horror

The Lengths We Go To Make a Movie

Behold, an Imported English Zombie Contact Lens.

Angie, as producer of this fine little zombie movie, found herself researching zombie contact lenses after talking with our SFX Make-Up Consultant, Ridgḝ Gḁllagḧḝr. (That’s Ridgḝ, testing make-up designs with zombie spokesmodel Cole Lahti.)

Ridgḝ, quite rightly, holds that its not enough to just slap on some white powder, paint a little fake blood  and black around the eyes and call it an apocalypse. Don’t believe it? Go to Netflix and use the search term zombie. Lots of low budget films, yes? Watch a few. Aaaaand they spent the budget’s other $1.50 on the catering.  In terms of production value, not a lot of it.

And this where I totally dig Ridgḝ’s approach. Besides his very detailed make-up, he talked with Angie about using contact lenses to take the effect farther, plus added effects like objects impaled in our walking dead or burns.

Think of it this way. If our zombies are still wearing the clothes they died in, everything that’s happened to them since is evidenced on these garments and this flesh. When Lex Althoff’s zombie appears on the screen, if she’s got a pencil sticking out of her head like a  poorly aimed harpoon, you can just imagine some poor zombie killer that didn’t live to tell the tale. If Cole Lahti’s zombie shuffles around the Square will one arm charred you can just imagine the fiery fate that could not stop her shamble.

All of which makes for an interesting movie. And production values. And Angie scouring the EU for just the right look in contact lenses. Its the work of Ridgḝ and Production Designer Penelope Davis (costumes, make-up, props and production values) to make this all come to life aaaaand on a budget that matches what big Hollywood movies spend on coffee stirrers at the craft table (unless its a Bruckheimer film. Have you seen his coffee stirrers?!)

The Cool Factor of Zombies…

 Normally we re-post a letter to the editor related to the vital issue of Zombie Voting Rights. Due to an unfortunate SqueeZ Cheese incident in the Crest Top Chronicle news office, Christian H. Smith is no longer allowed to operate technical equipment of any kind, and this week’s letter has been irretrievably lost.  We hope to resolve the situation quickly so that Crest Top community members can continue to make their voices heard across the “interwebby.”

Who knew zombies were so dang popular?! I mean, everybody knows the kids love them some sparkly, broody vampires. But zombies? Zombies are kinda gross and are pretty much the opposite of sparkly. And not so much with the broody romance, since, y’know, missing body parts and corpse stank is kind of a turn off for most folks.

But here is something about the notion of the walking dead that seems to alternately freak out and fascinate people. Remember when zombies were just slow and creepy (White Zombie) instead of those badass super fast 28 Days Later zombies? Yeah, I don’t like those fast ones. Actually, I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t want to run into either variety in a dark alley, or even a brightly lit grocery store with a fully loaded shotgun and tons of extra ammo. No sir. Not me.

I’m still trying to figure out how we ended up making a zombie flick – even one that has a hefty dose of comedy in it – when I can’t stand to sit through horror movies.  They scare the hell out of me. Just ask Andrew about the time we watched “The Silence of the Lambs.” On Fast Forward. With the sound on mute.  It took about 30 minutes and it was one of the longest half hours of my life.

But here we are, just a few weeks out from shooting, and I’m the one telling Penelope, “More blood! There must be serious blood spurtage! And head wounds, yeah, that’s the ticket!” So Penelope is dutifully whipping up a whole gallon of fake blood and working out some lovely, nasty SFX to try out. And we are both laughing like loons and having a great time.

Zombies, man. Part freak out, part fascination, pure fun.

Because We Can!

One of the awesome things about making an indie movie is getting the chance to do some “inside” jokes and references. Dead Votes Society is adapted from a Coyote Radio Theater script written several years ago, but now is our chance to give some of those fab voice actors a chance for some screen time. And the really funny thing? They don’t actually have any lines. It’s one of those details that pretty much nobody but the writers and some hardcore CRT fans with great memories will recognize, but it makes me giggle. A lot.

Then there are the little things that make sense to us, but probably won’t mean anything to the average viewer when all is said and done. But you know what? If you’re gonna go to all the trouble of making a movie, you might as well throw in a few things just ’cause you wanna.

Another perk? Getting to play with fake blood! Andrew decided that he really, really needed to see if Ben Nye’s Stage Blood truly has a “zesty mint” flavor. He pronounced it “pleasant, but not too strong,” while Art Director/Production Designer Penelope Davis gave it the thumbs up for color and consistency. Our actors can rest easy. Our SFX blood is officially director tested and Production Designer approved.

Sequence Out of Shooting

As we prepare for “Dead Votes Society”s October principal photography, I’m thinking about rehearsals and how to help our actors get ready.

Just today, it occurred to me that while most of them have acted for years with Prescott Center for the Arts, Blue Rose Theatre or other organizations, most of them haven’t done much film work.

One thing we’ll need to work on is this: most films are shot out of sequence. It can be a little strange for an actor who’s used to “starting at the beginning and continuing to the end” on the stage – but film is a different kind of theatre.

Since film has a moving viewpoint, the camera and tripod have to be picked up and moved each time the shot is from a new viewpoint. And, the lights have to change too, so the set is let for that viewpoint. Unless you light it for every viewpoint like a sitcom but . . . brr . . . let’s not think too much about what that would look like.

So, we have to move the camera. Which takes time. Many new film actors may not realize just how “hurry up and wait” a film set can be. You’re ready to move on to the next emotion or the follow up double-take to the joke you just made when . . . “Hold for airplane!” Or, “Can someone tape that cuculoris down? The wind is making the shadow move?” “Who’s got an extra C47?” And that acting moment is on hold.

To minimize the down time and to get through the shoot faster (time is still, sadly, money), the director and the DP will make a shot list and then group the shots by where the camera is shooting from.

So, for example, scene two in DVS has 8 shots. Half of them are a straight ahead “two shots” – meaning its just like a regular news broadcast, a shot of two people sitting behind a news desk.

Since half of the shots are from this angle, we shoot each of them and THEN move the camera and re-do the lighting for the next group of shots. That means the actors will perform minutes 1 thru 2 of the finished scene. Then we stop. Re-slate and they perform minutes 4 thru 6. After we move the camera and re-light the stage, then we get to minute 3 and so on.

It takes some getting used to. But its the only way to shoot a nine minute movie in “just” four days.

A Whole Lotta Prep Goin’ on…

Whoa! Auditions are almost upon us and we’re hip deep in prep work. I’ve done more things for the very first time in the past few weeks than I’ve done in years. And y’know what? It’s AWESOME! 

The hubster (Andrew) and I spent the weekend writing lists, revising the shooting script and breakdown sheets, making phone calls, and sending a ton of text messages and Facebook messages off to various peeps. It’s awesome to get back in touch with people we haven’t worked with in years (Matt Jackson), people we’ve worked with on Tsunami (Penelope Davis, Sean Souva), folks we’ve known for years but have never worked with (Jerry Chinn), and some people we don’t really know well, but are excited to get to know.

We’re still making plenty of picky decisions (of the “blue…no, green!” variety), but at the end of each day we’re a little closer to actual production. At the mo’, I’m just enjoying the process. Yeah, even the heart attack freak outs…but now it’s time to get the notes ready for Friday’s auditions. Those notes aren’t gonna write themselves!

Late Night Breakdown

From Andrew’s Desk:

In the beginning was The Script. And behold, it was Pretty Good. And so, the writers stayed up late and made The Script into The Shooting Script. Which wasn’t so hard, in that it meant (primarily) that each scene got numbered and that we put Continued at the top and bottom of script pages that actually, you know, continued. But it also meant we had some ‘splaining to do. Scenes that were “you know, then stuff happens” had to start getting a little clearer in terms of what we see and in what order.

But, The Shooting Script came to an end and now it was time for “The Breakdown Sheet.” And so it was another late night.

The Breakdown Sheet is a way to get more specific about a scene. Who’s in it? What costumes do they wear? Are there special effects? A pretty straight forward list of what needs to be on this stage to make movie magic possible.

But, it also calls for a shot list at the bottom of the sheet. And that is where you’ve got to get real about the cinema grammar you are using. How do we go from here to there? How do we show this and how do we achieve this effect with the audience? Start close in? Go wide for The Spielberg Reaction Shot Homage? How wide? That is what we’ve been doing late tonight. Not done yet, but Angie and I understand better what we’ll be asking of our cinematographer on  Day One of Principal Photography for The Dead Votes Society.

Can’t wait to see it. Actually, can’t wait to sleep. But THEN…can’t wait to see it.