Filmmaker Terry R. Wickham finally started Edit Logging the footage for ABANDONED tonight. Wickham says, “The footage looks sensational and I’m really happy with my actors’ performances. Fun trivia: so far in the first 4 shots, we averaged 5.25 takes per shot with the last take being the best in three shots, while the other one, the second to last take will be what I’ll use.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Michelle did and she ripped the skirt in two, completely destroying it in the process, but it looks savagely beautiful in 4K HD.
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.
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.”
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.
During the 90 days between shooting phases of Abandoned Filmmaker Terry R. Wickham was extremely busy on the post-production of Stash and The Devil’s FiveSegments from the feature film Devil’s Five. Wickham says, “During this time we recorded the last couple ADR sessions of dialogue for Stash with Sound Designer Thomas Jackson and I honed on finding the right music composers forThe Devil’s Five and Stash. I found Houssem Turki from Tunisia for The Devil’s Five and Geoff Tyson for Stash in Progue. Plus I was working with Editor Kris Ramsey on polishing The Devil’s Five Final Cut.
I also had to unearth a VFX Artist for Stash. I thought I had the right person in New York City, but they ultimately bowed out forcing me to locate another person, which I eventually did with a VFX Artist in Los Angeles named Martin Bresino.
I also found an excellent Sound Designer for The Devil’s Five located in Los Angeles named Juan Pablo Moreu, who dove right into the film supplying Foley, sound effects, cleaning and mixing the dialogue. In the process of looking for the Sound Designer for TDF, I found Anthony Canchola in Chicago for Abandoned.
We also took advantage of this time to come up with multiple locations as backups for Abandoned in case we had trouble again at the original location, because I told Production Coordinator Jason Paluck we had to finish shooting the next time we all got together.”
Jason Paluck teamed with Production Designer Michelle Rickert and scouted at least three new locations that could substitute in case needed. Paluck actually had more places than that on his radar.
When the film team got back together on Saturday July 23, everyone was back except for the roles of make-up artist and 1st Assistant Camera. Wickham says, “It’s almost impossible to expect a crew to be the same 3 months later because people travel, take vacation and move onto other projects. Thankfully we found more than suitable production members in Make-Up Artist Regina Tune and 1st AC/Steadicam Operator Leftonred Atanycorner to step into those roles and I was relieved that the core crew remained the same.”
This time Wickham and Paluck devised ways for the production members to be as stealth as possible and not draw attention. Wickham says, “Jason and I discussed at length what we could do differently the second phase..
The first thing was we gathered and parked most of the cars off the premises at 8am. Then we ate breakfast there and then car-pooled in together in just two cars. We wanted to start the day at a structure that nobody ever goes. It’s a set of buildings we always planned on shooting the last couple sequences of the movie. The only little thing we had to worry about was Jason noticed that poison ivy had grown up into the walkway into the building. Thankfully he noticed this and we didn’t have a problem. ”
The Director continues, “I had hoped to be there about 3 hours and we ended up there just short of 5 hours. All things considered that wasn’t bad, as I had our Steadicam Operator Leftonred Atanycorner doing some pretty ambitious Steadicam moves.”
The first scene of the day really let Production Designer Michelle Rickert create something ghoulishly spectacular. Wickham expounds, “I think it’s the greatest set-piece Michelle has created so far on any of the films we’ve done together. She knew how important the look of the space had to be in what we called “The Kill Room.” What she did was further tell the story of the antagonists in visual terms and then Adrian’s remarkable lighting to go along with Lefty’s Steadicam work made it all gel together.”
This scene also brought Sound Recordist Patrick Reilly into a new role on the film. The guy who was supposed to play the First Assailant never showed or even called to say he wasn’t coming. So the filmmaker asked Reilly to play the part and he gladly stepped into the role. Wickham says, “Pat has a strong physicality that probably comes from his martial arts training and guitar playing. It wasn’t hard for me to envision him for the part. Listen, sometimes things happen for a reason. Donald Pleasence wasn’t John Carpenter’s first or even second choice for the role of Dr. Loomis in Halloween and we all know how that turned out.”
Then the team filmed the rest of the scenes that followed during the climax of the movie. Wickham says with excitement, “My vision really came to life with everyone doing their part to make it happen.
Director of Photography Adrian Popescu can make so much out of so little. The deserted place we were shooting was in pretty bad shape. Obviously there was no electricity of any kind, but there was jagged pieces of steel sticking up from the floor with parts of ceilings scattered about. Adrian used it all to his advantage with his implementation of some GED lights and his Sony FS-700 Camera’s amazing aptitude to capture images in dark conditions.
I’ve also got to talk about Leftonred
Atanycorner. Lefty put in more than a full day’s work. During the 12-hour shoot, Lefty told me he guesses he operated the Steadicam 8-hours on Saturday July 23rd and that sounds exactly right to me.
When I envisioned the story and wrote the screenplay, I wanted to move the camera a lot. I would even say it’s actually my preference of choice and my directorial style, that had never really been displayed as much as it is in Abandoned. I have tons of gratitude for Lefty really busting his butt to make my vision come to life and for Adrian lighting the sequences and setting up the camera to be able to shoot these longer shots that cover a lot of ground.
This is a perfect example of the incredible team work that happened on Abandoned. I didn’t want a big crew for many reasons. First of all a sizable crew wasn’t conducive to the the location we were filming at and to be honest I had come off two movies with close to 40 to 53 people working on them, so I wanted something more intimate.
When you are directing a movie with a lot of people involved, it’s very easy to lose track of things. There were many instances on The Devil’s Five segment where four people were trying to talk to me at the same time (one in front of me, one behind me tapping me on the back and two people tapping me on each shoulder). Because there are more people to communicate with it takes not only more time but energy. It’s like a big machine that needs to be fed gas and get oiled up to work right. I was yearning for something smaller, where I could really get my vision to the screen without it being watered down by being so spread out.
Without question I absolutely enjoyed those other experiences on the larger crewed films, because I was the one who designed them to have full teams of people behind them. I’m actually quite comfortable leading a full group of people and have been conditioned since I’m the oldest of nine children. I feel very proud of both films and handpicked the folks who I worked on them. But I was very conscious of everything that could separate Abandoned for sake of the movies not feeling the same and it would show my diversity as a filmmaker.”
Look for Wickham’s next detailed blog to continue the story of what took place while Abandoned was photographed on Saturday July 23rd, 2016.