Live Evil Production Notes

I first heard of this film* through GHOST LAKE’S makeup effects person, Marcus Koch. Some friends of his had moved to LA to make a vampire film. As a favor to Marcus, I met with Mark Terry and the director he had at that time. We talked and I recommended one of my long time friends and DP’s Scott Spears. That was the last I thought I’d hear of LIVE EVIL until the premiere. I was very wrong.

*Note: These notes are specific to LIVE EVIL in its 2009 originally released version. These are not related to the re-edited ©2021 version retitled SAMURAI PRIEST VAMPIRE HUNTER.

Scott did shoot for 2 days on the film which at that point I guess was already out of money. They shot the opening scene of the movie and edited it together. Then the original team all fell out of love with each other. Mark ended up with the rights to what had been shot and came to me to direct the rest of the movie with some new investor he had for the project. Mark wanted Tim Thomerson to play the lead vampire killer. Thomerson in the 1990s was one of the top names in what was then called DTV, direct to video movies. He had also lived in the same apartment building that I did and, as you may already know, he’d done a movie with me before, and not done a movie with me when I ended up making Trancers 6 without him for reasons that as Thomerson said to me. “ Had nothing to do with me, but had to do with Charlie Band.” At any rate Terry said I could rewrite the script to suit me and make the film as much a “Jay Woelfel film” as I could. I went to Tim and said, I’ll do this film if you agree to be in it. He said yes.

The script I was shown was a decent treatment for a movie, but as a script it was would have probably run about 50 minutes. So I rewrote it and started on what turned out to be a nearly year –long process of directing the film one or two days at a time mostly on weekends.

Mark wanted to film to be in the spirit of Canon films of the 80’s. I hated most of those myself but knew what he meant. I didn’t want the film to be an ANNE RICE/ TWILIGHT type vampire film as those I felt were both overdone and boring. I love a good vampire film but hated most that had been made since Christopher Lee hung up his cape. I also, and Mark did too, wanted to make sort of the ultimate Tim Thomerson film of the type that had got him a fan base in the 1990s. I felt cheated when I did Trancers 6 that he hadn’t been in it so this was now my chance. I said this was the anti Twilight vampire film. I took my inspiration from Samurai films and from whatever I could find that wasn’t in previous vampire films. I played up the Vampire Baby that was sort of set up, but not paid off, in the original script. That element was actually considered offensive by LA’s SHRIEKFEST film festival, or so Mark Terry told me later. Thomerson loved the vampire baby idea and that scene was really the reason I wanted to make the whole film.

Most of the cast was already set, and I enjoyed working with them as the film progressed, but I was able, and happy to bring in Gregory Lee Kenyon and got Eva Derreck into the film as well. And I mean film, Mark had started shooting on Super 16mm and wanted to finish that way. I never really liked super 16 as I thought it had most of the disadvantages of film instead of the benefits. Over the course of about 44 days of filming we had multiple directors of photography as Scott Spears had moved back to Ohio. Most of the film was shot, well shot, by Kelly Richard. The crew was tiny—the smallest I’ve ever had on a feature film, and frequently almost entirely made up of women. I mainly mention that because given the sort of cultish/insider nature of the film and over the top violence you might assume it was a guy’s crew. Not the case.

Mark had connections to some good stunt guys and to a camera crane company he worked for. So we had two major car chase/wreck sequences with top flight equipment. I treated and wrote those as duel scenes and also wrote in a sword fight at the end. I directed all this the way I directed the rest of the film, those elements should be part of the direction of a film, not left to second unit “experts” who are there for advice and safety, not as directors.

Mark and I were on the same page about what kind of movie we were making which is a great thing. He was a first time LA feature producer and ultimately did many things the way he wanted to regardless. That was his right.

I don’t recommend making a movie on weekends the way we did, but it got done. Many cast and crew people rose to the occasion and just as many crumbled and were left in the dust and vampire baby blood behind us. But the final film is much bigger in scope because of this choice/ necessity on Mark’s behalf. One of the lead actors ended up getting into an argument with Mark and walked off the film and we had to double her to finish her part. That’s just one of many near disaster stories I could tell but I guess shouldn’t. There is virtually no scene in the film that was ever shot all at one time, there were always effects shot later or doubles. Every DP I had ever worked with shot some of the film and we even ended up, at my insistence, on shooting some of the film on 35mm.

A key supporting role ended up being played my Ken (Dawn of the Dead) Foree. I had almost worked with Ken on a film previously and we thought this was a chance to work together. I rewrote the part for him and ended up working for free the day that Ken did in order for Mark to be able to afford him. It was well worth it.

Scream Queen,Tiffany Shepis also came along for a cameo part I wrote specifically for her. She did the film to repay a favor for me, one I didn’t even know she “owed” me. Bigger things were ahead for us in a film I would make after LIVE EVIL, that film being SEASON OF DARKNESS.

Jonathan Ammon edited the film and had worked with me before and since. As we shot and edited the film I composed a rough temporary music score for the film to match its culty style. But trouble was ahead as the film was finally out of production and into post production. Mark hired another composer to rescore the film. Though, then unhappy with parts of his new score, some of my score ended up in the film as well. There are songs in the film and all of these were ones I found, but did not compose. The one song in the opening scene that Mark had picked, and that I too liked, he was unable to get the rights to, so a terrible—to my ears—replacement instrumental rock piece was done to replace it. By this time I was prepping my next film CLOSED FOR THE SEASON. Mark, I think, resented me starting a new film even though LIVE EVIL’s sound mix and everything else, was to have been finished well before I started on CLOSED FOR THE SEASON.

So LIVE EVIL fell so far behind its promised finish date that I while I was actually shooting CLOSED FOR THE SEASON I was getting versions of the LIVE EVIL mix and sending notes back to LA from Ohio. Most of these notes were never used. Finally after I was done with that shoot I came back to find LIVE EVIL in sort of visual and audio disarray. I did supervise the final mix for about two days and supervised the final color correction in about three. The trouble was that the film’s first two days of photography, before I got involved, had not been transferred to HD so the rest of the film, at Mark’s request, was also transferred to standard definition. So in the final stages of post when we tried to upscale the picture to HD the results were poor. So we were stuck with a letterboxed and heavily processed non HD picture—one of the last perhaps ever released. Some screenings at film festivals afterwards actually showed the film in the wrong aspect ratio as a result of this. The sound mix was late and spotty and I’m sure Austin Wintory was not happy with the way some of his music was treated. I certainly wasn’t happy with the way mine was treated. I think the final score doesn’t totally “get” what the film. Nor is and the overall final way-over-schedule sound mix on the film, to my ears, really finished.

Regardless of my complaints about these final parts and my limited input and involvement in the final parts of finishing and releasing the film, and the distance that these problems created between Mark and myself, the film showed at several film festivals including some of, to date, Fangoria’s last conventions and got good reaction and reviews. If you read the reviews for this film, on this same website, you’ll find perhaps my favorite review of any film I’ve made from a guy named MR. GABLE.

It also showed at the famous TWO BOOTS theatre in NYC, a now sadly gone, theatrical venue for genre films.

It was the first film of mine that resulted in sort of an internet battle between some of the original partners on the film and Mark. That’s part of what you have to expect when you “take over” a film as director. It was a lot of fun and sometimes not a lot of fun film to make but I doubt I’ll ever make another exactly like it, and I do think it seems to be the last of my friend Tim Thomerson doing the kind of kicking ass and taking a names type role that Mark and I wanted it to be. That may well be more important than anything I have to say about it.