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Friday, August 29, 2014

Be The Beast

 I first met writer/producer/director Randy Huckabone when he offered me the opportunity to work with him on a promotional teaser for one of his upcoming featuresShadow House (which is presently in its gestation/evolution cycle).  At the time, he had recently wrapped up work on Like The Spider, which is reviewed here in a previous post.

Earlier this year, Huckabone decided to invest his energies into something totally different—a type of project that only a few filmmakers have ever tried, and even fewer have accomplished. His goal was to shoot an entire feature-length (60 mins+) movie in one take, start-to-finish. No editing allowed.

When he asked if I would be interested in joining the cast of Eyes Of Wild, I thought, "This sounds positively insane." Considering the potential for technical issues, gaffs and screw-ups, the reasons why this will be a total waste of time far out numbered the odds for success. But his unstoppable enthusiasm and conviction convinced me he was still of sound mind and that maybe, just maybe, this was a thrill ride I needed to get on.

Obviously, in order to get that one, magical, 'camera-on to camera-off' success took numerous tries, preceded by relentless rehearsals. This was not like recording a stage play from a single location with a camera on a tripod—The camera man (Matthew Joseph Tharp), prop man (Kevin Santoro) and director Huckabone were moving the whole time, covering close to a 1/4 mile with each run-through.

And, because this was a night shoot with artificial lighting, any issues with lighting couldn't be addressed until after sundown. So, after a full day of rehearsals (in the rain), it was time to position the three diesel generator-driven light towers in various on and off road locations.

While the flood of illumination from the 12 industrial strength bulbs made it look like a night game at the ball park, getting it under control was tricky... and time consuming. While the crew noodled on the various production issues, the cast munched on dogs hot off the grill under the stars at 2 in the morning (thanks to Laura Joslyn Klibanoff). At 3:10AM , we got the call to places and prepared to shoot the "The Movie."And we did.

Also see: The 15 Greatest Long Takes In Cinema History


  Without giving anything away, Eyes Of Wild is a horror/suspense/thriller shot from the perspective of a nondescript, blood-thirsty creature—possibly an animal, or maybe Big Foot, or even an alien. You (the viewer) get to decide as you have the best seat in the house... or more accurately, the best seat in its head. What you see on the screen is the result of your own actions. You own every movement, every growl, every ear-piercing shriek. You are the beast, we're just your supporting cast, so go with it!

After a full day of rehearsing (and a night of filming in a field of gigantic stalks of dripping ragweed, an exhausted, damp and mosquito bitten cast and crew struck the set and returned to reality. Days past as we awaited word from director Huckabone as to the success or failure of the project. Did he get what he wanted? Was it all in vain? It ended up somewhere in between, leaning toward the former. Close, but no cigar. Technical problems, mostly with the lighting—we needed to shoot it again.

When I got the call for the re-shoot, I agreed to participate without hesitation (as did everyone else involved) ... and not because I enjoy being the blue plate special at the mosquito diner (discovering our own personal tolerances for Deep-Woods OFF was just part of the fun). No... this was a "too late to turn back now" moment—a second chance to make it better.

The first try had been so draining that, by the time we went for it, I know I had little left to give. This is an action movie. The physical demands on all of the actors has its intense moments. By the time that last take started, I knew I had hit the wall, and looking back, it was all just a blur.

So, a re-shoot was scheduled and because we had already been down this road (literally and figuratively), a lot of the problems from the first shoot had been solved. We were now able to concentrate on just getting this done.

The one thing that didn't change is the amount of time it took. In fact, it was after 4AM when we got the call to positions for the final "do or die" take. The last chance to get this right. For any of us to give anything less than 110% would be a disservice to ourselves and everyone else involved. Regardless of how exhausted I was, I did not want to leave this shoot thinking I that I had left anything on the table, and I knew all my fellow cast members were all of the same accord.

When I got my queue, I threw everything I had left into what I had to do. My scene called for me to fall to the ground and while trying to escape the claws of this killing machine—suffering intense pain. Truth be told, much of that grimacing wasn't acting.

In the end, we got it done and Randy Huckabone now has the visual foundation of what is sure to be a remarkable movie viewing experience. And, for those of us who endured two all-nighters in the middle of a damp, mosquito infested field, we have the experience, memories and bug bites from having done something quite remarkable and quite insane.

Big beastly kudos to the whole cast and crew of Eyes Of Wild — Everyone was brilliant to work with.

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