Sunday July 24, was quite a different experience for Director Terry R. Wickham and his film Abandoned. The Award-Winning Filmmaker of 3-Minute Chillers Contest talks about it, “This part of the shoot felt totally different than the other three shooting days because, we didn’t have to worry about getting kicked out of the location. We filmed at part of the historic Long Island mental facility Pilgrim State Hospital in Brentwood, NY.
I have got to be honest. Not having to worry about someone telling us we can’t shoot and the fact that we were outside breathing clean air made a big difference. Plus throw in that we only needed to do four exterior shots to finish the movie, helped as well.”
First up was the establishing shot to show the enormity of the structure Abandoned takes place in. Wickham continues, “Production Coordinator Jason Paluck, DP Adrian Popescu and 1st AC/Steadicam Operator Leftonred Atanycorner visited the location the weekend before our shoot and they liked it. So I went there after work the Wednesday prior to filming to map out all four shots.
As a visual director like myself, I loved being able to be there ahead of time and visualize where the characters should walk, talk and how to best capture those cinematic moments. I also walked around the area surrounding the power plant to figure out where the topography would match what we already shot. I also saw that by positioning the first shot with a corner perspective of the building, that it was was not only three dimensional and helped increase the massiveness of the structure.”
Wickham choose yellowish dirt road to the southwest corner of the building. Director of Photography Adrian Popescu, set up some make shift vegetation to help show off the slow slider shot movement, tracking the two actors walking to what was in real life an abandoned power plant.
The director elaborates, “I wanted to not only establish the vast building, but further continue steady, fluid shots to help draw the audience into the story and to make them feel that they were watching a movie from a sure-handed director. I can’t stand the overuse of super fast cutting in so many movies today. It gets tiring and wears out its welcome quickly. I also feel that it also goes against the fabric of creating suspense, so for me, I opt to go the other way.”
The next couple shots established that our main character “Billie” (Siakie Tetteh) gets the sensation that someone is watching them. The Director shares his vision, “We used the geography of the location to carefully intertwine our lead characters with the adversarial presence. I tried to construct movement and momentum with economical choices. Things had to flow and I didn’t want anything to stop the natural progress of the movie. But I kept pushing for shifting perspective and use of space within the frame.”
The filmmaker speaks about his lead actors, “I really enjoyed how natural Siakie and Aaron were together.
Their relationship came across as both friendly and professional, which is exactly how their roles were written. I like how they both seemed aware of the surroundings but in different ways. There is no doubt that they are both comfortable in front of the camera and Adrian did stellar job filming them.”
Production Designer Michelle Rickert was on hand again to provide all necessary props and even got to sort of appear as one of the shadowy foes.
Sunday was a bit of a break for Leftonred Atanycorner. He took control of the boom mic because Sound Recordist Pat Reilly couldn’t make the shoot. This was especially good considering how much Steadicam work he did the day prior.
Jevon Duff was on hand again to help the team any way needed as a Production Assistant. Wickham finishes up the day, “Jevon & Siakie transported a couple of the cast & crew from the city and he operated the slate again. He was a big help.”
The production got all that was needed and wrapped in four hours. Wickham sums up the extremely satisfying experience, “I had some really talented passionate people working with me on Abandoned. It was obvious that they cared about the film and put their hearts and souls into the work. This isn’t something that’s automatic and bodes well for the outcome of our movie.
My goal was to make a shorter film than Stash and The Devil’s Five that was super suspenseful that exuded cinematic style. I wanted to do it with a smaller group of people to make things more intimate, I felt this important on this film because of the setting and what takes place in the film.
It’s think it’s always hard and maybe even wrong for a filmmaker to to proclaim that a film has achieved something before the audience sees it, because they ultimately will be the judge & jury of the film.
What I can say is that stylistically Abandoned mirrors more of my own visual taste than any film I’ve ever directed. That’s not a knock against the films I directed like Madame Red, Double Fantasy, Out of Touch,The Downfall of Johnny Garrett or Stalk from Evil Streets, Washington, Road, Help Me, Hair of the Dog, Stash, The Devil’s Five or any other title from my work. I was really primed to make this film, after coming off a year and half of the most directorial opportunities in my career so far.”