(photo by Deneka Peniston)
The highest praise I’ve ever received (given behind my back, by the way) was when music video director Will Joines confided in a friend that “Jenna’s on her own planet.” Just to give you some context, this was said at a Christmas party in October. I am extremely flattered by this description, but I would actually add that I’m just a visitor on this planet and will soon be moving on to another.
What planet am I currently on? I’m cooking up a webseries with camptastic sci fi and some Ed Wood undertones called ZOMPIRE VIXENS FROM PLUTO! Foxy zombie/vampire hybrids attack Brooklyn in retaliation for the declassification of Pluto, which renders them ineligible for intergalactic aid. You’d better watch your back, Neil DeGrasse Tyson! Mostly joking…
This is just one of many kooky projects on the docket. Other ideas, ranging from completed scripts to nebulous concepts, jump from a feature-length slasher that needs more Kung Fu (our heroine is a martial arts star) and takes place in Flint, Michigan to a hardboiled tale about the character impersonators in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater and the mortgage crisis in Los Angeles to an itch I need to scratch involving a Western.
Is there a common thread in my work besides going completely bananas on bringing in different elements of various genre pictures, especially those considered of B quality? Comedy. I like to laugh and believe that I’m not alone here. Also, comedy sometimes provides a better platform on which to tackle serious issues than does a straight drama.
More recently, many writers and directors have taken to re-envisioning old genres (Michael Jai White and Byron Minns with “Black Dynamite” and Edgar Wright starting with “Spaced” and not stopping anytime soon) and genre mash ups (James Gunn with “SUPER” and Quentin Tarantino – what hasn’t he touched on?). I’m, obviously, leaving a lot out of the narrative here, but tell me you want to know more!
Where do I look for inspiration? Movies are my drug of choice, so here’s a haphazard, by no means exhaustive, set of 5 recommended double features for inspiring takes on classic genres and ramping up the mash potential. They are in no particular order, but feel free to add your own in the comments and check out more of my demented brainchildren at www.jennapayne.com…
· 1965’s “Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster” & 1984’s “Bloodsuckers from Outer Space” – FMSM is an amazing gem of a B picture that consists of possibly 60% stock footage and is a monster movie meets sci fi meets a ‘60s beach movie. BOS has an unbelievably great soundtrack considering the filmmakers must have just known some actually good local bands. It’s also a better version of Peter Jackson’s 1987 debut “Bad Taste” with an equal dose of politics, slapstick, and inexplicability.
· 1946’s “The Killers” & 1944’s “Murder, My Sweet” – K is a perfect noir based on the short story that kickstarted pulp fiction by Ernest Hemingway, so producer Mark Hellinger sent a PR lackey to Idaho to do a private screening for Papa. Hemingway put a full pint of gin in one pocket and a pint of water in the other just in case the movie was unbearable. The lights went up, and Hemingway presented two full bottles, grinned, and said, “Didn’t need ‘em.” MMS is a comical take on Raymond Chandler’s “Farewell, My Lovely” with trippy drug scenes rivaling some icons of the ‘60s and the wonderful Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe.
· 1981’s “My Bloody Valentine” & 1982’s “Pieces” – MBV is my favorite slasher. It did very badly at the time of release (I think) due to the fact that most of the special effects (read: gore) was excised from the theatrical release. The footage was recently rediscovered, though, and added to the DVD version. This is the best written of all slashers with a story that makes sense and nobody doing anything particularly stupid, excluding, of course, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. P is a terrible, and terribly awesome, movie. You have to see it to believe it, and I would recommend watching it with a large group. Hysterical!
· 1961’s “The Innocents” & 1962’s “Carnival of Souls” – I is a classic and for good reason. It’s beautifully shot in CinemaScope and based on the Henry James novella “The Turn of the Screw.” Also, what’s creepier than children? CS is a gorgeously flawed picture. It is the only feature film directed by industrial filmmaker Herk Harvey, and one of the first major independent films. Harvey wrote in resources he had access to (an organist, among other things) and shot some of it in the abandoned Saltair Pavilion. Have I mentioned how much I love carnivals? Also, George Romero saw this at a drive in in Pennsylvania and then made “Night of the Living Dead.
· 1985’s “Demons” & 1987’s “Opera” – D is over the top, heavy metal horror and insane ‘80s fun. It’s directed by Lamberto Bava, Mario Bava’s son and Dario Argento’s protégé. O is Argento’s baroque horror epic with crazy black birds and divas. I really can’t add much to this, except to recommend that you play it LOUD.
As you soldier through my mini film course, I’ll be pitching ZOMPIRE VIXENS FROM PLUTO! as branded content to liquor labels and shilling for product placement to pay for this zany behemoth. I might also be mulling over more crazy concepts to capture on DSLR. Enjoy the movies and spread the good word about genre mashing! It’s coming soon to a laptop near you…