Sometime late in 1999 I was planning a series of short films. An actor I approached at the time to be in one, managed to ‘somehow’ convince me into making a feature-length film. “Why not?” he asked. I explained the negatives such as the lack of funding, which meant no big-name cast and little to no crew, and the unlikelihood of selling the finished product. It would have to be a very, very low-budget guerrilla film.
Somehow, a few positives were enough for me to proceed with the project. I had the technical experience (more or less) to complete the film, the 95-180% commitment from my lead actor and cameraman and the fact that I had the total creative freedom to experiment.
I eventually combined the short films into one and came up with a script entitled “The Bad Samaritan” about an unassuming and prolific serial killer having a burdensome time covering up his crimes. I prepared a shooting schedule and budgeted it at around $1000.
The synopsis was as follows.
Mark is a hard-working and well-heeled businessman who takes a well-earned day off work. However, the day turns sour when he is ambushed by two aggressive hoodlums who leave his battered torso for dead.
But afterwards, a more tragic and sinister twist takes place when a callous and murderous scoundrel called John comes across the unconscious Mark.
Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, John lumps the unconscious body in the boot of Mark’s luxury sedan.
Anxious to extort Mark for all he can, John tortures him for financial gain …and sadistic joy. Bound up and blindfolded in the boot of his own sedan Mark struggles to be defiant and unsurrenderous. But even sour days can have the sweetest outcome as John finds himself exposed to Mark’s very inner and dark secret.
DAY 1: [Scene 20; Luke confronts Mark (the serial killer) at home.] I found myself using a pot plant to hold up a reflector.
DAY 2: [Scene 16-18; Mark slaughters Luke in his Lexus.] The blood effects actually worked.
DAY 3: [Pickup shots of Lexus.] Returned the rented bronze Lexus back to Avis. I hope we can rent the same coloured one again.
DAY 4: [Scene 23; Mark at home alone.] More use of pot plants. Returned sound equipment to Lemac. They never get hired again.
DAY 5: [Scene 6; Mark gets ambushed at the car park by Ricko and Martin.] Two police panel vans ambushed us in the middle of shooting. I desperately attempt to calm four tense police officers brandishing batons. An ambulance also arrives on the scene.
DAY 6: [Pickup shots of Mark with his Statesman.] Hired green Statesman from Avis. Attached stolen numberplates to it for continuity.
DAY 7: [Scene 3; Mark assists Anne with car troubles.] Harsh lighting conditions! Forced to cross the LINE OF DIRECTION.
DAY 8: [Pickup shots of Luke in his Lexus]. Managed to hire the bronze Lexus again. Lucky Avis has two.
DAY 9 to 11: [Scene 13-14; Matthew the windscreen washer unwittingly rescues Mark.] Avis sold its entire Statesman fleet. I managed to have a ‘green’ one brought up from Melbourne. Discovered I shot an entire scene without sound. I’ll have to foley it in post.
DAY 12: [Pickup shots of Matthew cleaning windscreens.] We made $4.
DAY 13: [Added Scene. Mark at work.] More extensive use of pot plants!
DAY 14: [Scene 15; Mark hunts down and slaughters Matthew in the forest.] I fall and impale myself on a tree trunk whilst operating the camera, otherwise a good, intense sort of day.
DAY 15: [Pickup shots of Ricko and Martin breaking and entering.] Confronted by a frightened neighbour. Police are called.
DAY 16: [Scene 15; We are back into the forest to shoot the rest of the scene.] It rained all day. A stunt required both actors to jump into the freezing river. Amazingly they did. I slip and fall on a river rock.
DAY 17: [Pickup shots of John at car-park.] I can’t act.
DAY 18: [Scene 2; John robs an apartment.] I can’t act.
DAY 19: [Scene 8-12; John extorts Mark who is tied up in the boot of his own Statesman.] Two weeks earlier the actor playing Mark had given me a heart attack when he showed up at a production meeting looking like Marlon Brando. I ordered him to lose weight so he did. We hired a ‘white’ Statesman.
DAY 20-22: [Scene 8-12; John extorting Mark.] This time we hired a green Statesman from National Car Hire. I still can’t act.
DAY 23: [Scene 23-29; Mark tracks down John at a hotel.] The Sheraton on the Park is trashed. An intense and gruelling day! Extensive use of pot plants!
Two years later, over budget by $3000, and with a post-production process too dubious and embarrassing to disclose, I had a film. I was personally pleased with end result, especially with the film’s Dogme style, the actor’s performances and the soundtrack, but ultimately I can’t judge whether it’s a good film or not. The film at the time received mixed reactions from audiences. Its only exhibition was a cast and crew screening at the 2001 Melbourne Film Festival, so very few saw it, and those that did either appreciated its urban guerilla style or couldn’t get past the low-budget aspect of it.
I did not expect to sell the film. It had an undeveloped script, it lacked gratuitous sex and violence (a Buena Vista exec told me), It had a rough sound and I didn’t get to shoot all of the scenes I want, the way I wanted. It’s extremely tough when you have one hand holding the boom mic, the other operating the camera, one leg supporting the reflector, one eye in the viewfinder and the other looking out for police cars.
I now find myself in the same position as my protagonist (or antagonist) Mark the serial killer. Do I hand myself over to the authorities or do I cover up my crimes and continue on as a filmmaker?
Originally published at kandiliotis.wordpress.com on March 26, 2011.