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Confessions of a Working Director - 1/2/2009

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Production on RATLINE has transitioned into a different flavor of filmmaking.

At the start of this project, it was all panic and break-neck speed.  For us, pre-production usually spans six to twelve months, but for RATLINE, pre-production was crammed into two months.  When the shoot started, the details of each production day were falling into place sometimes scant hours before crew call time.  And to keep things really interesting, an insane amount of shooting was scheduled for each day.

One dusk-to-dawn night shoot, early in the schedule, we accomplished fifty camera setups. (On an average, efficiently-run shoot, fifteen to twenty camera setups a day is the norm.) This night was even more difficult because we were shooting outside, the temperature plunged to freezing cold, and half the cast was naked and covered in blood.

As the already-hectic shoot progressed, we encountered numerous location issues, most stemming from our high school building location (secured as the primary shooting location for RATLINE) being yanked away from us two days into shooting there.  Fighting to stay on-schedule, my team was running all over the St. Louis area, evaluating potential shooting locations that we could transplant scenes to - all while I kept a shooting unit operating at maximum speed and workload.

And to add to the burden my cast and crew carried, the shooting days just kept getting longer. We'd generally shoot fifteen to seventeen hours a day.  After one grueling seventeen hour day, we had a six-hour turnaround (as in, there were six hours between "that's a wrap" and the call time for the next day) and then we dove into a punishing twenty-three hour shooting day!

I have not pushed myself and my team this hard since the production of SAVAGE HARVEST.  I am not 21 years old anymore, as I was on the HARVEST shoot, so I didn't know if my body would hold up to this schedule.  Under the circumstances, I think I held up pretty well.  And despite the long hours, bitter cold, location problems, and sleep deprivation, I have had a blast making this movie.

Ongoing high stress plus lack of sleep usually results in a very unhappy, minutes-from-mutiny cast and crew.  My team, however, stayed tough as nails.  Spirits remained remarkably high, and the dedication everyone gave to RATLINE never faltered.  These people I work with are simply amazing - the best of the best.

After fatiguing shooting days on RATLINE, many of my crew return to the Wicked Pixel Cinema offices on days we are not shooting to help me work on the million other things that gotta get done. 

Trevor Williams takes care of everything here having to do with computers.  Jason Christ, Gus Stevenson, Bob Nealon, and Jim Wayer take care of everything web-oriented, including Wicked Pixel Cinema's website, webstore, and MySpace pages.  Workaholic Jim Wayer also does most of our graphics work - including selecting and preparing the photos FEARnet.com displays with this blog of mine.

Now, the stretches of hectic, long days of shooting are behind us.  Our last "official" shoot of RATLINE production (principal cinematography) is January 17th.  However, there are already another four days of special effects, pickups, and re-shoots scheduled through Spring.  These 2009 days are a different flavor because we are now getting the shots that are more complex and time consuming.  The emphasis is on prep, not on the actual day of shooting.

These kinds of shots are already being done.  On our last day of shooting in '08, we shot a lot of gore footage, including some wonderfully horrifying decapitation images.

I had the tamest New Year's Eve night of my adult life.  After all the stress of the RATLINE shoot, and the far less-enjoyable stress of the holidays, I hit a brick wall and got sick.  (As I type this, I'm still trying to shake a fever and the annoying headache it's causing.)  Instead of going to a New Year's Eve party, I spent a quiet night at home.  I watched HELLRAISER: INFERNO (which was much better than I expected it would be).  I had a single, small alcoholic beverage as Dick Clark counted down to midnight and the big ball dropped.  I was in bed shortly thereafter.

I'll have to make up for it at the RATLINE wrap party!

Thanks for reading.
Eric Stanze

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