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Confessions Of A Working Director: 12/13/2008


After losing our primary high school location, where the finale of RATLINE was to take place, we had only a couple of weeks to locate, scout, and secure a new location for the ending of this movie.  On three days notice, producer Jeremy Wallace and associate producer Mark Wallace saved the day and landed us a very interesting location.

By the way, yes, there is a relation between the two - Mark is Jeremy's father.  Mark has always provided support to our movie-making endeavors (he plays "Goon #2" in ICE FROM THE SUN) but on this project he has become directly involved as a main mover/shaker behind the scenes.  Mark is our primary contact with the town of Hermann, MO, where much of this movie takes place.  Mark has made it possible for us to shoot in the streets of Hermann, on the front steps of the city courthouse, and in the Hermann City Cemetery.

To shoot the ending of the movie, Mark scored for us full run of the Hermann City Park.  We shot three back-to-back, dusk-till-dawn night shoots in the freezing cold, high winds, and sleet.  Despite the extreme discomfort of the cast and crew, the shoot went well, the location worked great, and aside from a few shots we'll pick up on an insert day, we shot everything we needed to end the movie.

On the Hermann City Park land is an old Jaycees Club hall which has been abandoned for five years.  The building still has electric and heat, so it was used as home base for our three-night shoot, and we shot a few brief sequences in and around this building.  Also in the park is a cinder-block public restroom (which we used for one scene) a large historic gazebo (where we shot the end of one scene) and an 1864 Rotunda. 

The Rotunda was built as part of a fairground to provide a location for horticultural exhibits and wine-judging events, and is therefore indicative of Hermann's growth and identity as a German community.  This makes the Rotunda a perfect background image in RATLINE, as the movie definitely embraces Hermann's German roots.  The Rotunda is so dilapidated that it was under threat of demolition until it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Now, a construction crew is working to restore the old structure.  Their scaffolding and equipment, plus freshly painted new sections of the building inside the Jaycees hall, added an appropriate and interesting texture to the scenes we shot there.

Upon finishing the ending scenes of the movie in Hermann City Park, actress Sarah Swofford was officially wrapped.  It will be sad seeing Sarah trek back to Texas.  She was great to work with, she delivered an excellent performance, and she has definitely gone above and beyond for this project.  I am eager to work with her again on a future movie.

While on the subject of actors, here is some more casting news for you to chew on.  Jason Christ is one of the top dogs here at my production company, Wicked Pixel Cinema.  His experience spans all areas of indie film.  He is a director, producer, editor, cinematographer, and writer.  (Jason co-wrote RATLINE with me.)  Jason is an award-winning director of several short films that you can check out on the short films compilation THE SEVERED HEAD NETWORK.  He is also a very good actor.  In fact, acting is probably the priority in his career pursuits. 

Jason had a leading role in ICE FROM THE SUN and a supporting role in DEADWOOD PARK.  We produced a number of side projects for other production companies that gave Jason even more acting mileage (including his role as a rough 'n' gruff jerk in the slasher throwback THE UNDERTOW).  He's also played bit parts here and there (check him out playing a zombie in the music video bonus feature on the DEADWOOD PARK DVD).  His most substantial acting part to date is this one, "Frank Logan" in RATLINE.

On this shoot, Jason froze his ass off along with the rest of us (in the Hermann City Cemetery, on the streets of Hermann, in the City Park... and pretty much everywhere else we shot).  He's put up with much physical abuse, including being drenched in blood in freezing temperatures.  His dedication to his part has been amazing and it is easily the best performance I've ever seen him deliver.  Jason has breathed more life into his character and into this movie than I anticipated.  I am overjoyed we cast him in RATLINE.

Furthermore, Jason refuses to let his participation in RATLINE end with the screenplay and his acting part.  Jason is also bringing much to RATLINE as a producer.  And just to top it all off, I have had a great time working with him on this flick.

I always enjoy collaborating with Jason, but I think RATLINE has been the most fun and productive collaboration we've ever had.  As Jason and I advance through our careers, it becomes more and more clear that we think the same way about movies, about horror, and about where our priorities should be placed when working in this arena.  Ironically, I have no memory of the first time I met Jason, and it was an arduous, uphill battle for him to infiltrate my production company and start working with me.  I admire him for knowing what he wanted and fighting hard to get it!  I'm glad he did, because today, the combination of filmmaking collaboration and true friendship I have with Jason is a very cherished aspect of my life.

There are five more days of shooting to go.  Our last day is Dec. 27th. 

Though they are not leading actors in this movie, I still would like to shine a spotlight on four more stars of this show... 

Under the stressful and very uncomfortable conditions RATLINE is being made, by all laws of human nature, cast and crew should be at each other's throats by now.  Instead, everyone is still in good spirits, still very enthusiastic about this movie, and still working together to solve problems as a team.  There is still laughter on set and everyone is enjoying working with each other.  Very impressive. 

There are four individuals who have been right by my side throughout this entire production, unwavering in their dedication, delivering what they promise despite our lack of budget and time, and working themselves to exhaustion.

These four people are production designer Trevor Williams, production manager Bob Nealon, special effects artist Jim Wayer, and my right hand man at the camera, Gus Stevenson.  Though a large number of people are pitching in to get RATLINE made, these four individuals are without a doubt the glue holding this shoot together.

Thanks for reading.

Eric Stanze