Well another year has passed on through and somehow, yet again, I’ve managed to totally neglect this website on pretty much every front. Truth is, most of my “blogging” and such has been over at Eibon Press these days and it’s been a wild and crazy time. (Don’t take my word for it; you can totally click THAT LINK BACK THERE to check out what’s been going on.) Not to mention the fact that I’ve pretty much “retired” from active blogging, or at least the current mainstream definition of it. But that’s no excuse for not bringing all five of you who still read The Express up to date. I haven’t taken this site down or anything because there’s still some wicked-cool content here that I like sharing, and we’ll get into sharing a bit more as 2021 creeps in. (“Wicked cool?” What is this guy, like a hundred years old? Sheeeeeesh.) One of the big deal things from this year that I STILL can’t believe I never posted about here was PROJECT 51. But more on that in a second. First it’s time to talk about . . .
ESCAPING MY STALKER
As I write this it’s been almost TWO YEARS since my last Lifetime family thriller was made, and it was a really special one. We shot it in January of 2019 and it was released on New Year’s Day of 2020. Why the long delay? Truthfully I don’t really remember. I know there were many pushbacks for one reason or another, and then they decided to save it for a special series of films on LMN called DEADLY RESOLUTIONS AFTER DARK. But don’t quote me on that. I could be wrong. After all, since the shining moment of January 1 2020 when my movie was first unleashed, we’ve all had to deal with being the helpless victims of the violent crime known as THE REST OF 2020. Does anybody really remember any of this year? I only have this vague impression of the past twelve months like I was living in some kind of bizarre fear-soaked nightmare in which really, really bad things were happening, like, all the time and I wasn’t exactly sure what they were. But everybody’s real upset and the world is ending and I haven’t seen any of my friends in, like, forever. Bummer, right?
Anyway, the point is, we made this really cool movie. When I wrote the screenplay, it was called HOMELESS AT 17. During the shooting it was called RUNAWAY. On televison it’s called ESCAPING MY STALKER. (Ahh, Lifetime. You little scamp, you.) The movie is special because it’s filled with things close to my heart and because of that, I aced the script in basically one draft. That never happens with these TV movies. We always go through at least nine versions before everyone is happy. But there was something about this particular story that I could tell especially well. I think much of that heart shows up in the final film. NOW, to be sure, we did have many revisions and dialogue polishes and little nips and tucks along the way, just like on any movie once it gets into production. But the beating heart remained from the very first draft and many scenes appear in the final film almost exactly as I conceived them in that draft. Which almost never happens. I was also on set every day for the shooting, which I usually don’t do either. I wanted to see this one come to life in person. (To this day I still can’t imagine why; movie sets are stressful places I normally try like hell to avoid.) We had a hell of a director and a great cast of delightful young people . . . and a couple of living cinema legends I was honored to be around.
I literally squealed with delight when they told me the great ALEXANDRA PAUL would play Sandy Stewart, the lead “concerned mom” character, who rescues homeless people and feeds them at a shelter she owns with her husband Larry. Alexandra is known to all us UBER Nerds as The Virgin Connie Swail in DRAGNET and as Leigh Cabot in John Carpenter’s CHRISTINE. Not to sound like a cliche, but she was also a joy to work with. (Um. That’s her with the duct tape on her mouth.)
Our villain was played by MARIETTE HARTLEY, who I grew up watching in everything from STAR TREK (the original goddamn series, folks) to THE INCREDIBLE HULK (the original goddam series, folks). Mariette won her Emmy for HULK, and regaled us all on set with amazing stories from that time in her career. I’m proud to say her character of MARNIE DYSON has since been immortalized in the “Villainous Beauties” section of FANDOM.COM, right HERE. Check her out. But beware, SPOILERS!
Did you get a bit of Deja Vew just then? Marnie Dyson. Yep, another one of my callback names. Those of you who know my work are aware I pepper every film with little shout-outs. In this film the bad guy is named after the ex wife of my best friend (who was herself named after the Alfred Hitchcock movie MARNIE) and the last name comes from TERMINATOR 2, of course. As a matter of fact, Marnie’s grandson in the film is even named MILES DYSON. Every nerd on the crew was following me around asking if I actually named the kid after the mad scientist who invented Cyberdyne Systems. Um. Well DUH, you guys.
There’s also a John Ryder, named after the bad guy of THE HITCHER, a shout out to my pal Eric Red, and Sandy Stewart is named after the singer/songwriter who wrote SEVEN WONDERS for Fleetwood Mac, and also happens to be a dear old friend I grew up with. Sandy’s daughter is also named after an old friend.
Oh, and it doesn’t stop there. I named the boyfriend CLU, after the great actor Clu Gulager, and we even have a cool scene where the guy talks about why he was named that. His dad was a big horror fan, see, and loved THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. One of our only few reviews pointed out how cool that was and I felt real good about pushing to keep the line in the film. (They almost cut it out in editing.) It’s these fun details that make such things worth looking closer at and more personal, I think.
Our lead actress EZMIE GARCIA was an absolute treat and gave a truly exceptional performance, along with Pedro Correa, who played Clu. They were both terrific kids on set and great professionals. Every night after wrap, without fail, Ezmie would give me and Linden big hugs and tell us thanks. What a gal! And speaking of Linden…
Our director, LINDEN ASHBY, was a former regular on MELROSE PLACE and TEEN WOLF, and he also played a key role in the film. (He’s the one on the right.) Of all the directors who’ve helmed my Lifetime movies, Linden was the one I connected with most. He had great insight in the dialogue polish and always pushed for bigger and better on set. And let me tell you guys, a finer actor you’ll not easily find on a set like this. We were thrown some real curveballs during this shoot. It was not easy. Linden’s ability to focus and refocus and his complete understanding and mastery of the craft of screen acting not only made him a terrific performer, but he got the best performances I have ever seen from young actors in a film like this. The final coda of the film is incredibly moving to me because of that. It is the most heartfelt and truthful scene I have even gotten to write in a Lifetime movie and one of my all-time my favorite moments in my entire illustrious career as a writer of motion pictures. On the moment we wrapped the shot, Linden was so happy he literally jumped out of his chair with joy. It was lightning in a bottle, really and truly.
For this reason and several others, ESCAPING MY STALKER is very special, and I totally think you should watch it!
CLICK HERE to get your very own digital copy at Amazon for just FIVE BUCKS.
When you say “I write movies for Lifetime” in a roomful of people you’re bound to get any number of reactions. But SOME PEOPLE actually DO embrace Lifetime movies for exactly what they are: The new low-budget genre cinema. Guys like Joe Bob Briggs (one of my personal heroes) champion us. And there’s guys like Trevor Wells out there, who understand, accept and analyze what we do on fair merits:
CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE to read Trevor’s great review of STALKER.
Now, you may be asking yourself what have I been up to for two years since we shot that bad girl? (Actually, you may not be asking yourself that at all; you may just want me to stop talking so you can get on with your life, but I digress.) Well, I’ve been writing more movies, obviously, and a lot of comic books too. I spent a lot of this past year developing my first “winter” thriller for Lifetime, which we just finalized casting on and which goes before the cameras in the frozen wilderness of Canada within a matter of mere days. I can’t tell you too much about it, but it’s also full of dark personal things, and I LOVE the cast. (One actress in particular I believe is a star waiting to happen.) Plus I’m writing two more of these things, which will be shot in 2021. Can’t tell you about those, either. But let’s just say they go beyond anything we’ve ever done before. And some major players in the “B-movie world” are getting involved with making one of them. Draw your own conclusions. Moo-hoo-HAH-HAH!
Yep, and I also did PROJECT 51, kids!
CLICK HERE to read all about it. It was the time when I wrote 51 short stories on my 51rst birthday! FUN, HUH??! That makes up the body of my first book of PURE PROSE FICTION in many years, which will be released this coming summer. It’s full of mutant lunatics and searing human insight. Plus girls who chop of their arms to be real women. It’s all very complicated. BE AFRAID.
Plus, of course, it’s been a wild and crazy year at Eibon Press, where I answer to no one but my partner Shawn and my demented personal muse, and the cries of our many fans, who demand more more MORE. The Saga of Janet of the Apocalypse is going full-blast, though we only had one new issue this year. The long awaited ISSUE 3 will be out in February, and it’s a stone cold blast! Janet is one of my favorite characters and I love the wild, satirical tone of that saga. It has more straight up self reflexive humor and satire in it that I usually get to do and that’s just effing great. Plus she smokes. Literally:
Plus we did the MANIAC COLLECTION, which compiled all three issues of our MANIAC VS THE NEW YORK RIPPER series in a single book, with an intro by Eli Roth:
And we did the BOTTOMFEEDER FULL BLACK collection, which is one of my favorite things ever, with an introduction by my pal Joe R. Lansdale:
So, yeah . . . I’ve been keeping real damn busy, in spite of (or maybe in some ways because of) the ongoing violent crime known as 2020. I hope to be here again next year (or sooner) with another epic update. Until, then keep many faiths, my friends. Love each other and forgive each other. Be fair to movies you don’t like. Be good to strangers.
And STAY HUNGRY!