The Visitor! Revisited

February 10th, 2023

I once tried to make a movie.

A musical one. About an alien.

The other topic this month is Unproduced Work, and I’m going to start with the film that, to be completely honest, kind of broke my weird, little heart.

This is The Visitor!

By 2011, I had produced a lot of video. In high school, I often had my video camera rolling (literally, as those were the days we used tape, which actually rolled); sometimes for academic and theatrical projects, but mostly I shot our own creative work.

I went on to create music videos for my band, The Next Step, and was an early adopter of YouTube; I joined the site on April 7th, 2006, just over a year after it launched. At the time, I was still in that awkward analog-to-digital phase, as were most creators of that era.

It was not easy to create things with film or tape and then convert those things into digital media, for countless reasons, and some of you know this very specific pain.

As digital technology progressed and become both more affordable and accessible to creators, our worlds began to open up. We dreamed bigger.

And I started to think: I can make a movie.

In 2010, the idea for The Visitor! beamed into my brain: it was the story of a crash-landed alien, Abby, and the young man, Eli, who finds him and becomes his best friend, trying to help him understand this strange place he fell into. It found inspiration in films like E.T. and Starman — oh, and it was musical.

I wrote eight original songs for the movie. I played Abby; my dear friend Kody Kile agreed to help me out and became Eli. He and I worked together on my sci-fi web series Jargon (which will get its own entry later this month). There were several other characters in the script who never got officially cast, because we never got that far into filming.

Going through social media, I put together this timeline of events:

Late 2010/Early 2011: The Visitor! is announced.
February 8th, 2011: “It Is This” lyric sheet shared.
April 7th, 2011: First draft written.
July 3rd, 2011: Revised script finished.
July 17th, 2011: “Not That Easy” demo recorded.
July 31st, 2011: Logo revealed.
August 1st, 2011: Final script finished.
August 3rd, 2011: First day of shooting.
September 24th, 2011: Video blog, featuring “Not That Easy.”
March 8th, 2012: First teaser trailer.

We had managed to film some of the scenes that required only Abby and Eli; because I understood our limitations, I wrote most of the movie with just those two characters. They were the heart of the story, and the script itself was a sweet and salty tale of how we become friends. It was a comedy, sure, but Abby dealt with loneliness and fear, universal uncertainty.

Despite knowing how limited we were, I still overestimated what I could accomplish. I was frustrated with my lack of control; there was a lot more I wished I could do, with every shot, and eventually I became so overwhelmed and disillusioned with the project that I canceled its production.

I’d say we probably ended up shooting about 25% of the script. The process taught me a lot. More than anything, though, it was just so much fun while it lasted. Kody and I were filming outdoors late at night, and during the day in locations like the sweltering, suffocating basement of my parents’ house. We laughed a ton. We had a blast. I ate cottage cheese off the floor of a shed. I just wish I could have taken that experience and turned it into a film.

Is The Visitor! dead? Maybe. Maybe not. I wouldn’t count it out. But realizing I could tell stories without constraints — no budget or crew nor any compromises– I started writing my first book.

It was also about aliens. And loneliness, and fear, and control.

That book was Them, and we’ll be talking all about it next month.


Published by dennisvogen

I'm me, of course. Or am I?

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