The Strange Case of Carl Weber
Directed by Nick Tucker
Written by Mark Hefti, Quan Phan, Nicholas Tucker
Produced by Quan Phan


Seen at San Diego Film Festival & Sacramento Film Festival

I felt really challenged by the audition. I was to play the mother of a young man who believes he is a vampire. He's suing his boss, an old family friend and owner of the local supermarket, because he wants to work nights stocking shelves, and the store isn't open nights. He calls this discrimination. This movie would be shot mockumentary style with all improvisation by the actors. So, my audition was an on-camera mock interview.

I feel especially honored that I got the part because they held auditions in Los Angeles first. Okay, that means something to me. Now, here's the tricky part. The film was shot in a town called Greenville. I looked it up at Yahoo, or rather, I didn't. There is no Greenville according to Yahoo Maps. I tried MapQuest and found it -- way up north in the Sierras. Now I feel reassured this is not a ploy to lure unsuspecting actors away from home for the white slave trade. But I haven't seen snow in many, many years and have to admit the prospect scared me. I had no winter clothes, no boots, and was just not psychologically prepared for winter. Would they drive off an icy embankment when transporting me from the Reno airport to the snow peaked mountains of Greenville? Who would take care of my dog while I'm away? Oh, the terrors of being an actor on location.

I called director Nick Tucker and suggest my character have a small, fluffy dog. And he agreed! What a guy. All expenses were paid, I was asked my food preferences, he found a rustic motel that accepted dogs, and I didn't have to memorize lines. Looked promising.

In the Courtroom: son Carl (Mark Hefti) in front.
From left to right: Husband James (Earl Thompson),
Barbara (me), son Billy (Luke Pennington).
Next row: Cassie (Amanda Troop) unfortunately lost behind
James' head, Toby (Kevin Fabian), sound operator Jeff MacDonnell.
And up against the wall videographer Lucas Abel.

Livia in the driveway of the Hideaway Resort & Motel,
where we spent our time thinking about the film and my character,
eating our meals in solitude, and enjoying the sun and snow.

Here comes the first problem: Nick Tucker's family's house, the home base for meals not on location, the headquarters where all the actors and crew get to socialize and discuss the film, is inhabited by three cats. I'm very allergic to cats! I spent my first breakfast on the Tucker porch feeling a bit chilled, listening to the gaiety inside through the closed windows, Livia vigilant of the stalking cats. I did warn Nick in advance about my affliction. He even changed an important location to one without cats. But for the duration of the filming, I was quarantined to the motel, and meals were driven over by producer Quan Phan. I told myself I didn't come all this way to socialize and make new friends. I was an actor and I would use the time wisely -- developing my character and introducing Livia to snow. For almost the duration of shooting, I was the only occupant of this sprawling motel.

Such irony -- here we all are in the blazing sun, balmy weather, the scenic mountains and forests of Northern California, taking on the dark subject of Vampirism. But even darker to me is the subject of a lost soul who believes he's a vampire and tries to destroy his family, friendships and equanimity of the workplace because of it. My son takes pleasure in insulting, criticizing and plain old hurting me, as in this dinner scene. Mark's performance was so convincing I was really very angry at him and lost my temper. I yelled like hell, no acting. He also treats his mentally challenged brother more like a puppet than a loved one, using him to bolster his personal agenda no matter the cost to Billy. By the way, Luke's performance as Billy is right up there with Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as the retarded brother in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." My poor husband, like so many men, internalizes and barely says a word. He is a bitter, silent man who can only demand more hot coffee and keep his anger to himself. Bravo, Earl.

Livia was in almost every scene with me. She that black patch on my lap?

Carl is so deluded, he even thinks he can win the case against his employer Mitchell Carter (played by Warren Draper). Here, Carl and I I go to his lawyer's office to talk strategy. Sorry, Attorney Lionel Sherman (Gary Robbins) is seated behind videographer Lucas. While Lionel believes he just might have a chance of winning this case, which would allow Carl to work nights at the store, Carl talks about how he wants to wear his false fangs to make an impression on the jury. The two butt heads. As for Barbara, she doesn't care who wins the case. She wants her son back, the sane and loving boy he once was. She and James would love for him to go to school, even night school, and make more of himself than a night stalking shelf stocker.

Livia, on my lap, was a professional throughout. She was never fussy or temperamental. She posed and interacted. She was indeed the unconditional love that Barbara needed. I noticed many times during shooting, the camera would drift towards her, sometimes from some very powerful moments. Livia knew how to work the cameraman.

The courthouse in the town of Chester,
small and nondescript. This speaks well for the
community not having much need for a courthouse.

Cletus, the courthouse cat. I spent most of this
day in the parking lot avoiding the courtroom cat hair.

Producer Quan Phan quietly keeps
order in the Court.

A better shot of Amanda Troop (to my right)
and Kevin Fabian (behind her)

Side bar for lawyers and judge,
with director Nick Tucker overseeing.

Mitchell Carter (Warren Draper) explaining
why he can't keep his store open at night

The supermarket in question, with Quan and Livia
checking out the location. In fact, Evergreen is owned
by Nick Tucker's father -- one way to gain access.

Videographer Lucas Abel

Nick, that's what you get for not letting
me take a nice picture of you.

The interior of this house is my character's home,
but exterior is someone else's
I wind up being interviewed by the "documentary filmmakers" about my thoughts and feelings about my son Carl, his case and the outcome. I also suggest the crew members consider their part in this whole affair. How much did their very presence effect Carl, their questions, their expectations? How does a film crew influence the reality of a situation?

Our Hideaway home away from home.
Thanks, Bink Huddleston, for trusting Livia to be a good guest.

The beautiful view of the Sierras from the lawn of our Hideaway.
Most of the snow melted while we were there.

I have seen the finished product. Unfortunately, there is a voice over that says Billy never believed his brother was a vampire even though his Family and Friends did. That one sentence, added in post, caused almost all of my part to be cut out since I made it clear in all but my first scene that I knew he was not a vampire. There goes the second half of the dinner scene in which I argue with Carl about mistreating his brother. There goes all but one sentence in the scene in which I argue with Carl's lawyer in his office about his misplaced efforts to win the case. There goes the courtroom parking lot scene in which I say I don't care how the case goes. Why fight for the right to be a shelf stocker? We will pay for night school in anything he wants to learn. Out goes the scene where I throw Carl out of the house because he is a danger to our family and he just outright hates us. Out goes the scene when I tell the "documentary" camera crew that there is no such thing as unconditional love. Carl crossed the line; we made a decision and we'll be happier and guilt free without him. But worst of all, Livia was never seen! Kept were many scenes in which Carl discusses with his friends the vampire outfit he intends to wear to court. I could have spent one afternoon in Greenville instead of 5 days. Or I could have worked on my character somehow believing her son was actually a vampire. Oh, well. And I didn't even learn a valuable lesson from this. What can you do?

Good news -- possibly. Director Nick Tucker contacted all us actors back in December 2010, asking for permission to re-edit the film into episodes encompassing more material that was edited out of the feature length film version and show it online. Hopefully, if he changes my character's vampire stance, more of my work will be available to view, as well as Livia's compassionate performance. This would be particularly heartening for me since Livia died some time ago and I have no other video of her.

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