Captain Photon in The Meteorites of Death

I was driving down the Autobahn from Darmstadt to Stuttgart. It's about an hour and half drive, if you do 90 miles per hour. Autobahn. You can go as fast as you like. The right lanes are occupied with trucks. I don't care about those Porsches, Ferraris, BMWs, because the most impatient ones are businessman driving a big hatchback doing over 120 miles per hour. I am too much used to that laid back driving in the US with a road wide enough to fit two small cars, four lanes for one direction, driving without changing lanes and having ten cup holders with different drinks waiting.

I love going to a shoot, because you never know whom you are going to encounter and what kind of trouble is awaiting ahead of you. So my general driving mood was that of optimism. When I first read the script, I decided I just had to be part of the project. Berni, the producer asked over email, which role I liked best. For me it was indeed my role. The darkest and insidious character, Dr. Dark of the Darkonian Planet. His diabolic laughter would overshadow the human mankind into uncertain future. First thing I did: Getting the laugh right. WahahahaWOAOAWAHAHAHAHA.

I got to Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart, in the evening. I parked my car on a parking lot and a long red haired dude with a long beard and a black T-shirt with some heavy-metal-occult-rock-group imprint was waving to me. Heinze was his name. Next to him was this guy in tight black shorts, thick belt, a T-shirt and a pilot jacket. His name was Andre, an actor playing Captain Jack Photon. A quiet guy appeared, he was probably Berni, the other director. The black short pants looked weird, but apparently the actors were, in fact, wearing those shorts in the original Flash Gordon series shot in the 30's. Heinze and Berni were paying hommage to that series using rockets hanging on strings and emitting fire using fireworks. The movie was going to be in black and white.

We will get Dr. Dark. Where the hell is my cocktail?

The actors came from all over Germany. Berlin, Koeln, Frankfurt and Munich. Apparently, Berni and Heinze have spent quite some time to select the actors. I sat down joining the others in that dark waiting room, sipping tea. There was Frank, an actor from Munich, who was playing Jim, Captain Photon's long time buddy. Then the girl destined to play the captive appeared. She was exactly that blonde, blue eyed girl, that you would find in those SciFi movies. Marika, a Danish model, had taken the long trip from Berlin by train. Jack and Jim already had finished a scene in the morning, filming the crash of the space-ship in a shut-down quarry. I had to ask them how it feels to be in that outfit - they brought these black shorts, which were categorically speaking, tight fitting swimming suits. Berni had planned to shoot with long pants. "I believe, you can guess how I feel." Said a grinning Andre -a TV series regular -, playing Jack Photon. Well, I was laughing, but not for very long.

Heading towards Darkonia

On the first night, we drove to a small market hall in Ludwigsburg with restaurants. Except for Heinze we ordered each pizza. Heinze found himself a big pitcher of beer. It was crowded with fans watching the UEFA finals Bayer Leverkusen vs Real Madrid. Bayer Leverkusen, a German team, lost against Real Madrid. 2:1. Heinze and I were not too happy about that. Heinze drove us, Jack (Andre) and I, to his place.

I see planet Darkonia. We are being attacked

The next day, after Heinze's mother had fed us with a great breakfast of Broetchen, ham and the great coffee, we drove to the film academy to get my make-up done. Astrid, the make-up girl, covered me with thick beard, making me look like Genghis Khan. Astrid would do the make-up outside in a shadow. Students came flocking out to catch a glimpse of the sun, also stopped staring at me. I believe, if film and media majors are stopping to look at your make up, it must be fairly good, so I guessed at least. Then we drove back to the studio where Ursula, Berni's sister, fitted an evil looking gargantuan sleeve made out of cardboard on me. I was not able to move freely any more. I had to protect the hours of work on my beard and the cardboard sleeve, thus was not able to lie down, nor was I able to eat freely. My lunch menu was kind of readable on my newly acquired beard and my stomach probably was accumulating wool balls ready to be spit out, just like some kittens do after cleaning up their fur.

Then the great waiting begun. I thought I had gotten used to waiting during a film shoot, but until now I did not have to wear these things that kept me from doing anything. During students projects I was usually helping out to carry things or chatting with students who were just hanging out to see what their fellow film students were doing, and during professional shoots, I was reading books, chatting with others, reciting the text or trying to relax. With my outfit I could not relax nor sit down comfortably. I thought of those actors who had to wear those Godzilla outfit and how they endured it their whole career when my beard started to itch terribly. I could not itch for Astrid was still at the academy doing make-up for other projects.

That must be the castle of Dr. Dark

Berni, the quiet guy, and Heinze the heavy metal dude were the director, writer, producer combination. They had arranged the set and it was perfect. Just like in the old space-ship movies. The laboratory of Dr. Dark was built up in the heating room of the complex. I felt quite well in that surrounding, practicing my diabolic laughter resounding from the walls. Ha ha ha ha ha. Jenny was wearing this extremely thin outfit, where you had to forcefully remove your eyes from certain places. It was no question that it was the choice from our red haired director 'Splatter Heinze'. Splatter Heinze knew all these occult weird movies from Japan. 'Lady Snowblood', 'Ichi the Killer' and so on. I did only know a few of those he had mentioned, but he was happy enough that I knew some at least by name.

Ah. Captain Photon is here. That fool has already stepped into our underground maze system

Jack and Jim were playing their roles outside their shooting. 'Jack, I could need some color here.' 'Jim, I would need to get more of the styling creme.กษ

Driving with Heinze was a total test. Either you had to listen to Heavy Metal or to Stephen Lynch right after breakfast. His room was all in black with walls covered with DVDs and videos. He showed me some of his favourite sequences from South Park that he had downloaded on his computer in original English version. Anyway, I went to sleep, while Heinze and Andre were still sipping beer till four in the morning.

You perverse animal. Captain Photon will rescue me

Second shooting day. Well, Berni and Heinze had to finsh up the set. What I like about student projects are, that things are not set to go. People come up with new ideas and sometime the concept of a whole scene is changed. Once we eliminated a guard and replaced it with a monster played by Splatter Heinze. I love those brain storming session. Though sometimes it became just too much and we all looked confused. Heinze was on this project the official director, but from what I heard, they were switching their roles every other project. Berni was the official camera man and producer on this project.

Splatter Heinze did not eat too much. He was the guy, who drank bottles of Radler, a mixture of beer and lemonade. I guess he was drawing his vitamins and energy from that wheat, barley, sugar mixture and his constant exposure to heavy metal.

Berni was a quiet guy. According to Heinze, he has not heard a word from Berni during the first period at film school. But he knew what he wanted, even though it was not always clear to us. So Heinze, the hectic, and Berni, the quiet stone, were in fact a perfect team to work with.

On the third day Astrid, our make-up girl, was again double booked by a team that was shooting a feature film depicting a story with a Turkish, an Albanian and an Italian character. We had to drive to that place. We were about to leave when Bernie's silver metallic Mercedes from 1984 broke down. 6 people had to get on Heinze's car. So, Jenny had to sit on Jack's lap for a drive of thirty minutes from the place we had our make-up done.

It was extremely dusty in the boiler room which functioned as the laboratory of Dr. Dark. My beard was itching and I had to sneeze a lot.

Ursula, Berni's sister, did all the other things that had to be done. On that day, she was painting a wall green to create a green screen. For those that are unfamiliar with that term, it is a way to shoot in front of it and replace the green background with a different background.

We celebrated our last night together in a restaurant at midnight. Jenny was going to leave the next day. One more shot was left: Jack and Jim had a green screen scene and a final scene in a cave built up in a garage. So I decided to hang out for another day, checking the shots and making Japanese and English translations of the original script. The shooting moved on quite smoothly, considering that in another student project, I once had been shooting non-stop for 21 hours from 8 to 5, only to get up five hours later to go on for another 20 hours marathon shooting.

It was nice to work with them. The highly exciting exchange of ideas and the process: I got once a chance to direct Heinze -the director -, while he was playing the guard "Gee, my character just shot the other guard so you must be in total fear. Your voice needs waay more tention ..." and so on.

The presentation at the graduation screening was a huge success. The movie was played three times packed with students. Congratulations came from competing directors. Heinze and Berni told me that they were close to tears when they had been tearing down the set. But, who knows, there might even be a sequel ...

Filming Location Pictures
The Original Flash Gordon from the 1930s
Flash Gordon shot in 1980