Skin Deep – Nineteen Years Later (Pre-Production)

I spent a good portion of my high school days writing movie scripts and outlines. Most of the time these stories were sequels to popular movies that I enjoyed such as Ghostbusters, The Rock, and Evil Dead. As my love of movies continued to grow, I decided it was time to take the next step and shoot my own film.

My original plan was to shoot a short Evil Dead inspired film by utilizing our small work shed in the backyard and the massive 80’s camcorder my dad owned. I put together a short script and some ideas, but I didn’t have the manpower nor the skills to create an effects heavy production like that. So, I shelved it and went back to dreaming about shooting a movie.

A few years later, I met Matt Brady while working at Blockbuster. Matt had done some acting and had an appreciation for independent film like I did. We talked about making our own movie for months, until finally, it was decided that we just needed to do it. I’d been reading Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew over and over again, and I’d begun formulating a plan. I’d write a script with just what I had access to, feature people I also had access to, and find a camera somewhere.

I didn’t want to use the old family camcorder, since it was barely functional in 2004, so I was looking into renting something for our short film. My girlfriend at the time decided she wanted to go to Best Buy on Black Friday to try and buy a computer, but by the time we reached the store all the tickets had been given out for the computer. However, they had a Mini-DV camcorder for $199 so I took a ticket and decided to think about the purchase.

We left and went home, but around noon I decided to drive back to Best Buy to see if my ticket was still good. It was, and I walked out with a brand-new camcorder and a desire to make a movie.

Immediately, I hopped online and ordered a Mini-Disc player and a microphone to utilize as a boom mic and I made a trip to Home Depot for some work lights. These were the recommended items for making a no-budget feature at the time, so I got what I could afford and sat down to write the script.

Inspired by Chasing Amy, I tried to tell a simple, yet powerful story with some perverse humor thrown in. In one sitting, I hammered out a story titled Skin Deep that went through a re-write once Matt and I got together to discuss the film, what we had at our disposal, and some good suggestions he made.

We were scrambling at the time, because it was the holidays, we both had work, and the script centered around another mutual friend who had joined the Navy. He was coming back home for Christmas break and was the star of the film. Things almost went sideways, when his leave was postponed due to some issues he was having with his job, but luckily, a Chief took pity on him and approved his leave at the last moment. So, we had our cast: Anthony (our star), Matt (our co-star), and my current girlfriend and her roommate who both would have very brief scenes.

Our sets were to take place at: my house, my garage, my girlfriend’s apartment, and a local park.

I’d found a composer online who wanted some experience and also a band to allow us to use a song over the credits. I even found instructions online and made a DIY steady cam out of pipe and dumbbell weights.

We needed to start getting things on film, and in hindsight some of the time wasted on getting music and re-writing the script, should have been spent on practicing with the camera, testing out the boom mic setup, and lighting. But that’s what first movies are all about, learning from your mistakes.

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