“Don’t Be Scared” Film Journal Day 3

Considering day 2 we were behind schedule almost the entire day, late Saturday night I met with assistant director Chris Ramirez and dp Josh Paney as I felt we needed to get a bit of an early start our final day. The main reason for this of course is we once again had to black windows. This time even moreso than the steadicam shot the previous day as we would see the kitchen windows, plus since we were to do the infamous stairs scene we had to black out a little bit of the upstairs again as well. So, because of all the work we had to do as well as having a little smaller crew, call was at 11.

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Our goal with our new call time was to start shooting around 1. While like everything else, nothing goes to plan that didn’t happen. Instead it wasn’t until about 1:30-1:45 we were able to shoot. This is mainly because of two things. 1. Blacking out the side of the house where the stairs was had some complications for a while. 2. As great as the location is, our stairway was a little narrow.

However, once lights got set up, things got going pretty quickly. In fact, we were even able to do some spur of the moment shot innovation courtesy of Josh by doing a handheld shot as Catherine walks down the stairs and sees the shadow. It worked quite well, especially considering we didn’t have Justin on steadicam for day 2.

Josh Paney (dp) filming actress Eleni Masouras (Catherine).
Josh Paney (dp) filming actress Eleni Masouras (Catherine).

 

The first half of the shots on the stairs went pretty easily. We did some over the shoulder shots, a closeup, etc. Later on the stairs though we ran into a bit of a roadblock. We needed to create a similar shadow to the shot we had the previous evening of the uncle’s shadow (me standing in). The problem was that the shadow was looking a bit odd. To paint you a better visual, instead of just seeing legs and body and a well defined head, the shadow looked like a combination of Nosferatu and Albert Hitchcock. So we were delayed a bit until Josh finally figured something out.

Like how we’ve shot previous days, the stairs was our most difficult section of the day, so once we wrapped that up, the rest of the day wasn’t so bad. It was pretty much catching up at that point. I believe once the stairs was done we were about an hour or so behind. Thankfully, the next few shots were pretty smooth.

First, we did a couple shots of Catherine by the grandfather clock. The only problem here is that the time had changed, so basically we had to reshoot a couple things we shot on Friday. Then we gradually moved from the clock to the dining room and outside of a few tweaks, everything was going smooth.

Eleni Masouras (Catherine)
Eleni Masouras (Catherine)

 

During this time, David Scott Crawford (Uncle John) finally arrived to set. Not to give too much away but the character of Uncle John was a tricky one to cast as I laid out previously in the casting blog. The main thing being it’s a rather neutral character but at the same time has to have a certain warmth. The amazing thing about David Scott Crawford is that despite all that he tried to make a character biography to get into character.

David Scott Crawford (Uncle John) preparing himself.
David Scott Crawford (Uncle John) preparing himself.

 

Once we finished with a few more shots with Eleni though, it was time for lunch or dinner considering what time it was. The nice thing was that once we had our meal, there wasn’t a lot more to do. We had to knock out the dining room scene and do one pickup upstairs and the film was wrapped.

Anyways, we got back to business and David was finally on deck. These shots for the most part went really quick. Lights didn’t really need to move outside of a few adjustments. There was one shot where Catherine has to walk along the dining room table and confront Uncle John. This one took a bit of time as we needed to time it out. This also is the only section of the film where there is dialogue, so we needed to place her at a certain spot near the front of the table and we had to make sure her lines ended by the time she got to Uncle John…not to mention we needed our boom Matt Mickelsen to pick her up in the best possible spot.

 

Matt Mickelsen (boom operator)
Matt Mickelsen (boom operator) and Chris O’Malley (pa)

 

It took about five takes to get that shot going and the final one looked great…or so we thought. Reason I say that is from there we did a couple more shots and Eleni was done. Then we started to do shots only involving David…but once we did that and Eleni was about to leave, she reminded us of a line of dialogue that needed to be in that shot.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am that she brought it up. Not only because I wanted that line in the film, but what we got in place of the previous take was something remarkable. In a stroke of genius Josh came up with the idea of doing the shot hand held and trust me, what we got looks amazing as it upped the intensity of the scene.

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Eleni Masouras (Catherine), Simon Mounsey (director), Josh Paney (dp) and David Scott Crawford (Uncle John).

 

Once that shot was done, Eleni was wrapped for the shoot. The only thing we needed to do was get a couple shots of David. These went pretty quickly and there wasn’t much that needed to happen. The only thing we did was try to do a few takes of him doing it differently, but at the end of the day it’s a ghost not saying anything. Basically, we’ll be fine with what we have.

Then once David was wrapped we did a company move upstairs to quickly reshoot the hallway shadow from the night previously, which between setup, shot and takedown only took about 15 minutes and then we were finally wrapped.

Before I sign off on the film journal for “Don’t Be Scared” though I want to give thanks to everyone on the shoot. From Samantha Segura who wrote an incredible script (that was many years in the making) and was my creative producer, to my partner in crime Josh Paney (dp), Matt Mickelsen who was our boom operator and will be doing our music, JD Scruggs who is the workhorse of the set — not to mention the owner of the majority of the equipment used and of course Jeremy Paney (Josh’s right hand man on camera).

The above is my core group and are all principally involved in Clerestory Productions. Some have worked with Josh and I since “Tick, Tock, Toe” and others have at least worked with us since this past summer’s “The Invention” and are all full members.

Chris Ramirez (assistand director)
Chris Ramirez (assistant director)

 

Beyond them though, I want to give a special thanks to Chris Ramirez who was everything an assistant director should be. He kept us on schedule and kicked us in the ass when we needed to be kicked in the ass. I also want to thank Justin Steinfeldt once again for his awesome steadicam work that will give “Don’t Be Scared” that extra quality. I also don’t want to thank our production assistants Matthew Pniewski, Jeff Deakin and Chris O’Malley who were a huge help in getting things done, especially when it came to blacking out all the windows.

And finally I don’t want to sign off without thanking the magnificent actors for “Don’t Be Scared.” Eleni Masouras was absolutely spectacular. She was a real trooper having to deal with cat allergies all weekends, delayed schedules and everything, but you know what? She didn’t complain once and helped us tremendously by informing us about her missing line, which I guess is what happens when you don’t have a script supervisor.

David Scott Crawford was also a pleasure to be with. I almost feel bad at times getting such a good actor when in reality he didn’t have to say a single line of dialogue. He did a fantastic job at being a mime though.

Most important of all though. I have to thank Jill Jenkins, the homeowner of the house we used to shoot “Don’t Be Scared.” I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better host. She allowed us to move anything, use any room and was overall excited for us to be filming in our home. Considering all the stress it took to find the location, this shoot truly would not have happened without her.

Well that’s it for now. Stay tuned as I will continue with updates for the post-production process of “Don’t Be Scared.”

 

— Simon Mounsey, Producer/Director of “Don’t Be Scared”

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