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Confessions Of A Working Director - 12/5/2008

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A few entries ago, I detailed the pain-in-the-ass factor associated with us shooting in an abandoned high school for our current production.  We shot at the school two days, and we had another five days scheduled there.  The school was our primary shooting location, chosen for its visual attributes, our confidence in Adam (our contact at the school), and the ease with which the school building clicked into place with the story.  But things went from "pain-in-the-ass" to "time to panic" in just a few moments when - on the day we were scheduled to return to this location - I received a rather unwelcome email from Adam...

In the email, Adam informed me that the high school building that we'd been shooting in had been condemned by the city!  Police informed Adam that patrolmen would be keeping an eye on the building and anyone not on a construction crew caught entering the premises would be arrested for trespassing! 

Well... shit.

Immediately, we began searching for replacement locations.  Not a whole lot of abandoned schools around, so the search broadened to any interesting structures that could be plugged into the story and could be extensions of the high school footage that we'd already shot. 

My head was spinning because, starting from that point, the producer in me was focused on finding new locations... the writer in me was focused on re-writing the script to accommodate the new locations we were being offered... and the director in me, desperate to stay on schedule, still had to focus on whatever scene we were shooting that day.

Somehow, we made it through November without falling behind schedule.  We were landing locations and then shooting at them 48 hours later - sometimes only 10 hours later.  (It echoed our mad scramble to find an abandoned amusement park to shoot in for DEADWOOD PARK after our initial shooting location was destroyed by a hurricane - two days before we were scheduled to shoot there!)

We still have the finale of the movie to shoot.  We have no location locked yet for it.  Clock is ticking...  I need this movie's principal shooting to be wrapped by Christmas.

On a more positive note, this month I got to work with long-time friend DJ Vivona, who is playing a part in this movie.  If you've seen any of my past movies, you will recognize DJ from my campy gore-fest SAVAGE HARVEST, the chaotic brain-bender ICE FROM THE SUN, one of the sequences in THE SEVERED HEAD NETWORK, and a side-project we did called CHINA WHITE SERPENTINE. 

CHINA WHITE SERPENTINE suffered numerous bumps in the distribution road, so barely anyone out there has seen it.  It's a weird little movie about a porn 'n' drug operation run by a mysterious and sexually-super-charged woman named Tracey, who lures young men and girls into her web to run her drugs and be in her pornography videos.  DJ plays a lead role in the movie, searching for his brother who's been seduced into Tracey's lair of sex and sin.  If you like a less-mainstream, more bizarre flavor of horror movie, I recommend you seek out CHINA WHITE SERPENTINE.  For an ultra-low-budget movie, shot very fast, I think it's pretty cool - and it is a good showcase of DJ's acting talents.

In this current movie of ours, DJ plays a pissed-off, volatile jerk.  It was fun watching my old high-school buddy brandish a gun around, spout obscenities, and beat people up!  He did an excellent job playing this part and I really enjoyed having him on set.

November 17 was my birthday and it fell on another very long day of shooting.  Actress Sarah Swofford surprised me with an awesome cake that she designed herself.

I heard crew whispering behind my back as they plotted how they were going to get the cake from the apartment we rented for Sarah down to the shooting location without me knowing what was going on.  When I heard all the sneaky whispers, I thought something had gone wrong and that the crew was trying to get it fixed before I found out about it.  In the end, it was all for a tasty red velvet birthday cake. 

On the cake, Sarah had put the original Li'l Pixel (our Wicked Pixel Cinema mascot) orange flames around the edges, and on top a Nazi swastika flag with the words: Happy Birthday Eric... plus the word: RATLINE. 

Why did the cake look like this?  Because the movie we are shooting is called RATLINE.  Why a Nazi swastika flag?  Because this is a key element in the story of RATLINE. 

Thanks for reading!

Eric Stanze

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