Sunday, April 02, 2006

Last Days (of production)

So, Astoria: On the way down we picked up a lot of shots driving with a skeleton crew and Russ in the front seat of the picture car. Such departing-Seattle landmarks as the hideous Megatron sign at the Pierce County line, the RVs of Fife, and the great bridge over the highway after the Pacific St. exit in Olympia when you come around the bend and get a full view of the capitol, and seem to be passing through a gate out of Puget Sound. Also I believe the sign for Sleater-Kinney Rd. Same day in Astoria Russ returned to muse at the waterfront again under the ruined docks, crossed all local bridges in the picture car, and ambled past the old high school track with the 'Fighting Fishermen' mural on it. That evening we attempted (for the first time) the burning house scene on the west approach to the Old Youngs Bay Bridge. These plans disintegrated: first, the asshole neighbor sicked his dog on our locations manager when she went to ask if we could park the grip trucks on his land. Then we found out that although the city and county had authorized us to set our house on fire next to the road, the Oregon Dept. of Transportation, whose road this was, would not. The location wasn't much good for anything but burning our house, so we saved the house for another day and Dan quickly decided we could get a good shot out of the remaining light on the Astoria approach to the bridge. We set up a badass impromptu chaos scene with our second AD Jessica Hong fleeing like the girl in the napalm photo, Bill Hebert disrobing on the abutment and our new friend Trampus going berserk at the end of days. Two takes, the tow truck failing at the last minute and revived by ace mechanic/builder/hustler/genius Jimmy Hudnall of Chattanooga (Hire this man! He can do anything! and we nailed it on the second as the light vanished entirely.

Our second day put us back on Del Rey Beach again for a reshoot for the bluff scene and some dream sequences which included costume assistant Jazminka Vucevic in a 110-year old crepe dress with an authentic replica corset underneath made by Hillary Specht, which you never even see in the film. Such is the painstaking historical accuracy of Cthulhu Crew. A cold and very windy day at the beach, conciding with the Great Beach Pickup or something, a great but inconveniently timed event wherein tens of thousands of volunteers come to the beach between Blaine and Tijuana to pick up trash. It wasn't bad except for a little strain keeping folks out of the porta-potties. The beach here is vast enough to swallow two hundred people and a film crew without anyone getting in the way of anyone else.

Next day we returned to Del Rey for some special effects shots the details of which I am forbidden to record, but including an image the viewer will not shake for weeks. I was a little disturbed that some kids happened by to watch, but as they were behind the scenes they got to see just how fake the whole thing was and that everyone was healthy and smiling afterward. Hope we didn't warp them in the other direction and make them incapable of getting a good scare from a horror flick ever again. In the evening we rescheduled the burning house for a private patch of land, hauled it over to a yard of Highway 202 where a very sweet and generous local resident, Susie, a retired correctional officer from California, shared her bathroom, kitchen, yard and driveway and appeared as a featured extra in the film. An overalled neighbor drove up on his mini John Deere and was cast on the spot, in costume. Dusk came with three chances to pull it off, the last featuring some unexpected improv from the crew courtesy of the director, who is always pulling brilliant stuff out of his pocket and dropping it in the soup at the last minute. A wrap for Scott Green. That night was Mary Todd's birthday, and the crew got trashed in the classic style we have become accustomed to when the inviting, ribald environs of Mary's bar encounter the deep thirst and wild hijinks of Cthulhu. That is the best bar in the world.

Monday we returned to the house on 18th and Irving for more pickups and another new special effects scene, and wrapped Jason Cottle. In the evening we went to the cannery Pier 39 and shot the martini, I'll write a parting shot about production in a little while, my back hurts and I gotta get off this thing.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Stick a fork in

We just wrapped the shoot about ten minutes ago here at Pier 39 in Astoria. I'm on a borrowed computer at the old cannery and don't have time or energy to fill everyone in on the events of the last week, but I will say it has been amazing and uncanny to be back here and that we appreciate all the help of our local hosts, PAs and extras, and that this tight crew is very sad that this is over. Many tears will be shed once we get back to the Red Lion and the drinking commences. More details in the next post. Thank you all.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Crushed by Cthulhu

This week has been the hardest of the whole production. Many of the sets in our studio could not be used until others were dismantled, so our four days in-house was a constant bustle, our art department and construction team working like Seabees under fire while just feet away cameras were rolling. We cut a hole in the roof and hooked a twenty-foot long cardboard cistern to it, (the building is getting torn down at the end of April) then lay it on its side, attached puppets and kept rolling. We shot veteran actor Bob Padilla (who folks may remember as the Indian on 'Bonanza') holding perfectly still for eight minutes as water rushed around him in a jerry-built pool on the warehouse floor. We poured a hundred gallons of vegetable oil down a huge sheet of plexiglass. We hooked Hunter Stroud up to a blood-splattering device for his suicide attempt, then when that didn't work chiseled a hole through the floor of my bedroom and stationed three crew members up there with pumps like you would use for pesticide full of fake blood, hammering away when Dan yelled 'action'. We poured 500 gallons of water through the window and pumped it back out and many other things spoiler rules forbid my discussion of here. Long, long days - bruised heels and cut hands, and after it all partied until 9 AM, because we are Vikings.

After a much-needed day of rest we went to the Stimson-Green Mansion on First Hill for two days, a magnificent setting for Cara Buono's return to the set. Cara came with the good news she's just been cast in HBO's 'The Sopranos', though she can't tell us any more or she'll get capped. The huge, sumptuous robber baron manse stood for multiple locations.

The two nights after that we were in the Underground, courtesy of Bill Speidel's Underground Tour, from 5 PM to 5 AM. Night shoots really are miserable, and I'm a night person. I once started an organization for the restoration and opening of the Underground. I must say after spending twelve hours down there, this may not be such a great idea. Or it could just be the effects of waiting on-set to make just a couple of constructive comments at most, in two nights of chase and special-effects shots. The last production down there to my knowledge was for the TV series 'Kolchak: The NIght Stalker' in 1969 (and, as Art Director Liz Cawthon said, 'Scooby Doo'). I was a tour guide down there for the summer of 2003. I am still super-punchy from three days of night shoots, so pardon my machine-gun sentences.

The next day (or night, last night-) we went to a sprawl development in Maple Valley where our location scout (unnamed here, as she doesn't want to get calls for her to work as a location scout) got us a model home for the night for the last scene with the blind boy (Kellan Larson, from Guy Maddin's 'The Brand Upon The Brain'). Maple Valley is another small place in the woods from my time here twenty years ago, now paved and illuminated: Wilderness Plaza, Wilderness Exxon, all named for nearby Lake Wilderness but darkly ironic now and in a wilderness of a different kind. Down the cul-de-sac we met two young guys (hauling lumber) from Uzbekistan. I am too tired right now to document the impressions zanging around me standing in this former woods talking to men from the other side of the world, in the crosshairs of our oil urge and transported here, to be doing this. And the lights and the Condor go up, and we read the New York Times and People and Make Up Artist Magazine and Deborah Eisenberg's 'Twilight of the Superheroes' in a tangle of bodies and furniture in the front room out of shot, and it all goes on until way too late with people falling down literally and barfing but soldiering on to get the shot. I love my crew. Next time, cushier, I promise ('Deathburger', August 2006, yeah that's right, 2006!). See you there.

Day off today, laundry, sanity (?) reading even, email, faxes, blogging, and because this is Cthulhu, drinking. Tomorrow we go down to Astoria (!!!!) for the final four days of the shoot and come back, on the 29th, for the wrap party to end all wrap parties. Seriously, these people are dangerous.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

And we'll all float on

We're six days into the second round, today back at Matt Hemeyer's fabulous North Capitol Hill mansion for pickups on the funeral and dinner scenes and the tense lead up to the finish. Willy Greer our composer dropped in from Portland, having just completed and started to send around his book, Shadowplay: The Psychology and Mythology of the Modern Horror Film.

Last Sunday we cut off about a mile of Cougar Mountain Road where it winds between Issaquah city and King County land. The county has a film office of its own, and is used to this kind of thing, but Issaquah said they would have to have a BALLOT REFERENDUM. Are you kidding me? So we just put our roadblocks on county land on either side of our spectacular SUV crash sequence and on went the show. Standing in the woods up there we could hear the rush of I-90 traffic and I recalled my grandparents' friend Lynne living out there on the lake with her son twenty five years ago on an RN's salary. Then there were probably thirty houses on the ten-mile lake: now it is the ugliest stretch of suburbia in the county. They never put that up to a vote. An elderly couple came by from next door to watch my brother Ryan charge back and forth in his monster suit for hours: this is what little brothers are for. They'd moved up there in '62, his father-in-law having bought 100 acres in '48 and given a bunch of it to the county so they could build the road in '51. The afternoon scene featured my buddy Patrick McKnight, a 20-year old construction worker I met at a kegger two years ago whose party trick made me leap three feet back by sheer survival instinct, and will scare the crap out of you when you see this film, and probably lodge itself in the pop culture lingua franca.

Then Monday back to our very first location, the 9LB Hammer in Georgetown which should be patronized by all not just for owner/proprietor Scott's generous help with the film but because it is a fun, unpretentious and colorful hangout where you can observe the last interesting young locals outside of the Hill hereabouts. Lots of pickups on a long scene: boring for the writer, he went home.

Tuesday we were on Beacon Hill just south of the Amazon HQ on 15th South, an amazing old boxy cliffside house with walkways catscradling the gap to the sidewalk, a kind of house you see all over Astoria's Uniontown but never in the city. Reminded me of the houses in the old L.A. Beacon Hill demolished in the 50s and 60s which figure so large in the great, great doc Los Angeles Plays Itself. RENT THIS FILM IMMEDIATELY. Scott Green added a little extra emotion to his scene by putting Vaporub right in his eye, and our young star Kellan made his first appearance and like all our actors suffered the agony of springtime clothing in the coldest March on record. A hell of a performer. Things got a little sticky when the city showed up and made it clear that they would really like to work with us when we do things like close a street, but they would like us to TELL THEM FIRST. James Keblas at the mayor's office of music and film is the finest of public servants, making everybody color inside the lines so that the picture will shine most brightly - thank you James.

Wednesday was the hardest day of the whole shoot so far: 12 hours in a windy, rainy, hailing day out in the open in front of the beautiful Chen residence in Rainier Beach. The Chens put their house up in the state film office's location file several years ago, and when I stumbled on it last summer it was perfect for Dannie's exterior for a bunch of reasons, and the Chens were most generous and cooperative. We froze our asses off, but the wind and rain were great for atmosphere. A miserable, miserable day, held together by good spirits, the terrific work being done behind and in front of the lens, and Rachel from Craft Services' microwaved water bottles.

I can't even remember what happened after that every day is a universe unto itself - OK, I just went into the hall and asked Liz and she reminded me it was the day we shot the Sheriff's office scenes at Consolidated Works, a huge performance space / gallery in South Lake Union, where three years ago in the summer I attended both the Sean and Ariella Nelson wedding and that of my biographer Phil Campbell. There was a Gary Hill installation downstairs sending erratic booms into the mics - I said keep it, it's the sounds of the festival going on outside the office. Later there was Dixieland jazz from the Bread and Puppets performance in the theater in memory of Rachel Corrie. All fine, whatever. Had to offer to bribe the bartender downstairs and her customers to keep their yelling to a dull roar. Once all that was handled though, Greg Michaels as the sheriff gave the standout male supporting performance of the film. That man is a VIBE. Plus he quotes Yeats. How can this movie not be huge?

Tomorrow we head back to the studios for three days in the sets we built. One day we'll be putting our lead through a cistern and filming from the roof, then laying it on its side and doing some forced perspective. We have a truck to pour 500 gallons of water through a window, and a well-appointed room to splatter with blood. After that we'll be in Bill Speidel's Underground Tour in Pioneer Square two nights in a row from four 'til four. And the hideous salamander creatures came in the mail from Chris Baer today, and they're SCARY.....

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Need your fancy car

Assuage your global warming guilt by bringing your SUV or fancy car to our Wednesday location March 8: 5332 S. Kenyon Street in Rainier Beach. We'd like your car from 7:30 Am to 7:30 PM ideally, but especially from 3:30 PM until 7. Show up and get your ride famous!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Four days to go

Our preparations for the second part of the shoot have heated up to a boil. The office is full all day and most of the night, with people finding locations, screening extras, arranging for the appearance and accomodations of actors, gun wranglers, special effects people, and all of our crew. Saturday we go driving - through the sprawling nightmare that was once rural Bonney Lake, about an hour out of Seattle. We're shooting in March for late April and May, so every tree that blooms is a blessing for us. To stay safe we're going to where most of the trees are coniferous. This is the kind of weird shit you have to do in the movies. Dan and I were having lunch today and I asked him if he ever dreamed that this project would be so complex. We laughed, we had no idea. Let this be a warning to indie filmmakers.

Our second day is the SUV crash that kicks off the horror element in the movie, starring Patrick MacKnight, a 20-year-old construction worker I cast at a University District kegger when he startled the hell out of me by barking like a sea lion. So I wrote him into the script. We'll be closing down Cougar Mountain Road out in Issaquah (Modest Mouse!) for this one. When my grandma's late husband was living on the Eastside in the 30s he knew the family that owned the mountain, a poor widow with a ton of kids. Sold it around 1960 for two million dollars.

On Monday we return to the magnificent 9LB Hammer in Georgetown for pickups on the bar scenes and the key scene between Russ and the bartender the day of the May Festival.

Tuesday we'll be up on Beacon Hill behind the Amazon headquarters for the exterior shots on Mike's apartment. And Wednesday we'll be in Rainier Beach for some exteriors at a gorgeous Tudor house we found there through the Washington State Film Office. Thursday we go to my dear friend Cary's apartment behind the Pike Place Market for the very first scene of the film, and then proceed to Consolidated Works, a gallery in South Lake Union, for for some scenes that take place in the Rivermouth sheriff's office. And then we have a day off, which will probably be when I post here next. Eighteen days. We'll be in Astoria on the 22nd, so get ready, Goonies fans. Here we go again. If you have any interest in helping with the production, contact us at the number listed in my previous post.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Now read this

Cthulhu the movie has appeared in the newspaper and online press a few times in recent months, and I've neglected to post links as we've been so busy, but here they are, in order more or less:

From Seattle's alternative weekly, The Stranger -

here's an interview I did that turned around some of our biggest doubters among Lovecraft fans -

and here's a feature from the front page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Arts section -

We're looking for free stuff of all kinds, and the community has been coming out with massages, hotel rooms, chiropractic work, groceries, manual labor and more. Every bit of help we get helps us take the biggest step yet toward making Seattle more than a location, but a real filmmaking town. I must say that this working with this crew has been the most consistently enjoyable and rewarding experience of my life. I wish I had done this when I was twenty years younger, my life would have been much richer. You are invited to come take part in this amazing journey, whether you have meals and locations to offer, or just your hands. Speaking of which, if someone has a large, turn-of-the-century or prewar house close to Seattle that is empty that we can shoot in, we'd really like to find one right now.