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DVD Audio Commentary Behind-The-Scenes

As a fan I had been looking forward to the DVDs for Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers & Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland with the excitement of a virgin on prom night, but as a webmaster in 2002 I got the rare chance to participate in their production. Producer/director Michael A. Simpson has given the releases his close personal attention, first as representor of rights to strike a deal with Anchor Bay, then in getting as much extras from the archives as possible loaded onto the discs. A commentary was also on the cards and early on, and only Michael was a confirmed participant. I looked into the possibility of attending myself, since I wanted to hang out in Hollywood sometime anyway. So before you could say 'Just Taking Care of Business' I hopped aboard a plane and rocked into LA on a chilly Sunday morning. Anchor Bay co-ordinated a hotel nearby the recording facilities (thanks guys!), the Comfort Inn. Michael and I made plans to meet up, and on Monday afternoon we went to meet Fritz Gordon, who confirmed he was attending the commentary. Dinner and a prep session would occur at Angelis on Melrose. We couldn't find the place since it was so exclusive they didn't feel the need to advertise it. Before we got there however, I did pass Jennifer Love Hewitt who does in fact resemble Angela (a post-LA report wouldn't be complete without celebrity name-dropping). Inside Angelis I shook the hand of Fritz Gordon. I was humbled to be dining with him, since he came out of a self-imposed exile to join us. I gleamed alot of info about his Sleepaway Camp gigs and just generally had a fun shoot-the-shit session with a pair of cool movie guys. Fritz seemed befuddled at times at the whole concept of his long ago projects being cult hits, as is the norm with the pros from the sequels who have since gone on to a plethora of projects. I think it's set in for him now.

Monday morning, after a late night viewing of Jason X I ventured to Crest National where Michael, I and Fritz arrived at the same time. We made our way inside where we were kindly greeted by the staff. The respected company works with Anchor Bay to produce and duplicate discs here. This Aussie was suitably impressed. We met with Bo Altherr, friendly DVD Production Manager for Anchor Bay Entertainment.

We then went into the recording tech room where George Bours (above) would be recording our commentaries, to be done back to back just like the movie's productions! The Sleepaway Camp Geek in me was awed at the epic projection of the sequels onto a large screen George had up and running. Through the heaviest door mankind ever yielded, a thick steel beast manufactured for soundproofing, we took our seats in the recording room. Michael on my left (your right speaker), Fritz on my right (your left speaker) and me in the middle (middle speaker on your stereo, what a Dolby honor).

We had a bit of chit chat, and Firtz posed for this candid photo, his generous mullet bringing a tear to my eye (Note: Fritz asked that I tell all fans that he is not as fat as the photos make him appear). Moving right along, we were briefed by George on the do's and don'ts, which basically ammounted to trying not to make any unnessecary noise with feet or talking away from the microphone. These hiccups are natural though, so we could stop at any time and loop our voiceovers, which proved to be a lifesaver.

We had a little TV monitor to watch the films on. As Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers started up for a test run of the movie running, I was bowled bowled over by the quality of the print. Not only was it letterboxed, the movie looked its sharpest, most vivid ever. Visible is the grotesque detail of Phoebe's sliced off tongue, previously a casuality of the inferior, washed-out video print. Amazing as the prints looked to me, I was told work had not even finished on optimizing their quality.

When the sync recording began I introduced myself, my site and the guys then we got down to business. Michael had an interesting anecdote about Brian Patrick Clarke during the campfire scene. Fritz had fascinating insight about Angela. My role was to basically cajole this information out of them and present the fan viewpoint, even if that meant poking fun now and then - keeping in the tongue of cheek tone of the movies. Through the taping, I also brought up (with my hopefully bearable Aussie accent) script changes, songs/musicians, special FX, etc. But the table belonged to them, and let loose they did with amazing revelations for fans. It was a blast and a half.

Continuing from the recording of the SC2 Commentary, we finished up in time for lunch. I had a grilled cheese, vegetarian pasta and a some coke (the drink that is). But you're not here to hear about my eating habits - I will say this though - a hilarious little moment during lunch was when Fritz needed a stretch so he did a handstand there and then. The guy had such a kind of cynical, manic energy. An inspiration to all. Anyway, I also had a chat with George (the sound tech guy) about Anchor Bay's forthcoming Neon Maniacs disc, a personal favorite, before finishing up lunch.

Back inside 'The Vault', Michael and Fritz were going over some notes regarding points to discuss during the SC3 commentary. Seeing these two chat away was very cool - yes just cool - no use using complicated words to describe something so fan-geeky-tastic - it was something very simple and satisfying since none of us fans were lucky enough to see the union of these two minds back in 88 when the films were shot. But being here almost approximated it.

Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland rolls and off to a great start - I flub my introduction four, maybe five times. Fritz can be understood for lashing out at me. I got it together and we went ahead with the commentary, only, this is the funny thing, it resembled the making of SC2&3 somewhat: doing the commentaries back to back. So by this time, in the afternoon, after lunch and working on them all day, we were all somewhat twitchy and liable to laugh out loud at the slightest funny thing - evident when I crack a joke about Herman being a "dirty old man running around in his pyjamas". We burst out laughing for almost a full minute. Thank God for the ability to go back and redo/edit our dialogue. During the taping, Michael continued sharing his memories of shooting the camp classics, Fritz continued revealing depth and tibits only the writer would know, and I continued pointing out mistakes, pointing out tits, and making a general nuscience of myself - hey, there were hard questions that needed to be answered! No lightweight asskissing and blind movie praising here. But seriously, I got to vent my lifelong love of these movies, and for that I'm very thankful.

We finished up in the late afternoon - whew! Michael gave us the thumbs up. "We did good", he says. After a full day of talking about Sleepaway Camp - okay, make that after a full day of talking non stop we're glad to see the commentaries' completion. I think it was good for Fritz and Michael to get out the things they've had on their minds about these movies that were made fifteen years ago. It afforded a sense of full circle finality, to assess something they were close to from the distance of time. All in all they were informative and entertaining and we all contributed to that feeling, I reckon.

I made some enquiries about the menu screens and stuff planned for the DVDs and was fortunate to tour the Crest facilities (I didn't mention I already made my own informal tour when I got lost looking for the bathroom - awesome place for movie fans). We got to see where the menu screens for various DVDs are made. I asked a few questions on my mind and to my surprise, menu screen graphics are done just the way the graphics on this site are done - on Photoshop! The guy that was going to be making the SC&3 menu screens wasn't in, I took a snap anyway. Hey, memories!

We finished up our Crest Tour with a chat to Anchor Bay's Bo Altherr, and while Michael went to deal with some business about the extras he - and even Fritz - had assembled, I got some cool info from Bo about the DVDs - most commonly know by now - and mentioned the cuts to the original SC disc (that's me, always ready to look like a fool for the sake of fandom) and discussed the particulars of rereleasing it, since it's a topic fans always email about. It was too late in the production but I let him know where to get an uncut print, and there just may be a rerelease in the future, time will tell. But back to the sequels! Bo was excited about the plans for the box set, which showed Anchor Bay were the best place for them to be, and you can now see that for yourself in thier pristine - loaded with extras - form.

Special Thanks to Michael Simpson, Fritz Gordon, Bo Athner, Roy Brubaker, Peter Weyrauch, Anchor Bay, Double Helix Films, and the folks that put the DVDs together:

Crest National SC Team
George Bours - Audio Commentary recording
Danny Merritt - DVD bonus materials video editor
Donavan McDougle - DVD Menu Artist
Pete Cossack - DVD Author
Michael Vislar - DVD Project Director



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