This weekend marked the end of our “weekends only” schedule for Dry Bones. We’re 80% finished with principal photography. Debbie Rochon arrives on Friday for a five day stretch that will conclude the shoot. Those five days will also include the majority of special make-up effects for the film, so they’ll be our hardest five days. After that, all that will remain to be done will be the biggest special effect in the film, which we’ll get approximately one month from now. So far, this has been the easiest shoot of my life, and designing the shots has felt effortless. I consider it a minor miracle that we’ve pulled together the cast and crew we have. It’s all coming together nicely, and I can’t wait for you all to see it.
On Saturday, we started out with two scenes featuring Michael O’Hear (as Drew) and two of our regular locals: Bob Bozek (the second Mayor of Slime City, who takes a bullet in the head in Slime City Massacre, and who plays another mayor in Snow Shark: Ancient Snow Beast), and Alex McBryde (Pimp “Bless” in SCM). This time around, Bob played a crafty locksmith, and Alex essayed “Popper,” sort of a contemporary Renfield type who misses his succubus. Both guys delivered the goods, and I added a small tag to Alex’s scene featuring a cool dolly shot. I loved having them around. Kaelin loved having them around too – she loves having everyone on the film around – and I had to laugh when I saw her throwing Carmine Capobianco’s head from Model Hunger into the air and catching it. I’m proud to say I’ve provided her with a unique childhood…
Next we shot a scene in which Michael digs a mass grave in my backyard to bury the three “husks” the succubus has left around his house. I dug the hole the day before and my back was a little tender. Age! Michael had to sing the title song while pretending to dig; it’s one of his big scenes. I sent Sam up onto the flat roof over my kitchen with the dolly for an establishing shot, then two closer dolly shots on the ground for the main coverage. Later, Sam also climbed onto the peaked roof over my front door for another high angle shot of Michael removing a mirror from his car. I forgot to lock the cats in the basement, so Starbuck made his annual escape outside, but returned as soon as he got hungry. I admit to experiencing some concern for the orange annoyance.
After lunch we made a company move to Paul McGinnis’s house. Paul plays Tom, the hero’s sloppy best friend, and he’s one of the producers on the film. He’s also been one of the key crew members, holding the boom for the majority of the time. Paul is another veteran of Snow Shark, and I’m pleased that Dry Bones is his first big role in a film. Trust me, you will see more from him. Paul’s house served as the house of his character, but we started with three scenes in his basement (serving as Drew’s basement). I’m pleased that all three scenes in that basement look different, something I’ve been striving to do with all the scenes in my house too.
Next we shot a scene of Michael on his laptop; the dolly swoops in on him, and it’s one of my favorite shots so far. In the scene, Michael is supposed to be watching a YouTube video of a character named Joe Sarno (named after a sexploitation director) delivering exposition on succubi. We were originally going to shoot that YouTube video, starring Canadian actor Jason Tannis (Blood for Irena), on Sunday; instead, I asked my friend Dave Goodfellow, who produced Irena, to shoot it in his home library in Ontario. For all I know, they shot their portion of the scene at the same time we shot ours. A big thank you to Dave and Jason for lightening our schedule here.
We shot another scene on a dolly with Michael which we faked day for night, but had to wait for it to get dark to get the remaining scene between Michael and Paul. This was Paul’s last dialogue scene, and he and Michael both did a great job. Chris Rados did some nice lighting, too. At thirteen and a half hours this was our longest day yet, but that’s a typical day on most indie films (on Battledogs, we generally had fourteen hour days, and on Model Hunger fifteen hours was normal). Because another location I wanted for Sunday fell through, Paul agreed to let us shoot those scenes on his back porch, so we left our equipment there overnight. At this point, I’m so tired of shooting in my house that I was glad to spend a big chunk of the weekend away, so special thanks to Paul.
Sunday was a half day. We shot two scenes between Michael and Matt Reese, an old friend of mine from New York City who drove in from Ohio. I’ve wanted to use Matt in a film for years – he had a silent cameo in Naked Fear – so I’m glad this worked out, he and Michael played off each other well. Other than the unwanted presence of several busy queen bees and noise from lawnmowers, the scene went off without a hitch. It was great seeing Matt again.
With those scenes out of the way, we packed up and returned to my house, where we ate lunch (fed the whole crew for only $50) and set up our final shots of the day. There is a big scene near the two thirds mark of the film featuring most of the actresses in the film. We’ve been shooting most of the actresses piecemeal, and Tammy Reger’s bit was the last of those self-contained pieces. The spine of the scene, featuring Michael, Debbie, John Renna and Kathy Murphy, is still to come. This scene also features the big effect I mentioned earlier, and is probably the most complicated I’ve ever attempted.
I’m always happy to follow a heavy day with a short one, but that won’t be possible next week, so I have a lot of planning to do. In addition to Debbie, David Marancik and Tommy Sweeney are coming to town. My central air is broken, so I’m hoping we won’t have to contend with uncomfortable temperatures. Home stretch, baby!
There would be no Dry Bones if Michael O'Hear hadn't been bitten by the desire to make a feature. I wrote the screenplay for hire when I needed money, and melded a basic idea he had to combine a "monster under the bed" story with a succubus tale, which I stirred in a pot with some of my own concepts and fleshed out. Michael is the star of the film and is credited as co-director and co-producer. He appeared in Slime City Massacre and Snow Shark: Ancient Snow Beast and wanted a lead role, so I created one for him and he's doing his best work on this film - he'll be on screen for 75% of the finished work, and his most outrageous scenes are coming up. From my point of view, this film features my strongest direction, so I'm glad I took it on.
Speaking of producers, you can't make a movie - even a micro-budget one - without financial support. John Maclay, one of our executive producers, committed immediately. This will be our third film together. Marc J. Makowski has been a co-producer on every film I've written or directed dating back to Slime City. Debra Lamb jumped on board without even knowing me, brought into the fold by Melantha Blackthorne. Paul McGinnis and Daniel Arrisjid believed in the project. Tim O'Hearn and Tim Walton - Cro-Nan Productions - are co-producing. Chris Rados is investing his equipment and time. Tommy Sweeney, a longtime friend who starred in Undying Love and Naked Fear, is on the team. Nicholas John Morgan Anderson, who played a mercenary in SCM is helping. Michael Faust, returns from Snow Shark. Chris Wroblewski was an extra in SCM and stepped up to the plate. Atom Fellows, a face from my past (who contributed songs to Naked Fear). And then there are all of our IndieGoGo backers. Thanks to them all.
It's imperative to have a good production team on a project like this, and ours is doing excellent work: Sam Qualiana, cinematographer; Chris Rados, Kash Costner, Scotty Franklin, and Chris Santucci, lighting; Paul McGinnis, boom; Rod Durick, special make-up effects and production design; Arick Szymecki, special make-up effects and visual effects; Stacey Book, additional SFX; Shannon Kramp, costume designer. Note that both Sam and Kash received the "Filmmaker to Watch" award in the first edition of Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival, Durick has won Best Western New York Special Make-Up Effects Artist and won the Best WNY Genre Film Award with McGinnis, who himself won our Local Hero, Best Original Screenplay, and Local Hero awards. I'm really happy with how the film looks.
McGiinis also plays a key role in the film, the "slob best friend" of our protagonist. Other supporting actors include John Renna, Kim Piazza, Kevin VanHentenryck from Basket Case, Kathy Murphy, Jessica Zwolak, Amelie McKendry, Tia Maurice, Tammy Reger (making her horror return after Slugs!), O'Hearn (hilarious!), Walton, Daniel Arrajid, and youngins Mark Goodfellow and Kaelin Lamberson. Still to come our Alex McBryde ("Pimp Bless" in SCM), Bob Bozek (SCM and Snow Shark), Matt Reese, Sweeney, Jason Tannis and Debbie Rochon, who will be playing three roies. I've reached into my regular stable, the Buffalo stable, and Michael has brought in some great talent from his theatre experiences. I firmly believe Dry Bones has the best acting of any local genre film since SCM, and at least as good as Battledogs (I won't throw Model Hunger in there, though - that one's going to set the bar for acting in any film shot in Buffalo regardless of genre).
Special thanks to MonsterMatt and Wroblewski for loaning us period toys, Phil Czubinsky for making repairs to my house so it would be ready for filming (you'll be needed again when the shoot is over, Phil...), Durick for loaning us his PVC dolly, which we've used extensively; Szymecki for loaning us his camera when Michael's suffered an injury; Franklin for loaning us lights and providing a location; the Medina Theatre for letting us film in their bar, Teddy Haynes for donating a lunch, David Goodfellow for shooting a second unit sequence and, with his wife Trudi, bringing Mark to another country to make a horror film. Finally, my wife Tamar - it isn't easy to turn your house upside down weekend after weekend and play host to cast and crew while watching a seven year old. It takes a village. She's worn the succubus gloves three times now, too. I won't thank my cats, who are thrilled to have so many people in the house but don't understand the concept of "quiet on the set."
After we wrap I'll discuss our post production team - editor, composer, musicians, V effects, etc. It takes a village.
Back to our regular “full” Saturday and Sunday schedule. This weekend was unusual for a few different reasons. First, we had a different cast: Kevin VanHentenryck, star of Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case trilogy, came to Buffalo to play the brutish Bart; Kim Piazza played his abused wife Linda; Mark Goodfellow, son of my friends David and Trudi Goodfellow, played Andy, who grows up to be the main character, Drew (Michael O’Hear); and my daughter Kaelin portrayed Becky, Andy’s sister, who grows up to be Rebecca (Kathy Murphy). This “mini-cast within the cast” is not unlike what the one feaytured in the Slime City Massacre flashbacks.
Kevin and I are obviously from the same 80s era, and worked together briefly during his memorable cameo in Brain Damage. It was great to have him around, he’s friendly and easy going and really made Bart breathe…and bellow…and scream. People will cheer his confrontation with the succubus. Not only were we working with different actors, but two of them were kids, and Kim did a great job bonding with Kaelin and Mark as their “mother” (Bart isn’t so likeable…). Both kids fared well, and I’m a proud papa. Kim was something of a revelation; a theatre friend of Michael’s, and one of his casting choices, she really impressed me - I’m glad her character has two more significant scenes besides this prologue, because I know she’ll make an impact in the film.
Friday actually felt like the day before the first day of production (on any production), with countless last minute details to take care of, including shopping for props and art direction needs, and following up on communications, and more often than not, non-communications – a 13 hour prep day. I sat in Kaelin’s room with the script and figured out my coverage, wondering how I could make the prologue distinctive from the rest of the film (since the main bedroom still looks like a kid’s room 35 years later). It occurred to me to stick a lava lamp in the scene and use that as a primary light source. I wanted to do this in Naked Fear back in 1995 but it didn’t work out then. I posted on Facebook that morning that I needed a lava lamp, and by afternoon I had one (thank you, Scott LeBrun!).
Saturday started with a flurry of activity as Shannon Kramp costume fitted our new thespians and made alterations where necessary. It was strange shooting an entire day without Michael as Drew on; he’s on screen for 75% of the film, and on days when we shoot other people he usually still winds up with one bit, as on Sunday. With the exception of that scene, everything we filmed over the weekend was either part of the film’s prologue, set in 1979 (as evidenced by Mark perusing my copy of FANGORIA #1); a flashback to 1979; or a spin on those 1979 scenes.
None of our usual gaffers - Chris Rados, Scotty Franklin, Kash Costner – were available, so Chris Santucci, my DP on Slime City Massacre, did me a solid and came in for a day, and it was great working with him again. The lava lamp lighting scheme looked really cool. Throughout the film, the succubus pulls people under Andy/Drew’s bed to dispose of them. For Amelie McKendry’s and Paul McGinnis’s scenes, two of us squeezed between the wall and the bed and pulled on their wrists/ankles. For Kevin, we used a tow line, which worked great – he flew under that bed and liked it.
I’m happy to report that Arick Szymecki’s silicone succubus gloves were finally ready and looked great. Tamar has doubled for the succubus (which will be one of Debbie Rochon’s three parts in the film) since shooting began, and she finally got to wear the real deal. These gloves were worth the wait. I wanted to show more of the succubus’s arms than just the hands, so Rod Durick summoned a stocking which he and Arick pulled over the end of the glove and Tamar’s arm and stippled it, which worked well.
We shot at least eight pages’ worth of the screenplay and I was pleased with everything we got. Mark’s father is a photo journalist for FANGO, so we also got some really nice stills. It was nice having the family Goodfellow around for the weekend, and David is shooting a faux “YouTube” clip for the film next weekend with actor Jason Tannis, who appeared in Blood for Irina, directed by Chris Alexander (and which David produced), and a short film which we screened at Buffalo Screams its first year.
Sunday was an easy day because we got so much done on Saturday. On Sundays we have a 9:00 am set call instead of 8:00 am as we do on Saturdays. I wanted to get everyone out by 3:00 pm to enjoy Mother’s Day. Chris Rados was our gaffer, fresh off wrapping The Romans, and we finally got to use his slider for the camera! We shot a small portion of the climax, in which Michael is as bloody as Bruce Campbell in The Evil Dead, with excellent make-up by Arick. Somehow I got movie blood drops on the crotch of my shorts…
We also shot a monologue Kim delivers to Mark, and another bit with Kim comprising a small portion of what I believe will be the best sequence in the film…and wrapped around 1:15. Picture wraps for Kevin, Kim, and Mark (Kaelin wrapped on Saturday). My friend Ted Haynes swung by and donated an excellent lunch to the production, which should also keep my family eating for several days. Rod, Kash and Renna all swung by. A great weekend, I have to say – very productive (we shot 10% of the film in a day and a half) and laid back, the way I like it. It’s a little hard to believe we’re two thirds finished with this production: we have one more “regular” weekend, then a five day stretch with Debbie Rochon, and then we’re done. Special props to our tight little crew, among them Paul McGinnis and Sam Qualiana.
Barnes and Noble:
Like so many of you, I stayed up late to see the movies that Harryhausen and Charles Schneer made together: The Valley of Gwangi, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Mysterious Island and It Came from Beneath the Sea among them. No matter how pedestrian the films seemed when the monsters were off screen, the moment they took the stage the magic started. I'm not overusing the word "magic" here - there was something exhilarating about every frame Harryhausen put his hands on. I was fortunate to catch The Golden Voyage of Sinbad during its theatrical release at the perfect age. Harryhausen was my first cinema hero; for a time, after I dreamed of being a cop and an astronaut, I wanted to be a stop motion animator, Harryhausen was the first man who made me want to be a filmmaker (George Pal was my second cinema hero), Then Star Wars came out, and a new era began. But weren't Phil Tippet's stop motion creatures a fun acknowledgement of the work that had preceded motion control cameras? Likewise, the Taun-tauns in The Empire Strikes Back.
Concurrent with Star Wars' release, I got my first copy of Cinefantastique, featuring Harryhausen on the cover with models from Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. That magazine was a revelation to me: a serious critical examination of fantastic cinema, and Harryhausen was its poster child. I came away from that in depth interview with insight into the man, who seemed remarkably free of ego and almost embarrassed by the attention given him. I was first in line when Eye of the Tiger reached my town, and despite an overall cheapness to it, and some bad acting even by Sinbad standards, I loved it; the Prince Baboon and Harryhausen's Troglodyte are two of my favorite creations of his. Still, it seemed like Harryhausen's era had passed. Then he surprised everyone with Clash of the Titans, produced on his biggest budget, and his most successful film at the box office. I've never liked the film; Bubo the owl was too much for me, and the matte lined of Perseus on Pegasus against the sky were pretty bad. but Calibos was cool and Medusa was the crowning achievement of Harryhausen's career.
Harryhausen announced his retirement, but always seemed active and interested in the new special effects technologies that evolved. As an adult working at a stock footage agency, I was ecstatic to discover our library included outtakes of Harryhausen's work from It Came from Beneath the Sea and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. A few years ago, I was happy to post my appreciation for all the thrills and inspiration he gave me when his Facebook launched, and I was excited to show my daughter his films. Just last week she asked if we could watch the Cyclops again...
What a fantastic career. A true cinema legend has passed.
Today was the tenth day of production for Dry Bones, which I wrote and am co-producing and co-directing with Michael O'Hear, who stars. We didn't shoot last weekend or yesterday because of convention appearances, so it felt good to get back into the groove. We began by shooting a police interrogation scene with Michael and John Renna. I've written many such scenes in my novels, but haven't directed one before, and as a diehard fan of Homicide: Life on the Streets, I looked forward to it. This scene runs over four pages in my screenplay.
Because we're a guerrilla production, meaning we have no location insurance, it was impossible for us to get an actual interrogation room, like we did on Battledogs. Scotty Franklin, one of our gaffers, came through for us: he has an office at the Pierce-Arrow Arts Center, which is being developed as a film production facility. Scott's space has an office for him to conduct business within a larger space where he stores lighting equipment. I wish we'd taken stills, but we've gotten bad at that. The smaller office actually has a window in one wall, so we were able to dolly past it, looking inside, The walls were industrial cinder block, with a radiator and a water pipe, painted black with red trim - totally convincing as a police room, and yet oddly stylish. He cleared out the room for the day so we could move in a table and two chairs.
Considering we're using an unusual camera/audio setup - a T2i HD still camera combined with an audio mixer taped to our boom pole - we've had remarkably few technical problems on this shoot - until today. We lost 60 - 90- minutes due to various technical issues which turned out to be errors on our part (we got rusty during our time off!), and maybe an hour to a lighting setup which proved challenging. But once we got up and running we rocked - Michael and John were spot on and I got all of the coverage I wanted. For a rare treat, we had lunch in the outdoor portion of a bar across the street. I never knew a meatloaf sandwich could be so good.
After packing up, most of us returned to my house. As I explained once before in this blog, when you travel from one location to another on a movie it's called a company movie. At my house, we devoted our remaining time to shooting scenes and portions of scenes which we were unable to get when I scheduled them. First up we shot the last scene of the movie, which takes place in my front yard and driveway. The scene was staged as a single shot involving a dolly move, double framing, and a pan. It took six takes, but we got it. When I originally scheduled this scene, the weather was cold, gray and windy - we could have shot it, but it wouldn't have read as the happy ending we wanted. Today the sun was out and trees were in bloom, and the symbolism worked great.
The next scene was also set outside. We have a montage sequence early in the film in which Michael's character maintains "his" house and yard. An earlier draft of the script called for him to mow part of my lawn, but when we shot most of this sequence, my backyard was a swamp so we skipped it. I decided to get it today because I thought the yellow dandelions would look great, and I wanted to establish my backyard for a later scene with darker overtones. I framed a shot, but Sam Qualiana offered to improve it by getting down on the grass while Michael mowed straight to the camera - a "money shot."
Inside, we shot a scene in which Michael carries a can of red paint past Paul McGinnis, who is painting a living room wall. A simple bit of action taking 2/8 of a script page. I staged a dolly shot in which Michael exits a hall with a can of red paint, and Sam dollied across the room, revealing Paul as Michael passed him; then Paul turns in the direction Michael just exited and delivers a line. It was a nice shot. I went all of SLIME CITY without a single dolly move, and Sam wasn't able to use his only dolly shot on SNOW SHARK: ANCIENT SNOW BEAST because the second camera operator screwed up the camera settings; this was our fourth dolly shot today, and we have many in the film.
Our final shot of the day - "the martini" - was an insert for Paul's character's death scene. We shot the bulk of the scene already, but our "succubus hands" weren't ready. Today - for the second time - Tamar wore the monster gloves, doubling for Debbie Rochon. The shots went off without a hitch and we wrapped for the day. We're just past halfway through shoot days, and just under halfway through the script. Next weekend, we have an entirely different cast for two days, when we shoot the prologue for the film: Kevin VanHentenryck from the Basket Case films; Kim Piazza, who will be playing Kevin's wife; Mark Goodfellow, who will be playing his son; and Kaelin Lamberson, making her screen debut as his daughter.