Wednesday, May 31, 2006

We are slowly creeping up on the first day of on-set special FX for Closet Space. This Friday we dive headlong into the practical FX abyss by tackling one of the two or three most disturbing setpieces of the movie. The more time I spend with our nutty FX crew, the more I realize that the movie is going to kick major f*&king ass. These three guys are coming up with really gruesome, sick, wet, and inventive ways to make our deviant little dreams a reality. I've been sitting at their apartment/fx shop (thanks Matt) watching a little of the process and it's pretty freaking cool. There's a bust of Evan (Laurie) on the table, tentacles hanging from the ceiling, fake teeth on the counter, and a broken bone gag sitting on the couch...and this is just stuff they made in the last 24 hours. Tomorrow they are casting Tim (Professor Polanco) for the big final sequence, so that should be interesting.

We've also had to tackle a few last minute obstacles in addition to the FX stuff. First, one of our locations was iffy for a while, but we got that nailed down today, and it looks like we'll get more use out of the place than we initially thought. Secondly, we had a cast member back out at the last minute (this seems to be becoming typical for my productions), and I initially planned on excising the role completely, but our lighting director Stacy came through in the clinch. He made a casting suggestion, and we met up with the actress this evening and sealed the deal. They say everything happens for a reason, and our newly-minted Monica is the perfect fit for the role, and the cast as a whole. Plus, she's a bad-ass theatre actress, so she'll fit right in with the shooting and blocking vibe for the movie. I only wish that I had found her sooner, but there's always the sequel. Danielle, meet Closet Space. Closet Space, Danielle. You two should get along famously.

On the "everything happens for a reason" tip again...our recasting the Monica role has now reduced the on-screen Witchcraft carryover quotient to one and a half. (I only count Peyton as a half because he himself was a last-minute replacement, and he dies pretty early on in Witchcraft.) That makes me feel a little bit better about the project. Honestly...I compromised the f*%k out of Witchcraft 13 both cast and crew-wise, mainly because of the nature of the project and the timeframe that we were dealing with. As such, there's kind of a black cloud around the whole thing for me at this point. It's like the albatross around my neck. It's nice to be able to not have to "settle" for Closet Space, even if sometimes those choices are forced. I guess that will teach me not to be lazy with casting next time. Note to fellow filmmakers: there are good actresses out there that are okay with nudity and disturbing just have to know where to look.

And the bad person/curmudgeon/reprobate/shit-talker culling continues....actually, now that I think about it, there's almost no one left from the flotsam and jetsam that I managed to pick up on my journey from being a UT film-school transfer to "dark, Lovecraftian monster movie" director. I'm guessing that somwhere along the way I'll encounter more jackassery, but as of yet, no one's really shown their ass on Closet Space. Good God...have I actually made a professional step up?

Friday night is our big death/rape/assault setpiece, and then Saturday is our long night shoot at Texas Rock Gym. Some of the actors and crew headed out to TRG on Memorial Day to get their rock legs, and that went extremely well. Here's a picture of Melanie scaling the wall like a woman posessed:

Monday, May 29, 2006

And now week two of shooting is behind us.

This weekend we started shooting some plates for effects shots, as well as the first few shots inside the "closet" set. We also caught some pickups that we missed last weekend, and finished shooting out some of the previous sequences as well.

Things got a little rough on Saturday night, but we were able to catch up on Sunday. There are still some things that I have issues with as far as the production goes, but the footage looks even better than last week, so I guess it's all okay. I just have this niggling fear that we are headed for a full-tilt disaster once the effects shooting begins - which is this coming Friday.

Speaking of effects, the FX team arrived from Tampa, Florida late Saturday night. They didn't have much to do this weekend, but we talked about achieving some of the gags for the upcoming shots. They also had a chance to start casting some of the leads for their prosthetics. For example, check out this picture of Evan (who is playing Laurie in the film):

This is why I am a horror filmmaker.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Days of Future Wasted

Ugh - just got back from a midnight screening of X3.

It was pretty much as bad as I thought it would be. Actually, maybe just a bit worse. Not quite Batman and Robin bad, but pretty close. I should have just stayed home and pulled out my comics and wiped my butt with each issue of X-Men, because that's basically what Brett Ratner and company did. Not only that, they peed on the ashes of the divergent yet rich continuity of the first two films.

All the more reason that I believe Bryan "they should have waited for me to end the series with some grace, elegance, and an understanding of things besides massive stunt setpieces" Singer is going to deliver a massive bitch-slap with Superman Returns.

But, as is usually the case...I'm sure the public will eat up the fetid, stillborn mess that is X3. Baa baa masses. Baa baa.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Closet Space cast photo, with DP Will Molina horning in on the action. From top left: James LaMarr (Jack), Will Molina (Director of Photography), Peyton Wetzel (Glen), Jovan Jackson (Dallas), Morgan McCarthy (Kristen), Melanie Donihoo (Nancy), and Evan Scott (Laurie).

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Well - the first weekend of Closet Space is now behind us. As per usual, things got off to a shaky start on the first night before the crew had time to gel. By late Saturday we had fallen into a rhythm, although we were still moving a bit slow for my taste. The shots look great though, and my new AD, lighting, and sound guys are proving to be invaluable crew additions.

The cast that I've lined up for the movie is phenomenal so far, and I'm really happy with all the beats and performances. They bring the characters to life so well that I almost don't want to make them all die horrible grisly deaths. Almost.

This evening (Sunday) we did a character burn for the movie. That was pretty cool, and we even had the Ledbetter Volunteer Fire Department on set for the stunt. Makes me feel like a real-live moviemaker.

The funniest thing I've noticed so far during production is the cast/crew dynamic. Both groups immediately became segregated unto themselves this weekend. Even my wife (a member of the cast) rarely spoke to me over the shoot weekend, unless we were "on set" and actively shooting. I feel like I'm in Hollywood already.

Now it's time to decompress and start getting ready for the next batch of shoot hell.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

We start principal photography on Closet Space tonight (Friday the 19th) at about 9 PM. Of course, I'm going through the usual pre-shoot maelstrom of emotions...but overall I have a good feeling about this production, and I'm really stoked to get some of this sick imagery off of the page and onto the screen.

If everything gels correctly, I will also have the closest thing to a "full" crew than I've ever had the luxury of working with before. It will be nice not having to wear ten hats at once.

We had another cast reading last night, and the vibe was awesome. The principal cast is gelling nicely, and they are all looking forward to digging in to the material. Wow...maybe I'll actually have a positive experience with positive people for once. Who would have thought? Then again...after my "dark college days", spinning my tires in local bands, taking part in stillborn hubris-driven projects (record labels, TV shows), and the general mess and craziness that was/is Witchcraft 13....I guess I was about due for something fun and rewarding. And just as I was about to become a crotchety old scenester. Or...worse yet...a movie critic. (-shudder-)

Marcus (our special FX guy) is hard at work on tentacles as we speak. I can't wait to see them. More importantly, I can' t wait to make them do horrible, vile things on screen.

Guess I better crash...long day ahead. Actually...long month and a half ahead. Here we go again. Of course, I would have it no other way.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

...and the more or less finished version (sans ceiling, and with one panel missing for access):

The evolution of an extra-dimensional wormhole-in-a-closet set:

Monday, May 15, 2006

And here we are. This Friday we begin principal photography on Closet Space. As always, this week has been and will continue to be a whirlwind of last minute preparation. In the last few days I've had to wrangle wardrobe and equipment, go out to the set to build some more on it, do final shotlists and schedules, and storyboard a little. Next, I have to go out to the set AGAIN to finish what we were not able to on Saturday, start dressing the house a bit, set up my new laptop with DVRack (which should be a massive help to us on the set), meet with the AD, DP, and VFX guys on Tuesday, read with the actors again on Wednesday, meet with our last-minute replacement sound guy and boom guy, and then head out to the house to shoot on Friday night. Crazy. Fortunately this first weekend of shooting is comparably light, although not without its challenges. I'm very interested to see how the cast and crew gels while we are out on location. Hopefully we won't have any mutinies, blowups, injuries, show-mances, or selling-out this time around. Then again...that's probably too much to ask. I'll probably stick with "Please, O Lord, may the tentacles look really cool".

Sunday, May 07, 2006 is building.

Back and thoroughly exhausted from our first set-building weekend. A few of the crew and I set out to our farmhouse location in Ledbetter, Texas to start construction on some prectical sets. Saturday started out bleak, as we hit the road about 5 AM only to encounter a hellish typhoon en route to the location. It was almost bad enough to make me turn around. Almost. We made it to the Home Depot by 6:30 AM, and then to the location by 7:30 to await delivery of the materials. Upon their arrival, we began to construct the closet/entryway and then created some false boulders and berms for landscaping. By this point it was beginning to clear up, and the rain had made it kind of cool outside, so it worked out for the best.

We also found ourselves within listening distance of Austin's 101X, which was probably my favorite station when I lived there, and it continues to kick ass to this day. Within an hour we heard the Pixies, Fugazi(!), Flaming Lips that wasn't "She Don't Use Jelly", Danzig, and Mama Said-era Lenny Kravitz. It reminded of the fact that Houston has the shittiest radio on the planet, but also reminded me of why I sometimes miss Austin so much. If Closet Space is a success, maybe I can talk the wife into moving back up there. It would make a lot of sense at that point. We'll see.

I was packing heat the whole time of course (because you never know what can happen to a bunch of mostly non-whites in the somewhat desolate farmlands of Texas), and nearly shot Oliver when he got up in the middle of the night to pee. Fortunately, I came to my senses quickly enough before I gave Ollie the full Cheney treatment. It's a good thing too, because he really knows his way around building an interdimensional closet gateway atrium.

We are heading back up to Ledbetter this weekend to finish up construction and start "dressing" the set a bit for the shoot that begins in two weeks. Things are picking up in a massive way. I hope that we are ready.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Year in Review

Here's a review of Witchcraft 13: Blood Of The Chosen. I'm glad that some people out there "get it". One thing is certain: I'll never make fun of Jason X again.