Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Filming of Scarewaves - A Night on Set with Henrique Couto (or “does anyone know how to turn off this fire alarm?”)

            Until this past Tuesday night the height of my experiences as a horror movie fan was when I had the opportunity to be an extra on the set of Henrique Couto’s Haunted House of Sorority Row.  Although Henrique said he imagined that watching what he does must be as interesting as watching someone paint a room, he could not be further from the truth.  Not only was it an interesting experience to watch a horror film be made and walk the set of such a great movie, but to watch such an interesting person as Henrique in action was a true treat.  Truth be told, I don’t think Henrique could be dull if he tried.  On Tuesday night, I got to revisit this experience, but to a much more significant degree.  Once again, I was not disappointed and I want to take the time to share my night with you, ragers.

            First, I will provide a little background information.  Unlike my previous experience on a Henrique Couto set, this time, I had a much greater investment in the project.  It was not simply a chance to watch a really cool movie get made by a unique and interesting individual.  This time, I was watching something I had written be put into action.  Tuesday night’s filming of Scarewaves was for the Office Case segment.  For those not aware, Scarewaves is an anthology in the tradition of Tales from the Crypt or Creepshow. 

“Scarewaves is about a paranormal radio shock jock named Amos Satan who, on the last night of his broadcast, decides to share with his audience the scariest true stories he’s heard in his years in radio. The stories are:
Worth the Wait – A young woman tries to stay sane as she waits for her lover to return with a fortune he stole from the woman he murdered.
Office Case – A former police officer takes a job as a night watchmen only to be haunted by all the lives he ruined while in the line of duty.
Painting After Midnight - An artist goes to devilish length to create paintings to die for…
Fair Scare – Bank robbers decide to commit a terrible act in the name of splitting their loot only two ways…”

            Each story was written by a different individual working with Couto to bring his vision to life.  I was honored when Henrique asked me to write Office Case and thrilled to be a part of the filming Tuesday night.  My involvement was not limited to simply watching and the occasional gopher work, however.  Both one of my daughters and I had a part in Scarewaves.  I played Links, the day security guard who hands over the baton, or in this case mag light and snarky comments, to the former police officer turned security guard.  My daughter played a brief, but vital role of one of those ruined lives haunting the former officer, Easterly.  For us, that is where it started.

            We met outside of our undisclosed location (no, there were no blindfolds involved, I’m just not allowed to say where filming took place).  I was excited to see Geoff Burkman stepping into the role of Easterly.  Being a fan of his work from Babysitter Massacre, I knew that this was going to be a great night.  I watched Geoff and Adam Clevenger (Awkward Thanksgiving) going through their lines as we waited for Henrique to arrive.  We talked and joked around and then everyone pitched in when Henrique arrived and we got everything inside.  Erin Ryan (Babysitter Massacre, Skinless, Haunted House on Sorority Row) and Eric Widing (Hellhounds, Babysitter Massacre, Haunted House on Sorority Row) worked on the other side of the camera, assisting Henrique in any way needed during the shoot.  The atmosphere was more of a family than a film crew.  Everyone did whatever needed to be done, laughing and having a good time all the while.  However, when it was time to get down to business, everyone did just that.

            The first set of scenes to be shot were the interrogation room scenes with Geoff Burkman and Adam Clevenger, who was playing the internal affairs agent investigating Easterly.  The performances flowed as if the characters were a natural extension of the actors.  Even though I had just been talking with them, I stopped seeing Geoff and Adam and started seeing Easterly and the IA Agent.  After those scenes were done, there was a brief break while Henrique explained how he wanted everything set for the next part and it was time for me to have my first chance to speak with the cameras rolling.

            I really don’t have a basis for comparison on my experience working for Henrique in the two scenes that we filmed in which I was involved.  With the exception of my previous one evening on the set of Haunted House on Sorority Row, another Henrique Couto movie, I have never been on present for a movie filming before Tuesday night.  I can say that I was impressed with how smooth the entire thing run.  I didn’t realize going in that the same scene would be shot from multiple angles in order to facilitate the most effectively edited scene for the final product.  We shot and reshot, sometimes stopping mid-line because Henrique just wanted to get a certain view from one line to the middle of the next line.  It all makes me really eager to see the incredible work I am sure Eric Widing will do in the editing room to bring it all together.  We went to move into our next scene, my daughter’s scenes.  That’s when things got interesting.

            Did you know that a fog machine can set off a fire alarm in an office building?  Have you ever experienced just how loud and ear piercing fire alarms are in office buildings?  Were you aware that fire alarms in office buildings are apparently very difficult to shut off?  I learned all of these things on Tuesday night.  Just a little bit of fog was being prepared to help with the atmosphere of the setting (after all, we were in an office building, it was not as if a lot would have made sense).  The mist of artificial fog was beginning to grow heavy and Henrique was yelling to his crew, who didn’t seem to be hearing him, multiple times to shut it off.  That was when the fire alarms started blaring.  Henrique’s contact at the building was justifiably freaking out about how her boss would react and told Henrique to get everyone and everything out of the building right at that moment.  In a flash, we packed everything up, grabbed all that we had brought in, and went outside to wait and see if we were done for the night.

            At this point, I would have been freaking out had it been my production.  The use of an office building is vital to Office Case, hence the name, and we were not even half way through shooting the office building scenes.  Henrique had called in favors to get this to work and it was looking very uncertain if we would be allowed back in at all that night.  Henrique stood calm and cool, weighing the options and trying to come up with alternatives while it all played out in front of him.  He knew that being allowed to continue in this building was out of his hands.  He would try to talk to his contact once everything calmed down, but she would make the final decision.  Instead, he focused on problem solving and even had a couple of viable, even though less favorable options figured out in case we were done.  While I won’t give the name of the town in which we were located, I will say that it is a very small, quiet area with little going on, so it was no surprise when a fire truck and additional fire vehicle promptly appeared.

            We stood by watching and waiting, discussing amongst ourselves what the likelihood was that we would be allowed back in to finish the night.  Once the fire department personnel were gone, Henrique made his way back into the building and spoke with his contact.  He rushed back out to tell us that we needed to get everything back in NOW!  We were on a large time crunch.  We were being allowed to finish, but with very limited time in which to do so.  We again worked as a team to haul everything back in and Henrique pointed and instructed masterfully to get right into action.  Henrique displayed another side to his great skills as he got exactly what he wanted out of my daughter’s short, but important performance.  If you know my daughter, you realize that getting her to follow specific instructions is no minor feat!  Henrique’s next challenge was harder, dealing with me again!

            My part in the film is broken into a scene at the beginning of the segment and the very end.  My end scene involves my goofball, carefree, too-laid-back character to encounter something horrific.  I won’t say what for the sake of avoiding spoilers.  While I hit my lines just as Henrique wanted, I wasn’t getting the expression of terror right.  Henrique patiently walked me through exactly what he wanted to see and in the end, got the shots he wanted.  I had been so focused on studying my lines prior to Tuesday night that I had not even considered working on my facial expressions in a mirror!  Well, that’s a lesson I will take with me should Henrique ever be kind enough to allow me a small part in one of his future films. 

            That pretty much ended the night for my daughter and me.  We stuck around for a little while longer to watch them film some of the scenes of Geoff going through the hallways on his rounds.  Knowing that the smoke machine was out of the question now, I watched as Henrique masterfully manipulated his equipment and lighting to create the atmosphere he wanted.  With a wish of luck to Eric Widing regarding what magic he would have to perform in editing, Henrique got right back down to business, giving direction only where needed and allowing Geoff’s skills to come to the forefront of the scenes.  After a few minutes, my daughter and I found a good point to exit, wished everyone best of luck on the rest of the shoot and began our long drive home.

            I later talked to Henrique about how the rest of the night went.  My daughter and I had left around 1 in the morning and I wasn’t sure how much longer Henrique was being given to work.  No need to despair, however, all of you Henrique Couto fans, the news to come back was very positive.  According to Henrique:

“We continued shooting at an incredible pace, shooting about 40 minutes worth of footage in under an hour and a half. We got basically everything we needed and some b-roll to boot. We wrapped by 2am and our hosts were actually ready to leave before us. We cleaned up our space, packed up and were on our way. Mostly the best guests we could be. haha.”

                So that, ragers, was my experience on the set of Scarewaves.  It is definitely something I will never forget.  Given the issues with the smoke, the fire alarms and fire department, and the near ending of filming at the location well before we were ready to be done, I don’t think it is a night Henrique will ever forget either.  I would say that I can only hope that the movie is as great a time as the filming was, but given that it was Henrique Couto at the helm, we all know it will be amazing.  I will leave you with just one last tidbit before sharing my exclusive, behind the scenes pictures of the night’s filming.  What no one will know, besides you, ragers, is that the little girl who shows up towards the end of the Office Case segment was actually under the conference table the entire time when Links and Easterly are having their opening discussion!  Not that this has nothing to do with the story line.  It was just really late, and my little girl was tired waiting for her role!!


  1. Thanks for writing this bro!! Looking forward to this movie!!!

  2. Can't wait to see it! Bet my niece makes the creepiest little ghost girl ever!

  3. Creepy and a little heartbreaking, but you'll have to watch the movie to see what I mean!