Wednesday, July 18, 2018

On Set! "Double Vision" Feature Length Film - Days 1 - 6!?!?

On Saturday I wrapped on shooting the feature length horror movie "Double Vision." 
"Double Vision" is Writer/Director Terry Wickam's latest thriller.  As described on the "Double Vision" fan page on FaceBook:

Double Vision is a passionate account where two characters, Julie Goodwin and Wes McCulloch, who used to be a couple, are reconnected after a decade has passed being apart.  As the reunited couple moves towards sealing their relationship together forever, their mutual bliss is rudely interrupted by a terrifying force determined to stop them from it ever happening. 

I played one of the leads, Wes McCulloch, a small town reporter in over his head.  

Terry's blog about the production can be found here: 

The movie is a classic call back to thrillers from the 70s and 80s, with fast cars, blondes, and rock and roll that runs in the same vein as Russ Meyer, Roger Corman and even Lloyd Kaufman.

I had first worked with Terry a few years ago on his movie "Stash."  "Stash" was a part of a larger anthology of horror shorts that Terry combined as part of the feature length move "The Devil's Five."  

In "Stash," I played the character Minister Malcolm, secretly the leader of a Satanic Cult.  For that shoot, I was able to do the bulk of the shooting in one very long day and was later called back a few times for audio work.  

The Devil's Five premiered last fall at a theater in Long Island. 

"Stash" was an interesting experience.  Despite the extremely long hours, Terry had assembled an enthusiastic group that gave their all to make the shoot a success.  Numerous projects get started, and for a variety of reasons, those projects can get derailed and never finished.  But, during the laborious course of post-production, Terry was relentless in seeing the movie through to completion.  

Terry wrote the new script last fall and asked me to audition in the Winter.  I won the part and was part of the team early in the pre-production process.  I was booked for 6 definite shooting days with a hold on a 7th day for anything pickup shots over the course of a week in June and a weekend in July. 

As with any low-budget and no-budget films, there were obstacles.  Double Vision definitely had it's share of roadblocks, most notably the main actress dropping out of production with less than a few weeks before shooting began.  Unflappable, Terry found a replacement actress, Amelie McKendry, and the production stayed on schedule.  

The first shooting day was at a suburban house in Amityville, famous for the Amityville Horror Story. I didn't see any poltergeists, but the production found it's first oddity; the house was less than a mile from a regional airport.  The coming and goings of the planes were frequent enough to make sound recording a nightmare.  

Also, there was an adjustment period for everyone, the crew, the director and the cast, to get acquainted and figure out how the next week was going to work.  

Once again, Terry assembled a top flight enthusiastic crew that worked hard.  As I've stated, one of the things I enjoy the most about small productions is that the line between cast and crew is for the most part, non-existent.  A camaraderie develops of everyone being all in together and a bond is formed trying to reach the common goal. The trust exists that everyone is doing their roles the best they can.   In small productions, bad relationships can really poison the experience and make tough situations unbearable.  But quick friendships and laughs can make the lasting memories, happy ones.

Amelie and I rode out to Amityville together with all around amazing comedian and PA, Phil Korz (PA is not a title that does justice to the amount of work and different tasks that Phil had to complete to make the production run).  The time spent on the Long Island Expressway that first morning allowed us to not only practice lines but get to know each other.  Amelie might have been a last minute replacement for Julie, but after that first morning, I was grateful that she was going to be my partner on the is endeavor.

The first day's shoot went longer than expected and the time was compounded by the commute from the city to suburban Long Island.  On the first day, the biggest enemy of the production revealed itself to be the Long Island Expressway.  As brutal as long hours on a low-budget production can be, the hours were made worse by fighting through the traffic on the L.I.E. The next few shootings days were going to be longer than the first, with the commuting hours making the days seem insurmountable. 

The first day began with the sunrise and ended with the sunset on one of the longest days of the year. 

The second day began in the late afternoon, with a location being setup in what was going to be the base of operations for the next four days at the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forrest.  Terry had acquired a permit for the rest of the week.  The crew set up the tents, chair, chairs, batteries, etc and we began to film the bulk of the movie.  

A major character of the movie was "Dee Dee," a 1977 Trans Am owned by a friend of Terry's, Rich Schiano.  Terry wrote a few scenes centered around the car and part of my winning the role was an ability to drive a stick shift.  Rich is from the underground punk scene of New York City in the 80s and is the self proclaimed number Ramones fan.  Rich grew up in the same neighborhood as the Ramones and befriended them when he was still a teenager.  Eventually, Rich played in and traveled with the band.  

Rich was on set the first day and we quickly bonded over cars and talking about the NYC music scene.  One of the challenges of the shoot was when I had to drive the car slow enough for the camera or the drones to film.  However, a car like that did not want to go 10-15 miles per hour.  I felt like once I was out of first gear I was already going 40 mph.  

The second day's shooting began during the twilight hours to capture the light right for the scenes.  We had a few drone shots and the scenes of what would be the worst night of the characters' lives.

The first scenes began with my driving up and down the small road that lead to the campsite.  The shot was first captured with drones, then I drove the car behind another car with it's trunk open and the Director of Photography Nick Prainito and his first AC Nelson sitting inside the trunk with the camera.

The day shifted to night and we slowly ground through a couple of scenes.  Eventually, after dinner we set up the car in a corner of the park to shoot some of the more intense scenes.  The lighting, and the shot lists became more difficult and eventually the shoot drifted past late night and into the early hours of morning.  The first evening was hot and sticky with aggressive bugs constantly drawn to the lights.  At a certain point I realized I had been up for 21 hours.  Faced with a couple more of hours of difficult shooting and a crew that was falling over from exhaustion, plus the obligations that many on the set had to family and work, I looked over at Terry and said that I was done.  We stopped for the day and headed back home.  By the time I was in bed I had been up for almost 24 hours.

The next day we were to meet back at the state park in the late afternoon.  I rode out with my cast mate Ian Clarkson, who plays my best friend in the movie.  Despite leaving hours before our call time, Ian and I got stuck in Friday afternoon traffic on the LIE.  Eventually, our ride to the set took almost four hours.  Fatigue set in before the first shot was even attempted.

We set off picking up the shots from the previous night.  Luckily, Rich and the Trans Am needed to be done by midnight and all of my scenes for the day required the car.  The car and I would be leaving at the same time.  Friday evening had some of the more complicated shots, as we covered some of the gorier terrain of the movie.  Again, the shooting became a grind.  Luckily, the cast and crew had tightly bonded and the sense of persevering together subsumed everything.

I ended up spending most of my time in the car with Amalie, Phil, Nick and our sound guy Pat Reilly.  In a small production there is so much to do in a short amount of time.  However, since I was mic'd up the entire time, I could constantly talk to Pat. Most of the following photos come from Pat taking pictures in-between takes.  Plus, having the camera in my face for days at a time, ensured that Nick and I would have some sort of connection, as we worked through the course of the production.  Our conversations with Terry became more of what understanding what he wanted while also planning out what's possible and getting coverage for the editing room in post-production.

We were able to wrap up my scenes on Friday evening by 1.30am.  Later than expected but still before the rest of the crew.  I rode back to Queens with Rich in the car and then took a subway, eventually getting home by 4am.  Terry wanted a sunrise shot at a beach on the Long Island Sound at Fort Salonga.  After I left, they packed up and went to the beach.  They missed the sunrise, but kept  shooting, eventually finishing at 10 am the next morning, 19 hours straight of shooting for the crew.

One of the oddities of film sets is that there are occasions were main actors never see each other on set.  The actress playing Amelie's best friend, Timothy Harrison, and I were never on set at the same time.  Timothy and I had worked together on a Discovery ID show a few years ago.  We've remained friends through social media since then.  I was excited to work with her again and to catch up, but as I was leaving with Rich on Friday night, Tim's train was arriving in Eastern Long Island.  She picked up on the set when I left and stayed through until Saturday morning.  Her next shooting day was over the Fourth of July weekend, where once again, I was not needed.

I was scheduled to head out once again to Long Island Saturday evening, but I ended up not being needed for that evening shoot.  Most of the cast and crew were so burnt out that Terry broke the shoot down to a skeleton crew and they only filmed one pickup scene with Amelie.

We started early the next day, on Sunday morning.  My call time was 9.30am in Rocky Point.  Since I was taking the LIRR, I had to catch a 7.30 train.  I had to be early the next day for work, so a 19 hour shooting day on top of the commuting times would not work for me.  There was a 10 pm train I needed to be on.

The day began by converting a restaurant, Deks, into a psychic's den.  The psychic was played by the actress Siakie Tetteh.  Phil picked up Siakie and me from the Rocky Point Train station and we eventually began shooting by 11:30.  We wrapped that scene close to 1:30pm and headed back over to the Rocky Point Pine Barrens.  I had some downtime, since the scene focused on Amelie and Kristen Schiano.  Usually, I would either review lines, read, or hang out with the make up artist, Victoria.  The scene with Kristen and Amelie wrapped by 6:30.  Time was running out for the day and we still had 4 more scenes to shoot back at Dek's Restaurant.

The cast and crew moved quickly to set up and shoot each remaining scene.  We began shooting the last scene, an outdoor walking and talking scene with Amelie and me right before 9pm.  The weather had shifted and the sky filled with dark clouds.  Over the course of five days the shoot had been fairly lucky with the weather.  The first couple of days were hot and humid, but considering that we were shooting in late June, the weather could have been much worse.  Tired, exhausted and stressed, we all made a few mistakes on the last scene.  However, we finally got the shots we wanted, finished and as we were bringing the equipment inside, the a thunder and lightening downpour began.  Phil dropped me off at the station in time for me to catch my train back to the city.  Five days on set had felt like five months.

I wasn't on set again until this past Saturday.  We shot the scenes between Ian and me at a house in Levittown, Long Island.  I rode out early Saturday morning with Ian and Phil, with very little traffic on the LIE.  The first shots were drone shots of Rich's Trans Am.  The day was hot and sticky, but the goal was to be done by 5pm.  By this point in the production, the earlier hiccups and time lags were overcome.  We moved quickly through the morning and afternoon.  The end of the last shot came at 5:01pm.  But, as I said to Nick, that was just a back up shot.  The principle shooting was over before 5.  Ian, Phil and I headed back into the city, my part in Double Vision completed.

As aways, low budget film sets are a fluid learning experience about compromises and relationships.  Every situation is different and relies so much on communication and the people.  I had a vague idea of what was going to happen heading into the production, but of course the reality was far different.  As difficult as the hours and situations were, the set was a great reminder of how much I love the process and why I've made certain decisions.  I met fantastic people that were as passionate about the process as me, while sharing lots of memories and most importantly, laughs.

I know that Terry has to film more come the Fall.  I'll keep posting updates here as I hear about post-production and hopefully, screenings.    

The script and the Double Vision clapper

With Amalie and Terry on the first day of filming

Nick Prainito, day 1

Nick and Pat during filming... filming the back of my head.

Setting up the shot

My close up

Inside the car

From a different angle

As we lose the light

I didn't need to be in the backseat

Terry and Pat, day 1

Make up artist Victoria DeMarco with Amelie

The beginning of filming at Rocky Point Pine Barrens

Going over the scene with Terry.

Pat and Siakie on Sunday Morning.

In between takes on Sunday morning talking to Victoria

The psychic's table

Close up on Siakie

Phil as a fill-in

body double Phil

Running lines

The morning without me.  Phil, Timothy and Amelie

Locked and loaded

Phil was done

Done, Nick's body was still ready to work

Earlier that evening going over a shot with Terry

Going over lines

A mid-Summer sunset

As time was running... 

Rich working the clapper on Friday night

Ian, in-between takes

Too hot to wear the mask all the time

Base Camp

Reviewing lines while her hair was being worked, the iron powered by a generator

The mask of death

Thursday night and I'm looking for a second wind

We lost a crew member

Late night dinner

I'm done, and so is Nick

Smiles on the Sunday morning shoot

Outside on my last day of filming, with Dee Dee and Terry.

Setting up the shot

Phil converted to a sound guy

Trying to find the shade as we review the scene

Ian and I, in mid-conversation

Nick hiding from the sun

During an inside scene 

In between the last take.  

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