The idea for Denim Jones started out as a single line of dialog. It came to me in the summer of 1990, when I was working in the mail room of a large office building. My supervisor allowed me the luxury of listening to music as I went about my daily duties, so I brought in my portable stereo and popped in my soundtrack to "Raiders of the Lost Ark". As I photocopied, collated and sorted mail, my mind would wander off into the world of Indiana Jones. In my head, I would recite lines from the movie, and one thing that I noticed was how often the Nazis would refer to Indy as "Herr Doctor". Herr doctor... herr doctor... doctor herr... Doktor Hair! Seconds later, I had the first line of dialog for "The Adventures of Denim Jones".
"You'll never get away with this, Doktor Hair!" Denim Jones sneers.
"Oh yes I will, Herr Doctor!" Doktor Hair replies, tauntingly.
Now that I had created a villain, I needed a hero. What sort of variation could I make on my favorite archeologist adventurer? Why, Physics, of course! I was about to start my third year at UVic majoring in Physics and Astronomy, so the adventurer in my movie would just HAVE to be a Physics professor. But what would I name him? Call it fate, call it destiny, call it dumb luck, but when I was at Disney MGM Studios in Florida, I had purchased a denim fedora in the Indiana Jones store. Combine that with the fact that I wore jeans and a jean jacket almost everywhere I went, it wasn't very difficult to make the leap to an all denim wearing Physics professor slash adventurer!
What genre would my movie be? I knew that if I ever decided to make this movie, the best genre to use would be "comedy". Have you ever heard the saying "It's so bad, it's funny"? Well, I figured I would use that to my advantage. Any time that budget forced me to compromise my vision of a shot, it would be done "for comedic effect". Also, with a comedy, no one can say "Oh, he just ripped that off from Indiana Jones..." Instead they say "That's funny 'cause it's a parody of Indiana Jones!"
Since Indy spent a lot of his time fighting the Nazis, I figured I'd have to incorporate them into my movie in some fashion. I already had Doktor Hair as my villain, so I combined hair with Nazi, stirred in a little current events and came up with the Neo-Nazi Hairheads. With the rest of the characters, I tried to parody characters from the Indiana Jones movies. Sallad was based on Sallah, Indy's friend from two of the three movies, Ground Round was based on Short Round from the Temple of Doom, and Helmut Fischtenstein was based on that big bald Nazi soldier that Indy fights during the "Flying Wing" sequence in Raiders. (That sequence has to be one of the best fight sequences ever caught on film. The many layers of cause and effect weave together seamlessly. Superb!!) The female lead was a bit tougher. Since Indy had "adventures" (wink wink nudge nudge) with three different women in the three movies, I didn't have one particular character to parody. I chose to make her up entirely from scratch. She's just an innocent woman who knocks on the wrong door.
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After a few script revisions, I talked my brother, Lee, and a few of my friends into working for free. Lee and I had worked together before on other 8mm film projects such as "Chris Gabel's (Not so) Amazing Stories" and the ever popular "Blowing Stuff Up". I planned the shooting schedule to accommodate all my actors' and Lee's schedules, which was not an easy task! They came through with flying colors, and except for a few minor incidents, all the footage was shot as planned in about three weeks... over a span of six months, that is!
My movie was in the can. (That's show biz talk for "we were finished shooting".) Now I just had to edit it. Again, I called in a huge favor to Lee and asked if I could edit it on the video editing deck at Camosun College, where he was a student in the Applied Communication program. He agreed and we went in after hours and edited the movie in two nights. Believe me, those were two LONG nights. Over five hours of footage, a music track, and some simple special effects I had recorded off of my Amiga500, were slapped together into a 53 minute movie... and a 47 minute blooper reel! (I've heard that a few people have actually watched the ENTIRE blooper reel in one sitting, without going into a psychosis... but that's just a rumor.)
To this day, I still don't know how we did it. I couldn't believe that a simple line of dialog had grown into an entire movie. I think Winston Churchill said it best... "Never before had so much been owed to so many by me." All my actors put up with my nit-picks and did what I told them to do with little reward, except the satisfaction of a job well done. That's pretty rare these days. I was lucky to have such good friends. My parents were very accommodating as well, letting me have the run of the house, telling THEM to be quiet (what a reversal!) while I shot scenes, and lending costuming and craft services assistance as I needed..
I owe Lee my biggest debt of gratitude. The video camera we used was his, he had awesome insight into how to set up shots and what angles would look the best, I wouldn't have had the use of the frame accurate video editing had he not been attending Camosun at that particular time... the list is huge. I owe him even more for the Special Edition, but you can read about that on the next screen. I hate to sound all "gushy" but I *NEVER* could have done this without you. Thanks so much, bro!!
Since its gala premiere in, appropriately enough, my parents' basement, Denim Jones has been shown to my fellow Physics grads at UVic, my co-workers, and I've sent copies to friends around the globe. (That is, if you consider Canada and the United States to be "the globe".) It's my dream to one day be stopped by someone I don't know and have them ask me, "Aren't you Denim Jones?" But, until that day comes, I can bask in the knowledge that I had another dream come true -- my dream of making a movie