Don't Be Ashamed To Scream!

Duration: 15 minutes
Format: DVCAM & SP Betacam
Black & white
Year: 2004

ATOMIC SPITBALLS grew from a feature film idea Andrew Commis & I wrote back in 1994. Originally called THE MUTTONCHOP MONSTERS, the intention was to pay homage to the great & not so great AIP films of the 1950’s like INVASION OF THE SAUCERMEN, I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF & Bert I Gordon’s EARTH VS THE SPIDER.

During the writing of the first draft, Russell Friedrich jumped on board & injected some additional gags & ideas into the screenplay. But after awhile it became clear that there was no way we could finance this film ourselves…. it was now way too ambitious & almost logistically impossible to shoot. So the script was put onto the back burner as we pursued other projects.

Fast-forward 8 years….

After completing the exhausting post-production FX for COSMIC SAFARI, part of me swore that the next film I make would not be so reliant on FX & animation. Unfortunately the other part of me was still drawn to the idea of making THE MUTTONCHOP MONSTERS.

Around this time I had rekindled my love affair with a 1950’s monster film called THE GIANT CLAW. To me, this film is the quintessential 1950’s B Grade movie. It has everything; Jeff Morrow AND Morris Ankrum, silly dialogue & possibly the funniest special FX ever committed to film. For my money, it’s way more entertaining (for all the wrong reasons) than Ed Wood’s over referenced PLAN 9 FROM OUTERSPACE. Don’t believe me? Well see for yourself & check out Andrew Borntregar’s review here.

So as a way to celebrate & rhapsodize the silliness of THE GIANT CLAW, I borrowed the basic premise of THE MUTTONCHOP MONSTERS, added a dash of goofiness & a pinch of irony & the result was a script called ATOMIC SPITBALLS.

Unlike the previous films from the Krypto stable, I decided to shoot this film over consecutive days & nights (shock horror). As far as I was concerned, only shooting weekends sporadically over months & years is not the most effective way to make a film. It’s just too difficult on everyone involved… actors hairstyles change… cast/crew move overseas… locations often vanish & more importantly it’s just too difficult for everyone to retain their enthusiasm on a project that takes years to complete.

As I had written the parts for all of the actors, it was just a matter of making sure everyone was keen, in the same state (geographically speaking) & able to commit to the 4 nights of principle photography. Dan Ilic; who calls Sydney home, would be in town performing in a show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, so the schedule was written around his availability.

With the dates locked in, wardrobe sourced from Dave Jackson & Kitty Jones and locations secured, it was time to start shootin’ this sucker…

Monday 14th April 2003 – Campbells Croft Reserve
With an almost zero budget & a skeleton crew it’s never fun shooting in a forest at night. The biggest challenge was having enough lights to illuminate an adequate amount of the forest for the wider shots. The second biggest challenge was having enough power leads to run from the generator to the lights! But with the help of Camera & Lighting Assistants/wearers of many hats; Shane Mengaziol & Vaso Babic, we managed to get some great looking footage. Dan Ilic & Katrina J Kiely were both up to the challenge - in particular Katrina whose skimpy dress was not ideal for the cool conditions. Once Russ Friedrich arrived, the total number of cast & crew grew to a whopping six!

Tuesday 15th April 2003 – Happy Days Diner Williamstown
We could only afford to hire this retro cafe/diner for two hours (which was over half of the entire budget), so I knew we’d have to move at a lightning pace. From 7pm, we unloaded equipment, set up lights, some actors were introduced to each other for the first time, rehearsed & blocked the scenes, chose wardrobe, applied make up, choreographed the dancing, then shot everything & finished at 9.30pm - only running 30 minutes over schedule.

Wednesday 16th April 2003 – 1st Hartwell Scout Hall Burwood
Not being able to afford to hire a real studio, we shot the interiors of the flying saucer against a bluescreen inside a scout hall. Once these were completed, it was time to shoot the scenes with Buzz falling through the sky. A harness had been made & the idea was to suspend Dan Ilic in front of the bluescreen – screaming & waving his arms around whilst the camera dollied in & around him. Good in theory, but not so great in execution. The bluescreen we had just wasn’t large enough & the dolly was a tad clunky. Because we were on a tight schedule, perfecting these shots just was not feasible. So onto plan B, which was to use a CG double of Dan. Once the sun had set we moved outside to shoot the scenes that involved the car parked at “Cherry Poppin Point”. The only mishap occurred when Camera Operator Dave Redman badly sprained his ankle whilst shooting a shot of Jane running toward the car.

Thursday 17th April 2003 – Beissel St Richmond
On what seemed to be the coldest night in recorded history, we found ourselves behind CVP Film & Television, all pumped up to shoot the scene that featured the “big reveal”. Make up artist Vaso Babic arrived on set with an assortment of false chops. Dave Redman could hardly walk due to his swollen ankle, so I stepped in as Camera Operator… and on a film where I was already wearing many hats, it was possibly one hat too many on this particular night. But everyone was firing on all cylinders – from Roderic Byrnes doing his best Biff Tannen impersonation to Dan Ilic just being Dan Ilic!

Then the post production began…

Dave Redman skillfully edited the film & I began work on the animation & FX. John Warner designed & modelled some fantastic digital meshes, which truly evoked the style & look of those (not so) classic films of the 1950’s. Composer Scott McIntyre astounded us all with his moody music that sounded like it had been written by Hans J. Salter or Herman Stein!!! Truly remarkable work! Justin Dix designed & created a brilliant make up for Gortner, which we shot in Justin’s lounge room, illuminated with a couple of standard desk lamps.

Over two separate days we recorded the song “Just One Kiss” at crack-a-jack studios. Written & arranged by David Jackson & Antonio Milillo, the track is a deranged love letter to those love songs from the 50's. Unfortunately the cost of flying The Jordanaires to Australia was out of the question, so to provide back up vocals Antonio Milillo, Tyron Shaw, David Jackson & myself stepped up to the mic... to only prove that we really can’t sing! But with a bit of tweaking of the knobs, the end result sounds just perfect (we’ll be announcing our tour dates shortly, so lock up your daughters).

So in summary folks and to share some golden words of wisdom...

The most valuable lesson I learnt from making Atomic Spitballs and one I am sure will carry me through future productions - Amway salesmen have been known to disguise themselves as owners of cheesy retro 1950's cafes! So be afraid... very afraid!!!

Oh and never work with Aliens...


Brett Anstey - wearer of many hats

what is the status on Operation Face Fungus?

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