My second major film started out as an exercise; basically, I wanted to film a killing, to see if I could create the tension that I felt could make my audience actually be scared. I didn’t know if I could or would ever make a film like it, but because at that time I was being heavily influenced by Rodriguez, Tarantino, and Tony Scott, I thought that a murder on screen would be an interesting thing to shoot.
I did not write a script for the untitled film, though, because it didn’t need one. The entire idea consisted of a girl (my sister) packing her things to leave her house, but when she opens the front door, two killers (my two brothers) are standing there waiting for her. One of the killers strangles her in the doorway, while the other enters behind him, closing the door to the house. I think I then would have them leaving the house after a fade to black, and then the whole film would be over; no dialogue, no writing of any kind. Everything was in my head.
Essentially, the only reason I came up with this idea was because I knew I could shoot it; both of my brothers were going to be in town at that time, and so it was just the right circumstances. Really, I just made sure that I built the film around everything that I had available, since I knew I’d have to shoot it pretty quickly. My family, myself included, wanted to spend as much time with my brothers as possible, and me filming wasn’t helping the situation.
On the day of the shoot, though, my perfectly planned idea became something so much more, and quite different, especially in tone. I wanted to film a shot of my bothers (who are actors) driving up the the apartment from inside the car, but they wanted to add something to it, and so they began a dialogue about how they had just ordered a pizza (in real life, we had, in fact, just ordered a pizza, and were trying to get in as much filming as we could before we had to go pick it up), and that it’d be done in fifteen minutes. One asked the other whether they’d be done with the killing in that time, and the other basically said “Of course,” because he was the Louisiana Strangler, and he strangled in Louisiana time (which is quick). From that point on, the entire mood of the film changed. I had been sitting in the back of the car with my sister and my brother’s girlfriend they kept quietly laughing while the filming was going on (none of which, thankfully, is captured on the film).
Back at the apartment, I filmed my sister throwing her things into a suitcase, scribbling a quick note, and then coming down the stairs. In the film, the girl happens to be coming down the stairs just as the killers are walking up to the doorway, and when she opens it, they are right there. The scene becomes very tense. I slowed the footage down during the killing, as she was being strangled, so it would add to the effect (something that I think, in this case, as opposed to Natural High, was the right choice). The killing itself is actually quite menacing, as the music swells, and the girl is just staring straight ahead into the Louisiana Strangler’s sunglasses. I also am still proud of the lead up to it, in which they both approach the doorway at the same time, because I was able to build a large amount of tension into just a few seconds of real time. I still think it’s one of the most “movie-like” scenes I’ve ever filmed. I then filmed my brother closing the door with a long shot away from the house. Finally, I filmed them getting back into the car, both of them looking a little worn out.
It was during the filming of this, though, that one of my brothers (or maybe me; I don’t remember who) came up with the brilliant suggestion of making the killers late to pick up the pizza, because they took too long killing the girl. This then lead to the longest single take I’ve ever shot, which must have been about eighteen straight minutes (the film itself is twenty), in which the killers get pissed at each other while driving around the neighborhood, trying to find the pizza place, all the while discussing wearing sunglasses, their boss (Don Jahnucustacutta, one of the best and mot ridiculous improved names I’ve ever heard), the differences in their methods of killing (one strangles, while the other uses his knife), what the term blood money means, whether Coke is better than Pepsi and Sam’s Choice and more. At one point, they realize that they don’t have the money to pay for the pizza, and so they go back to “that broad’s” house and steal her credit cards (true geniuses, these hit men are), simply because it was a Sunday, and even if they got paid by the boss, they wouldn’t be able to cash the check. Also there is a lengthy discussion of barbecues, and a killer called The Hippo, who kills people by sitting on them. Really, it’s one of the most ridiculous conversations I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, let alone filming.
The acting in it, while hilarious, is completely outrageous, too, in the sense that the killers do not start out with accents of any sort, but, by the end, they are speaking with full-fledged, incredibly fake Boston accents (which is rather peculiar, since one is clearly from Louisiana). There are also now-famous lines in our family circle, such as “There’s fuckin’ ducks in the road!!!” Really, the film just became one massive you-had-to-be-there in-joke, which, I think, might still play as hilarious to some people outside the family, but I am not sure.
I ended the film in the only place that I could, with a reconciliation after the argument. Really, I had no control over what was going on in the car; I had just planned to shoot a little closing segment, and it turned into eighteen minutes of hilarity. There’s no music during the entire thing, and I zoom in and out of their faces (because what else can I do, sitting in the back seat). It was probably the only film that I’ve ever filmed in which I let it get out of my hands so much, and which let the creative process be determined by others, too. It is one of the most-watched films that I’ve made, and I am very proud of it, although it ended up being twenty minutes of something I never really intended on shooting (the entirety of what I originally wanted in the film is about the first two minutes, if you take off the narration of the killers discussing pizza, and the quickness of the kill). I know that I said that I never really wanted to make a film like this, and I didn’t, but I feel that it was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on, and I wouldn’t have the final film be any other way.