Thursday, 1 October 2009
Neon Maniacs 1986
I'd say that technically I own a piece of Neon Maniacs. By virtue of unpaid wages and out of pocket expenses, I invested well over a thousand dollars (before interest) with 'Sync International Productions' the original producers of this movie who "went bust" mid-way through the shoot.
Sync were based in the 9000 Building on Sunset Boulevard which offered month-to-month serviced offices. I soon learned that most film production companies based there were fly-by-night affairs and I avoided them when I could but needs must and when you're trying to break into Hollywood you can't be that picky (and doesn't Hollywood know it).
The first alarm bell was a dodgy practice of bi-weekly pay cheques because "the money has to come from East Coast". After shooting for two weeks, our first pay cheques cleared but on the Friday night of the fourth week came the news that the payroll would be late along with promises that it would be there on Monday but we wouldn't mind working two 18 hour days over the weekend, would we?
We got our cheques on the following Monday but by Wednesday we had learned they had bounced (throwing the crew NSF charges and hassles over covering their rent) and leading to a lot of angry crew people besieging the Union Bank on Wilshire. A lot of them decided then to jump ship and we were told after a week that we were on "hiatus" and shooting would soon resume. Some of the crew were in a position to keep in their possession expensive hired equipment that they refused to return unless their wages were paid in cash but I wasn't. I was lucky to find another job soon after, a video for the Sammy Hagar album VOA.
When Cimmaron Productions picked it up and restarted shooting after a couple of months, they conveniently claimed they didn't owe the original crew a dime, nor had they ever seen my petty cash claims, even though the same producer was still on board, but that's Hollywood.
All I can remember about the original producer was that he allegedly owned some movie theatres in New Jersey, so he probably thought he'd be able to 'four-wall' it for long enough to make his money back. Being that he was from Jersey and he had a lot of friends from Jersey, I didn't pursue him through the courts (and the investigation by the California Division of Labour Standards Enforcement was a travesty) but I did write him a letter saying I expected him to settle my wage and expenses sometime as a matter of honour.
It's probably one film the many people I worked with on this who have gone onto stellar careers have left off their CV. I was the assistant art director. While the IMDB doesn't list me on the crew, I have enough photos and this crew list to prove I was there.
Neon Maniacs was set in San Francisco but most of it was shot in L.A. We shot in an about to be demolished house in Glendale just below the library for a week of nights. I recall the budget was so low, I built one set using a bathroom suite and carpets I found in a dumpster. We borrowed the orange van in the "teen party in the park" scene (which can be seen in the trailer) from a crew member and we couldn't paint it so I put on the wacky rainbow paintjob using rolls of gift wrapping paper and spraymount.
The on-set photo here was taken in Griffith Park. As King Vidor used to say; "a tree is a tree. I shoot everything in Griffith Park..."
A fairly detailed credits listing is here along with a note that Sync pulled out and Cimmaron took over. Also a very detailed synopsis and frame grabs are online. Although the film was released in 1986, it is my recollection and confirmed there that I worked on it in 1984.