Please visit the page I created for my dear friend Michael Thomas Knight (Kubat) who passed away on Father’s Day June 18, 2017:
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.”
“Where Every Road leads to Terror.”
Back in 1996 Guitarist/Author Michael Knight asked Terry if he would be interested in directing a short film based on a short story he wrote called “The Downfall of Johnny Garrett.” Two years prior, Terry had directed a music video for Michael’s song “The Phoenix” off his album called Dreamscapes.
After reading Mike’s story Terry was immediately drawn to the tone and atmosphere Michael had created on page and agreed to make the movie. They crafted the screenplay together and then shortly after, or maybe even before (hard to remember which), Michael had suggested tagging the film together with two other short films to make a feature film called Evil Streets.
Knight’s idea was that there was evil on the streets of the city and we could represent it with three films of this ilk. Michael asked Terry if he had a story that could be used and if he had a filmmaking friend who could contribute a third story as well.
Wickham had wanted to work with big-bust superstar SaRenna Lee on a feature film called Perishing Hearts. Terry says, “I had been in contact with big-breast entertainer SaRenna Lee about her playing the role of “Cory Stone” for the film I hoped to make called Perishing Hearts. I visualized casting a slim, ultra-stacked actress and after seeing SaRenna in the pages of Score Magazine, she was exactly what I was looking for.”
“So when Mike offered a chance to create another segment for Evil Streets, it presented the opportunity to work with SaRenna and see if she could pull off a film role. I called her and told her I had the idea of writing a story called “Stalk“, which was about something she already knew how to do, exotic dancing. I explained that it would be a good way to ease her into film acting and we would see how we worked together as a team. I made it clear to SaRenna I wouldn’t write one word without her coming onboard, because she was the only person I’d make this movie with. SaRenna loved the idea and agreed to do the film.”
“To be honest with you I was really lucky to get someone as special as SaRenna. Not only does the camera love her, but she totally supported the movie and did everything I asked in making the movie. She should have honestly been credited as one of the producers, because she took it upon herself to fly to New York multiple times for not only the production but to help market the film as well. Because of her commitment and sweet southern charm, I will be forever grateful.”
The third film came from Terry’s friend Joseph F. Parda. Terry says, “Back in the early 90s, before DVD, I would rent and buy tons of films on Laserdisc. Joe Parda was one of the managers at Laserland in Carle Place, New York (the store I frequented). Over time we would talk about our film projects and films as a whole. This blossomed into a mutual respect and Joe was the natural choice for me to approach about doing the third film needed for Evil Streets. Joe would go on to work with Producer/Actor Joe Zaso and Indie Horror Darling Tina Krause to create the David Lynch-like episode “Szamota’s Mistress.”
Please click on photo gallery of almost 40 photos chronicling the making of “Stalk”, it’s Premiere at the Malverne Cinema 4 Theatre and our appearance at the 1998 Chiller Theatre Convention, where SaRenna Lee and other Evil Streets talent presented the movie to the buying public. There’s even a link where you can watch us interviewed for Zenbocks Forte’ cable television show. We come in 15 minutes into the show and run to the end.