This image was created by Phillip McNulty – who has done cartoons for our SModCo Cartoon Show. See, TUSK is set in the world of podcasting, so I turned to our SModimations animators to help us flesh out our fake world with a bunch of posters for the podcast Justin Long’s and Haley Joel Osment’s characters host in the flick. The tacky name of the podcast is actually a reference to the fact that Wallace goes out into the world and has adventures, then comes back to tell Teddy about it, since Teddy does NOT SEE the adventures himself. It’s this podcast that sets in motion the events which lead to insanity and horror in the backwoods of Canada’s Manitoba.
After 15 days of shooting in the hospitable little town of Cramerton, North Carolina, TUSK wrapped Friday, November 22nd. The next morning, I flew home and presided over my brother’s remarriage ceremony at my house, then did it again on HOLLYWOOD BABBLE-ON at The Improv Saturday night. Sunday evening, we did a full rehearsal episode of SPOILERS (which returns this Friday, on actual TV this time). Monday, I threw myself back into the TUSK edit. By Sunday, I had cut every piece of footage we’ve shot so far, and now await our late December/early January Los Angeles portion of the shoot with our Guy Lapointe character.
First off, don’t ever let anybody tell you stoners are lazy: Less than 6 months ago, TUSK was merely a podcast whimsy – the kinda shit you normally say “Wouldn’t it be awesome if…” about and then never follow-through doing. But I and my friends nudged it along from idea to reality. Now, it’s a film IRL. And again: that all took less than 6 months from mere idea to watchable motion picture. Fuck the stereotype: stoners don’t have to be lazy, folks.
Secondly, I say this, with no hint of hype: TUSK is the best flick with which I’ve ever been involved. Holy shit, did Michael Parks and Justin Long CRUSH it! This flick is like porn if you like to watch actors emote and say fucked up things about shipwrecks and sharks and Ernest Hemmingway and walruses and terror and madness. And that’s all long before we show you what a human-walrus looks like. In order for TUSK to work at all, the whole flick depended on the cat-and-mouse relationship of Parks’ and Long’s characters. I was looking for an 8 on the excellence scale; they both turned in 100′s. Career best work from both, and all I did was point a camera at it and smile the whole time.
Aside from our two leads, Genesis Rodriguez and Haley Joel Osment were our beast of a second line in the hockey match that was TUSK, coming over the boards with fire, always shooting top shelf. Haley should be podcasting for real, he does it so well in the flick; and I dropped a page-long monologue on Genesis her second morning of the show and asked her to deliver it straight down the barrel of the camera. It was a shaky idea that turned into one of the most memorable moments in a movie with a big rubber suit in it. I love them both so much.
And for you BABBLE fans, not only does Ralph Garman have lines this time, he does them in a flawless Manitoba accent. If you’ve listened to BABBLE from the earliest episodes, Ralph’s character’s name will make you smile. In fact, the whole flick is loaded with SModCo Easter eggs: visual and dialogue references to lots of shit I’ve talked about and said in all of my podcasts these many years. It’s not inside baseball at all, and if you’ve never listened to a podcast, you won’t miss anything – but if you’re a regular listener to all my chatter, get ready to go on an aural treasure hunt.
My Charlotte crew was incredible. Filmmakers all of them. Every department cared about this dopey flick more than they should’ve, considering we were so low budget and no-frills. And since it wasn’t the pay that was making ‘em happy, you got the distinct impression each shoot day that everyone was doing it for the same reason I was: just to see if it could be done and what it would look like. I’d go back to Charlotte to shoot anything with these fine folks – including my own demise, so long as it let me work with them all again. We’re currently talking about shooting CLERKS III there next, and believe me, I’m gonna try to get every one of my fellow Tusketeers back for that flick – especially John Kretschmer, our brilliant production designer who breathed such vivid life into the Pippy Hill estate and the subterranean walrus enclave to life where we spend so much of the flick.
But the real rock star of TUSK is our cinematographer, James Laxton. My usual set of eyes, CLERKS shooter Dave Klein, was busy wrapping season 3 on HOMELAND (on which he did a killer job this year before heading back to TRUE BLOOD), so I had to find my second sight elsewhere this time. James Laxton had some underwater shots on his reel and we had some underwater work in the subterranean walrus enclave. And since Lax had briefly shot me masturbating in a taxi cab for the flick FOR A GOOD TIME CALL, I figured he’d be fine as the eyes of TUSK. Boy, was I an asshole. Laxton wasn’t fine at all – he was a genius! We composed long, gorgeous shots that almost never stop moving and gave our dolly grip Phillip a workout every day. We only used hand-held in the water and instead went for elegance on rails. This is the best looking flick on my resume now, with composition that looks like it belongs to a far better film. So strange that the wish-flick which came together the quickest and had the least amount of shooting days I’ve ever had to make a movie (even less than the 21 days in which we shot CLERKS) looks this good. Anyone who’s watched any of the cut footage so far always remarks about how pretty TUSK looks – before they add “This is so fucked up, Kevin…”
Conceived as a punk rock flick, TUSK turned into something else entirely. If the aim of cinema is to show people something they’ve never seen before within a familiar, three-act structure, then we’ve made some motherfucking cinema. There are images and moments in this flick that I’ve never seen in any other film or TV show. That alone made this all worth doing.
We’ve still got two more shooting days here in Los Angeles to wrap the flick with our fifth Beatle – the performer playing the role of investigator Guy Lapointe. It’s looking like late December/early January for that – which would mean I’d be racing to my self-imposed Sundance finish line. And while I had to rush to make it all happen so as not to risk losing momentum, rushing now might foster a cavity around my creativity. The hard part’s over: we got the flick in the can (which sounds vaguely dirty). Now that I’m seeing what we’ve created in madcap haste, I’m slowing down the pace: because, shockingly, this flick turned out WAY the fuck better than I’d dreamed it could be. And I’m a fat man with a little dick, kids: so when I dream, I gotta dream BIG. And the North Carolina production of TUSK turned out better than the version of the flick I’d been harboring in my head since episode 259 of SModcast. It’s the movie the guy who made CLERKS would’ve loved to have made way back then, but he needed 20 years experience to get there. From the editing room of TUSK, I’m happy to report he’s finally arrived. And he LOVES to move the camera.
So because this joke flick turned into something classy, I’m gonna take my time and finish it correctly. After I wrapped RED STATE, I was showing the flick at Sundance three months later. That was my plan with TUSK as well. But RED STATE didn’t have a score at all (Fun Fact: future film composers can use RED STATE to experimentally score an entire flick). As TUSK is a monster movie at heart, goddammit, I want a monster movie score! And I’ve asked Chris Drake (who I first talked to back on FAT MAN ON BATMAN # 31) to gimme something as good as he gave to THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS animated flicks.
So while I will, indeed, be up at Sundance in January to celebrate the 20th anniversary of CLERKS appearing there back in 1994, I’ve decided not to submit my flick this year and instead leave TUSK at home to soundtrack simmer. Instead, I will debut the first TUSK trailer up at the Fest before a midnight movie (details to follow).
Meantime, if you’re a SModcast.com listener, I apologize for the lack of podcasts these past few weeks. But since y’all encouraged me to pursue this weirdness with the #WalrusYes vote, I figure YOU folks should have first crack at seeing the flick. Next month, we’ll be having a work-in-progress screening for 100 unlucky folks, so I can see how TUSK plays for an audience. The flick will likely still be missing the Guy Lapointe scenes, but you can watch a non-stop hour and change of TUSK prior to Lapointe’s first appearance. So keep your ears on, SModomites: I’ll let you know via the podcasts when we’ll be getting that screening together – and maybe you can try to be there with us! The SModcast audience helped shape TUSK thus far, so I might as well continue to lean on them for their Gretzky-like assists.
I can’t wait for all of you to see what we’ve done with this walrus picture. It’s just bat-shit crazy. During week 2, our sound guru Larry Long said “You’re making this generation’s BLUE VELVET.” That’s not true at all, but it made this ol’ David Lynch-lover grin like a gargoyle. Beyond the first movie I know of that’s gonna have the credit BASED ON A PODCAST, I don’t know what TUSK is exactly yet…
But I do know it’s a game-changer, folks.
Can’t wait to showcase it on SPOILERS closer to release. (Plug: SPOILERS returns this Friday on Comedy!)