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Shoot first, asks questions later

When Bryan Planer says, "cut," you don't know if he's ending a shot or compelling an actor toward mayhem. The 26-year-old filmmaker recently graduated Southern Oregon University in film and literature and is now living his dreams of being a low-budget renaissance horror film director, scripter, actor, producer, novelist and quirky inventor.

Why horror? "It's all comedy," says Planer. "I've been obsessed with them since I was young. I don't know why. Maybe it's genetic; my dad's collected horror films forever. I think I like the high tension. It either keeps my senses sharp or rots my mind."

Planer, who formerly directed a documentary on the University's marble mosaic in the Hannon Library that took him to Italy on the school's dime as well as a zombie commercial for television advertising the Multi-Media Major is re-cutting his own short film "Vegetable Theory."

"Vegetable Theory," which debuted in rough-cut last year, is a Rod Serling-esque piece of cinematic abstraction focusing on the growing distance between a couple stuck in a rut that takes a horrifying twist.

Planner has two other screen plays to work on filming next; "Alien Pornography" and a new screenplay based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, "Less Than Zero." While the novel has already been made into a big budget film in the 80s, starring Robert Downey Jr., Planer has strong feelings about it. "The last one was crap, comparatively speaking," said Planer, citing that the film chronicled very few of the novels many subplots.

Many film students spend their days hunched around the table, guffawing about Coppola, Cameron and Crowe and how their next big picture will be a blockbuster. Planer harbors no such ambition. His heroes are the Cronenbergs and Cormans of the world; avant-garde film-makers always erring just to the side of exploitation; relying on innovation rather than budget. And while many of those film students continue to chatter about the future, Planer is making films now.

"I don't think that the artists who label themselves are ever the ones that really accomplish anything," says Planer, who has a laundry list of future works of artistic achievement to throw himself into. "I'd rather not see myself as that limited."

Another thing that occupies much of Planer's time these days is the novel he diligently works on, "Vacant Days," an autobiographical chronicle of adolescent life in suburbia in the 90s.

"It was a really depressing time for me and for a lot of people I grew up with," says Planer. "There was a (cultural) lull; dark clothes, dark music I'm trying to show the process of pulling out of that and developing a broader out-look on life."

Planer has kept dream journals for a decade and plans to working his dreams into his narrative, incorporating them to focus on their escapist and guiding substance.

A related project of Planer's is to build a Dreamachine. The idea was created by Brion Gysin, a beat-era friend of writer William Burroughs, one of Planer's inspirations. One day, Gysin rode a train, noting the flashes of light blinking through the trees they shot past. Gysin shut his eyes and pressed his head against the window, apparently experiencing amazing subsequent sensations. This led to his idea of inventing the Dreamachine.

The Dreamachine, as Planer is constructing, is a lampshade mounted on a record player turntable revolving at 78 rotations per minute, with a light inside. Measured holes are to be cut into the lampshade, designed to resonate with wavelengths the brain produces during REM sleep. Planer hopes to create a way to induce lucid meditation. Presently, he has all of the templates measured out but still needs to find the right lampshade. "I've been to all the art stores," says Planer. "But I still haven't found what I'm looking for."

Planer plans to continue his experiment beyond construction by filming the flash sequences and super imposing them over other video footage to see if he can create a hypnotic effect on audiences on a subliminal level.

At present, Planer is working freelance video and graphics editing jobs for his Alma-Matter SOU and organizations such as the Mobility-impaired Golfer's Association. He plans to save up enough money by the end of the year to take a three-month writing sabbatical to wrap up work on a first draft of his novel.

Since graduating last June, Planer has already worked as a Production Assistant on local cult hero Bruce Campbell's newest film, "My Name Is Bruce." Principally, Planer did office work, ran errands, ran 150-pound air tanks and other gopher work.

"I dropped (a tank) on my leg and limped for three weeks," says Planer. But the bright side was that he also got to work a bit on graphic design, and get a further inside look at filmmaking.

"Short films do not prepare you to work on a real film," said Planer. "There needs to be so much co-ordination business-wise." Planer points out that the budget of his film, "Vegetable Theory," pales in comparison to Campbell's $1.5 million opus.

"One thing about working on a movie set is that you are surrounded by a lot of intelligent people," says Planer. "I've never had a gig where I worked with that much intelligence in one place. It was very refreshing."

In addition to his freelancing and novel aspirations, his inventions and his shelved scripts, Planer maintains academic ambition as well. He is working on his application for graduate studies in film school at University of California in Los Angeles.

"I've been working on a two-page UCLA application essay for months now, for which I have over six pages of notes," says Planer. "If that doesn't work out, there's always Canada." Canada, apparently, offers the world's third-largest film industry.

Wherever he winds up, Planer likely carved a niche for himself as one of the few artists, in a world consumed with silicone, who is still dedicated to the power of celluloid.

For more information on Planer and his films, e-mail him at bryanplaner@yahoo.com.

Name: Bryan Planer:

Age: 26


Claim to Fame: wrote, produced, directed, edited and costarred in "Vegetable Theory"

Inspiration: Bret Easton Ellis, David Cronenberg, Alejandro Jodorowski, Tre Parker, Quentin Tarrantino, Tom Waits

Niche: Horror, in its various incarnations