Sunday, November 6, 2011

Making Swamp Movies

A little while after last Halloween, I remember sending Jon Glassett an email asking if he'd ever want to score a very VERY short prop-based film. I think I assured him he'd have months to score and there'd be no deadline whatsover. I think that was my brain's way of easing me into the process of doing something I've been curious about since I was a kid - making a movie. I knew I needed to have some people watching my back if I was going to do this. Firstly, my lady. To have endless encouragement and support (and acting and puppeteering) from my wife through the process has been overwhelming.

We shot the swamp scenes on a late Spring day, it was very warm, very muddy, and the sticky ground was crawling with strange swamp spiders. Tons of them. But there she was, dressed as a Witch in a long pointy hat, heading off into the smelly swamp so I could get the perfect shot. And I wasn't the best director either. I can see why it's a rare thing for a monster-maker to leave the comfort of the prop shop and do anything involving a camera. To see the scenes in your head is one thing: to make it happen on film is quite another. And I started to feel the pressure early on, and I think I was stressing out quite a bit - but there she was, shoot after shoot...carrying that very heavy puppet...resting against tombstones or wet trees in swamps. And encouraging me, and helping me laugh. And making the process fun. We'd replay a filmed scene on the tiny digital screen on the camera, her still in the Witch costume, and we'd laugh and smile at seeing a tiny Witch on the horizon, carrying a tiny fetus.

When we shot the cave scene, with the wall of candles. That was in a tiny room under the porch of the house we lived in before this one. We were packing for our move, but we knew we had to use that moist little concrete room for the Cave and then the Crypt scenes. While I was photographing the Witch in her cave, after all the video had been captured, and Bean had gone upstairs to get out of that wet weird air, I had my back turned to the candles and I heard intense crackling. The paper mache wall had burst into flames. Burst. And the flames were bending over the ceiling (which was under the porch thankfully). The room, the basement, and the upstairs flooded with black smoke. We were coughing on acrid smoke...with carbonized spores no doubt from that awful wet little room. And we were sick for days after. It couldn't have been a coincidence. We ate black charred spores.

The movie exists because of her support. Because of being able to say "Will you work this puppet, and dress as a Witch?" and knowing she'll say 'yes' and that she'll make it fun and worth it.

The second person who I knew I absolutely needed through this process was my friend Jon Glassett. His talent literally awes me. His work always, without fail, goes specifically where my subconscious was hoping it would go. Working with him, I see now why directors often times attach themselves to film composers, and work with them for the length of their careers.

Making a silent film probably should have been a scary thing, but I knew Jon would fill that silent void with music that would emote and terrify and unnerve. And the fact that he did this on such an accelerated schedule just floors me. My promises of limitless nonexistent deadlines turned out to be a lie. But he delivered. Flawlessly.

I can remember watching the movie for the first time with the final cue, sitting there literally with my mouth open...and a huge grin forming. When the foetus slithers into the dried-up corpse, and the body seems to musically scream out in pain, I got chills. Literally got chills at a scene I had watched way too many times during editing.

Jon's THAT good. He's the real deal.

Click below to go to Jon's blog.
He's posted the mp3 of his stunning Swamp Foetus score, and shared some thoughts about the process.


NecroBones said...

Wow, that's really awesome. I don't think my wife would go into a swamp full of spiders. :) You're a lucky, lucky man. :)

Anonymous said...

It is really cool that Bean(who made a great little witch) gave you all the support you needed to help see one of your childhood dreams and vision come true and your friend Jon took the time to create a score for your short film.

You all did a great job on this and thanks for bringing an awesome little Halloween film treat to us....

Tworivers said...

That's a great writeup Rot. The right woman.... can make or break a man. The right woman.... can make all the difference. The right there side by side with you thru thick and thin. The right ...woman's love is truly unconditional. Sounds like you married that...woman. Your a lucky man. The film was wonderful. I am now inspired to do one. I am a musician so, I write write the score myself as I have already done for a Sasquatch documentary. Oh, Btw, hanging jack-o-lanterns from the trees......Brilliant !!! Sincerely haunted, Tworivers. said...

crazy. learning the back story to the movie. labor of love!

Marianne said...

It is so interesting to here about the behind the scenes of Swamp Foetus! And so cool that Bean is your "partner in crime". It has got to be so much fun to get to share that together.
Joe is so supportive of my creative endeavors but I don't think I could talk him into hanging around in a spider infested swamp for hours.
I was wondering were in the world you filmed the crypt scene. That is one creepy little room!!!
Hope you didn't get your hair singed in the fire. Yikes!

Wikkedmoon said...

It's fun to hear how the movie was born. You and Bean are one cool couple! I think the way you create your props speaks to my childhood dreams and memories for sure. My fave TV shows were definitely the Muensters and the Addams family. I used to wish I could live in those houses.

House Bloodthorn said...

I confess my outright envy of your collaborators. Inspiring and inspired work by all involved. You are one fortunate soul, my friend.

Grim said...

Loved hearing about how the movie was made... that technique is much better than the one I have used in the past, which is picking the music and trying to make the video match it.

wicKED said...

I wonder just how hard it would be to fully express our love for Halloween without understanding or contributing partners. I would have crashed and burned long ago. You are a lucky man Rot. Thanks for the perceptive.

I love the behind the scene looks at your video. Very inspiring.

That score is perfect. Again, you are lucky for the company you keep! Looking forward to your creations in the future.

Heather said...

I think we all should be thanking Bean MORE!! :D Behind every great man, is his woman!! LOL. Thank you Bean for encouraging and helping and inspiring this artist that we all love so much. Hats off to both of you! Always looking forward to more.

The Gill-Man said...

I've become quite a fan of Mr. Glassett, frequently heading over to his blog to catch new audio nightmares from him! I thank you profusely for hipping me to him! I have a group of his tunes on my iPod that I listen to on late night walks. I find his stuff fires up my imagination in a fantastic way, lending inspiration to my writing.

This film is truly a wonderful gem. The props and costumes are, not suprisingly, amazing. Add in the camerawork, Bean's incredible work with the puppet/costume (which is truly creepy) and Jon's unsettling score, and you have the recipe for a truly eerie film. I'm glad to see Dread Central is giving this some attention, as the talent on display here deserves wider recognition.