UNTIL THE BLOODY THING IS OVER
The Making of Bloody Reign – A diary
By Ben Martin
February 24, 2013
Tonight my sons, my wife and I sat around the fire to discuss a home movie we think we can make. The boys’closest friends were there and we were all enthused and optimistic. It felt a bit like an old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney move: “Hey, let’s put on a
You see, son Hunter had an assignment to make a short film dealing with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for his senior English class at CATA. Well for crying out loud why didn’t I ever get assignments like these at St. Marys High School, class of ’76? (Actually my friends and I were making Frankenstein movies for fun back then. Ours was nine minutes long with the cumbersome and banal title “Terror of Frankenstein’s Monster”.)
Hunter wasn’t too in to his assignment at first but fortunately a friend of his, Christina Albrecht, was. She has a real filmmaker’s sensibility and saved Hunter and his pals from producing a lame project. They wound up having fun and that’s when I said “C’mon, let’s us make a real movie. I’ll write a script I’ve been thinking about and we can cast everyone we know.”
The plot deals with a team of five youngsters (does anyone use that term anymore) who are charged with ridding the dying world (there are only 800 people left alive in an area formerly known as Union County North Carolina) of Dr. Mots and his monsters.
Tatum Katz, high school senior at Cuthbertson and close friend of the family, is very excited and is doing really cool costume designs and pulling a good team together. She’s great, quite positive and has a lot of talent.
We had a production meeting at the house and someone brought Kelsey Millett. She’s a dynamo. We wanted her to help with make-up but she wants to play the lead, Bootsie. She’s a tad too old but I think we can make it work. She fairly bubbles with talent. She will bring a different dynamic to the role but i think she is in. Tatum, a natural performer and major beauty, will play the rightful ruler of the new world, Beaujolais.
The other young warriors are: as follows: Son Trace is the quietest member of the platoon, Link; diminutive but extremely talented Bailey Boryczewski is Jazz; John Bryant, an effective ad-libber, is Whamo and reliable Sam Knittel is Pinball.
Hunter will be nomad Bandeau. I’m glad he wants a role and i’m glad he wants this one. He should really do more acting.
My neighbor and friend Leo Riot has agreed to shoot the movie with his gorgeous and expensive Canon camera with its effective microphone . Leo is another God-send.
My wonderful supportive wife Bethanne, who was so invaluable in my last movie, is wonderfully supportive again. I cant do this without her. She’s amazing. If all she did was work out the food issues, it would be enough. But she does everything.
Christina takes on the key role of Monique and will help with camera work and editing. Lucas Parot, J. C. Knox, Alyssa Knittel are some other members of the cast. Many will don the monster costumes. The mad scientist now that I am playing him, is Dr. Mots.
The post-apocalyptic nature of this project is designed to keep locations and logistics simpler. For example, we will film 85% of the movie on our own five acres of wooded property. In fact, we are trying to think of every way possible to make this project a reality through simple tricks of scheduling and logistical creativity.
It was a chilly day in March, 2013. Still believing we can keep this movie simple and fast, we scheduled two difficult scenes: Sequence one that introduces Bootsie as she saves (temporarily) Armitage from death at the hands of a drooling monster – and Sequence two in which we meet the other four members of Bootsie’s team as they protect two young women from a drooling zombie-like mutant. (There’s a lot of drooling going on.)
It was a lumpy start, and if we have time, I might want to re-shoot these sequences. I know there will be some opening credits in front of this so maybe they can serve as the stronger opening I am hoping for. Gotta watch how much I say “we can save it in editing.” This is hard.
April 10 and there-abouts
I was anxious to get a scene shot that provides the real chance for the audience to get to know the heroes, who are often referred to somewhat derogatorily as the Goon Platoon. It was after this that I realized we could probably get away without enforcing the “know-your-lines” rule since we will be piecing this movie together with a lot of clever editing.
We did have a script run-through several weeks ago in our living room but not everyone could make it. I always hope to have time for rehearsals – but when?? – kids today are busy.
I do like the way the camp fire scene turned out. We were ALSO able to pull off the shots we needed for a collage (platoon making camp) AND the dance sequence.
Yes the dance sequence. I know now that the cast recognizes this is going to be a quirky movie. A post apocalyptic monster movie with a dance sequence? Well, they dance to keep fit and sane and working as a team. In the woods. Whatever.
It’s all going well but I am not sure I have the ability to spread enthusiasm as I have in past directing assignments. Bethanne is so encouraging and keeps saying how wonderful it is to see Hunter’s friends and Trace’s friends all working together at our house, in our tiny shop, in our garage/costume/prop room. . Making costumes, doing make-up, building props. Its really great and this aspect is the best thing about the experience for a lot of us.
Hunter is emerging as an effective producer. We have bought monster costumes and I am exploring the possibility of hiring someone to help make a CGI creature for the big finish. Bethanne always thinks ahead for food and accommodating the necessities I never think about. Maddy Katz is a huge help with costumes, production support and make-up. One day she and Alyssa, Hunter and Collin worked on beefing up the store-bought costumes. Alyssa and Collin are god-sends.
Late April, early May.
Some fun shoots. We are getting into a good swing and more people are emerging to help.
We did a shoot at the cool place called Aw Shucks, a fairly popular corn-maze/activity-filled farm fun fest that gets a certain degree of fame for its annual haunted spook walk called Thirteenth Acre. Bonnie Miller who owns and runs the place is a dream and let us film in an area called Fort Shucks. Bethanne had worked out food, drinks and refreshments for everyone and took so many of these wonderful photos. Always there – always great. This is where Monique the seer played by the lovely, talented and prepared Christina Albrecht, greets the platoon and gives them some sound council.
Kayley Tyson and Emily Muse return as the lovely nomads now working for Monique’s guard Gulah, played amusingly well by Collin Wilson. (Emily, a dancer, should do more acting too. She’s quite good. Kayley is funny and the camera lovers her.) Collin cracks me up. This is Alyssa Knittel’s first scene as Monique’s right hand, Mai-Ling. (Fans of old Monster movies might recognize names like Gulah and Mai-Ling.) Alyssa has helped a lot wherever she can and, like her invaluable mother Annamarie, is a joy to be around. She’s also a darn fine actor. She should do more. Lucas was particularly helpful today. Hunter served as Leo’s safety man on a platform for a high in the air shot. No broken bones yet.
Everything went very well at Aw Shucks, even when the Quinvictus, played by Hunter this time, attacks and eventually kidnaps Bootsie. Unfortunately, the Quinvictus mask is hard to see out of and Hunter socked poor Kelsey right in the jaw – hard. (It’s the take we eventually used.) Sore jaw notwithstanding, Kesley/Bootsie was a good sport today and did well. In fact, when Kelsey is on, shes a fantastic performer.
John as Whamo and Bailey as Jazz have moments of real magic on the screen. BUT we got rained out for the first time which stinks. I hate to put Bonnie on the spot and ask her if we can come back. But she always makes me feel right at home. Wonderful. I hope someday when Until The Bloody Reign becomes a cult film, fans will make pilgrimages to Aw Shucks and Bonne will make tons of cash.
Ever-reliable Lucas Parot took on the role of the mutant in the early scene but I thought he should do more so he plays Dr.Mots’ mute assistant Shanks. Lucas’ father Fred allowed us to shoot in their barn which we dressed as the inside of Mots’ lab. Here we see the three main monsters for the first time.
My get-up as Mots includes old-time welding goggles and an aviators cap . We pulled off some exteriors as well. A fruitful day. Thanks to Collin and Alyssa, we had people to play the monsters (Alyssa’s pool of minions seems endless) and had a costume for the Razthrax.
I haven’t written in months so now I don’t know when we filmed what. Relationships can strain. My wonderful, patient and lovely wife balked at me taking advantage of the crowds at Hunters graduation party to make them extras down in the woods as Beaujolais’s settlement in the Third Ward. Of course she was right.
So instead we told all the cast to bring everyone they knew to our house on Memorial Day Saturday and we would film not only Tatum (as Beaujolais)’s big speech to the Third Ward, but I also had a great idea to hand out cameras to a few and assigned teams to get action footage of the monsters attacking the other settlements which I plan to assemble into a music montage. I think it went very well. I wish Christina could have been here – she’d be a natural for this assignment – but Alyssa and Leo did wonders. Some cool footage.
My sisters Kim Wakker and Gingi Martin came and have speaking parts and were great. There are now 17 speaking parts in the movie. Bethanne shows up in the crowd but doesn’t really want a bigger role. Wish we had worked in a cameo for Leo. His wife Keslyn is a lovely and visible extra. The people who came to be “villagers” were wonderful – real sports – and the weather cooperated and many, especially the Knittels, helped with food and such. I’m glad we have a pool and zip line at our house. It helped to amuse the hordes in between shooting. But without Bethanne and her organizational skills, we would have been sunk. Hunter put on a lot of miles as producer, actor, wrangler. And so many people, so helpful. So positive.
Tatum as Beaujolais has a look about her that shows an intelligence that convinces she could be a great leader. J.C. Knox plays Gauche and is another one of those people who has a very natural ability to sound very convincing. We shot the scenes of him and Tatum head on before the crowds arrived. Then we flipped and got the reverse shots with the crowd later. Aren’t we clever. Many people provided their own tents which saved us a lot of headaches. Many many great people who I hope will like the end result. I’m worried about missing names in the end credits. There are an awful lot of really nice people out there – and we were lucky to get them at our house this day. (Please see the cast and crew page. Thanks everyone.)
Leo once again has proven to be almost miraculous in his speed, efficiency and effectiveness as a camera man. His “cool factor” also helps me to get the attention of the kids. Its hard to describe. I’m a bit old and parental. He’s younger, hipper….cool! And nobody wants to upset him. Me – i wish i were more effective as an inspiring director. I like to think I could be if I had more time, more resources. This is hard.
The footage sometimes looks very good though. I think its turning out fine – sometimes even great. I know i shouldn’t gush – but when Kelsey, Bailey, John, Sam and Trace are good, they’re FANTASTIC. So are all of the cast.
It took three separate days of shooting to pull off the killing of the Razthrax scene where Whamo and Link lure the bloodthirsty beast into a trap and chop off its head. I enjoyed choreographing this shoot but toward the end it got difficult.
Lucas made a great Razthrax “scarecrow” which we could safely plow the swinging trap into. Quite good. Hunter played the Razthrax the rest of the time and was quite admirable and a real sport. We poured on the blood here- it’s a bloody movie, but a fake bloody movie. No bad language and no nudity unless you count Santo the wonder dog who is playing Gustav the pacifist K9. Not sure what to rate it.
Tatum and Kelsey are almost always on set – helping even when they aren’t on camera. Such talent. Such wonderful people. This is turning into one big happy, movie-making family.
Well Bonnie let us come back to shoot at Aw Shucks again, not for the end of the aborted, rained out sequence – but instead to use her old chicken barn as the exterior of Mots’ lab AND we shot the live action footage of the giant monster fight. I felt as Ray Harryhausen must have felt telling his actors to imagine something fierce and terrible right in front of them when in fact there is … nothing. – “OKAY – Imagine a giant bug coming at you here. No, look up here. All of you look at the same spot. Okay, I’ll stand off camera holding a ten foot stick above my head and run at you. Pretend it’s a huge bug.”
Later it turned out NOT to be a bug, but I’m pleased with the creature I got. Leo told me about Freelancer, a site where I could put my brief computer animation project up for bid. He and I pieced the scene together and he added an X where the monster should be. I posted it on Freelancer and got about two dozen bids. I selected CGVibrance of Indore, India http://www.cgvibrance.com because a young fellow named Shashank Mheta (photo above) really impressed me. He got the footage and the monster I bought on Turbo Squid in August and I got the 12 separate scenes back on December 23. He and his animator Ankita did a great job, a marvelous job really. At times they kept me waiting , but it was all worth it. . They are two young people really trying to make a go of it and I hope they get more business once people see the fine work they did. I’m convinced no company in the world could have done better considering the price etc. I love CGVibrance.
Hunter was very anxious to shoot the pivotal scene where the platoon comes across the one-eyed nomad Bandeau who has two vehicles the platoon could really use. Hunter, Trace and others helped extensively building the Bandeau campsite and the amazingly athletic and capable Christian Coombes was a major sport to dress into the huge, bulky, furry Bomar costume on one of the hottest,most humid days of the summer. I swear we almost lost him a couple times. A lesser man would have passed out. Fortunately Bethanne came down with food, drinks and took great behind-the-scenes photos.
Hunter, who does too-little acting was, great. I like the way this scene came out and it’s a key to show the resourcefulness of our little heroes. Bailey had to fake hitting Hunter on the head with an aluminum bat and could have put quite a dent in Hunters head (or quite a dent in the aluminum bat). But her aim was true and she hit behind it as she was supposed to. Bailey’s character really gets to shine here. Both Bailey and Kelsey are excellent singers by the way so next time we make a movie i should make it a musical.
Kelsey sang a song that her mom sang to her as a little girl and we worked it into the movie.
We’ve had the chance to do a lot of quick, fast, easier scenes and it helps. We took a car load to downtown Monroe and pulled off mutant-zombie shots with Kelsey, Leo, Tatum, Trace. Another day a small group of us, Kelsey, Leo, Hunter Trace and I, risked life and limb at Crowder Mountain for about 4 seconds of footage. We needed a cliff from which to drop a monster. The raging thunderstorm that hit us once we climbed to the top almost dropped a few filmmakers off a cliff. We had a similar small group shoot the reverse angle of same – Bootsie killing the Quinvictus – at 40 Acre Rock. Fun, easy and much less dangerous.
We went to Cane Creek Park for some nice shots for the epilogue. Worked in Bethanne’s cameo. We tried to make Tatum look pregnant but that didn’t work so later we used cute little four month old Jet Tyson as Bandeau and Beaujolais’s little tyke. Michael Lewis made a cameo standing next to Tatum in a nice field of crops while a few of us stood way in the background looking like we were picking something. Glad the farmer didn’t come along.
Some of the friendships of the actors in our little film have strained. Boyfriends and girlfriends are breaking up. People and moods change. How long with this bloody shoot go on. In early August we did shoot the big confrontation scene in the empty third ward and two very tall friends from work, Derrick and Daniel Cox, came to play the two surviving monsters. The acting and the staging of this scene was tricky so I’m glad we spread it out over two days – a Saturday and a Sunday. But it was clear to me that most have had enough. The bugs, the heat, the tension, the interrupted weekends, the end of summer blues, the anxiousness of going off to college were all taking their toll.
Ironically, by this time I felt we were really getting something good and our little movie could turn into something special. I added some scenes that I felt would bring more resonance to the film but was so disappointed that a few key people just weren’t into it anymore. Bethanne always has words of encouragement and puts everything in perspective.
One day I needed to re-shoot the dance scene (for several reasons, not least of which because I couldn’t afford the rights to the song I wanted) and it was the worst day of shooting. No use describing it. But the time had come. No more.
The bright side is that when you do something like this, you bond in ways you hadn’t anticipated. These kids will grow and move on, but they will always have a special place in my heart – and soul.
Leo, due to conflicts in work and personal schedules is not able to edit the movie. He did however set me up with the tools I need to do the job. He came over, loaded Premier Pro on my computer and downloaded video tutorials. Christina had originally wanted to edit but she lives so far away it would be difficult to accomplish as I would want to be there much of the time. And I must confess I would feel a bit like an old creeper going over to her house to edit. But also, Christina is a very very busy young woman who also started college in the fall. Alyssa who became a senior can edit but is also quite busy and the same factors as Christina.
So there I sat at my computer upstairs in the guest bedroom feeling sorry for myself for a few weeks. But then something magical happened. I realized, as I had when I was a youth that I love to edit. It’s the best part of the process really. It was just the technology that was scaring me. I realized I could piece the scenes together quite effectively, even drop in audio when and where I needed. I just needed to find someone to “finish” it all for me and I knew that would have to be a paying gig. Assembling all the sequences, doing audio balance, getting the colors balanced and creating a filmic look.
Ray Harryhausen once said that at least 50% of the effectiveness of any of his creature scenes, and often of many scenes in any movie, is the music. And I spent literally hours upon hours on IStock Audio and Jamendo. I listened and listened and listened and slowly began to find cuts that would work. IN fact, I found cuts that blew me away and grabbed them, bought them, and even cut scenes around them. I’m so thrilled and want to make sure I give all those unknown and distant artists credit for their wonderful work. If I ever get the chance to make a real movie, I’m turning to these people.
My reluctant friend Jim Davis has taken me around to cool locations that can double as end-of-world abandoned buildings for the prologue. Trace and Bethanne help me with little shots I need here and there. A close-up of Santo here, a severed head rolling there. Insert shots galore. It pieces together nicely.
Bethanne researches local video talent and finds a fellow named Giovanni Gueterriz to do final post. He works at the great company Big Ring Interactive but is doing this on his own with his boss’s blessing.
Mary Leigh Hennings, my friend in Ohio who has worked in Hollywood, offers inspiration and finds artists to help with the promotional materials. Jennifer Edwards Is an amazing force for good. She is web designing for me. Let me say her name again – Jennifer Edwards.
I finish editing. I get the monster from India. I hand it over to Gio. I wait. I think this thing is going to be good. For what it is – a garage film if there ever was one – its going to be good. It has my usual mix of laffs and grimness. If I have a style that’s it.
I hope all who worked so hard are excited. And I hope they won’t be disappointed.