With a dismantled label maker glued to the wall, representing a state-of-the-art police security system, and a Black Cat primed for detonation inside the hollowed-out gadget, local filmmaker Brett Mauser, 34, stands behind the camera and delivers his favorite command:
The fuse is lit as one of the actors points a gun (loaded with blanks from an earlier scene) at the contraption on the wall. He cocks the gun back a bit when the firework explodes and the label maker is launched through the air.
“Cut!” Mauser yells just before the rest of his crew applaud the success of their improvised special effects. “That looked good.”
“I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than blowing shit up,” says lead actress Sally Colombo. “After this, there’s no way I’m going to be able to do another romantic comedy.”
Mauser agrees. Action films are the only films worth making. Under his film company, Ponderous Productions’ extremely tight budget, Mauser doesn’t have the money — or the time for that matter — to do anything else even if he wanted to.
Currently, he is shooting the first of 10 feature films, which he plans to complete in six to eight months. The new project, which he refers to as the Ponderous Saga, is 20 years in the making for Mauser, who realized his love of cinema when he was a kid, running through his neighborhood making stop-motion animation with his G.I. Joe action figures and grandfather’s 8mm camera.
Raised in Houston, Mauser moved to San Antonio and attended SAC where he earned his associate’s degree in radio, television and film.
As a lover of action flicks, Mauser established Ponderous Productions in 1997 and secured a committed cast and crew with an interest in the genre. Because he started using the same actors in all his films, Mauser decided to write the scripts based on recurring characters and link all the movies as a series.
“As more stories were created, `the series` became a more elaborate network of characters, places and events,” says Mauser, who has directed and written 14 action films, including Dawg’s Life, Barrio Angelz, and Shadow Dragon, some of which can be found on the shelves at Blockbuster. “These movies are all chapters of the ‘Ponderous Universe.’”
In 1999, Mauser took a two year hiatus from filmmaking. His cousin, 15-year-old Daniel Mauser, was one of the 13 victims of the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado. With debates swirling around the media about violent video games and movies causing the teenage killers’ rampage, Brett questioned whether or not the films that he was making were part of a social problem.
“I was worried if `the films I was making` were appropriate,” says Mauser. “Some had very violent action scenes.”
Mauser felt comfortable returning to filmmaking after reevaluating himself as a filmmaker and researching both sides of the issue.
“I came to the realization that sometimes there is just evil out there,” he says. “There’s not an explanation for it. You can’t blame anything for it. Understanding that helped me get back on track and start doing what I wanted to do again.”
With his production studio set up in a large garage on the Patrie Ranch in Lytle, Texas, Mauser looks forward to continuing to build his universe one low-budget film at a time. He sneers at people that equate “low-budget” to “poor quality.”
“We’re not Hollywood and we realize some of our effects might be a little hokey, yes,” Mauser says. “But we hope our stories speak for themselves. Action films are like an art form … and it’s running through my veins. I’ve put too much time and effort into this, I can’t just walk away.” •