And now for something completely different.
This week’s No-Budget Nightmares was filmed between May and October 2006 in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.
It was written by Sean Bruce, Dan Kildey, and SWEETBACK. It had torture, explosions, gore, a ventriloquist dummy, pornography, jello, and Canadian Content. And – in the end – it was a bad movie.
Yes, I was involved in the creation of a bad, no-budget movie. A No-Budget Nightmare, if you will.
While I didn’t direct the film, I was part of the creative process from beginning to end. I wrote, edited, did special effects, operated the camera, shot second unit, did sound, acted (in three roles), and operated the boom, among dozens of other jobs. Between writing, editing, and – eventually – distributing, the process took up about a year of my life.
During the entire process I kept a blog of my experiences. I figured this was something I might want to return to. The No-Budget Nightmares podcast gave me a very good reason.
What follows are a few excerpts. Please ignore my spelling, grammar, attitude. I was a stupid 25 year old.
28 April 2006 @ 04:36 pm
We start filming ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS on Sunday. The last time I was talking to Sean was on Monday, so I don’t know if anything has changed in the last few days. I spent most of yesterday working on adding muzzle flashes and digital blood as test footage for him to take a look at. I don’t really know what i’m doing, but I can fake it well enough.
And, indeed, i’m going to be IN the film in some capacity (and, unbeknownst to some of you, so will you. ;)), so i’ll get to stretch my acting chops. And that stretch will be significant, since I haven’t acted in anything since an elementary school play. Clearly a very professional shoot.
Still, it looks like we’re all in for the long haul at this point. It’s certainly possible that it will turn into a magnificent disaster. But, if you see us shooting, come over and say HI!. We’ll likely toss you in as an extra.
07 May 2006 @ 03:44 am
Sean called me at 1:30 am last night, stoned out of his gourd and greatly apologetic about the late call. He was stuck playing STAR OCEAN for the PS2, and couldn’t get past some bit because his character kept falling through ice. I had to look up the game on Gamefaqs and help him out (the key? He needed to walk instead of run. Which is nicely poetic).
Tomorrow evening we’re back to filming. Let’s see how many extras we can grab together. 🙂
07 May 2006 @ 11:55 pm
Just got home from a day of filming, and my brain is a little fried. So, bear with me.
Started work at 2:00 today in front of Sadlier House. The job was fight choreography, since there’s a scene in the film where Sean’s character gets jumped by a group of female ninjas. Yes.. female ninjas. Misogyny aside, choreography is slow going for people who are completely clueless (like me!).
Still, after much trial and error we got to a reasonable point, and at 6:00 it was time for us to film the next scene of the film in Sadlier itself. With the help of a few extras, the first scenes moved rather quickly. It was basically reaction shots and a lot of harummphing, but it looked fine for what it was.
Then Jim had to come in and do his scene.. basically a lecture to his different groups of me, describing a threat to Canada’s national security. Jim is a professional, and though we were fighting against frustration (and the light quickly going down), we got everything shot by 9:00.
Afterwards, I headed over to Sean’s with Dan and Amanda and we watched the dailes of what was shot. Generally, I think everyone was very happy with the footage. Still, the big test will be next weekend when the fight scenes are to be filmed. If we can get out of that one free of broken noses, I will consider it a success.
11 May 2006 @ 05:37 pm
Heading over to Sean’s place tonight to go over the storyboards for this weekend. The dolly is pretty much built, and apparently we have a dummy in working order (Hey! FREE DUMMY!). Saturday will be a LONG day..
12 May 2006 @ 12:52 am
I spent the evening with a giant styrofoam globe and a utility knife, shaving off pieces until it was vaguely head-shaped. Why? Because I had to fit a pair of nylons and a doo-rag over it, of course. Duh.
This “head” was then attached to a shaky torso made up of old clothes, clotheshangers and pool noodles. Plenty of duct tape later, and we have ourselves a full fledged (naked) dummy.
Before Sean was able to whisk it to his room, we were able to dress the lady in her black, ninja-like garb. Sean was smart to bulk up the be-hind, since the cushion for the pushin’ gave the lower torso a more life-like appearance.
There’s a scene we’re shooting on Saturday where one of the ladies grabs Sean around the neck, and he curls forward, throwing the person over his shoulders and towards a group of attackers. This dummy will be used for the three second shot of the person being thrown and colliding with the attackers. And hopefully it won’t fall to bits immediately.
Also, because of the forcasted rain for the weekend, we had to prepare to keep the camera gear dry for shooting. What was the solution? A litterbox! Yep, we headed to the evil empire and picked up a cheap-o cat box since they already have the hole in the side which the lens can poke out of. Some judicious sawing, and we were sorta in business.
I also had a chance to see the dolly that Dan and Amanda are putting together. I was very pleasantly surprised by its quality, and it really should lead to some professional looking shots once we get it going.
What will be fun, of course, it dragging ALL this equipment to the top of the hill on Saturday morning. So far we have: Camera Case, Tripod, Camera equipment, second camera, air mattress, small trampoline, dolly (incredibly heavy), boom mic, and assorted props. It’ll be a tough go, and we’ll all be pretty messy by the time we’re done. Still, that’s the movie biz. Sorta.
12 May 2006 @ 07:21 pm
For the scene that we’re filming tomorrow morning, I need a prop that looks like a light grenade. Or, some sort of futuristic equivalent. For this, I purchased a CUP & BALL from the Dollar Store downtown. We’ll see what I can do. Necessity is the mother.. blah blah blah..
Early morning tomorrow. I’m not praying for rain.
14 May 2006 @ 02:02 pm
Up at 6:45 am on Saturday, and over to Sean’s place (with a trambapoline) to prepare for the day’s shoot. Dan joined us a little after 7:30, and we gathered up the equipment and were dragging film equipment to the top of tower hill by 8:30.
The general big worry was that the rain was going to destroy all of our equipment, even if we did have the makeshift littlebox rainguard just in case. Luckily, while it was touch and go till after noon, the rain held off nicely.
Filming itself was exhausting, but consistent. We must have set some sort of local record by doing 60+ camera setups.
More later.. Sean ripped his pants.
14 May 2006 @ 04:12 pm
Anyway, gotta tell this story quick.
We were filming a scene on tower hill where four ladies attack Sean, kicking him to the ground. First two takes went ok, and I stressed we get a third for coverage. “Action” *kick* and RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPP. The whole back of Sean’s pants ripped out, and suddenly the assembled cast and crew were aware that Sean was goin’ commando. Yep, the ol’ gigglestick was waving around and Sean began panicking for two good reasons:
1) We still had a ton of shots left to do.
2) He was exposing himself to a number of young ladies. And there was a camera filming him.
So, necessity is the mother of invention. We were in the middle of nowhere, and we couldn’t stop shooting. Luckily, the dummy that we had spent a couple of days putting together was on the hill with us. So, we stripped the pants off the dummy, and Sean headed into the woods to change (much of this was filmed. BLOOPER REEL!). Ten minutes later and we were back to shooting.
God, it was tiring. But, I just heard from Sean, and he thinks the footage we shot turned out excellently.
24 May 2006 @ 04:00 pm
But.. fuck all that. Today was LOCATION SCOUTING at Beavermead park since this weekend is a SUPER shoot of intense despair. With a battle scene on Saturday and a fight scene on Sunday (and a possible car chase that we HAVE to get shot sometime next week), this is crunch time for the film. We’ve already gone WAY beyond our own scope. But, it’s always best to shoot for the moon. (Hey! Let’s BLOW UP THE MOON!)
Went to Sean’s place afterwards and looked at all the fight footage that we shot. And, honestly, it looks much better than it has any right to. It’s hilarious and cheesy, of course, but it’s actually SOMETHING. Once I tighten it all up, add FX, music and sound FX, it should look.. moderately crappy. But still fun.
Two fun stories from shooting this past weekend. First of all, one of out main bad-guy actors decided he had to move away from Peterborough. Immediately. For what reason, I don’t know, but Dan knows some sketchy people in this town. So.. probably not for something good.
So… this actor was replaced with… a ventriloquist dummy. And, no, i’m not joking. In the search for a replacement actor, they came up with some guy who works at the local CD/DVD trade-in store who also happens to be a ventriloquist. So, the decision was made that the baddy will now actually BE the dummy, with the ventriloquist not actually being acknowledged. Considering this character bounds Dan to a chair in the film, tortures him, and then cuts off his arm, this might be a tough sell. Don’t ask me, folks.. I’m just the writer/producer/cameraman/gaffer/sound/FX/actor guy. 😉
The plan on Saturday was to shoot at the video store, since there was a quick scene with a video store clerk and Dan and Sean know the owner of the video place who was working that day. Not a problem, right? Except this particular owner is known for being INCREDIBLY unreliable, to the point where she didn’t show up to open her store… THE ENTIRE DAY! Yep.. She slept through the entire day instead of working at the store that she owns. Classy.
But, that’s not the funny part. So, Dan and Sean were there and ready to film, and Dan sometimes works at the video store so he had the keys. Annddddd, once they opened the door to set up filming, customers started to come in. So, Dan and Sean ended up spending half the day WORKING AT THE VIDEO STORE. Yep, low budget filmmaking is a strange animal.
So, later that day, Sean was filming Dan’s scene where he was being chased through the streets of Peterborough. Well, in fact, the plan was to avoid populated areas, but since they now had a lot more time since they couldn’t shoot at the video store, they decided to shoot downtown.
Not a problem.. Exxxxxxxxcept, while Sean wanted to keep this chase scene low-key, Dan wasn’t very good at hiding the prop gun in his hand as he was running down the street. So, Dan was being chased down the street, with Sean tailing WAY behind with the camera, and suddenly Dan sees a friend on his on the street. And, as I mentioned, Dan knows a lot of sketchy people. And this person, upon seeing Dan running with a gun towards him, started running away, terrified that Dan was out around the streets of Peterborough killing people.
Afterwards, Dan congratulated the guy for staying out of shot, while the guy explained that he was actually scared for his life.
Man.. these stories have to make it in if we ever do a commentary.
02 June 2006 @ 05:43 pm
As soon as I walked out the door to go to Sean’s it started POURING rain, which I wasn’t upset to see since it was a relief after so much heat. So, soaking wet, me and Sean chatted about the shoot later that evening, with cameos from cast and crew wandering in and out throughout the day.
Wednesday evening, the shoot was on. ANnnnnnnd.. We were going to be shooting at the top level of the parking garage on King street. Without permission. With guns. Absolutely nothing could go wrong.
And nothing did, because the parking garage was being painted when we got there. What’s a low budget film crew to do? Go to the OTHER parking garage in town. Which we did. And, an hour in, a security guard wandered by, just as one character was pointing a gun at another. His reaction? To tip-toe as not to disrupt the scene. If only the cast were that intelligent.
After a successful night (until 3:00 AM) of shooting, we headed out JUST as it began to pour from the heavens. As we left, we ran into the security guard once more. His only question? “Are you folks from TORONTO?”.
I shared a cab with Dan and Amanda, but stopped off at Macs to grab a drink and decided to walk the rest of the way. BIG MISTAKE! It began raining literally harder than i’ve ever seen it rain. I was so wet that I couldn’t have gotten more wet. I was REALLY wet. Time for bed.
06 June 2006 @ 04:01 pm
Well, here’s one of the dangers of low(low-low) budget filmmaking.
You see, in the film Sean has chosen to wear a hilariously fake moustache. To accomplish this, we went to the local costume place here in Pete where they hooked him up with the hair and the latexy stuff that’s supposed to keep the sucker firmly attached.
It stinks like shit, but that’s what he gets for not being able to grow an actual moustache. 😉
Anyway, those of you who actually manage to read my entries will remember that this past sunday we filmed a scene where Sean gets shot in the head. That was a high-tension day, and by the time we got to thos scenes, there were only five of us left. Sean, two actors who “discover” his body, one person to do crew work (a.k.a. blowing into a tube of fake blood), and me behind the camera.
Well.. on our way home, I remarked to the rest of the crew how funny it would have been if, after all that pain, we had made some small fuck-up, like having Sean forget to put on the moustache.
So, we’ll have to film Sean’s bloodletting once again. I could hide his face during the actual shooting, but all the scenes of him lying in a pool of blood would be impossible to cut around.
And that was just the beginning. I wanted to give a sense of the sort of day-to-day difficulties you find when trying to put together a production with nearly non-existent resources. That while it’s fun, and exciting, it’s also a constant, exhausting stream of frustration. So, when I write about low-budget films; when I criticize filmmakers for being lazy, or not making a proper efforts, it’s because I know of what I speak.
Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try. Everyone who loves movies should be involved in trying to make a film. Yes, that will mean hundreds of thousands of more terrible films out there, but who cares? It’s your right to try – and fail – to make a piece of art or entertainment with a group of other enthusiastics, hungry individuals. The first one might be bad, and the second one might be better, and the third one might be great. But until you get that awful first production out of the way, you’ll never get to the third great one.
No need to have an ego about it. Go out and do the best you can, and then go out again and do better.
? Nightmares out of Five
One Nightmare – No-Budget Perfection, Two Nightmares – Shocking Success, Three Nightmares – Shows Potential, Four Nightmares – Not Much Fun, Five Nightmares – Please Kill Me
Join us this week for the latest DAILY GRINDHOUSE PRESENTS: NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES PODCAST where Moe, myself and special guest Jon Cross (from the After Movie Diner Podcast) will have a chat about ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS: THE FALL OF THE ORIGINAL SIX.
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