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Confessions of a Working Director - 11/13/2008

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I am now past the halfway point in the shooting schedule of our new feature motion picture.  The enthusiasm of the cast and crew for this movie is tremendous.  In addition to liking the story and the characters, this team seems very enthusiastic about how difficult it is to categorize this project.  It is a horror movie, but not a typical horror movie by any stretch.  When people ask "What kind of movie is this?" it is a struggle to come up with an answer for them - and I think that is a good thing.

My last feature, DEADWOOD PARK was a pure-bred horror film (inspired by 60's and 70's gothic Euro-horror, especially the films of Mario Bava).  I thoroughly enjoyed submerging myself in that atmosphere for the duration of production and post-production.  However, this major shift in content and tone for this new feature is invigorating.  I'm having a blast making this movie.

One of our supporting actresses, Amanda Pemberton (see my last "Confessions" entry) is wrapped and home now.  She did an amazing job playing the part of "Anna," the sadistic girlfriend of "Howard," a volatile meth dealer who fancies himself a powerful Satanic cult leader.

A very good actor, and a person I respect very much, was cast to play "Howard."  But the deal began to unravel as I realized more and more that this actor I'd cast had issues with the rather abrasive content of the movie, specifically the unsavory things his character would have to do. 

After accepting the "Howard" part, this actor started asking for script changes, which normally I'm up for discussing - but only to improve the movie, not water it down.  This actor would likely have come around to doing the part without script changes, but I had become nervous about him.  Would his moral concerns about the movie impact his performance or his ability to take direction?  Also, I actually felt guilty insisting that someone participate in this fiction we were creating when they had moral issues with doing so.  I understand that violent and dark movies are not for everyone.  I don't ever want to "force" these movies I make onto someone who doesn't want to see them or participate in the creation of them.

Finally, after much discussion and contemplation, I decided that the two of us were simply not on the same page concerning this movie.  I let this actor go.  It was the first time in the decade-and-a-half that I've been making movies professionally that I've ever removed an actor and recast the part.

I felt like crap about it.  He really is an extremely talented actor and I genuinely like the guy.  It would have been much easier to let him go if he were an asshole, but he's not - so it was a big ol' bummer.  We never argued or became bitter with each other.  We parted ways on good terms and we promised each other we'd work together soon on another project that we could both be enthusiastic about.

That issue closed, I then realized that I start shooting this "Howard" character in a day - and there's nobody cast in the role!  After a couple of frantic phone calls to Ryan Bax, he was cast as "Howard."

Ryan is a bit of a hero on this movie, as he stepped in to play the part of "Howard" on about a day's notice.  (Ryan had been cast in a smaller part, originally.)  Ryan is a very green actor.  I admit, I was nervous about him taking on such a demanding role.  Thankfully, Ryan nailed it.  He did an amazing job.

In other casting news, we started shooting sequences featuring Alex Del Monacco, who plays a lead role in this movie.  Alex is an award-winning model who has been in numerous Playboy videos and in several magazines and pin-up calendars.  She was featured in the coffee table book "Naked" by Steve Azzara.  Check out some Alex Del Monacco images at wickedpixel.com in our webstore.  Alex is now breaking into a new phase of her successful career - acting.

Her first day on this shoot required her to freak out and emotionally break down after witnessing a violent triple murder.  Furthermore, it was freezing cold at the location, where we shot until dawn.  It was a hell of an introduction to the world of Wicked Pixel Cinema!  As an added bonus, Ian Jane from AVManiacs.com flew in to play one of the victims in this scene.

After shooting this sequence, the production took a break so that we could all relax and enjoy a cast-n-crew Halloween party, and then four days later, vote.

The Halloween party was a blast.  Production designer Trevor Williams generously hosted the wing-ding at his house.  Trevor grilled up some of the best bar-b-q we've ever consumed, zombie movies played on the big screen TV all night, much alcohol flowed, and the evening ended up with many of us naked in the backyard hot tub.  Thankfully, no neighbors spotted us - or if they did, nobody called the cops.  On Nov. 4th, we all voted.

On November 6th, we packed up all the gear and headed out for Hermann, Missouri, one of the primary locations of this shoot.  We lived in that town for six days, shooting in various locations.  Details on this experience in the next entry!

Don't forget to visit Wicked Pixel Cinema Official Website for more info and to check out our past movies.

Thanks for reading!
Eric Stanze

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