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LORD OF THE REGION PDF Print E-mail
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Nov 12, 2004 at 07:00 PM
And, unbeknownst to all of them, the good Reverend James Prince (Hart, Jr.) is gathering the spiritual strength of his people readying for the time of attack according to his life long vision.
EXCITEMENT! THRILLS! CHILLS!

And that only describes the roller coaster ride that filmmaker Jo Palermo went on to get this project produced...
It was January of 1993 when Palermo and 20 actors set out to make the action/horror feature Lord of the Region in St. Louis and St. Charles, Missouri.
The actual premise of Lord of the Region, according to writer Jo Palermo, is multi-leveled. it's adapted from an original (sort of) story by Palermo that he wrote in high school a few short years after seeing Dan Curtis' Tuesday Night Movie: The Night Stalker. "I re-wrote it again in 1983.1 sat down at my typewriter and said out loud, "Okay, no holds barred, I want the story that's in my head to come out in full."
The story that emerged was dark... too dark to be produced without some real funding." said Palermo. "It involved a lot of nudity and sex and metaphoric fears of homosexuality. There was no way to do it without funding and no way to do it (at that time) with the available actors in St. Louis." Palermo revised the story so that it could be produced when the time and opportunity hit.
The time and opportunity seemed to hit in December of 1992. Palermo ran across an old modeling associate who claimed she could get all the cast members he needed. With that in mind, Palermo began pre-production tasks. He had worked as a video professional since 1980 with free-lance work as an Associate Producer for Anheuser Busch, ESPN and Sports-Time Cable. Having worked all areas of camera, lighting, sound and editing, the technical production for Lord of the Region was set to be a breeze.
Despite what his old associate told him, casting became the primary nightmare... "I've decided to write a booklet or produce a video on Acting For Basement Budget B-Movies!" says Palermo, prompted by this production experience. "With no money, the actors you're going to get, for the most part, are simply going to be inexperienced." But sometimes, that's not a bad thing. "One of my actors, Ken Plopper, who convincingly plays Steve Wood (best friend of Roy Baker), did a horrible audition. I eliminated him, but later found myself without an actor for that role. I called him back in and just talked with him and went over the lines. His own persona was Steve Wood! In this case, it was casting not an actor to create the character, but someone who was already the character! (which is what Hollywood has done for years anyway)" stated Palermo.
Finding decent actors for feature projects is changing in St. Louis because more filmmakers are taking their steps to produce small projects. "I was surprisingly impressed with my co-actors in Eric Stanze's Ice From the Sun, but there are still hundreds of other actors in the area that need to have an understanding of what Eric and I and others like us are working to do and the oppor-tunities that working on such a feature can bring." said Palermo.
When original casting looked doubtful, Palermo even held auditions at a Uni-versity in Carbondale, Illinois. "I found some absolutely fabulous young talent there and I was even ready to arrange to shoot part of the movie there to help accommodate the student actors I wanted to cast."
But when the university theatrical administration became aware that the script called for nudity and some serious sexual scenes, Palermo was told by one of the female actors who auditioned for a role requiring nudity that all the theater students had been told that if any of them accepted a role in the project, they would be banned from any future theatrical productions at the university. "Part of the reason I decided to hold auditions there was because they had already performed a theatrical production of "Equus", with the on-stage nudity! Let me get this straight... actors' performing nudity is okay live in front of 800 to 1,000 people in a theater, and if it's you, the 'collegiate experts,' who demand it of them, but if anyone else suggests it, it's pornography, right?" ponders Palermo.
Palermo assembled a very promising cast in St. Louis, with most being over the age of 25. Production moved forward in February, but by the second weekend, cast and crew realities were setting in. "Same old thing! When realities of time and effort became apparent, some of the people start-ed slowing down." said Palermo. The sound/lighting crew not only quit on him, they had just sliced through the wire of his best microphone. The actor playing the lead villain, Elliot Del Ridge, (Jack Snyder, director of Fatal Exam) decided to quit. Snyder told Palermo "There's no way this movie can be any good! You've got (other than Palermo and Earnest Hart, Jr.) absolute, total amateurs, including myself in lead roles! And your shooting on video! It's not even film!"
"Looking back on it, I think Jack was just venting because he hadn't gotten distribution on his film yet. The man put three years of his life and around $40,000 into it, and I understand that frustration." remarks Palermo. "I think his animated demon is an excellent example of single frame animation possibilities.. .his lighting is excellent! And he's gone on to win awards in film festivals for his later work. But I will also say that if you watch his $40,000 feature he shot on l6mm film and then watch my $3,500 Hi-8 video feature, I believe that you will have enjoyed both. It's got nothing to do with being shot on video or film (although St. Louis can be attitudinal about video versus film)! The fact is that the effect of money on any project applies to the technical part and allows for cast and crew comfort during the production, and nothing more. If you have a good (appealing marketable) story scripted and the right people (all name actors start out someplace as unknowns) to make it what it ought to be, then it happens. That's one of the rudimentary laws of Hollywood. No amount of money can replace that magic combination of proper script with proper actors with proper crew and director." said Palermo.
With all the hassles, what does Palermo think of his first, completed, final product? "Well... we have a finished product, don't we? That's the Producer in me talking. The Director in me is saying 'I want another crack at it with the right cast and makeup abilities.' The Actor in me is saying 'I'm ready to shoot again. I know I can do some scenes better... with some recasting.' and the Writer in me is saying 'You decided to produce someone else's script, right?'" remarks Palermo.
The production was able to pull off partially because of Palermo's tenacity, but he's quick to put credit where credit is due. "David Berliner (actor in Savage Harvest and D.P on the upcoming Ice From the Sun) was my "one man" crew. I could not have done it without him (in fact, that's why the shots with "Ca-therine and Roy" are a little rough because I didn't have Berliner for them!) I've never seen any-one work so hard in all my production experience! We had a few differences of opinion about lighting, however the two scenes we push-pulled on (the "behind-the-diner" and the "Roy stalks vampire Billy Boy") have the most realistic lighting imaginable."
Credit also goes to stunt director and fight scene choreographer, Tom Pieper. Pieper holds black belt rank in four styles with Chinese Kempo being his highest attainment at fifth degree black belt level (at fifth degree, you re considered a Master). Like Palermo, Pieper is listed in a Marquise Publication, the "Who's Who In Martial Arts" reference book and has been nominated to the Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
Palermo met Pieper on the set of "To Die To Sleep" starring Noah ("Never Ending Story") Hathaway, Paul Cufos, Amy Dolenz and Larry Gatlin. It was shot in St. Louis and broadcast on Showtime in 1993. "Pieper just enjoys the crash bang of it all. I've watched him twice, now, get tossed over a bar, watched him take a bottle over the head and then the stuff he did in our feature." Palermo commented.
The actual production wound up being shot in Hi-8mm video. "We started out shooting in S-VHS with a rental camera. I came into some inheritance money, and I began researching equipment for purchase. I found a Hi-8mm camera for less money than the S-VHS. I snatched it up immediate-ly along with a Steadi-Cam, Jr." he said.
Most of the high energy comes from the fight scenes. While we know that most of B-Movie Theater's customers look for the horror, blood and gore, you really should check out the stunt work and fight scenes in this picture. Palermo, Pieper and Hart, Jr. are all martial artists, and when they mix it up, it looks fantastic! Other "House of Pain" stunt men who put their stunt tal-ents to work were "inmates" Mark Lunato, Keith Williams, and Ray Moe.
Overall, Lord of the Region is quite good for it's $3,500 budget, and having been done in the very conservative St. Louis. While the story went more the direction of action, there is some horror and suspense to it. When asked if he were given the opportunity to re-shoot the feature with the cast needed to pull off the original story, and the make up crew required for the horror parts, Palermo has already indicated that he would re-shoot. "It's an artistic thing. I feel like I got interrupted in telling a story and only got part of it out."
Because of the language and some nudity, Lord of the Region is earmarked for ages 18 and above.

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