Let’s talk about low points in our lives for a second.
Tattoo was once described by someone as a “misogynistic Rock n’ Roll fantasy“. They weren’t far off. Tattoo was my first attempt at making a feature length film. The concept, if you can call it that, came about during my last year at High School. Myself and the film’s stars, Joseph Ling and Eric Lucier, decided that we were going to make a feature film that the general public wouldn’t be ready for. We held court at the local Tim Hortons (Leslie and Lake Shore), spending many a night drinking coffee and writing our masterpiece.
*As a side note. I still enjoy going to Tim’s to write. Lately it’s been the Bay and Bloor location, there’s something about being surrounded by a bunch of deadbeats and hobos at 2am that really gets my creative juices flowing.
Joe and myself would write the plot points. Sometimes it would take a whole night to write a scene, but when we did nail that scene it was the greatest scene in cinematic history. I remember when we came up with the tag line “Dream Or Reality” it blew our minds. The French New Wave directors had nothing on us. Francois Truffaut was going to shit us pants when he saw what we were up too.
Eric is at a crossroads that will change his life. Ian, Eric’s best friend, gets an opportunity to take their band from bars to the big time. But when Eric meets Victoria, a rebellious groupie, nightmares from his past unravel. Eric must now choose between his band and his girl.
Once we had the basic outline of a scene we would turn to Eric for a funny story or one liner. Most of Eric’s contributions were pulled from life experiences which made it even funnier/sadder depending on how you want to look at it. At the time I would be crying from laughter, reading it now I just cry.
Casting the 2 main characters of Ian and Eric was already taken care of. Even the supporting cast wasn’t an issue. All of the supporting characters were based on friends so we decided to just cast them. Months later during production I realized that people can’t play themselves. The hardest role to cast was the female lead Victoria. We auditioned, if I can use that word, a few different girls but it just didn’t seem to work. Monica, a girl I went to school with, read the script and met me at the Riverdale Library one afternoon. We started talking and I proceeded to tell her how I had not been to this library since my Uncle OD’d in the washroom a few years prior. I could tell by the look on her face that she regretted showing up. Needless to say she didn’t call me back.
*As a side note. She also beat me out for school president the year prior. She had big tits and the guys loved her. She also learned sign language to impress the deaf/mute population of the school. On top of that my campaign was sabotaged by a kid named Byron Wolfgang. Monica eventually got kicked out of office for being a deadbeat or something.
Forget her, who needs her anyways. I’ll just get my friend Serena Lee to do it, and she did…tried. In retrospect it didn’t matter who played that role. The role itself was flawed from day one. We had written a dude character with a chick name. What the hell did I know about writing a female character. At that time in my life I was single and bitter, hence the misogynistic reference.
During casting I would hold rehearsals with Joe and Eric. The rehearsals consisted of us pre-drinking, going down to the Alliance Atlantis Beaches Cinema parking lot, and running lines. Eric and Joe would run through a scene while I stood in front of them with that cliche directors pose. You know, my arms out in front of me, making a rectangle in front of my eyes.
I should note that the only reason Tattoo actually went into production was because I didn’t get into any film schools during my first try. My portfolio at that time consisted on films like A Negro Odyssey, where we just replaced the monolith with a bucket of KFC, and Dick: The Dick Sucking Zombie From Hell, self explanatory. Apparently Ryerson wasn’t feeling my ideas at the time. Now that I had at least one year to kill I spent my time between working at the Cumberland Cinema as an assistant manager for $10.00/hour and filming Tattoo.
*As a side note. I would get into Ryerson a year later with the help of my friend Mike Cook’s portfolio.
Principal photography on Tattoo is a blog entry on it’s own but I’ll try to touch on the high lights. We filmed over the course of a year. I was the producer, director, assistant director, craft service, transportation, etc. Start times varied on how drunk my cast got the night before. Crew also varied because of this factor. Crew changed from day to day. “You’re not working today? Perfect. You can be our sound guy? Here, point the microphone in this general direction”.
It was as indy as indy gets. Jacques Rivette would prematurely cum in his slacks if he saw how I ran my set. I had bought a camcorder for a few thousand dollars a few years prior and all other equipment I either got for free or rented. A friend of mine was going to U of T at the time and he managed to borrow stuff from the film club. All the equipment, unbeknownst to me, was out of date. I thought everybody in the early 2000′s used Nagras (reel to reel sound recorder). The club was run by this strange little bald man who was in the the midst of making a feature film himself. The name escapes me but I went to the premiere. It was poo and it made me feel better about what I was doing. However, he shot on film (Super Duper 8mm). I always thought he was liar, but I just googled it. Apparently it’s for real. Great job!
We may not have always had food but we always had beer on set. Craft service mainly consisted of coffee, pizza, and a 24. Although beer wasn’t the smartest move it was the only way to get people out. Months later, during editing, I would notice characters drift. Within one scene you would have a array of changes. In Eric’s case he would start forgetting his lines, progress into unstoppable laughter, and eventually progress into a vacant stare. “Hey Eric, let’s try it again. This time don’t laugh when you tell Joe that you molested him as a child?”.
Speaking of molestation, that part of the script always seemed to bring heat. On our second day of filming we decided to shoot the dream/molestation scene. We used Joe’s cousin Bronson who was 8 or 9. He had no idea what was about to happen to him. We filmed the scene is my basement and I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face as I brought this child into my cellar. She was well aware of my track record and she gave me this look of “You better not do anything stupid down there”. Don’t worry mom I’ll only make him touch it. I won’t put it in his mouth. I also remember this girl coming by who I was trying to impress. Nothing turns on a girl more then watching a bunch of young men with a camcorder film a sex scene involving a child. She never called me back either. Whatever, she was boring anyways. The other heat came from Zach’s (Johnny) father. I had to pick Zach up one day and his father had read the first page of the script.
He gave me an ear full about how I shouldn’t make films about this type of subject matter and berated me, demanding my intentions with his son. It felt like that Simpsons episode where Bart becomes Mr. Burn’s son and Homer hires a private detective to steal him back. The detective messes up and steals Hans Moleman instead, keeping him locked in a motel room until he’s brainwashed him into thinking that he’s Homer and Marge’s son. After some convincing he let Zach get into the car and I’ll never forget the hug he gave Zach before doing so. It was a hug you see in those war movies where the family knows they probably won’t see their son again. Years later, at my grandmother’s funeral, my cousin would also pull me aside and give me the same talk about how I shouldn’t make movies about child molestation. To this day I’m convinced that Bronson’s gonna have issues when he grows up because of movie. I just hope he can work through them without bludgeoning a hooker to death with a rotary phone.
The one cool thing about Tattoo was the locations. Because half of us ran the movie theater we had access to the whole building (auditoriums, projectors, concession stand, cast lounge, etc.). We also filmed in a professional sound stage, because our friend worked there, and at Cactus rehearsal studios. Cactus was in this run down building where multiple people had been killed over the years. Around noon I would have to bang on this huge metal door until Steve, this deadbeat musician who lived there, awoke from his rock n’ roll fantasy and let us in. He was in a Doobie Brothers cover band or something. Steve was never a problem though. He would just crawl back into bed with whatever groupie he had picked up the night before. Sometimes, when Zach got bored, he would peep through his door and film the unsuspecting lady as she lay naked in the arms of her rock star lover.
We spent the majority of our time at Cactus filming scenes, getting drunk, and jamming on their instruments. It was also at Cactus studios that we almost lost Serena and my friend Tomy Mafeti. Tomy was known by many as Moped Mark because he took that moped everywhere.
*As a side note. Tomy would show up at the movie theater, basically drive the moped into the lobby, and demand free Nachos and Orangina. When other managers would tell him to leave he would just snarl at them and rev the 25cc engine. He was also notorious for driving with Moped through a huge wall of flames down on the Leslie Spit.
Needless to say he was an extremely wreckless driver who played by his own rules. It was a hot summer day and the first 24 was about half done when I sent Tomy to pick up Serena from the subway. It was only a few blocks away, what’s the worst that could happen? I got a call on my cell phone about a half hour later…
I remember going outside and seeing them both in neck braces. Tomy, who wasn’t suppose to move, gave me a thumbs up. Serena on the other hand wasn’t so lucky. Her right leg was broken in multiple spots and looked like the letter M. The tragic thing about that whole experience was that Serena was suppose to leave for University the next day. It was her last day on set and she didn’t even really want to come. I felt like white bread. However, she did make a recovery, sued Tomy, and finished the film months later when she could walk again.
*As a side note. Over the course of the filming Tattoo I had fallen for Serena. She was a cool chick and I hadn’t been laid in over a year at this point. Keep in mind I was 19. Those are major fuck years and I was starting to feel the itch. If I did one smart thing during that time it was waiting for Serena to finish filming before I told her how I felt. Needless to say she didn’t take the news very well. She also had a deadbeat boyfriend at the time. I remember going to the hospital just after the moped accident and he was there rolling a joint in the hospital lobby. Whatever, forget Serena, she’s a gimp now anyways.
I guess I should briefly talk about process. There really was no process. It was gorilla film making at it’s finest/worst. Mike Cook (Mike) had story boarded the entire film but it didn’t matter. When it came to shooting there was so much shit I had to deal with, whether it was drunk actors, lack of crew, or people almost dying, it’s a miracle that we got what we did.
Post production was an interesting experience. I edited the whole thing in my room. I learned as I went along, a lot of trial and error. The same can be said about After Effects. The dream sequences came from hours upon hours of me layering filters on top of each other. In retrospect I still think they’re pretty good for the time. Mike Cook, who I should really credit more when it comes to making this embarrassment, gave me a 11 page document, later referred to as the Tattoo Manifesto, during the editing process. In it he outlined what needed to be changed to make the movie better. At the time Joe and myself couldn’t believe it. Who did he think he was. He didn’t know anything about making movies. I’d been doing this shit since I could stutter. With gems like Kung Fu Ru and Hitman 1-3 I wasn’t about to let some shotgun wedding ginger tell me how to make films. Of course that was just my pride talking. The majority of Mike’s feedback was spot on. Great job Mike!
Typical Scene from Tattoo:
Not only did I edit the whole thing but I designed the soundscape, if you can call it that, and produced/engineered the soundtrack.
*As a side note. The Tattoo soundtrack can be yours for only $10.00 CAN. Just email me.
Looking back, the soundtrack is the thing I’m mostly proud of, if I have to be proud of something. We had no idea what we were doing and it still sounds like poo but it’s bearable. We spent a week in my basement getting drunk, recording, and getting more drunk.
Listen to Hound You:
When all was said and done, we showed the film at the Beaches cinema to a full house (250+ people). Too our amazement people were standing in the aisles just to see this $10,000.00 failure. I remember looking really bad at the time and had what my ex-girlfriend called AIDs face. I hadn’t slept properly in weeks, just trying to finish the film on time. Even on the day of the screening I was still exporting the film, trying to get a copy that didn’t have any glitches…like glitches were the worst thing I had to worry about. Did I mention the Child Molestation stuff? I did an unmemorable speech in a tacky green tuxedo and took the walk of shame up to my seat. My memories of the screening consist of nobody laughing. I couldn’t believe it. I thought Eric’s impression of Huey Lewis would have them in stitches.
At the time I chalked it up to people not getting it, but now I just blame myself for being an immature moron. It’s a weird thing to watch a movie that goes from a child molestation scene to a drunk 24 year old talking about rug burn on his dick. After the screening over half the theater came to my place for the after party. It was a crazy night that ended with 5-6 cop cars showing up. I got a ticket for noise but I made a killing on liquor sales that I really didn’t care.
A few weeks after the premiere I was attending Ryerson’s film program and Tattoo was no longer a priority. I think I briefly tried to find distribution for it but between classes, slowly realizing it was a terrible movie, and not knowing anything about distribution, it fell to the waste side of history.
So what did you learn? I don’t know. Looking over what I wrote so far it really doesn’t give justice to the nightmares I still carry around with me in this box labeled Tattoo. I think the fact that I felt more like a babysitter then a film maker for most of the process really did a number on me. It would explain why I made my next film Only I Know all on my own. Joe likes to call Tattoo a stepping stone. I can live with that. Just over a year ago Joe and myself revisited Tattoo. The original cut was 2 hours. The new director’s cut was 1 hour. We removed 1 hour of garbage…well it’s all garbage, but half the movie didn’t need to be there. The overall problem with Tattoo is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. I wanted it to have the sophistication and coolness of a Jean-Luc Godard film as well as the crude humour of the American Pie franchise, but it fails on both ends.
If I am impressed with anything it’s the fact that I got 3 young girls to show their tits in the film and 2 of them are making out with one another. Getting them to do it was easy…“Hey do you want to show your tits in the film”. Actually, I may have had to get the girls drunk first before they made out with one another but I don’t remember. Great job Kire!
Thanks for reading my ramblings,
…and now some more Tits.
*As a side note. Serena never came to the screening and to this day has not seen her award winning performance.