How Cynicism is Killing Entertainment


By "Six Degrees of Hell" Screenwriter, B Harrison Smith
The Hotel of Horror on the day of the first tech scout...
Getting all of these personalities together to focus on a single film is a tough job and requires planning on all fronts. Once you have a budget in place, you see how realistic it is by negotiating with potential crew on salary and equipment pricing.
Our crew chiefs on the day of the first tech scout were Kevin Martin, Gaffer, Aaron Smith, Head Electric, Key Grip Paul Chresomales, Chuck J. Stone, Unit Production Manager and Charlie Anderson our Director of Photography. Hotel owners, Dan and Marlo Ambrosio were there to walk us through. The tech scout is to see the physical layout of the building: pinpoint power sources and any issues with power consumption. Charlie sketched layouts for lighting and how envisioned the rooms to appear on camera. Kevin's job is to take that data and turn into a proper lighting setup for the camera to get everything Charlie's eye frames out.
Director Joe Raffa walked the building, laying out his plan for how the action would flow as he worked hand in hand with Unit Production Manager, Chuck Stone on the shots of the film and the angles needed to capture it.

Meeting in the bar area of the Hotel of Horror on the first tech scout


If any aspiring filmmakers are reading this, we can't stress enough the importance of prepping your film. TV and the Internet make it out that you just show up, camera in hand and make a movie. Money aside, the most important thing is a top notch crew. Without good lighting, and people who make sure that lighting gets the power it needs as well as efficient equipment setup, you have nothing. Period. The actors look good because of the crew and there is no other way about it.


This crew struck me as different right away because of what they DIDN'T say. They watched. They listened. I remember Kevin Martin's first official words were simply, "Can I see the fuse box?" With that, owner Dan Ambrosio took him to the basement to see the power panel as Kevin assessed the energy capabilities of the Hotel. Despite his flashy entrance in the parking lot, he was damned serious about his work and his eyes were always in motion, taking everything into account.

Kevin Martin (red T-shirt)  onset of "Six Degrees of Hell" with Tom Quigley
Charlie Anderson was the same way. He didn't say much, conferring with Joe on what could and couldn't be done for Joe's lighting wishes. Charlie is a watcher as well and Aaron Smith...he might have said five words the entire Hotel walk. Paul Chresomales was the Rodney Dangerfield of the group, as when the crew's humor came out, they took it out on poor Paul. However someone there said Paul had that thousand watt smile and took it as well as they dished out the busting.

Paul "I Get No Respect" Chresomales and Aaron "Gabble Guts" Smith onset of "Six Degrees"


The walk through of the Hotel led us into Kunkletown and the other locations and out to Jim Thorpe where the day would end. While most could care less about what goes on with a tech scout, it is important for a number of reasons. Aside from the technical and logistical  aspects it is usually when everyone meets and gets to know each other.


This was a different crew than my previous film. Every film is different. These guys were all in their 20's and while they had the devil in their eyes, they had serious work in mind. A nice lunch at a spiffy hamburger joint allowed us to talk about stuff aside from the film, and I found that they all had a sharp sense of humor, knew their stuff and were going to be a good bunch of people to spend almost a month with.



All of these warm fuzzy assessments belie a lot of work that came before the meeting. A budget had to be drawn up and then the reality behind the budget: can you get the crew needed with the money you have? A month before that walk through it was constant phone conversations and negotiations on salaries, equipment price and most of all what was needed to make this crew function.


It was give and take, with Anderson coming forward to assist with the help of an associate who had the proper grip and electric truck that would get us through this shoot. I brought back key personnel from "The Fields" after salary talks, the proper generator had to be found that would meet Kevin Martin's needs to power the lights. We secured the onset sound mixer, as sound is also vital. Sound is more than just showing up with a boom mike and someone to hold it and thinking you have sound. There's the eventual sound designer that comes on board after shooting that has to use that onset sound and if your sound tech sucks, so does your final product.


Sound is key and we were lucky to get Travis Groves


Travis Groves was so good as our onset sound mixer that our post production sound designer and composer, John Avarese gave his highest praise: "this guy makes my life so easy." Additionally Groves struck me as personable and friendly from the moment I met him via phone and in person. A bear of a guy, he had a friendly face, always a smile and looked like a local celebrity doctor that the area loves.


Oh, and Travis drives a big white van with no windows...(we had to smudge his image somehow).


Kevin and Aaron would assemble their crew that would arrive the night before principal photography would begin. Just when you think "that's all there is to it" you have the following issues to contend with before a single frame can roll:


- Lodging and feeding your crew

- Production Assistants

- Script Supervisor

- Road permits, township permits and any other legal issues

- Location confirmations (But you said you had your locations. Wait for it...)

- Casting

- Celebrity talent and the negotiation with agents and managers that comes with it

- SAG: The Screen Actors Guild

- Equipment transport

- Gathering extras and how many and the services needed for them (bathrooms, food, etc)

- Special effects, makeup crew, hair, etc.

- Social Media: getting a website, Facebook, YouTube and then having stuff to put on them

- Media and press relations

- Legal services: lawyers, copyright, insurances

- Getting the proper vehicles: cop cars, etc.

- Wardrobe for all actors

- Set photographer

- Preparing for any crap that can go wrong and invariably does when you least need it


A stellar crew makes a stellar cast shine. Enough can't be said about the crew for "Six Degrees of Hell"


In Part 3 we will look at how you pull the above items together to make a film in 19 days of actual shooting.

















Blog Stats

  • Total posts(36)
  • Total comments(0)

Forgot your password?