Monster Maniacs…

Eliza arrives at the convention. (Nicole Vogt-Lowell)

…take gold! Although, we’d prefer a slightly tarnished silver as it better suits our aesthetic. Nonetheless, cast and crew pulled off a series of stunning upsets to successfully conclude the first round of principal photography. Even the cold light of day is flattering, as the footage is accomplished and compelling thanks to the determined efforts of a stellar, motivated group.* Bravo, Warriors of the Con, bravo.

Eliza is overwhelmed by haunting memories. (Nicole Vogt-Lowell)

The very early day started rather inauspiciously, when I discovered that the vendor table location that was so critical to our set had been moved to an area that would have made shooting impossible. Instead of a wall booth near an entrance, we got an inside booth in a far corner that would have forced us to share half of our table with another vendor. However, a quick word with Monster Mania’s president, the most gracious and accommodating Dave Hagan, illuminated a simple misunderstanding and rectified the situation. Funny how “up against the wall” was what we wanted, and did we ever get it from that point forward.

As a portion of the crew got busy setting up the booth, others were preparing lighting and sound equipment in two of the four rooms reserved for the occasion. Still others, including myself, set out to perform the most crucial task of the day: procuring permission from the surrounding vendors. These are the true heroes of the shoot, as their patience and participation allowed us the environment to tell our story. Without their kindness, we would have had to pack up and go home. Each was promised due recognition both on this blog and future websites, as well as in the credits of the film. It is my top priority to do so, and once I am able to round up all the names and information, it will be done. This story is also about you, good people, and a harried thanks just isn’t enough.

I’d hoped to get the first scene in the can before the early convention arrivals, but technical circumstances proved uncooperative. We were under constantly changing conditions that brought with them new challenges upon the minute. Forget about “thinking on your feet”, we needed to solve a multitude of problems without touching the ground. To wit, we would be continuously busy securing clearances from anyone and everyone who might fall into frame. My assistants were prepared and on the spot, and somehow managed to make it happen without a complaint. None of us had much sleep, and being able to explain and sell our intrusive adventure was hard enough, let alone under tense, stressful conditions. But all stepped up admirably, and before long we began to roll with certain speed.

Jim Wright (Director of Photography) shoots Nicole Vogt-Lowell (Eliza) in the Once Bidden booth.

There must be an old saying about early worms getting the corpse, because the flow and thickness of the initial crowd really seemed to favor us. We had our moving background, yet were afforded enough room to drive our gang of eight-plus through tight halls and entrance ways. While doing so, we were also attempting a cinematic trick by sharpening our lens on our key subjects while keeping the surrounding copyrighted elements just out of focus. Any glimpse of a well-known horror icon would render the shot useless, or at best, expensively fixable. Luckily, this kind of shooting also gave the footage a look that Jim and I both loved. He’d been working with a similar style with his music videos, and the hazy, flaring setting gave our low-budget plenty of high-end depth. Having known Jim for as long as I have, I wasn’t at all surprised that we could discuss what needed to be done for each shot very quickly, with the desired results attained in a few takes.

Max Kalmanowicz rigs Ray Turturro (Francis) up for sound.

Needless to say but I’ll say it anyway, I had the kind of talent required to pull off what many thought just couldn’t be done. If you look back into this blog, you’ll see how carefully I plotted my course through the resources available to me. Yes, uncommon talent was required, as was the right amount of experience. But the most important ingredients needed were “enthusiasm” and “courage”. In my case, I had related production experience, but had never even made a short film in controlled conditions let alone a full feature in largely unpredictable ones. To my credit, I had been involved in hundreds of industrial videos where the ability to work in difficult environments with large groups of people who didn’t want me there came in handy. Knowing how to direct a sequence quickly with little room for error was also something I was familiar with, and I imagine most would say I always find a way to get things done. But I also like being part of a great team, and if you pick the right people, you stand an excellent chance of surpassing your original vision. And folks, let me tell you something: I picked an awesome team.

The photos you see here are of some of the most talented and gutsy creatures ever to grace my corner of the planet. They were taken by another important member of the HC crew, who was part of a group that looked for all the world like they’d be doing this their entire lives. Some had been, most hadn’t. Some I’d known for many years, others I’d only just found by what I can only describe as divine kismet. All feel like family, and there will be more to say about everyone soon, so stay tuned. For now, there’s a small matter I need to bring to your attention.

The HorrorCon Kickstarter Project has been launched! This means you can become part of this unique production by pledging a few dollars towards the project. Every pledge – from a dollar, to ten, to twenty and more – comes with a cool reward, and you can learn all about them by clicking here. Even if you throw us a buck and tell your friends to do the same, that means more positive energy in our direction. You can also give us your feedback and thoughts on the HorrorCon Facebook Page, where you can find even more photos and information.

Callie Chardonnay (Pale Thin Woman) and Henry Scalfo (Devil Horns) pose for a photo.

As I said in my Kickstarter video, HorrorCon is a film about horror fans, for horror fans – but it’s also about people. My experiences with those who proudly proclaim the same fascination with horror and genre entertainment that I do have always shown what kind, friendly, and generous souls they are. It’s not just about the money – many vendors lose money at these shows – it’s about the shared experience of celebrating the beautifully macabre visions of our daring, dark-witted heroes. It’s about breathing the same air as those kindred spirits who love a good fright, and realizing that we’re not alone on the glorious fringes of popular entertainment. Horror conventions are about letting your freak flag fly, and I know we all have one, even if its in a heap in the basement until Halloween rolls around.

We’re only getting started, but we’re out of the gates with strength and style. I’ll be scheduling the next round of principal photography once I sort out a few details, which hopefully will mean rolling cameras and speeding sound sometime in late April. I’d love to get going right away, but a few of my creepy peeps are balancing other projects. But fear not, we’ll get there. All things are possible, as I believe we’ve shown. And there is still plenty of time for us to reach our Kickstarter pledge goal, but let’s not wait too long, hmm? Time flies, in particular when you’ve still got a few key scenes to shoot and there are people breaking down their booths and wheeling them out behind your leads. Or when the light is changing and you want just one more take, since you’ve only just figured out the best way to shoot a scene because there wasn’t a single day of rehearsal. Hell, half the people in the HorrorCon family were complete strangers prior to day one.

Heaven on earth, but decorated like hell, indeed.

*Save one, who will never set foot on my set again unless it’s to play a real-life corpse.

One Response to “Monster Maniacs…”

  1. Lisa says:

    An amazing and inspiring account, Scott! I can’t imagine a soul who wouldn’t give their right (living) arm to be a part of it all – whether backer, cast or crew. Bravissimo!

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