So I recently listened to an hour long podcast from B-mania, an incredibly well produced show. It was about a film I directed with Mike Aransky and Phil Guerette in 2003 called Land of College Prophets. This is a film about low-level superheroes who work at community college. They awaken a haunted wishing well that ends up possessing some of the people in their town. Initially I was kind of mortified at the idea that someone would a review a film that I made in my early 20’s from a 2018 perspective but they actually had a lot of fun with it and were very polite about our low-budget romp.
I remember spending a year in pre-production, building that well with my father and working with my brother Bruce to secure funding. We shot the film for 12 grand but $3,500 of it was spent on a Panasonic DVX100, one of the first digital 24p cameras.
So the B-Movie Mania guys unearthed the Land of College Prophets DVD at a Dollar Tree store presumably somewhere in New York. To be honest this is the kind of thing that I always hoped would happen. When Ken Powell and I were going on VHS hunts for the Troma VHS Massacre documentary we loved whenever we found a weird film. Films like AIP’s Night of the Kick-fighters comes to mind. The idea that the film is not totally lost to time is a great feeling.
I made this film after the New York Times trashed my first 16mm feature, Everything Moves Alone. I just decided to dive-in into the B-movie genre pretty hard. Author Mike Watt once referred to my film as a kitchen sink movie, blending multiple genres together. Although EMA had a small theatrical run at the Pioneer Theater in the East Village, I always blamed the New York Times for killing the home video release. They referred to it as “Unfortunate Backwash” and that drowned out all the actual positive press from Film Threat or the Daily News. So after spending years on a feature and then being denied a home video release, it was pretty demotivating. So my answer to that was to AGAIN spend years to make another film to counteract it.
When we finished Prophets, Edward Haven and Lloyd Kaufman at Troma actually loved the film but Lloyd was very honest about the fact that we may not be able to recover the budget if we put it out through them. At the time after spending 12K on the film we decided to go with York Entertainment in the hopes we could make enough money to make another movie. The film won 7 awards, was distributed in 8 different countries and was a top seller with the company but York Entertainment never paid us a dime. They have been out of business for some years now. So in hindsight we should have gone with Troma for the “street cred”. Prophets did however get released through Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery and Netflix which was great. I can’t really describe what a victory this felt like to me in 2005. Keep in mind Prophets came out years before other “backyard” super hero movies like James Gunn’s Super, Special with Michael Rapaport or Defendor with Woody Harrelson.
For some people this would be a starting point for their career or perhaps some folks would be disappointed with a video release. Where I grew up in central Connecticut people didn’t really make films. We used Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew as our bible. I would get ridiculed by other people that I worked with who told me I needed to move to L.A. to make a film but after all my hard work and determination, their local video stores would carry my film on the shelves right next to the larger releases. We tried really hard and it paid off. I’ve made six other feature films since LOCP and have worked every where from CBS, NBC, IGN to CUNY but I will always remember the Land of College Prophets and the people who helped me make it. I didn’t even have to move to LA to do it and so now my heart lives in NYC with my amazing wife and the (very few) video stores that still remain.