Jessica - A Ghost Story
Plot: Three months have passed since Jessica’s grisly murder, but for her husband Dan and his brother John, it hasn’t been long enough. Terror creeps into the lives of these two brothers and their families in the ghostly visions of Jessica.Frustration leads to madness as John is driven to near insanity by the haunting visions of Jessica’s past. Unable to continue, John seeks the help of his brother to unveil the truth behind the relentless haunting of Jessica. Forbidden sins and unexpected revelations fuel this supernatural thriller.
The story behind the film: In the fall of 1989, working at Northwest Videoworks, a Portland post production facility, Rick Johnson and myself, working as vhs dub technicians, decided to combine our talents to produce a short thriller. The result was “The Anniversary” which received unanimous praise from Portlanders. This impressive response inspired Rick and I to pursue another project.
A ghost story written by Tor, “Her Name Was Audrey”, made such an impression on Rick that he suggested it as our next venture. We settled on this as our next movie project. What format to shoot the movie on was our first problem. Since there was no money to back the project, shooting on 35mm or 16mm was out of the question, and renting betacam gear was equally expensive. Fortunately,m a new video format, ED Beta (Extended Definition Betacam) was selling so poorly for Sony that the price on their $8,000 camera dropped to $3,000. Rick jumped at the chance and purchased one, giving “Jessica” a cost effective format. The six weekend shoot commenced in December of 1990.
It was midway through shooting that Rick and I created an impressive three minute promo for the movie. On a whim, I sent the promo to Nico Mastorakis of Omega Entertainment in Hollywood, who specializes in selling films to foreign markets as well as making films himself (he co-produced and wrote “The Greek Tycoon” with Anthony Quinn and Jacqueline Bisset). Nico was instantly impressed with the promo and offered to pay all post-production expenses on one condition – that “Jessica” become a feature. With the movie sold to a distributor after only six shoots, a somewhat dazed Rick and I now faced an overwhelming challenge: to turn our short movie into a ninety minute feature with no money for production and no crew! As a result, the original six weekends of shooting was now an unprecedented nine months…
Ingenuity and cutting corners became a way of life for Rick and I during the nine month shoot. Complicated scenes were accomplished using the simplest of methods. Remarkably, the only problems during the shoot were the weather, actors’ schedules and the maintaining of continuity. With the American Film Market rapidly approaching, Nico set a deadline for the movie’s completion – August 25th. This gave us very little time, and even resulted in Rick shooting the key scene of Jessica and John making love in the motel room on his own as I completed the online edit of the movie in mid-August. Once the movie was edited, me, Ron Spencer and Tim Stubelek raced through the audio production with only two weeks to spare. This consisted of layering sound effects, ambiences, dialogue replacement and foley. It was also during this time that I managed to score 80 minutes of music. “Jessica” was completed and delivered to Nico’s office on August 27th, only two days over the deadline.
All the more amazing is that the movie was brought in for a total of $25,000 – a remarkable achievement, considering that at the time the average Hollywood film budget was $20 million plus. Nico was pleased with the final product, but Rick and I felt that the original intriguing short story had been stretched beyond the limit. Fifteen minutes were excised as a Director’s cut, giving the movie a better pace. This is the preferred version.
- Director/Writer/Music: Richard Lowry
- Producer: Richard Lowry
- Director of Photography: Rick Johnson
- Visual Effects: Keith Cook
- Make-up: Pete Waterman
- Paul Nixon
- Patricia Blem
- Karen Trumbo
- Hank Cartwright
- Roy McGillivray
- Galen Schrick
- Nadja Smith
94 min. color rated R