Archive for the ‘Filmmakers’ Category
Our very own Michael Roy has been nominated at the 2011 SoCal Independent Film Festival for Best Cinematography for his work on Nowhere Road. The screening for the film is Thursday, September 29th at 9:30pm. Congrats to Michael and all of his awesome crew (especially Noah Dille & Andrew Davis)!
Michael Roy on the set of Nowhere Road.
Unlike most genres, horror has that rare quality where being absolutely dreadful can sometimes be a blessing. It’s a genre that seems to openly bathe in its clichés, lovingly embrace its stock characters, and bask in its ridiculous debauchery and excess. It can be terrifying, hilarious or even prophetic at times and its ability to bleed and seep into almost every other genre is second to none.
With that in mind, Nowhere Road was an experiment in taking the traditional horror vocabulary and turning it against the audience. The characters, settings, and events depicted are all standard horror movie staples, but it was my hope that the final combination of blood and guts would end up being greater than the sum of its parts. Otherwise, it’s just another bad horror movie… which could be good.
And I love bad horror movies.
Nowhere Road plays upon the motifs and iconography of some of the most horrific films of the genre; films like Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left. These slasher classics submerged you in a world that was totally unsettling. They felt filthy…decrepit. You could smell the decay as you entered the old Texas plantation house. That’s how I wanted Nowhere Road to feel. I wanted it to feel nauseating.
I tried to think of what made me most uncomfortable, photographically. I continually found myself returning to old Polaroids from the mid seventy’s. The format doesn’t weather well. The color of these old instant mementos is garish and unflattering- a facsimile of life without truly capturing it. A crisp black and white photograph from the 1950′s can feel totally timeless. Yet, a Polaroid from the 70′s is held hostage, captured by its era. There’s something disquieting about these images. As I stare at the faces of these old photos, I wonder whether these people are still alive. That’s how the photography of Nowhere Road should feel.
The choice to go hand-held was largely a necessity. The confined quarters of the RV allowed very limited mobility. This proved to be a creative asset, as the the location feels stifling, claustrophobic, and utterly inescapable. It forced us to be very nimble with the camera, especially where reflections were concerned. Our camera operator, Andrew Davis, worked absolute miracles in the coffin-like environment. He was continually ready to try shots that I had abandoned as lost causes. The mood of the film owes a great debt to his creative camera work.
The cramped quarters proved equally challenging for grip and lighting. In order to stay agile and free-floating with the camera, our interior lighting had to be minimal… practical. We needed the ability to see everything– floor to ceiling. To meet this challenge we employed single tube Kino Flos and low wattage Soft White practicals. Noah Dille (Additional Photography/ Gaffer) instantly got the feel for our approach. Grip and lighting worked like ninjas, cramming fixtures into the tiniest crevasses, painstakingly shaping the light with the precision of artists. Noah’s lighting was fast, intuitive, and flexible to the frequent demands of our widening frame.
Zach Kramer’s Production Design cemented the look of the project. I was fortunate enough to meet with Zach on at least two occasions during pre-production. Together with Ben, we spoke at length about the “feel” of the environment. Having been brought on late in the game, I hadn’t yet built a “look-book” for the film. I could only hope that my descriptions were sinking in… making sense. I arrived on set to find the RV perfectly matched my mental image. Every detail was there; the wood-laminate paneling, the dirty fishing gear, the remnants of a meal long forgotten. The brother’s environment had to feel completely tangible… and it did.
Throughout the entire process, my primary goal was to provide Director Benjamin Dynice with a photographic environment that was flexible enough to meet his needs… to tell his story. Ben is exceptionally well organized. He entered the project with a keen sense of how he wanted the action staged and how he wanted the image framed. Unfortunately, even the best laid plans encounter obstacles. Ben met these challenges head on. He remained resourceful and adaptive into the the wee hours of the morning (and beyond). At points in the evening when I was exhausted and completely unable to riddle my way out of a photographic puzzle, Ben was clear-headed and ready to make concise decisions. Ben remained calm and rational when others might well have fallen to the chaos.
Nowhere Road was a rare pleasure. I think a very special “thank you” should be given to “the two Nicks” (Nick Huizing- Best Boy Electric and Nick Priess- Set Lighting Technician). These two worked tirelessly the entire shoot. When I was staggering to my car, exhausted and catatonic, “the Nicks” were staring down the barrel of an additional six hours of work. I don’t know how they did it, but I’m tremendously thankful. Additionally, I’d like to thank Morgan Jenkins (Steadicam Operator). Morgan trekked out to a remote, desolate, desert location only to get rained out right before we began to shoot. My hat’s off to the entire crew. Thank you for making Nowhere Road such a rewarding experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed this project and I am so excited to see the finished product. With any film there are always an array of obstacles and challenges you are faced with and the trick is make everyone else think that everything is running as smoothly as possible. Needless to say we had a few of our own challenges. From rain on our first day of shooting (in May nonetheless!) to blood pumps with a mind of their own.
In an effort to keep our expenses as low as possible, we were able to secure some fantastic locations through personal connections. One of the locations in particular was in Canyon Country, CA. Everything about the location was perfect for what we were looking for, except that in order to get to the location we had to drive 20 minutes (one way) up and down some of the bumpiest dirt roads I have ever experienced while being surrounded by some rather interesting neighbors who were ready to follow through on any of the numerous threats posted on their no trespassing signs if we gave them any reason. Fortunately for us, that never happened.
I think one of the scariest moments for me during the whole shoot was being literally hours away from completing the short on a pick up day and we were still without one of our most important characters: the RV.
In spite of it all, everything always came through and worked in our favor. With the exception of the rain on that first day!!
Unfortunately I was not able to be on set as much as I would have liked. I was too busy running around putting out fires most of the time. But I do remember one of the scenes I enjoyed most, even if it gave me a heart attack, was when our character “Krin” (Jen Nikolaus) stabs “Chet” (Matt Lasky) in the back. We had a blood rig set to squirt blood when she twists the knife in his back. True to form, blood gags never behave quite the way you expect and the blood explodes out of the pump literally covering the inside of the RV. As much as that was a nightmare to have to clean, the shot looks unbelievable. I don’t think Jen was really ready for it. Everyone outside watching the monitor literally jumped and shouted in shock when it happened. I think it was very effective.
I think the most fulfilling part of it all for me was watching all the pieces come together and seeing all of the things that Ben and I talked about start to materialize. I believe that it turned out differently than some of us originally imagined, yet so much better than we may have expected. A lot of it was dead on and exactly what we envisioned, but from the casting process to our wrap some things were a little different than we originally imagined, and a little bit better. That’s what I love about the creative process. It’s alive and constantly changing, and as long as you allow room for change then more times than not you may discover things you didn’t even know were there.
I loved working with all of the cast and crew. We had some stellar people who were willing to work with us for peanuts (literally) with a combined passion to make a quality film. Ryan Parrott wrote a great little story for us to work with and I think Ben really brought it to life. Michael Roy had a very clear vision of what he wanted it to look like and I think he did a brilliant job with it. Zach took a tiny budget and made our sets look like a million bucks worth of trashy hillbilly scum, which is exactly what we were going for. Well done to them all!