The following is my post-mortem on my experience of working on my first feature film as well as an explanation of why it hasn’t been heavily covered here.

Grizzly Park
(Amazon Link)
is now available on DVD for your eyes and ears to be assaulted,
infected, and caressed by. As most of you know, it’s the first film
I’ve been involved with to be produced and released, albeit on a
smaller scale. A few screens and now DVD. I’m a co-producer. That said,
it is not MY MOVIE. In fact, I had very little creative input as I came
on late in the screenwriting process and my sensibilities for a killer
bear movie were inconsistent with what writer/director Tom Skull was
aiming for; something more like Lake Placid
with a somewhat biblical allegory. Most of my creative input came
during the editing process and in tune with who I am, they mostly
involved maximizing the gore or getting rid of moments that didn’t feel
genuine.


If anyone cares, my dream killer bear project would be like a mixture of Prophecy, To Live and Die in LA, and 12 Angry Men.
Seriously.

As a producer here it wasn’t my job to try and steer the
creative but rather do whatever I could to help Tom do his job.

Grizzly Park
is a really unique and tiny little movie. It doesn’t really feel like a
movie that would be made in the 2000’s and in fact it sort of reminds
me of when Disney tried to do horror back in the 70’s but with a little
more violence and some frank sexual discussions. Actually, I was
surprised when we got an R rating because though there is some gore the
thing that irked the MPAA the most was the drug and sexual discussion.
I’ve heard more aggressive stuf on Dawson’s Creek,
but whatever. An R boosts the horror cred, which is good but it also
creates an unrealistic idea of what the audience is going to get. In a
world of Hostel and Saw, this film is like an afterschool special.


The cast & producers, the Sunday before filming after a nice bit of mountain biking.


I
became involved in the film primarily due to my relationship with Belle
Avery, the lead producer on the film, and in many ways she took me
under her wing on this project [we have another killer animal picture
in the works, one you may be familiar with]. The movie was filmed
mostly on location in Abingdon, Virginia and its surrounding areas,
Belle’s place of residence and a truly breathtaking place to be. My
role was to keep our behind the scenes photography unit [The Shark is Still Working‘s
Erik Hollander and James Gelet] on point, work with the web guys [Dane
Walker and Jeremy Butler] on getting plenty of material as well as
hanging close to Tom Skull and Belle Avery and learn as much as I could
and offer my take on the proceedings. Sometimes a continuity catch, a
way a shot could be enhanced, little things. For the most part, I spent
a lot of time watching and oftentimes being awed by each and every
little job in getting that image burned to film.



Myself and producer Jeanne Stack, who has had the pleasure of working with Mr. Martin Scorsese.

It was a learning experience to be sure. Both in how very little I really knew about filmmaking but also about the grind of it all, especially with a small budget and relatively small [though very experienced] crew. Say what you will about the finished product, it looks and sounds pretty damn amazing and it certainly isn’t the traditional direct-to-video sort of exploitation we’re used to seeing [Grizzly Rage anyone?]. It’s what it is; a fun little curiosity that comes from a sweeter, more innocent place than most horror films, especially considering that the auteur goes by the name Tom Skull. I was also surprised by how much different what ended up on screen was compared to the script. Casting early and having the cast come to town a few days earlier and bonding led to some really nice chemistry that certainly colored the script leading up to production. The oft-mentioned communal aspect of making a movie was certainly present here as the ratty and charismatic Days Inn on the outskirts of town literally became Grizzly Park as the cast, crew, and production offices occupied the whole place.



When Beards Collide! Bear handler Jeff Watson and jack-of-all-trades Dane Walker.

It’s really easy to let the experience dictate one’s feelings about a project. All the great people, memories, and total immersion with each other [there is very little to do for a thirty mile radius of where we were, especially if you’re young like the majority of our cast] have a funny way of erasing the flaws in the product. Make no mistake, the film has flaws. Many of them can be chalked up to the limited scope of the budget and the reality of resources [there’s one moment I can’t watch without cringing because I see the prop in frame] but others can be more tied to perception, expectation, and the fact that there are certain rules in horror that aren’t adhered to here. I’m not apologizing for the film here, it’s just weird to have me… a blood and guts guy involved with a horror film with a message that’s definitely more of a gateway horror film for non-genre fans than for the hardcore this site caters to. I think a lot of people see my name and the concept of a killer bear movie and immediately think this is some rip-roaring splatter film, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.



Glenn Morshower prepares for a long monologue between takes.

Tom Skull’s a very devout guy, very steeped in nature, someone who knows a lot more about the writings of Martin Luther than H.P. Lovecraft. He’s much more interested in the story of Elisha and the Two Bears than in William Girdler’s 70’s hijinks or John Frankenheimer’s sleeping bag battering mutants. Grizzly Park represents his take on horror, and frankly while I was a little slow to “get” it on paper, I think the resulting film is pretty damn brave and unique because of that.



Myself and Filthee, of F.I.L.T.H.E.E. Immigrants.

With that in mind, I think that in a lot of ways the readers of
CHUD.com are most assuredly not the target audience for the film.
They’ll appreciate Glenn Morshower’s great performance and the moments
of grue but being historians and extremely discerning horror
aficionados it might be a little light for them.



That said, Troy seemed to dig it in his DVD review of the film so I could be wrong. More on that review and response later.



Myself flanked by the amazing and talented Erik Hollander and James Gelet.

The things that really register for me are the little things.
  • The amount of precautions taken to keep the bear away from the crew, including putting the craft services tent a healthy hike upwind from Brody as to not agitate him, and then seeing how lazy and silly the bear was in his down time. He’d dig incessantly for some root and then roll around in the grass like a puppy, minding his own business.

  • The tension in the air before the bear arrived at camp and the thought in the back of the mind about ‘what if he got out and hurt someone?’ and the like. Having a wolf and a giant bear on camp [as well as a movie webmaster] tends to cause a stir in the nethers. Last thing a film needs is to be a troubled production because of some mishap.

  • On our Sunday off having an impromptu softball practice with some of the cast and crew. Getting plaudits from Glenn Morshower about my hitting [coupled with an opposite film homerun off Ryan Culver of the Pacific Coast League when he threw some baseball B.P.]. Also trying to rouse some of the folks after an admittedly vicious night of drinking the night before.


Glenn dispenses knowledge like few others.

  • The aformentioned night before, my one and only experience with Wild Turkey 101, and evening where I had to use a mixture of radar and sonar to find my way back to my hotel room, walking with my head against the wall and counting the amount of bumps to the head each doorway provided until I was back in my own room where I slept in a position that can only be compared to the one we adopted during our tornado drills in middle school.

  • Countless times asking D.P. Matt Cantrell about his craft, and the amazing times he let me step up to the camera to see the shot being lined up. That extends to his whole crew, a really classy group of people. Tim Risch was also an invaluable resource, and it was a blast to accompany him on some run and gun nature shoots for 2nd unit.

  • Spending some quality time with Bob Mori in editing watching the film take shape. The amazing satisfaction of seeing the extra shot I asked for of the bobbing head inside the bear suit and the gurgling sound it made work in spades.



We pose in the cold.

  • Spending time with Rance Howard, a true legend, and asking him questions he’s not used to getting… ones about Clint, my favorite of his sons.

  • Meeting and becomign friends with Ryan Culver, a truly talented and funny man [and almost cast as as the lead in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns!] who will one day portray Balton Aulls in 11 Colonels ATTACK!.

  • Spending nearly every day with Erik Hollander and James Gelet, two really talented and savvy gentlemen who will undoubtedly make a mark in this business sooner rather than later.



October 10th? Yeah that was a warmer day. Probably around 30.

  • Getting the daily updates as the raw footage was uploaded after being digitally prepared and watching the rough film unfold through a series of very rough but inspiring clips.

  • Watching dailies at night in the cabin by the firelight with the other producers, the director, and Glenn Morshower. It really was a special time and something that made the oppressive cold a lot more bearable. Well, until we were done and the long trek to warmth had to happen.



Doug White prepares some grue.

  • Backbone Rock at the Tennessee/Virginia border. What an amazing place. Climbing to great heights and seeing the true breadth of nature was a really amazing experience. Also, shooting film on the rock face with a 300 foot drop right nearby and seeing the professionalism and safety involved. What a great few days of shooting. The most amazing production value around and it was all just waiting there for us.

  • Sharing the film with some of the local Chewers at my house, even knowing it wasn’t exactly their cup of tea, sharing the experience with them. Truly awesome.


One of the concept posters Simon O. Wright and I conceived before filming.

Now that it’s finally in a place where people can see it [though I was surprised to stop at my local Blockbuster today only to find that they won’t be stocking it even though they have every pile of dog dick available (including some stuff by some of my ‘peers’)], I can finally talk about it from a realistic place where it exists as an actual commodity and not some figurative ‘product’ but something folks can judge on their own. If they choose to.

A lot of people have taken me to task for Troy Anderson’s rather positive review of the film in his DVD review, but the honest truth is that he got the DVD through his own channels and reviewed it on his own, obviously with my blessing. From his comments it seemed he liked it somewhat but wasn’t a huge fan, and my main hope regarding a film made even in part by someone from this site was that the review was genuine. The fact he didn’t love or hate it seemed in my mind to represent that, though as is typically the case with such harmless decisions, a few rotten apples assumed there was some duplicity involved on my part.



Glenn surveys Doug White’s handiwork.

It bothered me, because I’ve made a point not to blow coverage of this film out of proportion. Especially since it got leaked onto download sites way too early [I hope there’s a special Hell for those people], it was in my opinion misrepresented in the promotional material by its distributor, and there are enough brickbats out there whenever someone like myself makes themselves a target by contributing to something that becomes a part of the collective public marketplace. The bottom line is that I’m not one of the principal creators of the film and didn’t want to mislead people but also felt that by ignoring a film like this on CHUD.com is counter to what we stand for. It is what it is, I have nothing to gain by creating a fake opinion of hype of the movie. What good does that do me? It only makes me look worse if it fails to live up to the expectations.



D.P. Matt Cantrell prepares for the scene where escaped convict Butch (Jeff Watson) sends one of our rangers to an early grave.


I’m proud to have been a part of Grizzly Park. I think it’ll find an audience and I think it plays more to a non-horror, less cynical crowd than the readers [and staff] of this site. It’s not the next generation of horror or something conceived to be so. It’s a fun little trinket, steeped in innocence and made by some really competent craftsmen and women for whom horror isn’t their lifeblood. I think with that in consideration there’s a lot to like with the film. But judge for yourself. I’d love to have your feedback and am here to offer any answers to questions you have through my Leak Letters column.

I’ve been in a different place since I made this movie, working hard on my own little projects as well as on three or four larger scale studio projects that are clunking along through the system (two of which featuring very high profile names, and look at how mum I’ve been!). I also have learned the hard way that less is more in regards to my film projects. I’ll offer what I can and let the product speak for itself. I’ll let folks here review them, good or bad and I WILL NOT influence the score one iota. I never have and I never will and frankly am offended that people would think otherwise.

I didn’t overhype the film or use CHUD.com as a marketing tool because it’s not a CHUD film. It’s not a Nick Nunziata film. It’s just the first in what I hope is many films that I work on that will reach some of you and be avoided by some of you. But not because I’m a shill or selling you a bill of goods but because it’s out there and you come to your own conclusions. Some films will come more directly from me and some may even be closely tied to the site. But Grizzly Park is a ScatterScream production, the brainchild of Tom Skull and Belle Avery. I hope you give it a chance and hope you dig it.

Or else!

Links of Note:

Behind the Scenes Featurettes:


- Nick Nunziata loved seeing his little credits onscreen as much as the next guy. Here they are: