9/7 – Day One. We’re supposed to meet for breakfast at seven a.m. I get there around six thirty. Waiting and waiting. My crew shows up on time. Even three guys (Stuart Ross, Keith Singer, Ed Nair) who are working for free. Chip arrives right on the dot; he’s not staying with the others. But seven comes and goes with no other actors. Ed heads up to the hotel, back down 5 minutes later. He woke them. Little panic, as it’s now 7:30 and we’re already behind. Around eight they show, apologetic. I stress that this cannot happen again. They agree. Lesson #2, You must pick the actors up. You can’t expect them to be on time. ^ Over an hour late when we get to the cabin, our primary location. We have five scenes to shoot today. Nothing terribly complicated, should be easy. ^ We start shooting around ten a.m. I didn’t anticipate the time needed for make-up, hair, and wardrobe. Silly me, I thought it would take ten minutes, not sixty. Also during that time, 2 newspapers and one news station show. Lots of interviews that we need, but slow us even more. ^ First scene goes terribly. Around ten takes. Actors stumbling over lines (except Chip Hajel, who is perfect). We get it in with lots of single shots to use in editing. Three hours later we break for lunch. ^ After lunch, people start hitting their strides. The crew works perfectly together. We get in some little scenes. Do make-up for a gunshot wound. Going very well. Do a pretty intense scene in two takes, we’re constantly improving. ^ Time for a big scene, the “In the woods” scene. People coming and going, lots of blocking, a little fight. First five takes are no good, and then we lose our sunlight. Scrap it and decide to try again tomorrow. No biggie. ^ Get in some more scenes that evening. Work until after eleven p.m. Solid day, overall. I remember thinking to myself “we’ll have lots of down time”. A fourteen hour day, yep. Lesson #3, Everything takes at least 4 times as long as you think it will.
9/8 – Day Two. I go to the hotel to rouse the actors, and then we go for breakfast. This will be standard from now on. ^ Back to the cabin (our last scheduled day there). I honestly don’t think we got a single scene there today. Wait, we did get one, “Raffi” dragging a body. Cool shot with a Cricket eating our fake blood. We try the now dreaded “woods” scene again and it’s a total failure. We have at least four more scenes at the cabin, which we can’t get in. Time to rearrange the schedule. ^ We have to pack up and head into town for 4 more scenes around 4:30 pm. Let’s hope it goes better there. Have a scene where Raffi borrows a gun. That goes well. The guy playing Raffi’s uncle (Robert Hainzer) is phenomenal. ^ On to the Beauty Salon. Some extras there. They do a great job of not looking at the camera. Have a cool revolving shot, which takes half a dozen tries to get. Next scene is continuous to that, in the Back Room. The day ends on a positively sour note as this takes twelve takes and it still isn’t great. They can’t say their dialogue the same way twice. Performances are solid though, just the dialogue problems. It’s around midnight and we scrap the final scene. Decide to turn it into a phone call.
9/9 – Day Three. Saturday, an easy day, right? No breakfast today, they can get their own. We have two exterior scenes to shoot that day, and it’s raining. It can’t rain; they’re supposed to have a picnic! Lots of extras around to see me panic. ^ We do a “dumping the body” scene first, hoping the rain passes. We dump the “body” in the water and it floats. Did you know wood floats? I didn’t. So we pull it back out, get rocks and stuff. Try again. Still floats. We’re laughing, and I think it’s more the impending insanity than genuine humor. Third time’s a charm as it finally sinks. ^ The rain passes. Yippee! We shoot the picnic scene. The extras, dripping wet from the morning’s downpour, were real troopers. ^ Break for lunch, then a few scenes in a trailer that afternoon. Lots of people in a trailer on a hot summer day, not a great combination. It’s almost a hundred in there. Throw in some rotting meat and you have that whole “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” thing going on. These scenes go great, just Chad and Josh involved. ^ The girls are hot and bored. Can’t blame them. We decide to give them 2 days off next week, don’t need them around. Maybe they’ll cheer up if they’re free to do whatever they want. Lesson #4, Don’t have people on set who don’t have anything to do. ^ We finish around seven pm. Earliest quit yet. Amazing.
9/10 – Day Four. Sunday, a day of rest. We shooting at the Georgian Mall, have one scene, should literally take one hour to shoot. We must have sixty extras at the mall and they’re all perfect. ^ One hour turns into six. The mall’s now open and we have people walking through the scene. Takes us forever. I get terribly sunburned. Lesson #5, Always wear sunscreen, even if you think you’ll be “done in a jiffy”. ^ Finish up and go to Chip Hajel’s house there they’re having pizza for everyone. We do some audio there. I go home and crash. Actors go out and party.
9/11 – Monday. Just the actors today. Chad and Josh. Our location for the day is around 20 miles away from town. We don’t have a second car. Have to wake the actresses to drive us up. They aren’t pleased at being woken. What am I supposed to do? We get lost on the way there, have to get directions. Can this go any more wrong before we even begin? ^ Finally arrive. Actresses leave. Chad is in an awful mood. I’m getting there too. Mike and Vicky tell me that he quit smoking the night before. Just perfect. First scene that morning is terrible, Chad’s just not there. I hand him his script and tell him to study his lines for fifteen minutes. He knocks the script out of my hands, into the air, pages fly everywhere. He says, “I don’t need this movie. I’m James Dean”(no kidding), then “Which way is the bus station, I’m leaving”. He walks away. I feel like telling him where the @#$*! Bus station is, but don’t. Mike chases after him to try and calm him down. I’m trying to decide how we can reshoot all our footage when we only have seven days left. ^ Luckily, the guy whose property we were using had some old cigarettes. He gives them to Chad. Chad’s a happy camper again, apologizes. I hate Phillip Morris. ^ It picks up there and the rest of the day goes great. Only snag is our generator won’t work. And we need it for night shots. After an hour of toying with it, it starts. Quit around ten.
9/12 – Day Five. Our best day to date, almost perfect. A little scene in a country store in the morning. Then two news stations show up to interview everyone. Very fun. Some scenes at my house in the afternoon. Some scenes in a garage that night. All great. I’m walking on air when we finish at nine pm.
9/13 – Day Six. Things really have seemed to gel. Actresses are with us again today, and do great work. Shoot in a diner all morning. Then some scenes at a pond in the mid afternoon. Mike and I transport the boat to our evening location (a swimming pool), we put it in the pool to make sure it will fit. It does. Whew! ^ Back to my place, two hours of down time. Amazing. Mike and I bitch about the problems. It’s good to vent. Eat dinner, and then head to the pool. ^ Wait for it to get dark. Actors in boat. While Mike is setting up the camera and lights, I rehearse with actors. Performances are a little flat. We can all see it (so can the 25 spectators who have gathered). I cut a few lines and say why. The cast person says to me “Well, I didn’t write the script!” You, literally, could hear a pin drop. Total silence. I smile and laugh it off. We keep rehearsing, but it doesn’t get a lot better. Lesson #5, Always swallow your pride, especially when there are onlookers. ^ We have to do this scene in one take, because 2 characters go in the water. We cross our fingers and hope for the best. Action! ^ And they nail the scene! The best performances we’ve had to date. Why they wouldn’t do that in rehearsals, I don’t know. But it goes terrific and everyone claps. I pull the actors from the water; it’s very cold out. They dry off, head back to the hotel. All in all, a very solid day.
9/14 – Day Seven. We’re back at the cabin, again. Takes several hours to get everyone moving, they seem exhausted. Have I been working them too hard? ^ Once we do get rolling, it does go well. We finally finish that killer “in the woods” scene that we attempted two times before. We get some other stuff in that afternoon. ^ We shoot our only “sex” scene. And we do it in one take. I’m too embarrassed to watch, and Mike doesn’t call cut, and they just keep fake doing it for almost two minutes. Nice tension breaker. ^ Only one scene to go, a LONG (five minutes) poker scene. The crew and I are dreading it. We break for dinner, and Mike and I chat. I find out that the cast has been staying up very late (two and three a.m.). So that’s why they’re so tired. Mike and I decide to play poker for a few hours (with Chip, who wasn’t one of the ones staying out to such ungodly hours). ^ We move on to the poker scene, it takes almost two hours to shoot. Boy, is this going to be a killer to edit. They just aren’t “listening” to each other. I think we finish at around fifteen takes. Wrap shortly after midnight. If they’re going to stay out late, we’ll work them late.
9/15 – Day Nine. Cabin again. We have to wrap up here today. And we do. Nice performances today. The actors sleep in between takes. Finish very early, around six thirty. One day left.
9/16 – Day Ten. All the scenes today are shot at my house. We don’t start until around nine. First scenes go well, very well actually. Nailing everything in 2 or 3 takes. ^ A scene that afternoon is a killer. We shoot it from outside the house, through the window. Still uses seven takes. But it worked, that’s all that matters. ^ We do audio all evening, wrap around nine. Decide to shoot a little “opening credit” sequence tomorrow”.
9/17 – Day Eleven. I meet up with Mike and Vicky extremely early (six thirty) for one really amazing scene (you’ll have to watch, I won’t give it away). Poor Mike has to be submerged in water when it’s thirty degrees outside. He’s a trooper. ^ Meet actors around eight, do the credit stuff. Get everything in. Hooray! ^ Mike and Vicky head to the airport around three. The cast takes off for Pittsburgh to spend the night (Nechelle’s flying out early in the morn.). ^ Everyone’s gone. I cry. I’m a sissy-boy. Even with the little problems, I love them all, and hate to see them leave. Shortly afterwards, I crash and awaken a few days later.
In the meantime ^ So we’ve been busy with post-production the past few months. We had some audio problems, but worked our way through them. We could have used a bit more coverage, but it isn’t a big problem. ^ By the end of January, everything will have wrapped up and we’ll be getting video duplications made. And then, we begin the labyrinth of film festivals. More joy. ^ Oh, and in case you were wondering if the filmmaking process has driven me mad… Well, I’m directing “Losing Hope”(a comedy) in May of 2001 and a horror film “Insatiable”, in August of the same year. You decide.
Tony Urban ^ Epic Films
Check out FILMTHREAT.com’s INTERVIEW ARCHIVES and read hundreds of fascinating in-depth interviews with directors, filmmakers, actors and celebrities from the world of film!