Ancient History 101: Revisiting the Road Thus Far

Between the fancy new website and the eminent release of Love in the Time of Monsters on DVD, I thought it might be a good time to revisit the our humble beginnings.  So, in the words of Deckard Cain, "Stay a while and listen…"

Everything worthwhile started in June 2008.  Andy and I were just finishing a mildly successful festival run with our short film, Background(ed), and wanted to move on to a feature.  Fans of fun genre stuff from the 80s and 90s, we were on the same page as to what kind of movie we wanted to make, even if we didn't have a script.  Cue soliciting.

You know, there's no right way to go about finding a low budget script, but boy are people quick to point out when you do it the wrong way.  That is to say, our first step involved Craigslist and that's never a good idea.  Don't get me wrong I love Craigslist, but it seems like there are mostly two kinds of people roaming that site:  Those looking to scam and those looking to out the scammers.  As the third type, the naive believers, we had no idea what to expect.

Our ad was taken down within a couple of hours and only a half a dozen responses.  One of those responses was one of those aforementioned people looking for scammers, calling us out for, you know, being scammers and explaining that he's the one that got our ad taken down.  I responded with a rather terse email about our realities to which he responded to by trying to pitch a script.  Needless to say, we opted not to go with that script.

Let that be a lesson kids:  Not everyone on Craigslist is trying to steal your ideas.  Sometimes it might be someone legitimately looking for something to produce and are just waiting for your script to hit their screens.

Anyway, it was all for the best anyway because my good friend Mike had a weird little script that he thought would be perfect for us:  Gigantopithecus Doom.  He even had a poster for us:

I like to challenge my audience with a simple reading test before the film.

The Poster that Started it All

There was something magical about that first draft.  Twins, Mascots, Croatians, James K. Polk; the script had it all.  Yes, it needed work (all early drafts do), but through it all, I could see it was a script that demanded to be brought to life.  So, Andy sprung into action to option the thing (or however that works), we gave Mike a slew of notes, and we waited for the next draft.

Six months later we finally got one.

To his credit, when we started the whole process with LitToM, Mike was wholly engulfed with his own, festival-worthy short film Junkyard.  If you haven't had a chance to watch it, you should;  It's a great, brutal little coming-of-age short that doesn't tonally resemble LitToM at all.  Thank God he got all that artistic shit out of his system.

The script was better, but still had issues; the tone wasn't quite right, the lodge was more of an amusement park, and no one really died.  So, as we're wont to do, we gave a bevy of notes and Mike went back to find some inspiration.

This time it took a little longer, but in the end it worked out for the best.  See, as Mike was looking for ideas he would as me what kind of tone I was looking for. "Like Evil Dead 2 or Shaun of the Dead," I would reply confidently.  To which he would smartly as, "Yeah, but what else?"

And so, as Mike made his fateful trip up into Bigfoot country and found the lodge, I started gobbling up every Horror-Comedy I could find.  From the good gems like Dance of the Dead (the nerd-y prom one, not the other one) to outright duds (which are honestly too terrible to remember), I was on a strict diet of Netflix DVDs for a good long while.  And honestly, it really helped guide the humor in LitToM.  My feeling is that it's okay to mix the two as long as the humor never undercuts the terror.  Once the people in jeopardy make light of their peril, then the audience won't care about them anymore.  That little nugget helped enormously as we continued through the notes process.  And continue we did.

Between the beginning of 2009 and the end of 2010, there was a lot of notes and redrafting.  In a lot of ways for a while there the movie became the background radiation of our lives, always there but never really interfering.  It was during this period that everyone sort of matured away from the project before returning to it.  Andy produced another short film and got a producing certificate at UCLA, while Mike and I moved up the ranks in reality TV (a necessary evil, I assure you).

Also around here was when we started kicking around new titles for this crazy script, because seriously Gigantopithecus Doom just wasn't going to cut it.  Bigfoot Zombies (or Zombie Bigfoots) was kicked around but abandoned due to it being completely baseless (there are no zombies in the movie!).  We tried on Bigfoot Berserkers for a while, but it didn't quite feel right.  There was Night of the Psychomonkeys, but that sounded like a weird Silver Age DC throwback.  In the end we settled on something clean, descriptive, and just a bit boring:  Love and Monsters.

Then, in December of 2010, came the moment of truth.  We thought the script was pretty great - the tone was pretty uniform, the character arcs felt truthful, and best of all, the body count was huge - but we had to make sure it we weren't fooling ourselves.  So we did a read through.

Readthrough - Mike Readthrough - Matt and Andy

Calling in some favors and bribing people with a free meal, we invited like 15 people over to my apartment one cold night before Christmas and set out to see if the script actually worked.  And holy shit, was it ever a success.  It still wasn't quite the version you've seen (or will see) on screen - Dan had a much meatier asshole turn before his death that seemed narratively unnecessary, there was a redneck family storyline that was omitted due to on set scheduling, and roughly 1.5 million dollars worth of stunts that needed to be cheapened - but on a whole it worked.

Readthrough - Cast

The Cast of Love and Monsters

Let me tell you, nothing feels quite as good as knowing the thing you've been working on is as good as you thought it was.  After revealing in the accolades and dutifully listening to all of the notes, we asked the cast about the title (and our alternates).  On a whole, they agreed with our instincts that Gigantopithecus Doom was a bit too much, the others strange, and Love and Monsters to be a bit boring.

"What you need is some kind of fun parody type title," our good friend and great actor Bilal Mir suggested, "Something with some pizazz [note he probably didn't say pizazz, but that's what I remember] like...  Love in the Time of Monsters."

And with that we found the title that the script was looking for and our world changed forever.  A scant three weeks later, in January 2011, shit got real and we officially started down the long road of pre-production.

Which I'll talk about more next time.

In the meantime, THE MOVIE COMES OUT IN A SCANT SIX DAYS!  WHAT?!?!  So make sure you keep up on our crazy current day shenanigans by following us on the Facebook, the twitter, or (sometimes) the youtube.

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