Underground Productions: One Man’s Journey

An aquarium, a guinea pig, in a house open to stray cats and home to two dogs and three chickens, and is the home to John Specht, 52, and his wife Katrina.

To say their home is a zoo would be an understatement and Specht’s office is the busiest of all as the social point of the home.

The only hair Specht has is facial hair streaked with grey. Tall and broad in stature, people can’t see the 50 lbs of weight loss he’s achieved but they can see the scars that go up his left arm and leg.

Specht has lived most of his adult life in Jefferson County, Missouri. He spends much of his time now gardening, walking his two dogs, Zoey and Bella, and working on different projects.

Specht studied film and art at St. Louis Community College at the Meramec campus on and off from 1992 to 1998.

While putting himself through school, Specht would work four jobs as the overnight sales clerk in different adult entertainment stores.

“I met so many interesting people while working in those stores,” he said.

In 1994, one would become a long time friend and eventually a partner, Mike “Pony” Tomich.

Specht’s career began in 1995 when he met Jeff Atwater, who would become his first partner, in a film class at Meramec. Sadly, it would be in 2004 when they would go their separate ways.

“It was my fault. I was in a dark place at the time and such a hard ass,” Specht would say.

It was also during this time that he met his wife, Katrina Ramsey, who’s taken his name, and her son, John Moore, in 1996. He would also come to meet what he calls his extended family.

After finishing school with a degree, Specht and Atwater would go on to create the underground production company Bullet Pen Productions before renaming the company Royalty-N-Exile.

One of his favorite creations that helped brand his company was Noria, a character from the Foreshadow graphic novels. Todd Terrill and Mike Boeckelmann had helped Specht get the comic off the ground with their own production company, The Avenging Heifer making an amazing co-op and opening doors, small as they may be, for the three friends.

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One of the sketches of Noria done by Mike Boeckelmann

Specht, Atwater, and Tomich would work on multiple projects with the help of his newfound extended family, Ramsey and Moore.

Specht has produced multiple films. The most successful of which was a documentary, Radio Free St. Louis: This is Chuck Norman (2003).

Documentaries weren’t his specialized genre though, horror was his bread and butter.

One film in particular, Electric Zombies (2006) received poor reviews. Chad Crawford made a review on IMdB, writing, “I don’t want anyone to think, ‘Hey, this sounds so bad it might be fun, let’s rent it.’ I promise you it’s not even worth that.”

Ramsey, married Specht in 2000. She was supportive of his filming, often starring in his works and creating props and special effects.

Working endlessly for almost a decade, Atwater had had enough.

“It was like working for a slave driver at times. Sometimes nobody wanted to do anything because we weren’t cooperating,” Atwater said.

When Specht had a heart attack in 2004, everything changed for him. “It was a blessing in disguise, really,” he said.

Sadly, Specht would go on to have multiple heart surgeries, another heart attack, and will have to have lifetime heart-monitoring by doctors.

In 2004, he would have to have stints put in following his heart attack. Later, in 2008, he had to have an internal defibrillator and pacemaker put in after his second heart attack.

Specht’s internal defibrillator would go off in the middle of the night in 2012, electrocuting his wife, with minimal injuries to her, but causing him to have another surgery to have his internal defibrillator replaced and to have a quadruple bypass, causing the scarring that‘s now visible on his left arm and leg.

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John Specht, 52, showing off his latest achievements in the garden, Strawberry Popcorn

Specht’s family life has been rocky at best. With the exception of his extended family, few people actually came to see him during his hospitals stays, with the exception of his last one. During the last hospital stay, as it was the longest, he was often scolded by hospital staff for having too many visitors.

His family life has become stable since then. He has three living older sisters, Jackie, Patty and Sharon, a niece and three nephews. Specht talks to his sisters often and their relationships are good. Patty lives in North Carolina, with his niece and his other two sisters live in St. Louis.

Specht’s relationship with his stepson, Moore, was a close one while Moore was growing up but things have changed. Moore says that since he moved on to strike out on his own, that they had drifted apart. “(It’s) not all me though,” Moore said, “ it takes two to have a close relationship.”

When asked about working with Specht on sets as a kid Moore said;

“A lot of my childhood was spent on weekends working when I just wanted to be with my friends. Of course I thought it was neat and I did try it before I knocked it but it just wasn’t for me.”

A young John Moore in a video produced by John Specht. (Click link if video won’t load)

The Spechts participate in a catch and release program for stray cats. They catch the cats, get them fixed and the ear is clipped to mark that this stray has been fixed and they bring them back.

Some of their strays have disappeared, having found homes with their neighbors.

They also care for most of the strays that hang around their home, feeding them and leaving an opening in their garage with a cat door to the house.

Specht, now retired from film making, continues to work on his original passion, drawing. He is currently working on a new project with Boeckelmann and Terrill. Slaying the Beast, a story of cancer and hope. Having pulled real experiences as ideas and muses, it has started coming together.

Specht is happy to be back to his roots and doing art again and is loving working with new programs, such as Adobe Imaging and Photoshop, that weren’t available 20 years ago.

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