Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Making of Crestfallen - Entry #5


The key scene in CRESTFALLEN is the main character’s suicide, which is the engine that drives the entire picture.

A recent horror movie I love called VINDICATION, directed by Bart Mastronardi, has a suicide as a peak moment in the first act that defines the anti-hero. Bart’s film was the wall I had to bounce off of. How not to replicate his vision, which was personal, wounded, a naked display of vulnerability? My only fallback was that the entire opening of Bart’s movie is steeped in naturalism, to lull us into a “real world” that spirals into a nightmare.

That defined the way CRESTFALLEN had to go, which was the opposite direction—epic, operatic, a spectacle. That was the only way to escape VINDICATION. So we created a stylized world of smoke, light, water, something that shows how our emotions resonate large – Love, Hate, Despair, Envy.

These are as big as castles and kings, and we should never be afraid to go big. I never want to make a small movie. Yet here we are again, working with pennies, scraping together a movie with only two or three lights. With that, we aimed for the grand scale, shooting in widescreen. The paradox is it remains a small movie, a humble offering, a pauper’s feast. A woman attempts to kill herself and a flood of images wash over her. She goes to purgatory and emerges with a new understanding.

As you can imagine, this scene took the longest to shoot. Deneen, Dominick and I were up well into the night, and our colleague-at-arms was Arthur Cullipher. Arthur makes very, very bizarre, provocative and unnerving movies (one of them involves a kind of Lovecraftian vagina monster) and yet he must work out all of his madness onscreen because he was utterly professional, serene, calming, and very present for us when everyone else had, quite sensibly, gone to sleep (except for assistant director Leya Taylor, who fastidiously helped restore order to the mess we’d made in the rest of the house). Arthur was with us to the last, fastidiously setting up blood gags (and other, more invisible gags) that onscreen seem so simple but required diligence and steady care and reapplication. On a closed set where you want as few people around as possible during this emotionally and physically naked sequence for the actor, Arthur made himself indispensible and nearly invisible; an amazing bit of magic on his part.

I also nearly got my foot shot off by a small purse-sized handgun during this sequence, but that’s a story for another time…

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