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The Heroes of 'Camera Obscura'

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It's finally official. The web series I wrote and directed has found a home. Camera Obscura, 20 episodes of demon hunting horror, will be airing on October 1st on Dailymotion.com in conjunction with DreadCentral.com.

I thought, as web fans, horror fans, horror film makers and the like, that you guys might like to hear the story of how Camera Obscura went from some scribbles on a notepad to a 140 minute long, FX filled web series and anchor for the Halloween season.

MWG entertainment approached me in early 2009 and asked if I had anything horror that would appeal to women as well as men. I knew that “Clara”, the female lead of the series, was the perfect avatar for female horror fans. She's smart, but not snarky, vulnerable but not a victim, independent, but not a bitch. In short she's a lot like many of the cool women I've meet in the horror community - both creators and fans.

And so I pitched Robert Kandle and Max Goldenson Camera Obscura, the story of a young woman who discovers that the grandfather who raised her, and who has recently passed away, (played by the venerable Tony Award-winning Jack Klugman),  was also hunting demons with a camera specifically modified to capture them.  And so Clara (played wonderfully by Reagan Dale Neis) takes up her grandfather's mission.

Max told me something I'll never forget... After draft one of the series script, she said, "You can go weirder Drew. More Bizarre. It's the internet," she said. "We want this to have your voice."

It was creatively the greatest gift ever given me by any producer or development executive. And Robert was right there with her, lock step all the way and incredibly gracious and positive in helping me get the script where it needed to be. The result of all that work, I hope, is a window into myself, albeit a very dark window...

So by April the show was written, and in May, fx master Jeff Farley had enthusiastically come on board to help design and create the 6 fantastical demons that populate our creepy universe. Jeff's mastery of sculpture and design, combined with his natural atunement to his own personal demons, allowed for the best visual collaboration of my entire life.

Make up was done by Mikal Sky who comes from a strong beauty make up background but dove into the creature make up fx like a tomboy making mud pies. And when costume designer Sarah Mgeni came on board, I gave her the same advice that Max gave me -  "Just do your thing. Make it yours." I just gave Sarah emotions to guide her and let her go with her wildest ideas for costumes on the creatures, and she more than delivered.

Supporting Reagan were Timm Sharp (Stark Raving Mad, Til Death) and Donnie Jeffcoat (Night of the Demons) who complete a love triangle that plays itself out in the series. Rounding out the cast are my usual players from my short horror films, including Azure Parsons, Michelle Gardner, David Wolfson, and Edin Gali.

Originally MWG had offered me 1 week and a 20 person crew, but I had my team and we'd been shooting guerilla horror shorts together for a year already, and I knew we were pretty lean and mean, so I suggested we shoot for twice as long, but with half the crew. So instead of 5 days and 20 people, it was 10 days and 10 people.

We shot for two 5 day weeks in June and July 2009, and I was honored to work with a crew that had come on board not for money, but for love.

For example, check out what Daimon Shippen did. Because of the small crew he was given the mammoth task of not only lighting the show,  but also production designing it. I know, a weird combination, but the advantage was the complete sense of synchronicity between set and lighting that I've never achieved before. And when Daimon was wearing his production designer hat, busy on the next set getting it ready, my camera assistant/operator Chad Nagel and I strung the lights and laid the dolly track ourselves. Friggn Chad... he's like Radar from M.A.S.H. Every time I asked him for something, he was already handing it to me.

Managing the production was Bea Ageto and Sarah Evershed, who both kept things rolling ridiculously smoothly despite all the usual pitfalls and landslides that accompany small budget productions.

After shooting came the long involved post production. Thankfully I was joined by fellow FEARnet writer and musician Gregory Burkhart, who scored the entire series with wife Nini, under their band's moniker CORVO.  Soundwise they're somewhere between Goblin and Dead can Dance. Interestingly enough, I've never met Greg face to face as he telecommuted the entire job from the midwest. At first I had a stack of notes for Greg going into the first episode, but I found that he and I were in such sympatico that by the end of the series I was just turning over episodes to him and telling him to do his thing.

It's because of these people that I was able to create a personal and professional best, and hopefully brought out the best in them as well. It was a dream production. I know because I've had plenty of nightmare productions to compare it to.  So why am I spending a blog talking about my cast and crew? Because I wanted to put a spotlight on the people who made this show possible. I'm just a windbag full of ideas. THEY'RE the ones who took the ideas and manifested them before your eyes. And unlike a lot of directors, I understand that and acknowledge it. The cast and crew are peers, not minions.

Oh, and one more thing, even more important... if you're going into production, hire these people. All of them. If they have Camera Obscura on their resume, you can rest assured they're incredibly talented, incredibly loyal people.

And starting October first, you'll be able to see the show and judge for yourself, thanks to the great team at Dailymotion and K.W. Low and Steve "Uncle Creepy" Barton at Dread Central, who have championed me all the way.

Gaudium Per Atrox.

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