By Tim Clark
“Was that a bug or a mouse?” asked Stash production designer Michelle Rickert as we both caught a glimpse of a creepy-crawler scuttling across the ground through the beam of our dim flashlight.
“A bug,” I said. “A really big one.”
“Oh…that’s not good,” said Michelle. “As a general rule, any bug that’s bigger than a mouse reeeaaallly freaks me out.”
I think it’s fair to say the entire Stash cast and crew was freaked out this weekend as we filmed a bulk of our key scenes in the middle of the woods into the wee hours of the morning. The hot, humid air was tainted with the unmistakable odor of Deep Woods Off but it did little to stop the myriad ticks, spiders, beetles, mosquitos and unidentified flying objects from attacking us. I’ve never seen so many swatting, gyrating and high-knee heebie-jeebie moves in an effort to avoid them.
While the bugs didn’t bother me so much, something else did.
Many times I found myself looking over my shoulder, away from the glare of the production lights. Anyone – or anything – could be out there. Watching. Waiting. A few times, I had to rush back to the home base where extra supplies, food and water were kept handy. It wasn’t exactly a short walk. Twisting and turning through a barely discernable trail in pitch-black darkness, completely alone, was unnerving to say the least. And of course the nature of what we are filming doesn’t help matters. Check out the creepy candle/feather freakout-on-a-log creation by Michelle Rickert below for a taste of what I am talking about. You’d feel a little nervous too, wouldn’t you?
Thankfully, after surviving the first day of shooting for Stash, I can say with confidence that all of this uncomfortable tension will permeate every single frame of the movie. In many ways, the woodsy location becomes another character in the film which is exactly what director Terry Wickham wanted to accomplish.
Characters come to life
So how do you turn woods into a character? You get a guy like Edwin Figeuroa involved (pictured below, far left), who is our director of photography. Simply put, the man knows his way around a camera and knows exactly how to position lights to make the dark woods come to life. Nearly all of our Stash scenes calls for a “surveillance” POV and I was amazed to see Edwin tackle this difficult task with ease by cranking a smaller (and very expensive) camera 50 feet above our heads and basically guessing where the camera needs to aim. Well, when you’ve got nimble camerawork as part of your DNA, there really is no such thing as guessing. Our man Edwin nailed each and every one of these surveillance shots perfectly.
Edwin is also the writer/director of another segment for Devil’s Five which adds even more connective character to the overall production.
Speaking of characters… our main character, Faith Daniels (pictured below with Director Terry Wickham), played by Almog Pail, is the glue holding the story together, walking us through five hidden stashes as the tension ratchets up with each one she finds. Her willingness to reach into a hollowed out log without hesitation or even climb a deer stand (used by hunters) is indicative of the level of professionalism the Stash production has been blessed with.
Almog also “gets” the character of Faith and even though her scenes during the first few days of shooting involved a lot of walking around and steadicam POV shots, there were still plenty of opportunities for Almog to take her character to another level via helpful suggestions about dialogue and character motivations. I can’t wait to see Almog flex her acting chops once again when we film her dialogue-heavy scenes over the next few weekends.
To the entire cast and crew of Stash, congratulations on a job well done this weekend. We battled carnivorous bugs, stumbled through the dark woods and survived severe thunderstorms. It appears you are all a hearty bunch and nothing will dampen your spirits. Just be forewarned that there is one thing you all can’t run from and that’s me. I plan on highlighting each and every one of your talents in future blog posts.
Stay tuned and keep kicking ass.
P.S. – Thanks to ALL of our investors, especially Rick Kern who has gone above and beyond, and Dan and Gina D’agostino who paid a visit to the set. You guys rock!