It was a long way to go for a film screening – around 5,000 miles from the UK to Los Angeles – but the opportunity to see Tremors on the big screen and finally meet numerous cast and crew members in person on Thursday 26 March was hard to turn down.
The ArcLight on Sunset Boulevard was the location for Creature Features and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine’s 25th anniversary celebration, partly designed to celebrate the launch of the latter’s latest issue featuring a Tremors retrospective by the event’s host, David Weiner.
Slowly working my way through the new @FMoF #Tremors special – fantastic work by @TikiAmbassador pic.twitter.com/R3axwpI0O5
— Jonathan Melville (@jon_melville) March 31, 2015
The organisers managed to pull together an amazing line-up of guests for the night, announcing that this was the biggest panel of attendees they’d ever gathered for an event. In fact there were so many cast and crew there that the Q&A had to be split into two, with one before a screening of the film and one after.
The first panel included Tremors director Ron Underwood, co-writers SS Wilson and Brent Maddock, producer Nancy Roberts, and actors Finn Carter (Rhonda LeBeck), Michael Gross (Burt Gummer), Conrad Bachmann (Dr Jim), Robert Jayne (Melvin Plug), Richard Marcus (Nestor) and Charlotte Stewart (Nancy).
David Weiner accurately described the event as resembling a high school reunion, before inviting Wilson to explain how the idea for Tremors came about, allowing him to tell the story of how he was atop a boulder in the desert when he wondered what might happen if he couldn’t get down due to their being something under the sand.
Co-writer Brent Maddock went on to explain how the pair wrote the script many years later, pulling much of the comedy out of the final draft in order to leave the drama in. Maddock and Wilson’s then agent, Nancy Roberts, explained how much effort went into developing and then selling the script to a studio, with the likes of Gale Anne Hurd and one-time Universal executive Jim Jacks key in bringing it to the screen.
There were also opportunities for the actors to have their say, with Finn Carter explaining how she was working in San Diego theatre before winning the role of Rhonda and that she was never quite sure of the film’s tone. Michael Gross spoke of how the producers took a chance on him for the part of Burt, going against his casting in TV comedy, Family Ties, and how the character’s lack of a sense of humour appealed.
Discovered a video clip on my phone from the recent 25th anniversary #Tremors screening – @MichaelGrossBiz talks pic.twitter.com/wX3sxSjS47
— Tremors Guide (@TremorsGuide) April 4, 2015
Charlotte Stewart discussed meeting Gale Anne Hurd for the first time and how much she enjoyed filming in Lone Pine, while Robert Jayne explained how his infamous line, “Way to go dudes”, came to be. Actors Conrad Bachmann and Richard Marcus shared the honour of being eaten by Graboids and were happy to talk about the experience, both seemingly glad to have met their fate in similar ways.
Next up was a screening of the film itself, my first opportunity to see Tremors in a cinema. Anyone reading this will know how well the film works on the small screen, but seeing the stunning Lone Pine locations on the big screen is something not to be missed.
The decision to shoot Tremors in the desert, against the stunning backdrop of Mount Whitney, makes perfect sense when seen the way it was intended – the Perfectionites’ fight against underground worms is exciting when viewed on a TV set, but when projected onto the cinema screen it feels like there’s even more peril for our heroes. These are epic events in a small town.
The audience clearly lapped up the experience, perhaps the biggest laugh of the night going to Walter Chang’s “here’s some swiss cheese and bullets” line.
The second panel brought to the stage director of photography Alexander Gruszynski, production designer Ivo Cristante, creature effects designers, Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis, actor John Goodwin and visual effects supervisors, Dennis and Robert Skotak. They talked through various aspects of the Graboid design and how the town of Perfection came to be, plus the problems of creating miniature replicas of both the creatures and Burt’s basement for the rec room scene.
The event was very much a one-off, something I suspect won’t be repeated anytime soon, particularly not with such an impressive line-up of guests. The enthusiasm of each panel member was palpable, proving that it’s not just the fans who have fond memories of Tremors.
Although I’ve spent the last few years immersed in Tremors and have spoken to most of those assembled at the event for Seeking Perfection, it was still an honour to meet them in person and speak to fellow fans, one of whom had travelled from Australia for the event.
I also managed to say hello to Burt Gummer himself, Mr Michael Gross, which doesn’t happen every day. Thanks to all those who put the time and effort into making the screening happen here’s hoping there’s another one in time for the 50th anniversary…
Burt Gummer! #Tremors pic.twitter.com/5dldPkaZXe
— Jonathan Melville (@jon_melville) March 27, 2015
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