Eric’s student film debut: ‘Venus Envy,’ 1997

Want to see a student film I appeared in 10 years ago? Of course you do!

It’s called “Venus Envy,” and it’s a spoof of cheesy 1950s sci-fi flicks, the kind that are obsessed with “radar” and “atoms” and “lasers” and “invaders from other planets.” It was directed by Brandon Sawyer and written by him and Randy Tayler. Both were buddies of mine, which explains Brandon’s interest in casting me, given my limited acting range.

I play a Venusian named Zankar. You can tell he’s from Venus because he wears tinfoil and speaks in a funny voice. The hero is played by Brian Judd, who for some reason went by the nickname Phontaine in those days. The beautiful lady scientist is played by Charisse Loew, who was from South Africa or something. I have no idea where she and Brian are now.

We shot the film on Dec. 11 and 13, 1997 (10 years ago this week!), and it played as part of the BYU film department’s annual “Final Cut” program the next April. Jared Hess, who would go on to direct “Napoleon Dynamite,” was a cinematographer on another film that year; Jon Heder wasn’t around yet, but his brother Doug was.

The film shoot was fun, except that I couldn’t really move between takes or else the tinfoil would rip. The experience, though obviously much smaller in scale than a feature film, was enlightening. I got a distinct sense of how much setup and preparation is necessary to make a movie, the amount of work that happens out of the camera’s field of vision, and the behind-the-scenes tricks that you do when you don’t have a CGI budget.

The sound isn’t great on this old VHS copy I found, so I subtitled a few lines that I thought might be indecipherable otherwise. All things considered, I think it’s a pretty funny little spoof.

(Warning: Features one use of the expletive “Gadzooks!” and an over-fondness of the verb “to thwart.”)

[YouTube link]