Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Abattoir, exhaustion and whining

So... we started shooting Abattoir two weeks ago by choosing something simple to kick off with - namely a four-hour trip to Baltimore to film with folks we'd never worked with before in a location we'd never seen. Fortunately, the aforementioned folks were JimmyO and April Burril, Lesley Vernot, Stephen and "Tall Katie" (all from Chainsaw Sally) and Eric Thornett from Piranha Pictures. Also on hand was Jason (whose last name I don't think I ever knew), a martial-artist who provided some much-appreciated kicking. Make-up was provided by buddy Mike Conlon (and assisted by his buddy "Bull" - thanks, man!). The location was an amazing former Korean-Catholic church owned by JimmyO's friend and colleague, "Kit".

Shooting went swiftly and more-or-less efficient (if tinged with our usual chaos) as we drove through some impromptu fight choreography and gore and ended with Amy, April and Lesley topless and chewing on my neck and wrists. See, it was a flashback sequence involving my character (a suave and ruggedly handsome Irish vampire hunter) and Amy's character (a dark and beautiful vampire madame)... nevermind. No matter what you do, when you try to describe a horror movie, you inevitably sound stupid. Suffice to say: blood and breasts. These are the things that make the horror world go 'round.

Although, the next day, when we got together to celebrate April and Jimmy's daughter, Willow's, 2-year birthday with a big family party, I couldn't help but feel guilty about what I'd done to the little girl's mother the next day. "Don't worry about it," Jimmy told me. "You should see what I do to her mother!" And yet, I was oddly uncomforted by this remark.

Back home, we spent the rest of the week catching up and preparing for our "domestic start date", which was this previous Friday. This time, the cast consisted of Stacy Bartlebaugh-Gmys, Alyssa Heron and Tim Gross; the crew: Amy, myself and Jeff Waltrowski; effects: Don Bumgarner and Kirk Owen. And the eight of us all squeezed into Don's basement shop and the narrow area outside his apartment to create a dark, scary alley for Tim to kick the crap out of Stacy and, in turn, get demolished by Alyssa. Much blood and pain was involved (as detailed on Tim's Bastards of Horror site), mainly because Tim decided to torture himself. Don, too, was torturing himself because he'd only given himself a week to complete a very complicated effect that wasn't quite ready come time to shoot. Since I'm the king of inserts (no pun intended), it wasn't that big a deal. We can go back to it. And it'll be worth the wait.

(A brief aside, Robert Kurtzman, one of the founders of KNB Effects Group, Inc., called my cell when we were on our way. He wished us all luck with the production. Can you ask for a better blessing than that?)

Saturday, several of us reconvened at the tiny little High Stakes house to shoot my dialogue and close-ups and attempt to block out a scene to be shot at a future date, once Easter was out of the way and no longer taking my cast away for family obligations.

I realized halfway through shooting this scene, as I forgot line after line, that I had every potential to utterly sink this movie with a crappy performance. For some reason, though I haven't really acted in eight years (if you can call the smirking and falling I did in The Resurrection Game "acting"), I decided to give myself all the exposition in the movie. So there are pages after pages of long speeches that I have to deliver. And, because I loathe and despise myself as a human and a deity, I decided that my character also has a thick Irish accent. Fortunately, since I couldn't remember a lot of my lines, that negatively effected my ability to keep the accent consistent... wait, fortunately? That can't be right...

This coming week, we have Sofiya Smirnova coming in from Chicago and Zoe Hunter coming down from New York. Shooting will take place at the little house and in Stacy's grand Victorian home in McKeesport. (For those familiar with Pittsburgh terrain, McKeesport and Mt. Oliver are nowhere near each other... so, yay!) And we will attempt to shoot something like fifty scenes in four days.

Now, on Friday, we shot 24 set-ups in three hours, which included nine effects shots. Saturday, we shot five pages in about an hour. So we move fast. While we can move at least this fast, it would help if we could move faster. I'm anticipating some severe exhaustion break-downs come Tuesday.

Pray for us. Any theology will do at this point. We'll take what we can get.

***
So we finally caught Good Night and Good Luck last night. The movie is compelling though completely without a climax (which is in keeping with the historical story they were telling). I couldn't help but wonder where the Edward R. Murrow's and Fred Friendly's of today are hiding. Why aren't our journalists (with, oddly, the exception of John Stewart) speaking out as loudly against the McCarthy's of today (of which there are more every day)? Guantanamo Bay, gas prices, the war in Iraq, the upcoming war in Iran, wiretapping, hunting accidents--why are we sitting here and taking all of this? Why isn't anyone speaking out?

Wondering this out loud, Amy grumbled that, instead of complaining, maybe I should do something about it. Sure, I have a blog! Beware evil-doers!

The sad fact is, I don't have the power. I'm not in a position to reach millions of Americans. I'm not a respected war correspondent who was already the voice of the people when he took on Washington injustice. And while I'd love to think that I had the mettle to do so, I have no idea if I would be strong enough to do so.

I don't do much of anything of importance. I write constantly, but about entertainment. I write about and interview indie filmmakers, actors, actresses. I report about what movies are cool, what should be avoided. On one hand, I suppose it could be argued that I'm giving people who deserve it an opportunity for promotion, to reach people who might otherwise never have heard of them. Or it. Or whatever.

And I have had the opportunity, I suppose, to report about more-important issues. I could be reporting about the war. I'm sure I could convince Film Threat to send me to Iraq... to report about Iraqi movies, or interview Iraqi celebrities... that might be all I'm qualified for. I don't know.

I don't know if I would do "more important" work if given the chance. I do know that I'm no more a Murrow than the folks currently working out there. I think, sadly, that his like will not be seen again.

So I'll probably continue to whine about high gas prices and the totalitarian practices of our current government, because on a Quantum Physics level, my voice alone can effect reality, right? But I don't see myself reporting from the roof of a war-sieged building holding a film festival any time soon.

4 comments:

Douglas A. Waltz said...

Mike,

Sounds like you are having fun shooting your flick. The chaos of movie makming is a blessed thing and nothing can really measure up to it. I love being on movie sets and envy you your time shooting your flick. I'm gonna have to stop waffling and get a movie made in the near future.
Have a great day my friend

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