A sort of minor/major part of the script of “Holy Ghost People” was the car that our hero Wayne (played by the a*s kicking Brendan McCarthy) drives. Seeing as the film has many of the classic elements of a western film, this car was his steed. It was his personality and his vehicle to get our story where it needed to go. Therefore, our director Mitchell Altieri had a very specific idea about what kind of car it should be. A mid-1960’s model Ford Mustang in blue. If worse came to worse, other muscle type cars of the mid-60’s could be discussed but this was what he wanted. And as I pointed out in my last blog, my newfound duty for a month was to get Mitch whatever he needed to bring his vision to life.
Now, those who have made a film know how difficult it can be to assemble small yet integral parts of a film. Obviously locations and props are huge assets that most audiences either don’t notice or take in on a subconscious level. A good filmmaker has a reason for choosing the props and locations he/she chooses and Mitch was no different. He had very clear reasons for why he needed a mid-1960’s blue Ford Mustang. Thing is, when you’re in rural Tennessee, items like that can be tough to come by as cars like that are either beat to s**t or somebody’s prize possession that they never let out of their sight, as I soon found out. Here are the 3 cars we went through before finding the most perfect car of all.
Since I was in a strange land and knew very few people, I really had to put on the ole thinking cap on where to find a car. It donned on me that maybe there was a local car show or some kind of hot rod club that met nearby and that would be a good spot to place an inquiry. So, I did and sure enough, the head of a local car club got back to me almost immediately with a lead on a beautiful 1964 Ford Mustang. Boom. First email, a success. Yeah, the car was a little darker than we wanted, but it was close enough location-wise that it wasn’t a hassle and I talked to owner into loaning it to us for free. But ONLY if he promised to stick around and watch us shoot the movie. He agreed and we gave him directions of where to meet us 4 days later. We’d need the car 3 days total and he couldn’t have been nicer about it. Afterall, we had a huge insurance policy on the production so if anything went wrong, he’d be getting his car totally redone or a nice little payday.
So, that settled I jumped into putting out whatever other fires needed putting out and kind of forgot about the car for a day. That is until I got a frantic call at about 8:00 pm the next night from the car donor saying a tree had fallen through his house and bringing us the car was just not going to work. Hey, I believed the guy. If you’re going to lie, that’s a bad one and I know how excited he was. O.K., now what? 2 days to find a car that production depended on.
When the other producers started scouting locations in Tennessee, they met an amazingly nice bartender named “Christine.” Like the car, only sweeter. She knew everything about Crossville, TN and the surrounding areas and wheenver one of us got into a pickle, she was there with a lead. She told us about her friends dad who had a beautiful Ford Mustang, just like what we wanted so I called him at 9:00pm that night (late for calling older folks, I know. But this is the new, “don’t say no” Don, remember?) and arranged to come see the car the next day. When I got there, it was the most ideal car ever. I took photos and texted them back to Mitch and the others and we all agreed; this was it. The guy who owned it couldn’t have been nicer or more excited to have it in a movie. Sold. Done deal. Over.
I should also add that when I got the list of potential car people from the guy who ran the local hot rod club, another gentleman was excited to let us use his car but he was three hours away. I had kind of put him on the substitute list because it just felt wrong to have someone come all that way for little pay, etc. Plus the car was a larger, older muscle car that was cool but not exactly right. I’ll get back to him in a minute.
So, we’re a day away from shooting the scenes with the car which will take place over two days with one night shoot. We have secured the dream car. The guy loaning us the car even called me the night before at about 6:00 pm and left a message, exited as can be. He just wanted to check in with the street address and times and he would be there. Since we were in the boondocks, I missed that call and as I listened to his excited voice message saying he couldn’t wait to come down, another message came through, also from this older gentleman. I clicked that message too, kind of rolling my eyes as I expected him to ask if he should bring coffee and donuts or his grandmothers homemade moonshine. It was neither of those things.
The message said: “Don, this is _____________ (name redacted, because I can’t remember) and I decided, I don’t wanna do it. I thought it over and I don’t want to let you use my car.” Ohhh s**t. Here we are, 14 hours away from an entire day with an entire cast and crew ready to shoot this car and this guy bails. I ran down the street to the one spot where I could get decent reception and called him.
“C’mon ________, I thought we had a deal! We have insurance, you can stay as long as you want. The car will be fine! I said.” “Nope, Don” he replied, “I just….can’t do it. “ I said “what if we pay you? How about that?” “Nope, “ he drawled, “turns out, I forgot I have surgery to remove a boil and I just can’t let you use the car.” Dude. Surgery to remove a boil? A tree in your house is a good excuse, forgotten surgery, not a good one. After a few moments of “New Don” style pleading it became clear that this was a very stubborn old man who also apparently has a more forgiving alter-ego. “O.K. I said, good luck with the surgery” and I hung up. F****d.
I immediately called the backup guy, Mr. 3 Hours Away. He said if I had only called a few hours earlier, he could have got his friend to tow the car down. Now his buddy had taken the trailer somewhere else and there was no way to get the car to us. Oh, did he mention it rarely started right away? Double and triple f**k. I was f****d. We were f****d. All my dreams of f*****g up were happening. Granted, not totally my fault but still, my responsibility. F**k. Then I remembered something our camera PA hold told me.
I don’t even remember how it came up but one morning on the way to breakfast, he mentioned he saw a neighbor turning a wrench on a nice looking blue Mustang. Since by this time it was 10:00 pm, I encouraged the crew to think about switching days around which could be done, but was a huge pain. First thing the next morning though, I pulled the camera PA aside and asked “which house was it” and then I drove over there, a mere half-mile away at 7:00 am and knocked on the door. A frightened looking woman answered in her housecoat and I said “Hi, I’m Don with the movie that’s filming around the corner at the camp. How would you like to make $500.00 just by letting us use your Mustang for a few days?” The rest, you can see on the screen when you see “Holy Ghost People.”