"I heard you were looking for a psychotic."
The young man had come to the right place -- a nondescript second floor office in Arnold. They were looking for a psychotic. And if all went well, he just might be it.
He sat there in front of the video camera with his big blue eyes opened wide over his toothy grin, like a man who had owned a Cheshirecat long enough to start looking like one.
Four people in the room looked intently at the young man and wondered: Is he the one?
Director Pericles Lewnes did not watch the young man directly but studied his face on a video monitor, because the camera changes things. Itcan make crazy men seem sane and vice versa. Lewnes, an Annapolis native, came down from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y., for this.
Before the day was over he would stare into the electronically reflected faces of 11 men. Some might be psychotics, some might be edgy New York tough guys, some might be brutal mob bosses.
It was a long Saturdayat ColorCast Productions, a day of weighing one man's jaw lines against another's piercing stare and still another's convincing way with a phrase.
There would be many more long days to come before the work was done. ColorCast, a video company specializing in commercials and industrial productions, is beginning work on its second feature movie.
It's been three years since company President Ed Bishop teamed up with his Annapolis Senior High School buddy, Lewnes, on a project like this. The last time they did, the results were positively explosive. At least a man's head exploded on camera.
"You can watch that frame by frame and you can't see the cut to the fake head," Bishopsaid.
Bishop is proud of that. He's also proud that the movie, "Redneck Zombies," has become something of a cult classic. He reports that the movie even made it into the 1980s version of Trivial Pursuit (Q: "What movie was subtitled 'Tobacco-chewin', gut-chompin' cannibalkinfolk from hell?")
The movie poster, which hangs in the office,quotes two horror film magazines proclaiming the movie "a goremeister's delight," and "a backwoods bloodbath that'll tickle your funny bone, then rip it out."
"It's still out there, still renting like crazy," said Bishop, the 30-year-old Temple University graduate who started the production company about seven years ago. The company's "bread and butter" is commercial and industrial work, Bishop said, but heaspires one day to work strictly on feature films.
"Redneck Zombies" was the beginning, launched one evening in 1986 in Lewnes' Annapolis living room as the two men joked about strange movie titles. The 89-minute movie -- released strictly for the video market early in 1989 -- cost less than $100,000 to make and has grossed about $1 million. But Bishop says nobody got rich on it.
"We made our money back,we made a little bit of profit. Everybody got paid."
This time, the team of Bishop, Lewnes, and co-producer Lisa DeLucia are taking a step up. They're planning to shoot a 35mm feature, a character study-crime drama. They're planning on a a budget of about $1 million, if they can raise it.
First they'll produce a six- or eight-minute 16mm "trailer," a sort of coming-attraction film featuring scenes from the movie. They'll use the trailer to help sell the project to prospective backers.
"The trailer is that little extra push to make the difference between people saying, 'Good script,' to saying, 'Here's a check to produce that script,' " said DeLucia, a native New Yorker living in Brooklyn and working for a film production company. For the last four years she's worked on several movies as a production coordinator and unit manager -- the on-set logistics meister and schedule-keeper who sees to everything from equipment to lunch.
Lewnes also works in the movie business in New York, spending much of his time creating special effects: "A guy might say I need an X-ray head that shoots a green beam of light. I'd try to make that happen for him."
Lewnes and DeLucia were there last Saturday for the auditions, along with Bishop and his wife, Sally. They sat in the office for seven hours watching one actor after another step before the cameras and run through the lines, then stuck around for a few hours more to watch the tapes. For the lead role of a New York hoodlum, DeLucia said, "What we're looking for is really hard to fill . . . an edge that the actor almost has to have innately. We're kind of looking for almost a crossbetween Mickey Rourke and Ray Liotta."
No decisions were made Saturday about the actor with the big blue eyes or the eerie fellow withthe dark eyes who rendered a chilling psycho-killer's monologue from"Exorcist III -- The Gemini Killer." No decisions were made about the actor from Virginia who was so handsome he was almost too handsome,or the thin guy with the crazy green-blue light in his eyes. They did decide to cast a Baltimore disc jockey -- a tall man with a face ofstubble and a rage that churned just below the surface -- as a mob boss.
They had not found their psychopath. But they would. More auditions were scheduled for New York City, a good place to look.