Two Colorado Springs film makers have set out to make a movie called Creep!, which tells the story of a 1960s psychopathic movie director who scammed investors into making a B movie called The Creeping Terror.
In a parallel move, the film makers are seeking investors to make their movie and are soliciting donations through a national website.
“But, I’m not a psychopath,” said Pete Schuermann, Creep director.
Schuermann and executive producer Nancy Theken have partnered with Kickstarter.com, a crowdfunding platform that relies on donations from the general public to fund art such as films, photography and fashion.
Art enthusiasts can make donations toward a project from as little as $10 up to $15,000 and get rewards like autographed posters, T-shirts and behind-the-scenes footage. For $5,000, a donor to Creep can be eaten by the monster in the film.
Kickstarter.com has been successful since its launch in 2008 with nearly half of all the projects on the site fully funded to the tune of millions in public pledges. The average project raises about $10,000 with $25 being the most common pledge, according to the Kickstarter.com website.
Creep producers will try to raise $65,000 in 60 days to finish making the film in time to promote it to this season’s film festival circuit. If Creep does not hit its fund raising goal on Kickstarter.com, none of the donors will be charged.
“We thought, what a great way for us to raise production funds for Creep,” Theken said. “It’s very reward driven. You have to have a good video, a good project and something people can really get behind — and we feel we have that project.”
Kickstarter.com takes a 5 percent cut from the project’s funding total. But, Kickstarter.com does not own a piece of the project or its intellectual property.
“It’s the future of film making,” said Kevin Beechwood, Creep producer.
The idea for Creep started as a documentary about narcissistic director Art Nelson and the making of the 1964 movie about a people-eating monster from outer space. But, as they learned more from the original actors, screen writers and producers, they decided to recreate some of the movie’s original scenes, which meant constructing a giant monster partially made from carpeting.
The film is a hybrid with documentary-style interviews, footage from the original film and new scenes created by a Colorado cast. It has become about the creep behind the movie, Schuermann said.
“The movie really is about that type of personality that is so totally free of remorse and has delusions of Godhood that I find fascinating,” Schuermann said. “We’ve all met people like that — truly a psychopath.”
Love of creature features
As a kid, Schuermann was a creature-feature fan. He loved the B monster movies, mainly, he said, because they weren’t scary and but instead comical.
When he was 14, he came across The Creeping Terror — a movie so bad it was hilarious and “funnier than the funniest comedy,” he said. “It was so badly done, we were just cracking up at how incredibly awful it was.”
Years later, he learned that director Nelson, who had a number of aliases including Vic Savage, was a swindler who charged actors $200 to be in his monster movie. This intrigued Schuermann and Theken, who had worked together on a documentary, Haze, a film about college binge drinking.
They found a blog where the original actors, even Nelson’s ex-wife, were telling all about the seedy director who gambled and drank all their money away. Theken and Schuermann set out to find some of the original cast members and investors and uncovered a story they couldn’t make up.
“The real monster was behind the camera,” William Thourlby said in an interview with the Creep crew. Thourlby, who was the original Marlboro Man, invested in Nelson’s monster project only to be ripped off when Nelson left town in the middle of the night with all the money.
All that Nelson left behind was the canisters of film. In a desperate attempt to salvage the movie, Thourlby hired a narrator — one who sounded like the guy who narrated old high school diver’s ed films — to fill in the blanks.
“(Thourlby) really gave us the back story on how dark that world could be and how many innocent people arrive in Hollywood with big dreams and how easily you could be caught up in this world,” Theken said.
Nelson was able to convince people that he knew what he was doing “when the monster was just a piece of carpet and the film set was made of cardboard,” Schuermann said. “And, he didn’t have any degree of talent.”
Nelson is reported to have died face down in the streets of Kansas City in 1975, Schuermann said.
The Creeping Terror
In The Creeping Terror, a scientifically designed test animal is sent to Earth to analyze human beings chemically — that is he is to eat as many people possible and report his findings back to the mother ship, Schuermann said. The monster is made of rubber, carpet and vacuum cleaner hoses. A couple of teenagers hired to get under the monster and flail around passed out from heat exhaustion during filming.
In 1980, Michael and Harry Medved described The Creeping Terror in their book, The Golden Turkey Award, and sent the film into a cult status. Today, excerpts of The Creeping Terror’s most outrageous scenes are on YouTube.
“Once I watched the film, I was rolling on the floor,” Theken said. “I could not even talk — the sincere ineptitude, you can’t help but love the film, they were so serious about it.”
Theken raised about 25 percent of Creep’s total $172,000 budget from seed investors and used $5,000 to have a latex monster made, which is simply operated by two guys standing under it. The crew shot the promo for the film and Creep already is anticipated by some of the biggest film festival scouts, Schuermann said.
“One thing that is really promising is that there have already been offers for five film festivals based on work we’ve done in the past and what they’ve seen of Creep so far,” he said. “Also, we have three distributors who are interested.”
Creep launched as a featured project on Kickstarter.com March 13 with a promotional party at the Fine Arts Center, where the monster made its debut. The Creep team now will be hyping the crowdfunding site in hopes that Colorado Springs gets behind their little film.
“What is incredible about the world we live in today, whether you look at it from a political realm or the arts, people are interacting internationally in a way they have not before,” Theken said. “Together people can participate and make change happen or make art happen.”
Four-time Oscar winner Richard Edlund, who won in the special effects category for his work on the first three Star Wars movies and the first Raiders of the Lost Ark, had not thought about The Creeping Terror in years, Theken said. But, when he was just trying to break into the business back in the 1960s, he created the iconic spiral graphics and titling for The Creeping Terror.
Edlund was interviewed for Creep and agreed to have dinner with anyone who donated $15,000 to the Creep project through the Kickstarter.com site.
“We thought, wouldn’t it be fun to have dinner with Richard Edlund?” Theken said. “He said he would love to.”
The Creep crew, including an award-winning cinematographer, expects to start shooting a 35-day production schedule this summer at eight locations around Colorado Springs. The crowdfunding campaign will allow Theken and Schuermann to employ a high-caliber cast, all from Colorado, Schuermann said.
“The parallel is there, me trying to convince people to get behind this,” Schuermann said. “But, I’m happy to let my work speak for itself.”
And, he promised not to run away with the money in the middle of the night.
Find out more about the Creep project at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ntheken/creep-the-real-monster-was-behind-the-camera