Wednesday, August 31, 2005


We may be doing reshoots this weekend along with all of the office stuff. Deceptively easy stuff.

I found out that I'm not getting the money I'm owed on this paycheck either - which should make for an interesting weekend of shooting.

Also found out that our lodging for the cave weekend was booked out from under us, so now we have to find an alternate (read: more expensive) housing option for that weekend. Barrels of fun.

And in other news, I will probably be busting heads at Screamworld once again this year. I think our esteemed Director of Photography, Will Molina, will be joining us. I'll need the extra scratch to dig myself out of this hole that I'm in.

But I'm still having fun, of course.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Quickening

I think I finally may have recovered from this weekend - the physical part of it at least. Mentally, I can still feel the scars of remaining fatigue. The first three days of shooting were rough - no doubt about it, with all the stuff that went down: the family showing up, the flash storm, the Mutiny On The Bounty shit...but I took it all on the chin and kept plugging through it with the help of the crew. Special thanks go to Domingo, Oliver, and Kenny - they actually are transcending the petty title of "grip"...maybe I'll invent something new for them once the info starts going up on the IMDb.

I've looked at all the footage we shot over the weekend, and for the most part I'm pretty happy with it. Still on the fence about a few shots and performances, so reshoots/pickups are a possibility - unfortunately the whole "delegation" thing hasn't really panned out yet, so I still have to wear all of the hats at one time or another, and I can't always concentrate on the real "director-y" things as much as I'd like. I think some of the scenes suffered as a result. Thing is, if I wasn't the one-man band at times, then there's no way that we would have gotten finished with everything. Hopefully things will straighten out over this weekend - we defnitely cannot waste time at the bars and the cave (which I found out a few days ago that we have to pay an hourly fee for - not a whole lot, mind you, but I'm not exactly rolling in dough right now). I think it's hard for some of the crew to understand the restraints/requirements of indie filmmaking - a lot of the urgency is lost on them. I guess that's something you learn working on independent films (like I have - many times), but I really would rather not be someone else's learning experience - not with my ass on the line as much as it is on this picture. Jonah says: "I'll get through it/I'll get through it/...Better than this."

This weekend - we shoot all of the Spanner office scenes, and maybe (big maybe) some of the aforementioned reshoots. The office stuff should be a breeze. Should be. I guess we'll see about that, won't we?

I know I sound bitter and tempermental - I am under a great deal of stress (some that I feel is unnecessary) - but there's nothing in the world that I'd rather be doing. Well, maybe directing A Nightmare On Elm Street 9, but you know what I mean.

Here are some pictures from the first few days. Big ups to Kenny Haner for taking them and posting them on his site.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Monday, August 29, 2005

Four To Go

The whirlwind first weekend at Debbie and Raoul's house is now behind us, and with some distance I feel pretty good about it - especially the stuff from last night. Maybe the whole sex stuff just psyched me out subconsciously, because once we started doing straight dialogue and attacks and gore, I had hit my rhythm. Let me try to recap:


We started Saturday night at about 6 PM. Scenes to be shot were all the scenes at Dolores' House, including the dinner/sex scene. We shot the lead-up, and a later scene (the "your brother's dead" scene - oops, SPOILER), and then moved to the back-and-forth with the two cops GENTRY and WHITE. The transition shot to that scene was pretty grueling and time consuming to set up - a dolly/crane shot on a canted Heights street from the location to a parked car further down the side of the street. It took a few tries, but it's a shot I really wanted, and I think we got it. The camera/grip crew and the gaffer team (they overlap a lot - heh heh) did an excellent job on finally nailing down that shot. So we got the cop stuff, and then moved inside for the unskinny bop.

Once inside, we shot the sex scene for Dolores and Will. It turned out pretty well, and was hot without being pornographic. At the end of that, we then shot the remainder of shots that we did not get on Friday night (mainly the magic battle between Will and Keely. Final wrap time: 6 AM. Ugh. But we got it all done, and we got to throw Tim against a wall, and see Roxy teleport and throw lightning. Big shout out to the cast and crew for sticking with me until the end there.


Sunday was supposed to be pretty easy...and it was, considering how Saturday went. We had a simple dialogue scene with Eldridge and Will, and then the Eldridge's death scene. The first monkey wrench is that an evacuating family from New Orleans (with a dog, and a baby, and a small child) had to come crash at the house we were shooting at (they're relatives of the owners). The dialogue scene took way longer than it should have because of some tension on the set, and the recurring noise from above family. I had to pull rank and step in as DP and gaffer for the one scene just to get it done, but we did get it done, in the traditional Mel House run-and-gun shooting style (thank you again, Rebel Without A Crew). By the end of that shoot we had all the shots I'll need, and we were back on schedule. After I talked to some of the crew a bit, the tensions were eased (at least for the rest of Sunday). I think the Hickory Hollow barbecue that our Location Manager Richard got helped morale a bit, too. Thanks a bunch, Rich. While the got the food, we started to shoot the scene where Leandra (Anjanette Clewis) attacks Eldridge. We choreographed it a few times and then knocked it out so that Anjanette could get back to Dallas for work on Monday. It came out well, I think.

We took a break to eat, then Steven Scott (Eldridge) got his gore on for the death scene. Our makeup artist, Ashley Frazier, did a killer job on that stuff. It looked nasty as hell. Exactly what I wanted. We shot Eldridge's dead body, and Spanner's discovery of said corpse, and then we were done. It took about an hour and a half to pack up and get out (Raoul was coming home later that night, plus they had two more evacuating families on the way). We got out by about 11:30, and I crashed by 12:30. Not too bad, considering. Most importantly, the footage looks good.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Day After

Still unsure about how the first day of shooting went. We only got about halfway done with what I intended with my shotlist. I think the problem is that the crew is running inefficiently. There was way too much downtime and screwing around for my tastes. Maybe it will just take a while to get into the groove.

I can already catch whiffs of "too many cooks" syndrome as well. I need to talk to everyone about the fact that this is really not a democracy (although I thought that was patently clear) from the get-go. I don't want your input unless I ask for it. Everyone's got their ideas, and it's cool once in a while, but it starts to happen too much and BAM you only get half of your shotlist done because you're wasting time. I know it sounds dickish, but I've already seen it happen on many other movie sets - and it happened a lot last night.

With all that said, the stuff we did get in the can looked pretty damn good. Lots of cool lighting schema, and the performances were great. Will (Tim) and Keely (Roxy) kick ass.

This afternoon we shoot the Dolores scenes and some of the cops dialogue.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Christmas At Ground Zero

Tonight's the night. We start shooting around 6:30-7 PM. Last night's blocking went really well - the sex will be hot, the magic will be ...magical (?)

I also got a final call from the Chicago producer/writer team just to go over some last minute things. They seem pretty stoked about what they've seen so far (all merely tests), so that makes me feel pretty confident. Although...seeing Witchcraft X made me feel pretty confident, too. We also went over the final contracts and they sent me everything via email at the end of the night. Contracts = Legitimacy.

Next week's shoot is coming together as well as the two bar scenes. Slowly but surely the schedule is becoming a lock.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Tomorrow is the big inagural first day of shooting. Tonight, WILL and KEELY are coming over to block out their big sexual encounter/magic battle. We're also doing some preliminary shot blocking and audio tests. Now i'm just ready to get started.

Mike Wolinski told me that two horror news sites should be contacting us for interviews - one of which will be a set visit. Nice. Now if we can just secure a panel at a Fangoria Weekend Of Horrors, then I can die a happy man.

Just read that 'Superman Returns' is about to take a five-week hiatus. I'm completely shooting a movie in the time it takes them to "recharge their batteries" or chase wallabies, or whatever it is they're doing over there. Crazy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Soothing The Savage Beast

Thank God for the new Coheed and Cambria and Cave-In records. They dampen my ever-increasing urge to kill.

Rehearsal with Will and Laura tonight, then immediately afterwards with Officers Gentry and White.

I also finished doing my shot breakdown of the script - exactly 666 shots.

Okay, not really, but wouldn't that be synchronicity? There are actually 450 shots all told. Now the storyboarding.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Down In A Hole

Last night we tested out the "Ollie Dolly". Works like a champ. Que chevre, Oliver. We will definitely overuse that piece of equipment. Actually, I don't think there was a single moving camera shot in any of the other 'Witchcraft' films. Here's to making our mark on the series through stylistic indulgence.

Afterwards, I met up with Richard to scout out our potential bar scene location. Nice place, with lots of ambiance. Hopefully things will work out with the negotiations (looking good, for once).

Today I went to Texcam to get some gaffers tape and party gels - as usual, they were pretty standoffish, and acted like I was putting them out with my business. Viva La Houston Indie Spirit. And people wonder about "production flight" when just about every person you have to deal with in a industry-related business is as self-important as the pricks at Texcam. Too bad they're the only game in town when it comes to production expendables. Next time, I'm hitting the internet.

After that, I hit the Salvation Army for some wardrobe. The thrift store finery did not disappoint, and I've successfully clothed most of the scenes for this weekend. Cheap though it may have been, I'm still spending money that I shouldn't be, especially in light of the fact that I'm probably never going to see the money that my employer owes me. This movie is going to drive me into destitution for sure.

I just watched Bryan Singer's Comicon footage for 'Superman Returns' for some moral support/inspiration. I'm not crazy about Brandon Routh, but the scene with the "Superman Fanfare" theme underscoring it gave me the nerd-vapors. Having something like that as a light at the end of the tunnel definitely helps me get through this minefield.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Final Countdown

Unless someone else sells me out, here's how we're officially rolling this week:


Will Spanner - Tim Wrobel
Dolores Stevens - Jennifer LeFleur
Laura - Falin Profitt
Eldridge - Steven Scott
Officer Gentry - Lynn Michaels
Officer White - Richard Flood
Ben - Josh Sykora
Skylar - Zoe Hunter
Leandra - Denise Clewis
Keeley - Roxy Vandiver
Clive - Cesar Castillo
Lonely Man - Thomas Kurzy


Director/Editor/Producer - Mel House
Director Of Photography - Will Molina
Key Grip - Domingo Baragan
Best Boy - Oliver Nieto
Location Sound - Mike Canales
Location Manager - Richard Boatto
Makeup - Sarah Ali
Special Makeup Effects - Ashley Frazier
Digital Special Effects - Russell Baldonado

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Saturdays of Thunder

Woke up pretty early yesterday and met up with Oliver so that we could gt some materials for the "Ollie Dolly". I also picked up a few things for the "Vomit Cam" setup, and I hunted down a few of the groundless-to-grounded AC adapters later in the day. We need those for the cave shoot, as the only AC plugs they have are groundless. Hello subterranean fire that kills 20.

After that, Domingo and I went on a quest for the necklaces/insignias that feature prominently into the plot. After receiving a tip from Roxy (one of the witches-to-be), we headed out to Spencer's Gifts in the mall. Lo and behold, they had quasi-wiccan jewelry on the cheap. So now, that plot point is taken care of.

Also got final confirmation from the witch-to-be that lives in New York. She's booked her flight to come down. So all the cast is set - hopefully.

I'm getting used to daily betrayal and the undermining of my confidence in people. I'm starting to believe that it's just an occupational hazard that I have to deal with. At least now it's coming from unexpected places - that spices things up a bit.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Breaking The Broken

Domingo just called me a little while ago and told me he bought some of the effect contact lenses that I could not afford to get for next week's shoot. Him doing that probably will result in a few unpaid bills on his part. Of course, the gesture is much appreciated. It's not that Domingo had to do that, rather, it's the fact that he took a hit because he knew it would improve the quality of the movie. Awesome. Good to know some people are still selfless when it comes down to it.

MINOR DIGRESSION - In case you're wondering why I'm trying to make a movie with a negative bank account balance (I've alluded to this but never explained)...long story short: In April I recieved a title change at work, which was more or less a promotion. With said promotion/title change came much more travel (in addition to the 60 mile roundtrip I already make 5 days a week). I was also supposed to start recieving commission, because my new job title also includes sales aspects along with the production duties (basically this was going to be my raise). I still have not recieved one nickel of the commission that I was supposed to have begun receiving in May. Which puts me at about a $2300 loss at last count. Now combine that with this movie (which is forced to start earlier than expected, before financing is fully in place), and the wedding stuff that I have to pay for, and you get one big financial shit sandwich. So that's where all the "I'm so broke" stuff comes from.

"So why are you doing a movie if you're broke?"

Are you fucking kidding me? I'd rather go broke doing this and hope for the eventual payoff, then live a comfortable, monotony-driven existence hoping for the (unlikely) eventual break to come along.

So the moral of the story? Will - you need to pay my car note for me. Come on man, I know you read this. Take one for the team.

Afro-Latino Engineering

Now we get into the really indie filmmaking stuff. With shooting starting next week, and my job screwing me out of a lot of money, we are starting to construct some things ourselves. Oliver, Domingo, and I are going to build a skateboard dolly (the kind that runs on PVC pipe) this weekend, as well as finish my design for a "vomit cam" (basically a camera that spins on a tight axis on the horizontal plane - to be used for the magic battles). We may even attempt a home-made handheld camera stabilizer (Steadicam) if we have it in us. Hopefully everything will work out, and I won't lose any fingers in the process. At the very least it will make some interesting DVD commentary, and at best we'll join the likes of Raimi, Jackson, and Rodriguez in the halls of the Home Made Camera Support Pantheon. Big thanks to for all the ideas and diagrams.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


And the hits just keep on coming.

Over the last few days I've had to recast a couple of the roles for the movie. One was due to an understandable (and unavoidable) scheduling conflict - I kind of saw it coming, so I had my contingency plan ready to rock. The second one, however, blindsided me and pretty royally pissed me off for a number of reasons (all petty, illogical, and avoidable).

Someone that I really wanted for a lead role basically had a freakout and decided against taking the part. Unfortunately it was one of my three or four pre-audition cast certainties, which kind of jacks with my head in a way. I guess it's nothing new to me - it happened three times on Fade To Black, and the movie only really suffered from one of the roles being recast. Still, it's a major pain in the ass to get the new person up to speed, and get them to read with Will Spanner (the lead character), and hopefully develop some of the chemistry that was there before. Who knows, maybe it will work out for the better. The new people seem pretty excited about the whole deal (as they should be - a lot of people are selling this project short because of it's somewhat questionable lineage - but you'll be in Blockbuster Video, for Christ sakes). I think my dumb luck is running out though - it just so happened that my two replacements were available for the shoot days I had already scheduled. I hope no one sells me out a week prior to their call time. I'd hate to have to end up making out with Will Spanner myself.

Reconfirmed with The Cave With No Name - they're excited to have us, which is cool. The only locations that we're having problems with are the two bar scenes. We were referred to an "indie-friendly" bar in Houston, and when we asked about shooting, they quoted a location fee of up to $2000(!). Real "indie-friendly", that.

Next weekend is our first shoot weekend, so we're preparing for that. We're shooting about half of the sex scenes and one kill scene. Blood and breasts...should be a gas.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Pre-pre-pre production

The first shoot weekend is set (August 26-28). There's only one cast member that's not a lock at this point, and I have his backup (and a backup backup) ready to go if I don't hear from him. Cesar is making it down for one weekend in Spetember to essay the "Casey Becker" role (not his character's name...but I'll leave that reference up to you to figure out). Good to have at least one holdover from Fade To Black...I like continuity like that. I guess maybe Jonah's rubbing off on me. We're still waiting on location locks for the two bar scenes, but I expect those are coming soon. Richard, Domingo, and I have been scouring the flea markets, hippie wicca stores, and internet for props and costuming ideas. Talked to Wes about doing the website. Things are slowly starting to come together - let's just hope they don't blow up in my face.

Friday, August 12, 2005

How Will I Laugh Tomorrow...

We had our first crew meeting last night. It went well, I guess, although the last week leading up to the meeting has been punctuated with instances of me having to tell people that they're not getting paid for working on Witchcraft 13. Then, all of a sudden their attitude changes from being totally dedicated to "eh...maybe I'll make it...if I feel like it". Eat a dick, fair-weather filmmakers. I'm fucking losing money on this deal, and I've got a wedding to pay for in two months, so forgive me if I don't get all misty-eyed because I can't allocate some of the non-existant budget to line your pockets. Trust me, we can and will do it without you. Make sure you don't come around sniffing my ass when this leads to a gig where we actually will make a little dough (which it will).

Thankfully, most everyone else is into the deal for the long haul, it seems, and are willing to work for the credit and prestige of having an actual feature with distribution under their belt. Eighty percent of the crew seems pretty excited and are chomping at the bit to start shooting. One guy even offered to take a $500 dollar personal hit for a specific aspect of the production - which of course paints the dissidents an even darker shade of dick. I've heard back from most of the cast as far as locking down their dates, most of the locations are good to go, the effects (both digital and practical) are coming along nicely. I get to test out the edible hearts this weekend, I think. Yummy. Also meeting with a potential web designer to get that particular cog greased.

Our shoot dates have done the slip and slide a bit, due to Murphy's Law being in full effect. Just like with the crew situation, people that I thought would help me out on the location front are becoming difficult all of a sudden. If you ever want to know where people really stand with you, make a low budget feature. That seems to be a pretty good method of separating the wheat from the chaff. Anyway, now we're starting a week earlier and ending a week later.

I'm going to kick this movie's ass - even if I have to do it all by myself.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Back and Hating Life Once Again

The Chicago trip was a success. I met with the Brothers Wolinski (Mike and Jeff) all day Saturday on matters regarding Witchcraft 13. They pretty much agreed on all my casting choices, and they also liked the cave location, the guy I've chosen to score the movie, and the effects tests. I could tell that Mike and Jeff were getting excited about everything, and it made me feel pretty good. Now they have tangible proof that their faith in me is not a misguided one.

We also discussed their next project (to be lensed later this year, we hope), and I'm excited about that as well.

Saturday night and Sunday we just basically hung out and had fun - Saturday we went bar-hopping (which was actually fun for my teetotaling ass for once), and Sunday we went to Six Flags Great America, which has to be second only to Magic Mountain as far as pure Six Flags coaster madness goes. Needless to say I had a blast, and I'm very excited about WC13. We have our first crew meeting this Thursday, and I'm in the process of making the official offers to the talent.

Also...this weekend has made me really reconsider the whole "move to Chicago" idea. Aside from the fact that my day to day life down here in H-town gets more wrist-slittingly depressing by the hour, the industry up there is starting to boom (Batman last year, Amityville remake, The Break-Up, Die Hard 4 next year), so that aspect of it is promising, plus I really like the friends that I've made up there, both on a professional and personal level. Maybe I need a change of scenery, or a complete reboot - like the Batman franchise. I guess we'll see what happens after Witchcraft 13.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Back In Black

Speaking of getting back into my routine - I'm getting together with John (drummer) for our first band jam in a while. We're trying out another bassist. Hopefully this one will work out...we need to start cracking on the songs for the movie soon (and I wouldn't mind playing out live again).

Last night I had to have one last actress model for me - since we're doing nude scenes, I have to make sure everything's "okay", if you know what I mean. Don't want any surprises when the camera rolls. It sounds scummy, but it's actually very professional...almost clinical in a sense. Fortunately, everything is in order, and all of the actresses that I've chosen so far will work for the roles, and probably turn a few guys on in the process.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Cave - In

We went and visited the cave yesterday. It's the Cave Without A Name in Boerne, Texas. The owner was really cool and accomodating, and he seemed willing to work with us and excited about the project. I'm sure he was relieved when we didn't end up being snotty college kids with no respect for property or the nuances of the subterranian biosphere. I'm excited - the place is beautiful, and constantly 65 degrees year round. The only caveat is the roughly 8 and a half stories worth of steps that we have to traverse to get in and out. Going down wasn't that bad, but going back up nearly made me have a heart attack. It's a good thing I plan on resuming my MMA training next week to get into shape for the shoot. Now that I'm de-stressing a little about the movie, I can free my mind (and my time) up just enough to get back into my old routine a bit. The people on my crew are helping me to do that - they probably don't realize it, but they are becoming a well-honed machine of moviemaking efficiency, which takes a hell of a lot of weight off of my shoulders.

This week I'm finalizing the schedule, editing the test footage together, and getting ready for my meeting with the producers in Chicago. Oddly enough, my next project (not counting the Untitled Wolinski Horror Project) seems to be in the gestative stages - again it's not something that I expected, but it IS a horror movie, so that's good enough for me. It will be nice to have the next project in pre-production while I'm doing Witchcraft 13.