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Gregory Lamberson
Over the course of the last week, I achieved something I never imagined: three different projects of mine became available.  I've had two projects released the same month before, but never three.

First, GAVE UP THE GHOST, the short film I produced and directed based on a short storyby Jeff Strand (who also scripted) was released as one segment of CREEPERS, a horror antholgy, on a Limited Edition Blu-ray.  The short was a lot of fun to do, because I've wanted to collaborate with Jeff in a manner that would not tear our friendship to shreds (I could never co-write with anyone).  It also allowed me to work with some of my closest friends in Buffalo, and some new (and importan) collaborators.  It also allowed me to flex my comedy muscles - not my black comedy muscles, or my campy comedy muscles - as a nice warm up for KILLER RACK.
There are three other shorts based on horror stories in the anthology, including Joe Lansdale's BY THE HAIR OF THE HEAD, which was adapted by Mike T. Lyddon, who executive produced the entire anthology.  I'm proud of our little comedy, and you can read all about the anthology here:

But that was last week.  This week I had two projects released on the same day.

FIrst up is my novel THE FRENZY WOLVES, the final book in my werewolf trilogy The Frenzy Cycle.  I never intended to write a trilogy about werewolves; The Jake Helman Files is my chosen series.  THE FRENZY WAY was based on a screenplay I wrote long ago, and when I finished the novel, it was clear to me there was still material to explore, so I decided towrite one sequel.  And halfway through THE FRENZY WAR, it became clear that I needed a third book to wrap up character/plot threads I developed in the sequel.  I wrote THE FRENZY WOLVES specifically to be a wrapup, and it's an emotionally satisfying resolution for me.  Each of the hree novels has a different focus, but together they form one complete story.  There is no need to write another one, but I left the door open for a radical continuation should the opportunity present itself.  The reviews from Publishers Weekly, Fangoria and The Horror Fiction Review were fantastic, so I'm glad I got the chance to push the concepts in the first novel even farther.  You can order THE FRENZY WOLVES right here:

Also released Tuesday was DRY BONES, the low budget feature I wrote and co-directed with Michael O'Hear, who stars alongside Debbie Rochon and many of my Buffalo friends; it makes a great double feature with GAVE UP THE GHOST, in fact -you can see many of the same actors (and my hose) in different roles.  Three months ago, with this release gearing up, it felt like so little time had passed since we shot it.  Now - after shooting KILLER RACK - it seems like an eternity.  DRY BONES is a horor comedy, with the accent on comedy.  I wanted it to have an uncomfortable sense of humor, so people wondered if they should laugh or be scared.  Despite the low budget, I feel we succeeded; it has a truly quirky tone and plays with audience expectations.  There haven't been many reviews yet, but the ones that have appeared have been largely positive.  The film is available for rent at Family Video locations nationwide, which is in itself a major victory in today's amrketplace.  You can purchase DRY BONES right here:

Creating and co-creating these projects - along with producing THE LEGEND OF SIX FINGERS, finishing THE JULIAN YEAR, and writing the upcoming final Jake Helman novel, not to mention multiple drafts of the CARNAGE ROAD screenplay and producing and directing KILLER RACK - has not come without a price.  I'm in the middle of organizing (with Chris Scioli) Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival, and I feel every one of my 50 years - older, in fact.  I'm exhausted, and I'm ready for a couple of months relaxation and family time.

This Friday, I screen GAVE UP THE GHOST at the Eerie Horror Film Festival (and Jeff screens iton Sunday at the Halloween Horror Picture Show in Tampa).  Saturday I'll be signing copies of THE FRENZY WOLVES and DRY BONES inthe dealers room.  Next Wednesday we travel to NYC, where I'll be a guest in ROy Frumkes's class on horror films at SVA, and Saturday I'll be at Chiller Theater Expo in New Jersey.  When I come home, I moderate Buffalo Film Expo on Saturday,Nov. 1st, and travel to Toronto the next day for Horror[Rama, sponsored by Fangoria and Suspect Video.  Then I have Bufalo Dreams from Fri No. 7th - Thursday Nov. 13th.

Living the life!
Gregory Lamberson
09 October 2014 @ 10:38 am
BFX Final



Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival, which runs Friday November 7th - Thursday November 13th at the Eastern Hills Cinema, presents the second Buffalo Film Expo, a stand alone event, on Saturday, November 1st from 10 am to 5 pm at the Holiday Inn Buffalo Airport, 4600 Genesee Street in Cheektowaga. Admission is $10 for the day.

Buffalo Film Expo (BFX) is an educational event dedicated to promoting film production in the area and fostering professional practices among local movie makers. Workshops include Screenwriting, Producing Your First Feature, the NYS Film Production Tax Credit, Cinematiography, the Business of Acting, and Documentary Filmmaking. Buffalo Niagara Film Commissioner Tim Clark, Buffalo Film Office Director of Operations Rich Wall, and Nora Brown, Executive Director of the Rochester/Finger Lakes Film & Video Office are scheduled to participate.  

"For a few years now, filmmakers in Western New York have heatedly discussed how to build a viable film industry in this area," says Gregory Lamberson, who runs the event with Chris Scioli. "Thanks largely to the efforts of Tim, Rich and Nora, an aggressive state tax credit for film production begins in 2015, and we're already seeing productions come to town because of it; we're on the cusp of something real happening here, and BFX is as much about preparing area film production personnel for what's coming our way as it is about teaching the fundamentals of screenwriting and cinematography to people interested in those areas, and the business aspects of acting to our talented community of performers. Anyone serious about producing a film here will benefit from learning how the state can help. We've kept the price affordable for students as well."

Panelists will be announced closer to the event date. An additional workshop on Independent Film Distribution will be held one week later as part of Buffalo Dreams. Inexpensive sponsorships and tables for BFX are available; interested parties should contact Lamberson or Scioli through the Buffalo Dreams website or BFX Facebook page.

Visit Buffalo Film Expo on the Buffalo Dreams website:

Buffalo Film Expo on Facebook:

Gregory Lamberson
06 October 2014 @ 07:00 pm
We are edging into post productin on KILLER RACK, and I'm finally seeing some footage for the first time.  I've probably seen two thirds of the total footage at this point, and our editor, Phil Gallo, is cutting the portion we've sent him (including a six page scene we covered with like 60 shots...).  One of the bits I only just saw last week was some second unit footage filmed while I was in Toronto back in August, unscripted business that I felt would ramp up the suspense/excitement over seeing Betty's new boobs for the first time (and an evocaton of Kelly Forbes's fantastic poster).  Rod Durick staged and shot the scene, accomplished in one shot.  The choreography and extras were fantastic, but I wanted something a little different visually... I wanted something shot on the Ronin camera stabilizer, which we didn't start usng until later in the shoot.  I'm officially spoiled by the Ronin.

On very short notice, we booked the Ronin and tried to wrangle the same extras, since they did such a swell job, and one week after wrapping, Rod, Paul McGinnisreconvened at the Pierce Arrow Film Arts Center.   We got most, but not all of them back.  All we needed was good weather.  We've been very lucky with the weather on this shoot.  The forecast called for rain, and it rained.  The forecast called for a break in the rain, and it rained harder.  We waited around for it to stop raining, and it hailed.  With $200 in expenditures for the day, I was determined to get the scene,.  I prodded Rod, the great problem solver, to think of another location, one that was outdoors, with an awning.  He came up with theperfect solution: the Exchange Street Amtrack station in downtown Buffalo - almost as desolate as the Central Terminal Station, even though trains actually stop there.

We did a company move, even though we hadn't shot anything at Pierce Arrow, and elected to shoot right on the platform.  This is what's known as guerrill shooting: no permission, no permits, no insurance.  I haven't done a guerrilla shoot (on one of my own films) since 1998, when I didre-shoots for NAKED FEAR (shot three years earlier).  Fortunately, it was Football Sunday and we didn't see any police...anywhere.  More extras showed, and then two more after that.  Other faces appeared on theplatform, and we shooed them away.  I felt bad for a teenage couple ("Runaways," Jessica Zwolak said judgementally) - whatever Paul McGinnis said to them, they not only cleared the platform, they left the property altogether and were last seen heading toward Washington Street.

Rod re-staged his action, but lost his voice by the time he needed to say "Action," so I had Paul follow him and call out the cues for the different extras.  I have not seen the footage, and by the time I do it will be too late to re-shoot again, but what I saw on the LCD screen looked spectacular - so smooth - and the extras were fantastic again.  Jess didn't have a whole lot to do, but she walked well.  And that was a wrap on our first day of re-shoots.  One more day of re-shooting and one day of special effects pickups to go.
Gregory Lamberson
28 September 2014 @ 08:07 pm
Day Nineteen of KILLER RACK was the final day of principal photography (although one of those days was seciond unit).  I'd originally scheduled eighteen days, but that wasn't quite enough for a shoot this size.  Our agenda included three locations, which meant two company moves, not exactly an easy day despite the low page count,  First, we returned to Paul McGinnis's house to re-shoot a special effect I wasn't happy with, and a shot that "crossed the line," meaning that in one exchange two characters appeared to be looking in the same direction instead of each other (my mistake).  Since we were going to be there anyway, I added a cutaway of Nick Lama.  Nick plays one of our "three bumbling cops," and had been unable to participate when we shot the bulk of the scene we were now completing.  By adding the cutaway, his character is in the scene, and we got an extra joke I came up, one of those little touches that can improve a sce visually.

I met Paul an hour ahead of call time so we could arrange the furniture and set up, and our director of photography, Chris Rados, was the first to arrive.  Rod Durick, our co-producer, was unable to be on set because he had a wedding to attend.  Corin Defabbio joined us again to help with lighting.  We shot Nick out first and called a picture wrap on him.  Then we re-shot the effect, in which 1st AD Sam Qualiana, playing Betty's boyfriend Dutch, loses a hand to the boobs.  The first take looked better than what we shot a month and a half ago, but I called for two more takes, each one better than the last.  The blood was nice and red, and Sam walked around looking crimson the rest of the day.  We re-shot Jessica Zwolak's reaction to this event, and it was like traveling back in time to see her wearing one of her earliest costumes again.  I added another shot of her which I felt set up the next scene in the film better.  I'm always adding things...

Our next stop was my house, and we were already an hour behind.  We shot a series of shots of Jessca in Betty's apartment, mostly short bits requiring one or two setups, mini-scenes or missing elements of other scenes.  Given that it was our last day, and we had to make it, the temptation existed to cut corners and just blast through the shot list, but that isn't what we did: we took our time with each one, lighting them just right, and Chris executed some really nice camera moves  I thought up pretty much on the spot.  The material was beautful.  I added another short bit, one which I felt clarified what happens when Betty is possessed by her boobs: just a short shot, but something I felt her character needed.  Our last scene in m y house was a scene in which Jessica wrestled her boobs for control of her body, a riff on the old Jeckyll and Hyde transformations.  Jessica nailed what I wanted even though we hadn't rehearsed this part in advance - in fact, we hadn't done any rehearsing in quite a while.

Now for our fina company move!  We vacated my house, leaving a broken stairway railing and sundry set walls in our wake, and returned to the alley behibd Pierce Arts Film Arts Center.  We were an hour late and the pressure was on, but I knew we'd get everything we needed to in the time we had.  Once again, we were shooting portons of the climactic scene,  For those keeping track, this was our third night in that alley for that scene, plus we'd shot pickups of Michael O'Hear and Ale McBryde in aother alley, which be cut into this sequence.  The last time we shot here, I realized we weren't finishing and had Chris shoot all the shots requiring the entuire alley to be lit; now we had much tighter setups requiring less complicated lighting.  We began with, I don't know, maybe ten shots iof Jessica in the killer boob rig, covered with blood; these will all be used to augment the main action.  I knew exactly what I needed and we burned through them.  Then we took Jess out of the rig and shot all a dramatic scene between her and Paul.  Both of them had their lines down and delivered them with the proper gravitas despite their silliness of the dialogue; the crew was cracking up.  Then we shot some pickup shos of Stacey Book's crawling boobs.  That is now a sentence.  Then we captured Jessica's final confrontation with the boobs, and she impressed me with something she added to her delivery.  To reward her, we threw two buckets of methocelulose (standing infor silicone) on her.  And then we shot the end of the film and called a picture wrap.

Wrapping a feature film on which everyone pulled together like they did on this one is an iodd mixture of feelings: elation that we did the best work we could and sadness that, once again, a "movie family" has to break up.  It's part iof the porocess, you can't move on to post production if you doin't finish production.  Chris keeps his equipment at Pierce Arrow, and while he and some of the crew packed up his gearand moved it upstairs, others cleaned the alley and packed to leave.  At the endof the night, a small group gathered, enjoying each other's company before moving on.

This was a great shoot, and even though it was spread out over ten weekends, it never dragged,  I know we made a special movie that everyone who worked on it can be proud of the finished product.  But we're not done yet!  We still have one green screen day ahead of us, in which Jessica's bloody hands will battle a monster boobs puppet.
Gregory Lamberson

frenzy wolves lg

Yesterday I received my author copies of THE FRENZY WOLVES, the third and final book in my werewolf trilogy The Frenzy Cycle.  It looks good, as all my Medallion titles do - they do a great job with production.  I'm told readers who pre-ordered the book from Amazon should receive their copies today, ahead of the offcial Tuesday, October 14th release (not that you'll be able to find it in bookstores; no need to email or message me, 'I can't find your book anywhere!', all of my titles are easily found online).  I'm excited for the release, I tink it's a damned good book that ties the previous two entries together and will leave readers satisfied.  Here are the three reviews the book's received, all of them pretty glowing.



"Lamberson’s third and final Frenzy Cycle installment (after TheFrenzy War) is an engrossing tale that can stand on its own."

"Mace is a sympathetic and thoroughly modern protagonist who agonizes over how to define terrorism in a complex world even as he longs for suburban surcease from his sorrows. The story unfolds smoothly, and, while some unwieldy characters never come alive, the plot is riveting. (Oct.)"

FANGORIA (Chris Alexander):


"It’s hard to keep up with Buffalo-based lunatic, Greg Lamberson. Writer. Director. Producer. Author. Film Festival director. Father. The man is prolific (see FANGORIA #316 for our extensive feature), tireless and attacks all his interests with vigor. He’s also a great storyteller as well as a fine mythmaker, and his latest novel, THE FRENZY WOLVES, is yet another solid chapter in his vibrant, eccentric body of work."

"The book is the third and, according to the author, last installment in his FRENZY cycle, whose previous entries included THE FRENZY WAR and THE FRENZY WAY. Only someone like Lamberson could link werewolves to terrorism to cop thriller pulp to Spanish Inquisition nods, while making it all seem both deadly serious and perfectly palatable. That’s what his FRENZY series is all about. In WOLVES, our hero, NYPD Captain Tony Mace, is being lauded for bringing down a terrorist cell dubbed ‘The Brotherhood of Torquemada.’ Mace plays along, but secretly knows the truth: the Brotherhood are/were a clandestine sect of extremist monster hunters out to decimate every werewolf alive!"

'“Frenzy” is the operative word in these books, as Lamberson writes with a rough pen, hammering out the monster mash action (vaguely quoting the UNDERWORLD films and WOLFEN) and slamming it up against hard-boiled no-bullshit SERPICO-styled cop thriller melodrama. And it works. Lamberson – a noted exploitation filmmaker whose works include the SLIME CITY films – ain’t no fool and is clearly writing these books with the intent of flipping them into cinema. His wordplay reads often like a screenplay, detailed and visual. We’d welcome such a genre-bending film or franchise, especially considering the dearth of werewolf movies being made."

THE FRENZY WOLVES will be out this Fall from Medallion Press and by the time it drops, Lamberson will have accomplished more than most artists do in a decade. Sure, it’s about quantity with the man but thankfully, quality is always riding shotgun."

For more on THE FRENZY WOLVES, visit



"Like the two novels proceeding it, THE FRENZY WOLVES is written at a break-neck (full pun intended) pace, is full of action and twists, and features an edge-of-your-seat scene inside an elevator shaft. And while the series ends on a satisyfing note, I'm all for seeing some more from Captain Tony Mace, especially in light of some surprise developments. Fun stuff wether you're a werewolf fan or not."

There you go: three killer reviews, hopefully the book sells well.

Gregory Lamberson
21 September 2014 @ 11:31 pm
Today was one of our biggest days on KILLER RACK.  On paper, our two bar scenes totaled only 6 and 2/8 pages, and average day for me.  But screenwriter/co-star Paul McGinnis and I added so many characters to the script, and most of those characters converged in today's two scenes, and I had a bunch of little bits I added myself, so it was much bigger than it appeared to be.  We returned to the Medina Theater, 40 minutes away, where we shot the bar scenes for DRY BONES.  I was a little hesitant about reusing the same location, and made it a personal goal to make it look as different as possible, so I staged every piece of the puzzle as if we were in a new location.  My key team - Paul, Rod Durick, Jessica Zwolak, Chris Rados and Sam Qualiana had all been part of the BIONES shoot, and so had our swing gaffer, Scotty Franklin.  Our liaison was again "O'Mick Donald," who really made sure we were set to go.

Right off the bat, we had an enormous cast, including many extras who had performed bit parts in previous scenes; I was pleased so many of them made the drive to be with us today. Having so many people return for our last day with extras made it a bttersweet day. I was also pleased that Jennuifer McMahon, formerly Jenifer Bihl, the lead from SLIME CITY MASSACRE, joined us,  I can't name them all, or my blog will resemble an IMDB listing, but it was a great bunch, includig newcomer Erika Instead, who came as a jouirnalist.  Chris and I did a lot of scenes in a manner I haven't done before: dollying from one conversation between two characters to another cnversation between two others, and sometimes to a third.  It reallya added a fluidity to the sequence, and sped up the day at the same time.  I also added a brief musical number - our second! - and Kim Piazza helped me stage it.

By the second half of the day, I started calling "picture wrap" on so many people who have been helping us from the start.  Our set call was 10 am, and we were done with the bar by 6 pm.  But we weren't finished shooting.  We still have to shoot the endingto our climax, even after two all nighters in the alley at Pierce Arrow Film Arts Center.  We hope to finish this Saturday, but one of our actors, Alexander McBryde, will be out of town.  Alex plays one of our two detectives, Michael O'Hear plays the other.  We need to shoot their ending together, or not at all.  I wanted to get them in the same frame as Jessica and Paul, but that just wasn't possible.  So we either needed to get their pieces of the climax tonight, or reassign their dialogue - including each actor's most important lines - to Paul.  My plan was to shoot in back of the theater, and cut the shots into the footage shot elsewhere.  And then the forecast called for rain and thunderstorms.  But it didn't rain, we got the shots, and called picture wraps on Michael and Alex.  And then we shot one bit with O'Mick Donald, whose death went from being off screen, to somewhat onscreen, to full on screen - shot over three nights.

We wrapped at 8:22 pm and were on the road by 9:00 pm - one houir ahead of schedule!

One mnore day of principal photography to go...
Gregory Lamberson
Today KILLER RACK returned to my house.  We haven't shot here since... our second weekend? Durint that time, the place has become a storage/holding area for props, art direction, etc.  Tamar and I had so much stuff to move, rearrange and hide just to clean, we stayed up late last night and got up early this morning,   I did myshot lists for today and tomorrow, a necessity now that we're reaching the end of this phase of the journey.  The closer we get to the end, the more unfinished business I stack on top of what's already scheduled to be shot.  It's daunting.

Today I scheduled 10 1/8 pages' worth of scenes to shoot.  They amounted to three major sequences in the film, the heart of the matter, and I wasn't willing to short change any of the material.  To finish transforming my two story house into a one floor apartment- and a setting different than thse in DRY BONES and GAVE UP THE GHOST, we turned my dining room into the bedroom of our lead character, Betty.  I wanted beads to separate that room from our long living room.  I was frankly not happy with the beads we used in an earlier scene, and changed them to something more appropriate for today, continuity be damned.  Rod Durick also bult an L-shaped set to hide my stairway; I painted it match te living room walls.  And he built a platform to pop into my step down foyer so anyone standing in the apartment building "hallway" would be on the same level as Betty.  I'm particularly proud o the design work I did in that foyer: I painted the walls an ugkly tan and the doors an ugly brown, and gave them a really sloppy look, and we posted apartment numbers on the closet door and front door.  Our DP, Chris Rados, taped a light to the ceiling which gave it a florescent look.  When we add an echo to the actors' voices, no one will suspect that was a foyer and not a hallway.

First up, we shot a long scene between our leading lady, Jessica Zwolak, and Michael O';Hear and Alexander McBryde as detectives Bartles and Frank.  It's their most important scene together, and I've known for sometime how I wanted it shot, using Chriss Dana dolly.  I'd bought some pink curtains, and the sunlight silhouetted the window frames behind it, and tree branches blowing in the wind.  Each close up looked gorgeous, som eof my favorites in the film, it was really exciting to see them come together.  This took until lunch, and it was nice to have or caterers, Kimset Cusine, back on duty.  It was also a warm day, so must of us ate outside.

The warm day became a hot one, and we moved on to a pair of linked scenes between Sam Qualianba, my 1st AD, and Jessica.  More gorgeousness with the help of those pink curtains,  Art direction is so important, and I'm glad all the painting I did during the week paid off.  The scenes were funny, with Betty fairly humiliatd.  Comedy is pain.

Next, we moved on to the big scene between Betty and her suitor Tim, played by screenwriter/co-producer Paul McGinnis.  Paul did not have a good day leading into his scene; he made two different trips home for costume pieces, and got pulled over for running a re dlight, and looked fairly exhausted.  But his scene was really cool, and he came to life.  This scene took him and Jessica fom he living room, into the bedroom and kitchen, and back into the living room.  It's funny and dramatic, and thanks to the Ronin, a camera stabilizer which isn't even available to the public yet, it's also dynamic.  The Ronin serves the same purpose as a steadicam, and we've gotten sone truly amazing shots with it, very gratifying.

Achieving so much eye candy meant we only shot 9 out of the 10 pages scheduled, but 9 pages is still damned good, and there's no denying the quality is there.  We did not shoot a short scene with Jess inb my kitchen, or a longer scene in my kitchen; just moving all of the equipment out of there would have taken too long.  And we did not shoot a pair of shots involving Betty awaening from a nightmare. We had a 13 hour day, and I wasn't wiling to make it 15 hours, so next Saturday - our final day of principal photography - is going to be quite interesting  We'll be at three different locations, and some corners will need to be cut.

Tomorrow we return to the Medina Theater, where we shot the bar scenes for DRY BONES a year and a half ago.
Gregory Lamberson
14 September 2014 @ 10:46 pm
After a second week of studying the weather forecasts, we returned to the alley behind Pierce Arrow Film Arts Center for night shooting of KILLER RACK's climactic sequence.  Once again, it rained during the day but not at night, and once again I found myself glancing at the sky, fearing sunrise like a vampire.  The difference this weekend was the temperature dropped to 44 degrees.  Kudos to our lead actress, Jessica Zwolak, for performing in the cold wearing flip flops, pajama bottoms, a torn -shirt, a monster boob harness, and nothing but a layer of movie blood for warmth.  I extend the same kudos to those actors required to lay on the cold ground: Michael O'Hear, Alexander McBryde, Erika Frase and Matthew J. Walter.  I suppose I shoukld acknowledge our headless corpse as well.

We didn't havea small army of extras this weekend, just a handful of victims for specific gags: Michael Keefe, Cheryl Szymczak, Marcus Ganci-Rotella, my high school friend Steve Metivier, Paul McGinnis's friend Chris Fire, and Roy Frumkes.  CUe sound of needle scratching record.  Roy, the screenwriter of STREET TRASH and THE SUBSTITUTE, and the director of the first Georger Romero documentary, DOCUMNET OF THE DEAD (updated as THE DEFINITIVE DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD), was my film production instructor during my one year at the New York School of Visual Arts, and has been a friend for 32 years (wow).  He appeared in SLIME CITY MASSACRE, and returned to Buffalo as a favor to me to make a cameo which will please his fans.

It was another special effects filled night, involving blood, milk and crawling boob marionettes.  We finally got to shoot Michael, Alex and Matt (who spent last Saturday night waiting for us to get to them), and we had two new swing gaffers, Corina DeFabbio and Courtney Denk.  Seeing crew people moving lights around the roof of Pierce Arrow, illuminating our long alley, reminded me how big our little movie is.  As morning raced toward sunrise, I realized that once aain we would not make our day, and face returning to the alleyfor a few hours one night next weejk or finding a stand in location for pikups,  I cherry picked my shot list, concentrating on those shots requiring the alley to be fully lit; the remaining shots don't.

This weekend we shot until the sky turned blue.  Wrapping out is always fun after a full night of shooting on hard concrete: the equipment gets loaded, all of our holding contents (costumes, food, props, special effects props) go into our cars, we wash away the blood in the alley, and make sure we leave our holding area as we found it.

I was on my way home at 7:30 am, which meant a twelve and one half our set day, a highly civilized day, but night shoots take a toll on people: it's impossible to change your sleep habits the night before, so everyone is pretty well shot by the timne we've finished packing out.  Then it's impossible to crash when youget home: I went to bed at 9 am, and woke up three hours later to the news Royhad lost his keys.  It turned out he had left them in his costume, and Paul delivered them to him a few minutes before his train arrived.

The hardest material has been shot, but we still have some special effects to do.  Three days remain of principa photography over the next two weekends. Our schedule just got tigter because we have to add the shots we didn't get today to The List.
Gregory Lamberson
13 September 2014 @ 11:25 am
Back when I read Paul McGinnis's screenplay for KILLER RACK, I wondered if we could pull off a scene where tentacles shoot out of the killer rack, ensnare a victim, and kill him/her.  The gag happenes during the already busy climax of the film, and I envisioned it taking hours to do with ractical effects, and we lack the resources to do really good CGI.  Who ya gonna call?

Way back in 2004, while visiting the New Jersey hedquarters of my frequent distributor, Alternative CInema/POP CInema Studios, I met my good friend Paige Davis, who introduced me to Brett Piper, the company's in-house special effects wizard/writter/director/editor.  At the time, he was surrounded by stop motion animation puppets, and we got a "tour" of the spaceship set for SHOCK-O-RAMA!  A few years later I interviewed him for my book CHEAP SCARES: LOW BUDGET HORROR FILMMAKERS SHARE THEIR SECRETS, which featured many awesome pics of Brett working with monsters he created fr his mini-epics.  When Sam Qualiana needed someone to edit SNOW SHARK:ANCIENT SNOW BEAST, I hired Brett and his collaborator Mark Polonbia, and they did a great job.  But I wanted more,  I wanted stop motion animation!

KILLER RACK's tit tentacles posed the need, and Brett had the solutions.  While we're being fairly secretive about a lot of our special make-up effects, we posted concept art of the tentacles scene early to help raise funds, so I don't mind spilling the details.  Paul and I cast Kathy Murphy as our victim. Like Paul, Kathy had been an extra in SLIME CITY MASSACRE, and she proved her mettle in a big role in SNOW SHARK.  I cast her in a big role in DRY BOES (coming to DVD in five weeks!), and I wanted to feature her in KR somewhere.  I storyboarded the scene by shooting photos of my daughter's dolls and sent them to Brett.  The plan was simply to shoot the necessary elements, some of them gren screen, and send then to him in PA to work his magic.  He surprised and pleased me by volunterring to drive out here for the shoot (inevitably saving hmself time fixing any mistakes we made on our end).  I scheduled the green screen room at Pierce Arrow Film Arts Center, our production facility, and last weekend, while filming the first half of our climax in the alley behind Pierce Arrow, we shot helive action elements of Kathy with our leading actress, Jessica Zwolak.  This has been a well planned, relativly problem free shoot, so what could go wrong?

Shooiting on Fridays is tough because I have my daughter fter school and have to pick up my wife from work.  I was only worried about having my daughter because she'd been sick all week, and I arranged for Paul to pick up my wife, who works out in Getzville.
Facebook post rom Paul:

"Really? Car needs to pick right NOW to not start... Because I'm certainly not making a freaking movie right now and can afford to wait..."

Followed by:

"Phone went dead (natch) and needed to get home from mechanic ASAP, so did a quick inventory of what I needed from my car. Script, charger, and two important pieces of clothing. Then I started running home. It's about a half an hour, so I was going at a hefty pace. I ran by an old woman waiting for the bus and needed to stop and catch my breath.
"Excuse me, young man, you dropped something." I looked back and realized with horror what it was as the poor woman leaned down to get it.
Two big old bras.
I could tell be the look on her face she immediately knew what they were.
I smiled my thanks, knowing that if I said anything, being out of breath wouldn't help my case..."

Poor Paul.  Rod Durick left early - something we had already ruled out as being difficult - and picked up Tamar, and I took Kaelin to Pierce Arrow, where SFX artists Arick Szymecki and Stacey Book, set photographer/assistant editor/fill-in-sound mixer/visual effects artist Chris Cosgrave, 1st AD Sam Qualiana and our PA Dave Carapetyan were waiting.  Our DP, Chris Rados, let us into the green screen room, and the crew started setting up lights to supplement those above the green screen.  This is a much better setup than draping a wrinkled cloth screen in my living room.

Before long, Brett notified us he had experienced directional difficulties and would be late, but I had plenty of other shots to grab, so he didn't set us back at all.  In the big scene, Jessica Zwolak storms around in massive monster boobs which Arick and Stacey attached to a sports bra.  I think these creatures are their best work, and we shot them last week.  But the fang filled monsters need to move - they have to chew, spit and spray - so they built puppet versions as well.  So,.  Fucking.  Cool.  Look, I do this because I love monsters, and the Killer Rack is now the coolest monster I've sirected.  These thinbgs look hideous when they're not moving, but when they are moving - serious fucking magic.  We're making a character driven comedy that turns into a horror film at the end, and jeez, these look great.  We shot them from every conceivably angle, relieving the burden of pickups we need when we return to the alley tonight to finish shooting the climax.  For one shot we needed to see Betty's arms on either side of the puppet.  Jessica provided one and I pressed Tamar into service as the other, and each woman used her free hand to operate her breast.

Paul and Brett arrived at roughly te same time.  However many hours the trip was from PA to Buffalo for Brett, tack on two hours for his unplanned detour.  He showed up with energy and ready to work, with an assistant.  Rod was driving around like crazy taking care of things, including getting pizzas for thecrew.  We really only had a few shots to get involving Brett.  The first setup involved a full size tentacle wrapping around Kathy's neck, and then her waist, and we tried different methods - reverse motion, rod puppets, whatever worked best for each deal.  It was fun seeing Arick and Stacey work with Brett.  The tentacle whacked Kathy in the face a few times, but she was a geat sport.

After those shots, I turned the reins over to Brett, who directed various shots of Kathy "in the air" for the big effect.  We didn't break for our meal, but ate pizza on the sidelines.  And then we wrapped.  Our four hour day becamne five, but that's still less than half a day on mpost shoots, and we got so much production value, and so many shots of the creatures to play with when we start editing.  Brett and his assistant headed back the same night.

And now we go back to the alley for another all night shoot, but with fewer extras. It's supposed to rain today but only be cloudy tonight, but the temperature will drop to 47 degrees.
Gregory Lamberson
I'll do my best to condense last night's epic shoot into a manageable entry.  For last night I had scheduled filming the climax of KILLER RACK.  The scene takes place in the central alley used throughout the film and brings tgether our leads, many bit players and many extras, all tied together with gallons of blood and over the top special effects.  It's a huge sequence revolving many setups.  My original breakdown called for to night shoots.  Unfortunately, on our fourth or fifth day, we fell behind and lost half a day's filming.  To make up for lost time, and to prevent us from going one day over schedule, and one day over budget, I attempted to shoot the whole thing in one night.  The gods laughed at me - both for attempting the impossible, and for the quality of the comedy we produced.

Special effects are tough, man.  They take time to set up, time to shoot, time to clean up, and time to re-shoot.  There is no way to rush them, though there are good ways to schedule them.  I'm a good scheduler.  My key SFX artist on this show is Arick Szymecki, and his partner/assistant is Stacey Book.  I've worked with both of them before.  And my co-producer (along with screenwriter/co-star Paul McGinnis), Rod Durick, is an SFX artist.  This movie is about killer boobs, and the boobs have been vexing from the get go.  My original scheme was to use only purchased silicone breasts, but after going through many duifferent shapes and sizes, and sensing that we really needed to show the big breasts ina ddition to their climactic, horrible incarnations, I gave Arick a last minute directive to create giant breast appliances for our star Jessica Zwolak to wear in a "topless" scene, on our first weekend.  Arick made a valiant attempt, but the boobs we had on Debbie Rochon's last day of filming didn't quite cut the mustard, so we shot the intended scene sans fake breast nudity and rescheduled the reveal for another scene the following wee.  The resulting monstrosities worked much better, and will look great with some minor digital touchups, but we lost half a day of filming waiting for them.  That's how it goes.  And that's why I tried squeezing two big nights of filming into one.

I was in Toronto last weekend for FanExpo Canada, and Rod shot some second unit footage, and Arick and Stacey started work on the various effects creations needed; I'll keep the details of these under wraps, but they all involve different permutations of the title monsters, seen in all their glory.  We decided early on the final stage of the creatures would need to be shot green screen later on, and I knew some other, more complicated gags could be done as inserts later if necessary.  We still had a long list of effects to do, and my shot list numbered 60 setups.  I don't normally use a shot list, but I knew one was necessary to pull off our goal.

Chris Rados, our Director of Photography, has been doing his own shooting, his own lighting, and his own focus pulling - the roles of at least three people.  That's the way it is on my shoots and budgets.  Other crew people wear multiple hats: in addition to having written the script and co-starring, Paul McGinnis is script supervisor and wardrobe supervisor; my 1st Assitant Director, Sam Qualiana, has a funny role in the film and assits Chris as much as possible; Arick is ou regular sound mixer in addition to our key afects artist; Rod does DIT, set construction, production design, and general problem solver; Chris Cosgrave is our assistant editor, still photographer, fill in sound mixer and future digital effects artist.  We're a small, tight unit, and we're getting the job done.  Our PA, Dave Carapetyan, is new to this world and has learned a great deal.  We've had other PAs who have pitched in here and there.  For this night, Chris and I agreed we needed two gaffers of exceptional PAs to asist with the lighting.  He brought in two guys I'd never met before, Steve Rittner and Brian Rock, and they both rocked.

The weather was a principal concern, and I followed the forecasts all week.  At one point, lightning was predicted, so I postponed Roy Frumkes's scene one week, and planned to postpone thiose of Matt Reese, coming from Ohio, and Steve Boliek, coming from PA.  Steve wasn't able to reschedule, so when the forecast brightened I buit the bullet and committed to shooting this weekend.  Then,on Friday evening before our Staurday shoot, Arick told me the one effect we needed to pull off the entire sequence wouldn't be ready because the humidity was interfering with his foam latex.  I don't lose my temper often on shoots, but I lost it then.  When I got off the phone with Arick, my wife said, "I'd hate to be Arick after that," and my daughter said, "You were too ahrd on him, you know.  It's tough for him.  He eats bugs."  I didn't even have to tell Rod to go over and help, and because I was sick and looking at an all night shoot, gulped down Nyquil and waited for the phone call telling me we would have our boob monsters.  It came after 2:00 am, and I took more Nyquil.  At 7:45 am, Stacey sent me cell phone pics of the creatures and they looked damned good.  They still needed detailing, and to be sewn into a sports bra, but I was confident we'd be able to shoot.

On Thursday I also put out a Facebook call for a graffiti artist to decorate garbage cans which are a key part of the climax, and my house door, which will serve as the door to Betty's apartment building.  Kaelin and I spray painted the bottom layer of the cans themselves: flesh for the bodies, pink for the tops.  Get it?  Vinny AJ Aklejandro, a total stranger (this is what I love about Facebook), took up the challenge.  He showed up and did his work in half an hour, and it looked great.  The funny thing is he was completely unfamiliar with the genre titles I had him referencing - and yet his graffiti actually resembles logos used for the films in question.

While picking up coffee and food for the sootm, I stopped by Arick's mad scientist laboratory to insepct his work in person.  The boob monsters looked fucking fantastic, by far the best work he's ever done.  The other gags looked good too, though I was never worried about them.  I don't know who did what, so I'll just call them a team effort for now, and congratulate Arick and Stacey on excellent work under difficult situations.

I met Chris, Brian and Steve at location at 6 pm, and unloaded 100 items from my car while they set about lighting the entire alley.  It was pretty cool seeing them walk along the low roofs, running power and seting up lights,  Producers, crew, cast and extras drifted in,.  On days when you need extras, you never know what kind of turnout you'll get, but with these particular people, and their enthusiasm for this project, I wasn't worried.    And keep in mind, they're all volunteers.  Even more people showed up than I expected.  I greeted Matt Reese, who made the drive from Ohio not long after his third consecutiv heart surgery, and met steve Boliek, who had lobbied Paul and I for a role (which Paul ended up creating for him), sent us an online auditon, bought his own costume, and made the six hour drive with his wife and stayed in a hotel.  Everyone was excited by the Boobs,and Stacey showed me a gag she had put together, and it looked so much better than I had imaginbed.  Inside, everyhign was warm and exciting; outside, it felt like rain.

Two days earlier, Chris told me he had access to a Ronin camera stabilizer, courtesy of fellow DP Matt Nardone of NDStudios.  This is a pretty high tech piece of equipment which allows for smooth tracking shots.  We usually don't have such toys on my films.  My shot list grew.  First up, we did a jib shot revealing all of our extras.  I think someone said we had 17 people.  Then we shot a number of shots of Jessica walking into the crowd.  The boobs looked great on her, and she was great in the role.  Then we shot a bunch of shots of peope getting splattered with blood and reacting to mayem.  There was a lo tof blood; picture a pie fight.  Through all of this, Jessica got bloodier and never complained about the discomfort, the cold, or anything - she never does.  I jokingly call her Diva.

Somewhere along the line I decided tio shoot this instead of that, which changed the complete order of my shots because of the way we were moving around the alley.  Consequently, people I hope to finish with by midnight were there until 3:00 am.  We broke for our midnight meal- what do you call that? - and through a miscommunication, the extras ate before the crew, which isn't suppsoed to happen.  Actually, it isn't far to call them extras - most of them had dialogue, and none of them complained about anything earlier.  I can't be on set and in holding at the same time, so an innocent mistake was made.  My buddy John Renna offered a solution I didn't want to hear, and I snapped at him - second time losing my temper on this shoot, and the second time in 30 hours.  I apologized, he shrugged it off.  John is one one my best friends, and ordinarily he would be a key member of my team, bu this summer he made his own feature, DICK JOHNSON AND TOMMYGUN VS. THE CANNIBAL COP, and it just wasn't feasible to involve him when he was shooting his own film.  He plays a bartender in the film, and has one crazy scene and one conventional scene.  Tonight was his crazy scene.

After meal, we resumed splattering blood on people and getting reaction shots.  Then we moved on to the scene between Steve Boliek and John.  Both of them were hilarious.  I daresay Steve was brilliant.  As Paul McGinnis posted, he was a wildcard, and he delivered a full house.  Who knew a throwaway scene created to give a total strnager some screen time due to his enthusiasm for the project would result in one of the comic highlights of the film?

We moved on to the big gore gag of the night, involving Jessica, Brandon Devine, and the boobs, with Erika Frase and Jonathan (last name unknown to me).  After two setup shots, we set up the plexiglass before the camera, laid plastic tarps on the ground, tented the lights and Chris.  Why so much care for a diry alley?  Because the alley is part of Pierce Arrow Film Arts Center, our key production facility, and we want to leave it the way we found it.  Blood tunbes were rigged; Diva never complained.  There is a certain amount of excitement and tension which accompanies every time consuming efect, especially those which need to be done in one take.  We rehearsed the action several times.  Brian and Steve adjusted the lights.  I called action.  From my standpoint, I saw no blood,  I looked at Chris, who shook his head.  We decided that the blood on Brendan's costume would notbe seen by camera, cleaned up his face, and prepped a second take.  Arick and Stacey reconfigured the blood tubes.  Action!  Blood sprayed everywhere.  Gleeful high fives, followed by clean up duty,

We wrapped bit player after bit player.  It never rained.  The sky remained clear - and light became visible.  I had schedule 63 setups, and we probably shot 70 by the end of the night, but we only shot three quarters of the scheduled script pages.  We hadn't even gotten two a confrontation between Jessica and Michael O'Hear, Alexander McBryde, and Matthew J. Walters, let alone Paul's confrontation with Jess, Stacey's big gag, and Jessica;s half of the confrontation with the Boobs.  I made the call to release Michael, Alex and Matt, and we shot a hiarious (and ridiculous) fight betwen Erika and the Boobs.  It started to feel like morning, and we shot Jessica's fight with Matt Reese, and we called it a day.

A shooting day doen't end there.  The lights have to come down and be broken down, the equipment has to bepuit away, holding has to be cleared, nothing cans stay.  We're pretty good about wrapping whatever we can early, and Chris keeps his equipment right there at Pierce Arrow.  Everyone made good time as the sun rose; I washed blood off one wall, we checked the facility, and went our separate ways.

We didn't make our day, but we made more than we had any right to, and it all looked fantastic.  I've kjnown all along this was going to be a special movie, and we nailed it with this sequence - so many people contributed.  Now we have to go back and shoot the rest of the scene, adding a day toour schedule and budget, but at least we won't have to rush through the remining scenes of this sequence, and can make them look as good as the stuff we shot this night.

Time to keep an eye on the weather...