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Demonwarp: Behind The Scenes
(An exclusive interview!)

 

Many times when watching an obscure little B movie, I start to wonder about the circumstances in which it was made. How did the idea for the movie originate? How were they able to pull everything together and start filming despite a lack of money and resources? What were the challenges the filmmakers faced during the shoot? What happened to the filmmakers afterwards. And if the particular movie is a terrible one, did the filmmakers also think so, or did they think they were making some kind of modern masterpiece?

You often hear the answers to questions like these for big-budget movies, but it's usually by chance that you hear just a smidgeon of what happened behind the scenes of a low budget genre movie. So recently I felt very fortunate when Jim Bertges (who I previously interviewed about his experiences at FVI) agreed to tell myself and readers of The Unknown Movies in detail about his experiences one one such low budget genre movie - Demonwarp. Talking with Jim gave me a real insight into the creation process as well as some of the challenges in the making of a B movie:


PART ONE: The Pre-Production

 

GREYWIZARD: How did first hear about, and get involved with the movie Demonwarp?

JIM BERTGES: I left Cannon Films and went to work at Design Projects Inc. in January of 1987. I had previously know the owner of DPI, Rick Albert, because of his association with Film Ventures and I'd kept in touch over the subsequent years. I went to work as a typesetter in the ad agency, but Rick was excited about the prospect of making a movie he'd set up with another client, Vidmark. At the time, Vidmark was a home video company that specialized in releasing made for TV movies on video. Design Projects created box art and posters for them as well as a number of other companies. Vidmark wanted to expand its output and Rick was able to pitch them a low budget script from John Beuchler.

G: How did the project originate and evolve before you got involved?

JB: Some of this is speculation on my part, but it makes sense. Design Projects
did a lot of work for Charlie Band's company and Now now, guys... looks aren't everything!John Beuchler did a lot of
work for Charlie Band. In fact, I believe Rick met Beuchler when DPI was doing the campaign for Ghoulies, which involved photographing one of Beuchler's puppets in a toilet. Somehow the two of them got together and Beuchler made it know that he had a script for a horror film and Rick was able to make the deal with Vidmark. Originally, Beuchler was going to do all the make up effects and direct Demonwarp, which may explain why there are so many notes in his screenplay that sound like they're giving the director directions. They were probably Beuchler's notes to himself. Things got off to a start, Beuchler made three of the creatures to be featured in the film; Bigfoot, the ancient priest and the alien creature. He also purchased lumber to start building sets. Through Rick's other connections (DPI did a lot of video and low budget feature campaigns) he contacted Jack Palance about appearing in the role of Bill Crafton. Palance tentatively accepted. However, before they could set a start date, things started to fall apart. Beuchler got involved in another project and (according to my sources) used the lumber intended for the Demonwarp sets for something else. Jack Palance pulled out of the project saying, "I don't want to do movies like that any more." And look where that got him. So, Rick, the producer was stuck with three monsters and a script. This is about where I came in.

G: When you were offered to join the Demonwarp production, were you immediately asked to rewrite the script? If not, how did it happen that you, with no screenwriting experience, were chosen to do so?

JB: It wasn't like I was offered anything, I worked at Design Projects and they were doing a movie and I made sure I was part of it. After Bruce and I started discussing the script, we were able to convince Rick Albert that it needed to be re-done and that we could do it. Bruce was the copy writer for the agency and I had written enough stuff previously that I knew I could handle the script.

G: What was your initial reaction when you read the Buechler script?

JB: Simply put, it was bad. The characters weren't characters, they had no reason for doing anything they were doing and most of the story didn't make much sense.

G: Did Beuchler realize he wrote a terrible script?

JB: I don't know. Like most people who write, he probably thought it was a good, solid piece of writing. I never heard anything from John after the film was made, so I don't know what he thought of the changes we made to his masterpiece.

G: What can you tell me about your experience rewriting the script?

JB: I volunteered to do this after reading the Beuchler script and things looked like they were going to get started again. Bruce Akiyama, who also worked at Design Projects, and I sat down and tried to figure out how to make a better story out of what we already had. Vidmark had already approved the Beuchler script and we had the three monsters already made up so, we had to work our story around the material that already existed. Once we worked out what we thought was a reasonable story, using all of Beuchler's elements, I brought my Smith Corona into the office and started typing. As the pages came out of my typewriter, they went to Bruce for his comments and any tweaking, then they went to our receptionist who re-typed everything. All this was going on while Design Projects was doing its regular business and I was setting type for posters, ads, video boxes and record albums. I remember sitting in my little typesetting room with one glass wall typing feverishly with Bigfoot and the desiccated mummy puppet looking on and Rick came in asking, "Jim where are those pages?"

I could only reply, "I'm typing as fast as I can."

G: How much time did you and Akiyama have to rewrite the script? Can you tell us of any proposed plot threads that didn't make it into the final script?

JB: The rewrite was accomplished over the course of about two weeks (I was typing as fast as I could). Because we were working from an already approved script, we really tried to stick to as much of Beuchler's original story as we could stand, there really wasn't anything extraneous that we wanted to add that we didn't. There were those few things in the script that didn't come across in the final film which could have been my fault as a writer, but were more likely missed for budgetary reasons or the fact that the director didn't get it.

G: I would have though it might have been union problem that you were being credited for writing, yet you weren't getting paid for it.

JB: No one on this picture was associated with any union except SAG. We needed to be signatory to SAG so we could get real actors, but as for the rest of the production, it was strictly non-union. I was not a member of the Writer's Guild and I volunteered to do the writing for just the screen credit.

G: What did you and others think of the revised script?

JB: Everyone seemed to be pleased with it. It was a step up from the Beuchler script, but it kept most of his storyline intact. For myself, I was pretty proud of it, since it was my first fully completed screenplay and it was actually going to be made into a movie. I had nothing to complain about.

G: How was Emmett Alston chosen to direct Demonwarp?

JB: Like many things on this production Emmett came in through Rick's contacts with other companies. Rick was well acquainted with a production partner of Emmett's and since he needed a director for the project, Emmett was the first person he thought of.

G: What can you tell me about Emmett Alston? All most people seem to know is that he made a few cult movies in the '80s (New Year's Evil, Nine Deaths Of The Ninja) before disappearing.

JB: I can't tell you much about Emmett. He was likable enough but bland. He didn't seem to be too enthusiastic about this project, it was probably just another job and another paycheck for him. Comments that came back from the set were that he sat and read the trades while his DP set up shots and blocked out scenes. I remember him asking me about the scene where Michelle Bauer is killed by the preacher and has her heart fed to the alien. He wanted to know if it was necessary to have that scene at all. I explained to him that it was that scene that established what evil creatures we were dealing with. It showed that going to the spaceship was dangerous, especially for topless girls. So that later when our heroine is taken there, the audience will know what fate awaits her unless Jack can rescue her. "Oh," he said, "so that's a story point then."

Emmett didn't even show up during the editing process. He was gone to another project. He took his paycheck and moved on. I have had no contact with him since then. I don't know what he's doing now, if anything.
 

So how did the shoot go? Find out in part two!
 

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