Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Postmortem: "Maternity Ward"

Suzy Ramsey as "Mary"

For a production that had to come together super fast, it's definitely one for the books.  There were a lot of "firsts" for us with "M IS FOR MATERNITY WARD," which is our entry for The ABCs of Death Part 2, 26th Director contest. "MATERNITY WARD" was influenced by Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," and in fact, our lead character is named for her. I had not directed anything since "BLOOD THERAPY," and it felt really good to hear "What do you think, Mrs. Director?" again after a three year hiatus.  These are a few of my thoughts and experiences.

1. We started a new tradition with this short film.  We went to see a movie together before making a movie together.  I wish I could say that was my idea, but I actually heard Adam Green (HatchetFrozen) mention on one of his podcasts that he does that before his shoots. I'm a huge fan of his and I admit I totally stole it from him. It's a great idea!  So, Craig and I, along with our actress Suzy and her boyfriend, all went to see "You're Next" before production. That was a good movie choice since it is an independent production - like ours. I'm gonna do all I can to uphold this tradition even if it means movie night at our house!
Val (Director) and Craig (Cinematographer) setting up
2. We shot the movie with our Canon DSLR rather than the pro Sony video camera. This was the first time we've shot anything serious with the DSLR. I have to admit, I was a little worried about using the DSLR on such an important shoot (we had a really tight deadline) without thoroughly testing it first. Sure, we've shot stuff in the backyard, but onset is always a different ball game.  We were concerned about focus. Concerned that even though it looked in focus on the tiny camera LCD, it would show up soft once we were looking at the footage on a computer monitor. That's something we don't have yet - an external monitor for the DSLR. Thankfully, Craig nailed the focus. Another thing that turned out really well was the lighting. Not only did Craig do a bang up job on the lighting, but that camera exposed it beautifully. It was a gamble to use it, but the risk paid off. 

3. This was the first time we used the Hauntedweb of Horrors sets to shoot our own movie. Hauntedweb is a local haunted attraction that benefits Youth Villages, a non-profit organization that helps troubled kids and their families. We've shot 2 commercials there for the haunt itself, but this was the first time it was for our own stuff. Patrick and all the people associated with the haunt are just so giving and awesome to work with. "MATERNITY WARD" wouldn't have turned out as well as it did without the added production value of their spectacular sets. The level of artistry is amazing! I know I've said this before, but there is something special about the horror community that no other film community has. I wouldn't trade it for anything! 

Val doing what she does best - playing with blood!
4. Craig 100% scored "MATERNITY WARD" on his own. The new Logic program on Mac is a godsend. He started playing guitar only a few years ago and is completely self-taught. Since he isn't interested in playing in a band, his ultimate goal was to score our movies so we could step up our game and get away from using the loops that come with Final Cut or even free music from the web. After only a few short months with this new program he's scoring our movies! That makes me even more proud of this production. It is 100% ours. 

5. "M IS FOR MATERNITY WARD" was also my first truly gory, disturbing horror film. Blood aside, this movie is disturbing. There are moments and actions that will make the viewer a little uncomfortable and that's awesome. I get a wicked grin from ear to ear every time I watch it. I wrote and directed it and have viewed it several times and there is one part that still gets me every time. Suzy did an amazing job at really getting into the head of her character. And I couldn't be more proud. 

Val framing a shot
About halfway through the shoot, there was an action I was still a little unsure about. Throughout the first segment where Mary puts the baby together, the blanket is very bloody, as it should be. But once Mary finishes, I considered having Suzy wrap the baby in a clean blanket as she's picking it up for the first time. So, we were standing there in between lighting set ups going over this idea. It was gonna be a somewhat tricky shot to have her stop and wrap a new blanket around the baby without ruining the ultimate reveal. Not to mention it would kill our pacing. Thankfully, Suzy stated that this medical room isn't exactly sanitary and plus her character is insane, so why would she think to get a clean blanket? I then said to Suzy, "It's decided then. You know your character better than anyone." Even me, the writer. That was one of those magic moments of filmmaking where the character that I created had truly been passed on and became solely that of the actor's. 

While there were many "firsts" with this project, there was a moment during shooting that has only happened to me two other times. The moment when Suzy first appears on camera as Mary is revealed, was the first moment in the shoot day that she got to really "act". All of the shots before this were of her hands working and putting the baby together. But now, we were finally seeing her face for the first time, just as Mary was seeing her creation for the first time. Oh, and I should probably mention that Suzy had ONE shot at getting this right. There would be no second take. And Suzy nailed it! It gave me chills watching the monitor. I told her after the shot that it was one of those rare golden moments that I live for.
L-R: Craig (Cinematographer), Roger (Photographer), Val (Director), and in front, Suzy (Actress)
All in all, this was one of my favorite productions. The stars aligned for us on this one. Suzy did an amazing job acting, which isn't easy when everything she portrayed was all body language. She was awesome. Craig went above and beyond like he always does making sure the lighting was just right and the edit was perfect. Plus, with the added responsibility of scoring it, he really knocked it out of the park. These two fine people make my job look good and I couldn't have done it without them. And thanks to Roger Cotton for not only keeping Craig sane during production but for the beautiful pictures from set! I couldn't be more proud of "MATERNITY WARD" and even if we don't win the contest, it was worth it tenfold. 

Watch our short here and vote for us (by clicking the LIKE button above the video) in The ABCs of Death 2 contest! We appreciate your support! 

All pictures courtesy of Roger Cotton of Roger Cotton Photography

And one more huge THANK YOU to Hauntedweb of Horrors!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Announcing: "M is for Maternity Ward"

"M IS FOR MATERNITY WARD" is our entry for The ABCs of Death Part 2, 26th Director contest. It was shot at the Hauntedweb of Horrors, a yearly Halloween attraction benefiting Youth Villages.

Click the link below to watch the 3 minute short. We appreciate your vote! Please click the Facebook like button on that page. Thank you for your support!

Click here to WATCH and VOTE!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Suffering Fools" wins Unreal Film Fest

Back in July I got notice that "SUFFERING FOOLS" would screen at the inaugural Unreal Film Fest in Memphis. It is a fest that played during the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention. Being their first year I knew it would be small and we wanted to come out and support the fest and Jim Weter, the festival director. We are very appreciative for being selected to screen. That is an honor that never gets old no matter how big or small the venue.

As the movies were being introduced, it was stated that there is some language and sexual situations in some of the movies. I think the fest runners did that for the benefit of a family with pre-teens in attendance. Well, they hung around for several short films. And then ours came up. Within the first 3 minutes they were already gathering their belongings to leave. Yes!

Now I'm sure some filmmakers would take offense to that. But not us. We make horror movies after all. It gave us a little validation that we did something right. And I have no problem with parents looking out for what their kids watch. Although I'd be willing to bet it was the parents who were disgusted for their own eyes.

And speaking of audience, we got one more validation. Our little short won the Audience Choice Best Short Award!! Thank you to the festival and Jim and everyone who put their time and effort into making the festival. And a huge thank you to our amazing Cinegore family!!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Blood Therapy" on TV!

So, "BLOOD THERAPY" had its television debut. How cool is that?! Well, it's a bittersweet story that I must tell. Back in August, I was approached by the producer of Professor Ghoul's Horror School, a local TV show that airs on WKNO (Memphis' public television station). He was putting together a Halloween episode and wanted to show "BLOOD THERAPY" along with a few other local shorts. Of course my answer was YES! Of course you can play my little short on TV!

Several weeks went by and the producer emailed and asked if I'd be interested in being on camera to do a little skit and introduce my movie. Even though I prefer being behind the camera, I said sure. Why not? These opportunities don't come along very often. So, he wrote a little skit and sent it to me. I'm a big fan of horror hosts (and even made a short called "TERROR TUBE" - our love letter to horror hosts), and the skit had something to do with jokingly comparing Professor Ghoul to the awesome Elvira. It was cute. Well, cue the doom and dread music, because that skit wasn't meant to be.

Four days before we were to record our segment, I got the worst case of laryngitis I've ever had. I literally lost my voice for six straight days. And when it did start coming back it took several more days to get back to normal. See, I had caught a viral infection (ugh). Well, there was no way I was going to miss this opportunity. Feeling awful, be damned! We went to the studio to shoot, and poor Craig, he had to fill in for me. Now, we were planning on both being on screen all along, but now it was up to him to do the talking. And if you think I prefer being behind the camera, I can assure you that Craig does not like being in front of the camera. But he was a champ! Obviously, we changed the skit to be just a simple "which filmmaker has inspired you, blah blah blah," sort of thing. He did great. He talked about how John Carpenter is a great influence to us.

And I'm happy to say the whole Halloween episode turned out great. I told everyone I know to be sure to tune in. "
BLOOD THERAPY" has been good for us and I'm forever thankful.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hauntedweb Commercial 2012

The costumes looked wicked as always! They've got a new character this year and he is badass! Reminds me of a cross between a Big Daddy from Bioshock, Brotherhood of Steel from Fallout 3, and those creepy guys with the birdcage in the Silent Hill movie. We absolutely love working with the Hauntedweb guys and are so appreciative they trust us to bring their vision to life. (Bring to life like Dr. Frankenstein?) It did not air on local TV this year, but it did run on their website. Check out the finished commercial below.

For more information visit Hauntedweb.com.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Suffering Fools" Premiere

"SUFFERING FOOLS" premiered at On Location: Memphis on April 21, 2012. While I'm always eager to get the crew back together again, I wasn't really impressed with this festival. I felt very disconnected from everything. And maybe that's because the block of shorts we were screening with wasn't the fest's idea of "top tier," but I expected a little more attention given to the filmmakers. 

Full disclosure: I can say that because I did not direct "SUFFERING FOOLS," Craig did, and I was hoping he would have a similar awesome experience like I did when "BLOOD THERAPY" premiered. We went to a friend's premiere the night before and they had a full Q&A session after the movie. Again, perhaps that was because it was a feature and ours was a short. Still, it was nice to see so many friends again. And I'm glad the cast and crew met for dinner before hand.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Our First Oxford Film Fest

Friday, Feb 11 - Tonight we head down to Oxford for their annual Oxford Film Fest. "Blood Therapy" is screening along with several other horror short films at the Malco. This will be the second time I've watched my movie on the big screen. I could get used to this.

We were put up in an inn on the square. It was a nice place with a touch of old Southern charm. We arrived with just enough time to check in and head to the theater. We met up with Christian Walker, our lead actor, and a couple of his friends before the screening. I felt good about our showing. The audience laughed at the appropriate spot and a few even jumped at the end. Yes! A man and woman were sitting to my right who I did not know that appeared to enjoy our film. That was neat to see them reacting to it.

Sunday, Feb 13 - The fest has come and gone. It went by way too fast. My only regret regarding the festival is not staying longer. Our schedules weren't jiving with the festival dates this year. But I so could have hung around all weekend making new friends, watching movies, and eating good food. I'm a southerner... we have the BEST food!

Oxford, MS is a beautiful place. Its gorgeous architecture on the square and rolling hills make for a perfect setting for a film festival. My only minor suggestion for improvement would be to hold the festival during warmer months. Oxford screams photo opportunities and with the landscapes in bloom, it's my guess that the city would be picture perfect.

"Blood Therapy" played in the late night block of films along with other genre fare from all over the country. That was really cool seeing our film amongst films from all over and not just from our own city. The stand out short for me was "Night of the Punks", a fun and funny journey into the world of rock n' roll and demons. The performances were spot-on and the standout element for me was the special f/x. If this gets made into a feature (it's a possibility), horror fans like myself will be in for a fun treat. To see our little short play alongside something as polished as "Punks" was exciting! And it gives me a higher standard to strive for.

I've only been making films for a few years. And even fewer have I participated in festivals. I would wager that the Oxford Film Fest will be one of the better fests I ever experience. The directors of OFF really make us filmmakers feel like royalty. But they're the royalty. They've done a fantastic job bringing in movies from all over the country. Coupled with the beautiful setting of Oxford, it made for an inviting experience. It has been an honor to participate in such a well organized event that was clearly designed by people who love movies as much as us filmmakers. It is my hope to have the opportunity to be involved with many more OFFs.

Thank you again to Oxford Film Fest. I hope to see you again soon!