Thoughts on Making Movies Then and Now

I thought it was just me.

Used to be I could post a casting notice on a website or Yahoo Group (remember those?) and get dozens of replies within hours.

Now I post a casting notice on Facebook group and get nothing.

A fellow filmmaker, who is still very much in the game, assures me it’s not me. Actors are different these days. Ten years ago everyone jumped at the chance to do anything on camera. Now they’re more savvy.

This is both good and bad. It’s good because a lot of perverts post casting notices for reasons other than actually making a movie. You don’t just answer any casting call, especially if you’re a woman, without checking it out first. It’s bad because there are some actors who create problems on set that I never had – like an extra holding up a shoot demanding a lead actor be replaced on an unpaid project.

I miss it, but I don’t. The scheduling headaches and the time away from my babies (now 10 and 11) was the reason I left, and there are now more reasons to stay out. I still have many very talented actor friends from those days, and most of those folks will still say yes because I finish what I start. I also have a lot of friends who “used to act” and will come out to do things just for the fun of it. You get a lot fewer attitudes and a whole lot more collaboration and laughter with them.

I am exceptionally grateful to everyone who ever auditioned for me or sent an acting resume. I had a blast, and I am thankful that some truly amazing people would still come out and work for me if I asked – even though I’m much closer to Phil Tucker than James Gunn as a film director.

No, this not me swearing off film. Just some thoughts I had after a good catch up with a fellow director while trying to cast my next wrestling short. For the record I’m using a new actor (the only new face who responded to my last casting call) and one old friend I haven’t worked with in over a decade. Should be a good time for all.

Speaking of films I made, here’s a classic. Hope you enjoy it.

Cover Artist Spotlight: Adrian Johnson

I’m ending the week and this series of blogs with my newest book release. The Original Black Panther has been a labor of love five years in the making, and I wanted the cover to be something truly special. Erik Hodson, Kevlen Goodner, and Sei Ozawa were all on my short list of artists for this project, but before I reached out to any of them, I heard from Adrian Johnson.

Johnson is a member of the “Cult of Cornette,” and he heard about the book from an interview I did on Jim Cornette’s project. Adrian sent me a link to his website and asked if I had a cover artist. I was impressed with what I saw, so we discussed details of what I was looking for, and he went to work.

To say he exceeded my expectations is to sell it short. This is one of my favorite book covers, and Adrian insisted on doing not only the front, but the spine and back. He stuck with I through multiple tweaks, and he was always quick to respond to the tiniest of adjustments in the final days. It looks beautiful on screen, and I cannot wait to have it in my hand.

Adrian’s work can be seen on his website. He’s a remarkable person and a great talent, and I hope this cover helps him to gain a lot of exposure. I can’t thank him enough.

The Original Black Panther is now available on Amazon.com!

Cover Artist Spotlight: Set Ozawa

Dr. D David Schultz’s autobiography was a truly international product, written in the United States and edited in Great Britain with a foreword by Bret “Hitman” Hart written in Canada. How did I finish it off? With a beautifully designed book cover created by Japanese artist Sei Ozawa.

Ozawa and I became friends on Facebook through Mad Man Pondo, whom Ozawa met during his tours of Japan. Ozawa has designed most of Pondo’s T-shirts over the years as well as shirts for many other Japanese and American wrestlers. Knowing how good he is and much Pondo admired his artistic skills, it was only natural I went back to Ozawa when I needed a cover for Pondo’s book.

Ozawa is an incredibly talented artist and an incredibly kind and generous person. I hope one day I am able to take him up on his offer to show me around if I ever visit Japan.

Artist Spotlight: Rick McGee

I’m bragging on my book cover artists this week, but I’d be remiss if I did not mention the incredible Kentucky artist who brought my kids’ favorite bedtime story to life.

I met Rick McGee the same way I met Kevlen Goodner and Erik Hodson – at a comic convention. Just as we now have art work of Kevlen’s and Erik’s in the house, we have art by Rick. As a matter of fact I have an original Rick did of my kids with the villain of that infamous bed time story, Frank Jordan: Evil Snowman.

It was so much fun working with Rick. His art work is always clever and creative. A vertical sketch he did of Indiana Jones descending into the Well of Souls is one of my favorite things hanging up in the house.

Rick gave real life to Frank Jordan: Evil Snowman, and despite the ominous title, the book is a hit with every child who gets a copy. If you are looking for something truly original and fun to read at bedtime, please pick up a copy on Amazon.

Cover Artist Spotlight: Erik Hodson

I first saw Erik Hodson’s work at a comic con in Louisville, and I immediately loved his work. It was a print of the Baroness from GI Joe standing in front of a H.I.S.S. that sold me on him, but his print of Sgt. Slaughter holding Cobra Commander and Hulk Hogan in headlocks was foreshadowing of what was to come for both of us.

I first used Erik to create the book cover of Space Kat, using actress Megan Mooney (who plays Kat in the trailer for the book) as the model for Kat.

I later went back to him to create a new cover for Martian Queen using my frequent collaborators Ally LaBar and Denny Grinar for inspiration.

Erik has become the go-to art guy for the pro wrestling world, and he was the official artist of Starrcast in September. I am certain he’ll be asked back for Starrcast II. We reconnected this fall, and he did a third cover for me – this one for the Bomb Shelter’s debut novel, A Scattered Timeline.

Simply put, Erik Hodson is an incredible artist. His work always amazes me. My kids have a Gravity Falls print of his hanging upstairs, and one of these days I’m going to get either Baroness or Sgt. Slaughter for my basement. It’s always a pleasure to work with him, to visit with him, and see what he’s created since our last visit.

Visit Erik’s webpage to see more of his remarkable work.

Cover Artist Spotlight: Kevlen Goodner

I’ve decided to spend the week saying thank you to some amazingly talented artists who have contributed to my books. I’m starting with a man who has not only been a friend to me, but to my aspiring artist daughter Lydia.

Lydia and I met Kevlen Goodner at the Derby City Comic Con a few years ago. Lydia decided to cosplay not as a character but as an artist, and she and Kevlen hit it off. We bought a black and white print of the Peanuts dressed as Star Wars characters that now hangs in her room. Since that time the two of them have traded art a few times, and she now has a total of three prints of his in her room.

I hired Kevlen to do the cover art for Louisville’s Greatest Show. Kevlen really captured the essence of the artwork from the old wrestling newspaper ads, recreating the likenesses of promoter Heywood Allen along with the French Angel, Gorgeous George, and Stu Gibson. It’s one of my favorite book covers.

Kevlen had a serious medical setback a few months ago, and he’s been on the slow road to recovery every since. We are praying every day that he continues to improve so he can get back to what he loves – teaching and making art.

If you are so inclined, please consider giving to the Go Fund Me now set up to help with his medical expenses. Click here to read more and give.

Movie Pitch: Lord of the Files

Here’s an old idea I had for a movie. Probably better suited to a short subject rather than a feature, but who knows?

Working title: Lord of the Files

Logline: A modern day office breaks into tribal warfare in an updated version of the classic novel Lord of the Flies.

Synopsis: Around 9 am on a normal Tuesday, a busy sales office discovers that their branch manager is dead. With no central leader to keep order, the office breaks down by department into factions. Sales, Accounting, Purchasing, Customer Care, Administrative, and HR all begin to stake our territories and slowly turn tribal. Small skirmishes flare. By just after lunch, it’s clear the whole office is headed down a path of destruction.

The sales department is the most aggressive, having beaten the HR department into submission and claimed the break room area for themselves. When the sales manager begins to have second thoughts about what is going on, his top sales rep stages a coup, and the sales manager is exiled into no man’s land – i.e., the production plant, which has become a savage wasteland inhabited by the violent production workers.

Meanwhile, customer care attempts to form an alliance with purchasing, accounting, and admin to stave off destruction at the hands of sales. Food is scarce, though, and it’s up to the rookie in customer care to brave no man’s land to cross through the plant, raid the vending machine, and return. He makes it back with an armful of Cheezits and Payday bars, wounded but alive, and the alliance is forged just in time for battle.

Armed with staplers, letter openers, and rubber band guns, the sales force strikes in an attempt to obliterate their colleagues and conquer the whole of the office. The bloody battle begins at 4:58 pm, but as soon as the clock strikes five, everyone stops what their doing, grabs their stuff, says their goodbyes, and heads home.

We end on a shot of the dead manager, his head still on the desk, rotting away.

This idea came to me many years and a few office jobs ago. I never pursued it because (A) I could never seem to get a start on it, and (B) I never read Lord of the Flies nor had the desire to read it.

Robot Monster Diaries

I love this book.

I love, love, love this book.

I love this movie, and I love this book.

I’ve been a fan of Robot Monster since I discovered the movie on VHS at Suncoast Video Store more than 20 years ago. I bought it on VHS in 3D with the glasses, and yes, I still have them.

Robot Monster is the epitome of so bad it’s good. It is equal to Plan 9 from Outer Space in that category in every respect. Robot Monster Diaries is a work of love that sheds light on the quintessential B-movie (okay, D-movie) and reveals more trivia than you ever knew existed. You’ll learn all about the 3-D process, the amazing bubble machine, George Barrows and his famous gorilla suit, and even find out what happened to the suit and the helmet. There are even interviews with the three surviving cast members from the film, including one who has never spoken about the movie until this book. You’ll learn how the legend of Ro-Man has stayed alive in movies and television and on the Internet. My good buddy Jerry Williams and his series Astro Space Hero even get a mention!

Kevin Scott Collier is a kindred spirit, and this book is an absolute joy to read. If you love bad movies like I do, click here and get it now on Amazon. I cannot calculate how much you will enjoy this one!

Space Drifters: Ghost Ship

Paul Regnier is my kind of writer. He’s a Christian author who infuses his faith into his work without sacrificing story or ever getting preachy. He’s a very funny writer, and his Space Drifters series is equal parts Firefly and Guardians of the Galaxy, which puts them right in my wheelhouse.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two volumes in the Space Drifters series, and when I found today out there’s a THIRD book in the series that came out almost a year ago, I unfriended him, blocked him, and told him I would never speak to him again.

Yes, I’m kidding.

Paul’s books are fun reads suitable for pre-teens and young adults. (My kids are 9 and 11 and have full permission to read them when they want.) There’s a lot of action and sci-fi violence, but also a lot of humor. His merry band of space travelers argue and fight and come together to save one another like any great family. I love these books, and I look forward to whatever Paul does next.

You can find all three Space Drifters novels on Amazon, available in paperback and on Kindle. Click here to order Ghost Ship!

The “Lost” Films of John Cosper

The oldest film now posted on my YouTube page is the original Fluffy. It’s not the the earliest film posted YouTube, mind you, but production-wise, it pre-dates everything else on my channel.

There were actually four films that preceded Fluffy. Two were shot that same summer. One was shot a few years before. Here are their stories.

God Told Me to Break Up With You

This film was an adaptation of a one act play that I wrote and toured with the Righteous Insanity drama company. It was a story about five Christian singles that really set up and parodied the rocky realm of the Christian dating scene. This is the one shot just before Fluffy, and the talented cast included future Fluffy stars Jamie Bratcher, Laura Elton, Randy D. Pease, and Sean Bailey, along with original Righteous Insanity cast members Natalie Gilbert and Erin McLish. The entire play was filmed for the video adaptation, but one key scene was promptly lost. One of the cast members supplied the camera and tape used to film that scene, and it somehow went missing right after we filmed it.

I completed the movie anyway, writing in a throw away scene to cover for the missing scene and released it as a series of webisodes. The camera work was pretty poor all around, the sound quality on another scene was poor due to a metal roof and a rain storm, and without that one scene, it really didn’t live up to my hopes. It’s not online right now, but I might go back and post it later.

Open Doors

Written by my friend and frequent collaborator at the time Natalie Gilbert, this was a very personal story about friends, about relationships, and finding love when you least expect it. I co-starred in this one along with Natalie, Randy, and Jamie. We had a delightful two days running around Louisville and filming at various locations. Unfortunately, a camera malfunction rendered the video and audio useless, and the movie never even made it to editing.

Flee

This five minute short edited in black and white was my attempt to be artsy. It was a dramatic piece with no dialogue that literally showed a young man fleeing from sexual temptation. Fans of my film work will no doubt have realized I am no creative auteur when it comes to cinematography, so trust me when I tell you, it’s much more awkward than artsy. This one was completed and re-edited a few years later. But for now it’s locked away on a hard drive offline.

Chasing Leia

The one that preceded them all! This movie was filmed in the summer of 2002, a full three years before Fluffy. It was a send up of Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy about a Star Wars fan who meets the perfect girl, only to discover she is a… Trekkie. I ended up playing the lead in this one after the actor I cast in that role got called into work the day we started filming. It was an awkward shoot, as my co-star and romantic interest was a former student of mine, but we had a lot of fun making it. A low resolution edit with no music still exists, as I was able to cut this one together on my Dad’s mac computer, but I never got a chance to save the master file, and the edit was lost.

I went looking for the footage a few years later when I had a Mac of my own and could not find it. A few years after that, I found some of that footage when I was editing another project. I had taped over the majority of the film without knowing it.

What lessons did I learn from these films? Plenty, but here were the main takeaways:

Always label and copy protect tapes. That’s not very applicable now, given everything is digital, so the modern update would be to label and keep everything.

Always back up your files.

If you’re not good at a certain thing, find someone who is and hire them, even if it’s just with food.

Sound is just as important as picture.

Don’t let footage out of your sight. Get it before you leave the set so it doesn’t get lost.

Don’t try to be something you are not. It’s okay to experiment, but learn to be comfortable in your own shoes.