Guest Post by Stegath Dorr, a.k.a. James Wagner: writer & cast member of Blood Desert
With the release of Fred Olen Ray’s SCALPS Blu-Ray through Retromedia and BLOOD DESERT through John’s company I thought I would include a brief biographical sketch for future viewers who might be interested in how SCALPS and BLOOD DESERT wove a thread through an otherwise marginal career.
Now 41 years old, I first began communicating with Fred Olen Ray when I was 25. This was when I first began looking for a way to make a cheap film to break into the industry.
Like Fred, I was born in the Midwest but grew up elsewhere as my father was a German-American commercial fisherman whose work took us to port towns where there was little for youngsters to do but watch horror and action films on VHS lying around the 1980s/1990s shipyards….Most of them Fred Olen Ray films like ARMED RESPONSE and ALIEN DEAD.
After a brief stint in the army I became a typical mid-nineties aimless hippy studying broadcast journalism at a middling college. I dropped out when a high school buddy who had become a photographer in Dubai offered me a job at his magazine, which proved fortuitous.
Aged about 25, I moved to the Arabian Gulf and worked as a staff writer until an argument with an incompetent editor (Sean Mooney now of Australia’s STRATEGARISK business magazine) led me to quite, which again was fortuitous because I began participating in commercials and making documentaries.
Every slacker around then who had seen BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was looking for a way to produce a film that might mimic that success: I saw SCALPS on a double bill with THE SLAYER and decided that it was so obscure I could rewrite it as BLAIR WITCH mockumentary.
This never got off the ground because the BLAIR WITCH fad passed quickly but four years later as a camera assistant in Kuwait I was finally able to get financing for BLOOD DESERT after rewriting as a political satire for a small-time Arab cable company.
I was broke and already 30 by then, so I accepted the offer.
We shot on DV over 6 months in 2004 in Kuwait and Yemen after which the the film went straight to local cable and one film festival.
BLOOD DESERT led to PIRATE’S BLOOD and BLACK SHAMA. I moved from the Arab Gulf to India and then the Philippines to produce these films.
Shooting BLACK SHAMA (A sort-of remake of DEATH CURSE OF TARTU) in the Philippines was a bad dream. I hired Sunny Leone (Then an unknown porn star with VIVID but soon to become a Bollywood star through my contacts in Mumbai). Local crew stole my crane and the production company (HANDRO AND MARCO) attempted to take the actual film hostage in post. I released the film in India to cash in on Sunny Leone’s fame.
Following BLACK SHAMA I moved to Bangladesh where I was hired to film a documentary about human trafficking but by then my health gave out and I moved to Thailand to live modestly.
That might have been the end of it, except that I contacted John Klyza.
It is however interesting to note how SCALPS was the impetus for my career.
-Stegath Dorr, June 27, 2015