Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The horror and the gory glory

Yesterday morning, as I stumbled in to work all bleary-eyed and with the slightest hint of something pink stained along the sides of my mouth, a few people stopped to inquire about how I'd spent my Sunday. My response? "I passed several hours soaking in a pool of blood."

As you might imagine, that response earned me more than my fair share of raised eyebrows. Allow me to explain.

My friends and I like to make movies. I'm more of the dirty actor type, but fortunately I know quite a few people of the directorial persuasion and so I end up getting to be involved in several film projects. Even more amazing is that these director types that I know make actually a habit of finishing any given project, which is definitely an added bonus.

Currently, we're wrapping up "principal photography" on a new horror/dark comedy called "High School Sweethearts." It's a little something dreamed up by the twisted mind of Will Gartside, with assistance from the indomitable Rob Matsushita--the same crew that brought about 2007's horror-musical-comedy smash sensation, "Massacre! The Musical."

I worked on the soundtrack for that particular opus, but this time yours truly gets to take a turn in front of the cameras. They were even kind enough to go completely against my usual type casting by having me play the role of the ingenue. They're making me work for it, though. I've now spent more time than I'd care to recall covered in cold, sticky, fake blood. I also spent 40 minutes in near total sensory deprivation, fighting off panic attacks, to get my head cast in alginate. And through the vast majority of this, I've been duct-taped to a rickety wooden chair in a tarp-lined basement during the middle of a Wisconsin winter.

But what can I say? I love it.

Working on such extremely low-budget films can be a pretty thankless task. None of us are being paid in anything more than free food (which is a lot, considering). I don't think there's one of us who thinks being involved in this project is going to break us big in the movie world, and we're all giving up fairly copious amounts of our free time to allow our director free reign to torture us for hours on end.

So why do we do it? Because we love to create, try new things, make art we think will entertain, and probably most of all, because we enjoy working with each other. I can't stress enough how having a good crew can make or break productions like this. After all, if your director is a pompous jerk, your fellow cast members are complete nincompoops, and the guy holding the boom mic keeps hitting you in the head with it - why on Earth would you want to stick around?

In my case, I have been incredibly fortunate to find myself fallen in amongst people who do what they do because they truly love it, who treat everyone with respect, and who are very much down in the trenches with you through the whole process. They're also motivated, creative, and hard-working, which certainly helps when you're lying on a chilly cement floor, wallowing in pools of red Caro syrup and the shards of a broken flower vase, trying to look like a glassy-eyed corpse.


Anyway, I've put together a little photo collage to illustrate some of the shenanigans and general trials of making a low-budget film. These were all taken this Sunday, but if you'd like to see more from the whole filming process, I will be periodically uploading quite a few shots to my Flickr pool. If you're not into fake blood and the like, though, feel free to steer clear.
We took time out from shooting to practice our hair cuttery skills.

All that pink makes it hard to be intimidated...until the blood starts gushing out of the dummy.

Being horribly tortured makes my eyes go all hooey.

This may well be my favorite shot of them all. Kelly makes an excellent axe murderer.

Yep, that's me with my head between the legs of a mannequin, about to be covered in blood. Good times.

If all of that hasn't effectively scared you off from ever seeing one of the film projects I'm involved in, be sure you keep you eyes peeled this fall for the release of a DVD that will include "High School Sweethearts," its double feature, "The Girls," and a bonus in the form of "Massacre! The Musical."


Dustin Christopher said...


Vice said...

A friend linked me to this as something I might be interested in. He recognized you from the Dane 101 Pubquizzes, and apparently introduced himself to you at the Dr. Horrible event. (I was there too - I was the last male to be eliminated from the Joss Whedon trivia contest.)

Anyway, he linked this to me because I used to produce my own low-budget videos - specifically two amateur versions of Saturday Night Live, each with probably 15 sketches, fake musical guests, outtakes, etc. The shows you've mentioned sound pretty cool, and I've been vaguely interested in getting into acting again, if I found any cool opportunities. So next time you are starting a new project, maybe send some info about it my way? My email address is cole.d.ruby@gmail.com.

Also, I'm currently writing a novel. So the second reason my friend linked me to this was because he saw that you self-published your own novel. Assuming I don't get a book deal of any sort (probably a safe assumption), I'd be interested to know how you went about self-publishing, and what's all involved in that process...

The Lost Albatross