Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ray Dennis Steckler, the importance of acting fast

There was Ray Dennis Steckler. He said in an interview that the reason he didn't use completed scripts for his movies was that if you had a script, you had to find locations to match the script, you had to find actors to match the characters in the script, then you had to find props to match the props in the script. And by the time you've gotten all this stuff together, it's too late to make the movie. When you work without a script, you start by looking at what you already have.

It makes sense if you can do it.

Steckler was a purist. He made very low budget commercial films, mostly horror movies and thrillers. If Ed Wood, Jr., was the Orson Welles of that part of the film world, Steckler was the Sergei Eisenstein or Alfred Hitchcock.

In fact, Steckler almost killed Alfred Hitchcock. He told in an interview that he was working on the show Alfred Hitchcock Presents.He pushing a rack of costumes down the hall, was going a little too fast and almost ran into Hitchcock as he came around the corner. He realized he would be fired so he quit.

Watching his old movies, he would see all his old cars and his old apartments and all his old friends. They were all in his movies.

It does seem like you could work faster with a script. At least, when you were filming, you would know when you were done, when you'd gotten what you needed and you could move on. I keep thinking of the movie Acne where the director kept filming and filming and filming. One day, the special effects make-up guys lied to him and said they out of latex just so they could go home. (Of course, they did have a script.)

I would imagine that working without a script would make it harder to recruit actors, and Steckler noted in one interview that you had to have some sort of script if you wanted to raise money.


This came to mind because I was working on a little movie---I was helping out. It was going to be a short film. The producer wanted to get everything perfect. He was delaying production until the extras were thoroughly rehearsed and there were other things he wanted to take care of on location.

And now I think, to use Steckler's words, "it's too late to make the movie".

I'm not sure now, a month or two later, if the location is still available, if the extras are still able or willing to appear. And I'm ready to move on to other things.

The producer had family problems come up which have delayed things. It's possible he's lost enthusiasm for the project. It came together very quickly, but now it seems to be dead in the water. It will take some effort to restart it.


But again, making the comparison between Ed Wood, Jr, and Ray Dennis Steckler. They both had the same problem---the lack of money. Steckler solved it by making full use of what he had available to him. Wood stuck to the script but used grossly inadequate sets and props. For example, he was filming a funeral in a cowboy movie. They didn't have a coffin, so they used what was obviously a long cardboard box.

If it were my movie, I would have had one of the cowboys comment:
"They're usin' one of them new 'cardboard boxes'."

"Cardboard? What in tarnation is cardboard?"

"Whatever it is, ol' Slim's gettin' buried in it, I reckon."
Or I would have changed it to a cremation:
"Them's his ashes. Turns out the undertaker is a Hindu fella, and that's what they do over there."

"What's what who does where?"

"They creamate 'em. In Indiana. That's where Hindu fellers come from."
And, really, Ed Wood's scripts were terrible. He wrote so quickly that it should have been just as easy for him to make it up on the spot.

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