Cynema in Comedy & Film Finance

October 20, 2015

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG

Show me The Money

I read an article on Markus Persson, the billionaire developer of Minecraft and why the media says he hates being a billionaire: https://recode.net/2015/08/29/minecraft-billionaire-markus-persson-hates-being-a-billionaire/ Now I don’t know how much of this was taken out of context. I would think with that kind of expendable income, I could find a few things to at least occupy my time instead of whining to the media on how unhappy I am.

Then again, I’m not a billionaire so there’s that.

No doubt every jackass with a story is after you to give them money and that’s gotta be depressing. Everyone wants you, but they don’t, so yeah, it seems like a vicious circle for the person with money. And a pain in the ass.

Markus Persson, lonely billionaire?

So my question to him and other people with money falling out of their assholes (and this has everything to do with Cynema, Ross Patterson and his two comedy films FDR American Baddass and Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves) is this: Why not have a good time and make some fun movies with fun people? You don’t need the return on investment, you get to meet fun, creative people and most of the time, really cool people. You might be a little less lonely. Making movies is a real good time and when you have a “no jackasses policy” it’s like summer camp for fun kids.

Perspective

Of course, you could REALLY find some purpose in life and put incredible amounts of money into real causes like rejuvenating the educational system, helping the poor, kicking cancer and Alzheimer’s research into high gear by stripping away the bureaucracy that seems to keep us arm’s length from true breakthroughs. At the least save an animal shelter on the verge of collapse and clean up a park. Helping people through true generosity (not for bullshit humble bragging or activist-chic motives) is one of the best ways to beat depression and feel good and happy.

* For the record, I did reach out to Markus via Twitter. I sent a public tweet and asked him to hit me up some time. He replied with a simple “No.” *

But I digress.

I make good movies. They are not Cynema, and while they are constrained by tight budgets, I can clearly say folks on board my productions are out to make a good film, and we have a damned good time doing it. I work hard to hire the same crews, work with as many of my actors as possible and create an onset atmosphere that is fun, relaxed and conducive to making a good film.

I think that seems similar with Ross Patterson and his crew and cast. I am getting around to him.

Unfortunately the media creates a myth that basically anyone with a camera and digital editing software is a filmmaker. It eschews hard work and patience for “lightning in a bottle” hits like Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch. Amateur filmmakers intentionally or unintentionally dupe financiers out of money by promising them they can make a $50,000 film and it will make $400 million world wide. In short, they ruin it for the rest of us trying to secure financing for good projects with talent attached and the means to get it distributed.

I am here to tell you that your $10,000 film will not be a blockbuster. It MIGHT if you have a $50 million marketing plan behind it from a major studio, but aside from that, it won’t.

Crowd Funding is the new myth builder. Filmmakers can go online, set up a page and watch the money roll in. Not quite. Crowd funding is a Cynema topic for another time, however Ross Patterson came along and did something different. Aside from making two good movies, he publicly declared “Fuck you” to Hollywood.

St. James St. James

Ross Patterson is an independent filmmaker, author and actor from Los Angeles.  But who isn’t?

Patterson (aka St. James St James) appeared in and was behind a number of films before he struck comedy gold with the Barry Bostwick historical send up: FDR American Badass. I have seen a number of funny films in my life. My top comedy films include: It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, What’s Up Doc?, Easy Money, Animal House, Weird Science, Uncle Buck, Caddyshack, Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety, Stripes, Raising Arizona, Revenge of the Nerds, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Airplane! to drop a few titles. I like to think I have a pretty good sense of humor and as society continues its over sensitive, politically correct death march toward culture death, Patterson’s films offer a glimmer of hope.

ross

Patterson’s alter ego…St. James St. James

I will put into print that I think FDR American Badass ranks with the films I have listed above. I will go even further to say that Patterson and his troupe of merry idiots are the heirs to the Zucker Brothers of Airplane! fame. Patterson has such a stylized form of comedy, his own brand, that he has created some type of legitimate comedy sub genre. I don’t know exactly what to call it, but it has the wiseass, self aware contempt of Caddyshack‘s filmmakers and the shotgun, raunchy “what the fuck let’s try it” spirit of the Zucker’s or even Farrelly’s. He hits at social hangups Mel Brooks style like Blazing Saddles. He tops it all off with a dose of Andy Kaufman middle finger to the audience.

The best part is that Patterson and his gang did this with almost no money and sucked the marrow out of their talent.

helen2

A crowd funding campaign for Patterson’s Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves failed. Let me say this. Some asshole crowdfunded himself in excess of $200,000 promising to make potato salad and say people’s names. Apparently it was a lark, but enough people funded it as a joke and the guy had the last laugh. Patterson asks for money to make a funny movie and fails to do so.

Instead of slunking away with his wolf tail between his legs, Patterson got the movie made and then released it to the public via You Tube HERE.

helen

“Fuck you, Hollywood!” — Ross Patterson

I Laughed

When I saw this link on Twitter, I thought the film was pirated. I asked Patterson directly online and he replied along the lines of “Spread it everywhere. This is my way of saying “fuck off” to Hollywood.” While I really wanted to see this film, I wasn’t going to view it illegally and was going to report piracy until Patterson assured me it was fine. I don’t know where Patterson got the money to finish Helen Keller. Most of all I want it very clear that this is a crass, low production value (deliberately done so) film with some great names and Patterson is so into his craft for the fun and art, he released “the film that almost couldn’t” to the masses for free. He got Bostwick to return, Lin Shaye pops up where she belongs: irreverent humor, and as a real treat, Alana Ubach, who stole the show as the hyper violent, foul mouthed Naomi in the underrated classic, Waiting. The film is padded out with stellar character actors like Jesse Merlin deadpanning a number of memorable quotes.

“Yeah, you’re a real fucking miracle worker, Anne Sullivan” — Jesse Merlin, Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves

See that,  all you folks out there with too much money? Here’s a filmmaker who so loves what he does, he gave it for free to show how broken the system is in the hopes it will generate good word of mouth to get more work.

Ross Patterson is Ed Wood with attitude and talent. This goes for every single person who works with him. They’re all one big group of likable assholes who turn out some pretty damned good product. Why a studio has not inked a multi-comedy deal with Patterson is beyond me. His Street Justice Films is not cranking out dimwitted spoof fare.

Let me make this clear: I have never met Ross Patterson or anyone aside from Barry Bostwick from his films. While I know his friend and associate Tommy Reid, because my film, The Fields, starred Tara Reid, I have no investment in Patterson’s movies. I did go out of my way to tell Barry Bostwick at the Scare-A-Con convention that hosted us both, how much I loved him as FDR. I was well aware of Bostwick’s long film and theater career, but dammit if FDR made me go all fan boy. Bostwick then pitched me Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves and I left his table excited.

Patterson and his Street Justice Films produced two movies that were low on budget but high on creativity and talent. Though FDR is my preference, I saw the same creativity and love of craft in the Helen Keller follow up. While both films are short on money the gap is filled by truly funny writing. I have not seen such quotable films since the 80s. However another part of the magic is the brilliant casting.

Barry Bostwick came out swinging as FDR with the line, “Yeah, that was Woodrow Wilson for ya! He just didn’t give a fuck.” Simply working one of America’s least humorous presidents into a funny as hell opening line is movie magic. When Bostwick’s FDR fearfully asks if his cock still works after being diagnosed with “The Polio” you laugh but yet admire the sincerity in the delivery.

FDR says “Fuck Polio”

Lin Shaye is along for the ride. While she has found deserved success in the horror genre, comedy is where this woman belongs. It takes good filmmakers to know this. No one is wasted in either film and belief is suspended. I’m buying Richard Riehle as a well-intentioned sheriff. Never mind rampant anachronisms, pop culture references and for some reason…werewolf Nazis. As a former history teacher I got the historical stuff and yes, I THINK I know why they are werewolves. But with these guys, you just never know.

Why is a small town terrorized by “nightwolves” and why do their eyes glow red? I love how the production design team makes no effort to use animatronic wolves and force Alana Ubach to wrestle with plush stuffed dogs while rolling down a hill. When CGI wolves do show they are animated clip art and it’s brilliant.

The real issue is that audiences have grown so literal and so dumb, that I fear a number of references in these films go sailing right out and over their heads. Are there really those saying, in all seriousness that the night wolves don’t look real? Was there any expectation of that?

These guys are the thinking man’s Benny Hill. Well placed sexist nudity, slapstick and a few fart jokes mix with some random stuff makes zero sense. Why exactly does FDR’s kid feel compelled to shit in flower vases? We know a broken vase joke will eventually show up, but we are left in awe when James crouches over a porcelain vase and lays some cable.

So…

Why? Who cares? These people are having fun and it shows. Patterson and his ilk (that includes his cast) are the caddies crashing the pool in Caddyshack and Patterson is Dangerfield leading the charge. These were the people I ran with in high school and college and it’s good to see them raising hell onscreen. While all of my films have been horror to this point, the people I have assembled are dredged from the same swamp.

The great scene of Douglas MacArthur and FDR bullying Albert Einstein in Badass symbolizes Patterson’s style. Einstein is Hollywood and Ross and his guys are shoving him in the locker.

Patterson and his ilk (that includes his cast) are the caddies crashing the pool in Caddyshack and Patterson is Dangerfield leading the charge.

On top of it all, the films are good. They’re funny and they’re smart. The Zucker Brothers upset the apple cart with Airplane! While the humor wasn’t exactly fresh or new, its presentation was. Their films were usually one visual pun after another (The Naked Gun series, Top Secret!), and their approach was simple: throw enough shit against the wall and something will stick. Their earlier film, The Kentucky Fried Movie was an exercise in deliciously bad taste and black humor. They made it for nothing, yet secured a few good sports in celebrity name power to give it legitimacy.

Patterson has done this as well. Maybe they’re not all A-list names, but for a guy making films with an almost zero budget, he’s getting some good talent. Most of all they look like they’re having a good time with the dialogue they’ve been given. I can see why Lin Shaye and Bostwick signed on. The script would have been enough for me.

Having no money doesn’t mean it has to suck. However having a lot of money can also change the game. There is a huge difference between FDR and Helen Keller and the Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer Epic Movie style parody films. Friedberg and Seltzer are the guys who come to the party drunk telling dick jokes and end up with lampshades on their heads. They have a shtick.

Patterson’s movies can beat up their movies.

So, anyone reading this with money they don’t know what to do with…I can give you a few ideas. Aside from financing my stuff, Patterson and his folks are seated over at the rowdy lunch table. Go have a seat and talk with them too. You do, however, have to remove the stick (or plunger) from your ass.

You have all this money. You’ll never spend it in a lifetime. Why not have some fun? Enjoy life. You can’t take it with you and no one’s ever said on their deathbed, “I shoulda worked harder.”

What Patterson and his team are doing is anti-Cynema. They are working their asses off to give their audiences a good time. They are making good stuff to do it.

Easily offended? Are you a social activist outraged over something? Religious and righteous? You didn’t reach the end of this article anyway, so shut the fuck up, Einstein.

If you’re a filmmaker looking to make your mark, then look at what Street Justice Films is doing. It’s good to see that some filmmakers are still intent on delivering smart and clever entertainment, even if audiences have become comatose and no longer know the difference.

Shit goblins, some of us are paying attention.

Listen to my Cynema podcast found on iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeart Radio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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