Going into our last shooting day, I knew it was going to be long & grueling and it was. 18-Hours later all I can do is smile with what we accomplished.
The facts are: we made a movie with seven-times less than what we wanted from our Indiegogo.com campaign. When you consider we lost more than half a night to a thunderstorm (our second night in New Jersey – which on a short film like this is a big loss). That we were probably under crewed much of the time and we had to scratch & claw for everything we needed (locations, insurance, meals, you name it) but even with all these struggles, we still FINISHED TWO DAYS QUICKER THAN I HAD ANTICIPATED.
I credit this to being able to adapt to each situation and my incredibly hard-working cast & crew. There is no way a movie is made by one person. STASH certainly wasn’t made by just me.
My Director of Photography Edwin M. Figueroa was a Godsend. Edwin knows the equipment like the back of his hand and runs the team of camera assistants, grips & electrical personnel with expert authority. This group of crewmembers is essentially the offensive line of filmmaking. Everything goes through them.
Without lights, electrical and camera equipment there is simply no movie. What these guys did on Sunday, allowed the rest of us to do our jobs. Having Kevin Saporito, Zack Alliger, and Greg DeBonet onboard this weekend really helped us out. Not only their work on G&E but traveling to pick up the van to transport our gear and even pick up dinner from restaurants. Those things helped us out immensely. Over the course of the entire production, Ian Clarkson & Kyle Weaver carried a bulk of this heavy load.
My Assistant Director/Gaffer/Associate Producer Michael Fels (he wore three hats) has earned deserving praise from all who’ve had the pleasure to work with him. His job was vitally important not only because he coordinated Edwin’s instructions but also ran my film set. He was so polite and carried such a optimistic attitude that he made it easy for people to listen to him and do what he asked. I wanted people to enjoy working on this movie and Michael is one of the reasons they probably felt this way.
1st Assistant Camera John Galeano was beyond huge for us. On Sunday July 27th (the last day) Edwin’s RED camera had a problem. Shortly after beginning filming it just stopped working. If it wasn’t for John bringing his RED camera as a backup, we wouldn’t have been able to finish shooting our movie.
Robert Figueira (pronounced “Rowbear”), my Editor/Post-Production Supervisor made it to every shoot. Having him there the whole time was for not only great getting his expert opinion of what was being filmed but also he helped pull focus at times and came up with footage solutions when we needed them most.
Our Production Designer Michelle Rickert could almost fly under the radar but not on my watch. She worked tirelessly to put everything in frame we see within the movie. Though we ran into a few snags (like not being able to buy items needed for the finale, when all stores had just closed) she didn’t let it stop her from performing her job and doing it well. I really appreciated her working everything for as long as she could, kind of like one of the chefs on the Food Network until they are told to back away and put their hands up. I’ll never forget the first weekend when she stood in ankle deep swamp, amongst skunk cabbage & bugs for an hour and a half to perform a gag needed for the shot. That’s dedication.
I was happy that our Sound Recordist/Sound Designer Junior Manzueta finally got a chance to capture sound without loud generators ruining what he was recording. Plus this was truly this film’s “acting” weekend, as the heavy dialogue scenes dominated what was filmed. Junior had a couple assistants to help him along.
Almog Pail is in every scene in STASH. She went through the ringer for us and always looked great doing it. Sunday was no different. After getting her hair done by my good friend Frank Fuina (a professional hair stylist whom you can book an appointment at his salon/store: Guilty Indulgence, 10 N Park Ave, Rockville Centre, NY 11570 · (516) 868-1706) Almog did a sensational job carrying out the first scene in the movie. This opening included not only our other main actors but thirty extras. Almog was always graceful, in character and dealt with any production hang up that came along (and they did).
Jonathan Weirich delivered the goods as “Minister Malcolm.” He has a charismatic way of carrying himself that’s amplified by his can-do attitude, something that made it impossible not to like him. He was essential as the leader of the church and his on screen relationship with the other cast members glows.
This Sunday was a big day for our young actor Jesse Ray Sheps who was playing “Devin.” This cute 9-year old boy made an immediate impression and blew everyone away with his grasp of acting. Fearless and completely prepared, Jesse laid down the law of his slightly devious character and made all of us proud that he was part of our film. Hearing the lines come out of his young mouth, with the amount of concentrated conviction, made everyone take notice and raised the talent meter of our film considerably.
Speaking of the extras, I’ve got to give kudos to everyone for waiting out our technical issues, which delayed the first scene. Every extra came dressed appropriately and just made the “Bake Sale” scene feel real. I was thankful for the patience and positivity each person had, which made the difficulties easier to sit through. I can’t thank everyone enough for donating not just their time but rolling with the production punches.
Speaking of “Bake Sale” I can’t possibly I forget to mention Francesco’s Bakery and owner Francesco Guerrieri. His amazing Italian-American Bakery supplied all the absolutely delicious gourmet-assortment of baked goods needed for the scene. It was funny watching crewmembers put their dibs on specific cupcakes, pies, Danish, cakes, donuts and pastries, while the children couldn’t help but repeatedly ask for freshly baked cookies and ornate brownies. For example, I had a mouth-watering cupcake that had a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup cut in half with a Kit Kat split down the middle on top of sweet, almost frosting like cream. I never imagined we’d get the superb level of baked goods we received and I’m telling you make it a point to visit one of Francesco’s Bakery locations; Hicksville, Massapequa, Farmingdale, Bethpage and Plainview, New York.
Buffalo Wild Wings and Chili’s in Farmingdale, NY contributed the last supper for us. The assortment of different tasting wings, along with a variety of chicken, quesadillas, sliders and salad went very quickly and more than satisfied everyone working on the film. I have to thank General Manager Liam Connors @ Buffalo Wild Wings and Chili’s Managing Partner Sidney Rusaw for their help for supplying such a satisfying main meal of the day. The little trays and size of the wings made it easy to eat on set and Chili’s is one of my favorite restaurants because of the quality of food and variety.
We worked on finishing the climax of the movie until the sun came up. It was exhausting and real test of endurance. There is one part of this scene that worked like gangbusters. It’s a scene where “Louis” (Rick Kern) leads the way with unabandoned glee. I don’t want to give too much away other than to say the scene had me laughing hysterically and I predict it might be singled out as the best moment in the film. Even all business Edwin was on the floor laughing, so that is a telltale sign.
Near the last part of the night our Special Make-Up Effects artist Beatrice Sniper was called upon to perform her magic. Bea has such an infectious positive attitude and capacity to accept delay, that I loved working with her. Nothing was too challenging to her as she just took every task head on. I can’t stress enough how good this is while under the gun to finish a movie.
I can’t forget the wonderful regular make-up job that Sarah Cruz applied over the duration of the production. She drove from Pennsylvania to make our actors look their best and on this last weekend was assisted by Dylann Stahl.
Also Costume Designer Lindsey Vandevier certainly did an excellent job of coordinating the costumes. The spring Easter colors she had all the performers wear in the bake sale certainly stood out against the darker colors that followed in the sinister last quarter of our movie.
I want to thank each and every person who put something into the making of “Stash.” I couldn’t have done it without you.
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!