06 Setting up in Alumni Mall

HELL NIGHT – That’s a Wrap!

I just finished principal photography on my junior thesis film, Hell Night.

Or, at least I hope it’s finished. There’s one important and very difficult shot that might not look the way I was hoping it would, so there’s a chance I might shoot it again.

Making this film was quite an experience and there were several unforeseen obstacles that popped up along the way. My AD had accidentally committed to two films shooting on the same weekend and my AC, without notice, suddenly left school and the country, all less than a week before shooting began. I spent several days scrambling to fill these voids.

On Day 2, two of my actors arrived an hour late. Fortunately it was Day 2, because on Day 1 we were shooting on the Sacred Heart Chapel steps (because no filming is allowed inside) and there was a wedding immediately following our shoot, so that would have been a disaster. During all this, I was still trying to find a safe and cost effective way to capture the final scene we were going to shoot on the soundstage, while still getting the look I was hoping for. This all contributed to a baptismal of fire into the world of low budget filmmaking.

This film was shot primarily on a Canon C300 with some help from my own Canon DSLR, and this is the first year that junior films at LMU aren’t required to be shot on film. LMU made the transition to digital this academic year. Yet another sign that the film industry is dramatically moving away from film. For students, it was a huge change, if for no other reason than cost. Film is outrageously expensive and switching to digital reduced the cost of junior film projects by thousands of dollars. The cost of film can be so prohibitive that last year, before LMU changed the requirement, I had decided to shoot my film in black and white. When the change was announced, I scrapped my old film noir idea and wrote an entirely different story.

As it turned out, I ended up with a great cast and crew and, with the exception of the aforementioned shot, I’m very happy with everything we filmed. Melissa Kaufler, a friend of mine, stepped in as AD and although she’d never done anything like it before, she did an incredible job. My cast included Anina Youroukova, Erik Reedy, and Andrew Nunes, with a special guest appearance by Fr. William Fulco. Ancient Aliens fans out there will recognize Fr. Fulco, because he’s been appearing as an expert on the show for several seasons.

The DP was Garrett Harris, who did a wonderful job of capturing the kinds of images that I had envisioned when I wrote the script. I had two ACs, Spencer Sharp and Matthew Ballard, who both gave their all on this film. Also, there were three very helpful freshmen Nick Ertola, Anthony Smith, and Sam Irwin, who helped grip/swing and even worked as extras where needed. Thanks to all of you! I couldn’t have done it without you and I hope we get to work together again.

I learned a lot on this film, including several different recipes for making movie blood. I used an edible variety for reasons that will become clear when you watch Hell Night. It’s currently in post, which will take a couple months to complete.  In the meantime, here are some pictures (most courtesy of Melissa) to give you a glimpse into the making of Hell Night (SPOILER-FREE). There will be more pictures and maybe even some film clips in future blog posts, but for now I’m not publishing anything that would give away too many details regarding the story.

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