Thursday, April 30, 2009

Platoon of the Dead Production Diary - November 2


Seventh Day of Shooting - Another day of shooting at Marie's house and we are starting to get loopy. The long days and lack of sleep are catching up with all of us.


A few of the cast members are dealing with college finals this week, and some are catching cat naps on the floor between set-ups (like Amanda, above). John and I have started laughing a few times over tiny things and have not been able to stop for a while. The worst was that I ended up shooting for a good 45 minutes on a big scene in the living room with the wrong lighting set-up (day vs. night). I flipped out when I realized it and felt horrible about it but we had so few people trying to do so many things a slip up was bound to happen. John chatted with me outside and I convinced him to let me re-light and start over, noting that since we'd already run through it, we'd worked the kinks out and could catch up to get back on schedule. And that is just what we did.


Earlier we shot Ariauna's barfing scene. John made up a mix of graham crackers and water and boy did it look gross!


Ariauna made a special point that she would do the scene but didn't want to see it! Obviously, everyone else did!


Michele, Tom and Jesus.


Tom Stedham wonders to himself, "Why the hell am I here?"


Tom makes fire to keep us warm in the shop.


Ariauna loves a man with a cup full of pudding.


My wife drove out to put the lasagna in the oven for dinner and boy was it good!






Afterwards, Tom had to be made up as a zombie soldier again, and boy did he not like getting made-up again!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Platoon of the Dead Production Diary - November 1


Sixth Day of Shooting
- In a word, today started out terrible. As I was driving out on the bit of highway on the way to Marie's house, a giant white cloud started coming out of the back of my car, the temperature gauge went crazy and I couldn't get any decent power. I couldn't believe it! I pulled into the nearby minimart to discover that my cellphone battery was dead! Luckily (in this day and age!) they still had a pay phone so I started making calls. John said he would drive the 10 or so miles from the house to the minimart to get the equipment.

Shortly thereafter, Chris and his family pulled up beside me in the minimart parking lot. Chris was willing to take a bunch of my equipment out to the shoot and was a real lifesaver. John showed up not too long afterwards and took the last few things. I had my car towed into town then my wife picked me up and drove me out to Marie's house.

We were already behind schedule when I arrived and then John hit me with another bomb - one of the three toy guns was missing! We really needed to have it otherwise it would be a crazy game of trying to shoot things oddly to hide the fact that one soldier didn't have a gun, or try and pass them around during panning shots, battle scenes, etc. John hit the road back to town to search the park on the small chance that the gun was still there, directing me to shoot a few scenes while he was gone. The sequence of the soldiers first entering the house, required some careful planning and framing, because we only had two guns for the three solders! It all turned out well and likely no viewers will think anything of it.

When he returned a while later, John told me that once he got to the park and stepped to the edge of the vast carpet of fallen leaves, he felt a strange calm come over him and somehow knew that the gun was there. He walked towards where we'd shot the ground fight the day before and the tip of the gun was poking out of the leaves! Amazing! I had good news as well - the shop had called and my car had blown an engine seal and it was pretty minor to fix. Whew!


It was a packed house today as Chris had to bring along his wife and 2 kids.


We plowed right back into shooting. Ariauna ran boom when she wasn't in the scene. Amanda and Michelle were both snapping photos to accentuate the promo shots I was getting.


A sampling of the eclectic outdoor art at the zombie house location.


We are not fooling around with our soda - Tom Stedham: Armed Pepsi Guard.

Between cars and planes, we managed to shoot the outdoor stuff that we couldn't get on Monday. The day ended a zillion times better than it had began.


While I was shooting today, they came and took the gigantic rotted tree out of my back yard. Now it looks so bare. Very sad.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Platoon of the Dead Production Diary - October 31

Fifth Day of Shooting - Since it's Halloween, John set up today as a half-day shoot so Rob and I can take our kids trick-or-treating.


We met at my house and since Rob was working, I made up Lilith as the zombie bride - cool that she could bring her own bridal gown for us to get all bloody.


Here John gets a bunch of karo syrup blood poured on him after we cut his shirt open and stuffed some foam latex guts into the hole. We shot the scene in my back yard with the enormous fallen tree limbs making a nice background of foliage.


Tyler got to skip the fatigues today.

After that, we drove up to Avery Park to shoot a bunch of chase scenes. With no extras, Tyler has to play the zombie soldier this time. There was a lot of running and jumping and then more running! The last bit was a ground fight between Tom and the zombie soldier on the leaf-covered forest floor.


After the shoot, we enjoyed some mid-afternoon Taco Bell after all that running around in the woods. Then we split up for the evening. As I recall, John said that he, Tom and Ariauna just stayed up all night talking.


Here is my son's cool bug-eyed brain alien Halloween costume! That's an old sci-fi gun prop I made out of cardboard and foamcore for my MONSTER IN THE GARAGE movie back in about 1997.

It wasn't until later than I discovered that at the park shoot that afternoon, I'd lost my Philadelphia Eagles knit cap that I'd had since I was growing up in New Jersey.

It was never to be found.

Damn.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Platoon of the Dead Production Diary - October 30

Fourth Day of Shooting - John got up at the crack of dawn (or probably before dawn) and made the 3+ hour drive over the pass to meet us at Marie's house early this morning. Incredible.


Tom was instrumental in choreographing a couple of cool fight scenes today in tight quarters in an entryway and a bit of the kitchen.

We shot the severed hand on the counter scene today and it is amazing what a little foam rubber, some red paint and butterscotch pudding can do to gross people out!


Amanda stretching her face as she puts on her make-up.


John, captured through a window, taking an important phone call outside.


You gotta catch some sleep when you have the chance with a shooting schedule like this.


Setting up a shot on the stairs.


John directing from the crawlspace access.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Platoon of the Dead Production Diary - October 29


Third Day of Shooting - Today we were out at Marie's house and John had to drive back over to Bend to work, so I had quite a full plate - directing, shooting, special effects, make-up, food, etc. Thanks goodness for Ariauna - she worked the boom mike, held an umbrella over my head and countless other things to help me through the day. Actually everyone was really a trooper today as we ran into all kinds of problems.


Even though the house is way out in the country it is on a busy road so traffic noise was constantly causing us to stop (since in the movie the house was isolated in the middle of the woods). Add to that a table saw and tractor a at a nearby farm plus airplanes flying overhead and it was just crazy! After trying for close to an hour, we finally gave up on the 'pile of bones' outdoor scene and decided to try and pick it up later.


I made up the two female zombies, Lisa and Marie, based on Rob's instructions.


I love this picture!

We took care of an outdoor fight scene and then it started to rain. I called John in a panic and told him about having to scrap one morning scene already. I suggested that I move one big scene with all of the characters from the back yard to inside the shop to avoid some noise and stay out of the rain. John said he could make that work.

Once inside the shop, the rain poured down on the metal roof. DOH! We added a few lines here and there about the rain coming down and even a throw away line where Tom comments on an airplane flying overhead, in hopes that they could somehow cover plotwise for all of the noise!


The big scene in the shop involved a rotting zombie soldier and I'd made a paper mache' skeleton head and torso for it. I dressed it in fatigues and borrowed Tyler's hat and covered the face in pudding. It was gross enough already but then someone brought in a big fat worm from the yard so I was able to shoot it squirming out of the zombie's eye socket. It was a fabulous happenstance in a day full of snags. Tom built a fire in the wood stove to we could all keep warm in the shop.


Morgan showed up around dusk and thankfully Rob was able to come out after work to do zombie make-up on her kids. The shoot went well and they sure had a good time fighting over their mom's fake bloody guts! John would eventually tell me I missed a few shots he'd wanted and boy did I feel bad. We ended a little late, but I felt like such a failure having run into all of those problems. I know I did the best I could, but just had hoped it was going to go so much more smoothly.

With John out of town, and my out-of-town guests gone, Tom slept in my kid's playroom and Ariauna slept in my kid's room. I think the stuffed Creature From the Black Lagoon made her feel right at home.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Platoon of the Dead Production Diary - October 28


Everyone hangs out on the deck on a rare break.

Second Day of Shooting - Second day at the Corvallis house. Today Ariauna had to stand in as a dead zombie soldier and to save make-up time I had to shoot her scenes such that you didn't see her face as Tom dragged her around. It was a little tricky, but it all worked out OK.

A few weeks back John asked me if I could connect him with any National Guard folks in town in hopes that they could come to the set to play zombies and bring all of their own outfits and gear. I connected him with a coworker of mine and it turns out that John knew Lewis from years ago. Small world. Lewis joined us today, but none of his buddies who said they could make it showed, so we scrambled to rethink some of the shots. Our garage full of zombie soldiers turned into just one. A few other shots were done just of boots so the good guy soldiers could stand in (literally) for the zombie ones. Lewis pitched in with behind-the-scenes shooting and other tasks and Ariauna and Amanda were recruited for boom work.

One fun scene today was Tom getting splattered with zombie goo, aka butterscotch pudding.


Ready for the pudding shot - Rob is on the floor ready with the giant syringe of butterscotch while Lewis gets some behind the scenes shots. It was messy but a great-looking effect!


The aftermath. Note the plastic grocery bag protecting the camera on the left.


We all scatter, leaving John with clean-up duty!

We shot several scenes late tonight in the garage which required a lot of make-up effects. Boy howdy was it cold.


Wee hours of the morning...


What scene are we doing again? What time is it? Who am I?


Poor Tom had to spend most of the night with his shirt off. Here he tries to keep warm by cozying up to a halogen lamp.

We took care of Ariauna's death scene tonight, so her character wasn't needed for the December weekend shoot where we'd shoot the very end of the movie. Another very late night (I'm not even sure how late - it's all a blur) but we got some amazing things on camera.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Platoon of the Dead Production Diary - October 27

First Day of Shooting - We shot at a house in Corvallis today and it was a looooooong day.

I brought our visiting friends' teenage son with me today to shoot behind-the-scenes video.

I brought a few pieces of artwork I'd commissioned from Marie a while back to dress the set as we were pretending that rooms at this house were part of her house that we would be shooting the rest of the movie in.



John wasn't able to get any extras cast to play zombie soldiers, so Rob had to make up Tom as one and we had to shoot creatively a bit.

Tom the zombie attacks Ariauna then Tom the soldier shoots Tom the zombie. Got it? Trust me, it all works in the final movie.

The severed arm effect was today and took a lot of set-up time and trial runs, but the result was fantastic.

Tom had to stand on a stack of firewood outside the window to be high enough for the shot.

The rest of the cast had a lot of waiting around during make-up and effects, which was nice to build a bit of comradery and shoot some cast interviews in the kitchen. It also allowed for a fair amount of snoozing in the living room. Call time was 7:30 a.m. and we shot until sometime around 1:30 a.m. the next morning, and still had to push some scenes off to another day. Ugh.

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