Commercial Appeal

Couple months back, Pam told me about a film festival contest for commercials with a horror theme. Turns out the festival was Denise Gossett’s Shriekfest, a long-running California event that I love to promote because I know Denise from my earlier work and she runs one of the best in the country.

A one minute commercial hyping Shriekfest’s 13th year? No brainer. I was in. Unfortunately, weather killed my original idea. We had horrendous rain all summer, and it just didn’t let up enough to allow me to shoot the original concept. So, I went to a backup possibility. Problem was, I couldn’t assemble the necessary crew to get it done on such short notice.

The contest deadline was fast approaching, and for a day, I thought about just not shooting anything. Then, I had the idea to do a spoof commercial that could be shot without much crew, hardly any cast, and with total control over the location. I scripted it out, got some recommendations, and with only a couple days to pull it together, made it happen.

During the shoot, I got it in mind that maybe, regardless of how we did in the contest, I should figure out some way to multi-purpose the thing. We were all there, after all, makeup was set, cameras were rolling, why not?

So, we did some alternate takes, and bingo, the end-product was just what I wanted. BackStreets, our favorite watering hole and place to see live music, uploaded the spot yesterday. Sometime this coming week, it’ll be on their main site, and we’re talking with a local TV station about airing it.

Shriekfest is going on right now, which makes this even cooler.

Having multiple outlets running my spot isn’t something I expected, especially when I had to strip it down like this. Still, I’m thrilled about what we accomplished, basically in four and a half hours in one room without a professional makeup artist or the cameraman I’d expected to be behind the lens.

Fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants filmmaking? Sure was. Successful? Hell yeah, beyond my wildest dreams. Here’s the extended cut, which allowed us to get a little more creative and have a lot more fun. Hope you like it. Denise sure had nice things to say about it, and if it’s good enough for Shriekfest and BackStreets, that’s good enough for me.

Unstoppable

Didn’t feel like that the past couple of weeks, let me tell ya’. Last month, Pam sent me an e-mail about a film festival contest. The idea sounded interesting, so we decided we’d enter. I spent that night writing up a short script, something we could shoot quick, as there was a tight turnaround to put it all together. I got in touch with a few core players, and we went to work. Scouting locations, casting, figuring out the makeup and F/X. Everything was good to go.

Then the rains began. And didn’t stop. I’d set this thing outdoors so I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a good indoor location. I live right by some great looking, creepy woods. So, shooting outdoors with generators, a whole lot of extension cords and some lights and gels seemed the easiest way to do it. Until the neighborhood turned into a swamp.

After getting rained out and losing a whole week, I decided to go in another direction. I’ve got great friends at Backstreets. They’ve let me shoot there before. I wrote up a different concept with some more laughs and we set about getting that rolling.

Which was when we ran into serious problems. Some of the cast members couldn’t make it. One of my shooters was only available certain days. The makeup F/X artist has a job where her schedule constantly changes, and so on. After ten days trying to make that concept work, and with the deadline fast approaching, we hadda scrap that one, too.

So, early last week, I wrote up a third concept. One that wouldn’t present any location problems, because we’d use my home for it. One that wouldn’t require much cast. Only two people, in fact, and I wound up being one of them because the F/X makeup was going to require latex and full-facial coverage and I wasn’t going to put anyone in jeopardy of having an allergic reaction or getting makeup in their eyes. I was on a shoot in L.A. back in ’06 where a girl got poked in the eye with an eyebrow pencil for unnecessary makeup, and we wound up losing the actress for the night and having to reschedule.

There was an added bonus. My eyes? They’re seriously messed up. Having them cut open and peeled back a dozen times will do that. Try and avoid it if you can. Plus, I wrote the thing. I had it pretty well memorized in the days following the rewrites, and I knew my availability wasn’t gonna change. All systems go, right?

Not so fast. We had two possible makeup artists. One, a zombie fanatic who attends ZombiCon religiously fully done-up. One, good with makeup, but we didn’t know if she’d done zombies before. I scheduled both, figuring at the very worst, we’d have somebody extra on set to help out with the shoot. You can never have enough people willing to help out, trust me on that. So, we got a recommendation from my theatre friend Gil Perez, we cast Rob Green to play opposite yours truly, and figured we were golden.

Nope. One makeup artist? We never heard back from. The other? Tells us on Sunday night that she can’t make it. Call time for the shoot is 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Yikes.

Down one shooter, with no makeup F/X artist, and praying that Rob doesn’t back out on us, I scramble. I got somebody to monitor camera 2, and Billy handled PA duties. Makeup duties fell to.

Pam. Yep, my wife. We’d bought the makeup so that the F/X artist wouldn’t have to dip into her own supplies. Hell, it was a no-budget shoot, coffee and a gas card was about all we could throw at this thing, so I wasn’t going to ask anyone to dip into their own supplies. Pam has never done makeup before save for Mary Kay, but trooper that she was, she was willing to give it a shot. Monday night was spent testing out all the goodies I’d shelled out for.

8 hours before call time, we had a pretty good idea that this would work. We’ll be posting the entry as soon as we can, but here’s a little zombie teaser for you.

Joe as a Zombie

The shoot went great, even with a crew of four and Pam pulling double-duty with Margaret on makeup. We actually got so much stuff in such a short period of time, we were able to cut Rob loose earlier than he expected, and to shoot a quickie thing for use as a possible web commercial. Not bad, considering 9 hours before call time, we didn’t know if we’d be able to shoot anything.

Ahh, indie filmmaking. Nothing more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, in my humble opinion. Nothing demands that you be flexible and able to shift gears with no time to prepare like being on a set. If you can’t be fluid and roll with what comes your way? You need to find another line of work.

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Currently listening to: Bottoms Up by Nickelback