Tag Archives: Tyler Kipp

The Devil’s Five Shooting Weekend #2 Part 1

Terry R. Wickham Directs the wild Scene 27 @ RIverhead Town Hall Front Door area on September 26, 2015
Terry R. Wickham Directs Scene 27 for The Devil’s FIve @ RIverhead Town Hall front door area on September 26, 2015 Photo Kenwick Cook

By Writer/Producer/Director Terry R. Wickham

Though we didn’t shoot anything for The Devil’s Five on Monday September 21, 2015, it was still an incredibly pressure packed day.  There were some reasons why.

The first was that none of the main crew got home until well after the sun was already rising.  So getting some crucial sleep wasn’t going to be easy, especially when some important things had to be taken care of on that Monday.

For me sleep was going to be interrupted because after hitting the bed around 5:45 am, I had to wake up at 8 am take my daughter to her school bus.  I did go back to sleep just before 9 am and slept until 11 am.  So maybe I got just over 4 hours in total.

The other things that had to be taken care included both rental vehicles used for the movie’s opening scene (which by the way were totally fantastic to drive, with all the modern gadgets, voice activated GPS, awesome stereo systems and comfortable roomy plushy seats) had to go back to the car rental company.

Our star actor Ralf Scheepers needed to check out of his hotel at 12:00 noon, so I had to get him at that time and he was 30 minutes northeast of where I live.

Our west coast investor had to drive two generators back to the equipment rental company, which was located at least an hour east and then  return one of the rental cars.

The next wrinkle was that my daughter had to be picked up from school around 2 pm, but Ralf’s plane was to board at JFK Airport at 3:15 pm and take off at 4:15 pm.  So with that in mind, I knew that it was critical for me to drive Ralf to the airport right after getting my little girl.  One of my favorite moments occurred while doing this, when I told my daughter “Let’s race to the car.”  Ralf being the great guy he is, stuck his hand out the passenger’s door window to give Rosie five as she sprinted for the back door.

The west coast backer returning the generators & rental car, had a flight scheduled to take off at 6 pm.

Keep in mind that both people had to go through today’s security measures at the airport, meaning they had to be there early, especially Ralf needing to go through International Customs. Plus factor there was no possible way we could afford to buy another ticket for either person, so it was paramount they both made their flights.

So when I looked at all of this and factored in the time frame things had to play out, including driving time, traffic etc. I realized there was only one solution that would allow everything to possibly work.

I shared my plan with the Washington State based supporter and explained it might sound a bit scary because he wasn’t familiar with the area, but it was the only way things could work.  First of all there was no way we could both return the vehicles at the same time.  I calculated that he wouldn’t get back to the Massapequa area until around 2:30 pm at the earliest and that would make it too late for me to join him.  I explained I had to take Ralf to JFK first, so he could make his flight and then I would drive back home, get the other rental vehicle and return it after.

I figured that he should return his vehicle during this time, so that he could make his flight.  I told him the only way he could achieve this would be to return the truck back to Enterprise in Massapequa Park and prepay for the vehicle I would be returning later that afternoon.  I told him after doing this he should walk across Sunrise Highway to the Massapequa Park Long Island Railroad station and buy a one-way ticket to Jamaica (if he bought the ticket on the train he’d incur a penalty fee).  I further explained once he was on the train, to ask the conductor which track he’d need to walk over to in Jamaica to catch the Air Tram that would take him to JFK Airport.  Then make sure he got off at his terminal.

I explained we couldn’t make any mistakes because unless we hit everything perfect it was the only way we could accomplish everything within the time available.  My scheme was so tightly wound that Ralf was both pretty nervous about missing his flight, but I was pretty confident it all could work.  But I will admit it was pretty tense and made for a bit of a hairy 70 mph ride all the way to the airport, but in the end my plan all worked out.

Unfortunately three consecutive 14-hour days with only 4 hours sleep on Monday didn’t improve my health at all, ultimately bringing 2 days straight of diarrhea.  I could hardly keep anything down and my appetite all but disappeared.  My body was telling me I was doing too much with the pneumonia clearly still in my system.   So I stopped doing everything and rested for two days.  Just when I started feeling better on Friday, the second shooting weekend hit Saturday September 26th, 2015.

 

Kenwick Cook @ JFK Airport before heading back to Oklahoma after working on The Devil's Five second shooting weekend
Kenwick Cook @ JFK Airport before he flew back to Oklahoma after working on The Devil’s Five second shooting weekend

One of the great things about the second weekend for me and my wife Paula, was that our friend Kenwick Cook decided to fly in from Bartlesville, Oklahoma to be part of the film.  I picked him up on Thursday night at JFK and it was great for us catching up, since the last time he’d been in New York was 2001.

Diana Noris with Ed Gorman
Diana Noris with Ed Gorman

Ed Gorman stepped up to the production plate again the second weekend, volunteering to pick up Diana Noris from the airport as she arrived from Miami to play “Vala Schneider.”  Looking at it now, Ed was absolutely the perfect person to ensure Diana got to her hotel.  Our financial contributor from the west coast made sure to cover Diana’s hotel for the weekend, which was a big help.

 

Director Terry R. Wickham and Director of Photography Edwin M Figueroa discuss a shot
Director Terry R. Wickham and Director of Photography Edwin M Figueroa discuss a shot
Actor David Denowitz playing "Captain Friedkin" prepares to get his throat ripped out by Vala Schneider (Diana Noris) with Stunt Coordinator Matt Solazzo (in red shirt to the right) orchestrating their physical action
Actor David Denowitz playing “Captain Friedkin” prepares to get his throat ripped out by Vala Schneider (Diana Noris) with Stunt Coordinator Matt Solazzo (in red shirt to the right) orchestrating their physical action

When we shot our second day inside Riverhead Town Hall, Saturday September 26th, 2015, I changed my approach by having the crew arrive before our first set of actors.  I didn’t do this the first weekend because we had so much to do and everyone that day was pretty much involved from the get-go.

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Actor Joseph Valentino is ready to film as “Officer Garcia” in the basement area of Riverhead Town Hall 9/26/15

The first scene on the 26th was the short scene inside the Police Control Room.  Things went without a hitch as actor David Denowitz brought his leadership qualities to playing “Captain Friedkin” and actor Joseph Valentino did a wonderful job as “Officer Garcia”, especially after I decided to add his character last moment.

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Following this, I thought we would be able to get right into finishing the Interrogation Room last couple scenes that we couldn’t complete on Friday September 18th.  Unfortunately the length of time it took Diana Noris to get made up in her full possession make-up took much longer than anticipated and caused a delay.

The black light really brought out Diana's wicked side
The black light really brought out Diana’s wicked side

Speaking of Diana Noris, I have got to hand it to the actress for making the most of the second weekend on the film.  She really embraced playing in her words a “bad ass” and when she was in her make-up, under the flashing lights and black lightning, she could be quite frightening.

Church Haley and Beatrice Sniper prepare for a big effects moment on Saturday September 26, 2015
Church Haley and Beatrice Sniper prepare for a big effects moment on Saturday September 26, 2015

I’ve also got to credit Special Make-Up Effects Artist Church Haley and his Assistant Beatrice (Stash) Sniper for doing an outstanding job of making Diana look terrifying.  Their make-up design reminded me of The Exorcist, which can never be a bad thing when making a movie about the Devil.

 

Diana Noris in full make-up, under black light for The Devil's Five
Diana Noris in full make-up, under black light for The Devil’s Five

Once Diana was completely airbrushed with special black-light make-up (you could only see the spooky details with ultraviolet light, which came from handheld lamps emitting long wave (UV-Aultraviolet light), the actress was transformed into a demon.  This artistic approach was a choice Church wanted to utilize on The Devil’s Five, since he’d never seen it in a film.  Diana ghoulish appearance helped the actress release her inner-demon, something she accomplished by unleashing a trail of carnage in the film.

 

Actor David Denowitz pays for warning his officers that there is a dangerous women within the police station
Actor David Denowitz pays for warning his officers that there is a dangerous women in the police station

Special make-up effects don’t help short shooting schedules and are not predictable in terms of how they will ultimately play out on set.  But we had some real acting troopers who rolled with the gore.  These included actors David Denowitz, James Tansey and Vanessa Michelle Charles.

 

Church Haley prepares to cast Vanessa Michelle Charles' head
Church Haley prepares to cast Vanessa Michelle Charles’ head
Vanessa's head casting is underway
Vanessa’s head casting is underway
Beatrice Sniper and Church Haley, while Vanessa sits under head casting material
Beatrice Sniper and Church Haley wait while Vanessa sits under the casting substance

Church Haley said that when he & Beatrice cast Vanessa’s head, that she had one of the best attitudes he’d ever worked with, staying calm under all the casting material and seemingly making the most out of the situation.

Diana Noris right hand and the floor behind her tell the tale of the gruesome fun to come in the Interrogation Room Scene @ Riverhead, NY
Diana Noris right hand and the floor behind her tell the tale of the gruesome fun to come in the Interrogation Room Scene @ Riverhead, NY

Speaking of which, once of the most impressive feats from Saturday September 26th was Diana’s willingness to endure the real physical pain that came with being shot by a paint ball gun.  The Latin actress not only took hits to her mid-stomach area but even errant shots that impacted her unprotected bare arms, which showed her physical & mental toughness and earned the respect from everyone working on the film.

 

 

Stunt Coordinator Matt Solazzo shows Diana Noris how to rip out "Captian Friedkin's" (David Denowitz throat
Stunt Coordinator Matt Solazzo shows Diana Noris how to rip out “Captain Friedkin’s” (David Denowitz) throat

I have to to say what a pleasure it was to work with Stunt Coordinator Matt Solazzo.  He came with a plan on how the physical action would play out safely for the actors, while giving the movie maximum impact. This really took pressure off me and I loved having Matt’s kind of expertise on set.

 

Left to right Producer/Actor Richard Kern, Jesse Ray Sheps, Nadie Lahaie, Lawrence Levy, Michael Pope, Elia Coutte, George Brianka
Left to right Producer/Actor Richard Kern, Jesse Ray Sheps, Nadie Lahaie, Lawrence Levy, Michael Pope, Elia Coutte, George Brianka

The biggest challenge of September 26, was filming the massive 3-page Scene 27.  The sprawling, comical and horrific scene was photographed in the front door area of Riverhead Town Hall and included all sorts of denizens that would populate a police station front desk area at night.

Kenwick Cook photographs the Harvest Moon on Sunday September 27 @ the airport runway in Calverton, NY
Kenwick Cook photographing the Harvest Moon on Sunday September 27 @ the airport runway in Calverton, NY

Oklahoma native Kenwick Cook begins the scene as a very humorous drunk, who has the pleasure of brushing up against a couple of sexy ladies of the night, played with zest by Canadian actress Nadie Lahaie and French actress Elia Coutte.

Ladie Lahaie leans forward as "Babs" while Elia Coutte "Francine" sits behind her
Nadie Lahaie leans forward as “Babs”, while Elia Coutte as”Francine” sits behind her

I positively loved how Nadie fully embraced played the sexy character of “Babs.”  She came completely ready with not only the right physical attributes, but a quiet enthusiasm that convinced more than one person, she was the part she was playing. Plus I thought Nadie made a smart choice of utilizing the weekend as a little vacation for her family, since she lived a good distance away in New Jersey.  Nadie and her husband actor, Joseph Valentino, brought their young child along and just enjoyed the production ride.

 

Before we could begin shooting this scene, I was surprised when Elia Coutte asked me if I thought she could leave early that night, because she still wanted to go to work.  I had to ask her if she realized where we were shooting (Riverhead) and how far away it was from where she lived (NYC) and why she would even think about scheduling work on the night she was shooting a movie.  I told her I wouldn’t count on it and it did give me a little laugh because filming NEVER goes quickly.  To Elia’s credit, she did stay for the entire duration of what it took to shoot and the movie is better because of that.

Don't Say These Words segment Director George Brianka slipped right into the role of "Mr. Jingles" on 9/26/15 in Riverhead Town Hall
Don’t Say These Words segment Director George Brianka performed the role of “Mr. Jingles” on 9/26/15 @ Riverhead Town Hall

My Devil’s Five partner George Brianka (Director of Devil’s Five segment Don’t Say These Words)  slipped right into the slimy pimp character “Mr. Jingles.” George was so convincing that I thought maybe he should think about changing his profession (and I don’t mean acting) 🙂 George took the role very serious in a nonchalant way, which just worked great for the shady character.

Front left to right Jesse Ray Sheps, Vanessa Michelle Charles. Back left to right Richard Kern, David Frances Calderazzo, Diana Noris and Michael Pope at Riverhead Town Hall Saturday September 26, 2015
Front left to right Jesse Ray Sheps, Vanessa Michelle Charles. Back left to right Richard Kern, David Francis Calderazzo, Diana Noris and Michael Pope at Riverhead Town Hall Saturday September 26, 2015

It was fun seeing some of the cloaked figures (Richard Kern, Jesse Ray Sheps and Michael Pope) from the segment Stash, make an appearance in The Devil’s Five, which help thread the movies together as one cohesive feature film.

David Frances Calderazzo and his on screen partner Vanessa Michelle Charles
David Francis Calderazzo “Sergeant Biehn” and his on screen partner Vanessa Michelle Charles “Corporal Hamilton”

David Francis Calderazzo as “Sergeant Biehn” really took control of shepherding the hooded trio into the police station and he carries himself like a total professional.  David has a controlled way of speaking that struck me as an experienced police officer.  It felt like he’d been part of the force for many years, which shaped his calm, patient approach as the character.

Producer Richard Kern who played "Louis" in this scene is kept in check by David Francis Calderazzo
Producer Richard Kern who played “Louis” in this scene is kept in check by David Francis Calderazzo “Officer Biehn”
Actress Vanessa Michelle Charles "walked the walk" of her character "Corporal Hamilton" in Riverhead, NY
Actress Vanessa Michelle Charles “walked the walk” of her character “Corporal Hamilton” in Riverhead, NY

Vanessa Michelle Charles was just as effective as his partner “Corporal Hamilton.”  Not only did Vanessa look the part of a police officer but she stood her ground until the last possible moment, when the demon took control.

What I liked about both David and Vanessa was their restraint that read on screen like real cops, who were more than use to dealing with such strange folks.  They also spoke like they knew each other, which was something I really hoped would come across as partners.

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James Tansey as the “Front Desk Officer” is about to get a visitor not so friendly “Vala Schneider” (Diana Noris) 9/26/15 in Riverhead, NY

Actor James Tansey totally grounded the scene as the “Front Desk Officer.”  Tansey had such a lived in voice and acting approach that he made the scene feel like it was actually happening before our eyes.  I credit this to his years not only as an actor, but his real life experience.

James Tansey sits listening to Terry Wickham direct Scene 27. Director of Photography Edwin M. Figueroa is on the left, while
James Tansey sits listening to Terry Wickham direct Scene 27. Director of Photography Edwin M. Figueroa is on the left, while Vanessa Michelle Charles is on the right.  Photo Richard Kern

 

I thought Tansey’s most important qualities were his seen-it-all demeanor and sarcastic tongue.  The movie needed a bit of levity without slipping into silliness and Tansey’s chemistry with the drunk, hookers, pimp, Stash figures and other cops provided just the right approach.  I will be surprised if the audience doesn’t laugh a couple times because of his performance and interaction with riffraff during this scene.

Actress Nadie Lahaie "Babs" and Lawrence Levy who played "Beat Up Business Man at Police Station" 9/26/15
Nadie Lahaie as “Babs” and Lawrence Levy playing  “Beat Up Business Man at Police Station” 9/26/15

I have to say I really was thrilled to include Lawrence Levy in the Scene 27.  Larry was the town representative who was on site on both Friday September 18 and again on Saturday September 26th.  I am eternally grateful for Larry being so patient with the production and his understanding of the process of filmmaking, which is so time consuming.  If it would have been anyone else, I’m not sure we would have got such tremendous support.

 

 

Sunday September 27th was the last day of principal photography on The Devil’s Five.  We were back at the airport runway in Calverton.

The sun sets as the airport runway is prepared for the last shooting night of The Devil's Five 9/27/15. Photo by Rachael Scarr
The sun sets as the airport runway is prepared for the last shooting night of The Devil’s Five 9/27/15. Photo by Rachael Scarr

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This was the night of the “Super-Harvest Blood Moon”, which kept most of the cast & crew looking up to the sky to see the total lunar eclipse throughout the night.  Some folks thought it would be smart for us to stop shooting and film the rare occurrence, but based on the fact the ambulance could be called away at a moment’s notice (like it did the previous weekend), I never even entertained the idea. I will admit it was very cool seeing the airport runway really lit up after the eclipse, because the moon really radiated down brightly upon the 7,000 feet of concrete.

Actor/Production Assistant Ed Gorman stands before the ambulance he helped get for the film
Actor/Production Assistant Ed Gorman stands before the ambulance he helped get for the film

Ed Gorman came through again with getting us an ambulance and I will be forever grateful for every bit of effort he put forth. Ed worked magnificently again with the cast and crew supplying the technical side that allow us to shoot very comfortable in and out of the emergency vehicle.

Left to right Tyler Kipp, Rachael Scarr, Chanise Renae, Sarah Greenspan
Left to right Tyler Kipp, Rachael Scarr, Chanise Renae, Sarah Greenspan

First we shot the final scene with the four lovely ladies, which was a lot of fun.  Their optimistic attitude made it easy for the rest of us to just have a good time filming them discovering an abandoned ambulance in the middle of a lonely road.  I was particularly pleased what each actress brought to the screen.

Tyler Kipp stands tall in the film as "Minka"
Tyler Kipp stands tall in the film as “Minka”

Statuesque actress Tyler Kipp was really striking as the long-legged “Minka.”  Besides her obvious onscreen beauty, Tyler had an innocence that helped the scene when she looks into the ambulance window to see the inside covered with blood & guts.  It some way her reaction reminded me of a deer caught in headlights.

Tyler Kipp reacts to what she sees through the window of the ambulance
Tyler Kipp reacts to what she sees through the window of the ambulance
Actress Rachael Scarr looks happy to be playing "Myra" in The Devil's Five
Actress Rachael Scarr looks happy to be playing “Myra” in The Devil’s Five

 

Rachael Scarr proved to be right for the role of “Myra”, the person driving the car, because she kept everything together when they all started to lose it.   She came across as a natural leader.   A character who was unflappable and always concerned about the well-being of all of her friends.  Plus she it didn’t hurt that her personality matched her good looks.

 

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Sarah Greenspan tries to combat the chilly breeze on the wide open airport runway September 26, 2015 in Calverton, NY

 

Sarah Greenspan has a great voice (she is a Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano Opera singer).  The dark haired actress used it to express the bloodbath she finds in the ambulance.  Her reactions in the scene help bring up the intensity.  Sarah’s natural curves brought out a voluptuousness the movie needed and made her such a real woman.  I also think that she looked magnificent in contrast to the three other girls, because they didn’t look the same.

 

Chanise Renae brought a true sense of fun to the set as "Deena"
Chanise Renae brought a true sense of fun to the set as “Deena”

Chanise Renae was a gas.  The shortest of the four ladies, she was a little spark-plug that brought a comical side to the scenes involving the girls. She made all of us laugh though she took the movie seriously.  It was obvious that Chanise was having a good time and I think she rubbed off her optimism onto everyone.  I also appreciated that Chanise drove her co-stars to both shooting dates.  I do believe that extra time they spent together in her car, helped develope a friendly bond that was noticeable on screen.

Special Make-Up Effects Artist Church Haley gets his gloves on to spread his gruesome touch throughout the ambulance
Special Make-Up Effects Artist Church Haley gets his gloves on to spread the bloodletting throughout the ambulance

Church Haley supplied all the gruesome innards strewn about the inside of the ambulance and I think his work really stood out in this scene.

Produer/Actor Richard Kern approaches the ambulance to do a scene inside on airport runway in Calverton, NY 9/27/15
Producer/Actor Richard Kern approaches the ambulance to do a scene inside on airport runway in Calverton, NY 9/27/15

The second to last scene of the night featured Richard Kern playing “Dr. Goode” and Lauren Daugherty as “Nurse Linda Davenport” attending to “Vala Schneider” (Diana Noris), who seems to be in some sort of comatose state.

Richard Kern as "Dr. Goode" reacts to "The Woman" (Diana Noris) suddenly waking from a coma like state
Richard Kern as “Dr. Goode” reacts to “The Woman” (Diana Noris) suddenly waking from a coma like state

Richard brought a sternness to the scene that was balanced by Lauren’s softness.  Rick had grown a beard to play the doctor to make him look distinguished as the medical leader.  Rick’s reactions to what happens during the course of the scene were perfect for what was needed.

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Ed Gorman and Lauren Daugherty celebrate after wrapping their scenes in The Devil’s Five. Sunday September 27, 2015 in Calverton, New York

 

But make no mistake, don’t mistake Lauren’s caring touch for weakness in anyway.  The diminutive actress was so believable doing everything within the ambulance that Ed Gorman said she could be an EMT right now.  I watched in amazement as she put away the flat board on the side of the ambulance and just worked within the vehicle like it was second nature to her.  She did her homework and it showed.

 

 

Director Wickham and Director of Photography Edwin M. Figueroa prepare to capture the inside of the emergency vehicle in all it's bloody glory. 9/27/15
Director Wickham and Director of Photography Edwin M. Figueroa prepare to capture the inside of the emergency vehicle in all it’s bloody glory. 9/27/15

The main nucleus crew members continued to do the excellent work they carried over the entire 5-day shoot.  Edwin M. Figueroa was my visual partner capturing all the mayhem with his RED camera.

 

Make-Up Artist Sarah Cruz and Producer/Actor Richard Kern in Riverhead Town Hall Basement 9/26/15
Make-Up Artist Sarah Cruz and Producer/Actor Richard Kern in Riverhead Town Hall Basement 9/26/15

Producer Richard Kern was invaluable delivering all the filming equipment in his van and trailer and providing the comforts for all crew to take shelter under.  Just as important was Rick supplying the two generators needed to power all the lights and other equipment for us to actually shoot.  Without them, we could not have illuminated the film that Sunday night.

Sarah Cruz works on Diana Noris in Calverton, NY
Sarah Cruz works on Diana Noris in Calverton, NY

Make-Up Artist Sarah Cruz was her beautiful wonderful self, getting every actor ready to be photographed.

 

 

Production Designer Michelle Rickert obstructs the name on the ambulance in Calverton, NY 9/27/15
Production Designer Michelle Rickert obstructs the name on the ambulance in Calverton, NY 9/27/15

Production Designer Michelle Rickert put all her time and effort making sure every prop and costume was on set and ready to roll before the cameras.  This included covering logos and names whenever needed.

Sound Recordist/Designer Patrick Reilly carries a big stick on The Devil's Five
Sound Recordist/Designer Patrick Reilly carried a big stick on The Devil’s Five production team

 

Sound Recordist/Designer Patrick Reilly has become one of the team. He was there making sure we got everything covered from an audio perspective and his friendly personality made everything go so much smoother.  It might seem that you get this automatically, but that is not the case.  Pat cared not only about his function, but the film as a whole and this carried over to the way he did things.

 

1st AC Kelli Wilcoxen right was superb at assisting DP Edwin M Figueroa (center), Grip Sean
1st AC Kelli Wilcoxen right was superb at assisting DP Edwin M. Figueroa (center).  Production Sean Sullivan is ready to help on left.

Kelli Wilcoxen stepped in as the 1st Assistant Camera for the entire weekend and we didn’t lose a beat.  The woman knows her stuff and helped make Edwin’s job a little more manageable.  She also knows her way around a film set and completely understood the long hours and sometimes grueling work.  I can’t thank her enough for being part of The Devil’s Five team.

Production Assistant Sean Sullivan really gave the production the added help we needed.  He was there helping the camera crew and so much more.

All in all it was the shortest shooting day/night of the entire schedule, being completed in about 11 hours.

12046906_531647996991993_2676510546725118084_nThe biggest problem that resulted from the second weekend was that by Monday night I felt a sore throat come on, which then became a runny nose and cough until the end of the week.  A trip to my doctor and getting his prescribed antibiotics on Thursday, eventually rid the bug from my system.

I want to thank every single person that took the cinematic journey with me to make The Devil’s Five.  In no way does a director make a movie alone.  I had tremendous help from a long list of people and businesses who cared enough to support the film.

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By every measure, it was not easy.  I’m very proud that we shot what was written without comprising my ambitious goals.  Many producers would have cut back the script/production to make it less costly and easier to accomplish but we didn’t do that.  I stuck to my guns and the production team did everything they could to help realize my original vision, despite the fact we didn’t have the budget or the time to really do it.

Photo Patrick Reilly
Photo Patrick Reilly

The fact that we did accomplish it, says a lot about everyone who was part of it’s creation.

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Editor Kris Ramsey (who stopped by the last shooting day to say hello) has already begun the process of synchronizing picture & audio.  I will venture forward with the talented post-production folks to make the movie the best it can be.  That you can be sure of.

So you want to direct? The Devil’s Five Shooting Weekend #1 Part 7

Terry with RED on set of TDF

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.

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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.

I miss my dear friend Bryon Weiss who left us in March 2014.  The movie will be dedicated to his memory.
I miss my dear friend Bryon Weiss who left us in March 2014. The movie will be dedicated to his memory.

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.

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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,

Terry at Calverton

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.

Rick Terry George

 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.

With Lauren stretcher Ed @ Calverton

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.

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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.

Terry on runway

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

Actor/EMS Technical Adisor Ed Gorman and Diana Noris listen to direction
Actor/EMS Technical Adisor Ed Gorman and Diana Noris listen to direction

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.

Left to right Tyler Kipp, Rachael Scarr, Sarah Greenspan, Chanise Renae
Left to right Tyler Kipp, Rachael Scarr, Sarah Greenspan, Chanise Renae

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.

Ralf with the Wickhams
My family with The Devil’s Five star Ralf Scheepers on the old Grumman airport runway in Calverton, New York

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.