Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The First Failed Sequel: Part II

By the end of 2011, Philip had enough money to do another shoot so he assembled the main cast including Gene Snitsky  of WWE fame, Ryan Jimmo of MMA, Bryan Jennings the son of the original Manos Sheriff, Diane Mahree who played Maggie in the original, Bernie Rosenblum, the kissing guy in the car/cameraman, and me. We also had Jay Lee, Rick Zunck, the documentary team, Phil, some local actors and support. We all assembled in El Paso for five days to do those scenes. By that time, I had a clearer view of Phil’s business strategies and what he termed as his “wacky deals” while often boasting his great negotiation skills.  During the five days in El Paso, Gene Snitsky quit and was convinced to come back, Jay Lee, our director quit and then decided to finish the scheduled shoot because that's who he is.   Our El Paso coordinator, David Garcia quit while we were in El Paso and Phil convinced him back because we could not have completed our work there without him.  David arranged everything! 
Our leader massaged every story so he was never at fault when things don’t go well by painting himself as either a victim or as just wacky Uncle Phil who wants the best for everyone and in his excitement, sometimes makes little mistakes. When backed into a corner or accused, he would strike out turning the tables with belittling comments, negative pointed remarks and then finally indifference as in “Well, if you don’t want to do this, fine, we’ll just go find another Debbie" or "It is what it is”. When things were going well, he would create stories using fictional people as great supporters, or embellish a small detail to appear as the hero.

Sometime around then he began talking of doing a restoration of the original claiming he had found a copy of the film. He told me that Bernie Rosunblum, the original photographer on Manos, had a copy and he (Phil) was working on a deal to obtain it. Bernie then had a stroke in Nov 2011 upon which Phil called his wife and said “Well, too bad about Bernie. Guess he can’t be in our movie now”. She was so upset that they refused to speak to him again.  Phil called me after that to say “I think I put my foot in my mouth” After then went to Rifftrax to see if he could work a deal with them to get that copy and restore it with his help so they could be partners, with them footing the bill. Rifftrax then obtained their own copy somewhere and cut him out.  About the same time, I heard about Ben Solovey, a young film student in Los Angeles who had found the original Manos workprint in an ebay auction in a box full of old  films. He then set out to raise money and restore his print. I told Phil he should connect with Ben and that maybe they could work together and help each other since they had the same idea of restoring it. Phil ignored that and then posted on his website that he was already doing a restoration and then he began talking about Ben as some creepy kid. When Phil realized that Ben had raised over $45,000. in less than 3 months on Kickstarter for his restoration, Phil contacted Ben. At first friendly, then began to threaten him saying he (Phil) had found the original copyright to Manos and that Ben better team up with him and give him the rights or he would take it by force.

Phil told me he had the copyright and three of the best attorney’s in Hollywood working Pro Bono on the case.  Those attorneys agreed he had a valid copyright. He also said he had created a partnership with Joe Warren, Hal Warren's son to do this and that Joe now could demand licensing fees from anyone doing anything with Manos from here on. I expressed concern about how that would affect me, my planned career concerning Manos and all the projects people created out of love for the film.   He said that I could be assured that Joe listens to him and he would make sure that Joe shares with dad and I any money that comes from the licensing, etc. I did not believe any of that and began my own research as to what I can and can’t do regardless of their claims. Also, during all this, I learned that Phil was claiming publicly that he was in charge of dad and I and that we would not do anything without his permission. He represented us to Rifftrax in this manner. When I heard about that, I told him he clearly has no right to say that and does not represent us. He became very angry, yelling that we are supposed to be a team and stick together and if I didn’t want to be part of the family, so be it. I wouldn’t get to share in the future bounty and could merely be an actress in his film. He also expressly forbade me to communicate with Ben Solovey who I had become friends with. 

Many other things were going on at the same time that I wasn't aware of until later.  Suddenly I'm told that Rifftrax is doing a live show of Manos in Nashville in June 2012 and that Rupert Munch Senior (remember him? It's in part one so I'll wait if you need to go back) will get to do a Torgo Skit for the audience and that the trailer for his Manos sequel will screen.  I was told I need to be there. My reply was that as things presently stood, I didn't think I should.  I was told (again) that he could just go get another Debbie.  My answer to that was one of the few satisfactions I got to feel up to that point. "Good luck with that.  I am Debbie"

 Soon after that, I was contacted by the El Paso Film Festival about making an appearance at the annual Classic Film Festival where I would be a special guest on August 5th 2012 for the screening of Bens restoration, and to talk about my role in the original.
They would be showing Ben’s restoration and I knew Phil would have a fit  so I didn’t tell him knowing that if I gave him an opportunity he would sabotage it.  Ben decided he would tell Phil and get it over with several weeks before the show so that he would have time to deal with any interference. Phil then demanded a $10,000. licensing fee from Ben in order to proceed. Ben refused and then ignored him after his (Ben’s) IP lawyer looked at the “copyright” saying it was nothing more than an application and therefore not valid. As I was boarding my plane to El Paso from Portland, Oregon on Friday afternoon August 4th, the Artistic Director of The El Paso Film Festival called me and said they had just received a call from Phil.  His lawyers were insisting the screening of Manos be canceled because it would be illegal to proceed and since the Film Festival was in full swing, there was no time to investigate, especially because they were contacted late Friday afternoon.  I got on that plane having no idea what was coming next.

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