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The Crypt Club Chronicle - Sample

CHAPTER ONE (Work in Progress)

If there is one lesson in creating an ambitious, self-financed short film it is this: Aim high and never say die.

I knew from the start that The Crypt Clubwould be a challenge. But the magnitude of that challenge did not strike me until I stood on a tree-lined ridge planning shots with my Director of Photography Walter Pacifico. He turned to me with a gleam in his eye and said, “You know, we are not making a short film. We are making a short feature.” His observation rang like a bell.

Yes, The Crypt Clubwas not going to be a modest, hat in hand student project. It was going to have a big scope and challenge everyone involved. To succeed we would need many friends, a whole lot of faith, and more than a little luck.

There were desperate, black moments along the way, and it was tempting to quit each time we encountered adversity. But we discovered that the harder we worked, the luckier we got.

So, we found ways to turn each negative into a positive. And our enthusiastic perseverance paid off as people rallied around us, and our film. We were frequently surprised and humbled by their generosity.

This is the chronicle of The Crypt Club: a film that would not die.

STORY TO SCRIPT TO DESK DRAWER

The Crypt Clubis a cautionary tale similar to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart and the grisly comeuppance stories in EC Comics’ Tales From The Crypt. It’s inspired by a legend from the Middle Ages about a sinister cemetery statue. However, The Crypt Clubgoes beyond the original tale’s ending to explore conflicting themes of personal values and peer pressure, guilt and conscience.

But it did not start that way.

The Crypt Clubbegan as a challenge between friends to create a short film as a director’s calling card. The first draft of The Stake is five pages long and stays close to the original legend. The story then evolves from a group of kids and a spooky dare on a country road to a trio of teenage girls in an old cemetery for a midnight initiation into the mysterious Crypt Club. And the title is born.

To establish a fable-like quality I keep the story’s era and location vague, and none of the girls has a last name. But the girls’ ritual is based on specific Christian, Wicca, and Masonic rites.

On completing the script, I apply to every government and arts council grant available, with no luck. Friends suggest I shoot on video to keep costs down. But nothing I’ve seen convinces me that a story set entirely at night in a forest will look anything but murky if shot on video. The Crypt Clubhas to be shot on film.

So, life rolls on while I earn a living as a second assistant director, still searching for a way to produce The Crypt Club. At one point, the script is to be the first of a trilogy of stories to pitch a feature length film centred on our fictitious Necropolis cemetery. It doesn’t pan out.

The script lingers on my laptop for two years, sustained by occasional encouragement from friends and colleagues until…

CARPE DIEM

An overwhelming urgency to make The Crypt Clubhits me while visiting an ailing family friend in a California nursing home. I lived with Leah Mae Young’s family while studying at the American Film Institute a dozen years earlier. Suddenly I realize that Time and Promise are rocketing by. But it’s only too late to act when it’s all over. Until then it’s never too late to start.

There is a Spanish saying, 'A Dios rogando, y con el mazo dando.' which translates into 'Pray to God, and swing the mace'. It’s the medieval equivalent of 'Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.' It reminds me that it’s good to have faith in divine providence, but don’t stop fighting for what you want.

I want to direct feature films. After years working in the film industry, praying for a break, it is time to swing the mace – and keep swinging it until I break through.

THE BREAK THROUGH

The Crypt Clubchanges from a pipe dream to a smoking production thanks to a barrage of calls and the fortunate convergence of several key production partners.

In July of 2002, ACTRA Toronto launches a new initiative for low-budget projects: Toronto Indie Productions (TIP). The program grants qualifying producers seriously discounted rates on topflight Canadian acting talent. Tasso Lakas, Indra Escobar, and Jennifer McLaren skillfully shepherd our application through the approval process.

Across town at PS Production Services they announce a Kick Start Program that offers a substantial equipment package free to fledgling filmmakers. Gerry Robinson is our PS sales rep and our internal champion, along with Rae Thurston, Alex Sandahl, John Tally, and much of the PS staff.

Jesse Ikeman, president of Sudden Storm Productions, agrees to oversee finances and consult on festival marketing.

Special make-up and effects wizards Louise and Ray Mackintosh of Caligari Studio. are looking to break into the production side of the business. They bring a wealth of taste and artistic savoir-faire, contributing wonderfully creepy designs, labour, and materials.

My long-time friend Walter Pacifico comes aboard as Director of Photography and we begin a seemingly never-ending series of creative and technical meetings.

Post Production Supervisor Jeff Glickman strikes a deal with Kevin Barendregt at Toybox Toronto to take care of our post-production lab work.

Last on this list, but number one in my heart, is my wife and co-producer, Nancy Moore, without whom none of it would have been possible or worthwhile.

Each and everyone’s encouragement and support is invaluable, and remains tremendously appreciated.

With our key production partnerships in place, we start looking for our actors.

CASTING

Our agreement with ACTRA Toronto’s TIP program allows us access to professional actors at a fraction of the normal guild rate. Great. But there’s a drawback. Many actors are unaware of this newly created production incentive program and few agents are willing to submit clients for roles at reduced fees. So how are we going to lure quality actors to The Crypt Club?

Casting director extraordinaire Juli-Ann Kay baits the hook by putting the full script and a glowing character breakdown online for the agents. Almost over night, agents who previously refused to submit a single actor are excited by the roles available and submit multiple candidates.

Overcoming one casting hurdle leads to the next one. As originally scripted, the dominant girl, Liesl, is overweight. Of the three principal roles, Liesl gets the fewest submissions. This turns out to be a very lucky break.

Faced with a shortage of physical Liesls we mix and match actors during auditions, ignoring physical traits and focusing on acting ability, personality, and relationships. By tossing the script’s visual stereotyping we discover a stronger set of characters and the actors to portray them.

Juli-Ann and I have worked with Alison Pill before and we want her in the film. Juli-Ann sends her the script and she agrees to come in. Initially she reads the role of Julie, but Juli-Ann senses something more and asks her to read for Liesl, the bully. Her presence and intensity make us re-think Liesl. But we’re unsure about casting her because she’s in high demand and might be unable to commit if a better offer comes along. We have a back up actor in mind, but we discover she lied about being able to drive, which is imperative for Liesl. We heed our initial impulse and offer the role to Alison, who agrees. We have our anchor character.

In casting the roles of Julie and Pearl we focus on creating a believable dynamic between each pairing: Liesl & Pearl; Liesl & Julie; and, Pearl & Julie.

During the auditions, it’s Michèle Duquét, my first choice to play the Gretch Angel, who points out Jessica Greco’s depth as the submissive Pearl. It’s the least flashy of the three key roles, so it requires talent and taste to keep Pearl credible through her transformation.

Kerry Segal first reads for Liesl in dark, punk clothes and black-rimmed eyes. Her presence is larger than her stature and she has range, but there’s no way to place her opposite two taller girls and make you believe she could physically intimidate them. So we cast her as Julie and let her feistiness clash with Alison’s steely Liesl.

With the human performers selected, we turn to securing The Crypt Club’s final key role...

THE HEARSE

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