Friday, September 30, 2011

The Night Shift: The Jersey Devil Riseth?

Night Shift is the diary of Fighting Owl Film's new independent supernatural-adventure-comedy of the same name currently in distribution 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.

The other night, Soren, our cinematographer, composer-in-residence, voice of Herbie the Skeleton, and just plain old friend, came over to brainstorm project ideas with Thomas. I had to head out for choir practice, so I left the boys with a pizza and wished them luck. Two hours later, I came home to a modern-day version of Your Show of Shows.

Jersey Devil sketch,
'Philadelphia Post' 1909
An open laptop displayed MS Paint sketches of winged creatures, sci-fi robots, and a host of other monsters. A desktop monitor flickered between IMDb and Google Images, and chicken scratch-covered Post-It notes lay in the scanner, awaiting their own digitization. In the middle, the boys shouted out one-liners and gags at a pace so rapid-fire that Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner would have been proud. The only thing missing from this "writer's room" was an empty pot of coffee and a haze of cigarette smoke. I plopped myself down on the couch and enjoyed the show.

This is how things get started around Fighting Owl Films. Sometimes it's just Thomas scribbling on scrap paper. Sometimes ideas bounce off of me. Occasionally, a few of us sit around the living room and riff. The better ideas get vetted to make sure they're completely original, and we didn't subconsciously use someone else's creation. I actually sat with my phone in my hand, Googling bits and pieces of story as they flew past me.

Eventually, some of these ideas will make it into the script for our next project, while others will be kept on file for future use. Most will go in the garbage, but that's brainstorming for you. Not everything that comes from it is gold, but ideas beget ideas, and you don't always know what will work until you try it out loud.

But what are these ideas for? I know I've mentioned in passing that our next project, concerning the Jersey Devil, is currently in the early planning stages, but I haven't really elaborated on it. I thought it might be nice for you to get the information straight from the writer/director himself, so I sat down with Thomas for a little interview:

So, Thomas, with The Night Shift (TNS) about to be released, what's next for Fighting Owl Films?

It feels like people have been asking “what’s next?” since the second principal photography wrapped on TNS. I’ve been kicking around several ideas since then, all of which I hope to someday get off the ground. I’ve settled on what our next potential project will be: The Jersey Devil Expedition (working title). I say “potential” because it all comes down to funding. If we’re unable to secure funding, the project could, at the least, be scaled back and, at most, get scrapped.

What can you tell us about Jersey Devil Expedition?

I can’t divulge many plot details at the moment, not this early in the game. Suffice to say, it’s about the mythical Jersey Devil, an unlikely cryptid that some believe has stalked the New Jersey Pine Barrens since 1735. A first draft of the script was actually completed mere months before TNS went into production, with the final draft crafted just several weeks ago. The script for the feature is tight and short. It’s a straight-up monster movie with a tongue-in-cheek slant, think “Tremors.” I’m hoping to use as little CGI as possible and keep the creature as a practical man-in-suit creation. I even have a design in mind for the suit. While TNS was an all audiences adventure/comedy with paranormal/supernatural overtones, this film is aimed at an older audience, offering more horror and a monster that, let’s face it, likes to eat.

The Night Shift was produced on a self-funded shoestring. Any idea what the budget would be like?

I’m keeping the numbers close to the vest at the moment, but, when compared to the $10,000 TNS was produced on, it’s quite a jump. The number could always be scaled back, but at the moment it’s what I’m shooting for. The larger budget estimate will allow us to shoot and edit in HD, have improved effects, pay cast and crew members (TNS was dependent on loyal volunteers), and allow for a generally improved and better-looking production.

Um...I'm your wife, so I have a vested interest in this: Where's that money coming from, sweetie?

There’s always Kickstarter or Indie Go Go, popular crowd-sourced funding sites, both of which have their drawbacks and limitations. Before I pursue one of those outlets I’m going to knock on the door of every producer and investor I can find in an attempt to secure financing.

Any plans for attracting an investor, or just generally getting the word out about the film?

We’re currently in the early stages of developing some promotional videos and art to jumpstart interest from audiences and investors. A few short video ideas have been laid out. Honestly, we’re waiting for the weather to cool down a little before venturing into the bug-infested forests to shoot anything. I’ve also begun searching for artists to create some promotional pieces for the film.

And there you have it. All the news that fit to know about Fighting Owl Films' tentative next project, Jersey Devil Expedition. Until that gets going, though, I have a little more news on The Night Shift. Our list of online retailers has grown a little, so we've posted a, for now, complete list with links and current prices on the Facebook event page for the DVD release. Once it's out, we'll hopefully be able to add some brick and mortar stores into the mix.

If any of you lovely readers out there find them first, we'd love it if you'd take a picture of yourself with the DVD and either post it on the Fighting Owl Films facebook page, or Tweet it with the tag #thenightshiftmovie. We thought it would be really cool to see where this little film from Alabama ended up; kind of like "Where's Waldo", but with zombies.

And with that charming thought, I'm off to vet some character names. Wish me luck!

Follow The Night Shift at You can check out the poster, trailer, cast and crew, and some fun downloads. Heck, if you like, you can even be our friend on Facebook and Twitter (@NightShiftMovie), where you can follow more of the progress of the movie.