Production

On the following pages we've done our best to recall how we did it, everything from pre-production to promotion. We hope you'll find the contents informative and interesting. If you're an aspiring filmmaker, we hope it inspires you, gives you ideas how to plan your own production and perhaps help you avoid some of the mistakes we made.

When we began making Superbman we were film students with various degrees of experience. We were green and naive, which in some cases helped (you don't know it can't be done, so you do it), but in other cases it hurt (this was usually technical issues). We'd like to pass on what we've learned.

So, in the coming months we will add more topics to this section designed to help those learning the process of independent, no budget/low budget filmmaking.

Producing Superbman was a two year project that required extensive planning and logistics.



Scripts & Storyboards

If it's not on the page,
it's not on the stage.

Planning is critical to any production, but this is more so when you have special effects and no budget. So immediately after writer, John Ginn had finalized the script, we set about storyboarding the film.

One of the advantages of storyboards is you get a sense of what works and what doesn't. And when a scene or sequence doesn't work, it allows you an easy and inexpensive way to experiment and to come-up with new ideas until it does.

Besides helping to refine the story, storyboards provide a means to effeciently break down and organize your shooting shedule. This is especially important if you are shooting special effects or big action scenes like a pie fight. You don't want to be wasting time figuring out what your next set-up is when you've got a ton of extras waiting on the set. By grouping similar shots, scenes and sequences together you can minimize the number of times you have to move and set-up your camera, which saves time and money.

You can also use it to help schedule each actor's scenes so you are shooting the most shots with that actor at the same time, which minimizes the amount of time he or she is needed on the production. This is very important if you have an actor whose time is limited. Thus, for Superbman, it meant we could work with professionals like Kirk Alyn and Alvy Moore because we could schedule all their work in one day.

The first series of boards were illustrated by producer, Vern Dietsche, Jr. As you can see, his illustrations were rather primitive. Still, they got the job done. Later. As we began to modify scenes and make changes, director, David Teubner — an industrial design student at the time — took over the task, and obviously, his illustrations are superior. However, what's important is not how good the illustrations are, but the information being conveyed. So whether it's primitive or professional, stick figures or beautifully rendered drawings, what counts is getting it on paper so you can plan.

Little-by-little, over the coming months we will put up all the storyboards. We hope you will find them interesting and be of help to those planning to make their own film — regardless of size or format. Click images to enlarge.



Publicity & Promotion

From the beginning we knew the importance of promotion and publicity. As production rolled along we looked for ways to get the word out.

A year before the film was completed we put together a trailer and a behind-the-scenes slide show and began to canvas every science fiction and comic book convention that would have us. At these events we all wore our Superbman T-shirts, which of course, we were selling to help fund the film.

During production we contacted every media outlet we could find. This lead to several newspapers articles including, The Daily Pilot, The Huntington Beach Independent, CSULB's the Titan and the Forty-Niner. Hell, we even made the front page of The Orange County Register, which covered our "pie fight" with over 40 extras getting creamed — literally. The Register also covered us in their Leisuretime section.

Upon completing "Supe" we organized several premiers. The first premier took place February 21, 1981 at California State University Long Beach. This was only natural because when we were desperate for equipment and advice, it was the CSULB film department that came to our rescue. The second premier was held at Equicon '81 / Filmcon V, which was held April 17, 1981 at the Sheraton Plaza La Reina Hotel in Los Angeles. At each premier we handed out programs and popcorn in bags with the Superbman logo on it (beautifully designed by director, Dave Teubner).

Other publications to cover Superbman included Starlog Magazine and Uchusen (a Japanese Science Fiction publications similar to Starlog) and MegaMart (a Fanzine).

Eventually, we secured distributions deal with ONTV (a forerunner of companies like HBO) and Horizon Films, which secured screenings including The Landmark Theater in Santa Monica, the Surf Theater and the Golden Bear Night Club in Huntington Beach.

Now we've come full circle. We're restoring Superbman and plan to put it on DVD along with the Trailer, Blooperman (our out takes reel), a making of slide show and perhaps a few other surprises. Thus, once again, we're promoting Superbman. Only this time it's with the Internet.

Sets & Locations

The logistics of shooting Superman was horrendous.

Our ambitious script called for everything from Ma and Pa Cant's rustic farm house to Rex's high-tech lab. Indeed, we had 14 major sets and locations to find and or build. But how? We had no budget to pay for expensive location rentals, sound stages or set construction. So we did the next best thing: we begged, borrowed and... Well, let's just say producer, Vern Dietsche secured over a dozen locations — gratis — armed only with chutzpah, a glib tongue and a ton of promo material. Some of the locations included the following:

Key locations

To begin with, the producer's garage was immediately converted into a sound stage: first for Kraptonian Elders sequence, which employed every white bed sheet in Vern's house. Then for Jel-lo's lab, which may seem a bit familiar, and it should. It was the old Equicon / Filmcon "Star Trek" TV series bridge set, loaned to us by soundBjo Trimble. And finally, shooting the Krapton city miniature special effects (learn more about this on the Props & Special Effects page).

We shot the Daily Comet scenes at two locations: the interior was filmed at the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, California and the exterior was lensed at the Avco Financial towers. This locations was courtesy of director Dave Teubner. In 1974 he had shot his first 16 mm film for Avco Financial Services.

Sadly, some sequences are doomed to be shot, re-shot and re-shot, again. The Pie Fight sequence was one of them. Once at Reynolds Ranch and twice at Golden West College, both located in Huntington Beach, Califonia. More about that below under "Trouble in Paradise.

Rex's Lair was the interior of a restuarant (Victoria Station) and a bank (Keystone Saving and loan). As for Rex's lab where General Zit is rescued from the "O-zone", that was the computer science lab at Orange Coast College. To make this set more convincing, Dave, who doubled as the film's art director, designed and constructed Rex's "O-zone Criminal Recaller" and "Power Rod". As usual, it was an all night, 12 hour shoot.

Ma and Pa Cant's farm house is the historic Newland House, which still sits majestically on a bluff in Huntington Beach, California. At the time we shot "Supe" the whole area was open land. Now, sadly, it's been reduced to a small plot of ground surrounded by a strip mall.

Speaking of malls, the old Huntington Center (now demolished and rebuilt as Bella Terra) was pressed into service several times. This was made possible thanks to Vern, who at the time was assistant marketing director for the mall. Two scenes were shot there including, The Kraptonian Criminals Court sequence where General Zit and his cronies are banished to the "O-zone". Of course, this was done after hours; another marathon session over-night. Things can get a little weird in a mall at 3 am and you've had no sleep.

Trouble in Paradise

Now shooting on location is always fraught with unexpected situation, and we had our share.

For the Daily Comet exterior (Avco Financial towers) we had two deadly henchmen all set to kill Ms. Lois Lame. But they weren't as deadly as the Irvine Police Department; they killed three hours of precious daylight. Near the end of the day three officers showed-up (it must of been a slow day in Irvine) and forced us to halt production all because they couldn't find proof of our shooting permit; It seems someone had failed to pass it on to the right person.

On another day, we had borrowed a phone booth from GTE. By the time we picked-up the booth, set-up the lights and were ready to shoot a summer storm flew in and rained us out.

Rain plague us once more; this time it was in the middle of August. At the time we were young and naive, and weren't aware of the summer monsoon that blows in from the south and dumps rain on the desert. Oh well, live and learn.

Perhaps our greatest obstacle was shooting the Pie Fight sequence, which was shot three times.

On the first go around we had over 40 extras and all the pie fixin's ready to go. Imagine our horror when we plugged the camera into a special power pack into and watched it promptly burn out the camera's transformer. The rental house had given us a D.C. system instead of an A.C. system. No sync sound! Fine. Undaunted, we turned to our M.O.S. camera (mit out soud). Unfortunatel, the cinema god's frowned on us that day. When we screened the dailies we discovered a third of our film had become solarized (our guess — a batch of out dated film), and rest ruined by a small chip of film that had lodged in the film gate, which blocked a three quarters of the image.

The second time we shot the pie fight we more prepared. We checked, double checked everything. Nothing was going to stop us — except the extras. They didn't show-up. Why? Because of the Super Bowl. Being more interested in film than sports, none of us followed football. Needless-to-say we were mighty dissapointed that we had over-looked this national event.

Fortunately, the third time was the charm. Everyone showed-up, even the newspapers, and shooting went off without a hitch. And the rest, as they say is history.


© 1981 / 2015 Vern Dietsche, Dave Teubner All rights reserved