Guest Writer Craig Grossman
Synopsis : Aliens resurrect dead humans as zombies and vampires to stop humanity from creating the solaranite (a sort of sun-driven bomb). Taken from IMDB
How long did it take you to plan the process from conception to end for Plan 9 from Outer Space?
I worked on it for over a year. At first, I was going to do it with all puppets. Then I was going to do it with marionettes, but then I said “no” to that because it was going to be really difficult. Afterwards I decided I was going to approach it from the point of view that the background would be projected but it was going to be live projection, which would require miniatures. That was the final step before I decided to go in the direction where it ultimately ended up. I started working on that for three months before it opened: adapting the script, putting it down, and getting it to move fluidly between the scenes and stuff. Then came casting and rehearsing. That probably lasted about five weeks. It all came together at the very end, as I was hoping it would. I wasn’t sure anyone would be fascinated in seeing what it was, but it’s a blast to put on. Once it starts, it just keeps going. It moves fast, and it’s only an hour long. Any more would be way too long. We have a good time doing it.
Everyone who sees it is thoroughly amused by the ridiculous nature in which we are trying to stage this bold 50s sci-fi cult movie, which if you have ever seen it, has horrendous special effects in it.
“I wanted to make sure our special effects outdid the special effects in the film.”
And, they do. It was so much fun putting it together and knowing you are trying to do a ridiculous send-up of the movie. So, if anyone goes, “God this is horrible!” It’s supposed to be horrible. This leaves you open to do anything. If anyone goes, “that sucks,” we’d go “thank you, that’s what we were trying to do.”
For the audiences who have seen the movie, they appreciate it more because they can see where all of the ridiculous dialogue is coming from. Very little of the dialogue has changed. I just pulled it straight from Ed Wood’s script.
What was the exact impetus in you adapting Plan 9 in the first place?
The thing is when I opened the Maverick, I didn’t do it with the intention of running a theater. I did it with the intention of showcasing a play and comedy I had written about Elvis. But then I was confronted with the fact that, “Well, I’ve got this theater, and it’s not going away. I’m going to have to keep continuing it.” So, I had to create things that appealed to me and perhaps a new audience, which is my main focus in attracting new audiences to the theater experience. So, along the way I started finding script ideas, which is when I came across Night of the Living Dead. (Night of the Living Dead) was such a huge success the very same year that I needed a solution for a Christmas show. I thought, well since Night of the Living Dead went so well I should do Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.” So, I adapted that with a friend of mine, and now that is in its 10th year. So, here I had these two shows that were B-movie and cult classics. Well, if I had Night of the Living Dead – the classic horror movie– and I had Santa Claus, which was the most ridiculous show/movie ever made. I thought I might as well do the most ridiculous scfi-movie of all time —Plan 9 –in the middle of it. So, that’s how I came up with the trilogy of B-movies. This is what we do from October to the end of the year.
As far as the current incarnation of Plan 9 is concerned, are you doing anything different from how you pulled it off a long time ago?
No. It’s going to be about 100 percent the same as it was last year. What will change are the new actors, who will start rehearsing tomorrow night (this past Tuesday). We open Friday. It gives you an idea of how quick this all comes together. I have my same cast returning from last year, but a lot of them have conflicts, so I have new talent coming in to cover certain weekends. Whenever I get new talent is when I always get something new in the show. So, every year around Night of the Living Dead and Santa Claus, I always have one new piece of talent or new something. That creates a ripple effect among elements of the show. It’s kind of an organic thing. We never really plan; it just happens. But I always give the option to change with it. I don’t always want it to be the same. It grows and moves with the people involved.
Are you of fan of Ed Wood and his directorial style in his heyday? Was he an inspiration for you in your career?
Absolutely not in any fashion. There are people out there who just love those pictures because of what they are. Ed Wood was the real deal. He wasn’t out there just trying to make a quick buck. He was out there, putting his heart and soul to everything he did. So, the manner in which he pulled it together is what makes it so ridiculous and his stories are so outlandish and unusual. There’s a certain appreciation. I don’t know if he’s created a genre. Certainly, he’s one of the leaders of that genre. I knew of Plan 9. Like, when the movie Ed Wood came out, that’s when I opened my eyes and thought, “wow, his personality is very unique and strange.” It was a period of time in Hollywood that was fascinated with outer space, the race for space, technology and all of that stuff and understanding and predicting what was going to be the future. Ed Wood certainly regurgitated all of those popular themes, which made it more entertaining. So, I wasn’t really familiar with that man until the movie came out. And then when I decided to do the project, I wanted to see how I would capture the essence. Doing a little bit of spoof on it. I had to get into the head of Ed Wood. Now, I have a different relationship with Ed Wood. I now adore the nuttiness and haphazard approach of throwing a film together. I don’t know if he had the integrity of saying, “I will do whatever I want.” He just knows he didn’t have the money and wanted to squeeze as much money out of his budget.
Did you learn anything from your past directorial experience into implementing Plan 9?
Yes. When I created my original comedy about Elvis called The King I used a process with a rear-projector. It’s a 10 x 14 foot screen that I used to project scenes: the interiors, the sets, and stuff. I became familiar with that aspect of storytelling on stage. When I went to create Plan 9 I basically took the set and screen from The King and used that technical approach to putting on these live miniature stages.
NOVEMBER 6th – 21st 2015 @ The Maverick Theater in Fullerton