Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Most Horrendous Thing I've Seen On Set...

I've never been a fan of horror/slasher films, but I've worked on quite a few of them. Despite the pools of fake blood, dark lighting, and body parts everywhere, the set of a horror film isn't nearly as scary as what you see in the movie theater.

There are some exceptions, however.

Late last year, I was day-playing on a feature being shot in some old house east of downtown LA. The house itself was kind of creepy/cool looking and judging by the trails of "blood" on the floor, chains on the walls and weapons table in the corner, I quickly deducted that I was spending the day on a horror film. "Hm...," I thought to myself, "This should be awesome."

There were rumors floating among the crew that the house itself is actually haunted and after poking around some of the empty rooms, I kind of believed it too. It was obvious that no one had lived in the house for years, though it wasn't clear why. The details in the furniture, doorways, staircases, etc were beautifully carved in a way that you just can't find these days and the bathrooms were so classic that the tiled floors were checkered and the bathtub had feet. Despite the gray clouds outside casting dark shadows in the already dusty rooms, you could tell that at one point, the house was filled with color and life. But not anymore. Even the overgrown weeds on the front lawn were starting to die.

Anyway, being as this was an ultra low budget shoot, the film crew consisted of the usual mish-mash of film folk and Director's/Writer's/Producers' "I'm just here to help out" friends. That meant that no one in the wardrobe department knew how to sew, the Script Supervisor was taking notes with a Sharpie and the AD had a habit of calling "Action!" before sound and camera were rolling.

This also meant that a good chunk of the electric crew didn't know what they were doing either, and about four hours in, someone somewhere plugged in something they shouldn't have, and all the lights went out.

Did I mention this was a night shoot?

Needless to say, if working in a creepy abandoned house in the dead of night doesn't get your heart beating and your hair to stand on end, having the lights suddenly go out on you will.

After some shrieks from the freaked out make-up people and some fumbling around in the dark on my part, we managed to get the lights back up again and it was back to business as usual. Meanwhile, I made the rounds to make sure that everything else that needed to be on was still working.

Work lights for Wardrobe? Check.
Work lights for grip and electric staging? Check.
Coffee maker at crafty? Check.

I was just about to head back to set when I heard a faint scratching noise coming from the next room... Which was supposed to be empty. How odd...

As I slowly creep towards the doorway to investigate, a million thoughts of what it could be was rushing through my mind. Was it a ghost? Was it a rat? A tree branch against the window? A ghost? Please don't let it be a ghost...

Thankfully, it was just a little, white, fluffy dog. Since this was an "I'm just here to help out So-and-So" crew, lunch was being made by a friend of a Producer's who had just graduated from a prestigious culinary school. She also had just gotten a new puppy and didn't want to leave it alone at night, so she brought him to work.

After my heart stopped racing, I followed the puppy back to the kitchen where his owner was prepping for tonight's meal. I figured that since I needed to go back there to check the lights anyway, she might get a kick out of how her dog almost gave me a heart attack and maybe even give me a taste of what's cooking.

Only, when I got there, what I saw made my stomach turn.

As she was leaning over the counter, she had the fluffy puppy in one hand and was feeding him something with the other. Whatever it was, it must have been good because the dog was licking her fingers like there was no tomorrow. Then, without washing it (or even wiping it on her jeans), she used the same bare hand to mix the salad.

And that, my friends, was the most horrendous thing I've seen on set.

Happy Halloween!

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