We’re starting something very special here this evening – something similar to what we did for director Darren Lynn Bousman and his film Saw III… Inside you’ll find the first of many official blogs for Craig Spector, the writer of the film Animals, which is exclusive to Bloody-Disgusting. Spector is also the co-author of the novel that the film is adapted from. Directed by Doug Aarniokoski, the story centers on a blue-collar man in a dying factory town whose life is jolted after becoming involved in a romantic triangle amid a spate of uncontrolled violence. Read on for today’s blog dated July 5, 2007 and check out the first ever photos from set!
Notes From A Hot Set (July 5, 2007)
Hi All –
While flying back to LA for the 4th of July break with producer Bill Borden he said, you know what’s great about shooting in Utah? You can go home. True that. Loved being there, love going home for the holiday, love going back again. Here are some stray notes and thought frags.
A HOT SET is one in which cameras are rolling; this one was also hot because the lovely Utah summer has turned rather smelter-lke, baking everyone to a fine glaze. This is particularly true at our current location, a defunct cement plant which is where Jarrett works, and where a climactic battle between Jarrett and Vic will take place. The set is hot, filthy, more than a little hazardous, and looks absolutely stunning on screen. Freight trains rumble by every hour some thirty feet away, the more astute crew wear painter’s masks to filter the fine gritty dust that coats absolutely everything inside. Ah the glamour of show biz.
FANGORIA MAGAZINE sent a reporter, Thom Carnell, to do the first look piece on the shoot; he and I connect fairly quickly and spend the day together as he awaits a stray moment to catch Doug Aarniokoski, Naveen Andrews, Marc Blucas, and Eva Amurri. Nicky Aycox is back in LA for the moment. I try to fill the gaps in the sweltering Utah day by introducing him to the various and somewhat more unsung heroes of this shoot – Chris Hanson (practical fx), Frank Bare and Don Shanks (stunt coordinators), and Chris Demuri (art director). As we do I learn some fascinating factoids: ex., Frank and Don have custom designed special rigs for the wire work, allowing the actors to move and jump as supernaturally endowed animals while remaining naturalistic in their movements, using their own body weight to control the launch and landings and also allowing the actors to do more of their own stunts than perhaps is the norm. I realize that this movie is going to be a great blend of CGI and “old school” physical stunts and fx.
BEAUTY AND THE BEATING HEART. Thom and I are transpo’d to base camp, a cluster of air conditioned trailers in a distant parking lot, where we meet Chris Hanson and his team, who are busily working on transforming Jane (Eva Amurri) for her part in the climactic scene. This largely consists of applying some fairly ghastly wounds to Eva’s porcelain skin, rending her beauty with the savage markings of a fight to the death. The net effect makes for disturbing juxtaposition, especially considering Eva’s beauty. And trust me, Eva Amurri is stunningly, arrestingly beautiful — not in a Hollywood movie star overly processed way, but more the kind that sneaks up on you, deepening by degrees as you talk with her. Her eyes are luminous. She has her mother’s eyes. I am struck with how pleased I am she was cast as Jane – I am also struck by the idea that the film I can think of that most resonates tonally with ANIMALS is 1983’s THE HUNGER, starring Catherine Deneueve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon. The notion that Susan and Eva are playing much the same roles pleases me no end, but I’m weird, so go figure.
As Thom interviews Eva I wander through the makeup trailer and come to a wonderfully gruesome latex heart that is rigged to beat and pump blood. I pick it up and look at Chris Hanson. This movie has heart, I say. Ba-dum bum, insert rim shot here.
CRASHING GATES, COOL SEATING, and JUMPY SUDSMEISTERS. As night falls I head back to the hotel change into a clean, non-sweaty shirt, bid adieu to Thom and Fango, then hike up to meet Levi Elder (our unit publicist) at a little joint called Junior’s Tavern. I try to order a beer from the jumpiest bartender in the history of bartending; he looks at me as if I asked him for a glass of puréed baby’s brains. He urgently explains to me that this is a member’s only club. I ask him if I can become a member. He sighs grievously and pulls out a notebook, takes down my driver’s license number, I fork over four dollars and he issues me a little yellow card. Now I can order a beer. Welcome to the odd rules of sin in SLC. I feel so special.
I meet up with Levi and his friends, but he’s done for the day and I want to go back to set, so I call transpo to come get me. I arrive back on set just in time to see Doug and Co. setting up to crash Vic’s car through the gate of the cement plant. Darkness has descended, the heat has rolled off, and a water truck is firing its cannon at the side of the building, dousing everything (including Camera B). As crew duck for cover Doug dryly wonders aloud if perhaps there might be a better crew member to man the cannon – this is the second time the dude has sprayed the gear — but too late now.
They’re rigging the gate to spark and blow back under the impact of Vic’s jet black Dodge Magnum, practicing the roar of screech of brakes as it slaloms to a halt. Watching Doug direct is a pleasure – his focus and command of the set is impressive, and this is one of the few shots that he is not directly hands-on the camera. The first two practice runs are great, and as Doug studies the playback he calls out they they’re ready to shoot for real. I’m standing behind the cluster of director’s chairs and watching the big flat screen monitors, and just generally digging this immensely. As the crew preps and Don dons a black Vic wig for the drive Kristin (the script supervisor) tells me they have a seat for me – the next thing I know a new director’s chair arrives, maple frame and black canvas stenciled with a blood red ANIMALS logo, and on the other side, CRAIG SPECTOR. I smile and say thanks.
Gotta tell ya, kids – for a writer, it just does not get better than this. I’m back in Redondo Beach for the moment but I’ll be back next week, and they’re already back at it in SLC. Can’t wait. Stay tuned, more to come.
ANIMALS goes into production! (June 29, 2007)
Hi All –
Back in RB, pooped and stanky but very happy (man it’s freakin’ HOT there). The shoot is 23 days, the budget got trimmed by a mil plus but the sets look like a movie that cost a LOT more. The bar, now called Jules’ Joint, is so cool it hurts. I waited a looooooooong time to drink a beer in that bar and did manage to quaff half a warm one there before I had to split for the airport.
Day One opened with Nora killing Tristana; the blood work was erotic, disturbingly realistic, and clinically accurate. Kudos to Chris Hansen for his forensic FX skill, I still have to wash the blood off my cargo pants from the pre-production test spray).This is Doug’s first time at the helm but he’s done a lot of work prior with Rodriguez and his vision is stylish and fierce; Barry Rosenbush is a brilliant and skilled producer, he has wanted to make this movie for ten years and by his own admission he never gives up, a quality I greatly admire. He’s brought a lot of business to SLC (High School Musical 1 and 2, American Pastime, etc.) and has a standing crew there — the UT crew is awesome.
Nicki (Aycox) and Naveen (Andrews) exude a raw chemistry as Nora and Vic that is aching, perverse, passionate, and severely twisted – a co-dependent relationship from Hell. Haven’t met Marc (Blucas) yet but did meet Eva (Amurri) yesterday morning and she’s wonderful, she’ll make a great Jane. They all have copies of the book now.
Yesterday (Day 2) I was actually rewriting a Vic scene on set while they were shooting a scene with Nora and Vic; I was standing next to the ghost car of one of their previous victims with headphones on and my powerbook on the hood, listening to the audio and watching them chew each other up emotionally while pouring some of that soul juice into Vic’s upcoming encounter with Jarrett (Syd’s new name) and thinking, man, it just doesn’t get better than this.
I think — and hope — everyone who loved the book will be gratified by the film; many changes and refinements to the story have been wrought in the new script, but its heart and soul remain not just intact but amplified and true to the original. You know as well as I the difference between the prose page and the silver screen; all I can say is, if people keep an open mind and expect the unexpected, prepare to be very pleasantly surprised. I know I am.
Back in LA for the week, sun’s coming up over the ocean, gonna be back on set next week sometime — will be blogging from SLC but in the meantime, keep yer digits crossed — this is better than good so far, and very exciting indeed.