In Part 1 of this journey, I began revisiting the production of an older movie of mine, the bizarre horror/experimental feature Ice From The Sun, shot entirely on Super 8 film.
I’d rummaged deep into the archives and found our old Ice From The Sun shooting schedule - which had not seen the light of day for over a decade. I’ll continue unveiling the peculiar particulars of this one-of-a-kind film shoot, using the 1996 schedule as my guide.
OCTOBER 5, SAT, through OCTOBER 26, SAT, 1996
Scenes 5, 12, 23, 24, 34, 35, 36, 42, 46, 47, 48, 59, 60, 72
We’re shooting only on weekends now. October is a month of filming some truly bizarre sequences that don’t snap neatly into the film’s narrative: Todd Tevlin runs through a forest, surrounded by vintage radios. A bunch of extras stand motionless in an open field, reading newspapers. After being chased down by a family of inbred hillbilly folk, Tracey Hein’s character becomes a freak in a circus sideshow. Jason Christ’s character gets stabbed in the stomach by a sword, then lethal pills are shoved into the wound.
Some low-end consumer Super 8 cameras we’d purchased, for $10 or $20 each, were procured specifically to be destroyed for certain shots I had in mind. We demolish a few by throwing them off a cliff. Producer Jeremy Wallace has the best pitching arm, so he launches the cameras to their doom. Rolling film, they plummet to the railroad tracks far below, where they explode into pieces. When the film comes back from the lab, if these shots look interesting, I’ll use ‘em in Ice From The Sun’s abstract imagery montages.
I also have DJ Vivona smash a rolling camera to pieces with a tree branch or baseball bat, or something. (The free-fall-from-cliff-top shots make it into the movie. The footage captured as DJ beats up the camera does not.)
NOVEMBER 16, SAT, 1996
Scenes 25, 61
Almost three months ago, we shot S-VHS video footage of Alexander Crestwood’s talking to the camera, issuing orders to Todd Tevlin’s character. This edited sequence is intended to be fed to a stack of mismatched television monitors, then filmed on Super 8 for inclusion in the movie.
It’s the day of the shoot. I arrive at the studio we booked to film the multiple monitors. The crew starts stacking up the various televisions. They’re all different sizes and models, just as I requested… but there is no Alexander Crestwood video to feed to them… because I have had zero time to edit it together.
The crew works on the television set-up, including the system that will display the video feed on all the monitors simultaneously. David Berliner adjusts the lighting. Todd Tevlin gets into wardrobe. While all this is going on, I am in a second-floor editing suite frantically cutting together the Alexander Crestwood dialog sequence for playback on all those monitors. Though the clip is short, it’s a rather complex edit job. In addition to Alexander’s jump-cutty speech, flashes of real medical footage (eyeballs and teeth) are incorporated, too. I probably spend 30 minutes editing the sequence. I rush downstairs, and hand the layoff tape to the tech controlling playback. We shoot Alexander’s dialog off the TV screens only minutes after my speedy edit session.
NOVEMBER 17, SUN, 1996
Winter hits us full force. Temperatures plunge, and the snow piles up.
It is my birthday - I turn 25. We do only one shot today: the upangle of the massive castle exterior for our “Dark Ages” flashbacks. In reality, the castle is a three-foot-high miniature, created by effects artist Jeff Bergeron.
We shoot outside, our teeth chattering as we trudge through knee-high snow. We are only in the cold for an hour or so… it is a taste of troubles to come…
NOVEMBER 23, SAT, through NOVEMBER 24, SUN, 1996
Scenes 5, 23, 24, 72
We finish shooting the last of our crazy, abstract montage imagery. Ice From The Sun is, actually, a meticulously planned shoot, has a very tight shooting ratio, and employs a shot list from which I rarely stray. However, I have days of experimentation on the schedule too. Shots include concepts I’ve developed in advance, and ideas that come to me and the crew on the day. Imagination and creative daring strongly encouraged.
DECEMBER 7, SAT, 1996
I need to get one more shot for the final sequence of the film… an exploding DJ Vivona. We’ll be shooting this outdoors, at night. However, the temp outside plummets to a dangerous low. An Extreme Cold / Wind Chill Warning is issued for our area - with very good reason. It is so painfully cold and windy outside that we are concerned for our crew’s safety - especially considering that some of the crew will be working with explosives in this weather. We cancel the shoot.
DECEMBER 14, SAT, 1996
We take our second crack at shooting Scene 77’s fake DJ Vivona body explosion. It is still excruciatingly cold outside, and I am very concerned about everyone’s safety. Well into the night, we are ready to roll three cameras on the pyrotechnics. Since the sun has left the sky, the cold has become even more unbearable… but the crew remains sharp and efficient. Unfortunately, due to the extreme weather, technical difficulties derail us. The explosive malfunctions in the freezing temperature. DJ will not explode.
We discuss our options - including a different explosive device that won’t be as temperamental in low temps. It is decided we come back after the Christmas break, and try - for the third time - to shoot the explosion. We wrap for the night - having filmed absolutely nothing.
While the new year is still young, we finally get DJ Vivona to explode. The weather is slightly more tolerable, and the new explosive device works perfectly on the first attempt. This explosion shot, which took three attempts over the course of four weeks to pull off, will receive approximately one second of screen time in the edited movie.
For the next few weekends, the Ice From The Sun shoot tapers off - becoming more like a span of 2nd Unit photography. I keep shooting little pickups until all the gaps are filled. The crew keeps getting smaller, and our shooting days keep getting shorter. In my apartment, I film the opening credits text, I grab tiny inserts for the climactic scene, I shoot a close-up of Ramona Midgett against a black backdrop, and a Jason Christ POV. Finally, it all comes to an end. After nearly a year and a half of pre-production and production, the filming of Ice From The Sun is complete.
Thanks for reading.
- Eric Stanze