Creating no-budget films can be a frustrating experience. You
have to live with the reality that the final product is not going to
look the way you have imagined it in your dreams. Ennio Morricone
and John Williams are not going to beat down your door and beg to
write your score. Cate Blanchett and Leo DiCaprio aren't going to
donate their time to help you fulfill your dream. Industrial Light
and Magic is not going to be creating your effects. Christopher
Rouse is not going to appear on your doorstep looking for editing
work. Caleb Deschanel is not going to volunteer to be your
cinematographer, and even if he did, you couldn't afford his crew of
lighting and other technical experts.
That does not necessarily stop you from making an entertaining
and watchable film. The key is to create a script that can minimize
Since you are working with actors of limited range and your
sound will be imperfect at best, you need to tell the story with a
minimum of words, and cover up bad ambient sound with a score
You absolutely must not create any elements that would require
special effects, costumes or make-up because nothing looks worse
than grade-z ghosts, splatter, and monsters.
Forget period pieces and locate your story today, because it
costs a lot of money to get period details right.
If you locate every scene outdoors in natural light in the real
world, your images will look as good as anyone else's.
Make your story short and to the point. Long movies get that way
because authors want to develop dimensional characters or deliver
clever dialogue. You can't spend a lot of time on character
development because your amateur actors won't be able to handle
the nuances, and they'll ruin your genius dialogue with bad
delivery. Plot, on the other hand, is almost actor-proof. Create a
good one and have it drive quickly to the point.
Finally, there are certain things that contribute to the
marketability of your product and are free. One of the most useful
is nudity. It is axiomatic that a genre film with a naked women in
the woods will sell more DVDs than one with a clothed woman, and
the nudity also saves on the costume budget.
Phil Herman, the auteur of Into The Woods, followed most of the
rules above and delivered a pretty good little movie that kept me
away from the remote.
Post-credits, Nancy Feliciano finds herself in a deserted
building somewhere on a remote beach. She is stark naked and has no
memory of why she is there or how she got there. She assembles a
piecemeal outfit and goes walking through the wilderness. At various
times she finds care packages, messages, ringing cell phones, and
other items planted by an unseen tormenter, the cat to her mouse.
She walks for what seems like days and then realizes that she seems
to be covering the very same routes she has already covered. She
seems to be trapped on some kind of a cosmic treadmill. As the film
tells her story, it gradually cuts away from the main storyline to
more and more flashbacks, based upon the premise that they represent
her memory's gradual return.
If I reveal much more, I'll be spoiling the film's value, which
lies in the explanations: the identity of her tormentor, her
location, and the reason she is in this predicament.
If you look at the promotional stills for this film, which center
around a naked Nancy Feliciano, you may derive the idea that it's
some kind of bondage film, or even torture porn. It is not. It it
essentially a psychological drama. There is a good reason why she is
naked, once you understand the storyteller's POV. There is also a
good reason why some details seem surreal or illogical. If you remember
that it is a plot-driven mystery film, sort of a Twilight Zone with
tits, the illogical will eventually seem appropriate.
My comparison to the Twilight Zone was not made casually. One of
Rod Serling's favorite plot devices was the terror of isolation -
the loneliness of being the only one on earth, or the only one who
can see a certain thing, or the only one of
your species or your time, for example. Nancy Feliciano basically
finds herself in such a Serlingesque situation. She wanders through the woods
forever, sees no other living person, and seems to cover the same
ground again and again. Later she is in a car driving through city
streets, and experiences a similar phenomenon: she sees the same
completely deserted streets again and again.
I think the ultimate explanation may even surprise you.
Is it a great movie? No, and it can be very awkward at times. But
sometimes the distance between a great film like Memento and a
modest effort like this can be smaller than you expect. In fact, if
Hollywood bought this script and re-made it with professionals,
featuring (let's say) Jessica Biel naked for most of the film, it
could be damned good! I would pay to see it.