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Confessions of a Working Director - 5/4/2009

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Last week, Jim Wayer and I took a break from our Wicked Pixel Cinema duties and traveled to Columbia, Missouri to work on a film called VENGANZA AZTECA, directed by our friend Aaron Crozier.

Aaron directed the insane short film LIONTOWN, which can be seen on the DVD release of THE SEVERED HEAD NETWORK, a compilation of short films.  He also worked as a crew member on DEADWOOD PARK.  As my assistant director, he spent a lot of time working with me in pre-production on SEIZURE before that project had its plug pulled.  Aaron has always been very supportive and very kind to me and to Wicked Pixel Cinema.

Aaron Crozier was hired to direct VENGANZA AZTECA, his first feature film, around the time RATLINE was transitioning from pre-production to production, so he was unable to jump in and participate on RATLINE.  Though VENGANZA AZTECA is a bigger budget film than anything Wicked Pixel Cinema has produced to date, it is still a very low budget film, so Aaron called on his industry peers and friends to get this movie in the can.  Because I know what a big break this is for Aaron, and because I have a lot of respect for him, I decided to step away from Wicked Pixel Cinema and RATLINE to work on Aaron's set.  Jim did the same.  The two of us hit the road, arrived in Columbia, Missouri on April 19th, and settled in for a week of working grip and electric on VENGANZA AZTECA.

We worked directly under Ryan Samul, who's impressive cinematographer resume includes MULBERRY STREET (which was released as part of last year's "8 Films To Die For - After Dark Horrorfest" Lionsgate lineup). 

Ryan worked as the gaffer, not the cinematographer, on VENGANZA AZTECA.  Like most of the crew, he came to the project not for a paycheck or for the credit, but to help Aaron Crozier. 

I worked with Ryan many years ago on a western called DEFIANCE (also released by Lionsgate) but he had not yet built his substantial list of cinematography credits at that time.  I think he was just a grip on DEFIANCE.  I was a special effects artist.  I did not remember meeting him back then until he mentioned it on the VENGANZA AZTECA shoot.

Everyone on Aaron's team was very nice to me and Jim, and they all seemed to do their jobs well.  Working directly for Ryan Samul was the highlight of the experience because I have been impressed with his work for many years.  He definitely kept his grip and electric crew working hard non-stop through each 12 hour day of shooting.  But he was also fun to be around and extremely easy to work with.

Probably the most enjoyable sequence to shoot on VENGANZA AZTECA was a fight scene we shot at night on the roof of the Tiger Hotel.  The weather was beautiful and the view was awesome.

By the way, to give you an idea of how insane VENGANZA AZTECA is, the movie contains Mexican wrestlers, ninjas, an Aztec chief, a robot, and a jet pack.  Now THAT'S entertainment.

The lead actor in VENGANZA AZTECA is Mil Máscaras, a famous Mexican wrestler who's been making movies since the late 60's.  On set, he wore his mask the entire time.  Not even Aaron, the director of the movie, knows what his face looks like!

Mil, who is now 67 years old, was impressive because he still did a lot of physical stuff on this shoot, including fight scenes, running, etc.  However, he was also a grumpy old man for much of the production, irritated when the shoot went late into the night, or if it was too chilly outside for him.

Working with Aaron, Ryan, and the whole crew on VENGANZA AZTECA was a fun, welcome break from the world of Wicked Pixel Cinema.  Jim and I arrived back in St. Louis physically exhausted, but feeling refreshed at the same time.  It was a very cool experience.

Now back to RATLINE.

Thanks for reading.

Eric Stanze

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