Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Week of The Dead

Principal photography is finally complete - more or less. I still have a few shots to get with Tim Wrobel (Will Spanner) and Melanie Donihoo-House (my wife, standing in for Jennifer LaFleur) just to tighten things up a bit and to do some crazy shots for the final scene. We're also adding more blood, of course.

So how did the final weekend of shooting go, you ask? Well...it fluctuated between mildly crazy and complete and utter clusterf#%k the whole time. Which, truth be told, is par for the course in independent filmmaking.

Here's the Readers' Digest version:

We (meaning Tim, Oliver, Eddie, and myself) got to the cave about 4 PM on Friday and loaded our stuff downstairs to prepare for the next day. No big deal. After that, we check in the hotel and Domingo, Oliver and I proceed to eat at the Chinese Buffet Of The Gods (China Sea off of I-10 and Wurzbach Rd. in San Antonio, if you want to hit it up yourself). We kill time and talk about what's to come. Meanwhile, back at the hotel, the rest of the skeleton cast and crew are trickling in.

By the time we get back to the hotel, all sorts of personal drama is going on between a lot of the cast and some of the crew. Things are a little...charged, and I begin to worry about the smoothness of the next day's shoot. Plus, I made the mistake of going back on my convictions and showing some rough-cut dailies to a few people - big mistake. I will never, ever do that again - and if you are a burgeoning filmmaker, I urge you to take that advice to heart. I could tell the roughness of the scenes (mostly due to the fact that we were missing half of the shots...which we were specifically at the cave to shoot this time around) began to screw with everyone's heads. I got the feeling that some people started to think that I have no clue how to do this.

F%#k you, because I do.

Anyhow, as per usual, everyone except for me gets wasted. I set up and do my shotlist. I should have remembered to lube up my rear end as well. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Saturday we get the clearance to start shooting in the cave at about 1 PM. Since most of the stuff is down there already, we get started relatively quickly and are actually moving at a decent clip. Of course, we pretty much lose all the ground that we've gained so far when it's time to set up the pentagram on the cave floor. This takes forever, and I'm getting bled like a teenager at Leatherface's house. This is when I start to really lose it a little bit, because it seems that my continual battle on this movie set is that no one wants to move with a purpose and get things done as fast as possible. Well, that...and dealing with people constantly complaining, or the myriad of derailing, irrelavant questions at inopportune times that I've already thought and rethought over and over....but I digress. The point is, people moving slow + Mel paying by the hour = one uptight negro director. Plus we were having difficulties with the actors in one scene that we have to shoot...soon it won't be a camera that I'm shooting with, if you know what I mean.

Somehow, amidst all the slow moving, bitching, and moaning we get thorugh the shotlist. The highlight definitely had to be us squibbing up Anjanette for the gunshots and having the blood fly out of her in great gouts. Looked fantastically gory, in a Dead/Alive sort of way. We did split up into seperate units a few times to get through the shots even faster, and that worked rather well.

So, about 9 PM we call a wrap and start packing up...then Melanie runs up to me and says "Anjanette's upstairs, she took the contacts out, and she can't see anything". Slight explanation here: our main group of witches are using cosmetic contact lenses for certain FX shots (rather than us add "glowing eyes" in post - which historically looks like crap). These are the contacts that Anjanette had just removed. Anyway, she was in serious pain. By the time I got up the stairs, chaos reigned supreme. People were freaking out and exacerbating the situation. An ambulance was on the way. The cops showed up. We ended up having to drive Anjanette to the hospital anyway, because the situation was deemed "not an emergency" (this after the paramedic made sure to tell her that other people have been permanently blinded by these lenses). So we head back to San Antonio, and to the emergency room. Melanie and I ended up staying with Anjanette the whole time (which only amounted to about 2 hours - quite expedient for an E.R., and I know from experience), and the final verdict was that even though the pain was intense, Anjanette's eyes were just temporarily traumatized due to lack of oxygen (the contacts are non-permeable). However, she had to wear eyepatches for a few days, which meant that for all intents and purposes, she's still blind for a bit.

Because of Anjanette's temporary blindness, on Sunday Melanie and I ended up driving her and her car back to Dallas (5 hours) and then we headed home to Houston (4 hours). When we dropped Anj off, she had a friend come over to help her out, so she was going to be okay with a little rest and a lot of pain pills. The drive actually wasn't that bad for me (I drive a lot for work), but we were pretty tired after all was said and done. We got home and unpacked, then I went out to meet sound guy Mike and Domingo at Chacho's. Chacho's is my comfort zone.

Mike brought along a hard drive with all the scoring work they did on Sunday at his uncle's studio. The plan was originally for me to sit in while his uncle scored the first scene, but due to the eye-mergency, Will and Mike filled in for me. And I have to say, even though it's preliminary, the score sounds pretty awesome and lends a lot to the movie. It's got a very Nightmare on Elm Street vibe, so of course I dig it a lot.

The footage we got over this past weekend looks really good as well, so I'm excited to start cutting it in the coming days. Big thanks to Mike Burrell and company at the Cave With No Name in Boerne, Texas.

Now that I've pretty much gone through this trial by fire, I have a few tips for anyone aspiring to be part of an independent film, be it cast or crew.

1. Shut the hell up. No one cares if your hair is frizzy, your feet hurt, or you think the shot is taking too long to set up. If you think the director "has no concept of time" when they're paying for the cave by the hour, then you're a f%$king idiot. Make sure you do time on other movie sets, so you have an idea of when things are running smoothly, and when they aren't.

(For the record, we did 29 setups in 8 hours on Saturday.)

2. Yeah, I know you're hungry. When do you think the director ate last? Probably way before you did, if at all.

3. Don't drag ass when you have 29 setups to do in 8 hours.

4. Don't continually ask the director stupid questions. Yes, there are such things are stupid questions.

5. Don't get pissy when the crew is trying to adjust your light. We're trying to make you look good, moron.

6. If you don't have problem solving skills, stay away from the problems to be solved.

The rest will be included in my forthcoming book: Mulatto Without A Gun: How An Independent Filmmaker Managed To Go Completely Insane While Making The Most Recent Entry In A Direct To Video Franchise.

But make no mistake - for all the drama and craziness, we have one hell of a movie on our hands. I can't wait to spring it on the unsuspecting public. This holiday season should be an exciting one.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Back in the saddle again

So the wedding is over, I am now an honest man, and the movie madness can continue in earnest. I have to admit...the break that I was forced into taking because of the nuptials and subsequent honeymoon has refreshed me. I dove into editing the movie on Sunday night, and I've already got the first assembly cut of the inital scene done. It's looking quite good, I think. Next (probably beginning this afternoon) I'll start putting the cave sequences together so that I'll know what coverage we need to shoot next weekend when we return to The Cave Without a Name to get the final shots and wrap the production.

There's a bit of excitement in the air as lots of opportunities seem to be making themselves available to myself and the extended film family - I'm positive that Witchcraft is the Keymaster to the Gatekeeper of opportunity.

The IMDb page is on its way to being complete and accurate, and the official website is pretty much on the same track. Once I get some more space on the web host, I'm going to start throwing some video on the site.

Off to the womblike darkness of the edit bay....