Ah, memories: why I decided to steer clear of filmmaking

For as long as I can remember, I have loved movies. My love affair with cinema began at four, when I started sneaking out of my bedroom to watch movies like “Terminator 2” and “Aliens” over my unsuspecting parents’ shoulders. It was furthered by my first viewings of the “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones” and “Back to the Future” trilogies, and it only progressed from there. My casual love of film escalated over the years into a relative infatuation, a passion unrivaled by anything else in my life.

This passion holds strong even today, as I study and toil to become a film critic (or, as I like to call it, “professional film buff”). And in my early teenage years, my love of film drove me to make movies.

At the forefront of that hellish, self-image-shattering time known as middle school, I saved and scrounged and bought a camera. Considered by today’s standards to be large and cumbersome, it was a state-of-the-art miniDV camcorder, complete with a telescope-legged tripod.

With that camera, flanked by my two good friends and cohorts AJ Berkshire and Ian Awai, I set out on a two-year, idealistic crusade to become a filmmaker. With that camera, I shot dozens of movies, ranging from crime drama to horror. And with that camera, I realized that I was tremendously more qualified to watch movies than I was to make them.

We formed a film studio. It was called Crabs Co., an acronym derived from the last names of everyone involved (Click, Rutledge, Awai, Berkshire and Scott). We drew a logo, published a website (which I believe is still up today, if you feel like Googling it) and put every fiber of our beings into making movies.

Our first film, an little action flick called “I’m Stealing Your Bike,” was essentially a ten-minute-long fight scene. A man steals a bike, only to be caught by the vehicle’s owner, which, of course, results in the remaining nine minutes of fist-fighting. The film was an amateurish mess, but it paved the way for many more to come.

Our next progression was the gangster film, and we made a score of them, progressing a little with each endeavor. Inspired by the gangster greats (Scorsese, Coppola, etc.), we produced such violent crime dramas as “Gangster Regrets,” “The Gunfight,” “The Tony and Vinnie Trilogy” and, my personal favorite of the bunch, “The Deal.”

With every film, we gained knowledge and experience. Every movie was better shot, better edited than the last. We were picking up speed, producing a film almost every two weeks. But we were blissfully unaware of the terrible price we would have to pay for our success.

As the films in the Crabs Co. library grew, our friendships strained against it. We snapped, we butted-heads, we argued. We fought over the camera set-up, lines of dialogue, acting. At times, it seemed we were each struggling for control of production, five directors trying to make the same film. We would storm off the set like flustered actors (“I’ll be in my trailer!”) and not speak to one another for days. Our beloved Crabs Co. was tearing us apart.

Despite this, we decided to make our most epic piece yet. After a year-or-so of shooting drug deals and mob hits in the abandoned construction site across the street, we felt we were ready to produce our masterpiece. In our minds existed this milestone of a film, a horror movie the likes of which had not been witnessed in some time. It was a creature-feature, a monster movie entitled “Night of the Platypus.”

The plot was brilliantly simple: a platypus goes mad and begins maiming, killing and eating the unsuspecting citizens of a small town. Screenwriting, casting and location scouting commenced over the course of several months. Shooting began in March of 2002.

Countless hours were spent after school and on the weekends to shoot and edit “Night of the Platypus.” It wasn’t until the final day of shooting that we realized the endeavor was just too big for us. It was a scene taking place in a bar, if I remember correctly. The man hired to kill the man-eating platypus was speaking to the mayor of the terrorized town. I don’t quite recall the exact dialogue, but I remember distinctly the sudden and unmistakable weight of the film suddenly crushing down upon me with the force of a barbell.

The continuity was ridiculously off. Ian’s character was present at the bar, despite being killed off in the second scene. AJ appeared as a pair of completely different characters in two consecutive scenes. The platypus prop (a stuffed animal with a cardboard, razor-sharp bill) had gone missing, and therefore was not featured in the exciting climax. The dialogue in several scenes was completely inaudible due to white-noise. It was impossible to edit, harder to keep track of and a source of heated debate among the five of us. Crabs Co. was circling the drain fast. “Night of the Platypus” was an awful mess, and rampant in-fighting among the members of Crabs Co. forced us to halt production.

We never did make another film. Despite our best efforts, Crabs Co. died with that man-eating platypus.

I still have the tapes somewhere, I think, collecting dust on some cluttered shelf in my closet. Sometimes, I have half a mind to drag them out and edit what we have of our masterpiece, finishing today what I couldn’t five years ago. The failure of “Night of the Platypus” hangs heavy on my thoughts even now, a grim reminder of my failed attempts in filmmaking.

Still though, I consider those few wonderful years as being immensely formative to who I am today. As I contemplate my future, and the presence of film within it, I look back on those days of shooting mob movies in the dusty plains of the construction site (which now houses a large suburban neighborhood) and think fondly of friends, of packed lunches and sun-warmed sodas, of learning more about life from behind the lens of a camera than I ever would in school. I ponder for one wild moment the possibility of becoming a director, of producing or maybe writing movies.

But ultimately, I remind myself of the fact that I am very good at watching movies. And watching movies, admiring them from afar, writing about them and respecting those who make them is what I intend to do for the rest of my life.

Then again … who knows? In a few years time, you might see a trailer for “Night of the Platypus,” brilliantly restored with THX surround sound and think of me, arguing with my middle school friends over the placement of the tripod for the “discovery of the body” scene in our brilliant film about a murderous platypus.


  1. LOL I remember the last time we all sat down and watched that was at Ian's 18th! Then we went outside and tried to film that army drama in which we used those Poppers for shooting sounds :P

    Wow how time flies! BUT I seriously loved Night of The Platapus - even if it was one of the cheapest in humanity...

    Kurt getting devoured by a platapus while sitting on the toilet - PRICELESS :P

    Much love for that trip down memory lane Matt!


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