Buckets O' Blood...The Parksville Murders!

WARNING:  This post contains graphic imagery of imagined horror.  Please be aware that the final photos are not for the squeamish! 

We love Parksville, New York!  It is full of quirky characters, crazy structures, a unique and distressed ambience and it is quite frankly a rare gem that comes off as a ready made backlot.  The area in general has attracted creatives of all sorts for many years and the idiosyncrasies of it's raw, yet simple beauty, palpable history and diamond in the rough potential immediately inspires all that pass through; especially those with the courage and vision to set up shop here.  Not surprisingly, these numbers are growing and a renewed reality for the town is just beginning to peep over the horizon.  It's literally the dawning of a new era.

   When we started Beaverkill Studio, not so long ago, many of these creatives and now new neighbors began to descend from the mountaintops, the backwoods and yes even out from under the proverbial woodwork.  John Murphy, the PR film guru came a knocking, Randy Mackiej, Producer and former Tech Director of the Tribeca Film Festival, Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria from Frontline and hell, even Debra Winger and husband Arliss Howard came by for a peek!  Many others have followed and the pilgrimage of the curious continues to this day.

 

  Exciting days indeed; but the time soon came to separate the Curious from the Creators, the Interested from the Instigators and to actually realize the visions of those who were truly motivated to get the job done!  Enter Todd Perlmutter, former Creative Director of The Blueman Group for some twenty years.  Todd is both an East Villager and a Parksvillian, a Producer, Engineer and Musician.  In fact, his rocking Surf band the Cameramen played at our soft opening and recently rocked it hard at our live event space / bar / restaurant called Cabernet Franks.  As it turns out, a new Virtual Reality concept had been brought to him by an old friend and without hesitation he knew immediately that Parksville and Beaverkill Studio was the place to do it!  The seed was planted!

 

 

  Todd first brought Anne Hiatt of Opera on Tap and Video Artist and NYU Professor Cari Ann Shim Sham up to the mountains several months back.  The Virtual Reality concept was both simple, yet shockingly unique.  Opera and Horror,  Sopranos and Seekers,  booming voices and buckets of blood...what better way to bring the Arts to the masses?!  Anne and Shim Sham were invigorated by the possibilities after their first tour and just like that "The Parksville Murders"  process had begun!

blood drop.jpg

  I met Anne and Shim Sham a few weeks later at a Cinematic VR conference at The New School down in the City to catch up on the latest developments in this fast growing and pioneering genre.  There is a new virtual language developing right now, a new way to present our world and our stories and the immersive possibilities are endless.  Art always seeks to expand it's own boundaries...it's the endgame of the creative process...there is no end.  With this "virtual reality" in mind, the team gathered and plotted with writer Jerre Dye to craft an immersive experience that is beyond visual; rather it is something that is truly "felt" and "dealt with" in the core of our being. 

   Thanks to the support of OPERA America's Building Opera Audiences grant program supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation and the dedicated and focused fundraising efforts of the unstoppable Anne Hiatt, a budget was put in place and Pre - Production was quickly in full swing.  While various members of the team had VR experience of varying degrees; a pro team of specialists was required to maximize the ultimate Vision of the Project...which was to create an exciting and new point of entry for the yet to be exposed Opera fans of the future, not to mention re-envisioning the Opera experience for it's many current and longtime followers.  After an exhausting National search, the team selected Lightsail VR from Los Angelos.  Many a conference call later, the now bi-coastal team got on the same page and a well considered plan was put in place.  All the pieces of the puzzle were now complete and the ball was rolling!

  Soon it was Production Time.  First came our local scenic carpenter, Alex Johnson, who crafted lovely, yet simple scenery in the Beaverkill Studio Carpentry Shop.  (I always love it when Art Department heads visit the studio and get that warm fuzzy feeling when they see a totally convenient shop right on the premises!)  Next came studio friend and control desk creator, Drew North to install the scenery on the stage itself.  As the last pieces of the set were being screwed together, the large team from LA arrived with VR rigs in hand and armed with an intense albeit jet weary determination.  Ok, so the set proceeded to shift around the stage to about five different positions, but hey folks...this is production, nobody said it was going to be easy!  Here is a short time lapse of prep for one of the positions!

  After two days of tests, set up and pre-lighting the long awaited day had arrived!  Showtime people!  Time to get it done!  I rounded the bend to the Green Room on the first day of shooting and there they be...black hooded demons with glowing red internal lighting sipping tea and looking focused, yet relaxed for the day ahead.  One demon was so relaxed...he decided to nap on our reclining lounge chair!  So far, so good.

   After getting some initial graveyard location shots; the set was ready to shoot on.  Cue the lights, fire up the fog machines; actors take your spots!   "WWWWWHHHHHHHAAAAAAHHHH RRRRIIIINNNG!   WWWWWWHHHHHAAAAAHHHHH   RRRRIIIING!" went the alarm!  Dammit!!  In anticipation of the fog, we had our central alarm station put the system on test and not call out to the authorities; but what they failed to do was kill the alarm sirens locally at the studio.  In a moment of what seemed to be clarity, I turned off the power to the alarm and reset the system to silence the wailing and allow the shoot to proceed.  Good save, or so we thought!

  About 8 hours later...beep, beep, beep.  Beep, beep, beep.  Huh?  Sure enough, the low battery alarm was going off.  Way better than wailing; but disruptive and annoying none the less.  The system had continued to run on battery power since the power had been turned off and now the battery was running low, thus the beep!  A phone call or two later, the beeping was silenced and the eerie, fog dense scene was able to continue in all it's moody glory.  The moral of the story is...bring on up your fog machines, we now gotcha covered!  Thanks Matt Celia and Robert Watts of Lightsail VR for rolling with the punches on that one!  Even the best laid plans have an occasional hiccup!

  From that point on the shoot sailed smoothly and the victims were chased, horrified and done away with (or were they?) with grace and ease...and all while being serenaded with a few high notes to boot!  Glad we had that extra roll of red gels...really came in handy.  With the studios shots in the can; the team headed up to the Hunter Lake location, just up the hill from the studio.  The team utilized our battery operated bi color LED light panels for capturing the final shots and the last buckets of blood were poured!  Great hair, make up, effects, costumes, vibrato and teamwork by all!  It's a wrap people!

  As for the wrap party, that is not for public consumption but let's just say Beaverkill Studio cannot guarantee late night boat rides and brisk moonlight dips for every shoot we do here; but we can guarantee focused work, partnered assistance, great accommodations and a fun, productive and even exhausting experience!  Great job and congratulations Anne, Cari, Todd, Adrian, Robert, Matt and the entire team!  Well done.

  FYI...to see a sneak peak of the results come on down to DUMBO this Thursday, October 27th at 6pm for yes, a free drink and a glimpse of the results!  You will be glad you did!! 

 

 

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"Power Play" a day in the life of "Nick and Nicky"

    So, everybody knows that Beaverkill Studio loves Eddie Nichols.  He is a pix clicker of great talent, an editor extraordinaire and just one hell of a nice guy.  When friend of the studio Debra Winger ran into Eddie at our opening party; they shared some laughs about all the cigarettes DW used to bum from him while they were working in adjacent editing suites.  So many cigs in fact that our Eddie eventually decided to just start leaving a pack out conspicuously for her smoking pleasure.  Eddie’s just that kind of giving person.

   It was no surprise then that one fine day the Studio received a call from actor and screenwriter Patrick Askin.  Patrick had recently completed a fresh screen play called “Nick and Nicky” that harkened back to old school Hollywood glamour and was topped with sprinklings of campiness, physical comedy and the extravagant gay flamboyance of a recently married couple caught up in a murder mystery.  Director Marcus Slabine once called the script one part “Birdcage” and one part “Clue”.  As it turned out; Eddie is editing the film and recommended that Patrick give us shout to find out how we could help with some upcoming scenes that needed to be shot.  We of course were happy to accommodate.  Thanks Eddie!

  Patrick and I started a dialogue to work through some of the nuances of the scenes and the overall look and feel that he was going for.  We here at Beaverkill find that this dialogue is a critical part of the creative process and nothing matters more than getting on the same page with the production teams that come through our doors.  Patrick laid out his vision and we totally “got it”.  Next step…how can we efficiently and effectively capture this vision?

  Due to the nature of the scenes that needed to be shot,  we decided to shoot on location…but where?  I hit the ground running and parsed out some potential spots;  grabbed some photos and hit the phones.  We eventually landed on a local resort; The Villa Roma…which amazingly happened to have a pre-scheduled mid winter facility “vacation” planned for the week that Patrick needed to shoot on.  Essentially, the entire resort was to be closed down for the week with only a skeletal crew onsite…we had the place to ourselves!  The serendipity of it all was that Glenn North, one of the films leading character’s, needed to go on tour to Europe immediately after the shoot playing the lead role of Berger in “Hair”.  The timing couldn’t have been better.

  So far,  so good.  Patrick and I worked out a few more details and Beaverkill Studio rounded up some extras, craft service options and a great local sound guy, Carl Welden.  We also tucked in the Beaverkill beds with some fresh sheets and pillows and prepared the studio to accommodate a crew of 12.  As most of you know, one of the unique and great aspects of the studio is the ability to stay here with your team…thus the “Shoot.  Edit.  Stay”!  Ok.  All set.  We’re ready to go.

The day before the shoot after a morning of busy preparation, I sit down to my desk to have a quick bite for lunch.  The phone rings.  “Wwhhhaaaaaatttt??!”  I shout into the phone.  On the other end is a lovely , but concerned lady… the General Manager of the Villa Roma, Carol Kelly.  “A transformer?  Blown?  No power for the day of shooting??!”  Now I pride myself on a cool head and always expect the unexpected, but this was a new one on me.  Our well laid plans were being dashed by the local power company, NYSEG, who happened to schedule replacing a blown transformer on the day of the shoot!  Apparently, the resort’s ski lift had some kind of power surge that blew the transformer that powered half the resort.  The half that we needed to shoot in!

  The key to all success in life is communication…and the time to communicate was now!  After some initial shock and some new assurances of power by noon from the resort; Patrick deftly reorganized the call times and the overall travel plans with his crew . With only one small peep of “Jeez!” from hair stylist George Ortiz;  the tweaked shoot  was ready to roll! Very well done Patrick!  It was a real testament to Patrick’s  cast and crew and their dedication to the project. 

  When we all rolled into the hotel the next day, the limited emergency power was still on…but by the time the gear was loaded in, full power was back in place and the shoot went off fabulously!  It’s a bit of a metaphor for the studio as well; because after a full year of massive renovation; many obstacles and expecting the unexpected…we too are preparing to switch on to “full power”.  We invite you along for the ride and ask you to spread the word!  We’re also looking for interns who are team players.  Give us a shout…peace out. 

                                                                                    -James

 

Special Thanks:  The Villa Roma, Pat Carlucci, Carol Kelly, The Callicoon Brewery, Peppino’s Pizza, Mister G’s, Majek Furniture, All our extras:  Claire Coleman, Elizabeth Ennis, Robyn Almquist, Gina Molinet, Ramona Jan, Greg Castro, Jessica Adamson, Donald  Almquist, John Letourneau, Amy Goodstein, Joshua Bloom, Jonathan Charles Fox of the River Reporter, RJ Baker, Wade St. Germain and the entire cast and crew of “Nick and NickyPatrick Askin, Ian Whitt, Glenn North, Rachel Mcphee, Marcus Slabine, David Bourla, Niav Conty, Buddy Lamers, Montgomery Frazier, George Ortiz, Lorraine Altamura, Carl Welden, Kory Diskin and Joel McGlumphly

HAPPY HALLOWEEN: OUR TOP 5 HORROR FILMS!

RJ Baker

My favorites are the late movies… the late, late movies and the late, late, late movies on TV during October fright month.   The one that I am watching at the time is always my favorite… especially if it has thunder, lightning or fog.   I also like Cannibals on subways, a helicopter crash on a ‘deserted’ island and the eerie scenes of a foggy london…

The Shining - which I expect is on everybody’s top 5 - for good reason - it's good

Trilogy of Terror - Karen Black, Karen Black, Karen Black!

The Babadook -  “recent” movies are good too

Halloween -  I like watching horror film marathons, so bring on the franchises.   By Halloween, I include every Michael Myers movie, 1, 2, Resurrection, Revenge... John Carpenter or not.  I'll watch one right after another (only the Chuckie movies - Child's Play, Revenge, Bride... - as a franchise comes close).

The Abominable Dr. Phibes -  Really, all my top 5 should be Vincent Price movies.   So this should be called the Vincent Price franchise which would include Dr. Phibes Rises Again, the whole Edgar Allen Poe series, House of Usher etc... and then, House of Wax, and House on Haunted Hill and… 

Turns out, 5 years ago, I saw the REAL cape that Dr. Phibe’s wore in the movie!   

Here’s the true story -  Our friend Tony Mann told us about his friend who has a haunted house in Connecticut, so 5 of us rented a car and made the road trip …. This wasn’t the scariest or most frightening haunted house - I don’t think it really even qualifies as a ‘haunted house’ ….  it is actually something - well,  cooler....

Witch's Dungeon Classic Movie Museum   "This is the life work of local artist Cortlandt Hull, grand nephew of the Werewolf of London, Henry Hull.   As an ill child, he fell in love with old horror movies.   With the help of his dad,  he built a shed and would bring in neighbors and friends at Halloween to see his art based on these films.   The Dungeon is not a 'haunted house' attraction, but is filled with museum quality work, and also contains original props and costumes from classic horror and sci-fi movies.   Some evenings the wait to enter the museum can be over two hours! "     http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/5981

How good is it?    Well, sure enough -  on our way back to NYC, late, tired, the rain pelting the car,  we started smelling smoke, the car was slowing down - and we had to find a place to pull over and open the hood.   We didn’t have any idea what we would be looking for and we didn’t see anything.  But when we got back in the car…it wouldn’t start! 

Turns out the car rental company remotely shut the car down after we called in to report the problem.  A tow truck would come within the hour but with no replacement vehicle and the tow would only be able to take 2 of us…

At least we all did eventually get back alive

 

James Karpowicz:  

OK, so for those of you who might know me...it's  no secret that I have a deep love of cheese and gore: not to mention the laughs that go along with it.  I could rant off 100's of titles of fulfilling indulge punctuated by garden hose like spraying of fake blood, missing limbs and intruders from beyond.  Throw in some campy raunchiness, forced puns, awkward dialogue and a nice bowl of popcorn and the evening is young my friends!

Now to be fair; I  humbly consider myself a deep thinker as well and could never allow my love of the farce to overcome my true feelings of the meaning of horror.  Like all true Art; a horror film that really "nails it" beckons to and illuminates the "horror within" and balances its subject matter in relation to humanity and our collective experience.

The origins of fear lie deep within the subconscious and a guttural trigger can be released at a moment's notice or can just as easily pulsate slowly and painfully like Poe's proverbial heart.  True "horror" is the shocking and sudden realization that something evil lurks beyond... and our very existence is at stake!  

Here are 5 films that I feel captured the essence of horror through the Art of Filmmaking and my brief notes on the techniques that helped achieve their impact:  

Nosferatu – F.W. Murnau 1922- This iconic German Expressionist vampire film used careful lighting and dark shadows to gingerly creep Count Orlak up a winding stair and into our darkest nightmares.

Shakes the Clown – Bob Goldthwait 1991 – Rarely are imagined things more horrific than reality.  This choppily acted dark comedy allows the bitter realism of depression and alcoholism to transcend the superficial clown makeup and those who seek to hide their own personal truth.

The Blob – Irvin Yeaworth 1958 – For what it’s worth; this film scared the shit out of me as a kid. No place to run, no place to hide…it’s coming to get you!  Campy as it were, a palpable tension was achieved through the spiraling hopelessness of the storyline and the escalating agitation of the acting.

Clockwork Orange – Stanley Kubrick 1971 – A perfect example of humanity’s brutal potential and the dichotomy of unexpected tenderness in depraved individuals.  This film exposes the ever present aspect of society’s ultraviolence that we witness to this day while forcing us to see the beauty around us…even if our eyes need to be clamped open to see it!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – What is more terrifying than the lack of ability to control our own actions, especially if we have brought this situation upon ourselves?!  Jekyll s literal and figurative transformation is accentuated by costume, makeup, lighting and exaggerated acting.

Happy Halloween!