Archive for the ‘the people’ Category

In Retrospect…

Monday, December 5th, 2011

…I should probably have kept my mouth shut. We were halfway through “day two” of our weekend shoot, and I felt the need to share how things appeared to be getting easier, making saying goodbye to the hotel, the headaches, and the hurtin’ on my wallet harder to do than I thought. Needless to say, our remaining shots took longer than expected, and there were a few rethinks on set-ups. Worst of all, poor Max had an early call-time the next day and had to grab some Zs while he waited on various costume changes and lighting tests. To his credit, he didn’t snore. To ours, we didn’t stack any random objects on his forehead and take loads of pictures.

All that said, everyone continued their run of outstanding performances, both before and behind the camera. And while finishing in style is our goal, there was something drab about closing room 1243 for the final time. I lost count of the scenes we shot in there – using every angle and piece of furniture to its fullest – and within those peeling, jaundiced walls is really where this film lives. Much like the famed “Room 237” in The Shining, it’s a place of troubling questions and horrifying answers. It’s also a place where Stanley Kubrick’s name was referred to more than once for inspiration; a habit that would spill out into the halls, and all the way down the stairs into the lobby.

A few of us have joked that the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill, NJ, has become our home away from home. For me, there’s far more truth than jest in that observation. I’m pretty sure I greet 90% of the staff by their first names these days, and voices raise markedly upon my return. I believe quite a few in our cast and crew enjoy similar relationships with various representatives of the hotel, from housekeeping, to engineering, to the smiling faces at the front desk. Back in March I was sure they would long to see our backs, but now I feel they enjoy our requests for early check-in, extra bell carts, and patience with strange noises and visions. For the most part we leave behind only footprints that are easily vacuumed away. There may have been a couple…scars left behind, as well. At least one we take with us (how’s that hand, Chris?).

Then there were five. Five scenes, two days, one weekend. After, no more “camera up” and “speeding”. Only countless moments of luck, brilliance and bravery forever preserved in a little movie about a little girl who learns that, sometimes, one must spiral downward to be saved.

Date: December 10-11
Place: Crowne Plaza, Cherry Hill, NJ
Call Time:
1 pm
Stills: in the usual place.

Let’s do this.

HC Scares Up a Little Press…

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Thanks go out to Michal Sinnott (a.k.a Wendy Whipper) for letting my film hitch its little red wagon to her growing star power. Click on the pic to jump to Backstage’s “Who Got the Part” news feature.

HorrorCon News…

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

I thought it was a time to give everyone a quick round-up of what’s been going on behind the scenes here at Yellow Horse Productions, as well as what’s happening with some of our cast and crew. Then maybe I’ll let you all know about the PVC drainage tube attached to the heater in my attic that has come loose from the side of the condo. It’s been banging a lot in the wind and it’s really annoying. I’m sure you’ll want to know more.

In a tense scene, Francis (Ray Turturro) chases down Eliza (Nicole Vogt-Lowell) to tell her she has toilet paper stuck to her shoe.

First of all, I’ve been editing an assortment of sequences together in hopes that they cut well enough to not have to re-shoot. The good news is that I think I can get most if not all of the footage to work, which is really good news when you consider that I couldn’t re-shoot any of it. With a minimum of dialog dubbing and a little creative splicing, I should be able to put something together that more than does the job. Conditions were brutal, and we had to stick and move like a team of boxers. To have anything usable at all is a miracle. To have the loose, rock-and-roll style footage we have is even more of a miracle. It’s like a double-miracle latte with a shot of cool.

The next shoot date has been set to take place on Saturday, April 30th. We’re shooting some intense scenes on the beach, and for those who know the script, you know what that means. Reading these scenes is difficult for me. Shooting them is going to be quite the emotional adventure. We’ll be rehearsing them Friday night, so I’ll be hoping my cast and crew arrive with plenty of time to plan them out.

Photo courtesy of the very manly "Women's Poker News".

Also, congratulations to a couple members of our cast for their work on other projects. Erik Audé (pictured) got his behind handed to him by none other than Jason Ritter (son of John Ritter) during a bar scene in an episode of “The Event”. You can watch the episode in its entirety here, or you can just jump to 17:30 to see the beating go down. It looked like Hollywood-style mismatch magic to me until I learned Ritter plays an alien. Best not to mess with the green people, buddy, although I still think you got robbed.

In other cast member news, our resident Roma Gypsy, Evgeniya Radilova, is being singled-out by critics for her laudable portrayal of a thwarted bride-to-be in the Marvell Repertory Company’s production of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding.

Evgeniya (right) wrestles a woman for the last "musical chair". Or something close.

What they’re saying is pretty heady stuff: “Radilova’s smoldering performance marks her as a young actress definitely worth watching…” (theatermania.com), “She also has the rare gift of portraying uncontrolled passion without making it look ridiculous. Her character’s struggle with her emotions is painfully visible and vividly real…”, (curtainup.com), and one critic even used her performance to comment on the productions as a whole by recalling, “the beautiful naturalness and magnetic performance of the bride (Evgeniya Radilova) whose authentic accent only puts undo emphasis on the others who haven’t one…” (oscaremoore.com).

So, yeah, I’m a little proud of my peeps. And there’s plenty news of their triumphs to come, so watch this space. Now, for those of you who skimmed all of the above to find out what happened with my drainage pipe, you’ll be happy to know that I called my HVAC service company and they’re heading out today to re-clamp it to the side of the building. That should stop the banging.

It would appear we’re all winners, today.

Monster Maniacs…

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

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.

Eliza Lowell: Nicole Vogt-Lowell

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

The first thing you may notice about Nicole is that her last name eerily matches the last name of the character she is playing. Before you think I forced her to add anything in a moment of method madness, I’ll tell you that it was just one of those happy accidents that happens when a project is generating its own gravity. And to play Eliza, you most certainly needed to understand all matters grave.

Enter Nicole, who shared with me a somewhat nomadic upbringing that seemed to inform her understanding of being disconnected, and also her comfort at new challenges. Watching her is watching pure, innate talent in action. I don’t think I took a single breath the first time I heard her read.

Nicole’s only just beginning in the industry, but the instant you meet her you know there’s something truly special about her: a friendly, free spirit with perfect emotional pitch. Part bohemian with delightful hints of gypsy, she’s a huge force of nature in a pretty, petite frame. There are many wonderful worlds in this one, and I’m honored to have her aboard.

Dr. Dmitrije Radan: Chris Kies

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

When I first envisioned the character of Dmitrije Radan (de – MEE – tree  ruh – DAN), I kept seeing Anthony Hopkins in my head. The good doctor was senior and slow, sidling up to Eliza’s booth like a weary, old vaudeville vet. I needed him to be lonely and vulnerable, yet wise with a touch of inner power. Only Hopkins could do it, or so I was convinced.

As it turns out – and I’ve been saying this far more often than I care to admit – I was wrong. Chris completely rewired my thinking on Dr. Radan, and I didn’t have to sacrifice those qualities that made the character and the story click. Kies can add hard miles with a slouch, and in the next moment bring the leading man with a squint. What’s more, he’s got the energy to keep up with Nicole. His commitment to the role makes me feel privileged, and there has been for some time now only one man who could do the job.

Wendy Whipper: Michal Sinnott

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

The character of Wendy was the very last role filled. In many ways, she was the most important character in the film because she represented horror fans to her core. The convention was her planet; its people, her subjects. You get the feeling she has something of a hard time of life when she’s not strutting her stuff around its “hellowed” floors. Casting her began with taking a shot at actresses with a very specific look, to finding the “real thing”.

Then inspiration hit – or more accurately, Michal. We’d be in contact since the beginning, and she understood the story and characters so well. Easily, one of the finest actresses I’d seen during the audition process, the film kept telling me it needed her and finally delivered with an idea: Wendy, as I had written her, was wrong. She was a tough chick with a squishy heart, alright, but she was hell on wheels for a reason: she wore them. Skates, specifically. Michal jumped in with both sets and has floored me with her research on the roller derby queen who isn’t so tough off the flat track.

Francis Grando: Raymond Turturro

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Every director needs at least one member of the cast who brings a touch of untamed street cred to the party; someone who puts the hair on the dog. The thing is, you can’t just pull some dude off the corner and stick him in without seriously endangering set cachet. He needs to exude a lovable air of lawlessness, yet maintain a staunch professionalism and caliber of performance that says he can hang with the pack. If he also brings a “young Nic Cage” to the table, well, you’re in business, aren’t you?

Yes, yes you are. Ray‘s mission – one offered to him on the very first day of auditions – was to lighten the mood while maintaining a critical, furtive undercurrent that could keep us guessing. I’m still thrilled he accepted it.

Lorena Downing: Kelly Marchand

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Sometimes you search and search for an actor that matches the character in your mind’s eye. It’s similar to online dating: you put your info out there and what comes back almost always forces you to rethink your original standards. Then other times, you go poking around the Interweb, spot a “follower” photo about the size of a postage stamp at the foot of a website, trace it back to another website, click on an acting reel, and come face-to-face with a perfect match. Bonus points if you instantly become a fan. Double bonus points if your perfect match reads the script and doesn’t laugh at you.

Put a check next to scenario #2 for Kelly, a super talent who’s been kind enough to stay this side of mega-stardom long enough for me to turn her head for a role.

Dane Harding: Erik Audé

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

The character of Dane Harding required an actor with good looks, an imposing physique, and the willingness to accept a sharp kick to the ego. Trolling for a fit brought varying degrees of luck. As luck had been having it, lately, I happened upon an actor that suited the role, and then some.

Erik Audé went from actor, to unyielding survivalist, to poker champ, and back to actor in a story that rivals any scriptwriter’s wildest adventure fantasies. More importantly, he had talent. He’s one of those guys whose acting reel and real-life-reel is arguably more interesting and exciting than most tent-pole films. And he sported a list of credits that tempted me to contact him out of the blue.

With little fanfare, he expressed he wanted in. I weighed what I knew, and hey…if you’re making a serious horror film and you don’t hire a guy with the nickname “Death Row”, you might as well hang it up.