Another Hurdle…

September 19th, 2011

…behind us after a weekend at the beach. Cape May Point was as accommodating as we remembered, even if the weather gave us a few scares. But scares are a big part of our business, and one particular bit of footage takes our indie project up a notch in that category. I want so badly to share some of the images, but suffice it to say there was lots of blood, plenty of guts, and no small amount of rage. And that’s just from the crew!

Kidding. There’s still plenty to do, though. By my calculations we need two more hotel interior shoots of 2-3 days each, one hotel exterior shoot of 2 days, and one bar/restaurant shoot all before Halloween. Then it’s single pickups here and there for which I will be mostly drunk. I believe I’ve earned it. We all have.

Thanks again to the Cape May Point massive for being such a sweet, supportive bunch. To have a look at what we were able to do thanks to their good graces, you know where to go.

The Stuff of Nightmares…

August 26th, 2011

…often makes for good films: in particular, horror films. It can also make for great documentaries, and had a camera crew been following the HorrorCon team this past weekend at Monster Mania 19, they might have captured behind-the-scenes gold.

In anticipation of unforeseeable problems ahead of our four-day convention shoot – the second and last of our production – I reserved a room at the hotel on Wednesday night. The convention wasn’t scheduled to begin until five o’clock Friday, but I was hoping to get a few scenes in the can that had managed to escape our grasp in previous outings, on Thursday. I figured a day in advance would put me in good position to hit the ground running. First order of business: secure shooting privileges at the hotel pool for a very important scene involving our west coast contingent. Forget all the communication about obtaining permission that I’d been having with the hotel since March, I still had yet to finalize the details. There was never going to be any other way but last-minute, well after I’d booked the airline tickets for my actors.

The meeting with my liaison was short: I was to find out “yay or nay” sometime in the following days. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, so I grabbed my key set PA, Albert Vai, and headed out back to work on an alternative solution outside of the fenced-in pool area. Luckily, the hotel has a grassy “backyard” with benches and some castle-like hardscaping that would more than do the job. It would be dark, but we had lights, and the new space opened up some convention views through several large windows. I felt confident we’d get permission to shoot there, especially if we were turned down for the pool area that I had been asking about for the better part of five months. And I was right; the next day I learned that we were allowed two hours in the pool area before it got dark – no good for our needs – but for a fee I could have the more pastoral, benched setting until 1 am. Done.

Then came Thursday morning, and a phone call from Kelly saying she couldn’t get on her flight. As it turns out, it was my name on the ticket thanks to a miscommunication between myself and the online booking site I had used. Double the price later, Kelly was on her way through the air. I would find the money, I thought to myself. The important thing was she would be here for three key scenes. Once again, crisis averted and we were soon up and getting some great footage.

Until the power outtage. Imagine, if you will, a 14-floor hotel filled to the brim with conventioneers slowly beginning to boil from a lack of air-conditioning. I managed to climb the twelve floors to our food room in case I needed to avoid any spoilage, even if I had little idea what I was going to do about it. And there I sat, alone, wondering if the power would return so that we may continue our quest, or if the blackout would last several days as it had once before. You might think I was beside myself with frustration as I watched the angry, black clouds begin to dump their contents on the full parking lot below, but that wasn’t the case. I had expected multiple weather delays as the forecast was filthy with scattered thunderstorms, and this was just another example of unwanted circumstances asserting themselves beyond my control. If I have done everything I can in my power to get the job done, I only lose valuable energy worrying over things outside my power. Depressed? A little. Despondent? Never. And I even took a cool little elevator ride in total darkness save the red floor numbers ticking by that had me wondering if I would get stuck between floors with a few other folks who had also braved the idea. The hotel wasn’t pleased with us, but what they needed to understand was that, for a horror fan, this was an experience to relish for years to come.

Luckily, power was restored in a little under two hours, and my already tired crew was ready to rock. We got some incredible footage both inside and outside the convention, and this time around I felt we were given a little more slack. We still had issues with the fire marshals, but after the other calamities, they seemed to leave us alone. We were the least of their worries, and before long we were crossing scene after scene off of our list. Some outdoor night shooting over wet pavement capped the day’s take, and I’m pretty sure everyone felt satisfied with what we’d accomplished. Even the next morning, after learning that one of our cast spent the night with stink bugs in the economical lodging we’d reserved, and for some of us, shared, smiles greeted the sun. It was going to be a very long day that would finish well into the night, and all we had to be was perfect.

And we were, for the most part. After another bit of pre-planning with the sports bar/club across the street had fallen through forcing us to explain our presence to no fewer than five “managers” (all of whom were extremely nice and helpful, I must add), we made our way to their second floor to shoot our bathroom scene. We wrapped on-schedule, collected our things, and headed back to prepare for the big scene by the pool. We had three hours to get what we needed, and I thought it might be just enough. It wasn’t. There would be bargaining and begging with security guards to squeeze out another two hours but we did it, and literally crawled back to our rooms with barely enough energy to remove our sweaty clothes. But we slept with the knowledge that, if all went baseline normal on our last day, we would nail the remaining scenes and get out early.

If I’ve learned one thing from this production, it’s to never, ever expect things to go easily. Sunday started off well, with our stealing a few quick shots of various booths in the vendor’s hall. We met some delightful people, and I was happy to be able to include their original art and other passionate ventures in the shoot. For a few, blissful hours, we circulated among them, and I was reminded on many occasions why I was making this film in the first place. I love horror conventions, and admire the talent, hard work and determination that goes into every booth. Vendors don’t push their sales, or – ironically – play the victim if they’re not doing well. They’re a peaceful, happy bunch by and large, and it was a joy to give them a shot at a little screen time.

After lunch, it was time to set up for the last two scenes of the day. We had most of the afternoon and evening to get them, and we were set up in record time in the one room in the hotel we knew better than any other: room 1243. Sure, we were beginning to show signs of pronounced fatigue, but everyone was willing to grind it out and I was feeling more hopeful than ever. In doing so, I set up myself up for some profound disappointment. But hey, I can’t help feeling good about things. That’s the kind of guy I am. How was I to know that an interpersonal conflict among us would result in a totally avoidable fracas that would see one person sent to urgent care and our entire shoot stutter into an irreversible stall? I’m told that these things happen. To that I say no, weather and electrical outtages “happen”. It was in my power to stop it and I will not be so naive again.

So all in all, the shoot was a success; just not the success it should have been. We dodged many bullets, and while we may have crossed the finish line bloodied and weary, we crossed it nonetheless. As always, there is pictorial proof on the HorrorCon Facebook Page. Coming up: we go back to the beach before the turning of the leaves.

Ghosts From Our Past…

August 9th, 2011

…haunt us for a reason; they remind us that things need fixing. They protect us from ourselves, from others, and sometimes, others from us. Guilt, shame, remorse, Gypsy – whatever the name, our ghosts lash themselves to our rudders and steer us. If we deal with them properly, we might avoid the rocks for the safety of the shore. One thing is certain: they won’t leave until we do.

Similarly, the ghosts of our set have taught us many things. We’re a small crew of varied experience adapting to a business that ain’t no business at all, and we often run into problems. Some of them are avoidable, others are not. All can be learned from, and as we head into the final third of our journey it feels at once like we’re getting close, and that the end is barely in sight. We’re tired, but willing. The stuff is very good – some of it miraculous given our limited budget and resources – and it’s helping to ease the pain on some very sore backs.

Next up is our second Monster Mania convention. We’ve got a few important scenes to shoot among the throngs, and a few added scenes that continue to haunt us from shoots past. The weekend also marks the return of our West Coast contingent, and we’re very excited to see them again. When and where, is as follows:

Thursday, August 18th (10 am) – Sunday, August 21st (late evening), Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, NJ.

And as always, the HorrorCon Facebook Page has a few killer stills from our last shoot.

HC Scares Up a Little Press…

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.

Hotel, No-Tell…

July 26th, 2011

To borrow another line from popular culture, what happens on set stays on set. It’s frustrating when you’ve witnessed some exciting things and can’t tell anyone about them, but you put your film in a much weaker position if you dribble out details without a plan. But allow me to say that we dug our way through some very important scenes this weekend in the midst of two family reunions and one deacon convention. And the only extra expense was a bottle of expensive tequila. Not for us, but for the chap in the room next door who’s date was a little freaked out by Nicole’s screaming, and from whom we wanted as much silence as possible. Everyone ended up happy.

So yes, our crew of ten worked three long days and what we captured invigorated all present and gave the film new momentum. Again, we didn’t get as much done as we may have wanted, but we’re still in sight of our goals and a little wiser about a few things. For one, none of us will eat shellfish that’s a few days old as it nearly cost us our DP. For another, it can be handy to check that your footage is, in fact, alive and well on your memory card before you move on. Little stuff like that can save you lots of time, money and pangs of crushing regret.

The next shoot falls on August 4th and 5th, (and possibly another day before or after to make up for what we didn’t get), and it’s another big one. We’re shipping in a few specialists in the form of some very talented actors, and I’m soliciting the help of friends and family to act as fans of our author character. I’ve got a few takers, but could use a few more. It’s a day of standing around with moments of concerted effort, but there’s food, fame and a few memories for those who make the trip. If you’re reading this and it sounds like your idea of a good time, shoot me an email. Men, women, tweens, teens, and toddlers may apply. If you’re something else, please contact me right away. You’ll be up front.

Indie United HC rides again in a week and change. Until then, here are some stills.

A Garden State of Mind

June 28th, 2011

Another weekend, more footage; that’s the short of it. The long version is we embarked on yet another breed of adventure in our journey toward finé. So far, we’ve gone from live convention, to windy beach, to intimate enclosure, to busy motorway (that’s computer-generated motorway for all you insurance companies and film commissioners out there). And again, we lucked out on the weather. Our skies and surroundings remain consistent from March, which for New Jersey is somewhat lucky. That said, New Jersey is known to be pretty schizophrenic, so short of snowfall we might always be able to get away with a few raindrops here and there as long as they don’t ruin our exterior props. Here’s hoping that kind of luck holds up come August when we’re shooting at an outside pool and in a hotel parking lot.

Next up are a few leftover beach scenes – including a particularly striking special effect surprise – and a couple of driving pickups. If all goes well (and it better), we’re back to the hotel for some intense, dramatic sequences. There, we’ll be learning the best angles of a medium-sized hotel room, and how to best tell our story within them. Then we break into the hallways for an impromptu dance number complete with acrobatics. That may or may not be true, but you’ll have to wait and see.

The next shoot dates are as follows:

Beach/Driving Pickups – July 12th and 13th, or 13th and 14th.

First Set of Hotel Scenes – July 21st and 22nd, 22nd and 23rd, or 23rd and 24th

I’ll be updating as I receive final confirmations from cast and crew. Then it’s look out August, here we come. ‘Til then, here are a few more stills for you to look at.

Not all indie-horror films…

June 8th, 2011

…can be tarred with the same brush. I think that goes doubly for HorrorCon. This past weekend only went further to prove to me that we may doing something unique, here. That’s not to say it’s an “art film” or “experimental cinema” or even “groundbreaking”, but it is starting to reveal itself in ways that feel wholly uncalculated. Pardon me if that sounds facile, but as it often happens, the film is taking on a life of its own and in this case I think I know why.

The novella was inspired by sources quite distant to the genre in which we’re attempting to tread and adapted with as tight a script as I could write, yet one that invited creative collaboration by design. I wanted an improvisational, exploratory vibe, which meant my hiring and casting had to be spot on. If it was, I could let the players – both in front and behind the camera – run a little off the leash and still stay well within our strict, budget constraints. Up to the point of this shoot, it was hard to tell exactly what was happening. I was pleased with what we were getting, but where earlier shoots required wrangling with crowds and ever-shifting conditions, this one occurred completely inside a closed, indoor set. This allowed for a far more relaxed group, and within an hour we had transformed a small, seaside cottage into one character’s gut-wrenching, domestic hell. Luckily for us, we were able to add to an already entropic environ with touches that revealed character while piercing the heart. From there, we moved at our own pace with only the subtly shifting, slightly fading, always filtering light acting as our stopwatch. Even in that context, we had back-up if need be. Reminiscent of imaginative childhood games, we were free to play until our internal batteries ran dry.

The results were startlingly real, and often sublime. Another baby step in a long walk to glory, but one well worth taking. The dates of our next step are still being decided, but I’ll be savoring this one until then. I think we all learned how much of the story will be grounded, and where our core energy will sit. And for damn sure we learned the role of the slider dolly in our filmmaking future. Thankfully, we learned how to set it up and break it down quickly, because I have a feeling we’ll be using it quite a bit in the next round and beyond. The key is to not let it dictate our perspective, but keep it ready in our quiver for when its services best convey our vision.

Lastly but not leastly, congratulations go to our prolific Roma Gypsy, Evgeniya Radilova, for her outstanding performance in Natalia Pelevine‘s stunning two-woman show, I Plead Guilty. The run ended May 29th, but the word is they’ll be taking the show into Washington, D.C. Great stuff, and good luck. Erik “Dane Harding” Audé also continues to throw his weight around on the tube, including work in a few episodes of TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles. We wish him luck with that pending HBO dealie, too.

That’s all for now! You can check out the HorrorCon Facebook Page for some stills from the shoot, if you like. Of course, stay tuned for new shoot dates, and please: stay out of the sun.

Rise, Conners, Rise!

May 20th, 2011

There is shooting to be done, by gods. Specifically, it’s time to finish what we started and start anew. The footage from the Cape May Point shoot has at last been reviewed, and lordy does it look good. The waves continued to crash all day thanks to the high winds and abruptly sloping shore, and while the sun eventually came out and the sky turned blue, there was no mistaking the mood of that beach: angry, insistent…tormenting. There will be some re-shooting – just a few short sequences – another scene shot utilizing a very dead fish, and then it’s off to Eliza’s plagued domicile to get a deeper sense of her doomed existence. If I can find a car that will work as her similarly weathered transportation, we could go into Sunday with a few more scenes.

Speaking of cars, if anyone has or knows anyone who has a small-ish, scratch-and-dent hatchback that they wouldn’t mind renting us for the day (or lending for some sweet prizes/credits), please send me an email or message us on our Facebook page. A picture would be appreciated if you can swing it. Black is very good, but we’re open as long as it says, “artsy, slightly complicated, a little sloppy”. Volkswagen Golfs and the like tend to be cute and Gothic, also a match.

Here are the shoot details:

June 4th (5th) – Cape May Point

June 24-25 – Crowne Plaza Hotel

I’ll be sending individual emails with further instructions as soon as I figure out what the hell that means. Suffice it to say there will be more details involving transport, lodging, wardrobe and other minor considerations. In the meantime, head on over to the HorrorCon Facebook Page and check out some killer stills from the last shoot, and if you’re in a shopping mood, check out our Yellow Horse Productions & Publishing merch shop for some cool HorrorCon shirts and hats! A small portion of the proceeds goes to funding our production.

Take scare!

As the Sun Sets…

May 2nd, 2011

…on the HorrorCon Kickstarter pledge drive and another successful, adventure-filled shoot, we salute everyone who opened their hearts, wallets and several cans of wicked, windburned, kick-ass. Sunset Beach barely knew what hit it when our cast and crew of eleven strong rode up to the wind-beaten shores of New Jersey’s southernmost tip.

The weather forecast threatened sun and warmth, which would have brought out droves of diamond hunting locals and tourists, but a few phone calls to my old friend Mother Nature meant chilly, blustery conditions that attracted only a relative handful of cooperatively cool fisherman, and later, a few, small groups of beachcombers. And as always, the very lovely Sunset Gifts and Grille folks were accommodating with their restrooms and well-wishes. I’m sure few will forget the very bloody nose of one of our important, minor characters as he took his lunch break amongst them. Patrick James Dean was well on his way to becoming Patrick James Dead and he had his share of fun with it, asking for band-aids and answering inquiries about falling off his bike. Small children were held close to their guardians as he strolled around the grounds; a tribute to SFX master Tony Mandile who traveled all the way from Toms River to bless our production with his prodigious talents. A great guy who got stuck in with us on the beach whether he was needed at the moment or not, he and every last Conner refused to let the difficult conditions work the smallest complaint from their lips. What can I say? My peeps, from the bare-legged star of the film to my nerve-pinched DP, rolled around in the stony sand as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do on a Saturday in late April.

This is one tough fucking bunch. I love ’em all.

Special thanks to my good buddy Chris Livezey for stepping into his roll with smiling aplomb. In fact, we had to remind him to stop smiling so much! Thanks go also to Jason Goodrich for not only helping us get some insanely cool shots, but standing in front of the camera and absolutely killing his role as leader of the wrecking crew. In all, from top to bottom, we had solid, sustained efforts to make this film the best it can be, and I couldn’t be more pleased and satisfied. I hope everyone got some quality rest after they celebrated with their libations of choice, because I know I did.

Before I go, let me address the Kickstarter project. Those visiting this blog might look at our falling well short of our goal as a failure. Technically, it is. Those who pledged via the website will keep their extremely generous offerings and are left with the decision to send them to Yellow Horse Productions again, via check or cash, for the same rewards. In fact, everyone who chooses to send us money of any amount will receive a name credit plus the other promised rewards, and those who pledged on the higher slope of the scale will become associate producers. For all those who weren’t able to pledge at this time, or simply forgot, we still love you. If you do find yourself in a giving mood, feel free to contact us with any amount you’d like to donate. We’ll gladly, and humbly, accept. After all, I expected a few bucks from a large network of people. That’s not what went down, but what did go down simply floored me. This is no failure, by any stretch, and I won’t hear that from anyone.

Expect another post soon with a few stills from this past weekend, and I’ll be working on dates for the next round of principal photography. And huge thanks to everyone: the cast, the crew, the people at Sunset Beach, and everyone who sacrificed their walk along the small stretch of beach that became our set. You can’t possibly know what an amazing experience you’re all helping deliver to me, and how unbelievably grateful I am to each and every one of you.

(Above poster design courtesy of Lisa de Araujo)

HorrorCon News…

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.