Midnight movie meeting

Genres meshed, couple created

Published: Apr 30 2014, 01:01:am

Thursday, April 29, 1982
"WE DECIDED TO DO this film two years ago," says Christopher Windsor, 33, director of Big Meat Eater. "We knew right from the start that it had to be a midnight movie."
    "The midnight audience has become a market force," says the picture's producer, Laurence Keane, 32. It's an audience that "doesn't want slick Hollywood films, doesn't want established stars, wants something that's different and, usually, likes music."
    "The majors would like to do it, but they can't," adds Windsor. "They can't figure (the midnight audience) out and, the way they make movies, it would cost too much."
    Big Meat Eater, originally titled The Butcher of Burquitlam, cost a modest $150,000. Shot in White Rock, Steveston and Vancouver during December, 1980, it will be screened for an invitational audience Friday evening [April 30, 1982] and publicly premiered May 7.
    Set in Burquitlam, "the small appliance capital of the world," it is an attempt to marry the mood of British Ealing comedy from the 1950s with American teenaged monster movies to produce a new-wave musical. "It is," agree Windsor and Keene, "a bizarre movie."
    Like Cheech and Chong, now firmly established as the practitioners of cinematic weirdness, the team of Windsor and Keane came together in Vancouver. They met at the Simon Fraser University Film Workshop, where they worked on one another's project films.
    Windsor's production, a 15-minute silent-film spoof called Trapper Dan, went on to collect the 1974 Norman McLaren Award, the annual Canadian Student Film Festival's top prize. It was Keane's project, though, a horror comedy called Campus Carnage, that first suggested Big Meat Eater.
    They first talked about producing a feature in 1974, scribbling notes on a napkin in a Kitsilano Vietnamese restaurant. Then, for a time, they went their separate ways.
    Keane flew south to take a master of fine arts degree at George Lucas's alma mater, the University of Southern California film school. Windsor headed east, to take a directing job with ACCESS, the Alberta government's educational film production house.
    They stayed in touch and, in 1978, Windsor took a leave of absence to join Keane in the development of a magazine-style TV series, tentatively called The Car Show. "The motion picture is really a reaction to that TV show," Keane says. "It should have been a success."
    "We worked out the marketability," Windsor says. On the basis of their $60,000 pilot episode, they were able to conclude distribution deals in both the U.S. and Canada. "Everybody loved it."
    The problem was funding, "a classic Catch-22 situation," Windsor says. Until they had a specific number of shows completed, they couldn't collect any money. Without the money, they couldn't continue producing shows.
    "We did everything right," Windsor says. "Everybody liked it, and it didn't sell. So we decided to do something we liked, go right off the wall." The result, Big Meat Eater, "has as much chance as anything else to catch on."
    Unlike most Canadian filmmakers, Windsor and Keane are not courting the Canadian Film Development Corporation. "That was the first decision we made," says Windsor. Film people in Vancouver and the West are naturally linked to Los Angeles, not Toronto, he feels.
    "People from Toronto have this incredible fantasy that the East is somehow superior to the West," he says with a touch of bemusement.  Their Big Meat Eater project was "privately funded by friends and relatives," their company, BCD Entertainment Corporation, "set up so we never have to deal with government agencies."
    Having made the movie they wanted to make, they are now determined to "market it the way we think it should be." Instead of entrusting their film to a distributor, they're personally "testing it in Vancouver."
    The picture will play five consecutive late-night engagements in the Vancouver East Cinema. The idea is to allow an audience to discover the film, talk about it and, if the response is positive, evolve into a cult following.
    Though Big Meat Eater is designed as a comedy, Windsor and Keane are aware that styles of humour differ. People have embraced everything from Mel Brooks to Monty Python because, at some point, the comedy made contact with the audience and they shared in the joke.
    What Windsor and Keane are waiting to find out is how many people share their idea of humour. "The big question is," says Windsor, "have we got a funny movie?"

The above is a restored version of a Province interview by Michael Walsh originally published in 1982. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: To recycle an old joke, do you mean funny odd, or funny ha ha? With a wink in the direction of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Big Meat Eater  is a musical comedy that blends suburban science fiction and horror, which certainly qualifies as odd. It stars blues singer Clarence  "Big" Miller as Abdullah, a serial killer and apprentice butcher, who is hiding a corpse in his boss's freezer. Complicating matters are space aliens, using a zombie in their search for something called Bolonium, and a local nerd genius with his own agenda. Funny? Laurence Keane picks up the story in a March 2014 email:
    "The audience loved the film. And we had such a huge crowd — bigger than Van East had ever seen — that we had to delay the actual projection of the film to let folks get in and be seated. So I — being the conscientious producer that I was — was getting a little anxious . . . So I took a gander outside to see what the delay was —  As it turns out, the owners of the cinema, whose only job that night was to let people enter in an orderly fashion, had become so enthralled (it had to be that, right?) they decided, unbeknownst to me, to start selling tickets to the incoming viewers. How many they sold, we'll never know. However, by coincidence (or perhaps fate), I managed to halt the proceedings just as a gorgeous belly-dancing filmmaker named Elvira (whose fame had preceded her, I can assure you) made her entrance with her date (not just her date, but her life partner it turns out — or perhaps we can, in retrospect, term it her half-life partner).  Anyway, I saved the day, and met the famed belly-dancer filmmaker and the rest is . . ."
    The movie went on to receive favourable reviews, played several film festivals and had a successful release in the U.K. Its U.S. distributor was less successful. "They blew the release," Keane says. "We now have the all the rights. If anyone is interested in seeing what all the fuss was about it's currently available for download or dvd at www.bigmeateater.com"
     In his note, Keane allows the story of his meeting "a gorgeous belly-dancing filmmaker named Elvira" to trail off in ellipses. As mentioned at the very top of this page, today (April 30), is the anniversary of their meeting. Laurence and Elvira became partners personally and professionally. The team that wrote, produced and directed the historical drama Samuel Lount (1985), they are today partners in the Vancouver-based Utopia Pictures. As their website says, they have several features in development.