Armageddon Boulevard Just Some of the What’s What

Armageddon Blvd.
Just Some of the What’s What
AKA The Story of the Production

Originally from the Scott Shaw Zen Blog

By Scott Shaw

Fade In:

I received an eBay alert this morning about the fact that someone was selling a VHS copy of the Zen Film,
Armageddon Blvd. So, I popped over to check it out. Yup, it is one of the original video tape releases of the film. The seller is asking $150.00 for it. I don’t know if anyone would be willing to pay that amount, but it is out there if you care.  
One of the funny things I noticed is that in the listing they have one of the main actors (me) listed as John Shaw. That’s pretty funny, I think. Even though my name, Scott Shaw is on the box, the seller translated that as John. Okay? …Scott, John, whatever… I really don’t care about that kind of stuff. :-)
In actually, Armageddon Blvd. is one of the first video boxes I ever designed. Back in, I think it was ’99, when we licensed the video release of that film and Ride with the Devil to this company, they needed video boxes designed. So, I took on the job. I just went through my digital files to see if I still had the original layout and I do. I found the original creation. I’ll put it up on the Armageddon Blvd. page on this site if you feel like checking it out.
I’ve never written too much about the creation of Armageddon Boulevard. There’s no real reason for that. I guess it’s just that it wasn’t all that eventful. I’ve told a story or two about it here or there. But, for those of you who care, here’s a few tidbits. …Not as in-depth as my Stories of the Production I’ve written for some of the films
Donald G. Jackson and I created, just some of the What’s What.
Armageddon Boulevard started out as Shotgun Blvd. This was the first film that Don and I did after Toad Warrior which later became
Max Hell Frog Warrior. We filmed the majority of this film in 1996.
We brought in some of the faithful as our cast: Conrad Brooks and Roger Ellis. Joe Estevez kept calling us during this period, as he heard we were filming, and he wanted to be a part of the movie. But Don, for some reason, didn’t want him to be in this film. The first day of shooting took place at this sound stage we had in the Broadway Building on Hollywood and Vine.
There was no big event that took place that day/night, just the very funny life experience of trying to get Conrad Brooks to say his lines. This is when we filmed the scenes where Roger Ellis’ character and my character sat across the table from Conrad.
Conrad and his protégé, “Little James,” as we called him, had gone across the street to the Frolic Room, a little bar on Hollywood Blvd., while we were setting up. He had a few drinks. When he returned, we were ready to shoot his scenes. Though he didn’t appear drunk, the alcohol had done him in. He could not remember even one line. Finally, after a lot of frustration, we came up with an idea. What we did to get the scenes shot is to feed Conrad what he needed to say one line, or in some cases, one word at a time. Though it is very funny now to remember those goings on, when I had to edit this movie, it was a nightmare.
We shot a lot of this movie on our stage in this building and on the roof of the Broadway Building. We also used a lot of the surrounding area of Hollywood to do the external scenes, as well.
Another, (maybe not so interesting), event occurred with Conrad and this actress we had also used in Toad Warrior, Bronni Bake. At the time, she was a cruise ship singer, who had a great voice, and was pursing her acting career on the side. Great gal! We had her do a scene with Conrad on a couch in one of the halls of the building. Out of the blue, Conrad grabs her face, holds it tight, and starts to kiss her. Being a great actress, she played along but you could tell she was not happy. I ended the scene. By today’s standards you just could not, or better put, Conrad could not do something like that. I was so sorry that happened to her. Though Conrad was a Cult Movie Icon by this point in time, that style of behavior was (and is) just not right!  
Another interesting event occurred one late afternoon when Roger and I were doing our face-off scene. Roger, who was said to be a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Army and a West Point Graduate, actually dropped my Winchester pistol grip shotgun on the roof. It broke the sight off of the gun. I was so upset. But, I am one of those people who keeps those things inside. I thought, how could a career army officer do something like that? When Don saw that happen, his jaw just dropped. Not too much to that story, but just a memory.
Another incident occurred when we had a large cast at the studio. Don and I were very busy staging the set and setting up the lights. But, we wanted to keep people fed so Don suggested a run to Pink’s. You know, the famous hot dog stand. We were busy so Don asked Roger if he would make the run. He reluctantly agreed. When he returned, we could tell he was pissed. “I wear Armani suits,” he exclaimed, “I should not be making a hot dog run.” A few minutes later, as we were eating our dogs, Roger began to talk about how easily it is to subtly poison someone. He explained all it takes is putting something on your finger and running it along someone’s neck. Which he illustrated by actually doing it to Don.  A short time later Don’s face began to get very red. A sickness was coming over him. Don had to leave. I had to run the show solo for the rest of that evening’s shoot
Whether Don was actually poisoned by Roger or not, I will leave that to the urban myth. But, something did happen.
Aside from our standard cast, we also cast some new friends for this movie. Cherise Bangs, the girl who played Rag Doll, was great. What a great character she came up with! She’s gone on to have an impressive acting career.
One of the interesting things that happened with her was one evening we were going to shoot a scene on this large roof patio we had outside of our offices in North Hollywood. The thing was, you had to leave the door to the patio open, or it would lock, and the only way it could be reopened was from the inside. Cherise, not knowing this, and thinking she was doing the right thing, closed the door once we were all out on the patio. Don, being Don, of course, freaked out. Me, being more levelheaded, suggested that we shoot the scene and then figure out what to do next. Which is what we did.
There was an acting school that rented the space below our offices. After we shot the scene, I noticed there was this big burly, six-foot-five acting student, out in the back parking lot running his lines with a female student. I leaned over the side and nicely asked him if he would come upstairs and open the door. The asshole couldn’t be bothered. He rudely said he might do it after he was done with his rehearsal and to stop interrupting him. What a dick! This enraged Don. It even really pissed me off, as well. …Me, Mr. Calm and Understanding. Don was all asphyxiated by our entrapment. Cherise, was a young woman, who didn’t really know what to do. Me, I was not going to let this stop me. I studied the surroundings, saw a lower wall over to one side of the building, and lowered myself off the roof, down to it, by hanging from my hands, while Don kept telling me to be careful. Yeah, I guess it was dangerous but if we ever wanted to get off of that roof, that seemed like our only option.
I was down and walking towards the outside back stairwell to the upper floor where I could open the door. I glared at the guy as I walked by. He said some rude something to me, trying to break hard. But, I was at the top of my game back then. It didn’t matter how big the guy was. I was training, teaching, and fighting daily. I was in all of the martial art magazine. I was doing all these magazine articles, books, and video tapes, and I was just not in the mood, especially after he did not even have the courtesy to take a moment out of his, “Oh so important acting school life,” to open the fucking door.
I went right up in his face. And, I think this is the only time I have ever said anything like this, “Do you know who I am? And, who the fuck are you? A meaningless nobody!” It must have been my rage but he completely back away. I watched as any macho he may have had melted from his eyes. Just then, the acting coach came out. “What’s going on?” Good thing, because had that big burley meaningless son-of-a-bitch said anything to me, I would have floored him.
But me, being who I am, I actually felt bad about behaving like that after the fact.
On a more happy note… We were also running casting notices in Dramalogue, the local industry newspaper at the time. That’s how we met Cherise. We also received the headshot of this tall, striking female, Regina Crownenweth. We brought her in. She had this great German accent and we immediately cast her as this Schwarzenegger, Terminator style character. As this was a Zen Film, we immediately began shooting with her that day. We shot in our offices, our stages, and in and around the Broadway Building late into the night. She was great!
The only problem was, her husband was the son of the legendary cinematography Jordan Crownenweth, who had filmed little movies like Blade Runner. Her husband was (then) an up-and-coming DP himself. He went on to DP little films like: Fight Club, Gone Girl, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Of course, I’m joking, and being facetious, using the word, “Little.” They were/are both very big players in the industry.
He had been out of town the day we filmed with her, but when he came back the next day, I guess he didn’t like his wife being in such a no-budget film, so he put the brakes on her returning to finish out her character. That’s sad because she was going to be one of the major stars of film. But, even the relatively small part she played in the movie is very memorable.
We also cast Lori (Lorielle) New via Dramlogue. A great up-and-comer at the time. Both Don and I thought she had a great look and, as it turned out, she was a very talented actress.  She became the female nemesis of the film.
Here’s the thing about Don, he really had this bad tendency to turn people against one another. He did that with Lori against me. It’s the things he would say when one person wasn’t around, claiming that they said this or that or felt some kind of way about that other person. That’s just a bad news thing to do, but he did it all the time. Me, I just didn’t bother listening to him anymore as I was so used to that game he played. The new folks, however, not knowing the game, would often fall prey to the believing. Don did that to Lori against me.
Overall, I enjoyed working with her. But, there is the love scene that Don insisted we do. We shot it at Roger’s house, in the Valley, in his bed. Oh man, it was so uncomfortable. Every kiss was a pain. Don kept wanting more, but we (her and I) just could not bring ourselves to do it with any passion. There’s a lot of that scene that ended up on the cutting room floor. But, you can see some of it in the film. Maybe you will pick up on what I am speaking about.
It was about this time that we had filmed most of the movie. And, as was the case with Don, he would get bored and stash the shot footage away. We went on to do other movies.
As stated, this film started out as Shotgun Blvd. But, in 1997, we had begun to work closely with Julie Strain and her (then) husband Kevin Eastman. Don had the idea, as the American Film Market was coming up, that we integrate Julie and Kevin into the film and finally compete it. Which we did.
All the scene we filmed for Armageddon Blvd. with them were done so at what Don had titled, “The Turtle Mansion,” …Julie and Kevin’s house in Bel Aire. Titled as such as Kevin was the Co-Creator of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As always, we had a very fun time making movies with the couple. They had become good friends.
When it came time to edit the movie, I went through the footage and did what may be considered a standard edit on the film. What I noticed was that Don began to do this thing where after he called, “Cut,” he would swing the camera away before turning it off. I began to play that into the edit wherever it existed. Don, noticing what I was doing said, “You should have told me, I could have really played that up.” My response, “It’s just a Zen thing.”
Once the basic storyline edit of the film was done, we knew it didn’t have that push, that pizzazz the film needed. From this realization, this is the first Zen Film where I truly began to drop all concept of story development and simply integrate visual images into a non-coherent storyline. I added segments from an uncompleted film we did with Adrianne Moore (Jill Kelly) and one we did with Robert Z’Dar and put it all together in what became the final version of Armageddon Blvd. Thus, creating the next generation of a Zen Film.
Speaking of the title… For whatever reason, as AFM was approaching, Don had the idea that we shouldn’t use the original title Shotgun Blvd. We were coming out of this bar that served great chili in Van Nuys and he asked me what I thought? At this time, the film, Armageddon, was out and a bus drove by with the poster for the film on the side, “How about Armageddon Boulevard,” I suggested. That was it. That became the title.
Around this time, Don had locked into using Julie’s publicist for his career. His career, not mine our ours. I’m not sure how he paid for that as publicists are very expensive. I could never afford one. Maybe Julie was paying, I don’t know??? But, he was getting a lot of press written about him at the time due to this publicist. In this one industry magazines, the journalist mentioned the fact that Don used known titles, “Armageddon…” and “
Ride with the Devil,” (which the Ang Lee, Toby Maguire film, with that title, was also out in the A-Market around this time), as a means to gain an audience. Little did she know…  
Years later, never wholly happy with the edit I did on Armageddon Boulevard, and maybe to get the whole and true picture of the film we initially hoped to create out there, I went back in and did the original, intended edit of Shotgun Blvd. A bit later I did another version of the film using more of the original unused footage, staying clear of the nudity, and titled it 9mm Sunrise.  They're all out there, you can see ‘em if you want.
I uploaded Armageddon Blvd. to YouTube a little while back. But, due to YouTube polices, I had cut some of the scene out of the film, like where Julie is shaving her private parts. For that, and other similar scenes, you’ll have to pick up the DVD or the VHS that’s on eBay.
I went out to breakfast with my lady this morning and told her about the eBay listing. She asked, “Don’t you have posters for that film?” “Yeah, and posters from several other films from that period, as well—somewhere???” “Do you want me to find them and hang them on the walls,” I jokingly asked. “No!!!” She emphatically replied. I also have some of the original VHS tapes, as well. Hell, the Master for the movie is in my film vault over at Paramount.
But, all that aside, the thing I realized as we were talking this morning, and what I said to her is, so many of the people who made this film a reality are no longer with us. Don died. Conrad passed away. Roger is gone. Z’Dar is no more. Even Julie moved on to her next life. All that’s really sad! Those people were my friends. They were my Zen Filmmaking brothers and sisters. Now, gone… It’s so sad, much of the first generation of the Zen Filmmaking team are no more.



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