Tag Archives: stunts

Lights, Camera, Action! What have I gotten myself into?

After a number of overly exciting posts on the highs and lows of screenwriting for this film, I thought I would take a post to put on one of my other hats that I wore for this production: my actor hat. It is a hat that I, like many others, have always wanted to wear. But, unlike others, as someone who also owns writer and producer hats, I am able to write myself into the script, and then make an executive decision to cast myself in that role. While it may sound like self-nepotism (because of my many jobs) or egotism, the fact is I had reservations over playing the part that I wrote for myself, reservations that I’m sure Tyler shared.

The Biggest Loser: Pinoy Edition (season 1)

The Biggest Loser: Pinoy Edition (season 1) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first reservation was my weight. When Tyler and I first began work on the project, I was pretty heavy. Without getting into numbers, let me just say that if the movie didn’t go forward, I could have been a contestant on The Biggest Loser. It was not good. My weight had fluctuated a lot over the years, but always managed to creep upward. So, I took my desire to handle a role in this film as motivation to really get my ass back on track and get some pounds off before production began. It was a job I took very seriously, and it became the catalyst for Tyler’s command that everyone get in better shape for the project, simple for health and endurance reason. This was going to be a tough shoot, which we were at least partially aware of, and we needed as cast and crew to be able to handle it. Being a small production, we’d not only be handling the demands of the script (see the next point), but also of the production, carrying equipment, building sets, holding positions for ungodly lengths of time.

Making it happen for the film.

Making it happen for the film.

I set about dieting and exercising 5-6 days a week, consistently actually missing maybe a week in two years (not counting shooting weeks). By the time we got to the production (what I call Grassman: Year One), I was down 45 lbs. When Grassman: Year Two ended, I had lost over 80 lbs. By, the end of Grassman: Year Three, I had quit smoking to top it all off. It was no easy task, but I’m glad I finally had this to push me in a direction I hadn’t passionately dedicated myself to for over 10 years. It felt good, and I felt good.

There be action happening!

There be action happening!

The second concern was the level of action in the film. Action and stunts are always a concern on films, but when you are an insane micro-budget action horror film without the common sense to know that you shouldn’t be doing what you are doing, it’s even more so. As the character of Catch, I had a significant amount my own stunts to perform. Aside from the requisite running through actual woods, I had to fight, jump, fall, take hits, and roll around, all while carrying a real, non-prop 14″ Smith & Wesson Search & Rescue Bowie Knife. Like I said,   no common sense.

IMAG0026

Step 1 for breaking back: fall off of this. (Photo credit: vaxciliate)

My major concern was my back. I have chronic back pain due to an US Army Airborne training accident when I was 19. I have a bulging disc, an only partially healed compressed vertebrae, and a touch of arthritis. The slightest thing can set it off and leave me essentially immobile. I once collapsed in a ball of pain on a bike trail because the damn back decided that one more push of the pedal was too much to ask. Stupid thing. However, I was willing to do whatever I had to do to make my action scenes as effective as I could. To top things off, day one of shooting, I contused my heal to the point where I needed to wrap it up tightly at the beginning of every day of shooting and wear running shoes when my feet weren’t in the shot. It didn’t get back to normal until around December of Grassman: Year One.

It's a wrap!

It’s a wrap!

The final reservation was over acting itself. I am not an actor, nor have I ever claimed to be. But, I’ve always felt that I could pull it off in the right part, and have wanted to take on that challenge since I was a kid. I’ve had small parts in Monkey Prod shorts in the past (aside from BADNESS where I played Vlad the Rocking Impaler from Hell, an over-the-top rock stereotype based loosely on myself).

Me, acting. From HELL!

Me, acting. From HELL!

However, I usually either wound up on the digital cutting room floor (aka, the Recycle Bin), didn’t have my face shown at all, or the project never saw the light of day. Not a terribly auspicious bunch of credits for an acting reel.

Needless to say, there was a level of anxiety on my part, some self-doubt over my ability to carry my own weight in the thespian department. Granted, we have a cast of primarily inexperience actors, but my role was a significant one, the third lead. I couldn’t let my performance be the one that stood out at amateur or, even worse, laughable.

Trying to learn my lines while getting AAA on the phone.

Trying to learn my lines while getting AAA on the phone.

To make my anxiety worse, I was so consumed with re-writes and my producer duties, I was often unable to prepare for scenes until right before we shot them. I tried squeezing in learning lines when I could, but I really was pushing it most days. Having seen much of my work in our rough cuts, I am relieved to say that my acting doesn’t make me want to go punch myself in the face. That’s a plus.

Taking on this project was a monumental undertaking, and most of the folks involved found themselves performing multiple duties for many hours. I was the only dumbass who had a choice to not take on one of my jobs, but I did it anyways. I guess the lesson here is that no matter what your part might be in making your film a reality, you’re going to have your doubts. Don’t let them stop you, but use them to motivate you. It also helps to check your sanity at the door. But, get your ass to do whatever you have to do to make shit happen and guess what? Shit will happen. It’s like magic. So endeth the lesson.

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Quick Update: We’re getting there…

It’s been a while since Tyler or I have written an update to this site. Needless to say, things have been very hectic these past few months.    But, I’ll do my best to sum it all up and then get into what’s next.

First of all, we finished the last of our outdoor shooting. This is a tremendous milestone, considering that 80% of the film takes place outside in the woods. We managed to get in about 5 more shooting days before the weather would no longer permit it.  But we got a lot of good footage during those five days, including the majority of the climax (what’s left will be mentioned below).

These were not easy days. People were tired and worn out. Schedules, as usual, were tough to coordinate. But, folks hung in there and gave their all. And I think it will show in the end product.

Getting the shot, anyway we can.

Since then, Tyler has been continuing to edit the film. I’ve seen much of the new stuff from this year added in and it looks damn good. I have been working on rewriting the few remaining scenes to account for location and story changes. And we both have been having meetings regarding the stuff that’s left. And in between all of that, we have been dealing with real life, which is it’s own unique type of pain in the ass. I think I speak for us both when I say that the bullshit, imaginary world of moviemaking is way more fun.

"Death and danger are my various breads and various butters."

Which leads me to what is next. We have three indoor scenes to shoot with the three core actors. We are location scouting for two of them, and one is inside a vehicle. We have one indoor scene that is half complete, but the location is not available until the weather gets nicer. And we have some effects shots to do in the studio (We call anywhere people let us shoot indoors “the studio.” We’re kinda like filmmaking hobos that way.).  One of the key effects bits involves the climax of the film and a really cool stunt that would kill people if we tried if for real. Which, of course, we considered.

Tyler, with his Nth adventure hat on, makes magic out of fur and leaves.

Add to that all the work that needs to done in post (more editing, sound, visual effects, music), and we still have a ways to go. But we are confident that the film will premiere this year. Somewhere.

Insanity: the final stage of filmmaking

What then? Who knows. But, keep checking here for updates and more insight on this ate-up process as we put the finishing touches on the greatest bigfoot movie to ever to be made for a few grand by two jackasses and a team of untrained professionals in their own backyard. Ever!

Feel the heat! More shooting, more good times.

It has been a while since our last post. It has also been a while since we have shot anything. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, our real lives, the things we do that pay the bills, have been kind enough to really interfere in our filmmaking time. Two, availability. Making a micro-budget movie tends to put you at the mercy of the schedule of the people who are kind enough to volunteer their time to your endeavor. And third, it has been apocalypticly hot out. Every time we turn on the weather report, it’s another Heat Emergency. And, let’s face it – a bigfoot movie with a dizzy sasquatch that passes out in every scene is not really what we are going for.

So, we’re determined to grab the days when we can and get this film finished before the fall (or rather, before Mother Nature decides to mess with us again). In the meantime, we have been working on what we can; Tyler editing our footage into a very viewable rough cut, myself working on some scene rewrites, our make-up FX  head creating and testing new blood formulas (enjoying it a little too much sometimes, I think).  So, without further ado, or excuses, I give you Day 23 of shooting.

Day 23 – August 1, 2010

After a day of purchasing supplies, dusting off the wardrobe, arranging the availability of the actors, and confirming a shooting location,  the team was ready to begin another intensive day of shooting in the woods.

Tyler and his army of one.

We arrived on location and I was pleased to see a familiar face onset: Kirk. Kirk has been a friend of Tyler’s for many moons, and he helped us out on our short film The Projection Booth. He had been following our progress via this wonderful blogstrosity here, and had offered his services should we need. Hell yeah, we do! In fact, just a few nights before I had told Tyler that he desperately needed a right-hand man, or two, to work with him through the organized chaos that is our shooting style. Being so short-staffed, while intentional, has also been a bit of a hindrance.

So, it was cool to see Kirk again after all this time. And it eased my mind to know that Tyler had someone there whom he knew and trusted, and who knew him and his bizarreness, to provide needed support. Kirk would be our sound guy this shoot. Awesome!

You think you're above the law?

Stephan, Max, and I geared up. Today would be a actiony day. Two scenes, both with a fair share of running, ducking, jumping, falling, and slamming into trees.  The first 2/3 of the day was a lot of me doing the aforementioned physical work. It was surprisingly hot, and I was soaked, exhausted, and not feeling well by the time we finished. For some reason, only a handful of water bottles were brought down from the vehicles into the woods, so it was a while still before I got any fluids in me.

"More action hero, and less you, please."

Stephan had a stunt, which he nailed several times very well, and then he and Max had some running of their own to do. And it was done. It’s been rare, but I love when we get a whole scene finished in a day, more-or-less on schedule.

We then headed back out to the Lebanon, OH location for a couple of quick pickup shots for a scene that seemed to be missing some things.

Water... why did it have to be water?

Max was not pleased to find out that he was going to wind up in the creek for what would be the second time.  But, he stuck it out. We shot there for about an hour or so, then called it a day. Everyone did a terrific job and it felt good to get back into the groove. And Kirk jumped right into the mess without missing a beat. It was a good day.

August 2, 2010 – August 4, 2010

I have heat exhaustion, having been severely dehydrated from the 5 hrs in the heat.  I spend the next 3 days dizzy, cramping, nauseous, and swimming in Powerade.  I curse my stupidity for not ensuring we had enough fluids on set because, as a former EMT and US Army Medic, I most definitely know better. I decide that I would rather be accidentally caught on fire again than to let myself get dehydrated like this again. In a light-headed daze, I silently make a Khan-like vow to avenge myself.