Monday, May 28, 2012

STELLA BUIO Production Diary: 8 Days Until Principal Photography.

I’m sitting here, listening to my friend Miguel Rodriguez talk to Matthew Kelly about John Carpenter’s The Fog, when I realized with a start that it’s May 28. Counting on my fingers, we start filming Stella Buio in eight days. I’ve never had so much pre-production time on a film before, which you wouldn’t think would be true because I’m the producer, but it is true. When I “get excited and make something”, it’s usually a pretty quick process and that’s what I’m used to. When it comes to “proper” filmmaking, with the paperwork and professional actors and crew and all that, you really have to be a little more patient.
This script originally came about because my partner-in-crime, Chris Cline, said, “Hey, we should write a giallo together...” Giallo has turned into a catch-all phrase for 70s Italian horror cinema, but it really refers to gorgeous, lurid, pulp-y Italian murder mysteries like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. I love gialli, don’t get me wrong, but my favourite films from that era in Italian filmmaking are films like City of the Living Dead, Black Sabbath, and Suspiria. When he brought this up, I went off and wrote the first draft of the script influenced by my likes, and let it sit for a minute, then I edited and sent him the second draft. Chris loved the second draft and said that he didn’t even want to touch it. I did a little more editing to it and then locked it.
It had to go onto the shelf, though, because at the time, I had a few other projects I needed to get to before I made Stella Buio (I wrote it a couple of years ago, while I was still working at the movie theatre), but when a short film fell through earlier this year, I pulled this out and said, “I am going to make this.”
And make it I will.
Firstly, I knew that I’d need some money. All of my stuff in the past has been very low budget because I had to pay for it out of pocket and my pockets are shallow. Film festival submissions are the most expensive thing for a low-budget indie filmmaker at $35 a pop (on average), but also, I’m not very good at lighting and I need someone to do special effects. And, I’d like to not have to design my poster art myself.  And there’s someone I really, really want to work with. So, I decided to start an IndieGoGo campaign so I could pay the people I’m bringing on board.
I chose IndieGoGo because I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be able to raise the full amount of my estimated budget ($10,000, but that, unlike quite a few productions I’ve seen that crowdfund their budgets and then come back looking for “finishing costs”, includes everything), but IndieGoGo lets you keep what you’ve earned. Like I say in every plea for help, every little bit helps. Kickstarter is great because it does instill more trust that the money will be used for what it’s intended, but if you don’t raise the full amount, you get nothing. I was (and am) making this film regardless so it truly is a matter of every little donation helping to make the film (you can donate here= ).
As I said before, I’m not very good at lighting. I’m not afraid of admitting my limitations. Thankfully, I know someone who IS good at lighting. I’ve known Wheat for a few years now thanks to the wonderful Sage Hall. He does a lot of cinematography and is truly ace at sculpting and painting with light. I shoot my own stuff 
Effects. Normally, I have to rely on VFX more than I’m comfortable with because I LOVE practical effects so so so much. For this, I wanted and needed to dedicate as much money as I could to good, solid practical effects and the first name that came to mind was a friend I’ve had since I worked in his haunted houses in high school: Greg Baker. I knew he’d be able to get me what I needed and keep the cost down if it came to that (and it did).
Earlier this year, I was in L.A. while an exhibit was going on featuring a new friend I met in Vancouver, B.C.: Bonni Reid. What I saw literally blew my mind (of what was there, that piece is my favourite, but click here to explore her website.) As soon as I saw these pieces, I knew that I wanted to work with her. And when my shoot in February / March fell apart and I picked up Stella Buio, I knew THIS was the project to work on with her.
As for casting, the first person I cast was Chris Cline as the zombie. He knows exactly what I’m going for here. My friend Shawn McBee was second. Thirdly, I cast Linnea Quigley. In my genre, when you see a name like Linnea Quigley attached to a film, it’s usually a stunt to get people to pay attention. But let’s be honest...this is a short film. I’m not trying to sell anything on her name. Ever since I realized that I wanted (and could) make horror films, I’ve wanted to work with Linnea Quigley and I’m incredibly fortunate that she came on board.
I’ve known of Melanie Robel for a while now thanks to the wonders of Facebook, but Linnea was the one who recommended her to me and the rest of the cast trickled down from there. I’m really excited to work with all of eight days! WOW!

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