Tracking down the guilty party!

What a project! 2005 at Norwescon was a flush of creativity. Ryan and Leopoldo and I had just come off shooting Flesh of my Flesh and we were hot to shoot something else and to share with people how we did things. Eric Morgret of Maelstrom Productions joined us this year.

We showed off a couple of the previous years movies and then started in on explaining some of the gear and the processes behind making movies. Then, we started soliciting for topics. You can always tell how the energy in the room starts changing when we stop talking about how to do it and we start showing and doing it. This year, as Ryan’s pointed out already, it was a close call: either we were going to do Klingon Eye for the Fan Guy, or CSI: Norwescon. We ended up choosing CSI: Norwescon, which was probably a much smarter choice anyway. At least with CSI, you don’t need heavy makeup on your main characters.

During a moment of wickedness, we urged Brian Oberquell to be our primary investigator and he ended up doing a bang-up job (not to mention he actually bears a more-than-passing resemblance to William Peterson). We had a volunteer victim, and a couple of assistants and a coroner and before you could say “Merchant-Ivory films rock the house!” we were off and running.

Unlike our previous movies, CSI: Norwescon was more like an actual movie set (at least as far as I know) because we shot pretty much all of it in a bathroom (the crime scene), and that meant most folks kinda’ hung out in the hotel room wondering what was going on in there. Okay, so that was a tactical error.

The tricky part about this project was that, if you’re familiar with the CSI structure, the investigators “try out” different theories with each other, discussing the possibilities. For us, that meant filming different possible ways our victim could have died. So we ended up filming lots of death and mayhem, which — as I usually say after a few boxes of Pop-Tarts — is worth the effort. I think we killed “Cuddles” Jackson three or four times in one movie. More than we killed Frodo! We also had the pleasure of a second unit — Eric Morgret brought his camera and went out and shot lots of outdoor and establishing shots, including an incomparable crane shot (thank goodness for clean glass elevators!). Staging the deaths was a lot of fun, and one of the most interesting and “guerrilla filmmaking” bits was when we had to locate a place for “CSI Headquarters”, so we chose what we believed to be an out-of-the-flow-of-traffic restroom. Clever viewers will spot the urinals in the background. Well, it wasn’t so out-of-the-flow as we had hoped, so we eventually taped a sign to the outside of the door reading “closed for repairs”, which I suppose isn’t quite cricket, but it got the job done.

Post-production was a complete bear. For some reason, it just seemed to take longer and longer to do everything (note: probably because Edward did the edits instead of Ryan). One by one, our stalwart crew drifted off, until I alone sat in my hotel room during Saturday night at Norwescon, editing video. I’m that dedicated. Editing continued until the editing workshop, and actually, as several people pointed out, continued during the editing workshop. But it was handy to show people how we did it.

After the workshop, I kept editing, because I wanted it a little better in time for the film festival Sunday. It was okay.

In an unprecedented move (and honestly, I think I should never do this particular trick again), when I came back home after the weekend, I kept working on it. With the leisure time available, I built up a very nice credit sequence that more closely parodied the actual CSI opening, and I sorted through and reorganized the opening sequence. All in all, it turned out quite well by the time I was done with it. Although it lacks the laugh-a-minute firepower of Con of the Dead, I think it’s technically a better effort. So, naturally, next year, I think we’re going to have to go back to making less production-intensive movies that we can shoot in a big room or out on the pool deck or something else large and wide-scale and fun.

Ryan Johnson, on his own site, has a great write-up for CSI: Norwescon and it’s really very nicely done, including screenshots and everything!


  • The Victim Cuddles Jackson: Jesse Brocksmith
  • Investigators: Brian D. Oberquell and Enid Borgerding
  • Policeman: Mark Dranek
  • Seductress: Julie Andrijeski
  • Lab Assistant: Thaddeus Wilson
  • Coroner: Tracey Ernst


  • Producers: Edward Martin III and Leopoldo Marino and Ryan K. Johnson and Brian D. Oberquell and Eric Morgret
  • Director: Edward Martin III
  • Writer: Edward Martin III and Brian D. Oberquell
  • Cinematography: Ryan K. Johnson and Eric Morgret
  • Editing and sound: Edward Martin III
  • Make-Up: Lori Hillard