By Noah Lopez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Offbeat independent cinema comes to Tucson this
week when "Plan 10 From Outer Space," the
latest offering from cult film director Trent Harris, plays at the Screening Room.
Harris, best known for his 1991 Crispin Glover vehicle "Rubin and Ed," retreated to Salt Lake City, Utah shortly after the commercial disappointment of that film, where he found ripe fodder for his latest story line.
The plot of "Plan 10" revolves around Lucinda Hall and her obsession with an old Mormon text. After deciphering the relic, Lucinda is sucked into a strange world filled with spacemen, polygamists, and angels, leading her to the unraveling of a diabolical conspiracy led by Nehor, an alien from the planet Kolob.
The film has been described as "Fellini on an Ed Wood budget," but with stars such as Karen Black, and with producer Walter Hart also handling special effects (his expertise in this area includes work with the popular TV show "Star Trek: The Next Generation"), the film is far from a typical cut-rate, straight-to-video cheapie. In fact, the $100,000 production has opened up to strong praise at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and venues ranging from Barcelona to New Orleans.
Harris took a few minutes to talk with Mutato from his Salt Lake City headquarters, where he was preparing for his trip to Tucson this weekend to host the film.
Mutato: Tell me a little about the film. How did you arrive at the story line you did, or decide that this was a project worth investing yourself in?
Trent Harris: Well, it basically came out of frustration out of working for Hollywood. I got so sick and tired of asking permission to do things, usually from people I didn't even respect. I got tired of it, and I thought, "I'll go back to Salt Lake City, do it cheaply, do it with my friends and do it about my hometown." That was the genesis for the whole project. After getting run out of town after "Rubin and Ed," that is.
M: Was there a lot of resentment toward that film?
TH: I like "Rubin and Ed." I'm proud of it. It just didn't do well in Los Angeles at all. It's not really the kind of film that they look for.
M: "Plan 10" has Karen Black in it, it's produced by Walter Hart; Walter Hart did the special effects . how did you get these kind of people involved?
TH: Well, Walter is a friend of mine from the American Film Institute, and he did produced another film I did with Crispin Glover, called "The Orkly Kid." Karen and I became friends from working together on "Rubin and Ed" and when she found out one of my actresses quit, she said "Oh heck, I'll come and do it." I told her I couldn't pay her and she said not to worry. Karen's a great person and she does things for the right reasons. She doesn't want to be a big star, she just likes to act, and work with her friends.
M: Your press releases allude to the controversies inherent in this film, but what has actually happened? Are you the Salman Rushdie of the Mormon faith?
TH: (laughs) I wish . that would be great, wouldn't it? We had a couple of people call and say things like "Why are you picking on the Mormon Church?" but those people have never seen the film. But in Salt Lake City alone, we sold 10,000 tickets. We had it booked in a theater in Boise, but the woman who owned the theater, her husband said he was afraid of losing his job. But the funny thing is, Mormons like it! They had me speak at a Mormon symposium, and then they showed the film. They all got a big yuk out of it. I think there's a quote in the press release somewhere about whenever you cross science fiction and Mormonism, people tend to get cranky.
M: What's the next step for "Plan 10?" Are you distributing it yourself?
TH: To a certain degree I am. We showed it at a feature film market in New York, and we've got half a dozen leads from people who want a piece of it. We're in the process of negotiating, trying to make sure that we don't lose money from any deal we sign. It premiered at Sundance in January and did well, but I knew it would take a year for it to get to the point to where it could be sold. You have to show it around, get some clips . people tend to think that you just shoot a film and turn around and sell it, but that's a misperception.
M: What was it like working with Crispin Glover?
TH: Oh, Crispin's great. We met in the early '80s filming "The Orkly Kid."
M: I've looked for that film but I've never been able to find it.
TH: Again, it's AFI that owns the rights to it, so it has not really been released. It did well, it won a lot of prizes at festivals and things like that. Ten years later there's still some interest in it. With "Rubin and Ed" it's the same thing, it gets more of a life as it goes on.
M: Where do you go from here?
TH: I'm thinking about a lot of things. I was talking to Peter Boyle, who's another friend of mine, about trying to get a thing going about polygamists in Southern Utah. There's a lot of material to explore here. My goal is to stay in Salt Lake City, make movies in this environment, and sell them. Not deal with Hollywood at all. That's the thing with independent film today, so many of the so-called independent filmmakers are really just making audition films for Hollywood.
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