Revenge of Zoe

Back in the spring of 2018, I was asked to drop by a Tucson comic shop for a brief walk-on appearance as one of the customers in a film called Revenge of Zoe. The film actually debuted at the TusCon science fiction convention in November 2018, but as with many small indie films, it then went onto the festival circuit. As it turns out, it won the Grand Prize for best Science Fiction Feature at one of those festivals, the Silver State Film Festival in Las Vegas. At last, the film is now available for anyone to view.

Revenge of Zoe Lobby Card

The premise of the movie is that two years ago, screenwriter Billy Shaw wrote a blockbuster superhero movie about the golden age classic comic book heroine “Fren-Zee”, aka “Zoe Muldoom Zephyr.” However, Billy couldn’t have done it without the help of nerdy comic book store owners Pete Raynoso and John Burns. But Billy got a little too full of himself and publicly took all the credit for the film.

Now, Billy is friendless, drug addicted, and broke. He’s also convinced that he’s being haunted by the ghosts of Fren-Zee’s creator Nick Levine and, more impossibly, by Fren-Zee herself. After losing his last valuable possession in a drunken poker game, Billy gets a miraculous phone call from his agent with an offer to write the sequel to “Fren-Zee” for a huge payday.

But first he must find a way to mend his relationship with Pete and John and get them to help him write the screenplay. Then, maybe the ghosts of Nick Levine and Fren-Zee will leave him alone.

Revenge of Zoe is a hilarious feel-good comedy feature film about a bunch of dysfunctional people who make their living in the world of fan culture. Shot largely in  real life, functioning comic book and game stores, Revenge of Zoe is about creativity, acceptance,  friendship and everything that makes fan culture awesome.

​The film features a terrific cast of skilled and likable comedic actors, and includes industry cameos from comic book creators, authors, at least one science celebrity and an amazing soundtrack contributed by some popular indie rock bands.

As with many people, I have long been fascinated with the process of television and film production. Back in 1989, I worked as an extra on the television series, Unsolved Mysteries. So, it was fun to return to another film set and this time actually have a real speaking part. As I say, my part was brief, but it still earned me a listing in the opening credits. Here we see me carrying my purchase to the counter just before my big moment.

In the foreground, you see Nathan Campbell as Pete, Eric Schumacher as John, and Michael Guyll as Owen sharing a group hug. Clearly I’m not sure what to make of all this. One thing that made this day memorable was meeting Robert Francis and his wife Elisa Costa-Francis who, a few months after this was filmed, would be on the production team for the cinematic trailer we filmed for The Astronomer’s Crypt.

As I said at the outset, the movie is now available for anyone to stream and it’s absolutely free to watch at: https://tubitv.com/movies/578850/revenge-of-zoe

Be sure to check it out!

Acting Out a Scam

No one has ever accused me of being a financial analyst, but I once played one on the television series, Unsolved Mysteries. Here’s a somewhat blurry screenshot from the episode. I’m the tall, happy fellow in the yellow hard hat.

unsolved-mysteries

Back in my senior year at New Mexico Tech, while working on my physics degree, I had a few elective hours available and took a class in musical theater. We presented the Lerner and Loewe play, Brigadoon. The musical director was Mike Iaturo, who I gather played accordion on Broadway for Fiddler on the Roof. The play’s director was Carolyn Abbey. Carolyn’s husband, Mike, is the bearded fellow in the photo above.

After graduating, I remained at New Mexico Tech to work on my master’s degree in physics. I also joined a community theater group run by Carolyn and we put on a set of one-act plays collectively entitled The God’s Honest. Working on these plays was good experience for collaborating with editors and artists as a writer and publisher. I learned to listen, be flexible, and take criticism. The collaborative nature of plays taught me the freedom to change lines so they worked best for the scene as played. It helped me to avoid falling so much in love with my own words that I could never change them.

In the fall of 1989, Carolyn called me to say the television series Unsolved Mysteries was holding auditions in Socorro for a segment they would be filming. I went to the hotel where they were holding the auditions and stood in line for a while. The casting director looked me up and down asked if I had a suit and was willing to shave for the part. I answered “yes” to both questions and she called the next person. Since she didn’t ask me to do anything else, I was certain she wasn’t interested. The casting director surprised me a day later when she called up to say I’d been cast as one of the financial analysts who investigated a gold mine scam a few years before in New Mexico.

It was an interesting experience to see behind the scenes of the making of a television series. As I recall, I woke up at 5 in the morning, dressed in my suit and went to the hotel where I auditioned. I met the other actors and extras who were hired and they drove us to a mine just north of Socorro in the small town of Escondida. We were there until about 6pm. All of the extras playing financial analysts hung out together. From time to time, we were called out to play in a scene. When we were not acting, we had access to a trailer full of stuff to eat. As a graduate student, this was like a dream come true.

The segment featured Maurice “Ed” Barbara, who convinced people to invest in his fake cold mine near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Among the people he conned was famed attorney Melvin Belli, who played the Friendly Angel in the Star Trek episode, “And the Children Shall Lead.”

The episode finally aired on December 13, 1989. It was episode number 40, which was part of the second season. Here’s the part of the episode I was in. As you can see, twelve hours of filming was condensed down into about two minutes. I have to admit, it’s something of a thrill to have my actions narrated by Robert Stack.

I gather there was a follow up in episode 64, but unfortunately, I never saw that. If anyone has ever heard what happened to Ed Barbara, I’d be interested in hearing the end of the story. At the end of the episode, they said he had fled to Canada.

Hope my readers in the United States are having a good Thanksgiving weekend and staying away from scams on this busy shopping weekend!