By Co-Writer/Co-Producer/Director Terry R. Wickham
When a director casts the lead actor in a movie, the significance is beyond important. It goes without saying, the person needs to fit the role and hopefully have the ability to put the movie on their back. As a director of a low budget film, I’m restricted to not being able to go after established SAG film actors and for that reason I believe in taking chances. Another thing I’m opposed to doing is casting overused actors from other low budget productions, because I don’t want my film to carry their baggage.
In late April 2014, I went to see the power metal band Primal Fear perform live in New York City with one of my Devil’s Five partners and fellow directors George Brianka. After seeing the group tear through a rousing set highlighted by material from their album Delivering The Black, we got to meet with the band backstage. This was the reason we were actually at the show. We needed to get permission from the band to use their song “Delivering The Black” for the end credits of our movie.
After the band agreed to let us use the song, vocalist Ralf Scheepers approached me to let me know he was interested in doing some acting in a movie. This really caught me off guard and truthfully I didn’t know what to think at that exact moment.
When I relayed Ralf’s message to The Devil’s Five investor Thad Byrd, he told me that we had to call him on that. See, Primal Fear is Thad’s favorite band and he immediately saw the value in getting an international known name attached to film.
Flash forward to September 18, 19 and 20th 2015, when I firsthand got the chance to work with Ralf, when he played the lead role in “The Devil’s Five.”
We believed so much in him that we used a good portion of our budget to fly Ralf to New York from his home in Germany. I cannot over emphasize how extremely lucky we got because when you roll the dice on an unproven actor, there’s no guarantee of what you’ll end up getting.
But what we got was a performer totally committed to not only pulling off the character, but doing everything he could to help us make the movie. Ralf is someone that everyone, including my family loved and respected. There were a bunch of people on our production team that commented how good of an actor he was, which I wholeheartedly agreed.
What amazes me the most about Ralf is that for all he’s accomplished, there’s not an ounce of attitude or whiff of arrogance that you sometimes get from lesser known talent. The fact is Ralf was there one hundred percent committed to making the movie the best it could be and was willing to do whatever that took. There was no clock ticking in terms of when he needed to stop working or needed a break. There were even a couple times, he pointed out details in my own script I was missing in the rush of production. That is absolute proof of a person who cared about getting what was written.
At this point, there is no doubt that we hit the casting jackpot with Ralf Scheepers. There’s not a better person in the world, to act as the spokesman for The Devil’s Five than the talented, hardworking, optimistic German gentleman, who simply understands what needs to be done to make dreams come true.
He absolutely helped me realize my vision for The Devil’s Five and for that I will forever be grateful.
By Co-Writer/Producer/Director Terry R. Wickham
In no conceivable, measurable way is making a movie easy. In fact it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done and keep in mind my first job was shoveling manure out horse stalls and I spent four years in the active Army.
The first reason making films is so tough is because you create something that simply doesn’t exist. You populate a film with people, places and things that come from the imagination. Throw on top of that having very little money, limited time and a bunch of people’s fluctuating schedules, it all makes a good recipe for catastrophe.
Make no mistake, shooting The Devil’s Five had all those issues and more. investor Thad Byrd admitted to me at the end of this weekend, we were always just in inch away from disaster.
I would add that we had massive obstacles on a daily basis (that the cast and crew probaby wasn’t even aware of) that would have put many productions under the grave. We honestly didn’t have one easy day over the entire weekend. Even the Monday after this weekend brought incredible pressure and stress.
But doomsday never happened.
The reason it didn’t was because I would never succumb to it and Producer Richard Kern stood strong and the efforts of extremely hard working dedicated people that made up the foundation of The Devil’s Five production team. These are the folks that busted their butts, rolled up their sleeves and never once complained about leaving early or not coming back the next day. They all had a similar mindset like I do, which is nothing will stop us from making this film.
Director of Photography Edwin M. Figueroa must be mentioned first. As one of the cast or crew said to me, “Edwin’s a working machine.” In the almost 30 years I’ve been making films, I’ve never worked with anyone more knowledgeable and caring about his craft. I consider Edwin a true partner in the projects we’ve made together (this being the fourth one after Stash last year, XXistence Teaser Trailer this past April and the music video “Again” we made for Veronica Freeman last month in August).
Not only does Edwin know how to expertly light and photograph a scene, he looks at things in such a practical manner that it enables to the rest of the cast and crew to get inside my head about what must be done.
Guillermo Cameo was Edwin’s Assistant Camera the entire weekend and he was like Robin to Batman (Edwin). These two guys just never stop chipping away at engineering the best images we could attain using the RED camera, its stellar lenses and all the lighting and production equipment to maximum effect. Guillermo is a whiz and helped take a load off Edwin however so slightly. He did it in shorts & a t-shirt, which must not have been easy when a cool wind kicked up on Sunday night, while we were shooting the second night on an airport runway in Calverton, New York.
Speaking of equipment, Key Grip Michael Goguey played a vital role in making things happen with helping Edwin set up mombo combo stands, keeping generators going, connecting all the lights with hundreds of feet of electrical cords and always doing it with a smile on his face. His optimistic attitude made all the difficult work much easier to digest.
Sound Recordist Patrick Reilly simply put kicked ass. The man went about his business like an extended Yngwie Malmsteen blistering guitar solo, recording not only the actors talking, but car chases, ambulance sirens blaring, and ambient sound and even took a few moments to snap some gorgeous pictures. I noticed many times when after we finished a scene, he had already moved on to setting up microphones for the next scene or the one after that. It showed not only his deep commitment to the movie but his understanding of what needed to get done.
At this point Make-up Artist Sarah R. Cruz and Production Designer Michelle Rickert are nothing short of cornerstones in the production team for the films I’ve made over the last year. These two ladies are way beyond devoted and do more than just their jobs.
Sarah has transported countless cast and crew to every production we’ve done together (“Stash”, “XXistence” and now The Devil’s Five”) and she always ensures the actors look the best they can be. She’s quick, funny and a loved by every single person on the movie. I never have to worry or even think about the job she does because she’s as good as it gets.
Michelle Rickert is a dream collaborator because she does everything she can to provide the props, works within our limited means and doesn’t stop toiling away at getting things ready or right even when we are under the gun, which on a movie like this is most of the time. She’s crafty, thrifty and not afraid to get her hands dirty. Her positive attitude always help lighten the load of stress that comes naturally from a low budget production such as this.
Finally I can’t forget to mention financial supporter Thad Byrd, who was so selfless that originally he wasn’t going to be on the shoot because he thought the money for his round-trip ticket would have been better used on the production. But after finding out I had pneumonia 9 days before we started principal photography, he decided to fly to New York from Seattle because he wanted to be there to lessen the load and make things easier for me and Producer Richard Kern. I honestly didn’t’ spend much time on set with Thad because he was constantly away from the set getting needed equipment, food, or putting out production fires that raged. He made my life much easier and truthfully without his considerable behind the scenes efforts and financial support, the movie would not have got made.
Producer/Actor Richard Kern was another essential part of the team. Rick gave everything he had to providing the transportation equipment to carry all the equipment to every shooting day, even going as far as picking up extra equipment before the shoot and returning it after. Rick supplied all the tents, tables and chairs for the cast & crew to take shelter under. Rick and his wife even provided a place for Edwin to stay, so Edwin wouldn’t have to go all the way back to his residence. This probably allowed for Edwin to probably get a little more rest than he would have traveling all the way back to upper Manhattan.
There’s more people I need to talk about, including our cast which was headlined by the amazing Ralf Scheepers, The Town of Riverhead’s massive assistance and the fine restaurants that supplied food for the film. But for now this was a good start of telling the story of how we made successfully shot the super ambitious production of The Devil’s Five.