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Confessions of a Working Director - 12/8/2009


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This past weekend we had a very successful two days of shooting Ratline pickups.  Gus Stevenson spent the most time in front of the lens, as he was doubling various actors for close insert shots, and he also donned his Nazi officer's uniform again to continue playing Jakob Wagner, one of the top three scientists working in Heinrich Himmler's secret Geheimnisvolle Korps (the SS Paranormal Division).

We also added two characters to the movie, who will be glimpsed in quick flashback shots: five-year-old Miles and his mother. 

The adult Miles, a main character in Ratline, is played by Joseph R. Engel (who played the drive-in theater owner in Deadwood Park).  Five-year-old Miles was played by Luke Wallace, producer Jeremy Wallace's son.  Miles's mom was, appropriately, played by Luke's real mom, Jennifer Wallace.  I had been warned by Jeremy that Luke was very uncomfortable being the center of attention and that he would be extremely difficult to direct.  Surprisingly, Luke was remarkably cooperative and he took direction like a pro.  Perhaps there is a Hollywood acting career in Luke's future yet.

We also did some blood 'n' gore pickups, some signage inserts, a few additional Oktoberfest eating/drinking shots, and we stole some exterior shots at our abandoned high school location (which we have not had permission to shoot at for quite some time).

This past weekend went very well.  It was a wide variety and high quantity of shots for only two days of shooting.

In addition to our pickup shots, this past weekend we also recorded the voice-over that will go with the vintage military film seen in Ratline.  The majority of Ratline's backstory will be told via this old 16mm film print that (adult) Miles discovers.  It is a restricted top-secret film produced by the United States War Office at the conclusion of the Second World War, and the film contains seized Nazi documentary footage that exposes some of the activities conducted by Himmler's Geheimnisvolle Korps.  I thought the most interesting way of unfolding this part of Ratline's plot was to mimic as closely as possible the actual restricted military films of this era - which will make this section of the story more visually driven, more engaging for the audience, and more of a challenge and accomplishment for us as filmmakers.

Though all of our "military film" had been shot, we still needed to record the voice-over that accompanies the grainy, black and white images.  This was a task I was nervous about, because the voice-overs in the real WW2-era military films have such a specific quality.  If the voice performance we record falls short, this part of Ratline will not work.

Sam Starck, who had a small part in Deadwood Park, and who has done a lot of voice-over work for me in the past, came in to be the voice of the military film narrator.  Sam and I screened some actual World War 2 classified military films, so he could hear what the narration should sound like.  In addition to the vocal qualities that Sam would be trying to mimic, we listened to various phrases and word pronunciations that are simply never heard today.  Sam soaked it all up as best he could, stepped outside for a smoke and a moment of quiet to let his brain process everything - and then it was time to record.

Sam completely nailed it.  He mimicked the real military films' narration perfectly, without falling into a cartoony, over-the-top, spoof of it.  Sam did a minimum number of takes for each section of narration and we wrapped up the recording session in about half an hour.  Even though all of our footage for this military film was in the can, I was not sure that we were completely successful in pulling this aspect of Ratline off until I heard Sam's voice performance.  Suddenly, it all clicked together.  I was happy.

One more day of pickup shots coming up this weekend.  I'll let ya know how it goes.

Thanks for reading.

- Eric Stanze