Search This Blog

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Day 6 Recap

DAY SIX (Sunday, October 10)
Location: Stockbridge Citgo / the garage

This is our last day of shooting in Atlanta before we relocate the cast and crew to Bradenton, Florida. Scenes for today include the band’s practice at the garage, scientist John Patterson’s emotional moment when he and the Skunk Ape lock eyes, and several pickups from the previous 2 days at the garage.
One scene we’ll do today is where Sheriff Brag and Deputy Bob spot the Skunk Ape leaving the garage and chase him from the garage. There’s a couple of lines of dialog right before they spot him. It’s Bob filling time with his opinions on luncheon meat, “I don’t like baloney. Now fried baloney…that’s OK. Hey, that looks like a Skunk Ape.” The combination of the dialog (overhead verbatim at a Taco Bell some 10 years ago) and actor Chris Hines' perfectly deadpan delivery makes it one of my favorite moments in the movie.

The most involved shot is where we have to kill one of the leading characters.

The script calls for the Skunk Ape to pick him up over his head and ‘break him in half’. I wrote that, but I have no earthly idea how we’re going to sell it. While Skunk Ape actor Ned Hastings is ‘the largest mammal I know’ (his words), he still can’t pickup a full grown man and military press him over his head. After much debate, we put the camera on the ground, tilted almost straight up at the back of Ned’s shoulder while he sits on an apple box. He grips the actor around the collar while burly key grip John Stephens hunch over just out of frame with black fabric draped over him. Our to-be-killed actor lays across John’s back and all Ned has to do is movie his arm up on cue. John will do the heavy lifting with his back and legs. It’s into the twelfth hour on set for the cast and crew, but everyone is gathered around to watch. We do 3 takes and get what we need. I call for two more because we’re having too much fun.

Here’s some statistics from the script supervisor’s reports after half of our shooting schedule: 321 slates, 160 setups, 38 completed scenes (of 102), almost 40 pages (of 96) completed, and roughly 33 minutes, 19 seconds of monster movie in the can (of an estimated 95:30).

Data provided by extraordinary script supervisor Reagan Brandon. I’ve had to omit only one scene from our schedule, which is covered in another scene with a quick line of dialog. While we have the majority of our work ahead of us, we’ve had an enormously successful first week of shooting.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Day 5 recap

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be editing the film as much as I can, so instead of detailing that, I’ll be catching up on the daily recaps.

DAY FIVE (Saturday, October 9)
Location: Stockbridge Citgo / the garage
Today is the day we shoot all of our dialog scenes at the garage. I have shot lists for each scene, but on location those often get drastically changed. Looking at the script for a particular scene, I plan for an establishing wide shot, close ups for certain lines and dolly moves to get the characters from one side of the garage to the other, etc. When we get to the garage and start blocking with actors, we invariable start running up against limited amounts of film and time. What I usually end up with is an establishing shot that dollies into a 2 shot for dialog and maybe a cutaway or reverse angle. Maybe. The fewer shots, the fewer setups, the faster we can move. For the really long dialog scenes, we dolly along with the actors in the classic walk ‘n’ talk, then have them stop walking when we run out of track. It’s these times where I have to find the critical elements of a scene and accent those and drop everything else. And I won’t know how successful I was until the whole film is put together. All an indie director can do is get the best crew and the best actors they can find and hope it works, hope that they made the right compromises.

The most complicated scene for the day is where Theodora meets Hector. Actor Travis Young was cast as Hector exactly one week ago, but I’m not worried about the actor’s performances. They’ve worked together before and they rehearse on-set incessantly up to the time we shoot. In this scene, Hector is toying with Theodora, only doling out information bit by bit to extend their interaction. She eventually get pissed and is about to storm out, when he starts singing one of her songs, the theme song of the movie. He just keeps singing, rather poorly, and smiling at her until she is charmed. Travis and Claire’s performance is great. I can really feel Theodora’s frustration and Travis has great eyes that really can charm anyone. We start the scene with Hector under the hood of the band’s station wagon. He doesn't come out until several lines into their dialog and crosses the garage. The camera and Theodora follow him and we end with an over-the-shoulder (OTS) shot looking at Hector. Theodora gets angry and turns to exit, right toward the camera, and stops in a close-up (CU). We’ve just covered 90% of the scene in one shot/one setup: the establishing WS, dolly to the OTS, and Claire walks into a CU for her emotional reaction. Our coverage is a Hector CU from the same camera position as the OTS and the reverse angle over Hector’s shoulder of Theodora’s dialog. The biggest hurdle is that the weather had changed and the reverse angle looking at Claire has dark, cloudy skies in the background. The grips put up a big silk on a metal frame to tone down the clouds and I hope we can color correct it to match the rest of the scenes later. We get all of our angles and move on to the next scene, next set up.

One of those setups includes Ned Hastings (out of his Skunk Ape costume) and Dana Snyder (voice of Master Shake on Aqua Teen Hunger Force) as two customers driving a classic car in the establishing shot of the Garage. I think Dana’s only line is “Thanks, we wouldn’t miss the party.” Being the consummate profession, he and I discusses at length his character’s back story and motivation, but the fact that everything that comes out of his mouth makes me laugh, I’m not too worried about it.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

ready to Edit, Day Off Recap

After a couple of weeks off from journaling (Thanks Arma & Ed), I’m back with an update on Stomp! Shout! Scream! It’s almost two months since we ended shooting the film and I have yet to make my first official edit of the film. That’s part procrastination, part trepidation, part some other –ation, I’m sure. That’s not to say the nothing has been done. I have synced my audio and video (with much help from PA/editor Juston Rindlesbach), edited a teaser trailer, and edited a short behind-the-scenes clip for the song “Back off My Baby” which is performed in the film. All this stuff will be available here soon. Getting something for investors and potential distributors to see has been the top priority. I’ve settled into the fact that writing, directing, & editing the film is only a portion of my work. I’m also going to have to find a way to market and sell the film, too. As far as getting the film edited, I’m waiting for an extended chunk of time to really dive into the cutting. And now that I’m almost out of things to procrastinate with, I guess that’ll be very soon.

Here’s another recap from the shoot:
Friday, October 8
Our only day off.
That is, the crew has a day off. I spend the day catching up on sleep, organizing the plan to feed the cast and crew in Florida with my mom, and making shot lists for Saturday & Sunday with Evan for 4 or 5 hours. We have over 13 pages to cover in 2 days, plus pickups from Tuesday. I spent my only night off during the shoot going out to dinner and catching, appropriately, John Waters’ Dirty Shame.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

From Ed, Ford Fairlane owner

I received a call about 3 weeks ago from John with Film Cars, asking if I would like to help put together some cars for a movie that was being shot in Bradenton, Florida and Treasure Island, Florida. Stomp! Shout! Scream! is a feature film-- a 1966 beach-party rock and roll monster movie featuring the legend of the Everglades Skunk Ape. The production company wanted about 8-10 60's cars for the shoot. They wanted Fords and Mopars. John had a few cars already lined up. I knew the people with those cars so sounded like fun. I contacted Art Director Lisa Yeiser in Atlanta who was requesting the cars and got more information from her on what they wanted. They wanted a 60's car that could be made into a police car, a car that would be driven and a few cars just parked. For about a week I gather pictures of different cars in the area and talked with the owners asking them if they were interested in their cars being used in a movie. I sent Lisa pictures of around 30 cars. She sent the pictures to the producer who rejected most of them as not being what he wanted. She also asked the rate for renting the cars per day. After all of this they decided on having just a police car and using my car as the driven car in Bradenton, Florida on Tuesday then using my car and friend’s car, a 1964 Chevrolet at a motel on Treasure Island, Florida on Wednesday. Not being able to find a car that they liked for the police car I contacted the Pinellas County Florida Police. I knew they had a 60's police car. After talking with the man in charge of the garage I gave him the information and the lady’s name and phone number in Atlanta. He contacted her and worked the details out on using the Police car.

On Tuesday Oct. 12, 2004 I drove down to Coquina Beach in Bradenton, Florida. I needed to be there at 2:00 pm. I arrived around 1:30 pm. While I was sitting in the park waiting I saw the Pinellas County flatbed truck with the 60's police car on it drive by. After waiting a while to see if he turned around I headed south on Beach Drive looking for him. I found him about 4 miles down the road where he had just turned around. We both stopped and talked then he followed me back to Coquina Beach. After about 10 more minutes the production company trucks arrived. It was decided to go down the street to a small park area where there was a side dirt road that was along the canal. The film company had driven down a old white 60's Ford Falcon Station Wagon that was used as the car the 3 girls were driving on vacation to Florida in the movie. They parked the car on the side of the dirt road next to the canal. The car was supposed to be broken down and they were waiting for someone to drive by to help them. That is where my car came in. It was used as the car the young man was driving and stopped to help them out. The filming took most of the day and into the night. A camera was mounted on the hood with lights inside the car. The 3 girls and guy were in the car talking while they filmed. The car was driven down the dirt road very slowly. This went on for about 2 hours.

One scene called for the young man to open the trunk and put the suit cases of the girls in it. I was watching when he keep looking around then finally had me come over. He wanted to know where the remote trunk release was. After telling him this was a 1965 car and he had to use the key he then couldn't find the trunk lock. Another one had him driving at night and needed to turn the car head lights on. He again fumbled around and when I went up to the car he was trying to turn the lights on by trying to turn the turn signal lever. I had to show him the light switch on the dash.
Later that night they used the police car that came along the dirt road. More shots of my car with the guy and girls in it then my car was finished for the night. I left around 10:45 pm. The police car was still there filming. They cancelled the cars needed at the motel in Treasure Island on Wednesday. They wanted my car back again at Coquina Beach in Bradenton, Florida at 1:00pm for more filming the next day. They mounted the camera on the passenger side door with the four people inside the car. They drove the car up and down the dirt road. The filming took about an hour. The guys that were mounting the camera's on my car took extra care to make sure nothing happened to it. It was covered with blankets and straps that were covered in towels. Was really interesting watching things happening. I would do it again.

- Ed Sluss
Ford Fairlane Owner

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Craft Services favorite: Ramen Noodles, by Arma

It is almost impossible to eat Ramen Noodles gracefully. Fortunately, it is similar to sweating in Atlanta during the month of August. Everybody does it, so no one seems to worry too much about how they look when they ARE doing it. Having said that, there is still always that one person judging whose pit stains are the worst. I am that person. Therefore, the following is a list from most the graceful to the most disgusting consumers of Ramen Noodles.
Cutest Ramen eater: Cynthia Evans "Jody"
Most Graceful Ramen eater: Ezekiel Lewis-Boom Operator. Don't ask me HOW, but they both managed to not gross me out.
Most Normal Ramen eater: Thomas "TK" Kay-Best Boy Grip. He's half messy, half clean.
Slurpiest Ramen eater: John Stephens-Key Grip. He's loud and proud!
Drippiest Ramen eater: Evan Lieberman-Director of Photography. I'd swear it was as if he'd never had them before and the broth caught him off guard.
Slowest Ramen eater: Claire Bronson-"Theodora" She cheated and ate them carefully. Had she eaten in a normal pace, I could tell she would have been wearing those noodles.
Messiest Ramen eater: Me-Producer. I WAS wearing those noodles.
And the honor of most disgusting Ramen eater on our crew:
Aaron Siegel- sound mixer. For the love of all that is good and sacred, Aaron, don't ever eat Ramen Noodles in public again. And, quite frankly, I'd stay away from soup of any kind on dates. (But I love you and you are terrific!)

Arma Benoit
Stomp! Shout! Scream!

(Note: All complaints can be sent directly to Arma. All rebuttals will be reprinted here. -Jay)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Eyemo Camera, Day 4 recap

There’s a few shots that we didn’t get during principal photography. In the script, Theodora and Hector go on a ‘Viva Las Vegas’-style love montage that starts with them on a roller coaster and continues through their day of fun and frolic. It’s an important shot because it’s a turning point for Theodora’s character. It shocks her out of her malaise. Or that’s the theory. Anyway, we didn’t have time to find or shoot a roller coaster during our full production, so I got Claire, Travis, Melissa and Evan back together to grab a couple of pick up shots last Sunday.
We used an Eyemo camera, which is a World War II era camera that’s tiny and virtually indestructible. It’s like a little iron crate that shoots 1,000 feet of 35mm film at a time (about a minute)—perfect for a little guerrilla film making. Here’s some pictures.

Here’s another recap from the shoot:

DAY FOUR (Thursday, October 7)
Location: Fabric Warehouse / The Police Station

This was one of our more relaxed days. That’s a remarkable statement, considering we had to shoot over 10 pages of dialog-heavy script. The only location for the day was the police station interior located in the fabric warehouse where we’d been shooting the day before. We decided to proceed as if it was a 3-camera TV show— that is, light one end of the room and shoot in that direction all day. Eliminating the need to ‘flip the room’ (moving all the lighting and camera equipment to shoot reverse shots) was the only way we could get all of our pages done in a 10-hour day. It seems to have worked. We got everything done thanks to the hard-working crew. I can't say enough about the crew and the actors. Not a flubbed line all day and spot-on performances by everybody. And the film transfers look great—just like a police station in a 60’s film.

I have one more story from the doctor’s office location. Actor Jonathan Green, who plays scientist John Patterson, has a long, ridiculous monologue (complete with flashback) where he tells the story of how his parents disappeared while doing research in the Florida Everglades and how he’s been chasing the Skunk Ape ever since. Zeke, the boom operator, got the giggles and kept cracking up during his speech. He whole job is to be really quiet, so we can get great sound, but he couldn’t keep from laughing. I think he broke just one take, but was stifling laughter every time, which infected the whole crew. That’s definitely a tribute to Jonathan’s ability to delivery the speech in that 1950’s scientist seriousness without it being too flat or emotionless. Brilliant. And encouraging.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Post Production starts, Nov. 7, 2004

Sometimes I am a do-it-yourself-er and sometimes I’m not. If it’s household repairs that requite a big chunk of my time and effort… not so much. I’d rather get a professional to do it right and just write the check. When it comes to editing however, I’m a firm believer in “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” So, I spent just about every waking minute last Halloween weekend at the office loading my film transfer tapes and audio tapes into Final Cut Pro.

Now’s a good time to go completely dorky on technical specs on editing Stomp! Shout! Scream! We shot short end 35mm film (Kodak 5245, 52…I don’t really know), which was developed and transferred to recycled Digibeta tape by Cinefilm, Atlanta (a perk of working for Turner Broadcasting is you can easily find slightly used tape stock waiting to be dumped). Of course, the ultimate objective is to have a film print that can be shown in theaters, but that requires a negative cut or a digital intermediate--- both very expensive propositions. I’m going to start the editing process with that plan in mind, but I can always switch to a video finish using the film transfers I already have. The determining factor there being… money.

Cinefilm provided me with Flex files, which are databases that track the film’s edge numbers and their relationship to the timecode on the film transfer tapes. I’ve never used Cinema Tools (Apple’s film database software), so I spent the last two weeks reading the help file and everything I can find on-line about this process. First, I imported the flex files into Cinema Tools and then exported a batch digitize list for Final Cut Pro. The batch capture worked perfectly, all my clips loaded in a scant 10-hour Saturday. At Cartoon Network, we use the Black Magic Decklink Pro video cards which can digitize 29.97 frames-per-second NTSC video into 23.98 fps QT movies, eliminating the need to use Cinema Tools’ reverse telecine function. I loaded the film with the Black Magic’s 10-bit uncompressed codec, but I’ll be editing on a DV–based Final Cut Pro system in my basement, so I used Final Cut’s media manager to export all my footage into DV. Cinema Tools reconnected all the digitized clips to the database, so I think I’m ready to start cutting and the computer will keep track of the timecode/edge numbers in the background.

And then there’s the footage itself. Thanks to the expertise and very hard work of cinematographer Evan Lieberman, Gaffer John Swindall and all the rest of the crew, the film looks absolutely BEAUTIFUL. It was always our intention to make a fun, beach party, b-movie, horror film, but do it with an acute attention to craft-- believable characters, a good story, professional actors working with real emotions and a professional film crew making beautiful pictures. From the very start, Evan and I wanted to make the film like those '60s Frankie & Annette Beach Party movies. From the look of the film transfers, we’ve definitely succeed in the crafting of beautiful images.

Now preparing audio for edit is a whole other process. Sound mixer Aaron Siegel and boom operators Zeke and Thomas did excellent work in less than optimal conditions. Extra special thanks goes to Mike Filosa and Adam Jones who supplied the extensive audio equipment. Aaron delivered time-coded DAT tapes which sound excellent. We tried to use a smart slate (an electronic version of the traditional film clapper with rolling timecode numbers), but it was a less than perfect model and we ended up using the ‘old-fashion’ slate methods most of the time. Often during shooting, just trying to reset the camera frame and focus to actually read the timecode numbers on the slate was too difficult for our sprinter’s pace of film making. All totaled, I have about 8 hours of film transfer and about 9 hours of audio. Next I sit in front of my computer and sync the two together. I don’t know how long that’s going to take. Traditionally, syncing is considered film maker’s drudgery, but I plan to relish every minute. I am working on a beach party rock and roll monster movie of my own creation.

I’ve heard film makers say that making a bad movie is just as hard as making a good one and it’s impossible to know if your film is good or bad while your in the middle of it. I can certainly understand that statement now more than ever. I’m just going to keep plowing through until it’s done, doing everything I can to make it the best I can.

Here’s another recap of the shoot:
DAY THREE (Wednesday, October 6)
Location: Fabric Warehouse / The Doctor’s Office

Special thanks goes to Matt Hyman, assistant to Art Director Lisa Yeiser, who found and secured our Doctor’s office and the police station interior locations—some spare offices at a fabric manufacturer’s warehouse. These are two of the four interiors for the entire production and the art ‘department’ (Lisa, Matt, and Scott Dupree) did wonderful work. For the Doctor’s office scenes, we took an empty, white-wall business office and dressed it up to be our exam room. Lisa dug up fantastic set dressing, but some of the props came from an old doctor’s house call bag my mom found at an antique store several years ago. We used an existing waiting room to be the doctor’s business office, which was very nicely dressed to begin with (as in, it hadn’t changed a bit since the early '60s). Running a little behind schedule while shooting our exam room scenes, we decided to switch the set dressing, rather than flip all the lights to the other side of the room. In theory, we just had to turn the exam table around, flip our characters positions and put new props behind them. But when you’re dealing with camera placement, character eye-lines and crossing the 180-degree line… everything gets complicated. I think we did everything right, but I won’t really know until I start cutting those shots right next to each other. It’s another example of just trusting the crew to do the right thing.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Mary Kraft's wild ride, 10/30/04

From Mary Kraft:

So, Jay and Arma and anyone else involved in scheduling were nice enough to deal with adding one more snag to their already snag-ridden, pre-production-engulfed lives. I, Mary Kraft, Carol the bass-player, was simultaneously in Stomp! Shout! Scream!, and in a nearly 2 month long run of Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical! at Dad's Garage Theatre here in Atlanta as Donna the Cheerleader . I had to be in Atlanta, GA, on stage at the theater, no matter what, at 8:00pm every Thursday-Saturday. Hmmmm. We're shooting the majority of the film in Bradenton, FL. Hmmmm. More on that in a bit.

It was tough, mentally, to be at the beach and not be able things.
Monday we got there about midnight--Cynthia (Jody) and Claire (Theodora) and I drove down together...that was the most time we had ever spent together and I thought we had a ridiculously good time. Topics discussed: Religion, politics, family, marriage, agents!, and why that Subway/Dairy Queen/Souvenir shop/alligator head emporium/gas station/giant sewer smelled like a giant crap took a crap on a crap. Interesting side note 1: Cynthia can start tearing up with sickness at the mere mention of a televised surgery.

When we arrived in FL at the house, Jay and the van pulled up shortly thereafter with 12-packs of beer and I can say it was a beautiful moment. We hung out at the beach and then back at the guys' house til way too late, but I still managed to get up and go jogging and swimming the next morning before settling in with Melissa for my daily hair/torture session. How did the women do it back then? Good Lord! To this day, whenever I see Melissa, my scalp starts tingling and my eyes water. (By the way, never a better makeup/hair person than, what a trooper, she did it all and did it with a great attitude)

We shot all day/night Tuesday, got back to the house, somewhere around 2 am?? Can't remember. Regardless, still in time for some cocktails. Chris Hines and Claire were nice enough to go grocery shopping while Cynthia, Jonathan and I shot our scene in an awesome light blue Ford Fairlane whose air-conditioning smelled like Brawny the paper towel giant had just taken off his socks which he’d had on for 2 weeks. We decided to go without the a/c…. Interesting side note 2: talking about the reeking socks made Jonathan sicker than the actual sock smell. The rest of the crew got back a little after us, and everyone fell right back into place, and another night of 4:00 am (or later) bedtimes.

No jogging/swimming Wednesday morning, just a quick walk and some shell-collecting. You know, the shells you pick up then get home and throw in the trash. Then straight to the hair chair with Melissa. Then Cynthia, then Claire. Then we all drive to Treasure Island... then... 3 hours later... the film gets there. Another story. Let's just say we had some down time at the old motel which was our location for the day. We finally get to shoot as the sun's about to go down, so now we (and by we, I mean gaffer/lighting director John Swindall) have to create daylight with lighting. It all works out, but it's a long, long night of shooting, as this is all of the Violas’ motel room dialogue scenes. We wrap that at about, oh, 3:00 am, then drive an hour back to Bradenton, so another 4 am bedtime....after a beer or two. Cynthia is slightly mentally disabled from lack of sleep, Jonathan tells me Travis and Ned are asleep, and I think Claire and Melissa are in their room asleep, so--thankfully--I go to bed. I found out later that Ned (Skunk Ape) woke up, Claire and Melissa were over there having cocktails, and stayed up til like 7:00am?? Good damn thing I knew nothing about that.

Interesting side note 3: The dietary necessities of the band and Melissa made for enough material for a movie within a movie. I’m a vegetarian, who very occasionally eats seafood, so I’m used to being the problem. This was a nice reprieve.

I had to wake up at 7:45am on Thursday to pack for Atlanta and get ready for my beach scene with Jody where we find the mangled body. So, I go into the hair chair with Melissa (who was up til 7) at about 8:30. We have to shoot this scene before 11:15 which is my absolute cut-off time, like, gotta be in the car at 11:15 and heading toward Atlanta. We're on the beach, we're shooting, it's 10:15, it's 10:30, it's 10:55, we do a couple more takes, it's 11:13 and we wrap, I hug everyone and run off to the car, hair NOT blowing in the wind, Cynthia running behind me (same hair, not blowing either) as pit crew for the quick change. I throw off my clothes at the car and hand them to her, pull on my shorts and shirt and realize I have to have something to drink for the trip, so we run back inside, Cynthia runs to the fridge, and we're like, "There's no water.... Where's all the WATER!!! Grab a Coke!" She grabs the fridge pack and stabs at the carton with a sharp knife to open it, pulls one out and we realize she's stabbed it with the knife, so it's spewing coke, "Get another one!" "Here!" "Thanks!" "We'll miss you!" "I'll miss you too!" "Bye!" "Bye!" ...Peel out.

I'm cruisin' making good time, listening to Bread: The Anthology, ("If a picture paints a thousand words.....", "Baby I'ma want you"), I round a corner just north of Valdosta and see traffic at a stand-still. As far as I can see, cars are stopped, inching forward. I panic. I try not to panic. I panic. I shouldn't have had the caffeine. I have more caffeine. Panic. Call my boyfriend, Dan, in Atlanta to start the ball rolling on getting in touch with those at the theater who I don't really want to give this information to but who need to know. The managing director calls me and is a very calm contrast to my inside-of-a-golf-ball-shredded-nerves-I've-had-7-hours-of-sleep-in-the-last-2-days mental state. She goes online to find out traffic/construction info, she gives me some alternate routes, she says they'll hold the show for up to 15 minutes if I need it and offer free drinks. Finally the traffic starts to clear after about 25-30 minutes--all of my "padding" I'd built in for a luxury like a shower before the show. I haul ass, which means 11-14 miles over the speed limit. Kathryn calls back at intervals to see how I'm doing, stressing that it's better that I make it back alive and we hold one show, than have to cancel all the shows. She says they've looked up some porn trivia that they will ask the audience in the hold if we need one. That's cool. How very Dad's Garage. I pull into the theater parking lot at 7:34pm. I run in, still in full hair (you can't get a brush through this stuff, people) and makeup. I wash my hair quickly in a sink in the workshop in back, dry it, straighten it, wipe off a little brown eyeshadow and replace with blue, add lip gloss, then some more lip gloss, put on my spankies and cheerleading outfit, grab my pompoms ("We're at Places, people!") and jump on stage. No porn trivia. No hold. At the buzzer. And so pumped full of caffeine and adrenaline that the show was barely containable. Great audience. Great rush.

This is so crazy.

Why do anything else?

- Mary Kraft
Carol, bass player
Stomp! Shout! Scream!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Coming down from the shot, 10/24/04

Every night since we wrapped production, I've had dreams that wake me up in the middle of the night. I'm on set directing, and everybody’s working hard, but we can't ever get the shot off. Hours go by and my mind is just racing. I'm setting and re-setting up the shot, but we never roll film. It's one of those frustration dreams that never let's you get to any kind of conclusion. I used to have similar ones when I first started editing professionally, when I wasn’t as knowledgeable or experienced as I should have been to be doing what I was doing. I’d have some bizarre, frustrating dream and I’d wake up and think about it. When I got back to sleep, I’d dream it again, but with the scenes rearranged. I’d wake up again and analyze what I’d done differently in my re-edited dream. I’d go back to sleep and re-dream/re-edit it yet again. I’d do this all night long, never really getting any decent sleep. I called it the non-linear editor's nightmare. Anyway, it's back, but now I'm on set and I never get anything shot, let alone to the edit.

For the first time in over 2 years, I took all the garage rock out of the CD changer in my car. Garage was all I was listening to anyway, but in my obsession with this beach party rock and roll monster movie, I felt like I had to immerse myself in all things garage to prepare for the shooting of the film. Now that we've wrapped shooting, I can, at least while I'm stuck in traffic, finally think about something else for a while. Mostly I'll be thinking about the script for “Skunk Ape II”, in which the audience will catch up with lead character Theodora 5 years later, when she's playing early ‘70s country/rock music. I went out and got the Gram Parson’s Anthology to start my ‘research’ already.

Here's another recap of the shoot:

DAY TWO (Tuesday, October 5)
Location: Stockbridge Citgo / The Garage

Day Two is when we shoot the climatic scene of the movie with the band playing a party and the Skunk Ape attacks. It's just 3 scenes, less than 4 pages, but it's also lots of setups, wrangling extras and we have to finish by midnight. We have an early call on Wednesday and we have to return to this location later in the week, so we don't want to annoy the garage owner. Call is 5:00 pm, but the day starts for me at 2:30 when Claire, Mary and Cynthia arrive at my house for another band practice and session with Melissa Sandefur, our hair/make up artist.

On all my short films, the ‘cast’ has been my friends—mostly co-workers at Cartoon Network and Turner Broadcasting-- so this was my first time directing professional actors. I've talked to other film makers who have said that working with actors was their favorite part of the process. Having gone through it, I have to agree with them. Working with the actors at rehearsals and watching them turn my script into characters and my admittedly forced dialog into normal-sounding conversation was amazing. Everyone on the cast was remarkable, not one forgotten line and not one false performance during the whole production.

Anyway, back to Tuesday night. With our strict 5 to 1 shooting ratio, we can only shoot a few angles and then just a few takes of each scene. Nevertheless, DP Evan Lieberman and I plan 22 set ups for the climatic scene, half of them facing the stage where all the action happens and half of them from behind the stage. Due to the time it takes to flip all the lights around, we have to shoot all our shots facing one direction, then the other. Determining the most efficient order to do this is the job of the Assistant Director, Alex Orr. It's also his job to bark at cast and crew to make sure everyone is aware of the plan and is doing it. Alex did a fantastic job throughout the production, but especially on this day. We are able to shoot all but 4 of our set ups and those are cutaways and close-ups that we can pick up later in the week when we return to the garage location. I also have to thank all my friends who dressed up and showed up to be extras on a late Tuesday night 30 miles outside of Atlanta.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Wrap principle photography, 10/18/04

At 4:30 AM, Sunday morning, Stomp! Shout! Scream! principle photography wrapped. While there's a few pick up shots left to get, I think-- I hope-- there's a whole film's worth of film waiting to be edited. I'll get my first look at the footage this week. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be just organizing all my materials to edit the film, so instead of detailing that kind of busy-work, I'll dole out some on-set anecdotes.

Location: Lenny’s / Dive Bar

The day starts with the actresses arriving at my house at 11:00 AM for band practice, then they are in makeup for a couple of hours. Call is for 2:00 PM, we get our first shot about 4:00 pm. I meet virtually all the crew members for the first time on set. The stress of directing has me more antsy that I realized it would. I'm most freaked out by how brightly lit Lenny’s is. In my mind, it's supposed to be a dingy, dirty dive bar and the last thing I want is for it to look like it's been lit for a movie. Evan Lieberman, the director of photography, assures me that is not the case. It's very hard to let go. I feel like I'm whining at every set up. Once I realize I'm just going to have to trust him and the crew he's assembled—- because, really, what choice to I have-- I feel much better. I can concentrate on the actors, the shot lists, and getting everything done.

Feature films usually try to average a couple of pages of script a day, but on our budget/schedule, we're shooting our 95 page script in 11 days. That's 8.6 pages per day and today we had just under 5 pages scheduled: a conversation over beers, the opening credits sequence where the on-screen band plays the theme song and the introduction of the love interest, Hector. We get it all with plenty of coverage and wrap at about 2:00AM.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

from the man behind the mask, 10/13/04

From Ned Hastings.

As both a co-worker of Jay Edwards on Aqua Teen Hunger Force and also as a – shall we say – feature player in Stomp! Shout! Scream!, I am adding my own diary entry on the production of Jay's little opus.

Well, week two of production is under way, and week one was a real blast for me. The first week was shot here in Atlanta, and this second week is being shot in Florida (or what's left of it). As you may know from an earlier diary entry of Jay's (with the accompanying ridiculous picture of me), I am playing the monster at the center of the movie. He is a Florida Skunk Ape, which is the state's native name for Bigfoot. The costume, cinematically, leaves much to be desired, but Jay promised me that he was planning to show the creature only in long shots, and shadows, and such. This I liked because a) I am not an actor and b) as I said, it's a pretty funny suit. Imagine my pleasure when I saw that photo on the Web.

That was sarcasm, by the way.

I kid because I love.

With Jay away for the two weeks of his shoot, I have been helping to hold down the fort at Cartoon Network. This has meant that I have had only two shooting days so far. But I've been to the set on two other days, just because it's so cool. In fact, I've been telling everyone in the office to go watch Jay shoot, because no one quite understands the scope of this project. There is somewhere around 25 to 30 people working or waiting to work at any given time, there's a 35mm camera with operator, there's a Director of Photography and an A.D. keeping the whole thing on track; and it's just really fun and totally cool.

And there's Jay at the center of it all, cool as a cucumber.

I, on the other hand, am usually anything but 'cool as a cucumber.' Besides the fur suit pictured elsewhere in these diaries, I am also wearing a black long-sleeved under-suit like the kind athletes wear. I also wear ridiculous feet (two different versions – the suit is evolving), and some black gunk all around my eyes. I'd like to say that wearing that stuff makes me feel like Michael Keaton in his batsuit, but it's closer to the truth to compare this to Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca. For a variety of reasons.

To put it mildly, that suit is hot as Hell. It's not too bad when I don't wear the mask and gloves, but as soon as they come on the sweat starts to pour. My chin sweats so much that the stuff comes out the mouth of the mask, making the creature appear to drool. Which, come to think of it, is not a bad way to play the poor beast.

Right, Ned – you're 'playing' this character.

Actually, I'm merely attempting to embody the character. I put on the suit, do whatever Jay tells me I'm supposed to do, and use my eyes a little to show what I'm 'thinking.' I knew I should have paid closer attention in those mime classes. So far, I've stormed a stage at a rock and roll show about 30 times, grabbing the heroine lustily nearly every time (perk). I've also killed one character, which is cool. What else? I've sort of 'danced.' Lots of people would say that whenever I dance, it's 'sort of dancing,' but this is different. It makes sense in the movie. OK, no it doesn't, but it was fun anyway.

I've also done a couple of 'stunts,' which involved a good bit of the usual movie-making chicanery to pull off. I will neither explain these moments nor divulge the tricks behind them here – you'll have to see the movie and/or the DVD extras. But, again, it was really fun.

I also had a fun moment on screen in which I do not play a rampaging, hairy, sexually aroused beast. Dana Snyder, who is the voice of Master Shake on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, was in town the latter part of last week. I didn't have to shoot on any of the nights or days that he was here, so I got to hang out with him a lot. I took him down to the set so that he could see how awesome it was and, lo and behold, Jay asked not just Dana, but also me to be in one shot of the film. That was cool. He had a line, and then we peeled out in a vintage car. Cool – my first appearance in a movie in which I wasn't wearing fur and make-up around my eyes. (I was also in The Birdcage. Again: sarcasm.)

I am jealous of my cast and crew mates. Everyone else went down on Monday via caravan, but here it is Wednesday and I am not going down until tonight. In fact, I'm flying in a few hours. Oddly, the guy I "killed" the other night volunteered to pick me up. What a stalwart band of troupers we are! Seriously, I've had such a good time hanging out with everyone that I hate not being able to experience these travel and shooting days with them. All of the actors have been really great to watch and to get to know. They actually treat me as an equal, even though they are all trained professionals and I'm just there because I'm the largest mammal the director knows. They are really great actors and watching them has been fascinating. I hate that I've missed out on these few days of travel, work, and bonding time with everyone.

But, I'm heading down soon to talk Jazz with Adrian, kid with the girls, and prattle on about movies with any poor soul who gets within earshot of me. Of course, I'll also put on the suit, "kill" a couple more people, and continue to attempt to drag off the heroine for my own nefarious aims; and hopefully sweat off a few pounds while I'm at it.

I'm looking forward to getting down there and back on set. This is in spite of the fact that the crew's tendency to call all of the actors by the name of their character means that I am called "Skunk Ape" by nearly everyone.

I thought I'd shook off that nickname back in ballet school, but it's back?

- Ned Hastings
Skunk Ape
Stomp! Shout! Scream!