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'Planning And Unplanning'

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Halloween has come and gone. The leaves have turned. There is a chill in the air. 2012 is nearly over. Okay, I know, we’ve got a few weeks of consumerism on crack between now and the end of the year, but we all know very little gets accomplished during Thanksgiving, Black Friday sales events, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve festivities.

As 2012 nears its demise, I look back and see a year that can be summed up in one word: unpredictable. Nothing I planned ahead for took place, yet multiple opportunities I did not predict popped up out of nowhere to make 2012 a success.

As 2011 was winding down, I was all set for two 2012 films on which I was a producer, a couple of films for which I would have directed 2nd Unit, and the writing of my first screenplay since my last, Ratline (2011). The films to which I was attached as a producer or 2nd Unit director did not happen. (They may spark up again in 2013.)

On the writing front, instead of plowing through a few drafts of a new screenplay, I worked on multiple story treatments. I could not commit to turning one into a screenplay until very late in the year. It was the opposite of writer’s block – I had too much enthusiasm for too many story ideas, so I had difficulty becoming screenplay-monogamous. This past September, however, I finally made the commitment and began cranking out a script. I had the vast majority of a first draft written by Halloween.

As my plans for 2012 mutated (or dissolved away entirely), other opportunities popped up out of the blue to fill those empty squares on the calendar, keeping my 2012 very busy and rewarding.

Back in 2009, I worked with Jim Mickle directing 2nd Unit on his film Stake Land. Until this year, I thought his next film was going to be Cold In July, based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale. However, this past summer I discovered that Mickle was in pre-production on We Are What We Are, a “re-imagining” of Somos Lo Que Hay (2010), the Mexican horror hit from director Jorge Michel Grau. Within a week or two I was hired as the 2nd Unit director on Mickle’s We Are What We Are. This project came to me out of nowhere, providing a mountainous and challenging 2nd Unit workload. It was awesome.

On set, I was happy to again be working alongside many Stake Land familiar faces: director of photography Ryan Samul, special effects artist Brian Spears, writer/actor Nick Damici, assistant editor Aaron Crozier, and Bobby Boothe, my 2nd Unit cinematographer (on both Stake Land and We Are What We Are). Also, I met some truly impressive new acquaintances who were equally kick-ass at their jobs.
Directing 2nd Unit on We Are What We Are was a pretty amazing experience – the amount of material assigned to me was around fifteen times what I shot for Stake Land, and there was no such thing as an easy shot on the whole list. I worked my ass off, I was exhausted, I was subjected to intense stress… and I was just about as happy as I could be.

I believe the movie will be outstanding – quite the delicious treat for horror fans. I can’t wait to see it, and I am very proud to have contributed to the project.

While I think We Are What We Are will be the crown jewel of my 2012, a lot of other great opportunities popped up this year, suggesting my 2013 will be very busy. In addition to making progress on my current screenplay, I am in the “talkin’ about it” phase of landing more 2nd Unit directing gigs, there may be a new feature film on the distant horizon that I’ll be a producer on, and I’ve even been asked to climb aboard a feature horror film next summer as the director of photography. Of course, if 2013 goes the way 2012 went, none of these plans will come to fruition. That’s okay. There always seems to be something powerful lurking in the shadows, ready to jump out and surprise me with a new, exciting, and fulfilling filmmaking adventure.

Thanks for reading.

- Eric Stanze

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