If you ever wanted to know how a movie is made or how a live theatrical show is put together, then this entry is for you.
But first… I have to admit; I am being lazy today, I have to.
Prednisone withdrawal is killing me. The fatigue is rough. I try to type, but I have to stop every 3 words because my arm feels like I’ve been lifting 100lbs, then my chest hurts and I’m out of breath. It literally takes ALL DAY to post an entry. I’m in too much pain, I just can’t do it.
So… for today’s (or now yesterday’s) JavidMo prompt I’m just going to repost an entry from a few months ago because in it is a video that fits. It’s a lengthy entry with lot’s of story telling, pics and one that means a lot to me because it’s me doing what I love. I’ll put JAVIDMO in front of the video meant for Jan 11th - The storytelling under 10 mins prompt.
In case you didn’t see this post previously or you’re new to my PB (Welcome). This is about my work at the Abyss Theatre in South Florida (an exclusively horror themed venue) with an incorporated movie screen and projector. This is Edgar Allan Poe honored as 4 of his stories & poetry are re-imagined through film and theater.
Imagine if you will seeing a show where live actors intermingle with video production centered around some of Poe’s best work. I was chosen to be one of the 4 writers & directors for the show. I’ll go into detail of the show itself conceptually with lots of pictures and behind the scenes stuff as well as show you my signature piece (including never before heard stories of how it all came together including bts clips and bloopers).
If you know Poe, you’ll recognize a lot of the characters, if not; no worries, I’ve made it easy to follow along.
The writers and directors of these stories do take liberties, but keep poe’s work in tact. For example: instead of a murderer fighting the urge to confess a crime, that conversation takes place as two risque’ lovers are getting hot and heavy!
Shall we begin?
The Abyss Theatre in Fort Lauderdale (Wilton Manors) is a horror exclusive live theatrical experience with audience participation, sfx and video production.
This particular show is still talked about today and a local favorite among the many productions we’ve done.
Attention! The Red Death has swept across the land, killing thousands in its wake. There is no cure, and the infected die violent, bloody deaths just minutes upon exposure. Locals are in a widespread panic, looting stores and homes, destroying property, and even killing one another in desperation.
Prince Prospero is inviting a select few to escape the scourge of the Red Death and join him and his Players at his castle for an extravagant masquerade ball. The Prince’s castle has been untouched by the Red Death, and by joining him, you will not only be guaranteed to be entertained, but your survival will also be secured.
During the ball, the Prince Prospero’s players will perform chilling selections from his favorite author, Edgar Allan Poe. As this is a masquerade ball, please attend in your finest leathers, corsets, top hats and, of course, masques!
We look forward to your attendance. Please RVSP here to gain entry to the castle & relief from the scourge of the Red Death.*
THE PLAYERS: (ON STAGE ACTORS / CHARACTERS)
BETH AND NATHANIEL
TYLER AND BRIDE
THE BUTLER / CARETAKER
THE WOMAN IN THE OVAL PORTRAIT
THE RED DEATH (me)
A little info here:
The show begins with Prince Prospero greeting all the guests in the lobby of the theatre which is designed to look like a castle and themed out in Steampunk decor. There are screams and bangs heard from outside (people dying of the plague and trying to get in). Prospero assures everyone that he invited will be safe and ushers them into the theatre where they take their seats.
He talks a bit about himself and how nice it is that he and his wealthy friends (the guests) are safe, then introduces “The Raven” which is actually a one man interactive dance number.
After which Prospero then introduces the first play called: “The Imp of the Perverse”. Two people meet and enter a living room setting where a lascivious make-out session takes place. A conversation about life, death and confusion ensues. One of these two aren’t leaving this room alive!
The above plays out entirely on stage followed by a brief interlude with Prospero then onto the 2nd piece entitled: “Love and Death”.
This takes place both on stage and on film. A graveyard and a collection of poetry weaved into a story beginning with the grave digger on stage, followed by a tragedy of lost love by a husband whose wife he mourns and ends up killing himself.
Prospero comes back on stage and once again introduces The Raven who dances to Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams”. Followed by an intro to my piece: “The Oval Portrait”.
Now before I continue with the show, I’m going to indulge you with lot’s of behind the scenes pics and video on the creation of my piece, think of it like the blu ray extras! :) (any video’s, be sure to watch in 1080p where available).
This was our main filming location, a rare barn find in South Florida. My intention was to film up in the loft, but we deemed it unsafe for the cast/crew, cameras, props etc… so unfortunately we had to film downstairs.
I mean (and this is no joke) the entire barn was held together by mega spiderwebs!!! This isn’t a prop or special effects; it’s the real deal. I was constantly looking over my shoulder and above me while filming. There were dozens of them all over, it was terrifying!!!
In our first video, we recreated a car crash. Apparently it looked so realistic that someone called 911. Police arrived and i had to explain to them that we were shooting a film. Once things were resolved and he saw that it was staged and that no one was hurt, the cops actually directed traffic for us the rest of the time, it was awesome!
Applying some blood to Andre, you can actually see the cop car in the background.
Another location I shot at was a 666 acre park in the middle of nowhere. It was just myself and Jules filming scenes in the woods and by water.
Sometimes the woods attack, lol
When you’re making a movie, there are always complications.
My friend Willy, wasn’t the 1st choice to play the caretaker / butler role because I wanted it to be more taboo (This takes place in the 1800’s). So I found an actor, a black gentleman, and a really nice guy too. He had never done theater before, but I had a lot of theater experience and I know everyone else would help him as well.
He was great on film, hit his marks and had the look that I was going for.
But on stage, he couldn’t remember his lines. he had trouble learning the rules of facing the audience while playing off the other actor and was very soft spoken which meant he had to really project his voice and he just struggled mightily with it. I gave him way too many chances, but then he started showing up late or he wouldn’t show up at all, so although I didn’t want to, I had a lot invested in him, I had to let him go.
As you may have noticed, many of the actors play multiple roles. Willy was just perfecting his role when he noticed the bind I was in and he asked if I wanted him to fill the void and I didn’t hesitate to say yes! He really saved my ass! The other actor was better on film, and had the look I originally wanted, but the filming wasn’t rushed and there were rehearsals. Thank goodness Willy was strong on stage and has a commanding presence. Unfortunately now I had less than a week until the show started and he & I had to work from scratch.
The main cast and crew for the long day of filming. (From left to right) Sonny, Dominick, Fernando, Myself & Jules.
We do have fun on set. The facial hair that Dom was wearing to be the painter reminded me of the actor: Dabney Coleman and how he looked in the movie “Cloak and Dagger”.
Many of the props we used were borrowed, thank G-D! The paint brushes that were used were actually about 70 years old, the bottles and some other props were borrowed as well, but I did have to buy a few things. All in all the cost of The Oval Portrait was probably $400 - $500 and most of that went toward food! A fed crew is a happy crew!
Here’s a capture from part of the ‘shot list’. Filmmakers create these and bring them to the set so the crew knows all the shots we need before the day is done. Not all those shots will make it into the film, but it gives us and the editors more to play with to help tie the story together.
The actual budget should have been around $5,000 if I wanted to do it right, get permits, pay the actors… (that part is huge!!!) I had a major scene to film that day and reached out to about 40 actors locally, hoping that a dozen would show up, guess how many showed up? ZERO!!!!! I had food, I brought clothes… I needed to film a sequence where a crowd gathers outside trying to sneak a peak of the painters new work. I had to completely cut it out. To this day it still bothers me, but local theater isn’t very profitable. I wasn’t getting paid, no one was, but I love directing and creating and it was also my theatrical directing debut, so this whole project was a big deal for me.
Admittedly, I do go above and beyond when I create something. I don’t take short cuts and I push boundaries, so part of that is on me, but I wouldn’t do it any other way! I’ll always find a way to make it work!
That said, if someone asked me to film something similar and offered $500, my answer is definitely “No”. No thank you. lol.
Here we are doing a 1 hour radio show to promote The Oval Portrait and 50 Shades of Poe.
Fernando testing out a shot.
Applying some make up on Jules.
The no nonsense painter.
Editing these 2 films was brutal. Let me explain that at the theatre we do shows every month. So for each new show we have to write, get costuming, figure out staging and the set, shoot films, promo’s etc… all in about 3 weeks time! For the Oval Portrait, we shot footage over 3 days. The car scene that you’ll see in a minute was shot one late afternoon, the main scene in a barn was shot all in 1 day and scenes in the woods as well as pick up shots I filmed on the following day. Remember also, I had to let go of one of my actors 1 week before the show started, so a 4th day was needed to film Willy out in the woods.
The editing itself though was 3 consecutive 20+ hour days, then the 4th day we finished after 7 or 8 hours (which was about 2 hours before curtain call!!!) It was hectic! Talk about close!!!
This is what happens after 70+ hours of editing in 4 days!
Fortunately Fernando could take a cat nap, I still had a show to do!!! Not to mention, I had to do make-up on other actors and myself as well.
OK, so now that you’re all insiders… do you remember where we left off? The Raven just finished his 2nd dance and Prospero announced the 3rd and final act: The Oval Portrait.
When Prince Prospero walks off stage ALL THE LIGHTS GO OUT! We’re in complete darkness for several seconds. Thunder crashes outside, rain can be heard and the movie screen lights up as my 1st video plays.
(I need to mention here that the finished video is on my editing laptop which died this past year, so I can’t access it. I did find a rough cut version in my email. By ‘rough cut’ I mean the edits are in place, but the sound cues aren’t all in place, nor is the lightning, effects or the cuts and transitions, I mean it’s ‘rough’, but it’ll give you an idea of how things started). It’s low quality as well and I’m a little embarrassed to show it, but here you go.
After this plays and the screen goes dark, there is a heavy knock at the back door. (the back door to the theatre is behind the amphitheater seats, so everyone’s back is to it). It’s dark and the audience is looking around wondering where the knocking & heavy banging is coming from as they grow louder and louder.
Suddenly the door bursts open, and Andre (soaking wet) having found this castle after a long walk in the rain soaked woods, enters.
He asks if anyone is there, but no one responds. Then from the front right part of the stage, a butler enters holding a lit candelabra. He makes his way over to Andre whose making a lot of noise stumbling around in the dark behind everyone.
Long story short, he welcomes Andre to the castle, gives him a brief history lesson and invites him to stay, Andre agrees and is shown to his room on stage left.
The room is decorated with many paintings and the butler informs him that if he is interested in learning more about them, their stories are inscribed in a book by the bed.
Andre looks around admiring the artwork and notices an oval portrait tucked away in the corner; he picks it up and is transfixed; he is completely enamored with the work.
(Now, as the writer and director, I had a problem here. I couldn’t actually have a painting in the frame because if I did, whenever the actor would hold it up he’d be blocking the audience. I couldn’t have that. So what I chose to do was to keep the frame empty, but have the actor play it out as if the portrait was there. To make it more interactive and fun, I told him to hold up the frame in front of an audience member and describe the painting using his/her description. He did this 3x before placing the frame down and going for the book).
He flips through and begins to read, as he does… the lights go down and this video plays on the theatre screen. Be sure to play it in HD.
JAVIDMO 11 - Just this video is meant for Javidmo. It’s what tells the tragic tale of the woman in the oval portrait.
If you watched the credits… here’s what really happened. There were no credits in the video. The video ends at the church, but the music you hear in the credits continues to play live.
To better help you understand; if you’re at all familiar with The Oval Portrait, then you know it’s only about a page and half long. I had to write 18 pages in order to make the story long enough to perform on stage. So basically what I came up with was a story of reincarnation. Every lifetime, at some point these same people (from the events in the video (Andre: aka: the painter, his wife or woman in the oval portrait and the caretaker)) are all trapped reliving the events of the past.
Because of her death, her heartbreak… each new lifetime of her husband, she created a never-ending cycle where he ends up where they were always meant to be, and then she kills him.
When the lights come back on… Andre is leaning on his elbow on his side with a smile… It’s Prince Prospero and he says: “Were you not scared?”
The audience in those last few seconds go from screams, to laughter and applause, but it’s not over yet!
Prospero asks for members of the audience to join him on stage for a dance. All the other actors (still dressed in character) find a partner and dance a waltz with audience members.
The entire time this show is going on, I’m backstage doing my makeup.
After a bit of dancing, I slowly come on stage wearing a long hooded red cape, my face covered by a plain white mask. As I saunter around the festivities, I casually touch a couple of actors and they drop dead. Then I stop center stage when one of the characters notices me and yells! “It’s the Red Death!”
Prospero denies this of course and approaches me, assuring the audience that everything is fine. When he reaches for my mask to pull it off, my flesh comes off with it revealing… that I am in fact the Red Death!
At this point, I grab Prospero by the shoulder, he convulses and dies. The rest of the cast screams and scatters, running for the exits, but they are locked in. I throw my arms in their direction causing each and every one to fall and perish.
Once they are dead, I stand alone facing the audience.
Music is brought up.
Here are some final shots after the show, a lot of people wanted shots of me in my makeup.
I wasn’t wearing a mask under the white one or prosthetics, each night I did my make up from scratch, so my look changed a bit for each show.
Thanking the audience for coming and for the applause after the show