In CdC #6 I reviewed THE ADVENTURES OF EL FRENETICO & GO-GIRL. I was happy to hear that its director, Pat Bishow, was making a sequel. So happy, in fact, that I asked him to write a bit about his experiences making the new episodes...
THE RETURN OF EL FRENETICO & GO GIRL
By Pat Bishow
After making THE ADVENTURES OF EL FRENETICO & GO-GIRL, I was able to publicize it through "underground" film festivals and zines. Fortunately, they were very kind to us. Additionally, we received marketing offers from a few small distributors. Their one complaint, however, was that the story was too short and that if there were more episodes available, they would be eager to distribute the production.
What would it take to make more episodes? It certainly helped that the actors were all friends when we asked if they would be willing to reprise their roles and work for free (again). Charlie Pellegrino (El Frenetico) is a steam fitter who works from 5am to 4pm. He's tired, but he's in. Frances Lee (Go-Girl) works 9 to 5, but she loves her character and has actually been begging to do it again. Jon Sanborne (Syphon) has nothing better to do, so count him in, too. Louise Millmann, with tons of roles under her belt, though tired of my typecasting, decides that she'll give me another chance, (thanks, Louise, I love ya!).
Most importantly, I needed to convince the producer/DP, Owen Cooper. He's really the unsung hero of this whole thing. He's the one with access to the camera, equipment... hell, he put the thing together in the first place. Besides, he's the only guy nice (or dumb) enough to actually finance me. He agreed to make the sequels, but with a few changes.
First: better sets. No more one room remodeled to be four. Second: better actors. The other roles needed to be filled by people who at least attempt to act. No more pulling guys off the street (obviously, the actors are our friends, but at least, we could use friends who want to be actors). Third: more time. He wanted time to light the sets with none of the "run out and shoot stuff" Pat Bishow-style.
I got better sets (half, anyway), better actors (again, half) but I just couldn't deliver on time: these things have to be rushed. If someone is nice (or dumb) enough to let you film in their space, you'd better finish as soon as possible. To this Owen just smiled and said, "Two out of three ain't bad." [Just like Meatloaf! - Ed.]
I wanted a fight choreographer. Along came Paul Lazlo who I've known for years (we both sell old toys to pay the rent). I ran into him at a toy show and he informed me that he had helped choreograph the Batman stunt show at Great Adventure theme park and volunteered to help me on my new project. I told him that I had been too embarrassed to ask for his help, but, boy, it really paid off! He took what little time he had and came up with some great ideas. To punch up the fights (pun intended), I wanted to use sound f/x this time. Luckily, Owen was able to do them on his editing system. So, this time, when Go-Girl throws a well-choreographed kick, you'll be able to hear it!
We had our fair share of problems. Charlie Kulsziski, our production designer, was busy working on a film (starring Peter Fonda and the wife from TV's Home Improvement) in Florida which meant that I had to come up with most of the props and costumes myself. When he returned to New York two days before filming, he helped out but for a while I was scrounging on my own.
We had big arguments over casting as we looked at thirty-five women for the role of Velvet MacSuede. The scene that Frances read with each of them began with her gagged and tied to a chair. Needless to say, after the thirty-fifth take, she wasn't too happy. I wanted Madoka, she's talented, good at martial arts, beautiful, and a personal friend. Plus, she's worked with us before and puts up with our antics, which really isn't easy. My writing partner, Jon Sanborne, wanted someone else. Not that he didn't like Madoka, he just didn't visualize her as the character. The producer agreed with him but wanted to support me. His ultimate answer was to change the character and Nyoka Shade was born. This new development excited Sanborne who decided that Shade and Go-Girl had a past together. Add that she's in love with Go-Girl and the story now moved in a different direction.
Meanwhile, Owen and I were having our own philosophical debate over the idea of more superheroes. I had always liked the idea of El Frenetico (always wearing his mask, whether in or out of costume) drinking his life away in a regular bar. Owen wanted to keep his options open and expand El Frenetico's world with a superhero bar. Personally, I felt that that's where superhero stories fall apart. But, this was a collaborative effort and at least this gave us the opportunity to introduce a great new character, Runway (played by Soomi Kim).
The day before we started filming, the actor who was slated to play El Fuerte refused to wear the full mask of his costume. "I'm not getting paid, I'm not wearing the hood!" Okay, he's fired. Unfortunately, he took the mask and costume with him!
Filming was long and doing this as a second job really took its toll on everyone. But, I felt this production was a little more organized than the last one, thanks to my assistant, Yoko Akashi and my art director, Doug Roussin. They were able to keep things moving as quickly as possible and people yelled at them instead of me!
One day we were rained out. On top of that, we had to return the camera which meant that we were two days behind schedule! I pushed my actors hard, and sometimes a bit too hard. At one point, Frances and I had a big fight. I wanted to make it up to her and was so concerned that I forgot to pick up the mic for the weekend (I wish I had a PA to blame this on, but it was all me). Fortunately, my friend and sound man, Jim Robertson, was quick enough on his feet to rewire another mic and use a cardboard tube for a boom. If I can teach one thing to anyone out there with aspirations to make a no-budget film, it would be to surround yourself with people who know that they're doing - or who can at least fake it!
On the second to last day of shooting Charlie (El Frenetico) had let off a little too much steam after work with his buddies. He's drunk...no, he's passed out. I'm not about to wake him up (the guy is 6' 3", 250#, and a Teamster). I eventually convinced Frances to walk over (in costume, of course) and gently shake him. Nothing. Yoko, you're on...Boy, you're good. He's up and running!
With each production, you hope it'll look more professional and maybe (just maybe) it'll bring you a little further along. You hope you'll learn from your mistakes without making too many new ones. When shooting is over the editing begins and that's a whole other set of problems. But, even with all the complaints, the one thing that keeps you going is that you're loving every minute of it!