Friday, April 30, 2010

The Night Shift: Crypt Keeper Sentimentality

The Night Shift is the on-set diary of Fighting Owl Film's new independent supernatural-adventure-comedy of the same name currently in pre-production in Mobile, AL. Over the course of the next several weeks and months, you'll get an insider's peek at what it's like for filmmakers to craft a new entry of paranormal pop culture from Erin Lilley, a producer and actress on the film.

Crypt Keeper Sentimentality

Thomas, Genna and I stood in the darkness with only the dim glow of candlelight to illuminate the cold, stone walls of the vault. Cobwebs dripped from every corner, and gargoyles stared at us with frozen, ghoulish smiles. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a small child's voice whispered, "ooh, creepy."

"Don't say that!" shrieked Genna as the overhead lights flicked back on. She scanned the room to find her own 8-year-old daughter, Tempest. "That's creepier than anything else!"

Our interior crypt set is almost complete (shown here). We still have to move in a bed and a few other small decorative items, but for all intents and purposes, it's done, and apparently, done well enough to creep out a grade-schooler.

The crypt is our lead character Rue's home. It's a burial vault that he's decorated to look somewhat like an apartment. I like to think of it as "Munster Chic." Obviously, the real cemetery was never going to let us open up a vault and go all Martha Stewart on the inside, so we had to build our own crypt in the master bedroom of an empty house about to be put up for sale.

On a personal note, the house is my childhood home, and while I'm sad to see it go, it's been a treat to get to
do one last little bit of play-acting in it. Even though I haven't lived there in years, there's something bittersweet about knowing that after all of the school plays, beauty pageants and auditions I've gotten ready for in this house (not to mention prom, sorority dances and my wedding), my first feature-length movie will also be the last time I go into my bathroom to plug in the old hot-rollers. I guess that's just life showing us how it moves on, whether we're ready or not.

Of course, if the house wasn't empty, we wouldn't have a place for the set, or at least not one with air-conditioning and bathrooms. Bathrooms are a plus, but when you're shooting a movie (or doing anything, for that matter) in Mobile in Spring, with our triple-digit temperatures and 100% humidity, you have to have air-conditioning. Oddly enough, this was very hard to come by when looking for a place to set up a crypt/apartment. This house was actually our second attempt at finding a location, after the first place we tried fell through. It didn't have a/c, bathrooms, lights, or the guarantee that we would be the only tenants. I realize that sometimes with this low of a budget you have to take what you can get, but I shed no tears when that little gem didn't work out.

Over the course of a couple of a weekends, some of the cast and crew came over to carve foam boards and paint "stone" walls. This is a seriously hard-working group, and for nothing more than love of their art and the promise of pizza. One actress even risked a nasty sunburn the day of her prom, just to help build this set. That, dear readers, is dedication.

The walls in place (thanks to duct tape, PVC pipes, and some strategically-placed Command Strips), we started to decorate. Thomas and I hit the thrift stores for props, and Genna brought over some furniture. Tempest proved very useful in getting into small spaces that the grown-ups couldn't quite reach, and, it turns out, a champion cobweb artist.

This entry has been a little more sentimental than I originally intended, but we start filming tomorrow, and the realization of what we're doing and how we've gotten to this point has really hit home. When I stood in that crypt, with the flickering candles and the grinning gargoyles, I was really standing in my parents' old room, with my husband and my best friend since pre-school ballet class.

I suppose the thing to take away from this is that you can't do everything on your own. You can try, but you'll go crazy from the stress. Sometimes, you have to ask for help, be it from family, friends, or your cast and crew (who are supposed to help you, anyway). We wouldn't have a location without family. We wouldn't have been able to finish the set on time, or have completed costumes or well-designed make-up (or the tiny shred of sanity we still have left) without our wonderful cast and crew, and some friends who realize we're nuts and support us anyway. This is a hard lesson for a couple of control freaks like Thomas and I to learn, but it's an important one, and we appreciate every single person who has helped in even the smallest of ways.

This weekend is going to be amazing, whether this movie becomes a huge or success, or ends up another home-burned DVD on the shelf. The musical theatre nerd in me can't help but think of the Sondheim lyric, "The art of making art is putting it together." Just like this crypt set, each aspect of this production has been put together individually. Saturday, we finally get to see those pieces put together and I can't wait to see what we all have built.

Okay, enough schmaltz! Let's go make a zombie movie!

Next week, I'll fill you in on all the fun and excitement of the first days of shooting. In the meantime, you can keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter. Just check the site, to learn how!