"'Bikini Planet' — In Celebration of the 'B' Movie"

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli, Pleasanton Weekly, 22 February 2002

Why would a mild-mannered accountant for a real estate firm produce a film titled "Bikini Planet," which apparently is just as much of a "B" movie as the name implies?

For the fun of it. And for love of the low budget sci-fi genre that emerged in the 1950s.

"It's the third film I've done," said Pleasanton filmmaker Derek Zemrak, "always in that style of low budget, campy films. I've been interested in this type of film since I was a child." He noted that at least digital editing has eliminated the old wires that could be seen holding up space ships in the '50s.

The Northern California debut of "Bikini Planet" is being held Tuesday in Walnut Creek. The film premiered recently in Los Angeles and "actually got pretty good reviews," Zemrak said, with surprise in his voice. "One reviewer said, 'It'd make a perfect midnight movie.'"

While in Southern California for the premiere, 13 of the "Bikini" cast members attended the Hollywood Collectors Show, selling DVDs, posters and trading cards — and signing autographs, although they admitted that stars such as Carrie Fisher, Cory Feldman and Ruth Buzzie were more popular.

The Internet movie database, www.imdb.com, reported that "Bikini Planet" was: "Funny, not PC, and very much poking fun at sci-fi genre! ... This production looks slick and probably will be sold to Showtime cable or the Sci-Fi Channel."

The film is already on DVD and being distributed, as is Zemrak's first movie, "Ice Scream," a 1996 horror flick set in an ice scream shop. His second film was named "Taxider Me."

"But 'Bikini Planet' has a few celebrities," he said. Stephanie Beaton, known for her roles in the "Witchcraft" series, plays the Princess. Richard Van Vleet of "All My Children" and "Guiding Light" plays President Bubba Shrub. The vice president is played by Conrad Brooks, "acknowledged king of the B movie." He also starred in "Bikini Drive-In."

Zemrak rattled off names of other "bikini" movies — "Bikini Carwash," "Bikini Hotel" and "Bikini Summer" — proud to be in such noteworthy company. But he said he paid homage to all things bikini by taking the concept into outer space.

He also used Pleasanton actors, including Steve Hitchcock, who play Capt. Flash Rogers; Cristin Kiper as Jane Uhura; and Mark Rosenkranz as Mr. Bigg. Lisa Lowe, a national fitness champion who lives in San Ramon, is also a star. Tiffany Marlow, who is a senior at Amador Valley High, and a model, plays an inhabitant of Bikini Planet.

"I didn't want anyone under 18, but then Tiffany walked in and was 17. So I said OK as long as one of her parents was on the set," recalled Zemrak.

Marlow said, "It was a good group, definitely," and she enjoyed it.

"I wanted a premiere here because so many people in the Bay Area worked on the film," Zemrak said. "There were about 55 people, between actors and crew." It was filmed in different locations — a park in Oakland, Sacramento, and also a few homes in Pleasanton.

Hitchcock also had a part in "Ice Scream," but said he has a much bigger role this time. "This one has a better plot," he said. "It was great to be involved in a small budget film." But he's not leaving for Hollywood any time soon — he plans to stay in his banking profession.

The script was written by Zemrak's brother, Brian Zemrak, who still lives in Maine, as do Zemrak's folks. "My mother doesn't believe he wrote it," said Zemrak. His parents will be at the premiere next week. His brother and sister attended the one in L.A. He says his wife Kaori is also supportive, along with his 4-year-old son Reno.

Although Derek Zemrak, 35, majored in business at Cal State Hayward and went on for his MBA at Golden Gate University, he said, "I've always been intrigued by the film industry."

He launched the Northern California Independent Film and Video Festival three years ago. It was held the first year at the Pleasanton Hilton, next at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, and last year in Berkeley. This year he is planning a winery venue.

Zemrak also hosts a film and nostalgia radio show in Sacramento on AM1380 KTKZ, which airs 10:30-11 a.m. Saturdays. "I have a guest on each show," said Zemrak, "everyone that's on Nick at Nite. Buddy Ebsen, who is now 93 and a great interview; Dwayne Hickman, who went on to directing and producing after Dobie Gillis; Adam West; Leon Spincks, the heavyweight boxer." Its Web site is www.ktkz.com.

"There's a huge audience for B movies," said Zemrak. "They were killed when the drive-ins went out. Then the Internet created more of a resurgence because people can order them."

Independent premiere

What: "Bikini Planet" Who: Derek Zemrak, executive producer When: 8 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 26 Where: Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek Tickets: $10 Telephone: 943-SHOW (943-7469) Other: DVDs, trading cards, posters will be available for purchase

©2002 Pleasanton Weekly

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