I don’t at this point remember what the flyer looked like. It would have mentioned Buffy if Buffy had existed at that point, but it was 1992, and Buffy (as we know it now) was five years away. Did it say something about the X-Files? It would have, if the X-Files hadn’t been a year away itself. I’ll say this for them, if nothing else (though I’ve said more, and will again): they were surfing what ended up becoming one hell of a big, big wave.
I don’t remember what the flyer looked like, but it worked on me at least: I auditioned. On a whim, but. I rode a bus out to Hampshire College, memorizing my lines on the way, and stood in the middle of an empty classroom and read them back: the opening lines of the epilogue to The Secret History. (Have I mentioned that Gonzo is my favorite Muppet? He’s my favorite Muppet because he says in the first movie that he wants to go to Bombay, India to become a movie star.) —Anyway, it worked on them: I got the role: I was going to play Harlan, the one who read from the Necronomicon and went mad but nonetheless lived to tell the tale.
“I managed to get out of taking my French exams the next week, due to the very excellent excuse of having a gunshot wound to the stomach.”
I knew who Lovecraft was at the time, even if I hadn’t read much Lovecraft at all. Maybe “The Call of Cthulhu.” (I’d played the game.) But of course I’d heard of the book. Who hasn’t? —I’ve read a lot since then. Even the Houellebecq. He was very, very good at what he did, Lovecraft, but what it was he was doing wasn’t writing, per se. Took me a while to figure that out.
I’d almost forgotten this part, so I might as well write it down now. They were still looking for someone to play—was it Harlan’s girlfriend, whose name I can’t remember? Or Liz West? Who later became Harlan’s girlfriend, when I simplified things. Whichever; anyway. I actually asked the girl who was working in the software store in the live mall if she was interested in auditioning. (It was called the live mall because it had actual stores in it, and was across the frontage road from the dead mall, which is where I was working, in the market research phone bank.) She was blond and sharp and dressed in the sort of suits you wore to sell software in retail shops in those days, and I rode the bus with her down to Hampshire for her audition in the TV studio we’d later use for the bluescreen work, and I couldn’t tell you who was more nervous, me or her: her because she’d never really acted before; me because I’d been crushing on her for months. (I’d asked her out once before, right after I’d seen Husbands and Wives in the live mall movie theater, but she hadn’t noticed, and anyway she had a boyfriend.) Whichever it was, it didn’t work out. —She got a ride home from her boyfriend. I rode the bus back to Sunderland.
This wasn’t the film student, mind. Nor was she the other girl at the live mall I’d occasionally hangdog around, who worked in the Sam Goody or whatever it was called, and who’d been mishearing the lyrics to “Fuck and Run” until I pointed out it was “fetters and sodas.”
Yeah, I know. I still like it better.
Filming—taping?—filming started in November or so of 1992 and ran through the spring of 1993, on just about every campus in the five-college area: the Hampshire library, the UMass physical plant, exteriors at Amherst, me dancing shirtless in a Mount Holyoke dorm room. (I don’t think we shot anything at Smith, come to think of it. Did we even shoot anything in Noho? I don’t think so.) There was a camera guy and a sound and lighting guy and the writer and the director and the guy who would have been the producer if there’d been more money involved. (Glenn was there, too. Glenn could tell you a lot more than I can. I’m terrible at this sort of thing.) The writer faded away after a bit, though I don’t want to speak ill of him, and the director and the producer guy, especially the producer guy, ended up writing a lot more as scenes had to change given the locations and the actors that were available. —I ended up writing some, too, ad libbing in the scenes in Harlan’s room, where he reads from the Necronomicon and goes mad; I’m afraid I was reading The White Goddess at the time, and so there’s a lot of “I am the shield for every head; I am the tomb of every hope” in that stuff. I wrote a scene between Harlan and his girlfriend that I was really happy with, when we got the physical plant for a couple of days to shoot in, until somebody pointed out I was riffing on what Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher had done to rewrite their scene in Empire Strikes Back. —Have you ever done a play or a student film or anything like that? Then you know what I mean. (Do you? I haven’t made any actual gestures in that rhetorical direction. Ah, fuck it: I just need the transition. —And anyway if you haven’t, let’s face it: this digressive blog post isn’t going to get you any closer.)
I’ve mentioned in the past the last time I took anything hallucinogenic? When I ate mushrooms with the crazy Greek up in Butterfield? And I spent most of the trip grabbing people by the lapels and demanding they show me, right then, something magic, and laughing maniacally when, of course, they just stared at me blankly. Magic? In this day and age? Please. —Pretending to be someone who’d read from the Necronomicon and gone mad for months on end had taken its toll, you see. It’s my only excuse. The crazy Greek finally got tired of my whingeing and dragged me outside, up to the top of the hill above Butterfield, where some crazy artist at some point had built Butterhenge. —There, he said.
Wow, I said.
And I’ll always love him for that, and forgive him anything, even though he used to bellow Ladies! Kiss me! It’s okay, I’m a Lesbian! (He was from Lesbos, you see.)
I rewrote his role as Jamshid. The Exco 347 scene is I think maybe the one most directly lifted from the original script.
“As bad as it looked, there in the Albemarle, I still think we could have patched it up somehow. It wasn’t from desperation that he did it. Nor, I think was it fear.”
Everything was filmed. Taped? Filmed. On little 8mm videotapes. I have no idea what became of the footage (I only ever saw the trailer, which premiered some months after the filming was finished; again, Glenn could probably tell you more). I know it was finished, because they told me, and I asked if they were sure, and they said yes, and I asked if they were damn near positive, and they said Kip, Jesus, we’re done already, it’s in the can, and I said okay, and I cut all my hair off and shaved off my beard. I looked so different they used me as a Miskatonic University administrator in one of the last pickup scenes it turned out they needed to film.
When filming began? Back in November? I would have told you love was a crock. It didn’t exist, and if it did, it was a mug’s game. Which was maybe why I’d been able to ask the girl who worked in the software store in the live mall if she wanted to try out for a movie, even though that sort of cold call is otherwise terribly out of character for me.
By the time it was done? I’d already kissed Jenn for the first time, in December, which I’d like to think surprised us both.
Wow, I said.
We moved to Portland in 1995, and by one of those quirks of fate that unites places like the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts and the People’s Republic of Multnomah County, the director and the producer guy and the guy who’d done either the camera or the lighting and the sound (I remember the guy, just not whichever thing it was he’d mostly been responsible for) had all moved to Portland, too. I actually worked in the same building they had offices in for a while, as Portland is when you get right down to it a terribly small town. —Anyway, for one reason or another they decided they wanted to redo the whole damn thing from scratch. The Necronomicon. You know, some college kids find a copy and read from it. Hijinks ensue. They wanted to know if I was interested in writing—rewriting?—the script. They’d use it to go chasing dot com money, which was thick on the ground in those days.
Turned out I was interested. Who knew? —What resulted isn’t technically speaking mine, though I did write most of it. I’ve long since lost the original original script, the one we actually filmed back in Massachusetts, so I can’t tell you for sure what little was lifted from there. Nor can I tell you which bits were written by Amy Glynn, or which bits were cut by her, either. I won’t play coy and tell you she did the funny bits. There’s some (very) weak stuff in here, yes (I will play coy a little), and only some of it was intentionally put in so the producer guys would have had something to cut if this version had ever actually found some dot com money to burn. There’s stuff I regret leaving out, yes, like the dialogue that would have rationalized the gun, and maybe I would have put it back in before the cameras had ever actually filmed that scene, if. If. —But I’m mostly happy with how it ended up, the script anyway, or I wouldn’t be sticking it in the commonplace book. Mostly, rereading it, I’m fascinated by how quickly it’s become so anachronistic, having characters who so flagrantly smoke. You know?
Amy, by the way, used to have the same voice teacher as Mark Eitzel, but that’s a story for another time. —As for the here and now, folks, I give you:
- Act I: “Some secrets of this world, that God has damned.”
- Act II: “You just want it to be true.”
- Act III: “Satisfaction brought it back.”
- A young man cannot possibly know what Greeks and Romans are.
- He does not know whether he is suited for finding out about them.