Author’s note: I’m back.
I don’t know if I’m going to be able to post weekly, like I’ve always tried to. I don’t want this project to become stressful. But I’ll do the best I can, and hopefully my small handful of loyal readers will stick with me even I take a week off here and there.
A month ago, when I went home to Santa Lucia County for Thanksgiving, I showed my family the Dog Crap and Vince movie that I had made with the kids from the youth group at church. I first created the characters from Dog Crap and Vince when I was still in high school, with a lot of input from my brother Mark, and I have always credited Mark as a co-creator of Dog Crap and Vince. They all enjoyed the movie. Mark said that when I came home for Christmas, we should get together with his friends Cody and Boz and make another movie.
We did not own a video camera. I had always wanted one growing up. I had tons of silly ideas for TV shows and movies, sometimes Mark and I and some combination of his other friends would even act them out and even record the audio, but we never had the capability to record video. Video cameras cost a lot of money back then, and it was never a priority for my parents to have one. But Mark said that Boz had one we could probably borrow.
It was now the Friday after Christmas. I was planning on driving back to Jeromeville either Monday night or Tuesday morning. I was getting bored at home. Three and a half years after graduation, I had lost touch with all of my high school friends. There was not much to do at home except hang out at home. The closest thing I had to friends at home were Mark, Cody, and Boz. I was going to graduate from the University of Jeromeville in six months, and they were sixteen, still in high school. This was less of an age difference compared to when I was seventeen and they were twelve, but they still did not feel like a primary social group for me.
Despite how bored I was, I had made no progress on this movie that Mark and I were supposedly going to make. I had not done much of anything the whole time I was home. We had our family Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa and the Lusks, who were in the area for the holidays. Jane Lusk was my aunt, my mother’s younger sister; she visited every Christmas with her husband Darrell and their children, nineteen-year-old Rick and seventeen-year-old Miranda. Uncle Darrell’s family was also in Santa Lucia County, so they spent a week going back and forth visiting both sets of their relatives.
Mark had a new game for Nintendo 64, GoldenEye. The game follows the story of the James Bond movie of the same name, which I had seen once. The most well-known feature of this game was a multiplayer free-for-all mode, in which two to four players battle each other. Rick and Miranda and Mark and I spent many hours of that winter break playing GoldenEye, as well as Mario Kart. In both games, Mark almost always won, and Miranda almost always came in last place.
In those days, Mark would often record what he was watching on television on a VHS tape, so he could watch it again. He watched Saturday Night Live regularly, because in the 1990s it was actually funny much of the time. Whenever the show would run a sketch that was not worth rewatching, he would back up the tape during the next commercial and record over it immediately. Whenever I would go home, Mark would share with me his Saturday Night Live highlights.
Saturday Night Live had been in the news recently because Chris Farley, a cast member on the show a few years earlier who was also in a few movies after that, had died of a drug overdose a couple of weeks earlier. Two months before his death, Farley had returned to SNL as the weekly guest host, and Mark saved that entire episode. Earlier that week, I had watched Farley reprise many of his past recurring characters. He also portrayed an exaggeratedly intoxicated Hank Williams Jr. and the weather phenomenon El Niño, acting like a professional wrestler. Throughout the whole time Mark and I watched the episode, Mom kept interrupting, commenting on Farley’s visibly poor health.
The next day, Mark and I watched other things he had recorded since then. We watched what was then considered the final episode of Beavis and Butthead, although unbeknownst to anyone at the time, the show would be revived in the 2010s and 2020s. After this, we watched another SNL in which a Bill Gates character announced that Microsoft had bought Christmas, and that Mac users were now Jewish. Bill Gates then proceeded to spy on Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who was dancing to the song “Tubthumping.” Oddly random, but hilarious.
Mark got home from basketball practice while I was eating dinner Friday night. Mark got all of the athletic talent in our family. He also had a great deal more artistic talent than me, and he and some of his teammates had begun a new tradition of drawing temporary tattoos on each other with permanent marker. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the tattoo that someone had drawn on Mark today.
“A polar bear,” Mark explained. “John McCall drew it.” The polar bear on Mark’s arm was floating on a piece of sea ice, with the letters POLAR BEAR underneath in a style imitating the Old English blackletter font.
“And why do you have a tattoo of a polar bear?” I asked.
Mom and Dad were in the room with us. “That’s the nickname the others on the team have come up with for Mark,” Mom said.
“And why is Mark’s nickname ‘Polar Bear?’”
Dad answered this time. “Because he’s big and white!”
I laughed. “That does make sense.”
Later that night, Mark and I were playing Mario Kart, and Mark said something that reminded me of something from Dog Crap and Vince. As my brain started thinking of related things, I said out loud, “We never made that movie we were going to make while I was home. Do you still want to?”
“I don’t know,” Mark replied. “Do we have time? How long are you gonna be home?”
“I’m leaving probably late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. So we’d have about 72 hours.” As I continued steering Luigi around the course, throwing banana peels behind me, I got an idea. “I think this sounds like a challenge. We have 72 hours to make a movie. And we’ll call our production company ‘72 Hour Films.’”
“Sounds good. I’ll ask Boz in the morning if we can go get his camera. Boz was probably going to come over this weekend anyway.”
“Great! And if Rick and Miranda are around, we can get them in our movie too! So what’s it going to be about?”
“I don’t know. This was your idea.”
“Well, you’ve been saying this whole time that you want to make a movie.”
“I do, but I don’t know what it’s about!”
I saw the GoldenEye cartridge sitting next to the Nintendo console. “What about a spy movie? Like GoldenEye?”
“Maybe, but it seems like that might be too hard if we only have 72 hours.”
I thought about other things I had done at home during previous school breaks, and suddenly it came to me. “Moport,” I said. “Let’s make a sports movie about Moport. Like, maybe, there’s a Moport team that’s terrible, they finish last in the league, so they get the number one draft pick, but the player they draft ends up just making things worse.”
“That could work.”
“Ooo. Better idea. They accidentally draft the wrong player. Like, the general manager gets the name wrong at the draft, and the player they pick is this weird crazy goofball.”
“But all the goofy stuff he does is so crazy, they still end up winning!” Mark said.
“As long as we get Boz to play the goofy guy. He’d be great in that role.”
Moport was a game my brother and I invented, based on a game I played in PE class in high school. The game I learned combined elements of football and soccer; Mark and I added hockey sticks to the mix, and Moport was born. For the last few years, we had held a two-on-two Moport tournament in the front yard with Cody, Boz, John McCall, and some of Mark’s other friends.
By the time Mark and I went to bed that night, we had a workable script, and we had decided to title the movie #1 Draft Pick. I suggested that the team in the movie have a geographically appropriate, yet ridiculous-sounding name, like many actual low-level sports teams. The Gabilan Valley in Santa Lucia County is known for growing vegetables, so we named our team the Gabilan Fighting Salads. The movie would open with the Salads losing badly, finishing in last place again, giving them the number one draft pick for the following year. After drafting the wrong player, as we had previously decided, we would show scenes of this player, whom we had named Evan, practicing and playing and still somehow finding ways to score. We added implied references to Evan being on drugs. I suggested that Evan played college Moport for North Coast State, because that was a well-known hippie stoner school, and it was also where Rick went, although Rick was not at all a hippie or stoner.
After the Salads’ first win, the team practiced the next day, and Evan accidentally kicked a ball that left the field and hit a supervillain-like bystander in the face. The villain vowed to get revenge on the Salads and sabotage their season. He sent a henchman to break into the locker room and plant drugs on Evan. When Evan’s name was cleared, the villain hired another henchman to shoot Evan. Mark and I both agreed that Rick should play this other henchman, since Rick’s side of the family were gun enthusiasts. “But we should use the Nintendo Zapper as the prop gun,” Mark suggested.
“That would be hilarious,” I replied.
We continued brainstorming the ending of the movie. Evan survived the shooting, so the villain drove his car onto the field and ran over Cody’s character, whom we named Bob. Cody did not look at all like someone who would be named Bob, so we thought that was funny. Bob needed to play injured since the Salads were out of replacement players, and they managed to score a goal on a ridiculously improbable shot.
“Then we should end by showing Fidel Castro dancing,” Mark said, laughing, referencing Saturday Night Live.
“Let’s name your character ‘Castro,’” I suggested. “And at the end, you’re not there, and Evan and Bob talk about how you went to visit your Uncle Fidel in Cuba.”
My least favorite part of doing a creative project with other people involved is getting everyone together at the same time. Fortunately, the Lusks were already planning on coming over today, as was Boz. Mark called Cody, and he was free to come over as well. Ronnie and D.J. Lusk, Rick and Miranda’s other cousins on their dad’s side, lived about an hour drive away, and they were also in town for the day. That gave us two more people to use as extras in the movie; Ronnie and D.J. played one of the opposing teams.
“Dad?” I asked as we started filming Saturday morning, shortly after Boz showed up with the camera. “Can you be in our movie for one scene?”
“Ahh,” Dad grunted as he got up from the couch, faking being annoyed although I knew he was going to enjoy helping out. “What do I have to do?”
“You’re the general manager of the Salads, but you get the player’s name wrong at the draft,” I explained. I placed the script on the table where he would be sitting in the shot, so that he could glance down at his lines if he needed to.
I sat next to Dad, in character as Coach McAfee. Mark and Boz faced us, with Boz holding the camera. “Where’d you get the camera?” Dad asked.
“We’re borrowing it from the Bosworths,” I explained.
Dad turned to Boz and asked, “That’s your camera?”
“Yeah,” Boz replied.
Dad played his part perfectly, speaking in an absent-minded manner that would make it believable that he would select the wrong player. As an added bonus, he called his own team the Lettuce instead of the Salads. To this day, I do not know if that was intentional, adding to the mood, or if that was just Dad being Dad and actually getting the name wrong. After Dad called Evan’s name, Boz ran into the scene, in character as Evan, doing a silly dance and hugging Dad’s character. Evan wore a sleeveless top with his arms covered in tattoos, drawn by Mark with a permanent marker.
Next, we went outside and set up the Moport field in the front yard, with the same scoreboard and goals that we used for the actual Moport tournament. When we got to the part with the supervillain getting kicked in the face, we filmed Boz and Cody, in character as Evan and Bob, kicking the ball around in practice. Evan then kicked the ball so hard it flew off camera. My plan was to have the villain, played by me in a different costume from Coach McAfee, looking out of a second-story window with the ball coming in from off screen to hit me in the face. But I had to change clothes for this.
“What are you gonna wear?” Mark asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Let me go look.” I went inside to the closet in my old bedroom and dug around, not really sure what I was looking for, but hoping I would know when I found it.
In eleventh grade, five years earlier, I had to do a group project for history class, a presentation on one decade in American history. My group got the 1950s. We talked about President Eisenhower, the war in Korea, McCarthyism, and the Cold War. We also included some references to the culture of the 1950s, which my classmates decided would include getting me to dress up as Elvis Presley and lip-synch and dance. Mom got in on this, decorating an old thrift store shirt with fringe and sequins for my Elvis costume. When my classmates recorded me for the class project, I could not keep a straight face for more than ten seconds, but we decided that would be enough, because the stuffy 1950s father would turn off the television after ten seconds and refuse to let his children watch that garbage.
I found the Elvis shirt in my closet, along with a trucker cap printed in a cow pattern, which Dad had gotten from a local auto parts store, and a pair of oversized sunglasses. I walked to the window where my villain character would get hit in the face and opened it. “I’m ready,” I said to Mark, Cody, and Boz, still outside below.
“What the hell are you wearing?” Mark shouted.
“It’s my villain costume,” I replied.
“How is that a villain costume? You look ridiculous!”
“Hey, we’re not exactly trying to win an Academy Award for costume design. I was going for something that would look different from my coach character.”
After we finished, I went downstairs, taking off my villain costume as I walked outside. “Is that the Elvis shirt?” Dad asked as I walked past.
“Yeah. You’ll just have to see the final movie when we finish.”
We had just as much ridiculous fun for the rest of that Saturday and Sunday as we finished filming. For the scene where Rick’s henchman character shoots Evan, Rick wore a black cowboy hat and boots, with an actual holster on his belt. We all had a hard time keeping a straight face as Rick, trying to be serious, pulled the Nintendo Zapper, the gun from the old Duck Hunt game, out of his holster, complete with cord dangling from the bottom.
Although we kept the plot basically the same, we added two scenes that were not in the original script. In one, Boz, in character as Evan, wakes up in the middle of the night and has a vision of two-time Moport champion Mark Dennison giving him encouragement. Mark Dennison was, of course, just Mark playing himself, wearing his Ice Monkeys uniform from the Moport tournaments. Since this was an extremely low-budget film, many of us were playing multiple roles, and the audience would just have to accept the fact that Mark Dennison looked exactly like Evan’s teammate Ben Castro. Although Mark Dennison had some encouraging words for Evan, he acted kind of obnoxious, eating Evan’s food and sitting right on top of him on the bed. Pee-Wee the cat was in the room at the time, and Mark picked her up and started petting her.
The other scene that we added happened after the villain’s plan to plant drugs on Evan failed. Boz played a double role as the henchman who planted the drugs, and only Boz and I were in the room when we filmed this scene. The camera did not need to move, so I just placed it on a table. On Monday morning, when I had finally finished editing, I watched the final cut of #1 Draft Pick with my family and the Lusks, and I had not yet realized that none of them had seen this scene, not even Mark.
“The plan didn’t work!” Boz’s hunchbacked henchman character shouted on screen. “Evan was proven innocent, and he’ll be playing in tomorrow’s game!”
On the screen, in character as the villain with the Elvis shirt, I looked directly toward the camera and said, “Then it’s time for Plan B.” The henchman walked off screen, tapping his fingers together. A few seconds later, the villain reached over and pressed Play on a portable CD player. Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” began playing as the villain began doing some kind of dorky, ridiculous dance.
As my family watched this scene, hysterically laughing, Mark looked at me, confused. “That’s Plan B?” he shouted. “What is going on here?”
“I don’t know,” I said, laughing so hard I began crying. “I was just doing something weird.”
“But… really? That’s your Plan B?”
Mom and Dad laughed particularly hard at later scenes in the movie, like when Rick’s character shot Evan with the Duck Hunt gun, and when the villain drove his car onto the field. “So that’s why you drove on the lawn the other day,” Dad said. As the final scene played, with Mark and I in character as Ben Castro and Uncle Fidel, dancing to Tubthumping, then transitioning to the credits, I looked around the room to see everyone’s reaction. “That was very good,” Mom said.
I made a copy of #1 Draft Pick to leave with Mark and packed the other one that night to bring back to Jeromeville with me. Mark showed the movie to Cody and Boz the next time he saw them, and they both enjoyed it. I showed it to a couple of my school friends over the years, but not nearly as many people saw this one compared to my earlier Dog Crap and Vince movie. But, considering how quickly we had to put everything together, it turned out fairly good. This was definitely the highlight of my winter break that year.
And of course, to this day, my family still laughs whenever we hear the phrase “Plan B.”
Rest in peace, Uncle Darrell. He lost his battle with cancer in 2023 as I was outlining this episode.
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5 thoughts on “December 26-29, 1997. I made another movie. (#157)”
I’m sorry about the loss of your uncle. I really enjoyed reading this. SNL was so good back then and I too used to record it and rewatch it (kids these days are so spoiled!) Your movie sounds hilarious! Love the concept and the way you describe the scenes. Sounds like a great fun!
Oh, and I’m glad to see you writing again. Don’t worry about the stress of posting weekly. Write when you can. I’ll always be happily surprised :)