Behind the Scenes: 15-Second Scares and Murphey's Law
Now although I'm technically not supposed to tell this story how it happened, I believe it's something interesting to hear, and isn't really that bad!
Murphy's law is something that is somewhat of a scientific theory meets a life lesson (for anyone who doesn't know) "Anything that Can Happen, Will Happen" It's one of my favorite sayings, because of the insane nature of filmmaking...and no shoot in my recent memory stands above this in things "Going Wrong"
Now I will keep the Original Company's name anonymous, but in no way is this "bashing" or really even bad on the company's name...Just legally these shorts can't be tied to the company (again all because of a misunderstanding)
I had reached out to a specific Horror company about making content with them. They were and are VERY large and have ties to THE TWO largest Horror Production companies in the industry. To my surprise they contacted me back, saying they liked my work and would love to work with me, in their "Director's Showcase" which included 15-Second Horror Shorts.
After talking with (we will call him "Steve") I had pitched some ideas that they wanted in a specific time frame, and we agreed on 2 different stories (the 2 you see above) We also had agreed to a $300 budget, per short...which considering, in the past, we had mainly been making shorts with no money...this was an absolute treat! Granted this money went quickly with everything, but still was something we could really dig deep into!
After waiting on confirmation for receiving this budget and deadlines, I had stop hearing from "Steve" After about a week of nothing (after very consistent emails) I decided to visit the companies website and contact another rep (which was tough because I had to guess the email, based on Steve's...because they don't give out emails on their site)
After a day I heard back from the woman (lets call her "Mary") and she informed me that "Steve" had left the company that last week.....
I emphasize those pauses because of my "WHAT?>!!" But nicely, "Mary" said Yes, lets still go forward with what we had planned. I was informed that we would receive the money for the project when we finished them...which meant fronting for production costs but that was fine with me!
OK! Let's talk shoot day and the fun BTS...then back to story time!
Shoot day had a small mess of complications, but was an absolute blast!
Originally I had planned on having a few of my Actor and Actress friends come and play the characters, but after some scheduling conflicts, I actually had my Wife, Brother and Father play most of the roles...EXPECT ONE!
I have to give a massive shout out to Pete Baez, who I literally contacted last minute, realizing I needed another actor and just production assistant, and he hiked a few hour drive and came to help out! So if your not following Pete on Social Media....go do it now!
So on the day of Production we had gotten a location from a local Youth Center, which was basically a very old house (used for a Haunted House in October) for only $75! Thanks to Mark for that! This location was seriously perfect, with all the spots we needed and so much character.
On the day I was INCREDIBLY rushed! I had to drive 4 hours to pick up our rental equipment! I picked up the URSA Mini with Rokinon Cinema Lens Kit along with a set of LED Panel Lights from Josh at Sleepy Owl Films! So after rushing to be sure to get their around 12 to shoot...I realized we needed gas on our way back which really put us behind...and even worse, I had forgotten a few things at my house (which was 45 minutes from the location in the other direction)
For this project one of the really cool props I bought with the budget, was a hand carved Marionette Puppet! This thing is not only super creepy but just incredibly well made. I had a very specific look in my head when writing the script, and HAD to make sure that this puppet was PERFECT! It was actually hand made in (i believe) Denmark, so it was like $150 wish shipping and all that, but totally worth it!
SO after arriving late, it wasn't too bad because Pete is just awesome and relaxed, and the rest is family so everyone was pretty good about it all! We set up for "They Aren't Human" which was going to be the longest prep time, due to it's Makeup Effects needed.
Now in prepping for this Makeup SFX, I had done TONS of research on how to make Alien-like monsters, and unfortunately every makeup artist I knew couldn't make it, so I had my wife do it, who is literally just super talented at everything and knew could do it. I had done some research and got some Poly-morph plastic so we could make and mold teeth with, as well as bought some basic makeup supplies in order to make our alien!
So we starting setting up downstairs to shoot the stuff without the Alien, and it was a very basic setup. We used one LED panel, dialed in pretty warm on the right hand side, and the other LED panel with some CTB hitting the background.
We shot both Shorts in RAW 3:1 on the URSA Mini in 4k usually using the 14mm, 35mm, andn 50mm.
As my wife started to do the makeup, we realized that our Liquid Laytext wasn't drying and forming properly....Murphy's LAW. Now this wasn't a huge issue because he was to be seen for literally a second, and he needed to just look ugly! Now shout out to my dad for sitting in this nasty stuff all day long (haha he really hated it but was a trooper, and love's classic monster movies) We thought "no worries" the teeth will make the face....except we forget that the Polymorph has to be softened in boiling water.....and this place had no water or stove....
So we ended going to the Stewart's shop just down the road, grabbing a paper cup of their boiling water for tea. This worked, and all is good! So we ended up finishing this shoot around 5 or so, and went and got some pizza for dinner!
This pizza place ended up being the most disgusting place ever! Pizza was good, but the amount of garbage on the floor was insane. So either way....Murphy's LAW
As it got to night time, we prepped for our "The Devil's Puppet" Shoot which had the massive challenge of making a Marionette puppet move down a hallway. I had come up with concepts to hide the wires in darkness with lighting, just masking out the line, and even green screen. I'm not a huge fan of VFX, especially in a grounded horror like this was supposed to be, so we ended up just framing lower hiding the cable...I wasn't 100% impressed with the results, but If i had know someone who was good at VFX, I probably could have gotten away with masking it out!
It took about 15 takes, with problems with the battery popping out of the camera plate, because of my shoulder, the puppet rotating on the line...just everything! Murphy's LAW.
Kind of backtracking, but one of the best things I ever did, was thoroughly storyboard and plan this shoot with the Shotlister App as well as Photoshop and good old Paper and Pen! Seriously go get that Shotlister (not a sponsor) It's amazing!
We ended up actually having my dad, sitting on the roof with a 300-Watt light with CTB as our moonlight, which worked pretty well, although I wish it was a little bit of softer light looking back! After all of this we got everything we needed, and I was pretty happy with everything. Of course now If I could go back, I'd do a lot differently, but the learning experience was beyond worth it!
So back to the real cray stuff!
So after editing these down to 15-Seconds, and finalizing music...I was beyond excited! These were projected to get around a Million views or more (I know, insane) but Murphy's law decided to come back and KO me in round 3.
After emailing "Mary" a few times with questions, and finally the final versions of the film...I got one response, giving me access to a shared folder. After uploading the versions and emailing her asking about how I was going to get the Budget reimbursement, I received nothing for almost a week...but I also hadn't seen my short on their site or Facebook.
So after about 3 weeks from not hearing from "Mary" I went back to their website and emailed the highest person I possibly could, explaining my situation and wondering what was going on. Within minutes I received a response from"John" He seriously was the best! BUT "John" had never heard of me or my projects....He asked if I signed a contract originally with "Steve" I told him I had not gotten one, but forwarded him my "green-light" by both "Mary" and "Steve"
So basically turns our I never got the proper paperwork or anything.....
NOW, "John" was seriously awesome enough to honor everything and gave me 2 Options. 1 option was to give the the 15-Second Films, receive $600, BUT I could never show them on my website or anywhere, and it most likely would never play on their website, because, they moved toward sponsored content now (which I had actually confirmed on their website...no more 15 Seocond Horror Films) or Option 2 I could take them, use them myself, but COULD NOT affiliate them with the company, because they didn't exclusively own them.......
This was a hard decision, but as you can probably tell, I chose to keep my projects and show them! I really enjoyed making them, and even though they are nothing amazing, they were definitely fun to make, and still I think hold up for what they are!
PHEW! What a story right?! It was stressful, but honestly a massive learning experience, and incredibly fun to make, which is what filmmaking is all about right?
I hope you guys enjoyed this long read, and learned something from it all! I am going to keep trying to write these blogs more and more often, so please be sure to Subscribe via RSS and follow me on Facebook, Instagram and all Social Media Platforms!
Also, be sure to check out my YouTube for more Narrative work and stay tuned for some really big Narrative Projects coming this year!