To celebrate the upcoming completion of Devil’s Five feature film, look at the behind-the-scenes photos from Terry R. Wickham’s atmospheric suspense segment Abandoned.
To celebrate the upcoming completion of Devil’s Five feature film, look at the behind-the-scenes photos from Terry R. Wickham’s atmospheric suspense segment Abandoned.
On Sunday January 19, 2017 filmmaker Terry R. Wickham and his production team shot the wraparound segment for Gruesome Threesome. This is the 7-minute storyline that hosts three of Wickham’s other films; “The Downfall of Johnny Garrett”, “Stalk” and “Hair of the Dog.”
Wickham talks about the shoot, “It was the best experience I’ve had so far on a set in 2017 because it gave me a chance to direct another script written by my long-time friend Timothy David Clark (Hair of the Dog, Stash). What I love about making films from Tim’s scripts are the qualities he always brings. There’s no doubt that Tim loves to make things horrific, but it’s his wittiness and humor that separates him from other writers (like myself.).
Tim was smart to design Gruesome Threesome so it could made with very little resources, yet make lots of sense and ultimately be fun for the viewer. He also quickly figured out a way to integrate the other films seamlessly. My hat is off to him for doing that.
Plus I got to work with a cast & crew that I hand-selected myself, which is always best for a film director, because these were all my people.
Speaking of which, it was my third consecutive film with Director of Photography Adrian Popescu. Adrian and I have developed a chemistry that is undeniable. It doesn’t matter what outside factors are at play, our trust & communication between each other is special and something I value greatly.
What was so cool on this production was aiming at getting quality rather than quantity. I’m not saying we didn’t try making beautiful cinematic shots on our previous projects, it’s just we had so many more shots/setups to get on those, that having only 10 total shots, allowed us to really focus in on these ten shots.
I like to take each project as an individual entity and visualize them based on what’s written. I think it’s a mark of a good director to be able to adapt to each unique tale according to it’s tone, rather than force some kind personal style on a story that may not need it. To approach each project this way is more fun and leaves more creative opportunity for the filmmaker-cinematographer.
Before the shoot, I did my homework and watched a couple other webcam horror films. I was strictly watching them to see what I didn’t like about them. What I came away with was not wanting to waste precious screen time looking at anything that was not important (specifically not seeing characters). I also totally disliked seeing snowy video screens, Internet delays and other technical glitches. Is that stuff real, absolutely, but does it make for good viewing entertainment? I would have to say no, so I wanted to avoid doing anything like that altogether.
Adrian and 1st Assistant Camera Giorgio Savona (who was making his third consecutive film with us) were both tremendous in getting beautiful lit, composed shots that maximized the mood and atmosphere we were going for.
The film takes place at night, but we shot the entire picture from 9:00am until 7:45pm, so it was done completely during the day. But with the use of some long black garbage bags and painter’s tape, we had no problem concealing the daylight.
There’s no doubt that Adrian and Giorgio work together wonderfully. It’s obvious when you see the stellar shots they get, but I also observed it behind the scenes with their working style. They show a lot of respect for each other and that means a lot to me. Making movies is hard work. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be as pleasant as possible. Working with these two gentlemen is not only an honor but a privilege.
I had worked with actress Chanise Renae before on The Devil’s Five segment, and that was the reason I asked her to audition for the role of “Sarah Peters.” I knew she had the ability to play all sorts of emotions and her fearlessness was why she ultimately won this role.
Chanise came totally prepared and she looked dazzling as “Sarah.” I loved how nothing seemed too daunting to tackle and she gave me multiple choices in her performance, which is a testament to her acting ability.
Plus the emotional and psychological interaction between Chanise and actor John Logan was noticeable. I don’t mean that in an off-set way, but rather how their worked while shooting the movie and what’s detectable on camera. The fact is these two were having a blast together doing their scenes and this made it believable that they could be “dating” in the movie.
This was my first time working with John Logan and I’m so glad I choose the talented young actor to play “Ray Burns.” John has a real professional attitude and approach any filmmaker would welcome. Part of this might be because he’s produced films himself.
What I most admired about John was his ability to do what Tim had written. The moments where “Ray” was supposed to be scared and frightened, would deflate some actors’ egos. But John was smart enough that doing those things showed more of his acting range and I pointed out to him will probably garner more fans, especially of the female kind.
Actress Linda Collins was perfect as “Ray’s Mom.” The blonde is sort of a southern belle, which really worked for the character. Linda’s slightly southern accented voice really worked in her favor and totally sounded like a legitimate mother.
Linda also looked similar to the “Bloody Mary”actress in Hair of the Dog, which was intentional by Writer Tim Clark. I also give her credit for the handling of the real-life sharp chainsaw used in the movie. The chainsaw was not dulled and could have easily carved through the floor, destroyed any nearby prop or person. I was very adamant about her safety and of the location. I made sure Linda knew to stop the scene if there was any problem at all, but things went incredibly smoothly and nobody got hurt (including the location).
Speaking of the chainsaw I have to thank Essco Service Co. Inc (584 W. Hoffman Avenue, Lindenhurst, NY 11757 Phone 631-226-7304 www.treeservicesupplies.com) in Lindenhurst, New York for allowing us to use one of their saws in the movie. Natalie Raso and the other nice folks @ Essco were incredibly helpful in not only allowing use of the saw, but teaching me how to use it safely for the film. I’m indebted by helping us out. Essco is the best company on Long Island to contact for not just chainsaws, but Stump Grinders & Chippers, Timberwolf and Log Splitters.
I’ve always appreciated strong female characters (Jim Cameron is one of my favorite directors) and I have to say both “Sarah” and “Ray’s Mom” both fit that character description. Kudos to Tim for creating them.
Make-Up Artist Regina Tune returned for her third consecutive production (Abandoned, Whatever It Takes Trailer) and did another stellar job on the actors looking great. She’s a real sweetie and I know the cast and crew feel the same about her way of working. She’s there doing what needs to get done on each actor in almost an invisible way. I couldn’t ask for more from the person handling the look of my actors.
Sound Recordist Bryan Lopes was a real find. He fits perfectly together with Adrian, Giorgio and Regina as highly trained professionals that go about their business the right way. I like how Bryan doesn’t need to shout to get his point across. Instead he is respectful on how he expresses himself and that comes across much more impactful.
When I’m directing a movie, lots of things are running through my mind. If things are just blurted out by crew members, it’s not only distracting but unnecessary. I’m usually juggling the shot that came before, the shot that will follow combined with the actors performances, the look of the shot, lighting in the shot, camera movement (if any), focus, flow of the scene, if the scene comes across as real, good enough or needs to be redone. If it does need to be redone, what’s wrong with it if it doesn’t work, etc.?
For these reasons I like crew that respect the process and each other by communicating their problems/concerns in a more subdued professional way and Bryan does that to a “T.”
Production Assistant Nicholas Girimonte was incredibly helpful as our PA. He not only operated the slate for most of the shoot but ran to pick up painters tape for covering the windows and later drove to pick up all important lunch from Chipotle. Nick was another positive person to have onset and he certainly lent a hand at what needed to get done.
Last but certainly not least is Location Manager/Still Photographer Mark Goldberg. Mark was kind enough to volunteer use of his new apartment for all the locations seen in Gruesome Threesome.
His apartment worked beautifully, as it was central located and a super comfortable place to film. I really appreciated Mark being flexible enough for us to move around his furniture and to allow us the best use of his space.
Mark is a professional photographer by trade and as you can see in his many photos that accompany this blog, his work speaks for itself.
I can’t thank Mark enough for all that he did towards making Gruesome Threesome.
Finally Producer David Melanson must be acknowledged. David helped give the movie enough financial support to get the behind the scenes things needed for the movie and cast & crew. I can’t thank David enough for consistently coming through and being a true force behind creative endeavors like Gruesome Threesome.
By Writer/Producer/Director Terry R. Wickham
I’ve heard many people tell me that they want to direct a movie. It almost seems as though anybody feels they could do it. God knows there are thousands of people that have directed films, TV shows and other visual storytelling mediums over the many years the job has existed.
But before you dive headfirst into doing it, you might want to hear my story of directing The Devil’s Five. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about what I experienced, or crying or whining like some of the people I have worked with (including actors on this film). I’m just telling you the unmitigated truth.
First of all when you take on a film of any kind, you better be ready for the time commitment it requires. In the case of The Devil’s Five, it was about two years in the making. Sure I didn’t work on it every day and I did do other projects, including directing another film Stash, the XXistence Teaser Trailer, a martial arts TV infomercial for Super Punch and Kick Target and the music video “Again” for Veronica Freeman over that time period.
But let’s go back to the very beginning of how it came to pass that I ended up directing The Devil’s Five. I wrote the original script that was supposed to be directed by my late friend Bryon Weiss. Being the Hollywood Stunt Coordinator/Stuntman/Producer/Director that Bryon was, made him more than qualified to direct a high-octane horror film filled with action. Bryon was going to shoot it in Dallas, Texas. He told me he was going to call favors from a bunch of his industry friends that owed him to pull off all the action & stunts, which he was an expert at doing. Unfortunately when Bryon passed away of cancer in March 2014, the job had to shift to someone else.
After I unsuccessfully searched for a directorial replacement, including nearly landing John Travolta’s Stunt Coordinator, the job fell into the lap of Devil’s Five creator Thaddeus Byrd. Thad seemed eager and willing to tackle the most ambitious film out of the five that were to make up the anthology Devil’s Five. We even worked on improving the script together. It was in the writing stage that Thad made some huge contributions in terms of the development of “Ansell Schneider” character, purpose of flash drives in the movie and added other horrific touches (such as crime scene photos, killings etc).
But the night before I started directing Stash segment in July 2014, Thad called me to ask if I would direct The Devil’s Five segment instead of him. He said that he felt strongly that I was the best one to direct it since I created the story and he felt I was better with action. I was in the middle of not just directing Stash but producing it as well and because of this, I was determined not to repeat the responsibilities on The Devil’s Five. So I only accepted after Thad agreed to help get financing for it. But once I committed I felt the obligation and pressure to not only directing the incredibly ambitious script, but to do it in a way that honored my friend who passed away.
After nearly 30 years of directing, I know I’m not alone in experiencing difficulties when making a film. I’m pretty certain every single film has problems of some kind, so in no way do I feel that I’m exclusive to facing obstacles.
The first big one, after losing my dear friend, was raising the funds to make the movie. Like Stash, I had to take the reins to raise the capital for the film and it was a super tough, slow go. I set up our fundraising campaign on Indiegogo.com and after thirty agonizing days we didn’t get remotely close to our goal. There were times that I thought there wasn’t much hope about the outcome. If it wasn’t for one super generous person in particular, David Melanson, we would have been in very real financial danger of not being able to make the film. The truth is we were going to be short of what was needed. If it wasn’t for investor Thad Byrd added funds during principal photography, this film would not have happened,
Before launching the campaign, I realized that asking people to contribute money to a project, just 9 months after requesting them to donate to Stash made it unlikely that they would be able to repeat for The Devil’s Five. But that didn’t stop me from trying, even in the stiff economy we currently live in.
The next problem was finding a place to shoot the movie. The Devil’s Five contained exciting car chases with a BMW, cop cars, police station with an interrogation room, hallway to interrogation room, police control room, front desk area of police station, hospital and ambulance, all of which I had no idea where I’d find for the film.
After exploring the options available to me where I live on Long Island, the only real lead was when the Suffolk County Film Commission suggested I contact privately owned property (with roads), since that would allow me to film car chases without needing police support. They suggested I contact a farm out east on the island close to Riverhead. I did and went out to visit this farm. But shortly after getting there it, it was obvious that the roadway wouldn’t work for the film and they informed me that the original shooting dates were already booked. Fortunately this nice farmer and his female assistant suggested what I really needed was to shoot at the airport runway in Calverton that Grumman use to use for jets they built for the military.
The farmer and his assistant didn’t know exactly who I needed to talk but did say that the Town of Riverhead owned the runaway and suggested since I was out there already, that I should go visit Riverhead Town Hall to inquire. So I did and after meeting some wonderfully nice people, including Town Councilman Jim Wooten, I told them about my project and there seemed to be genuine interest in helping me. A month or two later I had to sit before the Town Board of Riverhead and pitch my project. After fifteen minutes or so of questioning, I got approval to shoot the entire movie in Riverhead and the airport runway in Calverton. Without this chain of events and the good people behind it all, I don’t know where we could have possibly shot the film.
Though I had cast the movie many months in advance, the casting carousel started to turn when we had to push back the shooting dates from early August to mid-September. This forced me to recast a few actors that couldn’t make the new dates, which could be expected. But as we closed in on our shooting dates new challenges arouse when I had to replace, switch some very important roles, which always added worries to the proceedings, especially when a few of them happened only ten days from shooting.
The other reality I faced was that looking at the dollars we had, versus what the production was going to cost. When I did the math it equated to an absolute deficit. So without additional money of some kind, we were not going to be able to pull off the film. It might go without saying, but try living with this knowledge and the enormous strain it creates. Luckily Thad Byrd contributed all necessary funds to make the movie a realty. For him to support me like that, I will be forever thankful.
Another massive barrier to actually doing the film was we needed lodging for our lead actor Ralf Scheepers. Point blank, we didn’t have the money to spend on getting a hotel for him and without an address of where would be staying, his country of Germany wouldn’t allow him to leave. So we were in a quandary until Elizabeth Ndungu, the General Manager at Residence Inn in Hauppauge/Islandia came to our rescue. Without her kind assistance and the graciousness of her hotel, this film would have been in jeopardy.
We also got lucky when some fine restaurants stepped in to furnish some of the meals that were going to need to feed the cast & crew which on daily basis totaled between 25 & 28 people on most days. On September 26 we had close to 45 total people on set. Please take into account that making countless phone calls to a long list of hotels & restaurants, getting mostly rejection over many weeks adds even more anxiety, which compiles on top of what I was already feeling.
On September 7th, I floated around our pool for an hour or more trying to combat the heavy emotional turmoil the movie was causing me. Unfortunately the water was very cold that day and then I somewhat foolishly spent almost two hours sitting wet against a cool breeze, while I posted replacement casting call notices on my laptop. Combine this with the massive challenges the movie was giving me caused me to get the shakes and my joints started aching. Shortly thereafter I got a fever of 99.9, which ran up 101.9 over the next two days forcing me to go to the emergency room at the hospital on Wednesday September 10th. After taking blood, the doctor listened to my body and ordered multiple X-rays, which confirmed that I had pneumonia in one of my lungs. The doctor prescribed an oral medication for 7-days and told me to rest and do nothing.
The following week with only five days before we were to start filming I learned that one of the cars we were depending on for one of the two police cars for the opening scene, was not going to be available and the person who was going to appear in the movie as well, couldn’t so it was double bad news. This made things a bit tenser but I posted a notice looking for a substitute. A day or so later I found out that the other police car which had been set, had been sold and so both police cars were gone. Things were going from bad to worse. Then two days before the opening scene was to be filmed, my neighbor who had agreed to let me use his BMW months in advance, let me know his car was in the shop getting repaired until the following week. So we lost every car needed for the first scene in less than a week with only 48 hours before we would be filming the scene needing them. Does that sound like something that makes your life any fun?
Again I was very fortunate that supporter Thad Byrd interceded using his determination, gift of gab (with the car rental company) and took another dip into his wallet to provide the movie with amazing police vehicles (a silver Chevy Tahoe and dark Ford Expedition). I can’t begin to imagine what we would have done without his help and the fact he was actually on Long Island to do what needed to be done.
I tried my best to rest and relax (keep in mind all that was going on) and finished my 7-days of medication only 2 days before I started directing The Devil’s Five. But then three consecutive extremely hard working pressure packed 14-hour days on the first shooting weekend hit hard. Two of these dates were done outside on the airport runway, which I”m pretty certain didn’t do my health any favors. The fact is there was no possible way I could ease into production.
We hit the ground running with the tight squeeze of trying to shoot 18 scenes that equated to almost 12 pages of script on the first day (a normal film shoots 4 pages). This highly demanding day surely exasperated my pneumonia condition. I tried sitting and drinking fluids but I wasn’t about to shirk my directorial responsibility, so I plowed forward trying my best to pull off a truly impossible schedule despite the implications it would later cause.
On that first day one of my actresses was very upset at the way she was treated and expressed it to me near tears. When I found out what a production assistant/driver said to her the next day, it made me furious. I also learned this same idiot made a scene at one of the restaurants (that were helping us out) and that he was unprofessionally asking anyone if they had drugs or pot. This caused me to fire him immediately.
Another thing that jacked up the pressure cooker on Friday September 18 was that I was very aware that we were supposed to be done and out of the building by 8 pm (we got there at 8:30 am). As 8 pm approached, there was no possible way we were going to finished filming what was needed, so I just keep working as fast as I could, which didn’t make things any more comfortable.
I was darn lucky that Thad Byrd was there to buy us the time needed to continue shooting. He was like a production angel hovering over the motion picture, squashing out little devils trying to infiltrate the film at every turn.
The next morning, (I didn’t get home until early the next day) I got a little sleep but my family and our birds woke me up earlier than I wanted, which gave me less than the rest I truly needed.
That day, Saturday September 19th, we begin what was the first of three shooting days at the airport runway in Calverton, New York. We got lucky with the weather being clear and pretty mild but midway through the night one actor refused to come back the next night (because he didn’t want to be tired for a flight he had Monday morning) and one actress gave an ultimatum of when she needed to leave (which she did the second night as well). Both of these selfish performers should have expressed their disinterest in the project in advance, because I much rather would have preferred someone who really cared and could tough out what the movie needed and match the dedication & sacrifice everyone else was making. I have no respect for anyone who commits to a movie that doesn’t follow through, giving pathetic excuses, when I have a bunch of other people working longer and a lot harder than they are.
Once more time Thad Byrd again came in to save the day by volunteering to have his hair spray painted the same color as the actor who quit on the film and even dressed in the quitter’s clothes.
We shot on the airport again Sunday night September 20th but when the ambulance got called away to respond to a fire, we were forced to finish the rest of the scenes involving it the following Sunday September 27th. There were two things that highlighted this night. The first was the amazing contribution that Ed Gorman made to get the ambulance for the film. I never mentioned we had lost the first ambulance a month before the shoot. Ed did everything he could to personally ensure we got an ambulance for the film. Not only this but since he is an experienced EMS Technician, he shared his wealth of knowledge with the other actors ensuring our film was authentic.
The other best part of this night was the incredible enthusiasm four lovely ladies Tyler Kipp, Rachael Scarr, Sarah Greenspan and Chanise Renae brought to the set. They didn’t care how late it was and did their best to light up the screen. This night ended around 4 am and I didn’t get to bed until well after 6 am. Though were not shooting Monday September 21, this day still presented some high tension moments, which I will save for my next blog.
So before you gleefully jump into the director’s chair, you might want to wait until I finish my story. By the way I’m not trying to keep any of you from doing what I do. I just want you to know what you are getting into before jumping into the fire. Believe me it can burn.