Last night I was invited by a lady friend to watch her play volleyball. Afterward, we went to a small bar in town where I immediately ran into an acquaintance I rarely ever see. The last time I saw him a few months ago, we caught up and traded stories about our mutual friend Nick who neither of us had seen in quite some time.
Last night when I saw this friend he asked me, “oh are you here for the gathering?” I asked him what he was talking about. He told me Nick had died yesterday and his friends were all gathering at the bar to remember him. I’d stumbled into my friend’s informal wake completely by random chance.
And that’s how so much of Hack Movies went. Making movies was never hard for me. All of the scripts, actors, locations, editing software, camera and lighting equipment, it just manifested when it was needed and disappeared when it wasn’t. I always felt, as stupid as it sounds given the nature of my basement level gutter-trash films, that a higher power was guiding Hack Movies.
So it didn’t really surprise me that the B-Movie gods or whatever it is put me in that bar to swap stories about our friend Nick Walters AKA Nick Head who tragically left us far, far too early at the age of 41.
I didn’t tell it last night because his friends weren’t into filmmaking, but my favorite memory of Nick was on the set of Nixon And Hogan Smoke Christmas. He was set to reprise his role as Nixon’s iconic neighbor Don Duepe, tying the movie even tighter into the Strangeville Mythos.
Nick was playing triple duty as set designer, cinematographer and actor that day and he was very stressed out. The night before, he had recorded himself reciting all of his dialogue for the scene, which was massive. Probably 3 pages worth of ridiculous Kevin Strange monologue.
On set, Nick wore ear buds while dressing the scene and setting up the camera and lighting. He listened to his lines over and over and over again for maybe two hours. He would mumble them to himself as he worked. Mind you, he was already completely in costume which always included rubbing dirt all over his face for whatever reason.
Before he would act, he always looked in a small hand mirror and scrunched up his face, giving him that hideous Don Duepe expression. So once it was time to record his parts, he took the earbuds out, held up the mirror and proceeded to fuck up the lines dozens and dozens of times, having to grab the mirror and re-apply his Don Duepe face each time.
It was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen and I could not keep myself from laughing to tears at poor Nick’s expense which only made him all the more frustrated that he couldn’t get his lines down. Needless to say he got through it and the scene is perfect and will live on long past all of us, Nick, me, you all reading this. Don Duepe will live forever.
The last phonecall I had with Nick was last year. He’d suffered a stroke a few years prior and I’d had my own health problems in recent years. I was feeling very, very mortal and in that long 3 or 4 hour conversation (our phone calls were always manic and endless, covering dozens of topics in rapid succession) I told him that I felt compelled to make a new film with him before one of us died. We never made that movie.
I spoke about our meeting in a Hack Movies retrospective I penned for this website several years ago. I’m going to re-post what I wrote about him, then elaborate further:
The DEAD SHIT era is what I consider the true beginning of the Hack Movies style and universe. It also saw the creation of Strangeville’s two most important characters, Nixon and Hogan. But before that happened, I got an excited email from one of the weirdest dudes I would ever meet. We would form an art-loving bond so strong that our friendship would last well beyond the final time I picked up a video camera.
I’m talking, of course, about Hack Movies cinematographer Nick Head. Turns out he was from the same stupid small town I was from and he was also in the middle of making a movie. A Star Wars parody movie at that! We met one day in a Steak N Shake parking lot and talked for hours about our love of film and our ambitions as filmmakers. It was a no-brainer that we’d work together on a project or two. But I don’t think either of us had any idea how often we would work together in the future, or how important of a role he would play in bringing my cinematic universe to life.
That’s not hyperbole. If I am the brains behind Strangeville, then Nick Walters is the heart and we’ve lost our heart, gang. I can’t stress enough how often Nick and I talked in those early years. We’d sit at his house and print thousands and thousands of Hack Movies promo DVDs with trailers and teaser scenes on them that we’d then go hand out at music stores and take on the road with us to conventions.
On those long nights pressing up DVD after DVD, we’d talk through the Hack Movies universe, the interconnected films and characters. We’d make filming schedules, lists of props and gear. We’d obsess over other no-budget films together and swap filmmaking how-to books to reverse engineer the cheapest and fastest way to shoot our movies.
Nick was every bit as much Hack Movies as I was. Everything you love about the Hack Movies cinematic style and everything you hate about it is all thanks to Nick. He made it his life’s work to learn everything he could about cheap video cameras and lighting and editing equipment.
We became brothers and we stayed brothers long after Hack Movies ended. In recent years Nick had withdrawn from just about everyone after suffering a stroke and sadly I only communicated with him back and forth a few times after that happened. But that night that we talked for hours about making a new movie? That night it was like no time had passed, no health problems were standing in our way and the old fire and flame, the old lust for cinema was back with us, even if only for one night.
I’m going to miss my friend. If you’re a fan of the movies, give ’em a watch this week and be satisfied in the knowledge that those movies would have never existed without the hand and heart of Hack Movies’ Nick Head. May he rest in peace.