Tag Archives: John Carpenter

Abandoned Principal Photography Phase 2 (July 23) Part 2

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Photo Jason Paluck

 

After the production team for Abandoned took lunch at the spot where the cars were parked not far from the first set of buildings, it was time to try and get back in the infamous building Abandoned had been shot in three months earlier.  Writer/Producer/Director Terry R. Wickham describes what took place, “My greatest fear for Phase 2 was that we were not going to be able to get back into the same space we shot in April and lose the continuity of the room .  So after lunch, I felt it would be prudent for everyone to walk up to the building from the back, so we would be less obvious.  But because of the extreme heat & humidity, most of the crew wanted to be driven to the front.

Since there wasn’t enough room in the two cars, because actor Aaron Mathias arrived for the second half of the day (he wasn’t needed for the scenes in the morning) as the leader, I had no problem walking to the structure.  As I approached the monolith structure, I was surprised not to see anyone on the grounds.  This was a big difference from the place being packed with all sorts of people in April, which included a Firetruck and Police Officer with kids on the ground (read my blog about that here).

Also what looked very positive was that the trees and other vegetation had grown up so much that even if a cop was at the same spot, they wouldn’t be able to see us enter/exit the edifice.  My guess for the reason that nobody was around was that July 23rd, 2016 was that it was the hottest day of 2016 on Long Island, reaching a scorching 96 degrees (Saturday August 13th tied the same blistering temperature).

I started to feel more confident that we were going to get in, but they always say, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”  As I approached the 13-story structure, I noticed a bunch of kids up on the roof.  They started yelling down to me and I paid them no attention.

I walked around to the front where the cast & crew had parked.  After we all grabbed the gear needed, we made our way to the back of the building.  As a side note, as I led the team to the rear, a bug of some kind, flew into my mouth (which thankfully I was able to spit out), but ended up being an omen of sorts.

Just was we were ascending the stairs on the loading dock platform to get to the quasi-entrance of the 13-story structure, someone on the crew said, “Here comes security.”  I couldn’t believe it.  We were literally 5 steps from entering the building.   We had nowhere to go, so I bent over trying to hide, but there was no mistaking the large black tripod (on movie set called “sticks”) and other gear I was carrying, not to mention what everyone else was lugging.  Even now I don’t know if it was because  our cast & crew got noticed when they parked out in the front or the kids on the roof, but security was on top of us quickly and said, “You can’t film here.”

We didn’t say one word and just walked away.  My greatest fear was realized.

So we left the property and went back to the spot we parked for the morning shoot to regroup.  Production Coordinator Jason Paluck felt it might be worth him going right back to the building we just got displaced from.  He did, but when he came back he said that security had fastened the entrance way with a nail gun.

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The 2nd half of the Abandoned shoot on 7/23/16 ended right back where the production intended on filming in April.

So after discussing our options,  Jason suggested we try the very first place we planned to shoot this part of the movie back in April.  This was the octopus-like facility we had to vacated at that time when the windows were being boarded up (click here for my blog). As always, Jason wanted to check it first.  He did and found an opening to get in.”  Wickham doesn’t know how he would have been able to make this movie without Jason Paluck’s help.  “Jason not only took me to the location, but always looked out for the best ways for us to be able to shoot there.  Plus when I was writing the script, Jason would give me his valuable feedback and little important changes.  As far as I’m concerned Abandoned is as much his film as it’s mine.”

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Siakie Tetteh relished her time on Abandoned and her passion was infectious.  Photo Jevon Duff

Wickham admits, “One of the little slightly frustrating things for me was whenever we moved somewhere as a group, I always hoped for a tight cluster of people.  Instead it always seemed to be a long line of folks spread-out, which made us a bigger target to notice.  Worse was when we’d break off into little groups, all headed for the same place.  My worry was that they see us and stop us from filming.”

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In this screen grab from Abandoned, this part of the facility at the location was destined to an important part of the movie.

Thankfully the whole team was able to get into the structure the production originally marked to shoot.  Wickham gives the details, “As we were walking to the large connected structure, I came up with a way to make the switch of locations work in the movie.  It really is a matter of adding dialogue in post-production coming from the photographer character “Steven” during the  footage at the other space.  This way it would make sense that we are in the a different place in the scene that follows.

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On July 23rd, 2016 the cast & crew powered through the extreme heat condition to make a movie that will last for many years to come. Photo Jason Paluck

 

I have to say, I really appreciated the herculean effort the cast & crew made in the red-hot conditions inside the loony bin. The air in that nut-house isn’t very good to start with and when you throw in sauna-like temperature, it just made it very difficult.  Imagine sweat pouring down your face and soaking up your clothes, that was our reality.  The thing I’ll never forget was Lefty unbelievably operating the Steadicam for the majority of the time.  Dedicated film warriors might be an understatement.

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Siakie Tetteh & Aaron Mathias jumped right back into the roles they hadn’t played in a quarter of a year on 7/23/16. Photo Jason Paluck

Thankfully because we had planned on shooting in this area, Jason, Michelle, Adrian and I knew it very well.  I had memorized the layout and after getting set up,  we continued where we left off in Scene 6, which is by far the longest scene in the whole movie.  Siakie and Aaron  were able to get right back into their characters, which made things run pretty smooth.”

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Leftonred Atanycorner looks at the monitor of his Steadicam to capture the movement of Siakie Tetteh in Abandoned. PA Jevon Duff holds the slate on 7/23/16. Photo Jason Paluck

 

 

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“Steven” doesn’t notice the dark presence behind him in this screen grab from Abandoned

One of the most difficult things to get right was the inclusion of the antagonist characters making their presence felt in a very subdued ways.  The director says, “I absolutely love suspense created in a subtle way that carries a lot of power.  One of my biggest goals was to engineer as much tension in broad daylight and in a gigantic locale where it seemed as though nobody was there.  I did this by using what the immense location offered, utilization of the foreground and the background elements of the frame, camera movement, sound and later the music score.  As Abandoned plays out , there are little clues that should make the audience uneasy, but I didn’t want to make them obvious over the top.  Even our Make-up Artist Regina Tune got a chance to get on this fun playing by one of the dark figures.

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Director Terry R. Wickham says that movies like John Carpenter’s Halloween influenced his directorial approach on Abandoned. Photo Jason Paluck

Like some of my favorite moments in movies like John Carpenter’s Halloween, Jaws, The Mothman Prophecies and even the original Friday The 13th, I was determined to drop little visual hints that there was someone or something watching and waiting to get them.  It was stuff that was done in quiet manner that will hopefully prickle the hair on the audiences’ skin when the see the movie.”

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Leftonred Atanycorner was absolutely amazing Operating his Steadicam for 8 out of 12 hours on July 23, 2016. Photo Jason Paluck

 

The production team was able to finish up the biggest scene in the movie, which lead to the beginning of the white-knuckle last quarter of the film.  The filmmaker gushes over his team’s effort, “It was certainly a collective effort to get things right.  Everyone did something to pull off what needed to be done.  Lefty was on point moving the camera on his Steadicam rig.  Adrian lit & changed lenses to get maximum suspense and cover the action.  Michelle stepped up with not only the props, but some make-up effects that were needed.

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In this screen grab from Abandoned, the First Assailant (Patrick Reilly) has got “Steven” right where he wants him.

Patrick was awesome in these sequences.  As we started filming the confrontation that takes place, as we all looked at it on the playback it just didn’t look right or violent enough.  Patrick suggested changes in what happens and boy did this improve it.  His ideas made this scene a lot more dangerous, brutal and it shows on the screen.

We also had what I call a happy accident.  Michelle was playing one of the adversaries in the movie.  At one point she had to grab a hold of  “Billie’s” (played by Siakie) skirt to get hold of her.  Siakie had purchased this beautiful white dress that had a skirt that came in layers.  She had it rigged so that the top layer would unfasten.  So when we did this scene the first time, Michelle grabbed hold but it didn’t release properly and Siakie could get separation from Michelle.  So Siakie said for Michelle to really pull hard on it the second take.

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“Billie” (Siakie Tetteh) has to do everything she can to survive in Abandoned.

 

Michelle did and she ripped the skirt in two, completely destroying it in the process, but it looks savagely beautiful in 4K HD.

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In this screen grab from Abandoned, PA Jevon Duff is seen in charge of the slate on 7/23/16.

By the way, I can’t forget to talk about having Jevon Duff as a Production Assistant.  What a selfless, caring extremely likable person he is.  Jevon was willing to help the production anyway possible and he did in a multitude of ways.  Not only was he on set operating the clapboard (called a “Slate” on movie shoots) but taking still photos, he got Aaron from the train station and picked up lunch from Edelweiss Deli on July 23rd.  Plus Jevon and Siakie volunteered more than once to drive cast and crew to the shoot.  I can’t thank Jevon for everything he did to help out.  He was without question very valuable to the making of Abandoned.

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In Abandoned, “Billie” must decide which way to go to escape the terror that pursues her.

 

Thankfully the production finished shooting all interiors at the legendary location.  Unfortunately because of losing time during the afternoon switching locations they didn’t wrap until 8pm.  Wickham sums up the productive day, “My goal and intention was to wrap the entire movie on Saturday July 23rd.  Maybe I was a little too ambitious and had too much wishful thinking on my part because Adrian always said he thought it would 2 days.  I’m always trying to look out for my cast & crew and I was hoping they’d get one weekend day free but it didn’t happen.”

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In this screen grab from Abandoned, “Billie” runs for her life.

 

Not everyone was needed the next day and some of the crew couldn’t make Sunday July 24th.  So look for Wickham’s next blog to tell how his cast & abbreviated crew finished shooting Abandoned at a totally different, yet no less storied location.

John Carpenter Live @ Play Station Theater in 7/8/16 in NYC

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I honestly can’t believe I got the chance to live a lifelong dream.  To see John Carpenter, the filmmaker who influenced me to become a film director, perform music from his movies in front of my face.  I’ve been listening to John Carpenter’s scores since the early 80s and have religiously playing his soundtrack music ever since.

But let’s first put something in perspective just how much respect he deserves for being able to do this.  John Carpenter is touring the world with the music he created for his films, to go along with some of the music he’s generated for his two recent solo albums Lost Themes and Lost Themes II, which you can purchase at Sacred Bones Records.

This is something no other director in the history of film has done or could do.  Not Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Orson Wells, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Frances Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, William Friedkin, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Oliver Stone, Tim Burton or James Cameron.  None of them.  They don’t perform the music for their movies.

John Carpenter has composed or co-composed the music for all but 4 of his movies, two TV movies and couple episodes of Masters of Horror.  Think about that, the legendary director has directed 21 movies.  Plus he’s composed music for two films he didn’t direct (Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch) to go along with a couple video games.

Ok on with the show.

I wasn’t there as a journalist, so in no way I’m not obligated to write this review.  I’m writing because I feel I owe it to the man that made me want to be a film director and nobody else will tell what happened exactly like me.

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It was an amazing experience to walk into Broadway, the Mecca of all Live Performances in the biggest city in the US, New York City and see John Carpenter’s image and name in lights for a Sold-Out Show.  Plus everywhere you looked people were wearing t-shirts and jerseys that supported all the man’s work over the past four decades.  Shirts with Michael Myers, Jack Burton, Snake Plissken, Blake the leper, John Nada and MacReady were just a few of the cool pieces of apparel representing filmmaker we all love.

I was standing in line (wearing my specially ordered John Carpenters’ The Thing shirt, which shows every character from the movie) with my John Carpenter pal Chris Sasser (wearing a Big Trouble in Little China shirt) and his John Carpenter friend James (They Live shirt), who both had taken the train up from Philly.  Somehow our line got chosen to enter the venue first.  What struck me right away as we entered the building was hearing John Carpenter’s music playing on the overhead speakers.  Everywhere we went, his music could be heard before the show started.  Including when I went to use the bathroom and Prince of Darkenss was playing while I was in the latrine.  I couldn’t help but just smile and soak up the atmosphere because my favorite film music composer was finally getting his just due.

It was so cool just being able to talk to other people who respected John Carpenter’s films & music with the same fervor as I did.  As I stood waiting for the show to begin, I really enjoyed speaking to total strangers about all things John Carpenter.  My friend Chris, said he’d compare it to a religious experience and I’d have to agree.

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Carpenter and his band hit the stage with “Main Theme” from Escape From New York, which not only was appropriate considering the town they were performing in, but it’s easily one of everyone’s favorites.  Carpenter looked comfortable in front of the legion of 2,100 fans in attendance, did a little dancing and just soaked up the adoration aimed at him.  It’s very well known that Carpenter has been weathered by the criticism and box office performance of his films, but we did our best to let him know his body of work deeply mattered to all of us and everything he’s done is not in vain.  Carpenter was clearly enjoying himself and that made me feel better than anything.

The Main Title from Assault on Precinct 13 was next and I got to say it was beyond cool hearing the familiar melody pouring out from the speakers, while watching the handpicked images from the 1976 movie playing on the screen behind the band.

“Vortex” was the third song performed and I have to say one of the highlights of the night.  It’s such an amazing track because it contains most of the Carpenter’s signature instrumentation and it point blank ROCKS!

“Mystery” was next and allowed the band move into some musical realms different than the other tracks played on this stupendous evening.

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I loved that when the band performed “Main Title” from The Fog, the stage got covered with the white misty stuff.  This matched not only the title of the movie, but created the fog enshrouded atmosphere Carpenter and DP Dean Cundey captured so well in their classic ghost story.

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“Coming To LA” from They Live was absolutely one of the best songs of the entire night and it was beyond cool that the band donned sunglasses during this song.  It has stayed with me ever since this show and when I talked to other folks in attendance they all listed it among the top 3 tracks.  Just seeing all the Reagan-era themed subliminal messages from the movie playing while listening to the bluesy instrumentation just made everything work so beautifully.

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“Desolation” from The Thing was next and Carpenter said a few kind words about The Thing Music Composer Ennio Morricone.  I’m so glad they did something off what is John Carpenter’s pinnacle work as a director.  I cannot never get enough of seeing the brilliant images from the movie because it’s just one of the greatest films ever made.

“Distant Dream” from Carpenter’s latest Lost Themes II definitely worked for me as well as the rest of the audience.

“Pork Chop Express” Live from John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China

“Pork Chop Express” from Big Trouble In Little China was another stellar selection on the memorable night.  One of my favorite moments occurred after this track concluded.  Many in the audience held up The Chang Sing sign (as seen in the movie a.k.a. One Finger Shooting Zen) to show our universal approval to the master.  How cool is that!

“Wraith” was next from the first Lost Themes album.  It has some liquid like instrumentation which made for a cool live experience.  Especially when paired up against the darker “Night” that followed.  I particularly liked Daniel Davies heavy distorted guitar hanging on notes to emphasize certain moments of the song.

The pulsating rhythmic pattern to “Night” is very catchy and addictive.  It made for a cool music video too, which parts of it was projected on the screen behind the band.

“Main Theme” Live from John Carpenter’s Halloween

Cody Carpenter really showed off his keyboard prowess during “Main Title” of Halloween.  Seeing the images of Laurie Strode, Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis were music for my eyes.  Carpenter’s landmark slasher film is one of my two favorite movies and his score is legendary.  But I will say I don’t consider it as one of the better ones of the night.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear In the Mouth of Madness “Main Title” as I was hoping but not expecting to hear it.  During this Metallica inspired track, the highlight of the night happened for my friend Chris, when one excited fan yelled out “Sam F^&*ing Neill!”

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After a brief break from the stage Carpenter and his band came back for a 15-minute encore that begin with a killer rendition of “Darkness Begins” from Prince of Darkness.  Davies guitar really brought a crushing explanation point to this song about doomsday with the Devil.  I might say the inclusion of this was the biggest unexpected treat of the night.  I absolutely love the score for Prince.

“Virutal Survivor” off the latest Lost Themes II album was a cool avenue for the band to go.  Then “Purgortory” off the first LT album was next and features a down sullen mood for the band to chill things down a bit.  Parts of it remind me a little of Carpenter’s music for his film Vampires.

“Christine Attacks” Live from John Carpenter’s Christine

Carpenter wrapped the night with a wonderful performance of “Christine Attacks” from his highly underrated film Christine.  The main melody of this piece has a huge hook that has staying power.  Having just had re-watched the film shortly before this show, I totally dug the assemblage of footage backing the music.

It’s not every day you get to see your lifelong hero stand before you doing something he/she enjoys.  The fact that I did, along with 2,100 other John Carpenter fanatics just made the night seem almost surreal.  My daughter had national dance competition the day before this show in Hershey, PA.  I choose not to go because of this once in a lifetime opportunity.  Her dance team ended up scoring their highest award ever, but I feel I scored just as high attending this show.  I guess we were winners all around.

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If I was you, I would make it my mission to catch John Carpenter and his band when they come to your town.  I’m still buzzing about the spiritual experience of soaking up the incredible music of John Carpenter almost a month later.  I can’t thank the filmmaker/composer for taking his music on the road and giving all us fans an experience that will never be forgotten.

http://www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com/tour/

 

 

John Carpener performs the music from his movies LIVE in NYC

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I still cannot believe in less than 24 hours I will be seeing John Carpenter perform his music from his movies LIVE in NYC (the show is already SOLD OUT). When I got the first soundtrack to his music back in the early 80s (HALLOWEEN), I would have never thought it possible. But it is tomorrow night. All of us in New York City area are in for a massive cinematic musical treat! Can’t wait.

www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com/

TheF   Escape