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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

August 10th, 1999

Joe Ripple faces off with Aric Ganz,
revealing that what I really wanna do is shoot a Western

It's funny that this was the first shoot with Joe Ripple, who would later go on and surprise all of us by directing horror movies on his own.

I'm sorry to say that back then we were shooting on film, because we wouldn't do any "rolling rehearsals", and Joe did some funny improv on one that I wish I had video of...

And looking back at this to see that I watched The Sixth Sense in the middle of this's hard to place how far back this was until you see details like that.

August 10th

The schedule got changed again. Ganz was getting tired, as he's working his regular job and doing these late night shoots, so I agree to move some shots to later so we can end the night earlier.

The sun was setting, so we got a few shots and then moved inside. I was worried about the actor playing our detective, Joe Ripple, since I hadn't heard back from him, but he showed up early, dressed perfect. He came on, knew his lines, and made us all crack up on set. One of our better choices for actors, and someone I'll definitely use again on another shoot.

We rolled through that scene and then knocked out three scenes in a half an hour. They were all set in the bedroom as Aric Blue goes to sleep. All we had to do was change him and lie him in a different position. Came out like a charm.

Ahead of schedule, we shot a scene that was planned weeks later. A flashback scene. It went nicely. We were thinking about sending out two reels to RGB labs to see what the stuff looked like and to make sure there was no scratching on the negatives or anything. It was too late to do much if there was, but it would be nice to see.

We knock off early and go see Sixth Sense, starring Bruce Willis. Good movie. Worth seeing. (and in hindsight, I had no idea how big it would go on to be)

Tomorrow is a cake day. We're shooting one scene in the evening that's a flashback. I'm beginning to brace for the coming weekend, as that's when I have scheduled the bulk of the shoots.

Monday, October 26, 2009

August 9th, 1999

Getting the shot with the real gun--notice us all cleared from behind the Camera.
This night was hot, and I ran a lot. That's what I remember. And yeah, I remember those annoying kids.

August 9th

Another late day. Most of our schedule is evening shoots, as a result of of the combination of our lead actor's work schedule and the fact that many scenes take place at night.

The shoot was at my girlfriend's parents' house, which was doubling as the place that our lead serial killer has temporarily appropriated.

I got my girlfriend to go down to a neighbor's house--one she doesn't know--and ask if they'll mind if we shoot some film in front of her house. The woman didn't seem to mind. Then I got my girlfriend to go to another neighbor and borrow a dog for the night's scene. Only drawback is that there was this kid that kept saying to me, "My dog's gonna be in the scene tonight". Over and over. Like I don't fuckin' know it, kid.

Dave, Dave and Rick Ganz arrived, and we started to set up. We needed to shoot a scene as Rick watches a man with a dog, then the man with dog walks off. The light was fading fast and we wanted to shoot before it got pitch black.

Didn't happen.

We didn't shoot from inside the house where I'd originally planned it. The dog was excitable and uncooperative. We had to put its owner out of camera range in the direction we wanted it to walk, and sometimes it would just bolt out of its collar. It liked cheese, so we hid some in the bush where we wanted it to go. It didn't work too well.

Kids ran into the scene once, not knowing we were rolling. I was losing patience very fast.
We moved down the street where we would film where Rick kills the man and his dog by shooting them. We had to run extension cord down the road about 800 feet and ended up putting too many lights on one cord.

So I ran another line from the house(the operative word begin “ran”, as I ran back and forth from the house myself no fewer than ten times).

We kept blowing fuses, so we tried hooking them to the house near where we were shooting(without permission). They didn't work. Finally, my girlfriend got permission to let us run cord to the house of someone she knew nearby.

The kids had come down and were pestering the shit out of me. They'd climb in the van, they'd pull extension cords, they were brats of the worst order. I blew my top. I wasn't nice about it all, but I got them out of there. They left crying. I think one of them stole the disc to my light meter.

That's showbiz.

And this is what the shot looked like on film.

We got the scene done and I think it came out nicely, at least the end of it. Hard to tell. The hardest thing about this shoot is not being the one shooting. I'm used to shooting my own footage, and sometimes it makes you feel a bit helpless and uneasy when you don't know exactly what was shot.

We shot a dream sequence later in the night, spewing smoke all over. The wind started blowing, and Gil said to Mun, "Move the smoke machine over there". Mun said, "But the smoke's blowing that way". Deadpan, Gil said back, "Oh, then just sit there." It was funny.

One thing I learned quickly: Indy filmmaking is about compromise. You need to be able to rewrite the script on demand to fit the boundaries that you'll come up against. Running too much footage? Shoot less takes. People talking in places that it's hard to light? Move the location. Can't get the shot you want? Shoot a different one, even if you think it could have been the best shot out of the whole thing.

It's frustrating, but that's pretty much the definition of indy filmmaking, at least as far as I can read it.

I thought I'd record some of the sexual innuendo going on during the shoot, but it's hard to write them all down. Here's a couple:

"I got Off on my hands" --Rick Ganz, referring to bug spray.
"Move it around so I can get the effect" --Dave Gil, referring to moving a Chinese lantern on a boom pole to see the best lighting.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

August 8th, 1999

Dave Gil goofing off as Mun holds the China Ball lamp that we've taped to a boom pole. This was our primary light on HH. And no, I'm not kidding.

Man, running around doing things with NO permission is quite the rush. You never know what bullshit story you're going to have to make up on the spot to convince someone to let you shoot there.

Cop come by? You're a student shooting a film.

Nosy neighbors? You're shooting something for your son's school's project.

Inquisitive people? You're shooting a video for a movie you wanna get into Sundance. Can they help?

It's like that 80's song. Lies lies lies...yeah.

August 8th

Started late afternoon, so I finally caught up on some of my sleep. Our first shot was guerilla filmmaking at the Super Fresh.

No permit. No insurance. No permission.

No problems, either, it turned out. Not one person bothered us, not even the two cops who pulled up near us. They went in to get a pizza. I mentioned how well that went and that we were ahead of schedule and everyone told me to shut up; I'd curse us.

We were about 45 minutes ahead of schedule, but it was raining and the later scenes involved outside stuff. We shot anyway. It went well. We even got to use a restaurant called Granny's, got permission and all. I forgot to get a location release signed, but I'll do that the minute we're done shooting. I promise.

On to my brother Paul's. He plays an artist who is stalked and killed by Aric.

He was a real sport. We shot his death scene and all, even splashed water(doubling for gas) all over his room and he didn't mind. He was late for a family reunion, which I was AWOL for. Hey, gotta have priorities.

Went on to Rick Shipley's death scene. Got the locals to cooperate with us and they even let us run a power cord into the building. Went off good, should look really nice when color corrected.
Our next scene was in Aric's car, which was Rick Ganz's car. It was full of stuff though, since he was moving. We had to go move him to Frederick before we could shoot the next scene. We were ahead of schedule, but that would set us back.

After dropping Rick's stuff off, we went to Annapolis to look for well-lit roads. We stopped at Denny's for a healthy breakfast. For some reason, they had the A.C. set at about Absolute Zero.

Dave Mun told a funny story about how he lost his finger(he's missing one, in case you didn't hear). Anyway, when he was younger, he was in a class to learn how to catch throwing stars. His master threw one and Mun reached up to catch it. "Did I get it?" he asked. Say this like you're an ancient Oriental Martial Arts Teacher: "You failed".

Cracked us up, anyway. All any of us had to say to get the group cracking up was "You failed".

We found the Annapolis Mall to be pretty lit, so we figured we'd drive around in the parking lot, in the road that goes in a huge circle around it. You wouldn't be able to tell, since the focus was on Rick.

Anyway, we'd just started shooting and security drove up and asked what we were doing. I told him we were shooting something for class. Did we have permission, he wanted to know. I told him no, but we'd be gone in five minutes.

Not good enough, apparently. He kicked us out.

What an asshole. Annapolis is like that. I think it must be a huge city full of closet cannibals or something, because I've never seen a town so afraid of cameras.

Later, Rick started to question whether he wore the right wardrobe in the right shots. Just what I needed. We didn't have anyone in charge of continuity, so I'd asked him to go through his script and make a note of what outfits he wore and when. So much for that.

We ended up shooting until 4am in the morning, but it wasn't that big a deal since we had a late start the next day.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

August 7th, 1999

Lisa played Barb, the secretary

Mun(with beer), Ganz, Gil, and Shipley

I remember this day as being kind of fun. The environment was semi-controlled.

Biggest hassle was my stomach--early in the morning it just decided to freak out. To be delicate about it, I blew up the only bathroom in the office, so we couldn't shoot down that hall until the stench cleared out.

As I look at the pics above I remember that Gil got into a little mood and asked Mun if he wanted to shoot a couple of takes. This made me very uncomfortable, since I had seen nothing Mun had ever shot.

I let Mun do it for a couple of takes, but I supervised even closer on those.

August 7th

Earlier than noon, I don't perform well at anything other than complaining, so you can imagine the state of things as I picked up the camera guys at 8:30 am.

We arrived at the office at the scheduled time of 9:30, but there was no one to let us in. Jeff, one of our actors for the day was already there, and after a few minutes, Ganz arrived with the key.

We hustled all our equipment in and set up.

Rick Shipley, a local filmmaker who had helped us cast a lot of our talent, showed up to help us out. He shot a movie on DV called Dangerous Mode, so keep an eye out for it.

The girl who would play Barb, the secretary at Aric's workplace, is named Lisa. She and her boyfriend Brian showed up. Shortly after, Duke arrived. He played Brad, another of Aric's co-workers.

As we set up, I could quickly tell we'd have a problem shooting sound in the office that was to be Aric's. It was small, and the sound was reverberating the slight camera noise right into the shotgun mic.

So for every take, we would shoot film and sound, then another take without the camera, so I could try to place it in. I've a feeling, though, that we're going to be doing a lot of ADR(Automatic Dialogue Replacement). That's a tedious process and isn't exactly cheap.

We started rolling through the scenes, but some of the people we were using weren't actors, so they'd flub lines left and right. I had to have Gil get a lot of coverage from behind in case I had to just dub in the lines while the audience is staring at their back. I've had to do it before, and I did it with success, so I'm not too concerned about it.

One of the funny incidents: We didn't have enough hands to do the slate, so we had the actor in the scene doing it. It was something like Scene 33, Take 2. He reads Scene 33, Take 6. None of us could figure out where the six came from, but that's one way to make it tough to sync up sound in the editing room.

As the day wound down, it turned out I didn't have enough sound cable to run outside around the side of the building, so we had to scrap that shot for the day. That made two scenes total that we missed. It looked like it was a good thing that I'd left an extra week for anything we missed.

We were probably going to need it.

We wrapped about 9:00 pm and I flew home. I was asleep by 10:30, so that the next day I wouldn't be comatose.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

AUGUST 6th, 1998

Dave Gil sets up the shot with Cathy Granville.

I was sweating bad. That's what I remember about this day, and you can see it on the Making Of on the HH dvd.

NOTHING was going right. I didn't know near enough about sound and I was in charge of it all. I was on the DAT machine trying to get the best sound but I wasn't even sure what levels I was supposed to be recording at.

Sure, I had spent a year on the newsgroups talking to sound guys but you get differing opinions. In the end it worked out pretty well.

But don't get me started on everything else that day. I've spent a lot of time trying to forget it.


On paper, I had us starting to set up about 4 p.m., as the shot takes place sometime toward the evening. We were scheduled to be in Rick Ganz's parents' house. He told them to take off and he'd pay for a hotel room for them.

I was running late, due to trying to call everyone, ensure we had food and drinks on set, pick up the special effects knife and more that popped up by the moment.

I got Gil(the D.P.) and Mun(the A.C.), and we bolted over to the house. Rick and Cathy--the girl who was to get naked for the shower attack--were waiting.

We began setting up. It took a while. There was a ton of equipment, and we were working with the bare minimum as it was. No wonder studio shoots have crews of a thousand.

We set up and get some of the shots inside. They were going well and the dog we had was actually doing what it was supposed to! We couldn't believe it.

Luck changed just like that.

We went outside to try to shoot some exteriors. The mosquitoes attacked immediately, biting the hell out of Mun and Gil's arms and legs. I've never seen anyone swell up from mosquito bites like they did.

I was trying to record sound when suddenly a fire truck pulled up across the street, and of course they didn't turn off the truck. They just sat there and made loud noises. So we were going to take it all back inside when I heard someone shouting to me.

The fire truck was there because there were live wires exposed. Those wires had now blown a transformer in the neighborhood, so no one had any power. Cameras and DAT machines and mixers run on power. I figured we'd wait an hour and see if they had it back on.

I figured wrong.

Rick came in and told me his parents were outside. His father had a stroke earlier in the day and they were back from the hospital. They didn't want to go to a hotel.

We beat a hasty retreat. The plan was then to go to the apartment Rick was moving out of, and try to shoot the rest of the scene and match the shots. I realized immediately that the carpets were not going to be the same color, but lots of people have more than one color of carpet in their house. I hoped it would match somehow, or I'd be rewriting out the beginning of the scene.

We got to the apartment and set up. The place was messy from the get-go, since Rick was on his way out, but now the living room was cluttered with equipment. As we were getting ready to shoot the scene where the girl strips to her underwear, Rick's soon-to-be ex-wife shows up.

What are we doing there, she wanted to know. There was an argument. Rick's soon-to-be ex-wife left in a huff. Good riddance, I say.

So we shot the scene where Cathy strips to her underwear and enters the bathroom. It went pretty well. We started the shot where she takes off her bra and panties and starts to get in the shower when she's attacked. When Rick pulled the curtain back and grabbed her, you could hear his hand hitting her throat. He JERKED her to the side and made motions like he was stabbing her.

When I yelled "Cut", I was terrified that Cathy was hurt. If you'd seen my face during the take, you would have laughed. I think my jaw hit the ground at the ferocity of Rick's attack. If it looks half as good on film, people will think Rick really hurt her.

Well, he did, sort of.

He had a real knife for that shot, and he brought it in and turned it so the handle would be the only thing touching Cathy. Unfortunately, he nicked her with the knife a couple of times. She was a real sport though. She didn't even complain when the prop knife with a retractable blade--the one that was hand-made by my brother--broke skin on her chest.

We ended about midnight and we had missed a scene. Not too bad, considering we'd had to move on the fly.

The only bad part: By the time all was said and done(we had packed up, I'd taken the crew home, I'd gone to get the wheelchair that was near our original shoot that evening, and then I'd gone to Metro to get some last-minute food and supplies) it was 4:30 am. I went to bed immediately and got up at 8:30 am.

Very tired, very sick to my stomach. I knew it was going to be a rough day.

Rick Ganz is creepy in the shower. Trust me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

August 5th, 1999

Funny anecdote I remember from this day that I never put in the log.

I picked up Gil and Mun at the airport.

Now, I don’t realize it because Gil doesn’t set your gaydar off, but he’s gay. (and this will come into play in another funny story during HH)

So we’re driving out of the airport and some idiot swerves into my lane. I say, “Fucking faggot.” Gil and Mun laugh—I probably would have realized they were laughing just a bit too hard, but I had other things on my mind.

Later when we found out he was gay I remembered that and laughed. Hey, I’m a child of the 80’s. "Faggot" was the in-slur back then, and it's still a staple of my vocabulary.

Also, meeting Mun turned out to be a great thing, as he went on to shoot my next two features.
This is what the back of my parents' mini-van looked like--
it's the poor-man's grip truck.


August 5th, 1999

The D.P. and his camera assistant flew in, so I was to meet them at the airport at 7:26 p.m. I was using my parents' van for the week, so I went to pick it up. Meanwhile, I was frantically trying to find a wheelchair for the dolly shots.

I got to my parents' house and my head was still spinning from the list of things to do. I'd written tons of them down, not the least was to call the actors/actresses I'd need for the next day's shoot. Kiona, our Production Manager, helped out some, but I hadn't really given her much of a cast list to go from.

I was about to pull out of my parents' driveway when my dad said to hold on. He played with one of the tires and I just got a chance to hear "Looks like a...nail", before the tire began deflating rapidly.

It was about six o'clock and now I had to jack up the car, patch the tire, put the tire back on and get going. I'd meant to stop by my brother's house to pick up the special effects knife he made, but there was no time now.

I got it all done and picked up the guys at the airport. They turned out to be real good guys, amiable and understanding about the very-guerilla way of shooting that we ended up doing.
David Gil is the D.P.(Director of Photography), and he's done stuff for Fox, NBC and CBS, so he really knew what he was doing. The only reason I could even afford him was because he was trying to get some feature film credit for his demo reel. He's only 28, too, and Latino, but don't hold that against him. (Who loves ya, Gil?)

David Mun is the 1st A.C.(Assistant Cameraman), and really the only A.C. At 22, he's younger than Gil, but seems pretty knowledgeable. He's shot some shorts on his own and has his sights set on D.P.'ing a feature himself in the future.

We decided to go ahead and take the camera up to the theater that night, as we were going to catch a late showing of Mystery Men. We were going to try to get some footage of my friend James splicing film as a theater worker.

As we set up and just messed around, I saw how long it took to set up lights, test equipment, move everything, and the rest of the essentials. I could tell that I might as well toss my projected schedule into the paper shredder.

The Mystery Men was pretty good though, and we did discuss a few of the tactics we'd take to shoot some of the other movie scenes. I dropped them off at the luxurious hotel that I'd gotten for them(Motel 6) and headed off to get some sleep.

Good luck with that. I ended up getting about 3 hours of sleep.

Monday, October 19, 2009

August 1st, 1999

Exhibit B for why you should not try your own poster art

So yeah. This one is pretty brutal. You can tell I was feeling the pressure.

The funny part here is that Rick and I knew each other since about 1994 and then he started dating his soon-to-be wife. Let's call her P.

And I didn't like P, and I guess the feeling was mutual. Rick kinda distanced himself from me, I'm sure at her urging. We stopped hanging out. I didn't get invited to the wedding. (I was not offended--believe me, I hate weddings.)

A couple of years after they got married we somehow connected again, and tried to get a feature film off the ground, which led us here.

But eventually my perception of P was proven correct, and they divorced. Too bad the brutal part of the separation took place during my first feature film...

Aug 1st, 1999

Eight days until we shoot and I still have no film. Kodak keeps referring me to someone who's not there. I leave a message, I get no reply. This was all because they wanted me to get a business account.

Am I going to get a discount for having a business account? No. So what the fuck? Rick, the main asset, is having trouble with his wife.

Basically, she's a cunt. No, really. I don't use that word a lot, but it fits. If they didn't have a kid together, I'm sure Rick wouldn't even be married to her.

So, they're going to separate and the way this is going to work out is that Rick has to be out of his apartment somewhere around the 15th of August.

Ah, perceptive of you. Yes, right in the middle of the shoot. I guess, because I don't have enough to worry about.

Anyway, I call Kodak back and act like I've never talked to them before(they've got a million reps, so it wasn't tough). I ordered twenty five reels of 400 foot film and had them ship it to me. Taken care of.

Thanks for jerking me around, Kodak. I’ll remember you in the end credits.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Brief Break

A quick break--this is the last trailer I put together before sending the final to MTI Home Video for delivery. It includes the awards we won and the Joe Bob Briggs quotes from his review.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

July 29th, 1999

A promo still Rick and I shot in Baltimore

Looking back this is one of the scariest decisions of my life. I was 29 with a small business and eleven grand. I could take that money and do something else, or roll the dice on the movie.

I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I might as well be lighting the money on fire. Maybe if I called the whole thing off I could still convince myself there was a chance I could do it. No need to attempt it and fail.

It should tell you something that I still remember exactly how frightened I was at moving forward. I remember the nights lying awake trying to convince myself that taking this chance would be okay, even if I failed.

Interesting to note that I think this was the start of my long long battle with insomnia.

July 29th, 1999

The shoot date is barreling toward me like you wouldn't believe. I'm having a hard time sleeping. Every time I lay down I think about all the shit I have left to do, and invariably I can't sleep.

I make plans for an employee to cover most of the hours at my store. New comics come in on Wednesdays, so I would need to come in and work those days, so I've scheduled no shoots on Wednesdays. That'll be the one-day off a week for everyone. That is, everyone but me.

I talk to my parents about switching my car for their van for the three weeks. No problem.

I've bought some lights from eBay that I'm hoping will help us out on the shoot. A big 1500 watt Lowell as well as a smaller one on a telescoping tripod. Gil is going to bring a fog machine, so I don't have to worry about that. (Fog machines help boost light in low-light scenes in the dark, and they add a type of ambience. If you spread it around, you can't even see it in the film, but it adds)

Jesus. August is right about here and I'm going to shoot a movie. Holy shit. Holy shit. That's all I can think. After almost five years of trying, I'm going to shoot a movie.

Cold feet hits big. I think about calling the whole thing off. Hey, I think, I've only blown about $2000. Cut my losses right now and I've got a chunk of money and no remorse about wasting it.

Is this going to be a waste? Am I going to be able to deliver something I'm not ashamed of for roughly 1/1000th of 1% of an average Hollywood movie?

I don't know. There are too many variables. Too many unknowns. I'm a control-freak and a lot of this is going to depend on so many things I won't have total control of.

I won't call it off. I'm going to shoot this movie, because if I call off another attempt, I'm done. That would be it. You don't understand; when you start prepping for a movie, everyone hears about it. Then, two months later they ask how it's going and you have to make excuses.

And while you're making excuses you're second-guessing yourself, you're doubting yourself. You feel bad about having to make these excuses, and lo and behold, it happens all over again!

It wasn't going to happen to me this time. I was going to shoot the goddamn movie and if I wasted money--fuck it. I'd make more and chalk it up as a learning experience. That's what everything is if you look at it in the right light.

A learning experience.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

March-July, 1999

This is part of the story that I have conveniently left out when I have talked about HH. In the end I chose to take the tougher road in order to make the film, something I did a couple of times.

Now I'm glad. But back then, man, it was a struggle.

March- July, 1999

More trying to fill roles.

I bring in Duke and I do Aric’s lines while Duke reads Brad’s lines. This cracks Rick up, as he’s seeing me do the lines the way I wrote them, which is not exactly the way he’s been reading them.

Duke’s not bad. He’s nervous, but he settles down after a while. I think we’ll go with him over Rick’s other friend. I’ll try to get the other guy a non-speaking part, so he can at least be in the movie.

Rick’s got someone for the naked part. She comes in and does some lines(even though she doesn’t really have any in the movie, other than talking to her dog), and I shoot some pictures to get an idea of how she’ll look. I think she’ll do fine. More on her later.

We still haven’t filled two parts in the movie. The part of Ken, a dorky co-worker of Aric’s who really wants to be his friend, and the part of Frank, the scummy detective hired to follow Aric.

Rick mentions that his boss at work has done some theater stuff. I’m getting desperate, so I say, let’s see him. He brings him by one night. The guy kind of looks like the actor who plays Freddy Krueger, which is cool. Maybe the audience will suspect he’s the other serial killer in the movie. His name is Jeff Kipers.

He reads some lines and does pretty good. I cast him on the spot. He wants to know when rehearsal is. I laugh like a hyena. Rehearsal? There won’t be any time for rehearsal. Learn the lines, we’ll do a couple of run-throughs before we roll the camera, and there you go.

Still no one for the part of Frank. I may do it myself, even though I’ve given myself a non-speaking cameo already.

Oh, yeah, I guess I can mention that I got kicked out of my house. Well, it wasn’t really my house.

It went like this:

My girlfriend(who was actually my fiance, but the word freaks me out) had moved into her grandmother’s house(at her grandmother’s request) because the old bag lives in Florida for most of the year, just comes back to her house in Maryland for the summer months.

So my gf said to me "Hey, you want to move in with me, just split the utilities, since the house was paid off?" Sounded like a good deal. So that’s where we were for over a year.

Then, somewhere around June, her grandmother called to say she was coming back and she wanted me out of the house when she got there. Came out of the blue. I mean, I never got along with her(hence, I had given her the nickname “troll”), but we hardly even saw each other. I think she hated the fact that I’d go to bed at like four in the morning and get up to go to work at about one p.m. That didn’t jibe with her view of the nine-to-five man.

So my gf flips out, tells her grandmother off. I’ve got roughly two weeks to move out of the house and no where to go. I can get an apartment, but it’s going to suck money from the movie. I don’t think I can afford to shoot the movie AND get an apartment(which will take a security deposit and the first-month’s rent up front). I’d have to pony up about $1200 immediately.

I make a decision. Time to suffer for the art, baby.

I move into my store. It has a back room(about ten by twenty feet), and I buy a futon to serve as my bed. Won’t be much of a bed, but…

My cat has to move in with me. She’s not too keen on the idea, and frequently takes to attacking customers while they’re shopping through the back issues. It IS kind of funny to watch.

Here’s how my schedule goes for about two months:

Hang out at the store before going to bed, watching one of about three channels I get on the television. I go to sleep about four in the morning and wake up frequently because the futon is hard as hell, not very comfortable. Then, when my employee shows up to open the store, I wake up briefly, but doze back off.

Finally wake up at about two p.m. I peer out the covered back windows to see if there are any customers in the store. If there are, I wait until they leave. If not, I come out and act like I’ve been there since we opened.(I don’t want customers to think I’m living in the store).

Then I stuff a change of clothes in my bag and go take a shower(either at my parents’ house or Missy’s parents’ house.)

It’s not fun, not at all. To be honest, it's some of the worst nights I can remember...

At one point, after a few months of this, my gf has moved out of her grandmother’s house also, and moved in with her parents. She asks if I want to do that also.

I jump at it. This store shit SUCKS.

Monday, October 12, 2009

February 8th, 1999

Who is this? Just another actress who'd like to be in movies.
Sometimes they send pictures.

No. Again, nothing to do with HH. I apologize.

I know, I know. This is a lot of technical stuff that probably is boring to you if you don't make films. But I am going to put this up exactly the way it was, so you're just gonna have to suck it up for a little while.

Don't worry, in the next blog I'm going to tell something about HH that I have only told some close friends, something that was never put in the original HH log online. How's that for a tease?

And yes, we shot HH on FILM. It's this ancient thing you may have heard of. If you don't know what it is you'll have to go to the museum to see it because it's very hard to find now.

You may get the gist of how hard this was when you read everything I was doing. Yes, all the preproduction from shooting script to booking hotels and flights, ordering film.


It's a TON of work, when all you should really be doing is concentrating on how best to CREATE the picture. (which directing is a small part of)

February 8th, 1999

The script breakdown is about the most important thing you can do for yourself before the movie. A good P.A.(Production Assistant) can do that for you if you have one.

I didn't.

Make a chart or copy the one I've provided. Go in and fill out a separate chart for EVERY scene in your movie. Every scene. If you've got a flashback in a scene, that's another scene. A scene in your script is defined as a change in locale or a change in time if there's no change in locale.

The problem you're going to have on your no-budget shoot is continuity. You're going to be shooting a scene one day, but not get it done. You'll come back in a couple of days and continue.

That day comes, but wait! What was everyone wearing? Was that cut on the left cheek or right cheek?

If I had a continuity person, they'd have been taking polaroids. Of course, I had no such person. I told Rick to make a notation on his copy of the script in every scene of what outfit he was wearing so if we shot a sequential scene, we could page back and see what outfit he had on. The drawback for Rick was that he would have to have his entire wardrobe in his car.

I'd have killed for problems that minor.

I booked a flight for my DP and AC, and called a million hotels to see if they had any deals for 21 day stays. A few did, but nothing to make you shout about. Lowest I found was $1100, which I figured I could swing.

Kodak is giving me the run-around about getting an account with them. I thought I could get some sort of deal on film, but they then say they don't do that. They transfer my call to some lady who tells me she has a bunch of film that NFL Films didn't use that I can buy cheap.

It's not the ASA we're looking for and it's not on spools, so we'd have to roll it all. I call Gil in Arizona who says it's not a good idea. I call Kodak back and say no thanks.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

January 13th, 1999

What's this have to do with HH? Nothing. I didn't have a picture, so I thought I'd post a pic of Ganz one Halloween--my brother turned him into Darth Maul. We got pretty drunk that night...

Wow, pretty detailed post. I don't really have much to add other than that we got some CRAZY headshots, which to this day I still have. I should scan some of those and post them.

January 13th, 1999

After 5 months, I have over $5,0000 in the bank. I'm doing research on renting the sound equipment, because believe me, sound is very important. The only problem is getting someone as a sound guy. They're all pretty expensive.

I'm only two grand shy of my goal. At this point, we’ve got about four months to go. Gil had asked whether we possibly had enough money to get his camera assistant David Mun along. I jammed some numbers on a spreadsheet. I knew it would be a HUGE help to have another body on the set at all times, as we we'd be working with a skeleton crew, so I booked two plane tickets.

We had a D.P.(Director of Photography) and a 1st A.C.(assistant cameraman) and a good start on our budget.


We needed them bad. I had our star, the actor buddy I spoke of. Rick Ganz. Cuban, built like a woman's wet dream. Chicks dig him and he can act. He's our number one asset.

I wrote the script sleek, so we wouldn't need anyone for very long besides Rick. There were about 28 characters and 26 of them die. I broke down the script into scenes detailing who would be needed for each scene and for how long.

The cameo roles I pushed aside. Friends and family would work for those. The speaking roles I highlighted.

I looked around and found that most decent actors, SAG(Screen Actor's Guild) and non-SAG, who are looking for work look in Backstage Magazine because people advertise looking for actors. I paid $50 and got an ad put in the East Coast Backstage about our production.

The ad ran. I received over 400 head-shots in two weeks. It was pretty stunning to see all these things pouring in. The only problem I began to see is that most of the actors/actresses were from New York.

I made name tags for the characters we needed to find actors for. Then Rick and I went through and looked at headshots, putting them in one of the stacks or shoving them off to the side if we didn't see them as anyone in Hunting Humans.

Soon we had at least three or four people in each stack. I made calls to each of the people to try to set up a time to audition them. Most of them had voice-mail, so I left messages.

Our responses were less than encouraging. Some didn't call back. Those who did that found they would have to come to Maryland to audition backed out. A few said they'd see how their schedule would work out. I told some of them that if they wanted a page of the script that they could act out on video, and then send me the video, that that was fine.

It seriously amazes me how desperate all these people claim to be, but they can’t drive four hours to audition for a PRINCIPLE ROLE in a motion picture.

Some good-looking women had sent headshots, and Rick wanted to invite them down to audition even though we really didn't have any roles that would fit them. I had two female parts; one was a girl who gets nude and the other was an over-weight slut. I didn't see any girl coming down from New York for either part.

The nude girl part was bothersome. I thought about trying to hire a stripper for a night, but I didn't know how good an actress they'd be or whether they'd do it for as cheap as $200, which is what I'd set aside to pay "naked girl" as we began calling her.

Working on the movie felt good though. We were getting a lot accomplished.

I’ve auditioned one of Rick’s friend’s for a minor speaking role, but he’s tanking big time. He gets nervous, blows lines, seems to be waiting for me to say a line so he can say his.

May replace him with a buddy of mine, Duke, but I don’t know whether he’ll do any better.

Friday, October 9, 2009

August 28th, 1999

One of the posters I created with my VERY limited Photopaint skills back in 2000

Wow, this post gets pretty numbers-specific, doesn't it? And yes, I owned a comic book shop. Some people don't know this.

The bottom line is that you don't want to be arguing comic stuff with me--I can take you. :)

August 28th, 1999

I own a comic shop, but it just pays the bills and doesn't let me store up any money. I begin putting things up on eBay pretty frequently. Anything that doesn't sell at the store, or anything I have doubles of.

And lo and behold, people are buying. People are frequently paying retail or more for my stuff. It's great. Checks and money orders start rolling in and I begin another bank account under my production company, Marauder Productions.

Meanwhile, I'm still looking for a cameraman. I stumble upon someone named David Gil from Arizona. He sounds gung-ho, very much into movies, and constantly busy. The kind of guy I'll need. He wants $2800 for the 3 weeks, which is by far the best rate I've gotten for a D.P. with his own camera. I ask for his reel and he sends it. I watch it closely and he's got good composition and is pretty steady.

I tell him about Hunting Humans. He's interested. He offers to do the entire shoot for nothing if I pay to get him here and his expenses while he's in town. It's too good to be true. Given that I was screwed on one D.P. already, I'm a little leery. I think he's psyched to be the D.P. of a feature film, and being Hispanic, is excited that the lead character is also Hispanic.

I do some calculations. I want to have at least 5 hours of footage for my 90 minute movie. That's a tiny shooting ratio, but if you're well-prepared, it's not unheard of.

400 feet of 16mm is about 11.5 minutes at 24 frames per second, which is regular speed. If you starting shooting slow-mo, one reel will shoot even less. So I need about 23 reels of 400 foot film, which will equal 23X11.5, which is 264.5 minutes.

The film stock I was looking at was Kodak Vision 500T(a fast stock, meaning we don't need to add a ton of light), and it cost $132.52 per 400 foot core. A quick multiplication ($132.52X23) means I need $3047.96 for film alone. Note that this does not cover development of the film or transfer of the film to video for editing.

Some other things I needed to consider: Insurance(which you will not get a permit without), food/catering(which you won't get happy actors who work for free without), the D.P.s plane ticket and his hotel stay.

I roughed it out and decided to skip the insurance. I only had 2 scenes that took place on public property, and I figured I could B.S. my way through for those. It looked like I needed about $9,000 to get the movie in the can. Workable, since I have a credit card with a $2,000 limit.

My eBay goal became $7,000.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

August 14th, 1999

We shot the little Paul attacks Rick thing in a parking garage. No permission, and it is actually the garage you see Aric Blue drive out of at the beginning of HH. The garage attendant came up and asked what we were doing--one guy beating up another guy and then putting a knife to his throat.

I said we were shooting something for class, a phrase I learned was the filmmaker-liar's gold. I'll go find some video and post it--I've never shown any of it anywhere.

August 14th, 1999

I begin making plans. In the interim, I have bought a 16mm Bolex, non-reflex. Non-reflex means that you can't exactly see what you're shooting. You have to look through a viewfinder which gives you an okay approximation, but it's not that good, especially when you're changing lenses.

I got it from eBay, along with some extra lenses. I find that wide-angle lenses(which is just about anything lower than 15mm, but the nice ones are 10mm) are extremely expensive. Most 10mm lenses go for over $400, with fish-eye lenses(8,6,4mm) going for almost double.

Bolexes take C-mount lenses, in case you wanted to know.

Anyway, I got the Bolex and some film from Kodak(1-800-621-FILM) in 100 foot spools. I got reversal film, which means that whatever I shot could be projected through a projector and would look regular. If you shoot negative(which most professionals do) and project it, all the colors will be freaky, like if you hold a photo negative up to the light.

I shot some stuff, just bizarre things like Rick walking through fire with my gun and a laser sight cutting through the smoke. (At this point, I’m living in my girlfriend’s grandmother’s house, so I’d stacked up some paper on her front lawn, lit it on fire, and had Rick walk through it, keeping the paper below frame. You should have seen the bald spot on the front lawn that was there after three takes)

So we shot things like that. It came out pretty good, especially when you consider that reversal film has little leniency in lighting.

I decided to go out and shoot a little spoof about my brother, Paul, stalking Rick. Rick leaves a movie theater and Paul goes after him, beats him up and is about to kill him, but he finds out Rick isn't who he thought he was. He leaves a bloody Rick lying on the ground contemplating the misfortune. It came out pretty good, all things considered. Four cop cars stopped by to ask what we were doing, and I promptly lied to each of them. If you want to be a guerilla filmmaker, become acquainted with the words, "We're just shooting something for class".

I sold that Bolex and got a reflex Bolex, so I could see exactly what I was shooting. In case you didn't know, the Bolex is a great camera(first camera we shot on in Film 101). Built rugged and hard to break, it's why you can reasonably buy one that's 40 years old and it still works like a charm. The only problem is that you can't shoot sync sound with them, even if you buy a crystal-sync motor, because they're still too loud.

I notice on the newsgroups that there are frequently people with professional-level film cameras looking for work. I've looked at renting cameras and most of them are at least $1500 a week, and that's not counting film. Most of the people I talk to want between $1200 and $2000 for a week, plus travel expenses paid for. It's not bad, because you're getting someone who knows what they're doing, but it's money I don't have.

I come up with a way to make money. More precisely, hello, eBay.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

August 5th, 1999

Rick reading opposite an actor auditioning while I roll camera

This brings me to ruminate on Dexter. People ask me what I think about it.

Hey, I like the show. But it's very hard to watch that first episode. I think it steals pretty liberally from HH.

And before you say, "Hey, it was a book!"--I read the book. The book's only similarity is that Dexter also ends up being stalked by a serial killer. The Dexter of the book differs pretty greatly from the Dexter of the show. The show-Dexter seems to be Aric Blue more than book-Dexter.

Did one of the show's creators borrow from my movie? I don't know. But I think if you watch HH back-to-back with episode one of Dexter you can make a pretty convincing argument...

August 5th, 1999

Well. How things change.

Production on High was halted, due to the sudden dropout of our Director of Photography. He sent me an email claiming he was going to Hong Kong for a year to shoot a documentary.

That's what you want to hear when you're about a month from shooting a movie.

So High was scrapped, just like that.

But there is good in the bad. I decided somewhere along the line that the "Slacker with a gun" film--the movie everyone with a camera and no money films--was not a wise idea to invest money in. It was also not a genre I'm all that excited about.

Somewhere after we scrapped High, an idea came to me.

Follow me here. I love serial killer stuff. (Don't look at me like that, millions of you buy those True Crime novels, so I'm not the only one). Serial killer films have been done about as much as the Slacker films. Many good(Silence of the Lambs, Henry:POASK) and many bad(too many to name). But my idea was a little different. It's the kind of idea that I started talking to people about, and they'd get this funny, far-away look in their eyes. "Wow, that's a cool idea" and "I don't think I've ever seen a movie like that" were common responses.

I was onto something. That something was "Hunting Humans".

I began with a serial killer named Aric Blue. He was young, he was popular, he was handsome.

But none of his co-workers knew that he was killing people for a hobby. None of them knew that he secretly despised them, because his front was that good.

Aric picked his victims at random, thus avoiding motive as a way of being caught. He stalked his victims, assessing and using the patterns in their life to kill them.

Up until now, you and everyone else I talk to are thinking, "Hey, what's new about that?"

Plot point one: Aric picks a new victim, finds their pattern and goes to kill them. He finds his victim already dead, though, with a note attached to the bloody body. It reads "I'VE GOT YOUR PATTERN".

There's another serial killer, and he's hunting Aric. The movie then becomes a cat and mouse game between the serial killers, as both try to outdo each other.

That's normally enough to get people's minds going with the possibilities. Most people don't see the problem inherent in it, though: There's no protagonist. My intention is to get the audience to at least admire the cold yet precise way that Aric does his killing, and the fact that he's funny in a cruel sort of way shouldn't hurt either. But it's still a tough situation.

But it's the kind of different that could make the difference on the festival circuit.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Feb/Mar/Apr/May 1998

A pic of The Ganzinator as Michael in "High"

This is the last post before "High" falls apart and "Hunting Humans" begins.

We shot some cool tests on Super8 film, but the first camera I used had some sort of light-leak problem, so there's a bright white light on much of it.

I'll post some of the video when I rip it from old dvds that I burned from the video that I recorded from the projector playing the 8mm on the wall.
Yeah, I did that. It's cheap, but it works.

Feb 28,1998

Made the changes we saw appropriate to the script, and I gotta tell you,
I think it's quite a bit better than it was. Stronger opening and we've cleaned
up some motivation problems that were there.


Started casting. Very busy, which is why I haven’t been able to keep up the log.
The producer who's been helping us had us put on the Maryland Film hotline, where actors can call to see what movies are casting in the area.

Met a lot of people, but it seems everyone wants to try out for the part
of the bad guy, Saul. Knew he was the best character, but still...

Ordered film and shot some test stuff. We were gonna shoot on 16, but it turned out to be too expensive when we lost our DP. Ordered some film for the super8 camera I have, an Elmo 240S-XL. The problem with the camera is it only shoots one speed, and we'd really like to have slow-motion. May get another camera depending on how the tests turn out.

May 9, 1998
Got the results of the tests back. Super8 really doesn't look too bad, but we don't know what it will look like transferred to video. We plan on shooting and then getting it transferred to either BetaSp or 3/4 video. We're gonna record sound on a DAT and then sync up the sound to the video. Problem is, the camera is not a sync camera, so we won't be able to run any scenes long. When I get into the editing room, I'll have to sync each take up, and may even have to sync the sound more than once per take.

Ordered blanks for the guns from Independent Studios. The blanks are .$65 apiece, which is more expensive than real bullets. We're going to have to do some weird editing as a result of the fact that real guns will only fire one blank at a time, because blanks don't eject themselves like real bullets.

If we had the money, we'd rent some prop guns that are built to shoot the blanks, but pistols cost $45 a week and semi-auto rifles cost $100. We'd need about 12 pistols and a couple of rifles. The other problem is, to get the guns, you need insurance.

That would add some more to our already strained budget.

Monday, October 5, 2009

February 15th/February 18th, 1998

Ok. Obviously there's no link to the squib thing because anytime I refer to a link in a web site, it was the only Marauder site.

Here I'm pretty harsh to Doug and Al's movie. To be fair it's pretty bad. There are a lot of really cool FX, which is why Doug was someone I thought of years later when I needed an FX guy.

But I stand by the fact that Al was not good in the flick. I seem to vaguely recall them actually using a Def Lepard song in their movie also, and thinking, "No way do they have permission for this..."

I remember watching the film with Rick. We both looked at each other, probably thinking the same thing: These are the guys whose opinions we're trusting with script issues?

But they definitely had some good ideas--but remember, we're still on the script for "High", which was not the greatest thing I ever wrote(with Rick).

But get ready...the collapse of this production is coming...

February 15th, 1998

Rick called the local filmmakers back to get some feedback on the script. They told him they liked it and made some notes. We're gonna meet them again on Wednesday(2/18) to talk some more about what we can do for each other.

My brother read the How-To on squibs that's available as a link under our filmmaking links. He's always been into FX stuff, so we're going to go do some tests, see how the stuff really works. FYI,
I was able to locate Pyrodex at Bart's Sport World, a sporting goods store. They say it's 18 bucks for a brick, but you can also get it in pellets.

On the preparations front, you can now see the individual scene breakdown, something that you will need to do if you're going to shoot your own movie.

Starting to feel the pinch of time. We've got about 4 months before I'd like to start shooting.

February 18,1998

We met with the filmmakers. They make T&A pictures. They proceeded to give us a list of things they thought were wrong with the script, and they were actually very perceptive in much of what they locked on. Problem is, they were very rude about it. They gave us a copy of their latest movie, called Screenkill, that they've apparently gotten a distributor for.

We go home with the intention of changing some of the problems in the script. First, we decided to watch their movie.

It sucked. Hard. One of the filmmakers we met(the one who expressed interest in playing Saul) also played one of the leads in the movie, and he'd expressed interest in auditioning for our movie. Too bad he couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. The script was corny with dialogue that makes Battlefield Earth look like high art, and the only good thing to say is that it had some good special effects.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

February 4th-February 18th 1998

So here's a funny anecdote for those who have read this part before. The filmmakers that we met in the bits below were Doug Ulrich, his buddy Al and another buddy. We got so pissed at him and his buddy during this pre-prod process for "High" that I eventually put "Al and Doug" in the no-thank-you section of "Hunting Humans".

The funny part is that later on I hired Doug to do the special effects for FOC1 and Foc2. By that time I had forgotten about the no-thank-you, and a few years later Doug saw HH and read the end credits, and then called me up. We had a good laugh at it.

February 4th, 1998

Met some local filmmakers. Right across the street from where they shoot Homicide is a little coffee bar called The Grind. That's where they wanted to meet. Sounded a little pretentious to me, you know? Like, filmmakers only meet in coffee bars, it's the Los Angeles thing.

Turns out they seem to be a nice bunch of guys who have some experience. They've shot some features on Beta SP(which they say is a bad move, in hindsight) and right now are shooting a skin flick for Cinemax. Apparently, Cinemax has a deal where, if you meet their requirements they'll pay you $40,000 for 8 weeks of run time. Then, if they still wanna show it some more, they'll give you $10,000 for another 8 weeks.

After that, you get the movie back. They just buy
rights to show it, not to own it. Kind of like leasing your movie. This leaves you room to sell the film rights where ever you want to. Of course, there probably won't be a lot of takers in the U.S. after it's been shown, but there are plenty of over-seas markets.

Anyway, these guys are going to read the script and let us know
what they think. If they like it, they'll help us produce the script. As far as I know, that doesn't include raising any money, but is more of finding the talent(actors), lending their cinematographer and camera(an Eclair), and helping out in other ways.

Coincidentally, one of them whose name is Al looks somewhat
like Felix in the script. We'd have to sleazify him a bit, but he'd probably fit pretty well, and he acts too. (NOTE: When I first wrote this I was being nice, but he was pretty pasty white with greasy long hair)

A funny anecdote. The guy who could fit the part of Felix mentions in the course of the conversation that he thinks he could play Saul(The handsome, homicidal villain of the movie). Rick starts laughing, thinking he’s kidding, but from the serious look on his face you can tell he’s not. Rick’s laugh fades and he turns it into smile, says, “Really?”

One of those things you wish you had on camera later.

February 15th, 1998

Rick called the local filmmakers back to get some feedback on the script. They told him they liked it and made some notes. We're gonna meet them again on Wednesday(2/18) to talk some more about what we can do for each other.

My brother read the How-To on squibs that's available as a link under our filmmaking links. He's always been into FX stuff, so we're going to go do some tests, see how the stuff really works. FYI, I was able to locate Pyrodex at Bart's Sport World, a sporting goods store. They say it's 18 bucks for a brick, but you can also get it in pellets.

On the preparations front, you can now see the individual scene breakdown, something that you will need to do if you're going to shoot your own movie. Starting to feel the pinch of time. We've got about 4 months before I'd like to start shooting.

February 18,1998

We met with the filmmakers. They make T&A pictures. They proceeded to give us a list of things they thought were wrong with the script, and they were actually very perceptive in much of what they locked on. Problem is, they were very rude about it. They gave us a copy of their latest movie, called Screenkill, that they've apparently gotten a distributor for.

We go home with the intention of changing some of the problems in the script. First, we decided to watch their movie.

It sucked. Hard. One of the filmmakers we met(the one who expressed interest in playing Saul) also played one of the leads in the movie, and he'd expressed interest in auditioning for our movie. Too bad he couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. The script was corny with dialogue that makes look like high art, and the only good thing to say is that it had some good special effects.

Friday, October 2, 2009

February 2nd, 1998

This section alludes to one of my regrets about HH. The original draft of the script ended on a big shootout--visions of John Woo slow-mo gunfight--but because we were running out of money, I had to rewrite the end.

That's why it's now that masturbatory gotcha, no gotYOU, gotYOU, Nuh Uh Got you! moment between Aric Blue and Dark.

Know what would cool? If I could find that version of the script and post that ending.

Yeah. That would be cool.

February 2nd, 1998

Found a great site that tells you how to make squibs. For those who don't know, squibs are small explosive charges that you place inside blood bags that you detonate remotely, causing it to explode, thereby simulating a person being shot. This is pretty big, since we've got a big shoot-out in the end of the script and I'm counting on doing all of the f/x myself.

The scene in the end of the movie calls for somewhere between 12 and 20 guns. I had planned to rent some prop guns that shoot blanks, but also to sprinkle real 9mm guns in so I wouldn't have to rent so many prop guns.(I have access to a good number of 9mm guns.)

Once I shot the thing, I could
edit the sound effects so they all look like automatic guns. You see, blanks don't emit enough gas to eject themselves from the gun, so if you put them in a real gun, you only get one shot because the bullet won't come out.

Anyway, I can't find any 9mm blanks at any of the shops that specialize in blanks. Most carry 8mm, which seems to be what many of the prop guns fire. More on this later.