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The Unseen Things Series


Duane L. Martin is the author of the adult contemporary fantasy series, Unseen Things.

You can find out all about the series including where to purchase the books in ebook format on the official website.
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Interviews: An Interview with Steve Contreras - By Duane L. Martin
Posted on Saturday, December 31, 2005 @ 23:15:00 Mountain Standard Time by Duane



Ok, first let's have you introduce yourself to everyone and tell us all a little about your background.

My name is Steve Contreras, my pseudonym is Magik as I am known to the Airbrush art world. I have been airbrushing art on custom vehicles for 25 years, recently I have been painting custom motorcycles. I also did some 3d art and animation for a international web development company for a couple of years. I had grown up on comic books and sci-fi movies as a kid. I was blessed with a very good imagination, and art provided that outlet for that imagination. As a kid, I would sell drawings of super heroes for a quarter to the other kids. The day I realized I had a talent, was when my second grade teacher had the class draw a portrait of her. While everyone else was drawing a stick figure, I was drawing a realistic anatomically correct portrait of her. She ran out of the class and soon came back with several other teachers. The next thing I knew I was sitting in the principal’s office. Luckily, he only wanted to see my drawings, I though for sure he was coming out with his thick belt, in those days they could whip kids. Soon I began making my own comics to entertain myself and anyone else who would look at them. I discovered I enjoyed writing as well. Comics look a lot like movie storyboards and that started the natural progressing towards filmmaking.


Beasties is the only listing you have on IMDB. Have you done anything else besides this film, and if not, how come?

No, I only did the one film, I had planned to doing other films, but that hinged on whether I could make our money back and better yet make a profit. Unfortunately, we took a big loss when the movie was pulled from national distribution. My distributor said if I had been there just a couple of years earlier my film could have made me at least $250,000. profit. That was comforting, to say the least. By the early 90’s the market had changed, and independent low budget movies were squeezed out by the major studios releases. They gobbled up the home video market with super video chains they owned and put mostly their product on the shelves. That is why you only see those few releases that come out every month. We know hundreds of movies are released every year but you will never see them. These ultimately put a noose around the mom and pop video stores as well as the independent filmmaker. The mom and pops tended to buy independent movies because they were cheaper to buy and still rent for the same amount as big Hollywood productions. All of that pretty much killed off any future aspirations in a film career at the time.


How did this film come about and what led up to its production?

In the early eighties VCRs were the hot new gizmo of the day and people were hungry for movies to put into them. For a time you could put almost anything on video tape and sell it. “Jane Fonda’s workout”, remember that one. As I mentioned earlier this created a window period for the small independent filmmaker to get his foot in the door. I had read an article about one of those pioneers, a guy by the name of Mark Pirro. He had shot a film on super 8 for around 2 thousand dollars and the film ended up grossing half a million on home video. The movie “A Polish Vampire in Burbank” aired several times on cable television as well. I eventually meet Mark in Burbank and I got some tips and inspiration to go out and make my own movie.


Why was a certain portion of it cut out that has only now been restored in the DVD release of the film?

The film ran very long so scenes were cut in the initial edit. When we acquired a distributor, they felt it was still to long. I was pretty tapped out on money and it would have been very expensive to go back into editing and try to cut scenes out through the movie. Editing on broadcast quality 1 inch master tape was not cheap the rates at the time were running at $ 125.00 per hour. Editing on your home computer was not around yet. Therefore, we ended up just cutting the first 20 minutes. The character development really suffered because of it. The master tape was damaged over the years by moisture and mold. I would just toss it into my garage thinking this turkey was dead and would never fly again. All that still exist are those few VHS copies in somebody’s dead video store inventory, quickly turning into dust as we speak. I soon realized if this small piece of movie history is to survive, I needed to find the best VHS copy I had and transfer it to DVD. Now, Beasties has become immortal, to sicken and entertain humanity for all eternity.


I mentioned in my review how much your lead actor Eric C. Bushman who played Nelson looks like Bruce McCulloch from Kids in the Hall. has anyone else ever mentioned that?

No, I had not heard that, but when I first met Eric I thought he was exactly what I had envisioned for the main character to look like. Unbelievably, the clothes he wore in the film were his actual clothes and those were his glasses not a prop, egad, talk about type casting.


I noticed that a for a large percentage of the people in the film, this was their only listed film credit. How many of these people, if any, were just people you knew personally and how many came from the ourside to audition for the roles?


Susan Brewer, who played Vamp and Dean Clark the deputy, I knew from some small local productions. Denise Mora, (Laura) was a niece of my cousin. The rest were from local casting calls. I live in Fresno California and there are not many experienced actors hanging around. Some were from college and local theater, the rest were just people who wanted to be in a movie or had no other reason to live.


How many people in the cast are you still in touch with and what are they doing now? Also, how do some of them feel about the new DVD release?

I had some e-mail contact with James Jefferies (Chubs) who located me from a website. He is a video tech for a mid-west television station. Denise Mora is working for Paramount in their accounting department for several years. She thought it was wonderful to have it back out again, knowing how much work was put into it. She wants to produce movies and has developed many contacts over the years. She is awaiting completion of my script I am currently writing. She really believes in my talent, and has been after me for years to continue writing. Several movie ideas are sitting on the back burner bubbling away.


The front of the box has a red stamp graphic on it that says, "Worst Movie Ever Made?” How did the film get this kind of a rep for being so bad, or is it all just a fun hype you came up with for it?

Actually, I had read some comments on Beasties on IMDB. One of them called it” The worst movie ever made”, I thought it cannot be the worst, or is it? I love some of these phases from the comments; “In the world of video stinkers, BEASTIES is a pearl beyond price” or “BEASTIES is true bottom-feeder sludge that should make even the most humorless curmudgeon crack a smile”. This is great; it is so bad that is good. Technically, I know the movie suffers because of the limitations of my budget, but I felt if I could make something that would entertain then I succeeded. After reading other comments on other films I soon realized that many people enjoy bad films especially horror and sci-fi b movies. I wanted to reach this nitch market. I thought it would be a very unique to label it “The worst movie ever made?” not too many filmmakers are willing to say their film is bad, much less the worst. The film was shot entirely on super 8 using sync sound technology, this meant the movie used live sound just like 16 and 35 mm, the sound was recorded separately from the film and was kept in sync. The super 8 camera was a $2,000.00 high-end model. Other Super 8 films that were released had all of their sound dubbed in, giving it a foreign film feel.


Who made the Beasties puppets, and how hard were they to create and operate? (Not the Nelson one though. That is in the next question. Just the beasties themselves in this one.)

In the beginning, I was prepared to build them myself, and I did construct several creatures that never appeared in the film. I used them as marketing props to attract investors. I found Mike Dudley, a 17-year-old kid making monsters in his bedroom. He new how to sculpt and make molds to create the Beasties out of foam latex just like the Hollywood FX versions. I made several concept illustrations to give him direction. I soon recruited several assistants for him, and rented a large warehouse to build sets and set up headquarters. We kept them simple to operate, basically hand puppets just like “Gremlin’s” “Critters” or “Ghoulies”. Remenber there were no 3d digital creatures running around until “Jurassic Park. Moreover, we can only imagine what that cost.


The Nelson head alien thing was really cool looking How long did it take to create that whole inner spaceship setting and the Nelson alien? What sorts of problems did you run into with it and what all went into operating it?

I had to decide if the Bionaut would be a menacing of friendly creature, I created several conceptual drawings and sculptures to inspire the special effects crew. Mike and his assistants set off to make it a reality, and it took them a good couple of months to create the Bionaut ship interior and the creature itself. The Bionaut took nine cable control operators to animate. The major problem we ran into was coordinating all the operators so that the creature could make certain expressions on cue and not go into some kind of contorted pose. The Bionaut was the center of the movie so we tried to make him as interesting to look at as possible. Originally, the film was entitled “The Bionaut” but the distributor re-titled it “Beasties” which at one time was the working title to “Ghoulies” The distributor had a working relationship with Charles Band at Full Moon Entertainment, so we ended up inheriting the “Beasties” title. The distributor felt no one knew what a Bionaut was, and would not market well. I coined the term Bionaut to mean living traveler back in 1987. Interestingly if you type in Bionaut into your web browser, you will be surprised to find a European “Bionaut” band, a Bionaut pharmaceutical company and someone that has been holding bionaut .com for many years and never created a website. I had distributed about 80 copies of the movie with the title “The Bionaut” locally to video stores as a test market. It was also marketed at the American Film Market as “The Bionaut”. Our foreign distributors were giving out copies to interested foreign buyers. All a coincidence, or is there really a Bionaut lurking out there?


The Osirus character had a really cool outfit with a skull helmet and such. Did you guys make that yourselves? If so, where did the design ideas come from?

I designed the Osirus costume and his throne, and I had our prop people put it together. Rick Springer a talented guy who was very knowledgeable in Hollywood FX, created Osirus Demonic transformation make up. He sculpted the demonic face from drawings I had sketched; created the molds and cast the foam latex appliance that the actor wore. Rick created the appliance in pieces so the actor could show all his expressions. He applied the makeup to the actor, which took three hours and an hour to get it all back off. He also built the wild skull helmet from my designs. Osirus represented man’s evil and ultimately would become Nelson’s archenemy in the battle for earth in the future. The costume had a samurai feel to it to give that warrior look.


How much did this movie cost to make, and how did you go about arranging the funding?

I am sure movie-making 101 would advise to get all the money first, but If I had tried to get all the money before I made the movie I would have never of made it. I started out with only ten thousand and most of that was gone very quick, so we had to raise money through loans and investors as we went. The project ran over three years and total cost came in at over $ 60,000. -Yipes! No one in his right mind would have attempted this. I wanted sets, creatures, and FX effects, with a large cast, I should have been committed. However, I was determined not to let anything stop me.


Now that this movie is being re-released and getting good reviews (Blatant Plug: Like the review I gave it in the December 2005 issue.) is it giving you the urge to get back into filmmaking at all?

Beasties 2, holy crap, seriously the bug has never left me. Digital technology has opened up a new avenue for the independent filmmaker. That was why I got into 3d animation. If I would have had that available to me back then, I could have created fantastic set backdrops and creatures with far less limitations. Saved a ton on shooting and editing, after making a fantasy sci-fi film with none of these tools it would be child’s play now. I tell young people now they should be very excited about filmmaking and the direction it is heading. I saw a Star Wars Fan Movie on the net the other day, it was amazing at the effects that were in it. That would have needed a mega multi-million dollar budget at one time. I wanted some lightning effects in my film, one visual effects company I talked to quoted $500, per second. Now today, I have plug in for my 3d software that allows me to make all the lightning I want. I did not even have an internet as a resource, so were talking Stone Age here. If the opportunity arises, such as a digital distribution system opened to the independent filmmaker that could put him on equal ground with the Hollywood studio. Now, is that asking too much? I would love to make another film. As I mentioned earlier I am writing scripts again and have a few geared to a low budget production.


What are some of your best memories about making this film?

I think seeing your dream materialize in front of you, and the excitement of shooting with the cast on the sets and locations. The cast and crew were very dedicated to making this film happen, I had over 70 people working on the film for no money up front. What other industry can you do something that amazing? The ultimate high was when I saw my movie on the shelf next to Bruce Willis’s Die Hard movie at a video chain store, yeah; I thought I finally made it, ha ha.


What are some of your worst memories?

Discovering my movie in a discount basket at a Woolworth Department Store. Alternatively, how about when the camera operator dropped the camera during a shoot and the whole set went silent in shock or how about shooting a big fight scene for three days with extras and finding out none of the film was exposed, after picking it up from the lab. The ultimate was the day I picked my master tape from the distributor after it was pulled from distribution because he was not making any money with it. He gave me back all rights and said good luck.


What did you learn in making this film that you could warn other would be filmmakers about to make their lives easier?

Beasties was my first film, so I would recommend they first make several short films first. Love what you are doing; it is too easy to give up. Have a clear vision of what you want and be able to convey that to others. You will need to become a leader or others will not follow, they can tell if you believe in yourself and your project. Surround yourself with people who love filmmaking and would jump off a cliff for you so you can film it (just kidding). Be prepared for everything to go wrong and never question yourself as to why in the hell your doing this. Do not enlist your best friend to help you if you want to stay friends.


Is there anything else you would like to talk about before we wrap this up?

This is probably where I plug the movie, so anyone interested in acquiring this video treasure can pick up a copy from my eBay store, or at buyindies.com. If I can sell enough of these pearls it may give birth to a Beasties 2. Yuck! Bleeding eyes anyone?




Saturday, December 31, 2005 @ 23:15:00 Mountain Standard Time Interviews |
 
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