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April 15, 2024

Ed Wood for Inspiration

By Artie Knapp

While living in New York City in my early twenties I didn't have two nickels to rub together. It was classic Dickens, in that, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." Money and food were scarce, and I typically spent most nights at home watching reruns on Nickelodeon. Okay, I admit it, watching reruns of the "Jefferson's" and "The Wonder Years" isn't something to brag about, but what was a penniless inspiring broke filmmaker in New York to do? Having dinner was a cause for celebration; it wasn't like I could afford Broadway tickets.

One April evening in 1999, I rented the Tim Burton film, "Ed Wood", starring Johnny Depp. This film celebrates the life and art of the late Edward D. Wood Jr. It's probably hard for some people to fathom how an individual voted as the worst movie director of all time, could be an inspiration to someone interested in making movies. Well, the late Edward D. Wood Jr. had that effect on me. Mr. Burton's film changed my life. It lit a fire under me. Are Ed Wood films as bad as people say they are? No, they're actually worse, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he was able to achieve his vision by making his own movies. In the 1950's that was no small order, especially when you consider easily accessible consumer style Mini DV cameras didn't exist yet. The passion Mr. Wood exhibited for his films was evident, albeit in a charming lackluster way.

What I took from Mr. Wood's passion is that not everyone is going to like your work. Sure, we all want others to like what we create, but that shouldn't be the main reason why you do it in the first place. As an artist you owe yourself more than that. After watching "Ed Wood", it became clear to me that I needed to focus more on my own passion for telling stories, and didn't need New York City for that. My goal was to eventually move back to Ohio to be closer to family anyway, so the timing was perfect to move home and get started writing my first screenplay.

When I started to come up with ideas for a script, the one thing I felt compelled to do was write something that had never been done before. I felt this would help with finding distribution down the road. I've always been a fan of science fiction. I enjoyed watching reruns of the original Star Trek series as a kid. My favorite genre of film is comedy though, so with my love for both comedy and science fiction it occurred to me that there hadn't been a lot of science fiction comedies made. Sure, I could list some here like you could, but think about it, have there really been a lot of science fiction comedies made? I think not.

Anyway, I knew I didn't want to go with a Mars theme; Mr. Burton already beat me to that with "Mars Attacks." There was a film in the 1950's that came to mind about women from Venus. Mercury just didn't interest me. I started thinking about the other planets in our Solar System, and the rest were all gaseous with the exception of Pluto. As soon as I thought of Pluto I was completely sold on the concept. As far as I knew my script would be the only movie every made that centered on Planet Pluto; at least in a science fiction comedy film.

In addition to writing something I felt was original, I also knew it would be helpful to get someone with name recognition to appear in my film. Knowing Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts were already committed elsewhere, I still wanted to find a celebrity to create some buzz for my film. Former world heavyweight boxing champ, James Buster Douglas is from Columbus, Ohio, and still had a home outside of Columbus from what I had read. Buster shocked the world back in 1990 when he beat Mike Tyson silly for the world heavyweight boxing championship in Tokyo. Would he consider being in an independent film like mine? Well, I was anxious to find out and set my sights on trying to get in touch with him.

Getting in touch with the former heavyweight champion of the world was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It wasn't a big surprise that he wasn't listed in the phone book, but I kept coming up with dead ends when trying to locate him. For awhile, I actually gave up on the idea. Then it happened! I met someone who knew a friend of a friend of his, and the rest, as they say, is history. Buster as it turned out, had been interested in acting for sometime. I actually fought Buster a few times myself. Oh, not in the ring thank God, but my little Brother had Buster Douglas Boxing on Sega when I was in high school. Meeting someone in person that I fought against in a video game was pretty damn cool and a little surreal at first. Once I met Buster it was hard to believe this was the same guy who beat Mike Tyson to a pulp. Buster is one of the nicest, most down to earth people I have ever met. I will always be thankful to Buster for appearing in my little opus, and will always consider him a friend.

Because of Buster's participation, I was able to get my no budget film press in Sports Illustrated twice, USA Today, and on ESPN to name just a few. That success still cracks me up to this day.

I still haven't made a dime on the movie, but it has been shown at science fiction conventions across the world, and has been viewed by thousands of people on Cinemanow. I think that would have made Ed Wood proud. Who knows, maybe Pluto's Plight will be coming to a local public access station near you someday. If you ever watch Pluto's Plight I hope you enjoy it.

Artie Knapp

Pluto's Plight on CinemaNow

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Article © Artie Knapp. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-07-03
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