Don’t let the bright colors and cute little buildings fool you: the short film Adonis was born out of pain and misery. I can honestly tell you that the idea for Adonis came from living through a challenging experience: being an ape extra in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1lZ3un-kcg[/youtube]
Planet of the Apes – Ape School
In January of 2001, I was occasionally working as an extra to earn a few bucks. Unlike many of the others, I had no interest in being an actor or trying to earn SAG waivers. I was working as a cinematographer on small productions and doing this was kind of like being a spy: I could watch other cinematographers and directors work. Being that Tim Burton was a hero of mine, I jumped when I got the call about being an ape in his new Planet of the Apes. I attended and passed “Ape School” where we learned how to move like an ape. I made it through “Ape Army School” where we were trained and yelled at by ex-Marines to march and do maneuvers. Shooting Planet of the Apes on Sony Studios in Culver City was fascinating and for some strange reason, when asked to spend a month in the Mojave desert and get to watch Tim Burton, I said “yes.”
I do know that a reason I stayed was because of my Motel 6 roommate, Jamie Jansen. He is still one of my best friends. His motivation was that he was one of those serious actors working in hopes of getting a SAG waiver to boost his career. I should have hopped in my car and left after the first three days but with him there, I could joke about the situation and suffer together.
Adonis starts to form
Valentine’s Day was approaching and we had a day off. For excitement, we took a trip to the Palmdale Mall and browsed through all the Valentine’s Day gifts. We started sharing our dating and rejection stories. Being that we were probably tired and in a bad mood, we had mostly rejection stories. We joked that what we really needed was a dog because they always seem to attract girls. And with that thought, whenever we had a chance, we’d come back to that concept. In between shots we’d be able to say “what if the dog did this?” After a long day of filming we could say “a girl rejected me when I told her what my job was.” On the long bus ride back to the hotel we’d say “what if the dog tripped a girl to grab her attention?” Sharing those stories and brainstorming a fun idea for a short film really kept us going.
After a big snowstorm, the production decided to suspend the shoot. There was no way I would come back if they started up again. However, we had worked out enough depressing stories about rejection that the scenario for a short film (only called “The Dog Movie” at that time) was set. I would write the Adonis script a few weeks later.
It would take many more years to get Adonis actually rolling. We had many false starts and other jobs came up that got in the way of making the short film. And while both of us can still call Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes the most challenging shoot we’ve ever been through, Jamie did acquire his SAG waivers and our involvement generated the story and eventually the short film Adonis.