Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Skunk Ape!?

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From the Florida Everglades comes the hairy terror of punk rockers everywhere.  I did my promo for Skunk Ape!? in last week's flog, so I'm leaving the flogging this week to be done by a couple of the stars of Skunk Ape!?  - J Scott (Nihilist Gelo) and Jon Maiullo.  If you're receptive, their respective retrospectives will add perspective.

My time with Skunk Ape!? started at a dive bar in Chicago known as the L & L (this was before Craigslist). Not that it's important but I spent every night at the L & L because my girlfriend lived right above it....and after I fucked that up I went back for booze.

I saw a funny cartoon advert poster. So, I went to audition where I met Greg Brookens first. We talked about bands and corny movies and exchanged a few jokes. Then I auditioned with the "pizza for PIG" scene. I remember wanting to be overbearing and at the time I was wearing a bloody trench coat most everywhere- rock and roll early 2000's. 

I felt at one moment that I really intimidated my audition scene partner, old Dr. Killbot front man Steve Albertson. I went with that feeling and threw my scene mate around the confines of the college class room audition area. Fairly certain I did a good job, and knowing my sense of humor was similar to the group I left pretty sure I nailed the part. So it came as no surprise to me when I got the call casting me as PIG, The Herpes' drummer. 

It wasn't until after the first few days of shooting that Steve, who at the time I just thought was a friend P.A. (not the singer of Killbot- whom I had not yet seen), told me I was not going to be cast because Matt Brookens (we're friends now so its ok) thought I was actually insane. Steve said I scared everybody in the room and there was a figurative sigh of relief when I left. Thank god I had those few moments of idle chit chat with Greg...for it was he that confirmed my fanboy sanity. 

My feelings kind of hurt we pulled up to an old boy scout camp ground. It was a bit chilly, and I met Scab( Jon Maiullo).... the hardcore GG Allin esque...hippy vegetarian that he was?????? I'm thinking oh my god..punk has gone so deep in me..maybe I am insane? But then, our "babalicious bass player", the hippy, and I all got to go on a walk in the darkness to find an animal skull on a mantle in an old cabin before shooting the opening band practice scene. The activity had all the cuteness of a Goosebumps tale, complete with fuzzy rodent woodland creature shuttling across my combat boot. I brought the skull back, and I knew these people needed me. 

So go forth!! Young insane actors; because there is a place for you. Just look at me. I've been in 5 short films and a feature with Zabba Zabba...and all for free! Also, I'd like to point out that the crack I give to Skank in the film are super minty oral sex candies. They're oral-licious!

Screaming Scab and the Herpes, the ill-fated band that must face Skunk Ape.
Left to Right: J Scott as PIG, Jon Maiullo as SCAB, Brooke Volkert as SKANK

Jon Maiullo (SCAB)_
Skunk Ape made me drop out of college, well, art school. Actually, I stayed where I was for another semester accruing general ed. credits so I could transfer to a program in veterinary medicine. That didn’t work out either but I can’t blame that on Skunk Ape. Nonetheless, Skunk Ape did have a significant impact on my early college years. 
I quit art school after Skunk Ape because I realized that acting in something like Skunk Ape was about all I had hoped to achieve with a major in theater. I hadn’t been the most dedicated high school student, and I had never really planned on going to college. I don’t think my parents had really expected me to go either, but somehow, I ended up applying to go to Columbia College and getting accepted (which, I believe was not very hard to do, we used to joke that an applicant could write their name in crayon on a napkin and be admitted, provided they could pay the matriculation costs.) About a month after classes had stated I found myself already feeling somewhat listless. While many of my peers seemed to have come to college to party, I, after a pretty reckless high school career of doing the same, was actually looking to commit myself to something. I had chosen acting the way that so many other students do, namely because I was almost always the loudest and most boisterous person in a room. When I got to art school, I found that most of the students held up the title of noisy quite proudly. It was fun being around these people for a period of time, but I soon realized that none of us were really working toward anything. 

I began to feel the classic disillusionment felt by all noisy people when they have to compete to be noisy on a daily basis. I wasn’t sure what to do next in my life, but I knew I didn’t want to remain where I was. Luckily, around this period I saw a poster advertising auditions for the movie Skunk Ape. I had very little experience actually acting, but I thought, “Hey, I’m studying theater. I’m into punk rock and horror; here’s a chance to combine all three things.” I think to this day that if there had been an applicant that looked half as punk as I did, but actually had some solid acting talent they would’ve been cast as Scab instead. As it was, the Brookens brothers, didn’t have quite the turnout they’d expected and ended up casting listless and disillusioned me. At the time, I was 18 years-old, so you can’t blame me too much for being so diffident.

Actually being able to act in a low-budget film was the first great opportunity I ever had. Only having been out on my own for a few months, I already had something to brag about to all my friends that had stayed home to have kids and work their asses off in factories. The whole experience of shooting the film and inviting all my friends down to watch the premier was an experience I’ll never forget. It forced me to evaluate what I was doing. “If, I reasoned, “it was so easy to just begin acting, why am I in acting school, looking at three more years of breathing exercises and pronunciation courses?” The cockiness that the experience of Skunk Ape instilled in me allowed me to quit the road I had been traveling toward mediocrity. I began to think that if roles like the one I had in Skunk Ape were open to me than anything I set my mind to would be possible. 
Since then, I’ve done all kinds of crazy things, but I’ve never forgotten the opportunity that started it all, and, in due homage, I still show Skunk Ape to anybody whom I think could appreciate it and what it was like to be 18 and act in it. Coincidentally, though at the time of writing I still have not settled on any kind of profession, I find myself acting again. This time for a traveling company of theater performers based in Buenos Aires and I am frequently reminded of the experience of Skunk Ape at our daily rehearsals.

If it was not for Skunk Ape, I very likely would have been even more of a dilettante than I am at present. I may have never settled down to concentrate on one area of study, but at least, through my experiences making Skunk Ape, I will always believe that just around the corner there may be an opportunity to chase a man in an ape suit through downtown Chicago with a harpoon, and believing in something that like is pretty much on par, for me, with believing that dreams can come true.


Brooke Volkert (SKANK)
My first night shooting Skunk Ape!? stands out in my memory. We were in an awesomely creepy old summer camp, I was the only girl on set, the bathroom was a long trek away in the dark woods and was home to some of the biggest spiders I’ve ever seen. I’m grateful to Jon Maiullo for not laughing at my terror when I asked him to stand guard while I changed into fishnets and a miniskirt. Also, I was sick as hell. And it was freezing. It was a great time. Truly. The crew were all rockstars. I got to pretend to play bass and scream about crib death. That confused park ranger who said a few lines was a champ. Matt and Greg graciously offered me their parents’ bed at the end of the night, while others slept on couches or the floor, and I left pink hair dye all over their pillows. Sorry about that. 

And then there’s the scene when I have my Britney Spears moment and get my head punched off by Bigfoot. Never thought I’d get to do either of those things! Flailing wildly with a towel over my head and
blood pumping through bike tubes under my shirt. Good times. Come on girls! Let’s change the world!
Matt Brookens and Greg Brookens circa 2003

Hey! It's Troma's Lloyd Kaufman and some random girl!  

Greg after a long day of being Skunk Ape.
Greg and Andy Kapitan at Jimmy Johns on Chicago Ave. discussing the potential looks for the ape costume. Andy designed Scab's harpoon and cast it in resin.

Matt, Katie Werremeyer and Chad Wheeler.  Katie did the singing for the song sang by SKANK - "Beggin You Please".  Chad played CHARLES.


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