their number.
Luckily we found some folks to work with who share the same gonzo approach to project orientation. The best example: two weekends before our pre-release test at the Chiller Convention, Michael realized that despite the tireless efforts of Mark Turner's boys from SOC --James Key and Roger Baker -- our sound wasn't going to be ready. The solution: an assault weekend featuring 20-hr days, including 14 consecutive hours of voiceover work put in by Paul Morris as our lead character, reporter Pete McGavin. Michael and actor-turned-post-production sound designer Dave Levy would literally sleep on the floor of Quest Motion Pictures for a couple of hours and then hit the studio again. (Roger and James were wimps, they actually did their sleeping at home.) Michael Hauk and his collegues at Quest were suprisingly accomodating as we turned their facility into a motel 6, and as a result, we made deadline.
But until such time as EVIL AMBITIONS shows up at your favorite watering hole, we'll be happy to sell you your very own copy.