Over the weekend, we shot on our newest horror short, "The Gaze."
Logline: An actress is repeatedly catcalled on her way home from a shoot until just the right guy comes her way.
I wrote the script back in June, 2017. I don’t actually remember writing this script. It’s funny, I have a very good memory and can usually remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when writing. I can basically see myself doing it. But this one seems to escape me, for some reason. I do know that I wrote it in one sitting, and presumably late at night, as I tend to do. And I know I had been catcalled recently (maybe that day), which wasn’t exactly something new; and I was having a bad sleep week (I tend to go through cycles with my insomnia); and I was in the midst of my latest rewatch of my childhood favorite “The Twilight Zone” that month (watching the less common episodes I didn’t remember as well); AND I was hoping to have something for an upcoming writing group session with Kelsey & Ryan because I had been so focused on About a Donkey production & then post that I was ready to take on something fresh. What came out was a meta horror with a kind of “Tales from the Crypt,” even “Goosebumps,” feel. It’s a pretty short short, definitely under 10 minutes (it’s 7 pages), but a lot happens in a short amount of time. I worried it was maybe too convoluted from being rooted in a lack of sleep & catcall-induced rage. But Kelsey & Ryan loved it, especially the qualities about it that made me fear it was too convoluted, as did Nicole of 4milecircus, who later came on to co-produce the film.
I originally set out to shoot it last Fall, but delays with finishing up About a Donkey and general travel for work forced me to push it back. I, then, rescheduled for May 2018, but again had to push back due to work travel (which actually was for the best because it made room to push up Kelsey’s & Ryan’s short films that I was helping produce). Finally, mid-September was a go. I finished casting the film over the summer (there’s one main character but quite a big ensemble), and lucked out with having enough existing talent in my circle to offer friends and/or IndieWorks acquittances most of the roles. Only 3 out of 8 key roles were actually auditioned. The 3 new players were all excellent (both in skill & to work with), and I’m so glad to have them as part of the go-to team now.
We shot over two days. Saturday was on Long Island, thanks to extended family loaning a garage for a set I had the most difficult time finding at first. We had 18 people to commute that day, and about 9 hours to pull off a minimal dialogue, but heavily visual scene. It was my first time trying out some stuff I've never done before, like shooting for advanced VFX. (It's also my first time dabbling in scfi, except for maybe "Hello," my sweet, and soulful (get it?), and sometimes spooky short from 2016. (Its genre is debatable.)) Overall, the day was incredibly smooth. The camera & lighting crew created & captured utter beauty. And the performances where so powerful. I’m extremely excited about that footage. We got everything we needed and got everyone to & from Long Island within a 12-hour day.
On Sunday, we shot in my apartment in Queens. My place gets a lot of natural light, and we had to light the whole space as if by moonlight. So, lighting ate up some of the day, especially because the color tone & shooting style needed to change depending on what room and/or what scene we were in (maybe now you’re feeling the reason I worried it was too convoluted, haha). We also had some action & stunts to pull off, as well as a block & a half long tracking shot with a lot of moving pieces in one take. It was a real challenge; definitely a fun one, and was incredibly satisfying when we finally got it - but it did take 14 takes to get. And it resulted in a full 12-hour day when I hoped to wrap people a bit earlier. Overall though, it was another huge success and I’m so happy with what we all made together. Fully creating & capturing the nuanced tone of legit creepy with a touch of campy, and overall fun & satisfying, is key to the success of this short and a puzzle I’m looking forward to putting together as Matt and I get into the edit next week!
See behind the scenes:
Normally, I’d share some Stills, but I worry the BTS is already spoilery enough. So for now, I’ll keep the actual footage under wraps. But here’s a look at a shot with some title design I’ve been testing out.
Thank you to:
My mom, Marlene, for catering & driving everyone to set.
My stepdad Jay, and stepbrother JJ, for building a giant wooden prop for the film.
Extended family Joan & Larry for letting us shoot in their garage and just generally take over their property for a day.
Justin, my husband, for clearing out of our apartment (and being the most supportive partner always).
Nicole Solomon, who produced through pre-production & on set, and Sean Mannion, who advised on how best to shoot for the VFX that he’ll pull off in post; co-owners of 4milecircus. Rent their gear!
Jeanette Sears, for being a brilliant cinematographer & collaborator.
Matt Gershowitz, always the best right-hand person as AD on set & Editor in post.
Kelsey & Ryan, for advising on the script early on & supporting through the process, as always. And specifically, Kelsey for taking great photos & stepping in as an extra when needed, and Ryan for taking such thorough & thoughtful notes as script supervisor.
Adnan Malik, our Gaffer for both days, and always a great guy to have on set.
Christina Remly, who joined us for the first time as our 1st AC and was just excellent. She pulled focus like a champ.
Bradley True, who not only expertly recorded sound, but stepped in as two roles in the film, as well!
Kim Barnes, our Art Director, who was super attentive and on top of things (all the more impressive as it was her first time in the role), and who stepped in as an extra when needed.
Julia Berkley, who effectively pulled off double duty as a Grip & stand in.
Rashida Bolden, who made a fake corpse look so good & legit (despite fighting a cold), and her helpful assistant Anastasia Samoylova.
Our great Co-Gaffer Brandon Lee, who joined us on set for the first time for Day 2, and our resident IndieWorks videographer Kim Drew Whiten, who was our 2nd AC for Day 2.
And our absolutely phenomenal cast: Matrika Hay, Jason Zednick, Latresa Baker, J.B. Rance, Dani Thomas, Maya Jasmin, Alexander Alvarez, Miranda LeeAnn, and Anthony Rojas Jr.
Couldn’t have done it without any of them!
Yesterday evening we wrapped on our newest work, "Still Water," a short-form horror film.
Logline: A young girl takes some much needed advice from her mother on how to overcome her fear of the water... or so she thinks.
The idea for the film came to me after one of our writing groups with Christina & Kelsey. Location is always one of the toughest things to acquire when shooting on no budget. I don't like to restrict my writing to location, but when I thought of the fact that I could have access to a pool during the summer for a shoot, my mind began to race, grasping for ideas for a film in my favorite genre. I fell in love with the idea of a mother daughter relationship, where I could explore the horrors of how your imagination can be both your best friend and your worst enemy at such a tender age. I also wanted to delve into themes of parenting and the struggles of wanting to find a balance between being a "cool" parent and being an overprotective one. I'm not a parent myself, but I can sympathize with how they may want to give their kid the freedom they desire, while also smothering them at times, fearing the what if's if they were to turn their head for just a second.
We started the day a little late after a speed bump. Our AD, Matt Gershowitz, got a flat tire upon arriving to the location, but championed through the obstacle by quickly replacing it with a spare and working in some time to get a new tire during our lunch break. Principle photography began just after 9am. We pushed through the day with a skeleton crew of hardworking and lovely individuals, who all created an atmosphere that allowed me to thrive creatively as well as work through obstacles when they presented themselves.
One of the aspects of the shoot that none of us have had experience with prior, was shooting under water. Jeanette Sears (Director of Photography) and Christina (Producer) had the same thought in pre-pro to organize the shot list with the under water scenes last, as the lighting would be less affected as the sun changed. What I didn't account for was being down an HDMI, which Christina quickly thought to check my parents' television. We pulled the cable and used it to enable the monitor, but the amount of slack was minimal, as you can see in some of the pictures in the slideshow at the bottom.
Still, we worked with what resources we had, and pulled off a successful shoot! It was great to already have a working relationship with Jeanette as my DP, because when there were moments in the water where we couldn't use the monitor, I knew I could trust their judgement. I'd tell them to roll it three times and then go for playback as time became an issue. There were moments that it was tough to see the playback through the DiCAPac (underwater camera encasement) and when we were pressed for time, I'd give it a look over and have to make some quick decisions.
When those restraints came into play with the addition of practical FX, that's when I knew we just needed to get as many takes as possible for options in the editing room. There were a lot of variables in achieving the image, even when something that will be on screen for the blink of an eye.
I was extremely happy with both of my actors. Colleen Slattery was an absolute pleasure to work with and Kaylin Hedges was a warrior, being in and out of the water so frequently can take much more of a toll on you than you'd initially think. Colleen would let me know if Kaylin or herself needed a break when I was focused on the monitor or making changes to the shot list, and having Kaylin's mother there to support and help out was essential to the work flow.
Through all the excitement and the chaos, I couldn't have asked for a better team to collaborate with. On this particular project, I not only had the aide of my film family, but my actual family. We shot in the backyard of my parents' house and they both did everything in their power to make it an enjoyable experience. I can't thank them enough for their love and hospitality.
The film will soon enter post production, where I'll work closely with Matt (also editing the project) and a post sound designer. I'm currently looking for someone with experience in post sound mix/design/editing on a micro budget, as this film is heavily reliant on its soundscape. If you have any recommendations or inquiries, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updates to come in the near future!