|At the tender age of sixteen
I set out to make my first epic film. I had picked up an 8mm
camera from a neighborhood garage sale. With three flood lamps
bought at a local hardware store had all the gear necessary to
make a movie! A little slasher film I called “Darkness”.
It starred my younger brother Jake in a store bought clown
mask and a dulled up butcher knife caked in strawberry jam.
With a wonderfully bad performance from my cousin "Donna"
as the victim. The film sucked of course. Sucked big time. But
it taught me something very important. Anyone can make a film
if they have the creativity to stretch their resources.
After a handful of short films and a
couple of TV Pilots under my belt my first foray
into feature film making is a low budget Slasher Flick. Little
has changed! I am
the co-writer, co-producer, and director on this production. From my experiences on this
film, I truly understand why industry veterans say that a film
is made three times. The first time is the screenplay version
of the movie, the second is when you are on set and you see
that the screenplay version doesn’t always work so it is
reworked on the day. The third is when you are in the editing
room you see that the stuff you shot doesn’t totally work.
That is also why they say a movie is made in the editing room.
Film Production is an ever-evolving process. It is also a huge
struggle from beginning to end from financing the picture to
finding a successful concept. At the end of this movie I will
have invested two to three years of my life. The audience will
watch our 90 minute picture and when it is done say…
If you ever want to challenge yourself,
to see what you are made of try and make a feature film.
A couple of quick-tips for the up and
coming filmmaker. Learn business, they don’t call it show
business for nothing. It’s 99% business, 1% show. So forget
all the B.S. they taught you about it being an art form at
film school. Also you get the best deals on light and grip
rentals from December to March, as these are generally the
slowest months. Make sure you are organized. This is the key
to getting your film shot on time and under budget. Keep your
actors happy. They are the ones on set that will give you the
most grief. Your Grips and gaffers are your best friends; they
do all the hard manual labor. Keep them happy too! Do it all
without an ego. It will get bruised and badly beaten by the
end! Make sure you have comfortable shoes!
The idea for this story came to me when
my cohort John Knox and I were producing murder mystery dinner
theater. We were creating interactive plays that the audience
was an integral part of. I personally find traditional stage
plays boring as hell. In fact I would rather sit and watch
paint dry than sit through a play. It has something to do with
my need to control performances. When I am sitting there and
the actor on stage is doing something I don’t like I want to
yell, “Cut”. So the experience is very frustrating for me.
To all my actor friends who invite me to their plays… sorry.
The concept for Darkest Hour actually
started as something I thought we could do as a murder mystery
weekend getaway. I thought we could base it all on 80’s slasher
flicks, which I am totally infatuated with. (Obviously!) I
thought wouldn’t it be cool to get an off-season summer camp
and terrorize people on a weekend before Halloween. Ding!
Hey that would make a great movie! Nuff said, here we are.
John and I wrote the script over two
months. We have written three feature length screenplays
together. But this was by far the fastest we have ever written
a script. All the plot points fell into place so easily. I
wrote the first draft. Unfortunately my draft was more of a
straight forward Slasher Film with some very cardboard
characters. John came in and took my mediocre slasher script
and added many levels of character development. Then we took
turns polishing the dialog. The script came in at 114 pages
and has 164 scenes. That would have made a 114 minute film. We
believe that a shorter film will be easier to market. Our goal is to
chop it down to a workable 90 minutes.
Funding and financing:
In Canada there are a lot of people who
make films with Government funds. I like to work outside of
that system. When you take that money they want to control your film's content.
As far as I am concerned... that is unacceptable. The result
is a pile of film's made with tax payer dollars that are less
than spectacular. Although to give them some credit they are
now making it necessary to return a profit. Maybe the film's
will get better. I like to make
productions that are for a USA/Canadian audience. It only
makes sense. Canada has 30 million or so people, the state of
California alone has 30 million people. I want the largest
number of people to see my movies.
To find the money for Darkest Hour, we
searched and searched until we found some private investors.
Our sugar daddy's Scott Gueulette and Bruno Puric. They invested
the bulk of the film’s budget. I will not divulge numbers
here as it hurts us when we are trying to get the film distributed.
Let’s just say these boy’s have deep pockets. And thank god
for them coming into the production or we wouldn’t have anything
to talk about here.
In this kind of horror film where we
don't have an A-list cast the marketing is based on how cool your killer is.
In some cases how cool and inventive your death scenes are. I
don't believe that this pertains to our film as we have a
movie that is heavy on suspense as opposed to buckets of
blood. Now to say that our cast is not A-List does not mean
they are sub standard actors. That is definitely not the case.
They just don't have marquee value attached to their names.
(YET) For example if Jack Nicholson were in our movie we would
have an actor on the A-list. People would buy tickets to watch
Jack wash his car!
Anyway, getting back to our killer. We spent many a sleepless night
trying to come up with interesting designs for the killer’s
mask. One of our initial concepts had our heroes up against a
killer dressed in a sad clown mask. He would then wear a long
jacket covered in patches cut from his victims clothing. The
idea of a clown was a nod to the mask young Michael Myers
wears in my favorite horror film “Halloween”. That concept
was soon dropped in favor of a creepier idea.
| Our masked
murderer is based on
the Grim Reaper. In his sick and twisted mind he really believes
his job is to dispatch justice and collect pieces of his victims
clothing on his cloak. Quite honestly… I think he looks
scary as hell. When the lighting is right and he is in
element, scythe in hand. Brrr… gives me shivers.
from the production click for a larger image.
reaper admires his work.
We shot the film over a four-month
period over the bitter/Rainy pacific northwestern winter.
Shooting many nights at a location
close to the pacific ocean. If you have ever spent anytime
near an ocean when it is cold outside you will find that
breezes can become bone chillingly cold. I swear my next film will be all
beautiful summer day shoots. Also shooting from 6pm to 6am is very grueling. Coffee soon becomes
your best friend! We were able to save some money in the
budget by shooting at the off-season summer camp. We had
access to the kitchen and all the cabins we wanted. We had
some cabins for make up and some for grip and electric.
ever I stepped into the make up cabin it was full of actors
talking mostly about sex. Must be nice to sit around talking
about sex and gossiping, while the crew is lugging cables and
setting up lights in the bitter cold. Maybe I should become an actor!
More about actors to come!
To Be Continued: